Dec 06 2013
Dec 06 2013
Gwen Pearson makes a really good point about the Ark Park: there has been virtually no thought put into animal care, and it’s an abuse scene waiting to happen.
I’ve helped manage and care for a wide assortment of wild and domestic animals, big and small, over the course of my career. There is a HUGE amount of paperwork, documentation, and inspections involved in having captive animals. It is, frankly, a gigantic pain in the ass, and the animals are healthier and receive better care because of all the annoying, complex rules. That’s why the Ark project set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head.
Keeping animals in captivity is really, really difficult. By gathering animals together in an artificial environment you concentrate all the poop and pee, and just make it easier for diseases to rapidly spread. (Got a kid in daycare? You know exactly what I’m talking about.)
As caretakers we have an ethical duty to provide captive animals with the food and environment they need to stay healthy. Doing that takes specialized knowledge. If you have raptors or game birds, they can get bumblefoot just from the wrong kind of perches. Feeding an imbalanced diet, or just not noticing a raptor is off its food, can tip a bird into a metabolic crash. Ducks can get a fatal type of herpes.
And they’re doing everything backwards! They originally planned to stock their fake ark with a menagerie, and are now backing off and plan to use some live animals and a mix of animatronic and stuffed animals now, but this is exactly the reverse of what you do in setting up a facility that will contain live animals:
Those were some early ideas about how we’re going to lay things out, and we are going to fine tune those as we get the final plans back from the architects. The architects are planning the building, lighting, air conditioning, ventilation. Once that is done, then our display design team will take those plans… we have 132 bays that we’ll have available for exhibits.
Wait…they’re planning the ventilation first, and then they’ll think about how to shove animals into their 132 bays? How many ways can that go wrong?
I guess it’s only to be expected from idiots so remote from biology that they’ll design a zoo based on a few paragraphs of mythology in a religious text.
For those of you not imbedded in the academic bureaucracy, “IACUC” is “Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee”, an organization that oversees appropriate and ethical care of laboratory animals.
Dec 05 2013
Read this excellent long form expose of James Arthur Ray, the New Age guru who had been promoted by Oprah and who then ended up scamming swarms of people and killing a few of them in a ridiculous sweat lodge ceremony.
Or watch the video.
Or do both!
Daytime talk shows do a really good job of pandering to gullible people and elevating con artists like Ray as “spiritual leaders”. Oprah has been pushing phonies and frauds for years, poisoning the citizenry with nonsense…and getting obscenely rich in the process.
Dec 05 2013
Heh. So the Republicans are running scared: they don’t know how to talk to or about women. So they’re having training sessions to teach Republican candidates how to address (or perhaps, more importantly, how not to address) women..
"The National Republican Congressional Committee wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year, so it’s meeting with top aides of sitting Republicans to teach them what to say — or not to say — on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman," Politico reports.
One problem: for this to work, Republicans will have to learn how to talk like progressive, liberal Democrats. There might be a small conflict there.
Dec 04 2013
Next week is the last week of classes. I am behind on my grading. I am on a search committee — phone interviews next week. My driveway is covered in snow. I have 3 exams to write right now. Immediately after finals I’m flying off to Boulder, Colorado. I may be slightly unresponsive to external stimuli for a time.
That is all.
Dec 04 2013
I know, the Republicans have declared that racism is over, but we all read that wrong. What they really want to do is declare that talking about racism is over. We all know that the Republican Party is the most racist party in the country — they actually depend on fomenting racist attitudes to get elected nowadays — so they have a vested interest in getting us to shut up about racism in the US.
That way we wouldn’t notice events like this: three high school kids waiting for a bus their coach arranged to take them to basketball practice get arrested. For loitering and obstructing the sidewalk. Wait, waiting is what you’re expected to do at a bus stop, right? Yes, but waiting while black is apparently a crime in Rochester, New York.
I’m sure the cops were confirmed in their righteous efforts to keep riff-raff off the streets as soon as they heard those names: Daequon, Wan’Tauhjs, and Raliek. I wonder if the kid on the right was actually wearing a hoody while waiting for the bus? So many racial signifiers, so many justifications for arrest. You want evidence for structural racism in America? There it is.
