“Why Did You Kill Nurylon?” – Escape Chapter 9: Tragedy

Content note: This chapter has a child fatality.

Despite her terrible marriage, Carolyn has had a decent summer, finishing a summer session at college and exercising a modicum of control over her life. She goes home for a while in August, and tries to spend time at her parents’ home.* Her mother is having trouble caring for the nine youngest kids without Carolyn’s help.

But Carolyn can’t be there all the time, and so it’s 16 year-old Annette who piles 9 young siblings into the back of a pickup, along with Cousin Bonnie and 6 little cousins, and drives out for a picnic. [Read more…]

Fantastic Fun Photo Op with Our Own Jason and Mount Rainier!

Freethought Blogs’ own Jason Thibeault happened to be in Seattle for Geek Girl Con, and while I didn’t make it to the con, I did get a couple hours with him at the end, before he had to catch his flight. Yay! And it wasn’t pouring rain. Extra yay! And Mount Rainier looked awesome despite the clouds. Super yay! Jason even managed to photograph it with my old machine from the car, which was quite a feat, considering it’s an unfamiliar camera, the lighting contrast was teh suck, and we were going 60mph.

Image shows Mount Rainier looming over I-5, with a freeway sign in front of it. Light gray clouds are piled up around and atop it.

Mount Rainier from I-5. Photo by Jason Thibeault.

I love showing off our local mountain.

If you pull yourself up the full-size version, you’ll note that the cloud at its summit hasn’t developed much. Save that tidbit for later.

I took Jason to our local Herfy’s down in Burien, which is a great place to go if you need to be near the airport, want quick food, but want it to be delicious. I am happy to report that this was a total success. And it was so awesome to finally be able to meet Jason in the flesh. I’ve been following his blog for a long, long time, and I have huge respect for him. I love his writing and his humor and his ability to document tough situations and cut through the crap. Meeting him was a little like meeting a rock star, and hearing him compliment my blog was kind of like realizing, “Oh, hey, shit, yeah, I guess I’m sort of a rock star… mebbe?” and it was also enormous good fun to be able to talk about All the Things. Well, all we could fit in two hours, anyway.

I am now determined to make it to Minnesota if he and his family can’t make it out here. Or we could always do both. I have so much great Seattle stuff I want to show them! And we didn’t get to do Pike Place Chowder, which ZOMG, everyone needs to have Pike Place Chowder at least once in a lifetime.

We got back to the airport rather earlier than we needed to, so we hung about in the cell phone waiting lot enjoying the Not Raining and the views. Views from a cell phone waiting lot at an airport, you ask? Oh, my darlings, yes. Look at this!

Image shows Mount Rainier from the parking lot. The image has the light rail in the foreground, with the lines partially blocking the view, but the mountain is still looming tall and huge. Lenticular clouds are beginning to develop at the summit. A gum tree is getting its fall red in the right foreground, and there's a red-orange tree at the bottom center.

Mount Rainier with some fall color!

And yes, that’s exactly why I’m here. See, I’ve been getting all homesick over Arizona lately, because people keep posting lovely photos from it on Facebook. But then I see this, and I’m like, “Naw, I’m home.” Oh, I want to go back to Arizona again, but only to visit. And maybe if we’re all very lucky, a bunch of us including Jason’s family will form a social justice artists’ commune and go around traveling to gorgeous places and drooling over the scenery and the food. Because, people, I know the places in Arizona that will make your tastebuds weep in gratitude, and the views that will make your eyes weep for the beauty.

(You can apply to the commune in the comments.)

We took a selfie, because of course we had to, and if you look over my shoulder, you’ll see Mount Rainier posing with us.

Image shows me posing with Jason, who is far taller than I am. He's wearing a ball cap and has a most excellent salt-n-pepper goatee.

Lessee… got one o’ my favorite bloggers on my left, favorite mountain on my right… yeah, life’s excellent!

And then, right before we left, the sunset light was hitting Mount Rainier just so, and those lenticular clouds were developing nicely, so of course I took another shot.

Image shows Mount Rainier from the same vantage point as before. The slanted light has sharpened her features, and the lenticular clouds are much more well-developed.

Mount Rainier with her cap on.

Then I took Jason to departures, saw him on his way, and drove home to a very cold kitty who made me take a nap in a blankie cave with her. Perfect day!

I cannot wait for next time.

STEM’s Harassment Problem Goes Well Beyond Field Work

I first published this on Scientific American about a year ago. In light of the news about famous exoplanet astronomer and professor Geoff Marcy sexually harassing undergrad students, it seems it’s time to publish it again.

It’s past time we stop giving offenders a mild scolding. Institutions can no longer let this shit slide. Consequences must be serious for the offenders no matter how famous or well-regarded they are. Victims must be believed and supported. Those attempting to solve this issue must be given the means and institutional support they need to do so. Our STEM spaces should be a hostile environment for harassers, not their targets.

And if that means a good, even great, scientist can no longer do his work because he (or, more rarely, she) harassed or assaulted someone and is punished? Fantastic! Because right now, great scientists aren’t able to do science at all due to the harassers’ behavior. Let’s clear out the bad actors so the others can get on with advancing science. We really don’t need the bad apples as much as we think we do.


D.N. Lee has a post up at her Scientific American blog that needs to be read right now. Here’s a pull quote, but read the entire thing. Now. No excuses.

I know the SAFE research focused on field research experiences – mostly abroad, away from home institution – but many women are getting harassed out of science before field research opportunities become available to them. You don’t have to go far away to experience this pain, and too many divert their research interests to lab spaces to avoid it. You don’t need a New York Times Op-Ed or Huffington Post published piece to hear these stories. Just listen to your students/academic advisees, especially the ones who may suddenly stop coming/going to class or students who refuse to go to office hours to see certain instructors or those that flake out on attending after hours social events or if you notice several students en masse avoid a certain instructor or adviser or section of a class/lab offering. These scholarly environments that indeed do exist, that the royal we have not proactively and deliberately made safe — this is not fair to them or science, either. I wager we are losing some great minds.

