New at Rosetta Stones: The Testimony of Vehicles

So I thought I would do a short little aside on vehicles and what happened to them during the lateral blast at Mount St. Helens, only it turned out to be a long big aside and has to be split into two parts. This always happens to me. Here’s part one, wherein we deal with deposits and other sundry effects, and in part two, coming soon, we shall consider heat. This post was a bit gritty and abrasive; I promise the next will be hawt.

Aerial view of damaged logging equipment on Coldwater Ridge, north of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. July 2, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Aerial view of damaged logging equipment on Coldwater Ridge, north of Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. July 2, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Bodacious Botany: Not Mace, I Said A Mace

You’ll understand the reason for the title in a moment, although if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’re already sniggering.

Right, so, here we are. Due to my mad photo organizing skillz and an inordinate amount of British detective shows, I’ve now got a folder full o’ botany. I figure I might as well get some use out of the stuff, seeing as how so much of it covers my beloved geology round here. Sigh.

The title of our newest series refers to two things: the botany itself, which is bodacious, i.e., bold and audacious. Frequently, you see this stuff growing where no life should live, and doing it with a one-finger (British: two-finger) salute, or at least it would if it had fingers. The word also reminds me of Boudica, the Iceni queen who took exception to the Romans stealing her land and raping her daughters, and led an audacious uprising that trounced poorly-prepared Romans (I imagine they were all like, “An army led by a girl? Pfft. We can send a handful of warriors and kick her arse – whoops”). And yes, she was ultimately defeated, but not before she’d reportedly had Nero, that bastion of barstardry hisownself, reconsidering whether Britain was really worth all this. Not bad. She may not have ultimately won, but she was victorious enough to inspire generations of poets, playwrights, and politicians, not to mention people, so she wasn’t mis-named (she’d be a Victoria, translated into English).

So, there we are. Evocative title for our series, nice patina of history, lovely. Deserves an appropriately bold and audacious bit o’ botany to begin, and boy howdy, have I got it.

Bodacious Botany I

Bodacious Botany I

Just for comparison’s sake:

“Mace Action.” Image courtesy Josh Hallet (hyku) on Flickr.

Definitely resembles a mace, more than mace, although the color’s similar.

“Mace of nutmeg.” If you’ve ever wondered what mace (not a mace) is, it’s that red stuff round the nutmeg. Image courtesy Ramesh NG.

So our take-a-page-from-both-types-of-mace tree was fruiting out in September this year. It’s not a wild thing – it grows on our manicured grounds. That doesn’t stop it from looking pretty wild in a certain sense.

Bodacious Botany II

Bodacious Botany II

They’re not large fruits, but that doesn’t prevent them from looking like something you could use to beat someone to death with. Well, that, and they bear an uncanny resemblance to that bomb thingy in The Shadow (the movie). Of course, the interior is a little more mellow.

Bodacious Botany III

Bodacious Botany III

I took some bark shots, just for you, for the purpose of aiding in identification. I’m occasionally sensible enough to do such things.

Bodacious Botany IV

Bodacious Botany IV

Bodacious Botany V

Bodacious Botany V

And the whole tree, which I couldn’t get an artistic angle on, alas.

Bodacious Botany VI

Bodacious Botany VI

No, it’s not a big tree, but it is a bold and audacious tree, and a fitting subject for our first foray into the world of bodacious botany.

Definitely Not Equal

There’s this thing guaranteed to jam my rage button in the on position, and it’s when supercilious people whine, “But both sides do it!” in response to whatever outrageous behavior is noticed to be deepening the rifts in atheism at the moment.

Let’s see what both sides are up to. I see we have Rebecca Watson getting sent an image suggesting in the most graphic terms possible that she’s an object that should be sold to violent rapists at bargain prices. Gosh. That’s certainly some cogent criticism right there. Very reasoned. Oh, and here we have a whole sparkling collection of wit and erudition, crowned with some intellectual’s amazing trifecta of sexism, ageism, and violence (see here for the reason why acid isn’t referring to the stuff that takes you on trips. No, this Pitter is referring to the kind that takes you to the hospital with your flesh melting off your body).

