Accretionary Wedge #30: OM NOM NOM!

My darlings, it’s here.  The sideboard groans under deposits of geologic delights.  And I’d have a lot more to say about it, except I have this sudden and inexplicable urge to eat until I explode.

If all the participants wish to form a commune, I’ll be happy to find us a place with an enormous kitchen!

And I do believe it may be time for us to stop considering how to bring the masses to science via brains and hearts and start considering stomachs instead….

Accretionary Wedge #30: OM NOM NOM!

GOP Priorities: Redefining Rape

Right, then, ladies.  The Cons in Congress, together with a handful of despicable Dems, have decided we must have rape babiesObserve:

Under this new bill, the only rape survivors who would be able to receive funding [for abortion] would be those who were able to prove that their rapes involved “force.” If your rapist drugged you, intoxicated you, or raped you while you were unconscious, you don’t get coverage. If your rapist used coercion, you don’t get coverage. If this is a case of statutory rape — that is, if you are a thirteen-year-old child, raped by someone outside of your family — you don’t get coverage. If you’re an incest survivor over the age of eighteen — if, say, years of abuse only culminated in a pregnancy after your nineteenth birthday — you just don’t get coverage. And if you live in a state that doesn’t distinguish “forcible rape” from “rape,” you might not qualify, meaning that no matter what the circumstances of your assault were, well, sorry: You might not get coverage.

I cannot begin to describe how angry these fucktards make me.  They won’t understand, anyway.  Men can get raped, true – but they can never be impregnated by their attacker.  They don’t have to face that particular hell.  And the chances of them being raped in the first place is so vanishingly small that they can’t imagine the fear and the trauma women live with.

I would like to explain it to them.  I’d like to sit down in a room with all 173 co-sponsors and describe to them in minute detail everything that happened the morning I woke to a rapist at my door.  You know, it’s been nearly twenty years, and I still get sick to my stomach, my hands still sweat and shake, thinking about it.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  I wasn’t physically scarred for life.  I didn’t end up pregnant.

If I had, and if an abortion had been denied to me because I didn’t fight hard enough, scream loud enough, risk my life adequately enough to satisfy the Cons in Congress, I can promise you something: I would’ve ended up killing myself if I couldn’t abort that baby.  They can’t understand, will obviously never understand, why many women wouldn’t be able to face carrying their attacker’s spawn to term.  Let me just put it this way: there are worse things than getting raped.  One of them is being denied any chance to regain some control over your own body afterward.  One of them is being forced to put your body through the further trauma of pregnancy and childbirth against your will.  And at that time, in the aftermath of the worst morning of my life, I wouldn’t have had the mental strength to deal with it.  It was hard enough putting the shattered pieces back together without a swelling belly and constant reminders of the horror I’d gone through.

But they don’t care about a woman’s welfare.  Obviously not.  They have some fantasy about rape, which makes them just as despicable as the men who rape.  They think there’s some kind of honor to be fought for, that a woman should do everything in her power to guard her virtue rather than survive, and if she doesn’t, then she’s a slut who deserves everything she gets.

I wish I could take them back in time.  I wish I could turn what’s in my mind into a film, so I could walk them through the event.  I’d like to see their faces when they’re faced with the reality of sexual violence.  I’d like them to have to walk in my mind.  And I’d like to pause every so often, and ask, “Did I fight enough here?  How about here?  Was that rape forcible enough, or was it too gentle to qualify as the kind of rape where a woman is granted an abortion?”

I’d like them to have to experience every emotion with me, both during the attack and in the months and years afterward.  I’d like them to know just what it is to have control and integrity ripped away from you.  I’d like them to walk that fine line, knowing that if you fight too hard, you’re going to get yourself killed.  I’d like them to be there in my mind, the moment I realized I didn’t have the physical strength to fight my attacker off, and that no one could hear me scream.  I’d like them to share that instant where panic and gut instinct turned into a cold calculation, where I decided it would be a better idea to live.

Do they think I made the wrong choice, choosing survival over a fight to the death?  Do they think that making the choice to survive means signing away your right to your remaining bodily integrity?  And would they still believe that were they forced to live it with me?

They believe abortion is murder, and yet each and every one of them, should you ask, would likely tell you that killing someone in self-defense is justifiable.  Let me try to explain something to them: getting rid of a clump of cells isn’t murder, but let’s play on their field a moment.  That clump of cells that could become a human being someday is an intruder.  It broke in, it wasn’t invited, and it’s stealing from me.  It could kill me.  It’s certainly going to hurt me, both mentally and physically.  So if you believe some homicides are justified, why do you think it’s not justifiable to kill that intruder?

They need to walk in my mind.  They need to watch the months it took, feel the force of will it took, to regain function again, to not hide in the house anymore, to learn how to cope with a terrible new reality.  I dropped out of school, because I wasn’t capable of normal function for quite some time.  It took years before I could trust people again.  I still have bad moments.  But I’m nearly a whole human again.  I don’t think I would’ve gotten there if I knew I’d been forced to bear my rapist’s baby.  And I don’t have words strong enough to describe the visceral reaction I have to the idea.  That would have given me a lifelong connection to my rapist.  That would have been a level of trauma beyond my imagination.  I know my mind well enough to know that bearing a rape baby at the age of 18 would have broken it.

Is that the price I’m supposed to pay for being attacked?  According to the Cons in Congress, it is.  It’s my fault, you see.  I should’ve fought hard enough to keep from being impregnated or died in the attempt.  Nothing else will do.  They care more for a clump of cells than they do for a living, breathing, thinking and suffering woman.

