More travel bans…WHY?

Our preznit has announced placing more travel bans on various countries. Why, I don’t know. What does this accomplish for us? I was just talking to an Ethiopian student who is concerned about our restrictive policies, and isn’t sure he can stay in the country. But we get the cream of the crop from other countries — people who enrich our culture, who contribute to our economy, who help build international ties…and Trump thinks this is bad?

In particular, he has announced new restrictions in travel from Nigeria, home of one of the largest, best educated, most prosperous populations on the continent. We have Nigerian students here, and they are an asset to our community. What possible reason could Trump have for punishing them?

Nigeria, the most high-profile country under consideration, has particularly come under focus from the White House. With Nigeria accounting for the third highest number of US visa overstays in 2018, the Trump administration has become tougher on Africa’s largest economy.

After indefinitely suspending its visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants (the waiver allowed frequent travelers renew their visa without going through in-person interviews each time), the US also raised visa application fees for Nigerians by including additional “reciprocity fees” ranging from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa. And even though the Nigerian government immediately slashed visa application fees for American applicants in a bid to get the US to reverse its price increase, the reciprocity fees remain in place. The clampdown measures have resulted in Nigeria recording the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US.

There is no reason. Our government is simply insane.

Thursdays will not be my fun days this semester

I am booked up all day long. This is the price I pay for arranging my schedule so my Fridays are free.

Friday will be my fun day, if you can call washing glassware fun. But I do have spiders to feed, and also an assortment of second generation juveniles that will be upgraded to the breeding cages, so there is that. I’ll probably spend most of tomorrow cackling over my empire of arachnids and expanding their domain.

Watch the planet breathe

This is a dramatic video of arctic ice growing and shrinking.

It was presented at Davos, as if those rich assholes matter. We should spend less effort trying to persuade the wealthy to do the right thing, and more effort stripping the wealthy of their power. Let’s make the rich irrelevant!

Brings back old memories

There was a shooting in Seattle yesterday, at 3rd & Pine, and I said to myself, “I know that place — that’s where I was shot at!” This was around 1978, and I was often catching a late night bus at 3rd & Pike. This one evening, there was an altercation on Pine; a sex worker (I was there so often I recognized many of the ladies working those corners) was screaming angrily at someone in a car, and I could hear it a block away. Then she pulled out a handgun and started firing away.

She didn’t hit the guy, she didn’t even hit the car. The bullets were coming my way — I’d see a flash and hear a little “tch” sound as they struck the sidewalk near me, followed by a faint “pop” from the gun. I scrambled to hide behind a lamp post, thinking this would be a really stupid way to die, as an unintentional target of an angry woman who couldn’t hit a car ten feet away from her. Honestly, though, it was some small caliber pistol, shots were all over the place — one did make a little “pok” sound when it punched through a store window — even if one hit me by chance, it was unlikely to be lethal. I don’t think her target was hit at all, and he just drove away.

So just like the shooting yesterday, in the same place at least. Except this time the shooter was a bit more heavily armed and went on a far more determined shooting spree: one dead, seven injured, including a 9 year old boy.

We can’t change human nature easily — there will always be angry incidents and violent responses, just as there were in 1978 and 2020. What we could control, if we had the will, was the availability of lethal technology. The shooting yesterday was a product of human nature amplified by deadly weapons that had no place on a civilized city street.

Now I’m physically incapable of seeing Richard Jewell, because of all the projectile vomiting

Never forget.

Richard Jewell was a security guard at the 1996 Summer Olympics, who discovered pipe bombs that had been planted on the grounds. They were disarmed, he was hailed as a hero, and then people became suspicious and wondered if he had put them there, to win attention. He was later cleared of the accusation.

He is now the subject of a Clint Eastwood movie, with the tagline, “A hero’s life is shattered by one massive, misplaced rush to judgement when the man who thwarted the 1996 Atlanta bombing was wrongly accused as the main suspect.” It’s a pretty good summary. I have no interest in seeing the movie, however, given Eastwood’s political bias.

