The Seduction of Subduction

This:

Cascades from Skykomish River, near Gold Bar

This is why I love the word subduction.  Every time I’m reading about the geology of a region, when I come across that word, I get a tingle down ye olde spine.  Because I know we’re in for it.  I know the landscape’s going to be exciting.  I know we’re in for volcanoes and earthquakes and some really wild metamorphism, accretionary wedges and the whole shebang.  It’s all there.  Tell me we’ve got a subduction zone on our hands, and you’ll see me bounce like a Jack Russell terrier who’s just eaten its owner’s entire stock of No Doz and chased it down with a case of Full Throttle.

In a subduction zone, you get some really wild rocks, rocks that’ve been through it, rocks that have been chewed up and spit out, rocks that, were they a letter, would get the post office in deep trouble for the amount of folding, spindling and mutilating they’ve endured. 

Metamorphic Rock, Skykomish River

A subduction zone takes your basic rocks and makes them sublime.  It pushes them down and raises them up.  It takes bits of the seafloor and chucks them up on land.

Pillow Basalts, Olympic Mountains

It takes your basic quiet marine shales, which had been resting peacefully in nice horizontal layers on the sea bed, and squeezes and cooks them into phyllite.  And then it hoists them high, standing them on end, and makes mountains of them.

Phyllite, Olympic Mountains

Right now, right beneath me, the Juan de Fuca plate is subducting beneath the North American continent.  That subduction is the reason I’ve got land to sit on: over millions of years, subduction zone after subduction zone has formed around here, as oceanic plates meet continental, and as the seafloor goes down, bits of island arcs and seafloor sediments and appreciable chunks of the seafloor itself have gotten plastered on, creating the majority of Washington state, and the mountains that lured me here.  It’s a dangerous place to live.  This beauty does come with risk: chains of violent volcanoes, the certainty of an eventual megathrust earthquake.  But it’s worth the risk. 

I’ve been seduced by subduction.  Looking at the result, who wouldn’t be?

Olympic Mountains

I Want a Ranch. With Horsies. In the Cascade Foothills.

My Intrepid Companion and I ventured forth despite threatening clouds on Monday.  I’ve been shut in with the Muse for months now, aside from occasional local escapes, and since my hormones had knocked her over the head and stuffed her in a closet, bound with duct tape and zip ties (bit of overkill, there, but it’s a bad hormone month), this seemed like a bloody good time to do more than retread the same ol’ ground.

Besides, I had a hankering.  I kept quoting Bilbo: “I want to see mountains again, mountains!”  So we headed east.  I’m only half an hour from Monroe, where one can begin to see evidence that something massive’s happening to the continent.

You go from the roly-poly drumlin-riddled and glacial-deposit draped lowlands up a very gentle grade, and then suddenly there’s a road cut with solid rock in (which, alas, I didn’t get a chance to stop and photograph), and then a little past that you reach Monroe, where, on a day with fewer clouds, you can actually see the Cascades.

Even on a day with clouds, you can drive down little country lanes there and see what we call “foothills.”



Some foothills, right?  There are places in this country where those would loom over the local mountains like a basketball player over moi. 

I like this foothill.  I have no idea what its name is, but it looks vaguely South China karst landcape, what with that conical shape and all the greenery.  Mind you, it’s not karst.  Not sure what it is, but it’s most likely volcanic, perhaps even a bit scraped off the ocean floor and plastered to the North American continent.  I’ll look into it and get back to you.  In the meantime, I want you to follow me after the jump and live my dream.

You see, I have decided I want a ranch.  With horsies.  In the Cascade foothills.  It’s so lovely and peaceful, and the mountains make such a delightful backdrop to the horsies.



I liked this one a lot.  He, or she (I didn’t bend down to look) was a friendly little bugger.  Made a beeline over to us to say “Hey, hello, got any treats hidden away somewhere?  No?  No matter, pet me anyway!”  And so I did.  Which reminded me how much I miss having horses in my life.  I need to work on this whole riches-and-fame thing so I can have one or two.



One very much like this one, actually.  A beautiful baby with some pizzaz and a liking for people.

What’s that?  You’ve had enough horsies?  You want rocks?  Okay, right, here we are, then:



There’s a nice close-up of the cliff on the “foothill” for ye.  I know, I know, there’s a lot of biology in the way, but you have to admit, it’s wonderful, the way the cliff laughs at all that lovely green.  Like “Ha!  See if you can hide me!”

I’ll even give you rocks and raptors:



Okay, admittedly, that is a raptor.  But I swear to you there were three there just two seconds before I got the camera aimed.  Little buggers buggered off as fast as they could fly, didn’t they, but this bugger was too slow.  And so we have a nice eagle (I think) soaring over our lovely rocks.

