Yes, There’s a New Theme. No, It’s Not Perfect Yet

Things look different today, yes. Thank our tech guy that nothing seems to have gone missing, and that the thing actually functions.

For those of you who like the see the most recent posts on the themes that interest you most, this new design should work wonderfully.

Yes, it could function better. Yes, you can tell us what you love, and hate, what works for you and what’s horribly broken, and what improvements you’d like to see. Here’s the link to report tech issues. Use it to report all your wants and needs. You can report them to me, but I may be too busy howling my lungs out over the fact I can’t simply click a button on the main page to see our blogs neatly listed with their most recent posts to hear you. So I’d suggest rather than leaving a comment here and hoping I’ll remember to pass it along, you use the tech support link.

I’m going to go back to demanding a more versatile front page now. Among other things…

“This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours.”

Comic-Con, mecca for geeks, reflects geek culture – and that includes the harassment (h/t). This isn’t the only event that’s put geeks harassing women who are also geeks in the spotlight recently, but it’s one of the biggest. It’s also seen a cosplayer brutally attacked.

Sexual harassment and misogyny are huge problems in fandom, as evinced by the above. So now seems like a good time to share this bit I’ve been meaning to highlight from Andy Khouri’s Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment.

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

The more good people who speak out, the less chance creeps and assholes have to engage in bad behavior. No, it’s not fun. No, it’s not comfortable. Yes, it’s hard calling people out on this shit. But if we don’t, when we could have, we’re enabling that behavior. If you can do so safely, and without making the situation worse for the victim, check the creep.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."While you’re at it, read this post from April 2013 by Meredith Placko.

At DragonCon last year, I witnessed a guy take photos of a girl’s backside at a group photo shoot. So many people were so involved with their own stuff, they failed to notice. But I sat there and watched as several people looked on at this guy and they said nothing. I broke off from my shoot and stood in front of the guy taking the lewd photos and confronted him. He took off before I could get any information about him. The girl had no idea she was even being photographed.

It’s easier to look the other way. Standing up and saying something means you have to get involved, you have to put effort into your actions. You may even come across as the bad guy. But standing up means you may save someone’s day.

And finish off with this post from Sushi Killer, which contains photos much better than my photoshopped jobs, horror stories, and bits like this:

One photographer mentioned that when he is working with a cosplayer and sees someone trying to take a picture of her butt or up her skirt, he jumps in front of their camera, blocking the shot with his own crotch. This draws attention to the pervert and can shame them, while also protecting the cosplayer.

I’d very much like to see more people at conventions intervene when creeps start creeping. I’d like to see this become the norm, until assholes get the message that their assholery isn’t welcome. Let’s make Comic-Con, all cons, and the geek world in general safe for geeks and unsafe for predators.

Image shows two dogs and a baby in costumes. Caption says, "Our costumes are cool, not consent."

Original image courtesy Pets Adviser.

Cryptopod: Wanna-be-a-Zebra

There are many patterns in nature that repeat. There’s probably a reason for them, but being more into geology, I’m not sure what many of them are. Take this little cryptopod sent in by RowanVT: I think part of it wants to be a zebra.

Silly wasp or bee or whatever you are. You’re not a zebra. Even if you do have zebra stripes on your rear.

Image shows a wasp or bee going in to a hole in the dirt. It's got yellow legs and a zebra-striped butt.

Cryptopod I

You live in a hole in the ground. Zebras don’t live in the ground.

Side view showing a large green eye and hairy shoulders.

Cryptopod II

You have antennae. Zebra don’t have antennae!

Cryptopod III

Cryptopod III

You have yellow legs. Zebras don’t have yellow legs! Also, you have six of them. Zebras have only four (sometimes less, if a lion’s bitten one off).

Cryptopod IV

Cryptopod IV

Now your stripes look yellow! Zebra stripes don’t look yellow. Not unless a lion’s peed on them or something.

Cryptopod V

Cryptopod V

You have thin, clear wings. Zebras don’t have wings of any sort.

Cryptopod VI

Cryptopod VI

You have eyes as big as your head. Zebras don’t have eyes that big. I don’t think you’re a zebra at all, little wasp-bee-thingy.

