Friday, November 21, 2008

Geology Equals Politics?

Yesterday, I posted on "The Black Belt: How Soil Types Determined the 2008 Election in the Deep South," a fascinating discussion of how geology led to a distinct demographic and political pattern in the southern states. The author, Christian McNeil, has posted on a similar trend today in "Red States and Red Clay." Joking and snarkiness aside, this really is fascinating. Geologists know "in their gut" how fundamentally rocks shape people and culture, but most often we don't have the background in geography, history, and sociology, nor familarity with the literature, to firmly make the connections that this fellow has.

Must-read stuff.


I have little to no use for Meyers-Briggs nonsense, but this spontaneous meme has taken root in the geoblogosphere. Guess I'll play along.

Apparently, I'm a "doer."
The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things
around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical
outdoor activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves
their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on
starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with
sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
I can't figure out how to copy or embed the "brain activity" image. Oh well.

The analyzer site is here; paste the URL of your blog into the appropriate spot, and click the button. I'll go through and find other participants, and link them eventually. I'd like to do a little reading first.

Followup: Other victims of the hoax... I mean, participants: David, Bryan, Silver Fox, the apparent instigator, Suvrat. That's all I'm finding right now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Adam Twelve, One Adam Twelve

I was asked about this character yesterday- I hadn't seen him around. But apparently he's been seen in the neighborhood of my favorite coffee shop. Anyone with information should contact the the number in the following article.

The Oregon State Police are asking for help in finding a person of interest in connection with attempted unlawful entry to Oregon State University residence halls. Jacob Miley Butler, 27, is described as 6 feet 1 and about 320 pounds, with brown hair, blue eyes and numerous tattoos on his arms, said Lt. Jeff Lanz, a state police spokesman. Butler may be posing as a tattoo artist. He carries a cane. The Linn County Sheriff's Office has warrants for his arrest on probation violation and failure to register as a sex offender.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Oregon State University Department of Public Safety at 541-737-3010.

This is not someone I want hanging around, OK? OK. I'm going home now. Really.

One More Last Thought Before Heading Home

There's an old cartoon, which I think I've seen in numerous versions, with a gender-nonspecific kid asking the Mom, "But which one is the opposite sex?" It strikes me that the 21st century version of this should be "But which one is the safe sex?"

How Geology Swayed the Election

The above map, from the NY Times, shows the county by county results from the Nov. 5 elections.

Via Kottke. I seem to remember seeing something about this somewhere, but I don't know if the geoblogosphere has picked it up: the headline to the above-linked post is "Obama elected by "rich loamy soils" of Cretaceous seas." The article linked there has the somewhat less dramatic title, "The Black Belt: How Soil Types Determined the 2008 Election in the Deep South." In the article, the author, Christian McNeil, argues that the original designation "black belt" was in reference to the soil color. But this also corresponded to areas where slavery was most profitable, thus where the most were owned, and thus where the most cotton was produced. So following the Civil War, "the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense - that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white." (quotation from a linked article by Tullo)

So the soil type determined the distribution of African-Americans, which determined the political direction of county-by-county votes. What determined the soil type? Soil is a complex result of climate, the biosphere... and of course, rocks. Below is a map of the Selma Chalk, a Creataceous rock formation. So for those of you non-geology types who didn't already know it, Geology Rules! Even more striking is the correlation between the Cretaceous shoreline (as reconstructed by Professor of Geology Ron Blakey at the University of Northern Arizona- link within article) and the political map that leads this post. But I'm going to make you link through to see that one. As an aside, and not to toot my own horn, I had mentioned to someone else that the correlation between the pattern of voting in the south and the Appalachian-Ouachita structure was sort of odd- but I didn't take it any further than that. Mr McNeil has, and the result is fascinating.

Followup: after looking over more of the posts in this blog, I have happily subscribed. It's an interesting mix of geography, history, biology and environmental science. I've been trying to drop many of my more voluminous but less interesting subscriptions, and this blogger posts less, but each post is quite interesting. A keeper.

Scary But True

song chart memes
more charts
Much as Prop H8 angered and disappointed me, I do think it's only a matter of time. I do not pretend to understand homosexuality- but I don't pretend to understand what it's like being a woman, or black, or Jewish, or a Muslim either. I think there are many pragmatic arguments in favor of gay marriage, but ultimately it's more of an issue of principle than anything else. And I do think that we have come to understand that separate (civil unions) is not equal. We'll get this right.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Last Thought Before Heading Home

"An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar. The first one orders a beer. The second orders half a beer. The third, a quarter of a beer. The bartender says “You’re all idiots”, and pours two beers." Hat Tip to Talk Like a Physicist

My New Word For the Day

Monorchic. Generally speaking, consideration of others' genitals is not something I spend a whole lot of time on, but this is oddly amusing. Overcompensation, anyone?

