Back to the 1950s

Here’s another blast from the past — my mother was on the junior high “yell squad” when she was 13 or 14 years old (she’s the one on the far left). Once again, as I’m going through these old photos, I am struck by how godawful bad casual photography got to be in the 1970s. Kodak should be ashamed. I have so many photos from my youth that are smeared and grainy, with color blooming over the details, and then I see my mother’s youth, and it’s all these crisp fine black & white images that are fun to look at.

At least I can say that in my home photo collection I switched to taking B&W on my old Pentax in the 1980s, and also to color slide film (that’s a whole ‘nother tangle, converting 35mm color slides to digital images.)

Teaching kids to ‘OBEY’ is not education

This summer, when I haven’t been handed unhappy distractions, I’ve been working on a new course for the fall. I’m looking forward to it; it’s about the history and science of evolution, but it’s shaped by the requirement that courses in its category are equally focused on developing the discipline of writing in our students, so it’s going to be a combination of me lecturing briefly on the history of evolutionary theory, students discussing what they understand, writing exercises, and students explaining back to each other and me with essays. It’s not just a STEM course, it’s a STEAM course where the liberal arts pedagogy is folded into science content, and it’s all built around an epistemological approach to understanding where our ideas come from.

And now Angela Collier puts out a video about STEAM. It’s very good, especially since the last half or so is about how conservatives are openly trying to destroy progressive education and return us to the era of authoritarian instruction, where it’s so much easier to insert propaganda and lies into the curriculum. “Memorize this” is a much more useful tool for authoritarians than “question everything”, and it also would demolish good education.

This is not.a new problem. It’s clearly an issue since Reagan, the creature who corrupted everying about America, or at least, interpreted all the pustules of corruption as fashionable beauty marks for the fash.

They can’t stop lying

I caught a glimpse of the Republican National Convention out of the corner of my eye last night: Sarah Huckabee Sanders praising Trump as the the greatest president ever, while Trump himself smugly grinned and mugged for the camera, and then she went on to talk about how she was the first woman governor of her state, a woman press secretary, a woman this, a woman that, and that the Democrats hated her and were mean to her, implying that she was disliked because she was a woman. No, sorry, we disliked you because you were a dishonest propagandist for a corrupt administration. That was enough for me. I had to leave the room to avoid more exposure to the Trump cultists and liars avoiding mentioning their evil policies to revel in authoritarianism ahd cult of personality bullshit.

I went in to a different room and listened to Rebecca Watson explain Project 2025.

The Supreme Court nominations, of course, led to policies beyond what they previously would have even dreamed of stating publicly, such as Roe v. Wade falling and more recently giving the President the power of a God Emperor. All of that set the stage for Project 2025, where they could finally say the quiet part loud and publicly reveal their end game, which includes but is not limited to outlawing abortion nationwide through the Comstock Act, ending same sex marriage, removing all protections for LGBTQ+ people, criminalizing pornography, neutering Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, eliminating public education and replacing it with private Christian schooling, consolidating control of the government under the President, and replacing tens of thousands of civil service employees with political appointees who will do whatever the President wants, drawn from a vast database that the Heritage Foundation has been building for the past decade or so.

That’s what they want to do. That’s what they say they are going to do. They’re not going to openly brag about it at the convention, because those are wildly unpopular policies, so we’re only going to see Republicans wallowing in victimhood and avoiding talking about how they’re eagerly planning to fuck over the entire country if they get into power once more. The RNC is simply the shiny, glossy, colorful cake made out of poison that they’re enticing the electorate to gobble down. They want what’s worst for everyone. They’re just plain evil.

Really, I’m expected to go through all this now?

Yesterday, I spent hours going through massive piles of photo albums, gathering images to put on display at a memorial service. I learned a couple of things. Cheap mass market cameras from anytime in the 20th century were crap and produced smudgy, blurry images. Polaroids in particular were terrible. More professional cameras that typically shot in black & white and used large format produced very nice results, but throwing them in a pile or in sticky photo albums does them no favors.

Also, my mother was quite lovely, but I already knew that.

Mom at 16

It’s also particularly sad to see a long life reduced to this brief shots of happy moments.

Must be about 1940, looks like it was shot on a Minnesota farm, before they moved west.

I know exactly where that picture was taken, in my grandparents’ house. It must be around 1950.

My parents, early 1970s, I think

Mom & Dad at the wedding of one of their kids, I don’t know which one. They were happy at all of them.

