Mystery Flora: After the Storm

I mentioned I took a little ramble up the drumlin and back on Saturday, when the sun decided to pop out and say hello. You know, that doesn’t actually happen in Seattle very often: downpour, then sunshine. That’s more of an Arizona thing. But it happens sometimes, and one seizes the moment and gallops out of the house to enjoy it.

Look at this. Just a few hours before, the clouds were so thick and the rain so heavy it looked like winter out there, and then bam, this:

Suddenly summer.

The blackberries are blooming, the trees fully leafed out, blue skies – lovely!

By the time I got out, the sun was low, so bits of the path were shadowed. The oxeye daisies at the bottom of the hill were already bathed in twilight.

Oxeye Daisy and Friend. At least, I hope that’s an oxeye daisy. No idea what species the bee is.

I should probably go back out when they’re in full sunshine and glowing. But they’re quite pretty in shade, too.

Oxeye daisies. So pretty. And, I believe, not native. Sigh.

I’d have spent more time with them, but a blaze of purple down the way caught my eye. A nice shaft of sun was hitting some fireweed just so, and it was more beautiful than I’d ever seen it.

Fireweed in the setting sun. Glorious!

I quite like fireweed. Which is astonishing, because it’s native, and I’m usually fatally drawn to the invasives.

Attempted artistic shot of the fireweed. I did say attempted.

And by now, you’re going, “Damnit, Dana, you said mystery flora! But you keep identifying them!!

Or mis-identifying them, as the case may be – I won’t know until you’ve actually had a chance to say. But I promised you mysteries, and mysteries you shall have!

Mystery Flora I

These are on ornamental bushes in our parking lot. Tiny little purple flowers gathered together in great clusters.

Mystery Flora II

The macros, I think, are pretty neat, but you probably need the entire plant for identification purposes, don’t you?

Mystery Flora III

And then, just because I like it, a macro of a barely blooming bit:

Mystery Flora IV

Look kinda like botanical fireworks, don’t they just?

Moments like these, rambling round in unexpected sunshine taking photos of flowers, make life delicious.

I Can’t Keep Up With the Added Awesome Anymore

We’ve added even moar vloggers. Superstar vloggers. Outstanding vloggers. This community of ours keeps growing, and keeps getting more amazing, by the day.

I’m going to have to have a discussion with my computer about this whole “I’ll only stream for so long before I kick you off the internet” thing it’s got going on lately. Because now there are videos, right here, where I can’t miss ‘em. Also, these folks blog. Regular ol’ text. Images and words and voices, oh my.

Drop by and say hello, or allo, or your greeting of choice.

Ace of Clades.

Christina Rad.

And, I know I’ve introduced them before, but figured I’d mention them again:

Zinnia Jones.

Ashley F. Miller.


Sunday Song: Storm

It’s been a stormy week. Some of the storms are metaphorical, but they had real-life effects. Some of the storms were real, and had real-life effects. I should be in Oregon right now, recovering from a day banging on rocks at Quartzville. But Lockwood and I called that off because the weather kept looking stormier and stormier. Also, Aunty Flow’s doing those “Guess who’s coming to make you miserable!” nudges. When that happens, it’s best not to nudge back by engaging in strenuous physical exercise.

All of this has left me with one song going through my head:

Thing is, I couldn’t see the storm – the real one, I mean (the metaphorical one was bloody fucking obvious and has been for some time). I realized a day or so ago that we did, indeed, have a storm coming in. Silly thing to say, right? I mean, the weather was nice for two days, but the forecast predicted rain for the weekend, what else would it be but a storm? It’s just that rain is Seattle’s default weather. I’ve stopped thinking in terms of rainstorms. A storm system moves in that brings rain, but I don’t see it as a storm, just rain, just ordinary weather. A storm, to my Arizona mind, implies an upheaval, something different, something a bit wild and chaotic. Days upon days of gentle drizzle interrupted by occasional sunbreaks don’t register as stormy. But they are.

And the rain came down hard Saturday. It got serious about the business. It reminded me of the Noah Open, which is what my dad and his golfing buddies named the tournament they played in during an epic monsoon storm in Flagstaff. I could barely see to drive to the mall, but they stayed the course. They’re more hardcore than I am, those golfers. I didn’t step a foot outside of shelter today, and yet this rain was the lightest of spring drizzles compared to the downpour (with lightning!) they played through. But for Seattle, this was a serious storm.

