Thanks! And good news! But not enough good news.

I’m in a happy place right now, because a lot of you made donations directly to me to pay off the expenses for the Carrier lawsuit, and some of you made very large donations, and that meant I could finally cough up my share of the legal costs. I’m free! Our lawyer, Marc Randazza, is partly paid off! Thank you to everyone who contributed!

However, while that means I met my personal goal thanks to your help, we still have a ways to go. Skepticon, The Orbit, Lauren Lane, Amy Skiba, and Stephanie Zvan are still needing help — and Randazza still needs all of his fees covered — so the GoFundMe for the Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit is still open and pining for more donations. And I’m not entirely free, because we have a mutual defense pact and none of us are totally off the hook until this account is closed.

We’ve reached one landmark, but we can’t rest until it’s all done. Donate to our defense fund, or donate to Skepticon, it’ll all help sweep this garbage lawsuit into the rubbish bin of history.

Oh, and hey, you’re all going to Skepticon, right? I’ve heard rumors of a spectacularly fun fund-raising event there, which I can’t tell you about, so you’ll have more opportunities to help us out there, if you can (Skepticon is a free event, so you shouldn’t feel obligated if you can’t afford it.) All the cool people will be there. Richard Carrier won’t.

It’s “Ask an Atheist Day”?

I guess it is. You can ask me anything, but there’s nothing in the rules that says I have to answer.

I probably won’t. I volunteered to help out with new student registration today, I’m going to be locked into working with students all day long, so most of the questions I’m going to be asked are along the lines of:

  • “Why is my class section full?”
  • “Am I actually going to have to take an 8am course? I don’t get up before noon.”
  • “I’d like to take 30 credits this semester & get it all over with. Why won’t you let me?”
  • “Prerequisites? What are those? I want to take that 4000 level course in Fancy Science right now!”
  • “Where’s the pre-med course?”
  • “Why do I have to take a history course? I’m going to be a doctor!”
  • “No one told me I’d need math to be a bio major! Why are you doing this to me?”
  • “I can’t get into that course I’ve been looking forward to? Why does the universe hate me?”

At least I can answer that last one as an atheist. The universe doesn’t hate you, it doesn’t care about you at all.

You may ask, “Why are you volunteering to do this? Aren’t you on sabbatical?” Especially since this is such a highly stressful day for the incoming students — it’s not registration day without at least one student breaking down and crying because they’re confused by all the information coming in, and all the decisions that have to be made. I’m doing it because these are students who will be starting up in the fall, and I have to return to the classroom in the fall, and I better make sure the new students are ready for me.

Another question: “Do I really have to return to my labors in the fall?” <breaks down weeping>

Yes. Because the universe hates me.

No more Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe has died. This annoys me, though.

Wolfe went on to write over 30 novels, with his best best-known work, The Book of The New Sun, spanning 1980-1983. The series is a tetralogy set in the Vancian Dying Earth subgenre, and follows the journey of Severian, a member of the Guild of Torturers, after he is exiled for the sin of mercy. Over the course of the series the books won British Science Fiction, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Locus, Nebula, and Campbell Memorial Awards. In 1998 poll, the readers of Locus magazine considered the series as a single entry and ranked it third in a poll of fantasy novels published before 1990, following only The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Every few years, I pick up and reread The Book of The New Sun, because it is amazingly well-written, subtle, clever, and deep. Wolfe was a phenomenal writer, while Tolkien was a plodder who tapped into a well of mythology and told fairy tales. It is a tragic injustice that Wolfe was ranked third after that guy.

Also, if you thought Lord of the Rings was going to be tough to turn into a movie, Severian’s story is even more impossible, so Wolfe isn’t going to get a post-mortem surge in popularity after translation to a new medium. No one is cosplaying his characters. I wouldn’t say there’s no slash fiction about them, Rule 34 and all that, but moral ambiguity and unreliable narrators aren’t easily dragged into simplistic storytelling.

