Thursday, December 30, 2010

From red rocks...

to white-flocked trees (click to enlarge):
I just returned home in the wake of a snowstorm that dumped 10 inches of snow on my digital cottage in the pine forest of eastern Washington.

Things to do today: 1.) Go cross-country skiing.

UPDATE: Accomplished everything on my "to do" list, as this shot behind the house shows:

Eulogy for color film...

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas.  This seems especially appropriate on this occasion:  Paul Simon: Mamma Don't Take My Kodachrome Away.

I actually shot more Ektachrome earlier in my life and career since it was a faster color slide film, and the E-6 processing was something I could do at home. Believe it or not, I still have about a dozen 36-exposure rolls of the film.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's really much to do...

about nothing, according to Don Easterbrook: 2010 – where does it fit in the warmest year list?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The last hike...

during my holiday stay in southern Utah was in the company of Geogal and her husband, JR, and their new dog, Lexi. We explored the Amphitheater Loop trail near Fisher Towers, seen here silhouetted in the morning sun (click to enlarge):
Heavy rains in August caused extensive flooding in the area, deeply scouring an arroyo:
Floodwaters surged out of the channel and deposited silts and clays on adjacent upland surfaces, now dessicated and mudcracked:
Along the way we found two geocaches, this one is particularly well-placed with fantastic views:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Helen climbs Round Mountain...

on Christmas day, an approximately 1,100 ft high trachyte porphyry instrusive structure that rises from the south end of Castle Valley (click to enlarge):
Here she attains the summit to be met with spectacular views to the northwest showing the shaded Porcupine Rim:
Here's the view to the north-northeast, with Parriott Mesa on the left, and Castleton Tower on the right:
And the view to the south, showing the high La Sal Mountains and the Cain Hollow arroyo:

A year of discoveries...

in a video by NASA/JPL.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Helen goes rockhounding...

with Rachel and me at Copper Ridge, northwest of Arches National Park, looking through the ore piles at an old mining site (click to enlarge):
Eureka!  Helen prospects with her nose and finds a nice specimen of the copper carbonate mineral malachite:
While hiking elsewhere in the vicinity, Helen discovers a ripple-marked sandstone slab in the Morrison Formation.  Here she's considering the origin of interference ripples:
From her high vantage point on the top of the ridge, Helen surveys the laccolithic La Sal Mountains draped with snow:

Lastly, Helen quenches her thirst from an eroded theropod track after a complete exploration of the area:
Here's more about this easily accessible dinosaur trackway site.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Helen visits her first...

national park today, although we didn't do any hiking here as dogs are not allowed on the trails.  Instead, we drove a few more miles to the north to the Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trail for meandering explorations there.

Dogs playing soccer...

while waiting for the weather to clear (click to enlarge):
That's Helen on the left, and my neighbor's dog, Putts, on the right, taking a brief time out:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday greetings...

from southern Utah, with appropriate stratigraphic annotations.  Enjoy!  It's Festivus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wise words...

Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best, 20-20 hindsight. It's good for seeing where you've been. It's good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can't tell you where you ought to go.

-- Robert M. Pirsig

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happiness is a warm puppy...

next to a glowing wood stove after a vigorous slope-climbing exploration with me, and a run with Rachel.

The real Santa's elves...

work at FedEx's SuperHub: The Miracle of Memphis.

30 to 60 images...

is about what I shoot with my digital cameras each week, on average, and vastly more when I'm traveling or doing field work.  So I'm gifting myself an 8GB Eye-Fi Pro X2 card for Festivus.  I'm springing for the premium Pro version ($99 at since it incorporates ad-hoc wi-fi capability, allowing for wireless connection between the camera and a  laptop without needing a network router.  I'm eager to give it a test drive and I'll post my impressions in a short bit.

