Monday, November 9, 2009

A Hike on Washington's Coast: or, What Do Sandstones and "Twilight" Have in Common?

When I was young, my sister and father and I went on a hike on Washington's coast.
It was pretty great - the first day was sunshine, and the next two or three were miserable rain. Other than packs and boots, we had no gear to speak of - just some vaguely rain-proof jackets from Goodwill, and jeans. ("Now girls, you might want some waterproof pants, too." "Those look dumb! It's not going to rain! Jeans are great for hiking!") We resorted to wearing ziplock bags around our multi-socked feet, and didn't get warm or dry for the whole trip.
Between the physical discomfort of hiking oh-so-immense distances (say, three miles) and the subversive thrill of eating meals out of pots and mugs, it was the Best Hike Ever.
We went on to repeat this for at least two more summers - though we eventually got some rain proof fpants. (Luckily, as one trip it rained for five straight days.)
(I'm on the left, my sister on the right. Check out that 1990s bucket hat! Upon closer inspection, that's also a tie die shirt.)
This series of miserable, fantastic hikes has acquired a certain hard-core nostalgia for my sister and I.
(A sea stack near Rialto Beach.)
After my classes were done this summer, and before my sister left for her first year at college, we decided to do it again - but this time, a longer distance at a faster pace. Our mother was quite concerned that we wouldn't be able to do it, and insisted we build in an extra day, and bring an extra day's food, in addition to our regular emergency supply.
(An annotated map.)
However, this time our dad was too busy at work to come with us. Being intrepid young ladies, we decided to go anyway. Also, we decided to start much farther South (at Rialto Beach,) and work our way North to more nostalgic environs.
Unfortunately, the tides during our chosen dates were very unfavorable: high tide was at mid-day. Our plan was to get up early, hike until lunch, have a seista, and then get started again.
As will be seen, the best laid plans of mice and young women hiking oft go astray.
(Lake Crescent)
The first day, we drove out, passing Lake Crescent. This is a gorgeous glacier carved lake, as you can see from the U-shape of this valley. There were packs of cyclists on the roads, and the lake looked perfect for kayaking. We really wanted to stop, but we were already late getting underway.
When we picked up our permit at the NPS office, the vaguely good-lookin' fellow behind the counter felt obligated to consult with us about the tides.
NPS Fellow: "Counter-intuitively, the empty moon means a full moon, but a filled in moon means a new moon."
Me (in an attempt to be amusing): "And next Edward Cullen is going to show up."
(The NPS fellow got this strained look on his face.)
Sister: "Who?"
Me: "You know, that dude from the Twilight books... the second one's called New Moon... Ha ha?"
(The NPS fellow still looked pained, and finished with us quickly.)
(What the...?)
We drove out to the trailhead, and along the way, were confused to see a bunch of signs saying things like "Hungry? Stop in for a Bite!", "Bella eats here!", and "Treaty Line!"
Turns out "Twilight" was shot over near Forks, WA, and the nearby areas have been simply mobbed with fans. Which would explain why the NPS fellow looked so horrified at a pair of young women talking about Edward Cullen.
Both my sister and I think "Twilight" is an abomination, so the Pacific Northwest was safe from any more fan-girl drool.
(The back of our minivan (with no seats) before packing. Yikes.)
As we got older, we started accumulating hiking stuff: fancy sleeping bags and thermal long-johns and whatnot. At the trailhead, we were confronted with the challenge of forcing all this gear AND the bear cans filled with food fit in our packs.
At least we didn't have any plates.

(Finished packing! Mine on the right, my sister's on the left.)
Eventually we managed to fit (most) everything - though it bears note that my sister's pack was much larger than mine. All throughout the hike, she was pulling out clean tee-shirts and extra, unneeded layers, whereas I only had one of everything.
I made up for this by making her carry the tent and the stove.

