Monday, May 18, 2009

You light up my life

Tonight marks a special occasion for me. I actually checked-off one of my lifetime to-do's of capturing lightning on film (or sensor) and it was all because of a tip from a student. Turlock had an unusually humid evening tonight like something out of the midwest (dp was about 50f or so). Laura and I had noticed the unusual mammatus clouds forming above Turlock and commented on how strange of an occurance that was for this area during this time of year. We both knew the hills (sierra's) would be ripe for storms but thought little of it as we had other teachery chores to finish at home.
Then, a little after 9pm, a student of mine having, had the lightning lecture from several weeks back still fresh in her head, rang my house phone and told me that she was witnessing amazing lightning strikes in the direction of the southern sierra foothills. So I did what any good teacher would do; I dropped everything I was doing, got my camera and tripod and dragged Laura to the plowed fields east of town to take some pictures.
I had almost been killed trying to accomplish the task of capturing lightning in a bottle several years ago while in the White Mountains, and actually tried to take the pictures by pressing hte shutter when I saw the lightning... probably to most stupid thing I've ever done. To make a long story short, I knew that I now had to have a long exposure to capture the lightning, so I set-up my tripod along the canal bank, opened the shutter for 30 seconds and got lucky! Several follow-up shots should have been better but were out of focus! Oh well. I'll learn from my mistakes, and at least have one awesome shot to show my students tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mighty Grand Tetons

What a difference a day makes during the spring in Jackson Hole. Laura and I are crazy reverse commuters when it comes to spring break, choosing to shun the warmth of California for the cold of WHY?oming. Yesterday (first pic) we got to witness the 9myo Tetons in all their Easter glory. Folks from far and wide were utilizing the plowed inner-road of the park that is currently only open to bike & pedestrians.

Today (second pic), we got to see the Moody side of the range from the north side of the park (along with many moose, elk, coyotes and several bison). A storm front was pushing its way in producing billowing clouds and shadows that will make for some amazing b&w photos when I get a chance to tinker with them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

There's gold in them thar hills.

Geotripper already beat me to the punch, but I've been thinking about posting this picture since returning from his southern Mother Lode trip. For some reason Garry always lets me drive the vans, and in return I get a glimpse into his vast wealth of geologic/anthropological information of our surrounding area. Not a bad trade-off if I do say so. Here's a link to the complete daytrip if anyone is interested in seeing all the sights we took-in.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pink Friday -RIF

Today is Pink Frinday in California. Help show your support of public education by wearing pink today and voting for folks who value education. This year's budget mess has left many districts and universities no choice but to issue pink slip (Reduction in Force - RIF) notices to many highly qualified teachers, administrators and clerical staff. The opportunities taken away by such cuts ultimately affects the students and the future of California.
Above is my take onthis year's Pink Friday Logo - the old Turlock High Building which is now the district office.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liquid Assets?

As I read this Op-Ed piece in the Modesto Bee on Monday, I got a bit frustrated. The editor clearly understood the plight of southern Central Valley farmers during the current & past droughts. But instead of asking for smarter crops or fallowing marginally productive lands, the paper was upset with lawmakers... and not for subsidizing bad farming techniques. The paper was dismayed that our lawmakers had not created new water storage systems over the past 30 years! Having extensively toured many of California's water projects (like the Delta-Mendota canal above), I am quite happy that there was no action during the past thirty years. The past projects have already done grave damage to the environment which is why I responded to the Op-Ed piece by writing a letter to the editor which follows below.

Perhaps a pertinent lesson in water resource management can be learned from the ongoing credit and mortgage meltdown.

During the recent central valley boom, the response to the population pressure was to build new “storage” for the valley residents in the form of sprawling, over-valued houses. Such houses were financed by short-sighted and unrealistic loans that would inevitably lead to the collapse of the local & national economies. The predictable aftermath of such unfeasible loans can be witnessed by the many dilapidated houses in neighborhoods and the unfortunate suffering of those who have lost their source of income.

Building new water storage facilities in response to increased demand is akin to taking a bad loan from the environment. Like so many mortgages, water diversions to saline-rich soils will never be repaid to the bank (ecosystem) from whence it came. The resultant collapse initiated by an overdrawn water loan will be devoid of any aesthetic, ecologic or financial wealth.

Unlike the mortgage tragedy, Californians have the power of prescience to prevent a looming environmental calamity. Residents of this great state should do their best to make their current water delivery & usage as smart, efficient and minimalistic as possible by choosing appropriate crops and auditing personal water consumption.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A letter to Bobby Jindal

I highly encourage anyone who might read this blog to let Mr. Jindal know how ignorant his "something called volcano monitoring" statement was by writing him a little email.. My letter is below my piece of art.

