Atlantis: Time to Say Goodbye

Watching her land live was agony and ecstasy.  I wish it wasn’t the last, but at least her final approach was pitch-perfect and altogether beautiful.

I took screenshots of that historic final landing.  Figured I’d share.



Pilot’s view on the final approach.



Atlantis on infrared.



You can see the glow around her.  She’s hot!  Twin sonic booms nearly stopped my heart before they announced what they were.



Pilot’s view of the runway.



And again, with a little flare of color.



And here she is, about to touch down.



Almost down.



Touching down.



Love that smoke – from the tires?  I don’t know enough about these landings to tell.  But it’s beautiful.



Chute deployed.



Steaming hot! Watching that steam come off her in infrared was really fascinating – it looked almost like smoke signals.  As dawn came and they took close shots of the nose of the orbiter, you could see the air wavering from the heat coming off her.



And there she is, crew members out, mission complete.  STS135, the final orbit, an unqualified success.



Yeah, that deserved a high five.

America’s future in space is uncertain.  That’s the only darkness on this day.  I just hope the next manned ship this country launches is the one that takes us beyond our own horizons.  I want to see a geologist on Mars.

Make it so, America.

And for Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Endeavor, and Enterprise, the song that cycled through my mind as I watched the last of you land for the very last time:

Goodbye, old friends. I’ll miss you.

A ‘Nym is Not an Unknown

I like Google+, I do, but I’m not liking their recent purge of pseudonymous folk at all.  It’s not right that people like Bug Girl and DrugMonkey face the choice between revealing their real names or getting banned.  And we’re not talking just having their profiles deactivated, no, it’s worse than that: they were exiled completely from Google+, not allowed to even follow along in silence, all for the terrible crime of not writing under their “real” name.  Fortunately, it seems they’re now allowed to view, but nothing else.

Google+ is going to have to deal with a few facts or shrink dramatically.

A ‘nym is not an unknown.  Names are easy to fake.  Reputations are not.  Over the months and years, pseudonymous folk build up a reputation, and that reputation follows the ‘nym.  So let’s not pretend that a pseudonym is the same as anonymous.  Some people still get confused about that – apparently, Google+ is, too, and it’s pathetic at this late stage in the game.  Allowing people to use their pseudonyms will not throw open the gates to barbarians and trolls.  Disallowing ‘nyms won’t prevent people from being assclowns.  What Google is doing is about as sensible as banning all Muslims from airports because the vast majority of people who hijack planes are Muslim.  You harm a lot of very good people for very little gain.  There are better ways of guarding against undesired behaviors.  Such as, banning the people who actually engage in those behaviors, regardless of whether they use their real names or not.

Google seems to have this idea that people only use a ‘nym because they’re up to no good.  That’s ridiculous.  There are plenty of excellent reasons why someone wouldn’t want to go by their real name.  I chose a pseudonym a long time ago (ye gods, nearly twenty years, how time flies), not because I wanted to hide my real self but because my legal name isn’t one I want on the cover of my books.  Grow up with a last name associated with a very kitschy retailer, deal with the endless no-longer-funny jokes, and on top of that have a character filch your first name, and before long, you’re having nightmares about doing very Not Nice things to fans who unwitting tell you the Not Funny Joke for the billionth-and-eleventy-first time.  In the interests of public relations, I have to be a ‘nym.

But there are deeper reasons.  Much, much deeper.

I do not want my identity stolen.  I do not want to be stalked.  I do not want current or future employers deciding my liberal tendencies or my atheism or whatever else makes me suddenly unemployable, despite an exemplary track record.  I do not want my rapist able to locate me simply by searching my name. Those, it seems, are reasons enough not to operate online under my legal name.  Besides, my legal name weirds me out, now.  I hear it and it sounds wrong.  I’m Dana Hunter, online and off (except at the office).  That’s me.  Not this stranger on my driver’s license.

There are ‘nyms out there who have even better reasons.  ‘Nyms who risk death by being who they are, and would potentially be tracked down and killed if they went by their real names – Muslims who deconvert, for instance, or women escaping abusive former spouses.  There are ‘nyms who would be ostracized were certain things about them known: that they’re LGBTQ, or atheists.  There are ‘nyms who would lose their jobs for saying what they do: whistleblowers, or simply people who have a lot to share but whose companies don’t want them to discuss anything even tangentially related to their employment in public.  All of these ‘nyms have something of interest to say, something of value to contribute, and the intertoobz would be a far poorer place were they silenced.  Google+ certainly will be a sanitized wasteland if they’re all exiled from it.

