Saturday, March 7, 2009

Short Takes

I've always enjoyed the "Short Takes" feature of the Oregonian: short (35 words or fewer), insightful, and most often funny comments from readers. I don't remember exactly when it started, but I'm guessing early 90's. And still going strong.

It would appear that Democrats elect fearless cheerleaders while Republicans seem to prefer cheerless fearleaders. Bill Fahey, Southeast Portland

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Fragment: Fossil Fishies!

Ok, ok, I know I'm a sucker for alliteration (for the worst- or best, depending on your perspective- example pertaining to geology, see this post from December). This was a gift many years ago, so I have no first-hand knowledge of where it came from. However, it's a safe bet it came from the Green River Basin, which is known world-wide as a tremendous source of excellently preserved fish and other fossils. The thing that's kind of special about this particular piece is that there is a single nice fossil on each side. In the above picture, there is a third head above the head of the complete fossil. I just went looking for some links to stick in here, and a photo of a Green River fish is the first one listed at the wikipedia page for Lagerstätte. If you want more, a Google search for "Green River Fossils" produces nearly 400,000 hits; some of the commercial dealers on the first page have some very nice material, for which they are asking some very nice prices. There are also some archives if you just want to look at pictures. Above is a crop from the second picture, showing the incredible detail preserved in these fossils.
The other thing about the Green River Formation that you should know is that it holds an enormous amount of fossil fuel in the form of oil shale. Quoting the oil shale article at wikipedia,
A 2005 estimate set the total world resources of oil shale at 411 gigatons — enough to yield 2.8 to 3.3 trillion barrels (520 km3) of shale oil. This exceeds the world's proven conventional oil reserves, estimated at 1.317 trillion barrels (209.4×10^9 m3), as of 1 January 2007. The largest deposits in the world occur in the United States in the Green River basin, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; about 70% of this resource lies on federally-owned or -managed land. Deposits in the United States constitute 62% of world resources (...)
In other words, the amount of oil in oil shales is at least double that known as petroleum reserves, and of that amount, the US has a bit less than 2/3 of the total. When "peak oil" deniers start talking about how there's enough oil to last for a century or more, this is what they're referring to- though they don't seem to actually know that, based on conversations I've had. I'm not necessarily against extraction of oil shale, but it's not as simple as all that. It is much more energy intensive to extract than crude, and creates much more negative enviromental impact. So even if you don't account for the enviromental costs, simply extracting it and converting it to a form useable by current technology means it will be much more expensive than traditional crude. It was looking like a hot area last summer when gasoline was at $4.oo a gallon; now... not so much.

Though I haven't actually read anything on this topic, I suspect that the low-oxygen, high-organic-carbon environment that led to the development of the kerogen-rich "oil" shales (technically, it isn't oil, and technically, the rock is more silty than shaly) is the same set of factors that allowed for such marvelous, highly-detailed preservation of fish and other organisms. And it is quite possible that in the future, a distillate from rocks like this one will be making your car run.

The Green River basin also has a hypothsized connection to my home turf, which I describe in the third from last paragraph in this post. Sorry I don't have a reference for you geology types out there; it was the cover article from a GSA Bulletin in the late 80's/early 90's.


A little while ago I received an invitation to post at the Wulfshead. I accepted. It was (and is) a strange feeling... I've sort of kicked things around here at my little Office of Naval Contemplation to the point that it feels like home. Now I'm invited into someone else's space. But my manners and social habits are shaped by the conventions I've set for myself here. Will I fit? Social anxiety sucks, but I refuse to allow it to stop me from accepting a flattering compliment. It does look like a fun spot, and I look forward to spending some time there.

At any rate, here's the video I posted there as an introduction:
I saw this video on MTV, back when the "M" actually still meant "Music, Maybe," rather than "Meandering Mess of Meaninglessness." I happened to record the video, and watched it a number of times. Then I went and bought the album (Sneaker Pimps, Becoming X) on the strength of this one song. I wasn't disappointed. I have done this a number of times- another example that comes to mind is Massive Attack, Mezzanine on the strength of "Teardrop." That one was odd, because "Teardrop" is like nothing else on the album. I described the rest of the music as "industrial vampire music." But I loved the one song, so I kept listening to the album, and it grew on me; I love every bit of that album now.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Interzone People: Katie

This is Katie, another one of the baristas here at my favorite coffee shop, weighing beans. Katie is a psychology major who still works here, and not to be confused with Katie, the psychology major who doesn't work here anymore. The latter will graduate at the end of the school year, while this Katie is still a freshman.

She's one of those people who seem to laugh at all the silly stuff I find on the interwebz, so (at least when she's not tied up with customers) I tend to show her all the funnies I can find. I like making people laugh.

What a Rush!

I've been working toward a Limbarf post for a while now. But that doesn't mean much; I've been working toward a Bobby Jindal post for over a week. So have a comic in the meantime.From Oregon Live. The first comment under the comics is, "Toles made Rush look too skinny."

Too Big to Fail

From the Denver Post, via Alternet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday Words

Dean Wormer pretty much cleaned up the last edition of Wednesday words... anybody else want to play? It is actually kind of weird how similar my take on that last set and Dean's take was. I didn't have anything for "grack," and I would have described "aption" as an appropriate thing to do: an apt action. Otherwise... like I said, kind of weird. Especially "brancer."

