I <3 A+!

I’ve been meaning to get round to visiting the Atheism+ siteit’s been live since August 27th, you’d think I’d get there sometime – and here I’ve finally made it. I already love it! Loved it the moment I registered for the forums and got asked about rocks in order to verify my status as a person rather than a bot.

Yay, I got them right! See, kids, geology is important in your everyday life.

Then, when I got all logged in, I discovered the forum is apparently a Doctor Who fan:

For those of you who are, sadly, not yet fans of the show, the reason why you’ll always hear a fan giggle when something says “information” before providing some info:

(And no, that’s not the Doctor. This is the Doctor. Although he regenerated and now looks like this. Look, it would all make sense if you would just stop making excuses and just watch the show.)

So, there I am, all registered. We need a card. I’d love to be a card-carrying member of Atheism+. I suppose I’ll have to become a Surly-Ramics-wearing member instead.

Alas, I won’t have much time for the forums – must give me freelance career me full attention, as I may have to live off of it sooner than expected – but I wanted to add myself to the numbers. You see, while I don’t insist everybody of worth must identify as an Atheist Plus, I think Atheism Plus is a fantastic idea, not to mention necessary. So there I am, and I always knew it would be a good fit, but I didn’t know how much fun merely signing up would be.



***Attention A+ haters and other assorted miscreants attempting to comment here: why not familiarize yourself with ye olde comment policy, and then cease wasting your time?****

Freethought Friday: “Whom Shall We Thank?”

I have now read and marked up dozens of books by freethinkers of the past, including eleven of twelve volumes of Robert G. Ingersoll. In reading them, I’m struck by just how little things have changed, as well as the differences between now and then. Differences are easy – the past is another country, after all – but it’s the similarities that stand out to me. So many things are alike. The problems, the arguments for freethought, the religious retorts….

Some detractors of the New Atheists like to say that we’re saying nothing new. We know that. We know we’ve had these conversations before. We know we’re “new” only to folks who forgot those who came before us. We haven’t forgotten the freethinkers who fought these battles against religion long ago. And we know that in freethought, as in geology, the past is key to the present, because many of their words still hold meaning. Many of their arguments still stand.

And they were brilliant, these men and women brave enough, driven enough, to defy the entrenched religious institutions of their days! So I figured that on Fridays, we should listen to them once again. And with this being the day after Thanksgiving, I have just the thing:


by Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll

from The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll Volume IV


Robert G Ingersoll

Robert G Ingersoll. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

WHOM shall we thank? Standing here at the close of the 19th century—amid the trophies of thought—the triumphs of genius—here under the flag of the Great Republic—knowing something of the history of man—here on this day that has been set apart for thanksgiving, I most reverently thank the good men, the good women of the past, I thank the kind fathers, the loving mothers of the savage days. I thank the father who spoke the first gentle word, the mother who first smiled upon her babe. I thank the first true friend. I thank the savages who hunted and fished that they and their babes might live. I thank those who cultivated the ground and changed the forests into farms—those who built rude homes and watched the faces of their happy children in the glow of fireside flames—those who domesticated horses, cattle and sheep—those who invented wheels and looms and taught us to spin and weave—those who by cultivation changed wild grasses into wheat and corn, changed bitter things to fruit, and worthless weeds to flowers, that sowed within our souls the seeds of art. I thank the poets of the dawn—the tellers of legends—the makers of myths—the singers of joy and grief, of hope and love. I thank the artists who chiseled forms in stone and wrought with light and shade the face of man. I thank the philosophers, the thinkers, who taught us how to use our minds in the great search for truth. I thank the astronomers who explored the heavens, told us the secrets of the stars, the glories of the constellations—the geologists who found the story of the world in fossil forms, in memoranda kept in ancient rocks, in lines written by waves, by frost and fire—the anatomists who sought in muscle, nerve and bone for all the mysteries of life—the chemists who unraveled Nature’s work that they might learn her art—the physicians who have laid the hand of science on the brow of pain, the hand whose magic touch restores—the surgeons who have defeated Nature’s self and forced her to preserve the lives of those she labored to destroy.

I thank the discoverers of chloroform and ether, the two angels who give to their beloved sleep, and wrap the throbbing brain in the soft robes of dreams. I thank the great inventors—those who gave us movable type and the press, by means of which great thoughts and all discovered facts are made immortal—the inventors of engines, of the great ships, of the railways, the cables and telegraphs. I thank the great mechanics, the workers in iron and steel, in wood and stone. I thank the inventors and makers of the numberless things of use and luxury.

