Adventures in ACE XV: Oh, Hail, They’re Full of Sleet

I doubt anything will top the hilarity that ensued when the ACE writers got snowed by a perpetual motion machine peddler, but it’s still ACE, so we know they’ll get something drastically wrong. They’ve already rather lost the thread. We’re in a section called Structure of the Hydrosphere. We are supposedly talking about the hydrologic cycle. But the ACE folks have gotten so caught up int he various aspects of precipitation that they’ve rather forgotten about that whole cycle thing. It’s kind of like talking about forest succession by getting hung up on the details of a few specific trees.

Perhaps it’s because they got muddled by the magnetic snowflakes.

Anyway, after God’s washed everybody white as (presumably magnetic) snow, Ace’s dad tells us that sometimes all that condensed moisture is warm enough to make rain, but if it falls through a cold layer of air, it might become sleet. Like a good red-blooded American, he defines sleet as “tiny pellets of ice.” None of this British partially-melted snow nonsense.

Ace wants to know what the difference between sleet and hail is, so Mr. Virtueson (gawd, these names kill me) tells him some basic facts, like “Hail is often formed during violent updrafts of warm, moist air.” Then he makes it sound like hailstorms are part of a similar but different process than thunderstorms, which is a little sort of misleading: you can have hail without thunder, but it’s all coming from basically the same type of storm clouds. Then he says hail starts as a sleet pellet, which… no. It doesn’t. Sleet’s more of a winter storm thing, and is rather bigger than the teeny-tiny ice crystal that forms the condensation nuclei of a hailstone. And the hailstones aren’t necessarily traveling up and down within the cloud: we now know they may get their layers by traveling through different zones within the cloud. I’ll give the fictional Mr. Virtueson a break on the up-and-down thing, though, because PACE 1087 hasn’t been revised since 1986. Yep. Sure is some great modern edimication thar.

In keeping with ACE’s awful diagram tradition, their illustration of a thundercloud makes it look like hail only ever bounces from the top of the storm.

Image is a drawing of a thunder cloud, showing the areas of updrafts, downdrafts, and the freezing level. Light rain and heavy rain are shown coming from the bottom. Hail is shown by arrows flying from the top.

Diagram of a thunderhead from ACE PACE 1087.

The reality is most often quite a bit more mundane, although apparently the LP supercells may heave their hail out the top and end up launching it a few miles, even. Neato. But, usually, it just drops out the bottom.

Image is a computer-generated model of a supercell thunder cloud, showing its basic anatomy. Hail is shown coming from the bottom, along with the heavy rain.

Supercell diagram courtesy Kelvinsong (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Next, we’re treated to some hailstorm trivia, where Ace gets to show off his homeschool hots by remembering a storm in India in 1888 that killed over 240 people. Yes, children, it is vicious stuff. I’m surprised Mr. Virtueson doesn’t remind everyone that God hurls the biggest hailstones of all.

Mr. Virtueson then goes on to show off his knowledge of frost. It actually appears he hasn’t got any. He describes it thusly: “If the temperature is above freezing, the condensed moisture is called ‘dew.’ If the temperature is below freezing, the condensed moisture freezes and is called ‘frost.'” Nope. He’s just described atmospheric icing, pretty much. Frost goes straight from vapor to ice without passing the liquid phase.

The ACE writers suddenly remember that they’re supposed to be talking about the hydrologic cycle, so they have Mr. Virtueson abruptly announce, without pausing for breath, that all this evaporated water condensing into clouds and precipitating upon the ground means “the hydrologic cycle is complete.” He then informs us that temperature is important because “heat from the sun speeds up evaporation.” I had the impression that the sun’s loving rays were the very engine of this whole cycle, but apparently, in Christianist world, it just sort of helps things along.

Mr. Virtueson’s happy to inform us that warm air means clouds can hold more water, then their water falls as rain when the cloud cools. It’s a little more complicated than that, but like most Real True Christians™, he’s anxious to skip ahead to the death and destruction. He’s morbidly happy to tell us that lotsa rain can make rivers or lakes overflow and flood stuff. He jumps right into the mayhem of the Johnstown Flood (including a handy pronunciation guide for those who may not realize how to moosh together the words Johns and town). He lovingly lingers on the more than 2,000 drowned folk and the 1000+ missing people who were never found, plus all that luscious property damage. And he then lustily describes the even worse property damage from flooding in New York and Pennsylvania in 1972. Three billion dollars’ worth of property damaged or destroyed! “More than 15,000 people lost their homes”! You can practically hear him salivating, even though his delivery is desert-dry.

