What the Boss Likes – Finger Lakes vacation, part 1 – geology, food and drink

We’ve not taken a vacation for a couple of years due to various circumstances.  So this year, we decided to go somewhere relatively close to us here in central Pennsylvania but somewhere we’ve never been before.  We chose the Finger Lakes region of New York state, a place full of wineries, restaurants and interesting geology.

First thing I’ll tell you that in my opinion there are too many wineries up there.  The place started in wine production back in the 1800s, had a pause thanks to the utter ridiculous idea of Prohibition, and restarted in the 1970s.  There are some very good ones and then the rest?  Well, it’s far too many people making meh wine to cash in on the tourists.  And the meh wine can be dry or sweet, it’s just not anything special.

There are a few breweries springing up and distilleries. I’ll get into detail on some of them later.  The breweries will likely get too many also since hop production is returning to the Finger Lakes  and the state is offering tax incentives to use them.

The area is very much like where my husband and I grew up, though writ larger with the hills being twice as high and the valleys twice as wide. (nice satellite photo here, the lakes are at the bottom)  As the name indicates, there are lakes, long, narrow and some quite deep (the deepest, Seneca,  getting over 600’ or 188 meters). These are the result of glaciers and very soft rock, mostly shale, created from the erosion of the old mountains on the east coast.

We stayed on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport.  We also spent some time around Seneca Lake, the largest of the lakes.  My husband is having a great time postulating lake monsters, and with US Navy testing equipment in Seneca, it has all sorts of possibilities for stories on how the tests aren’t tests at all…..  🙂

These posts are going to combine stops along the road, reviews of food, wine, etc and of course my opinions.  I’m going to try to keep it vaguely chronological.

long down hill stretch.  Small white rectangle in right of photo is a tractor-trailer.
long down hill stretch. Small white rectangle in right of photo is a tractor-trailer.

We headed up US Route 15 which is pretty much a straight shot between Harrisburg PA and the lakes.  We stopped in Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.  It’s the location of the Watkins Glen state park, with great geology.  It also has the Watkins Glen NASCAR racetrack, an American pastime that seems to be nothing more than high-speed chariot racing, with the audience just as blood thirsty as the ancient Romans.    It supposedly had its origins in the bootleggers from Prohibition who had to get their illegal alcohol cargo in and out fast.  (incidentally, my husband’s grandmother, Effie, was one of those bootleggers, she was the hammer girl in the backseat  who would smash the glass bottles so the liquor could drain out the holes drilled in the floor of the car. Thus,  law enforcement would not catch them with the goods).  As you can see, the leaves are beginning to turn colors thanks to autumn in these latitudes.

wildflower café
wildflower café

We stopped for lunch at the Wildflower Café/Crooked Rooster Brew Pub (they stock Rooster Fish Brewing’s ales).   One reason we wanted to stop there is that they have deep fried jalepeno peppers.  Also got a blue cheese burger and a caprese Panini (tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil).  Beers were a good Hefeweizen for myself and a classic Mysterious amber ale for my husband.  Most of the small towns in the area are full of lovely Victorian mansions, results from the old wealth of timber, etc.

Fried jalapenos
Fried jalapenos


After lunch we headed to the state park, right on the edge of town.  The ad copy for the park says that it leaves visitors spellbound.  It also leaves them breathless, literally. The park is a chasm between 200 foot cliffs and has 800 plus steps on slippery rock paths that are all up from the town.  Sometimes they have a shuttle to bring you back down but they didn’t have that when we visited.   You want to be in shape for this and have good shoes.   Also, take water.  There’s plenty of it in the chasm but none to drink.

The park is very similar looking to the slot canyons in the US southwest and other parts of the world, although it’s wetter and darker.   The chasm is lined with walkways, all about one person wide.  They do have walls on them but the walls only go up to about mid-thigh.  If you have issues with heights, I would recommend giving this place a pass.   See photos in the gallery below.

Since my husband and I do like our sword and sorcery fiction, this all looks like where one would be meeting dwarves or elves.   One can imagine just how hard it would be to fight with sword and shield on such a small path.


