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.

Stop 1: Interzone

Lockwood tells you to look at the sidewalk. That’s because you’ll find yummy bits in the concrete.

Petrified wood in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

Petrified wood in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

Agate in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

Agate in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

And, drumroll please, my favorite one ever:

Opal in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

Opal in sidewalk concrete, outside the Interzone coffee shop, Corvallis, OR.

I love opal so much, you have no idea. Having it pointed out to me in a worn-down old sidewalk was one of those great moments that make you become inordinately excited.

Stop 2: Kearny Hall

So here we have a nice contrast between fire and water: a nice diabase on the bottom (fire) and sandstone on top (water – or wind, possibly).

Kearny Hall. Note the contrasts between building stones: the darker diabase on the bottom, the lighter sandstone at the top. And then there's a strip of something lighter at the very top, but I think that's some sort of cement or stucco.

Kearny Hall. Note the contrasts between building stones: the darker diabase on the bottom, the lighter sandstone at the top. And then there’s a strip of something lighter at the very top, but I think that’s some sort of cement or stucco.

Close view of the contact between the diabase and the sandstone. Definite difference between the textures of the two rock types there.

Close view of the contact between the diabase and the sandstone. Definite difference between the textures of the two rock types there.

Stop 3: I haven’t got a picture, so we’ll move right along to…

Stop 4: Owen Hall

Lots of geologic art in here, which I shall get to when I get round to the series I’ve planned on geologic art. In the meantime:

Nice contrast between polished and unpolished surfaces in a granitic sort of something - tonalite? Grandiorite? So many members of the granite family it's hard to tell them apart.

Nice contrast between polished and unpolished surfaces in a granitic sort of something – tonalite? Grandiorite? So many members of the granite family it’s hard to tell them apart. Or is it more diabase? I can’t tell at a glance!

Geologists like Callan should be having a good squeal right now. There's some nice structural geology going on in this ball of serpentinite. Can you see it?

Geologists like Callan should be having a good squeal right now. There’s some nice structural geology going on in this ball of serpentinite. Can you see it?

Perhaps Lockwood's pointing fingers will help. Remember that serpentinite is a metamorphic rock all squished and stretched and generally abused by subduction zones.

Perhaps Lockwood’s pointing fingers will help. Remember that serpentinite is a metamorphic rock all squished and stretched and generally abused by subduction zones.

Trust me when I say I wanted to pick up that ball of serpentinite and run home with it. Problem being, it weighs many times more than I do. So picking it up is not possible, and running is right out. But it’s delicious. You can learn more about serpentinite here. Also, I’m sure someone curated a list of links when the geoblogosphere was fighting to keep it as California’s state rock – if someone could leave us a link to that list, I’d appreciate it!

Stop 5. Covell Hall

This is where unisex bathrooms would’ve come in handy, but it’s okay, ladies: the second floor restroom may be all boring and modern manufactured materials, but the first floor has got exactly what we want: stylolitic limestone! Check this stuff out. ‘Tis awesome, and our stylolites are better than the boys’ stylolites.

Stylolitic Limestone. These are broad and curvy lines. Somebody who knows more than bugger-all about them could win hearts and minds by telling us more in the comments.

Stylolitic Limestone. These are broad and curvy lines. Somebody who knows more than bugger-all about them could win hearts and minds by telling us more in the comments.

Zoomed out to see the broad curvy stylolite texture in context. Sorry about the wonky color - the lighting in the bathrooms was appalling.

Zoomed out to see the broad curvy stylolite texture in context. Sorry about the wonky color – the lighting in the bathrooms was appalling.

This, I'll betcha, is the "seismogram type" geometry. Love it!

This, I’ll betcha, is the “seismogram type” geometry. Love it!

Here's another sweet seismogram type. Really does look like a seismogram, dunnit? I want some of this for my house.

Here’s another sweet seismogram type. Really does look like a seismogram, dunnit? I want some of this for my house. I want to see it in the wild even more.

Stop 6.

So here’s this lovely little courtyard, and a big ol’ chunk of half-polished diabase. I like big ol’ chunks o’ rock, especially when people have been wise enough to label them as “art.” They are artistic. They are beautiful.

A lovely bit of diabase. Sled? Boat? Wedge? I think this is one of those sculptures that works like a Rorschach test.

A lovely bit of diabase. Sled? Boat? Wedge? I think this is one of those sculptures that works like a Rorschach test. What do you see?

The difference between polished and rough surfaces. I like it when part of the natural texture of the rock is allowed to survive the making-art process.

