Mohs Nokia

I’ve owned two Nokia phones so far. The first one I dropped on a concrete parking garage floor. It split into two pieces, and I was all, “Oshit, I’ll have to buy a new phone!” But I picked up the bits and snapped them back together, and that phone is still in service six years later. Cujo has it now.

My second Nokia phone took a dive from a second-story balcony onto the concrete patio below when I was visiting Evelyn in New Hampshire. She offered me sympathy, because second story and concrete. I just laughed, skipped downstairs, grabbed the phone, snapped the casing back in place, and turned it on. It’s the phone I’m still using today. Well, until I break down and get a smartphone.

Speaking of smartphones, did you know that if you need a hammer but haven’t got one, you can use a Nokia Lumia instead? Not that you necessarily should, but chances are, it would do the job and survive.*


So that’s Nokias: you can destroy them, but you have to try harder. They make a fabulous addition to the Mohs hardness scale:

mohs nokiaFuck yeah, Nokia! Now please come out with an Android smartphone so I can have everything I want in this world.


*Despite Nokia’s legendary toughness, do not pound on it with a sledgehammer. It will be extremely unhappy with you, and Nokia will laugh when you try to replace it under warranty.

Vote for One of Our Own!

Begin super-sekrit communiqué from our own RQ:

I just need your vote, via Twitter or Facebook.

As I may or may not have mentioned previously, my choir is planning a trip to Canada in the summer of next year, for the Canadian Latvian Song and Dance Festival (program here, that’s us on July 4th). So, one of the local breweries here (Cēsu alus, no comments) is running a competition for local groups of singers/dancers to win a rather large sum of money, which we, the choir, would put towards our trip next year – either for plane tickets, or for sight-seeing in Canada (since that costs money, too, and for the vast majority of choir members, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to North America).

So, please, if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, go here and vote (Click ja to say you’re over 18, then click on ‘Balsot’ at the top, then look for Jauniešu kora SONORE dalība XIV Latviešu Dziesmu svētkos Kanādā, Hamiltonā and click Balsot again), from each account, every day (I’ll be putting out reminders until you’re all sick of me). Please. This would mean a lot to me and my fellow choir members, as it would reduce a lot of the stress and financial worry currently causing doubts in some members.
If anyone doubts our skill, I can re-post some of our music – and I’ll (hopefully) have new music/video after this weekend (amateur choir finals on the 29th).

Anyway, if you can help out, muchas gracias! *hugs*

End super-sekrit communiqué.

Right, simple enough. Let’s get ready to vote! First, a song for motivational purposes:

RQ says that’s a “Latvian epic poem about dead heroes rising again, classic Latvian choir fare and a favourite at any possible venue, no matter how badly performed – one of those songs everyone thinks they know by memory until they actually have to sing it.”

Right. That should have you warmed up a bit. Let’s move on to a “traditional Latvian song about bread and working hard to get it.” We can all identify, even if we don’t understand a word, right?

Right? Now, let’s have “Latvia’s unofficial national anthem, traditional song about going home and getting the girl – now a drinking song because it’s fun to sing off-key.” I like a song that’s fun to sing off-key, because despite the concert choir training twenty years ago, I am still better at singing off-key…

Okay, that should have you thoroughly ready to jump on a Latvian site and attempt to upvote RQ’s choir, I should hope. Happy voting!

A Landscape in a Hand Sample: To Transform

Were you afraid I was Meatloaf? We did two out of the three major rock groups, and then a whole week goes by, and perhaps some of you wondered if I decided two outta three ain’t bad. I assure you this isn’t the case. I just got a bit distracted by other things. I wasn’t going to leave it at igneous and sedimentary and neglect one of my all-time favorite rock groups.


Marble and orthogneiss, Washington State.

Here we have some quite nice metamporphic rocks from northern Washington State. I collected the marble from Ross Lake, nearly freezing my toes off in the process. Lakes fed by glaciers are bloody cold even in late July. Geologists specifically, and scientists in general, do take risks for science. We’re so absorbed in the awesome we sometimes don’t even think about said risks, at least not until we realize we can’t feel our feet anymore, but marble is a rare type of stone in the northern Cascades, so I figured the reward was worth the risk of a little hypothermia. The lovely little orthogneiss cobble was quite a lot easier: it was washed up on the beach at Carkeek Park, right on Puget Sound, probably brought down from the Cascades by one of the local rivers. These rocks have two very different histories up until the point they were transformed.