Next post, more about the wine, mead, whiskey and food.

What the Boss Likes – volcanoes, videos and more

Why you don’t screw around on volcanoes:

Crater collapse 

Crater floor dropping hundreds of feet. 

Scads of live web cams of the volcanoes in Hawaii courtesy of the USGS: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/

Odd and old videos

We like the moon – squeaky things singing badly and for some reason I find this very funny.  Even spong monkeys know that the moon causes tides, unlike Bill O’Reilly.

Viking kittens – yes the kittens and Led Zepplin.

Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian™, on biblical marriage

Random things

Penguins of Madagascar – love this cartoon.  There are enough sly comments that adults can enjoy it immensely.  Neil Patrick Harris recurs as the arch villain, Dr. Blowhole, a cybered dolphin.  My favorite penguin is probably Rico, the demo expert.  For some reason, I end up playing demo experts in role-playing games.  Husband is real-life demo expert 🙂   Mort the lemur seems to be more spong monkey than lemur. Stuff Mort says.  There are videos on youtube if you are inclined.

Salon’s article about how to counter your ignorant uncle at family gatherings  http://www.salon.com/2013/07/04/july_4_guide_how_to_debate_crazy_relatives_at_the_family_bbq/?source=newsletter

I’m utterly musically inept.  But I love these “harp guitars”.

MimosaHere’s a tree just outside our window.  It’s a mimosa or china silk tree.  They are a rather aggressive tree, growing madly and are considered an invasive species in some states.  They also shouldn’t grow in our hardiness zone, but they do.  Global warming, donchaloveit!

What the Boss Likes – a small hiatus and some cool things

Since I’m wrapping up my last two days of work at my current position, I’ll be taking a little longer to answer replies.  I should be back to normal (or a reasonable facsimile) shortly.

A couple cool things.  John Paulk, the posterboy for the lies about “ex-gay” therapy, has admitted that he’s lied about being “ex-gay” and has apologized.  Better late than never, but the harm he has caused can’t be forgotten.

Most awesome geology and science show on Australia the First 4 Billion Years thanks to NOVA.  I thought I was reasonably informed about Australia and its geological and paleontological history.  I wasn’t. 

First episode here. (the green bar on the right) You can watch them online but I’m not sure if that is restricted by country.


Postscript – and this, I had to put this up


Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 9, the second half of #19, limestone, coelacanths and circular reasoning

Part 2 of the entry for #19  We’re at the penultimate post for addressing all of this nonsense! 

Precambrian rabbit
Precambrian rabbit

Next are mentions of limestones, living fossils and polystrate fossils.  Oh and a quote from Dawkins, whom creationists are sure that all atheists worship.  The quote is “”Creationists are fond of saying that there are very few fossils in the Precambrian, but why would there be?” asks Dawkins. “However, if there was a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found.”  This is a paraphrase of the Precambrian rabbit quote from Haldane.  The idea is that one out of place fossil would destroy evolutionary theory.  And as we can see in the link to the rabbit quote, it isn’t necessarily true.  It would surely show a major problem with it, the thought that the Precambrian is the era of some of the simplest creatures, but all of the current evidence for evolution wouldn’t be shown wrong.  We still have adaptation to environment still demonstrated in the fossil record and still going on. 

Despite what it might look like in your driveway or on a gravel road, limestones are very diverse and not all come from fossils. They are also not often pure calcium carbonate.  One of my early tasks as a geologist was to identify a bunch of them.  Here in central PA, we have lots of limestones and we were doing a lot of drilling into them when setting wells to monitor pollution.  The limestones could be identified by their chemical make-up and that required some of the nastiest chemicals you can buy, including some wickedly toxic mercury compounds, hydrogen cyanide, etc. By that we can know the environment where they formed. We can date them, by radiometric dating, etc.  Since they do not always have fossils, they are not always dated by fossils. Other ways to date are date the rocks above and below and the ones between are between the others in ages, which can happen with limestone, when you might get a coal layer showing up or a volcanic ash deposit that can be dated easier than the limestone. 

