Saturday, February 23, 2013

Outreach Blogging on Blogging Outreach

Yesterday, @eruptionsblog retweeted @JacquelynGill, and I responded thusly. Erik, turn replied:
Now this was illuminating to me. I recall some years ago, maybe eight or nine, another coffee drinker at The Interzone commented that I should blog, because I was constantly making amusing snark about the Bush Administration. At the time, I was employed at OSU, so I certainly had computer access, but I hadn't really started reading blogs yet, outside of a few political blogs. Most of those had purchased or rented their own domain, and I really couldn't afford to do that. And yes, the idea of grappling with HTML was intimidating. I really expected a steep learning curve, with lots of stupid errors on my part at the outset.

It was only later that I discovered Blogspot and Wordpress (and there are others, too) that provide free hosting, within limits. At that point, I was no longer at OSU, but I had inherited my own laptop from my brother, and Interzone had wifi, so I decided to jump in. I had started reading more blogs in the previous months, and it looked like fun. Not only that, I had a growing awareness of others' interests in blogging about geology, and hoped eventually to be able to make some small contribution to that community.

So on May 11, 2008, I registered a blog name with Blogspot, and posted an introduction. Immediately afterward, I started composing a piece on the actual idea that had inspired me to start, which, oddly, was on a math trick I had discovered: a way to determine whether a number is divisible by 11. You can see in those two posts that I could be awkward, long-winded, and funny all at the same time. See, in particular, the disclaimer at the end of the second post.

I actually ended up doing five posts, just that first day. The one on why I decided to call the blog "Outside the Interzone" may be of interest, to those who don't know. As I reread that, I can see I was still feeling awkward in the medium, and I was struggling to find what I now know as "my voice." But that's okay... I can also see (and vividly recall) that I was having fun. I expected few if any visitors, but having a forum to express myself publicly, and others could read or ignore as they chose, was enthralling. I was hooked from day one. And I hadn't even touched geology yet. Though my first post on the 12th was not tagged with the Geology Label, it clearly shows I was thinking about geologic resources. And my first full-on geology post (also the first use of the Volcanoes label) was the following day.

That first week alone, I posted here 28 times. There have been weeks since when I posted more, but not many. Clearly, I jumped in with both feet, and had no shortage of things to write about. Some posts are short, maybe just to share a fun picture, others are longer, and meant to convey some convoluted thinking and ideas. The medium offered me not only a chance to share my stuff publicly, but in what ever form and format I chose.

As far as choosing a platform, I went with Blogspot, because I had a Gmail account already, and that made sign-up easy. But I've worked on Wordpress blogs as well, and find them nearly as intuitive to use in compose mode. If you already know HTML, you're ready to go. I didn't (and still don't, really), but the interface takes care of the code-writing for you. I have learned some tricks over the years, some on my own, and some when I asked for help (Yes, you're allowed to do that.).

As @rschott pointed out,
The geoblogging community loves new members. It's kind of traditional to stop by and give a warm "Howdy neighbor!" to newbies when we find them, and I suspect that's likely true of other disciplines as well.
I've already addressed the above sentiment in passing, talking about my own experience getting started. I commented further, in the conversation yesterday, that it's hard to see, before you start, that blogging takes exactly the amount of time you want it to. Found a cool image, post or site you want to pass along? Type a sentence, load the picture or link, come up with some simple title (I often go with puns, which can lead to problems later, trying to track down an older post, but it's fun for me, and that's the whole point), type it in, and hit "publish." Blam. One-minute blog post. Come across a really terrible bit of journalism you want to spend a couple hours going through with a fine-tooth comb and ripping to shreds? Have a couple hours to spare now? Do it. Have a couple hours to spare later? Do it then. If you have time when you won't be connected, make a text copy to save to your hard drive, write a text copy of your critque in any editor, then copy and paste it when you're connected again. Add any associated links and/or associated graphics, and there's another "quick" post. I've actually done that a number times- I don't have internet at home, for the most part, and that's probably a good thing.

So the effort and time that go into blogging, as I said above, is exactly what you want it to be. Tumblrs are another increasingly popular micro-blogging platform, that is, they tend to be single images or video clips with a short caption, and nothing else. I can't imagine most of those take more than a minute per post (Fair disclosure: I read a fair number of Tumblrs, but I haven't used the platform myself, other than as a consumer).

So whether you use Twitter, long-form blogging, or a Tumblr style format, is entirely up to you. And there is absolutely no reason you can't work on multiple platforms. I know plenty of people who use two of the above, and a few who use all three.

