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.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tarka Wilcox, PhD (Candidate)

Hah! I endured the 3 hours of oral interrogation by my committee members and emerged victorious. ..or, at least alive.

In doing so, I've cleared the first significant (and according to many, the largest) hurdle I will be faced with during my graduate education. Now, after some paperwork and red-tape, I will be advanced to the status of "candidate", and return to the normal grind of research and classes... except that I'm pretty much done with classes now, so I've actually cleared two hurdles. I look forward to another year and a half of being mired by wishy-washy research directives before finally reaching the ultimate stage of the doctoral program which entails productive work and dissertation.

..anyway, it feels good to be through it, and I've been able to breath a small sigh of relief over the weekend. Now I just have to get back to grading students work (which, after tonight, I should be done with also)... I can't wait for winter break.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Pedantic ?

yup, I'm still writing, rewriting, thinking and re-thinking. I hate this stage of work; you realize that you're wasting time being critical of yourself but you still can't be satisfied with what little has (or how much has not) apparently been accomplished. Anyway, I'm just going back through my introduction (again) and seeing some interesting things. Like the fact that when I sum up what it is I study, the following chain of uber-dry terms appears: "...spatial and temporal scales of steady-state critical-taper orogenic evolution". My undergraduates would experience the instantaneous onset of unconsciousness if I ever said that phrase to them (either by fear or boredom, I'm not sure which). But yeah, I guess, that's more or less what I study in a nutshell.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

pictures and words

this post is going to be mostly pictures, I think, but first some words. I've been holed-up in my house for the last couple of days, not really venturing out for reasons other than getting food or getting something from my office. I'm in the throes of writing my comprehensive exam research proposal, which means I'm being forced to look back at what I've done over the last two and a half years, and make some kind of statement about what I plan to do for the next two and a half. I suppose maybe I've done a fair amount, but it doesn't feel like it. Anyway, I recently developed a few roles of film that had been sitting around my house for a while, here are a few results. one is from a day of climbing last summer, where I was apparently unaware of the f-stop setting on the camera, so only a very shallow focal length appears clearly defined but I still like the pic. The others are from the last winter, after an evening of powdery snowfall. The tree also shows a ghost of the film border in the sky... apparently a reflection from inside the housing of my pentax.. I kept it in though, rather than remove it with photoshop. I think this is all on Fuji Reala 100 stock...


Thursday, November 08, 2007

a pic of sunset in death valley, CA... taken about a year ago.


up and coming

Hey all,

The last several months have seen me turning away from blogs and more towards the things on my desk. Work, teaching and preparing for candidacy have more or less ruled my life recently, with the occasional escape for an hour or two to ride my bike. It seems like the semester is winding down, which of course means that everything is actually winding up, towards a culmination of a couple major events, namely my comps exam and a presentation at AGU on my recent(-ish) findings in Taiwan. As always during November, I've been feeling my internal stress-meter climbing steadily for the last couple of weeks... but I seem to have temporarily plateaued for the last couple of days. I've been thinking less and doing more, and trying to come to some quieting realization that even though I'll be busting ass for about the next month straight I'll come out the other end just fine and ready for a break.


Monday, November 05, 2007


they might as well be called mathemagicians. I spent my morning rolling my eyes at the lecturer (a well known, highly respected professor and researcher) this morning, as he recited (practically verbatum) the same lecture he gives in another class (which I've already taken, and also struggled with). ...which is all fine and good, except for the fact that he spent a large amount of time making mistakes, stalling the class and generally confusing everyone who hadn't already mastered fluid dynamics (grad students were correcting him throughout). I never should have taken this class.


Thursday, November 01, 2007



Between my roommate's computer dying this week and the structure lab computer data drive eating it this afternoon, I'm backing up my entire hard-drive to my extra external drive right now. the gremlins are running wild here...

then again... both of the computers in question are PC's running Windows XP... thank god I use a Mac.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Fall Breeze

Fall is here, no doubt about it. Yesterday morning I went up to NCAR, with my coffee and bagel, to sit at the edge of the mesa and take in the view. When I got there, several model glider enthusiasts were perched at the edge of the mesa, guiding their planes through the steady updrafts blowing along the edge. These were no balsa wood gliders... the models were fully radio controlled, and large. Several were in the 4-5 foot wingspan range, but one in particular had a wingspan approaching 8 feet. As that glider sliced through the air, the wings arced upwards and whistling, the pitch changed from a low hum at level flight to a high 'Wfhuee!' during the pilots swooping dives. The air was chilly but the sun still provided enough warmth to sit comfortably and its light dappled the front range through the breaks in the clouds...

More 'purple prose', I know but recently that's about all I've had time for with respect to these blogs. hopefully I'll be able to put some more interesting narrative down before too long..

Notice the pilots off to the right for scale...


Monday, October 01, 2007

An open letter.....

...to my (a$hole) ex-landlords:

dear a$&holes,

thank you for taking over two-thirds of our security deposit. I hope your new tenants enjoy the upgrades you financed with our money. I hope your children enjoy the thirty-dollar-an-hour rate you paid them (skilled laborers) to paint one wall in the house. I also hope that the two-hundred something dollars you charged us for a carpet cleaning lined your pockets well after you rented the same steam cleaning vacuum we used. your combined efforts as property managers have to be of the lowest caliber I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. your efforts to weasel money out of us were evident long before you sent us the return, on the last possible day of the 60 day grace period you gave yourselves in the lease. the fact that the majority of the things you charged us for actually go against legal precedents is obviously of no concern to you, since you are both most likely aware of the fact that renters have almost no legal recourse against landlords of your breed and creed. honestly, my best option for requital is to educate your current tenants as to the similar misfortune they will most likely face when they leave your property. I hope this karma comes back to you someday, as it should.

cheers, and don't come around my door if your car radiator starts smelling like limburger ;)


