Good morning from the big city!

I’m taking a break in Minneapolis, with just two missions: dropping off an old pocket watch for repair, and meeting some entomologists.

Caliber Works Watch Repair was an interesting outfit. They only have limited hours, and seem to be stacked up with lots of work. There was a line to get in yesterday morning! Most of them seemed to be there to get new watch batteries or a new band, but I dropped this bigger project on them: a badly abused Elgin pocket watch that I wanted completely patched up. Their prices were reasonable, but unfortunately they estimated that it was going to be 18 months before they could get it fixed. Fine, I’m in no hurry. They did open up my watch, making it look easy, and I could get a quick photo of the works and get the serial number for the mechanism.

Yeah, it’s.a poor photo. The serial number is 5770454, which meant I could look it up in a database. Made in 1895, I guess. Not particularly rare or valuable, but I didn’t expect much — it’s value is all sentimental to me. Anyway, I look forward to getting it back ’round about Christmas 2025, when it will be 130 years old and still ticking.

Later this afternoon I’ll pop by Bug Club, and then drive back home.

Have there been any good commencement speeches this year?

Or ever? You might bet tempted to cite Kurt Vonnegut’s “Wear sunscreen” speech, but he didn’t give it and it was written as an essay by Mary Schmich. I’ve never heard one that I would want to hear twice.

But this year has suffered through some truly bad commencement speeches. I’ve already mentioned Chris Pan’s Bitcoin spam at Ohio State. But did you know that speech went through multiple public revisions? Pan worked through it on social media, got all kinds of criticism, and he went ahead and delivered it anyway. Why did he bother asking for criticism if he was going to ignore it anyway? There’s a special kind obtuse confidence on display there.

Pan was topped, though! Harrison Butker, a place kicker in the NFL, was invited to speak at Benedictine College, a small Catholic liberal arts (but not liberal!) college in Kansas, and he delivered a remarkably regressive pronouncement about how men and women should live…like 12th century Catholics, apparently.

In front of the crowd of about 485 male and female graduates, Butker suggested that a woman’s accomplishments in the home are more valuable than any academic or professional goals.

“I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you,” he said.

“How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

Butker also praised his wife Isabelle, saying she “would be the first to say her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

I don’t recommend it, but you can suffer through this speech, too. He isn’t shy about declaring his deeply conservative, crude opinions.

The smugness. The obliviousness. The absolute lack of empathy for half the human beings on the planet. He’s awful.

What worried me most, though, is that no one walked out on him. Jerry Seinfield did a commencement speech full of banalities, and people walked out. This crowd at Benedictine College applauded and cheered at the end of that paean to neo-Nazi values, which tells me…don’t trust Benedictine College graduates. What are they teaching there?

Cops are mostly useless

Here’s an observation that you might find counter-intuitive, unless you recognize that the police carry a cost in inherent destructiveness: more police doesn’t work.

In 2016, a group of criminologists conducted a systematic review, opens new tab of 62 earlier studies of police force size and crime between 1971 and 2013. They concluded that 40 years of studies consistently show that “the overall effect size for police force size on crime is negative, small, and not statistically significant.”
“This line of research has exhausted its utility,” the authors wrote. “Changing policing strategy is likely to have a greater impact on crime than adding more police.”
Decades of data similarly shows that police don’t solve much serious and violent crime – the safety issues that most concern everyday people.
Over the past decade, “consistently less than half of all violent crime and less than twenty-five percent of all property crime were cleared,” William Laufer and Robert Hughes wrote in a 2021 law review article, opens new tab. Laufer and Hughes are professors in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department.
Police “have never successfully solved crimes with any regularity, as arrest and clearance rates are consistently low throughout history,” and police have never solved even a bare majority of serious crimes, University of Utah college of law professor Shima Baradaran Baughman wrote in another 2021 law review article, opens new tab, including murder, rape, burglary and robbery.
Existing research also affirms the findings in the recent report on police work in California.

I once had a nice encounter with the local sheriff’s department when a visitor accidentally locked their keys in their car — they came right over and used their collection of simple tools to break into the car, and the officer was quite nice. He didn’t need to use his gun. I’m all for a disarmed police force, also one that doesn’t use an armored personnel carrier or tank.

