How can a cartoon be so true?

Does this remind anyone else of a certain University of Chicago professor who was both outraged that anyone would refuse to pay racists and gender criticals to speak on campus, while also freaking out that students had strong opinions he disagreed with? It’s uncanny.

Although…the worst ones tend not to call themselves “conservative.” They’re “liberal” or “centrist” or “open-minded” while magically and unthinkingly aligning themselves with conservatives all the way down the line.

It shouldn’t take so long to recognize a fool

I’ve seen Terrence Howard in Crash and Red Tails and the first Iron Man (he wasn’t in any of the sequels, I wonder why?), and he was fine as an actor. It’s when he goes off script that you discover that he is totally nuts. Professor Dave explores some of his lunacy.

It’s 48 minutes long, but most of it is redundant — at his first attempt to explain that 1 x 1 = 2, or his redrawn periodic table, or his wacky 3-dimensional models of elements, it’s clear that he has lost the plot. And then the video gets into Howard’s 3 hour long interview with Joe Rogan, and it becomes clear that Rogan is just as ignorant and deluded and deranged and useless.

I’ve seen no more than a few minutes of Rogan in short excerpts, and knew from my first exposure that he was a fraud. Nowadays, when I see an account on social media that is trying to sell how smart he is, I insta-block that channel. I’d do the same with any mention of Howard, except that everyone sees how foolish he is, and he isn’t getting paid millions of dollars to babble for hours on Spotify every day.

Spiders blooming everywhere!

Mary spotted all these tiny yellow spiders all around the backyard. Apparently, a sac full of Araneinae hatched out in the last few days.

These are the equivalent of those kids’ show Minions. They’re all over, I can’t tell them apart, and they talk funny.

While I was out roaming in the yard, I spotted a few other familiar faces. This is Salticus scenicus, the zebra jumper. They were all over the walls.

Then there was this guy, Parasteatoda, who had caught a sowbug. It’s like having lobster for lunch.

So that’s what they’re afraid of

People have this absurd fear that fraternizing with different kinds of people will radically transform them in every way.

If you think that, allow me to reassure you: I’ve been friends with and talking to gay and trans people for decades now, and I’m still heterosexual. I’ve just become a liberal, socialist-leaning, humanist-atheist who always votes for the political party with the more tolerant, progressive policies. Nothing to be afraid of there.

They like me! They really like me!

I hit a wall yesterday. It was just one of my bad days, when I felt kind of useless, and worried about what was coming in the fall — I’ve got one week of instruction planned, out of 15 weeks in the semester, and I’m coming out of a semester in which I’d gotten all experimental and weird and tried some things that maybe the administration would not approve of, because I was tired of trying to wedge students into boxes all the time. I just wanted them to learn how to think and have a good conversation about a subject for a change, and not be fretting over points and grades!

So that’s been weighing on my mind, in addition to the usual stuff, like backaches and being tired and it’s been raining pretty much nonstop for the past week.

And then the student evaluations appeared in my mailbox. I put off opening that message, like I usually do, because I was dreading what they would say, like always. I bit the bullet this morning and opened it up, since I didn’t think anything would make me feel worse this week, anyway. Yikes…they liked the course!

I skipped over the numerical scores, because they were always useless (despite being the only thing the university will use to evaluate my work) and went straight to the comments section. Here, they’re answering the question, “What did the instructor do that most helped your learning?”

PZ structured the class such that we had a predictable workload each week, with a variety of class activities, which was useful. Lecture days on Mondays were nice and relatively easy at the start of the week, and small group discussions on Wednesdays and Fridays were always fun. The final presentation for the class was also valuable, as it gave us the opportunity to explore a topic from the class that we found particularly interesting in depth and share our discoveries with our classmates.

Had lecture on Monday’s and allowed students to help each other.

I appreciated that we did a lot of article discussions as well as chapter discussions. It was good to think over those chapters without being lectured at

Wittyness and Sarcasm were plentiful, 10/10 course

Discussion based on what we were learning

I liked the discussion questions because they went with the lectures really well

Yes! They saw what I was trying to do!

The next question was “What suggestions do you have for improving the course?”

Clearer expectations for final presentations or updates on participation grades throughout the semester would be appreciated, although PZ did assure us periodically that we were all doing well and that he had no concerns about our performance in class.

Maybe have slightly more background when discussing topics that students don’t tend to be strong in.

I wish some of the grading standards were more clear, and that there was a proper rubric for the presentations. I honestly have no clue if my presentation was even good or not because I didn’t have any guidelines to work with other than “15–20 minutes long and can be about whatever that’s relevant and also it can be whatever medium you like”

Get these college kids to talk more, they all look so nervous to have a hot take on microplastics.

It would be good if grades were updated more frequently

I like this course

Criticisms accepted. Next time I’ll try to outline my expectations more, and incorporate a few more metrics throughout the course. I may have gone too far in trying to avoid grade-chasing and point-tallying. I did appreciate the comment to “Get these college kids to talk more, they all look so nervous to have a hot take on microplastics,” because that’s exactly what I wanted, a class full of people eager to talk about eco-devo.

