31 May 2005

"Strengthening Future Mothers"

There is an interesting discussion of an Ensign article over at T&S. I was already planning on writing about this myself when Julie expressed nearly exactly what I felt.

I think the graphics that are presented with an article are vitally important- there are many people who read an article only if the pictures make it look appealing, or they only look at the pictures to get an idea of what the article said. If you look at the photos from "Strengthening Future Mothers," you would think that it is simply a matter of mothers teaching their daughters to sew on buttons, cook, quilt, iron, arrange flowers, and shop for groceries.

Certainly these are useful and practical skills. I personally love to quilt, crochet, cook, arrange flowers, garden, spin, twine rugs, and more. But I only learned one of these skills from my mother. Most the rest I've taken up since my marriage because I thought they were interesting or I learned from my father. I didn't learn any of them at church or in any church-related setting.

These are also not skills that are exclusive to motherhood. It's helpful for anyone to learn how to cook. My husband finally realized this about two years ago and has made great strides in this area. ;) In fact, there are few skills that are exclusive to motherhood- you can't practice childbirth before it happens!

I think Sister Tanner's points were more focused (though not exclusively- there was one point specifically about motherhood) on strengthening future women. How I wish that this was more emphasized. The tools young women need to become good women whether they are mothers, teachers, workers, student, or leaders are the same- faith, courage, the ability to think and work hard, patience, love, and more. We can prepare young women for a variety of worthwhile roles without demeaning any one of those roles.

Afton City Cemetery

Old Family Barn and House

Gwendolyn Harman

Memorial Day

Every Memorial Day weekend (or sometime close to it) we go visit cemeteries. We've always gone to my mother's parent's graves, but about 15 years ago we decided to see if we could find the graves of some of our other ancestors. It took about 10 years of searching through cemeteries, but we finally found all of my mother's ancestors that live in the US.

I love to visit the cemeteries. They are always beautiful and green in the spring. My children like to see where the ancestors they are named after are buried and the towns where they lived. I've mentioned before that we love family history and visiting the cemeteries is one small part of that.

Riverside Geyser

Giantess Geyser

Geysers

I had a great time at Yellowstone on Saturday. I was lucky enough to see Giantess which is a very infrequent show. It wasn't the most impressive display- Giantess can go as high as 200 feet, but still, a pleasant surprise. I also saw Castle, Riverside, and Fountain, all of which I hadn't seen before. What a lovely day.

And this link has a report of Steamboat's eruption of last Monday. Rather interesting.

30 May 2005

Fountain Geyser


I've not gotten the hang of catching the bigger bursts, so imagine this at 50 feet and you'll get the idea. Fountain geysers like the one are lovely to watch because they have surges and splashing.

26 May 2005

Submission

Submission to your husband is another topic that comes up on homeschooling boards. I have to admit that I'm always surprised at the number of conservative Christian women who advocate submitting to their husbands.

Now, I am sure I don't really understand where they're coming from, and I hope that it doesn't sounds as bad as it does. But when I hear "submit," it just gives me the creeps. I've agreed to hearken to my husband, and I am happy to do that, especially since I feel that he hearkens to me and the Lord. But I won't submit to him. In certain cases, yes, but as an overall guiding principle for our marriage? No. Submission implies mindlessness to me, and I don't think it's good for one partner in a marriage to be unthinking.

This may very well come down to semantics. But when I hear specific examples of women advocating submission (for example, that a wife shouldn't disagree with her husband on a name for their baby), I get concerned. Would these women also say you should submit to a man who is doing illegal or immoral things? I get the impression that some would allow not submitting only as a very last resort, and I think that could be spiritually destructive (I will always be grateful that my mother-in-law did not continue to submit to her husband.)

But it's easy to get hung up on this- to be so sure that I won't submit that I ignore my husband's needs when I have as much a responsibility to help him as he does to help me. But really, what does submitting and/or hearkening mean? My concern is that submission implies that the wife's role is less important, and I don't agree with that. I don't think the LDS Church teaches that.

I think hearkening should be an attitude of unselfishness where we both are concerned about each other. It has nothing to do with dominance or power. It's simply love.

