Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are WE Creating a Super Flu?

For those of you that follow my other blog(s) you know I got the flu. Probably, my nurse sister thinks, not the Swine flu but there is another flu virus out there making the rounds that is not covered by the flu vaccine manufactured for this flu season which came late. And if remarks on Twitter are any indication it reached epidemic proportions before Swine flu did.

As I blogged and commented in various platforms that I had the flu I was constantly told I should have gotten the flu shots. I had a flu shot once and it almost killed me as it is cultured in eggs and intensifies the sulfur of the egg yokes. I am allergic to that. I have always had doubts about the vaccine process. Probably because in my life it is not just the flu vaccines I have reactions to but the oral polio vaccine, the smallpox vaccine, the original shots for polio, and a couple others. To take me for vaccinations as a child was to figure out what days of school I could most miss - like up to a week.

But I also think it is not nice to fool Mother Nature. She will find a way around every barrier we put in her way. And are we not weakening our basic natural resistance processes by developing dependence upon manufactured ones? There is a school of thinking that says we have more cases of asthma these days because we live in more "antiseptic environments." Kids that have pets and crawl on the dirty floor may in fact have better immune systems.

The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories on this latest "pandemic." Thoughts range from it is all hype to get us to buy more pharmaceuticals to it is a government manufactured "Captain Tripps" from Stephen King's The Stand. I take a bit of a survivalist middle stance here. I think we have unwittingly created bigger and badder strains of virus by limiting its hosts through vaccinations. Viruses are highly successful and very resistant and highly mutable. Flu comes up with a limitation as to hosts it can jump to because of a vaccine and it merely mutates or takes another route.

The viral infections we are seeing today (like the killer drug-resistant bacterial infections) are the survivers of the fittest. We have nurtured them in our hospitals and laboratories and trained them to be better and better and harder and harder to stop. It is the biological weapons war and I don't think we are the winners here. Every year we get closer and closer to that super flu that will drastically reduce the population of the earth and I think it is entirely our fault - deliberate or not.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Memories of 1968

I was reading up on the growing threat of Swine Flu this morning. I do not live in a major city and with my lifestyle (artist in own studio) I can avoid a lot of the risk centers. But I do live in a border state with Mexico and between the drug traffic and illegals crossing (not to mention tourist traffic) I cannot be totally sure of safety from the feared pandemic.

This morning's news was, however, particularly interesting in that I evidently survived a previous pandemic in 1968.

From Yahoo News: While all the deaths so far have been in Mexico, the flu is spreading in the United States. Eleven cases were confirmed in California, Kansas and Texas, and eight schoolchildren in New York City caught a type A influenza virus that health officials say is likely to be the swine flu.

The new flu strain, a mixture of various swine, bird and human viruses, poses the biggest risk of a large-scale pandemic since avian flu surfaced in 1997, killing several hundred people. A 1968 "Hong Kong" flu pandemic killed about 1 million people globally.

New flu strains can spread quickly because no one has natural immunity to them and a vaccine takes months to develop.

I was a University of New Mexico student in Albuquerque in 1968 and fell victim to the Hong Kong Flu mentioned above. I spent three weeks on a couch too sick to even get up and go to the doctor's. The news agencies were urging everyone to stay home and even if sick just drink a lot of fluids. I tried to get down anything anyone brought me in liquid form.

To this day the smell of Dr. Pepper makes me a bit ill. And I can still remember vividly the dreams of being buried alive and smelling my body rotting. I lost about 15 pounds which was good. And evidently a natural immunity to flu strains that has lasted four decades and I hope lasts five at least.

Time to check the larder for supplies (no Dr. Pepper) so I can avoid trips to the store if people in my area begin getting sick. And definitely a good time to make sure I take all my vitamins to keep my resistance up. I really don't ever want to be that sick again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Outlaws in the valley

Thomas Edward "Black Jack" Ketchum and his gang were only a few of the "outlaws" that hung around Moreno Valley, Elisabethtown, Cimarron, and the Black Lake area. They were supposedly "laying low" after doing train robberies in Texas and other parts of New Mexico.

