Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Dark Roasted Blend posts great stuff. Case in point:

This video was made by morphing between a number of images captured by Hubble, and shows the "light echo" created by a star burst of unknown origin as it illuminates gas and dust progressively further away from the star. You can picture the flash as an expanding shell... the radius expands at the speed of light, so the apparent diameter is expanding at twice the speed of light. As this shell reaches previously dark gas and dust, those clouds are illuminated, and the light then travels to the observer... the Hubble Telescope. Amazing and awe-inspring. A number of other astronomy-oriented pictures on this post.

And as long as I'm mentioning DRB, I got some good giggles from today's post, ridiculous signs. Following are a pair of examples, out of many

Hyperactive Squirrels

I enjoy watching squirrels, but the idea of tree rats hopped up on caffeine is disconcerting, to say the least.
funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals
On the other hand, maybe the reason they behave the way they do is that are always hopped up on caffeine...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sea Lion Caves

More from our coast trip December 20th. Sea Lion Caves claims that it is recognized by Guinness as the largest sea cave in the world. It is the first hit in a Google search for "Worlds largest sea cave," but numerous other pages don't even mention it. I am very skeptical about commercial claims to any "most extreme" anything, and no less so here. Nevertheless, this is a very impressive sight. Is it worth ten bucks for an elevator ride? I guess my feeling is that when I have visitors, I enjoy taking them here. I wouldn't pay to go by myself, but then I've been down to the cave 5 or 6 times.

The cave is formed primarily along a fault that runs roughly north-south, and cuts through a prominant headland south of Heceta Head, and north of Florence, Oregon. A second fault running roughly east-west cuts into the headland; the intersection of these two faults has allowed wave action to erode out the cave.
The above sea lion was found dead after being shot, on a beach near Newport, Oregon. It was seven feet long. It is displayed in the corridor leading up to the north opening, where the next two pictures were taken.The linear structure is evident here; I suspect that the notch at the end of Heceta Head is where this same fault crosses the headland. Until 1961, this was the main entrance; tourists had to descend about 200 feet of steps. Weathered and storm-tossed lumber from the old staircase is still piled up on the floor of this cove. Now, as I mentioned, there is an elevator that brings visitors directly down into the cave. There is a short outdoor walk from the shop to the elevator, with about 30 or 40 steps, but most of the climb has been eliminated.
Zooming in, from the same spot, looking at the same spot. The notch is clearer, and the Heceta Head Lighthouse can be seen.
The south end, and most of the length, of the cave is fenced off with heavy chain link. Photographers are asked to forego flash pictures to avoid scaring the sea lions, so getting a sharp picture without a tripod is tricky. Remember, those fuzzy brown pinnepeds are five to eight feet long. Whether it's the biggest cave in the world or not, it really is big.
The best shot we got that day. You can see daylight coming into the cave from the left, from the main entrance opened up by the east-west fault, and off in the distance, the south opening. So we are standing basically on the north-south fault, looking south. Also visible is an ashy layer between two slabs of basalt. The ash layer is the third plane of weakness that has allowed this cave to erode out.
It smells overwhelmingly of fish, it's noisy with the sea lions barking and howling, but it's worth a visit. The link back at the beginning of the post provides several other photos, including some nice aerial photos of the outside.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

I enjoy this place, but have never had a chance to photograph it. Actually, these photos were taken by my brother Jonathon and nephew Andrew. From our coast trip Dec. 20.
Crustacea. No scale, but the carapace on that back one is about 18 inches across. This was about where I started commenting that the staff would not like me to be stuck in here over night with a frying pan, a camp stove, and some butter.Cephalapoda. About 6 feet across.
Chrondrichthyes got my brother Jonathon.
Another two primates, Jonathon's sons, Nat (left) and Andrew. From a viewing window inside the fish tank.
Cnidaria- sea nettle. This has long been one of my favorite displays at this aquarium. They are just beautiful, though I gather they can be very painful, even fatal. That's irrelevant when they're on the other side of a thick pane of glass.
Your turn... Do you recognize this critter? I don't think I would have without the label, but I'm not sure. It's the first time I've ever seen a living speciman. Another hint in the comments. Imaginary gold star, and actual admiration, for the first commenter to get it right.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Passing

(map and road cams from the ODOT TripCheck page)

So today we need to get back across the Cascades, and of course the weather is being uncooperative. Here it's a mix of snow and rain, with the temperature around 35. Up on the Route 20 passes (Santiam and Tombstone) it's snowing heavily. Throughout the region, the wind is gusting up to 30 miles per hour. It's been howling all night.

And the cables that my sister and brother-in-law bought for their rental van are not fitting well. Each of them have broken a link. We've wired down the loose pieces, and they seem to be working well, but none of us are experienced with chains/cables.

We're considering driving up to the Gorge (I-84), which goes through the Cascades at just above sea-level. The problem there is that we've got to get to the gorge, which might also require chains.

So our choices are 1) Head straight over the mountains, and hope that the chains hold for an hour to an hour and a half. If they break we may have to come back to Sisters or Bend to find traction options, and waste several hours. 2) Take the chains off, and head north on 97 toward the Columbia River Gorge, hoping we don't hit areas where chains are required (more importantly, truly needed). And if we have to waste time putting them back on, will they hold? Not only does the latter option add 115 miles to the trip, we might end up in exactly the same position as we could by just trying to dash through the Cascade passes.

As I've commented several times, Corvallis has spoiled me. It's mild and we just don't get winter weather, with unusual exceptions. The temperature there now is low forties, with a predicted high of 47 degrees today. I have enjoyed the snow here in Bend, and taken many pictures of it over the last few days, some of which I will post sooner or later. But I've had my fill, and snow is great as long as you're just admiring it. Actually dealing with it is a pain in the butt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Inches of snow Portland has seen this month as of late Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. That's the most in December since the state started keeping records in the 1880s.
(From Oregon Live)

And according to the Mt Bachelor website (as of this writing), they have had 168 inches of snow this season. Less than two weeks ago, I was worried they might not have enough by Christmas; there were only 8 inches on the ground, and 18 are required to open. So 160 inches- over 13 feet- have fallen in the last two weeks or less. (In fairness, that has packed down to only 67 inches.)(picture from the Bachelor website photo album, Christmas day)

I'll bet Corvallis has set a record too, though from what I saw on OSU webcams today, it didn't look like they had a white Christmas there.

And the Bend area is expecting more snow tonight. Hope we can get home safely Saturday.

Merry Christmas!

