9 Billion Hours of Sewing Succeed

The Information Twins were a definite hit. In fact, we’re thinking of doing it again next year, with some improvements in the costume department. Not being able to stuff poor Captain TMI into his Superman suit in order to do a proper fitting led to some issues, but we made it through.

Captain TMI and Golden Silence, ready to fight – um, whatever. We actually don’t know what our superhero schtick is.

I’ll have more pics later. For now, I’m going to eat, watch teevee, and not sew a stitch nor paint a prop. I’m tired beyond belief. Arglebargle. How the fuck does making costumes take so much out of a person? Oh, right – no sewing machine. I’m glad most of you who were making costumes had sewing machines. Soooo much easier with a machine.

I’ll have some geology for you later. Which do you want first: the next installment of Rivers, or the final stop on our OSU Geo tour?

I hope my east coast of North America readers are safe and well. I’m sorry Sandy fucked up your Halloween. And if your cell service is down, rest assured we’re fixing it. Even whilst wearing costumes.

OSU Geotour Supplemental V: A Spring in Your Steps

Our tour of Oregon State University geology continues apace. We’re just going to make a really quick dash in at

Stop 12: Memorial Union Main Entrance

and – holy fucking travertine, Batman! Maybe not so quick, then.

Travertine staircase. I can't even tell you how beautiful this is - fuck marble. This is light and airy and seems to float - so much stone has never seemed like a cloud before.

Travertine staircase. I can’t even tell you how beautiful this is – fuck marble. This is light and airy and seems to float – so much stone has never seemed like a cloud before.

The dark streaks - impurities - keep it from being overhwelmingly white. And it gives an almost wood-grain effect. It's hard to describe what it's like to walk in to a place and be surrounded by this very straight, stately stuff that looks somberly substantial, and yet seems you could blow gently and make it dissipate like mist. It's no wonder the builders went with it, even though it turns out travertine is a wretched choice for stairs - tends to wear down too quickly. These steps had to be planed down and refinished when they got dangerously bowed in the middle.

The dark streaks – impurities – keep it from being overhwelmingly white. And it gives an almost wood-grain effect. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to walk in to a place and be surrounded by this very straight, stately stuff that looks somberly substantial, and yet seems you could blow gently and make it dissipate like mist. It’s no wonder the builders went with it, even though it turns out travertine is a wretched choice for stairs – tends to wear down too quickly. These steps had to be planed down and refinished when they got dangerously bowed in the middle.

Note the sign over the door on the right: “Pangea Cafe.” Oh, yeah, someone knows their geology – or are unbelievably crunchy and versed in ancient Greek. Either one is possible at OSU.

It is with reluctance that we tear ourselves away from this vision in travertine, this contemplation of feet upon the stairs, and head toward our next destination. We cannot help but turn our heads back wistfully one last time.

Facade of Memorial Union, as seen en route to the Women's Building.

Facade of Memorial Union, as seen en route to the Women’s Building.

Soon, though, we will forget all about travertine.

Stop 13: Women’s Building

So in the 1920s, when OSU built a Women’s Building, they went all-out. It’s like John V. Bennes sat down to plan this thing and asked himself how much exotic stone he could stuff into one building. Also, this was in an era when an inscription wasn’t an inscription unless it was faux Roman.

That's Women's Bvilding to you, plebe.

That’s Women’s Bvilding to you, plebe.

I don’t think this blazing red (akai) monument was part of the original design, but it certainly catches the eye. It looks like granite that’s been swimming in a vat of carminic acid.

Scarlet granite monument outside the Women's Bvilding. It appears to be an actual granite - at least, an early 20th century geologic map of Africa talks about red granite in the Bushveld, so, y'know, mebbe it really is granite. But I don't know why it is so very, very red.

Scarlet granite monument outside the Women’s Bvilding. It appears to be an actual granite – at least, an early 20th century geologic map of Africa talks about red granite in the Bushveld, so, y’know, mebbe it really is granite. But I don’t know why it is so very, very red.

I mean, this shit's red, people. Blazing red.

I mean, this shit’s red, people. Blazing red.

I've never seen granite that red before, and I'm now dying of curiosity. What would make it blaze crimson like that?