Speaking of rocks, oh, my darlings, just you wait until you see what I’ve found for you.  We’ve got a river for Anne, with lots of amazing erosion, and sediments for Karen.  I’ve got new bebbes that will make you drool.  Pretty rocks that may be just what Evelyn needs.  And one of the most incredible boulders I’ve ever had the pleasure to squee over, which is going to require Callan to get to the bottom of.  I’ve got mountains soaring over raging rapids, and some truly nice gneiss, and confections of conglomerate, and I think we’ve even got serpentine.  We’ve got stuff I just have to identify as fuckifIknowite, so hopefully some of you will step in and identify, however tentatively.  Yes, I know what it’s like trying to identify from photos, but still.  And wait till you see the folds in some of these puppies.  We’re talking rocks that’ve really been through it.  We’re talking subduction zone veterans that have been pushed, pulled, squished and squeezed, put under pressure, had their metaphorical feet held to the metaphorical fire, been chewed up and spit out, and basically demonstrate to even the casual geology buff how intense it gets out here on the edge of colliding continents.

And the schist.  Holy shit, the schist I found…

I’ve got flowers, too.  Bleeding hearts and lupines and others, oh, my.  Not to mention a double-winged dragonfly.  So stay tuned.

Dojo Summer Sessions: Giving Yourself Permission to Suck

I’ve probably gone on about this subject before, but it bears repeating: with a few incredibly rare exceptions, a written work does not emerge whole and complete and beautiful on the first go.  We writers are not Zeus, and our stories are not Athena, sprung fully-formed from our foreheads.

This can be hard to remember when staring at a blank page with your Inner Editor screaming “You must be instantly perfect!” in the background.

Allow me to allow you to eavesdrop on just such a conversation I had the other night with my own Inner Editor, whose sadism is second only to that of my Muse:

Me: [staring at blank page] I wonder how this scene should start.

Inner Editor: [shouting] You’ve already started with landings too many times!  The story must move!  There should be action!  If you screw this up, no reader will read anything by you ever again in the whole of eternity!

Me: Dude, that’s not helping.

Inner Editor: [still shouting] Where is this scene going?  What is its purpose?  What is its dramatic tension?

Me: [looking up pictures of Mediterranean trees and pretty vugs in limestone on the intertoobz] HellifIknow.  I just started the damned scene, you jackass.  Actually, I haven’t started the damned scene, because you won’t STFU.

Inner Editor: [screaming] There must be a hook!  There must be a reason!  Why are you wasting your time on trees and vugs which will only have to be cut out later?!

Me: [looking up sphalerite on Wikipedia] Because I need a good feel for this place, and because I’m hoping you’ll get bored and go away.

(Eventually, the scene starts.  There is a lingering in a grove, and a lizard, and a nice vug in limestone, with trees looming overhead.)

Inner Editor: [flecks of spittle flying] No one will want to read this! It’s boring! It has no tension, no action, it does nothing to further the story!

Me: [looking up calcite on Wikipedia and then chasing after scalenohedra]  Yes, well, I’m writing my way in, aren’t I?

Inner Editor: [tearing out handfuls of hair] No one will even know what scalenohedra means!

Me: So?  I do.  Now.  And isn’t this the bit you’re insisting we’ll have to cut later anyway?

Inner Editor: [apoplexy imminent] That is no excuse for writing badly!

Me: Dude, it’s fan fiction.  The whole point of writing fan fiction was to get you off my back while I have a good romp through my world and poke in a bunch of crannies.  It’s never going to be revised, much less published, much less even shown to anyone except Garrett and he’ll think the techonobabble fits the character anyway.  So go the fuck away so I can get everybody out of this copse of trees and on to the action.

Inner Editor: [veins in neck exploding] But – but- but -

Me: Fan.  Fiction.

Inner Editor: ….

Only mostly dead, alas, but at least we got some brief peace.  And I went on to enjoy the company of a sexually-confused lizard, wander through a lovely little valley and vineyard, and find out about one of the most badass women in Xtalean history.  I can’t wait to introduce my readers to her.

Is what I wrote that night perfect?  No.  Not even close.  But the point is, it doesn’t have to be.  It’s words on a page that I didn’t have before, a person and a place I didn’t know until now.  Time and rewrites (although not of this particular work) will take care of teh suck.  That goes for academic writing as well.

So, when faced with that blank page, give yourself permission to suck.  Not only that, give yourself permission to suck so badly that you’ll be contacting a computer consultant to wipe all traces of the first draft off your computer.  Invest in duct tape for your Inner Editor, and, should that not work, engage in a little justifiable homicide.  And then just get on with it.  Get sidetracked, go off on tangents, let the story lead you around like a very confused, easily distracted, yet very enthusiastic small child.  Because, and this is the important thing, there will always be a gem among the dross, and there will always be some way of fixing it, if not on the second go, then on Rewrite #42.  Even if you throw very nearly every word away, you’ve at least had the pleasurable experience of telling your dread Inner Editor to go suck it.

Go forth and write.

Los Links 6/17

Our streak is broken.  Better late and all that.  Especially since there’s quite a bit of yummy stuff here for ye.

