Long day ahead

I’m going to spend most of it locked in a small car. I’m driving to Minneapolis to deliver a friend & colleague to the airport so she can fly off to a new job, but we’re also taking advantage of our day on the road to hit up some grocery stores and stock up, now that our local grocery store is an obliging nexus of disease, and we’re going to deliver a high-quality mask to our son to reduce the chance we might have to attend his funeral. We’ve got a lot to do so that once we get home this evening we can batten down the hatches and not emerge again for a while.

Oh, also, in the near future I have to write a will. Maybe I can short circuit a lot of flailing about in the internet by just asking here — what’s a quick cheap way to get an official, legal document that says when I drop dead, everything goes to my wife and kids? As a bonus, being able to raise a figurative middle finger to the government and institutions that want to throw me into association with 1500+ young people in the middle of a pandemic would be nice. I want to make sure my family are as well taken care of as possible, while also communicating a properly vengeful attitude.

You all let me know about that when I get back, because I’ve got the latest Journal of Arachnology and a couple of papers on spider eyes that I’ll be reading when it’s my wife’s turn to drive. Hmmm, maybe if I had eight eyes I could do my reading while driving…

You’re a dope. #sorrynotsorry

These people exist.

Imagine Typhoid Karen here, and others like her, undermining every effort to contain the spread of a disease by intentionally moving from area to area, finding the places with the most lax enforcement of standards, and dispersing the infection as much as she can. She’s pretty intelligent, for a virus.

Any sick people in Idaho can blame their governor and people like her.

Here’s another one: Kelly Anne Wolfe in Toronto. She has 13 degrees in psychology and is a member of MENSA, so you’ll never be as smart as her…and she’s handing out fake mask exemption cards to passers-by.

Man, I’m such a failure. I only have 2 degrees, a bachelor’s and a Ph.D. She’s like 6.5 times smarter than me!

I can fix this plan!

Sure, this is a little problem for a plan to open schools in Utah. They have to prepare to inform people if anyone dies.

I can fix it, though! Just delete that bullet point. Poof, gone, no worries, at least, not until it actually happens.

My university has a plan, too. It’s called the Return to Campus plan. They seem to be instinctively following my advice and not mentioning the awkwardnesses that would follow if the plan doesn’t work. There’s a lot of questions there that they answer neatly, but the ones I want to ask aren’t there. See, if the question doesn’t exist, you don’t have to have an answer to the problem! So, I wonder:

Will tests be available on campus? What do students & staff have to do to get one? How often will testing be done? Are there conditions for mandatory testing?

What about contact tracing? If a student, for instance, is diagnosed with COVID-19, will we trace and test and isolate anyone they were in contact with? Or do we just shut the whole campus down?

How will the success of the opening plan be evaluated? Are there criteria in place for re-establishing a lockdown? Is there a number of cases or deaths that will make the administration reverse course? Do we only abandon the plan if we get 1% student deaths?

I notice that, in the plan, there is a vague mention of our study abroad programs. Is anyone aware that most countries have closed their borders to US travel? Even Canada!

Has there been any consideration of our liabilities? With all the fiscal concerns, are we prepared for lawsuits?

Speaking of money, do the faculty get hazard pay? Oops, how silly, We’re getting pay cuts instead.

Returning to the original point, who at the university has been assigned the job of writing the casualty letters? My son, the one who is serving in the army, has been periodically put on death duty — one week periods in which he is responsible for traveling to families to inform them of military deaths in his unit. It sounds like a horrible job, and it is. Who is taking that responsibility here?

I know, discussing these possibilities just makes the whole plan look half-assed. Never mind, just pretend I didn’t ask.

Why did I ever leave the lab?

Today’s adventure in spidering was a trip to SWELL, the Scandia Woods Environmental Learning Lab. It’s a lovely place. I hated it.

There is a lake there. The lake has a thick marshy boundary, and outside that, a path through thick woods leading to a classroom that, in normal times, is used for school children’s field trips. It is lush and damp and overgrown, and you know what that means, boys and girls? In Minnesota? Yes, it means that the actual purpose of this site is to lure in delicate tasty young children so that their blood may feed the Mosquito Gods. If an old guy wanders in, well, all the better — a nice snack.

I had sprayed myself thoroughly with picaridin before we left. For some strange reason, perhaps the possession of arcane foreknowledge, the head of the trail had a mailbox containing a supply of Deep Woods Off. And a hammer. The hammer was a mystery for a short while. As we walked down the trail, the mosquitoes descended upon us. I had hosed myself with so much insect repellant that my skin was layered with a shiny sheen (which is even now drying to a lacey craquelure.) It did me no good. Apparently I was supposed to use the hammer. Part of the problem was that there many spiders, mostly tiny unfortunately, and I was frequently stopping and trying to photograph the things, and that was the signal for a pack of voracious beasts to charge in whining.

Also aggravating: Mary had no problems at all. I guess we know which of us is the succulent, luscious one now! Or was. I’m kind of dessicated after that experience.

[Read more…]

Doom doom doom doom.

Stevens County, where I live, used to have 0 cases of COVID-19. Then it went up to 1, then 4, then 8, and now it’s 11. Yet still no one is taking it seriously, the local grocery store is making excuses about not enforcing reasonable precautions (they’ve met the minimal standards required by the law, don’t you know), and the students are still due to arrive in about a month.

