Strategic Responses to Tract Thruster Tactics: Let Us Brainstorm Together!

This article at No Longer Quivering gives some insight onto the tactics and motivations of Tract Thrusters. You’ve probably encountered at least one of these annoyingly religious folks who make it their business to get up in your business and thrust their terrible tracts at you, then run off having convinced themselves they’ve done something heroic. Or you’ve dealt with a shiny doorknocking person who’s just convinced you’ll come right to Jesus once you’ve heard their Extra Special Message You’ve Only Heard 1000x Before, and obviously you’ll want to forego sleep, food, etc. to hear the Good News.

Image shows an orange and white kitty dressed as a Mormon missionary, being held sitting up on its owner's lap with a mini Book Of Mormon.  Caption says, "Have you heard the good word about Ceiling Cat, Brother?c

Oftentimes, we’re caught flat-footed. Especially in the case of Tract Thrusters who impose themselves upon us in public without warning, we may not be ready with an instant riposte. So let’s think of creative ways to respond if some zealot tries to force religious tracts upon us.

For instance: if I’m in a hurry, I’ll hand their tract back, saying, “That’s so thoughtful, but I’m overstocked on butt wipes from bigots. Have a nice day!” If I have time and inclination, I shall sit down with them and ask them to explain exactly what each bit means, asking them to define terms like “God” and explain to me how the more violent or gross verses and stories in the Bible (or Holy Book in question) apply to the tract in question. Intersperse with horribly embarrassing personal anecdotes about fictional uncouth religious family members. Repeat until they flee.

Of course, the most efficient response would be to reciprocate with tracts from the Satanic Temple. Alas, those only come in a swag bag, but for cheap comebacks to religious solicitation, perhaps these spiffy buttons will do. And maybe, as an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I should write a tract or two myself…

What’s your strategy? Have you already countered a Tract Thruster with a brilliant counter-ploy? Do tell!

Mystery Flora: Thus Spake The Night Blooming Flower

Hey, look! It’s a flower that is not from the Pacific Northwest! I’ll probably have some more lovely exotic flowers along the way, as I now live in a household with a gardener in it. Speaking of which, if you need someone to rehab your garden, please let me know and I will hook you up.

Anyway. Here’s our beauty:

Image shows a plant with long, almost rectangular green leaves and a white flower dangling from a twisty pink stem.

Mystery Flora I

This plant, I am told, is older than Misha. It’s only a couple of years younger than N, who just turned 30. It had a rough patch recently when it wasn’t living with S, so it’s smaller than it was and only had four buds this year. But you can see the thing is bloody huge and vigorous even so.

Here, you can have a cat for comparison.

Image shows Boo lying beside the pot. She is much smaller than the plant and, lying down, is only half as tall as its pot.

Mystery Flora II

So that’s the bud that bloomed first, a couple of nights ago. It was already partially blown. Here’s one of last night’s buds just as it was getting ready to go. These flowers only bloom for one night, so you want to watch the buds carefully to see when they’re about to bloom. When you see about this much white, you know it’s time.

Image shows a bud, which is turned horizontal to the ground. The pink bracts that enclose it are beginning to thin as the flower petals appear to swell beneath. Some of the bracts are curling at their tips.

Mystery Flora III

These buds are huge. They’re about four or five inches long, and pretty thick at the base. You’ll see why soon.

When a bud is ready to bloom, it begins opening very slowly in the late evening.

Image shows a single bud, which is about 5 inches long or so. It is just beginning to open, and the outer pink bracts are curling away.

Mystery Flora IV

See how the tips are curling outward a bit? Yep. The dozens of long, narrow petals just keep opening and curling over the course of a few hours, until they’ve achieved full magnificence.

Image shows two blooms, one facing right, the other left, one atop the other. They are almost fully open. They look like starbursts.

Mystery Flora V

It’s about now that they’re spreading their scent all over the patio, trying to entice their pollinators to come help them get it on. It’s a sweet and earthy, almost sharp, scent that’s rather hard to describe. It doesn’t smell like any other flower I’ve smelled. And the inside is pretty weird, too.

Image shows one of the flowers in full bloom from the front. You can see the anthers covered in yellow pollen within, and a really odd structure poking from the interior that looks almost like a white sea anenome.

Mystery Flora VI

Here’s a somewhat sharper image of another flower, showing the weird bit from the side.

Image shows one of the flowers from a three-quarter profile. The anenome-like structure is clearly visible, coming almost to the edge of the bloom.

Mystery Flora VII

If I’m still here around this time next year, I’ll try to get them a bit better. I normally don’t use the flash, and it was also dark as fuck outside, so I was shooting rather blindly. I’m happy my camera did as well as this. That little machine always surprises me.