Our weekly dustup was finding out that a Gay Girl in Damascus was actually a middle-aged white male with delusions of importance.  I figure the following link is very much worth highlighting:

The Rumpus: A Note to My Fellow White Males.  A must-read for any white male wanting to become a lesbian minority on the intertoobz.

For any of my readers who may be wondering if Dana Hunter is also a middle-aged white male, the answer is no.  And should you fall prey to any doubts, you can come see me in really real life, and I’ll give you all the necessary clues with which to track down my history, complete with family, friends, teachers, employers and so forth who can all attest that the only fiction I write is clearly marked as such.  I’d never do to you what this shite did to the online community.

Wot a fucktard.  Let us waste no more time upon him.

Science

KGW.com: OR computer simulation helps tsunami planning. This is one of the most sensible things done by town planners ever.

Grist: How to stay cool for next to nothing 1.   Summer salvation on the cheap! Especially nifty for those of us with no A/C.

Andrew Alden: Petit-Spot Volcanism.  I had no idea anything like this even existed.  That’s why I love geology – always something new and interesting!

Highly Allochthonous: Flooding Around the World. A nice (and sobering) roundup of floods happening all over the place.

Looking for Detachment: Cathedral Gorge I.  A truly, truly gorgeous gorge.  I mean, seriously beautiful, and you should all go look at it right now.

Highly Allochthonous: Why does a compass point north? A mystery at the heart of the story of science (book review).  Since I’ve slacked off on Tomes 2011, let Chris add to your “must have this book!” list.

Balanced Instability: I gay wrote this post.  An excellent inside look at what it’s like to be out in the sciences.

Speakeasy Science: Chemical Free Crazies.  Find out why the fashion section can make people hit themselves in the face with the newspaper.

Elsevier: Reviewer’s quick guide to common statistical errors in scientific papers (pdf).   It’s meant for reviewers, but this guide can serve everyone who ever encounters a graph.  Yes, that means you.

Retraction Watch: Geology retraction unearths a dead co-author and plagiarized image of “Himalayan” rock actually from Norway. Controversy in the geological community!  See how scientists keep the unscrupulous from screwing everything up.

Why Evolution is True: Liberal Christian rag: creationism and evolution are “competing myths”. Um, no.  Really not. Nice takedown by Jerry Coyne.

Geomagnetism.org: Why should the taxpayer fund palaeomagnetic research? The reasons may surprise you – and make you happy to pay the cost.

Observations of a Nerd: Alien Invasions: Do They Deserve Their Bad Rep?  I think it’s safe to say yep.  They certainly do.

Glacial Till: A few pictures from my petrology trip to the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon.  I love geo posts that make me jealous.  This is one.

Magma Cum Laude:  Obsidian hunting in the Jemez Mountains.  So is this one. Gorgeous! And fun!

Scientific American: The Power of Theory in Science.  This is one of those posts you should send to everyone who’s unclear on what “theory” means to science.

Dangerous Experiments: Psychology Tomorrow: The Mental Disorders of our Future.  Okay, this is awesome: DSM-V proposed disorders as suffered by comic book characters.

The Panda’s Thumb: We get mail.  Stupid creationist mail, but what a great opportunity to share science!

Clastic Detritus: Linking Erosional and Depositional Landscapes.  I love seeing research blogging, and while sediments may sound boring, they’re actually quite fascinating.

Scientific American: When Cells Discovered Architecture.  Multicellular, complex life is older than you realize.  And weird, and wonderful.

Outside the Interzone: Preventing A Cave Calamity. Caves are fragile, beautiful things – even your clothes could harm them.

Phylogenetic Tree Hugger:  Hyenas give birth through their clitoris and other facts. Um.  Ow. And wow.  I have a whole new respect for hyenas now.

Laelaps: The Spectacular Strobe Squid. They will blind you with their light!  “Amaze Your Friends and Startle Your Enemies With the Spectacular Strobe Squid! *(Tank and squid food sold separately.)”

Lapham’s Quarterly: Death in the Pot.  Which is exciting, intriguing, and the best damned argument for food safety standards ever. You know those people who say the free market will protect our food supplies? Send them this article to show them just how the free market behaved.

Boston.com: Japan: three months after the quake.  Striking, incredible images that remind us just how enormous this disaster was.

Grist: Houses made of bacteria could save 800 million tons of CO2.  Bacterial brickmakers.  How awesome is that?

Mountain Beltway: Lawhorne Mill High Strain Zone.  Delicious rocks that have, shall we say, not been treated gently.

Quest: Geological Outings Around the Bay: The Cordelia and Green Valley Faults.  Forget the San Andreas for a while and go enjoy these!

Daily Kos: Effing Liars.  In which I am not the only one willing to use naughty language in relation to creationist liars leading geologists around.

Scientific American: From the Shadows to the Spotlight to the Dustbin–the Rise and Fall of GFAJ-1.  The penultimate post on the #arseniclife debacle.

ChemBark: Felisa Wolfe-Simon Does NOT Get It.  She’s got a long way to go before she’ll climb out of this hole and earn any scientific respect.  I’ll add that the popular media that fell for her hype needs a loving whack from a clue-by-four, too.