I’ve never seen granite that red before, and I’m now dying of curiosity. What would make it blaze crimson like that?

But don’t get too caught up in the very red granite. Get inside – there’s another red delight awaiting you, and this one’s gonna make you scream with delight.

This is the main attraction, folks: the Rosso Ammonitico. This is limestone, yeah. Limestone made of ammonites. Recognizable ammonites. I'm so going back to this building when the light's better and going wild. I've got some very nice photos, mind - my camera is an excellent sport in low light - but I'm saving them for another time. I plan to do a whole entire post on the Rosso Ammonitico, because it is fascinating. Consider this a teaser.

This is the main attraction, folks: the Rosso Ammonitico. This is limestone, yeah. Limestone made of ammonites. Recognizable ammonites. I’m so going back to this building when the light’s better and going wild. I’ve got some very nice photos, mind – my camera is an excellent sport in low light – but I’m saving them for another time. I plan to do a whole entire post on the Rosso Ammonitico, because it is fascinating. Consider this a teaser.

It's kind of anticlimatic, but there are also quite nice marble tiles. See? Marble? Anyone? Is anyone looking at the marble, or are they all about the ammonites? Sigh. Poor marble.

It’s kind of anticlimatic, but there are also quite nice marble tiles. See? Marble? Anyone? Is anyone looking at the marble, or are they all about the ammonites? Sigh. Poor marble. Just can’t compete.

A view of the foyer, looking out. The rich Rosso Ammonitico, the checkerboard marble, the wood accents, elegant lighting - luscious. I could happily live in that building for the rest of my life.

A view of the foyer, looking out. The rich Rosso Ammonitico, the checkerboard marble, the wood accents, elegant lighting – luscious. I could happily live in that building for the rest of my life.

We’re nearly at the end now. When you see what Wilkinson Hall has on display, you’re going to start gibbering incoherently. Stock up on absorbent towels and prepare to drool copiously.

 

Back to Phase IV or Ahead to Phase 6

Sneak Peak

There’ll be something of substance up later today, I promise. For the moment: a glimpse of what is to come on Halloween.

Not the full costume, obviously: just the speaker-shield and the microphone-mace. And the cat, of course, helping to demonstrate the power of the mic.

And here she is deciding to defeat it by consuming it. Unfortunately, I hit the Program Auto button when setting up the camera, and the colors are horrible as a result, but still. She’s cute.

Something of an action shot. Sorta. Shame you can’t see the shield from this angle.

Anyway. That’s a small part of what I’ve been working on. The rest (and hopefully best) is yet to come…

 

 

I Have Gone Very Slightly Mad…

It’s that madness that happens when you planned to do something simple, but kept enlarging upon the idea, and then expanding upon those enlargements, and embroidering the details, and so on. A sort of positive feedback loop takes effect, and your life becomes dominated by something that started out very simply indeed.

I really only meant to make one simple cloak. That’s it. When I told my coworker I’d help him dress up as Captain TMI for Halloween, I meant I’d make him a cloak and design a logo. I didn’t mean to make the mask and the boots and a shield and all the accessories. And I didn’t mean to dress up with him. I have to sew this shit by hand, forfuckssake. But here we are, it’s the weekend, I’ve spent the entire weekend working on these costumes (with a brief aside for cooking and cleaning the kitchen), when what I’d meant to do was spend the weekend doing research.

I haven’t even welcomed Avicenna and NonStampCollector to FreethoughtBlogs. Although I have, now, watched nearly every video NonStampCollector ever put out. Whilst my hands and eyes are busy with stitching and painting, my ears have been busy with various videos on science, atheism and reason. Without those, I think I might have gone completely mental.

Those of you with sewing machines, please tell them how much they are loved. All of you pause for a moment to remember the inventors of the sewing machine with fondness. I’m amazed people ever wore more than a piece of cloth wrapped round their sensitive bits: this hand-sewing stuff takes forever.

And now I’m back to it. Just popping in to say why some things are going to be quite late, and why it’s a damned good thing I had some substantial posts pre-written. I just hope my coworker lets me put photos of him up here. This costume, my friends, is bloody epic.

