Saturday, September 18, 2010

woooo. go beavs.

First football game of the season. Everyone in orange, carrying 12-packs. Or 18-packs, if they really love sports. Meaningless howls universally responded to with more meaningless howls.

Blerg. OSU grinds into gear. Classes start on the 27th, but the noise and commotion start today.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Looking from the parking lot, away from my old high school, and down toward the football field, this mess is the result of one or more tornadoes that hit The Plains and Athens, Ohio last night. I have heard no word of injuries or fatalities resulting, but I'm sending best wishes to folks back there. Though I've lived in Oregon for most of my life, I'll always think of Athens as "home."

BTW, our class, AHS '77, was nicknamed "Rowdies," because, well, we were. Seemed like an appropriate post title. Here's a link to the full gallery where I found this; can't guarantee it'll stay put or public.

Followup: Here's another gallery, including the front page of today's Athens Messenger... a paper we used to refer to as "The Mess." Heh. And here's a funnel in development from YouTube.

Followup 2: Here's a local news article. I gather there were in fact a few injuries.

Moly Be Damned

There's an interesting article regarding exploration on a potential molybdenum deposit near Boise, Idaho at The NYT. I feel it does a pretty good job of discussing the pros and cons, economic vs. environmental concerns.

While I'm pro-environment and pro-conservation compared to most, I have this pragmatic streak that comes from a strong background in the sciences- geology and biology particularly. I don't think most people in the US really comprehend that the mere fact they're alive means they are going to consume resources. There seems to be a mindset that if environmentalists can block all resource extraction, people will just quit demanding those resources. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn't.

I can understand and empathize with some of the environmental concerns here: "conservation groups and public health advocates are already lining up to oppose the project, arguing it threatens a watershed that provides one-fifth of Boise's municipal water supply." That is certainly not a threat to take lightly. But I get frustrated with what often appears to me to be a knee-jerk reflex to try to block any new resource project that comes along, rather than getting a sense of the company's reputation and plans, and attempting to improve those as needed. My interpretation of this piece is that there are no clear-cut threats of environmental degradation and contamination beyond those involved in mining generally. In other words, I see nothing described that suggests sediment and heavy metal contamination wouldn't be avoidable with appropriate planning, oversight and enforcement. Obviously, as we saw in the Gulf over the last few months, "planning, oversight and enforcement" can be iffy, but a point that wasn't made clearly enough in the MSM is that the Macondo blowout had minimal, if any, effect on people's consumption of petroleum resources. If that well hadn't been drilled, another one would have.

The situation is the same with this mine. It irritates me that the enviro's big complaint at this point is that there is no way for The NFS to "just say no," even though the article makes clear that they do have the option to regulate it to commercial infeasibility, if they feel its environmental effects will be too severe. "In theory, Baird said, the Forest Service could make such a project too expensive to pursue."

So the point really is, I don't have the background or detailed information I would need to support or oppose this operation, but I don't think that opposition to extracting natural resources as a matter of principle is a very worthwhile attitude. And that attitude is on full display in this article.

How Many Species of T. Rex?

As journalistic offenses against science go, this is pretty minor, I guess, but it still grates:
It's been a big year for a big dinosaur: Tyrannosaurs rex. Scientists have identified six new species of the animal, recently discovered T. rex feathers and maybe even the remains of some soft tissue.
Yes, you read that right: there are six new species of T. rex. Unsurprisingly, the scientists interviewed get it right without really thinking about how terribly confusing the binomial Genus-species nomenclature is to the average illiterate journalist.
"You know, we've really doubled the tyrannosaur diversity in the last 10 years," says Norell, who is among the world's leading fossil hunters. "And [we've] found ones that aren't just giant ones like Tyrannosaurus rex but smaller ones like raptorex, feathered ones like dilong. So it's really been this really big sort of renaissance, and tyrannosaurs are probably studied more than any other dinosaur that's ever been found."
Dispensing with snark, here's a quick overview: living things are grouped with similar living things in ever finer, more specific classifications ranging from Kingdom (most general) to species (most specific). The standard mnemonic is "Kings play chess on family grave stones." A student of mine came up with another that I quite like, and might be more likely to stick in the minds of younger learners: "Kids puke chunks on fat Grandma's skirt." Either way, the initial letters stand for kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species, and there can be different levels, (sub- or super-) of those. So Tyrannosaurus rex (by convention, the genus name is capitalized, the species name is not) is the genus and species of a particular type of dinosaur. It's "full name," or more accurately, classification, would be
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Theropoda
(unranked): Coelurosauria
Superfamily: Tyrannosauroidea
Family: Tyrannosauridae
Subfamily: Tyrannosaurinae
Genus: Tyrannosaurus
Osborn, 1905
according to Wikipedia.

