Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Little Late, Soldier

Rémi Gaillard storms the beaches of Normandy about 65 years too late.

This guy would so be shot dead if he tried to pull this off in the US. Or tried on terrorism charges, if he accidentally lived. Lucky for him the French have a sense of humor, among their other despiccable traits.


Blogger buddy Tengrain has a feature called "Flashback Friday," wherein he posts a few clips of (mostly) 80's music videos; the below is swiped from his post yesterday. I used to have this on vinyl, an ancient technology that has remained surprisingly intact into the modern era. I haven't heard this song for years, and I'm pleased to report that it stands the test of time well. Based on the fashions and make up, I don't think the video actually dates to the era of the song- more likely the last ten years or so.

As I've mentioned before, I tend to set aside videos for the weekends, when my RSS is less of a torrent. Since I'm just now catching up with them, my last two posts have been prompted by Tengrain's video posts. But never fear, I do try to add extra content to most of my pirated posts, and unless I point out some reason otherwise, you're always welcome to pirate whatever you like from me... although I would appreciate an attribution for stuff I've created myself- photos, writing, graphics and so on (I gotta get that Creative Commons bit figured out). I do try to be clear about what I have created, or where I found stuff.

The below is the English version of a song most have long forgotten, except for an occasional flurry of popularity after a portion of the music is used in a commercial. And I always loved Max Headroom.

There's a German version of the same video here, sans Max Headroom and the gratuitous censorship of cartoon violence, but embedding is disabled. The last clip I'll put up is an oddly funny yet creepy video by Art of Noise. My take on this is that it's trying to get at the spookyness of using destruction as entertainment. I'm very fond of this group, and there's another clip I'll put up some other time with them and Max Head room. Actually, I thought I had already posted it.

First Michael, Then Billy Mays. Who's Next?

Poor Adolph. It's been a tough ten days.

Rawley told me this clip gets trotted out and recaptioned for each major "bad news" story, but I had never seen the meme before the MJ version on July 2. I suppose it'll lose its humor after a while, for for the time being, I still think it's a pretty funny time www.aster. Hat Tip to Tengrain for bringing this to my attention.

Does anybody have recommendations for video-editing software?

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Inspired Accretionary Wedge

Note: This is my submission for this month's Accretionary Wedge, "Inspiration," hosted by Volcanista. The Wedge is expected to go up in the next week or so, and I'll link here when it does. July 13: This Accretionary Wedge is now up at Volcanista's blog.

This month's accretionary wedge question is "what inspired you to become a geologist?" I'm going to go way, way back to (I think approximately) a three-year-old boy listening to "Pagoo" being read aloud, a chapter or two each night before falling asleep.
Pagoo was the name given by the author, Holling Clancy Holling, to a somewhat anthropomorphic biography of a Pagurus: "A two-fisted Hermit Crab." "Now what does this have to do with geology?" I hear you cry. Fair question. This book, more than any other experience I can think of, convinced me beyond any doubt, and even before I could count to ten or recite my ABC's, that science was tres kewl.
Each chapter is four pages long, with three pages of text and line drawings in the margins, and the fourth page a full color painting. Above are the last two pages of Chapter One, and below is a larger view of the bottom of the third page of the same chapter. If you take the time to look over the paragraph and the labels on the line drawings (click for larger), you'll notice that Holling did not spare his young readers some fairly demanding terminology... but that it's written in a simple enough way that the terms become part of a young reader's (or readee's) vocabulary.
As a result of this and other similar experiences, I never found the language of science particularly threatening or difficult. And I associated those science words with beautiful and amazing views and images. (see how this relates to geology?) Below is the picture that was my favorite as a youngster, all those years ago. I found it exciting, mysterious and a little frightening: the octopus is about to catch Pagoo and...? And very beautiful, too. (Now over 50 years old, the book is still in print, and I can't recommend it enough for parents / friends /relatives of kids who have an interest in science)
So like so many pre-scientists, I ended up going through a bug phase, a dinosaur phase, and a more general paleontology phase. The school culture when I started first grade was very different than now: kids were expected to be polite, on task and well-dressed. Not "Sunday best," but slacks and pressed shirts, not tees. Maybe some of my classmates wore jeans, but I don't remember any. Girls wore dresses, never pants or slacks.

