Los Links 5/13

All right.  Sorry.  Yes.  We’re seriously late, here, but between Blogger’s malfunction and the fact my Muse isn’t quite aware the winter writing season’s over, I haven’t had a chance to put them together.  But here we are, and thanks to overwhelming reader demand, the Los Links show will go on.

Let’s get right to it.

I know Mother’s Day was two Sundays ago now, but these are still worthwhile posts, and we should probably appreciate Mom on more than one day of the year anyway.

Deliberate Pixel: Mothers, daughters and superheroes.  Almost made me cry, this one, and I’m one of those horrible people who tries not to get too sentimental about such things.

NYT: When We Hated Mom.  Believe it or not, we did.  Really.  Go find out why and how.

One of the biggest stories – well, more like ongoing saga – of the past couple of weeks is the flooding on the Mississippi.  Here are some posts that will help you sort through the chaos.

XKCD: Michael Bay’s Scenario.  You’ve only got time for one post on the Mississippi flood.  You want to understand just what the fuck is going on.  This is that one post.  And it proves that there’s more at XKCD than just brilliant science comics.

Riparian Rap: Giving and taking at Birds Point. Levees for Libertarians? This post is crucial for understanding flood easements, and a nice antidote to all those “Oh, those poor people the evil Army Corps of Engineers are flooding out of house and home!” stories.

And, quite important for me, at least, Neil Gaiman’s episode of Doctor Who aired Saturday.  This post explains why this is a Really Big Thing.  Allow me to quote, because this sums up exactly why I adore this show, and Neil Gaiman, so very much:

All in all, it’s a silly, twinkly and enchanting look at the world of Doctor Who from a new angle. The idea of treating the original mad scientist show as a fairy tale has seldom worked better than it does in Gaiman’s hands. It’s one of those things that starts out just sort of spinning out cleverness, and then it suddenly turns quite scary and dark, and winds up being quite emotional. And it might just make your friends fall in love with the greatest time traveler of them all.

It was all that and much, much more.  If you didn’t get a chance to catch it, treat yourself – it’ll come round again.

And now, on with the regular linkage.

Science

History of Geology: May 8, 1902: La Pelée.  First time I heard about Pelée was in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not book.  David’s post is better.  If you like volcanoes, history, or volcanoes in history, go read this right now.

Uncovered Earth: Sunday Science Photos, May 1 – 7.  Have I mentioned lately how much I’m loving this series?  Gorgeous!

Bad Astronomy: Incredibly, impossibly beautiful time lapse video.  The next time someone tells you science isn’t phenomenally beautiful, send them here.

The Biology Files: Autism, Lupron, the Geiers, and what can science do about emotions?  A horrifying story, and a very good point.

Molecular Matters: I wanna be a Pseudoscientist.  This post made me laugh so hard I almost peed myself.

Glacial Till: Meteorite Monday: Origins of carbonaceous chondrites.  This post will cure you of thinking that meteorites are merely slightly-interesting space rocks.

Oscillatory Thoughts: We are all inattentive superheroes.  No, really, we are.  Go find out what that means.

The Panic Virus: The latest claims of “proof” that vaccines cause autism: Will the media take the bait? Why the anti-vaccination crowd is, once again, remarkably full of shit.

Culturing Science: Erasistratus on the nature of scientific inquiry.  Because I’m a complete sucker for history and science, not to mention ancient Greek and Rome.  Are you trying to tell me you’re not?

NASA Science: NASA Announces Results of Epic Space-Time Experiment.  Einstein was right.  Do try to contain your surprise.  But seriously – go read it.  This shit sounds like a science fiction show, but it’s real, and it’s so close to home.

Daily Mail: Drifting apart: Amazing underwater photos that show the growing gap between two tectonic plates.  This, people, is why science is so damned incredible.  Without science, it’s just a dive through an underwater canyon.  With science, it’s a story of epic forces and powerful plates pulling apart.  Fantastic!

Not Exactly Rocket Science: A memory for pain, stored in the spine.  Did you know your spine has a memory?  I didn’t.  Read on!

