My Cat Wanted Me to Tell You This

Message from homicidal felid as follows:

aWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW-WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWA

Don’t ask me what it’s supposed to mean. I haven’t a bloody clue. Unless it’s to say she wants me to get off her computer so she can have it back…

Misha with her machine. She just lets me borrow it on occasion.

Misha with her machine. She just lets me borrow it on occasion.

Lovely Birdies of Bothell, Plus Undignified Kitteh Pics

It’s a fantastic time of year, my darlings! The birds are out and about, singing lustily as they endeavor to find someone to perform one of the three Fs with, and the new leaves aren’t big enough for the feathery bastards to hide behind. For someone trying to photograph something other than waterbirds, this is outstanding.

I went up to that bit of North Creek a couple miles from my house that has a possible blueschist wall, and one of the first things I spotted was this magnificent towhee. At least I think it’s a towhee. Tell me if I’m right.

Wee wonderful towhee.

Wee wonderful towhee.

So there I am, unslinging the camera, all super-excited because it’s not a duck or a sparrow! I get it in focus – it’s not flying away! I click the magic button. And I hear the shutter click several times in rapid succession. My subsequent cursing scared the towhee away. Either that, or it disapproved of my language. Said language was because I’d taken pics of the cat the night before and forgot to take the camera out of handheld twilight mode. And now here we were, using a night setting in brilliant sunshine. Fucknuggets.

But when I got it onto the computer, it actually turned out quite well. Even cropped, it looks good.

Cropped version of the wee wonderful towhee.

Cropped version of the wee wonderful towhee.

Nice, vibrant colors and acceptable clarity. I’ll take it.

Alas, I didn’t get the opportunity to take five billion photos of the towhee. But there was a crow not far away, sitting on a branch, and making all sorts of weird racket. I think it’s some sort of mating call thingy, because it was engaging in some stereotyped movements and looked kinda like it was fantasizing. So I took five billion pictures of it instead, and I really love this one because of the detail of the feathers.

Crow acting curiously.

Crow acting curiously.

Gotta love ‘im.

When I got home, my cat was having a sun bath and doing a bit of desultory washing. I’m a bad kitty mommy. I put the camera in burst mode with every intention of catching her in an undignified position. This one doesn’t quite qualify, but I think it’s adorable because I’m her mommy and that’s how kitty mommies roll.

Itchy kitteh

Itchy kitteh

I’ve helpfully edited the photo so you don’t get whacked in the face by her asshole. You’re welcome.

And yes, I did get the undignified photo I wanted.

Washing kittehs cannot retain dignity.

Washing kittehs cannot retain dignity.

So that gave me a sense of accomplishment. Sad little life I’ve got.

The following day, as I was sitting at a picnic bench along the creek that runs along the ball fields, there was another crow doing the same thing as the previous day’s crow, only this time in the grass. I feel a little sorry for them. They look desperate.

I learned something valuable that day. If you’re going to sit at one of the benches along that creek, you’d better damned well bring duck food, or you’ll get yelled at. Instant I sat down, there were two ducks, making a beeline up the bank toward me. No fear and no shame, little beggars. Much like my cat.

That was Easter weekend. The sun is gone now and the rains have returned. I took advantage of a brief break in the weather to go walkies. I swear I felt like I was strolling through a bordello. There was a dark-eyed junco singing away, and I’ve never heard them singing, so I know he was trying to impress the ladies. Another bird a bit further down was telling the entire neighborhood in loud tones that it had a little sumthin-sumthin for any interested females. Those were the two loudest, but the neighborhood was full of lots of horny birds trying to get laid. One gets the feeling they really shouldn’t intrude.

A robin offering to rock your world. If you're a lady robin, that is.

A robin offering to rock your world. If you’re a lady robin, that is.

I love the springtime. It’s full of brilliant, beautiful life that has a harder time hiding from the camera.

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

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

 

Paddy

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

Kitteh in Winter Sunbeam

Because, you know, I’m infected by parasites. You all get to suffer.

Kitteh in Rare Winter

Kitteh in Rare Winter Sunbeam

We had a rare interlude of sunshine, which my kitteh enjoyed immensely. She’s elderly, and on these days, I tend to go a bit overboard on the pictures, knowing each and every slight variation in her posture will bring back warm memories one day. Of course, when she goes, there’ll be another kitteh to take gigabyte upon gigabyte worth of photos of. It’s a good thing memory is so small and cheap now. Otherwise, I’d have to rent an extra room to store the cat photos in.

