Saturday, January 10, 2009


We've all got 'em.

Friday, January 9, 2009

But the Sucking Sound Told Him the Wrecker Was Too Late...

A picture from my last post (or next one, if you're reading from most to least recent) hollered out for LOLz fixing...
Do I tag this with "astronomy?" I guess I should; they're the ones who will enjoy it most.

Rocks That Make Me Feel All Funny Inside

So Rawley was teasing me yesterday, asking if I'd seen any "orgasmic outcrops" recently. As I said in the post he was referring to, I don't very often describe outcrops that way... I like to save that particular phrasing for very special outcrops. But Dark Roasted Blend posted a piece today about "The Most Dangerous Roads in the World," and there are scads of photos of outcrops that I'd definitely make out with if given the chance. Wouldn't drive the roads. But I'd absolutely walk them out.And this one cracked me up:These are just two pictures of many; if these don't make you uneasy enough, note that this is Part 6 of an ongoing series; other posts on this topic can be found here.

Another "outcrop" that I posted a while back is not one that I would like: a bit too much of the femme fatale in this one for me to feel comfortable. In fact, the first time I watched it, this video made very, very uncomfortable, and I remembered it as about twice as long as it really was. If you are a geology person and a mountain climber, you will love this. If you have an issue with heights or balance, be ready to click pause or close the window. I just had to track down another copy- the version I had embedded has apparently been disappeared by the internet police. So I had to watch it again. You know what? It still makes me woozy. But the rocks are very cool.

The location is El Caminito Del Rey, "The King's Little Road," in Malaga, Spain. Part of the nerve-racking aspect of the video is that the photographer is fearless and nearly jogs through the mess. So here are some still photos that are less stressful. Massive exposure of vertical bedding is a serious turn-on to most geologists.
See that little line three quarters of the way up the picture? That's the pathway. EEK! And those little tiny dark spots at the left side of the path? Yep, dem's people up dere.
The pathway was created to allow workers to move back and forth more easily between a pair of hydropower projects, a little more than a century ago. I don't know if the above picture shows the process of constructing the path or what workers used before the path was constructed.
Dignitaries touring the path after its completion- see now, that I could deal with. I'm glad to see from the Wikipedia entry that Andalusia is hoping to restore it; it is (or was, before it fell into disrepair) an amazing piece of engineering. I would love to walk this path if, you know, it had railings, and if it was mostly there.

Now all these are great outcrops, but it's mostly the scale of exposure that makes them appealing; I can't really tell if the rocks themselves are all that amazing. Perhaps the most amazing, yes, orgasmic, outcrop I've ever seen wasn't all that big, maybe 150 feet along the Klamath River in northern California. It was a somewhat overgrown roadcut, so exposure was not great, though not terrible. In that 150 feet were 1) Ultramafic rocks cooked to serpentine, talc and chrysotile asbestos; 2) Seafloor basalt cooked to a fairly coarse amphibolite schist; 3) Seafloor chert; 4) Calc-alkaline rocks representing slightly metamorphosed sandy limestones; 5) More or less unaltered greywacke. The environments represented are, respectively 1) slightly metamorphosed upper mantle 2) heavily metamorphosed ocean crust 3) deep ocean oozes (far from land, no land-derived, 'terrigenous' sediments) 4) warm shallow marine, close enough to shore to have sand. 5) near shore, heavy sedimentation, probably associated with mountain-building on shore. So, in other words, a transect representing maybe 10 to 15 miles vertically, and at least hundreds, possibly much more, horizontally, all accordioned into an exposure you could walk through in seconds.

It's the kind of thing that can make any red-blooded geologist swoon from heart-stopping passion.

A Message From Jay-Zus

So Dr. Monkey reminded me yesterday that I can use my I Can Haz Cheezburger account to caption pictures in LOLz style. (I had forgotten this one) Then Samurai Frog posted a picture just screaming for such treatment... and VOILA!

