30 June 2005

Lone Star Geyser

Goodbye Yellowstone

We went to Yellowstone for the last time today. We didn't see much (just missed Great Fountain again), but we did bring bikes this time. It was great and I highly recommend them if you're going to Yellowstone. We were able to ride out to Lone Star Geyser. The boys were in a bike trailer, but older son is close to being able to go on his own. It's five miles round trip to Lone Star, so biking makes it much faster. It's a lovely geyser. It erupts every three hours and there's a logbook at the geyser so you can get an idea of when it will be erupting next. It's near a river and the boys had fun playing in it while we were waiting.

To get to Lone Star from Old Faithful, head towards West Thumb. Just past Keppler Cascades, you'll see the sign for Lone Star. Turn in and park, then take a lovely ride down an old road to Lone Star. It's considered backcountry, so there's not a lot of trails and no boardwalks. Make sure that if you do go to backcountry areas to pay attention because there are hot places that might not be noticeable and a thermal burn miles away from anything wouldn't be fun.

We also biked around the Upper Geyser Basin. That was great. The bike trail there is over a mile, so that also saves a lot of time. There are plenty of bikes racks available if you want to switch to walking on the boardwalks.

It was sad to walk around Geyser Hill this evening. At least our parents don't live too far from Yellowstone. We'll be back again.

29 June 2005

Sackler Gallery

I haven't been to Washington DC since my older son was born, but it's one of my favorite cities. I've been lucky enough to visit often and my husband and I will be there again in a couple of weeks. We won't have lots of time for sightseeing, but I'm definitely planning to get to the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian. There are several interesting exhibits going on while we're there, and I hope we can get to one of the performances if we're free in the evenings. I'm also partial to the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History. What I wouldn't give to live in Washington for a year. The Smithsonian is only one small part of Washington that I love.
After all my dithering about plane tickets, we've had some good news about some of the funding we'll be getting. It's so nice when some things work out well. I also discovered that it's much less expensive to get health insurance overseas. Of course, the health care there is scary enough that you wouldn't want to go to a doctor, but still, it's nice to have one expense that isn't as bad as I'd feared.

And we did find out that the rules for the plane tickets aren't quite a strict as I'd feared. It appears that as long as we get ourselves to London on an American carrier, they don't much care how we get to Bishkek since there aren't any feasible American carriers flying to the area.

Maybe I will survive getting everything ready to go.

28 June 2005

More Good Books

Melissa asked what books I read when I was younger that I'd read again. There are lots of books that I wouldn't read again, but many that I would (or have read again, many times). Here are a few:

Like Melissa, I like Ray Bradbury. I've reread Fahrenheit 451 a few times, and I love the Martian Chronicles. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a book that I should read again.

I love Elizabeth George Speare. I've read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Calico Captive, and The Bronze Bow too many times to count. I also love Joan Blos. A Gathering of Days and Brothers of the Heart are still too of my favorites.

And there are more like Alicia: My Own Story, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Blood Brothers, Life and Death in Shanghai, A Tale of Two Cities, The Road from Coorain, The Robe, James Herriot, To Kill a Mockingbird, Spring Moon, West with the Night, The Lacemaker, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chaim Potok, A Town Like Alice, Tisha, and Kristin Lavransdatter.

Supreme Court Decisions

It's always interesting when June rolls around a the Supreme Court releases a lot of decisions for the year. You'll hear the decisions reported and interpreted all over the media, but it's worthwhile to go read them yourselves. For example, last week's decision on eminent domain has received quite a bit of attention, but I doubt that many have read the decision and the dissent.

If you haven't read court decisions before, it's time to start. They really aren't hard to read and you'll get better with a bit of practice. Reading the decisions gives a much better idea of the reasoning behind the rulings and it helps solidify my thinking on these issues.

24 June 2005

Just to Clarify...

We're not leaving the country till August. But we're pretty unsettled till then, so that's why blogging might not be very consistent around here.

18 June 2005

I suppose I should mention that blogging will be sparse to nonexistant at times for a while. But I'll always come back. It's too much fun.

17 June 2005

Earth Science

Earth science has to be one of my favorite things to learn about, so that means that we've spent a lot of time on it for school. I've had trouble teaching my boys about any other science topics. I try to move on to biology, but we always wander back to rocks and volcanoes. At least we had a garden one year. :)

Anyway, I think earth science is one of the easiest topics to teach because it's so easy to get out and experience it. But sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Since I grew up in the West, I know what's available in Idaho and surrounding states, so it's worked well for me.

