Monday, May 31, 2021

A Most Bizarre Memorial Day

 I've long had a jaundiced view of Memorial Day, a day which is supposed to be marked by solemnity, but in actuality is a time for trips to the beach and boozy cookouts... which is perfectly natural, given the paucity of paid holidays in the American calendar.

This particular Memorial Day is particularly strange, it being the one-hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.  This horrific event saw Black Americans attacked by a racist mob which eventually killed perhaps as many as three-hundred persons and destroyed Greenwood, the most prosperous African American neighborhood in the United States, a neighborhood which was characterized as 'Black Wall Street'.  Ironically, much of Greenwood's prosperity was rooted in racial segregation- since African-Americans were not allowed to shop in White neighborhoods, Black entrepreneurs were able to grow large businesses by catering to Black customers.  

As is typical of many of these incidents, the Tulsa Massacre kicked off when a White woman, Sarah Page, accused a Black man, Dick Rowland of sexual impropriety.  A White mob sought to lynch Rowland,  prompting Black supporters gather around the courthouse in his defense, an armed conflict ensued, and then the indiscriminate attacks on African-American persons, and their businesses, began.  In the course of the attack, the first aerial firebombing of a city, and the only firebombing of an American city, occurred... an aerial firebombing committed by White Americans on African-American civilians.  By the next day, the prosperous Greenwood community was destroyed.

This event was scrubbed from local White newspapers (the offices of the two Black newspapers were burned to the ground) and hidden from the public eye.  Two African-American women documented the massacre and preserved the narrative which had been suppressed by the White establishment.  Oddly enough, the massacre first received widespread attention when it was depicted in an HBO drama based on a comic book.  Personally, I don't remember studying it in high school history, but became aware of it when a commission to study it was formed in the 1990s.

It's impossible not to conclude that the Tulsa Massacre, though supposedly predicated on an accusation of sexual assault, was really inspired by White outrage that there was a thriving Black community on their doorstep.  These Blacks were living above their station, so a backlash had to be organized, no matter how flimsy the evidence of a crime was.  The wounds resulting from the massacre linger a century later, with memories of slain relatives and the destruction of generational wealth.

Right wing pundits like to blame intergenerational poverty in the Aftican-American community on Black pathologies, but the reality is that intergenerational poverty in the Aftican-American community is a product of White pathologies.  On this Memorial Day, memorialize those slain in Tulsa, and weep for the fact that, a century later, the same forces of white supremacy and racism are still prevalent in These Here United States.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Performative Outrage

The latest right-wing outrage concerns a tweet by Kamala Harris telling Americans to enjoy the long weekend.  Of course, this is all performative outrage, as conservative news outlets aren't exactly commemorating the solemnity of Memorial Day:

Also, none of the idiots lambasting VP Harris made a big deal about Vulgarmort actually wishing people a happy Memorial Day, leading me to believe that they operate on a double standard. 

I don't begrudge people having a good time on Memorial Day weekend, paid days off are a rare occurrence for American workers. If the authorities wanted people to spend the day in solemn reflection, they should move it to January or February, when the westher is more conducive for somber occasions. The day has pretty much lost its significance for anyone who hasn't lost a loved one to war- it's now a day for the opening of the beach season, and for sales at home goods stores. 

The attacks on Vice President Harris are cynical, and unconvincing... yet they aren't nearly as stupid as the current criticism of President Biden.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Banner Day in Loonyland

Today was a big day for lunatics.  First up, we have a $500/head QAnon conference in Dallas, taking place in a venue that looks like a nightmare version of a dude ranch.  I've been checking out a couple of live Twitter feeds covering the event, and it's boilerplate right-wing nonsense, albeit with an all-star cast of nutbars, including Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, and Louie Gohmert.  There is a live stream on YouTube if you're morbidly curious, but I don't want to send traffic to the MAGA creeps running the channel via a link.  It's easy enough to find.

