Open thread


Tentatively, I’m going to try this again — if it turns into a flamewar, though, I might skitter away permanently from this sort of thing.

Talk about whatever you want…except politics. We’ve already got a permanent thread on political issues, so we don’t need to replicate that.


  1. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says


    I’m sorry you are hurting.


    Hope it works.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    Sorry to hear it, chigau. Bodies are a pita; by the time you realise you need a few new parts (or gain consciousness, whichever happens first) you’ve inevitably lost the receipt and then they tell you the warranty’s lapsed anyway.

    Hi Ogvorbis – hope things are OK with you! Hello Dhorvath! Greetings and respects, Caine!

    Ha, PZed, I know it’s your birthday soon. I never forget your birthday (for reasons that will be only too obvious).

  3. says

    As long as we’ve begun talking about our aches and pains: I’ve got an upper respiratory tract infection. Sore throat, so don’t ask me to talk. Phlegm everywhere, so keep the kleenex handy. Every once in a while, I have to emit this horrible racking cough and wheeze that goes on way too long, and has resulted in my ribs being extremely sore.

    I’m on antibiotics and am supposed to get lots of bed rest. Hah, like that’ll happen.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    chigau: My sympathies. Right knee and lower back for me. And a muscle in my right arm (outside of the arm, between biceps and triceps) which I tore badly in a bicycling accident nearly thirty years ago, and which seems to have decided to start moaning again. Is that a thing? I know old fractures can haunt, but muscle tears?

    On the up side, the internals seem to be alright. Today.

    Luckily it’s a drinking day.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    PZ @10:

    ribs being extremely sore.

    On the rare occasions I’m afflicted with a really bad persistent cough, I put pressure on my ribs while coughing. Clasping hands in front, and pushing the elbows into the rib cage.

  6. The Mellow Monkey says

    It’s Friday, which means that while I have the looming horror of missed deadlines followed by further deadlines next week I won’t be able to make because of this week’s missed deadlines… I do get taco truck tacos for lunch. So there’s that.

    Also I’ve discovered I can dictate into my phone while pacing, rather than hunching myself up at my computer, which is great because I have a migraine and an old neck injury is causing me some pain. And I feel a lot less stupid walking around talking into a phone than I do speaking at my computer. Though my STT software does make some hilarious and puzzling mistakes.

    (I can see some utility to those standing desks, but that’s a) an expense I can’t afford when eating truck food once a week is a huge luxury for me and b) not much help when my problem is more a lack of full body movement and the need for constantly adjusting my spine.)

  7. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Happy B’day PZ. I just turned 57 last Sunday. In case that slips my mind, my body lets me know.

  8. handsomemrtoad says

    RE: “Talk about whatever you want”


    One of the greatest, most athletic vocalists of the Twentieth Century, also one of the most terrifying portrayers of evil characters, was GUSTAV NEIDLINGER. Here are two very short demonstrations of his art (each about one minute long).

    Scarier than Hannibal Lecter, Jack Nicholson, and Bela Lugosi: Iago in Verdi’s Otello, swearing allegiance to his cruel god who has created Iago in his own image.

    And, this one is not scary, but very impressive: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

  9. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says


    Every once in a while, I have to emit this horrible racking cough and wheeze that goes on way too long, and has resulted in my ribs being extremely sore.

    A few years back I got the flu. Twice. Two different flu viruses were out that year and I got them both. At the same time. And ended up with ARLD (Acute Reactive Lung Disorder). And I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. For a month. And got heartburn from the steroids. And broke a rib. And tore a muscle in my back. And lost a half-an octave from the upper range of my singing. Which I still have not regained.

    So take care of yourself. Please.

    Especially at your our age.

  10. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I developed a case of tennis/golfer’s elbow dealing the old mail. It is having trouble healing, as I keep using it to clean and declutter, and assembling a new computer chair (heavy so it can hold my mass) really did a number on aggravating it.

    Spent the last couple of days waiting for the electric company which is in the process of converting their old dumb meters to smart meters. They were in the neighborhood the last two days, and even changed out the meter next door, and then the installer seems to have disappeared. I have to be home, as the meter is in the basement, which they did back when the house was built (~1920). I’ll be getting the meter outside in the next month or so, after I clean out a couple of cupboards so I can remove them, which will give wall space near the present box for a new electrical panel for upgraded service (60 –> 200 or 400 amps, whichever is code).

  11. DonDueed says

    I’m feeling pretty conflicted these days. You see, I’m an older guy and I have a pretty good chunk of change in my 401(k). A bunch of that is in the stock market.

    So since the Trump got elected (how? How did that even happen?) I have made quite a bit of money, at least on paper. I did not expect it and if I could give it back to be rid of Trump and his regime I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    But, there it is. It feels more than a little bit tainted.

    I do try to give generously to progressive causes, but still…

  12. davidc1 says

    I care for my twin brother ,last couple of months he has had a chest infection that just won’t go away .
    He has had 3 lots of antibiotics and on his 4th lot of steroids , i am p1ssed off about it ,i am sure he is just doing it to annoy me .
    Can’t have a breath test until he has been off the steroids for 4 weeks but when he stops he finds it hard to breathe .
    Waiting to see the consultant at the hospital to see if he has asthma .

  13. davidc1 says

    PZ ,my mate in London used to describe the coughing you are suffering with as bump starting a lung .

  14. says

    Is it ethical to tell people that if they donate money to me they may very well get good karma? Asking from Prosperity Karma. Thankies.

