Karen Locke, the Introduction

Hello all!  Dana claims that snagging me for an occasional guest post is a great success on her part, but the truth is I’ve been wanting a blogging outlet for a long time; I just don’t have enough to say to write my own blog (or enough time to say it).  I’m really honored that she’s taken me on.

A bit of bio: I started my professional career as a computer engineer, first designing hardware and then developing software.  I even got talked into a short stint as an engineering manager, which tried my patience almost beyond endurance.  But after a couple of decades and some in the field, just as I was getting incredibly bored with solving what seemed to be the same old problems with new technology, I actually needed to quit work altogether to take care of aging parents.  When that task was done, and my parents passed on, rather than re-invent myself as an engineer I listened to my Inner Scientist and took up studying geology.  After a lot of catch-up, I graduated with an MS in December 2011.

Due to chronic health issues, I have trouble working full-time.  However, I’ve been making beaded jewelry for years and will soon open an Etsy shop (and you all will have to endure some shameless self-promotion).

Geology is still my first love, and I’ll mostly use my blogging opportunity here to talk about geo-things that interest me.  I especially love sedimentology*, petrology, petrography, and maps and mapmaking.  But I’ll look at and listen to any rock that’s willing to tell me a story, and share those stories.

As far as family goes, I have a wonderful husband of 32 years.  We are staff to two feline boys, Rocky and Paddy.  I’ll close with photos of our masters:



Rocky is a big, fat, loving, ultimate scaredy-cat.



Paddy is a great lover of boxes. Yes, he only has one eye; a serious eye infection he had when he was rescued as a kitten caused the loss of one eye.


*Locke, Karen Marie, “Composition and Provenance of Sand from Wells, Santa Clara Valley, California” (2011). Master’s Theses. Paper 4100.  http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/4100

Ode to a Caboose, the Reprise: The Story of the Iron Goat Trail Caboose

My intrepid companion (otherwise known as Cujo359) wrote a wonderful post on the Iron Goat Trail caboose. If you want to know its history, and see a lot of detailed pictures showing how various bits of a caboose work, head on over there. Hell, go even if you aren’t that interested – you might be surprised how quickly you get sucked in.

Iron Goat Trail Caboose. Image courtesy Cujo359.

Iron Goat Trail Caboose. Image courtesy Cujo359.

The comments system here hates Cujo, so he sent me a reply directly to nedchamplain’s question on the original post: “those are real metal tracks.” Indeed. And you can see photos of them putting the caboose in here. Which is awesome. There’s an excellent shot of the tracks, for them as is interested.

Cujo just got a fantastic new camera, by the way. I’m going to be dragging him all over the northwest and possibly other places next summer, and between us, I think we’ll manage some shots that’ll blow you away. If you wish to suggest places you’d like to see us visit, you may do so in comments, and we will take them into consideration. Also, for those who are interested, I’ll plan a few trips where cantina patrons can join. Feel free to leave suggestions for places you’d like to go with us!

No, Patheos, You Can’t Have These New Bloggers Either!

Huzzah, Miriam and Paul are here! And they are awesome. You should go read them if you haven’t already.

Brute Reason

Brute Reason banner, image courtesy Miriam.

Miriam does a lot of social justice, psychology, and other interesting bits. I’ll confess I’ve been spelunking her archives while I should have been doing Very Serious Work. I’m enjoying her a lot, and she’s another reason why I’m proud to be a part of FtB.

Near-Earth Object banner, courtesy Paul

Near-Earth Object banner, courtesy Paul

Paul’s blog is lovely – lots of fascinating tidbits and quotes and science. And his banner has Galileo’s stars in it. I <3 his blog!

Between the main bloggers and the co-bloggers and guest bloggers on this network, we’ve got an incredible lineup. Some days, I have no idea why I’m a part of it. Other days, I know it’s because FtB is smart enough to know it needs a resident geologist. Doesn’t every network?

And every network should have a Miriam and a Paul, but they can’t have them because they joined us. Ha ha ha suck it, Patheos! Hands off our new bloggers.

