Two wackjobs met in a podcast

No. I’m not going to listen to it. I’ll take the Readers’ Digest Condensed version of the epic encounter between Boghossian and Bret Weinstein.

This was amazing.

1/ Peter Boghossian’s interview with Bret is, predictably, an hour of them discussing the mental and moral defects (including ‘being ugly’) that lead people to disagree with them

Bret brags about how intellectually honest he is and how hard he works to disconfirm his hypotheses

2/ IMO the highlight was when Bret released a suprise new hypothesis

Apparently, the Woke Mind Virus could very well be a bioweapon seeded by our geopolitical enemies to destroy The West!

3/ I thought he probably meant this in an unfalsifiable sort of “well there are russian/chinese troll farms sowing dissent on twitter” kind of way, but no, he’s very clear that he believes they might have *invented wokeness* and deployed it as a weapon

4/ Also funny that Peter Boghossian seems to have paid absolutely no attention to Bret’s content and does not know that he’s become a hardcore antivax conspiracy loon.

5/ Bret’s recent interactions twitter with yours truly😘 seem to have crystalized into a new talking point. You don’t have to pay attention to your critics if they haven’t “accomplished anything.” This raises the question – what has Bret accomplished?

Yeah, Bret used to be a biologist. Boghossian used to be a skeptic.

The poopy-pants brigade in action!

Project Veritas still exists, and they were recently slapped with $150,000 in legal fees because they tried to sue Stanford University and failed. I love watching them fail.

An academic blog post in September 2020 from a Stanford-affiliated nonpartisan coalition called the Election Integrity Partnership was at the heart of Project Veritas’ lawsuit.

The blog post questioned a Project Veritas report about alleged “ballot harvesting” in Minnesota. Zilly’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit said “the phrases in the blog post that Project Veritas challenges as defamatory are nonactionable opinions.”

“Ballot harvesting” is perfectly legal in Minnesota. It just means that volunteers will pick up sealed absentee ballots from voters and deliver them to polling places. Project Veritas tried to make a big deal of a normal, legal process as “corruption”, and they were taken to court over it.

Unfortunately, $150,000 in small change to the deep pockets that fund these rotten “think tanks”. What I don’t understand is why they keep pouring cash into these corrupt, discredited jokers. James O’Keefe is a notorious liar with no credibility, who has been banned from Twitter for various disreputable activities.

Right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, best-known for his undercover “sting” operations and deceptively edited videos, was permanently suspended from Twitter on Thursday for what the social-media site said were violations of the its policy on manipulation and spam.

But, you know, what I find most revealing is that the rich conservatives who pay for his shenanigans, who like to pretend to be defenders of righteous American values, have been overlooking the decadent frat boy behavior of the crew.

As an administrative assistant for the conservative undercover group Project Veritas, Antoinetta Zappier had some unusual responsibilities. She claims she would be woken up in the middle of the night because Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe had lost his apartment keys, or asked to fake O’Keefe’s signature onto thousands of copies of his book, after donors had paid $200 each to receive “signed” copies.

And then, there was the time, Zappier says, she had to buy supplies to clean up a boat after partygoers at an event hosted by O’Keefe relieved themselves on the floor.

In a lawsuit filed Sunday, Zappier alleges that her duties for Project Veritas extended to a particularly debauched boat party for Young Republicans. After buying hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol for the party, Zappier alleges, she was left frantically purchasing cleaning supplies when attendees “defecated on the floor.”

The boat-excrement scene is just one incident alleged in a federal lawsuit Zappier filed Sunday against Project Veritas. The allegations—which also include an abortion, a near-fatal drug overdose, pornography, and secret sexual recordings—portray a conservative group running out of control under O’Keefe’s leadership.

What is it with with these right-wing kooks pooping their pants all the time? And why do the fat cats continue to fund them?

It hurts him more than the people he fired

Look at this man. He is so sad. He is crying. His life is so difficult.

Poor man. Why is he crying? Because he is a CEO. Because he had to fire two of his employees. Oh, sure, the employees have lost their income and are going to have to struggle to find new jobs, but think of the mental anguish their boss went through.

This boss, though, had the idea that he could burnish his reputation as a Good Guy by crying for a camera.

“This will be the most vulnerable thing I’ll ever share,” HyperSocial CEO Braden Wallake wrote on LinkedIn Tuesday. “Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money driven and didn’t care about who he hurt along the way. But I’m not. So, I just want people to see, [sic] that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn’t care when he/she have to lay people off. I’m sure there are hundreds and thousands of others like me.”

If there are a hundred thousand like him, that implies there are two hundred thousand people who have lost their jobs.

