En Tequila Es Verdad https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/ Mon, 17 Jun 2019 03:13:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.7 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/03/ETEV-thumbnail-2.jpg En Tequila Es Verdad https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/ 32 32 104281309 Farewells https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2019/06/05/farewells/ Wed, 05 Jun 2019 23:30:03 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=33022 The post Farewells appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.



“But we had the best of times. The best.”

– Tenth Doctor, “Journey’s End”



Image shows Misha, a black and white tuxedo cat, sitting contemplatively in my lap as I read a geology book.

Misha Hunter, 3/1994 —6/5/2017


Image shows Suzanne, wearing a glittery ball cap and flashing a peace sign, and me taking a selfie with Mount St. Helens behind us.

Suzanne Buck, 10/15/19(polite cough) — 4/21/2017

They were a part of this cantina from beginning to end. There will never be a day when I don’t miss them. You would think that after two years I would have the words to memorialize them, but they occupied a space in my life that is beyond any words I can muster.

I will carry you with me, always. Those times with you were the greatest gift the universe ever gave.


The cantina is closed, but its posts will stay right here. Please visit the Unconformity, where new adventures will be coming soon. Adios, mis amigos y amigas. Hasta que nos veamos de nuevo…

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The Mind-Boggling Scale of Mount St. Helens’ Crater https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/05/18/mind-boggling-scale-mount-st-helens-crater/ Thu, 18 May 2017 15:32:39 +0000 http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/?p=26409 The post The Mind-Boggling Scale of Mount St. Helens’ Crater appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


On this day in 1980, an earthquake beneath Mount St. Helens got everyone’s attention. Within two months, much of her summit would be lying on the North Fork Toutle River valley floor, the lush forests stripped away, and our views of her changed forever.

Image shows Mount St. Helens, rays of sunshine striking it from low in the west and a thick white cloud over its summit. I'm standing on a grassy ridge to the right, almost invisible due to shadows and my black trench coat. I look very small in comparison to the enormous mountain many miles away.
C’mon, sweetie! Just a little eruption for your Aunty Dana. Please?! Image courtesy Suzanne B., used with permission.

My dear friend Suzanne took the above photograph during one of our visits. Perspective makes the grass look almost as tall as me -but it’s waist-high at best, possibly shorter. I was completely entranced by the mountain, so I didn’t notice the exact height. But I’d probably remember slogging through something trying to poke me in the eyeballs. And, of course, the volcano towers over us all, even though it’s off in the distance up and across the broad valley.

It’s not just perspective that makes Mount St. Helens look so huge. It is so huge! To give you an idea of how huge, even with nearly two thousand feet of its summit missing, check this out:

Image shows a portion of Mount St. Helens. The upper rim of the crater is obscured by cloud, but the interior of the crater, exterior wall, and ramp of pyroclastic deposits spilling from the gap in the rim are all visible. The dome is a low, wide mound within. The helicopter is flying past the rim. It's only a few pixels wide and virtually invisible.
Mount St. Helens and the helicopter. No, seriously, there’s a helicopter in this photo!

Can you see the helicopter in that photo I took? No? Let me crop that for you:

Image is a crop of the previous, showing a piece of the crater rim and the overlying cloud. The helicopter is just visible as a tiny streak between the cloud and the crater.
Can you see me now?

Yep, that wee spec is a Bell JetRanger, which is about 40 feet long. Here’s one parked at Hoffstadt Bluffs:

Image shows a blue helicopter with a white underbelly parked on a helipad. The Toutle River valley is visible behind it.
A tour helicopter parked at Hoffstadt Bluffs. Image by Dana Hunter.

And to give you some additional perspective, here are some people standing beside one.

Alas, I have no photos of a helicopter right in the middle of the crater, but here’s a lovely shot from one of the trails at Johnston Ridge, showing you what’s inside.

Image shows a bit of dirt trail winding along the side of a bare ridge. It seems to vanish into the snow-capped crater of Mount St. Helens in the distance. The view shows the dome rising from the center.
Looking into the heart of destruction. Photo by Dana Hunter.

That mound of lava in the crater that looks like a blister? That’s around 1,000 feet tall. This pdf has a lot of stats on how big the dome is, all concluding: it’s huge. Yet it doesn’t even fill the crater left by the May 1980 eruption.

Amazing, isn’t it?


Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

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(Repost) “He Couldn’t Breathe” – Escape Chapter 24: Patrick’s Abuse https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/04/17/repost-couldnt-breathe-escape-chapter-24-patricks-abuse/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 04:13:29 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32247 The post (Repost) “He Couldn’t Breathe” – Escape Chapter 24: Patrick’s Abuse appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


This chapter has a lot of child abuse. So I’m going to put this right up front:

Content Note for severe physical abuse of a child.

In the Jessop household, showing any degree of spine to Barbara results in punishment. She thrives on it. So when all her sister wives do their best to keep things calm and peaceful after Merril’s heart attack, it’s only a few weeks before she escalates to get a rise out of them. She incites the children of the household to act up in hopes of provoking the wives to attack them, just so she’ll have a reason to discipline them. Carolyn’s turn comes when she calls some of the girls out for gossiping about a girl at their school who is being bullied. She snaps at them, calling them hypocrites for pretending to be shocked, considering the way they treat the wives.

She expects Barbara to come at her for it. But instead, Barbara attacks her son, Patrick.

