“severe ensethopathy”

That’s doctorese for “your bone spurs are shredding your Achilles tendon, bro!” It’s exactly what I expected, but I also got a bunch of tests to rule out blood clots and gout. Now I’m scheduled for an MRI this afternoon to get the fine details, and once we work that out, next step is probably surgery. Yay.

One nice thing about living in a small town is that I called the clinic, they got me into an appointment this morning, I gave up a quart of blood for tests, got an X-ray, and got the conclusions within an hour. There’s a bit of a wait for the MRI, but it’s still same day service.

I recall taking my son into a clinic for a clearly broken arm in Philadelphia, and sitting there for almost 6 hours before he was treated. I show up here with a complaint that I’ve got an ouchie on my ankle and they whip me through like lightning. Maybe I’m just better at whining and complaining?

Letting you all know…

I really overdid it yesterday — I took a powerful dose of ibuprofen so I could walk around in the wilderness, and it worked. I was walking around in rough terrain, rather gingerly I’ll admit, and then I got home and a little later the drugs wore off and now…holy crap, I was so stupid. I’ve spent the day doing nothing but lying back and moaning.

It’s been a day of drugs and ice. I’m hoping I’ll be able to go in to work tomorrow, but the rational side of my brain is telling me not to be stupid again, to call the doctor in the morning, and stay off my damned pathetic ankle.

This is not good, since I’m flying off to visit the family in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, and at this rate I’ll be doing it from a wheelchair.

Did I mention I was an idiot?

It’s EcoStation day!

I’m taking my students on a field trip to the UMM EcoStation this morning. It’s a relatively perfect day: temperature will be in the low 20s (C; 70s F) and a bit cloudy, so cool. Unfortunately…97% humidity? It’s perfect spider weather, anyway. We’ll just wander around a bit, see what we can see, maybe find some interesting spiders (wait, what am I saying? All spiders are interesting) and get a spot of lunch before coming home.

Achilles is feeling somewhat better this morning, though, so I’d better not push it too hard. He’s sensitive and is likely to retire to his tent in a snit, you know.

Beauty and pain

Tomorrow, we go on a field trip to the UMM EcoStation.

Today, I suffer with an Achilles tendon flare-up — I have nasty bone spurs on my heels that sometimes stab my tendon, triggering inflammation, and I’m reduced to hobbling about. I’m still going! I may end up just sitting under a tree and looking at ground spiders, while the students range about. It’ll still be good.

Right now, it’s ibuprofen and ice.

A natural experiment in policing

Golden Valley is a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis, 85% white, and mostly liberal. They decided to do something about the racial discrimination that’s been making so much news in the Minneapolis region, and made a commitment to diversifying the police force.

The first hire was Officer Alice White, the force’s first high-ranking Black woman. The second was Virgil Green, the town’s first Black police chief.

“When I started, Black folks I’d speak to in Minneapolis seemed surprised that I’d been hired,” Chief Green said when I spoke with him recently. “They told me they and most people they knew avoided driving through Golden Valley.”

Great! A good start, you might say. Except that one demographic, the police force itself, was not happy.

Members of the overwhelmingly white police force responded to both hires by quitting — in droves.

An outside investigation later revealed that some officers had run an opposition campaign against Chief Green. One of those officers recorded herself making a series of racist comments during a call with city officials, then sent the recording to other police officers. She was fired — prompting yet another wave of resignations.

Oh. So the problem wasn’t the citizens, it was the police force itself!

Those resigning police probably expected the town to learn a hard lesson, about how they need to respect and appreciate the hard working, but rather racist, police officers. Except…

The interesting thing is that according to Chief Green, despite the reduction in staff, crime — already low — has gone down in Golden Valley. The town plans to staff the department back up, just not right away. “I’ve heard that the police union is cautioning officers from coming to work here,” Mr. Harris said. “But that’s OK. We want to take the time to hire officers who share our vision and are excited to work toward our goals.”

Maybe Golden Valley is weird and unique. Or maybe not:

When New York’s officers engaged in an announced slowdown in policing in late 2014 and early 2015, civilian complaints of major crime in the city dropped. And despite significant staffing shortages at law enforcement agencies around the country, if trends continue, 2023 will have the largest percentage drop in homicides in U.S. history. It’s true that such a drop would come after a two-year surge, but the fact that it would also occur after a significant reduction in law enforcement personnel suggests the surge may have been due more to the pandemic and its effects than depolicing.

Has anyone considered that maybe the people who want to work as police are the real undesirable element in our communities?

Non-human biologics…OK, show me

Our congress is currently wasting time on hearings about UFOs, or UAPs as they’re calling them now. It mystifies me how anyone can believe the crap the UFO weirdos spew.

One of the witnesses is a guy named David Grusch, who sits there making amazing claims that he can’t back up.

David Grusch, who served for 14 years as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, appeared before the House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee alongside two former fighter pilots who had firsthand experience with UAPs.

Grusch served as a representative on two Pentagon task forces investigating UAPs until earlier this year. He told lawmakers that he was informed of “a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program” during the course of his work examining classified programs. He said he was denied access to those programs when he requested it, and accused the military of misappropriating funds to shield these operations from congressional oversight. He later said he had interviewed officials who had direct knowledge of aircraft with “nonhuman” origins, and that so-called “biologics” were recovered from some craft.

Note: he has not seen any non-human biologics, he has heard second hand from unnamed officials that they had seen them.

Grusch said he hasn’t personally seen any alien vehicles or alien bodies, and that his opinions are based on the accounts of over 40 witnesses he interviewed over four years in his role with the UAP task force.