Siberia's Native People

I've been reading Anna Reid's The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia for the last little while. I've read histories written by more engaging writers, but the topic is fascinating. There are bits and pieces about the Ainu, the Buryat, and other indigenous people of Siberia and even though this isn't very detailed since it covers nine very different ethnic groups, it gave me a little direction and filled in a few of the gaps I had about Siberia.

I also searched for more information and found this very interesting site that has information about a large number of ethnic groups in Russia. It isn't very current- only up to the early 1990s, but still has a lot to read. This site is more up-to-date, but without quite as much information (and it's main source appears to be the one I listed just before this one).

This site is about Chukotka in the very northeastern corner of Siberia. This one is about the Koryak on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

As you would expect, there are a lot of issues surrounding all of these people. Their history is in many ways similar to what happened to the native American and Australians. You can read about the languages of Siberia at Ethnologue (which was recently updated), about the problems that melting Arctic ice has caused in Siberia.

We're off for a while. Hopefully a nice jaunt will get me out of the funk I've been in for a while.

Yellowstone Bacteria

Scientists have found some interesting bacteria in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Norris is different from the other geyser basins because its water is highly acidic. You can tell it is different when you visit it (and really, you should visit it ;)). It's also the home of Steamboat Geyser.

Read the article here.

25 May 2005

Meme

s'mee tagged me for a meme, so I'll just take care of that now :) I'm nowhere near as witty as she is, and I'm no music expert, so feel free to move on to better things.

Total volume of music files on my computer: I doubt there are any. But maybe there are some hiding somewhere.

The last CD I bought: It was certainly more than a year ago and it was probably Geography Songs. I could certainly tell you the last book I bought though!

Song playing now: Nothing, my son is asleep in here

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me: Geography Songs (the whole thing), my didgeridoo CD, various Arabic music, various other ethnic music, and whatever my husband is listening to. There are a few hymns that mean a lot to me like Nearer, My God to Thee; Be Still, My Soul; O My Father; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; and For All the Saints.

I do like music a lot and listen to music often. I'm just not picky.

Unwanted Missionaries

I've read several discussions on a couple of different homeschooling message boards recently about what to do when missionaries come knock on your door. I've seen quite a range of reactions, but they are generally quite negative and I am surprised at some of the nasty things people will suggest saying or doing to get rid of whomever is at the door.

I firmly believe that if a person is not interested in what a missionary has to say, she should tell him and close the door. There is no obligation to listen to something you're not interested in, especially on your own doorstep.

But I don't think it's necessary to be rude. It's not necessary to argue. Simply end the conversation immediately. Those missionaries are quite probably having a hard time and you don't need to add to it. And maybe, just maybe, you could give them a glass of water or a friendly word before sending them on their way.

24 May 2005

"Where Are All the Women in the Scriptures?"

Originally posted at Conversation

I'm sure that you've heard people say this- either as a concern, or possibly a complaint, or just wondering why. It's easy to see why people come to this conclusion.

There are fewer women than men mentioned in the scriptures, and of the ones who are, we often don’t know their names. It's much easier to say (and remember!) Nephi than the Shunnamite women. We also seem to use men as examples more than women- you don’t hear about the woman of Samaria changing her heart and becoming a missionary nearly as often as you hear about Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni doing so.


Of course there are a few women we talk about often- great women like, Eve, Mary, Ruth, Esther, and Hannah. But I think we can do more to bring the women of the scriptures into our lives. All of their stories are valuable.

I've made it a priority to use scriptural examples of lesser-known women when I give a talk or a lesson, or when I am teaching my children. If I'm talking about courage, I could run through the typical list of courageous men- men like Joshua, Ammon, and Peter, or bring up the standard female example of Esther. But instead, I bring up Morianton's maidservant, Shiphrah and Puah, and the daughters of Onitah. When learning about faith, I talk about the women with an issue of blood, the widow of Zarephath, and Vienna Jacques in addition to Daniel, Paul, and Amulek.

They might be hard to find sometimes, but the women are there. I'd like to briefly highlight a few women that we don’t hear about as often. (I’m hoping to continue doing this every so often.) I've linked to their stories in the scriptures so you can read more about them if you'd like. Hopefully these women are familiar, but if they're not, it might be worth learning more about them:

Huldah was a prophetess at the time of King Josiah, just before the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah. We often don't seem to know what to do with Huldah since she is called a prophetess (can we call a woman that?), but it is clear that the gift of prophecy is a spiritual gift and not one that is reserved for Priesthood holders.