How… Nice… of Richard Dawkins to Provide This Opportunity So Quickly

Ever since the Benson-Dawkins joint letter explaining that of course we can disagree, we just shouldn’t abuse the people we disagree with, I’ve been getting occasional attempted comments snidely wanting to know if this means the folks at Freethought Blogs will shut up. You see, they don’t understand the difference between harassment and criticism.*

Some folks seem to have imagined a cease-fire situation in which one side (theirs) gets to go on saying and doing awful things, while the other side (ours) is supposed to completely shut up.

They’re so precious.

Anyway, because Dawkins has a habit of tweeting his most problematic thoughts and then getting huffy and uncomprehending when advised the tweets are problematic, rather than listening to criticism and doing a bit of investigation to find out why he’s badly misstepping, we nearly instantly have an example of what Ophelia and Richard meant with that joint letter when they said this:

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

So Dawkins decided to play the “I’m just using logic!” game with rape victims (and having been the lucky recipient of a rapist who was both an acquaintance and armed with a knife, I straddle both categories. They are both astoundingly awful, FYI, and I honestly can’t tell you which aspect was worse). Guess what? We agree that just because you say X is bad, Y is worse, you’re not approving of Y! Guess what? We also think the rhetorical power of saying Y is worse than X for things like stranger vs. “date” rape is important to take into consideration! And we disagree sharply with Dawkins on that last point, because he can’t seem to move past the “But logic!” phase of the conversation.

Image shows a cat looking into the camera with its ears flattened. Caption says, Uh oh.

What have we done? We’ve disagreed in public! Look, here’s how it’s done:

It’s true that “X is less bad” ≠ “X is good” or “I approve of X.” I think Richard had in mind the passage about the molestation he experienced at school compared with other, less tolerable forms. I don’t think he had in mind “Dear Muslima” – which of course is a mere comment on a blog, not a passage in a best-selling much-translated much-discussed book. But “Dear Muslima” does a good job of illustrating what I mean about rhetoric and implication. The whole point of “Dear Muslima” was very plainly to say that women face horrendous forms of abuse and denial of rights in places where Islamic laws and/or customs have authority, and therefore women who face much milder forms of abuse in secular democracies should…talk less about it, or talk about it more temperately, or something along those lines. It’s hard to spell out the implication exactly, because it is an implication, but it’s something along those lines. That much is not ambiguous. You’d have to be a very primitive bit of AI to miss that.

Note what is missing from this post: calling Richard Dawkins awful slurs, threatening to rape him, photoshopping his head onto crass pictures, and otherwise personally attacking him rather than criticizing his problematic words.

Here’s another:

If you want to make a difference in social attitudes, you can say “Date rape is bad”…full stop. You don’t go on and say that some other form of rape is worse, because that’s all the date-rapers see: “Richard Dawkins says I’m not as bad as a rapist”. The first part is ignored.

And this from someone who explains that Richard Dawkins’s clumsy stomping all over already trodden people hurts worse because he likes the man both personally and professionally! Absent is any declaration that since Dawkins said disagreeable things, he is all manner of slurs, completely worthless, and additionally, deserves violence done to him. Could this be how disagreement and criticism work? Wow.

Here is someone who isn’t even on this network, and so can’t possibly be construed as being part of any “agreement,” and who is less enamored of Dawkins both personally and professionally, who still somehow manages to deconstruct the ideas without resorting to gendered epithets, threats of violence, attacks on his appearance, or nasty photoshop jobs. She didn’t even choose an unflattering picture of Dawkins to illustrate her post:

It’s a bit of passive-aggressive weirdness, for sure. I don’t think anyone objects to the initial statement, of course. He’s right that it is logical! Pearl Jam is bad. Dave Matthews Band is worse. That is not an endorsement of Pearl Jam. Stubbing your toe is bad. Getting it cut off is worse. That is not an endorsement of stubbing your toe. Wine coolers are bad. Mad Dog is worse. That is not an endorsement of wine coolers.

See, I could do this all day, using only examples that are much clearer than invoking touchy issues that are touchy precisely because a lot of people actually deny—and spend a whole of time and effort denying—that the bad things are actually all that bad. Indeed, it’s particularly weird to pull on date rape in an environment where a prominent Washington Post columnist is on the record pulling exactly this trick of implying that date rape shouldn’t “count” as rape because it’s supposedly not as bad as “real” rape. We live in a world where the terms “rape-rape” and “legitimate rape” have actually been used to suggest that only the worst of the worst rapes should even be considered criminal offenses at all.

