Thursday, July 31, 2008

In the Beginning...Diamonds

(Come on, you had to know it was only a matter time before I wrote a post about something sparkly!)

We've all heard the theory that life on Earth sprang out of some strange primordial soup, some swampy mixture of chemicals that just happened to have what it takes to spontaneously spring to life. But scientists have so far been unable to explain just what it was about that early ooze that made it so special and, well, lively. New research from German scientists Andrei Sommer, Dan Zhu, and Hans-Joerg Fecht (Dibs on using that last one to name future children!) presents an interesting answer.

It appears that, billions of years ago, the surface of natural diamonds may have been just the right place for life to grow. Diamonds are crystallized forms of carbon and are older than Earth's oldest life forms. In laboratory experiments, the scientists showed that after treatment with hydrogen, natural diamond forms crystalline layers of water on its surface, essential for the development of life, and involved in electrical conductivity. When primitive molecules landed on the surface of these hydrogenated diamonds in the atmosphere of early Earth, the resulting reaction would have been sufficient to generate more complex organic molecules that eventually gave rise to life.

This post also gives me a great excuse to look at photos of diamonds online : ).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guest Blog #3 or A Short Rant by a Tall Fellow

I kayak a lot, four or five times a week lately. When I go out it is typically in the later evening or early morning so the only folks I run into are fellow die-hards trying to get their fix around work and whatnot. But recently when I was taking a group down the river with EPIC I had an opportunity to go out midday when the locals(yahoos, amateurs, non-kayaking folk) were on the river.

Wow, quite the eye opener.

Now, if you whitewater kayak you spend hundreds of dollars on your boat, and every accessory also costs around a hundred bucks (this varies--helmets and paddles cost more, hydroskins and skirts less) so when you actually get out on the water you are wearing or using about one thousand dollars worth of gear and boat (in the summertime). You have to secure everything well or risk losing expensive equipment when you roll, loop, surf, etc.

I don't mean to be judgmental and elitist (I'm going to sound that way but I feel better about it now that I've said I don't mean to), but when you are wearing all that gear and you have put a great deal of time and thought into being safe on the river it really ticks you off when you see a jackass floating through a sweet playhole on a pool toy with his cooler floating in an inner tube tied to his wrist with a length of rope. It's not just the fact that he isn't wearing a PFD, or that he's drunk, or that he is tempting fate by wearing his potential noose on his wrist, well yes it is. Then you have your folks out fishing, for the most part they are pleasant folks, but then there is the guy on the walmart raft with all his gear and beer unsecured in his boat on, I'll give him this, a relatively mellow class 2 stretch. Still if he tips or something all his gear ends up in our river and all those bottles end up all over the shore.

"Where", you may be asking yourself "the hell is this guy going with all this, and why do I care?

"Wow, harsh!" I respond. The answer is I'm no longer sure, but I think I was going to comment on some sort of political or social dilemma, give me a moment I will try to remember...


I think what I was going to say is this, we all have to stay cool in the summer and playing in water is a great way to do it, but folks on pool toys in the river? Jerks with beer in Walmart boats fishing? (I mean shopping at Walmart is bad enough!!)
But if you are going out on the water, please, use sensible judgment or go with someone who has good judgment and the ability to beat you senseless. That way you don't annoy/pollute/die or, most importantly, irritate your local kayakers.

By Gordon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Artist in the Family

For your artistic viewing pleasure, here is art from my sister Jaima...

The drawing is of a sculpture on the college campus where she works.
Notice the excellent shading.
Yeah, we're talented people : ).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Odds and Ends

You may have noticed that the two books I'm reading right now (according to this here blog, anyway) have been the same for quite some time now. Truth is, I have started both books and they are both excellent--interesting and thought-provoking. But then I got distracted. I'll go ahead and blame it on the season--no self-respecting summer reading list is complete without a big chunk of escapist fiction, huh? So I re-read the first three Harry Potter books, then I read two Agatha Christie novels (in one day!), now I'm working on Jurassic Park (One of my all-time favorites--I'm at the part right now where the T-Rex is attacking the two children in the cars!). I have a couple other works of fiction on my list and then, I promise, I'll get back to reading the good stuff. : )

Also, I thought I'd call attention to a little addition to TLaJ that I doubt anyone has noticed. Way down at the bottom of the page I've added a "Where I've Been" map. Quite fun. There is a feature where you can turn the countries you want to visit green, but I would just end up turning the whole thing green, so I didn't bother. Top three countries I am dying to see right now are Turkey, Greece, and Croatia. And Czech Republic. And Morocco and Spain. See, this gets out of hand fast.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More Summer Shenanigans