So I did a desultory bit of cleaning, yammered at my intrepid companion over the phone, and then settled down to read up a bit on threat assessment. You’ll see the results of that soon. I decided that, seeing as how it was a dark and stormy day, I’d sink into the bathtub with a book. That’s about the time the clouds went away and the sun came out.

I had a bath anyway. Then I went up on the drumlin and enjoyed the brief sunshine. I was after birds, but the buggers didn’t cooperate. I saw a hummingbird, too small and distant to try to capture with a point-and-shoot camera. One day, I’m going to see about setting up a hummingbird feeder so I can catch the little bastards in action. I’ll just have to ensure I do it right – I remember hearing somewhere that some feeders are harmful, and I don’t want to hurt any hummingbirds. I just want to shoot them with a camera.

I’m rambling, aren’t I? Never mind me. Where were we? Ah, yes, storms. I don’t mind storms, actually. Much. Sure, they sometimes keep me from doing what I’d like, but they’re quite often necessary. The metaphorical one certainly has been. It needn’t ever to have happened. You’d think people who call themselves skeptics would be rational enough to handle the idea of harassment policies without completely losing their shit. But they have, and so there’s a storm howling round us, and when it clears, I do believe we’ll find a shiny, fresh set of harassment policies designed to make everyone’s* experience better gleaming in the sun, because most people in this movement are rational enough to realize such things are necessary. Obviously, also, desperately needed, considering the behavior of those who hate them so much.

Things thankfully haven’t gotten stormy round the cantina, because every single person who’s commented has been brilliant. You’re good people, and I appreciate you more than I can ever express.

You’re my raincoat and umbrella. You’re allowing me to venture out into the storm without worrying about getting too soggy. Thank you.

It’s only going to get stormier before the sun’s out, I’m afraid. But that’s all right. We’ll weather it just fine, all of us together.

Okay, so the lyrics don’t quite match my optimism. Just stick with the title and we’ll get there.

Here’s a good place.

The Finnish, according to Dark Lyrics, translates thusly:

The shadow of goodness covers the tear,
Takes the step to the one found.
Peace may rock the cradle to sleep.
Hope remains, a way to love.
A way to a deep freedom.

All we have to do is weather the storms. And we will, my darlings. We will**.


*Excepting those who must harass to have a good time, but who gives a shit if they’re not satisfied?

**Even if Dark Lyrics is completely wrong about the Finnish. I’m really not sure. Bing (formerly Babelfish, which was far cooler) made a dog’s breakfast of the translation. But if you want a good laugh, go paste this:

Hyvyyden varjo peittää kyyneleen,
löytäneen luo vie askeleen.
Rauha saa, kehto uneen tuudittaa.
Toivo jää, tie rakkauteen.
Tie syvään vaupauteen.

Into here. Yep.

I don’t think Google Translate has anything to fear from Bing just yet.

Prelude to a Catastrophe Series: The Story So Far

You know, I just realized that new readers may have no idea what’s going on when I do the whole “New at Rosetta Stones!” thing. And we’re kinda in medias res. I can imagine some folks don’t realize we’re in the middle of a series, and thus wonder why on earth this weirdo’s so focused on itsy bitsy phreatic eruptions when there’s a whole big boom that blew the top off a mountain.

So, it’s probably time for a lexicon, innit?

For those just tuning in, I’m writing a series on Mount St. Helens, tracing the 1980 eruptions from the very first warning all the way up through the May 18th ba-boom, and possibly beyond, using papers written shortly before or just after that day. There’s so much more to it than just that catastrophic climax. We’ve been at this for over a month, and we’ve just barely reached the first small bang! And I’d imagine more than one person who’s been following along is glad we finally got at least this far.

You poor people. I’m sorry, it’s the SF writer in me. I may not be writing much fiction lately, but I’ve still got that instinct for cliffhangers. I am evil. Also, there’s way too much going on with this mountain to dump it on you all at once. I could spend the rest of my life writing about St. Helens, and still just barely scratch the surface. You could spend the rest of your days with her, and she could still surprise you.

Here’s where we’re at so far:

Dedication: The Geologists Who Died at Mount St. Helens. Yes, geologists plural. We’re fortunate most of the scientists working on the mountain survived, but we did lose a few of our own. They showed incredible dedication. This series is dedicated to them.

