Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays to All!

Here's Schlepp in front of a luminaria, a traditional holiday decoration in New Mexico. Whether you call it a faralito or a luminaria, they are beautiful when massed atop all the houses and along all the streets.

Have a safe, warm and happy holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter in NM

Schlepp took Aunt Frances down to the Albuquerque Nature Center to see the winter wildlife. It was cold but sunny and there were lots of Canadian geese, a bunch of wood ducks, and lots of mallards. Here's Miss Frances at the observation room looking out over the Nature Center's pond with lots of Canadian geese in the background.

Oddly enough, we didn't see a single crane. We're guessing they are farther south at Bosque del Apache.

Tonight it may snow, but its just not cold enough for a white Christmas in Albuquerque. Maybe it will snow on Christmas Day.

To all the Schlepp fans, have a happy solstice celebration, whatever your faith. Be safe and stay warm.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teddy Bears in the Sudan

Talk about a collision of cultures--today a court in the Sudan convicted Gillian Gibbons for letting her 2nd year class name their teddy bear Mohammed. If any foreigner in the Sudan had thought about how the Danish cartoons of the Prophet were taken, and if the Sudanese had thought about how precious teddy bears are to the Brits, this never would have happened. To misconstrue that this is some kind of pernicious plot to overthrow Islam is ludicrous. The Muslim Council of Britain was quoted as saying:
"(Gibbons) should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone convicted of any crime," Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said. "There was no crime, it was a wholly innocent and naive. ... The worst you could say about her actions is that she was inadvertently naive. She should not be put in prison for that."
Schlepp and all the critters of the Home Front Brigade want Gillian to know that we fully support her and find the recent actions of the court in Khartoum to only reinforce negative stereotypes.

My understanding from the press is that a disgruntled school employee made the charge and that students had been taking Mohammed home for the weekend since September without ill feeling. After all, it was the students who nominated and voted for the name.


Monday 3 December update. With the pardon of Gillian Gibbons by the President of Sudan, perhaps some calm will come to a land under seige. Now the correct focus of our attention (and that of the media) should be the situation in Darfur.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in Ne w Mexico

Schlepp went north to visit the Horaks and Ramsays (Karl's brother's wife's family) for Thanksgiving. The forecast was for a good bit of snow and it did not disappoint. Here TS helps dig the Prius out. For scale, remember that he's just an 8" bear.

Luckily, the snowplows had stayed on top of things and the roads were slick in places with a bit of snow pack, but easily traveled if you used some bear sense.

By the time Schlepp had shoveled Dad's driveway, it was 10:00 and time to leave -- we wanted plenty of time to get back to Albuquerque because the road conditions in Santa Fe were an unknown quantity.

As it turned out, the roads were turning slushy by ten and only a few icy bridges greeted us in Santa Fe. The Interstate was somewhat wet but not at all snowy from Santa Fe south. So the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 2007 turned out to be not so horrible and everyone's back home, safe and warm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Again Home Again, Jiggitty Jig


This is the way Schlepp handles fatigue while on travel--main-lining Espresso straight from the machine. And fatigue is what we had coming back from Amman.

First there was an entire day of workshop, close-out meetings, workshop luncheon, and team dinner. Then there was an evening to pack, shower, and shave before heading to the airport at 11:00 PM.

Flight to Paris took off at 2:00 AM in an old 737 that was crowded, uncomfortable, and poorly ventilated. Arrived at CDG around 6:30. Here's Schlepp at Gate E-96 so early that none of the shops are open. We worked on the Schlepp Book for a good bit while Debbie slept on the floor. Got Chapter 3 finished as well as the Dramatis Personae at the front.

The trans-Atlantic leg was much more comfortable than Amman to Paris. Arrived in good shape in Atlanta. Had a moment for a light dinner, then home to ABQ before 9:30 PM. All in all, about 44 hours on the go. Whew!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yet Another Banquet

Had another banquet, this time in Madaba, a town famous for magnificent mosaics. Here Schlepp views one of the pieces under construction. The mosaic in the background is over 4' across. Both of them show the "tree of life," a remarkable symbol that cuts across Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. Many of these mosaics are crafted by the handicapped and the pieces are only 2 or 3 mm on a side.

