Mystery Flora: Arizona in Washington

I know, I know: plants can have a wide range, so it’s silly to be astonished when I see plants from my childhood happily growing in my new home state. But face facts: the portion I live in, the Puget Sound area, is wildly different from Flagstaff. No dry dirt, for one thing. 38 inches of precipitation as compared to 23 inches, for another – and you may not think that’s a huge difference, but Flagstaff gets most of its water from winter snowfall and the short, drenching afternoon monsoon rains in July and August. Seattle gets rained on – All. The. Time. Okay, maybe not all  – we typically get a nice summer break. But we still don’t have much dry dirt. The dry country plants of Flagstaff and its even more parched high-desert surroundings have given the western side of the Cascades a miss as far as places to migrate to. They’d drown.

But cross the Cascades and get into their rainshadow, and it’s a completely different story. I was struck by that the first time I passed through: on the eastern slopes, Ponderosa pines rose in thick groves just like Flagstaff, and when I stood on Ryegrass Summit, it looked and smelled almost precisely like the antelope-filled grasslands near Prescott. Dorothy was wrong about there being no place like home. I can always pop across the pass and go visit a place very much like it.

Some of the plants evidently feel much the same. They’ve traveled up this way and established themselves on Washington’s dry side. When I took B over the pass to make his jaw drop with some hot Channeled Scablands action, I found several old friends, including one I’ve eaten. I forgot to photograph some of them, I was so busy with geology, but I got a few. I know what they are. Let’s see if you can figure them out.
Continue reading “Mystery Flora: Arizona in Washington”

Mystery Flora: Arizona in Washington

Adventures on the Dry Side

Having ended up with two days off together, B and I rather precipitously decided on an overnight trip. It being spring, and thus still fickle weather-wise, and given my desire to show him something that would really make his eyes pop, we decided on the Channeled Scablands as a safe bet. We’d already planned on Vantage – simple enough to expand that day trip into two.

Petrified Log at Gingko Petrified Forest Visitor's Center, with Wanapum Lake on the Columbia River in the background.
Petrified Log at Gingko Petrified Forest Visitor’s Center, with Wanapum Lake on the Columbia River in the background.

How’s this for mind-blowing: those petrified logs were found in Columbia River Basalt flows. Yep. Wood, in a lava flow. You’d think it would catch on fire, but that’s where Vantage Lake comes in: those logs were in it when the lava arrived. Too wet for even molten basalt to burn, preserved nicely by it, petrified over the ages, and discovered by some mightily astonished people.

We’d meant to hike the loop trail and visit all the logs in their cages (had to be locked up against nasty thieveses), but we got rained on. We played around in the Gingko Gem Shop, hoping it would pass, but it never did. At least we got to spend time playing with the shop’s kitty, and magetized hematitie, which were both awesome and fun. The gentleman who runs the shop showed us some neat tricks with said hematite, and let us play with the rare earth magnets, and is as much of a gem as his shop. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m on the dry side. Great specimens at great prices, too! Be sure to drop by if you’re in the Vantage area.

Looking over Lower Grand Coulee from one of the Lake Lenore Caves.
Looking over Lower Grand Coulee from one of the Lake Lenore Caves.

Getting rained out turned out to be a good thing, because it meant we were driving up Grand Coulee early enough to drop by Lake Lenore Caves. We hiked the whole trail, and played in the caves, and reflected upon the power of the floodwaters that carved this whole thing, caves and all. See those cliffs across the way? They’re huge. And this is the Lower Grand Coulee, which isn’t so impressive as the upper. Wow, right?

Next day, we did a more leisurely drive down the coulee, stopping here and there. One of the stops I absolutely had to make was at the end of the Upper Grand Coulee, where you’re in granite rather than basalt.

Granite cliff in Upper Grand Coulee.
Granite cliff in Upper Grand Coulee.

Some of the oldest rock in Washington State, this, and positively glittering with plagioclase. You can actually see it glittering at 60 miles per hour. The crystals are enormous, and the rocks are shot through with pegmatite dikes. I abso-bloody-lutely love this spot.

Of course, all of it’s extremely neat.

Steamboat Rock framed by a Ponderosa pine branch.
Steamboat Rock framed by a Ponderosa pine branch.