“My testimony is based on information I have been given by individuals with a longstanding track record of legitimacy and service to this country — many of whom also shared compelling evidence in the form of photography, official documentation, and classified oral testimony,” Grusch said, adding that the trove of evidence has been intentionally kept secret from Congress.

It’s a secret, he claims. He constantly deflects when pressed by saying that he can only talk about this extremely confidential information in a SCIF, or “sensitive compartmented information facility”. Right. Why is he there if he has only hearsay to report, and can’t give any details?

The fact is that when we do get details, they’re typically evidence of noisy technology, or reflections. When pilots report that non-aerodynamic objects are flitting at thousands of miles an hour at low altitude, while completely silent, that then abruptly disappear, I think it’s safe to say they’re not chasing physical objects — they are seeing optical artifacts, or technical glitches in their electronics. I don’t find these recordings at all convincing evidence of any kind of alien, or even material, phenomena.

This, for instance, is also not any kind of evidence, except evidence for credulity in some of the people reporting this nonsense.

A 22-year-old from New York City who asked to remain anonymous — “due to stigma that still persists around the subject” — told NPR he made plans to attend “knowing that it’s something that could be a historic moment.”

From an overflow room with about 100 other enthralled spectators, he watched as Grusch, Graves and Fravor — men with long careers in the military — shared their experiences.

Out of context, he said, their stories “sound fantastical” but given the credentials of all three witnesses, he said he’s a believer.

And he wasn’t the only one.

“There was definitely a gasp and everyone was definitely a little bit shocked,” he said, “when Grusch was talking about non-human biologics.” There was a similar response when Grusch later touched on the personal retaliation he suffered, according to the man.

A dubiously reported “gasp” from a meeting of congress means nothing. No history was made.

Grusch is not a credible source.

According to UFO researcher Joe Murgia, Grusch began peddling his UFO story when he attempted to convince Skinwalker Ranch aficionados and dubious UFO weaponizers George Knapp and Jeremy Corbell to help him take it public on their podcast while he was still employed by the government. The two declined, though not before taking him to a Star Trek convention to meet with ufologists, so he turned to the credulous team of reporters connected to his friend, Lue Elizondo.

He’s part of the usual assortment of “UFO researchers” and Star Trek convention attendees, unqualified fantasists with no credentials at all. The association with Skinwalker Ranch is a nail in the coffin. Skinwalker Ranch is an old property in Utah that was bought by con artists who then ginned up an imaginary history of cattle mutilations, Bigfoot, crop circles, and poltergeists, that got turned into books and a Netflix series. It’s bullshit.

Skeptical author Robert Sheaffer believes the phenomenon at Skinwalker to be “almost certainly illusory”, given that NIDsci found no proof after several years of monitoriing, and that the previous owners of the property, who had lived there for 60 years, say that no supernatural events of any kind had happened there. Sheaffer considers the “parsimonious explanation” to be that the Sherman family invented the story “prior to selling it to the gullible Bigelow”, with many of the more extraordinary claims originating solely from Terry Sherman, who worked as a caretaker after the ranch was sold to Bigelow.

In 1996, skeptic James Randi awarded Bigelow a tongue-in-cheek Pigasus Award for funding the purchase of the ranch and for supporting John E. Mack’s and Budd Hopkins’ investigations. The award category designated Bigelow as “the funding organization that supported the most useless study of a supernatural, paranormal or occult [claim]”.

In 2023, ufologist Barry Greenwood, writing in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, criticized the $22 million research program led by James Lacatski. He emphasized the lack of any documentary evidence from the ranch after many decades of exploration and characterized Skinwalker as “always in the business of selling belief and hope”.

I tried watching the series. It’s ridiculous. Ten episodes of silly people making up stories about pixels, dead cows, and people in cowboy hats walking around in the sagebrush and complaining about bad cell phone reception. And this is the culture that is spawning these hearings? Nonsense. This is a clear example of the combination of grifting and cultural contagion.

You don’t believe me? Here’s a map of UFO sightings.

Notice anything unusual in the distribution? UFOs seem to be an odd confabulation fueled by English-language media. Yet Chuck Schumer and other congressional biologics found it necessary to stuff these hearing requirements into a defense budget bill. There’s nothing there.

But sure, wheel a gurney bearing the dead body of an alien into the hearing room, and I’ll pay attention…but that won’t happen.

Violent weather

We had a tough time getting sleep last night — a severe thunderstorm slammed into us. Literally slammed us, since the doors to our house, which we had open to encourage air circulation, suddenly all banged shut and then banged open and closed again as we got a little more circulation than we wanted. We were running around the house sealing everything up while the wind howled at us. I had a window open in my office, and I got soaked just walking into close it. Then, for the next several hours, there was a freight train roaring overhead, with constant flashes of lightning. It was not exactly conducive to rest.

The cat disappeared, too. She does not respond well to thunderstorms.

Anyway, our garden was well-watered!

These kinds of fierce storms have been getting more common in recent years. Will people wake up to the reality of climate change someday?

Meanwhile, down south where Republicans rule, the ocean off the Florida coast hit 38°C (101°F if you persist in that clumsy temperature scheme) this week. Imagine a whole seacoast at greater than body temperature! You wouldn’t go to the beach to cool off, you’d go to witness the fish kills washing up on the shore.

Also meanwhile, Sicily is on fire. Temperatures hit 47°C. Much of the island is without power because powerlines have burned down, and underground cables under the roadways have melted.

We’re relatively lucky up here in the north, except for the fact that Canada is occasionally reduced to airborne particulates. People have to figure this out sometime. Right? They will, won’t they?