Commies everywhere!

I’ve just discovered the literary works of Mildred Houghton Comfort, a woman who wrote a number of biographies of Important Men of American Capitalism, back in the good old days of the 1950s. William L. Knight, Industrialist. Walt Disney, Master of Fantasy. John Foster Dulles, Peacemaker. Little Punk, the Baby Elephant. She was a prolific supporter of the conservative status quo.

These aren’t exactly popular books any more, but you can still find a few old used copies for sale. She also wrote J. Edgar Hoover, Modern Knight Errant, and there are a few pages from that scanned and available on the interwebs. It’s horrifying.


Disclaimer: I was born in the 1950s, but I was tiny and innocent and unaware and had no idea what was going on. I became conscious in the late 1960s, a much more copacetic decade. This kind of crap was more the product of The Greatest Generation, which I’ve heard was perfect and admirable in all ways, unlike all other generations of Americans.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Ms Houghton Comfort, other than when she lived: 1886-. That emptiness after the en dash is rather disquieting, and lacking in closure.

A word of warning about Hits & Mrs.


I’ve read Karen Stollznow’s new book, Hits & Mrs.. It’s fiction, a novel about a skeptical detective. But I need to warn you about two things.

It’s got sex in it. Not the kind of explicit recounting of urological details you’d find in pornography, but the characters are boinking regularly, and enjoying it.

One thing it lacks is reverence for organized skepticism — many skeptics are portrayed as jerks. It’s almost as if the author’s insider familiarity with the skepticism movement has disillusioned her.

Gosh. I imagine every one who reads this site is now horrified and is going to avoid the book.

The “moment” of fertilization?


What moment? Fertilization is a complex process, with a series of steps.

  • First, the sperm cell binds to the pellucid zone surrounding the egg. This is specific; sperm and egg have to recognize each other and bind appropriately. You don’t want the sperm to bind to every epithelial cell of the reproductive tract, after all, and you don’t want the egg cell to be receptive to every passing white blood cell.

  • This binding triggers the acrosome reaction. The tip of the sperm cell ruptures releasing enzymes that break down the glycoproteins surrounding the egg and exposing the sperm cell membrane and the egg cell membrane locally.

  • Those two membranes then fuse, and the sperm cell nucleus is drawn into the cortex of the egg. This is called docking and invagination.

  • Docking triggers a wave of electrical activity in the egg cell membrane; from the point of entry, a ring of depolarization sweeps rapidly across the egg, causing vesicles to fuse and dump their contents into the space surrounding the egg, creating a barrier to additional sperm trying to enter. This can be visualized using chromophores that change color in response to membrane voltage, or that react to the binding of calcium, the important ion that crosses the membrane at this step.

  • The germinal vesicles, or nuclei, of sperm and egg then move via cytoskeletal transport towards each other and fuse to create a single diploid nucleus.

[Read more…]

I have not seen or heard #lemonade

I am a sociocultural failure, I know. But I don’t have a subscription to either HBO or Tidal, so all I’ve got are tiny snippets. One thing I’ve heard more of is the strident yodeling about “Becky”, which is nicely explained on VSB. It’s telling, as well, that there is more irritation about a brief remark that is perceived as a slight against white people than several centuries of ongoing oppression of black people.

It also reminds me of something I experienced a few times when I worked at Temple University. There were a couple of occasions when the subway and trains were out of service, and I had to walk home to the northern suburbs…which meant strolling through North Philadelphia, which is a rough neighborhood, poor and neglected. I am a white professorial looking dude. I didn’t fit in. I startled a few people, I know, who were curious about me, and they’d ask. And that’s where the worst thing that happened to me in a black neighborhood occurred.

They all called me “Bob”.

Maybe it’s just a North Philly thing, but apparently the stereotypical white person is named “Bob”. I can sort of see it, I guess.