The difference between polished and rough surfaces. I like it when part of the natural texture of the rock is allowed to survive the making-art process.

Here endeth Phase I. Phase II will see some really wild crystallization, and some of my favorite rock in the world (like most of them aren’t, right?).

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:

.遠山が目玉にうつるとんぼ哉 = “Kenya moves to Toyama dragonfly eyeball” according to Google Translate. I can assure you that’s not correct. Bing thinks it’s “Dragonfly Naoya tohyama catching centerpiece.” This, too, is incorrect. Gah.*

So, if you speak Japanese, and wouldn’t mind telling me what some of this stuff really says, I want to hear from you! If you have trouble commenting, just drop me a line at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com.

And you all will see what I’m up to shortly. I haz planz. Oh, yes. You will never be the same again afterward.

All of which has put me in mind of a song from my past.

Which, according to the people who wrote it, is about “turning into something you didn’t expect to,” among other things. I think we can all relate to that.

And look – whilst I was listening to Pandora and writing this post, I learned a new Japanese phrase: Red bird. Akai tori.

Loves me some Yoshida Brothers, I do. And red birds (akai tori). Somebody send me another bright red UFD so I can use that phrase in a UFD post title… and while you do that, I’m going to go back to geology, which is easier to learn than Japanese.

 

*I got curious about this “Toyama/tohyama” business, so I searched: turns out it could be Mount Tsurugi (Toyama). It makes sense based on the translations I’ve seen. Now, I don’t know if “toyama” in Japanese refers to that specific mountain or mountains in general or is symbolic thereof, but it would be pretty freaking awesome if I knew specifically which mountain was being reflected in a dragonfly’s eyes two centuries ago, wouldn’t it? So I choose to live in hope, at least until a native speaker comes along to shatter my dreams.

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.

Mystery Flower I

These aren’t the most spectacular flowers ever presented here, but they’re not bad for a lazy October day. I haven’t yet decided whether these tiny white blooms represent a fond flashback to June with its white weddings and showers of rice (ugh) or a flash-forward to December and its delicate dusting of snow (argh.)

Mystery Flower II

You know what, fuck symbolism. Let’s just let them be what they are: clusters of tiny white flowers that noticed the extended summer weather and said, “Carpe diem! Let’s bloom!”

Mystery Flower III

I’m relatively certain these are an imported domesticated something-or-other. They make fine tall hedges, are enthusiastically green (like nearly everything round here), and stay reasonably robust throughout the spring and summer. It occurs to me that I’ve paid bugger-all attention to them in the winter. I have no idea if they’re deciduous or not. They’re not something I can take a rock hammer to; therefore, I do not usually pay close attention to them. Sorry. Perhaps I was conditioned long ago by the ninjas in The Tick: “We are a hedge. Please move along.*”

Mystery Flower IV

But the flowers made me stop and do a doouble-take (much like people encountering weirdos in ninja outfits holding twigs and saying, “Really, we’re a hedge, move along” might look twice at the spectacle). And it’s a good thing, too. You see, there was this very industrious bee buzzing round, and it posed quite magnificently indeed.

Mystery Flower V

Take a moment to savor that. Isn’t it lovely? Aren’t the little pollen balls on its legs adorable? How awesome is that bee? Here, I’ll crop the image for you so that you can admire its magnificence from aclose.

Mystery Flower and Totally Awesome Bee

I can tell you, this was my favorite bee photo taken with my camera ever – until a few days later, when the bees in Oregon were all like, “Oh, yeah? You think that bee’s awesome? Huh. Whatevs. How about this, suckaz?” They then proceeded to school Washington bees on posing for photographs.

But those will, alas, have to wait for later posts, and other tales. In the meantime, you have tiny white flowers in an enthusiastically green hedge to identify. Woot, right?

 

*How geeky is it that I can quote that precisely from memory, even after a decade and a half? Yeesh.

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.

UFD I

I have to say, I’m quite excited over this one. I’d just been through a solid string of ducks and other water birds, and while they’re beautiful, they’re not quite so intriguing as this beauty. Nor as colorful.

UFD II

It’s like this bird intended to dress geologically. I can almost see it strutting round on a black basalt flow, reciting some beat poem about a red fire liquid becoming cold black rock, and probably some metaphor or analogy or something thrown in to make it truly artistic. Perhaps a squirrel in dark glasses would play a very small soprano sax beside it. And I think I’ve done far too much research over the past four days if this is how my mind is trending…

I’ve had volcanoes on the brain a lot lately. Take this tree I’ve driven past, and looked at, and thought, “Wow, that looks like it’s illustrating the lateral eruption at Mount St. Helens!”

