UFD: Hey, Hoomin – Whatcha Doin?

You remember my luck with birds, right? I mean, normally the little bastards just hide in the trees and chirp at me merrily, knowing I can’t get a look at them, much less a good photo. They sing all the more lustily as my frustration winds to a fever pitch. Then they wait for me to give up and put the camera away. Once I’ve done that, they come sailing out of their hidey-spots, and flaunt themselves a bit as I curse and grab for the camera. Once I have it out and on and look up again, the buggers have vanished once again, leaving a trail of titters in their wake.

I did have a hummingbird buzz me on the porch a few weeks ago, even hovering patiently for a bit until I looked up, then hovering a bit more so I could admire it, before buzzing off. I think that happened because I didn’t have a camera at the time.

In other words, my luck with birds is generally rotten, and we only get to have this series because I’ve got a good zoom on this camera and can sometimes manage to ambush the little fuckers. But I rarely have an experience with a non-corvid or sparrow-type bird that I had at Mount Rainier in early August.

B and I had taken the Upper Palisides Lake trail down to Sunrise Lake, because vigorous exercise is just what the doctor ordered, and we do sometimes try to get the recommended dose. We’d admired the scenery, like so:

Image shows part of a pretty little mountain lake from water level, with tall fir trees and rugged mountain ranges framing and reflecting off it.

Sunrise Lake

and were just beginning to head back to the spur to the main trail when I heard a rustling near my head, and B remarked that I was being checked out by a curious bird.

I knew the little shit would fly off as soon as I made a move, because I had the camera out and on, but I turned cautiously anyway, and…

Image shows a fir tree with a very curious tan-chested bird with a dark bar across its eyes staring at us.

UFD I

There’s this curious bird which was not a corvid or a sparrow, and rather smaller than the former but larger than the latter, eyeballing us intently. It didn’t care a bit that we were humans and that it was wild. It didn’t seem to grok us as potential predators at all. And it apparently hadn’t gotten the avian memo detailing what to do in order to make Dana do frustrated noises.

I got a couple of shots in, quickly, as it jumped to a higher branch for a more panoramic look at us, and then it flew away.

Image is a gif showing the bird on a higher branch of the same tree, then the tree sans-bird.

UFD II

I had just enough time to begin the “Aw, shit. Oh well, at least I got a couple of pictures” inner monologue before it landed on the tree next to B for further ogling.

Image shows the same bird, now above us on an evergreen bough. It has a very short pointy beak.

UFD III

I was so afraid it would fly straight off that I didn’t give the camera time to do more than focus on it. I snapped before I could adjust the angle enough to deal with the weird late-afternoon lighting conditions that caused the sky to turn white in the camera’s opinion. But it’s a kinda neat effect.

I needn’t have been so hasty, because our birdie stayed up there for some time, happily inspecting us. And this final shot, taken before its curiosity was satisfied and it headed off to do its own thing, captured its attitude perfectly:

Image shows the same bird in the same evergreen bough, with its head tipped on its side.

UFD IV

Isn’t that the perfect, “Hey, hoomin – whatcha doin?” pose?

I’ve had crows and jays land nearby, check me out, decide whether or not I could be persuaded to provide food and/or entertainment. I’ve been stared at by sparrows, who are plenty used to people but are usually still skittish. And, as I said, there was that hummingbird, which for all the world appeared to be there simply to show off to the nearest available human just how awesome its hovering skills were. But this is the first time a bird in the wilderness that was not any of those things has expressed this much fearless interest. I swear, if I’d had something to feed it with, we’d have had a veritable Snow White Feeding the Birdies moment.

I hope you lot can tell me what species it is.

Hold My Calls, Pleez

I know, I’ve not been around much lately, and I’m afraid that’s going to continue for just a bit. I got sucked in to some rather intriguing sporkings, which also led to some new books, and I’ve pretty much been a 24/7 layabout. There will be payoff for you, I promise. I meant to have that for you this week, but then awesome personal life developments intervened, and well… I’m taking the rest of the week off. I’ll return next week, when we’ll restart our… well, interesting, if not exactly fun… Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education. I’ve got many posts written, just need to type them up. I’ll be introducing you to an awesome new earth science comic to ease your pain. It’s because I love you, and also because I got sent an advanced copy and fell in love with it.

This came up while I was searching for a suitable picture for this post, and I love it, and want you to have it:

Image is split in half. On the left, a woman is chucking her golden retriever under the chin, while a gray cat looks on in the foreground. On the right, the woman is smiling at her dog, and the cat is now looking into the camera with a disgusted expression. Caption says, "My cat disapproves of human/dog love... I didn't even know she could do that face..."

I covet that cat. What gorgeous green eyes! Misha’s got them, too, but of course she’s not all silvery-gray. The last Russian Blue (which I think is that cat above) we had got stolen by the neighbor’s visiting in-laws. Funny ol’ world, innit?