Today's Trivia

Wow. The stuff you learn reading international news never ceases to amaze me. What are Barbie's middle and last names? (yes- Barbie the doll) Answer at the Guardian. Those British newspapers... I tell ya.

And? And? And?

From BBC:
"Chuckie" Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been
sentenced by a US court to 97 years in prison for committing torture.
OK, so now I'm waiting on news regarding "Georgie," the son of former US president...

Yeah, right. I know, I know... but I'm entitled to my dreams. And the irony is painful:
A Liberian minister told the BBC the verdict sent a message that nobody -
regardless of how powerful they were - could get away with unspeakable

Thursday, January 8, 2009

And We Get Their Leftovers...

as the dishes slowly turn green and mouldy over the next year or few.
From Oregon Live

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This Would Have Scared the Screaming Jeebies Out of Me

Bit of set up here... The Guardian is reporting that a fan of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick has written and published the manuscript that Jack Torrance's character purportedly created in The Shining, the novel by King, adapted to film by Kubrick.

In the story, Torrance is secluded with his family in a snowed-in, isolated hotel, where he hopes to complete a novel. Later in the story, his wife Wendy discovers that the entire manuscript is composed of the aphorism "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," repeated over and over.
Now New York artist Phil Buehler, who describes himself as "a big fan of Stanley
Kubrick and Stephen King", has self-published a book credited to Torrance,
repeating the phrase throughout but formatting each page differently, using the
words to create different shapes from zigzags to spirals.
Buehler limited himself to formatting that could be created with a typewriter- none of the graphic tricks that a writer/artist can pull off with computers. Predictably, at a certain point he was having a hard time coming up with novel formats for additional pages. He got to about page 60, out of an intended 80, and ran into writer's block (layout block?).
"I hit writer's block about 60 pages in, and I had to get to 80 - that went on
for about a week." His fiancée, who had neither read the book nor seen the film,
became a little concerned about his actions. "I finally showed her the movie,
and she realised I wasn't really losing it," said Buehler.
If I had been that poor woman, I'd have been out the door, out of the city, and out of the country in flash, screaming like a banshee.

Bullet Time in the Matrix

Hubble has captured some images of high-speed, youthful stars tearing through interstellar gases. The stellar winds streaming out from the stars collides with the surrounding gas and creates these wonderful bow shocks. The release does not mention which wavelengths are imaged in these pictures, which would be an interesting tidbit of information. Full-size here, download page and overview here, full press release here. The top right image is most impressive at this scale, but in the full size versions the others are pretty spectacular too. Now we need to track them and see which nebula is "The One" who dodges these cosmic bullets.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

OK, So I'm a Nerd

No surprise to me... says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!
But the fact that I'm an "Uber Cool" Nerd King... well, that is something of a surprise. (Hat tip to Darius Whiteplume for leading me to this very silly test)

Dance the Apocalypso

I just found out that if a Chicxulub-size impactor were to fall in Corvallis, no one south of Panama would be directly harmed by the blast. Most everyone in North America, though, would face at least second degree burns. Sadly, since the precise location of "Corvallis, Oregon" appears to be about two blocks from my apartment, even the smallest blast (Little Boy, 15 kt) this simulator offers would be lights out for Lockwood. Fun, grim humor. Let's see... who's next?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Good Call Here, Bad Call There

Hat tip to Krugman:
Italy did for retirement financing what President George W. Bush couldn’t do in
the U.S.: It privatized part of its social security system. The timing couldn’t
have been worse.
I remember gleefully explaining to a grad student in science ed (where I was an instructor) four years ago that Bush's statement, that he'd earned political capitol and intended to spend it on "individual retirement accounts" to replace Social Security, was essentially going to destroy his second term. His desire and attempts to undermine SS basically did trash his second term (though the Terri Schiavo Fiasco later on certainly pounded a few more nails into his coffin, and the ongoing fiasco in Iraq didn't help matters).

I hadn't realized Italy made this mistake. My heart goes out to them. Please take this lesson to heart, people. (Full article, again from Krugman, here.)