I thank the industrious men, the loving mothers, the useful women. They are the benefactors of our race.

The inventor of pins did a thousand times more good than all the popes and cardinals, the bishops and priests—than all the clergymen and parsons, exhorters and theologians that ever lived.

The inventor of matches did more for the comfort and convenience of mankind than all the founders of religions and the makers of all creeds—than all malicious monks and selfish saints.

I thank the honest men and women who have expressed their sincere thoughts, who have been true to themselves and have preserved the veracity of their souls.

I thank the thinkers of Greece and Rome, Zeno and Epicurus, Cicero and Lucretius. I thank Bruno, the bravest, and Spinoza, the subtlest of men.

I thank Voltaire, whose thought lighted a flame in the brain of man, unlocked the doors of superstition’s cells and gave liberty to many millions of his fellow-men. Voltaire—a name that sheds light. Voltaire—a star that superstition’s darkness cannot quench.

I thank the great poets—the dramatists. I thank Homer and Aeschylus, and I thank Shakespeare above them all. I thank Burns for the heart-throbs he changed into songs, for his lyrics of flame. I thank Shelley for his Skylark, Keats for his Grecian Urn and Byron for his Prisoner of Chillon. I thank the great novelists. I thank the great sculptors. I thank the unknown man who moulded and chiseled the Venus de Milo. I thank the great painters. I thank Rembrandt and Corot. I thank all who have adorned, enriched and ennobled life—all who have created the great, the noble, the heroic and artistic ideals.

I thank the statesmen who have preserved the rights of man. I thank Paine whose genius sowed the seeds of independence in the hearts of ’76. I thank Jefferson whose mighty words for liberty have made the circuit of the globe. I thank the founders, the defenders, the saviors of the Republic. I thank Ericsson, the greatest mechanic of his century, for the monitor. I thank Lincoln for the Proclamation. I thank Grant for his victories and the vast host that fought for the right,—for the freedom of man. I thank them all—the living and the dead.

I thank the great scientists—those who have reached the foundation, the bed-rock—who have built upon facts—the great scientists, in whose presence theologians look silly and feel malicious.

The scientists never persecuted, never imprisoned their fellow-men. They forged no chains, built no dungeons, erected no scaffolds—tore no flesh with red hot pincers—dislocated no joints on racks—crushed no bones in iron boots—extinguished no eyes—tore out no tongues and lighted no fagots. They did not pretend to be inspired—did not claim to be prophets or saints or to have been born again. They were only intelligent and honest men. They did not appeal to force or fear. They did not regard men as slaves to be ruled by torture, by lash and chain, nor as children to be cheated with illusions, rocked in the cradle of an idiot creed and soothed by a lullaby of lies.

They did not wound—they healed. They did not kill—they lengthened life. They did not enslave—they broke the chains and made men free. They sowed the seeds of knowledge, and many millions have reaped, are reaping, and will reap the harvest of joy.

I thank Humboldt and Helmholtz and Haeckel and Büchner. I thank Lamarck and Darwin—Darwin who revolutionized the thought of the intellectual world. I thank Huxley and Spencer. I thank the scientists one and all.

I thank the heroes, the destroyers of prejudice and fear—the dethroners of savage gods—the extinguishers of hate’s eternal fire—the heroes, the breakers of chains—the founders of free states—the makers of just laws—the heroes who fought and fell on countless fields—the heroes whose dungeons became shrines—the heroes whose blood made scaffolds sacred—the heroes, the apostles of reason, the disciples of truth, the soldiers of freedom—the heroes who held high the holy torch and filled the world with light.

With all my heart I thank them all.

An Atheist at Thanksgiving

It’s here again, that time o’ year when the hue and cry from the churches is “Oh, teh poor atheists, they have no one to thank! Horrors! Don’t ever become an atheist because your thanksgiving will vanish in a puff of smoke! And you will burn in the flames forever!!”

What a load of bollocks.

It’s not just that hell doesn’t exist and therefore threats of it are pathetic. It’s this ridiculous idea we folks who’ve given up godbothering or never got in the habit to begin with have got no one to thank. My problem with Thanksgiving is quite the opposite: I’ve got too many to thank! I’m afraid it’s inevitable I’ll leave someone important out. And atheists have had plenty of folks to thank for centuries; tomorrow, I’ll be sharing some thanks for Thanksgiving from the Great Agnostic himself. No atheist has ever had a problem finding someone or something to thank.

