Dancing A Jig With God

Did you know God had his own personal mountain here on Earth? Most people would probably think I’m talking about Mount Sinai or Ararat. The gringa’s actually referring to a strange place in Tanzania called Ol Doinyo Lengai. If you are a fan of Star Trek then you will understand what the gringa means when she says that this is truly where Gene Roddenberry got his inspiration for the Vulcan landscape. Sometimes the volcano shoots lava up in the air like a fountain where it hardens into sprays of glass although most of the time the lava just oozes like mud. Now that’s cool and everything but why is it called the Mountain of God instead of the Fountain of Glass?

Just as God is a one of a kind creature, so is Ol Doinyo Lengai.  It is the only volcano on our planet that spits out carbonatite when it erupts. This carbonatite curiosity is made even curioser because carbonatite usually stays beneath the surface of the earth.  And then there’s one more carbonatite curiosity aspect. Some of it is enriched with sodium which then makes it natro-carbonatite which is even rarer.

The volcano rises more than 9,700 feet (2960 meters).  That’s nearly two miles high. When it spews carbonatite rich lava, one more thing that makes this mountain unique is that there is practically zero silicon in its lava. Regular lava is usually made up of silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium and all sorts of other minerals. However, Ol Doinyo Lengai is lacking in them. As the lava flows it actually looks like muddy water. When it cools the hardened lava sparkles in sunlight like a crystalline river. If it rains, the natro-carbonatite lava turns white then converts into a brown powder. That means that walking around the volcano might mean sinking ankle deep in soft, brown, powdery substrate.

Needless to say geologists and mineralogists all find this volcano a mystery. Hence the nickname, Mountain of God. And this fascinating geological enigma has only gotten stranger. Local villagers discovered more than 400 ancient footprints preserved in the mudflats surrounding the volcano. Researchers estimate that some could be as young as 5,000 years old while others could be almost 20,000 years old. That means a community that existed near this volcano for nearly 15,000 years. The British Empire has been around for less than 1,000 years. The heydey of Egypt was around 5,000 years ago when the great pyramid of Giza was constructed. Who the heck were the people these footprints belonged to?

For 10 years now scientists have been excavating and studying the footprints. Some of them depict a stride that indicate a people who appeared to be quite adept at jogging reaching speeds of almost 4.5 miles per hour. The gringa thinks they may have been hot-footing it out of the area when a rumble signaled an eruption was imminent. There was also an imprint of a foot with a broken toe. Other prints have been attributed to women and children. It seems the paths of an entire village from thousands of years ago have been preserved at the foot of the Mountain of God.

Are these the first people? If so God must have been a fun god. In one area there are so many footprints in unusual positions indicating frantic activity that scientists have dubbed it the “dance hall”. Maybe theologians have gotten it all wrong all of these years. Maybe God was actually a dance instructor. The gringa would have loved to have danced a jig there with one of my ancestors or even God himself (or herself). Enjoy the video.



National Geographic


Oregon State University


Image Credit: pbworks.com





Read With The Gringa “A Honeycomb and a Mouse”, Chapt 20, Part 1

We start another chapter from “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Hazel must get Captain Holly and the rest of the rabbits to a place of safety.

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Read With The Gringa “The Picture in the Bedroom”, Chapt. 1’s Conclusion

We finish the first chapter of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, book 5 of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis. Lucy and Edmund visit their cousin Eustace and peculiar things begin happening with a picture of a ship.

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Image Source:  www.narniaweb.com

Operation Scan

Have you heard of Operation Scan Pyramids? This effort is authorized by the nation of Egypt who has partnered with institutions of higher learning and technology industries around the world. Their mission is to use 3D scanning technologies to solve the 4500 year old mysteries of the pyramids. Using high-tech tools like 3D scanners, infrared thermography and photogrammetry, it has been a work in progress for 12 months now. And now, finally, things are getting interesting.

The latest findings have revealed two anomalies that researchers suspect could be two rooms, or “voids”, inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. Why does this matter? The main thing scientists want to know is how this Wonder of the Ancient World was constructed. Here we are nearly 5,000 years later with technology that can get a probe to Mars but a human being still can’t construct a pyramid.