We had a chance to tar & feather Trump, and we missed it

This week, Donald Trump took advantage of the recess in his trial for paying hush money to a porn star by gracing the state of Minnesota with his presence. He’s also in the state for the Republican fundraiser. It was an opportunity for him to belch out lots of lies.

Former President Donald Trump is again falsely claiming he won Minnesota in the 2020 election while describing the state as “out of control,” attacking Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar and suggesting Minneapolis would have “burned down to the ground” that same year if not for him.

In the Alpha News interview, Trump railed against Biden as the “worst president in the history of our country” and called his withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan “the most embarrassing day in the history of our country.”

Trump claimed without evidence that many immigrants who cross the border illegally come from “prisons, mental institutions and terrorists.” Additionally, he said, “You’re going to have to have mass deportations. The country can’t stand it, the country can’t handle it.”

Asked about anti-police sentiments, Trump said “you have to give them back their respect and dignity.” Then he shifted his comments toward Minnesota and Minneapolis, specifically.

“If I didn’t let things happen a certain way, you would have had Minneapolis — this would have burned down to the ground. It was terrible what they were doing. You look at what happened during that time, and we were very — I got awards for saving certain areas and saving certain towns because your politicians didn’t want to act. They were unwilling to act,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney (remember that loser?) is opining on what should be done with Trump: he should have been pardoned for everything, so that he got less attention, and so Biden would look like a gracious big dog.

During an interview on Wednesday with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, Romney said that President Joe Biden should have “immediately pardoned” Trump from federal charges, and that Biden also “made an enormous error” by not pushing New York prosecutors to drop their charges against Trump in the hush money case.

“He should have fought like crazy to keep this prosecution from going forward,” Romney said. “It was a win-win for Donald Trump.”

That’s the kind of strategy a rich guy who thinks the law doesn’t apply to the wealthy would advocate.


The law should apply equally to everyone, and you shouldn’t get a pass on criminal acts because they’re rich and powerful and it gives other rich and powerful people the opportunity to practice noblesse oblige. Romney looks at this situation and has decided it’s an excuse for class solidarity among the aristocracy. No wonder he’s a loser.

Weekend plans!

Pairwise spider breeding session postponed until tomorrow. I hope my day is slightly less cluttered then.

Saturday I’m going to Minneapolis! In the morning I’m dropping off great-grandfather’s pocketwatch for repair at Caliber Works Watch Repair. The watch is almost 120 years old so I plan to leave it there for a while, I’m in absolutely no hurry to get it fixed up, which is a good thing since it’s a small shop and they say it might be a year before they get it back to me.

After dropping it off, my afternoon is free. I’m thinking to go strolling around Como Zoo, or maybe Lake Nokomis. Maybe I’ll find a few spiders.

On Sunday, I’m going to Bug Club! Spending an afternoon with a few entomological nerds should be fun. Also, slacking off for a weekend is good. Unfortunately, Mary has to work, so no slacking for her and I have to do my slacking alone.

All I needed this morning was a poisonous earworm

Anyone else remember the song, Indian Reservation, by Paul Revere and The Raiders? It isn’t a particularly good song, and it’s old, from 1971. Unfortunately, it’s burned into my brain because it seemed like every day when I was in middle school that thing got played on the school bus. The earworm got revived this morning because Ruben Bolling had to stir up old memories, and then teach me that the musicians were assholes.

And just about every time the song was played on the countdown of the internationally syndicated radio show, “American Top 40,” host Casey Kasem would recount, with varying degrees of detail, the “incredible” story behind its writing.

Kasem would describe how songwriter John D. Loudermilk got caught in a snowstorm while driving in North Carolina, and was captured by Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation. They destroyed his car, and then tortured him, “such as piercing his spine with needles,” for days. When the Native Americans found out he was a “respected songwriter,” they said they’d only release him if he promised to write a song about the injustices inflicted on Native American people. When he refused, the painful torture increased and he realized he would be killed if he didn’t comply. So he promised he would write the song. They released him, and he lived up to his word by writing the song that would become a #1 hit.

