Friday, January 29, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How to draw things

Ghosts, Pirates, and the cold void of Space. Is there any conceivable thought more terrifying than that of a peaceful lunar colony under attack by ghost pirates? I should think not. What would such a scene look like? Well, lets find out together. Get those drawing pencils ready, for we are about to draw a lunar colony under attack by ghost pirates.
Step 1 - Draw a standard lunar surface. The secret to drawing lunar surfaces is to draw a regular earth-like surface, then put circles all over it. Circles are a very common thing on lunar surfaces. Such a surface would hold up even under the most intense NASA scrutiny.

Step 2 - There. Now we have a nice flat lunar surface with plenty of circles. Next we need to build a lunar pod under which the temporarily non-haunted colony can set up shop. This is done by drawing yet more circles, then erasing some of the circle so that it is actually more of half-circle. Half-circles are perhaps the most futuristic shape imaginable, so lets put two of them down there with a little bridge between them so the colonists can travel between the two circles with ease.

Step 3 - Now, the colonists are going to need a way to get out onto the moon surface in order to complete their science-studies on the surface circles. So let's add some doors. As usual, slighly circular doors are best cus they are the most futuristic. I imagine they would make that cool "Pssshhhhhhh" noise when they opened. Yeah, cool. Anyway, I have drawn two circle-doors, but you can make as many as you want (no more than 3). Also, lets give the pod a wicked awesome future name. Mixing letters and numbers together usually results in a futuristic-rich name. Do this at random until you come up with something cool.

Step 4 - There we go. Pod 70X4. X is also a very futuristic letter, so try to use as many of those as possible. Now that our pod has a futuristic name, lets give it some futuristic accessories. A radar dish is pretty cool, and again can be drawn with naught but circles. Another thing any self-respecting lunar pod needs is a rocket landing pad. This can be drawn by simply creating a rectangle on top of one of the pods. Finally, just for fun, let's throw a lunar-tank-vehicle (LTV) out there. Don't worry, this won't be enough to stop ghost pirates, so we're still good to go with the invasion.

Step 5 - Now, I know what you are thinking. "Where are the ghost pirates? This looks like a regular lunar colony pod! You, sir, are a charlatan and a fraud!" That is not the case, my artist friend. We simply have to make sure that we have created the proper context for the ghost pirate attack. We are almost to the point where we can add the ghostly invaiders. But first, lets finish up the pod. Every great battle scene needs to have a flag involved in some way, so just stick one in there somewhere. I've put mine next to the rocket, cus flags and rockets are like two of the coolest things you can draw together. Don't spend too much time on the rocket. It's really not important outside of the fact that it enhances the overall futuristic-tivity of the scene.

Step 6 - Now, let the invaision begin! Draw a couple of skeleton pirates at random places around the pod. Drawing one of the roof is particularly cool, cus how did he get up there? Ghost pirate magic? A ladder? We may simply never know. Also, let's put some clouds up there. Clouds on the moon are unlikely, but they look totally sweet. And let's draw a moon in the sky. Presumibly, this is some other moon that orbits our moon, or some sort of sub-moon. Sub-moons are very futuristic. Anyway, let's put the standard treasure chest out there, just cus ghost pirates don't go anywhere without their treasure and while we are at it, let's put a busty mermaid figure onto the side of the pod, just for kicks. They are very versitle.

And there you have it. A lunar pod being attacked by ghost pirates. The perfect combination of terror, future, romance and, um.....sub-moons.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1920's Transformers

All day I have tried to draw a steam-powered transformer defending President McKinley from turn-of-the-century villians. Sadly, I have failed to draw such a scene to my satisfaction. So I have nothing here to post but the idea of a steam-powered transformer. Maybe he transforms into an log raft, or some sort of beaver trap. In fact, all I have to show for today is this crude drawing of Optimus Prime during his Civil War Days.

It's not all that entertaining, but I worked hard on it and I have to post something so I feel validated.

Monday, January 4, 2010


It's the slow time of year at my job, so I'm going to talk about Kyanite (it's a mineral). Kyanite isn’t a very popular, which is why I suspect that only a select few people are even aware this mineral exists. In fact, most of us are perfectly content to go about our lives while being completely ignorant of Kyanite altogether. I consider it the Nissan Cube of the mineral world.

