Dojo Summer Sessions: I Shall Require Topics

Summer’s drawing to a close, and the winter writing season is very nearly upon us. The Muse is back from wherever she spent her summer vacation. It looks like winter will be coming early. There’s a sharp chill in the night air, and a certain gleam in her eye that says I’m in for it. She also appears to have acquired a new whip. Dear, oh dear.

So I’m furiously loading up on posts before summer ends in order to clear the decks for some marathon fiction writing. I’ll need at least 30 Dojo posts fired up and ready to go in advance. I’ve got about half that nearing completion, and I’m running a bit low on ideas.

Topics. I require topics. What haven’t I covered in the Dojo that you’d like to see covered? Pepper me with questions about all things writing, whether fiction or blogging. Tell me what you struggle with. Are there contentious issues in the wordsmithing world you’d like to see me tackle with nothing more than my wits and perhaps a rock hammer? Get them to me. If you don’t want to go public, you can always find dhunterauthor at yahoo. DM me on Twitter. Drop me a line on Google+, only you’d better do that before October, because I’ve plans to abandon it willy-nilly if it continues to be evil. You can even find me on Facebook: although I tend to neglect that place shamefully, they always notify me by email when something gets messaged or posted.

Right, then. Fire away.

Dojo Summer Sessions: I Shall Require Topics

Los Links 9/9

Slightly less links than usual, I’m afraid. But some great stuff in here. Do enjoy!


Deshler Photography: Hurricane Irene – Record Flooding in Vermont.


Speakeasy Science: Et tu, Science Magazine?

Scientific American: Lessons from Sherlock Holmes: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Imagination.

Almost Diamonds: Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar.

Neurotic Physiology: Friday Weird Science: Are men really funnier than women? Who’s asking?

Looking for Detachment: Report on an Afterwork Field Trip.

Mountain Beltway: Friday fold: duplex structure in the gastropod limestone and A dismaying course, part I: climate change.

The Open Source Paleontologist: How do you read the literature? Thoughts on academic maturation.

The Thoughtful Animal: Animal Imagination: The Dog That Pretended to Feed a Frog (and Other Tales).

White Coat Underground: You’re all gonna die!

Highly Allochthonous: Scenic Saturday: Sliced, diced and weathered.

Life as a Geologist: Kinky Columns.

AnimalWise: The “Yellow Snow” Test.

Georneys: Geology Word of the Week: N is for Nummulite.

The Last Word on Nothing: Guest Post: Microscope, DIY, 3 Minutes.

Not Exactly Rocket Science: Bacteria use electric wires to shock uranium out of groundwater and Hummingbirds dive to sing with their tails.

Uncovered Earth: Geoblogging the Northwest.

Macworld: FTC: No, your smartphone can’t heal acne.

Scientific American: How Accurate Are Memories of 9/11?

Quest: Local Geological State Parks to Close.

Ars Technica: Why my fellow physicists think they know everything (and why they’re wrong).

New York Times: Where Early Dinosaurs Lived, Deal Expands a National Park.

Scientific American: What We Know about Black Holes.

Culturing Science: On vaccines: scientists can’t stop doing science because of crazy people.

History of Geology: September 2, 1806: The landslide of Goldau.


Mad Genius Club: He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher.

Galley Cat: How Publishers & Authors Can Use SoundCloud.

Janet Reid, Literary Agent: Pitch versus query.

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Not Caring.

Dear Author: Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.

The Creative Penn: How To Write Fight Scenes With Alan Baxter.

Atheism and Religion

Choice in Dying: The Bishop of Swindon is an Ass.

Greta Christina’s Blog: Diplomacy and Accomodationism Are Not The Same Thing.

The Meming of Life: The power of two.

Almost Diamonds: We Are Indeed on a Slippery Slope.

New Statesman: What would Jesus ban?

Women’s Issues

Butterflies and Wheels: How to patronize the wimminz.

JAYFK: Oh No They Didn’t: JC Penney still missing the mark.

Feministing: Finally a beer just for women!

RH Reality Check: Court Victory in South Dakota’s Misinformed Consent Law.

Almost Diamonds: Women Can Teach; You Just Can’t Be Obliged to Listen.

Skepticlawyer: Miss Manners and playing the victim.

Tiger Beatdown: CHRONICLES OF MANSPLAINING: Professor Feminism and the Deleted Comments of Doom and “Elitism:” Now, It Basically Just Means “Not Having Sex With Everybody”.

Whatever: Shut Up and Listen.

Love Joy Feminism: Men and Women in Christian Patriarchy: Masters and Slaves or Equals?


Grist: Conservative pundits grapple with ‘anti-science’ charge, flail.

Talking Points Memo: Columnist: Registering Poor To Vote ‘Like Handing Out Burglary Tools To Criminals’.

Forever in Hell: Skin in the Game.

