How It All Began

Here we are, then: the first in the series of user-generated topics.  Glacial Till writes:

I think a post on your blogging history would be cool. What led you to blogging? Who are your inspirations and such. 

Oh, my.  Let’s see if I can remember back that far…

Got me start on LiveJournal, actually, many years ago, babbling about writing with and for some excellent writerly friends.  Started me own (now-defunct) website after a bit, still writing on writing, but this was the height of the Bush regime and so some political rants crept in as my liberal tendencies were unleashed.  Because friends had forced me to sign up for a MySpace account and because it was easier to blog there, I migrated for a bit – you can still see it here, if you’re that bored.

And those, you might say, are the prequels to ETEV.  So why did this blog start?

Because I couldn’t take it any more.

The rampant political stupidity that made me want to howl from the rooftops.  The rampant IDiots, running about mucking up biology education and making hideous movies like Expelled.  Not to mention all of the other rank stupidity stampeding through the world.  MySpace wasn’t a good platform for the full-throated rants necessary to counter it.

PZ’s the one who inspired me to start this blog, and to celebrate science upon it despite the fact I’m no more than an interested layperson.  This post, right here, is one you should go read right now, because it explains everything this blog became.

Well, nearly.  Getting adopted by the rock stars of geology set ETEV on a whole new course.  Somehow, it had evolved from a foul-mouthed baby blog focused on political stupidity with a smattering of science into something that geobloggers recognized as one of their own, even if I couldn’t see that.  But they inspired me to work me arse off delivering the goods.  And that’s fostered my interest in science, which feeds back into my writing, and ever onward in an endless circle.

This is still very much an amateur effort.  Someday, maybe even sooner than I expect, I’ll make the leap into full-time professional writing.  And I’ll get there because of the bloggers like PZ and Bora who showed me the importance of this medium, and the geobloggers and other science bloggers who showed me that all it takes is hard work and passion to write something worthy of reading.  But they’re only part of the equation.  I’ll get there because of the inspiration provided by my favorite authors and fellow fiction writers/bloggers like Nicole.

I’ll get there because of my readers.  Yes, you – the one sitting there reading this post right now.  Without you, do you think any of this would be possible?  Do you think I’d still be dedicating so much time and effort to these pages, if it wasn’t for you?  Without you, I’d spend that time in front of the teevee, or tucked in bed with an improving book, or practicing karate with the cat, when I wasn’t struggling on alone with a very difficult fiction novel.  And I’d be less of a writer because of it.  Not to mention, I wouldn’t have half the motivation to go out and have adventures and take the very best pictures I can.

So, dear reader, when you ask where my inspiration comes from, the very first thing you should do is go find a mirror.

And now I shall take the opportunity to give a special shout-out to my geoblogging inspirations.  I read more geoblogs than I list here, but these are the folks who, combined, form the star I revolve around.  In no particular order, then:

Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment
Lockwood DeWitt at Outside the Interzone
Glacial Till at Glacial Till
Ron Schott at Geology Home Companion
Brian Romans at Clastic Detritus
Ann Jefferson and Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous
Dan McShane at Reading the Washington Landscape
Wayne Ranney at Earthly Musings
Elli Goeke at Life in Plane Light

I want to mention four bloggers in particular who have provided more support, encouragement, and food for thought over the years than I ever expected.  They’re fantastic bloggers and even more fantastic friends:

Cujo at Slobber and Spittle
George at Decrepit Old Fool
Suzanne at Two Ton Green Blog
Woozle at The Hypertwins Memorial High-Energy Children Supercollider Laboratory and Research Center for the Inhumanities.  Okay, so it’s not technically a blog, but who cares?  Especially with a name like that!

A special shout-out to the man who made me believe in bloggers, and who got me thinking and writing about politics so many years ago: Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly.  Before him, I didn’t really take blogs seriously.  He’s an incredible talent, a wonderful human being, and still the one political blog I turn to when I haven’t got time for more.

And, finally, a very special shout-out to Karen, whose comments have so often given me that much needed prod in the arse necessary to keep me going.  How I wish you’d start a blog!

Impostor Syndrome

So, there’s this thing I’ve been struggling with for a while, now.  Stephanie Zvan left me this comment:

Please do me a favor. Take your Sunset Crater post and another one that you love, and go promote yourself at Ed’s. His pool needs widening, and it’ll be good practice for you. :) 

At Ed’s?  This Ed’s?  Holy impossible missions, Batwoman!

