Dear Fellow White People: Could We Maybe Stop Letting Cops Get Away With Murder?

I haven’t said anything about Mike Brown and Eric Garner because I’ve been too angry to talk about it. And a lot of other FtBers have said or linked to the needful things. I hope you’ve read them, and shared them.

There’s nothing for me to say that hasn’t been said by someone else, probably better, but staying silent isn’t an option. Especially not when so many of my fellow white people are just fine with two grand juries deciding not to indict cops who murder black men. You can get them to indict a ham sandwich, but not a pig who’s killed a person of color. And you can get white people to scream about injustice if they get treated impolitely by a traffic cop, but apparently summary execution for the crime of existing while black is fine by them. They’re happy to dig up any petty excuse to justify murder, then. Dude was big and scary. He broke a minor law once. He shouldn’t have resisted the officer who was intent on killing him.

And I don’t have the precise words to capture the loathing I feel for the smug little shitstains who piously claim they’re not racist while cheering on the murder of black folk, or spout the ten thousand racist excuses that make them feel it’s an unfortunate necessity.

I wish I had the power to transfer all of the parent’s grief into their skulls. I wish I could make them experience a lifetime of systemic racism, make them go through the experience of having to coach their kids on how not to get shot by the police, have them live in fear every day that this will be the day their phone rings with the news that the police have decided to execute their son. I don’t often wish unbearable suffering on people these days, but if I had the power, I’d make the apologists endure it. It may be the only thing that will shake them out of their complacency. It may be the only way to open the eyes of the willfully blind. Force them to walk all those miles in all those shoes, condense a lifetime into a day, let them feel what it’s like to know that their child got shot down like an animal, and no one gives a shit, because black lives don’t matter to the people with power. I think that if they felt their child ripped away from them, and then watched the justice system let their child’s murderer go free without even the fig leaf of a trial, I think if they had to bear the burden of that unfathomable injustice for just a day, they would collapse under it.

And then, possibly, this might change.

If you’re one of those white folk who’ve been turning away, clucking their tongues, excusing the way black people are gunned down for offenses that wouldn’t even get a white person a stern talking to, even finding excuses for cops murdering black people who are doing nothing wrong at all, stop. Pause a moment, and search what semblance of a conscience you’ve got, and ask yourself if you’d be this willing to look the other way if it was white suburban kids getting executed on the streets without a word, much less a trial, for doing things like jaywalking or selling untaxed cigarettes. Really think about that, because you know the answer’s no. You’re just not going to be willing to admit it at first.

Search yourself for that shred of decency necessary for maintaining a civilized society. Realize that we can’t let cop after cop get away with murder, and call ourselves good.

And then add your voice to the others crying for justice.

Image shows a woman in a trench coat holding two signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "Black Skin is NOT a Weapon."

Image courtesy Johnny Silvercloud
via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Free* to a Good Home: One Obnoxious Uterus, Lightly Used

Hello, there! Are you unhappily joined to a defective uterus, or missing yours altogether? Are you in the market for a working model, but can’t afford a brand-new one (mostly because medical science hasn’t advanced to the point where they can be mass-produced in the lab quite yet, and so you’d have to be a trillionaire to afford the R&D)? Have most of the used uteri you’ve seen for sale been too expensive, too extensively used, or otherwise incompatible?

You’re in luck! I’ve got just the uterus for you. It’s (reasonably) young, has never been used for childbirth, and is only slightly evil. I’m giving it away free* to a good home. It could be yours today!

Image shows a pink smiling uterus plush toy.

Not actual uterus. This is a plushie uterus that belongs to Ruthanne Reid, via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Of course, as with any uterus, there are quirks you should be aware of before transplantation. This uterus likes to masquerade as a threatening caller from horror films. About ten days before menstruation is due to begin, it will begin making calls, hinting about the agony to come. The frequency of the threats will increase as it comes closer to following through on its terrible promises. Bribe it with copious amounts of ibuprofen and cursing, however, and you should be fine.

Image is a someecard with a woman in a Victorian dress. Caption says, "Wow uterus. Sorry for not getting you pregnant. No need to throw a temper tantrum."

Once it’s established this pattern and you’ve become accustomed to it, this uterus will switch tactics, and strike with no warning at all. It may wait until you are on vacation and have forgotten to bring feminine protection and pain medication. You can avoid serious problems by always making sure you’re within a few miles of a drugstore, even if you’d rather lose yourself in the wilderness for weeks.

