Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day Parable

Comic from Oregon Live

The scene: a kitchen counter with several bags of groceries. A couple, who we will call Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, are arguing.

S1- So did you do the shopping?

S2- Yup. Got the makings for spaghetti and bread.

S1- Wait a minute! (yanks receipt from a bag and waves it in S1's face) All I see is a bunch of useless spending!

S2- Wha-aat?

S1- Flour!!? I can't eat flour! Yeast? What are you thinking?

S2- But...

S1- TOILET PAPER!!!? What in HELL are you thinking? We can't afford TOILET PAPER! Two dollars? Well, we'll just return that unopened.

S2- But we need toilet paper.

S1- I don't. In tough times, you have to make sacrifices. What else we got in here? Tomato paste... dry pasta... You call this dinner? Look at this incredible waste! Celery! Onions! Peppers! Oh dear lord preserve us. That's the last time you ever do the shopping!

S2- What was I supposed to get?

S1- Booze. Lots and lots of booze.

S2- (rolling eyes) Oh no. Here we go again. OK, look, we've been boozing it up for years. I thought we agreed last fall that we'd give it a rest.

S1- I never agreed to that. Look, it's simple really, and I'm getting tired of having to explain it to you. We get lots of booze. We have a big party and tell all our friends to bring food, and we'll eat like kings.

S2- But we've tried that over and over. Most of our "friends" don't even bring food. They bring hip flasks so they can take our booze home with them.

S1- (shrugs) So we just tell them they have to bring food.

S2- (shaking head) We've tried that too. Everyone's so drunk we don't end up even asking what they brought. And whatever food does show up ends being used in food fights, or puked up all over the floor. And everyone's so wasted that the mess just sits for days.

S1- Ahhh! (looks around) I thought something smelled funny. But we're doing fine, that's just proof that the booze works.

S2- I'm not doing fine! I feel sick, I've got the shakes and a headache...

S1- Booze'll take care of that.

S2- I don't think so...

S1- Tell you what: we should compromise. You can spend 2/3 of the money on... hmph... FLOUR and ...snrt... YEAST, and I'll spend a third of it on booze.

S2- I just don't think...

S1- And that is precisely the problem. Really, if we just spent HALF the money on booze, we wouldn't have to spend money on food at all.

S2- No, no, no, your first idea sounded much better.

S1- Now that's more like it. See the problem is, we've been buying the cheapo booze. We gotta start looking at the better stuff.

S2- ...I think I'm gonna heave...

S1- (squinting at the receipt) You know, I'm not sure we can afford to waste any more money on groceries after all. You know, it's a proven fact that grocery stores never supplied any food to anybody. They're called "grocery" stores for a reason- all they sell is groceries. You can't eat groceries, nope. What a body needs is food. And the only proven way to get food is to buy lots and lots of booze.

S2- ...urp...urp....
So here's the question... at what point do you file for a divorce? Go into counseling? Get a mental assessment? Maybe a restraining order? One's an addict, the other's an enabler... it ain't gonna happen. Besides, they can't afford any of those expensive options: They need more booze. And of course, the punch line is that this couple has about 300 million family members for whom they're responsible.

Not Just Valentine's Day

Today is also Oregon's 150th birthday! (See here, here and here.) Happy Birthday, Oregon! It's hard to believe I've been in existence almost a third as long as this state, and have lived here for almost a fifth of its statehood. Please forgive if I don't bake a cake. Have a scone.

Valentine's Day Scone

The Strawberry-almond Valentine's day scones are already gone... grab a chocolate-cherry edition quick!

Caturday In the Cupboard

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Actually she's not closing the door; she's making sure that it's open and that I can see her. Here's why: Oh yeah! Neck scratches R da Bestest!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Mercenary by Any Other Name...

...would still smell.
funny pictures
moar funny pictures
I can't bring myself to tag this with "humor."

Followup: I realized that not everyone might have picked up this news bit yet- if the above makes no sense, read this.

