Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reading and Writing

So I have noticed that there is a major difference between graduate studies and undergraduate studies, at least in the geosciences. Undergrad work tends to be homework, math, labs, and small projects. Mostly busy work and text books. Since starting at UVic in September I have read! I am a big reader anyways, and 200 pages a week is not uncommon. Of which about 40% is pleasure like novels or scientific, 40% is purely technical for my own research, and 20% is spiritual, self help, excercise and health related. The last few months I have been reading about 500-1000 pages a week. The percentages and categories are quite different as well.

The main point is that graduate studies are loaded with readings in your field area, writing in your subject of interest, with many 5-25 page papers on different challenging subjects, and lastly lots of presentations on difficult subject matter. It is quite different, and is completly opposite from my undergraduate experience. I really like this aspect of my Graduate studies. I love being in a quiet corridor of a crowded library with a stack of dusty books at my feet, or up in the 4th floor petrology lab overlooking the fall colors, finding resources for my many projects. The funny thing is that when I am burned out of reading stuff on subducting slabs and Arc Magmas, and copper partitioning coefficients in amphibols etc, I relax by reading. I read mainly novels though, and have recently read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown last weekend (I had been meaning to get around to it for several years now). When I am burned out of looking at figures, data, and doing various projects and presentations, I relax by doing my own research on my own research areas (ore deposits and mineral exploration). So really when I am not reading or studying, I relax by reading or studying something else. Pretty nerdy. I do look forward to next semester when I really get to start doing some serious experimental petrology. I am anxious to start the hands on portion of my research, and then I get to play with the resulting data.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heart Beat Cave - a real scary experience

I have been wanting to post something creepy in the spirit of Halloween. I first looked on YouTube for some Ghost Pictures and Movies, and well lets just say that the ones I found were too scary, and that experience is a post in and of it's self. So I dug through some old experiences and pictures, and decided to post on an experience I had many years back.

My brother and I were up to our usual antics and went up to the Uintas to do some prospecting. We decided to try a new area that we hadn't explored before. The truck whined as it climbed the steep dusty road. The warm autumn sun was at a low angle in the sky, and cast deep shadows along the canyon walls and cliffs. As we turned off the main road, onto the small jeep road, both us were suprised to notice at the same time, a small entrance to a cave 3,000 feet up a steep mountain side, on the side of the cliff. Well you wouldn't be a prospector if you didn't get out of your truck and jump into every nook and cranny you could find. So we parked the little gray nissan in some thick brush and scrubby ponderosas, and grabbed our gear for the long trek ahead.

We began to pick our way through the buck brush and evergreens toward our goal. Our conversation shifted from how many dead Spanish Conquistadors we were going to find in this cave, to what sort of gold veins would be waiting for us inside. We were sure we were the only people dumb enough to make the arduous journey to the mouth of the entrance, and would be the first. The climb became downright steep. We soon found we were on all fours scrambling up skree and holding onto stunted little shrubs. The slope morphed into a rock slide and we found for every two steps forward, we slid backwards a step and a half. In the rocks we began to find the remains of ancient small corals and bivalves, indicative that you are in "cave country". We also noticed some pyrites, always a good sign for mineralization. We let our thoughts get carried away again, and it briefly let us escape the fact that we were exhausted, sweaty, and thirsty from ascending this mountain side. Our water rations soon ran out, and we realized that the entrance looked easier to get to from the truck, than what it was really taking us to approach. Another odd thing we found, was the closer we neared the entrance, the larger the entrace became. At first we had thought the cave to be about 1 meter square. At about 3/4 of the way to the entrance, it looked like you drive a vehicle into it. We finished the last 1000 feet of the climb on all fours scratching and clawing our way up the loose gravel, that had settled at the angle of repose.

The entrance was massive. You could build a two story house in the entrance, and still have space between the cave and the entire house. It was nice to get out of the late afternoon autumn sun into the cool inards of the mountain. The three hour climb had left us feeling weak and famished. It was time to get down to buisness and explore this bad boy. We jumped into the entrance and were punched in the nose by the smell of ammonia. "Guano" was everywhere. We found that after about 30 meters into the cave it began to really neck down and we could barely stand in the cave. The floor and rocks were stained a dark organic colour, and we were careful not to touch more guano than we had to. We shined our mag light onto the ceiling and saw a thick seem of brilliant yellow calcite crystals. We pulled out the chisels and began to remove a few specimens for posterity sake. It was cool and dark and the light from the gigantic entrance no longer made it's way to this portion of the cave. We pressed onward.

It appeared for a moment that we had reached the end of the cave system (always a dissapointment for an explorer). We shown the light around, and noticed a small section of cave that seemed to continue into the mountain, at a right angle to the main tunnel.

