Saturday, January 24, 2009

Interzone People: Ben and Lydia

So I've added another tag, "Interzone People," to highlight some of the folks that make me feel at home here. Iris was first, a couple of posts back, and Bill, her husband, really should be second, but I haven't seen him around today.

So this is Ben, a grad student in mathematical modeling, with a focus on ecological issues. He started out in the department of mathematics, but is switching over to a more biologically-oriented department. Here, he's trying to pretend he's ignoring me.
Here, he says he's trying to pretend that he's "crazy happy." I think it looks like he's either crazy scared, or just... crazy.
And this is Lydia. She's a horticulture major, though my perception is that her interest is shifting to horticultural entomology (bugs that interact with plants, and appropriate ways to deal with them). I'm not even going to mention how she was describing that root tip she's posing with.
I think Ben and Lydia started going out last summer.

One of the things I love about this place is the atmosphere of anti-anti-intellectualism. In other words, most of the people that hang out here are smart, educated, and proud of it. You can learn a lot in casual conversation. Ben showed me how to prove my conjecture about divisibility by eleven, for all number bases. And he's got some terrific math-themed t-shirts, which I hope to stick up here sooner or later. Lydia has filled me in on sampling techniques used to determine insect populations. She and I also share lots of bug pictures and links we come across. "Bug," in this case, referring to arthropods generally, not just insects.

Signs of Spring

As I've mentioned, we have to put up with quite a bit of gloomy weather here in western Oregon, but the payoff is that we get very mild winters overall. We've had a surprising amount of sun the past couple of weeks, and almost no rain during that time: daytime highs in the mid 40's, nighttime lows in the mid to lower 30's. We do get cold snaps from time to time, but most of those are only a day or two long; extended cold is pretty rare, one or twice a decade.

But along with the mild winter, another benefit is that spring flowers start popping up really early- nearly 2 months earlier than what I grew up with in Ohio. I noticed these popping up in front of another vegetarian restaurant as I walked into the Interzone this morning. Yep, dem's flowers. Probably daffodils, and obviously not blooming yet... but on their way.
Actually, snowdrops and crocuses are the first to bloom; I haven't noticed any of those coming up yet, but they're normally going full bore by mid February. The daffodils will be blooming in about a month. And no, this is not due to global warming... we just have really mild weather here. I have always been blown away by spring flowers in February since I moved here nearly thirty years ago.

Nearly Normal's is the restaurant, and it always looks like spring there. During the summer, their back deck is one of the nicest places in Corvallis to enjoy an outdoor meal. I'm not a vegetarian. I'm quite up front about the fact that there are just some kinds of meat I like too much to ever swear off completely. But meat has become an ever smaller part of my diet, and I'm quite sympathetic to the issues that concern vegetarians.

There They Go Again

Republicans demonstrate their understanding of what Americans are going through, in preparation for a landslide recapturing of Congress in 2010.

What part of FAIL do they not understand? (Image from here.)

President Obamalette

A typical liberal elitist breakfast.

The President Obamalette

Victory Never Tasted So Good

caramelized onions, brie, walnuts, arugula and fresh pear slices in a two egg omelette, served with homefries and toast. $8.95

President Barack Obama signs an executive order requiring interzone customers to eat this delicious omelette. Republican party leaders have criticized the omelette for containing "liberal elitist" ingredients. Vice President Joe Biden, pictured frowning, was heard asking why no one had named an omelette after him.

And here is the maestra of meals, the countess of coffee, and purveyor of many of life's good things, Iris, as she starts my breakfast.
And... TAH DAH!
And here, after some damage, to show all the elitist liberal goodies.
No picture of the empty plate, but believe me, it's empty.

Iris has done the "Barack Obamalette" here at my favorite coffee shop on two previous weekends: after the Democratic National Convention and after the election. Somehow, even though the ingredients are exactly the same, the "President Obamalette" is even better.

Friday, January 23, 2009

If Hutton Had Been a Martian

An angular unconformity on Mars. Original source, full-size image.