Mount St Helens tree.

Of course, by the time I’d got round to photographing it, the eruption was spreading, and when I passed it the other day, it was fully involved. Fall will do that to a tree. But I swear to you, the first time I saw it, it looked just like that lateral blast. Except, a tree’s conception of it.

And here is a tree illustrating a more conventional vertical eruption column:

Generic volcano tree.

By the time I see them again, they will be doing their impression of one of those diagrams showing the inner plumbing of a volcano, with all of the vents and the throat and all that sort o’ thing. It may help to see them that way, rather than as trees with their leaves off for the winter. Autumn usually depresses the shit out of me. Everything’s dying, it’s damp, it’s cold, summer’s a long ways away. Then I get used to not having everything virulently green, I begin to enjoy the absence of the sun, I settle in for a long winter’s writing with a cat cold enough to cuddle, and all is bliss until the days start getting longer and I feel pestered by the evil yellow hurty thing. Spring is somewhat traumatic round here. Everything gets aggressively green and the sun never seems to go down. But it’s getting easier. Every year, I get a little more used to the way seasons change, and I begin to enjoy the transitions, just as I learned to enjoy the volcanoes, which around here have a distressing tendency to blow up.

But the results, my friends, are spectacular. You wait. I have so much to show you. Plus UFDs!

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.

The Colorado Rivers runs through it. No, seriously, if you click to embiggen, you’ll see a microscopic bit of water in that hole in the center. Also, there is a watercourse leading up to it. It hasn’t got water in it just now, but this is the high desert, baby, yeah. Actually, low desert where that is, because it’s almost a mile down. This was my first youthful impression of rivers. No wonder they are mysterious and inaccessible to me. Image courtesy Cujo359.

People talked about rivers you could sail more than rafts on, and I didn’t really understand. I still don’t, not on the instant-grasp-of-concept level. To me, a body of water that doesn’t usually dry up and that you boat around on is a lake. When we crossed the Mississippi River visiting family when I was a small child, I got overwhelmed by the experience – it should not take more than thirty seconds to cross a river, except at Hoover Dam, where the traffic brought you to a crawl on top of the dam. But that was okay, because the river was still a narrow ribbon at the bottom of a very deep canyon, and thus exactly what a river should be. Not this wide, muddy monstrosity that you could barely see the opposite bank of. That’s not a river, silly people. It’s a very long lake, or perhaps a freshwater inland sea.

I knew rivers had floodplains, because people in Arizona like to build houses in them. They’re nice, flat ground near that dry gash in the desert that sometimes gets water in it, and is frequently very green and lovely what with all the trees that have drilled down to suck up the water that’s sunk deep into the ground. People never worried, because there was never any water there – except every few or a dozen or fifty years, when we’d get a really wet spring or monsoon, and their houses would sing “I’m Sailing Away” like Cartman as they rafted down the suddenly raging river. That’s one thing I knew about rivers: you absolutely must respect their floodplains.

But people would talk about the rich soils in said floodplains, and I’d look at the rocks and thin dirt left by receding floodwaters in ours, and scratch my head in puzzlement. Harf?

I remember being delighted the day Jim Bennett taught me the word “riparian,” and showed me we actually had some of said riparian habitat in Arizona. It was nice to have a word for the areas that were green and lush compared to the searing dry country round them.

Making friends with a sycamore at Montezuma Castle. That’s Beaver Creek alongside it – it actually has got some water in it. Usually, something like this would be called a river in Arizona, even if it’s two inches wide, but we’re never very consistent about what we call things related to water here. Image courtesy Cujo359.

So that was a river: often bone-dry, rocky, likely stuck at the bottom of a deep canyon, occasionally dangerous but never floody for long, most recognizable due to a straggling line of trees, although those weren’t always present. These Arizona streams warped my perception of what a river is. I spoke a few river words, not fluently. I knew broad, deep, always-flowing rivers existed, but didn’t have any direct experience with them.

Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest. On the western side of the Cascades here, even the tiniest rivulets are likely to be carrying water the majority of the year. Dry dirt is a novelty. Most of the creeks could eat Arizona’s creeks for breakfast and still have room for elevenses, lunch, tea, dinner and supper, and the rivers laugh in in our rivers’ general direction. They even snigger at the mighty Colorado: “Oh, look, isn’t that precious – it’s pretending to be a real river!” Even on Washington’s dry side, I ran in to more river than I was prepared for. This shit has water in it, people, and you can walk up to it without having to climb down a 1000 foot drop.