Isn’t it nice that the boss can hurt people and then post a picture to show he isn’t cold-hearted? I’m sure the PR was useful for him.

The article itself is 16 paragraphs about the weeping boss, and we know nothing about the two fired employees, not even their names.

We already knew Elon Musk was a villain

He’s so villainous, sometimes he openly admits his villainy!

Elon Musk has wielded a virtual monopoly on how we think about the future, but will his visions really deliver better lives for most people in our society? For all the tech industry’s talk of “disruption,” keeping us all trapped in cars for decades into the future by equipping them with batteries or upgraded computers doesn’t feel like much of a revolution.

A much more sustainable alternative to mass ownership of electric vehicles is to get people out of cars altogether—that entails making serious investments to create more reliable public transit networks, building out cycling infrastructure so people can safely ride a bike, and revitalizing the rail network after decades of underinvestment. But Musk has continually tried to stand in the way of such alternatives.

He has a history of floating false solutions to the drawbacks of our over-reliance on cars that stifle efforts to give people other options. The Boring Company was supposed to solve traffic, not be the Las Vegas amusement ride it is now. As I’ve written in my book, Musk admitted to his biographer Ashlee Vance that Hyperloop was all about trying to get legislators to cancel plans for high-speed rail in California—even though he had no plans to build it.

Several years ago, Musk said that public transit was “a pain in the ass” where you were surrounded by strangers, including possible serial killers, to justify his opposition. But the futures sold to us by Musk and many others in Silicon Valley didn’t just suit their personal preferences. They were designed to meet business needs, and were the cause of just as many problems as they claimed to solve—if not more.

Monologuing is such a bad habit for villains to get into — they spill all the beans.

So yeah, the Hyperloop was an obviously absurd scheme that was never going to reduce traffic congestion, so it’s useful that he revealed his actual motivations, which was to kill mass transit, which actually does work for his previously stated goal. His “serial killer” rationale is also silly — like Ted Bundy was knocking women unconscious and flagging down a bus to carry them to the murder site, or the Green River Killer was picking up prostitutes on the King County Metro.

Now I’m wondering, though, what is his ulterior motive for colonizing Mars? We know it isn’t going to work, and we know it’s not to save humanity, so what’s going on in his selfish little brain to drive him to hire people to build SpaceX?

How not to teach

An Oklahoma teacher, Amy Cook, is using her classroom in a novel way. I’m always looking for different approaches to engage with the students, so I thought I’d see what she’s doing. Maybe I could adapt it to my classes.

According to Durbin, comments that Cook has made to students’ faces make them feel unsafe at school.

“She has a prayer wall in her room with Bible quotes all over it,” Durbin said.

Durbin said a student put something up about gods and goddesses on the wall and Cook called it “non-Christian”.

“That the person that put it up there should go to hell,” Durbin said. “And that any student that is gay or any part of the LGBTQ+ community should go burn in hell, basically, is what she has said to students’ faces.”

Cook is listed as a science teacher on Memorial’s website and has her own website as a 2022 Republican candidate for Oklahoma Senate District 34.

Just imagine the reaction if I were to play like Kevin Sorbo in the God’s Not Dead and demand that students profess the non-existence of gods to get a passing grade in my biology classes, or made all the straight students sit in a corner of shame at the back of the room, or announced that grades don’t matter, because all the students will be returned to the dirt soon enough. Not only would it be bad pedagogy, but I really don’t hate my students that much.

Amy Cook is not fit to be a teacher.

Let’s read her own words.

“I have a proposal,” she wrote on her website.” I propose that every Christian teacher decide right now, this very minute, to say no to all curriculum and policy in their school that is anti-Scriptural and dangerous for the souls of our youth. I think … no, I know this is not an impossible fight to win. We CAN have Christian values in our schools again. We CAN have God as the foundation for our students.”

“If every Christian teacher decided today to say NO! No more! Satan is not welcome here! Imagine how loud our battle cry would be and how quickly the enemy would rush to the shadows to cower. He’s already so afraid of us. Why else would he choose the youngest and most vulnerable of us for his dastardly plans? He knows he is no match for an army of teachers covered by Jesus’s blood.”

Well, that’s an image.

She hates sex education, too.

“When the LGBTQ national mandate was forced on my students under the guise of SeXXX Education in a 2-week class, I boycotted it and alerted all my students’ parents,” she wrote in a blog posting. “It was successfully taken away from most of the students’ young eyes. I continue to model my Faith in God openly in my classroom.”

Just curious…does she model her oppressive heterosexuality in the classroom? How?

She has the usual far-right beliefs.