BBC's 100 Favorite Books Meme

Caught this meme from Silver Fox. The list is from The BBC, the result of a poll of their readers' 100 favorite books.
The rules:
1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. (I'll bold those I've read and italicize those of which I only read part.)
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
Note: everyone seems to be making a modification to the meme; I'm going to add CF for childhood favorites that I really have no more interest in.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien +
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams +
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne CF
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (Great book, but I can't say I "loved it;" too depressing.)
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis CF
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller +
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame CF
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling (Meh. If these had come out when I was a teen, I'm sure they'd all have CF, but I doubt I'll ever read the whole series)
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling [movie]
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling [movie]
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien CF
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck +
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll +
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl +CF
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert + (I'm in the process of re-reading this series for the umpteenth time; I just finished Children of Dune last night)
40. Emma, Jane Austen [saw movie for sure]
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams +
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King +
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake (Dark, but an amazing world of amazing characters; the other two members of the trilogy turn into horrific tragedies. Like 1984, a great story, but not "enjoyable.")
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

There are several Roald Dahl books here that I'm unfamiliar with- but I'm certain I haven't read them. Likewise with Terry Pratchet, except I can't remember the names of the two or three of his books I have read. So I may have read one or more in the above list. But counting only the "certains," I get 26.

I tend to be an opportunist when it comes to reading- I read what I come across. So I don't really plan on reading anything in the list, but I might read just about anything up there I haven't read.

As I mentioned with Dune, I tend to re-read favorites every couple years. Lord of the Rings is on that list, as is the Hyperion series (4 books) by Dan Simmons. If you like scifi/fantasy with a literate take, you will like this latter series. I describe it as a cross between The Canterbury Tales, The Bible, and Star Wars.

Holy Cow! I don't have tag for "books" or "reading."

Followup: The Guardian has a timely article, titled "Reading Between the Lines," on what you should read while waiting on a date to impress him/her. Ahem. I did have a copy of Bridget Jones' Diary before my apartment flooded. (Honestly, it's not a "romance" per se, it's about the trials and tribulations of a young woman in modern society- and yes, romance would be a part of that, just as it would be for a young man. You might think that men would be interested in having some understanding and empathy with their counterparts' situations, and that women might find that attractive. I don't pretend to understand other people.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Mineral: Muscovite

I have wondered for some time whether this was muscovite or phlogopite; I more or less convinced myself this morning that it must be muscovite. Its source is a granite pegmatite near Magnetawan, Ontario (45.6651, -79.6440). I'm not going to post a Google Earth image because I don't remember exactly where the location was, but I believe it was north of the town.When I looked up the mineral data, I found muscovite is a potassium mica (which I had remembered), and phlogopite is a magnesium-rich mica (which I had not remembered). Given that granite does not have much magnesium in it, chemically it would make sense for this to be muscovite. Furthermore, muscovite is slightly softer than phlogopite. I can scratch this with my fingernail (H=2.5), which puts it at the very lower end of the phlogopite hardness; again, it looks more likely to be muscovite. The conclusive test would be to see if it decomposes in sulfuric acid (phlogopite) or not (muscovite), but I don't have any of that kicking around my apartment.The problem, as you can see from the two above pictures, is that this is pretty dark. Actually the two photos above are misleading: the sample is not really as dark as these make it look. But I think of muscovite as being silvery- silvery gray, and this sample is more of a smokey gray. Phlogopite is described as being a yellowish brown, and this sample always seemed closer to that than to what I consider a "normal" muscovite color. However, when you hold it up to light, it is quite translucent (this piece is a millimeter or two thick; it would be quite easy to use a razor and split this into 15 to 20 thinner sheets)And in fact, this site is an old mine where the mica was the ore. We tend to think of "ore" as pertaining to metallic resources, but any rock material that can be extracted for a profit is technically an ore. Some of the "books" of mica here are 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter and a couple of inches (5 cm) thick. The mica was at one time used as a high-temperature "glass" for lamps and wood stoves, or other situations where one wanted or needed to be able to see the flame or light, but still wanted the heat source enclosed. There was a lamp in my grandparents' front stairwell which, though it had been converted to electric, still had the original muscovy-glass panes.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Funnies

I was glad I wasn't sipping my coffee at the moment I saw this...
fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

For my zombie-enthusiast friends, from EB Misfit...I saw this nearly two weeks ago over at Dr. Monkey's place; I just want to steal the whole post. That doesn't seem fair, so I'll just post the picture, and send you over to see the context, and what he did with it. A number of friends I've shown this to say they're going to start carrying sharpies with them at all times... This inspirational campaign poster comes from Matthew Yglesias: I think this would be a good name for a blog, and if you are stupid, you may want to stop here...
...because the following may present a serious danger to you:
Honestly, I'd rather have this guy show up at my door rather than Tom Cruise.
jack nicholson
more lol celebs!
I think this is still illegal, even if you can't see it...
the swedish chef
more lol celebs!

And finally, though this is a problem, it could be much worse...
more lol celebs! could be Rush Limbaugh, and still not able to find your head, even though you had dropped your drawers and were using both hands. And lots of toilet paper.

Now wasn't that better than "Family Circus" and "BC?"