Black Jack was one of the only train robbers hung for that crime and not murder. He was hung in Clayton, New Mexico in such a bumbling way that he was decapitated. And it was later determined that it was unconstitutional to hang someone for robbing trains. Horses, maybe, but trains no, regardless of what the real robber barons (train builders and owners) wanted.

But if local stories are to be believed Black Jack was by no means innocent of murder. The charges were just never brought against him. And he participated in more than one lynching where he was not the guest of honor. One of these lynchings in Elizabethtown produced a head which Black Jack took in a sack to Cimarron and placed on the picket fence of the St. James Hotel. So maybe it was karma or fate that he later lost his head because of a rope.

Anyway even though Ketchum and his gang hung out here and worked for some of the local ranches between train robberies it is Clayton and Cimarron that got famous for him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring at last

Spring at Last

I had lunch
On my studio porch today
I put on a sleeveless shirt
And took off my shoes and socks
And dined on chocolate ice cream.

I sat on a step
Last week covered with snow
And watched two ravens
Repledge their union
In a flawless blue sky.

I walked barefoot
In the greening grass
Drenching the tree
With the newly thawed hose
And celebrated the arbor survival.

I hauled out the potted plants
Washed their dusty leaves
In a spring time shower
My toes wiggling
In the mud forming beneath them.

I had lunch outside today
And reveled in the sun
basking in the warmth
Spring has arrived
At Last.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Monday, April 20, 2009

Railroads That Missed Us

The history of my area is a lot of things that might have happened. There was a lot of mining here but never the mother lode. Lots of ranching here but no easy way to get the cattle to market. Lots of outlaws here like Black Jack Ketchum and Bat Masterson but none of them died here. Just killed others here.

And for years when the mining and the ranching was going at full tilt there were talks of railroads to get ore to grinding mills and cattle to slaughter. The closest trains got were Ute Park to the East and the Denver and Rio Grande to the east. The spur connecting the two never materialized though there was a huge double wide tunnel built just 20 miles from here so the trains could make it through the Cimarron canyon.

The Texas cattlemen were heavily behind this train because it would allow them to ship their cattle up to greener summer pastures and back to winter feed lots with greater efficiency. That now happens with cattle trailers and semi-tractor rigs. In may we will see these caravans of trucks bringing in the yearling cattle to eat the grass here. And in October those cattle will vanish like the dreams of trains that never made it.

Gov. Richardson is now talking of using the old Denver and Rio Grande track bed to run the light rail Railrunner commuter train to Taos for those people that commute to Santa Fe and Los Alamos to work. And tourists that fly into Albuquerque for vacations in Taos. They took the track up in 1941 for the steel but the bed is still good. It just never went to Taos but to Tres Piedres instead. I suppose they have a plan for that.

All of Obama's talk about highspeed trains and a reliable track network has everyone here dreaming of trains again. There would be some good reasons to connect Taos to Raton where the Santa Fe Railroad runs but the trains have missed us before.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Noble Clothespin!

The hardest part of going green with my new clothesline was the clothespin. Seems there is not a single product, even the lowly clothespin, that China cannot make worse. So what I thought was going to be a simple local store purchase because an extensive hunt. I want clothespins like Momma used to have.

You know the ones that your little fingers could barely squeeze open and when applied to the skin of your sibling caused pain.

I wanted them to hold the clothes on the line in valley winds. Seemed simple but NOT. Finally found some largish plastic ones at Wal-Mart that are labeled heavy duty. They will do for the moment, but I am still in search of the ultimate clothespin.

So yesterday with the expected snow storm delayed and the new clothespins in hand I emptied my travel bag and did my laundry. My sister and I had been "mudding" in her Jeep and I had all those clothes to wash. So what might have been a three dryer load day wasn't. My clothesline and the clothespins held them all. And everything smelled so fresh and nice.

How wonderful to have this great "green" experience on the Eve of Earth Day! I did something great for me, my utility bills and the earth with just a simple clothespin!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Have This Photograph

I have this photograph
Capturing another
A moment forever frozen
Upon my refrigerator
Recalls to memory a happier time.

