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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 127762 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #3585 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 07:48am »

Wired Danger Room

Video: Navy Laser Sets Ship on Fire
By Spencer Ackerman
April 8, 2011 | 12:54 pm
Categories: Lasers and Ray Guns





With clouds overhead in the salty air, irritable Pacific waves swelled to up to four feet. Perfect conditions, in other words, for the Navy to fry a small boat with a laser beam — a major step toward its futuristic arsenal of ray guns.

Researchers mounted the Maritime Laser Demonstrator, a solid-state laser, aboard the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned destroyer. Off the central California coast near San Nicholas Island on Wednesday, the laser fired a 15-kilowatt beam at an inflatable motorboat a mile away as both ships moved through the sea. As the above video shows, there was a flash on the boat’s outboard engines, igniting both of them in seconds, and leaving the ship dead in the choppy waters.

All previous tests of the laser have come on land — steady, steady land — aside from an October test of the targeting systems. But for the first time, the Office of Naval Research has proven that its laser can operate in a “no-kidding maritime environment,” says its proud director, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr.

“I spent my life at sea,” Carr says in an interview with Danger Room, “and I never thought we’d see this kind of progress this quickly, where we’re approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships.”

Fewer than three years after the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a contract worth up to $98 million to build the Maritime Laser Demonstrator, it’s proven able to cause “catastrophic failure” on a moving target at sea the first time out, says Quentin Saulter, one of ONR’s top laser gurus.

“When we were doing the shot and the engine went, there was elation in the control room,” he says. “It’s a big step, a proof of principle for directed energy weapons.”

The Navy hopes that by the next decade, solid state lasers — which generate powerful beams of light by running electrons through crystals or glass — will be aboard its surface ships, disabling enemy vessels and eventually burning incoming missiles out of the sky. That latter goal will take at least 100 kilowatts of power.

But a beam in the tens of kilowatts, ONR proved this week, is deadly, accurate and, Carr says, “can be operated in existing power levels and cooling levels on ships today.”

Solid state lasers are just the beginning. The Navy’s also working on a much more powerful Free Electron Laser weapon thanks to ONR’s research. That laser works across multiple wavelengths, compensating for debris in the sea air, to cut through 2,000 feet of steel per second once it gets up to megawatt class. Its electron injectors are ahead of schedule and ONR expects it to be ready in the 2020s, though after its solid state cousins are operative.

Next up will be to “develop the tactics, the techniques, the procedures and the safety procedures that sailors are going need to develop” to wield laser weapons, Carr says. And then it’s time to scale up the laser’s power.

“This is an important data point,” the admiral says, “but I still want the Megawatt death ray.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/04/video-navy-laser-sets-ship-on-fire/#more-44273

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« Reply #3586 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 07:54am »

Geek Trooper

So there is very little that I can really say about this video other that it FREAKIN’ INSANE! What we got here is the original generation one ‘Transformers’ animated to dance and sing to Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘Thriller’. Simple enough right? Right….? I do have to admit that the animation is pretty solid and smooth, while the CG models are the best you will ever see, it is good enough. I would take these Transformers over any of Michael Bay’s CGI atrocities any day of the week.





http://www.igeektrooper.com/2011/04/transformers-thriller/#more-5107

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« Reply #3587 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 07:59am »

LA Times

HP sues former executive for alleged theft before he jumped to Oracle
April 8, 2011 | 3:13 pm

Hewlett-Packard is suing a former executive for allegedly stealing trade secrets before he took a job with HP rival Oracle.

Filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleged that Adrian Jones, a former HP senior vice president in Asia, stole proprietary information before he resigned in February and moved to Oracle (court documents: http://i.crn.com/pdf/hp_suit_040811.pdf)

An internal investigation at the time of his resignation uncovered that Jones failed to disclose a "close personal relationship" with a subordinate, gave that subordinate a 97% salary bump and expensed thousands of dollars spent visiting that person with no relevant business purpose, HP said.