My gosh, she even seems to understand what he was getting at. Amazing.

Let’s see, what else… Stephanie reposted the post she wrote after Dawkins’s initial comments on “mild” pedophilia, which explains, without attacking the person rather than the arguments, what he’s getting wrong and why he’s upsetting so many people. Still.

I don’t usually do reposts so soon after the original publication. This was originally posted last fall, when Dawkins was talking about “mild pedophilia. He’s ranking rape again. It’s worth pointing out that Dawkins isn’t doing this because no one provided him with any better information. He’s been told this is inappropriate and why, in great detail.

Ashley Miller was even kind enough to give him a freebie on the “mild” pedophilia thing, which is more grace than I feel inclined to offer. She then tries to explain for him why Twitter folks may be a scosh upset:

The main reason that this blew up in his face is that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes, so the majority of rape victims seeing this post see it as delegitimizing.  This is happening in a society that already says that date rapes don’t count the same way that stranger rapes do.  As it turns out, acquaintance rape is just a pre-meditated and intentional as acts of stranger rape.  Even if his assertion was true, it would be perpetuating the stigma that surrounds date rape survivors and paints them, inaccurately, as overreactors or people who changed their mind about sex.

And Martin Wagner continues the education:

It isn’t that anyone thinks that, by saying Y is worse in severity than X, you’re endorsing X. It’s that you’re still, whether you mean to or not, minimizing and diminishing X.

This is what people who attacked him for his “mild pedophilia” remarks, and for “Dear Muslima,” were pointing out. Not that he was endorsing “milder” crimes (and “milder” by whose standards?), but that such reductionism was dismissive of subjective experience. It’s just an intellectualized way of saying “Stop being such a whiner.”

Strange that even though he thinks Dawkins should shut the fuck up and stop energetically enlarging the hole he’s been digging, Martin doesn’t take the opportunity to call him names.

Even one of the few people I’ve seen call him names hasn’t made it vicious:

Apparently Richard Dawkins was worried that people might have forgotten what an asshat [applicable to all people] he is. So, helpful fellow that he is, he decided to give us all a demonstration of why he’s one of the atheist movement’s biggest liabilities, a “humanist” who has trouble remembering to act human [not saying he isn't human, mind - just has trouble acting like we'd like to see caring humans act].

This is the most acerbic of all the posts I have so far read on this side of the divide. And it somehow manages to avoid gendered slurs, threats, harassment, and other such specialties of the Slyme Pit and friends. You know, the kind of tactics Richard Dawkins himself says are beyond the pale. Yes, there’s a photoshop at the top of that post, showing a young Dawkins gazing in wonder at himself. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of photoshopping people into pornography, or splashing their images with “rape cum,” now, does it? There’s a difference between using a photoshop job to comment on a directly relevant aspect of an argument in a way that isn’t vicious or spiteful, and a photoshop job meant to harm and degrade.

So. What have we learned today, kids? That we will have disagreements, sometimes heated, sometimes quite sharp, in this community. That was never in doubt. Refer back to the opening phrases of the joint letter, and you will see it was never meant to stifle disagreement or dissent. What it was meant to do was tell those who think that attacking people on intensely personal levels, that threatening them, stalking them, harassing them, is the way to disagree, that they are wrong. That is not disagreement. That’s being horrible for the sake of being horrible. And we don’t need that in atheism.

Now, for those who may still be unclear on the concepts, allow me to direct you to Alex’s excellent post:

This isn’t a peace accord – it’s a treaty establishing terms of engagement.

And those in this community who deliberately refuse to understand that, and who take sharp disagreement amongst those of us who either signed or agreed with that joint statement as carte blanche to go back to being outrageous assholes, are not now and have never been arguing in good faith.

We’re going to argue. We’re even going to argue heatedly, and intensely, and sometimes impolitely. We may sometimes overstep, and have to apologize, and learn from our mistakes. We may not even like each other.

But we won’t resort to the sort of abuse heaped on people by members of the Slyme Pit and 4Chan and the MRAs in order to argue. That’s the difference. And it’s an important one.

Now, all that having been said…. For fuck’s sake, Richard, please use some of your not inconsequential wealth to bloody educate yourself on these topics. I know you’re smart enough to learn why you keep getting yourself into trouble on Twitter. Try to do better.

