Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smartphone Flashcards

Quizlet flashcards are a must of you are currently a student. This morning during the General Assembly meeting I was able to hide out in a corner to study for an upcoming Geology test using my Quizlet flashcard set on the Sierra Nevada formations. I have found that when you use them it is much easier to study in places where pulling out books and notebooks may be inconvenient. With the flashcards on my smart phone I can be anywhere, and study! If you don't like making flashcards you can search for sets made by other students to study off of also on the Quizlet website.

Missing You Big Agnes

This weekend was the Fall 2011 General Assembly of the Student Senate of California Community Colleges in San Jose California. The GA's venue was at the Airport Double Tree Hotel. It has several wings and 9 floors. Nice LG flatscreen televisions, and cushy beds with about 30 pillows. (I feared I would suffocate to death with all the pillows supplied for my queen-sized bed). Friday night was a difficult night away from home. People trampling up and down the hall all night long, doors slamming and late night partyers filling up their ice buckets.

I woke up around 10 times wondering what it was that woke me and where the heck I was. Within a few seconds I was reminded of my hotel room with its strange noises and pillow-laden bed. Tonight will be my second night, and thankfully my final night in this dreaded hole. Sitting on my bed propped up by the pillows I am writing this blog post with excitement for next weekend when I will be inside my Big Agnes tent at Joshua Tree with the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) for their Fall Conference. I will be upgrading this hotel room and its surroundings for a tent, my Big Agnes Lulu bag, and ONE small Therm-a-Rest compressible camping pillow.

The good thing about this weekend's trip is that I can confirm my desire to be a geologist who gets to wear her cargo pants, Royal Robbins field guide vest and Boonie hat and gets to stay in tents on  geology "business trips". Next can't come fast enough for me!

For more information on NAGT field trips and conferences...check out

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's a Super-Mega-Gimongous Earthquake!

Photo from my iPhone of the "foreshock".
Last Tuesday night (03/08/2011) in our Historical Geology class the seismometer went off and recorded a foreshock to the 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan on Thursday 03/10/2011. The earthquake's tsunami  devastated the northeast coast of Japan.

As the tsunami came onto land, I could only sit in my livingroom across the Pacific Ocean scared for the poor people in their cars  driving on a highway  - having no clue what was coming towards them. It was a sickening feeling of helplessness I am sure shared with any one else watching it happen. The wave, filled with debris and mud moved  across the land in what seemed like an incredible distance for  what seemed to be an eternity.

The geology student in me watched with awe at the amazing power of the processes involved to cause such a relentless wave while horrified over its devastation and the loss of human life, knowing that this was only the first wave and fearing what more could happen with the subsequent waves.

CNN and other news media reported this event as a "Megaquake". Is a "megaquake" come out of Hollywood or do they really exist. The answer is "yes". Per USGS web page entitled "Earthquakes, Megaquakes, and the Movies: Lights! Cameras! Disaster! ( a "mega" is theoretically possible but as far as the geophysicists go-it is probably not likely to happen because it involves the length of the fault. They do not know of any fault (yet) that is capable of producing a 10.0 "Mega" Earthquake. Keep in mind also that we have only been "recording" earthquakes for about 100 years - the Earth has been around 4.57 Ga.

History lesson

The largest earthquake recorded was in Chile on May 22, 1960 with a magnitude 9.5.For the others on the list of big (sorry none "mega") check out

Being curious I asked some of my FB friends what "Megaquake" meant to them. Interesting that we all have our own vision of what a MEGA is...such as an "8.0 on the Richter", "huge", "6.0 and higher", and my favorite is that which "makes a big hole that swallows up a city". Whatever the visual we might have of a Mega 10 Earthquake it is safe to say I would not want to be on the beach of a country in its tsunami path.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sonia Johnson Rocks

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.
Sonia Johnson
After a week of letter writing, endless emails, texting, phone calls, meetings, planning sessions and collecting signatures (on top of school work) this morning Modesto Junior College students and faculty gathered as one. The small group sat in the auditorium with a total of 30 people who waited patiently for their turn at one of the microphones placed before the Planning and Budget Board.