Image is a medical diagram of a uterus. Caption says, "Important occasion? Time for your period."

Other times, it will begin its ten-day warning calls, and keep them up for weeks or even a month, without ever following through. It will stop responding to all over-the-counter attempts to shut it the fuck up. All you can do in this case is slowly grow more miserable and angry until, at last, it tires of tormenting you psychologically and begins the physical part of the cycle. I’m sorry, but all you can do is tough this technique out. It’s a small price to pay for a working uterus, if a working uterus is what you want!

This uterus has been my boon companion through decades of menstrual excitement, and now it could be yours! It’s eminently suited for providing you offspring, which is a good enough reason for putting up with the damned thing bringing it home today!

Image shows a round embroidery hoop leaning against a couple of rocks. The hoop holds a blue fabric with a uterus embroidered on it in purple thread, with white puffs representing the ovaries.

Awesome uterus art from Hey Paul Studios, via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Uteri like this would normally sell for thousands of dollars. But it’s yours free* if you take delivery today. Act now, before this once-in-a-lifetime offer is no longer available! Don’t let some other person end up with this prime reproductive organ that could be nestled in your very own body. Have this beauty become your very own transplant, and begin enjoying its benefits immediately after your recovery!

While you’re recovering, why not embroider a symbol of your wonderful future with your bright sniny new uterus? Just imagine all the fun you will have together!

Act now! Operators are standing by. They’ll just have to scrub first.

*The uterus itself is free of charge. However, in order to take possession, transplantee must pay donor’s medical expenses, plus reasonable recovery costs. Ovaries not included. Uterus is non-returnable, non-refundable, and includes no warranty. Offer void where prohibited by law.

 

 

 

Images Within Images

About time we had some happy fun times round here. Let us play with some of the first photographs of fall, then, shall we? All of the following photos have bits hidden in them, which anyone with a properly-attuned sense of pareidolia might see. I’ll help you along by giving you Subtle Clues.

Ready? Let’s see what’s not really there!

We shall begin with a simple one to warm you all up. This one’s from our recent trip to Ross Lake Dam. You can find a fantasy beastie along the trail. Question is, which movie is it from? Star Wars? Neverending Story? One I haven’t mentioned?

Image shows a group of rocks in a forest.

Ross Lake Beastie

And there’s a waterfall in this picture, I promise you.

Photo shows sort of winch thingy in the foreground, then Ross Lake, and the far shore. There is a waterfall falling in the distance somewhere.

Right. Now you’re properly warmed up, find Jesus and Chthulu!

Photo is a group of gneiss boulders. There is a Christian symbol, and a thing that looks like one of the Great Old Ones or Elder Gods.

Special bonus internet points to anyone who can identify the type of rock we’re looking at.

Going more local to me, here is a late-blooming Bothell pea, with a face hidden somewhere within its surroundings:

Image shows a purple-pink pea flower. The background has a pattern that looks sort of like the Face on Mars.

And, finally, we have got a late-blooming rose with two bees. It’s the second bee you’re searching for:

Image shows a bee hovering over a pink rose. There's another bee barely visible around the edges of the bloom.

I also just noticed the bee-shadow on the petals. That’s super!

The weather has been spectacular. With luck, it’ll hold through our upcoming Oregon trip, during which we’re going to go do a little light geology with Lockwood and soak in the last of the serious sunbeams. I’ll bring you back lots of lovely photos! And perhaps a few more hidden things, if you’ve enjoyed peering at these.

Okay, Okay, Jeez, I’ll Get You a Feeder!

For the second time this summer, a little gray hummingbird has hovered meaningfully in the corner of my porch where a feeder could be hung quite handily, looked at me for a minute, and then zipped away. I am apparently being told in no uncertain terms that a hummingbird feeder is desired. I live to serve not only cats, but hummingbirds! Just think of the photos I could get for you, my darlings!

But I refuse to hang a feeder in ignorance. Advice and recommendations from those of you who know about this stuff would be awesome. The birds, the cat and I all thank you!

Image shows a gray and green hummingbird in flight against a pale gray background.

This isn’t my hummingbird. That little bugger never hovers when I have a camera ready. This is a female Anna’s hummingbird which vaguely resembles it. Photo by Matthew Field. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Cataclysm: “Stripped from the Proximal Forest”

A rather extensive forest became part of a directed blast deposit: that’s the summary. One moment, you’re a green and pleasant home for much of the local wildlife; the next, you’ve been rudely ripped apart and incorporated within a bunch of rock and ash by a volcano having a bad turn. So it goes.