All right, I feel a little better today.

How to cure your manly depression

I’ve been depressed lately, and I turned to YouTube to find out why. Cody Johnston asks “Are Men OK?” and I thought maybe this would explain it all.

Unfortunately, the first half of the video is a lot of excerpts from the self-declared gurus of manliness, Jordan Peterson & Fresh&Fit & Bronze Age Pervert & Elon Musk & Andrew Tate & Sneako & William James & Charlie Kirk & Teddy Roosevelt & Patrick Bet-David & Josh Hawley & Ben Shapiro (I tried to take notes, but there were so many I probably missed a few) and they just made me more depressed. I don’t even listen to any of them — I think they’re all flaming morons — but the idea that people so stupid can be so wildly successful financially is discouraging. I don’t think my problems have anything to do with what those bozos claim, but is more about being reminded of my limitations as I grow older and seeing the possibility of retirement constantly receding away from me.

In the last half he talks about solutions, but mainly they’re about dismantling the patriarchy and shutting down the grifters, which doesn’t actually help me directly, but would probably have other benefits.

The formula for fame & fortune: Hate + Christianity

Say you’re a poorly educated little man with no redeeming qualities, but you want to be rich and famous. You aren’t very talented or skilled, but you are able to talk fast and with confidence about very little at all. So you open a church. That’s the limit of your abilities.

But most churches are local two-bit affairs, and church pastors who are nice and try to help their communities are going to go nowhere. Yeah, you might have the respect of your neighbors, and you might be able to have some self-respect, but kindness never pays, and if you want to skyrocket to national attention and get donations from really rich people (you know, the people who matter), you’ve got to have some pizzazz. So you add this to your statement of faith.

We believe that the human race was created as genetic male (man) and genetic female (woman) by a direct act of God; that marriage has been established by God; therefore, marriage is a sacred covenantal union between one man and one woman, for life. We also believe that legitimate Biblical sexual relations are exercised solely within marriage. Hence, sexual activities such as, but not limited to, adultery, fornication, incest, polygamy, homosexuality, transgender, bisexuality, cross-dressing, pedophilia and bestiality are inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible and the Church. Further, lascivious behavior, the creation, viewing and/or distribution of pornography and efforts to alter ones gender are incompatible with a true Biblical witness.

Now you’re talking. Now you’ve got a juicy topic for many sermons, and you’ve succeeded in drawing the most venomous, petty people to attend, and they’ll take action against all the people outside your church, getting you more and more attention. It’s such a simple formula, and it works. So many big-time preachers have launched careers that buy them private jets and mansions and yachts off this basic approach! You’d think people would catch on, but no, there are always more little angry people who want to get a trivial sense of power by tormenting The Other.

The latest parasite to leap unto this bandwagon is Pastor Tim Thompson. He’s going to go far, because he has hitched his star to the MAGA message, which is going to draw in the dumbest and most gullible people in America.

Earlier this year, a Southern California pastor named Tim Thompson welcomed former President Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba to a stage. “I gotta say this is really refreshing from New York City,” Habba chirped at the fancy wedding venue and equestrian center in Temecula. “I’m in God’s country now.”

“Knowing the president the way you do,” asked Thompson, who runs the nonprofit ministry Our Watch, “can you give us three things tonight that we as a group can be praying for him?”

Habba told Thompson’s flock they should pray for America, non-believers, and Trump’s family, adding that, “He’s gonna go down as the best president this country has ever had.”

I’ll save them some trouble and tell them they don’t need to pray for us non-believers.

His first target has been school boards, of course. Every promoter of a crank ideology knows that local school board elections are cheap, low-profile springboards to get influence and promote stupid beliefs — people just don’t pay much attention to them, but they do have an over-sized effect on the community. Thompson has already packed the local school board with right-wingers, and a common feature of his sermons and Twitter ranting is to name queer teachers and mobilize protests against their existence.

Indeed, Thompson speaks frequently about battling “evil” on Our Watch—usually in public schools, but he’s also sounded off about tarot cards at Coachella and videos of people “sticking laser beams into their anus.”

In late March, he created a video urging California viewers to run for their local school boards. “We’ve seen Satan creep in, strip away the rights of parents and try to indoctrinate children into filth,” he warned.

Thompson already tipped the scales of the Temecula Valley Unified School District in 2022, helping to give three new right-leaning board members a majority. That year, IE Family PAC raised more than $206,000, filings show. His candidates included Dr. Joseph Komrosky, who is facing a special recall election on June 4.

After the trio assumed office, they immediately banned critical race theory (CRT) and shelled out at least $15,000 in district funds for a consultant to teach staff why CRT is harmful. The panel also passed a policy that forces teachers to “out” transgender kids to their parents and rejected a social studies book because its accompanying teacher materials included gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

We don’t know much about Thompson’s background. There isn’t much information on his education (which makes sense — he hates education) or history, and he seems to have simply grown up in Temecula and never gone anywhere else. Temecula has a bit of a reputation.