Thursday, September 13, 2007


yesterday evening found me pedaling a bike along an old jeep road, wending my way through meadows and stands of aspen up meyer's gulch to the outlook between boulder and eldorado canyons. the climb is steep and long, a little less than 3 miles, and pedaling close to fifty pounds of metal and rubber up this trail seems like the pursuit of a crazy person. the views behind me are worth every bead of sweat every heavy breath. the great expanses of the central plains stretch out beyond the abrupt edge of the foothills... the continental divide looms in front of me, backlit by the setting sun. hues of heather and gold, set against shades of green from sage to pine, pick up the last light of the day. it takes less than ten minutes to descend from the bench at the ridge back to the trailhead... the feeling of leaning through sweeping turns at ground blurring speed pulls me towards home, back through the meadows and past the old abandoned homestead, or barn, or whatever it used to be that sits off to the side of the trail. things i complain about during the day, or whichever particular bit of red tape i got stuck with earlier, are all just minor annoyances when considered against the privilege of experiences like this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

back at last

hey all,

i realize that it's been quite a while since my last post... at least a month. i have been in taiwan most of that time, and L.A. for a part of it too. i've been bouncing around boulder for the past few days just trying to regain my footing here and get things in order before the semester starts. i'll be teaching the two lab sections of structural geology this fall, to 42 kids. i still need to complete a draft of my paper in the next week or so. i have to finalize my thesis committee and schedule my comprehensive exam for the end of the semester. i'll be taking advanced geomorphology and participating in a reading seminar on the same subject... since neither my own advisor nor any other professors who specialize in structure or tectonics (any of about 6 people now) are offering any courses or seminars on those topics, at least none that I haven't already taken. i'm off to run home and grab reciepts and a brunton compass from my trip, then back to the desk. more (and more upbeat) posting to follow....


Friday, July 06, 2007


visualization is important for all athletes; it allows you to see where you're going before you get there... to see yourself completing a task and thereby enabling you to complete that task. two pics follow, one is pre-vis... the other is completion.

that's me at keystone, sending a small drop (~6 feet?)...


Sunday, July 01, 2007


hey all,

sitting in my office on this sunday afternoon, because it's the only air-conditioned place i can be and pretend to be productive at this time. wunderground.com was reporting the temperature for boulder as 102.8 degrees farenheit until five minutes ago, when the temp dropped to 99. it's $#@!ing hot here. my house is a relative inferno, and there's not much i can do about it until the outside temp goes down, aside from doing something silly like buying an air conditioner (which i refuse to do, at least at the moment). ... i can say they cost 139 bucks at the home depot though... not like i was looking or anything.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

wow, simply wow...

for your daily dose of tasteless humor in the global political arena, check out this cover of wprost magazine (polish), as reported by the bbc.

bbc story here

Monday, June 18, 2007

new place

some quick pics of the new place... note the hardwood and gas range... sweet! no art on the walls yet, still trying to figure out where to put things.. two kurodas, a kuniyoshi and two other contemporary japanese prints (i can't remember the artist at the moment), as well as a bunch of my own photographs. still need to stop by the boulder restaurant supply store for a few things and the lumber store for some raw materials... need to build a table (rectangular, long and thin, to go under the chandelier in the living room) and a futon frame (the metal one i have is crap). that chair design in a previous post is still on my mind, but i probably won't get a chance to really get to that for another couple of months... thought about modeling the legs of the table after those of the chair though... maybe?


back in black (and white)

hey all,

i know it's been a week since my last post, and i've been pretty lazy about posting regularly, but hey... it's summer.

so: updates... yesterday it was 99.5F in town here, i finally bought tickets for taiwan, i'm still reviewing comments on my paper from my advisor and still trying to move things over to my new place, bit by bit. the title of the blog is due to the fact that i've been shooting in b&w recently... something i always get away from, but always come back to, since without the distraction of color the true nature of photography comes through, the study of light and texture and form... take the following picture, pretty boring if it was in color, but the simple tones of black and white capture the shades and reflections of light, the shiny surface of the ugly textured walls in my old apartment contrasted against the matte finish of smooth skin, and the bright white of diffuse light vs the shocks of black in hair and shadows. i just like the simplicity of greyshade. hopefully there will be some more b&w pics pretty soon.

chris and cheney in the old place...


Monday, June 11, 2007


i like chairs. rather, i like well designed chairs that have appreciable aesthetic appeal. i've even made a couple chairs in the past, including things made from interlocking hardwood frames. i've been knocking around a few sketches recently, and today i decided to take the next step, putting together a little scale prototype made out of cardboard. the proportions are still a little off, but the basic design elements are solid, and i think i will try to take this to a full size m.d.f. prototype sometime in the next couple of months, with the ultimate goal of doing this in a wood laminate. my favorite pieces are the cross beams, which are identical in shape, but flipped relative to each other to create the sloping seat. the pics don't really do this 'justice', but hey... it's just a piece of cardboard.


Friday, June 08, 2007

one of those days

fugh. today has sort of been one of those days that makes me wish i had become an architect or graphic designer. academic red-tape bs has been plaguing me for the last couple of days, but today i was dealt the coup de grace, in the form of a cruel twist of fate related to my financial aid from this last year. it's nothing i can't fix by relegating myself to a strict diet of ramen and tofu, and collecting on debts from roommates, but it's still a pain in the ass.

in deference to my graphical urges, i spent the last half an hour meditating on an old still life photograph of mine by tweaking it a bit in photoshop to come up with the image below. i may end up printing this out in large format and using is as decor in my new apartment. hope you like it - "untitled" digital photograph, 2007.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

form follows fiction

it never ceases to amaze me how concepts and creations of science fiction frequently end up coming to fruition in the 'real-world'. communication satellites, space travel, cell phones and robotics are all things which we take for granted, but which all were born from people's wild imaginations of the things which might someday be possible, at a time when none of these concepts were anything more than 'science-fiction'. never mind another underlying unifying theme of all of these items, the birth of the practical applications of these gizmos as the public sector offspring of the brainchildren of the military industrial complex cartels.

it's one thing for for a concept like a dick-tracy wrist video communicator to be realized as something like a motorola flip-phone... the concept is similar but the form is constrained by cost and technology... but it's entirely another thing for new robots rolling off production lines to almost perfectly mimic characters out of highly stylized japanese anime series. i'm referring to vecna technologies' new "bear" (battlefield extraction assist robot)... a robot that utilizes dynamic balance behaviour (like the segway personal transports) which allows it to balance upright as well as roll on tracks while supporting the weight of a soldier with a high 'strength' hydraulic upper body, and sports a teddy-bear head to reassure the wounded (seriously). the funny thing here is the fact that this is something that is almost exactly out of shirow masamune's anime, "appleseed". see below, and see for yourself.


