Well, I'm Back

Thought I’d best check in and let you all know I made it home. The drive home through sheets of standing water on the freeways was interesting, which meant I never even came close to getting sleepy. When I got in, the cat freaked out and I discovered some rat bastard had stolen an hour from me. Judging from my Twitter stream, many of my friends experienced the same loss. It must be an international ring – or Daylight Savings Time.

I am now lodged in bed with a clingy cat trying to think of ways to get other people to bring me a burger from Teddy’s Bigger Burger. I’d post some photos, but the computer’s in the other room. Don’t wanna walk to get it. Don’t ever wanna walk again. Not until the next geotrip.

While I recover, you can check out @lockwooddewitt on Twitter for photos and snippets. He’ll have you covered. I’ll have something up tonight, but it’ll probably be photos with comments like “Pretty!” or “Shiny!” or similar, as my brain is pretty much flatlining.

But I think you’ll agree when you see the results that body aches, brain death, and turning my cat from a proudly homicidal independent entity into a pathetic mass of insecurity was totally worth it.

Well, I'm Back

Vintage Verdad: The Crash of Continents, the Whisper of Water

Vintage Verdad Week continues with a paen to the professor who rekindled my passion for geology, and taught me that knowing the way the worlds work is essential to an SF author who wants to get it right.

Permian Riviera

I grew up near the seashore.  Of course, the last time we could’ve played in the surf was 92 million years ago, back in the Late Cretaceous, and oceanfront property values in Arizona would’ve been abysmal when most of our land got deposited, considering we weren’t exactly oceanfront.  More like ocean bottom.  I played on rocks that got their start in life 270 million years ago in the Middle Permian, when a shallow sea covered the land in a great diagonal from Nevada to Mexico.  Not that I knew a thing about it.  Didn’t even see the sea until I was fourteen, and didn’t realize until some time after that I’d been in intimate contact with the sea floor very nearly my entire life.

The things I know now.

Continue reading “Vintage Verdad: The Crash of Continents, the Whisper of Water”

Vintage Verdad: The Crash of Continents, the Whisper of Water

Vintage Verdad: The Columns Became

Vintage Verdad Week continues with one of my personal favorites. I always love a good meme; when I find a meme and a killer awesome quote that coincide, I love it even more. And columns? Teh awesome!


Inspired by an incipient meme.

Columns were things that happened to other people.

That was the impression I got growing up in Arizona, anyway.  I thought they were rare and exquisite creatures, too exotic for my lowly home state.  I’d see images of things like Devils Tower and Giant’s Causeway in textbooks, and figure that was about it for volcanic columns in the world.  I could see things like block-and-ash flows, aa, pahoehoe, and cinder fields, but as far as crisp columns marching through a lava flow, I had no luck at all.  To this day, I’m not even sure if there’s anywhere in Arizona where you can see such a thing.  They certainly weren’t in evidence in the areas I tromped as a child.

So you can imagine my surprise when I moved up here to the Northwest and discovered columns are pretty much a dime a dozen.  Throw a rockhammer at a lava flow, and it probably won’t land too far away from a nice group of columns.  I’m still excited when I see them, though.

Ye olde introduction to columns has been a process of gradual revelation.  First came basalt.  Basalt was another revelation.  I’d known in a vague sort of way about things like the Deccan and Siberian Traps and our very own Columbia River Basalts, but for some reason, I hadn’t thought much about the appearance of flood basalts.  We had trickle basalts if we had anything, so I was used to basalt flows being small, thin creatures (though, believe me, they don’t seem small and thin when you’re scrambling around the aa at Sunset Crater.  My granddad lost his leg to that lava – true story.  It can be serious stuff indeed).  So early this summer, I stuffed ye olde intrepid companion in the car and went to have a look.

Continue reading “Vintage Verdad: The Columns Became”

Vintage Verdad: The Columns Became

Vintage Verdad: Shocking Truth About Aftershocks

Vintage Verdad Week continues with this November 2009 post. I used to do a series called Sunday Sensational Science, which went by the wayside when I started blogging science more often than politics and religious stupidity. I like this old post. It’s got Ed Yong in it. And, living in a subduction zone, earthquakes are nearly as in-your-face as volcanoes.

This post has been lightly edited, but mostly left in its original glory (or lack thereof).

Foreshock – Main Shock – Aftershock Sequence. Image courtesy USGS

We’ve discussed earthquakes before, and everybody’s probably pretty aware of the fact that when you have an earthquake, you’re probably going to have an aftershock.  Or two.  Or two dozen.  Most of us think those aftershocks will last, at most, a few days.

New studies suggest that some aftershocks will go on – are you ready for this? – for a few centuries:

Continue reading “Vintage Verdad: Shocking Truth About Aftershocks”

Vintage Verdad: Shocking Truth About Aftershocks

My MacLargeHuge Geo Post Now Up on the Scientific American Guest Blog!

Yep. That’s me, (dis)gracing the electronic pages of Scientific American with a guest post: “ “Mélange et Trois”. The super-sekrit project is sekrit no more.

I’m sorry I was so coy about it, but it was one of those things where you don’t want to make the announcement until it’s actually happened just in case. It wasn’t quite superstition, more like, “I can’t believe this is happening until I see it go live. Then I’ll know I wasn’t just dreaming the whole thing, or experiencing a reading comprehension epic fail.”

Mais non, there it is.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. I’m deeply grateful to Bora for giving me this opportunity, and representing my beloved geology on Scientific America’s site is fantastic beyond words. But I’d never have gotten here if it wasn’t for my geos. Those folks in the geoblogosphere who claimed me as one of their own made this happen. Bora, who is blogfather to so many and gave me early encouragement by picking up the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards on its maiden and subsequent voyages, made this happen. The folks on FreethoughtBlogs who brought me on made this happen. You, my dear readers, made this happen. Because without all of you – the geobloggers, blogfather Bora, my fellow FreethoughtBloggers, and the people who actually read this blog – things like doing up maclargehuge guest posts for Scientific American just aren’t possible.

