Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crocuses? Croci? Who Cares!

We've had a fairly warm, sunny week, which means, among other things, that the later sunsets have been especially noticeable, and the higher sun during the afternoon has been feeling very nice and warm. Today has been mostly overcast (though pretty warm: it's 52 right now) , and it just started drizzling an hour or so ago- not enough to pool up and run off, but enough to dampen everything up a little. But between the moisture, the warmth and the sunshine this week, the crocuses (croci?) have been popping up everywhere. That last one sort of foreshadows the daffodils. The next few days look to be wet and cooler- though still in the upper forties. But the daffodils' buds are definitely up and swelling. I suspect they'll start bursting open as soon as we get a few more warm, sunny days... probably within the next week or so.

This is almost the beginning of my 29th year in Oregon, and there are still some things I'm not really accustomed to. Moss and ferns growing in the trees. Months with no rain in the summer. And flowers in the middle of February. Keep in mind that the town I live in is farther north than Toronto, Ontario. You wouldn't know it from our winter climate, but it is.

Caturday: And Now I'm Missing a Finger

This dates back to near the beginning of the year. My family was out for Christmas, and when they all went back east, I ended up with some left overs. Among them was some frozen, ready-to-eat shrimp. Ozma Likes! Really, Really Likes! She does not like taking food out of my hand though, and the tension could get pretty funny. When I acted as if I was going to take it away, she would grapple my legs and meow loudly. But when I held it back down for her, she would purr and just sniff it, not actually pick it out of my grasp. And now I'm missing a finger. (No, not really. I finally just set it down, and it disappeared immediately. She was very affectionate afterward.)

Top 10 Waterfalls

I'm a big fan of waterfalls: I love the white noise, I love the mist and the smell, I love the way they're always changing, yet always the same, and in most cases the setting has its own beauty. So I had to pick this up and pass it on. Bold the ones you've visited, add comments as desired, and as a bonus, add a personal favorite that's not on the list, and that you think other waterfall enthusiasts would enjoy. The origin of this list is here (with discussion and nice photos) via Swans On Tea.

#10 Lower Calf Creek Falls, Escalante National Monument, Utah (I love desert waterfalls, but I hadn't heard of this one)

#9 Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (the steam coming from the gorge walls adds to the grandeur of this one)

#8 Upper Whitewater Falls, in southwestern North Carolina (again, hadn't heard of it, but it looks very nice... I'm fond of the terrace effect that you get in waterfalls over sedimentary rocks

#7 Snoqualmie Falls, between Snoqualmie and Fall City, Washington

#6 Havasu Falls, Supai Village, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Grand Canyon, Arizona (one I always wanted to get to, but I doubt I ever will)

#5 Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho (A very worthwhile, quick, stop off of I-84, but easy to miss unless you're looking for it)

#4 Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (another I-84 quick stop, but the whole Gorge is teaming with waterfalls. Drive the historic scenic route- contrary to the comments of the original post, many many waterfalls are either visible from the road, the pullouts, or very short walks from the pavement)

#3 Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California (you gotta have at least one Yosemite waterfall)

#2 McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California (haven't been to Big Sur, and this strikes me as sort of an eclectic personal favorite, but I'm just copying the orignal poster's list)

#1 Niagara Falls, Niagara, New York (eeyup, what she said- the shear thundering power of this waterfall shakes your bones. Visit the Candian side, park-like and beautifully landscaped, unlike the American side, which is built up and touristy and tawdry)

Bonus Waterfall: Salt Creek Falls, Oregon- A quick pull out off of Route 58, 23 miles southeast of Oakridge, but easy to miss. The waterfall cascades off of young, high Cascade basalt onto older, Western Cascades volcanoclastics. The latter are fragmented and more easily eroded, and thus undercut the overlying basalt. This set-up is very common for waterfalls- the water falls off of harder, more resistant rock, onto softer, less resistant material. The softer material erodes out, undercutting the harder rock, which then calves off, renewing the waterfall and keeping the edge sharp and well-defined. Picture source and more info here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Faulty Friday Fragment