The emotions were high, however people were for the most part quite civil. Students plead that they be allowed to help with recommending what programs or services to be cut, teachers stated that they were sacrifice alongside the students to keep hope alive at MJC. It was the first meeting this week that felt like the voices of those most affected by the budget cuts finally got the opportunity to be heard.

The Budget and Planning Board voted whether to support the recommendations from the President's Office to the YCCD Board or not. Happily a majority against supporting the recommendations resulted from the meeting. What this means is not that the cuts aren't going to happen (because $8 million has be cut) but that the determination of a few people really can be effective.

Our focus must be on the State Capitol as this is where the orders originate. We must write to our representatives and assembly members urging them to extend the tax to help our community save their college. When you think that you alone cannot make a difference, you are wrong...determination and passion is all one needs. Have some letters to write so must sign off for now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

We are sorry to interrupt regularly scheduled programming...but

A few weeks ago I was sitting in class anxiously waiting for the five-day Death Valley trip to come. I was also feeling somewhat optimistic about spending another 3 semesters at MJC to get my calculus, chemistry and physics classes done so I could leave the college with an A.S. in Geology Studies. This week the trip is a wonderful memory and my college future is unknown.

Well...just as obnoxious as the monthly emergency broadcast airing  over your "one" show you get to watch each week - the budget cuts came to our campus. The old adage when the "$%^* hits the fan" is true! The first professor I hear that is being cut is the man who inspired me to attend MJC and later became a close friend. I enjoyed guest teaching in his Anthropology class regarding world religion and loved supporting his bands at local gathering places.I immediately did a "reality check" to see if I was maybe just dreaming and tried to wake up, but I was fully awake wishing I was dreaming.

After the initial shock wore off I felt the old union shop steward creeping out of me...memories of being arrested for sitting down in front of South African Airlines office on Union Square in San Francisco many moons ago came to my mind. So the fingers and the mouth were loosened up and meetings, talks, planning sessions, emails, letters, texts messages, and phone calls started to become the majority of my daily life. Wait...I think I am forgetting something, oh yeah going to class and reading my notes for a test. I became frantic on Tuesday when I realized I had to go to a local high school to monitor a math teacher, and then had a test in Historical Geology that evening. So I did what every student does...I panicked!

Thankfully the test felt good and it was on topics I felt very comfortable with, however I had not completed the review questions for extra credit. I had 75% of the questions done but ran out of time to complete it prior to class. Oh well-let's hope I aced that test. At this point I am not sure if I will be around for next semester to take tests as our fairly new college president wants a "smaller, great college as opposed to a large, mediocre college"...and in addition to this statement he has said on a prior occasion that he wants to close the doors on students with over 100 units.

Ain't that some schist? I have 104 units - not because I took P.E. thirteen times, but because I was there 26 years ago to get a certification in law enforcement. After getting my certification I left and worked (paying taxes and voting, you know being a responsible adult and all) until I was medically retired from an injury I got in the line of duty. Okay, not a problem. I am not going to curl up and die over losing a great paying job and my future in that career...I will go back to school to get a degree and find some other place I can occupy. I need only 5 classes to graduate with my A.S. in Geology and this (insert happy thoughts here) man wants to close the door on "people like me".

Thanks for voting for education measures, paying enormous property taxes to pay for a new high school and two new elementary schools ($4200/year), state taxes and putting your life on the line for your community for 10 years but sorry the "community college" is now off limits to you, and oh, that really awesome professor who has rock star status on campus, yeah, he is out of here too. Have a happy (insert more happy thoughts here) life! Wow, this is AWESOME! Oh, President Loewenstein  I love your luxury car, and the chancellor's too - how do you pronounce those Mer-say-dees (thank God I had a chance to complete elementary school...sounding it out always helps)!

If you too would like to be depressed and pissed off at the same time - please follow this link!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Travel Woes to Facebook Friends

Last Thursday I left on a 5-day trip to Death Valley with other students and people who signed up for the Geology trip. The trip was phenomenal but it offered additional lessons in human behaviors and tolerances. I saw tempers flair, people who spoke when they should have kept their thoughts to their self, personality conflicts, and negative attitudes throughout the trip. One trip member lost her tent to the wind gods of Death Valley, and some involuntarily brought home sand grains from the Dunes that they are probably still trying to remove from body parts. Normally, these types of human behaviors or events can ruin a trip, but despite the few rough spots in our road, the journey was a success.  The few conflicts involving personality seemed to iron themselves out, except for one, however that is to be expected on a trip this long with literally strangers living and studying together for 5 days. I even had to seek validation from my professor after someone on the trip said something that broke my spirit somewhat. Those who left on Thursday as strangers came back Monday hugging one another and promising to "hook up" with each other on Facebook. An educational journey to a region of faults became the backdrop for new friendships, self-discovery, and fond memories...I cannot wait for the next  trip...or to get on Facebook to connect to my new friends.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Death Valley or Bust!

