Down to Earth – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com Forked River Gazette Mon, 11 Dec 2017 14:29:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/cropped-Forked-River-Gazette-Logo-32x32.png Down to Earth – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com 32 32 Oh say can you see? http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/oh-say-can-see/ Thu, 04 May 2017 11:57:42 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=30513 Oh say can you see….  So starts the words of our National Anthem by Francis Scott Key, I woke up this morning with those words in my head, the last of a dream that I cannot remember. In December of 2015 I made my annual drive out West on vacation, the trip lasted about five … Continue reading Oh say can you see?

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Oh say can you see….  So starts the words of our National Anthem by Francis Scott Key, I woke up this morning with those words in my head, the last of a dream that I cannot remember. In December of 2015 I made my annual drive out West on vacation, the trip lasted about five weeks and was pretty much a normal mix of good and bad days for that time of the year.

It wasn’t until the return trip that I experienced an unexpected turn of events. I like driving at night and usually try and get on the road between two and three in the morning, it is a good time to travel, and I usually pick out a truck that is traveling in my direction and stay a good bit behind him. I watch his brake lights – they are an advance warning system that something is happening on the road ahead of me. The rainbow halo around the moon did not alert me to problems, it is a normal weather phenomenon – except when it is not, then I started to see halos around all lights and I knew I was having troubles with my eyes. I made a mental note to tell the doctor, I had my annual eye exam coming up soon.

It was hard to believe how rapidly my night vision had changed over a period of five weeks, it went from good to poor so fast. My last two nights on my return trip home were a challenge to drive in unlighted areas, the dark was really dark and my headlights just did not seem to be doing the job. My ophthalmologist diagnosed cataracts and glasses, the glasses solved my night driving problems and I thought my problems were over for awhile. Six months later I had to have a stronger eye glass prescription.

This past January, I was given the bad news, a stronger prescription would not help, cataract surgery was the solution. I could go a bit longer, but in my mind, I already knew the outcome – if I waited, those cross country trips I took three times a year would end, already I had canceled my winter vacation because, pardon the pun, my vision had gone West before I would.

I made my decision and scheduled the operation as soon as possible on my left eye. I chose the option to use laser for the operation, it was more expensive and was not covered by my insurance, but as it was explained to me  a better solution for healing. Because of unforeseen events and scheduling there was a few weeks delay before the operation.

On the day of the operation, one of my neighbors drove me, and would also drive me for my postoperative exam the next day, as I would not be able to drive until I received my doctor’s OK.  I had been thinking about this operation for awhile now, and truthfully I did not feel good about it. There are things I worry about, stuff happens I cannot control, as I get older I have pain or discomfort most every day, I find a way to get by it, but this was my sight. I was scared, I did not sleep very much before the operation.

The morning of the operation my stress levels were probably off the charts, I try not to show it.  When my blood pressure was taken by the nurse, it was high – red zone high, it had been high  for a couple of weeks. I knew, because regularly take it at home. I joke with the nurse, got to keep from thinking about what is going to happen. Everyone is nice, friendly, they explain everything, on the outside I keep my cool, but when I am on the table and the machine is lowering that will do measurements on my eye, I push my head back on the padding, trying to force it through the metal table under the padding.

The actual operation is no problem, the needle in the vein on the back of my hand assures that I will stay in Na-na land throughout the procedure. When I wake, things I see from the left eye are cloudy, no pain, a little discomfort, but the light is so, so bright.

The next day, I go for my post-op exam, vision is still a little wonky but tests out at 20 over 40. Over the two days after the operation, I could feel my vision improving on an hourly basis, full healing will take one month with frequent eye drops of three different medications. Eleven days later, I go through the same procedure, my blood pressure is still high, but I knew it would be. The second eye was easier, I was still a little tense, heck, I was still a lot tense but the fear factor was down to almost nothing, I knew what was going to happen.

As of this writing, the third day after my second eye was done, I can see the TV from across the room, things are much brighter, and colors stand out. There is a can of computer dust-off about two foot away from me, I can read the eight point print on the can. Before the operation, everyone I had talked to, had told me there was nothing to worry about. A lady I talked to in Walmart had asked me who I was going to, and when I told her, Ocean Eye Institute, she told me that was where her husband had gone, and they were the best in the area.

I still have a month to go before I have to stop using the medication eye drops, but my life is changing back to normal, my blood pressure numbers are back in the safe zone, and I feel as if my vision has been turned back twenty years to my fifties. Lastly I want to thank the friendly, caring, doctors and staff at Ocean Eye Institute, God bless you all.

