Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Poem about Caring for Others


Ana and Clio, and sometimes Matt and Julio, volunteer regularly at the local community center and soup kitchen. On Ana's planet, Thomo, such matters are effectively dealt with by family groups, the clans, and she finds it hard to understand how so many of us are willing to leave such important services to other people.

The poem "People Who Take Care," by Nancy Henry, made her weep. A fair amount of her philanthropic funds are devoted to fostering community organization.

She and Matt have had many conversations about the way so many people on Earth put money before everything else. Matt couldn't be optimistic about the effects of her efforts. He showed her a quotation in the Oxford English Dictionary from 1688: "Money will make the pot boyl though the Devil Piss in the Fyre." Clearly, it isn't a new problem.

Lots more in the right column under the photo of the LOVE sculpture.
Meet Ana Darcy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Language Quiz Answers


Once again, we consulted a language expert for our replies to Ana's questions.

1. As for ginger/finger/singer, English spellling versus pronunciation is an old, old problem. It started about the time printing did, in the late 1400s. Printing tended to fix the spelling and pronunciation of the time, even though the spoken language has been changing ever since. For the most part, spelling changes have lagged behind, because they've been printed. Thus, for example, we need the "silent e" simply to signal the difference in the vowels in words like "sit" and "site," or "bat" and "bate." That's all the "silent e" does--denote a different preceding vowel.

With "ginger," "finger," and "singer," we don't have enough symbols in the written language to properly render the way the words are said. The International Phonetic Alphabet has the symbols, but few people know those. So we simply have to learn to pronounce the words correctly despite their spelling.

2. Ajo is "garlic." Oja is "leaf." Ojo is "eye."

3. English has more than ten vowels. The number depends on the dialect of English.

4. The English verb has two tenses. That's correct: two.

Any questions? Comments?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recipe: Potato Pizza


In Distant Cousin: Regeneration, Ana's friend and bodyguard, Rob Coombs, discovers that a pizza made with no tomato sauce and slices of potato can be a wonderful thing. If you haven't tried one, it's easy and delicious.

It's always best to make your own pizza dough, and to let it rise. Coat it with a little olive oil, add thin slices of raw potato, fresh mozarella, garlic, and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Bake!

Language Quiz Time!


Ana, being a non-native English speaker and Spanish speaker, as well as a few others, naturally notices odd things that we natives might not see.

1. For example, she notes the spelling of these three words is very similar, yet the pronunciations are different. Why is this, she asks?

ginger finger singer


2. Here are several Spanish words that gave her trouble for a while. Can anyone match them up with their meaning?

ojo garlic

ajo leaf

oja eye


3. How many vowel sounds does English have?

5

6

7

8

more than 10


4. How many tenses does the English verb have?

2

5

7

more than 7

Answers HERE.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two More Love Poems


If you know anything about Ana you know she likes love poems. Here are two sweet ones whose images appealed to her, the one partly because of late-night air travel, and the other, well, it just appealed to her and let's leave it at that. It can be said, however, that she does love the music of Boccherini.

"Night Flight," by George Bilgere

"Quietly," by Kenneth Rexroth


Many more, in the right column under the LOVE sculpture!

Now, meet Ana Darcy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Korean Carne Al Pastor?


Carne al pastor is a Mexican dish of shredded bits of marinated pork and beef, grilled, on a fresh tortilla with diced onions, shredded cilantro, and salsa as an added option. (A good choice for the salsa may be found here.) It is a wonderful dish.

Ana Darcy Mendez cleverly modified this recipe in Distant Cousin: Regeneration. Creative cooks might wish to experiment with her idea.

She used only shredded pork, and caramelized it. That is, not to get too specific, the pork is sauteed with a little salt, a little sugar, and a little butter until a sauce is formed and the bits of meat become browned and take on a nutty flavor. The meat is spooned into a fresh tortilla (flour or corn--your choice), and a second sauce is added on top, made of toasted, crushed sesame seeds and chopped cilantro leaves, mixed with a little key lime juice. As near as we can tell, this is apparently an item of Korean cuisine which she has adapted into the New Mexican style.

We welcome pictures and accounts of anyone's results!

MORE exotic recipe ideas in the right column under the photo of cranberry-apple pie, including:





Monday, December 7, 2009

Whoa! Good news? Bad news?


This just in! We have been contacted by readers of Distant Cousin: Regeneration, with their reactions. They all loved it, but one reader said the parts dealing with (spoilers omitted) gave him nightmares. Another said she gasped out loud when she got to the part where Ana (spoiler omitted). She was reading in a doctor's waiting room at the time and hoped the people around her realized she was merely enjoying a good story. A third said the scenes at the (spoiler omitted) and the (spoiler omitted) actually made her weep. She was riding the subway at that point, and, like the previous reader, hoped those nearby would understand it was because of a book.

Full disclosure: the first reader grew up in El Paso. Once you've read Distant Cousin: Regeneration, you'll understand.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Favorite Poem: "Lute Music," by Kenneth Rexroth


Here's another poem Ana likes. For those interested in analyzing her tastes, you can detect that music is one element: lute music is the inspiration for this one. Ana loves the rich, stringy sound of the lute, which resembles an instrument on her native Thomo. (The Distant Cousin theme song is played on a theorbo, a bass lute with 18 strings, and you can easily hear the spectrum-wide resonance of the instrument on this clip, as well as the fugal nature of the piece, another thing she loves about our music.) Another element, not surprising given her history, is astronomy, and that is also present in "Lute Music." Finally, there is love, central in the poem in an intimate, physical sense. Readers of the series will know that love is central to Ana, too.

There are several excellent music clips of music for lute and theorbo (a base lute) elsewhere on Ana's blog: more lute music.

Meet Ana, the extraterrestrial who has favorite recipes and art as well as music!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ana's Questions (Below) Answered


We found a linguist to answer Ana's first question and a professor of mathematics to answer the second. Here's what they had to say. First, the linguist:

1. "Bring" and especially "take" have hundreds of meanings, but as used in the case Ms. Mendez mentions, they mean the same thing.

Well, that was simple! Now, for the math:

2. Both situations are figured correctly: if there are 23 people selected at random in a group, the odds are even that two will share the same birthday. The explanation is rather complicated, and the Wikipedia article you cited does a decent job of it.

