Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Fraidy-Dinos

Ibis3 sent me a photo that will hopefully make you work for it. Ya’ll have had it easy lately. I feel like I’m not giving you proper challenges. Perhaps a semi-sasquatch photo where the bird’s all blurry will help make things challenging. Besides, it’s a rather nice bird.

UFD I

UFD I

Here’s it’s story:

The picture was taken on October 3rd, about a kilometre and a half from the north shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 80 km east of Toronto. There were about four or five of them in my back yard but as soon as I got my camera and went outside to take a snap, they decided it was too scary and departed forthwith. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer.

So we have one slightly braver bird in a cluster of ‘fraidy-birds, who held still enough for a snap but not still enough for a glamor shot. I have every faith in you, my darlings. Go forth and identify!

Friday Freethought: “A Peril Dared for the Advancement of Truth”

Being one of the dreaded gnu atheists, accomodationists make my teeth itch. Mind you, I believe there’s a place for all kinds of atheism: the soft and fuzzy kind believers can snuggle up to has its uses, just as does the hard and sleek kind that shows no mercy to belief (but don’t mistake that for lack of compassion for believers!). No movement does its best without diversity. But the accomodationists who seem to think that criticism of religion is right out of bounds and turn on any atheist who isn’t afraid to call silly buggers on silly beliefs – ugh. Don’t put me in a room with one, please. If I find myself alone with someone like, oh, say, Chris Stedman, I may find myself saying something Not Nice.

Then again, I have many elegant and eloquent Victorian-age atheists, agnostics and freethinkers to turn to now. Perhaps I’ll just pull up a quote in the Kindle and hand it to them. The freethinkers who came before dealt with this crap. They dealt with the believers whining, “But you never talk about the good things about my ridiculous beliefs!” and they dealt with people telling them to STFU. They got accused of all the sorts of things we do. And they weren’t at a loss for words.

Some of their words were Not Nice according to some tastes. But they said Not Nice things in lovely language, and I think those things are Very Nice indeed. Take, for instance, this section in M.M. Mangasarian‘s The Truth About Jesus: Is He a Myth? He’s speaking mostly to believers, but many of these words work for the soft-on-religion-hard-on-freethinkers kind of accommodationist as well.

 

People say to me, sometimes, “Why do you not confine yourself to moral and religious exhortation, such as, ‘Be kind, do good, love one another, etc.’?” But there is more of a moral tonic in the open and candid discussion of a subject like the one in hand, than in a multitude of platitudes. We feel our moral fiber stiffen into force and purpose under the inspiration of a peril dared for the advancement of truth.

“Tell us what you believe,” is one of the requests frequently addressed to me. I never deliver a lecture in which I do not, either directly or indirectly, give full and free expression to my faith in everything that is worthy of faith. If I do not believe in dogma, it is because I believe in freedom. If I do not believe in one inspired book, it is because I believe that all truth and only truth is inspired. If I do not ask the gods to help us, it is because I believe in human help, so much more real than supernatural help. If I do not believe in standing still, it is because I believe in progress. If I am not attracted by the vision of a distant heaven, it is because I believe in human happiness, now and here. If I do not say “Lord, Lord!” to Jesus, it is because I bow my head to a greater Power than Jesus, to a more efficient Savior than he has ever been—Science!

“Oh, he tears down, but does not build up,” is another criticism about my work. It is not true. No preacher or priest is more constructive. To build up their churches and maintain their creeds the priests pulled down and destroyed the magnificent civilization of Greece and Rome, plunging Europe into the dark and sterile ages which lasted over a thousand years. When Galileo waved his hands for joy because he believed he had enriched humanity with a new truth and extended the sphere of knowledge, what did the church do to him? It conspired to destroy him. It shut him up in a dungeon! Clapping truth into jail; gagging the mouth of the student—is that building up or tearing down? When Bruno lighted a new torch to increase the light of the world, what was his reward? The stake! During all the ages that the church had the power to police the world, every time a thinker raised his head he was clubbed to death. Do you think it is kind of us—does it square with our sense of justice to call the priest constructive, and the scientists and philosophers who have helped people to their feet—helped them to self-government in politics, and to self-help in life,—destructive? Count your rights—political, religious, social, intellectual—and tell me which of them was conquered for you by the priest.

