Say you’re out trick-or-treating tonight

You want to recognize our house. First tip is that it’s pumpkin-colored. Then look for the giant red-eyed glowing spider over the door, and the blinking lights of the smaller male climbing the wall to reach her. That’s us! We’re giving out M&Ms and peanut butter cups.

Also, as a nice touch, the decorative stonework planter is full of nothing but thistles. The person answering the door might be my witchy-wife, because I’m still clomping about in slow motion with The Boot clamped around my ankle.

I summoned a demon for atheist Hallowe’en. It did not go well.

It’s Hallowe’en, and you know what that means: we atheists (and also witches and ghouls, same difference) are expected to commune with our Dark Lord and Master, Satan. Sadly, he hasn’t been answering my calls in the past decade or so, with no explanation. This year, though, I decided to get to the bottom of it all, so I called and called and called. Persistence paid off, and finally someone picked up: it was the demon Squilliax'<cough>-haaaak’megok, who is the assistant to the vice-undersecretary in the department of spider infestations (I had an in, you see). It was a start!

PZ: “Sir Squilliax'<cough>-haaaak’megok, thank you for taking my call. I was hoping to find out why we atheists, who have been your useful and dedicated servants — or, at least, the religious folk tell us we are — have been abandoned, and how we can get back into your infernal graces. Can you tell us anything? Or connect me to someone with information?”

<sigh> You will have to learn humility. We don’t care.

PZ: But we have been in your service, taking away people’s faith! Isn’t that what you wanted?

Foolish. No. Faith is our greatest ally. Such delicious atrocities happen when people believe. So many of the greatest sins are meaningless without faith: apostasy, heresy, sodomy…

PZ: Hey! A lot of atheists are what you call “sodomites”…

But they are the wrong kind. You always talk about “consent” and “fun” and “using lube” — it’s not our kind of sodomy without squeals of pain and shame and guilt. You know who is the best kind of sodomite? Devout Catholics. You diminish us when you liberate a fanatic. This is why you are no longer in favor.

You also lack immortal souls. When you die, you end — you will never serve in Hell. You are useless to us.

PZ: But…the Christians and Muslims and Hindus and everyone else also lack these souls, and will not serve you in Hell either!

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Yes. We know. But they fear that we will drag them down into Hell on their death, so they serve us in life. Such pain! Such misery! All served so sweetly and voluntarily by priests and mullahs and Republicans and Tories. We whisper the name of a god in their ears, and they stumble eagerly forward to put the machineries of agony to work on their fellow human beings. We don’t need you.

PZ: But…but…Hallowe’en?

Hallowe’en is not ours. We’re not particularly fond of parties and candy and costumed frolics that trivialize the fear of death. Christmas…now that’s a Satanic holiday. Why do you think we’ve coupled it to capitalism? Have you noticed how it is expanding? It has swallowed up your Thanksgiving, is soon to consume Hallowe’en, and then on to Canadian Thanksgiving and Labor Day. When Christmas is year round, we will have achieved Hell on Earth.

PZ: Everyone blames us atheists! They think we’re the Satanists! You have to…

Isn’t that delightful? Do not call us again. If you must, contact us through our Earthly representatives — just find your nearest billionaire. They are Satan’s elect, not you.

Happy Hallowe’en.

My phone burst into flames and melted into a puddle of toxic metallic goo. Well, that wasn’t worth it.

It was unpleasant enough dealing with a demon from Hell, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to stoop to talking to Elon Musk just to find out more. Some things are just too repulsive and disgusting and vile for a mere mortal to do.

It turns out that many hands do make light work

Today was spider feeding day, and it’s usually a bit of a chore just because I have so many spiderlings right now. Mary came along to help this time, though, and it was amazing how easy it was: I’d zip along all the vials with spiders, flicking sacrificial flies to their waiting doom, and she’d follow along behind, capping each vial as I went. Zoom, it was done.

Now my dilemma: do I keep my wife, dragging her in to assist every feeding session, or do I grow an extra pair of hands? The latter does have some attractive aspects, you know.

