For Roger: Disco Ball

The rapture happened, my darlings.  Well, for me.  Well, rapture in one sense, anyway.  After an early evening in with the new episode of Doctor Who (and what better evidence that this is, indeed, the Tribulation than the fact that we now have to wait two bloody weeks for the second part of this two-parter?), my friends and I headed out to the Peacemakers concert.

It.  Was.  Fantastic.

But it’s the Peacemakers, so those of you who know what kind of show the Peacemakers put on already knew that.

I’ll have plenty more pics and gushing a bit later, but I wanted to post Roger’s disco ball first thing.  He loved that thing.  So here it is, in all its glory:

Disco Ball at Neumos
Roger and Nick with Disco Ball Overhead
Peacemakers con Disco Ball

And, amazingly, video in which both sight and sound are relatively clear:

Have I mentioned lately that I love my camera almost as much as I love the Peacemakers?

If there’s a better way to spend the end of the world, I can’t really think of it – unless, of course, it’s one of their Mexico shows.  But we wouldn’t have had a disco ball there, so perhaps this worked out for the best.

For Roger: Disco Ball

Methods and Materials of a Sometime Geoblogger: A Case Study

Ha!  Like this post will be anywhere near as scholarly as the title suggests.  It’s just that Karen got me thinking again:

I want to know how geobloggers (and for that matter, bloggers in general) find the time and material to blog frequently! I exhaust my blog-dedicated time just reading five or six of my favorites every morning! 

I wonder the same thing meself, actually.  So I’ll be asking that question during ye olde Summer Interview Series.  Let’s begin with a willing subject: me.

Hullo, me.  How do you find the time?

The answer’s simple, really.  I haven’t got a life.

I’m not in school.  Job that requires no serious thought or overtime.  No significant other.  Not many local friends, certainly not many I go out with often.  No teevee shows I dedicate my time to (aside from Doctor Who, o’course).  Here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, me day off, pounding away at the keyboard, with no one but the cat for company.

I don’t go to the movies.  Don’t go shopping until lack of food or other vital items forces me from the house, and then it’s just a commando raid, in-and-out at top speed, often with my poor intrepid companion in tow since we’re in town for lunch anyway.  It’s only in the summer that I get out and adventure, and then only on the weekends.  I’ve just chosen writing at the one thing that must always come first, and shunted everything else off into the corners.  Not everyone can do that, but they manage just fine anyway – I’ve no idea how.

Mind you, I haven’t got much time for blogging.  I’m writing books (yes, plural), and that means the vast majority of my time is devoted to non-blogging activities.  I’ve carved out a four-hour chunk of time on Sunday afternoons to write the week’s posts, and I spend that week when Aunty Flow’s visiting to fill in any gaps, considering I’m no good for fiction writing then.

I’ve learned over the years that trying to do this on a day-to-day basis doesn’t work for me.  I can’t carve the day up into such tiny chunks and give everything the time and attention it deserves.

As far as blog reading, I’ve got some time in between calls at work, usually, and an hour or so a night while I’m scarfing dinner to catch up on whatever else I’ve missed.  Multitasking is key, people.

So that’s how I find the time.  As for subjects… that’s usually the easy part.  There’s you, my dear readers: you so often say something that gets me going.  Sometimes I’ll riff off of something I’ve read on another blog, or there’s a meme going round, or something I’ve read in a book recently catches my fancy.  Things come up when I’m worldbuilding that demand to be shared.  Important anniversaries, certain holidays, and other assorted special days are always good possibilities.  When I get maudlin and nostalgic, I’ll turn that into a post or several.  I’ve learned to just go with whatever shiny thing is glittering away in front of me, because I can’t guess what my readers will like.  Some of the posts I’ve published only because I’m a raging narcissist or too busy to write better have been the posts you lot like best, so I’ve learned to just throw it out there.  If it flops, ’tis not the end of the world.  There’s always tomorrow.

