Thursday, October 4, 2012

It has been a while...

Oh blog, I've neglected you for months!  During all the time I wasn't writing down what I was doing/thinking in here, I was actually doing/thinking a lot of stuff (and wanting to write it down, but never got around to it).  To recap what has transpired since June 15, the date of my last post:

  • I analyzed the rest of my Sierran peridotite data set for trace elements by solution ICP-MS.
  • I picked 3 Sierran pyroxenites for garnet and clinopyroxene (Gosh, that took forever!).  And I'm now in Lyon doing all the complex chemistry involved to measure them for Lu, Hf, Sm, and Nd isotopes.  I promise, my next post will be soon, and it will be ALL about what I am doing in Lyon.
  • I went to Papua New Guinea for 10 days:  4 days of hardcore birding, which I can't even begin to describe in a blog post (and I haven't even finished going through the 900 photos I took in PNG yet... but suffice it to say, we saw some mind-blowing birds, and lots of them!); followed by 6 days of pre-IGC field trip where we glimpsed some ophiolites (and really, it was just glimpsing, doing actual geology that involves bare-faced rock was pretty difficult in the intensely vegetated country, not to mention the substantial amount of time just getting around the country and logistics).
  • Then I went to Australia for the 34th IGC (International Geology Conference), where I presented a paper on my cpx-enriched Sierran peridotites.  I think this refertilization story has finally progressed to a point where it’s interesting enough to write up into a short paper.  While in Australia, I also got to visit my uncle and cousins, who were gracious enough to take me and labmate Monica around to see some of the sights in and around Brisbane for a couple days after IGC.  These included:  Birding in Lamington National Park (where the birds were literally coming up to us!), cuddling koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and touring the city and enjoying its nascent and awesome café scene.
  • Next, I returned to the US, which I was definitely missing after nearly 3 weeks in the Southern Hemisphere.  Then Ben and I went for a visit to my home on Long Island.  It was Ben’s first time in NY and first time in NYC, which I think he enjoyed, if not being slightly overwhelmed by the hyperactivity.  Nevertheless, it was nice to go to the beach and actually jump into cold, refreshing, Atlantic seawater (compared to the mud in Galveston), eat cheap lobster that we cooked at home (the best way!), hang out with my sister in Manhattan and do all those touristy things (like climb to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, only 10 hours before that shooting by the disgruntled employee happened), and of course eat the best pizza and bagels (because NYC/LI tapwater is delicious tasting, it makes dough taste extra good). 
  • After a week back home, I was back at Rice, picking the last of my minerals with the help of a very capable undergrad.  September was a busy month, and now I’m in France! 
 Now Fall is here.  The Harvest Moon and Mid-Autumn Festival was just last weekend, and I definitely missed out on eating some mooncakes this year, but I told my Mom to freeze me some for when I go home for Christmas.  Leaves are not changing here in Lyon yet, but I think they will soon.  Ben has been keeping me abreast of the subtle seasonal changes going on back in Houston.  The first cold front is always welcomed, along with all the migrating birds it brings.  Warblers are still passing through campus I hear, but the sparrows are beginning to arrive too.  I haven't had much time yet to try and go birding here in Lyon, but I did go to the Parc de la Tete d'Or (Park of the Golden Head) which is the largest urban park in France, last Sunday.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy, rainy and cold day, and I didn't see much.  The park was also pretty crowded with joggers, so I'm not sure if that's the best place to see birds.  I did see a blue tit, which was really cool-looking and they sound like chickadees, a magpie, blackbird, and whatever gallinule is here in Europe.  But I do miss early morning birding on Rice campus.  I'm living in a much more urban city compared to Houston, and it's taking some getting used to!  

Here is a spider with a neat little backstory:

So every day for most of September I've been seeing this spider on top of a hedge next to the tennis courts on Hazard Street, a few blocks north of Rice.  Why is this spider so interesting?  Well, for one thing, I had dreamed of seeing one since I saw a painting of one in this little mini book of Audubon's bird paintings that I've had since I was a kid (I didn't birdwatch or know much about birds throughout my childhood, but I did have this book and would look at it all the time, so it's kind of funny now that I am more seriously into birds):


 It's hard to see the tiny spider in the painting, but when I first saw it, I had no idea what it was.  It looked really weird, like an alien, or a spaceman in a suit!  Then I showed Ben and he reassured me that it was indeed a real thing - a type of spiny orb-weaver.  I've found other interesting tiny things in some of the other Audubon paintings - like an assassin bug and a Quaker.  There is so much detail in some of the paintings that maybe the more I look at them, the more I'll find something I never found before.  Anyway, it's cool when you see something in a book that you never saw before in real life, and then one day, you do see it in real life.  I've definitely experienced that with things I've seen only in geology textbooks too.

And finally, here's just one photo of something really neat in Lyon - a huge sculpture of a bouquet of flowers in the middle of the city:

Next time - I'll blog a more science-oriented blog about what I'm doing here in Lyon.

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