Yes, that is Gordon being pulled behind a speed boat in a kayak : ).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Captain Awesome

Kudos to Captain Awesome for getting FIRST PLACE at the Hydrotherapy kayaking competition last night. There were three categories (big air, entry tricks, and something else I forget--I was on my second (read: third) glass of wine by then), and Gordon took first in the Entry category for entering the wave with a killer dry roll then continuing to surf it. We took home some serious loot, too: A dry bag, beer cooler, carabiners, and gift certificate to the Olive Garden. Fun was had by all. For more info on Hydrotherapy, click here. Gordon should be posting video of last night's event here sometime today, so keep checking back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I had been hearing a lot about some phenomenon called LOLcats over the blogosphere, so I went to my trusty Wikipedia link to find out what this was all about. I could sort of tell it had something to do with some sort of weird netspeak (read: poor grammar). But after reading through the entire article on LOLcats and even clicking on all the links and going to the supporting websites and seeing several actual examples of said LOLcats, I have to admit this is one web phenomenon that I just can't wrap my mind around. How about you kids?

LOLcats definition: An image combining a photograph, most frequently a cat, with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption in (often) broken English—a dialect which is known as "lolspeak", or "Kitteh". The name "lolcat" is a compound word of "LOL" and "cat". Lolcats are created for photo sharing imageboards and other internet forums. Lolcats are similar to other anthropomorphic animal-based image macros such as the O RLY? owl.

I know, I know. Now it's all perferctly clear, right? Here's more history:

There are several well-known lolcat images and single-word captions that have spawned many variations and imitations, including "Ceiling Cat" and "Basement Cat" which have become the lolcat equivalents of God and Satan, respectively. Others include "I can has Cheezburger," "monorail cat," "I [verb]ed you a [noun], but I eated it", "hover cat", "Oh Hai I upgraded your RAM," "WANT", "DO NOT WANT!," "Fail", "Nom Nom Nom" (used for eating), "Halp!", "Invisible [object]", "Proceed," and "Pew pew pew" for shooting. A related phenomenon uses photos of an elephant seal("lolrus") on the search for a blue bucket ("bukkit").

Such astounding clarity. And now for some examples:

Don't ask me why......

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
~Barbara Ehrenreich

What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility ... a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
~Adlai Stevenson

"My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober."
~G.K. Chesteron

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.
~Rabbi Sherwin Wine

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Guns 'n' Numbers

Well, it's been awhile since I've written about anything controversial. Better get back in the game!

Last week's Supreme Court ruling on gun ownership restrictions has a lot of folks upset (and more than a few celebrating). I am doing neither. The ruling shows that the Supreme Court is doing its job, which isn't very easy. I think handguns are stupid and should be illegal, but that doesn't automatically mean that such a law is constitutional. I tend to agree with Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in their interpretations of the constitution. Yes, the document can be read to say that we have a right to own firearms, but I maintain that it was not the intent of the writers of that revered manuscript to allow private citizens handguns and semi-automatics and whatever else they want. They couldn't have foreseen what gun-related crime has come to in the modern age. But I digress.

The most common argument I hear in favor of private gun-ownership is that peaceful, law-abiding citizens should have the right to defend themselves against gun-toting crazy criminals. Okay, fine, sounds reasonable. But here are the numbers, speaking for themselves:

Gun related deaths, 2005
55% Suicide
40% Homicide
3% Accidents
2% Legal Killings, including police-related shootings, self-defense, or undetermined intent

Public-health investigations have found that in homes where guns are present, the likelihood that someone in the home will die from suicide or homicide is much greater. In addition, homes in which a suicide occurred were three to five times more likely to have a gun present than homes that did not experience a suicide, even after accounting for other risk factors.

Of course, some will say that if guns are removed from these homes, people will still attempt suicide by other means. While this isn't necessarily true, here are some more numbers on that front: More than 90 percent of suicide attempts using guns are successful, while the success rate for jumping from high places was 34 percent. The success rate for drug overdose was 2 percent.

Sources: here and here

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two-fer Tuesday

1. When the alarm rang this morning, I was dreaming about being crowned Queen of the British Empire. All my friends and family were there for the coronation (thanks for coming!). The crown was very sparkly and beautiful, but also very heavy, so I was having a lighter one made to wear for everyday use. Apparently, my subconscious mind does not have a self-esteem problem.

2. You can see photos of our fun last weekend on two other blogs. For climbing photos, click here. For kayaking photos, click here.