Christmas must be coming, because the snowflakes are raging

It is becoming one of the most dreaded days of the year: Starbucks announces the pattern on their holiday cardboard cups. Will it be Cthulhu, devouring the world? Will it be the heat death of the universe, captured in a dull gray pattern representative of the faint hiss of radiation from dying galaxies? Will it be a festive splatter of Jesus’s blood as he’s tortured, surrounded by gleeful legionnaires raising their cups of holiday cheer? You never know. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, the wattles of the faithful will tremble with rage.

And here they are…

According to a spokesperson,

This year’s hand-drawn cup features scenes of celebrating with loved ones — whoever they may be. We intentionally designed the cup so our customers can interpret it in their own way, adding their own color and illustrations.

And with that, a few loons are off to the races. It’s the GAY AGENDA, they squawk.

Oh, fuck it. Who cares? Go ahead, wax wroth over the pathetic imaginary enemies in your heads, you kooks.

The Morris North Star embarrasses us once again

I completely missed this when it happened, but our local conservative trolls got kicked off the air of the campus radio station a few weeks ago. KUMM allows and encourages student groups to broadcast on our station, and the right-wingers took advantage of that, as is their right. That would have been fine if they’d gone on the air to talk about their political views, but instead, it was their childish version of talk-radio hate speech. They used their time slot to rail against gay and transgender people, and the station manager yanked their show, called “Deplorable Radio”, off the air.

The two hosts of the show, Brandon Albrecht and Tayler Lehmann, are also on the masthead of the alternative Trump-loving student paper, the Morris North Star. Here’s what pissed off the station manager:

“Everybody knows everybody here at Morris. Like, definitely, you see one tranny that’s trying to punch someone, you know it’s automatically that one guy, that you know, I’m talking about. I bet you know. I’m not going to dox anybody and name them on air. But you two know if I say the tranny who looks like he’s going to punch someone.”

Like he says, we know everyone here at Morris, some better than others. I scarcely know any of the North Star clique and probably know the members of MOQSIE slightly better, and that rant made no sense at all. I’m trying to picture who among our small transgender community would look like they’re wanting to punch anybody, and drawing a complete blank. They had events to celebrate coming out week a short while ago, I attended some, and the opposite is true: everyone in that group was actively trying to avoid the right-wing thugs. Those nasty people were actively scheduling their own counter-programming to protest the existence of sexual diversity on campus; MOQSIE put on an informational session on respecting gender differences, for instance, and the North Star scheduled a panel on the “oppression olympics” right afterwards (they concluded that the most oppressed group on campus was white men, of course).

Surprisingly, the entire encounter at the radio station was recorded on video.

The station manager overstepped their (by the way, the City Paper source did not use the correct pronoun for the station manager) bounds with the claim that “tranny” is prohibited by the FCC; it is not. It is still hate speech, and they were entirely within their bounds to appropriately shut down the use of campus facilities to broadcast hate. The FCC doesn’t prohibit saying “Sieg Heil” on the air, either, but if Nazis were doing a radio show here, I would hope someone would step in and say “NO.”

Also weird: one of the things that the thugs were babbling about is how few and weak leftists were on our campus.

As one host observed that the school’s left-wing “Antifa” presence is nicer than branches found elsewhere, host Brandon Albrecht said Morris leftists are merely more timid, because there were fewer of them.

But then you read the comments, and you get stuff like this:

I used to attend U of M Morris and it’s essentially a school full of communists and socialists. The students are so far beyond the left that they were actually threatening students like myself who voted for trump. That school is not a school to educate it’s a school to silence free speech and push their agenda

Which is it? Do we have an overwhelmingly liberal student body, or are we weak and timid?

I’m glad to see somebody standing up to the North Star. This is the same right wing group that called a cop on me a while back for allegedly destroying their newspapers (I didn’t, and they had no evidence) and had me hauled off to the station to make a statement, so I have no sympathy at all for them — being asked to stop spewing hatred on the radio is a reasonable request, one that they’re unable to fulfill.

