Saturday, January 31, 2009

Caturday Awww...

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals
What can I say? I'm a curmudgeon going on 50 and a hopeless sentimentalist.
Odd angle here, but when Ozma wants attention (most often after she's had some food), she claws my desk chair (assuming that's where I am). If that doesn't work, she moves to clawing my leg. So when she claws my desk chair, I move quickly to give her the pets and scratching she wants. I'm not sure who's training who here, but I will say that our lines of communication seem much clearer over the last few weeks. As I'm sure she intended. This picture also shows that she does on occasion open her eyes.


For those of us who (attempt to) follow Oregon news and politics, OregonLive, the on-line version of the Portland Oregonian, is indispensible. While I subscribe to a number of Oregon newspapers free in RSS form, OregonLive seems to hit the stories I need to know about most consistently. And as a human, I can't help but be interested in what other people think.

Hence opinion and editorial columns.

Back at the beginning of November, David Reinhard, the paper's conservative "columnist" submitted his final column. If you wanted to know what Reinhard's column was going to be about at any given moment, you just needed to check on what Rush Limburger had been saying for the last couple of days. DR's column would invariably be a cut, hack, and paste job of far right wingnuttia talking points. I don't miss him.

Elizabeth Hovde took over in early January; the reaction of various NW liberal bloggers was less than enthusiastic. For example, Dean Wormer made a pretty strong case that this was more of the same Kool-aid. I had hoped that she might show some signs of neural activity, but those hopes were dashed quickly.

But. But.

As I've said before, I feel the principles of conservatism have a lot to offer. I disagree with some of the starting positions, and many of the conclusions, but the principles should not be discounted. Modern Republicanism has completely shed any concern with conservative principles, and is focussed entirely on getting and maintaining power. Therefore the business of keeping everyone in line, singing the same tune, is of utmost importance. This is Rush's role: the central conductor of the noise machine.

And when Hovde writes a little fluff piece that concludes, "President Bush. That's a funny name, Mama," you have to wonder if, as she tried to represent herself in her first column, she isn't willing to bring a little dissonance into the machine. Her piece today takes a position that I more or less agree with. I think she came to her conclusion for the wrong reasons; the importance of homelessness is not primarily that it's bad for business. That may be a valid concern, but she seems to think it's central. Still, her conclusion is not what I suspect Rush or Lou Dobbs would conclude. I think she deserves a fair read. I think she may actually be trying to drop the Kool aid and find the apple juice. Not really sayin', just conjecturin'.


Mount Redoubt is rumbling, and the country is paying attention. My primary point in this post is selfish; I want to have the webcam link in an easy-to-find place. My "favorites" list has become unwieldly, and nearly impossible to use. This image seems to show either a cloud or a steam plume over the sumit. With the sun angle as it is, I can't really tell which. There has been a lot of cloudy winter weather from this webcam lately, but many people, including me, have been checking on it regularly.

I also wanted to pass along a couple of links to non-geoblogosphere addicts out there who might be interested in some volcanic analysis that has not had the life and sense sucked out it by passing through the so-called mind of a journalist. If ongoing and imminent volcanic eruptions interest you, check out The Volcanism Blog and Eruptions. I thought there was at least one other blog that focussed on active volcanoes; I'll update if I find it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Fragment: Pumice and Tufa

Today's fragment is a piece of pumice covered with a crust of tufa, from near Mono Lake, California. Pumice is a light, frothy, rock created when silica-rich lava (rhyolite or similar) erupts from a volcano. Molten rock often has dissolved gas contents- mostly water- in the range of 1 to 3 percent, which doesn't sound like much. The mass of a cubic meter of silica rich rock is going to be around 2500 kilograms, so the mass of dissolved gasses in that will be around 25 to 75 kg (55 to 165 lb) or (roughly) 7 to 20 gallons of water. Water expands by (again, roughly) a factor of 1000 as it moves into a gaseous state, so picture two- five gallon water jugs suddenly expanding into 2000 five gallon water jugs... while buried within a cubic yard of molten rock. Suddenly 1-3% dissolved gasses sounds more substantial.

