Finally! The Perfect Book for Geology-Loving Comic Book Fans!

Have you dreamt of a richly-illustrated, geology-themed superhero comic for kids? One that not only gets the science right, but encourages great study habits, turns ordinary encounters into fantastical geologic adventures, models kindness and heart-warming family dynamics, and encourages creativity, all without talking down to kids for an instant? My darlings, your dreams just came true:

Image shows the cover of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

When I first got my hands on an advance copy of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, I squeed. I did. Because I am a nerd, people. I love geology, and I thoroughly enjoy superhero comics, and I adore media that put someone other than a generic white male in the spotlight for a change. And this comic book is written by Kanani K. M. Lee, an actual geophysicist whose specialty is the interior of the earth – and writing rocking great geologic comics. Illustrator Adam Wallenta brings her characters to vivid life, with blazing, bold color illustrations.

Our hero is George, a sweet and brilliant African-American boy who lives with his grandma and has a secret identity. He’s an ordinary boy worried about getting to school on time and passing his earth science test. But when cracks in the sidewalk menace, he transforms into Geo, a geologically-savvy superhero. His skateboard becomes a rocket-board, and his backpack becomes Rocky, his faithful robot dog. The sidewalk cracks morph into tectonic plates; an open manhole erupts as a raging volcano (from which he saves a visually-impaired woman). He encounters earthquakes and tsunamis, ties the geological drama to the lessons on the earth’s structure and plate tectonics taught by his science teacher, and after heroic feats of recall, aces his test.

Detail from The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic.

It’s a richly-imagined world that vividly shows the way the plates move, and how those movements are driven by titanic forces deep within our home planet. Using diagrams, analogies, and dramatic illustrations how the varied geologic phenomena Geo experienced can all be tied to those plate motions. Dr. Lee manages to pack a textbook-worth of information in, but paces it in such a way that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. And the characters she’s created are a delight.

This may not be a suitable comic for very young children (unless they’re the kind of kids who started using complex technical terms at the age of five), but you can feel quite comfortable getting a copy for anyone from grade school to senior citizen. Anyone who loves comics, science, or both will enjoy this tale. And the second half of the book is an excellent prose tutorial on plate tectonics, paleomagnetic reversals, the earth’s structure, seismology, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, and finishes with a primer on what geologists actually do that will help everyone realize there’s more to it than just rocks. The final section gives links to geology activities suitable for trying at home. Neat!

I can’t tell you what a relief The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic is after spending over a month buried in creationist textbooks that not only mutilate geoscience, but have severely stunted imaginations. This is the comic I’ll be slipping to kids who are stuck learning sham science. It shows the real thing, and in a gorgeous way. It’s the book I’ll be giving to kids who want to know more about geoscience, and the people who think rocks are boring, and the folks who care about diversity in STEM, and anyone who needs a gentle nudge to see how rewarding diversity can be. I can see this as the lovingly-battered book people slip off a shelf to show as the comic that got them in to science, or helped them understand the news when things like the Napa quake happen.

And I’m so thrilled we’ll be seeing Geo again – I’m told more adventures are already in the works. I can’t wait!

Go introduce yourself to Geo here, and reserve your copy here.

Image shows Misha asleep on the keyboard and my paper copy of the above review. I was supposed to be transcribing it, but she was so darned comfy...

Misha’s idea of helping me get this review online for ye.

This review was originally published at Rosetta Stones. But you guys are the only ones getting the bonus kitty pic!

Who’d Like a Goode Olde Blacke Powder Explosion, Then?

Alas, I didn’t make it to Sunday’s festivities – Starspider put her knee out, and needed to stay off it so that we didn’t end up having to pop it back into place again on the field. People get squicky about stuff like dislocated knees. She, of course, enjoyed watching her roomie’s face as he nearly tossed his cookies helping her wrench everything back into place. She’s like that. And she’s fine, and sends her regrets. Next year!

While we wait for next year to arrive, I’ve got yer black powder guns a-firing.