But I don’t think they’ve thought this through, and that’s why I’d like them to experience what I did.  Because then, you see, they could imagine what it would be like if that had been their wife, or their daughter, or some other woman they may actually care about.  They may have to look at her a bit differently, and wonder if it’s worth destroying her in order to force her to grow a clump of cells fertilized by a rapist.  They might have to ask themselves if they’d really want her rape to be so forcible that it could kill her before they’d allow her the choice of aborting that clump of cells before she gets traumatized all over again.

Because, you see, what the Cons in Congress are saying to women is that if we don’t fight, if we don’t drive our rapist to really hurt us, then we’d better be prepared to have a rape baby.  If we’re strong enough and wise enough and lucky enough to survive, we’re to be punished.  We’re to have control and bodily integrity ripped away from us once more.  And if we want to avoid that second traumatization, we’d best escalate the situation.  There’s only one way to respond to rape in their world: fight.  Even though fighting could get us seriously hurt or killed.

That’s why, when I sit down in a room to describe what I went through in excruciating detail, I’d also want Robert K. Ressler, John Douglas, and Ann W. Burgess there.  Two of them are former FBI profilers, the other a forensic nurse.  They wrote a book called Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives.  They understand fully that a one-size-fits-all rape strategy would end in more seriously wounded and murdered women.  Let me direct your attention to the chapter for victims, wherein survival strategies are discussed:

When the amount of rage and aggression obviously exceed what is necessary to force complia
nce, a violent confrontative response on the part of the victim will ge
nerally increase the violence in the assault and place the victim at increased risk for serious physical injury.  Gratuitous violence on the part of the rapist places the victim in dangerous, volatile, and unpredictable situations.  For that reason, we recommend that the first response to violence not be violent.  If direct dialogue does not begin to neutralize the attacker (reduce the intensity of the aggression), then the victim will have no recourse but to employ any means available to object.  The offender believes that he is entitled to sex under any condition, and hence has a callous indifference to the comfort or welfare of the victim.  Both verbal resistance and nonconfrontative resistance strategies are appropriate.  Once it has been demonstrated that the rapist will likely use whatever force neccesary to gain victim compliance, confrontative physical resistance would be unwise unless the victim is confident that it will work.


If the attacker responds to victim physical confrontation with increased anger and/or violence, the victim should cease physical resistance.  If he responds by immediately ceasing his aggressive/violent behavior and is willing to engage the victim in conversation, he is also likely to be an exploitative rapist and the victim should use verbal strategies.


For the displaced-anger rapist, the victim is a substitute for and a symbol of the hated person(s) in his life.  The primary motive is to hurt and injure the victim.  Aggression may span a wide range from verbal abuse to brutal assault.  Continued physical confrontation, unless the victim is reasonably certain she will be able to incapacitate the attacker, may only justify the need to “punish” the victim and thus escalate the violence.

This is what the Cons in Congress want.  They want us, when confronted with a rapist, to have only one choice: escalate the violence.  Because, you see, if it wasn’t violent enough, it wasn’t a rape, and hence we are not victims who deserve the right and the funds to decide what to do with our bodies afterward, we’re hussies who are supposed to live with the consequences of our “decision.”  They want to teach little girls that they must fight to the death rather than do everything in their power to come out of a horrible situation reasonably whole, with a chance at a fairly normal life after.

They want us to ignore the sound survival strategies formulated by two FBI agents and a forensic nurse after years of study of violent offenders, because some of those strategies will lead to a not-so-forcible rape, which means the woman obviously didn’t try hard enough to defend her virtue.

You know that I find most everything Cons believe and advocate for these days to be either stupid or despicable.  I make no secret of that opinion.  But some of their ideas are more odious than others.  This is one.  When they advocate disgusting legislation such as this, they become victimizers themselves, no less than the original rapist.

So, after I’ve had a chance to take them on a walk through my mind, I have one final question for them: How does it feel to join a rapist in victimizing a woman? 

If you find this all as disgusting as I do, take action.  And use the #dearjohn hashtag on Twitter to let John Boehner and all know what you think of them.

GOP Priorities: Redefining Rape

I Don't Get It. I Don't Understand.

Confession: I was, for a few brief months in my teens, a Bible-thumper.  So it may seem odd now that I can’t get myself into the minds of believers.

I’d never been a religious kid, not particularly.  I had this nebulous idea that God existed and that he was good.  I prayed when things were beyond my control.  But we didn’t go to church, and outside of the illustrated children’s Bible I had, there wasn’t a huge amount of God stuff around.  My parents believed, and my mother put me in a summer Bible camp once – maybe for religious instruction, maybe just because it was the best and only way to pawn me off on other people for a couple of hours so she could have some time for herself.  Considering she played Mom to the entire neighborhood, one can’t blame her for needing a break.  And I learned how to glue Jesus to a wooden spoon, and stick him in a walnut shell, so it wasn’t a complete waste.  One thing I do know, the people there didn’t impress upon me the necessity of believing or going to Hell.  They gave me warm fuzzy feelings about Jesus and an indelible association between ancient Jewish carpenters and spoons.

Then we moved to Page.  I’ve seldom lived in a city so religious.  There was a road completely lined with churches, and more churches scattered around the city, and I believe there were 2.5 churches for every household.  Kids were released for seminary in the afternoons if they belonged to the Mormon church, and nearly everyone belonged to the Mormon church.  Didn’t impress me.  People would pester me about which church I belonged to, and when I told them “none,” they’d then interrogate me about my beliefs.  I finally told them I was Tarlonian just to shut them the hell up.  It seemed easier to believe in a faith I’d made up, anyway.  It wasn’t that the Bible stories I’d read as a kid had put me off.  It was the believers, and that creepy way they had of insisting that everyone who didn’t believe just like them was going straight to hell.  I didn’t know much about God, but I figured all-knowing and all-loving meant he didn’t have much interest in condemning good people to an eternity of suffering.  When people started going on about religion, they got damned annoying.  Church, I decided, rotted brains.  Easier to be a good Christian if one avoided Christian churches.

