About Me

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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.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

saved by schedule conflict

thank god.

i've been working on getting all of my recent data compiled into a couple of maps and figures for the last few days, and was supposed to have a rough version today, but haven't quite made it to that point. getting sick hasn't helped me at all either, but it turns out one of the other students can't meet today so i get an extension by default.

i don't usually get sick more than once a year or so, and i've already been ill a few times this winter. it's what i refer to now as 'city-shpillchus', seeing as how i seem to have the exact same symptoms now as i did when i lived in the industrial city of pontevedra, in northern spain. the constant inhalation of everything from sewage fumes and carbon monoxide to diesel smoke and disc brake dust inevitably ends with my haucking up my lungs. i used to think the greyish stains on all the building here were just a sort of mildew from all the moisture, but i'm fairly convinced now that it's really just all the suspended particles in the air glomming onto the buildings when it rains. i have noticed that the air quality has been particularly crappy in the last couple of weeks, but i'm not totally sure why.

anyway, i've got data to plot and maps to pull together, which at this point should only take another day or two. this is very good news, since i'm leaving on saturday night for bali. yes, beautiful-island-in-the-pacific bali.

i'm excited to go, but i've also been reading up on the activities of jemaah islamiah, the terrorist organization that has been linked to al-qaeda and the 2005 suicide bombing of a popular restaurant in bali. the ideals they follow and the reasons they've given are all old-hat to those of us who took enough interest after 9-11 to read up on extremist islamic fundamentalism. in the most simple terms, indonesia is a muslim nation (88% of it's inhabitants anyway). if you show up to a muslim nation baring your flesh and imbibing alcohol you are performing acts of sacrilege and deserve to be punished. note the word 'extremist' in the previous sentence. of course not all muslims think this way... few would ever consider performing acts of heinous violence against someone who likes to wear a bikini or have a beer... the kicker is that most of the local people on bali are not even muslim, they are hindu. this would make bali a target even if there weren't hundreds of half naked drunken white people running around making fools of themselves. add to it the fact that bali is one of the most popular holiday vacation spots for australians in the world, you get an ideal location for fundamentalist focus... essentially a tiny hindu island in the midst of an expansive muslim archipelago acting as an influx point for thousands of infidels that wish only to defile everything muslims stand for (or something like that)... no wonder.

in the end though, it's no more dangerous to go to a place like bali then it is to visit london (i.r.a.), or madrid (e.t.a.), or any other place in the world where ideals clash and bombs go off.


Monday, March 27, 2006

rainy season?

hi all,

it's been pouring buckets over the last four days or so... you just get used to feeling damp most of the time. i used to hate umbrellas, i hated carrying them, i hated walking on the sidewalk when everyone had them, but i think i've finally come around. this is more of a necessity here than other places i've lived in the past though, so it should come as no surprise to me. you all know the experience of standing on a porch in a summer thunderstorm and seeing spouts of rain sheet off the roof of the porch? ...here you get the same effect even though you're just standing under a small umbrella; water pours down all around you in a thin veil, reminiscent of a small garden fountain. people ride their bikes with umbrellas in hand, and in some cases you can see two people on one bike both holding umbrellas. i saw this just last night, and was kicking myself for not having my camera with me, since the image looked like something right out of a shigeki kuroda etching.

at this point, i only have five more weeks here in taipei and i am really trying to make the most of it. i've been thinking so much about my work that last night's dream was more a continuation of my research than a respite from it... one that you awake from with a start and unexpectedly blurt out, "synformal-axial-surface!". such is grad-school though... right?

it looks like the weather might improve for a couple of days... that last system is blowing out to sea and the air behind it looks pretty dry, maybe that will add to my motivation a little.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

highschool correspondence

hey all,

several things in the past weeks have had me thinking back to my old highschool, "acs"... 'the alternative community school' in ithaca, ny. i randomly decided to send a quick email to a bunch of the teachers who taught me while i was there, just saying hi, and what i'm doing now, and thanks for helping get me here in the first place. one of those teachers, who was responsible for getting me into my first academic conference in new mexico when i was about 14, responded with the question of what turned my interests to geology in the first place... my response is below.