Another women who is blessed with gifts of the Spirit is Lamoni's wife. Ammon's missionary work to the Lamanites and Lamoni's actions are familiar, but we don’t talk about Lamoni’s wife’s faith as often. When Ammon asks her if she believes that her husband the king is not dead, she relies, "I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said."

Ammon replied, "Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, women, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites." High praise indeed. Lamoni's wife goes on to speak in tongues and her touch raises her husband. She clearly is a tremendous example of faith.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is that of the women with the issue of blood. She shows both faith and courage by working through the crowd surrounding Jesus with the simple desire of touching his robe. When she is healed, the Lord asks who touched him and she admits to doing so. Jesus responds by praising her and saying that her faith healed her. She only merits a few verses, but I think of her often.

Finally, the daughters of Onitah only have a brief mention in Abraham 1:11 where we learn that there were offered as sacrifices by a wicked priest because they would not worship idols. We might talk about Daniel’s faith in continuing to worship only the Lord, but the daughters of Onitah sacrificed much more than Daniel did to do the same. Sometimes we focus more on the miraculous stories like Daniel's and forget that there are times that the righteous are not spared.

Assigned Reading

There was an interesting discussion on the WTM Boards of books that people were assigned to read in high school. The lists were pretty typical, but what I found interesting was that most of the posters seemed to think it was a negative thing to have little assigned reading. If they literally were not required to read much of anything, then yes, it would be a bad thing.

But I think it is a good thing to have few books that are specifically assigned. I think it is much better to have a list of good books- there are plenty of good books out there- and to leave the decision up to the student. This was what my teachers in high school did. We had few books assigned, but we had plenty of reading required. I chose books I thought I would enjoy, and since there were guidelines, I was introduced to new books that I might not have read on my own.

I've heard far too many people say that they hated the books they were assigned to read in school. We can encourage plenty of worthwhile reading without being quite so specific.

23 May 2005

Steamboat Again

Apparently Steamboat had a major eruption this afternoon after not having one for about 18 months. It is probably having a lovely steam phase as I am writing this. I certainly hope this is not its only eruption this year. I wonder if the boys would mind running up to Yellowstone tomorrow...

Scroll down a bit to see a photo of a Steamboat eruption. It really doesn't do it justice though. I've seen pictures of Steamboat erupting with people to the side and you can really see how huge it is.

The Great Wall of China

I have long wanted to see the Great Wall of China and I hoping that we can see it while we're in the area. I'd like to travel through Western China partly by train, going at least as far as Jiayuguan to see the Great Wall and ideally continuing the journey through Mongolia and to Lake Baykal.

Jiayuguan is generally considered to be the westernmost point of the Great Wall. The Overhanging Great Wall is in the area and there are sections of the wall in the Jiayuguan Pass. If we can go by train, we will also be traveling along the Silk Road through Kashi, Urumqi, and Turfan.

It is a common misperception that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon, or by a shuttle orbiting the earth, or some other variation. Actually, no manmade structure can be distinguished from the moon, and quite a number can been seen from earth's orbit/ The Great Wall is actually difficult to see from earth's orbit because it is made of mud and rock and looks pretty much the same as the surrounding areas.

Have any of you been to the Great Wall of China? What other parts of China shouldn't be missed?

21 May 2005


Steamboat

Waimangu

Really Big Geysers

Most geysers anywhere in the world really aren't very big; however, there are a few that have been truly enormous. One of these is Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Basin of Yellowstone. It hasn't erupted for a year and a half (and has had dormancies as long as 50 years), but its major eruptions are truly a site to behold. One couple who was camping in the Norris parking lot was awakened in 2000 by what they thought was an earthquake. It turned out to be Steamboat erupting. It apparently is always obvious when a major eruption has occurred because of the rocks that are thrown around.

Impressive as Steamboat may be, there have been bigger and more violent geysers. Waimangu ("black water") in New Zealand erupted to heights of 1500 feet (Steamboat's very largest eruptions have been estimated at 380 feet). It only erupted from 1900 to 1904 when the geyser was destroyed by landslides. However, it has the dubious distinction of killing four people who were standing about 90 feet from the geyesrwhen a major eruption began in 1903.