 

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Christmas Cards http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/christmas-cards/ Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:14:51 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=28080 Written By Neil Van Oost Jr. Christmas cards … I think everyone knows what a greeting card is, an illustrated piece of card or high quality paper featuring an expression of friendship or other sentiment, but did you know that  greeting cards were exchanged in ancient times by the Chinese and Egyptians. The Chinese  exchanged … Continue reading Christmas Cards

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Written By Neil Van Oost Jr.

Christmas cards … I think everyone knows what a greeting card is, an illustrated piece of card or high quality paper featuring an expression of friendship or other sentiment, but did you know that  greeting cards were exchanged in ancient times by the Chinese and Egyptians. The Chinese  exchanged handmade messages of goodwill to one another for the New Year, they were brightly colored and designed to frighten away the monster Nian, who was a beast believed to live under the sea or in the mountains. The monster only came out around the time of Chinese New Year in the spring. Nian would attack everyone, but preferred children and was reported to have a sensitivity to loud noises and had a fear of the color red. The ancient Egyptians also used papyrus scrolls to send greetings and for record keeping.

As early as the 1400’s, the Germans were printing New Year greeting cards made from woodcuts and in Europe, sometime in the mid 1500’s, handmade paper Valentines were being exchanged, as this custom spread, it grew to also include Christmas greeting cards. In 1843, Sir Henry Coke, a British civil servant and inventor commissioned his friend John Callcott Horsley to design a Christmas card for that year. Horsley designed a triptych (Three paneled card), with the two side panels depicting clothing and feeding the poor, the center panel featured a party of adults and children, eating and drinking. The card bore the inscription “merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.”, The word “Merry” at the time was a spiritual word meaning “blessed.”  Only about one thousand cards were printed and sold for six pence each. Today there are believed to be only three or four cards still in existence. One of Sir Henry’s first Christmas cards, sent to his Grandmother was recently sold at auction for  22,500 pounds (27,400 US dollars.)

In 1875, Louis Prang, a Boston based printer,  introduced the Christmas card to the American public, he is widely known as “The Father of the American Christmas Card.” More about him can be found on the Net at http://blog.nyhistory.org/prang/ .

Throughout the years since then, Christmas cards are sent worldwide, some are hand delivered, as they were in ancient times, some by various countries postal systems, and some  electronically using the Internet. It is estimated that 1.5 billion Christmas cards were sent here in the US by a population of 308 million in 2010 and around 679 million in the UK, which had a population of 63 million. Only 15 percent of Christmas cards are bought by men. 45 percent of all greeting cards sent are Christmas cards. Each year in Finland, Santa receives 600,000 Christmas cards.

My thoughts on Christmas cards – When my mother was alive, being totally deaf, communication by mail was one of her main contacts with the outside, so the Christmas card list was one of her favorite things, it was a time when she could connect with family and friends, and bring everyone up to date on what had happened in the past year. I have tried to keep up Mom’s Christmas card list tradition, but as I get older, sadly the list gets shorter, so it is a happy sight when I receive a card from all those I sent to.

I found a good definition of Christmas on History.com, which I quote in full, “ A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”

Things to remember to place on your Christmas list.

The Salvation Army

PBA toy drives of our various towns

Food drives of our various churches and organizations

Our service people

And, lastly as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone.”

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Some thoughts on technology http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/some-thoughts-on-technology/ http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/some-thoughts-on-technology/#comments Thu, 06 Oct 2016 11:41:48 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=26983 Written by:  Neil Van Oost Jr. Some thoughts on technology …… When I was around twelve, I built my first radio receiver. It was from a kit, there were only a handful of parts, as far as I can remember, there was a coil wound around an oatmeal box, a carbon headset, a diode, a … Continue reading Some thoughts on technology

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down to earthWritten by:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

Some thoughts on technology …… When I was around twelve, I built my first radio receiver. It was from a kit, there were only a handful of parts, as far as I can remember, there was a coil wound around an oatmeal box, a carbon headset, a diode, a piece of galena (lead ore), a stiff wire and some wire and a couple of clips to connect it all. There was no battery, you probed the piece of galena with the stiff wire until you heard an AM radio station — it was great, and I built it myself.

It wasn’t long after that when I built my first one tube radio transmitter from another kit, for a short while this was also great, from my bedroom, I could broadcast to a radio down in the kitchen. This was short lived though, because little did I know, I was also transmitting to any radio within a three or four block radius that was tuned in close to the frequency that the kit was set up for, it tended to drift a bit, so it blocked out several radio stations. I think it was my uncle Henry that told my father there was a truck riding around on the other side of the tracks at the bottom of our hill, and they were looking for a pirate radio station, Oops! That ended my radio transmitting days. It seems at that time there were quite a few Pirate radio stations in the New York City area and New Jersey, and our government was actively attempting to shut them down. As fast as they shut one down, two more would pop up, it wasn’t very hard to set a station up as the technology was fairly easy to understand “Radio Row” (an area where the World Trade Center now stands) had plenty of WWII surplus radio equipment, and it was fairly cheap for anyone who wanted to tinker with it.