Fuck me. Fuck us all, every one.

Also, I don’t want to be this guy. Sad as his story is, this guy was killing other people with his behavior.

There are just too many Richard Roses around, and they’re going to claw us down into the grave with them.

Or this:

COVID parties? What the hell is wrong with people?

If you thought the McCloskeys were horrible people before…

…you need to read this article about their legal history. I said “holy shit” more than once reading about all the legal games those two litigious assholes have engaged in. It’s all they do! Sue people! Steal land by suing people! Threaten people with lawsuits! Their neighbors hate them! Their family, what’s left of it, hates them!

My favorite part was where McCloskey’s father sent him a birthday card and a bag of dirt promising him ownership of a 240 acre farm, but didn’t actually bother to get a legal transfer of ownership. Later, Mark McCloskey was written out of his father’s will — I guess a lifetime of being an asshole to everyone around you has that kind of consequence — so what does he do? Guess! He sues everyone!

In March 2013, in Phelps County, Mark McCloskey sued his father and his father’s trust over the gift. The birthday card and earth, he claimed, were sufficient title because they met the legal definition of “livery of seisin,” a ceremony performed in medieval England for the conveyance of land.

In 2016, a special judge ruled against him, writing that “Exhibit 1 attached to the petition is a birthday card, not a deed” and that it was too late to claim ownership of part of the farm. The archaic legal claim, the judge ruled “does not operate as a matter of law to transfer title to real property.”

Mark McCloskey filed a defamation case against his father and sister in 2011, dismissed it in 2012, and refiled it in 2013. By the time of the final filing, Bruce McCloskey was living in a memory care unit in Ballwin; he died in 2014.

McCloskey now claims his life was ruined by the notorious photo of the happy couple threatening protesters passing by with guns. I don’t think that’s what ruined it. I hope the two of them face a bitter, lonely, hate-filled life together from now on, they’ve earned it.

I have a special, deep antipathy to litigious assholes, I must confess.

My brain unconsciously turned to spiders

Chuck Wendig has a list of ten things you can do to persist “in this epoch of syphilitic dipshittery”. It’s not bad. I’ve been following this advice without knowing it for a while. But he left one off.

11. Do your spiders. That’s right. Find a new obsession, the more weird and off the wall it is, the better. Just concentrate for a while every day on it, turn it into an art and science, and identify with your spiders. Because I tell you, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s healthier and saner than the politics in your country right now.

So that’s my plan for today. I shall retire to my lab and office, fiddle about with some new apparatus, fuss over my spiders, and someday, when the time is right, we shall conquer the world and end the reign of foolish primates.

You’ve all got your spiders, or spider-substitutes. What are they? What will you do today to expand your domain?

Pratfalls are entertaining, right?

And now for something different. I wanted to experiment with this streaming thing all the cool kids do, so I’m trying out OBS and playing around with YouTube, and the easiest thing to do is to fire up Minecraft and see if I can put it online. Watch! I’ll probably screw up some settings! If it works, you can count on me to die multiple times! You can yell at me over chat!

I don’t know how long I’ll play, since I’m mainly interested in figuring out the mechanics, but if you encourage me to do some stupid thing, I might keep plodding along from disaster to disaster. That’ll be fun, right?

(If you’re wondering about details, this is under Linux, using a Logitech webcam, a Yeti microphone, and OBS software. It should work, with the only question being the competence of the bozo setting it up.)

Hey, that went surprisingly well. All the software worked, I didn’t die in Minecraft, I found a good location to build a house. What could be better? Well, the audio. I was getting an annoying hiss throught, and it would crackle and break up if I spoke too loudly. Maybe I’ll try it again next week, after I hammer out some of the sound problems.

It’s like an intelligence test for institutions

So here’s the deal. DragonCon…cancelled, due to the pandemic. Skepticon…cancelled. American Arachnology Society…cancelled. Society for Developmental Biology…cancelled. Convergence…cancelled. Minnesota State Fair…cancelled. Or perhaps, instead of cancelled, I should say postponed, or moved online. It seems a lot of organizations of varying sizes have seen reality and are responding appropriately.

It should make you wonder when you see an event that insists on going on with the show. Like the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, where the organizers seem to believe they actually do live in some kind of faux medieval fantasy land, and are going ahead with plans to open up to the public on 22 August. It was also strange because they teased everyone with an announcement of a big announcement coming “tomorrow”, and I expected it would be an inevitable announcement of a postponement, but no — it was a Very Important Announcement of a discount on the family ticket admission prices. I guess it was essential that everyone know they can get their whole family infected at a reduced price.

Or, when universities announce they’re going to open as planned for the Fall semester. Yeah, fill up those residence halls! Get butts into those seats in the auditoriums! I’m reluctantly going along with our plans for in-person instruction during the pandemic, out of a sense of responsibility to the education of these young people, and also because ICE is goading us by threatening to deport our students who don’t show up, but I have to say that this is another terrible mistake, and I think the whole effort will collapse when the first student comes down with the disease, and we’ll once again have to scramble to rearrange all of our courses.