Friday, February 29, 2008

To and From

Above: driving into the field through mud. Below: driving back out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Under Construction!


This site is under construction, and may remain that way for a few weeks. In the meantime, I will be adding old posts from an earlier website, and may add some new posts also.

Please bear with me.

Silver Fox

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Word: Mud

MudIt's good to be back at our little house after my first day at work in about 10 days. As you can see, it's muddy outside the house, in this no-frills driveway of ours. And as for work, this photo from Office of Redundancy Office is a lot like what it looks like where I work.

The way I look at my schedule, today was Monday for me. Then, depending on how many days I work in a row - usually from 10 to 20 - I will have a long string of Tuesdays, followed by one Wednesday or "hump day," after which I'll have a long string of Thursdays, finally followed by one Friday. Tomorrow is Tuesday. For MOH, because he works a "Super Seven" schedule (popular at many mines), tomorrow is Friday for him, and Saturday will be his next Monday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Morning Person

Well, apparently against all reason and indications to the contrary, I have been labeled a morning person. It is true, though, that by 6:40 am, I should either be on my way to work, or well established in my truck and about to head out the driveway. It's also true that I require coffee in the morning, strong coffee, and that I like to have an entire first, large "cup" prior to doing anything else at all (except getting the coffee).

"You're the time of day right around sunrise, when the sky is still a pale bluish gray. The streets are empty, and the grass and leaves are a little bit sparkly with dew. You are the sound of a few chirpy birds outside the window. You are quiet, peaceful, and contemplative. If you move slowly, it's not because you're lazy ? it's because you know there's no reason to rush. You move like a relaxed cat, pausing for deep stretches that make your muscles feel alive. You are long sips of tea or coffee (out of a mug that's held with both hands) that slowly warm your insides just as the sun is brightening the sky."
I found the quiz on The Happy Scientist. She's been writing recently about the negative correlation between the amount of beer drinking one does and one's publication rate. I don't know if it's my early-career beer drinking that screwed up my publication rate, or just my choice of career orientation. Supposedly, Confucius said, "It is not wise for a young man to drink; it is wise for an old man to drink." I guess the "man" could equally apply to "woman." Either way, I probably used up my share a long time ago.

Wayfarer Scientista has written recently about early spring in Colorado. It may be early spring here, but I think it's too cold in the morning (below 20 F) to really qualify for that.

No pictures today. I'll be back at work tomorrow for a couple weeks, and so I've been fairly busy on my last day off, getting ready. I did manage to get a bunch of stuff to the accountant today, and also took some time to eat lunch at a Hotel Restaurant that I don't usually frequent. The food was good; the timing slow. This coming week or two, I won't really be "gone," because I'm already here and have been for about a week, but my rate of writing usually goes down while working - so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ice and Snow Words

Ice CrystalsI've been thinking about ice, because although it warmed up yesterday, it froze over again today. In the photo above, the black blob in the lower center is a boot for scale, about 2 inches wide (in the mining industry, I do metric mostly when overseas). This little batch of large and small ice crystals got me to thinking about the supposedly hundreds of words in the Inuit language for snow.

Snow is a form of ice. Once, while visiting a cold, oft-frozen northern state (oh, alright, that would be Alaska), I came up with a long list of ice words used in the English language, although admittedly, many of the words are from other languages (like sastrugi; also see sastrugi here and here). The list got into glacial words and terminology, including processes, formations, and deposits, and it also got into various meteorological words, skiing words, and ice-climbing words. For example, if you've ever skied in the western U.S., you probably know what "Sierra cement" is. If not, be glad you don't!

Anyway, I don't have that list handy - it's on another computer, and it may be in some Old Mac format, still compatible with Word, I hope. I found, however, a list that at least shows that English isn't too spare in the snow and ice categories, afterall.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

There and Back Again

Ready to Go
I have been "there and back again" - to the Casino Restaurant, for a Starbuck's Grande Americano with room, a grilled cheese sandwich with fries,and a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream. The coffee has picked me up some, though I've gone into lounge mode, at least for the time being. The sun came out for a bit, and bright colors were noticeable here and there, which seemed cheering.

Gray Day

It's a gray, windy day here, and I am still on days off. I'm having a hard time getting motivated (tax time still looms); I think I'll put my pack boots on and walk down to the Casino Restaurant. I'll probably have a relatively small brunch, because MOH and I will go out to dinner this evening. He will be switching from a day shift (today) to a night shift (tomorrow night), and that gives him a chance to sleep in tomorrow.


This month's Accretionary Wedge is up at Lounge of the Lab Lemming: Geohmms (Accretionary Wedge 6). He runs down the many interesting geological articles quite well.

One thing I wonder - is a particular kind of "blue quartz" really associated with ore deposits - ore deposits of the gold kind? Some have postulated this idea, at least informally: for example, here and here. A familiar example to me would be an unusual bluish quartz found in the Silver Peak Mining District, on top of Mineral Ridge, near Silver Peak, NV (the town, not the peak). I noticed blue quartz while working there long ago, especially in and around the old Gold Wedge and Oromonte claims above the Mary Mine. The quartz occurs in granitic rock, and I've seen it most commonly near the relatively flat-lying quartz veins or ledges of the area. It appears to be an alteration feature or late stage intrusive feature, though the granitic rocks are entirely within the lower plate of a core complex and are often mylonitized or mylonitic. The timing of quartz veining and the gold-mineralizing event is unclear, at least in the sense that the many mining companies that looked for gold there (in the 1970's to 1980's in particular) all seemed to use different deposit models, from Carlin-type to exhalite-type to some variation of Mesquite-type, and even, possibly, to some variation of Mother-Lode-type (mesothermal veins). At this juncture, it would be a good idea to show an example of the blue quartz. If I have any examples, they are packed in boxes in the garage from my last move in 2001. I haven't been to the top of Mineral Ridge since the day after New Year's Day in 2000 (a geo-millennial thing, I guess), and at that time, the entire area was fenced off from recently shut-down mining operations, operations which appeared to have placed a heap-leach pad over part of a gold deposit discovered in the late 1980's by Former Mining Company. From this Google Earth image, it looks like the best outcrop of blue quartz might be almost or entirely gone!

Silver Peak, by the way, is another "outback" Nevada town or village. It was the largest town in Esmeralda County in the mid-1980s when its population was about 1500 because of silver and lithium-brine mining, and the population of Goldfield, the county seat and only other town in Esmeralda County was a third of that or less.

Silver Peak is A Virtual Paradise.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Update from The Lake

MOH and I are back in the field at our little house after a three-day interlude away from the Nevada outback, which included a visit to the lake and a two-night stopover in Reno. Our update from the lake is that there is significantly more snow there than at our little house in the Nevada outback - significantly more snow than we've seen at the lake in a number of years. Supposedly we are in the midst of a La Nina, although the winter overall reminds me of the 1982-83 winter, during which one of the largest snowfalls in the Sierra Nevada was caused by an El Nino. It was a very good year to learn how to downhill ski, and so I did. [I mean, it just reminds me of that winter; doesn't mean I'm saying we're not in the middle of a La Nina!]

On the way back, we drove through miles of high snow berms showing the depositional history of the snow and a few disconformities. Correlation between "outcrops" seemed good, except where local slumping and man-made disturbances had occurred.

While gone, we missed the exciting event of a large earthquake nears Wells, NV, which has been thoroughly discussed here and here and here. We were in Reno at the time - asleep, probably - and didn't feel a thing. Possibly the earthquake waves propogated north and south, parallel to the grain of the Basin and Range more easily than they propogated east and west, against the grain. That's only a theory, mind you, with me trying to explain why there are reports of the earthquake being felt as far south as southern California, and not so many reports from Reno and Sparks, NV.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Food in the Field

I spent most of yesterday doing finances (balancing checkbooks and the like) and organizing receipts in preparation for tax time. The latter is still ongoing. I did manage to get out of the house, out for lunch at the Nevada Café, where I had a—you guessed it—grilled cheese sandwich and chocolate milkshake. This time (as compared to the day before) the sandwich came with barely crisp, somewhat greasy fries instead of brown-around-the-edges cole slaw; the chocolate milkshake was very chocolaty and quite thick. The food conditions can vary from day to day within the same restaurant, but a few rules tend to hold: if you want good fries, go to the Casino Restaurant; if you want pickles with your sandwich, go to the Nevada Café. I’m not sure how the cole slaw is at the Nevada, but don’t eat it at the Casino, it tends to be brown, as though cut yesterday or even two weeks ago. How long does it take the edges of cut cabbage to get brown? In my refrigerator, it seems like it might take at least four days, if not a week or more. This could be a subject for further investigation for those on the restaurant rating circuits.