One other thing that limestones do to creationist claims is make them ridiculous since the time to build up foraminifera enough to make a layer is far more than their silly 6000+ year time line.  And when simply chemically precipitated out, well, we get poached Noah again. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 9, the second half of #19, limestone, coelacanths and circular reasoning”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 8 – #19 the first half, geology, misapprehensions about evolution, carbon dating and more quote-mining

one of my favorite movies
one of my favorite movies

We’re on the home stretch now, though the section numbered 19 is probably the longest one.  It’s also probably the best for someone like me who wishes to show how creationists are just so silly.  The pdf of the text of the last part (sections 19-23) of our TrueChristiantm’s post is here: truechristian post 19-23.  

The geologic column ( I’m guessing, he uses “coulomb” repeatedly) would be very thick *if* people were ignorant enough to assume that every geological formation were formed everywhere.  This goes back to our Christian’s ignorance of what the geologic column is.  In some places we have a sandstone formation and in others we have a shale; both formed at the same time and both are represented as having been formed at that time on the GC.  It was indeed initially formed in the early 1800s and alas for our Christian, no radioactive dating was needed for it at that time; it was a relative scale.  

Our Christian claims that the evolution of the horse is “backward in South America”.  I have yet to find evidence for this claim. Like miracles, a lot of creationist “evidence” is to be found in “deepest, darkest X”.  Also, to claim that evolution has a “backwards” or “forewards” demonstrates an ignorance of what evolutionary theory claims.  Evolution says that populations will show a change of attributes due to environmental pressures that select for those attributes that are more favorable for survival. So, if we had our “horse A” and it was adapted for a forested land, then there was a drought, it would evolve to fit that better. And if the drought lifted, and went back to forest, the “horse A” would keep evolving. (Addition: video that shows how a creationist has come to accept evolution from first not.  The creationist? Kent Hovind, he just calls it “variation” but he accepts every point of how species form. Ah, recordable media, nothing better for showing hypocrisy 🙂 )    Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 8 – #19 the first half, geology, misapprehensions about evolution, carbon dating and more quote-mining”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 7 – more geology and creationist “credentials”

If you’ve haven’t been reading along in the original post, you won’t know that the name of the book “_” is verbatim from his text of part 16. One would hope the poster would correct that but it is unintentionally funny and demonstrative on how much real evidence bible literalists and young earth creationists have.  

Microsoft clip art again
Microsoft clip art again

 Our TrueChristiantm tries to claim that the biblical literalist and young earth creationist does not depend on the claim that every geologist must believe in uniformitarianism.  That’s unfortunately nonsense that is shown to be false throughout the original post. He tries to say that those like him only mean “the evidence is merely in opposition to such a belief” (a belief that is a strawman argument since our Christian has no idea what uniformitarianism is).  That’s hilarious, trying to claim that you are only taking a stand against a belief that you don’t think that geologists hold. Soooo, why are you basing your whole claim on this? Evidence for the flood has yet to be demonstrated by our poster so it is very hard to critically evaluate anything that hasn’t been presented.  I have seen plenty of hypotheses of how the flood happened but no evidence to support these at all.  I may as well be critically evaluating claims of the Tooth Fairy and coming up with an economic model to explain her nightly flights and exchange rate.  

He does finally admit that “modern” geologists do accept that catastrophes do occur.  He wants me to find two geologists (two again? are we filling the ark?) in the 1800s that believed that volcanoes never erupted and earthquakes didn’t happen because he doesn’t think I can find his strawmen.  This is due to his ignorance of what uniformitarianism and catastrophism entail.  Always good to get the willful ignorance once again.   Especially in the 1800s, those interested in geology thought that we knew every mechanism of geology. And that included volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami, etc. Uniformitarians assumed that everything was uniform in those mechanisms, from past to present. Catastrophists thought that there had to be huge intense events like the Flood since they were using a presuppositional argument that said the Flood *had* to happen.  They could not conceive of otherwise.   

