Winter Break

All right, my darlings, I’m out for the week. I’ve got Aunty Flow on the way, a ton of work to get done, and I hear there’s a holiday lurking somewhere up ahead. By the bye, if you’re way behind on the gift-giving, you can send an ebook instantly, and there’s a handy set o’ lists right here. You’re welcome.

The kittehs are here to wish you a very merry midwinter celebration sort of thing, if that is your thing.

Image shows Misha lying on top of green and blue tissue paper.

Misha’s on top of the wrapping.

Image shows Kirby peeking out from within a brown paper bag.

Kirby’s in the bag.

Have a lovely time, my darlings! See you very soon!

A Snippet o’ Subduction Zone Goodness for Ye

If I ever become ridiculously rich, I’m going to open up a geological theme park. Can you imagine the rides? Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and more – all very exciting. And educational. I think we could make it work, don’t you? Imagine the field trips!

Of course, we’d have to have a roller coaster based on subduction zones. It would be pretty intense. There’d be lots of ups and downs.

Image is a hand-drawing of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (spreading center), the Olympic Mountains (accretionary prism), Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains (magmatic arc).

A rough diagram of our subduction zone. Don’t laugh. I had to draw it by hand. Definitely not to scale, but you get the idea.

We’d start at the mid-ocean ridge, which in this case isn’t all that far offshore. The Juan de Fuca Plate is just a fragment of a larger plate. Eventually, it’ll subduct under the North American plate, some amazing geology will happen, and then it’ll only be the Pacific Plate in play. We’ll have to get deeper in to that someday. But for now: imagine our rollercoaster bumping daintily over the spreading center. Maybe, if we’ve got enough money to invest, we’ll even start underwater, just as we should. How awesome would that be?

So we slip down the side of the ridge, will all the black smokers and other excitement, and then there’s a short, smooth ride over the ocean floor between there and the subduction zone. Once we reach there, the coaster goes bumpity-bump over sediments stuffing the trench, and then begins the long climb over the mightily impressive accretionary prism we’ve got going on.

I mean, check it out.

Image shows the snow-capped Olympics rising jaggedly against a partly-cloudy sky. There is a view of the Kitsap Peninsula and Puget Sound. There are trees in the foreground.

A view of the Olympic Mountains from Richmond Beach.

Then once our roller coaster is perched at the tip-top of those glacier-carved peaks of oceanic basalt and sedimentary goodness, it’ll zip down the other side and swoop into the forearc basin. It’ll have a little bump over the Kitsap Peninsula, and then splash into the Sound. Cuz we’re totally gonna have water, right?

Image shows the mountains, the peninsula, and the Sound without trees in the way.

Look at that lovely peninsula and all that gorgeous water.

We’ll have a kinda washer-board effect as the coaster rolls over the topography carved and deposited by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Then there’ll be a higher climb over the magmatic arc, the Cascades. Yeah, the northern Cascades have a lot of sedimentary and metamorphic rock, but they’ve also got volcanoes. Maybe we’ll have Glacier Peak erupting as the coaster goes by. We can use synthetic snow dyed gray for the ash clouds.

Image shows the snow-capped Cascades rising over the Puget Lowland.

Foothills and Cascades

(That’s not the view from Richmond Beach, of course.)

So once we’re perched at the tippy-top of the Cascades, we’re staring into the backarc basin. That’s all dry and in the rainshadow, and it’s really magnificent, but of course you can’t see it because we’ve just had an eruption and the wind’s blowing east. Okay, actually, it’s because I don’t have a lot of my photos on this tiny machine, and it took me all night to hand-draw my diagram, since this machine won’t play with my tablet. I had a lot of fun, though.

Let’s take the coaster back to Richmond Beach so we can admire our forearc basin and accretionary prism some more, shall we?

Image is looking south-west from Richmond Beach. The Olympics and Kitsap Peninsula are in view at the right.

Gazing into the mists of the Sound.

Hang out in the basin a while. Make friends with the driftwood. Enjoy the magnificent scenery that results when a bit of oceanic crust slides beneath continental, and glaciers put some finishing touches on an already fantastic landscape.


Image is looking across a beach filled with driftwood. The Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympics are visible across the Sound.

Driftwood in the basin.

The Position of Research Assistant is (Badly) Filled

Thank you to all who expressed interest in the position of Research Assistant, which I never actually posted. I’m afraid the position has been filled for some time. Not that my assistant has ever provided much assistance: she thinks she’s helping, and that’s what counts.

Image shows Misha wedged into the space on the bed between my laptop and the book The Creationists.

The Assisstant

Due to a fair bit of insomnia and a cat using me as a mattress, I’ve finished Numbers’s gargantuan book. I supposed keeping me pinned down with no choice but to read or go slowly mad from inactivity is assisting. I’d fire her, but I value my life. You can try to remove her from her position, but I warn you: she’s quick with the teeth for an old fart.