Mike the Mad Biologist: Is 12,000 Lives Worth a Re-Election? Because People Have to Breathe This Crap.

Political Carnival: Tea bagger to TPC reader: You’re “less than human because your husband is half Hispanic & half Irish.

The Telegraph: Jon Huntsman, the lone voice of scientific sanity in the US Republican Presidential race.

Grist: Rick Perry: Just because global warming is a ‘fact’ doesn’t mean it’s real and Even Tea Partiers don’t think environmental protection kills jobs.

Decrepit Old Fool: The Galileo Gambit; rule number one is…

Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal: Science, The Tea Party and The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Pam’s House Blend: Per Save California, Gay Activists Are “Kidnapping The Brains Of Our Kids”.

Guardian News Blog: Is Rick Perry a 21st-century Galileo?

Bad Astronomy: Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality.

Mother Jones: Audio: Chris Christie Lets Loose at Secret Koch Brothers Confab.

Society and Culture 

Time: Beware of the Gonzo Nature-TV Presenter.

Pull My Finger: Dumbest. Blog. Ever.

New York Times: On Flood Plain, Pondering Wisdom of Rebuilding Anew.

The Hermitage: In which Hermitage is a pissy black person.

Lifehacker: How I Got My Stolen Laptop Back Within 24 Hours Using Prey.

Stupid Evil Bastard: Beware cold calls from people claiming to be from Microsoft about problems with your computer.

Inside Higher Ed: A Dissenter Is Fired.

Lousy Canuck: Al, why haven’t I leaped yet!?


Bob Blakley: Google+ Can Be A Social Network Or The Name Police – Not Both.

All Things D: Superman vs. Google+ (Comic).

Los Links 9/9

We Have to Remember

Ten years ago today, the world changed.

It changes every day. Someone, somewhere, each day, finds themselves facing what they’d never expected to face. Wars break out, violence erupts; or there’s a fire, or a flood, or some other catastrophic event that means they will never live as they once did. Even if they rebuild their lives, even if they prosper, there’s always that memory, tucked away, and it colors everything. The world changed. It will never, can never, be the same.

Ten years ago today, we in America faced one of those world-changing events. And we are not the same.

In Flagstaff, that September day was achingly beautiful. The sun shone like a second spring. I’d woken late, as usual, and pottered around getting ready for work. There was no television in my house, no phone, no internet, no radio. I’d gotten rid of all those things, living in splendid near-isolation, because all of the things I needed to connect with the world were just a block away at work. So I didn’t know. The world hadn’t changed yet. I walked to work slowly, savoring the last of the flowers, blooming white and gleaming against the bark and cinders in the landscaping at the gym. I listened to birds singing their day away. I basked in the sun, and felt an overwhelming joy in it. Soon, winter would come, kill all the flowers and drape everything in cold, wet white. But right here, right now, it was warm and brilliant and perfect, a perfect moment. I was smiling as I arrived at work.

Where one of my coworkers, hunched on a bench outside, looked up at me and said, “We’re at war.”

And the world changed.

The Towers were already gone. Televisions wheeled on to the call center floor, tuned to CNN, showed the planes flying in to them, over and over; showed the collapse, the bodies falling, the debris, the end of America’s smug sense that it couldn’t happen here. I thought it was the end. How could we possibly survive this? This was the end of everything: our dreams, our hopes, our way of life. But the voice of one of my characters said, fiercely, speaking from a future I couldn’t see, “We survived.”

And we did. We survived. We came together under eerily silent skies. We buried our dead, tended our wounded, we lifted each other up and we became a united nation. We weren’t alone: the rest of the world was with us. We could be wounded, but never defeated.

Then our Republican government spent the next several years ensuring we did everything wrong. Invaded the wrong country. Went the wrong way on security and civil liberties. Used the excuse of 9/11 to chip away at what we were and what America meant. America now meant security theater, and torture, and endless wars against people who had nothing to do with bringing the Twin Towers down, and no part in killing so many there and at the Pentagon. We, afraid, followed along, and we never should have done.

A terrorist act cannot destroy a country. A country can only destroy itself.

This is a time to remember heroism: firefighters and policemen rushing in to burning buildings, giving their lives so others may live. It’s a time to remember everyday people who rose to the moment and did magnificent things, helping each other survive, cope and pick up the pieces. It’s a time to remember that nineteen fanatics can cause terrible damage and pain, and a time to remember that nineteen fanatics aren’t enough to bring down a nation.

