Dispatches from Women’s World

B and I are sitting side-by-side. We are in different worlds.

Image shows a red planet, a blue moon, and a binary star system.

Binary Star, Nebula, and Planet with Moons courtesy Matt Hendrick via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

B’s wishing he’d known women actually like sex back in his raging hormone days. Society had told him that girls just aren’t in to doing the wild thing, and he’d believed that, so he missed a lot of opportunities. He’s not the sort of man who’d ask a woman to do something she didn’t like. It’s why we’re together.

We’re watching UFC fights. B wishes the cage girls were curvier – these are famine years for men attracted to women who jiggle more in the bum than boobs. He’s hoping for an audience shot of Benson Henderson’s wife, because she’s a hottie. I’m busy watching various nearly-naked men in exquisite physical condition grapple and writhe. Some of the wrestling moves look like they could easily be modified for incredible bedroom encounters. And if Benson Henderson and I were unattached and he was interested, I’d love to test that theory with him. But as much as I’m assessing the fighters for potential happy fun sexytimes, I’m also aware that every one of them could turn horrifically violent in a heartbeat, and their strength, speed, and skill mean I wouldn’t stand a chance. So as much as I enjoy admiring the bodies and consider their performance potential, I’m also trying to read their character, aware that misjudging it could get me raped, killed, or both.

How many men consider calmly the chance that a potential sexual encounter will turn violent? [Read more…]

Maddow’s Mount St. Helens Metaphor for the Iraq War

A lot of you pointed me toward Rachel Maddow’s segment wherein she compares the aftermath of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens with the aftermath of the Iraq War. Even if you hate politics and are sick to death of all mention of the war, watch the beginning. She did a marvelous job narrating the eruption. I tend to avoid talking heads on teevee, but Maddow is an artist as well as a kick-ass-take-names-and-pwn-them-all pundit, so she’s more than a bit of all right.

I love the way she begins the piece:

It started as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, and a large earthquake is almost never a good thing. But when it happens one mile beneath a huge, active volcano, it can be the start of something that feels a little bit like the end of the world.

And really, it did. All of us who watched that ash cloud consume the sky and swallow the day, whether in person or on our television screens, felt that. There are few things more ominous than an eruption cloud.

Now, some of you speculated that she was getting her facts from my posts, but I can assure you she didn’t. [Read more…]

How a Cult Programs You to Stay in the Trap: Escape Chapter 1 (Part Two)

In our last installment of Escape by Carolyn Jessop, we got a taste of the depression, despair, and abuse Carolyn lived with in her FLDS community. Today, we’ll see how her childhood conditioned her to fear the outside world, and accept her lot as an abused wife pumping out endless babies in a loveless plural marriage.

Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT are communities where children literally run screaming away from strangers. It isn’t because of stranger-danger or regular, if exaggerated, fears. Carolyn tells us she and the other kids [Read more…]

It’s the 35th Anniversary of the Big Ba-Boom: Mount St. Helens and the May 18th Eruption

Thirty-five years ago, mini-me watched in awe as Mount St. Helens blew up on our television. A short time later, our neighbors came back with samples of ash and awed stories of the disaster zone. Vulcanologists had gotten an unprecedented opportunity to study a volcano’s eruption cycle from awakening to paroxysmal eruption, but lost some of their own in the process. Many people perished in the eruption, but without dedicated geologists informing everyone of the hazards and insisting on exclusion zones, it could have been so many more. And the many survivors’ tales are utterly gripping.

For thirty-five years, we’ve used Mount St. Helens as a laboratory. It’s taught us endless lessons on how volcanoes erupt, what those eruptions do to the countryside, and how the environment recovers afterward. We’ve learned a lot about the warning signs of impending eruptions. We’ve learned how to recognize debris avalanche and lateral blast deposits. And we’ve marveled at the beauty of a wounded young mountain building itself back up from the inside.

On this day, remember the geologists who gave their lives while studying this volcano.

On this day, remember those who didn’t make it back home from the mountain.

And on this day, thank scientists for effective volcano monitoring.