And on this side… well, there’s that total witch hunt against Michael Shermer that consisted of a brief criticism of something he said, which is completely beyond the pale judging from his ongoing howls of outrage, and there was that one time that someone once angrily invited an anonymous opponent to go die in a fire. Oh, also, we try to talk people in to seeing women as human beings, deserving of being treated as something more than sex objects, sandwich factories, decorative items, and incubators. We ask people not to use gendered epithets and not to denigrate people by using feminine terms. We’re so meaaaannn.

I will state, for the record, this fact: There is no equivalence between these two sides. A few people believe there must be because the comment threads can get downright rude – rude, I tell you! – when someone says something out of bounds. But that’s not equal to a years-long campaign of rape threats, gendered slurs, abuse, and stalking.

Ah, but perhaps those bleating about “both sides” just haven’t seen the abuse because it happens overwhelmingly to women, and if you’re a woman who raises her head above the parapet, you’ve earned those brickbats upside the noggin – amirite, ladies? Perhaps since this totes doesn’t happen to men who side with teh ladiez, we don’t need to – oh. Whoops.


pzmyers  /  February 4, 2013, 2:20 pm Log in to Reply

They don’t. I’ve seen the difference.
I’ve drawn just as much negative attention as those two (I’d argue even more, but let’s just pretend we have parity in the drawing fire department).

A few years ago, I was deluged with email from pissed off Christians. It was often angry, there were death threats, but most of it was pious “I’ll pray for you” and “you’re going to hell” crap. Most of it was from the short attention span crowd: they’d see some accusation from Bill Donohue or Ken Ham, and whip out the angry letter to denounce me.

It was annoying, and it was stupid. But I shrugged it off.

When I started defending feminist thought, though, that all changed. I have never before received the kind of vile shit I get now; Christians might accuse me of being gay and hellbound, but they don’t tend to send me explicit photos with my face photoshopped in for various parts of the anatomy (my face isn’t always pasted onto the porn stars head!)
I now get email accusing me of being a woman.
Think about that. This is the horrible awful insult they want to browbeat me with; that I am a woman. Not even the creationists ever sunk to that; I think it’s part of their mindset that women are lesser beings, but they don’t use “woman” as a dirty word.
Then there are the crude sketches of me with breasts, of being raped anally, of servicing men orally. I thought my opposition was contemptible before, but it never reached the magnitude of abuse that I’m now getting from self-proclaimed atheists in the skeptic and atheist community. And these people are obsessed. It’s not just a burst of hatred from scattered individuals who then go about their business…it’s lunatics who hate with a passion and sneer on blogs and fora and twitter accounts dedicated to expressing their contempt for FtB, for feminists, for me personally.
So yeah, I had no idea what it was like to be hunted and harassed before, either. Now I do. And I also know that what I get now is mild compared to what outspoken women get.

So that’s your “both sides.” One side dishes out endless abuse to women and their allies for daring to talk about how women are treated now and how that treatment could be improved. The other side… receives endless abuse and sometimes says something rude or heated. One side sees accusing someone of being a woman as a terrible insult. The other side sees a problem with this.

There is no equality here.

Back when this first started, I’d hoped people would come to their senses and the rifts would heal. Now it’s become clear that certain of the atheist community are fully entrenched in their spite and hatred and contempt of women and anyone who allies with women, I doubt there’s a rift deep enough.

Artist's conception of Noctis Labyrinthus in the Valles Marineris system of canyons. Valles Marineris is as long as the United States and up to four miles (7km) deep. It is also not a large enough rift to place between myself and those who believe women in the secular movement should shut up and take their abuse. Image courtesy NASA

Artist’s conception of Noctis Labyrinthus in the Valles Marineris system of canyons. Valles Marineris is as long as the United States and up to four miles (7km) deep. It is also not a large enough rift to place between myself and those who believe women in the secular movement should shut up and take their abuse. Image courtesy NASA

As our own Jason Thibeault said, there can be no Khitomer Accord. Not with people who treat women and trans folk and anyone they decide must be punished for stepping out of line with such dehumanizing contempt. Not with those who happily go on enabling them. People worried about rifts are welcome to head on over to this side and leave the haters behind on their own private island. But there is no middle to meet in. No equivalence. Nothing to tempt me to build bridges. I’m sure we’ll occasionally bump in to each other when signing petitions regarding secular matters, and that’s fine, but as for presenting a united front because numbers, you can forget it. I’m not interested in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who feel comfortable using my sex as an insult and a commodity.