 

Erratic Quartet

The story of the Puget lowland is one of plate tectonics (forearc basin, donchaknow), but it’s also one of continent-spanning glaciers, and those glaciers dragged evidence of plate tectonics over and left it strewn practically all over my doorstep. The drumlin we’re on is lousy with erratics. I’d discovered several recently, and been itching to get after them with the rock hammer before bad weather set in. Luckily, our beautiful weather held out until I got my shot at vacation at the beginning of October. I grabbed the hammer and headed up the drumlin for some quality rock-breaking time whilst the kitteh basked in the sunshine.

These beauties are at the top of a nice paved trail.

Erratic set.

Erratic set.

When I first spotted them, it was an early morning just before work, and I didn’t have time to linger. They looked a bit granitic, I thought, and there was that big black streak – dike? Xenolith? Between weathering and lack of time, I wasn’t sure.

Erratic set. Hammer for scale.

Erratic set. Hammer for scale.

So I took after them with the hammer. I got a gneiss surprise – orthogneiss, in fact.

Orthogneiss, fresh surface.

Orthogneiss, fresh surface.

Let me show you something neat you can do with the local orthogneiss. Geologist Ron Tabor pointed it out in his book Geology of the North Cascades. Look at orthogneiss one way, and it’s streaky:

Orthogneiss top view.

Orthogneiss top view.

Turn it 90°, so that you’re staring in to the streaks, and it seems spotty.

Orthogneiss edge view.

Orthogneiss edge view.

This isn’t foliated, but lineated – which means it got more stretched than squished.

The big, dark crystals of hornblende and biotite just shimmer against the pale feldspar and quartz. You can even see its sparkle on lightly-weathered bits of the rock in the darkness of a forest. It’s gorgeous stuff.

Mmm, orthogneiss!

Mmm, orthogneiss!

I wasn’t able to get a decent sample of the black streak – it was too hard, and there wasn’t a good angle to break a chunk off from. When I whacked it, great fat red sparks flew, and I became afraid I’d set the forest on fire, which might have seriously inconvenienced the neighbors and possibly turned them off to geology, so I stopped pounding. But I got a bit.

Bit from the black streak.

Bit from the black streak.

It’s just as shimmery as the orthogneiss, and seems at a glance to be pretty much the same stuff, just darker and finer. Not knowing my metamorphic rocks the way I should, I’m not sure what to make of it. Is it just some orthogneiss where the dark minerals got concentrated? A xenolith? A dike? The latter seems unlikely to me, unless it’s a dike that intruded before the stuff started getting metamorphosed – it’s streaky and flaky and looks like it’s been quite hot and under pressure in its past.

Fresh surface on dark streak.

Fresh surface on dark streak.

One thing I’m fairly certain of: this set of boulders was probably dragged down from the North Cascades. There’s portions of that area that are practically solid orthogneiss – around Ross Lake, for instance.

Our second erratic is along a non-paved trail, and seems at first glance to be grandiorite, or tonalite, or something else in the non-metamorphosed granite family.

Big granitic boulder.

Big granitic boulder.

It seems to have been much less hot and bothered than our first erratics. And we’ve got tons of this stuff up in the Cascades, too.

Macro of granitic boulder.

Macro of granitic boulder.

If it gets buried deep enough for long enough, if heat and pressure get to it, then it could become orthogneiss. I can’t give a solid diagnosis as to exactly what it is, as I didn’t take after it with the hammer. I was too anxious to get at these beauties.

Erratic duet.

Erratic duet.

These two really caught my attention the first time I encountered them. You see, the one in the foreground is extremely hard. The second is soft and spalling, weathering in sheets.

Weathering on erratic.

Weathering on erratic.

You can actually peel bits off.

You can actually peel bits off.

When I mentioned it, some folks thought it might be basalt weathering to clay. So I whacked on it a bit to find out. I don’t think it’s basalt. I can bore a sandy hole right in it with the pick.

Definitely soft and rotten.

Definitely soft and rotten.

And it looks very much like sandstone. Possibly volcanoclastic. In point of fact, it looks nearly exactly like outcrops of the Blakeley Formation I’ve encountered.