When Rick Waitt traced the fate of Mount St. Helens’s magnificent forests, he found they’d had quite the adventure (aside from being knocked flat, bruised, battered, buried, and burnt).

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250.

Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Within the down-timber zone, it was clear some rather spectacular force had been applied. It wasn’t piddly little wood fragments and needles that became deposits, but entire tree trunks. Whole limbs had been ripped off, splintered, and subsequently dumped. The heavier bits, as heavy bits tend to do, remained close to the ground as the blast carried them along. As the flow lost energy, the heavy bits of layer A1, including its compliment of ex-trees, settled out first, fining upward as the deposit accumulated. Mind you, when I say “fined upward,” I don’t mean they got all demure and small, even close to the volcano. No, the ex-tree bits in subsequent layers within layer A2 and the pieces that landed atop layer A3 were as mind-blowingly large as 75 centimeters (29.5 inches). Not only that, but the way they landed show they were first torn loose by that erosive front of the blast, then heaved high in the air by the following phase, held airborne by convection, then unceremoniously dumped moments later.

Warner Bros., I think, could have animated that sequence in the tradition of Wiley E. Coyote to fine effect.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Stratigraphic section atop distal downed tree, 15-25 km from Mount St. Helens. Layers A2 and A3 overlie bark. Rule for scale. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 267, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Other branches, pine cones, and bits ripped from the unfortunate forest were light enough to continue traveling. They sailed the volcanic winds even beyond the boundary of layer A2, past the devastated area, and came to rest in a bed of silty layer A3, then were covered with a blanket of the following air-fall deposits left by the central eruption column. Some of those fragments were as long as 15 centimeters (6 inches). Imagine how much force it requires to take pieces of wood half the length of a school ruler and keep them in the air for twenty minutes or more.

Yeah.

Mixed up in all that were smaller remains, a mulch of fir needles, splinters, and twigs. In most areas, they can be found in all three layers, but to the north the energy of the blast was so ferocious it wouldn’t let them settle out until layer A3 did. Almost everything was burnt black, no matter where it landed, showing it all got seared before coming to rest. Only the needles and branches flying through the southern edge of the east side of the blast managed to come out without a thorough scorching, showing the blast cloud wasn’t so hot there. Still fast and furious enough to rip trees apart and turn them from biology into geology, though.

Thus ends the story of The Forest that Was. From here on, our relationship with the blast deposits will get decidedly rocky.

Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250.

Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

 

Previous: The Cataclysm:”Fully Down and Buried”

References:

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

 Previously published at Rosetta Stones.

 

That My Chair. Also, That My Chair.

I’m knee-deep in creationist textbooks. It takes bloody forever to get through a chapter because I have to constantly stop and look shit up. And I just found a copy of A Beka’s latest mangling of Earth science, so I’ll soon have more work to do. I’ll start posting the results in September for your entertainment/outrage, but for the moment, all I can give you is cat photos.

Misha has a very large porch, and lots of places on it. She has her pillow

Misha's lying on a white pillow on the porch.

Misha upon her pillow.

and her rug

Misha is lying on a multi-color rug on the porch.

Misha’s rug.

and under the new chair

Misha is lying underneath a turquoise patio chair with her tail wrapped around one of the legs.

Misha’s new chair.

and on the new chair.

Misha is sitting on a turquoise patio chair

Misha on the new chair.

But the spot she really wants at any given time is the chair I’m on, which at that moment was the lounge chair. Being a cat, she took partial ownership.

Misha at my feet, looking back and sniffing.

The bottom third of the lounger was now hers. She also wanted my bowl of cereal.

She purred hard enough when I sat back down with the cereal that she had the whole chair humming. Totes adorbs, so of course she got some of the milk. And when I went in for lunch, my chair was forfeit.

Misha sleeping peacefully in the middle of the lounger.

MY chair now.

She thought this entertaining until I sat down on the patio chair. Then it was no fun anymore, because I had a comfy chair, and she’s too old to jump up in my lap at that height. Also, the workers in the next apartment began making too much noise, so she buggered off.

I know, she’s spoiled rotten. At her age, she can have almost anything she wants. Including my chairs.

This is the best part about working from home. She’s still alert and active and curious and feisty. We get to spend nearly every moment together, while she’s still got good times left. I’ll miss her terribly when she’s gone. But at least I’ll have these moments to remember. We’ll squeeze a lot of good times out of these days. And she’ll always be part of me.