I haven't found a lot of earth science books for younger children that I like though. We've had much better luck getting out of the house and doing earth science. I'm also not impressed with some experiments that are in earth science books. Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes just don't cut it here because a volcanic eruption is not a chemical reaction.

What I'd love to see if a series of books on each state co-written by an experienced homeschooling mother from each state, a geologist and a meteorologist. It would have experiments, but it would focus more on field trips, museums, and backyard science. It would be geared towards grammar stage, but it would be a useful supplement to How the Earth Works and How the Weather Works for logic stage.

16 June 2005

More on Geysers

I'm always raving about the geysers in Yellowstone, and for good reason. There literally is no other pace on Earth like Yellowstone. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't amazing geysers in other parts of the world. Heather saw some in Iceland where the original Geysir is. In fact, the name "Geysir" has been copyrighted so no other geyser can have that name. Iceland's geysers used to be much more impressive in general, but the geothermal energy has been tapped and the geysers have been largely destroyed. Still, Iceland has some impressive geysers and I'm looking forward to seeing what Heather has to say about them.

New Zealand has the same problem. The North Island used to have the second-largest geyser field in the world (at least 300) until it was developed. It now only has about 40 geysers. The geysers in Kamchatka in Russia have fared better since that area is so remote, but there have still been proposals for development there.

Kamchatka has only recently been discovered to have hundreds of geysers- still not on the scale of Yellowstone, but enough to make it the second-largest geyser area in the world. Unfortunately (but fortunately too), the area is very remote and it's difficult to get there. The largest geyser area there has been protected in a park much like Yellowstone, but because you can only get there by helicopter, tourist dollars aren't coming in to help support the Kronotsky National Biosphere Preserve.

There are also geysers in a lot of other places around the world. The Rift Valley in Africa has a few (I have always been fascinated by the Rift Valley even before I knew it had geysers), along with El Tatio Chile. In fact, Chile is third only to Yellowstone and Kamchatka in the number of geysers it has. El Tatio is easier to get to than the Kronotsky Preserve, but still, it is fairly remote and it's difficult to spend many days there.

Tibet is the place I'm interested in now. There are definitely geysers there, but the question is how many and how powerful they are. Very little research has been done there and rumors of Yellowstone-like geysers fields are very tempting. But Daoud's not sure he wants to strike out into Tibet looking for geysers with me. I can't imagine why. :)

So, if you ever go to Yellowstone (again), remember what an amazing place it is. Make sure to take the time to really see the geysers- you'll probably never see them anywhere else.

14 June 2005

The Center of Asia

Kashgar, to begin with, was a flatbread paradise. For sale on every street corner and in every tiny eatery there was a choice of three different types. For the Uighur people who live in Kashgar and the other oases that rim the Taklamakan Desert, dlat-breads are a part of every meal. The breads are leavened rounds 15 to 20 centimeters across (6-8"), with a puffed rim and a center that's been stamped flat before baking and often sprinkled lightly with cumin seed or salt. They are baked in large vertical tandoor ovens. Each round is laid on a baker's pillow—a padded, convex cloth-surfaced wooden disk—then slapped onto the preheated inside wall of the oven. It bakes for only a few minutes, then is lifted out, chewy, golden, and sustaining. In the dry desert air, the breads dry out quickly, but as is the custom all across Central Asia, they are immediately brought back to life when dunked or broken into big bowls of steaming-hot black tea...

The more time we spent around people for whom flatbreads are the staff of life, the more we began to understand the unique relationship these people have to the food they eat. We began to appreciate finer distinctions between different kinds of breads and flours and methods of preparation. Behind every bread we tasted, we came to realize, there were at least half a dozen others we would never taste, and probably never even be told about. And we realized that, unlike the culture in which we grew up, in flatbread cultures most people have a very clear idea of where the food they eat each day comes from, of how it is grown or raised, how it is prepared and cooked. Many times, when we asked people how to make a certain local bread, they couldn't believe that we didn't already know. How could anyone not know how to make nan, or roti, or pitti! ("On the Flatbread Trail" Saudi Aramco World July/August 1995.)

Curious, I followed them to the very edge of the city [Samarqand], and still they went on - out across the desert, until finally we came to a deep ravine. There, laid out upon the sand, like some giant film set, was one of Asia's great open-air, one-day bazaars - sometimes talked about, but rarely seen.

