per·i·pa·tet·ic
ˌperēpəˈtedik/
adjective
  1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
    Aristotelian.
noun
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Noxious Veggies? 'Peas' Say It's Not So!



TOUCHSTONE: "I remember, when I was in love ... the wooing of a peascod [pod] instead of her, from whom I took two cods [pods] and, giving her them again, said with weeping tears, 'Wear these for my sake.' We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly."
ROSALIND: "Thou speak'st wiser than thou are ware of."
TOUCHSTONE: "Nay, I shall ne'er be ware of mine own wit till I break my shins against it."
--from William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 4--


Our bounty of snow peas lately has SAM filling his pockets full of them when he goes out to the garden. We have been eating them every day for the past several days and sharing them with son and his family. Since I like to know the "skinny" on living lean (i.e., staying healthy in this sick economy), I thought it best to do some research on the benefits of what's been filling our bellies. If you can believe it (I'm still having a hard time digesting this information), certain veggies may be hazardous to your health! They naturally contain chemicals like toxic alkaloids and oxalic acid which interfere with metabolism and upset adequate absorption of vitamins and minerals also present in the veggies. I can still remember my parents insisting that I eat things like brussel sprouts and broccoli (apparently not noxious at all), but no, I would be obstinate. I didn't mind tomatoes, peas, and potatoes, especially fried. If I'd only known then what I know now! Still, I don't think I'll be tearing down my pea or tomato vines, at least not until they're done bearing fruit, and I've already unearthed some potatoes. We had them steamed and served with parsley butter for lunch today. Delicious! I'm inclined to think those noxious veggies might have some good purpose for us. I've been known to have a darker side, but silver linings have always appealed to me.



Last summer SAM and I were fortunate enough to attend an Insect Awareness and Appreciation Day in Illinois and learn from various bug experts who were kind enough to bring along some "props." Monarch butterfly larvae favor milkweed plants for good reason. Asclepius keep them supplied with cardenolide alkaloids which can sicken most vertebrate herbivores that try to feast on the larvae and butterflies. Yes, even though the butterflies eat nectar from a variety of flowers and not milkweed leaves, the toxins are stored (sequestered) in the bodies of the larvae which metamorphose into those beautiful adult forms. Those youngsters are protecting themselves and their adult selves from most predators. I hope my preference for noxious veggies when I was young has that same effect for me now that I'm more "mature." I like to imagine that pathogens (swine flu?) and other noxious elements don't stand a chance.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ultimate Rock Trivial Pursuit

Being new to blogging, I (SAM) am learning a little about posts as I go. I've decided my last couple were way too long. This one is much shorter, introduces a little friendly competition, and inspires the rockhounds or wannabe rockhounds out there to make a thoughtful response.

This post is a guessing/knowledge game. For the first responder to correctly name all of the first three rocks, a prize awaits. This shiny, golden disk is found underground in Southern Illinois. You must respond with its commonly known name and not just correctly identify the mineral. In other words, you wouldn't identify the Mona Lisa as just a "painting." This second rather plain-jane rock has an interesting, if not common, origin. You may not be a rockhound but try guessing, anyway. You will probably be right! But, watch your step.



These two photos are of the same rock. The view by the bricks reveals how straight the rock is when seen from the front. The view below was taken on the back of our sofa. What can I say, I am a very amateur photographer! I hope it shows how the rock actually bends when placed on edge.





Finally, the prize for the winner of our Ultimate Rock Trivial Pursuit competition. No, you don't get the pot or flowers (sorry Garden Bloggers) but I will send you the little golden rock in front. Heck, I will even tell you what it is - Pyrite, aka Fool's Gold. Don't get me wrong! I'm not calling the winner a fool - I'm just a crazy fool for rocks.




Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ethel Gloves in Training


A very nice gift arrived via the UPS man yesterday afternoon. It had been awaited with much anticipation. Mr. Brown Thumb surprised me a couple of weeks ago with an announcement in one of his posts. He let me know in my comment section that he had something special waiting for me on his blog. A link to one of the Spring Fling sponsors, Ethel Gloves, provided a hint. Wow. I hadn't even entered a contest. The last time I won something was about 20 years ago at a school carnival fundraiser. It was a cake in a cake walk, and I had to buy a ticket to participate. Mr. Brown Thumb's prize sure has that other one beat. And it didn't cost me a thing. He said he wanted to share his bounty of gloves from the sponsor with me and some other bloggers because we had encouraged him in some way. Mr. Brown Thumb had no way of knowing what was going on in my life, but his gift came just in the nick of time. My other gloves had worn out, dry-rotted, and my state of mind recently has been a bit shakier than usual. Maybe it's starting to dry-rot too.


