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Jul 21 2014

“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.

Jul 21 2014

New at Rosetta Stones: Moar Illinois Geology!

Clearing the backlog of reader-submitted awesomeness continues apace with some lovely shots of Jackson Falls, taken by our own Heliconia, who would’ve also gotten us images of Garden of the Gods if her camera battery hadn’t given her a fine fuck-you just then. Camera batteries are assholes that way. And you can never find the size you need when you’re traveling. Or, if you do, you end up paying a fortune – just ask Cujo about that sometime, if you want to hear a St. Bernard howl. Still. Despite setbacks, Heliconia didn’t forget us, and got us some lovely images of what the Pounds Standstone gets up to when it isn’t forming ginormous shrooms. Do go enjoy!

I’ll probably be in later today with more things, unless cleaning and organizing the house into a proper workspace becomes a time-swallowing uber-Thing, in which case, you may not hear anything substantial from me again until at least Thursday. Good thing there’s a maclargehuge backlog of reader submissions including many intriguing cryptopods, some bonza fungi, botany from around the world, and beautiful mystery flora to keep us all occupied, then, eh?

Jul 20 2014

Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

The trouble with trees (and every other living thing) is that some of them have had to evolve defenses. Some of them are obvious about it, practically shrieking, “I’ll cut/puncture/poison/stickify you! STAY AWAY FROM MEEEE!!!!” Some are subtle and devious jerks, drawing you in by seeming all tame and pretty, then giving you a stealthy stab.

Such is this beauty, which attacked our own RowanVT, and whom she has dubbed Bitey McBiterson, which is the best name for a bush ever:

Image shows a verdant green bush with yellow flowers. It's very fluffy.

Bitey McBiterson I

You’ll have to ask RowanVT where this was. All I know is that it was June, and she was camping…. somewhere. Somewhere that had many interesting and beautiful things, which she sent to us, and one evil bushy tree, which was actually quite pretty. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 19 2014

Sea Stack Pining for the Sea

One of the first roadside zomg-look-at-the-scenery pullouts at the northern end of Cape Disappointment State Park happens to overlook a wonderful example of what happens when sediment fills in the sea round a sea stack. Can you spot it?

Image is looking out to sea. In the foreground are trees, some snags, and a knob of rock. Beyond it is a flat area covered with vegetation and a strip of sandy beach beyond.

Lonely Sea Stack is Lonely

This is the result when a nice, hard stack of basalt (in this case the Eocene Crescent Formation basalt) ends up in a sea of sediment instead of a sea of saltwater. Poor thing is now stuck inland. The only time it’ll be a stack again is either during a tsunami or if sea level rises.

Image shows a closer view of the top of the former sea stack, which has grown a mantle of moss, grass, and possibly a tree.

Let’s Call it Broody.

There’s probably some technical term for these things. I thought it was “knocker,” but that seems to only refer to knobs of rock within a melange. And my brief attempt to wrestle an answer out of Google was non-successful. Who here knows what they’re technically called?

If there is no technical term, I call dibs on calling them “broodies,” just in case that catches on.

Jul 18 2014

Hovergull

A bizarre sight greeted our eyes at Seal Rock State Recreation Site: a nearly-motionless seagull. You scoff, I know, and say it’s not unusual for birds to hang about doing not much of anything, and that is true. However: it’s somewhat rare for them to hang about doing not much of anything in mid-air. This one looked a bit like someone had glued a seagull in a flight pose to a clear stick and was holding it up.

This little bugger went nowhere fast. It hovered happily while other seagulls (including the fledgeling mentioned, but not visible, in the video) zipped and zoomed all round it. There’s probably some explanation for its behavior that’s not limited to “Because, that’s why.” Any seabird specialists in the house?

Image shows one smaller seagull hovering while a larger one flies past

Hovergull

Jul 17 2014

New at Rosetta Stones: Diamonds! They Aren’t Forever!

Our second installment in our Seahawks Super Bowl Ring Geology series is up. In it, we learn how the Earth makes diamonds, and why, despite being over a billion years old, they need rapid transit to survive. It’s hot! It’s shiny! Don’t miss it.

Image shows a large diamond macrocrystal in a dark gray matrix.

A diamond in the rough. Image courtesy USGS.

Jul 16 2014

FtB Con Is Coming! What Do You Want From Me?