Just Like "The Core"

...only better, and real. I hated that movie from beginning to end; when I confronted the friend who (I thought) had said it wasn't bad, he claimed that he'd never seen it. It was a waste of a rental, a waste of time, a waste of petroleum resources in the plastic of the DVD.

Over the past few weeks there have been several articles in my feed on the idea of fusion power, ranging from "we should just give up," to news that the EU may spend 5 billion Euros on a very large, tokomak-style reactor, to news that the National Ignition Facilty (NIF), at Livermore Labs (California) will be winding up its construction phase this spring. I found all of these articles very interesting, and recommend all three if fusion power is a topic that interests you. If you only have time for one, read the Der Spiegel piece on the possible EU project: it nicely outlines some of the problems, some of the recent insights and advances, and some emerging ideas that may yet bring this technology into the realm of commercial application. It's also the source of the following picture, the active plasma in a tokomak reactor.

Now, from the Telegraph (UK), is an article suggesting that even if Livermore's NIF fails to advance practical fusion power, the technology therein may still pay off big in terms of creating conditions of deep planetary interiors. This could lead to a better understanding of the earth's core, and even cores of giant planets such as Jupiter. The diamond anvil has been a useful, but limited investigative tool. I never imagined that our attempts to make fusion a commercially useful technology would provide tools to investigate geology. Stars, I might have guessed. Earth? Cool!

Heil Kitty!

Last night I finished the book "Gag Rule," by Lewis Lapham (limited preview at Google Books). I quite enjoyed it- terrific prose, makes a convincing case for his position, everything I want in a good piece of rhetoric. I do want to go through it again, because there were several passages that I thought were powerful and wanted to share here. However, I just came across a piece at Sadly, No! that drew my attention to a recurrent theme that I'm really tired of. (I mentioned yesterday that this past year had exhausted me- I'm probably going to end up doing a bit of elaborating on that in days to come.) And yes, Lapham commits the same exhausting blunder, which is why I bring it up. (In fairness to the author, I think he draws some meaningful and insightful parallels; it is unwarranted in this case to describe it as a blunder. It's just that coming across four or five references to Nazis, etc., in a day is tiresome.) Why is it that if a speaker or writer wants to demonize an opponent, the first characterization that springs to mind is Nazis and Fascism? On one hand, the answer is simple: to our current mindset, they are the worst of the worst, evil incarnate, Moloch manifest. I'm not going to argue with this; what I want to point out is the tiresome hyperbole here. I have from time to time described a rock outcrop as "an orgasmic experience." This is an intentionally jokey, hyperbolic, and relatively rare choice of words- maybe once every few years in conversations with friends who understand and enjoy my fascination with rocks and the earth. But what if I started describing everything I liked or enjoyed as "an orgasmic experience," or "better than sex?" At what point would my audience decide "that guy must be terrible in bed?" Or "he must really not enjoy sex." My trivialing of the metaphor would trivialize the thing itself.And that is exactly my point. We have so minimized the extremity of Hitler's Germany that it has become a punch line rather than an apt analogy or metaphor. I'm tired of conservatives referring to liberals as Nazis; I'm tired of liberals referring to conservatives as fascists; I'm tired of teenagers whose parents are worried about them referring to Mom and Dad as "the Gestapo." (From Sadly, No!)

There are reasons to remember Nazi Germany; this kind of hyperbole, oddly enough, only causes people to forget the lessons they should remember, and makes our continuing efforts to fully understand the human capacity for "evil" more difficult
So no more Nazi references this year. 'K?

Eee-yup. That's Exactly Right.

Today's Non Sequitur. I've been baffled by which pictures get bigger when you click them and which don't. As of testing a moment ago, you can see this one enlargified if you click on it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Simple Request

The blogosphere has been buzzing with year-end wrap ups, resolutions, predictions, well-wishing for the new year and so on. I find the human fascination with arbitrary mileposts fascinating in itself, but often tiresome. Personally I have found this past year just exhausting for so many reasons at so many levels- that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. In many ways, it's been one of the best. It just left me very, very tired. So forgive me for not playing along with all the conventions this time; maybe next year.