Writing

Wonders & Marvels: I get by with a little help from my friends…  The power of writing groups, even itsy-bitsy ones, can be substantial.

Skulls in the Stars: H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free (1914).  In which I learn H.G. Wells was a lot more interesting than I’d imagined – and it is once again demonstrated that science fiction can change the world.

Patricia C. Wrede: Where one writes.  Bet you didn’t think your office was detrimental to your writing, but could well be.

xoJane: It Happened to Me: ‘The Babysitter’s Club’ Changed My Life. Twist: it changed HIS life.  Yes, guys can be “girly book” fans.

Pharyngula: Alan Moore at Cheltenham.  Because this helps me make sense of myself: “Moore is a writer, and his explanation was basically that the weirdness was to spark creativity; for instance, he talked about staring into a quartz crystal and seeing visions, but he was quite plain that it wasn’t supernatural, it wasn’t the crystal, it was his own mind generating and imposing ideas on what he saw. And that’s all right with me — it fits very well with how I see science functioning.”

Blood Writes: Cover Page Design for the Dirt Poor and Graphically Challenged. For those of you worried you’ll have to acquire a second job to pay for book design, here’s reason to relax.

Writer Beware Blogs: Book Marketing Methods That Don’t Work. So avoid spending any $s on ‘em.

A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing: Improving Creativity: The Envision Brainset.  I can attest that this works like a charm.  Though, of course, writers being writers, your mileage may vary.

The Business Rusch: Bookstore Observations.  Now I’m afraid to visit Barnes and Noble again…

The Coffee-Stained Writer: The nature of the freelancing beast.  Some excellent advice for anyone wanting to freelance.

Women’s Issues

The Mary Sue: Comics Illustrator Raises Money For Texas Cheerleader Who Refused to Cheer Her Rapist.  This is a genius idea.

Tumblinfeminist: Fool Proof Sexual Assault Prevention Tips. These should be posted everywhere.  And society should be ashamed for not thinking of them before.

The Fourth Vine: The Women Men Won’t See.  The next time you wonder why more women don’t like comics, consider this as part of the explanation.  (Mind you, I’ve not experienced these problems in comic shops myself, so don’t condemn with a broad brush.)

Streets Blog:  Saudi Arabia on the Hudson: NYPD Officer Stopped Cyclist For Wearing Skirt.  Seriously fucked up, seriously sexist, serious abuse of power, and I hope the NYPD seriously gets its ass kicked over shit like this.

Skepchick: Sunday AI: Kicking ass in high heels.  An artist puts dudes in women’s costumes.  Hilarity ensues.

The White Coat Underground: NYT: Women are ruining medicine.  One of my favorite doctors with one of my favorite smackdowns.

On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess: The Noble Priesthood and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.  Another favorite doctor completes the fatal beating.

Almost Diamonds: The Good Bad Girl.  Do not fuck with our Harley Quinn.  Or our Stephanie Szvan.  The latter’s actually more important for you to remember.  Harley’s a homicidal maniac, but Stephanie is a writer.  Also, Dreaming for Women.  The commencement speech that should have been.

The Guardian: Afghanistan worst place in the world for women, but India in top five.

The Hot Word: What is “Mrs.” short for? The answer may make you blush (or at least laugh).  After you get done sputtering in mirth and outrage, head over here and pick yourself a new honorific from the “title” dropdown.  I’m rather fond of “Vicondessa” at the moment, but “Rt Hon Baroness” also would do – or should I keep it simple and stick with “Lady”?

The Nation: A Conversation With Saudi Women’s Rights Campaigner Wajeha al-Huwaider. Love this quote: “Secular society is a better bet for women—and men too.”  The whole interview’s well worth a read.

Religion and Atheism

Sydney Morning Herald: ‘I can still hear the kids’ scre
ams’
.  Do not tell me how wonderful Catholicism and the Catholic Church is.  Not ever.  Not when their abuses are so varied, pervasive, and horrific.

Alternet: 10 Scariest States to Be An Atheist.  Not a scientific survey, but a good one, and some of the idiocy will make your eyes pop.

Hibernia Times: Breaking Out from the Prison of Religion.  An amazing account from Paula Kirby on losing her faith and learning to question.

Pharyngula: Atheism ≠ fascism. Worth it for the takedown of the “atheism is fascism” argument, plus this: “Too often, the conversation between so-called ‘progressives’ and their opponents is one of gelatin-spined appeasers trying desperately to stave off the tyrants of the right by frantically retreating from the conflict.”  Too fucking right!

Society and Culture

The Last Word on Nothing: Secrets of British gravitas revealed.  Okay, you know what?  I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself, and it was totally worth that risk.

The Guardian:  What price freedom of expression now?  Read this, because it tells you a good amount of what you need to know about the evils of religion and nationalism.  And it has a really fantastic artist in it.

Butterflies and Wheels: Well thinking. Ophelia Benson tells those who can’t fathom assisted suicide to try harder.

