Los Links 12/16

You may scream when you go down below. Los Links looks enormous, and it is. But there are a few things you should bear in mind:

1. It is a convenient excuse. No, you can’t go shopping / entertain the annoying houseguest / perform X unpleasant task, because you have to read all the links. Ever so sorry. It’s all Dana’s fault.

2. The Geophotomeme posts are, for the most part, extremely short.

3. You don’t have to read all of the links (despite what you’ve told people you’re trying to avoid). Just, y’know, most of them.

I’ll just leave you to get on with it, then.

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You Good People

Just a quick update. I wanted to say a very hearty and heartfelt thank you to all those who replied to my outpouring last night. You’ve made things better. You gave me the strength to get through the day, and to begin to determine just what I can and cannot do, and be at peace with the “cannot” part of it.

I’m lucky to have you. One day, I hope to have the opportunity to buy each and every one of you a drink, and we shall toast to life and love and friends and doing the best we can.

Thanks to you, I’m not alone.

I called our Employee Assistance Program hotline today and got some wonderful folks who are more than willing to help me sort these things out. They were even more than happy to recommend counselors who are good with atheists, and giggled in sympathy when I told them why I was asking – that the last thing I need at a time like this is a counselor who would see conversion as the solution to my problems. So if I need them, I’ll have access to counselors who can watch over my mental well-being while I attempt to see to my mother’s, without bringing Jesus into the mix.

There’s a division of the EAP that helps specifically with adult care. They’re doing the legwork to determine what our resources are, and which state will be best to keep her in. That takes a large part of the burden off. And once they’ve shown me what’s out there, I can begin to pass that knowledge along to you. I know I’m not the only person with an ill relative to take care of. Knowing where and how to get assistance is important, and not everyone has union-negotiated health insurance that can help with such matters. One thing the adult care person told me today was to look for the Department of Aging in the relevant state. It goes by different names in some states – in Washington, it’s known as Senior Information and Assistance.

There’s going to be nonsense with waiting lists and talking to a myriad of departments, but help is out there, and since we’re starting before she’s in critical need, we’ll be as prepared as we can be. She won’t end up alone on the streets. There’s things we can do that won’t require me installing her in my own household, it would seem. This is all to the good.

She was also coherent enough tonight to give me the name and number of her case officer, so I can contact him and he can help coordinate things. The good news on that front is, she likes and trusts him. So, if all goes well and he really is a good guy, he should be able to help us make the right decisions for both of us.

I’m not going to pretend that this will be an easy road. There will be plenty of bumps, and probably several places where the whole bloody thing’s washed out and we’ll have to find a way around. But we’ll get there.

And you, my good people, my dear cherished readers, have given me the resolve I need to make it more than a few steps along.

Thank you.

And now, I’m going to bloody well get Los Links done for you. Almost there…

In Which I Admit I Am Not Noble and Can’t Do This Alone

It’s been a day. I spoke to my mother, who had sounded better the last time we spoke. She sounded much worse today, and informed me my grandfather’s in the hospital, although she can’t say for what. A rehabilitation center of some sort. She thinks he’s going to die soon. And then she wants to move to Washington.

I’ll admit that cold dread fills me at the idea.

We have a history. I spent a considerable chunk of my twenties trying to extricate her from a horrible situation. She’d call me in tears every time her husband went back to drinking and began beating her. She’s really leaving him again, this time, she’d say, and so I’d tell her to come on down. She’d live with me for a few days or weeks, interrupting my writing, putting my life in disarray, and inevitably, just when we’d got things sorted enough she could begin to live a life of her own, she’d go back to him. Always. This went on more times than I can remember.

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Interlude with Cat: Le Miewse

Yes, that’s the best title I can come up with. It’s late, Aunty Flow’s here, I’m on a variety of OTC painkillers, I’ve been reading for Los Links and also reading a rather mind-bending book by Oliver Sacks, and I think my brain has quietly slipped out the back door and legged it down an ally to freedom.

