Jumping spiders are peeping toms!

I was first introduced to the wonders of spiders in 1980, when I took a course in sensory physiology from Mike Land, who, if you know his work, is a world-class expert in eyes and vision and optics and comparative physiology. We mainly worked on jumping spiders in that lab because you could just walk outside in the Oregon spring and catch lots of them on the walls of the science buildings.

One of the cool things we learned is that jumping spiders have unusual eye anatomy. Their eyes aren’t spherical, they’re tube-shaped, and they actually function like a Galilean telescope. That’s right, jumping spiders are looking at you through a telescope — they can see things far away relatively clearly. These spiders can look up and see the stars.

We did various experiments on spider vision back then, but one thing we lacked was a spider with a transparent carapace, so we did everything with indirect behavioral and optical methods. This little video would have blown our minds.

We dissected a few spiders and could clearly see the tube-like structure, but that didn’t communicate the dynamic activity of those little telescope eyes at all.

The dreaded pineapple threat

I generally ignore Trump news anymore — I’m waiting for the indictments, arrest, and trial, which will probably never happen — but sometimes he’s so ridiculous I can’t pretend he doesn’t exist. So, the latest: in a deposition last year, he revealed his fear of fruit.

Former president Donald Trump said he feared protesters would hit him with tomatoes, pineapples and other “very dangerous” fruit at his campaign rallies, declaring in a sworn deposition that “you can be killed if that happens.”

It gave me flashbacks.

Let’s be realistic, though. He wasn’t really afraid of fruit. He was inflating the dangers of fruit so he could justify using violence against people who oppose him.

Dictor then asked Trump: “Is it your expectation that if your security guards see someone about to throw a tomato that they should knock the crap out of them?”

Trump replied in the affirmative, noting that he expected his security team to use physical force in such cases.

“Yeah, I think that they have to be aggressive in stopping that from happening,” Trump said. “Because if that happens, you can be killed if that happens. … To stop somebody from throwing pineapples, tomatoes, bananas, stuff like that, yeah, it’s dangerous stuff.”

Has anyone ever thrown pineapples at a protest?

There’s a reflection in the clouds above the Capitol!

Oh, and it’s satanic. A satanic portal. We know this because Roger Stone says so. Here’s a picture of it:

I wouldn’t have believed it, except they drew a gigantic, thick, crude orange oval around it, so it must be true. Also, the people testifying to it are so trustworthy.

That’s Steve Schultz, an evangelical Christian who runs something called “Elijah’s List”, where people talk about Bible prophecy, and Roger Stone, who has surrounded himself with pagan paraphernalia featuring his gods, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, and another evangelical, Robin D. Bullock. Bullock would worry me, if I were a Christian. He’s nestled into an altar with candles and a sword and various paganish elements, so he’s clearly a witch.

What they have discovered is that if you have a brightly lit building or monument, you will sometimes see reflections in the clouds above it. It’s an entirely natural phenomenon. In their minds, though, they are frantically seeking out patterns that fit their presuppositions, and then interpreting them in a way that reinforces their beliefs. People do this all the time, and the interpretations become more and more extreme if you’re hanging out with a group that totally lacks any skeptical input — it’s self-reinforcing, and is just going to get crazier and crazier, with each of those three reassuring each other that no amount of wackiness is going to trigger reason.

So a glow in the sky become’s Satan’s cauldron and a portal to hell because they want to think the worst of the man in the White House. If we went back a few years and took a similar picture while Trump was in office, it would be a sign from God, like the star of Bethlehem, that the man below it was the anointed one.

Here’s a video by a guy who wasn’t a gullible Stone Stooge who went looking for the Satanic Portal. It wasn’t there. He sees lots of reflections and lens flares from the bright lights around the building, and speculates that the White House live webcam, which is situated high up on a nearby building, has one of those lights shining in such a way as to reflect off the lens.

Sounds reasonable, far more likely than Satan building a glowing portal in the sky. But hey, you wild and wacky evangelical Christians: keep on praying. It won’t do any harm, and keeps you busy.

It’s been obvious for a long time that the Minneapolis police are rotten to the core

George Floyd was just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a new report out on our cops, and it’s not pretty. They’re under-trained bigots who take a military approach to policing. They kill people at an alarming rate.

The report said race-based policing in Minneapolis is primarily a result of police force culture. Officers, supervisors and trainers “receive deficient training, which emphasizes a paramilitary approach to policing that results in officers unnecessarily escalating encounters or using inappropriate levels of force,” it said.