The Columbia River from atop Grand Coulee Dam. Mind you, this is the bit that’s not the reservoir. It has banks and everything! Image courtesy Cujo359.

And the rivers on the west side – they were aliens. I had no idea what they were on about. Some of them flowed straight and quiet through cities, and I didn’t understand them at all until I discovered they’d once meandered here and there over valley floors until humans straightened them out.

The Sammamish River in Bothell, WA. This river has been thoroughly domesticated – might as well call it a canal now.

Then there were rivers that still had their rough edges, and displayed behaviors I’d heard rivers that always had water in them were supposed to indulge in, like creating gravel and sand and point bars, meandering, and doing interesting stuff to their banks. They were also eye-poppingly wide.

The Skykomish River at Al Borlin Park, Monroe, WA. This is the first river here that I grew familiar with that wasn’t thoroughly domesticated. Humans have mucked it about in places, but it’s still fairly wild, and it’s like so many of our Pacific Northwest rivers: it starts small and builds to something enormous enough go motorboating on. I’m still a little surprised when I see plain ol’ motorboats zipping up these rivers, but I’m getting gradually used to it.

And when you went up into the mountains, where they arose, they changed character quickly. They were full of rapids, weren’t flowing through such wide, flat floodplains, and were fast, narrow, wild waters hurtling down-mountain with joyful abandon.

The Skykomish near Gold Bar. Okay, it’s still bloody enormous by Arizona standards, but considerably narrower and swifter here than it is at Al Borlin Park a few dozen miles downstream. There are words for the tall, steep bank it’s cut, and the bouldery flat bit my intrepid companion and I were wandering all over that day. There are words for what it does, what it is, and what changes it goes through. There’s a whole language of rivers, and I only speak enough to get myself into trouble with the natives.

These rivers were often glacier-fed, cold as fuck, wild colors, and did things most Arizona rivers never seemed to do. I began learning words like fluvial. There are fluvial processes, and things like fluvial terraces, and all sorts of mad things rivers leave behind. They create deltas, sometimes enormous deltas. There are estuaries where rivers meet the sea. Gargantuan floodplains built up thick piles of sediment. And those things leave traces in the geologic record. Arizona’s rivers, in fact, once were mighty, and left vast swaths of rock that show they affected enormous areas.

Standing on an ancient floodplain, the Hermit Formation. I forget what Sugarloaf, that big knob o’ rock in the center, is – possibly part of the Schnebly Hill Formation. Still. Hermit. Under our feet. Rivers ran through here, and flooded, and left thick sediments that turned into some of Sedona’s brilliant red rock. I used to play on those floodplains, turning myself thoroughly burnt orange in the process, and never realized I was splashing through the ghosts of rivers. Image courtesy Cujo359.

And it’s hard for me to comprehend how these ribbons of water can do this. I don’t speak their language. They can’t explain to me what they’re doing, how and why. We sit together, and the rivers speak, but all I hear is sounds. It’s like being babbled at by a native Russian speaker: a stream of sound flows by, and occasionally a word bobs in the current that I can pick out, recognize, and I nod enthusiastically: “Da! Da!” I get that word, although I have no idea how it relates to the others. Then we’re right back to nyet.

Fortunately, I have friends who speak the language of rivers. They’re slowly teaching me to speak it. And while I’ll never be as fluent as they are, I’ll at least be able to say, “My aunt’s fluvial terrace is on my uncle’s watershed” with confidence, though with a horrific accent. And while I return to more explosive matters over at Rosetta Stones, we’ll be largely exploring hydrogeology here, in between the usual fare.

Rivers, my friends, are geologically fascinating entities. They come in a variety of styles. And if you don’t speak their language, they may kill you. Also, here in the Pacific Northwest, they’ve interacted with volcanoes in intriguing ways. Additionally, they are beautiful. Reasons enough to learn their lingo, eh?

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.

RQ says that’s a “Latvian epic poem about dead heroes rising again, classic Latvian choir fare and a favourite at any possible venue, no matter how badly performed – one of those songs everyone thinks they know by memory until they actually have to sing it.”

Right. That should have you warmed up a bit. Let’s move on to a “traditional Latvian song about bread and working hard to get it.” We can all identify, even if we don’t understand a word, right?

