Guess Who’s an Ordained Minister!

Yes, indeedy. You’re looking at Minister Dana Hunter now:

Image shows me wearing a sifter (which I use as a pasta strainer, which is holy headgear), holding my Letter of Good Standing from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Minister Dana Hunter, at your service.

I’m delighted. My ordination certificate should be here in a couple of weeks, and I’ll have a proper photo with me wearing the holy pirate garments for ya.

I’ve loved the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for some time now. Gotta respect a bunch who stand up against Intelligent Design and creationist nonsense, and challenge Christian hegemony with humor and panache. So when I needed to become an ordained minister in something (so as to make our schist holy), and I discovered it was quite easy to become ordained as a Pastafarian, I didn’t hesitate. (Procrastinated, yes. I do that.)

Becoming an ordained minister means I could also look in to things like officiating at weddings, should any of you wish to have me do that. I’d be honored to do the honors, as long as your state will recognize my authoritay.

And yes, I’m still an atheist. Of course I chose a church that will respect my philosophical stance!

New at Rosetta Stones: A Very Sweet Rip-Up Clast and a Happy Stone

Look, I’m regaining my ability to think geology! Woo-hoo! I’ve given ye a very happy stone within a turbidite sequence, plus my wonderful rip-up clast, which I love dearly. I was so excited to find this thing!

Here’s a view of it you won’t see at Rosetta Stones:

Image shows a hunk of light-gray sandstone with an oval of dark gray mudstone within it. The hammer is lying on the guard rail post beside it.

Mah rip-up clast, with rock hammer for scale.


Fundamentals of Fungi: Fly Agaric Spectacular

This fall has been very, very kind to fungi. It’s been warmer on average most days this last October, but also good and damp. I’ve seen lots of very nice shrooms during our walks, but the fly agaric seems really enthusiastic. I don’t remember seeing ones this big in the past.

Image shows a round red fly agaric cap, with a few pale ones beginning to push through the dead oak leaves. My black-sneakered foot is in the photo for scale.

Look at the size of these things!

For reference, my feet are kinda huge. I wear a women’s size 10. Dat one big shroom.

Image shows a side view of the same fly agaric mushroom. There's a Blistex tube leaning against it, and a baby fly agaric shroom beside it.

Big shroom plus bebbe shroom.

The Blistex® tube is just under 2¾ inches. Ja. Big shroom.

Most fly agaric seem to come in red round there, but there are a few blondies. Here’s a little blonde baby shroom:

Image shows a small fly agaric mushroom with a couple of holes chewed into the cap and stem.

Young blonde fly agaric.

Those little holes something’s eaten into them makes me think of gnome homes. These are the best mushrooms for gnomic living. I think this is the formosa variation, which seem rather common around here.

Here’s a pretty awesome grown-up specimen of the classic variety, which looks like a jaunty tilted sombrero or sedge hat.

Image shows a red-orange fly agaric whose flaring conical cap is tilted on its stem. The Blistex tube is leaning against the stem for scale.

A jaunty shroom.

When you look at it from above, it kinda looks like a big pizza.

View of previous shroom from above. The peak isn't visible. There's a slash in the cap, looking like something either damaged it or that it split as it was growing.

Big shroom cap.

They’re really adorable when they’re little. They’re sorta like golfballs on thick tees, pushing up through the ground and leaf litter.

Image shows a very young shroom. The white warts are very close together, with just narrow streaks of red filling in where they're pulling apart.

Wee baby red fly agaric.

If I’m understanding the article on fly agaric correctly, these little white warts are remnants of something called a “universal veil,” which the fetal shroom is wrapped up in before it bursts out and morphs into a mushroom.

Image is a cropped version of the previous, focusing on the warts. They look sort of like little popcorn polygons, with a white fibrous fuzz clinging to the red parts around their edges.

Closeup of the warts, for your detail-viewing pleasure.

Don’t ask me why I find all these textures fascinating. I just do.

One of them had been pulled out of the ground, so I was able to have a close-up look.

Image shows me holding a fly agaric by the stem. The cap is a sphere; it hasn't opened up yet.

Cut off in the prime of its youth. Sigh.

This is what it might have become, had it not been so very rudely removed from the ground, and as long as the lawn mowers don’t come through soon.

Image shows two maturing fly agaric. They're still rounded, not having opened all the way yet.