This present exercise in narcissism has gone on long enough.  I’m turning the floor over to you: care to answer Karen’s question?

Methods and Materials of a Sometime Geoblogger: A Case Study

Sod This, I'm Holding Out for Ragnarok

Oh, my god.  What a surprise.  The End Times have not come.  I am so shocked.  I just do not believe it. I-

(Hee hee.  Ho ho.  BWAH-HAHAHAHA!)

I can’t keep a straight face. 

The excuses as to why the Rapture failed to happen on schedule will no doubt be mildly amusing.  Same ol’ song and dance, I’m afraid: some doofus predicts the apocalypse, the apocalypse mysteriously fails to happen.  (When reached for comment, Jesus Christ is reported to have said, “Ha ha ha PSYCH!  Matthew 24:36, bitches!”)  Wot an anti-climax.

I’m holding out for Ragnarok anyway.  The Twilight of the Gods is so much more awesome than all the silliness in Revelation.

Sod This, I'm Holding Out for Ragnarok

Cantina Quote o' The Week: Harvard

Under controlled experimental conditions of temperature, time, lighting, feeding, and training, the organism will behave as it damn well pleases.

The Harvard Law of Animal Behavior

This is one of those gems I plucked from The Blank Slate.  Research involving animals (or small children) can, I gather, be horribly frustrating.

Having tried to modify my cat’s homicidal behavior in times of unwarranted optimism, I can completely empathize.

Cantina Quote o' The Week: Harvard

My Cat the Geology Fan

A few of us on Twitter were recently discussing the feasibility of sticking cats in washes in order to create some geology lolcats.  This is the closest my cat will ever come to a dry wash.  She’s not what you might call a fan of the great outdoors.  But, apparently, she likes pop geo books just fine:

If you’re inspired to caption, knock yourselves out.  I’d love to see the result!

I wish I could believe she really was interested in geology, but I think she was just trying to impress the neighbor, who was visiting us for the first time.  She’s more of a Doctor Who fan at heart.  Here’s yet another bit of evidence:

Note how she’s shifted them so they form a nice, comfy arc along her back.  And she’s dragged her green tissue paper closer so she can have all of her great loves in one place.  This is why I will never be able to clear my living room floor of Doctor Who DVDs, a tattered old piece of cardboard from an Amazon shipment, and that stupid piece of tissue paper: she’d kill me if I tried.  All right, granted, she attempts to kill me anyway, but only as an afterthought.  She’d be motivated to murder if I ever put things away.

If blogging ever suddenly ceases, at least you’ll know what happened to me.

My Cat the Geology Fan


I spent four years on top of a type section, and I never knew it.

Moi avec Page Sandstone, many years ago

I lived on Manson Mesa, in Page, AZ, where the type section for the Page Sandstone is located (pdf).  I knew it was sandstone.  I thought it had been laid down in a sandy sea during the dinosaur years, and there my geologic awareness ceased.

My geological knowledge back then suffered from, let’s be generous and call them deficiencies.  I wish I’d known then what I know now, because then I would’ve taken about ten trillion photographs of the place and gotten a lot more out of living there.  Still.  That landscape did settle into my soul.  Slickrock country settled into my soul.

It’s stark, sand-scoured, barren but beautiful.  I’d walk up the road from our house and along a dirt track, topping a rise on the mesa, and then partially descend the other side.  That’s when it would hit: the most profound silence I’d ever heard.  I’d stand there looking out over Lake Powell and just soak in the silence.  It couldn’t have been all that much quieter back in the Jurassic, when the Page Sandstone was nothing but coastal dunes marching along for miles.  They rested atop even older dunes, which are now the Navajo Sandstone.  Sandy then and sandy now.  You go to Page, you’ll become intimately acquainted with sand, both lithified and windblown.

Stand here, with me, on the sandy side of the hill.  Look over the lake.  Do you see that arm of the Colorado, meandering through the side canyons it’s carved into the ancient dunes?

