A Shout-Out to Evergreen and Union-Negotiated Health Insurance

Wednesday was fun.  About half an hour into my shift, the mild discomfort I’d been feeling announced itself as a full-blown kidney stone.  I’m prone to the bastards, and apparently the one that had announced its existence a few months ago didn’t so much pass as await a better opportunity.  Anyone who’s had these before knows it’s an exquisite form of agony.  Sometimes, it’s only moderate torture, and you can ride it out with the proper swear words.  But since I can’t scream profanities at work, I decided a trip to the ER for some nice happy drugs was in order.

Now, I’ve been to a lot of hospitals for these stupid things.  I’ve had to wait in the waiting room for hours before getting a doctor, and been put through the excitement of having to register before being seen.  The last thing you want to do while your kidney feels like it’s simultaneously imploding and exploding after being blowtorched is answer questions about your insurance.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.

But when I got to Evergreen Hospital‘s ER, a gentleman zipped out to meet me, whisked me back for a blood pressure and temp check, slapped the plastic bracelet on, and said they’d call me right back.  I don’t think the whole thing took more than five minutes.  I had time to call my intrepid companion and alert him to the fact I’d need a ride home, and then they were ushering me right to an exam room.  I’d barely gotten the gown on before a nurse was there – with bad news.  They had to check for blood in ye olde urine before they’d start the good drugs.  This, I thought, would take ages.  But no – about fifteen minutes after producing a sample, she was back with the great good news that I did, indeed, have a stone, and it was time for the blessed relief.  Wasn’t her fault that just as she was putting the IV in, the damned thing passed.  All that drama for naught.

The ER doc, who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, decided we’d best ensure the little bugger wasn’t just playing possum, so we waited a bit.  He sent me home a little over an hour later with a prescription for the good stuff and an apology for taking so long with the discharge papers – they were horribly busy.

You never would have guessed it from the speed with which they handled my case, start to finish.  That place is amazing.  I wish every hospital could have an ER that functioned so smoothly.  And it’s one of the only hospitals I know of that sends someone in to get you registered only after you’re no longer in agony.

In fact, they left me feeling so good (even without drugs, hee hee) that I went back to work for the rest of the evening.

They did a fantastic job, they’ve got a wonderful hospital with an exceptional staff, and they deserve recognition for the tremendous work they do.  So, my dear Evergreen: thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my kidney)!

And there’s another reason I’m telling you about my ridiculous little medical woes: it points up the value of good health insurance.  Everyone in this country should be able to have the experience I had.  When the pain hit, I didn’t have to suffer.  My union-negotiated health care’s got me covered (theoretically, anyway).  So well, in fact, that when I checked out, there wasn’t even a copay. 

Now, single-payer would be a fuck of a lot better – I wouldn’t have had to do that frantic little do-I-or-don’t-I-have-my-insurance-card-on-me check.  But having good insurance is certainly the next-best thing.  We’re on our way to that with the Affordable Care Act.  No, it’s not going to be perfect at first.  Yes, insurers will kick up a fuss and try to wriggle out of their obligations and in general make this as miserable as possible.  Cons will try to tear the law down rather than building it up, and too many “moderate” Dems will be more than happy to help them with the wrecking ball.  But if we, the sick and those who could get sick without prior notice, keep the pressure for a better health care system on, it won’t just be the union members and other suck lucky folk who have good coverage.  We can take this Act and build on it.

So, thanks to my union for ensuring I’m well-insured.  And thanks to those who had the courage to vote for the first steps to ensuring the whole country’s well-insured.  That’s the first skirmish won – keep fighting for more!

Finally, huge thanks to my intrepid companion, who stood by ready to drive my loopy self home if they’d had to pump me full of painkillers, and who even cleaned out his car, and let me ruin his afternoon plans, just so he could be told his services weren’t necessary.  Friends like that are solid gold.  I can’t ever express in words how much he means to me, and I suck at performance art, so a simple “Thanks, man” will just have to symbolize the whole.