Essentially, pumice is volcanic rock that has "popped" like popcorn. It's known to countless numbers of kids as the rock that floats. Tufa can be thought of as non-marine, chemically-precipitated limestone. It's sometimes described as fresh-water limestone, but the bodies of water that it precipitates from are often salty. The above photo shows both the pumice and the odd texture of the white encrusting tufa. Below you can get a better sense of the size of the tufa crust.In the above picture, my finger is resting on the tufa crust, my thumb on the pumice. Below is the rock face my finger is on. If I was to find this with no broken surfaces, that is, with the whole rock coated in several millimeters of tufa, how would I know there was pumice inside? The simple answer is density, or perhaps more accurately, heft. I can't measure density directly by picking up a rock; I need a volume and a mass. But I do have a sense of how heavy a "normal" rock ought to be. In other words, I have a sense of how big (volume) a rock is as I reach out toward it, and my mind automatically makes an assumption regarding how much effort I'll have to put into picking the rock up (weight). If there is a mismatch between my assumption and my actual experience when I pick it up, I know to look for something "unusual."

Non-geologists tend to focus on color above all else, and can be convinced that other features are worth looking at with a little effort. But the range of observations, many almost unconcious, that one learns to make while looking at tens of thousands of rock, are more varied than any texts can ever explain. Below are a pair of crops from the first and second photos. Another interesting question this rock raises is "Is this igneous or sedimentary?" I love answering "either/or" questions with "Yes," and I will do so here. The pumice component is clearly igneous, the tufa component clearly sedimentary, so the rock as a whole is best described as having aspects of both. There are innumerable examples of rocks like this, that have two or more of the "rock-type trinity," igneous, sedimentry and metamorphic. Rather than fussing over whether a rock is one or the other, a geologist will spend more time fussing over the processes that created particular aspects or components of the rock. This is a picture my brother took with his cell phone when we were there last spring.
And the GoogleEarth view. I think I may have moved the pin since I copied the lat-long numbers (37.978308° -119.129022°), but not enough to make any difference. The major road running along the western edge of the lake is US 395, which has my vote for the most spectacular interstate route in the US.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Blag Gets Bagged

Just caught this at the Guardian. Not only has he been removed from office, he's been disqualified from ever serving in a public office again in Illinois. His criminal trial is ongoing. I'm sure the blogosphere is abuzz, but I've been catching up on a bunch geology and other science stuff.

I think it's interesting to note that liberal bloggers and commentators have been pretty much unanimous in their condemnation of this character. I'm deeply suspicious regarding our culture's tendancy these days to run "trials by media," rather than having juries actually examine pertinent evidence (Nancy Grace can eat me). So I have tried not to pay too much attention until the facts have been laid out and treated formally. But the man (and the teratogenic twin attached to his head) has behaved in such a way that it was clear to me that he believed trial by media was his only hope.

But compare this to what I expect would happen if Blaggy was a Republican. Rush, Sean, Bill-o, Annie got her gun, and the rest of the usual crew would be shrilly filling the airwaves with denunciations of the librul media, claiming there's no real evidence, that it's all a witchhunt. You know it's true; we've seen it dozens of times before. I personally don't believe that this is all that bad for democrats- bad for Blagojevich, yes, but the Dems are simply showing that they know their shit stinks too, and they're willing to deal with it and move on. That reassures me, not worries me.

Zombie Followup

Francesco Marciuliano, the comic artist whose strip I posted yesterday, has a video clip from an Austin news station. Did they actually say "Area residents thought it was funny until they thought about what a zombie invasion would really mean?" Naahh.

Quite a bit of dull newspeak, but the clips of the two signs makes it worth sitting through.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We Control Teh Vertical... Sorta

So this blog has had a problem that dates back some time. Back in August, I was getting irritated by all the blank space I couldn't use, and most especially by the fact that pictures were either shrunk to the point of loosing much of what made them interesting, or were cut off by the edge of the main window.

So I got into the html, tinkered around, and figured out how to widen the main window. The cute little roundy corners that give this blooger "skin" its name, "rounders" were still cute little roundy corners on the left, but they were odd (if still cute) teeth about 2/3 of the way to the right in the main window. Good enough for me. A little disheveled, a little disorganized, but pretty sharp overall. Perfect for me, actually.

