Mount St. Helens Redux

I wish I’d had The Fire Below Us recorded when I did the Mount St. Helens post last week, because it’s led me to some awesome extra stuff.  At the beginning of the program, they play the audio of David Johnston’s last transmission.  I’d never actually heard it before.  He sounds excited and rushed, the consummate geologist doing his job in the most intense of circumstances, an instant before his death.

That got me to searching the intertoobz for a recording, which I didn’t find.  But I did find this amazing audio of the eruption, recorded by a young man in Newport, Oregon who was wise enough to think that maybe those thuds were worth getting on tape.

Then I stumbled across Alan Levine’s post on St. Helens’s anniversary, which contains this astounding photo of a pyroclastic flow, which I’ll let Alan tell you about:

In graduate school, I ended up studying past volcanic activity. I dont recall a decision to be safe and not follow the live eruptions, it just was the flow of my interest at the time. One project I worked on was studying a later, smaller eruption at Mt St Helens in 1980, on August 7. This one was of interest because Rick Hoblitt, another USGS field observer, had captured a series of photos of the front of a pyroclastic flow as it cascaded down a channel of the volcano, and since his camera had a time stamp, he was able to calculate its velocities by location the front of the flow on a map.

You know what, that takes balls of adamantium right there.  I mean, we’re talking about snapping photos of the front of a pyroclastic flow.  Y’know, the stuff that can move at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour and run anywhere from 600-1350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I know that the only reason I’d be snapping such a series of pictures is because I’d be figuring, “I’m dead whether I take cover or not, so why the hell not?  Maybe the film won’t melt, and the folks who find my body will have pics that grant me posthumous fame.”  It would have nothing to do with being cool under pressure and being a consummate professional and all that, and everything to do with mind-numbing, fatalistic terror.  Only, you’d never catch me snapping a series of shots of a pyroclastic flow in the first place because the closest I ever want to get to an explosively erupting volcano is roughly two to three states away, depending on the size of the state.  So the next time I go drinking, I’m raising one for David, and one for Rick’s adamantium balls. 

While we’re at it, let’s have a cold one for Dave Crockett.  He’s the gentleman Cujo mentioned in his comment to that post, who was caught by the eruption and videotaped the ordeal.  Here’s the news report, raw footage and all:

Pretty intense stuff.

And with that, I must away to bed, or else I shall faceplant in the fossils.  I leave you with my sincerest wishes that you not get to witness a volcanic eruption quite that up close and personal unless you really really want to, and then I hope you’re as fortunate as Dave Crockett.

Creationist Sidewalks Must Be Very Dirty

They’ve obviously never hosed mud off of them.  Otherwise, they would understand why streams cut through loosely-consolidated pyroclastic deposits so much more quickly than metamorphic rock.  And they’d know why we laugh so very hard when they try to compare stream erosion in the area of Mount St. Helens with the Colorado’s long saw through the Colorado Plateau.

I feel for the trees that lost their lives so that this drivel could be published.  At least part of that small forest will find a useful new life as post-consumer recycled paper.

What I Did…

…when I was supposed to be working on a post about geology.

No, really, I meant to do the first of many posts about the geology I saw whilst visiting eastern Washington.  But I woke up with this sudden urge to weed through my books for tomes no longer of use which can be traded for fresh meat at Powell’s Books in Portland, and that led to a complete rearrangement of my shelves.  This, my darlings, is no small task in this household.  It took hours.

Then I decided the house needed to be cleaned.  The fact that I practically had to excavate to get to the kitchen counters and that the carpet was covered with little black patches of cat hair that caused it to resemble a spotted leopard made cleaning an obvious necessity.

More hours spent doing that, and by the end of it all, my body ached worse than it did after climbing steep, rocky hills in eastern Washington in the blazing heat.  So I took a nap.  Afterward, I started watching Carmen while I regained consciousness.  I didn’t know opera was still allowed to extol the virtues of cigarettes, but special dispensation is apparently given to the classics.

There’s only so much opera on teevee I can take in a night, so I’ve switched to 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Earthquakes.  One thing I surely never knew about earthquakes was that one of their causes is the melting of ice sheets.  Normally, the ground rebounds slowly and gradually from all that weight (the technical term is isostatic rebound, for those who, like me, take pleasure in knowing such things).  But in some cases, the sudden release of pressure causes earthquakes along weak zones in the crust, and you get things like the Parve Fault in Sweden, which was a helluva big earthquake in its day – probably around magnitude 8.6 or so.  That certainly made my eyes pop.  And, it turns out, it has some relevance to my own dear Puget Sound.