In the second situation, adding a 24th person to a group with no matches, the odds are indeed about 14 to 1 that there will not be a match.

There is no problem with Ms. Mendez's logic. The difficulty is in realizing that we are talking about two different problems! In the first group, the people are gathered at random--we do not know what their birthdates are. In the second group, we do know--there are NO matches. That is a different problem! That changes everything!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Serval Kitties Ten Weeks Old!



We're in luck! Julie, of JuliesJungle, sent recent pictures of her two remaining serval kitties at ten weeks old. The earlier ones (which you can find in the handbook, at the right under "Photographs") were at two and three weeks. They're sweet, lovely pets, and I hope Ana doesn't see them and get carried away and add one to her menagerie.

There was a news item in Dallas (Texas) recently about a "wild cat" that was "on the loose" in a neighborhood. It was a serval, rather elderly, and with a health problem or two. Luckily, it was found and returned to the owner with no damage, but can't you just imagine the consternation on the part of unknowing people at seeing this decidedly non-typical kitty wandering around? Yet they're gentle and sweet--and it's such good news that it was not harmed.

By the way, the two exotic cats in the right column, third and fourth from the bottom, appear in Distant Cousin: Regeneration and Distant Cousin: Reincarnation, respectively. And there are many, many more cat pictures in the column on the right under the photo of the blue-eyed kitty.

Thanks again, Julie!

Poem: Relativity & Cats?


Ana is well known as a cat lover, and she also knows a little about traveling at near the speed of light.

Now she's found a poem which involves both, believe it or not.

It's easy to see why it should appeal to her. She loves the wackiness of explaining anything to a cat, and especially explaining relativity. After all, a cat? mice? at the speed of light? gravity? on a train?

Well, why not?

Poem: "Explaining Relativity to the Cat" by Jennifer Gresham

Also: Learning Peace from a Cat, and many more poems about cats and other things in the column on the right, under the photo of the blue-eyed kitty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Serval Kitten Update



Thanks again to Julie of JuliesJungle for the terrific pictures! (Click to enlarge.) For pictures of these handsome fellows at two and three weeks of age, see the Handbook to the right under "Photographs," under the photo of the blue-eyed kitty.

The experts are preparing answers for Ana's questions, below. Look for those here in a day or two.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thai-style Coconut Shrimp


Here's a recipe idea Ana tossed off in Distant Cousin: Regeneration that some brave soul might care to attempt.

Ana said "I was thinking about coconut shrimp, but with a Thai variation. I had to run to town to get some green curry paste to mix with the coconut milk and whole leaves of fresh basil, like the Thais use...."

We have seen coconut shrimp prepared (it's delicious), so these two modifications shouldn't be too difficult an addition. The green curry paste, however, is hot--as in picante--so caution might be advised.

Coming soon: another cross-cultural recipe idea from Distant Cousin: Regeneration!

Ana's Pizza experiments! One Two Three Four

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turnabout Time: Ana Has Questions For Us!


1. Ana is fascinated by languages, which is no surprise. She has a question for us:

"I can say 'I will bring a dessert to you,' and I can say 'I will take a dessert to you.' What is the difference between 'bring' and 'take?'"


2. Ana is intrigued by the famous "birthday problem:" how many people must you have gathered together to have a fifty per cent chance that two of them will have the same birthday?

You would think, since there are 365 days in a year, that you would need quite a crowd of people, but not so! You only need 23 people! We have tested this many times over the years with classes of students, usually averaging about 25 individuals, and we have found a match at least half the time. The explanation may be found here.

But Ana has a different question: suppose you have 25 people in a room and no matches. One student walks in late. What are the chances that he or she will have the same birthday as someone already present?

She reasons this way: with 25 people and no match, that leaves 365 - 25 empty days, or 340 days. So when that person shows up, will his or her birthday be one of the 25, or one of the 340? She thinks the odds are 25 to 340 against, or 13.6 to one. Any mathematician will tell you that is correct. Yet the birthday problem suggests that the real answer should be approximately 50/50.

Ana knows that obviously something is wrong with her reasoning. She understands the math in both situations, but not where her thinking is in error. Can anyone explain this to her?

(Explanations here.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A favorite sonnet of Ana's



Ana has been on a poetry kick lately. She's come to love iambic pentameter, of all things, the meter that Shakespeare uses in his plays. She especially loves this line of perfect iambic pentameter (not from Shakespeare):


"Herbs too she knew and well of each could speak."

She saw it on a calendar in a kitchen. The connection to food probably doesn't hurt. Ana loves herbs and spices.

She doesn't often care for older poems, where the vocabulary and syntax can be complex for someone whose native language is Luvit and not English, but here's one she loves. It's well-known--many if not all readers will know it. Fortunately, it's in the public domain, so it can be shown here.

Sonnet 43: How do I love thee, let me count the ways

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being an ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion to put use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It's turning out that Ana has a collection of favorite poems. I didn't know that. She's sent me another lovely one, "Vegetable Love," by Barbara Crooker. It would appear that food is one of her favorite subjects! The poem is here. (Click to enlarge the photo of heirloom tomatoes!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ana responds: Earth & Environmental Damage


Question: I would like to know what Ms. Darcy thinks of what we've done to our environment. Do the Thomans see more that we can do to save Mother earth? (M133d)

Ana Darcy responds:


I have followed the matter of climate change on Earth with interest over the last few decades. It was a new problem to me, one Counselor Hleo and I never could have predicted. There is no such problem on Thomo, partly because of our people's history and partly because of the teachings of the Others, who transported us to Thomo so long ago. Perhaps my perspective as an "outsider" will be of interest.

As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, initially our people were animists. We depended on nature for our livlihoods and worshipped and existed in harmony with it. We no longer worship nature as a deity today, but we still consider ourselves the caretakers of our planet.

Secondly, the Others, who introduced us early on to writing, basic science, engineering, public health, and so forth, helped us understand the long-term consequences of our actions.

Finally, Thoman civilization has never approached the limits of our planet's environment. Our planet is slightly larger than Earth, we make little use of fossil fuels or non-biodegradable materials, and there are too few of us to stress the resources even if we had used them.

