You Get to Shape the Future of this Blog!

Well, parts of it. Plus storm damage! And kitties!

So, last night, I really dug in to Richard Waitt’s new Mount St. Helens book:

Photo of my copy of Richard Waitt's In the Path of Destruction, which has a black and white photo of Mount St. Helens erupting.

This is like magic and I’m loving it so much! A geologist wrote about all the human drama, so my book can focus mostly on the geological drama, and I can point people to this book as a companion if they’re like, “But what about teh hoominz?!” It’s so incredibly nice to know I have a meticulously sourced, thoroughly researched, and well-written book penned by a USGS geologist who worked on Mount St. Helens during the 1980 eruptions. I’m only a few chapters in, and it’s already delish. I’ve learned things about the people involved I never knew before. The seismological drama is intense! And there’s a nice interweaving of the geological and human aspects.

So, here’s where you get to decide the future: [Read more…]

Seahurst with Silver Fox, Plus Cryptopod: Why Did the Green Bug Cross the Road?

It’s been a busy social week for this introvert! On Wednesday, I drove down to pick Silver Fox up from the airport and take her to Seahurst Park on her layover. Since I-5 has basically been a parking lot between my new place and downtown Seattle, I took Highway 99. This meant I had to go through the Viaduct. I always white-knuckle it through there, begging the Cascadia subduction zone not to rip right then, please. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up on I-5 anyway, which was okay because it was below the jam. Then I took a wrong turn out of the cell phone waiting lot at the airport and had to drive around trying to find a way back to the terminal. It was a comedy of errors, but I did at last manage to collect Silver Fox, and we found our way to Seahurst without incident.

It’s a lovely park with lots of beachfront. [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: An Ode to Knowing Science Things

Ohai, it’s back to school time, innit? I’ve polished up an ancient essay on how awesome science is and posted it at Rosetta Stones. It hasn’t any naughty words in it, so you teachers can even foist it upon your students who are grumbling about ew, ick, why do we have to science, it steals all the mystery and it is haard. I have also found an outstanding photo of the Milky Way over Mount Rainier for your viewing pleasure.

Image shows Mount Rainier with the Milky Way rising over it in a blue and pink sky. There are streaks from meteorites along with the riot of stars. Little Tahoma peak is also visible..

“Milky way over Mt. Rainier” by Abhinaba Basu (CC BY 2.0)

I also got to see Silver Fox today! She had a long layover, so we skedaddled out of the airport and visited Seahurst Park. I’ll show you some pictures from it tomorrow, once I have edited them. Then I took my elderly kitty outside because she has been bored. She spent nearly the whole time trying to figure out how to get around the table I had blocking the bridge and make a break for it.

Image shows Misha sitting by the bridge over our creek, staring toward the table that is off to the right. She's got a white daisy in front of her.

My flower child contemplates her escape strategy.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XVI: Wherein Geology is Roundly Abused

My darlings, our trek through these Christianist earth science textbooks has been a long and tiresome one, but our perseverance has at last been rewarded: we have arrived at the units on Geology! Thanks to the Flood myth, God is all over this branch of the earth sciences like long-lost relatives on a lottery winner. Geology is second only to evolutionary biology when it comes to science creationists can’t stand. So this should be good (for sarcastic values of good).

We’ll see if either Science of the Physical Creation or Earth Sciences 4th Edition acknowledge the fact that it was geology that first dealt creationism a mortal blow. I mean, before the early geologists really got to looking at the earth and went, “This overwhelming evidence shows this planet must be very old indeed,” it was possible for a scientist to be a creationist and still be perfectly respectable. But then James Hutton and Charles Lyell kneecapped the young earth theory with a rock hammer. And then, as creationism was thrashing around, hollering “It’s only a flesh wound!” and threatening to bite off their kneecaps, along came Darwin and lopped its head off with the theory of evolution, which itself had been forged in the fires of Lyell’s elegant evidence for an elderly Earth. And ever since, young earth creationists have been hobbling about headless, whilst brashly proclaiming they can still wear a hat.

