Spider poop

As promised threatened, I took some photos of spider poop this morning. It’s surprisingly colorful! But then, these are from the spiderling vials, so maybe it’s like baby poop, which also tends to have surprising colors.

The big circular feature is an artifact at the bottom of the plastic vial.

This is my masterpiece: I call it “Still life with spider poop, molted cuticle, and little blue bits of dried fly medium”. I’m thinking of printing it out on a 10 foot wide sheet and selling it to MOMA.


But don’t you worry: Turning Point USA is on it. They made a list. Strangely, most of them seem to be women and minorities, but hey, I made the cut. There is a grand total of SIX (6) dangerous professors in the entire state, which is kind of a tiny group to be responsible for overthrowing the state and destroying capitalism, and we’re rather scattered all over the place — I haven’t met any of my revolutionary cadre.

We should get together and do lunch, Jim Bear Jacobs, Marlon James, Shannon Gibney, Wayne Bendickson, and Barbara Gorski. We could also invite Jack Russell Weinstein, the sole enemy of the state in North Dakota (there is no representative in South Dakota. They’re all running dog lackeys there). It might be difficult since some of us are hundreds of miles away.

This is no way to run a revolution.

Pangburn going down in flames

Pangburn Philosophy, you know, that guy who has been putting on talks all over the place featuring alt-right heroes, was going to have an event in New York this weekend called A Day of Reflection. It’s been hemorrhaging speakers for quite some time — Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz backed out of it a while back, they couldn’t meet Jordan Peterson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s demands, and then Bari Weiss cancelled. They were reduced to booking actual progressive speakers, like Rebecca Watson and Cara Santa Maria.

Well, now that’s all done.

Apparently, the problem was gross mismanagement: speakers weren’t getting paid, people who bought tickets ($300 for the NYC event!) to events that were cancelled weren’t getting reimbursed, and with that news, you’d have to be nuts to buy a ticket to any Pangburn event, given its odds of getting dropped or its speaker roster changing radically, leaving you holding the bag.

Bye bye, Travis Pangburn. I don’t think we’ll be hearing much of you polluting the skeptic/atheist movement anymore.

Just for the sake of recording this, here is their original announcement for the event:

Notice the featured speakers: Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Jordan Peterson, Maajid Nawaz, Glenn Loury, and it was to be held at the Lincoln Center.

Here’s the web page a few minutes ago: they lost all but Loury.

If you look tomorrow, it’ll probably be a blank page, or an error message.

Spider Update: Cleaning day (no photos)

I’ve concluded that I’ve been a terrible spider daddy. What else can you say when your young spiderlings have a 90% mortality rate? I expect ICE to pound on my door any day now and give me an offer of employment at one of their detention centers.

In my defense, I am learning. My big mistake was hoping that I could keep a freshly-hatched clutch of spiderlings together for a fairly long period of time, to minimize the maintenance chores. Nope. Doesn’t work. I even did some quick experiments where I’d put small groups of 3 in vials of different volumes, so different population densities, and it didn’t help. After a while, there would be only one.

I don’t know whether it was simply that one would hog all the food, starving the others, or whether it was outright siblicide, but lesson learned: the babies get separated, day one. I just have to get a new egg sac first. Unfortunately, all I’ve got now are 3 full grown adults, and they’re all females (it’s their own damn fault, too, since they ate their husbands).

Today was cleaning day and sorting out all the juveniles. At this point, I have a grand total of…11 young’uns. They all look healthy and I don’t expect serious mortality issues from this point on. About a quarter of them are male (you will say, “what’s 25% of 11?”, and I will reply that one of them is ambiguously sexed at this point, with palps that aren’t quite fully developed), but I can’t use them to breed with the adult females, yet. It’s not a worry about incest, but just that they’re roughly 1/4 to 1/2 the size of the adult behemoths, and they’re too preciously few to risk turning them into snacks.