OSU Geotour Supplemental IV: From the Ancient Seas of My Birthplace

Almost halfway through our tour of OSU geology! We’re coming up on the Memorial Union now, and I hope you left yourself lots of time, because this is one of those places that a person could get completely lost in – and that’s just on the outside of the building.

Stop 11: Memorial Union, East End

Approach the black hole. It doesn’t look like a black hole, but it is sucking you in.

The Memorial Union. This is a place that could keep a geologist occupied for hours.

The Memorial Union. This is a place that could keep a geologist occupied for hours.

Walk to the east end. Put your nose up against the rock. You have now passed the event horizon…

This is the Salem Limestone. Indiana’s famous for it, ships it all over the place. Indiana, a long damned time ago (330 million years), used to be a lovely little tropical sea, with coral reefs and shellfish, and there might have been islands with white sand beaches nearby, and the only drawback to being there then is the fact that the invention of alcohol was a third of a billion years in the future… but still, I’d take lounging round there at that time over lounging round there now. Just because I was born there doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I do love its limestone, though.

Trace fossils. These look like they could be feeding traces, made by things nosing about in the carbonate muds; they could be burrows, too. Someone with expertise may be able to look upon them and say, "Ha, yes, they are X" justlikethat.

Trace fossils. These look like they could be feeding traces, made by things nosing about in the carbonate muds; they could be burrows, too. Someone with expertise may be able to look upon them and say, “Ha, yes, they are X” justlikethat.

This is quite the fossil hash. Everything's chopped up into bits and pieces, implying a high-energy environment. And indeed, this is so: the Salem Limestone comes from the sandbars and channels that followed an ancient coastline.

This is quite the fossil hash. Everything’s chopped up into bits and pieces, implying a high-energy environment. And indeed, this is so: the Salem Limestone comes from the sandbars and channels that followed an ancient coastline.

The little hatched shapes are, if memory serves, bits of coral. There's a huge range of stuff in the Salem Limestone. And a lot of it's visible without a hand lens.

The little hatched shapes are, if memory serves, bits of coral. There’s a huge range of stuff in the Salem Limestone. And a lot of it’s visible without a hand lens.

Sometimes you can see small shells like this one. Imagine taking a slice through a closed scallop or clam - that's basically what we're seeing here, I think. Of course, I know bugger-all about identifying fossils, so don't quote me until an expert confirms.

Sometimes you can see small shells like this one. Imagine taking a slice through a closed scallop or clam – that’s basically what we’re seeing here, I think. Of course, I know bugger-all about identifying fossils, so don’t quote me until an expert confirms.

Another bit of shell? Maybe? All I can say with certainty is that it is a fossil, the remains of some little critter that once lived the tropical life. it's certainly not living it now...

Another bit of shell? Maybe? All I can say with certainty is that it is a fossil, the remains of some little critter that once lived the tropical life. it’s certainly not living it now…

I have no idea. It looks sorta like a crinoid, but sorta not. I'll skip lightly over what it might be and distract you by pointing out that this stone isn't really gray-blue - that's just a matter of lighting. I was practically shooting in the dark. Shady part of the building when it's near sunset, that's for sure. Of course, that makes sense, considering it's the east.

I have no idea. It looks sorta like a crinoid, but sorta not at all. I’ll skip lightly over what it might be and distract you by pointing out that this stone isn’t really gray-blue – that’s just a matter of lighting. I was practically shooting in the dark. Shady part of the building when it’s near sunset, that’s for sure. Of course, that makes sense, considering it’s the east. That was your Profound Thought for the Day. Cherish it.

Now, this is definitely a crinoid! This is the calyx, which is a bit rarer to find than the stems. This stuff is packed with crinoids, though, and you don't need to be an expert to find them. I found dozens in just a short time.

Now, this is definitely a crinoid! This is the calyx, which is a bit rarer to find than the stems. This stuff is packed with crinoids, though, and you don’t need to be an expert to find them. I found dozens in just a short time.

The crinoid calyx again, with a ball-point pen for scale. Tiny and precious!

The crinoid calyx again, with a ball-point pen for scale. Tiny and precious!

