Sunday, July 31, 2011

Buddha's Belly Bamboo

Many times people will ask whether or not you can grow bamboo in our desert gardens.  The answer is a hearty yes.  I know it's shocking to believe for some people, but it can grow here and loves intense sun.  These giants can get quite large so make sure you give them the sun, room, fertilizer, and water that they need.  About every season, I throw a little fertilizer around the base to get this plant a jump start for the summer. Bamboo is considered a grass and makes an excellent screen from neighbors and/or natural fence area.  What people don't tell you on the internet is how they will grow in's some useful info.

Buddha's Belly is the bamboo that I have on the property, BUT there are also many many other varieties that do well here.  Make sure you check the height and habits of these bamboo before you put them into the ground.  Is bamboo fun to grow?  Yes.  I love everything about it, but when I put it into the ground around different areas of the property, this is what I discovered.  Total shade will stunt the fast growth rate of bamboo.  Regular watering, once established, is important for the success of your bamboo.  Put this plant in full sunlight, but make sure it gets that weekly water during the summer.  I have mine on a drip system. The first year, you'll need to water often until it gets established.  During the first years in the ground, your bamboo won't grow as quickly as it does starting year 3 on your property.  I doubted that the bamboo would actually put any height on as it didn't do much 2 years ago.  Today it has tripled in height and looks amazing.  While it wasn't hurt during our severe freeze, several stalks bit the dust by doubling over.  Remember, with bamboo, if you trim the bamboo stalk or it dies at the tip(which is unusual except during a freeze), the bamboo on that particular stalk will stop putting on anymore height.  Bamboo in early spring goes through a "shedding period", but don't worry, new growth will appear and by May, the plant will be a robust emerald green. Shoots from the plant will come up anytime during the year to replace dead ones or just expand its territory.
You can see examples of bamboo all over Tucson, but you will have to look for them.  Most people use this plant in their backyard near a waterline.  Several hotels, one I'll be featuring in a week or so, uses bamboo all over the courtyard area. The Tucson Botanical Gardens also have several clumps growing with one large specimen in the Children's garden.  Tucson even has its own bamboo shop....titled the Bamboo Ranch.  I have a post on this place from last on the link below for phone number and info.
Taken last year at a local hotel in Tucson.  These clumps have been here for at 13 years.

Caring for bamboo is simple and makes a great addition to your landscape. Remember that there are two varieties of bamboo....clumping and running.  If you are lucky enough to have softer soil, do not plant the running variety or it will spread like wildfire!  Most of us have hard clay soil, but I still rather use the clumping variety to be on the safe side.   Buddha's Belly is a clumping variety.  Bamboo isn't for everyone and it will grow to great heights, but there is nothing like the sound of wind blowing through the culms during a monsoon storm.
My Buddha's Belly aren't this mature yet, but they are getting there.  This pic taken from Biomass Bamboo.  The bulging culm of this bamboo gives it the name.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Taking a little break from the busy summer activities.  Here is a plant that does very well here in Tucson during our summer months.  It does not like our winter at all so I'd keep this plant in a pot or planter.  Butterflies love it and the blooms stay on the plant forever! It needs regular watering and will take a lot of morning and early afternoon sun. I have this plant on the northern exposure of El Presidio Gardens.  Do not place this in shade as it will not grow to its full potential.  It comes in a variety of colors as seen in this pic. Our reds and pinks are doing very well here.  The white variety is a bit stunted.
Treat this plant as an annual.  If you have a greenhouse, place pentas there during the cold winter months of January and February.  A great choice for our Tucson heat and morning sun!  Plus in combo with other butterfly plants in the garden, this makes a wonderful addition!  Choose the reds, purples, and pinks to attract hummers! Plant with good gardening soil.

Here is some basic info....
LIGHT: full sun
SPACE: 10 - 20 inches apart
HEIGHT: 10-18 inches tall
BLOOM TIME: spring, summer, and fall
FEED: plant food
PLANT WITH: Salvia and Coneflower
Water:  With 95+ degrees, regular watering is required.  Less if in more shade.

