Friday, July 25, 2008

Scenes from Hell

One of the places I took my aunt and cousin on our recent vacation was Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is one of the five least frequented of all the California National Parks, and gets only 10% of number of visitors that Yosemite gets. This is one of the reasons we came here instead. I hate crowds. And I've been here a couple of times before and found it fascinating. The area is volcanically very active. There are four major types of volcanoes (cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes), and all four occur in the area. Lassen Peak is one of the largest lava dome volcanoes in the world.

Mount Lassen last erupted in 1915, and is definitely very much not extinct. Here is a big (~4 ft. diameter) mudpot at Sulfur Works, right near the park entrance. I took this picture over the chain link fence...

And then I followed my Aunt Jayne around the fence and the sign that said it was dangerous to go beyond this point to take this picture... Note from the end of this post that it runs in the family.

This fumarole is across the street.

Further along the Highway to Hell is Emerald Lake. Here is my cousin Gwen playing in a tiny patch of snow. The green color is caused by algae growing on the bottom and very clear water. Lassen is one of the snowiest places in California, and snow often doesn't melt until late July in wet years. My ex-husband and I were here during early June of 1987, and there were still 10+ foot snow drifts. We didn't see much on that trip. This year was a dry year.

At the top of the trail to Hell, is Balancing Rock. Gwen had to go and prop it up again for the picture. This boulder was carried along by a glacier during the last ice age and then left perching as the glacier melted out from under it. The peak in the background is Brokeoff Mountain, part of the giant Mount Tehama that collapsed in on itself about 350,000 years ago. Note the brown haze. The smoke from all the Northern California fires was getting thicker by the minute. We had some nice views in the morning, but by afternoon, visibility was down to a couple of miles.

Along the Nature Trail to Hell, there was still quite a lot of snow, so of course there was a snowball fight. Here is Jayne being tagged by Gwen. Note I am hiding behind Jayne - to protect the camera, of course. I think I hid behind a tree a bit later.

Further along, the road to Hell was paved in snow. I think there was almost too much for even Gwen.

Checking out how warm the water flowing out of Hell was. Bathwater.
Finally we made it to Hell. Bumpass Hell. Full of mudpots, fumaroles, and boiling springs. And a very strong smell of sulphur. Bumpass Hell was named after Kendall Vanbook Bumpass, who in 1865, broke through the crust into a boiling spring (twice) and lost his leg. The story used to be posted on a sign at the trail head, but the National Park Service signs don't even mention it anymore. Maybe they thought it would dissuade too many people from visiting this part of the park, but when my family and I were here in 1980, I think that it was why we decided to make the hike.

Fumaroles are surprisingly loud.

Even in Hell there are green spots. Yes, the water was teal. Or maybe aquamarine.

One last climb around in the snow before we went back down into the Sacramento Valley where temperatures were in the upper 90s.

Lassen Peak

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Atheist Nexus

I just told Brother Richard at the Atheist Nexus that I would help out the site however I could, so here's a start, anyway. He is asking for atheist bloggers to promote and represent the site. I added the badge at the left - obviously I need to figure out how to either make my sidebar wider, or shrink the badge...

I picked that particular badge because at the time I copied it it had a picture of Andrew of the blog Artificial Habitat- the first person who ever commented on this blog!* The badge apparently updates with the most popular members, so I can't guarantee he's still on there. I actually "talked" with him today in the Nexus chat room, which was fun, if a little odd. Odd, mainly because I'm not used to chat rooms, not because he is. I don't think he's odd, anyway, although he does have the first three seasons of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. Oh, wait. So do we.

I have really enjoyed the website so far, and definitely recommend it to any atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and Pastafarians out there. It must rate highly with me. I put it above the Obama photo!

*Kia of A Blog About Everything was a close second, but even though she was my blogging inspiration, I didn't tell her for a few days because I knew she was a Christian, and I wasn't sure how she would feel about my blog. Of course I shouldn't have worried...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blood donation

Donated blood today. I'll do anything to get out of going to the gym.

That only brings it up to 4.25 (American) gallons over about the last 10 years. I get deferred about two out of three times due to low hematocrit.
Update: Never celebrate anything with two Long Island Iced Teas within 26 hours of donating....ow, my head.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thoughts on Wafergate

Most people in the atheist blogosphere have probably heard of the PZ Myers consecrated wafer saga. To recap, Dr. Myers posted a rant on his blog regarding an incident where a college student left a Catholic mass without actually eating the eucharist, but taking it with him, and has since been getting death threats.

At the end of PZ's rant, he asks people to send him eucharist wafers and he will "treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web." Now, of course, he is getting hate mail and death threats, too. A Republican delegate has even asked for extra protection at the upcoming Republican Convention because PZ only lives 150 miles away.

I don't necessarily agree with what PZ threatened to do to a consecrated cracker, because many people really do believe that this is the body of Christ. Even if I personally believe that this is just silly, blown completely out of proportion, and it really is just a cracker, obviously many people are extremely upset over this. Several people have called it a hate crime and the Catholic League press release states “It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ." Um...I can think of a couple. How about Catholic Priests intentionally violating trusting young children for one?

I just have a couple of questions:

  1. Shouldn't an omnipotent god be able to take care of himself?
  2. Are the wafers that were consecrated by the (evil-in-my-opinion-but-forgiven-by-Jesus) child molesting Catholic Priests still consecrated? I think I just answered my own question.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Doing what comes naturally

Some photos of my recent vacation with my aunt and cousin visiting from England.

Yes way.

Balancing at Muir Woods (Bill watching nervously)

Balancing at Lake Tahoe (note the smoky haze)

Hanging on the outside of a Cable Car, San Francisco*

Sparkling wine tasting at Mumm in Napa Valley

My cousin Gwen
Bumpass Hell, Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park

I told her not to go past the sign...

More photos soon.
*No, that's not '80s big hair. It's the wind. Really.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunny California

Er.....OK, smoky California. This is not a sunset photo. We've been able to look directly at the sun most of the afternoon. Most of the hundreds of fires were started by a huge mostly dry lightning storm on June 21, and the predictions are that they will all be fully contained by the end of ..... August.

At least I don't have to worry about sunburn so much this summer. Lung cancer, on the other hand...

Here is a satellite image of the smoke on July 10:Image from the US Forest Service MODIS Active Fire Mapping Program