It was small, only big enough to belly crawl through. We pulled our packs off, and Rich did what he always does, and dove in head first. I heard his muffled voice from the hole "there are a few rocks in the way, but it definately keeps going". He grabbed his rock hammer and began to pry at the rocks. He looked like a varmont digging a hole, as the debris began to fly out of the small aperture. He yelled from the hole "the acoustics are crazy back here, I can hear my own heartbeat in the cave". I thought that was an odd statement, I know I had heard my pulse pounding in my head as we struggled up to the entrance, but this wasn't what he meant. I questioned "are you sure?". He casually said it was definately his heart beat. I squatted down at the small entrance and could see the pebbles and rocks stuck in the tread of the bottom of his shoes. I pointed the mag light back in the claustophobic little tunnel (We only had one light and I was holding it to free up Rich's hands). Rich managed to budge a massive boulder that was hindering our further progress. With the loosening of the rock, I was hit in the face with a gust of stale dank air. And then every hair on my body stood on end, much like when you are ontop of the Uintas in a lightning storm, and you can feel the electrons singling you out as a target, but my hair was on end because I heard the faint sound of a heartbeat too.

Now I am a scientific guy and I am VERY skeptical of all things supernatural, so don't think for a second that I am making this up. I told Rich with a shaky voice, "I hear your heartbeat too". He replied totally non-concerned "I know it's getting louder". There was a definate draft now and air was flowing around Rich's prostrate body. The sound grew louder. No longer was it a faint muffled sound but a distinct rythmic heartbeat. Boooom boom boooom boom. We both began to wonder what the heck was going on. It was like knowing how it felt to be the main character in Poe's "A Tale Tell Heart". The sound began to build. I was terrified. It was like there was a giant heart sleeping in the bowls of the Earth, and we had disturbed it's slumber, and it was now mad and coming for us. I finally told Rich let's get out of here. "Right behind you buddy" I heard from the small grave like opening. And then when I thought I couldn't get anymore scared, the beats grew louder. The sound was louder than a base drum. The fear gripped me, and I was sure that my life may come to an end at any moment. It is a fear that is hard to explain unless you have ever been confronted by some sort of invisible fo. I had to shout to talk over the rythmic booms coming from the depths of hell. The repeating beats were echoeing off every wall. It was as if you were inside a giant heart, like the mountain was a living breathing creature, and we were adjacent to the mountain's massive heart. The sound surrounded you, and it wasn't just a sound, it felt so alive. Finally fear shorted my brain out. My legs began to move by their own power. Fight or flight had kicked in, and I wasn't able to fight a giant heartbeat and win, so I ran.

Keep in mind that I had our only light source. The last thing I can remember in the cave is my brother scrambling to put chisels, hammers and crystals in his pack. The next thing I knew I was at the mouth of the entrance. I heard a terrified whimper behind me "You have the light dude, I can't see a thing". Had I just left my brother in the dark to fend for himself against a giant heart beat.? "I am a huge freakin wimp" I thought. Yet I had not the courage to look back. I just stood in the entrance and pointed the light towards the scrambling sound of my brothers footsteps. I saw a flash stream past me as my brother virtually flew out of the entrance. The sound at this point was echoeing from the entrance I was still standing in. I quickly followed my brother down the slope. Now keep in mind we were on all fours for nearly three hours to climb this hill. We were now sprinting! Each step I took seemed to cover 100 meters of distance. It was like I was out of my body watching some athlete below me navigate a course made by the devil himself. Yet both of us were executing each step, and maneuver, with the accuracy and skill of a surgeon. The sound of the heart beat was faint as we began to get in the scrubby pines and buck brush that hid our small truck. It took us but 15 minutes to get back to the truck. We never stopped, or even made a sound on our rapid suicide desent. We threw in our gear, and started our truck. The sound of some electronic music began to play and erase the horrid sounds that we had just been a part of.

We made it to the small diner that we always ate at after a prospecting trip, and finally the shock had wore off. "WHAT IN THE HECK WAS THAT?" We both said in unison. As we sat drinking a gallon of soda and dipping our greasy frys into the fry sauce, we began to try and explain it away. Maybe there was drilling going on, or maybe the draft in the cave caused the cave to make noise, maybe there is heavy machinery near by,,,, and on and on. I am here to tell you I have never come up with a good explanation. I have had cavers, and miners, and forest rangers try to explain it as this or that. The problem is the pure volume of the noise, and the proximity of where the noise was coming from. I am a scientific person and want a scientific answer, but some things are just mysteries, like heart beat cave. Every part of this story is true and accurate even to the part of me shamefully leaving my brother to his demise. I have never gone back, and I will never divulge the location of the cave, and I WILL NEVER go back again as long as I live, well maybe I would if I was talked into it, I am always up for tempting fate.

