OSU Geotour Supplemental I: A Fire and Water Theme

A few weeks ago, Lockwood took me on his Oregon State University geology tour. He’s written it up for ye, and I’ll just pop in a few (billion) photographs so you can do more of a sort of virtual tour thing. I’ve got so many photos I’ve decided to break it up into parts so as not to crash any computers.

I like this campus. For one, it never seems choked with people. Two, they didn’t shy away from using lots and lots of natural stone. This makes geologists squee. [Read more…]

Geopuzzle: Cheshire Cat

I’d actually hoped to write this one up myself, but Lockwood beat me to it. Here’s the Cheshire Cat puzzle Aaron and I solved on the Quartzville trip. Think you can find the answer faster than we did?

Smile If you Like Earth Science Week: Cheshire Cat! (Clues 1 & 2)

Cheshire Cat! Clue 3 for the Puzzle

Cheshire Cat! Clue 4

Cheshire Cat! Clues 5 and 6

Good luck!

Aaron and Lockwood discussing the Cheshire Cat.

Cheshire Cat outcrop panorama. Best I could do with all the alders in the way. Sorry.

Saturday Song: [Learning] Japanese

It turns out that one (not particularly efficient) way of learning Japanese is to spend a whole day reading haiku based around the same theme. After a while, even though the translations are loose at best, you begin to pick out particular words and know what they mean. I can now say “red dragonfly.” Aka tombo. And when I see aki (秋), I know autumn is somehow involved. Look, it’s more Japanese than I knew yesterday morning.

But if any readers speak Japanese, I’d dearly love to know what the phrase “tombo kana” means. Do you know how good online translators are with Japanese? Not good at all. Do you know what it did to a perfectly beautiful, deeply meaningful Issa poem? Observe: [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Anticipating Snow or White Weddings?

Our Goldener Oktober confused the hell out of our local plants, imported and domestic. I’ve seen a lot of things burst into bloom that probably shouldn’t have done. I’d swear, for instance, that the hedgy sort of bushes along one of our local streets bloomed once already this year, but when I bopped by them the first week of October, there they were, at it again.

[Read more…]

One of Our Best Bloggers Needs You

Greta Christina is one of the writers I respect most in the world. She recently became a full-time freelance writer, and it seems the world has been out to get her ever since. Her father died just a few weeks ago – then she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer early this week. It’s not the worst kind of cancer a person can have, and hopefully was caught early enough so it can be cured with merely major surgery, but it’s going to sideline her for a bit. And this is at the beginning of her freelance career, which means no cushion built up. And this is freelancing we’re talking about – there is no paid sick leave.

So she could use a hand. Do you want to help out? You can donate to her directly, or buy her excellent book, or recommend easy entertainment to keep her from going mad during convalescence. I’m assuming things featuring cute kittehs are priority, but please try to grade things by humor: aww cute should be fine for the first two weeks, gentle giggles for weeks 2-3, ramping up gradually to chuckles and, eventually, when healing has progressed so far, gales of laughter.

And give her love. Lots and lots of love.

Greta Christina’s head, plus kittehs. I think her body is under that pile somewhere, but it’s hard to tell from the photo. Image credit Greta Christina, from 6 Things Cat Owners Dare Not Think About on Catster.

(A note to any religious readers: please respect the fact that Greta is an atheist. Please don’t tell her you’re praying for her, that God has a plan, etc. You’re welcome to believe those things, but we don’t, and don’t find them at all comforting. Thank you for understanding.)

“The Largest Historic Gravitational Slide Known”

That’s what this is: one helluva huge debris avalanche. Thing goes nearly fourteen miles down the Toutle River Valley. It’s bloody ginormous is what it is. That’s it, there in the brown, on this lovely little map.

Generalized map of flowage deposits from the May 18, 1980, eruption, around Mount St. Helens. Skamania and Cowlitz Counties, Washington. Image courtesy USGS.

We all focus on the bits of St. Helens that went boom: do we really give the bits of it that went thump proper credit? We certainly will when I’m finished here. You see, the Rosetta Stones post I linked above is just the beginning: I’ve got Harry Glicken’s posthumously-published, nearly-as-large-as-the-debris-avalanche write up of his studies of the thing, and I’ve got a bazillion photos of the results of the avalanche as it was then and 32 years later, and I will, over time, make you intimately familiar with the thing. There are so many stories to tell emerging from just this one aspect of the eruption. Pretty scenery, now, too!

But here’s one image I want you to take away with you right now:

Close-up view of Mel A. Kuntz in front of elastic material from May 18 debris flow. Skamania County, Washington. August 11, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

Keep in mind: that’s not one of the bigger boulders.

Go marvel at the largest landslide ever witnessed by lil ol’ us. Take to heart this lesson: what falls down the mountain can be as catastrophic as what explodes up and out of it – sometimes moreso. Because, my darlings, this shit can happen even in the absence of an eruption. Gulp.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Positively Volcanic

I’ve never gotten so fortunate with birds in Oregon before. Quite a few actually stopped long enough for photo ops this time, and some even did interesting things for the camera. Some are even in focus. This one isn’t so much, but it’s the most intriguing of the lot. It landed in a tree some distance from me at Clear Lake, waited for me to get in just one shot, and then flew off. I’m glad it held still for a moment – it’s got some fantastic coloration, perfect for an area covered in basalt flows and flaming red vine maples.

[Read more…]

Learning the Language of Rivers I: A History of Confusion

I don’t grok rivers. Some folks seem to understand them on an almost instinctual level, whether they grew up intimate with them or developed that relationship later in life. That’s not me. My experience with rivers runs thusly: they’re gashes in the landscape with rocks in, where you have to watch for flash floods; the ones that ran throughout the year tended to do so at the bottom of very deep, very vertical canyons.

[Read more…]

Monday Music: Help a Choir Out

Some might be surprised to find out, but I sang in concert choir in high school. It was full of personalities, so to speak, and always had some drama going on. Most of us (self included) had voices of indifferent quality at best. And we were hormonal teenagers who were often too distracted to follow instructions properly, much less throw heart and soul into making wonderful music. But our director was an amazing fellow who took less-than-ideal ingredients and mixed them into magic. It was great fun. And there’s something wonderful about turning words into a rich, flowing sound that fills every cranny of an auditorium.

We could have used better outfits, though. Our men looked like cheap Vegas best men and the ladies looked like they’d just stepped out of a production of Macbeth, still holding the ladle for stirring cauldrons and cackling. New outfits weren’t in our stars, though – not a small town high school concert choir competing for microscopic funds against the football team.

So when one of our own turns out to be a member of a choir that’s looking to get new uniforms, of course I want to help! You can, too. They’re doing a sort of Latvian version of a Kickstarter, but in this case, you don’t have to donate dollars, just vote. You’ll need a cell phone, because this site texts you a code to use, and it’s in Latvian, so you’ll need RQ to guide you through, but it’s not terribly difficult.

First, a song for motivational purposes.

[Read more…]

Cryptopod: Blackbody on Blackberry

Right. First order of bidness: we’re renaming the “Cryptoinsect” thing because some people apparently can’t accept chucking in any old arthropod under that title. Rather than argue technical versus lay terms and such, we’ll just say “Cryptopod” and be done with it. It’s easier to say and I can sneak sea creatures in under such a title. So there. Nyah!

/fake butthurt

Second order o’ bidness: present a cryptopod. Why, I haz one! (And if anyone here comes along to tell me that’s not an arthropod, I shall give them such a smack.)

Cryptopod I

[Read more…]