Before he left, Jones copied "hundreds of files and thousands of e-mails" related to HP's business strategies, future plans, employee data and customer data, the suit said.

HP seeks an injunction from the court to prevent Jones from using the sensitive information to put the company at an "unfair competitive disadvantage."

This is the latest salvo in an increasingly acrimonious series of spats between tech giants HP and Oracle. Last year, Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems, an HP competitor in the server business. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison also mocked HP for firing former Chief Executive Mark Hurd for submitting faulty expense reports, then hired Hurd to work at Oracle.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/04/hp-sues-former-executive-for-alleged-theft.html

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« Reply #3588 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 12:30pm »



description with video:

Uploaded by boingboingvideo on Apr 6, 2011

View aerial rendezvous video here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI9tKWBIvdA&feature=relmfu

After champagne with Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson at 30,000 feet, our flight landed in parallel with Virgin Galactic's White Knight and Spaceship 2 on our way into the new SFO Terminal 2. April 6, 2011.

BOING BOING POST:
Flying wing to wing with a spaceship: Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo at opening of Virgin America's new SFO Terminal 2
http://www.boingboing.net/2011/04/06/flying-wing-to-wing.html

[Shot for Boing Boing by Dean Putney]

~

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« Reply #3589 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 2:48pm »



description with video:

The 2011 Virtual Choir video features 2052 performances of 'Sleep' from 1752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011. http://virtualchoir.org

Composed and Conducted by Eric Whitacre
Poetry by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Directed by rehabstudio/Cake
Design and Animation by Thiago Maia, David Pocull and Sebastian Baptista
Produced by Christophe Taddei
Audio produced by Floating Earth
Music published by Walton Music
Virtual Choir 2.0 managed by Tony Piper
Eric Whitacre managed by Claire L...

http://www.youtube.com/user/EricWhitacreVEVO

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« Reply #3590 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 7:02pm »



cheesy.
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Epicurus.
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« Reply #3591 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 7:09pm »

Very cool, CA! smiley

Buono! is a “Hello! Project” unit consisting of three members: Momoko Tsugunaga and Miyabi Natsuyaki from Berryz Koubou, and Airi Suzuki from C-ute. The name translates into 'tasty', more specifically when used to imply food possesses a pleasant palate (from Italian, "Good!").

The unit was officially announced at the Nakayoshi magazine Festival 2007 on July 21, 2007, at Tokyo's Sunshine City in Ikebukuro, and formed to sing both the opening ("Kokoro no Tamago") and ending ("Honto no Jibun") themes for the anime adaptation of the Shugo Chara! manga.

Buono! continued to record the ending and opening themes for the first season of the anime. As of the second season, Buono! only recorded the ending themes, as the opening themes were handled by Shugo Chara Egg! and Guardians 4, two other groups formed for the sake of performing Shugo Chara! music.

On March 10 a collaboration album with Guardians 4 and Shugo Chara!Egg was released titled as "Shugo Chara!Song Best", and on the same day a dvd titled as "Shugo Chara! Clips♪Best" was released with the same artists Guardians 4 and Shugo Chara!Egg.

On March 7, 2009, Hello! Project announced that Buono! was to perform at the Japan Expo in Stockholm, Sweden on May 24, 2009,[1] but the convention was cancelled a month earlier on April 21, 2009, due to "the financial change in world economy, severe competition from other festivals/concerts as well as poor ticket sales."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buono!
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« Reply #3592 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 7:27pm »

on Apr 6th, 2011, 5:06pm, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Hey Phil,
And the little guys had hand gestures and everything. I kept waiting for them to sit down at a table and order coffee! grin
Crystal


I have a 15 month old grand daughter, and she talks to me like that, and I can understand what she is saying, even if its not in english!
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« Reply #3593 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 8:00pm »

on Apr 9th, 2011, 7:27pm, ohendry wrote:
I have a 15 month old grand daughter, and she talks to me like that, and I can understand what she is saying, even if its not in english!