Before I go to bed, I’m probably going to cut all of the nice pictures of Mount St. Helens out of a ridiculous creationist book about same that I picked up off the clearance shelves at Half-Price Books by mistake.  It’s amusing to flip through, watching them desperately try to use a volcanic eruption to prove that the earth really truly is only 6,000 years old.  And the pictures are lovely, so now that I’m done laughing at their inane pseudo-geology, it’s time for the old snippety-snip.  At least then the book will have been of some good use.

None of this has helped me actually write the damned geology post I meant to write today, and tomorrow’s doubtful since I’ll be off playing with fossils at the Burke Museum.  But we shall see.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Arizona fucktard Con decides AZ hasn’t been racist, offensive, and disgusting enough, triples down by going after the 14th Amendment.  Oh, and aside from shredding, shitting and spitting upon the Constitution, he also sees no problem with forwarding remarkably sexist, racist and offensive emails:

KPHO obtained a troubling email from one of Pierce’s constituents who is encouraging him to pursue the “anchor baby” legislation. KPHO reports:

One of the e-mails written by someone else but forwarded by Pearce reads: “If we are going to have an effect on the anchor baby racket, we need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that’s the way nature made it. Men don’t drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do.” […]

Pearce said his new idea is not only legal but constitutional. “It’s common sense,” Pearce said. “Again – you can’t break into someone’s country and then expect to be rewarded for that. You can’t do it.”

When Pearce was shown the e-mail referring to “anchor babies” that he forwarded, he said he didn’t find anything wrong with the language. “It’s somebody’s opinion…What they’re trying to say is it’s wrong. And I agree with them. It’s wrong,” said Pearce.

No, Mr. Pearce.  Coming to America in search of a better life and having children who are American fucking citizens isn’t wrong, you are wrong.  Extremely wrong, on all levels including legal, moral, and civil.  Disgusting little shits like you do a fuck of a lot more damage to this country than hard-working illegal immigrants who keep our lawns mowed, houses cleaned, and do a shitload of other jobs Americans are too cheap to pay legal wages for, not to mention all too often refuse to do.  And all the while, they have tolerate getting shat upon by little shits like you.

Sometimes, I think the best solution to the immigration problem is to trade assholes like you for decent folks like them.  But that unfortunately would mean America exporting total shitheels in exchange for decent human beings, and that’s just not fair to the countries that would have to suffer your presence.  It’s bad enough my beautiful home state is infested with you.

Here’s hoping decent Arizonans will take the state government back from these disgusting assclowns.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

All of the really good Dumbfuckery appears to have happened whilst I was vacationing.  So it goes, and I don’t have the motivation to seek out old stupid in order to give it a good hard kick in the ribs.

Today’s a bit dull, but a theme’s emerging.  In this year’s election races, the Cons are fielding some extraordinary nags.  I mean, Jim DeMint’s beloved darling Rand Paul buried both feet in it with his civil rights faux pas, creating suck a stink that DeMint’s gonna have to talk to him about washing up.  My only question is why didn’t DeMint figure out his baby’s propensity for extreme dumbfuckery before he annointed him the Chosen One?  Perhaps it’s because Rand enjoys a good feed at the ol’ gubmint trough just as much as the rest of the hypocritical fucktards.

In other news, Nevada’s Sue “Chickens” Lowden has jumped out of the rotisserie and into the fryer:

“Let’s talk about my RV,” she told a local reporter. “It was donated. I’m really fortunate. Anyone could have had an RV if they had a supporter who wanted to donate.”
And that’d be true, if the value of the RV were a few thousand dollars. But as a would-be senator (or at least her staff) should know, there are legal limits on campaign contributions.
To try to spin her way out of the mess, Lowden changed course yesterday, and said she “misspoke.” The RV wasn’t actually “donated” after all, the Republican candidate insisted.
But Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles came to a different conclusion, noting that Lowden’s name is on the title.
Here’s the part I don’t get: why are Republicans in D.C. putting up with this? Lowden is their preferred candidate, and the best bet, in their opinion, to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November.
Haven’t they sent out competent staffers to help her out? Shouldn’t the party have prepped her on how to be a capable candidate for statewide office? At this point, Lowden seems to be embarrassing herself, and the GOP establishment must be kicking itself for not having done more to get Lowden on track.

This, alas, would require more intelligence than the Cons seem to possess.