Can you say it too many times?
Christmas sunrise over Newberry Volcano, moments ago, from our porch.

No Sign of Santa

But Merry Christmas anyways! You all have been a great gift all year (I started reading blogs regularly in late '07, but didn't start blogging myself until May), so I don't really need to wait up for the jolly old elf. Have a good one!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Growth of Continents

This month's Accretionary Wedge topic is "What recent geological advance has been most important to your geological work?" I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically my understanding. I had been thinking about writing on paleomagnetism, but the roots of that sub-discipline go back to (if I remember correctly) Cox in 1956- please don't quote me on that: I'm trying to dredge up memories from 20 years ago. (Late Note: See this article excerpt- I have a little more confidence now. Note particularly, "Paleomagnetic results for the Mesozoic and early Tertiary might be explained more plausibly by a relatively rapidly changing magnetic field, with or without wandering of the rotational pole, than by large-scale continental drift.) So the early work in that area predates my birth. Furthermore, the results that have been most important and, yes, inspiring, to me all focus on a particular topic: accretionary tectonics, or as we used to call it when I was an undergrad, "flake tectonics."

Oregon is composed of a fairly large number of discrete terranes, or "flakes" that have distinct and different histories up to a certain point in time. After that point, the geologic history of a particular terrane and its neighbors are congruent and coherent.

As a brief aside, note that "terrane" refers to a particular tectonostratigraphic unit, while the word "terrain" refers to landscape.

So to choose an imaginary but typical example, picture an island arc volcanic system. In the above cartoon, subduction is under the arc to the left, and is consuming oceanic plate between the arc and the continent to the right. Sediments (in tan/greenish?) are accumulating in the basin between the continent and the arc.

The volcanic arc continues to approach the continent, and the basin accumulates more sediment.

As the arc approaches the continent, the sediments continue to accumulate; thrusting and folding start to thicken the sequence. Ultimately, when the oceanic crust is consumed, subduction ceases.
The overlying sediments are severely deformed; while not of the same magnitude as the India/Asia continental collision, the processes are similar. The now accreted island arc and the continent to which it is attached will henceforth share the same sedimentary and tectonic history. In a practical sense, that means events and sediments can be correlated between the blocks. And in reference to my first idea for a topic, they will share similar (basically identical) paleomagnetic histories. Often, subduction will resume on the outboard of the newly accreted block in an opposite direction. This has been called a "polarity reversal," but with a very different meaning from a magnetic polarity reversal.

Geologists will immediately see that I have grossly simplified the diagrams above. For example, the magma rising in the subduction zones that does not reach the surface will crystallize to granitic rocks. Much of the sediment and volcanic rock will be metamorphosed. Faulting and folding will jumble things terribly. A further complication is that an accreted terrane may itself be composed of two or more terranes with independent histories up to a certain point, but share discernible spans of history prior to continental accretion. This is the case in terranes of the Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon and northern California. Back arc spreading following a polarity reversal in a subduction system (as happens between the second and fourth cartoons above) can emplace ophiolites- again, this can be seen in the Klamaths.The above diagram shows schematically the kinds of terranes that have formed much of western North America. The article in which I found it has a larger version, and discusses some of these ideas with respect to the Klamaths.

I had the privilege to take a field trip to the Snake River Canyon area with Tracy Vallier toward the end of my undergrad years; the geology there is somewhat less complex than the Klamaths (at least it seems that way to me), but is still best described as "a mess." This article focuses primarily on Idaho, but provides plenty of insight into northwestern Oregon as well.

The accreted terrain with which I am most familiar was referred to as "Siletzia." I say "was" because I haven't really followed the professional literature; I'm not certain that it still is. Actually, quick check, it does look as if it still is- see here and here. This block extends from approximately Coos Bay, Oregon northward to the southern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The eastern margin, as far as I know, has not been tightly constrained, but probably lies along the eastern edge of the Cascade forearc basin, or along the western edge of the Cascade arc; in either case it is buried in basin sediments and older Cascade volcanics. At a first level of approximation, it consists of oceanic crust, apparently thickened by hot-spot volcanism, overlain by a thick sequence of turbidites (the Tyee Formation, correlates, and similar units of slightly different ages), then a shallowing sequence of marine sediments. During the time I was getting my degree, extensive research into the provenance of these sediments, along with paleomagnetic analysis of units of varying ages, showed that the history of this block was far more complex than the essentially simple sequence of rocks would suggest. Paleomag showed that the oldest rocks were oriented about 90 degrees counterclockwise from their modern orientations- that is, this block, approximately 150-200 km by 700-800 km, originally had its long axis in an east-west orientation. It now has its long axis in a north-south orientation. Progressively younger rock units show progressively less deviation from the modern orientation. Provenance analyses of the sediments suggest that the bulk of the Tyee turbidites were derived from the Idaho Batholith or chemically and isotopically similar granitic rocks, since hidden, further south. Given the age of the Tyee (Eocene), and hypothesized drainages in the northwest, it has been suggested that the drainage from the Green River Basin (home of the marvelous fossil fishes, and an enormous amount of petroleum reserves in the form of oil shale) was the stream that carried these sediments to the head of the Tyee fan.

When I was doing some volunteer teaching for OSU's experimental college, the way I explained this to (non-science) students was that the rock sequence is easy to describe and understand, but if you want to describe where the rocks came from and how they got where they are, it gets very messy very fast.

So even though I don't consider myself a professional geologist, and can't claim that there's any particular breakthrough or advance that has had great implact on my career, my avocation for the last few decades has been to try to make sense out of Oregon geology. When I started my education, tectonics was used primarily to describe the cause of the Cascade arc. By the time I finished my education, accretionary tectonics was considered fundamental to making any sense at all out of Oregon's geologic history.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

C'est Moi

My mom gave me an early Christmas present: a digital camera! A pretty nice one, too. It's the one she's had for a while, so there's been some confusion over the manual (found it online), the camera to computer data transfer (couple of trips to Wal-Mart- or as my brother calls it, Wally World, and a little common sense), and coming up to speed on digital vs. film technology (mostly I've just used auto-everything so far; as I have more time, I'll play with other variables and learn how to take advantage of them). But I have managed to get a not-too-flattering self-portrait, which I have now loaded.