We have a new house! Kinda sorta.

We live in a somewhat unfashionably old house — not old enough to be exotic, but old enough to be a bit, well, shabby. That’s exactly the right word for it. It was built in the late 1940s by the Wohler family, who were sort of a big deal in these parts, since they owned the most important bar in town, the Old #1. It was sold shortly afterwards to Ed LaFave, a banker, who was also one of the civic leaders who led the effort to get the University of Minnesota Morris built here, in the late 1950s and 60s. So anyway, we’re sort of connected to small town royalty through this house.

LaFave had bought it for his mother — his home was across the street — and she lived her for several decades, which means, of course, that our home is known as Granny LaFave’s House to all the locals. That’s fine, none of the subsequent tenants, including us, have had her endurance, so she earned it. Unfortunately, while the interior was quite nice, the exterior had gotten a bit run down over the years. Here’s what it looked like a few years ago.

There’d been a few poor attempts at tidying it up. One of the worst was that it was covered with nice cedar shakes, but they were painted over white, and that paint was flaking off, and some of the windows were in less than pristine shape, and there were those odd wooden strakes protruding over the windows (I think they used to have some kind of screening over them) that were simply falling off.

So this summer we hired a contractor to give it a complete make-over.

We had the old shakes stripped off and replaced with siding. New windows everywhere, with better insulation. The deck was resurfaced. Some of the stonework was patched up. Now it looks completely different!

Strangely, at the same time all this was going on, the county sent us a notice that they’d decided, for some obscure reason, to change our house number from 300 College Avenue to 209 College Avenue, so now we can pretend we’ve moved to a completely different house with none of the hassle of actually having to move the contents.

Oops. I just doxxed myself.

I made a brief video of walking around the house. Most of you won’t care, but I’m sending this to family — this is the house where my youngest two kids grew up, so they might be curious.

Right now, the interior is cluttered because we had to pull everything away from the walls (because they were doing some major work with new windows), and most of our posessions are piled up in our living room. One of the things we’ll be doing this long Thanksgiving weekend is de-cluttering and moving everything back to where it belongs.

Also, most importantly…that room with the bay windows used to be our daughter’s bedroom, and I’m taking over. We had the interior redone (most importantly: grounded 3 prong outlets everywhere), and I’ll be setting that up as my home office. Yay! Electronics will be neatly organized, I’ll have a quiet writing space, and it’ll have wonderful light!

No, the house is not up for sale, and this is not an advertisement. We’re planning to stay here a good long while yet.

Rules for Gentlemen

Actually, the Rules for Gentlemen are the same as they’ve always been, but unfortunately, there has been one major change: all the get-out-of-jail-free cards have been cancelled. Rendered null and void. Deleted. They aren’t making any more. If you try waving one, it’ll just make you look more corrupt — what made you ever think you deserved an exemption?

So I’m going to be specific. We don’t get to make these excuses ever again.

  • The autistic/mentally ill exemption. Ugh. Gross. Do not ever pull a James Damore and blame your bad behavior and ignorance on autism. Autism doesn’t turn you into an asshole. Neither does mental illness. You don’t get to drag down a lot of innocent people with you and increase their stigma to save your butt.

  • We men are such lovable klutzes. Wrong. Pretending to be ignorant of the rules of normal human behavior isn’t lovable at all. Especially since 5 minutes after you beg unawareness of how to do laundry and complain about the impossibility of navigating the complex social mores of interacting with feeemales, you’re going to hop on the internet and brag about how your sex includes Alexander the Great, Gutenberg, and the guy who invented http among its members.

  • It’s our Man Genes. Nope. There are no such things as Man Genes that dictate your behavior. From the raw material of our genetics, society constructed Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, and Nelson Mandela. People are complicated and your naive reductionism is noted and dismissed as stupid.