Beehive and Lion Geysers



These two geysers are not in any way related, but they were kind enough to go off at the same time. They are also not as close to each other as they might look. This was the first time I've seen Lion (on the left), and it's always fun (and lucky!) to see Beehive. We also waited several hours to see Grand yesterday (of course, some of the time was taken up with the one-mile round trip to the bathroom). I didn't have the camera at Grand, but it was a beautiful eruption with two bursts. The boys did a great job even though they both tried to mutiny while they were walking back to Grand the last time.

19 May 2005

Cemeteries

I have loved cemeteries for a long time. My husband has gotten used to stopping at stray little cemeteries when we stumble on them, and the boys always ask to stop when we see one, so when we saw a road named "Burton Cemetery Road," we had to stop. It wasn't a particularly old cemetery, but it was lovely and well kept with interesting headstones. There were also a few owls there. I've rarely seen an owl, and the boys thought it was great.

When I started to learn more about Old Garden Roses, I read that many old roses have been found growing in cemeteries, especially in warmer states than I've ever lived in. There are even people who go around collecting specimens of old roses (see this site for "rose-rustling" etiquette).

We visit a number of old cemeteries every Memorial Day and I love to see all the flowers (although there is a preponderance of potted mums the last few years- they may be cheap, but it's getting a bit old), but my favorite thing to is see what has been planted in the cemetery. You have to go to the old ones to see anything, because more modern cemeteries are far too well-groomed to allow anything like a scraggly rose bush on their grounds. One cemetery has beautiful peonies planted next to my great-great-great grandparents tombstone and they are sometimes blooming at Memorial Day (usually they're not quite ready though).

I also liked the cemeteries in the Middle East. They are more distinctive than ours, and in many ways quite as peaceful. The City of the Dead, a huge cemetery in Cairo, has thousands of homeless people living in it since many of the tombs can easily house living people also. But my favorite tomb, really, a mausoleum, is Qayt Bay.

I've always said that I'd love to live in an old church next to a cemetery.

(And I am surprised to announce that the "recover post" thing from Blogger works!)

17 May 2005

Smallpox Inoculations

I was poking around the Saudi Aramco World site (can I say again how much I love this magazine?) and found this article with a slightly different history of the smallpox vaccination.

The article quotes Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who was living in the Ottoman Empire in 1717 and describes the smallpox inoculations [engraftings] given at the time (Edward Jenner usually gets the credit for this in 1798):

The Small Pox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting (which is the term they give it). There is a set of old Women who make it their business to perform the Operation. Every Autumn in the month of September, when the great Heat is abated, people send to one another to know if any of their family had a mind to have the small pox. They make partys for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly 15 or 16 together) the old Woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox and asks what veins you please to have open'd.

She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much venom as can lye upon the head of her needle, and after binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell, and in this manner opens 4 or 5 veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the Middle of the forehead, in each arm and on the breast to mark the sign of the cross, but this had a very ill Effect, all these wounds leaving little Scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who chuse to have them in the legs or that part of the arm that is conceal'd.

The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day and are in perfect health till the 8th. Then the fever begins to seize 'em and they keep their beds 2 days, very seldom 3. They have very rarely above 20 or 30 [pustules] in their faces, which never mark, and in 8 days time they are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded there remains running sores during the Distemper, which I don't doubt is a great releif'd to it. Every year thousands undergo this Operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasingly that they take the Small pox here by way of diversion as they take the Waters in other Countrys. There is no example of any one that has dy'd in it, and you may beleive I am very well satisfy'd of the safety of the Experiment since I intend to try it on my dear little Son.

You have to admire the people who tried new and dangerous medical ideas. Vaccinations are commonplace today (although it's interesting that there are many today who say the risks outweigh the benefits) and it's difficult to imagine a time when disease was literally feared. It's not something that really concerns me- I know disease could strike my family at anytime, but really, it is a low risk.

(And, by the way, I'm not an extremist on either side of the vaccination debate. We vaccinate, but I don't see a need for some vaccinations quite as early as recommended.)