Short Sharp Science: Fossil raindrops reveal early atmospheric pressure.  Fossil raindrops are cool.  The fact they can tell us about the air up there billions of years ago is even cooler.

Explainer.net: The Fracking Song.  A video that explains fracking in song?  So awesome!  I loved this, and I don’t even like that sort of music.

Reading the Washington Landscape: Iceberg Tracks and Kettles in Columbia Valley.  Simply because I love glacial landforms, and these are awesome.

Religion, Atheism and All That Rot

Punctuated Equilibrium: Understanding Christianese, Lesson 1.  This is hilarious.  And helpful.  You can’t beat that combo.

Almost Diamonds: Standing on Aether, Thinking Airy Thoughts.   Bad questions, pseudoscience, and theology, and how they all tie together.  This post allowed me to clarify my thinking a bit.  Always nice!

Mother Jones: One Man’s Crusade Against Fundamentalist Claptrap.  And how the Cons have fallen in love with an enemy.

Choice in Dying: Religion Lies.  Just in case anyone had any doubt.  But it bears repeating, and the fact Eric MacDonald has an inside perspective makes it hit all the harder.

Butterflies and Wheels: Ron Lindsay talks to Chris Mooney.  Further proof the leopard can’t change his shorts.  Even when they’re reeking.

Writing

The Passive Voice: Don’t Sign Dumb Contracts.  Really, seriously, no matter how desperate you are to get published, don’t.  Also, this, this and this – you really need to read these in order to get a handle on how contracts can fuck you sideways, and how to avoid getting fucked.

MacLeans: Why it’s hard to write for Bugs Bunny.  This is one of the best articles on writing I’ve read for a long time.  Definite food for thought, here.  Plus, Looney Tunes!

KeyboardHussy: Reasons behind Self-Published Book Sale Spikes and How I was Wrong.  A must-read for anyone considering self-publishing.

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: What Works: Promo for Ebooks.  And this.

Women’s Issues

XKCD: Marie Curie.  Women, science, women of science, and truth.

Guardian: Speak up, I can’t hear you.  Why you should just forget all of the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus bullshit.

Salon: The “Hooker Teacher” tells all.  What our society does to women who ever dared take their clothes off.

Slate: Texas Passes Ultrasound Requirement.  And why frothing fundies and uterus-obsessed Cons might want to rethink the whole thing.

Pandagon: Sluts, Walking: A FAQ sheet.  In case you have no idea what Slutwalk’s all about, or think you know and have your prim little nose turned up.

Politics

Southern Fried Science: Florida Senate fails basic biology, accidentally outlaws sex.  ZOMG ROFLMAO EPIC FAIL.  Funniest damned thing ever.
Various and Sundry

Vanity Fair: Unspoken Truths.  This will break your heart.

Casting my line, seeing if I get any bites

Sorry about the title, I’m horrible handling fishing references, but both my father and grandfather are avid weekend fishermen and I feel an obligation to occasionally submit a nod to the sport of sitting in a boat in the rain and looking at the bright side of it all.

Ahem. Right then. Hello blogosphere, it’s Jacob with another out of the blue guest post.

I have an interest in a blog subject I was going to write about, but I wanted to test the waters and see if the readers had any interest. Taking a cue from the Academia series I wrote a few years ago, I wanted to blog a bit about my occupation, both from a technical and emotional perspective. I am a 9-1-1 calltaker and dispatcher, and over the last 16 months have gone through quite an experience. So I ask you: does anyone have any questions, thoughts, or interest in reading about my experiences? As always I offer only my humblest insights, with the fair warning that I claim to know little and I know far less than I claim.

If so, drop a comment, I’ll start sometime in the next day or three, with probably weekly submissions for as long as there is still interest in whatever I can find to say. If not, perhaps I’ll find a more interesting topic of discussion, or I’ll just sit quietly in the corner and let Dana get on with her own damn blog, thankyewverymuch.

Summer Interview Series: Who Wants to be Famous?

So I’ve got this idea: I’d like to interview a bunch of you and run those interviews throughout the summer.  You all deserve some loving attention.  First question: would anybody be interested in perusing such a series?