The Hazards of Working for a Major Cell Phone Provider

So, the phone rings the instant I get home tonight.  It’s my mother.  She has acquired a phone with the company I work for.  We then spend the next two hours going through her service with a fine-toothed comb to ensure there’s no surprises, and I have to explain how picture messaging works. Argh. 

I’m glad she’s with us, though.  I see the worst this company has to offer, and it’s nowhere near as bad as what some of the competition does to its customers, as my poor dear mother found out the hard way.  And she bought a cell phone that’s extremely hard to break.  And I can send her pictures, which I haven’t been able to do for years.  Woot!

Now I just have to convince her to get on a text messaging plan so we can communicate.  She hasn’t got a computer, so this is the next-best thing.

So, all parents are now with my company.  You know what this means.  I’ll never be off work ever again….

Life on the Rocks

This whole post started because Lockwood asked me a question on Facebook:

Where was your profile photo taken? Those are some rocks I would classify as Om Nom Nom.

That was pretty much my response when I first saw ’em.  That’s the South Bluff at Discovery Park.

 Moi at Discovery Park.  All photos taken by my intrepid companion, unless otherwise noted.

I still remember standing before it the first time.  It looks like nothing but compacted sand from a distance, but up close, you find it’s actually sandstone.  I stood there tracing its bedding planes with my hands.  It surprised me with its cool, slightly damp, almost smooth but a touch gritty feel.  I’m used to rocks in the sun being hot.  The waves that carved our stones stopped breaking millions of years ago, in most cases.  Here, water’s still busy sculpting.  Dear old South Bluff is probably just a brief blip on the radar, a mayfly in geological terms.  The waves will wear it away in time.  Most people think of stone as somehow permanent, just like I used to.  But the vast majority of it is ephemeral, destined to be worn away to sand and soil again, perhaps buried and melted.  Some of it will end up stuffed into a subduction zone, some will end up metamorphosed and barely recognizable.  But that first moment, coming upon this, is for me eternal.

Folks sometimes ask how I ended up in Seattle.  It’s because of geology.  I came up here on a research mission for my magnum opus in 2000, and when I first saw the snow-capped Olympics embracing our plane as it landed, I knew I was home.  Only took seven years before I came home for good.

Seattle denizens look at me like I’m insane when I tell them I left sunny Arizona for the near-perpetual rain of the Northwest.  They’ll probably never understand the pull of this place, unless they’re Lord of the Rings fans, and remember what Bilbo said:

I want to see mountains again, mountains, Gandalf!  And then settle down somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.

That’s why I’m here.  But the yearning for mountains began long, long ago in a state very far away. 

I grew up with the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden framed in my back window.  This isn’t exactly the view – none of those long-ago photos are digitized yet – but this will give you an idea:

San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden, snagged from Coastline Journal

That glacier-carved stratovolcano dominated my childhood.  So much so that when my grandmother stood with me admiring the view on one of her visits from Indiana, I turned to her and asked, “Grandma, how can you live in a place without mountains?”  She laughed, and she and my mother tried to explain that people who’d lived in flat country all their lives got used to it, but I didn’t understand.  No more than I understood why people called the Ozarks mountains.  We crossed them once, driving to Indiana, and I remember seeing a sign saying something like, “Ozark Mountains, elevation 600 ft.”  I burst out laughing.  Where I come from, anything under 2000 feet is a hill.  Well, parts of them qualify, but not the bits we were crossing.

My childhood was rocky, and I mean that in the best possible way.  Everywhere I went, there were rocks: old rocks, young rocks, dark rocks, light rocks.  In my literal back yard, you could find limestone from ancient seas, basalt from young volcanoes, and pumice blown out by the Peaks, among a great many other varieties.  The rock collection we plucked from our yard and the national forest backing it won me first prize at the Coconino County Fair one year.  To be brutally honest, the competition must not have been fierce, and no one was more shocked than I was to see that blue ribbon pinned to the collection, but it was nice.

Within easy driving distance of my house, sometime within walking distance, geologic wonders abounded.  We used to catch tadpoles in Wildcat Canyon, a large gully cut in Kaibab limestone, just a short hike through the pinon forest.  None of us kids realized we were chasing amphibians while 250 million year-old seabeds loomed over us.