The desolate spot purred with a mass of humanity - Uzbeks, Afghans, Tadjiks, and gypsies - all with something to sell, or looking for something to buy. Spread out upon the sand were rows of carpets and striped kalims presided over by robed and turbaned men. Asian music came from small radios, and there was the scent of cooking fires, under pots of bubbling broth and thick black sausages. Lines of peasant women held up small handkerchiefs and embroidered table cloths, and gypsy women sitting on the sand were selling brightly painted drums. ("Memories of Samarkand" Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1984.)



Today, the 162 mosques in Kashgar alone prove the enduring presence of Islam, though Buddhist influence can be found in the extraordinarily varied artwork, music, and dance produced by the Uighur people. Muslims still gather at the 'Id Gah Masjid to celebrate the major holidays, 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha. On those days, Uighurs dance the "sama" in the square, recite the great Uighur Mukharum epics—locally produced poetry and music set down in the 16th century—and celebrate the unity of Islam in the region. ("Kashgar: China's Western Doorway" Saudi Aramco World, November/December 2001.)

13 June 2005

Airlines

I am very tired of booking airline tickets. And I haven't even found anything that will us to Kyrgyzstan yet. Since the US government is paying for the trip to KG (thank you!), we're required to fly on a US airline. There are not a lot of US airlines that are interested in flying to Bishkek. Therefore, the ones that do fly there are significantly more expensive. This wouldn't be a problem except that we're only getting money for three of us to fly even though there are four people in the family. So we're trying to fly four people on a generous allotment for three people and it's not working very well. I'd still like to stop in at least London and hopefully Spain and Istanbul on the way there. I'm running out of hope for Spain and Istanbul.

Of course, there are some foreign air carriers that I'm not in the least interested in flying on. Aeroflot out of Russia has a real flair for crash landings. Maybe they've improved in the last few years.

Kyrgyzstan Flag



[Update] chronicler asked about the symbolism of the flag, which I was too lazy to add earlier. This is from the Silk Road Foundation:

Kyrgyzstan's flag was adopted on March 3, 1992 and shows a combination of esoteric and practical symbols. On a field of red - traditional color of the Kyrgyz - is centered a yellow sun with 40 rays, representing the 40 tribes led by the ancient national hero, Manas, who united them to form the Kyrgyz nation. (See Aramco World, May/June 1996.) Centered on the sun is a red circle containing two crossed sets of three curved lines, a stylized representation of the opening at the peak of a yurt - the traditional circular tent of skins used by the nomads of Central Asia and Mongolia. The sun symbolizes light, nobility and eternigy to the Kyrgyz. This flag is of particular interest because on the observe, or front, side the rays of the sun curve in a counter-clockwise direction, while on the reverse of the flag the rays curve clockwise.

10 June 2005

Two Short Things

It's not a very pleasant feeling to get caught in a snowstorm with two children when you're nearly a mile from your car. The snow was falling fast enough and the wind was blowing hard enough that if I hadn't known my way around the Upper Geyser Basin well, it would have been tricky to get back to the car safely. But I did discover that my younger doesn't complain nearly as much about walking when he has a definite purpose in mind. (Apparently getting back to the car before you freeze is a good reason to keep walking.)


As always, when you see something about Central Asia on CNN.com, go get the real scoop on Registan.com or at least BBC. Today was particularly bad. An article about an assassination of a Kyrgyz lawmaker was accompanied by a picture of Akayev, the former president. The person who was assassinated was not mentioned for several paragraphs. Registan also has more information about CNN's "asylum handover shock."

08 June 2005

Instinct

Adam has a very thoughtful post at Times and Seasons about our inability at times to control our instincts. This isn't a pleasant thought. We'd like to think that we can control ourselves, but I do think there are times that instinct takes over. I think sometimes this is a sin, but sometimes it isn't. As always, the Lord knows the intents of our hearts.

I have been thinking a lot about my friend Mark Hacking. As some of you know, Mark murdered his wife, Lori, last summer. Last December, I wrote about some of the things that happened. Since then, Mark has pleaded guilty to the murder and been sentenced to prison. (By the way, Mark's mother said that he only pleaded innocent earlier for some technical legal reasons. He always planned to plead guilty to end the process as quickly as possible.)

Mark's descent apparently started with lies. Lies to his wife about attending school. Lies to his mother-in-law. Lies about his mission. Lies to his family about graduating from school and starting medical school. I don't know how many lies he told. The SLC police chief at one point said that he couldn't think of anything that Mark hadn't lied about.