I have learned that Earth's environment has suffered cumulative damage over the last three hundred years or so. Over that time, technological progress has largely come at the cost of the burning of fossil fuels and other alterations of the environment. The increase in total human population over that same time span only worsened the problem.

It is understandable why it was not until the scientific advances of the last half century that the problem was identifed. Now, climate scientists generally agree that it is not too late to halt and perhaps reverse the process, and they suggest many methods for doing just that. But so far, little progress has been made.

As I see it, the main obstacle to restoring Earth's environment to healthy stability is summoning the collective will to act on the part of all the people of Earth, and doing so quickly enough to prevent mass climate change and severe disruption of the living patterns of hundreds of millions of people. The scientific, engineering, and economic resources are ready, but only if the motivation to employ them can be found.

I must admit the political and cultural complexities that must be overcome are bewildering to me. My people are basically one culture and one religion, but Earth has so many that their interaction often surprises and confuses me. I worry that there will never be sufficient agreement until the point at which the problems are impossible to ignore is reached. Rising sea levels, damaging storms, failed harvests, with the resulting chaos will surely prompt action. I can only pray it will not be too late.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another of Ana's Favorite Poems: "Cranberry-Orange Relish"


Ana still has one more reader question to respond to, but in the meantime she's shown me another poem she loves dearly. It's a recipe poem! She says she can practically taste it. She might try it for Thanksgiving.

It's called "Cranberry-Orange Relish," by John Engels. You may find it here.

There are many other delicious and/or exotic recipe ideas in the column on the right, under the photo of cranberry-apple pie!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ana Darcy on DNA and cats


Question: I'm wondering about your natural grace, speed, reflexes, and affinity for cats and other felines, and your dislike of canines. Is it possible that Thomans have used feline DNA to enhance your genetic makeup? (VP)

Ana Darcy's reply: You do me too much honor, sir. Thank you.

I assure you, I do not have feline DNA in my genetic makeup, except for whatever parts of that code humans may share with the felidae. Felines are unknown on Thomo, and their DNA would have been unavailable. Even if it had, its addition to that of a human's DNA would have been extremely unwise.

Our scientists have understood the nature of DNA for many generations, including its role in inherited conditions and disease and its occasional tendancy to mutate unpredictably. Accordingly, Thoman babies are routinely checked before birth to ensure their viability and general health. Ever since our numbers on Thomo initially shrank to precariously small numbers, each individual's life has been considered precious, and worth great cost to preserve. That is why we have not been reluctant to adjust the DNA code of an individual if it was needed.

Over time, several standard protocols have been developed to tweak an individual's genetic makeup. These protocols do not include choice of sex, eye color, or other secondary characteristics. Rather, they are intended to provide a robust variety of types needed by our society: sturdiness, muscularity, speed, and so forth. As soon as my parents learned I was destined to be a rather small female, they opted to modify my genetic code to favor quickness over strength.

As for my love of cats, I have observed that on Earth cats often take a liking to some people, and remain leery of others. I have loved cats since I met the first one in west Texas. They are extraordinarily beautiful animals and I consider myself fortunate that for whatever reasons cats and I bear an instinctive understanding and fondness for each other.

As to canids--dogs--you should know that Thomo has several species of fierce, dog-like creatures which it took us generations to control. Many of us died under their jaws. Our people have a deep, instinctive, collective dislike of them, and I, inevitably, have transferred it to the dogs of Earth. It's not the dogs' fault, and I have, in fact, overcome this to a great degree. My family has dogs and I love them dearly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ana Darcy on Area 51


Question: You are surely aware of the controversies over "Area 51" and the questions of possible alien landings on Earth. Do you have any evidence for or against such alien landings, given your vigil of Earth and its neighborhood over the last 100 years or so? (FO)

Ana Darcy's reply:

It hasn't been quite 100 years, but it is true that Counselor Hleo has been observing the heavens closely for many, many years. His equipment is not the equal of that which you have in your observatories on Earth, but on the other hand what he sees is unobstructed by any atmosphere, and at least around the immediate environs of Earth's solar system he misses little.

He is aware of the ongoing discussion of possible extraterrestrial visitors to Earth, including that which claims aliens crash landed and were recovered in the United States, to be secretly preserved possibly at the aeronautical test site near Groom Lake, Nevada, known as Area 51. Hleo does not automatically discount such stories. He and I both well know that thousands of years ago aliens did indeed land on Earth, removing several thousand people--our ancestors--to the planet we call Thomo ("home," a cognate of the words "domestic," "domicile," etc.) in order to study them more closely. We know from our own history that aliens do exist.

At the same time it must be said that we lost contact with those aliens over 2000 Earth years ago. We have no idea what happened to them, but the accounts our ancestors have passed down to us suggest they did not resemble the images I have seen of the purported Area 51 Aliens, as I described in response to an earlier question.

Counselor Hleo has asked me to point out that any vessel intending to land on Earth would approach the planet in an easily identifiable way, by slowing down and, almost certainly, achieving an orbit prior to landing. In the years he has been present to watch, he has seen no object exhibit that pattern (aside from the Apollo 11 vehicle, returning from the moon). He has seen, however, thousands of interplanetary objects strike the earth directly, without slowing. As far as he has been able to discern, all but a few have burned up before striking the ground. Those which did not burn up would surely have been obliterated in the collision, at thousands of miles per hour.

Still, the Counselor remains cautious. Given our sketchy knowledge of the aliens who deported us in the first place, he is unwilling to assert that an object streaking straight into Earth at tens of thousands of miles an hour could not contain beings which survived. But he thinks it is extremely unlikely.




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ana Darcy responds: Men on the moon?


Question: Since Ana & Hleo were on the moon since the fifties, can they finally settle the debate on whether man has really walked on the moon? (eR1)

Ana Darcy's reply:

I was asleep during the earlier parts of the Apollo program, but Hleo followed the entire project with great interest as you may imagine, since we were under orders from the Council of Clans (of Thomo) to remain undetected. It would have been a problem if Commanders Armstrong and Aldrin had landed right next to us! As it turned out, there was no worry, since the side of the moon that faces the Earth is a very large area, and the odds of their setting down within sight of us were small.

