Parable of the Party

For those earnest riders to the rescue.

My, what a busy life you’ve got. You haven’t been able to keep up on the goings-on amongst people you hang out with, not for years. Always something, innit? You’ve exchanged hellos, and occasionally caught a little bit of the ne ws. You’ve heard there’s been some bad shit going down, but you’re not quite sure what it is – just seems to be upsetting a lot of people. Well, y’know, it’ll probably sort itself out. You all go to the same university, so it’s not like disagreements could get that serious, amirite?

So there you are, some free time at last, and just in time for a party! Well, you’re gonna be late, but you’ll totally be there. Fun times ahead!

But when you get there long after it started, you don’t find people partying so much.

There’s a few of your friends doing their best to dance, and a group of strangers at the opposite end of the room, drinking heavily and jeering the dancers. Wow, they’re loud.

More of your friends are gathered in a huddle by the sofa, looking upset, and a couple of friends who said they’d be there are missing. Weird.

You go over to the huddled group to say hi, and walk into the middle of a tense discussion about what to do with the loud drinky group. They’re trying to figure out how to make them leave. Apparently, they’ve been pretty disruptive, and that same group has been showing up at every party lately, drinking everyone’s booze, bothering people even after they’ve been told to stop, and basically being as mean and disruptive as they can. You catch a few of the things they’re saying, calling your friends ugly and fat and whores and worse. Your friends are obviously distressed, and you want to help.

“Just ignore them,” you say. “All they want is attention. If you just have fun and pretend like they’re not here, they’ll give up and go away.”


Won’t work, you’re told. Been tried. When that bunch first started crashing parties, almost everyone tried to ignore them, but all it did was make them louder and more obnoxious, and they even started to come to office parties where one or two of their targets were, causing trouble for them in their professional lives.

“Well, you need to talk to them,” you say. “Tell them what they’re doing is upsetting you.”

That’s been tried too, you’re told. It made the harassers laugh all the harder. And they still show up at every party, and still torment everyone they can.

“Well, if they’re always at parties, you should just stop going to parties,” you say. “That way, you won’t be a target.”

So what, your friends say, we’re supposed to spend the rest of our lives at home? No parties for us, because of them? Anyway, so-and-so and a few others tried that. Stopped going to parties altogether. Rarely joined us when we gathered informally on the quad from time to time. And all it did was make the harassers go after them on the quad, in class, and basically anywhere they could get to them.

“Well, if they’re behaving that way, you should just call the police,” you say.

We did that, you’re told. All the police did was tell us they’re too busy to deal with harassment at parties, even if it is illegal, and we should stop going to parties like that if we don’t want to be harassed.

“Okay, then, go to the dean of students,” you say. “Let him know what’s going on. He can tell them their behavior isn’t acceptable.”

We did, your friends say. We’ve gone to the dean and everyone else in authority. They issued blanket statements saying that harassment at parties is unacceptable, but it didn’t stop, and now a lot of them are saying we should be careful how we talk about harassers crashing our parties, because it makes people uncomfortable. And they’ve specially welcomed the harassers to university events. The dean even hugged one of the worst of our harassers at a university event that was supposed to be about us and our concerns. So we’re not getting any support from most of them, and it’s just made the harassment worse, because the harassers realize they can get away with it.

“Something’s got to be done,” you say. “Have you ever asked the harassers why they’re crashing your parties to harass you? Have you sat down with them on neutral ground and talked over your differences?”

It’s useless to do that, you’re told. All they want to do is crash parties and make us feel so uncomfortable we’ll stop coming. But so-and-so tried anyway. It went nowhere.

“Surely,” you say, “all this needs is a little diplomacy. No one’s asking you to agree with your harassers. Nations negotiate peace all the time without agreeing on everything. It would be best for you if you negotiated peace with your harassers.”

Now your friends are becoming upset. It won’t work, they nearly shout. Haven’t you heard anything we’re saying? The harassers don’t want peace – they enjoy crashing parties and making people feel awful, and they won’t stop no matter what we do.

“Something’s got to be done,” you say again.

All that’s left is for the whole campus to come together and isolate these crashers, your friends say. Everyone needs to stand firm against this kind of behavior, and show it won’t be tolerated. When enough people do that, even though some harassers will still be around, some of them will stop, and the rest of them will know they don’t have the university’s support for what they’re doing.


“That’s not very civil,” you say as the party crashers knock the china cabinet over and break everything inside, howling with laughter as they do. “We all have common interests. We’re all attending the same university. Surely, something can be worked out!”

Well, it can’t, your friends say. And this isn’t up for debate anymore. We’re tired of arguing over the same failed tactics. We need to move on to discussions on how we’re going to get the university to not only condemn this behavior, but do something to ensure those few crashers who like to destroy every party are subject to social sanctions whenever they do crap like this. Even if it means being a little ‘uncivil.’

By now, the crashers have set the couch on fire and are laughing at your friends’ distressed reactions. “It’s just a couch!” they shout. “We’re just joking. Can’t you take a joke?”

Maybe you join your friends’ chorus of voices, then, speaking out forcefully against party-crashing and china-cabinet-breaking and couch-burning, rather than standing on the sidelines wringing your hands and asking both sides to be nice to each other for the common good of the university. But just when you’ve decided your friends are right, another old friend who hasn’t been to parties lately walks in. “Party crashers, huh?” he says. “They kinda suck. Hey, have you considered ignoring them? If you ignore them, they’ll probably go away….”

36ca4e08-e6b4-49ea-863b-ff50fffc99e8Moral: Been there, done that, heard all the solutions a thousand trillion times. Maybe instead of thinking you’re the only genius on earth who coulda possibly thunkit, stop before you pontificate and ask what you can do to help instead. Your assistance will be valued and of far better quality if you do that one thing.

A Landscape in a Hand Sample: To Settle

We began in fire. Let’s quench that fire with a little water. Sedimentary rocks don’t always form in water, mind, but many of them do.


Cobble of the Astoria Formation from near Otter Crest and Devil’s Punchbowl, Oregon.

I’m cheating a little bit. This isn’t just a very nice piece of sandstone, it’s one with some apparent Liesegang banding. But that’s the charm of sedimentary rocks: while some of them can look quite plain, others have lovely patterns, either formed by the sediments themselves or later chemical and mechanical weathering processes.

So what’s a sedimentary rock? I’ve a bit of the philologist in me, so let’s look at its root: the Latin word sedere: to sit, to settle. (Don’t even talk to me about -ment, which comes from mentum, which means “chin.” How the word for chin ended up becoming a suffix that forms nouns is beyond me. Guess I should’ve gone to college for that philology degree after all.) Right, so we have something sitting, settling. Which is what sediment does best. Whether blown by the wind or carried by water, it eventually settles down: sand, silt, clay, mud, pebbles, gravel – even boulders – sediments all, come to rest. Given time, some pressure, and perhaps a nice bit of stuff like silica or calcite to cement it, sediment will become sedimentary rock.

Sedimentary rock happens in threes. We have three ways of forming it:

Compaction, in which sediments are squeezed down nice and tight by the weight of more sediment piled on top, eventually pressed so hard they turn to stone.

Cementation, in which sediments are basically glued together by the aforementioned silica, calcite, or some other binding stuff, which fills in the spaces around the clasts and turns them to stone. You can see cementation in action by watching people pour – drumroll please – cement.

Recrystallization, in which the original mineral grains of the sediments form new minerals. Unstable minerals change into something more stable, and those new minerals form up nice and tight.

And we have three basic kinds of sedimentary rock:




Clastic sedimentary rocks, which are formed of little bits of things like sand, silt, and so forth. They can include big bits, like cobbles and pebbles and, yes, even boulders sometimes. The minerals and other bits are clasts. Ergo, clastic sedimentary rocks. Your sandstones, claystones, conglomerates, and breccias belong in this group. Our hand sample is a clastic sedimentary rock.

Organic sedimentary rocks, which form from once-living things. Limestone and chert are in this group, formed from the calcite and silica shells of plankton and other sea critters. Coal’s also included in this group, all grades except for anthracite, which has been through enough in its long life to qualify as metamorphic. When you think organic sedimentary rocks, don’t leave plants out of it!

Chemical sedimentary rocks, which are precipitated from solution. If you dissolve limestone in water, for instance, say in a lake, and so much dissolves that the water can’t hold it anymore, it’ll start collecting in a sludge, which will eventually be reborn as (drumroll, please) limestone. Yep. Limestone can either be organic or chemical, depending on how it formed. Gypsum is another type of chemical sedimentary rock, and so is rock salt. Yes, seriously: rock salt is, in fact, a rock. You can have your rock and eat it, too! In small quantities, mind.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: sedimentary, sedentary, what a yawnfest, Dana. Or maybe you’re not thinking that, because you know that even the most dull-looking sedimentary rock can tell us all sorts of dramatic things. There are rocks in Arizona that talk about shallow seas and dinosaurs and oceans of wind-blown sand, that bear witness to hundreds of millions of years, and they form all the prettiest colors of that magnificent sliced-open layer cake of geology that is the Grand Canyon. I dare you to find sedimentary rocks boring after standing on the rim of that chasm. But the Grand Canyon gets all the press. We’re going to head to the Oregon coast, where it’s not just basalt that forms dramatic sea cliffs.

Oregon Coast at Devil’s Punchbowl and Otter Crest.

Right? This place, Devil’s Punchbowl and Otter Crest, is phenomenal. For one thing, you have these sharp cliffs carved out of the Astoria Formation (pdf), which is a sandstone and siltstone bit of yum that contains fossils and all sorts of other delights. 15.5 million years ago, it was chilling under the ocean close to shore, minding its own business, providing a home to all sorts of sea critters, with beautiful blue waves breaking overhead. Then the Columbia River Basalts invaded. Things got interesting. The Astoria Formation survived, perhaps even thrived – there’s some speculation that it forms such lovely cliffs here because it got baked nice and hard by all that warm basalt.

Now, after all the drama of 15.5 mya, and all the millions of years of uplift and weathering since, the cliffs are stark, wild, and wonderful.

Cliff and sea cave. You can see sediment of all sizes here, from sand and mud to boulders,

So much for boring ol’ sedentary sediments, eh? And just wait ’til you see what tops that.


Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

How Many Fires Should the Arsonists be Allowed to Set?

So there’s this thing a lot of decent people (and isn’t it remarkable how they’re almost always men?) have been doing. It happens in public with people like Lee Moore and Michael Nugent playing at being peace brokers; it happens in private, with friends and respected colleagues comparing the harassers and the harassees to the USSR and America. Sit down at a table, they say. Air grievances, they say. Come to an agreement, they say. Give and take is what’s needed here, they say.

They never do get that there are some situations that can’t be resolved by dialogue, some people with whom negotiation is impossible. I’m reminded of Methos trying to talk sense into MacLeod, speaking of a person whose only goal was death and destruction: “Kronos didn’t torch those villages for a few coins, he torched them to watch them burn.” What can you offer to someone whose only desire is to cause damage (and be lauded by the upper eschelons while doing it)? Nothing except capitulation. So what, we hand Kronos a torch and say, “Go to it”?

Firing Match by Vomir-en-costard, via Flickr.

Firing Match by Vomir-en-costard, via Flickr.

I’ve been struggling to find the proper analogy to describe how bloody stupid this is, but it clicked in place today, and perhaps it might help a few of the peace brokers understand what their pushing for peace looks like to those of us who have had their houses set on fire:

[Peace Broker]: you’re asking us to negotiate with arsonists. If there are arsonists in your community who won’t stop setting fires, you don’t ask the anti-arson parts of the community to negotiate how many fires the arsonists can set, and how much damage the anti-arsonists are expected to tolerate. You stop the arsonists, period. Please don’t play silly buggers by equating “both sides” to superpowers with equal accountability and concern for survival. That’s an incorrect and harmful analogy. It does nothing to solve the problem.

The Digital Cuttlefish, with whom I shared this analogy (and who understood this long ago), wrote it up in an easy-to-understand poem. Perhaps the peace brokers could sing a few bars if the written words aren’t penetrating. All together, now: “Why Can’t You Just Meet Me Halfway?”

If you wish to ask me that – why can’t I let the harassers meet me halfway, hash out our differences over a beer or in some grand diplomatic scheme, let me just ask you this: why won’t you let arsonists burn down your house? Not the whole thing? Well, why not just part of it? The bedroom? The living room? Kitchen? Well, how about a bathroom? Oh, and don’t forget, there will be other arsonists coming who will want to burn your house down as well, so make sure you have some kindling and other rooms ready to welcome them. And they will never ever stop, not until you’ve moved to a different state to get away from them, and never once show up to hang out with your friends or family in your old neighborhood again. Even then, they might track you down and light a match just for old times’ sake. You know, just to show you how vulnerable to arson you are, and why you might want to rebuild with asbestos. But surely, Mr. Peace Broker, you can accept that. After all, aside from the whole arson disagreement, your interests are perfectly aligned!

Fire in West Campus by That Other Paper, via Flickr.

Fire in West Campus by That Other Paper, via Flickr.

Also, after you’ve negotiated your “peace” with the arsonists, the murderers would like a few words. Well, a few limbs, but it’s all the same when it’s all in good fun, right? How can there be peace among us if you aren’t willing to part with at least a foot or two?

Those with a fetish for dialogue need to consider what dialogue actually does, and consider the fact that dialogue in this case was tried and failed. You can’t negotiate with arsonists. Nor should you have to.

So, future peace broker, consider the analogy above. Ponder the fact that not all disagreements are like tensions between countries. Realize that not everything can be resolved by just talking it over. And take the following to heart:

[Peace Broker] can’t compel us to “come to the table” with bullies. He can’t, without their help, tell us there is anything to be gained by talking to people whose idea of disagreement is to:

There is nothing he can do to convince us that this time, as opposed to the other times these folks didn’t want to hear what we had to say on our own blogs, things will be better because it happens in his space.

Instead of handing the arsonists more matches, could you perhaps consider stopping them from setting fires instead? Just a thought.

Pearl River Fire by Loco Steve, via Flickr

Pearl River Fire by Loco Steve, via Flickr

New at Rosetta Stones: Something Old (and, Remarkably, Less Boring Than You’d Expect)

So I’m still wrestling with Franklin Falls, I’ve 10,000 things to distract me, and I’m sadly behind on pretty much everything. But some of the stuff from my old days is going to be new to some of you, so what the heck – let’s share the ETEV love with Rosetta Stones. I shall show you why reading geologic technical pamphlets that go with geologic maps is actually quite fascinating. Believe it or not, this stuff can be rather dramatic. Go find out how!

Help Give “Survival of the Fittest” a Right Proper Kick in the Arse

Our own RQ sent me pictures that will make you squee.

Bebbe chickadee! Too young to walk or fly.

Bebbe chickadee! Too young to walk or fly.

Isn’t that precious? But wait! There’s more!

Handful o' bebbe chickadees!

Handful o’ bebbe chickadees!

Now, before you start howling that it’s not right and proper for humans to pick up baby birdies, keep this in mind: these poor little buggers somehow ended up out of their nest and on the ground. RQ says, “It is humanly impossible to replace them in their nest and they need to be relocated due to lots of cats in the area, so the chances of their parents finding them are small, and two of them have already been run over because they fell onto a driveway (there are four left, and they’re practically fledglings).” This is a rescue. Are you ready to give natural selection the finger and do some human-assisted selection instead?

Will you respond when a baby cries?

Crying baby chickadee.

Crying baby chickadee.

If any of you know the proper care and feeding for baby chickadees, let RQ know in the comments here. She’d like to give the survivors a chance to continue surviving. What should they eat? How do you encourage them to fly? That sorta thing.

Food? Did someone say food?!

Food? Did someone say food?!

Right. So let’s get to saving a precious handful of chickadee bebes.

Sweet handful

Sweet handful

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod Double Header: Light & Dark

Lots of mysteries lately, I know. I’ve been dealing with the mystery of Franklin Falls. It’ll be easy, sez I. Snoqualmie Batholith and some hornfels, sez I. Nothing simpler, sez I. Then I had to go and ask the question, “Well, what was the hornfels before it was hornfels?” And this is where my best laid plans for a sweet and simple geology post went gang aft agley. Of course they did. They always do. Because I keep asking questions and haven’t got answers until after a long chase through ninety-seven thousand pages of search results.

Anyway. Coming soon. In the meantime, mysteries! Here’s a little delight from our Franklin Falls trip.

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod I

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod I

Little white flower, dark little flying thing. Nice contrast. And if you look a bit closer, you’ll see it’s up against a very nice example of the granodiorite of the Snoqualmie Batholith.

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod II

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod II

Never you mind that green tint – the Snoqualmie granodiorite isn’t green, it’s just the ubiquitous life getting all over everything here on the wet side of the Cascades. This is why I expect we’ll find life on other worlds with liquid water. Add water, and shit seems to grow everywhere in copious quantites.

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod III

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod III

Our cryptopod was kind enough to pose for a profile shot. Wasp-waisted, isn’t it? Very buff shoulders, or whatever you call that segment above the other segment. Don’t mind me. Head’s full o’ rocks and ice, very little room left for technical terms for squidgy living things.


Mystery Flora/Cryptopod IV

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod IV

There’s a rather nice view of our cryptopod’s top side, and our mystery flower’s weird sort of middle bits. Interesting, that flower. I hope it has some awesome Latin name, like our Oplopanax horridus.

Back to ye olde trek through numerous sources for me. In the meantime, I’ve got two requests: if anyone has tips for identifying what hornfels might have been in their past life, I’d love ‘em. And I’ve got about eleventy-trillion photos of skunk cabbage to post for the aficionados, but not a bloody thing left to say. Help me come up with clever things to say about skunk cabbage, my darlings. Poetry, songs, recipes, terrible encounters with their stench, whatever comes to mind.Then we can have our skunk cabbage, but I’m hoping we won’t eat it, too.

Bodacious Botany: Wicked

We found two versions of wicked botanical denizens of the Pacific Northwest when we walked the Old Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road Trail (the trail is shorter than its name) on Saturday. That trail makes a nice loop out of the Franklin Falls hike: it doesn’t add much distance to your trip, and you get to see the forest. Which is full of fallen trees, and sliced up by streamlets, and makes you think that having to run a wagon trail through there must have been a ginormous pain in the arse.

I wouldn’t even have known about it if it wasn’t for Evelyn. She sent me 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Seattle for Christmas. B and I have been putting it to excellent use. The authors didn’t know rocks – they’re description of Franklin Falls is “gray and reddish rocks…” “black and reddish rocks…” and there they give up. I don’t blame them, necessarily. Those rocks are bloody hard to sort out if you’re not a professional: I’ve been at it all day, trying to figure out just what, precisely, we’re dealing with. I mean, it’s all well and good to know the black and reddish rocks are hornfels, but what kind? I know the gray rocks are Snoqualmie Batholith granodiorite, but what’s its story, morning glory? And now I’m getting punch-drunk from searching through dozens of sources. And – oh, my, where was I?

Oh. Right. Wandering through the woods with B and book.

A huge hunka hornfels ripped up by a root ball. Evelyn's very useful giftie for scale.

A huge hunka hornfels ripped up by a root ball. Evelyn’s very useful giftie for scale.

That enormous rock ripped up with the root ball is hornfels, by the way. I found a smaller hand sample of the same stuff to bring home and break. I’ll show you it when I write up the geology of Franklin Falls.

As we were bopping through the forest like Little Bunny Foo Foo* (only we were bopping rocks, not mice), we came across a pretty wicked plant.