It seems that those lies became instinctive at some point- there were so many that lies were the only way to live. But he chose to start down that path that lead him to a loss of control over his life. Mark seems to have gotten to a point that he did not have control over his own life. This doesn't excuse him in any way. Mark's choices caused him to lose control.

If Mark did start to lie because he wanted people to think he was better/smarter/more righteous/more interesting that he really was, I hope he has learned that his family's love for him is unconditional. Even now, even with all the awful things they know about him, his parents love him. I wish he could have realized that many years ago. Maybe, just maybe, he could have stopped all this before an innocent life was taken.

I wish that the scriptures were clearer about the fate of murders. Maybe it's impossible to be clear. Maybe, as in every case, but in a murder's case especially, the intents of the heart are what make the difference.

07 June 2005

Uzbekistan

The US has evacuated embassy families and Peace Corp volunteers from Uzbekistan in the last week. Good thing we didn't apply to go there. It actually would have been our first choice, since we've always wanted to go to Samarqand, but we felt like Kyrgyzstan would be the better option. Now if KG can stay settled down...

On a slightly related note, the Church News had a bio of Paul Pieper, a newly called GA who lived in Kazakhstan for many years.

06 June 2005

Yellowstone

I was able to go to Yellowstone on my own on Saturday while the boys were all camping. I had a wonderful time and saw several new geysers. So, as always, there are lots of geyser pictures following.

Yellowstone just seems to be a happy coincidence of science, magic, and mountains. I hope very much that we can live near here again. There are few places where I feel so relaxed.

05 June 2005

Sizzler


This is Sizzler or Super Frying Pan. It's near Jet Geyser. This little fellow was probably formed in the 1959 earthquake and is fun to watch. The area near Sizzler was greatly affected by the 1959 earthquake. One geyser here, Clepsydra, erupts almost all the time now.

Fountain


I saw Fountain twice on Saturday and I was able to get a better picture of it. This is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It's not terribly huge, but it's wide with lots of splashing. It lasts for about 30 minutes so you get a nice long show. This is in the Lower Geyser Basin near the Fountain Paint Pots. It often erupts about every 6 hours, so ask at the Visitor Center at Old Faithful if they know the last time it went. There are several clues to knowing whether it's close to going. First, Spasm Geyser in front of Clepsydra will erupt for at least 30 minutes before Fountain, so check the runoff channels from Spasm to see if they are long and full. If Spasm isn't going and you don't know the previous time, it could be a long wait. The more often Jet Geyser (behind you as you are looking at Fountain) goes, the closer an eruption is from Fountain. Finally, the best clue is that the water in Foutain will start to rise 8-10 inches about a minute before an eruption. Fountain really is a lovely geyser and worth waiting for.

Pink Cone


I finally saw Pink Cone on Saturday. It's right next to Firehole Lake Drive. It only erupts every 20 hours, but it lasts over two hours, so it's not too difficult to see. It's a beautiful geyser even though it's not one of the bigger ones.

Narcissus


That's Narcissus back in the trees. There are no roads or trails anywhere near it, so it's hard to see. It's a nice little geyser though. I wish it were easier to see.

Bead


Bead Geyser is along Firehole Lake Drive. I knew it was along there somewhere, but when I drove by on Saturday, a geyser gazer happened to be there and he showed me where lots of smaller, less obvious geysers are.

Cistern Spring


Cistern Spring in Norris Geyser Basin. Cistern is the only thermal feeature that is known to be connected to Steamboat. It drains quite a bit after a Steamboat eruption. Obviously, it still hadn't recovered after the last steamboat on May 23rd. It's interesting to see a drained pool. You can also see all the boiling going on.

Castle


Castle Geyser. It erupts for about 20 minutes from a very large cone and is great to watch. It has a nice long and loud steam phase too.

Aurum


Aurum Geyser from Castle Geyser (about a 1/3- 1/2 mile away). Aurum goes about 20 feet high and lasts for just a minute.

04 June 2005

Frustration

Some of the comments have started me wondering about frustration level associated with various things. What are some relatively common things that frustrate you and what are some less common things you do that work very well?

For example (since I'm not sure I explained myself very well), lots of mothers love to trade babysitting. It's a great system since it's fairly simple and doesn't cost anything. However, taking care of other people's children frustrates me enough that it's not worth it for me. Sewing is another thing that frustrates me- but only by machine.

On the other hand, I love to handsew. It's relaxing and easy for me. But I can assure you that when almost anyone hears that, they think it's odd, if not downright crazy. I also put my children to bed at 7:00. Most families don't put their children in bed this early, and I'm used to people thinking we're loony (do you spell looney with or without that "e"?) for doing it.