Image shows the pirates from yesterday's post tamping down their black powder in their guns and getting ready to Make Noise.

Pirates prepare to plunder.

Unfortunately, the video can’t capture the ground shaking when that small cannon at the end went, but I think you’ll get the general idea. Enjoy!

That little cannon was sweet – and so loud! If you want a better look, here ye go:

Image shows a pirate bent over, tamping powder down the barrel of a small cannon on a wooden frame, while Pirate Jamie Hyneman looks on in the background.

Tamping the powder down, gonna be a big boom, yeah!

I wish I knew who these fellas were, but the website for the faire doesn’t say, and I didn’t grab a flyer. Perhaps Trebuchet knows?

I’ll have horsies and hurlers up soon, as long as no one else in the skeptical community says or does something outrageously awful in the next day or two.

So Much Wrong: James Randi’s Rape Culture Remarks

Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.

But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.

Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.

How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?

And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.

Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.

Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?

“I haven’t seen him doing that.

And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.

“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.

People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.

Only, it is.

“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.

ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?

Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image on top is a My Little Pony looking upward in shock. Caption says, "WTF is that?" Bottom image shows her looking in a different direction, seeming angry. Caption says, "Srsly, WTF is that?"

I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.

Image shows an anime woman with pink hair screaming so hard she's spitting and her eyes look like they're exploding. Caption says, "What is this I don't even"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows a man in a very tacky wizard's outfit, holding out his hand. Caption says, "Stand back. Shit's about to get real."

Image shows a nuclear bomb explosion.

Operation Castle – Bravo shot explosion. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.

Image shows an orange kitten hugging a broom handle. Caption says, "Yah, itz a big job, but somebudyz gotta do it."

How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?

He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?

This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.

James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.

Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.

But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.

I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.

If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.

You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.

Trebuchets! Horsies! Geology!

Sunny was the day and high our hearts as we parked in deep grass full o’ crane flies and waded into the 7th Annual Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl & Medieval Faire. And I could continue in the mock-epic language, but I’m not one of Terry Pratchett’s dwarves, so I think I’ll just give you some pictures and snarky commentary instead.

Like Trebuchet said, we only got to see each other for a few minutes, and the new onager had some performance issues, but it was still a lot of fun. Here is a bit of the onager posing with a Cascade mountain whose identity I don’t know because I am teh suck at maps and landmarks.

Image shows the arm and sling of an onager, with a dark pointy mountain in the distance.

The new onager, avec mountain.

It’s okay. He brought Mixed Nuts, too, and that one did its usual excellent job. I haz video. You can haz after I’ve done it up for ye. In the meantime, here’s a hawt action shot where you can see the sling rippling after having hurled its pumpkin.

Mixed Nuts in action.

Mixed Nuts in action.

I love that machine.

Last year, one of the things that disappointed B and me was that we’d missed out on cannons. Not this year! And it was extra-special:

Image shows a group of people getting ready to fire black powder guns. To the far right, there is a man dressed as a pirate with red-striped socks. He looks like Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters. There's a finger pointing to him and a text box that says, "Pirate Jamie Hyneman." To his left is a gallant-looking pirate who seems to be taking a shallow bow beside a small canon. A thought bubble says, "Time for me aaarghncore." In the center bottom of the photo, a blonde girl with a crown is visible. Her thought bubble says, "It's good to be the queen...." To her left is a spectator in an ornate pirate outfit. He looks like Baron Munchausen from Terry Gilliam's Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The text box beside him says, "Totally Baron Munchausen."

We had many illustrious personages present.

You have absolutely no idea how much I love that photo. And I couldn’t even see what I was photographing. There were tall people in front of me, and I could only hold the camera above my head, click, and hope. We got lots of hawt black powder action, and you shall have video of it as well.

I didn’t get many good photos of the pumpkins hurlers in action – my timing was teh suck. But here’s a nice tableau with all the various machines for ye.

Image shows a line of trebuchets and onagers in order of descending size.

The contenders.

There weren’t many this year. What this means is, if you are at all interested in hurling pumpkins to their death with garage-built siege engines, you should build one this winter and have it ready by next fall. I WANT MOAR PUNKIN CHUNKIN ACTION!!