Our playground was limestone gravel. One day during recess, I had most of my classmates crawling around in that gravel, looking for fossils. The most common things to find there in SE Ohio were brachiopods, crinoid fragments, coral, and other invertebrates. I was subsequently informed that crawling around in the gravel was not an appropriate activity when dressed in spiffy clothes. Afterwards, I did not encourage my classmates to play amateur paleontologist, and I made sure no monitors were looking when I did.

Elementary school science was non-descript and general, but my grandmother gave me a membership to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It came with a subscription to their house magazine, "Explorer." I think it was about fourth grade (when I was living outside Cleveland in Painesville), that I first read an article in that magazine about plate tectonics. I thought it was an amazing and amazingly silly idea. I mean, if I and the land I was living on were charging around the planet like a bump'em car, I'd see stuff going by, right? At the very least, I'd feel the motion, like you can when your eyes are closed in a car.


I had a very good pair of science teachers in 7th and 8th grade, Mrs. Vandegrift and Mrs. Barensfeld, respectively. By this point, I wasn't really thinking about anything but science as "what I'm going to do when I grow up," but while I loved learning about it, I was pretty well certain that everything important was already known. As a result, other than teaching or curating, I figured it would actually be a pretty boring job. Sure, I loved puzzing questions like "What's the average distance from the moon to the sun?" and was very good at figuring them out, but anyone older or smarter than me would already know that one. (That particular question led me to the interesting conclusion, in seventh grade, that on average the moon was on earth, and I've never really trusted the idea of "average" since.)

It was also in middle school that I became fascinated with botany, by way of carnivorous plants. I found that the Ohio University Library (I was back in Athens at this point) had an original copy of Darwin's book on flesh-eating plants, and repeatedly submitted holds and requests to check it out. The librarians were unfailingly polite, but somehow the letter never came telling me that they were holding it for me. I did, however, read everything else on the topic I could lay my hands on, even if it was incomprehensible to me. Again, the language of science was not threatening to me, but I often found myself thinking that it sometimes didn't make any sense.

Good science teachers in high school too. Mr. Essex took me under his wing and allowed me to use the greenhouse... no one else had used it in years. Mrs. Barensfeld got married and moved to the high school to teach chemistry (I don't remember her maiden name, so I identified her by the same name in middle school). Mr. Barbour invited me to take the Bio II Ecology class before I had taken all the prerequisites. I was particularly flattered by this. How often does a teacher approach you and say, "I'd really like you to take this class. I think all of us would enjoy having you in there." Mr. Williams, bless his pointy little head, knew less geology than I did, but while he and I disagreed about an awful lot with respect to the content of his earth science class, we got along well. He basically pushed me to prove him wrong, and was OK with it when I did. My math teachers did an excellent job too- I took all four years of math that were offered.

I took a few years off and worked a number of jobs, but most extensively in a machine shop in Eastlake, again east of Cleveland. I spent quite a bit of time driving around and exploring the landscape of NE Ohio: The Sharon Conglomerate, the Chagrin and Cuyahoga Valleys, the lake Erie shore, Stebbins' Gulch. I read an awful lot of books, and spent an awful lot of time partying. In Fall of 79 I signed up for and took my SAT's, and even though I had been out of school for 2 1/2 years, I did very, very well. In March of 1980, I moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State University.

And I have never since been particularly interested in living anywhere else.

I started as a bio major- there was no separate major for botany. The bio major allowed for later specialization tracks. But I couldn't take any science classes that first term because most were three term sequences. So I ended up with writing, calculus, history and a couple of others, but nothing related to my interests. But, in late March, Mt. St. Helens started swelling. I don't think the daily reports on its activites made it much out of the PNW, but in this region, there were literally articles in The Oregonian almost every day, and TV news reports (with Pictures!) almost as often. So that volcano has been exciting and amazing me almost since the week I arrived here, not just with its big blast on May 18th.

So in fall of '80, the beginning of my first full academic year at Oregon State, I was taking Chemistry, Biology (required) and Geology (elective science credit), all at the 200 (major) level.

Now here's the thing: OSU gets about 800-900 freshmen each year declaring in biology, and there's no way that they can actually accomodate that many through the entire program. As a result- and I'm not really claiming it's purposeful or concious- the first year sequence for majors is extremely demanding, disorganized and dull.