"I think originally it was an excuse to study something that would allow me to spend lots of time exploring mountains... but in college that excuse quickly grew into a genuine interest and curiosity about the processes that move and change our planet. There are so many fields within the broad subject of geology that picking one I really enjoyed (and seemed to have a knack for) wasn't that hard... after some trial and error of course. Structural geology basically studies the geometry of brittle deformation in the earth's shallow rocks (the first ten kilometers or so, above the depth at which rock begins to behave as a ductile material) and Neotectonics/Kinematics is the study of the evolution of that deformation through time.... or 'how mountains are made'.

My real fascination with this field is the thought of just how impermanent things like mountains and oceans are. There is a quote somewhere that goes something like, "Societies exist on the whim of Geology" (though the actual quote is much more elegant... I can't seem to find the original...) which is essentially true. Our world is ever-changing, mountains rise and fall and oceans shift, and it seems so unlikely to observers like ourselves who live and die in a geologic blink of an eye. Tectonics as a whole, has only been around as a science for something like 40 years, so it is still very young, and exciting advances in techniques, technology and understanding are still happening.

Perhaps that explanation is a little melodramatic, so to lighten it up a little; sticking with geology really HAS allowed me to spend lots of time hiking and climbing in mountains from Argentina to Taiwan, which of course was the whole point all along!"


Sunday, March 19, 2006

night lilies



...was interesting. got up at a reasonable time, and grabbed my cameras and tripod and caught the train to danshui. shot some pictures around the market area, and the sea-walk... a small temple squeezed between two apartment buildings. went back to the little open air cafe overlooking the bay and had an espresso while i took a few more random shots off the balcony. i also recognized a name when the owner said it to one of the other people there.... "mani". when i got here, (taipei i mean) i started checking online for information about the area. i ran across a post about tian-mu on 43places.com by mani, (i recommend the site by the way... it has a lot of good information about travel destinations all over the planet) who also recommended danshui and the cafe i went to. it's funny to run into someone you only know about from an internet posting online... it lends some sense of humanity to the impersonal atmosphere of the web.

i also went up to yangmingshan park later that night to see the blossoms. during this time of the month, there is supposed to be a brilliant display of cherry and azalea flowers. the trees and bushes are lit at night and the other big attraction are the cala lilies, which are planted along the ponds in the park. the only problem with the attraction is that so many people from the city make their way up the mountain that it turns into a huge traffic jam, and the actual display of blossoms leaves something to be desired. ...the flowering trees along the lake in central park (nyc) are more impressive.

we'll see how the 35mm shots i took turn out. in the meantime, i'll post a pic of one of the lilies at night.


Friday, March 17, 2006


no, not the drunken frat-boy kind. the humidity here in taipei is something else.

today is ultra-hazy... it's not particularly hot, or muggy, but the air is thick and the haze looks more like grey smoke than the result of suspended water particles. it feels like sound is somewhat deadened, energy is absorbed, and everyone is just a little slow. the sun doesn't really shine, in fact the greyness is uniform enough that there isn't even really a bright glow from any quadrant of the sky... just a mild light that is simply present.

i know, it sounds a little depressing... it's not particularly, just kind of lends a little blase-je-ne-se-quois overtone to the day. i do feel a little stifled in my office. working in the same small area with 5 other people who have all grown up used to high temperatures and suffocating humidity can give one pause when approaching the air-conditioning unit with thoughts of the frozen peaks of the rockies in mind. that is to say, i don't want to make waves by turning the a.c. on to its maximum setting and bringing the whole office down to my comfort range; i think everyone else in here would be wearing down coats. honestly i think it's pretty funny that they even sell down coats in taiwan.

needless to say i'm looking forward to the dry, thin air of colorado, clear skies and crystal mountain streams. my summer is going to kick ass.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

visa versus...


i've spent the better part of the day traipsing about the city trying to get an extension on my visa so that i can stay until may. when my visa was issued, they gave me a standard 90 day visitor's visa... they also told me (and this is the 'they' that they talk about when they talk about 'them') that once i got here, i could just go the bureau of consular affairs and get a stamp that gave me an extension. well... not quite. it turns out that i have a "personal" visa, different from a work or student visa, and they won't extend my visa without changing my visa type. this requires some official paperwork to say that i'm a student or i'm employed or some other such thing. this would be fine except i don't have any kind of paperwork like that, since it was easier for me to come here without any (my university makes you jump through a ton of hoops if you officially go abroad for study).