Helen inspecting arkosic conglomerates...

in the Cutler Formation (Early Permian) that crops out below Porcupine Rim in Castle Valley, Utah (click to enlarge):
And here she's taking a closer look at some of the larger clasts in an effort to determine their composition, sphericity and roundness:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Helen gazing across the axis...

of a collapsed salt-cored anticline in Castle Valley, Utah during a mid-day walkabout. She's most likely pondering the thickness of the alluvial valley fill on top of the Paradox Formation (Pennsylvanian; named from exposures in the nearby Paradox Valley).

Helen examining large-scale crossbeds...

in the Navajo Sandstone (Late Triassic - Early Jurassic) in Negro Bill Canyon near Moab, Utah.  She is no doubt pondering the paleowind direction that transported and deposited sands in this ancient eolian environment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our arrival in Castle Valley...

for the holidays was rewarded with this rich sunset on Monday evening (click to enlarge). But the real fun began the following day when Rachel and I introduced Helen to the red rock environment as we set off on an intrepid exploration of the Fisher Towers area:
Stay tuned as I chronicle our experiences during desert doggie boot camp as we shape Helen into a slick rock-climbing, trail-walking, stream-leaping, canyon explorer in the days ahead. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's field work Friday...

again, the last of the year, as I go about my monthly rounds measuring water levels in monitoring wells in the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer.  I'll bring my spreadsheet up-to-date and post a time-series graphic of the complete data set in the new year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Be happy...

by getting dirty:  Are Depressed People Too Clean?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

The morning march...

of California Quail (Callipepla californica) to my winter feeding station is a sight to behold, especially when they arrive by the hundreds.  Here are just two early arrivals, with their feathery coats puffed up against the winter chill.

A perfect hideaway...

to escape the stress of an increasingly industrialized world: Unabomber's Montana land for sale; 'very secluded'.  Hurry!  The price has been reduced.

And here's more about the former infamous resident.

Hat tip: the Bu bro.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Administrative bloat at American universities...

is responsible for the high costs of higher education.  Pull quote:
"Leading public universities were also already administrative-heavy in 1993, but the rate of growth in administrative employment was even higher than the growth in educators, leaving these institutions even more administrator heavy in 2007 (see Figure 6 and Table A1). Full-time employment in the instructional, research and service category grew by 9.8 percent between 1993 and 2007, but the number of full-time administrators grew at nearly four times that rate - 39.0 percent. It now takes 39.0 percent more full-time administrators to manage the same number of students than it did in 1993."
That certainly is the history at EWU during the last 20 years (although I can't say the percentage growth is the exactly the same as that reported in the article, but it is on par based on institutional data I examined several years ago.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

NASA donating surplus space shuttle tiles...

to schools and universities, and I've just completed the application process to obtain one for EWU.  Fingers crossed.

UPDATE:  Seems like we'll get one at EWU.  Christmas comes early!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tiger stripes on Enceladus...

as seen in the infrared seem to coincide with the fractures that release jets of water vapor and ice particles (click to enlarge).  Here's the full story:  Cassini Finds Warm Cracks on Enceladus.

RELATED: Cassini Captures Bright Jets At Enceladus.

Spokane breaks record...

for snowiest November with 25.9 inches. The previous record stood since 1955, and I personally hope for a similarly snowy December.

Lucky Friday mine expands...

in response to surging silver prices, as explained in this video/slideshow.

UPDATE: High prices, booming silver industry bankroll mine’s expansion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sharp-lensed imager...

named MAHLI will yield similar views when it arrives on Mars (click to enlarge to full resolution):
The metal spheres seen in the test image are 2 mm in diameter, and I can clearly see both quartz and feldspar grains, as well as fragments of basalt and pumice.  The MAHLI camera (the Mars Hand Lens Imager) will be attached to the articulated arm on the Mars Science Laboratory, to be launched toward the red planet in 2011.

A 400 year old murder mystery...

Murder! Intrigue! Astronomers?

Spoiler: It was the astronomer's assistant, in the observatory, with mercury poison.

Astrobiology discovery news conference...

has been scheduled by NASA for Thursday, 2 December in order "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

Hmm.  Has evidence for some weird form of life been discovered on Titan?