Merril decides late one night to have impromptu family prayers. Patrick is sent to wake Carolyn, who is physically wrecked after the recent birth of her daughter Merilee. She tells him she’s too tired, and goes back to sleep. When Patrick reports back without his mother, Barbara takes him into another room, closes the door, interrogates him, and then proceeds to beat the living shit out of him. She starts with slapping, then escalates to throwing him across the room and into the metal bars of a footboard. She keeps slamming him into those bars. Then she kicks him in the stomach.

He is a tiny little four year-old. She is a 200-pound adult.

And she knows she’s gone too far. She does that child abuser thing of telling him not to tell anyone what she’s done, or she’ll beat him worse. She shakes him until he agrees. Then she hands him tissues and sits with him until he’s too terrified to continue crying.

Image is a black-and-white close up of a little boy's sad face. His eyes are fixed on something toward the upper left of the photo.
When he’s merely shaking, she sends him back to the family. But Merril sends him away quickly when one of the other children, seeing something’s wrong, asks him what Barbara did.

Yep. His father knows. And he doesn’t care.

Patrick goes and cries himself to sleep in a recliner in his mom’s room. Carolyn is appalled when she sees the bruises covering him the next day, and knows he’s lying when he tells her they came from roughhousing with his siblings, but she doesn’t force the truth from him. Instead, she comes up with ways to protect her kids.

Mind you, she can’t go to the local police: they’re all FLDS. They won’t do shit. She can’t go to Merril, because he’ll deny anything happened and do absolutely nothing. She would also be opening Patrick up to retaliation. She can’t go to CPS: “they had poor track records of protecting women and children in Colorado City. Victims routinely got sent back to perpetrators.”

All she can do is keep her kids with her at all times when they aren’t in school. She takes them to work with her. She feeds them in her room. Luckily, when she enlists her mother, she doesn’t get a lecture on obeying her husband this time. Instead, her mom gets her food she can keep in her room.

Patrick carries the secret of what Barbara did to him for nine years. He doesn’t feel safe telling her even after they’ve fled. He finally is able to tell her what happened over three years after their escape.

This is the kind of shit the police and CPS just allow to happen in the FLDS communities. There’s a horrible deference we as a society show to pious groups. We let religious people get away with far too much. We pretend we have no right to interfere with them. But believing in a god or gods shouldn’t give you the ability to physically abuse children and get away with it. Piety shouldn’t be a shield for child beaters.

It’s far past time to deny religion the power to let people hit children with impunity. This is one hope I have for the rise of the Nones: that we finally start doing the right thing.

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. The full list of reviews to date can be found here. Need a chaser? Pick up a copy of Really Terrible Bible Stories Volume 1: Genesis, Volume 2: Exodus, and Volume 3: Leviticus today!


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Protected: (Tier 1) “Consigned to the Devil” Escape Chapter 31: Warren Becomes the Prophet https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/04/17/tier-1-consigned-devil-escape-chapter-31-warren-becomes-prophet/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 03:24:38 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32231 There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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For Autism Awareness Month, Listen to Autistic People https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/04/05/autism-awareness-month-listen-autistic-people/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 06:01:25 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32226 The post For Autism Awareness Month, Listen to Autistic People appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


April is Autism Awareness Month. The first thing you need to be aware of is that organizations like Autism Speaks aren’t helping autistic people. They’re harming them. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’d like to make you aware of some things.

  1. I don’t have a formal diagnosis, but it’s 99.998% certain your humble blogger is autistic. I’ve done a bunch of assessments for autism overall and how women (girls) present as autistic, and everything comes back as “Whelp, you’re autistic as fuck. Congratulations!”
  2. Note I say I am autistic. Not “I have autism.” Nor “I am a person with autism.” That’s because it’s not a disease or a disability (except insofar as the world isn’t built to accommodate autistic people). It’s the way my brain processes the world. Those personality quirks that make me the unique me that I am? The vast majority come from me being autistic AF.
  3. I don’t want to be cured. I like my autistic self just fine, thank you. So when you say you want to find a cure for autism, it sounds an awful lot like you’re saying you want to erase me and my autistic friends.

That last one’s pretty shocking, right? I mean, we all hear about how horrible and disabling autism is. Pitiable parents appear on television, blogs, and in glossy magazine articles talking about how their bright and beautiful babies suddenly became aloof aliens. No eye contact, no hugs, no words, no love! Meltdowns! Delays! My kid is a lemon and I want my money back! Oh, and it was probably because of vaccines. My abnormal psych book had a whole section devoted to how you could only maybe rescue an autistic kid from a life of certain complete dysfunction and probable institutionalization by devoting yourself full-time to rescuing them. Otherwise, they’d spend all their lives unable to even wipe themselves after taking a shit.

Who wouldn’t want a cure for that terrible disease?

(PS: I assumed I wasn’t autistic for over 40 years because my life wasn’t the empathy-devoid wasteland these folks assured me it should be.)

Only it’s not as bad as all that.

Autistic brains just process things differently from non-autistic brains. A good number of our “disabilities” aren’t so disabling once people make allowances for that fact. Like, if you don’t insist on us making eye contact all the time, we can connect and converse just fine. If you let us do our stims, we won’t melt down so much. If you listen to us, we can tell you just what we need to thrive.

You can even listen to those of us who can’t speak. Technology allows that to happen. Just because a person can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty to say.