And how does it possibly make sense to force ‘nyms to use their real names, even if they’re able?  We don’t know who the fuck John B. Smith is.  We don’t care.  We know a ‘nym, and a ‘nym is who we’re looking for when we go to add that beloved person to our circles.  And how do you, Google, know that John B. Smith is the name behind the ‘nym?  Because it’s a “real” name, not something even the most drug-addled hippie parent would have named a child?  How do you know that real-sounding name wasn’t just cobbled together from a few random entries in a phone book?  We don’t present proof of identity when we sign up.  Google doesn’t have Dana Hunter’s driver’s license or birth certificate on file.  (Should they ever ask, though, I can point them to a rather large number of people in both my online and offline worlds who’d know who Dana Hunter is and could easily pick me out of a crowd.  Even my parents know me by my ‘nym.) 

The solution to whatever it is Google’s hoping to prevent by banning ‘nyms – whether it’s sock puppetry or trolling or general asshattery – isn’t the nuclear option of banning everybody with an implausible name (including Chinese ones).  Just witness the security procedures that put innocent kiddies on no-fly lists only to let a terrorist named Richard Reid on board, no questions asked despite the bomb in his shoe, to see how effective such tactics are.  Targeted tools that enforce consequences for actual bad behavior make better sense, don’t ensnare the innocent quite so often, and ensure actual results.  That’s much more useful to a community. 

Google+ is new, and there are bound to be growing pains.  The real test is to see how they respond to their mistakes.  If they’re smart, they’ll fix their policy and let the poor exiled ‘nyms back in with a swift apology.

If not, my profile may not be long for Google+, whether they cotton to the fact I’m a ‘nym or not.  I don’t think I’d want to be part of an environment that’s unremittingly hostile to my Bug Girl and DrugMonkey friends.

You can help them do the right thing by adding your name (or ‘nym) here.

Cantina Collage o’ the Week: Juanita Bay Flowers

I haven’t restocked on quotes yet, so we’ll make do with collages.  Horrible torture, I know: I’m making you look at pretty things.

These are some of the many flowers I made friends with when my intrepid companion and I went to Juanita Bay in May, which adventure I meant to write up and completely forgot about.



You’ll notice Pacific Bleeding Heart in the bottom right, there.  I’d thought it was something they planted, so I’d forgotten all about it.  Funny how we get so much more excited when we know they’re wild.  At least, I do.

The purple ones against a blue sky in the bottom center were on a tree.  A huge tree.  A huge tree absolutely covered in purple flowers:



And from another angle in which you can see the flowers a bit better:



If anybody knows what it is, I’d count it a kindness if you let me know.

I’ll write up that adventure here eventually – just wait till you see the turtles!

Scenes from the Sound

This summer hasn’t been all that summery here in Seattle, so when the sun peeked out briefly on Monday afternoon, my intrepid companion and I scurried down to Carkeek Park in hopes of catching it.  We did.  And, bonus, I only came home with fourteen rocks this time!  One of them is a hefty chunk of what I’m almost certain is serpentinite.  If the sun ever comes out again, I’ll show it to you.

I love that rock with an unreasonable passion.

Anyway.  Lots of photos of interesting rockage to show you soon, but I haven’t got them ready, so you’ll have to settle for pretty pictures instead.  Poor you.  I treat you so badly.



Piper Creek flows out to the Sound here.  For some reason, there weren’t many seabirds but a huge number of crows.  I have no idea what this one was doing, but what a pose, eh?  And the rock it’s on has an interesting shape.  It puts me in mind of suiseki



Critters on a brick.  I have this abiding fondness for snails, don’t ask me why.  Maybe it’s because we brought a wild snail home from the lake once, and found out he was a he and our domestic snail was a she because of all the little baby snails that resulted.  There’s nothing like a tank full of baby snails to warm your young heart.



Looking south, you can see the mouth of Piper Creek and the lovely bluffs that bits of Seattle are built upon.  There’s a lot of geology in them thar hills, but you can’t see it for the biology, alas.



Ah, here I am with one of my pride and joys: a lovely chunk of granite or granodiorite with what look for all the world like gabbroic xenoliths.  I’ve been on the lookout for xenoliths, and these are the first undoubted ones I’ve seen in some time.  And – AND – I found one in a hand sample!  It’s sitting right here beside me, and I love it.

