Home in Montana

I have a new home and a new job in a new state. It is good to be back home in Montana.

And it is good to be able to enjoy snow in June. Here I am as close to Beartooth Pass on the Montana-Wyoming border northwest of Yellowstone National Park as we could get by car last weekend.

The snowpack is exceptionally deep and long-lasting this year, which should lead to additional flooding as it all begins to melt in the upcoming weeks. According to the Billings Gazette, snowpack across Montana stands at 257% of normal for this time of year.

I hope to get a little more active on The GeoChristian in the upcoming weeks.

Grace and Peace

Billings Gazette geology videos

The Billings Gazette has three short videos on the geology of the Billings, Montana area featuring Rocky Mountain College geology professor Derek Sjostrom:

Geology of the Beartooths — Montana’s highest mountain range (Granite Peak, 12799 ft, 3902 m) has a core of 3.2 billion year old metamorphic rocks.

Geology of the Pryors — The Pryor Mountains (East Pryor Mountain, 8786 ft, 2678 m) south of Billings are formed mostly of blocks of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks.

Geology of the Rimrocks — The Rimrocks are Cretaceous sandstone cliffs on the north side of Billings. The fossils and structures indicate that the Eagle formation formed in a barrier island setting, much like modern Padre Island in Texas.

These are at a very basic level, but I still enjoyed them, and it looks like there are more to come in the series.

WordPress won’t let me embed these videos.

Montana

I moved from Romania to Colorado in 2008. I moved to Missouri in 2009. I’ll be moving “home” to Montana in a few weeks.

John Steinbeck wrote, “I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.” Here are three videos from Leadership Montana that hint at why Steinbeck may have felt this way:

My work on the blog could be a little sparse in the upcoming weeks.

Grace and Peace

Rock fall in Billings hits house, again

Video from the Billings Gazette: Rimrock boulder destroys video camera (I haven’t figured out to embed this on on my WordPress blog).

Slideshow: Gallery: Falling rocks.

Article: Crews succeed in pushing slabs off Rimrocks cliff.

Here’s another video, but it isn’t nearly as good as the “Rimrock boulder destroys video camera” linked to above:

As a teenager I would climb in the cracks between the Rimrocks and the slabs of rock that were slipping away from the cliff at a millimeter per year. Those boulders make nice landscaping for expensive homes at the base of the cliff, but…

Grace and Peace

Around the web 1/29/2011

Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

Mountain lion in St. Louis County! — This doesn’t happen too often. A night-time wildlife camera captured a mountain lion in suburban St. Louis, less than ten miles from our home. We’re a little more used to opossums, raccoons, deer, and wild turkeys around here.

I don’t worry too much about mountain lions when hiking in Missouri. I’ve never seen one in the wild while hiking in the West (I’ve lived in Montana, Utah, and Colorado), but I suspect they have seen me.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mountain lion spotted in suburban St. Louis.

From the Missouri Department of Conservation: Chesterfield sighting confirmed to be a mountain lion.

Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption NOT imminent — From National Geographic: Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells. The ground within the Yellowstone Caldera has swelled upwards up to ten inches (25 centimeters) as magma slowly intrudes into a magma chamber 10 kilometers beneath the surface.

“At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption,” said [University of Utah geologist] Smith, who co-authored a paper on the surge published in the December 3, 2010, edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

“But once we saw [the magma] was at a depth of ten kilometers, we weren’t so concerned. If it had been at depths of two or three kilometers [one or two miles], we’d have been a lot more concerned.”

Apparently, intrusion into the magma chamber is somewhat cyclical:

Based on geologic evidence, Yellowstone has probably seen a continuous cycle of inflation and deflation over the past 15,000 years, and the cycle will likely continue, Smith said.

Surveys show, for example, that the caldera rose some 7 inches (18 centimeters) between 1976 and 1984 before dropping back about 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) over the next decade.

IBM Supercomputer wins Jeopardy — The 1997 computer victory over chess champion Garry Kasparov was nothing compared to this one. Chess is complex, but the logic of chess is nothing compared to the complexities of language as expressed in the TV gameshow Jeopardy. PCmag.com reports that the Watson supercomputer defeated two Jeopardy champions at the game, which means that the computer could understand the nuances of the categories and questions (actually the answers). The author believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will operate at human levels within two decades, and adds “I for one would then regard it as human.” He continues, “By the time the controversy dies down and it becomes unambiguous that nonbiological intelligence is equal to biological human intelligence, the AIs will already be thousands of times smarter than us.”