Monday, May 28, 2007

bitchin' thumbs-up award

i have been having an absolutely awesome day so far. i got up at seven, fully rested for the first time in what feels like weeks.after a quick breakfast of naan and yogurt, i headed downtown with my mountain bike on the roof to meet up with some friends for a ride. we decided the night before to meet up early and head up to nederland (up the canyon from boulder) and ride some of the trails up there... which I had not ridden before. the ride started with a long road climb at ~9000 feet, followed by a short, rocky downhill to another road. we headed back up into the mountain along a narrow 4wd path, cut across the side of one of the peaks. after nearly a thousand vertical feet of punishing climbing, we paused at the top to soak in the view and revitalize a little before heading onto...

a single-track decent of near-mythical awesomeness. still dazed from the lung-popping climb and under the gentle influence of the beauty and bounty of this place, i could barely believe the sensation of ripping down this narrow ribbon of dirt veneered with small chunky rocks. the gentle berms around corners allowed us to descend at the limit of our abilities, at speeds faster than i would have thought possible on that trail. the surrounding aspens, mottled gold trunks lit from the canopy of soft spring foliage, blurred by so quickly it was hard to pick out single trees. half way down, as the trail eased back in pitch just enough for me to breathe, the adrenaline and endorphins pumping in my veins caused me to yell out at the top of my lungs.

the riding wasn't over though, and after one more short hard climb, we were blessed with a winding loam single track that cuts through tall pines and crosses meadows with views of perfect lakes, shored with aspen and backed by the still snow-capped indian peaks wilderness. wild flowers lined the sides of the trail and a huge red-tailed hawk swooped across the trail, its rust red tail and arced wings back lit against the sky by the sun, alighting on a branch of one of the taller pines. it was one of those rare moments that just brings a goofy wide grin to your face and makes you thankful for being fortunate enough to bear witness.

now it's off to the boulder creek festival downtown, for music and food and just hanging out. i could go to the office i suppose, but this day is just going too well at this point to spoil with something like that. if you're unlucky enough to be stuck in a city somewhere i feel sorry for you... i wish i could share these kinds of experiences with all my friends out there, as people here have been nice enough to share them with me.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

tarka dal

hahaha.... i can't stop laughing about what just happened.

i had a wicked (yes i said wicked, i lived in new england, maine peeps back me up here) craving for indian food tonight. the Tandoori Grill is our local neighborhood indian joint, rated the 4th best restaurant in boulder, and it's just up the street from my house. i rode over on my bike, ordered onion kulcha and lamb vindaloo and gave my name to the maitre d', "tarka... t-a-r-k-a".

he glanced up at me, "oh, heh, we have a dish named after you here... tarka dal." he went into his schpiel about the lentil dish flavored with spiced ghee; i interjected, "ah, yes i know.. i've had it, it's good."

i sat down at the bar to wait for my food over a stella, and chatted with the other person there, who had also ordered to go right before me. we sat for about 15 minutes, drinking our beers and reminiscing about the east coast and the differences between boston and new york. our respective orders came out and whilst the maitre d' (who was also playing bartender tonight) was standing there, the waiter who brought my food out called my name, then paused... spelled it out, "t-a-r-k-a", and glanced up at me; "oh, heh, we have a dish named after you here."


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

i need an HDDV camera...

check out 'the collective' and their mountain biking videos, 'the collective', and 'roam'. until then however, check out this flick i put together from shots and vids off my digital camera of biking throughout the last year. yes this is really how i ride, maybe now folks will understand what i'm talking about when i say something like, "yeah, i totally ate sh!t (crashed) maching (going really fast) around a sweeper (wide radius corner) at 30mph (25 mph)."



totally random pic from my cell phone, not sure when i took it. it hardly looks like me, but i actually like the image, harsh and noir but almost plastic in some ways... for some reason it reminds me of karl lagerfeld ads.. too bad i'm not sporting one of those crazy high-collared shirts in this.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

about time

...i finally got to work and banged out this paper. i've been at my office since 6:30 cranking on this draft of my independent study, which i've imposed a personal dealine of 10:30am on. Figures need captions, notes need to be prosed and my paper outline tells me that for the conclusions i need, "simple statements -(just make something up)". isn't it great to know the standards of science are held in such high regard by the up and coming generation of thinkers?

i actually have a cool conclusion (well... observations really), at least something that i think verifies the hypothetical basis for the study, so i don't actually have to make anything up. i'll be working (continuously) on this same paper for the coming months, with an eye towards publishing a journal paper from it.

(>>note! 1:50pm, same day. funny how a few pages of notes can be magically transformed into 25 pages once the prose-hose gets turned on. i still feel like this draft is short, and i imagine the final final will be a little closer to 30-35 pages. then of course the whole damn thing will have to be compressed into about ten pages for any sort of journal submission.<<)


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


as i sit here, typing typing typing, i have to get up to stretch my legs and get something to eat. i yank my ear-buds out and with a flick of my wrist send a perfect loop down the cord, casting the thin wire onto my desk. i want to escape, to run ride drive to the nearest creek. i haven't been fly-fishing since last fall, and the urge to get out onto the rivers is not something i can ignore for much longer... sending those perfect loops down a rocket-tapered line to gently pick a dry fly off the surface of the water without so much as a ripple.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


can't concentrate on work... random picture instead.



heh, this is too weird/cool not to throw on here.

mmm... borsch!


Sunday, May 13, 2007

pork green chili

yesterday was a day of pure frivolity. well, almost pure... discounting taking my car to the emission testing center. after that i spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cooking food and hanging out with a small group of friends. a group of us do these occasional dinners; each person takes turns hosting and cooking for the others. it's a great way to get a few really good meals for the price of one.

yesterday i took on a few new recipes, none of which were recipes at all. i basically went to the store with the idea of southwestern/mexican in my mind, and picked up a bunch of ingredients i thought would be good. recently i have been trying out the various green-chili sauces and dishes at restaurants here and have generally been pretty impressed, so i definitely wanted to try making some.

the final menu went something like:

tortilla chips and fresh salsa (with cilantro and caribbean chilis)

pulled pork tenderloin with green chili on grilled tortillas (with slices of avocado)

grilled baby-back pork ribs (with honey-chipotle glaze)

refried beans (with cilantro and pepperjack cheese)

sliced cantaloupe (with ginger and sugar)

margaritas (sauza anejo, grand marnier, cointreau, fancy organic lemonade, fresh lemon and lime wedges, rocks, no salt)


everything turned out really well, and of course nothing was left over. a litre of tequila went into the margaritas (for seven people) and none of that was left over either. i think the most eloquent compliment i received ("mmm... god-damn thats good") was in response to the pork tenderloin in green chile sauce (poblano, anaheim, chipotle, onions, butter, garlic, oil, salt, hoppy beer, whole pork tenderloin / let simmer for ~3 hours)....


Friday, May 11, 2007

graduation to...

today is graduation day at the university. parents and extended families are beginning to clog every artery and vein of sidewalk on campus, clotting at intersections and entrapping their respective graduates. some people are happy, some are grumpy and sour. some are overbearing. no matter what happens amongst the crowds today, they will mostly disappear tomorrow, leaving this town serene for several months. i'm still happy being a student for now... i'm kind of proud of the fact that i've figured a way to stay in school until i turn 30.

congratulations on all your hard work, undergrad students... except those of you who were slackers and barely eked out a degree in leisure studies... to you shining examples of academic wunderkinder, I bow my head. I was always impressed by people for whom just making it through college in one piece was a real challenge, especially when they actually finished and were handed a degree identical to my own (conversely this bothered some of the faculty/grad students at my own alma mater). good on ya, i suppose.


Monday, May 07, 2007


one might think that with age and experience comes wisdom and an appreciation for common sense. nix, nein, nope and think again. as i've mentioned before, i'm working on "manuals" on my bikes... a coasting, balancing wheelie. i am getting a lot better at these, but i am by no means a manual-superstar, so i still eat it occasionally when i'm practicing.

musaki kusahara pulling a manual

today i was doing really well... i had a few really solid, long, and seated (harder) manuals, and this lead to my being a little too relaxed on my last attempt. a word on manuals: relaxation is key, as well as being comfortable with hanging all of your weight off the back of the bike, past the center-point of the rear hub, in order to get into a position that will set you and your bike into a balance that's centered on the rear wheel. relax a little too much, lean a little too far, and you're going over - backwards. i was cruising down the avenue near my department building on campus, coasting a manual and going at a good clip... everything was feeling right. i started to let myself really settle into the position, and i felt the bike get a little high in front. i very lightly feathered the rear brake (a hydraulic disc set-up) to adjust, but instead of going forward, i just started to slow down a little. by the time it was obvious that i was going to crash, i was still going a little too fast to just hop off the bike and run it out, so i ended up going over backwards in a seated position, right onto the blacktop. the worst that happened was a rip in my favorite pd&c jeans, and a nice-sized raspberry on my knee. i may be 27, but i still act like a 5 year old on a playground most of the time.

i got up, laughing and brushing myself off, got back on my bike and wheelied away down the side-walk.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

attractive juice

today marks my return to reality from the caffeine induced haze of the last couple of days. redbull is a hell of a soda, but caffeine, like all mind and metabolism altering drugs, should be used in moderation. those empty baby-blue and silver cans stare down at me from their recycling box on my office shelf (i drink the sugar free stuff, because nothing ruins a caffeine buzz like a sugar-crash) just begging me to find more companions for them.

...but no, not this time. after practically having the shakes and experiencing some of the most oddly vivid dreams (involving things like the uncontrollable and alarmingly copious micturition of jagermeister-colored urine, among other weird and disturbing themes) i awoke this morning feeling much better. it was literally as though i had gone through caffeine withdrawal through the night. i was hungry and thirsty, but instead of heading to roma's for my usual double cortado and croissant, i went to whole-foods. i picked up a nice breakfast and a half gallon of fresh orange juice. buying orange juice from a place like whole foods can be a daunting experience, choosing from a host of different brands, types and mixtures. i went for the simple fresh-made stuff that costs an arm and a leg.

i parked near campus and walked in to the office this morning to finish up some work (i'm still working on it) and carried the half gallon of juice with me. the odd thing is that while i was walking from 'the hill' to my office, i saw about six attractive young women who all gave me smiles in passing. maybe it was the fact that classes are over, maybe it's the fact that today is also the first time i've been showered and cleanly shaven in several days. i'd like to credit the fact that i was carrying an eight-dollar half gallon of juice, mostly because i've walked down that same path innumerable times in the past, and have not had the same response when i didn't have the juice, regardless of my personal appearance. of course this is all leading me to hatch an idea of some pseudo scientific experiment... maybe we'll see if this hypothesis has any basis in reality.

either way, the juice was good.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

night light

the lights are off for dramatic effect, but this is always what it feels like to me when i'm sitting in an office alone working late at night.



this is going to be a long night. i'm cranking on this (yes, the same) project and am fueling my productivity with caffeine and crackers. at some point soon, i will break in order to sup some food (or more likely chew it). it's frustrating to be thinking about other things besides work right now because these other thoughts are distracting. thoughts of summer are foremost in my mind: work without the chore of classes, trips to taiwan, coming visits with friends, anything but what i'm battling with at the moment. my advisor, were he looking over my shoulder now, would tell me to stop thinking and just do. - or to run and jump, screaming and naked, into the 'deep end' of my data and swim to the other side (his analogies are quite inventive).

8pm, time for a beef and green chile burrito from illegal petes. mmmmm.


action plan

i am approaching the twelfth hour of the semester, and my goal is in sight... just sort of distant right now. i have lots of caffeine on hand and nothing else on my schedule besides tutoring at 2pm today. the remainder will be spent finishing figures and getting conclusions typed up. i spent most of yesterday staring at figures, and trying to figure out what's next... my focus is a little narrower now, hopefully it all gels in the next day or so.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

dope minimal beats from L'ELECTRIQUE

i don't usually do this on a post, but if you read this within the next 10 minutes or so, go to net radio l'electrique. they are casting an amazing dj set of minimal right now... best i've heard in months, actually.

and if you miss it this time around, check it out anyway... good net radio station.

http://netmusique.com/... click on 'electrique'.