Everyone else, please give Miriam and Paul a very warm welcome, and enjoy!

To Patheos, Re: Our New Bloggers

Dear Patheos,

After having seen our ranks decimated* by your network, we here at Freethought Blogs have finally recovered enough to add two excellent new bloggers: Avicenna and NonStampCollector. You probably noticed them the instant they appeared, but for the edification of others, I shall proceed to say a bit about them anyway.

Avicenna is a British medical student of Indian descent who is completing his clinical training in India. He’s genius. We folks who live and work in countries dominated by the three “great” monotheistic religions don’t know how good we’ve got it. Yes, these religions can be nasty, brutish and theocratic, but there is at least only one god** to contend with. Avicenna has to deal with a million (numeric 1,000,000 or French “holy fuck that’s a shitload of gods!”). And he does it brilliantly, while also taking on a plethora of other issues. I think he may even have sparked the beginnings of the logical evolution of Rickrolling, which in this case would be Psyrolling, or some clever word I’ve not come up with. Despite that, I’ve been enjoying his work immensely.

NonStampCollector is a superbly talented Australian living in Japan whose YouTube videos helped preserve my sanity during costume-sewing madness. He made me laugh hard enough to stab myself with a needle more than once. I now have an arsenal of videos for lobbing at literalists. Here is one:

His blog often takes ridiculous comments from his YouTube channel and skewers them mercilessly.

These are our new bloggers. They are awesome. We’re excited they’re here. And no, you can’t have them. Don’t even try.


Dana Hunter


*For the pedants: yes, it was a decimation. We have ~30 blogs, and they took 3: Libby Anne, JT, and Dan. That’s a tenth. So shh before you start.

**Or, if you count a certain way, three. Or one god plus thousands of saints. Or 3 gods + 1,000s of saints. Still: not a million.

One of Our Best Bloggers Needs You

Greta Christina is one of the writers I respect most in the world. She recently became a full-time freelance writer, and it seems the world has been out to get her ever since. Her father died just a few weeks ago – then she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer early this week. It’s not the worst kind of cancer a person can have, and hopefully was caught early enough so it can be cured with merely major surgery, but it’s going to sideline her for a bit. And this is at the beginning of her freelance career, which means no cushion built up. And this is freelancing we’re talking about – there is no paid sick leave.

So she could use a hand. Do you want to help out? You can donate to her directly, or buy her excellent book, or recommend easy entertainment to keep her from going mad during convalescence. I’m assuming things featuring cute kittehs are priority, but please try to grade things by humor: aww cute should be fine for the first two weeks, gentle giggles for weeks 2-3, ramping up gradually to chuckles and, eventually, when healing has progressed so far, gales of laughter.

And give her love. Lots and lots of love.

Greta Christina’s head, plus kittehs. I think her body is under that pile somewhere, but it’s hard to tell from the photo. Image credit Greta Christina, from 6 Things Cat Owners Dare Not Think About on Catster.

(A note to any religious readers: please respect the fact that Greta is an atheist. Please don’t tell her you’re praying for her, that God has a plan, etc. You’re welcome to believe those things, but we don’t, and don’t find them at all comforting. Thank you for understanding.)

Damn You, Patheos!

First they stole Libby Anne, which was annoying enough – she’s one of my favorite bloggers, and I was delighted when she joined us. But now they’ve poached JT Eberhard, and that’s where I must draw the line, damn it. One of the best things about joining FtB was having the honor of sharing the same network as one of my personal heroes.

JT Eberhard. Photo courtesy MikeSheridan89.

I’ve been kind of stunned into silence by the whole thing. I mean, on the one hand, JT’s embarked on a career as a full-time writer and lecturer, which is fantastic, and I’m thrilled for him. On the other hand, I’m gonna miss having his ass around here. You have no idea how much fun it is to work with him. It’s been a pleasure getting to know him not just as a blogger and an activist, but as a friend.

