Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another great interweb diversion...

Since I'm yet again behind on my updates, I offer this little gem of a blog to keep you entertained. Cake Wrecks. I can't take any credit for finding it; Rachel read about it in the New York Times, and has since spread the love. Start at the beginning, or preview some goodies: remember bandit the crayfish? Here is his cake-likeness. Cars on the cake brings back fond memories of birthday cakes from my youth. In fairness, though, those cakes were FABULOUS - We had cars, and rocket ships and edge-to-edge M&M tiling. Go Mom! AND, they were exactly what we wanted. Not sure the same can be said for all of these cakes, though.....

Here's a lovely example of a recent personal "cake wreck." Well, it wasn't a total wreck, and this wasn't the finished product, but it was a chocolate cheesecake designed to be a mid-ocean spreading ridge, complete with the magnetic anomalies. Imagine it baked, with the center line scooped out, and filled with strawberry jam.... Megan and I designed this for the earth science picnic - it could have qualified in "best chocolate dessert," "creative use of cheese" and "best geologically themed food item," but we designed it hoping to win the Trifecta. Only later did we find out we could only qualify in one category, not all three.

(preparing to pour the batter over the basalt, I mean crust, I mean..)


Ok, I tried to get back to lecture-making, but this site is too good. A couple more examples. Check this one out to see a preview of the Yeti's defense cake. AND, she pays homage to talk like a pirate day. New favorite interweb distraction.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why am I paying rent?

(It's a long day in the lab when the wrenches come out)

After Washington, I spent a good two weeks in Santa Cruz before I left again, this time for a work trip to Pasadena. All in all, it was a great trip. It turns out that when a machine gets "automated," no one wants to use the old, manual machine. SO, I had it all to myself and had 10 extraordinarily good days in the lab. The metric of success these days isn't actually how many samples get measured in total, but how many I manage to get onto the mass spec compared with how many I start cleaning. Typically, I ruin or flush away (let me clarify: on a vaccuum line, not the toilet) at least one sample for every 3 days in the lab. This trip, I had a perfect record, despite still doing a few stupid things on the line. This also probably means I used up 6 months to a year of good lab karma...

I even managed to take the weekend off to play in southern LA with my friend since 1st grade, Lundi. She showed me some of the classics: the hollywood walk of fame (yes, there is still a mob around MJ's star), Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills. After getting foiled in our attempt to see an outdoor free concert at The Getty, we consumed a nice bottle of wine on the Santa Monica beach and caught up on the last three years or so.
(I get Britney)
(Lundi gets Kermit)
(molested blocks of cement. Oh, I mean famous blocks of cement)
(this is a guy's personal semi being valet parked.... I thought about asking him if I could borrow it to use as my field vehicle, but he didn't seem very friendly)

Got back to smoky Santa Cruz and am just trying to make the most of the week and half at home before I leave for 3 weeks in the field. Cross your fingers for good fire karma for that trip!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

STP and then some

(a gorgeous day out on Lake Washington)

Since I've already forgotten the details of the Death Valley trip, I may as well skip straight to vacation and then maybe some day I'll post about Death Valley (aka you may never hear about death valley....). So, a couple of Mondays ago (and despite some last minute travel complexities regarding the end of the mountie's clutch - ouch!) Calla and Pete and I made it to Seattle in a day without too much trouble and managed not to lose the bikes. Spent 4 nice days with the family; caught up on some sleep, racked the far recesses of my brain trying to remember the names of My Little Ponies,
(um, firebolt? Morning glory? Maybe we should just put them in costumes...)

caught up with Grandmama,
(grandmama is now officially on the interweb!)
(da fam)

and even managed to get out sailing.
(who was the crazy monkey who let me steer?)(crazy monkey)

Bright and early Saturday morning, Calla, her family, her friend Kylan and I joined ~10,000 other people on a bike ride to Portland. We had beautiful weather all day Saturday, and arrived in Centralia happy, a little tired and wicked hungry.
(Calla, her family and their two tag-alongs)

As an aside, of the the various endurance sports and outdoor pursuits I've participated in, cycling wins the prize for making me want (need?) to eat the most (followed closely by skiing). One rootbeer float, plate of spaghetti, polish sausage and bag of cheetos later, the food coma set in and we all crashed by 9:00. Sunday found us with not such nice weather, but we learned how to dodge the rooster tails created by the rider in front of us. (Kylan and Calla wait with the masses to cross the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Oregon)

(the after photo)

Anyway, a rewarding experience and I feel especially lucky to have shares it with Calla's family. Also entertained and impressed by the HUGE variety of folks out for the ride, and the unicyclist who made it (apparently with the original goal of doing it in a day!). Don't worry, Christie, it wasn't Dubin.