So, at the end of this post, you’ll find a list of blogs and organizations that will tell you more about autism, what autistic people need, and how you can be a good ally. Now we’ll talk about one way to definitely not be a good ally:

If you “light it up blue” for “autism awareness”, if you donate for a “cure” for autism, if you support Autism Speaks, you’re not being a good ally. The White House Shining a blue light, especially while the fucking President believes autism is caused by vaccines, is absolutely not good allyship. We’d actually be much better off if the White House ignored autism completely.

Image is a photograph of a cheeta with its paw held out to the camera. Caption says, "Shush now, no talky."

Firstly, we know vaccines don’t cause autism. Secondly, even if they did, there’s not actually anything wrong with being autistic. Thirdly, Autism Speaks is about the last autism org anyone who cares about autistic people should be listening to, much less supporting. There’s so, so much wrong with them, but for a quick overview, see here. You wouldn’t promote an org that claimed to be founded to help people with curly hair, but

  • Claimed curly hair is a pathology that must be cured in existing kids with curly hair and prevented in future generations
  • Refused to condemn parents who grew so frustrated with their curly-haired children that they resorted to violence or murder
  • Promoted myths and lies about what causes children to have curly hair
  • And didn’t spend the majority of the donations they collected to help children with curly hair on, y’know, children with curly hair
  • Plus, instead of recommending good conditioners, infrequent shampooings, and a wide-toothed comb, advocated forcing kids to treat their hair as straight.

Right? Then don’t promote Autism Speaks, which treats autistic folks horribly.

And remember: Autism Speaks ain’t autistic people speaking. Here are the folks you should be listening to:

Autistic Academic

Alyssa and Ania Splain You a Thing

Autistic Hoya

Autistic Sestra

The Caffeinated Autistic

Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

Yes, That Too

And here are some resources if you or someone you love is autistic.

Autism—It’s Different in Girls

Autism Spectrum Parenting

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Letter to the Parents of Autistic Children

Start Here


I Abused Children for a Living

Another Blog Post on How ABA Ruined an Autistic Person’s Life

Autism Conversion Therapy 1/3

updated autism ABA resource masterpost

Ready to support autistic folks? Great! Don’t light it up blue. Walk in Red Instead.

Image shows a tiny calico kitten sitting on a red-orange knitted scarf beside a Converse sneaker. Caption says "Walk in red for autism acceptance."

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Part 4: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/04/03/part-4-nazi-conscience-chapter-2-politics-virtue/ Tue, 04 Apr 2017 06:43:03 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32210 The post Part 4: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


Content note for antisemitism, Trump, eliminationist rhetoric.

Once Hitler realized he’d need to dial back the antisemitic rhetoric in order win power, he began glorifying the Volk and calling Germans to unify instead. But of course Jews were not part of that Volk. He’d perfected the art of the dog whistle. Even a Jewish woman who went to one of his rallies heard “nothing even against the Jews.”

But, like Trump, Hitler managed to speak for hours without saying much of anything at all. She could have been describing a Trump rally: “[He] put up sham accusations, only to refute them, used slogans by the hour, and said nothing else than praise of himself…” Yet his admirers ate it all up. It’s so similar to Trump and his fans it’s terrifying.

Many people tried to wave away Hitler’s antisemitism, just like many people today try to pretend Trump and the Republicans aren’t bigoted scumlords. But a quick glance at either party’s platform quickly reveals the truth. The proof is in the planks. When your planks consist of racist, bigoted bullshit, your protestations that you’re not a bigoted racist can only be believed by those who need to pretend they’re not with you because of your most vile beliefs.

One particular Nazi Party Program Plank is horribly similar to things Trump is doing to our own Muslim immigrants: “‘non-Germans’ who had immigrated after 1914 would be expelled from Germany.”

And, like Hitler, Trump is leaving open racism to his surrogates while he proclaims himself to be the least racist person on the planet. Folks: When someone supports racist party planks and appoints virulent racists to high positions, that person is a fucking racist. The mask will come off the second he’s deceived enough of you so that he no longer needs it. Believe his actions, not his words.

The smaller commonalities between Trump and Hitler are also jarring. Both used the third person to refer to themselves, for instance. Both unsuccessfully ran for election before winning power. Both have a taste for grandiosity.

And both tenuously rose to power on a wave of hate. We’ll be analyzing that next.

Image is the cover of The Nazi Conscience. It shows a brown-uniformed man digging while a man in traditional German folk costume holds a pole that has a swastika banner on it.
We’re studying The Nazi Conscience as a way to prepare for what’s happening now. If you want to read along, you can pick up an inexpensive used copy at Amazon. Buying through that link also supports my blogging, so thank you!

Intro • Prologue1.1

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Wallace’s Woeful Wager: How a Founder of Modern Biology Got Suckered by Flat-Earthers https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/03/20/wallaces-woeful-wager-founder-modern-biology-got-suckered-flat-earthers/ Tue, 21 Mar 2017 04:11:12 +0000 http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/?p=24297 The post Wallace’s Woeful Wager: How a Founder of Modern Biology Got Suckered by Flat-Earthers appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


In light of Shaq claiming the earth is flat, I figured it was time to publish this article here. Is it always a bad idea to make a wager with a flat earther? Cuz I’d love to bet Shaq that a high-altitude flight would prove the earth’s quite round.