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Current Quiet Interval Will Not Last…” In 1978, USGS geologists Dwight Crandell and Donal Mullineaux published a paper that spelled out the possibilities of a future eruption of Mt. St. Helens in stark detail. The work they did on this volcano prevented the catastrophe from being far worse than it was. This paper put everyone on notice: we have a dangerous mountain in our midst, and she could wake up at any time.

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “One of the Most Active and Most Explosive Volcanoes in the Cascade Range.” Dwight Crandell had nearly completed an exhaustive study of Mount St. Helens’s eruptive history when she added to his workload in 1980. She had quite the history of hijinks. Crandell’s study of her violent past helped predict her current behavior.

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Unusual Character of the Seismic Activity Became Clear.” In mid-March of 1980, a swarm of earthquakes unprecedented in our experience of Cascades volcanoes put everyone on notice: something big was happening, and it was only getting bigger…

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “Something Dramatic.” One of the seismologists watching the earthquake swarm unfold later wrote, “We did not see how this activity could continue without something dramatic happening.” And something dramatic did.

So that brings up up through March 27th. We’ve got a ways to go before the big ba-boom. The nearly two months between that first phreatic blast and the historic eruption were fraught with activity. So yes, I will continue stringing you along, bringing you ever closer, leaving you dangling on precipices, and hopefully keeping you intrigued throughout.

Small phreatic eruption of Mount St. Helens in the spring of 1980, before the May 18, 1980 blast. USGS Photograph taken by the Cascades Volcano Observatory.


Interlude with Frogs

People may ask, “Dana, your day job entails getting screamed at by people, and sexist bullshit is rampant. How do you remain cheerful in the face of this?” Go on, ask, so I can say, “People may ask….”

There’s several answers to that, some involving rocks, some awesome allies leading the charge against dumbfuckery, and some the amazing regulars I have at this cantina. However, one answer is foremost in my mind at the moment: Froggies!

Froggies like this one, which likes to hang round in my friend Paula’s garden and is tiny but precious.

Fun little froggie. Possibly one of the local species, even! Image courtesy Paula.

I might have mentioned I’ve been after frogs. There’s a ditch that runs in front of the call center with water in, and whilst rambling about it one afternoon, I heard a rather large sploosh. This alerted me to the possibility of frogs in the area. I made it a mission to catch the buggers. Not literally catch, mind. The poor things are trying to relax, last thing they need is some weird human plucking them out of their hidey-place and eyeballing them. But I wandered down on breaks all the following week, practicing stealth approaches, and getting to know their habits. After a bit, I figured out where in the ditch they were likely to be: near the deeper water. Awesome! This is observation and, I believe, deduction. Or is it induction? What do you call it when you decide the frogs like deeper water because that’s the only place you’ve heard them go sploosh?


A few days of steadfast effort led to my first sighting of the main frog. It was resting on the bank in its slate-gray glory, and didn’t give a toss there was some woman standing on the sidewalk gawping at it just so long as the woman stayed on the sidewalk. Also, I didn’t have my camera. Wildlife is remarkably good at posing when I haven’t got my camera.

When I came prepared, this was all I saw:

Froggy peering from the water

I didn’t even see that much at first, because the little bugger had splooshed into the water the instant it heard me coming. How is it that the wildlife round here always knows when I’ve got the camera ready?

Fortunately, there are three froggies to choose from, and the one just down the way didn’t give a rat’s ass whether I had a camera or not.

Froggy II, otherwise known as Bullfrog the Bold.

And then, by the time I’d got back up to the main part of the ditch, Froggy the First was peeking out, and looked mightily astonished that freaky lady was back again.

Well, I was determined to get a photo of the first frog. I’m partial to it, for one thing, and for the second, it’s closer to the sidewalk with fewer obstructions in the way. And after a few days’ disappointment, I at last managed a few photos.

Froggy I, otherwise known as Frogerick the Freaked.

Got a nice set-up there, hasn’t it? Some soft mulch, there’s grass up the hill, rocks, pretty water plants, and a nice deep pool to leap into and hide when freaky people drop by.

Frogerick the Freaked hangin’ out. Look at the webbed foot! Look at it!!

I’ve begun leading field trips to the frogs. And it turns out that my friend Amanda is a frog whisperer. Frogerick the Freaked didn’t freak a bit when she approached with her camera phone: it sat there nice and quietly while she stepped closer, and she managed to get an excellent shot.

Frogerick the Freaked posing prettily for Amanda. Image courtesy Amanda and her mad skillz with a camera phone.