Mr. Jindal,

I cordially invite you to join my Turlock High School geosciences education classes as we embark on a seven day study of the volcanoes found within the United States and throughout the world. The United States ranks third in the world for having the most active volcanoes within its borders. It is imperative that my students can identify the hazards that our nation’s volcanoes produce so that they can plan for, and prepare a means of evacuating volcanic hazards should the need arise.

I was dismayed to have read your recent disparaging comments toward the stimulus money slated for volcanic observation and monitoring. As a an elected government official whose home state was devastated by a horrible & predictable natural disaster just three years ago, one would think a person such as yourself would be very interested in life-saving data that could be obtained through scientific monitoring. A USGS study has shown that a $1.5 million dollar investment to study Mt Pinatubo (Philippines) prevented over $250 million dollars in property damage.

With many National Parks & metropolitan cities in the west situated near or on historically active volcanoes, it is imperative that the government do its best to inform its citizens of the risks associated with those areas, as well as provide a planned coordinated response in the event of an impending eruption. The $140 million slated for “something called volcano monitoring” will create many geology-related jobs to monitor, interpret and maintain data sources for the volcanic observatories. Geologists’ spending their income stimulates the economy just as much as any other professional’s spending.

My students will have a full understanding of the concepts I have just presented within a week. I hope the same time frame is applicable for your improved understanding of the benefits that are provided by the USGS Volcanic Observatories. If not, the invitation is always open to visit my classroom.


Ryan J Hollister

Geosciences Educator

Turlock High School

Turlock, CA

Monday, February 23, 2009

Smart-alec retort: Niagra's got nothin' on these...

The waterfall meme planted a seed in my head when Outside the Interzone ranked Niagra Falls as the number one waterfall in North America. As a mature "neener-neener" to currently flowing falls, I offer some falls that dwarf Niagra 10-fold!. OK, ok, so maybe Niagra still has water, but this stiched photo show evidence for one of the most infamous "waterfalls" in North America. Any guesses as to the name of this place? I'll give you a hint: a one-time high school biology teacher helped turn the then accepted geologic definition of uniforminarianism on its head.

I'll give you one last clue with the photo below. Good Luck!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I fall for Waterfalls

Outside the Interzone has a new waterfall meme going, and apparently that's what it's going to take to get me out of my blogging hibernation. To be truthful, I'm just procrastinating on studying for a few exams and creating the week's track practices.

Like most folks, I too love waterfalls and wanted to share some pretty ones even though I haven't been to many on the list below.

#10 Lower Calf Creek Falls, Escalante National Monument, Utah (been to through the park several times, but haven't had a chance to visit these falls)

#9 Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (The brinkview that geotripper mentions makes pretty rainbows in the spray)

#8 Upper Whitewater Falls, in southwestern North Carolina (NC isn't one of the three staes east of the Mississippi I've been to)

#7 Snoqualmie Falls, between Snoqualmie and Fall City, Washington (One of my best friends lives in Snohomish, so I Will check this one out next time I'm up there.)

#6 Havasu Falls, Supai Village, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Grand Canyon, Arizona (Have you seen the moon-lit shot of this in National Geographic? I can't find a link, but it left an indelible image on my brain.)

#5 Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho (My wife and I get the privilege of seeing this waterfall every spring break on the to Jackson, WY.)

#4 Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (Uh-uh.)

#3 Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California (I have to disagree with the #3 ranking, but maybe I'm just a bit calloused from going to the park several times a month. Here's Bridalveil in an unusually forzen state. BTW, 44 folks have fallen to their death over Yosemite's falls. Beauty can sometimes breed a sense of safety and people get careless.)

#2 McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

#1 Niagara Falls, Niagara, New York (maybe someday a barrel roll will be in order, but for now I really have no desire to see them.)

Here are a few of my favorites:
Johnston Falls, Banff NP, Alberta, CA
A favorite from my honeymoon 3 years ago. The catwalk to get to these falls was something else too.

Chilnualna Cascades, Yosemite
For my money, the best waterfalls/cascades in the entire park. It's a non-stop butt-kicking 4.25 mile, 2800' grind to get to the top, but well worth the effort. The main falls and cascades roar in the spring run-off. The fishing is quite good too! Here's my main photo album of Chilnualna Creek Hike

Mystery Falls? Near Silverton, Colorado
These falls just outside Silverton were tumbling next to Paleozoic ripple marks. Beyond the beauty of the falls themselves, I thought the juxtaposition of old and new made this one of the most special falls I've ever laid eyes upon. The scale is hard to ascertain, but this drop is well over 300 feet.