New Post Up on Ye Olde Writing Blog

For those of you interested in following the writer’s progress, I’ve started blogging my winter writing project. Yup. Time to get serious.

Those of you desiring an invite so that you may view my screaming and the occasional excerpt as this thing progresses, shoot me a request at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. And if you’ve requested before and not got an invite, I swear it’s not because I dislike you, but because I lost your email. Ask me again.

I’m off to stare at a blank page and start sweating blood now.

Los Links 10/28

It’s Halloween, otherwise known as NaNo’eve, and this may be the last big linkfest for a considerable time. Oh, there will be Los Links, don’t get me wrong. I’d never deprive you of them. But I likely won’t have much time for reading. Which is a shame, because people keep writing intensely interesting stuff.

Exhibit A below the fold.

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Four Questions, Four Answers (No Jesus Necessary)

Some of my readers may not know Callan Bentley. This is a shame, because he’s a brilliant geologist, a fantastic teacher, and one of the two people who makes me seriously consider moving to Virginia in order to attend college. If you knew how I felt about passive margins, you’d know why this is a big deal.

While Callan tends to focus on geology, he occasionally takes off after politics, pseudoscience, and religion. He’s not afraid to be honest. And that honesty extends to people he respects. People like Bill Hooke, who is a scientist blogging about climate policy, a Christian man who has four questions he thinks only Jesus can answer.

Today, Bill wrote a post entitled “Environmental scientists as Christians.” In it, he describes his own Christianity and how there is only a little overlap between “Church Bill” and “Work Bill.” My long-time readers will know that I do not subscribe to any religious ideology. I find religion superfluous to the reality that I find around me on a daily basis: it’s what a philosopher would call “philosophical naturalism” (as opposed to science, which operates under “methodological naturalism,” which doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of supernatural beings; it just can’t detect them). So it really struck to me to read Bill’s ruminations on that topic. This is a gentleman and a scholar, and he apparently has given a lot of thought to these issues.

In the post, he “quotes” (paraphrasing from memory) the evangelical preacher Billy Graham, who says

There are four reasons we need Jesus… four questions we can’t answer without Him.

1. Does my life matter? Is it possible for my life to have meaning?

2. How can I handle my loneliness, the loneliness I feel even in a crowd, or even (or perhaps especially) when with people who are close to me?

3. How can I bear my crushing burden of guilt? And by that I don’t mean as measured by some external standard such as the Ten Commandments, but rather my own judgment of myself…that I have fallen short of my potential.

4. What happens to me after I die?

Callan answered them handily, no Jesus required. I shall do the same. And I don’t know if Bill will ever read either post. If he does, I don’t know if anything will go *click*. But I hope it does, because I find it tragic that a brilliant man can’t imagine answers without Jesus.

Here we go.

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I’m Sending You to the Salt Mines

This. Is. Amazing.

If somebody wanted to send me to work in this salt mine, that would be totally fine. I’d be all over that. It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen. Who would have ever thought that a bunch of salt miners would have spent extra time down in the mines to create something so perfectly magical?

Who would have thought plain ol’ salt could be the medium in which such beauty could be expressed?

I’m going to show you a glimpse of the whimsical part of it.

Image Source

Then go gape at the rest. While you’re at it, the geology of that mine is pretty wonderful, too.

I will never see humble old salt in the same way ever again.

“You Want Something Old? Pick Up a Rock.”

There’s this thing that happens, sometimes, when a blogger’s busier than an overstocked daycare center whose charges have gotten into the coffee supply and disregarded the decaf. You post a little throwaway something: a video, some photos, a few thoughts. You think nothing of it. You were just filling a gap, sharing something of passing interest that tickled your fancy, and made you think a bit, but didn’t take you more than an hour to slap together, even with having to dig through an external drive for old photos from your craptastic former camera and trying to wrestle something presentable out of them.

You move on to the things that were occupying your attention to start with. Then you notice you’ve caught a few people’s fancy. There’s a comment thread filling up with people sharing their own experiences, and one great and glorious moment where a geology professor wants to filch your post for classroom use. The thing got retweeted around a bit. You delighted the geotweep who’d found the super-awesome video to begin with. And, best of all, you inspired someone else, who riffed off your little post and wrote something utterly wonderful. It’s something that celebrates science, and puts us in perspective. It asks why we’d ever waste our tiny fragment of time with religion when reality is so much more incredible. It goes deep into deep time. And it contains one of my favorite paragraphs ever:

Once my parents were visiting the proprietor of an antique shop in New England.  He said; “You want something old?  Pick up a rock; that’s old.”  And in fact science has revealed just how old, and the resulting figure beggars our evolved imagination.