Hi Ohendry,

I believe you. Watching these two just took my breath away. They are so smart! I forget how smart children are. We don't have any so aren't around them. You must get quite a kick out of your conversations with your granddaughter. cheesy

Crystal

edit for spelling
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« Reply #3594 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 8:03pm »

on Apr 9th, 2011, 7:09pm, Swamprat wrote:
Very cool, CA! smiley

Buono! is a gHello! Projecth unit consisting of three members: Momoko Tsugunaga and Miyabi Natsuyaki from Berryz Koubou, and Airi Suzuki from C-ute. The name translates into 'tasty', more specifically when used to imply food possesses a pleasant palate (from Italian, "Good!").

The unit was officially announced at the Nakayoshi magazine Festival 2007 on July 21, 2007, at Tokyo's Sunshine City in Ikebukuro, and formed to sing both the opening ("Kokoro no Tamago") and ending ("Honto no Jibun") themes for the anime adaptation of the Shugo Chara! manga.

Buono! continued to record the ending and opening themes for the first season of the anime. As of the second season, Buono! only recorded the ending themes, as the opening themes were handled by Shugo Chara Egg! and Guardians 4, two other groups formed for the sake of performing Shugo Chara! music.

On March 10 a collaboration album with Guardians 4 and Shugo Chara!Egg was released titled as "Shugo Chara!Song Best", and on the same day a dvd titled as "Shugo Chara! ClipsôBest" was released with the same artists Guardians 4 and Shugo Chara!Egg.

On March 7, 2009, Hello! Project announced that Buono! was to perform at the Japan Expo in Stockholm, Sweden on May 24, 2009,[1] but the convention was cancelled a month earlier on April 21, 2009, due to "the financial change in world economy, severe competition from other festivals/concerts as well as poor ticket sales."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buono!


Hi CA and Swamp,

I love them, thank you for posting that. And thanks for the explanation Swamp. I'm not at all versed in "manga", "anime" etc.

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« Reply #3595 on: Apr 9th, 2011, 8:44pm »

Okay, time for some strangeness.....

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Slime inches its way along along a fallen tree limb


"Slime" is actually neither a plant nor an animal, and is the least studied of the five kingdoms of living things - plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and slime. Scientists know it is not a fungus, and that it eats bacteria and other forms of slime. It seems to be from an alien world, and, indeed, inspired the old horror thriller "The Blob" which came out in 1958 starring Steve McQueen.

This Gadsden County slime is some of the likeliest slime we have ever seen.

Coming in hot pinks, oranges and yellows, slime oozes its way across vegetation. It was dripping its way down to the ground. Slime molds are called "myxomycetes" in the Kingdom Protoctista. Slime shows intelligence, and chopped up, seeks its other parts and then goes looking for food.

These are slime molds, or myxomycetes (myxos), of the kingdom Protoctista, the least understood of the five kingdoms of life, the others being animals, plants, fungi and bacteria (Smithsonian, July 1991).

Slime molds are like nothing else on earth. In their plasmodium stage, they show a quality that could be called intelligence: chopped up and dropped into a labyrinth, they will put themselves back together and start to move, avoiding dead ends and heading unerringly for the prize—more food. Not surprisingly, they fascinate some biologists and amateur naturalists.

For more on this, please go to: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/2001/march/phenom_mar01.php

Courtesy of: http://www.flwildflowers.com/gallery/
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« Reply #3596 on: Apr 10th, 2011, 08:26am »

eeeeewwwwww!!!!!! slime!!!! grin

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« Reply #3597 on: Apr 10th, 2011, 08:29am »

Washington Post

State cables show rising concern about al-Qaeda in Yemen
By Greg Miller, Saturday, April , 8:30 PM

The warning from two influential French senators was stark, but it suggested there was still time to “save Yemen so that it does not become the next base for Al Qaeda.”

