All posts made in Jun. 2008:

Interesting08, last weekend, was seriously tremendous. I spoke for a little bit, and my slides are now online.

"The source of a diamond is a kimberlite pipe, a form of diatreme--a relatively small hole bored through the crust of the earth by an expanding combination of carbon dioxide and water which rises from within the earth's mantle and moves so fast driving magma to the surface that is breaks into the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. Such events have occurred at random through the history of the earth, and a kimberlite pipe could explode in any number of places next year.


"There is a layer in the mantle, averaging about sixty miles below the earth's surface, through which seismic tremors pass slowly. The softer the rock, the slower the tremor--so it is inferred that the low-velocity zone, as it is called, is close to its melting point. In the otherwise rigid mantle, it is a level of lubricity upon which the plates of the earth can slide, interacting at their borders to produce the effects known as plate tectonics. The so-termed lithospheric plates, in other words, consist of crust and uppermost mantle and can be as much as ninety miles thick. Diamond pipes are believed to originate a good deal deeper than that--and in a manner which, as most geologists would put it, "is not well understood." After drawing fuel from surrounding mantle rock--compressed water from mica, in all likelihood, and carbon dioxide from other minerals--the material is thought to work slowly upward into the overlying plate. Slow it may be at the start, but a hundred and twenty miles later is comes out of the ground at Mach 2. The result is a modest crater, like a bullet hole between the eyes."

--Annals of the Former World, John McPhee.

Let me speak seriously for a moment. As my parents die and my grandparents die, I feel progressively cut adrift. They precede me. They tethered me to the past, to the bedrock behind. We see the world in fives: two generations back, our children, and our children's children, and ourselves. Time is a little planet with close horizons. I find myself in the middle generation, almost cut loose with a single rope now. Let go. And it's my job to carry the torch and god help me if I stumble, because I'm it now, those towering experiences behind me have passed the baton on, and that's the burden of the middle. I don't have children and until I do it's a marathon to the far shore, a hard march every step hard won, to clasp hands finally with the next generation who will clasp hands with the next, and they'll steady me, I'll have done my job and I'll be pulled along to the future.

I know a fellow who met a fellow whose mother makes garden gnomes, and when his father died, his mother made a gnome out of the ashes and she keeps it in the front garden of the family home.

Books read May 2008, with date finished:

The books on patterns have been inspirational, as was Woodward which has opened up new ways of thinking for me. But I unreservedly recommend Annals of the Former World which is geological in topic, size, and narrative form. Astounding and volumetric.