So it’s time for pictures full o’ mindless cute. And hideous puns.

pensive cat

The cat pretending she's pondering whilst monopolizing my lap

I’ve spent the last little while writing in bed. It’s easier to jockey a notebook in there – easier, at least, until the cat decides the rest of the bed isn’t good enough, and she must lie atop Mom in about the place where the notebook goes. This is exhausting work for a felid. Luckily, there’s a nice paper pillow nearby.

sleepy kitteh

The cat pillows her head on the notes for my magnum opus.

Do you know how hard it is to write with a cat’s noggin in the way? And she snores. And she’s cute. It’s terribly distracting. I’ve begun to wonder why writers are so often associated with cats. We don’t actually get as much writing done in their presence as one might think.

kitteh with pillow

The cat takes over the second pillow.

When she’s tired of getting bonked in the head with the ever-shifting notebook, she’ll sometimes make her way off to the side, where her pillow is. Yes, that’s her pillow. It lies flat, so that she can curl up on it and bask under the lamp. She’s spoiled rotten, that cat.

There are times, when she’s cuddled up with me like this, that I just put the notebook down and look in to her eyes. She’s got remarkable eyes, green with hints of blue and gold. She’s got a very patrician stare. Most of the time, she looks upon me as a serving wench, staring as if from a great height no matter how high above her I tower. But at times, those green-gold-blue eyes stare into mine with the purest adoration, and she purrs so loudly the whole bed seems to hum, and stretches her little white-capped paws out on me with vast contentment, and sighs deeply, as if she’s sinking in to the rightness of the world. In those moments, I get a sense of the love parents must have for their children, that vast and unconditional and heart-wrenching affection the English language doesn’t have a proper word for.

We’ve been together a lot of years, that cat and I. I have no idea how many good ones we’ve got left. So sometimes, I do take the time to just stop and cuddle with her. Gather your cuddles while ye may…

She’s over on the back of the couch right now, snoring away. In a short little while, we’ll head for bed, where she’ll probably do her usual routine of using Mommy as a trampoline before settling down for the night. I may wake in the morning to a little feline face butting mine, and some pretty urgent meowing, if I forget to fill the food bowl. I may wake to a warm bundle of fur ready for a snuggle before the day starts. I never know what I’m getting from her, except this one thing: companionship.

Geologists Have an Incentive to be Naughty

coal black mesa mine

Lump o' coal, Black Mesa Mine, Arizona

I never understood why getting a lump of coal instead of presents should be considered a threat. I’m a coal miner’s daughter (yes, really. Okay, so he was an engineer at a coal mine, but it counts). The best thing my dad ever gave me, aside from the pony and the playhouse and the Breyer Horse stable that I adored for nearly a decade, was a lump of coal. I’d been after him about it for a long time. “Daddy, please bring me a lump of coal from the mine! Pleasepleaseplease I’ll be good!”

If I’d had a better grasp on reverse psychology, or my dad a somewhat better-developed sense of irony, I might have ended up with one earlier. Regardless, one day, he arrived home with an enormous black chunk of ancient swamp, and I cherished it until we lost it in a move.

I’ll never forget visiting Black Mesa once. I was very young, probably no older than 7 or 8, and we drove through a black canyon gashed by men’s machines in the thick seams of coal that made up the mesa. I don’t know what I’d expected, maybe a tunnel, like I’d seen in various pictures of mining operations. I stared, slack-jawed and thrilled beyond containment, at those shiny black walls towering above me. And then there was the fire, and the truck with a mounted hose spraying an enormous rooster tail of water on it. Fires sometimes started in the seams, my dad told my astonished young self. They’d burn for years. You couldn’t really fight them so much as contain their spread. They sometimes could manage it with water; sometimes, they’d have to bury it.

I’d never considered that there might be any such thing as a fire that burned year after year, that no number of firetrucks and firemen could defeat. And when I got my hands on that hard lump of coal, and realized this tough shiny stuff was what did the burning, I was amazed. It didn’t really sink in then, but it did later. These were rocks. Rocks that burn.