I've been spending most of my time with my family, several of whom are also not skiing, so posting has been light, but I'll try to get up some pictures and descriptions of the magnificent vacation area soon. Since all my family is on the eastern part of the continent, I don't see them too often, and they're my first priority right now.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Only Oregon

Well, here I am in Bend. We do have wifi here and I'm showing my nephews, Kris and Garette, how to write a blog entry. Maybe soon I'll show them how to start their own blog. My other nephews and I went over to the coast yesterday. It was rainy and stormy, but we had a good time. We got to Florence, and I was reminded of this video from about 1980.

Yeah. Only in Oregon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Hiatus?

My family is scheduled to start arriving today, and I think the rest come in tomorrow. We'll be driving across the Cascades to Bend, staying for Christmas at Inn of the Seventh Mountain. Much snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor will ensue. I enjoyed falling down in the snow in my younger days, but my balance is uncertain, my bones feel frail, so I won't be falling down the mountain with younger sibs and nephews. I will take my laptop, and WiFi seems likely, but I don't know for sure. This blog may be out of coffee for a week or so.

So if you don't hear from me, just know I wish you the merriest of Christmas's, the most joyous of Soltices, Kwanzas... whatever your inclinations may be, enjoy them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No, Virginia...

...I hate to be the one who has to break this to you.

1) No known species of reindeer can fly, but there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified. While most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children in the world (persons under 18), but since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist children, that reduces the workload by 85% of the total - leaving 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there is at least one good child per house.

3) Santa has 48 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different times zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000 th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. That means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, at tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming each child get nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting the "flying reindeer" can pull TEN TIMES that normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth II.

5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per second, each. In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized in 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa meanwhile, will be subject to acceleration forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by a 4,315,015 pound force. In conclusion, if Santa ever DID deliver presents of Christmas Eve, he's now dead.

The above was one of the very early gag emails circulating... it's hard to believe that's nearly 15 years ago. I was thinking earlier this week that I should try to find a copy and post it, but the LOL Science blog just posted it again; I have made a couple of minor alterations.

Sorry, kids...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


is the answer to the question asked in a headline from The Guardian yesterday: "Is George W Bush the worst ever US president?" DCap has a much better analysis than I could offer.

But what really troubled me in The Guardian article was this quote: "And if the US president is to be regarded as a figure of moral authority, embodying the nation's values and beliefs, then Bush's personal behaviour has been exemplary compared to many incumbents, and notably that of his immediate predecessor, the intern-challenged Clinton."

Got that? It's OK to lead the nation falsely into war, killing (at a minimum) hundreds of thousands of people you claim to have "freed;" it's OK to subvert the constitution and undermine the very foundation and structure of power in your country, setting the ground work for who knows how many crises; it's OK to hold prisoners without charges, indefinitely- heck, it's even OK to torture them, 'cause 1 in 10 might know something of use, as long as you say "oops, my bad" to the other 9- and actually, even that's not really necessary; it's OK to stage a photo-op with your good buddy McCain and his birthday cake while thousands of people drown or barely survive in third-world squalor- and it's fine to ignore the aftermath for years; it's OK to lie about "the controversy" surrounding global warming, evolution, endangered species, toxins in the environment, ad nauseum; it's OK to give cushy jobs to buddies that are absolutely unqualified for them, and come to that, it's OK to be absolutely ignorant regarding actual, established facts on every single issue pertaining to your own job (beyond how to run divisive, lying and ultimately successful campaigns)- after all you just decide: you don't need to know anything but your gut. It's OK to obstruct every option we might have had regarding oversight on our economy; it's OK to underfund the SEC and every other government arm intended to keep some restraint on the rapacious greed of your base, the haves and the have mores. It's perfectly OK to fuck 95% of the people in this country (and it's looking like the rest of the world too), in fact, according to this jackass in The Guardian, all of those things and more are "exemplary."

But for God's sake, don't have consensual sex with an intern, because- gracious!- that would be immoral.

I See Spam People

One of my much-loved bloggers recently made her comment policy explicit. I hereby follow her example:


I am deeply irritated by advertising, and one of the great joys of the blogosphere is that you can get away from it. I will not host Google's ad (non)sense on my blog, and I will not allow anonymous spammers to use my space for their own enrichment. A number of people have posted links in comments that are relevant and interesting- and that's wonderful: another perk of the bogosphere. But I won't have commercial BS on my site.

Tsunami Tstudy to Tsave Tseaside Tcitizens

Well, that title got out of hand. There's a very interesting article in Oregon Live about a new mapping and computer simulation study being done alone the Oregon coast to look at the potential impacts of tsunamis. This is exactly the kind of stuff that geopeople need to be touting as evidence of our impact on society. A line that caught my attention was this: "The new maps are based on updated computer models that take into account the lessons geologists learned from the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004." In other words, the horrific events of Dec. 26, 2004, are already well-enough studied and disseminated that understandings created in the aftermath may be turned around and save lives half a world away, less than four years later. The article also links a PDF (600 Kb) pamphlet with the resultant map, evacuation routes, and (supposedly) safe areas.

I guess I'm not so keen on putting a building up on stilts to keep it safer in the event... false confidence and all.

Many coastal Oregon communities are on uplifted marine terraces, well out of direct danger from tsunamis. Whether landslides and solifluction are an issue for many of these (in the event of a Cascadia earthquake), I don't know. But a number of communties, such as Cannon Beach and Seaside, are just a few feet up on sand bar and dune substrate. In addition, many communities are based around estuaries- harbors and fisheries are among the major sources of income along the coast, along with forest products and tourism. So for example, Newport, the town on the coast directly west of me, is mostly at an elevation of between 100 and 150 feet, but the bay and surrounding lowlands, while small in area, are pretty heavily built up. So having a good sense of the maximum flood extent of a tsunami could save many lives, even in communities that are mostly out of harm's way.

Incidentally, the project and pamphlet cover Cannon Beach; Seaside (Tseaside is, I guess, the Japanese spelling) is the next community north.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cool and Hot!

Oh this is going to be be interesting! BBC is reporting that a few years back, geothermal energy drillers in Hawaii unexpectedly drilled through into a chamber of dacitic magma. The magma rushed 5 to 10 meters up the shaft before cooling effects of the drilling fluid solidified it. As a result, they now have samples of undegassed, unaltered, quenched magma.

I think you'd need a fair background in geology to understand how important this is, but simplifying, Hawaii is composed of a first generation melt from the mantle, similar to ocean crust- both are dominantly one flavor or another of basalt. To get something like the composition of continental crust, you either need to remove (by fractional crystalization) 95+ percent of the original basalt, leaving the lowest melting temperature fraction behind, or you need to remelt the material one or more times. The latter has the same effect as the former: segregating the materials with the lowest melting temps from those with the highest.