Forams! Or foraminaferas, if you want to be formal. These little treasures are usually too tiny to see easily with the naked eye, but these are the size and shape of rice grains. Lovely! I was excited to see them, knowing how useful forams have been for dating formations, studying evolution, and a myriad of other nifty things.

Forams! Or foraminaferas, if you want to be formal. These little treasures are usually too tiny to see easily with the naked eye, but these are the size and shape of rice grains. Lovely! I was excited to see them, knowing how useful forams have been for dating formations, studying evolution, and a myriad of other nifty things.

We've been looking at very small parts of individual blocks - here's the wall.

We’ve been looking at very small parts of individual blocks – here’s the wall.

Right. So here we have very shelly limestone – practically a coquina, although not that shelly. We know that things like crinoids generally live in happy little shallow seas, so we’re suspecting a marine environment. And we know there was some vigorous, although not intense, wave action – enough it produced shell fragments, but didn’t wash away all the lovely carbonate-rich mud. All of these things point to a near-shore environment in a shallow tropical sea, but if you look up, you will find your final bit of evidence.

See? Up at the top - fossilized waves!

See? Up at the top – fossilized waves!

Ba-dum-dum. And yes, I very nearly hit Lockwood when he hit me with that, but I laughed. It’s funny. Awful, but funny.

And very nearly true. Turns out there are sedimentary structures preserved in the stone that tell us about currents and storms and tides. Pretty amazing, eh? You can read all about it in David B. Williams’s wonderful Stories in Stone.

Next comes one of the most delicious staircases I’ve ever seen, although the builders made a big mistake…

 

Back to Phase III or Ahead to Phase V

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Akai Tori

A few days ago, I mentioned I’d like some red birds from someone, since I now knew the phrase for red bird in Japanese – and Heliconia came through nearly instantly with these beauties:

UFD I

UFD I. Image courtesy Heliconia.

All right, so they’re arguably orange. But it’s definitely a red-orange. Heliconia was a bit worried about them being arguably orange rather than reliably red, but I say this is fine – I can show off my (laughably infinitesimal) Japanese vocabulary and call them aki tori* – autumn birds. Because orange and red are colors of autumn. So it works. Just nod, smile, and go with it, people.

UFD II. Image courtesy Heliconia.

UFD II. Image courtesy Heliconia.

Heliconia provided excellent information regarding our aki or akai tori:

Last year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer for an avian research project in the Peruvian cloud forest, and these birds had a lek about half a kilometre from our camp. (Lekking is a type of courtship behaviour in which a bunch of males congregate to display to females, often at the same site, or lek, every year.) Whenever a female flew by, all the males at the lek – seven or eight at any given time – would all start flapping their wings and seesawing back and forth on their perches while making a sound that might best be described as the noise a seagull would make if it had laryngitis and a megaphone. (There are lots of videos of this behaviour on YouTube.) Unfortunately, my camera has terrible zoom and we couldn’t get any closer to the lek without disturbing the birds, so these pictures don’t show the birds’ oddly-shaped head: they have a crest of feathers protruding from their foreheads so only a tiny bit of their beaks stick out.

UFD III. Image courtesy Heliconia.

UFD III. Image courtesy Heliconia.

I’m also attaching a picture of one of their nests (an abandoned one). It’s in the upper centre-right of the picture, behind the green vine; the nest itself is about a foot across and at least ten feet above a stream, built right onto a cliff ledge.

UFD IV. Image courtesy Heliconia.

UFD IV. Image courtesy Heliconia.

Geology and akai tori! Woot!

I cropped the nest for easier viewing:

UFD V. Image courtesy Heliconia.

UFD V. Image courtesy Heliconia.

With all that information, plus the lovely photos, I think most of you can manage an ident. Bonus points if you locate a YouTube video where we can hear this remarkable mating call of theirs.

Thank you, Heliconia!

 

*Yes, this probably is grammatically incorrect. No hablo Japanese.

OSU Geotour Supplemental III: Marble Halls and Sandy Pillars

We’re moving right along with our campus geotour – it’s amazing geology students ever get any class time in, considering how much there is to distract a person on the way to class, and we’ve only just got started.

Stop 9. Milne Hall

So here’s a place with lovely marble accents.