Then in November, for some reason, Bloogger decided they needed to connect those cute little roundy corners. And all of the sudden, there was a stray line running down the right middle of my blog. It was very irritating. But I sort of figured if it could show up without warning, it might go away in the same manner. I've been thinking about getting in there with all the html programming skills I have available to me (if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail) and fixing it. My prediction regarding the results of such "fixing" can be seen on the post linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Well, Callan left me a comment a bit ago "Lockwood, you gotta do something about that vertical line running through your blog! " So I have. Commented out are the cute little rounder corners. Commented out are the pointless lines connecting them. Take that Blooger! Keep in mind that now I have figured out that "/*" and "*/" make anything go away, I will respond appropriately to any further incursions on my formatting. I'm willing to call a truce, right here, right now. But mess with me any more, and I may end up commenting out the entire internet.

To everyone else, if we're lucky, the critical mass chain reaction will only take out my apartment, maybe the block. If I've got this wrong, every computer on the planet will crash tomorrow. So, "Sorry, My Bad," in advance.

A Day in the Dead

Ben recently started a blog (waiting for more posts, guy) with his friend Brian (waiting for any post, guy), and the first entry was a light piece about zombies and "Rock Lobster." Just consider the image, don't think about it too hard. So I've had zombies on the brain for a couple of days... of course if they'd been in my brain, I'd be one too.

In one of those instances of synchronicity that I love, I have come across not one but two zombie funnies today, which in turn reminded me of some other stuff moldering on my hard drive. No word on what the response rate to these sorts of personals is, but I imagine that relationships formed as a result tend to be, ummm... permanent.And judging by that woman's eyes, death, coffee and sleep are not mutually exclusive. Coffee may in fact be an important component of zombie metabolism.Which in turn suggests that leaving cups of the hot, hearty brew around might distract them from lumbering after us would-be victims. Apparently, another zombie deterrent is cold weather, so I guess this isn't really zombie season anyway. At least in northern climates. Austin, Texas, though, is another story:

It seems one or more joker(s) hacked the road sign. The text reads:
"THE END IS NEAR!!!!!!!!" Finally, today's Medium Large (front page) shows that zombies have a role to play in economic news as well. In fact, now that the "Voodoo Economics" of the Reagan Era has been show to have utterly disasterous effect, Congressional Republicans are moving on to "Zombie Economics." Free Kool Aid at the temple.

Wednesday Words

Let's start off with a review of last week's words:

Callan suggested that ""petsto" is a lovely dish composed of kittens and puppies, covered in a sauce of olive oil, basil, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts," which even better than my thought it might be basil and parmesian flavored kitty and puppy food.

Silver Fox saw two possible uses for "notha:" "All I can think of when I see "notha" - It's a notha muckin funday," and "Either that or it's Not Funny (not ha!)." Dean Wormer weighed in authoritatively with the latter: ""Notha" is an Orwellian term for things that aren't funny." Actually, I think the first use evolved from the latter meaning: muckin' fundays are definitely notha.

I was thinking "tatimp" would be a small, irritating person with abundant artificially implanted skin pictures, and "facewr" would be textual skin images implanted, like billboards, on the forehead or cheeks. "Minessi" is either a very small town in Italy, or a tiny version of the Loch Ness Monster.

And so on with the show; here's todays words. Tune in next week for full disclosure, and thanks for playing!

You're Already There, You Idiot what I was hoping Google would tell me when I asked for directions from my favorite coffee shop, to my favorite coffee shop, by car.
"These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly. You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route."

Well, I guess I should go check the ODOT website and make sure that the roads are all in shape, chain requirements and so on. Ahhh... but look, they also offer walking directions. "Stand up. Sit down." I'm not going to bother checking on how to get here using public transportation.

Oh, I couldn't help myself. Here's the result: "Your search for transit directions from 1563 NW Monroe Ave. Corvallis, OR 97330 to 1563 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330 appears to be outside our current coverage area. Please consult our list of participating public transit agencies."

Interzone People: Katie

Up to the end of fall term, Katie was a barista here at my favorite coffee shop.
She's a psychology major, recently won "Undergraduate of the Year" recognition in her department, and has been working in a research lab there. Unfortunately for me, that became enough of a job that she no longer had time to work here. But she still hangs out and drinks coffee on a regular basis. Like most psych majors I've known, Katie is quite crazy. But in a good way. Crazy can be very interesting and entertaining. I should know...