Summer’s almost over. Get your adventuring in while ye may, for those of you who still have some lovely days ahead. For those in the southern hemisphere, get out and enjoy the waning winter! Indulge in the things that make you happy, my darlings, and I’ll see you soon!

Image shows a winking white owl. Caption says, "Owl see you later."

If you have any special requests for the winter’s postings, please do let me know in comments.

An Apt Analogy for Varieties of Creationist

I don’t know if any of you read Paul Braterman’s blog, Eat Your Brains Out. No, it’s not a blog about zombies, although occasionally Jesus is mentioned. It’s actually a blog about science and creationism, and I’ve now read it in its entirety. Great stuff within.

And, sometimes, a very funny and apt bit. Paul took on the arguments of mathematician and theologian John Lennox, who rejects this god-of-the-gaps nonsense, yet apparently associates with Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute (part of the Discovery Institute; and Norman Nevin, a biblical literalist and Chairman of the Centre for Intelligent Design. Lennox took Lawrence Krauss to task for words about the Higgs boson being more important than God with a bit of a Ford analogy:

That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”,  he is God of the whole show.

And Paul took that analogy and ran with it to places where I’m sure Lennox would have preferred he not gone:

To pursue the Ford analogy further, Lennox believes that the car works because it is well designed, Axe believes that it works because there is a miracle-working mechanic inside the gearbox, and Nevin believes that it was sabotaged by the drivers’ grandparents.

Precisely. I don’t think anyone’s ever summed up the differences between old-school science-accepting theologian/scientists, intelligent design proponents, and Biblical literalists more succinctly. I laughed.

Image shows a blueprint for a Model T engine with God photoshopped in.

“The Engine of God” Original images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photoshopped poorly by moi.

Chillin’

Summer’s coming to a close. We’re taking advantage of every hot day. Gotta keep an eye on all the goings-on.

Image shows Misha lying at the edge of the porch, watching the lawn below.

Watchin’ the world

 

And then stretch out for a good relaxin’.

Misha's in the same spot, but has turned a bit and stretched out her front paws.

Chillaxin’

 

She surely loves her sunbeams. She especially loves them when she can get the in-your-face sunbeam action going. I was working my arse off in the chair beside her, while she blissed out very pointedly. Yes, Misha, you’re right. I do sometimes wish I was a cat.

The days get hot, but the nights cool fast, and the sun goes down earlier. Soon, the leaves will begin turning their glorious colors. The air will be crisp with a hint of smoke. And another summer will be past. She’s had a good one. With luck, we’ll get one or a few more.

She’ll probably manage to make it to 25 just to keep me from fostering kittens.

Sunset from My Office

This was my background as I researched the South Napa quake:

Image shows a streak of orange and pink cloud diving into fir tree silhouettes.

Sunset over the trees.

Yes, you’re allowed to be jealous. Especially when I tell you what we had for dinner.

Image shows Misha licking a bit of chicken.

Yay chicken!

Yes, that is a bit of Ezell’s Famous Chicken. I was too busy to cook and had to get supplies for an upcoming trip, so I splurged. It doesn’t take a lot of persuasion – this is the best chicken in Seattle, as far as I’m concerned.

Misha loves it, too.

Misha has finished her chicken and is staring at the spot where it used to be as if she can't believe there's no more.

Noooo where are the chicken?!

I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d started chewing on that wee white paw, thinking it was some delicious chicken, but she figured out she’d eaten all hers and purred vigorously at me in hopes of getting more. She’s not much of a people-food cat, but she will take a bit of Ezell’s with the breading off. Oh, and never take your attention away from your cereal bowl when she’s around, especially if it’s got soy milk in it. She will climb right in so she can get to the milk.

Anyway, pretty sunset and cute kitteh by way of apologies. No, I didn’t get the follow-up earthquake post done as quickly as I expected. They kept finding out moar things, and so I kept reading, and also, I had to go get Ezell’s. And eat it. A lot. When you come to Seattle, and if you’re not a vegetarian, you also may eat Ezell’s, and then you’ll understand.

I’m making myself hungry again…

Nefarious Whisker

Misha’s plotting something evil. I have absolute proof of this. I mean, beside the fact she’s a cat.

Image shows Misha's face. One of her white whiskers is cocked upward, looking like the beginning of a cartoon villain's moustache.

Nefarious Whisker

See it? SEE IT??? She’s trying to grow a supervillain ‘stache!

She now has her head turned to the side in a very villainy pose.

Villainy is afoot!

My gods, she’ll be twirling it next!

Anyway. You’re getting Misha because we didn’t get sea mammals today – B wasn’t feeling well. So I stayed home and caught up on some reading and housework. Sea mammals will hopefully be in the near future.

IF SHE DOESN’T DESTROY THE WORLD FIRST. Damn cat.

