Saturday, September 4, 2010

Call for Posts, AW 27: Important Geological Experiences

I'll go ahead and pick up the ball for the next Accretionary Wedge, and after thinking about it for a bit, the topic I settled on is "What is the most important geological experience you've had?" The key word there is "important," and the real task is going to be figuring out what that means for you. It may (or may not) be something that led you to the discipline (Note that August 2009's AW was "Inspiration," what inspired us to get into geology, and this isn't really intended to be a repeat of that, though for some, it might be.), or a class, or a work experience, or a field experience. It might have been a puzzle or problem solved, or job landed, a degree completed. Perhaps it was something else entirely. It could have been an awful, disastrous experience from which you learned an important lesson. Maybe it's still in your future- something you're looking forward to. Additionally, explain why it was important. Was it something you'd recommend to others?

I'd like to get this up by the end of the month, which I think falls on a Thursday. So let's aim at getting submissions by Monday, Sept. 27- though as usual, late submissions will likely get picked up and rolled in at some point. Have fun, and I hope to hear from you. Leave links to posts either here or at The Accretionary Wedge, where this was originally posted.

And of course, if you have an idea for a wedge and/or would like to host, October and later are open for volunteers!

The Youngest Geoblogger?

As far as I've been able to tell, that would be Sam at Geology Blues. A week ago, she posted a piece about her visit to Switzerland, which I found delightful. I can't read German, but according to her, the sign above reads "'Kids must be on Leash' because it is steep. I thought it was a good laugh." I agree. Keep up the good work, Sam, and as always,

Goo Goo Ga Joob

Picture from Acting Like Animals, caption by John Lennon. Also, if you haven't read the story behind this song's creation (I hadn't), it's pretty darned funny. Quoth Lennon, "Let the fuckers work that one out."

International Vulture Awareness Day

So this ol' planet has completed another circuit around the sun, and it's time to think about a group that helps prevent smelly dead things from accumulating: vultures. From the official website,
Vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of threats in many areas that they occur. Populations of many species are under pressure and some species are facing extinction.

The International Vulture Awareness Day has grown from Vulture Awareness Days run by the Birds of Prey Working Group in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England, who decided to work together and expand the initiative into an international event.

It is now recognised that a co—ordinated international day will publicise the conservation of vultures to a wider audience and highlight the important work being carried out by the world’s vulture conservationists. On September 4th 2010, the aim is for each participating organisation to carry out their own activities that highlight vulture conservation and awareness. This website, established in July 2009, provides a central place for all participants to outline these activities and see the extent of vulture conservation across the world.
Last year, I expressed appreciation for the turkey vulture, a creature I grew up seeing on a nearly daily basis. This year, I'm going to go for exotic and showy: the king vulture, Sarcoramphus papa. The king vulture
is a large bird found in Central and South America. It is a member of the New World vulture family Cathartidae. This vulture lives predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, though some believe that William Bartram's Painted Vulture of Florida may be of this species. It is the only surviving member of the genus Sarcoramphus, though fossil members are known.

It is large and predominantly white, with gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. Its head and neck are bald, with the skin color varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The King Vulture has a very noticeable yellow fleshy caruncle on its beak. This vulture is a scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh carcass. It also displaces smaller New World vulture species from a carcass. King Vultures have been known to live for up to 30 years in captivity.
From the wikipedia page quoted and linked above, here's a close-up of the handsome fellow:In flight:
MySpace Layouts
King Vulture Image & King Vulture Pictures. Pretty bird!
(from the Tree of Life Project) Polly want a... um... pumpkin?(Nat. Geo.) Bottom line: due to their dietary habits, and physical adaptations to fit their niche, vultures can look pretty horrid by our standards, but they serve a critical role in maintaining the circle of life. However, "can look horrid" does not mean "looks horrid." Many of them are quite beautiful, and from a distance, in my experience, watching them soar is rarely less than inspiring and wonderful.


Pat Benatar, We Belong:

Pat Benatar - We Belong
Uploaded by valentin73. - See the latest featured music videos.
The Who, 905:

Souixsie and the Banshees, Kiss Them For Me:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Quick Note

I'll pick an interesting species and find some good pics tomorrow, but I just wanted to mention that tomorrow is "Vulture Appreciation Day." Here's my post from last year. These magnificent birds can incite responses of revulsion, but they are important members of many (perhaps most) ecosystems. They are also some of the largest flying birds alive today, though many are threatened or endangered. Even ugly birds deserve a little love. If you're so inclined, I invite you to join me in celebration of the Kings of Carrion tomorrow.