But you couldn’t avoid such things in Page.  It came down to a choice between getting dragged there by an acquaintance I didn’t like and a rather closer friend, so I plumped for the friend.  I went on a Wednesday night, and wore my usual uniform: ripped jeans, steel-tipped boots, metal t-shirt and Slaughter headband (yes, this was the 90s).  My friend was appalled.  “Are you really going to wear that?”

Well yes, yes, I was.  If I couldn’t be accepted as a child of God despite my attire, then I’d know I didn’t belong there, wouldn’t I?

So we went, and we sat, and I got narrow looks from a lot of people.  This was a Holy Roller church.  This was Wednesday night.  Only the rabidly faithful were there.  They didn’t know what to do about this headbanger in their midst.

But Pastor Lynn Peters did.  He walked over, shook my hand, smiled, and said, “It’s wonderful to see you here.”  I’ll tell you something.  Lynn Peters was one of the kindest, most generous, least-judgmental people I’ve ever met in my life, and one of the first things that ever shook my faith in God was the fact he had to leave the congregation to get treatment for cancer.  Where was the justice in that?  Where was God when Pastor Peters needed him?

But for a little while, I fell under the spell.  I believed.  I was saved, and God was great, and I wanted everyone to share that good news.  My friend was overjoyed.

For a few months, I read my Bible and read Christian fiction and tried to live the way God wanted.  I went to church every Sunday.  And that was the first step on the road to becoming an atheist, because if you are a decent human being with half a critical-thinking brain cell left, you cannot sit in church during testimony and hear, “God healed my radio!” without thinking, “Holy fuck.  Millions of children starving and dying in Africa, Pastor Peters dying of cancer, and more tragedies than you can keep up with on the evening news, and God takes the time out of his busy schedule to heal a fucking radio?”  But it had to be true.  She’d tried and tried to fix it, but it didn’t start working until she laid her hands upon it and prayed God to heal it.  And lo, the radio was healed!

But that was just one silly woman, so my shaken-faithed self kept coming back to church, and my persistence was rewarded one day by the youth group hammering on M.C. Hammer for having some dude in a red devil costume in a video.  Yes, that M.C. Hammer.  The Christian preacher one.  But according to our youth group, he was spawn of Satan because he had some dude in a red devil costume in a music video.

I walked out and didn’t come back.

Some people may get the idea that it’s science that made me an atheist, or perhaps the evil influence of PZ.  Truth is, I was an atheist long before that.  It was a long, slow slide.  I held on to my faith, even despite some pretty intense shakes and a breakup with God or two.  Like an abusive relationship, though, I kept going back to him.  And I can’t for the life of me remember why.

I’ll tell you what made me an atheist.  Seeing how different Christian sects treated each other, every one of the hundreds and thousands of them having the exclusive line on Truth, each sect the only who knew God’s True Will.  Seeing how conservative Christianity had very nearly destroyed my best friend’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, and really fucked up his ideas of sexuality.  Seeing how so many different religions all came up with different answers to the ultimate questions of why are we here, who are the gods, and what do the gods want us to do.  If other religions were myths, then why wasn’t Christianity?

But still I held on to God.  Clung to a Karen Armstrong type nebulous deity Somewhere Out There.  I was sure it was the Christian god.  Then I couldn’t be sure anymore.  After years of being pulled in a thousand different directions, I finally chose a different path.  I decided to explore other notions of the Divine in earnest.  I’d give up Christianity for good.  But before I did that, I prayed.  I said, “God, if this is the wrong path to take, show me, and I’ll turn right back.”  I never got a sign.  So I never turned back.

I worshiped Odin for a while, but mostly in good fun.  Beside, he was so much more awesome than the God of the Bible.  Did the Lord give his eye for wisdom?  No.  He already knew shit, and yet didn’t seem to know shit.  How boring.

Explored Hinduism and Taoism and Buddhism, all of which made far more sense than Christianity ever had.  But somewhere along the way, without my realizing it, I stopped believing in the reality of the supernatural.  I’d stopped believing in UFOs and ghosts and faeries, too.  Quite enough that myths and stories were beautiful and fun and made me think about what it meant to be human.  I didn’t need to believe there was anyone out there watching over me anymore.  And I really don’t even know how that happened.  The transition was too natural to take especial note of.

I started calling myself agnostic, and then one night I took the God Delusion Index test, and had to admit that I wasn’t even that anymore.  No, folks, I was pure-D Atheist.  And since then, since I admitted that, I’ve been free to explore the real wonders of the world.  Without guilt.  Without worrying about where God fits in.  Without dealing with all this NOMA shit.

And I’ll tell you something, and this is the point of all of this: the world is a far more wondrous place without deities.

I am overwhelmed every day by the scope of the universe.  It beggars the imagination.  There are things in it that we didn’t even suspect until we started looking at it with telescopes and mathematics and probes.  There are things more beautiful, more majestic, more awe-inspiring and powerful and terrible, than anything I’ve ever read in a holy book.  And when I look at pictures from Hubble, when I read about new discoveries in physics or watch a lunar eclipse, when I learn what we know about those things, I cannot imagine why on earth anyone would need to inject gods into the equation.  They feel distinctly surplus to requirements.  They feel tacky.  It’s like putting tinsel on th

e Queen’s tiara.  Some people look at this stuff and say, “Wow, what an awesome God we have, he created all this!”  And I say God didn’t have the imagination for it.  Not any God I’ve ever heard of.  Not one that stands apart from its creation.  It’s tinsel on tiaras, people.  It’s something humans, not the universe, needs, these gods.