Before we can learn about Kyanite we have to discuss a very important, somewhat boring geology principle. The principle of metamophism. Now, I don't know a lot of fancy/correct words that I can use to describe metamophism, so I'm going to have to stick with what a I know. Metamorphic rocks are like the “Mr. Toads Wild Ride” amusement attraction at Disneyland. At least I think it is. I didn’t really understand that ride. I remember that we join Mr. Toad on some wild car ride in which you nearly run down several animatronic forest creatures, but then you get hit by a train and wind up in hell. Once the little car I was in got stuck in the “hell” part of the ride for a good five minutes while they tried to figure out what was wrong with the ride. That may not seem all that important, but to a seven year old that’s a pretty long time to be stuck in hell. Anyway, yes, metamorphic rocks are just like Mr. Toads wild ride. Also, they are like the really shy girl that nobody likes and works at the library, but then later turns out to be totally hot when she takes off her glasses and shakes her hair.
There. Wait, I think we may need more of a background. To truly understand the process of metamorphism, it is helpful to see the process take place. Unfortunately for us, the process of metamorphism can take millions of years and a good amount of heat and pressure to complete, which, unless you are some sort of volcano-god, you probably won't have available. But, with a little ingenuity, we can still get a good idea of how metamorphism works using common household items. For this experiment, you will need….
1) A delicious donut

2) A pile of dirty laundry
And that's it. The first step in our homemade metamorphic process is to set the donut on the ground. I have a picture of this, but I really don't think it's necessary. Simply let go of donut and this step will pretty much take care of itself. This donut will represent a rock of some sort. A sweet, tasty rock. We have placed it on the ground because that is where most rocks are found.
Now, here's where things get good. Take the laundry and throw it on top of the donut.

We have placed the laundry on top of the donut in order to generate pressure upon the donut and thereby hopefully initiating the metamorphic process. Now we play the waiting game. Let the laundry-donut pile sit for a good half hour.

While in nature metamorphism can take much longer than a half hour, we all have important things to do and don’t have the time to sit around running geological experiments. So a half hour will have to do. Finally, pull the laundry off the donut and you will find that the resulting mess no longer looks anything like the donut you started with.

Bam! Our donut has metamorphoseded into a statue!

DISCLAIMER!!! Now, sadly, if any of you actually try this experiment at home, you will find (as I did) that you won’t actually see any real difference in the donut under the pile of laundry. This, of course, means that you can’t expect to get any sort of fashionable Native American statue out of this, nor can you expect the donut to turn into any other type of baked good, like a fritter, crawler, scone or tart. More likely, you can expect to get a foul smelling donut and some slightly dirtier laundry. But the ideas behind our experiment were sound. The donut forms in a bakery, much like a rock forms through various earth processes. Then, much like piling a bunch of laundry on top of the donut, the rock is buried or otherwise comes into contact with unusually high pressures and/or heat. Then some lucky individual (could be you!), is lucky enough to come across the donut/rock and is rewarded with some sort of donut/rock that altogether different than the donut/rock that you started with. Alright, now we have the keys to enter the magical kingdom of Kyanite!

Let’s take a look at Kyanite in person…

Based on these pictures we can tell….
1) Kyanite seems to have a light blue color. Or at least some of it does. Some of it is dark blue. It's like a pool we used to have when I was young. Once it got a ton of caterpillers in it. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I'm about to metamophose all over the keyboard.
2) Some of it is see-through. Just the edges though. The rest are as dark as a hobo's beard.
3) Kyanite isn’t as heavy as magnetite, but it is pretty heavy.
4) Some parts of it are sharp. Those parts suck.
5) Kyanite may or may not be Santa Claus.
6) It forms in tightly-grouped, bladed crystals. It’s like nature’s Swiss army knife.

This may not seem like it, but it is a good start. Well, factoids 1, 2, and 6 are good anyway. 3 and 4 aren’t all that great. 5 is pretty much in there as filler.

I could go into the uses of Kyanite, but I have another thing I want to get out of the way first. Sadly, one of the most interesting things about Kyanite is something you can’t tell by looking at it. But, lucky for you, I’m here to fill you in on the dirty little secret. Kyanite has not one, but TWO identical family members. That's right, there are two additional minerals that have the exact same chemicals within them at the exact same proportions as Kyanite, yet don’t have a single thing in common with it! Just to make sure we cover the Kyanite family tree, let's look at these two even less well-known, boring minerals.....