A quite nice marble in Milne Hall. Marble halls make me feel I'm somewhere posh, even when it's a college campus. It makes me think of Enya and ancient seas.

A quite nice marble in Milne Hall. Marble halls make me feel I’m somewhere posh, even when it’s a college campus. It makes me think of Enya and ancient seas.

Marble staircase in Milne Hall. Note how that marble accent makes even a plain white wall look rather swish.

Marble staircase in Milne Hall. Note how that marble accent makes even a plain white wall look rather swish.

It's a campus. There's a big white refrigerator off to the left (out of the picture frame) that's about as utilitarian as it gets. But damn, you look at that, and you can imagine grandly descending it dressed in your super-swank evening clothes, eh? That, my friends, is the power of some appropriately-placed geology.

It’s a campus. There’s a big white refrigerator off to the left (out of the picture frame) that’s about as utilitarian as it gets. But damn, you look at that, and you can imagine grandly descending it dressed in your super-swank evening clothes, eh? That, my friends, is the power of some appropriately-placed geology.

This is the kind of marble we think of when someone says “marble.” But there’s quite another kind of marble in the other foyer.

Look at the folds in this stuff! It's been through lots, obviously. As Lockwood described it, it's been "squarshed."

Look at the folds in this stuff! It’s been through lots, obviously. As Lockwood described it, it’s been “squarshed.”

This stuff looks like it got between two continents trying to occupy the same map coordinates. I do believe this may be the case, but I have no idea where it's originally from, so I can't read up on its history.

This stuff looks like it got between two continents trying to occupy the same map coordinates. I do believe this may be the case, but I have no idea where it’s originally from, so I can’t read up on its history.

I felt like I was in a box of squashed zebras in that foyer, actually. But it was intriguing.

Stop 10: Strand Agricultural Hall

So here’s where I have to get a bit creative. This is cross-bedded sandstone, and it is awesome, but its awesomeness did not photograph so well. That’s what I get for trying to shoot subtle features in very dim light. I’m screaming for joy that my camera managed the feat at all.

Sandstone columns. These massive blocks look rather plain and featureless from a distance, but get close with a geologist's eye and they pop.

Sandstone columns. These massive blocks look rather plain and featureless from a distance, but get close with a geologist’s eye and they pop.

Sandstone pillar with Lockwood's hand smack on a fine example of cross-bedding.

Sandstone pillar with Lockwood’s hand smack on a fine example of cross-bedding.

Here I've changed the tone to sepia and done all sorts of shenanigans with the contrast, etc. You might be able to see the cross-bedding better.

Here I’ve changed the tone to sepia and done all sorts of shenanigans with the contrast, etc. You might be able to see the cross-bedding better.

Yay three dimensions! You can walk all round the columns and see how the cross-bedding looks from various angles, rather than being restricted to a two-dimensional facade.

Yay three dimensions! You can walk all round the columns and see how the cross-bedding looks from various angles, rather than being restricted to a two-dimensional facade.

 

Shenanigans again. Even if you have only indifferent success distinguishing features in these sepia-toned alterations, you have to admit it still looks kinda neat.

Shenanigans again. Even if you have only indifferent success distinguishing features in these sepia-toned alterations, you have to admit it still looks kinda neat.

What's really neat about this cross-cutting stuff is that you can tell which way was up when the sand was emplaced. And you can use that to tell if the builders flipped things on their tops. On the left side, the blocks are right-side up; on the other side, they're upside-down. Of course, I didn't get any pictures of the right side, because I got distracted by a cryptopod, who shall be posted very soon.

What’s really neat about this cross-cutting stuff is that you can tell which way was up when the sand was emplaced. And you can use that to tell if the builders flipped things on their tops. On the left side, the blocks at eye-level are right-side up; on the other side, they’re upside-down. Of course, I didn’t get any pictures of the right side, because I got distracted by a cryptopod, who shall be posted very soon.

And, of course, shenanigans. I love modern photo-editing software. I can do bizarre shit in about 10 seconds.

And, of course, shenanigans. I love modern photo-editing software. I can do bizarre shit in about 10 seconds.