More Nit-Picking

What is a volcano?
Volcanoes are mountains, but they are very different from other mountains; they are not formed by folding and crumpling or by uplift and erosion. Instead, volcanoes are built by the accumulation of their own eruptive products -- lava, bombs (crusted over lava blobs), ashflows, and tephra (airborne ash and dust). A volcano is most commonly a conical hill or mountain built around a vent that connects with reservoirs of molten rock below the surface of the Earth. The term volcano also refers to the opening or vent through which the molten rock and associated gases are expelled.
Another USGS FAQ. There are parts of this answer that are good- in fact, I would say it's the order of those parts, rather than the answer itself, that's problematic. Let's try to rephrase:

The term volcano refers to an opening or vent through which molten rock and associated gases are expelled. A volcano is most commonly a conical hill or mountain built around a vent that connects with reservoirs of molten rock below the surface of the Earth. The built-up area, sometimes referred to as the volcanic edifice, is built by the accumulation of their own eruptive products -- lava, bombs (crusted over lava blobs), ashflows, and tephra (airborne ash and dust). In some cases, however, the actual volcano is a low place in the landscape. This can happen as a result of an explosion and excavation of a crater or maar, or from the emptying of a magma chamber, and subsequent collapse of the overlying landcape, forming a caldera. Additionally, flood basalts, the most voluminous volcanoes of all, probably do not create significantly elevated landforms in the vicinity of their vents, because the erupted lava is quite hot and fluid.

It may seem kind of nit-picky, but the point is, volcanoes should not first and foremost be described as mountains or hills, but as vents. Most are local elevation maxima, but many are not.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Up and Down, Here and There

I have always loved astrophotos. I'm just old enough to have watched the original airings of Star Trek TOS, and I remember being fascinated with the photos of galaxies especially. It wasn't until I started my geology degree that I started to really think about what separated geology from astronomy. My conclusion is that it's only a matter of perspective. If we were Mercurians (?), looking outward from the sun, with earth in the night sky, this is what we would see:Earth and Luna, from the MESSENGER robotic probe, yesterday's APOD. If we were a life form evolved to live on the surface of Mercury, to what degree would we be able to make sense of the processes on Earth's surface? Would we eventually comprehend volcanism on a planet that has been volcanically inert for eons?

We face the same conundrum from our perspective on this planet. It has been a long, involved process simply to make sense of the environment in our immediate nieghborhood- and there are plenty of unanswered questions still. Yet we are capable of extrapolating from both natural and experimental/laboratory conditions and making provisional statements about the nature and history of other objects in the universe... some only light minutes away, some millions or even billions of light years away. (below from Hawaiian Lava Daily)
I think that's part of what nearly paralyzes me when I see images that combine beautiful geology and astronomy: the realization that I make a distinction between them only because I happen to be here rather than there. And the feeling that there may very well be- maybe likely to be- some unimaginable creature there looking back and contemplating exactly the same thing.


Sadly, there's not a day named after Loki... he was always my favorite. From here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

They're Calling This "The Shrek Fish"

From a report in The CSM,
According to MSNBC, the fish is common in Japan. But what is not so common is the fish's face, which seems to resemble a certain animated green ogre. The male fish is believed to be 30-years-old.
Now how can I avoid clicking through on a link that promises an astonishly ugly animal? I can't. But the fact is, I wasn't reminded at all of Shrek. Instead, I was reminded of Jocelyn Wildenstein. Apparently fish can overdo plastic surgery as well as rich divorcees.

Wednesday Wednesday

Say Cheese!

What He Said

Calamities of Nature

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A couple of bloggers I follow posted some thing about "beating the game" yesterday. I don't make a habit of playing games, let alone beating them, and I didn't see any keywords that grabbed my attention, so I scrolled by after a brief pause.

That's important to understand: most of the items I "read" are glances at the headline and the first few lines or sentences to quickly decide whether I want to spend the time to read the whole thing. This is especially true for RSS feeds that provide only a title and a teaser: if you want me to read your stuff, and you expect me to click over to your website to do so-especially websites loaded with ads and sidebar add-ons- try to give me some idea what the fuck I'm going to see when I do. I've been getting really frustrated with this, and I've been dropping feeds that are the worst about it.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the number of RSS items I "read" (I think of it as "sort through") in a typical day has increased by about 25% over the last few months. Last spring I was averaging a bit over 1000 per day. Now...See why I tend to put off time-consuming posts for the weekends?

Then I found the relevant article in my "Google-related" folder, and given that I started using Google Reader well over a year ago, I guess I've beaten the game too:
Eagle-eyed viewers might have also noticed we've added a new category to the trends page: clicked trends - now you can see which sources you click on the most.
And finally, something many of you have asked for before...we now show you your lifetime read item count. That's right. Every. Single.* Item.**

*Only things you've scrolled by, or clicked on - doesn't count mark all as read.
**Okay, that's not quite accurate - once you hit around 300K (which we know some of you are already over) we stop counting for performance reasons. Consider that "beating the game".

