A big deal on campus

My little university is hosting the Minnesota Out! Campus Conference this year — and it’s looking like a very well organized and busy event.

MOCC 2016 is hosted by the University of Minnesota Morris!

MOCC is a premier opportunity for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the surrounding areas to discuss issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex , asexual, and two spirit persons (LGBTQIA2S+) on college and university campuses and in the greater community

You’re invited this November 11-13, 2016 to join the University of Minnesota Morris for MOCC 2016. This year’s theme is “Connecting to Our Roots: Where We’re From and Where We’re Going.”

By inviting leaders from across the state to our community we hope to encourage a conversation on discussing how we can best support LGBTQIA2S+ communities in the face of numerous challenges and limited resources. In places such as Morris, opportunities to host events such as MOCC are few and far between. And, as such, hosting this conference means a great deal to us! We are proud of the work we have accomplished and hope to use this conference as a catalyst to create even greater change at our small campus and the community surrounding it.

I hope there’s good attendance — we need more people to come on out to our little town on the prairie to see that rural America can be open and tolerant and welcoming.

How full of it is Sean Hannity?

I admit, I watched this whole video. But I had an excuse! You see, it’s Sean Hannity explaining to you, the American people how Donald Trump won the big debate the other day, and his reasoning was so full of shit that I was sure it was going to start leaking out of his eyes, and maybe his skin would split open and he’d erupt into a spectacular shit fountain right there on camera. He started off by explaining…

…how out of touch the mainstream media is with you, the American people

I started thinking, wait a minute, this is on Fox News, a major media company, and Hannity has a radio show, so isn’t he a big dopey part of the mainstream media? Is he even aware that he has begun by explaining that he is out of touch?

If you listen to the elites and the punditry class on television and radio, they almost universally, they think, Hillary Clinton won the debate…

Hang on, this is getting ridiculous. Hannity has a net worth of about $80 million; he’s one of those “elites”. All he does is uninformed blather on television and radio, so he is definitely one of the “punditry class”. And he’s telling us how we shouldn’t trust guys like him? So meta. So self-referential. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the shitsplosion.

Then he explains how he knows Clinton actually lost the debate: because online polls at places like Breitbart and Drudge say so. You know what I think of online polls: they are totally meaningless, especially when there are special interest groups specifically flooding those polls with fake votes.

And then at the end, he dismisses those other journalists because being a pundit is such a cushy lifestyle.

Now, my overpaid friends in the media, well, they have their chauffeured limousines, they like their fine steakhouses and expensive wine lifestyles.

I guess he’d know. Hannity gets paid $29 million per year, and owns a private jet, which he uses to flit politicians around as a favor. Yet he has the gall to get all folksy with the little people and tell them how awful those other pundit aristocrats are.

If there were a god, that’s the point where a crack should have opened beneath his feet and Hannity should have been dragged screaming into the flaming pit of hell by an army of demons. But there is no god, so he simply smirked, left, took his chauffeured limousines to a fine steakhouse and gurgled down a couple of bottles of overpriced wine.

I include the video for completeness’ sake, but there’s no point in actually watching it, since he starts out as an evil slug, there is no justice, and it ends, and he’s still an evil slug, who will make more money in a year than I will in a lifetime.

We are not going to escape to other planets


Why do people take Elon Musk seriously? I know he’s been successful with his car business, and SpaceX is making great progress, but every time he opens his mouth he sounds like a delusional maniac, or worse, he sounds like the Discovery “Five Year Goals” Institute. His latest extremely optimistic plans are rather unbelievable.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has outlined his highly ambitious vision for manned missions to Mars, which he said could begin as soon as 2022 – three years sooner than his previous estimates.

He’s going to solve all the technical difficulties of that mission — and all of the expenses — in six years. I know the US made a commitment to land a man on the moon in a span of a decade (and succeeded!), but that involved a major effort by a nation, fueled by cold war competition. I don’t think Musk has that kind of clout.

Then, this is really unclear. I assume he’s only talking a small crewed mission in six years, not launching a rocket with 100 people aboard to Mars, but I don’t know — his optimism sounds like it’s going to explode out of the top of his head.

In order to achieve this goal, Musk outlined a multi-stage launch and transport system including a re-usable booster like the Falcon 9 which SpaceX has already successfully tested – only much larger. The booster, and “interplanetary module” on top of it, would be nearly as long as two Boeing 747 aircraft. It could initially carry up to 100 passengers, he said.

That can’t work as a Mars vehicle. A 747 holds 400-500 people in cramped quarters for short hops, but doesn’t need to carry elaborate life-support systems, food, water, and air, and all the fuel for a 260 day journey. But the highest capacity destination in Earth orbit, the ISS, has only 6 sleep stations and has held at most 10 people at once. So I’m not sure why he’s planning a large space bus right now. Especially when he freely states that the current cost of a seat on that bus would be about 10 billion dollars.