It’s biology, not God, that made me appreciate all creatures great and small.  Evolutionary fucking biology, people.  Back when I was a believer, I’d see a spider, and promptly squish one of God’s own creations.  I sacrificed cockroaches to Odin.  When I fell under the sway of Buddhism, I started feeling vaguely guilty about it.  Fellow creature, after all.  But after studying up on evolution, I see a spider, and I’m enthralled.  They’re magnificent little things.  They’re captivating.  And there’s a story in them, of mutation and selection and a long, slow trip from single-celled critter to these beings who do utterly remarkable things like spinning webs and eating other magnificent critters.

It’s geology, not God, that made me appreciate landscapes.  God didn’t take away my fear of volcanoes, vulcanology did.  There are rocks in my house that could be beautiful to no one other than someone who knows a little something about geology.  There’s stories in the most boring bit of mudstone.  There are other worlds, vanished worlds, contained within the humblest of rocks.  Pick one up, and I used to be holding something created by God.  It hardly seemed worth bothering with, and I’d toss it aside.  Now, I cradle these nondescript brown rocks in my hands, and I see ancient mudflats.  I see the young Earth.  I see star stuff.  I am holding thirteen-plus billion years of history every time I pick up a bit of stone, because every bit has a pedigree that stretches all the way back to the Big Bang.  You religious folks want to tell me the rantings of goat herders have anything to add to that?  I don’t see it.  I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.

I vaguely remember the chasm in my life.  I vaguely remember needing so much to believe in something supernatural, frantically searching for it in myth and religion and pseudoscience, because the world seemed so mundane without magic.  But magic abounds.  There’s magic in an equation.  There’s something divine in chemistry.  Any of the sciences provide more wonder than all of the religions of the world combined.  I didn’t know that, back when religion was presented as the only way to become fully human and science was a useful something we should respect, but a mere human endeavor and not worthy of worship.  What I didn’t realize was that worship is surplus to requirements.  One does not, despite reports, need worship to become fully human.  One does not need the supernatural.  There is quite enough super in the natural, thank you ever so much.

And so now I struggle.  I struggle to comprehend why people cling so tightly to their belief that myth is really real.  I don’t remember why that felt so necessary, and I fail to see how anyone can drink even a few sips of science and need anything more. Why this overriding urge to tinsel tiaras?  Why Biologos and all of the other ridiculous attempts to reconcile science with religion?  Why this death-grip on the rantings of goat herders?  Why this insistence that the fiction be true?  I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.

I wish I did.  Not because I have a hole to fill, or because I envy the believers, but because that stubborn clinging to faith leads to so much misery and denial and danger.  Because it hurts so many of us so.  And because I’m curious as to why, when surrounded by the riches of the universe, one would choose to remain so impoverished.

I Don't Get It. I Don't Understand.

Cantina Quote o' The Week: Muhammed Ali

It’s just a job.  Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand.  I beat people up.

Muhammed Ali

I trust everybody knows who Muhammed Ali is.  If not, click the link, and then you’ll understand the quote, and why it’s so damned funny.

I’m not a boxing fan meself, but I’m definitely a fan of anyone who can say that with a straight face.

Cantina Quote o' The Week: Muhammed Ali

ETEV Geo-Posts Lexicon Fixed

Right.  So, somehow, Blogger decided I wanted every single link broken on my ETEV Geo-Posts Lexicon.  I just spent the last hour telling it otherwise.

They worked when I tested them.  If they’re not working when you try them, please bring your baseball bats and join me in a Blogger Bashing Party, wherein we will completely trash the post that Blogger hated so much.

Muchas gracias to Silver Fox for catching the problem!

ETEV Geo-Posts Lexicon Fixed

Los Links 1/28

There’s a theme emerging for the week: women in science blogging.  So we’ll kick off with that, as it allows me to cede the floor to other, better bloggers.  Then we’ll continue on with the flood of other things that caught my eye.  Do enjoy!
Women who write about science: “Being female just is what it is, and it happened to me when I was conceived. I had no control over it. But being a writer and a scientist? That took work. That took ambition. That took years.”  (The Biology Files)
Of course scientists can communicate: “Once again, the allegation is to be the subject of discussions, this time at next month’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC. It can be found on Nature ‘s website, heard in research councils, it is even occasionally propagated by the public-engagement community, and sometimes endorsed by journalists. In response, I can only say bosh, balderdash and Bronowski, and follow with other intemperate expletives such as Haldane, Hawking and Huxley, Eddington and E. O. Wilson, not to mention, as if in a state of terminal exasperation, Dawkins!” (NatureNews) (h/t)
I’ve never been very good at hiding:  “I’m not so complacent. I shouldn’t have to hide the fact that I am a woman just to be seen as a brilliant scientist or a great writer. And I am young and bull-headed and perhaps just naive enough not to hide. You might notice my looks first, but I’ll be damned if you don’t hear my words, too.”  (Observations of a Nerd)
Hidden Women, Hidden Writers: “Look at the mass of discussion that was generated around ScienceOnline2011. A number of people brought up examples of great writers to emulate. Those lists all started, ‘Carl Zimmer, Ed Yong, (another male writer–Steve Silberman or David Dobbs or…well, you get the point).’ Only after that point, if the list continues, do any female names appear. Rebecca frequently didn’t make those lists, despite being widely lauded as having published the single best piece of science writing of 2010 and having reached an audience that most writers could only dream of. She never came first.” (Almost Diamonds)
Hey You Men Who Yell “Nice Tits”: STFU: “Whose battle is it? Everyone’s I’d say. Wilcox’s post has already inspired a rich conversation in the comments, one taking alongside and entwined in many ways with the comments-conversation in Clancy’s post. About halfway down, my dear friend Steve Silberman lodged a quick comment but kept it brief, he said, because he didn’t want it to become too much a male conversation. I know what he means. Yet as I said in my own hurried (but long; I didn’t have time to write shorter) comments there, I think we men should engage here, if for nothing else than to tell their fellow men, when they are being titty idiots (titjiots? something), to STFU. Even if we don’t elaborate on STFU — maybe especially if we don’t elaborate on STFU — it might inspire some self-reflection. Or at least get them to STFU.” (Neuron Culture)
Further discussion on this topic can be had at Outdoor Science.  And both Silver Fox and Ed Yong have some good lists of science bloggers who also happen to be women.