Let’s Play Spot the UFDs

We get to see how sharp your UFD-spotting skills are, and see if you can actually identify a few dots. You guys are wizard: betcha you can do it.

All right, first you gotta spot the UFDs in this lovely nature scene:

Image shows the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, the Kitsap Peninsula, and part of Puget Sound.

I solemnly swear there are UFDs in this photo.

I know, it’s not really fair, is it? Huge photo, itty bitty birdies. But I have complete faith in you. My faith is extra-special, as I am an ordained minister. How’s that feel, my darlings? Or should I say, my meatballets?

Okay, yes, you’re allowed to slap my hand with a wet noodle when next we meet. That was a very bad joke.

All right, try your luck with this photo.

A closer crop of the above image. All of the same features, including UFDs, are present.

You’re totally able to see the UFDs now, right?

All right, now that you’ve located the UFDs (you have, haven’t you?), I’ll give you a very special cropped image of them, but you’ll have to go here to get it.

What do you think? I’m pretty sure these are quite common waterbirds round here, but damned if I can remember what they are. Bet you do! Identify away, my darlings!




Bias: It’s a Scientific Fact

I don’t trust anyone who says they’re unbiased. The longer I’ve been around, the more it’s become clear that anyone crowing about how unbiased they are has bias oozing from every orifice. I’ve learned to invest more trust in the people and orgs that admit bias happens, yes even to them, and they’re constantly working to overcome it. I’ve had to face up to the fact I’ve got biases, too, just like we all do. I know I’m missing some of my biases, but I work to identify them, and work to compensate for the ones I know I’ve got.

Bias, it turns out, isn’t just an impression some of us social justice types got: it’s a cold, hard, scientific fact. Olivia James took a look at some of the studies, and has a pair of excellent posts up on what science shows about bias. They make for some pretty revealing reading.

Start with Yes Virginia, There is Evidence of Bias, where she talks about Skepticland, studies she’s found, and asks an important question about the atheoskeptisphere:

When I see people saying that black deaths at the hands of cops are not racially motivated, all I can think of is this study showing that we’re more likely to see a harmless object as a gun when it’s held by a black person.

When someone says that women could be in STEM fields if they just tried harder or wanted it more, oh, well what about hiring bias?

When someone suggests that people who are overweight aren’t discriminated against it’s for their own good/they’re just lazy/what bias, I just want to send over this study that literally shows the same individuals are treated differently at different weights.

So why are otherwise skeptical individuals suddenly incapable of Googling when questions of bias appear?

Finish up with 9 Studies That Show We’re All a Little Biased for an eye-opening experience with bias. It’s pretty sobering stuff. But with awareness comes the power to change things for the better – not to mention lots of peer-reviewed evidence to chuck at the next person who claims they are Totes Bias Free.

Demotivational poster shows a cat sleeping on the huge dog bed, and a dog sleeping in the tiny cat bed. Caption says, "The sad reality... of any dog who shares their home with a cat."

Holy Schist! Order Today for Christmas!

Okay, gift givers, if you’re still shopping for Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist for Christmas, it’s definitely crunch time. This is the last day you can order and get guaranteed* delivery before Christmas.

The very last day!

Image is a black poster with the British crown and the words, "Ok now it's time to freak out."

So if you want to get one or two of these fine, cat-approved items

Image shows Misha lying beside a selection of Gnaughty and Gneiss cards and Holy Schist. There's a stocking full of Holy Schist hanging on the bookshelves behind her.

…then get your order in by 8pm Pacific time today!

Want to make extra-sure you’ll get all your gifties and still have plenty of time to wrap? You can! Order 3 or more items, and you’ll get a free upgrade to Priority Mail. That’ll getcher stuff to ye within 2-4 days, giving you a little more time to get it stocking-ready.

Act now!

Image shows a blurry running cat. Caption says, "LOL I so fst I jst a bluur."

*As long as the Post Office gets the job done within their quoted shipping times. Please contact me at if your package doesn’t arrive in time so I can track it and get the issue resolved. If your package shows it wasn’t delivered, I’ll refund your order.

Mysterious Cargo

Here’s one for the engineering detectives.

Image shows a large freight train passing another, very short train that has four cyan blue cylindrical objects pulled by a single engine.

Mystery Freight I

We took advantage of a wee bit o’ sunshine last Sunday to head to Richmond Beach. That’s the neato one with ten trillion stairs and trains. The oddest train I’ve ever seen passed us: a single engine pulling four cyan cylinders. Now, before you zoom in and see what we’re dealing with, lemme give you another clue: this train’s headed south.

Image shows the same train. It's almost reached a bend around the bluff.

Mystery Freight II

Now, south of Richmond Beach is downtown Seattle, and then a bit south of that is Boeing. So if you were thinking these looked like airplane fuselages, you were totally right. The airplane lovers in the audience may be able to tell us what kind of planes they’re building.