Dacite is much more like continental rock than it is like basalt.

Further, as noted above, the material still has its initial volatile composition (gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide, and water). While it may have been contaminated by the drilling fluids, we know exactly what the composition of those fluids are: we can subtract that contaminant out. We also know where the magma chamber is; we can sample various spots to see how composition varies from one place to another.

I expect the geoblogosphere will be all over this in the next few days, but only a fellow geo-nerd can really understand how interesting this is.

Another Black Eye on the Bush Administration

Apparently during the ruckus following yesterday's shoe-lobbing event (event in the sense of "occurence", not in the sense of "Olympic competition," though we could consider the latter), a microphone was slammed into White House Press Secretary Dana Perino's face. My first alert on this was at buzzfeed:
A quick Google turned up this photo at Huffington Post, among several others, from a news conference this morning.
MSNBC has a tongue-in-cheek report that actually describes what happened (you're so hopelessly out of date, MSNBC. Don't tell people what actually happened- we need to know what she was wearing, and what various pundits think the long-term effects will be.), and it's about what I had guessed. They also report that Perino is referring to it as her "shoe-venir!" Ha, ha, ha! She's just so perky and cute!

Frankly, though, there's a pattern here. 1: Bush commits awesome mistake that 2: Pisses someone off, who 3: Commits poorly-advised violence, the effects of which 4: Fall entirely on unrelated innocent bystanders.

The difference here, of course, is that Perino is complicit with BushCo. nonsense and doubletalk. She is its chief spokesman. Sometimes, despite the machinations of Bush, Cheney and Rove, what goes around does come around.

Monday, December 15, 2008

White With Ice

Most of the snow we were to get fell by 9 or 10:00 last night, and the forecast called for highs in the mid 30's today. I don't think we broke 30, let alone freezing. Places that got a little bit of sun- yes, it broke through intermittently during the midday- melted back a little. Places in the shade either stayed fluffy snow, or if they were trampled or driven on, compressed and became icy. So all the yards are still nice and Christmas-y; all the sidewalks and streets are ice rinks. I only have 3-4 blocks to get home, but I really don't want to end up on my butt.

I also suspect that I used more electricty last night in heat than I've used in the last two months combined. Exaggeration, maybe, but it's actually the first time since I moved in to this apartment in May 3 1/2 years ago, that I left the baseboard heat on all night. Mid-fifties is OK by me; mid-forties is not- and at that point I'm risking freezing pipes in outer walls.

We're supposed to get down to mid-teens this evening, the coldest it's been here in maybe five years. In reality, it's pretty cloudy right now, and if they don't move out, I'll bet we don't get down to 20. Cold for the rest of the week, though highs and lows both are predicted to slowly climb, and snow showers from time to time, but no more major accumulation.

And yes, the cat was very happy when I let her back in about 10:30. I'm sure she'll be happy to see me come home this evening.

Scylla and Charybdis

In Greek mythology, two monsters that resided on either side of the Strait of Messina. Scylla was a monster perched on a rock that would eat sailors off their boats; Charybdis would swallow vast quantities of water, creating a whirlpool that swamped passing ships. These classic references have come into colloquial English as "between a rock and a hard spot." According to Toles, we seem to have encountered the whirlpool.

It Can Get Smelly When Floodwaters Recede

David Sarasohn at Oregon Live puts his finger on exactly what's been worrying me about the Madoff story. I've alluded before that I feel like I know enough about economics that I can think it through intelligently for myself, but (believe it or not), I'm uncertain about speaking out most of the time. In this particular case, I get little pleasure and a lot scared from seeing someone saying what I've been thinking.

Other Milestones

Today the Electoral College electors all get together and work out their schedule for Winter Term... no, scratch that. The electors all get together and vote for president. Think you vote for president? Nope. You vote for an elector, a representative from your state, who casts a vote in the Electoral College. They are the ones who actually vote for the president. This all gets very confusing to me, and I have never liked the system. I know, I know, there's at least one reason to work it this way. I still don't like it, but it is what it is.

A question I have frequently discussed with others, but never had definitive answers to, was finally adressed by DCap (front page here) back in October: What happens if a nominee becomes unable to serve at various points in the process between the party convention and the inauguration?

He highlights, with his wonderfully cynical humor, four key dates:
-November 4th, 2008 - the general election. Remember we are voting for electors from each state – NOT the candidate directly.
-December 15th, 2008 - the electors casts their votes. Remember technically the electors (who are party loyalists) can vote for whomever they want.
-January 6th, 2009 - the opening of the joint session of Congress. The electoral votes are officially counted, certified and the winner is declared.
-January 20th, 2009 - Inauguration Day, when the winner is sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
I've been meaning to link to this post for a while- it's a bit confusing, but it's important to understand: This is the way we run our country! I have learned more about US politics and history from DCap than from any teacher, and I highly recommend his blog if that kind of thing interests you. I would have forgotten that today was the electoral vote if another blogger hadn't mentioned it.

Long story short, whatever you may have been led to believe, today is the day we find out who wins the presidency for the next four years. We'll see if any of the media (outside the blogosphere) bothers to report on it.

Followup: Yay! MSM comes through in the form of KATU, a Portland TV station. KUDOs, KATU! Oregon has voted for Obama (7 whole votes!).


Oh Boy! I just realized that my last post was number 300! And I'm within two or three days of my 3000th visitor! So on average, each post has been read 10 times- if I assume each visitor reads only one post. Why the devil is it that we are so pleased by nice round numbers? Just think, if we had evolved with only 8 fingers (or, technically, six fingers and two thumbs), I could have had this celebration at 192 posts. Conversely, if I had 10 fingers and 2 thumbs, I would have to wait for post number 432.

What the hey. Whee!

Gracious Thanks

Lifted with glee from E.B. Misfit:

A buddy in an email list suggested that people find the nastiest, filthiest shoes they can and send them to George W. Bush. I think it's a great idea, so see if you can find an old shoe along the side of the road or at a second-hand store. Pack them up and sent them to George Bush.

The Hon. George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

President George W. Bush
c/o George W. Bush Presidential Lieberry
Southern Methodist University
6425 Boaz LaneDallas TX 75205

Don't forget to put in some note about the shoes are in recognition of his service to this nation.Let's flood Bush with filthy footwear!

I do think this would be a fantastic way to show our gratitude for his brilliant leadership and hard work over the last eight years.