But otherwise, you know, I was unconcerned. I was walking through black communities, which are no more supportive of muggings or robberies than the white communities I was walking towards. And I could not get outraged at the trivial thing about a stereotypical name, because, as VSB explains…

There are two schools of thought on what qualifies something as racist. The first is that something is racist if the act stems from either a belief of racial superiority or a position of constructed/structural racial superiority. (Or both.) The second encompasses all unfavorable acts which might be race-based. Basically, one school of thought is right (the former) and one is wrong (the latter).

I agree, the first definition is the right one. “Becky” or “Bob” are not a danger to anyone. So why is that what so many people are concerned about?

And I know, I’ve got to find a way to watch Lemonade.


I am not happy to see Sanders sliding further away from the nomination — and I am not enthusiastic about Clinton. But I have to agree with George Takei.

I am not saying that Sanders should surrender — he should keep fighting for his cause as long as possible, and he should be doing his damnedest to shape the party platform (and maybe, as hope keeps whispering in my ear, maybe he’ll make a miraculous victory), but we have to focus on crushing the Republican party in all branches of government, and also on keeping the pressure on a certain conservative Democrat who is likely to be the nominee.

Cruz picks Fiorina for VP?

What is he thinking? This is an act of desperation, but I don’t get what she brings to the ticket. It’s as if he went looking for an unpleasant, unpopular person to complement his own unpopular unpleasantness. Or maybe he thinks McCain set a precedent.

Sure, it’ll bring more attention to his campaign, but it’s the kind of attention dog poop on a sidewalk brings — you make sure not to step in it.

Creationists and pterosaurs


Of course they don’t understand the science, and they don’t understand the history, either. The Institute for Creation Research makes an utter botch of the history of our knowledge of pterosaurs, arguing that because scientists have a different view of flying reptiles now than we did when they were first discovered, evolutionists have been getting it wrong all along.

Dave Hone explains why they’re wrong. For one thing, the first pterosaur fossils were found in the 18th century, before Darwin, so it’s kind of silly to pin the errors of interpretation on evolutionists — there weren’t any around. I’d also say it’s rather typical that it takes time and much research to establish an accurate interpretation, so basically this is a case where the creationist is complaining because scientific knowledge progresses.

But another thing leapt out at me in the ICR article.

The evolutionary timeline fails to match the most obvious pterosaur fossil data, but Genesis history readily explains them. First, pterosaur structure was flight-ready from the get-go because God created it to be. Second, a terrible, watery cataclysm like Noah’s Flood buried these winged creatures—often in the same layer as dinosaurs, fish, lizards, small mammals, and birds—leaving behind elegant, fully formed pterosaur fossils with no evidence that intermediary “also-ran” versions ever existed.

Oh, really? Pterosaurs are in the Bible? I don’t think so.

I also note the dishonest elision at the end, that pterosaurs are found in the same “layer” as small mammals. This is true. But these are not the small mammals we are familiar with — no squirrels, no mice, no voles or moles.

It’s all just wall-to-wall lies.

Carrie Poppy reads Of Pandas and People, so you don’t have to


Really, you don’t want to ever have to bother reading Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, the terrible textbook from the Discovery Institute that was at the heart of the Dover trial. It’s badly written sludge, warmed over creationism (remember “cdesign proponentsists”, the typo that was the result of a botched copy/replace of “design proponents” for “creationists”? That was from this book), and it’s basically an error-filled bad textbook.

Carrie Poppy read it for the Center for Inquiry. I don’t know why. Maybe the editors were playing a cruel trick, like saying “here’s a flashlight and a shovel; I need you to do an important investigative piece exploring my cesspool”, but she survived and has written a brief summary of a few things that leapt out at a lay person reading a pseudoscientific text. It’s entertaining.

But come to think of it, my bathroom sink is clogged. I’m sure there’s a story in it. I wonder if Carrie would like to stop by and venture into the world of old toothpaste, hair, and drainage?

By the way, I also talked about Pandas and the Dover trial in my intro class on Monday. It’s important to remember the ugly bits of history so we don’t repeat them.