Modern cameras are amazingly good, but when you buy a cheap scanner, it’s going to die in the middle of trying to digitize hundreds of old photos.

We read the will yesterday, too. It was written in 1984 and wasn’t changed since, despite the fact that three of the family members have died since it was written. It’s vaguely written, so it’s still applicable, but it basically just says that her executor should divide her estate equally among her 6 kids. Easy, right? I’m meeting with a lawyer this morning to discuss all the details that will bite me in the butt. She wasn’t rich, so that really simplifies everything.

I’m currently dreading the viewing, a barbaric custom. People don’t look as they did in life after they’ve died, so these things are always shocking, distressing events. You definitely come away knowing your loved one is gone forever.

However, I am looking forward to the memorial event on Friday evening. Mom was well-loved, so I expect to see a lot of familiar old faces, and this may be the last grand gathering of the family. This is where Mom’s financial mediocrity is a virtue, because no on will be coming to harangue me for a piece of the pie. There is no pie, there is a small cupcake that is being split 6 ways, and I intend to be meticulous in making sure the crumbs have their proper distribution.

The lies they tell themselves

Yesterday, I strolled through Cornucopia Days in Kent, Washington, which was mostly huge numbers of booths selling interesting food, and was filled with an impressively diverse collection of attendees. I had to take a photo of this one sad and lonely booth on the fringe, though.

Individual Freedom • Parental Rights • Human Dignity • Public Safety • Fiscal Responsibility • Government Accountability

I think they mean Individual Freedom (If you’re a wealthy white man), Parental Rights (the right to force women to be a parent, and the right to abuse your children), Human Dignity (under the thumb of an imaginary Christian god), Public Safety (more guns, more cops), Fiscal Responsibility (says the party that runs up tremendous deficits whenever in power by granting tax exemptions to the rich), Government Accountability (conservatives recently declared their president/king free of all accountability). Every word they wrote is a lie, but that’s what they believe their party is about, as it does the reverse.

No, I didn’t talk to them. I had better things to do.

That web is not tangled at all

I was up early, watching this juvenile Cross Orbweaver shuttling about, at work building her web.

Meanwhile, the full-grown big mama spider above her had already constructed the classic spider web.

As for me, today is that trite scene, the Reading of the Will. I don’t anticipate any drama, I’m confident my mama cared for us all and just wanted to show her appreciation of everyone in the family, so all it’s going to do is make me sad.

I think I need to lie down

On a personal note, I was on a long drive today, from Morris to Minneapolis, and in particular, from St. Cloud to Minneapolis. Simultaneously, one of those massive monster midwest thunderstorms was following me along I94. I’m talking continuous lightning flashes, rolling thunder, torrential rain, and nasty great lumps of hail falling out of the sky. The roof of my car is heavily dimpled now, and worse, it was slow, white-knuckle driving, and right now my hands are cramped up, and my neck is a rigid stalk of tense muscles, my eyes hurt, and I have a terrible headache. But I’m safe now, at least!

Three hours on the road in the middle of that late at night…not cool. Also not cool was coming up on an overpass and discovering that all the cars in front of me had stopped beneath it for shelter, creating a roadblock of terrible immobile flashing lights…and long lines of cars backed up, unable to fit under the shelter and also unable to pull off the freeway at all.

Welp, I guess the Republicans will finally be on board for responsible gun control

Unfortunately, it sometimes requires a horrific act to get people to change. Donald Trump was shot in the ear in an assassination attempt, and I’m sure this will be the final terrible gun crime that will motivate Congress, in a bipartisan act, to enable significant gun control to check the wave of violence that has swept across America. At last, Republicans will cease their stubborn attempts to defeat any change, because now it’s not just school children that are being shot, but their hero, their god-king, who had his ear notched, so of course they’ll want to prevent that kind of thing from occurring ever again.

Aww, who am I kidding? This terrible event should trigger reform, but we know what will happen instead: the MAGAs will regard this as justification for violence against Democrats. They did it, you know.

Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) claimed in a post on X that the local district attorney “should immediately file charges against Joseph R. Biden for inciting an assassination”; in another post, he claimed, “Joe Biden sent the orders,” responding to a statement Biden allegedly made earlier this week that “it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye.”

We mustn’t forget Marjorie Taylor Greene and JD Vance. The idiots think Biden ordered a hit.