There were people in armor bashing each other heartily, as I so fondly remember from days spent with SCA members. No, the other SCA. The one that includes kilts, drinking, and people bashing each other with fake weapons. I am very happy with this shot of them:

Image shows two men in silver suits of armor. One has just thunked the other mightily, and the thunked one is in midair, falling.

I smite thee!

Alas, my zoom function was being a bugger, so there’s no larger image – I had to crop to achieve. But ’tis awesome.

Image shows same knights on the ground, one atop the other. The one on top has a text bubble saying, "And stay down." The one on bottom has a text bubble saying, "Verily, Ow."

Le aftermath.

I’ve got many lovely horse pics for ya, most of which I’ll post with the bit o’ video. But I wanted an iconic shot of the knight on horseback with volcano in the background, and this one is it:

Image shows a knight on a gray horse, holding a lance. The horse is in mid-whirl toward Mount Baker in the background, a green blanket with a black edge flaring around its rump. The knight holds a spear. It is very majestic.

Knight, steed, volcano.

That right there is all I’d hoped for. Marvelous!

Having said hello to our own Trebuchet, acquired some of the best jerky in the Pacific Northwest, snagged fresh-popped kettle corn, and seen a bunch of awesome stuff (including small children wailing on each other with foam swords, always awesome), plus all of the other action, and now suffering from heatstroke, B and I took our leave. Seriously, it was bloody hot. My legs felt like some evil child was aiming the sun at them with a huge magnifying glass. Since we hadn’t thought to bring sunscreen, we had to leave earlier than we might have wished. We headed back to B’s, where we watched the new all-women Ultimate Fighter, and I buggered off before Doctor Who, because I’ve not finished Series 7 yet because I’m having a hard time with the idea of saying goodbye to Amy and Rory, to say nothing of Eleven, but I’ll get there eventually.

I rounded out a relaxing day by reading people bashing Twilight and eating jerky. Seriously, people, if you’re a carnivore, order some of this. It is amazing, and they have many varieties, including kangaroo, which I may someday be brave enough to try. I hear the gator and the wild boar are also amazing. B will report back on the salmon soon, but I’m pretty sure it will make your mouth go into delighted spasms. I will certainly be getting more if Starspider takes me to the faire today. If you happen to be there, I’ll be the one in the olive green expedition hat with a mouth full of beef jerky. Come say howdy!

“Pew! Pew!” Adorable Woodland Critters Revealed

A rousing round of applause, please, for our own Onamission5, who identified our calling critters. Yep, them’s definitely Douglas Squirrels!

Image shows a small, gray-backed squirrel with a yellow-orange belly, clinging to a tree.

One of the Douglas Squirrels that was making so much racket.

And for once, I’m not squeeing all over an invasive species! These are Pacific Northwest natives. John Muir described them perfectly:

THE Douglas Squirrel is by far the most interesting and influential of the California sciuridæ, surpassing every other species in force of character, numbers, and extent of range, and in the amount of influence he brings to bear upon the health and distribution of the vast forests he inhabits.

Go where you will throughout the noble woods of the Sierra Nevada, among the giant pines and spruces of the lower zones, up through the towering Silver Firs to the storm-bent thickets of the summit peaks, you everywhere find this little squirrel the master-existence. Though only a few inches long, so intense is his fiery vigor and restlessness, he stirs every grove with wild life, and makes himself more important than even the huge bears that shuffle through the tangled underbrush beneath him. Every wind is fretted by his voice, almost every bole and branch feels the sting of his sharp feet. How much the growth of the trees is stimulated by this means it is not easy to learn, but his action in manipulating their seeds is more appreciable. Nature has made him master forester and committed most of her coniferous crops to his paws. Probably over fifty per cent. of all the cones ripened on the Sierra are cut off and handled by the Douglas alone, and of those of the Big Trees perhaps ninety per cent. pass through his hands: the greater portion is of course stored away for food to last during the winter and spring, but some of them are tucked separately into loosely covered holes, where some of the seeds germinate and become trees. But the Sierra is only one of the many provinces over which he holds sway, for his dominion extends over all the Redwood Belt of the Coast Mountains, and far northward throughout the majestic forests of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. I make haste to mention these facts, to show upon how substantial a foundation the importance I ascribe to him rests.

