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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, April 27, 2006


slickensides are parallel striations on rock surfaces produced by relative motion across opposite sides of fault planes. they can give important information about the sense of shear and direction of motion across the fault plane. these slickenlines indicate a top-to-the-west, thrust sense of shear along the interface of a coal bed with a sandstone bed. the coal (with its low internal strength and high graphite content) acts as a weak layer that allows the overlying shale to 'glide' across the sandstone.



not much of that left here... trying to get my remaining tasks prioritized and it's proving to be a little more diffucult than i thought it might be. in part, i want to have some more polished results ready to present upon my arrival in colorado, but on the other hand i would like to spend my last several days here having fun and trying to squeeze in some last-minute exploring. ultimately i'm sure i'll manage to do a little bit of both, but not as much of either as i would like. eh, that's the way it goes.

it seems i've been slacking on posting photos recently too... so here's a quick pic of the farms around puli just before twilight.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

data transcription

phew. back from puli... it was sunny and hot there (as the farmer-tan i acquired can prove) and it's pouring rain again here in taipei. i'm sitting at my desk here about to start transcribing all of my field notes, which of course didn't happen during the last few nights as i'd fooled myself into thinking it would. talk is tomorrow, but everyone keeps reminding me that it's no big deal and to keep it simple.

my cough is still lingering on, but i took some time to further research the side-effects of the drugs i brought with me (tamiflu and cipro) ...it sounds like the potential side effects are much worse than an annoying cough. i've been reading all these first hand accounts of permanent disability and tendon injury and all sorts of really nasty things. i think i'll put up with the cough for a little longer... even after just two days out of taipei i could feel my lungs clearing up a little.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

puli bound


leaving today at 5pm for some last-minute field work and data-mining in puli. i'll be bringing my laptop to plot up new data every evening, and also to slide this new info into my presentation for tuesday (if i'm back by then).

the thought of leaving here is a little surreal now, after four months of really getting settled in. i know my way around really well, i'm comfortable... i have some really good friends here. if highschool represents the kind of ultra-awkward and socially combative image of my past (as it does for many people in the states) then i would have to say that grad-school represents a time when i can be at ease with my surroundings and feel socially uninhibited. this sense of ease makes traveling a hell of a lot easier than it was when i was 17, and my experiences are that much richer.

i'm not really sure what the point of this post is.... maybe just a reminder that if you're ever off in the middle of the jungle doing field work and worrying about how you're going to solve some sticky problem or how you're ever going to manage to give a talk the day you get back, remember to stop for a minute and take a look around; enjoy the view, smell the sunshine and sit back with a bowl of pork wonton soup and a bottle of pi-jio. you are a lucky bastard.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

down to the wire

i've got exactly two weeks remaining until i am uprooted once more and returned to my land of milk and honey (or micro-brews and mountainous peaks). at the moment i am filled with conflicting feelings for my impending departure, from joyous anticipation to mild dread.

i've spent the last four months trying to wrap my noggin around the puli basin... to get into the nitty-gritty of what will eventually become the focus of my doctoral dissertation, and i'm slightly more confused at this point than i was coming in. i've spent hours futzing with digital elevation models and ascii (american standard code for information interchange... i had to look it up) data, then days plotting profiles and vector maps. i've stared at cross sections from different sources and so far they've all constructed sections through my study area with squiggly lines, the structural geologist's equivalent of saying, "forget it, i'm not even going to try". if anything, i'm frustrated that i haven't been able to really shed a lot of light on the processes at work here... and this is where my feelings of mild dread come in.

on the one hand, returning to colorado will mean being reunited with friends and being able to understand everyone i talk to. i can ride my bikes, and enjoy all that boulder has to offer, namely clean air and that wonderful small-town aesthetic. on the other hand it means returning to my office (and my advisor) with a big question-mark on my forehead. now, i know it would be foolish for me to return with the idea that i'd figured it all out, and that it's unrealistic to think that i could have in relatively short time. it's still nagging at me though. the good side to going back to the office is that i'll have an easier time checking in and getting feedback... not to mention a little more motivation to get cracking on this stuff. this summer will be spent restoring (sort of deconstructing piece by piece) balanced structural cross-sections of the western foothills... then meshing these with my own updated cross-sections of the hsuehshan range. i think my goal for the year could be a poster at the annual a.g.u. conference with a complete balanced cross-section and axial surface map.

for now however, a 30 minute talk next tuesday and an hour long presentation in three weeks will be the focus of my energy. i think the next few days are going to be very long ones indeed.


Monday, April 17, 2006

junk food...

...is the same the world over. for some unknown reason i decided to get a hot-dog last night from the local 7-11. yuck. i've never been a really huge fan of hot-dogs, but every once in a while i just get that craving for something that reminds me of summers when i was ten years old. rest-assured, the taiwanese have not quite mastered the "art" of the american hot-dog. i can't say if there were too many preservatives or not enough, if the meat mixture had too many pig snouts or not enough, but something was quite amiss. i won't be buying any more of those.

my latest field excursion was supposed to take place this past weekend, but due to dangerous conditions (heavy rain raising the water levels in the peikanghsi valley) i opted to wait it out. now i'll be going back down as soon as the conditions allow access to the riverbed, where i need to fill in some data-gaps in order to complete my initial cross-section through the area.

