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. [Read more…]

“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.

Squirrel!

You’ve not seen anything in life until you’ve seen a squirrel dragging a hunk of bread nearly half its size up a tree.

Image shows a squirrel perched in a tree with an enormous hunk of bread

Okay, I may be exaggerating the size of the bread a bit, but still, it was at least the size of a softball. And that squirrel wasn’t letting go for anything.

I love wild critters, and the way some of them have adapted to urban life. I love the mallards along the stream behind the ballfields who shamelessly demand food, and the crows who remember neighborly acts and never forget (although they may, eventually, forgive) a slight. I adore the adorable things they do. And I admire their moxie.

I imagine most of you have got stories. Do share!

What “Religious Freedom” Looks Like

So-called “religious freedom” bills are springing up like maggots on corpses. Some of you may wonder what such freedom looks like. Zinnia can tell you: she knows just what that freedom looks like to a trans person.

Before this, I actually didn’t have a regular physician, largely because I just didn’t want to deal with doctors. It’s not due to some arbitrary aversion – it’s because receiving appropriate and sensitive healthcare when you’re trans, even healthcare completely unrelated to transitioning, is a minefield.

Trans people have often found that when they seek care for any sort of illness, their doctors advise them to discontinue HRT regardless of whether their current health problem has any connection to this. Some of us don’t even get that far – one of my friends was unable to receive any medical attention for her asthma simply because her doctor refused to treat trans people at all [emphasis added].

This issue is more than anecdotal: in a national survey of over 6,000 trans people, 19% reported they had been denied service by a healthcare provider due to being trans. 28% had been harassed in a medical setting because they’re trans. And 28% also reported that because of disrespect and discrimination from providers, they delayed or avoided treatment when they were ill.

That may not be wise, but when cis people go to a clinic for a flu or a broken toe, they generally don’t have to worry about being turned away just because of who they are. We do, so seeking care can be a difficult thing to contemplate. When going to a new and unfamiliar doctor, we never know what kind of ignorance or hostility we’re going to face. It’s an alarming unknown.

Think about that, the next time you blithely make an appointment, never once worrying that your doctor will refuse to treat you because you’re gay or a trans person or someone who makes their shitty little god angry.

Think about that the next time you see people legislating hate.

Image shows Morpheus from the Matrix. Caption reads, "What if I told you bigots are using freedom of religion to hide their bigotry in this issue."

 

Hey, Christianist Textbook Fans! Wanna Do Something Fun?

The FtBCon2 Panel on Religion and Homeschooling will be going on at 2pm Pacific – if you hate-to-love and/or love-to-hate our Christianist texts, you should come hang out! Just click that big red banner at the very top of the page to get there.

You can also use it to see the other awesome stuff going on today and tomorrow. I’d be all over everything if I didn’t have deadlines. You’ll have to rub some salt in my wounds by telling me what I’m missing.

***

Well, that was information-packed and a bit terrifying if you’ve not encountered the extremism in the fundamentalist Christian homeschool movement. Did you miss it? Not to worry! There’s a video:

For those, like me, who almost never watch videos, I’ll have a synopsis up a bit later.

Adventures in Biblical Literalism: Mountain Majesty

In the interests of thorough and unbiased research on the foundations of creation “science,” I recently subjected myself to the Book of Genesis. I had to clear my mind of all evidence – supporting or un- – and take the thing at face value for the purposes of my quest. I can now tell you from experience that a literal reading of the Bible is not half so much fun in the New Revised Standard Version. It’s no wonder fundies plump for the KJV.

Let us begin with mountains.

The NRSV assures us, in Genesis 7:19-20, that the waters of the Great God-Will-Fuck-Your-Shit-Up Flood were very deep indeed:

19The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

Well, gosh, that seems pretty deep. But how high were the mountains in those days? The NRSV provides no clude. And so, we turn to the Authorized (King James) Version for our answer, which I am assured by fundamentalists must be there. [Read more…]

Many of Your Wishes Are Already My Commands

Many of you aren’t shy about letting me know what you want – and I sincerely hope you never will be, because it’s easier than guessing. I’m always happy to get meaningful nudges from you. I’m even happier when I can oblige.

Sometimes, I can deliver what you request nearly instantly. Sometimes, it requires research and takes longer. There are times when what you want and what I can deliver don’t mesh – but that’s not to say circumstances won’t change. There are things I can do now that I couldn’t do then, so one never knows. The point is, you should never fail to make your desires known. Just, y’know, prepare for a possibly long wait. And I’ll try to let you know if something is completely impossible for me. Like, for instance, answering email on time. (Look, I answer nearly instantaneously on a geologic timescale, right? So if we could all just manage to live for a few billion years…)

So a few meaningful nudges have been given lately, and I do want to assure you I’m headed in many of the directions indicated.

Image is a Siamese cat staring raptly at a bit of raw salmon being offered with chopsticks. Caption says "Yes, master... your wish is my command" [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: Why Geologists Aren’t Worried About Ending Up on the Naughty List

Some of you may remember when I originally discussed why naughty geologists have no fear of what’s in their stocking, but you may enjoy it again – especially since there are added bonus pictures!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do something naughty so that Santa will fill my stocking with coal. Yay!