  • The she-was-a-slut excuse. The grossest. It doesn’t matter if she posed for Playboy, had sex with the Philadelphia Eagles, and was standing naked in front of you coated in lube — if she says no, if she doesn’t give consent, you don’t have an invitation to demand so much as a kiss. Her sexual history does not give you liberty to take liberties. I don’t understand why, but this seems to be extraordinarily hard for some people to grasp.

  • But it was only once! It’s never only once. But even if it was that miraculously solitary, incredibly rare, unusual exception of an event, it doesn’t matter. The harm was done. We don’t get permission to run a stop light just once, or to commit murder just once — you don’t get a crime punchcard that lets you off the hook once for each error of judgment.

  • The punishment is too severe. All right, I sort of sympathize with this one — we seem to find ourselves in a world where the only choices are “look the other way” or “nuke it from orbit”, with no gradations in between. But the problem is…we built that world. We looked the other way for everything shy of cannibal baby rape, and our failure to respond to constant escalation of harassment means we haven’t created an appropriate social response to all those intermediate offenses. We put off paying the prices for millennia, and it’s all finally coming due.

  • OK, but I’ll get to pick my penance. Sneaky. You’ll request an ethics review of your actions. By your peers. Who are almost all men. Who include a majority of Republicans. It is very brave to be willing to abide by their judgment, when you know the outcome will be a pat on the back, apologies for dragging you through this process, and uninterrupted resumption of your privilege. Christ, we saw Jeff Sessions glide through his pro forma hearing, suffering only a little finger wagging and ending up…still the attorney general of the whole goddamned United States.

Got it, gentlemen? Pull out your wallet and dump out all those cards granting you exemptions, splash them with a wee bit of your whisky, and set them on fire. You can sit back and sip the remainder of the bottle while weeping — that’s fine. You probably feel naked and vulnerable now, just like everyone else. It’s extremely uncomfortable.

Maybe we can start from scratch and build more equitable principles for dealing with others that gives all of us some protection.

A mirror held up to who we are

Wow. Tom Björklund has been making these amazing paintings to humanize Neandertals. Here are a few examples:

It doesn’t take much — a father teaching his child, a flower in the hair — to wrench one away from the usual distanced view we have of dead bones and stone tools. These were people.

I’d like to see a similar approach to australopithecines. We can see emotions in a chimpanzee — you know that Lucy had just as rich a repertoire of feelings as they do. We can only imagine how they expressed them.

A different version of the Onion Test

The denizens of 4chan/pol have got it into their tiny little heads that the way to Save Western Civilization is for them increase their testosterone levels. There are a few little problems with that idea: they haven’t made the connection between “more testosterone” and “civilization”, and given that testosterone is an extremely common steroidal hormone in all vertebrates, and that bears get rather high testosterone levels without building cities and discovering writing, any connection would be tenuous. But apparently they’re fixated on this idea about manliness, and are looking for ways to naturally elevate their testosterone, and so have started consuming onions.

Wait, why onions? There’s another tenuous connection. Onions are high in antioxidants that help break down free radicals, free radicals are produced in greater volumes in metabolically active cells, some very active cells are sperm cell precursors that are dividing rapidly, so we should eat onions to preserve our precious Western male bodily fluids! There have been serious studies on this subject, and I found one in Experimental Biology and Medicine that reports a substantial increase in sexual activity in rats fed onion juice.