Moar kitteh in sunbeams

Moar kitteh in sunbeams

For a while, she decided my Kindle sleeve was the greatest place to sunbathe ever. You can see a tiny bit of it poking out from beneath her chin. She’s looking remarkably good for an ancient old fart – aside from a little balding on her back, she doesn’t look her age. The only sign she gives is in sleeping a little more extensively than she used to, and being slightly stiff when first getting up. People who meet her for the first time don’t realize she’s nearly twenty. Especially not when she energetically tries to rip bits off them.

Kitteh on Mom

Kitteh on Mom

Seattle being Seattle, we lost the sun the next day. She decided to use me for replacement heat. I know this was only because I had a Coke in the freezer, because all the other cold, rainy days lately, she’s wanted nothing to do with me. But since I had something in the freezer that would explode if not removed in a timely manner, she suddenly decided she loved me and wanted to be with me. Cats are evil. This is why I love them. Dogs are nice, but I’ve never liked unquestioning worship. I like selfish gits who are only using me for their own gain.

I also like that little bit of end-of-day light, filtered through clouds, that gives the burgundy curtains such a weird bluish cast, with her green eye in the foreground. That expression on her fuzzy little face is the “Stop wiggling around trying to take pictures and be the perfectly still kitteh warmer I desire, or I will bite your face off” look. I think it’s adorable. But this is why I will never ever own a tiger, people. It’s nice to own a felid that can’t follow through on its threats. And who, occasionally, cuddles up purring loudly enough to be heard in another room and gives me the “I love you conditionally, human who serves me” look.

Even if it is just the toxoplasmosis making me feel all warm and necessary, I still love having a companion who holds me to high standards.

CFI’s Policy, SSA’s Press, and Cromm’s Doom – Happy Caturday, Everyone!

I haz a happee. And it’s not just because I spent all last night and this morning in bed with science, although taking some time to devour a book on random bits of science and reading some nummy posts was excellent. So was having a purring felid curled up with me. But I iz happee for moar reasons!

The Center for Inquiry adopted a very strong hostile conduct/harassment policy for conferences. I know there’s probably only two of you who didn’t already know, but I wanted to do a happy dance anyway. Also, I think Ron Lindsay’s post on it was superb. He gives the reasons why CfI went this route:

A primary objective of our policy is to ensure that everyone at our conferences — speakers, attendees, and staff — will feel safe and at ease and be able to participate fully in all conference-related events. Intimidation and harassment prevent this objective from being achieved, so such conduct should be prohibited.

This is why we have embedded our harassment policy within the context of an overall prohibition on hostile conduct. We seek to prohibit any abusive conduct “that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.”

He assures us free speech is alive and well:

We expect to have the same wide-ranging, vigorous debates that we have traditionally enjoyed at our conferences. In any event, CFI’s policy expressly states that “critical commentary on another person’s views, does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment.”

You can still flirt safely – as long as you’re not a crude jackass about it:

It is not our intention to prohibit flirting or a polite expression of interest in another person. For example, without more, the question, “Would you be interested in having a drink later?” would not be considered harassment.

But one-time expressions of interest/invitations to an encounter could be inappropriate under the policy, which is why inserting the word “repeated” in the policy would be unwise. To take a crude example (those with delicate sensibilities can skip ahead), asking someone “Wouldn’t you like to bury your head in my crotch and suck my dick?” could constitute harassment, even if it is said only once and accompanied by no other action.

(Note to the clueless: even if you’ve practiced your pick-up line and you’ve got it down to a suave art, I’d refrain from using it on someone you haven’t conversed with first, someone who has mentioned they’re not interested in being propositioned, or someone you’ve cornered. This will not only help you avoid running afoul of the policy, but will also increase your chances of sexy fun times.)

Sexy fun times are still on the table with willing partners:

CFI has no opposition to consensual sex among adults; indeed, this organization has long championed the right of individuals to engage in such conduct, and has protested restrictions on such conduct based on religious dogma. CFI’s policy does not interfere with consensual sex. It’s unwelcome sexual attention that is prohibited, not welcome sexual attention.

And there are other points that should assure all but the terminally dense among us that yes, you can have a policy that strictly forbids harassment and hostile conduct, and have fun, and possibly even sex! ZOMG, amirite?