Monday, April 30, 2007

200th post!

ha. this post is my 200th on this blog. a lot of those have been mundane and forgettable, but hopefully a few of those have stood out for some of you readers. so, some quick stats: since starting this blog a bit more than a year ago, it has seen well over four thousand visits (4295 at this moment). on average the site sees traffic from around 80 unique users a month, or 30 unique users a week. traffic to this site originates from 5 continents, mostly north america and asia. friends and family in new york, florida (hi mom), california and taiwan top the list of most frequent visitors... thanks for all your attention and positive feedback. and for the few of you who have asked: no, i still haven't submitted any of my essays to the new york times travel section, or any other periodical... maybe soon.

anyway.. thank you all for your readership, and please feel free to let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me write about. here's to the next 200!


science-y stuff

phew... still plugging on this foreland reconstruction. for those of you not on the up and up with my daily research progess, my current project entails reconstructing the kinematic history of the taiwanese foreland (literally the land in front of the mountains) for the last ~2 million years in the region directly west (or tectonically 'in front') of my study area, Puli. the idea is that in order to know where things are going, one has to know where they've been. it all involves a lot of pseudo-3D geometry and eye-crossing. by pseudo-3D, i mean that i'm using 2D constructions, based in different (orthogonal) coordinate systems and trying to kind of mesh them together. think of two pieces of paper, each with something drawn on them, each one penetrating the plane of the other at a right angle. the combined drawings on each sheet defining the structure of an object within its respective plane, giving a 'pseudo-3D' rendering of what that object looks like in real life. this isn't supposed to sound like plato's allegory of the cave... it's less abstract than that.



Friday, April 27, 2007


what a show-off.... actually, i've been practicing my wheelies around town for the last couple of months. i'm working on 'manuals' (coasting wheelies: no pedaling to keep you up, just balance) not so much because they're useful on the trail, but because they're just fun.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

steeper than...

i think i mentioned something about 'clearing technical lines' while in moab. it occurs to me that not everyone is a mountain biker and so not everyone will really appreciate what i mean by that. the term 'technical', when talking about bike trails, generally refers to the level of difficulty and by default the likelyhood of a rider navigating the trail without falling and/or getting hurt. on the east-coast, technical trails often have sections that are off-camber, choked with gnarled tree roots, loose rocks, or some combination of those. out here in the rockies and out on the colorado plateau, 'technical' can mean something different. i've gone from riding a hardtail (rigid) frame back east, to a full suspension bike with 6" of travel on both wheels... just so i can actually ride trails here without getting off my bike every 50 feet.

one particular obstacle on the trail 'behind the rocks' in moab is call 'nose dive hill'. it is steep. it is rocky. more accurately, it is bedrock and i suppose you could describe it as a cliff of sorts. our group of riders came upon nose dive at the same time that several "jeepers" (4WD off-roaders) did... both groups, one fueled by cafe lattes and power bars, the other by beef jerky, beer and gasoline, stopped at the top to scout the descent. each group tried sizing the other up and summarily decided the other had a snowball's chance in hell of actually making it down in one piece.

looking up the outcrop at nosedive. notice
where the guy in the foreground is standing...

dropping in from the top

...remember that last drop-off the guy was standing on?
in the picture it's directly above my head and it's what
i just had to ride off of to exit the line.



my technicolor leg

not surprisingly, i came back from moab with some bumps and scrapes... nothing big (not like one of the other guys who came away with 7 stitches in his face). classic for me though, i did crash my bike fairly hard on a section of trail that was smooth and open on the first day. i was feeling sort of off that day, and barreling into a corner with lots of heat didn't pan out for me as well as i would have liked; i went over the bars but somehow managed to scissor my left thigh between my frame and handlebars. the bike proceeded to follow me up and over, finally landing on top of me (i said it was classic). anyway, my thigh now exhibits a wonderful technicolor bruise that takes up significant real estate... check it out:


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


just snapped this out my window...


moab, take two...

i returned to moab, utah, this past weekend. ostensibly to ride my bike (which I did quite a lot of) but more accurately to escape the confines of my office for a weekend before locking myself in for the remaining two weeks of the semester. the weather was fair, the riding was good (i managed to clear some very technical lines), and on the morning we left the views were beautiful. see below....


Monday, April 23, 2007


occasional deep rumblings that resonate with the earth are felt as waves all through my body. thrum of heavy, cold drops hitting the ground and trees and roof above me. expectant breeze comes through the screen triggering memories of past storms, past nights, past loves. the sensation of mist, like that from a waterfalls spray, is everywhere. colorado has blurred my old familiarity with rain and humidity. the feeling of swimming in a creek, beneath a waterfall, in the rain, surrounded by lush foliage and steep valley walls has all but been forgotten.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


wednesday brings another geomorph seminar and heaps of crap to do before the weekend. well, to be fair, i've had heaps of crap to do for weeks. reading through the last few blog entries here, i'm summarily unimpressed. my tone has been blunted and tired for a while, my accounts uninspiring... my single attempt at exposition left unfinished. the events at virginia tech making such writings seem unimportant. i didn't mean to actually write about this, but there's no reason to avoid it; it's certainly on everyone's mind. talking with friends and colleagues, reading news reports and blogs, it seems this shooting has literally been felt around the world. people wonder to themselves, 'would I have the courage to stand up, to fight, to survive?' i myself ran through the idea in my head... in each scenario the events play out like a movie but in the end the shooter lies incapacitated and i am standing. yeah right. before more students (and professors, i'm sure) waste their time on running through close-quarters combat scenarios in their heads, i suggest taking a step back.

i remember thinking on the day of the attack, 'why did it go so far? how did students and professors NOT manage to subdue Seung-Hui sooner?' more and more reports of bravery and thoughtful action continue to come out about that morning. professors barracading doors, students using belts and power-cords to fashion tourniquets stemming arterial flows. then there are the witnesses recounting Cho's expressionless, methodical and efficient manner by which so many lives ended. did he suffer from some form of psychopathy (as opposed to a more 'normal' type of depression)? were his writings any indication of real actions? was he careful and consistent with taking his medications? was Seung-Hui Cho in some sort of fugue-state, was he capable of controlling his actions? some reports make it sound like the shooter showed cold and brutal conviction, exacting death on all in his lines of sight. others describe him as tormented and confused, hesitating at first before committing wholly to oblivion.

some questions will never be answered, but i think it's clear that some important questions have been raised.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

sunday's deep house

di.fm is re-airing an old dj set today... it's ok, they've hosted better. i'm hanging out in my office today, continuing with these restorations, since i blew it off yesterday to ride my mountain bike. double cortado losing heat on my desk. my plant is getting kind of dusty too, i should clean it off sometime.