Help Me Calculate Wooly Mammoth Populations

Ya’ll, I’m sorry, but I need you to put on your calculating hats and help a woman defeat creationists. I have numbers, but no higher math skills to work ‘em out*. Any of you care to calculate?

Here’s what I need to know: how many wooly mammoths can we expect 900 years after the Food?

Let’s give creationists the benefit of the doubt, and pretend Noah kept two wooly mammoths aboard. Let’s further say they were of breeding age when they got off the boat, and there was lots of forage, and they got it on right away. Here are the relevant stats, pulled from their closest living relatives, the Asian elephant.

Breeding age: 10-15 years until around 50-55

Gestation: around 18-22 months

Weaning: around 3 years

Which gives us a birth interval of about 4-5 years.

Life expectancy: roughly 60-70 years.

So, if our wooly mammoths pump out bebbies on the regular, and all is ideal, and we even let ‘em all live to ripe old ages, how many mammoths will we have after 900 years?

Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve got plenty of other ways to show that the creationist crap being spouted about wooly mammoths in this textbook is utter bunk, but it would be nice to hoist them by their own petard, while we’re at it. Thanks for your help, my more numerate darlings!

*Gawds, I can’t math. Up until pre-algebra, I was actually pretty good at the stuff, but I got jumped ahead before I had the proper foundation, then had a string of truly awful math teachers and never recovered. I shoulda kept up on the tutorials I was doing back in the early aughts, but I let my skillz atrophy because hey writers don’t need math right?

Let this be a cautionary tale to all aspiring authors: keep your math skills polished. Otherwise, you’ll end up on the intertoobz at three in the ay-em begging your readers to do the math for you and feeling a right nitwit.

Interlude with Cat Eating Bacon Jerky

You knew bacon jerky was inevitable, right? Here is Misha enjoying some with me while we read our newest creationist textbook.

Image shows Misha sniffing a bit of bacon jerky I'm holding out for her.

Misha getting her jerky on. It’s BACON!

Turns out she adores the stuff, so I’ll have to get more. Look, 20 year-old kittehs get what they want. Well, aside from my attention when I’m sleeping, no matter how loud she yowls directly in my ear. Damn cat. I think it’s because I haven’t been filling her porch kibble bowl due to rainy weather. She thinks food on the porch is far tastier than food inside. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for it.

In case you’re dying of anticipation: yes, A Beka’s newest earth “science” text is as whacked as SPC. Only difference is that it’s got more room to expand on ridiculous ideas, and they’ve corrected a few of the glaringly-wrong facts that made SPC’s geology chapter snigger-worthy. You’ll see what I mean shortly.

Now off to continue grinding through ES4. And possibly feed the cat moar bacon.

Fundamentals of Fungi: Blue-Gray Beauties

Remember way back to those first heady days of freedom after giving ye olde daye jobe the old heave-ho, when B and I celebrated by taking a last-minute trip down the Washington-Oregon coast? Good times, good times! Especially when I stumbled across this beauty at Cape Disappointment which is sure to delight all lovers of fine fungi – and may inspire the next blockbuster horror movie flick.

Image shows some crinkly-edged flat blue-gray fungi poking through stringy green moss.

Fungi I

So there it was, poking through the green moss on the bank of the trail. And it may not look like much in the above photo, but believe me – it’s loving the camera.

Fungi II

Fungi II

Pacific Northwest coastal forests are pretty shady places, and this was an overcast day, but you can still see a gorgeous interplay of filtered light and dark shadow on these beauties.

Fungi III

Fungi III

Of course the little curled-up bits at the end that look like screaming, toothy mouths is a bit disturbing, but still. That fine wavy-frilly shape at their ends, the way they swing out like a flamenco dancer’s skirts, put me more in mind of Spanish dancing than imminent horror movie.

Fungi IV

Fungi IV

Makes me want to go design a dress, actually. Maybe if I fail at this writing gig, I’ll remake myself into a costume designer. Wouldn’t be a bad old life. I would just have to find rich clients who like looking like a fungus. That shouldn’t be at all hard, right?

Eh, maybe I’ll stick to writing. But don’t be surprised if you see me doing some fungus-inspired scarves on the side!

Kudos in advance to the first person who can tell us what this fantastic fungi is.

New Photos of Mount Rainier! Plus Super-Cute Critters

It’s been a long but fruitful day, my darlings. B and I took a little trip to Mount Rainier for you. We hadn’t yet hit the Sunrise VC, you see, so we decided it was about damned time we went. Can you believe I’ve been going to Rainier for years and have never been to top of that road? Scandalous! Now remedied.

Here’s the mountain peeking at some lovely andesite columns you will get to know very well later on:

Image shows gray andesite columns poking toward the road on the right, with a shoulder of Mount Rainier and the jagged crags of Little Tahoma in the distance.