So let us marvel at their shenanigans by first turning to page 192 of A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation. [Read more…]

Turns Out Josh Duggar is a Lying, Cheating Sleazebag. Only Conservative Christians are Surprised

I wouldn’t ordinarily be writing a post about a grown man’s adultery with other grown people. If you cheat on your spouse, you’re a scumbag, but you’re your spouse’s problem – unless, of course, you’re one of those moralizing shitlords who try to keep my queer friends from getting married, encourage people to hate on them, tell us we’re damned for enjoying premarital sex on the regular, and try to legislate what we can do with our reproductive systems and our relationships. In that case, damn straight your cheating is public business, because if you can’t practice, you shouldn’t be preaching, much less trying to get laws passed to condemn others for what you’re doing.

And Josh Duggar, the holier-than-thou sleazeball who loved to pretend he was the perfect husband and father, whose actual work was to harm families that didn’t fit his own narrow definition, has not one but two different kinds of sex scandal going on. First we find out he molested his sisters and their babysitter, now he’s forced to confess that he signed up on Ashley Madison so he could cheat on his wife. He had an OK Cupid account, too. And a Facebook account where he followed local strippers. And a Twitter account where he showed himself to be the typical pathetic straight white boy interacting with women. The man was obsessed with illicit sex.

Image is grayscale. On the right is Josh Duggar, showing only his face. He looks like he's about to cry. To the left are the words, "Be sure your sin will find you out. Num. 32:23"

Yeah, in this instance, the Bible was right.

I’m not happy the truth came out like it did. The people who hacked Ashley Madison were so busy being self-righteous assholes that they gave not a single thought to the kind of people whose lives might be put at risk by their leaks. They didn’t think of the people who would be driven to suicide, the people who might face domestic violence, or the people who could get executed for breaking the law in their countries. They didn’t think of the singles who were on there because it seemed like a safe and secure place to meet a same-sex partner. They didn’t think of the sex workers who would be put at risk. didn’t think of the ordinary lives that would be destroyed. The little shitheads just wanted to prove their point. And like little shitheads everywhere, they’re so full of themselves they have no room for anyone else. I hope they get to contemplate their actions from the interior of a jail cell for quite a long time. [Read more…]

We Need This in Seattle – And Everywhere

I came across this remarkable way to challenge racism in our public spaces, and now I want this to be a thing in Seattle.

The Yarn Mission seeks to “use yarn to promote action and change to eradicate racism, sexism, and other systems of oppression”. The group, founded by CheyOnna Sewell, a PhD student in criminology, seeks to spark conversation about race and police brutality by engaging with curious passersby as they knit, all while providing a comforting activity for beleaguered activists.

“As a black woman, you’re invisible,” says Taylor Payne, a member of the group. “But knitting makes people stop and have a conversation with you. If someone asks me what I’m doing, I say, ‘I’m knitting for black liberation.’ Sometimes they respond and sometimes I just get ‘Oh, my grandma knits,’ like the person didn’t hear me. But at least it opens the door to talking about my experiences.”

[Read more…]

Let’s Stop Punishing Girls for the Behavior of Men and Boys, M’Kay?

When I was in middle school back in the olden days (hint: it was just after leg warmers went out and hypercolor shirts came in), I had this t-shirt that had a cartoon duck on it. It said “Tall, Duck and Handsome.” I’d done some growing, so it was a little short – it skimmed the top of my jeans, and like an inch of belly was exposed when I raised my arms. This was too much for the puritans of our local school district, who pulled me out of class, called my mom, and told her that such skimpy clothing was not allowed on awkward prepubescent girls.

My mother, who was something of a warrior, read them the riot act. She belted them with facts: we were still little kids. The shirt was cute and funny, not sexy. The shirt covered pretty much everything unless I raised my arms overhead, and if they couldn’t handle that little bit of skin, that was their problem. She had them quaking by the end of her tirade. I think they were about to give up and send me back to class, but she pulled me out of school and took me to have either ice cream or lunch – unfortunately, my memory fades on that point. We had a nice mother-daughter day, and I knew from then onward that my mom would always have my back in battles over dress codes. When they divorced, my dad took over the not giving a shit and expecting other people to accept my sartorial choices. When people would ask him how he could possibly let me wear x, y, or z, he’d calmly explain to them that I was comfortable and creative, and if they had a problem, they’d have to deal with it their own damn selves.