Diplomats in Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt used words such as “frightened” and said al-Qaeda was flourishing as Yemen faltered.

But the most dire assessments came from Saudi Arabia, where officials said Yemen would be a more hospitable environment for terrorists than even Afghanistan and was already so infested that it should be considered al-Qaeda’s “main home.”

In cold and unflinching language, dozens of previously secret U.S. diplomatic cables betray a level of international concern about the terrorist threat emanating from Yemen that is deeper and broader than has been publicly revealed.

The cables, from 2009 and 2010, depict a country on the verge of becoming a failed state even before the recent uprisings; a leader who exploited the threat of al-Qaeda to extract foreign counterterrorism help that he sometimes diverted for use against internal foes; and an al-Qaeda franchise remarkably suited to thriving in Yemen’s tribal culture and rugged terrain.

Mounting demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have heightened U.S. concerns about his country, disrupting counterterrorism operations involving U.S. Special Operations forces, aerial surveillance from armed Predator aircraft and clandestine CIA operations.

The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, predate the Middle East uprisings by 10 or more months. Even so, they illuminate the stakes for the United States and its allies in a nation that, even when seemingly stable, served as a launchpad for attacks, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009.

The documents reveal a level of disagreement and dysfunction in U.S.-Yemeni counterterrorism efforts that helps explain why the campaign against al-Qaeda appears to have stalled after a series of early, high-profile strikes.

Finally, the cables raise new questions about the United States’ reliance on Saleh, an autocrat who is depicted as an often-uncommitted and unfocused partner in counterterrorism efforts long before protests threatened to end his 32-year-old reign.

The State Department declined to address the authenticity of the cables or their contents.

“The United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information,” said Mike Hammer, the department’s acting chief spokesman. “In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with countries to solve shared problems.”

Diversion of resources

A cable issued by the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, last year noted that elite Yemeni counterterrorism units built with extensive American help to target al-Qaeda were instead being used by Saleh to subdue Houthi rebels in the country’s north.

The diversions included elements of Yemen’s special operations forces and one of its counterterrorism platoons. Both were sent “after Yemen’s regular forces struggled against the Houthis’ unconventional tactics,” said the cable, sent Jan. 13, 2010, by then-U.S. Ambassador Stephen A. Seche.

Saleh kept the counterterrorism team focused on the Houthi fight even after a Ni­ger­ian trained by al-Qaeda in Yemen allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound flight.

Cables from capitals across the region lament Saleh’s apparent unwillingness to focus on the threat of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as the Yemen-based off-shoot is known. Some leaders all but warned the United States that it was being hoodwinked.

Qatar’s prime minister urged the United States to support Saleh but to be skeptical of his assertions. “After 9/11 America liked to hear that nations were fighting against al-Qaeda,” Sheik Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani said, according to a cable from Doha. “But leaders should not fight their own wars and say they are fighting al-Qaeda.”

Sometimes Saleh himself slipped. Even when seeking to secure more money and weapons from U.S. visitors, Saleh struggled to convince them that he shared their commitment to the counterterrorism cause.

In a 2009 meeting with the deputy director of the CIA, Saleh ranked AQAP as a threat “on the same level” as separatists in the south and Houthi rebels in the north. Then, realizing his misstep, he quickly revised his rankings to put AQAP first.

“Saleh’s decision to reverse himself . . . was almost certainly taken with his U.S.G. interlocutors in mind,” a cable noted.

In recent weeks, there have been sporadic reports that Yemen’s counterterrorism teams have again been diverted, this time to police the capital and help suppress opposition groups that have mounted protests against Saleh.

U.S. officials said they have seen no evidence to confirm that assertion but acknowledge that American-Yemeni counterterrorism operations have all but ceased.

A Yemeni official briefed on security operations in the country said counterterrorism teams and special forces units have not been deployed against the protests. “Mainly they’ve been in their garrisons,” the official said.

