Space Force must be suitably armored

You may have heard that the Space Force has announced what their uniforms will look like — boring bog-standard army camo. Many people are mocking this decision, and rightly so. There is only one acceptable choice for the Space Force uniform, and this is it:

Obviously, that’s an officer’s uniform…I imagine there will be variants for various ranks, and something less intimidating for the privates. Some kind of simple armor, perhaps? A helmet with a slit for the eyes? I’ll leave the design for the lesser ranks to others.

Uh-oh. Drexel is going to get a shake-up

This is not supposed to be possible. How do you redirect grant funds to strip clubs?

The former chair of the Drexel University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering spent more than $96,000 on area strip clubs and sports bars, in addition to $89,000 on food and iTunes purchases, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

A university audit showed the longtime professor, who spent nearly three decades at the school, made numerous, unapproved purchases between 2010 and 2017 that he tried to be reimbursed for through research grants, according to state prosecutors.

My grants have all had long, detailed breakdowns of the proposed budget; the awards are then salted away by the university under multiple accounts with designated purposes, like “salaries”, “equipment”, “supplies”; there is a university administrator who monitors everything. I don’t have a checkbook that accesses the accounts. When I want to use my money to buy something, I go through university purchasing, which can draw on the funds, and they buy it for me. Last year I got a new incubator, which was justified under my proposal, and then I realized I needed a second one, which was not, and had to write an explanation to the administrator explaining why I wanted to move funds from one category to another to purchase this equipment. When we had the HHMI grant, we were frequently juggling the budget — this category came in under budget, this one looks like it was going to be a bit over — and we’d have to contact the Howard Hughes institution to clear it.

So this guy had an engineering grant, and he was able to blithely shuffle money from it into entertainment expenses? Unspecified entertainment expenses, since he wasn’t going to be able to invoice a local strip club, and just redirected reimbursements straight into his pocket to the tune of $185,000?

Unreal. I predict that a horde of accountants are going to crack the whip over every department at Drexel, because this is the kind of sloppy management that gets grants yanked.

Oh, yeah, and that department chair has already been fired, and is probably going to jail.

Hatches battened

It’s -22°C out there, and I decided to take a brisk walk to the grocery store to stock up on essential staples, since there’s a major winter storm on the way, hitting us around 8am tomorrow and escalating to a blizzard on Saturday. I grabbed some red beans and brown rice and garlic and coffee, so I can survive the weekend with all the essentials. I will not be leaving my house for any reason from this point on until Sunday: the cat and I will be hunkered down with the shutters and blinds closed and some warm blankets and hot beverages, and we are prepared for anything. I’ve got bread and cheese in case the power goes out, even.

I’m so prepared that I’m going to be disappointed if this one fizzles out.

Mainly, though, since classes start up again on Tuesday I’m going to use this time-out to get a leg up on Genetics and Fundamentals of Genetics, Evolution, and Development, the two courses that will probably eat me alive this semester.

A major award!

It’s indescribably beautiful!

It was a stunning prize notification to arrive in my email this morning. There’s even a press release!

Pharyngula has been selected for the 2020 Best of Morris Award in the Business Services category by the Morris Award Program.

Each year, the Morris Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Morris area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2020 Morris Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Morris Award Program and data provided by third parties.

Look at that! Finally appreciated by my local community…except there’s this little voice in my head wondering what “marketing” I’ve done, or how, as a “small business”, I have contributed to community service. What information did they gather? Aww, what the hell, it’s a Major Award! I should put it in my front window!

So I was going to claim my award, but there’s a little comment in my notice.

As an Award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards. The revenue generated by the Morris Award Program helps to pay for operational support, marketing and partnership programs in support of local businesses. Congratulations on your selection.

Oh. I can get a nice plaque for $150, or a crystal award for $200, or both for $229.

Gosh. My pride is slightly deflated.

It’s a catch-up day

It’s not on my calendar, but I do have a set of priorities today:

  • Dirty work. I have to clean up the cell biology lab from last semester, because another class will be using it this semester. I have to store away microscopes and computers, and scrub benches.
  • Setting up fly stocks for my genetics lab.
  • Feeding spiders some of those same flies.
  • Shoveling sidewalks. We got more snow last night.
  • Picking up all the things on the floor that our cat spent the last week knocking over.

More will probably come up. It always does.

Look who else is leaving Facebook!

Mark Hamill is out.

Are you going to disagree with Luke Skywalker? (Don’t remind me that he’s also the Joker.)

Don’t go there, little blue dot!

Every morning, I get up, fix the coffee, and sit down to the computer, and the first thing I do is check my calendar. I identify with that blue dot; that’s me. I’m marching forward through time.

Look how clean and pure this week is. My time is my own. I have things to do, but it is my choice when to do them.

But the dot marches on, and I can see that next week it slams into a wall of duties and obligations. I want to tell it to stop. It’s like those horror movies where one of the protagonists announces, “Let’s split up. I’ll check out the basement of this creepy house.” And they do, and you’re watching and thinking they shouldn’t do that, and then the guy get his face ripped off because it was inevitable and there’s nothing you can do.

That’s my calendar. I should probably stop looking at it. Doom, doom, doom.

When librarians turn to the dark side…

I thought all librarians were perfect saints, champions of goodness and openness, and then I read that the New York Public Library had banned Goodnight Moon for decades, because of the fact that an influential librarian, Anne Carroll Moore, didn’t like it. She apparently thought children’s books ought to have a “once upon a time” feel to them, and she was the Authority in charge of deciding what children should like.

Anne Carroll Moore was not a fan of Margaret Wise Brown’s work. Brown, with her Bank Street training, was “looking at the mind of a child, operating at the level that a child understands,” says Bird. “She was trying to get down on their level, whereas Anne Carroll Moore placed herself above the children’s level, handing what she viewed as the best of the best down to them.”

Yet Goodnight Moon is a book I read repeatedly to my kids, to the point where we wore it out and had to buy multiple copies. Just this week, I saw my granddaughter carry a copy to my wife and demand that she read it. She’s 15 months old. I can’t even imagine why a librarian would block stocking such a sweet, innocent story. Moore was apparently progressive in other ways, but I just don’t get it.

Then I read this little aside about Margaret Wise Brown.

So no one was pressuring the NYPL to stock the book, least of all Brown, who died in 1952. (Recovering from surgery for an ovarian cyst in a hospital in France, she playfully kicked her leg up, cancan-style, to show a nurse how well she was feeling; the action dislodged an embolism from a vein in her leg, which traveled to her brain, killing her nearly instantly.)

Huh. Should I go out of my way to tell my granddaughter that story? Should I wait until she’s old enough to no longer be quite so attached to Goodnight Moon before she learns about reality? Am I now policing the content she is allowed to see? I could probably turn her into a little Goth girl if I made it a point to tell her how the authors of all her favorite children’s books died.

I am home again, unfortunately

I left my darling granddaughter this morning to come home. Why? Because someone has to take care of the cat.

I walked in the door to discover that, while I was away, she had puked in the entryway. She puked in the kitchen. She puked in the hallway. She puked all over the comfy chair in the living room. She puked in the bathroom. She puked in my office. She puked in my slippers. As soon as I opened the door, she was so grateful that she darted outside, into the snowy, -15°C weather, and didn’t want to come in.

So I left her there.

She was scratching at the door 5 minutes later, and I relented. But I considered letting her have a night out in nasty weather!

Here she is, not looking at all guilty.

It’s OK. I’m renaming her Princess Pukes-A-Lot.

Now I have to spend my evening scrubbing everything.

You know, spiders are much less disgusting than cats. If only I could convince my wife…