It's funny how things have worked out for me since I started the blog a little over a year ago. Some of the things I had planned for my life did not happen the way they were supposed to. Wah! Okay, enough of that nonsense. Some things did happen that were unexpected but wonderfully so, like the gift from MBT and another one from a special lady in Tennessee. Tina from In the Garden gave me one of her handmade garden markers when we met in New Harmony, Indiana, last autumn. We shared a special afternoon together with our husbands and her son. I'm not sure which gifts I treasure more--the items you see here or the encouragement, friendship, and support they signify.
Since I want these gloves to feel right at home, I took them for a little excursion around the garden. I thought I would ease them in by letting them get a feel for the kind of work they'll be doing soon enough.



These gloves do look like they're capable of withstanding some tough tasks, but the length might not suffice when rose trimming time comes. Most of my roses are the shrub variety, like Knockouts, and here in Florida they require a good haircut at least twice a year. I gave them all a crew-cut back in December when we were home for what we thought was going to be just a visit. June will probably be time for the next round of haircuts by W2W, the local rose barber. And there will surely be bloodletting, only the blood will be this barber's instead of the clients'. Marnie of Lilacs and Roses has a funny post about rose trimming time. She is all too familiar with the havoc those thorns can cause.

The gloves will have plenty of quality time pulling weeds in the flower bed on the east side. They'll also be deadheading these Gerbera daisies every few days. I'm collecting the seeds and hoping to spread them about in various beds when the weather cools off in the fall.


Our baby grapefruit trees probably won't require much glove time. I just thought I'd show off the blossoms which will be finished in a few more days.

Now it's time to get serious with the gloves. It will soon be time to add a new layer of pine straw to the berry patch, and I really hate getting that sticky resin all over my hands. Gloves, I hope you're up to the task.


I love tomatoes, but for some reason I do not like that green plant juice that gets all over my hands when I'm picking the fruit. It stinks and makes my skin itch. These pretty gloves will not stay this clean for much longer. The tag says they're machine washable. I hope so because after a few weeks in the garden they will need it.

There is nothing better than freshly cut broccoli; unless, of course, you don't care for cruciferous vegetables. I seem to remember a recent President had a problem with broccoli, among other things.

The gloves didn't seem to mind taking a tour of the garden and getting oriented to the kinds of tasks they'll soon be assuming. They look so nice right now, I almost don't want to get them dirty. But they look like they're made of sturdy stuff.

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."

--from Puddn'head Wilson's Calendar in Mark Twain's Puddn'head Wilson, 1894--

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let It All Hang Out

"In the stillness and the darkness, realization soon began to supplement knowledge. The mere knowledge of a fact is pale; but when you come to realize your fact, it takes on color..."
--from Chapter 6, "The Eclipse," Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court--

Sometimes when your life has already been turned inside out for a while, a bit of a scare doesn't seem to faze you much at first. At least not until you wake up in the middle of the night before a big test that you cannot study for but hope to pass all the same. And the worry starts to gnaw at you inside until the morning comes.


Last Sunday, Easter smiles and surprises swept away another kind of funk. It was the kind that makes you wonder about that old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I should know by now that there are some arguments I can never win and that certain naysayers will have their say no matter what. Anyway, that funk dissolved in the Easter sunshine.

Funk #2 came out of nowhere Thursday morning in the form of a phone call from the local mammography center. The radiologist was not satisfied with an image of the right breast taken a week ago. Would I be kind enough to visit the main facility in Pensacola and submit to even more torture? Sure, be glad to. See you Friday morning.


When I used to transcribe medical reports for a living, the tedium of a long day was relieved occasionally by careless docs. The official rule to transcribe exactly as dictated gets ignored when you hear something like this in a SOAP note: "the patient's pus-sy wound looks much better today." Sorry, doc. I'll substitute "purulent" for your choice of words.

I wonder about that fine line between narcissism and reflectiveness. Who really has the right to decide where it falls?


"But it is a blessed provision of nature that at times like these, as soon as a man's mercury has got down to a certain point there comes a revulsion, and he rallies. Hope springs up, and cheerfulness along with it, and then he is in good shape to do something for himself, if anything can be done...."
--from "The Eclipse" as above--

I am in good shape after all.