Image shows Richard Dawkins at a lectern. The screen above his head says, "Oh, Richard Dawkins, no."

*They also don’t know how to read comment policies. Mine says, among other things, that if you’ve engaged in bad behavior elsewhere, you don’t get to comment here. That rules out the people who think sharp criticism of a person’s behavior or ideas is equal to stalking, threatening physical harm, photoshopping nasty images of people, and cheering such behavior on. Byeee!

New at Rosetta Stones: Mount Baker At Last! Plus, a Genuine Watercolor

I’ve got the preliminary findings from our maiden voyage to Mount Baker up at Rosetta Stones for ye. You’re gonna love it.

You may also love this photograph of Mount Shuksan:

Image shows what looks like a watercolor image of Mount Shuksan.

Mount Shuksan reflected in a lovely tarn.

Looks sorta like a watercolor, doesn’t it just? It sorta is: this is Mount Shuksan as reflected in a lovely little tarn on Mount Baker Highway.

It’s the real thing – I’ve just played a bit with the brightness and such. Here’s the untouched version:

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn.

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn, without the fiddling around.

Okay, and I flipped it right-side up, too. See it in its non-reflected glory at Rosetta Stones, and find out why it’s really actually green.

Perhaps It’s Time to Renounce My Atheism and Worship Satan

I love it when Satanists see Christians behaving badly achieving freedom of religion and decide to twist their noses partake of said freedom (via Zingularity):

In a statement, the Satanic Temple said that it will use the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision to exempt its believers from state-mandated informed consent laws that require women considering abortions to read pro-life material.

Informed consent or “right to know” laws state that women seeking elective abortions be provided with information about alternatives to the procedure, often couched in language that attempts to personify the fetus. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 states currently have informed consent laws, and of those, 33 require that the woman be told the gestational age of the fetus.

In some states, that information consists of pro-life propaganda that links abortion to a higher incidence of breast and ovarian cancers, or discusses “post-abortion syndrome,” a mental condition not recognized by any major medical or psychiatric organization.

Because the Satanic Temple bases its belief “regarding personal health…on the best scientific understanding of the world, regardless of the religious or political beliefs of others,” it claims that state-mandated information with no basis in scientific fact violates its “religious” beliefs.

I am almost tempted to get pregnant just so I can print out their handy religious-exemption letter, skip to the abortion doctor, and become a test case, laughing merrily as courts realize that Hobby Lobby protects far more religious beliefs than perhaps they dreamed. I need to form a closely held corporation first so that I can make it company policy that my employees are exempt from these stupid laws. Then I’ll need to move somewhere with those stupid anti-abortion laws. And convince this rather infertile body to conceive… crap. This could get complicated. Maybe I should leave it to the young ‘uns. Still: if you’re a woman of reproductive age in a conservative state, consider converting! It will be so much fun to watch people’s heads go asplodey when you stuff your sincerely-held religious beliefs up their noses.

And yes, I know Hobby Lobby applied to federal, not state, law. I know courts will twist themselves into pretzels to say why it’s different when Satanists (or Hindus, or Muslims, or pagans) want their slice of the religious freedom pie. But it’s a great way to force the law to either live up to the First Amendment or show themselves as hypocritical asshats who will be overturned by future, saner courts. It’s a beautiful means by which to show people what religious freedom really means. And it makes it much harder for theocrats to force their theocracy on the unwilling when they, in turn, find they’ve left themselves open for having a disliked sort of theocracy forced upon them. I’m behind the Satanic Temple in this effort all the way.

Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ol’ Prince of Lies. I always wondered if he might not be the good guy after all. And, should you wish to consider some theological points with me, here are some memes to ponder.

Image shows a woodcut of Lucifer and other fallen angels. Caption says: "Educates first woman. Satan."I can get behind women’s education, and respect those who give knowledge to humanity. Already liking this Satan fellow.

Image is Neil Gaiman's Lucifer, holding a martini glass. Caption says, "Understands human nature. Doesn't judge you for being human."Which is ever so much better than making us human, then condemning us to an eternity in torment for being human.

Image shows thoughtful T-Rex. Caption says, "If Satan punishes evildoes, wouldn't that make him a good guy?"A fair point.