The Colorado River, or at least parts thereof

You can play games with it, here, shift your perspective and spell things out.  Just there, from that vantage, it’s a J.  Move a few yards, and it’s a T.  Walking back in time.  Jurassic-Triassic.  There may even be some Triassic rocks around here – I’ll find out next time I go, now that I know more, now that I can love it for what it was and not just what it is.

Back then, I’d just stand and stare at the sapphire-blue lake incongruous in the pale red desert, and wonder how the fuck anyone could possibly call a rock surrounded by nothing but rock “Lone Rock.”

View of Lake Powell from Manson Mesa.  Lone Rock is that rock in the middle ground on the right.

On the other side of Manson Mesa, the wind has swept the stone clean, and you understand why it’s called slickrock.  It’s smooth, almost slippery, although the grains of windblown sand locked in their matrix do a pretty good job providing traction, if you know how to work it.  And I worked it.  In slick-soled boots, on dunes turned rock that weathered into rounded tops and tiny ledges on steep slopes before becoming sheer drops.  I’d run, flat-out, on ledges no more than a few inches wide, with nothing more than a few hundred feet of air on one side and high, rounded stone on the other, and I never once feared I’d fall.  The slickrock wasn’t so slick for me.  It gripped me, assured me it wouldn’t let me go.  I could trust it implicitly, even the crumbly bits where erosion was returning the stone to its original sand.  We understood each other, this sandstone and me.  We knew each others’ limits.

There was a place on the edge of the mesa where flash-floods had carved a gully between rock walls, and those stood high above the desert floor like castle turrets.  They were my citadel.  When I was up there, I was queen in my castle.  I could stand at the top of a turret and gaze over my treeless domain.

And it was treeless.  Sagebrush, a few straggling junipers, and some unidentified bushes growing along the washes were about the limit.  This is a stark, startling place, to someone who’d left an alpine paradise behind.  No mountains, no ponderosa pines reaching for the sky.  Just rock and sand with a desperate bit of biology barely clinging on, far as the eye could seen.

There used to be trees up there, legend says.  This is a landscape for legends.  You can believe nearly any wild tale you’re told, up there.  You can believe the trailer park built to house the folks building Glen Canyon Dam exploded at midnight on Halloween night in 1959.  You can believe skinwalkers stalk the darkness.  Just listen to the way the coyotes’ howls echo off those stone walls, refract and reflect and become something supernatural.  You know where those legends arise, now.  You know why, when people tell this story, you can believe it:

Back in the 1800s, a cowboy was passing near Manson Mesa on his way to Lee’s Ferry with a Navajo guide.  No lake there, then, and precious few ways to cross the Colorado, which had been cutting its way down into the Plateau for millions of years.  But there was this mesa, and the cowboy wanted to go up there and have a look.  The Navajo guiding him refused to take him up.  The cowboy demanded, the Navajo steadfastly refused.  The cowboy finally demanded to know why.

“The top of that mesa used to be covered with trees,” the guide said.  “There used to be a forest.  But something evil came to the mesa.  It scared the trees to death.”

The cowboy scoffed, went up alone, and never came back down.

Something so evil it scares trees to death.  Yes, sometimes, that’s what you feel up there.  But only close to the city.  On the side of the mesa, where it’s still wild, you may keep a weather eye out for skinwalkers, and you may feel like a very tiny thing lost in the vastness of the desert, but lean back against the slickrock and absorb the silence and you’re suddenly more at peace than you ever thought you could be. 

Besides, if you’re a geologist, you’d probably like to find that evil thing and thank it profusely for getting rid of all that pesky biology in the way of the rocks.

There’s another place, and another way, to see the rocks round there.  Down by Glen Canyon Dam, you can hop in a raft and run the river.  I never did, but my mother did, and thanks to her, we have some views that only a few people ever see.

My mother, with Glen Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam as her backdrop

I believe that canyon is cut from the older, far more extensive Navajo Sandstone, but you’d be doing me an unkindness by holding me to it.