I went through several shortwave radio receivers during the time before I entered the Navy, almost every good AM radio had the short wave bands, and while I was in the Navy I was introduced to several powerful short wave radio receivers, along with fax machines and teletypes and map plotters, all of which I used as an Aerographer’s mate (commonly known as an AG or weather guesser). When I was transferred to the Fleet Numerical Weather Facility out in Monterey, California, I was introduced to main frame computers, some were older, but some were state of the art and connected worldwide via watts phone lines. I remember there was a seven second delay, when I was communicating with Hawaii, Japan, or Germany, and our most powerful computer had five hundred kilobytes of core memory (memory made up of very small donuts of ferrous iron, which were read as a zero or one depending on the charge).

After I left the Navy, I went to work for the US Postal service, as the years went by, I worked with everything from tube equipment to sophisticated networks and computers, everything always being updated to the latest technology. Now when I look around, everything is “tech”, from phones with powers and apps far beyond Dick Tracy’s wrist phone of my childhood, workplace robots that follow wifi signals around the warehouse while doing the work of two dozen workers, cars that drive themselves, and groups of kids walking down the street, heads down, thumbs busy, and text messages flying – to whom, you ask, why the person walking next to them.

Sometimes I think some of today’s “tech” has gone too far, we are becoming addicted and we are losing out on life around us. For several people that I know, that smart phone has taken over their life, Me, I have managed to dumb down, I have a cell phone, it is the flip variety, and yes it can connect to the internet, but only if I hit the wrong button, most of the time it is off, I do turn it on occasionally to call someone, and it is nice because I can call long distance without being charged more. But I do have to remember to charge it every couple of weeks. Also I do use my computer to send and receive email, but it is nice to send and receive a letter from a from a friend even though my handwriting or theirs gets kind of shaky sometimes and we misspell some words. You know, now that I think of it, I have never gotten a virus reading a handwritten letter, no matter how many times I fold or unfold it.

Every once in a while, when I am working in the garage, I turn on my short wave radio and listen to the BBC or Radio Netherlands, it’s nice getting someone’s viewpoint or news from the other side of the world — without two dozen commercials every five minutes and occasionally they play some nice music, again without commercials.

One final thought, typing this on the computer with spell check and auto save does sure beat the heck out of the old typewriter, so maybe some “tech” is OK.

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The Year 1891 in Review… http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/the-year-1891-in-review/ Thu, 01 Sep 2016 02:42:38 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=26624 Written By Neil Van Oost Jr. The year 1891 in review ….  A lot of important events happened in 1891 that most people would never think of these days, after all life and events of now and tomorrow take precedence over the things that happened over one hundred years ago, it was a different time. … Continue reading The Year 1891 in Review…

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Written By Neil Van Oost Jr.

The year 1891 in review ….  A lot of important events happened in 1891 that most people would never think of these days, after all life and events of now and tomorrow take precedence over the things that happened over one hundred years ago, it was a different time. Some would say it was a simpler time, less stressful, easier living, not the hustle and bustle of today’s madcap pace,  but then again, I wonder what a person living then would say. Following are just a couple of the events that happened around the  world in 1891.

On 1 January, Nioro fell. The French suffered 5 dead and 53 wounded, while over 3000 Tokolors were killed or captured. Nioro, now Western Sudan in Africa, borders the Red Sea

On 20 January, Jim Hogg became the first native Texan  to be governor of that state. James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg, was an American lawyer and statesman, and the 20th governor of Texas.

On 6 February the first great train robbery by the Dalton Gang occurs on the South Pacific number seventeen train.

On 3 March the Fifty-First Congress of the US passed the International Copyright Act of 1891,  it was created because many people shunned the idea of literary piracy. It was the first U.S. congressional act that offered copyright protection in the United States to citizens of countries other than the United States. The act extended limited protection to foreign copyright holders from select nations. It was also important for American creators since they were more likely to have international copyright protection in countries that were offered the same protection by the United States.

On 1 April the Wrigley Company was founded in Chicago and in France the London–Paris telephone system was opened to the general public.

On 5 May the Music Hall in New York (later known as Carnegie Hall) had its grand opening and the first public performance, with Tchaikovsky as guest conductor.

On May 20 Thomas Edison’s prototype of the kinetoscope was displayed for the National Federation of Woman’s Clubs. The Kinetoscope was an early motion picture exhibition device.