Afterwards we ate outdoors in a Jordanian restaurant. There were a large fig tree, grape vines, and an olive tree covering the entire group. More mezza, more shish kebab, more good times. Schlepp made friends with the daughter of one of the participants, as you can see. He is such an international diplomat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Banquet in Amman

Tonight we had a huge banquet at a Lebannese restaurant. True, there wasn't music and dance like last March, but the service was impeccable and the food limitless. To begin with there were course upon course of mezza (appetizers) laid out on the long tables. There was hardly any room beverages for all the little plates.

After eating our fill of a huge variety of treats, they came around with the main courses, lamb, beef, kebab, chicken. Of course, afterwards there was a yummy desert and deadly strong coffee with cardamon. In a pause between course, Karl took my picture with a variety of the guests and Hanada got me to sample my first "hubbly bubbly," a Middle Eastern water pipe. Finally, the evening was finished with a lovely glass of sweet tea with mint.

A great time was had by all and I did my part for international diplomacy. Tomorrow we have another day of talks and discussion by individual NGOs and then the technical part begins. Wednesday and Thursday the Plone training will take place over at the Royal Jordanian Scientific Society.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Travel Schlepp Visits the Dead Sea

The trip to Amman started off with a bad oman: a two-hour delay due to an oil leak in an engine. Got to Cincinnati with 5 minutes to spare. Luckily, the flight to France was at the gate exactly across the concourse from our arrival gate. Karl and I were the last ones on the plane.

Security lines in Paris were chaotic, but we managed them and our flight left CDG only an hour late.

Arrived in Jordan last night about 9:00. Thank goodness for the Mohammed, the meet-and-greet fellow. Asleep by midnight and in fact slept pretty well after the 23-hour long flight from Albuquerque.

Today five of us hired a car and driver for a trip to the Dead Sea, about an hour away. Its amazing how much elevation you loose going down so far below sea level.

Here I am sitting on a salt-covered boulder on the shore of the Dead Sea. In the distance you can see people floating in the water, where they can't sink because of the buoyancy. On the left is Jordan. In the distance on the right is Israel. The Palestinian West Bank is to my left (your right) outside the picture.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Schlepp in Northern New Mexico

Earlier this month Schlepp attended the InterLab 2007 Conference in Los Alamos, NM. On the way up he stopped at the obscure Mormon Battalion Memorial near Budaghers. (You have to look real hard at the bottom of the monument to see Schlepp.)

Then on the way back, he stopped at Camel Rock. Most people stop at the casino on the north side of the road, but there's a small parking area for the stone formation on the south side of the interchange. The rock is now fenced off, but when I first arrived in NM you could climb right onto the camel's hump. Worries about erosion and the loss of the camel have resulted in a closed off site.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where's Terrance?

Can you spot him?

This photo from two weeks ago shows him foraging in the oregano, where he is almost invisible. Now the weather has turned cold and he's dug himself a couple inches into the leaf litter underneath the Vinca. If I poke around a little, I can just see the top of his shell.

Even though the low this morning is forecast to be 40, this weekend its supposed to be back near 80. We'll see if that warms Terrance enough to get him moving again. This time of year in Albuquerque there are only 11 hours and 11 minutes between sunrise and sunset. With a sun elevation of only 45 degrees and the porch shading the Vinca bed until 1:00, he won't be getting much direct heat.

Meanwhile, Schlepp and the gang continue to work on Chapter Three of his book. Its almost time for NaNoWriMo, but since we started this last summer, we can't take credit for the 8000 words written so far.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Turtle Weight Watchers

Something for the biologists out there. Here is the graph of Terrance's weight, which I've been tracking since July.

I'm a bit surprised that it took such a dive in August when I thought he'd be laying on winterfat. At least the weight loss has flattened out, but he seems to be turning up his nose at strawberries, his favorite summer food.

His current weight of 354 grams works out to about 12.5 oz. In the next 2-3 weeks Terrance will be burrowing in for the winter's hibernations. Be on the lookout for post-hibernation weights next spring.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Abo Pass

Schlepp and PC took a pilgrimage to Abo Pass yesterday. This obscure pass between Mountainair and Belen, NM handles an incredible amount of rail traffic. Apparently this line carries more freight than the combined maritime transport between Europe and the U.S.

For several tight miles down in the canyon on the west side of the saddle it is single rail, so the trains stack up waiting for one to snake through before another can climb up the grade.