Yes, they look like lollipops. No, you shouldn’t lick them.

And here’s a lovely little family.

Image shows one fully opened fly agaric to the right, with many others in various phases of growth in the center and left of the photo.

A sweet family of fly agaric.

Further down the way, someone else had decided to pull up a few shrooms, which gives us a great chance to see the gills.

Image shows a fully-opened fly agaric shroom lying on its cap, showing the underside with its lovely white gills. Beside it is a younger, not-opened fly agaric, showing the rounded bottom of the stem that would have been underground.

Looks like it was staged for curious folk like us, don’t it just?

I’m kind of a horrible scientist, because I can’t bear to rip them up like this. I’ve seen other people stop by to enjoy them, and don’t want to ruin their fun. Unlike the people who destroyed these. But even though a few are pulled up every year, a lot stay standing, which means that the people around here are actually considerate about their wanton destruction. Odd, that.

That’ll probably be about it for fly agaric this year. Weren’t they magnificent?

Dalek Family Robinson

Ordinarily, I roll my eyes at those “I have a spouse anna baby anna dog and and and LOOKIT MY FAMILY DAMN IT!” decals. Fair warning to friends: if you come over to show those off, be ready for my patented Southern charm-school “thaaat’s niiice” response. But I promise to squeal like an overly-excited geek if you drive over with something like this:

Image shows a set of Daleks standing for a dad, mom, and three kids. Females have a little pink bow atop their armor. K-9 stands for their dog.

Meet the Daleks

I don’t know this family, but I love them. I might even babysit their children, as long as there’s classic Doctor Who involved.

Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide II: Castle Lake Viewpoint

Brace yourselves. Look, I know Stop 1 wound you up. You just got done with a reasonably delicious lunch, you’ve caught a glimpse of the volcano and loved it, and now you’re all about getting up close and personal with Mount St. Helens. But you need to take a deep breath and have a bit of Zen. What you’re about to see might tip you over the edge, and from this viewpoint, it’s kind of a long way down.

Stop 2. Castle Lake Viewpoint

So very much to see here. This overlook gives you an outstanding overview of the results of the May 18th, 1980 eruption, and some of the recovery since.

Mount St Helens from Castle Lake Viewpoint.

Mount St Helens from Castle Lake Viewpoint. You will definitely want to click to embiggen this.

First, the destruction: the first thing that will strike anyone who’s traveled the western side of the Cascades is the distinct lack of forest. Granted, a few trees are sprouting up like a teenager’s attempt at a first beard, but there’s an overall absence of treeness. It turns out that volcanic eruptions, especially lateral blasts, are not kind to trees. If you look to your right at the near ridge, you’ll see the remains of some of the former forest. For details on what happened to it, see the posts here, here and here.

Panning left, you’ll notice a little sapphire gem of a lake set in a bowl-shaped valley. This is Castle Lake, and it just turned 33 last May. The gargantuan landslide triggered by an earthquake at 8:32 am on May 18th poured into the North Fork Toutle River valley as a massive debris avalanche. Over the course of ten minutes, that churning mass of ice, rock, dirt, and everything in its path roared 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) down-valley, filling it to an average depth of 150 feet (46 meters); in the most piled-up parts, it reached up to 600 feet (183 meters). Marginal levees from the avalanche piled up along the valley walls and choked off tributary valleys. Castle Lake backed up behind one such levee. Lakes like that can be dangerous: their debris dams could fail catastrophically, sending a flood roaring down the North Fork Toutle River valley toward populated areas downstream. In an attempt to prevent Castle Lake from breaching its levee, the US Army Corps of Engineers dug an outlet that keeps the water at a safe level, and drilled wells into the debris avalanche deposit to watch for changes that could alert them if the dam could become unstable.

Continue panning left. In the center of the valley, you’ll see the North Fork Toutle River threading its way through the bumpy terrain of the debris avalanche. Those of you who know your river geomorphology will be able to pick out some of the terrace the river’s left as it’s meandered across the valley and cut down through the deposit. Nice of it to show us all the lovely layers! In some places, you can see not only the interior of the debris avalanche, but also lahar and fluvial (river) deposits.The north bank of the river is rather prone to landslides in many places; between a high water table and the movement of groundwater through the avalanche deposit, it’s very easy for that bank to collapse.