I’m a pathetic sucker for froggies. Even though I’m reasonably sure these are bullfrogs and therefore icky invasives, I still squee when I see them. Okay, so I sounded angry all week when I hadn’t seen anything more than the ripple of water left by their swift leaps to safety. I know I swore I’d “get those fucking frogs.” But I said it affectionately, and because it alliterates well. Now, every break, I go bouncing down to see the froggies, and do my best not to upset them too much, although the sploosh they make is bloody adorable. And they’re quite athletic. I’ve seen Frogerick the Freaked leap from that bank into the water many times: it has excellent form.

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:

-Basho (trans. Alan Watts)

Did you know there are at least 30 English translations of Master Basho’s frog poem? Something tells me I’m not the only one semi-obsessed by frogs. I like the sound of the Japanese:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

It fits frogs, somehow. Simple creatures, simple acts, simple words, combined into enduring beauty.

That’s what keeps me happy. That, and rocks, and you.

Here’s What I Don’t Want to Do At Conferences

I’ve been seeing, in various and sundry threads on the matter, a lot of people babbling nonsense like, “Just report harassment to security and/or the police! And if they don’t take you seriously, look for someone who will!” This is their brilliant solution to the harassment problem. No policy needed! There’s cops and security guards. Problem solved!

There was also one person with apparently magnificent muscles who advocates a physical response, and suggested that Salman Rushdie, for instance, could have responded to a fatwa condemning him to death by gathering a gang and marching through the Iranian streets. This is only the most amusing amongst those who have proffered helpful advice along the lines of, “If someone bothers you, kick ‘em in the nads!”

(Note to the nad kicking advocates: I tried this on my rapist. He turned out to be very good at blocking.)

Nearly every thread is salted with such sage advice. But you know what? When I venture from my home and attend an event, I do not want to have to gather a gang and stage a Big Trouble in Little China scenario. I don’t want to wear steel-toed boots just in case any delicate bits might have to be prodded so as to emphasize the words, “You are being inappropriate. Go away.” I don’t want to spend the majority of my time there tracking down security guards and policemen and harried organizers in order to explain that some nimrod grabbed my boobs, and that I subsequently assaulted him on the advice of internet geniuses. I don’t want to spend time in jail because I took the advice of said geniuses, and this turned out to be a more egregious offense in the eyes of the authorities than the boob-grabbing.*

I want to enjoy the event in peace.

Now, it’s possible I’ll go to the conference with no harassment policy and be one of those lucky buggers who has nothing bad happen at all. I may not witness anyone being harassed. All may be peaches and pastry, with a little champagne on the side. But should the lottery return my number, I’d rather not spend the rest of the event pursuing justice. I paid to see talks and have a good time with like-minded individuals. I did not pay to put up with the shit I already have to put up with in public areas containing arseholes.

News flash for the terminally hard of thinking: most people attend conferences with broadly similar goals.

A good policy does several things that makes this experience likely to be a happy one for all but those who have an irresistible impulse to harass.

1. It lays out the ground rules. It sketches out appropriate behavior, so that everyone has the same expectations, and a clear idea of what’s acceptable and what is not. This tells potential harassers that their hijinks are not welcome, and will prevent some of them from going, and others from misbehaving.

2. For those who think the rules don’t apply to them, it gives victims good recourse. It’s not just a sheet of paper with marks upon it. It is backed up by people scattered throughout the conference who are readily available to report to. It spells out how such reports will be handled, and records such incidents for posterity. It ejects abusers and protects the abused.

3. It allows everyone to get on with the business of enjoying the conference or event reasonably harassment-free. This way, paying attendees who did not engage in inappropriate behavior don’t have their experience ruined by either having to tolerate jackasses, leave to avoid them, or spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get the situation taken seriously and taken care of.

4. Oh, and it covers the asses of the organizers. This is a bit critical. Legal protection is essential. So is telling your attendees, who have paid you cash money for a pleasant time, that their money shall not be wasted. This allows attendees to extol your virtues to other potential attendees, a not insignificant number of whom will choose to pay you cash money in the future for the pleasure of attending your event. This prevents attendees from finding it necessary to sue you in order to be compensated for what you had a responsibility to prevent but couldn’t be bothered to even do a half-arsed job at, much less make a good-faith effort. It’s called “good faith and due diligence.” Know it. Embrace it.