Why Does Roger Ailes Hate America?  “Today, here at Esquire — and only at Esquire, because only Esquire has the guts to tell you this story — we’re going to tell you about a man you need to know a little better, maybe a lot better: a man named Roger Ailes.”  (Esquire)

Money, Power, Triangulation: “In these circumstances, the political incentives in a democratic society becomes how to package the policies in a way that appeals to the people but benefits the wealthy. The Republicans know how to do that. The Democrats not so much, although on the presidential level, they may have found a formula. But again, it’s at the expense of liberalism in general which, if the president decides to engage on “entitlements”, may also end any serious rationale for the Democratic party at all.” (Hullabaloo)

Friday Fault Photo: Fairview Peak, NV, Fault Line: “Can’t really say why I did this. I was just fascinated by the fact that you can take Google Earth, rotate the eye view to oblique and — especially after a visit to the area (early December) — can easily identify the fault scarp(s) in most places.” (Looking for Detachment)

Volcanoes in Kamchatka I & Volcanoes in Kamchatka II: “This is why Earth scientists like satellite image.  You can obtain a lot of information about an isolated area like this relatively easily.” (Hudson Valley Geologist)

Chemistry: this shit’s important: “Ammonia, NH3 (Fig. 3), is a fixed form of nitrogen. That means that its bonds are breakable, and it can react with other things. Generally, it’s used to make nitrates, NO3, which is used for both explosives and fertilizer. Natural forms of fixed nitrogen are rare, but it’s found in bat and bird poo, and saltpeter. These things were some seriously in demand fertilizers before the Haber-Bosch process was discovered. In fact, The Guano Islands Act of 1856 was passed so people could claim any uninhabited, poop-covered island they found as a US protectorate. Wars were fought over poo. Really. So when Haber found a way to finally make fixed nitrogen, it was quite a big deal.”  (the bunsen boerner)

Stupid Protection Factor: “I need more stupidburn protection.

“There are massive flares of stupidity and hypocrisy emanating from the environs of Seattle in the wake of the Martin Gaskell affair.” (Thoughts in a Haystack)

Substance over sweetness — another New Atheist critique gone askew: “Gnu atheism is not simply about what isn’t. Our views do find expression in specific criticisms of specific faiths, but those are just the epiphenomena of a deeper set of positive values that Asma completely misses. Certainly I will make moral arguments against religious pathologies — Catholic priests raping children is bad — and I will judge beliefs by the foolishness of their explanations — creationist dogma is utterly absurd. But to say that is the guiding philosophy of atheism is to mistake the actions for the cause. I have one simple question you can ask of any religion, whether it’s animism or Catholicism, that will allow you to determine the Gnu Atheist position on it.” (Pharyngula)

Surprised by the Degree of Surprise: “If Republicans didn’t want a higher deficit, they shouldn’t have fought so hard to make it worse. They had a choice — expensive tax breaks or deficit reduction. They made their choice, were told what the consequences would be, and are now stunned by the realization that the rules of arithmetic haven’t been suspended by the GOP’s force of will.” (The Washington Monthly)

Yellowstone addendum: When credibility counts: “I wrote earlier this week about the media and its treatment of Yellowstone caldera. Well, I tried to be calm about a post/video I saw earlier today on CNN’s American Morning blog by Rebecca Hillman, but I don’t think I can. Kiran Chetry decided to interview Michio Kaku, a noted physicist, about the caldera – specifically about the recent findings about the inflation. What happens next is one of the worst interviews about Yellowstone I’ve ever seen – and shows us what happens when you are lazy and don’t get a real expert in the field.” (Eruptions)

The making of an angular unconformity: Hutton’s unconformity at Siccar Point: “If you want to really get Deep Time, places like this are where you start. Once you understand that the vertical beds below the contact were originally horizontal, the vast amounts of time required to produce this structure leap right out at you from the outcrop.. It tells a geological story that began more than 400 million years ago with the deposition of the greywackes off an ancient coastline, and continues to the present day. So far there are six chapters, detailing folding and uplift during the creation of a mountain belt; the slow death of that mountain belt as wind and water ground it away; the formation of lakes and sand dunes on a warm, arid continent during the Devonian; a further, more gentle tectonic upheaval that led to the whole sequence being tilted; and finally, a further bout of erosion that has created the Siccar Point seen by Hutton, and tens of thousands of geologists and geology students since.” (Highly Allochthonous)

Capadoccia 1: “Today, you get the first of several batches of photos dealing with one of the most magical places I’ve ever been, the Capadoccia region of Turkey.” (Mountain Beltway)

Los Links 1/28

Accretionary Wedge #30: Bake Sale Madness

Only for you lot would I whip out my long-neglected electric mixer and put my poor, long-suffering intrepid companion through an afternoon of baking, grumbling, decorating, more grumbling…  Damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a baker!

What I would’ve liked to end up with was a model of the Cascades in miniature.  What we’ve got is a generic sort of cirque glacier thingy.