On 25 June Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Homes appears in The strand Magazine (London) for the first time in the issue dated July.

On 29 July Bernhard Zondek a German-born Israeli gynecologist was born, he was the developer of the first reliable pregnancy test.

On 1 August on the front page of the Paterson newspaper The Morning Call appeared an article titled  “A FIGHT FOR BLOOD”, subtitled “Two Patersonians Try to Settle a Dispute With Gloves and a Draw Results”. The article about the fight between Tony Malloy and David Hennion is available on the fultonhistory.com website which contains 35,875,000 newspaper pages from the US and Canada.

On 28 September Author of “Moby-Dick”, Herman Melville died at home of a heart attack, he was seventy-two years old.

On 1 October Stanford University in California opens its doors. Also in October, Eugene Dubois found the first bone pieces of  Pithecanthropus erectus, this was later re-designated Homo erectus, or Java Man, at Trinil on the Solo River in East Java.

On 28 November the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was organized in St. Louis, Missouri.

On 22 December the Asteroid 323 Brucia became the first asteroid discovered using photography.

And now the most important event that started my interest in the year 1891, it was the year that my grandmother was born. It was interesting entertainment delving into the past, for the past is the doorway to the future, and the future is what we do with our lessons of the past.

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The View is Great from Up Here http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/the-view-is-great-from-up-here/ Thu, 04 Aug 2016 00:04:23 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=26316 The view is great from up here….  Another June has passed, and that means, I have made another rock collecting trip to Deming New Mexico. This year’s trip started off uneventful, but did not end that way. The first week was normal, I visited with my friends Ed & Judy, and Judy and I went … Continue reading The View is Great from Up Here

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The view is great from up here….  Another June has passed, and that means, I have made another rock collecting trip to Deming New Mexico. This year’s trip started off uneventful, but did not end that way. The first week was normal, I visited with my friends Ed & Judy, and Judy and I went out several trips  to the local agate fields to do some rock collecting.

The second week of my trip, my friend Henry arrived from Houston, we had several things planed but the main event was to be a trip to an old mine. Another friend, Mike, who lives and works in Deming had promised to take me to an old mine to collect some minerals. For various reasons we had not been able to make the trip up one of the peaks in the Florida Mountain Range to the mine when he first offered to take me there. In hindsight I wish we had made the trip several years ago when I was still in my 60’s and in much better shape, now in my 70’s my COPD and 30 pounds overweight is slowing me down quite a bit.

One bright and cloudless morning Henry and I climbed into Mike’s truck, the temperate was still in the 70’s but as the sun rose higher it was expected to crack 100 again. Mike’s truck was a typical heavy work vehicle, bangs dings, scratches, with a large crack running horizontally across the windshield, you could tell it had endured some rough off road travel. Shortly we would find out just how rough the road to the base of the mountain was. The trip took about thirty-five minutes, I swear, at times we probably only had one tire making contact with the gravel – Mike didn’t waste any time getting there, it was a ride that probably would have taken me a couple of hours, had I been driving.

At the base of the mountain, where we parked, Mike pointed out the approximate location of the mine, near the top, about one mile as the crow flies and a rise of about 1,000 foot. When Henry saw how rough the climb was going to be, he suggested that I should stay with the vehicle, but no, I had my mind set, I wanted to see the mine and the minerals Mike described sticking out of the roof.

The climb was rough, all switchbacks, all at a 45 degree angle up, every step was a careful choice, and as if the surface of the ground wasn’t in constant motion with each step, the vegetation was worse, it seems that everything that grows in the desert has its own system  of protection, and that usually comes in the form of thin, long or short bunches of pointy needless. Even some of the leaves on the trees had little short spikes all over the sides. I miss-stepped at one spot, and even though I had heavy dungaree pants on, I wound up with several long scratches on one leg which took almost a month to heal.

At about half way, I was taking another break, Henry again suggested that he thought I should return to the truck. I must have really looked bad, I know I didn’t exactly feel that great. I was stopping now about every ten or so steps, just for half a minute or so, and I felt bad about slowing everyone down. When I looked down at where the truck was parked, it looked as if it were only about four inches long.

When we arrived at the mine entrance, it was before midday, I did not pay much attention, it took a bit for my heart rate to return to normal and my vision to return to a point where I could focus again. I didn’t say anything, but that climb was one of the hardest things I think I have ever done in my life. I have done climbs like that and they were no big thing, but that was almost fifty years ago, funny how inside your head, you are always still a young man, no fear and invincible.