Difficulty moderate, the book said. Trail steepens from the base of the cliffs to a saddle, it said. Nowhere did the authors mention that the difficulty is moderate for mountain goats, and that if you can’t monkey your way up and down vertical bits of trail, you will get stuck somewhere along it, faced with a choice between bruising your bum, breaking your neck, or trying to call 911 for a helicopter rescue. We made it up the first vertical bit, stopped at a low area, looked at the people struggling to navigate the next vertical bit, and considered the fact we’d already drunk our bottles of water. And there wasn’t any shade. And my leg muscles, at least, were already rebelling against up and were seriously put out by the idea of more up, followed by lots of horrible down. So we descended without climbing more than a third. Still. Magnificent views, and nice exercise, and now we have a list of things we shall bring next time, not limited to several gallons of water, walking sticks, padded gloves, and possibly mountaineering gear. Sheesh.

Ah, well, left more time for Dry Falls, didn’t it?

Dry Falls. Need I say anything?
Dry Falls. Need I say anything?

You have no idea how happy I am to have finally made it back there with the good camera, and that we had that wonderful interplay of cloud shadow and light, and that we arrived with enough time to talk to the park ranger on duty and get directions from him to a way to a part of the falls you can’t see from the visitor’s center. It’s astoundingly beautiful, and you will love it, but I’m going to make you wait because I am evil and also because I need to bloody well write up Franklin Falls soon. Summer field season has me swamped already, and it’s barely begun!

The weather was spectacular, and allowed us a lovely view of the Stuart Range on our way back through the pass.

Stuart Range, seen from Indian John Hill.
Stuart Range, seen from Indian John Hill.

So that was excellent. I have lots of mystery flora for you, and I would have had birds, only they never held still. Ah, well. The geology will make up for it. I’ll be telling you tales of fire, ice and water before long – after I get round to the things I was supposed to be working on, anyway!

Adventures on the Dry Side

Why Is Kink Fun? A Guest post by Greta Christina

Unzip your mind. Sit back, relax with your drink of choice, and read the following with a healthy spirit of inquiry. Many of you won’t even need to do that much – you’re kinky yourownselves, and you’re ready to go dive into the book without advance preparation. Some of you aren’t kinky at all, or haven’t ever discovered more than a mild, currently socially-acceptable kink within yourself (fuzzy handcuffs, eh? Nice!). Some of you have been conditioned to believe kink is sick and horrible and never ever good.

As with many things, you’ve been lied to. And Greta will attempt to explain why this thing you think is no fun at all is actually very fun and healthy and mucho bueno for many folks. Ready? Then go:


Why Is Kink Fun?

Guest post by Greta Christina

"Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More" - by our own Greta Christina - is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!
“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” – by our own Greta Christina – is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Why is kink fun?

Why is it that some people — in very specialized, negotiated, enthusiastically consensual circumstances — find it not just acceptable, but actively and deeply pleasurable, to be controlled, dominated, physically hurt, used, objectified, shamed, humiliated, and/or have their freedom curtailed?

Quick bit of background. I’ve recently published a collection of erotic fiction — mostly kinky — titled “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” (Currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords — audiobook and paperback are coming soon.) The book has gotten an excellent reception so far, with lots of lovely gushing reviews. But it’s also been received with some bafflement, and in some cases even hostility, from a few readers and people who’ve seen excerpts or read what I’ve written about it… and who don’t understand how it can be healthy to get sexual pleasure from experiences that are so obviously unhealthy and negative and bad. Example: I got this message on Facebook recently, which I’m printing with the senders permission (anonymously at their request):

I am right in the middle of your book “Bending”. As someone who has a very “vanilla” sex drive with no kinks (literally, none.. I’m as bland as they come) I don’t quite see the appeal to feeling shame that comes with BDSM-style punishment and discipline. As someone who’s been shamed in real life by religion in years past, and by friends and family who don’t understand my hobbies and quirks, I find it hard to empathize with how shame can be a turn-on for some people.

I ask this in the most non-judgmental way possible… but, what is the appeal? I’m a little hung up on your book because I don’t understand how humiliation can be erotic. I think the book is very well written but I’m just having a hard time reading through it because there is a stark disconnect between my sexuality and the sexuality of the characters portrayed in your short stories.