Monday, April 09, 2007



i just got into the office, bright and early, at 10:30. now, i've never been known to keep a strict schedule unless absolutely required... i prefer instead to mosey in when i like (which can be 7:30am, or 11:30am depending) and as long as i feel productive then i don't sweat the details of how many hours a day i spend sitting at a desk. the funny thing about this morning is that i happened to walk in at the same moment that my advisor walked in the opposite end of the building... it seems he holds to many of the same practices and values (including work schedules) that i do.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


i recently drove three thousand miles through the southwest united states. at times the personal habits, and foul odors, of four other men in the same truck made it nearly impossible to reflect in any way upon the sights surrounding us... but there were also plenty of opportunities to stare. to soak in the hues and textures of the desert. to watch the play of light across broad plains and tall ranges. to marvel at the impressive forces required to literally tear the stony crust of this planet apart. to feel so fortunate to bear witness as a guest of this earth...

~to be cont...

Monday, April 02, 2007

back from the desert

finally back from my latest trip. ten days driving through the southwest. colorado plateau, mojave desert, death valley, grand canyon... lots to see in less than two weeks. i have some great images in my head and things i want to write about, but i need a little time to sort through and pick a topic.. check back for some type of expository or creative writing on that stuff. i'm also planning my next trip to taiwan... this may. at the moment i'm thinking three weeks in country, at least half that time crawling through deeply incised drainages in a sweaty jungle looking for some good outcrop exposures... it's always a bit of an easter-egg hunt over there. I'd also (obviously) like to spend some more quality time in Taipei... one of my friends recently opened her own cafe so i'll at least have to check that out. spicy-pot and dumplings are two other things, ah yes, and 'er-ro' (goose meat), that i need to get my fix of while there ...though i think i'll leave that evening of absinthe and cigarettes and deafening music to a younger, more foolish version of myself.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

upcoming 'stache party...


i mentioned previously that i am rockin' a handlebar mustache in preparation for an upcoming party... i still have a little over two weeks to go, but i think i am already in decent shape. i was told by a few people in geomorphology seminar this morning that they had to avoid looking at me so they wouldn't crack up. i got thumbs-up from others. so far i haven't gotten any scornful looks, though i had one comment on time-travel. decide for yourself. now i'm stuck with it until the party, but a majority of that time will be spent driving around the southwest for a tectonics trip.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

morgan spurlock is my idol...

for so many reasons. 'supersize me' was one of the best directed, shot, and edited films i've seen in the last several years. his tv series, '30 days', was just as interesting and it's a pity it wasn't more widely viewed. his general view of learning and, perhaps more importantly, educating the masses through his empirical experiences (he once spent thirty days in jail, just to learn about the failures of the system) is genius.

at the moment however, he is my idol because i have chosen to model my moustache after his... in preparation for an upcoming moustache party in april. this is something that has been poorly planned to date, but there are at least a roomful of people who received advanced warning of this event... so we will be ready for whatever form it takes come april first. I missed the chance to participate in the last one i was invited to (in undergrad at cornell, some four years ago) so i've jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this one.


Friday, March 16, 2007


not crepes... cripes! i just posted my audi on craigslist a few hours ago advertising it for sale: for about 1400 less than its blue book value due to a few problems. i've already had about 5 people email me in that time all offering to buy it by monday!! obviously, selling the car will not be a problem, but jeez... didn't think i would have such an easy time of it. this is good news though, because it means that i can get right on the few small plans i've hatched for the new golf. i've also already enlisted the help of my roommates in these mods, since they are interested in learning about how to soup ("sup'", "soop"?) up a car. mods will include an all new performance suspension setup and new performance brakes... for now. perhaps a new exhaust too since the current one only has a few thousand miles left in it (but not one of those stupid "ricer" getups that sound like a tin-can full of bees - been there, done that).

also, off to pueblo, co, tomorrow morning at first light to go mountain biking with a few guys... should be fun. st patty's day on fat tires!! i will resist the urge to fill my camelbak with guinness.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

financial responsibility

several years ago now, i had a real job. i was an environmental consultant for an international consulting company... working for clients like the military, navy, nestle... you know, that sort of thing. coming straight from a psuedo-job at my undergrad alma mater, i thought i was rolling in dough with my moderate salary. within a month i had agreed to finance a 25000 dollar suv. well, i ended up leaving that job to go back to school, and took a huge pay cut in the process. my suv was now above my financial means, so i traded it out for something (slightly) cheaper, but still quite nice. for the last two years, i've been driving an audi a4... all leather, v6, heated seats... mmmm. anyway, i finally got my act together and made the move to a car i can actually afford. afford to own, maintain, fuel, and afford to drive given the fact that i'm a geologist and supposed to be among the ranks of people most conscious about the dire state of our planet. i ended up going for a little red vw golf: awesome gas mileage, cheap to maintain (not to mention the fact that i can pretty much do all the work myself) and lets not forget, really fun to drive.



soon? (i love photoshop):


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

told you i broke it...

yeah... flip flops and mountain bikes were never really meant to go together as i reaffirmed today while wiping out, very publicly, in the middle of a crowded sidewalk on campus. i ripped all the skin off the tip of my left big toe, and broke the middle toe on the same foot. the long winter and persistant snow cover have given way to dust on the sidewalks and streets which has yet to get washed away by spring rains. i've broken many of my toes over the years, some of them more than once, and i'm quite used to the sensation by now... i can usually tell immediately when it happens. at first it's a dull pain, followed by swelling and shooting pains when flexed, then the toe turns purple at the break and goes stiff.

today i exacerbated the break by participating in our departments first intramural ultimate frisbee game, which took place about an hour after my crash. hey, it's a toe, it's broken, all you can do is implement the buddy system by taping the toe in question to a neighbor. running on it for an hour might not help, per se, but it won't exactly damage it more than it already has been.

anyway... we won our game, and here's the proof of broken-ness.


little green men... sort of

i just ran across this article on the bbc website... check out: the story.

i tend to agree with kristi curry-rogers though... this seems a little far-fetched. it's also interesting to point out that statistically (ok, ok, only based on a couple of data points, so not really) that this planet is potentially overdue for some type of "ele" or extinction level event or large meteorite/planetoid impact. the physics involved in the fallout of such an event are awesome to say the least... people wonder why it's so hard to find fossil evidence of dinosaurs killed in the K/T boundary event, but when you realize that the ensueing global firestorm responsible for the planet-wide iridium rich clay marker layer essentially cremated/carbonized all life at the surface, it kind of makes sense.

back to reading about the physics of rainsplash driven downslope sediment grain transport... yay!