Followup: Interesting tidbit on CNN this morning, before I came in to my favorite coffee shop... I trust CNN with my news like I'd trust an alligator with my cat, but still. Apparently the shoe bomber is being treated as a hero in Iraq- not officially, but by the media and on the street. Opinion is split, but those who think the journalist should be punished feel that he comitted an offense against Al-Maliki, the Iraqi president. Under Islam, a person who has been welcomed as a guest is to be treated, essentially, as family. No matter whether the guest is a sworn enemy of your nation or your people. Assaulting a guest is the equivalent of assaulting the host- in this case, though the shoes were clearly aimed at Bush, they were (symbolically) also targetting Al-Maliki. In the minds of the Iraqi people, and according to CNN, under Iraqi Law, this is the issue that will be sorted out. I have to say, there's a sort of je ne sais quoi to this that I'm really enjoying.

Followup 2: I suppose this was inevitable. (GIF animations of other stuff being thrown at Bush.

Followup 3: And the ensuing hilarity just keeps... umm... ensuing. (Flash game- shoot the shoes out of the air before they hit the prexy.)

Followup 4: The NYT has an article backing up much of what was reported on CNN. Again, note that few, if any, are condemning the act itself, but those who do condemn the symbolism inherent in the act feel it violates the Islamic concept of hospitality.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ground is Officially White

Intermittent signal here at home (yes, I am a wifi pirate- why do you suppose all my blogging comes from my favorite coffee shop?), and we'll see if this posts. But the snow promise has come true! An inch or more on the ground, more falling, and getting c-c-c-cold. Ozma (the cat) just spent an hour sleeping on my bed, and was very indignant to find unaccustomed fluff when she went out. I'm betting she'll be back and want to spend the night with me tonight. Little tart.

More tomorrow, when I have a cup of coffee to keep my mitts warm.

You People Wouldn't Believe the Things I've Seen

Oh Noes! Another Geomeme! Rules and index case here.

1. See an erupting volcano [St Helens, several times]
2. See a glacier [Glacier NP, Cascades, Canadian Rockies]
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland [Yellowstone, Lakeview OR]
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta. [I have undoubtedly crossed it at Drumheller, but didn't spend the time to actually find it. No bold on this one]
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage [many times]
6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia) [many, many- least known but worthwhile is probably OR Caves Nat. Monument, near Route 199 in the SW corner of the state]
7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile. [Nickle mine at Riddle OR, but none of the giants listed here, and numerous small operations]
8. Explore a subsurface mine. [generally stay out of these, but a few, and several guided tours]
9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California)[Josephine ophiolite along 199 in N Cal, Klamath Mts.].
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too). [I don't think so]
11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw. [Zion]
12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere. [Pleistocene and Proterzoic both in Ontario, Canada]
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada. [Sierra Nevada]
14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland. [Beautiful cumulate ultramafics in the Strawberry Mts, OR; Compositional zoning at Marys Peak, OR, and Palisades, NY... do those count?]
15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website). [East Coast, West Coast]
16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic. [very pretty this fall; golden like aspens]
17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Glacier National Park is a great place to see fossil stromatolites, while Shark Bay in Australia is the place to see living ones) [Glacier, Ontario]
18. A field of glacial erratics
19. A caldera [Yellowstone, Long Valley, Crater Lake, Newberry, Harney Basin is a suspect Caldera]
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high [Oregon Dunes]
21. A fjord [British Columbia, Ushaia, Argentina, Antartica]
22. A recently formed fault scarp Owens Valley, Death Valley, East side of Steens in SE OR]
23. A megabreccia [Titus Canyon, Death Valley]
24. An actively accreting river delta [many from the air, New Orleans area]
25. A natural bridge [remember seeing it, don't remember exactly where- I think Virginia]
26. A large sinkhole [Florida, Mammoth Cave area]
27. A glacial outwash plain [common in Ontario]
28. A sea stack [Many from N Cal to BC]
29. A house-sized glacial erratic
30. An underground lake or river
31. The continental divide
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals [If you get a good black light, you'd be surprised how many minerals are fluorescent and phosphorescent- the trick with the latter is to let your eyes get really dark-adapted, then close them when you use the UV lamp to "charge" them. Open your eyes as you turn off the light; the phosphorescence may only be perceptable for a few seconds, but once you learn to spot it, it's unmistakeable]
33. Petrified trees
34. Lava tubes [more than I can count in central OR; Ape Caves on the south flank of St Helens]
35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back. [in one day, February '78. Long story, but on a broken leg that I didn't know at the time was broken]
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible [Also Sudbury, Ontario; much bigger, but I found it comprehensible. Older, mashed, yes, but you could get the sense of a big impact]
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale.
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe. [I've seen these, as well as Wisconsin and Minnesota, but the ones I've really looked at carefully are near Temagami, Ontario]
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania,
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high
44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below. [I've been close, but not all the way to the top, but I see others are ticking off having seen it]
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck
52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.
55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows. [I've seen much very similar, but not these particularly]
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn".
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity [This one would be jaw dropping...]
61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley [Finally made it here last spring over break... Thanks Vance! Very cool]
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia [Can the public visit this site?]
65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone
68. Monument Valley
69. The San Andreas fault [I wish I'd had more time to poke around though]
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event [Frank, Alberta, plus many, many of lesser scale]
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)
78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado [this is another wanna]
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0. [with an asterisk- I mistook it for a particularly big thump in the roadwork that was going on nearby; but when I got into work and was asked about it, I knew exactly which thump it was. I had noted the time.]
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ [Conneticut Valley Triassic sediments]
84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil) [Trilobites in Ontario, Dinosaur pieces in Drumheller, Alberta, other fossils all over the place]
85. Find gold, however small the flake [Quartzville OR, Smith River CA, Gold Beach OR]
86. Find a meteorite fragment [bought several, but never found]
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall [St Helens]
88. Experience a sandstorm [Darwin, CA]
89. See a tsunami [I was there, but the "tsunami" was later reported to be only a few inches. So I was looking for it, but I didn't see it.]
90. Witness a total solar eclipse [August, 2017, I will. Probably a few feet from where I'm sitting right now]
91. Witness a tornado firsthand. (Important rules of this game). [Another I wanna, and I guess dust devils don't count]
92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower [No, never with that intensity]
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights. [Ontario, northern Michigan, and oddly enough, northern Nevada- I was there with an astronomy person, and we decided what we were seing couldn't be anything else]
95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century
96. See a lunar eclipse [never miss them, if the sky is clear. Miss them every time if it isn't]
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope [how large is "large?" 16 inch reflector count? It was still a fuzzy blob. An impressive blob, but still...]
98. Experience a hurricane [don't wanna]
99. See noctilucent clouds [I don't think so, though I had a brief false alarm this summer, and I've been looking hard. Reports say they seem to be on the increase]
100. See the green flash [pretty sure about this one. I was crossing the Columbia River between OR and WA at sunset, looking out over the ocean, and for a few moments the color was very odd. But I'm somewhat red-green color blind, so I've never been completely convinced I saw what I think what I saw]

I count 38 no's, giving me 62 yes's. I count loosing count more times than I can count.