The genius thing about a good harassment policy is that it works for everyone. For instance, if I corner you during a mixer and imply I will kick you in the nads with my shiny steel-toed boots if you do not pay attention to me, you can flag down one of those handy conference people who are mixed in with the mixers and have them make me go away. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rough-and-tough man who could have simply picked me up and set me out of the way. You don’t have to risk being accused of assault and battery by handling the situation yourself.

Just to be clear, I would never harass anyone in this fashion. But I use myself as an example to show that such a policy is good for all attendees, not just those traditional targets of harassment.

This is it. This is the request that has stirred up such a shitstorm: have a policy in place that will prevent at least some harassment and deftly handle any that does occur, without blaming victims, without being unfair to the accused, without interfering with the fun of any except predatory fuckwits.

This is what some conferences haven’t yet done.

It bloody well boggles my mind.

As for those who propose roving gangs and brawling as an appropriate remedy for harassment, I suggest a course of vigorous brain exercise. I’m afraid those two lonely neurons of yours are wasting away from disuse.


*We will be discussing the danger of escalation in a future post. People who advocate a firm foot to the fruit as a solution to all problems apparently do not live in a world where this often leads to an unequal and opposite reaction. We, alas, do.


(Standard reminder for posts on sensitive subjects: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Due to the vagaries of work and sleep, they may not be released immediately. Swearing and disagreement are fine, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment. There are also ground rules for this discussion here.)

How Not to Handle Harassment

D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, has a disaster on his hands. It didn’t have to be. There is a sentence he could have said at the very beginning, when folks were talking about the need for good, solid harassment policies at conventions and conferences. He could have said, “JREF takes harassment very seriously, and we will ensure a strong policy is in place to ensure speakers and guests are safe at TAM.” Then all he needed to do was to make sure an excellent policy was prominently posted, complete with reporting and enforcement procedures. Had he done so, two prominent women in the skeptical movement would not have withdrawn from TAM due to issues with his handling of harassment and threats.

This was never about TAM until he chose a different route. He chose to make it all about TAM. Those who already know the sordid history can skip this next bit, unless they wish to see D.J.’s spectacular fuck-up once again.

Observe this Facebook thread, wherein the possibility of a panel at TAM on sexual harassment was raised, and he responded thusly: “Hi Sophie, sounds like an interesting topic. But as you guessed, it is too late to add a panel to this year’s show. (The program is largely set many months out.) Also, I tend to agree with Barb that the topic seems sort of unrelated to JREF’s mission and the focus of TAM, scientific skepticism. Do you aim to debunk junk science in the field of sexual harassment or merely to educate folks and raise their awareness about the important topic?”

Please do take especial note of that “merely.” The hastily-appended “important” doesn’t balance it. “Mere” education and consciousness raising about the harassment and harm women endure has no place in D.J.’s organization.

Downstream in the thread, he says this:

“Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been on reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.”

The amount of fail contained herein is unbelievable for the president of any organization, much less the flagship skeptic’s organization. And he piled fail upon fail. When you claim there were “no reports of such harassment,” yet you were the one personally throwing out at least one harasser, and you blame your falling numbers on the women who speak of TAM like it’s some sort of skeptic mecca while they raise funds for more women to attend, you are telling women that for all you may claim you give a shit about them, in reality, you don’t give a shit about them. Neither does the organization you lead.

And when your immediate response to the news that one of your speakers is withdrawing due to threats is, basically, “meh, that’s too bad,” no subsequent response will be adequate to preserve the tattered remains of your organization’s reputation. Not now. Not until after a very long, sustained, and strong commitment to fixing all the shit you fucked up in the first place. Only time will tell whether the damage is too severe for even those measures to work, assuming D.J. and the JREF care enough to try. Nothing I’ve seen from them so far leads me to believe they will make more than a token effort, wrapped in a few pretty words that manage, once again, to blame women for the problems they face.

I’ve seen in many comments threads resulting from Ophelia’s announcement that, due to threats, she would not be attending TAM, variations on the following question: “How are those threats TAM’s fault?”