Not too much to say about this fragment. It's a limey sandstone/siltstone with several little faults running through it. I picked it up on last spring's trip to the California desert- I think near Darwin (east side of Owens Lake), but I'm not really sure. The offset on the pair visible here look like reverse faults.
However, if you look carefully, the width of the fault is similar to the total offset.Now technically, a joint is a fracture that involves little or no offset parallel to the fracture surface. Place your palms together, then pull them apart a half an inch or so: that represents a joint. Put them back together, and slide one hand some direction without separating the surfaces: that represents a fault. In this sample, the separations both parallel and perpendicular to the fracture surface look to be about the same, so what should I call it?Looking at the side of the fragment (this is the side that was closest to the quarter in the first picture), you can see there's actually a larger fault running through the middle of the rock. My suspicion is that the two cute little microfaults visible in the first picture are more acurately described as brecciation (breaking, shattering, crushing) associated with this larger fracture. Brecciation that, in this case, appears to have a reverse offset. I'll still call them faults, because I'm rather fond of tiny little samples that capture what are normally very large features, but in this case, I'm quite unsure just how accurate I am in applying that name to these features.

This leads me to an important theme in geology: names and terms can be very useful in communication, but they can also get in the way of understanding if naming something becomes an inaccurate stand-in for actually describing it. What I want to do is understand how the rock formed, how it came to have the features it does. Noticing the features is necessary to do that, but naming them isn't necessarily necessary.

And regarding all the equivocation above, all I can do is apologize and repeat an old joke: "The world needs more one-armed geologists, so we don't have to hear, 'on the other hand,' every few sentences."

Alternate Lyrics

Sometimes I come across strings of similar things. Today's similar things appear to be misunderstood lyrics. First, Obama's Elf:

And second, a truly surreal version of Carmina Burana:

Carmina Burana is not a piece of music that many people recognize by name, but the introduction, mocked above, has been used in so many soundtracks and other audio and audiovisual productions that it is familiar by sound to nearly everybody. If you ever have the opportunity to read a translation as you listen to the full production, I highly recommend it. in the 1930's, Carl Orf took medieval lyrics discovered in the early 1800's (written in the 1200's) from a Bavarian abbey, and set them to music. As you might expect of monks, they're all about wine, women and song (the middle ages equivalents of sex and drugs and rock and roll). It's a beautiful work, but awfully funny when you contrast the grandeur and formality of the music with the, ummm... earthyness... of its subject matter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good News, Bad News

The sea otter has been essentially extinct in Oregon for over a century; I say"essentially" because there have been occasional spottings of individual animals, and a failed attempt in the 1970's to reintroduce them. However, Oregon Live is reporting that one has been spotted at Depoe Bay. The article specifically states that we shouldn't read too much into this, but does point out that this might indicate conditions are right for a natural recolonization by the species. I for one adore otters (in the youthful fantasy game "what animal would you be," "otter" was always my preference), and couldn't be happier to hear of this possibility.

In an opposite and heartbreaking vein, the gorgeous Worcester's buttonquail is pictured below. This is the first known photograph of a living speciman; all previous representations are drawings from dead animals in museum collections, and the creature has been thought extinct for decades.

Why heartbreaking? The photo was taken at a meat market. I saw this article in The Telegraph a couple of days ago, and I thought it was worth commenting on. But it was so depressing I didn't really know how- or even if- I wanted to approach it. I guess it feels like the otter news makes it a little easier to cope with, but this still strikes me as impossibly tragic. And by the way, the quote Club president Michael Lu said the group was "ecstatic" about the find, but they also "feel sad that the locals do not value the biodiversity around them" is infuriating to me. I suspect, much as I hate to admit it, if I had a couple of hungry kids, that I would kill an otter to put food in their mouths. Why didn't Michael Lu buy the poor bird?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The More You Know

...the more you know you can't really comprehend. If you've learned a lot but feel like you understand nothing, that sentence will make perfect sense to you.
(Hat tip to Lisa)

Wednesday Words

I've gotten backed up on my posting... too much reading, not enough writing. I was sort of hoping after the inauguration that my political fixation would settle a bit, but I just seem to get so involved and so compelled by all the nonsense, then I have to go read every link and story I come across. But the Wednesday words are easy... no excuse not to do them. Remember, the idea is these look like they might be words; your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me what they actually mean. And in accordance with the pleading of blogger Lisa, I'm going to try turning my own verification off. If I start getting a bunch of spam, it's going right back up.

