31 December 2020

A personal goal, (somewhat) achieved

Early this year, it slowly dawned on me that I had a serious problem.  For quite some time I'd been suffering occasional flare-ups of what felt like inflammation -- long-term readers may recall a few times when I quit blogging for a while due to pain in the hands.  I weighed 225 pounds, which for my height (5'11") put me well across the line into obesity.  And that, especially on the verge of turning 60, meant I was in the express lane to a heart attack or a stroke.  To say nothing of feeling disgusted every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror without clothes on.

The joint pain wasn't the only sign that things were going wrong.  I had back pain almost constantly.  One of the warning signs of a heart attack is supposed to be pain in the upper chest and down the left arm, but I'd been having pain like that several times a day for as long as I could remember.  And I'd had a few episodes of high blood pressure, though those were rare.

I'd long been aware of the impact of food on health, but it hadn't really registered as a major issue.  I stopped eating meat about a decade ago, but that was always more due to the issue of animal cruelty (and simple revulsion at the thought of eating corpses) than for health reasons.  I was still eating things like cheese, eggs, and huge amounts of junk food.

My current interest in food and nutrition was sparked by the role of the ghastly Wuhan "wet market" in starting the covid-19 pandemic, and of animal farming in general in facilitating the spread of new infectious diseases from animals to humans.  As I looked more into the issue, I realized how broad the problem was.  One milestone was discovering Mic the Vegan, who stood out from the YouTube pack in always having a barrage of proper scientific studies to back up everything he said.  Eventually the reality was inescapable.  Humans show every sign, anatomically and physiologically, of being a herbivorous species (as our fellow great apes mostly are), not an omnivorous one.  Eggs, dairy, and the like are at least as toxic as meat itself.  Most of the chronic health problems that plague Americans are probably linked to what we eat.  Within the developed world, the healthiest populations historically have been those with mainly plant-based diets -- and as prosperity enabled them to eat more meat, processed food, and suchlike, they too developed higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and clogged arteries.

I'd already lost some weight since the start of the year, just by watching calories.  But in the early months of the pandemic, I realized I needed to do more.  Weight wasn't the only issue.  I cut out everything that comes from animals -- no more eggs, cheese, or even milk chocolate.  I cut out chips and, eventually, almost all refined sugar.  I started paying attention to things like fiber and cholesterol.  And I actively sought out a wider range of things like vegetables, legumes, nuts, and rice, lest a sense of monotony undermine my efforts.

It proved easier to stick to than I expected.  I soon stopped missing the things I had quit.  On impulse a couple of weeks ago I picked up a bag of chips.  They seemed greasy and dry, strangely tasteless and over-salted at the same time.  I don't feel tempted to ever go back to eating the way I used to.  This isn't "a diet" adopted as a temporary problem-solving measure.  I've merely reverted, at least a lot closer, to what our species evolved to eat.

My weight now is consistently a little under 195, so I've lost about 30 pounds this year.  That's not as much as I'd hoped for -- my goal was to get to 180, which is the maximum healthy weight for a person of my height.  But the chest-and-arm pains are gone.  The back pain is much improved.  The inflammation episodes are far less frequent and less severe.  I even get fewer headaches.  I'm not constantly taking aspirin and ibuprofen the way I used to.

I haven't won yet.  I want those pains gone, not just diminished.  And 195 is still overweight, seriously so.  But I know I'll get there.

29 December 2020

Looking ahead, politically

Soon the time of Trump will give way to a Democratic presidency and House and hopefully a 50-50-plus-Harris control of the Senate.  Some things to keep in mind:

1. When 2022 and 2024 arrive, most of the Democratic voting base will judge Biden and the Democrats in Congress mainly by results.  Has the pandemic been vanquished?  Have jobs and wages (not "the economy", which takes in all kinds of things, but jobs and wages specifically) recovered?  Has federal legislation to protect voting rights from state-level gerrymandering and vote suppression been enacted?  Has Medicare access been expanded or some other kind of public option been provided?  Have DC and Puerto Rico become states?  If the Democrats achieve results, our voters will care only that it was done, not how it was done.  Conversely, if little or nothing is accomplished, nobody will much care about whatever reasons or excuses are offered.

2. Achieving such results will partially depend on two intermediate steps -- abolishing the filibuster, and enlarging the Supreme Court or otherwise neutering the ability of its current McConnell-Trump-imposed hard-right majority to block progress.  The obstacle that a few Democrats oppose abolishing the filibuster should be surmountable -- Feinstein needs to hear, vociferously, from a few million of her constituents, and Manchin can perhaps be brought around with the offer of some major benefit for his state, etc.  One or two Republicans might even be brought to support the move.  But if Democrats control the Senate and don't abolish the filibuster, the reasons for not doing it won't matter -- it will just mean they've handed the Republicans the rope to hang them with.

3. Don't assume we can coast through the first two years without getting things done and then enact the full agenda after 2022 when we'll pick up a bigger Senate majority.  Yes, the 2022 Senate map is very favorable to Democrats, but we could lose the House that year, especially if not much has been accomplished and our voting base is de-motivated.