I grew up thinking this was how things should be. But I have discovered that we’ve gone rather backwards. Women’s clothing choices have always been policed, but when schools send girls home for dressing like this: [Read more…]

Seattle-Area Fundraiser for Fire Relief

It’s been a vicious year for fires in the northwestern United States. It seems like everything east of the Cascades is on fire up here, and we just lost three firefighters and had another few wounded when the blaze they were battling took an unexpected turn. We’re getting our asses kicked, and no mistake.

Many of us may feel helpless in the face of these infernos, but there are things we can do even if we’re not able to personally fight the fires.

If you’re in the Seattle area, Red Onion Burgers is having a fundraiser on Thursday:

Eat at Red Onion Burgers on Thursday, August 27th between 11am and 8pm and help raise money to aid those impacted by the Chelan Reach Complex / Wolverine / Black Canyon Fires.

Red Onion Burgers will be donating 100% of the cash tips, 50% of the credit card tips and 50% of the total sales. In addition, local firefighters will be present at the Albertson’s to help raise funds and collect food donations.

Money raised will go to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington whose relief fund benefits local families impacted by the fires in and around the Chelan Valley.

And there are other ways to help fire victims listed here.

I know most of the west is on fire, and likely some other countries, too, so if there are local fundraisers going on for your state/province/etc., please do let me know and I’ll add them.

Image shot at night shows a fire truck stopped with its lights on near a burning field. The red brake lights and the glowing orange flames in the darkness, illuminating roiling smoke, is eerie.

Fire crews work through the night at the Blue Creek Fire. The Blue Creek Fire located east of Walla Walla, WA began on Jul. 20, 2015 and has consumed an estimated 6,004 acres. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Image and caption courtesy USFS.

Strategic Responses to Tract Thruster Tactics: Let Us Brainstorm Together!

This article at No Longer Quivering gives some insight onto the tactics and motivations of Tract Thrusters. You’ve probably encountered at least one of these annoyingly religious folks who make it their business to get up in your business and thrust their terrible tracts at you, then run off having convinced themselves they’ve done something heroic. Or you’ve dealt with a shiny doorknocking person who’s just convinced you’ll come right to Jesus once you’ve heard their Extra Special Message You’ve Only Heard 1000x Before, and obviously you’ll want to forego sleep, food, etc. to hear the Good News.

Image shows an orange and white kitty dressed as a Mormon missionary, being held sitting up on its owner's lap with a mini Book Of Mormon.  Caption says, "Have you heard the good word about Ceiling Cat, Brother?c

Oftentimes, we’re caught flat-footed. Especially in the case of Tract Thrusters who impose themselves upon us in public without warning, we may not be ready with an instant riposte. So let’s think of creative ways to respond if some zealot tries to force religious tracts upon us.

For instance: if I’m in a hurry, I’ll hand their tract back, saying, “That’s so thoughtful, but I’m overstocked on butt wipes from bigots. Have a nice day!” If I have time and inclination, I shall sit down with them and ask them to explain exactly what each bit means, asking them to define terms like “God” and explain to me how the more violent or gross verses and stories in the Bible (or Holy Book in question) apply to the tract in question. Intersperse with horribly embarrassing personal anecdotes about fictional uncouth religious family members. Repeat until they flee.

Of course, the most efficient response would be to reciprocate with tracts from the Satanic Temple. Alas, those only come in a swag bag, but for cheap comebacks to religious solicitation, perhaps these spiffy buttons will do. And maybe, as an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I should write a tract or two myself…

What’s your strategy? Have you already countered a Tract Thruster with a brilliant counter-ploy? Do tell!

Mystery Flora: Thus Spake The Night Blooming Flower

Hey, look! It’s a flower that is not from the Pacific Northwest! I’ll probably have some more lovely exotic flowers along the way, as I now live in a household with a gardener in it. Speaking of which, if you need someone to rehab your garden, please let me know and I will hook you up.