And, most pathetically, Staten Island Cons have decided to place their hopes in disgraced adulterer Vince Fossella because, and I quote party chair John Friscia,

“It is my firm belief that he is the strongest candidate we can field,” Friscia said, adding that he didn’t know if Fossella would run. “I have an obligation to pick the strongest candidate with the best chance of success.”

I usually don’t like to believe that special elections are any sort of bellwether, but considering this slate of fine candidates, I really have no choice but to conclude that the Cons’ ignominious loss in PA is a bit o’ a sign that voters aren’t quite as stupid as the Cons need them to be.

A Real Vacation

This was one.  I know this because I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

As regular readers know, I made my first-ever trip to eastern Washington over the weekend.  My intrepid companion and I were only gone for two days, but we packed a ginormous amount of activity into that time.  I saw lotsa geology!  So much it’ll take me days to sort through it all – not to mention the rocks I picked up. 

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what I saw and did.  Follow me after the jump for pics.

This is the first time in ages I left the cat alone for a night.  You can see how worried she was:

Once you cross the Cascades, you leave lush forests overflowing with life and enter a high desert.  The transition’s quick: you go from fir to Ponderosa pines to leafy trees to sagebrush all in the course of a few miles.  But it’s not lifeless – there’s even flowers!

It’s amazingly like home out there – it looks like the high deserts around Prescott and Flagstaff, some of the plants are even the same, and it smell just like home, too.  The sharp, pungent, bitter-sweet scents of sun-warmed sage and blooming desert plants weren’t different at all.  Flagstaff doesn’t have the Cascades, but it does have the San Francisco Peaks, and if you squint, you can pretend you’re east of Flagstaff looking back toward the San Francisco volcanic field.  Anytime I get homesick, all I’ll have to do is drive an hour or so and go sit at Ryegrass rest area for a bit, looking at lichen on basalt, pretty little plants, and inhaling the desert.  Really, the main difference is that there are wind farms and water in the rivers.

Speaking of water in the river, the Columbia is what we in Arizona would call a lake.  Here it is from the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center, complete with “Danger High Cliff” sign:

By the way, if you go to Ginkgo, be prepared for the fact that the Interpretive Walk wanders all over a high, hot hill, and the trees are caged up.  It’s rather sad:

Afterward, having searched in vain for petrified forests not kept in iron cages, we stumbled down to the river to cool off a bit.  Here I am in a distinctly unladylike pose, sitting on a basalt block against a massive cliff of basalt:

If you zoom in to the rock around my head, you can see the pits left by escaping gasses.  Very cool!  My intrepid companion and his camera do a fine job on the photography.

And then we were on to Grand Coulee.  A place I’d only ever read about, and until you’re driving through it, surrounded by water-ravaged basalt cliffs, you can’t really comprehend the raw beauty of the place.  It’s narrower than I expected, but much more imposing.  Here’s a shot up the coulee from near Lake Lenore caves, with the lake itself in the view:

I’ll have quite a lot to say about its geology later on.  But it’s near sundown, and we’re on our way to the city of Grand Coulee, where getting a meal on a Sunday night is a tough prospect.  We made it to Pepper Jack’s with only minutes to spare before they stopped serving food.  The steak was good and juicy, served with a baked potato, garlic toast, and for the vegetable a side of lettuce.  We’re not in Seattle anymore, Toto.

Afterward, we went for a drive by Grand Coulee Dam, just because I like looking at dams at night, and I actually persuaded my camera to take a decent night shot:

The beautifully-lighted structure is the Third Powerplant, and then to your right you have either the right or left power plant and the dark bulk of the dam itself.  It’s not as visually imposing as Hoover or even Glen Canyon Dam, but it’s huge and impressive and a lot of fun to visit.  I’ll have a whole post dedicated to it when I get round to it – we did the tour!

Here it is by day:

And inside the visitor’s center, you can find a wall o’ jugs.  Water from the states and territories was spilled over the dam by pretty young women to give it a good start in life.  I found it amusing that water from the state I was born in and the state I grew up in were right atop each other:

Some of you wags may question whether there’s any such thing as Arizona water.  I can assure you there is – at least enough to fill a jug.

Afterward, we headed back down Grand Coulee, stopping often to grab photos of various and sundry geological features.  I collected a few pounds of rocks fallen by the highway, beautiful examples of various granites and basalts that were crumbling off cliffs.  And then we found an extraordinary example of a hanging waterfall, where my intrepid companion was kind enough to snap a photo of me:

In wet weather, these falls gush down the cliffsides.  Most of them were dry that day, but this one had a trickle of water chuckling its way down to a pool below.  You can see how the rock is damp right there.  Big chunks of basalt columns had broken off and lay on the ground like ruins of ancient temples.  It was very, very neat, and I spent a goodly amount of time there just drinking in the sight and sound of it.