Image shows man made up to look like red devil. Cpation says, "I gave them metal. But they keep listening to shitty pop music."I listen to metal. I enjoy the gifts Satan gives. And pop music is often bloody awful… one might even say, evil…

Image shows Anton LaVey. Caption says, "Y'all motherfuckers need Satan."Well, my gosh. Cannot argue that. The argument is immaculate.

Image shows a cat's face with glowing eyes in a black background. Caption says, "Souls. I eets them." Why, living off of souls is even more Earth-friendly than veganism. I’m convinced! Satan is the good deity. All hail Satan!

Traveling Today – Have Some Links to Other People’s Work

B and I are off to Mount Baker, because summer is short and it’s hot. But not hot on top of Mount Baker. Which is the point. And I’d have stuff of substance for you, only I’ve be doing the deep-dive cleaning and organizing in order to turn the house into a place where I can work full-time. This is complicated, and involves a lot of standing around staring at piles in despair, and going to the store for Yet Another Necessary Thing, and hunting round places for inexpensive yet useful compact storage stuff, and then attempting to store stuff in it. And then it’s back to the store because you forgot the labels to label the storage stuff so you know where stored stuff is…

Then a day off for throwing apples for cats, and watching MMA and kickboxing, and planning for said trip up to Mount Baker. Which you will love.

While I’m gone, here are a few of the blog posts I’ve been meaning to highlight for half of forever. Enjoy! And when I return, thee shall have brand-new pictures of Mount Baker to treasure.

Image is three photos of a very excited English spaniel. Caption says, "ERMAHGERD."

Alethian Worldview: Everything we need to know about God

I was a conservative, Bible-believing Christian until I was in my early forties, and as a believer, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was to understand God. Ironically, it’s only now, after a decade and a half as an atheist, that I’ve finally reached an understanding that truly does explain everything that seems odd or mysterious about God.

It’s not that I’ve discovered anything that’s really all that new. I’ve just found a way of framing what I know that immediately expresses exactly what we need to know about God in a way that’s both obvious and unavoidable.

A Veil and a Dark Place: A Tirade of Snark to My Clueless Muslim Critics

But the mindset is there, it’s prevalent and rote and you know, sometimes I feel like I wonder if I’m being uncharitable in my positions but there’s such a brewing of disgust within me at the insidious self-righteousness of these sorts of responses that this does not seem at all like a low enough jab but I’ll say it:

You can string out the same tired sentences and stances a thousand and one times and they’ll still be as flawed and dishonest and inhumane as ever, these phrases, ‘oh, Islam grants women her rights, don’t you know, preserves honor, dignity, and doesn’t condone mistreatment’ and seriously, I ask you, do we live in the same world?

A Million Gods: Islamic Economics of Sex

The problem here is not women who do not wear Burkhas but men who wish for women to wear them under the notion of concern and the guise of honour and chastity.

Alternet: Bible Verses That Atheists Love

As a young adult, I struggled to recover from the crazy parts of my childhood. I once had a therapist who said, “You’ll know you are independent from your parents when you can do what you want for yourself even if they want it too.” To my mind, the Bible writers are like dysfunctional parents to our whole society, parents we have turned to, collectively and individually, for guidance. but who all too often instead have caused harm or trauma. One of the ways we will know that we have truly outgrown them is when we are able to claim what we believe to be useful and beautiful, even if they said it.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Ee’s Not Dead, Ee’s Resting

The richest guru in India died of a heart attack in January. Doctors have declared him dead. But his followers insist that he isn’t dead, he’s just in an incredibly deep state of meditation. So deep that he has no heartbeat or brain activity and has to be kept in a freezer.

All right, that’s enough to keep ye busy for the moment. See you tomorrow, my darlings!

One Rope Across the Chasm

Excellent. Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins together have managed to pull a rope tight.

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

[Read the rest. Especially those drive-by slimers who seem to think they're on Team Dawkins. My, don't you have a nasty shock coming?]