Speaking of incest, 82% of the juveniles are children of the dearly departed Gwyneth, so there goes genetic diversity already. That may not be a bad thing, given that Gwyneth was an uber-fertile monster queen, and a little inbreeding to reduce genetic diversity is useful in a lab model. I’m also planning to do some collecting trips this Spring, to get individuals who didn’t all come from one house on one corner of one block in Morris, Minnesota.

Anyway, right now they’re all tucked into fresh new clean vials, given a little spritz of water vapor, and a couple of hapless fruit flies each. They just need to grow now. Also, I have a sink full of dirty vials to wash out tomorrow. Spider poop, yuck.

Hey, maybe tomorrow I should take some pictures of spider poop — I suspect most of you haven’t seen it.

Don’t declaw your cats

My daughter’s cat, Midnight, was declawed — not by us, we adopted him from a shelter — and it’s a terrible practice, barbaric and cruel. Poor old beast, first that indignity, and now he has to share his human’s affections with a brand new baby.

But here’s one bit of good news, too late for Midnight: New Jersey is banning the declawing of cats. One state down, 49 more to go.

I think I’ve spotted the problem

Why does the American media suck? Here’s a hint in an article that is discussing how the press should respond to the farce that the White House press briefings have become. The author is against a walkout or boycott or whatever the media is calling the imaginary response that won’t happen anyway.

The White House is a lousy source of information about itself, but it is also the best available source.

Wait, what? It’s probably the worst available source — the White House is not going to ‘fess up to any perfidy. They’re going to tell you a bunch of lies and cover up any problems. Unless your story is “Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied again today”, the real story, the facts of what is going on, are buried underneath whatever message they’re peddling in the briefings. In stuff like this:

The real story of Trumpism is probably found not in the White House or even in Washington but in Ohio, in Texas, along the Mexican border, in refugee camps the world over, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, and in the Palestinian territories.

Yes. And also in Washington, in the actions the principal actors there take. Not in what they say they’re doing, but what they’re actually doing. The press briefings have become tools of disinformation, where they say what’s happening, and can trust the lackeys of the media to happily echo their story, because digging into the actual facts of what they’re doing is hard work.

But the story of how the Administration functions must still be observed up close. Walking away would give this White House exactly what it wants: less contact with the media, less visibility, ever less transparency and accountability. Walking away would feel good, but it would ultimately be a loss. Would the loss in information be greater than the gain in solidarity? That’s a hard question, but my guess is that the answer is yes.

This is nuts. What Trump wants is more attention. But he also wants to control what the media says about him, and that is what these official White House press briefings are for.

And what information would we lose? “Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied again today” is basically only one bit of information.

The Trump Administration has the media in a vise. On the one hand, most of what comes out of White House mouths is poison to the public conversation: because it’s a lie, or an expression of hate, or both. Simply reporting Trump’s lies and incendiary comments, however critically, serves to entrench his world view as a part of our shared reality. At the same time, he is the President. His Twitter pronouncements find a sympathetic audience among tens of millions of Americans. Refusing to engage with his words would mean refusing to engage with Trump voters and with the Trump Administration itself. It would mean walking away from politics altogether, which, for journalists, would be an abdication of responsibility.

The responsibility is to do more than just report what Donald Trump says — which is pretty much what the media has been doing for the last several years. It’s to analyze and investigate and report critically. What I’ve seen from the press is mostly a refusal to engage with those words already. Maybe if they broke away from their reliance on being spoon-fed talking points and had to actually find out what’s happening, they’d remember their obligations again.

Earlier in the article, the author references an intermediate strategy.

The media scholar Jay Rosen has long argued for downgrading the prestige of the White House assignment proportionately to the quality of information that emerges from the Administration. “Put your most junior people in the White House briefing room,” he has written. “Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden.”

Exactly. Jim Acosta gets all the attention lately as a martyr, but contrary to usual praise, I have to say I’m not at all impressed. His questions aren’t particularly interesting, and they certainly don’t drill down to the real problems of this administration. He’s paid and rewarded with prestige for asking a crook questions that we all know he won’t answer honestly. He’s part of a hostile claque, nothing more or less.