Mom and Dad patiently waited in the rain for us at the finish, and then we headed to Manzanita Beach out on the coast, to join Dan and Helene and Audrey for a couple of nights. More relaxing, though I read an issue of Vanity Fair from cover to cover, that had some great pieces about Palin, AIG, and the implosion of Harvard's endowment and found some of that mildly distressing. If a school like Harvard can find itself with a budget deficit of $220 million, what will happen to the already cashed strapped institutions like the UC system? Well, we're quickly finding out... Playing on the beach and drawing with sidewalk chalk helped, though, as well as a nice trip to the Tillamook cheese factory (mmmm, fresh cheese curds!).
(conquering crabs)
(I only remember agreeing to have my feet buried. Big brothers ALWAYS escalate....)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thoughts on the scientific process

I know I've been promising Death Valley pictures and stories, but have gotten a little bogged down. I'm heading to Pasadena this weekend however, so I'll have some random bits of time to kill in the lab and will post, I promise. In the meantime, a friend posted this link on facebook, so I thought I'd share it with you all. I'd say misplaced competition is my biggest complaint with science (I'm sure it really applies to most of academics though) so it was interesting to see the results of someone who made the conscious decision to try to play well with others.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quarter Collage

(Pacific Madrone in Castle Rock State Park. My favorite tree here in California)

Since everything from winter quarter is out of order anyway, here is the amalgamated happenings from the rest of quarter. I guess spring break will get its own post.

There were some nice hikes. Some were rainy, some were complete with slugs and newts and some even had sun breaks and friends from long ago and far away.

(Rachel and Leighton conquer slippery rock)
(slug love)
(Leighton models the latest in slugwear. Look for it at the bookstore soon...)

Greta came from the cold, snowy east for a visit and California was nice enough to bless her with reasonably nice, sunny weather for February. Don't think the reservoirs were happy about that though.
(old friends in a cave)
(checking out the rain from Castle Rocks State Park. We lucked out)

The annual cocktail party.....
(pretty much sums up the evening)

The annual Tahoe weekend. Great weather, and the advent of snow-suzie sticks? Don't know, but it adds an element of challenge to the game when you're supposed to catch the cup one-handed, no body trapping. To wear mittens (and most certainly fumble) or go bare-handed (and certainly lose feeling and fumble)? Tough call.
(Pascale gearing up for the throw)
(Pete and Dai gear up for some heckling)
(gorgeous view of Lake Donner)

And, a glimpse at what I've spent most of my time doing: dealing with these lovely rock specimens. Paleosol carbonates at their finest. Sectioned, glued in epoxy and drilled. Yes! Witness the magic. The first chapter on these lovely nuggets of science is finally in the editing process and hopefully will be submitted for review SOON! End of the month, maybe? Yay!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Zealand, part something until the end

(Ah, January in New Zealand. Does not suck)

Ok, we're just going to truck through the whirlwind of the rest of the trip. We parted ways with the big group in Auckland and Ellen and I soldiered on. First, we went back south to the Waitomo Caves to participate in the infamous cave rafting. Bottom line: put on a wetsuit, crazy-big shorts, helmet and headlamp and an innertube and float down some underground river. It was fun. And really cold. And you see "glow worms" which aren't REAL glow worms. They are just the larvae of some moths that have bioluminescence. For obvious reasons, I don't have any pictures.

Then we headed to Tongariro National Park, home of a volcano paradise and home to the volcano that played Mt. Doom in those movies about Hobbits. Our attempt to do the alpine crossing was thwarted by rain, so we did a short, nice, rainy waterfall hike instead. I could see hobbits appearing at any point.....
(the volcanoes in Tongariro. or most of it...)

(a waterfall)
(a giant carrot. found while entertaining ourselves instead of hiking in Tongariro)
(sweet, sweet volcanic deposits. Wonder where they came from??)

(Lake Taupo, aka large caldera. Apparently the result of a VERY LARGE eruption that happened ~1800 years ago.)

