Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New Mexico Lost

Sheesh, I need some content here. I've been insanely busy and I've not written up some promised posts. The first of which is that commentary about the trip to New Mexico. Others are the reviews of some of the books I've read lately: even the smallest cursory reviews that I mostly do.

As I said, life has been hectic. Lyuda, Avrora and I went to northern New Mexico on January 20th and were there for a week and change. Upon returning, I had to prep for another work related trip to Austin, Texas. Upon returning, we were prepping for a centerwide shutdown and maintenance. In addition to that, V Day is today and I've been plotting some fun, romantic, and silly things to do to my wife: it's tradition to give her a gag gift along with romantic ones. Furthermore, we have Avrora's first BDay coming up at the end of the month. arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

That said, I will give a quick discussion of somethings that I saw on our trip to New Mexico. it really underlined why I don't go back more frequently to Los Alamos. I love the town. It holds a place in my heart that I cannot explain to others. It was unique and wonderful and fun place to grow up. It was an extremely intellectually stimulating place to be...back then. When was back then? That would be in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the tail end of the Cold War.

Los Alamos was in a bit of an anxious, triumpantal stage then. The whole purpose of Los Alamos had born out, from our POV, and we'd won! Without firing a shot! Peace through superior tech and firepower, huzzah! The Soviet Union melted away like a wax facade and we were left standing largely unscathed - except for Boomer Generational Group Psychoses. Except...then...wtf was Los Alamos supposed to do from then on?

Star Wars was a bust. Bush the Elder began winding everything down and LANL was out of the loop. Nuclear technologies were politically verboten: forget about doing anything even related. However, even so, there was a burst of creativity that pervaded the air in Los Alamos at the time. Participation in the Human Genome Project was on the uptick (some of my HS friends even wrote some HPC code for helping that project out). Astrophysics people were doing some of the very first work on extrasolar planets (which I was lucky enough to have participated in). Supercomputing was looking into new and interesting technologies (for then) back then for unclassified work. The fruit of that time that were ripening looked sweet and delicious.

Then stuff happened, mostly in the latter half of the 1990s, that embarassed LANL, almost destroyed Los Alamos (physically), and even took a huge swipe at the self image of the people there. It impacted and hurt people I knew and loved. All of the events ended up producing one of the most farcical and weird bidding processes and awards for who would run the Lab.

Our trip out was actually fun. Lyuda spent three days skiing at Taos: one the second day we were there and two mid way through when we stayed a lodge there. She also skied Sipapu. I spent two of those days with my brother and dad with my daughter and two days I hung out with my daughter. We spent a day in the Jemez Mountains and a day in Santa Fe. We also spent time in Los Alamos proper. The remainder of that time we spent with my family.

Some things were really heart breaking about that visit to Los Alamos. One, the recovery from the great fire that nearly consumed Los Alamos hasn't really happened. Oh, the town ahs largely rebuilt, but the forest above town in the Jemez - and many of my favorite hiking spots - have not. There are almost no trees growing there. The formerly lush Jemez of my childhood looks more like the barren Organ Mountains of my college years. There are miles upon miles of trees standing upright and dead, scarred and zombielike, and almost nothing to replace them beyond some scrub. Certainly, it didn't look like trees were there.

The second heart break was that the pinon pines are dying. Some articles I've read online have stated that this is a consequence of gloal warming. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Something like this happens every century. it is climate related, but its not what people think. Every century there is a drought. Some centuries its worse than others. It typically lasts a decade. It really screws with low tech civilizations in the area. It started in 1994 and everyone thought that it had broken in 2005 when there was tons of snow and rain like the wettest years of decades before. Except, this year, the drought seems to have returned full force. Peoplea re quick to blame global warming for the return toe the drought. I'm agnostic there as yet. Some of the droughts in the past have been two decades in length. Because the pinon trees have been so weak from the drought, the bark beetles have run amok and killed what looks like 80% of them. The junipers are just fine. It's just the pinons and some of the lower evalation Ponderosas, but not even half of those. Looking out across some of my favorite childhood hiking areas, it looked like a grave yard, more corpses than libing pinon trees. That too was heart wrenching.

Finally, some of the more heart wrenching bits was there were areas we used to hike in. There were Lab Land or Indian Land, but not off limits to the public if you were respectful of the ruins and things there. That is no longer the case. Deer Trap, frex, was an amazingingly beautiful and fun hike at the bottom of the Los Alamos truck route. It's now closed to the public. For that matter Parajito Road is closed to the public after 9-11 (not without reason, since it went past the plutonium processing plant there) and thus all the hiking areas there were closed as well. *sighs*

As you can tell, I spent a lot of my time in High school and after out hiking. It was hiking, role play gaming (or wargaming), car racing (the truck route was our favorite timed race), swimming, playing my violin, or some such trouble. Or homework. Oy!

LANL was interested in me at SC05 for a job and my wife, while we were touring my old high school (LAHS), asked if we should move to Los Alamos to allow Avrora (and any other kids we have) to go to the schools there (they're excellent), but it's really true, you can never go home. :S

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