Saturday, December 31, 2011


The Very Special Book Project

Originally uploaded by marymactavish.
Here are some amazing cloud pictures, then I will tell you about my new project:

Kelvin–Helmholtz instability in clouds. Aren't those gorgeous? They're just unworldly. And I love the Van Gogh association.

Years ago, the director of the incredible little child-respecting school where I was teaching gave me a copy of the book, "The Sense of Wonder," by Rachel Carson. The book wasn't really finished when Carson died, and is sort of journally, and I love it. My copy was published by The Nature Company, which also died a few years back, and had beautiful pictures. In 1996, my apartment flooded slightly in one of Sacramento's "we've really got to upgrade our storm drains" neighborhood floods, and everything on the bottom couple of shelves of my bookcases was ruined, including that book. I actually rescued it, dried it out, and saved it, but it's not very readable, sort of warped and puffy.

More recently, I found a copy at a library book sale, but like every other recent version I've seen, the pictures are so-so compared to the Nature Company's edition.

So for Christmas this year, my mother-in-law Pat, Casey's mom, gave me a homemade version, with photos taken from my own flickr stream as well as, with permission, work from a couple of photographer friends of mine, Joe Decker and Lisa Ellis.

It's just lovely, and a treasure, and so incredibly thoughtful. Pat pointed out to me a couple of days ago that she had loose-bound the book, rather than had it permanently bound, so that I could continue it with our adventures in nature with Owen. Wow, I hadn't thought of that. But now I have been thinking:

I'm going to continue to use Geographile for geography posts as often as I am able, but I'm going to start a specific project of recording our adventures with Owen. I'll post them here (with photos), link it from our family blog, and print out versions as well to bind into our Sense of Wonder book. I'll keep that up as much as we can, over the years, with no hard goal -- once a week, once a month, whatever I can manage -- until it feels done.

I can give it to Owen when it's time, whenever that ends up being. Maybe he'll want to continue it himself.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dolores Park from the J Church

Dolores Park from the J Church

Friday, November 25, 2011

fracking walken

American Gasland
Originally uploaded by Marcellus Protest.
My friend Rakesh says that in View to a Kill, which I find hilarious because of the way they play fast and furious with science in terms of seismology and relevant San Francisco Bay Area geography, Christopher Walken tries to destroy the Silicon Valley (then, not long past being "Santa Clara Valley"), with fracking.

I laughed. But it's only meaningful once you've seen the movie.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

catching up

I want to use this blog well, but the reality is that I have a badly flaring chronic illness, an active infant approaching toddlerhood, have spent the autumn moving and unpacking, and just can't keep up with thoughtful, well-written posts. Thus, I've decided that instead of putting things aside for sharing "when I can write about them better," I'm just going to give up and share.

So here, at 6 am today, while my husband and I were hanging out with a very happy, awake infant, we were also laughing at this video. Mind you, it started with serious ooohs and aaahs at the wonder and science of melting brine turning into some sort of weird frozen stalactites projecting from the ice sheets of the Antarctic into the cold water below, then it just became a riot of giggles at the timelapse shots of starfish trying to escape the "Day after Tomorrow" scenario. It's worth a watch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Urban Dawn

Urban Dawn
Originally uploaded by Today is a good day.
wow, I wonder if these are offset for time at all, or whether there's any risk of terrorism, near airports. I guess not -- if you're close enough to be a problem, you'd see the plane, no?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On the radio now

Posting a quickie from my car at the side of the road. Author Neil Ferguson is currently talking on Talk of the Nation about the rose of the West in the past six centuries and reasons for it, on Http:// If you miss it live, check the archives, probably at Fascinating. Have a listen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sense of wonder

Red maple, falling trees
Originally uploaded by marymactavish.
There is a book by Rachel Carson called A Sense of Wonder*, which I received as a gift from a woman I taught with and for, many years ago, my first Christmas with her.

The edition she gave me was published by the lovely and now defunct Nature Company, and had lovely color photos, and came in a box.