On the assumption the answer to that is “yes, please, Dana!” we shall move on to the next one: who’s up for answering pesky questions about their work and/or their blogging?  Alert me either in comments or at my Yahoo home, which is dhunterauthor.

Third question: what sorts of questions should I be asking, then?  We’ll start with the basics:

What… is your name?

What… is your quest?

What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? 

(Monty Python fans are grinning about now.  Non-fans are tsked at and asked to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail forthwith.)

All right, so those aren’t really the questions I’ll ask.  Thought, actually, I’d leave that up to you, dear readers.  What sorts of things do you want to know about working scientists and full-time writers and science bloggers?  Is there an interview question you think should be asked at every interview, but never is?  Put on your Nosy Bugger cap and get thinking.

Interviews will be conducted via email, of course.  I’d love to meet each and every one of you in person, take you out for a drink and that sort of thing, but I’ve got a limited budget and an elderly cat who will get a bit annoyed if I start jet-setting at this time of her life.

Right?  Right.  We’ll get started just as soon as we’ve got some victims experimental subjects volunteers.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: E.O. Wilson

Wonderful theory.  Wrong species.

-E.O. Wilson

That’s Wilson’s verdict on Marxism.  I love how he can stuff so much political, behavioral and philosophical thought in just four simple words.

This is the man who managed to make ants fascinating.  And he’s a phenomenal writer, so if you haven’t yet, pick up one of his tomes.  And you might want to catch Nova’s Lord of the Ants sometime.  You will never forget his demonstration of the defensive tactics of fire ants.  I guarantee it.

Los Links Will Return

Well, we can’t blame Yahoo this week.  Instead of my draft email with all my lovely links presenting me with a blank slate when the time comes to put them all in order, we had Blogger going waaay down.  Well, that and the fact I’m writing me arse off at the moment and would’ve punked them off til Sunday anyway.

But the Readers have Spoken, and I wanted to assure you all that I will, indeed, continue on with Los Links.  Just for you.  And because there’s too much awesome stuff not to highlight.  But mostly for you.

And I’m now using Yahoo Notepad instead of email, which seems less eager to delete everything I’m collecting.  We shall see.

I’m off to continue my adventures with the Muse.  Laters, my darlings!

Life-Changing Experience

What a difference less than a year makes!  So no shit, there I was, sitting in training class watching one of the most mind-numbingly boring videos I’ve ever encountered, and my thoughts strayed to all of you.

You’ve changed my life.  And you saved it, just then, when my brain threatened to implode from terminal boredom.  Under the circumstances, I figured it might be time for a big ol’

Thanks!

Seriously.  I mean it.

First off, there’s all of the people who’ve been round here since the beginning, or nearly so.  Without you, I wouldn’t have kept blogging. You made everything worth it, kept me going when I thought that maybe I should bugger off and do something else, and made me think in ways I’d not thought before.  You stuck with me through all sorts of craziness.  You’re amazing.

Then the geoblogosphere adopted me as one of their own.  You know those moments you can look back on afterward and pinpoint as there, right there, life changed?  Yeah, that was one.  The big one.

You want to know how much you’ve changed my life?  This much:

Last year, I didn’t have any science books planned.  I didn’t think I could do any such thing.  Now, because of you, I’ve got one in the works and a few more patiently queued up.  I’ll be writing non-fiction science books because you showed me I could.  I couldn’t do it without you.  Literally could not.

Last year, I was freaking out over how I’d get the science right in my science fiction.  How could I find and understand the information I needed?  How could I get expert insights when I wasn’t comfortable approaching experts and didn’t know where to find them?  But here you are: experts!  Dozens of you.  On Twitter and on this blog, always ready with a helping hand when I need it.  Because of you, the fiction I write will be much sounder in their science, and there’s plot possibilities I didn’t even know existed before you, the experts, introduced me to so much fascinating stuff.  And the best thing? You get to choose where and when you help out, so I don’t have to feel guilty for pestering you!  You’re brilliant, you are.