Conspiracy theorists would hope that such construction clues would link mankind to cosmic origins. However, it is more likely that more mundane explanations will be determined as to what these voids are. It is more likely that they are obstacles designed into the pyramid to prevent would-be invaders from successfully making their way to the burial chamber. With one void near the pyramid’s entrance, the gringa imagines some deadly booby-trap like an ancient guillotine or something of that sort tripped once an intruder crosses the threshold.

The gringa awaits spellbound for the next revelation. The only advice I can offer is that if you decide to try to sneak a peek yourself, make sure that you’re wearing a helmet.





Image Credit:  travelingcanucks.com

Read With The Gringa “The Picture in the Bedroom”, Chapt. 1, Part 1


We begin a new Narnia adventure with book 5 in the series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” introduces us to Eustace Clarence Scrubb who is not a very pleasant boy.

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Image Source: www.saltmanz.com


Lunar Nips & Tucks

The gringa has reached that age where she critically examines the tiny lines around her eyes and notices the effects of gravity slowly creating those puppet lines around my mouth as my cheeks droop a bit lower every year. And then there’s that little turkey wattle dewlap flap hanging under my chin and drawing attention to my scrawny chicken neck. Despite my flaws, the gringa is not interested in a facelift. Our Moon, however, gets one every so often whether it likes it or not.

Yep, about every 80 thousand years or so the Moon is transformed into something unrecognizable from its former self. Does this amazing facelift happen overnight? No. It experiences its own form of nips and tucks gradually. Every year numerous comets, asteroids and meteors crash into our Moon and create almost 200 new craters.

If you visit NASA’s photo gallery you can find an array of Moon images dating back to 2009 when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft began its mission. It has been mapping the Moon’s surface for years. Comparisons of the collection of images that span five years’ worth of work tells the gringa that mapping the Moon will be a never-ending job seeing as how everything is always changing.

An historical super-moon is scheduled to arrive around November 16. Chances are newspapers and cyberworld will be filled with images of our Moon as it appears in 2016. This is the perfect opportunity for a Moon project to see if amateur stargazers can detect any changes. Below are a pair of 2009 images of our Moon you can use for comparison:


NASA’s Astronomy picture of the day February 6, 2009


NASA’s detailed 2009 image of the Apollo 17 Moon landing mission site



Yahoo News


Image Credits:  NASA



Read With The Gringa “Former Best Friend”, Chapt. 16’s Conclusion

We finish another chapter together from “The Meanest Doll In The World” by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. Will Mean Mimi bust up Annabelle and Tiffany’s friendship?

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Ancient Ychma Guide Dogs

You know that old saying, “dog is man’s best friend”? The gringa completely understands this. She has lived her life according to this rule. I grew up on a cattle ranch exposed to working dogs that were smart and worthy of respect. They opened gates, herded cattle into corrals and other pastures, and kept them moving down chutes when they balked. It was the gringa’s habit to roam the woods around our house and down into the Brazos River Valley. But I was rarely alone. Morris was a Keeshond that my older sister got as a puppy. He stayed at my parent’s home after she moved away. I would give him horrible haircuts with garden shears every summer, snipping off his long, thick coat to give him some relief. That was a foreshadow of what was to come.

When I entered college with aspirations of becoming an English teacher, I had to get a job. I began working for a veterinarian. Eventually, the veterinarian trained the gringa as a dog groomer. The gringa’s health held up for about two semesters then epilepsy came charging in demanding attention. This began a cycle of sporadic attempts to go back to college, working, health crisis, hiatus, and on and on and on. Eventually I realized that it was unlikely I would ever sustain a lengthy enough stretch of good health to graduate or even make a reliable employee. I gave up on a teaching degree, said a tearful thank you and good-bye to a very kind veterinarian, and began a career as a self-employed dog groomer, a career that lasted more than 25 years.

During that time the gringa had Sparky the hero dog who took a bullet to save his family, as well as many other dogs that have been rescued and re-homed. The gringa currently has a service dog who is also my constant companion. Abby is a seizure-alert dog who is small enough for me to carry in a front-pack wherever I go. Abby is as adorable as she is good at her job. She has a perpetual puppy look. A Maltese-Yorkie mix,  the gringa calls her a Malarkie.

Now, the dear reader is probably wondering where the gringa is going with this dog-biography. Well, the gringa is going to Peru and other ancient civilizations. She has recently found out that the caveman’s ancient ancestors sacrificed dogs. Eyeing him suspiciously as I curl a protective arm around my Abby, I try to imagine him thousands of years ago sacrificing a dog. The gringa can’t see it in her mind’s eye.