What moron decided this was a disincentive to naughtiness?

But kids seemed to take that threat seriously. They’d rather have the shiny toys than a shiny lump of coal. I don’t think they were future geologists, or there would have been a considerable uptick in the naughty quotient whenever that threat was made.

Angry parent: “If you don’t stop doing X bad thing, all Santa’s giving you is a lump of coal!”

Future geologist: “Awesome! Two, please!”

My original lump has been replaced by a smaller but no less cherished lump purchased from a wonderful little rock shop down in Cottonwood, AZ. And that little delight has been joined by several bits picked up during rambles along Coal Creek (aptly named), which was my first opportunity to pick up coal in the wild. I love this stuff.

coal creek

Coal in streambank at Coal Creek near Seattle, Washington

And why am I babbling about coal just now? Partly because I’ve been extremely lax in posting on geological topics lately. Mostly because one of my Twitter friends posted a link to this perfect gift for geologists: coal candy! Which you can make, at home, and use your rock hammer to break, and just seems like the perfect thing for geologists to make and/or receive. I saw that, and thought of Coal Creek and Black Mesa and Evelyn’s geophoto meme, and thus inspiration did strike.

But I’ve saved the best for last. It hasn’t much to do with coal, except it’s on Coal Creek, and it’s just the most awesome orange waterfall I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting up-close and personal with:

waterfall coal creek

Orange Waterfall on Coal Creek

That lovely orange hue is probably courtesy of chemotrophic bacteria, according to a commenter on the original adventure report. It certainly adds a little verve to the scene. And what’s even nicer is that you can get to it by following a stream bed filled with chunks of petrified wood and lots and lots of coal.

And if you’re very naughty, I may venture back out there and collect a lump or two just for you.

Buffalo Bill’s

e.e. cummings's "Buffalo Bill's," published in The Dial, 1920. Image courtesy Wikipedia

Poem’s been running through my mind since I heard about Hitch. He was outsize to me, like Buffalo Bill. Perhaps someone will put him in a poem like this one. Perhaps, if the Muse is kind, I shall.

What I like about them is that, outsize as they were, legendary as they seemed, they were human. Fully, gloriously, infuriatingly and charmingly human.

Insights from 9-1-1

(This is a post by my coblogger, Jacob. He’d post it under his own handle, only WordPress is giving us guff over adding him as an author. That situation should be remedied soon, and you’ll be hearing more from him. He’s an amazing guy. I’m proud to have him posting here once again.)

 

Do the right thing. Do it over and over.

This is my rule.

Anyone who knows me knows that I consider myself to be a bit of a white knight. The kind that makes other white knights look grey (one of the few areas I allow myself to be arrogant confident about myself.) Its a title I’ve done my best to earn, to deserve, and live up to. Like anything in life it can be taken to an unhealthy extreme, but for the most part, its one of the few aspects of my persona that I’m actually happy with. I have a massive inferiority complex and a serious problem with an esteem that has more cliffs and valleys than a sine graph. However, when I stop and look at what I’ve been able to do for people, or when I’m presented with the opportunity to help someone in need, that’s when I know everything will work out in the end. Whether it be helping a woman buy a propane tank to help heat her house for her daughter, listen to a friend when they don’t know who to turn to, or even just holding open a door for someone whose hands are full, its these moments when I know with absolute clarity who I am. Some people don’t get it.

Some people do.

I took a call once from a citizen who was calling in about an elderly gentleman on the street who looked to be having some trouble. (For context, I am a dispatcher and 9-1-1 calltaker. Emergencies are my day-to-day.) Now, most people see a problem, call for medics and they go on their way. Infrequently you’ll get people who will stop and make sure they are at least still kicking a bit before they call, then they move on. Now and then, you get someone who actually stops and stays with them until medics arrive. Not that people are insensitive to a crisis, just that most people have lives of their own and they are busy, or they are in a car on the street and can’t immediately stop and assist. This woman, though, she stayed with him until medics arrived. What was remarkable, though, was the compassion she showed. My job is to keep people calm, give instructions, and mostly just try to make sure things don’t get too much worse before help arrives. Usually this is giving a lot of reassurance, giving people things to do to keep them busy, and just being a calm voice. This man clearly had a medical history, but was in such a dire state he didn’t think he was going to make it. He was conscious, breathing, and alert, so he was hardly on death’s door compared to some of our calls, but he was a far cry from comfortable either.