By the end of a very short visit to this locale, I was discerning cross-cutting relationships like a pro – well, at least an apprentice. Easy-peasy, and awesome! I don’t know if it’ll be at all easy doing it from photos, but if anybody wants to download things to mark up, they are more than welcome to play round with it.

Next, we’ll be on to the Memorial Union, where we’ll be subjected to one of the worst jokes ever that still somehow ends up being funny…

Back to Phase II or Ahead to Phase IV

Mystery Flora: Campus Beautification

I know, I know – two domesticated species within a week, where’s the wildflowers, right? But we’ve been doing the OSU geotour, might as well do the campus flowers too, amirite? And these are quite wonderful.

For one thing, they are trees:

Mystery Flora I

Mystery Flora I

I do love a purple flowering tree, although the last time I gave you a purple flowering tree, you told me it was a horrible invasive species. If these are, too, I’ll despair.

Mystery Flora II

Mystery Flora II

Something tells me these trees (or very tall flowering bushes) are deeply confused – they’re just barely bursting into bloom, there are unopened buds all over the place, and it is October in the Pacific Northwest. First week of, granted, but really, things typically don’t bloom so late. Not domesticated things – I think there may be a few flowers that thrive this late, but not many.

Mystery Flora III

Mystery Flora III

This is what happens when we have an unusually late summer – things get weird. Completely weird. But beautifully weird.

Mystery Flora IV

Mystery Flora IV

There’s something very Zen about a tree blooming, and even more so when it blooms out of season. Don’t ask me why, but it reminds me not only of cherry blossoms, but of that poor dude hanging by his fingertips from a vine, nothing but a sheer drop below and a tiger above, who notices a strawberry growing out of the cliff in front of him. He plucks and eats it – delicious! That’s something I like about Zen: how practical it is. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting – don’t try to hold on, just savor their moments. Life is short, and death certain – but in this moment, strawberries! And it’s the same with flowers blooming out of season: they’re certain to perish, and they may be a sign that we’ve fucked up our atmosphere to the point of doom – but in this moment, they are lovely.

Mystery Flora V

Mystery Flora V

Gorgeous!

Learning the Language of Rivers II: The Basics

The Marys River at Avery Park had me staring in incomprehension like a kid on the first day of a foreign language class. You know how that is: the teacher’s off babbling in said foreign language at Warp 9, and you begin to wonder why you ever decided to take a foreign language in the first place. And you doubt you’ll learn so much as a word, because none of it makes sense – your teacher might as well be speaking Greek, even though you signed up for French. Or was it Spanish? It all sounds alike when you don’t understand a word.

But you’re here. You signed up for this shit. All you can do is try not to look like a dribbling fool while you strain your ears for a single familiar word.

Marys River at Avery Park. View is upriver.

We’d come down for a quick gallivant along the river. There were some great fluvial features here, Lockwood said. And he’d say things like, “This is the Marys River,” and I would say things like, “Oh. Ah.” And while he said things about it that I didn’t in the least understand, I kicked around its banks and thought it pretty typical. I’ve started to become used to the Pacific Northwest’s idea of what a river is, and this is representative of the semi-domesticated type located on our basin floors. It’s somewhat narrow (by PNW standards – by Arizona standards, this is practically the Amazon). It’s cut down into the soft sediments and made itself a nice bank upon which trees have decided to grow in, shall we say, abundance. It will sometimes ignore those banks in order to go visit the surrounding areas, but not after a dry spell lasting over three months. It’s calm enough to reflect the trees. It curves gently here and there.

Marys River at Avery Park, looking downriver.

Just here, it’s hard to tell where civilization ends and normal river processes begin. We’ve got a little waterfall, pretty typical of PNW rivers where they’ve either piled up some rocks or encountered some rocks they haven’t been able to wear down yet, but this looks like people put this one there to modify how the river flows.

Mini-waterfall on the Marys River. This looks human-built.

I mean, there’s no call for it. Not naturally. The river isn’t flowing over bedrock here – I believe it’s alluvium for a quite a ways down. It’s got quite a collection of small rounded cobbles built up –

River gravels. You can see under the water that it’s mostly just pebbles and cobbles with very little sediment. The dry bank is a different story.

