This Is Why I'm So Damned Proud to Blog Here

I told you recently about The Conversation. It’s still ongoing, despite attempts to derail it by some folks who just can’t quite seem to understand why sexual harassment is not okay, and that putting policies in place to ensure harassment is handled quickly and appropriately are not, in fact, going to to turn the skeptical and atheist movements into the Taliban. It’s ongoing despite the fact that people who should know better seem to believe discussing these problems is the problem, not the problems themselves. (If that kind of blame-the-messenger syndrome reminds you a little of the Bush regime’s attempts to sweep problems under the rug by attacking the people who mentioned problems instead of solving the actual problems themselves, you are not alone.)

Despite all of the folks who just can’t quite seem to understand that harassment is a real issue, that it’s bad, and that steps need to be taken to reduce it, whilst still ensuring people get to have fun and be flirty if with other people who also want to be fun and flirty, The Conversation is resulting in some real progress.

The Conversation is moving forward.

And it’s moving in large part because so many of the people who blog here at FreethoughtBlogs are ensuring it doesn’t stop.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to mention how much I love the folks I blog alongside of, and how very proud of them I am. This conversation isn’t easy. But they’re keeping it going, and because of them and other hard-working people who know The Conversation is worth having, conventions will be a hell of a lot safer and happier for everybody, abusers excepted.

You guys are amazing.


(Standard reminder for posts on sensitive subjects: First-time comments go automatically to moderation. Swearing and disagreement are fine, but keep it within bounds. Gendered epithets, misogyny, abuse of other commenters, and other misbehavior won’t be tolerated. You might wish to review the cantina’s comment policy before you comment.

ETEV has, so far, had nothing but good people having good talks in the threads, even when disagreements spring up. And I want to thank my regulars and my newbies, who have all ensured that the discussions we have are thoughtful, productive, and quite often fun. You, my darlings, are the best!)

This Is Why I'm So Damned Proud to Blog Here

Mystery Flora: A Little Bit Blue

There’s a hilltop above Locust Creek Park in Brier, Washington that’s full of flowers. There were all sorts of delights, some wild, some domestic. I’m not sure which category these fall in to. They were growing on the verge of a driveway, happily overpowering the grass.

Mystery Flowers I

I see them around quite a bit. They’re always a cluster of little delights, a nice contrast to the nearly endless green round here.

Mystery Flowers II

I’m just going to pause a brief moment for a small rant. Lawns annoy me. This is because so many flowers that end up in them are treated as weeds. One day, you have a sea of lovely flowers, creating a miniature meadow: the next, some bugger has been through with the mower and the Roundup and you have a boring green desert. I know folks like pristine expanses of grass. I used to spend quite a lot of time on my neighbor’s lawn in Flagstaff, which was thick and soft and a masterpiece of the homeowner’s art. Any weed that ended up in that lawn was an instantly dead weed: we never did get to see anything bloom in it. You could practically use it as a mattress, the grass was so thick and evenly-mowed. And he went into panic mode the instant a dog appeared on the horizon, because even the possibility that he could end up with a small brown circle due to calls of canine nature was not to be entertained.

He had a willow tree growing at one end of his lawn. There was, as there frequently is under such circumstances, a circular bare patch. He was convinced it was because evil canines were using the tree as a watering post. We had to explain that the tree was sucking nutrients and water out of that area, thus leaving the grass bereft. We found this small island of ignorance in a sea of expertise odd. Then again, he was an astronomer by profession, so the fact he managed a world-class lawn in Arizona is a remarkable achievement anyway. And you should have seen his roses. Their blooms were practically as big as our heads, and they filled the air with the most luscious scent imaginable. They probably survived because the local grasshoppers had already gorged themselves on ours…

Yeah, that was me getting mugged by the Memory Fairy. Yeesh.

Speaking of filling the air with scent, though, you lot can tell me whether the stuff I had my nose buried in was lilac or lavender. I can’t tell the difference. I just know both of them have cones of purple joy, and that planting my face in a bush is one of the best ways to spend part of an afternoon.

Bonus Mystery Flowers I

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple – and probably, if I own a house by then, have the thing buried in it. Purple rhodies, purple lilacs, purple lavender – and a bit of honeysuckle for variety’s sake. Roses, which come in purple varieties. Fuchsias, ditto. The nice thing about the Northwest is, I can have all of these things without drawing down the local water table. This does, unfortunately, mean I shall only be visited by people with allergies for a few short weeks each year, but it’s a small price to pay.

Bonus Mystery Flowers II

Also, willows and Japanese maples, and if I go really wild on the gardening in my old age, we might even do a few cloud pines and a plethora of crocuses and tulips. There won’t be any grass. Bollocks to grass. Up here, moss grows in thick, luxuriant carpets that work just as well, and require a hell of a lot less work, and like it just fine under the trees. There is nothing quite so beautiful as the mossy ground beneath a stately old tree. And when you get different varieties all growing together, the subtle blend of colors and textures is astoundingly lovely.

Of course, all that biology’ll be on only one part of the yard. The rest is rocks.

What will your dream garden be?

Mystery Flora: A Little Bit Blue

New Rosetta Stones Post: In Memory of the Geologists Who Died in the May 1980 Eruption

I’m not sure how many people know four geologists died on Mount St. Helens. None of us can think of St. Helens without thinking of David Johnston, of course, and the other three deserve to be remembered as well.

This was so hard to write. I wanted to do them justice. Very little information on James F. Fitzgerald Jr., Bob Kaseweter, and Beverly Wetherald is available. And I’m not a journalist: I didn’t want to go prying around looking for friends, family and colleagues, ripping scabs off old wounds. That said, if anyone reading knew them and wishes to share anything about them, please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. That goes for folks who knew David Johnston, of course.

I really want to go hug a vulcanologist right now. The work they do is so insanely dangerous, and yet so necessary. If we have any vulcanologists in the audience, I want you to know how admired and appreciated you are. Consider yourself hugged. Also, let me buy you a beer, next time you’re in town.

New Rosetta Stones Post: In Memory of the Geologists Who Died in the May 1980 Eruption

Thomas Paine: "A Calamitous Necessity of Going On"

I’ve been reading the works of 18th and 19th century heretics. I feel cheated. My education elided freethinking. If mention of a freethinker was necessary, textbooks and teachers focused on something else they’d done, not the actual freethinking bit. This allowed Christians to slumber happily in the delusion that in days gone by, not a word was said against their religion except by icky people who got their asses kicked, or did nothing important at all, or didn’t matter in the least. And it left me with the impression that atheists had sprung up brand-new this (well, last, now) century. I thought everybody who ever meant anything had been religious of some sort, and of course our Founding Fathers were faithful.

And this, mind you, was in a school system that actually taught evolution, at least a little bit, and did a reasonable job inculcating secular values.

Continue reading “Thomas Paine: "A Calamitous Necessity of Going On"”

Thomas Paine: "A Calamitous Necessity of Going On"

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Batman Among the Blueberries

My supervisor, Shelli, is teh awesome, and has sent me one of the greatest UFDs of all time. Check this birdie out:

Mystery Bird I

She says he just sat there while she crept up with her cell phone in hand, tilting his head this way and that, completely without fear. I think he was mesmerized by the horns on her phone’s case. Besides, it’s blue. Maybe he thought it was an enormous rectangular blueberry.

Mystery Bird II

He looks like a fledgeling of some sort. Hopefully, your bird-fu is good enough to identify even teh bebbies. If it helps, this photo was taken sometime around late July-early August. And, obviously, it was at a blueberry farm. Bryant Blueberry Farm in Arlington, Washington, in fact. Shelli goes there every summer, because, she says, “they keep them really well tended. I’ve been to lesser blueberry farms, and they only make me keep going there [to Bryant]. They keep their rows completely mowed and weeded, you can actually sit right under a bush and eat berries.” This is, of course, in between your bird-stalking activities.

With this testimonial, I believe Shelli should get at least one free admission this summer.

I shall provide a convenient map for those who may wish to go look for Batman* and eat blueberries themselves:

View Larger Map

There is also a kangaroo farm there. With actual kangaroos. And koalas. And wallabies. Any fan of Rocko’s Modern Life has got to want the wallabies. I think I’m going to force my intrepid companion to go adventuring with me this summer. Blueberries and Aussie animals. What could be better?

Well, some geology (pdf). There’s a terrace or bench there, upon which the Arlington Heights neighborhood sits. Everything’s pretty much glacial outwash, it appears, although the bedrock looks wild: “sandstone, shale, conglomerate, andesite,basalt, and metamorphased sedimentary and igneous rock.” Okay. That tells me this area’s had a rather eventful history, even before it got mauled by ice sheets, and if I can find any bedrock outcrops round there, I’ll be completely excited. Besides, the Skagit River Valley is exquisitely lovely, and the Cascades are right there, and it’s just a quick hop over to the San Juan Islands…

Suddenly, stalking Batman seems like a completely reasonable thing to do. Who’s with me?

*We’ve been calling him Batman. Or Batbird. But he also kinda looks like the Lone Ranger. Also, he might be a she, for all I know.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Batman Among the Blueberries

Three Beautiful Things and a Funny

I just spent a few moments perusing G+ whilst dinner cooked. For those of you who aren’t on G+ or don’t follow me there, I figured I’d share, because there are three extraordinarily beautiful photographs and something to delight the hearts of current and former English majors.

If I remember rightly, there were people who said, when photography was born, that it could never be art. It’s too bad they’re gone. I’d like to spread the following photos out in front of them, laying them down like a royal flush.

For geology lovers, Kent Mearig’s photograph of a stream in an ice cave in Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier. You’d be forgiven if you thought such things couldn’t appear on this planet – but they can, and do, and they are exquisite.

Arachnophobes beware, but our own George Wiman took this fantastic photo of a tiny spider, and I think it’s utterly adorable. Also, I love the eyes! Remarkable little critters. And capturing it in such detail takes a certain mastery of photography that can only be envied by amateurs such as myself.