Then it was on to Dry Falls, where we experienced wind, rain, and tremendous views:

Someday, I’m going to go back and hike to the base of those cliffs.  Someday.

I’d purchased Geologic Road Trips in Grant County, Washington while we were at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest, and it had a little bit on a place called Summer Falls, where water actually does pour over those cliffs during the irrigation season.  They’re only a few minutes away from Dry Falls, so we went, and by the time we got there, the wind and the rain had died down, the skies were brilliant blue, the sun shining, and the butterflies fluttering.  I lay in the grass, and the next thing I knew, my shoes were adorned with butterflies.  At one point, we got up to five or six of the buggers, all busily wandering around my footwear.  It wasn’t easy, but I got a shot of shoe, butterfly, and falls:

And here’s one with a butterfly wandering around my toes with the little lake in the background:

Aren’t they wonderful?  If you go here in May, bring something dark, lie back, and wait for the butterflies to land.  They’re friendly little buggers.  Beautiful, too – my intrepid companion took a close-up of the ones wandering around my bag, and you can zoom in to see their lovely bluey-purples and their adorable spots:

And then, after a long time lingering with the roar of the falls and the chirping of birds and the beaming of sunlight, photographing butterflies as they used us for their amusement, it was time to go.  I want to tell you something.  It wasn’t sunny at the top of the Cascades.  It was, in fact, peeing down torrential rain, the road was practically a river, and I don’t think even the hike around sun-beaten hills took as much out of me as trying to drive through that stuff.  Quite a difference from the idyllic little scene we’d enjoyed just a few hours before.  But we made it home.  And after a full day spent doing nothing much else but sleeping, reading, sleeping, eating, sleeping, and writing this post, I feel almost normal again.

Good thing, too, because vacation’s over. 

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mount Saint Helens

30 years ago today, I was a five year-old child watching as reporters somberly announced that Mount St. Helens had blown herself apart. It looked painful, so I made her a get well card. Kids, eh? She was my introduction to the power of volcanoes. Horrifying and enthralling, really, when you live with a volcano rather like her framed in your back window. She’s responsible for both my fear and fascination. And she continues to teach me about the vagaries of plate tectonics, the power of subduction zones to create as they destroy, and that one must seize the opportunity to enjoy what’s there today because it might blow the hell up tomorrow.

One of the most interesting things about her is that incredible lateral blast that took all the vulcanologists by surprise. In retrospect, it’s obvious that enormous bulge in her north flank meant trouble, but at the time, few people realized volcanoes would blow anywhere but up.

Note how distorted her profile had become. She’d gone from America’s Fuji to something ominous. Less than a month later, that north face came down, and the mountain blew out. These two videos capture the eruption wonderfully.

And here she stands today, a far different mountain than she had been:

Mount St. Helens, May 14th, 2007

The USGS put together a fantastic report on her past, present and future eruptions, should you like to know more about the science behind her. Join me after the jump if you’d like to take a personal journey with me.

Monday, May 14th, 2007. Almost 27 years to the day since I watched in awe as Mt. St. Helens blew with incomprehensible force, I’m finally visiting the volcano that has haunted most of my life. Nothing has prepared me for seeing a live volcano. My experience to now has been with long-dormant and extinct ones that still managed to dominate my nightmares despite being no threat. But if there’s one thing I’ve always been good at, it’s running into the teeth of terror. After all, there’s always the option of running away again. And if I panic, or the mountain chooses today to erupt, no problemo. We brought the fast car.

First view of Mount St.Helens, from the main visitor’s center. “Thank you for not exploding.”

 The author at the Buried A-Frame. As you’re driving down Spirit Lake Highway, you’ll come across this visceral example of what a lahar can do. The poor owners were only three days from moving in when mudflows from the volcano buried a good part of their house and raised the parking lot by five feet. 

Note to self: do not build home within blast range of active volcano. Especially don’t build across the street from a river conveniently situated to channel a lahar straight to my door… 

Toutle River

History: the North Fork of the Toutle River. On May 18th, 1980, this river was a churning mass of super-heated mud. The eruption melted glaciers and snowfields; meltwater mixed with ash, landslide debris, rock, downed trees, and everything else, and roared down the river valley like a volcanic tsunami, obliterating everything in its path. Houses, roads, and bridges vanished under hundreds of feet of boiling hot muddy debris.