4. We're going to be flying blind for the next few elections because nobody, including pollsters, can accurately predict turnout.  The surges in Republican votes that elected Trump in 2016 and saved so many downballot Republicans in 2020 were real and largely unexpected.  The blue wave of 2018 was also real.  Nobody knows yet what this means in the long term.  Are we now in an era when Republicans do better in presidential years than in off-years?  Is it some effect unique to Trump which will fade when he's out of politics?  Something else?  The point is, we can't count on polls to tell us what's going to happen, and even less on intuition and gut feeling.

5. We did very well in 2018 and fairly well this year despite state-level gerrymandering and vote suppression.  Federal legislation to stamp out those things is the surest way to boost our advantage further.

6. Stop pointing to demographics as a reason to be complacent.  I've been guilty of this myself, but if the Republicans were in inexorable decline already, we wouldn't keep seeing knife-edge-close results in state after state that "should" be getting bluer, nor seeing some states actually getting redder.  There's more to the demographic issue than the common liberal view of it allows for -- I'll have a post about this sometime in the next few weeks.

7. Stop trying to make everything about race and racism.  Yes, racism is an important issue, but there are other important issues which have nothing to do with it.

8. Stop saying stupid shit that drives voters in the sensible center (yes, they exist) toward the enemy.  There's no way of knowing how many votes we lost because of talk of abolishing private medical insurance and "defund the police", but it was probably quite a few.  Yes, yes, I know "defund the police really means blah blah" -- shut the fuck up.  If you say "defund the police", normal people are going to think you mean "defund the police".  If you mean something else, then you need to use different words that accurately express what you mean.  Similarly, we must firmly squelch any perception that we are, as Bill Maher put it, the party of "silence is violence but vandalism is not".  Disagreeing with somebody is not violence.  Smashing windows is violence.  It doesn't matter what excuses or explanations anybody offers.  This is dangerous bullshit and costs votes we can't afford.

9. It's very possible that Republicans will be cripplingly divided for the next few years.  A lot will depend on what Trump does after leaving office, and how long the cult-like fervor toward him lasts.  But we can't count on such divisions to smooth the way for us.  One way or another, they'll involve a split between the Trump cultists and those on the right who seek a return to reality and sanity -- and the latter group may not be large enough among Republican rank-and-file voters to have much impact.

10. One factor that may help break the wingnut "fever dream" alternate reality is the future course of the pandemic.  Red states are still being hit hard, and this will continue to be the case as they reject masks and social distancing and, perhaps, largely reject the vaccine as well.  It will soon reach the point where a large fraction of the population knows somebody who has died of covid-19 or has survived but suffered permanent, serious harm from it.  At the same time, they'll see life slowly returning to normal in the blue cities where the vaccine is in wide use.  A realization that they were wrong about the pandemic might open some right-wingers' minds to the possibility that they've been wrong about other things as well.  Again, though, we'd be foolish to count on this.

11.  There will be some violence from the right wing, perhaps even an assassination or two. But there won't be an insurrection or violence on a large enough scale to have a real political effect.

12.  At some point, somewhere, something big and completely unexpected will happen.  It always does.

27 December 2020

Link round-up for 27 December 2020

Please consider donating or otherwise helping the Georgia runoff effort at these links -- Fair Fight, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock.  At this point Fair Fight, with its emphasis on voter registration and turnout, may be your best bet.

o o o o o

Obey the sign, if you can.

Debra She Who Seeks looks at Santa's job.

Happy Boxing Day.

Watch video of a daring prison escape.

Three wise men see a star in the east.

Any true cat would just take this as a challenge.

Arguably, Trump already has airports named after him.

Rawknrobyn has a poem for Santa (NSFW).

Some cats just get cardboard boxes.  Others get castles.

Esme's Cloud has a tale of a routine police investigation that goes bizarrely awry.

Canadians recall accidental visits to the US.

Big Bad Bald Bastard embraces the spirit of Trumpy Christmas.

You can still find a use for an advent calendar.

The domino effect goes vertical.

These are not alien spaceships.

You don't notice the craziness when it's familiar.

This Australian has sensible priorities and a flair for showmanship (found via Hackwhackers).

Vagabond Scholar's Jon Swift blog round-up for 2020 is posted -- "the best posts of the year, chosen by the bloggers themselves".

"Because it worked."

Photos here from Salamanca, Mexico.

Cas d'intérêt looks at how French became a world language, and where the "purest" French is found today (it isn't France).

Civil Commotion observes the winter solstice.

Miss Cellania has a big list of best-book lists.

Darwinfish 2 presses on with the quixotic but necessary struggle to debunk wingnut bullshit.

Donate here to help the hungry.

Non-religious voters are becoming an important force in US politics.

Learn to understand and deal with people who suffer from chronic pain.

Reminder -- blue America is productive America.

Pat Robertson's loopy religious "university" hires a worthy dean for its school of government.

Dumbest Trump election lawsuit of all, at least according to several lawyers.

YouTube allegedly hosts thousands of disgusting animal-cruelty videos.

If you think wearing a mask is tyranny.....

The US Capitol starts taking out the garbage.

Facebook group here on autism and the police.

Punctuation matters.