Sunday, March 11, 2007


ha. i hate to admit it, but i feel like i have forgotten what motivation feels like for the last several months. i also seem to think that i've spent an inordinate amount of time during that period just doing whatever i wanted, whether it was biking, snowboarding, just sitting around on my ass, or otherwise avoiding a lot of work. not that i haven't done any work recently, i just haven't done what i really should have been doing. case in point; yesterday was terrible, weather-wise. it was rainy, with freezing slush/snow and fog in the mountains. a perfect day for doing work, but instead i went snowboarding. i was soaked, cold, tired and just felt sort of blah for the rest of the evening.

this morning it is beautiful out; today will be sunny and warm and perfectly spring-like... but in an uncharacteristically responsible move, i'm going to my office to get something done. i just woke up motivated today, for the first time in a while, feeling like i actually want to get something done. instead of reading papers for my classes, and writing abstracts of presentations, i'll be playing (and it does feel like playing to me) with my pencils and protractors to finish restoring (palinspatically) one of the cross sections through the taiwanese foreland. work can actually be fun, if you're doing what fascinates you. i've spent months thinking about this reseach project, visualizing the finished prodect in my head, working out the potential for animations that would be jaw-dropping even to an audience of my professors... 3D frameworks of stratigraphy deforming backwards in time, literally deconstructing the western half of taiwan, illustrating the dynamics of the arc-continent collision over the last 2-3 million years in a seamless time regression series. how f%$#ing cool would that be?! ...heh, now i just have to do it.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

you learn something new everyday

wow... check out: http://www.annielondonderry.com/

this story is about the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world... in 1894! that qualifies annie londonderry (the surname she took as part of a contract with a spring water company who sponsored her) as super hard-core in my mind. not only did she manage to ride a bike around the world, she did it on a fixed gear (single speed, no brakes, no freewheel), with a single change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver, capturing images of her travels on glass slides, raising money ($5000 in 1894 dollars!!!!) and lecturing about her travels to americans along her return from california (and all points west of it) to massachusetts in 1895.

check it out, it's pretty amazing.


order in chaos

the study of geomorphology is crazy. one of the papers we went over in seminar this morning (Lawrence, J. P., and B. T. Werner, Fracture networks in frozen ground, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 8599-8613, 2001) describes the authors' attempts to boil a fairly complex and not-well-understood permafrost ground pattern, resulting from frost heaving and cracking, into a simple (well, ok... not so simple) computational model. essentially they, and many other geomorphologists, describe what appear as chaotic and random patterns in nature with mathematical equations that (at least in models) produce the observed patterns, to a first order approximation. it's publications like these that make me wish i had a stronger mathematical background. i can understand them when i read them, but as soon as i try to produce something like this myself i am utterly at a loss. ...so instead i run back to my protractors and rulers and colored pencils and start drawing structural cross sections. i suppose (actually, i know) that some people are completely befuddled by things like stereographic projections and palinspatic base maps (my bread and butter), but i still experience math-envy on a regular basis.

referring to a different sort of chaos... i suggest folks check out this site. particularly with the recent snows in colorado, lots of people have been parking like morons. bad parking skills is one of my pet peeves about americans... if you've ever been to europe, you know what i'm talking about. i've seen spanish drivers who could park a dumptruck in a spot designed for a smart-car and still have room to spare on either end. i myself have been complemented on my parallel parking skills in the past... one of my passengers looked over at me when i had finished parking in less than ten seconds and said, "you really are from new york, aren't you?!" well, i wish i could say all new yorkers, or all city dwellers, can park well - it's just not true. the site has some great diagrams of classic parking infractions (my favorite is the, "you call that a compact?" one) and tips on how not to park like an as$#0le.


Monday, March 05, 2007


today is a sweater-vest day. i decided that this monday would be as good a day as any other to pull the grey polo out of the closet... i never have any real reason to wear a sweater-vest (is there any such thing?) but every once in a while i like to pay homage to the institution of academia and especially to my professors from my undergraduate days at cornell. it would be a statistical certainty that at least one sweater-vest was present in the geology building there at all times. one professor in particular was famous for sprouting his white chest hair out of the neck of the sweater-vest he wore more often than not. sometimes, during department colloquia for example, there were as many as five or six sweater-vests to be seen. hence, i associate them with the ideals of academia: the pursuit of knowledge, hard work, learning... logic follows that obviously if i wear one, i will work harder and learn more (heh, if only).

i do like the ideas of nostalgia and custom though, so occasionally i assume the uniform of my professors as an offering to academic pursuits... only without the chest hair.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

eco-guerrilla rap

some of the guys i went to highschool with are now rapping about the sad state of affairs in the world. check out their new video below, "it's a disgrace" (cypher:dissident). way to rep the 607 guys, keep it up!


Wednesday, February 28, 2007


...again! this morning i got up and swept a dusting of flakes off my car. i drove in to make my 8am seminar and then i moved my car from the parking lot after seminar (1 hour) at which point my car (and everything else in boulder) had accumulated several new inches of snow. it just won't stop snowing here... there'll be something like 6-8 new inches in town over the course of the day. everytime it warms up a little, and the snow melts, i think it's about to be road-biking season again; i start fantasizing about getting back out on my titus and putting in some early season miles, only to have my hopes crushed by the weight of a foot of snow. i'm going snowboarding.