Can that particular divide be bridged? Remains to be seen. There’s more to this than admonishing the worst behaved amongst us – Dawkins has a lot of anti-feminism, casual sexism, and general promotion of people who do the exact things he excoriates to work through. But one sturdy rope can, in time, become a bridge. I do like to see leaders come around and realize that they have a part in ensuring atheism is welcoming to people who wish to improve the world rather than shit all over the people who try to make marginalized lives better. I like to see people whose work I’ve admired in the past start to understand that maybe, possibly, they’ve gotten a few things wrong, and come round, and do their bit to make things better for people other than their cohort. And it’s important for leaders to model better behavior, and expect better of their followers. Good on you for starting that process, Richard. Long may your bridge-building continue.

Image shows a black lab puppy biting a taut rope.

A puppy with a rope to help with outreach efforts. Image courtesy I Can Has Cheezburger.

(This doesn’t erase Dear Muslima and problematic statements about pedophilia and such like, mind. I’m pleased with this statement – but it’s really simple to support not being overtly awful, isn’t it? Still. More than I expected, and I do thank you. And major kudos to Ophelia for pursuing this.)

Of course, there are many people who won’t be crossing that bridge if and when it’s built. They can’t seem to live without making other people’s lives miserable. I think they’re about to find themselves on a very small island with a vast ocean between themselves and the rest of the “movement.” The Westboro Baptists of atheism, indeed. And we shall hold them in the same esteem as we do those… interesting… people.

Nerp. Still Not Deep Enough

Let us reassess whether atheism should be divided or not. Lemme see… Would I want to be on the same side as The Amazing Atheist, f’r instance? Ha ha ha ha no.

My, that was easy. Someone that despicable clearly has no place on my side of the Deep Rift™. I don’t fancy wading hip-deep in festering hatred just to get a larf at creationism. Why, all I need for that is to read their very own textbooks.

But what about his addled supporters? Should I, perhaps, build a small rope bridge between us?

No, I don’t think I shall tolerate hanging with the same side that thinks violent misogynists are no big so long as they deride creationists in a manner they find pleasing.

I shall be assidiously avoiding all association with those who think it’s better to defend an asshole than find and promote the non-assholes who do the same work. I am not so desperate for allies that I need to accept such grotty specimens.

No, the side that embraces people who find it sporting good fun to deliberately trigger rape victims, threaten to rape people with a fist, and hate on teenage girls because society frowns on them salivating on same, can stay far, far away from my side. They, to me, are what the Westboro Baptist Church is to my liberal Christian friends.

Image shows a statue of David Livingstone shading his eyes. Caption says, "No, I'm afraid I can still see them. Do keep widening."I think we can do nicely without that sort, thanks. In point of fact, I think we must.

Danger Zone! The New Madrid Seismic Zone

(A reprise from Rosetta Stones, especially for Robert B., as this answers part of the question posed: “But what’s up with South Carolina and the Mississippi/Ohio River confluence?”)

 

Malachite asked an excellent question I’m actually well-placed to address without further research. Yay!

New curiosity: what the heck is that danger zone where Missouri meets Tennessee?

Heh. Pretty startling, innit?

Image shows a map of the US with hazard zones picked out in yellow and red. There's a bullseye just right of Texas. It hits corners of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

That great big target painted on Middle America, my friends, is the New Madrid Seismic Zone. In 1811, it broke in a big way, so big it caused the Mississippi River to run backwards for a bit. Lots of interesting things happened that weren’t quite so interesting to the people who lived through it. More terrifying. And since then, people have watched that fault with a wary stare. It still kicks from time to time, letting us know the earth isn’t as stable as we’d like. But some studies suggest that those may just be aftershocks, long after the main event, and nothing much to worry about. I wrote that up here, a long time ago when I was a young, fresh science blogger.

The thing about New Madrid is this: it was so dramatic, so unexpected, that we’ve approached it with an overabundance of caution ever since. And until further studies confirm it’s no longer a threat, I personally think we’d be wise to continue to treat it as a potential, even if not probable, problem. And this is an excellent place to study intercontinental earthquakes, which are odd and intriguing, so let the science continue!

Here are some additional links should you wish to investigate further.

Nature: Seth Stein: The quake killer.

Nature: Long aftershock sequences within continents and implications for earthquake hazard assessment (pdf).

Highly Allochthonous: Earthquakes within plates: we don’t know when, and we may not know where.

+/- Science:  An Abbreviated Numerical History of the Great New Madrid Earthquakes.

Geologic diagram of the Reelfoot Rift. Image courtesy USGS.

Geologic diagram of the Reelfoot Rift. Image courtesy USGS.