XKCD's election map shows the real distribution of voters.  No, it isn't possible to split the US into two countries for the two sides.

JK Rowling gets some recognition for her courage.

Green Eagle makes the case that behavior can qualify as treason even without a state of war.

You know a Democratic administration is coming when Republicans suddenly start talking about the debt again.

Objective reality exists, and trying to deny it is madness.

When Trump's term ends, three women with lawsuits will be waiting for him.  There will also be a wave of subpoenas.  But what if he refuses to leave the White House?

The stock market is high, but probably not overvalued.

Free expression gets a win in Texas.

No, Democrats' resistance to the outcome of the 2016 election wasn't similar to what Republicans are doing now.

A bully plays the victim, not very plausibly.

Insiders say a California megachurch is pressuring its congregation and staff to keep quiet about a covid-19 outbreak.

36% of Americans believe the election was stolen.  That's bad, but it's not "almost half" as some outlets are lamenting.

One person went to work sick, seven people died.  A Mississippi atheist seethes at the denialists' stupidity.  Don't be fooled -- the pandemic is real.

Hey Georgians, if you want a $2,000 stimulus check, here's what to do.

Biden needs to show he can fight, even if he doesn't always win.

Who needs a mask when you've got an imaginary friend?

The stimulus bill includes an upgrade of US internet access, but far more needs to be done.

The Psy of Life looks at why Trumpanzees stand by their man.

This is what it's like working in healthcare now.

George Mason anticipated Trump's pardon frenzy -- in 1788.  The killers of Ali Kinani are among those pardoned.  More here.

Insuring the Catholic Church is a losing proposition.

"A modern, industrialized nation..... cannot survive being driven by its dumbest and cruelest elements. It just can't. People like that are always going to be part of the scenery, but if we don't find a way to push them back to the margins, and stop being responsive to every dumb thing they do and say and react to, it's going to be a long, ugly road down."

The New York Post's slimy effort to slut-shame a paramedic backfires as she fights back and wins support.

Trump is losing his mind.  His antics have triggered infighting among Republicans.

In a medical emergency, gender confusion can be dangerous.

There can be no "common ground" with a party of open sedition and fascism.

Fox backs down from some of its bullshit -- under threat of a lawsuit.  Then there's this guy.

There are important differences between categories that exist in objective reality and those created by human assertion.

The world is in much better shape than you think.

Meet the Latvians, an introverted and creative people.

Consider supporting the heroic rats who help clear mines in poor countries.

The Saudi regime is asking Trump to make its caudillo immune from US lawsuits relating to its various murders.  Meanwhile, women's-rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing twenty years in prison.

It's people in Muslim countries, not Westerners, who lead the fight against Islamic terrorism.

An exiled Pakistani human-rights activist has been found dead in Toronto, the second such mysterious death this year.

The covid-19 outbreak illustrates how China's fascist regime uses trolls and thuggery to control what its subjects see on the internet.  The US has taken a subtle but effective step against the regime's technological power.

Here's some more detail on that possible radio signal from Proxima Centauri.

Annie Asks You looks at the potential of CRISPR, the new gene-editing technology.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- last week I posted on the coming covid-19 explosion, some parody songs for the Trump gang, and the madness of religio-wingnuts as their prophecies of Trump's re-election fail.

[1,438 days down, 24 to go until the inauguration of a real president.]

26 December 2020

Video of the day -- madness rising to the surface

A month ago I posted this video by "Holy Koolaid" showing various prominent wingnuts freaking out as their prophecies (yes, prophecies) and promises from God were confounded by Trump's election defeat.  This follow-up video shows how, since then, they've doubled down on their delusions, utterly impervious to the reality all around them.  Millions of Americans listen to these people and take them seriously -- and they vote.  This is the hard core of the "stupid one-third".

24 December 2020

Videos of the day -- songs for the Trumplings

One of the few positives about the time of Trump is the inspiration it has provided to parody songwriters.  Who could be more deserving of such a salute than Rudy Flatuliani?

Or Kayleigh McEnemy?

Or Mike "Lord of the Flies" Pence?

Or Hair Furor Agolf Twitler himself?

27 days to go.

22 December 2020

The coming covid-19 explosion

The US confirmed death toll from covid-19 has now reached 322,000, meaning that about one in every thousand Americans has now died from this.  Of course the hardest-hit areas, such as the Dakotas, passed the one-in-a-thousand milestone weeks ago.  And the worst may still be yet to come.

Despite official warnings, despite the disaster which has already unfolded, it's projected that 85 million Americans will be traveling during the "holiday season", down only one-third from a normal year.  Most will be going by car, but several million have already gone by plane.  Large-scale air travel for family visits is the perfect scenario for a gigantic explosion in infections.  With a hundred or so people together in a plane for a couple of hours or more, breathing the same air, one infected person could spread the virus to many more -- and each of those newly-infected people will still be non-symptomatic and unaware while spending days with the group they are visiting.

That so many are taking such risks may seem incredible, but it's likely that most of them are among the "stupid one-third" of the population who still mostly refuse to recognize the crisis, militantly disdain and reject basic precautions like mask-wearing, and diligently confine their "news" intake to sources that reinforce their delusions.