I took some pictures and let Mike and Henry do all the rock collecting, I took one specimen from near the top of the mountain, it now sits in my mineral cabinet. From  up here the truck was only half inch long and hard to pick out. The trip down was in some ways harder the  one up, now you could see just how narrow the trail was, because looking down you could see that just a mere eight inches from where you placed your foot was a sheer 200 or so foot drop, and I don’t even like to climb the step ladder to change the battery in the smoke detector.

When we arrived back at the truck, Mike and Henry went off to look at a place the Indians ground their corn, I sat in the truck and drank several bottles of water, I had brought six with me and brought six empties back. Reflecting back on the trip; I had wanted to see the mine, I had said I would make it to the mine, I did, I didn’t quit. But then again looking at the other side, I had gone somewhere that I should not have, and in the future, I think I will not make that trip again unless there is a paved road that stops fifty feet from the mine entrance and a nice shaded table with an ice cold pitcher of lemonade on it, a place I can sit and enjoy the view.

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Rocks in My Head http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/rocks-in-my-head/ Thu, 03 Mar 2016 15:51:44 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=22939 Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr. Rocks in my head….  When my parents were alive, Mom would often say Pop and I had rocks in our heads, although we never said it to her, we were of the opinion that she also had rocks in her head. As a family we did many things together, … Continue reading Rocks in My Head

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Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

Rocks in my head….  When my parents were alive, Mom would often say Pop and I had rocks in our heads, although we never said it to her, we were of the opinion that she also had rocks in her head. As a family we did many things together, camping, rockhounding, and crafts were just a few. When we traveled north to upstate New York for those lovely, double terminated (points at both ends) quartz crystals, known as Herkimer diamonds, we would always have to stop at this one river to pick up, smooth, water worn, round stones, for Mom to paint on. When we went to Missouri to collect mineral specimens of barite and quartz, most of our collecting went towards collecting, in Mom’s opinion, nice looking pieces that she could use in making her craft arrangements. Years after that Missouri trip, my father had to have surgery, when he came home from the hospital he asked if we still had any of that barite and quartz rock in the back yard. A strange question I thought, just coming back from the hospital!  He then told me he had to drink two glasses of barite before the operation, and it did not taste good. He had, what they call in the hospital, “a barium cocktail,” which is a barium sulfate suspension, a form of barite, used in medicine to take scans or pictures of your digestive tract.

Both my parents are gone now, and one of the things our experiences collecting rocks together taught me, was that those rocks we collected were not just rocks, but important minerals that crept into our every day life in ways we never thought of. Picture the following things, an alabaster statue of ancient Rome, an alabaster panel depicting the Resurrection of Christ made between 1450 – 1490 from rock quarried in Nottingham, England, an Iowa farmer spreading fertilizer made of calcium sulfate dihydrate, today a carpenter putting up drywall in a new house being constructed in Forked River, an elementary student building his volcano science project out plaster of Paris. All of these were made from a mineral called gypsum.

A couple of years ago, on one of my winter vacations out west I visited a mine outside of Blythe, California to collect specimens of psilomelane, which is a manganese mineral used in making steel, directions to the mine described travel along several miles of well graded road, and that caution should be used as large trucks also used this road. As I traveled this graded section of road, I could not help but notice that both sides of this road were littered with white rocks, some quite large. Of course, being a true rockhound, I had to stop and pick one up to add to my yard-rock collection. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that, when talking to one of the local rockhounds about my collecting trip on the weekend, I was told that the drive along that dirt road on a weekday can be a bit dangerous as the big mining trucks often have a couple white rocks of gypsum bounce out of the truck when they hit a bump in the road.

When I am traveling across this great country, I often spot a place and wish I could stop, most of the time I cannot stop, there is someplace I have to be at the end of the day. When that special place you spotted is in your rear view mirror, you always wonder, what have I missed, what could I have discovered had I walked just fifty or one hundred paces off the road? There are times in my travels, when I have the time to stop, and I do. There is always some sort of discovery to be made, just a few paces off the road. The babbling brook, high up in a mountain pass in California, where I could see the flecks of gold sparkling under the water which turned out to me small pieces of mica imbedded in the rock. This made me think of the mica window in the coal stove we had in the basement when I was a kid.

Yes, I guess Mom was right, Pop and I did have rocks in our heads, as did she also, but none of us just saw the rock in our hand, we saw what the rock could become, medicine, jewelry, a craft arrangement. What do you see when you  pick up a rock, a toaster, a computer, a fine etched glass, or do you see, “just a rock.” Be careful what you see, you could have rocks in your head to.

