#SpiderSunday : How about some Halloween colors?

Here’s a juvenile S. borealis, ventral side up, on a bright orange background.

S. borealis is different — where P. tepidariorum builds intricate three-dimensional webs and likes to hang suspended in space in the middle of them, borealis hugs corners and surfaces, and builds denser, sheet-like webs. They just have a different lifestyle.

It’s unfortunate that she wouldn’t roll over for me, because she has a lovely white dorsal median stripe on a dark body.

This one is P. tepidariorum, and is just a wee little baby, less than two weeks old…but filling out fast.

You might be able to see wisps of its web, but it just doesn’t show up well on this light blue background. I tried to highlight it by misting the container with water, which is why you see little droplets everywhere.

An account of the Sovereign Nations conference

It’s too bad that it’s a mess, because it’s by Melissa Chen, one of those anti-SJW phonies who was featured at the Mythcon event. It is a source of some unintentional comedy, though.

The conference, organized by Sovereign Nations and titled ‘Speaking Truth to Social Justice,’ featured the masterminds behind the so-called ‘Sokal Squared’ scandal: Helen Pluckrose, Peter Boghossian, and James A. Lindsay. … Last year, the three current and former academics, who are prominent speakers in atheist and humanist circles, published bogus research papers in several academic disciplines — gender studies, queer theory, critical race theory, intersectional feminism, fat studies and postcolonial theory — to highlight the charlatanism and obscurantism that stand in for scholarship, the lack of academic rigor and flaws in the publishing protocols of these fields.

First off, none of those three are particularly prominent — they are all self-promoting hucksters who inflate their importance. Most people who have heard of them at all have heard about them because of their self-aggrandizing attention-seeking, nothing more. But I do like the irony of the three publishing bogus papers to highlight charlatanism. They succeeded. They are charlatans.

The other half of this conference team-up is a conservative Catholic weirdo who is footing the bill.

They found in Michael O’Fallon, the evangelical Christian founder and editor-in-chief of Sovereign Nations, an ally who is likewise deeply concerned about our postmodern era in which ‘grand narratives that have guided our discourse are collapsing.’ What he fears is the encroachment of the secular theoretical perspectives that undergird social justice upon the gospel and the church, weaponizing identity to upend the Christian interpretation of doctrine.

And so an unholy alliance between a bunch of atheists and evangelical Christians was born.

It’s really strange. These people are finding common cause in opposing a boogeyman they don’t even comprehend, postmodernism, so they sat around in a posh library to tell each other scary stories about it. They’ve convinced themselves that this thing they don’t understand is so threatening that they’ll set aside fundamental differences in belief to unite in despising it, and work to generate more “obscurantism that stand in for scholarship”. Because that’s what this is, jaws flappin’ to render a lot of words in support of their incoherent position.

According to Boghossian, the fault lines in Culture War 2.0 center around the correspondence theory of truth and the role that intersectionality ought to play into our worldview. The correspondence theory of truth states that that there is a ‘truth’ and that our beliefs correspond to a stable, knowable world. Intersectionality is the idea that there are intersecting identities that comprise one’s identity (e.g., lesbian, white, disabled, etc.) that contribute to a framework of power dynamics and moral hierarchy. Much of social justice ideology and activism is predicated on intersectionality and standpoint epistemology, which in contrast to the correspondence theory states that it is one’s position in a system that determines what’s true. A liberal atheist, Boghossian says that ‘if the conservative Christians at the conference believe Jesus walked on water (that either is or is not true for everyone regardless of one’s race or gender) and they value discourse and adhere to basic rules of engagement, then they are closer to my worldview than an atheist who’s adopted intersectionality and does not adhere to the rules of engagement.’

Somehow, they’ve twisted around a belief in a knowable world into an appreciation of a simplistic, black-and-white universe where what’s valued is a willingness to close one’s eyes and engage in mutual dialogue with whatever nonsense the other side is espousing, as long as they let you talk (and pay the airfare and hotel bill). And they claim liberals are wishy-washy!

If you ask me (they didn’t, I wouldn’t expect them to), the virtue of intersectionality within a scientific context is that it recognizes that the world is extremely complex, that no one perspective, especially not an unthinkingly dogmatic one, can encompass its breadth, and that we ought to recognize that every individual is equally valuable and their perspectives an essential part of the whole. I can believe that there is a ‘truth’ while simultaneously recognizing that I don’t own it, and that my identity shapes how I perceive it. I can also disavow the kind of perspective that Boghossian and O’Fallon share, that they do believe they possess an absolute truth, and that that is the real reason they hate this poorly grasped intersectionality/postmodernism stuff — by its very nature, it challenges their claim to authority, because it breaks apart the notion of any authority at all.

But it’s nice that a group of epistemological despots can get along and pat each other on the back, just as real despots like Trump & Putin & Erdogan can agree to disagree, as long as they’re allowed to shoot the peons in the back. One must focus on the important stuff, you know, and in this case it’s about maintaining platforms of discourse that will profit them.

By the way, if they honestly valued discourse, where were the SJWs at this conference to present their position?