I'd read the book over and over, pulled deeply into Carson's descriptions of the time she spent with her young grand-nephew, whom she partially raised, their hours out spent looking for the tiny "Christmas Trees" they imagined the animals used, the seedlings that were the squirrels' trees, the saplings of the young deer; how she took him out night to see the stars on the rocky beaches of Maine, or look for nocturnal tidepool animals, frustrating well-meaning friends who didn't think she should have the child out past a reasonable bedtime.

In 1997, my apartment flooded during one of Sacramento's heavy winter rainstorms. The old storm drains with their narrow terra cotta pipes couldn't handle the rate of rainfall, and a few inches of rain came into my apartment, enough to soak the bottom shelves of the bookcases, to wick up the walls, and because, one particular storm, I was out of town at the time, to allow black mold to grow up the walls, as well. One of the victims was my copy of A Sense of Wonder.

Since then, I've found a copy at the Friends of the Castro Valley Library bookstore. I gasped in delight to find it, and though I had no money with me, the volunteers let me take it home anyway. I surprised them by coming back a few days later with the two dollars they were asking (and a donation of several boxes of good books for them to sell, as we were moving), grateful for their gift.

But this one is ... lacking. Not only are the photos in black and white, they weren't necessarily meant to be, so they aren't nearly as evocative as black and white can be, it is merely an expediency of printing in an earlier age. And again because the book is an earlier publishing, it's a bit faded .... it doesn't work as well. I sit and try to read the words, and I can read them, they're wonderful, but I want the lovely pictures too.

So I'm pondering typing the whole thing out, just for me, and either illuminating it with tiny watercolor details, or using my own photos to make a pdf, and print and bind a copy, just for me, for my own reading, my own coffee table. (I'd illuminate it Sark-style, except that my arthritis thinks it's a bad idea for me to write with a pen for very long at a time.)

Where is this going? I think I'm aiming this way, too:
1) This sort of thing, the sense of wonder that Rachel Carson felt so deeply, and shared with her nephew and the world, is perhaps the biggest chunk of why I love geography. Learning about the earth helps me to become emotionally intimate with it, and vice versa, and that matters to me.
2) I need to stop thinking about the "right" ways to use this blog, geographically, and share more about my own experience of geography.

A Sense of Wonder wasn't finished by the time Rachel Carson, who remains in my pantheon of saints, passed away. It was lovingly assembled from her notes. I am so grateful to the people who thought it was valuable enough for that.

*And googling that: How did I not know about the film? Why did no one tell me?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Toward Ukiah Valley

Toward Ukiah Valley
Originally uploaded by pkingDesign.
This illustrates California, for me -- like plein aire paintings. I know that some people think of it as beaches, or Hollywood, or redwoods, but green or golden hills, oak savanna or woodland, rolling into the distance, that's California.

In other news, I'm revisiting how to use this blog, and I think I'm going to try for a themed day (even if I have to frontload) about sense of place, one about conservation, and then fill in the rest sort of randomly. I'm still happy to entertain guest blogging, but I want pieces to fit my sense of geographilia.

I'm way busy now with the new kid, and we're moving to a new house (which will decrease my workload, the yard's much easier to deal with) so I'm debating whether to really put hard energy into this with the hope of "monetizing" it a bit -- google adwords? switch to wordpress and add ads? I have no idea, and it might not even be worthwhile -- or just to accept that I'm busier and scattered these days, and do it catch as catch can. I would appreciate feedback, ideas, opinions, or other discussion about that (or about California and what illustrates "California" to you).

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

the truest sense of awesome

Today's tornado crosses the Connecticut River in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The tornado caused moderate damage and no deaths, nothing like the spate that's plagued the midwest, but still, nothing to scoff at.

The clearest version of this video - long, no titles - I've encountered is in Facebook, but that's not embeddable here. If you'd like to look, check it out here:

correction: four deaths

Saturday, March 12, 2011

look at what liquefaction can do

Isn't that amazing? Look at the water gooshing up, and the swaying dirt. Holy cow. I'd rather be in open space, even liquefying open space, in a big quake, than in the middle of a city, or *sigh* within the first few blocks of a Japanese coastal town, but still, that just makes the bottoms of my feet crawl to watch.