¡Muchas gracias!

My MacLargeHuge Geo Post Now Up on the Scientific American Guest Blog!

Vintage Verdad: Life on the Rocks

Vintage Verdad week continues with a retrospective explaining how I ended up obsessed by geology.


This whole post started because Lockwood asked me a question on Facebook:

Where was your profile photo taken? Those are some rocks I would classify as Om Nom Nom.

That was pretty much my response when I first saw ’em.  That’s the South Bluff at Discovery Park.

 Moi at Discovery Park.  All photos taken by my intrepid companion Cujo359, unless otherwise noted.

I still remember standing before it the first time.  It looks like nothing but compacted sand from a distance, but up close, you find it’s actually sandstone.  I stood there tracing its bedding planes with my hands.  It surprised me with its cool, slightly damp, almost smooth but a touch gritty feel.  I’m used to rocks in the sun being hot.  The waves that carved our stones stopped breaking millions of years ago, in most cases.  Here, water’s still busy sculpting.  Dear old South Bluff is probably just a brief blip on the radar, a mayfly in geological terms.  The waves will wear it away in time.  Most people think of stone as somehow permanent, just like I used to.  But the vast majority of it is ephemeral, destined to be worn away to sand and soil again, perhaps buried and melted.  Some of it will end up stuffed into a subduction zone, some will end up metamorphosed and barely recognizable.  But that first moment, coming upon this, is for me eternal.

Continue reading “Vintage Verdad: Life on the Rocks”

Vintage Verdad: Life on the Rocks

Vintage Verdad: Oregon Geology Parte the First: Astoria or Bust

I’m off in Oregon with Lockwood, pounding rocks. While I’m collecting more geological goodness for your viewing pleasure, I figured I’d post some vintage Verdad for the new folk and for the regulars who haven’t seen these old posts for some time. It’s a good thing, too – in the process of selection, I discovered a hefty chunk of ye olde archives didn’t transfer over here, and among those left behind is this, the post that set me feet firmly on the rocky path they walk today.


You know, this almost didn’t happen.  Tonight, the cat decided she loved the notebook all my notes resided in, and removing my cat from the object of her affections can be fatal.  I mean, does this really look like a feline inclined to relinquish the goods?

Fortunately for all involved, I was able to lure her away by opening the door to the porch.  Now that summer’s here, she’s almost as addicted to the outdoors as I am.  And so, at long last, I can present to you the first installment of our multi-part series on Oregon Geology.  Come join me after the jump for the geologic journey to Astoria.

Continue reading “Vintage Verdad: Oregon Geology Parte the First: Astoria or Bust”

Vintage Verdad: Oregon Geology Parte the First: Astoria or Bust

Musical Monday, With Musings on Geological Research

I am fried. I know it looks like I was writing blog posts all last week, but actually, I’d written those in a frantic two-day session over the previous weekend. I’ve spent the week reading paper after paper in preparation for the biggest post of my blogging career. I don’t want to say anything until it happens, but watch this space for the news.

I’ve now finished reading. Notes are arranged, photos mostly chosen. I wish I could say I was eminently knowledgeable about my chosen subject, but it’s the bloody North Cascades. Confusing as hell when you scratch around beneath the surface. Still, I feel I’ve figured out enough to write semi-intelligibly, perhaps even semi-intelligently, about them. And I’ve rediscovered my adoration for the reading of scientific papers. You might be surprised when I tell you this, but one of my favorites was Brown et al, “Revised ages of blueschist metamorphism and the youngest pre-thrusting rocks in the San Juan Islands, Washington.” It’s beautifully written, and it’s fascinating – you’d think a paper about dating rocks would be boring, but it’s far from it. More like a geological detective story. And I will blog it one day.

Continue reading “Musical Monday, With Musings on Geological Research”

Musical Monday, With Musings on Geological Research

Moar Weapons-Grade Cute

My fellow FtBers have gotten involved. Wars, even tongue-in-cheek-not-really-hostile hostilities have a way of doing that. WWIII may not be fought with guns, but with pictures of fuzzy animals. No one will be spared.

At Zingularity, you can read The Truth About Cats and Dogs. That’s the neat thing about conflicts, sometimes: science happens. In this case, you can explore the evolution of cats and dogs, and get a disheartening view of what another 40,000 generations of artificial selection may do to felids. Shudder. I think it’s already happening – Tonkinese are, after all, known as cat-dogs for their doggish personalities. I can speak from experience: they are like having a canine in a feline body. My former roommate’s Tonk actually played fetch. Not the cat version, where the cat chases the object thrown and then makes you come get it, but the dog version, wherein the item is brought to you for further throwing. It was a sad sight. I expect cats to be more imperious.

Anyway. Natalie Reed is trying to divert us with lemurs, and hoping this cat-vs-dog atheist rift doesn’t cause a full-on schism. It shouldn’t. We have one important thing in common: we like animals. Except for those of us who don’t, but they’re not on this faux-battlefield, so who cares?

However, as chief of staff for a felid, I have to say that I believe there is no contest. When it comes to domesticated pets, cats are cutest. Also, the most evil. Evil and cute – how can anyone resist that combo?

Without further diversions, then, I shall unleash more weapons-grade cute from the arsenal.

Sleeping Kitten. I don't care what your argument is: it's invalid.

Continue reading “Moar Weapons-Grade Cute”

Moar Weapons-Grade Cute