Photo Credit: Stephen G. Weaver  Earth Systems Imaging.

I have been to the Mohave Desert some years ago on a road trip with my then-roommate Pat. Our final destination was Fort Irwin to visit Pat's brother, Gene. A lot of laughter and junk food highlighted our trip. We accidentally killed a little bunny outside of Bakersfield that sobered us for about 30 minutes, however our youth and poor trip planning soon made for more laughter. I remember asking some strange man where "THE Joshua Tree" was, of course neither Pat nor myself knew that it was actually a bunch of "Joshua" trees in the desert we had been driving past for miles. To this day I cannot think of this trip with smiling and shaking my head. Great memories came from that drive many moons ago, and next week I will be returning to the Mohave and to Death Valley on a Geology Field Study class. I am excited to be going with an awesome group of students from Modesto Junior College. Some of us are in Geology classes, or are past or current members of the Geology Club. Our fearless leader, Garry Hayes (and his incredible wife Susan) will be towing us around geologic sites for four "rock loving" days. With the trip closing in my mind is going 500 miles an hour and in at least 12 different directions. Need to download my topo maps, print out my inventory list, starting packing the backpack and duffel bags, organize my rock collecting tools, make sure all the stuff I am camping with is in order, etc. etc. etc. I can't sleep...I am already too's 3:05 AM and I am sitting here alone with one of the worse movies ever (2012) playing in the background. If this sounds pathetic - well, it is. I must sleep and I must turn "off" my excitement. Of course, this is easier said then done. Deep sigh!

Monday, January 31, 2011


Okay rock buddies here is a cool word...mylonitization. I love words that Microsoft products freak out over, throwing a  red squiggly line under it like you are an idiot. The spell check knows "squiggly" but it doesn't know mylonitization. Well I can say before working on an academic paper for our upcoming Death Valley trip in a few weeks, I did not know this word. It was used to describe the deformation of rocks that were uplifted along a fault plane.

Mylonitization is one word that is not easily explained because it involves recrystallization and mechanical deformation of rock. Faults are perfect places for these events to occur.

Tonight's question is what do you call a rock that has gone through one or more processes involved in mylonitization?

Give up? 

Mylonite (duh).


Photo by Jeremy McCreary from his website at

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thanks Mr. Steno

We are studying those past men who were "rock readers" and contributed to the field of geology and our understanding of rock materials and processes. Niels Stensen (1638-1687) was actually a Danish physician that lived in Italy. Niels decided to Latinize his name to Nicolaus Steno but no matter what you call him, he was a rock hound oh - I mean he was a "silicis hound" (sorry no Latin word  for a hound found). He worked for a healthy Grand Duke which translates to he had a lot of time on his hands - lucky guy! His contribution to geology was the principles of superposition, original lateral continuity, and original horizontality.The principle of original horizontality is shown in this picture I took in Alberta, Canada. The principle tells us that tilted strata was once horizontal but that something (maybe magma chambers below) uplifted the crust. Why is this important? It helps a geologist to determine the chronological order of the rocks and Earth  materials they are studying. For example in this picture we know that something disturbed these layers after they were created. But in this photo below the layers are still horizontal. I love this photo I took in Sedona, Arizona, can you see the layers? If we look at the principle of superposition - what we see are the newer layers are on top of older layers since they are undisturbed other than some obvious weathering and erosion.