Politics

Homeland Security Department curtails home-grown terror analysis. Because the right-wing hatemongers hate it when they get called out on their home-grown terrorism, and because so many of our officials are lily-livered cowards.

Mike the Mad Biologist: We Are Living Below Our Means, Not Above Them.  That is the first thing you need to remember while everybody screams about teh horrible debt.

Think Progress: Massachusetts Republican: Undocumented Immigrant Rape Victims ‘Should Be Afraid To Come Forward’.  Another one for the annals of Why I Consider Cons Such Complete Shits.

Skepchick: GOP Presidential Candidates: Don’t Vote For Us. Yep, that pretty much sums them up right there. Thanks, I won’t!

Washington Monthly: We shouldn’t grow inured to madness. Even though the sheer quantity of it makes it easy to become numb.

No Lounge Chair Shall Prevail

We’ve had occasional moments of summer, which means I’m forced to leave the sliding glass door open so that my felid can play Queen o’ the Porch.  So last weekend, there I was, trying to concentrate on me work, and I hears this clunk.

I looked outside in alarm, and in the next moment dove for the camera, because hilarity was about to ensue.



The important thing about leverage is, when you’re on one end of a very long lounge chair, and there’s nothing anchoring the other end, the end you’re on goes clunk.

I waited for the freakout.



Wobbly moment there, but back on terra firma, with all legs back where they belong.  However, this end of the lounge chair appears not to have met her strict standards.



For a while, there, it seemed she meant to tip it the other way.  But, on second thought….



It is apparently no fun courting disaster when mommy has the camera ready.  Note the “Do you really think I’m going to do anything humiliating with you watching?” expression.



Aaand success.  Humiliation averted, sunbeam acquired, smug expression firmly plastered. 

Now if only summer would come back…

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Golda Meir

One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.

-Golda Meir

I had a hard time choosing one quote from Golda Meir to highlight.  She could be by turns witty, wry, or profound.  Some of my favorite quotes regarding war come from here, and I’ll just share one of many here:

A leader who doesn’t hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.

She was Prime Minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.  She spoke from experience.

Golda’s one of those complex figures of history, neither perfect saint nor sinner.  She had her flaws, among them her tendency to dismiss Palestinians and their concerns outright for far too long.  But she was an iron-strong woman who fought like fury for her people, an incisive world leader who could call bullshit like no one else, and who never fell in love with war.  Just one final quote, then, which demonstrates that last:

It is true we have won all our wars, but we have paid for them. We don’t want victories anymore.

Now if only more leaders could come to that conclusion, there might be no need for victories.

On Terry Pratchett and Escape Routes

This news brought tears to my eyes, because I adore Terry Pratchett and I never ever want the world to be without him:

Three and a half years ago, Terry Pratchett, the beloved author of the Discworld series, announced that he has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Now he’s made an even more startling announcement.

Pratchett, who has campaigned in his native United Kingdom for the right of assisted suicide, has begun the formal process of assisted suicide in Switzerland, one of the few countries in the world to legalize euthanasia. Specifically, this would take place at Dignitas, a clinic that provides qualified doctors and nurses to assist with the patients’ suicides. 

Those of us who read Eric MacDonald’s beautiful blog know Dignitas.  It’s an amazing place, and I’m glad it’s there.  Because people need escape routes.

Which one of us wants to live on beyond hope?  Mind gone, life destroyed beyond recovery, each day one more endless slog of suffering and humiliation?  Very few of us, I’d bet.

And because of Switzerland’s compassionate laws and clinics like Dignitas, Terry Pratchett doesn’t have to.

Does the news he’s planning on ending his life shock and sadden me?  Of course it does.  I’ll miss him terribly.  He’s changed my life in so many ways, given me so many precious memories curled up with a Discworld book.  It hurts to lose him, hurts to know that the series will end far too soon, and that I won’t have a chance to ever shake his hand and say a heartfelt “Thank you.”  But, people, he has Alzheimer’s.  It’s already mauled his ability to write, and it will progress to the point where he can’t write at all.  It will steal his mind away, leaving a shell, and perhaps just enough awareness to know what’s happening.

I am a writer.  I have a damned good imagination, but I can’t imagine many things worse.

And how much worse is it when there’s no way out, no way to choose the moment, no way to cut out those awful bits at the end and go out on a high note?  To live in fear that one day, you’ll wake up and have nearly nothing of you left and know that it will only get worse and yet be forced to live through that nightmare for an unknown length of time?  I can’t speak for Terry, but I can speak for myself: that fear would consume me.  It would poison all the good moments left.  Much better to know there’s an escape route.  Much easier to live those last good days fully and happily when there’s an exit available.  Even if I can’t bring myself to walk through that door – and really, until I’ve got my hand on the handle, how can I know if I’ll have the emotional strength to turn it? – knowing it’s there would be an enormous comfort.