Now while it may seem as if I'm focused on the geoblogosphere on this topic, I'm merely emphasizing that because that's the community with which I'm familiar and can draw from for examples. I'm sure there are similar communities and experiences for every discipline and human endeavor: supportive people sharing similar interests, passions, and who feel strongly about the importance and the need to share that area with others. This post is just my attempt to encourage you, if you aren't active in social media, to set your worries aside and just jump in. Give it a try. If you're truly unhappy with the results, you can delete it. In blogging, you can leave posts saved but unpublished, or schedule them for a future date and time. So if you have cold feet, you can write up your first post (or first few posts), show them to someone you trust, or come back to proofread and edit with fresh eyes. I give myself permission to edit out typos and grammatical errors any time, if they bug me enough. Factual errors, I prefer to strike out, then add a correction after. This acknowledges that yes, I said that, and your memory isn't playing tricks, but it's wrong and here's what I now think is right. But the point is, you get to make your own decisions.

And that, after the strictures of trying to conform to others' expectations of how you "should" write, is an enormously liberating and rewarding experience.

I haven't finished everything I want to say on this topic, but the post is long enough, and I'll come back and finish up with some comments on things that, in my experience, have made me and my readers happy, and perhaps increased my readership.

Geo 365: Feb. 23, Day 54: Winter Rim, Summer Lake

Winter Rim rises over the town of Summer Lake, Oregon. The actual lake, Summer Lake, is behind us in this view, taken from a city park/wayside that's almost as large as the town itself. I've never been able to tell exactly what's going on in that outcrop up on the rim. I think the lighter layers are tuffaceous sediments, and the darker material lava flows, but from this distance- and I've never been closer than this spot- I'd rather not speculate any further than that.

Photo unmodified. August 20, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Followup: Commenter Lyle left a link to a field trip abstract, that like so much in geology, sounds dry and technical. But if you understand it, crazy scary and amazing. Quake-induced landslides, with volumes in the range of cubic kilometers and run-outs in the range of kilometers. My response was that "Summer Lake just got a whole lot more dangerous-looking!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Geo 365: Feb. 22, Day 53: Pluvial Shorelines

I've previously mentioned pluvial shorelines on Tuesday and Wednesday. In both those cases, I think I'm probably seeing shorelines, but they're subtle enough that I'm not quite certain. In this case, there is no doubt about what I'm seeing. Throughout southeastern Oregon, these sorts of features are ubiquitous in the basins, to the point that they become blase. I've found that for me personally, I tend to run through a cycle of "Oh yeah, more shorelines. Yawn." to "But imagine this whole valley filled with water to that high mark. Fish. Megafauna. Toward the end, Native Americans."

And my skin prickles, and my hair stands on end.

Photo unmodified. August 20, 2011. Since this was shot on the fly, I'm not exactly certain where it was taken, but this area generally has many good examples.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mining Science Fiction Films

A recent post in the G+ Geoscience Community posed the question, "What are some science fiction films that involve mining?" The three that came immediately to mind were Outland, Arnie Goes to Mars, er, Total Recall, and Avatar. The post also commented that the colony in Aliens is also described as a mining operation, which I'd forgotten.

I concluded "Can't think of any, off the top of my head, where mining is central to the plot though- it's just a reason for people to be where they are." I've since thought of two more where mining, defined broadly, is central to the story: Moon and Dune. In Moon, we see Sam Bell doing maintenance and trouble-shooting as the singular occupant of a Lunar He3 mining operation, and in Dune, spice mining is at the center of the whole plot- again, mining broadly speaking. Spice is a biological material found in an aeolian setting, but in a way, it's no different from coal/peat/lignite.

Let's see... going through lists...
  • There's the famous line "We must not allow a mine gap!" by George C. Scott in Dr Strangelove, but again, mining is peripheral to the story.
  • The Abyss is centered around a deep-sea drill rig, nominally designed for oil exploration. While many of the techniques and gizmos in this setting are interesting from a geologic perspective, once again the real focus is on other things.
  • I'll simply mention Armageddon so you know I didn't forget it, but purposely ignored it.
Having now gone through four lists of "Top Sci-Fi Films," I'm not seeing any others that jump out at me. I doubt I got every example, but likely most of the bigger, better-known ones.

Of the above, Moon is probably the top example for those with a geologic bent. Dune is a horrible film that looks very good, and as such is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Outland, which I saw when it came out (not impressed), was much better for older me last year; it's a sci-fi remake of the classic High Noon. Dr. Strangelove is absolutely top-notch science-fictiony satire, and a true classic in its own right- and I've found many younger people have never watched it. Avatar and Aliens were both enjoyable box-office blow outs, and if you like sci fi, you've likely already seen them more than once. Total Recall, meh. Cartoonish violence, way dumbing down of PK Dick's original story idea, and an almost total loss of the ambiguity inherent in much of his work. Fun, in an Arnie sort of way. I haven't seen the remake, and it was widely panned, so I may not ever. And rounding it out, I quite liked the Abyss, though the geology is best expressed in the earthiness of its characters.

Any others I missed?

Followup- oh yes, the absolutely awful remake of The Andromeda Strain has as its "hero" in the climax a bacterium derived from ocean ridge mining. Part one was over the top, but I would have given it a mildly positive rating. Part two, though, was horrid. Don't waste your time.