On perhaps a more momentous note, there is a new poster on internet sewer 8Kun who some Qcumbers are hailing as the return of 'Q', even though the post is signed 'B' and lacks an authenticating tripcode:

It's a short post, merely a hint of cryptic bullshit, but it's a hit for the Q junkies who have been in withdrawal since the mystery shitposter went offline back in December.  It will be interesting to see if the qommunity rallies around this individual, of if this will lead to additional balkanization of the movement.  It's been grifter-against-grifter lately, and in this conflict, I'm rooting for casualties.

Yeah, it's kinda sad to be following this, but today has been a cold-and-rainy late May day, the sort of day which is NOT tailor-made for going to the beach.  At least some people were having a banner day.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Total White Guy Moment

If there's one thing straight white males dislike, it's discussing the existence of straight, white, male privilege.  I've posted about it before, noting that for most of us, straight white male privilege is invisible, therefore most of us pretend it doesn't exist.  Hell, even though I acknowledge it, it's been a while since I've posted about it.

A couple of nights ago, though, I had a moment of white male privilege, a sort of Total White Guy Moment, if you will.  It occurred on the job...  At approximately 11:30PM, I was walking across the property to give my coworker Ginger her requisite half can of catfood, when I spied a police cruiser crawling along the site perimeter, spotlight shining over the fence.  Having a need to know if there was something afoot that I needed to be aware of, I decided to approach the cruiser.  Every once in a while, there is an occurrence in the town, say a stabbing or other assault, which leads to a manhunt, and our site, with its wooded areas, would seem to be a logical place to lay low.  It doesn't happen often, but I have had conversations with local gendarmes across the fence concerning such incidents.  I like to think of myself as the most dangerous animal onsite, so the idea that someone with stabby tendencies is hiding in the shrubbery is offensive to me.

I approached the perimeter fence in the vicinity of the police cruiser, waving my flashlight to get the officer's attention.  Of course, I kept both of my hands in view.  I hailed the officer with my typical opener: "How can I help you, officer?"  As a white guy, and one of a particular demeanor (I'm not an authoritarian, but I can convincingly play one), I find that this conversational gambit to be useful, it pretty much deputizes myself.  I asked him if there were any incidents that I needed to be aware of, any potentially threatening individuals to be on the lookout for.

There weren't... while cruising the perimeter, the police officer heard an unidentifiable racket coming from our property.  Having listened to it all night, I knew it was a combined chorus of the green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) and bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus)I told him the cacaphony was the local frog population, and asked him if he wanted to come onsite to get a closer look, an invitation he declined.  We then chatted for a while, and he told me about a trip he had taken as a thirteen year old with his parents to South America- while on a boat ride down the Amazon, he had heard some unforgettable animal noises.  I joked about the job being a Scooby Doo episode every night, and the need, well MY need, to investigate weird noises on a regular basis.  After this pleasant conversation, we bid each other goodnight.

Immediately afterward, I realized that this entire incident was possible because I was a white guy, and one of a certain age and demeanor.  The police officer never questioned my right to be where I was, and never was I the subject of suspicion or uneasiness.  Similarly, never once did I feel any trepidation, even though I made damn sure to keep my hands in sight at all times, hanging my arms over the fence to show that I wasn't holding anything.  If I were a person of color, I don't know if I would have received the same treatment, I kinda doubt it, though I don't want to cast aspersions on this particular officer.

Racism ruins everything.  Hell, I am a passive beneficiary of racism, even if I protest that I don't endorse it.  Even after a pleasant conversation, combined with the relief that I wouldn't have to be on the lookout for a lurker, I had a touch of melancholy that not everyone would have received the same treatment.  Yeah, racism ruins everything, except frogs.  Frogs are 100% awesome.  Well, cartoon frogs excepted.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

From Jack Vance to Cy Vance

 Yesterday, I posted a diverting piece commemorating a beloved author, so today I figured I'd go back to the subject of politics.  Yesterday, I posted about Jack Vance, today I am pivoting to post about Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who convened a grand jury to determine if Trump should face criminal charges.  As a New Yorker, I've suspected that Trump has been guilty of fraud (among other crimes) for decades, and finally something might be done about this deadbeat tax-cheat.  For years, it's been alleged that Trump manipulated real estate values in order to maximize profits, and values of loans, and to minimize tax burdens.

