Shallow Thoughts : : Sep
Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.
Mon, 26 Sep 2016
Dave was reading New Mexico laws regarding a voter guide issue we're
researching, and he came across this gem in
29-1-14 G of the "Law Enforcement: Peace Officers in General:
Unclaimed Property" laws:
Any alcoholic beverage that has been unclaimed by the true owner, is
no longer necessary for use in obtaining a conviction, is not needed
for any other public purpose and has been in the possession of a
state, county or municipal law enforcement agency for more than ninety
days may be destroyed or may be utilized by the scientific laboratory
division of the department of health for educational or scientific
We can't decide which part is more fun: contemplating what the
"other public purposes" might be, or musing on the various
"educational or scientific purposes" one might come up with for
a month-old beverage that's been sitting in the storage locker ...
I'm envisioning a room surrounded by locked chain-link containing
dusty shelves containing rows of half-full martini and highball glasses.
[ 11:04 Sep 26, 2016
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Mon, 19 Sep 2016
Saturday, a friend led a group hike for the nature center from the
Caja del Rio down to the Rio Grande.
The Caja (literally "box", referring to the depth of White Rock
Canyon) is an area of national forest land west of Santa Fe, just
across the river from Bandelier and White Rock. Getting there involves
a lot of driving: first to Santa Fe, then out along increasingly dicey
dirt roads until the road looks too daunting and it's time to get out
From where we stopped, it was only about a six mile hike, but the
climb out is about 1100 feet and the day was unexpectedly hot and
sunny (a mixed blessing: if it had been rainy, our Rav4 might have
gotten stuck in mud on the way out). So it was a notable hike.
But well worth it: the views of Frijoles Canyon (in Bandelier)
were spectacular. We could see the lower Bandelier Falls, which I've
never seen before, since Bandelier's Falls Trail washed out below
the upper falls the summer before we moved here. Dave was convinced
he could see the upper falls too, but no one else was convinced,
though we could definitely see the red wall of the
in the canyon just below the upper falls.
We had lunch in a little grassy thicket by the Rio Grande, and we even
saw a few little frogs, well camouflaged against the dirt: you could
even see how their darker brown spots imitated the pebbles in the
sand, and we wouldn't have had a chance of spotting them if they
hadn't hopped. I believe these were canyon treefrogs (Hyla
arenicolor). It's always nice to see frogs -- they're not as
common as they used to be. We've heard canyon treefrogs at home
a few times on rainy evenings: they make a
strange ratcheting noise which I managed to record on my digital camera.
Of course, at noon on the Rio the frogs weren't making any noise:
just hanging around looking cute.
Sunday we drove around the Pojoaque Valley following their art
tour, then after coming home I worked on setting up a new sandblaster
to help with making my own art. The hardest and least fun part of
welded art is cleaning the metal of rust and paint, so it's exciting
to finally have a sandblaster to help with odd-shaped pieces like chains.
Then tonight was a flower walk in Pajarito Canyon, which is bursting
at the seams with flowers, especially purple aster, goldeneye,
Hooker's evening primrose and bahia. Now I'll sign off so I can catalog
my flower photos before I forget what's what.
[ 20:17 Sep 19, 2016
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Mon, 12 Sep 2016
As part of the advertising for next month's
Los Alamos Artists Studio Tour
(October 15 & 16), the Bandelier Visitor Center in White Rock has a
display case set up, and I have two pieces in it.
on the left and the
at right in front of the sweater are mine. (Sorry about the reflections
in the photo -- the light in the Visitor Center is tricky.)
The turtle at front center is my mentor
and I'm pretty sure the rabbit at far left is from
The lemurs just right of center are some of
fabulous scratchboard work. You may think of scratchboard as
a kids' toy (I know I used to), but Heather turns it into an amazing
medium for wildlife art. I'm lucky enough to get to share her studio
for the art tour: we didn't have a critical mass of artists in
White Rock, just two of us, so we're borrowing space in Los Alamos for
[ 10:38 Sep 12, 2016
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Mon, 05 Sep 2016
We drove up to Taos today to see the
Earthships are sustainable, completely off-the-grid houses built of adobe and
recycled materials. That was pretty much all I knew about them, except
that they were weird looking; I'd driven by on the highway a few times
(they're on highway 64 just west of the
Grande Gorge Bridge) but never stopped and paid the $7 admission
for the self-guided tour.
Seeing them up close was fun. The walls are made of old tires packed
with dirt, then covered with adobe. The result is quite strong, though
like all adobe structures it requires regular maintenance if you don't
want it to melt away. For non load bearing walls, they pack adobe
around old recycled bottles or cans.
The houses have a passive solar design, with big windows along one
side that make a greenhouse for growing food and freshening the air,
as well as collecting warmth in cold weather. Solar panels provide
power -- supposedly along with windmills, but I didn't see any
windmills in operation, and the ones they showed in photos looked
too tiny to offer much help. To help make the most of the solar power,
the house is wired for DC, and all the lighting, water pumps and so
forth run off low voltage DC. There's even a special DC refrigerator.
They do include an AC inverter for appliances like televisions and computer
equipment that can't run directly off DC.
Water is supposedly self sustaining too, though I don't see how that
could work in drought years. As long as there's enough rainfall, water
runs off the roof into a cistern and is used for drinking, bathing etc.,
after which it's run through filters and then pumped into the greenhouse.
Waste water from the greenhouse is used for flushing toilets, after
which it finally goes to the septic tank.
All very cool. We're in a house now that makes us very happy (and has
excellent passive solar, though we do plan to add solar panels and
a greywater system some day) but if I was building a house, I'd be
all over this.
We also discovered an excellent way to get there without getting stuck
in traffic-clogged Taos (it's a lovely town, but you really don't want
to go near there on a holiday, or a weekend ... or any other time when
people might be visiting). There's a road from Pilar that crosses the
Rio Grande then ascends up to the mesa high above the river,
continuing up to highway 64 right near the earthships. We'd been a
little way up that road once, on a petroglyph-viewing hike, but never
all the way through. The map said it was dirt from the Rio all the way
up to 64, and we were in the Corolla, since the Rav4's battery started
misbehaving a few days ago and we haven't replaced it yet.
So we were hesitant. But the nice folks at the Rio Grande Gorge
visitor center at Pilar assured us that the dirt section ended at the
top of the mesa and any car could make it ("it gets bumpy -- a New
Mexico massage! You'll get to the top very relaxed"). They were
right: the Corolla made it with no difficulty and it was a much
faster route than going through Taos.
We got home just in time for the rouladen I'd left cooking in the
crockpot, and then finished dinner just in time for a great sunset sky.
A few more photos:
Earthships (and a
[ 21:05 Sep 05, 2016
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