But it’s more than that.  It’s the adventures.  Late last summer, my intrepid companion and I ended up adventuring in Oregon with Lockwood, and can I just tell you that being shown geology by a geologist is a whole new experience for an interested amateur.  Landscapes spoke in ways they couldn’t have spoken before.  He gave them a voice.  The world becomes far more fascinating when it can speak to you in more than just a few fragmented words.

And the adventures don’t stop there.  Lockwood and Silver Fox plan to join us for a trip to Mt. Mazama and Old Perpetual early this summer.  Some talk of wine and geology on Twitter led to plans (still coming together) for Glacial Till, Uncovered Earth, Helena, Lockwood and me to bring a whole new meaning to “geology on the rocks” later this summer.  Ann will be accompanying me on my next foray into Arizona, and who knows who else will sign on when that trip draws near? 

I sometimes hear people say inane things, like how online friends aren’t the same as the real thing.  All I can say is, they’ve never met my tweeps, my commenters, my fellow bloggers.  They’ve never experienced this community of people.  Always up for adventure, always ready with a helping hand, always bubbling over with enthusiasm for science and various entertainments and the wonders of the world – we may be far-flung, but we’re close-knit, and every single one of you has made my life immeasurably richer.

This life of mine, it’s better with you in it.  Just thought you should know that.

And thanks for saving me from neuron implosion in training, there.  I owe you big time!

Moenkopi

Flagstaff isn’t known as red rock country.  But there’s one place, just a bit to the north, where the world changes in an instant.  Drive past Sunset Crater, and you’ll suddenly leave the black basalts and the towering ponderosa pines; the volcanics abruptly change to sediments, the Painted Desert appears on the horizon, and low, rolling hills broken by bones of rock appear.  At first, everything appears to be a subtle shade of rusty tan, nearly hidden beneath tawny bunch grasses and sage and occasional pinons and junipers.  But you reach Wupatki, and sudden, vivid red-orange rocks leap from the land.

Moenkopi Formation

The low ridges and hills crumble in slabs, broken along bedding planes.  It’s a completely different world from the ones you just left.  In parts of Flagstaff, the Kaibab speaks of shallow tropical seas.  Young volcanics, looking as if they erupted only recently (and, geologically, it happened just a moment ago), speak of fire.  But here, in this place, you’re on a tidal flat.  Rivers ran a lazy course to the western sea; worms burrowed in the mud.  This is the Moenkopi Formation, an expanse of sandstones and shales that remind you that this place, once, was on the edge of the sea.  You’re on a coastal plain in the high desert.  It feels like a different time and place; you can’t believe you drove for only twenty minutes, that the volcano you just left is only a few miles away.  But:

View Larger Map

There it is.

The Sinagua found the Moenkopi a very friendly formation indeed.  It splits off in flat bits absolutely perfect for building a stone mansion.  Enormous blocks of it that hadn’t weathered so conveniently merely got incorporated into the design, forming solid and rather artistic walls:

     
Building Before Bulldozers

I wonder if any of those ancient pueblo peoples wondered.  They could see cross-bedding, where the tides stirred the sediments.  They could see ripple marks and mud cracks.  They probably found fossils when they split larger slabs into smaller.  Did any of them pause and ponder?  I’m certain they admired.  The way they incorporated the monoliths into their walls doesn’t seem merely a matter of necessity, but one of aesthetics.  There are places where they seem proud to show off the attributes of the stone they used to build their big house.

The sedimentary rocks here look out on the upstart young cinder cones with some indulgence. 

Wild weathering and young volcanics

It’s almost as if the Moenkopi knows it will be there long after the cinders have eroded away.  Yes, wind and water wear down those ancient tidal flats and coastal plains, but it started its life as mud and sand.  What does it matter to the Moenkopi that it will become mud and sand again?  Someday, conditions will change, and loose sediments will be compacted into firm stone once again.  Millions of years from now, new pairs of hands may choose out pieces to put into a wall.  It might be darker then, having incorporated basaltic sands.  It might be formed from eolian dunes rather than fluvial processes.  But it will always have the echoes of the coast in it. 

