Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Record Store Cats SPREE

funny gifs - He's really feeling it.
see more Señor Gif

Señor Gif has posted a series of ten (to this point) Record Store Cats; above is my favorite. Rather than linking all ten, the general form of the url is below:

The last digit for the above animation is 7; it was the seventh posted. Substitute 1-10 for that last number in the navigation bar and you can see the other nine. This is a case where the charm and humor is extended rather than exhausted by repetition. Actually, I just realized if you just enter the domain name and date, it takes you to the 7/31/10 archive (two pages; click "2" at the bottom of the first page).

Saturd80's: Laurie Anderson Edition

My all-time favorite, no one has ever made me laugh and kept me thinking- sometimes guessing- more than Laurie Anderson. Below the clip is a transcription from a Wired article. Though the article gives 1990 as the date, I think I saw her do this bit on a tour stop in Portland in 89. PSA; National Anthem:

In a video pulled from her 1990 performance, Empty Places, the Anderson persona leans toward us, her Statue of Liberty spiked hair framing one of those planed faces that fashion photographers love (but animated by a cheer and intelligence never seen in fashion spreads), her aspect a bit mock-solemn, a bit faux-naive, her voice a richly modulated mezzo, her diction precise and nuanced. Hers is a grownup voice, and she invites us to share the joke:

"You know, I'd have to say my all-time favorite song is probably the US national anthem. It is hard to sing though, with all those arpeggios. I mean you're out at the ballpark and the fans are singing away and it's sort of pathetic watching them try to hang on to that melody."

She seems to stop and think. "The words are great, though - just a lot of questions written during a fire. Things like:

'Q: Hey? Do you see anything over there?

A: I dunno...there's a lot of smoke.

Q: Say! Isn't that a flag?

A: Hmmmm...couldn't say really, it's pretty early in the morning.

Q: Hey! Do you smell something burning?'

"I mean, that's the whole song! It's a big improvement over most national anthems though, which are in 4/4 time: 'We're number one! This is the best place!'" She's marching, puffing, and posturing, capturing and demolishing the jingoism that underlies every national anthem you can think of. Then she stops, as if struck by a new thought.

"I also like the B side of the national anthem - 'Yankee Doodle.' Truly a surrealist masterpiece." She phrases the familiar words carefully and you hear them again for the first time: "Yankee Doodle came to town. Riding on a pony. Stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni." Now, if you can understand this song, you can understand anything that's happening in the avant-garde today."
Let X=X:

From "Home of the Brave," Sharkey's Day:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Those Darned Japanese

Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts

Japanese macaques will completely flip out in when presented with a flying squirrels, a new study in monkey-antagonism has found. The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.
Because, as has long been recognized, discussed, and bemoaned, our current methods of enraging monkeys are archaic, and not nearly sufficient for our needs. (CSM)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Accretionary Wedge: Reflecting on The Geoblogosphere

(photo via The Rude Pundit)

Note: This wedge has now been accreted at History of Geology; there are many great posts and lots to think about. Thanks, Dave!

This month's topic is pretty involved, and I've been very impressed with the depths to which many responses have gone; I'm afraid I'm not likely to measure up. Here's an overview, from the two geobloggers who came up with the idea, first from Dave Bressan at History of Geology, who issued the call for posts:
So philosophizing around (geo)blogging with Dr. Welland many questions raised: like how bloggeology can “impact” society and "real geology" , should and can we promote the "geoblogosphere", and are blogs private “business” or public affairs, and institutions underevaluating the possibilities given by this new method of communication?
Second, from Michael Welland at Through the Sandglass, on his thoughts regarding the matter:
One of the many things that strike me about the geoblogosphere is its civility and objectivity. The more lurid and globally popular segments of the blogosphere as a whole are filled with vituperative, ad hominem - and often inarticulate and, of course, anonymous - rants. Not so with us geobloggers, which is a good thing - is this something that can be exploited constructively? There is, after all, much discussion (much of it vacuous) about the role of the blogosphere, and I've been doing a little probing around some of the (non-vacuous) examples of this. One of the "debates" is whether blogging is journalism - in my view, this question, as such, doesn't mean much since both blogging and journalism cover such a multitude of sins. But the question is interesting in terms of the relationship between blogging and journalism, within which lies a possible future vector for the responsible blogosphere.
And finally, here's my paraphrase at The Accretionary Wedge:
I interpret this to be asking what role the geoblogosphere should play going forward. Should it have a role in disseminating research? Should geoblogging be factored into academic- or business- employees’ evaluations? Can, and how should, the expertise and enthusiasm of geobloggers be harnessed to effectively reach and educate the broader public? In short (again, as I interpret the issue), what do you see as the purpose of geoblogging and the geoblogosphere?
So I think the answer is probably 42... and now that I have an answer I have to figure out what I actually thought the question was.