  15. hotspurphd says

    BTW, it’s not I who will be self-delivering. I suspect most everyone here disagrees vigorously with this view( from the previously linked article)
    According to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, “patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.”

    When I interview the Rev. John Paris, a Jesuit bioethicist at Boston College who’s written and spoken on assisted suicide hundreds of times, he exclaims, “If as a society this is what we want, why don’t we go back to having the public executioner? It’s rooted in the American fantasy of autonomy. My students believe that the great philosophical insight is John Stuart Mill: that over his body, every individual is sovereign. That’s utter nonsense. We live in communities, and our actions affect others. My students will say, ‘It’s my body, my right. No one else is involved.’ Well, let’s try your mother.” He blows out air, exasperated. “When you examine this, it gets very fuzzy at the edges.

    “The real issue,” he continues, “is how you control this. Once you open it up, how do you put limits on it? If it’s about autonomy, why should you have to be in intractable suffering?” In Oregon, people who ask for the lethal prescription don’t even cite pain as their primary reason, he points out. They want a “death with dignity”—and in traditional religious terms, that is hubris, a self-centered attempt to take God’s power into your own hands.

  16. Rich Woods says

    Fucking Linux Mint fucking fucked up the fucking login screen with a fucking fucked upgrade package so that the fucking thing displays fucking passwords by character instead of as fucking blobs and fucking complains that the fucking caps lock is fucking on when the fucking caps lock isn’t fucking on. I can’t fucking log in and fix the fucking problem without refreshing my memory on the Linux CLI after scribbling out fucking notes for use when I fucking boot from disk instead of from a fucking ages old fucking USB drive, so instead I came here to read this blog and to calm down a bit.

    None of which is a patch on anyone’s lung or joint worries — sorry. And now I’m trying not to think about what any mention of ‘self-deliverance’ might imply. Just, you know… please try not to self-deliver without the absolute best of fucking reasons.

  17. birgerjohansson says

    “95-year-old Greek-born German ‘Duke’ may have to leave post-Brexit Britain ” “An eccentric but harmless 95-year-old German-Greek man who has been married to his 90-year-old British wife* and resident here for seventy years may have to leave Britain after Brexit.”
    (*Queen Elizabeth II)

    Also: Acoustic-guitar wielding-Trump tells Congress ‘This here’s the story of America’

  18. cedrus says

    @hotspurphd – Why is it that, when someone’s dog is old and suffering, and they say “oh if Fido dies I’ll be sad, therefore I will keep my dog alive as long as I can”, popular opinion holds that they are a miserable, selfish little shit…but if it’s their mother instead of their dog, this behavior is noble and proper?

  19. says

    @28, hotspurphd

    Yup, they can stop me from mercy-killing myself over my dead body ;)

    They’ll have to take my means to do so from my cold dead hands. :P


    It’s disgusting and barbaric what we force nearly all of our fellow humans to endure (and/or indoctrinate into forcing themselves to endure). Of course, that applies to far more topics than just choice in death.

  20. says

    I’m glad this thread was made because the other day I was going to post this into the art thread but it was locked:

    As of 2016, Nature’s Sweet Endless Song is finally on youtube!

    Though the 2015 version alters the lyrics slightly. (Spoiler Warning) The original in the 70s said “open close, live and die” not “passing on, here and gone”.

  21. hemidactylus says

    #10 and #17- PZ and Og… Hope Muerz feels better…yuck…glad I am a radical pro-vaxxer. The flu shot this year may be ~50% effective but I feel fine so far. Hopefully decade long shot history helps. Give me more shots. Keep em coming. Can I get several shots while Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy watch.

    #29- Rich- your Mint headaches seem very vexing.

  22. hotspurphd says

    @34 Brian Pansy. I couldn’t agree more. I appreciate the sentiment.
    @33 as someone with chronic pain pretty well controlled with opiates I look forward to these new targeted meds. Anyone on opiates with constipation should try Movantic. For many and me a wonder drug.
    @29 yes, the best of reasons. Rational, to avoid worse. Again, not I.

  23. hotspurphd says

    @39 Lofty
    Propinguity reminded me of this very interesting article ” Do only humans have souls or do animals have them too?”.
    While the word “soul” typically has little meaning for me the idea in the article of it being the feeling of being connected to other people and creatures does resonate, though I had that cosmic feeling in my 20s and 30s only while on mescaline and since then only on rare occasions. While watching a sunset for several hours without moving my first time on mescaline I felt a profound experience of wonder, connectedness, and meaning. I realized it was drug induced but that feeling of wonder while observing the natural world since then continues though not nearly as intense. I don’t know what this has to do with soul but it is something. What do people who don’t believe in God or the paranormal mean when they talk about spirituality? Or do they?

  24. says

    @41, hotspurphd

    What do people who don’t believe in God or the paranormal mean when they talk about spirituality? Or do they?

    Some do, some don’t. It’s controversial :P

    The people who do generally mean various mind experiences. Especially awe, purpose, enlightenment (which I’ve experienced as a feeling, like an emotion), contentment, strokes of insight, stuff like that. There’s no need for the paranormal to explain that, our brains are capable of such things all on their own (or with a bit of help from other chemicals).

    Personally, my most profound “spiritual experience” was when I became an atheist. It involved a heightened sense of feelings of autonomy, purpose, and feeling like things were real (probably the opposite of derealization). I’d compare it to the feeling of transitioning from a dream to a lucid dream (and I’ve had much experience with lucid dreaming). It was like an awakening, see? Also, euphoria (this was in 2010, before “euphoric atheist” became a meme). And I was more driven, less set back by my anxiety and such. But alas, it only lasted for about three days. I’ve gotten it back a bit a few times since.