The conspiracy theorists were looking in the wrong place

All those claims of a pedophile ring in the imaginary basement of a pizza place…psssht. False flag. Distraction. All that stuff. Instead, they should have gone digging into the backgrounds of billionaires and people closely connected to Donald Trump. Clots of filth keep tumbling out of the pipeline connected to Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein is struggling to recover the reputation he had in his glory days.

In the early Aughts, Epstein was known to rub elbows with the likes of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey. His enigmatic rise from Dalton physics teacher to “international moneyman of mystery” who palled around with Prince Andrew and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was chronicled by the tabloids and New York magazine and Vanity Fair, which in 2003 reported, “Epstein is known about town as a man who loves women—lots of them, mostly young.”

I wouldn’t be particularly gratified to have rubbed elbows with that quartet. But being a registered sex offender now damages his ego, so he’s been flinging out millions of dollars in charitable donations through a newly labeled company, Gratitude America Ltd. I suspect one reason for laundering the money through this company is because the recipients of his largesse would love to have some of his money, but at the same time they’d rather not be caught rubbing slimy elbows with Epstein.

So Epstein has been filtering money to Larry Summers, Harvard, Deepak Chopra, a cancer research institute, Elton John’s AIDS foundation, various art philanthropies, etc., etc., etc. All this is claimed in tax filings by Gratitude America. But then it gets confusing…

The Daily Beast left messages for all the schools and charities that Epstein’s group listed as beneficiaries. Some representatives said they didn’t know who operated Gratitude America Ltd. Others said they never received any such donations.

In an email, Howard Straus, president of the Cancer Research Wellness Institute, said his group has “NEVER received a donation of that magnitude from ANYONE.”

“I would know,” Straus continued. “We are perennially short of funds, and would love to be the recipient of such largesse, but not from sexual predators.”

Jennifer Park of New York Concert Artists said her group never received a donation from Gratitude America. “I am sorry but you have completely wrong information,” she said in an email, adding that her nonprofit was perhaps confused with another group.

Well, cool. Shady stuff is going on. Someone ought to investigate.

In other news, another victim has stepped forward to testify against Epstein and his cronies. Maria Farmer was an employee of Epstein’s, and witnessed the young girls trooping off to his bedroom, and her own sister was molested by Epstein. There are also claims that Alan Dershowitz was actively involved in the rape romps.

“To my knowledge, I was the first person to report Maxwell and Epstein to the FBI. It took a significant amount of bravery for me to make that call because I knew how incredibly powerful and influential both Epstein and Maxwell were, particularly in the art community,’’ she wrote.

Farmer’s affidavit is one of 15 exhibits attached to a defamation complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, against Alan Dershowitz, one of Epstein’s most vocal and powerful attorneys.

Giuffre claims in the lawsuit, as she has in past court filings, that Dershowitz, 80, knew about and participated in a sex-trafficking operation involving underage girls and run by Epstein and Maxwell, and that she was forced to have sex with Dershowitz and other prominent, wealthy men when she was underage.

I don’t know what Epstein thinks he’s going to accomplish with multiple large donations (maybe) given semi-anonymously. It’s all just confirming to me that anyone with billions of dollars in their pocket is a dishonest sleaze, and we should be working to take their money away.

It’s not as if they actually earned it, you know. No one earns a billion dollars.

Boycott Pepsi

Do it now, before 2021, because they have plans to pollute the sky.

A Russian company called StartRocket says it’s going to launch a cluster of cubesats into space that will act as an “orbital billboard,” projecting enormous advertisements into the night sky like artificial constellations. And its first client, it says, will be PepsiCo — which will use the system to promote a “campaign against stereotypes and unjustified prejudices against gamers” on behalf of an energy drink called Adrenaline Rush.

Yet another “energy drink”, a campaign to support that <sarcasm>horribly oppressed group</sarcasm>, gamers, and they’re going to do it by putting unwanted glare in the night sky? I already hate Pepsi’s existence. Smart advertising.

I am a member of a highly privileged class

I’m a tenured college professor. It took hard work to get here (and hard work to do the job!), but sometimes I’m reminded of how many advantages I have. Look at how one of my peers in geology acted in his job!

