Open thread

I haven’t done this in ages. How about an open thread? Just talk about whatever you feel like, except politics –we already have a long-running thread dedicated exclusively to political topics. Go ahead and tell me about all the things I’ve been neglecting for ages.


  1. davidc1 says

    Well it just so happens ,had to phone of my credit cards earlier ,got into the security questions .
    Fav book Catch 22 ,fav super hero ,forgotten ,a bit surprised when the answer was PZ Myers .lol.

  2. arthur says

    Hi. I heard an interview with Dr. Diana Fleischman, evolutionary psychologist recently. PZ, do you know her work? I wasn’t convinced by some of her arguments.

  3. says

    I semi-unintentionally spent all seven days of Chinese New Year in my apartment (resting my ears and brain, writing, cleaning house), only stepping out twice for supplies. Then I go out this evening for some groceries, and EVERY face was covered in a mask because of the coronavirus. It’s been along time since I felt so out of place.

  4. nomdeplume says

    Months of smoke in Australia, coronavirus in China, this is how the world ends – wearing a face mask.

  5. nomdeplume says

    Just saw this and it freaked me out – – the Trump re-election campaign tracking mobile phones taken to Trump rallies by people and combining the information obtained for political purposes. This one would even surprise Orwell. It surprised me and I thought I was immune to being surprised about the dirty tricks now being used in politics in America. Tell me again about the “World’s Greatest Democracy”?

  6. laurian says

    Jerry Kushner reads books then sells out the Palestinians. Wonder how J. Coyne will rationalize this.

    Yeah, I said it.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    Tonight, because I cannot be arsed to cook, I’m having a TV dinner. Which I will eat in front of the TV.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 arthur
    Do you remember where the interview was?

    Evolutionary psychologists usually are pretty nutty but the pubs listed on her C.V. often look rather interesting and solid but totally out of my area and that is just going by the titles.

    She may be a lot less nutty than most E.P’s

    I have read other papers from University of Portsmouth Psych Dept and they seem to have a solid dept but I can say the same for Toronto’s Psych Dept and they have Jordon Peterson.

  9. arthur says

    @jrkrideau the Adam Buxton podcast. I was pretty skeptical of her claims, and wondered if she’d come up on PZ’s radar yet.

  10. dianne says

    Coronavirus is a general name for a group of viruses, most of which cause minor upper respiratory tract infections (aka colds). SARS was also a corronavirus. So, China just pops up a terrifying mutant cold virus every few years?

  11. dianne says

    Kobe Bryant. Apparently his helicopter was running without recommended safety equipment. So if the NTSB had teeth, he and the other 8 people on board would probably be alive today. When someone says “deregulation” and “cut the red tape” what they mean is that they want to run unsafe helicopters and similar things.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    For that I would need eggs, tomatoes, and bread. I like turkey TV dinners.
    I also watched Bubba Ho-Tep.

  13. John Morales says

    dianne, before the news came up, the only Kobe that I knew was beef.

    Well, I certainly shan’t have such an accident, mine would only be pedestrian.

    (I don’t get the feels for retired multimillionaire sportsballers who commute by helicopter)

    So, China just pops up a terrifying mutant cold virus every few years?

    Nothing like unsanitary, crowded animal markets with close proximity to people to expedite cross-species pathogenic transfers, and the Chinese do those better than anyone.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    All I can say is that I feel anxious, tired, and afraid. I hate my job. I hate most of my family. I hate my lonely, unproductive, unsatisfying job. I’m drinking too much. I hate watching our civilization slide into the dumpster fire that are current events and being powerless to stop our ultimate destruction. I don’t want to die before know actual penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse with a female of my l liking (not just hand and/or mouth stuff). I long for the sweet release of death. I want someone to really love me. I want a new kitty in my life. I want to sleep a full night’s rest and to wake up feeling refreshed and happy. Otherwise, if U can’t have any of the above, I long for the sweet release of death.