Monday, February 26, 2007

anonymous code tip

someone left me an anonymous coding tip, regarding my xml/css post about changing the header background image. (who was that?)

thanks for the tip, but i already tried it. i tried a bunch of things. the problem is that the header is blocked into separate frames early in the code, and the background attributes are defined in that section. I can't combine the frames, because they call different references, etc, etc. the easiest thing to do would be to delete the whole section and recode a new title block that was one cell, throw in the background and just format the text with a simple line break. maybe i'll get to it sometime, but for now i should be working.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

astralwerks remixes

the music label 'astralwerks', longtime supporters and developers of electronica worldwide, have a website that is chock-full of remixes of tracks from artists they represent. download realplayer to hear them, some are pretty cool.



Friday, February 23, 2007

knowledge out the ears

it's a corny and somewhat obscure sci-fi reference, but my wet-wired memory is overloaded and i'm starting to experience leakage. while i try to absorb as much as possible on western u.s. neogene tectonics, i am still thinking about moab. below are two more pics of me taken by a guy we met up with out there. i'm also kind of sick... my last two weeks of fun and travel have finally caught up with me so now i'm looking forward to a weekend at home, not just working on this project but also recuperating.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

pothole arch

ok... so this is a small article about the incredible trail we rode over the weekend... with some quality comments on the consequences of mountainbiking's ever growing popularity.

read the article

in my own version, i would describe the trail a little more; it was described to me by someone who had never ridden it and had heard about it from someone else themselves. we found it (quite easily... perhaps a little too easily) this last weekend and i would have to say for how short the trail is, it's one of the most enjoyable single-tracks i've ever ridden. the spur (an out-and-back) forks off from a major jeep trail in moab and right off the bat throws some technical not-too-challenging singletrack at you... leading along a narrow ledge of sandstone that's maybe 3-5 feet off the ground. it spills over a small rock drop into a sandy wash that transitions into slickrock. this type of trade off, trail to slickrock and back, happens throughout the ride. slickrock sections of the trail are not marked, and sometimes finding where the trail picks up again can be a little challenging. the "established" trail sections are thin ribbons about a foot wide cutting a path through cryptobiotic soils, so staying on the trails is a must. it's obvious that the trail has been created or at least improved by bikers... just about every feature of the trail allows you to play; moderate technical drops will lead onto wavy slickrock , small jumps have been engineered into the trial and even the step-up sections of the trail can be ridden smoothly as an air in some spots. the last sandstone bowl before reaching the end of the out-and-back is a perfect session playground, allowing committed riders to get some hang-time on a wall ride that is magazine photo-shoot worthy. I myself topped out at around 10 feet (not too bad for the first real ride of the season), but while we were there, some guy on an 8-inch travel downhill bike was getting insanely high on the wall (about 20-25 feet) after dropping into the bowl from the top of an adjacent dome.

we only rode the relatively well established section of the trail, but for those who are really gung-ho, i believe it's possible to continue the ride out past the turnaround... and seeing a few tire-trails in the distance confirm my suspicions. the continuation requires riders to navigate slickrock bowls and ridges with heavy consequences (i.e. if you fell, you would be very lucky not to break something, or even die). while we were there, it was getting late in the day and we were already tired, but perhaps next time i will push a little further into the trail, which is alledgedly a loop if you can find the way around.

Anyway... enough dreaming about secret trails. be aware of conditions (don't ride if it's muddy!! you will destroy the trail before the season even begins) and be aware of riding in sensitive (access-wise/biota-wise) areas; respect the trails and the issues of riding in undeveloped areas.

...and for god's sake, if you find this secret trail in moab, ride it like you mean it, but don't publish your gps tracks (mine are safely stored for future reference, but you won't see them on this blog, that's for sure).


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

dissociation from dream-state

im sitting in the coffee shop located in the north wing of the new atlas building on boulder campus. typing on my somewhat discolored ibook, the pristine white smeared with the oils from my skin, im looking down at a pile of papers on seismicity in the sub-andean belt of peru and equador, another stack on chemical weathering and karstic geomorphology and a third heap (rapidly growing) on neogene tectonics of the western united states.

a couple days ago i was on two wheels carving a high sweeping line across the nearly vertical walls of wind and water carved slickrock bowls under the utah sun. the broad and blindingly white peaks of the la sals mountains lent an eye-popping backdrop to this already surreal landscape. two days spent in the desert, bounded by long drives through the night on snowy roads winding over the rockies, have made me feel as though i've been asleep for a long time. this morning (a full recovery day later) i feel as though im finally waking up from this dream. even blogging in this coffee shop reminds me vividly of spending time in taipei's many starbucks locations, blogging furiously back when i felt i had a lot to write about. the last few weeks have felt odd in general, with what seems like the majority of my energy having been spent on friends and adventures, giving me a slight tickle of guilt over not spending all my free time in the office knocking out figures. my gradual emergence from the weekend has left me groggy and disoriented at the moment... indecisive about what work to attack first... unsure where my dreams of the weekend stop and the reality of my work-week begins. wake-up!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

what a weekend!

phew! this weekend was a lot of fun, but i'm looking forward to just sitting in my office for a while and getting some much needed work done. i've been trying to get my schedule into a groove for the last couple of weeks, and it's just starting to firm up... but the last few days were sort of a last laugh in the face of academia for a little while. one of my friends from back home came to visit over the weekend, which entailed going for a couple of short bike rides, ice climbing, snowboarding and drinking beer at local breweries. i got close to zero work done over the last four days. my buddy left first thing this morning, i went to seminar for two hours and then took a break for ice climbing in the middle of the day. the ice in boulder canyon was brittle today, after last night's cold temps refroze the top few inches of previously old and rotten ice. my belayer was dodging sizable chunks of ice falling from 40 feet, knocked off by my axes as i worked my way up the renewed blue ice. the fog in the canyon had frozen to the windward surfaces of all the trees... lending a captivating effect to the sunlit branches and twigs; illuminating them as if they were coated with reflective glitter. unfortunately i didn't bring a camera or even my cell phone, so you'll just have to believe me.

listening to deepmix.ru radio online - good dj set today. cranking through some illustrator files of the taiwanese foreland thrust systems now... lots more of that throughout the rest of the week........