Yesterday, we drove through Los Alamos to get here, and the jagged, beautiful high desert of New Mexico was dusted with snow like it was powdered sugar. It's not that much warmer here, no clouds to hold the heat in, but the sun is here longer and it's warmer during the day. high 30's and 40's in the day, single digits at night.
Los Alamos included the Burrough's Museum, which is named after the main director of Los Alamos Laboratories, not the science fiction writer, sadly. But it included a history of the lab, and the whole Manhattan project, along with models of Fat Man and Little Boy, information about modern stockpiles and their management, and various lines of research that the Labs were doing now.
There is all kind of intriguing research being done at the labs these days, including taking cell samples and being able to find out how much of each DNA sequence within a gene that cell sample actually *expressed*. Okay... when all the cells in your body become that particular part of the body, they have to physically change to be your liver or your stomach or your skin. How they change is dependent on their positioning, the hormones they're exposed to, the conditions of the cells next to them, and various other things that say "I'm here, so I need to do X." The physical changes are done, in part, by using the protein keys in the specific genes that respond to "I am an X." So those genes are "expressed" by that cell.
By pulling cancerous cells, then, they will be able to tell which genes were expressed to make them what they are... so there is a way to correlate expression with possible genetic causes for cancer. Or which genes might make cells degenerated by Alzheimer's more susceptible to that. Or... or... or...
It made my head go boom with possibilities.
Another intriguing bit had to do with training honey bees (yes, honey bees) to stick out their tongues when they find explosives. They're more sensitive to airborne compounds than dogs, easier to control, and so long as honey bees can be kept alive (colony collapse and the whole problem honeybeekeepers are having these years leapt to my mind) they are self-replicating, especially if they select the queen and drone for trainability in this application. So they have a little case with three trained honey bees in it and take it to detect things.
It was intriguing to find that they actually build nuclear bombs with parachutes so that they can be dropped from low altitude and the plane can still get away before it goes off.
We got to Taos fairly early and headed to Orlando's a little north of town, and sat outside by the fires for the 40 minutes until a table opened up. It was wonderful New Mexican food. I had Los Colores, which had three enchiladas, red with beef, green with chicken, and a chili carribe (which was supposed to be the hottes, but turned out to just be the spiciest and thickest) with cheese. It was really good. Dessert was a "frozen avocado pie" which was really good but hard as a rock. It tasted like it had been mixed with a little lemon and sugar and then poured into a graham cracker crust to be frozen solid.
Today John, Walt, Jet, and Cathie went up to Taos Ski Valley to go skiing (there's a resort up here called Angelfire which made me go oooo). Isabel and I stayed down here. I walked two blocks to Michael's Bakery and Cafe to get one baked good for breakfast, but ended up buying a blueberry Danish and a pumpkin empanada and a mug of their Pinon flavored coffee, which I liked rather a lot. I only managed to eat the Danish... and scared the hell out of the cleaning lady when I cam back to the room. So I sat out on the back patio, in 12 degree weather, but I was in the sunshine, and I ate my breakfast, and wrote on my notebook with my pen until my pen froze solid.
So I came back in and she was gone, and I wrote for much of the morning. The main annoying thing about the hotel was that while there is wireless, it's intermittent, and kept quitting, so I couldn't really do anything solidly, especially uploading pictures, so the pictures are just going to have to wait until I'm home. This I can write locally and upload in a burst from my laptop if I need to. Text is so tiny it seems to work well.
At noon when Isabel came to get me, and we went to Michael's for lunch as she'd seen a line out the door, and thought it would be good. So we waited for a little while and then got in fairly quickly. There was a lot of food to my breakfast enchilada plate. I only managed half of it, but it was a good half. Then we went off on a wild goose chase for a consignment shop, far, far South on the road we were living on. I got diverted a bit by a fiber arts store where the lady recognized what, exactly, my mittens represented and the first comment out of her mouth was, "That is so thin!!" Compared to the rug yarns that were in huge bundles in the back room, I could see what she meant. Wow.
They had tons of hand dyed yarns in all sorts of weights and widths. The amusing thing is that I really wasn't up to buying any of it; however, they had a Grand wheel in the back, not a walking Great wheel, but a Grand wheel with a HUGE spindle on it with modern bearings, and a steel shaft. The lady said that her mother had spun an entire BALE of wool in a single weekend using that wheel and I could believe it given the enormous ratio between the wheel and the spindle. It was astonishingly fast.
From there, Isabel and I headed out, and we walked for nearly an hour before we finally gave up as we realized that the tourist map hadn't been drawn to scale and that half the streets we were passing weren't even on the map... that was a little sad, but we went to shops on the way back, and stopped here and there just to look. When we got back to the historical plaza, we walked around it, dropped into various shops, including a quilting shop, an art shop, and a Native American arts shop that had a collection of Christmas ornaments that said that they were made right here in New Mexico. Turns out that most of them were made by the shop owner's wife, and the ones we'd found were made by a lady of the Navajo tribe.
I got a Crow Mother for myself, a coyote for John, and a little woven basket bit for Jet, as he was fascinated by the baskets and wanted to figure out how to make them himself.
We stopped by a coffee shop on the way back, and got a nice, hot decaf coffee for Isabel and a latte for me, and it felt very good to sit for a bit and drink. Together we did over 12,000 steps, and Isabel had been exploring for most of the morning as well.
Then I got a good two hours of writing in the afternoon. I'm still not sure where the stores are going, yet, but I'm finally coming to figure out that I'm just going to wander around until I see a sign. They seem to come up with most stories, and then I figure out the end, and go back and hone the whole thing until I get it back onto the point. THEN I get a beta and get it polished before posting. Things take longer than when I first started, but I think I'm getting better stories out of it.
Jet had a great time skiing. He sat on his bed in the hotel room tonight bouncing and going "I'm so happy. I'm so happy. I'm so very very very happy."
Wow. He'd done a little down the beginner slope, and then Walt and Cathie suggested the regular slope, and he realized he was in way over his head, so he got a nice ride down by the Ski patrol in one of their toboggans. He liked the ride, but then he stayed on the beginner and then on the medium beginner slope for most of the rest of the day, trading off whomever was with him. He had a great time, and he loved his new socks and new snow pants a LOT, and ate a huge lunch, and when he finished dinner, he was pretty tired.
He had a good, hot shower, leaving sand all over the bottom of the tub, and now he's fast asleep. I'm about to go to sleep as well. *laughs* So won't see the new year in.
Tomorrow we'll probably bounce about a bit, see a few things, and then head toward home. It's been a fun trip, and best of all I won't have to readjust to being at altitude back at home. *laughs* It's also lots of fun just seeing everyone and talking with them for real.
Hope everyone had a good, safe, and fun New Years celebration! And that the New Year treats you well.