Anyway. Here’s our beauty:

Image shows a plant with long, almost rectangular green leaves and a white flower dangling from a twisty pink stem.

Mystery Flora I

This plant, I am told, is older than Misha. It’s only a couple of years younger than N, who just turned 30. It had a rough patch recently when it wasn’t living with S, so it’s smaller than it was and only had four buds this year. But you can see the thing is bloody huge and vigorous even so.

Here, you can have a cat for comparison.

Image shows Boo lying beside the pot. She is much smaller than the plant and, lying down, is only half as tall as its pot.

Mystery Flora II

So that’s the bud that bloomed first, a couple of nights ago. It was already partially blown. Here’s one of last night’s buds just as it was getting ready to go. These flowers only bloom for one night, so you want to watch the buds carefully to see when they’re about to bloom. When you see about this much white, you know it’s time.

Image shows a bud, which is turned horizontal to the ground. The pink bracts that enclose it are beginning to thin as the flower petals appear to swell beneath. Some of the bracts are curling at their tips.

Mystery Flora III

These buds are huge. They’re about four or five inches long, and pretty thick at the base. You’ll see why soon.

When a bud is ready to bloom, it begins opening very slowly in the late evening.

Image shows a single bud, which is about 5 inches long or so. It is just beginning to open, and the outer pink bracts are curling away.

Mystery Flora IV

See how the tips are curling outward a bit? Yep. The dozens of long, narrow petals just keep opening and curling over the course of a few hours, until they’ve achieved full magnificence.

Image shows two blooms, one facing right, the other left, one atop the other. They are almost fully open. They look like starbursts.

Mystery Flora V

It’s about now that they’re spreading their scent all over the patio, trying to entice their pollinators to come help them get it on. It’s a sweet and earthy, almost sharp, scent that’s rather hard to describe. It doesn’t smell like any other flower I’ve smelled. And the inside is pretty weird, too.

Image shows one of the flowers in full bloom from the front. You can see the anthers covered in yellow pollen within, and a really odd structure poking from the interior that looks almost like a white sea anenome.

Mystery Flora VI

Here’s a somewhat sharper image of another flower, showing the weird bit from the side.

Image shows one of the flowers from a three-quarter profile. The anenome-like structure is clearly visible, coming almost to the edge of the bloom.

Mystery Flora VII

If I’m still here around this time next year, I’ll try to get them a bit better. I normally don’t use the flash, and it was also dark as fuck outside, so I was shooting rather blindly. I’m happy my camera did as well as this. That little machine always surprises me.

Last night, we had three blooms at once. When they’re fully open like this, they’re astounding, and the scent permeates the entire deck. It was almost strong enough to overpower the woodsmoke from the bonfire in the grill.

Image shows three of the huge flowers extending from top right to bottom left, and progressively looking into the camera, in profile, and then from the back.

Mystery Flora VIII

Since these blooms only last the night, S clipped all three, just before they began to fade, and handed them out to us. There’s one sitting beside my bed in a wine bottle right now, and my whole room is delicately infused with its scent, which is a lot better than old cat odors.

Image shows my rectangular rice paper and cherry wood lamp with the night flower in a bottle in front of it. Image is looking up toward the ceiling, which is cast in a Caribbean blue light.

I love this combo of warm rice-paper lamp hue and blue ceiling I got with the white balance being all wonky, so I left it and called it art.

S says I should have really vivid dreams, as this plant has a neurostimulant effect of some sort. I’ll report back, but alas, there is a confounding factor in our experiment, as I just got my visit from Aunty Flow and am taking tons of ibuprofen. That stuff also gives me vivid dreams. But if they’re anything like the Chantix dreams, then I’ll be able to tell there’s been a turboboost.

You can see a more true-color version of the above photo, plus lots more pictures showing the blooms in their many phases, here at my Flickr page. I can’t wait for you guys to identify this one! I think it’ll blow a few minds. When you ID it, try to include what plant family it belongs to, what its natural habitat is, and what its pollinator is, because all three things are delightful. Happy questing!

Oh, and for those who like black metal, the post title refers to this.