Just a short drive away, we could see something that was obviously awesome: an actual impact crater, 50,000 years old but looking as if it got gouged out just last year:

Moi at Meteor Crater

Someday, really truly, I’m going to do a post all about it.  I have the research done and everything

This is where I found my first-ever fossil all by my lonesome:

Mah first fossil: A Wormcast!

Look, it was impressive to me, all right?  But if you want really impressive, here’s just one piece of the meteor that struck the high desert plain and left this gargantuan hole:

Moi with meteor

That is one enormous chunk of iron-nickel, that is.  And it’s only one of many enormous chunks scattered about – there’s another equally as large at Lowell Observatory, and doubtless plenty of others in various places.  I’m not sure where they all ended up.  It’s appropriate they’re scattered now, as they were strewn all over the place when it struck.

You can’t help but be impressed with astronomy after viewing this.  Appreciation for its geological significance came a great many years after I first visited.  For a while, though, I was under the spell of our neighbor, an astronomer at Lowell, and I was all about being an astronomer.  Wasn’t long, though, before the rocks started drawing me back.

It is very, very hard not to be impressed by the majesty of geology when you have this practically in your back yard:

Moi with the Grand Canyon

Now, mind you, we ferried various out-of-town relatives to the Canyon that it got to be a chore.  “Aw, do we have to go see that great big hole in the ground again?”  But that was before I started getting interested in its geology.  Look down into the Canyon, and you’re peering into nearly 2 billion years of history.

Moi giving my intrepid companion a heart attack by appearing to sit at the edge of a two-billion year drop.

And of course, it’s a great place to get your rocks on, especially if you like limestone:

Moi with limestone

But appreciation for deep time had to wait many years.  First, I’d live a life dominated by sandstone.  We moved to Sedona when I was 12, and for the next two years, you’d usually find me scrambling about on the red rocks, climbing Sugarloaf, staining my white socks red in the deep red sandy soils.  In the summer, we’d head for Oak Creek Canyon for the blackberry picking; in winter, for the icefalls.  It was fantastically beautiful, a red-splashed green oasis in dry country:

Moi with Misha at Slide Rock State Park

I had no idea of the eons of desert and sea that went in to the making of those rock formations, of course.  All I knew was that it was pretty, but I missed my mountains.  I pined for them.  And then came the happy day that my parents announced we were moving – to Page.

More desert.  No mountain.  Argh.  I spent my high school years scrambling over ancient lithified sand dunes, running along slick rock ledges a few inches wide with a sheer drop of hundreds of feet one misstep away.  But that old sandstone never let me down.  We called it slick rock because of what happened when it rained.  In the dry season (which was most of the time), the sandstone gripped my soles tight, and never let me fall.

Wind and water carved ancient dunes into fantastical shapes.  I washed windows for Michael Fatali’s gallery, and got to spend a lot of time studying the slot canyons carved from flash floods that he captured in their astounding natural light:

He risked his life for those images.  Flash floods didn’t often announce themselves on the plateau, and you didn’t have much chance of escaping when one thundered down those sheer-sided slots.  People died.  An entire group of French tourists were drowned one year.  That pretty much cured me of any desire to go playing around in the slot canyons myself, but I did end up taking a gentleman from New Zealand around to see the sights after having been volunteered for tour guide duty by our local coffee-shop owner.  It might seem crazy to head for the middle of nowhere with a perfect stranger, but he wanted to see the Horseshoe, and I figured it was a long enough dive into the Colorado River if I needed to take care of any unwanted advances.  The desert was friend, enemy, and convenient weapon.  Fortunately for all, he turned out to be a perfect angel, and we spent a delightful day trekking all over the canyon country. 

I hated Page, but I still deeply love its surroundings.  The silence there is indescribable.  It’s as if all those millions of years bear down, hushing noisy civilization and allowing you to sink deep into deep time.

Speaking of sinking deep, one of the prime destinations for Arizona folk was Montezuma’s Well, an enormous sinkhole close to Cottonwood. 

 Moi at Montezuma’s Well.  This is the typical view my poor intrepid companion gets.  And yes, that is a Peacemakers tattoo.