But it is also a time to remember what we have done since. We’re determined to never again let terrorists get so far past our guard, but we’ve let ourselves forget why they attacked us in the first place: our freedoms, our democracy, our contentious and wild culture, one in which we’re free to say and do things they find appalling. We were strong, we were a beacon, we were leaders. We tried so hard to be the good guys, even though we failed so many times to live up to our ideals. But since then, we’ve become frightened and jaded, we’ve given up too much of what made us fantastic. We’ve made horrific mistakes, in trying to face this. We’ve brutalized people who had no part in the attack. We let it be the opening salvo in a hopeless war rather than what it truly was: a criminal act, the work of outlaws, the risk we take for living in a free society that would like to lead the world. We’ve acquiesced to torture. We’ve allowed flying to become an ordeal of security theater in which we ritually remove shoes and sacrifice liquids, topped off with a choice between a grope or being stripped by a scanner. We’ve let fear get the better of us, too many times.

And we must not forget that.

We must not forget that what happened on that bright September day ten years ago is not unique to America. Other countries have been attacked. We are not alone in this. That’s not to minimize the impact of September 11th, 2001: it’s a uniquely painful moment in American history, the day we realized we, too, could suffer. And we should never forget. But let’s not forget that others, before and since, have been attacked, and picked up the pieces, and carried on.

Ten years on, our economy’s shattered, our civil liberties under threat, our political system broken, and we are struggling. But we’re not done yet. We can come back. We can be what we were that September morning: strong, prosperous, and admired.

We can do better than we have done. We can become a nation of ideals and inspiration again. And we don’t have to do it alone.

We have to remember. We have to remember that we could have been so much better, and then be it.

Ten years from now, I want to look back to that September day, and be able to say, “That day could have destroyed us. But it didn’t. We remembered, and we became the best we can be.”

Los Links 9/11: I’ll be adding to these as more arrive.

Almost Diamonds: On the Importance of Forgetting. In which Stephanie Zvan reminds us of the things that should be forgotten.

Bad Astronomy: Repost: Making new anniversaries. In which Phil Plait explores the importance of making new memories.

The Washington Post: F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11. What would have happened if the ordinary people on United Flight 93 hadn’t done extraordinary things.

Superbug: Terror and Bioterror: 9/11 to 10/4. (Part 1). Maryn McKenna describes how disease detectives responded in those first chaotic hours, when no one knew what would come next.

White Coat Underground: Yet another 9/11 remembrance, with commentary. In Detroit, PalMD treated patients and listened to the news, wondering what we all did: is our city next?

The Coffee-Stained Writer: What I will tell my children. Nicole shares memories from herself and her husband, and looks ahead at the day when her infant children will come to her for memories of something they know only from social studies classes.

Respectful Insolence: Ten years ago today. Orac posts a long, harrowing video taken 500 yards from the Twin Towers, and time marches on.

The Friendly Atheist: The Falling Man Is Not In Hell. (Warning: graphic image.).

Greta Christina’s Blog: 9/11, and the Shallow Comfort of Religion. By the time you reach the end, the final line rings like a clarion.

Spiegel Online: How 9/11 Triggered America’s Decline. Rings painfully true, this.

Geotripper: An Audience Applauded, and Humanity Evaporated Away: A 9/11 Reflection. We have to face the worst of ourselves as well as the best. And Christians especially will find some food for thought within.

Maureen Johnson: 9/11. The experiences of a New York woman on that day. And never forget this:  “All those people downtown had names and faces and they all mattered. Everyone mattered. We suddenly remembered that. Everyone mattered.”

Neil Gaiman: Memory. Neil reposts blog entries from that time, and includes the one I have never forgotten: “En route today to the home of Maximilian, the rain forced us into a dry space which happened to be holding an exhibition of Robert Capa photographs: astonishing stuff, of the Spanish Civil War, of the Second World War, of the Japanese-Chinese War of 1938, and I found myself looking at the photos of combat, of wounded civilians, of people whose worlds had crumbled and fallen, without any sense of irony. These people were us. Whatever side they were on. They were us, and the images had a truth and an immediacy I couldn’t have imagined until recently.” 9/23/01

Decrepit Old Fool: Build the right monument. And this, finally, the best post I’ve read on 9/11. As always, George says everything I’ve ever wanted to say and never found the right words for.

Geotweeps remember:

@clasticdetritus: “10 years ago today I was doing geological field work in west Texas, listened to events transpire on radio, didn’t see images for three days.”

@eruptionsblog: “The oddest thing about the 9/11 anniversary is finding out only yesterday that someone I knew in high school died in Tower One. Solemn day.”

@rschott: “10 years ago today I was a new prof at LSSU following the events unfold on Slashdot between classes because everything else online was down.”

@callanbentley: “10 years ago, I was teaching at Jefferson Junior High in SW DC, directly across Potomac from Pentagon. Saw smoke from my classroom window.”

@ugrandite: “Ten years ago I was teaching at WKU and kept trying to catch up on the large TV they dragged out into the atrium btw classes.”

@davidkroll (honorary geotweep for the day): “Just going to buy OJ for the kids’ sleepover party and now crying in my car upon sight of Kroger’s flag at half-mast


Paul Krugman: The Years of Shame. Trenchant and correct.

