Home from Wisconsin

We were out playing in the snow with Iliana. I asked her if it was OK if we took some selfies.

“Yeth,” she said.

So we did.

On the way home, we passed a person who said, “Oh, what a cutie pie!”

I wasn’t sure which of us the person was talking about, so a little further on, I asked Iliana, “Are you really a cutie pie?”

“Yeth,” she said.

There is so much garbage in the peer-reviewed literature

You should read the whole comic — it’s painfully accurate.

I’ve seen academics form publication rings — not just agreeing to cite each other’s work, but make each other co-authors on all of their papers. I’ve witnessed colleagues put each other down by snarling impact factors at each other. Academia does get ugly.

That said, I don’t know that the remedies suggested in the comic are practical. Maybe the first one would work: having standards and requirements for data sharing, the better to confirm the work. ‘No scientist could possibly object to that,’ I simper naively. Unless there are patents involved.

The second is for universities to change their hiring policies to encourage greater breadth, which would be great, except that the grand poobahs who administer universities tend to be completely disconnected from both the research and teaching going on.

The third is for the funding agencies to wake up and stop throwing all the money to the big flashy projects. There are things like that going on right now, but you know who has the most power in peer review? The scientists who do big flashy projects.

I like this one.

Heh. Where have I heard of that one? The catch there is that that was published by another kind of ring of crackpots, publishing in an obscure specialty journal edited by more crackpots. They can do that. There’s nothing illegal to stop them, and it’s all encouraged by Elsevier, which only cares about money.

You might notice that more than a few people jumped on that as one of the dumbest papers ever written, but there are no academic incentives at all to do that — you can’t get tenure by being good at cleaning up the droppings of bad science, and if anything, it counts against you. Maybe that’s something that could be fixed, but I’m not counting on it.

So, yes, read it, great comic, very accurate, but maybe too optimistic. We need good goals to work towards, though.

Terrible news

I’m visiting my granddaughter in Wisconsin today, and I got some heartbreaking news from family out West just yesterday, which I’m not going to share. Sorry. Personal family tragedy.

I noticed, though, that my grandnephew Alex (who is fine!) made a birthday request last week on Facebook for donations to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’. What a peculiar and good thing for a teenager to do…but sadly appropriate right now.

I’ll just mention that, and let it go. I’m in a strangely helpless place right now.

Weird but nice

Werner Herzog has a strange reputation, because of his formal and very German way of speaking, but deep down, I think he’s just a sweet old man. Here’s Herzog reacting to a skateboarding video.

Slightly skewed, but charming, and he has a nice smile.

Tangentially, when I was a teenager, if you’d asked me who my favorite actor was, I would have said Oskar Werner, because I’d seen him in a handful of films and like his manner and that faint accent. It might have been in reaction to my peers who would have said someone like John Wayne, and I despised John Wayne from an early age. There’s some of that same quality to Werner and Herzog…

Now we know who owns Tucker Carlson

It’s whoever buys the most commercials for his show. And right now, that’s Mike Lindell, the Minnesota pillow magnate? Wait, what? How do you get so rich shuffling pillows around?

Crap. If only I’d known that spending years in training in biology and spending decades teaching wasn’t a recipe for getting rich. I could have used my one life to buy foam, cut it into rectangles, and stuff it into fabric covers, and then society would have rewarded me with power, influence, and the ability to yell my crazy ideas at old people watching Fox News. I wasted my life, dammit.

Anyway, Tucker Carlson let Mike Lindell freely bellow lunatic conspiracy theories on his show, after the MyPillow guy had been banned from Twitter for being too dangerously wacky for even that medium.

On Tuesday night, pillow salesman Mike Lindell headed to Tucker Carlson Tonight, where his ads routinely kick in more than a third of the show’s advertising budget, to inform the world that he has been canceled. The night before, the MyPillow CEO had been permanently banned from Twitter after what a Twitter spokesperson called “repeated violations of our Civic Integrity Policy” related to misinformation pertaining to the 2020 presidential election.

I did a double-take on that one bit — so ads for pillows from one manufacturer constitute a third of the revenue stream for Tucker Carlson? I guess he would feel some pressure to avoid alienating the wild-eyed ranting buffoon.

He was, of course, on national TV to complain about cancel culture and being silenced. Irony is dead, but at least the corpse has a nice comfy pillow to lie on.

Lindell is also taking advantage of huge ad purchases on OAN and Eric Metaxas’s radio show to go on those programs to whine about how he can’t make himself heard anymore.

All this raises big questions in my head. Are pillows that big a deal for people who tune into Conservative Old People’s Media? I can’t remember when I last bought a pillow — maybe a decade or more ago, and I’m not feeling any pressing need for a new one now. I’m curious about cause and effect. Do people who need a new pillow spontaneously turn to Carlson and Metaxas to shop? Or does watching Carlson and Metaxas suddenly make one desire something soft to lie on? As I get older, will I start seeking pillows? We’re raising lots of flies in the lab right now, and fly larvae go into a wandering phase where they crawl up unto the side of their container to pupate — is this like a hardwired behavioral transition, too?