Biology was like trying to push a car through sand. An awful lot of hard tedious work, with no visible payoff, and an awful lot of regretful head shaking: "How did I let myself get into this? What the hell was I thinking?"

Chemistry was a disaster- I loved the subject, but the class was intolerable. The prof (who I won't name) was a tiny little man, who I always suspected drank too many of his experiments, with osteoporosis and a resulting hunched back, and with a voice projection that fell somewhat short of inaudible. He had to climb up on a stool as he talked to the blackboard and scrawled out arcs of illegible notes (I didn't have a pair of binoculars at the time), first at the limits of his arms, then concentricly inwards, until there was a little white rainbow that was supposed to convey meaning. Then he'd awkwardly step off the stool, and being too stiff to lean over, he'd kick it to a new position, awkwardly reascend the dizzying heights, and proceed to scrawl out another cute l'il white rainbow, mumbling his incantations the whole time. I missed Mrs. Barensfeld.

Oh, and the class was right after lunch, when all the workmen with their concrete saws, jackhammers, and other metallic screechy bangy things, returned after their break, with renewed vigor and strength. Gilbert Hall was being remodeled and having a new addition built that year.

Fortunately, I figured out that the prof followed his syllabus religiously, and that his lectures, notes and example problems were straight out of the book. After the first few weeks, I never went back to class except for tests. I had the same guy for three terms. In Winter and Spring terms I went to class a total of eight times. First day, two midterms and a final, each term. I wasn't first overall (in those days they still posted scores publicly, so I could tell where I ranked), but merely second, out of about 300 students.

Like I said, I really did enjoy chemistry, I just hated the class.

Which left geology.

The first term was intended to be mostly surface processes, the second internal processes, and the third historical geology.

Dr Niem basically covered the first two terms and much of the third in ten or eleven weeks. His wife would come in and fill the board with notes in the ten-minute class break, and as class started, Nemo (as we called him) would come in and spend fifty minutes erasing with one hand and writing with the other, while lecturing the whole time. It was like a nice refreshing sip from the bottom of Niagra Falls, floating on your back with your mouth open.

I know it sounds terrible, but I loved it. I quickly learned to actually take notes, rather than transcribing the whole lecture. He was so enthusastic... it really didn't come across as "here's a gigabyte of data to transfer into your mental files," but more as "Oh this is so cool, I have to get it across quick, otherwise I'll have to leave out some other even cooler stuff." He would get so excited, as he tried to talk faster and faster, that flecks of spit visibly flew from his mouth. We students joked and gently mocked him about this (behind his back), but I think we all admired his enthusiasm and excitement, even if we didn't really admit it to each other, and I know we enjoyed it.

He led me and my classmates on my first Oregon field trip, up Marys Peak, and sprayed his excitement all over the outcrops. It was mostly above freezing, gusty-windy, misty, drizzly- physically, the experience was a nightmare. But emotionally and intellectually, it was, at the time, the most wonderous experience I had ever had with science.

I was still pretty attached to plants and botany, but in the end, there was no real doubt what was going to happen. Near the end of winter term, I officially switched majors from biology to geology. Not every geo class was as great and exciting and easy for me- and there were a few that were a real struggle. But even though I'm not technically a geologist in a licensed or professional sense, I know the subject well, because I love it and I apply it to everything I can.

So there is no single experience I can point to that explains by itself how I ended up here. If I hadn't had all the experiences I described as a youngster (and those are a very few chosen examples), Geo 211 might have been overwhelming, not exciting. If Bio 211 were intended to teach, not avert, I might have stuck with it. It's all a piece. But to think it all started with a little crab...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who'da Thunk?

...that having an in-depth understanding of and empathy for those who actually do threaten you could turn out to save you a lot of grief? Something to ponder over, CSC's... even though it's obviously in contradiction to your deeply held convictions....

Right God

My last post was intended to be serious and sober, but if you read this blog often, you just know that I can't leave things at that. I am compelled to put a silly into almost anything I think about very much. Right God is no exception; the idea came to me as I was writing the last post, but I did want to keep it on track. I'm no artist, and this looks amateurish to me, but it still works. For me.
Followup: Connor suggested "Christec" in place of DryTec, which I thought was brilliant. I also twiddled around with a few other flaws...

