Spider feeding day!

It’s been a long day of preparing my mighty army of baby spiders. All have now had flies sacrificed to them, so while I was flicking flies into vials, I recorded and uploaded this short clip of one Parasteatoda happily finishing off her prey.

They are so young, and yet they’re already murderous hellbeasts. At least from the perspective of Drosophila.

The Lincoln Project is not your friend

They’re just trying to Republicanize the Democrats, which way too many Democrats (I’m looking at you, Chuck Schumer) think is a good idea. I’m sure it is tempting, when you think only in terms of acquiring power, to argue that becoming more Republican will attract more Republican votes — and that’s true! — but it also means you’ve got no principles, and are just trying to swap places with the other party.

Cody explains it well.

The Lincoln Project is definitely putting out harder hitting ads than the Democrats are, which tells you something already: the Democrats are at the mushy soft stage of decay, and are over-ripe for takeover. Rick Wilson knows that. Why don’t the Democrats know that?

Spiders of the Industrial Wasteland

Today I had to take the car in to get new tires. We’re a rural bit of the country, but that doesn’t mean we’re all green and soil and fresh sprouts — this was a tire store next to the railroad tracks with a line of grain elevators across the street. I wasn’t about to hang around in the waiting room, so I went prowling about the industrial wasteland next door.
What did I find? Cryptic machinery, corrugated sheet metal buildings, and iron rails, of course. With spiders!

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I wonder which of the fervent Republicans at the rally infected him?

You know, Herman Cain attended a Trump rally maskless, and proudly posted a photo of himself hanging out with a small crowd of people, also maskless, and then was diagnosed with COVID-19 afterwards.

Now Herman Cain is dead of COVID-19.

Please, please, please take the pandemic seriously. Even you Republicans. It’s real. It kills people. Even people you might like.

Dispelling the aura of danger around spiders

I keep telling everybody — spiders aren’t as scary/dangerous as you think. Now I have a paper that quantifies the risk of deadly spider venom. It’s low.

• The increasing popularity of pet arachnids urges some governments to take protective steps to prevent serious envenomations.

• A literature review was carried out to assess which arachnids can be classified as potentially dangerous.

• About 0.5% of all spider and 23% of all scorpion species were classified as potentially dangerous.

• Even envenomations from the most dangerous arachnids have a low percentage of serious or even fatal consequences.

• We conclude that the public threat from pet arachnid envenomations has been overrated.

Here’s the list of potentially dangerous genera.

Note that the list errs strongly on the side of caution. It lists Eratigena, the hobo spider, but says in the text that “there is not a single verified bite that confirms E.agrestis or other members of this genus as dangerous to humans”. Latrodectus, black widow spiders, do have a real record — 23,000 incidents reported over 8 years — but less than half of those cases involved envenomation, and only about 1% exhibited severe effects, and there were 0 deaths. The Parasteatoda and Steatoda species I work on are only briefly mentioned and dismissed because their effects are much weaker than those of Latrodectus.

I’ve also never encountered any of the spiders they list, and I’ve been looking. I guess if I lived in Malaysia or Brazil I’d experience more of the thrill of danger, but here in Minnesota we’ve got a non-existent concern, and even in those tropical countries it’s a relatively minor worry.

(Of course I learned about this paper from Gwen Pearson. It’ll be useful if anyone at the university expresses concern about the hundreds of spiders currently in my lab.)

We can open the bars, but oh, no, we better delay the election

Donald Trump is desperate to cling to power for as long as he can, so his latest trial balloon is to suggest delaying the election because — wait for it — the pandemic. You know, the pandemic he’s been downplaying for months. The disease that he claims is controlled by hydroxychloroquine and prayers by a woman who believes it’s caused by demon semen. The coronavirus he and his advisors want to pretend doesn’t exist or is just a kind of flu so they can reopen the economy. Only now he’s claiming it is so severe that he wants to hold up the November election.

To which I’d say, vote by mail — that’s what I’m planning to do — but no, he wants to block that, too. Here’s what he’s really doing:

Trump appears to be doing everything in his power to undermine the credibility of November’s vote, in which a record number of Americans are predicted to rely on mail-in voting to avoid the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. He’s repeatedly made false and misleading claims about the reliability of the mail balloting and suggested broad conspiracy theories. Critics warn that he could be laying the groundwork for contesting the results – although the purpose may be simply to give him a scapegoat if he loses.

Trump’s Thursday morning tweet could also be an attempt to divert attention away from the truly dismal second-quarter economic numbers just released. He’s been relying on a financial turnaround to breath life into his re-election campaign, and instead the outlook appears exceedingly gloomy.

If you are optimistically confident that there will be a smooth transition in power in a few months, and that the criminal-in-chief will surely obey the law and quietly leave office in January, I’ve got news for you. We’re going to have to go into the Oval Office with meathooks and claw him out in pieces, while his partisans are waving AR-15s and shooting up federal buildings all over the country. He’s clearly beginning to panic.

I’m trying to engineer social media to give me ads that won’t make me puke

For some reason (and this post will probably make it worse), social media have been slamming me with ads for model rockets. Maybe they’re digging way, way back into our commercial history, because I was last personally into them back in junior high — the early ’70s. I do have to admit, though, that these latest models look pretty sweet and tempt me into trying.

I’d probably face the same problem I did in junior high, though: I’d scrimp and save to buy a model to fuss over, and then I’d have no money to buy the engines you need to launch them. There were also all these accessories you needed, like an ignition system and a launch pad, and I couldn’t afford that, either.

Oh, well. Just mentioning this ancient interest means that Big Brother will helpfully dig up all kinds of pretty pictures of spaceships to sprinkle into my mentions. That works for me! Especially if they displace all the crappy ads for insrnce and fnerl services and mle enhncem*nt services I usually get.

So…you’re saying we’ve been living in a police state for decades?

This is an 18 year old trans woman getting violently arrested by a swarm of cops.

Nicki Stone, the woman being forced into an unmarked car, must be extremely strong and scary, because look how many men in shorts and t-shirts to control her. And then they need so many cops on bicycles to control the crowd.

But the real revelation is the NYPD using the ‘we’ve always been this way’ excuse.

The NYPD issued a statement on Twitter saying that Stone was wanted for damaging police cameras, and she was detained by the Warrant Squad, which uses unmarked vehicles to carry out arrests. NYPD Lt. John Grimpel told NBC News that the Warrant Squad has used unmarked vehicles to detain people for “decades.”

If we’ve been abused by bad cops and bad policing techniques for at least 20 years, isn’t it about time we got around to ending it?