It was a lie. An improbable, unbelievable, racist lie. He later admitted that he made it all up. Also, how gullible was Casey Kasem?

So now I’ve got an annoying earworm that, every time it wriggles around in my brain, also makes me want to snarl, “Fuck you, Loudermilk.” I really would rather not remember middle school.

This is not the morning I had planned

I’m supposed to be breeding spiders in the lab today, but then a combination of factors are interfering. Poor Mary got held over at work to cover for someone who was absent, and didn’t get home until 3:30am. I’m trying to make a nice curry for lunch to compensate, and then the plumbers showed up to install a shiny new toilet. Of course they discovered problems — this is an older house — so they’re installing a new base and having to put in some new PVC pipe. I’m trapped here, cooking and cleaning and guiding plumbers through the labyrinth of our basement, and the spiders will have to wait, because I’m being the responsible househusband.

The curry is going to be delicious, though. Tofu, chickpeas, onions, fresh garlic and ginger, tomatoes…too bad you’re not here.

Spiders will be the post-lunch entertainment.

Who knew spiders were so lucrative?

It’s like dealing cocaine. An arachnid kingpin, Lorenzo Prendini, curator of arachnids at the American Museum of Natural History, was arrested in Istanbul as he attempted to smuggle 1500 spiders and scorpions out of Turkey. The Turkish police aired a video showing how they tracked the criminal through the airport — looking like an obvious nerd, very suspicious — and then laying out bags and vials full of spiders and spider parts, like they were illicit goods bravely seized from a cabal of nefarious criminals.

They claim, “It has an estimated market value of around $10 million.” Wow. They threw him in a Turkish prison. Look at this smug badass.

He’s my hero.

Of course, they released him after a day when they noticed that he had permits for all of his biological specimens. I hope he’s now strutting around the AMNH like the Walter White or Scarface of arachnology.

Years ago, I was invited to debate one of Harun Yahya’s disciples in Istanbul — I turned it down without a moment’s thought because I figured taking an atheist position in Turkey would get me arrested (also, Yahya was such a fool that I would gain nothing from the encounter.) It’s too bad he’s in prison and his creationist organization dismantled, because now I might consider it for the opportunity to score a cool few million dollars in smuggled baggies full of dead spiders.

Hey, where did they get that market value of $10 million? Who would they sell them to?


We have a division of labor in our household. I care about the spiders, Mary cares about the birds. She’s got feeders all over the yard, I raise flies and mealworms for the spiders. She’s signed up for FeederWatch, I tally up observations on iNaturalist. It’s not a competition, but she does score more daily points than I do. These are the birds she observed just yesterday.

House Wren, Common Grackle, American Robin, Pine Siskin, House Finch, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Eurasian Collared Dove, Yellow Warbler, Northern Cardinal, White-breasted Nuthatch, Chimney Swift, House Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Warbling Vireo, Chipping Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-throated Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Martin, Red-eyed Vireo, Trumpeter Swan, Swainson’s Thrush, Barn Swallow, Tennessee Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Hermit Thrush, Mourning Dove, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, American Crow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Meadowlark, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Northern Flicker, European Starling, Eastern Bluebird, Hairy Woodpecker, Wood Duck, Common Nighthawk

OK, already. We got birds.

Colonialism: just an imaginary problem

I’m no expert in Irish history, but I do know that the root of modern conflicts were planted in the 17th century, when the English colonized Ireland, and native Irish Catholics were displaced by grants of land around Ulster to Protestant invaders. This is a problem that has simmered for centuries and erupted in the Troubles and is still a huge political issue between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

OK, I’ve exhausted my knowledge of the history of the region, but as an American, it is my right to be oblivious of the concerns of foreign countries. Wouldn’t it be tragic if an Irish person were to forget the history of their country?

Behold, Glinner:

Graham Linehan: ‘Colonialism’, another American obsession. The Irish Left doesn’t have a single thought unless Americans had it first.

Gosh. Did American liberals invent the IRA?