A handy “Facts from Science” box informs us of further water woe, sharing the records for rainfall. They get heaviest in a year right (Cherrapunji, India), but screw the pooch with an old, mistaken amount for heaviest 24 hour rainfall cited in the Monthly Weather Review for 1965. The actual value is 71.8″ that fell on the Foc-Foc Plateau on Réunion Island on January 7 and 8, 1966. Hey, at least they got the island right, and they were only off by a decade and a few inches of rain. And yes, we can definitely see how accurate and up-to-date they are. Marvel, people. Simply marvel.

Of course, you already know why they’re lavishing so much time on flooding:

“Even though local flooding does occur in some areas, I’m certainly glad God promised never again to destroy the entire Earth with water,” said Ace.

“I am too, Ace. Though flooding reminds us of God’s judgement, the Lord promises a flood of blessing to those who give to His service. Malachi 3:10 declares, ‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.'”

That, my friends, is Christianist science right there. But, just in case folks don’t realize all that Bible talk is really-real science that completely belongs in a science textbook, Mr. Virtueson endeth with this lesson:

“In ancient times, men recognized the hydrologic cycle as one of the natural processes God had placed upon Earth for man’s survival. ‘He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them’ (Job 26:8). ‘For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly’ (Job 36:27, 28).”

They must’ve been so excited to find the King James Version babbling about “vapour,” as it sounds so properly scientific. Alas for them, the NRSV, which is rather more faithful to the original language, renders it as “mist.”

It’s rather fitting to close this section with the words of a blowhard asshole extolling God’s glories to a poor sod who’s just been sorely abused by same. If there is a god, I know he’s a sadistic shit I’ll be very annoyed with. Never mind all that flooding he caused or allowed: he let this ACE PACE come into existence. I think that’s proof enough of his psychopathic tendencies. And no, I won’t be at all surprised if it turns out that the entire ACE curriculum was the result of a bet between him and Satan.

Image is an engraved image from Gustave Doré's English Bible showing Job, dressed in a few rags and looking very scrawny, arguing with his friends.

“Job speaks with his friends.” Engraving by Gustave Doré.

Next time, we shall be learning somewhat about the oceans. Oh, goody. Apologies to the fans of horrid under-the-sea-exploration machines, but I’m afraid Mr. Virtueson’s creators haven’t got enough imagination to create something like that. I suggest you stock up on your happy drugs of choice. All the better if they’re stimulants, as Mr. Virtueson’s virtue is not in his storytelling abilities.


*Holy shinoozles, Batman! I about lost my shit when I saw that Cilaos, the city touted in this PACE as being the record-holder for 24-hour rainfall, is in a caldera on an active volcanic island. I was all, “Oh, no, you didn’t!” Happily, they selected the extinct caldera to situate it in. This is excellent good news, as it would truly suck for the town to wake up one morning in a lava lake. Of course, that would’ve given whole hot buckets of new significance to the meaning of the town’s name, which is “the place one never leaves.”

“Scripture and Whip” – Escape Chapter 3: School Days

This is one of the worst chapters in Escape. Considering how much abuse we’ve seen already, and how bad it gets later on, that’s saying something. Needless to say: Content Notice for severe child physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse.

Carolyn starts the chapter with her excitement at finally being old enough to start school. She’s now six and a half. We learn that FLDS kids don’t attend kindergarten; supposedly home is better. But Carolyn’s home is one without books, without even fairy tales. I can’t even stand this. My mom filled my childhood with books. I started to read a bit on my own by age 3, and some of my best memories are of afternoon reading time with my mom. I became a writer because she’d told me every fairy tale she knew and run out of ideas for new ones by the time I was six, so she encouraged me to make up my own. My thirst to learn and imagine was never quenched – that would be impossible – but Mom gave me bottomless springs to drink from. Carolyn was just as thirsty, and was only given a few pitiful drops to drink.

There wasn’t even a public library, in a town of several thousand people, overflowing with children. That’s practically criminal. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Just before Carolyn starts school, they have one of those magnificent southwestern summer downpours that turns the desert into an instant wetland. [Read more…]

The Victims of a System that Promotes Abuses: Essential Reading on Josh Duggar and His Christian Patriarchy Background

It’s good that we’re talking about this. Some of you may be sick to death of it by now, and I don’t blame you, but we need to talk about it. Sexual abuse survivors need us talking. Children suffering abuse, right now, need us to talk about this. They need us not to let it go. They need us to remember, and act, and speak out for them when they have no voice. I know they need this, because I have seen victims in so many blogs and threads finding their voices, because we’re speaking out.