Perhaps the most delicious factor in this grand jury empanelling is the role being played by Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of Trump's longstanding finance man.  Apparently, she handed over years worth of documents in response to a subpoena.  Insert 'Hell hath no fury' quote.  Former Trump consigliere Michael Cohen also handed over a bunch of documents.  I guess this is what happens when your criminal boss has absolutely no loyalty to anyone whatsoever.

Cy Vance's investigation is the second blow in the one-two punch initiated by New York State attorney general Letitia James, who recently announced that her investigation into the Trump Organization would take on a criminal capacity, formerly being a civil matter.  As a New Yorker, I have to note that we have hated Trump for a much longer time than anyone else.

Another New Yorker, a blonde lady in leafy Chappaqua, must be laughing her ass off right now.  "Lock her up," indeed!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

2021 International Talk Like a Jack Vance Character Day

In the midst of our quotidian rhodomontade, we pause to sing panegyrics to our estimable sage, Jack Vance, whose decamping from the terrestrial realm occurred on this date.  Let us not rend our accouterments in tristesse, rather let us emulate the sagacious scrivener and declaim, in nuncupatory fashion, utterances in the Vancian idiom.

Thus and so, we commemorate this solemn occasion by chiding churls and mooncalves, remonstrating against the chicaneries of mountebanks and charlatans, thereby augmenting our strakh.  Importunate idlers and obstreperous rogues beware!

Better bring along a pocket thesaurus!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Killing Joke

There are a lot of elements of the QAnon conspiracy complex, which absorbs and assimilates other conspiracy theories, which are darkly comedic, such as lurid tales of mole children and evil reptilian aliens posing as the rulers of the planet.  The whole farrago is one big joke, but one with deadly consequences.  In short, Morrissey pretty much nailed where this joke has gone.

This story about a QAnon adherent/victim locking her children in their rooms and setting fire to her house is pure horror.  The truth behind her arson, attempted murder came out gradually, as recordings made by the first responders were made public:

The helmet cam caught Corliss screaming, "Get the f--- away from me, I've had wormwood, you'll all die," the affidavit stated. The captain accused her of pushing him away when he tried to keep control of her.

Later, she was lowered by a ladder but was accused of grabbing onto the ladder and attempting to keep firefighters from taking her out of the home.

After being led to safety, Corliss was unstable, the report said. When one firefighter stated she was acting crazy, she heard the comment and yelled she was not crazy, the affidavit stated. 

A Boscawen police lieutenant carried Corliss to an ambulance, but she was accused of being combative with him, too. Corliss hit the lieutenant in the face with her bloody hand and said he was now infected, the report said. The lieutenant accused Corliss of screaming about her body being "poisoned" and "you'll die if you eat me," as well as blaming her father for selling her into slavery, calling herself by other names, and admitting to trying to kill herself.

"At no time during the incident did Corliss tell anyone that the children were inside the room," the investigator stated. 

This attempted murder is eerily similar to the April murders of three California children by their mother, in what seems to be a terrifying combination of post-partum depression and conspiracist derangement.  The daughter of the New Hampshire woman recounted her mother's reason for attempting to burn her to death:

The investigator said EMTs spoke with the girl while she was being taken to Concord Hospital. The girl told the EMT that her mom told her that "bad guys broke in" and "my mom set the fire to protect us," according to the affidavit. At Concord Hospital, a doctor also heard a similar statement from the girl. 

I am firmly of the belief that the whole QAnon thing began as a LARP on 4Chan, an internet bulletin board on which anonymous shitposters often try to outdo each other with tales told while posing as government insiders, and was taken over by the owners of the 8Chan/8Kun board in order to drive traffic to their website, and incidentally to inspire MAGA morons to worship Trump.  It started off as a joke, then took on a life of its own, and eventually led to something deadly.

Post title taken from the name of an influential post-punk. proto-industrial band from London.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Silly Plebian, Bribes Are for Rich People!