Remission of Their Hypocrisies

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Conason was musing on conservative sexual hypocrisy (specifically, as you might guess, with respect to the Mark Sanford and John Ensign Show) at Salon,
For ideologues who value biblical morality and believe in the efficacy of punishment, modern conservatives are as tolerant of their famous sinners as the jaded libertines of the left. Even after confessing to the most flagrant and colorful fornication, the worst that a conservative must anticipate is a stern scolding, followed by warm assurances of God's forgiveness and a swift return to business as usual
By the way, while Vitter, Ensign, Gingrich and perhaps Sanford have been able to retain their positions and political viability, the same cannot be said for the most recent offenders on the progressive side. Neither Eliot Spitzer nor John Edwards, each among the most promising figures in the Democratic Party, will ever be a candidate for public office again, although their misbehavior was no worse than what their Republican counterparts did.
This phenomenon has baffled me for years... at least since the Clinton scandal: how can the right- or more accurately, the social conservatives- expect to be taken seriously when their own behaviors are so demonstrably out of line with the behaviors they demand of others? But other discussions have finally clarified this issue for me.

First, Krugman responds to Conason's column:
Yes, conservatives sin just as much as liberals. But they aren’t “socially permissive and casually tolerant” — at least not in the same way that liberals are. First of all, there’s a difference in what bothers them. When a liberal politician engages in sexual betrayal, what bothers his erstwhile supporters is the betrayal. When a conservative politician does it, what bothers the supporters is the sex.
From their point of view the cause, the need to police what people do in bed, is, by definition, right, because it’s literally God-given. So the fact that some of those trying to police what other people do in bed are themselves doing nasty things does not reflect on the cause itself — on the contrary, it shows just how necessary more bed-snooping is.
Now, honestly, I read this intially as snark, not as a serious analysis of the conservative mindset. But I've been mulling it over, and it seems more and more plausible. It's been clear since at least the mid-eighties that conservative howling over abortion and pre-marital sex has little to do with the actual behaviors, and everything to do with repugnance toward the idea of sex itself, shame that they recognize- and are compelled to respond to- the sex drive within themselves, and with maintaining traditional gender roles. So Krugman's argument is esentially that (at least some) redemption from perceived sin is to recognize that everyone, including one's self, is likely to stray from a "righteous" lifestyle, engaging in a persistant campaign of "bed-snooping" to catch offenders, and outing them in the public square; the resulting shame is redemptive to both the catcher and the caught.

Today, The Christian Science Monitor provides a brilliant piece of commentary on the topic of how conservatives view the failures of their leaders to adhere to the lifestyles they demand others follow.
When a Republican affair is exposed, the left seems to assume that the religious right, with the exacting moral standards it tends to laud, will have one less general leading its "pro family" brigade. But practice shows us otherwise. While for Democrats, adultery often leads to ruined or constrained careers – think Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards – Republican adulterers from Newt Gingrich to David Vitter have lived to see another political day, still championing their hard-line conservative positions.
What we are witnessing is the culmination of "the personal is political," a philosophy pioneered by the left and perfected by the right. The stumbling block for liberals is their unfamiliarity with the "personal" of the Christian right. Where the left sees hypocrisy, the evangelical right sees a millenniums-old story of fallen humanity and healing redemption. With a politically active religious right, that story matters not just in terms of theology but of practical politics.
In other words, the religious right recognizes the importance of forgiveness of perceived infractions. But it does beg the question, "Then why does an affair destroy the careers of politicians such as 'Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards?'" Here's my conjecture: from the perspective of the religious right, if you're a liberal, you are by definition worshipping the wrong god (lowercase intentional). Likewise anyone else who is not clearly a Christian Social Conservative (CSC), as evidenced by vociferously spouting all of the soundbites, taglines and coded signals that we have all come to know so well.

We on the left are exasperated and disappointed when Clinton or Edwards lets us down; the right is enraged. Since Clinton and Edwards (and their supporters) worship the wrong god, no amount of apology and contrition can earn them true forgiveness. It is the right responsibility of the righteous to punish them, and never allow them to forget their shame. Meanwhile, active support for the offenders isn't lost, but it's diminished; it goes from strong to tepid. Realistically, as a candidate, such a person has no chance of winning an election.