We watched a dozen or so from various vantage points as the 9000-foot long intermodal freights rolled by. Here we watch an east-bound train head into the pass at the NM 47 crossing. I'll have a audio podcast up later today and post the video to YouTube.

We went off the pavement south of the highway just west of the ghost town of Scholle, under a trestle, and down a canyon looking for the twin horned serpent petroglyphs, but we were turned back by mud from the recent rains.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Terrance, Newport and Schlepp

Terrance was out for a stroll the other morning. I found him behind the rosemary, so I brought him a plate of strawberries (his favorite food). Afterwards he checked out Newport, Schlepp, and Roberta (off camera left--you can just see an ear).

Since then I've only seen Terrance in the vinca, probably because its been too hot in other parts of the yard. As we move into September and things cool off, he'll start using the rosemary bed more often because of its early morning warmth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Schlepp Visits Acoma

Its been about three years since Karl was out at Acoma. This trip Schlepp got to go along for the ride. The visitor center, which burned down seven years ago, has been rebuilt and is a wonderful island of cool and shade full of interesting exhibits, a museum, a restaurant, a picnic area, and gift shop. Schlepp got to see the entire mesa-top pueblo, go inside the church with its fascinating mixture of Pueblo and Christian symbolism, and hike down the original trail from the cliff top. At left Schlepp rests on a bench in the main Acoma square.

From the mesa top, one can see marvelous vistas across the Acoma reservation. Here you can see the view out towards Enchanted Mesa, a very large, very vertical formation off to the northeast. The clouds in the background are probably building up over the Jemez or Sangre de Christo Mountains 75-100 miles away.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Matthew Meadows Neighborhood Association Online

The great guys over at Openia came through with a Plone instance for my neighborhood association. Now our little Matthew Meadows has a nice new home in cyberspace. With Plone we should be in good shape for moderated blogs, a community calendar, news listings, and a useful repository for handy community information.

Already I've raided the City of Albuquerque GIS and purloined names and addresses of all the residents. Links to govt, Yahoo, and Google maps are up, but relevant content is still short. I'm posting on various of my sites to get some cross-linking with the indexing services.

Note that this morning the WaPo has an article about community and neighborhood blogs. Very timely.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

Its been a busy weekend: Ty's graduation, shopping for plants at High Country Gardens, getting ready for tomorrow's evening get-together. For me, definitely not a morning-bear, getting up for the nephew's 9:00 AM graduation was a horrible way to start the weekend. But luckily, he graduates from high school only once.

Then, on the way back down to Albuquerque, we stopped at High Country Gardens so Caro could pick up some plants. The photo is of me in their green house by the petunias. Of course, buying plants means having to eventually plant them. So much of today was spent digging holes. Terrance was out and about, so he survived his little adventure in the swimming pool last weekend. Caro did the bulk of the work, but I'm a little sore in the back from digging and some heavy lifting.

Had time to tidy up some of the bonsai, especially a couple of the tropicals. The ginkgo is doing very well despite some critter trying to excavate a burrow in its pot. The little fern-like ground cover adds a nice touch.

Monday we're having eight or so friends over for bon bowl--our version of a Vietnamese noodle salad. Lettuce, cucumber, green onion, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, and a pile of capellini topped with grilled shrimp and pieces of spring roll. Don't forget to sprinkle liberally with chopped peanuts. The sauce is noteworthy (from Sunset Magazine years ago):

3/4 c rice wine vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce
3 T sugar
2 T sesame oil
2 T minced fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1-2 t red chili powder

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Albuquerque Bonsai Exhibit

The Albuquerque Bonsai Club will have a display of bonsai, viewing stones, and accent plants at the Albuquerque Botanic Gardens over the Mothers Day weekend. BTW, Schlepp will be taking his turn as docent and guardian of the bonsai from noon until 3 PM Sunday.

Friday, May 04, 2007


It came as a shock during the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate, not only that three of ten candidates do not believe in evolution, but that the question of evolution is a one to be asked. Even more astounding is that the answer is still open for debate among the Republican Party. A fourth candidate (McCain) has accepted speaking engagements from the Discovery Institute (the intelligent design think tank). We have a President who claims that the jury is still out on the theory of evolution. (The three who identified themselves as not believing in the theory of evolution were Sen. Sam Brownback, Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Tom Tancredo. Curiously, a number of MSM outlets did not name names.)