Thank you very much for your time. I love the work that you do and look forward to possibly hearing back from you.

I’ve been doing kinky sex for so long, I sometimes forget how incomprehensible it sometimes seems to people who aren’t into it. But I do recognize why this might be hard to understand. In some ways, consensually sadomasochistic sex can almost be defined as sex that eroticizes, and makes pleasurable, experiences that would normally be actively unpleasant, and in some cases even horrific.

What about that feels good?

There’s a limit to how well I’m going to be able to get this across. Sex is such a personal, subjective experience. Explaining why you like any kind of sex that someone else doesn’t — kinky or otherwise — is tricky at best. Try explaining why you like sex with someone of the opposite sex — or the same sex — to someone who really, really doesn’t. It’s like trying to explain what it is that tastes good about broccoli, to someone who totally loathes it. But I’m going to take a stab.

Caveat #1: I’m just talking about myself here. I know that my experiences are shared by many, but I don’t presume to speak for all kinky people. Caveat #2: This is a complicated issue — what’s the phrase the social scientists use? Multi-factorial? — and anything I say to explain this is going to oversimplify pretty much by definition. All that being said, I’m going to take a stab.

For me, much of what it comes down to is intimacy.

The thing about pain is that it gets through. I can be a very well-defended, self-contained person: I don’t let myself get close to people very easily, and it’s hard to just let those walls down and let someone else in. But pain gets through. It’s impossible to ignore. The very intensity of it — the fact that my body is processing the sensation, on some level, as unpleasant — grabs my attention, wakes me the fuck up. If someone is hitting me, I can’t tune out the fact that they’re touching me.

And it isn’t just pain I’m talking about here. In my experience, most forms of sadomasochistic sex have to do with breaking down barriers. Shame and humiliation break down the barriers of dignity and composure. Bondage and domination break down the barriers of self-containment and self-possession. There is an intense intimacy in putting yourself in someone else’s hands, handing over the reins, letting them control what you’re going to be feeling for a while. And again, the very intensity of the experience, the fact that some small part of my brain is screaming, “This is not okay! Get away from this now!”, can — again, in the right circumstances and with the right person — be an intensifier, a magnifier of experience. Including the experience of intimacy, of connection, of being touched by another person.

There’s a lot more going on here, of course. I’ve found that I tend to fantasize about what I don’t have — and when my life is micro-scheduled and overloaded with responsibility, as it so often is, it can feel like a huge burden being lifted to just let go and let someone else be the decider for a couple/ few hours. (You know the cliché of the high-powered business executive seeking out a dominatrix, to relieve him of responsibility for a short while? It’s a cliché for a reason.)

Also, I should point out that kinky people aren’t the only ones who think power is sexy. Humans are hierarchical apes. Get three of us in a room together, and we’ll create a dominance structure. It’s not hugely surprising that many of us would eroticize power. And it’s not hugely surprising that some of us would eroticize power in an overt, explicit way: not simply by being attracted to politicians or moguls, but by being aroused by a person standing over us with a whip.

Then there’s endorphins: the brain’s natural opiates, which kick in as a response to pain, and which under the right circumstances can get us high. And which sexual masochists will tell you about in loving detail, and at great length. If you understand why many athletes experience pain — and pushing through pain to get to the endorphin high — as a pleasurable experience… then you can understand at least part of why sexual masochists experience pain as a pleasurable experience.

And for me at least, there’s a certain hard-wired quality to these experiences that’s fundamentally inexplicable. I have been aware of being kinky for as long as I’ve been aware of being sexual. And I don’t mean since I was eighteen, or since I was thirteen. I mean since I was eight. I have been aware of being kinky for about as long as I’ve been aware of being queer. That isn’t true for every kinky person — but it’s true for a lot of us. I don’t entirely understand this stuff myself: yes, I have intimacy issues, but I think pretty much everyone has intimacy issues, and most people don’t handle those issues by intentionally eroticizing getting beaten and pushed around. Most people probably couldn’t eroticize pain and submission and humiliation, even if they wanted to. (There are people who come to kink later in life, and who nurture a kinky sexuality intentionally — in response to a partner who enjoys it, for instance — but in my experience, most of them had at least a seed of kink to start with.) The way my body processes pain, the way my mind processes power… I can’t entirely explain it, any more than I can explain why I like girls. The clit has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.