Monday, November 29, 2010

An absolutely surreal image of Phobos...

over Mars captured by the Mars Express orbiter (click to enlarge):
Note that this is a real image, and not the stuff of computer graphics.

Good question...

during the holiday season:  Which Shipping Company is Kindest to Your Packages?

One of the snowiest...

Novembers in eastern Washington is in the making, as evidenced by this shot behind my cottage in the forest:
Helen is quite happy playing in the snow:
And she's taken to cross-country skiing, too, following Rachel and me around the half-mile track we've created out the back door:
Maybe I should hang a bottle of whiskey around her neck during these winter adventures.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Manhunt in Moab...

is underway for a man who shot a ranger late Friday night.  Where are you, Anna Pigeon?

UPDATE:  Rifle found. The dude should just give it up.  He'll either get cliffed-out or have to swim the Colorado River.

UPDATED UPDATE:  Some images of the crime scene, and a bloody t-shirt found.

EVENING UPDATE:  Search for fugitive shooter scaled back for the night.  Overnight forecast calls for 38 °F and 60% chance of rain.

SUNDAY MORNING:  Search resumes.

MONDAY MORNING:  Suspect has been named and the search continues.

TUESDAY:  Search area narrows (with video).

28 NOV:  Moab ranger remains stabilized, search discontinued.  I believe the shooter is dead, hidden in a sandstone crevice, somewhere south of the potash mine.

Cometary blizzard...

surrounds Hartley 2 in this contrast-enhanced image taken by the EPOXI spacecraft during its recent flyby:

Read more here about the numerous carbon dioxide-jetting vents you can see in this amazing image.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's field work Friday...

on the Rathdrum Prairie in Idaho today, and I was able to finally measure groundwater levels in all the monitoring wells and the equipment functioned perfectly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing with fire at the LHC...

First Antimatter Atoms Created and Trapped.

This can't possibly end well (I've seen the movie).

Image courtesy UPI and CERN.

I wish mine worked better...

Human Brain Has More Switches Than All Computers on Earth

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Field camp organizational meeting...

is being held this Thursday (18 Nov) at noon in SCI 110.  If you are an EWU geology student and are planning on enrolling in GEOL 490 - Geology Field Camp - during summer 2011 then you must attend this important meeting.

/end public service announcement

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coevolution of rocks and life...

My Grandson the Rock. And here's the paper that inspired the linked article: Mineral Evolution.

Hat tip: JT

Feds criticized...

in fight against killer bat disease.

Remember, bats need friends.

Wise words...

Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.

-- Albert Szent-Gyorgi

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Face off...

between Helen and Nadine, in Missoula, Montana this past weekend.

Misplaced priorities...

Bad Signs at EWU

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shuttle launch delayed...

yet again: Fuel Leak Delays Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.  Sunday is the new target date for lift off.

Meanwhile, while we wait, check out this nifty infographic about the STS.

UPDATE:  Forget about it until the end of the month.

Matrimony Spring saga continues...

State Denies Moab Man’s Application for Matrimony Spring Water Right

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kindergarten is the most important year...

of your life according to a new study.  Here's a bite from the abstract:
"Kindergarten test scores are highly correlated with outcomes such as earnings at age 27, college attendance, home ownership, and retirement savings."

Hmm.  Maybe I could have been more successful if I had only studied harder during the first year of my education.  Though I do remember seeing a geode and a dinosaur track in a sandstone slab in second grade, and that clearly left a mark on me.

Spectacular encounter with comet Hartley 2...

by the EPOXI spacecraft today yields fantastic early images (click to enlarge):
Here's the link to the EPOXI mission web site where there are more images of the venting comet.  And here's a nice short article: New Super Close-Up Images From Comet Flyby, and an informative video.

UPDATE:  Here are several of the best views in a NASA graphic (click to enlarge):
And here's a neato animation using the time sequenced images.