Rich in the entrance of the cave when we first arrived, below is a shot of me in the entrance upon arriving, both of us oblivious to the experience we were about to be a part of. (sorry all these shots are just some crappy scans) Rich just entering the creepy little tunnel in the back of the cave, moments before the scary experience.
This is a shot from the inside of the cave about 15 meters back looking out of the entrance, if you look close you can see the Guano and the seam of yellow calcite crystals in the ceiling.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Current Guitar Practice Playlist

I am currently learning several songs on my guitar. It is a lot of fun, and though I don't have as much time for it as I would like, I always try to squeeze it in some where in the day.

Enjoy the Silence - Depeche Mode
Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode
Brick - Ben Folds Five
Missile - I Am X
Spit It Out (Acoustic) - I Am X
Lightning Field - Sneaker Pimps
Lazarus - Placebo
Special Needs - Placebo
Water's Edge - Seven Mary Three
Where is My Mind - Pixies
The Chauffer - Duran Duran

Pretty much I am the only one who can tell what I am playing, but I love it. Since I am only learning for my enjoyment, and love of music, that is all that matters. If along the way, however, I am able to Jam with some friends or where ever that would be a plus.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mine Tour in the Interior BC

This week I had the opportunity to check out several mines in the interior of British Columbia. Both mines were near Logan Lake and Merrit BC. The first mine was a gold mine with historic production and possible future reserves. It was an awesome property. There were thousands of meters of core from drilling programs. Most of the gold mineralization was contained in quartz veins rich in pyrite with sericite alteration. We had to act as if we were geologists looking at the property for a possible acquisition. After looking at maps, minerals and the gold veins we had to decide if we were going to purchase the property or not. Me being an optimist thought the property was conducive for a future mine. It was a great chance to see a real life prospect and possible future mine. I would love to work on the project.

The following property was the Highland Valley Copper Mine owned by Teck Cominco. The Bingham Copper style pit is the largest of the kind in Canada but still quite small compared to Bingham. The mine is still huge. It was awesome to go inside the pit and look for minerals. I found some great specimens. The mine contains good copper and molybdenum. It was cool to check out the machinery working. We also got to check out the mill. It was awesome to check out how they get the metal out of the rock. These are just a few pictures of the process. They crush, then float off the metal due to it's hydrophobic nature, after which they collect and seperate the copper from the moly. Lastly they dry and ship the concentrate to Asia. The mill was ginormous using as much electricity as a city with 100,000 people every day. It also uses the same water as nearby Kamloops. The rock crushers are massive and obliderate the rocks through autogonous or semi-autogonous processes. The metallic slurry frothing off the top of the flotations cells were amazing. All I could think about is my own ideas and future plans with mining. The weather was freezing and averaged about -4 degrees celcius. But the trip was worth it.

The pit from a distance.
Our class in the Lornex pit with a shovel in the background that could scoop up a suburban in its shovel.
Some of the mineralization associated with the mine. The next picture is one of the crushers.
Metal moly in a flotation and seperation cell.

Me back on the island after this trip to the interior. I have grown quite fond of the island and love to be by the ocean and the mild temps and weather that are associated with Victoria.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My first Gutbuster Mount Doug 11 Km Training run