Actually, looking at this carefully in the full-size version, I'm not absolutely convinced. The layers that we are apparently looking at edge-on look like they could be a dike, or a shear zone. I don't know of any evidence for large-scale faulting on Mars, so the latter seems less than likely, but a dike seems to me to be a strong possibility. On the other hand, this site just lifts its images and descriptions wholesale from NASA's press releases, and NASA undoubtedly has spent more time with their conclusion and has more expertise than me. So, just saying, there's something that doesn't look quite right about this to me. But whatever the interpretation, it's pretty interesting.

Did Those Statues Just Move?

To whomever I should be crediting this, sorry. I forgot where I found it.

What Rush is Rooting For

So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.” (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.
So there you have it, right from the pig's mouth. I think I would be telling no less than the truth if I said I never hoped for Bush's failure. I hoped things would go well in Afghanistan and Iraq, I hoped No Child Left Behind would work out. But there's a difference between saying, "Given what I know, I don't think this will work," and "I hope he fails." A big difference.

But our little pig in the wings doesn't seem to get that. "America: Love It or Hate It, depending on who's in charge."

Friday Fragment: Cobalt, Ontario Silver

I found this sample at a mine dump at Cobalt, Ontario. The two major minerals are quartz and cobaltite (mineral data, very nice crystal)
The Cobalt deposit is the result of volatile escape from late-stage aplites in the Nipissing Diabase. These aplites intruded the overlying Gowganda Formation, which is itself a fascinating unit of diamictites and other glacial sediments. The Gowganda has been regionally metamorphosed, but only at low T and P; surprisingly subtle sedimentary features are still preserved. So the mineralization is intimately associated with the diabase, but actually located in the sedimentary units.
The texture of this rock strikes me as probably representing a thoroughly replaced breccia, but the patchy nature of the quartz and cobaltite distribution may simply be the original texture, not a texture of the protolith.
Now the thing that excited me about this speciman can be seen in the second and third pictures (crops above and below respectively). Those little black streamers are native silver.
There is a wonderful loop you can do in Ontario if you ever have the opportunity; Sudbury is the world's largest nickle deposit, a sizable copper deposit, and an enormous meteorite impact. Go north to Timmins and tour a gold mine in one of the richest gold deposits of North America. Travel southeast to Cobalt; the area is largely worked out in terms of silver, but my sense is that there is still quite a bit of cobalt, and the mine dumps are a kick in the pants. From there travel south, with a stop near Temagami. On the road's crest on the hill just north of town, there's a great outcrop of banded iron formation and pyrite-bearing black slates. Then head to Bancroft, Ontario to check out some of the most exotic and extreme minerals on the planet.

I had the opportunity to do just this loop with a friend and fellow geology student in 1988; it was truly a wonderful experience.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just a Theory

From The Bronze Dog, w/ hat tip to Bing.

Getting ready to head out, and realized I've been meaning to post this for a while. I'm not going to get into the whole "theory vs. law vs. fact" discussion right now, nor do I feel it is appropriate to ridicue others' religeous beliefs. But let's just say that on the day it's OK for me to invite myself to your church to deliver the sermon, that's the day it'll be OK for you to invite yourself into my science classroom to teach about "just a theory." K? THNX, BAI!

A Piece for the World's Smallest Violin

“It was an ungracious inaugural. It was pretty clear he was taking shots.”

My Heart Bleeds. But then, I'm a liberal. That's what it's supposed to do.

He Tried

(From OregonLive)
So this has been endlessly discussed, and I don't need to say too much more beyond what's already out there. The question I do want to toss into the mix is this: Does anybody else find it eerily apropos that the very last official act of the Bush administration was messed up and required a do-over?

We Don't Mess Around

Jan 22 - A court in China has handed down the death sentence to two men for their involvement in China's contaminated milk scandal. (Reuters- additional article here.)

