Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year End House Cleaning

All right, I'm cleaning up the sidebar for the end of the year. Below are all of the books that I read this year after I started blogging. Of course this doesn't include the comic books.

Death from the Skies! - Philip Plait - ****
The Born Queen - Greg Keyes - ***
Blood Knight - Greg Keyes - ***
The Joker - Brian Azzarello - *****
The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson - ****
The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson - ****
The House of the Stag - Kage Baker - *****
The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman - ***
Maus - Art Speigelman - ***
Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson - ****
The Charnel Prince - Greg Keyes - ****
Juggler of Worlds - Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner - *** 1/2
The Briar King - Greg Keyes - ****
Playgrounds of the Mind - Larry Niven - ****
N-Space - Larry Niven - ****
Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman - ****
Murder Mysteries - Neil Gaiman - ****
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch - Neil Gaiman - ****
Neutron Star - Larry Niven - ****
Tales from Known Space - Larry Niven - ****
World of Ptaavs - Larry Niven - ****
The Flight of the Horse - Larry Niven - ****
A Hole in Space - Larry Niven - ****
The Princess Bride - William Goldman - ****
How the States Got Their Shapes - Mark Stein - **
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho - ***
A Practical Guide to Racism - C. H. Dalton - ***
Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank - Celia Rivenbark - ***
Zorro - Isabell Allenda - ***
Magic Burns - Ilona Andrews - ****
Up Till Now: The Autobiography - Willam Shatner - ****
My Life as a Ten Year Old Boy - Nancy Cartwright - ***
The Botany of Desire - Micahel Pollan - **
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan - ***
Prom Nights from Hell - short stories - **
Y: the Last Man - Brian Vaughan - ****
Owly, Volume 4 - Andy Runton - ****
Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett - *****
A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett - *****
The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett - *****
The Complete Peanuts 1959-1962 Box Set - Charles Schulz - ****
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss - *****
Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs - ****
Blood Bound - Patrica Briggs - ****
Moon Called - Patricia Briggs - ** + 1/2
Personal Demon - Kelley Armostrong - ****
Small Favor - Jim Butcher - ****
Holidays are Hell - short stories - ***
The Outlaw Demon Wails - Kim Harrison - ****
For a Few Demons More - Kim Harrison - ***
Dates from Hell - short stories - ***
A Fistful of Charms - Kim Harrison - ***
Every Which Way but Dead - Kim Harrison - ***
The Good, The Bad, and the Undead - Kim Harrison - ***
Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison - ****
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - Terry Pratchett - *****

Monday, December 29, 2008

Light Echo

Okay, go here, and see a really cool compilation of pictures morphed into a movie.

I've been watching the progression of these pictures since 2002, and it's really amazing to see how rapidly this shell has grown in less than seven years.

Here it is without the morph.

And then a quote from another compilation:

The sequence of images in this video depicts the variable star V838 Monocerotis (or V838 Mon) - a so called 'red supergiant' star in the constellation of Monoceros - exhibiting a phenomenon known as the light echo effect.At first glance, the image sequence appears to be that of an expanding cloud of dust and gas moving outward from the star. Actually, the cloud already surrounds the star, but had always been too thin and tenuous to be visible, and so was never detected up until just recently.When V838 Mon underwent a sudden expansion and then a contraction (giant and supergiant stars have a tendency to do this!), it flared-up giving off a bright flash of light in January of 2002. The expanding sphere of light traveling outward from the star lit up successive surrounding cloud layers as it proceeded to travel through them, rendering them visible for the first time.The diameter of the widest image is of the order of about five light years. The images were therefore taken over a period of about two and a half years. Each image was taken around 7 to 8 months apart.

And then the Hubble site.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Return

And tomorrow we're back at work. The weekend was not much to speak of. Time with the in-laws was surprisingly draining. I dozed a little yesterday, and I dozed a little today.

I finished The Born Queen by Greg Keyes, and read a book, I never got on my active reading list.

The Born Queen was a good book for the end of the series. I enjoyed the final conflicts between the powers and the way things were wrapped up in the end. The series wasn't great, but it was entertaining and engaging.

Then there's Death from the Skies! by Philip Plait. That was a fun book which again goes to show just what kind of a person I am. It's an astronomy book by the creator of the Bad Astronomy blog at Discover Magazine online.The book is about the many ways that life and the earth could be affected by various incidents from or in outer space. And written in ways that both the scientist and layman could enjoy.