Followup: This seems like a particularly virulent meme, at least to geoblogospherians. Here (in no particular order) are the victims I've seen: BrianR, Silver Fox, Christie, Bryan, Chris, Callan, Saxifraga, Kim, SciGuy315, Hypocentre, ReBecca, Suvrat, Seablogger, Maria, Volcanista, Lost Geologist, Tuff Cookie, JJ, and as noted at the outset, the index case, MJC Rocks. Chris has the scores posted at the end of his list. My post title, by the way, is an allusion to Roy's final speech in Bladerunner. If you're not familiar with it, the quote is under "Roy," here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Electoral Retrospective

From Robin Williams. Funny how many of these jokes I've used myself, but I could never deliver the material like this guy.

Lewis Black: Fossils Are Satan's Little Trick

Found this on Diagenesis about a week ago and set it aside to watch when I had a little more time. Language NSFW, but you'll be laughing so loud that no one will be able to hear it.

Stuff in the Sky

Well yesterday had all the appeal of the north end of a south-bound camel. When I looked out at 10:30, the pavement was dry, but it looked like rain. I watched the local weather at 10:38 on the Weather Channel, and the radar showed a massive bank of rain covering the entire Coast Range, and just reaching Corvallis. I looked out again and the ground was wet. It got steadily heavier through the day, with gusty wind kicking in during the afternoon. And colder.

This morning as I was walking in to my favorite coffee shop, I heard the grating sound of someone scraping ice. I looked at the closest car, and sure enough, there was about an eighth inch of ice on it. Fortunately, the ground was too warm for the ice to stick there. During the time I've been here, I've seen several cars go by, presumably from the foothills in outlying Corvallis, with an inch or so of snow on them. We'll see if it gets cold enough to stick, but I've also seen a couple of snow showers since I've been here. So it's not a matter of whether it's cold enough to snow tonight: we're already getting snow. The question is whether the ground gets cold enough for it to stick. Most of the ski areas are opening today and tomorrow, but of course travel through the Cascades- even the Coast Range- is pretty hazardous right now. Getting to the ski areas, now that they're open, is the problem.

Despite all that, last night about 6:00, I was outside, and most of the sky was clear. The moon really was spectacular. It was one of those situations where it seemed wider, it seemed brighter, but it was hard to be sure that it wasn't just because I expected it to be wider and brighter. Didn't matter: it was quite beautiful, and all the more so when the weather had been so crappy.

New Flag For Oregon?

OregonLive sent out a call for ideas for a new state flag a while back. They received many entries, and have selected 10 to choose from. Through January 12, you can vote for your favorite, which will then be submitted to the legislature as a proposed new official state flag. No guarantee that it will be accepted, but it does seem to be a nice (inexpensive) present to ourselves for our 150th birthday. There was definitely one that appealed to me, but I won't try to sway your opinion; take a look. Article here, poll here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

OK, That's Nice. Why Doesn't it Make Me Feel Better?

KATU reports:
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - For the second year in a row, an insurance company
has ranked Corvallis the "most secure" small town in the nation.
I know too many people worried about making ends meet to take this too seriously, though it does highlight how bad it must be in other places.

On the other hand, Bill (owner of my favorite coffee shop) says this is the best term they've had since they opened 10 years ago. They made almost enough to keep up with maintainence.

I See White Stuff

Oddee has a post on albino animals... interesting enough, I suppose, but this one made me giggle:
Here is the caption:

Only 10 in every one million squirrels are born with albinism, and have a very short life expectancy because they are easily seen by both predators and prey due to their obvious lack of camouflage.
There is nothing as amazing as seeing a whole yard full of acorns take off running when they spot an albino squirrel stalking them.

I was also surprised they didn't include this guitar animal.
Johnny Winter- all that pigmentation is artificial.

Seasonal Economic Analysis

I wish they'd put a little more effort into the visuals, but the lyrics are terrific. Hat tip to The Guardian.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fully Full Moon

The moon is at perigee (closest approach to Earth) right now, and it's also nearly full. I was just outside admiring it, and it is pretty sweet. Because it's close to the horizon, through a well-known (but not well-understood) optical illusion, it looks even bigger. From National Geographic:
Although a full moon happens every month, the one that rises tomorrow will appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons seen so far this year.

Tomorrow we're supposed to be having rain and gales, so I probably won't get a chance to see it then, but tonight, ahhhh...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When The Monster Attacks

... this is the planned schedule for the commander-in-chief.

President To Face Down Monster Attack, Own Demons In Action-Packed Schedule
Many of the Onion's pieces are sort of one-joke constructions, played out too long. I most often get the best laugh from the headline; the actual article is just tedious. But sometimes the sillyness of the premise is enhanced by drawing it out. This is a good example. Here is another I posted a few months back.

Are We Going to Get Winter This Winter?

Apparently, yes. We've been having unsually dry warm days this fall, and unusually crisp cold nights. Most of Oregon's ski areas aren't open yet- they generally open Thanksgiving week. We have had very little snow in the mountains, 15% of the normal snowpack, and precious little rain down here in the valley.

That's going to change over the next couple of days. Every weather forecast is calling for snow here on Saturday and Sunday- an inch or two on the valley floor, 12-18 inches in the mountains. We rarely actually get accumulating snow here in Corvallis, and I'm of the "I believe snow forecasts when the ground is white," school of thought. But the fact that every forecast is saying "snow" has me pretty excited.

We're at about 250 feet elevation here, barely above sea level. The combination of proximity to the ocean and latent heat of condensation as rain falls over the coast range means our winters are very mild. What we get most often is rain falling through cold air trapped in the valley, then freezing when it hits the ground. Those events sometimes are sometimes proceded by a dusting of snow- so you end up with a quarter inch of snow covered by a quarter inch to an inch of solid ice. Makes for great driving conditions. I will say that unlike the bystanders in this video clip, I would have been found nowhere near the street.

