GeologicalScienceBlog - subjects include Geology, Climatology, Environmental Science, NASCAR, Beer, Property Rights, Random Thoughts, & Politics from a Christian Conservative/Libertarian/pragmatist viewpoint. As a Dad & Grandad, I am concerned about the overgrowth of government at the expense of freedom. Background - two degrees in Geology (BS '77, MS '90), started studying Geology beginning Senior Year of high school (1971 - 1972) <68>

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Dumping We Will Go...

For a little diversion, I am supposed to meet a couple of beer can collector friends tomorrow AM (early, early) for some "dumping" in Western NC. Dumping is the term we apply to taking to the woods to dig for old, discarded beer cans, in this case, late 1930's/very early 1940's cans.

We are to meet in the mountain town of Blairsville at 6 AM and then continue on from there in search of our rusty treasures. The weather should be good.

Yeah, we are crazy. My friend Paul and I will meet up at about 3:30 AM, as it takes about 2 1/2 hours to reach Blairsville from this area. Some guys do this for hunting trips, some for fishing trips. We, being easily entertained, do it for old, rusty (but displayable) beer cans.

It is as much about the fellowship and being in the outdoors for a while and any cans that we find for our collections or trade stock are the hopeful rewards.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

What a Geologist Sees - The Series Thusfar

In an attempt to get back to the Geology part of geosciblog, I started this "What a Geologist Sees" Series a few months back.

Thusfar, subjects covered include:

Part 1 - Grand Canyon, sedimentary layers, unconformities.
Part 2 - Colorado Plateau, sedimentary layers, unconformities.
Part 3 - Georgia Piedmont, igneous geology, granite, xenoliths.
Part 4 - Georgia Piedmont, river gravels, topography changes.
Part 5 - Georgia Piedmont, alluvial fans, sediments.
Part 6 - Southeast New Mexico, oil wells, drill rigs.
Part 7 - Georgia Piedmont, diabase igneous dikes.
Part 8 - Diagnostic Mineral Characteristics - cleavage.
Part 9 - Georgia Piedmont, saprolite vs. fresh metamorphic & igneous rocks.
Part 10 - Georgia Piedmont, river gravels, topography changes.
Part 10B - Georgia Piedmont, river gravels, topography changes.

I plan for more. As the Georgia Piedmont is my "backyard", I will not ignore it, but I plan to present some other locales and concepts, too.

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What a Geologist Sees - Part 10B

More river gravels.

I used to think river gravels were boring stuff (as compared to collecting fossils or neat mineral specimens) until I learned more about old river terraces (floodplain remnants) and exposed gravels on hilltops and hillsides. In these settings, the gravels tell us about how much a long-existing river can migrate laterally over time.

These gravels are on the opposite side of the peninsula from the old raceway grandstands. The peninsula lies within an incised meander of the Chattahoochee River and the old river channel cuts across the hill. Meanders are usually present in areas of low-gradient, usually on coastal plains, closer to the ocean. That it is an incised meander suggests that the meander system was locally established (as just described), then with a rapid drop in base-level, down-cutting preserved the meanders.

Where there are sedimentary rocks in the drainage basin, sometimes you can find petrified (permineralized) wood in river gravels. I used to find small rounded pieces of petrified wood in some of the old Rio Grande gravels west of El Paso.

I hope to return to the park to check out the large chunk of rock pictured just below the tree roots. From the surrounding river pebbles, you can see that this chunk is far larger than the rest, suggesting that "there is more to this story". It would take a great deal more energy to move this size rock, as opposed to the adjacent pebbles. In the exposed gravels along the edges of this peninsula, I don't recall having seen other clasts this large.

There are several possibilities.

[1] When an ocean-going iceberg melts, it drops any cobbles & boulders held within to the seafloor. We call these "erratics" or "glacial erratics", when there is an out-of-place large chunk of rock within smaller-grained sediments. During a prior ice age, might there have been a chunk of ice in the ancestral Chattahoochee that dropped this larger chunk of rock?