A great plant for your Tucson garden! Pentas is one of the easier plants to grow if you're good with the watering:)  Until tomorrow!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Taken from our Octupus cactus at El Presidio.  The areolas are clearly defined on this plant.

Ever wonder what those clusters of spines are called on a cactus?  Well wonder no the title suggests, they are called areoles.  Here is the definition...
 A small, specialized, cushionlike area on a cactus from which hairs, glochids, spines, branches, or flowers may arise. 
All I can say is....ouch!
The glochids story is coming.....a very painful lesson to be learned:(

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Citrus Magic!

Mesquite Valley Growers has the best selection of Citrus and fruit trees for Tucson
One of the places Tucsonans like to shop for plants is at Mesquite Valley Growers near  Pantano and Speedway.  As we are coming to a completion for our Citrus Grove project, I headed over to Mesquite Valley to shop from a very large selection of citrus for our Tucson landscape.

As we start getting the dirt out of the planters, I'll be choosing from several varieties of dwarf citrus trees for El Presidio. As you can see from these pics, these bushes go as far as the eye can see.  I am going to allow these particular plants to grow naturally as bushes and not as trees. I'll be choosing semi dwarf varieties as they will grow to a manageable height between 8-12 feet.  Below is a chart of all the recommended citrus trees for our Tucson area.  Click on the pic to make it larger.  Until next time....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The many faces of Cassandra Peterson.  I loved her expressions and so that was my angle during the photo shoot:)
As a kid, I remember staying home on Friday nights while my parents went out for a "date".  I'd have to babysit my younger siblings.  After they went to bed, I'd turn channels on the newly purchased "cable box" for our home.  I'd switch between MTV, Nickelodeon, and the local TV channels.  Click, click, click went the white dial on the 80's brown colored box.  We didn't have the thick and large remotes to turn channels so everything was done by hand back then.  Channel surfing was a bit more difficult because of this little minor inconvenience.  Sometimes I'd become too tired to get off the couch and just let the channel stay on one spot.  Two people quickly became my childhood favorites.....the astrology guy Jack Horkheimer who allowed us to Star gaze and Elvira....Mistress of the Dark!
Today's post focuses on Cassandra Peterson...the person who plays Elvira.  I was originally planning on visiting Billy Dee Williams, but discovered, by accident, that Cassandra Peterson was presenting during the same time!  Elvira trumps Lando Calrissian anyday!  I don't know why I am fascinated by this actress, but I think she touched upon a favorite childhood memory of bad(and when I say bad....I mean TERRIBLE) horror flicks with funny narrations by Elvira.  Was it because she looked like a drag queen?  I'll never understand my fascination by her.....but she was and is still cool.

I went to hear her presentation and found her quite genuine and funny.  There were some very strange people in the room which is to be expected.  They should have had their own film!!  Yet she answered the crowd with smiles and fun stories. 
Okay, here's what I thought was amazing.  I was a kid when she was on TV.  Today, she looks exactly the same as she did 20 years ago!  Ms. Peterson I hope you go another 20 years! It was a really fun hour learning about the beginnings and history of Elvira.  She owns her character 100 percent and mentioned that it is difficult at times because she has to find the funding for all the various projects me, that states that she's smart and a hardworking person. 

PS.  I caught the last bit of Billy Dee William's presentation and am glad I skipped it!  That's all I'm going to say on that topic.  I hope you've enjoyed the Phoenix Comicon series.  We'll go back to plants and the garden again for a bit with some information I've collected from various lectures and presentations that happened over this past summer.  It's good to mix things up every now and again:)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Settling on the Moon