They are the fault of the person who made said threats, of course. But D.J. created an environment in which such threats could not be reasonably expected to be taken at all seriously by anyone associated with TAM. This is the extent of any policy they have to deal with issues such as this:

Registration Policies

Prices are subject to change without notice. Refund policy: 50% of charged amount will be refunded if canceled by June 15, 2012. Audio/Visual Recording for personal use only. We reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone. Disruptive individuals will be asked to leave. Questions? Email

There is no harassment policy visible on their site. There is nothing spelling out how harassment will be handled, other than that “disruptive individuals will be asked to leave.” There is nothing explaining how and to whom incidents should be reported, what steps will be taken to ensure the comfort and security of attendees. No zero tolerance emphasized for threats or predation. And after watching D.J.’s demonizing performance over the past few weeks, after hearing nothing but thundering silence from the JREF board, after the viciousness displayed by supporters, after no policy other than those two pathetic sentences has been proffered when people have asked, “Where is TAM’s harassment policy? How will it address the obvious gaps in reporting and management that previous incidents at TAM revealed?” how can any person with two functional brain cells to their name possibly ask what responsibility TAM has for some of its speakers not feeling safe?

Conferences have a responsibility for the safety and security of their attendees. Good conferences take threats extremely seriously. They do not begin by creating an environment in which previous harassment is denied, and hence signaling to harassers that few, if any consequences will be faced. They do not achieve safety and security by creating the impression that victims are on their own, aside from hotel security, if they can even interest security in the situation in the first place. TAM did nothing to make a reasonable person believe they would do a damned thing to protect their guests. Why should their speakers expect more?

Tomorrow, realizing that a mild expression of regret is not the appropriate response to a speaker who is withdrawing because of threats, some JREF officials may decide to belatedly ask what they can do, and offer heightened security. That will be too little, too late. The immediate response to someone reporting that they have been threatened with harm if they attend is to do everything possible to mitigate the hazard and assure the world at large that threats are taken with utmost seriousness. Doing that later, when people have formed the opinion that TAM just doesn’t give a shit about women, gives the impression that it is reputation, not safety, that is foremost in their minds.

And if TAM treats its speakers with this kind of blatant disregard, what should I, as a mere female attendee, expect? I can tell you this: although I know many people who went to previous TAMs and had the best time of their lives, I won’t be going. Not now. Not since virtual carte blanche has been given to those who harass and those who harm. I can see for whom the green light shines. It isn’t shining on people who wish not to be harassed.

When your numbers drop to single digits, D.J., and you go searching for blame, you have only to turn to your mirror.



(Standard reminder for posts on sensitive subjects: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Due to the vagaries of work and sleep, they may not be released immediately. Swearing and disagreement are fine, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment. There are also ground rules for this discussion here.)

A Brief History of Speaking Out on ETEV

I’ve spent the past few days immersed in the latest furor over sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities. I haven’t yet read the transcripts for “The Great Penis Debate,” but I’ve read quite a bit else, including many comment threads, and I’m still amazed by the sheer volume of the screeching resulting from something so simple as saying, “Hey, this community can do better than background levels of harassment at conventions – why not encourage conventions to have harassment policies?”

The resulting backlash has sounded much like what happens when you take a toy away from a toddler – only the tantrum is combined with rape “jokes” and other unsavory vitriol. It’s amazing for its sheer volume. It appears the idea that people should be able to enjoy conferences without worrying about harassment, and that policies should be in place for dealing with harassment when and if it happens, will always be controversial to a certain subset of people. Whether those people are spectacularly clueless, despicable, hopelessly contrarian, or combinations of the three is left as an exercise to the reader.

I’ll be addressing some of this from my own perspective in the coming weeks. And I hope that those readers who come here for the geology and the birds and the flowers will stay for this conversation, because it’s important. Even if you never intend to attend a convention, it’s important. Even if you think your neck of the woods hasn’t got a problem, it’s important. Even if you think those of us speaking out are just shrill, strident harpies, it’s important – perhaps especially important if you’re trapped in that way of thinking. If you’re one of those women who thinks other women should just toughen the fuck up, this conversation is important.*

If you haven’t been a regular reader for some time, you’ve likely not come across many of my posts on related topics. I’m not one of the bloggers who’s made feminist issues a cornerstone of my blogging, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t important to me. I am a woman who has experienced both sexual violence and unwanted sexual advances, sometimes verging on harassment. I haven’t been through the sheer amount of crap other women have. I haven’t suffered the appalling abuse trans women suffer. But I’ve experienced some of what it means to be female in our society. And I believe we not only can do better, but must.

I am a woman who would like to make this world a better place for women. I believe it will also be a better place for men, and people who don’t quite fit either category, or eschew categories all together. The only humans that will be at all inconvenienced in this better world are the ones who don’t like having to behave in a manner that takes people’s value as human beings rather than conquests into account. I’m not sorry for that subset of people.