The Obama administration had embraced Saleh and sought to encourage his cooperation with the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. But the administration appears to be stepping back now, and it has placed a hold on much of that money.

British-backed plans to open counterterrorism centers in provinces where AQAP is active also have been shelved by Saleh’s government, the Yemeni official said, because of “political turmoil.”

Even when Western-funded efforts to expand Yemen’s counterterrorism capabilities have moved forward, they have been hobbled by petty rivalries involving Saleh’s relatives.

A 2010 cable describes debilitating frictions between the country’s counterterrorism unit — in which a nephew of Saleh’s holds a top position — and special forces that carry out raids against AQAP and are commanded by the president’s son.

U.S. officials attended the unveiling of an intelligence-sharing center in Sanaa, where computers, digital mapping systems and communications gear were installed in place of an archaic setup that relied on “three old computers” and hard-copy maps.

But Saleh’s son was a “conspicuous” no-show at the ceremony and declared plans to establish a competing facility, according to the cable, which concluded that “the rivalry between Yemen’s two premier CT forces is far from over.”

Prospect of Saleh ouster

Despite such frustrations, U.S. officials have expressed concern that counterterrorism efforts might deteriorate if Saleh is driven from office. It is an apprehension that U.S. allies have long shared.

Saleh is “not the best leader,” said Saudi Arabia’s top counterterrorism official, Prince Nayef, according to a 2009 cable. But Saleh’s removal “would leave a vacuum that would further weaken Yemen.”

A splintered state would probably provide greater sanctuary for terrorists, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials. In recent months, they have begun describing AQAP as posing a more immediate threat to American interests than al-Qaeda’s core in Pakistan.

Whether a successor to Saleh would be as willing to allow CIA teams to operate inside the country and Predator aircraft to patrol overhead is a source of worry for U.S. leaders. A 2005 cable raised concerns about one possible contender, Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a powerful figure who recently threw his support behind the protest movement.

“Ali Mohsen’s questionable dealings with terrorists and extremists . . . would make his [ascension] unwelcome to the U.S.,” the cable said. “He is known to have Salafi leanings and to support a more radical Islamic political agenda than Saleh.”

The cables describe a steady flow of militant fighters into Yemen, suggesting that the center of gravity for al-Qaeda has been shifting away from Pakistan for some time.

“Several hundred al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists currently operate in Yemen and most of them come from abroad,” said a dispatch summarizing the concerns of French authorities last year. The cable also conveys a French request, naive-sounding in hindsight, to avoid calling public attention to the problem for fear of making it worse: “The media focus on the country risks increasing the country’s allure to terrorists, who may soon perceive Yemen as a particularly prestigious destination in which to base themselves.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/state-cables-show-rising-concern-about-al-qaeda-in-yemen/2011/04/07/AFrH6EAD_story.html?hpid=z2

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« Reply #3598 on: Apr 10th, 2011, 08:33am »

Telegraph

Cannabis plants are being grown at a secret facility in the south of England in the hope of producing a new treatment for epilepsy.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
8:00AM BST 10 Apr 2011

Researchers at the University of Reading have discovered that three compounds found in cannabis leaves can help to reduce and control seizures in epilepsy.

They are now using extracts from the plants grown in huge industrial-sized greenhouses in the south of England to develop new drugs that could ease the misery of millions of epilepsy sufferers around the world. In the UK alone there are more than 500,000 people who suffer from epilepsy.

Dr Ben Whalley, who is leading the research at the department of pharmacy at the University of Reading, said tests in animals had shown the compounds effective at preventing seizures and convulsions while also having less side effects than existing epilepsy drugs.

He said: "There was a stigma associated with cannabis that came out from the 60s and 70s associated with recreational use, so people have tended not to look at it medicinally as a result.

"Cannabis is thought of being a treasure trove of compounds that could be used for pharmacological development. We have a list of around a dozen potential candidates for epilepsy and have tested three that show promise.