For those who want to read further about Mount St. Helens and her cataclysmic eruption, you can follow my series here. [Read more…]

The Little Lost Umbrella

Once upon a time, there was a natty black umbrella. It was born in a factory with thousands of others much like it, assembled by sweatshop workers who were desperate to feed their families. Practical hands packaged it, stuffed it in a box with dozens of its siblings, and then it went on a long ride in trucks and ships and possibly on railways until it reached a department store. It lived in the shelves for a while, where children used it as a sword. It felt this gave it character. It loved its swash-buckling days.

It watched a few of its siblings be sold. Their places were taken by close cousins. They all speculated after store closing, wondering what sort of hands they would end up in, and what the rain and wet were they were made to protect people from. [Read more…]

Greetings from Bothell: A Fraught Final Day, but the Waterfalls are Lovely!

Despite everything (well, a few things) conspiring against us, we are home safe from our trip. Alas, Ape Cave and other attractions on the south side of Mount St. Helens were not to be. The weather worsened to the point where the clouds were tickling the tops of even the lower hills, which meant we’d be in rain and fog the whole way if we attempted to make it up the mountain. So we headed for the Columbia River Gorge, which B has never seen. That’s a place that can be done in foul weather. It’s still pretty, see?

Image looks over the Columbia River and its enormous gorge. The Vista House, a round building, is visible atop a jutting tower of basalt in the near distance. The sky is heavy with clouds, which are cutting off the tops of the higher hills.

The Columbia River Gorge from the Portland State Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint aka Chanticleer Point.

Fun fact: that building you see there, the one like a little dot atop that tall basalt point, would’ve been underwater during the Missoula Floods. Wowza.

Even on a rainy off-season Saturday, the place was packed. It seemed like everyone in the Pacific Northwest was visiting. I did manage to catch a shot of the Vista House on Crown Point without a bunch of people, because they were all either inside or on the other side of the balcony for a few seconds.

Image shows a hexagonal building with two tiers. Narrow stained glass windows nearly as tall as each storey make it impossible to see the nine trillion people inside.

Vista House

This is the first time I’ve ever been to Crown Point when that building was open, so B and I zipped inside, took the stairs, and enjoyed the view from the balcony. I’ll show you it in a future post. It’s pretty similar to the previous view, only Vista House isn’t in it.

We couldn’t stop at Latourell Falls because there were no parking spaces left, but we got one at Wahkeena Falls, which I’ve never actually visited. You can ogle them from the viewpoint below, and then, if you wish, hike up a little ways and view the upper tier. We wished, so we did, and here I am with them.

Image shows me standing beside a basalt cliff on the right, with the falls falling to the left.

Moi at Wahkeena Falls.

You can actually hike the short distance to Multnomah Falls from there, and B and I planned to, but he slipped on slippery rocks just after this picture was taken, and went down hard. Fortunately, nothing’s broken, and all he got were a few scrapes, bruises, and a lot of mud, but it was enough to nix any more hiking for the day. We went to Multnomah Falls so he could clean up at their facilities, and then we did take a quick look at the falls, which are spectacular.

Image shows the two tall, thin tiers of Multnomah Falls plunging over basalt. There's a stone arch bridge between the tiers.

Multnomah Falls.

There were far too many people in the way to get a good shot, though. You can see the tops of their heads if you look at the bottom.

We headed up onto the bridge, as B was recovered enough for a little light walking. I was able to get a challenge picture for you! Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find the umbrella in this photo:

Image shows the terrace below Upper Multnomah Falls, and the creek wending its way along. To the right, the sheer cliffs of basalt rise, topped with lush greenery. To the left is a screen of trees, and the walkways filled with people. A sad, lost umbrella is somewhere in this picture...

A little lost umbrella is somewhere in this photo.

I’ll show you it tomorrow, as long as I’m not comatose. So tired…

We got a few more from the bridge, then headed home. We almost didn’t make it, because near Chehalis, some asshole in a very loud car decided she wanted to be in our lane, where we were, going 70 miles an hour on the freeway. She came out of nowhere, accelerating hard, and nearly took the front off my car. I had to brake hard to give her enough room, and for a few seconds, it looked like we were all going into the jersey barriers. We’re lucky the cars crowded around us didn’t hit or get hit by either of us. She sped off, not even having glanced our way, and then zipped over into the slow lanes after a mile or so and dawdled. I have no idea why she was in such a hurry for that short distance, and why I was invisible to her, but since we now had a chance to safely catch her up and get a license plate, we followed her when she exited. B snapped this picture, which I now share for public shaming purposes. If you live in southwestern Washington and know who this car belongs to, please inform her that she almost caused a multi-car wreck with possible fatalities, and she may wish to take a defensive driving course.