“Foodie” posts aren’t necessarily that well thought of unless they are distinctively gourmet-like. What I’ve found through the years, through many years of field work and travel, is that geologists who actually get out into the field find the condition of their food to be vital, maybe even critical. Consequently, numerous field geologists have devised rating schemes for restaurants across the western U.S. (the area I’m most familiar with), and some have created restaurant guides. We—at Former Mining Company—had our favorite Mexican restaurants, we had mapped the “machaca line,” north of which machaca might only be served at breakfast, if at all, and we had also discovered the two worst pizza joints known. One of the best Mexican places was in Yuma, Arizona, where they served “pitchers of enchiladas” according to one former colleague. Well... and that was the place I first heard the story of how Yuma got its name. A couple versions are listed below, but neither one of them seems quite right to me.

Legend has it there was a card game and and ensuing gunfight. The person on the receiving end of the bullet looked up at the shooter and his last words were: "You, ma. . ." and he died before he could finish the multi-syllable word...

Another story from Arizona tells how two grizzled prospectors argued for years about what they would name their desert home. They finally decided to shoot the first person who came their way, then name the place after his last word. The unlucky visitor turned out to be a black cowboy who was duly shot and approached; he raised his head and with his last breath said, “You muh. . . .

The two worst pizza joints, by the way, were in Blythe, CA and in Trona, CA. Of course, almost anything could be not-so-good in Trona, with all that trona salt flying around.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Old House From the photo, you might wonder whether it's Halloween or Valentine's Day. I think that at this particular old house, which MOH and I fondly call "our house" because we often talk about buying it and fixing it up, it is probably "Any Day" - no one lives there anymore. A tiny, plastic dinosaur decorates the exterior of one of the front-room bay windows, making me think that a child somewhere is missing his/her "Brontosaurus."

Going little further with the Valentine Day theme, if I was writing something a little more geological, I think I'd have to write something like this post from Geotripper. The Mojave Desert has long been one of my favorite areas - well, since sometime after I started doing recon there in the early 1980's - and Geotripper's post includes Death Valley, another favorite, along with - YAY! - a core complex with - YAY AGAIN! - detachment faults. And as for the quest to come up with good geological Valentine's Day songs, see the new Green Gabbro. Right now I can't do any better than that, although I think there must be a song some somewhere that I haven't thought of.

BreakupI am finally on days off and so am catching up on various things, including sending emails and downloading photos. As a special day-off thing, I went downtown to have brunch. Along the way, I noticed that it is getting on into "break up" (an Alaskan term, more or less for spring, or that period between winter and non-winter). Snow is melting and water is running and gathering itself into puddles.

Ceiling FanInside the Casino Restaurant, it was refreshing to just sit and relax, eating lunch and staring at the ceiling fan going round and round. I had my cell phone on in case anyone needed any information from me about work, but so far, my phone has been silent. May it remain that way.

Below, you can see that it isn't really spring yet. We still have plenty of snow around. And although the temperature has reached at least 50 degrees F, I am still wearing my winter boots.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting Stuck in the Hole

This is the way it happens sometimes with drilling: a drill rig - core or rotary - might get stuck in the hole, sometimes at a relatively shallow depth, sometimes deeper. If the rig gets stuck at a shallow depth, it's easy and not too expensive to just move the rig a few to several feet and start the hole over again. If the rig gets stuck near the target depth, sometimes that will be the end - E.O.H. - end of hole. When a drill rig gets stuck somewhere between shallow and deep, one has to carefully consider whether to re-drill the hole, or whether to call it "Deep Enough." That call depends on many factors, including geology, cost of drilling, and assay results from nearby holes.