Blue Texan: Krugman is Right: We Should Be Ashamed of What Happened after 9/11. Ditto.

We Have to Remember

Trek Into the Past

So. Star Trek turned 45 last Thursday. Wow.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I lost my Star Trek innocence. I wasn’t much of a sci-fi fan as a teenager, especially not the teevee shows. I loved Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica and… that was just about it. I truly believed most of those shows were horribly corny, with awful special effects and atrocious writing. I was above all that. I would never ever in my entire life become a Star Trek fan. Star Trek fans were pathetic and weird.

Ah, youth. So full of certainty and so full of shit.

Then my friend Ryan spent a few days with us on his summer break from college. This happened at the same time they’d started releasing Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS. Yes, I am dating myself. Shut up. Anyway, Ryan saw these while we were at Wal-Mart one afternoon and snapped them up with evident glee. His little face just glowed. And he assumed that I, of course, would watch them with him.

“No,” I said. “I hate Star Trek.”

His face. So shocked. He pitched. He pleaded. He cajoled. He seemed to give up in the face of my continued refusal. I should’ve known better. Ryan was a man who could hear the word no, but not when it came to entertainment he believed in. And he could be a devious little bastard.

He also knew me very well. Since he was staying at my place with a herd of other friends, he had easy access to both me and backup. So at 8 in the ay-em, when I was still dead unconscious, he came into my bedroom. “We’re gonna watch Star Trek.”

I think I meant to say something like, “That’s nice, dear. I’m going to continue sleeping,” but what I really said was, “Groan.”

He started in on a let’s-watch-Star-Trek-together sales pitch, ending with, “C’mon. Just one.”

“If you want me to watch Star Trek,” I said, “you’ll have to carry me out there.”

And so he did. He scooped me right out of bed. He’s not the strongest man in the universe, but he was determined. Picture him staggering through my chaotic bedroom, trying to avoid tripping over debris, navigating hazards, while I watched the approaching door with the certainty that I was about to have my head cracked open upon it, if he didn’t fall and squish me first. I was about to die because a friend wanted me to watch Star Trek.

We made it to the living room with only minor bruising. He deposited me in front of the television whilst the other houseguests laughed and roared their approval. Ryan may not have been a strong man, but he was a smart man. He stuffed a Coke in my hand, knowing that at this hour and so equipped, I wouldn’t have the will to move for at least an hour, and an hour was all he needed. Then he turned on the telly.

The episode, for those interested, was “The Naked Now.” Yeah. If you know it, you’re already laughing.

By the end of that hour, I was hooked. By the end of summer, I was a full-on fan. I became an officer in our local fan club. I dressed as Deanna Troi for Ryan’s next visit (which didn’t shock him half so much as the fact that I was wearing makeup). I loved the friend who constantly wore his starship captain’s uniform, and didn’t think it at all weird that he’d spent months figuring out how to say, “Take your ticket and get on the damned boat” in Klingon. He worked for a boat rental company, it made perfect sense.

I owned the Enterprise’s manual. I wrote Star Trek fan fic. I read the books (and to this day, Q-in-Law is one of my favorite reading experiences. Read it. You’ll laugh). I watched all the movies. And I discovered a wealth of stories I hadn’t even known existed.

Star Trek taught me that sci-fi could be awesome, even in the television industry, even when the special effects weren’t all that. It taught me that this genre could tell amazing stories.

I rather drifted away after those halcyon early years of passion. I no longer read the books or write the fan fic. I don’t belong to a fan group, or keep up on the new spinoffs, or even all of the movies. But I haven’t stopped loving Star Trek.

I’ll always want my tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

I’ll always want to see them boldly going where no show has gone before, even if I’m not along for every voyage.


Trek Into the Past

This Student Gives Me Hope

I don’t know who she is, only what she has done. And what she has done is this: become a banned book library. When her school decided upon a list of things the kids absolutely must not read, due to parental outrage and a belief kids can be kept from great literature and harsh truths, she tested their limits by bringing in a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. When it caught the eye of a fellow student, she lent it out. And then things snowballed, and she now runs a clandestine locker-library full of banned books, which kids who had no interest in good books until they were forbidden to read them are now thoroughly enjoying.

Firstly, we have a young woman who’s passionate about books. I already love her.

Secondly, we have a young woman who’s not prepared to be told what she can and cannot read. Love kicks up a notch.

Thirdly, we have a young woman who’s getting other young men and women reading intensely. Love shoots through the roof and becomes adoration.

I have news for parents and school authorities who believe they can shelter children from things they think are too awful for young minds: you’ll fail. You have failed. You’ve always failed. Unless this was a very clever reverse-psychology ploy to get kids interested in books, in which case you’ve succeeded brilliantly. Bravo. A cunning plan – quite evocative of the way the potato was introduced to Greece.