Hleo awakened me to witness the Apollo 11 flight, which orbited the moon. We cannot say we actually saw the lunar module descend to the surface of the moon or Commanders Armstrong and Aldrin walk on its surface--that was well over the horizon from our base. But we did note that the Apollo 13 vehicle did indeed orbit the moon, that the lunar module was detatched during many of those orbits (inluding July 20, 1969), that it had rejoined during the last few orbits, and that the Apollo 11 vehicle returned to Earth orbit. Its landing site was to be the Sea of Tranquility, which is to the northeast of our own base. Our base is in a debris field in Crater Albatagenius, where the shadows make it hard to identify from Earth. Both areas lie along the equatorial region of the moon.

Hleo and I felt privileged to witness the first visit of our distant cousins to another celestial body as a result of their own efforts. (Our Thoman ancestors, of course, had also visited another celestial body, but we were mere passengers then, frightened passengers.) We shared your exhilaration, recalling our own elation when our own ancestors, in the 153rd Generation, developed the ability to leave our planet. Our people were of course driven by the desire to find our place of origin, and that made the expense worthwhile. We can only hope, Hleo and I, that some day our cousins will reciprocate, and pay us a visit in return.



Sunday, November 8, 2009

Recipe Challenge: Part IV


We are going to have to sit and think about things after our last experiment with kamut berries. After the previous trial, we decided to use no thyme this time, hewing more closely to the traditional garlic, parsley, and chives (with some scallions added just to be sure). A dash of A-1 steak sauce and a half teaspoon of liquid mesquite smoke were similarly intended to veer slightly from the exotic, countered by the addition of a splash of red wine. One egg was used also, for cohesion (this was another small meatloaf).

The result was tasty, but the texture was still crumbly. The kamut berries were just a little too chewy. Perhaps if they had been cracked, or kamut flour used, it might have been different, but we see no reason to try again. Kamut berries are perfectly lovely, but they might better be used as a substitute for barley, as in soup.

Readers need have no doubts about the recipes given here for frijoles or salsa: those are ancient, tried, and true. Still, it might be fun to attempt another of Ana's innovative dishes, like the cararmelized pork with cilantro and lime sauce in Distant Cousin: Regeneration, or her take on Jamaican jerk chicken, earlier in the same volume. Suggestions and/or reports of reader experiments are invited!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Excerpts from Distant Cousin: Regeneration


Here are two excerpts from Distant Cousin: Regeneration, one early in the story and one from later on. Neither contains any blatant spoiler!





1.

The lunch period at Juarez Academy in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was almost over. It was a small school, and accommodated the entire student body in its cafetorium, the elementary students at one end and high school and middle school students in the other. They had mostly finished eating and were laughing and talking amid the clatter of dishes, utensils, and trays. One ninth grader, however, had quietly slipped out onto the gallery facing the playground, despite the chilly wind which gusted out of the northwest. He was huddled on a bench, bent over a book in his lap, holding down several sheets of paper which he studied closely.
His classmates knew him as Harry Saenz, but his real name was Heriberto. His family liked old-fashioned names. Some were handed down from ancestors but others might have come from the Bible—he had no idea. Although he was one of the many scholarship students at Juarez Academy and had been given a 90% tuition grant, his mother still had to pay the other ten per cent. It was difficult for her, and he was trying his best to fulfill his side of the bargain. Calling attention to his weird name would have been embarrassing.
At some point he realized someone was standing close. He looked up in surprise. It was one of the elementary girls, a fifth grader. She was just standing there, looking at him. He stared back for two beats.
“Hi,” she said.
“Uh, hi.”
“I’m Clio Méndez.”
“Yeah, I know. I know your brother. Julio, right?”
“Uh huh.”
“We, uh, we helped each other with projects last week.”
“Cool.”
Everyone in the school knew Clio Mèndez. She was a funny-looking little runt, small, skinny, Spanish-speaking but with chestnut hair too light to be pure Hispanic, kind of a pointy face, and nearly invisible eyebrows over keen pale hazel eyes that seemed to see straight into things. The wind was whipping her hair behind her. The word was she was one of the smartest kids in the whole school, next to her twin brother. She was making him nervous. Why was she standing there? What did she want? What should he say?
“I’m Harry.”
She spoke again.
“You come to school with two dogs every morning, right? Are those your dogs?”
“Huh? Yeah.”
“Where do they go while you’re in school?”
“Home.”
“By themselves?”
“Yeah.”
“Is it far?”
“About a mile, I guess.”
What was that to her?
“And they don’t have trouble with traffic or other people?”
“No.”
“And they come back in the afternoon to walk home with you?”
“Yeah.”
“How do they know what time it is?”
“I don’t know. They just know.”
“How did they learn to do that?”
“I taught them.”
“Awesome. Have you taught them other things too?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Can you do that with other dogs?”
“Probably.”
“Do you like animals?”
“I do.”
“That’s so cool. Can I meet them sometime?”
“The dogs? Uh, sure....”
The bell five feet over his head clanged loudly. He jumped and the wind instantly ripped the notes from under his hands. At practically the same moment, the girl snatched both out of the air, one in each hand. Her body hadn’t moved but suddenly her arms were in front of her holding the flapping sheets by the corners. She put them together and handed them to him with a smile. He took them and looked at her. Had she really done that? Finally the clamor of kids and dozens of chairs scraping the floor leaking through the window behind him called him back to his senses.
“Thanks. Got a math test next period. Better go.”
“Me too. I’ll see you later...about those dogs? OK?”
“Sure.”
“Good luck on your test.”


2.