I like to think of myself as an adult, and I take the responsibilities of adulthood seriously.  As soon as I became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, I scheduled an appointment to get one, even electing to drive to a vaccination site seventy-five miles away so I would receive an inoculation a month and a half earlier than I would at a closer site.  I am an adult, I have obligations... an obligation to protect those around me, an obligation to avoid burdening an overextended healthcare system, an obligation to my employer and my coworkers to facilitate the reopening of the workplace and the return to work of about eighty percent of my compatriots (this is still up in the air, though Human Resources has distributed COVID surveys to assess how many of us are fully inoculated).  Yes, I like to think of myself as an adult, and my adult responsibilities were sufficient to convince me to receive the vaccine.

Not everybody feels this way, some because of anti-vaccination stances, inspired by conspiracy theories, and some because of laziness, inertia, or concern about not having paid sick leave if they feel a not-that-uncommon post-vaccine malaise.  In this case, incentives can work, whether free donuts, free beer, free subway cards, scholarships, or as Tengrain notes, lottery tickets.  The prospect of free lottery tickets for vaccine recipients hasn't gone over well in all quarters, as evidenced by state Representative Jena Powell's reaction:

Oddly enough, I'm sure she wouldn't object to lowering marginal tax rates on the highest brackets, or for that matter, PPE loans for businesses owned by well-heeled, well-connected individuals, even though those are 'gimmicky programs'.  I'm sure no regular clock-punching Ohioan would object to a shot, however long, at a million dollar payout.  Powell is just objecting because this 'bribe' is going to a plebian.  Bribes are sonly for wealthy insiders!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

You're Living in Your Own Greater Idaho

 Conservatives are continually throwing tantrums when they don't get their way, and one of the main forms which these tantrums take is talk of secession, from the formation of the Confederate States of America to the Texit.  Last week, there were votes in Oregon counties to secede from the 'too liberal' state and join with Idaho to form a Greater Idaho, incorporating parts of California as well.  Rural Republican Oregonians just can't deal with the fact that they are outnumbered by liberal residents of the Portland metropolitan area, so they want out.  This is all part of a right-wing white-nationalist American Redoubt movement which seeks to form an all-white ethnostate in the northwest, centered on Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.  Any secession attempt necessitating votes from the state legislatures and Congress, these efforts are doomed to failure, but somebody has got to be looking to make bank on deplorables' discontent.

To make matters even stupider, nutjob Ammon Bundy wants to be the Maharaja of MAGAstan, and, while not even eligible to do so, filed to run in the Idaho gubernatorial race, which is almost certainly s grift.  I can just see his slogan 'Make Greater Idaho Great Again'.

Post title taken from this masterpiece by the B-52s:


Get out of the state you're in, indeed.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Day is Afoot!

 Via Tengrain and By Hook or by Book, I learned that today was international Sherlock Holmes Day, celebrated on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.  We grew up with the collected Sherlock Holmes on one of the numerous bookshelves in the family home, and what a companion he's been- with his scientific approach to crime, his brilliant analytic mind, and his command of Bartitsu, Holmes never failed to supply a bit of mystery and derring-do, all wrapped up in a relatively quick read.  Also, Watson's constant ejaculations were hilarious to a young me... if only Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have known how the language would change.

Tengrain's post mentioned that, while the original Holmes stories are in the public domain, the character of Sherlock Holmes is still privately owned, necessitating permission to use.  In the meantime, I've taken great pleasure in stories of the master detective battling cocaine addiction with Freud, matching wits with Dracula, and contending with Lovecraftian horrors.  I've read pastiches in which a Holmes expy (WARNING: TV Tropes link, major time sink) solved crimes in a sorcery-infused alternate reality, and in which Holmes was on the trail of a Jack the Ripper and his dog.  I discovered with great pleasure that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written Holmes-related novels.

Holmes and Watson are enduring characters, starring in stories which can be read as a light diversion in a single sitting, stories in which the readers are constantly amazed by the means in which the great detective deduces the solution to the crime.  I think it's the relative brevity of the stories which has led to their longevity and ubiquity- they are a perfect intellectual snack, and once started, the entire anthology is read, in the same fashion that nobody intends to eat an entire bag of potato chips.  I think I may have to revisit a Holmes original or two in the quiet watches of the night... with any luck, there will be some fog rolling in off the Hudson to provide the proper mood.