Looking upriver, contemplate this: as of 8:42 am on cataclysm day, the upper North Fork Toutle River didn’t exist. It had been entombed beneath .67 cubic miles (2.79 km³) of collapsed volcano. Imagine an entire river being decapitated in the space of ten minutes!

At first, after the debris avalanche came to rest, all the valley contained was the lumpy surface of the landslide. But it didn’t take long for the river to begin rebuilding itself. The first section of its new channel was cut when ice melting in the debris avalanche formed the North Fork lahar that same afternoon. Phreatic (steam) explosions caused by the blazing-hot chunks of cryptodome heating the buried streams and river until they flashed to steam left a line of depressions, most 16-330 feet (5-100m) in diameter and 3-66 feet (1-20m) deep. Other hollows formed by the settling and subsidence of the debris.

This being the Pacific Northwest, it didn’t take long for many of those depressions to fill up with water. And when they were full to the brim, water spilled over and carved another section of channel. All through summer and into the fall, the channel grew from this fill-n-spill, plus some volumes of water released from larger lakes, including Castle Lake, by concerned engineers. Flowing water began behaving like a stream, widening its nascent channel, abandoning some portions in order to carve new. And then Carbonate Lake, born on May 18th, overtopped and breached its debris dam on November 7th, releasing a huge surge of water that sliced through a string of depressions. Almost two miles (3 km) later, a through-flowing channel had finally been completed. The upper North Fork Toutle River was reborn.

Not all depressions hooked up to become the river. Ponds still dot the debris avalanche. You can see a little blue gem of one gleaming just to the left of the river, there.

A small pond in the hummocky terrain of the debris avalanche deposit.

A small pond in the hummocky terrain of the debris avalanche deposit.

When you lift your eyes from the valley, you’ll notice the scene is dominated by Mount St. Helens. And you might expect me to discuss all of the exciting features left by the lateral blast, like that ginormous breach. And what’s up with that rather smooth ramp emerging therefrom? Why, if the the volcano isn’t currently erupting, is the snow on it so ashy? Patience, my dear geoadventurers! We shall come to that shortly. But first, let’s pay an up-close visit to one of the lakes born on May 18th.


Previous: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide I: Hoffstadt or Bust

Next: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide III: Coldwater Lake

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.


Decker, Barbara and Robert (2002): Road Guide to Mount St. Helens (Updated Edition). Double Decker Press.

Doukas, Michael P. (1990): Road Guide to Volcanic Deposits of Mount St. Helens and Vicinity, Washington. USGS Bulletin 1859.

Evarts, Russell C and Ashley, Roger P. (1992): Preliminary Geologic Map of the Elk Mountain Quadrangle, Cowlitz County, Washington. USGS Open-File Report 92-362.

Pringle, Patrick T. (2002): Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity. Washington DNR Information Circular 88.

Simon, Andrew (1999): Channel and Drainage-Basin Response of the Toutle River System in the Aftermath of the 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington. USGS Open-File Report 96-633.

Dear Atheist Leaders: If You Sound As Sexist As William Lane Craig, Ur Doin It Rong

Adam Lee at Daylight Atheism has read William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith column so we don’t have to. In the process, he found something that sounds almost exactly like some of our supposed leaders. Craig is responding to a woman who’s concerned about the sexist stereotyping Craig had been spewing. See who this response of his reminds you of:

First, Craig says in response, he’s noticed that the audiences for his lectures are nearly all men:

First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and in classroom teaching… It became very evident to me not only that the audiences which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only the men stood up to ask a question.

And why should apologetics classes appeal predominantly to men? To explain this, Craig dusts off the old saw, “women don’t do thinky“:

Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to respond more to relational approaches.

You know, I’m torn. On the one hand, that sounded very much like Michael “A Lot of Women Have Accused Me of Sexual Assault and/or Rape” Shermer, who said “it’s more of a guy thing” when confronted with the dearth of women in atheism. But it’s also got a strong whiff of Sam “I’m Not a Sexist – My Wife and Editor (whom I pay) Love Me!” Harris, who babbled about an “estrogen vibe” when confronted with same.

Image shows a shocked-looking cat. Caption says, "I can't believe you said that"

I’m sure there are plenty of atheist bigshots who’ve mumbled similar around the feet in their mouths, so do feel free to quote them in the comments.