Billionaires are a plague on the planet

Yet another example of why I despise billionaires: they see our underfunded universities as a playground for their vanity projects, which our administrators will gratefully accept without regard for the purpose of their institution. Just look at UC Santa Barbara. It’s got one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere, and one asshole with money beyond sense has decided to build a prison for students as an experiment.

Charles Munger left $200 million to the university on the condition that they must build a mega-dorm exactly as his blueprints dictate. There’s a problem right there: it’s very nice of rich people to give money to universities, but donors should respect the fact that the university is supposed to know what they’re doing and that rigid demands from inflexible outsiders are not helpful. The university should have just said “NO!” early in the planning stages of the donation. Now they’re stuck with it.

The idea was conceived by 97-year-old billionaire-investor turned amateur-architect Charles Munger, who donated $200 million toward the project with the condition that his blueprints be followed exactly. Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate. He also argues the off-site prefabrication of standardized building elements ― the nine residential levels feature identical floor plans ― would save on cost. The entire proposal, which comes as UCSB desperately attempts to add to its overstretched housing stock, is budgeted somewhere in the range of $1.5 billion.

You read that right. Charles Munger donated $200 million in such a way as to force the university to spend another $1,300 million on this boondoggle. His design is a nightmare. It’s a collection of uncomfortably tiny, windowless sleeping rooms surrounding a common area, with the intent that students will be forced to interact in the shared space, especially since they’ll be deprived of views of the beaches or ocean. Those are terrible distractions, you know.

If I were a shiny new high school graduate considering UCSB, the environment would be a major part of the appeal, and telling me I’d be living in a sealed box with artificial lighting, only two exits from the building, and 7 strangers elbow-to-elbow would send me running elsewhere. That sounds more like a penitentiary or worse, the premise for a reality TV show. The architects hired to implement the design have already resigned (but who needs them anyway? Munger provided the blueprints, that job is done.)

One of the architects explains why it is a bad design.

McFadden draws striking comparisons between Munger Hall and other large structures to illustrate its colossal footprint. Currently, he said, the largest single dormitory in the world is Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy, which houses 4,000 students and is composed of multiple wings wrapped around numerous courtyards with over 25 entrances.

“Munger Hall, in comparison, is a single block housing 4,500 students with two entrances,” McFadden said, and would qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It would be able to house Princeton University’s entire undergraduate population, or all five Claremont Colleges. “The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box,” he said.

The project is utterly detached from its physical setting, McFadden goes on, and has no relationship to UCSB’s “spectacular coastal location.” It is also out of place with the scale and texture of the rest of campus, he said, “an alien world parked at the corner of the campus, not an integrally related extension of it.” Even the rooftop courtyard looks inward and “may as well be on the ground in the desert as on the eleventh floor on the coast of California,” he said.

Oh, but of course it’s going to be named Munger Hall. Munger is a college dropout turned lawyer and investment banker, so it’s perfectly normal that he gets his name splattered on buildings in campuses all across the nation.

Transphobes occasionally dip a toe in here

They tend to be very tentative, and wrap themselves in the cloaking device of civility because they get banned hard otherwise, but we get an occasional TERF hijacking threads here. If you must, here’s the latest example. My defense is a great collection of eloquent readers who thoroughly shred TERFy arguments, and there are some beautiful examples in that thread. Look for the rebuttals by CripDyke and abbeycadabra and other worthy commenters, like Frederic Bourgault-Christie.

Abbey has also written her own post on the subject. Why are you reading the blog of an old cis man for trans issues anyway?

Some of you are gonna hate me for this image

But it’s almost Hallowe’en, so I get to revel in spiders for a while.

Below the fold is a photo of what looks like a gigantic spider filling a room, surrounded by a swarm of its babies.

The good news for you arachnophobes is that it’s a trick of perspective — it’s actually photographed in a smaller enclosed space.

The bad news is that the space was under the photographer’s bed.

The badder news is that it is a Brazilian wandering spider, one of the most venomous spiders known.

Also, the photo was posted on The Weather Channel’s page. You never know what you might see when you go to check the weather for a picnic.

Sweet dreams!

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