 

 

 

 

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White Drifts http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/white-drifts/ Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:40:29 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=22279 Neil Van Oost Jr. White Drifts….  Over the past few years as Christmas approaches, I hear the call of the West, with its visions of warm sunny weather, and trips walking the desert in search treasures which have been newly exposed by wind, rain and temperature changes which can push those treasures to the surface. … Continue reading White Drifts

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Neil Van Oost Jr.

White Drifts….  Over the past few years as Christmas approaches, I hear the call of the West, with its visions of warm sunny weather, and trips walking the desert in search treasures which have been newly exposed by wind, rain and temperature changes which can push those treasures to the surface. The treasures I look for are of the mineral variety, agates, jasper, chert, and anything else that strikes my interest. Rocks and minerals, nature, photography, and lapidary are among some of my interests, so some of the rocks will wind up cut, ground, and polished. This year my trip was different because the weather did not co-operate.

This was a year of  El Nino, which is a regularly occurring climatic feature of our planet, El Nino takes place when warmer than usual sea water exists off the coast of South America. El Nino causes climate effects around the world. This year my winter vacation out West was cold, windy, wet at times, and contained snow and ice. Collecting rocks out in the desert was not an option. I did try a couple of times, but wind chill temperatures approaching freezing were not a thing that I could cope with at my age. My vacation out West, this year, consisted of several outings.

One day I set aside for a trip to Tucson, AZ to visit my cousin. This is a three hour drive along Interstate 10 from Deming, NM where I was staying, it is just about as boring as a trip across the desert as can be. My visit with my cousin was nice, we caught up on family stuff and talked about the things that relatives who only see each other once or twice a year do. The trip back to Deming was not a boring one, virtually the whole trip was with a nice bright, sunny sky, flecked with little white fluffy clouds on my left,  and a line of dirty gray and black rolling masses of clouds on my right. Several times during the trip, I ran into snowflakes and snow grains blowing horizontally across the highway. One of the strangest sights was, one could see the clusters of precipitation coming down, but in between these were updraft patches of tan dust, which if they were colored red, would have appeared as flames. I managed to arrive back at Deming before the weather front hit, and the next morning I woke up to ice and snow covering my truck.

I did have a White Christmas of sorts, one of our outings involved driving down a freshly plowed road where we occasionally stopped to watch the kids slide down white slopes, using snow boards, pieces of cardboard boxes, and those round plastic snow sleds. Those white slopes were not snow however, but a powdered mineral called gypsum, The place was White Sands National Monument. We drove a looped road through a small part of the park, the temperatures were in the low 40’s. Seeing the kids sliding down the sides of the pure white dunes, it was not very difficult to imagine that you were standing in the middle of a winter wonderland.

The White Sands National Monument is a U,S, National Monument located 16 miles southwest of  Alamogordo in western Otero County and northeastern Dona Ana County in New Mexico, at an elevation of 4,235 feet. The area is in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin and comprises the southern part of a 275 square miles field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. It is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. More on gypsum in a future article.

The park is enclosed by the White Sands Missile Range and is subject to closure for safety reasons when tests are conducted on the missile range. On average, tests occur about twice a week, for a duration of one to two hours. Located on the northernmost boundaries of  White Sands Missile Range, the Trinity Site can be found, where the first atom bomb was detonated.

This part of New Mexico is so rich in history, scenery, activities and events that it cannot be covered in one day trip and I look forward to several more trips to this area.

 

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The Three Gifts http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/the-three-gifts/ Tue, 01 Dec 2015 21:03:02 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=21235 The Three Gifts… As the Christmas season approaches my thoughts always turn to the nativity scene I volunteered to help put up in the early 1960’s. I was a naval weather observer stationed at Naval Air Sation  Glynco, Georgia. One day in late November, I found that my commanding officer had been placed in charge … Continue reading The Three Gifts

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The Three Gifts… As the Christmas season approaches my thoughts always turn to the nativity scene I volunteered to help put up in the early 1960’s. I was a naval weather observer stationed at Naval Air Sation  Glynco, Georgia. One day in late November, I found that my commanding officer had been placed in charge of putting up the Christmas decorations on the base, I also found out that, in the traditional Navy way,  myself and another Areographer’s mate had been volunteered to do the work. It was a week and a half of working high above the ground, in a cherry picker basket, in bitter cold thirty degree weather, putting eight foot high plywood candy canes on top of light poles. The last day was the best , because it was at ground level where it was warmer, and assembling the nativity scene was relatively easy and only took half the day.

I have always wondered about the three gifts presented to the child Jesus by the three Magi, and decided to do a little research into the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I started my research with the bible, Matthew chapter 2, where this story unfolds. I have researched some bible stories in the past and it is not always an easy job because words and their meanings have changed through several translations down through the centuries. Also starting back when these events happened, they most likely were passed along as verbal stories, and only a small select elite group had the ability to commit words to paper. Following I will present some of the things I have found.