I’d visited it as a kid, but didn’t really get to know it until I took a physical geography class from the incomparable Jim Bennett.  For our field trip, he hauled us all out there, and showed me a spot I’d never before seen, where the waters of the well escape in a narrow creek.  It’s quite possibly the most serene place in all of Arizona that’s accessible by car.  Water in the desert is a precious and awe-inspiring thing.

For my physical geology picture project, I dragged my poor friend Janhavi all over the Flagstaff area.  And you might not think sinkholes when you think Flagstaff, but it happens just to the north, where the old sea left lots of limestone, and great caves got carved into it later.  There’s a great place at Wupatki that might one day end up being a sinkhole, but right now, the underground caverns have few outlets, and the blowhole at Wupatki is just an outstanding demonstration of air pressure.  I re-created the demo photo with my intrepid companion when we were there:

 Moi having my hair done by the blowhole.

Those were the years.  I’d moved to Prescott to attend college.  I could admire the Mingus Mountains (yes, technically, it’s Mingus Mountain, but the locals call the whole range by that name). There was an ancient shield volcano and an even more eroded volcanic neck (where quite a bit of necking got done), and then the Granite Dells, where we spent more than one afternoon happily scrambling about the granite boulders.

Moi and Granite Dells

No better place to get intimate with how granite weathers, really. 

But in the end, I had to go back home, back to my old stratovolcano and the young cindercones that surround it like courtiers.

Moi reliving my childhood at Red Mountain.

Most of the cones are healthy and intact, but Red Mountain got half of itself rafted away on a lava flow, leaving a spectacular view into its interior.

I spent many happy years with my mountains, often taking the long drive up the San Francisco Peaks to the ski resort, wandering around Sunset Crater National Monument, exploring the places I’d grown up.  But Flagstaff is poverty with a view, and the wonderful company I worked for was headed on a downhill slide, and it was time to leave.  I’d already settled on Seattle, but couldn’t afford it alone.  I ended up in Phoenix instead, surrounded by concrete, the rocks too damned hot in the summer to go play in, the mountains too low and the Valley too wide.  Miserable years, until the very end, when all my friends moved down just as I was preparing to leave.  So it goes.  But by then, I had a friend who wanted Seattle as much as I did, and nothing was going to hold me back from those mountains.

There was only one drawback: active volcanoes.  I grew up with volcanoes, but they were all dormant, y’see.  I have a wee bit o’ a volcano phobia.  I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to get up close and personal with an actual live, actively-erupting volcano, but we made the trek to Mount St. Helens, and I discovered that awe is a fine antidote to fear.  I stood on the banks of the Toutle River, which had channeled a devastating lahar on May 18th, 1980.

Moi at the Toutle River, courtesy of me former roomie

I ran my hands through its gritty sand, volcanic ash mixed with eroded rock, and marveled at its texture.  The volcanic soils in Flagstaff are elderly – the youngest is over 900 years old.  This was younger than I was.  And then we drove on up to the mountain itself, and I stood staring down into its steaming throat, without fear:

Moi and the volcano, likewise

A poem by Walter Savage Landor rather captures the moment:

Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear:
Of all his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.

You still couldn’t pay me enough to camp there, though.

Once I’d set foot on the flanks of one active volcano, I couldn’t resist doing another:

Moi and Mount Rainier, ye final photo taken by ye former roommate

Hiked a snowfield in late August and saw my first glacier that year, which, I can tell you, is a pretty damned astounding sight for someone who grew up in Arizona, even northern Arizona.

The geology bug bit me in dead earnest not much later.  It had taken a few serious nibbles in Arizona, but Washington State has really turned me into an avid geology buff.  I think it’s because it’s so young and raw here.  Oh, granted, Arizona looks more raw, but its geology is all pretty much in the past.  Until you know more about how those landforms formed, you don’t feel its immensity, its immediacy.  It’s all just lovely scenery.  Out here, though, you can’t help but to notice geology’s astounding power.  And it’s not just the volcanoes, but floods so powerful they stripped the land to bare bedrock.