Looking back on it, we should’ve done it with two cakes: a nice round stacked on top would’ve given me a better shot at mountains.  So it goes.  Use your imaginations.

Anyway.  We’ve got some features of a glacier going on.  I even annotated the photo for ye!

As you can see, we’ve got a wee little cirque glacier spilling down a (work with me, people!) mountainside.  It’s in retreat!  You can tell because it’s left behind a nice terminal moraine, which its outwash stream has breached.  This, along with the fact I didn’t buy a lot of blue icing, explains why there’s no lake piled up behind the moraine.

The stream itself is the typical braided type you so often see draining meltwater from glaciers.  I would’ve tried to mimic the milky appearance of rock flour in the water, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk.  Besides, we wanted cake!

It was nearly impossible to photograph, so I haven’t got a good example, but the bottom part of the glacier’s created a nice, U-shaped valley, even.  And I’m sure you’ve noticed all the little brown flecks in the glacier.  Ice is covered in rockfall, y’see.  It’s very dirty ice.  And very tasty, too!

Right, then.  That’s it.  Mixer’s being retired again.  And the next time we hold a bake sale, I’m going with my original idea – breccia.  Or possibly a nice tillite.

Accretionary Wedge #30: Bake Sale Madness

ETEV Geo-Posts Lexicon

Silver Fox posed me a question on Twitter that sent me on an hours-long gallop through ye olde blog:

You’ve been blogging for quite a while, when did you start doing rock posts and other related geo-type subjects?

I couldn’t remember.  Been doing this since March of 2008, and it’s almost 3,200 posts under the bridge since then.  I’d started with pollyticks mostly, along with a heaping helping of bashing on IDiots, and only gradually transitioned to the current mix.  And I have the attention span of a meth-addicted Jack Russell Terrier combined with the memory of a brain-damaged goldfish (I exaggerate only a little), so it’s hard to cast my pathetic excuse for a mind back to those misty days of almost three years ago and remember just what the hell I was doing.  

I’m sunk if I ever get hauled in by the police, people.  They’ll ask me what I was doing on the evening of X, and I’ll have to say I’ve no idea.  They’ll ask me if I ever met so-and-so, and I’ll say no, and they’ll whip out some incriminating photo showing me with X, and they won’t believe me when I tell them I didn’t remember X’s name and have only a vague idea of the circumstances under which that photo was taken.  But I digress.  See: attn span of meth-addict JR above.

I took a gallop through my science-tagged posts in an attempt to answer Silver Fox’s question, and having worked up some momentum, I took a run at the entire opus.  If you’ve ever wanted links to all of my geo-related posts, then this is the post for you!

If you want a sampling of all my science-related posts, simply click the “Science” tag at the end of this post, or find it in Labels in the sidebar.  Enjoy!

Scenes from the Juan de Fuca Plate


Starring Geology  

“Intense Discovery” 

Sunset Crater

Volcanoes from Space

Arizona Rockhounding

Shocking Truth About Aftershocks

Getting Acquainted with Agassiz Parte the First

Getting Acquainted with Agassiz Parte the Second

Crystal Delight

A Funny Thing Happened While I Was Searching Google Images…

How You Know You’re a Geologist at Heart

A Geology Buff at Home Depot

Geology Strikes Again

I Smell Abject Ignorance

Getting My Rocks On

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mount Saint Helens

Oregon Geology Parte the First

Geologist to YECs: “Shh Even Before You Start!”

Relative Dangers

Oregon Geology Parte the Second

Whither Geology?

Fangirl Gets Noticed by the Rock Stars, Freaks the Hell Out

Life on the Rocks

Whiskey on the Rocks

Some Preliminary Geological Findings

Things I Found in the Twitterverse

Wither Geology? National Parks Edition

Things That Caught My Attention

Things That Made Me Go, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!”

SIWOTI Syndrome: Gabbro Edition

Seward Park: A Scientific Wonderland

The Crash of Continents, the Whisper of Water

The Poetry and Prose of Ellen Morris Bishop

Strata to Make Your Heart Sing

Geological Humor.  Plus, Choices

Pop Rocks

Accretionary Wedges

Geoblogosphere Samplings

Volcanoes and Debris Flows and Experts, Oh My!

The Wolf in the Fault and Other Stories

Geo Linkfest!

Captain’s Log Supplemental: Mary’s Peak I

The Columns Became

AW #27 Now Available

Geology in Bed, at Work, and at a Friend’s Place

Test Driving with Geology

Do Ya Think I’m Bluffing, Punk?  Well, Do Ya?

Wherein I Do Some Geology All By My Lonesome

Oh, Schist! And Other Stories

Great Scarp!  Seattle Has Faults!

One of the Most Beautiful Things I Have Ever Seen

Such Civil War Is In My Love and Hate

Geocandy: Earth Fall Down and Go Boom

Bedrock Bonanza

For Those Who Missed It

Sands of Time

I Need a Geology Degree

Why (Part of) the World Is Flat

The Allure of the Orcas Chert and How to Keep Undergarments Fresh in the Field

The World is Weird

Christmas Rocks

The Quote Detective

Oregon Geology Parte the Third

Building a Better World: Ice Caves

And there it is.  Those who click on the “science” tag will notice that ye olde blog focused rather heavily on biology and astronomy, along with a smattering of climate stuff, at the beginning.  That wasn’t merely a result of falling under PZ and Phil’s respective spells – it was because I was frantically catching up on biology after neglecting it for years, and I’ve always had a soft spot for stars.  But between exploring a bit of the geology round these parts and visiting ye olde home state of Arizona, where geology is on spectacular display, my focus started shifting more and more toward one of my old, great loves.  Then the geoblogosphere adopted me, and the rest is history.