And here’s another example: white people resisting attempts to even teach them about racism. At Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney was teaching about structural racism in a communications class — it’s a rather important topic and appropriate to the subject — when students complained.
[One of the white students asked,] ‘Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?’ I was shocked… It was not in a calm way. His whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.
Another white male student said, ‘Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?’
I tried to say, ‘You guys are trying to take it personally. This is not a personal attack. We’re not all white people, you white people in general. We’re talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.’
And so I’m quite familiar, unfortunately, with how that works — and how the institutional structures and powers reinforce this white male supremacy, basically, and that sort of narrative, and way of seeing the world.
And so I said, ‘You know, if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.’
“Why do we have to talk about this.” That’s like the common whine of every entitled, selfish, child of privilege: do not question my right to have all the things, do not challenge my status, do not ask me to look down and notice all the people I’m trampling, do not ask me to recognize the oppressed as human beings. It was entirely right of her to inform them that they could go complain to the administration, and it is entirely right that they did so.
Two white guys complaining that their teacher was teaching them about racism? You might think that it’s a foregone conclusion that Minneapolis Community and Technical College would dismiss that concern pretty quickly. You’d be wrong. Structural racism, remember?
The vice president of student affairs at MCTC filed a formal reprimand of Shannon Gibney. Against a black teacher teaching a class about racism!
“I definitely feel like I’m a target in the class. I don’t feel like students respect me,” she continued. “Those students were trying to undermine my authority from the get-go. And I told the lawyer at the investigatory meeting, ‘You have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.’”
MCTC doesn’t have to worry. Word will get around that the school is only for white folks, and their student body and faculty will get whiter and whiter, and conflict will be minimized, and the white men will be affirmed in their smug privilege, and all will be well as long as we don’t look down.
We’ve got a few of the same smug people at UMM, but at least our administration doesn’t support them. But even here, the magic word “diversity” can be used to mask inaction and even direct discussion of the problem. Talking about racism is over. Continuing to demand discussion about it is grounds for a reprimand.
Dec 04 2013
But I think a movie about it could be interesting. If you’ve never heard of it, Sedona is kind of the epicenter of a whole webwork of New Age nuttiness — it’s what you get when liberals go full-on faith-head.
Carrie Poppy, Brian Thompson, and Adam Isaak are running a kickstarter to make an expose of the whole silly mess. If you’re feeling nice, it’s an opportunity to help them get a nice camera and some travel expenses; if you’re one of those mean skeptics, look at it as donating to send them off to get a colonic irrigation on camera. Win-win!
Dec 04 2013
Sometimes, it’s the little things that just add up and fill me with rage. Like this report on bank employees.
Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.
Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center.
We are all supplementing banks so that they can screw over their employees at the bottom, and throw more of their cash to the owners at the top. The plutocrats want it both ways: they want a complete absence of regulation so they can continue to plunder profits, and they want poor, desperate people to do their labor for a pittance, with government aid. You might argue that banks have faced all kinds of problems lately, so maybe they’re lean from top to bottom, but we know that’s not true.
Profits at the nation’s banks topped $141.3 billion last year, with the median chief executive pay hovering around $552,000, according to SNL Financial. In contrast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median annual income of a bank teller at $24,100, or $11.59 an hour.
This cannot continue, and I’m getting too old to want to live through a revolution.
Dec 03 2013
I was amused to see this review of the history of zebrafish publications. It describes some of the trends in the research (read: lots of developmental biology), and plots the number of papers published. I started working with zebrafish in 1979, so I’ve marked where I began.
You know, when I started out as a grad student in this field, the literature search was pretty easy. Almost all the people who had published on this model system were right there in this one collection of labs at the University of Oregon, with a few other former students scattered elsewhere, so I could just turn to all of the primary authors and ask them directly about anything. There were a few older papers, but as I recall, almost all of them had to do with zebrafish as guinea pigs in environmental toxicology studies.
It’s a little bit different now.
(Of course, that didn’t mean I didn’t have lots to read — the questions were all focused on neurobiological and developmental topics in other organisms. Even now you shouldn’t center your reading on just one experimental animal!)