And that’s why I wanted to stick my spade in the rift and lever out another chunk of soil. I’d much rather be talking about geology and birds and plants and all that sort o’ thing, but silence on these matters enables the haters to claim more support than they have got. I don’t want them pointing at this blog when they want to appear fair and say that some blogs on FtB aren’t all bad (meaning those blogs don’t talk about that icky feminist stuff). I don’t want them around here. I don’t want their behavior shrugged off and tolerated and excused. So I’ll take time away from the things I’d rather do and state, for the record, that I will help work toward an atheist movement where people who engage in their tactics cannot be considered members in good standing.

If that earns me a photoshop hit job and endless streams of bile, so be it. I consider it ammunition. It’s quite handy for presenting to fence-sitters and both-sidesers, and seeing if they can continue calls for neutrality and claims that “both sides” do awful things when it’s crystal clear only one side is so very vicious.

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Various Updates, Helpfully Illustrated with Possibly Artistic Photos

So, things. Things have happened, and are happening, and sometimes some of you ask after them, which means other of you have thought of asking but haven’t because you don’t want to ask. So I’ll give you a few updates.

Firstly, this isn’t me anymore.

Moi at Paulina Peak.

Moi at Paulina Peak.

I haven’t had one of those things in my right hand since early August. Many of you have wondered about that, because I haven’t said. Despite various stressors, and being off Chantix for ages, I haven’t had a one since the first day of our Mount St. Helens trip. Haven’t even stood downwind of the smokers, sniffing longingly – the stuff smells awful. Do I miss it? Certain of its aspects, certainly. I miss the mellowing of my mood, and I miss the irresistible urge to head outside for a few minutes every hour or so. But that’s about it. I get the occasional urge out of nowhere, from habit I suppose, but it’s gone in a flash and I’m back to being a non-smoker. I figure if my mother’s hospitalization didn’t push me over the edge, I’m probably safe enough for the moment.

Speaking of mother, she’s now settled in to a group home. They think this will be temporary, until she clears from the ECT, and then she’ll be off on her own again. Possibly. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I know she’d like it, but I’d rather her be in a place where she’s got expert caregivers watching her. We’ll see how it goes, but at least she’s getting better for now.

This seems to be a routine, now, in the winter. Mom goes a bit wonky. A relative dies – this time, it was my uncle, the one who aspired to become a pirate and got himself committed to a secure facility for his trouble. I didn’t know him well, and for the last several years he’d been lost in his disease, but he was a classic.



Of course, this means I’ll be watching the phone with a suspicious eye next winter, waiting to see who it is this time. I suppose it wouldn’t do any good to put a moratorium on le mort for a few years. Gah.

This is the second January in a row during which I’ve been struck with an overwhelming urge to flee from the world and bury myself in turn-of-the-century detective literature. Last year, I read about five million novels, including an inordinate amount of Agatha Christie; this year, I watched the entire runs of both Poirot and Miss Marple on the telly. That turns out to be a good way to sate that desire, as I can fiddle with photos. Nearly everything has been picked through and organized. Quite nice. I’ve branched off into other British detective shows, and shall probably have a thing or two to say about them soon.

However, fun as this can be, I’m beginning to think it’s a symptom of SAD. It’s been difficult to muster the motivation for much of anything, everything I write feels like it’s fallen with a dull thud, social activities are far more taxing than I can manage… all of which seem to be symptoms of something.

Black clawing at gray, Seattle winter.

Black clawing at gray,
Seattle winter.

Then February comes, and I come bouncing back. Crusades at work (if you see one mobile carrier sprint past the others rather suddenly in customer and employee satisfaction, well, that’s us and it means the uprising was wildly successful). Blogging’s not a chore, but a pleasure again. And I would have been up and doing this weekend instead of lying abed alternately reading Sundays with the Christianists and dozing off, but I was suffering from acute feline paralysis. Yes, pretty much all weekend. I’ve barely been able to escape to pee and fetch food. I’m not sure why, but le chat noir sans merci has decided to be a snuggle bunny, and it’s disturbing.

Weathervane, Timberline, Mount Hood.

Weathervane, Timberline, Mount Hood.

So, it’s been a stroll in the dark for a while, but not that dark, and there’s light, and the possibility of the good drugs if such become necessary, and there’s always been enough light to prevent unfortunate incidents on reefs and sundry coastlines. So that’s all to the good.