Moi at Dry Falls, trying to get my crappy old PhotoSmart camera to take it all in whilst ye intrepid companion laughs his arse off .

The fact that I now have to go searching for rocks rather than just looking down and seeing hey, there they are probably has a bit to do with it, too.  One ends up taking even the most spectacular scenery for granted when its too familiar.  I had to leave home before I could love it again.  I had to discover yesterday’s dramatic geology before I could fall into deep time.  Now, when I go back to Arizona, I can appreciate those two billion years of history.  I wriggle my shoes deep into dry dirt, lay my hands on my old friends sandstone and limestone, and feel myself sinking into a past whose history is written in chapters of strata.

I’ve lived my life on the rocks, and I haven’t regretted it a bit.

Fangirl Gets Noticed by the Rock Stars, Freaks the Hell Out

And when I say rock stars, I mean geobloggers.  Y’know, the real rock stars.

My darlings.  Please put down the handy throwable objects.  I promise that’s the last silly pun in this post.  Now stop aiming at my head.  Thank you.

Now, allow to ‘splain, or at least sum up.  Earlier today, several geobloggers I admire (and some I’d never heard of) were discussing Scientopia’s sad lack of geology on Twitter, and I threw in my two cents as a reader by telling them to storm the gates.  I happen to believe every good general science blogging network should have a hefty helping of geobloggers, and it’s about damned time geology got some respect.  Leaving geology out of a science collective is Just Not Right.  It gives the impression geology isn’t a hard science, or isn’t science worthy of equal standing with other branches of science, and it makes it damned hard for readers like me to track down good geoblogging.  Travesties all.

Of course, I expected no response to said tweet.  I’m just an interested amateur egging on the professionals.  Do not consider myself a scienceblogger nor geoblogger.  Take no notice of me, folks, except as a fan cheering you on.  I went grocery shopping.  I lounged on the porch and debated knocking on the neighbors’ door to ask them to please shut the window because their activities were a distraction.  Came back in, checked my email, and just about fell out of my chair, because Twitter was informing me that Actual Professional Geologists such as Ron Schott and Silver Fox were now following me.  Not only that, I had a comment from Real Live Geoblogger Lockwood welcoming me to the Geoblogosphere and saying he’d gotten here by way of Ron Schott’s shared items feed.

It was about this time my mind said, “ZOMG WTF oshitoshitoshit.”

I figured I’d given some poor souls the wrong impression.  I’m a potty-mouthed political blogger who sometimes pontificates poorly on science, but spends quite a bit of time ranting about religion, wanking about writing, and generally going off on whatever else catches my atten – ooo, shiny.  Where was I?  Oh, yes – there was a wild moment of terror in which I wondered if my next step would have to be applying to U-Dub for an actual degree.  Then I realized that Ron would’ve had to comb through all that other stuff to find the actual geology, that my welcome message gives some hints, and that my science posts are usually pretty well-hedged about with the “I’m no professional” and “I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about” disclaimers, so I could probably stop the I’m-not-worthy routine.  Still, I feel a bit like I would if Neil Gaiman suddenly dropped by ye olde blog and then told his friends and fans that I’m an SF writer worthy of their attention.  I’d wonder if the poor bugger had gone completely mad.

And then I’d wonder what I’d have to do to really earn that esteem.

But, just in case some new folks swing by the cantina with certain expectations that I am, at this time, unable to meet, let’s be clear: I’m a rank amateur whose amateurish attempts at blogging about geology, biology and whatever other bits of science caught my attention that day are buried amid the detritus of politics, atheism, catblogging, squees about music, and, in the right season, fiction writing. 

I’ve taken one (1) class in actual geology, a class in physical geography, and zero (0) in any other science.  All I know, I’ve learned from blogs and books.  And what I know ain’t much.

Why, then, do I bother to blog about science at all?  Follow me after the jump, and I’ll try to explain myself.

Still with me?  Unbelievable. 

Right, then.  Well, I started blogging science because of PZ Myers.  Attended two of his talks a few years ago, y’see, and came away all fired up.  You can read the whole story here.  The upshot of it is, he made me realize that all of us who love science, from the scientists to the science writers to the fanboys and girls, must advocate for it.