Last night, we had three blooms at once. When they’re fully open like this, they’re astounding, and the scent permeates the entire deck. It was almost strong enough to overpower the woodsmoke from the bonfire in the grill.

Image shows three of the huge flowers extending from top right to bottom left, and progressively looking into the camera, in profile, and then from the back.

Mystery Flora VIII

Since these blooms only last the night, S clipped all three, just before they began to fade, and handed them out to us. There’s one sitting beside my bed in a wine bottle right now, and my whole room is delicately infused with its scent, which is a lot better than old cat odors.

Image shows my rectangular rice paper and cherry wood lamp with the night flower in a bottle in front of it. Image is looking up toward the ceiling, which is cast in a Caribbean blue light.

I love this combo of warm rice-paper lamp hue and blue ceiling I got with the white balance being all wonky, so I left it and called it art.

S says I should have really vivid dreams, as this plant has a neurostimulant effect of some sort. I’ll report back, but alas, there is a confounding factor in our experiment, as I just got my visit from Aunty Flow and am taking tons of ibuprofen. That stuff also gives me vivid dreams. But if they’re anything like the Chantix dreams, then I’ll be able to tell there’s been a turboboost.

You can see a more true-color version of the above photo, plus lots more pictures showing the blooms in their many phases, here at my Flickr page. I can’t wait for you guys to identify this one! I think it’ll blow a few minds. When you ID it, try to include what plant family it belongs to, what its natural habitat is, and what its pollinator is, because all three things are delightful. Happy questing!

Oh, and for those who like black metal, the post title refers to this.

Fun With Night Photography: Come Meet the Doggie!

Around here, it’s a B.F.D. when certain plants bloom. We actually throw parties for them. I’ll have the current bloomer up as our Mystery Flora later today, so ya’ll be ready for that. Right now, I wanted to share a few of my night photos, and introduce you to the doggie.

Have I posted a photo of Pipa yet? Doesn’t look like I have. Let’s remedy that right now.

Image shows Pipa, a small Miniature Pinscher, sitting impatiently in front of some strawberry plants. She's got ears like a gremlin and lovely black-and-tan markings.

Pipa with strawberry plants.

She pretty much always looks worried, so don’t mind that. She was extremely anxious for me to stop snapping photos and just walk her already. [Read more…]

“I Am Too Busy Scratching the Ribcage of a Monster That May Never Set Me Free”

I’d like you to take two minutes to listen to this poem by Ashlee Haze. Just two minutes.

There’s a rough transcript at the bottom of this post if you’re unable to watch videos, but please do watch if you can: no typed words can capture the intensity of her voice. [Read more…]

“The Gravity Keeping My World In Place Was Gone” – Escape Chapter 7: Marriage

All of the content warnings, people. Have your emergency kitten on standby. In the final pages of this chapter of Escape, we get a first-hand look at what a forced polygamous marriage looks like.

Two days ago, the Prophet announced Carolyn could go to college – but she has to marry virtual stranger and terrible human Merril Jessop first. Carolyn, her dad, and her two moms arrive in Salt Lake City for her wedding to a man 32 years her senior. She hasn’t spoken with him. She doesn’t even want him to touch her. But when her father only gets two hotel rooms, she realizes she’s going to be forced to sleep with Merril. As her mothers get her dressed and coiffed for the ceremony, she feels like she’s “being prepared for a ritual sacrifice.” [Read more…]

Why Bernie Sanders Could Lose – And How You Can Help Him Win

I get it, I do. A lot of people are super-excited to see a socialist like Bernie Sanders surging in the polls. You’re thrilled by the size of his crowds, and you love the fact he’s apparently not backed by megacorporations, unlike Hillary Clinton. I was pretty excited to see him run, too, because in primary season, it’s great to have someone who can pull the more mainstream candidates to the left.

And I get that a lot of you are upset by what you consider rude and unnecessary interruptions by black activists. But the way many of you have responded? You’re doing a lot of damage. Progressive candidates won’t win without black votes. And Sanders hasn’t done a good job of convincing people of color that he’s their candidate. Those of you berating the activists for not being soft-spoken and polite enough aren’t doing him a single favor. You’d be doing him a kindness if you stopped yelling at them and started asking him to step up more on racial justice.

I’d like him to win, you know. If I can’t have Elizabeth Warren, I’d like to have somebody who’s willing to take on the moneyed interests. I’d like to have someone who’s looking out for the middle class. At the very least, I want him to be so popular that, even if he’s unelectable, he still lights a fire under the conservaDems who’ve been too timid to buck the system. That would be awesome. But none of it’s going to happen if you and me and him don’t take black activists seriously.

So this week, I’m going to be sharing quite a few posts I’ve been reading that have helped me understand the situation, why things are happening, and what Bernie needs to do in order to win. I hope you’ll listen to these voices. They’re telling you how Bernie can win. And that’s what you want, right?