Metamorphic comes from the Greek words meaning “after, beyond” and “form, structure.” So this is an after-form, beyond its former structure. The marble began as limestone, laid down in a shallow sea by living creatures. The orthogneiss was igneous, a granitic something-or-other, possibly even a pluton. The two of them ended up shoved cheek-by-jowl by the vagaries of plate tectonics. As the North American and Farallon (later to become the Juan de Fuca) Plates collided, they pushed mountains up. The thing about mountains is, they’re heavy. Really, really heavy. And some of the rocks that ended up on the bottom of the pile found themselves subjected to pretty amazing heat and pressure as they got pressed down. Those conditions caused them to become something else.

Orthogneiss Cobble from Carkeek Park, Seattle, WA.

These two delights are examples of regional metamorphism. As the name implies, that’s metamorphism that happens over a very large area. The next time you admire a mountain chain, keep in mind that beneath it, rocks are being squeezed and strained and heated and becoming something else altogether. Their original minerals are being arranged in new ways. Some of those original minerals are transforming into different minerals. Some of those new minerals can only be formed under conditions of intense heat and pressure. The minerals in a metamorphic rock can tell us a lot about what happened and how deep they were, even long after they’ve been lifted to the surface and their overlying mountains eroded away.

The other major type of metamorphism is contact metamorphism. You’ll see it happen where the country rock (the local stuff) has been invaded by magma underground, or overrun by lava on the surface. There may not be much pressure, but the heat bakes the country rock along the zone of contact into something rather different than what it was.

Those are the basics. Metamorphic rocks get very complicated, but we’re keeping this simple for now. We’ll be revisiting metamorphism plenty of times in posts to come. I’ll introduce you to the joys of foliation, and we’ll no doubt see some pretty exotic minerals here and there, things that can only form deep within the Earth. For now, the main thing is to understand that metamorphic rocks have been changed by heat and/or pressure. The constituent minerals have either recrystallized or transformed into something else entirely. For a taste of that, take a look at a graphite pencil lead (carbon) and a diamond (also carbon). Couldn’t be more different, right? Well, if you could stuff your pencil lead deep down in the Earth and then fetch it up again, you’d have another diamond. All that heat and pressure took ordinary carbon and turned it into something extraordinary by arranging its atoms in a whole different way.

And that isn’t the half of why I find metamorphic rocks so entrancing.

North Cascades, from Ross Lake Boat Ramp, Washington State

The North Cascades are one of those features that make living in a subduction zone worth the risk. Those jagged mountains contain an amazing variety of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks – you can see all three of your basics in a day. Glacier-fed lakes and rivers fill deep, narrow valleys with eclectic blues. And the peaks, raised by the slow collision of tectonic plates, shaped into jagged points and sway-backed saddles by patient, sculpting glaciers, reach for the stratosphere. If you’re with a geologist, they’ll probably say this place is the schist. It’s pretty gneiss, too. (FYI – there are plenty of fallen branches and/or fist-sized stones with which to menace a geologist who carries the puns too far. You are allowed to wave them at me until I stop. But be vigilant – once a geologist has begun to pun, it’s very hard to get them to stop for long.)

The trails are often steep and strenuous, but mountain streams cascade down in cool, lovely waterfalls quite frequently. In fact, there’s one right along the trail here at Ross Lake. It’s called Happy Creek, and it tumbles down the mountainside with joyful abandon. You’ll discover why it’s called Happy Creek if you’re ever climbing back up the nearly vertical trail from Ross Lake to the parking lot. Believe me: clear, cold water filled with lovely boulders to sit on as it dashes over miniature cataracts on a hot summer’s day is a very happy thing indeed. You can sit there dabbling your toes while your water bottle cools off in the creek beside you, and absorb the fact that beneath you, all sorts of transformations are going on. This place definitely puts the meta in metamorphic. It’s beyond beautiful.


Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

Thank You, Ron

Dear Ron Lindsay,

Thank you for your apology. Thank you especially for this bit of your apology:

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.