thankfully, there is an easy, albeit not super convenient, loop-hole in the system. if i leave the country within the 90 days and return, my stay gets extended another 90 days from the day i re-enter the country, since it's considered a new visit. thankfully my visa does allow multiple entries so it looks like i'll be taking a short trip sometime very soon. apparently this is very common.... and even locals who have foreign passports use this option in order to live here without official papers. students and professionals alike just take a weekend trip every three months and there is no problem.

more as the story develops... and sorry for the double posting earlier... i took down the duplicate so unless you check daily you probably have no idea what i'm talking about.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

still pluggin away

sitting at my desk today.. trying to figure out the best way to run smoothing algoritms over my data... finally just realizing that i should just keep all the inherent noise and use my eyes and better judgement to filter stuff mentally. also need to get my notes and data from the field trip this weekend in digital form. anyway, in between short bouts of productivity, i've started getting my website together again... i have the rough site together, and i'll post it up to my webspace on the cu boulder servers soon, as a preliminary step to getting my own domain registered and hosted. as soon as the page is accessible i'll put a link here to it. i've been trying to put together a small collection of images that i have on my laptop here... most of my stuff (including my resume) are still on my desktop at home... so it'll be sometime this summer before i can put that stuff up.

taking it easy tonight... going home now. before i go though, i'll post one of the pics i took in colorado before i left... this one is going up on the site.


Monday, March 13, 2006

lesson time

hey all...

so i'm back from the field, safe and sound, despite sitting on the back of a scooter and riding all over the peikang-hsi valley and puli basin. found some cool outcrops and decided that when i finally draft a cross section through this area, the areas where the shui-chang-liu and pai-leng formations are deformed by intense folding will just be shown as squiggley lines... the real pattern of deformation is totally confusing to me. the one thing that is very clear to me is that these rocks have really been through the wringer. actually, an old style laundry wringer is a fairly effective analog for what happens to the deeper rocks of the chinese continental margin as they are accreted into the critical wedge of the taiwanese orogen. sorry for all the lingo, if you don't understand it, google it, that's my best suggestion. in so many words, the westward motion of the pacific-sea-plate is cramming the entire island of taiwan up onto the chinese continental margin. as these rocks are fed into the orogen (read: mountain range) they are over-ridden by the weight of the entire island. the rocks get crunched and rolled and smooshed, sort of like feeding a flat towel into a wringer, and letting it just pile up on the other side. once enough of the overlying rocks have been stripped away by the amazing erosive power of typhoon's rains, the "munched" rock finally reaches the surface. this 'exhumation' of material occurs because surface material is stripped away and more rock has been placed underneath the island... essentially cycling material from deep underground up towards the surface. picture putting the same towel through the same wringer, but then wring out another towel, and let it pile up underneath the previous one. repeat for a while until you have a really big pile of towels and you start taking the dryest ones off the top, though you continue to add towels to the bottom of the pile... eventually you'll see your favorite beach towel you wrung out half an hour ago because you're working your way down through the pile. the cool thing is that the pile never gets any bigger once you start taking the towels off the top... this is referred to as 'steady-state tectonics' (well, not when you're talking about towels, but you get the idea).