Pics taken from the NASA website
With the GRAIL mission set to launch soon, the moon is going to be examined yet again for lots of different reasons.  During the NASA lecture back in May, Dr. Williams mentioned that if people were to settle on the moon, the best bet would be to land around the southern pole region where a large deposit of water has been found.  Scientists are also beginning to think that there may be more water than previously thought.  GRAIL will certainly shed some light on this matter and a whole lot more including the formations of rocky planets. A study was done about the water on the moon and they discovered that just beneath the surface, they found frozen deposits.  When those deposits were exposed, they "evaporated" into space. 
Aitken Basin where large deposits of water were found
"NASA said Friday(6/3) it had discovered water on the moon, opening "a new chapter" that could allow for the development of a lunar space station. The discovery was announced by project scientist Anthony Colaprete at a midday news conference. "I'm here today to tell you that indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit; we found a significant amount" -- about a dozen, two-gallon bucketfuls, he said, holding up several white plastic containers. The find is based on preliminary data collected when the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, intentionally crashed October 9 into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus crater near the moon's south pole.
Until recently the moon was regarded as bone dry – more desiccated than the most arid desert on Earth. That perception has changed recently with the discovery of significant amounts of ice near the lunar poles, first from satellite observations and then from the 2009 US mission to smash a probe into a shady crater. A new study, published last week in the journal Science, shows that there is also far more water inside the moon than lunar geologists had realised. And it raises questions about the favoured theory for the origin of the moon: that it formed from material ejected by a huge impact in Earth’s early history. The NASA-funded researchers re-examined lunar material brought back to Earth by Apollo 17, the last manned expedition to the moon, using new microprobe technology that can detect the presence of chemicals on a microscopic scale. They focused on volcanic glass beads, coloured orange by their high titanium content, which formed about 3.7bn years ago when volcanic eruptions were still taking place on the moon. The beads contain “melt inclusions” – tiny samples of the moon’s molten magma that were trapped inside crystals before the eruption.  “In contrast to most volcanic deposits, the melt inclusions are encased in crystals that prevent the escape of water and other volatiles during eruption. These samples provide the best window we have on the amount of water in the interior of the moon,” says James Van Orman, a geologist at Case Western Reserve University. The results show levels of water around 0.1 per cent. That is 100 times more than scientists had found earlier with simpler technology, and similar to the levels in solidified magma collected from mid-ocean ridges on Earth. Amounts of other volatile elements such as fluorine, chlorine and sulphur were also much higher than measured previously and close to those found in corresponding terrestrial material.Although the study points to the Earth and moon having a common origin, it is not consistent with the giant impact theory, because the water would have been driven off into space as vapour by such a cataclysmic high-temperature event. So the authors say that ideas about the early solar system may need revising. The study also gives a new twist to the origin of ice detected in craters at the lunar poles. The usual explanation is that the ice was brought to the moon by bombardment over billions of years from water-rich comets and meteoroids. But it now seems possible that some of the lunar ice came from within the moon – released by past volcanic eruptions." End of article.  Source:
A closer look at the pole.
So while constructing a space station may be some time away, it appears there is a better chance of it with the presence of ice.  There are a million things to consider when it comes to colonizing the moon....How would one process the water?  Also let's not forget the space debris that likes to hit the moon....on Earth it gets eaten up in our atmosphere. There are many other things to consider, but imagine the scientific opportunities that await us in the stars.  Unfortuneatly, I've come to an end on the science part of this series.  I hope you've enjoyed the NASA presentations as much as I have. Comicons or conventions are more than just comic books and geeks coming together. Fiction helped us imagine the possibilities and many scientists are doing what they are doing today because as kids, they were inspired by the infinite possibilities of our universe. As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating." One last look at the Phoenix Comicon tomorrow.  Until then.....

Monday, July 25, 2011

"We'll Always Have Paris"

Robert Duncan McNeill(aka Tom Paris from Star Trek Voyager)
I love all things Star Trek so it was fun to sit down at Robert Duncan McNeill's panel and hear him talk about directing on Chuck and his time acting as Tom Paris from Star Trek Voyager.  I went to see Nimoy and Takei, but it was an added bonus to see other Trek alum there....which brings me to this point on going to conventions. We just came back from the San Diego Comicon this weekend hence the space themed blog this past week.  It was nice going to a "smaller" venue in Phoenix because the San Diego Comicon is massive and you aren't able to see everything that you would like as there are huge lines for all the presentations.  So if you plan on going to these events, my advice is to organize everything and hit on what's important to you.  Have a backpack with snacks because you'll be busy busy busy and in lines for hours......I hate lines! So bring something to read:)  2 more writes to go and we'll get back into gardening and projects.  Until tomorrow.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Kepler Mission