I'm Not Superstitous

So today is Friday the 13th. I'm not too worried. As the Pogo cast and crew never tired of saying, Friday the 13th is a much bigger deal when it falls on a Wednesday. Additionally, in about 10 minutes from the time I write this, the official Unix time will be 1234567890. And I don't believe that this heralds the end of the universe. There's a big eye-rolling fuss over the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, so that must be the end of the universe. Our calendars end at the conclusion of each December, and I haven't noticed any universal conclusions associated with those.

So why the lackadaisical attitude toward these deeply-ingrained cultural fears? It's simple, really. I've have long harbored a belief that superstitions bring bad luck.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


OK, not really; even 15 years ago anyone paying attention could see the path we were on. But this Calvin and Hobbes comic, from 15 years ago today, is pretty amazing.

Well, I'll Be A Monkey's Nephew!

I wasn't expecting to do anything for Darwin Day (today is the 200th anniversary of both his and Abraham Lincoln's births), not because I'm not interested, but because there doesn't really seem to be anything I can add to the tremendous amount of great stuff that's out there. If you want more on Darwin, click through some of the geoblogosphere links on the sidebar. Not every geoblogger is "doing Darwin," but many are (and get your mind out of the gutter).

However, I came across this site a little bit ago, and I haven't seen any geobuddies post it, so here you go. The general idea is that you upload a picture of your present incarnation, and the site will devolve you into any (or all) of four prehistoric hominids. Here is my extant corpus, the basis for the following:
And here is my (approximately) 125,000th great grandfather, Lockwoodo habilis: And a couple tens of thousands of generations later, Lockwoodo erectus:I really like those early Pleistocene glasses in the second picture, but this engine really doesn't seem to know what to make of my beard; contrary to popular conception, the lower half of my lineage's head has become more, not less, hairy through time. Happy D-Day!

BTW- I had to use the "Shift-PrtSc" operation and paste this in Paint, then crop it; I didn't see any way to directly save the picture.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That's Just History

When Hitler developed the V-2 rocket and started bombarding England with it, the US realized the importance of having a manned observation post on the moon; it has been maintained ever since 1916. That's just history.

When Washington threw a dollar across the Delaware (a dollar went a lot farther in those days), it killed King George, and the British surrendered. That's just history.

When we invaded Iraq, the whole world was stunned by the number of nuclear weapons Saddam had amassed: no one expected his arsenal would exceed the combined total of both the US and Russia. That's just history.

"When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

One of these statements was actually made by a US representative, apparently in all seriousness. (Hint: it's the one in quotes) Yglesias and others are making much of the fact Roosevelt didn't come into office until four years after the start of the Great Depression (which despite the Republican-style PR effort, was not great at all: it actually really sucked). I would also like to point out that the work Keynes did was in response to the depression. So this quote is a profoundly disturbing double-dip. On the other hand, Austria does meet one of my criteria for policy-makers: see point 4 here. But I'm sure it doesn't bother the repiglicans at all: when they don't like the facts, they make up ones they do like. That's just history.


Two satellites have just collided in orbit, about 500 miles over Siberia. There doesn't appear to be a whole lot known yet. This could be completely innocuous in terms of consequences, or pretty bad. I remember reading an article some years ago about a potential chain-reaction, where debris might impact other satellites, creating more debris that destroyed still more... I haven't read much more about this idea, so I really have no idea whether it's considered plausible. But whatever, consider this a heads-up. ; )

Followup: WaPo has a similar article with a little better info. (Registration may be required; free, and they've never spammed me)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saturday Bulletin

This is a webcomic where the technique is to find some retro/old-style picture, then caption it with a (frequently very dark) punchline that is at odds with what one imagines was the original tone and intent of the image. If that sounds convoluted and not funny, it's my fault. Here's a couple of my favorite examples from recent posts. Front page here. Today's issue.
January 29

I hope you agree that it's much funnier than I made it sound. RSS feed available (and recommended).


Couple of old jokes, one new to me, that are appropos to our times:

Did you hear about the guy who fell behind on the payments to his exorcist?
He was repossesed.

And from Krugman, on Geithner's financial rescue plan, the "old" joke I had never heard before:

What do you get when you cross the Godfather with a deconstructionist?
Someone who makes you an offer you can’t understand.