In January of 1870, Alfred Russel Wallace found himself on a collision-course with a group of creationists who fervently believed the earth is flat. The father of biogeography, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, seems an unlikely sort to be mixed in with religious fanatics on a question of geography settled since the 3rd century BC. Why was such a venerable 19th century man of science accepting wagers from flat-earthers regarding the shape of our planet?

Simply put: It looked like easy money.

Really, ten minutes and a telescope should have done it. Alas, nothing is easy when it comes to creationists, as Wallace would learn to his sorrow:

The next matter was a much more serious one, and cost me fifteen years of continued worry, litigation, and persecution, with the final loss of several hundred pounds. And it was all brought upon me by my own ignorance and my own fault—ignorance of the fact so well shown by the late Professor de Morgan—that “paradoxers,” as he termed them, can never be convinced, and my fault in wishing to get money by any kind of wager. It constitutes, therefore, the most regrettable incident in my life.

Sir Charles Lyell, father of modern geology, shared Wallace’s ignorance. They may have steered a much different course had they known the history of the men they hoped to defeat.

Image shows a younger Alfred Russel Wallace posing jauntily with his hand on a chair and one leg cocked. His hat makes him look vaguely Amish.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Singapore, 1862. The poor man had no idea he’d be tormented by a flat-earth creationist within the decade.


19th century Britain was one of the epicenters of the scientific revolution. But with progress comes pushback. Alarmed believers strove to shore up the Bible’s authority, some going much further than others. Not many of them went to greater extremes than Samuel Birley Rowbotham.

Known as Parallax, he was a Biblical literalist, young earth creationist, and quack who believed in a flat, disc-shaped Earth. The North Pole stood at its center, and that was it; in his cosmology, there was no such beast as a South Pole. He backed his contentions with bad math, bogus experiments, and Bible verses. He revived the ancient flat-earth idea and gave it a modern patina of “science,” then used the result to stir up controversy for cash.

One of his many popular lectures on the subject converted William Carpenter, who loved the idea more for its poke in the eye it gave to the scientific establishment than for reasons of biblical fealty. Determined to rid the world of round-earth ideas, he wrote a scathing book called Theoretical Astronomy Examined and Exposed under the (mis)nom(er) de plume Common Sense.

This book soon came to the attention of the man who was to vex Alfred Russel Wallace so sorely. John Hampden, a Protestant rector’s son and all-round arch-conservative, had plenty of leisure time for engaging in argument. His father had left him independently wealthy, although, perhaps suspecting his eldest son would prove prone to causing controversy, stipulated in his will that John would be reduced to a meager £50 per year if he ever did anything to sully the venerable name of Hampden.

John Hampden wasted little time doing just that. After dropping out of Oxford, he occupied himself by publishing various tracts demanding that the Church of England be reformed “on strict Protestant lines.” A staunch biblical literalist “bent on defending Genesis to the hilt,” he was ripe pickings for Carpenter’s flat-earth crusade. Upon reading Theoretical Astronomy, he became convinced the earth was flat, and he had the Bible verses to prove it. Putting his tract-making skills to work, he quickly produced pamphlets such as The Popularity of Error and the Unpopularity of Truth: Shewing the World to be a Stationary Plane and Not a Revolving Globe, purporting to prove the pancake-osity of the planet.

This was the era of steam-powered printing presses and vastly expanding public interest in science, fed by vigorous journalism – a veritable Information Age rather like our own. Like our modern creationists, John Hampden looked on in horror as the masses slurped up all the science they could hold, including the round-earth heresy. He made it his mission to eradicate such ideas from the public consciousness, even when his bombastic techniques horrified his flat-earth grandfather Parallax. Sounding like the Borg of Hampden, he declared that spherical earth theories had to go: “All further resistance is useless.”

And he was willing to wager his money on it.


On January 12th, 1870, Hampden threw down his gauntlet in the weekly journal Scientific Opinion.

What is to be said of the pretended philosophy of the 19th century, when not one educated man in ten thousand knows the shape of the earth on which he dwells? Why, it must be a huge sham! The undersigned is willing to deposit from £50 to £500, on reciprocal terms, and defies all the philosophers, divines and scientific professors in the United Kingdom to prove the rotundity and revolution of the world from Scripture, from reason, or from fact. He will acknowledge that he has forfeited his deposit, if his opponent can exhibit, to the satisfaction of any intelligent referee, a convex railway, river, canal, or lake. JOHN HAMPDEN

Alfred Russel Wallace saw the ad. Though it must have seemed like the easiest of easy money, he was cautious, and consulted a man whom he held in the highest esteem.

Before accepting this challenge I showed it to Sir Charles Lyell, and asked him whether he thought I might accept it. He replied, “Certainly. It may stop these foolish people to have it plainly shown them.”

Poor Wallace, like Lyell, thought that Hampden only needed to be shown some proof in order to accept the plain fact that the earth is round. He knew nothing of Hampden and his ilk, or he may never have accepted the wager. But in addition to wanting to win a cool £500, he believed “that a practical demonstration would be more convincing than the ridicule with which such views are usually met.” He was about to find out that practical demonstrations have absolutely no effect on these truest of true believers.