This is one of the finest places in the world to just sit.  Look at the ancient coastal plain lapping up against the baby volcanics.  Sit here where the desert and pine country weave together.  Listen to the wind blow over fantastically eroded rocks.  Absorb the colors: the red and the black and the brave traces of green.  Remember the people who built their stone houses here. 

It’s a fine place to be.

Dojo Summer Sessions: What if the Worst Happens?

What if you become famous?  Because if you do, things like this happen:



Wellsprings of Inspiration III: Guest Appearance from the Past!

[Foreword]

When I was a wee lad of 16, I met our awesome host Dana Hunter in, of all places, one of those online writer forums that was all the rage before short-spoken birds and facial literature. I felt like I was in a shifty bar; a dingy, shady place where the real world threw back a few drinks and threw the bottles off-camera, because real men didn’t care about littering. It was almost like Luke entering Mos Eisley, with all the naivety I could fit into my farm boy shoes. And it was there I met Dana Hunter.

Dana Hunter, you are my Kenobi.

Ahem, er, sorry, my nerd was showing there for a bit.

So Dana found me, and we quickly high-tailed it out of the forum like the Falcon with a squad of stormtroopers on our tail (Last one, I promise). We went on to have long talks about our creative endeavors, but while I just talked about it, Dana actually had the guts to do something with it. Hence why she has a blog with thousands of posts and I have, well, not much.

The reason I bring all this up is that once upon a time, I was Dana’s co-blogger. I wrote a whopping three, maybe four, articles for En Tequila Es Verdad. Then I fell off the face of the Earth for a while. Well, I’m back, and I thought I’d introduce myself a bit as I step back into old shoes and walk along a path long forgotten.

I’ll try to throw something out here every now and then. At the end is a link to my own little corner of the blogosphere, that I’m currently using to work on my personal project.

A sidenote: My previous entries were under “Kaden”, a penname that once belonged to my main character who has since been renamed. The Elusive Muse (my corner) and all related posts will simply be under Jacob. And yes, I thought Kaden was cooler too.

So, without further ado, let’s go to writing…

Wellsprings of Inspiration

How Video Games Tell Stories

Books, movies, television shows, video games, board games, paintings, pictures, music, that quilt your grandmother knit for you that’s still in the closet, almost everything that surrounds us is about telling a story. And, really, you can find inspiration in anything. I’ve seen into the lives of my characters while watching a softball game. While listening to music. Overhearing two people in conversation. You can find meaning in everything, and story is about meaning. However, I’m focusing on a particular area.

Aw yeah. Video games.

My gaming career began around 1992-1993, a young spratling of about 3 or 4 years. It was Sonic The Hedgehog, and while it didn’t inspire me to do much other than run around in circles really fast, it was the start of what would be a brilliant gaming career.

The first real inspiration came from playing Chrono Cross, a masterpiece released in the late 90’s. The story was a bit convoluted, but I was at a young enough age I wasn’t paying that much attention anyway. It had 45 separate playable characters and multiple endings. You literally could not encounter and unlock every character by playing just once. You had to play it multiple times to fully experience it. Sadly, the copy I owned was flawed, with a scratch on the disc that prevented me from getting past a scene that you cannot bypass. So I never actually completed the game…though it remains one of my life goals to do so. However, it wasn’t the characters that made the most impact. Even though, at one point in the game, one of your party gets injured, and you have to make the choice to brave a dangerous swamp to find her a cure or, you know, don’t and go pursue the storyline on your own. This sense of having to make a choice in the story will come up later, so remember it.

Actually it was the music that inspired me the most. Chrono Cross has a wonderful score, and in particular the main theme, “Scars of Time”. This is, simply put, my favorite piece of music. From pretty much anything. Ever. And I like music scores. I love the Dragonheart theme, and if I can appreciate The Phantom Menace for anything it’s one of my favorite Star Wars piece. But Scars of Time…when I hear that, I hear soul. I see epic battles illustrated in flashes of light, I feel how it must feel to soar above the clouds.