"These compounds are very well tolerated and you are not seeing the same kind of side effects that you get with the existing treatments."

Epilepsy is caused by sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain that disrupt the normal way in which messages are transmitted. This can cause debilitating seizures and fits that can lead to sufferers injuring themselves.

Dr Whalley, together with his colleagues Dr Claire Williams and Dr Gary Stephens have been working with drug company GW Pharmaceuticals to develop and test new treatments for the disease from cannabis.

Two of the compounds they have identified, one called cannabidiol and the other called GWP42006, have been highly effective at controlling seizures in animals and the researchers now hope to begin clinical trials in humans within the next three years.

Neither of the compounds produce the characteristic "high" associated with cannabis use.

The scientists, whose latest findings on the compounds are published in the scientific journal Seizure, believe they work by interfering with the signals that cause the brain to become hyper-excitable, which leads to epileptic seizures.

Until now the main medicinal use that has been explored for cannabis has been in treating Multiple Sclerosis and for pain relief in cancer patients.

GW Pharmaceuticals has been given a license to grows around 20 tonnes of cannabis a year at its facilities in a rural part of southern England for medicinal research. In each glasshouse the temperature is carefully maintained at 77 degrees F while the crops are protected by electric fences and 24 hour security.

Mark Rogerson, from GW Pharmaceuticals, said: "Medicinal cannabinoids can treat a wide range of diseases like MS and pain.

"The work by Dr Whalley and his team is taking us into a whole new area where there is a real unmet need.

"The stigma is counterbalanced by the fact that it is a serious medicine for a serious condition."

A spokesman for Epilepsy Action said: "Epilepsy is a condition that can be very difficult to treat.

"We are aware of some people with epilepsy who have used cannabis for medicinal purposes. However, it should be noted that although taking cannabis may reduce seizures in some people, it could actually increase seizures in others.

"We therefore welcome research into this treatment area. It could help our understanding of alternative therapies and may prove useful in the long-term for people whose epilepsy does not respond to more traditional methods."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8440303/Cannabis-could-be-used-to-treat-epilepsy.html

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« Reply #3599 on: Apr 10th, 2011, 08:43am »

LA Times

Civil War-

A chapter that's all but forgotten: When the war came west

Soldiers from the North and South battled each other — and Indians — in Arizona.

Catharine Hamm
April 11, 2011


Things hadn't gone according to plan — do they ever in war? — and now, Lt. James Barrett was going to make them right. The cavalry officer and his dozen or so men would rescue his colleague, Capt. William McCleave, from those nettlesome rebels hiding near Picacho Peak, and McCleave would be returned to his rightful place with the California Volunteers and regulars.

The honor of California, a state that contributed more than 15,000 troops to the Union war effort, was at stake. But more than that, if the Confederates won control of the Southwest, riches from the gold, silver and copper mines would go to President Jefferson Davis and his fledgling nation. The Confederates would have access to the ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco, facilitating trade and diverting Union resources. And perhaps most important, the gray coats would have room to expand their new nation, creating a vast land and possibly winning the support of European nations.

If the Confederacy succeeded in building the Southwest into an empire, the Union was finished.

Barrett, more than likely, was focused on freeing McCleave, but perhaps he also felt the weight of the nation's future. And perhaps this is why Barrett, an experienced officer, made the mistake that buoyed the sagging rebel forces in what many consider the westernmost battle of the war. His error was costly but not fatal to the Union. The same could not be said of him. He is still out here, buried, it's said, by Interstate 10, along with some of the most interesting and underappreciated history of the American Civil War.

War in the West

In Northern Virginia, where I spent some of my growing-up years, the Civil War is so entwined with day-to-day life that you cannot escape it. If proximity to Manassas, Va., and Gettysburg, Pa., weren't reminder enough, there is always Abraham Lincoln's statue, 125 tons of sorrow, at his memorial in the District of Columbia.