On the other hand, when a person such as Vitter or Sanford, who have clearly shown themselves to worship the Right God (uppercases intentional), stray from a Righteous lifestyle, are caught, then publicly accept their shame in the eyes of both Right God and the public, they are, almost by definition, deemed to have been forgiven in the eyes of Right God. Therefore, since all is forgiven, there's no need to pay attention to the Sin any more. The sinner is merely human, Right God recognizes this, and the public has no right to question the sinner's behavior as relevant to their future career- political or not. In fact, since the sinner has so clearly been forgiven in the eyes of Right God, they're even more Righteous than they were before the infraction; the redemption actually makes them more appealing to CSC's. As a candidate, the person has probably not lost the support of anyone who supported him previously, and he (or she) may have actually strengthened their support amongst CSC's. Such a person has no reason to step down or choose not to run for further terms.

I will point out that everything from "Here's my conjecture" down is just that: my conjecture. But I've been desperate to make sense out of the modern conservative mindset; it has looked like severe crazy to me, and has been, frankly, terrifying. The above really isn't that much less crazy and terrifiying, but it does make an odd kind of sense. It's not a double standard, it's not hypocritical, it's simply a matter of whether the sinner in question has been forgiven by the Right God.

I really, really recommend that you take the time to read the Monitor's piece- the authors are not necessarily trying to defend the CSC point of view, but rather to explain it. I think they do so exceptionally well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wernher von Braun

Here's an excerpt that cracked me up, regarding a childhood incident in the life of Wernher von Braun:
The young von Braun was enthralled by explosives and fireworks, to the great chagrin of his father, who considered his son a juvenile delinquent. As a teenager, he strapped six skyrockets to a red toy wagon and set them off. The wagon traveled five blocks, streaming flames, before the rockets exploded, destroying the wagon, and von Braun was arrested.
For those who don't recognize the name, von Braun was a leading US rocket scientist during the early years of NASA; it's reasonable to suppose the moon shot wouldn't have happened until many years later if he had been working in another country- such as Russia. And where did he train?
Despite this inauspicious beginning, he went on to earn a PhD in physics in the late 1930s. Within two years he found himself heading Nazi Germany’s military rocket development program. He invented the V-2 ballistic missile, first launched on October 3, 1942. This would be the ancestor of practically every missile used today.

After Germany's defeat in 1945, von Braun and his entire team of rocket experts came to the US with all their plans and prototypes.
It was only in early high school that I began to understand enough history to more fully understand the humor in Tom Leher's take on the man. But from an early age, I loved the line in the song below, "'Once zee rrrockets are up, who cares where zey come down? Zat's not my department,' says Wernher von Braun."
I'm not able to get to the post I took the above quotes from at the moment (Google tells me the site appears to be down), so I'll stick in a link later. Followup: I just realized that the site may be down, but the URL ought to be valid when it comes back up...

Wednesday Words

Only Dean submitted definitions for last week's edition, so I guess he sweeps it.

hydromes- what you put around your underwater garden.

imbities- tiny imbeciles

gambal- betting everything!

Gotta have definitions for all of them (why, yes, in fact, I am writing a book) so here's my take on the remaining two.

lionsts- why the visitor to the big cat exhibit got mauled. (lions t's)

gogiotly- Holly's original last name before they decided "Golightly" was more titillating.

Bad Day To Be a Train

Nicked from Electronic Cerebrectomy. Things get exciting about a minute in, then more so 'til near the end. Eventually, it does stop. Eventually.


Someone out there really knows how to parody them: behold, the Three Hippopoticorn Moon T-shirt! It's a fer realz, on-the-market tee; the original source (and vendor) appears to be here, via several vias. I first saw it on BuzzFeed.If you're unfamiliar with the product being sent up here, Check out a picture here, and the hilariously hyperbolic reviews here. It even received an amusing article in the NYT, which is how it came to my attention about a month and a half ago.


My friend JD just... I guess I don't know what it's called... "Google chatted me?"... with this message:
At 12:34.56pm today it will be 123456789. Not gonna happen again for another century so happy 123456789 day!
I propose a boisterous one-second-long party at that moment.