This year, I plan on dabbling my toes in chemistry, and I have some work to do on climate and weather for ye olde magnum opus, along with who knows what else shall come up.  Expect to see quite the variety of science as 2011 goes on – but we won’t be skimping on geology.  

So much delicious science, so little time!  If anyone knows someone with gobs and oodles of money they don’t know what to do with, please do inform them that a blogger/author in Seattle would like to make some suggestions.  ;-)

ETEV Geo-Posts Lexicon

Oregon Geology Parte the Fifth: Land o' Lincoln (City)

You would think that, having spent the day driving down from Seattle, climbing to the tip-top of the Astoria Column for a panoramic look at the geology around the mouth of the Columbia River, exploring Ecola State Park, and wandering about Hug Point’s geology both north and south until the tide chased us away, I’d be sleeping in a bit the next day.

You would be wrong.

I popped wide awake just around five in the morning.  Now, I could’ve tried to go back to sleep, or read a bit, but there was this ocean less than a mile away.  So out of bed I bounced, and promptly found out that the parking lots for the beaches don’t open until 6 in the ay-em.


What to do but drive about aimlessly, and run into the reason why Lincoln City bears its name?

Lincoln Statue

Lincoln’s actually the reason why Lincoln City’s called Lincoln City, because the city’s named after Lincoln County, and Lincoln County got its name from none other than Abraham Lincoln.  And the city shall always be called Lincoln City because of this statue.  The artist, Anna Hyatt Huntington, made that one of her conditions when she gave it to the city.

I’ve always liked Lincoln, ever since I was a wee little girl.  I liked him before I found out all that stuff about him being a great leader and freeing slaves and so forth.  I liked him because of this:

Abraham Lincoln: The Marine Layer Stops Here

He always had his nose in a book.  Would do anything to get his hands on a book.  Read anywhere and everywhere.  “Abraham Lincoln did it, too!” is a powerful argument in defense of one’s obsessive reading habits.  Those weird enough to prefer the Midwest over the West can call upon Lincoln for backup, too: the little plaque on this statue mentions that he could’ve been the governor of Oregon Territory, but he politely told those offering the position to stuff it. 

Now, you may be thinking, “But what about the beach?!”  Well, we’ve actually been standing on it this whole time. 

Dig beneath the concrete, pavements, buildings, and landscaping, and you’ll find Pleistocene sand and dunes.  Dig far enough, and you’ll hit Tertiary mudstones.  And that tells a story of tectonic uplift that spans hundreds of thousands of years, while the sea level bobbed and dipped in response to the waxing and waning of ice ages.  During the Pleistocene, the sea level sometimes rose higher than it is today.  Waves eroded nice, flat beaches on ye olde Tertiary bedrock, carving wave-cut platforms.  Higher seas deposited sand all over the nice new platform.  Wind picked up sand and busily built dunes.  Then, glaciers (and the land) rose, seas fell, and a lovely flat marine terrace got left behind, while the sea busily went to work carving a new wave-cut platform and created a new beach at the feet of the old.

Bluffs and Beach

And it’s finally 6 in the ay-em, so we can head to the current beach rather than the fossil one.  Here we are at the “D” River Beach Wayside, where we can discuss a hell of a lot of geology in one short space, while the sun rises behind us.

Note those sea cliffs to the left.  They get up to more than a hundred feet high, and if you wander over for a closer inspection, you’ll see they’re composed of terrace sandstone, topped with a dollop of dune sand.  Near-vertical, bald bluffs get carved into those (geologically) young Pleistocene sediments by waves, stress-release fracturing, rainfall, groundwater seepage, and graffiti.  Indeed, graffiti.  That is, in fact, the main reason for the bluffs’ retreat inland: people carve crap into the cliffs, kids dig caves, and the next thing you know, the cliff face is weakened enough to fall down and go boom.  Hard to believe, innit?  But you might want to mention to anyone you see out carving away that the homeowners up top might get very annoyed when their house follows the falling bits down onto the beach.

Let’s have a look at this beach, because it’s an interesting feature.  It’s what’s known as a dissipative beach, and you’ll see why in this photo:

Marching Waves

Stand here for a few moments and watch the waves hurtle up the broad, barely-sloped beach.  Watch them lined up along the entire length, which by Oregon standards goes on forever.  By the time they make it partway up the beach, they’re exhausted.  The most they can do on a normal day is merely nibble the toes of the bluffs, if even that; in fact, conditions are generally mild enough that talus accumulates at the base of the cliffs, sometimes lounging on the beach for years.  During severe storms coupled with a high tide, when waves can be dozens of feet high (and one wave on one memorable occasion measured 95ft, nearly as tall as the tallest cliff), the talus gets swept out.  Even then, waves don’t mount a direct assault on the cliffs, and never does manage to undercut them.  For a while, though, bits fall off the cliffs at a higher rate, until a new respectable pile of talus builds up.

Those winter storms, incidentally, don’t remove just talus.  The whole beach goes away, revealing the silt-and-sandstones of the Nestucca Formation.  For a while, you can wander about on Eocene bedrock, until the sand comes swooshing back.

And you know what’s really wild?  Might as well never have happened at all.  Sand sweeps up the beach in one direction in summer and in another during the winter.  It gets poked, prodded, rolled and razzed by the waves.  And yet the net littoral drift of all that harassed sand is a big fat 0.  Zero.  Nada.