Pick up a rock. Hold a few million years, perhaps even a few billion, in the palm of your hand. I love an antiques dealer saying that. I love George remembering it, all these years later.

Go read “Our place in time.” It’s just nine short paragraphs, but those few grafs encompass life, the universe, and everything.

I think you’ll see why I always open the links to his posts with the same sensation I got as a kid, tearing the wrapping off the most intriguing present under the tree. George is, in objective fact, a fantastic writer. This one proves it beyond reasonable doubt.

And when you lot see me posting more videos with extras, it’ll be for two reasons: because I’m bloody insanely busy, and because I can’t wait to see what catches your fancy next.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Naguib Mahfouz

The real malady is fear of life, not of death.

Naguib Mahfouz

All I knew of Naguib Mahfouz was this quote. These words, this simple sentence, reminds me of something very important: people have a tendency to waste their one precious life by clinging to a pathological fear of it. This quote reminds me to live, and not be afraid to live.

Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer and a bureaucrat who was never afraid to stir up a little controversy. He wrote what he felt moved to write. His books may not even stand a chance of being published in his native country, but he didn’t write with that in mind. He wrote what needed to be written. You don’t need to know more about him than a brief description of his novels and what happened to them to know that.

He pissed off fundamentalists, not only by not following their narrow interpretations of acceptable behavior and thought, but by standing up for Salman Rushdie even though he didn’t like his book. They put him on a death list as well. He called Khomeni a terrorist. He said, “no blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.” They tried to kill him: he lived. A long life, a brilliant life, a life devoid of wife and kids for a long time because he was married to his writing. A life in which he won a Nobel prize for the words he wouldn’t compromise.

He didn’t fall prey to the malady of fearing life.

Accretionary Wedge: Deadlines Fast Approaching!

The Accretionary Wedge carnival’s starting November with two back-to-back kinda-Halloween-themed, um, themes. Posts are due soon, so you’d best scramble if you’re planning to wedge yourself in.

(Please forgive that last little joke. I know it wasn’t funny. I’m functioning on fractional amounts of sleep just now, and I think my sense of humor went to bed without me.)

Deadline November 1st: Dress Barbie Like a Geologist! Or any sort of scientist, really. And it doesn’t have to be a Barbie. In fact, since I haven’t got a doll, I might be doing a doll’s house sort of thing, if I can get my crap together. Those of you with children, or who have friends or relatives with children: steal a doll away from their toy chest. Rip it from their chubby little hands if you must! Sure, they’ll weep now, but wait until you return their dolly all scienced up. They’ll not only have the most awesome doll on the block, they’ll have inspiration for a future career doing something much more interesting than standing about in implausibly high heels in a shocking pink house with a horrid pink car in the driveway.

Deadline November 7th: Geo-Pumpkins! You were going to carve a pumpkin for Halloween anyway, right? Make it geo-riffic! You don’t even have to have a blog of your own for this one – Michael will host your pics for you.

Instructions for submissions are at the links above. Get crack-a-lackin’!

Why I Am an Atheist

PZ asked his readers why they’re atheists, and he’s been running their replies daily. Figured with a new readership and so forth, I might as well have a go and put it on me very own blog. Why not?

Here’s the short answer: because it’s sensible. Gods are surplus to requirements. Why carry round the extra baggage when there’s no need?

Right. There’s a somewhat longer answer, which I’ll place below the fold for interested parties. It includes me confessing I’ve not always been sensible.

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And That, Kids, Is Why You Shouldn’t Build on a Bluff

One of my geotweeps, CGKings317, once tweeted this rather remarkable video showing coastal erosion over the course of a year:

It gives you a sense of just how delicate coastlines can be. There’s the ocean, and storms; wind, water and gravity, all working to lay the land low. 17 meters (almost 56 feet) of prime seaside real estate now sleeps with the fishes.

And we build seawalls and groynes, pile riprap, terrace and wire and drain, do our damnedest to make these temporary landforms permanent, but good Mother Earth just sticks her tongue out at us, goes “Nyah-nyah!” and takes another few bites out of what we thought we could preserve.

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