Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, November 26, 2016

MVNews this week:  Page A:10



Mountain Views-News Saturday, November 26, 2016 


Two geo-scientists at Arizona State University 
have made a discovery among hot springs in 
Chile that may spur scientists to revisit a location 
on Mars explored several years ago by NASA’s 
Spirit rover. The discovery involves fingerlike 
structures that form in the hot spring deposits 
by processes that combine biological and non-
biological activity.

 The Chilean hot springs are at a place called 
El Tatio and lie at the edge of the extremely dry 
Atacama Desert, one of the best “Mars analog” 
sites on Earth.

 Co-authors Steve Ruff and Jack Farmer, of 
ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, 
report that El Tatio produces silica deposits 
with structures influenced by living organisms 
that appear nearly identical to those found eight 
years ago by Spirit in Gusev Crater on Mars. 
Their report was recently published by Nature 

 The question naturally arises whether what 
Spirit found on Mars might also have been 
influenced by life.

 “Mars exploration has reached a stage where 
we can start looking for biosignatures,” says 
lead author Ruff. Biosignatures are naturally 
occurring traces that indicate the presence of 
life, either today or in the past.

 On Earth, fossils are an everyday example of 
a biosignature of past life. But biosignatures can 
take more subtle forms such as organic molecules 
trapped in rocks. Biosignatures can also include 
physical structures such as compacted mats of 
microorganisms called stromatolites, found in 
various environments on Earth.

 No lander or rover on Mars has yet detected 
any fossils. So scientists assume that any 
Martian biosignature would be small—think 
microscopic—and difficult to identify, let alone 
even find, on a planet with as much surface area 
as all of Earth’s land areas.

 In 2007, NASA’s rover Spirit was exploring 
next to an eroded deposit of volcanic ash dubbed 
Home Plate in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater 
on Mars. The rover’s right front wheel motor had 
failed, and as the rover dragged the stuck wheel 
like a plow across the ground, it uncovered a rich 
deposit of pure silica surrounded by outcrops 
also rich in silica. This is a mineral commonly 
found in hot springs and geysers like those in 
Yellowstone National Park.

 Several years later, Ruff learned about the El 
Tatio hot springs from a scientific journal. The 
hot springs are among the highest known active 
thermal springs on Earth (over 14,000 feet). At 
night, even in summer, temperatures at El Tatio 
often drop below freezing, and by day lots of 
ultraviolet light from the Sun comes through the 
thin, dry air. This makes El Tatio probably the 
best terrestrial analog for ancient Martian hot 

 “We went to El Tatio looking for comparisons 
with the features found by Spirit at Home 
Plate,” says Ruff. “Our results show that the 
conditions at El Tatio produce silica deposits 
with characteristics that are among the most 
Mars-like of any silica deposits on Earth.”

 These characteristics compare favorably with 
the Martian Home Plate silica outcrops, Ruff 
explains. “The fact that microbes play a role in 
producing the distinctive silica structures at El 
Tatio raises the possibility that the Martian silica 
structures formed in a comparable manner—in 
other words, with the help of organisms that 
were alive at the time.”

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@



A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder



A chapter from Christopher Nyerges’ book 
about growing up in Pasadena.


[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books. All of 
his books are about self-reliance and wild foods and none of them are about 
witches. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]


When I was 3 or 4, I recall waking up in the early morning and hearing sounds in the kitchen. These 
were the sounds of movement, of pans moving, of doors opening and closing, the normal sounds 
you’d expect to hear in the morning in a kitchen. Except I believed that everyone in the house was still 


I recall lying there on the lower bunk of a bunkbed, wondering what I was hearing, and who was 
making the noises. After some time, I had the realization that we had some witches in the kitchen. 
They came at night after everyone went to sleep and did whatever witches do in the kitchen. They’d 
disappear by the time everyone woke up and crawled out of our beds and fought our way to the 
bathroom and kitchen.


When I heard witches in the kitchen in the early morning, I was always cautious when I came to 
breakfast. I’d look around for clues, something left on the counter, something out of place, some 
object forgotten. There were many clues, but none that were conclusively proof. 


Sometimes I would ask questions to a brother or my mother, attempting to determine if they knew 
about it too. But my roundabout questions were too indirect to get meaningful responses, and if 
anyone else knew about the witches, they weren’t talking. 


I could even “see” the witches in my mind’s eye when I heard them in the early morning. They were 
very traditional-looking female witches, with large black robes or gowns, black pointy hats, though 
I don’t recall seeing any facial features or indication of pretty or ugly, or young or old. They moved 
about like gliding from place to place, doing secret magic alchemy with the ingredients in the kitchen 
and the fire on the stove. If they spoke at all, they whispered. 


Off and on for a year or so, I would hear them in the kitchen. I believed that my dad knew about them. 
Some of the “clues” to their presence would be cupboard doors left ajar, spilled salt or sugar on the 
table, odd smells – nothing that was absolute proof in itself, but all together I knew it added up to the 
mysterious mornings in the alchemical chamber of our house. 


One day, my dad fixed my cereal and put in two spoons of white sugar. I didn’t stir it so the white 
sugar remained at the bottom of the bowl until I was nearly done eating. When I got to the bottom, 
though I liked the sweetness, I made a point of telling my dad how much sugar he put in the bowl. 