Still.  Go up on the bridge over the dam.  There’s a walkway for pedestrians, and you can look down down down into a chasm where the Colorado flows, through sandstone walls painted dark with desert varnish.  You’ll get deliciously dizzy, standing there with a vertical drop and vertical walls.  If you’re very lucky, you’ll be there on one of those days when clouds are scudding across the sky, and you can watch sun and shadows play spectacularly artistic games on the ancient stone.  You can watch them release water from Lake Powell, keeping the Colorado flowing and the power generating, and see how wild the river can be.

The Colorado roaring down Glen Canyon

There are some places you have to leave to love.  For me, Page is that place.  All I ever wanted or needed while I lived there was to get the hell away.  Now, I’m older and wiser and miss it quite a lot.  My beautiful, barren, bewildering slickrock country, I’ll come home soon.  Just for a while. 

And I’ll come away with a piece of you, just so I can waggle it at visitors and say, “Ha!  Look at this, bitches – a piece of the type section of the Page Sandstone!”  Because there are few things in this world that a geology buff could love doing more.


The Big Ba-Boom

It’s that time o’ year again.  31 years ago, Mt. St. Helens blew herself nearly in half and changed America’s consciousness of volcanoes for generations.  Up till then, I think a good majority of us believed that ginormous esplodey eruptions were things that happened to other countries’ mainlands.  Yeah, we’d had eruptions in Alaska and Hawaii, but, y’know, they were Alaska and Hawaii.  Always the odd states out.  (Apologies to my Alaskan and Hawaiian readers, but face facts: your states are awesomely exotic to us grubby lower 48thers).

She seared herself into my consciousness 31 years ago, at a very tender young age, and has stayed with me ever since.  One of the most exciting things about moving up here was getting to see her face-to-crater. 

I won’t go on about it – did a bit of that in my 30th anniversary post and its addendum.  Someday soon, I hope, I’ll get back out there with a proper camera and a better understanding of the landscapes created and do her up properly.  She’s just a day-trip away, now.  In the meantime, I wanted to share this post full of incredible photos that popped up via someone in my Twitter feed, I wish I remembered who.  Thanks, whoever it was!  Some of the particulars in the captions are spectacularly wrong, but the photos are still gorgeous.

Some of them I’d never seen before, like this eruption at sunset:

USGS Photo #11 taken on July 22, 1980, by Rick Hoblitt

And a perfect demonstration of why I’ll never become a vulcanologist:

Photo #21 Date 17 April 1980 by taken from USGS helicopter

If you look above the 17, just over a third of the way to the top, you’ll see a very tiny human being climbing up the slopes of a violently active volcano.  That is David Johnston, USGS vulcanologist, whose last words I’ll never forget: “Vancouver!  Vancouver!  This is it!”  They bring tears to my eyes even now.  He embodied everything it means to be a geologist studying volcanoes: excitement, discovery, and devotion to science despite the danger. 

There’s a memorial at Johnston Ridge Observatory dedicated to the victims of the blast.  Take a moment to remember them today: the visitors, the residents, the reporters, the workers, and the scientists who became a part of the mountain’s history forever.

Memorial – David Johnston’s name is one row down to the left of the rose
The Big Ba-Boom

Look! Nature!

Hey blogosphere. Jacob here.

Dana’s post about butterflies inspired me to share some nature meself. I recently attended the launch party of Bird Fellow, and I must recommend it to anyone who has an interest in birds. The website is described as “birding services, social networking, and habitat conservation”, and presents as a way to identify birds and share your experiences with people around the world. The most impressive part, perhaps, isn’t even the photos, which are amazing by themselves.


Ahem. Right. Moving along.

The website is co-founded by David Irons, a man known widely in the birding community as a foremost expert in North American bird species, and considered simply the best birder in the state of Oregon if not the Pacific Northwest by many who share the past time.

But enough about the factoids, let’s look at some more birds.