from the data i've compiled already, it appears that the high terrace surface deformation doesn't really follow from the deformation pattern of the rocks immediately below them in the valley, so i need to start looking for some other less obvious cause. i have a few in mind, and one hypothesis i particularly like (involving some exciting new models from very new research on the internal deformation of critical coulomb wedges under conditions of steady-state erosion) but i don't yet have enough information to prove anything. i'm sure, in fact, that even if i can come up with some convincing "proof", it will be months before i can pull it all together. i keep forgetting that i'll be taking the next 4-plus years to work all this out. ahhhh.... grad school.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

bali: fictional life - real death

it's been a week since i returned from bali. images of beaches and palm trees were put aside in the last few days for more dreams of structural geology and questions about noncorrelable surface and subsurface deformation patterns... but now some of those questions have been answered and i have plans to re-visit my field area soon to help fill in some gaps. in the meantime, i'll finally get to write something about bali.

several weeks ago i was im-ing with my boulder roomate about plans i had to take some time off from my studies in taipei, in order to spend a few days in a villa in indonesia. i'm sure i added a few embellishments about my plans, but the one thing i remember about the conversation was chris telling me, "the more i talk to you, the more you sound like a fictional character." in following conversations since then he's clarified that he meant a character more like james bond or some such globe-trotting-martini-swilling-tropical-villa-living type persona... the point is: i never really thought about this 'fictional life' of mine until someone else brought it up.

bali is an interesting blend of realities itself. the very mention of the name brings up images of postcard beaches... attractive tanned people and white sand, palms, turquoise water and vivid sunsets; but the truth is a little more three-dimensional than that. one walk through central kuta will show a person a lot about what bali is like. yes, the island is beautiful... almost exactly what one might expect from the postcards, but the postcards can never do justice to the human element.

there is a very clear separation between locals and foreigners. foreigners are there by choice; we fly there on a jet and stay in a hotel. we see the sights and pay people to drive us around. we shop, we spend, and for the most part that is our role. it's obvious that the economy depends on the tourist trade and just about every local has some part to play in the exchange. it's nearly impossible to walk more than ten feet through central kuta without being offered transport or souvenirs or drugs. stray dogs cruise the streets while shop-keepers arrange small, ornate hindu offerings of food and flowers and place them at the entrance of their stores. the overall aire in the town is one of real-life... people trying to make a living doing what they can with what they have.

off the streets however, behind the scenes almost, small pockets of paradise and almost opulent indulgence are everywhere to be had... by those who can afford it. "afford" is a key concept here, because just about everyone who visits bali can afford this... but if you are a local you would be lucky to ever see inside this world. even i, with a relatively meager income by american standards (a lowly graduate student stipend), was able to afford an entire private villa. this is where fictional life begins. each morning in the villa, two staff came to cook breakfast. i swam in the pool and sipped cocktails floating on a tray. i had a masseuse come to the villa to work out a knot in my shoulder. i prepared dinner in the villa's luxury kitchen... the list of surreal experiences goes on (and gets better) but i'm at a loss for words to adequately describe them. five minutes walk from my compound's front door was the beach. sunsets were beatiful and a very popular restaurant (kudeta) was right down the street, where one can enjoy tapas and martinis by the starlit ocean.

on the last full day there, i was treated to a trip to 'dreamland beach'. as the name implies, the beach is amazing. after a 20 minute drive and short hike down through old terraces of uplifted coral reef, dreamland beach is a light coral sand stretch that separates the sea from the myriad small thatched huts and bungalows that occupy every cranny along the cliff. good indonesian food and beer and fun playing in the salty surf all seem like just the things you'd want from a place like this. again, surreal perfection leaves me at a loss for words, for fear that i would fail to do the memory justice.

on the trip back to the villa, the road was blocked by an accident that had just happened. already a throng of people had flocked to the scene, surrounding the tattered wreckage of a large truck and a small scooter. both vehicles lay on their sides; the scooter looked like a toy next to the heavy, broken form of the truck. among glass and platic and metal, all shattered and shorn, a very real hand lay limp and relaxed, protruding from beneath a white sheet laid out next to the scooter and the rider's broken helmet. the realization of life lost was sudden and sobering, but still confusing given where i'd just been.

flipping back and forth between these worlds, of frivolous indulgence and harsh reality, is an experience that seems uniquely balinese. luxury and strife co-exist in close quarters... foreigners on one side and locals on the other. sometimes the two worlds coalesce and the results can go either way, but no matter what, bali will provide anyone with memorable experiences and a new appreciation for what you have in your own real life.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

when it rains...

...it pours! i'm not talking about morton's iodized salt, either... it is absolutely pouring buckets outside right now, thunder and all. i've learned the hard way that my puny but 'convenient' umbrella is utterly insufficient in rain like this, as is evidenced by my wet shoes, pants, shoulders and messenger bag. thankfully, my bag is waterproof, otherwise my laptop would be just another cute piece of white plastic with the apple logo on it.

i know, i know... i still haven't posted a single thing about bali. i'm still in the crunch trying to pull a cross section and working kinematic model together so it'll have to wait a little longer. i will leave one pic as a teaser though... this is 'dreamland beach'... enjoy.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

back from bali

hey all...

just a quick post this time. i got back from bali late last night and didn't really have any energy left to speak of. in short, bali is amazing... beautiful sights, awesome food, world-class entertainment all came together to make a really memorable 4-day jaunt to indonesia. i'm safe and sound and none the worse for wear (i even managed to pick up a mild tan).

i've got a lot to write about, and i think i managed to get a few good pics (i haven't even had time to look through them myself) so i will likely spend some time in the coming days posting those up here.