Where is my crocoduck tie?

I own a crocoduck tie, somewhere. I was actually gifted this tie by Richard Dawkins himself, many years ago, and I thought I’d wear it as a talisman this afternoon, but now I can’t find it. I haven’t been at any events that warrant a tie for many years now, and honestly this past year I’ve barely left the house. Maybe if I went to church more, I’d have an excuse?

Anyway, the reason I was looking for it is that I’m supposed to have a livestream on youtube with Kevin Logan and Kristi Winters about science as a social construct, which it is, prompted by this other YouTuber going by the name of King Crocoduck, who claims to have something he calls a “naturalist nuke” that demolishes all those SJWs who don’t recognize the omnipotence of True Science. I guess it’s happening around 3:00, my time — it’s all very informal, since I don’t have a link yet. In which case I guess it’s just as well I’m not putting on a suit and tie for it.

A virtual meeting of arachnologists

If you are interested in spiders, the American Arachnology Society meeting is open for registration. The meeting is 24 June to 1 July, is only $20, and you don’t need to be a professional arachnologist with a PhD to attend (yay, my imposter syndrome is appeased!). I’m also interested in this new addition to the conference:

This year, we aim to connect attendees with artists, artisans, entrepreneurs and vendors who make arachnid-inspired pieces via a “Featured Artists” page on the conference website. For a small fee ($5-10) artists can have an image of their work and a link to their digital store or website included on this page. Are you interested in having your art/products featured at the conference?

I have no art/products, but maybe you do, and I want to see them!

It’s all old neckless white guys with buzzcuts harassing kids, in my mind

Ken the Hen is exactly right: LEAVE THEM ALONE.

I remember genital inspections — only we called that junior high PE class. I hated it. Being an insecure and introverted adolescent and being told to strip and take a public shower was bad enough, but it was made worse by the swaggering asshole, Mr Earl, who ‘taught’ PE and would stroll through the locker room making comments about everyone’s bodies. He was definitely in the category of “really mean people”, and was probably also a white supremacist — he certainly raved on and on about the Vietnam War — and I’m sure he’d be a TERF, since, although there were very few openly trans folk in my community then, he was dazzlingly homophobic.

OK, maybe that’s my conspiracy theory. The worst people in the world are brutal PE coaches from the 1970s, and now they’re all running the country and sitting in the Missouri legislature passing hate crimes as laws.

Where are our conspiracy theories?

I’m feeling left out. I just encountered yet another story of a shadowy cabal conspiring to destroy humanity by promoting transgenderism, and it got me wondering why we don’t have our own silly conspiracy theories.

While prominent Jewish transgender activists like Jazz Jennings and Jennifer Pritzker, and Jewish-themed shows like Transparent, serve as one face of this imagined conspiracy, white nationalists believe the real power is wielded behind the scenes by Jewish billionaires, talent managers, media and entertainment executives, journalists, and advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League. They think this shadow network is working patiently to normalize transgender acceptance in popular culture; as another Occidental Observer writer put it, “the stunningly disproportionate Jewish involvement in the ‘transgender rights’ movement reveals it as yet another form of Jewish ethnic warfare.”

This Jewish activism, they are convinced, is laser-focused on attacking white, Western society at its most vulnerable and sacrosanct point: the sexuality of children.

As Henrik Palmgren, leader of the white nationalist multimedia company Red Ice said in 2015, the Jewish parents of Jazz Jennings, by supporting their young daughter to become a trailblazing advocate for trans empowerment and acceptance, were enacting “one of the most disturbing agendas the Zionist elite have ever created.” This attempt at “normalizing the abnormal,” Palmgren wrote, “will sacrifice the physical and mental health of numerous children for decades to come.”

I mean, look at that! Why? Who gets together in meetings and schemes to cripple children? What loon would think that the “most vulnerable point” of Western society is allowing a tiny minority of young people to define their own sexuality? It’s not an effective strategy, and I also can’t believe that any subgroup that acquires “real power” would be interested in destroying the culture they are succeeding in. If anything, history tells us that the powerful tend to work to maintain the status quo.

That got me wondering, though, if I believe in any conspiracies. I don’t know; I think billionaires are the most horrible, disruptive force in society, but I don’t think they’re intentionally working together to nefarious ends — they’re just selfish people who are exploiting the system independently. Republicans are doing great evils, but again, it’s not a plot. It’s just ignorant people mired in fallacious dogma. Creationists are just pathetic. There’s no one on the other side I’d consider an evil mastermind, the other side seems to be full of bumbling, incompetent human beings, just like my side.

That’s a problem, maybe. It would all be so much easier if we could identify a distinguishable group to demonize, but instead, they is us.