another process that happens, on a smaller scale, is 'flexural slip faulting'. this is specific to folds (especially cylindrical ones), so i'll try to keep the analog simple. as i mentioned before, rocks fold. it seems odd at first, but under the right circumstances, rocks will fold just like cotton towels. a better analog however, is a book. folding is most easily understood when talking about sedimentary rocks. you can fold any kind of rock, but only sedimentary rocks start out in thin flat layers, like the pages of a book... parallel planes resting against each other. quickly, a fault is basically when rock breaks. flexural slip faulting is specifically the kind of fracture that happens parallel to bedding (the pages) when folding occurs. all of you have picked up a phone book and bent it in half... or at least rolled up a magazine. it's all the same thing, what you notice when you do this is that the open edge of the book sort of splays out... the edges of the page are no longer even with each other. the ones on the inside of the fold stick out further than the outside cover... pages (or beds) which are all the same width are being forced to conform to different radii... and as this happens, the pages rub against each other. if you glued every page in a phone book together (which is a classic prank, by the way) you essentially end up with a big piece of wood, which bends about as easily (interestingly enough) as a big piece of wood. when you fold rocks, the beds can break along their interfaces, and slide along each other... this is the easiest way to accomodate the shearing created by folding. some pics are here to help illustrate this... the fold: this is what folded rocks can look like. this is a pretty tight fold for beds this thick... thin beds are easier to fold and thick ones tend to have a larger fold radius... think about the difference between folding a magazine and one of those nearly-indestructible cardboard baby's books. the book: the two covers are the same size. when the book is bent, the inside cover has a tighter radius, and sticks out further. look at the triangle. the short leg is the thickness of the bed. the long leg is the total bed-parallel slip of the unit (book). the angle between the hypotenuse and the short leg is the shear-angle. the blue plane is the axial plane. the rock wall: this is a bed. the exposed surface is in fact a flexural slip fault plane. it is practically polished from the sliding, and exhibits excellent "slickensides"... kinematic indicators that show the direction of sliding. these can be used to reconstruct the stress-field responsible for creating the fold and can also record multiple episodes of slip in different directions. btw, the two people in the pic are ling-ho and po-no (thanks guys!), two of the students who help me with field work here. the close up of a slickenside: just that... the best slicks often form in recrystalized mineral deposits left by thermal fluids that flow along the fracture plane of the fault.

ok.... enough lesson for now... geez that was kind of long. anyway, i hope that satisfies the technical info request i got a little while ago... maybe i'll post something about the actual geologic history of the at some point too...


Friday, March 10, 2006

night lights

'nuther quick post here.... i'm leaving taipei in about half an hour to go back to my field area. i could really use a weekend away from the city. it'll be sunny and warm in puli, and i'll be spending a few days riding a motorcycle up and down the peikang-hsi ("-hsi" is mandarin for river) and taking measurements of the rock column and structural orientations.

there is a huge bike expo in taipei for the weekend, so i went to check it out yesterday afternoon... just to ogle and covet and drool. i spent about 4 hours walking around the expo hall, fondling all the newest gadgets and bike frames, and wishing i had the funding necessary to walk away with some of the nicest italian road bikes. for those who don't know, it's not that hard to spec a top-of-the-line racing bike out at about 11-12 grand.

i also took a few shots of 101 and a neighboring building as i was leaving... taipei has a lot of stunning buildings that are lit up at night. various schemes are used to illuminate the buildings, and seeing them at night completely changes your perception of the design compared to viewing them during daylight hours. i've been planning a sort of night-tour of some of the better buildings sometime when we have a clear night so that i can take some good images. i'll have to shoot with film too, since the gain in my digital camera sort of blows up the grain of the image... if i can find a tripod to borrow that will help. anyway, here are a couple of the shots....


everybody's famous

my friend conor recently gave up a position at "city" magazine, based in nyc, to pursue other employment options in tokyo... but before moving back to the land of cool suits, sushi and mayonnaise restaurants, the magazine used him in a fashion shoot layout in the most recent issue. I managed to find a copy of city at the big 'page-one' bookstore in taipei101 last night, so i thought i'd throw this pic up... hopefully no-one complains about copyright!

it's pretty cool to see pics of your friends in magazines...


Monday, March 06, 2006

fire dragon fruit

interesting little tidbit of distracting information for you...

i was just emailing a very good friend of mine about how i almost got run over by a scooter and a bus the other day, nearly simultaneously. i spouted about how this was a function of shear population density in taipei, which approaches ten thousand souls per square kilometer in the city center. that's 1X10^6/km^2. i went on in this email about how i wanted to take my bike to wyoming or utah or some such place for a week when i get back to the states, in order to "decompress"... to wander the wide open ranges of the american west, where you can get lost for days and never see another human.

this got me thinking: what is it to have an innate need for space? americans (and please excuse the gross generalization.. of course i mean yankee yahoos from the good ol' yoo-ess-of-ay) tend to have what's commonly known as a well defined sense of "personal space"... a sort of invisible buffer zone or "comfort zone" that occupies an area roughly 50-60cm in diameter within which we reside. This kind of information has even been documented by various authors, and can be found online if you know what you're looking for. it's commonly made fun of in the states, through things like comedy sketches of "close-talkers" and advertisements for real estate. is this need for space, this sense of being entitled to our own chunk of the universe, a result of how we live in and interact with our surroundings from birth?