Look north for the reason:

Headed Off at the Headland

Ah, yes, our old friends the rocky headlands!  We’re in the shadow of the Columbia River Basalts even here, where you’re surrounded by sand and sedimentary stone.  You see, those lovely hard volcanic headlands have nosed their way into deep enough water, and there are sufficiently many of them all up and down the coast, that they’ve formed pocket beaches nearly the entire length of Oregon.  Some of those pocket beaches are long, like the one at Lincoln City, and some are tiny, but they’re all little kingdoms unto themselves.  Oregon’s sand is not allowed to flee.  Not for long, anyway.

Have a look at the fine sand here:

You’ve got your basic quartz and feldspar, and a few minerals that tell us a lot of this sand eroded from the Klamath Mountains, along with bits from the Coast Ranges and suchlike.  The really neat thing about this is, the sand here isn’t the same as sand elsewhere on the Oregon coast.  Those little pocket beaches jealously guard their sources.  On some beaches, you’ll find sands eroded from the local headlands, some more long distance; some coarse, some fine.  The coarse stuff especially, which erodes from the sea cliffs, doesn’t seem to have got much of a look-in before about 300 years ago, when the enormous subduction zone earthquake that sent a tsunami to Japan lowered bits of the Oregon coast and thus led to some pretty vigorous sea cliff erosion action.  Neat, eh?

The time has come to reveal why this is the “D” River Beach Wayside:

A River Runs Through It

The time has come to introduce you to the D River, which has been claimed by some as the world’s shortest river.  There’s even a sign that says so, so it must be true.


Here it is very nearly in its entirety:

D River East
D River Central
D River West
D River and the Sea

Long View of a Short River

There was a time when it was known simply as “the outlet,” before a contest decided that the world’s shortest river deserved the world’s shortest name.  And an outlet is about all it is – the thing’s only 440 feet long at low tide.  When you get a very high tide, the river’s down to 120 feet.  And yet, it’s wider than some rivers in Arizona, and certainly has more water in it.

That water does fascinating things there on the beach.

Bouncy Water

It moves along pretty quickly, for all there’s not much slope.  As it plays around with the beach sand, it seems to create its own little jumps, which it then leaps joyously over.  The water gets so excited in places it froths:


You can see river gravel in its bed:

River Rocks on an Ocean Beach

 Which the ocean waves sometimes filch, and then run up the beach:

Wave-Bothered Gravel

You can sit and watch the river erode a bank into the beach:

Erosion in an Instant

And see some very entertaining erosional forms:

Making Tracks

This is a river that seems to live life from concentrate.  It may be the shortest river in the world, but it’s certainly not the dullest.

So where the hell is this very short river coming from, you might wonder.  There’s this lake, you see, formed in uplifted marine sediments about 14,000 years ago.

Devil’s Lake

It’s 680 acres, a third of a mile wide, three miles long, and (drumroll, please) all of 21 feet deep.  But it nestles between the Coast Range foothills and the coast like the liquid equivalent of a Montana sapphire.

Sapphires and Emeralds

Its watershed covers all of 12.1 square miles.  And its outlet is none other than the D River.  Neat!

These images were taken at Regatta Park, where the bastards were getting ready to have a bloody regatta, which meant I had to take my shots quick and get out.  No time to linger.  But that gave me time to find a truly fine exposure of the Pleistocene dune and beach sands on NE Devil’s Lake Road:

Layer Sandcake

Someday, if nothing untoward happens to it like, oh, say, getting completely eroded away, this old beach deposit may end up becoming sandstone, and some future geologist will be cooing over its bedding:

Streaks and Stripes

And because I can’t resist, here’s just one more:

I Think the Biology Is Jealous

With that, it was time to return to the hotel, where my intrepid companion was probably awake and wondering WTF I was out doing.  We’d soon be on our way to hook up with Suzanne in Netarts Bay on our way to Cape Meares, but as you’ll soon see, we got waylaid by Cape Kiwanda and one of the most fascinating sandstone headlands on the entire Oregon coast.

As ye olde tomes of indispensable reference failed me for this area, I present instead ye olde links:

Oregon About Lincoln City – source of some interesting tidbits on statues and short rivers.

The Devil’s Lake Plan, Devil’s Lake Water Improvement District (.pdf)

Shyuer-Ming Shih and Paul D. Komar: Sediments, Beach Morphology and Sea Cliff Erosion within an Oregon Coast Littoral Cell, Journal of Coastal Research (Winter 1994).  Hooray for informative abstracts!

Paul D. Komar: Ocean processes and hazards along the Oregon coastOregon Geology, Volume 54, Number 1, January 1992 (.pdf).  The paper that allowed me to sound like I’d known this stuff all along!

Ernest H. Lund: Rock Units and Coastal Landforms Between Newport and Lincoln City, Oregon. The Ore Bin, Vol. 36, No. 5 May 1974 (.pdf).  Another paper that allowed me to sound like I’m savvy. 

George R. Priest and Jonathan C. Allan: Evaluation of Coastal Erosion Hazard Zones Along Dune and Bluff Backed Shorelines in Lincoln County, Oregon: Cascade Head to Seal Rock.  State of Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries OFR O-04-09 (.pdf).  No, I did not read all 93 pages!

Oregon Geology Parte the Fifth: Land o' Lincoln (City)

An Idiot Abroad: Not Just Americans Are Ugly

Ricky Gervais is a terrible, terrible friend.  He played a rather expensive practical joke on his friend Karl, and the result is An Idiot Abroad, a series in which a stay-at-home-Brit experiences the wonders of travel.

So far, I’m learning things.  I’m learning it’s not just Americans who can be remarkably close-minded.  I’m learning there’s virtually nothing you can’t put on a stick and eat.  And I’m learning more about how fortune tellers suck in the gullible.  It seems to have quite a bit to do with scaring the bejezus out of them from the get-go.

It’s hysterical.  I think I’ll be watching the rest.

An Idiot Abroad: Not Just Americans Are Ugly