Yellow-Bellied Varmints! I Mean, Marmots!

Our trip out to Grand Coulee in early May was filled with wonderful wild animals. I showed you the cute fuzzy critter we saw at Frenchman Coulee, and you were able to identify it as a yellow-bellied marmot. They’re so adorable! I kinda wish I could keep one as a pet, but since they’re not domesticated, it’s best to leave them out in the wild.

Turns out they don’t actually gang up on people. I knew danielwilliams was telling us a big ol’ fib. But it was absolutely in the finest tradition of Old West tall tales, so I shall share it here:

Best you didn’t approach… the yellow-bellied marmot is called such because it uses cowardly hunting tactics, luring prey in with adorableness and then the rest of the pride erupts from the ground swarming the victim until nothing is left.

Nicely done, sir!

B and I didn’t think we’d ever see one again, but when we dropped by Summer Falls, suddenly they were everywhere. I spotted this one first, looking yellow-bellied indeed. Well, at least quite cautious. [Read more…]

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: That Little Red-Headed Woodpecker

There was one afternoon in April that was rather astonishing. B and I were taking a leisurely walk along North Creek behind the ballfields, and we heard a woodpecker. Next thing we knew, the trees were full of them. A veritable cloud of woodpeckers seemed to fly by and select individual trees. They took me by surprise, and I wasn’t able to photograph them all. But one landed close to us, and didn’t mind my antics, so I have that lovely little one, with video even!

Image shows a small woodpecker on the trunk of a white tree that has little holes drilled in. The woodpecker has its back to us. It has a brilliant red head, and a gray and black body with horizontal bars down its back and tail.

UFD I

I wish my brain could film what I see and download it direct to the computer, because none of these images of a single little woodpecker will live up to seeing so many swoop by. Still. Isn’t it wonderful?

Another image of the same woodpecker. It has turned its head slightly, and you can see its short, stout beak.

UFD II

I don’t recall having many woodpeckers in Arizona. I think I saw one maybe once or twice. They were rather exotic to me, and of course my understanding of them was filtered through Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Now that I’m here in Washington, I see quite a few different ones, and they’re all wonderful, and none of them have that bloody silly laugh.

The woodpecker has gone back to pecking. Image is zoomed out a bit, and from another angle, showing off the new green leaves and the blue sky forming the backdrop to our woodpecker.

UFD III

I’ve learned to listen for a rapid rata-ta-tat on tree trunks when I’m in the forest. But it hadn’t occurred to me to listen for it along the most populated part of North Creek! I’ve seen woodpeckers along the proper wetland portion, but this is just a narrow strip of water and greenery between commercial buildings and busy ballfields. It seems many of our native birds have adapted just fine to the presence of humans, and are happy to feast wherever, whenever, no matter who’s about.

Still, I don’t often catch woodpeckers along this portion. I’ve tried coming back around the same time of day, but no luck. I suppose they have habits I could suss out if I spent more time there.

Here’s our little darling figuring out what I’m up to before deciding I wasn’t likely to spoil its dinner, and then showing us why those trees have all those holes in their bark. Enjoy!

P.S. The title’s merely a play on Charlie Brown. These aren’t actually red-headed woodpeckers. I mean, they’re redheads, but not that kind. I wouldn’t give it away like that!

New at Rosetta Stones: How to Find Gold in Fool’s Gold

There’s gold in them thar pyrites – no foolin’! In my very belated follow-up to our Fools for Fool’s Gold, we learn how to find the invisible gold in (some) pyrites.

I'll let Rob describe it for you: "An AMAZING cluster of quartz crystals out of the collection of Ed David! These gemmy crystals are stacked upon one another as if by hand, with both terminations complete, sticking out on either side! The terminations on one side of the crystals are sprinkled with little yellow-tan muscovites. On the other side is a cluster of arsenopyrite (the quartz/arsenopyrite association is well-known from this locality). A show-stopper of a quartz specimen!"

A gorgeous hand sample of exquisite quartz crystals and shiny arsenopyrite. Photo courtesy Rob Lavinsky / iRocks.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0).

See why I wouldn’t pubish that story anywhere near April Fool’s Day?

Adventures in ACE XV: Oh, Hail, They’re Full of Sleet

I doubt anything will top the hilarity that ensued when the ACE writers got snowed by a perpetual motion machine peddler, but it’s still ACE, so we know they’ll get something drastically wrong. They’ve already rather lost the thread. We’re in a section called Structure of the Hydrosphere. We are supposedly talking about the hydrologic cycle. But the ACE folks have gotten so caught up int he various aspects of precipitation that they’ve rather forgotten about that whole cycle thing. It’s kind of like talking about forest succession by getting hung up on the details of a few specific trees.

Perhaps it’s because they got muddled by the magnetic snowflakes.

Anyway, after God’s washed everybody white as (presumably magnetic) snow, Ace’s dad tells us that sometimes all that condensed moisture is warm enough to make rain, but if it falls through a cold layer of air, it might become sleet. Like a good red-blooded American, he defines sleet as “tiny pellets of ice.” None of this British partially-melted snow nonsense.

Ace wants to know what the difference between sleet and hail is, so Mr. Virtueson (gawd, these names kill me) tells him some basic facts, like “Hail is often formed during violent updrafts of warm, moist air.” Then he makes it sound like hailstorms are part of a similar but different process than thunderstorms, which is a little sort of misleading: you can have hail without thunder, but it’s all coming from basically the same type of storm clouds. Then he says hail starts as a sleet pellet, which… no. It doesn’t. Sleet’s more of a winter storm thing, and is rather bigger than the teeny-tiny ice crystal that forms the condensation nuclei of a hailstone. And the hailstones aren’t necessarily traveling up and down within the cloud: we now know they may get their layers by traveling through different zones within the cloud. I’ll give the fictional Mr. Virtueson a break on the up-and-down thing, though, because PACE 1087 hasn’t been revised since 1986. Yep. Sure is some great modern edimication thar.

In keeping with ACE’s awful diagram tradition, their illustration of a thundercloud makes it look like hail only ever bounces from the top of the storm.

Image is a drawing of a thunder cloud, showing the areas of updrafts, downdrafts, and the freezing level. Light rain and heavy rain are shown coming from the bottom. Hail is shown by arrows flying from the top.

Diagram of a thunderhead from ACE PACE 1087.

The reality is most often quite a bit more mundane, although apparently the LP supercells may heave their hail out the top and end up launching it a few miles, even. Neato. But, usually, it just drops out the bottom.

Image is a computer-generated model of a supercell thunder cloud, showing its basic anatomy. Hail is shown coming from the bottom, along with the heavy rain.

Supercell diagram courtesy Kelvinsong (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Next, we’re treated to some hailstorm trivia, where Ace gets to show off his homeschool hots by remembering a storm in India in 1888 that killed over 240 people. Yes, children, it is vicious stuff. I’m surprised Mr. Virtueson doesn’t remind everyone that God hurls the biggest hailstones of all.

Mr. Virtueson then goes on to show off his knowledge of frost. It actually appears he hasn’t got any. He describes it thusly: “If the temperature is above freezing, the condensed moisture is called ‘dew.’ If the temperature is below freezing, the condensed moisture freezes and is called ‘frost.'” Nope. He’s just described atmospheric icing, pretty much. Frost goes straight from vapor to ice without passing the liquid phase.

The ACE writers suddenly remember that they’re supposed to be talking about the hydrologic cycle, so they have Mr. Virtueson abruptly announce, without pausing for breath, that all this evaporated water condensing into clouds and precipitating upon the ground means “the hydrologic cycle is complete.” He then informs us that temperature is important because “heat from the sun speeds up evaporation.” I had the impression that the sun’s loving rays were the very engine of this whole cycle, but apparently, in Christianist world, it just sort of helps things along.

Mr. Virtueson’s happy to inform us that warm air means clouds can hold more water, then their water falls as rain when the cloud cools. It’s a little more complicated than that, but like most Real True Christians™, he’s anxious to skip ahead to the death and destruction. He’s morbidly happy to tell us that lotsa rain can make rivers or lakes overflow and flood stuff. He jumps right into the mayhem of the Johnstown Flood (including a handy pronunciation guide for those who may not realize how to moosh together the words Johns and town). He lovingly lingers on the more than 2,000 drowned folk and the 1000+ missing people who were never found, plus all that luscious property damage. And he then lustily describes the even worse property damage from flooding in New York and Pennsylvania in 1972. Three billion dollars’ worth of property damaged or destroyed! “More than 15,000 people lost their homes”! You can practically hear him salivating, even though his delivery is desert-dry.

A handy “Facts from Science” box informs us of further water woe, sharing the records for rainfall. They get heaviest in a year right (Cherrapunji, India), but screw the pooch with an old, mistaken amount for heaviest 24 hour rainfall cited in the Monthly Weather Review for 1965. The actual value is 71.8″ that fell on the Foc-Foc Plateau on Réunion Island on January 7 and 8, 1966. Hey, at least they got the island right, and they were only off by a decade and a few inches of rain. And yes, we can definitely see how accurate and up-to-date they are. Marvel, people. Simply marvel.

Of course, you already know why they’re lavishing so much time on flooding:

“Even though local flooding does occur in some areas, I’m certainly glad God promised never again to destroy the entire Earth with water,” said Ace.

“I am too, Ace. Though flooding reminds us of God’s judgement, the Lord promises a flood of blessing to those who give to His service. Malachi 3:10 declares, ‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.'”

That, my friends, is Christianist science right there. But, just in case folks don’t realize all that Bible talk is really-real science that completely belongs in a science textbook, Mr. Virtueson endeth with this lesson:

“In ancient times, men recognized the hydrologic cycle as one of the natural processes God had placed upon Earth for man’s survival. ‘He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them’ (Job 26:8). ‘For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly’ (Job 36:27, 28).”

They must’ve been so excited to find the King James Version babbling about “vapour,” as it sounds so properly scientific. Alas for them, the NRSV, which is rather more faithful to the original language, renders it as “mist.”

It’s rather fitting to close this section with the words of a blowhard asshole extolling God’s glories to a poor sod who’s just been sorely abused by same. If there is a god, I know he’s a sadistic shit I’ll be very annoyed with. Never mind all that flooding he caused or allowed: he let this ACE PACE come into existence. I think that’s proof enough of his psychopathic tendencies. And no, I won’t be at all surprised if it turns out that the entire ACE curriculum was the result of a bet between him and Satan.

Image is an engraved image from Gustave Doré's English Bible showing Job, dressed in a few rags and looking very scrawny, arguing with his friends.

“Job speaks with his friends.” Engraving by Gustave Doré.

Next time, we shall be learning somewhat about the oceans. Oh, goody. Apologies to the fans of horrid under-the-sea-exploration machines, but I’m afraid Mr. Virtueson’s creators haven’t got enough imagination to create something like that. I suggest you stock up on your happy drugs of choice. All the better if they’re stimulants, as Mr. Virtueson’s virtue is not in his storytelling abilities.

 

*Holy shinoozles, Batman! I about lost my shit when I saw that Cilaos, the city touted in this PACE as being the record-holder for 24-hour rainfall, is in a caldera on an active volcanic island. I was all, “Oh, no, you didn’t!” Happily, they selected the extinct caldera to situate it in. This is excellent good news, as it would truly suck for the town to wake up one morning in a lava lake. Of course, that would’ve given whole hot buckets of new significance to the meaning of the town’s name, which is “the place one never leaves.”

You Can Save Atheist Bloggers’ Lives

You may have seen the stories about Bangladeshi bloggers hacked to death by Islamist assholes for being open about unbelief. You’ve surely heard of Raif Badawi, who is being more harshly punished for his freethought writings than another man is for raping a child. If you’re like me, you’ve watched, helplessly, as people die and there’s so very little we can do to stop it.

Now we have a chance to act. [Read more…]

“Scripture and Whip” – Escape Chapter 3: School Days

This is one of the worst chapters in Escape. Considering how much abuse we’ve seen already, and how bad it gets later on, that’s saying something. Needless to say: Content Notice for severe child physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse.

Carolyn starts the chapter with her excitement at finally being old enough to start school. She’s now six and a half. We learn that FLDS kids don’t attend kindergarten; supposedly home is better. But Carolyn’s home is one without books, without even fairy tales. I can’t even stand this. My mom filled my childhood with books. I started to read a bit on my own by age 3, and some of my best memories are of afternoon reading time with my mom. I became a writer because she’d told me every fairy tale she knew and run out of ideas for new ones by the time I was six, so she encouraged me to make up my own. My thirst to learn and imagine was never quenched – that would be impossible – but Mom gave me bottomless springs to drink from. Carolyn was just as thirsty, and was only given a few pitiful drops to drink.

There wasn’t even a public library, in a town of several thousand people, overflowing with children. That’s practically criminal. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Just before Carolyn starts school, they have one of those magnificent southwestern summer downpours that turns the desert into an instant wetland. [Read more…]

The Victims of a System that Promotes Abuses: Essential Reading on Josh Duggar and His Christian Patriarchy Background

It’s good that we’re talking about this. Some of you may be sick to death of it by now, and I don’t blame you, but we need to talk about it. Sexual abuse survivors need us talking. Children suffering abuse, right now, need us to talk about this. They need us not to let it go. They need us to remember, and act, and speak out for them when they have no voice. I know they need this, because I have seen victims in so many blogs and threads finding their voices, because we’re speaking out.

Sexual abuse, like racist police and systemic injustice, thrives on our silence. The people who commit these crimes and enable injustice cannot thrive when we refuse to stay quiet.

The survivors are speaking out, and this is necessary. They need us to listen, and then amplify their voices. I have a lot of voices here for you to listen to, a lot of signals to boost. I hope you read them all. But at the very least, read the first.

And then refuse to give the abusers the shelter of your silence.

Red poster with British crown and the words, "Keep Calm* and Speak Out." * Optional Step.

(Content note for descriptions of child sexual abuse)

The Victims

The Real Rebecca Diamond: Nice girls don’t talk about stuff like this.

Nice girls don’t tell you that when they read that the victims forgave him those jagged edges of their heart wept blood because they know what forgiveness means within that culture, to shove down the pain even deeper than the violation, to smile and say “It’s ok” because more than anything, more than anything, Jesus only loves you when you’re happy.

[Read more…]

Please, Please, Read These Stories Before You Choose a Midwife-Assisted Birth

I’ve spent part of the night reading about babies who didn’t have to die. And I don’t want their stories to be yours. If you’re pregnant or planning, and considering giving birth outside of a hospital, please stop right now and read Grant’s story. His mother Rachel had to tell it. He didn’t live. He didn’t have to die.

Let me remind you that when I first arrived at the birth center for the second time that evening I was offered a transfer for not being able to handle my labor. Why, now with my baby dying were they not offering us a transfer? Why were they trying to make me push when I wasn’t dilated?

I was moved from the birthing stool to the bed… still not 100% dilated. I was told that I needed to get this baby out now. I’m still trying to push. I’ve never pushed so hard in my life. The pain is so bad that my vision is becoming blurry. I was given oxygen. When I look back at this scene I still wonder why no one has called for help. The baby has been in trouble and I’m having a hard time… why?

My husband and I were so focused on pushing this baby out as fast as possible and so focused on what we were doing that we couldn’t stop and tell her to call 911. We weren’t sane. We were relying on all of those midwives to do that for us if need be. We were counting on them to make the decisions that would need to be made when necessary. We were still all on our own as our baby was losing his struggle to breathe.

Read her whole story. Read about her having to leave the body of her perfect baby boy in the arms of crying nurses. If your heart didn’t shatter into atoms, you had no heart to begin with.

People, I have read far too many stories about dead babies. [Read more…]

Here’s Where to Find Me on Social Media

‘Tis the age of social media, indeed. I post a lot of random stuff to random places. Some of you may even want to follow me here, there, and maybe not everywhere, but at least at the places you frequent. So here is a convenient list for you! I’ve made it into a Page, which you can bookmark if you wish – I’ll keep it updated with any newfangled social media thing I get sucked in to.

If you’ve got suggestions for what you’d like me to post here, there, and everywhere, please do leave them in comments! I’m one of those old farts who started school when they still mimeographed worksheets, and personal computers were clunky chunks of thick plastic with monochrome screens that cost a fortune. You young people and early adopters can guide me aright.

Image is me leaning on the nickel-iron meteorite in the visitor's center at Meteor Crater.

Moi with awesome AZ meteorite.

Image shows me standing in front of a bunch of basalt at Dee Wright Volcano Observatory.

Moi at Dee Wright Observatory.

Twitter

Blog feeds, links to posts and articles I’ve found fascinating, and random outbursts.

Facebook

Blog feeds, the occasional reshare, and Facebook sort o’ stuff.

Google + – Personal

Selected posts, funny photos of Misha, occasional Greek Yogurt Geology, and other scenes from Dana’s life.

Google+ – Dana Hunter’s Schist

Blog and YouTube feed. Get all the cute animal videos first! And there’ll be plenty more to come.

Image shows me standing in front of Crater Lake. A bit of Wizard Island is visible to my right.

Moi at Crater Lake

Image shows me standing in front of a sedimentary formation, pointing at the basalt contact overhead.

Moi pointing to the contact between earth and fire at Seal Rock.

YouTube

Subscribe to my channel to see my nature, wildlife, and geology videos before they appear on my blogs.

Tumblr

Blog feed, plus new product announcements,occasional outtakes not available anywhere else, and more!

Oh, and if you’re going shopping, all of my stores are listed here. There’s some pretty gneiss schist there!

Interlude with Soaring Eagles, Colorful Blackbirds, and a Non-Ninja Turtle

After the week we’ve had, it’s time to relax with some neato wild critters. B and I took a healthy walk at Juanita Bay and saw about ten trillion birdies. There were so many ducklings, you guys, and I will have to find more time to sort through them. At the moment, however, we shall focus mostly on eagles, with also some beautiful blackbirds and one awkward turtle.

There were so many eagles, you guys. I didn’t even realize they were eagles at first, because there were bunches of them, and I’m not used to eagles flying in flocks. Then we got a better look, and a gentleman out there with a hyoooge camera lens pointed out the two juvenile balds, and then later we got a good look at the adults, and yep, eagles. Eagles everywhere. [Read more…]