Sexual abuse, like racist police and systemic injustice, thrives on our silence. The people who commit these crimes and enable injustice cannot thrive when we refuse to stay quiet.

The survivors are speaking out, and this is necessary. They need us to listen, and then amplify their voices. I have a lot of voices here for you to listen to, a lot of signals to boost. I hope you read them all. But at the very least, read the first.

And then refuse to give the abusers the shelter of your silence.

Red poster with British crown and the words, "Keep Calm* and Speak Out." * Optional Step.

(Content note for descriptions of child sexual abuse)

The Victims

The Real Rebecca Diamond: Nice girls don’t talk about stuff like this.

Nice girls don’t tell you that when they read that the victims forgave him those jagged edges of their heart wept blood because they know what forgiveness means within that culture, to shove down the pain even deeper than the violation, to smile and say “It’s ok” because more than anything, more than anything, Jesus only loves you when you’re happy.

[Read more…]

#CancelTheDuggars – Replace it With This, #TLC

So, TLC, it’s time for a little real talk. Sit down. Shut up. Listen. I know you’re scrambling for ways to save your cash cow. You think sacrificing Josh Duggar will be enough. You think since Ma and Pa Duggar aren’t squirting out the kids (and, also, turned out to be hypocritical child sex abuse-hiders), you can just turn to exploiting the newlywed and newly-mom girls instead. Like that’ll make it all better. Like that’ll allow people to forget that you filmed a family that beat its children with a stick and sheltered a child molester (autoplay vid at link), and pretended you were good. You think people will forget that you knew, all along. Had to have known – at least about the sexual abuse, even if the Duggars somehow hid from you the blanket training by tempting babies to crawl off a blanket, then beating them with a plastic ruler when they followed their natural curiosity. You knew Josh Duggar was being monitored by the State of Arkansas for forcibly probing his sisters’ genitals, even if you didn’t see the parents forcing children to smile while they beat them with a stick. You were there rolling cameras when he sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Kinda a hard thing to miss, even if they kept the beatings on the down-low.

You could have pulled that Josh-featuring marathon when the story about his assaults broke, but you let it run, took days to pull the show, and even now haven’t done the right thing and cancelled it.

Your network is a cesspool. You’re nothing but a bunch of exploitative assholes who’d let children suffer just about anything as long as they make you enough money. Yeah, you’ve got the fig leaf of cancelling Honey Boo Boo when you learned mommy might be dating the man who’d just got out of prison for sexually assaulting her daughter. But that doesn’t cover you. It just shows what you should have done with the Duggars, long ago.

If there was any justice in the world, your network would be DOA after this. But alas, you’re not going away. [Read more…]

Preparing for the Apocalypse – Escape Chapter 2: Child’s Play

Reading books like Escape makes me realize how sheltered I was.

I wasn’t taught to fear strangers. I wasn’t in an environment where abuse was rife and women forced into loveless marriages, all stamped with God’s approval. And I was taught games like Kick-the-Can and Hide-and-Go-Seek. No one ever taught me to play Apocalypse. [Read more…]

Josh Duggar Molested Children, Then Made a Career Claiming Gays Dangerous to Children

It’s not shocking that the Duggar family’s bright, smiling Good Christian™ Image hid some terrible things. It was obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Christian patriarchy movement that all those shiny happy faces concealed some pretty harsh truths. I figured the wheels would come off eventually, but I didn’t anticipate Josh Duggar being outed as a child molester. Needless to say: content note for child sexual abuse. [Read more…]

How a Cult Programs You to Stay in the Trap: Escape Chapter 1 (Part Two)

In our last installment of Escape by Carolyn Jessop, we got a taste of the depression, despair, and abuse Carolyn lived with in her FLDS community. Today, we’ll see how her childhood conditioned her to fear the outside world, and accept her lot as an abused wife pumping out endless babies in a loveless plural marriage.

Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT are communities where children literally run screaming away from strangers. It isn’t because of stranger-danger or regular, if exaggerated, fears. Carolyn tells us she and the other kids [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XI: Wherein We’re Told Salty Fish Stories

Oh, hey, now that we’re out of that horrible imaginary undersea contraption, Earth Science Fourth Edition is talking about seawater composition! Aren’t you excited? Surely, they can’t muck that up too badly, right?

Wrongo. Folks, it sez right in our Section Objectives that we’re so very, very screwed. We are to “evaluate different Flood theories that could account for the saltiness of the oceans.” And the creationist crap spews thick, chunky, and stinky from the beginning. There is so, so very much wrong that we are neck-deep and sinking from the start. We may need that robot thingy to escape this crap.

Image is a painting of a red-orange machine that looks sort of like an old diving helmet on robot legs. It has fat rings sticking out horizontally from its top, like ears. Its legs bend backwards at the knees. It looks like it's drunkenly dancing in the surf on a deserted tropical island. It is frightening.

Figure 13-5 from BJU’s ES4. Run away!!!!

[Read more…]

Escape Chapter 1: Early Childhood (Part One)

In the preface of Escape, Carolyn Jessop gave a brief, body-clenching account of the night she and her eight children fled her polygamous arranged marriage and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult. Now she takes us back in time to her childhood. For the next several chapters, she’ll immerse us in her early life and the FLDS, showing us how a harsh fundamentalist doctrine enmeshes the mind, and leads to the awful abuses many people, especially women and children, suffer in such sects.

Carolyn very nearly wasn’t born into it at all:

Aunt Lydia couldn’t believe I’d survived. She was the midwife who had delivered babies for two generations, including my mother. When she saw the placenta, she realized that my mother had chronic placental abruption. Mom had hemorrhaged throughout her pregnancy and thought she was miscarrying. But when the bleeding stopped, she shrugged it off, assuming she was still pregnant. Aunt Lydia, the midwife, said that by the time I was born, the placenta was almost completely detached from the uterus. My mother could have bled to death and I could have been born prematurely or, worse, stillborn.

It appalls me that a woman could hemorrhage during pregnancy and just disregard it. But this is what can come of fundamentalist philosophy. Many of these very controlling sects prefer using midwives to OBs. The gynecological care for women is poor or non-existent. You frequently end up with pregnant women choosing – or being forced – to take enormous risks with their health. You get women “shrugging off” dire emergencies like maternal hemorrhage. You too often end up with injured or dead mothers and babies. Carolyn and her mom Nurylon were extremely fortunate. (Oh, and if you’re tempted to paint this gamble as the beautiful result of trusting “natural birth,” please go read the Skeptical OB. There’s a reason poor women in other countries go so far as to swim raging rivers so they can give birth in a hospital. It’s because “natural” childbirth is wildly dangerous.

Carolyn’s father Arthur gave her mom a choice of two names. That’s the extent of egalitarian parenting in their world. Carolyn’s mom was sixth generation FLDS. She knew her place was to submit, the man’s to decide.

When Carolyn was born, her father had only one wife. The family moved from Colorado City, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah when Carolyn was five. Her mother thrived there, where her husband could come home from work nightly and they had enough money to feed their growing family. They could even afford toys for the kids. Nurylon loved taking her kids to the zoo and the park. And she was “thrilled,” after three daughters, “to finally have a son, because in our culture, boys have more value than girls.”

The fact that her father favored Carolyn over the other kids caused tension, but despite that, the year they spent in Salt Lake City was good. But then her father decided to move the family back to Colorado City, because his eldest child, Lydia, was about to start school, and he wanted her taught in the FLDS-soaked (nominally) public schools. Couldn’t have her learning real stuff, of course!

Image shows an empty desert lot. Beyond it is a jumbled collection of modest houses of various sizes. In the distance, the cliffs of El Capitan rise over the town.

Colorado City, Arizona. Photo courtesy Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The move back to their cramped little home and the dusty, claustophobic little FLDS town caused Nurylon to sink into a deep depression, one so severe she couldn’t even try to hide it from the kids. She would talk constantly about wanting to die, “having nothing to live for,” and sometimes would inform her children over their late-morning breakfast that she planned to kill herself that day. She assured her terrified kids that the Church would assign their dad a new wife, so they’d have a new mom to take care of them. She beat her children almost daily, sometimes bruising them so severely the marks would linger for over a week. The kids had to become experts in her behavior to survive, going so far as to provoke her into spanking them every morning once Carolyn had figured out she only spanked once per day, and the morning spankings weren’t as severe. She then wondered why her children were so bad in the mornings…

Many fundamentalists advocate spanking, relying on the Bible for justification. They have entire rituals dedicated to it, including spanking from love and hugging the child afterward. Carolyn’s experience shows why this doesn’t work:

When my mother beat me, she would always say she was doing it because she loved me. So I used to wish she didn’t love me. I was afraid of her, but I would also get angry at her when she hit me. After she beat me she insisted on giving me a hug. I hated that. The hug didn’t make the spanking stop hurting. It didn’t fix anything.

