The Vogons have landed

You know how everything Trump says should be read as pure projection? When he complains about corruption it’s because he’s about to launch a kleptocracy, etc.? You should read the poem written for his inauguration.

My god.

Oh my fucking god.

Come out for the Domhnall, ye brave men and proud,
The scion of Torquil and best of MacLeod!
With purpose and strength he came down from his tower
To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power.
Now the cry has gone up with a cheer from the crowd:
“Come out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!”
When freedom is threatened by slavery’s chains
And voices are silenced as misery reigns,
We’ll come out for a leader whose courage is true
Whose virtues are solid and long overdue.
For, he’ll never forget us, we men of the crowd
Who elected the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
When crippling corruption polluted our nation
And plunged our economy into stagnation,
As self-righteous rogues took the opulent office
And plump politicians reneged on their promise,
The forgotten continued to form a great crowd
That defended the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
The Domhnall’s a giver whilst others just take,
Ne’er gaining from that which his hands did not make.
A builder of buildings, employing good men,
He’s enriched many cities by factors of ten.
The honest and true gladly march with the crowd
Standing up for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
True friend of the migrant from both far and near,
He welcomes the worthy, but guards our frontier,
Lest a murderous horde, for whom hell is the norm,
Should threaten our lives and our nation deform.
We immigrants hasten to swell the great crowd
Coming out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
Academe now lies dead, the old order rots,
No longer policing our words and our thoughts;
Its ignorant hirelings pretending to teach
Are backward in vision, sophomoric in speech.
Now we learnèd of mind add ourselves to the crowd
That cheers on the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
The black man, forgotten, in poverty dying,
The poor man, the sick man, with young children crying,
The soldier abroad and the mother who waits,
The young without work or behind prison gates,
The veterans, wounded, all welcome the crowd
That fights for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
Whilst hapless old harridans flapping their traps
Teach women to look and behave like us chaps,
The Domhnall defends the defenseless forlorn;
For, a woman’s first right is the right to be born.
Now the bonnie young lassies that fly to the crowd
Have a champion in Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
But for all his great wisdom, the braw gallant man
Is matched by his children, the handsome Trump clan,
And the flower of Europe, Melania the fair,
Adds a luster and grace with her long flowing hair.
May they flourish and prosper to form a great crowd
Around the good Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!
Is there man left in Scotland, without base alloy,
Who remembers the Wallace, the Bruce, or Rob Roy?
Or have five hundred years of a blasphemous lie
Robbed your manhood of might that you lay down and die?
Get up and walk free, all ye brave men and proud!
Long life to the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

JESUS, I’M BLIND! Or at least, I’ve really got a terrible headache.

Don’t tell the Cuttlefish. He’ll be whirling in his grave, moments after that poem killed him.

I’m doing him no favor, but I will acknowledge the author, Joseph Charles MacKenzie of The Society of Classical Poets, who, I think, might be related to Ewan McTeagle.

First class done!

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It’s going to be a l o n g semester. 8am is rough; I provided hot water and tea, and we had a mid-class break so anybody could run out for coffee or just slap themselves awake. Then, to ease them in, we talked about an easy topic. We talked about Italy! I would love to visit Italy someday — it’s number one on my list of desirable travel destinations that haven’t visited yet. I also saw an opportunity to get all liberal artsy and talk history and philosophy and art, as well as science, because these are all related.

Here’s my cryptic whiteboard at the first half of the class. Can you guess what we talked about, and how it was at all relevant to developmental biology?

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The students weren’t particularly responsive — I think they were regarding this as something like a dental appointment. But it is the first day, and I’m going to be hammering on them that they need to be alert and interactive and contribute, so they’ll warm to it eventually. Or they won’t, and it’ll be a really long semester.

I am ready.

I just finalized the schedule for my third course this term (Biological Communications, an independent study/writing course) and contacted the four students taking it from me. I’m prepared for my first lecture at 8am tomorrow, mostly ready for my second, and I have the student assignments all laid out and ready to go. I think I know what I’m doing.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Selma

From this remarkable collection of photos of the Selma-to-Montgomery march:

Here are the people marching for dignity and respect and equality.

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Here are some of the white hecklers lined up alongside that march, jeering at the people fighting for social justice.

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Nothing has changed from 1965 to 2017, except that the hecklers are now mocking those goals online.

Be like the marchers in Selma. Don’t be like the hecklers.

Cheap toy failures

The other day, when I was doing some online shopping, an ad popped up for a clip-on microscope for my phone. I thought, “I’m a professional microscopist! I should have a microscope I can carry around in my pocket!” and on a whim, I ordered it. It was only $8, so what the hey.

My dream has not yet been accomplished, I’m sad to report.

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First sign of trouble: It claims 60-100x magnification, and looking inside, there’s a cheap plasticky looking lens set well back inside — it’s got maybe a 30mm focal length. Nope, that’s not going to work. I haven’t even tried it yet and I’m doubtful.

Next step is to attach it to your phone, which is really, really easy, using a big clip to clamp it to the camera lens. Except that the clamp is not very solid, and your phone is going to be hanging off to the side. It won’t stay clamped for long. You also just have to eyeball the positioning, since there’s nothing to lock it in alignment with the phone camera lens. Aligning it is a constant struggle. The clamp can’t even hold the phone in place, it certainly won’t hold it in alignment. If you’re lucky enough to get a picture, be prepared for uncontrollable wobbly vignetting.

The next problem: there are a couple of crude, hard to work knobs on the side. One is for magnification: forget it. Set it to the lowest mag, “60x”, and just leave it there. The other is the focus knob, which is also clumsy and hard to turn. Now imagine juggling a loosely held phone clipped to the side of this thing, you’re trying to hold it steady because any wobble will shift the camera lens away from the “microscope”, and you’ll understand that this is a frustrating exercise in imppossibly precise coordination.

So I got it together, pulled out a couple of prepared, stained slides of chick embryo sections, about the easiest targets possible, and tried to take a picture. Nooooope. I briefly saw a few images wander by, afflicted with ghastly spherical and chromatic aberration, but if I moved a finger to click a picture, they’d wander off again. I thought briefly about making it work with a couple of ringstands and some clamps, but realized that the agglomeration would be bigger than my dissecting scope and produce crappier pictures, so there was no point.

Caveat emptor. You get what you pay for. Sometimes less than what you pay for.

I got it

Christianity has a martyr complex. They always think they’re being persecuted, when they’re not — so you hear constantly about Romans throwing them to lions, but never about how Christianity coopted the Roman imperial bureaucracies, and eventually the emperor himself, to rule over the Western world. They claim that Hitler was an atheist, ignoring the fact that he banned Darwin, not the Bible, had the support of the German Catholic church, and encouraged faith in his people. So I knew exactly where this cartoon would have to go, if it were at all honest.

Our current autocrat is supported by Christian evangelicals. Damn few are hanging their heads in shame (although, to be fair, some are).

Let’s face it, though: the success of the Christian religion has partly rested on its eager willingness to aid and abet authority, unlike, for example, Judaism. Mainstream Christianity has been an enabler, not a critic, of secular authority, no matter how oppressive it may be. There have been exceptions — liberation theology, for instance — but then the Church turns to oppose and oppress them.