    I should probably write about some of my other experimental techniques for inducing various states of mind in myself. Here’s one writeup I did a while ago about some stuff, but there’s more I should write about. Such as predicting/anticipating immediate experience (which is like practice of mindfulness, but directed towards the very near future) which can give me quite a high.

  25. says

    *well, that definition was more applicable to the term “spiritual experiences”. “Spirituality” would be the overall topic of pursuing self-betterment (and understanding) which these experiences are related to. Something like that.

  26. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Spirituality is a null word that means nothing concrete. Just that a person has to have something “bigger” than humanity.

  27. says

    I’m alive and reasonably healthy, though it’s the usual litany of aches, pains, and digestive issues. On that front, I now have a dx of IBS and have made a few dietary changes that have helped immensely.

    I’ve been pushing myself harder in PT and in the pool — sometimes a little too hard. Sore muscles are a small price to pay. My transfers are a lot more stable, and I’m taking a handful of independent steps around the house. (I’d call it “shuffling” more than “walking”, but it’s ambulation, and more than what I was doing a year ago.)

    Gracie is 11 pounds, disgustingly healthy, and flea-free. She’s a fuzzy little asshole, but she’s mine, and it’s hard to stay angry at this face

  28. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    WMDKitty: What breed is Gracie? She looks a bit like my sisters Maine Coon (though Fey (the cat, not my sister) is black smoke rather than calico. . . ).


    I suppose that this Open Thread really won’t be official until the first recipe is posted. So . . .


    I went up and visited my parents in Maine a few weeks ago (I really needed to see seven feet of snow on the ground). They had picked up a really nice pork loin from the local butcher — locally sourced meats — and my sister (who lives with my parents) was trying to figure out a new way to cook the pork. She and I conferred and came up with this:

    Pork a la Blizzard

    one pork loin, rinsed and dried.
    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 tablespoons black pepper (course ground of course)
    1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese (you can use the good stuff, but we used pre-grated — but it was in large chunks. don’t use the powdery tasteless stuff)

    Rub the pork with the olive oil. Mix the cheese and black pepper together. Roll the pork in the cheese and pepper mixture. Make sure the top and sides are covered. Sprinkle any extra over the top. Place it fat side up in a backing dish.

    Heat the oven to 550F. When the oven is hot, put the pork in. Wait for the oven to reach 550F again. Immediately turn the heat down to 300F and let it cook for an hour to an hour and a half. Or until done to your desired doneness.

    We served it with herbed popovers, green beans sauted in olive oil and garlic, and a tossed salad.

    The meat was juicy and delicious. The cheese is salty enough that no other salt is needed.


    My dad, at 81, is sharp. Mom, at 77, not so much. He finally retired his ancient (circa 1988) NordicTrac because he could no longer get replacement parts for it, so they have joined a gym and, physically, in great shape. Mom, though, is showing signs of dementia. She was involved in social work and art therapy for most of her life so she knows that there is a problem and tends to get angry when she becomes aware that others have noticed that she has now explained why she did something yesterday for the fifth time. I think she is frightened and tends to lash out when frightened. But, on the positive side, the medications are controlling her rheumatoid arthritis well enough that she is happily painting.

    I think I live just far enough from my parents.

  29. blf says

    I spent yesterday in Aix-en-Provence, partly just for a change, but mostly to visit a specialist beer shop (and also the English-language bookshop). Got a number of interesting beers, only one of which I’m familiar with, and two purchased just because of their names: Yéti, a strong French blonde, and March of the Penguins, a Scottish stout. Also Matten Prototype #1, a French pale ale (ambrée), which I seen called an IPA but it’s exceptionally strong for an IPA. Haven’t tasted any of the unknowns yet…

    And, of course, a brilliant lunch with a really nice cheese plate at the end. Nice and sunny, so today it’s raining much of the time…

  30. DanDare says

    I burst a disk that put me out of work for 6 months. On the upside I had time to put together a complete dungeons and dragons campaign for open table play at my local shopping center. If you want to read about it or copy all or part of the campaign go to

  31. says

    We are having a spell of nice weather here in Salt Lake City, though it’s quite windy. This morning on the road to orchestra rehearsal I was able to look all around the valley, the Sun slanting in just so and lighting up the mountain peaks of the Wasatch and the Oquirrhs just so to emphasize their sharp edges and snow covered cliffs. The winds must have been even stronger up there on the mountains – I saw a great flag of snow getting blown off of Lone Peak. It looked amazing.

  32. chigau (違う) says

    blf #49
    I think that a combined specialist beer shop and English-language bookshop is a splendid thing.

  33. blf says

    chigau@52, That is indeed a fine idea, albeit in this case, they are two separate shops multiple minutes of walking and hours in pubs apart. The bookshop does have a small café, though…

  34. chigau (違う) says


    …and hours in pubs apart…

    that is truly the thing

  35. Rowan vet-tech says

    We had a feral kitty in today with a fascinating form of polydactylism. It’s apparently an incomplete dominant that, in heterozygous form, can cause mild signs such as lack of a dewclaw on the front feet, and extra toes, or cause deformation of the front limbs. But in homozygous form is *always* causes severe limb deformities, or a complete absence of front limbs. Feral kitty has 5 front toes on each foot, but lacks a dewclaw, and 7 hind toes on each foot. It’s actually very good he was trapped young and neutered so that he didn’t have much of a chance to pass the gene for radial hypoplasia on.