And neither does China, at least after the horse has escaped the building. There seems to be a recurring pattern in China: a scandal threatening the lives and health of thousands emerges. The government claims they have everything under control, and it's no big deal. Then people start dying. The government claims they have everything under control, and it's no big deal. Thousands are hospitalized. The government claims they have everything under control, and it's no big deal, and, oh by the way, we're executing those responsible.

Whereas, in this country, we do have restrictive quality laws on the books. And when we don't enforce them, and thousands are harmed as a result of shoddy practices or materials, the responsible company might go bankrupt, wiping out the shareholders. And those in charge of making those decisions get their golden parachutes, and are consigned to a shameful, well-off retirement. Or they may have to work for some other company for millions per year.

So companies in this country are, you know, really careful about making sure that quality and consumer safety are top priorities. Unlike China.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bankers Have Smaller Balls

Comrade E.B. Misfit, always a great source of concise (and very often hilarious) commentary and news, points out an astonishing graphic comparing the value of a number of financial institutions as of quarter 2, 2007 and the best estimate as of yesterday. Not for the faint-of-heart. And you really should click over to read the title she put on that post; she came up with a better one than I did.

I Can Haz Headache?

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Picture from DRB. Caption and post title from my own twisted mind. Like I've said before, I don't need to hear any whining. I have to LIVE in here.

Wednesday Words

Whaddya think these mean?

I Can Relate

From OregonLive. Haven't got to my Wednesday Words yet, and Blooger is apparently going down for some scheduled maintainence in a few minutes. I'll try to get those up before I go home, but we'll see what happens.


Ilham Anas, a photographer from Jakarta, Indonesia. Oh, and on the right is our new president. From BBC. They have a video, which I can't figure out how to embed. The resemblance is uncanny.

The Swarm

(Courtesy of GeoEye.)
Callan Bentley at NOVA Geoblog has found a mind boggling satellite image of the crowds at yesterday's inaugural festivities. Click over to see at nearly double the size of the above picture. As he notes, despite all appearances, that dark mass is not a swarm of angry ants boiling out to defend their nest. New Scientist also has a series of four images; not as high resolution but still pretty amazing.

Followup: It looks as if all of these are crops and pieces of one large image, which can be seen here.

Followup 2: Avram Grumer at Making Light points out the original source (10 Mb download), and the opportunity to download the huge full size image at 3 times the width and height of the version linked in the first followup. He also points out that the satellite taking the shot captured a second satellite passing below it! Amazing! And a sharp commenter points out that in Google Maps, you can see the same satellite with a whole lot more boats tied up at it! Oh it just keeps getting better!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New and Improved

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Automatic Kitty Massager

AKA, "subwoofer." Whatever makes the cat happy is good by me.

Who Comes Up With These Silly Titles?

I was hoping Bryan at In Terra Veritas could mentor me on space...
Guess not.


At T+ 1 hour and 30 minutes...

And counting.



Monday, January 19, 2009

A Farewell Salute

From Tom Tomorrow
With 14 hours and counting. At the time of my next post we will have a new president. I'm going over to Bill and Iris' house to watch the coverage on Comedy Central... I'm not too excited about all the ceremony and pomp and circumstance, but I expect Obama's speech to be a barn burner. Despite what you might infer from this blog, I expect him to be human. I expect him to make mistakes. I fully anticipate that he will seriously piss me off on multiple occasions. And I expect I will rant about those times. Unlike the right, I'm willing to admit that those I admire don't always do what I think is best, and I won't try to rationalize those times. In short, Obama is not going to be the answer to all my prayers.
But he and Biden are light years beyond where we'd be with McCain and Palin.
And... Dang! The guy knows how to deliver a speech!

15 Hours and 45 Minutes

...and counting.
Yes, I have dismounted that horrible ghoul from the sidebar. All the clicking worked! He's going away!