(Right: Another sea stack. Left: Hole in the Wall)
The first day was one of the best. There was some great geology to be seen - awesome wind-carved sandstones, vertical layers of what appeared to be mudstones, and huge conglomerates. It was one of the cooler areas of sedimentary geology that I've seen. Unfortunately, being late and low on camera batteries, we didn't take pictures.
(The beach at Chilean Memorial.)
After about 3.7mi, we arrived at Chilean Memorial, a beach near the site of some old shipwreck far offshore, and a memorial somewhere in the woods. There were also some some campsites dug vaguely out of the bank.
All of which were unfortunately taken.
My sister and I ended up camping in the following spot:
Now, camping behind the log on top of some rocks was not our first choice. We had originally camped on the nice sandy spot in front of the log, but it looked a little close to the high tide mark...
(Our tent was in the sandy spot.)
And, as we found out at about 2am, it really was.
Luckily we woke up before the tide started creeping into our tent.
But it wasn't exactly pleasant to wake up at 2am, argue about which rocky bit to move the tent to, move the tent over the log, fight off the sand-fleas and moths drawn to the headlamps, and then crawl back into said tent. Where we then had to try get cozy on the rocks and fall asleep, all the while wondering if the tide was going to come into our new campsite.

(Right: The view from our rest spot. Left: My sister, doing the soduku.)
The next morning we awoke slightly sore and grumpy, and left camp a few hours later than anticipated. After rounding Cape Johnston, maybe a mile from camp, it was time to wait out the high tide.
We climbed up on some rocks on the point of a little headland, made a little food, napped a bit, I read "Notes from Underground", my sister played sodoku.
(Like I said, we're not big fans of Twilight.)
After the tide had lowered a bit, we set out to finish the day's 4.7 miles.
We were rounding a small headland (marked with a red dot on the map,) the last before the next camp's beach, when calamity struck again.
It was getting dark, and the next high tide was threatening to arrive. My sister (in much better shape than I) was leading at a brisk pace over some large, slimy, algae covered rocks.
I stepped off a rock, and my right foot lost its footing. My top-heavy pack began to pull me backward. I fumbled with my right foot, trying to gain traction, turning myself in a 180 degree turn before my pack pushed me over and I started to fall, face forward, toward the pointy tip of a rock.
As my chest rushed toward the ground, the only thought going through my head was "I am going to die. The force of this blow will stop my heart, and I will die. This is it."
Luckily, when I hit the rock, only the wind was knocked out of me, not my life.
After I had recovered said breath, I lay there, pinned by my pack, in a lot of pain, and yelled (probably more like squealed, to be honest) for my sister.
She helped me up, and we surveyed the damage. No broken ribs, but some nasty bleeding contusions on my knees. We decided to finish getting around the headland, and then deal with the damage.
As we walked away, going much more slowly, I asked her: "So, when I fell, did I flail around? Or was I more like a sack of potatoes?"
"Well, kinda both. With a little twirl."
(This is nothing compared to how my sternum felt.)
I had bruises for a few weeks, and, several months later, still have scars on my knees. My sternum (where I hit the rock) never really bruised up, but it hurt to breathe for several weeks. It kinda sucked.
(It took us a few minutes to figure out what that was.)
It was all worth it soon, when we got to see these fantastic sea stacks rising out of the fog, backlit by the sunset.
( this is more like it!)
Our campsite that night made up for it too: right on the beach, not too close to the waves, not too many sand fleas, and cheerful neighbors. Inland, in the forest, there's an actual campground (Cedar Creek Campground,) an old mine, and, some years, a seasonal ranger station. But the forest is creepy, the weather was nice, and the beach fantastic: so we camped there.