I went there.  I looked at some posts and some comments, and then I fled like a right bloody coward.  I mean, you are talking to the woman who freaked out when the geobloggers claimed me for their own.  I spent days going to ScienceSeeker.org when they called for blog submissions, reading down the list of member blogs every night, trying to picture myself there and failing miserably.  You know why ETEV’s up there now?  It’s because Chris Rowan submitted the All-geo feed, which for some inexplicable reason I am on.  It sure as shit wasn’t because I took my courage in my hand.  Couldn’t find it.  Maybe never would have.

You see, I’m a layperson.   I troubleshoot phones for a living, people.  I’m not in college, and when I was, I was a bloody history major.  I don’t have undergrad or grad student creds, I’m not a scientist, not a professional science writer, and I got my start on the intertoobz as a potty-mouthed political blogger.  So when people consider me part of the science blogging universe, I get this feeling like I’m a miniature pony trying to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Tiny Horse is Tiny

Yes, my darlings, I am suffering from Impostor Syndrome.  Big time.

Couple that with a native dislike of promoting myself to anyone at all for any reason, and you can see why it’s a bit difficult for me to do anything so bold as to saunter over to Ed’s and say, “Oy, I’m leaving links to two of my totally awesome posts.”

What it comes right down to, I think, is that I’ve got this feeling that it’s not for me to judge.  I could strut about believing myself to be the greatest writer evah, I could shout from the rooftops how incredibly awesome I am, but that wouldn’t make it so.  It’s not for me to judge.  It’s up to my readers.  They’re the only ones qualified to judge the worthiness of my words.  And when they deem something of mine worthy of their time and attention, I’m so shocked by it that I just sit paralyzed, wondering “How the fuck did that happen?”  It doesn’t occur to me to then go forth and shout from the rooftops, “Oy – my readers have deemed me a decent read!  Y’all are missing out!”

Then again, if I fall to the ground wailing, “I’m not worthy!” when the geoblogging superstars decide that, despite short legs and a silly-looking forelock, I’m welcome to run with them, that’s rather an insult to them, innit?  When incredible bloggers like Stephanie Zvan tell me I should go strut some stuff, isn’t it a little rude to say, “Um, no”?  What a dilemma!

(Makes me worry about what shall happen should I achieve fame and fortune as an SF writer.  I’m afraid I’ll be hunched down behind the table at book signings suffering from terminal embarrassment.)

And I put this out there not because I’m looking for sympathy and assurance – I’m not that neurotic, and you don’t owe me a damned thing.  I’m spilling my guts because I know I’m not the only one.  I’ve run into plenty of people suffering Impostor Syndrome, and I know it’s desperately difficult to overcome.  I haven’t done it yet.  But the road to recovery begins with listening to your readers.  When I, as a reader, leave a comment telling a blogger that something they’ve written has moved me, I’m not doing it because I’m trying to bolster their self-esteem.  I’m saying it because I mean it.  When I link to something, it’s because I felt it worth linking.  And I have to face facts: you guys are probably saying nice things about my writing for the same reason.

So when Stephanie Zvan tells me to go out and do the impossible, when she says “please do me a favor,” despite the fact I’m a bloody coward when it comes to self-promotion, there’s nothing for it but to sneak over to Ed’s and quietly drop in a line saying, “Stephanie Zvan made me do it.”  Then flee for my life.

And that, for any of you, my darlings, who are suffering the same uncertainty, is what you must do as well.  Trust your readers.  Trust their judgment, even when you can’t bring yourself to believe you are what they say you are.  The readers are the final judge of the writer. 

Two Must-Reads You May Not Have Read

Whelp, Christmas is over.  We’ve got a bit o’ breathing room before New Year’s.  Time now to catch up on some of that great stuff you put off.

Brian Switek’s got 6 Strange Fossils That Enlightened Evolutionary Scientists.  It’s Brian, so I don’t have to tell you how awesome it is.  Just get yer arse over there and read it if you haven’t already.

And Bora’s got an epic-length (by blogging standards) exploration of science and journalism that will probably tell you quite a lot you didn’t already know.  And you’ll be surprised by just how much the 19th and 21st Centuries have in common:

Apart from technology (software instead of talking/handwriting/printing), speed (microseconds instead of days and weeks by stagecoach, railroad or Pony Express, see image above) and the number of people reached (potentially – but rarely – millions simultaneously instead of one person or small group at a time), blogging, social networking and other forms of online writing are nothing new – this is how people have always communicated. Like Montaigne. And the Republic of Letters in the 18th century. And Charles Darwin in the 19th century.