But I digress. Somewhere along the line I was introduced to Metal Gear Solid, which reigns supreme as High King of Convoluted Plotlines. I can’t begin to explain the plot, but let me explain this: the main character, codename Solid Snake, is a genetic clone of a legendary super soldier, who throughout the course of the games repeatedly foils the plots set in motion by his other “genetic siblings”, often involving the use of various bipedal nuclear-equipped mech known as “Metal Gear”, for which the series is named. Nevermind that at one point you are lead to believe that the dismembered hand from his brother (Liquid Snake) has taken over the body of your ongoing nemesis, Revolver Ocelot, which is only possible because Ocelot’s father is a spiritual medium. Oh, and Ocelot’s mother is the mentor of the original Solid Snake of whom the main character is a clone of.

Oh, and there are cyber ninjas. Shit is crazy.

Incomprehensible story aside, the games actually have several plot lines that have continued to inspire me. In particular, the apparent antagonist in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is one of my favorite game characters to date. It would take too much space to get into the story, and it would be a disservice; you have to play it to understand. However, let me explain one moment. You are facing off against The Boss, the aptly named opponent you are struggling to face throughout the game. A former mentor turned traitor against her country, you are sent to kill the only woman Snake really loves. At the end of the final battle, she reveals all to you. Her sacrifice, and why she has done these things, and why you must end it here and now. She knows she is going to die. She knows you are going to kill her. It’s all part of the mission, one far grander than you ever realized, and you have your part to play. Here’s the kicker.

You have to pull the trigger.

In most games, climactic story-changing moments in the game are told through “cutscenes”, moments where you no longer have any control over what happens. Here, you have to consciously take the action. After playing up to this point, I literally stared at the controller for at least three minutes, refusing to continue. Eventually I did, because I had to, but it made the echo of gunfire that much more real.

Let’s take a step into another game, shall we? This franchise has quickly overtaken all others as my favorite game series of all time. For me, it is the epitome of what story-driven games should be. The series is called Mass Effect. A wonderful piece of science fiction, story-telling driven gameplay. You play the main character, “Commander Shephard”, a soldier of your own design. You choose if you are male or female, one of various backstory options, and a few different gameplay choices. Throughout the game you encounter humans, aliens, robots. Soldier, citizens, and creatures with intelligence beyond mortal comprehension. Yet the game is steered largely by choices you make. Some seemingly inconsequential – you can bribe a shopowner to get a discount. Give a fanboy an autograph, or tell him to go jump out a window. Let a criminal live to see justice, or take justice into your own hands. You were making these choices, and each had meaning. Near the end of the game, I was facing off against the main adversary, Saren. He was corrupt, taken hostage by the insidious mechanisms of a being who could influence your thoughts. For most of the game Saren is hellbent on carrying out the wishes of the one commanding him. However, based on the choices I made, the things I said, I was able to get through to him. Leading up to one of the final boss fights, I showed him that he still has a chance to make a difference and to fight back. Saren took his gun, put it against his head, and fired. It bypassed the entire fight. Unable to fight the influence, Saren decided to try to make his final stand, by removing himself from its control. A final sacrifice.

I almost dropped my controller.

You may be asking, Why are you boring us with this? We weren’t looking for a corporate sponsor. Hear me out, though. The reason these games are a source of inspiration to me is that video games, truly good games, succeed when they create experiences. That’s how they inspire me. Experiences. Moments in a story. Video games have a unique advantage over other mediums. Unlike movies, a game can take between four to over 30 or more hours of gameplay to complete. You are not restricted to 112 minutes to meet the characters, connect with them emotionally, and understand their choices. Books, of course, can go even farther and more in-depth, but video games also have the appeal of being a visual medium. While there is something to be said for painting characters in your mind with a good book, but in a game they can present scenes and ideas that are simply more difficult to convey in writing. And, above all, in video games you have a choice that you simply don’t with books or ‘teevee’ shows.

These choices are the defining moments when you realize a game steps over the threshold. When you have an emotional, personal reaction. In the sequel, Mass Effect 2, you are tasked with spearheading a suicide mission into enemy territory. You have to choose a squad leader to lead the second group while you lead the first. My choice was not made according to stats, or gameplay mechanics. Garrus was one of the characters from the first game, and the choices I made kept him by my side throughout the mission. I chose Garrus to lead them because I know Garrus, the way a Browncoat knows Malcolm Reynolds, the way a Tolkien fan knows the hobbits. It’s a choice based on experience.