(You'd think it'd be impossible to get lost on a beach, but...)
The next day was crazy. We took way too long packing up camp, and so were frantically rushing to beat the tides to our next siesta spot - a place we'd been before, called Norwegian Memorial. It was a good campground, immediately before a long, hard stretch of rocky beach, followed by one of our favorite campgronds: Yellow Banks. Ahead of us, we spotted a group travelling at a pace just slightly faster than ours, and so we decided to follow them.
We booked around each and every headland, waiting to spot Norwegian Memorial, catching glimpses of the people ahead of us, worrying about the incoming tide the whole time. We didn't look at our watches, didn't stop to eat or rest or drink much water.
Eventually, the tide had risen so much that we were scrambling over the logs right next to the bank, covering our faces to escape the thick cloud of sandfleas that were frantically fleeing the tide themselves.
When we rounded that headland, we decided to give it a rest, even though we hadn't made Norwegian Memorial.
(We were so exhausted and hungry, we just chucked stuff about.)
We took the first campsite we saw, and dropped our packs in relief. We cooked some food, drank some water, and put our feet up for a bit.
Then we checked our watches, and realized that we'd hiked completely through the high tide. And this beach didn't really look like Norwegian Memorial, but it was the first campground we'd seen.
Huh. How odd.
(I can't say my shoelaces fared well on this venture.)
I walked down the beach, and found the group we'd been following around all the headlands.
"Excuse me, but do you know how far it is to Norwegian Memorial?" I asked.
"Oh, it's about four miles that way." they responded, pointing to the way we'd come.
"Oh. But, where are we?"
They looked at me like I had recently escaped from the psych ward.
"This is Yellow Banks. See?" They pointed to the other end of the beach. "The Yellow Bank?"

I stared at it.
Then I thanked them, and went back to my sister.
"Hey, come look at this." I said, and pointed down the beach. "What color would you say that bank is?"
"Um, I don't know - yellow?" she said. "Are we at Yellow Banks?!"

(My sister was very happy to stop walking!)
We were so excited to have hiked our day's allotment before lunch that we decided to just hike out that night. We were pretty impressed with ourselves.
Cocky little brats.
Actually, we decided that, since there were only six miles left - three of them on the boardwalk - to hike out that night so my sister could have more time to get ready for her departure. We ended up booking through most of the spots we remembered, reached our car well after dark, and eventually had to stop and sleep in the car at a Park and Ride.
(I can't say my fashion sense has improved much since I was a child.)
It was a pretty great trip.
Even if I didn't collect any rocks, and Edward Cullen was no where to be seen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

1a: Truth (with Guest Speaker.)

What follows is a conversation between two giants - nay, legends - of philosophy, regarding the fundamental difference between two distinct perspectives of Truth: the Fluid Conception, and the Concrete Conception.
(Note: Neither of these Conceptions have anything to do with the Immaculate Conception, or the technical aspects of the origin of Souls in Aristotle's "On the Soul." Give me a break.)
Thusly, I present:

On Truth
With the Pinnacles of Modern Philosophy:
  • Helena The author of this blog. Studied philosophy for two wretched years before disserting to the Elyssian Fields of Geology.
  • SD: My beastie bestie (best friend). Studied philosophy for 1.5 even wretched-er years before fleeing to a land of paint & puppies Art & Animal Advocacy.

12:35am: Helena: But I don't possess social graces?
12:35am: SD:Nah, still assert you're socially adept, babe.
12:43am: Helena: Socially lame.
12:43am: SD: Only so if you think so. Think otherwise & it'll be so. We create our own cosmos. (Realizing this is one source of my recent optimism.)
12:44am: Helena: WHAT?
12:44am: SD: What what?
12:44am: Helena: The cosmos does not bend to the will of individuals.
12:45am: SD: That it does, love, that it does.
12:45am: Helena: There are facts and laws upon which the world is based.
12:45am: SD: Your age-worn empiricism'll do nothing to cripple that unerring beauty that one woman can create.
12:45am: Helena:
One of which happens to be that I am socially inept.
12:45am: SD: Make it otherwise!
12:45am: Helena: But, by your own assertion, there is beauty in truth.
12:45am: SD: But truth is relative.
12:48am: Helena: Most truths are not relative, however.
12:48am: SD: Would argue that truths about one's person who most always subject to flux.
12:49am: Helena: (Give me about 10 min: kitten has pooped in corner again. Must point fellow to box & clean up.)
1:08am: Helena: Anyway.
1:09am: Helena:
Truths about one's person may slowly change over time, based on outside interferences: that does not mean that truthful perceptions of said truth at any given time can vary.
1:11am: Helena: WHY ARE YOU IGNORING MY BRILLIANCE? God. It's like you have a life and hobbies other than me.
1:30am: SD: (decided to take a walk in my absence, some such nonsense.)
- Fini -