One time, a core rig got stuck at about half the target depth. The drillers then had to try to get two sets of rods out of the hole, the original HQ-diameter steel with which they started the hole, and the reduced-to, narrower NQ with which they had drilled the lower part of the hole. The drillers had gotten stuck in bad ground after drilling through an old mine working, which drilled as several runs of nothing (a void) and then some cruddy, sandy material that contained wood from old, possibly rotten mine timbers. They discovered an unknown underground mine working - tunnel, raise, or stope - and that was not what we were hoping to discover (an ore deposit is more like what we were looking for). For the next couple hundred feet, they continued to hit voids and possible workings. Recovery picked up after a while - and then - the rods got stuck, possibly in a fault zone.

Sometimes if a hole is lost due to getting stuck, the down-hole survey can't be completed, other times it can be. The survey will determine the actual direction of the drill hole under the ground, whether it shot off in some unplanned direction, whether it spiraled around, or whether it went relatively straight.

To get unstuck, core drillers can go back into the hole with even narrower rods - BQ for the above example (the diameter of the rods used to get unstuck will depend on the diameter of the rods already in the ground). A cutting tool will be attached to the narrower rods; it will spin around in the hole to cut the rods at the lowest possible place, usually just above the core barrel. With luck, everything but the drill bit, core barrel, and shell can be recovered without any extra loss of drill steel. Sometimes, though, the drillers will end up having to cut the rods higher in the hole, leaving some expensive steel behind. Sometimes, the drill hole is blasted in order to break the rods at a certain point, if cutting or twisting and turning doesn't work. Getting stuck and unstuck can be an interesting, though often expensive and sometimes frustrating, experience.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Books and Recent Reading Expeditions

A request for reading material was recently sent out at ShearSensibility, and many interesting titles and authors were listed in the comments. I'd like to add a few books of my own, and show you what I have been reading recently, even though it strays quite a ways from strictly science. I'm often in the middle of several books at once, so some books I have finished, some are in-progress, and some are on my "read next" list. My dad, a former geologist (is there such a thing as a "former" geologist?) gave me the "Map that Changed the World," and MOH gave me the "Alaska" book. Maps and Alaska are always near the top of my overall interest list.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Life in Elko, NV

I'd thought I'd post this list I received by multi-forwarded email, which gives a rough idea of what it's like living in certain parts of Nevada, specifically in Elko. As though it were a meme, I have "bolded" the items that apply to me.

1) If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Elko.
2) If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because Elko is the coldest spot in the nation [lower 48], you might live in Elko.
3) If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Elko.
4) If you instinctively walk like a penguin for five months out of the year, you might live in Elko.
5) If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there, you might live in Elko.
6) If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Elko.
7) If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Elko.
8) If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Elko [or WAY fewer churches].
9) If you have had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in Elko.

1. "Vacation" means going up north past I-80 for the weekend.
2. You measure distance in hours.
3. You know several people who have hit a deer more than once.
4. You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.
5. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.
6. You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings).
7. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave all the doors unlocked.
8. You carry jumper cables in your car and [you know] how to use them.
9. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
10. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
11. You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.
12. You can identify a southern or western accent.

13. Your idea of creative landscaping is a concrete statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.
14. You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.
15. Down South to you means Las Vegas.
16. A critter is something you eat.
17. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.
18. You go out to fish fry every Friday.
20. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
21. You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."
22. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Elko friends.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Busy Days

My schedule has been keeping me pretty tied up recently, working 10-hour days, getting up early, getting to bed early. That will change a little for the next few days - drillers are on days off. Yay! The 10-hour days will be the same, but I won't be running around in the snow so much. Shortly after they get back, I will go on days off.

Mojave Desert

I wanted to post a link about Joshua trees, because the Mojave Desert is one of my interests. You might think that because I'm working in the Nevada high-desert outback (and elsewhere around the west), that the Mojave Desert would be an unlikely place of interest for me. I have, however, worked extensively (and possibly extensionally) in the Mojave Desert, in the past, when The Desert, and the whole state of California, was a little more open to minerals exploration and mining. I have written numerous stories about exploration, in and out and around the Mojave Desert of CA, and I hope to post a few of those here sometime, or have another website for those stories.

One thing is, it's February now, prime time for field work down there, although it sounds like it might be one of those winters where mud is a bit more common than usual, and where some roads could even be washed out. Field season is over when the creosote blooms, we used to say, though we would continue working into May (and sometimes June - yikes!). The creosote blooms anytime from February on, often in March, depending on where in the Mojave one is actually working.