Followup, 1:09 PM- Well, I was late to the party, which in this case means I missed it completely. But No Worries! A site I just found today, The Daily What, has alerted me to another opportunity for a one-second party! And it's later today! Oops... it was this morning when I was asleep. Nuts!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Coming Ice Age

As you all know, global warming is the greatest hoax empiracism has ever perpetrated. You can see from the latest data and analysis from NSIDC that we're clearly headed into a new ice age. Bust out the woolies and fire up the coal furnace: it's going to be a cold one! (I've added a red trend line to highlight the seriousness of the problem; the original graph can be seen in the previous link or here.)

Today's Moment of History

After the Japanese bombed Hawaii with Pearl Jam, Roosevelt requested, and Congress quickly granted, the passage of an act of war against the Axis powers. Shortly afterwards, Japanese guitars were rounded up and sent off to internment warehouses in California's Owens Valley, among other places. Kawasaki and Yamaha owners remember the injustice to this this day.

(inspired by the Buzz Lightyear post earlier, and by a conversation a few minutes ago, outside the Interzone.)

Advertising and the Environment

Advertising is propaganda, and by and large it drives me crazy. Advertising has become the most pervasive education system on earth, pervading even (especially, actually) the system of social infrastructure we call "education." I rail against it too much, perhaps, but if so, it's because I have become painfully aware how effective it is in promoting beliefs and decisions that do not, over the long run, make sense in terms of human survival.

Nevertheless, I'm no more immune to being affected by it than anybody else, and I frequently encouter examples that engage me at one level or another: fascinating imagery, emotional tugs, and humor are among triggers that get my attention. All three of those are present in abundance in a gallery of 27 environmental advertisements posted at BBC. The above is titled "Tarzan," with the tagline "15m sq of rainforest disappears every minute." My main complaint is that they don't have large, readable versions available.

My other complaint is that it's still advertising; in the end, it's still promoting belief without any basis in knowledge and understanding. And in the end, if we're going to cope with the problems facing us, it will only come out of knowledge and understanding. It will not come out of simple belief, however well-intentioned and benevolent that belief may be.

First Man on the Moon

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing, The Telegraph has this depressing bit of news for us:
Some people believe that Buzz Lightyear, the fictional cartoon character from the film Toy Story, was the first man on the moon.

In a survey, which reveals "deeply worrying" levels of ignorance about the Apollo space programme, which sent three men to the moon forty years ago this month, 11 out of 1009 people surveyed thought Buzz Lightyear was the first person to step onto the moon. A further 8 people thought it was Louis Armstrong, with less than three-quarters correctly answering that it was Neil Armstrong.

The survey, undertaken on behalf of E&T magazine, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, also revealed that over a quarter of all people do not believe the astronauts actually landed on the moon.
I feel quite priviledged to have had the opportunity to look at some of the moon rocks in thin section when they were on loan to OSU when I was an undergrad, and I can say with a fair degree of confidence there's no way they came from Earth. Nor do any meteorites have the bizarre combination of crystalline igneous rocks, brecciation, and glass.

This just reinforces my pessimistic side.


Of Glass and Bones

Two fascinating pieces in today's NYT science section, one on glass as a construction material, the other on the paleontological opportunity afforded by an expansion project underway at the Panama Canal.

Glass fascinates me at a number of levels. I have mentioned before that what drew me so firmly into science is the aesthetic appeal; glass is a perfect example of that appeal. Natural glass, obsidian, comes in a wide variety of forms, some of which show extraordinary plays of light and optical effects- rainbow sheen, silver sheen, and fire mahogany are some examples (these are rockhounder's terms, not geological terms). Man-made glass is more predictable but still has a mesmerizing beauty to me. Art glass can hold me entranced for hours.

All that said, and even though I comprehend the engineering and margin of safety that goes into a work such as the Grand Canyon Skywalk or the newly opened glass observation boxes at the Sears Tower, I don't think I could actually go out onto either of those structures. I get queasy just thinking about it. Nevertheless, I found the discussion of the materials science regarding the use of glass as a structural material in the first article quite fascinating. The graphics and slide show were quite engaging as well. I just don't think I would tolerate the first hand experience of the results very well.