We're like the next Plato/Socrates.
But who gets to be the Overbearing Wino Boy-lover, and who gets to be the Silent Transcribing Wino Boy-lover?

Monday, June 1, 2009

I live on a glacial garbage dump.

Geologic Map of Tumwater

My house lies on the Qgo section:
"Vashon recessional outwash—Recessional and proglacial
stratified, moderately to well-rounded, poorly to moderately
sorted outwash sand and gravel of northern or mixed
northern and Cascade source, locally containing silt and
clay; also contains lacustrine deposits and ice-contact
stratified drift. Some areas mapped as unit Qgo may instead
be advance outwash (unit Qga) because it is difficult to tell
the difference between the two without the presence of an
intervening till."

In other garbage-dump news, a fellow is Tacoma is building condos on the foundations of an old copper/arsenic plant, now a Superfund site.
This is apparently old news, but I only found out today, via Text Message from a Toxic Waste Site on the Stranger.
Recovering viable land from our past mistakes seems like a noble ambition (despite being aimed only at the rich) however the ecological aspects are slightly concerning.
My knowledge of the issue is, admittedly, fairly limited.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Overview Of the Geomorphology of the Arabian Peninsula

(Written for my Physical Geography class. This is by no means definitive. In fact, I can already pinpoint several errors: there is no mention of volcanism, the ongoing rifting process separating the peninsula from Africa, etc. It satisfies its "Overview" classification. In addition, it's also been several years since my last geology class, so there's much roughness around the edges.)

When one hears about Arabia, one pictures a desolate land of sand dunes, filled with oil refineries. But the origin of that landscape is not frequently questioned: how did it come to be, and why does it look as it does? The answer to that question lies in the region's tectonic history, its climate, and the weathering that therefore ensues.
One of the persistent topics that must be addressed is the presence of oil on the Arabian peninsula. Before deformation, these oil reserves were estimated to be 2,000km wide, 4,000km long, and 3,000m thick. (Alnaji) Most of these come from carbonates deposited on a continental shelf during the Mesozoic, next to a passive margin. (Alnaji) (A passive margin is a tectonic plate boundary that is neither subducting or colliding. It leads to a flat landscape, upon which quite a lot of sedimentary material can accumulate. (Strickler, M.)) Carbonates form from the skeletons of algae, invertebrate shells, or coralline reefs, or precipitated out of coralline reefs. Common carbonates on the Arabian peninsula are limestone (CaCO3) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2). Oil reservoirs are formed in the following fashion: hydrocarbons leak out of sedimentary, organic-rich rocks. Due to their light density, they float to above the interstitial watery sediments around them. The oil rises upward, and, if a layer of impervious rock (called a seal, usually concave from below) lies above the oil, it is contained, forming an “oil trap.” Eventually, most of the water is forced out, leaving behind a reservoir containing oil, and possibly natural gas as well.(Shelton, J.)
To understand the high propensity of oil reservoirs on the peninsula, a look at the geologic history of the area is necessary. During the Precambrian time, a collection of island arcs and small crustal fragments that formed an accretion against a segment of older continental crust, forming the continent Gondwana. This continent was partially covered by glaciers, some reaching as far as Western Arabia, during the Lower Ordovician. (Alnaji) During the Silurian, the glaciers melted, raising the sea level. While the peninsula was underwater, various sediments accumulated and compressed, creating some shale sedimentation. (Alnaji, N.) The peninsula was completely connected to Africa, and formed part of the coastline of a large landmass called Gondwana. (See Fig. 1)