[snip]

From the nose to the root of the tail he measures about eight inches; and his tail, which he so effectively uses in interpreting his feelings, is about six inches in length. He wears dark bluish-gray over the back and half-way down the sides, bright buff on the belly, with a stripe of dark gray, nearly black, separating the upper and under colors; this dividing stripe, however, is not very sharply defined. He has long black whiskers, which gives him a rather fierce look when observed closely, strong claws, sharp as fish-hooks, and the brightest of bright eyes, full of telling speculation.

Yup. That’s our little fellas!

Here’s the video of one of our very own callers: brace yourselves for the adorableness as it tells all and sundry that this is its tree, thankeeverymuch, and no one is allowed to encroach.

And for more charming Douglas Squirrel action, plus a look at how the little ones battle:

Dawwww.

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+

No, don’t say anything yet.

Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:

If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?

If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?

Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.

You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.

There’s one more thing I want you to consider:

My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.

And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.

So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?

Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.

Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.

Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.

Think these things through carefully before you speak.

You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.

 

Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.

I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.

 

* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding.

+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.

Pew! Pew! Another Clue

All right, so far, we’ve got two votes for squirrels with frickin’ laser beams on their heads in our cute woodland critters going “pew pew” thread. That describes them to a T. However! As generally accurate as those guesses are, they do not have the specificity I’m aiming for (see what I did there? Aiming? Hur hur). So it’s time for the patented blurry photo of a woodland critter for you to identify!

Image shows a small gray and orange squirrel staring at the camera from the tangle of branches around the trunk of a tree.

Unidentified Woodland Critter

I know you can identify this little guy, my darlings. Mostly because you’re brilliant, but also because I had an ident after thirty seconds on Google, and I am teh crap at this zoology stuff. I’m still throwing it out to you lot, because I know you enjoy this sort of thing. And then one of you will be named! In a post! As the Person Who Got the Ident!

I can think of many things more prestigious, but hey, I can’t give you those. I can give you this.

Another, far less blurry picture, and also a killer-cute video, to come once I’ve given you a chance to do your thing. Identify away, my darlings! And I like the laser beams idea – is there anyone here who can manufacture little helmets with lasers for me to strap to squirrel noggins? We’ll run a Kickstarter.

“Pew! Pew!” Squeak the Adorable Woodland Critters

A few weeks ago, B and I did some more exploring around Deception Pass State Park. It’s going to take us a while to properly explore – the thing spans two islands and has a myriad of trails.

This being a hot day, we decided we wanted beach. There was definitely beach. Also, some geology that hadn’t been in any of my guides.

Photo of the map at the trailhead, showing the Pass, beaches, and a small lake.

Portion of Deception Pass State Park map, showing West Beach.

Now, take a look at West Beach, and see if you can tell me what I spotted about it that made me go, “Yay, geology!!!” What do you expect to find there, based on the shape, features, and elevation of the terrain? I’ll give you the answer in our next installment. But I’ll hint that I knew I’d find the type of beach Washington isn’t exactly known for.

As we walked the trails at West Beach, we encountered a bit of forest beside Cranberry Lake. On the map, it’s basically the tip of the loop trail, where you see the dude going walkies. It’s a charming, somewhat eerie little coastal forest, and it resounded with strange cries.

There’s nothing quite like little woodland critters going “Pew! Pew!” to put a huge ol’ grin on your face. Now, I’m going to give you a chance to identify them before I show you them. Well, show you one of them. I didn’t get the little critter’s buddy, but I did get some lovely video and still images of one of them, and you will squee yourself hoarse, they are so cute.

Image is described in post.

The forest within which our little critters dwell.