My intrepid companion was glad I found that rather than making him haul this boulder home.



Jellyfish!  More colorful than the ones who usually wash up round here.  Possibly he’s lying atop something reddish, but I have no idea what.  The green is seaweed.  I love these little jellyfish.  They sparkle like diamonds in the sun.



A red-sailed sailboat gliding by the Olympics.  Most of the sailboats out and about had white sails, so this one stood out.  I wish the Olympics were more than silhouettes against the clouds, but it’s Seattle.  We’re lucky we could see them at all.





I believe my intrepid companion said this was a Blackhawk.  Not like I’d know.  I know it’s a helicopter, and it’s black and very cool, and that’s quite enough to satisfy me.



Lovely sailboat right up close.  Most of them were distant.  This one, of course, sailed closer to shore right as the Sounder hove into view, so it was a frantic moment of snap-a-pic-spin-around-and-catch-the-train.  Why this couldn’t have shown up in the half-hour we waited for the Sounder to show up, I dunno.  But I did manage to get turned round in time to catch a very snazzy video of the Sounder rushing by.

This makes it look like we were insane close, but we weren’t quite as close as it appears.  Wonderful view though, eh?



And away it goes up the Sound toward Richmond Beach.  If that wasn’t enough train, click the link and have some more.  We got lots last year.

We didn’t stay for sunset – too hungry, too thirsty, and the kitteh needed to be sent out on the porch before the sun went completely away – but we stayed long enough for a lovely little glitter path to form, and the clouds and sky and Olympics and sailboat and glitter together make up for missing a sunset at least a little, don’t they just?



I do love it here.

Beware! The Health Water Pushers Want You Dead!

Well, brain dead, anyway, because how else are they going to transfer money from your wallet to theirs?

Take water.  Just yer basic water.  Now, I’ve fallen for the SoBe Lifewater scheme, not because of its supposed health benefits but because they add things to it that make it very tasty, and so I can drink something like Strawberry Dragonfruit and pretend I’m not really drinking water whilst still getting hydration.  And did I mention it’s so tasty?  There’s an adorable lizard, too.  So there we have added value I can taste and see.  But for other water needs, tap water run through a Brita filter works just fine.  It is healthy and cheap, a winning combo.

However.  It seems no item we put in our mouths is free from quacks.  I need to get Chaos Lee back here to tell you about that time he worked for a call center that took orders for infomercial products.  One company that contracted with them were selling “ionized water,” claiming all sorts of incredible health benefits.  During the meeting in which the company was extolling said benefits in order to make order-takers all excited about it, Chaos asked them unnerving questions based on basic chemistry, which ended in them claiming it was ionized because it had an extra neutron.  “That’s not ionized water,” Chaos said.  “That’s heavy water.”  Upon which the sales rep became upset, perhaps because health nuts might be hinky about buying something used to cool nuclear reactors.

But these days, “ionized” may sound a little too chemical, and we live in a society so obsessed with going chemical-free that some people market, with a straight face, a “chemical-free chemistry set.”  Deborah Blum had Things to say about that.  And this.  After that last episode, I really hope she doesn’t hear about this newest craze, because she might do herself an injury.  Still, the resulting blog post would be entertaining.

The newest craze, it appears, is for “organic water.”

Perched on a white tablecloth we noticed some very sleek water bottles, labeled Illanllyr SOURCE. A serious guy named Eric Ewell eagerly offered us a taste, “Try this pristine organic water.” We choked back a giggle. Organic? Really?
As the company’s website says, “Illanllyr … comes from our sources beneath certified organic fields in west Wales in the UK.” So, Ewell says, the water has never been tainted with chemicals, making it organic as it as it emerges from the ground.

Now, when I hear the word “organic” combined with “water,” I’m thinking of organic matter like cow shit floating around in it.  Especially since it’s beneath “certified organic” fields.  Already not really getting the super-healthy vibe.  And while the website touts the water’s location beneath a farm that’s never been farmed any other way than “organic,” thus supposedly ensuring the water is “organic” by proxy, those of us who know our geology are wondering about the details of the aquifer it comes from.  Water has this distressing tendency to travel, and who knows what non-organic ickyness it’s toured through?  I mean, really.  Never?  Never ever tainted with a single chemical?  Not in the whole history of the earth?  The gentleman has as much to learn about the water cycle as he does chemistry.