For once, Clio was prepared for a shopping trip. Doña Dolores had given her the addresses of three botánicas between Cloudcroft and Tularosa, twelve miles north, and even called the proprietors to tell them a young friend was coming to shop for her. A little Anglo girl buying medicinal plants might cause questions, even if she spoke good Spanish. Clio had found the addresses on Google Maps, and printed copies to bring along.
The biggest and oldest of the botánicas was in a rambling adobe building on the Hispanic outskirts of Cloudcroft. It was closed for lunch. They drove on to Tularosa, where they located the other two establishments, smaller but each interesting in its own way. Clio shopped enthusiastically but carefully in both, and then in the one in Cloudcroft on the return leg. Her mother waited patiently in the car the whole time.
Clio bought oshá and alta misa de la sierra; she bought ajeño and tronadora, good for diabetes; she bought ponil, the native aspirin, astragalus and mullein, turmeric and olive leaf extract in bulk, all immune system boosters; she bought konjac and pokeweed, for the skin, feverfew, comfrey, ephedra, yerba buena, and toloache, a kind of nightshade and very potent medicine, and a dozen more. When she added four large bags of maguey agave and two of ocotillo blossoms (for sore throats), to the dozens of smaller bags in the trunk of the Corolla, there was no room left and she was out of money. She had spent all her mother’s money as well.
“Thanks, Mom,” she said, fastening her seat belt.
“Did you find everything you wanted?”
“Mostly. That last store even had some Chinese herbs, but we’re out of money. I can get those on the internet.”
“I saw an ATM machine around the corner. I need to stretch. Let’s walk there and get a little cash.”
The ATM was halfway down the block, between a boarded-up business and a bank, which looked closed, at 3:45. Six or seven high school-age boys smoking cigarettes in an alley eyed them as they walked past, but Ana paid no attention.
She walked straight to the machine, fumbling for her card. She was tucking away her cash when Clio shouted.
“Hey!”
Ana whirled to see a boy with an arm around Clio, a knife in his other hand. Two more boys were headed toward her at the ATM machine while the fourth stayed behind her daughter.
“OK, mami, hand it over,” said the one on the left. That was the last thing he said.
Ana looked sharply at Clio, turned up her eyes, and fainted, falling to the ground.
At least that’s what the boys thought. By the time she hit the ground the boy who held Clio became aware that some number of his fingers had been broken and the girl had the knife.
Ana landed face down, arms braced against the sidewalk, and whipped her legs under the two boys who were closest to her. She was on her feet again almost before they landed, dropping on one knee into one boy’s stomach and delivering a chop to the throat of the other. Clio’s attacker stood dumbfounded, grimacing in pain. The fourth boy turned and ran for the alley.
Ana caught him before he had gone ten steps. As Clio screamed “No, Mom!” she tripped him from behind. He fell full speed to the sidewalk on his face, crying out as his head bounced to reveal a massively bloody nose. Ana returned to the knifeless boy with the injured hand, her eyes blazing. The kid stared at her in horror.
“No, Mom, don’t!” pleaded Clio.
Ana pushed off one foot in a lunging motion and thrust a fist into the boy’s solar plexus. He doubled over and fell to his knees, retching.
“Mom! Mom!” Clio screamed. “That’s enough! You said only do enough to protect yourself! Stop, Mom!”
Ana glared at the four boys on the sidewalk. She spoke in Luvit.
“Môje desh órhozh nikhda!” (“No one threatens my children!”), adding in English, “Let’s go.”
They headed around the corner to the car. The alley was empty.
Clio got in on the passenger side, ignoring her seat belt. She stared at her mom.
Ana shut her door and burst into tears.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Photo: The Trans-Mountain Road


This photo shows the Trans-Mountain Road, which makes a welcome shortcut from northern El Paso (out of the picture to the right) to Las Cruces (out of the picture to the left). Before it was built it was a 50 or 60 mile drive from one side to the other. The Mendez family, like many others in southern New Mexico, takes this road when they want to get to El Paso International Airport. A memorable bicycle ride occurred there in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. They often stop at a lookout, not really visible here but at the highest point in the road, for an incredible, 200 mile vista to the south, covering parts of Texas, New Mexico,and Mexico (towards the bottom in this photo). The Rio Grande cuts across the bottom left corner, and Interstate 10 slants diagonally across the photo to the right of the Rio Grande (click to enlarge).

See many other location photos from the book in the right column, under the photo of the blue-eyed kitty.

Photo: The Mesilla Valley




Here's a lovely aerial shot of nearly the entire Mesilla Valley (click to enlarge). (El Paso is not visible, but is downstream, to the right.) Most obvious is the narrow course of the Rio Grande river, which nourishes the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico, with the city of Las Cruces at the left. Our extraterrestrial heroine Ana Darcy* and her husband and family live near the green areas (pecan orchards, mostly) at the center of the photo. The pod is kept in one of those orchards.

We're looking roughly northeast: the scalding sand dunes of the Chihuahuan desert are at the bottom, and along the top, slanting down diagonally, is the tail end of the Rocky Mountains. The darkest mountains are the Organ Mountains, which loom over Las Cruces in another photo in an earlier post. Readers will remember an exciting event at the end of the first volume, Distant Cousin, which took place directly over these mountains. In the far distance, probably 100 miles away, the snow-topped peak of Sierra Blanca is visible, one of New Mexico's excellent ski areas. The large white area, slightly below the top of the picture, is probably White Sands National Monument, a giant deposit of gypsum dunes, which is mentioned in Distant Cousin: Regeneration.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Serval Kitties, & Last Call for Questions for Ana


Reader questions will be sent to Ana Darcy Mendez for her possible response this weekend. This is the last call for questions!

The picture shows the serval kittens at five weeks. (Click to enlarge) Below are photos of them at two and three weeks. Thanks to Julie of Juliesjungle.com! Ana Darcy would probably love these active, fun cats. Julie says servals remind her of small cheetahs: high energy, and with long, lean bodies. Caracals, she says (see photo down the right side) are more like small cougars: more stocky, shorter and bulkier, with a completely different language, and, she thinks, more laid back than servals. Both can be great pets, but they're not for the casual pet owner! See Julie's excellent site for more details.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recipe Challenge: Part III




Encouraged by Danielle's experiment, we obtained some authentic kamut (an historic species of Egyptian wheat, "khorasan" wheat) and tried a second experiment. The kamut berries looked like fat grains of rice (see pictures, click to enlarge), and they boiled up to about twice their size, becoming chewy, wheaty tasting grains. They have to be whole wheat, and thus nutritious, but they don't taste oily to me, like regular whole wheat does.

Anyway, we made one small meat loaf, with a half pound of ground beef, half a cup of kamut boiled al dente, red wine, a quarter cup of parmesan, minced garlic, one slice of chopped onion, a half teaspoon of thyme, and salt and pepper--no egg, no breadcrumbs, no off-the-shelf sauce. The idea was to test the basic ingredients only.