Red America no longer has the spirit that animated this country against the great challenges of the past.  If they had been like this during World War II, they would have been braying that the war was a Chinese hoax, that the Pearl Harbor attack was fake news, that most of the people being killed in battle or in the Holocaust were actually dying of other things and the numbers were hugely exaggerated anyway, and that the media and officials who insisted that the war was real and sacrifices needed to be made were "enemies of the people" and part of some Satanic pedophile conspiracy.

322,000 dead out of 18 million infected is about one in every fifty-six.  Those aren't very comforting odds when you're talking about death, and a slow and horrible death at that.  Plus, since the disease takes a couple of weeks to kill, it would be more relevant to compare the death toll to the number of infections two weeks ago, which was smaller and thus yields a higher death rate.  To put it another way, many of those 18 million infected are people who will die in the next couple of weeks, but haven't done so yet and thus aren't included in the 322,000 figure.

And for every one who dies, several who survive are left with serious symptoms like major organ damage, mental fogginess, or serious disruption of basic functions like heartbeat and blood pressure.  You need to read this, all of it, to understand what some survivors are still going through months after they "recovered" from covid-19.  Such symptoms could be life-long, for all we know now.  And none of the people covered in that article are elderly.  One is ten years old.

And vaccination for the broad mass of Americans is still several months away.

This pandemic may yet surpass 700,000 dead and overtake the Civil War to become the deadliest disaster in all of US history.

20 December 2020

Link round-up for 20 December 2020

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Maybe you shouldn't wear socks with days of the week on them.

"There's a strange alert message on my dashboard."

Have a coronavirus Christmas.  Or, much better, a cat Christmas.


Looks like Santa is in for a "breezy" ride.

What he lacks in agility, he makes up in brains.

Here's an idea for a Zootopia sequel.

RO brings us hunky barbers, hotel thieves, a lipstick psychic, and outré Christmas trees.

See the cutting edge of spaceship design.

Check out an octopus hat and a squid with a glowing green ass.

Amateur researchers examine a mysterious artifact.

Twitter reacts to the new "guardians" brand of Trump's "space force".

Zombie movies need to change.

The Goddess of the Winter Solstice lives on.

Don't touch.

124 years ago there was a snowball fight.

Trees in the wind.

There are people you just can't trust.

Memory is a painter.

Cas d'intérêt looks at the complex history of the French language (post is in English).

Lots of interesting material on autism at this site, including some arresting art and poetry.

Wingnuts continue to freak out over the failure of the Texas lawsuit.

Vegan fast food is a hit, at least in California.

The president used to be so different.

The wingnutosphere's delusions just get loonier and loonier.

When people say "we have made it through worse before"..... (found via Silverapplequeen).

Was it the schools that caused the decline of religion in the US?

We've been nuked.

They never miss a chance to humiliate poor kids.

Yellowdog Granny looks back at 2020.  Every media person should memorize the Sally Claire quote.

Green Eagle imagines Trump's last rally as president.

Worthwhile discussion in the comments here about "sin" and religious self-abasement.

Parler, being full of dumb and gullible people, is naturally attracting a lot of scammers as well.

Walter Forbes was just released from prison after nearly forty years for a crime he probably didn't commit.

Some customers have rights -- some don't.

Evangelicals supporting Trump have merely added a new cult to their old one.  It's a cult of multi-denominational extremism.

Lo Imprescindible has some background on Joseph Epstein, the guy who attacked Jill Biden's use of "doctor".

One-third of Americans between 18 and 29 are "nones".  They've seen through the scam, as this great American did long ago.

Sometimes it's too late to change your mind.

Trump is cementing his dominance over the Republican party.

This is what bravery looks like (found via Octoberfarm).

Pompeo's super-spreader Christmas party was a flop.

Understand the real nature of the judges Trump appointed (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Straight out of the Dark Ages -- an archbishop thunders against science and public health measures from a position of abject, stygian ignorance of even the most basic relevant facts.

The Republicans supported a coup based on lies -- never forget and never forgive.  They're going to try it again in the future.

Gove county KS has America's worst per-capita covid-19 death rate, but many are still resistant to precautions.  Choices have consequences.

"Republicans always leave the country in smoking ruins for the Democrats to fix and complain the whole time that the Democrats are not fixing it fast enough as they throw cinder blocks from the overpass to stop progress."

"Understand these people for what they really are, and start acting accordingly."

The latest church super-spreader event has infected at least 75 people in North Carolina.

This person exists.  So does the shirt.

73% of Americans now accept mask-wearing as an expected norm during the pandemic.

Far-right blog Power Line finds a liberal they agree with.

Wingnuts fantasizing about violence won't get any leadership from Trump.

When the pandemic is over, remember who saved us.

To those liberals who want to "reach out" and make nice with the Trumpanzees, this is what they think of you.

Here's what failure and success look like.

Ophelia Benson and Jane Clare Jones comment on the Tavistock ruling.

The New York Crank has a few observations about France.

Reminder:  "Native American" religion was humane and benevolent.

Kowtowing to the North Korean regime is a bad idea.

Human evolution is now accepted by large majorities in almost all developed countries -- even in the US it's 64%.