Friday, May 21, 2021

That Smug, Self-Satisfied Look

The email from one of the daytime managers struck a familiar chord: someone on the day shift had left a door open and Ginger had gotten out.  In the course of a normal year, when we have a full complement of staff, Ginger has the run of the site throughout the day, and she typically hangs out with her human coworkers, making a great deal about catching mice while she has an audience.  Now that we have a skeleton crew onsite and she was lacking in company, she made a beeline for our parking area when she spied some people picnicking under some trees adjacent to the lot.  The cat knows when people are eating, and I'm sure she was angling for a handout... she's no dummy.

When I work overnights, I like to let her out when I go 'on the scout', checking the facilities.  She's good company, and I like to give her some physical exercise and mental stimulation.  Like random picnickers, I also give her a little treat now and again.  I tend to rotate which building she works in, again to give her some novelty when there aren't that many companions around.

I think she's happy, I mean, look at this smug, self-satisfied look:


She knows who's the real boss, no matter which shift she's working.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Backed by the Full Faith and Credit of Techbros

 It's been a while since I've posted about Bitcoin, which is what I noted the last time I posted about Bitcoin.  This week saw a thirty percent drop in the value of Bitcoin (down almost 50% from its high point), which largely recovered... the plunge was, to a large extent, precipitated by Elon Musk's decision to disallow Bitcoin payments for Tesla vehicles and China's ban on cryptocurrency transactions.  This is what happens when your currency is backed by the full faith and credit of a bunch of Randian techbros.  A Deutsche Bank analyst came right out and stated 'the value of Bitcoin is entirely based on wishful thinking.'

I have a friend who was an early adopter of Bitcoin and, hilariously, is a socialist.  He's doing well, but I would note that early adopters of a Ponzi scheme tend to make out well when they get payouts- it's the late adopters who get shafted.  In a funny aside, years ago, he offered a prize of three Bitcoins for the first place winner of the New York Open Judo Tournament, and the winner, a French judoka, recently asked him: "Did you ever pay me those three Bitcoin?"

"Yes, you sold them for five hundred dollars."

Yeah, he'll do well, because he was an early adopter, and he's comfortable with the volatility of the asset, having cool head.  I really wouldn't want to invest in an asset that isn't based on anything.

And don't even get me started on Dogecoin, which started off as a joke, then took on a life of its own.  I seem to recall that Trump's candidacy also started off as a joke.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture: The Disordered Cosmos

Tonight, my great and good friends at the Secret Science Club are presenting a Zoom lecture with theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and feminist theorist Dr Chanda Prescod-Weinstein of the University of New Hampshire.  Dr Prescod-Weinstein is a founder of Particles for Justice and author of The Disordered Cosmos.

Dr Prescod-Weinstein began her lecture with the story of the cosmos- the universe went through a period of inflation after the Big Bang, when spacetime expanded rapidly.  the age of the universe is approximately 14 billion years, the number changes as more data accumulates.

Evidence about the period after the Big Bang can be observed in the form of the cosmic microwave background radiation.  The CMB radiation is the coldest radiation in the universe- with an average of 2.7 degrees Kelvin and little variation.  It has been 'mapped' by the Planck space observatory:

Dr Prescod-Weinstein then showed the 'first light' infrared image from the Spitzer space telescope, depicting the universe about 400 thousand years after the universe began.  In this infrared image, one can see nuclear fusion 'turn on' in stars:



Dr Prescod-Weinstein  followed this up with an image from the Hubble deep field depicting a multitude of galaxies:


Dr Prescod-Weinstein noted that theoretical physicists attempt to piece together a coherent mathematical story of the universe.  Images are snapshots, the physicists try to find out why they look like they do.  How much information is imprinted on the photons depicted in these snapshots?

The different colors in the Planck telescope image represent tiny fluctuations which signify the seeds of structure formation... the nascent.stars, galaxies, globular clusters which ultimately form  the seeds of the beginning of us, since we are also structures formed in the universe.