    Knowing my luck, I’m not going to get any of these requests. All I can hope for is to die before the final apocalyptic end befalls is all.

  15. John Morales says

    Akira, I can guarantee you will indeed find the sweet release of death.

    I don’t recommend expediting it, though. Why rush?
    There’s always hope, however unfounded.

    FWIW, when I’m kinda depressed, I revisit (or reflect upon)
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
    by Solzhenitsyn — puts things in perspective.

  16. wzrd1 says

    @19, the last working theory I’ve heard from my various epidemiology mailing lists was a strong suspicion that the reservoir is probably a bat, likely infecting hogs and from the hogs, making the jump to humans. still highly speculative though, but apparently, some of the sequences were primarily observed in bats in the past.
    What is rather surprising to me is, people and the media are freaking out over a virus that’s about as nasty as influenza of any year other than 1918. The 1918 strain would be freakout worthy, most others, not so much, due to a rather low morbidity and mortality rate.
    SARS and MERS this one is not.

    @12, geofencing sounds like something I could have fun with. Get a burner phone, register it to Merle Ambrosius, transfer the SIM to a developer’s handset I have, then get creative with the software, randomizing locations to appear as if I’m teleporting to distant places, generate false traffic, including jibberish traffic on a VPN port and generally waste their time or if I’m lucky, crash their analysis software.
    The name, a mildly modernized version of Myrddin the Magician. Contact list would contain Arty, Lance and the rest of the knights of the mythical round table.
    The only downside would be if the NSA was monitoring, I’ve done something similar while they were pen testing my network. Then, I’d get a knock on the door and guys with beer coming in and I really don’t like beer all that much. It is mentioned in my file that I prefer distilled spirits, especially Black Bush Irish whiskey, mead, MadIra wine or a quality port wine.
    One barrel for me, a barrel for the guests. ;)

  17. John Morales says


    What is rather surprising to me is, people and the media are freaking out over a virus that’s about as nasty as influenza of any year other than 1918.

    Why are you surprised?
    It’s novel. The WHO takes it seriously, but you don’t?

  18. nomdeplume says

    @28 Yes, it had occurred to me that young Democrats with burner phones could swamp the rallies and dilute the database, but that would mean listening to Trump…

  19. zaledalen says

    Just bought a Kia Soul EV. Full of surprises. But the biggest surprise for me is that the thing I like best about it is not having to put a key in the ignition. It seems like such a small thing. Push the button on the fob to unlock the door and put it back in my pocket. Then get in, strap up, put a foot on the brake, push a button to boot up the system, rotate a big nob to put it in drive (parking brake turns off automatically. Car won’t let me drive with the parking break on.) and away we go. Amazing that cutting out two steps – putting the key in the ignition and releasing the parking brake – makes such a big difference.

  20. Roi Du Voyageur says

    wzrd1@28, have you seen the film Contagion? I was fascinated. Biology is my worst science though, so I don’t know how accurate the depictions were, but the exposition at the end that explained the sequence of events that led to patient zero blew my mind.

  21. psychomath says

    @21 – Autobot Silverwynde

    I’m sorry to hear that. It’s of course particularly awful that his SO found him. I don’t know you, so anything I were to add would be some combination of trite, academic, and/or meaningless. I’ll still say I heard you, and I’m sorry it happened and I wish you well.

  22. aziraphale says

    @33 – zaledalen

    My 2015 Nissan Note has keyless ignition. The auto parking brake release is a new idea to me. My car beeps if I don’t fully release the brake. It also beeps if I drift out of lane without signaling, and (a different beep) if I signal a lane change and there’s a car I might hit. All very nice, but I worry about coming to rely on it.

  23. says

    Lovely weather in paradise today, only 43C in the city of Adelaide. I remember when 38C was considered seriously hot.

  24. says

    Prince George’s County cop (not far from Baltimore) charged with murder after shooting a seatbelted, handcuffed-behind-the-back suspect 7 times.