I’ve often said we treat our pets better than people.  We don’t let them linger on in horrible pain, not if we’re good and strong people who can do right by them.  I’ve made more than one trip to the vet with a beloved pet when there was no hope of any more good days, or too few to justify all the bad ones.  I’ve held them as they died.  And it’s hard.  It’s so hard.  But it’s the right thing to do.

Why shouldn’t I be able to do that for my mother, who lives in dread of suffering and dying like her own mother did, mind gone and only a confused, agonized shell lingering on?  Why shouldn’t I be able to choose people to do the same for me?

People have this knee-jerk horror at the idea of someone taking their own life.  They seem to believe no one should have that choice, and they give reasons.  Some, I even agree with.  This isn’t a decision that should ever be made lightly: it needs to be understood that it’s irreversible, and that some things are worth living through for a bit to see if they get better, because they so often do.  This isn’t a decision that should ever be forced on a person.  But there are so many ways to ensure those things are suitably addressed, and they shouldn’t stop us from allowing people who want it an escape route.

As for the other reasons, such as it’s God’s choice and not ours – well, those arguments are invalid.  So are the slippery slope arguments used as camouflage for the religious ones.  We’re not going to see grandmas and grandpas bundled off wholesale just because assisted suicide is legal.  There may be isolated incidents.  You know what?  There already are, and always will be, and demanding a perfect system with no errors is just another way of ensuring the escape route stays blocked off for everyone forever.  So fuck that.

I hope, once those papers are signed, Terry Pratchett can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with living a lot more life before the time comes.  I hope we don’t lose him so soon.  But at least he’s got the escape route open.  No matter when he chooses to go, at least it’s his choice, not the disease and not society.  He won’t be trapped with no way out.

It’s time other people got to have that same choice.

(Eric MacDonald on Pratchett and the Choosing to Die program is well worth reading.)

Lying Liars and the Creationist Bastards Who Lead Field Trips

It’s be a while since we’ve had the Smack-o-Matic off the woodshed wall.  I shall now proceed to lift it down reverently, blow the dust from it, give it a loving polish, and proceed to administer it to some very deserving bottoms.

If you are one of those people prone to troll about “tone” and has to look for a fainting couch whenever a Gnu Atheist is the slightest bit mean to those poor ickle Christians, you’d best exit the cantina now.  I have now prepared the Smack-o-Matic for maximum smackage, and I am about to be very Not Nice.

Check out this dastardly bunch of outrageous liars:

In almost every way, the “Garden of the Gods at Colorado Springs” excursion at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) last year was a normal — even enjoyable — field trip. Standard geologic terminology was used in the accompanying field trip guide, and throughout the trip itself. The trip leaders discussed past events in terms of millions and billions of years. At each stop along the trip, the guides relied on orthodox geologic thinking, including a standard examination of sedimentary features and the nature of contacts between units.

But in reality, the trip was anything but a normal geology field trip. Instead, it was an example of a new strategy from creationists to interject their ideas into mainstream geology: They lead field trips and present posters and talks at scientific meetings. They also avoid overtly stating anything truly contrary to mainstream science.

But when the meeting is over, the creationist participants go home and proudly proclaim that mainstream science has accepted their ideas. 

Who led the field trip? 

Lesse… we had not one but two buffoons from the Institute for Creation Research: Steve Austin and Bill Hoesch.  Marcus Ross, formerly of that noxious bunch of anti-evolution fucktards who plague my beautiful city of Seattle, also known as the Discovery Institute.  He’s currently teaching at Liberty University, which is so anti-intellectual I’m not sure how anyone calls it a “university” without laughing themselves to death.  John Whitmore, who’s with Cedarville University in Ohio, stuffing liberal Christian students’ heads with nonsense.  Lest you be persuaded by the “liberal” part that there must be some sanity at that school, consider this factoid: “Cedarville’s official doctrinal statement declares, ‘We believe in the literal six-day account of creation’ and requires that all faculty ‘must be born-again Christians’ who ‘agree with our doctrinal statement.'”  Oh, yes, liberal.  Liberal stupidity, perhaps.

The last, Tim Clarey, gets hardly a mention in the article, so I did a quickie on Google.  All I can say is, Delta College in Michigan must be really fucking hard up for geology professors if they let the editor of  “Proceedings of the Second Conference on Creation Geology” (.pdf) teach.  Oh, but he’s fun and stuff and he doesn’t make you use the text book.  I wonder why that is….

I have something against these arseholes.  No, it’s not because they’re the kind of dumbshit Christian who tries to shoehorn 4.5 billion years of geology into 6,000 years and one really big flood (instead of “God did it!” at every turn, with creationist geologists, you hear “the Flood did it!”  All. The. Time).  They’re welcome to be as stupid as they like.  They can play with their Magic Sky Daddy and believe the Bible’s really really real and true and totally accurate even in all those bits that are flat-out wrong or completely contradict other bits of the Bible.  They’re even welcome to come to conferences and present their “science” along with all of the supposed data they’ve amassed.  Go on, give us a laugh.  And if they’ve got real data, solid data, data that proves what they’re saying beyond a reasonable doubt, bring it!  It’s science, baby. 