The designation “Magi” refers to a Persian religious caste, but when this gospel was written, the term was loosely used for astrologers, seers, and fortunetellers. Matthew does not call them kings; that title was used later, in legends. They may have been royal astronomers, advisers to kings. Read more about the three Magi on the Net at:      http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Three-Kings.htm

Gold was the easiest gift to research, we all know what gold is, the only thing I could not find out was the form the gold took, my guess would be either coin or an object.

The second gift, Frankincense is defined as the gum or resin of the Boswellia tree, used for making perfume and incense. It was an expensive item, that was collected in remote areas of North Africa, India, and Arabia, and it took a long time to harvest and process the resin. Read more on the Net at:  http://www.livescience.com/25670-what-is-frankincense.html

The third gift, Myrrh is defined as an expensive spice, used for making perfume, incense, medicine, and for anointing the dead. Myrrh comes from a small bushy tree, cultivated in ancient times in the Arabian peninsula. Myrrh was used raw or crushed and mixed with oil to make a perfume. It was also used medicinally to reduce swelling and stop pain. Read more on the Net at : http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/a/Myrrh.htm    

One of the other things I learned was that when the three Magi learned of the Christ child’s birth, it probably took them a very long time following the star to cover the couple of thousand miles to see him and when they arrived, Jesus was most likely one or two years old. This was the reason why Herod had every child up to two years old put to death.

The Bible story of Christ’s birth is a very interesting one to read, especially if you take the time to read different researchers history and theories of what was happening at the time.

Incidentally, the word Christmas is derived from the Old English expression Cristes Maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass” or “Mass of Christ.”

Finally as the immortal Tiny Tim would say, “God Bless Us Everyone”

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Rocks http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/rocks/ Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:22:11 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=19258 Neil Van Oost Jr. Rocks….  Yes, I’m into rocks. In 1954 I became a Boy Scout and this started my love of the outdoors and rocks. It was not only my introduction to to the outdoors and camping, but also my parents introduction to family camping. I remember our first camping trip to Lake Welch … Continue reading Rocks

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Neil Van Oost Jr.

Rocks….  Yes, I’m into rocks. In 1954 I became a Boy Scout and this started my love of the outdoors and rocks. It was not only my introduction to to the outdoors and camping, but also my parents introduction to family camping. I remember our first camping trip to Lake Welch in Harriman State Park in Bear Mountain, NewYork. It was supposed to be a whole week of camping and wound up to to be a month long stay. My uncle Henry had talked my father into the idea and was also camping in the spot across from us, only he was staying for four weeks. After the first week went by, my parents decided to stay, Pop and my uncle would go back to work, as their vacation time was over, and commute back and forth to home and spend the weekends with us. My aunt Henrietta, was an old hand at camping as they had been camping and traveling all over the country for a long time, in fact a couple of her four children had been born on the road.

What a great summer for us kids, all kinds of places to explore and a nice lake to fish and swim in. One of the first things Pop did was to get a guide to all the trails in the area from the ranger, On the weekends, just Pop and I would explore one of the trails. Mom would make us a lunch and we would be off for the day hiking through the woods. One of the trails was supposed to lead to a mine, and on a Saturday morning, my father handed me the map and trail guide and let me pick where we would go for the day. I remember I was excited, because I had been studying the map and guide all week, I wanted to go to the mine. I had never gone to a mine before, and as a young boy, I had thoughts of gold and precious stones, it never crossed my mind at the time that all kinds of different minerals came from mines. Well we never did find that mine, not on that day or any of the five years that we camped at Lake Welch during the summer. It wasn’t that we stopped looking, we must have made two or three attempts every summer, we did find the mine garbage dump and a rusted out, semi whole, model A, Ford, and eventually what we figured out to be the tailings pile (mine rock dump), but we never found the hole in the ground that was the mine. On every one of those trips, we picked up stones, I remember picking up some pyrite (fools gold) and a stone that sparkled with mica, then when we found what we thought was the tailings pile, a black heavy stone that we never identified.

That was a wonderful time in my life and ever since then I have picked up stones, Pop, Mom and I made many camping trips and as we picked up knowledge from other people along the way, we went to many different places looking for rocks. We sought rubies and sapphires in Franklin, North Carolina and emeralds in Hiddenite. We found aquamarine at one mine and yellow flakes of thorbinite (a radioactive mineral) on a rock, at another in a mine cave that lit up red and green when I turned on my battery powered ultra violet light on.

cape may diamonds

We have searched for Cape May diamonds, those lovely New Jersey, rounded by the ocean pieces of quartz that glisten in the sun when wet. Up in Herkimer, New York we have mined those sparkly, double terminated (points at both ends) quartz crystals called Herkimer Diamonds – for thirteen years Pop and I did some serious rock mining there, until Pop went on oxygen because of breathing problem caused by working thirty-two years in a chemical plant and a life time of cigarette smoking. Where ever we went, Mom was also there, doing her thing, looking for nice rocks for her craft projects. On trips to Herkimer, we never failed to stop by the river and pick up smooth stones for her to paint on.