Autumn colors on display...

at the EWU campus, just a few steps outside my office (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Alien initiative rejected by voters...

in Denver, Colorado.  Here's the web site for Initiative 300, and it has nothing to do with illegal and/or undocumented workers.

I guess the residents of Denver aren't ready for "the truth."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wise words...

One of the quickest ways to find out if you are wrong is to state what you believe.

--Penn Jillette

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I'm reading...

right now:  The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks at New Skete.  Why, you ask?

Rachel adopted this Australian Cattle Dog mix - a Red Heeler - just a week ago, now only nine weeks old, and now named Helen (in homage to Rachel's aunt):

Magnificent panorama...

of the Milky Way by St├ęphane Guisard. Spectacular comes to mind.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grizzly versus bison...

in Yellowstone National Park:  The Rest of the Story.

Hat tip:  RT.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stunning view of the Sun...

through a hydrogen-alpha filter: The Making of a Mind-Blowing DIY Sun Photo (click to enlarge).

Image credit:  Alan Friedman.

It's field work Friday once again...

and I hope equipment problems don't interfere with my groundwater level measurements in monitoring wells in the Rathdrum Prairie, Idaho.

UPDATE:  It was not to be.  More equipment issues.  Doh.

Spirit keeps on giving...

Sleeping Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Liquid Water

Monday, October 25, 2010

If you're curious about "Curiosity"...

and the progress being made in assembling the next generation Mars rover, then click into a live web cam to see what the bunny-suited technicians are up to at the moment:  Watch NASA's Next Mars Rover Being Built Via Live 'Curiosity Cam'.

Though the Mars Science Laboratory project is interesting, this is about as much fun as watching grass grow.  Or paint dry.

Yes, absolutely...

Was Moore's Law Inevitable?

RELATED (and humorous):   So Amazing, But Nobody is Happy.

GPS fail...

Credit: the WSJ.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What I'm reading...

right now: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. My preliminary conclusion is that, as a good friend's father points out, "in life it's better to be lucky than smart."

Happy Birthday Earth...

Oct. 22, 4004 B.C.: Universe Usshered In.

That's right, according to Archbishop James Ussher, Creation occurred at nightfall on this day, 6,014 years ago (apparently there was no year 0).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet the critters hanging around...

my place on this pleasant mid-autumn afternoon. First, here's Jerry, one of the two male llamas my neighbors have recently acquired. I will enjoy their company and it will be interesting to observe their behavior without having to actually engage in the chores necessary to keep them.
And here's a great horned owl, watching me take the image of Jerry.

Slash burning at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge...

this afternoon is responsible for enormous clouds of ash and smoke rising into the atmosphere, partially obscuring the Sun, as seen from my cottage in the forest southwest of Cheney, Washington.  This doesn't seem to be a very environmentally responsible practice these days, especially if you have a respiratory problem, but it does make for a good photograph.  Let's hope they keep it under control.

Dire situation for the nation's bat population...

Racing to Save Bats From Catastrophic Extinction, Biologists Turn to New Tools

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

But it's not available on the Kindle...

New Handbook Helps Newly Undead Zombies Adjust.

If you find your skin decomposing and suddenly have a craving for brains, here's the link for the book at my favorite on-line bookseller.

Plus a previous related zombie post.

RELATED: When Will the Great Zombie Bubble Burst?

The field trip to Upriver Dam...

on the Spokane River this afternoon provided the ENVS 100 class an opportunity to examine where several modern wells pump large volumes of groundwater from the Spokane aquifer.  It's at this location that the aquifer was first discovered in the early 1900s, and here's a look inside the original dug well.

Today, the Well Electric station operates near the discovery site, and here's a shot showing an older centrifugal pump (left) and two modern turbine pumps (right), capable of pumping millions of gallons of water per day:
At the bottom of each of the turbine shafts is a rapidly spinning impeller, used to force the water up the shaft and into the water supply system:
All of the City of Spokane's water system is controlled from this station, including the operation of its seven wells and numerous storage reservoirs and major valves: