Labor Day Weekend Just-For-The-Heck-Of-It Entertainment Grab Bag

¡Hola, mis amigos y amigas!

It’s been a hectic, sometimes emotional, oftentimes enlightening few weeks, in my case salted with the soul-sucking chasm of stupidity and corporate malice that is my current job (and I suspect I’m not the only one). But it’s Labor Day Weekend here in the USA! Yay! Hug your union (if you’re one of the pitifully few who’ve got one), enjoy your day(s) off (if you’re not stuck working a shit job throughout) and, should you need a little light internet entertainment, see below for awesome goodtimes fun stuff.

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Friday Photos: Whidbey Island Erosion

Whidbey Island, Washington is a fantastic place to see glacial deposits while you enjoy some seascapes.

Bluff at Penn Cove, Monroe Landing, on Whidbey Island. The bluff is chock full of glacial deposits. The beach is a delightful jumble of rocks, mud flats, and sand, where you can break up your geological investigations by amusing yourself with little crabs, clams, and if you’re very lucky, a live shrimp.

You can also see excellent evidence of why it’s not a good idea to build on a bluff. We didn’t actually mean to see those. My intrepid companion and I meant to go see a fine example of a clastic dike. I should have remembered lessons learned from Doctor Who: “Turn Left.” If I had, we’d have ended up at Blowers Bluff as intended. But, like Donna, we turned right, and will have to get it right (left?) on a second go.

No matter. It turned out to be a happy little accident. There’s enough in the bluff that is not Blowers Bluff to keep a person interested in both geology and sea critters happy for hours. And it has some textbook examples of erosion.

Root ball in eroding bluff. This tree is going to find itself slip-siding down onto the beach, if it hasn’t already.

These glacial sediments are quite firm, even hard, but they’re more like dried mud than rocks: classic unconsolidated sediments, which haven’t had the opportunity to turn to stone just yet. And between the waves from Puget Sound and the gargantuan amounts of rain we get here in the winter, they have a habit of eroding rapidly.

Erosion. You can see in this photo that parts of the bluff are well on their way to becoming beach, and it looks like there’s some slumping going on to the right. Chunks of the bluff are sloughing off.

This is why Scenic Heights Road is endeavoring to become Scenic Lows Road.

Erosion undermining the road.

There were moments photographing this bluff when I questioned the wisdom of standing beneath it. This closeup of the eroded bit of road should explain why:

Closeup of erosion undermining the road.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 51% of Island County’s shorelines are unstable (pdf). All around Puget Sound, you can see signs of mass wasting. Waves make the bluffs too steep, while soaking rains cause the compacted sediments to lose cohesion, leading to landslides and debris flows. It can get rather exciting round here in the winter.

Before I began my geological adventures, I used to think I’d like a nice house on the seashore, probably perched up high with a view of the ocean. These days, I’m content living inland. Don’t get me wrong: I liked The Little Mermaid, but I’d rather not have “Under the Sea” stuck in my head because that’s where my house landed.



Tucker, Dave (2010): “Blowers Bluff, Whidbey Island.” Northwest Geology Field Trips.

Crucher, Suzanne (2008): “Determination of Shoreline Erosion Rates of Double Bluff.” University of Washington Earth & Space Sciences.

Shipman, Hugh (2004): “Coastal Bluffs and Sea Cliffs on Puget Sound, Washington.” U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1693.


Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

ZOMG Pumpkins Going Squish and Horsies!

Some of you may remember last year, when Our Own Trebuchet won a spiffy trophy with his trebuchet, and there was actual jousting with real horses. You might have been sad you missed it. Well, it’s happening again! And you can go with us! How could you think of missing this?!

WATCH Pumpkins Fly & Die!
Trebuchets and other launching devices hurl pumpkins- it’s a crazy competition! Mounted knights battle on horseback! Get your chance to launch a pumpkin!

Right?! So if you’ll be in the area, make your plans, and come have awesome good fun! If you need your appetite whetted further, see the awesome video of us making the winning hurl. And admit it. You’ll love seeing the horsies.

No horses were harmed, and in fact, they seemed to be having the time of their lives. They love this stuff!

No horses were harmed, and in fact, they seemed to be having the time of their lives. They love this stuff!


Let’s go!

Guest Post: “Quit Sitting Around Here Being Brand New to This”

Ceesays has put together the beginnings of a fantastic resource for those of us willing to buckle down and educate ourselves, but who aren’t quite sure where to go for our 102-201 level courses. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor, was so kind as to list the links. Good thing summer’s almost over (in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer beach reading time is approaching (in the Southern) – we’ve got a lot of resources to read.