After Tongariro, we headed north to the Bay of Islands. On the way, we found a lovely little beach. For some reason, I felt a special affinity for this place. Hmm.(Yay! Who knew we had a beach in New Zealand!)
(ripples on my beach. check out the shell fragments collecting in the troughs!)

(Goat Island. Scene of some snorkeling)

The Bay of Islands was beautiful. Gorgeous water, beaches and we saw bottlenose dolphins, and one little blue penguin. We rode the boat through the hole in the rock and got a lot of sunshine.

(Kind of reminds me of something out of a Bond movie. Any minute, the wall is going to open up in the rock and reveal a nuclear weapon...)

Finally, we stopped through a Kauri forest on the way back to Auckland. Kauri trees are native to New Zealand, but were heavily logged. The Kauri forest has some very old, very big old growth trees.
(this tree is 16 meters in circumference!!! That would take ~12 people, joining hands, to completely ring the tree!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Zealand, Part 1: Wellington and the escape north

(Huka Falls. That gorgeous turquouise water is the result of extra natural filtering from all the volcanic rocks that the water passes through. A LOT of the water looks like this!)

Ok, I'm finally going to post about the New Zealand trip. Sorry for the delay. Going through the photos overwhelmed me just a bit......

Arrived in Wellington (southern-most city on the north island) on January 11th, for a conference on climates and biota from when the dinosaurs died (65 Ma. in case any of you are shaky on your geologic history) until we had ice on the poles (roughly the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, ~34 Ma.). So that means it was a conference devoted to studying greenhouse climates. It was great! Gave a talk, and there were only about 150 people who attended, so it was a really nice size.

(View of Wellington)

To me, the best conference tidbit was a sneak preview about a tropical temperature reconstruction made from a giant prehistoric snake. The thing is huge: they estimate it weighed around a ton, was 13 meters long and up to almost a meter in diameter! If you didn't hear this already, check out the NPR story about it from early February.

Amazing in its own right, but it also bears on climate. Snakes can only get really large when the climate is really warm (that whole cold-blooded thing). Tropical temperature reconstructions have been a problematic area for awhile - how do you heat up the poles without heating the tropics, which is what many of the paleoclimate records suggest up to this point? Do the tropics actually have some kind of intrinsic thermostat or are our proxy techniques failing us somehow? Climate models have a lot of trouble getting the poles to warm without heating the tropics..... So, this particular story suggests that the tropics were much hotter back in the day than other records suggest, simply based on the size of this snake. And yes, in the talk, they referred to this as "Giant Snake Paleothermometry." Awesome. AND, the presenter even wondered out loud whether this would help him impress J. Lo. I love my job.

(An esteemed researcher of early Paleogene climates. Perhaps he thought he was riding the giant snake?)

Enough about the conference. Wellington was a nice city, not unlike some California port cities. The conference was held in the conference center of Te Papa, which is also a natural history museum. Sadly, I missed the exhibit on the Colossal Squid.

We finished up the conference on the 16th, and I took off with some other attendees to work our way north to Auckland, to drop a couple of folks off at the airport. The first day, we drove to Hamilton, and saw a lot on the way. Drove by Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mt. Doom) in Tongariro National Park, stopped along the shores of Lake Taupo (which is an old caldera) for ice cream, saw Huka Falls and stopped at the Waikite Valley Thermal pools for a soak before driving the rest of the way to Hamilton.
(the source of the heat for the thermal pools)
(Waikite Valley Thermal Pools)
(Turns out baby ferns look like monkey tails)
(This weird texture felt like rubber, but apparently is what the actual leaves grow from?)
(just an odd bird with a fantastic hair-do)

Next day, we headed from Hamilton to the west coast, to a town called Raglan. On the way we stopped at Bridal Veil falls, which is now the second Bridal Veil Falls I've seen that is also associated with columnar basalt (quick, can anyone guess where the first one is?).
(Bridal Veil Falls. It you have a good eye, you can pick out the columnar jointing of the basalt that makes up the cliff)

After that, we headed into Raglan, a cute little laid-back surf town (wait a minute......), and went kayaking and swimming.
(geologists at the beach.....)
(limestone cliff blocks that had fallen into the water)(paddling among the limestone cliff blocks)

Next day, we headed into Auckland, dropped some folks off at the airport, then rented a car and headed back south.... Stay tuned.