I have one quibble: I’d like to see them add “gender identity” to the list of things you can’t harass people for. That seems to be a huge blind spot with a lot of policies. No, it’s not covered by the word “gender.” We’ve got plenty of trans* folks who can help them with the appropriate language.

Aside from that, I likes it, and can add one more set of conferences to the list of those that are sensible and fun.

In other news, I’d like to point out that our very own JT Eberhard has made it to the pages of the Washington Post. Go, JT! He’s got a lovely post up introducing the other folks who make it possible for secular high school students to form atheist clubs, even in the face of opposition from religious administrators who’d much prefer we icky atheists crawl back into the closet and slam the door behind us. One thing the explosion of atheist clubs in high schools and colleges is saying is that atheists are out, proud, and intend to stay that way. People like JT work their asses off to ensure secular students get a chance to enjoy the same benefits as their religious classmates. It’s nice to see their efforts recognized in the pages of the Post – and the story got picked up by the Charlotte Observer, too! With increased visibility could very well come increased acceptance. The SSA and the students who organize these clubs are amazing, courageous people, and it’s good to know they’ve got a champion like JT fighting for them.

I will, of course, be asking for JT’s autograph when we finally meet in meatspace.

These two items have made for a very happee Caturday indeed. And, just in case you weren’t already a happee pile o’ mush, I have one of the best ever cute cat photos for ye:

Image courtesy icanhascheezburger.com

You know, people like PZ will probably never admit this out loud, but that image has got to tug at their heart strings.

Alas, we must end on a sad note. Sad for our good friend and sworn enemy Crommunist, who in the past has been known to lob a few shells our way. Hostilities died down, and I believe I know why: his forces have been sleeping with the enemy. I haz proof:

It turns out his “damning evidence” of cats coming to the other side was just footage of spies learning the canine language so they could turn dogs into moles. I’m so sorry, Cromm. This must be devastating for you. I guess in the end you’ll have to fall back on otters – oh. Dear.

Image courtesy Cute!

Well, perhaps that’s just a single deserter, I’m sure it’s an aberration – oh. Well. Nevermind.

I’m sorry, Cromm. I’m so sorry. Still. At least you’ve got a good start on the cat ballads. I’m sure your feline overlords will consider this, along with your ability to open canned food, adequate service.

Mother’s Little Helper and Other Stories

I’ve got nothing, really. I was supposed to be watching a movie with a friend who’s in from out of town, but his family kidnapped him. I’ve spent the time finishing The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rhinehart, who has somewhat restored my faith in mystery novels written by late 19th – early 20th century women. I still prefer British authors, but how can I fail to love the woman who inspired Batman?

As a fake excuse for why I haven’t yet written about Darwin and geology, I present photographic evidence that my help was hindering:

Mother's Little Helper

You see that nice, fresh, shiny white notebook she’s lying on? I’d put that down not two seconds before, preparatory to picking up the Kindle and furiously taking notes. I know you can take notes on the Kindle, but it’s slow. Not quite as slow, though, as trying to take notes upon a notebook the cat has claimed.

Knowledge Makes Kitteh Sleepy

Of course, there was another notebook available, so I defeated her nefarious schemes in the end.

Sleeping With Darwin

She’s as helpful with researching Darwin’s geological research as some kittehs are with theses.

Reading Charles Darwin’s Geological Observations on South America would be a lot more fun if I knew more than bugger-all about South American geology. But it’s been instructive going in to this knowing next to nothing. Granted, I have more knowledge than he did: plate tectonics wasn’t a gleam in anybody’s eye (Wegener wouldn’t be born for nearly another 50 years, and his cogitations on continental drift for nearly 80). Geology was in its infancy; Lyell’s brilliant Principles of Geology was hot off the shelf, and Hutton’s Theory of the Earth had laid the kindling that sparked the whole revolution in thinking in 1785.

I find it fascinating to watch how the early geologists and naturalists wrestled sense out of the silent rocks. Continents rose and fell; they knew this much, that mountains became sea became mountains again. But it was all vertical. Horizontal movement, continents sailing along slowly, embedded in their rigid plates, hadn’t occurred to them. You get the sense of land bobbing in place, popping up and down like a giant whack-a-mole game, or possibly Riverdancers. It’s a funhouse mirror of geology. The images are there, they’re recognizable, but distorted. It’s amazing how clear the picture becomes when you add plate tectonics. The things that confounded the intrepid geologists exploring brave new worlds and systematizing the old one make exquisite sense once you know that not only the Earth moves, but its skin crawls.