Under a picture of bullets, she wrote, “Our freedoms in Oklahoma, including our right to bear arms, must be protected and shall not be infringed.”

On the site, Cook also came out against vaccines and mask mandates

“If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,” she wrote. “We must stand against tyrannical mandates forcing masks and vaccines and oppressing businesses.”

In addition, she took a stance against abortion rights, writing, “I believe that all life is sacred and given by God. It is valuable, and I will not rest until abortion is abolished in our State!”

Would you believe she’s a…biology teacher?

As a teacher at Memorial High School, Amy Cook vowed to stay in her lane and stick to instructing students in the subject of biology.

“I strictly teach science lessons and not indoctrination of unrelated subjects,” she said in a blog post.

Now I wonder how she teaches evolution, or if she does. It doesn’t say on her website.

Her approach doesn’t seem to serve the Lord very effectively, since students are walking out of her class and demanding the administration fire her.

An afternoon of irrelevant objections and silly answers

Answers in Genesis is posting a video tomorrow which they claim will answer all the objections us horrible people have to the Noah’s Ark story. They’ve even provided a playlist ahead of time!

0:00 – Intro
0:07 – How did Noah fit all the animals on the ark?
0:42 – How big was the ark?
1:36 – How many animals were on the ark?
6:19 – How many people built the ark?
7:16 – Was it just a local flood?
9:18 – Wasn’t the ark box-shaped?
10:32 – What is gopher wood?
11:20 – How long did it take to build?
12:26 – How did Noah find the animals?
12:57 – Wasn’t the ark pretty small?
13:42 – Wouldn’t a wooden ship this huge break and sink?
14:28 – Wasn’t the ark copied from ancient myths?
15:34 – Was there no rain before the flood?
16:04 – Were there no rainbows before the flood?
16:37 – Was Noah an amateur?
16:58 – Did the flood last 40 days and 40 nights?
17:10 – Was Noah mocked while preaching?
17:42 – Who was Noah’s wife?
18:36 – Who was Noah?
19:58 – Why does the ark matter?

Those really aren’t the top 20 objections. None of those are the big objections I have — like, how is it there’s no evidence of your global flood? How do you account for the current genetic diversity if we’re all descended from 8 people 4000 years ago? How did the kiwis get to New Zealand from the Middle East? Etc., etc., etc. — and giving me imagined details from the imaginary life of an imaginary character doesn’t address any of that.

But OK, I’ll watch it to laugh at it, and then on Saturday afternoon Dan Phelps and I will get together in a live stream to dismantle their pathetic and irrelevant answers. It should be fun! And easy!

Be there to laugh at the stupidity, and cry at the fact those bozos are raking in the cash.

Craftin’

Busy morning. They’re only going to get busier.

One of the things I got done today was to assemble of set of my Spider🕷 Studios™️, Mk II this time, with thinner papers and small tabs of tape. As you can see, once I’ve got spiders and their webs inside, I can use the helping hands to hold the hoops in any orientation I want.

I had to get them ready today because…see the small box? What’s in the box? Not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, although it might fit. You might see a small mottled ball in the box — that’s a Steatoda triangulosa egg sac, and the mottling is caused by the embryos maturing enough to have black legs on their pale bodies. The legs are twitching (maybe they’re dreaming?) so their emergence is imminent, and I need to promptly set up the babies so I can document pigment changes over the next few weeks.

Really, it’s all just playing with office paper, a paper cutter, and time tape. It won’t be real science until I progress to duct tape, hot glue, and cardboard.

Classes resume in two weeks! <brain screaming>

I think I’ve got it under control, probably, although the internal sensations of doom and helpless descent into a spiral of chaos will continue until December. I’m meeting my co-instructor for cell biology this morning to synchronize our watches and re-attune our wavelengths, and my syllabi are nearly done, except that the other day the administration sent out another wave of boilerplate we have to attach to them. I don’t get the point of most of it; these are pages and pages of cover-your-ass copy that every single class will give to every student every semester for the next four years, and I’m pretty sure they all read the syllabus to get the list of readings and the dates of the exams and then skip the rest. I don’t blame them. That’s what I’d do.

On top of that, my spiders are erupting in babies right now, with another egg sac due to hatch out in the next day or so. My plan is to pull out a sample that I can set aside for observation, and the rest will be set free in my garage to hopefully prepare for overwintering. I’m curious to see how Steatoda triangulosa will do in a home environment, anyway. Maybe some will populate the compost bin, too?

I’ve got about 150 spiders in the incubators right now, which somewhat stresses me out with the burden of feeding every other day. And now I have to also feed students’ brains on top of that? I may have to set some priorities here.