I want my friends’ grandkids to look at me like I’m absolutely mad when I tell them there was once a time when not harassing people was ever considered controversial. I’m blogging on a network full of people who are working for that world. I’ve got my little bit to contribute in support of their efforts. I know many of you are, in big ways and small, doing the same.

We can make it happen. Together.

A Brief History:

Subsidizing the Rape Culture


*Here are the ground rules for the conversation as it pertains to this blog. There are other places out there where people have been allowed to get away with bad behavior. This is not that place.

If you need to brush up on Feminism 101, this is not the place to get educated. We’re beyond that point. Do your homework, because this isn’t a remedial class. Asking about the basics again and again and again, then sniveling when people don’t spend their time educating the ineducable, has become a favorite derailing tactic of trolls. If you can’t make the effort to get up to speed, you are presumed to be derailing the conversation, and you’re out.

Victim blaming is not acceptable at any time. Don’t even try to engage in it.

Gendered slurs and insults, rape “jokes,” threats, or other such misbehavior will get you banned.

Keep the conversation respectful. You’ll get a warning if you look to be starting a flame war. One warning. Then you’re done.

Read the comment policy for this blog carefully before you comment.

I haven’t had a problem with the comments so far. Everything except for obvious spam (because a billion links to shoe stores is so relevant, right?) and one comment intended for another thread has made it through. The folks who have commented here so far have been fantastic, and I’m proud that this cantina has remained such a civil place through uncivil times. But seeing as how we’re about to get into much more contentious territory, I just want to be clear about expectations to newcomers up front. Anyone thinking those rules are too draconian should anticipate not wasting their time here.

Are we clear? Excellent.

Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge Wrap-up

Now you see the result of the Wages of Sin™: I get to toss challenges your way and donate my filthy lucre to worthy causes like the Secular Student Alliance. Our Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge was immensely fun – I think next year, we’ll do it all week. If you’ve got geology photos you want to contribute to the cause*, send ‘em my way: dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. I’ll put ‘em in a special folder and make next year’s Challenge a little less American West-centric. We could even do something of this sort for Donor’s Choose this fall, eh? This way, you all get to have fun, and the wee bit o’ cash I earn from blogging here goes to where it’ll do some good.

Here’s the roundup of Challenge Photos and Winners:

Challenge Número Uno: Snoqualmie Falls, WA, won by Cynthia Chia on G+

Snoqualmie Falls

I’m impressed that Cynthia was able to pinpoint the location so quickly. I’m even more impressed that she managed to do it from a fragment of the Falls, and keep in mind that the Falls don’t always look the same – what you see in spring is far different from what you’ll see in late summer. Not to mention, the Falls are half-obscured in all that mist!

Yes, it was cloudy, rainy and misty. That just made the views more awesome. I captured this at a moment when the mists cleared and a wee bit o’ sun found its way through the clouds. I haven’t done up a proper post on the geology of Snoqualmie Falls yet. When I do, I intend to shred your socks. It’s bloody well exciting, people.

Challenge Número Dos: Wizard Island, Crater Lake, OR, won by Ron Schott.

Wizard Island

Ron is such a master at this sort o’ thing that he not only identified this as Crater Lake, but pinpointed the exact lava flow and the viewpoint from which it was taken. And he would’ve done that for every single other photo if he hadn’t stepped back to give others a chance. Ron is bloody amazing at this stuff.

I want ya’ll to note that the lake really is that outrageously blue. You don’t comprehend exactly how blue until you’re gawping at it in real life. Most of it is TARDIS blue, the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. Shallow bits have this Caribbean aquamarine tinge. I could have spent the entire day doing nothing but taking photos of the water. I’ll be doing up an in-depth post on it one o’ these days. If I ever finish with Mount St. Helens, that is…

Challenge Número Tres: Dry Falls and Banks Lake from the Air, won by Cole Kingsbury.

Dry Falls and Banks Lake

This one was exciting! Ron had it pegged within 8 minutes, of course, but we had a Schott Rule in effect to give others a chance. Then, after a wee hint, Cole and Lockwood nailed it within a minute of each other. Cole Kingsbury wins, o’ course, because he was a) first and b) mentioned both Dry Falls and Banks Lake, plus the Missoula Floods that created Dry Falls. Lockwood’s right that we’re staring down into Grand Coulee, one of those incredible canyons carved out by the floods.

