Posts Tagged ‘fall rites’

Election Day Special Edition: Which U.S. Congressional districts look like salamanders

2 November 2010

The apparently inevitable “yes we can’t” pendulum swing promises to radically transform the spirit of the U.S. Congress from hand-wringing tooth-pulling incremental CHANGE to blustery obstinance-only unchange.

But arguably what happens at the state level could be of even greater lasting consequence since (in most cases) the state governments elected today will be using the results of this year’s census to redraw congressional districts following reapportionment.  Or something.

Anyway this seems as good a time as any to try to draw out the urodelan affinities of some of the slipperier districts at least as they now stand.

Of course the original ‘Gerrymander’ (which, if you want to be pedantic I guess, should be pronounced “gary-mander”) was a salamander in the mythological, rather than zoological, sense.  But whatever.

First off, we have Illinois’s 4th Congressional District which is truly a thing of beauty:

It doesn’t not look like a Slender SalamanderBatrachoseps.  I guess.

These dudes don’t have lungs! Which helps when you want to maintain your contiguity when slithering along the interstate.

Sticking with the Praire State, the chunky build of IL 17 is more reminiscent of the handsome and fearful Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum.

Heading down to Upper Cackleackle the serpentine grace of NC 12 recalls of course the anguilline Greater Siren (Siren lacertina)

Texas’s 29th District looks sort of like the original Gerrymander

but is a good excuse to plug the Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathburni):

Here’s Maryland’s 4th District

whose pasty orientation earns it a passing resemblance to the charming Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) at least in ventral view.

Finally, what do we got?

Oh yeah, California’s 38th District

Which doesn’t really look that much like the California Newt, (Taricha torosa), except perhaps for the bloated belly of La Punte (too many donuts?) but, anyway, I’m off to bed.  Rock on Nevada.

p.s. All images courtesy USGS, USFWS, and USFS … nice knowing you guys.

The Dickish Ghost Placodonts of the Lacian

29 October 2010

Look, art.  What better time than Samhain-eve-eve to exorcise some personal demons, namely the missing placodonts of the Early Norian.  Little bitches.

That’s all I wanted to say, really.

Here’s some Halloween music:

McFarthest Spot and Smoke Creek Sam’s last stand

20 October 2010

Shows what I know.  What I thought might be a challenging “Where on Google Earth” was correctly pinned down in less than 12 hours. Winner Lockwood has already posted #218 on Outside the Interzone and it has stumped me, at least.

My not so mysterious mystery photo shows lower Guano Valley, straddling the border of Lake County, Oregon and Washoe County, Nevada.  As Lockwood correctly noted, Doherty Slide, descending from Guano Rim is visible in the upper right.  The rim and the valley take their name apparently from the distasteful water found in the playa lakes that dot the valley floor, remnants of a pluvial lake that once filled the graben valley.

Doherty Slide is named for some Irish dude and the manner of descent adopted by wagons of yore wherein the wheels were locked and the wagons slid down the rocky slope.  Today Oregon 140 follows the same route, and by all accounts remains a harrowing trip.  I haven’t done it yet.  Looking forward to it though.

I don’t have much to add on the geology, already quite adequately summarized by Lockwood and typical for the region: Plio-Pleistocene volcanics and lake deposits modified by extensional faulting.  It’s worth noting, for those to whom such things are noteworthy, that the USGS geochemical standard for andesite, USGS AGV-1 (since replaced by USGS AGV-2 from the same locality), was collected on or around Doherty Slide.

I also want to call your attention to some other features visible in this otherwise desolate and unpopulated corner of the Great Basin:

  • The current location of McFarthest Spot, the furthest one can possibly get from a McDonald’s in the CONUS (+DC), is just below center.
  • A briefly held early hang gliding record was set by Chris Price in 1974 from Guano Rim, which remains a popular launch location.  At 13.5 miles the flight was an order of  magnitude shorter than the current record, but given the state of the sport at that time seems pretty impressive:
  • Smoke Creek Sam’s Last Stand, a decisive battle in the Snake War fought between the 2nd California Cavalry division of the United States Cavalry and an alliance of Paiute, Shoshone and Bannocks took place on the alluvial fan right of center.

From Michno 2007 The Deadliest Indian War in the West

here is an account of the battle from Fairfield’s Pioneer History of Lassen County 1916

  • Not easily illustrated in the photo, and perhaps not in view at all, obsidian sourced from Guano Valley has been found some 500 miles away in the California Channel Islands, which blows my mind.

If all of this seems to you the making of some awesome historical fiction centered on a few square miles but spanning some 5 million years.  Well I’m right ahead of you there. Just kidding, I’m super busy scienceing dude.

Left Behind

23 December 2008

img_0773Much of the chatter around the Latimeria tank at the newly revamped California Academy of Sciences concerned the health of the specimen, as in, “is that thing alive?” Of course, the putative “living fossil” was, in fact very dead–although a certain fish expert I know with quite a bit of aquarium experience predicts live, captive coelacanths the near future.

Vitality deduced, many passers-by voiced familiarity with “the greatest fish 51rlmlqpq4l_sl500_aa280_story ever told.” In fact, a few even recalled recent news about the discovery1 of a second living species of coelacanth in an Indonesian fish market.  Now, perhaps the San Francisco museum-going crowd is more hip to these things than most, but it’s impossible to deny that Latimeria has become something of a pop-culture icon , making cameo apperances in commercials, video games, and swan-songs of American primitivists. Read the rest of this entry »

Wordless Wednesday 2

17 December 2008

MetasequoiaGinkoes Latimeriaimg_0789

Words to follow.

Two-word Wednesday….

10 December 2008

Happy birthday!

My new favorite band

4 December 2008

untitled-1I read once somewhere that “Lias” is a corruption of “layers.”  Seriously?  I haven’t heard any of their songs yet, but with album cover art production values like this, you can bet it’s going to be wholly rad.

anyway though: