Biology is always more complicated than you expect

The first sign of a biased dilettante is when they try to reduce biological phenomena to a single parameter that exhibits a straightforward linear effect. It’s true of IQ, and it’s also true of testosterone. This is an excellent video that discusses the complex relationship of testosterone levels to athletic performance.

Why, it’s almost as if there are a thousand parameters, each nudging performance this way or that, and acting in a combinatorial fashion!

Political theater: Summoning an ambassador

When one government does something that displeases another, the latter government usually publicly signals its displeasure by announcing that it had ‘summoned for consultation the ambassador’ of the former country. This is a staple of reporting of international relations and gives the impression that the ambassador is given a stern talking to and is sent away with their tail between their legs.

But this article says that the whole thing is political theater.

In August 2015, three journalists from the al-Jazeera network were sentenced to jail in Egypt for “spreading false news”. Outside court, [UK ambassador John] Casson spoke on Egyptian television in Arabic to condemn the sentence.

Soon after, Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had summoned him to attend its offices. In doing so, it used one of the few diplomatic tools a host country has when it wants to make its anger felt to another country.

“I was called by the foreign ministry and was told ‘We need to see you immediately,'” Mr Casson tells the BBC. “The first thing they said was, ‘We are not summoning you, but we are going to tell the press we are summoning you. If it had been a summoning, we would have sent a formal diplomatic note summoning you.'”

This is the way things normally work in a summoning – a formal, polite, diplomatic note is sent to the relevant country’s embassy asking – but not really demanding – its representative to attend a meeting at the foreign ministry, or its equivalent. The medium of the summoning is the message, Mr Casson says.

“The main thing is that it is a piece of diplomatic theatre and everybody understands their role, and acts their role,” Mr Casson, who was in Cairo between 2014 and 2018, says. In London, the drama can involve being made to wait in the grand surroundings of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to understand the seriousness of the occasion.

Strange are the ways of diplomacy.

Spider Carnage

This weekend I had to mainly 1) prepare firewood for winter and 2) finish my first commissioned knife.

The customer had a look at the knife and I had to adjust the handle a bit so it fits in their hand. No biggie, but it was three hours of additional work all the same since I had to re-shape, re-polish and re-buff the endcap as well. When making knives that are not customer-specific I have to try and make the grips more universal sized and shaped. Or perhaps in different sizes?

Now the knife handle is being coated with boat lack, which is not a process that lends itself to being photographed. As far as the knife goes, you won’t see any new pictures until its finished. But next weekend, while the lacquer is drying and hardening, I am going to make the leather sheath and hopefully make som worthwhile pictures of that. I have not done too much of leatherwork yet, it will be fun.

In the meantime, I only can post a picture I made at work with my phone a few days ago. A gruesome image of one spider devouring another one. See below the fold. I have no idea what species or even genera they might be, but what I do find interesting that it is the slender-legged and fragile looking spider who is doing the devouring and the buff-looking hairy beast is the devoured.

[Read more…]

In case you’re wondering how Kavanaugh got on the Supreme Court…

It’s because toxic masculinity is so ingrained in the culture that the staid ol’ NY Times can publicly say that “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun”, and think that’s a good lead to a story about new testimony that confirms the accusations made against Kavanaugh.

I’ve never experienced that (I guess I attended the wrong kind of dorm party), but I’m a guy, I’d just find it inappropriate and disgusting. I can see how a woman would find it intimidating and insulting.

California Love

WOOOOOOOOOOOO California just outlawed private prisons! Some are talking about how this affects ICE detention centers, and sure that’s important, but this is fucking huge for human rights even beyond that issue. Public prisons are underfunded overcrowded dangerous messes, private prisons made those factors worse by bidding their way to the bottom of the barrel, feeding people moldy scraps and letting them die of horrific diseases. Shame this phase out plan is gonna take nine years. Now if they can just outlaw prison labor too – or at least restrict the scope of it to public works instead of a corporate slave industry – we might really be getting somewhere.

Web Exclusive: Democratic candidates for the IL54 State House District meet Palatine UFO Base staff (Fiction)

By Reporter X

File photo of Ryan Huffman

File photo of Maggie Trevor.

About fifty staff members of Palatine’s Rob Sherman UFO Base attended a meeting with two of the three Democratic candidates for the Illinois 54th State House District race. Maggie Trevor and Ryan Huffman were able to participate, and Syed Hussein was not.

“There are days I want to tell our local leaders about our base,” said Sheila Danforth, president of the Space Traffic Controllers Union local #2.  “Then, I remember that Tom Morrison is our state representative.  He calls himself a tax fighter, but he seems to spend more time fighting transgender people.  Can you imagine trying to explain the gender of a Ross 128 visitor to him?  He would embarrass Palatine and all humanity.  Now, these two candidates are worthy of being the first Cook County politicians to know about our UFO Base.”

Huffman introduced himself as a “data analyst, policy expert, and political activist,” who wants to continue the work he “started as a candidate for the Sixth Congressional District.”  He described his top-secret work with the Obama administration to bring alien energy efficiency devices to market.  After his failed primary bid for Congress, he became an interstellar affairs advisor for Sean Casten, who won in the general election.

“We have the chance to be part of the Interstellar Commonwealth, but it’s only a chance.  I want to lead the next generation of leaders who will prove humanity worthy of that chance.  I want to create an Illinois that is known as an interstellar beacon of progress, instead of known for its corrupt leaders.”

Huffman concluded by saying he was eager to hear about Trevor because he couldn’t find her web page.

Trevor replied: “Oh, some cybersquatter stole it while I was thinking about a second run for office.”

“They can sneak up on you if you’re not familiar with the Internet,” replied Huffman.