I’ve got photos from a trip a few years ago, but all on my crappy old camera, so I’m going to revisit it someday and take some much better ones. Has nothing to do with wanting to play in the Channeled Scablands again. Nossir. Not a bit of it. Strictly in the interests of Art. Not. If you’ve never been there, Dry Falls is utterly indescribable. All you can do is stare and make overwhelmed noises. Ron has got some gigapans from that area – you need to go have a look. And read Trebuchet’s comment, which perfectly sums up the geological history and the hydroelectric and irrigational importance of Banks Lake.

I want you to consider one thing about Dry Falls: that plane was 30,000 feet up, and you can still see it clearly. I gazed down at the gouges below the lake and my jaw dropped. That is one hell of a big waterfall – imagine what it would look like with water cascading over!

Challenge Número Quatro: Chesterfield Gorge, NH, won by Lockwood DeWitt.

Chesterfield Gorge, NH

I trusted that at least one of you would remember that I’d been visiting Evelyn in New Hampshire recently, and that she wrote on this feature, so I made a request that not only should the location be provided, but geologists’ ideas on how it formed as well. Lockwood was right on top of that! He correctly identified it as Chesterfield Gorge, New Hampshire, and provided the link to her write-up on our adventure there.

This is a really neat little place. It doesn’t look like all that much – it’s a stream going over bedrock, pretty but yawn – until you look at the rock it’s flowing over and do a double-take. Streambeds are supposed to be rather smooth, really, but this one’s sharp and raw. WTF?! It’s certainly young and odd. And gorgeous. There are stretches where it’s just a babbling brook flowing through a small incline, and then you walk a little ways down and there’s this sudden gash, with a rather dramatic flow. It’s not massive, but it doesn’t have to be. And the rocks around it are fascinating. It’s full of win. If you ever get the chance to go, absolutely do.

Challenge Número Cinco: Hornito (Spatter Cone) at Sunset Crater, Arizona, won by Lockwood DeWitt.

Hornito at Sunset Crater. Image courtesy Cujo359.

No Schott Rule for this last one: it was all hands on deck for the final challenge. And it was challenging! Red herrings, near-misses, and the win. I was afraid, since I’d used a photo taken by Northwest denizen Cujo359, that you’d all realize quickly this must be from that trip to Arizona he and I took together, and get it fast, but that turned out not to be the case. I’d told Lockwood that Sunset Crater looks remarkably like Lava Butte in Oregon, and my intrepid companion was on that trip with us, too. Once I pointed him farther south, Lockwood was able to quickly figure it out.

Trebuchet nearly beat him to it: got the spatter cone, but not the location. Considering his Banks Lake dissertation and the near-miss here, I went ahead and chipped in another $5 to the SSA.

So, hornito. Here’s another view of it:

Hornito at Sunset Crater, showing its open side.

Sorry the image quality is atrocious, but that’s me old camera, and Cujo didn’t have anything quite like this angle. Sigh. Anyway. Technically, this probably isn’t a spatter cone – a spatter cone has got its own vent, whereas a hornito is rootless, meaning the lava that creates it splashes up from a lava tube or some such source from the lava flow itself rather than the source vent. But they’re the same family o’ thing: formed by fluid lava (such as basalt) splashing up and landing in splotches and splootches. Yes, I made up that last word. It’s a good word for big gummy bits of lava landing and sticking to each other, isn’t it?

This one’s hollow, and looks rather like a tuff ring. Lockwood may be able to tell us a bit more about how such a feature forms. It’s not quite like the ones we saw in Oregon that exploded under playa lakes – no lakes around the Sunset Crater area 900 years ago – but it’s remarkably similar, although tiny compared to the giants we climbed round.

Right. So that was our geology challenge. Excellent job, all of you! We earned the SSA at least $110 (our $55, plus the dollar-for-dollar matching funds). And this was a huge lot of fun! We’ll definitely be doing this again.


For those who wish to donate to the Secular Student Alliance themselves, the button still works fine. I just used it! And remember, there’s a $250,000 matching offer on the table that’ll double your money:

*This is a bit different from the reader’s photos which I still haven’t gotten round to posting, but will! For this set, I’ll need clearly identified locations and features of geological interest. It can be of a famous location, but if so, choose a picture that gives hints but doesn’t blatantly announce where it is. Challenge, dontcha know?