I’ll even have the scars to prove it, vicious wee beastie that she is.

Yes, There’s a New Theme. No, It’s Not Perfect Yet

Things look different today, yes. Thank our tech guy that nothing seems to have gone missing, and that the thing actually functions.

For those of you who like the see the most recent posts on the themes that interest you most, this new design should work wonderfully.

Yes, it could function better. Yes, you can tell us what you love, and hate, what works for you and what’s horribly broken, and what improvements you’d like to see. Here’s the link to report tech issues. Use it to report all your wants and needs. You can report them to me, but I may be too busy howling my lungs out over the fact I can’t simply click a button on the main page to see our blogs neatly listed with their most recent posts to hear you. So I’d suggest rather than leaving a comment here and hoping I’ll remember to pass it along, you use the tech support link.

I’m going to go back to demanding a more versatile front page now. Among other things…

On The Necessity of Geology

There is an urgent need for talking and teaching geology.

Many people don’t know it. They think geology is rocks, but if they’re not rock aficionados, it’s nothing to do with them. So our K-12 schools inadequately teach the earth sciences (pdf). People don’t learn about geology, and they grow up to move to hazardous areas without being aware of the risks. They grow into politicians who feel it’s smart to sneer at volcano monitoring. They become people who don’t understand what geologists can and cannot do, and imprison scientists who couldn’t predict the unpredictable.

L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. A goverment's office disrupted by the 2009 earthquake. Image and caption courtesy The Wiz83 via Wikimedia Commons.

L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. A goverment’s office disrupted by the 2009 earthquake. Image and caption courtesy The Wiz83 via Wikimedia Commons.

So we need to talk geology, anywhere and everywhere we can.

A while ago at work, we got on the subject of earthquakes. I don’t remember how it happened, but suddenly, I was surrounded by a gaggle of people whilst I pulled up a diagram of the local subduction zone and delivered a mini-lecture on how it works.

You’d think such pontification would drive people away. It didn’t. They were riveted.

Cascadia Seismogenic Zone. Image courtesy R.D. Hyndman, Geological Survey of Canada.

Cascadia Seismogenic Zone. When it finally comes undone, the Pacific Northwest will experience catastrophe on a scale that will make Mount St. Helens look like a sneeze. Image courtesy R.D. Hyndman, Geological Survey of Canada.

Granted, it’s a fascinating subject. But there’s a huge amount of misinformation floating about in the aether. I had to do some gentle correction – and a bit of putting the fear of Cascadia into folks. It reminded me how critical it is to be aware of what’s going to hapen here – and how few people realize it.

One of my coworkers had vaguely heard that there was a dangerous fault that could lead to a big earthquake near Oregon. He didn’t realize Washington was also at risk – and we’re not ready for something so huge. Everyone I was speaking to looked extremely surprised when I told them we will get hit with a subduction zone earthquake on the order of the Tōhoku Earthquake that devastated Japan in March 2011 – and that we are far more vulnerable than Japan was, because we haven’t done what they have to prepare.

A close-up view of the ripped and twisted metal on a Japanese dock that washed ashore at Agate Beach, OR. The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami ripped this 47 ton concrete and metal structure from its moorings and sent it to sea. It floated across the Pacific to land in Oregon over a year later. Author's photo.

A close-up view of the ripped and twisted metal on a Japanese dock that washed ashore at Agate Beach, OR. The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami ripped this 47 ton concrete and metal structure from its moorings and sent it to sea. It floated across the Pacific to land in Oregon over a year later. Author’s photo.

That’s when the fear started. It’s a healthy fear, a realistic one I wish more citizens shared. We don’t need paralyzing fear, but the galvanizing kind, the kind that forces us to get informed and do what it takes to prepare for the inevitable.

We discussed some of the risk we’d face here in our particular corner of the Seattle area. We’re far enough inland and high enough in elevation that we won’t have to worry about being washed away by a tsunami. But some folks were under the impression we’d be safe from earthquake damage here. That’s not true. We won’t suffer the worst of it, unlike the coast, but a look at the shake map shows we’re going to get a shaking strong enough to cause damage; we’ll experience several minutes of severe shaking, and those earthquake waves have a terrible potential to get trapped and amplified by the basin we’re in, making that shaking worse. We are going to get hit: that’s a certainty (pdf). It could be today, tomorrow, months or years, but the Cascadia subduction zone will eventually slip catastrophically. And many of the residents don’t even know it’s there. Most of our emergency services aren’t prepared for an event of that magnitude (pdf). They don’t realize that “The Big One” isn’t going to be a single event, but a series of severe shocks that could go on for years after the 9.0. Ignorance of geology will lead to a greater catastrophe, because we didn’t know enough to prepare our cities against seismic threats.