From PC Magazine: Why IBM’s Jeopardy Victory Matters (three parts) by Ray Kurzweil.

My questions:

  • Is there more to being human than being able to process information? (The Christian answer is “yes.” Humans are created in the image of God, and some things such as genuine emotions just cannot be programmed.)
  • How long will it be until someone falls in love with a computer? Until someone gets married to a computer?
  • What will stop the Episcopal Church or ELCA from ordaining computers as pastors? (Too bad these denominations don’t require baptism by immersion; that would prevent computers from being eligible for ordination).

HT: John C

Ski Joring Championship — Huh? From the Billings Gazette: World Ski Joring Championships in Whitefish.

The event involves horses and riders pulling a skier who navigates a course with a series of jumps and gates.

Somehow I missed that in the last Winter Olympics.

Stairs are more fun — I almost always take the stairs at work, rather than the elevator. I figure that I climb about 40,000 feet per year, which is more than climbing Mount Everest. But the stairs at work are not this fun…

Grace and Peace

Around the web 12/30/2010

Wikipedia: Eurypterid (from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904))

Eurypterids in the petting zoo? — Eurypterids—the giant, scorpion-like arthropods of Ordovician to Devonian seas and lakes—may not have been the terrors of the waters that most have assumed. From FoxNews: Ancient 8-Foot Sea Scorpions Probably Were Pussycats. Some may have been vegetarians or scavengers, though the researchers acknowledge that species other than the ones they studied may have been predators.

Gasoline prices — From CNNMoney.com: $5 for a gallon of gasoline in 2012.

The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, says Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012. In an interview with Platt’s Energy Week television, Hofmeister predicted gasoline prices will spike as the global demand for oil increases.

HT: Geology News

Voyager 1 at edge of solar system — It is amazing to me that we are still in contact with the Voyager 1 probe, which is now 17.4 billion kilometers from the sun. From NASA:

December 13, 2010: The 33-year odyssey of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind.

Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

The event is a major milestone in Voyager 1’s passage through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer shell of the sun’s sphere of influence, and the spacecraft’s upcoming departure from our solar system.”

Praying for my children — I’m moving towards using prayer books rather than spontaneous prayers. I find that this helps me to concentrate better, and tends to be much richer in the use of Scripture than when I pray on my own. Here’s an example of a Scripture-saturated prayer for one’s children from a book I don’t have called Starck’s Prayer Book:

“Heavenly Father, immediately after their natural birth, I placed them into the arms of Your mercy in Holy Baptism.  Behold, I now do the same in my prayer.  Bless my children. Attend them in their going out and their coming in.  Keep them in Your holy fear, that they may never burden their consciences with sins or offend You, or worst of all, fall from Your grace.  Give them believing, humble, obedient, and godly hearts, that, like the child Jesus, they may increase in stature, wisdom and favor with God and men.  Imprint on their hearts the image of Jesus in order that they may always keep, until their blessed end, a gracious God and an unstained conscience. Let my children be devout in their prayers, well-grounded in their Christian faith, steadfast and zealous in worship, chaste in their living, godly in their conversation, so that by their words and actions they may give offense to no one and thus bring upon themselves a fearful judgment.  Preserve them from temptations and evil company.  By Your Holy Spirit keep them constantly in mind of Your holy presence, that they remember that You are with them at home and away, in their room, by day and by night, in the company of others and when they are alone.  Let Your holy angels be with them when they go out and when they come in.  Let Your angels guard them when they travel.  Give them Your holy angels as their companions.  By their aid rescue them from dangers, as You did with Lot.  Let them, like Jacob, live under the angels’ watchful care.”

My children were baptized at ages ranging from 6 to 17, so I would have to modify the first part a bit.

HT: Cyberbrethren

Christian martyrs— From the LA Times: Iraq’s War on Christians.

When America intervened to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Christians — mostly Chaldeans and Assyrians — numbered about 1.4 million, or about 3% of the population. Over the last seven years, more than half have fled the country and, as the New York Times reported this week, a wave of targeted killings — including the Oct. 31 slaying of 51 worshipers and two priests during Mass at one of Baghdad’s largest churches — has sent many more Christians fleeing. Despite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promises to increase security, many believe the Christians are being targeted not only by Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has instructed its fighters “to kill Christians wherever they can reach them,” but also by complicit elements within the government’s security services.

