Dances with trolls.

[CONTENT NOTE: casual ableism]

Our troll story today begins as they almost always do: with an unprompted comment on an oooooold post. Behold my Facebook status from November 10, 2016:


Iris Vander Pluym
November 10, 2016 

JUST TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR: If you voted for Donald Trump, or you live in a swing state and voted for a third party candidate or declined to vote entirely, UNFRIEND ME. You are now and always will be dead to me.

Now I thought I was being clear and fair. Kind, even, if not particularly nice. I felt that not only was I was doing a service to myself and my own online spaces, but to those who would interact with me, or decide not to. I then went ahead and proactively blocked some people, and apparently I did a pretty good job since only one Trump voter slipped by:

[Former IRL “friend”] Really

Iris Is a dead person trying to communicate with me? No, that cannot be. I don’t believe in ghosts. (Unfriended/blocked)

THE END.

Oh, wait no. NOT the end. Eight months later:

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Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched the vid of my colleagues here at FtB, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

Octopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post.

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We suck. Help save the oceans.

(image via Avaaz)

It’s no secret that I have no love for homo sapiens (or for Sciuridae for that matter, but they are not the goddamn problem FOR ONCE). I do, however, harbor deep affection and compassion for our cousins that dwell in the Earth’s seas.

This is a picture of all my aquatic friends in Costa Rica.
I don’t have an underwater camera. But since I snorkeled extensively in these waters, I can assure you they are fucking amazing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marine habitats all over this planet, humans suck giant walrus balls. Hard. In fact, it invites karmic justice of the highest order that President Cheetohead and his merry band of motherfrackers are busy ensuring Earth’s glaciers and polar ice caps completely melt, covering the entire surface of the globe in water. (BONUS: this would also solve the fucking squirrel problem once and for all. Lard knows future space alien cephalopod visitors shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.)

But at least occasionally, we humans attempt to mitigate some of the worst aspects of our lamentable existence. If only momentarily, we will put our violent domination proclivities on hold and shift to a collaborative worldview, as if our very lives depended on it. They actually do, of course. And this is one of those moments.

Go over to Freethought Resistance and sign the Avaaz petition to ban single-use plastics. It only takes a minute, and who knows? Perhaps your future space alien cephalopod overlords might just spare your life.

Not like we have an “in” with anyone around here.

Conversion therapy: kill it with fire.

Feel like exercising your constitutional right (while it lasts…) to click links? GOOD!

Click on over to Freethought Resistance, then click the link to CREDO* Action’s petition to Congress to ban conversion therapy. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33), sponsor of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, says of the legislation:

It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.

As a California state senator in 2012, Rep. Lieu was also instrumental in passing a similar law, the first of its kind in the nation. Just last month, the California law withstood a final appeal to the US Supreme Court based on a “religious freedom” argument. In the wake of the high court’s rejection, there is some momentum on which to capitalize here: the national legislation has been referred to committee in both the House and Senate.

Come on, you godless heathens! You know you enjoy trampling the “religious freedom” of bigoted fraudulent assholes at least as much as I do. Get your click on.

__________
*CREDO Mobile is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic donors like AT&T that fund conservatives. They offer a lot of the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.

Freeze peaches at Berkeley and beyond.

[CONTENT NOTE: violent bigotry. lots of it.]

I am ashamed to report to readers that The Washington Post lured me into a time-wasting, life-sucking vortex with a clickbait headline:

I invited Ann Coulter to speak at UC Berkeley. Here’s why.
My group doesn’t agree with her, but we believe in free speech.

Ugh why. Because I AM WEAK, people, that’s why. Coulter’s appearance at Berkeley is not even happening, and yet still I could not just let this shit stand.  [Read more…]

New petition: hold terrible Democrats accountable.

resistfistOn our Freethought Resistance page, I posted a new petition (via CREDO Action*) to Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen demanding he refuse to allocate campaign funds to any Democratic senator who votes or strikes a deal to advance the confirmation of right-wing extremist Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Directing your activism time, energy and resources toward Democrats, particularly with regard to primary campaigns, is vitally necessary. A primary challenger does not need to win in order to pressure the prevailing candidate to move left on issues that matter. There are far too many corporatist, corrupt conservatives in the party, particularly in leadership positions. If we want to put the pressure on where it counts, we need to take every opportunity to go after wayward conservative Democrats in every way possible. (Yeah I’m looking at you, Chuck Schumer.)

Read the background on the petition and then please sign if you are so inclined.

Because fuck these d00ds, that’s why.

__________
*CREDO is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic corporations that fund conservatives like AT&T. They offer pretty much all the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.

Thoughts on yesterday.

[CONTENT NOTE: homelessness, including image of a homeless person.]

It’s a dreary, snowy day in NYC. Not the fun kind of snow that hushes the city in a thick blanket of otherworldly white (and, ideally, melts overnight without a trace). This is a dismal snow, dark flurries of tiny wet flakes that liquefy upon reaching the ground.

But! Yesterday was glorious. It’s days like these that seem to electrify the city (or maybe the city-dwellers?), demanding to be witnessed in all of their vivid splendor and grotesquery. I had appointments and errands on my morning schedule, followed by a late lunch with a dear friend visiting from out of town. This is what I saw. [Read more…]