Continuing on with our scifi and space theme this week, we'll explore interesting neighbors next door to our own solar system....over 1200 to be exact within a region of space known as Kepler.  But before I begin with my notes on this blog, I discovered, by accident, that a childhood icon of mine passed away last year!!!  I don't know if any of you remember the midnight program Star Gazer(previously known as Star Hustler) on PBS that lasted for about 5 minutes with Jack Horkheimer, but it was my favorite thing to watch before PBS signed off for the night.  Plus I love the theme song, Arabesque #1 by Claude Debussy.  When I hear that tune, my mind wanders a million miles away from Earth. Anyhow, he has passed away and I was sad to have read that on the internet.  Jack inspired kids like me to look up into the night sky and try and find Mars......and even if we couldn't, he made it sound fun and exciting.  Today, men and women continue working with the stars.  I'm not jealous, but I wish I could do what they do. Lots of math is involved and that subject has always been a certain fail with me:)  If I were thrown into the future of Star Trek, I would be the communications officer because my skill is in language. So I'm okay with not understanding math:)  Anyhow RIP Mr. Horkheimer, I'll miss you.
Pictures for these science based blogs are obviously not my own but from NASA.  This pic is from Jon Lomberg posted on the NASA website
Back to the Kepler Mission!  Exciting stuff folks. Again this information is from a presentation back in May by Dr. Williams of ASU.  Basically, there's a solar system next to our own beyond Pluto that has A LOT of planets orbiting another sun.  It's promising because there are several planets within the habitable zone of that solar system. All this means is that any planet from around the same distance as Earth from our sun is potentially capable of life.  Now this is just the start of defining where life exists in our galaxy.....but it's a start and there's a spacecraft on the way to explore this possibility!
 Here's the official write from NASA on the Kepler Mission.  "Kepler will be the first space mission to search for Earth-size and smaller planets in the habitable zone of other stars in our neighborhood of the galaxy. Kepler is a special-purpose spacecraft that precisely measures the light variations from thousands of distant stars, looking for planetary transits. When a planet passes in front of its parent star, as seen from our solar system, it blocks a small fraction of the light from that star—this is known as a transit. Searching for transits of distant “Earths” is like looking for the drop in brightness when a moth flies across a searchlight. Measuring repeated transits, all with a regular period, duration and change in brightness, provides a method for discovering and confirming planets and their orbits—planets the size of Earth and smaller in the habitable zone around other stars similar to our Sun. The centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery in the past decade of more than 250 giant planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. With the exception of the pulsar planets, most of the extrasolar planets detected to date are gas giants. The challenge is to find terrestrial planets, which are 30-600 times less massive than Jupiter. Kepler is specifically designed to search for Earth-size and smaller planets in the habitable zone of solar-like stars out to distances of about three thousand light years.

Expected Results

Kepler will continuously monitor over 100,000 stars similar to our Sun for brightness changes produced by planetary transits. At the beginning of the mission, planets of all sizes orbiting very close to their stars will be found. After three years, we will be able to discover planets with orbits of one year, that is those in the habitable zone of stars like the Sun. If Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are common, then life may be ubiquitous in our galaxy. On the other hand, if no terrestrial planets are found, then “Earths” may be rare."  End of article. Source:  Well in my humble opinion, you can't base an entire Universe on one mission.  Life may or may not be unique, but I'm pretty sure it's out there.  Whether this system has them or not shouldn't determine whether "Earths" are rare.  The galaxy is a big place....even more, there are galaxies galore beyond our own with billions of solar systems!  Why do we have to put our energy into killing people when we could be working together for a better tomorrow? Imagine if Pandora really existed...... 54 planets have been discovered within the habitable zone where liquid water can exist.  5 of those planets are Earth size.  Imagine what scientists will discover!  NASA vid below. As my friend Jack Horkheimer said every night before signing off......"Keep looking up!"