The ghosts of conflicts past reminded me endlessly of the country's schism, but the absence of same in the West had left me feeling untethered. The Civil War defined a nation, but where was California's bond?

Not far away, I discovered. There were battles in these parts, important ones that "should be regarded as one of the decisive campaigns of the war," Brevet Brig. Gen. Latham Anderson, a colonel who was a commander of California Volunteers, wrote after his retirement some years later.

My curiosity took me last month to Picacho Peak State Park, about 45 miles northwest of Tucson, to see the site of that alleged westernmost battle. Some dispute the geographic distinction and point to a fight at Stanwix Station, about 80 miles east of Yuma, Ariz; others say that it was too small to count. Picacho wasn't much larger, they say, not a battle at all but a skirmish. I'll leave that to historians to argue.

What I can't argue is the shift in perspective that occurred after my Picacho (Spanish for "big peak") visit to see its Civil War reenactments, conducted annually and attracting about 3,200 visitors. Here I got a look, albeit a re-created one, at three of the West's important engagements — Valverde and Glorieta Pass, which are actually in New Mexico, and the Battle of Picacho Peak.

Looking at the brutal Sonoran Desert, I began to understand what those Californians and other troops faced here. Some things could be seen or felt — the outcroppings of rock that could hide the enemy, the menacing saguaro cactus, ready to inflict its spines on anyone who stumbled into their embrace, the dust from the parched earth and the unrelenting sun. Other elements could only be imagined (thank goodness): the snakes, the scorpions, the black widow spiders, the tarantulas and the coyotes that call this desolation home.

And there was one more thing, or, more accurately, one less thing: water. Surviving in these harsh lands meant carrying or finding water for the horses that slurped at least 5 gallons a day, and for the soldiers, who could easily overwhelm one of the infrequent desert wells when they needed to slake their thirst.

It was not yet monsoon season — that comes in the summer — so there were no instant minipools of water, no drop visible (but for the jugs of water along the sutlers' row) and nothing to fight the feeling that every drop of moisture had instantly been sucked from my body. And I was not wearing wool.

Who in their right mind would? The soldiers, both then and now, especially the Union troops. (The rebels were often a bit ragtag, so it was harder to classify their clothing.) With average daily highs in the triple digits in June, July and August and nary a shade tree to be found, soldiers in the wool blue uniform of the day — the sack coat, the pants and often the undergarments — faced a desert environment as hostile as their battlefield foes.

Ah, yes, the enemy. In this arena, the enemy wasn't just a soldier's philosophical counterpart in the War Between the States. It could mean Apaches, who fought everyone, including Pima and Maricopa tribes; it could be Texans, who marched into New Mexico Territory to secure the land for the South. If you were a Texan, it could be the Pima and Maricopa, who generally were allied with the federal government, growing crops and supplying those troops; and it might be Latinos, who often fought for the North, thus pitting them against the South, and who were despised by the Apaches.

"It's a Civil War because people are all fighting one another," said Andrew Masich, author of "The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865."

'It's a swirl of warfare'

The Civil War in the Southwest "is kind of separate from this other war" in the East, said Masich, formerly of Tucson and now president and chief executive of the John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

With a climate that could kill you and the hatred that simmered among those groups, this war was, Masich said, less about the evils of slavery and more about day-to-day survival.

The Californians may have been better equipped to handle the adversity, Masich said. They were "bigger, rougher and stronger," he said, so much so that their hat and shoe sizes were larger and trouser lengths longer than for troops in the East. Besides the physical differences, there was a mind-set too, especially in those Californians who were from elsewhere, as most were.

"You need a good deal of self-confidence to take on a jour-ney through 3,000 miles of dangerous territory, whether that's through the isthmus of Panama or overland," Masich said. "You need to be strong and fit and believe in your ability to accomplish things. You also might be more aggressive."

A handy trait in the bloodiest war in U.S. history and especially in the West, where the enemy came in many guises.

more after the jump
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-arizona-20110411,0,3826300,full.story

Crystal
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