Friday, April 30, 2010

People I Drink With

This wasn't supposed to be the theme of this post. But reviewing the last few months' photos, I cannot deny reality.

Stanimal turned 31 in February. All of the new graduate students (and me) helped her celebrate.
It was a progressive drinks party and my house was the second stop. Things got off to a really quick start once I handed out French 75s, which are Champagne spiked with brandy. It was like riding a booze sled down Mt. Everest.
We needed it though. Stress in graduate school is like the tide.

Continuing the escapist theme, our warm-ish winter had left us all slightly loopy from the lack of snow in the valley. One sunny Sunday I grabbed a couple of our Irish undergraduates and headed for Helena. It's not exactly a destination in Montana--basically a lot like any other sleepy government town--but I'd never been. There's actually a lot of cool stuff there, but I don't know why it hasn't taken off. Maybe the people are just boring?

We stopped at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historical something-or-other. It felt good to get sun after having been cooped up all winter.
The Deer Lodge Valley is just pretty.

Helena has a couple of breweries but, moreover, has the state historical museum. It's full of Charlie Russel paintings, which are very cool. It's worth a visit but was basically dead on a Sunday afternoon.
I like the big skull out front.

A few weeks later I had my 31st birthday. However, my actual birthday was spent sitting in front of a machine shooting lasers in to zircons at Washington State University. It was tedious and tiring but getting it done was a great way to cap two-plus years of anxious anticipation. Eight days of shooting zircons left me completely wiped out.

We celebrated awhile later. It was a speakeasy party.
None of my photos really do it justice. You'll have to take my word that it was the best birthday party I've ever had. And yes, the Creepy 'Stache is 100% real. It was birthed by my prior facial occupant, Ugly Homeless Beard.

Somehow I managed to pick up a scholarship at the end of my very last semester. I'm blowing it all on obtaining more radiometric dates from volcanic ashes in my field area. But to do that, I need samples. So I found a snow-free day and ran down there to grab some.
Thunderheads built over the Anaconda Range and dropped bolts in to the mountains. I watched from afar between flurrystorms and blasts of sun. Summer doesn't really get going around here until July.

I graduate in August. There are many things I'd like to do between now and then, but first and foremost is to finish the thesis.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


What my old house looked like when I bought it in 2004:

Aaaaand what it looks like right now under "new management":

Somehow they made it even uglier.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Sorry. It's been forever since I've written.

This summer was mostly spent in The Field. It was actually pretty tedious.
A clast from an undated debris flow "colonized" with obvious pedogenic features like root mottling and oxidation halos. Not that I actually know what that means. Pencil for scale.

A channelized sand and adjacent cut-bank. Hammer for scale.

A chert/quartzite conglomerate in channelized and cross-bedded sandstone. Hammer for scale.

Blah blah blah. Staff for scale marked in 20cm increments.

The reason it was so freakin' tedious was because I had to dig out my outcrops with hand tools.
The final sum was 250m of stratigraphy all hand-dug. I had a strong back by the end of summer.

The other reasons it was so friggin' tedious was because of rain and mosquitoes. And rain. And rain. And rain. And unholy buzzing hordes of mosquitoes.
Oh, and forest fires.

But it turns out the perks were pretty nice. Yeah, we had a wet summer. Yeah, the mosquitoes pushed the limits of my sanity. But man, that scenery...

Things could get kinda lonely out there. A cop rolled up once to check out the truck and didn't see me way up on the outcrop. We ended up chatting for 20 minutes about geology before a single-car rollover pulled him away. He was probably as bored and lonely as I was.
These two dudes on Segways got me excited. Who's the bigger nerd, me or them? I chewed on that for awhile. And look! The paint-striping truck! Whew-wee, high times baby.

I hired on my friend Adam C. to help me rappel some outcrops. Like this one:
We hiked in about 200lbs worth of crap, only to finish way ahead of schedule and dump out most of the water we hiked in ... which we replaced with buckets of samples anyway. Adam is in far better shape than me--he's summited Denali three times--so I was super happy to have not only a climbing guide but a porter as well.
Oh, and of course it rained:
I was at the bottom of some cliff when Adam yelled out and then wouldn't reply. I couldn't figure it until a few seconds later when dime- and nickel-sized hail started pelting me. Good thing we had helmets.

Sometime in there I managed to tear away from the field and go to my friends' wedding in Portland. It was two days before Joe C's ... ah well.
I stayed with the ever babe-tacular Megan 1.0.
And drove Zippy.

And took slow-shutter photos of the wedding dancin'. They came out pretty well, I must say.

Zippy and I drove home listening to In Rainbows. It was a wonderful trip.

Sometime in September I drove a friend to Laramie where we attended a Big Oil job fair. I stayed with EEB and ate honest-to-god Indian food. We don't have that in Missoula. J and I ended up touring a rig somewhere near Rawlins, WY--aka the end of the earth.
Fittingly, the roughnecks had nude pin-ups. They didn't swear or scream at each other though so we were kinda disappointed. A couple of weeks before, another Big Oil company took us on a tour of some local caves just for fun.Alas, Big Oil doesn't want to hire me. Yet. They're not hiring many people at all, actually. I'm still not sure whether to be frustrated or relieved.

Then I returned to Oregon for a conference in October. I stayed with the same people who'd gotten married. Danizzle was the first person I met in Oregon back in 2004. She and Mark put me up for a few days and showed me around town when they weren't working.
Their ridiculously cute kittens love me, so I didn't eat them.

Then there was Halloween.

Then I returned to Laramie! Follow so far? Big Hole, Oregon, Laramie, caves, Portland, and now Laramie again.
Laramie isn't too far away from Denver, where the USGS has a Core Research Lab. I stayed in Laramie and commuted to Denver during the day to look at tiny little well cuttings from a 1980 exploration well in the Big Hole. East Coast driving skills thankfully returned quickly in Denver traffic.
Data. Gonna have to work on that color balance a little.

I once again stayed with EEB.
EEB's dog is a walking, barking stomach. He'd roll out in to the living room at 3 a.m. and start emitting horrible dog smells. I took it as a sign of mutual respect.

The drive home was fantastic: clear and warm, which is pretty unusual for eastern Wyoming in early November. The elevation is something like 7000 feet. The skies were just amazing.
Sunset peeked through snow showers over the Bighorn Mountains. That's a place I gotta go explore sometime.

Whew, and one more trip: a late-season Geology Club tour of my field area.
Conditions were "marginal".They pushed the van out several times while I helpfully laughed and took photos.
So we ended the day and hit the hot springs instead.
And that's about it. To sum: Laramie, hot springs, mosquitoes. I'm also teaching Physics and Astronomy to K-8 teaching majors. This from the guy who failed PHYS 2306 three times. Given all the intense traveling and intense-er-er teaching, I'll be happy when the semester ends.