We end up back again at this mysterious “Father of Geology” but as I stated before, if this is James Hutton, he didn’t believe in the bible flood nor in a young earth.  The TrueChristian does go on to mention a “magical uniform lake” in a swipe at abiogenesis but that’s for another time.  Curious about it though? Here and here should get you started. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 7 – more geology and creationist “credentials””

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 6 – Geology and the burden of proof

Problems not only geology but animals.  Happy Lent!
Problems not only geology but animals. Happy Lent!

In 14 (of the original post here), our Christian reveals that river floods aren’t worldwide. Great shock to all of you, I know.  After finding this bit of the glaringly obvious, he then declares that while ancient people knew this kind of flood, they certainly wouldn’t mistake it for a global flood “even after the compounded interpolation of the centuries”.  I will guess that he is trying to say that the people wouldn’t have claimed a local flood to be a global one even after time has passed and the event becomes badly remembered.  

He asks for two instances where an event was exaggerated out of proportion and became a myth.  Along with floods, tidal waves are caused by the Midgard Serpent and will cover the world in water during Ragnarok (hey, a flood myth that’s also a end times myth!).  Winter is invoked as a apocalyptic force that covers the earth killing all humans in a Fimbulvetr. A great wind was the culprit in Aztec world destruction, not suprising since hurricanes are common in the Yucatan area; fire was also another cause of the world/human kind being destroyed in Aztec mythology since they postulate various incarnations of the world. What is highly amusing is that he excepts his Bible from this for this reason: *I* (me, Vel) don’t believe in it.  Well, I don’t believe in the other myths either, Suprise!  He also uses his own word “fraudulated”.

We still have the same baseless claims that the bible is literally to believed and he now asks for: “list two events in the Bible which have evidence that actually proves them not to have happened not just raising vague doubts like you tried to do this time” Back again to our Christian trying his best to shift the burden of proof, how cute. Of course, we do still have the biblical flood, the supposedly vanishing of Tyre from history and the events of Exodus. No vague doubts here, direct positive evidence that these did not happen.  

To explain burden of proof a bit further, we have our Christian insisting that I show that something doesn’t exist.  He wishes to declare that the absence of evidence isn’t the evidence of absence, aka “”You cannot prove that God does not exist, so He does.”  Alas, he forgets, again, that positive evidence that precludes a claimed event or item is all the evidence you need to demonstrate that something doesn’t exist. The claim of a catastrophic physical event can be shown to be untrue if physical laws do not allow for it and our Christian said much the same himself. Since he is claiming extraordinary events have happened, he has essentially claimed that he has evidence for said events and is beholden to produce it.   

We do get to some geology in 15. Our Christian is again aghast that if something he doesn’t like is true, the Bible is wrong! That is a problem but only for him. There is repetition of prior arguments here.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 6 – Geology and the burden of proof”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The Illegible Post, Part 4 – On population bottlenecks and honesty

your brain might jump out and run awayIn this installment of “just how silly can this get”, we have our Christian making some claims about science in some detail and in general. 

“#11 This population bottleneck is a matter of genuine science and the excuse for it not being true is probably just as valid as any second rate blogger’s posts can be against the science magazines that published it. Yes, scientists have proven we all come from one female.” 

We start right off with the usual creationist tactic of making a claim and offering no support for it.  Many Christians want to claim that “genuine science” (and I can only say that with a broad southern US drawl “gen-u-wine science!”) supports them.  As we have seen, that is not the case and has never yet been the case.  For all of the claims of how science supports creationists, they never come up with scientific discoveries on their own that demonstrate how their god exists.  No, they take legitimate scientific discoveries and misrepresent them through their personal ignorance as something they can glom onto when their faith flags.  From what we know about creationists throughout the ages, the ones now would be heretics to their brethren who were sure that genetics weren’t true, geology wasn’t true, etc.  Many creationists have indeed evolved, disbelieving what their forefathers claimed and now grudgingly accept at least some of the science that they continue to decry when it shows their myths are pure nonsense. The myths pick up more claims of scientific truth in a vain attempt to keep them appearing valid in the fact based reality of the 20th and 21st centuries.  