[2] Another possibility is that this chunk fell into the river from a nearby (now eroded) bluff or rolled down a slope into the river.

[3] Another more interesting possiblity is that this is a chunk of permineralized wood, i.e., a chunk of wood that was buried in the river gravels and mud and was permineralized by silica in the groundwater after burial. I considered that when I shot the photo, but sundown was approaching and the park was about to close, so I didn't remove it from its position to more closely observe the characteristics. A chunk of wood that large would be light enough to be moved along with the gravels, prior to its permineralization.

If it was permineralized wood, "woodn't" that be neat! [Sorry.] As that sort of thing is not that common on the Piedmont, I would take some more photos before disloding it from the vertical face. Something like that might be worthy of a short scientific paper, perhaps if any internal cell walls are preserved, a paleo-botanist might be able to determine the genus of the wood, based upon the internal structures.

[4] One more possibility is that on the nearby exposed shoreline, amid the weathered, saprolitized metamorphic rocks, there are areas of hard quartzite. This chunk of rock could simply be a chunk of quartzite that was "ripped" from the river floor (you can see the scoured bottom below the gravels) by a flood and "rolled" to its present location. It is easier for fast-moving water to roll an object than it is for it to carry it.

[There, without your realizing it, I have "walked you through" the concept of "Multiple Working Hypotheses".]

I have proposed four possible ways that this large chunk of rock (maximum dimension is perhaps 1.5 feet) came to be placed within these smaller pebbles in the old river bottom. There could be other possibilities that I have not yet considered. Speaking from my bias as a field scientist, this is why we learn to "brainstorm" with other scientists and when properly trained, we engage our own imaginations. If the chunk of rock is not permineralized wood, then that Hypothesis is discarded and the others subjected to greater scrutiny. That is the way science works. And because of the ravages of time and erosion, there may not be a single "best" answer.

Unlike lawyers and politicians, we scientists understand that our initial opinion may not be the correct one. That is why power-grabbing politicians want to restrict scientific discussions and healthy skepticism, as it gets in the way of their desires for a nice, neat, controlled situation.

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A Good Post on Hunting...

can be found here at American Thinker.

As we collectively lose touch with our more-rural forebears, we lose touch with some of their important skills, including the skill of hunting. I don't have the skill nor time to hunt, but I have several relatives that do and when I sit down at their table(s), I am thankful for that skill.

As hunting is a "manly skill", that means it doesn't fit the template of the MSM or Liberal Hollywood. There are even a few "city boy" Conservative/Libertarian pundits that don't understand and they fall prey to the Liberal stereotypes.

Unless he has changed lately, Neal Boortz is one of these pundits that tends to mis-characterize hunters. That is one of the reasons that I grew tired of him and switched to Laura Ingraham. He also tends to mis-characterize the Pro-Life philosophy and the Intelligent Design philosophy, but that is grist for a different rant (or two).

Behind every stereotype is a grain of truth, but when one easily accepts stereotypes with engaging in critical thought, that is a sign of arrogance (nothing left to learn) and/or laziness.

[One common stereotype is the purpose of the tree stand.]

Yes, it is for perching above the field-of-view of deer and some other mammals, but there are other important reasons for the use of the tree stand. A steadily-held rifle theoretically leads to a "cleaner kill", where one shouldn't have to pursue a wounded animal (and perhaps have it escape to suffer). But perhaps the most important purpose of the tree stand (and the one that escapes the anti-hunters) is that it drastically cuts the number of stray bullets, if the target is missed. From the elevated tree stand, if the hunter misses, the bullet generally enters the ground. [I have had some close-encounters with stray bullets while doing geologic field work, most of them in settings were there were no trees for tree stands (West Texas/Southern New Mexico).]

For most hunters, it is not about satisfying a primal urge to "go out and kill something".

It is about self-sufficiency and the ability to go out and secure food for your family's table. And as hunting requires a measure of stealth, it encourages one to be quiet. During those quiet times - whether on foot or in a tree stand - it allows time for contemplation of the quiet rural surroundings, a place where there is no TV, no radio, no excess traffic noise, and cell phones are turned off (or silenced). Conversations are short and quiet and precise.

