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Feedburner tells me that there are still more than 50 people waiting patiently for my next post here. Um. Hi? When I shifted from personal/political blogging to science blogging, and particularly when I started writing here at ScienceBlogs, I wanted to be a reliable source. Turns out that it's difficult for me to care about being reliable without dredging up a whole bunch of other issues about wanting to be seen as an AUTHORITAH! - Cartman voice and and all. So, that slowly got to be less fun. Turns out, I miss having a blog that was less about explaining things, and more about discussing…
This morning, the California Supreme Court will announce its decision on whether or not a slim 50% majority can amend the state constitution in order to specifically deny a previously-recognized constitutional right. It will also determine the fate of the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed last year, between the state Supreme Court's decision that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right in California, and the passage of Proposition 8. The New York Times quotes one man whose marriage is currently in legal limbo: “The 18,000 marriages will be evidence that California is not going to fall…
Following on Short Geologist's list of things you do and don't need at a field hotel, and fresh from the field (where by "field" I mean "three days of driving around the mountains looking for stuff", and by "fresh" I mean I'm still at the airport), I thought I'd do a list of amenities that I want in a field vehicle. I was on a fairly simple reconnaissance mission, which involved driving around with a map and a clipboard and taking notes. Obviously, jobs requiring more equipment (and less driving/working while your foot's on the brake) have slightly different requirements, mostly involving…
Huh, I suppose it's been a while, hasn't it? 1: I was really surprised by how many of you fell for my April Fools joke. 2: I do have a real job now. I'm an environmental consultant, and I can't be much more specific than that - not because I am trying to keep the details a secret, but because I work for a tiny, multidisciplinary company, which is rapidly expanding my collection of professional hats. Last week I was primarily a technical writer, this week I'll be out in the field doing preliminary ground work for a survey of natural resource use, and in the near future they've promised me…
Update, April 2: I hope you all had a wonderful April Fools Day, unmarred by water shortages, supervolcanoes, and threats to your world view. This was a fake, but I should have a real job announcement to make soon - and it won't involve any quack apologetics. After months of searching in a desperate economy, I am incredibly relieved to have been offered a permanent position. Not just relieved, but tremendously excited - I've managed to find an incredibly exciting, challenging, and meaningful job. As of today, I am the newest adjunct fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and…
The question of whether or not I am a geologist is not just an amusing exercise in academic politics. In Washington, as in most U.S. states, geology is a regulated profession; guidelines for who can and cannot call themselves a geologist in a professional context are laid out in the administrative code and enforced by the Geologist Licensing Board. I am not a geologist, nor will I become one any time soon. To comply with Washington law, I would need to complete coursework in the core subjects of geology (as specified in WAC 308-15-040: structural geology, mineralogy, petrology and sedimentary…
Or, less generally, am I a geologist? I have a B.S. in geophysics and an M.S. in earth and planetary science with a funky geophysics/geohydrology emphasis. I took some intro physical geology and earth history as a sophomore, but I have never taken formal courses in mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, sedimentology, or stratigraphy. However, I've picked up the basics of these fields from older kids on the street corner and make use of them in my work. Please assume while you are answering the poll that my work involves using my knowledge of the Earth's history, processes, and…
On Monday, airline passengers were the first to observe the eruption of the just-barely-above-the-water volcano that forms the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, in Tonga. Three days later, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake occurred on the Tonga trench. Was the timing of these two events just coincidence? Yes. Why do I think the events were unrelated? Well: Earthquakes happen all the time. Thankfully for Tongan residents, I am using a geological definition of "time" here, but still: A major earthquake on a major plate boundary does not require any special explanation. The earthquake was a…
My job, for most of the past six weeks, has been to align cryptic old maps with existing digital data, so that points labeled in small, blurry fonts can be entered into a database. I am not going to show actual screenshots of my work - even if I gave away no useful information to the opposing legal team, it would be bad luck - but here is an artist's impression: Extracting information from this pathetic excuse for a usable map is, in fact, a learned skill. I only realized this a couple of weeks ago, when I sat down with the company's graphic designer to show her how to do what I was doing.…
A friend of mine IMed me this weekend, very excited about a minor earthquake. She used the word "temblor" and was very excited about that, too - how often do you get a chance to say "temblor"? She felt impressive and sciencey. I have been hanging around with seismologists for some time now, and I don't think I have ever heard anyone use the word "temblor" in either ordinary or technical speech. I have only ever seen it in news reports, where it seems to fulfill a need to (a) limit the number of times a single word is repeated in a short space, and/or (b) use short words in headlines to…