Start here, please, with a piece by Zoe Samudzi that should answer many of your questions and objections. [Read more…]

Discovery Park with Funny Diva and an Accommodating Dragonfly

Come join us for my first hike post-B! I took lots of pictures for you.

I haven’t got out much recently, not simply because I indulged in some moping after breaking up with B, but because the weather has been kind of ick. Inordinately large portions of the West have been on fire, and while we’re not burning much immediately in and around Seattle, we kept getting smoke. Damn it, I moved from Flagstaff so I wouldn’t have to smell forests burning every summer, but here we are again. We had a downpour a few days ago that cleared the air nicely, though, so Funny Diva and I went for a Discovery Park adventure.

A seascape! Puget Sound is deep blue in the background, and you can just see an island on the horizon. In the foreground is North Beach, a sandy stretch, with a cheerful spring-green umbrella and a couple of lounge chairs. A little girl sits behind them, playing in the sand.

Beach Scene

The visitor’s center was full up, so we went on down to the north parking lot and traipsed from there. The rain left the trails pleasantly damp and the plants very green and happy. We had lots of sunshine, but also plenty of shade and cool breezes on the way down. When we hit North Beach, it looked like a true beach scene, complete with umbrella.

We had a very patient butterfly, too, who will appear in a future Cryptopod post. I actually had two little orange ones land on me briefly, which was magic. I love those moments.

Image is looking over the Sound toward the south. In the foreground is the top of a driftwood teepee. There is a lot of deep blue water, and then one of the distant bluffs and bits of Seattle. In the background, Mount Rainier looms above a low blanket of white clouds.

Mount Rainier is a majestic backdrop.

Mount Rainier was out in force. Beauty!

By the time we’d reached South Beach, we’d had about enough of sunshine, but we trooped onward. A visit to Discovery Park is not complete without visiting South Bluff.

Image shows South Bluff from South Beach, a tall bluff that is eroding away. It curves from the left toward the right. Mount Rainier is visible beyond the more distant bluff at the right.

A very Mullineaux photo.

I got a very Donal Mullineaux photo out of this trip. He’s one of the USGS geologists who worked on Mount St. Helens during the May 1980 eruption, so I have a particular fondness for him. Longtime readers will recall how I screamed with delight when I learned he’d done a lot of work at South Bluff, using it as the type section for both the Esperance Sand and the Lawton Clay. And, of course, he and Dwight Crandall did quite a bit of work at Mount Rainier as well, so this photo with both the bluff and the mountain in it is dedicated to him. Thanks for the geology, Dr. Mullineaux!

Image is the distant bluff with Mount Rainier almost hidden behind it.

Shy Mount Rainier

As you walk closer to South Bluff, Mount Rainier begins to vanish behind the next bluff down. I love this photo where it almost looks like it’s hiding.

Image shows several silvery-gray drift logs on the berm, with many green bushes behind them. One log is shaped like a bell curve and has a wee hole in the middle of the curve.

Delightful Driftwood

This bit of driftwood pleased Dana. I love how it’s shaped like one of those old-fashioned mantle clocks, and how it’s got the round hole in its curve.

After patting the Olympia non-glacial stage floodplain sediments, and pointing out a wee slide of the Lawton Clay to Funny Diva, we about-faced and headed back.

 

Image is looking up South Beach toward the Lighthouse. There's a sailboat with a red sail beached on the point. The Olympic Mountains are hazy but visible in the distance.

Red sailboat, white lighthouse.

That red sailboat is such a brilliant little gem on the beach, innit? And I’ve always loved that lighthouse.

For them as likes boats, I got a photo with three kinds for ye:

Image shows a cruise ship with a sailboat and a speedboat in front of it. The Olympic Mountains are a shadowy presence in the background.

Tres boats.

We took the Hidden Valley trail back up: it’s shady and not so steep. Then we went asploring in places I’d never been. We saw a sign for reflecting pools and a serpent mound by the Daybreak Cultural Center and couldn’t resist. On the way, I saw this poor tree that has been providing food for caterpillars or some such arthropods, and couldn’t resist a photo of its leaves against the sky.

Image shows a couple of thin branches with oval leaves against blue sky. The leaves are pierced with hundreds of holes, making them look lacey.

It’s like the bugs are making lace.

I’ve not actually been down by the mound and pools in all my visits to the park. People, it is worth it. You can see a duck trying to be a stork in a reflecting pool (which isn’t reflecting due to all the duckweed):

Image shows a female mallard standing on a piece of wood in the pond. She's on one foot. There is a lot of duckweed turning the water green, and a long-leafed plant at the left.

Unipod. She actually has two feet, she’s just hiding one.

And while you’re watching a duck, a huge dragonfly may hover in many places right in front of you, as if it’s going, “Can you see me now? What about now?”