Population bottlenecks are indeed known facts thanks to the scientific method.  We know them because of work with cell biology and genetics, all sciences that creationists hate until they want to run to them for “evidence” for their god.  Essentially, a population bottleneck is when a population’s gene pool is severely diminished by the widespread and relatively sudden death of much of the population. This website has a very nice illustration of how this occurs.

If there is a limit to the gene pool, there isn’t as many possible combinations to appear in the population and the population is limited in the attributes it displays, attributes that are selected for and against by environmental pressures.  For example, if one of Darwin’s finches, let’s say the heavy beaked seed eater, had a major population decline and the environment changed so that there were few of the seeds it eats around (but there were more bugs deep in tree back)  The population would not have the genetic grab bag that a larger population would to have. They would not be able to adapt as easily to the environment with fewer of those individuals who had those slightly different attributes that favored getting the bugs to survive and pass on their genetics to another generation.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The Illegible Post, Part 4 – On population bottlenecks and honesty”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The illegible post, part 1

Church-Lightning-RodSo here we are with the first installment of the review of a Christian’s blog post. The numbers in his post seem to be meaningless since I have used no such numbering in mine. It is anyone’s guess what he might be referring to when, for instance, he claims we agree on something. I believe he thinks that numbering sentences makes them footnotes since he mentioned using such things in a personal email to me, though I could be wrong. Those of us who have written academic papers know this is not the case. 

Rather than address the usual claims of martyrdom that are evident, I shall show how the claims presented as facts are wrong.  The Christian in question, Joseph Armstrong, is quite amusing with attempts to shill a book supposedly full of the “truth”.  Rather than pay $5, you can get it free here, misspellings, tired old lies and all.  I did a little Googling about this book and it’s always good to see creationists attack each other over what they think is the “truth”.  We have young earth creationists (those who think that Bishop Ussher’s calculation of around 6000 years is accurate) insisting that old earth creationists (who accept various ages up to and including the current estimate of  13.77 billion years) are utterly wrong and damned.  And this doesn’t even start on how folks who believe in theistic evolution fit into the mix.  When you have no evidence for your claims, like these folks, then it becomes a free for all, each insisting that they are the only TrueChristianstm. Indeed, this post starts with the Christian’s claim that his version of the religion and his faith are the only right ones, and that anything else is a coward’s faith, which then evidently doesn’t exist since this Christian claims he hasn’t seen such faith other than his own.  He hasn’t looked very far.

Also, be aware that this Christian writes out his “evidence” on poster paper using lots of colors and drawings and takes pictures of them; those are the jpg files he refers to in his post.  It is my opinion that  it ’s a rather transparent tactic to avoid having his words directly quoted by a cut and paste and a vastly silly attempt to impress someone with what looks like it should be in third grade show n’ tell.   They are a bit more legible than yellow text on red. 

For those who have shown concern that I am beating my head against a wall in futility or that I have a tarbaby by the hand, I am quite aware that no matter how much I might write, there will be people who will not accept it but as the poster image above states, the argument is much a moot point.  To ignore reality in favor of their fantasies is their choice.  However, their willful ignorance doesn’t change reality no matter how hard they may pray. They will still be wrong and their numbers continue to dwindle.  This also helps folks who haven’t spent as much time as I have on research to see a lot of info in one place.

Christians have claimed that their god exists and affects the physical world.  The claims range from the supposed events in the bible to claims that miracles happen in the world today.  Various Christians have claimed that they do have evidence to support the existence of the Christian god (God) and the events essential to their religion. This supposed evidence falls into some broadly defined groups  

  • stories that are not supported by original contemporary sources e.g. books considered to be divinely inspired and thus “true’
  • anecdotes that are not supported by other evidence
  • physical evidence that is presented out of archaeological context and thus useless (ivory pomegranate, ossuaries, etc)
  • physical evidence that is refused access to (religious relics)
  • physical evidence that is unaccessible (on a mountain, under a sea, missing)
  • physical evidence presented with a false dichotomy
  • claims that their god is better/different than any others but lacking evidence to support this other than personal belief
  • claims that their god and only their god created the universe
  • claims that miracles occur, those that break physical laws and those that considered from God but are indistinguishable from coincidence or hard work by humans
  • claims that “many scientists” are or have become theists
  • claims to have “scientific evidence” but the evidence is not presented
  • claims that certain ideas have been disproven and failing to admit that it was not theists who disproved them
  • Outright lies

 There will be a lot of these that will come up.  I really should have made a scorecard.  Get a whole set and Bingo!