Pic courtesy of WPBT2 Miami.  He worked out of Florida.

Video and pics courtesy of NASA.  This video found with the NASA link above.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Some of you may be wondering what's going on with this blog this week. Well, it's San Diego Comicon mixed in with the Phoenix Comicon back in May with some NASA writes about what their plans are now that the shuttle program is retired. Don't worry I'll be going back to nature in the next week. KHAAAAN!!!! If you've watched Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, you'll recognize Shatner getting the crowd excited yesterday at the premier of his movie "The Captains". A secret to San Diego Comicon. This has not been the most fun experience for me as I had to pick and choose what I wanted to see. I had several panels I wanted to go and see, but there are way too many people here. We had to get up super early....around 4 AM to get in the lines to get into those ever popular rooms 20 and 6. The first day we sat in lines for hours. The second day we weren't as slow. Even arriving at the convention center at 5:30 AM was shocking!!! Lines of people for several miles were already there. We got in line and I got to sit in the front rows of Shatner's presentation along with several other fun lectures. Once you have the golden seat, you don't want to give it up. This is not vacation for me and I won't be doing this again next year, but for now, when in San Diego.......
For now, enjoy this video I took as we all scream our happiness and frustrations out with William Shatner as we say, "Khan" or "Con". I am not sure:) You be the judge.
Clink the link below....


My shot of Leonard Nimoy. I love this guy.
Remembering.  Connecting.  Feeling.  These are all things that come together when I watched these two great men present.  Leonard Nimoy spoke of his life while George Takei spoke about the many political things going on in our country.....and focused on diversity and defending those in the LGBT community.  While both these men were presenting, I remembered my own childhood.  Here is my connection with these two wonderful actors.  As a child, I was forced to watch Star Trek reruns with my mother while folding laundry on a cold winter's day. I had two options....shovel snow with my dad or stay inside the warm house and fold laundry with my mom(and do dishes).  Laundry was a major project in our household of 8 people. TV was not negotiable and it was what mom wanted to watch. So it was Star Trek or Somewhere in Time(with the late great Christopher Reeves).  I hated this show so much.  It was boring to me and my siblings, but it was on ALL the time in the 70's.  Even worse, if I went over to my grandparent's house, I'd have to watch it with my grandpa!! At the time, Star Wars was way cooler! Lightsabers, aliens of all shapes and sizes, awesome music.......well Star Wars was my world as I collected all the toys.  Today I still have all of them in boxes in my closet. What I wouldn't do to go back in time to relive those innocent days! My grandfather and mom used to take me to all the Star Wars and Star Trek movies as a kid. It would just be the 3 of us unknown geeks sitting down and watching these movies together..... and sometimes we would go back twice!
George Takei
Again, these characters were like family to me because they were embraced by some important people in my own life.  My grandfather and I would do a lot for the perfect shortcakes to make the perfect desert for my grandma, go on drives around town, go fishing on the lake.....and so many other things.  But the Star Trek movies were something the three of us did together ALWAYS.  We take so many things for granted in life......especially with the people we love the most.  Little did I know that Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home(the whale one:) would be the last time I ever saw a Star Trek movie with my grandpa again. Today it's still one of the big losses of my life....even though it has been 24 years since he has passed away, I miss him as if it were yesterday.  He was my best friend as a kid growing up.  Today I carry his torch by carrying on with his jokes and watching Star Trek.