The first signs that Hampden was determined to win by crook if he couldn’t manage a victory by hook came when Wallace wrote in response to his advertisement, graciously accepting the challenge. Wallace offered to prove the earth’s curvature by measuring “the convexity of a canal or lake.” As for where this was to be done, he was amenable to any suitable stretch of water. “A canal will do if you can find one which is nearly straight for four miles without locks; if not, I propose Bala Lake, in North Wales, as a place admirably suited for the experiment.” He thought any of the editors of several popular science or sporting journals could would be suitably unbiased referees; if not them, then perhaps “any well known Land Surveyor, or Civil Engineer, or any Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.”

Hampden at first seemed quite above-board about the thing, agreeing that Mr. John Henry Walsh, editor of the Field magazine, should serve as referee. Walsh was an ideal choice, as he knew neither of them, was a non-scientist with no skin in the globe-vs-flat-earth game, and had prior experience deciding wagers. But shortly after funds were placed in Walsh’s hands to guarantee the wager, Hampden demanded a referee of his own.

Wallace didn’t see a problem with this, writing back:

Your wish to have a second referee is quite reasonable, and I accede to it at once, only stipulating that he shall not be a personal acquaintance of your own, and shall be a man in some public position as Editor, Author, Engineer, &c.

Hampden, having no scruples in his crusade to prove the earth flat like he was certain the Bible proved, wasted no time in choosing William Carpenter. Yes, that William Carpenter. The one who had converted him to flat-eartherism, with whom he was monetarily entangled, and who could only just be called an author. Having thus secured a referee biased wholly in his favor, Hampden proposed a straight six-mile stretch on Old Bedford Canal for the location of the experiment.

Wallace didn’t know that this same stretch had already been used by Parallax in his own attempts to prove the earth flat – which feat he’d managed by holding his telescope a mere eight inches above the water, thus allowing refraction to interfere with his measurements and give the impression that he was sighting along an utterly flat stretch of water resting on a flat earth. It was a classic example of a poorly-designed experiment yielding invalid results. Hampden was loading the dice as much as he could manage.

So that was how Alfred Russel Wallace, venerable naturalist and science legend, ended up that March on a cold canal in Norfolk, England, squinting through telescopes in a valiant but vain effort to prove the shape of the earth to committed creationists. Since Walsh couldn’t be there for the whole week of experiments, a surgeon and amateur astronomer named Mr. Martin Wales Bedell Coulcher acted as Wallace’s referee. All the interested parties watched Wallace’s painstaking experiment, which had been designed to correct for refraction.

The iron parapet of Welney bridge was thirteen feet three inches above the water of the canal. The Old Bedford bridge, about six miles off, was of brick and somewhat higher. On this bridge I fixed a large sheet of white calico, six feet long and three feet deep, with a thick black band along the centre, the lower edge of which was the same height from the water as the parapet of Welney bridge; so that the centre of it would be as high as the line of sight of the large six-inch telescope I had brought with me. At the centre point, about three miles from each bridge, I fixed up a long pole with two red discs on it, the upper one having its centre the same height above the water as the centre of the black band and of the telescope, while the second disc was four feet lower down. It is evident that if the surface of the water is a perfectly straight line for the six miles, then the three objects—the telescope, the top disc, and the black band—being all exactly the same height above the water, the disc would be seen in the telescope projected upon the black band; whereas, if the six-mile surface of the water is convexly curved, then the top disc would appear to be decidedly higher than the black band, the amount due to the known size of the earth being five feet eight inches, which amount will be reduced a little by refraction to perhaps about five feet.

The above diagrams illustrate the experiment made. The curved line in Fig. 1, and the straight line in Fig. 2, show the surface of the canal on the two theories of a round or a flat earth. A and C are the two bridges six miles apart, while B is the pole midway with two discs on it, the upper disc, the telescope at A, and the black line on the bridge at C, being all exactly the same height above the water. If the surface of the water is truly flat, then on looking at the mark C with the telescope A, the top disc B will cover that mark. But if the surface of the water is curved, then the upper disc will appear above the black mark, and if the disc is more than four feet above the line joining the telescope and the black mark, then the lower disc will also appear above the black mark.
“The above diagrams illustrate the experiment made. The curved line in Fig. 1, and the straight line in Fig. 2, show the surface of the canal on the two theories of a round or a flat earth.” Image and caption by Alfred Russel Wallace, from My Life.

This experiment showed curvature, as it could not fail to do. Hampden’s mentor and referee Carpenter signed the sketch of the results produced by Mr. Coulcher, affirming it indeed showed what they both had seen.

Sketch of the bridge, showing the sheet of calico with the black horizontal stripe, and the poles with both dots showing above the line.
Coulcher’s sketch, reproduced in Alfred Russel Wallace’s autobiography My Life.

However, he declared those results were unable to prove the earth was a globe “because the telescope was not leveled, and because it had no cross-hair!”

Wallace, being at pains to ensure that there would be no doubt about the results, proceeded to recalibrate the experiment to Carpenter’s specifications, and ran it again.

At his request to have a spirit-level in order to show if there was any “fall” of the surface of water, I had been to King’s Lynn and borrowed a good Troughton’s level from a surveyor there. This I now set up on the bridge at exactly the same height above the water as the other telescope, and having levelled it very accurately and called Mr. Carpenter to see that the bubble was truly central and that the least movement of the screws elevating or depressing it would cause the bubble to move away, I adjusted the focus on to the distant bridge, and showing also the central staff and its two discs…. We then fixed a calico flag on the parapet to make it more visible, and drove back with the instruments to Old Bedford bridge, where I set up the level again at the proper height above the water, and again asked both the referees to make sketches of what was seen in the level-telescope. This they did. Mr. Carpenter’s was rather more accurately drawn, and Mr. Coulcher signed them as being correct, and both are reproduced here.