    So, yes, it’s important to charge cops for their crimes instead of simply excusing them on the basis of their cowardice (the usual strategy). But what’s interesting to me is how the cop charged is Black. It’s very interesting to me that the folks who defend police violence at any cost disappear when the cop charged isn’t white.

    Even the motions towards an eventually fair system of accountability have to be racist as fuck along the way.

  25. says

    Re Trump’s wall blowing over- I live about 100 miles north of Mexicali and Calexico, where that happened. We had a lot of major wind up here, too. I have a 20 foot tall antenna that picks up air traffic signals ( I feed As it was vibrating like a tuning fork, evidently I need to rig another brace for it. Gotta wonder just how the foundation works on the wall- that picture is pretty ridiculous.

  26. katahdin says

    Circumcision. There was a discussion of this some weeks ago here and I never got around to adding my two cents. So
    Intact men are more sensitive(see below).
     Circumcision Cuts Penis Sensitivity
    Intact men enjoy four times more penile sensitivity than circumcised men, according to the “Fine-touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis” article published today in the British Journal of Urology International. The study was conducted to map fine-touch pressure thresholds of the adult penis in circumcised and noncircumcised males to compare the two populations.
    I discovered this myself about 1993 listening to the Dr. Dean Edell show on radio and reading “The Joy Of Uncircumcising “by Jim Bigelow. By stretching my foreskin over the head of my penis I discovered that after about six weeks of it being covered I was about three times more sensitive and enjoyed sex much more.
    As to the controversy of cutting and HIV see this

  27. DanDare says

    Table top roleplaying. I’m making my own game and settings, bit by bit. Trying to make more interesting games than kill monster, steal treasure, work well.
    Also noticed some articles last year about how RPGs help developing school kid skills in math, memory retention, problem solving and social skills.

  28. says

    I tried to watch it, but I tuned in late, and the “go back to the start” feature didn’t work for me, so all I saw was the end of the show and a cast interview afterward. It should be available to me tomorrow. (Who knew it was still possible to tune in late and miss a show?)

  29. archangelospumoni says

    All: Become a beekeeper.
    It’s not that hard, it’s fun, it’s relatively inexpensive, and sitting there and doing nothing–just watching the bees come and go–is therapeutic. And like I tell my wife, I have NEVER met a fellow beekeeper who is a true a**hole. Maybe some day it’ll rub off on me!
    As an extra added bonus, I don’t think I have ever met a Drumpfh supporter who is also a beekeeper.

  30. says

    @#30, WMDKitty — Survivor

    Considering people have, you know, died from the coronavirus, I’m taking it way seriously.

    Right now, there have been over 9700 reported infections, and the death toll is apparently around 225. (It’s a little hard to find a source which lists current values for both at once, so I may be off a bit.) That’s a current mortality rate of around 2.3%. It will undoubtedly rise — some of those 9700 infections are recent and will almost certainly die instead of getting better — but probably not by an order of magnitude. So if “taking it seriously” means “don’t turn it into a joke, and take common-sense precautions against things which spread respiratory disease” then sure, but we’re still talking ordinary flu-like mortality, not ebola or something.

  31. John Morales says

    The X17 particle sounds intriguing, but alas, it’s got a whiff of the cold fusion wishfulness.

  32. says

    Rain, glorious rain. A large tropical low has spent the last 24 hours firehosing the south of the continent and our place has registered over 50mm or 2 inches overnight. This will kick in the recovery of the burned areas around the country. Oh, and I hate it when reports say that land has been “destroyed”, “decimated” or any other such goofy superlative. It’s been burnt or burned, scorched, fried, whatever your local customs consider the result of a fire.

