It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Some things have changed, but more remain the same. As geologists spend time in the field they will undoubtedly find interesting things (other than rocks, which of course are always the most interesting of things), and will want to share pictures of these things with anyone willing to look at them. I thought sharing those pictures might be a good way to start back posting more regularly to this blog. So, with that in mind, here are a few of the unusual things I have seen in the field this past season.
I was going to put descriptions of all of these, and then I thought it might be more interesting to see what other people can come up with as explanation of what they see. Feel free to comment and caption.
I will be doing a more substantial write up of the experiences of this year’s camp soon.
…does that mean that climate change is a hoax? Have rising temperatures leveled off or even reversed?
It remains to be seen if temps have leveled off, but the thought that a period of cooler weather is proof that the climate as a whole is not changing still seems to be unfounded. It reminds me a little of what was happening in early 2010 when I wrote this blog entry. At the time, there were people trying to convince others that cold weather and snow in January meant that the warming trend was over. Unfortunately for that argument, 2010 went on to be the warmest year on record.
Having cold weather for a few weeks is not a sign that warming isn’t happening, it’s a sign that it’s still Winter. We hope that there is still a few weeks out of every year that we have cold weather.
It was 80 degrees last weekend and it will be in the 70’s in a week or so. It’s still a very good bet that we will be wishing for these temps by July.
Core samples of Arkansas limestone. Oolitic/pisolitic textures. Stylolites. Soft sediment deformation. Anhydrite inclusions. Stuff that I think is pretty.
Notice ghost orbs on last pic. Apparently this formation is haunted.
…that’s what Lance Armstrong got out of me last week.
I had spent countless hours watching him and others ride incredible distances over incredibly daunting terrain. Countless more hours were spent listening to him talk about the people who were trying to bring him down and their false accusations. Days, weeks, and likely months were spent supporting and defending him to friends and acquaintances.
At a certain point, the tone of the watching and listening changed for me. Perhaps it was after watching Armstrong chase down Filippo Simeoni on a strategically meaningless break away and the “zipping of the lips” gesture he made afterward. It might have been the way Armstrong attacked Betsy Andreu and her husband Frankie, who it seemed to me was as loyal and trustworthy a person as could be found in the peloton. Greg LeMond. Tyler Hamilton. Floyd Landis. Emma O’Reilly. The list of people accusing him grew and grew and seemed to be filling with people who were credible and had no reason to try and bring Armstrong down other than those proposed by the wrecking crew Armstrong hired to destroy anyone who dared tell a different story. It could have been the things about his personal relationships that came to light. Leaving his first wife, apparently leaving Sheryl Crow after she was diagnosed with cancer, even betraying his long-time friend Owen Wilson with Kate Hudson. All signs pointed to someone who wasn’t worthy of many hours spent defending him.
But I still watched and listened, even if I stopped defending so vehemently. I wanted to believe, even though it was difficult to if I was honest with myself. Still I watched and listened through the remainder of his career.
So, when the interview with Oprah was scheduled and the content of it was made known, I planned to watch and listen. Nothing that was said during the interview was a surprise, of course. His demeanor was not even too surprising, though it was damning corroboration of his much less than admirable personality.
Armstrong could have chosen to be truly brave long ago and stand up for the sport he claims to love. He could have honored that sport by being a leader in trying to clean it up for future generations. He would almost definitely have been forgiven if he had been man enough to own up to his actions and face the consequences. Instead he had chosen to lie unfailingly and to destroy any who dared contradict his story. Only when he had nowhere else to turn did he choose to conveniently admit only those transgressions that were no longer punishable by statute of limitations. His credibility is less than nothing at this point.
I was a fan of cycling before Lance, and I will remain one. This year on April 7th I will be anxiously following the traverse of those treacherous cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, and it’s very likely in the heat of July I will be paying attention to the daily results coming from le Tour. I will still occasionally pop in worn old tapes of Breaking Away and American Flyers, much to the chagrin of my lovely wife. He didn’t ruin the sport for me even though he may have damaged it greatly for much of the U.S. population. There are still great stories of legitimate triumph to tell. I will spend countless hours in the future watching and listening to those stories…
…but, for me, these were the last hours of attention I plan to give to his story.