And tomorrow, I will once again try to pick up Paul of Dune at the library.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Travel and Music

The weather was just good enough to fly on Tuesday, so we are now in Portland.

Today Jennifer and I spent the morning shoveling the in-laws' driveway. It was a fair trade for the drive they had to make from Yamhill to PDX and back to pick us up. And the shoveling wasn't too bad with two of us doing it.

It was above freezing by about 10:00, so the melt was on for quite a while. I'm sure it's dropped back below, but it's supposed to be above tomorrow, and then all day Friday, so we'll make it back to the Bay Area just fine.

While flying, Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know" came on the iPod, and it took me back to when it was a new song, and I was driving cross country with my cousin the Air Force pilot. We traveled fast, and made it to Louisville from Concord in 37 hours. With an 8 hour stop somewhere in Wyoming (or Colorado).

There are a few other songs that transport me. Most of them are ones that I used to listen to on the radio while playing Ultima III on my Apple II+.

Monday, December 22, 2008

200th Post - Christmas and Traveling

Well, this makes me feel pretty good: 200 posts. That gives a sense of accomplishment.

This morning Jennifer and I were sleeping in when we got a phone call from her dad. PDX (Portland's airport) is closed today due to snow. They've got 2 feet of snow. Now, I figure New York is just laughing at them, but still.

We are supposed to be flying out tomorrow around 5 or 6 PM. We'll see what happens. I'll be refreshing the PDX webpage all day tomorrow.

Last night Jennifer and I went out looking at Christmas lights. First we went looking for hot chocolate, and had to end up at McDonald's because Caffino and Starbucks (nearby) were closed already. Jennifer got hot chocolate, I got a milk shake (chocolate), and we shared a large fries.

Then we drove around Pleasant Hill looking at lights while listening to Christmas music. It was quite the wonderful evening.

Friday, December 19, 2008


My MP3 collection is large and ever growing.

Last night I was taking songs off of the iPod and dealing with duplicates. Towards the end, I was selecting unconnected songs by holding the CTRL key down and then clicking on the song for later deletion. I made the mistake of clicking on the check box to load the song instead of just the song name.

iTunes then unchecked all of my songs.

Last night was a loss, and I know what I'm doing tonight.

I am sadness.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh the time just flies when you're not blogging

So yeah, quite the time I had in the field.

I put in one well in Marysville (nice two hour drive in the fog). That took two days. One day to clear 4 feet with a soil vacuum rig, and then one day to drill and install about 35 feet with an auger rig. Why didn't we do it all in one day? The two rigs weren't available on the same day. And we had planned to install two other wells, but they were on a Mervyns parking lot, and that's just gotten all messed up with the bankruptcy and the new buyer.

I was back in the office that Friday (12/5), but didn't get much done aside from get ready for six days in the field in Pleasanton.

That job went nicely. Incredibly nicely. No disasters, no setbacks, no slowdowns aside from the site safety check on Thursday. We put in two wells to almost 40 feet, and four wells to almost 70 feet. And yes it was cold (for California), but we only had rain for half a day this Monday, and we had lucked into working near the station canopy, so we were mostly under shelter.

This week so far has been catch up at the office with report reviews, and paperwork for follow-up of the field work. It almost makes me look forward to the trip to Portland. Almost.

There's snow up there. With ice underneath.

At least we'll likely be inside most of the time since Jennifer's parent's don't go out much.

We can only hope.

Geologist List

So through the writings of Kim Hannula, I found the list below from Geotripper.

I like these kinds of lists. They're more specific to a person than the generic "100 Things...". Items in italics have not yet been accomplished.

1. See an erupting volcano. - Yeah, it's a goal. The main reason I want to go to Hawaii. And that just shows how weird I truly am.

2. See a glacier. - Since I'm guessing from closer up than Mt. Shasta from I-5, I have to say "Not Yet."

3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland. - Again, not quite. Little Hot Creek in Long Valley and its little hot pots don't quite count.

4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy; Stevns Klint, Denmark; the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta. - Nope.

5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage. - Was this last year or the year before? It was New Years Day when Grayson Creek flooded in Pacheco. And I'm guessing that being on the bridge spanning the creek is not necessarily at a safe distance.

6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia). - I got to take a night tour through Mammoth Cave in Kentucky while out there for grad school. It's an awesome sight.

7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile. - Outside of Getchell, Nevada, for my Ore Deposits course at Sacramento State. We saw a few pits, and got to enter one of them. It dwarfed any stadium I've been in including parking lots. And there was a one in thick layer of crystalline barite about halfway up the walls.