(Portland, Oregon, January 2007)

What the reports are not consistent on is night temperatures; most are calling for lows around 30, which is consistent with typical cloudy, precipitating winter weather. But the National Weather Service is looking at a mass of cold air coming down out of Nunavut and is predicting lows in the teens. That is weather without which I would happily do.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Setting Standards

I don't want this to devolve into a rant. I really don't. I'm afraid it might; the reason I've stayed away from posting about education- arguably the topic I know best- is that it is so frustrating to me. I did allow myself to get carried away in response to a post at Pharyngula... and quickly regretted it (see comment #96). On the same topic as a post by Bryan at "In Terra Veritas," which was the trigger for this post.

The fact is we already have a set of widely agreed-upon science standards! Two sets, in fact. One is by AAAS (1995), the other by NRC (The National Research Council, 1996). In terms of overall substance, these two efforts are very similar; in a fine reading of detail and clarity, I slightly prefer the AAAS version. The NRC standards address topics other than simply content, such as teacher preparation, classroom resources and so on. Either or both would be good additions to the library of anybody concerned with science literacy- they are inexpensive- whether they teach science themselves, are parents, or simply are interested in the topic. And even if you don't feel like paying a very reasonable price for the book(s), the texts and PDF's are available online.

My frustration is that because of a wide variety of factors (by and large, we have all been students; so has everyone we know; our tax dollars pay for public education, etc.), everybody feels as if they are qualified to make assertions about "how it oughtta be done." With absolutely no familiarity with what's out there. I'm not saying people shouldn't make recommendations, just that they should spend a little time learning about the subject before they weigh in on it. Because the blunt truth is, being a student teaches you nothing about teaching. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Squat.

One commenter that responded to my rant pointed out that in his experience, education research is poor. Oh, yes. I couldn't agree more. I estimate that maybe one published paper in 20 is worth the dead tree tissue it's printed on. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous knowledge base that everyone outside the science educators' community simply ignores.

Bryan is quite right in that enforcing national educational standards would be a violation of Amendment 10 of the constitution, and even if it weren't, probably would not be a good idea. Neverless, the Federal government has a wide variety of carrots and sticks available to it, and if I can keep my cool, at some point I will discuss some of them. There are many, many obstacles hindering improvement to education in this country. Widely agreed-upon sets of standards are not among them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wikipedia Is Accurate*

(* Citation needed)

I do love that line, though I don't remember where I came across it. I do use Wikipedia from time to time, but mostly as a way to confirm that my memory is accurate- I used it just a bit ago because I wasn't sure if "olistostrome" was the word I meant to be using. It was. At least, Wikipedia says so.*

(* Citation needed)


Note (12/11/08): The "favorite places for field work" Accretionary Wedge is now up, here. Head over for more delicious geologizing.
Quartzville Creek. I'm pretty sure this was taken from the road up Boulder Creek. From here.

So the late-late edition of the November Accretionary Wedge is coming out... and I'm running late. I don't have a digital camera, and all my slides were lost a few years back, so all the photos are from things I could find on the intertubz- I did figure out how to get an image from Google Earth into a useable form. So let's start with that.

This image shows the forearc basin of the central Willamette Valley, east to the current axis of the Cascade arc, and a little of the east Cascade flank, as well as a little of the forearc ridge of the Coast Range along the western edge. Mt Jefferson, a large stratovolcano that hasn't been active since the Pleistocene, is clearly visible in the middle of the eastern side of the image. Current arc volcanism is restricted to the axis of the arc, though there has been substantial post-Pleistocene activity (from what I know, probably back-arc spreading) on the east side of the Cascades. Newberry Volcano, off the southeast corner of the image, may represent interaction of Cascade and back-arc magmatism along the northern boundary of Basin and Range.
Looking east from a peak near Sweet Home, Oregon, up the drainage that includes Quartzville Creek and toward the Cascade crest. (Full-sized here, highly recommended) From left (north) to right, major peaks are Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Washington, Three Sisters, and Bachelor.

A closer view of the center of the district, with the town site marked. Yellowbottom (a ludicrously optimistic name for a very poor gold area) is near where the stream leaves the map in the lower left corner. Most of the area near the town site is composed of quartz breccia; little of the original host rock remains recognizable.

Volcanism started in this area about 30 Ma, but at that time the axis was much wider, from approximately the eastern side of the Willamette Valley to the current line of activity. As progressively younger (hence more buoyant) ocean plate has been subducted, the axis has progressively narrowed to its relatively restricted current configuration. This much older volcanic terrain is referred to as the Western Cascades. (Younger rocks along the modern arc are referred to as the High Cascades.)

The rocks and landforms in the High Cascades are certainly fascinating. But there's something to letting erosion do its thing for a while. You get to see the guts and plumbing of all the stuff that's underneath.I'm not certain where this spot is, but you can see a couple of dikes in the lower left. I also see a very nice swimming hole- the water here is much deeper than it looks, I'm guessing 12-15 feet. From here.

One of the things that has struck me over and over is that we tend to think of arc volcanism in terms of, well, volcanism: basalt, andesite and rhyolite (mafic to intermediate lavas are most abundant, but rhyolite is not uncommon). But when you get on the ground, various incarnations of volcanoclastic sediments make up about half of what you see: breccias from landslides and lahars, moderately to poorly sorted sandstones and siltstones, even well-sorted mudstones (which I take to be lake sediments).

I first visited this area in spring of 1982 with the OSU Geology Club- more of a sight-seeing tour than anything else, but soon afterward I found this field guide (7 Mb PDF) at the library, and returned frequently. The thing that makes the Quartzville area particularly interesting is that a late-stage intrusion (about 18 Ma) emplaced a granodiorite pluton that set up a hydrothermal system. So not only can you see the guts of an arc volcanic system, you can see a range of mineralization from unaltered to complete replacement with quartz. This is not a rich district: 30 years of on-and-off mining in the late 1800's produced about $200 thousand worth of gold and silver. But that means that no great blocks have been removed or left unsafe to investigate.
Waterfalls a few hundred yards upstream from Yellowbottom. The dominant bedrock here is granodiorite- one of only a few places in the Oregon Cascades where granitic rock is exposed. A number of basalt dikes also run through this area, and have produced some fascinating examples of differential weathering and erosion. The basalts erode more easily, and have left deep trenches several feet wide through the granodiorite. This is also a GREAT swimming hole. From here.
A cabin near the Quartzville townsite, 1952, from here.
A more modern picture, I believe near the Yellowbottom falls (pictured above), from here. The cue I'm looking at is that log stranded up on the rocks; we had a tremendous series of floods in late winter of (I think) '98. Logs several feet in diameter were stranded 10-15 feet above the normal waterline, and I'm almost positive I recognize this one.