Fig. 1: Gondwana and the Paleo-Tethys ocean can be easily seen. Arabia's present position is outlined, and its Silurian position in Gondwana can be interpolated. (Credit: Scotse,C. )

Eventually, Gondwana rotated and moved northward, where it intercepted Eurmerica and formed Pangea. (Blakey, R., 2006) The pressure of these two continents colliding created the Hercynian orogeny (mountain building event,) during the early Permian. (Fig. 2) This orogeny is not only responsible for several mountain belts, but also a large percentage of the oil reserves found on the peninsula: the compression forced hydrocarbons (many from the Silurian) to move, and also formed some seals over the reservoirs. (Faqira, M.) The Hercynian orogeny contributed to large oil reservoirs by moving hydrocarbons along the edge of the Central Arabian Arch and along faults, and created some new reservoir seals. (Fagira) Another notable aspect of the Carboniferous is the pre-Unayzah Uncomformity (Alnaji) – an unconformity is when deposition is stopped, erosion takes places, and then depostion begins again, leaving a missing section of time. (Shelton, J.) This is important because it shows that deposition had stopped during this portion of time, and erosion was instead occurring.

Fig. 2: By the Early Permian, Pangaea has formed. The Hercynian orogeny is centered. Despite its distance from the actual orogeny, the collision affected the Arabian peninsula greatly. (Credit: Blakey, R.)

Next, during the Middle Jurassic, Pangea broke up into the continents we now know today. (Fig. 3) The Arabian peninsula entered a tectonically stable time period during the Jurassic, and developed a continental shelf near the Neo-Tethys Sea, right next to a passive margin. In addition, at this time several intrashelf basins, including the Gotnia, South Rub' AlKhali, and Arabian Basins, formed, as a result of tectonic differentiation and rising sea level. These basins accumulated a lot of organic-rick rocks during the Late Callovian, when the peninsula was inundated by an oxygen-poor ocean.(Alnaji)

Fig. 3: During the Middle Jurassic, Pangaea has begun to split into its constituent parts. Africa is beginning to rotate, and will soon intercept Asia. (Credit: Blakey, R.)

During the Late Cretaceous, the Neo-Tethys sea was closed due to further tectonic action. Also, at this time, the pre-Aruma Unconformity was created, showing another period of stopped sedimentation. This action also remade the Hercynian Orogeny features and formed the major oil reserves we now use. (Alnaji)
Another orogeny, the Zagros orogeny, happened during the Tertiary when Asia and Arabia were thrust together. When this happened, the Arabian plate was subducted under Iran, where it still lies with one corner underneath. (Alnaji) This series of long, tectonically inactive times and brief periods of compression served to deposit, manipulate, and contain hydrocarbons, leading to major oil reservoirs throughout the peninsula.
The Arabian Peninsula may contain the Arabian Desert: one of the largest deserts on the planet, with an approximate area of one million mi2(, however, unlike what one might suppose, it is not entirely sand dunes and desolation. The peninsula is composed of a plateau, sloping north-east from the Red Sea to the eastern lowlands by the Persian Gulf, and its elevation ranges from 37m below sea level, to 3,660m above sea level.(De Pauw, E.) As a result, it has a variety of localized climates within its overall climate, which is very arid. This is mainly because of the large distance between it and major weather systems (like the North Atlantic depression,) and its propensity towards receiving continental air from Africa and China during the winter and summer. (De Pauw, E.) Precipitation (and therefore vegetation) is very sparse and patchy in general, and greatly affected by the terrain.
As the peninsula is located in the Northern Hemisphere, its winter occurs at the same time as winter in North America, Europe, and Asia. The coldest time of the year is between December and Feburary, (De Pauw, E.) when the earth rotates the Northern Hemisphere away from the sun. In addition, during the winter polar continental air blows down from Central Asia, resulting in lowered temperatures, clear skies, and dry weather. “Lowered” temperatures are, of course, relative – average winter temperatures across the peninsula range from 41 to 81.5 degrees Fahrenheit. (Fig. 4) Any winter precipitation comes from moist polar maritime air that moved through North Africa and the Mediterranean. (De Pauw, E.) Snow has occasionally fallen in the Yemeni and Asir highlands, as a result of their increased altitude.