Onion (Allium cepa) is one of the most commonly cultivated species of the family Liliaceae, and has long been used in dietary and therapeutic applications. Treatment with fresh onion juice has been reported to promote testosterone production in male rats. Testosterone is the male sex hormone responsible for enhancing sexual libido and potency. This study aimed to investigate the effects of onion juice on copulatory behavior of sexually potent male rats and in male rats with paroxetine-induced sexual dysfunction. Sexually experienced male rats were divided into seven groups: a control group, three onion juice-treated groups, a paroxetine-treated group, and two groups treated with paroxetine plus different doses of onion juice. At the end of the treatments, sexual behavior parameters and testosterone levels were measured and compared among the groups. Administration of onion juice significantly reduced mount frequency and latency and increased the copulatory efficacy of potent male rats. In addition, administration of onion juice attenuated the prolonged ejaculatory latency period induced by paroxetine and increased the percentage of ejaculating rats. Serum testosterone levels increased significantly by onion juice administration. However, a significant reduction in testosterone because of paroxetine therapy was observed. This reduction was restored to normal levels by administration of onion juice. This study conclusively demonstrates that fresh onion juice improves copulatory behavior in sexually potent male rats and in those with paroxetine-induced sexual dysfunction by increasing serum testosterone levels.

So, in this one study, they found that rats who were juiced on onions had sex more often (and more quickly, but let’s gloss over that). I guess if you think ejaculating rats is a good proxy for civilization, that might be suggestive.


Don’t tell /pol/ this, they might panic…

The authors of the study are…Mohammed Z Allouh, Haytham M Daradka, Mohammed M Al Barbarawi, and Ayman G Mustafa. This might throw them over the edge. They’re already suspecting that they’re being tricked into gnawing on raw onions.

Should we tell them there are different varieties of onions, and not all of them are as sharp or astringent as the ones they’re suffering with? My father used to eat raw onions — but they were varieties like the Walla Walla Sweet onion, which as you might guess from the name, has a gentler flavor. He was also civilized and manly, which meant kind, supportive, and hard-working. I don’t think that’s the kind of civilized those guys are aiming for, though.

One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead

So I would like to point out that Charles Manson never:

  • poisoned Indian lands with a leaky oil pipeline;

  • invited and enabled the slaughter of elephants;

  • built cheesy gilded hotels and casinos;

  • ripped off the contractors who built his hotels;

  • voted for tax breaks for the obscenely rich;

  • conspired with the Russians to subvert elections;

  • got elected to congress;

  • appointed far right conservatives to the Supreme Court;

  • or was elected president.

I’m still glad the old monster is dead.

I expressed myself about Genesis: Paradise Lost

In case you don’t want to listen to a whole half hour of this, here’s my concluding statement:

Look. I’m an atheist. This stuff plays directly into my hands — if your religion demands that every statement in your holy book must be absolutely, inarguably true, and that your entire faith hinges on a complete lack of metaphor, poetry, allusion, and analogy in that book — that it is as dry and literal and factual as a table of measures in an engineering text — then I’ve got you. I am going to win over your children to my side, and you know it.

As an atheist, I’m often told that I don’t understand your religion. But I do. I understand it better than the fanatical literalists, anyway. Religion has a long history of struggling to reconcile reality and belief, to find humanity’s place in a largely unknown and complex and frequently hostile universe. If there is any saving grace in faith at all, it is that it is an attempt to find a rock of certainty in the unpredictable chaos of life — it is aspirational, a search for truth. As such, religion changes over time. It evolves.

Where it fails is when people like Ham and the Hovinds give up on the search and the struggle and decide that they have an absolute lock on an irrevocable and ultimate truth, one that will no longer bend to the evidence, that will no longer care about the nature of reality, but only the nature of one antique interpretation of the words of a book. They will not change any more. They will cling stubbornly to this one unmoving stone of dogma, and they will insist that everything else is wrong. They will close their eyes and grasp tighter and tighter to that one illusion of certainty as it crumbles around them. By refusing to bend, they commit themselves to someday breaking.

The movie goes on like this for another hour and a half: more tiresome and tired old creationist arguments interspersed with brief episodes of bad CGI accompanied by a slow, lugubrious voice of god. It ends with another 10 or 15 minutes of fast cuts between their cast members, all testifying and preachifying about the glory of god and how lovely Jesus makes them feel.

It just makes me terribly sad. These are lost minds committed to battling against the real world.