Similar stories have come out in recent weeks from other parts of the world. For example, Christmas weekend violence kills 38 in Nigeria.

Tertullian (~160-220 AD) was the first to say, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” While it is true that the church can grow and thrive under intense persecution—such as under the Romans of Tertullian’s time or China in the twentieth century—persecution can also drive the church to extinction. Picture Turkey (Ephesians, Galatians, the seven churches of Revelation 2-3) or most of North Africa.

Montana still under 1,000,000 — According to U.S. Census results, the population of Montana for 2010 was 989,415. When you drive across the state, it is hard to tell where they all are. There is still a whole lot of emptiness, which is the way it should be. From the Billings Gazette: Census: Montana population grows 9.7 percent.

Around the web 12/11/2010

In the beginning… — Blogger Joe Carter (at FirstThings.com) finds Stephen Hawking’s cosmology as expressed in The Grand Design to be a bit “drab and nonspecific.” Carter rewrites Hawkings to make it a little more of a “creation story for young atheistic materialists.”

In the beginning was Nothing, and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it expand. The expansion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

Read the rest at When Nothing Created Everything.

Submerged paradise? — The Persian Gulf basin was above sea level until about 8000 years ago, and there is growing evidence that humans lived there in a well-watered plain.

And it would have been an ideal refuge from the harsh deserts surrounding it, with fresh water supplied by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun and Wadi Baton Rivers, as well as by upwelling springs, Rose said. And during the last ice age when conditions were at their driest, this basin would’ve been at its largest.

Hmmm. Four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates. A refuge from the surrounding wild. Sounds almost Edenic.

The article is Lost Civilization May Have Existed Beneath the Persian Gulf at LiveScience.com.

Diamond world — AOL News reports Scientists Say Planet May Have Mountains of Diamonds.

WASP-12b, a gas giant about 871 light-years from Earth, seems to have an unusually large amount of carbon in its atmosphere. Diamonds form when carbon is compressed at extremely high temperatures. The high amount of carbon in the planet’s atmosphere suggests that its solid core could be full of diamonds, rather than the silicon- and oxygen-rich materials on Earth.

Not all are convinced:

“The findings are interesting, but are based on just four data points,” O’Toole said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I would proceed with caution.”

NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine also reports on WASP-12b:

It’s possible that WASP-12b might harbor graphite, diamond, or even a more exotic form of carbon in its interior, beneath its gaseous layers.

My two-cents worth: I don’t think I would want to live on a planet called WASP-12b.

Me at the Alzada end of the old gravel Ekalaka-Alzada highway in 2003

Ekalaka to Alzada highway — This news is a couple months old now, but I’m sure most of you missed it. From the Billings Gazette: A dream for decades, road from Ekalaka to Alzada is paved at last.

Residents of this remote town in southeastern Montana have lost one of their main claims to distinction, but don’t look for any of them to mourn the loss. When the first layer of asphalt was laid down last week on the only remaining stretch of gravel on Highway 323 between Ekalaka and Alzada, Ekalaka could no longer bill itself as the only county seat in the United States that didn’t have a paved road running through it.

My dad was born in Ekalaka.

Unabomber land for sale in Montana — One and a half acres on forested land near Lincoln, Montana, no cabin, no utilities. Was $154,500, now $69,500. The land isn’t worth nearly that much on the market, but it was where anti-technology letter bomber Ted Kaczynski lived his secluded life. From Yahoo! News/AP: Unabomber’s Montana land for sale; ‘very secluded’

Kaczynski is serving a life sentence for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995. The Harvard-trained mathematician railed against the effects of advanced technology and led authorities on the nation’s longest and costliest manhunt before his brother tipped off law enforcement in 1996.

Kayaker eaten by a crocodile — We have talked about taking up kayaking as a family. Nothing exotic or wild; paddling around a mountain lake would be just fine with us. We will stay away from crocodile-infested waters in the Congo. From Yahoo! News/AP: Kayaker presumed dead after Congo crocodile attack. Hendrik Coetzee’s last entry on his blog (The Great White Explorer) was called “Feelings: do they make you soft?” and ended with “I would never live a better day.”

Camel crushes congregants — I don’t think live camels in church is a really good idea. Watch Camel Falls Into Crowd on YouTube.


I’ve got about thirty tabs open in my browser with items I want to blog about. So many tabs, so little time.

Grace and Peace