Sunday, October 29, 2006

Geocaching at the new Cheyenne Mountain State Park

We went and found a cache called Gobble Gobble in the new state park. It was a lovely hike, but we were pretty tired by the end because the trip is about a 5.5 mile loop. But the neat thing is the state park is like a 10 minute drive from here. Maybe I'll buy a year pass so I can go more often. Haily and I are thinking of going next weekend to find another cache. This picture is mom and Haily about 3/4 the way down Blackmer Loop after finding the cache.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Well, I just got back from the hospital. Mom woke me up this morning to tell me dad had gotten in a car wreck. He had slid on ice and hit a tree. He got checked out and he's okay and now he's home, but he'll be pretty sore for the next few days. His jeep is probably totaled, he's having it towed to the house to part it out and he'll have to get another vehicle.

My uncle, his younger brother, has been fighting with cancer in his mouth. It recently came back. My dad is supposed to fly out there to Alabama in a few weeks to be there when his brother Greg gets operated on to try to remove the cancer again. He's going to have to do radiation every day for six months. I think this will be the first time my dad has seen his family by himself since he got married.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

One of my travel bugs has logged over 20,000 miles!

Recipe Project

I am working on compiling some of the favorite family recipes into a book. My mom's recipes are mostly written on 30-40 year old sheets of paper or torn from newspapers from the '60s and '70s and a modern upgrade is definitely in order. I downloaded a Word recipe card template that I am using. My plan is to get it all printed when done on nice paper at Kinko's or some place like that and then put each page in a page protector and in a 3-ring binder and give copies to members of the family, along with a CD of the file so they can edit and make changes and add pages over time.

I thought perhaps some of you in blogland might have recipes that might be included in the book.

The basic criteria are as follows:

1. The simpler the better - fast, few ingredients, nothing hard to find, etc.

2. Generally avoiding things that include pork, alcohol, etc.

3. "American" fare - but basic oriental, mexican, Italian common on American tables are fine

4. Dinner main courses or holiday fare or desserts are the primary recipe types

Saturday, October 21, 2006

When are your Hijri and Gregorian birthdays the same?

30 / 9 / 2137
is Monday 14 RamaDHaan 1562 A.H.

I was born on 30/9/1974 or Monday 14 Ramadhaan 1394, according to most calculations.

It is expected to take 163 Gregorian years or 168 Hijri years until my birthday anniversary would fall on the same date in both calendars once again. Interestingly, the days of the week coincide also.

But, this year and next are about as close as I would get in my lifetime to the two falling on the same date. The cycle of near-alignment repeats every 32-33 years. So, if I were to live to be 64-66, there is another near alignment in which the two birthdays fall in less than 10 days of each other. - you can play with this converter and see when your birthday was and when they might align again. I tried a different date and tried 163 years and it was two days off, so 163 years would not work for every pair dates, but it gets close.

Random Somewhat Useful Information Because It's Interesting: When Can You Reuse This Year's (Gregorian) Calendar?

Let us first assume that you are only interested in which dates fall
on which days of the week; you are not interested in the dates for
Easter and other irregular holidays.

Let us further confine ourselves to the years 1901-2099.

With these restrictions, the answer is as follows:

- If year X is a leap year, you can reuse its calendar in year X+28.

- If year X is the first year after a leap year, you can reuse its
calendar in years X+6, X+17, and X+28.

- If year X is the second year after a leap year, you can reuse its
calendar in years X+11, X+17, and X+28.

- If year X is the third year after a leap year, you can reuse its
calendar in years X+11, X+22, and X+28.

Note that the expression X+28 occurs in all four items above. So you
can always reuse your calendar every 28 years.

But if you also want your calendar's indication of Easter and other
Christian holidays to be correct, the rules are far too complex to be
put to a simple formula. Sometimes calendars can be reused after just
six years. For example, the calendars for the years 1981 and 1987 are
identical, even when it comes to the date for Easter. But sometimes a
very long time can pass before a calendar can be reused; if you happen
to have a calendar from 1940, you won't be able to reuse it until the
year 5280!

Source and for more info:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cheyenne Mountain State Park to open this week

The Gazette

After six years and more than $17 million, Cheyenne Mountain State Park will open to the public Saturday.

The tapestry of rolling oak groves, pine forests and meadows at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain is a monumental addition to the city. It’s twice the size of Palmer Park. It’s bigger than Garden of the Gods or Cheyenne Cañon Park. At 1,680 acres, it’s the largest park ever created in El Paso County.