Image shows a dark blue Lincoln of some sort with dual exaust and a spoiler. WA license #ATN6376.

The asshole who nearly wrecked us.

We didn’t call the police only because she didn’t seem to be driving drunk. Perhaps her friend had alerted her to her near-massacre, because she drove quite sensibly afterward. Still.

So that was more excitement than we wanted out of today, and not at all the good kind. But the rest of the trip went smoothly, and we have a ton of excellent material for you. The kitties at both houses are alive, well, and thrilled to see us. Misha actually ate nearly all of the treats and dry food I put out and seems to have gained a few ounces, so I’m very happy with that. She howled and howled until I gave her some tuna, and is now curled up beside me, being totes adorbs. She will help me get pictures organized and stuff written up. We’ve got the 35th anniversary of the May 18th eruption on Monday, so I need to get you guys something nice for the occasion. In the meantime, if you’re looking for the series to date, here ’tis. A reader tells me the links at SciAm are completely borked, so please read it here whilst that gets resolved.

I am now going to go relax with my kitty. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, my darlings!

Hapless Dudes Try Labor, Literally Tap Out

I think I may be a bad person for loving this so much. But I have my reasons!

I’ve never given birth, but I’ve experienced pain verging on it. When your menstrual cramps are worse than kidney stones, and your doctor tells you that women who’ve had both babies and kidney stones said the stone were worse than labor, you can be relatively assured you’ve survived something approximating the most painful experience uterus-bearing people typically face. I’m willing to bet that there’s worse things, like maybe being on fire, but childbirth is generally considered to be pretty awful. Yet our culture tells women it’s beautiful, and wonderful, and they shouldn’t ask for pain relief because that will somehow cheapen the experience or something.

You know what, fuck that. [Read more…]

Greetings from Castle Rock: Humongous Hummocks Edition

The weather did its best to ruin our plans today, but we defied it mightily. We didn’t get a single glimpse of Mount St. Helens – unless you count the 2.5 cubic kilometers of the summit we hiked over.

Don’t get the jacuzzi suite if you intend to get an early start, cuz it won’t happen. Fortunately, we hadn’t planned to do too much today, so we got to linger happily in the room for the morning before heading out for adventure. Our first hike o’ the day took us down to the sediment retention dam on the Toutle River. It’s a remarkably easy and pleasant walk through a lovely young forest, with a walk across the top of the dam at the end, and it is magical. Loved it. Here’s a view looking behind the dam, where the water is slowed and the sediment settles out before the river continues on its way.

Image shows the shallow water of the Toutle river spreading across the valley, with purple lupine in the foreground.

Sediment settles behind a screen of lupine.

After that nice warmup, we headed on up the mountain. We dropped by the Forest Learning Center so that B could look at the exhibits – it’s a great place to get a sense of what the May 18th, 1980 eruption did to the forest.

Then it was time for hummocks! The cloud ceiling was just high enough to let us see the awesome eruption features in the river valley, and the rain held off. Yay! And the clouds gave a beautiful silvery sheen to the ponds that have collected within low spots in the hummocks topography.

Image shows the lumpy landslide landscape. The clouds are low down and cutting off the surrounding mountains. A silvery pond shines in the distance.

A pond in the hummocks.

And it was so calm that you could see some exquisite reflections. Here is a beautiful hummock contemplating its own reflection.

Image shows a rubbly gray hummock, looking like a mini-Mount Rainier with its perfect ice-cream scoop shape, reflected in the silvery-gray water of a pond.

Reflected awesome.

Down by the Toutle River, you can walk on a terrace made of lahar deposits and stand close to a hummock sliced in half. This should give you an idea of how huge some of these chunks of landslide debris are.

Image shows me standing in front of a towering mound of landslide debris. It looks like an enormous, chunky-gray cliff, and is at least four times taller than me.

Moi in front of a hummock.

Conifers are slowly returning to the blast area! Here’s one that’s looking like a perfect little Christmas tree topping a hummock.

Image shows a perfect little Christmas tree growing atop a hummock.