Fig.4: Mean temperatures during the coldest and warmest months of the year. (Credit: De Pauw, E.)

Springtime is when the majority of precipitation falls in the Arabian Peninsula. This is due to the Indian Monsoon's influence: (De Pauw, E.) as the earth rotates around the sun on its tipped axis, the area closest to the sun moves from north to south, which changes weather patterns, and brings some areas of the world – including India – large amounts of unusual precipitation. Some of this precipitation works its way over to the Arabian peninsula, but it is mitigated by the tropical continental area present on the peninsula at that time.
During the summer, which occurs between June and September, average temperatures across the peninsula range from 72.5 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. (Fig. 4) In addition to the standard temperature increase brought on by the Earth's rotation, tropical continental air blows in from Africa, creating a stable high pressure area. This brings very hot, very dry air, clear skies, and low humidity. (De Pauw, E.) It is this time of year that generates the standard mental picture of the Middle East: deathly hot.
Precipitation on the peninsula is scarce, overall, and varies highly between years. (The Biome Group) Amount of precipitation correlates closely with the elevation, and sometimes the Yemen and Asir highlands, and the Hajar mountains generate their own weather systems, including frequent instances of fog. These mountains also guide the precipitation and wind around the peninsula. (De Pauw, E.) The evaporation rate exceeds the precipitation rate, perpetuating the arid climate. (The Biome Group)
The precipitation is directly the cause of the sparse and patchy vegetation patterns on the peninsula. Areas where water collect, such as wadis (ephemeral stream beds, where water is only present during periods of intense precipitation, frequently canyon-like,) support a greater number of plants more effectively than the rest of the desert. (De Pauw, E.) Vegetation patterns depends more specifically on the frequency of flooding, stream velocity, sediment type, and the local variability of rainfall.
Soil forms very slowly, as most water sluffs right off the exposed bedrock or drains through the limited soil. Without any plants to hold the little soil together, there is much erosion. (Stoffer, P.) Any soils that do form are coarse, shallow, and rocky, with good drainage. Small particulates are blown away, leaving only the larger pieces behind. (The Biome Group)
Since the peninsula is a very dry area, chemical breakdown (i.e. the dissolution of minerals from water) is very low. However, mechanical breakdown (i.e. the physical subdivision of large rocks into smaller rocks) is very high. This is a result of the heating and cooling of rocks, roots forcing their way through cracks, wind, precipitation, and any ice wedging that might occur. (Stoffer, P.) Different types of rock have varying resistances to erosion, creating differential erosion and carving curious shapes into the rocks, such as pillars, ledges, etc. (Taylor, S.)
Erosion through precipitation is intense. Frequently, rain drops in still air strike the ground with a velocity of 30ft/s, and, by the time one inch of rain has fallen, the ground will have been hit by a total mass of 113 tons. (Shelton, J.) Erosion consists frequently on a small-scale – sand thrown up by the impact of rain, small rocks jostled. (Shelton, J.) However, large-scale erosion also happens - if the slopes become saturated with rain, rock falls or landslides will occur. (Stoffer, P.) This material will be moved along in a debris flow, consisting of a large amount of rock, plant material, etc., held together with just enough water to keep it moving. (Stoffer, P.) A flash flood usually consists of a greater percentage of water in the debris flow. In a flash flood, rocks are smashed together, decreasing their surface area, and increasing the rate of chemical breakdown. (Stoffer, P.) (This is because, with a greater surface area, there are more exposed atoms to be dissolved by the water.) In general, the rocks become smaller and more rounded the farther they are away from their source. (Stoffer, P.) When this material exits a canyon, it spreads out significantly, creating what is called an alluvial fan. (Shelton, J.)
Aeolian processes (wind erosion) does not erode a desert landscape nearly as much as one would think, however it does play a part. Small particles of rock or sand are moved through the air or along the ground, in a process called deflation. (Taylor, S.) Frequently, this material slams into other rocks and “sand blasts” them, or abrades them, further increasing the amount of material being carried by the wind. (Taylor, S.) If there is a strong wind, and it carries a lot of material, it can become a sand or dust storm. These storms can cover several countries, as seen in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5: A dust storm crossing Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in 2003. Dust storms differ from sand storms in that their particulate size is smaller, meaning it can be blown farther and spread more widely. (Shelton, J.) (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.)