I notice Mr. Ewell or his staff have very carefully not put those “not tainted with chemicals” claims on their website.  Someone seems to have realized that their water does, in fact, contain chemicals.  They call them “minerals,” so as not to scare the anti-chemical crowd away, but it’s loaded with ‘em:



As for his “never been tainted with chemicals” claim made in person, I hate to break it to him: minerals are chemicals.  So, in fact, is H2O.  That’s two hydrogens and an oxygen, bonding into a water molecule, which is (cue scary music) a chemical!!!eleventyzomgwe’reallgonnadiiiiieeeee!!!!!!!

And if you purchase it from Mr. Ewell, a very expensive chemical it is, too.

But let’s get back to this “organic” claim.  Those of us who aren’t instinctive chemists have skimmed that word, thinking of it in the colloquial sense of “what you tell people something is so they’ll pay twice as much for it, believing it’s all-natural and much better for you than that non-organic shit.”  But of course, chemists are already prone on the floor, pounding their fists in the carpet and laughing helplessly, and Ed Yong is horrified:



When I read that tweet, I fell on the floor pounding fists into carpet, etc.  I may not be as well-versed in chemistry as I should be, but I do know that in chemistry, “organic” means “it’s got carbon in.”  Now, let’s see what we get when we add a little C to our  H2O, hence making it organic:



So, my darlings, remember: no water on earth is organic, and if you ever have the pleasure of someone trying to sell you “organic” water in person, you are now free to ask them why they think one of the main ingredients in embalming fluid is so much healthier than plain ol’ dihydrogen oxide.

Gorgeous.

Alaska, OHMMWCB Part 2: Tracy Arm

With a title that long, sometimes you just need an acronym.

Welcome back!  For those who missed it, here’s a link to Part 1 – Mendenhall Glacier. Today we’re headed down Tracy Arm toward a glacier we’ll never reach, but that’s okay–as any number of poets will attest, it’s the journey that counts.  Tracy Arm is a fjord near Juneau, a body of water we sailed where once there was only glacial ice.  There’s no way to decide whether Mendenhall Glacier or Tracy Arm was more amazing.  There were too many icebergs for the captain to maneuver the ship around the last corner to Sawyer Glacier, and I have zero complaints because my mind was already thoroughly blown by the journey there.

You see, the cruise ship we were on was a rather large cruise ship.  I don’t have a lot to go on comparison-wise, having only been on the one, but man that boat was HUGE.  Tracy Arm is…  well, rather narrow.  We were constantly threading a needle made of majestic, towering rock faces.  I lament the inability of mere mortal cameras to capture that feeling properly.  I felt dwarfed, insignificant, overawed.  Beyond a certain point, I edged into sensory overload; the terrain was just too relentlessly magnificent to really parse.  The human brain can only handle so much awesome.

Let’s see, shall we?


I know the names of neither mountain nor hanging glacier, here; this was “just” part of the scenery on the way to Tracy Arm from Juneau.  It just gets better from here.  Better, and different!


Once into Tracy Arm we encountered endless icebergs, many of which floated right beneath our balcony.  The waves you see there are wake, and the sound of water hitting iceberg was awesome, almost thundrous.  I am exceedingly curious as to what created all those ridged divets in the ice.  They’re so patterned, regular.





Here’s your first view of the walls of Tracy Arm.  Blue sky; towering, massive slabs of granite; glacial water.  It was all that gorgeous.  The granite walls made me feel so very small.  That looks distant; I cropped out a balcony railing that edged the frame.

Look at the lines in that great hunk of rock!  It’s so carved.  Those are some tenacious trees, too.  Along the left side, you can make out a waterfall ribboning down to the water.

Hey!  Is this a hanging valley?  It looks like what I’ve always imagined one to look like, but I crave confirmation.  Those monolithic domes of granite just kept getting larger and closer as we ventured further into Tracy Arm.

I need more words for “huge” and “majestic” and “rock,” because I’m running dry here.  This is around the time when my brain just stopped trying to cope with all the awe-inspiring nature towering above us.  Granite only impresses more when it’s so weathered; it conveys the passage of eons so perfectly.  Compared to that beautifully-carved rock wall, I was a tiny blip, beneath notice.  So thrilling!

