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I'm a consulting geologist for a small company in the Denver area. I study problems related to active tectonics, using geomorphology, structural geology and remote sensing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

betel burgers

hey all,

the weather has been straight crap for the last few days, pouring rain, cold, clammy... in a word: gross. yesterday was a national holiday, 2/28, which remembers the murders of nearly 30,000 taiwanese by the kmt government in 1947. all sparked by a single arrest, the public spoke out against the then corrupt and repressive kuomintang chinese nationalist party... the kmt's response was swift and severe, targeting people of visible importance: doctors, scholars, community leaders.

although this is a very dark day in the taiwanese history, i haven't really noticed much display of it's recognition... some people burning prayer papers in tin buckets on the streets, and little more. i suppose perhaps people here don't feel the pinch quite as much as they used to, and perhaps that has started breeding apathy, much like the effect the social and economic prosperity of the united states has had with it's own populace. for some crazy reason i ate lunch at a mcdonalds today... uchh. walking down the streets, it's surprising to me sometimes how many familiar institutions there are here... starbucks, 7-11, kfc, mcdonalds, mister donut, the list goes on. even if the name or brand is different, the role of the institution is the same. the more i talk to people here, especially the younger generation and most especially the young women, i get a clearer image of just how much this crushing influx of western cultural ideals has begun to rift apart certain aspects of life. one of the most common problems i hear from women here is the frustration they feel with their family over their own independance. it is very much the chinese cultural (or traditional) standpoint that young women should do as they're told, and should make a point of asking their family what they should do when faced with a potential decision. it's not quite so black and white as all that, there are certain levels of subtlety and quiet conformity that are naturally assumed to be understood. I've even met people who's family's have talked of arranged marriages, which seems incredible to me. the conflict occurs when these educated and ever more globally-aware young people decide to follow their own direction and make a stand for themselves... it seems the older generation has very little concept of this desire to be autonomous, and they are confused and confounded by it, seeing it as rebelious and quite unpalatable.

i say if western culture has had any positive influence on the east, great... but i wish those influences could be brought about without the aide of mcdonalds; i feel like i've eaten a pound of greasy clay.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

ode to chris

hello chris,

yes you, frequent skimmer of the blogosphere,
while you are surfing from your office, i am here
tracking all who visit my site so that i can see
little strings of numbers in your address: i.p.
yours is:
you surf with mozilla to check sites: activethrust is mine
your screen resolution is 1680 X 1050
visitor statistic tracking is something quite nifty
sorry to have ditched you in colorado, that wonderful land
with a temporary stand-in roomate who is apparently quite bland
if i am smart and manage to return without getting bird-flu from a duck
i promise that upon my return we will throw another awesome beer-luck!

ok, so i wasn't super sneaky in finding out who exactly was looking at this blog almost as much as my mom, but i did have the help of the cu geology department sys-admin in confirming the ip address for me, as well as office mates who confirmed his actions... btw chris, joya says get back to work. all in all though, i can't blame anyone for using my blog as an excuse to procrastinate... i spend more time working on this than most people spend reading it.

i think i'm getting over this dumb cold. yeah, definitely a cold, not allergy. i got a lot of much needed sleep this weekend, something like 14 to 15 hours a day. i hate being sick in other countries, mostly because it's so damn hard to get the drugs you're used to. i went to a pharmacy here to try to find something like nyquil or just a general 'cold medicine', and when i described what my symptoms were, the pharmacist kept pulling out all these perscription allergy medications. 'no no no, not zyrtec, no not allegra, no thanks'. i ended up just going home and popping a couple of advils. i was also talked into taking propolis by my roomate... wow that stuff is n-a-s-t-y ! it tastes pretty much like what it is: the distilled essence of bee's puke. seriously. actually propolis in it's raw form is a brown waxy substance bees use to seal their combs... it is an extremely potent anti-microbial agent, which has been extensively researched as a usable anti-bacterial treatment. a couple dropper-fulls of that right down the gullet a day make a big difference. the taste does send you reeling for a minute...

back to work on this monday afternoon... getting some slope-maps done and some curvature analysis... all in the quest to find these somewhat elusive axial surfaces. i almost forgot that i've had a request for some 'interesting geologic information' about the island by some of the local bloggers... so perhaps i'll try to post some of that soon.

anyway, i'll leave you with a couple pics... one is just of a part of my room... thought some folks would like to know i'm doing quite well in tian-mu, and have just about every creature-comfort i could wish for. the other is just of the sea-walk in dan-shui by the coast.

sunny bedroom
people walking by the sea~t

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


wednesday afternoon...