So how many "species" of T. rex are there? One. By definition. Though the NPR article doesn't explicitly say how many species of Tyrannsaurs there are, combining the two quotes, "six new species," and "doubled the diversity," suggests that the count is somewhere around a dozen- though the Wikipedia link lists T. rex as the only species. In this case, I'm inclined to take the word of the researchers interviewed over the wiki piece.

It's actually a decent and interesting article, but it irritates me when basic, simple, and elementary science is screwed up. It casts a dubious pall over the whole thing.

A Procession of Wedges

Matt (who I shall continue to think of as Pascal for some time, I'm afraid) at Research at a Snail's Pace has put up a call for posts for Accretionary Wedge #28: Favorite Desk Crops. Quoth he:
October's theme is going to be "Desk-crops." This can be any rock or other geological* specimen that you have lying around your office/desk/lab that has a story to tell. The spookier the better. Photos and/or illustrations are very important (although not absolutely required).

*in this case, "geological" applies to any "earth material" that either directly, or indirectly came from the earth. Lithified, or unlithified samples count. Artificial gems/minerals count, as do biological specimens that are directly or indirectly connected to an "earth science" message are also fine, heck a REE graph or spectrogram of some stuff is okay, too. But big, beautiful landscape photos of entire cliffs and bluff faces don't count -unless you have a mountain in your office. This might be okay if your office is on a cliff, I guess. Provenance photos alongside deskcrops are also good.
Now of course this does not mean you missed AW #27- the deadline for that one is a week from this coming Monday, September 27. In case it's slipped your mind, the theme for the proximal wedge is "Important Geological Experiences," and while we have a few great submissions, we need more to establish a respectable allochthon.

The exciting part of this whole thing is that for the first time in my memory- perhaps ever- we have two suspect terranes simultaneously sliding toward accretion. The thick, lithophilic crust of the geoblogosphere grows ever more robust...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Loki, from Wikipedia. I had a terrible time finding a picture that fits my mental image; Loki was neither the supervillain nor effeminate behind-the-scenes string puller that he seems to have become in the popular imagination. He was a schemer and a prankster with poor impulse control, and always out to further the interests of number one. The classical gods all had poor impulse control, so Loki just ends up being one of the most entertaining of them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Congratulations... Christine O'Donnell.

I think this obligates her opponent to be pro-masturbation, right?

I'm sure the campaign for the general election will draw lots of interest.
Sigh. We're really getting the candidates we deserve.

Evacuate The North Sea Region. This is NOT a Drill.

"Hayward tells committee of MPs that there are no fundamental weaknesses in BP's North Sea operations, saying he has made safety the firm's top priority"
Yes, that's Tony "I want my life back" Hayward. Demonstrating the depths of BP's commitment to safety first, The Guardian reports
  • inspections on BP's North Sea installations found some did not comply with guidelines over regular training for operators on how to respond to an incident.
  • inspectors also found the firm had not conducted oil spill exercises properly at some of its offshore sites.
Hayward stated bluntly, "We have made the safe and reliable operations the number one priority of BP." He then didn't add, "Making scads of cash really isn't the point, now, is it?"

Wednesday Wednesday

Enjoy Your Style

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Tits

Sometimes, milk goes into tits rather than the reverse. Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus. (BBC)

Boo Yah!