The department’s accountability systems are “insufficient and ineffective at holding officers accountable for misconduct,” the report said. But it said former and current city and police leaders have failed to act, effectively allowing an aggressive culture to fester.

The report said the department maintains a culture where officers “consistently use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language and are rarely held accountable” for it.

“Without fundamental organizational culture changes, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless,” the report said.

Fire them all. Or at least, go through their records and ruthlessly fire anyone with a history of discrimination and violence — kick out everyone with spousal abuse on file, for instance. There go 90% of the cops!

I know, that’s unrealistic. Instead, they’ll do nothing and use the report as an excuse to hire more, presumably “better” cops. Maybe get some more tanks and SWAT teams.

Hey, in totally unrelated news, the man who murdered George Floyd wants his jail sentence overturned.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has filed an appeal, asking the state Court of Appeal to overturn his conviction for killing George Floyd in 2020, according to CNN. Chauvin was found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill back in June, NPR reports.

An 82-page brief filed on Monday alleged that several factors during the case corrupted proceedings and made them “structurally defective,” CNN reports. One of the factors also noted was the pretrial publicity, protests outside the courthouse and the announcement during jury selection that Floyd’s family would receive a $27 million settlement. It continued, describing the court proceedings as “so pervaded by error, misconduct and prejudice that they were structurally defective.”

What a shame that he chose to publicly, callously murder a man in front of all those phone cameras. If it hadn’t been for all the publicity, nobody would have caught on and he’d be a free man today, probably still with a good job with the Minneapolis police department. And the Floyd family probably wouldn’t have gotten that settlement if the whole world hadn’t seen Chauvin openly execute a man!

Doesn’t everyone realize he was innocent, just a product of accepted Minneapolis police behavior?

I thought we’d moved beyond this in the ’70s

I grew up under the cloud of nuclear war — we kids saw it as an omnipresent threat, any day now a bunch of bombs were going to come sailing out of the sky and roll everything back to the stone age. Then that got replaced with pollution, and starvation, and then global warming. None of that got fixed, and now we’re calling back the ominous danger of nuclear war on top of everything else? No fair.

You know, the biggest terrorists in the world are the ones with a nuclear arsenal that they wave around to terrorize people into doing what they want. We need to disarm everyone right now.

Once, I would have predicted that Ukraine was going to be crushed

Even now, I don’t know — at a guess, I’d assume the eastern Ukraine is going to get bloodily chewed up by the blundering Russian war machine. But then I see this map of recent fires and explosions at important Russian military facilities.

Look at those sites north of Moscow. Are Ukrainians that fierce and bold that they’re carrying out a counter-invasion? Not likely. Here’s a better explanation or two.

The fact that so many fires have broken out at key locations in such a short period is “quite suspicious,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank in Washington. However, he added, it is “really impossible to tell at this stage.”

There are explanations other than sabotage, Alperovitch said. Accidental fires are not unusual in Russia, which has a reputation for poor maintenance, and Western sanctions are making it harder to secure spare parts for vital machinery.

Arestovych doubts Ukraine was involved in the fires at the defense-related facilities and suggested that Russian officials are setting fires to cover up evidence of corruption.

Oh. Russia might manage to eke out some pyrrhic victory in the east, but wow, one thing they’ve just lost forever is any reputation as a formidable fighting force. More like a gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It’s too bad Don Knotts has died, he would have been perfect playing Putin in the bio-pic to come.

Why would anyone hire Sabatini?

David Sabatini, the molecular biologist who sexually harassed students and faked data, was first fired from HHMI and the Whitehead Institute, and then resigned from MT as his behavior was exposed. We’re done with him, right? He’ll go get a job in construction or pharmaceutical sales and we won’t have to worry about his unpleasant influence on academia anymore.


NYU wants to hire him.

The New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine is in discussions with biologist David Sabatini about hiring him as a faculty member, according to multiple sources at the school. Since August 2021, Sabatini has been forced out of or fired from three leading institutions for sexual harassment or for violating workplace or consensual sexual relationship policies. The hiring discussions have been taking shape over several weeks, according to NYU sources.

Note: “forced out of or fired from three leading institutions for sexual harassment”. I would have thought that would be a colossal black mark on your record that would have made you permanently unemployable, but no, I guess not. Why does everything I learn about academia leave me feeling more and more disappointed?