This was considered good discipline in the FLDS community. But it’s not discipline. Spanking is abuse.

Abuse was rife in the FLDS community. Carolyn remembers seeing women in dark glasses, hiding black eyes and other bruises, quite often as a child. Her mother wouldn’t explain that those bruises came from battering husbands.

On the outside, Carolyn’s family looked perfect. Her mother kept them dressed in beautiful handmade clothes, and they were exquisitely well-behaved. Everyone thought their family was perfect. Keep that in mind when you see the Duggars playing happy huge family on teevee.

In Salt Lake City, Carolyn’s mother had been happy, engaged with the world around her. “In Colorado City, she was locked into a world of constant pregnancies, a loveless marriage, and a rural community strung together with dirt roads.” She and her husband fought constantly when he was home. She had to put on a facade of perfection with him, but it was never perfect enough. He complained about dust atop the refrigerator when the rest of the house gleamed. He complained about the children’s behavior, no matter how well they behaved. He wanted his already-thin wife to be thinner, despite keeping her almost continually pregnant.

There were flashes of the person she could have been, had she not been crushed by the FLDS lifestyle and her husband’s abuse. She loved playing games with her kids, and read them fairytales. She delighted in Christmas, even going so far as to smuggle in an FLDS-forbidden Christmas tree one year. She and her kids had a wonderful night decorating it, and a joyous Christmas morning opening their presents and eating candy.

My father let us have candy once a year – no more. My mother was clearly disobeying our father in giving us sugary treats…. Linda and I were old enough to realize that Mama was going to have to pay for her disobedience, but we loved feeling so spoiled.

Carolyn’s father came home the following night, and blew up. He and his wife fought at top volume long into the night. When Carolyn woke the next morning, the tree was gone, and her mother wept as she cooked breakfast. Their first Christmas was their last. Her mother’s depression grew so severe she couldn’t get out of bed or take care of the house. Her spirit was crushed.

After a few days, the friend who had been her Christmas co-conspirator came over and told her to stop feeling bad about herself. If her husband didn’t want her to have fun with her kids, that was his problem. Mother rallied, but she never again did something with us in defiance of our religion. I did notice that she became more demanding of us and insisted on more perfection after the Christmas episode. I’m sure she would have preferred to play games with us instead of spanking us, but her own mental slavery prevented her from being who she was.

It’s unbearably tragic when religion and/or ideology confines people in strait jackets so tight they’re strangled. I wish Carolyn’s mother could have broken those bonds, but it’s nearly impossible for women with no power and resources to do. And next week, we’ll see how the FLDS church kept its members in chains. We’ll also see what happened when they were almost set free.

For now, all I can say is, fuck religion. Yes, I’m aware that families can have abusive and controlling dynamics without it. But at least those abusers don’t have a mandate from God for their abuse. At least they can’t so easily claim that what they do is holy. And good people aren’t turned bad against their will, believing they must do what God wants, even if it means harming themselves and their kids. At least they don’t believe their salvation depends upon it.

Image is the cover of Escape, which is photo of Carolyn Jessop on a black background. She cradles a framed picture of herself as an FLDS teenager in her hands. She is a woman in her thirties with chestnut hair and blue eyes.

I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along.

Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: (Un)Happy Biblical Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day today in many countries around the world. Many more countries have already or will soon be honoring mothers everywhere. Moms are important! Whether the moms you’re celebrating today are your biological, adopted, step, honorary, grand, great-grand, friends, cousins, or otherwise admired mothers, they’ve played a critical role in ensuring that a) there will be children and b) those children are (usually) at least somewhat civilized. I’ve watched my own moms and all the moms in my circles parent kids, and I’m incredibly grateful to them for doing that tough job. Some of them even do it mostly alone, which is even tougher! Massive respect, Moms!

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s see what sort of inspiration we can get from the Book of Genesis. Sorry-not-sorry to say it’s mostly really terrible. [Read more…]