I guess I'm a little uncomfortable with that, because it forces me to decide what the geoblogosphere is, and I can't do that: I can only express my interpretation of what I think it looks like to me. It's sort of like the four blind men and the elephant parable; one thinks it's like a wall, one thinks it's like a snake, one thinks it's like a tree trunk, and one thinks it's like a sheet. I guess my metaphor would be that it's an ecosystem. There are lots of different members, each with their own niche, or role, that they define or evolve into over time.

I have described myself (and certainly think of myself) as a peripheral member of this ecosystem. A quick calculation shows that about 1 in 6.7 of my posts is one on which I have put the Geology label. In other words, the majority of my posts are not related to geology. Furthermore, while I received a very good undergraduate education in that major, and I do a lot of lay-level reading on the topic, it's not a subject in which I'm actively involved in either research or formal education. I frequently find my old knowledge needs to be updated, and since I don't actively use it much, I find that I've forgotten a great deal.

All that said, why should I even bother trying to address the admittedly nebulous question? Geology is important. And it's woefully undervalued and ignored in our society. When I created this blog, it was mostly for my own entertainment; an online archive, scrapbook, what have you, of things that captured my attention for a while. As it turns out, about 3 in 20 of those things are geology related. That's certainly a higher ratio than it would be for a typical person. I think I came to geology for the beauty and stayed for the awesome- and I mean awesome in the old, now somewhat archaic, sense of conferring a sense of awe. Of being somewhat paralyzed by the spectacle, by the connections, by the implications of something I've learned or seen. Even a little fearful, perhaps. As regular readers know, I'm quite fearful for the fate of our species in light of what we know of the past, and what our collective decision making is like in the present. The earth, and some fraction of its biota, will abide. Humanity, if it cannot learn from its environment, will not.

Having some sort of geoliteracy is critical to understanding our environment. That has become a part of why I do geology posts: I have a great diversity of readers, some geoliterate, some not. I enjoy sharing my excitement with the beauty and power of our planet, and I feel an obligation to help people understand some of the forces that shape it. Blogging is clearly not the medium to accomplish this most effectively- the format is not conducive to creating a well-organized, long to medium-term organization of related "lessons." On the other hand, like many "educational" science TV shows, it's better than nothing, and perhaps promotes a positive attitude that will motivate some readers to take advantage of other educational opportunities. I'm not king (nor would I want to be), so I can't mandate that people take a minimum of two geology courses (internal processes and surface processes), and an oceanography and meteorology course. I can offer mini lectures and juicy photos from time to time. I can also bring faulty journalism to attention when it gets under my skin. Again, this may not have much effect in the grand scheme of things, but it's pressure in what I believe is the right direction. I suspect most geobloggers would agree with that sentiment.

So the point is, I have my own esoteric reasons and philosophies at work with respect to geoblogging, and I'm sure that others do too. I agree with Silver Fox that it feels inappropriate to decide what direction the geoblogosphere "should" go, anymore than I should decide which direction an ecosystem should go. Bloggers will join in the future, and bloggers will drop out. The aggregate at any given moment will interact with each other and the overall community through subtle and not-so-subtle feedbacks to create an ever-changing network of information and attitudes.

One of the things I dearly wish could happen- probably so impractical as to be impossible- is an index of geology blog posts by topic. There must be many tens of thousands of those already, so just filing those already existing would be a herculean task, and as time goes by, more and more geoblogs appear on the radar. A number of bloggers, for example Callan Bently at Mountain Beltway, and his old NOVAGeoblog, and Garry Hayes at Geotripper, have managed to piece together many posts that collectively do a great job of describing the geology and history of their regions (northern Virginia and California, respectively). As I noted earlier, the blogging environment is not conducive to the same kind of organizational discipline as, say, my copy of Geology of Oregon. I suppose one could set out to create a blog with the same kind of organization, but I think it would be tough. Series of posts can accomplish some of the same goals as chapters, and both Callan and Gary have used that mechanism admirably. Still, it would be nice to be able to go to a single site and find links to the posts about a place or topic. Google works for some things, but it often returns garbage.

