Long-legged beasties

On my daily spider meditation in the lab, today I found that they’d molted again. They’re bigger, and they have this rangy long-legged look to them.

Very handsome, one and all, but something is troubling me: they’re 8 months old. Keep in mind that I suspect there are baby Parasteatoda emerging right now, and by June/July they’ll be big strapping behemoths raising families of their own, so it’s clear my lab colony isn’t growing as fast as it should have — I may have been starving them for much of their childhood. I’m shoveling flies at them every day now, but for most of their life I had them on a weekly feeding schedule. Now I want to get some fresh egg sacs and do some comparative feeding protocols and see if that can determine an optimal schedule.

In other promising news, on my walk home from the lab I checked out a few familiar haunts. There’s a place where last year and the year before I’d found many shy Theridion lurking, and while I didn’t see any yet, I did find some fairly dense new cobwebs there. I also checked under the eaves of my house where, last year, Mary found a huge cat-faced spider that we observed all summer long, and where we found its body after the weather turned cold. No spider there yet, either, but some egg sacs tucked into dark corners, so maybe later. I’ll have to look in on that spot regularly.

Science words!

You don’t need to understand the meaning, as long as you string together a few science terms you learned in grade school, it must be true.

Do I really need to say it? Being injected with an RNA vaccine does not replace your entire nuclear genome with RNA.

Although…it does make me wonder what would happen if a magic enzyme added a hydroxyl group to all your ribose sugars to convert DNA to RNA. Yeah, changing the chemical properties of all of your chromosomes to make them more labile and prone to rapid breakdown and unrecognizable to most of the key proteins for transcription, among other things, would be kind of catastrophic and thermodynamically costly.

There’s probably some vicious Hebrew abuse going on there, too, but I wouldn’t know.

Wait, does this mean that when you die, your soul retains some kind of DNA-based organic structure?

No, stop, don’t over-think this. Trying to puzzle out serious meaning from that text leads to madness.

Would you get into a van with this man?

What if he offered you candy, or had a puppy you could play with?

That’s Josh Duggar, the man who became famous for being on a reality TV show about a religious family popping out a train of babies. Then he became more famous for the fact that he had been molesting his little sisters. And now he’s hooked on the prestige and has been caught in another glamorous crime.

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Gerald Faulkner, testifying for the prosecution, alleged Duggar downloaded computer files depicting child sex abuse on May 14, 15 and 16 of 2019.

The files were initially flagged by a police detective in Little Rock, Ark., and then allegedly traced to Duggar’s IP address on a computer at his workplace at the time, the Wholesale Motorcars dealership.

One file, according to Faulkner, depicted child sex abuse involving children ranging from 18 months to 12 years of age. Faulkner described the images as “in the top five of the worst of the worst that I’ve ever had to examine.”

According to Faulkner, when homeland security officials raided Duggar’s car dealership and asked to speak with him, without informing him they were investigating child pornography, Duggar “spontaneously” responded, “What is this about? Has someone been downloading child pornography?”

So that’s what used car salesmen do in their free time.

Anyway, now he’s begging to be released on bail with a novel excuse.

The motion further argued that because Duggar is a public figure, it is unreasonable to view him as a flight risk: “Duggar has a widely-recognizable face and has spent the majority of his life in the public spotlight—making any concern that he is a risk of flight all the more unwarranted.”

Widely recognizable? Gosh, if he’s released am I going to have to call the police on every pudgy, balding white guy I see on the street? Never underestimate the ego of a white man.

Donald Trump, reduced to the lowest of the low

The poor man. He was banned from Twitter and Facebook (he tried to appeal to Facebook, but they’ve recently denied him). Then he announced that he was going to create his very own social media platform, to make an end run around Big Tech. Now he claims to have done it. You can go to his grand social media platform right now, and I did.

I looked at it.

I puzzled over it.

It’s a web page where Donald J. Trump can type things, creating “posts”, which are displayed in chronological order, and you can go to his site and read them.

Oh my god.

Trump has created a blog, and is a blogger. That’s all it is! It’s not a very good blog, and it’s missing some important things, like allowing people to comment, or like having titles (every post is titled “Donald J. Trump”), or being able to link to individual posts, but by golly, it’s a blog! A half-assed blog, but a blog nonetheless.

Welcome, Donald! You and I…we’re peers now.

It’s adorable, dude.

Embrace it. Don’t be one of those wankers who insists their blog isn’t a blog. Also don’t try to claim you’ve built a novel social media platform — it’s just an ordinary ol’ blog, just like mine!

The evil cat’s new torment

She has decided to pursue a new career as a mouser. That wouldn’t be so bad — every time the weather fluctuates and cools, the local mouse population decides to move indoors until it warms up again — except for a few small problems.