The acreage is home to black bears, elk, mountain lions, roadrunners, prairie dogs, coyotes, foxes and bobcats. And the trails are just as diverse.

“It’s got something for everyone. For the light walker there are easy trails.

For the serious hiker there are great places to get lost. There are mountain bike trails, picnic areas, a gorgeous visitor’s center. It will be awesome,” said Rick Upton, president of Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

More than 18 miles of trails will open to the public Saturday. A visitors center will open in November. Picnic and campsites are scheduled to open next summer.

[I think this is cool, I love open space/parks, etc. I look forward to checking it out, insha'allah.]


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Will of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS)

Imam Ali's (AS) last will to his sons Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Hussain (AS) after the attempt on his life by a stab from Ibn Muljam [anniversary is being marked tonight or tomorrow night by most, depending on when month of Ramadhan began for them according to taqlid]:

My advice to you is to be conscious of Allah and steadfast in your religion. Do not yearn for the world, and do not be seduced by it. Do not resent anything you have missed in it. Proclaim the truth; work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor and support the oppressed.

I advise you, and all my children, my relatives, and whosoever receives this message, to be conscious of Allah, to remove your differences, and to strengthen your ties. I heard your grandfather, peace be upon him, say: "Reconciliation of your differences is more worthy than all prayers and all fasting."

Fear Allah in matters concerning orphans. Attend to their nutrition and do not forget their interests in the middle of yours.

Fear Allah in your relations with your neighbors. Your Prophet often recommended them to you, so much so that we thought he would give them a share in inheritance.

Remain attached to the Quran. Nobody should surpass you in being intent on it, or more sincere in implementing it.

Fear Allah in relation to your prayers. It is the pillar of your religion.

Fear Allah in relation to His House; do not abandon it as long as you live. It you should do that you would abandon your dignity.

Persist in jihad in the cause of Allah, with your money, your souls, and your tongue.

Maintain communication and exchange of opinion among yourselves. Beware of disunity and enmity. Do not desist from promoting good deeds and cautioning against bad ones. Should you do that,the worst among you would be your leaders, and you will call upon Allah without response.

O Children of Abdul Mattaleb! Do not shed the blood of Muslims under the banner: The Imam has been assassinated! Only the assassin should be condemned to death.

If I die of this stab of his, kill him with one similar stroke. Do not mutilate him! I have heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, say: "Mutilate not even a rabid dog."

Source: Nahjul Balagha

In the 40th year of Hijri, in the small hours of the morning of 19th Ramadan, Imam Ali (AS) was struck with a poisoned sword by the Kharijite Ibn Maljam while offering his prayers in the Masjid of Kufa. He died on the 21st day of Ramadan 40 A.H. and buried in Najaf-ul-Ashraf. He was born in the House of Allah, the Kaaba, and martryed in the House of Allah, Masjid-e-Kufa. The Lion of Allah, the most brave and gentle Muslim after the Prophet (PBUH&HF) himself, began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and His Messenger, and ended it in the service of Islam.

"And do not speak of those who are slain in the the Way of Allah as dead; nay, they are alive, but you perceive not." Quran 2:154

- From

Jupiter Tiny Spot Goes From White to Red

Tiny? I bet it is still large enough to hold Earth or its moon....

AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just a little more than a year ago, the small spot on Jupiter was a pale white; now it matches the reddish hue of its bigger sibling, the Great Red Spot, and boasts 400 mph winds, according to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Both spots are actually fierce storms in Jupiter's atmosphere. While the red spot - at three times the size of Earth - is much more noticeable, strange things are happening to the smaller spot.

Scientists aren't quite sure what's happening to the smaller storm, nicknamed the Little Red Spot or Red Spot Jr. but officially called "Oval BA." It probably gained strength as it shrunk slightly, the same way spinning ice skaters go faster when they move their arms closer, said NASA planetary scientist Amy Simon-Miller. Her findings from the Hubble data were published in the astronomical journal Icarus.

As the storm has grown stronger it's probably picked up red material from lower in the Jupiter atmosphere, most likely some form of sulfur which turns red as part of a chemical reaction, she said.

The color change took astronomers by surprise. And now they figure more surprises are in store as the solar system's largest planet goes into hiding from Earth's prying eyes until January, moving behind the sun.

"We found that Jupiter tends to do interesting things behind the sun and we can't see it," Simon-Miller said.

I wish I had seen it!