You could have taken the Way of the Weasel and said so sorry we were offended, but you did what a leader needs to do and accepted full responsibility. I respect that. And that has, in turn, restored a bit of my respect for you. (Still – I’d have suggested replacing some with many, but otherwise not too bad.)

I’d also like to say that you just bested your own Board of Directors (and it might be nice if they stepped up and followed your lead – it would show they have the same ability to recognize when they’re wrong that you do). I appreciate that. I realize you could have left matters with their ridiculous non-statement and cut us all loose, but you didn’t – you did the right thing, and you’ve explained why you waited to do it. I hereby rescind my request for your head on a pike your resignation. Never wanted that as much as a sincere apology, anyway – you’ve done good work in the past, and it will be good to see you continue that work with a new understanding going forward. I certainly haven’t forgotten your strong statement against hate directed at women in the secular community. Perhaps now we’ll see you live up to your own words:

Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

(Hint: Justin Vacula is one such individual. Y’know – the dude you hugged who writes for a hate site? Yeah. The people who cheered your unfortunate speech, snippy blog posts, and subsequent silence, and are now no doubt enraged by your apology, are others you should consider carefully before extending any welcome.)

Some folks are still wary, some are still pissed, and all of us will be watching to make sure you and CFI were actually listening, but I for one am reasonably sure you were. I think you’re the kind of person who can take criticism on board and, after the heat of the initial moment, and the instinctive defensiveness, comprehend why it is you came under so much fire. I know you can read past our anger and disappointment, extract our advice, and put it to good use. And I know that will make you a better ally, one I’ll be proud to stand beside.

We all fuck up sometimes. Thank you for being a person who can recognize a serious mistake and issue a true apology. Thank you for letting pride bend when it needed to.

See you at WiS3.


Dana Hunter

PS. Have a sleeping kitten as a symbol of peace between us. Who (other than PZ) can resist that, amirite?

Sleeping Luna.

Sleeping Luna.

PPS. Dear Board of CFI: You have a long way yet to go before you earn forgiveness for that appalling and frankly insulting non-statement of yours. Get crack-a-lackin’.


Unleashing Nuclear Cute Option in 3…2…1…

I haven’t any substantial content for you today. I’m not sorry. In fact, I’m about to do something so vicious and evil that you will be mopping yourself off the floor for the next three days.

Prepare for kitten…

I know. I’m a bad, bad person. Bad, evil, cruel Dana. Perhaps these will help.

Paper towel photo courtesy Mets501 via Wikimedia Commons.

Paper towel photo courtesy Mets501 via Wikimedia Commons.

I hope they’re absorbent enough for ye.

Choosing Rock

Some of you fence-sitters and those who’ve been, I dunno, trapped deep underground with no internet access for two-plus years, may be wondering what the fuss is about. I mean, jeez, Ron Lindsay just made a bone-headed speech and spouted off on the official CFI blog. What’s the harm, amirite? You may think the response is disproportionate to the offense.

But the thing is this: both the content and the context of his little lecture at WiS2 were awful. His actions afterward, when he attacked Rebecca Watson rather than attend a fundraiser for his own organization, displayed a stunning lack of professionalism, and went against the principles he himself had agreed to abide by. He betrayed himself as well as the women he said he stood by. That shows a weakness of moral fiber that concerns me deeply.

And the CFI Board? Given the chance, they couldn’t even muster a miserly “We’re sorry you were offended.” They couldn’t lower themselves to say even “I can see why you’d be upset, but…” They chucked the long, eloquent letters of very hurt people into a deep black hole and chose to blame the hurt folks for hurting. They decided to make the dedicated set of harassers, abusers, and general riff-raff scream for joy.

One act can balance ten thousand kind ones. What Ron did wasn’t evil, per se – there are far worse things that have been done. But his was an act that balanced many kind ones. It was an act that called into question CFI’s ability to lead in the secular movement. One act can fracture trust. A second (such as the Board’s) can shatter it. We no longer trust Ron Lindsay and the CFI Board of Directors to act in our best interests. Nor should we.

There are a great many organizations that do outstanding work within the secular movement. There are organizations that stand by their principles, no matter how it hurts them (hi, Skepticon!). There are organizations whose leaders have stood unflinchingly beside the women of this movement (hi, American Atheists!) Why should we support an organization whose leadership chooses not to support us?