Another One of Those Pesky Winter Memes

I caught it from Silver Fox, who caught it from ReBecca. Bold the places you've been; numbers are thought to be average annual visitors.

America's Top 25 Most-Visited Places:

1. Times Square, New York City, NY - 35 million
2. The Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV - 31 million
3. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington DC - 24 million
4. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA- 20 million- I visited Boston in the summer after 3rd grade, but I don't remember this, so I won't count it.
5. Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL - 17.1 million
6. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA - 14.9 million
7. Fisherman's Wharf/Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA - 14 million
8. Niagara Falls, NY - 12 million
9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC - 9.4 million
10 Navy Pier, Chicago, IL - 8.6 million- I've been to Chicago a number of times, but I don't think I've been to this spot. Unless this is where the Field Museum is.
11. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ/NV - 7.6 million
12. Universal Studios/ Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL - 6.2 million
13. SeaWorld Florida, Orlando, FL - 6 million
14. San Antonio River Walk, TX - 5.1 million
15. Temple Square, Salt Lake City, UT - 5 million
16. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, PA/NJ - 4.8 million- possibly, but if so, a drive-by, and I don't remember it.
17. Universal Studios Hollywood, CA - 4.7 million
18. Metropolitan Museum, New York City, NY - 4.5 million
18. Waikiki Beach, Oahu, HI - 4.5 million
20. Grand Canyon, AZ - 4.41 million
21. Busch Gardens Africa, Tampa Bay, FL - 4.4 million
22. Cape Cod National Seashore, MA - 4.35 million- Plymouth, but I don't think we went out on the cape.
23. Sea World San Diego, CA - 4.26 million
24. American Museum of Natural History, New York City, NY - 4 million
25. Atlantic City Boardwalk, NJ - 4 million

I think it speaks volumes about Americans that the two museums on this list are in 18th and 24th places. I count 13, a bit more than half. 16, the other 18, and 22 are the ones I'd be interested in seeing, and maybe 4- I'd definitely like to go back and visit some of Boston's historical sites.

Oops, followup- didn't remove SF's comment on Waikiki; I've never been anywhere close to Hawaii.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Autonomous Drone Weapons...

...that weren't funded in this year's Defense Budget:
Obama pictures and McCain pictures
see more pictures

It Was 309 Years Ago Today

Almost missed this... chatting with fellow coffee-drinkers, reading LOL cats and news and so on. All the image work for the apophyllite post took longer than I expected, too. So I was just skimming over news from my RSS folder, "Oregon News and Blogs," and what should pop up but this little bit of trivia:
Scientific research in Oregon, Washington and Japan tells us that at 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700 AD, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, centered about 75 miles offshore, ruptured along a 600 mile long fault...
Via KATU, a press release from DOGAMI (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries). So the actual moment of the anniversary will be about 2 hours from now.

Not to Worry

Obama pictures and McCain pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

And the Republicans haven't gone away either... they're just not in charge any more.

Monday Mineral: Apophyllite

I have mentioned "Siletzia" and the Siletz River Volcanics a couple of times before, toward the end of this post, and poetically in this one. If you flick over to the second link you can see a picture of a nice pile of pillow basalts overlain by a nice set of columnar jointing. Pillow basalts are the result of basalt erupting or flowing into water; as a result they are severely fractured, and full of glass and void spaces. Basaltic glass is quite unstable as rock material goes, and it decomposes fairly quickly to palagonite. In the alteration process lots of ions move into solution and reprecipitate in a very predictable suite of minerals, particularly zeolites and calcite. Another common mineral in this suite is apophyllite. While zeolites are hydrated tectosilicates, and calcite is calcium carbonate, apophyllite is a phyllosilicate, like the mica group.
The above picture doesn't show the apophyllite too well (the most identifiable mineral here is natrolite, which I'll address another time), but it does show the palagonitic base on which the crystals have grown. While I have seen lots and lots of this in quarries in the hills north and west of Corvallis, I think this particular sample came out of parking lot gravel. It pays to look at what you're walking on.
The two above pictures were taken from slightly different positions, and below I've cropped them and placed them side by side to create a cross-eyed stereopair. I can definitely see this pop out, but I'd sure appreciate some feedback from geology types to let me know if this works for you as well, and perhaps more importantly, if it helps you visualize the geometry of this mineral.
Frequently the apophyllite is too small to readily identify useful features without a binocular microscope, but if you have some good-sized crystals, it has some very distinctive features that make it unmistakeable.