I recently returned from a three week geology field camp in Colorado/New Mexico. This is my second summer to take part in this camp and my first as TA/camp cook. There are lessons to be learned, both in the role of student and the role I played this year. Here is my attempt to examine some of those lessons.
First, as a student.
It’s an impressive thing when you realize how much we can tell about what is happening below the surface, and through that understanding the ancient processes that formed the land, simply by examining rocks at outcrop. Geologic principles and field methods actually being put into practice to uncover hidden structures and emplacement mechanisms give the air of magic and art to the science. It is something that has always appealed to me. Putting that knowledge and those principles into practice myself was very exciting! It showed me what I had learned over those years of taking classes in a very practical way. It showed me that I may not know everything, but I could develop a pretty good hypothesis and defend it with what I did know. That was empowering. I also learned how to physically push myself while staying within my limits. Always a valuable skill to have.
As a teaching assistant/student support person, the lessons are a little different. You certainly get a better appreciation for the amount of effort and planning that are required to give the students the best environment possible to foster learning. You also have to come to the understanding that, even though we would love everyone to become perfect little field geologists, not everyone is cut out for or even wants to be cut out for the field. Field camp is a great way to give people an experience. Some people will take to it naturally and see it as an opportunity to push themselves to see what they can do. Others will see it as something that has to be endured and conquered so that life can move on to other pursuits.
The real truth is, on the continuum between these two views, most people find their own ways to push themselves beyond where they might have felt they could go. It may not be what we wanted for them, but I’m not sure that it even should be. The more I consider it, the more it seems like field camp is a personal journey.
We are all confronted with the same stimuli: incredible beauty, physical challenges, obstacles and unfortunate events. We even get to choose individually how we will classify those same stimuli for ourselves, some choosing beauty while others see an obstacle. We all also get to choose which of these things to face, and which to leave behind.
I remember telling some of my fellow campers from last year that I was going to go again in a new role this year. Some of them congratulated me and even expressed some envy. Others gave me a shocked look and asked why I would ever want to do such a thing again.
So why did I go back, and why would I plan to go again? (which I do)
Is it financial? It’s a good Summer job, but when you break down the number of hours of effort, the pay is not hard to make elsewhere for less effort. Is it an easy way to get back to such a beautiful place? Honestly, it would be easier just to pack up the whole family in the minivan and go. (which, for reference, can be a real pain to do) Whining students are just as loud as whining family members, and there are usually more of them.
I think it’s the unique triple junction of natural world, humanity, and creative knowledge that make it seem worthwhile to me. There are many people, myself included, who find the field camp experience to be transformative. It’s a way to push yourself physically, mentally, and even spiritually. It’s a place that you can find out an awful lot about yourself, what you are made of, what you value, what you already know, and what you don’t know yet. All within the watchful presence of guides to lead you further when you want to go….and a cook even!
If I can be a part of that transformative experience for someone else, I’m happy to do it. Even if their transformation is not the one I would have wanted for them. Maybe the biggest lesson for me from this years camp is that I have to be accepting of the transformation they choose for themselves.
It is their field camp, after all.
It’s the 4th of July, just a few days ago we passed the midway point of this leap year. The concerns I expressed in this blog post back in January never came to fruition. It never really got cold again. There was no brief period of cold temperatures to give climate change deniers the chance to act like it wasn’t really getting hotter. In fact, as I lamented in this post back around the Vernal Equinox, we really didn’t get a Winter at all here in much of the Northern Hemisphere.
So where do we stand in 2012? The analysis available just for the month of May shows a significant increase in temperature for the globe, with the greatest increases occurring in the Northern Hemisphere where the vast majority of humans reside. The first five months of this year are the hottest since recording began in 1880 and that isn’t including the month of June, which set it’s own records. The 12 month period from May 2011-April 2012 has already taken the record for hottest 12 month period on record, and hotter months are waiting in the wings this Summer.
What am I trying to say with all this? Maybe only this: regardless of the mechanisms of climate change, it is definitely happening. The world is getting hotter and we are going to find it more and more difficult to adapt to the rapid changes. Whether we believe it is being caused or exacerbated by human activities ultimately isn’t as important as mobilizing efforts to minimize the devastating effects to our species.