This is a very rich, albeit small, patch of woods. You can tell it’s quite wet, what with all the ferns, Old Man’s Beard, and spruce and such. I think I see a madrona, too. Put it like this: you basically can’t have much more than a square inch of land around here that hasn’t got twelve billion plant species on it, unless it’s a rock, in which case it’s only ten billion. Having come from a place where you could go ages without seeing anything very green, this is still sometimes a little overwhelming to me. And when you’ve got creatures in all those plants making adorable noises, well, I melt into a little puddle. Good thing for you lot I can still hold the camera in a melted state, innit?

A New Trebuchet! Hurling Pumpkins! And Knights! On Horsies!

Bit of late notice, here, but we’re going to be enjoying the pumpkin hurling and jousting this weekend at the Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl & Medieval Faire. Our own Trebuchet will be there, with a hawt new trebuchet!

Image shows a trebuchet with a jack o lantern in its sling.

Trebuchet’s new trebuchet, locked and loaded! Shamelessly filched from Trebuchet, with permission.

B and I are planning on coming on Saturday, and Starspider and I may do a second day on Sunday. Let me know if you’re local and can be there – we’ll meet up! And yes, I will bring you lots and lots of pictures and video, if you can’t make it. Live vicariously!

Adventures in ACE VIII: Senseless About Sedimentary

Please tell me you’ve set up a padded room so you can read these posts in safety. I’d be inconsolable if you did yourself an injury because of these explorations in the whacky world of ACE.

I’m telling you right now: don’t keep reading until you’ve rage-proofed your room.

You know enough Flood “geology” bullshit by now to know that nothing good can come of creationist ignoramuses talking about sedimentary rocks. So let’s ease in by noting some good news: turns out you can be a dentist if you’re a brown person in ACE world, as long as you’ve got the proper equipment. No, not that equipment – I mean the biological stuff. Y’know, the ol’ meat-n-taters. You women are probably too busy squeezing out babies to drill teeth.

Image shows a two-panel comic. First panel shows a dentist's office with the chair and dental equipment. A South Asian or African American dentist is poking in a blond white boy's mouth, asking, "Well now, Happy, what kind of filling would you like in your tooth?" Second panel is a close-up of the boy and the dentist. Happy is saying, "Strawberry! Ha-ha." The dentist says, "Ha-ha!"

Cartoon from ACE PACE 1086.

And what a horrible dental joke has to do with sedimentary rock, I’ll never know. I suppose it’s what happens when you’ve rotted your brain with too much Bible.

Anyway. The spectacularly ignorant Mr. Wheeler will now proceed to explain about sedimentary rocks. He tells us that the ocean floor’s lots like the continents. It’s got “mountains, hills, valleys, and plains as features of [its] surfaces.” He then says that “the ocean floor is covered mainly with sedimentary rock.” Which is a little deceptive. Yeah, the floor’s covered in lots of places with sediments, but those sediments aren’t all lithified, and the floor itself, along with most of the mountains and islands, is overwhelmingly basalt.

He then claims that the sediments on the ocean floor are mostly the same stuff as on the continents, aside from when they were deposited. “Sediment on the ocean floor, such as that shown by our core sample, has been deposited mainly since the Flood, while sediment covering continents was deposited mostly during the Flood.”

So. Much. Wrong.

Firstly: sediments on the continents vs. those on the ocean floor are pretty distinct. You’re not going to find alluvial, aeolian, fluvial, lacustrine, deltaic, tidal, lagoonal, and beach sediments in the deep ocean. Turbedites, reefs, biogenic oozes, and similar aren’t forming on land.

Secondly: while it’s true that sediments on the current ocean floor are young in comparison to most of the sedimentary layers on the continents, they’re still upwards of two hundred million years old in places. Sedimentary rock has been deposited on Earth for billions of years. Land sediments did not all form in one Flood event. They couldn’t have: there are miles-thick layers that could only have formed under the sea, over huge spans of time. Subaerial deposits, evaporites, and paleosols couldn’t have been deposited by Flood water.