The sketch is two circles, each with an upside-down bridge. They both show the discs of the poles in a line above the black bar on the calico sheet.
“These two views, as seen by means of the inverting telescope, are exact representations of the sketches taken by Mr. Hampden’s Referee, and attested by Dr. Coulcher as being correct in both cases: first, from Welney Bridge; and secondly, from the Old Bedford Bridge.” Image and caption from My Life.

This new setup showed the same thing as the first: the earth was indubitably curved. No reasonable person could doubt it. Alas, Wallace was not dealing with reasonable persons. They responded in true creationist fashion: by completely refusing to deal with reality.

Mr. Hampden declined to look through either telescope, saying he trusted to Mr. Carpenter; while the latter declared positively that they had won, and that we knew it; that the fact that the distant signal appeared below the middle one as far as the middle one did below the cross-hair, proved that the three were in a straight line, and that the earth was flat, and he rejected the view in the large telescope as proving nothing for the reasons already stated.

They were at an impasse. At first, Hampden refused an umpire to decide between the referees. Eventually, he agreed to have Walsh review the results, and both sides sent in sketches and reports. Walsh weighed the evidence, decided it did indeed prove the earth was spherical, and published both materials and his conclusion in the Field.

Hampden threw a fit. Carpenter wrote “a long argument to show that the experiments were all in Mr. Hampden’s favour.” This diatribe didn’t sway Walsh. He declared Wallace the positive winner, and, despite Hampden demanding his money back, gave the winnings to Wallace.

Unfortunately, British law didn’t protect gentlemen’s interests when it came to bets, even if the wager was strictly along scientific lines, and would eventually force Wallace to give the money back. Of course, by then, that amount was offset by the judgements entered in Wallace’s favor against Hampden, who had embarked on an extraordinary 15-year campaign of abuse and libel that landed him in both jail and court several times. He sent vitriolic letters to everyone he could think of, including Wallace’s wife:

“Mrs. Wallace,—Madam, if your infernal thief of a husband is brought home some day on a hurdle, with every bone in his head smashed to pulp, you will know the reason. Do you tell him from me he is a lying infernal thief, and as sure as his name is Wallace he never dies in his bed.

“You must be a miserable wretch to be obliged to live with a convicted felon. Do not think or let him think I have done with him.

“John Hampden.”

Death threats were beyond the pale of English law, as were various and sundry libelous statements and a refusal to desist when court-ordered to. Wallace won several actions, but Hampden declared bankruptcy, probably to prevent him from collecting damages. In the end, with all the court costs, and despite being the wronged party throughout it all, Wallace’s woeful wager cost him several hundred pounds and no end of trouble.

Still, he’d done his best to, as Lyell said, “stop these foolish people.” He’d learned a valuable lesson we would be wise to heed today: don’t accept wagers from men who are religiously motivated to believe in easily-disproved notions such as the idea of a flat earth. And he’d shown with an elegant little experiment that the earth is definitely round, which our images from space gorgeously support.

Flat-earth belief didn’t die with Hampden. You can read all about it in Christine Garwood’s remarkable book, Flat Earth: the History of an Infamous Idea.


Garwood, Christine (2007): Flat Earth: the History of an Infamous Idea. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books.

Wallace, A.R. (1905): My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions. London: Chapman and Hall. Volume 2.

Wallace, A.R. Reply to Mr Hampden’s Charges Against Mr Wallace. The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 22


Originally published at Rosetta Stones

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Gorgeous Shots of Mount Etna in Eruption https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/03/19/gorgeous-shots-mount-etna-eruption/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 01:00:20 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32123 The post Gorgeous Shots of Mount Etna in Eruption appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


Over at Rosetta Stones, I’ve got an article up talking about phreatic eruptions and the recent excitement on Etna. I of course had to have a photo to go with it. The glorious problem in selecting said photo is that I run across so many awesome photos that don’t really illustrate the article, but are too good not to share. So it’s my great pleasure to share them with you here. And stay tuned at the end for some awesome video footage of phreatic eruptions and what happens when people get caught in them!

That is some hot lava there. Seriously hot. I mean, it’s not a big eruption, but it’s still enough to turn the entire sky orange…

Image shows the rim of Mount Etna in the distance, with a forested ridge in between. Everything is in silhouette, lit orange by a firey explosion from the center of the crater. Clouds of steam and ash rise into the sky to the right. A few stars are visible in the dark orange sky.
Etna erupting on the night of July 30, 2011. Image courtesy gnuckx (CC BY 2.0)

The craters of active volcanoes are marvelous. Look at those brilliant patches of yellow sulfur all over the place! Look at the shapes and textures! Gorgeous.

Image shows a crater of Mount Etna. In the foreground there is an ash-covered dip, with the summit rising behind it. The scene is in various shades of gray, brown, and black volcanic materials, with splashes of yellow sulfur.
Valle del Bove, Mount Etna. Public domain image by TBC.

I love how this eruption looks all soft and fuzzy and pastel. Still violent, though.

Image shows the summit of Etna with a tall, narrow, gauzy gray eruption column rising from it against the blue sky.
Etna erupting on October 26, 2013. Image courtesy gnuckx (CC BY 2.0)

I am a complete sucker for these night shots. This one is particularly spectacular. Look at that tentacle of fire!