Mount Rainier, Road, and Columns.

Now. I’m going to set the non-geologists in the audience a question: what are the columns telling you about the valley at the time of this lava flow? No cheating by looking up stuff on Mount Rainier, kiddos. But you can go look at Callan’s handy guide to columns wot he made just for us. You can totally get this from just this photo:

Images shows a bunch of gray andesite columns pointed at us.

Here we’re standing direct across the road, with the valley behind us, looking the columns dead in the tops of their darling little heads. Nose of an indeterminate blue sedan for scale.

Right, now you’ve had a challenge, you shall get your cute! This poor little dude was so conflicted.

Image shows a little striped rodent sitting on a somewhat flat rock in an I'm-Very-Tempted manner.

Conflicted ground squirrel or possibly chipmunk, I am terrible at identifying these cute fuzzy things BECAUSE THEY ARE BIOLOGY NOT ROCKS AND I DO ROCKS OKAY?

On the one hand, there was this humungous clump of grass with delicious ripe seeds and it really really wanted them so bad, only there were these people standing there, and it was a little afraid, but it wanted those seeds soooo bad. It spent a moment thinking about it, and dashed up and down a bit, and rushed the seeds and rushed away, and then decided “Sod this for a game of larks” and went and hid, so we left it to get its lunch in peace.

Now, we were up there specifically to look at Emmons Glacier, because I’ve been up the White River Valley it is responsible for, and would have gotten to one of its old moraines if Cujo and I hadn’t been stopped by the small but significant fact that the trail bridge over the river had washed out. So we went down to the Emmons Glacier Vista overlook thingy and had a nice look, and it was really gorgeous.

Image shows Mount Rainier's summit, Little Tahoma, Emmon's Glacier, and a gorgeous glacial valley with a glacier-fed river and lake. Also, much green, because PNW.

A view of Emmons Glacier, and the valley, and river, and a wee little turquoise-colored lake that I could probably identify if I wasn’t too tired at the moment.

Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy, and hot as hell, or we might have gotten better photos. Still. We got some good ones, and yes, someday, you will get more. But if you embiggen this one, you’ll be able to see some snazzy glacial features. Tell me all you can find, if you feel like digging!

We attempted the trail up Sourdough Ridge, but that’s all in bright sunshine, and did I mention is was at least 80 bloody degrees? And I’m not used to high altitudes and heat anymore. So we decided to tackle that in cooler times, and possibly when the air is clearer. We went down to Sunrise Point, where there’s a short-ish side trail to Sunrise Lake.

Image shows Sunrise Lake, a beautiful round pool surrounded by tall trees and mountains. The water is so still you can see the pines clearly reflected in it, even from hundreds of feet above.

Sunrise Lake is a lovely blue-green gem set at the bottom of a glacial valley surrounded by majestic, glacier-carved peaks. Alas, it is down in a valley…

This trail is mostly in shade with a wonderbar cool breeze. Trouble is, it is also a long way down to the lake. Down, of course, translates to up on the way back. But it was worth it. We got to see lots of pretty nature, and the lake, and there was this bird you will squee over when I show you it later this week, and, on a scree slope, this wee little rabbit-like thing running across the rocks with a big sprig of leafy something in its mouth. See if you can spot it in the shot of the slope I took.

Images shows a slope of platy gray rocks surrounded by the usual alpine greenery. There's a little critter on it. Very hard to see.

Wee beastie is somewhere on this scree, I promise you.

Really hard to spot, innit? Alas, I had the camera turned off to conserve battery when the little bugger first darted out, and by the time I had it on, our wee beastie had dashed further downslope. Take it from me, it was cute as the dickens, especially with its bit of greenery clutched in its mouth. Here’s a crop of the above image, and if you can identify they wee beastie from just this blurry pic, I will be very surprised. Also, I will suggest you become a cryptozoologist, because why not?

If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.

If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.

After the beastie and the birdie, we hauled our sorry butts back up that slope, and I can tell you my lungs haven’t ached like that for ages. Like a bellows, they were. I need to spend less time lounging with the cat and Christianist textbooks, and more time on mountains. So it’s a good thing B has decided we should go back to Mount Rainier before our current pass runs out. Weather permitting, we’ll be up there again at the end of the week. Then, depending on what the weather looks like, we’re off to either the Olympics or over the mountains to Ross Lake. Well, weather and our own energy levels permitting, I should say.

And I can definitely recommend sunset as seen from Highway 410 from outside of Sumner, looking over the Puget lowland toward the Olympics. Oh, my, yes. Alas, we were unable to stop and obtain photos, so I shall just have to ask you to imagine jagged black peaks against a salmon-orange sky, with the dark night blue above and the deep pools of shadow in the valley below, with city lights sparkling merrily, and a huge orange full moon rising over the hills behind. So, so wonderful.