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Yellowstone and the Old Faithfulness of Conspiracy Theory

I found the Old Faithful Geyser Webcam this morning while looking for information on the Yellowstone supervolcano. My dad and brother were talking about the changes in Yellowstone Park. Ground temperatures in the Norris Geyser Basin area rising to 200 F leading to the closing of several trails, and the increased geyser activity nearby, particularly of a few once-dormant or rarely erupting geysers. Add to this the bulging of Lake Yellowstone's lakebed, and it's rather haunting. In previous super-eruptions regularly occurring 2.0 million, 1.3 million, and 630,000 years ago, ash blanketed the ground for an average of 600 miles, covering much of the present day western U.S.

Old Faithful just erupted - the eruption was predicted at 9:05am MST +/- 10 minutes, but it went off 2 minutes ahead of schedule at 8:53. I barely caught it before the webcam refreshed and the fountain was tapering off.

Now (10:12am MST) I'm watching for the 10:25 eruption. There are three people who've come to watch - the first people this morning. They're true die-hards: the ground is blanketed in snow and until recently, the hillside in the background was obscured by fog or snow, I can't tell which. A steady, cold breeze carries the geyser's steady plume of steam off to the right. Two of the people have sat down on the bench while the third continues to walk around. They're dark silhouettes against the white snow cover.

10:16am MST - a new updated and the steam has quieted to a mere wisp for the past two frames, the calm before the storm. All three observers are walking around now. At 10:18, the steam is barely visible; the observers continue to walk around, possible to fend off the cold breeze and keep warm. In the most recent frame, the steam is the most tenuous I've seen it during the past two hours.

10:21am MST - ah, yes, almost on cue, the long anticipated eruption begins! Three-quarters of the way up the frame, with seven observers now outside. And 90 seconds later, it's over. Four minutes later, the steam has reduced to baseline levels and all but one person has left the scene.

This conspiracy-theory website warns the ground warming presages the next super-eruption that may occur at any time. There's mention of this "scalar energy" stuff which causes the ground warming and can be measured to predict earthquakes much more accurately, if only scientists would abandon their current faulty seismology theories and listen to this person. Yeah - don't trust the scientists because their knowledge has made them irrevocably hubris! Personally, I find the whole scalar energy discussion lacking in substance - the author never explains what it is, how it works, or how it's measured.

Let's say I began talking about "Vector Energy" and measuring it to predict rush-hour traffic accidents and the ensuing multi-mile-long traffic jam. The rest of the world should ask me to explain, measure, and demonstrate Vector Energy (quite justifiably so, since the burden of proof is on me), or at the very least explain how someone else could do these things. I can't just talk about the mysterious stuff in vague terms and expect to be taken seriously, even if my assertions were correct.

To me, it suggests a hydrothermal explosion may be on the horizon, or maybe nothing, but not a super-eruption.

Search Google for "yellowstone lake" bulge.

All this geysering has me craving a latte.

:: Bryan Travis :: 12/26/2003 @ 13:34 :: [link] ::
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Volunteer

Last month I began volunteering at University Hospital on Saturdays. Oddly enough, the thing I like doing most is pre-packing tablets and capsules in the inpatient pharmacy. The inpatient pharmacy dispenses drugs in individual doses to patients. Most tablet and capsule medications in the hospital formulary ship from the manufacturer in individually packaged foil blisters, but some of the cheaper generics come in bottles. It's no different than what you find in the OTC medications at the local drugstore: more expensive drugs like Sudafed or Prilosec are in blister packs, while cheaper drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen and vitamins come in bottles. The bottled oral meds must be pre-packed - liquids in oral syringes, pills in blisters.

That's where I come in. After a long week at work, there's nothing I find more relaxing on a Saturday morning than running pills through the pre-pack machine. The pharmacy techs don't seem to care for it - I've only seen someone else pre-packing once, although somebodies obviously are keeping the formulary stocked during the week. It's not something I'd want to do all week, either, but it makes for a satisfying weekend diversion. I'm being serious. To go home with the satisfaction of knowing at least one worthwhile task has been completed and being able to leave it behind when you leave is a rewarding sensation I rarely have in my current job. Anyone with experience leading projects or working on a project team knows what I'm talking about.

Pre-packing is a race against time. If you've ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel work the conveyor belt in the chocolate factory, that's how the pre-pack machine works, except instead of taking pills off the belt, I'm dropping them onto a foil strip before they're sealed into cellophane blisters. Fortunately, though, there's a switch to stop belt if you fall behind.

The two most common pre-packing defects are empty blisters (no pill in the chamber) and crushed pills (pill not placed in the center of a blister). An empty blister isn't a big deal, but crushing a pill can create problems, especially hard tablets. The backside of the perforated foil strip is stamped with a label which includes drug name and dosage size, lot number, NDC barcode, and expiration date. The label must be centered between the perforations; else when the blisters are separated, you can't read the label and be sure of what's in the blister. The quickest way to knock the labels off center of the perforations is to drop a pill between blisters where the cellophone stamp and perforating blade crushes it.

Tablets are easier to load than capsules. The soft, water-soluble gelatin capsules stick to your fingers, making them difficult to position quickly and accurately. This weekend I attempt to pre-pack these babies - Vitamin D capsules. They loaded onto the foil chambers okay, but the movement of the conveyor caused them to roll out of position inside the machine, so that when they emerged from the other end, sometimes there were two or three in a blister, sometimes none, and worse yet, sometimes they were squished by the stamper - it looked like someone had shot miniature, peach-colored paintballs onto the foil. When I stopped the conveyor to cut open the mispacked blisters and reload the capsules, the capsules currently inside the machine were melted by the heat of the cellophane stamper. Once I had the full grasp of the situation, I set the speed as low as possible, and since the pills weren't expensive and too soft to uncenter the labels, continued pre-packing them as best as possible. Of 100 capsules in the bottle, 60 made it, the others melted or smashed into gooey splats. Hand lotion at best.

:: Bryan Travis :: 12/14/2003 @ 09:47 :: [link] ::
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