“Look at all the sugar,” I said. At first, it was no big deal, but somehow I knew that the extra sugar 
was my dad’s secret way of telling me that he knew about the witches. So I repeated to him how much 
sugar was in my bowl, what an amazing thing. But then my mother walked into the room and said 


“I just gave him a spoonful,” said my father defensively.


“Why did you give him so much sugar?” my mother said. I don’t think she knew about the witches. 
And, as was her custom, she kept asking about the sugar and talking about it until they were both 
nearly in an argument about it. I felt bad about this because I actually liked the extra sugar and was 
trying in my way to acknowledge the secret message about my father’s knowing there were witches in 
the kitchen.


I never received any more secret clues from my dad to tell me that he knew about the witches, and he 
never again gave me extra sugar.


Sometime later, while sleeping in the lower bunk and with eyes closed, I felt something touch me, and 
I knew it was one of the witches. She’d actually came all the way into my room and touched me – not 
with her finger, but with a stick, or magic wand. Just a light touch, and I could see her clearly – the 
same black outfit and hat as they always wore, and this time I could see her face. She was middle-aged, 
some wrinkles, smiling. I opened my eyes startled, and she had managed to disappear before I could 
catch an open-eyed glimpse.


Maybe it had been a goodbye touch, since I never heard their eerie sounds in the kitchen after that. 
Each time I thought it was them, I listened carefully and could tell that it was my mother or father or 
my brother or someone else. For whatever reason, they returned to Witchland and never returned.


Between now and the end of the year our house is 
going to be a mad dash for the stores in preparation for 

 This time of the year, I lay low and try to be as invisible 
as possible. If I hide in the shadows of the parsonage and 
do not speak, I am in pretty good shape. I have been 
practicing this for over 40 years, so I have reached a 
certain level of proficiency.

 Having a wife and two daughters has been a challenge, 
especially at this time of the year. My son and I have 
survived and so I am sure I will make it through another 
year. However, I am not taking anything for granted.

 I am somewhat of a competitive person, in some 
degree. I like a good challenge and I certainly like to 
win. Going up against the Gracious Mistress of the 
Parsonage has not been a successful competition. Even 
when she loses, so to speak, she wins. When she wins, I 
also win, so why should I complain?

 The contest at this time of the year is to see how much 
money these ladies of the parsonage can save. I have not 
kept track over the years for obvious reasons, so I do not 
know who is ahead and who is behind.

 I would not say that they were Shopaholics, but I am 
pretty sure they are. From my point of view, I am in no 
position to challenge them on this serious addiction. To 
challenge them thusly, would require several weeks in a 
rehabilitation center for myself. Who wants to go there 
during the holidays?

 I try not to keep track, but I believe it all begins 
with what is called “Black Friday.” I am not sure why 
it is called “Black Friday” because after it is all over my 
checkbook is in deep red.

 On this audacious holiday, if it can be called a holiday, 
I keep out of their way.

 They will start early in the morning and throughout 
the day they will come home to unload and boast to 
me about how much money they saved. Then, off they 
go back on the shopping trail. For my part, I would 
never want to stand between them and their shopping 
destination because, I just have grown accustomed to 

 Although I am not much into shopping, I know 
when to shop and when not to shop. The purpose of my 
shopping is not to see how much I can save. If I want to 
save money, I will stay home and drink a nice hot cup of 

 Halfway through the shopping season, my wife and 
I were sitting in the living room drinking our evening 
coffee and she was explaining to me her shopping plan. 
The more she talked the less I understood. I did not 
know you needed a plan to go shopping. My plan is very 
simple, do not go shopping!

 I happen to notice that one of our spare bedrooms was 
getting rather full of her shopping items. I just walked 
by the bedroom, glanced in and quickly walked down 
the hall as far away as possible. If there is one thing I do 
not want to do around this time of year, it is wrapping 
Christmas presents.

 One year I was enticed into wrapping Christmas 
presents, I did such a bad job, I was never invited to do it 
again. I will not say in public that I did that on purpose. 
I just will say, I love it when a plan comes together.

 As we were relaxing in the living room, my wife began 
explaining how much money she saved this year in 
shopping. I listened for as long as I could. I do not know 
how much she saved, just what she told me. It is almost 
like a contest with her to see how much money she can 
save each year.

 The biggest challenge is to try to out save her two 
daughters. They have been taught by the best and yet I 
am not sure they have ever beaten her in this one contest.

 When there was a little lull in the conversation, I 
sneaked a the little question of my own.

 “How much,” I queried as seriously as possible, “have 
you saved so far in your shopping?”

 I thought it was rather an innocent question to present 
at the time.

 “How much,” she said with a very serious look, “I 
saved over $300 so far.” With that, she set back in her 
chair and smiled. $300 is a lot of money you have to 

 Then I pop this one, “How much have you spent so 

 After some thought and a quick look into her 
checkbook, she came up with the figure, $700.

 She informed me that her savings were almost half of 
what she spent.

 There was a moment when I was tempted to challenge 
this contest by saying, “Well, I saved $700 by not 

 On second thought, would it be worth it? Sometimes 
it is better to concede and have everybody happy, than to 
win and be the only one that is happy.

 Solomon understood this when he wrote, “A fool 
uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till 
afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11).

 My goal in life, particularly as a husband, is to be a 
wise man.

 Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God 
Fellowship, Ocala, FL 34483, where he lives with the 
Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. Telephone 1-866-
552-2543, e-mail Website is www.

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