Playing with a camera today #spider

I’m still taking this new lens on a shakedown, working out effective ways to photograph developing spiders. Today was all about trying to get a feel for where the focus is (spoiler: it’s way out there) and how to position camera and lights and specimen, so nothing exciting to report.

So which background do you like, light or dark?

I’m kind of leaning towards the darker backgrounds, since it brings out the webs they’re on, and a spider is intimately connected to its web. On the other hand, since the goal here is to map pigment development, the lighter background makes that snap a bit more and removes the distractions, at the expense of leaving the subject looking like it’s floating in space.

Both photos are of the same animal, Steatoda triangulosa, a young juvenile that’s about a month and a half old.

Pounded in the Butt by Our Carnivore Diet

I read a curious book last night…well, more like skimmed an odd and repetitious assortment of short transcripts. Jordan & Mikhaila Peterson – Our Carnivore Diet: How to cure Depression and Disease with Meat only: Revised Transcripts and Blogposts. Featuring Dr. Shawn Baker was available for free on Kindle Unlimited, so I downloaded it.

It’s bad.

The cover is a hint. It’s a poor Photoshop with sloppy layout, the kind of thing you’d see on a self-published romance novel with the smiling heroine in front in her best bikini, and in the background the brooding, rich Heathcliff she’s going to win over…except, oh dear, that’s her father in the swim trunks. Seriously, Dr Peterson, you’re rich enough to hire a graphics pro to do the design. Chuck Tingle could have done a far better job, and would have at least thrown in a few dinosaurs and a sentient physical manifestation or two.

The contents are worse. The first chapter is a transcript of an interview with Steve Paikin (who?). The second and third are transcripts of interviews with Joe Rogan (yeesh). The fourth is a transcript of a podcast with Robb Wolf (?). The fifth is a transcript of…you get the idea. Then there are a couple of extracted blog posts, and a bonus(!) transcript of some carnivore diet proponent named Shawn Baker (who? again). And they’re all the same!

All can be summarized similarly. Jordan Peterson or Mikhaila Peterson talk with a sympathetic host about how miserable their lives were, and how Mikhaila was afflicted with these terrible idiopathic diseases and Jordan was so depressed. I believe that part. Mikhaila had rheumatoid arthritis to such a terrible degree that she had hip and ankle joints replaced with prosthetics, and Jordan always comes across as a sad sack. They were really sick! And then they say they got better when they started cutting stuff out of their diet, finally getting down to nothing but beef and salt and water. Yay! They found the cure! And the gullible hosts praise them.

Except, I would say two things. They were suffering from real but idiopathic diseases. All “idiopathic” means is that the doctors don’t know the causes. Have they considered the fact that their “cure” is also idiopathic? I accept that they say they feel better now, but we don’t know that their all-meat diet has anything at all to do with it, and announcing that they have the universal CURE in a book title is classic quackery.

The second issue is that every chapter in their book is a repetitive recital of the same damn things: the same two people describing their complaints and their history, in nearly the same words, in public broadcasts over and over. If you repeat the same anecdote 11 times, it doesn’t magically transform into empirical data.

After reading their best case summary of their diet, I am not at all tempted to try it. In fact, I’ve gone the opposite way in my life, cutting way back on meat and enjoying a vegetarian diet, and I feel pretty good.

If I repeat that sentence 11 times would you find that a compelling reason that you should conform to my dietary rules? I would hope not.

Maybe if I also put a photo of my wife in a bikini on the cover?

All it takes is a breakfast cereal to trigger a confession?

Being for civil rights, for equality, and for science is so obviously anti-Christian. Why would want to be associated with Christianity then?

Yeah, I know Ham likes to pretend that views contrary to his are anti-science, but keep in mind that this is a guy whines when science points out that the Earth is over 6000 years old, that T. rex didn’t use its teeth to eat coconuts, and that humans showed up on Earth over 60 million years after dinosaurs went extinct.

Experimenting today

I’m tinkering with getting better images of these silly spiders, and my latest attempt is to build a little itty-bitty photographic studio on a benchtop. I can mount light sources and reflectors on the bench, play with backgrounds, and position specimens where I want — they are extremely obliging models, as long as I’m bringing in the whole cardboard frame their webs are structured around, which is a slight limitation, because the space has to be big enough for not just the spiders, but also their whole cage. I’m also putting the camera on a tripod and locking it down — it’s heavy — and just manipulating the airy light spiders to get them in position.

They’re all good girls. As long as I’m not messing with the web, they are quite calm and well-behaved, so I can just leave these venomous spiders out of their cages as long as I want and they don’t try to escape or get aggressive at all, they rest suspended happily while I move gadgets around them. I was also able to get some respectable video out of the set up, too, so you might have that to look forward to, too.

Dunning-Krueger applies to MMA, too

That guy with the bulging biceps is Kirill Tereshin, a “body builder” and MMA wanna-be. He looks strange; his body looks a bit like mine when I was in my teens, skinny and unathletic, but his upper arms are inhumanly huge. He skips leg day, doesn’t do cardio, and his clever idea for working his upper body is to inject his arms with massive amounts of oil. That isn’t muscle, it’s just inert goo squirted in there to inflate their size. I can think of a lot of physiological reasons that that is a bad idea, but here’s another one: he developed an inflated notion of his strength and decided to enter a mixed martial arts fight.