Image shows the black, jagged silhouette of the crater. Inside, clouds of steam and ash rise, lit by orange lava in the crater. One bit of the cloud on the center left is brighter than the rest, and is curled over like a tentacle.
Etna erupting on the night of July 30, 2011. Image courtesy gnuckx (CC BY 2.0)

Gorgeous long-exposure shot of Etna erupting at night. I love how the cloud layer looks like a soft, fluffy blanket over the volcano, and those lovely orange streams of lava leisurely descending the slopes.

Image shows the whole of Etna volcano at night. There is a thin layer of cloud lying over its summit and flanks like a fluffy grayish-white blanket. The summit crater is glowing orange, and a stream of orange lava is streaming down the center of the flank facing us. In the sky, the stars are short streaks of light.
Long exposure image of a “dual-vent” eruption from Mount Etna’s NSEC (New South East Crater). Image and caption courtesy Angelo T. La Spina (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It’s easy to believe why the Greeks came up with stories about a monster trapped under the mountain, and a god using the fire of its struggles as a forge:

And flame shot forth from the thunderstricken lord in the dim rugged glens of the mount when he was smitten. A great part of huge earth was scorched by the terrible vapor and melted as tin melts when heated by men’s art in channelled crucibles; or as iron, which is hardest of all things, is shortened by glowing fire in mountain glens and melts in the divine earth through the strength of Hephaestus. Even so, then, the earth melted in the glow of the blazing fire.

Image shows Etna's crater in eruption at night. Beyond the jagged black silhouette of the rim, a red-orange dome spews bright orange lava from a split through its top and side. Dark orange clouds billow away towards the right.
Etna erupting on the night of July 30, 2011. Image courtesy gnuckx ((CC BY 2.0))

Volcanoes are utterly enchanting. I’m so glad we now have the photographic equipment to do them justice.

I’m also pretty damned excited we’ve got video cameras and time-lapse cameras that can catch events too dangerous for us to film in person. Check out these delicious phreatic eruptions at Poás volcano:

And here’s the ABC report on what happened to the BBC crew. I like the interview they do with one of the women involved.

Very awesome! Terrifying, but awesome.

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Kitty Time! Meet Sakura no Hana https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/03/06/kitty-time-meet-sakura-no-hana/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 13:18:09 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32065 The post Kitty Time! Meet Sakura no Hana appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.


Things have been rather eventful round the Hunter household. I’ve been interviewing all week for a job at a company one of my hardest-to-please friends utterly adores working for. Turns out they’re considering me for at least two positions, so now it’s just a matter of which department makes the better offer. It’ll be tough for a while: it’s full time, and it’s in Redmond, which is a hell of a commute from here. But B and I can move closer after we’ve both been employed for a couple of months, so that’s not a long-term problem.

Seeing as how I look to be getting back into the handsomely compensated portion of the workforce, and considering C has been so inconsiderate as to have her kitties move in with her instead of letting them stay with us,* and furthermore taking into account the fact that everyone in the household was suffering from a distinct lack of feline companionship due to the fact Misha only hangs out with me, I decided we were going to get another cat soon. So B and I headed out on Thursday to have a preliminary look at adoptable kitties.

We didn’t expect to find someone right away, and the first place we went to didn’t seem to want to actually adopt out any of their cats anyway. They actually told us they wouldn’t usually allow anyone to adopt who already had an elderly cat. They didn’t even entertain the idea that perhaps the pet owners had a living situation where the elderly felid wouldn’t have to put up with an annoying young ‘un. They didn’t ask questions about what we were looking for or why. They didn’t even want to show us any kitties. We basically had to show ourselves. But there were some sweet felines there, and also the world’s most sociable prairie dog, so that wasn’t a complete wash.

We headed over to PetSmart, where there were only a few adoptable cats. There was a Himalayan named Raja, who wasn’t at all interested in being a multiple person cat and utterly would not tolerate any household where she’s not the sole diva, so she was right out – we want to foster someday. Kale was a darling tabby who was far too energetic and probably needs a house full of kids to help her burn through her energy. David was a shy black kitty who was rumored to take lots of time to warm up to people, but he came to me the second they opened his cage, and he nearly came home with us. But then there was Cherry Blossom.

She’s a year-old Siamese mix, and she had a quiet grace to her that was utterly charming. When we poked fingers through the cage, she gave a leisurely stretch and then came over to accept all the loving she knew she deserved. She didn’t have to say a word to win us over. And her obvious love of any and all people was remarkable, considering her rough start in life. She was picked up off the streets with an embedded collar, yet still trusts every human she meets (as long as they’re not too loud).

We put in an application, but there were people ahead of us, so we figured we wouldn’t get her. But we took Merideth over to visit the kitties later that evening, and by then I was really thinking it would be awesome if we got lucky. The clerk who helped us watched us interact with the cats, and decided we were far better pet parents than the group who was first in line. Apparently, they’d come back saying they’d been approved by the Human Society when they actually hadn’t been, so she was already thinking they weren’t a good choice. She bumped us up in priority, got us in touch with the Humane Society, and set the ball rolling. Still. There was a line for this cat by then, and I didn’t think we’d get her.

We had the phone interview the next day to see if we could get approved, and passed, and my jaw dropped when they told me we could go pick up our kitty. We’d gotten her!