Let me give some thanks, although as I’ve said, I’ll miss some folks. This is partial thanks, as it were. Some highlights from the reel.

Thank you, my parents, for giving me a great upbringing and not drowning me in a lake even when given extreme provocation. I love you!

Thank you, my stepmother, for being a fantatic mom and a font of excellent advice. Thank you, also, for putting up with my dad.

Thank you, my homicidal felid, for being occasionally warm and cuddly and not maiming me for life. Much. Yet. Thank you, also, for keeping life interesting.

Thank you, my friends, for putting up with me in all my oddball, workaholic, forgetful, out-of-touch and frankly neglectful aspects. If any of you wish to apply for sainthood for S&G, I believe staying my friend through all that qualifies as one of the necessary miracles!

Thank you, my readers, for dealing with my occasional unplanned absences and my moods and stretches where I don’t write all that well. Thank you for your comments, and your suggestions, and for making my life immensely richer!

Thank you, my friends in the geoblogosphere, for adopting me, and putting me to work as a science writer, and insisting I could be one of you despite the lack of degree. Thank you for the work you do, the papers you coauthor, and the blog posts you write, all of which make a difference in the world, and show us the enormous beauty and fascination of it. You all are amazing!

Thank you, Bora and others responsible, for taking me on at Sci-Am. I still have to pinch myself in the morning. Being part of Scientific American and carrying on that tradition of bringing science to the world is an incredible honor. One which I am extremely thankful for!

Thank you, my fellow Freethought Bloggers, for challenging me and firing me up and showing me that we can change the world for the better. Thank you for letting me be a part of this collective. Thank you for being outstanding people. I love you muchly!

Thank you, all of those who are making differences in this world. Thank you for healing and feeding and teaching and inspiring people. Thank you for all you do to maintain social safety nets and avert disaster.

And thank you, a huge thank you, to scientists. Thank you for the discoveries. Thank you for the wonders. Thank you for always searching for the answers, for finding ways to improve our lives. Thank you for showing us the universe.

Thank you, everyone ever involved in Doctor Who. ZOMG you have no idea how much I adore you all!

Thank you, those not specifically thanked, who deserve thanks, including everyone involved in LOTR, and writers whose books are a comfortable weight on my shelves, and musicians whose music fills my ears with delight, and… oh, just, everybody I’ve not yet thanked but who’ve done something wonderful, okay?

And, finally, thank you universe, for being magnificent. Deadly, quite often, frequently terrifying, but still magnificent! I’m thankful to be a part of you. And I’m thankful that the human brain has this quirk where we can thank natural processes for, you know, processing. Even though you’re not a you, I can say thank you, and duly do.

Hanging Valkitteh

Our own RQ has sent in one of the funniest, cutest, and more scientifically versatile geokittehs I’ve ever seen. Go see Mimi illustrate two geologic concepts at once – all without missing a wink!

Eat it, PZ. Cats and rocks cannot be beat.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Geokittehs, my darlings – Evelyn posts a new one quite often, making up for the fact I’m an enormous slacker.

The Joye of the Scientific Literature

I bloody love the scientific literature.

This was my night Monday night, while North Creek flooded and the cat cuddled and I recovered my sense of humor after a rough day. I got all excited about finding gem after gem in Google Scholar. I started posting this on G+, but a small observation ballooned into a full post. So it goes…

Off in the scientific paper weeds right now…. Really, all I meant to do was look up a few papers on lateral blasts and Mount St Helens. Somehow, I’ve ended up taking a wrong turn at Bandai-san and ended up in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, squeeing all the way. I had no idea we had maars there! Woo-hoo!

Crater 160

Crater 160, a maar in the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Image courtesy Oregon State University’s Volcano World

And this is the joy of being able to read the scientific literature: I find out things I never knew, things that don’t make it in to general geology books or little articles about the area. Maars aren’t sexy – not when you have a great big stratovolcano and a very attractive cinder cone right there. But they’re sexy to me. So is the in-depth research as to why the San Francisco Peaks have that huge chunk taken out of them. So many exciting stories end up being just a line in the pop sci books, if they make it in at all. And that’s a shame.

Well, I shall change that. When I get through with this, people will find maars irresistible. They’ll dig alongside geologists in a quest to discover the truth about the Peaks. They’ll never look at volcanoes the same way again.