  36. bassmike says

    blf I know Aix-en-Provence! My brother lives very near there. I’ll have to ask him about the beer shop, he must know of it!

    I have a very mild muscular compliant compared to the rest of you, but my wrist is interfering with my music playing: I can’t bow the double bass with the protective strap on, and if I wear it playing the timpani it results in the stick being catapulted in the direction of the tubas….and they’re bigger than me!

    Ogvorbis my sympathies concerning your mother. I’m going through a similar thing with my mother too.

  37. blf says

    More than 900 coins removed from turtle’s stomach in Thailand:

    Twenty-five-year-old green sea turtle nicknamed Bank swallowed money thrown into her pool by tourists seeking good luck


    Vets in Bangkok operated on Monday on the 25-year-old female green sea turtle nicknamed Bank, whose indigestible diet was the result of tourists seeking good fortune by tossing coins into her pool over many years in the eastern town of Sri Racha.

    Many Thais believe that throwing coins on turtles will bring longevity. But the coins eventually formed a 5kg ball in Bank’s stomach. The weight cracked her ventral shell, causing a life-threatening infection.

    Five surgeons from Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary faculty removed the coins over four hours while Bank was anesthetised. The ball was too big to take out through a 10cm incision, so it had to be removed a few coins at a time. Many of them had corroded or partially dissolved.


    The surgery team leader said that when she discovered the cause of the turtle’s agony she was furious.

    “I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle,” said Nantarika Chansue, head of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary medical aquatic animal research centre.

    Thai media began publicising the turtle’s tale last month after she was found, and the public donated about 15,000 baht (£350) for her surgery.

    Typically, a green sea turtle has a lifespan of about 80 years, said Roongroje Thanawongnuwech, dean of the university’s veterinary faculty. It is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

  38. blf says

    bassmike@56, The specialist beer shop in Aix is La Route des Bières, who also have a shop (which I’ve never been to) in Bouc-Bel-Air. The Bouc-Bel-Air shop, c.15km from Aix, is apparently having a St Patricks day party this month, so if I can get my act together…

    The English-language bookshop is Book In Bar.

    I still haven’t tried any of the recently-purchased beers or books…

  39. blf says

    Rhino shot dead by poachers at French zoo:

    Horn removed from four-year-old Vince in ‘act of extreme violence’, says park director

    Poachers have broken into a French zoo, killing a four-year-old white rhinoceros and sawing off its horn.

    Keepers found the dead animal, named Vince, in the African enclosure of the zoo at Thoiry, west of Paris, on Tuesday morning. It had been shot in the head and its large horn removed with a chainsaw.


    Authorities described the incident as the first of its kind in Europe.


    Vince, born at Burgers’ zoo in Arnhem in the Netherlands at the end of 2012, arrived at Thoiry zoo in March 2015. The zoo said he belonged to a subspecies of southern white rhinoceros that is “extremely threatened”.


    “Vince was found this morning by the keeper who was very attached to him and is deeply upset. This odious act was carried out even though there were five staff members living on site and security cameras.”


    A rhinoceros horn has an estimated value of between €30,000 and €40,000. Detectives say there is an established trade network in illegally poached horn between France and Asia.

    “The theft of rhinoceros horns are rising across Europe, but it’s the first time an animal park has suffered an attack leading to the death of a rhinoceros,” the zoo said.


  40. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Ogvorbis @#48, sounds delicious , but may this amateur but half-decent chef suggest a slight variant?
    Rather than rub an already fatty meat with oil, try dusting with flour (plain, self raising, gluten-free, whatever) and brushing with beaten egg, thus encouraging the topping to stay on the meat and forming a more ‘juice-proof’ seal, keeping the meat even moister. Also, a handful of bread crumbs mixed with the cheese will give an added and satisfying crunch to the finished product.
    Finally, I would hardly be a pedant worthy of the name if I failed to use a baking (or roasting) dish rather than a backing dish.

  41. chigau (違う) says

    re: blf #59
    The Internets is powerful.
    We all need to promote the meme that:
    all of that magical power from animal parts
    works only if you kill it yourself

    Totally by yourself.
    If you are going up against a large-toothed carnivore, you may have a knife.
    If you are going up against a large blunt-toothed herbivore, you may have a club.
    anything else you have what the gods gave you.

  42. bassmike says

    Thanks blf I’ll mention those to my brother….though I’d be surprised if he hasn’t heard of them! :-)

  43. birgerjohansson says

    Good news #1 Immunotherapy trial cures Tasmanian devils of DFTD

    Good news # 2 Breakthrough discovery may make blood test feasible for detecting cancer

    Why the #%!&# do Swedes swear in English so much? It’s true! I have heard kids swear with language that would make Tony Soprano blush! (but the Finns are in a different League, bless them)

  44. Owlmirror says

    @The Mellow Monkey:

    Also I’ve discovered I can dictate into my phone while pacing, rather than hunching myself up at my computer, which is great because I have a migraine and an old neck injury is causing me some pain. And I feel a lot less stupid walking around talking into a phone than I do speaking at my computer. Though my STT software does make some hilarious and puzzling mistakes.

    Which software are you using? I’m looking at stuff to put on Android tablets/phones.

    Any other recommended Android stuff?

  45. Rob Grigjanis says

    birgerjohansson @63:

    Why the #%!&# do Swedes swear in English so much?