When I got out of the Navy in 1969, Pop and I got interested in tumble polishing rocks, which eventually lead to cutting, grinding and polishing rocks. Both my parents are long gone now and I like to picture them hunting rocks in a much better place and always finding the good ones now.  Me I still hunt rocks. I make three trips a year, California, New Mexico and Arkansas. My next trip will be my annual trip to Arkansas to hunt for one of my favorites, Quartz Crystals.

In all of my rock hunting trips, I have come to realize that its not the finding that is most important, but the looking, and the people and friends you pick up along the way. — Well, Yes I guess it is a real kick, when you find that big, shinny, sparkly one.

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Spiders http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/spiders/ Thu, 04 Jun 2015 00:04:54 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=16578 Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr. Spiders….  I had not really sat down and thought about spiders for awhile, but recently have been taking a lot more notice of them. A little bit ago, when there were still brown leaves tenaciously hanging on to the (white oak) trees, and I was hopefully finishing up the … Continue reading Spiders

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spiders

Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

Spiders….  I had not really sat down and thought about spiders for awhile, but recently have been taking a lot more notice of them. A little bit ago, when there were still brown leaves tenaciously hanging on to the (white oak) trees, and I was hopefully finishing up the leaf raking for the seventh time, that’s when the little bugger must have hitched a ride into the house on my clothes. I did not spot him until I reached for the shaving cream the next morning, he was huge, keep in mind I had not hit the shower yet and my eyes were still half glued together with sleep. He was huge, had a dark body, and was just sitting there on the bathroom sink with legs extended. If he had of been sitting on a twenty-five cent piece, his legs would have easily gone over the edges. I put a plastic cup over him and slid a piece of paper under it, capturing him, and released him outside.

I have this “thing” about bugs, they belong outside the house, early in the spring I go around “Home Defencing” the house, I liberally spray the around the doors inside and out, and around the foundation. I do this at least once a month until Winter sets in again. Spiders, ants, crickets, and roaches seem to be immune to this treatment most times, in my opinion. I am glad I haven’t seen a roach in the house since the 80’s, I remember that day well. Mom  had gone grocery shopping and as she was taking the groceries out of the bag, a big roach crawled out. Pop saw it, but before he could squish it, it escaped into an open draw under the kitchen counter. Well, Pop and I literally tore the kitchen counter apart to get at the little bugger. Even after we killed it, Pop sprayed every piece of wood, the wall and floor with insecticide. Pop also had this thing about bugs inside the house.

Spiders are air breathing arthropods (external skeleton, segmented body, and jointed appendages), that have eight legs, chelicerae  (jaw parts) that inject poison. When I was little, I always wondered how come spiders never got caught in their own webs, I don’t remember ever getting a satisfactory answer. Now with the Internet, the answer is just a few clicks away. Try searching on the Ask search engine the question; “Why Don’t Spiders Get Stuck In Their Webs?”  or ask any smart ten year old to find out for you. You may be surprised at the answer.

Ever been bitten by a spider? I have, and spider bites are not fun, but for the most part, except for a couple of species, not life threatening. The Web site; http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-Spider-Bites, is a good place to start if you suspect you have been bitten by a spider.

I tried researching just how many spiders there are in a square foot of pasture land and got many different answers, from a few to hundreds, and I figure that since there are about 43,676 species of spiders (as of 2008 studies), it depends on just exactly where you are located when you do the count. I do know that when I am out in the back yard doing something, I rarely fail to see a couple.

Are spiders helpful? The following is a partial quote from the www,spiders.us website; “Spiders help to keep your home, yard, garden, farm, school, and workplace free from pest insects. Spiders help the whole planet in a similar way, preventing insects from becoming overly dominant and destructive. Spiders are in turn food for other organisms, from other spiders to birds, reptiles, and small mammals like shrews. Spider venoms show promise in the field of medicine. Spider silk is among the strongest, most elastic of natural fibers. Synthesized spider silk has proven useful in creating the next generation of parachutes and bullet-proof vests. “

As for those horror flicks with the giant spiders big enough to eat a cow, well just ask one of our returning vets from overseas or research Camel Spiders on the Net, but don’t blame me if you have nightmares.

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