Natural Hazards

I have run into trouble commenting on blogs from time to time; I have always just shrugged and moved on, i.e., given up. But this time, I feel like I have something to say that I feel pretty strongly about, and I hope this gets back to the blogger. The post is at GEOL 105 Natural Hazards with the title A Working Definition of "Natural Hazard." The body of the post says
A naturally-occurring force/event that impacts the environment around it. What do you think?
To which I tried to respond
I think the term "hazard" implies risk to people- not just "the environment." Also, "naturally-occurring" obscures the fact that human intervention in the environment often exacerbates risks. Nor am I entirely comfortable with the use of the word "force" in this context. In the interest of being helpful, not just critical, here's my stab at it: "Combinations of natural features, processes and events, possibly modified by human activity, that pose potential risk to human life, health, property and infrastructure."

I'm not speaking from any position of authority here, this is just my intuitive take on it. As such, I'm eager to hear what others think as well.
I tried several times to leave this comment, after repeatedly checking my email and website info, but it kept telling me "invalid data." So here's my attempt to comment; I do hope this gets back to the blogger, and I'm very interested in hearing what others think about either of these attempts to define the phrase, and better definitions if people think of them. Definitions, in a way, are a lot like scientific nomenclature- it can seem tedious at first, until you realize that until you're sure you know what the word(s) mean(s), you don't really know what you're talking about, and neither does anyone else.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Signal Strength

Very low. Interzone's WiFi is on the fritz again, so I'm trying (without much success) to keep up from home. Slooooooooooooow.

Just thought I'd let you know what's going on.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Five years ago today, Katrina plowed ashore in New Orleans, killing thousands, and proving for once and for all Reagan's sweet little homily that a government with no interest in governing is the enemy. If there's a phrase more terrifying than "We're from the government, and we're here to help," it's "Fuck you. You're on your own. This is your fault." Which latter statement is, of course, what stranded residents of New Orleans heard from the Bush administration.
"Heh heh! Sucks to be you!"

This was a period leading up to my complete abandonment of TeeVee, and I had given up on news from that medium... as a result, it was Wednesday before I really realized just how bad the situation had become. Looking primarily for text, I saw few images in the aftermath. In many ways, I was better informed regarding the details than most, but I missed and was unaware of the viscerally gripping pictures that were circulating. It wasn't until much later- weeks to months- that I started filling in the gaps there.

Friday, The Big Picture ran a series of 49 photos commemorating this anniversary, many new to me. The one below is one that gave me pause and made me feel a little teary.
Leonard Thomas, 23, cries after a SWAT police team burst into the flooded home where he and his family were living in New Orleans on Sept. 5, 2005. Neighbors had reported that the family was squatting in the house in the wake of Hurricane Katrina but the authorities left after the family proved they were the owners. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
I find it more than a little ironic that this happens a day after Beck, Palin and Teabaggers United marched on the Lincoln Memorial, screaming and crying about how if everyone were as religiously committed as they are, as blindly jingoistic as they are, and above all, as white and affluent as they are, well everything would be just peachy.

Hate to disillusion you folks, but that ain't happenin'. And even if it was, I don't believe that was the message your Jayzus was trying to convey.

Sunday Funnies: Surprise Bafftime Edition!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Senor Gif
Sofa Pizza
funny pictures-Firefox can not load this application...It tastes bad
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Luke Surl
Comic JK
Sober in a Nightclub
Skull Swap
demotivational posters - ADOPTION
see more Very Demotivational
Above and Below, swag 4 sale @Wondermark

I'm pretty sure you'd survive a zombie apocalypse
see more Political Pictures
Sofa Pizza
Hyperbole and a Half
The High Definite
The Daily What
The Daily What
The Daily What
Square Root... So Much Pun
Captcha in the Rye... So Much Pun
funny pictures-itz ok just go on wifout meh
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
The High Definite
The High Definite
Sofa Pizza
Oddly Specific
BizarroBlog, via What Would Jack Do? "This is my body, which is given for you."
epic fail photos - CLASSIC FAIL: Lemon fail
see more Epic Fails. When life gives you limes, make lemonade.
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Sober in a Nightclub
Mileage is poor. Criggo
Bits and Pieces
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Sober in a Nightclub
Sober in a Nightclub
100% Best Beef Fail
see more Epic Fails
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
That was a bad idea....
see more Lol Celebs
Very Demotivational
So Much Pun... I think if I was in her position, the humor would be lost on me, too.
Above and below from Tix-R-Us, a local web comic artist and the mother of one of my young friends here at the Interzone. The one below was inspired by a Sunday Funny from two weeks ago.

Via Demeur, and a couple of other good ones at the link, too. Reason 736, 901 not to have a phone: my Anglo-Saxon reading skills are rusty. And I always want to reply in Yiddish.
Criggo... choices, choices.