One of the things that Michael alluded to in his discussion was the civility of the geoblogosphere. I think there are three factors at play here. First, those of us who follow other blogs thoroughly and for long periods of time come to develop expectations of other bloggers, and when they consistently live up to those expectations, we develop a sense of trust in their work. Second, and I'm not going to claim this is unique to geology, but it does seem pretty unusual, geology by it's very nature involves trying to make knowledge claims about things we can never know or witness first hand. As such, skepticism, challenging others on the basis of evidence, is second nature to us. We learn early on that we can expect our conclusions to be challenged, the quality of our evidence to be examined carefully, and alternate hypotheses offered. I have seen this devolve into rudeness, and I have seen people get past that. (See Tips for Science Grad Students) But by and large, our discipline requires its practitioners to be civil while at the same time wielding knives. Like doctors in the pre-anesthesia era, the object is not to hurt the patient, but to do what the patient needs. That might necessitate some pain, but as long as both parties understand that, the outcome is beneficial. As geologists, we understand in a semiconscious way that we're all doctors and we're all patients. And we have little patience with trolls, who have no intention of helpfulness, and every intention of simply being painful. Which leads to the third factor: there are some geobloggers who get a lot of hits, but we have no superstars, like Pharyngula or the Bad Astronomer. As a result, there are no "targets" that are going to draw trolls. I'm sure most of us have had snotty comments that either haven't passed moderation, or have been removed by the blogger, but we just drop them and forget them. We're not inclined to give cranks attention.

So what would I like to see in the geoblogosphere? I have no idea. I don't want to see it become organized in any top-down manner. Just as a real ecosystem is comprised of populations of species each struggling for its survival, and as a result, stunning variations and diversity arise seemingly out of nothing, the geoblogosphere is an abstraction composed bloggers writing individually or in small groups. And each of those bloggers is host to an enormous population of ideas, each vying for expression. There have been new varieties of geoblogs emerge even in the few years I've been following them. The departmental blog at Wooster Geologists has been a real pleasure for me. It seemed to start out as perfunctory and shallow required posts, then devolved into running Chuck Norris jokes... then it grew up. And I have been repeatedly impressed with it as a platform they are using to share their experiences with each other and the rest of the world. The "Cruise Blog" format is new to me as well- blogging for the duration of a research cruise. One I've been following with particular interest lately is Life on Shatsky.

In short, as with the diversity of life, I think the diversity of geobloggers will surprise and delight me by their unpredictability. They will surpass my imagination. Some will be astonishing successes, some, sadly, will not. As I said earlier, I suspect the majority of us do this with free-choice learning at least in the back of our minds, but let's be honest: the main reason is that we love this stuff, and we think others should too. That they don't can only be due to a lack of opportunity, in our minds.

This has been a long rambling post that kind of gets at some of the ideas that I wanted to express, but not well, I'm afraid. I'd like to thank Dave and Michael for suggesting it; there have been some really great responses, and while partially figuring out what I want to say has been frustrating, it's been rewarding too. Whither the geoblogosphere? Whither ever it wants.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dumb Headline

Strong 5.3 quake rumbles off Oregon coast

Okay, short item, the kind of thing I appreciate knowing about, even though this happens all the time. Two comments, though: first, 5.3 is not a strong earthquake. Had it happened onshore in a populated area there might have been minor damage- it would have startled people, and if someone had been in the wrong place, there could have even been some fatal accidents. (see, for example, two fatalities from a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Klamath Falls in 1993: one from a tumbling boulder hitting a car, the other from a heart attack). But second, and more to the point, a "strong" 5.3 earthquake as opposed to what? A weak 5.3 earthquake?

One more example of an editor trying to add a little punch to a headline, and damaging the value of the story. Minor, sure, but this is the sort of stupid mistake that makes many people question the credibility of media to get anything right, and unfortunately, leads many people to disregard news entirely, instead relying on "impartial" commentators like Beck, Limbaugh, Stewart and Olberman.

Wednesday Wednesday

Oddly, I can't find the picture at the site... it's all links to ads. So just the image today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This... Is Getting On My Nerves

Okay, on the face of it, it is kind of cool, but this set of imagery has been floating around for at least a few weeks now, and I haven't seen any discussion of it beyond "Wow, this is really cool." And just when I thought it had gone and died a nice, quiet, dignified death, as memes are supposed to do, it showed up in two of my feeds again today. Here's what I believe is the original source, and today's posters were and Geology Rocks.

I hate bursting bubbles (no I don't), but 1: this will never happen because it can't happen. 2: If it did happen, the distribution of water and land would be the least of our concerns. And 3: If we managed to survive, this would be extremely ephemeral from a geologic perspective, if not from a human perspective. So let's take a look at each of those points.

This will never happen because it can't happen. To stop the earth's rotation over less than eons would take an enormous impact- so enormous that it would probably generate enough heat to melt the solid part of the earth. No oceans, no life, end of story. There are possible ways to slow the earth's rotation, involving other bodies like the moon, but those would never make the earth "stand still."

If it did happen, the distribution of water and land would be the least of our concerns. Let's suppose some technology indistinguishable from magic (see Clarke's third law), wielded by prank-playing aliens, suddenly stopped the earth's rotation. My current velocity with respect to a non-rotating earth is 700 some miles per hour, better than 1000 km/h. Same with the Pacific Ocean, and everything else in my vicinity. All that stuff and me would suddenly be moving at that speed eastward with respect to the now-fixed earth. And in fact everything more than 10-20 km from the poles would likely be thrown into a fatal chaos.