Do you have a bucket nearby? You might want to be prepared.

American Patriot has put up a review of the movie. Given AmPat’s reputation, you might expect it to be jingoistic and stupid, and you’d be right.

Don’t rush to click on the link, though. There’s one more detail that you need to brace yourself for.

The review is written by…George Zimmerman. You know, the guy who murdered Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black kid who went to the store to buy candy and was then tracked and shot by vigilante Zimmerman.

You will not be surprised to learn that Zimmerman loved Richard Jewell, because he identifies with Jewell.

This movie hit home. I absolutely identified. Richard and I were both cop wannabes — or so the media told us. We were both gullible. We both believed law enforcement had our best interests at heart. We both believed reporters wanted the truth. We both believed everyone was basically good and then we both realized what fools we had been to believe all that.

As I sat there in the dark, my stomach in knots, I found myself wishing Richard was still alive so I could reach out and hug him and tell him, “Yes, Richard, you are a hero.”

Aww, poor George. He identifies with a guy who was falsely accused, because he thinks he was falsely accused. Unfortunately, the facts are that Jewell didn’t kill anyone, and in fact saved lives, while Zimmerman literally and accurately shot a young black boy (this is not in dispute) for being in his neighborhood; he was acquitted, thanks to Florida’s unjust “stand your ground” law. He has since sued the Martin family for $100 million, been arrested multiple times for domestic violence and disorderly conduct, and has tried to raise money by auctioning off the murder weapon.

He is no Richard Jewell.

I’d say shame on American Patriot for publishing that self-serving drivel, but AmPat has no shame.

Never cross the streams

I have been sent an attempt to unify my two obsessions: an octopus is just a wet spider.

No. No. NO. I was surprised at how strongly my brain rejected this proposition — my first reaction was to want to scream at the screen, that this is not correct, don’t you know anything about arachnids and cephalopods, my god, you fool, I need to set everything on fire, this is going to simmer in my brain like acid, aaaargh, do I have to write a whole book on this ridiculous idea, how dare you, now I’m going to have counter-arguments reverberating through my skull for at least a week!

It was objectively interesting how being close to something can trigger such a strong reaction to counter-factual nonsense. Sure, you can tell me that baseball is just football with sticks, and I’ll chuckle and move on and forget about it in minutes, but an inappropriate comparison of my two totally independent, incomparable, glorious organisms feels like you just stuck a hand-grenade in my eye socket. I am totally discombobulated.

I’m better now, though. I’ve calmed down. Just don’t say that phrase to me ever again, I might cry.

I knew nothing about enneagrams until yesterday

I’d heard of them, of course, but I was in a state of blessed ignorance so the term just sailed right over my head. Now I’ve received a couple of emails from the persistent Richard Colter (never heard of him, either), so I looked ’em up.

Jesus.

It’s some kind of personality profile system, based on numerology and Christian mysticism, with this magical figure used to diagram your personality traits. It has about as much validity as Myers-Briggs personality tests, that is, none at all, but sucks believers in with its pseudo-scientific/pseudo-mathematical posing.

An enneagram is, literally, a drawing with nine lines. Figuratively, however, the enneagram is a New Age mandala, a mystical gateway to personality typing. The drawing is based upon a belief in the mystical properties of the numbers 7 and 3.* It consists of a circle with nine equidistant points on the circumference. The points are connected by two figures: one connects the number 1 to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 and back to 1; the other connects 3, 6 and 9. The 142857 sequence is based on the fact that dividing 7 into 1 yields an infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. In fact, dividing 7 into any whole number not a multiple of 7 will yield the infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. Also, 142857 x 7 = 999999. And of course 1 divided by 3 yields an infinite sequence of threes. The triangle joining points 3, 6 and 9 links all the numbers on the circle divisible by 3. To ascribe metaphysical or mystical significance to the properties of numbers is mere superstition and a throwback to an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view.