my point is, take a look at cultural norms with respect to 'personal space', and the living conditions each culture endures in their home-country. Taiwan for instance: thirty-six-thousand square kilometers total land area and 23 million people. that's ~ ((2.3X10^7)people/(3.6X10^4)km^2) = 6.4X10^2 people/km^2, or 640 people per square kilometer. that's including a large amount of uninhabitable (and all but inaccessible) land like mountain peaks and river valleys. compare to Colorado... not even the entire US, but just one state. CO: only 4 million people for two-hundred-seventy-thousand square kilometers. again: ~ ((4X10^6)people/(2.7X10^5)km^2) = 16 people/km^2. that's a huge difference. it's the difference between 1,562 square meters per person vs. 62,500 square meters per person. a factor of 40.

with the shear abundance of open space available to people living in the states, it's no wonder we've acquired a taste for freedom of movement and uninhibited views. i can't say i don't miss being able to look out from my front porch at home and see 40 miles north along the frontrange of the rocky mountains... it makes the view from my balcony here of the apartment building across the alley pale in comparison (i suppose, really, there is no comparison), but it's all relative. so, in closing, i'd like to say to all my fellow yankees who whine incessantly about not having a big enough front yard or a clear enough view of their 50 acre property, suck it up and be happy you even have access to that kind of open space.

as for the title of this little post, check out the pics... this fruit is sort of like a mild tasting kiwi. it's good, but the aesthetic appeal is greater than the culinary.


Sunday, March 05, 2006



suddenly feeling pretty insignificant, after browsing the image and movie archives at noaa's website for space weather. sxi and trace imagery is pretty awesome... and it certainly puts your role in the universe into perspective. i especially like the movie of venus crossing in front of our view of the sun... like a little chunk of flotsam floating by in an ocean. again, i feel the day beginning to draw to a close, and i haven't really done squat. i have a meeting to plan my next trip into the field in a little while, so hopefully i can at least feel like i've achieved something today.




not really 'homesick' per-se, but today is probably the one time I've felt something approaching homesickness. I spent about an hour today, in one of the local bikeshops, ogling and coveting all the shiny aluminum and glossy carbon fiber and feeling very, very deprived of my own bikes back home. ...so, when I say home-sick, what I'm really saying is 'bike-sick', 'trail-sick', 'open-road-and-wind-in-my-face-sick'. I realize that I haven't even ridden a bike in two months... and it's starting to get to me. I was thinking about bringing one of my bikes with me when I left colorado in january, but i decided it would be too much of a pain in the ass. now, in retrospect, i realize that carrying my bike 40 miles to the airport, strapped to my back while crawling through broken glass, would have been worth the effort and pain if it meant i could have my bike with me now. i know, it sounds ridiculous, but damn! ...i really just want to ride. strolling through the shop today, and especially looking at the italian and german framesets displayed on the wall, i just couldn't help but fantasize about taking one of those out on a ride. if i can reserve one boyish, childish, or otherwise immature right, it would be (and often is) the right to dream about biking.... that is of course, when i'm not dreaming about flying spaceships.

the thing i really miss is the smell and sunlight of colorado. in my head, i can see riding my hardtail through the winding singletrack at walker ranch... the sun filtered through the ponderosa pines and the smell of the sage that lines the sides of the trail filling my nose. ...or i can see myself on my full-suspension railing through the corners on the descent off the top of white ranch, through high brush and silver-green grass, with the perfect panorama of denver and the golden plains of eastern colorado forming the backdrop. i could go on and on, describing each scenario that runs through my head... visions of rides to come and memories of epic rides past, but that would take pages and pages and probably be an incredibly boring read to just about everybody.

anyway, that's what's on my mind today... I haven't really done anything productive in several days and that's probably bugging me the most. I really need to get out of the city for a few days and get refocused on my research. more bloggin' soon, maybe a pic or two...


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

that picture

i really like the picture below... by the way. not to toot my own horn, but i just like the spontaneity of it, the man turning his focus to the storefront as he's walking past... pausing for a moment as two people on a scooter blur by in the foreground, separate from the pedestrian, but somehow a part of the same scene...