The first complainant, Jane Willenbring, now an associate professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, alleges that Marchant repeatedly shoved her down a steep slope, pelted her with rocks while she was urinating in the field, called her a “slut” and a “whore,” and urged her to have sex with his brother, who was also on the trip.

The second complainant, Deborah Doe (a pseudonym), who was in Antarctica for two austral summers during this era, reports that Marchant called her a “c–t” and a “bitch” repeatedly. She alleges that he promised to block her access to research funding should she earn a Ph.D. She abandoned her career dreams and left academe.

A third woman, Hillary Tulley, a Skokie, Illinois, high school teacher, describes her experience in a supporting letter filed with BU investigators. “His taunts, degrading comments about my body, brain, and general inadequacies never ended,” she writes. She claims Marchant tried to exhaust her into leaving Antarctica. “Every day was terrifying,” she says in an interview with Science.

That’s from a year and a half ago. At that time, after years of harassing students, he was the chair of his department at Boston University and was about to be honored by the GSA for his work. It’s amazing what we professors can get away with.

That’s changing though. Marchant has been fired, finally. He denies ever harassing anyone, which is part of the problem — he probably didn’t think his behavior was harassing at all. And he’s not alone.

Student journalists have been investigating professors of ill repute on the Columbia University campus. They found all kinds of interesting problems.

English professor Michael Golston was found responsible for sexually assaulting and harassing a student, according to documents from an investigation conducted by Columbia’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

However, months later, he still retained access to campus and his Columbia-owned faculty apartment. Over a year later, the University has given no official update regarding his teaching status or access to campus to either the complainant or the chair of his department.

Business school professor Geert Bekaert was convicted in federal court for retaliating against Enrichetta Ravina, former assistant professor of finance, after she reported him to the University for sexual harassment.

Today, Bekaert continues to oversee research projects and teach classes on campus.

According to a lawsuit filed by Jane Doe, former history and classics professor William Harris repeatedly sexually harassed her, then disparaged her to their colleagues when she refused him.

Although he retired as a part of a settlement with the University nearly two years ago, Harris still frequents campus, particularly reading rooms in Butler Library where classics students perform research. He also still lives in his Columbia-owned faculty apartment.

“It makes my skin crawl, and I basically can’t even bring myself to look at him or in his direction,” said one classics student on running into Harris in the library.

After prominent neuroscientist and Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute Co-Director Thomas Jessell was found guilty of sexual misconduct by the University, Columbia announced he would be removed from all administrative posts.

But eight months later, Jessell remained on campus, continuing to work with students and use research facilities.

Columbia has never formally dismissed a tenured faculty member who has been convicted of sexual misconduct, assault, or harassment, University President Lee Bollinger told Spectator in an interview last October.

Wow. So the “punishment” for sexually harassing students is not having to do any committee work anymore? These guys are still getting paid by the university?

Note that at the same time, these universities have an army of serfs, the adjuncts.

To be a perennial adjunct professor is to hear the constant tone of higher education’s death knell. The story is well known—the long hours, the heavy workload, the insufficient pay—as academia relies on adjunct professors, non-tenured faculty members, who are often paid pennies on the dollar to do the same work required of their tenured colleagues.

That’s from a story about Thea Hunter, a black woman historian who was basically worked to death as an adjunct.

She had a number of ailments that bothered her—her asthma, her heart—and the rigors of being an adjunct added to them. Had she been tenured, she would have experienced a sort of security that tenure is designed to provide: a campus office of her own, health insurance, authority and respect with which to navigate campus bureaucracy, greater financial stability. Without tenure, she was unprotected, at the whim of her body’s failings, working long hours for little pay, teaching large survey classes outside of her area of special expertise. As Terry McGlynn, a biology professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Full professors benefit from the exploitation of non-tenure-track instructors.” Adjuncts often do the work that other professors don’t want.

There really is a deep rich/poor divide in academia. We have a moral obligation to end it.

Minnesota is drunk. And it’s a mean drunk.