I’d just throw it in the bin with astrology and dianetics and The Bell Curve and every attempt to reduce humanity to a couple of numbers, but Richard Colter has a book he thinks I should read: UNDERSTANDING HUMAN EVOLUTION: AND THE NINE HUMAN ENDEAVORS – REVEALS THE PURPOSE AND MEANING OF LIFE. I am almost tempted to order it.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to read this book is that it reveals the Nine Human Endeavors (NHE), which are the highly sophisticated behaviors that separate modern humans from early human species such as Neanderthals. The constructive use of this knowledge is the key to unleashing the untapped potential of individuals, organizations, and countries. Thus, the knowledge contained in this book will prove to be indispensable to people of all walks of life.
This book will be of interest to Anthropologists because it provides a comprehensive theory of human evolution that answers the unassailable questions of how and why humans evolved. As the story of human evolution unfolds, new concepts fill the gaps existing in the anthropological sciences, along with critical details such as the key psychological and physiological differentiators between modern humans and early humans. And a basic timeline of evolutionary events provides the context necessary for those without a background in anthropology.

It’s 341 pages of this egotistical argle-bargle. I’m sure, given how the Ennealogical Brigade thinks, that it ought to be full of bizarre mystical diagrams that represent the “evidence” that this view of purposeful evolution is true, but a quick glimpse inside reveals that the author has instead substituted page after page of word salad. Maybe the diagrams are in an appendix.

Mr Colter himself is active on Quora, where he writes about two things, and only two things: how to get out of paying speeding tickets, and spreading misinformation about evolution, which always includes a plug for his book. I’d look deeper, but I think I’ve had enough nonsense for the day.

You have to spend money to make money, am I right?

This letter is purportedly from Human Resources to an employee with an older, unsightly car. I don’t know if it’s genuine or not, but the attitude is certainly authentic — it’s just that usually they avoid making it quite so blatant.

We tend to drive our cars into the ground. My wife and I get the least expensive vehicle that has a good reliability rating, and then we drive it forever, or until it breaks down. We are not the types to buy a new car every year for the status (we can’t afford a new car every year, anyway), and I can’t imagine myself ever washing and polishing a utilitarian device like that, anyway.

Fortunately, we college professors can get away with a little slovenliness, but my wife did have at least one incident where she spotted her employer circling around her dinged-up car, scowling. You know there are lots of Americans who will judge you on the presumed prestige of your car, and that spending money on the right upscale things is an important aspect of performative capitalism.

It’s only surprising that, if this letter is genuine, anyone would make the superficiality of the attitude explicit.

How does Christian math work?

I don’t know how this adds up. So this Minnesota church is struggling with declining membership — only about 25 people show up each week, and most of them are elderly — so what they’ve decided to do is tell all those old people to stay home or go to a different church so … they … can … increase the numbers of … young people?

Grove United Methodist Church in the St. Paul suburb of Cottage Grove is closing in June, with plans to relaunch in November. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship elsewhere, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The church is asking that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.

There’s some funky logic going on here. They must have additional plans to reinvigorate the church, other than telling the old folks to stay away, unless they think somehow that older people actively repel the youth. But if they’ve got some dynamic plan to draw in more, younger members, why do they need to kick out the loyal congregation? And do they seriously think the ejected members will want to come back in two years?

They’ve got some new guy coming in as pastor, and I’d really like to know what magic he plans to work to get new people to join the church that just kicked out Grandma and Grandpa. Other Methodist churches are undergoing this peculiar division of their congregations, and it’s associated with deep splits over the inclusion of LGBTQ members. I wonder if that’s the unstated and unreported rationale for showing the membership the door.

What the hell, Chad?

After Chad and Yara hit it off and mated, I started shuffling Chad off to meet other spider ladies. First up, I paired him with Melisandre.

This morning, I find one live spider and one dead spider. My immediate thought was that the little witch had murdered the male, but no — Chad was fine, it was Melisandre’s corpse that was dangling from a silken thread. This is not right. Chad, you brute. Now I hesitate to move a known domestic abuser to a new cage, the rotten killer. Mate, don’t murder.

I suppose it’s possible Melisandre lost her magic necklace and just died of old age…