I have her picture
among others
A moment when she smiled
Smiling back at me
In my kitchen.

We had been on a hike
With friends and dogs
Middle Fork Lake on a Summer Day
Happy memories.

It seemed so appropriate
In her memory
To make more with other friends
Taking photographs.

The world was changed by her loss
And yet more
As if her spirit charged the air.
And I will forever
Have her photograph.

We sat on rocks
Warmed by the sun
Distracted by the dogs
Giggled not unlike that other time
Took photographs.

Friends on a trek
Photographs for the refrigerator
Memories etched in our minds
And sorrow
And photographs.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Brief History

I drove down through what used to be the township of Black Lake yesterday. Yes, Martha, there is a Black Lake. And there used to be a town. It was a thriving community of ranchers in the late 1800's and early 1900's. This area had been homesteaded in that time by primarily the Trujillo family. Per the 1861 homestead act you could get deeded to you 160 acres if you worked the land for 10 years and made improvements. The menfolk of the Trujillo extended family did and then joined them together into a very large ranch.

In the town of Black Lake - or what remains of it is an old school that is used for little art fairs, the UU Bar Ranch - which was used for filming all the Montana scenes for Lonesome Dove, Poorboy's bar and dance hall - now closed because of the death of the owner, and various adobe and log buildings that have been melting into the landscape.

Us locals that live in "Black Lake" as opposed to Angel Fire have various inside jokes as to where we live here. There is Tween which is between El Bordo hill and the first Black Lake sign. Twixt which is between sign one of Black Lake and sign two of Black Lake. (To get to my house you turn off at Tween but my house is actually in Twixt. ) Then there is Beyond which is as you would likely guess beyond the last Black Lake sign. That actual last Black Lake sign is where the historic community of Black Lake was. And up against the mountains to the west, tucked into the shadows on the UU Bar Ranch is Black Lake, the lake, so named because it is a peat area and between shadows and black bottom does indeed look black.

People miss it all the time. And we constantly get the question, "Is there really a Black Lake?" Yes, Martha, there is. And there is Tween, and Twixt and Beyond too.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

They do not leave but lead


We are here but briefly
Holding on
To this land we consider solid
As it vanishes behind us.

Our mission is not to stay
But journey
To move from here to there
And beyond.

We travel sometimes together
But alone
At a pace not set
By us.

Our goal
Is not to linger longer
But to travel from here
To beyond

So when a friend goes
Beyond our reach
It is not to leave us
But to lead

(c) J. Binford-Bell
For all that go before

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quake Hits l'Aguila, Italy

A very strong (5.6 to 6.7 depending upon who you believe) earthquake hit a large section of central Italy following a series of smaller quakes on Sunday and Monday. Every news article reports an increasing number of dead and vague promises of those still buried under rubble. Centuries old Tuscan and Renaissance churches have been destroyed.

Horrible but it is news I can grasp, understand, get my mind around. Despite all my reading on the economy and watching all the Sunday talk shows with debates between Republicans and Democrats and economists of conflicting mind sets I cannot grasp a lot of what is currently going on in the world even if it directly effects me. But I get earthquakes.

I was taken to an earthquake park outside Anchorage, Alaska once and saw where the earth fell - down or in - what is the correct word here. And I have driven along highways that crisscrossed the San Andres fault in California and saw a huge reservoir that vanished overnight because the earth cracked. I live not far from one of the world's biggest rifts. Across the road from me as the cone of a volcano. I understand the earth moving.

I don't understand what humans did to cause this economic crisis and why we think they know how to fix it. Somethings like in l'Aguila, Italy you don't fix. You just clean it up after you dig the dead and dying out of the rubble. Why are we not just cleaning up after this tsunami of a global economic crisis.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Poor House

A funny thing happened on the way to the poor house.

Yes, Martha, they used to have poor houses. Then they called them slum clearance projects followed by low-income housing and now tent cities it seems. Still a roof of any kind over your head can be a blessing even if it leaks. Mine thankfully doesn't.