    I visited Latvia and Russia in the early nineties. Very few people spoke English, but the kids all knew and used the f word, spoken and written in graffiti. And I heard the n word used a few times.

  46. chigau (違う) says

    Isilzha Mir #69
    They may have been thinking of a Sophie’s Choice scenario.

  47. KG says


    Is Swedish short of satisfying swear words? If so, surely patriotic Swedes* should be working on this crucial aspect of national identity :-p

    A number of years ago, my wife and I were visiting Sweden (I was the “opponent” at a PhD viva). We were in a shop, and the shop assistant asked something – in Swedish – must have been something on the order of “Can I help you?”. My wife, who has Danish family and is also very quick at picking up languages, replied in Swedish (but of course with a British accent). The look of astonishment occasioned by a Brit tourist actually speaking a couple of words in Swedish, without even using a phrase book, was remarkable.

    *By which I don’t mean Swedish neo-Nazis!

  48. blf says

    Is Swedish short of satisfying swear words?

    Surely Surströmming and Lutfisk, as examples, should suffice…

  49. blf says

    In response to the recent rhino assassination here in France (see @59), Czech zoo to remove horns of 18 white rhinos following French attack (“Zoo deems danger to animals from poachers to be ‘really intense’, with black market rhino horn selling for more than gold or cocaine”). The article notes the zoo, “in the central Czech town of Dvůr Králové nad Labem […] is the world’s only zoo to have succeeded in the captive breeding of the extremely rare northern white rhino.” Indeed, the world’s entire population of northern white rhino — only three known individuals — are the results of that captive breeding.

  50. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Finally back to work. Wife and I think we shifted about 5 tons of snow to dig out our walkway, sidewalk, 2 cars, and an extra parking space (my theory is that, after a snow storm, if you park on the street and have one car, shovel two spaces; if you have two cars, shovel three, etc.), plus helping two elderly neighbors on our street, and the family next door. Of course, some of the snow had to be shifted two or three times to finally get it to a storage sport. We actually had a yard avalanche — the eight foot pile on our front yard (and on the filbert) ‘settled’ dumping three feet of snow onto the sidewalk and embedding me at frog depth* in snow.

    Wife and I played lots of Scrabble (got to use ‘QUARTZITE’ (I built it on ART) and scored 150 points in one play. I made homemade pizza, a stuffed pork loin, and we ate lots of fresh veggies — we figured we would wait on the canned stuff until we had no choice.

    I have calendarnormative Sunday and Monday off, the storm was on Tuesday, and we were basically trapped, together, at home, under the flannel sheets, with a new furnace, and shoveling snow, and playing Scrabble until Thursday afternoon. Some streets in our neighborhood are still impassable today.

    Anyway, I’m back.

  51. hotspurphd says

    Ran across this online. Does it make any sense? Is there a single gene?
    “By the way, the reason that very many people have arachnophobia is that it increases your chances of not being bitten by a spider that might kill you. The gene for this behavioral attribute has a beneficial affect on its own ability to become prevalent in the gene pool, and this is the critical requirement that must be met in order for any gene to become prevalent, i.e., it must beneficially affect its own ability to proliferate within the gene pool. The measure to which the gene has this beneficial effect is likely very, very small, to the point that it would be difficult to measure, however no matter how small the effect, a gene that beneficially affects its own proliferation will eventually become prevalent so long as there are no significant negative consequences of having that gene. Fear of spiders does no harm, and has a marginally positive influence on an individual person’s odds of surviving to adulthood and producing offspring, therefore this gene has become very common. Eventually, geneticists will discover the responsible chromosomal location (the gene). Eventually, parents might be able to choose whether they want their children to fear spiders.”

  52. Tethys says

    hey thread! It’s lovely to read you all again, and I hope the experiment is a success.

  53. says

    So yesterday my buddy Jason and Native Nicky came over to hang out and watch Tank Girl.

    Apparently someone saw them walk in and called the police, because about 20 minutes into the movie, there’s a loud knock at the door. And it’s the fuzz. They were just checking because a “concerned citizen” had called about them.

    It was awkward.

    I mean, thanks for checking in and all, I appreciate the concern and the effort, but we’re watching a movie. It’s all good here.

    The upside?

    <Dot Warner>
    The cops were cuuuuuute.
    </Dot Warner>

  54. hotspurphd says

    chigau (違う)
    17 March 2017 at 10:41 pm
    hotspurphd #76
    It was just a comment by someone at a friend’s Facebook page. Don’t know anything about the commenter.

  55. blf says

    On the ongoing no-sidebar link problem, I’ve found that searching (using Generalisimo Google™) for pharyngula 2017 "open thread" (including embedded "quotes") works quite well as a word-around.

  56. blf says

    For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking it was Saturday. In fact, I made an effort to get out of the lair during the morning so as to visit the local Saturday organic market.

    Oops. For those of you also using wonky calendars, it’s Friday.

    Actually, I’m not sure if my problem was a wonky calendar, or that bottle of French barely wine Slap a Banker I enjoyed last night. (Purchased at the beer spSecialist in Aix mentioned previously.) Yes, it was quite good. And lethal. Not only to bankers…

  57. blf says

    Me@87, word-around → work-around. Blame the Slap a Banker@88, albeit “word-around” sort-of works…

  58. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Damnit, blf. The new open thread has been up for less than three weeks and already the calendarnormative oppressors are oppressing those of us who have different calendars. On the Ogvorbilander, it is Thursday.