Darwin stood on a subduction zone, and never knew it; visited passive margins and hotspots, and didn’t know what made them what they were. In light of how little was known, it’s amazing how much he came to know. Early geologists like him had to piece it together, rock by rock, fossil by fossil, patiently sampling and mapping and spinning possibilities that were often wrong but were sometimes, gloriously, right. Sometimes so right that other, older scientists didn’t believe them. Darwin’s theory of evolution wasn’t the only correct insight that was thoroughly disbelieved. Some of his geological revelations were scoffed at, too – until the evidence became overwhelming that he was, in fact, absolutely correct.

That’s one of the things I love about Darwin. In reading his geological books, I see the same methodical, patient collecting and collating and arranging of different bits of evidence. Darwin wasn’t one of those people who has a flash of brilliant insight and leaves it to others to find the proof he’s right. He didn’t seem to like to say anything until he had investigated thoroughly. He seemed obsessed by the tiny details others may have glossed over. You’ll see how obsessed when I write about his final geological work, which exemplifies the man’s attention to detail. But that obsession served him in good stead. It meant that when people called what they thought was his bluff, he could lay out a royal flush he’d spent a long time building, bit by bit.

He wasn’t always right. The science was too young, and the tools too crude, for him to get it all. But nearly two hundred years later, some of his discoveries still stand. Not bad for a man who once proclaimed he’d never so much as touch a book on geology, much less engage in its study.

But I’m going to turn away from Darwin for the moment – I’ve just received my long-desired copy of Geology of Oregon by Elizabeth and William Orr. It’s been incredibly hard to find a copy for under $50, but I did it, and it’s in excellent condition, too. And it is sitting beside me now, saying, “Put down the musty old mysteries. Turn from gentlemen on boats landing to scramble around South America’s geological wonders in a long-vanished age. READ ME DAMN IT.” I’m afraid I have no other choice but to obey.

Scenes from Snowpocalyse 2012

This bird’s arse illustrates how I feel about yesterday:

We’re snowed in. I took the day off, and spoke to various relatives regarding deceased and mentally disabled relatives, and prepared to put out a few brush fires which I shall tell you about when we know whether they’re truly out or liable to erupt into a crown fire. Then I snapped this picture of a bird’s arse through the window, because I am cooped up inside and getting bored. It turned around a moment later and presented a more suitable angle for photography:

Cujo has a rather more flattering portrait of a similar bird. They were adorable. They were also the only entertainment on offer.

Relations spoken to, equipment in readiness for some firefighting on the morrow (now today), I found myself no longer amused by bird butts, and bundled up to walk to Staples. I’ve been deprived of bookstores due to snowstorms since Sunday. I’m out of the turn-of-the-century detective literature I’m craving. So, I thought, I’d get myself a tablet. That way, I could sneer at the weather and just download whatever the fuck I pleased, thus thumbing my nose at the weather whilst still being able to comfortably read in bed.

Staples, however, had closed due to weather. Bastards. How dare they care for their employees’ well-being when I’m literature-deprived? And then, having denied me the chance at a tablet, make me applaud them for their good sense and kindness in allowing their employees to head home while there was still a chance of making it there alive?

There was nothing left to do but drop by my friend Starspider’s apartment and help torture her cat.

This is Galahad, learning that outside is made of cold, wet and pain. We did this to him because he thought outside was made of birds and rainbows and fun, and threatened to run out into traffic. We think he’s been disabused of these tendencies.

This is Galahad considering whether or not to murder his mother. He decided if he did, the chances of the door being opened were minimal, so he refrained.

We tortured the cat until we’d finished our cigarettes, then relented. He still loves us. I’m not sure why. And before you have too much sympathy for him, remember he’s a long-haired cat who never even got damp, and it was ultimately for his own good. He has not, as yet, asked to go back outside, so the experiment so far seems successful.

This experiment will not be repeated with my cat. I value my life.

The snow’s lingering. Next course on the weather menu is a bit more snow and possibly some freezing rain, followed by a rapid warming, which will mean flooding and possible landslides. Fun and more fun. At least it doesn’t do this often.