Part of what I enjoy about reading Krugman's writing, in addition to the fact that he has, during the ten years or so since I started reading his pieces at Slate, accumulated a uncannily accurate track record on his predictions, and in addition to his ability to write at a level and information density that I can grasp, is his dry wit and humor. He follows the above post with a matching cartoon. And in an earlier post, titled "Acronyms," he relates, "But Jamie Galbraith (private communication) has trumped me; he says it’s the Bad Assets Relief Fund."

So my point is, even the Nobel-winning economist seems to think our last, best hope to get through this mess is to develop a sense of humor.

Followup: to get at the list of Krugman's articles at Slate, follow the link to that page, which will take you to a search for "Paul Krugman." Then in the author column, click on his name for a listing of his articles there. That's the link I tried to embed, but it takes me back to the first search page. And to clarify, Krugman quit writing a regular column for Slate when he picked up his column at the NYT.

When All Else Fails

I've been following XKCD for a while, but I've never gone through the entire archive. I hadn't seen this one before. Hat tip to The Ethical Paleontologist.

Metric Conversions

This was going around as an e-mail many years ago, and I decided to see if I could track it down. The metric system is an elegant, easy to learn and easy to use system that Americans are profoundly unable to deal with. The site where I found this has some of its examples incorrect, so take them with a grain of salt.

2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds (correct)

1 million microphones = 1 megaphone (incorrect)
1 million microphones = 1 phone
1 million phones = 1 megaphone (corrected)

1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche (correct)

1 million bicycles = 2 megacycles (this is correct, but there's an additional unit conversion assumed)

1 million billion picolos = 1 gigolo (incorrect; it would take 1000 billion billion picolos to make one gigolo)

There's quite a few more at the linked site, and one more I remember that isn't on the list:
1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope

So I hope that clarifies everything and we can switch from this silly English system now.

The Effin' Weather

So after yesterday's "woo-hoo, spring is nearly here" post, it's been downhill. Rainy, cold, 35 degrees... and it was snowing just a little bit ago. I carried both my umbrella and my gloves today, an unusual combination. So I was quite amused to see this on Buzzfeed: The F'ing Weather. If the F word offends, don't bother, but if you find its gratuitous overuse in the context of accurate data amusing, check it out. The small comments under the large banner are varied and change with each click. Examples include (for my zip code today), "My nipples could cut glass," "Why do I live here," and "Not f'ing jogging weather." Apparently his server has been swamped, and visitors my get locked out; he has also remarked that he can't provide info for outside the US. But you can get the info in F'ing Celsius as well.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Springing Forth

I saw this comic earlier, and thought about posting it, but I've already posted a few and don't want to use too many from the same source. It's like a privilege I don't want to abuse. But E.B. Misfit, one of my favoritest bloggers, has posted it, so if you'd do me a favor and run over and take a look at it, I'll wait a minute.

No, I'm still here. Go look. I'll wait. I promise.

Funny, Hunh?

Ooooo, I just love making people envious... I had to walk down to the orange market (not its real name) to get some tobacco this morning, and these are in a yard across the street. Those are snowdrops- or at least that's what I grew up calling them. They would come up in late Feb to early March back in Ohio, often, as the name implies, poking up through the snow. I actually noticed these last week, but it was night and I didn't have my camera with me anyway- so these have probably been blooming for a week or so.
A closer picture. Note the standard "north side" lawn here: always green, never needs mowing. Moss is a far superior ground cover to grass, unless you actually want to do anything on your lawn. I don't know what the following plant is called, but I think it's related to the eastern Jack-in-the-pulpit. The leaves are similar, but variegated. It's always some of the earliest significant foliage to pop up, and the foliage dies back by the end of June. It sometimes sets seeds, and the seeding stalk is very similar to that of Jack-in-the-pulpit. That's the main reason I think they're related. The flower must be very subtle (unlike "Jack," which is quite showey); I've never noticed the blooms.

And just to take the edge off my gloating... no more than two minutes after I took these pictures, the heavens opened up and covered the ground with ice pellets- not deep, but completely covered. Those stinkers can sting! But at any rate, I'm pleased to report that the first spring flowers have officially been spotted in my neighborhood.