Lighthouse, Oregon Coast.

Lighthouse on Yaquina Head, Oregon Coast.

And hey, I’ll even be able to address my inbox soon. Thank you, those of you who have been so very patient.

I’ve completed quite a bit of research and have more underway. Soon, there should be some wonderfully meaty geology posts. Mostly volcanic. And that’s hawt. Ah-ha-ha-ha.

Thank you, my darlings, for always being lights in dark places. Hopefully, you’ll be enjoying some bright and beautiful things yourselves. I shall do my utmost to provide.

Ensuring Women Remain Part of the Secular Movement

Having your consciousness raised is interesting. It’s a strange sensation, seeing the scenes that previously wouldn’t have caused a single eyelash to step up to the plate, spit on its hands, and prepare to bat. Then it’s pointed out to you that something’s wrong with the picture, and your eyelashes resemble the batter’s cage at a baseball stadium during spring training. I don’t think you ever really get used to it. And good thing, too, because we have a lot of scenes that should cause some consternation.

What is seen... cannot be unseen


Earlier this year, Secular Woman compiled the number of women and men working for 15 secular organizations in a staff or board capacity. We found that staff were comprised of 46% women and 54% men while the boards were 31% women and 69% men. The leaders of these organizations were 29% women and 71% men. In every capacity men outnumber women, particularly when it comes to positions of power and leadership (i.e. boards and heads of organizations).

Pre-consciousness raising, I’d have shrugged those numbers off. The culture around me had taught me two things: women can do anything they set their minds to, and women are awful. Ergo, lack of women at the top wasn’t anything to worry about: more of them could’ve gotten there if they weren’t so horrible. Or busy chasing hair, clothes, boys and babies. Or whatever it is feminine chicks do. I dunno, cuz I’m a tomboy, so I’m not one of those no good, terrible, awful, very bad women.

Then some folks pointed out to me that no, women aren’t actually aren’t horrible and awful at all, and rumors of equality have been greatly exaggerated. It took time and repetition and lots of people I trusted saying it before it sank in, but it eventually did. And so, these days, when I look at numbers like the above, my eyebrows knit, my eyes narrow, and my eyelashes pick up a Louisville Slugger.

I don’t talk about it as often as I should. For one thing, there are strong women and men on this network (listed in here) who say these things better than I. For another, I get buried in geology research, and it’s easier just to throw up a UFD or other such mystery. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read, and consider, and apply my eyeballs to the world around me, and notice the ten billion and one ways in which it’s still rather wretched to women, transgender folk, people of color, gays and lesbians and bisexuals and other such queer folk, and others who don’t fit the rather narrow conception society had of the ideal human (straight, white, male, Western, and Christian). It’s budged a bit, now that we uppity minorities came along with our Louisville Slugger-equipped eyelashes and started glaring meaningfully at the status quo. But really, we’ve only just begun to glare.

One of the results of all that meaningful glaring has been this Secular Woman piece: Opportunity and Access in the Freethought Movement. There is an unflinching look at why women may choose to give the freethought movement a miss, and a study or two, and then some solid suggestions. Not all of them will be ones organizations will wish to implement. But they’re the kinds of things that organizations should consider doing if they are serious about ensuring women remain within the secular and freethought movements.

Aside from that very vocal contingent that thinks hurling abuse at women is the height of sophisticated discourse, this movement has made strides. It’s not a solid sea of older white male faces out there writing popular blogs and speaking and leading. I’m seeing women and color, a rainbow of ages and sexualities, and eventually I’m sure we’ll have an even broader spectrum, with more visibility for people with disabilities. But this won’t happen if we declare our work finished, if we shut up and sit down, if we don’t keep pushing for a better and more diverse secular movement. Or should I say, movements? There are many movements that share some core goals and differ on others. That’s how it should be. We don’t need a monolithic movement. The world is too fucked up, and too many of us have too many different perspectives to offer, for that. But we do need all those various movements to work hard to ensure women and people of color and LGBTQ folk and all of that diversity doesn’t get disregarded, disrespected, and discarded.

We’re freethinkers, for fuck’s sake. We’ve been the agents of social change for thousands of years. We can’t fall at the last fence and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. We can’t let our consciousness slide back into torpor. Not now, not ever.

None of this is easy. No one ever said it would be. So, onward.