Addendum: Please, ladies, (yes, and even gents) do yourself and your families a favor and get regular health screenings. The NIH reports that fewer women are getting mammograms these days. So what if it's a little uncomfortable? There are many organizations that can assist with the cost of testing and even treatment, if that's what stands in the way of getting help. And it often does.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quartz - Clearly To the Point(s)



Quartz is a many-splendored thing. The mineral places second only to feldspar in its occurrence in the earth’s crust. It becomes highly collectable though, when found in its six-sided (hexagonal) crystalline form coming to pyramid-like points. When the pure mineral (SiO2) is colored by trace impurities others varieties result. Clockwise from the bottom left are smokey quartz, amethyst, lace agate (banded chalcedony), and chrysoprase.

Plate tectonics are responsible for building the wonderful mountain belts we all enjoy looking at and some of us enjoy walking through. I’ve got an interesting story to tell later in this post regarding a certain walk in the Ouachita Mountains. Quartz is a primary constituent of the many igneous and metamorphic rocks (such as granite and gneiss) resulting from tectonic activity and is very resistant to erosion. The relative amount of quartz compared to less resistant minerals, such as mica and feldspar, can indicate how far a sediment has travelled from the original source. During eons of exposure to weathering, original source rocks (parent rocks) are broken down into smaller and smaller fragments and carried farther and farther from the original source. Quartz sand comprises many beaches because the softer, more easily eroded minerals have been obliterated by the weathering process before reaching these final resting places. When sands are turned to rock, due to the burial pressure of the overlying sediments and increased temperature, they are said to be lithified and are called sandstones. Many of the world’s great oil deposits are found in sandstones, the oil being held in void spaces between the individual grains of sand.

During my early rockhounding years, from about 5th grade through 9th grade, my parents and I made one or two collecting trips per year to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the world’s premier quartz crystal collecting area. Digging through the hard, red clay with pick-axes and pry bars, we uncovered many beautiful clusters of perfectly formed quartz crystals.



The best crystals are clear, but many have a milky appearance and are not as prized by collectors. We found literally thousands of “single” points by following closely behind the bulldozer, a practice not currently allowed by the mine operators because of insurance and injury concerns. When I speak of a quartz mine, what I really mean is an open pit, scoured out by heavy equipment to reveal veins of quartz. Many times where the veins intersect, open pockets filled with quartz crystals are unearthed.


We always found copious amounts of very nice quartz crystals on our trips to the quartz mines around Hot Springs, Arkansas. We enjoyed the camping, meeting other rockhounds, and my parents even took a couple of the famous hot mineral baths featured in downtown Hot Springs. However, a certain misadventure comes to mind when I think about quartz collecting. On one certain trip, when I was about 12, we staked out our spot at the little campground in nearby Jessieville and folded out our little pop-up camper. This wasn’t our first time staying at the picturesque location, nestled next to a vertical cliff of about 200 feet and featuring a crystal-clear spring-fed stream. I remembered from past stays that the spring was located only about half a mile up a mountain path. I begged my parents to allow me to take the path to visit the little spring, as they unpacked the food boxes and got everything ready for the first night’s stay. They eventually consented, knowing the path was easily discernable and that I should be back well before dusk, and of course knowing my history as a fine, responsible, young lad. I had the best intentions and made it to the spring in about 20 minutes. After a couple of sips of the iron-laden water, I was set to go back to camp, but then my eye caught a sparkle in the ground, just a little up the hill from the spring. I knew it had to be the glimmer of quartz, so I headed that way to investigate with trusty rock hammer in hand. Sure enough, I found a nice little single point just barely exposed under the surface of the ground. I figured the mother lode must be somewhere just a little higher up and proceeded to make my way upward through the forest. For about 30 minutes, I investigated several areas that looked promising but never found another crystal. It was time to head back to camp, so I turned around and started back. After about 20 minutes of walking downhill, the topography reversed, and I started back uphill. Funny, but I didn’t remember another hill. After another 20 minutes of traversing increasingly rough terrain, I started to worry a little. Somehow, I was lost in the middle of the mountain and it was almost dark. A full moon illuminated just enough of the woods to allow me to maneuver about. At times, I panicked and ran wildly tripping over the undergrowth and falling hard to the rocky ground. I yelled out for help often but heard only the screech of the owl and the howl of the coyote. I remember thrashing through briar thickets and tromping across wet areas. I stopped several times and prayed, just as much concerned about my parents as my own current predicament. Just before the dawn, I found what appeared to be an old logging road, overgrown but obviously my way out, if I chose the right direction. I turned toward the east and began walking down the path. Within a few minutes, I heard the distant sound of car horns. I began to run. The sound got louder, and finally I heard shouting voices. Emerging from the woods, I saw an armada of pickup trucks. The locals had been searching for me all night, and their efforts had finally paid off. I was driven to the campground, cut and bruised from head to toe and emotionally exhausted. You can imagine the relief my parents felt when I came back to camp. The rescuers told us that it was a small miracle they found me alive. I had travelled some 20 miles across the most hazardous area of the Ouachita Mountains. Somehow, I had avoided the sheer cliff drop- offs and amazingly had not been snake-bitten when tromping through the water moccasin- infested wetland areas. You can imagine the reprimanding that came later!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blue Angels Among Us--Amen! We Agree!

