Synergy: Norovirus will allow you to poop and puke on ecological communities more effectively!

Have you ever taken a vacation on a cruise ship?


I’m just curious because these things have negative appeal to me. Going out on a floating hotel to circle around in the water, spewing sewage into the ocean, descending en masse on tourist traps, confined to a totally artificial environment surrounded by people with more money than sense? Eww. I really don’t get it, but these abominations are monstrously profitable.

And then…these are basically glamorous plague ships. To be fair, Tara does nod to an explanation for why people like them, but the negatives loom too large in my mind.

I know plenty of people love cruises. The convenience of seeing a variety of places without having to plan them individually; the all-inclusive meals; the variety of entertainment options; and for those with kids, the special activities provided for youngsters. I get it. But as an individual trained in microbiology and infectious diseases, what I see when contemplating such an excursion is the potential to be trapped with thousands of others in a confined space, suffering from gastrointestinal aliments like norovirus and E. coli, respiratory infections including influenza and chickenpox, or, as a recent Scientology cruise demonstrated, measles. And that just doesn’t sound like a fun vacation to me.

This hardly a secret: Just this week it was reported that inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the Carnival ship “Fantasy” one of the company’s worst ever sanitation inspection reports. (The Carnival Corporation & plc made close to $19 billion in full revenues in 2018.)

Read the rest to learn more about norovirus than you ever wanted! She doesn’t even get into the environmental catastrophe that is a cruise ship.

The system is broken

Eugene Robinson on Trump…or more accurately, the total failure of our political system.

The astonishing thing is that the president of the United States is, let’s face it, raving like a lunatic — and everyone just shrugs.

The nation is still reeling from two mass shootings. The financial markets are yo-yoing by hundreds of points. A bomb in Afghanistan, where we’re still at war, killed 63 revelers at a wedding. Tension between the United States and Iran continues to mount. North Korea keeps testing new missiles. India is playing with fire in Kashmir. Hong Kong has been convulsed for months by massive protests seeking to guarantee basic freedoms.

And Trump obsesses about buying Greenland.

The truth is that we don’t have an actual presidency right now. We have a tiresome reality show whose ratings have begun to slide — and whose fading star sees cancellation on the way.

That’s the thing: Trump is obviously incompetent and dangerous, a demented narcissist who is sailing the ship of state, and everyone, except his deluded base, knows it. Yet nothing is done. The Democratic leadership cowers in fear of disrupting the ‘process’, while the Republican leadership just wants to hold on to their power. We need more than an election of a better person, we need an overhaul of the whole rotten fabric of our political institutions.

If you care about secular America…

You might want to join this project. Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera gives an introduction to his Secular Voices panel at Skepticon (a five hour long video? That’s the entire afternoon/evening lineup — Juhem is just in the first hour, don’t be afraid).

Or, in short:

Understanding the secular vote in 2020

This project will help develop a a unique panel of nonreligious Americans who will answer monthly surveys during the 2020 campaign to learn more about the politics of this important, growing, and not well-understood group.

He’s looking for volunteers to contribute their opinions (Hey! You can do that!) to build a picture of the scattered, splintered secular community and their views on politics. Most of the polling work is done by outsiders who don’t even know what questions to ask of godless people, so this is going build an informed perspective from the inside. It’s currently a work in progress, sign up to help shape the story.

Sweden was always getting freaky

Scene of the crime

I know, you think Scandinavians are staid, boring, normal white people, but I can tell you that deep in their bosoms beat the hearts of the weird. Witness the events in Insjön a few years ago.

It was Friday night in the village of 2,000 souls when two teenage siblings wandered out with their smartphones to play Pokémon Go.

But instead of finding Pikachu or Squirtle they soon came face to face in the park with a couple who must have seemed scarcely more real.

The teenagers’ mother, who reported the incident to the police, told newspaper Dalarnas Tidningar:

“They wore rubber masks depicting pigs’ heads and they started screaming and waving a green laser.”

A laser beam hit one of the teens in the face and the children rushed back home, shaken but luckily unharmed.

The masked shooters, who also wore T-shirts labeled ‘King’ and ‘Queen’, were next spotted by incredulous motorists as they had sex beside the hamlet’s waterwheel.

As one does. It wasn’t even midwinter yet, when brains turn into a hamster wheel of desperate crazy seeking release.

Hates SJWs, decides to live in SJW Land

Daniel Povey, the Johns Hopkins professor who was fired for an assault with boltcutters against protesting students, was moving to Seattle to work at Facebook. His plans have changed.

Daniel Povey, the research professor whom John Hopkins University fired for trying to break through a student sit-in with bolt cutters, won’t be working at Facebook after all, according to The Baltimore Sun. Facebook previously confirmed that it had hired Povey and he was soon set to work there. But Povey now says that he isn’t prepared to work at Facebook because its “progressive ideas” parallel those of academe.