See a perfect example of gravitational lensing in action.

This is Pluto -- known to us as nothing but a blurry red dot until the New Horizons mission.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- last week I posted on the malignancy of the Republicans, the Lone Animator's Scary UFO, and the degradation of worship.

18 December 2020


The act of worship is degrading and subhuman.

You are a human, a member of the most intelligent, self-aware, mentally-sophisticated species on this world and probably any world.  You are of the race that vanquished mammoths and smallpox, that crafts poetry and mathematics and architecture and vaccines, whose minds pierce the farthest stars and the innards of atoms.  There is nothing higher than you.  It should be shameful for you to bow down to anything, especially to a god that is a figment of the imagination of those who lived millennia ago in ignorance and superstition.

Who -- who -- is empowered by your living on your knees, feeling sinful, broken, unworthy?  Certainly not you.

17 December 2020

Video of the day -- Scary UFO

The saga of a none-too-friendly alien who, at the very least, needs to lose his driver's license (dude crashes into everything).  By the same video artist who made this.

15 December 2020

No Republican heroes

I've argued for some time that the concept of a "good Republican" is definitionally impossible, because the party's enabling and support of Trump has made it so blatantly malignant that any politician or official worthy of being called "good" would not remain a member -- that is, he would leave the party and not be a Republican any more, as one Congressman did just yesterday.  I stand by that assertion.  Whatever Republican governor, senator, or functionary you are pointing to as being one of the few "good" ones, I would counter that if that person remains a member of the Republican party, then to that extent he or she is implicitly legitimizing it in its embrace of Trump's attacks on secular democracy and on fundamental human decency.  Show me his letter of resignation from the Republican party and I'll admit he may be a decent human being on some level.  Not before.

This is all the more true since the election, as the party en masse has followed Trump into the realm of sedition.  (Not "treason", a word which is thrown around a lot but requires an actual state of war -- "sedition", meaning attempting to overthrow the legitimate authority, is the accurate word for what Trump and his enablers are doing.)  People have debated whether Republicans' support of (or at least failure to condemn) Trump's election-stealing efforts is due to fear of Trumpanzee rage and of Trump's anticipated power as a Republican kingmaker after his term ends, or due to them genuinely having no more respect for democracy than he does.  My view is that it doesn't matter.  It's the practical effect of people's behavior, not their motives, that matters.

Look at cases like Gabriel Sterling and Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, widely lauded for denouncing Trump's rhetoric which has inspired death threats against Republican officials and workers who failed to subvert the election on Trump's behalf.  Where were they for the last four years of Trumpian venom denouncing the media as "enemies of the people", encouraging armed mobs, and ultimately inspiring a plot to kidnap and murder governor Whitmer of Michigan?  They admit they voted for Trump, after all that had happened, so evidently none of it was a deal breaker for them.  They got upset only when the gibbering mobs turned their rage against them and people around them.  The same goes for other Republican officials who have lately won praise for standing up to Trump in defense of the election.  Where were they for the previous four years when he was stirring up hatred against other people?  Did they still vote for him after all that?  Why didn't they leave the party when they saw it enabling him?  Why haven't they left now, when its seditious character is obvious beyond all denial?

In a survey of Republicans in Congress, only 27 -- barely a tenth of them -- were willing to recognize Biden as president-elect.  Even the utterly fatuous lawsuit filed by Texas AG Ken Paxton, to overturn the certified results in four other states, attracted the public support of 17 other Republican state AGs and 125 of the 196 Republican House members.  It's long past time to quit pretending that the party is anything more than the party of Trump.

Perhaps the worst thing the party has done is to aid, encourage, and pander to the wingnut media's brainwashing of tens of millions of low-information Americans into the paranoid and violent "fever dream" alternate reality we see today.  This process began long before Trump entered politics.  They created a dangerous monster they believed would be useful against us.  Now the monster has found, in Trump, a master more to its liking, and is starting to turn on its creator, as such monsters tend to do.  Now Republicans deemed insufficiently devoted to Trump are starting to get death threats and armed mobs outside their houses.

And I feel no sympathy.  None.  They knew the party was fomenting this madness, and by remaining members of the party, they endorsed it.  Now they need to learn -- via gut fear of their own monster, not via pointless genteel debate from us -- that the party was wrong to do it and that they were wrong to stay.  If they want to redeem themselves, then they can resign from the Republican party, and renounce it and everything it stands for.  Until they do that, to hell with them.

13 December 2020

Link round-up for 13 December 2020

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Merry Shitscram!

Life imitates art, but not very well.

Cookies for Santa, or.....

What is this hole used for?

Uh oh, it's those aliens.

Snow White, Superman, and Pinocchio are out for a stroll.....

Don't tease the cat.

It's a romance made in Hell.

Men, get your dong assessment here.

Texas-style Christmas gifts for everyone!

New Witch endures quarantine.

Business Insider has the details on the fart heard round the world.

"Shout-out to all the Trump fanatics who....."

Heads, heads, heads!

This is a real animal (found via Miss Cellania).

The doctor will see you now -- bring some vomit and prepare for a long trip.

Save the S!

Who's playing computer games, anyway?