Sign Hacking

...has apparently become quite the thing amongst our society's un- or under-employed, computer literate citizenry(remember this from a couple of weeks ago?). It's looking like the stimulus bill will assure plenty of time for more such shenanigans, which on one hand is just fine. No one is going to have to drive to work, so hacking the signs won't have any effect on traffic. On the other hand, it's too bad because the tax cuts won't have any effect on the hackers' discretionary spending. From Gizmodo, a week or so ago. Does this prove that raptors were endotherms? Do they still have to wear parkas and snow boots? Do the snow boots interfere with that wild move where they eviscerate you with the swiveling back claw? I think these are questions that need answering.
From Buzzfeed. Where's Lou Dobbs when you need him? Maybe if we just took out ads in all the English newspapers: "We don't have any jobs either!"

(Not Quite a) Monday Mineral: Obsidian

It was interesting trying to decide whether to post these as "rocks" or "minerals." Technically they're rocks, but in terms of my own thinking, I tend to consider natural glass first as a rock forming material. It is kind of odd how familiarity, especially familiarity born of long utility, renders a concept that once seemed cumbersome and difficult so easy to recall that it takes less effort to remember (for example) the definition of a mineral than to remember how many rides around the sun I've taken.

The definition of a mineral is as follows: A naturally occuring, inorganic, crystalline solid with a fixed composition, or a composition that varies within a fixed range. So let's take each characterisitic on it's own, with some examples and non-examples, to clarify the the concept of "mineral."

naturally occuring: We as a species and a culture have learned to make many materials that do not occur naturally. Two that come to mind are silicon and aluminum. Now of course those elements occur naturally, but in nature, always bound to and combined with oxygen or other elements- never in a pure form on their own. So while the silicon in the chip on the computer I'm working on meets all the other criteria for "mineral," it dosn't occur in nature. Likewise with the aluminum in a can.

inorganic: This can be interpreted a couple of different ways, but my preference is that it is not composed of once-living material. The other is that it was not created by living organisms. Coal is clearly a rock, but it is composed of the remains of plants, thus it is not made of minerals. Again, the carbon atoms in coal have very likely spent time in mineral form (as carbonates), but the material as it occurs is derived from living matter. How about a fossil shell? This is why I prefer the former interpretation: the shell was never alive, so it is composed of minerals. Under the second interpretation, the shell was created by a living organism, and the crytalline material of the shell wouldn't be considered as minerals.

crystalline: The atoms making up the material must be organized in a predictable, symmetrical arrangement. Obviously we can't directly see how the atoms are organized, but the physical properties of the material, such as the form into which it grows, the way it breaks, the way it interacts with light and many others all reflect an internal order to the material's smallest units. In principle, if you know the position of a few of the atoms in a crystal, you should be able to predict the positions of all the other atoms. If you've had a little chemistry, it actually becomes a little eerie to consider just many repeating units can line up one after the other, almost flawlessly. This is the first criterion by which obsidian fails to meet "mineralness." Its atoms, while well-bound to each other, are basically random in their organization: knowing the position of any number of them will not allow you to predict the positions of any others.

solid: To simplify matters, I will simply define this as an inability to flow in response to the types of pressures (stresses) that occur in our day-to-day world. Almost anything will deform under the kinds of conditions that exist deep in the earth, so let's stick to the surface. Glass is sometimes described as a super-cooled liquid, and there is a widespread belief (though fallacious) that glass will flow simply due to the force of gravity if given enough time. For all practical purposes (outside of thermodynamics) it's fair to consider natural glass a solid. Incidentally, the way I've described the common forms of matter to elementary kids and teachers that seems to be effective (in that it "sticks") is solids don't flow; liquids flow, but don't compress very easily, and gasses flow and compress easily.

fixed composition: Some minerals have compositions that are fixed to within parts per million- that is, they may have some contaminants, but most atoms/ions that don't belong are excluded during the process of crystallization. Quartz SiO2 is a good example of this. Feldspars are a group of minerals that can vary a fair amount, but each type (plagioclase, for example) has a fixed range within which it varies. Plagioclase is particularly important, because the ratio of calcium and sodium tells a geologist much about the source and environment from which the mineral (and host rock) arose. So plagioclase is further broken down into 5 "subsidiary" minerals defined on which part of the compositional spectrum they fall into. Labradorite, which I have mentioned before, has a 50 to 70% calcium composition, with the remaining 50 to 30% of those spots occupied by sodium. Natural glass fails the mineral test in this respect as well; there are as many compositions of glass as there are of volcanic rock- which is a lot.

