Did you know Ilhan Omar has a Republican challenger?

She might be facing a few challenges of her own, though.

Republican Danielle Stella’s campaign to take down Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has hit a bit of a snag. There is currently a warrant out for her arrest after she failed to appear for a court hearing on Tuesday morning.

She is accused of shoplifting a few thousand dollars worth of stuff from a Target in Edina, which is quite possibly the most Republican White Woman from Minnesota crime ever.

I wonder if being in jail would affect her electability in her district? Not with the Republicans, probably, they’re all thick as thieves, you know. The Muslim inhabitants might have higher standards.

I’d love to visit Italy, but I don’t think I could afford the fines

An Italian photographer, Oliviero Toscani, made a few casual remarks about the Catholic church on a radio show.

Imagine to be an alien who has just landed in Italy. You enter in a beautiful Catholic church, without knowing anything about religion. You enter and you see a bloodied man hanged and nailed to a cross, an altar with naked babies flying, Saint Bernard without the skin… I believe that a masochist club wouldn’t be such at the upfront.

I’m not an alien, and I was raised as a tepid Lutheran, but I have to say that’s exactly right. That’s how I’ve always felt about Catholic churches — the iconography is brutal and extreme, with bizarrely explicit statues of a dying man writhing on a cross, and worship of saints who died grisly deaths. Catholic churches in North America aren’t even the worse — I visited a cathedral in Quito that had the most horrible illustrations of Hell proudly displayed all around. An Edward Gorey book is less infatuated with miserable deaths than the Catholic church. I find a John Wick movie less unsettling than a Catholic ‘Lives of the Saints’ book.

Toscani wasn’t saying anything remarkable, just what ordinary people who aren’t steeped in the Catholic tradition see. Except that Italy has blasphemy laws, and he was tried and convicted and penalized €4000 for his remarks. The judge even said this:

Defining Christ on the cross as “someone hanged” is a manifestation of the profound disrespect for the values of Christianity, disrespect comparable only to the worst propagandist language of a Muslim fundamentalist preacher.

I take it, then, that I’m allowed to insult Muslim fundamentalism in Italy, but not Catholic fundamentalism? Cool, cool.

I guess the United States isn’t the only nation with a judiciary corrupted by religion.

Classic nutritional quackery

Mikhaila Peterson has a snazzy name for her diet: The Lion Diet.

The Lion Diet: Ruminant meat, salt, and water. Organs incorporated if you’d like but not necessary. High fat cuts to stay in ketosis or added tallow (ruminant meat fat). Fasting as you feel necessary. Eating every day isn’t necessary but most people like 1-2 meals per day.

That’s not quite right. If you look at her list of allowed foods, it includes a lot of green leafy vegetables, and just minimizes carbohydrates, so it’s not as horrible as it sounds. A diet of nothing but meat is something that no human society has ever tried, so you know that it’s not something we’re well-adapted to…but lots of individuals have tried all kinds of wacky combinations.

What’s really horrible about it are her exaggerated medical claims. It seems to cure just about everything. She hasn’t yet gone on to claim that it cures cancer, too, but give her time.

CEO of The Lion Diet, Inc. #𝐋𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐃𝐢𝐞𝐭 : 𝐁𝐞𝐞𝐟, 𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐭, 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 = complete remission from severe autoimmune arthritis, and depression.

She really relies on the notoriety of her father to “sell” this crap (it’s not clear what this CEO could be selling, other than Patreon memberships; you’ve already got the complete summary of the diet). She claims to have “cured” him of all kinds of problems.

My dad suffered from a number of health problems too. Not like me, but the same depression and similar fatigue and weight gain. Gum disease and skin problems and GERD. He’s fixed too. He lost 50 pounds in the first year on this diet. For anyone who watches his videos, you can see the difference from December 2015 to now.

Sure. His emotional problems are all gone now. He’s not a weeping wreck anymore.

Poor man. It’s weird how he breaks down because mobs of people criticize him on the internet, but his advice to everyone else is “Man up, bucko”.

Speaking of hypocrisy, it’s also amazing how so many skeptics gullibly follow anecdotal dietary advice and accept grand claims of cures simply because the quack peddling them is related to the guru they follow.

Above the law

Can we all agree that this is totally antithetical to the principles of a free Republic?

A lawyer for Donald Trump argued in federal court on Wednesday that the president could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in New York City and not be prosecuted.

No one can be above the law. Trump wants to be an autocrat, like his heroes Putin, Kim, and Erdogan. This alone is sufficient cause to impeach him, kick him out of office, and toss his orange ass into jail.

