I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, voidmother

It’s not fair. The horrible wretched campus conservative newspaper gets shoved under my office door in multiple copies, and they threaten to sue me for throwing them out, but the local chapter of Queer Devil Worshippers for a Better Future come out with a newsletter, and I don’t know about it until I stumble across a copy in a dark hallway. I am so here for this. Here’s the letter from the Void Mother.

And here’s a sample article, “How to Ritually Consume Your Girlfriend in 10 Simple Steps” (Don’t worry, step 1 is to ask for consent).

The part about whispering into her belly button “Be the deviant and strange change you wish to see in the world.” Charming.

I hope all the parents of our students are also charmed and consider this a perfectly lovely way to live. It’s so much sweeter than the hatefests we get from the College Republicans.

Wheee! It was off to the emergency room with meee!

Yesterday, I stood up from my chair and nearly fell over. Then I started to walk, and it was like the world was heaving and swaying all around me, and I nearly fell a couple more times as I walked down the hallway, clinging to furniture and walls to keep myself upright. Something was clearly wrong; was I having a stroke? A brain tumor? The aliens had used their mind control beams to take over, making me all herky jerky? I told my wife that it looked like a trip to the emergency room was in order, especially since all the spinning and heaving was making me acutely nauseous.

We got a lift from our neighbor, Ted — yeah, not even fear of my brain imminently exploding will motivate us to pay the bill for an ambulance pick-up — and made it to the emergency room to discover that Saturday, 16 February, is the day everyone has an accident and the waiting room was packed. Fortunately, presenting as an old man pale and sweating and swaying gets you bumped to the front of the line. Sorry, chainsaw accident! Sorry, broken bone! Sorry, ebola victim! Old dude privilege, coming through!

It may have been the fact that I looked like an imminent font of projectile vomiting, which I was, and they wanted to avoid the mess. As soon as they got me in an examining room, it all came up. I’d picked the wrong day to experiment with trying my hand at spätzle in the kitchen, because that stuff looks like a horror second time around.

Anyway, I got diagnosed: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. My inner ear is messed up. Apparently this is fairly common in us old people over the age of 60, and treatment is simple: I’m taking seasickness pills, which are already helping, and there are some easy physical therapies that can lead to the problem going away in a few days to weeks.

So right now, I’m just sitting quietly, no sudden moves, and the world is mostly motionless. I’ll try to avoid abruptly standing up or turning around to make you all suddenly jump up and get shaken around. Also, no spätzle.

Oh my god, I’ve been in Minnesota for too long

Because I started drooling and making strange guttural noises when I read this story of a remote-controlled 3-D printed snowblower. I was having these mind-blowing fantasies of sitting in my home office with a joystick, clearing my driveway while sitting in warmth and comfort.

(Turn the volume down, you don’t need to hear the awful cacophony of the soundtrack to this clip)

I don’t have a 3D printer, and I probably couldn’t afford the kind of model that would suffice for that thing, so why doesn’t someone come out with a pre-assembled version for sale? I’m not sure this one has enough oomph to handle the mountain ranges of snow that the snowplows drop across our driveway, but it could probably handle our sidewalks.

On second thought, maybe it would be nice to have one where I could just print up damaged parts as I need them. Our existing manual snowblower is currently laid up with a cracked gas tank, and having one I could fix on the spot would be so handy.

Lutefisk really isn’t that bad, but Nigerians might have a better idea

Lutefisk is nothing but a way to make fish that has been dried rock hard edible. You’ve got your dried fish that you’ve stockpiled for the winter, and it’s now got the solidity of a hunk of plywood, and in order to eat it, you soak it in a caustic mixture of lye and then wash all the lye out (important step). Then, instead of inedible slabs, you’ve got a fish-flavored gelatinous blob of protein. The flavor hasn’t really changed, but the texture is radically different and unexpected for fish, which is where most of the objections to it come from.

But that’s not the interesting bit in this story of the major producer of lutefisk in the US (located in Minnesota, of course). They mention that consumption of lutefisk is in steady decline, but the company isn’t panicking, because they’ve found a new market: Nigerian immigrants. They don’t want the lutefisk, but they do want the hard-dried stockfish it’s made from — they have their own methods of extracting tasty protein from it, which involves simply boiling the stuff to make a fish stock for soups in Nigerian cuisine. There’s a Norwegian-Nigerian connection!

Famine or no famine, stockfish fit into the preexisting culinary tradition. “This kind of intense, slightly fermented flavor was already part of traditional Nigerian cuisine,” Ochonu says. While fermented beans and nuts are used in dishes across the country to supply the desired taste, stockfish’s unique, pungent flavor can’t be provided by locally caught fish. Even better, it’s a protein source that keeps without refrigeration. (That said, Ochonu specifies, stockfish is still more common in eastern Nigerian food than in western and northern Nigeria.)

Today, stockfish is an essential ingredient in Nigerian cuisine, although for some it conjures painful wartime memories. Still imported from northern Norway, it’s cut into chunks, softened in boiling water, and used as a base for Nigerian soups and sauces such as efo riro, spinach soup, edikang ikong, a vegetable soup, and egusi, a soup made with melon seeds.

Now I have a craving to visit a Nigerian restaurant — we have some, but they’re all concentrated in the Twin Cities, and we’re kind of snowbound out here right now. When the thaw comes!

Strange people, those ancaps

A man, John Galton, was murdered in Acapulco. The proximate reason: he was growing marijuana in Mexico, and the drug cartels wanted to shut him down. The ultimate cause: he was deeply involved in the anarcho-capitalism cult.

