If Things Go Rather Silent…

…it’s because it’s another winter when my mother declines just that much more. She’s back in the hospital, and they’re talking about electroconvulsive therapy this time. Severe mental illness is a merry go round you can never quite step off of.

Please don’t worry about me. It’s sad and chaotic, yes, but not unexpected, and also something of a relief, as when I saw a call from my aunt on my cell phone, I had a horrid moment when I believed the message I’d hear was that my mother was dead, so to hear she’s safely tucked up in a hospital bed is quite an enormous relief, actually. And she asked for a flu shot, they say. Sign of forward-thinking, that. She’s planning for a future without the flu. This is good news. Or so I choose to look at it, anyway.

I’ll keep you posted, my darlings. Thanks for your understanding.


Supercrow and Other Natural Art Stories

Sorry for bugging out on you, my darlings. The sun came out in midwinter in Seattle. Then there was The Hobbit. And basking in the sun with the cat. And then filtered sunlight, but still more than adequate for wandering about photographing interesting ice. Then more basking in the sun with the cat, this time with the cat atop me, and an inordinate amount of photo editing on a rather excessive number of photos. Excuses, excuses – but you may enjoy the results.

I found a new bit of North Creek I’ve not been to yet. It’s tucked behind a business park, and it’s remarkably lovely, filled with birds and assorted wildlife, wonderful examples of waterways, and some fabulous ice. I’ve now folders full of delights, which I shall parcel out as time goes on. [Read more…]

Cryptopod: Black and White

I hope you’re not about to tell me this lovely little pollinator is also an invasive species. I think it’s beautiful. That probably means it’s some terrible import killing off all the natives, knowing my attraction to invasives. Sigh.

It was very busy in the beautiful-yet-awful Japanese knotweed a few Septembers ago. I didn’t even see it at first. Hence, the first photo captures only its butt. [Read more…]

My state’s official rock is a mineral!

I live in California.  Our official State Rock is serpentine.  The only problem with that is that serpentine is a mineral, not a rock.   Rock consisting mostly of serpentine is called serpentinite.  AAAAGGGGHHHH!  (Jumps up and down in frustration.)  Admittedly, where serpentinite occurs, it’s really, really, full of serpentine.  But still…mutter grumble grumble mutter. [Read more…]

Friday Freethought: “A Declaration Which Could Only Be Made By One Whose Humanity Was Extinguished By Divinity”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how little things have changed in the last two hundred years.

Mind you, we’ve made enormous advances in science. Since Charles Southwell anonymously published his An Apology for Atheism, nearly every science has seen revolutions: evolution in biology, general relativity and quantum mechanics in physics, plate tectonics in science, to name only a few. And because of those revolutions, our lives have changed enormously.

Yet I can pick up books written by freethinkers written centuries ago and see the same idiotic religious arguments torn apart with the same exasperated patience, over and over again. All that seems to have modernized is the language, and in some cases, not even that. These ideas freethinkers were battling then haven’t stuck around because they’re good or sensible, but because they’re religious. Religion has a bad habit of claiming bad ideas are too sacred to challenge. And it has a terrible problem with evil. [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: The First Survivors

What started with a bang continues with a roar: our next installment of The Cataclysm explains a bit about how a forest can be destroyed completely yet quietly, and delves into the experiences of some of the survivors. It would have been longer, only it snowed a bit tonight, and I went out to play in it, so I decided for the sake of sleep time to split our story into people in cars as opposed to people on the ground. That turned out to be quite long enough!

Lest you think everything inside cars was fine, look at the heat they got subjected to:

Melted tail light of truck on north side of Spud Mountain at equipment site, northwest of Mount St. Helens. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 5, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Melted tail light of truck on north side of Spud Mountain at equipment site, northwest of Mount St. Helens. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 5, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Things got a bit… heated. And sandblasted. And banged up with bloody great stones. Yeow.

While you’re enjoying some volcanism in action, don’t forget to check out Karen’s post on obsidian. Sniny!


UPDATE:  One commenter wanted to know what I do with obsidian beads.  So I’ve added a photo of one of my beaded necklaces at the end of the post.  It’ll be up for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/gemmyjoy in a week or two.  /UPDATE

Rocks are my friends.  I especially like the ones I can pick up, look over in my hand ( maybe with a handlens) and say “this is cool!” If it’s something that somebody can make beads out of, so much the better — I’m a beader.  Obsidian qualifies.

Obsidian is an extremely felsic (feldspar/quartz-rich) lava with a chemical composition similar to rhyolite. Think silica-rich.  Really, really, really silica-rich.  But while rhyolite congeals into microscopic crystals, obsidian doesn’t, and has a glassy composition.  For a long time, the “accepted wisdom” was that obsidian cooled too quickly to crystallize.  Anyone who’s ever seen an obsidian dome next to a rhyolite flow (there’s one at Medicine Lake, California) can tell that explanation is a bunch of hooey.  I haven’t kept up with the literature in recent years about new theories for obsidian formation, so if anyone can point me to a paper in the comments I’d be grateful.

There are obsidian domes all over the eastern and northeastern parts of California, my home state.  Most of these are associated with what are still considered active (quiescent) volcanoes.  The biggest obsidian dome I’ve seen, though, is the Big Obsidian Dome at Newberry Caldera in Oregon.

So I’ll start off with some Newberry pics: [Read more…]

Caption Contest: Loud Seagull is Loud

There’s a cartoon just begging to get out in this photo sequence. I know some of you are creative and funny – this looks like a job for you! Participants will get posts of their own, and we’ll have a reader vote at the end to determine who wins. And what’s the grand prize, you ask? Well, aside from the praise and adulation of all of us here, you’ll get your very own badge in the sidebar. Are you excited yet?

Yes, you’re allowed to download, modify, fold, spindle or mutilate these photos in your quest for great art.

Right. Off you go. Put words in this seagull’s beak! [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: White Spray

This is one of those prequels that can stand on its own. Observe these wonderful sprays of white flowers and broad green leaves.

Mystery Flower I

Mystery Flower I

In a few days, I’ll be able to tell you what pollinates this flower. More precisely, I’ll be able to show you its pollinators and you can tell me what they are. But first, the flowers. [Read more…]

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Exterior Decorating

Well, then, my darlings. You got the last nest without breaking a sweat. In my quest to give you a challenge, we’ll try this one. Not only is it a nice nest, it’s in a lovely location.



Obviously, this isn’t a recent shot. It’s from last spring, when the flowers were creating botanical clouds and there was actually more than five minutes between rain storms. There were birds, and I in fact have shots of one from the spring before, which may or may not be related to the nest. You shall have it soon – but first, we’ll see how superb your nest identifying skills are.

[Read more…]