Result: as an exercise in extending the meat (which is what meatloaf is all about, after all) it was a success. We had not appreciated the power of thyme, however, and that dominated everything else. Next time, no thyme (rhyme intentional). The texture was crumbly, which was no problem, and chewy, thanks to the kamut, which was fun. You can't just pound down the meatloaf, as so often happens. You have to chew it and enjoy it.

Note for next time: try a dash of liquid mesquite smoke. For those not in the southwest, liquid hickory smoke ought to similarly add a slightly smoky, exotic flavor.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Questions for Ana: Area 51?


We have received another question for Ana. This one involves the famous Area 51. Good question!

This is the second call for questions. Ana doesn't do this very often, so if you've been saving one, don't put it off!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Recipe (Alcohol Ahead!)


Ana Darcy Mendez seldom drinks, but on rare social or celebratory occasions she's been known to sip a little. Here's a drink she loves that Matt taught her about. It's sweet (and sour) and not terribly alcoholic. Matt usually makes one for himself and gives her half.

Start with the juice of one of those little Mexican limes (or key limes) squeezed into a glass over cracked ice. Add two ounces of amaretto. You may want to adjust the sweet/sour mix to taste. That's it! This is your basic amaretto sour. Bars traditionally gussy it up with a maraschino cherry or slice of lime, but Matt doesn't bother. He says it tastes like purest tropical Mexico!

(The photo shows a Mexican decoration for El Dia de los Muertos, November 2. Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Reader Goes the Extra Mile


It's one thing to read and enjoy a story. It's another thing entirely to like it so much you take the trouble to write a review for others. Being a reviewer for PODBRAM, I know this well. So our special thanks go to JPMorgan for the review he posted yesterday for Distant Cousin: Regeneration!

"I just finished this forth book in the Distant Cousin Series and found it to be an excellent read. I have followed Ana through her 3 previous novels and watched her adapt to her new environment. I have watched her grow and develop her "human" tendencies. I found this novel to be especially interesting because of the character development. Ana has proved herself to be a very extraordinary woman, but in this novel we see that Ana is not without the feelings and problems of us mortals. This novel brings us closer to Ana's family and friends and the Mendez family. Toward the end of this novel I found myself thinking I was reading about my good friends and not some characters in a Fiction Novel. I'm hoping there is a 5th in the series, I'd like to know that my friends are OK. This is a fun and exciting series to read." (Amazon)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pictures: Distant Cousin: Regeneration





............................................................................................................................................ Here are some photos of an old Inca trail in the mountains of Peru, built possibly 500-600 years ago. One of the scenes in Distant Cousin: Regeneration could have taken place here! (Click to enlarge.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ask Ana: Call for Questions





............................................................................................................... Here's your big chance to ask Ana Darcy Mendez a question--about herself, her home planet, or her impressions of our planet, Earth. We already have several questions on hand. With one or two more in hand, we'll pass them to her to possibly respond to.

Just to jog your thinking, here are two questions that will be submitted to Ana:

1.I'm wondering about your natural grace, speed, reflexes, and affinity for cats and other felines. Is it possible that Thomans have used feline DNA to enhance your genetic makeup? (VP)

2. I would like to know what Ms. Darcy thinks of what we've done to our enivronment. Do the Thomans see more that we can do to save Mother earth? ("Mom")

If you have a question for Ana, simply add it under "Comments," below.

The photos are of baby servals, kitties born this month at Julie's Jungle, and reproduced here with her permssion (and thanks!). They're about two weeks old, on the right, and a three weeks old, on the left, and growing fast. As adults, they'll weigh around 30 pounds. Servals do not figure in the Distant Cousin series, not yet, anyway, but another species of cat whose picture Julie also provided, does. Try Distant Cousin: Regeneration to meet this unusual and exceptionally lovely and remarkable cat.

(Click to enlarge the kitties.)


Ana's answer to question 1.
Ana's answer to question 2.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ana's Annals Accelerate!


Distant Cousin is a proud entry in Operation E-book Drop, a loose association of independent authors who make their books available free to American and British troops overseas (and at home, for that matter).

We are delighted to announce that Distant Cousin, for today at least, is the fourth most popular novel at Smashwords.com, and the most popular among its adventure novels. These numbers fluctuate over time, but it's clear that Ana Darcy Mendez's adventures are being enjoyed all over the world.

The point to underline, of course, is that Distant Cousin and the other titles donated by the members are a real and useful contribution to our troops who give so much for us. However small our effort is compared to theirs, we are all thrilled to make the small contributions we do.

Best wishes, guys! Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Review of Distant Cousin: Regeneration


Fans of Ana Darcy & her wonderful Mendez family won't be disappointed with this latest sequel! DC#4 skips a few years since we last saw Ana, Matt & the kids hidden in New Mexico, enjoying a wonderful happy & full life. We're treated to some great chapters on how that life has developed, how the gifted children are growing, and how Ana has settled into her role on Earth, as well as developing the stories of those around Ana - Julio & Clio, Clio's new friend Harry, our old friends Rob and Michelle. And while it's natural to want our heroine to be the center of every plot, their lives are interesting enough to care about these side characters & to want to know more.

But we know from the outset that Ana's peaceful life won't be left alone for long... that an enemy from the past is seeking bitter revenge & that Ana's life might not ever be the same. How can she keep herself, her family & her own life safe? Ana might not be able to rely on her skills alone & she has to face some of the harsh realities of the world - the violence, the tragedies & worst for all parents: the fear of not always being able to protect your children.

This great story not only provides some of Ana's action-packed fighting skills, but the sensitive issues of battling insecurities, past & present horrors & even homesickness, that remind us that Ana is not an all-knowing all-fighting alien, but a human being; trillions of miles from home, here on an impulse to save the world & subject to all the same fears & weaknesses as the rest of us. And even with Matt by her side, can she handle them? (eReader1)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cue the horn! Toot, toot!


Here's a sample of reader comments over the last year:

"I loved this book. I had read so many good things on Kindle Boards that I decided to try it even though I am not a science fiction fan. I loved some of your ideas. Thank you for writing. It is such a pleasure to read a book that provides entertainment and a sense of wonder. This is time well spent!"