“Someone just tried to ASSASSINATE President Trump. The Democrats and the media are to blame for every drop of blood spilled today. For years and years, they’ve demonized him and his supporters,” GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wrote on X. She included a video of the incident.

She added: “Today, someone finally tried to take out the leader of our America First and the greatest President of all time. Watch the video, President Trump said ‘FIGHT,’ SO WE WILL!!”

Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, said to be a leading candidate to be Trump’s running mate, blamed President Joe Biden. He wrote on X, “Today is not just some isolated incident. The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs.

That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.”

It doesn’t matter if Democrats were horrified and deplore the shooting, the Republicans immediately moved to escalate the situation and blame the entire opposition for the actions of a lone gunmen.

But the worst, the very worst, are the chickenshit bothsiders in the media.

Scott Jennings on CNN right now saying this is on Dems for saying Trump will end democracy on the US.
And Bash and Blitzer are like, yes, we have to tamp down the rhetoric on both sides.
Absolute marks. Jesus Christ.

If this triggers further bloodshed, I know who to blame.

When genetics teaching goes very, very bad

Sometimes, when you’re teaching simple Mendelian genetics you have to make up fictitious scenarios, because real genetics is significantly more complicated than introductory students can handle. It’s an approach with pitfalls, though, because you don’t want students to think they can use your toy examples to model reality. There’s also a history of bad genetics misapplied to imply that genetics is reducible to pairs of alleles with only dominant and recessive relationships. I’ve invented simple Mendelian models for my classes, but I usually do something like make a story problem with Martians to avoid any confusion with reality.

But then, some genetics teachers, like Alex Nguyen of Luther Burbank High School invent story problems with a) imaginary human traits, b) traits that correspond to racist stereotypes, and c) assign them to specific, named students in the school. That’s not only misleading, it’s unethical. It’s shamefully bad pedagogy.

Here are some sample questions he actually used in a genetics test. These questions were so bad that a student quickly reported it to the school administration, and within ten minutes the principal showed up to confiscate the exam. And Nguyen tried to continue the test by projecting the questions on an overhead projector! I guess he didn’t get the message.

In high school, there are individuals who are cross-eyed like (the name of a student) and (another name of a student), which is a dominant trait. We call those individuals ‘weirdoes.’ So, if you crossed two weirdoes (the two students named again), that are heterozygous for being cross-eyed, what is the offspring that would result?

Crossed eyes are not a strongly heritable trait, and calling students “weirdos”?

For some reason, the African American culture has influenced most of the student body. How? In African Americans, they have a gene for the pimp walk, which is dominant. What is the result if you cross (student name) homozygous dominant Latina with a homozygous recessive Hmong like (student name)?

“Pimp walk” is not a heritable trait, the Hmong don’t have an unusual walk, and why is he tying this to a Latina student?

Here at the wonderful school of LBHS, we have certain students who love to sleep in class,” the question said. “I even see students fall asleep during exams! Can you believe that?! I don’t like it when students sleep in class… it’s rude! So, WAKE THE #$%K UP! Well, through much study, I have concluded that the gene for falling asleep is dominant. Not only that some students sleep, they snore in class. This too is a dominant trait. What are the possible offspring if you cross a homozygous sleeping, heterozygous snoring student (student name) with a homozygous attentive, non-snoring (student name) student?

Oh god. Do I need to say it? These are not heritable traits.

Human heredity can be very complicated when dealing with SO many traits. Luckily for you, the most that we have dealt with are two trait combinations. Every person on earth has certain body and shapes and this includes their facial structure. Some people have an oval facial structure like (student name) and other people can have a round face like (student name) while others may exhibit a square facial structure like (student name). That is why we make so many different shapes and sizes of glasses. While focusing on facial struct, we also have to consider people’s heights. There are tall people like (student name), mediaum and short people. Determine all possible offspring when (student name) RrTt person is crossed with an (student name) rrTT person.

Well, good for him for introducing dihybrid traits, but things like the shape of the face are polygenic, and not reducible to a simple Mendelian allele, and height has a huge environmental component.

Alex Nguyen was swiftly placed on administrative leave, and replaced with a substitute the next day. The “investigation” continues, but I don’t see why — they’ve caught him red-handed, they’ve got the exam he distributed, they should just fire him for racism and incompetence. And he’s been teaching for over a decade? That tells me there is something deeply wrong about the teaching of genetics in public schools.