Once one learns to revel in the quiet, that retreat to the quiet can be as important as bringing home the source of one or more future meals. The contrasts between the quiet and the noise of life help one understand how excessive noise leads to additional stress in our lives. [That same quiet is why some geologists love field work or other excursions into the quiet, where we can observe not only geological features, but other aspects of nature.]

The appreciation of the quiet rural settings needed for hunting and the ever-shrinking places to go hunting do engender an appreciation for conservation of habitats and the hunted creatures therein. The article does a good job of explaining the hunters-as-conservationists concept.

The article also reminds us of the hazards of deer over-population. A few years ago, a State Park near Cartersville, GA (Red Top Mt.) had to engage local hunters to thin the deer population. And of course the "deer lovers" (and other do-gooders) were out in force, whining about the practice. And because there were subdivisions around the park, tree stands were used and they whiners made their logic-deprived complaints about that too.

There were about 10 times as many deer per square mile - as there should have been - for that particular locale. When that happens, the deer are underfed and take to eating things they wouldn't normally eat, robbing other animals of their food sources. Also, when stressed dear eat such things as small hardwood tree seedlings, if it continues long enough, that will adversely affect the ecosystem decades down the road, as a few of those seedlings would have normally survived to become saplings and eventually youthful trees to replace the aging individuals of that particular species. [I am thinking here of acorns and oak seedlings.] In other words - if deer eat too many acorns and too many oak seedlings, that will eventually affect the health of the forest, to the detriment of other organisms.

The article also explains why there are more deer now than in pre-colonial times, so aside from the urbanization of so much deer habitat, there are just more of them than there used to be.

The article includes thoughts as to why allowing the responsible thinning of some predators engenders within the remaining predators a "healthy fear of humans".

Hunting is not for everybody and no one is proposing that handing a rifle to a cubicle-dweller (a cubist?) will turn them into the next John Muir, but if you are not from a family with some hunters, read the article and perhaps pick up the book mentioned in the article. Then you can more intelligently engage in conversations on the subject. If you can throw in a few "Did you knows..." into the conversation, you might trigger some thoughtful reconsiderations of someone's stereotypical opinions of hunters.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

There's a Lot to Consider...

my "little girl" turned 21 today. And she is getting married in about 6 months.

For any of you with grown kids, you understand how quickly time flies. It is amazing how seemingly overnight, this little baby is looking you in the eye and going out on her own.

I hope as more time passes, she will understand her mom and I better. The transition has already begun as she has been working as a nanny for the last six months or so. When she is around her charges, she sounds like us (and she knows it).

The wheel goes round and round.
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

What a Geologist Sees - Part 10

[A follow-up to the last post.] Up the hill from the old raceway grandstands - in a small cliff that normally marks the edge of the peninsula at Laurel Park - is this outcrop of old river gravels overlying saprolite, similar to what I wrote about in "What a Geologist Sees - Part 4". The previous examples of old river gravels over saprolite are on the west side of Duluth, also associated with the Chattahoochee River.

To refresh your memory, saprolite is the heavily-weathered "rotten rock" that has had its structural integrity destroyed by mineral dissolution (actually conversion to clays by hydrolysis). The term is usually used to describe former igneous and metamorphic rocks and traces of the orginal textures and structures must be discernible, otherwise we call it "residuum" - in this area, that would be Georgia red clay.

This hillside exposure of the old Chattahoochee River gravels overlying saprolite is an example of a "topographic inversion", i.e., this used to be the bottom of the river, in the lowest part of the valley. Now it is on a low hilltop, perhaps 1/4 to 3/8 of a mile from the river channel (prior to the filling of Lake Lanier in the late 1950s). A rough guess might be that these gravels are probably some 30-40 feet above the now-covered river bed.