It is in the tetragonal symmetry group, so the basic form of the mineral is a four-sided prism with two pinacoids terminating the c-axis. The prism faces have a glassy luster, and are almost always striated. In the picture below you can see a prism face with striations. As an interesting aside, you can see that the apophyllite has grown around the needles of natrolite, which tells you the natrolite precipitated first. This is cropped from the second picture above, just above the left edge of the penny.
The pinacoid, on the other hand, shows a pearly luster, and is not striated. The following four pictures were taken from slightly different angles to show the pearly luster as the the pinacoid is illuminated from different angles.

The other feature that does not show up on this sample is that frequently the corners between the pinacoid and two prism faces are beveled, sort like a roof. Those faces have a glassy luster and are unstriated. I do have a sample that shows this well, but I can't quite seem to get it to show up in photos; it's too glassy and transparent. The crystals pictured here are milky enough that they are distinct from one another in photographs. Nevertheless, in my experience, the beveled corners are more the rule than the exception. Yet another characteristic is a perfect cleavage parallel to the pinacoid. As an open question, I almost typed "obviously, since it's a phyllosilicate," and realized that I've always assumed that all phyllosilicates have perfect cleavage across the c-axis. I guess that seems logical, but I guess I don't really know that it's so. Is my assumption accurate?

More Signs of Spring

A nice, crisp day today; 38 and sunny. Here's the first flower of the season. I'm not sure it's really fair to call this another sign of spring, because I'm not sure the dandilions ever really quit blooming. With a little sunshine and minimum warmth, they seem to pop open at the slightest provocation, regardless of what the calendar says.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winter in Vermont

My brother Vance has a fair amount of acreage and a cabin in SE Vermont. I have only visited once, but it's very nice.He has found that he can make pretty good money selling firewood. I gather that he gets some tax breaks for running productive forestry land, and I gather that firewood fits that description. This year's fuel prices are nothing like worst case forecasts from last summer, not even as bad as they were last winter. But I imagine that heating with wood, for those that can use that option, is still less expensive than heating with fuel oil or natural gas.The ice storm in mid-December was national news, but here in Oregon we mostly heard about New Hampshire and Maine. I assumed he'd seen some ice but this is worse than I'd imagined. On the other hand, while the trees are bowed, I'm not seeing too many limbs actually broken. We get these kind of conditions here every couple of years; it's quite beautiful, but treacherous to try to go anywhere. Good weather to stay indoors. I haven't seen this pond before. Very pretty. When Vance tried to describe this picture, I had no real image of what he meant, but he actually did a very good job of portraying this as remeniscent of fractiles, the Mandelbrot set particularly. I'm sure that someone can interpret a great deal from that odd pattern of open and frozen pond surface. I can only see evidence that there's a lot more going on here than one might assume from the placid, apparently static scene.

Self-Indulgent Cat Pictures

I have mentioned Ozma, the feral cat who has moved in with me, in previous posts (here, here and here). At this point, it's not really acurate to call her feral anymore: she is very affectionate and well behaved. Up until I had a camera, I haven't been able to show her off. That has changed. She's very good at finding hidey-holes. One of her favorites is on top of the spice bags. The door to this cabinet is normally closed, so she jumps up over the sink and crawls though to this space. She doesn't appreciate flashy things going off in her face, and the camera does its range finding with a small visible flash just prior to the photographic flash. As a result, it's difficult to get a picture of her with her eyes open.Not exactly flattering, but I think she's very cute when she licks her lips.Well satisfied after a meal. When I let the apartment get too chilly, she will go curl up on my bed. She generally prefers to sleep on firm or hard surfaces. But if she's cold, warmth is where it's at.Ozma was the princess of Oz; she is definitely doing "regal" here. You might image I have quite a number more of these pictures. You'd be right. But I see no need to OD on all of them at once.