But what it mostly comes down to, for me, is intimacy. Kink gets through. It breaks down my walls. I have formidable walls at times… and the intensity of kink sets dynamite underneath them.

I’ve so far been writing about this from the bottom’s perspective: explaining why it feels good to receive pain, to be humiliated, to be controlled. But I’m a switch, and I can tell you that it feels good on the other side as well… and for much the same reasons. Just as it feels good to both penetrate sexually and be penetrated, it feels good to be on both sides of the connection of sadomasochism. It feels good to break down walls, just as it does to have your walls broken. It feels good to touch, with the intensity of pain or power, just as it does to be touched.

If this still doesn’t make sense: There’s an analogy that some of my readers have made in some other conversations about this. Kink is like a rollercoaster, or a horror movie. It can be fun and exciting to subject yourself to otherwise unpleasant emotions — like fear — in a safe, controlled setting. There is a thrill to fear, a rush… and when you can experience that rush with people you trust, in a place where you know you’re safe, it can filter out the unpleasantness, and leave only the thrill.

Ultimately, it may not be possible to really convey what this experience is like. I will probably never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy broccoli, or what it is that people find pleasurable about that experience. And someone with no interest whatsoever in kink may never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy getting beaten or shamed or controlled.

And it may not matter that much. As long as you have an intellectual understanding of this stuff; as long as you have an understanding of the basic fact that people do like different sexual things from you, and that this doesn’t make them sick or bad; as long as you understand that there is literally no medical evidence suggesting that kinky people are sick or bad, and in fact plenty of evidence pointing to the conclusion that we’re every bit as healthy and good as everyone else; as long as you understand that no matter what your sexuality is, there is someone in the world who finds it incomprehensible and weird — and as long as you can use that understanding to accept kinky people and treat us with decency — I don’t know that it matters that much whether you can deeply, viscerally grasp what it is about this experience that people get off on.

But getting a glimmer of the visceral experience can help with the intellectual understanding. It may even help people who do have kinky feelings, and who have been shamed into thinking that they’re sick or dangerous or wrong, come to an acceptance of them, and feel more comfortable exploring them.

And anyway, it’s just fun to think about.

“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Why Is Kink Fun? A Guest post by Greta Christina

I Dream of Geology

No, really, I do. In the past, I’ve gone on geotrips with Lockwood and led people on geology tours. More recently, there’s been a Mount Rainier series. In the first one, the mountain erupted, and I was scrambling for a good vantage point to get you guys awesome photos – see, I dream of you, too! – while cursing the fact the geologists hadn’t predicted it. Even in the dream, I was flummoxed by that – we monitor Mount Rainier, and we know the signs that a volcano might be about to wake up, so there was no reason for us to be taken by surprise. Maybe Bobby Jindal became governor of Washington and decided we don’t need no stinkin’ volcano monitoring. Also, we’re expecting Mount Rainier to fall down, not blow up. So that was weird. In the second Mount Rainier dream, we’d predicted its eruption to a T, but I’d left evacuation too late and was scrambling to get important shit out while it went kaboom in the background, again cursing it for blowing up rather than falling down. Also, cursing all the buggers who hadn’t left me enough boxes to pack with. You bastards.

But the strangest dream was one where I was giving some sort of presentation, and someone had thrown an unexpected last-minute request at me, thinking they’d stump me – but I was able to create a slide and get samples and everything. Had that shit covered. I even remember the shit I was covering: hemipelagic sediments and the rocks formed from them.
Continue reading “I Dream of Geology”

I Dream of Geology

Cryptopod: Come Into My Parlour

“Emulate nature,” they say. “We should strive to be more like the natural world,” they say. They apparently have never observed nature in action, because we already do emulate nature. We’re vicious rat-bastards who lie, cheat, steal, rape and kill* – all things you will find nature doing vigorously and thoroughly every day.

For instance, on the day we went to Franklin Falls, and came back via the Old Wagon Road. There’s a thing there that looks like a rusty old wagon wheel rim or similar.

Ye olde waggone wheel rimme.
Ye olde waggone wheel rimme.

And if you embiggen that photo, you will see a fly resting upon it.