Monday Mineral: Serpentine

Serpentine is the result of hydration and alteration of ultramafic minerals, particularly high Mg olivine. So you can often find it in ophiolites. This sample is from highly broken (tectonized) upper mantle peridotite.
I picked this up 3 1/2 years ago when my sister and her family were visiting. We were drving up route 199 from the Redwoods (I would have never guessed there was a connection to Winnemucca ,Nevada), and commented that there was an interesting mineral spot coming up. My brother in law made it clear that this was something he was interested in, so we stopped.
(crop from the above photo; I suspect the black inclusions are chromite)
The samples in this outcrop are not immediately obvious; you need to poke along the fracture surfaces, brush off sediment that has washed down the cliff face, and pry apart seams to find the nicest pieces- but a little effort pays off nicely.
As with this sample, most of the material here is completely faced with slickensides. I think of serpentine as being somewhat plastic under any kind of shear, and it tends to be concentrated along fractures. This whole outcrop is little but fractures.
A crop from the above photo.
If you haven't played with Google Street View yet, it's fun. And while their coverage is far from complete, there are a number of nice rocky roads that have made it into their coverage. As it happens, this outcrop is one of them. The cliff to poke around in is just beyond that tree in the middle left of the photo. If you're coming from the coast, you'll pass this landmark just before you get to the creek and the road on the other side of the creek. (Photo from Google Earth)
And this is the Google Earth view. Pin coordinates are 41.875767 -123.843614

Now as it happens, I almost did this as my first Monday Mineral last week, but decided to go with the sunstones instead. I say, "as it happens," because serpentine should have been in the news last week. You probably heard all the fuss over methane on Mars.

(This is today's APOD)

That story actually broke shortly after the rovers landed five years ago, and at the time, it was generally reported that the only explanation was either igneous/volcanic activity or biological activity. Either of these would be revolutionary. Mars is too small and too cold to be a likely place for current igneous activity- though I suppose it's not completely beyond possibility. The discovery of life off of Earth, though, would IMHO be the most profound discovery in history- I can't imagine anything that would more dramatically change our view of our place in the cosmos.

So when it was announced a few months later that the process of serpentinization could create substantial amounts of methane, I was a little disappointed. Reassured by the self-correcting nature of science, but disappointed. Note that I am NOT saying serpentinization is creating the methane (nor methane hydrates created by this process), but all else being equal, it seems the simplest explanation- less revolutionary than either magmatism or life on that planet. Phil Plait has a nice piece today on the inabilty of science journalists to actually report science in the context of Martian methane. So the take-away message is not that methane on Mars is unimportant, nor is it that we have demonstrated life doesn't exist there. Rather it's that in this day and age, hype and showmanship- entertainment- take precedence over any sort of rational balance and respect for the facts. And that a little knowledge of a mundane (if quite pretty) mineral might- just might- offer a simpler explanation.


Sadly, I spilt some of my favorite coffee on it, but I do have my own little piece of paraphernalia/history/memorabilia. The thing that I love, love, love about this is that it is (I'm pretty certain) a concious echo of this classic Onion piece. I didn't expect that I would actually come across it again, but Teresa at Making Light has compiled an enormous archive of the Onion's sublime reporting over the last eight years. Just reading through the headlines is good for some sad smiles, but this is one nightmare I will have a hard time laughing off. Thanks, Teresa!

19 hours and counting...

Someone Give the Man a Light

Look, if he can dig us outta this, he can smoke whatever he damn well pleases, as far as I'm concerned. 20 hours and 20 minutes. And still counting.


I am nerdier than 93% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk on the nerd forum!

ReBecca Foster at Dinochick Blogs has found another nerd test! With a hat tip to Kay. I do seem to do well at these, but ReBecca and Kay both beat my score. My hat is off to you, my ladies.

20 hours and 40 minutes and counting...

21 Hours and 20 Minutes

...and counting...
8 years ago The Nation published this as its cover illustration with the caption "Worry." I'm sure I speak for many when I say, "I had no idea."

But I'm happy to provide my own caption now: Buh-Bye!

Designated Driver

I like this metaphor. Non Sequitur daily comic at Gocomics.

24 Hours and 20 Minutes

...and counting.