I took some good images of my outdoor rocks dusted with snow. In our next edition of Scenes from Snowpocalyse 2012, I’ll find some clever things to say about them. Either that, or I’ll just post them without comment, chuck my cat into a snowdrift as a distraction, and flee. Or I could take the safe route and direct you toward Starspider’s post on bitters. For now, it’s time for another dose of Rex Stout. I believe I’ll filch Archie Goodwin’s personality for dealing with counselors, lawyers and snow today. It could come in useful, especially as a tool for retaining my sanity.

Interlude with Cat: Le Miewse

Yes, that’s the best title I can come up with. It’s late, Aunty Flow’s here, I’m on a variety of OTC painkillers, I’ve been reading for Los Links and also reading a rather mind-bending book by Oliver Sacks, and I think my brain has quietly slipped out the back door and legged it down an ally to freedom.

So it’s time for pictures full o’ mindless cute. And hideous puns.

pensive cat

The cat pretending she's pondering whilst monopolizing my lap

I’ve spent the last little while writing in bed. It’s easier to jockey a notebook in there – easier, at least, until the cat decides the rest of the bed isn’t good enough, and she must lie atop Mom in about the place where the notebook goes. This is exhausting work for a felid. Luckily, there’s a nice paper pillow nearby.

sleepy kitteh

The cat pillows her head on the notes for my magnum opus.

Do you know how hard it is to write with a cat’s noggin in the way? And she snores. And she’s cute. It’s terribly distracting. I’ve begun to wonder why writers are so often associated with cats. We don’t actually get as much writing done in their presence as one might think.

kitteh with pillow

The cat takes over the second pillow.

When she’s tired of getting bonked in the head with the ever-shifting notebook, she’ll sometimes make her way off to the side, where her pillow is. Yes, that’s her pillow. It lies flat, so that she can curl up on it and bask under the lamp. She’s spoiled rotten, that cat.

There are times, when she’s cuddled up with me like this, that I just put the notebook down and look in to her eyes. She’s got remarkable eyes, green with hints of blue and gold. She’s got a very patrician stare. Most of the time, she looks upon me as a serving wench, staring as if from a great height no matter how high above her I tower. But at times, those green-gold-blue eyes stare into mine with the purest adoration, and she purrs so loudly the whole bed seems to hum, and stretches her little white-capped paws out on me with vast contentment, and sighs deeply, as if she’s sinking in to the rightness of the world. In those moments, I get a sense of the love parents must have for their children, that vast and unconditional and heart-wrenching affection the English language doesn’t have a proper word for.

We’ve been together a lot of years, that cat and I. I have no idea how many good ones we’ve got left. So sometimes, I do take the time to just stop and cuddle with her. Gather your cuddles while ye may…

She’s over on the back of the couch right now, snoring away. In a short little while, we’ll head for bed, where she’ll probably do her usual routine of using Mommy as a trampoline before settling down for the night. I may wake in the morning to a little feline face butting mine, and some pretty urgent meowing, if I forget to fill the food bowl. I may wake to a warm bundle of fur ready for a snuggle before the day starts. I never know what I’m getting from her, except this one thing: companionship.

I’m Unexpectedly Entertaining

Not like funny ha ha or dramatic or anything like that sort of entertaining, alas. A very dear friend from Oregon has arrived, and I haven’t got anything pre-written, so I’m afraid it’s the cat for you lot again.

I got her with her eyes open, for once:

It was a sunbeam sort of day. We haven’t had many of those. And she was annoyed because I’d had the audacity to make some sort of noise.

I’m afraid she finds me a failure as a personal assistant. Sigh.

Anyway, whilst I’m busy, do go entertain yourself watching Jen take on the Burzynski Clinic and leave nothing but scorched earth and perhaps a few melted syringes behind.

I’m Running Late. Have a Cat.

I’ve spent most of the day on the phone with various family members. The problem with getting in touch with people you haven’t spoken to in years is that you get caught up in catching up, and then all your cunning plans for finishing Los Links go right out the door. I could do it tonight, but I’m not gonna. Got fiction writing to do.

I’ll have them out sometime during the day. In the meantime, I shall distract you once again with my cute cat.

This is her idea of being an aid to the creative process. Isn’t she cute? You can even, if you look closely, spot the bright white spot on my arm where she bit me once. She is the reason I will never ever own a tiger or other wild cat. That temptation, never strong, ended the day we were playing and she nearly bit my arm in half during a moment of enthusiasm.

People wonder why I love such a violent little beast. But I mean, really, it’s hard not to love this face:

And she doesn’t bite nearly so hard as she used to. She’s merely quasi-evil now.