"I rarely read science fiction (the exception is Distant Cousin, which I thoroughly enjoyed and promptly bought the rest of the trilogy)."

"Distant Cousin may need a genre of its own. As a rule I avoid all science fiction and so...I was slow in downloading Distant Cousin. After reading the first few pages however, I was glad that I'd broken my own rule. Whatever genre it is, Distant Cousin is a good read."

"Once I finished the sample I immediately bought the book and have been reading for the last 3 hours. I was hooked after the first 8 to 10 pages. I wasn't sure I would like this when I read 'another planet.' It did not sound like a book I would choose to read. If I didn't have to get up at 5 am for work I would read all night. I definitely recommend this book, you won't be disappointed."

"You SUCK!!! Ever since I started Distant Cousin, my dishes haven't gotten done. I have an entire house to pack, which isn't getting done, and I was up till 2AM last night to finish it! I haven't spent more than ten minutes at a time online and we have been eating premade casseroles...It's all your fault! My husband thinks it's funny. I am not going to start the second one till the weekend so I can get some work done around here. Thank you for entertaining me. The characters, especially Darcy, become so real. I know I am reading a good story when I worry about the characters' well being and celebrate their successes!"

"Thanks, Al, for some wonderful books. It's always a pleasure to read a book where the character is so "fleshed out" that I feel I would know him/her if I met them on the street. Not only would I know them, I'd have to invited them to lunch so we could chat!"

"What I like about the series is the way it's written. It's a very smooth, calm style that keeps me interested. The characters are so likeable and Darcy just makes you want to hug her, she's so charming and cute."

'I'm another one of the ravers. These are 3 soon to be 4 books that I can't imagine anybody not liking. There is something for everybody in them."

"Just bought Repatriation. Loved the first one and got the wife to start it. She's giggling a lot, so she must like it." {later} "My wife is in absolute love with Distant Cousin. She told me she kept taking breaks yesterday to read it and stayed up waaay late reading it."

"I am so into Al Past's book that I have my Kindle in one hand and am typing with the other."

"I've been so totally absorbed in the Distant Cousin trilogy that I didn't even know the board was down. I logged in and all the posts said 'yesterday' on them and I couldn't figure out where everybody was."

"Okay...I'm finished with Distant Cousin and the first page of Repatriation is open on my Kindle. I'm annoyed to have to start dinner and get the laundry out of the dryer first.... It's funny, I seared my chicken legs and have them sauteeing...to make something easy tonight.... I only get emotional when I'm completely submersed in a story. I actually found myself having to hit the 'prev page' button over and over. I was so into the story, I was hitting the 'next page' buton with a couple words lef of the last line to read...LOL. The page would turn and the sentence would continue, but I wouldn't know what it meant...I was getting too anxious to see what was going to happen next."

"The descriptions of the scenery and the people in West Texas were perfect. I had a movie running in my head the whole time I was reading."

"I am up to Book 3 of the Distant Cousin series and I really recommend these books for anyone wanting something fun and engaging. I have been reading them each night for almost a week and am becoming distressed the Book 3 is almost over. I have many books waiting on my Kindle to read, but I hate to leave Ana Darcy and her story."

"Distant Cousin.... I am hooked on our [Kindle] authors. Not my usual subject matter, yet a really good read. Looking forward to More, More, MORE."

"I just finished Distant Cousin and loved it. A great combination of adventure, human drama, and soft sci-fi. I'm now starting on the second book in the series and am just as entertained."

"I have a new fan of DC - a little old lady who is a voracious reader, had reservations about 'science fiction' but after reading #1 she called to tell me she can't wait to start the next. She loved the characters and the story and says that 'Al Past is an excellent writer!!!'"

(Even more reader comments here.)



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ana Darcy's Favorite Poem


Ana Darcy is surprisingly well read for someone who grew up on another planet, and came to live on Earth as an adult. She even famously read several Shakespeare plays (in Distant Cousin: Repatriation), although she admitted they were difficult for her. In Distant Cousin, she said she loves our fiction but she doesn't understand a lot of our poetry. There are plenty of us who don't either, actually.

But she does like some of it, and her very favorite, which she holds close to her heart and tries to live by, is a poem by Diane Ackerman called "School Prayer." That poem led off Distant Cousin: Reincarnation (the paperback edition), although it had to be left out of the Kindle edition because the agreement with Random House wouldn't allow it.

The poem is on the web, however. If you'd like to read it, it may be found here . You will easily see why she might like it.

See more of the Earthly poems Ana loves in the column on the right under the photo of the LOVE sculpture.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recipe challenge


Readers of Distant Cousin: Reincarnation will remember, especially if they are interested in cooking, a recipe for a variation of meatloaf which was mentioned in chapter 2 only in passing:

“It’s the spices, Mom, thyme and garlic, and some grated parmesan, and an Egyptian grain called kamut. And an extra-dry red wine instead of Worcestershire sauce. I would have added some whole cloves, only I couldn’t find any. It was Darcy’s idea—you know that cookbook she’s working on?”

It's an intriguing recipe, but as far as I know no one has ever tried to create it. I certainly haven't: I've never seen kamut, and I'd have no idea of quantities or other variables. Perhaps quinoa (a Peruvian grain) could be substituted--I have no idea. (If you must know, the recipe was thought up by a wonderfully creative cook, but a vegetarian, who would never fix meatloaf.)

Surely some readers out there are adventurous cooks. If this dish sounds like something you might like, why not give it a try? Mind you, the humble editor of this blog disavows all responsibility for the results--but if it's good, if it's interesting, please let us all know, and include the particulars of your version, please. I mean, how many recipes do you have which come from someone from another planet? You may find people lining up for it!

See lots of other recipe ideas in the column on the right under the photo of the cranberry-apple pie!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Distant Cousin: Reincarnation (3), Reviews

Well, we knew it was going to happen. There were hints in the second novel of the Distant Cousin series, and so it is no surprise that in the third novel, Darcy's greatest fears are realized. Her cold and greedy brother-in-law, Herecyn Cymred, has sold the wrong sort of Thoman technology to the wrong sort of person and a weapon of devastating destruction has resulted. Herecyn denies it, of course, but when the Russian mafia tries to eliminate Ana Darcy, the only person who has made the connection, the truth of the matter is obvious.