Adam brings up the same point that struck me the very instant I read Craig’s words and correlated them with what our ol’ atheist “thought leaders” have said.

It’s striking how much Craig, a staunch Christian apologist, sounds like some of our male atheist “leaders”. They, too, have fielded questions about the gender imbalance in their audiences; and they, too, have often responded with clueless, patronizing, armchair answers about how they’re just too unimpeachably rational to appeal to women – that is, when they’re not snarling about “social justice warriors”, or pining for the good old days before political correctness when men could grope women with no repercussions.

Here’s a novel suggestion for both atheists and Christians: if you want to know why women aren’t showing up at your classes or your lectures, try asking some women. Don’t just assume, with no evidence, that there are inherent biological reasons for it, or that women are instinctively repelled by logic and reason. Of course, I don’t expect Craig to heed this advice, from me or from anyone else – his lamentations over the increasing influence of women shows that he’s thoroughly absorbed the sexism intrinsic to fundamentalist Christianity. The only question is whether we in the atheist community aspire to be better than him.

And really, let’s be brutally honest, here: if you can’t manage to be a better human being than William Lane “Genocide is Peachy As Long As God Tells You to Murder Everybody” Craig, you’ve got absolutely no fucking business whatsoever leading a movement of any kind. Ever. Step down and enjoy some obscurity until you can manage to treat women and minorities with more respect than that jackass, at the very least.

Image shows a tortoiseshell kitten with its paw pointing off-camera. Caption says, "OUT."

All Up in Our Bidness

B and I got together tonight to start making fun things with rocks, which will stock our future emporium (in time for holiday shopping, even!). Of course, when your factory is also your apartment, you have to contend with a certain kind of oversight.

Misha is lying on the cardboard we've set on the floor, looking toward the brushes, acrylic, and package of paint pots we've set out.

Misha is prepared to make sure we don’t fuck this up.

You’ll be happy to know that all of our work will be thoroughly inspected by our feline forewoman, beginning with the materials we use to make the rocks shiny.

Misha is still on the cardboard, sniffing the brushes in the cup.

These brushes had better be up to code, young humans.

We got quite a few rock magnets made. I’ll have photos for you once the glue’s cured. These are a bunch of different beach rocks from the Rosario Head area, some of which I can even identify. There’s a couple of ribbon chert, and a divine little serpentinite one, among others which are more difficult to pin down. All of them are quite pretty, though, hand-chosen for interesting patterns and lovely colors. We put a coat of acrylic gloss on them to make them look like they’ve just gotten wet in the waves, which brings out all the nuance. So they’ll basically look like a bit of beach freshly picked up.

We’ll be doing others, too. I’ve got some orthogneiss, and a few other interesting beach rocks (including some gorgeous little basalt cobbles), and serpentinite that’s never seen a beach, and garnet mica schist that I will probably make into holy schist as soon as I get my ordination certificate from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Holy schist magnets, people. Tell me someone’s gonna want those!

I should have the Etsy store set up soonish. We’ll have limited stock, at first, but with luck, there’ll be a good response, and it will grow. We’ll also be setting up with a place like Zazzle so we can do cards and bags and shirts, that sort of thing. If there are any particular photos you see around the site that you want made available on items, please do let me know.

And for those who are allergic to cats, I promise to keep the cat hair off of the homemade merchandise. Despite her best efforts.

Recuperation Nearly Complete

It’s been quite the bumpy road back to health, but the destination seems to be within sight now. I’m telling you, recovery’s tough when you can’t eat adequately. Happily, I’ve now drained all of that bloody awful IV fluid, and can fit things in my belly, which is delightful. I’ve lost weight, but not quite as much as I feared I had, and once I take the last antibiotic this morning, my body can get back to normal function. Huzzah. I shall now proceed to eat ALL THE FOOD.

I’ve been able to do a bit of work on our Christianist textbook series. Easiest way to get back to serious writing is making fun of them, how sad is that? But it does force me to research and think, which is good exercise for the gray matter. It would be proceeding much more quickly if it weren’t for Misha, who has that peculiarly feline attraction to open textbooks, and insists on cuddles the instant I crack one.

Photo shows Misha smugly lying in my lap. A textbook is open on the arm of the chair beside her.

Misha is very pleased she’s ejected the textbook from my lap and substituted herself.