  59. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    With the calendar at Casa la Pelirroja, everyday is usually a non-work day, unless I decide otherwise. Viva retirement….

  60. hotspurphd says

    I figured it was bogus and expected an expert here to comment. Like pz.

  61. John Morales says

    hotspurphd, no need for deep biological expertise.

    From your own quotation:

    Eventually, geneticists will discover the responsible chromosomal location (the gene).

    It’s a purely speculative claim.

    Does it make any sense? Is there a single gene?

    It makes sense as story-telling, not as biology. And no, genes don’t work that way.

  62. John Morales says

    blf @87,

    On the ongoing no-sidebar link problem […]

    I figure it’s a feature, not a problem. Pretty sure PZ has read the comments here.

    This is one open thread where the OP is of significance.

  63. blf says

    So with today really being Saturday, I made another effort to get up and go to the morning organic market. Except it was raining. Not just water falling vertically rain, or even bouncing off the sides of buildings spraying rain, but the sort of rain where it is drier underseas. I actually did manage to make it to the market, despite having to wake up and then deal with water entering the lair without first using the pipes, only to the discover the obvious — The vendors had obviously said “oh feck it” (except in French) and hadn’t bothered coming. It was empty. Well, actually, a lake.

  64. says

    Stop Calling Some Needs Special — This woman — and parent of a child with DS — put this so much better than I ever could. (bolding is mine.)

    My son, who has Down syndrome, is 10. By the time he was 3 (thanks in part to spending his first few years reading everything I could get my hands on), it was pretty clear to me that while he had particular needs, they weren’t all that special. He needs an education, safe housing, independence, meaningful community, health care, and basically all the other stuff that everyone else needs. Our means to get him there might vary and require specific techniques, tools, and resources, but it’s not because his needs are so “special.”

  65. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ve been watching old PBS Nova episodes, and I just saw one from 2006 that I found somewhat personal. The program was titled Ghosts in Your Genes, and a segment of the episode talked about a compound I worked on in the past. Nice to know I have a lasting effect on humanity in the future.

  66. blf says

    I managed to make it to the Saturday organic market yesterday morning, when it really was Saturday and not raining (well, not much). Today’s general market was mostly drowned out by the rain, which was the sort which falls continuously with a few teasing spells of sunshine, much to the exasperation of the waiters who would just finish putting out or drying off the outdoor tables when clouds would rematerialize and piss some more.

  67. chigau (違う) says

    Like, this used to be the verry hottbed of all that internettsseses athiest femmminazziness.??

  68. blf says

    Ouch! Here is a restaurant review that leaves no doubt as the vileness of the place being reviewed. Which happens to be the über-expensive three-stared Le Cinq in Paris, Le Cinq, Paris: restaurant review:

    It was supposed to be a joyous trip to one of France’s famous gastro palaces — what could possibly go wrong? Le Cinq, Four Seasons Hôtel George V, […]. Meal for two, including service and modest wine: €600 (£520)

    There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are. And so, to the flagship Michelin three-star restaurant of the George V Hotel in Paris, or the scene of the crime as I now like to call it. In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job. This, it must be said, is an achievement of sorts.


    [Almost everything but the pastries] are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification” […]. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says. Spherifications of various kinds — bursting, popping, deflating, always ill-advised — turn up on many dishes. It’s their trick, their shtick, their big idea. It’s all they have. Another canapé, tuile enclosing scallop mush, introduces us to the kitchen’s love of acidity. Not bright, light aromatic acidity of the sort provided by, say, yuzu. This is blunt acidity of the sort that polishes up dulled brass coins.


    The cheapest of the starters is gratinated onions “in the Parisian style”. We’re told it has the flavour of French onion soup. It makes us yearn for a bowl of French onion soup. It is mostly black, like nightmares, and sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party. There are textures of onions, but what sticks out are burnt tones, and spherified balls of onion purée that burst jarringly against the roof of the mouth. A dish of raw marinated scallops with sea urchin ice cream is a whack of iodine. […]

    A main of pigeon is requested medium, but served so pink it just might fly again given a few volts. It comes with brutally acidic Japanese pear and more of that flavourless watercress purée. A heap of couscous is mined with a tiny portion of lamb for €95. Like the watercress purée, it tastes of little. It comes with gummy purées, unpleasant spherifications of lamb stock and mushy, one-note “merguez” sausages which are nothing of the sort. A sad, over-reduced sauce coagulates on the plate.

    […] Every single thing I ate at the restaurant Skosh [York, England] for a sixth of the price was better than this. It’s bizarre. Not that the older gentlemen with their nieces on the few other occupied tables seem to care. The restaurant is never more than half full. Pictures of plates are snapped. Mind you I also take pictures, but mine are shot in the manner of a scene of crime officer working methodically.


    […] If I work hard, one day, with luck, I may be able to forget [this experience].

  69. Tethys says

    Mourning doves have returned, and it is currently spitting white stuff from the sky. So glad I did not spend the weekend uncovering the gardens.


    Like, this used to be the verry hottbed of all that internettsseses athiest femmminazziness.??

    TET and T-dome were excellent training for this world gone mad. I spend plenty of time in person battling the MRAs who are currently holding elective office. Being a raging sexist douchebag is the latest trend, even here in Minnesota. They got called out this week by Rep Melissa Hortman for being disrespectful, entitled white men who went off to play cards rather than listen to testimony from fellow lawmakers who also happen to be women or POC. The resulting whingeing of white menz, and assorted GOP fools crying about the temerity of such racism is epic.

