Sunset Bay: Pacing a Puzzle

Planed off into two dimensions by erosion, geological features can be confusing. Some folks are talented at reconstructing the original three dimensions. I’m not one of those folks. I can build a world from scratch in my head, populate it with multi-dimensional people, but ask me to pop what amounts to a natural diagram out into the third dimension, and I’ll just stare blankly at you. I don’t even know where to begin.

This is why getting out with Lockwood is such a boon to my brain. He’s good at getting this stuff to pop. And Sunset Bay, Oregon*  provided an ideal example. Observe:

Seriously Bent

My first question was, what the hell bent that strata? That looks like a pretty sharp curve there. You can see it a little better in this next photo:

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Sunday Song: Anger (with a Tim Minchin Chaser)

Actually, I’m not angry at all today. I’m a happy atheist. I did have to go in to work, which was annoying, but only for two hours, and then I was free to enjoy a mild, somewhat sunny day… by arranging the storage shed and renewing my lease. I’m telling you, the excitement around here would be too much even for Evel Knievel.

But I’ve just spent the last several hours watching snippets from the Reason Rally and old school Doctor Who whilst arranging rocks. Rocks make me happy. Having the rocks out where they can be seen and enjoyed and picked up and exclaimed over makes me happier still. And I’m going to see Tommy again tomorrow. That, also, makes me happy.

So why “Anger”? Because of Greta Christina’s book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? Which, actually, made me very happy indeed. It settled my anger at religion into a nice, constructive hum.

In the future, when I feel like I’m about to be devoured by outrage over the appalling shit people do in the name of faith, I’ll have Greta’s book to turn to. It has suggestions for what to do with that anger, ideas and resources for building a better world. Of course, I’ve also got FtB, which is also an excellent outlet.

Greta’s book has already made a difference in my life, I’ve noticed. It’s made it easier to calmly tell people that religion is, in fact, nonsense, and not quite so harmless as they think. I’ve always been open about my atheism, but sometimes shied away from difficult discussions when I just didn’t want to contend with the inevitable justifications. Maybe I was afraid they’d accuse me of being just another angry atheist. Now I’ve got a book I can refer them to rather than spending the next several hours explaining why I am, indeed, an angry atheist when religious bullshit gets heaved at me. It explains the case much more clearly and calmly than I could manage.

So no, not very angry today. A little sad, though, that I missed the Reason Rally. I hate enormous crowds, navigating said enormous crowds in large cities I’m not familiar with, and standing round for hours in the rain, not to mention there are never enough toilets. But it looks like the whole thing was a blast, and you could actually see and hear what was going on, and I’d probably have enjoyed myself.

Thankfully, modern technology and the kindness of strangers posting on YouTube means those of us who missed the event can live it vicariously. I’m going to give you Tim Minchin’s wonderful “Confessions,” because it made me laugh.

You know what, after that song, I love boobs, too. Even mine, which I have to live with and therefore get annoyed at.

All right, one more. This is fucking brilliant.


Atheist Goggie, Evul Kitteh, Mah Name on a Book Cover, and the Most Depressing Video Ever

Sorry, folks, I’m wrecked. Got three hours of sleep last night, on top of three the night before, and couldn’t sleep this evening, probably because my body’s forgotten how it’s done. So I’m spending the night watching old school Doctor Who and cleaning out the storage shed. Yeah, I know how to par-tay.

I haven’t got any awesome geology ready. No profound thoughts on atheism. Just some random stuff I’m throwing into one post and calling conglomerate.

Cujo decided to get in on the whole A-Week thing. It’s disgustingly cute is what it is.

A-Week Puppy. Image Credit: Cujo359

For balance’s sake, I present to you the greatest poem about cats ever written. I know the link looks like it goes to a t-shirt. Indeed, it does. But there’s also a poem there, and when Nicole sent it to me, she knew she’d found a poem that perfectly describes the relationship between myself and my cat. It begins thusly:

You always hurt the one you love.

The cat’s behind the chair
The cat’s behind the chair
Hi-ho the derry-o
The cat’s behind the chair

And goes on to become ever more accurate from there.

The cover for Open Lab 2012 (which isn’t actually named that. It’s called The Best Science Writing Online 2012) is out. My name’s on it. This feels somewhat weird.

Open Lab 2012 Cover. Design by Jason Heuer.