Anarcho-capitalists (“ancaps”) believe in dismantling the state and allowing unchecked capitalism to govern the world in its place. Even within the small anarchist world, ancaps are fringe. Anarchists typically describe their movement as inherently anti-capitalist. Their philosophy describes anarchy as the rejection of hierarchical structures, which they say capitalism enforces. Anarcho-capitalists, meanwhile, see money as a liberating force. They promote a variety of libertarian causes like using cryptocurrency, legalizing all drugs, and privatizing all public institutions like courts and roads. The movement reveres the novelist Ayn Rand, whose work outlines a philosophy of radical selfishness and individualism. Her best-known character, an idealized capitalist named John Galt, appears to have inspired Galton’s name.

Peter Kropotkin wept. It’s all a fraud, with everyone involved desperately trying to con people out of money. They’re into cryptocurrency, drugs, and various paper-shuffling schemes, all of which rely on parasitizing other people’s wealth instead of generating their own, and they carry a lot of weird baggage.

They made their money off Forester’s hand-blown smoking paraphernalia and fundraised on their frequent blog posts. They adopted a dog named Rebel and a cat named Satoshi (named after the pseudonymous founder of bitcoin). The pair hosted “meat-ups” for people interested in carnivorism, an all-flesh diet popular in some right-wing and libertarian circles, particularly among libertarians with an interest in cryptocurrency.

The unofficial leader of their community of selfish expatriates, Jeff Berwick, is also a notorious con artist.

Berwick’s passport company, TDV Passports, also appears to have stumbled. The site used to sell “professional facilitation services for those seeking to establish citizenship in countries abroad.” In practical terms, that meant putting clients in touch with people who could fast-track immigration and citizenship applications. Various versions of the site charged from $12,000 for the Dominican Republic citizenship process to $40,000 in “legal fees” for U.S. citizenship. The company appears frequently on scam-reporting websites, where alleged TDV Passports customers complained of spending tens of thousands of dollars without ever obtaining immigration documents.

He’s also running a conference which will feature Ron Paul and Judge Andrew Napolitano, and charges extravagant fees for everything — it’s another scam. But what I thought most revealing was his comment on the horrifying murder of his friend:

Anarchapulco will go on as scheduled next week and might be even bigger due to the murder, Berwick says.

“We’ve received nothing but love from attendees and expect this will not affect attendance in a negative way at all,” he said. “In fact, it could increase attendance as more people are exposed to our message this week due to media coverage of this tragic event.”

I suppose you don’t have to be a sociopath to be an ancap, but it sure helps.

My flabber is now gasted

How stunningly ignorant are Fox News hosts? Let’s see Pete Hegseth’s disgusting confession:

Following a commercial break, Fox & Friends co-host Jedediah Bila revealed that Hegseth had been munching on day-old pizza that was left on the set.

Pizza Hut lasts for a long time, Hegseth replied, defending himself. My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air. I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years. Really, I don’t really wash my hands ever.

I inoculate myself, he continued. Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.

Hegseth argued that his unsanitary habit leaves him immune to sickness.

Uh…say what?

I remember when my father came home, he had this can of gritty gray goop that was basically an industrial degreaser, and also a pumice stone, that he’d use to scrub the grime out of his hands. Maybe Hegseth’s problem is that he’s never really worked? (Also, the sharp, astringent smell of that stuff is one of the things I remember about my dad. I also know that it really bugged him that his hands were calloused and dark with hard work.)

As for the germs “not real” remark, when I was doing animal surgeries long ago, I learned how to do a thorough scrub — it mattered. The first time you have to scrub pus out of an incision on a kitten you learn to take sterile technique seriously.

Of course, you can see germs. All you need is a good microscope. One of the banes of my experiments with grasshopper embryos was that you really did require sterile technique to work with them, because there was so much yolky tastiness that bacteria would thrive on. I’d sterilize all the work surfaces with alcohol, I’d use sterile media, I would wipe down the microscope objectives with alcohol, and still when doing multi-hour observations I’d see the medium grow cloudy, I’d see the little nests of bacteria proliferate, I’d even watch grasshopper hemocytes dart in and phagocytize them. Germs are real.

It’s a routine experiment in microbiology classes to have students take swabs of various surfaces, including their hands, and then culture the results on a growth medium. It’s disgusting. Ask any microbiologist. I’ve been to conferences where you can spot the micro people: they’re the ones who wash their hands before they use the bathroom, and then wash them again when they leave.

I work with young people all the time — college students are not quite as bad as preschoolers, but you do get exposed to a lot of infectious agents. Years ago I found that I could reduce my frequency of illness by thoroughly scrubbing my hands first thing in the morning, and washing once again before I went home. It’s also routine before doing a lot of routine experiments: I scrub up before setting up fruit fly cultures, for instance, and I’ve noticed that my fly bottles have virtually no contamination compared to those of some of my students.

I do appreciate Hegseth confessing to how filthy and unsanitary he is. I guess I’ll have to refuse any requests to appear on Fox & Friends in the future.

FtB has never had internet drama like this

You sometimes hear gloating accusations that the “Left is eating its own” or that liberals are addicted to drama or that right-wingers know how to coordinate their messaging. Next time you hear that, think of the behavior of alt-right wackaloons Ian Miles Cheong, Andy “Warski” Pires, Jean-François Gariépy, and a swarm of other racist goons. It’s got pro wrestling, Nazis, accusations of pedophilia, SWATting, and guys setting their own nipples on fire. They aren’t going after leftists, but each other. It’s all very amusing.