    My feet hurt too.

  70. blf says

    An interesting follow-up to that absolutely scathing Le Cinq review (@104):

    Some readers may notice a difference between my description of the onion dish — “mostly black, like nightmares” — and the picture of it [in the review], which is golden and rather beautiful.

    There’s a reason for this.

    Le Cinq would not let us photograph their food, as we usually do after I’ve reviewed, and insisted that we use press shots. This is extremely unusual. However, I did take pictures during the meal, on an iPhone 7 using the available light. And that makes things a little clearer, as you can see [at the link above –blf].

    In addition, Le Cinq only supplied a very limited selection of food images. However, I photographed most of the meal.


    The reviewer then really cuts loose at his own blog, Spot the difference: the food pics supplied to The Observer by Le Cinq in Paris, as against mine.

  71. bassmike says

    blf I note that the restaurant critic that you quote in @104 & @106 is Jay Rayner. He’s, in my opinion, an all round good person, being a humanist etc. He’s the son of Claire Rayner who was also a humanist.

  72. blf says

    Another scathing review in the Gruaniad, albeit this one is of a play, albeit not one preformed by a generally respected company, Much Ado About Nothing review – Sh!t-faced Shakespeare does the Bard blotto. Apparently, there is currently a fad for “one of the […] actors (selected on a roster that a programme note defends as medically responsible) loads up with alcohol before and during the show.” In order words, actor deliberately gets drunk before the play†— In this case, the results were apparently disastrous, with the actor “giveaway giggly and tipsy from the start, is at once completely off her text, foul-mouthedly improvising and physically interfering with colleagues.”

      † There are may ways of doing interesting interpretations, including comedy, of plays. As a long-time play-goer, this fad (which I admit to having not been of aware of) is not one of them. This is being stoopid because your acting company is devoid of creative ideas.

  73. blf says

    Bizarre bivalve: first living giant shipworm discovered in Philippines (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Mud-dwelling organism that lives head down in a tusklike tube found alive for first time, although its existence had been known of for centuries

    About three feet long and glistening black with a pink, fleshy appendage, it looks like the entrails of an alien from a bad horror film. In fact, it is a giant shipworm.

    Discovered in the mud of a shallow lagoon in the Philippines, a living creature of the species has never been described before — even though its existence has been known for more than 200 years thanks to fossils of the baseball bat-sized tubes that encase the creature.

    “Although people have known {these animals} exist, they didn’t know the simplest things about them,” said Dan Distel of Northeastern University’s marine science centre and co-author of the study published in the journal PNAS. “It was a very mysterious organism.”


    With the Linnaean classification Kuphus polythalamia, the creature lives in the mud inside a long tube made of calcium carbonate secreted by the animal. The tube forms a casing for the beast, including its head. “If they want to grow, they have to open that end of that tube, so somehow dissolve or reabsorb that cap on the bottom, grow, extend the tube down further into the mud, and then they seal it off again,” said Distel.

    The end of the tube, adds Distel, is Y-shaped and surrounds two siphons — water is drawn in through one, pushed through the creature’s gills, then expelled through the other.

    Despite being known as a shipworm […] the animal is actually a type of clam. It has a modified version of two clam shells at its head, while the body stretches out behind. “Its body has been stretched out through evolution so that it no longer fits between the two shells,” said Distel.

    […] Other shipworms feed on submerged wood with the aid of wood-degrading bacteria that live in their gills, but the newly discovered specimen had only a tiny digestive system, while the fact that the creature was enclosed in a tube suggested it was not eating mud.

    [… T]he creature relies on bacteria in its gills that use hydrogen sulphide in the water as an energy source. That energy is then used to turn carbon dioxide into nutrients for the shipworm.


    There is a short video at the link.

  74. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Uhm chigau, is hantavirus still a thing in that part of the world?

  75. chigau (違う) says

    I merely glimpsed the little @&&$ as it scurried, so I don’t know what sort it is.
    It is too late now to do anything about it.
    Traps will be baited tomorrow.

  76. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Thanks chigau. It’s been a hard, strange time the last little while; hugs are much appreciated. I hope all is well in the great white north, rodentia notwithstanding.

  77. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Last night, Wife and I (we are both trying to lose weight — she is succeeding) tried something new for dinner. To go with our (extremely on sale dirt cheap) tenderloins, and some steamed asparagus, we added garlic and cheese grits. It was good.

    Roast 2 medium to large cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil per serving until soft and lightly browned. Mash and dice the garlic and reserve with the olive oil.

    Cook grits according to the package directions for however many servings you want (omit the salt)

    When the grits are cooked to your satisfaction, add the garlic, the olive oil, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan per serving.


    Good. And low carb/low calorie.

  78. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Watching an old Nova episode on saving marine mammals. How do you check out and track an elephant seal? First anesthetize the seal, epoxy an electronic yarmulke on its head, and weigh it with bunch of graduate students….
    How many graduate students are required to weigh a zebrafish? *snicker*

  79. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Good way to the start the morning. SpaceX launched a NRO (spy) satellite, which meant all stage 2 information was classified. It was a clear day, so the long distance cameras had a good view of the booster after separation until landing, and the telemetry shown was for the first stage. Link to present video (the webcast really starts 6:00 in at this time).

  80. chigau (違う) says

    This afternoon, with full sun bouncing off the white stucco, my back porch was 36°C.
    It was only 26°C in the west-side shade.