This wasn’t the only dramatic, deep cut in the walls of the fjord, but it’s the one I got a good picture of.  I really wonder what sliced through the granite.  Is that cut made by flowing water, the valley for a glacial stream?  Another, not pictured here, was incredibly narrow and maintained the same width all the way up.  It was as if someone used a knife of ridiculous proportions on the granite, just like slicing a loaf of bread.

Here’s some action for us!  Doesn’t that look like a scar left by a massive rockslide?  It’s all rough and unweathered, with debris flowing down the rock face, and the edges are so clearly defined.  I bet there was one hell of a wave when all that granite hit the water.

What are these?!  How did those lines happen?  Is that all granite, or are those thin layers of some other rock zigzagging through?

I see at least three distinct shades in there: the pale, brownish rock; the dark thin lines; and the not-quite-so-dark stuff along the lefthand side that the lines also crisscross through.  This is why I want to be a geologist.  I look at something like that and I desperately long to know how it all got that way.

To me, the endless questions of “Why?” and “How?” lie at the heart of all science.  Geology in particular compels me because it shapes and underscores and propels everything on the Earth.  It’s not difficult to imagine how the idea of the classical elements came about: wind, rock, water and fire sculpting the land, both dramatically and invisibly, over immense periods of time.

The ship’s announced destination that day was Sawyer Glacier, but the journey there impressed so much more.  Our next trip winds inland up the Yukon Highway, through rocky terrain and over a seismic bridge.  See ya there!

Dojo Summer Sessions: What To Do When the Muse Is On Vacation

I think my Muse has headed south for the summer.  The wretched dominatrix has this infuriating habit of vanishing about the time I need her most, and I get the impression she’s in one of those Mexican hotels that’s got a bar in its pool and a nice view of the Sea of Cortez, drunk off her ass and laughing at me.

Where My Muse probably is right now

So here I am, left behind, doing the dirty work of cleaning the house and feeding the cat and working ye olde day job, with nary a useful literary thought in my head.  Staring at the blank page results in tension headaches and perpetually blank pages.  Attempts at research end early and badly, as an overwhelming sense of, “WTF was I thinking?  I can’t do this any justice!” destroys any bits learned.  And it just seems so much easier to give up, go laze about in the sun and do my damnedest to imitate my cat (sans random attempts at homicide).

Almost every writer goes through these phases.  Your Muse, in fact, may be partying it up with mine right now.  And they’re not physical entities, so we can’t exactly hop a plane to Mexico (don’t we wish!) and haul them back by their scruffs.

What to do?

Well, for one thing, have a blog that you must regularly update.  Because then, it won’t matter how uninspired you are – you have to post something because you have readers, and your readers expect you to write.  Even if you only have one reader, that’s still a reader.  Don’t let that reader be all understanding about your inability to provide content.  Advise them when they try that, “It’s okay, I understand you’re not feeling up to it, blog when you’re ready” shit that it’s not acceptable.  They’re supposed to be your cattle prod, not your enabler.  So even if they think it’s okay for you to slack off, ask them to lie to you and say that it is not.  This will force you to come up with some words.

Do some reading while you’re stuck.  Or watch a movie, or go for a walk, or hang out with friends, or take in a lecture, or just about anything, really.  Walk away from the blank screen and get some life experience.  Do those things you’re not allowed to do when the Muse is standing over you with a whip.  Those things will, eventually, feed back in to your writing, and might just spark a little something.

Do something completely random and new, that you have not done before, while you’re at it.  Novelty may not always be pleasant, but it can shake loose some creativity.

Do creative things other than writing.  Edit photos, play with collages, build models, sew, paint, make music, whatever.  I’ve gotten myself through some dry spells by doing that.  It takes the pressure off the writing side of your creativity so it can recover, while still building your creative muscle.

Make a little list.  Break out the things you must write or do in order to write into manageable chunks, and do them.  Force yourself to spend an hour working on said task, no matter how badly you feel you’re doing it.  Then walk away and do something else.  Come back and take on the next thing on the list (or just pick the next thing that looks doable, no matter what order it’s in).  Lather, rinse, repeat, until hey presto – you’ve done some writing!

Organize your shit.  If you’re one of those writers who lets things get chaotic, now’s a good time to put your writing house in order.