On the opposite side of the peninsula, these river gravels have been eroded and the exposed shoreline is covered with the rounded pebbles and cobbles. I am considering doing a little gold panning, from sand trapped in dips in the exposed bedrock along the shoreline, as the Chattahoochee drainage basin includes Dukes Creek (near Helen, GA), which is a former gold-producing area. The idea is just to satisfy my curiosity. There are areas in which old river gravels have been mined for gold.

Again, I bring this up as a way to pique someone's curiosity. Most people don't give a thought to the river ever being anywhere but besides its current floodplain. What did the land look like before that 30-40 (maybe more) feet of vertical down-cutting took place, along with the lateral migration of the river? Questions such as these might arouse a kid's interest in science. In walking the drought-exposed shoreline, I am sure that numerous people every day see the gravels overlying the weathered bedrock, but I doubt that it really "sinks in" as to what it really means.

[I am so easily entertained.]

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Beach-Combing at the Lake


Around here, when someone mentioned "going to the lake", it was to Lake Lanier. Buford Dam, behind which Lake Lanier exists "celebrated" its 50th anniversary earlier this year and there are ongoing debates over whether the Corps of Engineers have been releasing too much water.
As the waters receded (recently passing the low-water record set in 1981) little bits of local history have been exposed. Here on the left is a portion of the concrete grandstands of the old Looper Speedway, at Laurel Park, off US Hwy 129.

I had never heard of this old raceway, which apparently closed in 1955. The last time the lake was this low, I was living in El Paso. There have been several news reports about the exposure of the grandstands, so I decided to find them and "have a look".

The raceway itself was a 1/4 mile dirt track and according to a local old-timer, it was a NASCAR-sanctioned track, though the Grand National Division never raced there. My sister told me she had heard that Lee Petty had raced there and the above-mentioned old-timer said that the famous Flock Brothers, from Atlanta - Tim, Bob, and Fonty - raced there in what was then called the "Sportsman Division". The raceway closed before Ralph Earnhardt (Dale, Sr.'s dad) began his career in 1956. It is good, in a way, that these grandstands have been exposed again, so as to "pull out" a few more stories from a few more old-timers before they are all gone.

The racing surface, if it was not bulldozed, would still be under the waters and will likely remain so, as it was on the floodplain of the river itself. These may have been the "cheap seats" built into the hillside, you can see rock outcrops on the slope above the highest row. Unfortunately you can see where people have broken parts of the concrete grandstands. Some folks just have no regard for the history represented here.

Downhill from the lowest exposed concrete slab, someone had dug up a buried six-cylinder engine block with the crankshaft and pistons still present. I drew some chuckles from the half-dozen people listening to the old-timer when I said it was probably some sort of buried shrine to the old raceway.

As my family is leaving Oklahoma City tomorrow, I may head back up to the lake one more time to do a little more beach-combing (which includes some interesting rock exposures). The next post will touch on that a little bit. Once I learn a little more about the best places to go, my son may want to go back with me on a later trip.

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One Man's Paranoia...

may be another man's foresight.

Trying to read the future, in a non-paranoid - though prescient fashion - is clearly a challenge. That is the dilemma when I read WND. Are they overly paranoid or are they looking 10 - 20 years further down the road from the rest of us?

Perusing WND this morning, I ran across an article about something over which Neal Boortz raised the alarm back in 1998. It is the Banking "Know Your Customer" program, proposed by the FDIC. It was apparently shelved due to the public uproar (damn that talk radio).

We need to remember that when government gets an idea, it rarely admits it is wrong and when the public raises hell over it, it doesn't permanently kill the plan, it just drives it from open view.

The proponents generally let the dust settle and then rename the plan and/or implement the plan piecemeal. We see that with Socialized Medicine, we see it with the National ID card, we see it in the increased sophistication of computers, we see it in other places. It may just be part of the "big picture" George Orwell warned us of.

The individual components may not be recognizable until they all come together, perhaps 30 - 40 years after 1984. After the generation that read George Orwell's "1984" has been replaced by a generation that no longer reads books. After talk radio has been tamed by the "Fairness Doctrine" and public speech has been tamed by "Hate Crimes" legislation.