Today was a really good day for me with my running. I accomplished many "firsts". Before conference I decided to do my weekly long run. It was pouring rain and was chilly, about 13 degrees (57 f). I figured I would go for the full gutbuster 11km (yellow line on the map) plus my added distance to and from my house, and a slight variation on the course, which put my distance closer to 15 Km. It took me quite a while to get in the groove. It is amazing that regaurdless of how hard I train, my first 2 Km are just brutal. Today was extra bad, but it turned out to be a good thing. I hit my groove right at the start of my first major hill climb (the Irvine Climb). Here is where I accomplished my second first. I summited Mount Doug without having to speed walk at all. My legs were just burning, and my lungs were trying to engulf the necessary oxygen. I would not let myself slow to a walk. I just kept pushing myself, and before I knew it, I was on the last few swithbacks to the top. I was stoked. I then battled some really slick rocks and messed up my right leg (see photo, you can tell it's messed up). The rain drops began to fall faster, and seemed that each drop encompassed a pop cans amount of liquid. I was drenched. I finished summiting little doug and summited big Doug again. I finished my distance and struggled up the big hill before my house. I had made my full distance. It took a total of 2:12 and so I ran beyond the 2 hour mark for the first time since moving up here. I was so relieved to be done and was happy with my progress this week. My temperature was super hot from the run, but when I got home I found myself locked out of the house, and my tempature crashed. I finally got inside and snapped a photo of myself after my first succesful Mount Doug long course completion, for prosperity sake. I started the run at 150.8 lbs and finished the run at just over 148lbs. To make my goals for my times I want, in about 40 weeks for the actual race, I will need to shave at least 40 minutes off my time. So I need to average about one minute quicker each week then the week prior. I jumped in the tub turned on conference and warmed up. I am affraid I will have to start nursing my injured right leg, and I may loose some training time. I pulled my acheles and hamstring, which in turn caused my knee to track poorly under my patella, so I have a bit of runner's knee as well. Time for ice and stretching. I will muscle through it though. I can't wait to hit the trail again. I ran pretty long on wednesday as well, but my mind was uneasy due to some loose ends that have not been tied up. I ran very poorly that night as a result. Between then and now I had made some progress on working through my issues, and feel the peace of mind allowed me to run better. It is amazing how interlinked our mind, body, and spirit are. I love the fact that running allows me to totally push my limits to where my will is the only thing keeping my body firing. I love to see just how much pain I can create for myself. I know it sounds crazy, but it is fun to me. The conference tonight was great, and I look forward to tomorrow.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I have found I really do enjoy teaching at University. I have always considered being a professor, but now that I am getting some experience, I even love it more. Some of my favourite aspects of teaching are sharing a small portion of my love of geoscience with someone else, and watching the students actually get excited about something I love so much. I enjoy watching people figure out a problem, and seeing that little "light bulb" moment of the realization of how to figure the issue out. I really like to see people take pride in their academic accomplishments and successes, they are hard earned. This class (mineralology) is such a fun course to teach. There is such a huge component of hands on science. Everything from hand specimen identification, optical miscroscopy, and field science. It really is the course in a geology undergrad's career that forms such a fundamental background of all other aspects of the science. It is used as a basis for everything from geochemistry, and mineral exploration, to ocean science, environmental science and geophysics. I am really learning the course material as well, and feel I am becoming a better student and geologist as a result of my teaching. I would truly love to teach for a living. I have heard some negative comments about becoming a university professor, but I feel these comments are poorly constructed and based on weak arguments or one bad experience. I love research and would love to continue to research as well. Sometimes industry does not allow for much wiggle room, to pursue your own interests amd curiosity, but university allows for such curiosity studies, and to contribute to the furtherment of the science, and not just a single company or project. I would be a very happy person if I was able to elevate myself to a level that would allow me to teach upper division geosciences. I will always remember my first experience as a TA, as a truely important point in my life.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

5 lists of 8

8 TV shows I like to watch: (I watched when I had the TV)
1. Lost
2. Chuck
3. Office only have watched it a few times but laughed till I cried.
4. History Channel
5. Discovery Channel, survival man, and the other survival guy
6. National Geographic
7. Nature
8. I don't know I just don't watch

8 Favorite Restaurants:
1. I like McGrath's quite a lot
2. Red Lobster is good
3. Rooster's
4. Himalayan Kitchen
5. Chilis
6. Outback
7. Ruby River
8. Red Fish Blue Fish

8 Things that happened yesterday:
1. Woke up
2. ate pancakes
3. bus to school
4. taught a lab on crystalography
5. read reports
6. read some books
7. ran
8. Played with my kids

8 Things I'm looking forward to:
1. Seeing my family each morning, afternoon, and night
2. Finishing my Master's
3. Starting my Doctorate
4. Finishing my Doctorate
5. Finding a good job
6. Traveling the world
7. Fishing with Tim
8. A new DM album

8 People I tag: All my friends (I know, I only have a friend or two, it is the best I can do).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Lyric

James got the last one so quickly, I am going to have to try and stump him.

Try this one out!

"Let's take the whole of the world The mountains and the sand"

An Ode to Mount Douglas

I am going to do another long run of Doug this afternoon. I will most likely be doing about a 2:00 hour or slightly longer. I will try to summit doug twice and little doug at least once. It is a great hill to climb. First it has great trail systems. You can always switch up your run depending on distance, steepness, rockyness, or you can just trail run around the mountain on a nice flat run. It is really nice to have such variabillity while training. The mountain itself is 220 meters (almost 1000 feet) above sea level, and since, on my run to the mountain, I pass within a few meters of the ocean, I climb this elevation every time I summit. So an average long run with summiting Big Doug twice and little Doug once, I climb over 2,000 feet. It is a really good spot to train. The views are fantastic and sunset (when I usually run) can be breathtaking. This is a truly inspiring run, the terrain and scenary is brilliant, and the trails are always different as conditions change. The silence is only broken up by my foot steps on the moist organic rich soil. It is not hard to be a runner in Victoria infact it is an absolute joy.

Lyric of the Day

I thought I would put a new lyric of the day on my blog to honour Depeche Mode. I hope that is a big enough hint. This is from a great song that I have really come to enjoy over the years, and it is probably ranked around number 10 which is saying a lot for the 300 songs I have on my i-pod from the group.

Here it is.....

"Try as hard as you can, I've tried as hard as I could, To make you see"

I know it's too easy, wacha gonna do? Good Luck and may the best Modey win!