This state of affairs represents a profound disregard for scientific knowledge, a serious lack of understanding of the scientific method, and a prodigious statement of anti-intellectualism at the very highest levels of U.S. government. No wonder our response to global warming has been held back for seven years. No wonder we have ideological recipes to justify the invasion of Iraq and then more ideology to design a failed solution.

What ever happened to plain old critical thinking?

(Truth in Blogging Disclaimer: Schlepp has a PhD in Biology.)

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Return of Terrance the Tortoise

Its April 30th and we still hadn't seen Terrance. Last winter he popped up in mid-April. We were beginning to worry. Then this evening after work, we spotted him along the edge of the rosemary. Yup, he's up and at 'em.

True, he's a Western Box Turtle, not a tortoise, and he's slow, but he's busy hunting. Snagged a bug on his way back to his burrow underneath the Euonymus.

Good to have you back, Terrance!

Soon to come, another episode of SchleppCast in which Schlepp rescues a hummingbird who was trapped in the garage.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Mauser

Horrific news from Virginia today. The massacre at Virginia Tech has that feel of 911 for some reason, even though it is two orders of magnitude smaller. Perhaps it is the innocence lost... yet again. Another assault by unfathomable forces--one by extreme ideology, the other by extreme instability. Perhaps they are, deep down, the same thing. Schlepp's heart goes out to all those touched by these senseless acts of violence.

I am reminded that on the wall behind me is a wooden gun rack holding the 8mm Mauser that Grandpa brought back from France. As the family lore goes, he picked it up off the battlefield of Verdun. Its a carbine, originally designed for cavalry use, but the machine guns of World War One ended that.

Instead, the Mauser on my wall became an artillery officer's sidearm. The idea is that if you are in a rear echelon artillery battery and you have an opportunity to shoot a sidearm at the enemy, they'd better be at rifle range or else your artillery is as good as captured.

Grandpa was career military, a brevet company commander, and had a Sharpshooter medal. He was a Kansas farm boy who grew up with guns, probably hunting for food, not sport. He came back from the Great War and put all the guns away. Never taught his sons to shoot or hunt. He took the carbine apart and sanded the stock down, planning to refinish the gun, but never completed the task.

Years later I had a gunsmith friend in Santa Fe finish what Grandpa had started. With newly stained wood and browned barrel, it only needed a replacement shoulder strap. It hasn't been fired since at least 1918, although the gunsmith tells me it should be fine. Perhaps in 2018 I'll fire the Mauser, to celebrate a century of peace, at least for one small rifle.

But as yesterday's events bear out, Grandpa was right--guns are for killing. I'll follow his example and not fall into the trap of bringing a gun into my CSF classroom. The best we can hope for is to make it harder for madmen to lay hands on them.

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before anyone even at the cost of your life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Shrine of the Stone Lion

Schlepp had an interesting weekend. Instead of traveling somewhere exotic and faraway, he traveled to someplace exotic and nearby. With an eclectic group of fellow hikers he climbed an obscure mesa in central New Mexico and visited the ancient and little-known Stone Lion Shrine at its eastern rim.

True, there is a well-known Stone Lions Shrine just north in Bandelier National Monument with its two famous carved lions, but this is a single lion shrine. The ancestors of Cochiti Pueblo no doubt carved this remarkable work and set up the stone ring around it. They set the standing stones in place.

Apparently, in years past, the University of New Mexico used a helicopter to remove the lion to the Maxwell Museum, but protests caused it to be returned. I wonder if that is when the tail went missing?

At any rate, the shrine appeared unused, even now, just two weeks after the equinox when we would have thought there would have been a ceremony. Ten years ago there were sea shells, obsidian, and quartz crystals, but today... nothing. But still the Stone Lion quietly guards its sipapu and looks out forever across the endless mesas.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Arrivederci Amman!

Its the final day of the workshop. Everyone wandered off to home or caught flights out or are waiting for tomorrow's flight. Tim, Ruth, Amir, Kent, Hanada, and Ghada had dinner in the Marriott's Cigar Lounge. (It wasn't really smoky, but it has big comfortable chairs and is much quieter than the Champions sports bar.)