15 May 2005

Andijon

Registan has a good analysis of what's been going on in Andijon (yes, I know I've not spelled it the same every time). In case you don't make it to the end, you should at least read this:
That people are willing to turn out in large numbers to protest his [Karimov's] government and call for his resignation is a clear sign though that he's failing to maintain the stability to life that Uzbeks demand. And that he's willing to push back instead and blame unrest on external forces rather than figure out how his policies are eroding economic stability screams that even if calm returns to Andijon, we can expect demonstrations to continue to pop up around the country.

Nathan also points out that there is a lot of dislike of Karimov, but not necessarily enough for people to want violence instead of the stability he has created:



As strange as it seems, it is not uncommon for someone to abhor Karimov yet support him for creating stability and predictability.

This is not at all uncommon, but it can be highly misunderstood by those of us in the West. Do you try to violently throw out, for example, Assad and take your chances on everything getting worse, or do you make the best of your current situation? Many people look back on the old Soviet Union (even Stalin) as being the best of times despite the repression, the deaths, because of the stability of the time.

14 May 2005

Uzbekistan

Keep checking Registan.net if you're interested in what's going on in Uzbekistan.

13 May 2005

Another One about Uzbekistan

Don't miss this one- a variety of opinions about what is going on in Andijan.

Andijan is in the Ferghana Valley not far from Kyrgyzstan.

The UN has also added Uzbekistan to its list of countries of particular concern in their actions regarding religious freedom.

Registan.net is the best place to find updates and links to various news agencies about Central Asia.

And here is a translation of a Russian article about the most recently reported situation.

Uzbekistan Update

Some sad things have been going on in Uzbekistan:

Rebels take prison in Andijon- make sure to read the comments too

(I'll add more later about the background to this story, or you can just look around Registan.net)

American History for Children

I mentioned yesterday that the first two things that attracted me to The Well-Trained Mind were the study of Latin and the four-year chronological study of history.

Many of the women on the WTM boards like the four-year history cycle recommended by The Well-Trained Mind. However, there are often discussions of whether this system covers American history well enough. I'm always surprised by this. It doesn't sound like their concern stems only from meeting their state requirements for American history, although that is an issue for many homeschoolers, but that they honestly feel that American history is not covered well enough in the recommended WTM history cycle.

I don't agree. Story of the World, the world history text written for the WTM, has a heavy emphasis on Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. No child using SOTW who has a diligent teacher is going to miss learning about the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, or the Constitution. In fact, she should have a better understanding of these great events because they understand the context surrounding them- she realizes that the British Empire was much more than Great Britain and the American colonies. She understands where James Madison got his ideas about democracy and republican government. She has a better understanding of slavery and the many issues involved in the Civil War.

There is plenty of time. If you're worried that your child isn't going to know enough about American history, get a stack of books by Jean Fritz and read them with your child. Visit battlefields and American history sites. No matter where you live, history is there. Just do it.

12 May 2005

Learning Latin

I've mentioned before that I studied Latin for two years in public school. I knew there were a few people out there still learning Latin, but I've never met anyone my age who had (besides the 7 other students in my Latin class, one of whom died a few years later). So when I read The Well-Trained Mind for the first time and saw that they recommended studying Latin starting in third grade, I knew I had found the homeschooling book for me. (The chronological study of history also was a big selling point- I have never understood why this idea is not more widely implemented, but I'll save that for another post.)

I firmly believe that foreign language study is vital for students who do not live in a multi-language home or society. Latin is an excellent choice for that study, at least as a starting point. There are two reasons: Latin gives you a good grammatical overview and it is not a spoken language so you don't have to worry about pronunciation and its practical use. You can focus on grammar and the basic structure of language in a way that you can't when you're trying to figure out how to ask someone how much that banana costs. (Grocery shopping is what concerns me most right now about living in Bishkek. I could handle it in Cairo, but I'm not ready to do it in Bishkek.)

Since taking Latin, I've also studied French, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Uzbek, and now back to Russian again. Latin has been invaluable for all of these languages even though French is the only one that is really related to Latin (Russian is, but it's a stretch). When I hear people sing the praises of learning Latin vocabulary to help with learning other Romance languages, I feel like they are missing something. The grammatical background is invaluable.