I’m glad Patheos recognizes his talent, but I’ll never forgive them for stealing him away. And I have a personal message for them, which I hope they’ll pay attention to:

Look, you fuckers: stop picking us off one-by-one. Since you obviously have discerning taste and like so many FtBloggers, just offer to move the whole damned network over there and be done with it. Then I can be with JT and Libby Anne again. *sniffle*

Ah, well, I still have all the other bloggers who make FtB great – until Patheos gets round to snatching them up, too. JT may have moved to a different network, but he’s still one of us, and still my friend. And I have you, my darlings. (Attention, Patheos: If you steal my readership next, I will understand it as a declaration of blog war. You have been warned.)

I’m not going to say I hope JT succeeds in his new endeavors, because I know he will. It would be like hoping water continues being H2O. I’m just going to say that Patheos had better treat him right, or else, and that I hope he gets a speaking gig in Seattle very soon, because there’s a drink out here with his name upon it.

Visit his new digs and wish him well. Also, have popcorn handy. Now that he’s not got a day job, that means the leash is off. This should be fun

FreethoughtBlogs Just Got That Much More Awesome

Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m doing here, and I mean that in a good way. It’s nice to blog on a network filled with so many consistently awesome people. And we’ve just added two kickass atheists to the bunch: Zinnia Jones and Ashley Miller. They’re the vanguard for our videoblogging horde. Not only do they vlog, they blog, and they are outstanding writers. With Ashley and Zinnia, I think we have achieved a majority share of awesome atheists online. And dere r moar on teh wai!

Suddenly, taking over the world doesn’t seem like an impossibility…

Mount St. Helens Esoterica. Also, Blogathon for the SSA!

I’m deep in research for upcoming Mount St. Helens posts, so blogging will be light for a few days. Fortunately for you, some of my fellow FtBers are insane enough to engage in a blogathon for the Secular Student Alliance. Right now, Brianne at Biodork and Christina at WWJTD are engaged in mad blogging for an excellent cause. So read JT’s post about his work for the SSA and why it’s so critically important. It’s a great read, full of squee moments and packed with controversy. Once you’ve done that, are fired up and ready to go, head on over and support Brianne and Christine in their efforts to raise cold hard cash for secular students.

While they’re doing that, I’m diving deep into that monster 800+ paper on Mount St. Helens, collecting all sorts of delicious science for ye, and lemme tell ya, our Prelude to a Catastrophe series on Rosetta Stones is about to get explosive. In the meantime, here are some of the random bits that have amused me to no end during this long slog:

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This Is Why I’m So Damned Proud to Blog Here

I told you recently about The Conversation. It’s still ongoing, despite attempts to derail it by some folks who just can’t quite seem to understand why sexual harassment is not okay, and that putting policies in place to ensure harassment is handled quickly and appropriately are not, in fact, going to to turn the skeptical and atheist movements into the Taliban. It’s ongoing despite the fact that people who should know better seem to believe discussing these problems is the problem, not the problems themselves. (If that kind of blame-the-messenger syndrome reminds you a little of the Bush regime’s attempts to sweep problems under the rug by attacking the people who mentioned problems instead of solving the actual problems themselves, you are not alone.)

Despite all of the folks who just can’t quite seem to understand that harassment is a real issue, that it’s bad, and that steps need to be taken to reduce it, whilst still ensuring people get to have fun and be flirty if with other people who also want to be fun and flirty, The Conversation is resulting in some real progress.

The Conversation is moving forward.

And it’s moving in large part because so many of the people who blog here at FreethoughtBlogs are ensuring it doesn’t stop.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to mention how much I love the folks I blog alongside of, and how very proud of them I am. This conversation isn’t easy. But they’re keeping it going, and because of them and other hard-working people who know The Conversation is worth having, conventions will be a hell of a lot safer and happier for everybody, abusers excepted.

You guys are amazing.


(Standard reminder for posts on sensitive subjects: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Swearing and disagreement are fine, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment.

ETEV has, so far, had nothing but good people having good talks in the threads, even when disagreements spring up. And I want to thank my regulars and my newbies, who have all ensured that the discussions we have are thoughtful, productive, and quite often fun. You, my darlings, are the best!)