We have a little feller named Andalusite....

and another little feller named Sillimanite…

Here’s a picture of Andalusite being mocked at a party.

It is rarely a good idea for minerals to go to human parties. Our worlds are just too different.

Anyway, the question arises of how three different minerals formed from the same hodge-podge of elements. All three minerals are created by mixing 63.2 percent of aluminum

With 36.8 percent of sand

And .0000001 percent of love…

And then, like we’ve said, sticking the sandy, can-filled love mixture under a preverbal pile of laundry for a good long time. But what if we were to stick a portion of the mixture under a small pile of laundry, and another portion of the mixture under a much bigger pile of laundry? Or what if one of the laundry piles was on fire? The answer is that you end up with three very different minerals. Let’s look at a graph of it. Everyone loves graphs.

Go ahead! Give it a try! Pick a pressure and a temperature and see which earthy child you would get if you had the power to fuel metamorphism! Will it be noble Kyanite, clever Sillimanite, or timid, disappointing Andalusite? Ahhh, what fun.

So, in general, we can see that Kyanite forms when the laundry pile is huge (high pressures), Andalusite forms when the when the pile is small but also pretty hot (low pressures, high temperatures), and Sillimanite forms when you have a huge pile of burning laundry (high pressures, high temperatures). Neat! All three minerals have different colors, hardness’s, crystal habits (not meth-related) crystal habits (meth-related), luster, and so on and so forth.

Now we can get to the uses of these minerals. Oddly enough, even though all three minerals are completely different, all three are used in the manufacture of spark plugs. Not a particularly noble calling, but whenever you fire up your (heaven help us) Nissan Cube, you can rest assured that kyanite, sillimanite and andalusite are hard at work making it happen. They are also used for jewels if they are see-through.

Anyway, enough about Sillimanite and Andalusite. Kyanite is the man of the hour. The word Kyanite comes from the greek word “Kyanos”, which means “blue”. I am suspecting that this is because the mineral is blue. Sometimes geology isn’t all that creative.

Let’s get into harnesses. Now, I know we are all used to thinking of a mineral having a single, defining hardness, a single universal truth that can be used to describe the mineral’s resistance to pennies, knives and glass. But we are going to have to think outside the box with Kyanite. We are really going to have to chase the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. A whole new paradigm. You see Kyanite has TWO harnesses. How can that be? Is nothing we know true? Relax, it’s really quite simple. It's like petting a kitty cat. When you scratch the cat straight down its back, it loves it, and the petting goes off without a hitch. But, if you try to pet the kitty cat from side to side then the thing freaks out and petting becomes only a distant memory. And so it is with Kyanite. When you scratch the crystals in a direction parallel to the crystal, then it has a hardness of 5, which means that with a little work, you could break of a prison cell made of Kyanite with a good knife. But, what if we scratch Kyanite in a different direction? Surely it will be the same? NOPE!!

Suddenly Kyanite has a superhuman hardness of 7, meaning that knives have no more chance of scratching Kyanite than me ever getting back the stereo that was stolen out of my car. A hardness of 7 is a pretty impressive thing. Diamonds, the kings of the hardness world are at 9, so that's only 2 more than 7. I tried this scratching test at home and it totally worked, but you can't really see what I'm doing in the pictures. So I'm going to just post a picture of Kyanite beating up Aquaman. The premise is the same.

So, where can you find this magnificent mineral for yourselves? Once again, I have to admit that like most of my collection, I had to buy my piece. If you aren’t picky then I suppose you could just go pluck a sparkplug out of your car and be content, but I suspect this will trigger some sort of check engine sensor, then you can’t get your car inspected. But you won't regret owning a piece of Kyanite. It makes a mean door stop.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Years in Silver Reef!!!