Too bad I doubt the administration was that smart.

We jaded adults may believe kids these days are incapable of deep thought and literacy and scholarship, and we are so very, very wrong if we believe that. Look at this student. Look at what she and her fellow students are doing. Look at how much books matter to them. Enough to take not-inconsequential risks for. And they are smart enough and confident enough to decide what they can and cannot read, all for themselves, to hell with the naysayers.

I love this to pieces. It tells me that, despite rumors to the contrary, we’re not raising a nation of apathetic know-nothings, although we’ve been trying very hard to do so. No, we’ve got a crop of brilliant, bold, and brave kids coming up, and the world will be better for them.

I just hope that once my books get published, they’re summarily banned. I’d like to have this kind of readership. I want kids like this at my signings. Unleashing that wise, unruly literary mob upon the unsuspecting citizens of this increasingly stifled country would make me twelve kinds of happy, and prouder than I’ll ever have words to express.

This Student Gives Me Hope

This Is Madness

I’ll be driving down to Burien, WA tomorrow night to take part in some serious insanity: Burien Little Theatre’s 9-10-11 fundraising event. 24 hours of delightful chaos. I shall be liveblogging it from around 10pm to the wee hours.

If you’re round Burien tomorrow, I beseech you, come down! Join the chaos! Be entertained! Support community theatre! And goggle at the poor souls who won’t sleep and will barely eat for 24 hours so that the show can go on.

This Is Madness

Yeah, About That Lighthouse….

It was barely bloody visible. No matter. We had one of those glorious, rare, clear, and very warm days that would have led to some spectacular views. Only, those glorious, rare, clear and very warm days have led to quite a lot of forest fires, so there was a remarkable amount of smoke in the air, cutting visibility considerably.


Still. ‘Twas lovely. The sun shone, waves crashed, and I got me feet wet. Not bad as far as possibly last adventures of the summer season go. I’d been missing the Sound. Our adventures this summer involved more fire than water, and it just seems obscene to live half an hour from one of the most beautiful bodies of water on earth and not get out to see it.

We went to Alki Point. From there, you can see just about everything round Seattle that makes it so geologically interesting. Shall we take a tour? We don’t even have to walk about much.


We saw a lighthouse. Sorta. If you enlarge this photo by lots, you’ll see the lighthouse at Discovery Park standing at the very end of land, there. And you can see those wonderful bluffs I’m so enamored with.

Continuing on…

As we walked toward the sandy part of the beach, the Space Needle caught my attention, and then this set of steps with waves splashing exuberantly up against it, and the visual artist part of my soul grabbed my throat and said, “You will stand here and take five billion pictures of this until you have one you are satisfied with.”  So I did:

Splash and Space

If you look closely, just to the left of the Space Needle, you’ll notice the Cascades are visible. They’re mere shadows through the haze on the horizon, but they’re there. Seattle is a city surrounded by mountains, and sometimes you even get to see them.

Speaking of Cascades, we got a rare view of Mount Baker:

Mount Baker

It’s still weird to me, living in a city with views of so many stratovolcanoes that look like nothing so much as ice cream cones. It doesn’t matter how hot the summer gets, they’re always coated in snow, and they’re so adorably round. They probably won’t look so round and innocent when they erupt, but at least they’ll put on a good show. If Baker goes boom, I’ll probably hare off to Alki to enjoy the fireworks, weather permitting.

I mentioned smoke. It clung to the horizon, and at times did some very fascinating things, like stream up islands:


And yup, the Olympics were out, too. They’re big. You don’t get a sense of how big most days, with most of them hidden by clouds, but here on a clear day, you get a sense of their enormity. And we saw a fire start up there. Observe:

No fire

No wildfire up my sleeve, ladies and gentlemen. Now I’m going to perform a distracting little gesture with, oh, say, my foot, and then poof!


We watched it grow from just a little wisp of a hint of smoke to this mushroom cloud. Here’s a better view:

Boat and Blaze

This appears to be the Big Hump fire, caused by some idiot, and busily munching along in the understory. It still amazes me that anything at all burns on this side of the state, but we haven’t had rain for a bit. Hence all the bloody fires, most of which are burning on the dry side of the state. Oregon’s got its own excitement as well. That’s what you get when all the biology dries out and things spark. So let me just say this right now, folks: no matter how damp a place seems, please be ultra-careful with any burny things. I know we geo-types joke about napalming the forest, but we don’t really mean it. Much. And we’d rather it not burn down, thanks ever so much.

Here endeth the PSA and the obsession with fire. Let’s feast our eyes on some color, shall we?


This is one of the things I love about the Sound: when it’s blue, it’s blue – but also green, all these lovely bright jewel tones that make the whole world seem just that much more brilliant.