Mystery plant I

Mystery plant I

In Arizona, it wouldn’t have earned a second glance. Plants with billions of thorns on them are weeds there: you can’t go six inches without something trying to stab you. But an old-growth PNW forest doesn’t have much outside of berry brambles that has thorns. Our wild roses do, and I suppose this could be one, but it looks different from the roses I photographed budding out a few months ago. Then again, we’re at 2,600 feet. Maybe the roses are different.

Mystery plant II

Mystery plant II

You see here, it has impaled a cone of some sort. It’s the badass of the forest.

Mystery plant III

Mystery plant III

This botany is bothering B, so hopefully you’ll be able to identify it. I know it won’t be easy – all you’ve got is thorns and buds. But I have faith in you lot.

Further along the old wagon road, we came across two rocks that looked like the Wicked Witch of the West. Same vivid green:

Wicked Rock I

Wicked Rock I

Made me laugh, that did. I’m not sure what’s causing it – some sort of lichen, I suspect – but the effect is awesome. I’ll even forgive it for covering up the geology.

Wicked Rock II

Wicked Rock II

The moss makes it look like they’re morphing into Swamp Thing, doesn’t it? I love stuff like this. Mosses and lichens and fungi are interesting little things, and they make the world more colorful. And just think: you never would have seen this without Evelyn. Loving this book. I’m delighted she sent it, and trying to think of a suitably useful giftie for her, and hoping the summer stretches on so that we can cover as many of the hikes in here as possible. Get yourself a copy if you find yourself in Seattle with some hiking time to spare.


*My first encounter with the “Little Bunny Foo Foo” song was in Roman Dirge’s Lenore. I’m delighted to discover there’s an animation of it (caution – autoplays) that will allow you to share the very fucked-up experience.

Three Posts that Should Be Required Reading for Ron Lindsay

Greta Christina has gone and said about all I could have said about this situation, and so much more. Ron Lindsay is a fool if he doesn’t read, then seriously contemplate, both of her posts.

A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

Afterward, he would be a raging dumbass not to head over to Jon Scalzi’s blog to see how a proper apology is done (h/t PZ).

Presidential Statement on the SFWA Bulletin, June 2, 2013

I don’t hold out much hope he’ll be capable of processing any of these, but one never knows. There they are, Ron. They might help you mend a few of the bridges you burned.


And now, a rant:

It’s pathetic, watching these men scream and howl when the ladiez mention they want some equality and respect. You have dipshits like Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg shrieking like what’s-his-guts – wow, he’s become such a non-entity to me I forgot his name – Michael Shermer. Persecution! Censorship! Witchhunt! Nazis! Stalin! Mao! North Korea! ZOMG Freeze Peach!!! They like to think of teh wimminz as emotional and irrational, but Jesus fuck, you can’t get much more emotional and irrational than these privileged little wankers do when called on their bullshit.

Ron Lindsay rode in like a shiny knight and said he was all against hatred directed at women – and then proceeded to stand up in front of women who have put up with an unbelievable amount of abuse and horrible treatment, lectured them on being good little girls, and then embraced their harasser, and that’s only the beginning. Methinks Ron likes to think of himself as a good person, and a champion of women, but he has no idea how to be a true ally and is refusing to learn. He’s just like so many of the he-man-woman-bashers who are happy to treat women with a smidgeon of respect just as long as we keep our mouths shut and our eyes down and bat our eyelashes at them like good little subordinate females.

You assholes make me sick. It’s time for you to extract your heads from your laps, stop performing your self-congratulatory self-fellatio, spend a few minutes thinking clearly about what sort of man gets that rabid over women calling them on sexist bullshit, and decide if this is really the kind of man you want to be.

And if the answer is yes, I have only one short sentence for you to listen to: Stay the fuck away from us.

As for the organizations that allow some of these extraordinary assholes to get away with this behavior: shape up and ship them out, or lose your chance at growth. You’ll dwindle in the dust as the movement marches on. And you’ll deserve it.