Anyway, I hope you get what I'm asking. What frustrates you and what works well?

03 June 2005

Time v. Money

Julie had a good point in one of the comments below. The basic point was that there are times when the money saved is not worth the time spent. I definitely agree. But, as Julie implied, the equation changes when there is more value gained than just saving money.

When I make something from scratch, I'm often saving myself a trip to the grocery store. I hate to shop. So if we don't have it, I figure out how to make it. It almost always takes less time and money to do it myself than to go to the store.

Now, you could argue that if you were very organized that you could just go to the store once a week and always have what you needed on hand and not have to cook from scratch. This is a fair argument, but I'd love to hear from someone who actually can do this. Is there anyone who doesn't ever run out of or forget something? I'd love to know your secret if you don't.

I also place a high value on being home. This isn't something a lot of people value, I know. But I like it. I'd much prefer to keep track of my boys at home than at the store. I feel much more independent at home. It's where I belong.

As a result of combination of these little quirks of mine (liking to be home, hating to shop, a flair for cooking creativity), we've been able to go without a second car since we've been married. That has been our real savings- easily $10,000 or more over the last 7 years. Even though it doesn't really save a lot to make tortillas, or applesauce, or refried beans, it's the way it all comes together that saves us the money.

There are some things I don't do. Making my own bulgur was way too labor-intensive. I didn't do cloth diapers. I don't have a cow. There are a lot of things that really aren't worth it to me.

But in the end, beyond saving money, I just like homemade food. I like homemade tortillas and the 20 minutes that I spend rolling them out while chatting with my sister on the phone is worth it. I like that I can make healthier bread. I like fresh yogurt. I guess it all comes down to flavor.

02 June 2005

Let the Blessings Rest...Upon These Mothers

Originally posted at Conversation

From the rededicatory prayer of the St. George Temple given by President Kimball:

We again ask thy blessing on the women in the land, that they may accomplish the measure of their creation as daughters of God, Thy offspring. Let the blessings of Sarah, Huldah, Hannah, Anna and Mary, the mother of the son of God, bless these women to fulfill their duties as did Mary, our beloved mother of Thy Son, and let the power and satisfactions of the prophetesses and all holy women rest upon these mothers as they move forward to fulfill their destinies.



Church News
15 Nov. 1975: 5–7

Geyser Wraps

I call them this since I always take them to Yellowstone. I love wraps, but after buying tortillas, lunch meat, cream cheese, and jack or mozzarella cheese, they get a little pricey. Here's my less expensive version to make 8 wraps:

Homemade tortillas:

2 cups flour (white or wheat, but white is easier to roll out)
2 tsp salt
2 T oil
1/2 -3/4 c warm water

The salt and oil can be adjusted as desired. Mix salt and flour, then add oil and enough water to make a soft but not too sticky dough. Knead for a minute or two, then let rest for 30 minutes. Divide into 8 equal pieces and roll out. Fry over medium to medium high heat till lightly browned on both sides.


Homemade wrap spread:

2 cups plain (preferable homemade) yogurt
Sliced green onions
Minced garlic
Crushed red peppers
Herbs and other seasonings as desired
Salt

Drain* the yogurt overnight till it is thick (it'll be about a cup). Mix in other flavorings as desired.

Spread the yogurt mixture on the tortillas and top with thinly sliced lunch meat, grated cheese, and spinach.

I like wraps because they aren't as messy as sandwiches and taste good for several days. They keep well.

*To drain yogurt, line a strainer with clean cheesecloth or muslin, or just some loosely woven fabric. Put the yogurt in the strainer and let sit in the sink, or place the strainer over a bowl to save the whey. I've never worried about draining it in the fridge.

Dadffodils, lilacs, and roses

It's been interesting to drive to Yellowstone so often this year and see the variation in Spring's arrival. I've experienced this every year in different places, but this last weekend it was particularly noticeable. On Sunday I was in a small town in Wyoming where the daffodils were blooming, but when we met my mother on Monday at a different cemetery, she had roses from the rosebush I planted at her house 10 years ago. My town is somewhere between those two, with the lilacs still blooming.

That means it's not summer here yet. The house was 58 degrees this morning. I can't quite bring myself to turn the heat on in June though!

Still, it was fun to see daffodils, lilacs, and roses all at once.

01 June 2005

New LDS Women's Journal

Segullah, a new LDS Women's online journal has recently been launched. It looks like it will be a interesting new endeavor. Good luck to those who have started it!