It looks all inviting and stuff, but be careful if you can’t resist and dive in. This is northern Pacific water. That means it’s capital-C cold.

Moi getting cold feet

That’s why you’ll only catch me in it up to my ankles. I am a wuss. But a very happy wuss.

On the way back to the car, we noticed an extraordinarily fat seagull on the prowl. Do not leave bags unattended unless you want them filched by a fat bird:


I don’t know why, but I find this kind of behavior hilarious.

On the other side of the point, I caught sight of a cute little diving bird. I have no idea what it is, but did I mention cute?

Diving bird

How do I know he’s a diving bird? Because I watched him dive a few times. They stay under a rather long time, actually, and then pop back to the surface like ping pong balls.

The sun was starting to get a bit low, and you know me – I can’t resist a good glitter:


Nor a majestic mountain. Mount Rainier completes our collection of Cascades volcanoes visible from Seattle:

Mount Rainier

The views round here really are remarkable.

And, if you try hard enough, and go to the end of an alley, at last, you will see a lighthouse:

Alki Lighthouse

And with that, summer adventuring season is pretty much finished. Nice enough finale. And don’t worry – there shall be plenty more pictures – we’ve had enough adventure to keep us in write-ups all winter long.

Yeah, About That Lighthouse….

Is There Anything More Pathetic Than Flood Geologists at GSA Meetings?

Yup. Actually, there is. And this is why the announcement that Flood geologists, those poor dumb souls who are so besotted with a Bronze Age work of fiction, are once again coming to the GSA’s annual meeting should have you rubbing your hands with glee. Because, you see, the only thing more pathetic than Flood geologists is the fact that their own research has disproved their inane flood hypothesis.

Oh, yes, my darlings. That’s delicious, isn’t it? Tuck your napkin under your chin and go sink your teeth in to this bit of yum: “The defeat of Flood geology by Flood geology.” It’s eleven meaty pages of pure, savory, gourmet geo-goodness.

Really, all you need to do is grab Figure 1 and print it. Carry it with you. It’s got everything neatly laid out, with little icons showing what bit of evidence says that the whole entire earth couldn’t have been underwater at that time. And remember, this is evidence creationist geologists have found through their own research.

Here’s my own quick-and-dirty summary:

Subaerial deposits – raindrop impressions, dessication cracks, continental basalts, in-situ root beds, dinosaur eggs, glaciation, fossil charcoal, eolian dunes, paleosol, trackways.

Low- energy deposits and long pass ages of time: Cretaceous chalk, algal growths, various sea critter beds, reefs, lacrustine (lake) deposits, fluvial (stream or river) deposits.

Diversification of terrestrial animals: “Because such speciation cannot occur during a single year when the entire planet is underwater and during most of which the relevant animals are dead, [flood geologist S.J. Robinson] argued that the entire post-Carboniferous portion of the geologic column must be post-Flood.”

The Mountains of Ararat: can’t have Noah landing there if they don’t exist, and any flood deposits would have to be on top of them, so, uh, y’know, it was some other mountains of Ararat!

When you plot where examples of all of the above are found on a handy geologic timescale, you end up eliminating every bit of it, except for the Hadean Eon. It just doesn’t work. It can’t work.

And some of them know it:

In the words of Flood geologist Max Hunter (2009:88), “It is somewhat ironic…that, almost a half century after publication of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961, the geologic record attributed to the Genesis Flood is currently being assailed on all sides by diluvialists…[and] there remains not one square kilometer of rock at the earth’s surface that is indisputably Flood deposited.”

So what’s a Flood geologist to do?

The continued denial of the implications of their own findings is an example of what I call the gorilla mindset: the attitude that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but religious dogma says it is a gorilla, then it is a gorilla.

According to Flood geologists, this is a gorilla.

Yup. Pretty much. And these poor inane souls are going to be at GSA, shouting “Gorilla! It’s a gorilla!” every time you show them a duck.

Show them Figure 1, and they might just cry.

Is There Anything More Pathetic Than Flood Geologists at GSA Meetings?

The Long Reach of Mount Mazama

A caldera eruption is a massively violent thing. We’re not talking the quiet calderas in shield volcanoes like Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which love erupting and frequently pour burning hot stuff all over the landscape, but generally stick to easygoing lava flows that allow people to get out of the way. We’re not even talking about Fernandina Island, which had a caldera collapse in 1968 and is too dangerous for Galapagos-goers to visit. No, we’re talking about the kinds of eruptions that happen fast, big and explosively.

We’re talking about the kinds of eruptions that hurl ash and pumice so high and so far that the landscape for hundreds or thousands of miles around is blanketed in thick, choking ash. We’re talking about eruptions that bury landscapes for hundreds of square miles in pumice fields tens of feet thick.

We’re talking about the kind of eruption whose traces are still fresh and clear more than seven thousand years later.