Looking toward shore on Agate Beach, it becomes obvious we haven't prepared for the 9. Note the shiny new hotel nestled right in the low point of the tsunami hazard zone. This is why we need to talk geology: so that people don't risk their lives and fortunes by building in the path of inevitable destruction. Author photo.

Looking toward shore on Agate Beach, it becomes obvious we haven’t prepared for the 9. Note the shiny new hotel nestled right in the low point of the tsunami hazard zone. This is why we need to talk geology: so that people don’t risk their lives and fortunes by building in the path of inevitable destruction. Author photo.

Ordinary people who are not rock-obsessed have a need for geology. It’s a necessity, not a luxury. Here’s what a basic knowledge of geology can do for a person:

Those of us who know geology need to talk about it, write about it, wax lyrical over it and fight for it. And for those of us who’ve given it short shrift in the past, it’s time to reassess our relationship to the rocks beneath our feet. It’s never been more important than now.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

 

Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

Cryptopod: Lavender Eyes (With Bonus UFD!)

Let’s break out of the North American rut, shall we? Here’s a gorgeous moth from Latvia, sent by our own RQ:

Image shows a moth on a brick sidewalk. The wings are red-orange, with black and purple eyespots.

Cryptopod I by RQ

I’m in love with those eyespots. I’m a sucker for the cool colors, blues and greens and purples, and that lavender eyespot fills me with all kinds of squee. It also vaguely reminds me of Drizzt Do’Urden – lavender eyes and all, you see.

Image is a crop of the previous photo, allowing the moth to be seen closely.

Cryptopod I by RQ

RQ says of her wonderful moth, “The colouring’s pretty fantastic, but it’s a common one around here. I’ve come to realize that, while they come in a different range from tropical nature, the colouring of northern hemisphere birds and insects is by no means boring or monotonous (see also: the [redacted], appended).”

Yep, RQ and I know what this UFD is already, but I figured I’d throw you an extra challenge, because why not?

Image shows a pinkish-brown bird with a dark stripe near its short beak, zebra-stripes on the wings, and dark flight feathers with a white throat and rump.

UFD I by RQ

There you are, my darlings. Two lovely creatures for your identification pleasure.

Plenty of room on this blog for more, you know, and I love it when we go worldwide. Got unidentified biological entities? Send ‘em to me! dhunterauthor at gmail will do.

“A Simple Answer”

What Avi said about the “Why don’t X produce Y” questions that clueless privileged people ask about the horribly disadvantaged. This is in context of Israel’s current enthusiastic killing of Palestinians, but with minor modifications, it applies to just about every sort of people who have a hard time producing the kinds of artists and intellectuals and so forth that we so admire:

I remember Dawkins and other atheists asking question once. Why does Israel produce so many people who are smart and productive while Palestinians do not.

And to that I have a simple answer.

There are no mathematics lessons in a fox hole.

Why is it that people who live in societies and bits of societies where they are largely (or completely) not forced to divert all of their physical and intellectual resources to mere survival so surprised that people not similarly advantaged can’t produce what the advantaged can produce? It’s like some jackass growing a garden in rich, rockless loam marveling that their neighbor can’t grow prize-winning zucchini on a cracked concrete slab.

That’s just the sad coda to a tragic post about a horrific situation. Read the whole thing. And then consider a donation to Médecins Sans Frontières. Facing inhumanity with humanity seems the only thing to do…

Kelly, MSF anesthetist, in the intensive care unit of the burns service of Shifa hospital where two brothers, 8 and 4 years old, are hospitalized after being severely burned when a missile fell on their house. Image/caption credit: Samantha Maurin/MSF

Kelly, MSF anesthetist, in the intensive care unit of the burns service of Shifa hospital where two brothers, 8 and 4 years old, are hospitalized after being severely burned when a missile fell on their house. Image/caption credit: Samantha Maurin/MSF

And yes, I know the United States not only supports Israel so that it can bomb children on beaches, but does quite a lot of bombing children on its own. And no, I don’t approve when we do it, either.