Happy Thanksgiving from the Carnivorous Plants of Oregon

It’s that time in America where many of us stuff ourselves full of deceased birds and other foodstuffs. Not everyone is carnivorous, but these plants are.

A nice clump of darlingtonia at the Darlingtonia Wayside, Oregon.

A nice clump of darlingtonia at the Darlingtonia Wayside, Oregon.

That, my darlings, is our old friend Darlingtonia californica, the lovely cobra lily. You can also call it the California pitcher plant if you’re feeling boring. Totally understandable if you are. You’re probably completely lethargic. It’s not the tryptophan, mind – it’s the carbs.

Betcha cobra lilies don’t get drowsy after a big meal.

I love those little beards they've got. Well, it also looks like a cobra tongue, right?

I love those little beards they’ve got. Well, it also looks like a cobra tongue, right?

I love the Darlingtonia Wayside. Did you know these are the only carnivorous plants with their own state park in Oregon? Pretty neato.

They love ultramafic soils. Good thing Oregon has so much GDB*, right? Although I think the Wayside is a sphagnum fen. One of these days, I’d do some actual research on that.

A nice Darlingtonia profile, there. I love that sunlight turning the beard such a lovely ruby red.

A nice Darlingtonia profile, there. I love that sunlight turning the beard such a lovely ruby red.

All right, I’ve also got something for the vegetarians in the audience. Prepare to squee at this little chipmunk!

A darling wee chipmunk inna pine tree on the coast. All that's visible through the branches is its face, which has the distinctive stripes that tell us it's not a ground squirrel.

A darling wee chipmunk inna pine tree on the coast.

I have no idea if it’s the Yellow-pine or the Least chipmunk, but it’s adorable either way. It was hanging about in a tree at Cape Perpetua, and of course, I knew I had to grab a photo for you. Because I love you, of course!

No matter where you are, whether you’re celebrating a holiday or having just another day, I hope it’s happy and full of good things and singularly lacking in unpleasant family interactions. If you’re stuck with that horrible relation who insists on forwarding awful right-wing conspiracy theory emails, just imagine them being turned into a bug by their own angry god, and plopped in the middle of a Darlingtonia patch. You swoop in to rescue them just as they’re discovering there’s no escape from a pitcher plant that has got treacherous hairs and false exits galore. They are so grateful to you that they immediately discard all their irrational thinking, and devote themselves to a life of freethought and social justice work. Next family gathering, the only thing you argue about is whether that horrible dessert invented by the relative who had to make do with war rations should continue to be served out of a respect for tradition, or reverently retired, which is exactly the sort of debate that keeps things interesting without raising blood pressure, considering no one eats the stuff anyway. It’s the best family meal in living memory.

Have a happy, my darlings!


*God Damned Basalt. This is the technical term, derived from your sentiments after seeing yet more basalt everywhere you look.

Gone Eatin’, Plus Lots o’ Thanks

So it’s that day again in America where we give thanks and stuff ourselves into a coma.

Image is of a cat lying on a dinner plate. The table also contains a salad bowl in the center and plates full of food. Caption says, "I is TURKEY.... stuff with noms.Sometimes, Christians ask us what we have Thanksgiving for if we don’t believe in a god we can give those thanks to, which displays an appalling lack of imagination, not to mention no appreciation for the people around us.

I’ve got plenty of people and things to be thankful to and for. There’s B’s brother B, who’s cooking the turkey so I don’t have to. There’s B, who made this dinner happen (and yes, we’re good again – I’ll tell that story when I’ve regained consciousness). There’s the fine folks who raised all the food and came up with the genius spice combos. There’s all the people everywhere who made the roads I will drive, and made the car I will drive, possible and safe. There’s my company, which irritates the crap out of me but pays a good wage, and the customers who make it possible for them to pay it. There’s all the people without whom this day wouldn’t happen, whose contributions are so invisible I don’t see them, but they’re there.

Thank you.

There’s my parents, and my kitty, and my friends, who all make my life happier, and make me happy when I can do things for them that make them happy.

Thank you.

And then there’s you, my readers, my colleagues and friends in this wonderful world of cyberspace, where my life has been changed and enriched over and over and over again, and where I like to think I give a little something back. I love you all!


Now, even if you’re not in America, go do something nice and fun today. May it include the things you love best. Because, damn it, you deserve only the best!


Image is of a cat on its back on a sofa, fast asleep. Caption says,

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.

Thanks A Lot. Really. I Mean It.

So, Thanksgiving in America. I’m finding myself thankful for a lot of things today. I’m thankful that once I finish today’s shift, I’m free for four days. So, thank you, Sarah Josepha Hale. Thank you for not giving up until we had ourselves a holiday, and for so much else besides.

Thank you, Tree Lobsters, for combining two outrages into something that pokes a sharp bit of fun at the offending idiots:

Tree Lobsters: A Very Megyn Kelly Thanksgiving

Thank you, my amazing, incredible, and deeply appreciated readers, for being the best damned group of readers on the internet. Thank you for making all this worthwhile.

