An Atheist Grieves

I open my eyes and my first coherent thought is, “It is Monday. My dad’s been dead for three days.”

 

I need to email my professors. Let them know what happened. Be sure to use the word “unexpectedly” so they understand. So they can more accurately calculate my allowable allotment of grief. Let them know I didn’t complete the homework they assigned over the weekend. Let them know I won’t be on campus today. I won’t be on campus tomorrow either. Ask for more time.

 

I had 41 of his 62 years… but I’d kill for more time.

 

I wonder how long I’ll measure the passing of time in days since his death. He would have been amused by the thought that his death might spawn the birth of a new calendar. Just like all those people who think A.D. means “After Death”; Jesus crucified to kick off the Gregorian calendar.

 

I should really write this shit down.

 

Is staccato a thing that thoughts can be? Mine are. Staccato. Sharp and subtle and brief. Pizzicato. Plucked from the air for a flash and them gone. No… pizzicato was Friday. Sitting at the bus stop. Screaming into the phone.

 

“What? Oh god… I’m on my way. I’m on my way!”
Continue reading “An Atheist Grieves”

Carnivorous Rabbits and the Tasty Skeptical Mind

The story:

Rabbits have gone carnivorous. I saw it with my own eyes.

I was just minding my own business, going for my daily jog, when I saw these two fluffy bunnies chase down a stray mutt, kick it to death with their hind legs, and then tear into its matted hide. Just about scared me to death. I was so stunned I didn’t even think to try and shoo them away before they did the poor mutt in. I just stood there in the early morning sun, my jaw hanging down to my chest, watching them rip off hunks of dog meat and swallow it down like vultures. It wasn’t until one of the damn things looked up at me with its beady red eyes, buck teeth dripping with blood, that I finally shook off the shock of it all and ran home. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. So really, take my word for it, keep away from the bunnies.

 

Monty Python was right!
Monty Python was right!

Anyone out there actually believe that I saw two rabbits kill and eat a stray dog? Hell, anyone out there believe that I went for a morning jog? Probably not.
Continue reading “Carnivorous Rabbits and the Tasty Skeptical Mind”

Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

 

 

I’m currently operating under the belief that during my 13th year on this wonderful planet of ours, I rolled into a nest of teeny, tiny, brown recluse spiders while wrestling with my little brother. Here they were, just hanging out near the refuge of the egg sack they so recently emerged from, when all of the sudden they’re overcome by a giant meatbag rolling around in the wood chips like an idiot. I’m telling you this, not to brag about my mindless teen-aged escapades, but to provide a bit of framework for what ought to be a nasty case of arachnophobia.

 

Boo!
Boo!

 

I am not, however, afraid of spiders. Those little buggers are fucking fascinating. They’re just victims of really bad press.

The spider I became a little too familiar with all those years ago, the brown recluse, is a perfect example of runaway rumor turned Fox News fact. When I tell my spider bite story, many listeners automatically envision a scene of bloodcurdling gore where my rotting flesh was eaten away while I watched on in excruciating pain. After all, everyone knows that brown recluse bites lead to mortifying necrosis and possible death.

In reality, most brown recluse bites result in nothing more ominous than some localized redness and minor swelling, and of the small percentage of bites that do lead to necrosis an even smaller percentage prove cause for concern. More importantly, the vast majority of reported brown recluse bites… aren’t. Their title isn’t honorary, these spiders are naturally reclusive and much more likely to run and hide than attack. When they do bite, it’s generally because some oaf’s fleshy bits squashed up against them, leaving the poor little arachnid no other choice. Brown recluse bodies are delicate and easily injured, much more so than aggressive species like the Brazilian Wandering Spider. It simply doesn’t make evolutionary sense for them to play offense.

 

Come on... are these the eyes of a killer?

Come on… are these the eyes of a killer?

 

I opened this article with a statement of belief, rather than fact, for a very good reason. One simply cannot positively identify a spider based solely on the wound left by its bite. Descriptions aren’t typically much of a help either, as “tiny brown spider” describes thousands of species. When bitten, the only way to accurately identify the species of spider that did the biting is to catch it and hand it over to an expert. In my case, I didn’t bring a jar full of tiny spiderlings to the doctor’s office for identification, only the puss lined holes that eventually dotted the left side of my rib cage and a vague description. Nearly three decades later, I still have the scars, but I’ve lost the fear. The more I study arachnids of all stripes, the more fascinated I become. Those dashing little eight-legged wonders are AMAZING… but I’ll save the details for future tidbits.

To learn more about the spider branch of the arachnid tree, visit The Encyclopedia of Life.