It's insane to make such a huge fuss about masturbation.

Captain Kirk was a better man than you probably remember.

Think you're tough?  Give the Vendée Globe a try.

Here are some places to donate to help the hungry.

Cutting out refined sugar can have dramatic effects.

We didn't start the ad war, but here's how to win.

This hideous crap is not "art".

See bats flying -- in slow motion and by x-ray.

Narcissistic self-obsession is off the charts these days.  Trump's influence?

Parler, the alternate Twitter for wingnuts, is flopping.

Christians, please stop ruining Christmas.  It belongs to everyone who wants it.

Trump is almost over, but Republican lunacy is just getting started.  Twitter takes note.

Nietzsche got it right.

The ridiculous Texas lawsuit was part of God's divine plan (I guess God doesn't have very good lawyers).

They say covid-19 is just a flu, and yet.....

Trump made an ass of himself in Georgia.

Religious terrorists shut down efforts to fight covid-19 in Idaho.

Republican "witnesses" give "testimony" about "election fraud" in Michigan.

Serves you fucking right (found via Yellowdog Granny).

The next pandemic may just be already starting.

Free expression is under concerted attack at universities these days.  I am so glad I got out of academia.

One county in Virginia illustrates why covid-19 is surging out of control.  Then there's the Dakotas.  Wingnuts are preparing a super-spreader holiday season.

Trump is determined to build some amount of wall, whatever the cost.

Part of the credit for why the election went so smoothly goes, believe it or not, to Mark Zuckerberg.

Wingnuts want minority rule, not democracy.

The Proud Boys rally in DC was a sad frat party of drunken brawlers.  But at least there was one chant we can all support.

Biden is popular -- the Democratic party, not so much.

A Christian CEO whose company is already a covid-19 hotspot plans a super-spreader event.

The wingnutosphere reacts to Friday's Supreme Court ruling.

Here's a congressman who understands the Constitution (found via Hackwhackers).

"There is, in short, no living with these people."

Progress Pond suggests a way of winning rural voters -- but read the discussion in the comments as well.

Even the wingnuttiest wingnut is not wingnutty enough unless he's blindly loyal to Trump.  In the media, more crazy means more success.

At least 14 hate groups got government covid-19 relief money.

Nurses report from the front lines of the pandemic.  Being an asshole has consequences.

"A self-pardoning president is the first step in establishing a dictatorship."

Scientific findings that don't fit official ideology need to be suppressed.

A certain region of Louisiana is a hotspot for cancer and, now, covid-19.

Reminder -- as long as Trump is in office, FDA approval means nothing.

The ideological-purist fringe is already sniping at Biden.  Remember who the real enemy is.

Government thugs raid a scientist's home and steal equipment to stop her from spreading facts that clash with official dogma.  Not the Dark Ages, but modern Florida.  Scientists react.

The parasite class is ready to profit from global warming.

What do these countries have in common?

The UK's National Health Service prepares for the huge challenge of nationwide covid-19 vaccination.  Meet the first patient to get the shot.

Free expression gets a win at Cambridge.

In Scotland, rape victims can now demand a female medical examiner.  Not everybody's happy.

Bhutan has just decriminalized homosexuality and opened relations with Israel (some places take time to catch up with the modern world).

Africa's efforts to move toward renewable energy are being undermined by China.

Remember and celebrate the defeat of an ancient and terrible enemy.

Covid-19 vaccines are a triumph of science, while religion has spent the pandemic trying to help the virus spread.

Bionic gloves allow a master pianist to play again.

A new galactic map gives position and other information for almost two billion stars (that's less than 1% of all the stars in the galaxy, though).

More links here.

[1,424 days down, 38 to go until the inauguration of a real president.]

11 December 2020

Video of the day -- for evolution

Awe before the strange eons that brought us forth on this unique world.  Glory to the mind that at last understood it all.

10 December 2020

Quote for the day -- the parasite class

08 December 2020


Today marks one year since she was taken from me.  The grieving no longer dominates my time and thoughts as it did at first, but it is still there, and still comes back to me very strongly at some times.  It's part of the capacity to remember and feel, without which we would be less than human.

She took care of me when I was a baby, of course, although I don't remember very much of that.  For most of my life she was more of a friend than anything else.  We usually lived pretty close together and I was able to visit fairly often.  Then for her last nine years, after her stroke, the roles were reversed.  She recovered a good deal of lucidity for several years, but couldn't drive or live independently any more, and my life became increasingly focused on taking care of her needs.  Even towards the end when it became more than I could handle and she had to go to a nursing home, I kept on visiting her every day, making sure she was getting proper care, interceding with the management when anything felt awry.

Perhaps it was that long period of role reversal that made her death hit me so hard -- harder, I think, than the loss of a parent does with most people.  Perhaps it was more like losing a child.

I saw the slow horror of the aging process up close, year by year toward the end.  Her short-term memory failed, she became prey to delusions, lost her ability to think coherently.  For the last couple of weeks she couldn't speak intelligibly and hardly seemed to understand what was going on around her.  But she always recognized me.  I think I was still making things a little better, by being there.