The same thing happened tonight, when I’d just finished my heaping plate of fajitas, and digested a bit, and was just about to haul the book over. Bam! Back in my lap.

Image shows Misha lying in my lap. I'm petting her back.

Yep. Typical cat. Only wants cuddles when I’m trying to do something else…

Eventually, she had her fill of cuddling, and I was able to return to debunking good Christianist education. Yes, life is indeed returning to something approaching normal. I’m just sad I missed Halloween. I didn’t have the energy to go out, so B and I sat at home eating Indian food and watching Labyrinth. It was nice, but damn it, I love doing the costume thing. I shall have to live vicariously through others – if you’ve got Halloween pics you want to share, send ‘em! dhunterauthor at gmail.

I’m off to finish this ridiculous chapter, then. Mostly normal posting should be resuming now that I’m more functional. Eventually, I’ll even start to sound clever again, with luck (and ALL THE FOOD omigod you have no idea how much I’ve missed eating gargantuan meals). See you soon, my darlings!

Happy Leaf

My wetware is still mostly non-functional, but should be coming back online soon. I’ve been capable of actual thought for whole minutes at a time. This could increase to as much as an hour now that the 8 liters of IV fluid have mostly been processed, and I have room in my body for things like food. Wow, right? My plans for the next few days include eating, with occasional naps. If all goes well, there will be writing, as well, but no promises just yet. I may be too busy shoveling nutrition in. Happily, I can do this while reading, so I’ll have some book reviews for you soon. You’ll love the one about all the flat earth people.

In the meantime, I’ve had just enough energy and focus to start going through photos we took before I got walloped by this infection. Here’s a very happy leaf we found at St. Edwards.

Image shows a green leaf on the ground. It has holes that look like eyes and a mouth. There's a small yellow leaf on top that looks like a lock of hair.

Happy leaf.

With luck, I’ll have some really spectacular fly agaric for you soon, too. They’re popping out all over the place right now. Seems to be a good year for fungi.

Hooray For Clean Blood

I don’t have to go live in the hospital after all – my blood came back clean, so oral antibiotics will finish the job nicely. In fact, I’d be feeling almost myself again if it wasn’t for 8 liters of IV fluid swelling me like sausage. Oy.

I visited our UW Urgent Care down the road so they could make sure I wasn’t gonna die of pulmonary edema, and get advice on how to make this wretched fluid leave me. It was gratifying to hear the doctor talking to the nurse in the hall before he came in, incredulously repeating, “Eight liters?”, which words have been my mantra whenever I look at my incredibly ballooned abdomen, my bulging ankles, my bratwurst legs, and my lil smokie fingers. He determined that my lungs and heart were holding their own despite the reduced room, so all we need to do now is let nature take its course. We’re not trying drugs because my poor kidneys are already unhappy enough, so it’s best not to antagonize them. We’re going to check them again on Friday, and if they’re recovered but I’m still Water Balloon Woman, we can drug the fluids out then.

Good thing I don’t love salt, because he recommended I keep my sodium low. I’ve already cut back drastically, because carbonated sodas and I aren’t currently on speaking terms. And I don’t salt my food, so I’m basically free to eat what I want. Now if I can only free up enough abdominal space to eat lots of it…

I managed a trip to Target all by my lonesome, and was able to haul everything upstairs without total collapse, so it’s Dana’s Independence Day. B would’ve done all that, but he’d been awake all night worrying after I sent him home for rest and didn’t sleep until I emailed at 4am to let him know mild fever all gone. Then he slept through the morning, and his brother took the car, leaving him stranded. It was a nice, sneaky way to force him to take the day off, really, and he needed it. If I’d needed help, there are other people I can tap, but I don’t think he quite believes that. That poor kid is getting so much TLC from me when I’m fully functional again.

So now, it’s just a matter of tottering around on swollen pins, and grazing throughout the day rather than having meals, and trying to be patient while the last of the infection is murdered and the excess fluid goes away. I anticipate long periods of napping. I’ll probably take several days off from the blog now, unless one of those suddenly-better events happens, in which case we’ll get right back to it. And, of course, either B or I will update you if anything goes wrong. So don’t fret at radio silence.

I love you, my darlings, and can’t wait to be really-for-reals back!

Image shows a cat face-planted on a bed. Caption says, "I will nap... HERE."