I get email…from the presidential inauguration committee?

WTF? This junk mail was actually sent to me from a committee which appears to be the real deal.

Thank you for signing up for your 2017 Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration tickets! Together, we’re going to kick-off the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Michael R. Pence. We’re excited that you’re going to be a part of this historic event.

What: Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration
When: Thursday, January 19, 2017
Time: Concert from 4PM – 6PM. Gates open at 12:30PM and close at 3:30PM.
Where: Lincoln Memorial

What: Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony
When: Friday, January 20, 2017
Time: Ceremony begins at 11:30 AM. Gates open at 6 AM.
Where: United States Capitol

Your commemorative ticket(s) will be emailed to you.

For more information, follow us on social media and be sure to visit the website: www.58pic2017.org

I did not sign up for tickets to Trump’s pathetic “triumph”. One possibility is that some pest signed me up for this, something that happens surprisingly often (I have been signed up for “free trial subscriptions” to all kinds of bizarre magazines, for instance). The other is that they are so desperate for attendees that they are mass-mailing this crap to everyone. Has anyone else been invited?

First class done!


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?


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.

Blockbuster movies I have seen in the past year and cannot remember anything about the plot

I must be getting old and senile. There is something wrong with my brain. I have seen all of these movies in the past year, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what happened in them.

  • Doctor Strange
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • X-Men Apocalypse
  • Suicide Squad
  • Batman vs. Superman

I know I attended them. I recall blurs of cgi, loud explosions, and chaotic stories in which the fate of the world hung in the balance, but I can’t remember, or care, about a danged thing that happened in them. It’s weird, but there are also little snippets of things associated with them that are surely false memories.

  • Tilda Swinton was an old Asian dude? That can’t be.
  • Sabotage defeats the bad guys. Not the act of sabotage, but the song by the Beasty Boys. With lots of cgi.
    Strangely, I can vividly remember the Beasty Boys’ music video of the song, but not what happened in the movie.
  • A confusing ensemble cast re-enacting the plot of The Mummy?
  • A bomb blows the head off a super-character we all cared so little about they didn’t even bother to introduce him.
  • There’s something about Martha? And it disgusted me?

This is also an oddly spotty problem. I can recall everything about Mad Max: Fury Road, for instance.

Either I have to go in for a neurological check-up, or all of Hollywood does. The latter is highly unlikely, right?

Love, fear, mortality

I am haunted by a dream, a dream that is far too likely to be true, and wakes me up in the middle of the night. In this dream, my wife wakes up in the morning to find my body cold and still in the bed next to her. I feel no pain for myself — I’m dead — but I burn with the agony of loss that she feels, and the pain that wracks her when she calls our kids, and the reverberations of sadness that I will be responsible for causing. If you live life in the embrace of friends and family, you know what I’m talking about. Love and happiness exact a cost, every moment filling a pool of tears that grows deeper with our closeness, and as we grow older they well close to the surface, until…they inevitably break and fall in sorrow and grief.

I’ve been married for thirty-six years. Thirty six years of inseparable mutual devotion in which a lachrymal ocean has grown, that we work together to shore up and contain, because there will be a flood of grief when that dark shore is crossed. I can imagine some grim shadow of it. I can dread it.

And I can sympathize when the partner of long-time commenter Nerd of Redhead dies after 43 years of marriage. That is a rending I don’t want to contemplate…and yet it’s what haunts me, too.

Terry Pratchett, the author for our times

io9 has compiled 10 most appropriate Pratchett quotes for those of us feeling a bit unhappy right now. Here’s two I really like..

Commander Vimes didn’t like the phrase “The innocent have nothing to fear,” believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like “The innocent have nothing to fear.”

There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty.

The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: ‘What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass! And at the other end of the bar the world is full of the other type of person, who has a broken glass, or a glass that has been carefully knocked over (usually by one of the people calling for a larger glass), or who had no glass at all, because they were at the back of the crowd and had failed to catch the barman’s eye.

They left out the one I’m feeling right now.

If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.

I bet some of you have a favorite Pratchett quote. Share.

Course Design: Behold! A Syllabus!


Wow. I think I’m ready to go. I’ve put the Biol 4182 EcoDevo syllabus together, I’ve got the courseware (we use Moodle) site ready to go, and I’ve put together the notes for the first week’s lectures/discussions, and now I just have to upload that syllabus and make it available to all the students…and then watch the course withdrawals come flooding in.

No! They’re going to appreciate it! We’re going to learn so much together this term!

Classes start a week from today. I’m more prepared than usual.

Life choices

I could not live in a warm climate — the constant low level discomfort would be intolerable. But today, after spending a half hour outside, I realized that at least I wouldn’t experience the intense, outright pain that one feels at -20°C. I guess it’s a choice between short periods of sharp physical pain vs. long periods of unpleasantness, and I choose pain over discomfort.

But I at least can sympathize a bit with people who choose otherwise. I can’t feel my hands right now, and my toes are whimpering at me.