8. Explore a subsurface mine. - This time for ore deposits and then field mapping at Sac. The first was a large modern gold mine near Jackson Slough. The shaft was only slightly inclined (more of a long adit), but was big enough for two large dump trucks to use. Lots of quartz veins in black slate. The other was an old gold mine in Placerville. Narrow and irregular, but beautiful walls of mariposite.

9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California). - Every time I drive to Point Reyes, or the Marin Headlands I get to see this.

10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too). - Not yet.

11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw. - Hopefully soon.

12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere. - I actually got to see a small example outside of Livermore doing a fault trench. We came across a small pond that had obvious varves.

13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada. - Yup. And Rock City on Mt. Diablo.

14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland. - Nope.

15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website). - Yup.

16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic. - I actually have one in a pot beside my garage, but Sac State had scores of them; unfortunately both male and female, so the stench was quite overwhelming in the spring. And we had on in the yard in Kentucky when I was in high school.

17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Glacier National Park is a great place to see fossil stromatolites, while Shark Bay in Australia is the place to see living ones) - Yeah, but I can't remember where I was.

18. A field of glacial erratics. - Not a field no.

19. A caldera. - Long Valley. Not all at once of course, but we traveled over most of the caldera. And sometime this year, Jennifer and I have plans to go to Crater Lake.

20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high. - Nope.

21. A fjord. - No.

22. A recently formed fault scarp. - Only in pictures.

23. A megabreccia. - No.

24. An actively accreting river delta. - Yes, I'm sure, but no specific examples come to mind.

25. A natural bridge. - No.

26. A large sinkhole. - Back in Kentucky.

27. A glacial outwash plain. - Long Valley again. There are quite a few.

28. A sea stack. - Plenty along the California coast.

29. A house-sized glacial erratic. - No.

30. An underground lake or river. - In the Mammoth Cave complex.

31. The continental divide - Many times from driving cross-country from California to Kentucky.
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals. - Lately at a rock and mineral show, but also in both my mineralogy and ore deposits courses.

33. Petrified trees. - In a museum and I've some pieces, but never in nature.

34. Lava tubes. - The jets near Depoe Bay in Oregon are believed to be formed by tidal water being forced into lava tubes. But I have yet to walk through any.

35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back. - No. When I returned to California from Kentucky, the Grand Canyon was not yet completed, and the far side was shrouded in fog. I hope to return, but there's no way I'm walking on the transparent walkway.

36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible. - Hopefully when I return to the Grand Canyon.

37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world. - No.

38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m). - No.

39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale. - No.

40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe. - No.

41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. - No.

42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water. - No.

43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high. - No.

44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing. - No, but I've seen the jointing in the Bishop Tuff in Long Valley.

45. The Alps. - No.

46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below. - No.

47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art. - No.

48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst. - No.

49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge. - No.

50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders. - No.

51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck. - No.

52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist. - No.

53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America. - And perhaps the Flying Dutchman.

54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism. - Only from a distance. Someday I need to go to Oregon during good weather.

55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows. - No, but definitely a goal.

56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa. - No.

57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn". - No.

58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain. - Yes, in high school, but I didn't know why they were special at the time.

59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington. - No.

60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity. - No.

61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley. - Also something to see soon.

62. Yosemite Valley. - Twice. I've even been fortunate enough to see the sno-cone under Yosemite Falls.

63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah. - No.

64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia. - No.

65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington. - No.

66. Bryce Canyon. - No.

67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone. - No, and I just need to get to Yellowstone period.

68. Monument Valley. - No.

69. The San Andreas fault. - I've flown parallel to it many times, and I've seen the offset fence many times at Point Reyes Station.

70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain. - No.

71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands. - No.

72. The Pyrenees Mountains. - No.

73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand. - No.

74. Denali (an orogeny in progress). - No, but my uncle has climbed it.

75. A catastrophic mass wasting event. - You mean besides all the ones I created my climbing during summer and winter field? I have seen many collapsed slopes along the Oakland Hills and certain housing projects throughout the Bay Area.

76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park. - No.

77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches). - No, but Jennifer brought me back some sand.

78. Barton Springs in Texas. - No.

79. Hells Canyon in Idaho. - No.

80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. - No.

81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia. - No, but oh, so tempting.