Standing next to these men was like standing next to adopted grandparents.  I imagined my grandpa with me as I had my picture taken with these gentlemen. Eventually I began to appreciate Star Trek more than Star Wars because it spoke about diversity and embracing new ideas and cultures. My first book that I ever read was Watership Down.  My second book was a Star Trek book that I had to read for my Freshman year of high school.....and I haven't stopped reading since!  Some of my favorites are Life of Pi, Water for Elephants, Lord of the Rings, and many many more!
Hearing Nimoy talk about his life really connected me with those childhood years growing up with programs like Search for Tomorrow, Transformers(the animated series), etc. because they were all memories with my family. You may say that I think of Nimoy as a "god" and you'd be right.  He was genuine and witty with a strong life with honor.  Make decisions that honor who you are as a person and those that surround you.  It was quite beautiful.  The hour flew by and before I knew it....Nimoy was gone.
While I didn't care for the character of Sulu much as a kid, I have grown to really respect this actor today.  What I like best about Takei is that he is making a difference now in his stand against discrimination and hate crimes in the world.  He spoke of his days trapped in the Japanese confinement camps within the US and how that affected him as a kid growing up. Takei has recently come out of the closet and has been vocal since for the rights of the LGBT community.  He also shared a story about how Tennessee is trying to pass a bill to prevent teachers from using the word "gay" in the classroom.  In a strong statement, he said that our citizens have  the "Right to Free Speech" and preventing people from using any word was against the rights of the American people. I agree.  If this bill passes, it will be one of the most stupid things that ignorant and hateful people do to others.  George told the audience that if teachers needed to use the word "gay", they could replace it with "Takei" instead.  Everyone clapped and cheered at the suggestion.  I should also mention that this bill is directed at Elementary and Jr. High School teachers and that Takei said that all words must be used responsibly but also that they shouldn't be denied as it goes against our rights.  Some of you may be thinking, "Well you shouldn't be teaching that in the classroom anyway!"  I agree and so did Takei, but as a teacher with my own class, I thought of why this bill is ridiculous.  We teach kids to accept all walks of life especially me with my background on Spanish culture!  A lot of students like to use words like "gay" or "retarded" with one another and to me that is not acceptable in my own classroom and this is exactly the moment when a teacher needs to step in and correct this inappropriate behavior. For this reason, my respect for Mr. Takei has shot up tenfold!
My other grandpa....Nimoy!
It was a day come true meeting some of my heroes growing up.  I went with the spirit of my grandfather next to me and snapped a shot for my mother.....and for one moment, we all stood together remembering the past.  I forgot about my mortgage, watering the plants, and the various mundane routines of life.....and felt happy and connected to my inner core.  The afterglow lasted several days afterwards......and I'll never forget this weekend of legends and science.
The cool Uncle I wish I had....George Takei. Oh My!

Friday, July 22, 2011

San Diego Comicon 2011

Here are some highlights from the San Diego Comicon 2011........
A Star Trek legend.  Shatner adds charm and laughter to the prensenation on a documentary about all 6 of Star Trek's captains.

Avery Brooks adds insight and thought to his answers.

Scott Bakula surprises the audience during Shatner and Brooks' presentation on "The Captains"

Ben Barnes

Jeff Bridges is having fun at a panel for an upcoming movie.

Brad Cooper answers questions about a new movie

Conen Obrien surprises the audience during  a Green Lantern screening.