I don't think I'll require my children to continue with Latin studies for more than three years. If they're interested, it would be great, but I will encourage them to move on to a spoken language of their choice. Because, to me, the real point of learning a language is to be able to converse- to talk about new ideas and new perspectives. And there's simply no one to talk to if you only learn Latin.

11 May 2005

Arab and Mormon Converts

I started to browse through Beyond Belief by V.S. Naipaul this afternoon and came across this interesting statement in the introduction:

Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private
belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert's worldview alters. His holy places
are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He
rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, part of the Arab story.
The convert has to turn away from everything that is his.

I think some of the claims here go a bit far (can a Muslim in Kyrgyzstan who is descended from many generations of Muslims be considered a convert?) but the overall idea is interesting since it is one that gets brought up often in the LDS Church. Certainly the comparison isn't exact. The Book of Mormon has been officially translated into more than 100 languages, unlike the Qur'an, which is referred to as an interpretation if it's not in Arabic. Muslims pray in Arabic; Mormons pray in whatever language we like. Muslims travel to the heartland of Arabia to perform the Hajj; Mormons have over 100 temples around the world all operating in a variety of languages. But the LDS Church has a central authority that has no parallel in Islam.

If this is something that is still apparent in Islam after 1400 years, how can we criticize the LDS Church for exporting culture along with religion after less than 200 years of existence? This is not to justify it- I wish that there was much less "Mormon culture" sent out with the missionaries. I hope that our family is successful at separating tradition and culture from the gospel while we're in Kyrgyzstan. Since there are only a few new members there, I don't want to give the impression that those cultural things are required. I have been much more aware of this for the last 10 years and I hope that I've improved.

Of course, I'm a native Utah Mormon and have lived in Idaho for the last 6 years, so I don't know how much I can do about it. ;)

10 May 2005

Packing Up the Books

I've been going through my books to get them boxed up and ready to store. A lot of them have been in boxes in the garage because there simply isn't room in the house (despite the bookcases in every room, including the kitchen).

I wish I had time to read them all again before we leave. There were very old friends- The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Search for Delicious, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler- that I first read almost 20 years ago. Then there are old, but not quite as old as the first group, friends like Tisha, A Town Like Alice, and the Lacemaker. I read these and more over and over as a teenager. There were some that were discovered in high school- The Prince, Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities (I have to admit that this is the only Dickens I've ever really enjoyed), and Wuthering Heights. Some are from college: Palace Walk, Wanderings, and Understanding Islam. And finally, there are some that I've read since we've been married- Persuasion, The Grapes of Wrath, and House of Mirth.

You always have to leave things behind when you move. You can email people, store your blender for when you'll need it again, or take advantage of the opportunity to declutter. But there is nothing like having those books- those friends- on hand. They will be missed.

09 May 2005

A History of Inner Asia

I've mentioned before that I'm looking for a readable, accurate, and comprehensive history of Central Asia. I haven't found it yet, but I have found a book that covers Central Asia from the Islamic expansion till now. A History of Inner Asia by Svat Soucek was first published in 2000.

I haven't had a chance to read all of it (and I won't before it's due, since it's an ILL), but the introduction alone impressed me enough to order it. It has quite a bit of information about different parts of Central Asia (also covering Mongolia and western China) and is interesting and not at all dry.

I can't imagine that there are many people interested in this kind of thing, but if you happen to be, try this book. I also have a book on the Central Asia before Islam, but I'm not quite as convinced about that one.

08 May 2005

Happy Mothers Day!

There are many things I could say about Mothers Day. But I won't. I'll simply say that I have a wonderful mother and even a wonderful mother-in-law. And that is something worth celebrating.

07 May 2005

Norris Geyser Basin

I was able to spend some time in the Norris Geyser Basin on Thursday. It is the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone and is the one that is most prone to change. Those changes were quite dramatic in the summer of 2003 and the Basin had to be closed to visitors.

Up till 2003 the path with through the area in the picture below. There was one small geyser near the path, but it generally was quiet there. But in 2003 the ground got incredibly hot and some spouters actually came up right under the boardwalk and around it. They had to tear out the path and rebuild it around the edge for quite a distance.