If you’d asked me last year, before it happened, whether I thought I’d ever in a million billion years end up inside a book with a set of science writers this good, I’d have ruptured something laughing. Now there’s a book cover, and it has got my name on it, which makes it somewhat difficult to deny that this is a real thing that is actually happening. I keep looking at names and thinking, “I’m in a book with X,” X being whichever science writer I’ve admired for years whose name my eyes happened to come to rest on. I’d ask how the hell that happened, but I actually know how. I’m looking at you, Chris Rowan. Who is also in this book. Who I’ve admired for years. Yegawds.

I will need some of you to come sit with me the day the physical copy arrives. I’ll be walking round in a daze and will probably need to be guided around obstacles, and prevented from doing things like putting the cat on to boil and making sure the spaghetti’s litter box is clean. I might be able to manage an autograph or two, but I also might stare blankly at the page, pen in hand, and drool gently on the title page. I hope they chose an ink that’s not prone to running, along with a paper that can withstand dribbling authors. Bring one of those pens that’s capable of writing underwater, just in case.

Finally, the most depressing video ever. It’s depressing because I haven’t been to Circus Mexicus for years, and I bloody well miss it. Thanks, Ed. Thanks so very bloody much (no, really, thanks).

I still have half a bottle of Roger’s Mexican Moonshine. It still tastes delicious. I may have to go drink the entire thing right now. Then I can plot how I’m going to sell a publisher on the idea that they should send me to Mexico round about Circus Mexicus time with a political blogger so we can do a book on drunken geology (believe me, there is no staying sober in Mexico during Circus Mexicus) somehow tied together with the Peacemakers, poker, and politics. Trust me. I will find a way.

Last Weekend for Tommy

So you’ve missed the Reason Rally, you’ll be AWOL at Rock Beyond Belief, and you’re stuck in the Pacific Northwest with nothing to do. If you’re near Burien, you could console yourself with some rock opera. This is the last weekend for Tommy. Grab yer chance before it’s gone.

And enjoy a little St. Paddy’s Day madness with some of the cast.

“On St. Patrick’s Day some of the cast from Tommy met at Bison Creek with the local band Gear Driver.”

Last two shows, people. If you meant to go, get on it.

Stuck in the Northwest While Everyone Parties at the Reason Rally and Rock Beyond Belief?

Well, I haz just the event for you! Reader Brad notified me the Northwest Free-thought Alliance is having its conference on March 30th – April 1st. It’s just south of Seattle, which is easy-peasy for many of us Northwesterners. It’s got freethinkers and food and lots of interesting talks. It’ll be a blast! You should totally go.

I, alas, can’t go. I’m buried under a super sekrit project which won’t be sekrit for much longer.

But you could go. Then you could give me the juicy details about Karen Mockrin’s “Current Separation Cases.” You can tell me “What’s Going On at MRFF,” because Akiva David Miller’s going to bring you up to speed. And you can hit me with the highlight reel from the keynote, “Waiter, There’s A God In My Language!” I’m sure Anu Garg will have you rolling.

You lucky barstards. *sniffle*

I’ll tell you what I’ll be doing my damnedest to get to, though: the after-conference shindig, “Working Together for a Secular Society, A Celebration.” It’s Richard Dawkins, Elisabeth Cornwell, and Sean Faircloth. It’s at 3pm in Bellevue, which is within spitting distance from my place as long as there’s not a stiff wind from the south. It’s $5. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky barstards who went to the conference, in which case, it’s free.

If you’re going, let me know, and we’ll form a horde. Probably not a ravening horde, because I’ll be too bloody tired out from super sekrit projects to raven or even seriously inconvenience, but still, a horde.

And if anyone has horses so we could ride to the venue in true horde fashion, that would be awesome.

Hey, Ophelia! I Gotcher Daffodils Right Here! With Haiku, Fruit Trees and Tom Lehrer

We’ve just passed the equinox, and things round here are getting ready to spring into spring. Not fast enough for Ophelia, alas – she wants her daffodils and wants them now. Well, she can haz. And so can you. There’s also bonus Tom Lehrer at the end, because spring isn’t complete without one particular song.

A Daffodil in Oregon

Next March, I should see about taking Ophelia to Oregon. There’s a long stretch of back road in the Willamette Valley where daffodils go on for miles. Lockwood and I didn’t get any pictures – the lighting conditions were teh suck for shooting from the car – but we marveled. You drive and drive and drive for what seems like a bajillion miles with this nearly unbroken hedge of daffodils along the road.