i seem to have come down with a bit of a head cold... ugh. sneezy, wheezy what a bummer. it doesn't help that it's about 80 degrees outside now... it's beautiful weather, yesterday was super clear (which happens all of about 3 times a year here) but it's so hard to enjoy experienced through the haze of illness-induced-spaciness. it's a little odd to consider that during the entire weekend it poured buckets of rain and was only about 50 degrees. i did make it outside briefly yesterday, to come down to the office but i never made it inside. i walked around gonguan for a little while, had something to eat and tried a new drink i'd never seen before. 'fanta lactic' is a beverage made by fanta, coca-cola's popular european and asian soda line, that also contains some sort of milk product... giving the effect of a sort of vanilla yogurt flavoured soda. better than it sounds, and always interesting to see what other people think is a good enough idea to launch an entire product line around. while i was trying to find some more information about this drink, i ran across soda-blog... worth a looksee. the mosquitos in my room have started coming back, and for the last few nights i've awoken to searing pain when i unwittingly leave an arm exposed above the covers. monday night in particular, i woke up to find 4 separate welts all within 5 inches of each other on the soft underside of my right forearm... throbbing and pulsing enough to wake me from a dream. at that point there's no way i can fall asleep again when i know those little buggers are just waiting for me to stop thrashing around before they descend again to slip a proboscis into my flesh. oh well... just sitting here in the office going over some notes and trying to make some plans to go back down to puli sometime soon, but it's a little hard for me to think about that, i just want to take it easy and get over this stupid cold. ok, i'm heading out... taking my notes and a journal paper and laptop home and doing work from my couch. i can pick up oj and chicken soup on the way.


Monday, February 20, 2006

long weekend

hey all,

it's been a bit of a long weekend... came into work on saturday until about noon... probably the second time that whole week i'd made it into the office before noon. i went downtown for sushi at a restaurant and then caught the movie "munich" at one of the major theatres in the city. the movie was good, rather i should say,"well done". the movie did a good job of giving the viewer a visceral feeling for what the brutality of the munich olympic hostage crisis and the aftermath was like, but i felt totally shell-shocked after the movie. it took several hours fo me to get over it. it's not just a violent movie ; it is very graphic, and the violence is not movie-esque... not clean, and not overly bloody to the point of being comical... the acts depicted are just brutal and swift and a little too realistic for anyone who's kind of squeamish. went out to a friend's house xizhi and just spent time hanging out. that was basically the whole weekend. it's been a welcome change to going to bars and being surrounded by people. i think i'm getting a bit of a sore throat too, so taking it easy this weekend was a good thing.

not much of a post this time... no witty banter or really insightful observations... maybe next time. i will post a mosaic of some of the grafiti and stickers i've run into recently... the weather's been really gross for a few days too, so i haven't really been taking many pictures.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006


don't want to give away too much... here is a first-run test for an idea i'm working on... sort of urban beautification without all the legal issues that come with what would technically be considered vandalism.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

snoopy train

so it's midday wednesday and i'm sitting in my office about to dive into my advisor's responses to the first major update i sent him recently. 'about to dive into' of course means i'm putting it off by posting to my blog instead. i feel like i've been pretty out of the loop for the last few days, neither really being productive at work or at play... just sort of here. it's been a month and a half since i arrived, which means i've only got another two and a half to go... not very long at all. i haven't been running, i definitely haven't been riding my bikes, can't go skiing or ice-climbing (thanks, by the way, to all of my friends in the snowy, icy north who have repeatedly assured me i am missing one of the best ski seasons ever...), so i've been continuing to explore the city here on foot. i'm really looking forward to getting back out into the field sometime soon so i can get some more hands-on work done. i'm still going to bed really late and waking up late. it's kind of annoying, but for some reason i just can't seem to readjust my circadian rhythms.

monday i came to work and sent out my update to colorado. came home early, found amazing grafiti under a freeway overpass along one of the rivers and started to take pictures. camera ran out of battery power. stopped at shilin night market on the way home for a roasted pork sandwich (pork, cabbage, mayo, hot sauce, cheese on a toasted bun) and a few mr. donut donuts to bring back to roomates.

tuesday i got out of bed at 2pm and stayed home, sort of doodling with my data from my couch, but made no real headway. was stumped by my apparent inability to find an elegant way to overcome a simple data incompatibility issue... was too sluggish to brute-force my way through it. went to happy hour at the english pub down the street. ended up staying there for 5 hours.