I choose the rock I stand on. I will not stand on rock that threatens to crumble away from beneath me. I choose to stand with those who share my principles. And one of those principles is that you not only pay lip service to women, but support them as they struggle to undo the damage of thousands of years of second-class citizenship, servitude, and slavery. You can tell me that your rock is safe to stand upon, but I will base my decision upon the cracks I see in it, and how well you fix those cracks when they form.

CFI was once a great rock to stand on. The dedicated employees and volunteers did remarkable things for the secular movement, and I will be forever grateful to them for their hard work and dedication. But CFI’s leadership chose to let that rock fall away. I can no longer stand there. Many of us have discovered we can’t. And we are not shy about making our choice public. We hope those dedicated and outstanding people will either be able to repair that shattered rock, or find better places to stand, but we cannot stay there.

You can choose other rock. You have that right. But your choice will determine whether we stand beside you or apart from you. This should not surprise you. We choose, every day, where we will stand, or if we will stand at all, and those choices shape the world around us.

I have made up my mind to stand with the feminists, the social justice advocates, the people who are trying to make this world a better one. I choose to stand with those who are working to empower the powerless, and give voice to the voiceless. I choose to stand with those who will not tolerate harassment. I choose to stand with those who not only fight religion and superstition, but against outdated social constructs that constrict rather than allow people to realize their potential.

Upon this rock I stand.*

Moi standing upon Siletz River Volcanics at Alsea Falls.

Moi standing upon Siletz River Volcanics at Alsea Falls.

With thanks to Robert G. Ingersoll, who chose his rock, and rocked it.


*Being a geologist, I can assure you as to its stability. This is an excellent rock that will be very hard to break.

Cryptopod: The Red and the Black

Let’s have nice times with a wee beetle. I like beetles. They’re frequently interesting. And most are quite companionable. They also keep the cat amused when they venture indoors – she’s content to dart around watching them for hours, although thankfully she doesn’t offer to eat them. I’d feel a bit bad. “Thanks for entertaining my felid. Shame about the digestive juices.”

I see very little not to like in a beetle, which may be why “The Creator, if He exists, has ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles*.'” You know who else had an inordinate fondness for beetles? Charles Darwin. Can you blame him? They’re fascinating. And they did a bang-up job helping him figure out that whole evolution thingy.

Tis the season, and we found a few out and about round Twin Falls (the Washington waterfall, not the city). There was this lovely bloke, who makes a virtue of simplicity.

Cryptopod I

Cryptopod I

Quite lovely, isn’t that? I love that touch of scarlet on a black beetle. Very nice.

It was kind enough to allow me to shove a camera in its face.

Cryptopod II

Cryptopod II

Then it decided “Sod this for a game of larks” and took off for parts elsewhere.

Cryptopod III

Cryptopod III

We saw quite a few of these ambling along, and they seemed rather content with life, the universe, and everything. They seem to me to be the kind of beetle one could whip up legends about in the off hours, whiling away the time in the dappled shade beneath our thick forest canopies. What do you think? If you were tasked to come up with a just-so story, how would you account for the wide red bits on either side of its head? The more outrageous the better.

Or you could just, y’know, tell us what it is, if you know.


*Rumored to have been said by J.B.S. Haldane. Bugger if I know who actually said it, but I love that quote.

No Longer Donating to CFI? Skepticon Could Use Your Help!

Thanks to our own John-Henry Beck, I was made aware of this outstanding adherence to principles, irregardless of money:

However, after witnessing the actions of one of our years long sponsors, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), it has come to our attention that, in order to uphold the values that we have come to embody and endorse, we will no longer accept their sponsorship.

So what does this mean for Skepticon? Well, losing a large sponsor is going to hurt a little bit (we’re probably going to have to sell some of those awesome hats were were talking about) but it has made even determined than ever to make a conference that we can be proud of.

That right there tells me Skepticon is worth supporting. If you’ve withdrawn your fundage from CFI, Skepticon is a great place to redirect your donations. I’ve thrown some money in their coffers, and will be doing so on a semi-regular basis. Remember, this is student-led and free, and principled. If you can spare the change, show them some love.

And, Skepticon? Thank you for being awesome. Much love!