In honor of the New Year (2010 for those who aren’t paying very close attention), let’s take a look at a town that no longer gets to celebrate such things. Well, I guess it does, but no one is there to see it. For you see, the town of Silver Reef has no residents but the jack rabbits, the sagebrush, and the dozens and dozens of people who have recently built homes nearby. But don’t let the fact technically Silver Reef is somewhat inhabited by upper middle class take away from the fascination of this ghost town. A good twenty years ago you would be standing in a deserted field filled with the moldering remains of a town filled with intrigue, cussing, probably a good amount of spitting, more intrigue, women, guns, women with guns, and other western stereotypes.

Silver Reef is located down near the southwestern corner of Utah, about 16 miles north of the In-and-Out burger near St. George. 16 miles away from those delicious burgers that melt in your mouth and only cost a fraction of other burger places. Oh man, I would kill for one right now. Here’s a map…

Anyway, more specifically, take exit 23 off I-15 and there you are, standing right in the middle of a rather unique mining ghost town. Not much to look at nowadays, although the town does still have a surprisingly modern looking town sign.

I’m not sure who has maintained the town sign down through the years, but they are doing a great job even though they must be a zombie by now. I never saw the sign zombie, but kudos to them and their amazing work ethic.

There isn't a single reef in Silver Reef, silver or otherwise. Lies, all lies. No wonder it came to ruin. (Actually, they were refering to the sandstone cliffs nearby)

Anyway, let’s look at the history of this crazy place. The year was 1866, and Utah was but a dream. A dry, hot, parched dream filled with scorpions and odd liqueur laws. Several areas of the state had been populated by Mormon pioneers who went about their business, including farming and generally trying to not to catch any number of unpleasant dieseases. One thing that did not get included in their business was mining. Miners tend to be a bit loose morally, (or so history says. I’ve never met one), and mining towns tended to have more whores than a religious people cared for. So the LDS Church generally advised against taking up the rockpick so-to-speak, and just stick to growing crops, building highly organized street systems, and, like I said, generally trying to not die. In Southern Utah, near the cities of St. George and Leeds, this wasn’t a problem at all, as no one had any idea that there were good things underfoot anyway. And so things went, until a wondering prospector named John Kemple spotted black spots in a block of sandstone that he had picked up. He did what prospectors do, and had the sample assayed. Much to his surprise, the results came back showing very high levels of silver. This is unusual, as the sample was a block of sandstone which to that point had never been an ore-bearing material. So he figured that something was screwy with the assaying results and moved far away away. Then he moved back. According to the internet, this a picture of Mr. Kemple...

I’m not sure what happened to Mr. Kemple during the five years he was away from his black-speckled sandstone, but apparently he never truly belived that the assay results were bogus. Maybe he spent the time fostering his love for creepy looking dogs. In 1871 he came storming back to Silver Reef and decided to bite the bullet by setting up the Union Mining District (the Silver Reef area). This was all well and good, but remember that the LDS Church and mining went together like mining and the LDS Church. A man who was mining was a man who wasn't growing food, and everyone needed food back then. So the Church put the kibosh on the site, and things were abandoned and poor Mr. Kemple took off again for a couple of years and thought about things. Not to be defeated, Kemple came back yet again three years later determined to mine his little guts out, but the joke was on him. You see, it was too late! Some other dude named William Tecumseh Barbee found some sweet, sweet silver at the site when his wagon wheel overturned a block of ore-bearing sandstone. In fact, the main mountain range in the district was named Tecumseh Hill. This one….

So Mr. Barbee gets credit for developing the site and Mr. Kemple gets a brief mention in an obscure blog entry. There’s a lesson in there for us. You’ll have to figure it out though because I can’t think of what it is. Regardless of who set it up, the town really took off. Based on what I can figure out, this is how things were set up…

There are three hills involved here. Big Hill, Tecumseh Hill, that other hill with the Griffins, and possibly more, but I don’t know anything about those. This is all I know/think I know. SO let’s stick with this. Within two years of Mr. Barbee’s great discovery, a full blown town was present. Included in this town was a bank...

(No parking sign probably added later)

A hospital

Post office

(I think this is the post office anyway.)
A skull fortress

(That one is a lie).


And several churches.

(Yup, this is the same picture as the school ruins. All the ruins look alike, so I couldn't tell you what was what. Live with it).

As well as the town sign, which we have already seen.

In addition, a good 1,500 people called the place home as of 1878. Here's some of them now...