The Temecula Valley of Thompson’s youth was awash with racism and neo-Nazi activity. In the 1980s, Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger founded a white supremacist group in nearby Fallbrook. In the ’90s, a pair of 14-year-olds tied to local white supremacists were charged in two drive-by shootings targeting Latinos, while members of Hammerskin Nation, identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a neo-Nazi skinhead organization, were convicted of assault in the gang beating of a 21-year-old Black man as dozens of others watched. The district attorney called it “one of the most egregious incidents of racial violence that has occurred in Riverside County.”

There’s little public record of Thompson’s early years, other than he attended Temecula Valley High School at least in his freshman year and worked as a chaplain for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, a relationship that served him well. A campaign committee for Sheriff Chad Bianco later gave $5,000 to the pastor’s political action committee. Bianco was a member of the Oath Keepers during the time Thompson was a chaplain but said he left the extremist group because “it did not offer me anything.” Thompson, as well as his adult son, Timothy Jacob, have been photographed or filmed sporting patches affiliated with the Three Percenters, a far-right anti-government militia.

In 2012, Thompson began cultivating his church. At that time it was called Venia, and met in rented spaces across the Temecula Valley, for a while in a bar. The congregation eventually found a building in 2016, and changed its name to 412 Murrieta and later to 412 Temecula Valley.

Before long, Thompson became a fixture at far-right rallies across the state. He spoke at the state Capitol in 2019 to a group opposed to sex education in public schools and returned a few weeks later to speak at another protest over California’s Health Education Framework. Days later he attended another rally on the matter outside of the Riverside County office of the California Department of Education.

So he probably attended at least a year of high school, attached himself as a chaplain (do you need no qualifications whatsoever to be a police chaplain? I guess not) to the conservative sheriff’s department, and mastered everything he needed to know to found a church, make life hell for gay people, and steadily move into the orbit of the Trump crime family.

I told you it’s an easy formula that works.

If you want to find the most horrible, awful, evil people in your community, all you need to do is pop into the fundamentalist church in your town on a Sunday morning, and there they all are, growing fat as ticks on the blood of your fellow citizens.

It’s too bad we don’t have any laws prohibiting non-profit, tax-exempt entities from lobbying for political causes.

The orcas are at it again

The orcas are getting good at sinking ships. It’s gotten so bad that Spanish officials are recommending that small boats avoid the deep water off Gibraltar and hug the coast.

The Alboran Cognac’s crew said they felt sudden blows on the hull and that the boat began taking on water. They were rescued by a nearby oil tanker, but the sailboat, left to drift, later went down.

The sinking brings the number of vessels sunk – mostly sailing yachts – to at least five since 2020. Hundreds of less serious encounters resulting in broken rudders and other damage, Alfredo López Fernandez, a coauthor of a 2022 study in the journal Marine Mammal Science, told NPR late last year.

What I find interesting is that there is so much speculation about what causes the behavior. I’m observing the humans, and what I see is a lot of floundering about trying to blame the sinkings on simplistic single causes, rather than appreciating that these are large brained animals with complex social interactions, and maybe we need to avoid explanations that hinge on one aspect of animal behavior. People are moving in their world and dancing around explanations that respect the sophistication of the animals.

Researchers are unsure about the causes for the behaviour, with leading theories including it being a playful manifestation of the mammals’ curiosity, a social fad or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors for their favourite prey, the local bluefin tuna.

Something else I’ve noticed is that all the explanations are centered on the whales, treating the fact that another large brained animal with complex social interactions is moving into their territory, and we apes are sitting around saying “It’s not our fault!” as if we are blameless victims of dumb animal reflexes.

So I have my own simplistic single cause that may explain what’s going on, and that places any blame appropriately.

Humans are assholes.

The actions of a New Zealand man filmed jumping off a boat in what appears to be an attempt to “body slam” an orca have been described as “shocking” and “idiotic” by the country’s Department of Conservation.

In a video shared to Instagram in February, a man can be seen jumping off the edge of a boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport in Auckland, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or “body slam” the orca, the department said. He leaps into the water very close to a male orca, as a calf swims nearby, while someone on board the boat films it. Others can be heard laughing and swearing in the background.

As he swims back towards the boat he yells “I touched it” and asks “did you get that?” He then attempts to touch the orca again.

Hayden Loper, a principal investigator at the department, said the 50-year-old man showed reckless disregard for his own safety and that of the orca. “The video speaks for itself, it is shocking and absolutely idiotic behaviour,” he said.

I think my hypothesis is backed by an immense body of evidence. Humans are arrogant idiots, and the fact that the orca did not respond by simply eating the stupid individual suggests that the whale are capable of remarkable restraint and are far more civilized than the overgrown monkeys attacking them.

I rest my case.