Is concern over these issues paranoia or foresight?

If you haven't read the linked article, the "Know Your Customer" program was proposed under the guise of making it easier for banks to identify transactions that might be related to drug trafficking or other such large-scale illegal activities. Under the program, banks would be required to develop profiles of the deposit/withdrawal and presumably, checking account activity. The idea of the profile is to identify "normal" activities of that individual and unusual activities would be reported to the government. [Go read the article, if you haven't.]

I recall a TV commerical (from about that same time period - maybe a little after that) from Diebold, whom I gather makes some of the ATM machines in use. In the commerical, it showed this average guy repeatedly making his routine $50 withdrawals and the machine would "greet him", until he makes a $200 withdrawal, wherein the machine asks him "Has there been a change in your circumstances?" [paraphrasing] In the background, he has a bride (in her wedding dress) on his arm (we are to presume that they were in Reno or Las Vegas).

So with the knowledge of what the government wanted to do, we could conclude that this guy deviated from his profile when he "ran off to Reno/Las Vegas" and got married. And presumably, the ATM's bank owner would tell the government.

I recall another commercial touting debit cards (again a few years ago), wherein one person said "Someday there will be no cash." [Not paraphrasing.]

One more little consideration - a few years ago, Neal Boortz mentioned a proposal by one of the branches of the Federal Reserve Bank (maybe Richmond, VA) to put magnetic strips (or something along those lines) into $100 bills. If not "refreshed" by being spent on a regular basis, the strip would "degrade", perhaps losing 10% of its value after 90 days (or something like that). Presumably, after another 90 days, it would lose another 10% value.

The idea was to prevent currency hoarding, as common citizens would probably not have the ability to "refresh" the currency on their own. What a way to discourage the old "underground economy", i.e., cash purchases and sales. When you offer to purchase something in cash, the seller might be hesitant, wondering "How old is that $100 bill?"

So how does this all come together? Knowing the tendencies of government, there is likely a desire by some to track every purchase that you make. Without cash, this would be much easier to accomplish.

I don't lose sleep over the strips in $20 (and other larger) bills, but is that their future purpose? To track where that money goes? If we go underground for private healthcare if Hillary gets her way, will doctors be paranoid about accepting cash? If we are all under the control of Socialized Medicine, if you use a debit card to buy beer, cigars, etc. at the store or if you stop off at the Cheesecake Factory on the way home from work - the government will know.

As we know, these things happen incrementally and if the public gets wind of it, they will withdraw and do an "end run" to progress towards their goals.

Maybe George Orwell was right, he just got the time line wrong.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Ain't Hibernatin'...

just busy working. I am still working on the Excel Spreadsheet project, trying to finish it ASAP and I started a part-time, temp job last week doing traffic research at selected Northeast Atlanta street intersections.

Using specially-designed instruments, in four-hour stints, we are counting every car that goes through the selected intersection. Most intersections require two people to work opposite corners.

I am not able to do the morning shift, so I do 3:30 PM to 7:30 PM, with no breaks on Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday. Those are the days deemed to have "normal traffic" patterns. And as Holiday weeks, such as Thanksgiving, have people taking long weekends and extra days off, as far as statistics go, this week is not measured.

It is Independent Contractor work for a small firm that is doing research for the Georgia DOT.

So when I am not on-site for that job, I am working on the spreadsheet project. Thus I don't have much time for blogging or even surfing at this point. I will leave the commentary for those more articulate.

I decided to say "Yes" to the college's new campus next semester, doing the 90-mile round trip MWF to teach a couple of classes during the midday time. It is nice to be wanted, though a little more money would help cover gasoline costs. I think they have an on-campus hardwood forest suitable for field trips and other walkabouts.

And at the new campus, I can continue to help counteract the Leftist spin offered by some Instructors in other disciplines, regarding Science-related issues (Climate, Weather, and ...). This particular campus is full as far as Geologists are concerned, so I will do Environmental Science.