  • The mouse hunting hour begins at 3am. It can then go on for a few hours.
  • She is not a stealthy feline making swift, silent pounces. No, she’s a klutz. Hunting involves much bouncing off of furniture and knocking things off tables or just generally over.
  • She’s a sadist. One mouse is good for hours of bumbling, brutal torture.
  • She is finally succeeding at her profession. She used to just bat her prey around like a toy, but now she eventually actually kills. This is not for me, at all — she doesn’t proudly present me with a trophy. Nope, she leaves the sad little corpse where ever it eventually succumbs, and then it is my job to find it before it rots and stinks up the house.

It’s not just the classwork that is turning me into the shambling undead. It’s also my roommate.

Last…day…of cla…AAAaaaaaaughhhhh

I might make it. I may be crawling over the finish line, but the end is in sight. One more class today, in which I give them a deadline for turning in the final lab report (Saturday), give them their take-home final exam (due on Tuesday), and go over the answer key for the previous exam, and then I … do some more grading today, wrapping up a backlog of other assignments.

Obviously, then, I’m not done done, but at least there’s the firm definition of a final boundary and I’m not stuffing any more information in their heads. I might survive this hell year after all (he says, as the flaming meteor enters the atmosphere, on target for his head).

I can haz break now?

Please? I have finished grading my nightmarish genetics essay exam (do not ever assign essay exams to bright, ambitious, literate students without setting an upper page length — I had over 400 pages to read. Will not do that ever again. Ever.) and finished the first wave of lab reports. Oh god my eyeballs are about to explode. I think I deserve to take a little walk in the sunshine, don’t I? Don’t make me sit here in my office any longer.

Really, just a short walk, maybe look for a few spiders, then I promise to get back to work.

I have two more sets of exams to finish — but they are much more sensibly designed with short calculations to read, and they either get them wrong or they don’t. And then I have to write two final exams.

There is another lab report and the answers to the final exams to read, but they don’t come in until Friday and next week. Please don’t punish me if I go outside for a little bit. Maybe I can just go feed the spiders? I’ll be right back to buckle down again.

<whimper>

Why are you afraid of critical race theory?

I don’t get it. As a white man, I love critical race theory — it explains so much, helps me understand my failings, and yet also provides a framework for comprehending my role in American racism that doesn’t condemn me (I know, it’s a selfish way to think about it, but that’s what’s great — it should appeal to people who only think of themselves). Yet, somehow, it gives Republicans the heebie-jeebies.

Schools across the country are working to address systemic racism and inject an anti-racist mind-set into campus life. But where advocates see racial progress, opponents see an effort to shame White teachers and sometimes students for being part of an oppressive system.

In particular, conservatives have seized on the idea that schools are promoting critical race theory, a decades-old academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism. It holds in part that racism is woven into the fabric of the nation’s history and life — a product of the system and not just individual bad actors.

Critics say this approach injects race into what should be, in their view, a colorblind system. Proponents counter that U.S. schools have never been colorblind and insist they aren’t pushing critical race theory anyway. The equity work is critical, they say, to address systemic barriers holding back students of color and to create schools that are truly inclusive.

Look at the peculiar twist in there. Conservatives see it as a tool to “shame white teachers”, but CRT teaches that racism is “a product of the system and not just individual bad actors”. I have benefited from historical biases in education and employment, but that doesn’t mean I have to be ashamed of who I am — it means I have a responsibility to work to change the system, so that everyone has the same opportunities I did.

What’s so terrible about that? Other than the generations of people denied those opportunities, of course.

That conservatives oppose CRT tells me something: that they oppose any change to a pattern of systemic oppression, because they benefit from the system. Breaking that pattern might liberate millions of people, but it hurts the profits of an extraordinarily wealthy minority. So the rich are hurling money and propaganda at the idea because they don’t want you to know you are living under an oppressive system. It’s their system, you know.

And that’s why Tucker Carlson exists. He is an openly racist white supremacist who peddles flagrant misinformation, and he’s not going to be fired. He feeds fear to build a base, and has the money from rich media owners to thrive.

“He’s a good example of how much you can get away with at Fox if your ratings are high,” one current network staffer told The Daily Beast. “Aside from that, he just perpetuates the right’s catastrophe platform. They cannot win with their supposed limited government, fiscal conservatism, because not even they really believe in it. So all they do is fear monger.”

To this point, Carlson has seemingly delighted in his ability to see just how far he can push the envelope, bouncing from one controversy to the next only to see his status and influence grow at Fox News and among the right-wing mediaverse at large.

That’s systemic racism at work. You also won’t fix it by firing Carlson, because he’s a cheap, low-talent goon who would just be replaced by a different cheap, low-talent goon…Jesse Watters, for instance, or some Republican congress-slime, like Kelly Loeffler. They’re fungible. CRT is telling you to stop looking at the tips of the tentacles and instead target the whole dang supra-esophageal mass up there in the head, and that makes the perpetrators of the system afraid.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call out the tentacles, though, especially when they’re so ripe for ridicule. Watch Joy Reid (you know, “the race lady” in Carlson’s parlance) tear into his schtick.

Next, though, we have to tear into Rupert Murdoch and the other wealthy assholes who continue to enable Carlson, no matter how stupid he is.