Now, they haven’t got that data and the chances they ever will are roughly on par with my waking up tomorrow and actually deciding that my day job is the best job in the whole universe, but still, let ‘em try.

No, what I have against them is the fact that they’re lying little shits who do their damnedest to snow everyone.  They’re deceptive ratfuckers who, when among the real scientists, pretend they’re down with this millions-of-years stuff.  They use the big geology words and sometimes even salt their bullshit with a little actual geology to disguise the taste of what they’re serving up.  Just check this out:

Field trip 409 was not the first such creationist-led geology excursion at a GSA meeting. At the 2009 annual GSA meeting in Portland, Ore., four of the five trip leaders (Austin, Whitmore, Clarey and Ross) organized a field trip to Mount St. Helens to examine catastrophic erosion resulting from the 1980 eruption. After that trip, the Institute for Creation Research ran a headline bragging, “Christian Geologists Influential at GSA Meeting,” noting that Austin’s “peer-reviewed manuscript was published by GSA.”

In truth, every field trip guide that year was published in the book “Volcanoes to Vineyards.” Austin’s guide, “The dynamic landscape on the north flank of Mount St. Helens,” followed normal geologic thinking and contained no direct creationist arguments — though attempts to link Mount St. Helens to the Grand Canyon erosional processes might have proved puzzling to attendees. 

That, my friends, is despicable.  It’s behavior beyond the pale.  These people pretend to be really real scientists, if slightly weird ones, with nary a mention of their Young Earth beliefs and their 6,000 year timeline and they don’t breathe a word of Noah’s Flood, all so that they can get their photo taken with actual really real scientists and pretend they’ve wowed ‘em – and they lie about their supposed publications, and they deceive the folks back home, the poor innocent little fucktards in the pews, into thinking actual fucking geologists respect their Biblical bullshit.

Just one more example shall suffice to show what two-faced ratfucking rat bastards these assholes are:

“Millions of years” was a phrase that also appeared in Ross’ talk on Late Cretaceous marine stratigraphy; many of his slides used normal geologic time, with millions of years clearly labeled on axes. Nothing in his 15-minute talk hinted at nonstandard geologic thinking. Because most of the audience probably did not know Ross’ background, it must have been puzzling to them when the first question following Ross’ talk challenged him on how he could “harmonize this work with [his] belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth.” (This question came from University of Florida geology professor Joe Meert, who blogged about the exchange.)

Ross answered the question by saying that for a scientific meeting such as GSA, he thought in a “framework” of standard science; but for a creationist audience, he said, he used a creationist framework. Judging from the reaction of the audience, this answer caused more confusion than enlightenment. Ross pointed out that nothing in his presentation involved Young-Earth Creationism. But he then volunteered that he was indeed a Young-Earth Creationist.  [Outraged emphasis added]

Is it just me, or is that an insult to both the geological profession and the Christian faith?  I mean, seriously.  Is there anyone they won’t lie to?

That’s the reason I have not refrained from using the naughty words in abundance when referring to this merry band of despicable fucktards.  They don’t even have the courage of their convictions.  They can’t stand up and say, “I believe this, and here’s the evidence I’ve found that might support that believe if you squint a lot and drink some Drano and pretend that radiometric dating doesn’t exist.”  They have to lie to us, and then they lie to believers who have no idea how science works but get a thrill up their leg when they think that their Bronze-Age beliefs are validated by actual scientists.  And that offends me on so many levels I can’t explore them all.

The writer of the article describing this atrocity thinks we should allow them to continue to infest conferences.  And I say, “Yes.  By all means – if they are required to proclaim, baldly, up front, and without prevarication, just precisely what it is they believe.”  None of these games where they play the Serious Scientist at professional, mainstream geology conferences and then spew Young Earth creationism all over the Christian circles back home, all the while proclaiming that because they didn’t get run out of the conference on a rail, that means genuine scientists believe them.

But they’ll never be honest, because they know real geologists will never accept them if they tell the truth.  So the liars for Jesus will continue to lie.  And geologists, like biologists, will have to expose their Trojan-horse antics before, like termites, they undermine the foundations.

When Lives Are On The Line: Part I

[Guest blogger Kaden]

Call 9-1-1

Easy to remember and ingrained since childhood, call these three simple numbers and you can reach police,

fire, or medical assistance. And that’s about the extent of the average person’s knowledge of 9-1-1.

This series is meant to give you some insight inside my world, but mostly its just an excuse for me to talk a lot. Dana seems concerned about her stockpile of ready blog posts, and I have a ton of very, very important things to do. So it seemed only natural to stop doing those and get sidetracked.

[Speaking of sidetracked, a disclaimer: I am speaking merely as an individual, the views and opinions expressed below belong solely to me and not any public department or agency. I do not represent any government body. When consulting your local police or fire department, keep in mind that individual results may vary.]