Looking back through the history of the Arabian peninsula, it is possible to see how a series of depositional and compressional periods contributed to the formation of large oil reservoirs, and the general topology of the region. If the same material was placed in a more temperate location, the equivalent of the American South would have occurred. Instead, the region's tectonic activity has placed it in its current position, resulting in a highly arid climate. The scorching temperatures and lack of precipitation have resulted in a carved landscape, complete with sand dunes, wadis, and dust storms. This combination of factors has resulted in one of the hottest, sandiest, and most desolate places on the globe.

Citation Locations:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Honest Admission #2:

Please tell me:
am I the only one who, when they hear distant bass rumbles/thunder/airplanes, immediately looks around for the Tyrannosaurus?

I still have nightmares, sometimes.

(Coffee makes me honest.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chem test

My professor seems to be very fond of maelic acid.
Or, alternatively:

When I look at that, all I see is:

Whatever happened to, say, HCl or HBrO or H2SO4?

Monday, April 27, 2009


Am I the only one who missed that Peter O'Toole is still alive?

Or that he played Priam in "Troy"?
(Troy being a badly made movie of "The Illiad".)

How do you go from "Lawrence of Arabia" to a movie that stars Orlando Bloom?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


My professor is so lucky I'm tactful.
When asked to list a real-world uses for various elements, these are my initial responses:
Lead: Paint.
Calcium: The bones in my backyard. 1
Carbon: Footprint. (Next reaction: Freezing Han Solo.2)
Oxygen: Breathing. Or the lack thereof.
Iron: Pumping.
Tin: Cans.
Mercury: Poisoning.
Silicon: Breast implants.

My computations have also lead me to the conclusion that Erlenmeyer flasks have a negative mass.
I'm also capable of bending the laws of physics: I put 142L of water in a 125mL flask.

Also, a final chemistry tidbit:

1. There are no bones in my yard. In fact, I have no yard.
2. Did you know that there is a type of trilobite by the name of Han Solo? It's a member of the agnostida family, all of whom are religiously confused.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Hear It's Pronounced Orr-gun.

This is where I spent the weekend:Doing some of this:
And a lot of this:
Generating this:
It was time for the annual grotto cave conservation lint-picking down in Oregon. I know it sounds crazy, but lint-picking is actually my favorite part of cave conservation. It's very soothing - listening to the cave, picking some lint, chatting with those around, finding a 6" long hair, picking some more lint - and the results are instantaneous.
This year I got to go on rope to do some of the cleaning, which was really cool - and also very nerve racking, as you avoid kicking the cave bacon or scraping the flowstone with your descender. It was well worth it, though.
It really feels as though we just got started, especially on the vertical section. There is a lot more cleaning to be done here!

One of the sections we cleaned on rope:

A section we've cleaned in previous years:

It was so nice to get out of the house, and out of town!