At the very end, something went wrong with blood oxygenation and there was nothing but gasping and fear.  When the nurses asked me, I told them to focus on minimizing suffering rather than prolonging existence.  It's a kind of decision no one should ever have to make, but by then it would have been madness to say anything else.

The next morning it was over.

Those nine years changed me.  For a long time afterwards, I was haunted by feelings that she was still there somehow, in some realm beyond this life, and still needing my help in some way.  I no longer have such episodes now.  I guess my brain has finally grasped that she is gone.

All those years of visiting her every day, keeping her safe, shopping for her, taking care of her apartment, advocating for her, managing her medications, dealing with crises large and small as they arose -- as hard as it sometimes was, it was worth it, more worth it than anything else I've ever done.  And at least I know that whatever other shortcomings I may have, when it came to the most important and most difficult challenge life ever presented to me -- I did not fail her.

If I am wrong about the nature of existence and there is a kind of life after this one, or if it is one day possible for lives ended biologically to be restored in some way -- then what I would wish for the most is that we occasionally be able to meet and chat over afternoon tea again, as we did in the good old days.

06 December 2020

Link round-up for 6 December 2020

Please consider donating or otherwise helping the Georgia runoff effort at these links -- Fair Fight, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock.

o o o o o

Use wrapping paper carefully.

Oh, what fun, if life were a video game.

Dogs anticipate Christmas.

Porn is unrealistic.

Happy Krampusnacht!

Observe the fiftieth anniversary of Oregon's famous exploding whale.

This parrot isn't so smart.

"Alpha male."

Hey, it's a pretty decent photo.

Try fancy cooking the simple way.

Cats have attitude.

Melania must be an alien.

In a job interview, be honest.

Have more fun with Trump's tiny desk (found via The Arm Chair Pontificator).

A singer finds an artificial aid a little too effective.

Celebrate a pagan Christmas.

Stop mooning the Sun.

Esme's Cloud presents teapots from Hell.

A dong disappears in Deutschland.

Here's your planning calendar for December.

Don't be negative, go out and enjoy life.


Nobody in Boston was ready for a 25-foot-high wave of molasses (can you blame them?).

I choose to read this little story as a metaphor for retirement.

Learn all about It's a Wonderful Life.

There is now such a thing as vegan milk chocolate.

The 1973 "sex raft" experiment was less fun than it sounded (dial ad-blocker up to 11 for that site, sorry).

Read a few observations from Steven Wright.

The newly-accessible city of Hegra offers superb architectural remains of the Nabataean kingdom, an Arabic-speaking civilization centuries before Islam.

"Baikal Zen" produces strange rock-and-ice effects.

Diderot's Encyclopédie was a massive project aiming to catalog all of 18th-century human knowledge.

Did the Portuguese discover South America before Columbus?  Probably not.

Flagrant Christian bullying:  this person was apparently fired for refusing to participate in an employer-mandated prayer.

Ellen Abbott recommends some novels, since we're going to be quarantining a while longer.

A librarian contemplates the Trump presidential library.  Joann Williams can already imagine it.

Best church sign ever, maybe.

Big Bad Bald Bastard remembers David Prowse.

Here's some kraken news, with a special bonus fart from Rudy Giuliani.

Caesar anticipated Trump's fate.

Southeastern Portland is the scene of a raging toilet war.

The omniscience of God creates certain logical problems.

Trumpism is a death cult.

Avoid church dinners, and not just because of covid-19.

Arguing on the internet is pointless.

Yellowdog Granny has another huge round-up of imagesThis one should be thrown in the faces of all wingnuts as long as the pandemic lasts.

No, having the ability to figure out whether claims are true or not isn't "fascism".  Idiots.

News humorists look at presidential pardons.  Trump might be increasing his legal troubles by handing them out.

"Joe diGenova, the attorney for the Turdmaggot Campaign who handles the tasks that don’t involve self-immolating in front of dildo shops....."

Experience can be more valuable than youth.

The wingnuts are beginning to devour one another.

Conspiratards aren't good at spotting logical contradictions.

The US was not founded as a Christian nation.

Pardoning Nixon helped create the current mess.

The E Jean Carroll defamation case hasn't gone away.

The House has passed a bill federally decriminalizing marijuana, though for now it has no chance in the Senate.

Annie Asks You celebrates Biden's monstrous regiment of women.

Iowa's government Trumpishly fiddle-faddles while the pandemic burns through the state.

Companies keep coming up with new ways to make the work environment even more miserable.  It's already malignant enough.

The post-election violence we feared hasn't erupted -- yet.

Trumpanzee self-delusion is the fulfillment of Christianity.

Here's how to recognize a modern witch-hunt.

The wingnut capture of the Supreme Court sets it at odds with an ever-more-secular society.

No healing without prosecution.  Don't let "never-Trump" Republicans evade responsibility.

Use of puberty blockers for "gender dysphoria" isn't comparable to using them for precocious puberty.

A megachurch pastor who defied covid-19 precautions has now died of the disease.

Darwinfish 2 dissects a Republican whine-fest.  The party is purging the non-deranged from its ranks (found via Hackwhackers).

Not everyone is happy with Bruce Gerencser's well-informed exposure of the IFB cult.