Julie Newmar at the San Diego Comicon 2011

The Discovery of Methane Gas

 Mars Pics courtesy of NASA
Is there life on Mars? As mentioned in a previous post, the NASA mission "Curiosity" is going to explore this possibility with its scheduled launch in November.  Two rovers were sent to Mars several years ago and uncovered more questions back here on Earth for scientists.  Methane explosions were detected on the surface of Mars in certain areas.  Methane, here on Earth, is a gas given off by lifeforms and where there is methane, it is thought that there may be life.  Some exciting discoveries have happened both on the Moon, Mars, and with Saturn's moons(ie. Enceladus and Titan).  Frozen water seems to be locked up under ground in the cryosphere of Mars.  Water in the right setting can be home to life and it's extremely likely that life can and does exist just beneath the surface of Mars.
Artist depiction of Curiosity
"Mars Science Laboratory is an unmanned robotic rover designed to land on Mars and assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life -- to determine the planet's habitability. The rover, named Curiosity, is about the size of a small sport-utility vehicle. It will carry an advanced suite of instruments to study Martian terrain and soil."  Source: NASA
Areas with high concentrations of methane gas
In my humble opinion, we are going to find out things that will rock the science world if this mission succeeds.  While the potential for life exists on other worlds and moons, it will probably look a lot different than the aliens we see on TV:) But imagine.....could there be life?
Potential landing site for Curiosity
Here's an article from NASA from January of 2009. "The U.S. space agency, NASA, says large quantities of methane gas have been detected on Mars, hinting at the possibility of biological or geological activity on the Red Planet.  A team of scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, announced Thursday that the presence of methane gas on Mars is a major discovery.Astrobiologist Sushil Atreya says there are two possibilities as to why methane exists on Mars. "Either it's geology, in which case it's the reaction between water and rock, or it's biology, in which case the microbes are producing the methane," Atreya said. Methane was first detected on Mars in 2003 by scientists using Earth-based telescopes. Scientists say that one plume of Martian methane contained nearly 19,000 tons of the gas. NASA's Michael Mumma says methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere, so the detection of plumes of methane is significant.  "Mars is active. Now whether or not its because of geology, or biology, or both, we don't know," he said. Scientists say they have detected seasonal variations of methane emissions over the planet's northern hemisphere. Physicist Geronimo Villanueva of Catholic University here in Washington says the gas plumes were emitted during the northern Martian spring and summer. "One of the most important, striking, things about the discovery is that the regions where we see methane are regions that have a lot of rich history," Villanueva said. "For example, these regions show evidence that waters once flowed over them, and this is very important because if the water is still available below the surface, some activity - geology, biology - could be using them." Scientists have debated whether reports of methane deposits on Mars were real. But now, Geologist Lisa Pratt says scientists have the evidence needed to consider the possibility of life on the Red Planet.  "It's time, it's prudent that we begin to explore Mars, looking for the possibility of a life form that's exhaling methane," she said.  But Pratt says that at most, that life form could be a very thin, nearly invisible film of microbes deep underground. Scientists say NASA's launch of the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011 could provide more detailed analysis on the presence of methane on the planet." End of article.  Source:
The unique landing for the rover....suspension!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Zookeeper and Oleander

This story was reported out of Tucson yesterday.  Apparently an apprentice zookeeper has accidentally fed two giraffes at our local zoo oleander(nerium).  One has died while the other is in critical condition. This is the 5th zoo animal to die this year.  Story reads as follows from KVOA Channel 4 news......

Reid Park Zoo giraffe dies

Posted: Jul 20, 2011 12:29 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2011 12:35 PM

TUCSON - One of the male giraffe's at the Reid Park Zoo has died. Watoto, the zoo's male giraffe, died Tuesday night. Pathologists will conduct a full analysis to determine the official cause of death. There is reasonable cause to believe the ingestion of toxic vegetation will be confirmed. Another giraffe remains under careful observation and veterinary care. Watoto began showing signs of an illness early Tuesday. He was refusing food and water, choosing to lie down, and generally displaying lethargy, although he remained responsive. His keeper remained by his side all day, keeping him under close observation. By late afternoon, it was clear that he was not improving. All veterinary reports and advice suggested the situation was grim, and that recovery was not likely. The husbandry team, including Zoo staff and outside zoological experts, stepped in to attempt supportive fluid therapy and the administration of medication to combat the toxicity of the vegetation. The team worked diligently doing everything humanly possible to save the animal however during the initial stage of treatment, the giraffe's heart stopped. After all emergency response options were exhausted he passed away.  Susan Basford, the Zoo's Administrator says, "Through the regrettable events that occurred, I also witnessed our staff at its best - professionals who care deeply about our animals, and who worked diligently as a team doing everything humanly possible to save an animal in our care."

I feel saddened by this news and I'd like to know how the alleged apprentice zookeeper didn't know about the poisonous properties of oleander.  Again,  accidents happen, but at what cost?  What's your opinion?  One more giraffe remains in critical care.