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“Religion Depends on Social Consent to Survive”

It’s been nearly a year since I clipped this snippet from Greta Christina’s “Live-Blogging the Rapture.”

Religion depends on social consent to survive and perpetuate itself. We have to deny that consent. We have to keep pointing out, at every available opportunity, that the Emperor has no clothes.

That, coming at the end of a super-snarky session waiting for the Rapture (which, much like Godot, never showed up), struck me hard. “Religion depends on social consent to survive…” The phrase resonated. I clipped it into a post draft, and I’d see it on the list occasionally, where it waited for me to do something about it, this fact that on the face of it seems so obvious and yet seems so often overlooked.

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I Got Coal in My Stocking!

Remember when I mentioned geologists have an incentive to be naughty? I must have been very naughty indeed, because Santa (i.e., my mother) just sent me coal. Coal horses!

Wild Coal Horses

I have no idea where she found them. All she did, when she told me something was on its way, was snigger about how she’d found the perfect present for a coal miner’s daughter. And a horse fancier. And a geology buff.

You know what, she’s right. They’re awesome.

Wild Coal Horses II

Carved coal, people. So much more awesome than burned coal.

This is probably anthracite or cannel coal, either one of which can be used for carvings.

Wild Coal Horses Closeup

They squigged me out when I first took them from the box. I’m used to handling coal, but in its uncarved, rough state. Carved, it feels slick and slightly sticky. It’s more tacky than you expect a stone carving to feel. It’s also a bit strange to think you’re holding a flammable statue. “Yeah, you think your statue’s cool? Mine’s so hot it burns! HA HA HA HA HA.”

These are the perfect gift ever for a geology buff. There’s a ton of coal sculptures for cheap on Ebay, by the way, so if you’re inspired to do a little early shopping for the geologist on your list, there ye go.


Not Mystery Flora: Western Skunk Cabbage

At least, I’m fairly certain it’s Western Skunk Cabbage*. It’s skunk cabbage, anyway. Lockwood and I saw bunches of it at Sunset Bay.

Very Probably Skunk Cabbage

The reasons I’m treating you to a gallery of skunk cabbage are two-fold: I’ve been busy with a project all weekend, so I’m not prepared for writing up delicious geology. Also, Bug Girl posted this on Twitter:
found a bunch of skunk cabbage today! Hurray for spring! #signsofspring
Bug Girl
It's entirely possible I am the only person excited about finding skunk cabbage. But really, important early pollen source. #notthatstinky
Bug Girl
And then Bora said,
@ OMG, I LOVE skunk cabbage!
Bora Zivkovic
And I suddenly found a use for ten billion photos of skunk cabbage. Look, I was excited. Normally, I see the stuff at the end of its life cycle, when it’s all manky. And it was about the only wild blooming thing we found. Now I come to find out there are people in the world who love skunk cabbage.

Not Just a Week, but “A” Week

Visitors to my Facebook page will notice a change to ye olde profile photo:

Scarlet A Over Ruby Beach Sea Stack

It’s A Week on Facebook, y’see, and since I had other, more pressing concerns having to do with getting my crap together for a rather exciting upcoming event which I can’t announce just yet but soon will, I decided to spend an hour in Corel trying to plaster a great big atheist A over a sea stack at Ruby Beach. Don’t talk to me about working with layers in Corel. I suck at it.

I’ve had the scarlet A in my sidebar for some time now, and I like it. Atheists shouldn’t need to hide away. And that’s why campaigns like A Week are worth spending an hour wrestling with Corel for: the world gets to see a lot of out-and-proud atheists going round doing atheist things like geeking out over teevee shows and gawking at cute animals and drooling over some particularly tasty science and rooting for sports teams and bragging about their kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews and reading books and getting ready for Rock Beyond Belief. Which I regret not being able to go to, so if you’re going to be near Fort Bragg, NC on March 31st, you should go (it’s free!) and then drop by to tell me what a great time I missed. Go ahead. Rub it in. Pour some salt on, too.

If you’re an atheist on Facebook, and you want to create your own super-awesome Scarlet A profile pic, you can grab an A with a transparent background here, and have at. If your Corel/Photoshop/other program skillz are even worse than mine, you can choose from a wide selection of wonderful A designs here.

And now I’m going to stop babbling. I must get back to the work I’m avoiding. Which involves Corel. Sob.