New at Rosetta Stones: Happy Birfdai, Parícutin!

Parícutin is 70 years old today! Go celebrate by reading its birth story. Well, part of its birth story. We’re through labor, not quite finished with delivery. I promise not to leave you in suspense for too long. You all know how this ends, at least: with a bouncing baby cinder cone, not to mention one very upset farmer and five rather distraught villages.

Geology, much like a newborn, is completely insensible of others’ needs and desires. But we deal.


Mystery Flora: First Flower

Almost March, warm winter… I suppose I should have expected a wildflower, but I didn’t. These little delights took me quite by surprise. There I was, dodging through the hail, focused on getting home before the clouds stopped spitting ice and began dumping water in earnest, eyes on the ground so I wouldn’t take a hailstone to the eyeball. And there they were, in the weedy grass: flashes of brilliant white, standing too tall to be fallen ice. [Read more…]

Seriously Sensational Sunshine

Do you need some sunshine? Of course you do: it’s winter for us northern hemisphere types, and as for you southern hemisphere types, you may be getting lots and lots of sunshine already, but it’s not winter sunshine, which is completely different from summer sunshine. Rarer, for one. At least here. It’s been gray for weeks. Weeks and weeks, nothing more than a brief peek of sunlight, usually when we’re trapped indoors at work. This used to not bother me, as I’d gotten topped up on sunshine after thirty years in Arizona, but after nearly six years here, it appears I’ve burnt through my reserves. So on Friday, when the clouds went completely away and the sun burst out, something within me broke. I watched the sunshine blaze for hours whilst being cooped inside, and saw on the weather report that the Gray would be returning within twenty-four hours, and nearly went mad. So I scarpered. Definite mental-health half day. [Read more…]

Friday Freethought: “The Church Cannot Be Afflicted With the Same Idiot Forever”

I have to admit I sniggered upon hearing the news that Pope Ratzinger was on his way out the door. I won’t miss him. And I can hardly wait to see what the Catholic Church will inflict upon us next.

In the meantime, I figured we’d do a few quotes from Robert Ingersoll for the blessed occasion of the first retirement of a pope in 600 years. Two in two thousand years retiring rather than dying or being forced out means that Robert’s observation on ecclesiastical power remains pretty much spot-on:

Vol. 2:

You can hardly expect a bishop to leave his palace, or the pope to vacate the Vatican. As long as people want popes, plenty of hypocrites will be found to take the place. And as long as labor fatigues, there will be found a good many men willing to preach once a week, if other folks will work and give them bread. In other words, while the demand lasts, the supply will never fail.

If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish—if a little more enlightened, religion would perish!

Ah, for that great day….

As for the crimes of Pope Ratzinger, namely the crime of shuffling pedophiliac priests off to new pastures, where people weren’t aware that their spiritual head was all about raping children: if you’re surprised a man o’ god could be so evil, have a dose of reality.

Vol. 3:

Let it be remembered that the popes have committed every crime of which human nature is capable, and that not one of them was the friend of intellectual liberty—that not one of them ever shed one ray of light.

But this, of all, I believe is my favorite quote. I laugh every time I come across it, and it remains funny because it’s so damned true. Keeping in mind that “capable of” doesn’t mean “is in favor of” when it comes to the intellectual advancement stuff.

Vol. 5:

The Catholics have a pope. Protestants laugh at them, and yet the pope is capable of intellectual advancement. In addition to this, the pope is mortal, and the church cannot be afflicted with the same idiot forever.

Here’s looking forward to a new idiot as we wave goodbye to the old. Adios, Benny.

Please avail yourself of the nearest exit at the earliest available opportunity, and ensure your egress is not marred by a sharp contact between door and rear. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Please avail yourself of the nearest exit at the earliest available opportunity, and ensure your egress is not marred by a sharp contact between door and rear. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

New at Rosetta Stones: Things Get Heated

In this issue, scientists play with plastic. Betcha didn’t know that subjecting plastics to high heat can tell you a lot about what a volcano was up to during its paroxysmal eruption. Even if you already did: awesome pictures! I think the USGS geologists liked demolished cars as much as most of you do.

Destroyed signal light on heavily damaged vehicle by May 18 eruption, near Meta Lake 13 km northeast of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Destroyed signal light on heavily damaged vehicle by May 18 eruption, near Meta Lake 13 km northeast of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. June 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

If you’re fond of forests, take the next week to stock up on liquid courage and steel your backbone, sort of thing. You might notice, in this lovely side view of a battered truck, that there is no forest.

Another view of truck caught in and damaged by Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Another view of truck caught in and damaged by Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18, 1980. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

There’s a good reason for that…

Los Links: I Laughed, I Cried, They Became a Part of Me

Some of you will remember Los Links from back in the day when I could spend two days out of every week reading blogs, and then share the linky goodness with you. Life’s been too busy for a while for that, unfortunately. It should have been too busy tonight, but my brain said, “You know what? Fuck you. I’ve been thinking all day.” War at work, y’see: fighting to make things the best they can possibly be at an American megacorporation. It’s fun, and fulfilling, but taxing.