Hey, check this out – there’s a new FtBCon happening August 22-24. Now, in the past, I haven’t managed to swing it, but I asked my new boss if I could have the time to participate, and she said,

Image shows a closeup of Misha sleeping curled up on a pillow. Beside her, a colum of zzzz

Asleep on the Job

So I’m assuming that means I have her permission, and I’m a gonna go for it. I’m giving a talk! On what? Well, I figured we’d talk about stuff. And things. Like, maybe, a little presentation on Christianist Earth Science textbooks? Or I can do a talk on some of the magnificent geology we’ve got here in the Pacific Northwest, complete with lovely photos and a theme of “See – you can still have a sense of wonder as an atheist!” Maybe you’ve got a different idea for the kind of talk you’d like me to talk, and I may say, “Hey – that’s totally something I can talk about!”

Tell me what you’d like by, oh, say, this Sunday (July 20th). Then I’ll figure out what I’m capable of delivering, and whip it up for ye.

And if the boss doesn’t like it, well, she shoulda woken up long enough to say something.

Jul 15 2014

I’m Back – With a Challenge!

I’ve returned safely home with enough neat new photos of the Oregon and Washington coasts, plus manylots of waterfalls, to keep us busy for ages. And summer field season ain’t even over!

Here’s an image from the final day of the trip, when we scooped up Lockwood and went geotripping along the coast around Newport and Waldport. I’m doing the Vanna thing at the contact between some seriously massive basalt and the Yaquina Formation sedimentary rocks at Seal Rock State Recreation Site.

Image shows me standing under a lip of massive basalt, in front of streaky sandstone rocks that the basalt overlies.

Moi showing off the lovely contact.

What I’ve learnt on this trip is that I’m going to have to invest lotsa time and effort into catching up with the current professional literature. I can’t really speak intelligently or intelligibly about the geology right at this spot – the field guides are ages out of date, and the geologic map I’ve found is also quite old. If any of you know geologists whose study area includes this bit of the coast, and they love to talk people’s ears off about their work, well, send ‘em my way!

Right, here’s another image, and this one has a challenge within it. It’s from Yaquina Head, and it has got a seal. Can you see it?

Image shows a tight cluster of basalt sea stacks. The ones in the background are tall and covered with birds. The ones in the foreground are nearly at water level. A gray seal is lounging on one set of them.

Thar’s a seal in them thar rocks…

Now, I know you’ll be tempted to identify all the twelve trillion birds on the rocks, but I’ll be posting much better photos of those soon, so hold yer horses! You’ve already got severe enough eyestrain from finding that seal!

As a special bonus, here is a totes adorbs photo of B watching a seal. It’s pretending to studiously ignore him in this image, but it had actually been scoping him out for a bit, following him along the shore.

Image shows B looking out into the near-shore waves, where a seal head is visible.

B with Seal

I’m of to die of the heat and take a long-ass nap. I’ll be back with much more geotrippy goodness a bit later!

Jul 13 2014

A Glimpse

Oh, my darlings, I will have so much scenic goodness for you. So so much. And restaurant recommendations. And adorable fuzzy animals. And hawt hawt geology.

But we’ve got one day more, then I have a coma day set aside to recover. So I’ll just tease you a bit.

The lighthouse at Cape Disappointment:

Image shows a green-capped basalt headland with a lighthouse upon it.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Twas overcast, but it was pleasant, and the scenery was certainly not a disappointment. Then we got to see our Suzanne! And little Token, who cannot ever get enough tummy rubs and has a doggy grin for anyone who’ll keep giving ‘em.

Day Two plans went gang aft agley because of Rainier Days, which had filled every hotel within a billion miles of St. Helens, and a storm that Weather.Com apparently could not see coming. So we improvised, and went to Silver Falls State Park instead. People, it utterly did not suck, and you will be amazed.

Image shows moi standing beside a very lovely waterfall which is plunging over a lip of Columbia River Basalt.

Lower South Falls

And then tomorrow, it’s off to the coast with Lockwood. Excellence awaits. I’ll be back in Seattle shortly, and shall show you All the Things.

Jul 12 2014

The Most Beautiful Moon I’ve Ever Seen

We haven’t even left yet, and the views are spectacular. The Moon at sunset tonight was magnificent.

Image shows the full moon surrounded by whispy pink clouds.

Sunset Moon

It was one of those fortuitous things. A few minutes earlier, a few minutes later, and it wouldn’t have been there, the way it was. Synchronicity. Lovely.

Image if of the moon and sunset clouds with a bit of forest below.

Sunset Moon with Lovely Forest

If this is even a hint of what the trip will be like, we’re in for some scenic times. Wait til I show you them…

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