The snow from our brutal winter is mostly melted. The birds are singing. The spiders are beginning to stir. I’m eager with anticipation for my new adventure of doing actual field work, which has not been my usual thing, but novelty is welcome. I’m meeting with a team of students to sketch out our approach next week. So I’m weirdly all about working outdoors for a change.

Then I wake up to this evil nonsense from the weather service this morning.

…BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM WEDNESDAY TO 7 AM CDT FRIDAY… * WHAT…BLIZZARD CONDITIONS EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 12 TO 20 INCHES EXPECTED. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 50 MPH. * WHERE…PORTIONS OF CENTRAL, SOUTHWEST AND WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA. * WHEN…FROM 7 PM WEDNESDAY TO 7 AM CDT FRIDAY. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO IMPOSSIBLE. AREAS OF BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY. THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS COULD IMPACT THE MORNING OR EVENING COMMUTE. GUSTY WINDS COULD BRING DOWN TREE BRANCHES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS, MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL, HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED, STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. THE LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS FOR MINNESOTA CAN BE FOUND AT 511MN.ORG AND FOR WISCONSIN AT 511WI.GOV, OR BY CALLING 5 1 1 IN EITHER STATE. &&

More Information
…ANOTHER POTENTIALLY HISTORIC MID APRIL WINTER STORM WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY NIGHT… .A BLIZZARD WARNING IS IN EFFECT NORTHWEST OF A LINE FROM REDWOOD FALLS TO SAINT CLOUD. A WINTER STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR MOST OF THE REST OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MINNESOTA AND WESTERN WISCONSIN. A POTENTIALLY HISTORIC WINTER STORM IS EXPECTED STARTING WEDNESDAY EVENING LASTING INTO EARLY FRIDAY MORNING. CONFIDENCE IS HIGH THAT A BAND OF HEAVY SNOW WILL REACH CENTRAL AND WESTERN MINNESOTA WEDNESDAY EVENING AND CONTINUE THROUGH THURSDAY, TAPERING OFF IN INTENSITY GRADUALLY THURSDAY NIGHT. SNOWFALL RATES OF 1 TO 2 INCHES PER HOUR WILL BE POSSIBLE AT TIMES. PERIODS OF MIXED PRECIPITATION IN THE FORM OF RAIN, SNOW, AND SLEET ARE EXPECTED ALONG AND SOUTH OF A LINE FROM NEW ULM, TO THE TWIN CITIES METRO, TO RICE LAKE, WISCONSIN. THERE IS STILL CONSIDERABLE UNCERTAINTY WHERE THIS TRANSITION ZONE WILL SET UP. A TIGHTER GRADIENT IN SNOWFALL TOTALS THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST SHOULD BE EXPECTED ALONG THIS ZONE. WINDS WILL INCREASE WEDNESDAY NIGHT WITH GUSTS OF 45 TO 55 MPH BY THURSDAY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WIDESPREAD BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW AND BLIZZARD CONDITIONS ACROSS WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA. TRAVEL COULD BECOME NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE IN THIS AREA BY THURSDAY.

It’s April, Minnesota. What do you think you’re doing?

My knee is much better this week, thank you very much

My chaotic evil knee (the left one) decided to act up last week, and for a while it was so swollen I couldn’t fit into a pair of jeans and was reduced to wearing sweat pants — oh, the shame of it all. Today, as I expected, the swelling is pretty much gone. The knee just does this, randomly deciding to blow out and spew lubricating fluid all over the joint, and then eventually resorbing everything and acting as if nothing is wrong. This is why it’s my chaotic evil knee.

Unfortunately, now I have to deal with the sequelae of gimping about for a week. My right knee, the lawful evil one, is resentful of having to do more than its fair share of the work, and is showing well-earned signs of stress, so I’ll have to molly-coddle it for a while to make sure it doesn’t revolt. My lower back which, appropriate to its central location, is neutral evil, is also unhappy because it detests asymmetry and gets extraordinarily annoyed when I favor one side over the other, and is now twinging painfully.

This is the way I cope. My body is a coalition of bitter, resentful parts that have to be coaxed into reluctantly cooperating.