It’s strange how conservatives lack all humor

Case in point: this political cartoon.

Am I supposed to laugh at it? Find it appalling? I don’t know. It looks like a pretty sweet deal, this socialist state.

I took a look at some of his other cartoons. Mainly what I see is a bozo flying into fits of apoplexy at the idea of “free stuff”, where the underprivileged get anything that might make their lives better. He’s really committed to making sure everyone stays “in their place”.

But come on! A high-speed rail to Alaska and Hawai’i? Who could complain about that?

I am a terrible person, with my own prejudices, but at least I’m not a cult member

For example, I saw this guy’s photo, and my brain immediately said to me, “Mormon.” I lived in Utah for 7 years, and got to know the type very well. Slight counter-evidence was that he was an elected official in Arizona, but that really didn’t matter much — the Mormon belt runs from Arizona up into Canada.

Then I read the summary:

An elected official in Arizona was suspended Monday after he was charged with running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then paid them to give up their children for adoption.

Aaah! My brain is running around screaming, “MORMON!”. This is a classic LDS move, since they spend a lot of effort proselytizing in the Pacific islands, and I knew a surprising number of islanders living in Salt Lake City.

Petersen completed a mission in the Marshall Islands, a collection of atolls and islands in the eastern Pacific, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He later worked in the islands and the U.S. on behalf of an international adoption agency before going to law school and becoming an adoption attorney.

Yep, Mormon. My Modar is still working. What this guy was doing was really deplorable.

Petersen, a Republican, has been indicted in federal court in Arkansas and also charged in Arizona and Utah with crimes that include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The criminal case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions, authorities said, with about 30 adoptions pending in three states.

Petersen is accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, court documents say.

Petersen charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption, prosecutors said.

Oh, right. Republican, too. Republicanism is an even creepier cult than the Church of Latter Day Saints.

We really need to abandon Facebook

It’s getting ridiculous. After recent events in which Facebook openly declares that lying in political ads is fine — as long as you pay them — they’re cracking down on…peach and eggplant emojis?

Facebook and Instagram are now prohibiting the use of peach and aubergine emojis in sex-related posts and nude images, reports indicate.

The new rules form part of the platforms’ new Community Standards which were implemented at some stage between 7 September and now, according to adult industry website

I’d much rather see people freely posting weakly veiled sexual images with peaches used to suggest genitals, than I would coded posts about killing Jews, but I guess Facebook has those priorities reversed.

I’m still trying out MeWe. It’s far from perfect, but at least it doesn’t have Facebook’s hypocrisy problem.

Everyone likes cute furries more than spiders, I’ve noticed

I can’t be the only one who reads outside my discipline to get material to help me cover all those evolutionary phenomena I know little about. I know a bit about fish and arthropods, but my understanding of the details of mammalian evolution is a bit thin — yet for some reason, students are more interested in the history of mammals than of spiders. I really appreciate it when I stumble across information that fills in the gaps in my knowledge in presentable ways, and Nature has done just that with a graphically rich article on How the earliest mammals thrived alongside dinosaurs. There is lots of good stuff here, and I particularly like the emphasis on the importance of fossilized infants. Development matters!

Sometimes it goes a little too far, though — for example, this illustration is way too dense to be useful, but it it interesting.

Why didn’t she get vaccinated?

Now I’ve got the heebie-jeebies. A woman undergoing safety training for a lab tech job was offered a smallpox vaccination because she’d be working with Vaccinia virus, and she turned it down. She didn’t understand the possible consequences at the time of training.

Naturally, what happens next? She’s trying to inject a mouse and accidentally pokes herself with the syringe needle. There are graphic photos at the link! It looks like some nasty ulceration of her finger and some systemic problems as well.

Although she continued to be treated, by day 10 her finger was looking very swollen, and she wasn’t feeling well.

“On day 12, she was treated at a university-based emergency department for fever (100.9°F or 38.3°C), left axillary lymphadenopathy [swollen lymph nodes], malaise, pain, and worsening edema of her finger,” a case report explains.

“Health care providers were concerned about progression to compartment syndrome (excessive pressure in an enclosed muscle space, resulting from swelling after an injury), joint infection, or further spread.”

She survived and is healing.

Vaccinations are important for people dealing with dangerous pathogens, but also for everyone else. Have you gotten your flu shot? If not, what’s your excuse?

How not to train your graduate students

I guess I’ve been failing to keep up with the educational literature, because I haven’t seen any articles that recommend screaming at your students until they break down and obey your will. I think I might be reading the wrong journals — is there a “Journal of Pedagogical Bullying” that I’ve missed?

Somebody’s been reading it, anyway. Like a certain engineering professor at UW-Madison.

Graduate students described the work environment under engineering professor Akbar Sayeed as “toxic” and “abusive.” The professor called students “monkeys” and “chimpanzees.” One said he compared them to “slaves” who must learn to endure pain because it would last only four or five years.

Turnover seemed constant. Some students joined his lab only to leave within a few months, even though it meant losing their financial stipend.

The churn put more pressure on Brady, who came to UW-Madison in 2010 to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering and worked as a research assistant in Sayeed’s lab. Despite Brady and others’ attempts to address how Sayeed’s behavior drove students away, the tirades continued and Brady’s responsibilities mounted. He trained new student workers on top of his own research, pushing his degree further into the future.

“Exploitation may not be too strong a word to describe how (Sayeed’s) behavior impacted (Brady) in his position as grad coordinator,” a report on Sayeed’s conduct would later say.

How can such a situation arise? How can it persist? If I heard that kind of story from a student or witnessed a colleague doing such things, I’d be be bringing it up to the chair, or to an HR committee, or straight up to the chancellor. If this behavior were brought up in a tenure review meeting, Sayeed ought to have been out on his ass. But UW-Madison let this untenable situation fester for years, until something happened that required the university to sit up and pay attention.

In 2016, Brady’s seventh year on campus in a program that typically lasts five or six, he started secretly recording Sayeed screaming at students in the lab. He hammered out his thoughts in a Microsoft Word document, describing a siege mentality among students in the lab. He arranged a meeting with a trusted faculty member that fall, one he had turned to the year before with concerns about Sayeed.

Brady never made the meeting. In October 2016, at age 28, he killed himself.

Jesus. You’ve got a professor who is driving students to suicide. What do you do?

If you’re the University of Wisconsin, you put him on a two year leave, during which time he is snapped up by NSF to work there. They also declared that this death was an “extreme and isolated” case. It doesn’t sound isolated at all to me — this is a systemic problem where an abusive, bullying professor could function without oversight or correction for years and years, until he pushed it just a little too far. It shouldn’t take a student suicide to set off alarm bells.

Sayeed is returning in January, which I find unbelievable. This is the kind of outrageous failure and persistent ethical lapse that ought to end his career. He’s even confessed and admitted to serious anger management problems!

In response to the university’s investigation, Sayeed admitted and apologized for his unprofessional conduct but denied abusing his authority as professor, making threats or intentionally delaying Brady’s degree. He said that if the department had taken action in response to students’ complaints, it may have “altered some of the outcomes.”

If only the administration had prevented me from bullying, this wouldn’t have happened, says the bully, placing the blame elsewhere.

If you’re wondering how he had a job in the first place, all is explained.

Since he started working for UW-Madison in 1997, Sayeed said, he has done everything he can to advance his students’ careers and secured millions in research money.

I hope, since the university won’t take appropriate action, that the whisper network among students at UW-Madison guarantees that he never gets another graduate student, and that this disgraceful behavior means NSF never trusts him with another penny.