Macro of sandstone from boulder.

Macro of sandstone from boulder.

Whereas the other boulder is certainly not that. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s extremely hard to break.

Macro of companion boulder, which may be close in distance, but is very different stuff indeed.

Macro of companion boulder, which may be close in distance, but is very different stuff indeed.

The only things I’m relatively certain of: it’s not plutonic. It’s not sedimentary – although it’s possible it used to be and has been metamorphosed, but I’m leaning toward something extrusively igneous.

Another macro of very hard stone.

Another macro of very hard stone.

The hammer didn’t strike sparks from it. Outside of that, I’ve no idea.

Mystery erratic. Hammer for scale.

Mystery erratic. Hammer for scale.

One day, I’ll be better at identifying random rocks in the field. I’m already far more adept than I used to be. And I’m getting over the self-consciousness about whacking on rocks when non-geologists are present. I mean, it’s not exactly ordinary behavior, a solitary woman hammering on a boulder. It earns stares. But at least you lot have made me comfortable saying, “Hello, I’m a geologist,” so there’s that. And perhaps this winter, I’ll get round to appending this to my clothing:

I need this on the back of my jacket.

I need this on the back of my jacket.

Then, should anyone get curious, we can skip the formalities and get to talking about why geologists break rocks to begin with, and why, in an area where bedrock is several thousand feet down, there are so many rocks available to break. And that story starts with ice from Canada, plucking rocks and leaving them all over the place…

Testing With LOLcats

It appears Feedburner has officially died. I shall now test my new feed-to-Twitter service by feeding you geology lols.

Glacial geology kitteh

Glacial geology kitteh.

Bentonite kitteh

Bentonite kitteh. Image courtesy Callan Bentley.

Right Round the Horseshoe Bend

There’s very little I miss about Page, Arizona, but the landscape is one. Well, the only. I still get nostalgic when I stumble across it.

And then Garry at Geotripper has to go and publish a post on the Horseshoe Bend.

Horseshoe Bend by Garry Hayes. Used with Permission.

This is one of those places the locals, geologists and photographers know well, and strangers almost never see. And it’s one of the places I took John from New Zealand to.

I’ve mentioned John before, in connection to kittens named Jesus. I thought I’d told the story of how we met, but I can’t find it. So I’ll bloody well tell it again. If you’ve heard it, just head over to Garry’s place now.

I went through a rare phase of getting up early in the morning. I’d spend an hour or so in the local coffee shop, scribbling and having a coffee, before heading in to work at the bookstore a few doors down. I’d learned to tune Dave, the owner’s brother, out. It wasn’t easy. He had a boisterous Boston voice and was always saying something whacky. I particularly enjoyed the day he expounded upon statistics. “Every family,” he said, “has 2.5 children and .5 dogs.” He vanished into the storeroom, and came out with his hands behind his back. “This,” he said, and whipped out a coyote skull he’d found in the desert with a flourish, “is my point-five of a dog.”

That was Dave. We gave him endless crap over his Boston accent and loved him immensely. But when you’re writing, you try to ignore distractions like Dave.

But there was a morning I couldn’t ignore him, because his voice, rising above the general chatter, clink of cups and hiss of espresso machines, had just said, “Oh, yeah, Dana’s from the area. She can show you around.”

I threw down my pen and gave him a Look. He was at the bar, talking to someone I’d never seen. “What did you just volunteer me for?”

“John here wants to see the Horseshoe Bend,” he said cheerfully. He went on to introduce John, who was from New Zealand, as I went through several calculations, among which was the likelihood I could trust Dave’s friends.

I pulled Dave aside. “Do you know John?”

“No, just met him this morning. He’s a nice guy.”

John, in fact, was dressed as a serial killer. He was wearing perfectly ordinary clothing. Rather nice clothing, by Page standards. And he looked nice. Ordinary. Just like serial killers.

Horseshoe Bend is in the middle of nowhere, for all intents and purposes. It’s not that far outside of town, but it’s not exactly a heavily-frequented spot, and it’s a drive down a dirt – well, sand – road, and then a long walk over sand to get there. You could be hours without seeing a soul. Still. I was in the midst of reclaiming my ability to trust people after having been raped, and this seemed like a good opportunity to work on that. Take a perfect stranger out to the middle of nowhere, in my car, and walk further into the middle of nowhere with him, with no one but Dave knowing where we were, all in order to build confidence again. Genius.