  81. chigau (違う) says

    We had Community Hall Clean-up today.
    Wall washing, light fixture dusting, stove scouring, etc.
    My task was defrosting and purging the chest freezers.
    This was not particularly arduous but two hours of head-below-heart left me wasted.
    I did enjoy the dumpstering of mysteryfood from 2014.
    I had to leave before The End …. I hope they locked the dumpster.

  82. blf says

    One cherry tree is blooming. The other is … resting. […] I did enjoy the dumpstering of mysteryfood from 2014.

    The snoring cheery tree is not going to be so cherry when it wakes up and discovers you interfered with its 2014 vintage batch of superior intelligent life.†

    I had to leave before The End

    Exit emergency exit chased by an uncherry cheery tree…

      † Wasn’t a particularly good vintage. Main problem was it tended to overheat and explode if not kept cool. (And you thought it was a N.Korean missile test !)

  83. blf says

    Neil Gaiman hopes to raise $1m for refugees with Dr Seuss reading:

    The American Gods author and UNHCR goodwill ambassador says he will give a dramatic recital of Fox in Socks if enough money is pledged

    [… Neil Gaiman] made the offer after accepting a previous challenge to read out the menu of a US dessert chain in exchange for $500,000-worth of pledges to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

    The challenge to read the Cheesecake Factory menu was set on Friday by US comedian and author Sara Benincasa after what she described as an “inspiration blackout” following a date at the chain, and watching the new TV adaptation of American Gods.

    Gaiman responded in a tweet: “If she makes this happen, I will do this thing.” On his Facebook page, he added that he would read the Dr Seuss book if donations reached $1m. […] A deadline of 20 June — World Refugee Day — has been set.

    Explaining why she set the challenge, Benincasa wrote: “There’s a reason he won an award for audiobooks, along with all the 18,000 other things he’s won as an author/screenwriter/producer/raconteur/hero.” […]

    Tagged #neilcake on Twitter, Gaiman has been set a challenging task with the Cheesecake Factory menu. The restaurant is known for its extensive and eclectic range, which extends to dishes such as “truffle-bacon cheesesticks”. The restaurant has joined the fundraising drive on social media, although it has yet to say how much it will donate to make it happen.

    Gaiman was appointed a global goodwill ambassador of the UNHCR in February.


  84. blf says

    Bicycling trilobites! What do the Tour de France and fossils have in common?:

    Sport and palaeontology rarely overlap, but a new study shows ancient arthropods may have used the same slipstreaming techniques as elite cyclists


    […] Last year, Błażej Błażejowski and colleagues described queueing trilobites from the Late Devonian of Poland, preserved on three layers of a 25m thick shale. 78 lines, or queues, with up to 19 individuals in each, were found, with all the trilobites pointing in the same direction, and touching head to tail. These were interpreted as mass migration events, as seen today in the single-file migrations of spiny lobsters. […]

    A new study by Hugh Trenchard and colleagues interpreted this migration behaviour further. They looked at the same trilobite queues and compared them to a peloton, the close pack of riders in a bicycle race. Riders in a peloton can reduce drag, and so save energy, by riding in the wake of a leading rider, slipstreaming them. Energy efficiency is so improved that it allows weaker riders to keep up with riders that they could not otherwise match for speed. In the modern marine environment, versions of this behaviour and their corresponding energy savings have been studied in species of fish and shrimp.

    Trenchard and colleagues proposed that this queueing enabled smaller, slower trilobites to keep up with larger, faster individuals. Through modelling, they calculated that a 61.5% power saving could be made by a slipstreaming trilobite relative to the leader. They used measurements from a living isopod crustacean to estimate maximal sustainable walking speeds for different sizes of trilobite. Their modelling suggests that as the trilobites reached their maximal sustainable walking speed, they would be expected to align into a single-file queue — which is what is seen in the remarkable fossils.


    It’s safe to say that the worlds of sport and palaeontology don’t overlap very often, but the wealth of behavioural interpretation which this approach has provided makes me want to find other cases. Synchronised swimming ammonites, anyone?

    The mildly deranged penguin says one reason T. rex had such small arms is they were fond of archery — with proportionally-sized arms, they would have had to use entire trees as the bows (and, I presume, arrows), which makes it more a contest of strength than skill.

  85. consciousness razor says


    A sitting president can pick anybody they want for VP. Then Congress just has to push the right button, and it’s a done deal. If I’m supposed to imagine a scenario where both Trump and Pence are gone — sounds like a nice thought so far — then it’d be the choice of the president, whoever that is. Probably Paul Ryan, since he’s next in line.

    It won’t be anybody you’d like, because unfortunately the current line of succession (for POTUS) is this bunch of assholes:

    1. Mike Pence
    2. Paul Ryan
    3. Orrin Hatch
    4. Rex Tillerson
    5. Steven Mnuchin
    6. James Mattis
    7. Jeff Sessions
    8. Ryan Zinke
    9. Sonny Perdue
    10. Wilbur Ross
    11. Alex Acosta
    12. Tom Price
    13. Ben Carson
    14. Rick Perry
    15. Betsy DeVos
    16. David Shulkin
    17. John F. Kelly

  86. Tethys says

    I like the scenario that has most of the people on that list being charged and tried for treason, and the people who actually won the election being inaugurated.

    On a different note, everybody should watch American Gods. It was written over a decade ago, and yet it seems directly relevant to the current political state of the union. Lemony- fresh! I wonder if the resemblance of technical boy in episode 4 to the owner of FB was intentional.