Now, let’s start into the meat of this.

In #4, we have a claim that there is evidence for a world-wide flood. It is claimed that there is “22 verified such evidences”.  These are not presented unsurprisingly.  In the case of this Christian, he is a Bible literalist, sure that most, if not all, the events of the bible did in fact occur in the past just as written.  He is also a young Earth Creationist, who believes that the earth was created the night before October 23, 4004 BC of the Julian calendar (Ussher again, assuming that God uses the Julian calendar).  This rather sounds like the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian as the movie opens (after the nativity scene and the credits, around 6:36 on the video) and  at the Sermon on the Mount, which is claimed to be “Judea, AD 33, Saturday afternoon . . . about tea time”.  In this Christian’s proposed timeline, the biblical flood must occur between now and 6017 years ago.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The illegible post, part 1”

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Bad logic and even worse “science”

noahRecently, I’ve seen the usual flood myth claims on one more theist blog. This has been done to death but I do love the subject since I’m a geologist. 

The initial blog post was the usual claim by a theist that atheists don’t have enough proof for their position and at best they “really” should be agnostics. This is the usual tactic to cling to their god by implicitly claiming “But you can’t prove my god doesn’t exist, so I can still make believe he does.”  Alas for the theist who make this claim, they forget that their god has very defined characteristics and those characteristics can be analyzed and be tested by the evidence supporting or contradicting them.  The theist in question has insisted that he doesn’t need to define this god, and it’s simply “logic” that argues that agnosticism is the right position.  He invokes the argument from ignorance: 

1.There is no evidence against p.
2. Therefore, p.
3.There is no evidence for p.
4.Therefore, not-p. 

and has accused me of that, but again forgets that there is not this overwhelming ignorance he would hope for; we have plenty of positive evidence against the claims of his religion and his bible.  If there is no evidence for a magical flood, then there is no reason to think that there was one. If there is no evidence for a God, or Santa Clause, then there is no reason to think there is one.  Could there be a probability of something undefined hiding under a rock on Alpha Centauri and that be the Christian god?  No, not if the Christian god is as claimed by the bible and Christians. Logic is a powerful tool but it isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, many Christians find it’s their last hope in finding a gap for their god but don’t understand that. 

There is evidence for geology showing that this flood did not occur ever and could not have.  One has to invoke magic to somehow evaporate all of the evidence that this god did anything ever.  That’s worth a chuckle but that’s all.  One may as well invoke “Last Thursdayism” where we only *think* we remember our lives and some god made us up last Thursday.

(This Christian is also sure that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.  He claims he needs no “evidence” but has “good reasons” to be sure about this.  Of course, I have yet to see the “good reasons”.  It’s just more special pleading.)  

Another Christian has claimed that SCIENCE supports his religion and makes some very typical and very willfully ignorant claims.  He claims that genetics “proves” that there was a population bottleneck and his flood is the source.  First, it is always a treat to see a theist who wants to invoke science and the scientific method when they think that it supports their religious claims.  They demonstrate their hypocrisy when they decide that some science is just peachy but when a bit of that science shows their religion’s claims to be wrong, they will do their best to ignore it.  Quite a bit of trying to have their cake and eat it too goes on in creationist nonsense.  They depend on willful ignorance, outright lies, attacking strawmen created from superseded ideas, etc.  It’s really quite a shame.  AT this point, I cannot accept Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  In this age of information, it takes real effort to be this ignorant.  Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Bad logic and even worse “science””