Ghada, our heroic workshop coordinator, finally got to meet Schlepp. I think everyone except Gen. Shiyyaab has posed with the furry one. Frankly, its been a good trip for a little bear and international security.

Travel home tomorrow starts at 5:30. There's a two-hour connection in London (tricky but possible) and then a 1:50 connection in Chicago. With customs, passport control, picking up and rechecking luggage, this will need a minor miracle to pull off. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post with all the exciting details.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Schlepp in Amman, Part 2

Today Schlepp went shopping down the street from the Marriott. By happy accident, he found a sports shop that sold football jerseys (soccer to you Yanks) in Jordan team colors. So we've got nephew Ty's birthday present worked out. We found Jordanian pastries for the gang at the office, some Afghan trinkets at the bazaar, and Dead Sea beauty products for the ladies back home. Now to a bear, they look like packages of mud and salt, but they're supposed to be great stuff.

For dinner the entire workshop went to Kan Zaman, a traditional restaurant. Excellent food, great company, and traditional music and entertainment. Schlepp made lots of new friends--Hanada, Rima, and Hakam from the Cooperative Monitoring Center at Amman.

Now its late and Karl has finished his e-mail to the States and he's done updating view graphs for tomorrow's final workshop sessions. Friday the long flight home begins early. There are close connections at Heathrow and a O'Hare, so stay tuned for the exciting transits through some of the world's most busy airports.

Time for a little bear to get to bed. TTFN

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Travel Schlepp in Amman

After an eventful flight over, Schlepp is at last settled in at the Marriott in Amman, Jordan. There have been meetings at the Cooperative Monitoring Center at Amman and preparations for the disaster preparedness workshop are virtually complete.

On Friday the Muslim sabbath, Schlepp toured the ancient Roman ruins downtown, especially the theater of what was then called Philadelphia. Now its 1:14 am on Sunday March 4 and Schlepp is up in the middle of the night to catch the total eclipse of the moon. Its deep rudy red, even here in the middle of Amman with only a slight lightening on the north limb of the disc. Beautiful.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Travel Schlepp on the Go Again

Its official -- the trip to Amman has been blessed by the powers that be and the tickets finally arrived.

With a little luck Schlepp managed to get an aisle seat (unfortunately back in row 43) for the 9+ hours Denver-London. Seating from Heathrow to Jordan appears better. Overall the trip is an uncomfortable one, 25 hours long not counting getting to the airport 2 hours early to check in and then its coach all the way. That makes for a wasted day after arrival just sleeping off the effects.

The technical aspects of the trip involve disaster management and specifically how to respond to a hazardous chemical disaster along the lines of a terrorist event with chemical weapons. What was initially thought to be an academic exercise now turns out to be frighteningly urgent, what with two recent chlorine car bombs in Iraq.

Expect some podcasts during the two weeks in Amman. Friends in Jordan have already found a kafia (traditional headgear) sized just right for a small bear.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Eight Years of Travel Schlepp

Its January 26 and this is the 8-year anniversary for Little Schlepp. It was on Karl's birthday in 1999 that Travel Schlepp arrived from the Bears Cookie Den in Seal Rock, Oregon. The very next day he was whisked off to Vienna for his first international adventure.

Here's one of the first photos taken of TS while traveling. Karl had his new Kodak digital camera (a 1-megapixel DC-265) and the maid at Hotel am Stephensplatz had placed Schlepp in the sconce of the bedside light.

In no time Schlepp was heading out with Karl to historic and picturesque sites all over Europe. That first trip included a stop in The Hague to meet with the OPCW. In the past 8 years he's visited Paris, Venice, Prague, Budapest, Salzburg, Bonn, and Bratislava, as well as toured parts of England and Ireland. He's gone to Cairo, Vancouver, Mumbai, and Ankara plus coast to coast in the US.

Next month he'll take his first trip to Amman, Jordan. There he will help out with a Middle East Regional Workshop on Emergency Preparedness. Its a long flight, but he's used to it. Expect several posts while he's on the road.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year -- New Post

Technorati Profile

The odometer of US military deaths in Iraq turned over 3000 recently. Saddam Hussein was executed in a mocking, unprofessional manner on a Sunni holy day (but, interestingly, not a Shia holy day). A milestone and a martyr for the insurgency.