Please Link Me Your Pissed-At-CFI-Board Links

I’ve been seeing a lot of eloquent outrage since the CFI board issued its fine fuck you. But I know I’m missing some. If you’ve read and/or written a post expressing your displeasure, or left a comment regarding same, leave me a link. I figure it would be nice to collect all and sundry in a single location. In fact, once collected, I think it would be nice to deliver said linkfest to the CFI Board. They may not wish to listen, but we can show them we’re paying attention, and just what their disdain will cost them in volunteers and donations.


Right. Bring ‘em.

Ron Lindsay’s Extraordinary Bullshit Part III: A Fine Fuck You

Dear CfI Board of Directors:

I’ve spent the day attempting to determine what I could compare your moral courage to. However, each and every candidate has turned out to have more moral courage than you, up to and including John McCain and William Dembski. Even Enron showed more sense. I’ve seen corporations deny responsibility. I’ve seen not-pologies that require a dictionary of corporate-speak to decipher. I’ve seen organizations run from mistakes. But this is the first time I have ever witnessed a statement written by people too oblivious to even mention what interested parties told them repeatedly had caused distress, and then have the audacity to blame the injured parties for the injury dealt them. That’s private-health-insurance-quality fuckery, that.

You couldn’t even muster a “We’re sorry you were offended.” There’s weak tea, and then there’s water some ratfuckers are attempting to pass off as Earl Grey. In case you really are that bloody stupid, I shall inform you that your concoction is the latter. As esteemed Pharyngula commenter Tom Foss said, “It’s a homeopathic statement. So little content as to be nonexistent, diluted among so many words.” Not even a single molecule of apology remained when you were done.


I have to say, I’m impressed. I expected you to weasel out of doing anything more than playfully smack Ron’s hand and say, “He’s very outspoken, isn’t he? We’re sorry you were offended. Perhaps you should try not being offended in the future.” What I didn’t expect was for you to go full-metal-fuck-you. I mean, really. You expected “The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2″ to pass muster with several conferences’ worth of outraged feminist skeptics? Were you banking on all of us suffering an acute onset of gullibility? Did you think we spent our weekend getting beaten with the Credulous Stick? Because it didn’t happen.

You had one simple task: say sorry. Say, “We apologize. In retrospect, we realize this could have been handled better. We support WiS and the women in our community, and commit to WiS3.” That’s it. If you wanted to avoid plastering Ron’s name to this apology, you could have done. We’d have remained angry, and many of us would have walked, but at least a few wavering supporters would have swallowed that semi-apology whole. With time and no further fuckups, even those of us who had walked might have moseyed back.

What you chose instead was the equivalent of a country dropping a tactical nuke on the upset nation next door, preferring years of radioactive fallout to a simple sorry. In what universe does this possibly make sense? Is it a universe in which love is expressed with a sharp knife in the back? Because I felt the distinct sting of cold steel when I read your statement. And I toasted some s’mores in the flames from the bridges you burnt.

I now know what sort of organization you are. You are the kind of organization that will ignore years of determined harassment in the interests of some mythical unity. You are the kind of people that will pay lip service to women while embracing their abusers. You would rather blame everything that happened on the people who were offended and the conference they attended rather than admit for one instant that your CEO did the slightest thing wrong. You are the kind of people who believe the Supreme Leader must never sully his lips with an apology. And you are the kind of people who either believe skeptic women are stupid enough to accept your statement as a proper close to this painful chapter, and if we turn out to be smarter than that, you figure you can do without us.

We’ll be happy to watch you try.


I do hope you enjoy the fickle support of your new best friends. One set of backstabbing fuckwads deserves another, I always say. As for those brilliant and dedicated CfI employees caught in this crossfire, I do hope they find more welcoming shores very soon. It would be a shame watching them waste their talent trying to save an organization that will soon represent only the oblivious and the reprehensible.

I look forward to seeing Secular Woman, American Atheists, the Secular Student Alliance, and the American Humanist Association, among a plethora of others, benefit hugely from CfI’s failure to display even minimal decency and astounding inability to display even the slightest sense of self-preservation. I know where my dollars shall be going. I also know which organization I will never, ever support in the slightest.

You had your chance. You failed.


Dana Hunter