Image shows one of the fuselages up close.

Mystery Freight III

Apologies for the rather sub-par quality here, but it was a moving target on a cold, windy beach with the sun shining at a very awkward angle. So it goes.

I’ll have some lovely little (well, reallyreally big) mountains for ye soon. They were out in force, and amazingly pretty, and show just how astounding the slow, inexorable force of colliding plates is. You’ll love it.

God’s Old Earth Curriculum: Introduction

One of the resources I use for our AiCESE articles is a site called Old Earth Ministries. Their tagline is “It’s An Old World After All!” They’re definitely not secular: go to their site, and you’ll see it peppered with Christian apologetics and pleas for you to become a Christian. They represent a variety of old earth creationist viewpoints, and so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge. They describe themselves as mainly “Progressive Creationists,” which will make the biologists scream in frustration:

This view accepts that God created each species of plant and animal as a unique creation, without the use of evolution, and the days of creation refer to a long periods [sic] of time.

Yeah, some folks just can’t stomach evolution. I find it sad that their interpretation of faith allows them to accept most of modern science, but when it comes to evolutionary biology, they fall at the fence. Their God can apparently use allegory for lotsa stuff, but heaven forfend there weren’t a literal Adam and Eve. Unpossible!

Image is a green poster with the British crown and the words "Keep calm and deny evolution."

Image courtesy God of Evolution (CC BY 3.0)

Despite that nonsense, I vastly prefer this type of literalist to young earth creationists. At least they get some science (mostly) right. There are definite blind spots and misinterpretations caused by their determination to make Genesis a science book, but they do a great job exploding young earth creationist crap, and they do it as fervent Christians, which means they can reach an audience I can’t. I believe science should be strictly secular, and absolutely must be taught without religious claptrap in public schools. But I don’t want Christians of the more Biblical literalist bent rejecting science wholesale because they think Jesus won’t love them if they accept the actual age of the earth. I’d rather they accept as much real science as they can. And if sites like this can provide a stepping stone out of the young earth creationist swamp, I’m happy to point them out.

Of course, I have no compunctions about pointing out where they fuck up science, either.

This brings me to the OEM Online Geology Curriculum. The founder of OEM, Greg Neyman, has a geology degree. He and his wife also homeschool. Being a Christian but also a man who accepts actual geology, he wanted a curriculum for his kids that would be Christian-based but not YEC. Alas, the YECs have something of a stranglehold on Christian earth sciences textbooks. So Greg wrote his own curriculum, complete with quizzes and tests, and made it available for free online.

I’m intrigued. So we’re going to go through the thing here and see how science fares. I’m hoping he does a decent job, with a minimum of biblical bullshit, so that I can recommend this course to Christian parents who cannot abide using an icky secular science curriculum, but will accept an old earth. I’d rather students get at least some exposure to solid science, even if it’s not exactly correct. It definitely beats having young earth creationist crap like A Beka or BJU thrust upon them. And let’s face it, just about anything is better than ACE.

So, let us explore the world of old earth creationism as presented to homeschoolers, and see where we end up, shall we?

Image shows a row of cats staring out a window. Caption says, "The People Channel. Airing in your area by checking your local windows."

Holy Schist! Time’s Running Out!

We’re down to the last couple of online shopping days before Christmas! If you were planning to give some Holy Schist or Gnaughty and Gneiss gifties, it’s time to getcher order in. You were totally planning to get some, right?

Image shows a variety of Dana Hunter's Gneiss Schist products arranged with a stocking. A starburst says "Act now!"

Want to make extra-sure you’ll get all your gifties and still have plenty of time to wrap? You can! Order 3 or more items, and you’ll get a free upgrade to Priority Mail. According to the Post Office, that’ll get your stuff to you within 2-4 days, giving you a little more time to get it stocking-ready.

All items at Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist are kitteh-approved.

Image shows Misha with a selection of Gnaughty and Gneiss cards and Holy Schist. There's a stocking full of Holy Schist hanging behind her.

Make sure your earth science-loving loved ones get a good laugh and some hand-collected (and certified holy) awesomeness this year. Order today!

All of the Super-Gargantuan Guides Now in One Convenient Place!

I can see by the sweat on your brow that you’ve just realized gift-giving time is almost upon you, and you haven’t even started shopping yet. Never fear! A good book will go down a treat, it’s fast and easy to get one in time, and I’ve gotcher convenient suggestions right here. That’s right! A page completely dedicated to them, helpfully broken out by category, so you can decide at a glance which page o’ reviews is right for you, and then go select a book from it. Or, if you give up trying to guess what your giftee already has and would like to have now, just get ‘em a gift card and send them the link to this page.

Image shows a cat on a ladder in a bookstore. Caption says, "Feline obedience training? That wud be ovr in fiction."

See how easy that is? Now you can wipe the sweat off, go grab your beverage of choice, and kick back for a little extra quality time for your own self.