Toutle River, May 1980. Courtesy of FAS

 


You can still see the ravages: while it’s a beautiful mountain stream here, there are several places along the way where the banks are fields of ash, and you catch a glimpse of the devastation. In this little spot, just down the street from the A-Frame, you can see log piles and ash banks, and it seems that every stone in the stream is volcanic. The trees are just a patch on the scars. Standing here, with the water rushing and roaring over the rough river bed, warm sun beating down and fine volcanic sands soft against your feet, you can feel echoes of the catastrophe of two and a half decades ago.

Log jams and volcanic ash banks, Toutle River

Driving up the road, very nearly everything’s green, luxuriant, and doesn’t prepare you for what’s to come. The volcano peeks out between the firs. Signs tell you when these forests were planted, some of them quite soon after the 1980 eruption. The whole thing looks very peaceful and lovely. It’s hard to believe that it was all a moonscape not so long ago. 

 And then you’re entering the blast zone. Trees get shorter, bald hills begin poking through the greenery, and you get a taste of what’s to come.

The valley of death. It’s hard not to think of Tennyson’s poem when you’re staring into the throat of an active volcano. From the Johnston Ridge Observatory, you’re staring directly into the explosion: the whole north face of St. Helens blew out laterally. Thirty years ago, standing here meant obliteration. Today, it’s an unparalleled view.

 You’re gazing into the maw of an actively erupting volcano. Mount St. Helens was in continuous eruption from 2004 to 2008, busily building her dome. Those aren’t clouds you see inside the crater – that’s steam.  But she’s probably not going to blow in our faces.  Thanks to USGS geologist John Pallister, who allowed himself to be dropped off in the crater by helicopter to grab some samples from a dome rock the size of the Eiffel Tower as it was emerging, we know that the current eruption is gas-poor.  He compared his samples to bits of lava from 1980 (big boom) and 1983 (dome-building lava flows), and discovered that St. Helens is running out of gas.  Those bizarre solid spines of lava that grew and crumbled sometimes at the rate of 16 feet a day contained just enough gas to push them to the surface before going flat.  Sure, there were a few ash-and-steam eruptions, especially in the first two weeks after she woke up that September in 2004, but it’ll be a while before we see anything quite as spectacular as 1980.  She has to fuel up first.

That’s not to say the 2004-2008 eruption wasn’t fascinating in its own right.  Scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory hadn’t ever seen anything quite like it: enormous spines the size of skyscrapers grinding their way up to the surface, accompanied by a bizarre, repetitive seismic signature they came to call “drumbeats.”  It may not be as visually stunning as a full-blown Plinian eruption, but watch this USGS video and then try telling me it isn’t teh awesome:

 “Drumbeat” Seismicity, March 2005, courtesy USGS

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

Can’t do it, can you?

Today, the volcano is fairly quiet, but one look at the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory says all that needs be said about volcanic activity at St. Helens.  Those little burn marks in a practically-new parking lot make me reconsider the wisdom of coming here in the convertible.  On the one hand, fast car = rapid getaway in the event of eruption.  On the other hand, convertible = flammable cloth top.  I can only imagine explaining that one to the insurance company.

A trail loops around the Observatory; there are times when it seems it will lead you straight into the caldera.  Signs abound explaining what to do in the event of an ashfall.  They’re silent on what you should do in the event of a blast – perhaps because, if St. Helens decides to erupt in earnest again, there’s absolutely nothing that will save you this close in. 
It’s the pyroclastic flows, y’see.  She spat out several of them – by one count, a total of 17 – on May 18th, 1980. They roared down the mountain at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.  Searing-hot gasses in the ash cloud keep particles suspended, while bigger chunks go along for the ride: the whole behaves like a liquid, flowing in a flood of scalding debris.  Two weeks after the eruption, when geologists could get out there to take readings, the flows were still measuring 570 to 785 degrees Fahrenheit.  Their heat caused  phreatic eruptions where they hit water and caused it to flash to steam.  And least you think those were just little spats, some of them blew ash and steam over a mile high.  This stuff didn’t cool fast – a phreatic blast took place just two days shy of the first anniversary of the eruption.  That’s some serious heat trapped there.  

Splintered stumps are all that’s left of the old growth forest that covered the slopes. It will likely be lifetimes before nature reclaims the blast zone. For now, it’s still a desert. On the day of the eruption, old-growth trees blew down, snapped off like twigs by the force of the blastwave. 230 square miles of trees became instant logs.  Nothing clear-cuts like a volcano blowing out laterally. 

