03 August, 2010

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.


Lockwood said...

Aww, shucks... you flatter me. You also underrate the quality of your geology discussions. Keep up the good work. I'm also glad to see another geoblogger who doesn't feel limited to that topic. I think the main reason I felt compelled to comment was that it sounded as if you weren't aware of just how many geobloggers are out there... there's a least a couple hundred. I'm actually kind of surprised it's taken as long as it has for your blog to be given any attention in the geoblogosphere. Like I say, I think you do a good job with the topic (and not only that, I tend to agree with most of your non-geo discussion and rants as well).

Suzanne said...

i like your posts dana. that is why i visit your blog daily. you make me think, no matter what your post is, and for that i am grateful.

i've not been involved in sciences since high school, when i took 3 years of biology classes. since moving up here, i've wondered about the geology (who could live up here and not). you have opened my eyes to what is around me. for that, i am thankful.

Ron Schott said...

Subscribed! (Okay, I was already, but no way you're getting rid of me now.)

One class in geology or reading one of John McPhee's books is really all it takes to gain a real appreciation for the science of geology. When I first started blogging about geology it was inspired by another amateur geology buff - Doc Searls. By golly we need lots more folks like you blogging (even just occasionally) about geology. And that's why I do everything I can to encourage and draw attention to those who do it well.

Keep up the great work!

Katharine North said...

Great post! I've recently become a member of the geoblogosphere too and silently repeat "I'm not worthy" every day. The support around these parts is phenomenal. Keep it up! I look forward to reading more!