And I’ll do that with rivers, and glaciers, and everything else that shimmers and shines and hollers, “Hey, Dana, over heeeerrrrreee! Lookitmeeeee!!!!!!!!!!” Which is a lot of stuff. Which means I’d better hope I’m effectively immortal….

And if I do my job very well indeed, I will hopefully entice people into reading the geologic literature for themselves. If I do it extremely well, some of them may end up writing books of their own on the things that capture their attention.

Regardless, I just hope I bring across some  of that wonder and joy and excitement of discovery. I hope people can look at the world around them (and other planets!) and see them again for the first time. I hope I can change their reaction from, “That’s nice” to “Wow!

And now I’m going to go back to spelunking the literature, squeeing all the while. It’s so shiny!

Your Daily Dose of Devastating Cute

Starspider likes to do this thing where she tries to make me go into a diabetic coma at work. She sends me stuff like this:

Kitteh surrogate for babie duckies

Something about this is just Not Right.

I’ve heard burdens are easier to bear when others can help you carry the load. Please help me….

You know what, though? I can retaliate. Oh, you betcha. Japanese dwarf flying squirrels!

Pteromys momonga

Pteromys momonga. You are PWND, Starspider! Image courtesy Paladin Studios.

Oh, wait, there’s more!* I haz an arsenal.*** Let’s see who ends up in the ICU on an insulin drip now, huh?***


*Do not click this link if your health is fragile.

**Nor this one.

***All of my readers? Whoops. Sorry!

By Popular Request: Geology Book Extravaganza

By popular demand, just in time for the holidays, here ’tis: a maclargehuge list o’ geology books! Okay, so Heliconia asked merely for an introductory geology book. And Redpanda may not have expected a huge list when inquiring after a few titles to fill in ye olde gaps in scientific knowledge. But if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, I say – and besides that, I had two years of book reviews to pull from.

So here they are at last, books I recommend to those who need the short (compared to a university degree) and sweet course in geology.

Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World. Image courtesy Goodreads.


Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

This is the one that always comes up in any conversation where geologists are discussing good geology books. It’s four books in one, and takes you from coast to coast through America with John and geologists, exploring geological history and wonders. This was a time when the plate tectonics revolution was brand-new, so you get a sense of the excitement (“We can finally make sense of this stuff!”) and the caution (“Slow down, hoss, you ain’t gathered all your evidence yet.”). So you get to watch a theory being born.

Being a book by John McPhee, this is beautifully written, and will stay with you for a lifetime. This is an excellent place for anyone to start.

Reading the Rocks

Reading the Rocks. Image courtesy Goodreads.


Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth by Marcia Bjornerud

Do this: read the introduction to this book. Just that. By the end, you will have learned something of geology, gotten broadsided by a puckish sense of humor, and likely been hooked enough to buy the thing. This is the intro-to-geology book for those who want – oh, how did I put it when I first read her book? –  “a fun, easy and accurate primer on geology…” I also said, “She’s not only an informative writer whose prose flows like water over Franklin Falls, she’s snarky. I am a sucker for snark.” I still am. I still love this book. And I still foist it upon people who are looking for a short, sharp intro to geology.

So, get this and Annals, for a start. Then, if you are hooked and cannot stop….

Earth: An Intimate History

Earth: An Intimate History. Image courtesy About.com Geology.


Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

This is one of the first books I read when I was renewing my interest in earth science, lo these many years ago. I strongly believe it needs to be read by more people. I’ll see your John McPhee and raise you Richard Fortey – his prose is astoundingly beautiful. Also, he is British, and you know I’m an anglophile. Oh, language! Oh, earth! This is one of those books that immerses you, and by the time you emerge from it, you’ll understand so much more of this planet. You’ll absorb much more geology than you might believe you have done. This doesn’t seem like a science book as much as a love letter about the Earth – but it’s science, through and through. Hard science, strong science.

Read those three books, and you’re well on your way to being able to understand this geology thing. But wait! There’s more!

Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet

Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet. Image courtesy Goodreads.


Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet by Ted Nield

There are very few books that I immediately want to read again even before I’ve finished them.  This is one.

What to say?  That Ted Nield writes with the kind of clarity and style that, should he turn it into a narrative, would make even the phone book fascinating reading?  That’s one thing.  Add that to the fact that he’s writing about something inherently fascinating, and you have the recipe for a truly outstanding book.