The trump card*: liquid flower photos. Mind boggled. Click through to see the whole series, because they are amazing.

And, teh funneh: English doesn’t borrow from other languages. Laughed me arse off, didn’t I just? I’m sure at least one or two of you got a kick out of that.

It’s back to the gargantuan 800+ page paper on Mount St. Helens for me. Stay tuned for the best UFD ever later this morning…


*I don’t play poker, so I don’t know if there is a trump card in a royal flush, or even what a trump card is except in a vague “ha ha you are so pwnd” sort of way, and I didn’t feel like looking it up. Did I mention dinner? Also, 800+ page paper? Yeah. Just go with it, m’kay?

Three Beautiful Things and a Funny

"The Shovel is Brother to the Gun"


by Carl Sandburg

Long, steel guns,
Pointed from the war ships
In the name of the war god.
Straight, shining, polished guns,
Clambered over with jackies in white blouses,
Glory of tan faces, tousled hair, white teeth,
Laughing lithe jackies in white blouses,
Sitting on the guns singing war songs, war chanties.

Broad, iron shovels,
Scooping out oblong vaults,
Loosening turf and leveling sod.

I ask you
To witness—
The shovel is brother to the gun.

War Memorial at The Park at Bothell Landing
"The Shovel is Brother to the Gun"

Sunday Song: Memorials

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States. I wrote a memorial last year, and won’t add to it. We’ll just do two songs.

This is Iced Earth’s “Ghost of Freedom,” which is quintessentially American and a lovely tribute to those who fought and died for liberty.


Every time you think about it
It tears you up inside
You curse the day your mother
told you, your father died
Now you’re always searching
Searching for the reason why I’ve gone
But I will always be here
By your side, through the darkest night

Here I’ll stand on the firing line
Here I’ll walk through the field where I died
I will fight and let the voice ring true
I am the ghost
Standing next to you

Every night you go to sleep
You pray the Lord my soul to keep
You don’t know I’ve not gone away
You see I watch over fighting men
So they can have peace again
And maybe someday you will all be free

Here I’ll stand on the firing line
Here I’ll walk through the field where I died
I will fight and let the voice ring true
I am the ghost
Standing next to you

You speak to me
And I feel your pride
Assuring me I’ll never die
I write Mother…
“He’s here with me…”
He’s in our minds
He’s in our souls
Of sacrifice his story’s told
He holds the flame of freedom for all to see

Here we stand on the firing line
Here I’ll walk in the field where I fight
I will fight or die for liberty
With the ghost standing next to me

Don’t tread on me…live free or die!!!
To our fallen brothers
You died to keep us free
To our fallen brothers
Who gave us liberty!!!

Of course, I have hopes that one day, liberty won’t come at such an appalling cost. I would like to see a time when there are no fresh names to remember on Memorial Day, when war is just a memory from our species’s angry adolescence, and disputes aren’t solved at gunpoint. I find myself unable to do the “Rah, rah!” thing on Memorial Day. They died. Some of these soldiers died for good causes, some while serving their country in much murkier wars, and we owe them all. But they died, and I want there to come a time when people do not have to die in the line of duty.

So, “Sleepless.” This an an Anathema cover by Cradle of Filth, and it’s haunting and beautiful and a soul cry.

And I often sigh
I often wonder why
I’m still here and I still cry

And I often cry
I often spill a tear
Over those not here
But still they are so near

Please ease my burden

And I still remember
A memory and I weep
In my broken sleep
The scars they cut so deep

Please ease my burden
Please ease my pain

Surely without war there would be no loss
Hence no mourning, no grief, no pain, no misery
No sleepless nights missing the dead … Oh, no more
No more war!

Sunday Song: Memorials

Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat

Seattle’s about to do its Memorial Day thing, where it gets all cloudy and probably rains. But today, it graced us with one perfect summery day. So I nipped down to the river for a ramble before coming back to hang out with the cat.

Sammamish River from bridge at The Park at Bothell Landing

The river’s been pretty well tamed down here. There used to be a fair amount of boat traffic, and the river got dredged and straightened for flood control and transportation purposes, if I remember the sign right. It’s thoroughly domesticated now. And once Lake Washington was lowered, it lost its purpose as a highway of sorts. You’ll see the occasional small boat and plenty of kayaks, but no commercial shipping.

Continue reading “Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat”

Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat

Snail on Green Stone

Starspider dropped by this evening and graciously allowed me to show off my rocks. This included a ramble by the stone walls between my apartment and hers, which include some nice green stones, which I’m suspecting are actually greenstone. Imagine that. She snapped this photo of a snail on the green stone with her camera phone.

Snail on green stone. Image Credit: Starspider

I know gardeners consider them pests, but I love snails. I especially love snails on rocks. We’ve got lots of both round here, and the snails come out after it rains and I’m all like ZOMG SNAILS!!! and have fond memories of Thomas, my wild snail who mated with our domestic golden snail Goldie, and all of the tiny little snail babies that resulted. Snails rock. Especially when they’re on rocks.

Snail on Green Stone