Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday morning random

* Got drawn into reading a bit about "ultramafic" soils (in the US, these are most commonly "serpentine" soils). Ultramafic has to do with a type of igneous rock (mafic rocks), which are typically low in silicates and potassium but high in magnesium.

For ecology this is meaningful as many of these minerals weather into soils that are high in nickel, chromium, and other of the so-called heavy metals (though the author I was reading argued that term is so broad as to be somewhat useless, and of course people in and around Gen X age associate "heavy metal" with something rather different). Serpentine soil additionally has a "weird" nutrient balance compared to other soils, so it's kind of a living lab of evolution - some plant species have populations adapted to grow on it, there are some species unique to it, and you just generally see different plant communities.

I...don't know. I don't need another research interest and also there seem to be no ultramafic soils within easy driving distance to be a field site, but it does seem in parts of the US this is not a well-studied phenomenon. (Then again: some polluted soils near smelters and the like have a similar profile of heavy-metal contamination and similar evolutionary patterns in plants on them)

I also wound up reading another paper on worldwide ultramafic soils and ran across some new mineral names.

There is a mineral called Lizardite.

No, it doesn't have anything to do with lizard people from under the earth, and it's not because it's green (but it is, and it's also rather pretty in its crystalline form). It's named for The Lizard, a feature in Cornwall. (Often minerals and also soils are named for the locality they were first identified.)

I kind of wish I knew more about minerals. I took Environmental Geology one summer as a cognate class for my degree but I learned more about things like mercury spills and Itai-Itai disease than rocks and minerals. (And perhaps those things were more useful to my actual degree, but minerals are kind of cool, too)

* Yet another case semi-locally of someone embezzling. This time it was the director of a charitable group. This kind of thing makes me nuts - I guess sometimes money just really is too attractive, and people think "Oh, I won't get caught, they'll never find out"? Or that they can repay it before it's found out? (I was in a university department once where a departmental employee was caught having embezzled funds. It was a sadder story than many of the recent ones - the person in question had a family member with a serious disease and not-good health insurance, and the money was used to help pay for the person's treatments. The department in question, mercifully and wisely, I thought, told the embezzler they would not bring charges against them provided (a) they resigned and (b) they worked out - with a lawyer - a repayment plan to return the money over time). This one, though, it sounds more like simple greed.

And yeah, it does make me nuts. I'm one of those people who is terrified by even the appearance of something unseemly in what I'm doing, and I can't imagine feeling "entitled" to that money or figuring other people won't be smart enough to figure out money is missing.

Also, it makes me nuts because in a lot of cases these are groups that either do good (this was a crisis center - not our local one, thank goodness, but one near us) or that are small school districts or towns where there's not an abundance of funds to begin with. (And of course, also - the crisis center's money was largely donations from generous people, and the towns and school districts' money comes from the taxpayers). I'm sure this kind of thing hurts people's willingness to donate to what might otherwise be good causes; I know there are one or two groups I won't give to because of evidence in the past that the money wasn't well-spent.

I don't know. With the exception of the situation above (the sick family member, and even then, I'd try my best to find some other, legal, way to get help for them), I can't think of anything I'd want money for that I'd be willing to risk compromising my reputation and my good feeling about my being honest over - not a vacation, not a car, nothing. But I guess there are people that aren't.

* I finally took the poinsettia tablecloth off my table and put on a "spring" one - this is the newest vintage one I bought; it is grey/pink/peach and features daffodils. (White cloth, broad grey stripe with the daffodils within the stripe). I really like it; for one thing it's just pretty (and I like daffodils), for another, grey and pink are such a quintessentially 1950s color combination, and my house would have been just a few years old when that color combination came in.

There is something that pleases me about having decorative touches in my house that fit its vintage. (Best I can tell from the abstract, it was built in 1946 or 47.)

* I got up to the "increase every other row" simple part of La Grass Matinée last night so now I have a good invigilating project to work on.

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