It also helps that games like this are often accompanied with amazing musical scores and in Mass Effect’s case, stunning voice acting and camera work. Yeah, camera work. The way they “filmed” the scenes in mass effect give it a truly cinematic feel, as good as any movie.

As I start my own writing project, heading into the Great Unknown of writing fiction, I remember these games, these moments. That is what I want my readers to remember. I want them to remember the experiences. When, just for this one moment in time, they are doing more than just reading.

If I ever manage to accomplish this even once, I will call myself an Author.

A Burst of Butterflies

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to summer: I’ll get to befriend butterflies again.

Brilliant blue, snapped by my intrepid companion

When we were up at Summer Falls last year, we had little blue butterflies fluttering all round us.  They got very interested in my bag when I went to the bathroom, and when we laid down in the grass to admire the falls, they wandered all over us.  That’s a kind of magic, that is.

Come enjoy them with me.


Here’s another of the blues, also shot by my intrepid companion:



This would seem to be a fine example of Boisduval’s Blue Butterfly, which make eastern Washington pretty.

On the other side of the state (and the other side of summer), we came across a butterfly bonanza in the Olympics.  We’d come up for the geology and the alpine flowers, but the fields full of fluttering butterflies were a nice bonus.

We found this one along the trail:



I am teh suck at butterfly identification, but I’m fairly certain this is a fritillary of some sort.  Maybe genus Boloria, even.  I wouldn’t swear to it.  All I really know is it’s a butterfly.  It’s purty.  That’s good enough to be going on with.

And the meadow up by the visitor’s center was filled with butterflies, all sizes and colors.



I found this species fascinating, such a delicate, almost transparent white with garnet-and-gray markings:



It’s very probably a Clodius Parnassian

This one, I believe, is a relative of those little blues we saw at Summer Falls:



Yes, I know it’s brown, not blue.  But if it’s what I think it is, it’s actually a blue.  It’s a female, so it’s brown.  Clear?

Didn’t think so.  Look, just go read up on Boisduval’s Blue Butterfly here at this link, and all should become sort of clearer.  Boisduval’s Blues are at least a good starting point for anyone who wants to figure out what the lady above is.

And then, if you’re really enterprising, you can head over here and figure out what the delight below is, because I’m stumped.



We chased this swallowtail along the trail a bit, until it found a fine few places to pose:



I think it’s an Ainse Swallowtail.  I know it’s a swallowtail for certain.  See it’s tail?



It’s a little hard to see, but those elegant sweeping points are a dead giveaway for a swallowtail.  Unless I’m wrong and it’s a dead giveaway for something else.

He reminds me a bit of the ginormous yellow swallowtail my mom and I found in Oak Creek Canyon once, when I was a kid.  It came home with us and lived in my bedroom for a while, hanging around on my curtains, and sometimes with the printed butterflies on my bedspread.  One of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.  These days, I leave them where I found them – photographs are quite enough, thanks.

On our second day in the Olympics, we found quite a lot of little butterflies flitting all around the lake up by the dam.  They were too busy to pose much, but we got a couple of good shots.  I love this one, because it looks like the butterfly’s stretching up to say “Oh, hai!” to the bug above:



And then there was the pretty orange one having a nice rest in the road:



It’s probably a comma of some description.  Gray Comma? Green Comma? Hoary Comma?  Other people, better people, more detail-oriented people with a passion for taxonomy are welcome to weigh in.  I’m just going to enjoy the fact that there’s a butterfly species that shares the name of one of my favorite pieces of punctuation.

And while you’re bedazzled by butterflies, you should head over to Chris Carvalho’s site and check out his butterfly photographyMichael Klaas, aka @UncoveredEarth, directed me to him when I put out my pathetic plea for help on Twitter.  Gorgeous, utterly gorgeous stuff.

Butterflies are wonderful.  They’re like living gems, hanging in the air.  I hope we see quite a lot more this summer, going about their brief and beautiful lives.