woke up this morning at a reasonable time. took an unreasonable amount of time to get ready for work. canceled each other out. made my way from the bus into the mrt station at jiantan, and managed to catch the snoopy train. there is one train in the mrt system that breaks the stainless steel style mold of the other trains, it is pink and yellow and covered from front to back in peanuts characters, snoopy, charlie, lucy, the whole gang. have yet to get a picture of it.

have plans to check out a bar/club called carnegies tonight with another american... should be interesting. feel like i need to get some good progress down before i leave the office tonight.

still haven't bought the polaroid... maybe next month? also still considering the fujifilm s3 pro. that may never happen but it's in the back of my mind. as soon as i get new batteries in my fuji, i'll try to post a picture or two of things i've seen recently.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

mineral rights

"the meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights."

i was going through some of the messages in my inbox in an effort to clear some things out, when i ran across an old message from one of my friends. she's a geology major at cornell, and sent me this url when i was employed as a "real" (i.e. paid, and telling people where to drill) geologist... it's funny just how accurate it is. anyway, check out: geosphere


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

i love technology

voip is my friend. that's voice-over-internet-protocol for those not into techy-nomenclature. thanks to it, i can talk to friends 8000 miles away gratis. i just paid my monthly car loan payment to my lender in colorado... withdrawing from my bank in new york, all from the comfort of my office in taipei. i use satellite imagery to analyze terrain evolution, as well as to see whether or not it's going to rain tomorrow. i visually record my travels using a 6 million pixel charge-coupled-device sensor (digi-camera) and upload them to a globally accessible data repository called, "the net". where sci-fi used to be considered surreal, it has become sci-real. human ingenuity has long been influenced by dreamers... why "necessity is the mother of invention" is still considered to be a reasonable truth, i can't say. do i "need" to be able to listen to any one of 15000 songs whenever i feel like it? probably not, but i love my ipod just the same... it's a damn cool little widget. do i "need" to have the ability to play video games on my phone while i wait in an airport? nope, but it makes the time go faster... the same goes for being able to wave my wallet over a sensor at the subway station and automatically have the fare deducted from my RFID encoded rail-pass, or being able to locate myself anywhere on the planet's surface to within roughly 10 feet with respect to a geocentric reference frame.

i may not really require any of these things, and i wouldn't necessarily say they make life easier... if anything they greatly increase the volume of information and level of detail one needs to familiarize themselves with (phones used to just have a single crank-wheel), but they do make dealing with this volume and complexity inherent in this era do-able... and those who excel at data-surfing or toggle-jockeying are the ones who are thinking about how convenient it would be if only their food-blender at home had a built-in computer processor and real-time satellite link-up.

... do our cars still run on hydrocarbons?


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

thank god for meta-data

no, not informative meta-data about satellite tracks or ortho-image projections silly, html meta-data! thanks to that, you can now search for "tarka wilcox" on google and active-thrust is the first hit. there are a ton of other key-words too, so many other words and terms that i believe to be associated with who i am will also (eventually) yield this site in web-searches. as a side note, i'll also just include the little tidbit that this blog has seen over 160 visits in the last month. fyi.




received an interesting comment today from a fellow blogger(?). the odd punctuation is because i can't really tell what this person does. the comment was bascially just a "been looking around a lot and i like your page" kind of complement, but the user identifies themself as 'sealy memory foam'. check out their page: sealy products. weird. it's sort of like a blog, certainly doesn't seem like a normal corporate product info page. but it sort of does. i can't really figure it out, so you can give it a go if you like. thanks anyway i guess...

still working on site pages. i've actually got a couple of layouts already, and i was considering alternating them, sort of like flavour of the month. anyway i'll give you a little peek at a couple of them here. still haven't chosen a hosting service, so if any of you have suggestions, please leave them here.


vinyl dreams

hi all,

2:14 right now... am that is. been staying up late a lot recently. seem to be very alert during the wee hours, and very much the opposite during the mornings. hmmm. anyway, i am blogging this from my bed, about to lay me down to sleep, and had an odd little thought: what would i look like as a vinyl figurine? some of you may not be aware of the collectible vinyl figurine craze, or really underground movement about to become a widespread craze... but maybe i can rectify that. check out strangeco, or tokidoki for a glimpse of the very large world of designer toys.