Spiders @ Home

It’s no fair. I have to work to maintain my spiders in the lab, fussing over their cages, feeding them every day, encouraging them to breed. Then there’s my colleague down the road who just has a compost bin he shovels food waste into, and every year it’s swarming with Steatoda borealis. No work at all. Just leaving it be, letting insects flourish in the waste, which feed the spiders, which also benefit from that year-round warmth of decomposition.

I wonder what the department chair would think if I just started dumping garbage in my lab? It looks like a great strategy for growing a colony.

Below, I’ve included a photo of a few of these spiders in their natural grim, dirty, cobwebby habitat.

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The monkeys must die

I’m teach two courses this term (well, three, actually), Fundamentals of Genetics, Evolution, and Development, a required introductory biology course, and Genetics, an upper level elective. And they’re killing me right now.

But yesterday, I went all ADHD on FunGen and focused from 1pm until well after midnight and got all caught up on grading that course (my inbox is empty), and also prepped today’s lecture and next Tuesday’s, and wrote the exam I’m handing out today, and assembled an outline of the final exam. No, really, I can stop thinking about it for a while. It’s like I had two biting, clawing, screaming monkeys on my back and I took one and bashed its skull with a rock. Very satisfying.

Unfortunately, it meant I had to ignore the other monkey for a day, but I’m going to address that today, focusing on just the backlog in Genetics and clearing that step by step all day and all night, if I have to. It’s a monkey-killing rampage!

There’s a possibility that I might even get a free day this weekend, before the next round of exams show up and demand to be graded. Maybe I can do something exciting, like laundry. Or nap. I’ve only been getting 4 hours of sleep each night, so the latter is tempting.

My commitment to being boring is unflagging

Teaching is done for the day. All student appointments cleared from my calendar. Next up: I have to polish up another exam I’m handing out in intro bio tomorrow, prepare a little learning exercise for the students, and then dive back into grading exams and lab reports.

But first! The sun is shining, it’s 17°C out there, and I’m going for a walk. I’ll probably come back. Probably. That pile of papers will just draw me back, I’m sure.

Of course, if I find a big colony of spiders I might instead turn feral and move in with them.

Time to hug the spiders

It’s happening again. I’m falling behind on the grading, and today I have to give another exam because the syllabus says so. The exam is ready to go, but I’m not.

I’m going to go hang out in the lab for a while and relax.

Must think soothing thoughts, don’t want to break down. Just buckling down, trying to get all the work done, eyes on next week when it all comes to a close.

Also, thinking thoughts of revenge.

See? A positive mindset will get me through this.

Would you take medical advice from a whiny rich frat boy?

Why is Tucker Carlson still on the air? He’s spreading criminal misinformation and encouraging his viewers to sic the cops on people wearing masks.

Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson thinks people wearing masks are “repulsive” and told his viewers last night that they should even call the cops when they see children wearing masks.

And knowing the yearning, empty vessels that make up the bulk of his viewing audience, you know it will happen. 911 operators will be diverted from actual emergencies so the intellectually lazy prep school boy can revel in the extent of his power.

Mind you, it’s children wearing masks in Walmart that so disgusts him. Not the oppositional defiance bunch that so proudly sports semi-automatic weapons in Walmart.

“Masks have always been incompatible with a free society. We used to know that. Masks strip people of their identity as individuals, transform people from citizens into drones. They isolate us and alienate us to shut us off from one another, they prevent intimacy and human contact. If I can’t see your face, I can’t know you.”

You want America to become another India? Because that’s how you get India.

So what went wrong? Experts cite the spread of the U.K. variant and frequent large events with unmasked crowds. State election rallies have gone ahead, and a Hindu festival drew millions of people to the Ganges River this month—leading to more than 1,000 new cases. But the emergence of a more contagious Indian strain seems to be the biggest factor. In March, a government statement warned of new variants that “confer immune escape and increased infectivity.” In fact, the Indian strain may have been circulating as early as October.

Shamika Ravi, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Foreign Policy that both the new strain and the increasing number of people leaving their homes explain the current surge. She said the high mobility rate may also indicate why more young people are getting infected in the current wave: They are the ones exposing themselves by leaving their homes for work and leisure. Mobility rates for older people have been lower during the pandemic.

This is what I dread. We’re taking a cautious approach at my university — some easing of restrictions, but I’m still going to be doing online teaching primarily next Fall — and I want this over. But it’s not over yet, and too many people are acting as if it is, which will only make it worse. As Margaret Sullivan puts it, Tucker Carlson’s latest idiocy on masks is dangerous and hypocritical even by his usual standards. It’s going to kill people. It’s going to empower more lunatics. And yet Fox News blithely encourages him.

Watch the spectacle of a petulant, gibbering liar straining to fuel the outrage that keeps him on the air, if you can stomach it.