Robert Ward travels all over the world in search of meteorites. Now he’s in eastern El Paso County looking for meteorites that were part of a meteor seen above Colorado on Oct. 1. He travels with samples of real meteorites — unusual black rocks, most of which are magnetic — to educate people on what to look for when meteorite hunting. (JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE)

1. Sunday Oct. 1, a large meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere about 11:15 p.m. over Tucson at about 21,000 mph. 2. Over Alamosa, the object began to break into pieces. 3. The main meteor broke into four pieces over Westcliffe. 4. Those four pieces broke into eight to 15 pieces about eight miles east of Cañon City. 5. The fragments were about 25 miles high when over the Colorado Springs area. 6. The surviving fragments should have landed between Penrose and Ellicott and could be strewn in a field 10 to 15 miles long.



Imagine searching for marblesize rocks in a 50-mile strip between Penrose and Ellicott.

That’s essentially what meteorite hunter and collector Robert Ward was doing Tuesday.

One of the brightest meteors reported in recent years slowdanced across Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado the night of Oct. 1, possibly dropping meteorites toward the tail end of its trip.

Ward said he has chased fireballs worldwide for 20 years, and that this is the most impressive.

“This one traveled amazingly far, amazingly low, and amazingly slowly,” he said. “It was a very big, very bright fireball seen by a lot of people.”

Jeff and Pam Holmberg are two who watched it come to Earth.

The husband and wife were watching television in their house north of Westcliffe when Jeff looked out the window and saw the fireball over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

“I started hootin’ and hollerin’ and she came out of the chair like a shot,” Jeff Holmberg said.

He and his wife ran outside in time to see the main fireball break into three or four pieces. Jeff Holmberg scrambled up a ladder to the roof and watched the meteor pieces disappear into the northeast horizon toward Colorado Springs.

“It was a big, bright light with a smoke trail behind it,” he said.

“It was just incredible how close it seemed,” Pam Holmberg said. “It was floating across, so bright, it seemed like you could just reach out and touch it.”

Eyewitnesses and cameras that capture the whole sky in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona caught the fireball at 11:16 p.m. Oct. 1, said Chris Peterson, an astronomer and a researcher at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Witnesses also reported hearing the sonic boom, a sound similar to thunder. The sonic boom is heard several minutes after the fireball is seen because it takes sound that long to travel to Earth from more than 20 miles in the air, Peterson said.

The fireball traveled generally southwest to northeast, beginning northeast of Phoenix, cutting across northwest New Mexico and ending east of Colorado Springs.

It was captured by sky cameras at the Guffey School and at Cloudbait Observatory north of Guffey, which Peterson runs, as well as sky cameras in New Mexico.

The full flight possibly lasted 45 seconds — an eternity for a meteor, Peterson said.

“It was very, very long,” he said. “It was going about as slow as a meteor gets. To see a meteor that goes on for more than half a minute is remarkable.”

Witnesses and cameras show the meteor breaking into pieces in a long train extending at least 70 miles from southern Colorado to Colorado Springs, Peterson said. He described the breakup pattern as “extremely unusual.” Usually meteors fade out, but videos show this one split into a long string of individual fireballs, Peterson said.

Meteorites may have dropped over the central San Luis Valley, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, across the Wet Mountain Valley and continuing to Ellicott, 20 miles east of Colorado Springs.

Ward, who is from Arizona, is focusing his hunt for space rocks between Penrose and Ellicott. He started by asking people at fire stations, gas stations and convenience stores if anyone had seen or heard anything unusual.

Ward found Jeff Holmberg at the Wet Mountain Fire Protection District, where Holmberg volunteers. Holmberg had told his skeptical fellow firefighters about what he’d seen.

“The boys at the fire station just kind of grinned and shook their heads and asked me about aliens and stuff,” he said.

A couple of days later, Ward walked in and asked if anyone had seen a meteor. Holmberg invited Ward to his house for breakfast and told him his story over biscuits and gravy.

The men climbed on Holmberg’s roof. Ward took compass readings and gathered other information he’ll use to estimate the fireball’s flight path.

Meteorites are typically unusual black rocks with rounded surfaces, Ward said. They’re usually heavier than other rocks the same size, and 90 percent are magnetic.

He finds about 80 meteorites a year, some of them hundreds of years old. It’s rare and more scientifically significant to find meteorites that have just fallen.

“This was in space a week ago,” Ward said. “It’s extremely fresh. It’s important to get it into a lab as soon as possible so it can be analyzed.”

While Ward concentrates on where meteorites might have ended up, Peterson is more interested in where the space rocks came from.

With good reports from several locations, scientists can estimate the orbit of the meteor before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Then, if meteorites are found, they can be tested to provide scientifically valuable information about the parent body, Peterson said.