A wingnut-infested Kansas town abused its doctor for months as she tried to fight covid-19; now the disease is running rampant there.

Biden prepares to work around Moscow Mitch if needed.

Willie Simmons has been in prison since 1982 for stealing $9.

Watch Gabriel Sterling's vigorous denunciation of the threats engulfing the election process.  But don't expect Trump to pay heed.

Trump provided a battle plan for future election-stealers, but it's still not likely to actually happen.  Our democracy turned out to be pretty robust.

Belief in meritocracy will make you a worse human being.

Sotomayor was the voice of reason in the Supreme Court church super-spreader ruling.

Republican leaders grovel before Trump in disgraceful cowardice (found via Hackwhackers).

Only certain people are allowed to say no.

Here's why Democrats did badly in the House races.  But hopes of winning over rural America may be a pipe dream.

Stop pretending Trump's nonsense is plausible.

This video shows, or purports to show, effects of radiation mutation in children born after the Chernobyl disaster (disturbing imagery).

Alberta, too, has its anti-mask wingnuts.

Here's a close look at the landmark Tavistock ruling in the UK (found via Dead Wild Roses).  More here.

See a few vignettes from France under lockdown.

Belarus's security forces become increasingly brutal against pro-democracy demonstrations.

There are vast lakes in which no human will ever swim (found via Miss Cellania).

Aging-reversal technology has succeeded in restoring vision in mice blinded by glaucoma (found via Cop Car).  The same techniques may well work on other organs.

They reproduce by looking like shit.

Watch the tragic collapse of the Arecibo radio telescope.

More links here.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- last week I posted a 70s pop song with a difference, the tale of an ancient con man, and a poetic journey to enlightenment.

03 December 2020

Meditation #10 -- the enlightenment

On the boundless plain where the two worlds meet
Where you lived ten million empty lives
Until the great wave of sand crashed home
Can wisdom take root here?

Fury stoked fear, then calm stoked -- your pride
You faced your terror, found yourself its match
City ruined, life risen, deep and strange
Their steel rusted, you lived.

You paused a while, then you crossed the river
All was done, then it all slipped away
Stolen land, a new haunted tribe, and yet
In the end, nothing learned.

o o o o o

By the southern seas where R'lyeh sleeps
Where you savored the warmth, but not the heat
Beneath the gaze of inhuman eyes
Can wisdom take root here?

The man-made god who had made man god
Knew not what now he was raising up
In your hate's fierce power, defying them both
Coming to know yourself.

Then the men of the mundane burst in
Shattered the world you had made your own
Dealing death, calling you away -- you wept
But this time, remembered.

o o o o o

In the icy wastes of the last of lands
Where you learned so soon under howling skies
Of unending night and unsetting sun
Can wisdom take root here?

Frozen outside, warm at home, always she
Goddess eyes, offering much, asking much
Driven out, risen to rule at last
Fury stilled, peace achieved

As she arose, so you too shall arise
Ending your journey, ready for the next
Out of the ice, fit to reach for the stars
Now forever awake!

01 December 2020

Quote for the day -- they've been pulling this stuff for a long time

From Broca's Brain by Carl Sagan:

In Greece of the second century AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, there lived a master con man named Alexander of Abonutichus.  Handsome, clever, and totally unscrupulous, in the words of one of his contemporaries, he "went about living on occult pretensions."  In his most famous imposture, "he rushed into the marketplace, naked except for a gold-spangled loincloth; with nothing but this and his scimitar, and shaking his long, loose hair, like fanatics who collect money in the name of Cybele, he climbed onto a lofty altar and delivered a harangue" predicting the advent of a new and oracular god.  Alexander then raced to the construction site of a temple, the crowd streaming after him, and discovered -- where he had previously buried it -- a goose egg in which he had sealed up a baby snake.  Opening the egg, he announced the snakelet as the prophesied god.  Alexander retired to his house for a few days, and then admitted the breathless crowds, who observed his body now entwined with a large serpent:  the snake had grown impressively in the interim.

The serpent was, in fact, of a large and conveniently docile variety, procured for this purpose earlier in Macedonia, and outfitted with a linen head of somewhat human countenance.  The room was dimly lit.  Because of the press of the crowd, no visitor could stay for very long or inspect the serpent very carefully.  The opinion of the multitude was that the seer had indeed delivered a god.

Alexander then pronounced the god ready to answer written questions delivered in sealed envelopes.  When alone, he would lift off or duplicate the seal, read the message, remake the envelope and attach a response.  People flocked from all over the Empire to witness this marvel, an oracular serpent with the head of a man.  In those cases where the oracle later proved not just ambiguous but grossly wrong, Alexander had a simple solution:  he altered his record of the response he had given.  And if the question of a rich man or woman revealed some weakness or guilty secret, Alexander did not scruple at extortion.  The result of all this imposture was an income equivalent today to several hundred thousand dollars per year and fame rivaled by few men of his time.

o o o o o

One can only wonder how many of the world's respected religious and "spiritual" beliefs, including those which still have adherents today, had their true origins in something like this.  Alexander's phony snake god actually became the focus of a cult, though it proved short-lived.