Do spiders dream of arthropod sheep?

You ever watch a sleeping cat or dog, and see their little paddy-paws twitching and their legs all curled up? Cute, isn’t it? You can just imagine they’re dreaming.

Spiders do it, too.

Jumping spiders are special because, unlike most arthropods which have fixed eye positions — they have to turn their heads to change their field of view — they have telescope eyes which can swivel, so you can actually see their eyes move while they are presumably sleeping. This has led some investigators to suggest they have a kind of REM sleep.

Sleep and sleep-like states are present across the animal kingdom, with recent studies convincingly demonstrating sleep-like states in arthropods, nematodes, and even cnidarians. However, the existence of different sleep phases across taxa is as yet unclear. In particular, the study of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is still largely centered on terrestrial vertebrates, particularly mammals and birds. The most salient indicator of REM sleep is the movement of eyes during this phase. Movable eyes, however, have evolved only in a limited number of lineages—an adaptation notably absent in insects and most terrestrial arthropods—restricting cross-species comparisons. Jumping spiders, however, possess movable retinal tubes to redirect gaze, and in newly emerged spiderlings, these movements can be directly observed through their temporarily translucent exoskeleton. Here, we report evidence for an REM sleep–like state in a terrestrial invertebrate: periodic bouts of retinal movements coupled with limb twitching and stereotyped leg curling behaviors during nocturnal resting in a jumping spider. Observed retinal movement bouts were consistent, including regular durations and intervals, with both increasing over the course of the night. That these characteristic REM sleep–like behaviors exist in a highly visual, long-diverged lineage further challenges our understanding of this sleep state. Comparisons across such long-diverged lineages likely hold important questions and answers about the visual brain as well as the origin, evolution, and function of REM sleep.

If this were happening in a cat or a dog we’d easily assume the behaviors were a reflection of whatever they were dreaming about. It would be nice to imagine this was just as true of spiders, but I’m going to be slightly skeptical of the idea that the behavior is indicative of “dreaming” or even analogous to REM sleep. The authors are cautious, too.

The complex visual and cognitive behaviors of salticids and their relatively small nervous system facilitate experimental tests of the role of visual experience in REM sleep–like retinal movements. Eye movement patterns during REM sleep have been hypothesized to be directly linked to the visual scene experienced while dreaming—begging the deeper question of whether jumping spiders may be experiencing visual dreams. This raises a unique opportunity to test this “scanning hypothesis” in jumping spiders, where retinal movements can be observed. Since visual input can be controlled in jumping spiders early on (unlike in humans), retinal responses to repeated visual stimuli presented during the day might partially reappear during REM sleep–like states.

The problem I have is that we don’t know all that is going on in the brains of humans during dreaming or REM sleep — so how can we compare that to what spiders experience? A deeper analysis of the activity of the nervous system would be needed to do a good comparison, and this paper is only looking at behavior.

An alternative to “dreaming”: spiders go through waves of alertness during sleep. At some levels, they are awake enough to monitor their environment, so those eye movements aren’t a consequence of dreams — that’s the spider doing sentry duty, scanning what’s around it to search for prey or threats. The movements tell us nothing about the inner life of a spider, only that it wants to eat or avoid being eaten. You know they don’t have eyelids, right? They aren’t as blind as we are while sleeping.

That doesn’t mean the behavior lacks any homology with vertebrates. Maybe our REM sleep is also a consequence of the evolution of rising and falling levels of alertness, and dreaming is just a side effect of brains randomly invoking patterned activity on top of all that.

If spiders dream, though, I do wonder what bloodthirsty scenarios are playing out in their heads. That may also be similar to vertebrate dreaming — I don’t think my cat dreams of frolicking in fields of dandelions, but of ripping the heads off smaller mammals. But that’s my psycho cat.

Minnesota election went as expected

Yesterday’s primaries set up the big November election, where it will be incumbent Democrat Walz vs lunatic anti-vax, anti-abortion Republican Jensen for the the governor’s chair. I hope the main election follows the path this one took, in that all the candidates I voted for actually won. I’ll try to repeat my flawless performance again in a few months.

Outside my district, Ilhan Omar beat a Democratic challenger, barely. Neighboring Wisconsin is a mess, with Republicans arguing over who is the Trumpiest and yelling about the opposition being “liberal”. That’s enough, just call a Democrat “liberal” and that’ll get you votes. I’m hoping we can see the odious Johnson replaced by a black Democrat, Barnes, but you just can’t trust the Wisconsin electorate. All that cheese and ranch dressing has poisoned their brains.