Nield tells two histories: the history of supercontinents forming and rifting, and the history of our discovery and understanding of them.  Many times, when an author tells two tales, one takes second place to the other.  Nield manages to unfold them both in tandem, so that neither is slighted.  And he still finds time for interesting diversions: gentle pokes at Madame Blavatsky and other purveyors of New Age lost continent woo, the United States’ brief flirtation with the Queen of Mu, snowball earths, why the supercontinent Rodinia may have been vital to the evolution of life on Earth and why understanding supercontinents is so very vital to our survival now.  It’s a lot of territory to cover.  He does it in 270 pages.

At the end, he fires a scathing broadside at Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and those who abuse and ignore science for their inane ideologies.  One paragraph in particular stood out:

I have tried in this book to show something of how ideas in science often grade into – perhaps even sometimes derive from – myth, and I have done this to show how important it is to know the difference between the two.  The truth is that we, as a species, can no longer afford the luxury of irrationality and prejudice.  We are too many and too powerful to live in dreams.  And the greatest and most irrational of the prejudices from which we must free ourselves is one identified by Lucretius in the last century BC: the belief that the world was made for us.

Supercontinent says all that needs to be said about the importance of science in general and geology in particular, and it contains everything I love about science: the incredible power and beauty of the natural world, and the passion and persistence of the scientists who work so hard to understand it.

High praise, amirite? And yet, when we move out of the world as a whole and start getting just a wee bit more regional…

The Mountains of Saint Francis

The Mountains of Saint Francis. Image courtesy W. W. Norton.


The Mountains of Saint Francis  by Walter Alvarez

This is the best book on geology I’ve ever read.  Ever.  Oh, others have been wonderful, informative, and well-written, but there’s something about this one that just filled me to the brim.  Maybe it’s the shock – I thought of Walter Alvarez in connection with dinosaurs and killer meteorites, not the mountains of Italy.  Maybe it’s the fact he brings a totality of place and time to the subject, allowing you to experience more than just the rocks of Italy.  Maybe it’s the fact he introduced me to some fascinating fathers of geology, people I’d never known: Nicolaus Steno, who began his career in the 1600s by dissecting bodies and ended it by discovering Earth’s anatomy; Ambrogio Soldani, an abbot who pioneered micropaleontology all the way back in the 1700s.  Maybe it’s the rocks, who become characters in their own right, and with whom one can become very close friends indeed.

I don’t know.  There’s just something about this book – it’s bloody poetic is what it is, gorgeously written, easy to understand while not being dumbed-down, full of passion and wonder and delight.  Walter Alvarez adores geology, and his love glows from every page.  I wish everyone would read this book.  Anyone who’s ever been even mildly interested in how mountains came to be, what rocks tell us, and how we know what they’re saying, would benefit.  Anyone who wants to fall in love with science, whether it be for the first or five hundreth time, will find this book is a perfect matchmaker.  And anyone who’s ever loved Italy will love it even more after this.

The only thing it’s missing is color plates.  Otherwise, it’s perfect in all its particulars, and I’m grateful indeed to Walter for writing it.  More, please!

And I haz moar. Not Walter Alvarez, I’m afraid, not yet, but moar!

Stories in Stone

Stories in Stone. Image courtesy Goodreads.


Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology by David B. Williams

I have one quibble with this book: it should have included color photographs.  That’s all it’s really missing, though.  David B. Williams, who ended up interested in urban geology because he got stuck in Boston after living in the wild, wonderful geologic paradise of Utah.  Buildings clad in stone became his friends, a link to the natural world.  This book eventually resulted, and you’ll probably never look at a city the same way after reading it.

Each chapter is about a different stone: brownstone, limestone, gneiss, marble, travertine and more.  Architecture connects to geology connects to oddball tidbits of history and human endeavor (and sometimes silliness) in one seamless whole.  And there’s a websiteAnd David sometimes does geological tours of Seattle.  I’m so there! (Someday!)

This is another book I didn’t want to put down, because it felt like it was introducing me to quite a few friends – the Getty Museum, the petrified log gas station, and others – that I didn’t want to part from so soon.  And it’s given me ideas for a great many more adventures.  Inspiring, informative, intriguing – perfect!

This next one isn’t quite geology, but it has geology in it – and it must be included. You’ll see why in a second.

Life on a Young Planet

Life on a Young Planet. Image courtesy Princeton University Press.


Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll

Lockwood recommended this one, and I’m glad he did.  I love reading books that give me physical pain when I realize I’m getting close to the end.  I hated finishing this book: it’s so beautifully written, so fascinating, and so informative that I could have happily spent the rest of my life reading it.

From mere chemical traces to exquisitely preserved microfossils, from the first ambiguous hints of life to stromatolites, from extremophiles to extraterrestrials, from ancient atmospheres to oxygen revolutions, this book is a journey through life itself.  Andrew Knoll’s sense of wonder is only matched by his scientific chops.  There are few people who can write using the big technical words and yet never for an instant seem dry.  He’s one of those rare talents.  He also explains things well  without stopping the narrative cold; tough concepts hold no terrors for the layperson in this slender book.  At least, not if said layperson has read a few books on evolution and biology first – I’m not sure how a total neophyte would fare, but I suspect the sheer power of the prose would smooth over any difficulties.

I can tell you this: a lot of the things that confused me about how really ancient life is identified got cleared up in the course of reading this book, and I understand quite a bit more about how a little rock from Mars caused so much excitement with ambiguous evidence for life.

Andrew Koll, if you’re reading this: I want a revised edition expanded by a factor of at least ten.

And, finally, we come to a very local book, but one that I think is one of the best books you can possibly teach yourself geology with – especially if you love big, beautiful, rich and detailed color photos.

In Search of Ancient Oregon

In Search of Ancient Oregon. Image courtesy Timber Press.


In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History by Ellen Morris Bishop.

I’m not going to quote from this book, because all of it is quotable.  Dr. Ellen Morris Bishop, author and photographer, is a wonderful writer who brings Oregon’s geology to brilliant life.  It’s rare to find a PhD scientist who’s also a talented writer who’s also a brilliant photographer, but Dr. Bishop is all three.  You hear words like “expertly written” and “lavishly illustrated” tossed about for books that don’t strictly deserve it.  This one most decidedly does.

If you’ve ever been even the slightest bit interested in geology, you owe it to yourself to get this book.  If you like landscape photography but don’t give two shits about how the pretty rocks came to be there, you owe it to yourself to get this book.  If you’re interested in the flora and fauna of long-vanished worlds, you owe it to yourself to get this book.  If you want to know some awesome places to visit in Oregon, you owe it to yourself to get this book.

This is the book I give to folks who think they might be interested in geology but really aren’t sure and aren’t rocks mostly boring anyway? This is the book that started me geoblogging in earnest. This book is amazing. Buy it.

Right. So, that’s quite a little list, and you’re probably reeling about now. Don’t even know where to start, possibly, right? Look, many countries are coming up on a holiday during which it is customary to give and receive gifts. All you have to do is find eight friends, family and/or coworkers who are planning on giving you gifties, and hand each one of them a title. Then all you’ll have to worry about is which one to read first!

You can also go for the free download option. Lithified Detritus recommended this one:

Earth's Dynamic Systems

Earth’s Dynamic Systems.


Earth’s Dynamic Systems by Eric H Christiansen and W. Kenneth Hamblin.

I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s got a picture of Mount Rainier on the cover, so I like it already. It is free, which means I like it even more! The table of contents looks like it contains all the necessities. And it’s gone through ten editions, which might be a sign it’s a solid text. The authors were kind enough to make it available for free when the copyright reverted back to them. I’ll report back once I’ve read it, but if any of you give it a try first, let me know how it is!

Right. That should be enough to get you started. I’ll have book recs up for some more specific things soon – my shelves groan with excellent books, copies of which wish to come live with you.

You Voted for Death

Dear Friend Who Voted for Romney:

I’ve spent a week trying to process the fact that you voted for Mitt Romney. I still don’t know what those “conservative values” of yours are – you couldn’t tell me, and I can’t figure out what in the Republican Party platform you could agree with. I’m still hoping that you weren’t well-informed and were just voting how the people around you recommended you vote, because if you’d educated yourself on Romney’s values, lies, business practices, actions as a bishop, and history with gay classmates, and still chose him for President, then I don’t know if I ever really knew you.

But that’s not what hurt most.

The thing is, you’ve admitted you didn’t think of many things. You didn’t think of the damage Romney would do to the economy. You didn’t think of the wars we’d get in to. You didn’t think of how he’d gut FEMA, leaving people in disaster areas vulnerable to rapacious companies – if they could afford help at all. And you sure as shit didn’t think of what would happen to women of reproductive age if the Cons came back into power. You told me outright you didn’t think of me and the other women in your life when you voted for Romney.