However, I will highlight one thing that has been particularly positive about the past year: taking my first steps in participating in the blogosphere. It's huge, it's fun, and whatever interests you or engages you, someone is putting stuff up that you'll love. I hope to update my blog roll to more fully show the (literally) 283 bloggers and sites that I follow daily- and that's not including the inumerable side links I click on each day. In particular, I'd like to send a shout-out to the geoblogosphere, a bunch of rock geeks who are as infatuated with the earth as I am, and by and large know a lot more than I do. I consider myself well-rounded with respect to geology (evidence of fluvial transport), and the way I got to that point was a willingness to learn and a willingness to ask (often inane) questions. The geoblogosphere was apparently created for me.

I also appreciate the vast number of other science blogs, humor blogs and sites, political and economic commentary and analysis, and what I have classed in my RSS folders as "This 'n That:" bloggers whose stuff is all over the map. I never know what to expect from these people, but I'm always well pleased. I put my own blog into that folder (not because I need to read it again, but because I want to see what it looks like in RSS, and as a further opportunity to catch and correct typos and grammatical errors).

Since I love to laugh, I'll preface my simple request with a simple problem: (From Talk Like a Physicist) The key quote from this post is "So the search for simplicity is guided by what Einstein taught us : 'Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.'" Which, oddly enough, was echoed in a post today from Cosmic Variance (front page here), one of the astronomy blogs I follow. The post in question is called "Blogs That Should Exist." It is basically a simple request that if you don't blog, would you please start? I hearby echo that sentiment. They offer a list of suggested names, one of which is "But No Simpler."

Whether your interests are astronomy, geology, stuff to make you laugh... whatever, there's a crowd out there that shares your interests, and wishes they could hear from you. It takes some time, first to actually do the blogging, second to connect to others, and third to actually establish some friendships. There are a number of people who visit my blog often and leave comments; I try to return the favor. Close friends? No, but they're people who would miss me if I went AWOL, and vice versa. I have only met a few of my fellow blogospherians IRL (in real life) so far, but I look forward to meeting more, to putting faces with names and personalities that have made an impact on me.

And did I mention it's simple? It is. And it's free. As I noted a while back, I showed my nephews how to do a post; later I helped them start their own blogs. These guys are grade-school aged, and if they can do it, so can you.Kris, at Just For Fun. My sister sent me a class project he did on Neptune last fall, and I'm glad to see Kris posted it. His writing is better than many college-age students.
Garette, at My Life as a Garette. Kris and Garette's posts so far have been mostly funny YouTube Clips, and I am trying to encourage them to write more. I never really learned to "keyboard," (which I guess is a verb these days) but as a result of much writing and computer use, my fingers just seem to know where the keys are. It's obviously very tedious for these two to compose on the computer, and it's almost painful to watch the ideas slip away as they struggle to peck out, letter by letter, the words to express their thoughts. But only through practice will they get better, and I look forward to hearing from them over the years as they become more fluent with the written word. (And Callan, note the prominant placement of your "Geology Rocks" Sticker. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't remark on it.)Kris and Garette got a Wii for Christmas; I suppose within a few years there will be some new-fangled technology that does for typing what Wii has done for bowling and boxing. That's their dad, my brother-in-law, Frank, in the back. (Is it just me, or does "Wii" sound like toilet humor aimed at kids?) But in the meantime, guys, typing it is.

And as long as I'm on the subject, a friendly "Thanks!" to the folks who follow my blog; I'm pleased and honored. Please understand that you have provided me with many hours of entertainment and education... and what more could one ask of the blogosphere?
Darius Whiteplume
Dr Monkey Von Monkerstein
Silver Fox
Jon Swift
Lost Geologist

See? If you started a blog, you too could be on this list! Wouldn't that be fun?