But at least he’s solved the really important issue of what to name his space ship already.

The first ship to go to Mars, Musk said, would be named Heart of Gold as a tribute to the ship powered by an “infinite improbability drive” from Douglas Adams’ science fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And it wouldn’t be a Musk event without some mention of the locust mindset. We’re all gonna die if we have to stay on this huge planet we’re adapted to live on, so we’ve got to get a few people to the off-world colonies, which we know are all inhospitable hell-holes. But…but…EXTINCTION EVENT.

He said there were “two fundamental paths” facing humanity today. “One is that we stay on Earth forever and then there will be an inevitable extinction event,” he said. “The alternative is to become a spacefaring civilization, and a multiplanetary species.”

We know a few things about extinction events, having caused a few for other species. We know, for instance, that a major cause is habitat destruction, elimination of the environment to which the species is well-suited and capable of independent survival. If you want to foster the survival of a species, building a big steel-and-glass enclosure that holds a few representatives that you have to feed and care for artificially is only a stop-gap measure — you want them to thrive, you have to restore their environment fully.

Face reality. If planet Earth goes, so does humanity. It’s the end. Game over. Putting a few of our people in a self-imposed space zoo does not save the species, it only prolongs the agony briefly. If you really care about the problems facing humanity, and are thinking extremely long term, you have to appreciate that a species is part of a larger system that must be maintained.

So please do explore the universe and send rockets and people to other planets — I think that’s cool, and a part of what we overgrown monkeys do. But when you frame it as “saving the species”, I know you’re an ignorant fool and will stop trusting you to be competent at whatever other goals you have.

Tonight at Cafe Scientifique

Some guy is giving a public lecture here in Morris, Minnesota. I was wondering why I was feeling a little frazzled and over-extended this week.

Event Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 – 6:00pm
Location: Common Cup Coffeehouse

Anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology.
The next Café Scientifique will take place on Tuesday, September 27, at 6 p.m. at the Common Cup Coffeehouse (501 Atlantic Avenue, Morris, MN 56267). Associate Professor of Biology PZ Myers and Katrine Sjovold ’18, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will lead the discussion: “Cells in Motion: How Cells Move to Build Embryos, Create Patterns, and Cause Cancer.”

Myers and Sjovold have been studying migrating cells in zebrafish embryos as a model for how cells rearrange themselves in constructing tissues, organs, and organisms. They have focused on melanocytes, the cells that make pigment stripes in the animal, because their behavior is universal and is also important in human diseases, like melanoma.

Café Scientifique is an ongoing series that offers a space where anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology for the price of a cup of coffee. Meetings take place outside of a traditional academic context and are committed to promoting public engagement with science. Interested audiences can look forward to additional discussions typically on the last Tuesday of selected months.

Café Scientifique is supported in part by a grant to the University of Minnesota, Morris from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs. For more information, visit morris.umn.edu/hhmi.

How not to apologize

This is an amazing response. VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) reviewed a young-adult book and flagged it as “recommended for mature junior and senior high readers” because it used naughty language and one of the main characters was described as bisexual. Not that it described sexual activity explicitly, but simply that the character was stated to be bisexual.

Horrors. Can’t have young people discovering that sexuality isn’t a simple binary switch.

Just to make it even more fun, the review was published around the time of Bisexual Awareness Week. So readers called out the magazine for their inappropriate and thoughtless commentary. Wait until you get a load of how VOYA responded to that.


I’m impressed. That’s a world-class notpology. But it looks like they’ve practiced a lot, because the whole magazine went into a prolonged notpological freakout over the fact that readers criticized them.

This has led me to the SorryWatch blog, which is most entertainingly horrifying. But they also have an excellent post on what makes a good apology, and a fun post on what makes for a bad apology. Both are useful resources.

Lifting a weight off her mind

This is Clinton now.

I aim to help. Relax. Because no matter what she does, the media will find a way to exaggerate the inconsequential into catastrophe. Al Gore’s “sigh”, Howard Dean’s “yell”, her performance won’t matter at all. All Trump needs to do is say something incredibly stupid, get her to react, (or not react; there is no safe choice), and he wins.

Catholicism is really weird and ghoulish

The Catholic church is proudly taking the excised heart of a dead monk on a grand tour of the US. Literally. They gouged the heart out of the corpse of Padre Pio and are exhibiting it across the country.


Don’t worry. It may be incorruptible, but spectators won’t be touching it or even getting a good look at it because it is sealed for their protection within a plastic box. But, like gamma rays, apparently saint rays can pass freely through thin sheets of plastic.