Romney tried to backpedal on abortion, but he supports efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Romney’s Web site says this would require the Supreme Court to first overturn Roe v. Wade. Then “states will be empowered through the democratic process to determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.”

Right now, women are protected by Roe vs. Wade. Yet states with Republicans in charge are currently busy stripping away as many of our abortion rights as they can get away with. With Roe gone, they’d have nothing standing in their way. Even the most extreme Republican stance – no abortion, no exceptions, not even for rape or life of the mother – could become state law.

This is the Republican dream for the nation.

And I want you to take a moment right now to picture all of the women of reproductive age that you love, and then imagine them in the world you would have made possible. Imagine them being impregnated by rape or incest, and told they had to carry that child to term. Read about the complications and risks of pregnancy, and tell me whether your “conservative values” are worth forcing them to endure this against their will. Because your “conservative values” come with that cost to women. You need to understand that.

And you need to know what the world you might have made would look like:

Savita Halappanavar died of septicaemia at University Hospital Galway a couple of weeks ago, because she had a miscarriage and the hospital refused to abort the dying fetus.

“Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

“This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, ‘this is a Catholic country’.

“She spent a further 2½ days ‘in agony’ until the foetal heartbeat stopped.”

Then she died of a raging infection, because doctors wouldn’t abort a failed pregnancy even to save her life.

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

And you might say, “But that’s Ireland!” It happens here, too. You might say, “But that’s Catholics!” This is exactly what anti-abortion zealots in this country want, too. Even in places where they, like you, would allow exceptions for “life of the mother,” they don’t much care for mothers’ lives.

They put fetal heartbeats above the heartbeats of living women.

And you voted to empower them.

You voted for a world in which women had better be damned good at being pregnant, because their life is at stake.

You voted for death.

Another time, we may discuss the fact that you also voted for financial collapse, the destruction of the middle class, and endless war, but I think this will do for now.

I love you. I will always love you. I will always be there when you need me. But with your values turning out to be so antithetical to mine, we have a lot to work through.


Your Very Upset Liberal Friend


Sunday Song: Autumn Interlude

You know how you hear a word that you weren’t paying much attention to, and suddenly it’s everywhere? Yeah. That’s happening with autumn. Here I am, minding my own business, listening to my new favorite radio app Jango (ha ha ha fuck you and your intrusive ads, Pandora!), and thinking I had autumn songs sewn up already because, hey, I have a whole bloody playlist full of ‘em – then they hit me with two more. And they are gorgeous.

First, though, a photo to get you all in the mood.

Autumn leaf falling

Autumn leaf falling

Right, then. Here’s the first: Amethystium’s “Autumn Interlude.” You’ll notice the video itself is short on autumn, but since it’s long on geology, hydrology, meteorology, astronomy, probably some other ologies I failed to notice, and ends with a spectacular plunge that will leave you breathless with delight, watch it anyway.

I would just like to point out a few things about Amethystium that I love. First, Amethystium. Yes, one of my favorite semi-precious gems. Second, amazing good music. Third, one of his albums is named Odonata and a second has a very lovely dragonfly illustration, so fellow dragonfly-adorer.  Nice!

Anyway, I shall now make up for the lack of autumn images in that video for “Autumn Interlude.” And how.

Autumn I

Autumn I

Autumn II

Autumn II

Autumn III

Autumn III

Autumn IV

Autumn IV

Now, long-time readers may remember I have an Epica obsession. Favorite band of all time that isn’t the Peacemakers. And Jango played me a song by them I’d never heard, and the chorus has the phrase “autumn leaves,” and so I did a mad little dance and decided forthwith I must share it with you. This is a beautiful, if somewhat melancholy, song.

Oh, Simone Simon always, always, captivates. Her voice. Wow.

Right, more autumn.

Autumn V

Autumn V

Autumn VI

Autumn VI

But the rains have come, the trees are nearly bare (aside from that one by the door that refuses to let go of its summer foliage), and autumn is over. Let us have the last of the autumn music, then, beginning with a choir piece for RQ: “Autumn Song.”

And we’ll bring our autumn escapades to a close with a lovely choral version of “Sato no Aki.”

Seems like a good sendoff to the season.

Autumn rain through sunlight

Autumn rain through sunlight