If you go to Yellowstone, look for people who know a lot about geysers (often called geyser gazers- they won't always be Park employees). They'll usually have sturdy backpacks and sometimes be carrying some type of chair to sit on. They might be waiting for a boring-looking geyser that everyone else passes. When you see them, stop and ask questions. They love to talk about geysers and can tell you interesting things (one told me about the new geysers in Norris) or let you know what geysers in the area might be erupting if you wait for a few minutes.

Norris

06 May 2005

More Geysers

You know you're going to see more geysers here the day after Yellowstone. I did get to see a few new ones, but I missed Castle again.

I also found some more bird call sites.

And we've been chatting about the Kookaburra song. We've come up with several verses.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
Gay your life must be

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That's not a monkey that's me

Kookaburra sits on a rusty nail
Gets a boo-boo in his tail
Cry, Kookaburra! Cry, kookaburra!
Oh how life can be!

Kookaburra sits on the electric wire
Better watch out or you'll catch on fire
Ouch! Kookaburra, Ouch! Kookaburra
Sore your tail must be.

Do you know any more?

Echinus Geyser


Apparently Echinus hasn't been predictable for the last few months like it usually is, but I was able to catch it. There was a lot of steam (it wasn't very warm yesterday) but this picture catches a little bit of the eruption. Fountain geysers are fun to water because they erupt from a pool of water instead of a cone or vent. You can easily see the waves here.

Grand Geyser


I was standing by Castle when Grand erupted so this is from far away, but I still had a good view. I didn't catch any of the taller bursts though.

04 May 2005

Whipbirds

My mother sent me a link to this site with some Australian bird calls. I've heard kookaburras before, but the female Whipbird has quite the call. Click on the green circle below the picture. There are links to other Australian birds.

I'll probably wander back here tomorrow night; I'm off to Yellowstone tomorrow for a belated birthday present. My husband is in charge of the boys while I run around.

Here's another geyser photo to inspire you to visit Yellowstone (again) someday:

The 1833 Leonid Meteor Storm

The Leonid meteor is usually a quiet affair in mid-November with 10-15 meteors per hour. However, it has the potential to produce some amazing storms. This happened most recently in the last few years (some predict two more outbursts in 2006 and 2007), around 1966, 1933, 1899, and 1866, but the most spectacular and well known show was in 1833. Here are some accounts of that storm.

Agnes Clerkes:

On the night of November 12-13, 1833, a tempest of falling stars broke over the Earth... The sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs. At Boston, the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm. Their numbers... were quite beyond counting; but as it waned, a reckoning was attempted, from which it was computed, on the basis of that much-diminished rate, that 240,000 must have been visible during the nine hours they continued to fall.



Walt Whitman (referring to Abraham Lincoln):

...whereupon the homely President told a little story. 'When I was a young man in Illinois," said he, 'I boarded for a time with a Deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door & I heard the Deacon's voice exclaiming "Arise, Abraham, the day of judgment has come!' I sprang from my bed & rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling in great showers! But looking back of them in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.



Unknown (from South Carolina):

Upwards of one hundred [people] lay prostrate on the ground, some speechless and others uttering the bitterest moans, but with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them. The scene was truly awful, for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north and south, it was the same.



Samuel Rogers:

I at once sold my little farm in the neighborhood of Antioch, and, having disposed of what stock and stuff I could not take with me, on the 13th of November, 1833, I was ready to start upon the journey for our new home in the West. On the evening of the twelfth, many of our dear friends came into bid us adieu, and they remained until a very late hour, when, after a prayer, the most of them returned to their homes, a few remaining to see us off in the morning.

We had but little rest that night, for, before three o’clock in the morning, we were all aroused from our slumbers, making preparation for an early start. Some one, on looking out of the window, observed that it was almost broad daylight. "That can not be," another answered, "For it is scarcely three o’clock." "I can’t help what the clock says," replied the first speaker, "my eyes can not deceive me; it is almost broad daylight --look for yourselves."

After this little altercation, some one went to the door for the purpose of settling the question. Fortunately, there was not a cloud in the heavens; so by a glance, all was settled. I heard one of the children cry out, in a voice expressive of alarm: "Come to the door, father, the world is surely coming to an end." Another exclaimed: "See! The whole heavens are on fire! All the stars are falling!" These cries brought us all into the open yard, to gaze upon the grandest and most beautiful scene my eyes have ever beheld. It did appear as if every star had left its moorings, and was drifting rapidly in a westerly direction, leaving behind a track of light which remained visible for several seconds.