Monday, February 06, 2006


hi again...
i've actually been doing work today, and am tired of staring at graphs. i took a break to mess around with some pics for a little while, and what you see to the left is proof of procrastination. anyway, i guess that's a record of what i look like at 26. photo-strip machines are very popular here, although most of them are color and let you insert yourself into some sort of digital beach-body cut-out or other such things. i haven't actually located one that just does the simple old-school style black and whites (not that i've been looking...), and this one to the left was just done with photoshop using pics from my camera. i've been toying with the idea of buying another camera... a polaroid. i miss the instant gratification of polaroids that i remember from childhood: click, whizzzz, picture. they also take really nice pictures. they sort of represent the ultimate ability to capture a moment.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


no, it's not the new answer to the universe, but it is my new age. realized that i haven't put any pictures up here for a while. i think i was trying to save some of the newer ones for my site, but i haven't really done any new work on that for a few days either. in fact, i just left my laptop at the office for the weekend, and didn't think about it again until this morning. a few of my office-mates are back from vacation now, so it sort of feels more like school than it has for the last couple of weeks... maybe now i can get down to brass tacks... it also helps that i think i've finally and permanently got a solution to my software woes. friday (birthday) night my roomates and i went out for spicy-pot (as opposed to normal hot-pot) and then hit a couple of lounge bars around the city. pretty low-key, especially since the city was still more or less deserted at that point, but still a really good time. i went for a recon-hike yesterday and found a good running trail near my house, and have started getting really used to mosquitos... though i still hate the little f*&#s. i fell really lazy right now, so i'm just going to post a couple snaps from the last week. longshan temple.


Thursday, February 02, 2006


in stark contrast to the last post, i offer this literary lemon-wedge to cleanse the proverbial palate...

it is absolutely beautiful here today. i don't think i could take a picture that would acurately capture the feeling of the day, so i will attempt it descriptively....

as i somehow figured out the problem i was having with my data analysis, i decided that this little victory was worthy of a reward, so i headed out to get a demitasse of espresso. for once the sun is shining today, through a slight haze that lends a welcoming glow to the air... soft light filters down and there is a light breeze that is just strong enough to bring the scent of all the blooming lilies on campus to your nose from anywhere you stand. it is one of those days that invokes the memory of all the days like it before... spring and late summer days that are not particularly memorable, but are sporadically recalled, like deja-vu. i walked through campus, around the athletics buildings and past the running track, where families and a few solo runners jogged easily. no-one seemed particularly set on breaking any records there... i continued through the center of campus, looping back to my department, and paused at the edge of the plantation fields that form a green buffer from the city along the south-western edge of ntu. there is a wandering board-walk there, along the edge of a pond that is host to many types of floating plants, reeds and lilies, lotus and cat-tails. a fair number of people are out walking, strolling really, taking time to pause at the waters edge and look at the turtles basking in the sun on a log at the far side. i sat down on a stone bench that is just off to the side, under the half-shade of a young tree. so many layers of sound are present in the air, but not like what's usually audible in the city. the normally pervasive and penetrative barrage of sound that greets the ears here is something i generally prefer to filter out with the aid of my ipod... today the hum of the city took backstage to the underlying thrum of crickets and the animated sound of children talking at each other. the splash of water from a nearby fountain as it falls on the surrounding stones, and the chuckle of a couple of grandparents... the sound of a man slurping the last drops of melting ice-cream from the bottom of a cone before crunching into the cone itself. i can sit here for an hour, and do, watching people and birds drift by....




bit of a rant here, so just bear (down) with me... one of the cultural differences that is impossible to ignore here in taiwan, is the use of the squatter in public restrooms. now, perhaps it is my spoiled anglo-tushie, or some preference for having a bit of a library when i need relief, but i find using a squatter a bit of a pain in the ass (tasteless pun intended). i should also preface this with the fact that i have no problem assuming the squatting position when i'm twenty miles from civilization, or wiping my butt with everything from leaves to stones to snow... i'm proud to say i've used all of those with great success in the past... but doing this in a claustrophobia-enducing cubby, with slick tile floor and absolutely no aiding support, can be a challenge. the 'squatter' for anyone who hasn't figured it out, is the minimalistic alternative to the classic sit-down toilet. in south america you are lucky to find one that is little more than a hole in the ground. here in taiwan they are slightly more refined, being flush-fit recessed porcelain fixtures that flush. the tricky thing about them is that they require a certain amount of flexibility and balance to utilize without incurring tragic consequences. another side effect of the stance required, is that any possibility of relaxing is gone. so, all in all, they are generally an experience to be dealt with as quickly as possible. ah, yes... i almost forgot; there is never (read: never-ever) any sort of tissue paper in the stall... it is strictly b.y.o.t-p... another slight oddity as this necessitates walking through your building with a roll of toilet paper in hand. "hey, tarka... where are you headed?"... ah, usually i might reply, "oh, just going to go get a drink." or some such banal or vague reply. with tp in hand, it is inescapably obvious what one intends to do in the near future....