    A pictorial essay of the recovery in NSW:,-blue-mountains/11916742

  33. quotetheunquote says

    @Lofty #56

    Wonderful, wonderful, news! I hope there’s not too much danger from “flash flooding” when all that water hits such a dry area (?) – of course, the Land is adapted for these kind of cycles, I’m just thinking about people who might be in the way…
    Thanks for the link to that photo essay, it’s beautiful. The S.O. and I drove around eastern Oz, many years ago now, and so some of the places mentioned – Lamington, Kosciuszko, and the Blue Mountains – are familiar to me. I loved these places then, and think I would appreciate them even more now, watching the greenery come back; wish I could go back right now! (May do so, next year.)

  34. John Morales says

    PS The Pope says for Catholics to stop trolling on social sites for Lent.

    (Well, it amused me)

  35. quotetheunquote says

    @KG #64 – Thanks for posting that – that great leap at the end of the trial really makes it!

    “who’s a good doggie? You are, yes, you are!”

  36. John Morales says

    PZ, even as I write this “harveycooper” is spamming various threads.

  37. blf says

    Change your clocks!

    Whatever for? E.g., mine is working just fine, powered by a rechargeable battery, and the previous one (which broke due to carelessness) was (mostly) recycled. And it’s very very unlikely to be infected with Covid-19.

    I suspect one might mean adjusting to accommodate Summer Time (or Daylight Saving Time, as it is known in some parts (are there really clocks in those lands?)), or, if you hang on upside-down, to Standard Time (at this point in the orbit). The mildly deranged penguin (who is accustomed to hanging-on sideways, as well as bouncing around and even upside-down), on the other wing, suggests adjusting clocks to Cheesime, which is basically meal-time, which is all the time, provided cheese is involved. At which point the clocks are not-relevant and can be recycled. Individuals with “un”-recyclable clocks can eat them (albeit they are unlikely to be cheese; Covid-19 flavourings may vary).

  38. blf says

    Internet ‘is not working for women and girls’, says Berners-Lee:

    Inventor of world wide web calls for urgent action to make cyberspace safer for women and girls

    Women and girls face a “growing crisis” of online harms, with sexual harassment, threatening messages and discrimination making the web an unsafe place to be, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned.

    The inventor of the world wide web said the “dangerous trend” in online abuse was forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions, prompting him to conclude that “the web is not working for women and girls”.

    “The world has made important progress on gender equality thanks to the unceasing drive of committed champions everywhere,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter to mark the web’s 31st birthday on Thursday. “But I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls — especially those of colour, from LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalised groups — threaten that progress.”

    The warning comes a year after Berners-Lee launched the Contract for the Web, a global action plan to save the web from forces that threaten to drag the world into a “digital dystopia”. Without tackling misogynistic online abuse, the aims of the contract cannot be achieved, he said.

    “It’s up to all of us to make the web work for everyone,” the letter states. “That requires the attention of all those who shape technology, from CEOs and engineers to academics and public officials.”

    Berners-Lee highlights three areas that need “urgent” attention. First is the digital divide that keeps more than half of the world’s women offline, largely because it is too expensive, or they do not have access to the equipment or skills to use it.

    Second is online safety: according to a survey by Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, more than half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. The vast majority believe the problem is getting worse.

    The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination. “Many companies are working hard to tackle this discrimination. But unless they dedicate resources and diversify teams to mitigate bias, they risk expanding discrimination at a speed and scale never seen before,” he writes.


  39. chigau (違う) says

    John Morales #77
    that was amusing.
    It’s my birthday tomorrow. I will qualify for the bus pass.
    As long as I fill out the forms….

  40. John Morales says

    For some “good” news:

    Researchers say one of the world’s rarest owl species has a chance at survival after a breakthrough discovery on a remote Australian island.
    Key points:

    The first Norfolk Island morepork owl chicks in more than a decade have survived to become fledglings
    There are less than 50 of the species left in the world
    In the 1980s the owl population declined to a single female

    For the first time in almost a decade, a pair of Norfolk Island morepork owl chicks have been located.

    Rohan Clarke, an avian ecologist from Monash University, said the chicks represented the future of the species, given there were less than 50 individuals left on Earth.

    “It’s super exciting,” Dr Clarke said.