They can also be valuable to dealers and collectors, who base their worth on factors such as where the meteorite is from and whether there were witnesses to its fall. A witnessed fresh fall from the moon or Mars might be worth $1 million or more. Other meteorites have little monetary value.


Question: What is a meteor?

Answer: Earth continually crosses paths with debris from asteroids and other bodies such as Mars and the moon. The debris enters Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 70,000 mph, producing light and heat from the friction between its surface and the air. When debris hits the atmosphere, its main mass is called a meteor. The heat is usually enough to burn up the meteor while it’s still miles high. As it burns, it generates a bright streak across the sky commonly called a shooting star.

Q: What are meteorites?

A: If fragments from the meteor hit the ground, they’re called meteorites. It can take more than five minutes for meteorites to reach the ground after the meteor burns out.

Q: What are fireballs?

A: When larger particles enter Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a more

spectacular light show. Very bright meteors are called fireballs.

Q: What are meteorites worth?

A: Some are more valuable than gold; others have little monetary value.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Earth has more than one moon - (almost)

Earth has a second moon, of sorts, and could have many others, according to three astronomers who did calculations to describe orbital motions at gravitational balance points in space that temporarily pull asteroids into bizarre orbits near our planet.

The 3-mile-wide (5-km) satellite, which takes 770 years to complete a horseshoe-shaped orbit around Earth, is called Cruithne and will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.

Cruithne, discovered in 1986, and then found in 1997 to have a highly eccentric orbit, cannot be seen by the naked eye, but scientists working at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London were intrigued enough with its peregrinations to come up with mathematical models to describe its path.

That led them to theorize that the model could explain the movement of other objects captured at the gravitational balance points that exist between all planets and the sun.

"We found new dynamical channels through which free asteroids become temporarily moons of Earth and stay there from a few thousand years to several tens of thousands of years," said Fathi Namouni, one of the researchers, now at Princeton University.

"Eventually these same channels provide the moons with escape routes. So the main difference between the moon (weve always known) and the new moons is that the latter are temporary -- they come and go, but they stay for a very long time before they leave."

Astronomers have long known that the solar system is full, relatively speaking, of asteroids.

Most orbit the sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter, but a handful cross Earth's orbital path -- an imaginary curve through space along which our planet travels around the sun.

Namouni and his colleagues discovered several new types of orbital motion, which showed that some asteroids that cross Earths path may be trapped in orbits caused by the gravitational dance between Earth and the sun.

The work was published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

Strange Lagrange

The finding is based on work by 18th century French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, whose name is affixed to five points of equilibrium (L1 to L5 in the top diagram) that occur between the gravitational forces of planets, including Earth and the sun.

Lagrange had shown that the forces at the balance points could capture objects and keep them orbiting there (NASA and the European Space Agency have taken advantage of one balance point by launching a sun-observing satellite called SOHO that currently orbits at L1). The orbits of objects at these points are exotic, often tadpole-shaped, but rarely horseshoe-shaped. The horseshoe orbit involves movement around the L3, L4 and L5 points (see diagram at top).

Cruithne takes 770 years to complete its horseshoe orbit. Every 385 years, it comes to its closest point to Earth, some 9.3 million miles (15 million kilometers) away. Its next close approach to Earth comes in 2285.

Namouni and his colleagues latched on to Cruithnes orbit and worked out models built on Lagranges work to explain its eccentric orbit and then theorized that such "co-orbital dynamics" could explain the strange movement of other objects at the Lagrangian points.

Cruithnes orbit is exceedingly strange. "What it does with respect to the Earth is it moves very slowly," said Namounis colleague Apostolos Christou. "At specific points in its orbit, it reverses its rate of motion with respect to Earth so it will appear to go back and forth."

Whats in a moon?

Co-orbital motions probably describe the orbits of many objects at the Lagrange points, Namouni and his colleagues say, but are these objects moons?

A moon typically is defined as an object whose orbit encompasses a planet, say, the Earth, rather than the sun, said Carl Murray, who worked with Namouni and Christou on the research.

But its hard to say what a "true" moon is, he said.

In his view, there are three classes of moons large moons in near-circular orbits around a planet, having formed soon after the planet; smaller fragments that are the products of collisions; and outer, irregular moons in odd orbits, or captured asteroids like Cruithne. In the past year, astronomers have reported finding such objects around Uranus.

So where does our well-known moon fall in this classification, given that scientists think it is the result of a Mars-sized object slamming against our planet soon after it formed?