Many of my readers already love science.  Some don’t.  I write about science for all of them.  And I hope for two things: that this laywoman’s passion for science will reinforce scientists’ passion to communicate the beauty and the wonder of it, and that these posts will inspire those who never considered science as anything more than a desperately boring requirement for graduation to fall in love, just as I have. 

I write about science because I’m appalled by my own ignorance.  That may seem like a bizarre reason to blog about science – why not simply keep reading, or take a class, and shut up about the shit I don’t know?  I don’t think I really knew the answer to that until I read this at George’s blog:

The generation effect, as studied by cognitive psychologists, shows that knowledge is better retained if it is “generated” by the learner than simply read. “Generation” can be as simple as learning a spelling by “filling in the gaps” or as complex as writing a book about your studies
Alex Kessinger: Notetaking as a way to stay smart

I hadn’t thought of it this way but it could seriously be the main reason I blog.  Yes, I have various passions that I like to share, but my brain is chaotic and unreliable.  Blogging helps me get my thoughts straight.  Once I’ve put it into words, (and when I am lucky, people have commented on it), I have a much better chance of holding on to it and integrating it into my understanding of the world. 

Lightbulbs weren’t even in it – halogens flashed on.  Yes.  Yes.  When I do those write-ups of my geologic journeys, I’m forced to go back and integrate what I’ve read into a coherent whole.  Reading is passive.  Writing is active – I know this because of the buckets of sweat that pour out of me when I’m trying to get the details right.  I’m astonished by how little I’ve actually retained from my reading.  Writing those posts confronts me with the enormous gaps in my knowledge and forces me to fill a few of them in.  Bonus, there’s always a chance that my wiser readers will kick me arse over mistakes and pour a little more knowledge in.

And finally, I blog about science because I can’t not do it.  I go running all over the Pacific Northwest chasing down interesting geology, sometimes encounter fascinating biology, run in to a hell of a lot of beauty, and I’m supposed to keep it to myself?  Some people whip out pictures of their grandkids and wax poetic for ages.  Well, I’m like that about the incredible science I’ve seen.  Remarkably, some of my readers actually like it when I do that to them.  So I keep doing it, for them, and for me.

Sometimes, I consider doing nothing but science on this blog, but I can’t.  I’ve got a magpie mind and a mouth prone to running.  I enjoy taking the Smack-o-Matic to idiotic politicians on a semi-regular basis.  There are times when I can’t help babble about writing, especially during the winter writing season.  Dangle a fundamentalist in front of me, and the temptation to ridicule them becomes overwhelming.  My cat is my kid, so of course I sometimes have to show her off, murderous wee beastie that she is.  And then there are the sublime moments, where something captivates me so thoroughly that I have to point it out to others.  That might be a song, or a piece of art, or just a perfect moment.  There are readers to brag about (because you know all you all are precious to me), and various and sundry to celebrate.  I could no more confine myself to one topic than my cat could confine herself to being a perfect angel all of the time.  For those of you wondering what the metaphor means, put it like this: it would be like a tiger deciding to become a vegetarian.

So that’s it, my long-winded explanation of What This Blog’s About and Why.  Probably silly to have babbled on like this, when I could have just pointed to Lockwood instead and said, “Likewise!”

Geology is important. And it’s woefully undervalued and ignored in our society. When I created this blog, it was mostly for my own entertainment; an online archive, scrapbook, what have you, of things that captured my attention for a while. As it turns out, about 3 in 20 of those things are geology related. That’s certainly a higher ratio than it would be for a typical person. I think I came to geology for the beauty and stayed for the awesome- and I mean awesome in the old, now somewhat archaic, sense of conferring a sense of awe. Of being somewhat paralyzed by the spectacle, by the connections, by the implications of something I’ve learned or seen. Even a little fearful, perhaps. As regular readers know, I’m quite fearful for the fate of our species in light of what we know of the past, and what our collective decision making is like in the present. The earth, and some fraction of its biota, will abide. Humanity, if it cannot learn from its environment, will not.