I wasn’t terribly worried, actually. If John got dangerous, I figured, there was a convenient 1,000 drop to tip him over. No problemo.

So I stuffed John in the car, and off we went to Horseshoe Bend. On the way, John told me he was a PhD student in anthropology, seeing America before headed off to the wilds of South America. He had a lovely accent, and was appropriately awed by the desert landscape, and I began to quite like him. And I’d been wanting to see Horseshoe Bend again anyway.

As far as entrenched meanders go, this one’s world class. Photographers scream in delight when the light hits it just so. And the look on John’s face when we reached it made the slight risk of sightseeing with a serial killer worth it. So worth it. He looked down, and down, and down, and made the kinds of noises people make when they’re staring at a river a thousand feet below, winding through the desert around a pillar of sandstone. I made the noises locals make when they’re proudly showing off the local attractions. And then we stood in silence for a bit, as the sun and shadows picked out all of the textures left by millions of years of uplift and erosion of lithified red dunes.

We ended up going out to Chin Lee afterward, on the Navajo reservation, through a lot of nowhere, so I could show him the traditional weavers, and we went over Glen Canyon Dam, and ate the local Mexican food (which horrified him, because he knew what the real stuff should taste like). I brought him home for fajitas that night, and he told me and my friend Janhavi the story of Jesus, and I’ll tell you something: it was one of the best days of my young life. I’ll never forget John. I’ll always be fond of Dave, even after being so clueless as to volunteer me to drive a perfect stranger around. And I will always adore Horseshoe Bend for having the cliffs that gave me the courage to risk it.

New at Rosetta Stones: In Which Pompeii is Discussed

Yeah, so there was this BBC article in which a Cambridge professor said Pompeii was buried by lava… and George pointed it out… and I couldn’t help but to read a few papers, and ask Professor Beard to please clarify, and then write up a post. Yeah, I could’ve left it at “It wasn’t lava, it was a pyroclastic flow,” but would we have really learned anything?

A wall in Pompeii with some spectacular autumn color. I knew some of you would appreciate it. Image courtesy Kari Bluff.

A wall in Pompeii with some spectacular autumn color. I knew some of you would appreciate it. Image courtesy Kari Bluff.

I learned a lot. Hopefully, there will be a bit or two in there you didn’t know.

The ruins of Pompeii. Image courtesy Carolyn Conner.

The ruins of Pompeii. Image courtesy Carolyn Conner.

Mystery Flora: Violaceous

That’s a word, folks. I like this word, “violaceous.” It sounds a bit like “bodacious,” which can either mean “bold and audacious” or a kind of iris. So with this word: it can mean “a violet color,” or violets.

In the spirit of a violet color, then, these little delights from near the Marys River in Oregon are violaceous.

Mystery Flower I

Mystery Flower I

One can also make an argument for “audacious,” considering how late in the season they were blooming.

A lot of plants around here are audacious. The abundance of water makes the buggers all sorts of bold. Bodacious they are – they’ll colonize just about anything. I’ve seen the most delicate-looking plants poking out of the most unlikely places.

Not that right alongside a river is an unlikely place. But vigorously blooming in October, that’s a little more on the bodacious side. I like the risk-takers at the beginning and end of the season. I’m hoping it wasn’t a more timid species deceived by the fine weather.

Mystery Flower II

Mystery Flower II

I didn’t try these, but they look vaguely like the flowers we used to pluck as kids and slurp sweet little slugs of nectar out of. It would pool at the base of the long flower. And it was extremely yummy. But these days, I have a horror of destroying flowers just to get a sip of nectar, and I don’t know if these were edible anyway. They might be. Many things up here are fairly kind.

Mystery Flower III

Mystery Flower III

There are many bodacious and violaceous flowers here in the Pacific Northwest. I hope to make the acquaintance of them all.

Mystery Flower IV

Mystery Flower IV

Microadventure! Thrills! Chills! Defiant Dandelions!