Some of the statements this PACE makes are just head-slappingly ludicrous. “Strata of Earth’s sediment can be found even on the tops of the tallest mountains – one more evidence that the Flood once covered the entire Earth.” No, Mr. Wheeler. That notion may not have sounded quite so ignorant in the 19th century*, but plate tectonics has dealt that idea a mortal injury.

But that mountain o’ fail is but a speck as compared to this “explanation” of the Grand Canyon:

The waters of the Flood cut through newly deposited layers of sediment and formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

FFS. How do I disprove thee? Let me count (a few of) the ways: 1. Meanders. 2. Vertical walls. 3. Single river channel. 4. No slumping. 5. Where are the ginormous canyons carved by the self-same Flood on other continents, hmm? Oh, and let’s not fail to mention: 6. Aeolian sand dunes. 7 Lizard tracks. 8. Karst.

Shall I go on? We could be here for days.

Mr. Wheeler goes on to babble about bent strata. It’s a bit unfortunate that their illustration of bent strata looks more like lithified sand dunes.

Image shows a sandstone cliff. It's supposed to be illustrating bent strata, but looks more like cross-bedded sand dunes.

Bent strata photo from ACE Science PACE 1086.

“This bending and twisting,” we’re told, “was caused by powerful forces inside our Earth.” Do you want to know what those “powerful forces” are? Ha ha, this is ACE, silly. They can’t explain stuff like that, because God did it, and God works in mysterious ways. That’s not actually stated, but one gets the impression this is why they’re so ignorant of this stuff.

They can’t tell us what they are, but they’re certain “those forces were more active during and immediately after the Flood. Most of the major changes in strata were made then.” Fuck the evidence plate tectonics may be as young as 300 million years or as old as 1.6 billion years, amirite? Not to mention the fact a hella large amount of deformation was going on, sans Flood, since the earth cooled enough for magma to begin forming a crust.

Next, Mr. Wheeler gives us a rather risible precís of how things went during the Flood, by way of explaining how sediments become rocks. He cites three sources for all that water: from under the crust, from the vapor canopy, and from the ocean rising. I wonder how the oceans rose – I mean, if they’re a separate source of water, what mechanism caused them to rise? But we can’t expect people ignorant enough to keep on about the vapor canopy, long after their very own YEC pals proved it impossible, to come up with a plausible explanation for rising oceans.

But the real howler is when they claim the Ice Age happened during the Flood. I don’t think any other creationists have been quite this spectacularly stupid:

As the water fell, the warming effect of the canopy was gone, causing Earth’s temperature to fall rapidly also. Giant sheets of ice formed over the poles, Canada, and northern Europe, preventing the depositing of sediments. Animals, such as the wooly mammoth, were trapped and quick-frozen in the ice with their meals still in their mouths and stomachs.

Oy. Once again, I marvel at the astonishing amount of wrong ACE writers manage to stuff into a paragraph. For one thing, creationists have known since 1979 that the canopy would have boiled Earth. They’ve never been able to get around that, aside from ignoring physics completely. And if they fiddle with it to try to bring the temps down, they still run head-on into physics facts: that much water falling that fast from that height woulda become super-heated steam, not freezing rains.

As for glaciers preventing the deposition of sediment… sorry, ACE people, but YEC Michael Oard begs to differ. Let’s see… 20 km of sedimentary rock was laid down in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin near Newfoundland, Canada… Walt Brown sez lotsa debris from all over the world dumped on northern Europe, and Antarctica is lousy with sedimentary rock. Oh, and just to rub some salt in creationist wounds, Tiktaalik, a lovely transitional fossil, was found in the Arctic Circle. In sedimentary rock. Boo-ya.

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

As for the flash-frozen mammoths: pure, unadulterated bullshit. I mean, seriously.

All right, that’s enough sedimentary silliness for now. We’ll finish this nonsense next week. Stay tuned: you’ll be amazed at what they’ve done with stalagmites.

 

*. Even Leonardo da Vinci knew the Flood story was complete bollocks as a scientific explanation – and this was back in the 16th century. So I am being very, very generous.