The Planck image represents a degree of homogeneity, the composition of the universe was similar, and isoptropy, the universe is uniform in all directions.  On a cosmological scales, the universe is full of galaxies, connected by filaments between.  The universe is expanding, but Dr Prescod-Weinstein didn't quite like modeling this as galaxies getting farther apart, likening the expanding universe to an inflating balloon... one wouldn't characterize the distance between dots on a balloon as empty space.  The expansion of the universe is increasing in speed, and this cosmic acceleration has come to be known as dark energy

Most of the matter in the universe has not been observable, and dark matter has been proposed to account for this lack of observable 'standard model matter'.  In the 1970s, astronomer Vera Rubin noted that the rotational speed of the Andromeda Galaxy seemed to be wrong and proposed that dark matter at the edges of the galaxy caused the discrepancy between what she observed and what had been expected.  In the sciences, theory and observation need to be reconciled.  For a while, there was a debate over whether dark matter or a  new theory of gravity would be correct... the consensus position was to stick with dark matter.  Dr Prescod-Weinstein stated that she personally prefers the term 'invisible matter' to 'dark matter', illustrating what she meant by cupping her hands and quipping that, if she had a handful of dark matter, light would be passing through it, it wouldn't obscure vision.  As far as the term 'dark energy' is concerned, she prefers 'cosmic expansion problem' to describe this phenomenon.

It is believed that galaxies are surrounded by a halo of dark matter.  Large galaxies also have satellite galaxies with halos of their own.  The Milky Way has 60 satellite galaxies, including the Magellanic Clouds, within its dark matter gravity well

Light goes through dark matter with no photon interaction.  Dark matter moves slowly.  It is not short lived.  Dark matter is nvolved in the hierarchical structure of the universe.  If dark matter interacts with standard particles, such interactions would have to be sought in particle colliders, and points of interaction could then be sought on an astronomical level.  Dr Prescod-Weinstein displayed a slide depicting possible non-gravitational interactions between dark matter and standard model particles:

In the search for dark matter, certain properties would be expected of a good candidate- such a particle should be stable, colorless/chargeless, cold, non-dissipative, and  consistent with what we see.

Dr Prescod-Weinstein then showed us a Venn Diagram depicting the various theories proposed to explain dark matter:

Dr Prescod-Weinstein stated that the problem probably lies beyond standard model physics.  She noted that confusion is not an obstacle for scientists: "It's our job to be confused and to work beyond our confusion.

Dr Prescod-Weinstein then shifted the topic of the lecture to the axion, a hypothetical particle the existence of which was proposed in the Peccei-Quinn mechanism to solve bad predictions stemming from the strong CP problem.  She displayed a couple of equations outlining the theoretical basis for the axion proposal, and said to ask her about the higglet in the Q&A.

The late physicist Dr Ann Nelson was a champion for axions describing them as natural and elegant, and viable- a good dark matter model  Axions would be bosons.  Bosons can be distinguished from.  fermions- when cooled, fermions go to the lowest energy quantum state possible while bosons when cooled form a condensate with same ground state act as single particle.  Such a condensate could explain fuzzy dark matter in which ultralight axions would.behave like a wave.

One possible detection method for axions would involve an nteraction with electromagnetic fields, resulting in the Primakoff effect, then scientists could look for axions astrophysically- do simulations match what we observe?

Dr Prescod-Weinstein then discussed the ssocial and human side to science.  She is the first black American woman who on a tenure track in theoretical physics.  She has been a barrier breaker throughout her career trajectory.  She noted, though, that Black people have always been involved in science, citing Onesimus, a man enslaved in Cotton Mather's household, who demonstrated how to prevent smallpox with a form of inoculation.

There has always been a Black tradition of science.  Why do race and gender matter?  Social phenomena shape science because universality and objectivity are different.  Physics apply everywhere, but are observers objective when it comes to grant money or the seriousness with which theories are taken?  This is about our assumptions about competence, not physics.  Social justice must also come into consideration, as in the example of indigenous Hawaiian opposition to the construction of the 30 meter telescope in Hawaii.

Dr Prescod-Weinstein ended her lecture by stating that spacetime is curved, not straight- it's not just for straight, white cis men.