Looks like your faithful blogger will be going on not one, but two (TWO!) field trips to look at honest-to-gawd Western Oregon RAWKS(!) next Monday and Tuesday! Monday: Central Oregon Coast. Tuesday: Quartzville. OMG, I have been so seriously mineral deficient over the past couple of years... I'm drrooooling into my beard...

I Can Has Be Helpful

Meant to capture this last night before I went back to internetless home, but at least I remembered this morning. I have nothing against dogs- rather fond of them, actually- but sometimes the tough decisions have to made.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Than I Would Want

Via BBC,
The Guinness World Record for making the biggest chocolate bar in the world has been broken in Armenia. The bitter dark chocolate bar, made by the Grand Candy Company, weighed 4410 kilogrammes (4.41 tonnes).
Below is a vidclip from AP/YouTube:

For the Rick Sanchez's of the world, 4410 kg in American is 9702 pounds. So it would probably take me at least a couple of sittings to finish this candy bar. Actually, it might take me a day or two just to get the wrapper and foil off.


Via Newsweek, a graphic to illustrate the size of the portal to the rest of the world, from the perspective of the trapped Chilean miners. (reduced 30% to fit; click to see full-size) The question I still haven't seen addressed- though I haven't looked that hard- is how they're meeting their sanitary needs. Is there a corner that simply drains off to deeper levels? Still, from everything I've heard, they're doing very well indeed, in terms of both physical and psychological health. I anticipate that they'll actually have more difficulty dealing with celebrity and loss of privacy after the ordeal than they're having with the current situation.

They're in my thoughts.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


NYT: "On Sept. 12, 1977, South African black student leader Steven Biko died while in police custody, triggering an international outcry."

I first heard the song above during the summer of 1982, and found it deeply moving. A few years later, the movie "Cry Freedom" brought the story into even more painful focus for me.

As disgusted as I often am with my fellow human beings, stories like that of Steven Biko prevent the small, guttering candle of hope from being entirely extinguished in my heart. I think it would be absurd to suppose that he voluntarily made the sacrifice he did; on the other hand, he had the courage and tenacity to keep fighting for truth and freedom when he knew perfectly well it put his life at risk. By any reasonable measure, that makes him a hero to be admired and emulated. That he did, in the end, lose his life as a result is irrelevant to his heroism. But it is that loss that brings tears to my eyes, as I sit here, removed in time, space, and culture from a man I would have loved to meet and get know. A man not too different from me in age, but so very different in the strength of his convictions.

All The President's Emails

I really enjoy this feature from The Guardian...
To: Hillary Clinton Subject: Re: Plan C

Sorry about Plan B, but I think it's impolitic for the President of the United States to phone a raving mad, pig-ignorant Florida preacher to ask him not to burn 200 Qur'ans, especially if the guy then goes ahead and does it anyway. So, Plan C: if you think you can arrange for a Blackhawk to fly over and dump water all over the bonfire, fine. Do we need legal justification, or can it just be a fun federal prank? B.

To: VPOTUS Subject: Re: Plan C

Hey Joe, in answer to your question about whether it's disrespectful to get 200 copies of the Qur'an wet, I can only say I HAVE NO FRIGGING IDEA BECAUSE I'M NOT A MUSLIM. Why are you even asking me? Anyway, last I heard – fingers crossed – the whole thing had been called off. I hope Hillary remembered to cancel that helicopter. Barack

Sunday Funnies: Remake Edition

Classic Movie 'Avatar' Updated For Today's Audiences

LOS ANGELES—Paramount Pictures confirmed Monday the Dec. 23 release date for Avatar 2KX, a remake of the beloved 2009 sci-fi thriller Avatar that will bring the story into the modern era with faster-paced action sequences and cutting-edge visual effects.
The Onion Click over for the full article. Pretty much true.
Bits and Pieces
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Um, Hillary....
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The Daily What
Dear Entire News Media,

Hello, morons.

If by 2PM Saturday afternoon Christina Hendricks still refuses to gives me a back massage, I will not just burn a Koran, I will fuck it. LIVE ON THE INTERNET. See if I won't.

Please direct the national media spotlight to this blog immediately. Also I want a cheeseburger.


Whiskey Fire "We Issue Ultimatums."
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