10 Ways to Remain a Fundamentalist Christian

1. Don’t read this list.

This list quite obviously highlights those areas of fundamentalist Christianity I find to be problematic in today’s society with all of its knowledge and freedoms. Consider this a friendly warning – many of the items on this list hint at those factors which led to my own ‘fall from grace’.

2. When reading the bible, read only those portions mentioned by your pastor the previous Sunday -or- read only the bible verses assigned for the current date in a “read the entire bible in a year” program.

Pastors are quite unlikely to mention those portions of the bible that may seem ethically, or logically… unfortunate. The cold-blooded slaughter of the Midianites excluding, of course, the virginal girls; the production of patterned offspring in cattle brought on by placing streaked sticks in the water troughs of copulating flocks; or the God initiated mauling of children by bears for the unpardonable sin of teasing (Numbers 31:7-17, Genesis 30:37-39, and 2 Kings 2:23-24 respectively) rarely make up the bulk of a sermon or bible study. Pastors are also adept at placing each bible verse in the proper denominational context to prevent accidental individual analysis. If accomplished as intended, this context will feed your faith while starving any doubts or conflicts you may be harboring.
Continue reading “10 Ways to Remain a Fundamentalist Christian”

Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

 

It was once believed that female hyenas get so pumped up on androgens during mating season that they actually develop a pseudo-penis. While a slightly more complicated adaptation known as sexual mimicry is probably closer to the truth, androgens do play a role. Sex hormones closely associated with aggression, androgens such as androstenedione may allow female hyenas to develop the kind of attitude and physicality they need to effectively squabble for the food their developing babies require; but this advantage comes at a heavy price. Unlike humans, the vaginal canal of a female hyena is housed inside the clitorus. Thanks to sexual mimicry, this double-duty clitorus can measure up to seven inches in length, making the birth canal an exceptionally long tube of doom. Approximately the diameter of a quarter, some 60% of offspring born to first-time hyena mothers suffocate inside the fleshy contraption which frequently tears during birth. Occasionally, these tears are so severe that the mother bleeds to death.

"Back off George, I've changed my mind."
“Back off George, I’ve changed my mind.”

While female hyenas clearly got the short end of the stick, mating isn’t exactly a cake-walk for males either. Essentially attempting to inseminate a female through a straw, without the help of opposable thumbs, male hyenas may require months of practice before they’re capable of successfully performing the act. If human males were required to mount females from behind and insert their penis unto the female’s protruding vaginal canal by aiming up and back toward themselves simultaneously, I doubt we’d be worried about overpopulation.

For more information on spotted hyenas like the ones pictured above, visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

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Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

Earth Science Tidbit of the Day

 

There are more than 300 identified species of squid on Earth, but there are likely hundreds more species out there we simply haven’t gotten a glimpse of yet. While teuthologists (cephalopod specialists) around the globe are always on the lookout, it’s not very often that a new species simply stumbles into a net, let alone a new species weird enough to merit broad attention. In 1971 the Walther Herwig, a German research vessel, struck oddity gold when it pulled up its nets and found this tiny beauty.

Coming soon to SyFi - Mega Shark vs. Denta Squid
Coming soon to SyFi – Mega Shark vs. Denta Squid

Meet Promachoteuthis sulcus, a deep sea squid that was finally examined and described in 2007. Everything we know about this curiously grinning creature has been learned from the single specimen pictured above. Like other squid, P. sulcus has a beak that it presumably uses to render its unfortunate prey. Unlike other squid, P. sulcus covers its beak with a set of folded lips shaped suspiciously like human dentures. There are other characteristics that distinguish it from similar squid species, of course, but it’s really quite difficult to focus on anything past the nightmare fuel of its gaping maw. No worries though, caught off the coast of Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic, at a depth of 1,875 meters, it’s probably not hiding under your bed.

Probably.

For more information on Promachoteuthis sulcus, visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

 

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Heaven is for Sociopaths

Stop for a moment, close your eyes, and picture someone you love in flames. Picture their skin bubbling and bursting through waves of intense heat, picture it blackening and shrinking as they fall to their knees, their screams gurgling up from scorched lungs through their blistered throat, bursting from their charred lips to pierce the fetid air.

Now, imagine yourself picking fresh fruit in an abundant field, a joyous smile upon your face, cool grass beneath your feet, the air thick with floral scents and laughter. Sweet nectar clinging to your lips, you stop to run your fingers through the mane of a majestic lion before setting upon the golden path to your personal mansion, the lilting sounds of abundant water and generous praise wafting on the gentle breeze.

Now with more ethnicity!
Now with more ethnicity!

Continue reading “Heaven is for Sociopaths”