The second article explains that paleontology is the wet tropics is difficult. One of my frequent complaints in western Oregon is "there's 30 freakin' feet of dirt on top of all the rocks." Decent exposures are not easy to find in our mild, moist climate, and roadcuts and quarries are my best friends. I can only imagine the problem is magnitudes worse in a tropical rain forest setting. So when Panama decided to increase the canal's cargo capacity from 65,000 ton ships to 300,000 tons, geologists and paleontologists jumped to attention. It's humorous, frustrating and fascinating, to think about the result. I can only describe it as "guerrilla geology," as scientists race into the newly exposed rocks, collecting as much information and as many samples as they can, before rain, heavy equipment, or the next round of blasting wipes out their opportunity. I expect this will result in a glut of fossils and data that won't get analyzed for years or decades, but will pay off with fascinating and amazing science for years to come.

I like science.

Monday, July 6, 2009


It is OK to yell "Fire!" in a crowded blog, if it's not too crowded, isn't it? It looks as if fire season is underway in Oregon's forested lands. KGW (a Portland TV Station) is reporting a 300-acre fire near Black Butte, which is a marvelously beautiful cinder cone a bit west of Sisters.

In the Google Earth oblique view, I have highlighted three central Oregon Cascades features: The Butte (not a true butte, but the misuse of the word is epidemic in the PNW), the crest or watershed of the high Cascades, and Green Ridge. (Click for bigger, and note 2X vertical exaggeration). The central Oregon Cascades have been shown by Ed Taylor to sit in a graben; the subsidence of the graben is apparently synchronous with the development of the modern, or "high" Cascades. Green Ridge is the eastern side of the graben, and displacement was shown on the basis of mapping and water well logs by one of my most enjoyably memorable TA's, Rich Conrey. Rich was the TA who taught me how to make thin sections, so I had an opportunity to look at rocks I had collected, rather than just department specimans.
So Black Butte is considered to be a cinder cone that developed on the normal fault that created Green Ridge.

This general area, in the immediate rainshadow of the Cascades, gets enough precipitation to support a magnificent ponderosa pine forest, but when it gets dry it's really dry. Furthermore, when disturbances move through (as one did yesterday), rain often evaporates before it reaches the ground. Lightning associated with such storms, unfortunately, does not. This is believed to be a lightning-caused fire.

So firefighters are very dependent on breaks of cool, wet weather to bring these puppies under control. I'm sure many would be tickled pink for the conditions shown in these pictures from late December... about freezing and snowy:
From a few miles east of Sisters, looking west; Black Butte is about 10 miles away, and the Cascade crest is socked in.
Looking up and NW at the peak from its base. It's subtle in the original image, but with a little tweaking, you can more clearly see what I was trying to capture in this picture: a snowbow!
In honesty, I don't think "snowbows" can even occur. It was barely above freezing at this point, and I suspect snow at higher levels was melting as it fell toward the ground... making this more of a "mistbow" than either a snowbow or a rainbow.

I'd like to note, blooger has decided to rotate every picture I've tried to upload for the last few hours, won't allow me to unrotate them in picassa, and doesn't touch them if I put them in with a pre-emptive rotation- so they come up rotated the other direction instead. I've come up with a tedious workaround, but probably no more posts today. I'm pretty exasperated. But Happy Birthday to my Mom! This is also the one year anniversary of my web counter... this is an obscure little blog, with a few close followers, but it's grown enormously in the last twelve months. Thanks for all your comments and visits.

"Murder," He Wrote

The continuing trial of the fundamentalist "parents" who allowed their 15-month old daughter to die rather then overcoming their "faith" is continuing to sicken me:
The Worthingtons, an Oregon City couple who believe in faith healing rather than secular medicine, are charged in Clackamas County Circuit Court with second-degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment for failing to seek medical care for their daughter.
The child died on March 2, 2008 after being sick for several days. "She struggled so long she couldn't struggle any more," Leonhardt said. Ava could have been saved, right up to her last hour, with medical treatment, he said.
Ignorance not supposed to be used as an excuse for breaking the law. Yet apparently the Worthington's ignorance, that medicine works better than prayers, is being used as an excuse to try them for manslaughter and mistreatment rather than murder.