It’s a matter of survival. We know the changes we need to make to slow the rising temperatures, if not reverse them. New ways of remediating the problem are being developed every day, and we could make it a point to devote more of our research and development dollars to speed them up.
The choice is ours, as a species. Use our incredible creativity and capacity for problem solving to help fight impending disaster, or stick our heads in the sand and deny that there is anything we can do even if there was a problem.
I vote for action.
We had a full afternoon at the beach, albeit a cloudy one, after we arrived in Florida before Debby began her deluge. Two days of fairly constant rain followed. We were actually very lucky to be on the edge of the storm and not receiving the worst of it. It gave us a good excuse to take the boys all to see The Avengers again! Tuesday the rain really let up and we were able to spend the whole day at the beach. We also got to experience our first Florida sunset of the trip! It was amazing! Pink skies and waters with pods of dolphins swimming gracefully toward the sunset. A sight worthy of a vacation!
The remainder of the time we were in Florida the weather was beautiful! Long days (and nights) strolling along the beach and playing in the water. Fresh seafood and sunshine!
All in all, everything we could ask for from a family vacation! We were certainly grateful that we were spared much of the damage that the storm was capable of. Our heart goes out to those who are still dealing with the after effects of the storm.
Goodbye, Florida! You will be missed, but I’m thinking we will be back soon!
Today is officially the first day of Spring. Last night was the Vernal Equinox. Doesn’t it feel like it’s already been Spring for a while? Only one snow event here and temperatures hanging about the 80’s since February.
So as a tribute to the passing of a season that never seemed to arrive, I give you a link to this beautiful video.
Goodbye, dear Winter. We shall all be wishing for your comforts by mid June, I have no doubt.
Music has a way of capturing moments in our lives and replaying them for us years later when we listen to it again. These are just a few of the songs that were important to me at different parts of my life. All of these songs represent something new to me. A changing understanding of the possible and the expected. An expansion of awareness and appreciation.
It is by no means a comprehensive list, and I will likely post more installments as they occur to me. I’m going to think of this as a blog form of burning a CD for my friends. Feel free to click on the links if you would like to hear any of the songs listed.
John Coltrane-Blue Train – I started out playing alto sax and was a big fan of Charlie Parker, but Coltrane made me want to play tenor, his playing had an effortless fluidity to it, he was singing with that sax and I felt like I could hear the story he was telling when he played
Kansas-Carry On My Wayward Son – the combination of rock and classical, it was heavy and soaring at the same time, it was musically complex and technical and Steve Walsh’s vocals were otherworldly
Van Halen-Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love – I could easily put the entirety of the first Van Halen album on this list, I listened to it on 8 track and I can still remember where the songs would fade out and back in as the 8 track changed, by the end of this 3:50 I was sure that I had found something new, something specifically for my generation
Spyro Gyra-Morning Dance – a beautiful combination of the jazz that I had always loved and the world rhythms that I was starting to appreciate more, great theme music for sitting on a beach or on top of a mountain watching the sunrise, a joyful expression of life
Billy Joel-You May Be Right – I’ve always been a fan of singer-songwriters and musicians that have their own sound and style, Billy Joel is a great example of that, blues and jazz and new wave influences all blended seamlessly into his playing, he is one of the great storyteller songwriters of his time
Commodores-Machine Gun – oh those sultry hot 70’s summers in south Arkansas, funk was my heartbeat and this was my internal theme song, it still is on many days, bumping and grooving, this song could never go on long enough for me
Nirvana-Smells Like Teen Spirit – everybody was ready for something new in the early 90’s, Nirvana gave it to them, a great departure from the over-blown confidence and glam of the 80’s, insecurity and defiance, there has never been a better description of how we all feel as teenagers
Al Di Meola,Paco De Lucia,John Mclaughlin – Mediterranean Sundance – this album, and specifically this song, changed my opinion of the possibilities of acoustic guitar, virtuosity at it’s finest
System of a Down-Chop Suey – rage, weirdness, a political sensibility, this music was a wonderful representation of who I was and how I felt at the point in my life when I was first exposed to it, a truly unique sound and style at a time when so much music was trying to sound the same