Sand Dunes? Really?


You probably think of sand dunes as a desert phenomenon. But you can get sand dunes wherever you have (1) a decent supply of coarse-grained sand, (2) an area where there is enough topography to create a trap for the sand, and (3) relatively equal distribution of the winds, or at least no prevailing single…

Review: A Life with Footnotes, by Rob Wilkins


For more than 15 years, Rob Wilkins worked as the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s personal assistant. Outside of Pratchett’s immediate family, no one knew Sir Terry better. More than seven years after Pratchett’s death in 2015, Wilkins has finished the autobiography that Pratchett started and didn’t or couldn’t complete. The last hundred pages are wrenching,…

“The Best People,” a Recap


Trump promised the American people he would appoint “the best people.” That turned out to be a lie, too. What we got was continuous turnover in staff and senior positions, dozens of indictments and multiple guilty pleas. WC recognizes that it can be hard to keep track of the criminal convictions so, as a service…

The Right’s War on Citizens


One of the more troubling aspects of the political right’s recent actions is its war against citizens. WC will draw on three specific examples from his former home state of Alaska, but the same case can be shown for other states where the political right has control of the government. The Two Rivers Fire DistrictAs…

TANSTAAFL and Environmentalism


WC has written about TANSTAAFL before. The acronym stands for “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch,” and is a reference to the bars and taverns that used to offer a “free lunch,” where, for the cost of two over-priced beers, you could have an over-salted, thirst-inducing lunch. The price of the lunch,…

Two Approaches to Teaching Geology


WC has read two lay geology books recently, and the contrast in their approaches to the rocky science is itself instructive. Both are fine examples of cogent, readable explanation of geology, in this case the geology of the Great Basin. The first is Frank DeCourten’s The Great Basin Seafloor, which is a geologic history of…

The Benefits of Republican Hypocrisy


In a sad, sick way, George Santos is understandable. He’s an abject failure as a human being, a former call center employee for the Dish Network, former employee of a Ponzi scheme operator, living in his mother’s basement, a college drop out and a deadbeat. So Santos invented an imaginary version of himself, a guy…

Friggatriskaidekaphobia


The idea that Friday the 13th is bad luck has waxed and waned through American culture. Before the cult horror movie franchise, the superstitious worried about it. Jason’s homicidal fantasies have diverted that, and today it often passes without notice among the hundreds of competing memes demanding our attention. But on this Friday the 13th…

Geology, Catastrophism and Lake Missoula


In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, there was a mighty struggle in the nascent science of geology. Biblical literalism had insisted on a young earth, created less than 10,000 year earlier, and a literal, world-spanning Noachian flood. As the evidence for a much older earth accumulated, and the evidence against a global flood…

Field Notes: The Gonydeal Spot


A reader asked why some of the gulls currently being featured in recent Return of Bird of the Week series have a red spot on their bill. More recently, Mrs. WC reminded WC of a classic avian behavioral study closely related to the reader’s question. So, what’s up with the red spot? It’s not blood,…

Of Course George Santos


The media was shocked – shocked! – to learn that pretty much everything about Representative-elect George Santos was a lie. But WC thinks that George Santos is merely the logical extension of a Republican Party increasingly removed from reality. Let’s consider the record. We had a Republican U.S. President who, according to the Washington Post’s…