Right? Now, let’s have “Latvia’s unofficial national anthem, traditional song about going home and getting the girl – now a drinking song because it’s fun to sing off-key.” I like a song that’s fun to sing off-key, because despite the concert choir training twenty years ago, I am still better at singing off-key…

Okay, that should have you thoroughly ready to jump on a Latvian site and attempt to upvote RQ’s choir, I hope. Here’s what to do:

CLICK HERE: http://www.labiedarbi.lv/lv/balso_par_projektu/atbalsts-jauniesu-kora-sonore-koncertterpu-susanas-pabeigsanai.html . The column in orange on the right – where it says ‘Valsts:’, select country of origin [ASV for Americans]; where it says ‘Numurs:’, enter your mobile (cell) number (the country code changes automatically when you select your respective location); then press the button that says ‘Saņemt kodu (bezmaksas)’. That means ‘Receive code (free)’. The site has all the usual assurances about not sharing your cell number with third parties and secure connections and all that, in case anyone’s interested. Then they’ll send you a code that you have to enter in order to vote, and when THAT happens, you’ll notice a new, empty fields with the title ‘Kods:’ will have appeared; enter the code, and hit the button ‘Balsot!’ (‘Vote!’).
Everyone who does so has my eternal gratitude, as well as an invitation to the Canadian-Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Hamilton, Canada* in 2014 (my choir are the officially invited choir from Latvia for that particular year). You can all come to the Latvian festival, which is next year, here, in Riga, Latvia, and if we have the (a) house by then, we might be able to put you up (if nobody minds putting up with 3 active children on a vacation :P ). It’s a small country but there’s lot of interesting things to see (including some geology that I used to think was rather boring but turns out it isn’t so much).

See? Pretty simple. Of course, when I tried, I didn’t get the text, but I have crappy pre-paid service, so your mileage will probably vary, especially if you’re in Europe.

For those who would like more music from RQ’s choir: “try http://www.draugiem.lv/sonore/ . The playlist is on the right side, go nuts. I recommend, from that list, items 3, 4, 5 and 6 – just because they’re Latvian songs by Latvian composers. The others are pretty heavy, technical fare.”

Those of us who have fond memories of our concert choirs probably began salivating gently at the “heavy, technical fare” bit. Go. Vote. Listen. Enjoy! And join me in planning to get a passport and head up to Canada, if not save some pennies and get the hell over to Latvia. Geology and music, plus new uniforms we helped them get? Brilliant!

 

*RQ adds, “By the way, the Hamilton area has some neat geology, for some added incentive… It’s right on the Niagara Escarpment (of which the Falls are only a part), which is full of all kinds of trails and stuff, and I have no doubt that it is full of geological and other nature discoveries. :)”

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

This, you may note, is a very confused blackberry bramble. It’s in lusty full bloom a full week into October. Doubt we’ll get any fruit off it this year, even though it appears to be getting thoroughly pollinated.

Cryptopod II

Normally it’s bees crawling all over these flowers, but I guess the bees were busy elsewhere. I know they were out – I’ve got a spectacular bee photo from just a few bushes down that you will enjoy mightily when I get this week’s mystery flora posted. Maybe bees don’t like blackberries this late in the season? Don’t like this gentlepod? Just weren’t around at the time? Dunno.

Cryptopod III

I will confess something to you: I don’t actually much like this type of arthropod. You see, the things that look like ants with wings in Arizona generally looked more terrifying and had a nasty sting. I’m getting spoiled by the Pacific Northwest, though, where it seems very few things spend their time being vicious.

Cryptopod IV

Every arthropod I’ve encountered up here has been pretty laid back. Granted, there was that spider bite a while back, but that was merely itchy. Ditto the mosquito bites, although those fuckers are arseholes no matter where in the world you are. But for the most part, I’ve returned from forays unscathed. The creepy-crawlies I’ve photographed have never offered to attack. Even when I shove my camera right up in their faces or the equivalent thereof, they’re mellow – or they flee. Vicious arthropod attacks so far: 0.

Cryptopod V

You know, I used to have very little respect for the ‘sects (and cousins). But I became an atheist. That may not sound like a prerequisite for honoring arthropods, but I developed a liking for biology after hanging about all the atheist sites bashing on creationism, and reading up on evolution changes your perspective on life. You start seeing much less of it as an unnecessary annoyance. You start seeing the small things as part of that beautiful tangled bank, and each one has its own intriguing evolutionary story, and plays a role in others’ stories, and pretty soon you don’t need to become a Jain or a Buddhist before you’re being more respectful of those brief lives.

And then you might just end up with readers who want a go at identifying them, or just love to look at them, and you find yourself seeking them out, and very pleased indeed that all of this happened in a part of the world where it’s not so painful and/or deadly to do art with arthropods.