For fifteen miles, in the path of the initial blast, trees experienced a cloud of ash and gas traveling at speeds ranging from 220 to 670 miles per hour.  Within five miles of the volcano, where the blast hit hardest, old growth trees on slopes facing St. Helens became nothing more than splinters riding the wave.  Further out, trees lay dead on the ground; the ones sheltered behind ridges still stood, but they were just upright sticks, shorn of branches.  Trees that had survived the blast and the pyroclastic flows were fortunate if they stood on ridges, but the ones in valleys got annihilated by lahars, which either buried them or carried their stripped bodies along to wreak havoc downstream.  Spirit Lake, where it wasn’t buried in mudflows, was choked with dead trees. 

Wildlife, needless to say, didn’t make it out: everybody there now is an immigrant.  People too close to the volcano or in the path of the mudflows lost their lives as well.  At Johnston Ridge Observatory, a semi-circular granite monument bears their names.  Some of those names were familiar to me after reading Marian T. Place’s book about the eruption:

Reid Blackburn, a photographer for the Columbian, who died at Coldwater I when he could have been having a seafood dinner with his bride, Fay.  He was looking for the shot of his career, and might have had it were it not for that lateral blast.

Harry Truman, a feisty old gentleman who lived on the shores of Spirit Lake with dozens of cats and an assortment of memorabilia.  He was buried in one of the many lahars, cats and all, exactly where he wanted to be. 

David Johnston, a geologist for the USGS.  He was directly across from the ominous bulge on the north face, buried under the pyroclastic flow unleashed by the lateral blast.  He had time for one final transmission before he was obliterated: “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”    

Coldwater Ridge overlooks Spirit Lake (and the remnants thereof).  In this place, the three of them are united.  Walking out here, after having spent my young life reading about them, is a deeply moving experience. 

Reid’s widow, Fay, said of St. Helens, “To me, she’s beautiful. She hasn’t lost her beauty just because she doesn’t have her cap on. She didn’t mean to kill Reid.”  Standing out here, one doesn’t hold grudges.  It’s beautiful, serene, and terribly fragile.  What you’re boating in today could be so much boiling mud tomorrow.  The forested ridge you’re standing on could become an ash field in an instant.  But that’s the thrill of volcanic landscapes: their beauty is ephemeral, and change is constant, yet they look eternal. 

On our way out, we pause for a final goodbye.

I’ll be back.  And I’m taking special note of the helicopter, there, just in case.

Happy anniversary, love.  

Entrapment

I was going to get up to get a soda, grab my newly-arrived book on trees, and head for bed early in advance of driving out to eastern Washington tomorrow.  That, at least, was the plan until my cat got other ideas.  She is now tucked on my legs purring loudly and looking cute as possible.  This is her way of saying, “I’m happy right now, but if you try to move me, you bleed.”

And my book on trees is just out of reach.

If only I were a Jedi.

Sigh.

Not Exactly a Leap, No

Via Happy Jihad’s, this answer to that sneering, obnoxious claim by theists that atheism requires a leap of faith just like belief blah blah blah bullshit blah:

Even were one to concede that some ‘absolute atheists’ know for certain there is no God, that would not require the same leap of faith as one who knows for certain that there is must take. A theist must take the word of his or her holy scriptures, her personal experience, his longstanding tradition, and come to accept that the world was created by an immense invisible being who works through mysterious means, controls the weather and occasionally demands human or personal sacrifice.
An atheist looks at the lack of evidence for god/s, notes that evolution accounts for the diversity of life, that cosmological theories such as the Big Bang account for the universe’s existence, points out that all religions seem more focused on human concerns than is logical for a creator of the entire universe, and concludes that believing in God/s is rather foolish. This is the state in which I, and atheists following last week’s definition, rest.
Our theoretical ‘absolute atheist’ then takes it one further step, and concludes that the non-existent evidence is sufficient, and takes the miniscule millimetre-wide step of faith to this statement: “There are no God/s at all, whatsoever, ever, under any circumstances.” It involves faith, sure, but about as much faith as my stating: “There are no Mars Bar farms on Pluto, whatsoever, ever, under circumstances.”

Brilliant.  Simply.  Brilliant.

I shall have to run off several copies and keep them handy.  Perhaps in nice pamphlet form, for those times when theists come out with that “leap of faith” dribble and try to hand me pamphlets about Jesus & Co.