It’s tough breaking into the spider porn biz

Arachnologists spend a lot of time staring at spider genitals, since they’re often key to classifying them. I’ve mentioned that I want to work out some taxonomic ignorance of my own, so I’m finding myself trying to do likewise. This morning I was working with my shiny new toy to see if I could resolve the important details with an SLR tricked out with a 100mm macro lens and 65mm of extension tubes. This represents the maximum magnification I can squeeze out of this set up, short of mounting the animals under the microscope, which would give me hella more magnification.

I’d rather not go that route, though, because it requires more manipulation of the animals and I’d rather keep them happy and relaxed. Right now in their cages, they lounge about upside down, all quiet and mellow, their legs spread out and flaunting their genitalia to the sky. I can just pop the lid and zoom in with my camera lens and they’re totally unperturbed and au naturale, exposed and waiting for their close-up. This would also be the case if I encountered them in the wild, where I’m typically not lugging a microscope around with me. The hope is that my camera would have enough oomph to get all the diagnostic details.

Long story short…probably not. I’ll throw in a few photos below the fold, but they aren’t quite good enough to see what I need to see.

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The IDW is f*cking embarrassing

I’ll always enjoy seeing Steven Pinker, Sam Harris and the epidemic of annoying white male intellectuals ragged on — and generally, any member of the Intellectual Dork Web deserves a thorough savaging. This one is good because it documents specific examples of Pinker and Harris being bad scholars, and shows how their fellow travelers flock to defend even their more egregious errors. I have to agree with its conclusions.

The point is that the entire IDW movement is annoying. It’s really, really annoying — its champions misrepresent positions without their (mostly white male) audience knowing, and then proceed to “embarrass” the opposition. They embrace unsupported claims when it suits their narrative. They facilely dismiss good critiques as “hit jobs” and level ad hominem attacks to undercut criticism. And they refuse — they will always refuse, it’s what overconfident white men do — to admit making mistakes when they’re obviously wrong. I am annoyed, like Robinson, mostly because I expected so much better from the most popular “intellectuals” of our time.

“Intellectuals” seems to be acquiring a new meaning here in the 21st century. It refers to well-off white people who use their illusion of academic prestige to defend 18th century ideas against all reason, as long as they bolster the status quo.

Crawl back into the bushes, you poseurs.

My oven is haunted

I woke up this morning to a strange sound from my kitchen — an angry churring, punctuated with little squeaks. My first thought was that a squirrel had gotten in, or perhaps a large bat, so I investigated. The sound was coming from my oven, an ancient GE electric model. It sounded like it was coming from inside the oven, so I cautiously opened it, prepared in case an angry rodent leapt out at me. Nothing. By now the noise had been going on so long and was so repetitive that I was suspecting it might be something mechanical, but I did have one final test.

I set the oven to broil, 500°F, and waited.

Hey, I’m a scientist, baby. Gotta do the straightforward experiment, no matter how cruel.

(I would have turned it off if I heard screams from inside.)

Anyway, I got it hot, to a temperature no mammal could survive. As the temperature rose, the noise continued unchanged — no frantic scurryings, no rise in pitch, and most importantly, no screeching beast with eyes ablaze and fur smoking erupted from the works, hot for revenge. The oven just kept chittering at me.

Then, after reaching the appropriate temperature and sitting there for 5 minutes, it stopped. The beast within was satisfied. Maybe it was just cold? Or maybe it’s something mechanical. I’m looking at this antique timer built in to it, which doesn’t work. Maybe something ticked over inside it, and it decided to finally let me know the turkey from Thanksgiving, 1961 was done with its dying, febrile buzzer.

This is in many ways an unsatisfying outcome. It would probably be easier to get a demon exorcised from this hulking ugly beast that was installed in the 1950s than to get it repaired or replaced.

My latest indulgence

Right now, I’m cash poor (please keep that in mind if you think you can get rich by suing me) — I’m having no trouble paying the mortgage or putting food on the table, so I’m immensely privileged that way, but coming off a half-pay year and with annoying legal expenses, I haven’t been able to buy toys for myself for a while…until now. My rule is that all the gift cards I get from the Amazon Affiliate program are mine to splurge on whatever, and I’ve been saving them up for a few months, so that I can get this: a Tokina at-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro Lens.

I’ve been doing all my macro photography with a Canon Nifty-Fifty a set of cheap macro extension tubes, which work great on a budget. That was the kit lens on my camera, and the extension tubes were only about $20, so it was an easy intro to macro photography. The setup takes good photos, too. The only catch, I thought, was when you put 65mm of extension tubes on your lens, your working distance plummets to nearly nothing. You’ve got to push that lens right up next to your subject, which isn’t always optimal, so I got myself a big beautiful 100mm macro lens with a true 1:1 image ratio so that I’d have a little more flexibility.

It arrived today, so I allowed a little time to try it out, after finishing all my exam grading.

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