I always suspected on some level that poor was green. If you cannot afford the electric bill you do not leave lights, energy saving or not, on all the time. You lower the heat. You put on an extra layer of clothes. You don't waste money on bottled water and add all those plastic bottles to the landfill. And now I have bought the necessary cord and connections to make a clothes line which wastes no energy drying clothes.

And I have cut down on the food budget. Weren't we told to not eat like our parents did? Down with the pork chops and gravy! I like to eat good. And there are several items where only organic will do like eggs and dairy products and poultry. I generally buy skinned and boned chicken breasts that are organic too. The prices on them have sky rocketed. I was able to buy an organic whole chicken at a fraction of the price and so I did. I roasted it with stuffing made from the remains of the sourdough bread I had bought. Yummmy. Food for several days. But I had not suspected that comfort food might actually be healthy but we used to call them balanced meals.

I have a cooking column I write for a local paper and I have been doing a series on comfort food for about a month now. I have resurrected some of Mom's old recipes and tested again before sending them off to the paper.
I figured I would gain weight on this old fashioned (but highly economical) way of cooking so I was avoiding the scale. But I have lost weight! First clue was jeans fitting looser so I dared the scale.

Maybe there is something to be said for the "balanced" meals of my youth. Maybe we do need some natural fats to burn the calories. Maybe eating what our body craves makes you raid the refrigerator less. I don't have the answer but something is working here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fenomenal Foto Friday

I was looking at photographs of arches today for a picture idea for one of my large canvases. I ended up using Teardrop Arch in Monument Valley (featured on Creative Journey) but I did not personally take that photo. But while looking through my photographs of the Colorado Plateau I found this picture taken on Queen's Garden trail at Bryce National Park.

I took this on my sister's and my first roadtrip to Utah. We had walked down Queen's Garden trail and had fully intended to go back up it. But at the bottom there was an option for Navajo Trail. Should you ever go to Bryce National Park let me inform you the way to do this hike is DOWN Navajo and UP Queen's Garden. Leave your car at the visitor center and take the bus that stops at all the overlooks that way you don't have to remember at what trail head you parked it. A real plus when every single muscle in your body is crying for the sleeping bag.

Bryce landscape can be a bit overwhelming to photograph. This one had some depth because of shadows. I took this with my Nikon film camera and 70 to 200 mm lens in the days before I owned a digital. I would send my film off daily and request thumbnails and CD as well as negatives. They were all waiting for me when I got back from the trip. No worries about overheated film in the car.

Oh, and Deb and I decided the National Park service needed to make some changes in its trail signage. They list mileage, vertical drop and degree of difficulty and an approximate time for completion. We think they ought to give a couple hints about memory card size and frames of film and a factor by which you can increase the time.

Fenomenal Foto Friday is a feature of Frani's Blog on Y!360 but this week Yahoo would not let me post that blog. Well, they let me three times but it vanishes and cannot be seen so I am posting it here instead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How Far to Go?

The current economic crisis has me doing a lot of things I thought I had given up from my hippie days or my youth where I wanted to learn all the old crafts like spinning wool and tanning hides. I did a lot of spinning. But tanning hides required killing an animal first.

I did canning, freezing, baking bread, making my own biscotti, raising geese, and angora goats (for the raw materials to do that spinning I had learned in the Blue Ridge Mountains.) I even died the wool I spun with natural dyes created from native plants. And I had many a clothesline. I was convinced that clothes smelled better when line dried. Haven't had one for a good dozen years. Winters here seem to freeze dry them. And if the wind is too high you risk losing those good sheets to the neighbors.

Still why not put up a clothes line in the backyard to use for those days when the weather is pleasant? Every time I hung out jeans or comforters it would save on the electricity to run the dryer. Sounds really green and earth conscious doesn't it? They used to make those that mounted on the house and pulled out to attach to a pole only when you wanted to use it. I wonder if they still do.

I could just start with a simple line between the back porch and a fence post and see if I use it. Not a big investment - clothesline and a few clothes pins. Or am I just getting carried away with this economy kick and the green earth thing? Frankly I don't know if anyone has advocated giving up our automatic clothes driers seasonally.

I am currently making my own dog treats and considering baking my own bread and getting a freezer so I can get a lamb or half a hog. But a clothesline?