Facebook? Progressive? The privacy-obliterating, money-grubbing-capitalist, information-selling organization was too progressive for him? Jeez. That says a lot about Povey’s commitment to freedom. As does his alternative.

He plans to work with an unnamed Chinese company or university in speech recognition and machine learning, the Sun reported. “There are several operations in the Seattle area who do this kind of thing, so I wouldn’t even have to move,” Povey said. “I will feel more relaxed among the Chinese because they don’t have American-style social justice warriors.”

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong

Let’s see him storm those protests.

Also, the Pacific Northwest is full of angry progressives. Is he even aware of where he is going?

Fierce mama

Yesterday, we let Iliana play in a cardboard box. But before we could do that, we had to clear out the spiders that had rapidly colonized it first, and that’s how we caught this nice Parasteatoda. Last night, while we slept, she spun an egg case and laid a lot of eggs in it, and then today, I had to put her in a different container. She would not go. I tried every trick in the book to separate her from her egg case, and she would frantically scurry back up into the vial. Then I tried removing the egg case; no go. She had it tethered, and as soon as I got it away, thwip, she’d reel it back up. I had to give up and let her stay with her eggs. These spiders are extraordinarily maternal.

Nope, I’m not going to battle that to get her treasure. My party is going to have to level up a lot more.

We have a plethora of spiders now!

I’ve got one baby at home, and today when I came in to the lab we found even more babies…cute little spider babies. It seems this was the weekend almost everyone decided it was time to emerge from the egg sac, and seven egg sacs spewed out clouds of spiderlings.

This is a little overwhelming. I spent a few hours separating out spiderlings and trying to spread out the masses to more containers.

Here is the maternity ward. See all those vials with foam plugs? Each one contains a female spider and one or more egg sacs. If you look closely, you can see lots of little dots, and that’s the cloud of new babies. That’s probably a thousand spiders you’re looking at.

Let’s zoom in a little on one of the vials.

[Read more…]

Dismantling a right-wing myth about transgender children

This is an amazing video, well worth an hour of your time. It’s an example of the kind of humane skepticism I wish we saw more of.

To summarize, if you don’t have an hour: there is a news story that is circulating on right wing media of a “liberal mom forcing her son to be transgender” — the parents are divorced, and the child dresses as a girl at mom’s place, and as a boy at dad’s, therefore the story of gender dysphoria is all made up and a ploy to torment the father by a bitter, liberal mom, and gosh, isn’t it evil how the Radical Left uses children as pawns? The video creator digs deep into the story, tracing it back to court transcripts and the actual statements made by the principals in the case, and discovers it’s all taking place in opposite world. The father is the one forcing the child to dress as a boy, motivated by conservative religious beliefs, and it’s the mother who is happy to let the child choose for themself. All the horrors of the story have been conjured into existence by right-wing ideologues.

I guessed how this was going to turn out when I learned that the primary source for the skewed story was Walt Heyer, and that the father was supported by the American College of Pediatricians. Don’t trust that organization! Peak irony was reached when some of the father’s friends in the video urge parents to only go to pediatricians who are members of the ACP, because other organizations are ideologically driven.

Also, the video is beautifully done and the presentation fair and sympathetic. Really worth watching. The ending will make you sad.

What kind of job is it to work at a student medical center?

I find this whole idea disturbing and alien. Daniel Kelly, an MD who worked at USC and UCLA, is currently under investigation for sexual abuse of a large number of gay and bisexual men who received ‘care’ from him — he seems to have been fond of overlong, invasive rectal examinations, and of prolonged fondling of patients’ genitals. He would, for instance, give a rectal exam if a young man had symptoms of a cold.

But that’s not what bugs me — if found guilty, he’s just another sick abusive man, and we’ve got evidence of plenty of those. No, the bothersome bit is how the university handles these situations.

Kelly joined UCLA in 1980. In 2002, he stopped working there, signing a confidential settlement that paid him $68,320 and barred him from seeking employment at any University of California campus. In a statement, UCLA said the settlement was “unrelated to allegations of sexual misconduct.”

He did something that got him banned from any UC campus, but it was all wrapped up under a confidentiality agreement, and he got paid? I don’t get it. I keep my nose clean my whole life, I do my job, and my university never takes me aside and hands me a big check while telling me I can’t talk about it. I’d happily not talk about it for that much money!

Especially when that much money is just about exactly what I need to pay our lawyer.

But no, it always seems to get paid to creeps who objectify and abuse students, and nope, I’m not willing to do that. Why is it always corruption and crime that are so lucrative?