Three Things Thursday

I love the weekly challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.” This challenge makes me pay attention to my world in the search to document the awesomeness of my life.

1. An Introduction to Your Colon

Last week we visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle to see Pompeii: The Exhibition. The Pacific Science Center focuses on educating children, and one of their approaches is Grossology, which heightens the yuckiness quotient to get kids to learn about how their bodies work.

Part of the Grossology approach is a set of Grossology restrooms. Here, courtesy of the women’s Grossology restroom, is an introduction to how the human colon works:

diagram of the colon
Photographed at Pacific Science Center

Gross! Yucky! Great!

2. In a Galaxy Not so Far Away…

When we came out of Costco last weekend, the characters from Star Wars were participating in a fund raiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. I didn’t notice them until we were well across the parking lot. I snapped this quick shot:

Star Wars characters

I particularly enjoyed seeing the Sand Person, who doesn’t usually get as much publicity as the major characters.

3. Want to Go Parasailing?

The return of warm weather this past week brought with it the return of parasailing to beautiful Ruston Way along Commencement Bay.


Thanks to my husband for this gorgeous photo.

Living in the Shadow of an Active Volcano

Related Post:


(Click on any of the images to see a larger version.)

Mount Rainier is so beautiful and majestic to see that it’s easy to forget how potentially dangerous it is. Here in Tacoma, WA, we live in the shadow of this active volcano:

in the shadow of an active volcano
Living in the shadow of an active volcano (photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Washington is home to five major composite volcanoes or stratovolcanoes (from north to south): Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. These volcanoes and Mount Hood to the south in Oregon are part of the Cascade Range, a volcanic arc that stretches from southwestern British Columbia to northern California.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

In conjunction with the anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, May is Washington State Volcano Preparedness Month:

State of Washington Proclamation for Volcano Preparedness Month
State of Washington Proclamation for Volcano Preparedness Month

The Washington State History Museum presented an exhibit earlier this month entitled “Living in the Shadows” to remind the public that what happened at Mount St. Helens could happen here:

Photographed at Washington State History Museum
Photographed at Washington State History Museum

When most people think of the danger of a volcanic eruption, they think immediately of flowing lava. But there are two more immediate and potentially widespread dangers:

  • lahars—volcanic mudflows
  • pyroclastic flows—ground-hugging avalanches of hot volcanic ash, pumice, rock fragments, and gases that destroy everything in their path
Dangerous Mount Rainier
Dangerous Mount Rainier (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

As part of the state’s volcano preparedness program, students perform annual lahar drills in which they practice evacuating their schools ahead of lahar:

Student lahar drill
School lahar drill (photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Also see the local news article Orting schools conducting lahar drill Thursday.

On our recent visit to see Pompeii: The Exhibition, we found the Pacific Science Center in Seattle used the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in 79 A.D. as a springboard for education about our local situation:

description of lahar and pyroclastic flow
Lahar and pyroclastic flow (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

This map shows the potential danger zones if Mount Rainier were to erupt:

Mount Rainier hazard zones
Mount Rainier hazard zones (photographed at Pacific Science Center)

My home town of Tacoma is up there near the top, on the left.

The beautiful Cascades have been around for years. Long before the USGS (U. S. Geological Survey) started keeping records, Native Americans knew of the mountains’ power:

Volcanoes through Native Eyes
(photographed at Washington State History Museum)

Washington’s Volcano Preparedness Month announcements and activities remind us that it’s not a question of “if Mount Rainier erupts,” but rather “when Mount Rainier erupts.”

Additional Resources

35 years after Mount St. Helens erupted: A new world of research

Dzurisin, D., Driedger, C.L., and Faust, L.M., 2013, Mount St. Helens, 1980 to now—what’s going on?: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3014, v. 1.1, 6 p. and videos. (Available at

Recent News Articles about Erupting Volcanoes

Did she blow? NW submarine volcano likely just erupted

Scientists find missing link in Yellowstone plumbing: This giant volcano is very much alive

Calbuco Volcano Erupts in Chile, and Nearby Town Evacuated

‘Wired’ Underwater Volcano May Be Erupting Off Oregon

Pompeii: The Exhibition

The Roman city of Pompeii, on the western coast of Italy, was a thriving port in the first century. The region’s fertile soil made it a leading source of agricultural products, including grains, nuts, and fruits, particularly grapes that were made into wine. But life in this prosperous city came to an abrupt halt in 79 A.D., when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered everything with 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) of pumice and ash.

Pompeii lay buried and forgotten until its rediscovery about 250 years ago. The artifacts found there were well preserved because of the lack of air and moisture. Archaeologists have carefully excavated the site and uncovered many artworks and objects that indicate what life was like for the residents of the city in the first century.

Selected artifacts from Pompeii comprise an exhibit that has toured the world. We caught the exhibit today, near the end of its run at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, the final stop on its current tour.

Terra Sigillata Cup
Terra Sigillata Cup

This terracotta cup was found in a house in Pompeii packed in a wooden crate with 89 similar pieces and 37 lamps. It indicated the high quality of North Italian ceramics manufactured from the end of the first century and throughout the second century A.D.

Gaius Caesar: Age 10
Gaius Caesar: Age 10


This bust is thought to represent the 10-year-old Gaius Caesar, grandson of the Emperor Augustus. It was found in Herculaneum, a city near Pompeii that was also destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The marble bust is thought to have been made between 63 B.C. and 14 A.D.



Pompeii was a vibrant, cosmopolitan city because of its trade-route location. By 79 A.D. many wealthy Roman citizens had holiday villas there furnished with artworks, such as statues and mosaics, and painted walls called frescoes:


a painting that is done on wet plaster


Fresco: Roman Bath
Fresco: Roman Bath

During the excavation of Pompeii, archaeologists used plaster to fill in the voids that had once held human bodies. These plaster casts reveal the exact positions people were in when they died.

Reclining body
Reclining body
Body of child
Body of child

I was a classics major in college and had read the surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius. In the letter he describes not only the eruption itself, but also the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet who died trying to rescue Pompeii’s citizens from the devastation. As much as I enjoyed seeing the many artifacts and artworks, the location of these body casts at the end of the exhibit reminded me of the sudden extinction of so many lives. (Estimates of the population of Pompeii at the time of the eruption range from 11,000 to 20,000).

I am glad to have had the opportunity to view this exhibition. It features not only human cultural achievement but also the massive power of the natural world.

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