The SAFE study was the very first of its kind to document and comment on abuse within field research sciences. When news of this research first hit I remember many critics claiming it wasn’t comprehensive enough, more detailed questions should have been asked, *exact* details of unwanted encounters should have been parsed. Like any ‘first of its kind study’ those comprehensive details are not included. Moreover, I say demanding this amount of detail from subjects is unethical and unnecessary. I have a problem with how easily and quickly fellow scientists can be to harm human subjects because of ‘for the good of science notion’. No, what more detail do you need? I’m mad that we needed data in the first place in order to have a conversation about doing something. If you or our institutions demand this much research, detail and investment before half-way committing to doing something to establishing safe places and spaces for people, then it means they aren’t really, really interested in creating these safe places/spaces. It shouldn’t matter how often or intense the abuse is or when a ‘not who we expected’ victim speaks up that people in power finally create safe places and spaces. Period.

That second paragraph should be horribly familiar to those of us who have been combating sexual assault and harassment in skeptic and atheist circles. That second paragraph needs to be thrust under the noses of every single person in any community who has been hand-waving away reports of problems. And the ones who continue to hand-wave are the ones we’ll know we need to cull from our spaces.

Image shows a tuxedo cat with its paws crossed and a serious look on its face. Caption says, "This is unacceptable."

I have no tolerance left. I’m tired of waiting for people to clue in. Either you recognize there’s a problem with the way women and minorities are treated, or you don’t. If you recognize the problem, help us fix it. If you don’t, get out of our way.

And go read D.N. Lee’s piece until it finally sinks in: you should be doing something to end this right now. You should have started doing it long ago.

No more silence.


A previous version of this post appeared at En Tequila Es Verdad.

Mystery Flora + Cryptopod Double-Header!

The Gray is here for a (hopefully) limited time, so the kitties and I have taken the opportunity to be magnificently lazy while the sun don’t shine. Well, they get to be lazy 24/7; I’ve actually been getting some work done in between cuddles. But even authors need fresh air, so Boo and I went down to the back yard.

S has pretty much always installed some new plant whenever I go. He’s like the plant whisperer (and if you’ve got a garden that needs a loving, expert touch, I’ll send you his info). I’ll have to get you all pictures of the really extravagant one with over two dozen huge blooms before it’s cut back for the winter, but for now, I got some newbies down by the creek. [Read more…]

Readers’ Experiences with Creationist Education

Our preliminary foray into the world of creationist earth science education encouraged many of you to share your own stories. I want to make sure they don’t languish unread in the comments section. Real people are affected by these awful textbooks. We should never, ever lose sight of that fact. [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XVIII: Wherein Volcanic Facts are Violated

There’s something about volcanoes that brings out the worst in your modern creationist. They’re willfully ignorant about plenty of things, and surely do love viewing science through a funhouse mirror, but most of them (ACE excepted) do manage to avoid mangling some of the science. Some of it even sounds downright secular in places. But they’ve got this really odd complex about volcanoes. They lose their shit to such an extent that they can’t even get basic facts straight.

A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation suffers from this complex in spades.

They begin by hammering us with not one, but two obscure Bible quotes, proving beyond all doubt that while faith (and the Flood) may move mountains, God melts ’em. See Micah 1:4 and Nahum 1:5 for details. For some reason, they cut out the bit of Nahum 1:5 where it says that God kills everyone and everything on the planet when he makes the hills melt. Can’t imagine why…

Then it’s time for volcanoes, and of course, they start with Mount St. Helens. Creationists are absolute fools for Mount St. Helens. How does SPC screw it up? Let us count the ways: [Read more…]

Ghost Mountain, Beach Rocks, and Puppy

I have some lovely scenes from Magnuson Park for ye, my darlings. Funny, because I almost didn’t.

Having spent the night dreaming I was released naked from a Middle Eastern prison and had to find adequate clothes to avoid sunburn*, and also being woken up what seemed like every few minutes by a cold cat looking for warms, then deciding she was warm enough and waking me again as she buggered off, I was exhausted. It was all I could do to stagger out of bed and fling myself into the chair on the patio in the sunshine. This is where I was when a certified miracle happened. [Read more…]

A Few Scenes from the South Side of Mount St. Helens – With a Challenge!

Plans, as they say, oft gang aft agley. I had plans to visit the south side of Mount St. Helens yesterday with Suzanne and Funny Diva. Alas, Suzanne had a last minute issue and couldn’t go. So Funny Diva and I ended up going it alone.

It was a splendid day. The sun was shining, it was summer-warm with lovely fall colors, and we got to see lots I’ve never seen before. That’s mostly because I missed a turn without realizing, and we ended up halfway to Windy Ridge before I was all, “This isn’t right.” So we go to the Lahar Viewpoint much too late to have good light for photographing Mount St. Helens itself. We did, however, have some spectacular light in the valley, which had some delightful features I’ve been wanting to see, so that was a little bit of all right. We’ll see the mountain again soon.

I am beyond exhausted, and my computer is being its usual stubborn self, so I’m afraid I have only a couple of fun outtakes and a challenge to share with you today. [Read more…]

A Very Nifty Rock for You to Test Your Mad Identification Skillz On

So there I was, enjoying the sunshine and a very lazy day with the kitties (yes, both – I made Misha be sociable), and then I check my email, and there is a message from friends from out of state. Their grandmother had a rock collection. They have it now. Would I like to see?

Um. YES!! [Read more…]