I could tell this woman was a caretaker at heart. I start giving reassurances, but I hear her taking the reins: “Stay with me, stay awake with me. Stay awake, Matthew.” She had asked him his name. Sometimes, if the call is long enough, I’ll get the patient’s name but depending on the circumstances I am often telling people how to deliver babies or give CPR and I never find out so much as their first name. Often enough I simply don’t bother to get their name, I have other things I need to find out first, and other 9-1-1 calls are always coming in. She had asked him and was using his name as an achor for him to hold onto. “Look at me, Matthew. Let me see those eyes. You have beautiful blue eyes, just like me. Let me see those pretty eyes, Matthew.” Every word was calm, soft, the kind of voice you expect a mother to whisper to a child. I could tell it was helping Matthew, who had calmed considerably from when the call started.

I stayed silent for almost the entire call.

It amazed me just listening to her. It may not sound like much, a few words of reassurance, but this is a job in which lives may be on the line. When you hear “Please don’t leave me” from someone trying to save their spouse’s life, or you hear little kids shouting for their parent to start breathing again, you realize the power of a few quiet words.

I say I am a white knight, a guardian angel. I dance behind the scenes and try to make the world a better place in what quiet ways I can. Even then, though, what I do every day is a job, its something I am paid well to do. This woman was truly a miracle to this man, this man to whom she owed nothing, she had no ties to, no promises. She was not there to earn recognition, she was just trying to do the right thing.

So to those angels that walk among us, remember you are not alone. The world would be a better place if we all just stopped to help each other now and then. You make this world a better place.

Whoever that woman is, where ever she is, I will always remember her.

And I never even got her name.

Christopher Hitchens Is Dead

There are moments, when you find out someone momentous has died, in which you find the world a little emptier than before. A person has died who filled up the world, poured so much of himself into it that he made it a larger and more interesting place. Someone whose words thundered and reverberated and will echo long after he has fallen silent.

Christopher Hitchens was like that.

And now he’s gone, and there are echoes, but while his words remain, there will never be silence.

Goodbye, Hitch. None of us will ever forget you.

 

I Shall Distract You With a Bearded Dragon and a Geology Picture

It’s one o’ those weeks, people. I haven’t got time to write anything of substance. So I shall give you a video of a bearded dragon playing video games instead.

When I saw that, I about died from the cute. And then I decided I need to get a smartphone and see if I can teach my cat how to play Angry Birds.

Ye olde blog’s been notably light on geology lately. I haven’t had the time to research and write as I’d like, a fact I’ll remedy shortly. In the meantime, Evelyn’s started a geopic meme, and I’d best jump on that bandwagon before it’s left the parade, eh? Here’s a lovely little snap from Rosario Beach, San Juan Islands, Washington:

Wave refraction, ribbon chert, argillite, and basalts, oh my. You can take a virtual field trip here. And someday, I promise, I’ll take you on an in-depth exploration of the place.

Last Weekend for Inspecting Carol

This is mostly an excuse to show off this wonderful snap from one of the dress rehearsals.

Craig Orsinger/Burien Little Theatre

But it’s also a reminder. It’s your last chance to see Inspecting Carol, Seattle-area folks! Don’t miss out.

December 16 at 8:00 p.m. – Friday

December 17 at 8:00 p.m. – Saturday

December 18 at 2:00 p.m. – Sunday

Buy your ticket. Go.

And if you’re lucky, this deal will still be available:

Just for tweeters. This Saturday all tickets $10 ONLY if you tweet back, and only while seats lasts.
@BLT_tweets
BurienLittleTheatre