D’aw!

After we finished up the Hummocks Trail, we needed a cool-down walk. Luckily, Coldwater Lake is literally one minute away. It was nearly deserted and completely wonderful. And it did a geology demonstration for us! The path passes by a hummock which is too steep for things to grow well on, so it doesn’t have a lot of erosion protection. Water has begun carving it, and here has created a mini-alluvial fan. Awesomesauce!

Image shows the dark-gray side of the hummock. Water has carved some channels into the side, and debris washed down is starting to fan out across the sidewalk.

A baby alluvial fan!

Then, just as we were returning to the car, it started pouring rain, so that worked out beautifully. Our timing couldn’t have been better. Alas, Patty’s Place had closed early due to the lack of business, so we ended up going to a place in Castle Rock. Which was also awesome, despite the poor service and mediocre food, because it was close enough to the hotel for us to take our burgers to go, and still have them be piping-hot as we tucked in whilst watching cartoons.

We’re not yet sure what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends on the weather. We’re hoping to do the south-side approach to St. Helens, but if the weather’s foul, we’ll try the Gorge instead. Either way, we should have plenty of awesome pics for ya!

Where Canada Geese Come From – Plus a UFD!

It ain’t Canada. Well, at least, considerable numbers of them aren’t Canadian. One of the most remarkable sights we saw when we went to Grand Coulee was the goslings. There were so many goslings, people! It seemed like every park we drove by or stopped at in the coulees was filled with geese and goslings. You’d see a handful of adults and infinite seas of babies. I have never seen this many goslings in my life.

Image shows a bit of Banks lake and the grassy shore. There are two geese and seven goslings on the grass in the foreground. On the lake are two adults and sixteen bebbes.

A small sample of the sea o’ geese at Steamboat Rock State Park.

I’ve seen little goose families scattered about western Washington, but this was like coming across Quiverfull colonies. You can see why they’d come here to raise families, though. Lotsa sunshine, abundant food, beautiful bodies of water, and bonza scenery.

Image shows a goose family swimming on the lake, with the green trees of the park shading the water. In the background, one of the cliffs of Grand Coulee rises majestically.

Goose family life on Banks Lake. Gorgeous!

Steamboat Rock State Park seems to be a favorite home for a lot of birds – we saw so many. But they were all outnumbered by the geese. Squee factor: near infinite. Look at these little gosling bums!

Image shows a bunch of feeding goslings, bend down with their little bums waving at the camera.

Look at those fluffy little bottoms! D’aw!

The grassy lawns were full of large goose families. So was the water.

Image shows three goose families swimming on the water between the shore and the dock. Another wall of Grand Coulee rises beyond.

Taking the kids for a swim. Playdates for everyone!

I think the houses in the background may be on top of a giant gravel bar from the Missoula Floods. There is so much awesome around here, you guys, you don’t even know. I think the only thing for it is for all of you to come stay with me so we can go trekking together. I want to show you this for reals! Come in May so we can go see the bebbes! It is so beautiful.

Image shows an adult goose herding a tight cluster of babies across the water.

Goose family in evening.

On the way home, B and I stopped by Dry Falls and Sun Lakes. Guess what? There were more geese! Shocking, I’m sure. As we were driving back from Deep Lake, we saw a goose family swimming in a huge puddle beside the main road. Alas, by the time I’d stopped the car and got the camera unslung, most of the family was headed across the road to have dinner on the lawn. But one little baby was left behind with its face in the water!

Image shows an adult goose crossing a two-lane road with its babies. One gosling in still in the roadside puddle, head buried in the water.

Left Behind, gosling edition.

It suddenly caught on it was being abandoned, and scrambled after its bros and sisters. Our UFD looks on.

Image shows the lone gosling scrambling after the others, which have almost completed their crossing. A smaller gray bird looks on.

“Geese, lemme tell ya.”

You’re going to tell me it’s a female American Robin or similar, aren’t you? It’s going to be a bird I should know backwards and forwards, I just know it. Look, people, I can recognize geese instantly. Isn’t that enough?! Also, I identified a dove on the wing. Shame I was driving and couldn’t pull over in time to get a pic at the time.

Anyway, speaking of goslings, there are so many photos! You can find them on Flickr. Enjoy muchly!