Road cut through Mount Mazama pumice, Route 58

It’s hard to wrap your mind around this, but here we are: over thirty miles from Mount Mazama as the crow flies. Only now have we come near the northern boundary of the pumice fields, and they are still between six and eight feet thick.

Perspective time. I’m standing in a place where, if I’d been able to stand still during the fallout from the eruption, I’d have been over my head in pumice. Over thirty miles away, not in the path of any lahars or pyroclastic flows or any such excitements, and if I’d had a one-story house, it would have been buried to the eaves. And, people, these aren’t itty-bitty bits of pumice. Stuff landing here reached up to nearly two inches long.

Mount Mazama Pumice, collected at the road cut on 58

Now, pumice is light, I grant you that. But it’s not exactly aerodynamic. Toss it up in the air, and it doesn’t take very long to come back down. So just imagine the force needed to hurl one and two inch chunks of it over thirty miles to land in blankets that would have buried even basketball players standing on their tip-toes.

It’s difficult to imagine. We just haven’t had many events like that in our living memory. In fact, when my intrepid companion and I got to talking about caldera eruptions the other day, I had to ask Erik Klemetti when the last one was. Mount Pinatubo fits the bill: maclargehuge eruption with worldwide consequences that left a caldera nearly two miles across. Note that Erik called that a “small” caldera collapse! It’s the closest to Mount Mazama we’ve come in the information age.

Then there was the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Krakatau. Tambora. That last was the largest eruption in recorded history. I mention this because Pinatubo was a measly VEI 6. A piddly little colossal eruption. Mount Mazama, on the other hand, rated up there with Tambora: a VEI 7. Super-colossal.

And it has left its mark, so far away.

Pumice Flats

 In the background, there are mountains, yes. In the foreground, flat or gently-rolling land. When Mount Mazama spewed its guts all over the landscape, it filled in valleys and leveled things out. The pumice-filled ash doesn’t hold moisture well, so the scrappy Ponderosas, already in the rain shadow of the Cascades, are even more starved for water. This isn’t a land that supports riots of vegetation. The only things that survive here are those used to doing without.

Mount Mazama Pumice mixed with cinders. I should get a centimeter scale tattooed on my thumb, shouldn’t I?

Close to the road, you’ll notice all these lovely red and black bits mixed in with the yellow-white pumice. Those are cinders, trucked in and scattered on the road for traction on snowy winter days. I have to admit something to you: my heart did a little bound of joy, because that’s what the roadsides in Flagstaff look like (usually minus the large pieces of pumice, but not always – we’ve got a stratovolcano that liked coating the area in pyroclastics, too). Things weren’t so colorful before people came along and started spreading cinders on the roads. Just tough green plants, tan ash, and pale pumice as far as the eye could see.

Mount Mazama Pumice and cinders at top of cut

I scrambled to the top of the cut to try to get away from contaminating cinders. No such luck. But I got to see scenes that could have come from my childhood: Ponderosa pines doing their best to make a living, scrubby little bushes with water-miser leaves, and plenty of dead wood, all fighting to hold on to loose, ashy, easily-drained ground. It’s a smal
l hill, not much taller than I am, but a hell of a climb in all that loose stuff. Little clouds of ash puffed up and coated my shoes. Moisture seemed sucked instantly from my skin. It smelled of volcanic earth and pine resin, and if you’ve never smelled that before, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the most beautiful scents on earth.

And as you stand there, you ponder the force it takes to create a landscape like this, and your poor brain boggles. Thing is, this is only the beginning. By journey’s end, you may just feel you’ve experienced a caldera eruption inside your own skull.

Ye olde indispensable references:

Roadside Geology of Oregon: Especially the marginalia, oddly enough.

Erik Klemetti: My go-to man for all things volcano, even on a Sunday, even on a holiday weekend.

Anne Jefferson: Who is not just a master of floods, it turns out, but knows some kick-ass volcanoes such as Fernandina.

Lockwood DeWitt: Tour guide of Oregon geology extraordinaire, and without whom I wouldn’t have known what the hell I was seeing.
The Long Reach of Mount Mazama

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer's Gut

My heart sister says important things about writing. And you may say to yourself, “Well, of course, Dana would think so – Nicole’s the sister she never had.” That’s true. Yes, I am partial. But there’s also another factor: Nicole writes for a living, so when she says things about writing, these important things, it behooves an aspiring author to listen for reasons beyond the fact Dana loves and trusts her.

She had this to say just recently:

I have to trust myself as I write these stories. I have feelings about which stories will work and which should probably be included only in my journal. And I have those feelings for a reason. My writer’s gut is telling me which direction to go. I just have to trust it.

As writers, it’s sometimes easy to trust other people’s opinions more than our own. After all, writers are seeking approval of fellow writers, agents and publishers and, ultimately, readers. We want to know that what we’re doing is going to be read and enjoyed by people.