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Saturday Song: Butterfly Lovers

Okay, so this is the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen human beings do. Well, do while dancing, anyway. I mean, she’s standing en pointe on this dude’s head, and – just watch.

Words. I haven’t any. I just. That’s simply. Mwah.

You know what, that’s art. That’s pure bloody art right there, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t give up on humanity in despair (you, my darlings, and my fellow Freethought Bloggers, plus the other folks out there doing magnificent work making this world better and more beautiful every day, are the other reasons). All right? It’s moments like these that just make me sit back with my jaw flapping gently in the fully unhinged position and my eyes popping out and my poor little tempted-to-be-misanthropic heart welling, and I burst out with a robust, “I bloody love people!” when I’m capable of drawing breath again.

I rather imagine this is what it’s like running about the universe with the Doctor, actually.

So it feels rather a bit silly to plop my own pathetic art down atop that masterpiece, but the whole reason I was seeking butterfly songs to begin with was so that I could chuck these photos and a song at you and call it good. Work had me typing frantically all day. My wrists are distinctly upset. But it doesn’t matter anymore, because beauty.

Beautiful people, and beautiful creatures.

Black and white and beautiful all over.

Black and white and beautiful all over.

This was from our trip to the Olympics a couple of years ago, when we went up the Elwha River for a last look at its dams. The reservoir where these butterflies lived isn’t even there anymore. Dam’s gone, water all drained. Hopefully the butterflies still flutter round on the banks of the river, though. They were wonderful, so many of them, fluttering about like so many large and animated snowflakes. Very hard to get good shots, they were so active. However, one can play with the blurred photos and see if art can be created, and perhaps, to a small degree, succeed.

Butterfly between.

Butterfly between.

I like them, anyway, and hopefully you’ll be so dazzled by the dancers you’ll think my blurry butterflies are wonderful, too, and we’ll all be happy enough, then.

But I know you lot. You’ll stop admiring the dubious artistic merit of the photos and start doing things like trying to figure out the species of flora and fauna. So we have a sort of Mystery Flora-Cryptopod Double Feature going on here. Suppose that means I’d best provide you with a proper photo for identification purposes.

Mystery Flora plus Cryptopod

Mystery Flora plus Cryptopod

There you are, then. Lovely, aren’t they?

Here’s a good close one of the butterfly – not the above butterfly, but one of its compatriots, one which liked hanging upside down for some unknown reason.

All's right with the world when you're not upright, it seems.

All’s right with the world when you’re not upright, it seems.

Now, these photos were taken back in the days before we started doing Mystery Flora and all those, so I don’t have five trillion photos of the flower to choose from. So we shall make do with one very like it (and likely closely related, if not the same species), which I snapped up on the drumlin last September.

Mystery Flora I

Mystery Flora I

And a bit closer:

Mystery Flora II

Mystery Flora II

There you are, my loves. Art, nature, music and mystery all in one. Lovely!

Freethought Friday: Quotable Atheists I

Oh, those early freethinkers could turn a phrase on a dime, my darlings, and it’s time we had a selection of their quotable bits. Here I’ve a small selection of quotes loosely themed around religion and morality. Do you have any favorites of your own? Do share!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: “When women understand that governments and religions are human inventions; that Bibles, prayer-books, catechisms, and encyclical letters are all emanations from the brains of man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with the divine authority of ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.’”

Robert Ingersoll: “Religion has not civilized man—man has civilized religion. God improves as man advances.”

Baron d’Holbach: “Is there anything better calculated to annihilate every idea of morality in the minds of men, than to make them understand that their God, who is so powerful and so perfect, is often compelled to use crime to accomplish His designs?”

Charles Southwell: “Witness the character of Him implied in the conceit of that popular preacher who declared ‘there are children in hell not a span long’—a declaration which could only be made by one whose humanity was extinguished by divinity.”

Matilda Joslyn Gage: “The church has ever obstructed the progress of humanity, delaying civilization and condemning the world to a moral barbarism from which there is no escape except through repudiation of its teachings.”

Torture Chamber of the Inquisition. From 'A Complete History of the Inquisition', Westminster, London 1736. Image and caption courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Torture Chamber of the Inquisition. From ‘A Complete History of the Inquisition’, Westminster, London 1736. Image and caption courtesy Wikimedia Commons.