Tidbits: Geo Trips, Finished Doodle, Academics, Dead iPod

Thursday, 2004-05-27; 09:01:00

More tidbits!

So I've been back from the geo field trip last weekend since Monday night. It was pretty cool... we went out to north-eastern California, Nevada, and a bit of Oregon to look at the geology of the region. We basically did this preliminary 4-day field trip for the research that the group of us are going to be doing this summer (probably September). In the Nevada area, a lot of extension of the Earth's crust is going on, and since it's inception (a few million years ago) there has been up to 100% extension in some areas. However, in northern Nevada, extension of the Earth's crust has been limited to about 15%. We're all going to help out in deploying seismometers and setting off seismic charges so that we can study the composition and structure of the Earth's crust in northern Nevada, so we can understand why crustal extension is so different in northern and southern Nevada.

I brought back a few pretty cool rocks -- one spectacular example of obsidian with beautiful conchoidal fracture, and another rock that has a mineral called sanidine that shines blue when put in the right light. I have a few other rocks, too, from various areas.

One of the most spectacular things that we saw were the lava tubes on day 4 of the trip. We camped in Lava Beds National Monument on the night of day 3, and then early in the morning we got up and visited a lava flow and a crater that previously held a lava lake. After that, we visited Skull Cave and Valentine Cave. Just coming into the lava tube was an impressive sight, because Skull Cave was huge (10 meters in radius), and it continued on for quite a while. There were railings that guided you for about half of your way to the cave, and after going down about 3 flights of stairs, the cave was literally pitch black and we had to use our headlamps to continue. At the end of the cave, we all turned off our headlamps for about a minute, and I waved my hand in front of my face and couldn't see it at all -- that was kind of creepy, but fun. (We also were really quiet, and I realized that my ears had been ringing from the hum of the car.)

Valentine Cave was equally impressive, and although it wasn't as big as Skull Cave, it definitely was longer. It must have continued for about 1/4 of a kilometer, and we must've spent at least 30 minutes just exploring the cave. The floor of the cave was a ropey texture that's characteristic of pahoehoe lava flows (usually the kinds you see coming out of volcanoes like Hawaii), and there were a bunch of other features like lava benches that marked the height of the different lava flows that last used the tube, and lavacicles, which are basically stalactites of solidified lava (although they don't get nearly as big as regular icicles). There were a bunch of subsidiary lava tubes as well that branched off to the left and right, and I crawled through one of them but I could only proceed for about 25 meters because I had to really bend down and basically crawl through the subsidiary tube since the tube narrowed so much. There were also tube intersections, but usually they simply turned back on themselves, so it wasn't really hard to get lost in Valentine Cave, especially when you have 20 geologists with headlamps crawling around in it. :)

Another highlight of the trip was Pyramid Lake. This is one of a number of lakes in Nevada that were previously connected into a large lake which has been named Lake Lahontan. What's spectacular about this lake is 1) the sediments in the lake are so light-colored that it makes the lake's color appear a beautiful aquamarine blue, in contrast to most lakes which are usually a much darker blue. It also is home to some very large tufa formations, which is simply calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that has been crystallized at the intersection between calcium from hot springs and carbonate dissolved in lake water. The habit of the formations after they crystallize becomes very intricate, often looking frond-like as in the previous picture. Even though the water was really cold, I took a brief swim in it before we left the lake. :) That was fun.

Here's one batch of photos from the trip taken by one of the other members. If I get other pictures (especially ones of the caves), I'll definitely link them. Don't miss the panorama of one of the lava flows at Lava Beds National Monument!

One of the other kind of funny things about the trip is that it was the first time I got to drive an automatic vehicle. We had four SUVs that we took on the trip (and we actually off-roaded them for a significant part of it), and I got to drive them for a bit (mainly on the way home). It's really weird how you don't have to think about shifting or putting the car into neutral when you come to a stop -- all you have to do is apply the brake or accelerator. Also, after coming from a stick-shift, it's really annoying how you have to be in park to take the key out of the car, be in park to turn on the car, and to push on the break to shift into drive. I realize that these are safety features and that they'd be good to have, but I just wasn't used to them so I didn't realize why I wasn't able to shift. :P (One other anecdote: after filling the car up with gas, I forgot to put on the gas cap and close the gas door. Figures that a car that has a bunch of safety features with shifting and driving doesn't have a stupid monitor for the gas cap. :rolleyes: I guess everybody has to make that mistake once in their life.)

Heh, I have a 4-day volcanology field trip coming up THIS weekend, as well. As much as I like geology, two field trips on two consecutive weekends is going to be tiring, and a bit disappointing because I'm going to miss Special Dinner at Casa. Oh well.


Well, the hexagon spiral doodle that I was doing the other day has been finished for about a week now. Here it is:

Note how the lines become very neat when I'm approaching the sides of the doodle -- that's where I started using a ruler. As I said before, it seemed like it was cheating at first, but I guess I was just making a design anyway, and anything that helps it look better is all good. :)


I'm glad that this quarter is coming to an end. Taking 19-20 units all this year has really weighed down on me, especially this quarter (since I'm taking some really time-consuming classes). Only 2 more weeks to go, and that includes finals! Yay!

In other news, I declared my Italian minor, my math major, I got accepted to the Honors Program in geology, and I've completed all the steps to go to Italy in the fall. I'm still on track to complete all that work!


I'm saving the worst for last. My iPod is dead. :( I plugged it in one day and it just stalled on the Apple logo, and I've never been able to get it revived since. The latest event in the saga is that I got it to briefly display the iPod menu interface, and then it went to the Apple logo screen with a progress bar under it, which is usually associated with firmware updates. I was hopeful that that might fix the problem, but it stalled in the middle and I had to reset it. Now I can't even get it to display ANYTHING on the screen, plugged in or not, not even the low battery indicator. I guess I'll just have to chock it up as a loss (the battery replacement didn't help I guess).

Like I've said to a couple people, I'm not going to spend another $299 on an iPod. The Geniuses at the Palo Alto Apple Store "generously" offered the standard $249 replacement fee for my iPod since it's out of warrantee, but if I'm going to spend that money, I might as well just spend $50 more and get a new one. That's way too much money then I'm willing to spend on another iPod, especially with the track record of the iPods I've received from Apple. When I buy an Apple product, I expect it to last for at least 3 years, and normally up to 5. I'm very disappointed.

Despite that, though, after using an iPod for 2.5 years, I can definitely say that I won't be buying any other music player, even though I'm not buying an iPod either. If someone wants to get me one, that's fine, but I'm not expecting it, especially because it's so expensive (no iPod minis please!). I would kind of rather have an old one anyway, because of the better battery life, and because it actually has a good scroll-wheel, not the stupid touch-wheels.

*sigh* But whatever. Such is life.

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