The caveman is such a kind, gentle soul. Just about every Peruvian I have met when we have traveled to his jungle origins are similar in nature. Quick to smile and laugh with a gentleness and generosity that would bring tears to your eyes. And dogs roam freely. Even in the capital city of Lima they are left unmolested to go about their business. So what was up with sacrificing them so many years ago?

In Lima, there are ruins underneath the city’s zoo where archaeologists are excavating remains of what they believe to be warriors who died violent deaths and dogs who were ritually sacrificed and buried with them. This is the work of the Ychma culture. This is not the first discovery of human Ychma remains within the city, but the finding of sacrificed dogs, by rope strangulation and slit throats (egad!), is what makes this site a bit more interesting.

The Ychma lived about 2,000 years ago in the area of Peru that is modern day Lima. Typical burials of the average Ychma would include pottery, textiles and often items related to the textile industry like thread and needles. The skill of crafting textiles was a gift from their god’s father, Virachocha, who beget many gods, particularly the Ychma god, Pachacamac.

The Ychma people were also buried facing the sea, in honor of their god’s wife, Urpi Wachay, who is an ocean deity. Her name’s translation means “one who gives birth to doves”. The gringa finds that beautiful. Anyway, I digress.

The Ychma god, Pachacamac, was one of the Sun God’s children. Pachacamac was a god of fire, interacting directly with humankind. His father, Sun god Viracocha, the god who created the world and taught the making of crafts such as textiles and pottery, was invisible, remote and uninvolved with his creation. After creating the world and showing humanity how to tend to itself, he left their governance up to his children. Eventually the world he created became corrupt and needed rejuvenation. That was the work of Pachacamac.

He had a tri-une, or three level, nature. There is the level that is unseen, unmanifested. There is also the aspect of his name’s translation that literally means the “one who moves the world”. Seeing how Lima is often rocked by earthquakes it is easy to understand why this characteristic was adopted. Then there is the name translation aspect that means “the language of man”, as in being an oracle, a god who communicated directly with mankind.

The nature of Pachacamac is thought to be like that of a spoiled and precocious child, embodied in the earthquakes as temper tantrums. Sacrifices were meant to appease him, just like giving candy to a baby. The Ychma built a shrine and temple complex that still inspires religious pilgrimage today. Pachacamac held such powerful sway over the Ychma that even when the Incas subjugated them in the 1400s, the empire absorbed Pachacamac into their own religious pantheon.

The Ychma also built the ancient cities Puruchuco and Cajamarquilla along with 16 stepped pyramids. The pyramids were religious sites to make offerings. There were agricultural items and foods often given in ceramic containers.  There were also pyramids dedicated to human sacrifice. Not only were humans sacrificed, but animals like frogs were sacrificed as an offering that would please the gods so that they would send rain. But the gringa still wants to know why they sacrificed the dogs.

The Ychma were not alone in this practice. The ancient Greeks did it. The ancient Romans did, too. Romano-British dog sacrifice remains have also been found. But why? Depending on the culture and religion, the reasons varied: fertility, guardians, divination, guide passage from life to death, provide companionship in the afterlife. Although archaeology experts have yet to publish the significance of the sacrificed Ychma dogs, the gringa has drawn her own conclusions.

I believe that since they were buried with warriors who show evidence of violent, deadly wounds, she believes the dogs were intended to provide protection, as well as companionship, in the afterlife. A noble death? Yes, so my soft heart takes some comfort that the dogs died as revered symbols rather than exterminated as pests. But still it irks me. But the gringa will no longer eye the caveman suspiciously when he walks by Abby with knife or rope in his hands.


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Read With The Gringa “Former Best Friends”, Chapt. 16, Part 1

As we move along in “The Meanest Doll In The World” by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin we find Annabelle and Tiffany going on an attic expedition one more time.

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Image Source: www.bellyitchblog.com

Read With The Gringa “Fear In The Dark”, Chapt. 19’s Conclusion

Together we have a read-along and finish another chapter from “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Some of the rabbits have a terrifying experience and hide in a ditch as night falls. What happened to Captain Holly?

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Image Source: nighthawknews.wordpress.com