Thank you, my fellow Freethought Bloggers, for bringing me on board, and making me a part of the best damned atheist and freethought collective anywhere.

Thank you, all you writers who taught me how to string a useful sentence together, and ignited me.

Thank you, my dear friends, for joining me in adventure and pulling my irons out of the fire when such becomes necessary. There are far too many of you to call out by name in this short little post, but there will be a roll call in my first book.

Thank you, denizens and creators of the internet, for all the info, without which I couldn’t find things like tasty restaurants and reliable mechanics and science blogs and those weird factoids that suddenly become essential to a scene in the wee hours of the morning when the poor research librarians are trying to sleep.

Thank you, bloggers, for pouring out your passion in prose and podcasts and pictures and video.

Thank you, OWS folks, for taking a stand.

Thank you, scientists, for figuring out how life, the universe and everything works: a journey of discovery that will probably never finish, and which has been one hell of a fun ride.

Thank you, teachers, for giving me the foundation necessary to understand what the scientists are saying, and introducing me to so very many worlds.

Thank you, Mom, Mom and Dad, for giving me this life and then helping me navigate the sometimes wickedly complicated and frequently surprising thing.

Thank you, parents and people and places and pets and all the things in this wide, wild and wonderful universe, for everything that makes this life both possible and worth the living.

Gracias y salud.

Thinking of Thanks and Thankful for Thinking

I’m about to dive head-first into a marathon of Harry Potter movies, after a nice leisurely bath.  I guarantee you, I’m thankful for both of those things.  Some may think I’m crazy for being thankful for Harry Potter, o’ course, but that’s their loss.  Quidditch rules!

This is a day of giving thanks.  First and foremost, I’m thankful to you, my darlings.  This blog has brought me great friends and readers, forced me to expand my interests and oftentimes question my assumptions, and all of you have had a huge part in that.  You bloggers, you commenters, you outstanding human beings – you give me hope for this crazy ol’ world.  So, thank you for being here, being you, and being awesome!

Thanks to science, and scientists, and people curious enough to invent science and keep becoming scientists.  Without science, a great many of us likely wouldn’t have been born at all.  Of those who were, a great many would’ve died young.  Science has given us food, medicine, and incredible technology.  And it’s given us a far greater understanding of the world, which makes the world a damned sight more interesting.

Thanks to writers, who suffer for our enjoyment.  Putting words on a page is far more difficult than it sounds.  Thank you for pushing through the pain, creating wonderful new worlds and putting new spins on old words, for having not just the imagination, but the skill and determination, to weave tales that keep us enthralled, entertained, and help us realize things about our universe and our humanity that we never would’ve thought of otherwise.  Thank you, crafters of both fiction and non-fiction, for the words you’ve smithed!

Thanks to family, friends, and those occasional strangers who are there to share the adventure.

Thanks to all of those who, in a variety of ways, make life livable.

Just, simply, thanks.

Oh, and pass the platter!

Going Home for Thanksgiving? You Might Need This…

I need to see about collaborating with this delightful progressive on future projects:

Oh, Lordy. It is that time again. Thursday is Thanksgiving— the official kickoff event of the 2008 holiday season. For a lot of progressives, these festivities also mean that we’re about to spend more quality time with our conservative relatives over the next six weeks than is strictly good for our blood pressure, stress levels, or continued sanity.


These family gatherings were hard enough to stomach through the appalling years of the Bush Adoration—but this year, it’s likely to be even worse. Our beloved family wingnuts were insufferable, in a grotesque Mayberry-on-acid surreal kind of way, while crowing into their succotash about the manly Godliness (or was it Godly manliness?) of Our Divinely Ordained Commander-in-Chief. But this year’s different. This year, they’re on the way out of power—and they’re scared witless about it. Which means big steaming heapin’ helpings of liberal-bashing are likely to be featured prominently on the menu next to the mashed potatoes, as they put fresh vigor into every paranoid anti-liberal fantasy ever spouted by Rush, Reverend Pat, or their new darling, Sarah Palin.

The black guy won. Armageddon—or, at the very least, socialism, atheism, gun control, and a national epidemic of erectile dysfunction—must certainly be at hand.

As you prepare to head once again into the family fray, it might be useful to note that most of the right wing’s favorite anti-liberal slanders are rooted in some deeply-held—and deeply wrong—assumptions about who liberals are, and what we believe. If your relatives, God bless ‘em all, insist on going down that road, your best defense this year might be to listen closely for these underlying myths and fables at work—and be prepared to challenge them head-on when they surface in the discussion.

Here’s a basic set to get you started. Tuck it away in your bag with your Xanax and Maalox, and apply (liberally, of course) as needed.

#8, “Liberals are Godless—and therefore, amoral,” is my especial favorite, in light of the book I’m writing. But they’re all wonderful, and should come in useful once it comes time to once again be subjected to ye olde “Libruls are whut’s wrong with Amurka” lecture.

This is one of many things I’m thankful for – I do not have to go through this agonizing torture. For those of you who do, good luck and my sympathies, my darlings.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Crooks and Liars)