The lecture was followed up with a Q&A session.  The leading question was: Why does the cosmic microwave background persist?  The universe prior to it is opaque- the photons that we see have been traveliing through spacetime for 13 billion years, and are red-shifted.  CMB was discovered twice- 1940s observation near a star revealed that space was not empty, but radiation was present.  Then two radio astronomers discovered a signal which wouldn't go away, which turned out to be the CMB.

Some Bastard in the audience took up Dr Prescod-Weinstein's challenge to ask her about the 'Higglet'.  She noted that she is AA Milne fan, and the axion was called the Higglet by Dr Steven Weinberg...    axion was the name of a laundry detergent (the proposed particle cleaned up a problem), named after a Greek orthodox liturgy.  As a Milne fan, the Good Doctor opined that Higglet would have been a more accessible name for the public.

Asked about the TV show The Big Bang Theory- the Doctor was not a fan- white men treating people poorly isn't funny.  This sort of rude behavior injures women and people of color.  The show was grotesque, and damaging to the scientific community.

Galaxy halo theory- is there dark matter outside the halos?  Where do we set the edge of such halos?  There is dark matter inside the galaxy as well, some is probably passing through your body right now.  The one thing that dark matter does have in common with standard model particle matter is interactivity with gravity.

Which experiments have the best potential to find dark matter?  Dr Prescod-Weinstein joked that it's a religious question...She personally loves the Bose-Einstein condensates formed by axions, and noted that she started working on axions because it was an available topic and she became known as a global expert on the topic.  She noted that people working at the Large Hadron Collider searching for supersymmetry started working on axions when they didn't find evidence of supersymmetry.

The doctor noted that the universe does what it does, and the universe doesn't care whether we can understand the universe.  She then amended her statement, saying the universe does what it does, and the universe mostly doesn't care whether we can understand the universe, with human beings being a part of the universe which cares about understanding the universe.

Asked about future research, she informed us that one of her research topics now is the soft interactions of axions.  She would be happy about anything that pushes cosmology beyond the standard model.

Once again, the Secret Science Club team has presented a fantastic lecture.  Kudos to Dr Prescod-Weinstein, and Margaret and Dorian.  For a taste of that SSC experience, here is a lengthy discussion by the Doctor regarding The Disordered Cosmos:

Pour yourself a nice beverage and soak in that SCIENCE!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

No Need for a Bipartisan Commission

The very idea of a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection of 1/6/21 is grotesque, so I won't blame Rep Kevin McCarthy for opposing it... though for different reasons.  It has to be noted that McCarthy, when the MAGA mob was storming the Capitol, begged Trump to call them off, and was rebuffed.  Similarly, Georgia rep Andrew Clyde, who was barricading the House chamber on 1/6, recently claimed that the insurrection was no different than a normal tourist visit.

There's no need for a bipartisan commission, the Republicans are attempting to gaslight a public that knows what it has seen played over and over on numerous video streaming platforms.  They would only obstruct and obfuscate.  Meanwhile, insurrection instigator Rep Greene (R-8Chan), is claiming that the incarcerated insurrectionists are being abused, merely by being incarcerated.  Of course, the fact that these creeps are armed, dangerous, and unrepentant doesn't even enter into her cri du cul.

To nominate a commission composed of members from both parties, the party of individuals who faced death and dismemberment at the hands of MAGA minions, and the party of individuals who egged those violent coup kooks, would be a waste of time and effort.  This is a matter for the Department of Justice, and any congressional investigation would best be conducted solely by Democratic House members.  No need to proceed with a charade involving known liars trying to score partisan points.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Something to Listen to in the Watches of the Morning

Working nights has its particular pleasures, one of which is having quiet time in the solitude of the wee hours.  In between the typically not-too-arduous tasks I have to perform, there is plenty of time for reading, or for listening to podcasts.  Recently, I found a way to combine recreational reading and podcast listening in the form of a podcast about my beloved Gene Wolfe.  The ReReading Wolfe podcast has a tagline which rings true for the Wolfe fan: "You can't read a Gene Wolfe story, you can only reread a Gene Wolfe story."