Having some sort of geoliteracy is critical to understanding our environment. That has become a part of why I do geology posts: I have a great diversity of readers, some geoliterate, some not. I enjoying sharing my excitement with the beauty and power of our planet, and I feel an obligation to help people understand some of the forces that shape it.

Amen, brother.  A-fucking-men.

In that post, he called himself “a peripheral member of this ecosystem.”  I don’t even know if I’m that, really, but I certainly won’t argue if I become so.  There are far worse things than being Pluto in relation to the Really Real Planets of the solar system.  At least we all get to orbit the same sun, even if some of us are distant and awfully erratic.

Finally, and most importantly: Thank you.  Thank you for pulling me into your orbit, and most of all, thank you for blogging the good science.  You give ordinary folk like me knowledge, hope and wonder, and those are never small things.

Now That’s An Engineering Project!

When we went to Arizona last year, my intrepid companion and I crossed Hoover Dam.  It’s not an experience I care to repeat any time soon.  Lots of traffic funneled through an itty-bitty road sucks mightily.  But considering we weren’t getting anywhere anyway, we pulled over to snap some pictures and ogle the Hoover Bridge, which was under construction and promised to someday make the trip less onerous.  It wasn’t very close to completion, and in fact it was difficult to tell just what it was and how it was going to come together, as you can see from this photo Cujo shot:

A few days ago, @Perrykid put a link up on Twitter that dropped my jaw.  Looks like they’re close to finishing the thing, and now it begins to make sense:

I need to call my daddy.  About the most impressive thing I can say about this is, “Ooo!  Big…”  He’s an engineer, so I’m sure he can expound on the awesomeness of the design.

The sad part is, once they’ve finished it, the drive over Hoover Dam will be no more.  They will no longer allow traffic over the dam itself.  So I guess we were lucky to go when a person could still drive one of the most impressive dams in the United States.

Funny.  Didn’t appreciate it at the time… now I find myself wishing I had enough vacation left to fight the traffic just once more, with feeling.

I Probably Require Medical Attention

Far too many years ago, I was in a Mexican cantina (continuing my) drinking after my first Circus Mexicus.  Stevie, then the Peacemakers’ lead guitarist, was sitting a few tables away.  We were not yet drunk enough to approach him and engage in appropriate worship.  And then our chance seemed to have passed, as he got up to leave.  But on his way out, he stopped by the table, thanked us for coming to the show, and shook our hands.

Necessary hygiene forced me to actually wash that hand the following day, but it was a close-run thing.

Fast forward a couple of years, many Peacemakers shows later, and picture me staggering toward the exit of a Flagstaff bar after yet another tequila-drenched show.  Stevie emerged from a side door, saw me, exclaimed, “Hey – you were in Mexico!” and gave me a full-body hug.

Necessary hygiene forced me to bathe within the next few days, but it was a close-run thing.

Fast forward to a May in Mexico.  A few months before, having shed my early aversion to tattoos, I had gotten myself inked with the Peacemakers logo, and now no shit, here I was in JJ’s Cantina, meeting Roger Clyne in person and learning that he did, in fact, approve of my choice in art.  I believe it was the alcohol that allowed me to remain conscious.  Otherwise, I should probably have required an ambulance crew to remove me from the premises after having swooned.  The coda to this is that when I saw him over a year later at the CD release party for No More Beautiful World, he studied my face for a moment, started mumbling about cantinas and tattoos, and then remembered my name.  What prevented me from needing paramedics at that time, I’m not sure, but I do remember the room blurring a bit round the edges.

So yes, I have met actual rock stars, and been recognized by them, and so I know precisely how it feels to actually be recognized as a distinct entity rather than an amorphous blob fitting the description of “yet another fan.”  This necessary context should help you understand why I was revisited by this feeling just this evening, when I perused the comments on this thread.  And this on top of PZ responding to my pathetic pleas on Twitter and then linking to ye olde humble blog.  To me, PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson are rock stars, all right?  They are the Stevie and Roger of the blogging world.

There are only three responses appropriate to the occasion.  One is to pass right out, but it seems I come from a line of females not prone to fainting no matter the provocation.  The second is to give a somewhat-restrained “SQUEE!” and say, “Thank you!”

