Big Spunk makes babies!

Yesterday, as we were traveling, we made a stop at a rest area to look for spiders, as one does. It was a terrible day for spider-kind, with intermittent rain and constant mist and cold, so it was mostly a fruitless search. I did find one sad, bedraggled looking Parasteatoda clinging to the underside of a handrail, with a fat drop of water beading up on her tattered web, and she fled as soon as my camera lens nudged in her direction. Just to make her day even worse, I then scooped up a couple of egg sacs she had in her nest, stealing her babies to bring back to the lab.

This morning as I grabbed the vial of sacs from the Big Spunk rest area to bring in to work, I noticed that they had hatched out! Baby spiderlings everywhere! They were probably triggered by being brought in to a nice warm house.

If someone is passing by Big Spunk today, could you stop in and tell their mama that her babies have found a good home, and we’ll take care of them? Probably more of these will survive here than they would in a drizzly empty wilderness where even the mosquitos weren’t flying.

I’ve got two tickets to the Trump rally next week!

Our President is holding another campaign rally (doesn’t he have important things to do? Like golfing some more?) on 10 October, in Minneapolis. So I reserved my tickets right away. I sure hope nothing comes up that Thursday, like classes maybe, or a spider eruption, or a little indigestion, to prevent me from filling that seat. We’ll see.

Mary wants to protest the visit, but there may be some personal conflicts with that, since she’s also flying off to Texas to spend time with her favorite grandson.

I guess we’ll just have to let the Minneapolis mayor speak for us.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, declared Trump an unwelcome visitor.

“Under ordinary circumstances, it would be an honor to welcome a sitting president of the United States to Minneapolis and to showcase all our city has to offer on the national stage,” Frey said in a statement Thursday. ”But these aren’t ordinary circumstances. Since taking office President Trump’s actions have been reprehensible and his rhetoric has made it clear that he does not value the perspectives or rights of Minneapolis’ diverse communities.”

Frey added, “While there is no legal mechanism to prevent the president from visiting, his message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”

Trump Go Home.

Do you have an orange shirt?

Today is Orange Shirt Day, a day to commemorate all the Indian children who were ripped from their families and pushed into boarding schools.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. This project was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former student himself. It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region.

The events were designed to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Chief Justice Murray Sinclair challenged all of the participants to keep the reconciliation process alive, as a result of the realization that every former student had similar stories.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of this project. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.

My university was founded on the campus of one of those Indian boarding schools, and there are multiple monuments reminding us of that fact, our local version of “Never forget”, so of course I’m participating.

Is that orange enough? I should have mentioned this last week, because I looked through my wardrobe, and orange is not a color strongly represented in my attire. Another thing we did on my trip to St Paul yesterday was pick up something I could wear to class today.


Yesterday, I made the long drive to St Paul to to talk to a small group at Minnesota Atheists about some entertainingly bad science, and explain why it’s bad science. While I was there, I talked with August Berkshire for a bit, and he knows I’ve been despairing of the state of the atheist movement (David Silverman’s behavior is just the most recent example of trouble), and he tried to reassure me that American Atheists is getting back on track. August is a good guy, a long-time local leader of the atheist movement, and Minnesota Atheists has always been an inspiration — they’ve never questioned a commitment to social justice as part of atheism. They’re good people and I’ll always listen to August’s opinions.

We drove away at the end with good feelings, and then I made the mistake of reading Twitter. No, never do that if you want to retain some vestige of joy. I discovered that…Richard Dawkins has spoken again.


He’s endorsing a conference by something called Sovereign Nations, and just the name of the organization ought to set off klaxons, sirens, and alarm bells. I had to check, and it’s as bad as my first impression told me it would be. Sovereign Nations is a Christian Nationalist front by a guy named Michael O’Fallon. As near as I can tell, it’s one of those things where a rich conservative decides that he’s a leader of a movement and he starts hiring speakers and contriving conferences to support his views, sort of like another Travis Pangburn (who, by the way, is now tweeting climate change denialism). It’s great for the grifters who will leech off of him for a while, but there’s no there there, and we can expect it all to collapse like a flaccid balloon soon enough.

Meanwhile, O’Fallon is spewing the most awfully written glurge. Dawkins, who if nothing else is a phenomenally lucid writer, ought to be curling up in shame at endorsing a guy who could write this:

The purpose of Sovereign Nations is best understood as a prolegomenon to the formation of a new, and not just sentimental, conservative and Constitutional Republic. Sovereign Nations serves as an exploration of the intellectual viability of the conservative political habitat, with a view to establishing the groundwork for the construction and elaboration of a broader and more comprehensive vision for the movement in relation to the exegetical intent of our founders through the national founding documents. The essential precondition for a renewed conservative engagement with intellectual life is confidence in its own coherence and credibility.

As can be seen over the past 8 years, the goal of Open Society Foundations is to demean and destroy the tenets of traditional conservatism and thus create a crisis of conscience within the mind of the conservative. In order to succeed, we must rebuild the confidence in the presuppositions of conservatism in all of its exercised forms including in economics, civil liberties, family, sovereignty, theology, rule of law, and foreign affairs. What was once heresy is now law and what was once law is now heresy. The issue for progressive Open Society Foundations is that their new “law” has no foundational presupposition.