However, let's suppose our mischievous aliens are at least thoughtful enough to place everything on the earth's surface in the same reference frame as their solid locality- a trickier proposition than it may sound like, at first take. We are now the lucky residents of a planet with one day a year: six months of sunshine, and six months of night. Furthermore, as the pictures show, the ocean is massively out of equilibrium with the new surface geoid. Contrary to the description at the Kottke link, the oceans would not "gradually migrate" toward the poles- there's a 13 mile (21 km) difference between the earth's radius at the equator and at the poles. There's going to be a lot of water moving poleward very quickly. Then there's the weather patterns. Consider that the entire equator would be a "mountain range," more than twice as high as the Himalayas. The two hemispheres would essentially be inaccessible from each other. Global atmospheric circulation would effectively be cut into two separate pieces. And on and on... essentially, this would be the worst extinction event in earth's history, and we would certainly be among those to go.

But finally, if we managed to survive, this would be extremely ephemeral from a geologic perspective, if not from a human perspective. The earth's interior is plastic, and the outer core is liquid. I haven't been able to find a number for the largest known post-glacial isostatic adjustment, but a post from an accretionary wedge entry about a year ago gives a figure of 300 m (1000 ft) in the last 10,000 years. The disequilibrium in this case is much greater, and the response rate would likewise be much higher. I don't know enough about the earth's rheology to make anything approaching a calculated estimate for how long it would take to return to isostatic equilibrium (or at least as close as the earth gets, on a year-to-year basis), but I would guesstimate the time range to be on the order of 100 thousand to a million years.

That last number, whatever it is in reality, is the one to keep in mind. There are natural processes that are slowing the earth's rotation rate- the big one being tidal interactions with the moon. The time it will take to tidally lock one face of the earth toward the (already) locked face of the moon is likely more than the time it will take for the sun to burn itself out. To the extent that the earth slows its rotation between now and then, the surface will adjust isostatically to centripetal changes to effective gravity at the poles versus the equator far faster than those changes will happen.

I guess my irritation with this is that I'm seeing it treated as a "science fiction" scenario, but it isn't. It's pure fantasy.

Tuesday Tits

Furzefield Birds

Monday, July 26, 2010

If You Need Help, Call Somebody

Another video clip, which I had set aside to watch when there were no more important things to pay attention to, turns out to be profoundly important in the entertainment sector.

And the poor kid never does get his take away help.

Going Viral on a Computer Near You

I skip the majority of video clips that come through my innernetz thing, but every now and then one shows up quickly on many sites. Those, especially if they're fairly short, it often behooves me to watch. Below is an example of one that had showed up on four or five sites before I took three minutes to watch it. Three minutes very well spent, I must say. But then, I don't consider myself a member of "good society" either.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why I Take InfoGraphics With A Grain of Salt

Total amount of food eaten: 36,750 pounds... seems like a reasonable estimate. That's about a pound and a half a day.Total amount of feces produced: 6734 pounds. That's a 30,000 lb deficit, and about a quarter pound produced per day. Now much of the food has lots of water, and many of the energy producing components are metabolized to water, but I still think that latter number is, well, full of it.

Das Tub

Two words: Up Periscope

Sunday Funnies

Yet another compilation of silliness to burn through.Very Demotivational
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Bits and Pieces
Sofa Pizza
Above and below from "42 unfortunately burned out signs" at Buzzfeed
Hacked IRL
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Sofa Pizza
Drive the rainbow. The Daily What
Pundit Kitchen
Sofa Pizza
Very Demotivational
The Joy of Tech
Picture is Unrelated
Pundit Kitchen
Yes, that's a cake. Great White Snark
Sofa Pizza
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Oddly Specific
I Can Has Cheezburger
Savage Chickens
Touchy toilets and sensitive sewers. Oddly Specific
Bits and Pieces
Amazing Super Powers
Friends of Irony
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine
Skull Swap
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Sofa Pizza
Stages of Succession
Hacked IRL
The question will be settled. Soon. Very Demotivational
Savage Chickens
The Daily What
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil Pure Evil. Hawtness
Balloon Juice
Pundit Kitchen
Sleestak on the Edge of Forever... Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr; also posted by Pygalgia, where the ensuing discussion confirmed that this is an actual quote of the Palinator praising the virtues of socialism.
The High Definite
I can think of worse ideas, like, umm, like.... No. I can't. Criggo
Clay Bennett
Epic Win
Very Demotivational
ChannelAte via Bits and Pieces
Sofa Pizza
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Engrish Funny
Sober in a Nightclub
Friends of Irony
What Would Jack Do?
The Daily What