The third is to place your tongue firmly in your cheek, and enact the relevant scene from Wayne’s World:

I know I’m not the only admirer of the above celebrities who’s been treated as more than an interchangeable unit by them.  So there’s just a few things to say: Thank you for recognizing us as more than amorphous blobs.  Thank you for inspiring us.  And thank you for providing Wayne’s World-worthy moments.

The Fruits of Mah Labor

For those of you wondering why I spent one of my days off hauling bricks up the stairs, here it is:

Mah rocks now have a happy home.  Well, some of my rocks.  The rest of them dwell in the house.  It’s a wonder the floor doesn’t collapse, between the rocks and the books.  I should probably ask the complex to add reinforcement.

And what thanks do I get for all this artsy-craftsy hard work ensuring these buggers no longer dwell on the kitchen counter or the floor?  My cat became so discombobulated by this change in her porch environment that she refused to go out for many hours, and every time she did, she’d flee back inside almost immediately.

Maybe it was because I threw out the enormous box o’ boxes that had been living there since we moved in.  I believe she has the same obsession with boxes that I do with rocks.  Take Exhibit A:

When I went on my mad cleaning spree, I moved her Amazon box so I could vacuum.  The instant I put it down again, plunk!  Kitteh heaven.  So I have a lovely, well-organized and super-clean house with a ratty old broken-down box lying in the middle of it, because she loves it so. 

She’s also apparently bored by all this organization stuff, because while we were gone, she dug out one of her toys.  She hasn’t done that in months.  Considering she once chased my mother out of the house for the offense of a little light cleaning, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  My cat likes clutter almost as much as she likes boxes.

So we have a book/rock hound and a box/clutter hound in this household.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a mate, because there’s no more room for hounds here.

Two Days Changes Everything

When I left work on Tuesday, I had hair so long and heavy it swung like a pendulum when I walked, and fishbelly-white skin.  Two days later, I’ve lost about five or six inches from my hair, leaving it free to strut its natural curl, and I’ve got a bit of a tan going, with a hint of sunburn here and there.  And I still have four days of vacation left, so who knows what’ll happen next.

The poor folks at my workplace are in for a wee bit o’ a shock.

I still haven’t got a photo that really does Ken’s wonderful work justice, but this one gives a hint, and it’s got a bonus cute cat in it:

Having way too much fun, as if you couldn’t tell.


I’ve been playing with Google Street View while captioning photographs from yesterday – they don’t do me much good as research unless I know precisely where I was and what direction I was facing when I took them.  This, somehow, led to a brief foray into Nostalgialand – I looked up me old home on Google Maps.  It turns out 13 Blackhorse Road doesn’t exist anymore, due to the street numbers having been changed.  But ye olde home is still there, complete with barn, and really barren-looking woods behind it. 

View Larger Map

WTF? said I.  Don’t remember it being that scrubby.  Granted, the woods are pinon pine with just a few lone ponderosas, but still.  Used to play in those woods.  They were big and green and lovely.

Can’t go to the street view here in Google, alas, but I’ve gots photos:

See?  It’s not all dirt.

Some of the best years of my life, I spent in those woods, with the limestone bones of the world poking out.  There were tadpoles in Wildcat Canyon, even.  In wet years, anyway.

Speaking of barren, my intrepid companion and I were planning our trip to Grand Coulee today, and we came across a restaurant review that reminded us we wouldn’t be in Seattle anymore:

While most of the food appears fresh, the fruit (appears to be the only cafe in town to even offer a fruit bowl) is canned, and there appears to be a lack of choices on the menu for those concerned with healthy foods. Otherwise a fine place for breakfast.

That, in the immortal words of Bing, cracks my shit up.

Here in Seattle, you can’t sneeze without hitting healthy food, and you can’t walk for tripping over farmer’s markets, which overflow with fruit.  Sometimes, I forget how very spoiled I am, living in a large city close to productive farmland.

Enough nostalgia for today.  I need to shower and take a nap.  I’m cross-eyed after several hours of captioning and organizing photos.