Obama Administration Takes Shape

The NYT has published a story that "Daschle to Be Nominee for Health Post in Obama Cabinet." This was really the post that I was hoping Hillary would get. There's no doubt that she was in part to blame for the health care debacle in '93, but the real blame goes to the rethugs who were not, not, I tell you, not going to allow the Clinton White House anything that might make the American people happier with the prexy. And further blame goes to the insurance companies and HMO's that saw their cash cow being led to the slaughterhouse: Big Gummint's gonna take away your power of CHOICE! Never mind that for a growing number of people (then and still growing) the amount of choice was exactly zero. The estimate is that 22,000 people die every year because they have no available health care. According to a recent study, 54% of patients with chronic health problems skip medication and treatement because of cost concerns. For those with health insurance that number falls to 47%. Some Choice. As the Times said in an Editorial yesterday, the US is "The wrong place to be chronically ill," and "The care they received in this country — or more often did not receive — ought to be a cause for shame."

The point is that HRC had the better health plan during the campaign, and her plan during '93, while cumbersome and complicated-looking, was better still. I think she has learned an awful lot about how to make things happen over the last 15 years, and that Health and Human Services is really more of her "thing" than foreign affairs. Furthermore, I think either Richardson or Kerry (not as strong on the latter) would be better in State.

On the other hand, as one blogger or commenter remarked elsewhere (I'd like to give an attribution, but I'm not sure I could find it- so I'm paraphrasing), the Clintons are very good at drawing Repiglican fury and obstruction- and succeeding despite that. So having Hillary in a high-profile cabinet position could serve much the same purpose as having a high-profile lightning rod.


A week ago, I posted on Life in a Geode (the actual title of the work is "Seizure"). The Telegraph UK has published an article about the walk-in artwork today. It really does sound cool, but it's a bit out of my way. But for my visitors from the UK (and I do get a surprising number), here is some info: Seizure can be seen at 157 Harper Road, London SE1 until 30 November 2008, Thursday-Saturday 11am-5pm. Please note Seizure is closed Monday-Wednesday. Admission is free.

In my first post, I pointed out that copper sulfate is somewhat toxic- it should be treated with respect, but not terror. So I was pleased to see in the article that visitors are required to wear rubber boots and gloves. A dampened dust mask wouldn't be a bad idea either, but at least they're taking some precautions. There is also a video in the article, with some great imagery once you get past the talking heads that take up the first half of the 2 1/2 minute clip.

Any Other Questions?

Google has implemented a snarky new service, Let Me Google That For You. Suppose someone e-mails you a question he could have answered for himself in a fraction of the time it took to send the e-mail, such as "What does snarky mean?" I go to LMGTFY, type in "snarky meaning" and get this link, which I can then send back to my questioner. I doubt I'll ever have occasion to use this; first, nearly everyone I know has the sense to use Google when appropriate. Second, I do get less-than-informed questions from time to time, but not over e-mail. And god knows I have asked some dumb questions in my time. If there is a genuine lack of information, I'm happy to offer whatever I know. If it's just a question asked without thought, no need to be a jerk about it. Which brings me to the third reason I'll probably never use it: it really is pretty snarky. I like snark as much as anyone, but I really don't like directing it towards people, just out at the world in general, and to abstractly bitch about the state of things. I don't wish to offend, just to gripe. If you haven't already, click on the second link, and see if you don't agree.

Followup: Received this in the comments, and thought it should be up front with the main part of the post: "Hi. Thanks for blogging about the site. I just wanted to let you know that it is in no way associated with Google. Please see the "About" link at the bottom of the site." I found this at the Google Blogoscoped site, and going back to the original post, it clearly says in the last line, "... and nope, neither site is an official Google site." My bad. And you have to admit, it does look like Google. Which is why it's so funny.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Like I Didn't Already Know This

Took a quiz yesterday, and learned that...
Is your cat plotting to kill you?
Background information (logic and reasoning behind the questions) here (quiz is linked at the end of the discussion, or just click the pic above). Ozma is actually very friendly and hasn't drawn blood for weeks. We're going to have to have a heart to heart on the porch door soon. Today was beautiful, near 60 and sunny, but it's getting cold.


That's cold! (Telegraph UK)

Some time earlier this month, Nasa's Phoenix Lander slipped into a cold-induced
coma in the Arctic wastes of the Red Planet. With the onset of winter, the Sun
dropped low in the sky, and the temperature fell to -1,300C at night.

Apparently the Phoenix Lander's (see here, here and here) greatest contribution to science had nothing to do with Mars; it has totally rewritten everything we thought we knew about thermodynamics. No wonder the poor thing shut down.

Math and Logic

In a recent post, Confusion in the Bible Belt, I posted what I think is the funniest pie chart I've ever seen. Dean Wormer commented that his favorite was one that compared "Pie I have Eaten" to "Pie I have not yet eaten." As it happens, BuzzFeed posted that chart today; other similar examples in comments at the link.Not only is it funny, I think it might provide a good tool to help younger students understand the idea of a pie chart. The same site (which, yes, I have been spending waaay too much time with) also published a proof yesterday that circular reason works:For those who enjoy a good op-ed cartoon, there is an example in the comments using this logic to explain our policy regarding Iraq.