The sun came out for more than ten minutes on Sunday. It came out on Saturday, too, but both the cat and I slept through it. Dunno why the cat preferred to hang about in bed than snooze in a sunbeam, but I can tell you exactly why I was spending most of the day unconscious:

Meanwhile...
Artist’s rendition of my uterus on Saturday. Image courtesy Heartfelt Posts. Thank you, Rebecca Watson, for alerting me to its existence. This picture expresses my experience perfectly!

In my brief moments of wakefulness, I read about Krakatoa blowing up and cursed my useless reproductive organ. Whee. (For the record: Simon Winchester kicks Alwyn Scarth’s arse, even with a tendency to get some things wrong and over-emphasize others. At least he puts actual damned geology in his books. Gah.)

But things improved dramatically on Sunday, and the sun stuck around. I left the cat happily basking, and went to go look at some interesting fungi I’d seen on the verge when my area director and I were scoping out the floods last week. They were still there, and I shall have a full report with about twelve billion photos shortly. Fungi lovers will swoon. Seriously. No matter what, I promise. Because if you look at them and go, “Yawn, those are soooo common where I’m from,” I can pluck one from the ground, bean you with it, and you will definitely swoon. They’re that bloody big.

Of course, that would be assault with a deadly fungi, so this will remain a strictly hypothetical situation.

I also have some awesome aftermath of North Creek flooding. But that, too, will wait. I’ve got to read up on Pompeii unexpectedly. Outtakes first, then!

The Pond
The Pond

The pond was looking particularly lovely today. Also, larger. And I love how the willow trees got the memo it’s winter, crumpled it up, and threw it away. They’re still decked out in their autumn finery. Which reminds me: I shall need more autumn songs stat. I got you some more autumn images. Some will make you gasp – there were some seriously stunning trees that also crumpled their winter memos, then burned them.

Heron the Firste
Heron the Firste

Good day for seeing herons. Wasn’t much else (although Trebuchet got us something nice, I’ll show you it soon). But the herons looked quite fetching, especially against the subdued colors.

Lovely sediment
Lovely sediment

I loved this pattern in the muddy sand. Imagine if I’d sliced in to it, I would have seen some interesting bedding patterns. However, I was wearing my new shoes, and hadn’t thought to put on the old ones for tromping round in muddy creeks, and it was also butt-ass freezing cold (by Seattle standards), so the idea of getting my feet soaked didn’t enthrall. If I was an actual field geologist, I’d get proper shoes. And then promptly forget to wear them on walks like this because all I’d really meant to do was photograph fungi on a lawn anyway.

Sigh.

Dandelion
Dandelion

I came across a very defiant dandelion, blazing away like the sun, with the real sun striking color from it. It instantly became my favorite flower of this winter. Mind you, there are a few others grimly clinging on, but they’re coddled cultivated kinds and for all I know were recently whisked out of a nice, warm nursery. This one’s got to go it alone, on the edge of a lawn, with mowers and weedkiller everywhere. And it hasn’t seen the sun in well over a week. Yet still it thrives. Reminds me a bit of George’s sturdy plant. Perspective, doncha know.

Wooly Bear
Wooly Bear

Last thing I expected to see in the path was a wooly bear. But according to Wikipedia, I should not have been in the least surprised:

The banded Woolly Bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form, when it literally freezes solid. First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate. Once it emerges from its pupa as a moth it has only days to find a mate before it dies.

These little buggers are hardcore. I shall have to gather my myriad photos of them and do a proper essay someday. Perhaps after I’ve done with all the volcanoes. Ack.

Pretty moss
Pretty moss

Love this lovely bit of moss. It’s a gorgeous color, and when you have the combo of the weathered wood, freshly exposed wood, and the fall leaves in the background, well, it’s a shot you’ve gotta take. I love moss anyway. Did you know that moss was one of the first things to grow on the remains of Krakatoa? That’s according to Iain Stewart, and I believe him because of his Scottish accent. Well, that and because I’ve seen what moss will do in wet environments. Some that was scraped off our roof landed on my porch and still thrives there, living on nothing but air, sun and water. Well, it used to get a wee bit of cigarette ash, too, but it doesn’t anymore.