– but it does not seem keen to collect angular rocks that look like your basic riprap. I may be ignorant about rivers, but I know enough to understand that down here on this flat valley floor, where the river meanders in classic lazy meandering fashion, you do not end up with big, water-transported, angular chunks of rock. They’d have had their corners knocked off at the very least, and it would have been one fuck of a flood that could’ve brought rocks down the distance they must have been transported, not to mention it’s highly doubtful that the river would then have deposited them in a fussy straight line. So that was easy to dismiss as human modification. But what about this bank?

Marys River bank, showing cobbles embedded in muddy matrix.

For some reason, this isn’t computing for me. It feels and looks for all the world like some kind of concrete, like people at one point decided there needed to be a nice concrete slab poured into the bank, and they used coarse gravels to mix it. But most people wouldn’t use mud instead of cement, and hard as the matrix is, it’s distinctly mud-like in color and texture.

Odd bank, foot for scale. You can see where the river’s plucked bits out.

I am, I realized, so ignorant of rivers that I can’t make rapid sense of this. I’ve not seen a river build a bank like this. But a clay-rich silt deposited over the cobbles carried when the river has a more vigorous flow might do this, amirite? The glacial outwash that infests our lowlands forms a near-conglomerate like this: river gravels stuck in a thick, clay-rich matrix that is dreadfully hard when it dries. So this stuff is weird, but it’s not out of bounds.

On the way back up, I stopped for a look at the bank, and was intrigued by the rich red color of the soil here. It looks like weathered basalt, but obviously isn’t just that – it’s got river gravel in.

Sediments in the river bank. Silver dollar for scale.

So the river’s obviously bounded over its banks, and enthusiastically deposited stuff, and some of that stuff is rather orange. I know too little about fluvial soils to know if that’s because the Marys River drains an area rich in weathered basalt soils, or if it’s due to something else.

So that made me itchy. So did this not-knowing where the Marys River came from, or where it was going. Did it come down from Marys Peak? Somewhere else? How messed about by humans was it?

There was a clue farther up.

Community Garden. This is a cut-off meander. The river’s trying to tell us something…

Right. A cut-off meander. Well, I don’t speak the language of rivers at all fluently, but this is one of those phrases I know, like, “Hello, the bellboy has taken my pants.” This river, at least in the past, turned hither and thither with abandon. Judging from the fact that so much of it within our sight on the bank had been curvaceous, it seemed like it at least hadn’t been straightened by people. And it had been free enough to cut itself a new path.

A look at the map confirms: this river’s been hemmed a bit by humanity, but it hasn’t been tightly controlled.

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Down here, we’re 39 miles in to its 40 mile course. It’s descended from 650 feet to just a bit over 200 feet above sea level. It’s drained 310 square miles of mountain and valley, collected its tributaries’ contributions, and had a look round the valley. It’s passed through some quite interesting geology (pdf). It’s dumped an appreciable portion of its sediment, certainly enough to change its course as it aggraded its channel here and there. And in just one mile, it’s going to join up with the Willamette River. All done, chief.

And it’s still got quite a lot to teach me, because up till now, it’s only been covering “Hello, how are you, I am fine, my aunt’s dog is sick.” But it’s about to grab me by the lapels and say, “This is where it gets complicated, kid. I’m about to make your tongue move in ways it hasn’t moved since you were an infant.”

OSU Geotour Supplemental II: Springy Rock! Porphyry!

Phase II of the Oregon State University geology tour supplemental lingers round one building only, but what a building!

Stop 7. Gleeson Hall 1

So here’s a rock type I get very excited about, not because it’s fantastically beautiful, but because I find it fascinating. Travertine! I loves travertine. Travertine is a type of limestone, but it forms from solution rather than critters, and it’s got all sorts of weird voids and textures, and it can form from so many things – hot springs! Cold springs! Lakes! Streams! Ponds! Seeps! Basically, if there’s water full of the stuff limestone is made of, it can precipitate out travertine. Evelyn can tell you why travertine’s important.

Travertine! Look at the spongy texture - all those lovely voids and streaks and such. Some of those hollows are full of tiny little calcite crystals. I could spend hours staring at a block of travertine, and find something new every few seconds.