Turning it over to ceesays: [Read more…]

Mount Rainier Travelogue Parte the Thirde: To Paradise!

Paradise is so popular that everybody wants to get in. Okay, well maybe aside from a few people who’re like, “Yeah, but there’s all this other stuff I could be doing,” because it’s Mount Rainier and you could probably spend every day of your entire life exploring it and never see it all. There’s gotta be some been-there-done-that folks who give Paradise a miss so they can explore some of those places they’ve not yet been. And there’s likely a person or two with social anxiety who makes a beeline for the backcountry instead. But all those sorts of people must be few and far between, because there’s signs when you first come into the park that will tell you whether the Paradise parking lot is full.

It’s spectacular, is why.
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Guest Post: “I Am Tired of Being Treated as a Subhuman When I Get Angry Over Racism”

By now, those of you not spending your summer hiding under rocks will have heard about JT’s extraordinary arrogance. And his quadrupling down on that arrogance. And maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, except this shit is done by people who refuse to listen to the voices of the people this shit is done to all the damn time.

I’m going to say a few words to my fellow white people before turning the floor over to the person you should really be listening to. I’m saying these few introductory words so that you can take a moment to prepare yourself. If you do not need this lecture, skip to dezn_98’s words, where your focus should be. If you find yourself getting defensive, and wanting to lecture rather than shut the fuck up and keep listening, return back here and read from the beginning. [Read more…]

One Reason Why False Rape Allegation Statistics Are So High

Men, even good men, believe women lie about rape. There’s this myth that runs amok saying that some enormous proportion of rape accusations are just women lying to get attention, or revenge, or to hide their summer fling from mommy and daddy. And they believe it without question.

When male friends toss that grenade at me, I toss it back by asking if they know what the percentage is. “Fifty percent,” they’ll say, or above, depending on which MRAs their stats are coming from.

“It’s two to eight percent,” I say, and I need to remember to never do this when they’re walking or have something in their mouths, because the good ones are always staggered, and they always gasp. “But even those numbers are on the high side.”

Image courtesy Tim Fields via Flickr.

Image courtesy Tim Fields via Flickr.

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New at Rosetta Stones: Lithified Detritus’s Beautiful Beach Rocks

Oh, people. Ohgods. You know, there are times when I wish I had a private jet and about a trillion dollars, so I could say at any hour of the day or night, “Jeeves! We’re going to X to look at the rocks. Immediately.” And Jeeves would say, “Of course we are, madam,” and make it so.

Of course, I’d have to hire someone named Jeeves who is actually just like Jeeves, and that could be almost as difficult as earning a trillion dollars. Still. I’d like to try. So will you, when you see the rocks Lithified Detritus sent us.

Tell you what. Let’s all pool our money until we have the trillion, and then we can find Jeeves and a jet and spend the rest of our lives going to look at gorgeous rocks, perhaps even whilst dabbling our toeses in water on lovely warm days. I can think of worse things to do.

Cantina Quote o’ the Week: H.G. Wells

What on earth would we do with ourselves if something did not stand in our way?

H.G. Wells

I trust I don’t have to tell you who H.G. Wells is. One of the fathers of science fiction? Bloke who wrote that War of the Worlds book that got turned into a radio drama by Orson Welles and led to a lot of people panicking because they were unclear on the concept of fiction. 

These words of his are some of my favorites, because they are true. It might seem like everything would be wonderful if there were no obstacles in our path, but that way lies boredom. Good thing every life has its obstacles, then. As long as they’re not insurmountable, we can give our minds quite a lot of exercise figuring out how to get round them.

I think if nothing stood in our way, we’d probably put something there, just so we’d have something to contend with. We are a contentious species. And we like to prove we’re clever. Though, as the panic over a radio show proved, we’re not quite as clever as we like to believe…

Dr. Phil’s Rape Culture Goggles

Another day, another clueless dude* asking a dumbshit question about rape.

“If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused” Screen cap courtesy

I heaved a weary sigh when I got the Change.Org email inviting me to sign the petition advising Dr. Phil that a) answer’s no, you dumbshit**; b) apologize; and c) air a show that advises viewers not to rape people, no, not even if they’re drunk. Not surprised? I’m having a heart attack from not surprised. Dude sods up topic of sexual assault, news at midnight because who’s gonna stay up for this predictable bullshit?

Thing is, Dr. Phil’s not only a dumbshit, he’s a terribly influential one. [Read more…]