Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XIII: Wherein We Dive into Dominion

Ah, ocean exploration. Tis true, we know less of the ocean deeps than we do the surface of Mars. Tis also true that creationists know less of it than scientists do. But they believe oceans are “so essential to biblical dominion,” so Earth Sciences 4th Edition plans to take us exploring.

They blurb the chapter by waxing eloquent over how mysterious the ocean is. There’s been a Mysterious Sound detected by underwater microphones, even, which they say “scientists think come from an animal larger than the blue whale.” As per usual, creationists haven’t got much of a clue as to what scientists actually think. It could be an animal larger than a blue whale, but it could also be ice calving, or an animal smaller than a blue whale, but really talented at making low-frequency noises. It could even be Cthulu snoring. But NOAA’s pretty sure now that it was actually just an icequake, and they were just joshing about the possibility of it being a mysterious maclargehuge animal.

Now, why would creationists cling to the large animal theory? [Read more…]

“Now is the time we raise our voices”

In light of the Tim Hunt saga, now seems to be a good time to rerun this piece. I’m hoping to free up some time to write up some fresh stuff for ye – in the few scattered minutes where I’ve not been obsessing over finding a place to live and how to get rid of a ridiculous number of books, I’ve had Thoughts about privileged people’s responses to both Hunt’s sexist asshattery and the appalling slaughter in Charleston. I hope to share them coherently soon. Right now, I’m just wanting to grab certain people – almost inevitably white men – by the lapels, and shake them and shout at them until some sense penetrates.

One thing I will say is: good. I’m glad they’re whining about witch hunts. I’m glad they’ve been rocked back on their heels by the volume and effectiveness of the response. I’m glad they’re clutching at any excuse to avoid facing the reality that they’re losing. They’re losing their assumed and unquestioned superiority. They are being forced to share, and they can’t stand it. They’re being required to behave, and it’s outraging them. They’re facing actual consequences, and they have no idea why, or how to deal with it. They’re having to confront some damned ugly facts about how society works, and they’re completely horrified. Good. The louder they howl, the more they protest, deny, and try to accuse and redirect, the clearer it becomes we’re getting through to them, and it’s making them more uncomfortable than they’ve ever been in their clueless, privileged little lives.

This is why we raise our voices. This is why it’s essential that we never stop. Not until they’ve finished howling their wretched little lungs out, and are finally ready to listen. Then, only then, we might have a chance to speak without having to shout.

Read this. Read all of it. If you’re very busy and must read it later, read this bit right now. [Read more…]

Visiting Mount St. Helens This Summer? Getcher Guides Right Here!

Oh, hai, it’s getting to be that time of year when you’ve got a greater than 10% chance to actually see Mount St. Helens when you visit! Were you planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Wanting to swing by and visit our most explosive attraction? June-October is the time to do it!

You’ll want guides, too! I’ve got some for ye. Best part is, they’re totally free! Download them before you go, and make sure you give yourself some time to read up before you arrive. There’s so very much to see and do, even if you end up visiting on a day when the volcano itself is hiding behind clouds.

Mount St. Helens in May of 2014.

Mount St. Helens in May of 2014.

Do you only have a single day? My very own guide to the west-side approach to Mount St. Helens may be just the ticket. Yeah, it looks like a lot, but you can easily do it all in a single bound, even if you’re traveling from Seattle or Portland.

I’m afraid I can’t guide you around the rest of the mountain yet, but Barbara and Robert Decker’s slender but eminently useful guide can steer you right. You can view an online copy here, but be sure to pick up a paper copy while you’re visiting. It’s available in all the gift shops and has an abundance of lovely color photos.

For those who are looking for more in-depth geology, make sure you do not forget to download Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity by Patrick T. Pringle. This guide is the most recent I’ve found, and contains details on numerous approaches to the volcano. It’s packed with delicious geology.

Then download a copy of Road guide to volcanic deposits of Mount St. Helens and vicinity, Washington by Michael P. Doukas. This one’s got you covered for both east and west-side approaches.

I know. Those last two are a bit technical, and none of them except the first include Dana’s super-awesome snark. But they’ll steer you to some great stuff. And next year, possibly sooner, fates willing, thee shall have a wonderfully modern, snarky, photo-filled guide to the west side written by your very own Dana Hunter. Soon after that, thee shall have your very own Dana-authored book about the May 18, 1980 eruption, which will be a revised and expanded version of the series we have going on here at this very blog. I am working on both as we speak! Look, I even have a handy meme for you to print out and keep posted somewhere prominent so you can reassure yourself that it’s really really happening.

Image is a slightly expanded crop of me with Mount St. Helens from May 2007. Caption reads, "Yes, I am indeed writing a Mount St. Helens book!"

For serious, folks, I am.

I made it because bunches of you have been hounding me about authoring a Mount St. Helens book, and I figured a little visual confirmation would help. Besides, this is a special photo, because it’s from the only time I’ve ever been to Mount St. Helens when it’s erupting. Seriously, it’s erupting, right behind me! You can read all about that right here.

That should get you started. Please do let me know if you have any specific requests for the future guide – input definitely welcome! And have an awesome visit. I know I’m partial, but I sincerely believe this is one of the best active volcanoes to play around in the world.

A Study in Volcanics: 5 Reasons You Gotta Visit Mount Baker

Outside of Glacier Peak, Mount Baker seems to be the least-regarded of the I-5 corridor volcanoes. Mounts Hood, Helens, and Rainier seem to suck up all the ooing-and-awing oxygen. Baker, not as much.

But it repays attention. For one, it’s active. For two, it’s not monitored closely enough. For three, it’s got a surprising amount of various volcanic deposits all visible during a leisurely trip up Mount Baker Highway. You don’t even have to get an early start. [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Sweetly Symmetrical

When it’s hot in the Pacific Northwest, one has a few options. There are a few restaurants, businesses, and entertainment facilities that have air conditioning. There’s the Sound, which is good and cold and has a few nice beaches. And there’s the mountains, with gorgeous streams cascading down them, cooling the place off on the way.

It got to be around 90 on Monday, so B and I headed into the Cascades. This is one of the best times of year to go, because all of the green growing things are busy being pretty. Such as these little delights from Deception Falls: [Read more…]

Damn Right We Did! Women, Civilization-Building, and Men in Denial

Entitled males love to howl about how penis-bearing people did all the hard work creating civilization. It became so much of a trope that David Futrelle renamed his blog after one of their cries: “We hunted the mammoth for you!” To hear men (especially white European males who haven’t done shit with their own lives) tell it, the only people who did anything noteworthy in the entire history of the world had dangly bits between their legs.

After yet another men-did-it-all screed, Rubyyogi had enough, and unleashed some truth upon them: [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XII: Wherein We are Made Seasick

After the extraordinary nonsense of Earth Science 4th Edition’s last chapter, I’m fervently hoping this one is a bit less stuffed with inanity. Our heads and desks all could use the break.

Refreshingly, we begin with an ecowarrior-worthy bit on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ocean currents, we’re told, gather our plastic waste and concentrate it in an area of the Pacific Ocean that “could be larger than Texas!” Bad for the environment, bad for animals, they say, without pretending there’s anything good about it. It’s ES4 at its actual best. Yeah, the kids reading this textbook will end up desperately ignorant about science, but at least they won’t end up thinking pollution is a glory unto God. They may even agree to help us preserve the planet, as long as that doesn’t require responsible birth control.

Image shows Twilight Sparkle shrugging. Caption says, "Never know, could happen"

Look, I’ll take what positives I can get. [Read more…]

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.


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.


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.


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 / (CC-BY-SA-3.0).

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