"The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind--"

--from The Message, John 17:21--


A certain kind of miracle occurs quite frequently at this time of year in Northwest Florida. It involves an exchange between a group of disciplined, highly trained pilots and their audiences at air show practices which take place behind the National Naval Aviation Museum. The toughest cookie in the jar might very well crumble after witnessing one of these practice sessions. It's not enough to just see the death-defying midair stunts the pilots perform. You have to hear the roar of the engines and the simultaneous gasps of wonder coming from hundreds of people sitting around you on the bleachers. And then there are the running commentaries from the volunteers on site. They keep you informed as to how many "G's" the pilots must overcome as they perform some of their maneuvers. Seven or eight, I heard someone say. And all of that overcoming doesn't come easy. Their workout schedule would put any professional sports player to shame. One of the volunteers said that in order to maintain control over the joystick (throttle?) of the jet, a pilot must be able to curl a 35-pound free weight and hold it in that curled position for five minutes. Or did she say 45 minutes? The more I watched and heard about these disciples of the air on this Maundy Thursday morning, the more I wanted to believe that it was the latter.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Let Me 'Fluor' You

Well, as promised, this post will include more pictures of my favorite mineral – fluorite (aka fluorspar).

The many colors and hues are tremendous!
Glimmering honey...yummy!



Above is a light purple cube on top of a plate of sphalerite.


This piece of green fluorite is actually from Mexico, but occasionally, specimens of green were found in Illinois and Kentucky. A small region in extreme southeastern Illinois and extreme southwestern Kentucky, known as the Illinois/Kentucky fluorspar district, once supplied the nation with 90% of its need for this strategic mineral. After WWII, the supply chain changed dramatically, as will be discussed below.


This dark brown is actually from a thin coating of petroleum. Maybe one day a big oil discovery will be made in that area of the Midwest.


This specimen of amber-colored fluorite shows different stages of crystal growth. Cubes growing inside cubes are commonly called phantom crystals.
This being my second guest posting, a little background information may be appropriate. Do you wonder why my “handle” is Secret Aging Man? My wife, W2W, gave me this nickname for the blogosphere because of two watershed events -- a short essay I wrote in the fifth grade and a job search I did a couple of months ago. My essay, entitled "What Will I Be?," describes my future occupational aspiration, at the ripe age of 10 years. I ended it by prophetically stating… “I will either be a secret agent man or a geologist, but I think I will probably be a geologist.” Fast-forward 41 years later and I am in the middle of a new employment search. After four months on the hunt, an article on Yahoo! catches my eye. “The CIA and FBI are now hiring all positions! Start your new career, today!” After a few minutes of surfing their respective web-sites, the answer echoed loudly in my head - Dude, you are too old, way too old to even apply. I thought out loud “Hey! What about Sean Connery? If he can shave the world, sho can I!” After this little episode, my wife of great wit proclaimed me the Secret Aging Man.
I can’t talk about fluorspar without mentioning my parents, especially my father. My parents initially visited the Southern Illinois Earth Science Club to appease my curiosity about rocks, but soon their interest and passion for the hobby were just as high, if not more intense than my own. About the same time, my father started having heart problems and had to retire from his profession as a carpenter at SIU. He had lots of time on his hands and devoted most of it to his hobby and his club, serving as President, on more than one occasion. After his death in 1974 due to heart surgery complications, my mother, who had previously served as Secretary/Treasurer, took up the torch and served one term as President. The reason I mention all this is because my father was President of the club when legislation was enacted declaring fluorite as the Illinois State Mineral. This event would not have happened if not for the efforts of my dad and other members of the Southern Illinois Earth Science Club.



This large specimen of purple fluorite and white dogtooth calcite came into our collection in an interesting way.