In the San Francisco bay area, we keep talking about building on marshes. Look at that ground! You are going to have a hard time convincing me to live on that.

I have a big Japanquake post in notepad on my desktop, just waiting for some more anchor tags and rounding out with citations, and I will finish it today. This doesn't really fit in there, though, so I'm sticking it here now. The baby is due this weekend (but might come a little late) so I'm a tad bit distracted.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

look at the dot

Baby's due in a week.

This is all I can think of to write, right now:

Also: I typed "look at the dog" for this title at first, and when I was opening this page, "". Yes, I have dogs, but this is out of hand. I can't imagine I'll survive long as a parent with brain intact.

(Blame Kimberly for the animation, she's the one who imposed it on me.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

they became casualties of their own privilege

Originally uploaded by thekirbster.
This is happening in so many ways, right now, as it's happened throughout history. But with seven billion people, healing is harder than it once was.
You would think the rich might care, if not from empathy, then from reading history. Ultimately gross inequality can be fatal to civilization. In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning anthropologist Jared Diamond writes about how governing elites throughout history isolate and delude themselves until it is too late. He reminds us that the change people inflict on their environment is one of the main factors in the decline of earlier societies. For example: the Mayan natives on the Yucatan peninsula who suffered as their forest disappeared, their soil eroded, and their water supply deteriorated. Chronic warfare further exhausted dwindling resources. Although Mayan kings could see their forests vanishing and their hills eroding, they were able to insulate themselves from the rest of society. By extracting wealth from commoners, they could remain well-fed while everyone else was slowly starving. Realizing too late that they could not reverse their deteriorating environment, they became casualties of their own privilege. Any society contains a built-in blueprint for failure, Diamond warns, if elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their decisions, separated from the common life of the country.
- Bill Moyers

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nacreous Clouds

First guest post!
Or, perhaps, a reblog, but I asked her if I could link it as a guest post.

(bigger image for gorgeous colors)

Last year, I posted a few pictures of this dazzling phenomenon I observed in the sky.

A year later, thanks to the Collins Weather Wild Guide, I have learned that what I saw were nacreous clouds, a form of iridescence.

Something I already knew: Nacreous clouds are rare, and I was very lucky to observe them.

Thanks to my longtime friend Chu_Hi on Livejournal, who wrote all of this, and took this photos from one of the giant planes in which she spends much of her waking hours. This is her photo, please don't use it without her permission.

As much as it's been hard for me to keep up with this blog all year, for no good reason, it might get harder soon as we have a baby joining our family for good in mid-March, and I'm going to be spending available time parenting for the next 18 years or so. I'm going to continue to try to maintain at least my current level of blogging, but if you're willing to toss a guest-blog post at me now and then, let me know -- geographile at -- and we can talk.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Winter Storm kicks midwest ass and moves on

And Dan, at Wild Wild Weather, discusses this relative to the massive Typhoon currently traveling over the top of Queensland after ripping off a few roofs along the way.

Much of Queensland's doom this summer (as it's still summer there) has been related to La Nina/ENSO, but how much worse is it because of climate change? We can't know exactly with regard to any storm or even series of storms, but globally, the weather is extreme this year, and that matches climate change predictions very well. Dan's got more information on that throughout his blog, one of my favorites in the field.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Breaking stereotypes but just a little

Note that when you go to the original page, and do the traditional xkcd mouseover for minor punchline in the alt text, you get the tidbit that Uzbekistan is one of only two doubly landlocked countries. Before I look it up, I have to figure out what the other one is.

Now I want to get a blank map, with only coast lines, not borders, and fill it in like this. I can put about 2/3 of Africa and nearly all of South America. Eastern Europe and what my husband calls "Soviet Blockistan," or the parts of Asia and Europe that were formerly Soviet Union countries, are a lot harder.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The frontier is everywhere.

I want to come back in some-odd thousands of years and look back, just to see where we've come, and find out what this chunk of time means in the grand scheme of things.