Storytime with Wil Wheaton(Big Bang Theory, Stand By Me, ST:TNG)
Actor pics from the Comicon were taken by me.  If you want to use my pics anytime from this blog, please drop a note first or source the pic.
In life, we sometimes make imaginary bonds with people that are on screen or from a book. My youth was no different.  Even today during life's little trials as an adult, I still have those attachments which act like a security blanket that comforts me when I need escape.  I grew up watching Wil Wheaton on TV always wondering what it would be like to be a child actor.  During my awkward high school years, I struggled with my identity, like most teenagers, and escaped into the world of science fiction.   In my imaginary world, I have always dreamed of leaving the planet Earth for the stars and Star Trek allowed me the chance to escape my reality.  Like my Grandpa and Mother, I joined the realm of the exciting and unknown.  Each week I followed the voyages of the starship Enterprise as it explored new planets and met strange aliens. I was a freshman in high school when Star Trek: The Next Generation began and Wil Wheaton was part of the cast.
Telling the tale of the Unicorn Pegasus Kitten
Both of us were the same age and both in our teenage years. Everyone made fun of Star Trek(sometimes they still do...but I don't care anymore:), but having someone from the same age group seemed to make it okay to watch TNG.  Eventually, we grew both grew up to be 39 years old.  He is turning 39 this month and I'll be celebrating my birthday in October. Seeing him in person and hearing his voice made me smile and think about how much time has passed in my own life. During his presentation, he shared with the audience that he really enjoyed writing.....something I also enjoy doing now. Beyond having the "writing bug", I discovered that we had a lot more in common.....a relationship, travel, and a similiar snarky sense of humor.  It was great to see someone having fun in their 30's.  Sometimes I see a lot of my peers and siblings irritated that they can't always do the things they want to do because of kids, their work, or marriage. Life is, of course, what you make of it.  Both of us have blogs and both of us have found writing to be quite exciting.  Even better, I think we're both more comfortable in our own skins as adults and people.  So while my imaginary friend and I have taken different paths in our lives, we still have taken on similiar interests.......and it brought me a strange comfort.  Why should it matter?  I think many people sensationalize an actor's life thinking it's awesome.  Some parts of it seem cool, but I don't think I'd want that life. But it's comforting to know that the people we enjoy watching on TV have somewhat normal lives just like everybody else. Now if he reads this blog, his response would be, "That sounds &*%^$ %$^!" And I'd laugh because I would probably say the same thing.  However, I have students who like to pop in every now and again and read my work so I have to keep it clean:) Anyhow, if you read this Wil, I get it, but I just wanted to thank you for the fun time we had up at the Phoenix Comicon.  It was a good escape after the school year ended.
So this blog sounds as if I am a stalker and that isn't the case at all.....just a huge fan and geek at heart. It's about the respect I felt for this actor as a kid as well as the appreciation for the work he's done and continues to do.  Conventions allow us to meet these imaginary and timeless friends in person and connect with them via stories from their real lives, etc. In many ways, it's like visiting an old friend who you haven't seen in awhile.  It was great to finally meet this funny and witty blogger. Stay tuned for more personal stories and science info from the Phoenix Comicon.  I have a lot of reporting to do....I'm working on my Panama posts right now from our work with the turtle program in Bocas Del Toro as well as our adventure from Coiba some features on the local flora and fauna.  So much to write on plus several updates on the garden.....Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cylon Gardeners and Friends

Who says Science Fiction can't have garden themes?  I found these pieces amongst several other works by robot artist Jordan Thomas.  This was the coolest looking art I saw at the convention.  Taking a break before more insight into space and the mind, here is some art from the Phoenix Comicon.
 For more information, click on this link to find his work.....
He's also located at 3 different art shops around the Phoenix Area.

His bio reads, "I’ve been making robots for the last couple of years and it started when my love of indie handmade and my love of robots collided. I began building little robots out of wooden blocks and found/recycled items that I was lucky enough to scrounge up. Today, I still follow the same process. I personally hand build, and hand paint each robot. Each robot is a guaranteed ‘one of a kind’. About a year ago I began centering my work on steam power pseudo-Victorian era styled robots and have been working on a collection of historical ray guns from the future. I’m also working on a series of time machine oddities; although, they don’t actually travel through time…yet. "

Each of us is an artist with an imagination.  If you are interested in this art, contact Jordan Thomas at