Followup 2: Cowboys and Aliens. Dumb, goofy and fun movie. I won't say highly recommended, but it's not ashamed to be what it is, and I enjoyed it.

Followup 3, 2/22/13: In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk spends part of the film incarcerated in Rura Penthe, a penal mining colony run by the Klingons. Being an even-numbered film in the Star Trek franchise, this one is pretty good. And while not a "film" per se, The Devil in the Dark is likely most geologists' favorite episode in the original series. I was also reminded by a G+ commenter that The Chronicles of Riddick* takes place in a mining colony. I disliked that film quite a bit, and had forgotten the setting entirely. *Correction: I don't think I've seen The Chronicles of Riddick. It was Pitch Black that I found uninteresting and unmemorable. I felt no need to watch a sequel.

Geo 365: Feb. 21, Day 52: Abert Rim from Across the Basin

Here, we've driven south to Valley Falls, then back north on Route 31, as we head up the Chewaucan Valley toward Paisley and Summer Lake. The view of Abert Rim is perhaps even better than that standing at its foot.

Photos unmodified. August 20, 2011. FlashEarth Location (approximate)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Geo 365: Feb. 20, Day 51: Abert Lake

After we'd admired Abert Rim for a while, Dana and Intrepid Companion decided to walk down to the lake edge and get a closer look at the birds and water. The birds are not evident at the resolution above, so here's a crop:
Dana captured some amusing video of the birds' behavior, which I have assumed relates to them herding the brine shrimp into tighter clusters for feeding. I also extended this crop vertically to include the opposite shore; note again the subtle horizontal lineations, which are likely recessional shorelines of pluvial Lake Chewaucan. The crop, incidentally, is at the scale and resolution at which my camera takes photos by default. I really need to figure it out, because I know I'm not taking advantage of its full capabilities,

Photos unmodified. August 20, 2011. FlashEarth Location.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Geo 365: Feb. 19, Day 50: Abert Rim Pull Out

Looking ~south toward the pull out, Abert Rim looms over some foothills in the foreground. The subtle horizontal lineations on the hill slope are likely shoreline stand-stills of the receding, evaporating Lake Chewaucan.

Photo unmodified. August 20, 2011. FlashEarth location.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Geo 365: Feb. 18, Day 49: Abert Rim

Looking north from a pull-out along US Route 395, Abert Rim to the right, Abert Lake to the left. Abert Rim is frequently described as "the most prominent fault scarp in the US," but I'm always dubious of claims of extremity. Just in Oregon, Steens Mountain is higher and longer. The rise of the Sierras over Owens Valley- a few hundred miles south along this same route- is four times the height of Abert Rim, and far longer. So I'm not sure where that claim came from, and I don't think it merits consideration.

Still, it's a marvellously sharp, steep escarpment, a classic of basin and range. I'm not positive, but I think the basalt it's made of is from the Steens Basalt eruptions, now classified as part of the Miocene Columbia River flood basalt eruptions. Lake Abert is a saline remnant of pluvial Lake Chewaucan, and an important stop for migrating birds. Brine shrimp thrive in its water, and are a food source for the birds. There is also an operation that harvests the shrimp for fish food and other uses.

Since it looks like the rain is supposed to come back in earnest this week, I decided to go with hot, sunny photos for this next set. Photo unmodified. August 20, 2011. FlashEarth location, cross hairs on the spot with the pull out, I think. There are some interpretive signs there that are good for those with little background- nicely done, but not terribly useful for someone already familiar with the geology of the region.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Funnies: Meteor! Edition

You just know, if all those people in Chelyabinsk had their AR-15s pointed at the sky, that meteorite would have NEVER come down there. My Twitter Profile
Tastefully Offensive
Bits and Pieces
 Are You Talking to Meme?
Very Demotivational
Derpy Cats
Sober in a Nightclub
Sober in a Nightclub
Historic LOLs
"Screwing up the first step of my protocol after prepping for days" What Should We Call Grad School
"When I finally see my advisor after 3 months of sabbatical" Geology is Hard
"Someone might need to kick the catnip…" Are You Talking to Meme?
Very Demotivational
Lunar Baboon
 Tastefully Offensive
Sober in a Nightclub
Don't like it? Sorry, I have to live in here. Sometimes stuff escapes. My Twitter profile.
What Would Jack Do?
"Trying to pay attention in lecture after reading well logs all morning" Geology is Hard
Very Demotivational
Tastefully Offensive
Surviving the World
Spud Comics
Cyanide and Happiness
Julia Segal
"Just when I feel like an experiment is about to work" What Should We Call Grad School
Bits and Pieces
Medium Large
 I Hate My Parents

Geo 365: Feb. 17, Day 48: Sunset Fault

Dana follows a fault crossing the wave cut platform on the north side of Sunset Bay. All that green stuff is pretty thin, but quite slick. It can easily send you tumbling, but provides no cushion when you land. Careful!

Photo unmodified. March 8, 2012. FlashEarth location.