Travertine! Look at the spongy texture – all those lovely voids and streaks and such. Some of those hollows are full of tiny little calcite crystals. I could spend hours staring at a block of travertine, and find something new every few seconds.

Weathered travertine! Note the contrast between the bit where the water really likes to run down (the gray-stained portion) and the less-weathered bit (the whiter portion). You can feel the difference: the gray bits are rough like sandpaper, the white bits are far smoother, just as it all was when it was fresh out of the shop. It's amazing what a little water carrying dissolved CO2 can do.

Weathered travertine! Note the contrast between the bit where the water really likes to run down (the gray-stained portion) and the less-weathered bit (the whiter portion). You can feel the difference: the gray bits are rough like sandpaper, the white bits are far smoother, just as it all was when it was fresh out of the shop. It’s amazing what a little water carrying dissolved CO2 can do.

Le design. In addition to the travertine bannister, there's travertine facing on the brick. The contrast between light and dark here isn't weathering - those narrow dark streaks are part of the stone itself, where dark and light bands alternated during deposition. Or so I assume.

Le design. In addition to the travertine bannister, there’s travertine facing on the brick. The contrast between light and dark here isn’t weathering – those narrow dark streaks are part of the stone itself, where dark and light bands alternated during deposition. Or so I assume.

Here's a shot that shows the alternating dark and light coloration a bit better. You can tell that some streaks look more like stains from rivulets of water that have flowed down the building, and others are incorporated within the stone. And yes, I admit it: I like fondling travertine and sometimes make trips to the Home Depot just to play with their travertine tiles.

Here’s a shot that shows the alternating dark and light coloration a bit better. You can tell that some streaks look more like stains from rivulets of water that have flowed down the building, and others are incorporated within the stone. And yes, I admit it: I like fondling travertine and sometimes make trips to the Home Depot just to play with their travertine tiles.

Now we’re going to tear ourselves away from the travertine here, and go round the other side of the building to

Stop 8. Gleeson Hall 2

Here’s a nice transitional shot: we’re still looking at travertine (and note how the portions that bear the brunt of the weather show it!), but our eyes are also drawn by the big pink steps…

The facade of Gleeson Hall, showing the travertine pillars and facing against the bright red-orange brick, and a glimpse of the massive pink stairs.

The facade of Gleeson Hall, showing the travertine pillars and facing against the bright red-orange brick, and a glimpse of the massive pink stairs.

Those stairs are wild, people. Pink porphyritic granite, with enormous phenocrysts. Megacrysts? Could be!

A part of the stairs and the massive slab beside them. I'm sure there's some fancy engineering term for this. I don't know it. Also, I am distracted by pink porphyritic granite.

A part of the stairs and the massive slab beside them. I’m sure there’s some fancy engineering term for this. I don’t know it. Also, I am distracted by pink porphyritic granite.

In the previous photo, you probably noticed a contrast between shiny bits and dull bits. This is because the surfaces people must walk on have been roughened after it was discovered that highly-polished rock + wet or icy weather = students falling on their bums.

In the previous photo, you probably noticed a contrast between shiny bits and dull bits. This is because the surfaces people must walk on have been roughened after it was discovered that highly-polished rock + wet or icy weather = students falling on their bums.

Some absolutely enormous crystals of orthoclase/perthite, and you can see the dark speckles of hornblende and/or biotite, and some nice knobby gray quartz, and it's just delicious. I love it even though it is pink.

Some absolutely enormous crystals of orthoclase/perthite, and you can see the dark speckles of hornblende and/or biotite, and some nice knobby gray quartz, and it’s just delicious. I love it even though it is pink.

And my favorite: an absolutely magnificent twinned crystal of orthoclase/perthite. Lockwood thinks it may be a braveno (alt. spelling baveno) twin - any one else care to weigh in?

And my favorite: an absolutely magnificent twinned crystal of orthoclase/perthite. Lockwood thinks it may be a braveno (alt. spelling baveno) twin – any one else care to weigh in?

Right. That brings us to the end of Phase II. Phase III will include some marble halls, and some extremely creative photo editing as I struggle to overcome the limitations of photographing subtle gray patterns in gray stone in gray twilight…

 

Back to Phase I or Forward to Phase III