Pine cones version one
Pine cones version one

Then there were these quite nice pine cones with the spider webs on them. I like the way the sunlight silhouettes them, and the gleams of light in the blurred background. But then I started playing with exposures, and I like this one, too, although it washes out the subtle play of color in the little light dots.

Pine cones version two
Pine cones version two

One can have entirely too much fun playing with different exposures when one should be reading papers. Cough.

Heron the Seconde
Heron the Seconde

And then there was this fine heron, hanging out by the creek. I wonder if it’s the same one that flew over the car when my area manager and I were out looking at the floods? (At this juncture, I’d like to mention that my area manager rocks. We flooded five years ago, and the person in charge then didn’t keep an eye on the roads – the police had to come shoo us out, and by then, the roads were rivers of water up to the car doors. I’m from Arizona. I’ve had it drummed into me all my life not to drive into a flooded road, no matter how shallow or still it looks. People die doing that. So the fact that my area manager pays attention to this stuff and is willing to shut us down before it gets out of hand is a huge relief. I love the fact he actually did recon. It didn’t stop me from deciding to flee on the small possibility of it getting worse when the skies opened after lunch, mind, but knowing he wasn’t waiting for all routes to be cut off before allowing everyone to flee is awesome. And of course, it stopped raining right after I got home, and the city had cleared the gutters, and there were no horrible floods anyway. I’d show you the floods we did have, but I didn’t have my camera. Sigh.)

So there we are: a microadventure in winter. If it snows. we’ll have another adventure along North Creek, because I’ve already told the person I commute with that I’m not bloody driving with Seattle-area drivers in the snow. We will damned well walk. And I’ll bet you the scenery will be spectacular. I’m glad most of you are atheists. It means I won’t have to bean you with a huge fungi for praying for a blizzard.

Sunday Song: Afterimage of Autumn

Autumn images have proven unexpectedly popular, so it’s a good thing I’m not out of pictures – or songs – yet. But all good things, etc. This will, alas, be the last – until next autumn. Of course, if you’re all very fortunate and I’m unlucky indeed, we may have some spectacular winter shots coming right up. Don’t hold your breath, though. This is Seattle. Gray and drippy is much more likely than white and sparkly.

Let’s get in the proper frame of mind with a traditional rendition of “Sato no Aki.”

I can’t remember what that little instrument is, but I like it.

So, now we’ve heard “Sato no Aki” many different ways, and I shall torment you with it no more. Have some nice colorful leaves as a reward.

Autumn I

Autumn I

Autumn II

Autumn II

Ah, that’s something I haven’t seen much of for weeks now. It’s been doing the Seattle thing lately, where we’ll have a half-day or so of patchy sunshine every two weeks. Some of the leaves are hanging in there, though, grimly determined not to let winter come.

Here’s a song I found surprisingly good. I listened to it because the title was ridiculous. This is a style of music I normally don’t like, but for some reason, this one doesn’t grate on my nerves. I actually quite like it.

There have been a lot of unexpected discoveries, doing this series. Sometimes it’s fun to pick a theme and go spelunking YouTube for songs that fit it, hearing things you might not have listened to in a million billion years along the way.

Autumn III

Autumn III

Autumn IV

Autumn IV

One thing I love about living here: big, silvery raindrops making the foliage look spectacular. Shame about the little white dots of fertilizer…

Here’s a little charmer of a song I’ll be singing at the beginning of next autumn, now I’ve found it.

Autumn V

Autumn V

And here’s a very different “Autumn Leaves” by one of my favorite singers.

Utterly lovely, much like our leaves.

Autumn VI

Autumn VI

 

But it’s time to take it colder, now, with winter coming. Leafhuntress (very apropos moniker) pointed me toward Autumn, and I found their “Cold Comfort” to be suitable to the lateness of the season.

Autumn VII

Autumn VII

Autumn VIII

Autumn VIII

Winter’s arrived. And what we’ve seen here is memory. An “Afterimage of Autumn,” in fact.

Like George said: “an explosion of mind-blowing gorgeous color, then plunged into California Dreamin’ for the next several months.” Although, personally, I dream of a summer house in the Southern hemisphere, to go with my summer house in the Northern, so I never have to put up with winter again. And then, if I time it right, I can have two autumns every year!

Autumn IX

Autumn IX

Who else would like to go down that road with me?