Image shows the dragonfly hovering over the duckweed-coated water and a board. It's one of the black and blue ones with a little bit of green behind its eyes.

Those eyes, though.

You don’t want to know how many photos I shot trying to get that one great one. Fortunately, Funny Diva is infinitely patient with me, and found herself a shady spot to enjoy whilst I snapped away. I highly recommend hikes with her, people. She is, indeed, funny, and one of the sweetest people I know. She’s also a social justice warrior par excellence. And she knows all the good places to go in Seattle, as you will see.

We finally found a pool that reflects, where it was either too shady for duckweed or the stuff had been washed out by the rain:

Image shows a shaded pool surrounded by trees. The trees are reflected within the dark water.

Reflecting.

Hiking accomplished, we went in search of food. Funny Diva recommended Scooter’s, and so we had burger deliciousness, complete with some of the best fries ever. Then we tried to go to Golden Gardens, but everybody else in the Seattle Metro area was already there, and we couldn’t find a parking space, so we went up to Wallingford and had gelato at the Fainting Goat Gelato instead.

Image is the sign for the Fainting Goat, which is like an old tavern sign. It is a bar with a goat cut-out hanging from it upside-down, and the words Fainting Goat inscribed.

How cute is this sign?

I ended up with stracciatella because I bloody love the stuff, but they also had a hazelnut and chocolate thing with the word rock in the name, and I had a sample, and that is what I will have next time we go, because IT IS ALL DELICIOUS. I’ll bet you a lot of fundies miss out on it because they think an upside-down goat is satanic, but everything in the shop is divine and everyone should go there.

Then we came home, where Boo showed off her mad fence climbing skillz.

Image shows Boo, a white cat with black patches, sitting on the cedar fence and looking towards the right.

Boo’s on the fence about everything.

I won’t lie: this first real outing, with my own friend and in familiar places, without B, wasn’t complete easy. A lot of things aren’t easy yet. Some people might say that since I miss B ferociously, I should try to make it work with him again. After all, I was the one who broke it off: he didn’t want to. But while I love him and miss him and hope that someday we can hang out and be friends again, I know I made the right choice. We weren’t working. I hate that, but it’s true.

So it’s onward, ho, making new memories in the old places, spending time with high-quality people like Funny Diva, and doing my bit to make this a better world. The fact it has sunshine and gelato  and social justice warriors in it gives me hope.

20+ Ways to Help Trans People of Color

It’s hard, sometimes, to know what to do when you’re cisgender and you’re helplessly watching as trans woman after trans woman is murdered, the majority of them trans women of color. You want to stop it, fix it, but you feel helpless because you have no idea where to begin, how to change a culture where racism and transphobia conspire to kill. You don’t know how to alleviate the suffering. And so maybe you’re paralyzed by the enormity of it.

You’re not a god or a superhero, so you won’t be able to magically make it all better. But you can do your part to change the world. Here’s your map:

With all of this in mind in one of the most visibly bloody years we’ve witnessed of violence against trans women of color, I wanted to make a list of things you can do to begin to change the culture of violence against trans women of color into one of love, appreciation, and transformative change.

Some of these things may not be in your power to do, but many of them will. Many of them will be easier than you expect. And if we all do our bit, we can make a difference.

Don’t give up.

Image: Trans flag with white wording on it. A crown is featured at the top with the trans symbol protruding from it. Text: “Keep hope and carry on”

Image via Amigas Latinas.

Cryptopod: Ghostly Presence

It’s been a fraught week. Let us return to the peaceful shores of Silver Lake, created by Mount St. Helens a couple thousand years ago, and wander through the forest along its shores. It’s quiet aside from the birds and the breeze. Near sunset, not many people come by, so you can be alone for long stretches of time, even at the height of tourist season. The trees crowd out the sky, and shield you from civilization. There’s just nature, and a ghostly presence looms in the dusk. [Read more…]

Tony Needs Your Help! Please Donate if You Can

Tony, who’s one of the best writers I know on the subjects of racism, gun violence, queer topics, and comics, is going through one of those extended dry spells where he can’t find employment no matter how hard he tries. As if that weren’t enough, he just had an emergency with his 15 year-old kitty that resulted in a substantial vet bill. His kitty didn’t make it. So he’s got grief on top of joblessness and bills to worry about. If you read his blog, partake in the Pharyngula thread he and RQ curate, or follow him on Facebook, you know he’s working his ass off to bring us solid content every day. Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t pay the bills. Any of my readers who can spare some cash would be doing him a solid by dropping some coinage in his tip jar. Thank you so much for your help, my darlings!

Image shows a very handsome man with penetrating dark eyes and a regal bald dome.

Tony! Y’all might know him as the Queer Shoop. He is one of the most awesome human beings I know.