In part, this is because there are assholes at the top.

In an email to faculty and staff last week, the medical school’s dean decried what he called “cancel culture.” And last month, a prominent research philanthropist defended Sabatini to a crowd of elite medical researchers in New York City.

Hey, Mr Grossman, what you ought to decry is that your medical school is apparently the refuse bin for biomedical waste, and you are under the thumb of billionaires? Shouldn’t the faculty there be up in arms at being the dumping ground for MIT’s discards?

They are.

More than 200 students and employees staged a walkout to protest the NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s potential hiring of biologist David Sabatini outside the school’s Kimmel Pavilion on Wednesday, April 27. Sabatini, a former tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, resigned on April 1 following a student’s allegations of sexual harassment.

Grossman students, staff, faculty and postdoctoral students demanded that Grossman protect its students by ending the employment consideration at the rally, which took place across from the NYU Langone Medical Center at 30th Street and First Avenue. Kritika Srinivasan, a Ph.D. candidate at Grossman, said she attended the walkout because she believes that hiring Sabatini would contradict the ideals that the school claims to uphold.

Reject the idea of offering a known harasser and fraud a position. While you’re at it, fire Dean Grossman for being an out-of-touch stooge who doesn’t mind damaging the reputation of NYU.

Why does hateful bigot Kent Hovind still have a YouTube channel?

Emma Thorne made a compilation video of Kent Hovind and Matt Powell being “horrible, horrible people”. It’s pretty good, and illustrates why those two actually are horrible. She notes that they are “slipping in more and more dramatic, violent, out-there viewpoints into their religious ministry”, so there is cause for alarm, although I’d suggest they’ve always been this way, they’re just becoming more vocal about it.

Well, ol’ Kent is not having any of that, so he made a response video (I’m not linking to it, if you must, look it up). You can tell he’s having a slow burn over it, and he’s annoyed that his hateful views are being shown to the public in a disapproving manner. He’s pissed off — his jaw is clamped tightly shut as he watches — and when he can take it no more, he erupts into babble near the end. Emma highlights some of his more awful ideas, like his statement that All the Chinese look alike (he usually keeps mum about his bigotry on YouTube, but in his unrecorded lectures I’ve heard him throw out all kinds of “jokes” about Jews and black people), and the fact that he brags about how brutally he beat his children.

His response to that last comment is to call upon someone in his audience at Dinosaur Adventure Land, at about the 24 minute mark:

Brother, how many children do you have? Four? Do you once in a while have to discipline them to get them to understand? Is that Biblical? Is it effective? Do the kids love you and want to do right, or do they love you for it? They love you for it!

Um, no. Children love their parents in spite of any abuse, and sometimes they stop loving them. You don’t get to call on the natural charity children exhibit for the people they depend on and have grown up with to justify any harm you do to them!

At about 26 minutes, Emma has hit him with his callous comments about the boy who drowned at his camp. Does Kent talk about his responsibilities as a manager, about the need to improve safety at his lake, his sympathy for the grieving parents? No. He responds with excuses, and justifies it all because the father of the dead child made a donation to his camp.

The dad of that boy loves our ministry, donated money to build a dock that gazebo out there, he paid for that to be in memory of his son. He had twin boys, seven years old, one was kind of hyperactive, and apparently came up under the dock, hit his head and knocked himself out, and nobody saw him. The water was 3 feet deep. The parents were there. Nobody saw him under the dock. And he drowned. I’m sorry. People drown in lakes all the time. It’s tragic and bad, but it happens. People get in car wrecks all the time too. They still want to say something about me, I wasn’t there.

It was tragic, but the dad loves our ministry. I should have him on the program sometime and say, look, guys, quit picking on Kent Hovind, my boy drowned in the lake, that’s bad enough, knock it off, OK, it’s fine.

No, it’s not fine. Hovind wants this man to appear with him on camera and say that it was fine that his child died (it’s OK, it was the hyperactive one, after all.) That is disgusting and psychopathic. He’s entirely focused on the harm done to him, that he’s getting “picked on”, not that a child died in his irresponsibly maintained bible school.

This is what he does throughout his response video. He takes a criticism from Emma, and tries to argue that it was fine, and makes it all ten times worse. We need a phrase stronger than “doubling down”, because this guy is just throwing everything into the pot all at once. He’s justifying everything she said while trying to defend himself.