OK, that's a long-winded intro, but I expect I can refer back to it from time to time. As I indicated in the first paragraph, to a beginner this seems like a cumbersome defintion, but after you've applied it for a while, it rolls off the tongue as easily as anything.

I don't have most of my obsidian anymore, but I do have a few nice pieces. All of the following are high silica in composition, or in geo-speak, rhyolite glass. There was a period during which I got into knapping in a big way, so I had a bucket of the stuff to play with. Below is a flake that never got beyond the blank stage. And the flip side. Sorry, I forgot to put a scale marker in, but this piece is about 3 inches long.
In the above picture you can see a bit of the cortex, the weathered rind, which is how it looks when you actually find it. This is a fairly opaque sample, but the flow banding is pretty clear on both sides of the sample. (The little sideways "9" on the cortex is an ID number- long story for another time.) The below sample is about an inch and a half in diameter- too small for knapping, but I liked the color.
This is a variety that lapidarists and rock hounds call "mahogany," There isn't much communication between the geology and rock hounding community, and I'll admit their habit of naming every minor feature, combined with a seemingly complete disinterest in knowing anything about the rock and what it tells you, can be frustrating. Nonetheless, I've often found their knowledge of where to find things astonishing. Below is the freshly broken face of the above piece. The various colors are most often related to the oxidation state of the obsidian; red, as below, indicates oxidized; black, as in the first sample, is due mostly to magnetite, and represents an intermediate oxidation. Greenish obsidian represents low oxygen availability.
And below is an arrowhead I made around 1990, one of the few I have left. The tip is broken, but you can tell what it originally looked like. It's about 2 inches long.
And below is the Google Earth image of the source of all these pieces. If you look at the center of this 50% reduced image, you can see two photo icons. The one to the lower left is a decent hand-drawn rockhounding map of the Glass Buttes area. Its latitude/longitude numbers are 43.554110, -120.005918. This photo is placed on the hillside above the cattle tank (retention pond for watering cattle) that is the best place to start your explorations of this site. I should mention that collecting is allowed here, but knapping is prohibited on site (with a couple of well-used exceptions) to minimize confusion between archeological resources and modern recreation. The road running across the picture is US 20.Rather than focussing on a close up, this picture is out far enough for me to get at a bit of regional perspective. One of the first things that will jump out at geo-geeks is the strong NW-SE lineation to the landscape around the central peak- it's even more apparent in GE. The Brothers Fault Zone is the northern termination of Basin and Range in Oregon. It is a series of imbricate NW-SE faults that individually are normal to oblique-normal, but whose net effect is to allow east-west extension in Basin and Range to be accomodated against the (more or less) stable and fixed Blue Mountain block to the north. There are numerous basalt flows around and on the Brothers FZ, but of particular interest are a series of rhyolitic domes along the structure. Newberry can be considered as part of this group, along with Glass Butte, and several others. So Glass Butte is a big patty of silica-rich lava that oozed out along one of the largest structural features of Oregon

More IZ People

Getting started on coffee, and there's a table of IZ people right in front of me. I have my camera with today's Monday Mineral pictures ready to go, so I ask if I can take a couple of pictures. First we have Caitlin- I'll have to check on the spelling there. Caitlin is Justin's (see part way down this post for an intro to Justin) girlfriend; they've been together as long as I've known them. Last I heard, she works at Cirello's, which makes the best pizza in town.
That chair back in the shadows behind Caitin's head is my preferred blogspot. You can see my computer over her left shoulder. And below are Gwen (on the left) and Maddy. Gwen just started working here recently, and I don't know her too well yet. I can say that I love her taste is music; a couple of weeks ago she was playing some Portishead- a group whose name I had forgotten, but whose music I quite like. Maddy is an art person who started working here a couple of years back. She went to France last summer for school, ran out of money and landed back in Corvallis. So for the time being she's working here again.
She told me at one point she wanted to go to culinary school to learn to be a french pastry chef, and I haven't heard of any changes in her long-term plans. Apparently the three are planning some project: as I started writing this up, they departed to go prowl the local crafts store.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Banangelina Jolie