Good News

has been hard to come by lately. No, I don't count Palin's resignation as good news- it just highlights the disaster that politics in this country has become. But Krugman's analysis of pending healthcare legislation is one of the most optimistic things I've read in... well, a long, long time. Nice!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Great Time:

"Food, wine, a little personal abuse, and the heads of the religious right going foom."
The BBC is reporting, "Visitors to the website can now see images of more than half of the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus manuscript."

OMG!!! You mean the Bible wasn't written in English? No way man, gotta be a heathen photoshop job or something. “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texas

BTW, do you recognize the piece that I paraphrased for the title and first line above the picture?

Weather Report

Today has been very pleasant and breezy, and cooler than the last three days. It's supposed to get much cooler into tomorrow and Tuesday. By August, 90-degree days will seem normal; I won't like them, but I'll cope pretty well. But the first real heat of the summer- which Thursday through yesterday were, is always pretty miserable for me. Friday night I checked the thermometer in my apartment at 11 PM... it was still over 80. (I'll admit it cooled down quite quickly after that, and it was 60 when I woke up yesterday morning. If I can have cool nights, I can tolerate the hot days.)

At any rate, with the changing weather today, we've been having some beautiful clouds outside the Interzone...
They are consistently moving north, which means the low pressure is off to the west and headed in, and the gusty winds suggest is has some power. We might actually get some rain out of this, and I love warm-weather rain. We don't get much of it in Western Oregon.

Hey Ben...

Towels are out. Just thought you'd want to know.

Sunday Funnies

It's a hot (though cooler than the last few days), lazy Sunday, and I don't particularly feel like coming up with a narrative for this week's funnies. So I'll just cut to the chase and wish you a good week at work, and offer you the opportunity to come up with your own witty storyline as you look through the stuff that made me laugh this last week. Sources are below each funny. (This is a real film that I don't plan on watching; here's the trailer)

EAST HANOVER, NJ—A new report released by the Food and Drug Administration Monday suggests that regular consumption of Oreo's Double Stuf cookies could lead to an increased tolerance to stuf.

Asked if he has plans to run for public office, he replied, “I hope not. You know, I talked to God about that and he was like, ‘No.’”

He continued, “I believe he’s gotten me on this grassroots movement. If I can encourage leaders to step up, that’s what I would like to do. That’s a heavy role. That’s something I don’t know if I am prepared to do yet.”

But Wurzelbacher said he will keep that door open if God ever calls him to be that leader.
Vanilla ice cream with raspberries and blueberries between two chocolate brownies.
One exception to the lack of narrative: both the above and below are described as attractive women. Funny. The above totally creeps me out. Tina Fey, on the other hand, is hawt!
tina fey
see more Lol Celebs

funny pictures for your blog
see more dog and puppy pictures

cortizone ointment tube totally looks like colgate toothpaste tube
see more Celeb Look-A-Likes

darth vader
see more Lol Celebs

ernie and bert
see more Lol Celebs

See You in the funnies!

What Was She Thinking? What Is She Planning?

Lots and lots of conjectures and hypotheses. Even though she told us three times or more that she had laid out her reasons for resigning, no one- even her supporters- seems to have a clue what those reasons are. Lots of guesses, but no solid evidence. So for the record, here's my take on the answer to question one of the title:
And my suspicion regarding question two...
Yeah, they're repeats, but they do seem appropos. Faith and guts are all about not thinking or planning.

Malthus and Population Growth

Very interesting take on the "Malthusian mistake" in Krugman's blog earlier in the week (I'm finally getting to some of the "marked as unread" pieces I wanted to look at and think about more carefully). And here's a slightly earlier related post.
And here’s the sense in which Malthus was right: he had a fundamentally valid model of the pre-Industrial Revolution economy, which was one in which technological progress translated into more people, not higher living standards. This homeostasis only broke down when very rapid technological change finally outstripped population pressure for an extended period.

Of course, Malthus’s predictive failure wasn’t accidental. Technological takeoff was the product of a newly inquisitive, empirically-minded, scientific culture — the kind of culture that could produce people like Malthus.
So what does that say about the size of the human population as we move into a world where climate change takes an ever growing toll on agriculture? Nothing good, I'm sure.

I suppose I should link to a source on Malthus' thesis, if you're unaware of it

Partial-Term Abortion

Very cheeky, very funny...
Available at Jesus' General Store (store here and another shirt here).