But only you know the best way to do your characters justice. Only you know how to write your stories. You have to trust yourself.

She’s right. She’s right about all of it. And those last lines, particularly, are ones that are now burned into my writer’s soul and will not let go, because they are true, and I sometimes need to hear them stated that starkly so that I am reminded of the truth.

But what did I get hung up on? The “writer’s gut.” What is that? What is this “writer’s gut”? Why should I trust it?

I’m not one much for talk of instinct and intuition anymore. I used to be. Then I started hanging round with scientists, who subject their “gut instinct” to rigorous testing. They’re so often wrong, these intuitions, these leaps. The writer’s gut, you see, is an instinct. It’s an intuition. Why should we trust it?

Because those instincts and intuitions are hard-won, my friends. They only happen after we’ve worked ourselves bloody, after we’ve been writing for a long time. The writer’s gut is different from that first flush of creativity, that alluring idea, that wild self-confidence you feel before you’ve actually picked up a pen and run up against harsh reality. The writer’s gut is developed only after years, perhaps decades, of hard, lonely work.

It’s your subconscious writer’s mind, the one you acquired after a billion failed drafts and some writing classes and/or workshops and reading countless books on writing and blogs on writing, the one that listened to and absorbed what the experts (i.e., successful authors you worshipped) told you about how to write, watching the story unfold and clearing its throat meaningfully on occasion.

It plugs you in to a high-voltage current and gives you the buzz of your life when you’re on to something, when you’re working with an idea that will lead to a fantastic story. It takes your brain and gives it a good hard wrench when you’ve hared off in the wrong damned direction. It can’t always articulate what’s wrong and what’s right. But if you listen just right, you can tell what it means. And when you’ve learnt to listen to it, it can keep you on a path that everybody says you shouldn’t take but turns out to be the right one in the end. It can steer you round stumbling blocks. It can tell you when you’ve gone badly astray and must backtrack rather than stumble stubbornly ahead.

Is it wrong? I’m sure it sometimes is. But if you’ve honed it, you can trust it most of the time.

I don’t actually think of it as my “writer’s gut.” I think of it as the story. The story knows better than I do. It always does. It knows what it wants and needs. It knows if I’m the right writer for it. I’ve got a hard drive full of story ideas, amazing ideas, wonderful ideas that would make fabulous stories, but I know I can’t write them. My writer’s gut tells me they’re not my stories. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to give them free to a good home. They should have adoption centers for abandoned story ideas. But there are ideas that look up at me with those big, soulful eyes, and wriggle just a little, and I know they’re mine. I know, even if they look ridiculous to other people at first, that I can help them grow into something sleek and beautiful and enchanting. There are stories that are mine to tell, and I recognize them now. They make it easier to regretfully pass the other stories by, leave them for another.

My writer’s gut also knows when I’ve gotten ahead of myself. It knows when a story idea is mine, but I’m not ready for it yet. Then it slows me down to a gentle halt, directs me to do some more work before coming back to that story. I’m manifestly not ready now for some of the ideas I have got. There are plenty of others to work with in the mean time. My writer’s gut tells me that this is fine. All of my stories will be better served in the end by writing the ones I’m prepared for first. There are stories I told ten years ago I couldn’t tell now, and stories I’m telling now I couldn’t have told ten years ago. And eventually, with work and care, they’ll be drawn together into a body of work, whole and complete, and ready to make their own way in the world.

You may wonder why I haven’t tried publishing those stories. My writer’s gut again. It tells me to wait, just now. I write out of order. After long consultation with my writer’s gut, it’s been determined that this is the proper way for me to write, but not to publish. That’s fine. Stories are patient. These stories will be just fine waiting a few more years until their siblings are ready to join them in that grand adventure that is finding an audience.

I can hear the publish-or-perish crowd howling in protest just now, but they shan’t overrule my writer’s gut. Theirs tells them to push their work out in the world, and they are right – for those works. Not these. I used to beat myself up over not being like them. No more. No, I’ve learned to listen to that instinct that’s telling me it’s all right to wait until the stories are ready. Not forever. Not until they’re perfect, because nothing ever is, but until they are as right as they need to be.

The thing about this writer’s gut is, you know your stories better than anyone else possibly can. You live them. They are inside you. And that’s what gives you the instincts you have got. Instinct is just a word for something you know so well you can’t articulate it. But it’s not that silly intuition that’s no better than tossing divining sticks or a pair of gaming dice. It’s that intuition that comes from knowing something very, very well.

So, yes, when you’ve lived with your stories long enough to know them more intimately than you’ve ever known a lover, emblazon these words upon your wall, so that you will never forget them:

But only you know the best way to do your characters justice. Only you know how to write your stories. You have to trust yourself.

And then, write.

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer's Gut