My father and I were somehow introduced to an Ozark-Mahoning company geologist. Accumulated in his front yard were several large and attractive specimens from the fluorite mines, gifts from various miners trying to make a good impression and perhaps hoping for a little job security. My dad proposed a trade for the piece pictured above and presented several fine, hand-made pieces of jewelry, brought along just for the purpose of barter. The guy picked the tie-tac, and even though we insisted he take more jewelry in trade, he refused. We probably had $5 in that tie-tac. My ultra-antique road show appraisal of the piece pictured above is now $3500.
Monthly trips to visit our primary supplier, a preacher/miner friend in the back country of the Shawnee National Forest, were needed to feed our addiction. I haven’t a clue how to find his place now. I remember traveling for what seemed forever up and down hilly gravel roads, with clouds of dust following and sometimes overtaking our vehicle. We were always graciously welcomed and personally escorted to ‘round back of the old shed, where sheets of tin roofing graced the tops of concrete blocks, creating the entrepreneur’s store shelving. Upon the shelves, a virtual jewelry store of minerals sparkled like candy in the eyes of this young pebble pup. We never asked, but, according to common knowledge, the minerals were daily hoisted up from the mines in the miners’ lunch boxes. The mining company reluctantly went along with this practice until some overzealous miner broke an elevator, attempting to hoist a specimen of several hundred pounds. After that incident, the flow of new mineral specimens came to an abrupt halt. Anyway, we bought all we could afford for 25 cents per pound. W2W did a post a while back about a walk-about we did in the Shawnee Forest. We stopped by the American Fluorite Museum, in Rosiclare, and took a few pictures you may want to check out in her post.

So, is there any value to fluorite, other than as a nice collectible for the mineral enthusiast? Fluorite is comprised of Calcium and Fluoride (CaF2) and the 97%+ pure CaF2 mineral is used in the production of hydrofluoric acid. Ceramic-grade fluorite, containing 85%-95% CaF2, is primarily used for the production of glass and enamel, to make welding rod coatings, and as a flux in the steel industry. Less pure grades of fluorite are also used by the steel industry. And of course, we have all heard of fluoride in our toothpaste and drinking water. For many years, the addition of fluoride to our municipal water supplies has been hailed as a benchmark by public health advocates, who claim that it has drastically reduced the number of cavities in the overall population. However, critics of this policy have emerged, citing potential serious health threats from long-term ingestion of fluoride. Personally, I’m just not sure which side is right or if both have merits, but think the issue should be discussed and appropriate health studies conducted. The Illinois/Kentucky district supplied about 80-90% of the nation’s needs until a slow death spiral of the industry began sometime around 1950. Foreign imports from China and India, priced below our own production costs, eventually wiped out the domestic fluorite industry. The last domestic fluorite mine, located in Southern Illinois, closed in 1995.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Rescue


"There is a sickness
Which puts some of us in distemper, but
I cannot name the disease; and it is caught
Of you that yet are well."
--Camillo's veiled warning to Polixenes; William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, 1.2--


I truly believe that winter is not just a season for some people. It characterizes their entire "play" upon this "stage" of life. One bad thing after another creates a habit of bitterness, which builds a pattern of despair, which produces a crop of self-righteousness, which rages against anything that clings--or lays a claim, even if undeserved--to righteousness. I almost fell for the trap. The palms rescued me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Changes March's Stones to 'Bread' in Florida


April 1. -- This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. -- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar (from Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894)


A hailstorm last week in the middle of the night caused not a little concern for some gardeners in northwest Florida. Some fool planted peas to grow up on the hedge. She was too lazy to rig up a proper support system for them. The broken stems and tendrils do not bode well for a harvest anytime soon.

Peter Piper might be able to pick a peck of peppers here and elsewhere in the garden--if he can sneak in ahead of the fool who planted them. The leaves were shredded a bit by the hail, but the fruit wasn't damaged. Daughter picked the largest one today to add to her specialty, chicken enchiladas. I can smell them baking in the oven right now. Mmmm.


Live oak trees are clothed with a fresh growth of leaves. You never see them absolutely bare. Last year's leaves fall off at the same time this year's growth takes over. They are pushed out of the nest, so to speak, by the next generation. Most fools tend to go out on a limb, and I'm no exception. TC, the Write Gardener, has encouraged (challenged?) his friends and fellow-bloggers to try their hands at poetry. Here goes:
Not-So-Foolish Advice
April shakes her soggy head,
Storms and hail recede;
(Kisses of sun-warmth)
Gardener decides to cast her bread
On waters--not soil--no seed.
Drink it in, this day. Be fed.




Son's efforts at gardening may just surpass those of his parents one of these days. I hope so. He might even learn from a fool's mistakes if he pays close attention. Okay, I'm not really a fool--at least not most of the time. I'm (re)learning what's good and what's not, and I'm not afraid to share it.

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