And I hope there is some more work related to the spreadsheet project, but will just have to wait to see.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Democrats Are Giving Us All Sorts of Previews...

of coming attractions. Charles Rangel, channeling Hillary Clinton, shows us the lust Democrats have for your money and for your childrens' money. When the Death Tax expires, it won't be renewed, so when you and/or your spouse shuffle off this mortal coil, your estate - already taxed when you earned the money to purchase components of that estate - will be taxed, at the expense of your surviving adult children.

I have seen examples of timberland, protected by family ownership, then has to be sold to pay Death Taxes, upon expiration of the owner and/or owner's surviving spouse. The same thing with family farms. In some settings, an adjacent owner might not be able to buy one or two acres to pay the taxes. The entire parcel might instead have to be sold to someone that cares nothing of its preservation or the family memories held by that property.

Something else that has cropped up in the last few days (while the radio has been on briefly) is the issue of the U.S. Senate spending taxpayer dollars investigating TV preachers. Here is another example of the U.S. Senate trying to bring its power to bear on private citizens. TV preachers (and Rush Limbaugh) are "public persons", but they are private citizens.

It is not within the venue of the U.S. Senate to investigate private citizens, just because something "don't look right".

If there is any evidence of law-breaking, it is up to the individual State Attorneys General to investigate and then ask the Justice Department for help if it appears that other states may be involved.

I agree that TV preachers tooling around in Rolls Royces and living in mansions "don't look right" and it seems to me that it probably fits under the heading of the sin of "Pride". I seem to recall something about Jesus asking his disciples to give up their worldly concerns and material goods and follow him. But what is questionable and what is sinful ain't necessarily illegal. It is ultimately between the preacher and "the Big Guy". Not the U.S. Senate.

If the preachers are skimming money from the collection plates, that is worthy of a State Attorney General's investigation and/or a regional U.S. Attorney's investigation (if they are not too busy testifying before Congress over those 8 that were fired by President Bush).

But if these TV preachers are getting wealthy on selling books, tapes, CDs, and DVDs of their messages, that is the free market. No one has to buy those books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.. The preacher can ask his listeners all day long to buy his books, etc., but the listeners are not required to do so. It is the choice of the follower of that particular preacher. And I would guess that those media sales are probably taxable.

The Clintons became everything we feared of Richard Nixon (when he was in his personal decline), i.e., the "Enemies List" (note that it rhymes with "Emily's List"), using the IRS against political opponents, and the 900 FBI files purloined by the Clinton White House.

We have enough vendettas when Republicans are in office, e.g., with Bill Gates and Martha Stewart. Could one consider "Ruby Ridge" or the "Branch Davidians" incident to be other examples of vendettas gone terribly wrong? David Koresh was known to go into town on a regular basis, he could have been pulled over for a traffic violation or outstanding warrant and quietly arrested. And denied their charismatic leader, the cult would probably have withered away and the people scattered to the four winds. I don't think it would have been a "Jonestown". David Koresh was weird, but I don't think he was Jim Jones.

Other vendettas include John DeLorean and Leona Helmsley, when the government takes a small measure of illegal or questionable activities and uses that as an excuse for "lowering the boom" on a high-profile person. And with Hillary's vindictive nature (and Bill's behind the scenes), if she is elected, you can expect more of the same. I would not want to be Dick Morris if she is elected.

Personally, I think that this is just a Leftist-driven vendetta designed to take a slap at Christians in general, for the sake of a public display of political power.

Though not germane to the TV Preachers case, ultimately, this is what the Second Amendment is about, citizens protecting their homes and lives from out-of-control government. That is one of our "checks and balances", conveniently ignored by "liberals" when they warn of coming Right Wing/Theocratic tyrannies.

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I Don't Mean to Neglect My Blogging Duties...

or Blogging Buddies, but I have a work project that needs to get finished, ASAP. It involves cleaning up some geology-related spreadsheets, i.e., making sure that the spelling and other info is as consistent as possible.

So, for the meantime, except of the sporadic post, go check out the blogs on the right column.

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