Read up on the bidness.  Plenty of blogs and books out there that talk about everything from the nuts-and-bolts of storytelling to finding agents (if you’re going the traditional route) to self-publishing to marketing and all points in between.  If you ever want to make a living writing, you’ve got to keep up with the business side of things.  During a bout of writer’s block is as good a time as any, even if you feel you’ll never ever write a worthwhile word again (you will).

And if you have to, if nothing’s working, go do one of those writing exercises that are so often plastered all over popular how-to-write sites.

The Muses will return from Mexico.  Eventually.  And now you’ll have at least a handful of pages to wave in their faces and scream, “While you’ve been drinking yourself into oblivion in the hotel pool, some of us have been working!”

That’s always rewarding.

Yeah, This Is Me With A Ginormous Glacial Erratic

This big beauty got dropped off near Lynnwood after hitching a ride on the Cordilleran ice sheet.  Look upon her and salivate:



Yes.  That is me, sitting on a convenient little niche in this maclargehuge boulder.  I’m 5’6″, for scale.  And yes, I’m sitting comfortably.



See?  Perfectly comfy.  Of course, from certain angles…



Now, those pictures are from its craggy side, and it makes the thing look kinda small.  It’s not kinda small.  It’s actually massive:



I dare any geologist to resist doing the Vanna thing when they’ve got a subject like this:



I’ve got some very nice close-up shots of this beauty I’ll share later.  The temptation to post this immediately proved overwhelming.

And everybody say thankees to my intrepid companion for doing the photographer thing so you guys could have moi for scale.

Los Links 7/15

Another week in which there’s just too much good stuff.  This is because the people I follow on Twitter rule the universe.  They’ve got great taste!

Elevatorgate continues apace.  Some of you are probably sick of hearing about it by now, but the first link explains why it matters.

Greta Christina’s Blog: Why We Have to Talk About This: Atheism, Sexism, and Blowing Up The Internet.  For all those weary of the subject, this is the one post you must read before walking away.

She Thought: Legitimate Anxiety.  The answer to all those idiots comparing anxiety caused by men to anxiety caused by black people.

The Biology Files: Who is the Elevator Man? For me, he’s someone I know.  A completely different take on the Elevator Man dust-up.

Focal Point: Attention, Space Cadets: Do Not Proposition Women in the Elevator. For those who aren’t quite getting that, a useful metaphor is contained herein. 

Lousy Canuck: The Problem with Privilege (or: missing the point, sometimes spectacularly).  See?  Men can get it. This man does. Men who aren’t getting it: bloody well go read this and see if maybe just a smidgeon of sense gets through.

That which deranges the senses: The elevator thing.  This post breaks things down into easily-understandable chunks, and includes simple advice on how to entice the ladies.

Daylight Atheism: Atheists, Don’t Be That Guy.  Really.  It’s that simple.

Pandagon: The “Nice Guy” defense.  Can we say fallacy, boys and girls?

Skepchick: Frequently Answered Questions.  Read over this list before babbling.

Right.  With that out of the way, on with the usual categories.

Science

Eruptions: Erik’s Volcano Nightmare: Why can’t the media get science right? Righteous outrage and some very good points.

Nature Newsblog: What’s new about new synthetic organs? Someday soon, made-to-order organs might become the order of the day.

PodBlack Cat: The Great Vaccination Debate Infographic.  It’s stark, seeing the difference between non-vaccinated and vaccinated. People who think vaccines don’t save lives need to take a second look at the numbers.

Geologic Froth: That fault only looks Photoshopped. It really does!

The Guardian: Effective things can come from silly places.  I did not need to know about Ben Goldacre’s golden anal beam.

Mountain Beltway: Cascade Canyon.  Haaawwwttt….

Earthly Musings: Time.  This is a mind-bending way of looking at your birthday, perfect for geologists!

Superbug: The Clap Came Back: Multi-Drug Resistant Gonorrhea.  Any future one-night stands will be delayed by STD testing.  Yeesh.

Slate: A Bad Case of the Brain Fags.  Minds out of the gutter, people!  Go find out what brain fags actually are before you embarrass yourselves.

C&EN: Itching To Know More About Itch.  Reading this made me itch.  But it was worth it.

Mind Hacks: Naomi Wolf, porn and the misuse of dopamine.  A thorough spanking of some egregiously bad “journalism.”  And look! It made it on to CNN!

Scientopia: Chemistry For The Zombie Apocalypse.  You will need this in your anti-zombie arsenal.