Guys, this thing here ^ is called a Loon. Ha. Crazy loo-oh god why are its eyes red?! I think it just peered into my soul. And, finding nothing of interest, resumes preening.

This bird is apparently an “Old World Sparrow”. It looks rather Old World-y, doesn’t it? Like it would be perfectly at home with a monocle talking about the good ol’ days.
Anyway, it’s pretty cool, and a great resource to meet people in the birding community or to identify what kind of bird you saw in your backyard.
(All photos taken directly from the birdfellow site, (c) www.birdfellow.com and the appropriate photographers)
Look! Nature!

Dojo Summer Sessions: Only One Person You Can Please

Amanda Palmer recently entered a recording studio with Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, and Damian Kulash to do eight songs in eight hours.  From scratch.  Using Twitter for song ideas.  Brilliant! Turbo Ocho just got pwnd.

Only some people apparently didn’t think that way, and started kvetching before the session even started, and, well, everyone thinks they’re a critic.  To which Amanda said:

catch 22: every artist and musician has to deal with this paradox of “demands” from different folks and the only answer has always been (in my humble opinion) to stick to your OWN personal schedule, make what YOU feel like making WHEN you feel like making it and let everyone sort out their own shit.
you’re NEVER, ever ever going to make everybody (or anybody) else truly happy. you can try. it’ll bite you in the ass.at the end of the day, you only really answer to yourself.

This is important, people.

If you only ever do what other people want and expect you to do, you’re going to get pulled in a thousand different directions.  Because everybody wants something a little different from you.  No two people are going to agree on what you could do that would make them Perfectly Satisfied.  Hell, you talk to the same person on different days, you’ll get different responses as to what they’d really like to see you do.

So, while it’s important to keep the readers (or listeners or what have you) in mind while you’re creating your various works of art, you can’t let them dictate what you do.  You just can’t.  You’ve got only one person you can truly please, and that’s you.  You probably won’t even please yourself, to be honest, but you’ll have better luck following your own bliss rather than trying to follow somebody else’s.

Do what feels right.  No matter how crazy the project sounds.  If you love it, if this is what you truly want to do, go for it.  Because you won’t know until you’ve tried if it’ll turn out to be one of those things that’s utter genius and has (nearly) everyone fainting at how Awesome and Original you are.  At the very least, you’ll entertain yourself.  You’ll have tried something that fulfilled you.  If others end up not liking it, if it doesn’t work, shrug and move on.

And remember that plenty of art didn’t get appreciated until after the artist was gone.  Look at van Gogh, for crying out loud.  Rummage around any bin of classics, in any type of medium, and you’re bound to find plenty of things that nobody liked when it first came out.  But the artist didn’t listen to the critics.  The artist did what the artist felt compelled to do, and created Art, and if it takes a while to catch on, even if it never does, at least said artist was busy creating rather than pandering.

Please yourself.  Then hope that your tastes aren’t so bizarre that nobody else is pleased, but if they are, oh, well.

And don’t let people dictate to you what a writer is.  If you don’t feel like writing every day, if that makes you miserable, don’t do it.  You may never become a published author if you don’t put the daily grind in, but maybe you will.  Write what you can, when you can, and the way you want it, and at least you’ll have pleased the person you have to face in the mirror every day.

If you don’t write with the goal of publication in mind, if you write only for yourself, you’re still a writer.  That’s what’ll go in the literature books if some relation digs your musty old manuscripts out of your desk drawer and publishes them after you’re gone and you end up selling commercially.  Writers write.  Nothing in the rules says you’re only a writer if you’re writing for publication.

Take risks.  Break rules.  Do things you want to do, and don’t mind those who tell you it’ll never work.  One never knows.  You don’t know until you try.

Listen to Amanda Palmer.  She of the Vegimite song and the exquisite taste in husbands: she knows her shit.  She knows there’s nothing crazy about doing crazy shit.

That’s what artists do, damn it.  So shut out the chorus of complaints and do what interests you.

Dojo Summer Sessions: Only One Person You Can Please