It is our hope to engage with the ideas and concepts that are at the center of Open Society Foundations without descending into ad hominem argumentation. We would seek to be upfront with our disagreements, respect our philosophical and ideological opponents, and look forward to creating a common ground of open discussion.

O’Fallon also writes for Whirled Nut Daily.

The first-century B.C. poet Virgil stated, “Fortunate is he who understands the hidden causes of things.”

This statement is as brilliant today as it was 2,000 years ago. Why has the entire foundation of law and justice been cast aside in an all-out embrace of Marxist-sourced social justice conformity?

Why have the Judeo Christian concepts of freedom and liberty been thrown into the ash heap of history as the nations of the earth sprint toward the chains of global manipulation?

Will the United States succumb to open borders and the manipulation of leftist billionaire George Soros?

Well, wasn’t that a lovely collection of right-wing buzzwords? He’s also, as you might expect, vigorously pro-Trump.

Knowing that President Trump has been dragged through the mud and his reputation has been sullied and attacked viciously by the Open Society Foundations, the progressives they fund and their media proponents – but he has not backed down – has shamed all of us who react in fear instead of purpose. We must follow Trump’s example.

This isn’t his first conference, either. In January, he promoted something called Social Justice & the Gospel: the God-Breathed Hierarchy and the Postmodern Crisis Within the Church. In 2018, he hosted something called Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege at the Trump hotel in Washington DC, featuring Jordan Peterson as a speaker. O’Fallon has obsessions about Marxism, about the Holy Mother Church, about George Soros (call that what it is: anti-semitism), about post-modernism, about retaining the privileges of class and race.

Dawkins says he had no idea about any of that. All I can say is…goddamn it, LEARN. As an influential voice in atheism, you’ve got a responsibility to figure it out.

Furthermore, this is a “conference” with just 3 speakers, Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose, who have a deplorable reputation as bad scholars who make up shit in their crusade against post-modernism, just like Peterson, while not having the vaguest notion of what it is. O’Fallon, who is a Florida man, is flying them off to a “conference” in an arbitrary location, London, which none of them have connections to, and the trio have cheerfully accepted, apparently without looking crosswise at the Catholic conservative who is funding their junket. This is a guy who publishes articles like Hitler the Progressive, which argues that the problem with Nazis was that they abandoned Christian morality, and they’ve just unthinkingly joined his crank crusade.

Can we someday have an atheism that isn’t all tangled with the likes of Dawkins, Boghossian, Lindsay, Pluckrose, and their mob of slimy ignorati? Please?

I’ll be babbling in St Paul today

At 1:00, I’ll be at the Rondo Community Library (461 Dale St N, St Paul, MN 55104) to talk about how humans will never be immortal, explaining some recent technological follies that demonstrate that no matter how bad the work, someone will pay for it. Would you believe that some “futurists” are claiming that the first person that will live to be 1,000 years-old has already been born? I’m not seeing that kind of progress.

If your idea of a fun time is watching a cynical atheist puncture balloons, come on by.

#SpiderSunday: Jenny By-The-Front-Door

I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the spiders living outside my house as fall transitions steadily into winter. It’s mildly tragic — the thriving summer population of Parasteatoda has been declining, and part of it, I suspect, has been competition and predation, and perhaps a bit of starvation. The mosquitos aren’t quite as thickly swarming as they were in the heat of the summer, and the funnel web spiders, with their grand sheets of webbing, have been edging out the cobweb spiders. The one I called Judy With-The-Big-Leaf who had captured a large, curled, dead leaf and was nesting inside it on the north corner of my house is gone now, and in her place are a couple of funnel webs with their silky tunnels extending in the gap between the siding and the rain gutters. I’ve noticed that Agelenopsis begins with web building down near the ground and expands upwards, so the only Parasteatoda left are in more elevated locations. Poor Judy, she built her nest fairly low to the ground and was overtaken by pushy late-comers.

Jenny By-The-Front-Door, on the other hand, has built a fortress on the wall above the front porch, at about chest height on me, and there don’t seem to be any competitors near by. She’s been building. Wind-blown leaves and seed pods are her construction material, and also some grainy clumps of, I think, insulation that were lying on the ground. She’s actually hoisted them up about a meter and a half to incorporate them, and has been stitching everything together with silk. Here’s her nest as it currently stands.

Can you spot her? I’ll reveal her location below the fold.

[Read more…]

As long as we’re criticizing the Democrats…

I hope everyone realizes that throwing out Trump is only the first step, and probably the easiest one, in the necessary revolution?

Necessary background:

In Afghanistan, in the lead-up to national elections later this month, at least 30 civilians were killed and 40 wounded late Wednesday after U.S.-backed Afghan security forces launched an air raid on farmers in eastern Nangarhar province. A local official said a drone attack was aimed at a hideout used by Islamic State fighters but instead killed farmworkers who’d finished a hard day’s labor harvesting pine nuts.

That won’t end when Trump is in prison. We’ve got a lot of work to do.