Hope you learned something...if you did then you too can thank Mr. Steno! In closing this blog I leave you with this come women didn't like rocks until the twentieth century? I can't find any women geologists in this period of history but that's okay because the women "silicis hounds" today will be making history for the future generations to come. So ladies...rock on!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Yesterday I posted a little photo of me at Glacier Bay in Alaska. Taken back in 2005 BMGL (before my geology life) and honestly I wrote exactly what I thought back then. That glaciers were big, beautiful "hunks of ice" that I wanted to climb. Back then if you were to ask me what I thought about the landscape around a glacier, I probably would have answered something like "it looks a little on the tattered side, but for the most part it is - interesting". Interesting was my word for "I dunno, leave me alone".

Today, my viewpoint is very different. I now read the landscape instead of seeing it.

What do you see in this photograph? Big beautiful hunk of ice right? Well, okay I will give you that but do you see the "flow" of the glacier, or the horns in the mountains, the lateral moraines or the cirques? If you are like me (a rock minion who lives in textbooks) then you probably do see those glacial features. Maybe you think I am speaking a different language...that's all right because technically I am.  

In this second picture look to the highest part of the mountains in the background. It looks kind of like an inverted "V"...that my friend is called a horn. It is created by the snow (firn) and ice of glaciers that over the glaciers lifetime strip away some of the loose, or not-so-stable rock materials. This leaves behind a rugged, sharp looking peak.  Next, if you look above the treeline dead-center of the picture you see a gray bar-like feature, that is the lateral moraine. It is boulders, rocks, gravel, and soil that is being shoveled to the edges by the glacier. Last are the cirques. A cirque is a circular space at the top of the mountain where glacial ice begins.

If you are fortunate to live in California or Nevada, you can see glaciers and all these features in the Sierra Nevada. Go to your local library and check out Mary Hill's book on the Sierra and take a drive up there for a day or two. Oh, don't forget your camera!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Homework vs. Daydreams

I've been sitting at the dining room table all day working on homework for Pre-Calculus - without the textbook. This day seems to be an endless Math purgatory!

I would rather be someplace else. Last night we watched the Alaska State Trooper show, and watched these guys working in negative seriously-wrong-degree weather. Although I don't envy these guys it brought back many wonderful memories of almost a month in Alaska in 2005.

So this is me where I wish I could be. The glaciers up there were so spectacular. I was so stoked being there I wanted off the boat. I saw myself with some ice cleats on climbing over the glacier! Some day...

There were all kinds of cute otters playing the freezing water and the cracking sounds of the glaciers were just scary and cool all in one.

So guess I need to get back to Pre-Calculus. Bummer!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jack Oliver Dies at 87

Kenneth Chang's article of 01.12/2011.

Jack Oliver, whose studies of earthquakes provided convincing proof that Earth's continents are constantly moving, died last Wednesday at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 87.

Feedzilla: Science News

Feedzilla: Science News

What Would You Do?

So if you are given an option to go to war with An Tir (those who are not fortunate enough to live in the West) that is up at Gold Beach, Oregon on July 4th weekend...or go on a two-week trip to Pacific North - including Yellowstone - with a geologist...what would YOU do?

Hell Week is Over

First week of spring semester went fairly well. Was able to get into classes I was wait listed on. Don't understand why our governments and legislative bodies keep cutting back on education when there are so many students who cannot get into classes they need. I technically only needed one class to graduate with my Associate's on April 30th and really sweated it out hoping I would be accepted as 16 of 21 on the wait list. Attended the first ICC (Inter-Club Council) meeting as vice president of the Astronomy Club where we were ratified. Going to be president of Alpha Gamma Sigma and also in the Geology Club. Will be busy semester with Historical Geology (yahoo) and Pre-Calculus (yeah), the clubs, and Geology field study trips to Death Valley, Southern Mother Lode, and Yosemite. Can't wait to go to Death Valley as I have never been there.

Another "big project" for me this semester is accepting an invite to participate in the CalTeach program at the college. It is an incentive program for those planning on teaching Math and Sciences. The kicker is I "planned" on receiving my Geology degree, and never really "planned" on teaching it. Can I do it? With my Honors Program mentor,Ms. Mo and my Geology Professor Garry Hayes on my side I feel that perhaps I have been keeping doors closed that I should at least open and peek inside.

Looking forward to being in charge of the teacher appreciation luncheon that AGS puts on. Just have to come up with some cool ideas for those we end up honoring. Invitations, decorations, certificates, etc. Well have a half-ton of precalculus to do...and practice my Geologic Time Scale.