Now, there are two cemeteries at Silver Reef, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. I don't know where everyone else got buried, but it wasn't here. Both graveyards are filled with people who's gravestones have disappeared. Either that or everyone was named "Unknown". Either way, it gave me the creep-outs.

But that was only half the coolness. As you would expect, there were also a lot of mining stuff going on. There was a huge mill situated on the side of Tecumseh Hill

Which now, sadly, looks like this…

I labled the stone wall portion of the mill in both pictures so you could get a sense of what is left. You are lucky to have me. There was also one of these things.

This thing was really cool. I believe it used to be an ore bin, but I’m no 1880’s era miner. It could be a cheese factory for all I know. As you can see in the background, houses have sprung up all around the place, and now are only feet away from old mine workings. Neat!

Sadly, as cool as that may be, people rarely like having open, gaping holes in their backyards. Old mines tend to be unforgiving to the unprepared adventurer, and many of the people who have recently moved in have very little mining experience at all. In fact, most of them appeared to mortgage brokers or computer programmers, careers that have precious little training in the area of deep-earth excavations. So just a few years ago the state of Utah came out and sealed up all the shafts they could find so folks wouldn’t join the ages within the open maw of the earth.
Now, you can’t just pour cement down the holes until they fill up. It’s very expensive to do such a thing, so most of the shafts just got the bar treatment. These pictures are from the smaller hill near the southern end of the district (the one with the griffins).

This hill was riddled with holes, most of which looked like they were dug by contortion artists. It would be unwise at best to go down in one of these mines, but I was still kinda sad that I didn’t get to. These were all smaller mines dug by folks who didn't really want to get down into the earth all that far. The big show was over near the southern portion of Tecumseh Hill. I couldn’t get over there, but here’s what it looks like from google earth.

Back to history. Like most of Utah’s mining towns, Silver Reef’s rise to power was nearly as fast as it’s abandonment. From 1878 to 1882, the mines pumped out a goodly amount of chlorargyrite,

This little guy may not look it, but it is jam packed with silver. This was the mineral that everyone was after. Legend has it that there was an entire petrified tree trunk found at the site that had been replaced with this stuff. This would have been a neat thing to hang onto, but sadly it was crushed for ore and probably made into a crappy watch or used to fill cavities. Either way, only so much of it could be found and by 1888, after 10 short years, the big mines had all called it quits. The ore bodies were approximately 200 to 300 feet long and 100 to 150 feet wide, and it didn’t take long for a group of eager miners to clean the area out. The fact that there was no more silver (well, easily obtained silver) left was bad news to a town that was basically founded on a silver economy. Also, silver grew really cheap on the market, which is not such good news either. A few brave souls, including the town sign janitor kept fighting on, but by 1903 Silver Reef was no more. A few of the town's buildings were sold off to locals who wanted them for some reason. This really paid off for one gentleman who found $20,000 worth of gold coins within the walls of his delapidated ruin. Of course, then everyone tore into their houses hoping to find similar things, but all they found were sad, broken dreams. This resulted in the majority of Silver Reef being raised to the ground.
So things sat, growing more ruin-y by the day until mankind discovered that Uranium was interesting, and that we could make bombs out of it. Suddenly the Silver Reef area came back to life with folks who gladly marched down into the earth to get their hands on radiation poisoning. In 1950 alone, 2500 pounds of glowing ore was sent off to wherever that sort of stuff went. An impressive new mine was built. This one…

Should I be that close to the pile of uranium ore? Probably not. But nobody pays me to be a coward. Or fertile, I guess. This mine looked like it was going to be reclaimed soon. If there’s one thing mortgage brokers hate more than gaping holes in their backyards, it is gaping holes filled with DNA altering radiation.

And so, for a few more years the area of Silver Reef sputtered back to life, but this too was short lived. Soon people learned that uranium isn’t all that fun to dig out of the ground, and the area was abandoned again and went back to growing all fall-y apart. Which brings us to today. There’s very little left. The bank has been preserved, and is now a museum that never seems to be open. Last I checked it had a sign on the door that said “Closed for reorganization”. I don’t know what that means, but I’m guessing it isn’t going to be open again anytime soon. The rest of the ruins are being left to slowing fall down, at which point I suspect new houses will be built on top of them. Circle of life I guess. At least we got to keep the sign.

The end.