Thankfully, I had posts written (longhand) in advance, but my wrists said, “You know what? Fuck you. We’ve been typing most of the day.” So today ended with me lying about catching up on some freethought reading. If this continues tomorrow, I can bring you a roundup of recent geology posts. I suppose that won’t be so bad, now, will it? And then, on Wednesday, you will be guaranteed an original post of near-epic proportions, because we’re going to talk about why Mount St. Helens melted some bits but not all the bits on the cars. If we’re very fortunate, we’ll end up on Boing Boing again (thank you, Maggie Koerth-Baker!). I say we, because I wouldn’t have written up cars if it hadn’t been for you lot liking things like that, and as it turns out, you’re not the only ones. So, thank you, my darlings!

It’s not all happy fun times, alas. The thing with frequenting the freethought and skeptic blogs that I do is that Things That Are Not Happy get discussed, and if it weren’t for the bloggers and commenters restoring my hope for humanity, I’d have crawled off to a cave and become an official misanthrope by now. Between all of you, though, I am not willing to declare the vast majority of human kind irredeemable arseholes. Only a subset of it. Sigh.

There will be a humorous intermission, and loving comfort at the end. Stay with me. [Read more…]

Cryptopod: A Grasshopper That Doesn’t Take Pebbles from Hands

It may not be quite fair or exciting to present to you a grasshopper to identify, but here’s a couple from Chip Ross Park anyway.

Cryptopod I

Cryptopod I

The problem is manyfold, you see: dreary weekend that has left me uninspired, a cat who has decided for the second weekend in a row that the appropriate place for her servant is lying trapped with said cat on lap (which is less dreary, but completely non-conducive to productivity), and the fact that Foyle’s War is interesting. Also, I’m planning to write something about Parícutin on its anniversary, which means taking notes, which is difficult with the winter blahs compounded by cat-on-lap and Foyle-on-teevee, not to mention screaming at one scientific paper, “But the paper you’re saying said that didn’t say that!” About all I’m equal to is grasshoppers. [Read more…]

Sunday Song: The Origin

Winter songs will have to wait, seeing as how it’s Darwin Day. Happy Darwin Day! And I have just the musical accompaniment for today: Richard Einhorn’s oratorio The Origin.

I wrote about it back when he was just finishing it up, and though I’ve never got to see it performed, happily YouTube allows us to live the experience vicariously. Well, part of the experience. Alas, the whole experience isn’t up, but at least we get a little something. [Read more…]

Friday Freethought: “We Are Not Safe”

So here we have Lucy Colman: abolitionist, infidel, freethinker, and firebrand. Eloquent writer and difference-maker. Yet somehow she doesn’t merit a Wikipedia page.

I wish I could say much has changed since her time. In ways it has: slavery is no longer officially sanctioned, women aren’t formally kept out of careers, and hey, blacks and women have the vote now, so that’s something. But just a few paragraphs of her Reminisces suffice to remind me how far we have yet to come. Christianity still demands “entire subordination.” It still forces the Bible into public schools. And we are still not safe.

Lucy N. Colman. Image courtesy Philosopedia.

Lucy N. Colman. Image courtesy Philosopedia.


Lucy N. Colman

About this time (from 1824 to 1830) there swept over New England what was called a revival of religion. As I look back upon it, it seems like some scourge or plague, so great was the sorrow that followed in its wake. Protracted meetings were everywhere the order of the day; sensational ministers were sought for and employed to preach, with all the effect possible, the coming of the day of judgment, and the sure doom of the impenitent. Here was another problem to be solved. Of what use was preaching, or praying, for those who were elected from the foundation of the world to be saved, and how worse than useless to try, by any means, to avert the doom of those who were fore-ordained to destruction?

My queries, no matter to whom addressed, always received the same answer, “Child, Satan desires to have you, and so he is putting such questions into your head; answer him as did the Saviour, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’ and remember it is very wicked to reason on the ways of God; you have the Holy Bible, read that, and accept it, it is God’s word.” At last, in despair, I began to read the bible, consecutively, chapter by chapter, but alas, I found it wholly inexplicable, and when I went to my good Christian aunt (who was in the place of mother to me), and begged her to tell me what such things meant, and why God used such filthy words, and what was the good of such laws, and why woman was required to do things that were wrong in the nature of things, the only answer that she could give me was, “I don’t know; put away the bible till you are older; read the Psalms and the New Testament.” Such was the food that was given to children to mentally digest sixty and seventy years ago. Is it better to-day? Liberalism has so permeated thought that, like homeopathy in medicine – all pathies are more or less affected by it, so that no respectable physician to-day salivates with calomel, or bleeds, or denies to patients burning up with fever cold water – the Protestant religion, in all its different creeds, is a mild mixture compared to what it was seventy years ago. And perhaps for the reason that its hideousness is so nicely covered, there is more need that Liberals be on the alert. Christianity is the more dangerous when it gives its attention to this life. Christianity demands entire subordination to its edicts, no matter that it keeps out of sight the damnation of infants in another world, if it subjugates all children to its decrees by teaching them, not only in Sunday-schools but in public schools supported by the public at large, the doctrines taught in the bible. Until the majority of the people are emancipated from authority over their minds, we are not safe.