On the other hand, abundant timber resources (as seen in the two pictures above) ensure that there is a terrific network of access roads, even though the landscape is forbiddingly rugged. You can get to within a quarter mile or so of almost anywhere in the area without leaving your car.

Quartzville also holds a distinction in that it's one of a very few places that I've actually been paid for doing field work. In fall of '87, a minerals company decided to to a reconaissance soil geochemistry survey that pretty much covered a few square miles of the center of the district, so I actually got paid to go collect dirt, look at rocks and camp. Nice! As it happens, Black Monday occurred about a week into the project; our supervisors were, let's say, very excited. As it turns out, the project was a scientific success- there were lots of interesting patterns that emerged from the data- but an economic failure. Lots of funny stories... my field partner and I decided to pocket our per diem (and save two hours of driving time each day) by camping near Yellowbottom rather than staying at a hotel in Sweet Home. Overall, it was more than worth it, but washing yourself (especially face and hair) in water that's only a degree or two above freezing is... bracing. I could feel my scalp trying to crawl away, a very bizarre sensation. We had horrible, horrible altimeters (This predates GPS by what? 10 to 15 years?)- we came around a corner one time, out of a still forest and onto a windy, exposed, sunny area, and the altimeters dropped 200 feet. So my partner and I decided very quickly to use sighting and triangulation rather than even looking at those useless gadgets. We had one rather long traverse- about 2 miles- across an area that didn't have much distinctive landscape along the way, and we were counting on prominant features across the valley to keep ourselves oriented. When we finally came out to the road, we were less than 10 feet vertical off from where we expected to be. Meanwhile, the same day, two other teams actually crossed paths without realizing it. Since we were contour sampling at 200 foot intervals, that was considered a fairly major boo-boo.

Looking at my options when I graduated, I just wasn't convinced that geology was the direction I wanted to go. I eventually went on for a Master's in science education. Geology was and is my first love, and I hoped to get into a position to do geology education. Didn't work out so much as a career, but I have done about 40 field trips up to Quartzville with groups ranging from age 10 to retired. The trip I have done most often is with middle schoolers. The area offers a great opportunity to think about volcanoes' physical aspects in terms other than simply the cones they create; a wide variety of rock-forming environments (or rather, the products of those environments); a spectacularly scenic area; and a tremendous array of rocks and minerals, ranging from secondary zeolites and calcite in basically unaltered basalt, to pyrite, tourmaline, sphalerite and galena, up to drusy quartz veins 10 feet thick, rising like fins on the mountainside. So even though I was a little puzzled about how to approach "field work" for the accretionary wedge, I have done field work here, and "field education laboratory" is close enough.
A hydrothermal breccia up Boulder Creek Road that is well known as an easy place to find and collect pyrite. Typical sizes are about the size of a lentil to the size of navy bean, but I have seen samples here up to an inch across. Smaller crystals have better form- which is always in pyritohedrons at this site. Crystals from the quarry near the bottom of the road are always cubes. Another geologic imponderable. It wouldn't surprise me if one of these kids was introduced to this spot on one of my field trips: I've probably taken 500-600 people to this site. From here.

I think that's enough for now, but just as a taste of a future post I've been wanting to get to for a while, you might guess that the combination of volcanic sediments and shallow water depostion (The Willamette Valley was a bay during this time) might make for a good fossil assemblage, and you'd be right. The diversity of fossilized wood is mind boggling; in fact, it presents something of a problem. This is the source of the one publication I have in (what I would consider) the mainstream geological literature. But more on that some other time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And You May Ask Yourself...

...well, how did I get here?

The Telegraph published this photo of Teddies in Spaaaaaaccce! Cute, huh?
Turns out, there's a whole lot of interesting going on here. The "mission" was lofted on a weather balloon, with the purpose of making meterological observations at 100,000 feet altitude. A team of school students in the 12-13 age range designed and created the space suits to keep the bears from "freezing solid." Temperatures were monitored both inside and outside the space suits. According to the article this photo was snapped by an onboard computer; it's not clear to me how the data was received. The bears, I'm sure you'll be glad to learn, parachuted safely back to the ground, and were recovered 50 miles from the lauch site. So the data may have come back with the computer (though it's not clear whether the computer accompanied the bears back to Terra Firma), or it might have been radioed back to the ground.

No word on which one was in command, nor when the next mission is planned.

Followup: The Daily Mail has another article with quite few more pictures, and a clearer explanation of the whole procedure.

Monday, December 1, 2008

OMG! Flying Sharks!

As you've probably heard, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) declared that we are officiously in a recession, and have been since last December. Now I think that in terms of plain ol' economics, a recession is defined as six months or more of a shrinking GDP. But in reality, someone has to make the call. That would be NBER. So last winter, many people on various media were saying a variety of things ranging from "obviously we're in a recession, but everyone else is too dumb to see it," to "this clearly isn't a recession, because it hasn't been defined as a recession." It was very irritating to see highly paid pundits, reporters and writers, whom I'd like to believe know more about this stuff than I do, miss the basic point that until we've "been in a recession" for 6 months... it's not a freaking recession! And officially, even then, it's not a recession until NBER calls it. I would have been so happy to see someone say something along the lines of "All the numbers look recessionary in nature, and we may in fact be headed into one, but because of the way we define it, of course.... blah, blah, blah." You get the idea... just a little reassurance that the damned talking suits on CNN had at least taken a one semester econ course 30 or 40 years ago in high school.

But of course it has been pretty obvious, at least since late summer/early fall, that this would be called- identified- as a recession. At least I thought so. But the brilliant minds on Waaaaah Street apparently didn't. Because their reaction to the announcement was a drop on the DJI of nearly 700 points- nearly 500 of those points came in the last hour of trading.

So in a magnanimous gesture of goodwill, I herewith offer a real reason to panic mindlessly:(Thanx to Manx at A Salute to Some Stuff for this great picture)

Got that?

Done screaming yet? No?


It's getting quieter...

Feel better now? Good!

Because it's all an illusion.

Perception is reality, and has very real consequences. But you'd think the traders would have figured that out...