You can watch the whole fight on video at the link. Don’t worry, it won’t take much of your time.

It’s tragic. This guy is doing real harm to himself and is living with a deep delusion. He doesn’t need a coach, he needs mental health assistance.

Weinstein “cancelled”, right

Tom Stiglich / www.tomstiglich.com

Harvey Weinstein was allowed to attend an event for young performers at the Downtime Bar in Manhattan by the event organizer, Alexandra Laliberte. He showed up with an entourage — disgraced rapists still get to have an entourage if they’re rich enough, I guess. Some women in the audience and on stage were horrified at the monster in their midst, and called him out.

One comedian, Kelly Bachman, called him out in her act onstage, referring to him as “the elephant in the room” and “Freddy Krueger.”

“I didn’t know we had to bring our own Mace and rape whistles to Actor’s Hour,” said Bachman in a video posted to Instagram.

Some audience members, ostensibly men, then started booing. “Shut up,” said one person.

“This kills at group therapy for rape survivors,” replied Bachman, who noted she herself was a rape survivor. Bachman said “fuck you” to Weinstein before continuing with her set.

She wasn’t alone.

“So many women have suffered so greatly because of their experiences with this man, and there were no repercussions,” they said. “And, in fact, he was being supported — and the community meant to uplift emerging actors and emerging artists was not only complicit but directly responsible for their silencing.”

Stuckless said they felt paralyzed by fear but knew they needed to say something because they “couldn’t imagine walking out of the room and him still feeling safe to go in and laugh with the community he was responsible for terrorizing for so many years.”

When intermission began, Stuckless decided to confront Weinstein.

“Tell me — what’s your name?” they asked Weinstein in a video obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Weinstein placed his elbows on the table while another man next to him was heard speaking to Stuckless. They said the man accompanying Weinstein told them it was none of their business and that they had no right to ask.

“Nobody is going to say anything?” screamed Stuckless in a video their friend filmed and later posted to Facebook. “Nobody is really going to say anything?,” they continued, pointing a finger toward Weinstein.

Stuckless was then asked to leave the venue.

“I’ll get out of here, that’s fine, I am happy to leave, but nobody is going to say anything?” they continued. “I’m going to stand four feet from a fucking rapist, and no one is going to say anything?”

And more!

Moments after Stuckless confronted Weinstein, so did Amber Rollo, a 31-year-old comedian who had attended the show to support her friend, Bachman.

“She’s right,” Rollo told Weinstein, she recalled. “You’re a fucking monster. What are you doing out here? Fuck you.”

Rollo said one of the men accompanying Weinstein called her a “cunt” in response, while another woman at Weinstein’s table guided her outside. Rollo said she was disappointed that Weinstein was welcomed at the event and that those who questioned his presence were booed or removed from the venue.

Those three women, Kelly Bachman, Zoe Stuckless, and Amber Rollo deserve praise for standing up and speaking out. Instead, though, two of them were thrown out, and Weinstein was allowed to squat there, toadlike, and be supported by his sycophants. I’m also disturbed by the majority of attendees who did not speak out. One little thing stands out to me.

“This guy was leading me out the stairs, just repeating ‘due process, due process’ to me,” said Stuckless, who asked the man if he worked at the bar. He did not respond.

This irrelevant bit of legalese has become a mantra among horrible people. You do not need “due process” to detest an exploiter and harasser. The state needs due process if it is going to deprive an individual of liberty or property, but neither of those were at issue here — these were women using their free speech (one of those rights that the Right loves so much, except when it is inconvenient to them) to express their assessment of the available evidence that Harvey Weinstein is a crude rapist thug, and that this issue has not been formally tried in a court of law doesn’t make it any less true. That the wealth and influence Weinstein used to do harm also shelters him from legal action does not protect him from the informed judgement of society, it just means he isn’t in jail where he belongs, stripped of his power. That would require “due process”. No one needs “due process” to shun a rapist.

Oh, and speaking of free speech…

Alexandra Laliberte, the organizer of Actor’s Hour, told BuzzFeed News it was the second time Weinstein had turned up to one of her events. Laliberte added that she doesn’t have a security team, and rather than turn Weinstein away, she thought the community could address him.

“I welcome all walks of life into my space,” she said.

When asked why she allowed Weinstein to attend an event specifically intended to support and encourage young actors when he has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing dozens of them, Laliberte told BuzzFeed News: “I protect them by freedom of speech.”

“Comedians made fun of him,” said the 26-year-old actor. “This one lady stood up and screamed at him. People walked out, which was fantastic.”

Right. Except your version of “free speech” allows you to physically evict people exercising that right from your space if they criticize a media influencer you’re trying to flatter, while a man calling a woman a “cunt” was allowed to remain. This principle of free speech is a tough one to maintain, and in reality always requires compromises, but Laliberte just outright broke it.

By the way, I wouldn’t dignify “rapist abuser” and “predatory pariah” with the phrase “walks of life”.