Or you could just wait for me to show you the photo I took up close-like.

Continue reading “Cryptopod: Come Into My Parlour”

Cryptopod: Come Into My Parlour

Nate Adds a Few Cents

Our own NateHevens has a few words to say about Good Christians™ himself.

Look… I get that you’re not like those Christians. I get that you’re a good, loving Christian who’d never send death threats. I get that you’re pro-choice, that you don’t have a problem with non-straight marriage, that you’re open and experimental in life. I’m really glad that you don’t have a problem with atheists. I’m even happier that you think works is at least as important as faith, if not more. I’m especially happy that you don’t believe in hell. (Please note that all of these are “or”, not “and”, so you might believe some and not the others, etc.)

But I also don’t care.


Go on over and see the rest of his several cents’ worth. And remember, Good Christians™ – we do love you, but please, save the Not Real Christianity™ spiels for them as needs ’em.

Nate Adds a Few Cents

Ron Lindsay’s Extraordinary Bullshit II, In Which I Compose a Letter

Here is the missive I have sent to the board of CfI.

Dear CfI Board Members:

You may notice that I haven’t spent this opening paragraph telling you how grateful I am that you have championed excellent causes in our secular community. Of course CfI has done great work in the past. We in the secular community have been very happy to join you in common cause, and are proud of the work you have done, “but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you’re reading this letter for substance not rhetoric.”*

The president and CEO of CfI should know better than to stand up in front of a conference focusing on women in the secular movement and spend his time telling them how they have disappointed him, what he expects them to do, and how he desires they act. I can think of no other opening to a conference that treated its speakers and attendees with such blatant disrespect. Ron Lindsay has created an enormous problem for CfI. This problem can be resolved by removing him from his position. Failing that, he must apologize, in full and without qualification, and demonstrate by his actions that he understands that what he did was beyond the pale and must never, ever happen again. He will have to show his full and unqualified support for the women in the secular community he has wronged. And he must promise never to speak at a Women in Secularism conference, nor any other conference for women, without ensuring his speech focuses on their accomplishments and initiatives, and supports them fully.

This woman, and many of the women I know, are finished with men who feel they must always make it All About Them. This is precisely what Ron Lindsay did. That would have been quite enough to justify the anger of speakers, attendees, and those of us who were following the conference from a distance. However, his subsequent behavior was frankly appalling, and shamed CfI deeply. An apology for one statement in one blog post does nothing to make amends. And so, members of the board of CfI, I call upon you to shape him up or ship him out.

Does this sound harsh? Take my harshness as a measure of my disappointment. I’m afraid that if CfI cannot discipline or dismiss Ron Lindsay for his outrageous behavior, I will never be able to support your organization financially, nor by recommending it to secular people seeking an organization they can rely on, nor by publicizing your campaigns, fundraisers, or any other actions that may require community support.

I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who has expressed anger and disappointment. All of us would be delighted to support CfI in the future. Your actions in this matter will determine our course.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Dana Hunter

En Tequila Es Verdad and Rosetta Stones

*If this portion was offensive, speak to Ron regarding it: I lifted it nearly verbatim from his statement in his WiS2 speech.



Ron Lindsay’s Extraordinary Bullshit II, In Which I Compose a Letter

Christian “Love” and Christian Dissociation

(This was written long ago, and I never got round to posting it, but a fresh infusion of Good Christian Love™ has made it quite relevant. So why the hell not?)

I’m so tired of this.

I’m tired of hearing people prattle on about “God is Love” and what loving, moral people religion makes. It isn’t true. It’s manifestly not true. What religion does is takes otherwise decent human beings and turns them into sanctimonious shits, when it’s not busy enabling evil. “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction,” Blaise Pascal said once. This is truth.

Let me just state this now, for the believers: I do not want to hear, “But that’s not True Christianity!” I do not want to hear, “But I’m not that kind of person.” The first is a bloody stupid No True Scotsman fallacy, and you should be better than that. The second is beside the point. And don’t even begin to tell me how the majority of Christians are wonderful people who would never, ever do the things I’m about to show you Christians have done. Stop playing defense for the home team for a moment. Sit down on the sidelines and listen.*

Continue reading “Christian “Love” and Christian Dissociation”

Christian “Love” and Christian Dissociation