Author Al Past revs up the action in this third installment of the Distant Cousin series. After seven years of quiet family bliss on the secluded Mendez homestead, hidden in the heart of New Mexico, Darcy once again sacrifices her retirement from public life in order to guard against disaster. As the very first representative from another planet on Earth, Darcy takes it personally to think that technology from her homeworld might be used against mankind. While dodging assassination attempts from hired mercenaries, Darcy plies a little detective work to identify the source of the threat: A Russian oligarch has developed the Thoman technology into a weapon which was promptly tested on remote villages in the tiny territory of Sedlakia, with horrifying results. The US government is loath to interfere, but that doesn't stop one little firebrand of a woman from planning a 2-man mission to save Sedlakia--and possibly the world.

Reincarnation reprises a multitude of characters from the first two books, including government agents, high-powered lawyers, an investigative reporter, and a certain Sicilian "businessman" who once saved Darcy's life. It also introduces a few new characters, such as the Navy SEAL recruited by Darcy for the Sedlaki mission and her own precocious twins, Clio and Julio. Readers get a glimpse inside the personal relationships of the Thoman delegation, which include Darcy's sister and uncle, as well as a thrilling and dangerous adventure in the frozen wilds of Russia. Interspersed with the fast-paced action, we find Darcy's husband Matt holding down the fort at home, supervising the education of his amazing, half-Thoman children, and working out wily plans to preserve their anonymity in the face of Darcy's increasingly public image. And if this is not enough, readers can ponder the significance of the close connection between the Thoman and Sedlaki languages, as well as a certain Sedlaki legend of an ancient queen named Anina Khralovna, who left her people long ago with the promise to return when she was needed ... Highly recommended, but you need to start with Book One! (High Spirits Book)



*****

...a third-in-a-row rave review....
It is high time readers had a real heroine. Why does a reader like myself, not to mention a host of others, enjoy Darcy's narrow escapes and stunning triumphs? First of all, men, women, and teenagers can identify with and root for a mere slip of a girl who has the courage to face big-time villains. That she happens to be a descendant of Earthlings who immigrated to another planet centuries ago and are hence our distant cousins, only adds to our fascination.
Concerned in book one, "Distant Cousin," about a danger to planet Earth, Darcy lands near Fort Davis, in the lap of McDonald Observatory. Can you imagine, scientists and goverhment bureaucrats spurn her urgent message! Darcy has to climb to Olympic heights to get the attention of the right people. In the midst of her struggle, she falls in love with Mr. Right, Matt Mendez, a reporter for the Alpine Avalanche.
Pity the bad guys who try to stop Darcy! She does her best to avoid violence. Indeed, she would much rather outwit a villain than conk him over the head. However, when necessary, this petite little blond can teach her opponents an unforgettable lesson. Hurrah! The power of good over evil is reaffirmed!
Al Past's third book, "Distant Cousin: Reincarnation," begins some eight years after our herioin's initial victories.
Darcy, her husband Matt, and their bilingual twins are living incognito, on a country road near the village of Mesilla, not far from La Union, N.M. It would be unforgivable to say any more than something has gone terribly wrong in the small country of Sedlakia, near Kazakhstan. Darcy's kinsmen have accidentally given terrorists a deadly weapon that must be wrested from the Russian Mafia.
The setting and the characters west of the Pecos, up east, and in the mountains of Central Asia are both realistic and delightful. Although Darcy faces evil, she stands in the light, a true champion of what is right and good. Even the most ardent fants of Harry Potter speak of a growing darkness but Darcy's adventures are nevr dark. And I absolutely guarantee, that like Al's first two novels, you will not be able to put this third book down!
Margaret Moser, Beeville Bee-Picayune, Aug. 29, 2007


*****

This is the third book in the Distant Cousin series of scifi tales starring the Barbie from outer space, Ana Darcy, and her faithful sidekick and native son of Albuquerque, Matt Mendez. As with the first book in this series, I give it ten stars. Yeah, that's right, ten. Reincarnation takes the reader to Nowhere, New Mexico, again, and like Dorothy said, there's no place like home. You'd hide out there, too, if you were an international celebrity who just wanted to live a quiet, peaceful lifestyle. How quiet can things really be when you have a space pod stashed in your barn?

I would never recommend that a reader first meet the Mendez family with this book. You need to start at the beginning of the first book, when Matt was just a bored journalist in Alpine, Texas, about to meet the love of his life in the local library. The Distant Cousin storyline is somewhat quiet and emotional, just like the lives the lead characters seek. The plot of this third book involves the FBI, the CIA, and a retired Navy SEAL, all trying to make the Russians behave themselves instead of blowing up some highly populated chunk of America. Although Reincarnation is a little slower paced than its Repatriation predecessor, the new characters and subplots help Darcy fly that space pod right into your heart!

The most distinguishing trademark of Al Past's Distant Cousin books is their obvious similarity to some of Steven Spielberg's best movies. Ana Darcy is much like E.T. without the Disney cuteness or childhood orientation. She is an E.T.-type character for an adult audience. The sense of wonder we all had the first time we watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind is magically reincarnated. Reading all the Distant Cousin books is like playing a movie in your head. This is the way we want life to be. This is the way we want Americans to respond to aliens if they ever arrive on Earth. Reincarnation rekindles amazement. Life should always be like this. (PODBRAM)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Distant Cousin: Regeneration now published!


Here's the cover. (Click to enlarge.) More information is in the quick link here.

Pictures: Durham, NC


Here is the home of Dr. Charles Hodge, who figures in Distant Cousin. He hosts Earth's first extraterrestrial visitor in style! (She allows herself to be examined at Duke University's medical center.)

Pictures: West Texas




The Jersey Lily is a reconstruction of Judge Roy Bean's courthouse & bar in Langtry, Texas. That and the Pecos River canyon and bridge figure in Distant Cousin. The middle picture is taken from the Trans-Mountain Road in El Paso, looking north toward Las Cruces. It's a shortcut from the El Paso airport to Las Cruces. (Right click and enlarge in another tab.)