I Speak of Dreams: Waldorf/Steiner Schools and Low Vaccine Uptake Rates.  If you need a really good horrified laugh at some incredibly ridiculous woo, read on.

Glacial Till:  A quick preview of one of my meteorite samples.  Okay, people, meteorites in thin section. You do not want to pass this up! Also,  Meteorite Monday: Hoba Meteorite.

Uncovered Earth: Take a Hike: Saddle Mountain.  Michael covers some things about the hike the guidebooks don’t, plus yummy pictures!

Design Observer Group: The Scale of Nature: Modeling the Mississippi River.  It’s amazing what it takes to bring a mighty river under control.

Google Blog: Hats off to the winners of the inaugural Google Science Fair. Girl power, people! It’s nice to see so many young women get recognized for genius science ideas.

The Guardian: Everyday inspiration shines through at the Google Science Fair.  A closer look at some of the people and projects.

Cross-Check: Are Antidepressants Just Placebos With Side Effects?  Considering I have a mother who’s bipolar, this isn’t an academic question, but a matter of life and death.

Culturing Science: The conservation school of hard-knocks, or how I chose hope over futility.  A great post on avoiding despair while trying to save the world a bit at a time.

Wired: How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet, the Most Menacing Malware in History.  Confession: I love this stuff. It’s got nerdalicious bits and it’s got forensics, all in one engrossing read. WIN!

Scienceline: Parasitized throughout the ages.  We’ve had icky things hitching rides for
a long time. Ewww.

Context and Variation: To save your marriage, hold the mayo… but only if you’re a lady.  Bullshit science spanked thoroughly.

BoingBoing: The Singularity is Far: A Neuroscientist’s View.  So when Ray Kurzweil starts in about it again, feel free to stuff your fingers in your ears and hum porno tunes very loudly until he gives up and goes away.

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Hacking the genome with a MAGE and a CAGE.  This.  Is.  Awesome.

Wired: More Than Charismatic: The Ecology of Big Animals.  Neat, startling photos of ecosystems with and without the big guys.

Scientific American: Why Is Quantum Gravity So Hard? And Why Did Stalin Execute the Man Who Pioneered the Subject?  I wonder how much further physics would have advanced if Stalin wasn’t such a murderous asswad?

The Scicurious Brain: Ketamine and Major Depressive Disorder: Is it Better with Special K?  Some intriguing results.

ScienceNOW: Anti-HIV Pills Powerfully Protect Uninfected Heterosexuals.  This is excellent news for couples with an infected partner.

On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess: How to Sell Your Fellow Students for $100.  The rabid animal rights freaks are at it again, willing to pay students to spy on other students.  Disgusting fucktards.

Science Sushi: What’s in a name?  In which Christie Wilcox discusses sushi and sustainability, deliciousness, and unintended consequences.

Scientific American: Nature’s Nuclear Reactors: The 2-Billion-Year-Old Natural Fission Reactors in Gabon, Western Africa.  Our own Evelyn Mervine talking about nature’s expertise in running nuclear reactors. Pure awesome!

Assignment: Impossible: Visions: No Worlds Left To Conquer.  Alien fans. Gotta love ‘em.

Paleoseismicity: The Wednesday Centerfault (7).  And a very sexy centerfault ’tis.

Writing

Neuron Culture: Jo Marchant: How to Write (Long) About Science.  “A writer is a reader who mutated.” Tons of excellent advice for all genres in here.

Roger Ebert’s Journal: Gatsby without greatness.  This makes me die inside.

Nieman Storyboard: “Why’s this so good?” No. 2: McPhee takes on the Mississippi.  This post won’t help you write like John McPhee, but it will help you write like the best possible you.

David Gaughran: Batting for a Broken System.  Ah, yes, the old “If publishers screw themselves out of the market, we’ll all be sorry” trope. Riiiight.

Dean Wesley Smith: Chapter 8: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: New York Works as a Quality Filter.  HA HA HA HA HA HA H- Oh, wait, they were serious.

The Innocent Flower: What They Don’t Tell You About a Launch.  Hint #1: it ain’t that glamorous.

Social Media Examiner: 9 Ways to Use Social Media to Launch a Book.  There are a few good tips in here, if you can get through the blatant self-promotion.

Pimp My Novel: Guest Post: Four Elements of a Great Book Signing.   Should you ever get so lucky as to a) have a book signing and b) have people show up, here’s some ways to keep it from merely being a lump of an author scribbling on title pages.