So I brought her home, and she spent the first few hours under the bookcase before moving on to the plants, and from there, she bonded with B while I napped. When I came out, she’d already made friends with all the quieter people in the household. Later that night, she ventured in to our room and survived seeing Misha for the first time. And by the next day, she was even enjoying time with S, despite the fact he makes more noise than most of us.

We renamed her Sakura no Hana, Japanese for Cherry Blossom, and she’s already starting to answer to it.

Misha seems remarkably chill about the whole thing. I think it’s because Sakura is terrified of her. She just sits on B’s bed and stares and growls. She’s ventured over to sniff Misha’s tail a few times when Misha’s down getting a drink, and incredibly, Misha allows this to go on until Sakura gets too close to her butt. Then all she gives a little hiss and growl until Sakura runs away. Keep in mind, this is a cat who is generally a murder machine the instant a cat gets within her line of sight. I think once Sakura gets done being terrified and starts to just hang out, Misha won’t even care she’s in there so long as her bed remains hers alone.

So we are now the happy owners of a very gregarious cat, who is now settled in to the point where she keeps up a regular stream of commentary (she definitely has that Siamese tendency to talk!). Meet Sakura no Hana, our new baby girl.

Image shows me standing with a seal-point Siamese cat in my arms. She has a white strip up her nose and is staring curiously at the camera. There is a rack of plants behind us.


*Yes, my tongue is jammed in my cheek right there. I’m glad she was able to find a living situation where she could bring her kiddos to be with her. But I’ll miss those two. They were great cats.

You might notice the featured image for this post is actually Misha. Photo uploads aren’t working for ETEV right now and you can’t use a link from Flickr, sooooo. Have some Misha, who is making herself a bed on some LED orchids.

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Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/2017/03/05/part-3-nazi-conscience-chapter-2-politics-virtue/ Sun, 05 Mar 2017 12:14:00 +0000 https://the-orbit.net/entequilaesverdad/?p=32062 The post Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue appeared first on En Tequila Es Verdad.

Content note for antisemitism, Trump, eliminationist rhetoric.

Hitler managed to persuade a German court to hand him a mild 5-year sentence for treason, rather than deporting him or imprisoning him for life. But he’d had to tone down his bigotry for the courts, and his followers were upset.

They needn’t have worried.

Hitler, once his future was secure, was more than happy to return to spouting his poisonous antisemitism. He assured them that his earlier ideas about the Jews were, if anything, “too mild.” He cast the conflict between Jews and Germans as “a question of life and death.” He turned his attention toward spewing venom to Rudolph Hess, who compiled his ravings into the book that would become Mein Kampf. He amped up his exterminationist rhetoric, describing Jews as parasites, freeloaders, “a dangerous bacillus,” maggots, and poisoners. He called for their extermination.

So, remember: if a Nazi or other bigot dials back their rhetoric in the face of legal trouble or social sanctions, don’t trust their change of heart until it’s backed up by subsequent, sustained actions. Watch for them to return to and possibly intensify their previous hateful speech and actions. Once the coast is relatively clear, they will revert to their true selves.

Hitler spent a mere ten months in prison, and once he was released, he set about unifying his followers before reaching out for new ones. He’d learned how to dog whistle. Because more educated people wouldn’t respond as favorably to overt bigotry, and because fomenting hate and violence could get him silenced or deported, he resorted to a more veiled antisemitism. He would speak about “one single enemy.” He used racist humor and metaphors.

He would link “Jewish” to despised values like urbanism, materialism, and greed. For comic relief, he joked about “upstart Jewish composers, scribblers, painters who drown our Volk in their pathetic trash [Dreck].” In a typical three-hour speech, Hitler would mention Jews in passing, as in a slur against the “Jewish press” for promoting decadent “Jimmy [probably a reference to Jim Crow] culture.” He would blame moral degeneration on sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews, which he called “racial treason” (Rassenschande) or “bastardization.”

These are all techniques and phrases that have been used by our modern Nazis, virtually word-for-word.

At that time, in the mid-1920s, the Nazis had secured less than 6% of the vote. Hitler knew he had to modify his rhetoric to appeal to a broader swathe of the German electorate. He stopped proclaiming his racial hate at every possible opportunity, expressing it only where and when it would further his ambitions. And he wasn’t afraid to accuse critics of being just as antisemitic as he was.

The projection is familiar, but with a plurality of the electoral college behind him, our off-brand American Hitler doesn’t have to soften his own rhetoric. You do, however, see our modern Nazis putting a civilized mask over their abhorrent ideology in order to win over a wider swathe of the population. They know they can’t win the numbers they need if they’re too open with their hideous beliefs. So they follow the lead of their hero Hitler, and dial it back in public. The fact they’re becoming bold enough to be a bit more careless with showing their true faces should terrify us. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think they had enough support to get away with it.

We must drive these views back underground by exposing them for what they are and making it utterly clear they have no place in a civilized democracy. We need to make Nazis afraid again. We’ve seen exactly what happens when they seize power and become bold.

Image is the cover of The Nazi Conscience. It shows a brown-uniformed man digging while a man in traditional German folk costume holds a pole that has a swastika banner on it.
We’re studying The Nazi Conscience as a way to prepare for what’s happening now. If you want to read along, you can pick up an inexpensive used copy at Amazon. Buying through that link also supports my blogging, so thank you!

Intro • Prologue1.1

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