“I suppose.  So I guess I’m going to have to spend some of my $35,000 campaign fund to get it back.”

Huffman’s eyes widened, and he coughed several times.

“You do have a campaign fund, right?”

“Eventually,” Huffman replied. 

Trevor said that in addition to being a Harvard Fellow, an assistant professor, and an analyst, she also helped establish Iowa City’s Tigerhawk UFO Base in the 1990s.  She currently runs Trevor Research Services.

“Some people say I’m the female Sean Casten,” said Trevor.  “I prefer to think of Sean as the male Maggie Trevor.”

A member of the New World Order asked Huffman why he didn’t accept their offer to run for the Palatine village board. Huffman replied: “Serious issues are facing my generation that I can address on the state level.  I don’t have time to deal with which subdivisions have to pay a fee to be connected to a sewer line when my generation needs solutions to climate change, student debt, and political corruption.  It’s time for the Baby Boomers to get out of the way and let #generationscrewed become #generationrenewal.”

“Generation X always gets forgotten in these discussions,” said Trevor.  “Let me put it this way:  I will not let Tom abort the progress we’ve made in Illinois.  I will keep working and retrying until our state’s problems are fixed, and I will not let Illinois fail.  The 54th District can do better than a Tom Morrison theocracy.”

Morrison refused to be interviewed for this article. 

Note:  This is a work of fiction. Feel free to leave a comment here or in the Bolingbrook Babbler Readers Group. 

Anyone can get on a school board

Why, just look at the Brainerd school board. Sue Kern even made president!

During a recent meeting of the board, President Sue Kern asked two educators why evolution is being taught, reported the Brainerd Dispatch.

“Darwin’s theory was done in the mid-1800s and it’s never been proven,” Kern asserted to Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Murtha and Craig Rezac, a high school science teacher. “So I’m wondering why we’re still teaching it.”

To their credit, Murtha and Rezac remained poised and professional, calmly explaining to Kern that evolution has been documented, that it serves as the foundation of modern biology and, furthermore, its instruction is mandated by the state’s science standards.

Kern then went on to ask, “And with regard to Christian students – how do you do that? They’re taught not to agree with that, so.”

Rezac’s reply could not have been better: “This is science, and science deals with facts. It doesn’t deal with belief. It doesn’t have to be a dilemma or a concern for someone to choose between Christianity and evolution – that’s not what this is about. You can actually embrace both. It’s my duty as a teacher to teach science and not teach religion. That’s the separation of church and state.”

I’m sorry, my brain shorted out at the claim that Darwin’s theory was done. Theories are never “done”. Evolution has so much evidence behind it that it is ludicrous to deny it anymore.

How she arrived at that bad idea is clear, at least. She thinks Christians are taught that evolution is false! Some Christians are taught that, unfortunately, and usually they are the vocal, obnoxious ones who run for school board president and represent Christianity badly. I think. Although, realistically, I’ve noticed that most Christians will sit quietly and not object to characterizations of their faith like that by Kerns.

Is there an impeachment process for school boards? And if there is, is it as timidly executed as the one at the federal level?

The MIT-Epstein scandal gets even worse

The scandal over the effort by MIT to keep secret that they were getting money from Jeffrey Epstein even after his conviction and being branded a sexual predator keeps getting worse. It has already seen the resignation of Joi Ito who was the head of the much-acclaimed Media Lab and now an internal investigation reveals that the president of MIT also knew of the donations and the scheme to keep it on the down-low.

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is admitting that not only did the school hide donations from Jeffrey Epstein—he wrote the accused sex trafficker a thank-you letter.

“It is now clear that senior members of the administration were aware of gifts the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein’s foundations,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“Because the members of my team involved believed it was important that Epstein not use gifts to MIT for publicity or to enhance his own reputation, they asked [MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito] to agree to make clear to Epstein that he could not put his name on them publicly.”

Reif said he also was present at a meeting of his senior team where attendees discussed Epstein’s crimes and donations.

The Epstein and Sackler cases had better put college administrators everywhere on notice that they had damn well better make sure that their donors have clean hands. Of course, since many of these wealthy mega-donors do not have clean hands, the money they get will go down. But the rot of nefarious actors whitewashing their actions by giving ‘charitable’ donations has to stop.

Tummy Thursday: Me gusta la cocina mexicana

Earlier this week I told you about our trip to the Sagrada Familia and that we wanted to see it at night time. This meant that after we left the cathedral we went for dinner. Of course a tourist city like Barcelona has restaurants galore, many of them trying to push the menu into your hand while you’re walking past them and for me that’s the most failproof way to make me avoid a place. Yet still you find lots of small places that offer good food, especially if you love international cooking. For this meal we found a nice Mexican place where we ate while it got dark.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Starters: Frijoles refritos (mushed baked beans) and nachos with cheese.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My main course: marinated grilled beef, cactus, pumpkin flower and sweetcorn, guacamole and stuffed habanero, served with tortillas.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Dessert: Guayaba marguerita. I love guavas and they’re so rare here that I consume them whenever I can find them or their derivates. It was delicious.


Another way that the insane medical system in the US squeezes money from sick people

Here is another post about the insanity of the US health system, a post that will be utterly incomprehensible to people who live in civilized countries where you are not blindsided by huge bills just because you get sick. It involves the practice of people getting ‘surprise bills’ after treatment. For those of you not familiar with this insane system, in the US your insurance company contracts with a network of doctors and hospitals for your treatment. If you go to those when you are sick, your bill will be lower than if you go to an out-of-network doctor or medical facility (or if you do not have insurance at all) so you always have to check before going to see a doctor.
[Read more…]