The whole thing’s well worth your time.  So I won’t detain you here any longer.  Go.  Read.  Enlighten!

Wupatki Wonders

I’m behind the times.  One Fly has had a gorgeous, photo-filled post on Wupatki National Monument up at his Picture Place up since November, and your own dear cantinera makes a cameo appearance. 

You geo-types will like to know that the monument’s built from the sandstones of the Moenkopi Formation and the limestones of the Kaibab Formation, if I’m remembering my strata correctly.  Sometime after the new year, I plan to start an Arizona series at long last, so we’ll discuss it in detail then.  Perhaps One Fly will send us a photo of a nice rock or two.

The snow-capped mountains in the background are the San Francisco Peaks, which get a mention in my post on Louis Agassiz, and I’ve done up a bit on Sunset Crater here

Crap in a hat.  Now I’m homesick… but it’s a good kind of homesick.  Arizona’s got some of the shittiest politicians and most nauseating laws in the country, but as far as her ruins and her geology, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Los Links

Bored on a holiday weekend, are ye?  Had your fill of turkey, football, annoying relatives, Black Friday, all that rot?  Well, that’s good, because I’ve got lots o’ interesting links I’ve been meaning to do something about but never managed to get round to blogging.

Pour yourselves a glass of something tasty and hopefully strong, and nibble away at some delights, my darlings.

The “Lost Women”: science popularizers and communicators of the 19th century:  We sometimes forget that, even in the days when women were pretty much third-class citizens, a few of them broke out of the barefoot and pregnant mold and managed to make some impressive, not to mention important, contributions to science.  Here’s a start on remembering them.  And, in case that wasn’t enough for ye, here’s my paean to a few of the Unsung Women of Science.

For those who might’ve missed it the first, second, and ten billionth time this got handed round the geoblogosphere, Ole Nielsen has an excellent explanation of How Drumlins Form.

And while we’re on about glaciers, might as well go From end to end: Traversing the Terminal Lines of Long Island.  

Hannah Waters has the definitive post on Developing a scientific worldview: why it’s hard and what we can do.

Remember when we were all supposed to have flying cars?  How about this instead: Trees Infused With Glowing Nanoparticles Could Replace Streetlights.  Pretty damned awesome.

Here’s an excellent read for anyone who loves reading, writing, or understanding how the brain works: This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

And, finally, Orac’s got a thought provoking (and snarky) post up: So Al Gore didn’t invent global warming? Who knew?

That should keep you busy enough.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch every single Harry Potter movie filmed to date because that’s the sort of idiotic thing a writer does when they’re blocked…

England’s Libel Law is Liable to Bite Yer Arse

So do what Simon Singh says and sign the petition to reform it:

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.
The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Please sign and pass it along.

Some Things of Especial Note

Whilst you’re waiting for me to get my arse in gear on the whole Discovery Park geo thing, here’s some lively links to keep you busy.

Callan Bentley’s moving!  He’ll be joining the new American Geophysical Union’s new blog consortium by the end of the month, so watch his space for directions to the new digs.  Congratulations, Callan!

(Ye gods – will we all be assimilated into networks?!)

Our own George W. has a fascinating post up on the powers of 10.  My mind, it is blown!

Marcelo Gleiser explains why science matters.  If you missed it the first few times it made the rounds, don’t dare miss it now.

Carl Zimmer explores where e-Book publishing might take us.  Those who believe writing and reading are dead, take heart!

And (dum-DUM-dum!) Readers Beware!  Which says everything that needs to be said to arrogant asscrunches who think bloggers are unwashed, untrustworthy little pissants sullying the fine reputation of journalism.

Stuff Comes from Somewhere

Back before I distracted by the shiny new car and purchasing of same, our own George W. had a post up that really forced some thinking.  And it’s all because he was up at 4 in the morning thinking about bolts:

Where’s the nickel (which plates the bolt) mined? What’s the state of mine-safety technology? Do mining companies pay lobbyists to keep the laws lax? Or more likely, does the manufacturer just buy the nickel salts for plating from some third-world country where the government doesn’t protect the workers or the rivers or the children who live along them? Is that why the bolts are so cheap? What’s the external cost of the carbon output from manufacturing the bolt? Maybe that’s the reason I saved the bolt that was left over from a project of years ago.  Or maybe I’m just really cheap.

Read the whole post.  It’ll make you think about bolts, politics, change and resources all in one go, which is damned impressive for a short post brought on by insomnia.  This is why I love George’s blog so: when I leave there, it’s not with the same eyes as when I arrived.