David Gaughran: The Anatomy of A Book Cover.  For those of us intimidated by DIY, this is a good post breaking down the evolution of a cover design.

Bob Mayer’s Blog: Thrillerfest Wrap Up- Thoughts on Traditional Publishing, Agents and Self-Publishing.  Very valuable thoughts, especially for those weighing their tradition-vs.-self-pub options.

GalleyCat: Google+ Hangouts for Writing Groups. Forget all that time wasted driving to some dingy, smelly little meeting from for a writer’s group meetup – go virtual!

Modern Author Showcase: Daily Kick–The Value of Rewrites.  So eat it, all you first-draft-only advocates! (via The Passive Voice)

Women’s Issues

Tales of a Mad Scientist: Why Are People Touching Me?  A corollary to Don’t Hit On Women In Elevators: Don’t Grab People With Tattoos.  Why the fuck are people so bloody dense?

Ophelia’s Web: Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived. Hermione Granger is the Girl Who Studied And Saved Everyone.  Hell to the yes! Fuck Harry – Hermione’s the hero!

MacLeans: Girls should not be segregated on public school property.  I’m so glad we have a First Amendment that keeps most of this religious bullshit out of schools.

The Independent: Israel: Religious paper bans women from event.  I wonder if the religious fucktard men who fall for this shit realize how weak and frightened, not to mention ridiculous and hateful, it makes them look?

Religion and Atheism

AlterNet: 5 Faulty Arguments Religious People Use Against Atheists (Debunked).&
nbsp; Greta Christina makes fools suffer. 

What Would JT Do? Securing the chains of history.  All I’m going to say is this: read it.  All of it.  From the spanking of homophobic fuckwads right down to the Christian revisionist history, read it all.

Cosmic Variance: Free Will Is as Real as Baseball.  So far, this is the only post on free will that hasn’t left me stone-cold bored.

Society and Culture

Culture Lab: Saving the planet: not just for pansies.  Macho manly-men (and hard-as-nails women) can save it, too!  Enlightened self-interest saves the day.

New York Times: Bomb Took 3 Limbs, but Not Photographer’s Can-Do Spirit.  This man is the definition of hardcore.  I’ll be thinking of him every time I’m tempted to snivel about my various petty problems.

Decrepit Old Fool: In which Tim Wildmon, American Family Association president, helps me buy a lawnmower.  It’s like he’s that friend whose judgement works great as long as you do the opposite of everything he says!

Fabulous Lorraine: You Can Rest Easy Now. We Found Your Cat. I hope the people who abandon cats out in the middle of nowhere understand that this is not the right thing to do.

New York Times: The Good Short Life.  This extraordinary man is living his final days perfectly, and demonstrates why assisted dying isn’t scary or depressing.

Scientific American: Taking Charge of Your Life and Your Death.  A friend’s view.

NeuroTribes: An Eye-Opening Adventure in Socialized Medicine.  It’s horrible, I tell you.  Swift service, not getting shaken down for cash, having the means of healing in hand at an affordable price without having to drive across town.  The horror! The horror!

The Compound Eye: Thrifty Thursday: What’s the difference between a $200 and a $2000 camera?  I feel even fonder of my camera now!

Buffalo News: Soldiers’ stories.  Brian Romans has a relative in this, but that’s not the only reason it rocks – this is art giving us a window into other minds.

Slate: How Facebook Saved My Son’s Life.  See? Social networks do lots more than just suck up all your time.

Politics

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Seeing an American flag can shift voters towards Republicanism.  We were already plastered in flags before this study. We’re going to be suffocated by them now.

Good Culture: Half of Americans Getting Government Aid Swear They’ve Never Used Government Programs.  Even when their lips are firmly attached to the teat.

Questionable Authority: Michelle Bachmann wants to fire my wife.  Because, y’know, weak widdle wimmins and teh icky gayz don’t belong in the military.

Archy: Where I stand on the family.  Looks like someone isn’t gonna get elected by the frothing fundies!  Hilarious and occasionally anger-inducing read. 

Balloon Juice: Of Course They’re Crazy.  Amazing how many people are just now awakening to the fact that the Republican party is full of batshit crazy freaks.

Bad Astronomy: Congress threatens America’s future in space.  One gets the distinct feeling most of Congress wants America to become a third-world country.Astronomy