For example — and these really demonstrate what a horrible person he is — Emma quotes him saying, Have you ever heard of the Palestinians? They should have totally destroyed them back then, three thousand five hundred years ago. How do you think he should respond to a direct quote in which he advocated genocide? His response is to declare that God said it was OK, and besides, the Palestinians were filthy, dirty people who had sex with animals.

When God told the children of Israel to go into that land, he said to totally destroy certain nations. They were loaded with diseases. And god said utterly destroy them and they did not obey. And there are some diseases haunting humanity today that could have been wiped out in their infancy. The Palestinians, some of those people, had unbelievable sex practice with animals and other things like that, and God said to kill them all. The children of Israel did not obey, and that’s a long interesting story, but it’s what God said to do.

Well, now, the Bible says nothing about Palestinians, a modern people who did not exist as a distinct nation 3500 years ago. But this does not in any way lessen or excuse Hovind’s bigotry! It makes it all worse!

Oh, but wait until you hear how he defends himself when Emma quotes Matt Powell and Kent Hovind ranting about how homosexuals ought to be executed. He says of AIDS, suppose when the disease was first discovered, those who had it were isolated or euthanized. Just a hypothetical, right? No, he really does believe they should have been rounded up and killed. He brings up a slide that says there are 30 verses in the Bible about homosexuality, and points out that it repeatedly says it is an abomination…and he looks up “abomination” in a dictionary, where it says “abomination: a thing that causes disgust or hatred.”

I guess it’s OK to hate gays, then, since the Bible says so.

Then it gets weird.

He goes on and on about disgusting things, trying to make inappropriate comparisons. Is it disgusting for a parent to let their baby eat poop? This has nothing to do with private behavior among consenting adults; parents have responsibilities to their children. Most ironically, he also rants for many long minutes about how the government has the right to regulate many behaviors — Child Protective Services can take children away for good cause, they can set speed limits on roads, they can execute people for murder, they can get involved to stop sex trafficking, etc., all these things that are not at all relevant to being gay, unless he’s trying to argue that being gay is tantamount to murder, therefore execution is warranted.

What’s ironic is that he repeatedly defends the right of the government to decide on any punishment for any arbitrary law, while forgetting that earlier in the video (and many times in the past) he has tried to argue that he was innocent of ever violating any law. He also seems to assume that Emma Thorne is a proponent of capital punishment for certain crimes; I don’t know what her stance on that is, but at a guess, as a liberal lefty like me, she’s probably against it.

You can tell he’s warming up to say that we should have murdered all the gay people.

First case of what would later become known as AIDS was in 1981. What are the main risks of anal sex? Penetrative anal sex has a higher risk of spreading STIs than many other types of sexual activity. This is what the homosexuals do. They’re going to spread disease. “Nobody tells me what to do”, yes they do. They tell you how fast to go, they tell you what side of the road to drive on, that’s a moron, lots of people tell us what to do. Duh. 42,000 people were unknowingly HIV positive at the time. So in 1981, 42,000 people is the estimate, would it have been better at the time to quarantine or execute? Would that have been better for humanity? That’s what I said, and Emma, and her other homosexual friend AJ, are so upset about this. I’m just point out what God’s law says and the logic behind it. 42,000 people had it. How was it transmitted? How did they get this disease? Let’s see. Having anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex. This is where you get the disease, contact with the feces. Duh.

HIV related deaths. 1.4 million people died in the year 2000. Now hold it. When it was first discovered only 42000 people had it. If it had been stopped then, 1.4 million people would not have died in 2000.

All I said was would it have been wise to stop it then?

Yes, it would have been wise to stop it then. We could have saved a lot of lives. But take it up with Ronald Reagan, who ignored the disease, and didn’t do anything to protect people. Protect people, not round them up and execute them. Public education, health measures, active research into treating the disease, condom use, needle exchange programs would have all saved lives. But the plan that leaps to the sick minds of Matt Powell and Kent Hovind is that now they have an excuse to murder lots of people they don’t like.

Also, here’s a hint: the disease is primarily spread by the exchange of blood, not contact with feces. Hovind is just full of misinformation that way. He’s a very stupid man, as well as a bigot.

So let’s end our engagement with these disgusting men with one last amusing quote from Kent Hovind, as he mansplains British history to an English woman.

Study the history of England, and why your sailors were called Limeys. They brought sheep on board, and got all kinds of diseases from sex with the sheep, the sailors did, Emma, study your history.

Yeah, that’s how ignorant Kent Hovind is.