I don't have a lemon tree in the backyard, and springtime has only just reached the frigid northlands, but I do have a bit of Seattle summer tucked away in the back of my freezer. Pick some slightly underripe blackberries for this one, so it's as tart as a good lemon meringue. Ingredients For the meringue: 4 egg whites 1/2 c. sugar 1/4 tsp cream of tartar 1 Tbsp corn starch For the filling: 1 c. blackberry juice from about 1/2 quart of frozen berries 6 egg yolks 1/4 c. lemon juice 1 Tbsp Regan's orange bitters 1/4 c. corn starch 1 c. sugar generous pinch of salt 2 Tbsp butter For the crust: 8…
I have had many terrible ideas for pie in my life - durian pie, anyone? And I expected this to be one of the worst. Then again, I've also had some Guinness ice cream that was absolutely fantastic; it should be possible to replicate that experience in a pie. American food shies away from bitterness in any form, and especially in dessert form. Dark chocolate is starting to weaken that taboo, though. Once you have decided that nibbling on eleventypercent cacao is an acceptable after-dinner activity, there is really no reason not to open the floodgates to all manner of bittersweet delights.…
This one's for Wilkins; it's a Pi Day / St. Patrick's Day twofer. Ingredients 1 lb. stew lamb 1 onion A few tbsp diced tomatoes (whatever was left in the can you used for pasta the other night) 1 clove garlic 6-8 ice cubes of broth - I make broth from whatever bones and scraps I have left over after other cooking, and freeze it in ice cube trays for easy use later. Fortuitously, my most recent batch was mostly lamb ribs and onion butts. ~1/2 pint Guinness Salt, pepper, and MSG to taste 1 cup white flour 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 8 tbps (1 stick) butter 2 1/2 tbsp vegetable shortening, and…
As Lab Lemming pointed out, the graham cracker crust I made for my pie last weekend cannot be represented on the ternary phase diagram for traditional pie crust. But that doesn't mean it is somehow illegitimate or unsciencey! See, look at all this science: In addition to being simpler to prepare, the graham cracker crust is delicious over a much larger range of compositions than a traditional pie crust. I will have another pie posted later this week, but the rate-limiting ingredient is still equilibrating with ethelyene gas in a bag on my kitchen table.
Flavor factor analyses of nutmeg distributions show systematic deviations from Poisson behavior despite homogeneous squash. We recorded spice-triggered covariance profiles from the filling layer at sites along inferior lateral and medial custard horizons (Rombauer areas 14 and 25). Each covariance matrix showed 6 to 8 significant eigenslices. To investigate this behavior, we solved the Child equations for flavor propagation in homogeneous layered meringue-custard spaces. By introducing slight fruitilinear perturbations to the model, we show that there exists a critical value of the…
Thoughts on Tuli v. Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Inc., et al. « Feminist Law Professors -- On the rewards of a sexual harassment lawsuit: "So, the bonus payoff here is, she gets to work in an environment where she is ostracized, despised, feared, and hated - barred from any leadership position - and will never be taken seriously as a decision-maker or policy-maker - for the rest of her professional life. And that’s because she WON!" The Open Laboratory 2008 is here! -- Woot, I'm an author! Also, OpenLab 2009 submissions are now open. Quick, nominate all the fantastic science posts you'…
The mojito is quite possibly a perfect cocktail. Fussing with it never seems to generate significant improvements, but driven by the need to seem unique and creative, bars keep offering variations with pomegranate, green tea, lychee, or whatever else the flavor of the month happens to be. After impulse-purchasing some kiwis and throwing them into a mojito pie for the ScienceBlogs Pi Day contest, I can't say I'm any better than a bartender shilling $12 cocktails to jaded foodies. But the kiwi and lime blend seamlessly together in a refreshingly tart custard, and hey, they were on sale. You'll…
Once again it is time to acknowledge that I will never read all of the papers I've flagged in my RSS reader... but I can at least go through the abstracts. While my summaries here may be slightly in error due to the fact that I haven't actually read the papers in question, here is what I'm skimming: Clay might trigger earthquakes - Many clay minerals break down, when heated, to produce H2O + different clay minerals. If this water is produced inside a clay-lined fault zone, and not allowed to leave, it might weaken the fault enough to produce an earthquake (cf. the beer can experiment).…
The consensus piece of apologetics for Jindal's anti-USGS remarks appears to be to claim that even though volcano monitoring is, of course, a worthwhile investment, it is not economically stimulating, and therefore does not belong in the stimulus bill. To claim that this is what Jindal was actually trying to say requires a phenomenally over-generous interpretation of his speech. But forget what Jindal did or did not say, or mean to say, or imply - his big flop is yesterday's news now. Considering the argument that volcano monitoring does not belong in the stimulus bill on its own merits... I…
I turned on Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal's campaign speech pre-campaign campaign insinuation pre-campaign dogwhistle fundraiser rebuttal to Obama's speech while cooking my pancakes this evening. I have two questions. Do Republicans (or moderates who don't have a kneejerk anti-Republican reflex) also feel like he's talking to the nation as though we were all kindergarteners? I was flabbergasted, but I don't know how to properly account for my rather strong political biases here. DID HE SERIOUSLY JUST SAY THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT BE MONITORING VOLCANOES??!?!!!????@#$@! Ignoring for the sake…