Eight Years of Bad Taste

I had heard of Ben & Jerry's "Yes Pecan" ice cream tribute to Obama, and I had heard that they had called for suggestions for tribute flavors for GWB. I had heard of one suggestion, "Cluster Fudge." I hadn't heard there were a whole slew of suggestions. Here's the first quarter or so of the list:

- Grape Depression
- Abu Grape
- Cluster Fudge
- Nut'n Accomplished
- Iraqi Road
- Chock 'n Awe
- WireTapioca
- Impeach Cobbler
- Impeach Mint

From Alternet- quite a few more there, those to my taste, the suggestions seem to be listed from best to not as great. Additionally, some of these flavors have been mocked up with a photoshop treatment here.

Strength of Conviction

can lead to conviction of stupidity.

Another fine piece from The Onion. They also had an article on the transition to Digital Food Format that I got a laugh from.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ooh! Ooh! I Want to Try This At Home!

Callan Bentley just posted this YouTube video at his site. I have never gotten up close and personal with real live lava, and this looks like a feasible way to make it happen. In addition to his comment that the basalt is runny, while the granite/rhyolite is too viscous to drip, I think it should be pointed out that the melting temperature of basalt is much higher than that of rhyolite. So the different viscosities are not the result of the different melting temperatures: basalt melts at a higher (not lower) temperature. Also, technically the materials being made in the vidclip are lavas, not magmas, but in this case, that's pretty much irrelevant in light of the awesomeness of it being done at all. A previous post on this topic here.

Noise to Signal

One of my very early posts was on a web comic I've been reading regularly ever since, Noise to Signal. I was actually kind of thrilled to get an excited note from Mr. Cottingham asking me to remove his comic from my blog, or he would be forced to institute legal procedings forthwith... oh, no that was someone else. He seemed kind of pleased himself to be getting some linky love (and his material is posted under a Creative Commons license). At any rate, he's been on a real roll lately. Here's his two latest, and you should check out his past work. I'm not too into the whole social networking thing (blogging, e-mail, & RSS consume enough of my time and attention), so some of his jokes are not ones I get, but I suspect some of you will find many of his comics even funnier than I do. This actually happened to a friend of mine. From this post.If you like these two, and expecially if you're vegetarian/vegan, scroll back up and check out the post from last May; that one still cracks me up. Like some other web comics, the title of the comic is often a second punch line- so do pay attention. The above comic, for example, is called, "If you can't do the time, don't do the meme." Speaking of which, my own "10 Lies About Me" meme (which is much safer than the above, as it does not constitute self-incrimination) has sparked at least two subsequent infections in my friends Mr. Wayne and Viking.

And by the way, I have, so far, never been asked to remove anything from my blog, nor threated with dire consequences if I didn't. But I do think it's polite and wise to point out that if I ever do inadvertently violate copyright provisions, I'm likely to be pretty agreeable about removing the material in question. I also think it's polite and wise to provide sources for all material picked up elsewhere on the web. If I can. Sometimes I forget where I found stuff. So sue me.

Followup: ROFL! Just found this in the comments at the Noise to Signal site.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Say What?

Criggo is a website that specializes in finding print media mess-ups; some appear to be intentional, some accidental, and some from an unfamiliarity with the English Language.
I think someone tried a little too hard to be clear and explicit and clear. Adjust your watches accordingly.
This has got to be satire, right? Right?
I can't actually make out the body text of this, but I don't really know what to think. The Wright brothers must be so disappointed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yearbook Memories

Egad! Who's that? Dick Cheney, you say? No way! He's got hair! He's smiling! He looks... human! It must have been that fall into a lava flow.
And this handsome little thug? Doesn't he remind you of the guy who extorted your lunch money throughout most of eighth grade? Yup, well, this one's got a caption.
From Veto Corleone. Another 15 strange and funny, and even some familiar, pictures there.

These Aren't the Pants You're Looking For

And other Star Wars lines with "pants" replacing one word. A total of 278 misquotes (with a few repeats though), enough to keep you busy for part of a slow Sunday afternoon.

#1: I find your lack of pants disturbing.
#9: Governer Tarkin. I should have expected to find you holding Vader's pants.
#20: The pants will be down in moments, sir, you can begin your landing.
#53: See through pants, we can.

And on. And on.