82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0. - Yeah this has happened a few times. Especially back when the Hayward Fault was overly active in the late 70s and early 80s. I was in Sac during Loma Prieta, and Zzyzx during Northridge, so I've missed recent the big ones.

83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ. - No.

84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil). - Lots of brachiopods in the road cuts on the road from Lexington to Maysville.

85. Find gold, however small the flake. - Panning in the Sierra Nevada.

86. Find a meteorite fragment. - No.

87. Experience a volcanic ash fall. - Only the fringe, but the dust content was high after Mt. St. Helens.

88. Experience a sandstorm. - Driving from California to Kentucky for grad school, my cousin and I went through one in Utah.

89. See a tsunami. - No.

90. Witness a total solar eclipse. - No.

91. Witness a tornado firsthand. (Important rules of this game). - Bugger you chasing, I've had one jump my subdivision when I was a kid. I've seen the green sky and clouds, and seen a funnel dropping.

92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower. - No, the Perseids and Leonids have yet to be that exciting.

93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope. - Chabot baby.

94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights. - Not yet, but I've got Jennifer very excited to see these.

95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century - Comet Hyakutate. We saw it naked eye while walking to Dairy Queen drunk during a party.

96. See a lunar eclipse. - Hard not to really.

97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope. - Andromeda, and others at Chabot.

98. Experience a hurricane - Hurricane Gloria during my Junior year of high school, Fall 1985. I'd had snow days and ice days in Kentucky and heat days in California, but it took a year in Maryland to have a hurricane day.

99. See noctilucent clouds. - Yes. Another bonus of living near the coast.

100. See the green flash. - It's debatable, so I'm guessing no.

Friday, December 12, 2008


All week in the field (not to mention the end of last week), and oh so hard to get back in the swing of things. I'm catching up on my Internet tonight while Jennifer is at a party, and I ran across this video by Lore Sjöberg (also available on his site here)which is full of awesome and win.

I can remember when Lore was doing stuff on Brunching Shuttlecocks and the Book of Ratings.

It's so cool and uplifting to see him working for Wired magazine.

I still check up on Slumbering Lungfish Dybbuk Hostel and All-Night Boulangerie. I miss the ratings of the state quarters the most, but still enjoy hearing whatever he has to speak about.

I have one more day installing monitoring wells in Pleasanton on Monday, and then I'm back in the office for four days before vacation and the trek to Portland for Christmas. Hopefully, I can get adjusted to being inside before being crammed into an airplane.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Food and Ink

Last night Jennifer and I had dinner at Nibblers in Pleasant Hill. We hadn't been there since Jennifer's birthday a few years ago. It was really a nice experience as always.

And while there, I got a call from Phil, and we've scheduled the black for the burning "S" for Saturday afternoon at 1:00 in Sacramento. Then I'll be going to a party that night. It'll be interesting.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Books

This weekend I also finished a lot of books. I had planned to read while convalescing from the tattoo, but well...

Anyway, I got through my stack of comics and am thoroughly enjoying the "New Krypton" arc through the Superman titles, and Alex Ross' continuation (or actually interlude) of his Kingdom Come tale in Justice Society of America. And The Joker by Brian Azzarello is absolutely amazing. It's done with the Joker and others in the style of "The Dark Knight" movie, but in regular Batman style continuity. Azzarello's take on Harley Quinn and the Riddler are really cool. And you don't even see Batman until the last few pages. It's going to be up there with The Killing Joke by Alan Moore for me.

I also finished The Hero of Ages by Brian Sanderson, which was a very good closing of his trilogy. I look more and more towards his conclusion to "The Wheel of Time."

Jennifer is still reading Terry Pratchett's Nation. I'm on it as soon as she's done, and she's loving it. She says it's like Pratchett's trying to get all of his thoughts out of his head and on paper before the Alzheimer's can take them away from him.

Netflix Madness

Sunday Jennifer and I watched three DVDs.

Well, kind of.

We tried to watch the final DVD for "Planet Earth" but the three shows on it were all about conservation and save the planet and stuff. We're kind of the wrong people to watch that in the same way it's not necessary to tell boys that dinosaurs are cool.

(I'd say "...and girls that ponies are cute", but I'm afraid Miss Em would smack me long distance.)

We also watched two episodes of the original "Star Trek": "A Private Little War" (mugatu!) and "The Triskelions" (quatloos!).

The third thing we watched was George Carlin's second HBO special. This one was done in the round. In 1978. We're working through his shows as chronologically as I could arrange them.

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