Lindell isn’t the sole advertiser, though. Other companies pouring money into the conservative trough are weight loss plans, Caribbean vacations, personal EKGs, and restaurant delivery services, which altogether paint an interesting picture of the typical Fox News aficionado.

The Republicans haven’t changed at all

Sure, Trump was dumped, but the prominent Republicans, like Cruz and Rubio, are still defending him, and the majority really don’t want to impeach…and you’d think if they were really unhappy with the lyin’ demagogue, they’d want to make sure he can’t come back and run against a Republican candidate in 2024.

Worst of all, though, they are entirely complacent about have Marjorie Taylor Greene in their ranks. You know, the delusional woman who thinks mass shootings are all false flags to justify taking your guns away.

Also the nutcase who thinks the California wildfires were started by lasers from space.

The fires were part of a conspiracy by Jewish bankers to clear the right of way for their rail project, don’t you know. She just likes to “read a lot.”

Of course, anti-semitism, racism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and white nationalism are her brand. There isn’t a conspiracy theory she hasn’t embraced. She’s a 9-11 truther. She thinks pizzagate was a real thing. She loves the right-wing militias. She thinks Hillary Clinton had her political enemies assassinated. She’s a dangerous loon who worships at the altar of QAnon and the Trump Cult. She thinks the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings, in which children were murdered, was a staged event with “crisis actors”.

So what does the Republican leadership in the House do?

All of this has provoked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to let it be known through a spokesman that he finds her comments “deeply disturbing” and that he “plans to have a conversation with the congresswoman about them.”

In the meantime, McCarthy scheduled a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Trump. He apparently hopes to smooth over any hard feelings the former president may have about McCarthy’s mild blandishment that Trump “bears responsibility” for the mob that he fed with false claims about a stolen election and then incited to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.

So it looks like a stern talking-to, followed by a make-up session, is the worst that can happen within the Republican family these days. And should anyone else try to exact a punishment, the party will protect its own, as all but five Senate Republicans proved this week, when they voted against even holding an impeachment trial of Trump.

They they appointed her to the Education Committee. I guess because she “reads a lot”.

The rot runs too deep. The Republican party must be dismantled and destroyed.

Not that the Democrats are flawless! Jonathan Chait, for example, thinks Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is the mirror image of Marjorie Taylor Greene, which is breathtakingly stupid. AOC hasn’t been preaching conspiracy theories and race hatred and the violent overthrow of the government; she’s working within the system to achieve progressive goals.

The leading Democratic mischief-maker is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who advocates some left-wing views I consider simplistic and impractical and, in some cases, poll badly. The top example of a conservative mischief-maker, presented in perfect symmetry, is Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Greene’s views are just a bit more controversial.

“Just a bit”! Because some of AOC’s goals “poll badly”! Fuck these neo-liberal scumbags, too.

Giving vegetarian food a bad name

Do not want.

We’re going to be doing a bit of traveling today, so I thought I’d start us off with a traditional hearty breakfast. Bacon and eggs, that’s the ticket! We’re ovo-lacto pescatarians, vegetarian easy mode, so the eggs are fine, but bacon is forbidden. Fortunately, we had picked up some Morning Star Farms Veggie Bacon Strips, so I thought I’d try those.

Big mistake.

These are perfectly rectangular, thin, flat sheets of something marbled with pink and white. A serving is 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrate. You cook them in a frying pan, as if it were real bacon, and they sit there and get crispier, flatly. There’s none of the shrinking you get with real bacon, so after they’re heated through, you’ve still got an array of pink and white flawless rectangles.

Then you bite into one. They’re flavorless! They have a uniform texture which is nothing like bacon, lacking any fat. It’s exactly like thin strips of cardboard.

It’s my own damn fault for buying something that pretends to be meat-like. There’s nothing wrong with vegetarian food, and in fact it’s really tasty and flavorful and textured and complex, except when someone tries to make a pale imitation of something that relies on the complexity of animal tissue, and fails.

Even these Beyond/Impossible burgers have set themselves a low bar of emulating a meat that has a lot of the complexity ground out of it, and they’re not bad, but you can still tell the difference, and who knows how much effort has been put into the chemistry to get an approximation to ground meat flavor.

I should have just made a plateful of beans.

I get email…from Portugal

It’s good to get the Portuguese perspective on something I wrote about Portugal.

I am writing to you from Portugal. As you may imagine, this has to do
with your Pharyngula post “We could be another Portugal!”. I thought
that you might find interesting the attached cartoon. It was published
in an underground newspaper in 1934, that is, at a time in which Salazar
had been prime minister for only two years. It shows him teaching Hitler
and Mussolini how to deal with the opposition. One might think that it
happened to be a Communist newspaper, but no; it was a Republican
newspaper (in the sense of Republican values, not in the sense of the
American Republican Party).

That’s the kind of man American conservatives want to run the country. Yikes.

As was brought up in that other thread, we aren’t even talking about Salazar’s terrible colonial abuses yet.