In 1968, Robert Fitzgerald introduced North America to the 9-1-1 emergency telephone system. In the 43 years since then, the number 9-1-1 has become a nationally known resource for putting the ordinary citizen in touch with emergency services. In the 43 years since then, 9-1-1 has expanded and grown, and at the same time has retained an almost superhero-esque anonymity. And while I like to think of myself as a caped crusader rescuing innocent lives in the struggle against the dangers of everyday life, it’s not nearly that glorious. For one thing, we don’t get capes.

Man, I wish we got capes.

Before I dive too deep, let me give an overview of how 9-1-1 works, at least in my neck of the woods. Keep in mind that individual laws and regulations, as well as funding, means that emergency services may work very differently around the country and even in the same region. I work in Oregon and even some of our neighboring counties have fewer or greater services than we provide. Still, it follows a basic plan.

When you call 9-1-1 from any phone in the United States, either cell phone, landline, Voice-over IP (VoIP) phones, or payphone, your call is routed to the nearest PSAP, or Primary Service Answering Point. From there, your call may be handled by the PSAP’s agency, or may be transferred to a Secondary answering point. For example, my PSAP intakes 9-1-1 calls for most of the county, but we only dispatch for the fire department and 1 metro city police department. If you call 9-1-1 here and you are in a nearby city, you are then transferred to the appropriate police agency’s emergency line, and will be handled there. So we are a filter of sorts.

From there, your information is taken and emergency responders are dispatched to the location. Police for criminal matters, or the fire department for medical problems or, well, fires.

In smaller cities, the person who answers the phone may be the same person who is dispatching. That is, they operate the radio and the phones at the same time. I’ve even heard horror stories about call centers with such low staffing that if you have to use the bathroom, you have to take a portable radio with you.

In larger cities, you will usually be handled by a “calltaker”, whose sole responsibility is to answer phone lines (usually both emergency and non-emergency, such as asking questions for the police, directions to the nearest bar, or how long its going to take for the President to fix X, Y, and especially Z. Curse you Z). From there, your information will be given to a dispatcher who will send the little cars and big trucks with the flashing lights. In my agency, police and fire are even handled by separate dispatchers.

This doesn’t have much impact on most people, but if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to call 9-1-1, it might help to keep in mind the general structure. The person who picks up the phone may not be the agency you are looking for. Just because you call 9-1-1 doesn’t mean you will get your local police or fire department, if the PSAP answers for multiple agencies or a large jurisdiction. Because they may have to transfer you to the right people, they may not have control over actually sending the responders. This is doubly true when there is a calltaker-dispatcher set-up. So keep in mind that while you’re shouting “where is my police officer?”, the person you are talking to may not have any control of their response.

Let me make myself clear, though. I am not telling you how to act or what to say while calling the police or fire department. It is not your job, as a citizen, to be familiar with “How To Call 9-1-1″. It is our job as dispatchers and calltakers to be able to extract the information that we need to get you help. I am not educating you as “9-1-1 Callers” because hopefully you will never have to use it. And if you do, you’ll probably be more concerned with the task at hand than telephonic etiquette. I’m merely letting you look behind the Wizard’s screen a bit and see what happens on the other side.

Further clarification of how 9-1-1 works. When you call 9-1-1, we do not (at least not our PSAP) have magical CIA satellites monitoring your every move. We do not necessarily know your exact pinpoint location just because you are calling from a cell phone. There are a few reasons this doesn’t work.

When calling from a land line, your physical address is only as good as the phone records. Which, to be fair, are usually quite good, but not imperfect. If you call from a house phone, our system is recognizing the address that the phone number is registered to, which is some cases is not always accurate. This is especially true when dealing with “routing” lines and large business network lines. If your business phones pass through a network router, the address of the business line may not be the same as where you are calling from.

VoIP phones also run a similar system of address registration. When you sign up for the service, you enter an address for the account, and when that system dials 9-1-1, that’s what we see. You may not be anywhere nearby, but that’s the registered address. The shadier uses of this includes using a deliberate fake address to mislead emergency responders, but that is a different topic.

Now, cell phones. Ah, cell phones. In this day and age of phones smarter than my desktop computer, people assume we know everything about them when they call. When you call from a cell phone, the call is bounced off a cell tower and then placed here. When we pick it up, we can hope for two things. “Phase 1″, which is the location of the cell phone tower. Yep, the nearest cell tower, which could have an effective area of square miles. If we’re lucky, depending on the reception where you are and the kind of phone you’re using, we can get “Phase 2″, which gives us GPS coordinates of the approximate location of your cell phone. Sometimes these are pinpoint, and sometimes with an effective range of several thousand meters. So yes, we will ask you for the location of the incident, even though you are calling from your cell phone, and even though your phone can tell you its exact location three states away while in an underground solid lead bunker.

Plus, technology is all wonky and sometimes gets fickle and doesn’t do what its supposed to.

Well, I think that about does it for an introduction. Tune in (or tune out) the next installment, where I’ll explain why it took over a year to get hired here.

For some of my creative musings, stop by The Elusive Muse.