When I came into my favorite coffee shop this morning, there was a flyer for a special that I gather has run before, but that I have never had:

organic bananas fried in homemade pancake batter topped with organic maple syrup, almonds, cinnamon flavored organic whipped cream, powdered sugar, nutmeg, and strawberries which may or may not* have been nibbled by Angelina, Brad, or any of their 46 children.
Like the famed actress/activist, this breakfast is warm, sweet, spicy and a little nutty. Who wouldn't want to taste a little Banangelina?

I debated getting it- I can't eat too much sugar. I couldn't really decide so I had a cup of coffee and got a start on my reading. After an hour or so, I went and had a smoke, and decided to go for it. Fruit is good for you, right?
Justin took my order. In all fairness, while both he and I enjoy this picture, he does not make a habit of looking like a murderous clown who forgot to put on his whiteface and makeup. I asked him to give me a grin, and he did.Natalie was pretty busy with other orders, so I didn't stick around to see mine specifically get underway. But a little while later, with a fresh refill to occupy me, she brought this out:
I think that Natalie, knowing I was going to write this up, made it a little fancier than normal. These results may not be typical, as they say in the diet ads.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make things format the way I want them to, rather than the way blooger wants them to, and the following has ended up grainy for some reason, but it's a crop of the above, to show the luscious details: And after a few bites, to reveal the banangelinas inside:
Iris came out shortly afterward, and I had to ask how this was assembled. She slices the bananas into four lengthwise slices, then dips them in the pancake batter, and pushes them together into a circular form in the pan, then cooks it like a pancake.

Iris was having the super burrito, which is what I most often have. I'll have to write that up some other time, but here's a preview: And just in case you forgot, this is Iris, the Dutchess of deliciousness... ...with the expression I'm most often wearing when I'm getting ready to plow into some food here.

I finally got over my sugar buzz a couple of hours ago. It was beyond decadent. If I understood correctly, they will be running this special (the Banangelina, not the burrito) for the next week. If you're in the neighborhood, and are not diabetic, I recommend it.

10 Lies About Me

I have mixed feelings toward memes; sometimes they're on a topic that is of interest to me and sometimes they just look quick and easy. Many times they look as if they're going to be of questionable interest to readers and take a lot of time on my part. Those latter are the ones I ignore. As an example, there's one going around right now on "25 Random things about me." I have never been able to finish reading one of those posts, and I'm certainly not going to write one, so don't bother tagging me with that meme. On the other hand, Greg recently tagged me with "6 Random things:" quick, easy and potentially interesting, and I was happy to play. (oops... Dean tagged me with this one)

I have never started a meme before, and this one is more for my own amusement than anything else. It's kind of a snarky response to the 25 Things meme, but I could tell there was some potential for humor in the idea. If you feel like playing, the rules should be obvious, and I'll be flattered and probably amused. If you don't feel like playing... well, note that I'm not tagging anyone. You're off the hook, but I hope you still enjoy (but don't believe) these 10 Lies About me:

1) I have several secret superpowers, but I use them only for good and to fight evil, never for my own benefit.

2) I have read the entire internet. Several times.

3) Women find me impossibly desirable, and this has caused me no end of problems.

4) I believe that complete and utter butt ignorance is the only way one can be objective and without preconceptions. Thus people with that charcteristic are the ones I want for my most trusted sources of information and for making important policy decisions.

5) I believe that our media have been woefully inadequate in hiring people with the above qualification.

6) I believe the universe was created 31.4159 (10 pi) seconds ago, and all our memories implanted by an omnipotent spaghetti monster.

7) That's why I remember liking pasta, although I have never actually eaten it.

8) When you get right down to it, I find rocks awfully dull. But geology was an easy major that I knew would have me rolling in dough.

9) I think a cheap, easy treatment to remove 25 years or so of my physical age would really suck.

10) I thought this would be a slow, tedious post to put together, but it actually only took a couple of minutes.