Some of those wandering stars seemed as large as the full moon, or nearly so, and in some cases they appeared to dash at a rapid rate across the general course of the main body of meteors, leaving in their track a bluish light, which gathered into a thin cloud not unlike a puff of smoke from a tobacco-pipe. Some of the meteors were so bright that they were visible for some time after day had fairly dawned. Imagine large snowflakes drifting over your head, so near you that you can distinguish them, one from the other, and yet so thick in the air as to almost obscure the sky; then imagine each snowflake to be a meteor, leaving behind it a tail like a little comet; these meteors of all sizes, from that of a drop of water to that of a great star, having the size of the full moon in appearance: and you may then have some faint idea of this wonderful scene.

...On our journey we heard little talked of but the "falling of the stars."

03 May 2005

Eta Aquarids

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks tomorrow. The moon is nearly new so there will be no interference. This shower averages 10-20 meteors per hour and has some of the fastest meteors that leave trains 30 percent of the time.

The Eta Aquarids are caused by Halley's comet. If you happen to be in the southern hemisphere, the hourly rate could be as high as 50.

Protest in Uzbekistan

Protests generally aren't a big deal, but they're not very common in Uzbekistan. Yesterday about 100 people, mostly women with children, protested Uzbek government policies in front of the US Embassy.

BBC version

Ferghana.ru version

Eurasianet version

02 May 2005

Roses in Central Asia

I've mentioned before that I love roses. One of my favorite things is to stumble on wild roses in the mountains. There are several variety of roses that originated in Central Asia and there is evidence that the rose itself originated there.

The most interesting article I found about roses in Central Asia was on farmers in Afghanistan switching from growing opium poppies to roses. I'm looking forward to getting to know some new roses in Kyrgyzstan.

A few of my favorite books on roses are:

Roses by Peter Beales (out of print)

100 Old Roses For The American Garden by Clair Martin

100 English Roses for the American Garden by Clair Martin

Announcing a New Blog

Well, I've joined with several smart and interesting women to form a new group blog called conversation. This will have an LDS focus, but not be exclusively LDS.

This will be a place for interesting conversation with a variety of women. It seems that so many of the LDS blogs have people in their 20s and early-to-mid 30s, but few women beyond that. We do have a few in that age range, but most in our group have the perspective that a few more years gives them.

I hope you stop by!

01 May 2005

The Aral Sea

As you probably know, the Aral Sea in Central Asia has been drying up for nearly 50 years as a result of massive irrigation projects implemented by the Soviet Union. The Aral Sea lies in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It has shrunk by well over 50 percent. It is supposed to be fed by the Syr Darya and Amu Darya. The region around the Aral Sea has suffered in many ways as a result.

Uzbekistan, where the Amu Darya "flows" into the Aral, appears to be concerned about the problem, but not enough to do much about it. As a result, most of the Aral Sea may well disappear. Kazakhstan, however, is taking some action.

Kazakhstan has built Dike Kokaral in the Aral Sea just south of where the Syr Darya flows in. The purpose is to keep refill that small part of the Sea and not let the water from the Syr Darya be wasted by evaporation. The dike is designed to allow water to overflow when the North Aral Sea has filled to a satisfactory level. Kazakhstan has also worked to decrease the amount of water taken from the Syr Darya in Kazakhstan.

This project can in no way refill the Aral Sea. Uzbekistan has to do something about the Amu Darya. Some in Uzbekistan are angry about the dike though. Why don't they do something about their end instead of being crossat Kazakhstan?

The dike has been difficult to build. It was washed away and rebuilt several times in the 1990s. The current dike was begun in 2003 and funded in large part by the World Bank. I can't find anything from the last year about it though. The best I could find is that it was still being worked on in late 2004. I'm assuming it's not finished yet.

The trouble here is that the Syr Darya and Amu Darya are the two major rivers in Central Asia. Farming and increased population have stressed the rivers. It is very likely that even without the Soviet irrigation projects the Aral Sea would still be in danger. Water issues will increasingly become major political issues, especially in more arid regions of the world, like the western US, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Potable water is a necessity of life.