"Our own moon is in many ways unique and its formation seems like a one-off event," he said. "Our moon is very different in all respects from an object like Cruithne."

There are almost certainly more temporary moons of Earth and of other planets waiting to be discovered, Murray said.

As scientists get better at discovering asteroids, they will find more that have orbits that will keep them close to Earth for a long period of time. But some of those objects are very small.

"At some stage you have to consider the definition of moon," he said. "Is a dust particle orbiting the Earth a moon of the Earth?"

As for Cruithne, Namouni said its not really a "moon" because it moves around the Earth at this time but may not forever. Earth is causing Cruithnes present trajectory, but it could eventually escape.

So its not a moon of Earth, but it might become one.

"We found that Cruithne is likely to use the new dynamical channels to become a real moon of the Earth and remain as such for 3,000 years," Namouni said.

Since there is no definitive count yet of all the asteroids in our solar system, including Earth-crossers, Namouni and his team cannot estimate how many other temporary moons may be orbiting Earth and other planets.

Still, the finding throws into question the current official counts of moons around the planets, since there may be dozens of unknown asteroids circling each planet in temporary or permanent orbits due to gravitational balance points.

For now, Namouni says there should be a new category of moons -- "temporary moons that are captured for a few thousand to several tens of thousands of years."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I think they're out there, and I hope they continue to survive.

Possible grizzly sighting bears further scrutiny, officials say

Friday, September 29, 2006


The Daily Sentinel

Ghost grizzlies or real grizzlies, whatever species of bruin two hunters saw near Independence Pass recently has wildlife managers sniffing for clues.

Two hunters who said they have experience with black and grizzly bears claim they spotted three grizzlies near Independence Pass in the San Isabel National Forest on Sept. 20, the Colorado Division of Wildlife announced Thursday.

The chance the hunters spotted a grizzly is slim, but the division is taking the alleged sighting seriously enough to post signs warning forest visitors a grizzly may be in the area, division spokesman Tyler Baskfield said.

Only black bears are thought to exist in Colorado.

The hunters reported watching a female grizzly and two cubs from a distance of about 80 yards through binoculars and a spotting scope, but they were unable to find scat or tracks after the bears moved on.

Grizzlies are thought to be extinct in Colorado, and if the sighting is confirmed, it would be the first grizzly bear to be found in the state since 1979, when Colorado’s known grizzly was killed in the South San Juan Wilderness.

Before that, the last confirmed grizzly sighting in Colorado was in 1956, Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.

“We’re taking this on a day-by-day basis,” Baskfield said. “We’ve made a decision to sign the general area of the sighting to alert people of the possible presence (of a grizzly). Until we get some physical evidence, we’re going to concentrate on the investigation.”

The names of the hunters were unavailable, and Baskfield declined to give specifics about where the hunters allegedly sighted the grizzlies or what such a sighting, if confirmed, might mean.

Colorado grizzly expert David Petersen said he believes a confirmed native grizzly sighting would mean the bear’s habitat would be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

In the early 1990s, Petersen, a Durango writer and member of the Colorado Roadless Area Review Task Force, studied the history of grizzly bears in Colorado and wrote about his findings in his book, “Ghost Grizzlies.”

He said the last credible evidence of a grizzly here was uncovered in 1995, but the bear was never found, and no other evidence has surfaced since. If a grizzly bear exists in Colorado, he said, wildlife managers would try to track it, take DNA samples and figure out where it came from.

Such a bear could have wandered down from Wyoming, Petersen said.

If it turned out to be a grizzly native to Colorado, it could cause wildlife managers to cancel the fall bear hunting season.

“If they determined it was a Wyoming bear, who knows? They might haul it back home,” he said.

“If they determine it was a native bear, they’d let it go and hope it led them to other native bears.”

“That would be the end of peace and quiet for that bear,” encouraging an “army of thrill seekers” and others, perhaps with dishonorable motives, to follow the bears around, Petersen said.

“I’d rather they just be allowed to live out the remainder of their lives (in peace),” he said.

Petersen said he believes the alleged grizzly sighting is invalid and that any remaining grizzlies lurking in Colorado forests wouldn’t likely make Independence Pass their home.

Petersen and others have speculated that only the remote South San Juan Wilderness, where the last known Colorado grizzly was shot in 1979, could be remote and isolated enough for grizzlies to survive.

He said he believes there are too many people in Colorado for grizzlies to have survived here.

Any remaining grizzlies, he said, would have little chance of surviving on their own.

Bobby Magill can be reached via e-mail at