Wolfe's oeuvre consists of dense, literary 'genre fiction', with unreliable narrators, allusions to other works of fiction, and plenty of wordplay.  The podcast has been concentrating on a chapter-by-chapter review of Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, his magnum opus.  TBotNS is ultimately a story about stories, set in a future in which so much history has accumulated that it is indistinguishable from myth- in one hilarious moment, the protagonist reads a story in which the Minotaur and the Monitor are conflated.  The book is dense, and requires a lot of careful attention, so a reread accompanied by a discussion, including guest appearances by Wolfe scholars, is a fun exercise.  The podcast is also very funny, with each episode being presented by a fake sponsor which is lifted from the text of the book.

It's a fun listen for a certain demographic, of which I am a member.   Best of all, it's gotten me to pick up the book again.  I've read it a couple of times, trying to piece together more of the Byzantine narrative which lurks behind the main plot.  If you're a Wolfe fan, it's pretty much essential listening.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Il Ritorno di Normalità

The COVID-19 pandemic taught me that the small things count for a great deal of happiness, those minor routines which weren't overly special in the Before Times. Tonight, I was able to sit down for dinner with friends at a restaurant- linen napkins, shared appetizer platess... just like it used to be in the Old World (though we all work masks while walking to and from our table).  

Louie and Johnnie's is one of those venerable red-sauce restaurants that simply puts out great food in large portions, with fantastic service and Old World hospitality. It has changed locations a couple of times in the past three decades, but it remains the same basic place I remember eating escarole and beans in thirty years ago... though the current location, where it's been for at least fifteen years, has a fancier dining room, adjacent to the more casual pizza counter. 

The real significance of going out to dine is the signal that normality is returning, and the reintegration of the always hardworking food service employees back into the workforce. I haven't experienced any diminution of wages in the past year, it's time to redistribute some of my money and good fortune to people who had a rough go of things during the shutdown. These people are my neighbors, so I am obliged to pitch in for everybody's good. In return, I get a warm welcome and a hot meal... it's a tradition of hospitality that I learned as a child, and it feels good to vote my values with my pocketbook.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

A Handsome Boy With a Fancy Haircut

I haven't posted about my upstairs neighbor George in a while, but he's looking pretty dapper these days.  He's got a new spring look, which is a change from his shaggier winter hairdo.  Here's the 'before' picture of my friend, pondering the destruction of a soccer ball:


He's sporting a sleek new look, as seen in this picture of him taunting me by refusing to hand over a squeaky toy that he loves to 'fetch', and maul (he's a terrier, so he's tenacious when he bites something):



The tail says 'let's play', while the skeptical look on his face says, 'just you try to get this thing'.  Uhh, buddy-boy, I can't throw it for you if you don't relinquish it!

Lately, he's been kicking up a fuss on those days when I come home from work at 7AM.  While everybody in his household is up, getting ready for work, school, or athletic endeavors, he knows that there's someone who's done for the day, and has time to goof around with him.  He hears me, and starts barking, and my neighbor lets him out into the yard for some recreational time.  It's become a fun post-work routine, goofing off with a comical little guy who's affectionate, but with a slight grumpy streak (I did mention he's a terrier).

Friday, May 14, 2021

Tinker Tailor Soldier Dumbass

I am on the record as a fan of spy thrillers, anything by Fredrick Forsyth, Trevanian, or John le Carré is catnip for me.  I particularly love those works which feature a cat-and-mouse (or rather, mole) game between brilliant antagonists.  Give me Beryl Reid remembering the thrill of matching wits with a deadly enemy any day, and I'm happy.

Via Tengrain, we have the story of Project Veritas, in conjunction with Erik Prince, enlisting the services of a former British intelligence agent to attempt to entrap insufficiently loyal members of Trump's government.  This spy-type-guy, one Richard Seddon, ran a training camp at a Wyoming ranch and a Georgetown home for PV operatives.  This has been known for a while, but the details have only emerged recently, with news of a mission to use a honeypot to record Trump national security advisor H.R. McMaster disparaging the Former Guy.  Other plots involved the use of honeypots to wheedle information out of FBI agents and other 'Deep State' operatives.

James O'Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, is known for his 'Scooby Doo' villain antics, which led to his one major 'victory', the destruction of antipoverty and social justice organization ACORN... with, of course, the complicity of a media more interested in reporting the freak show than getting to the bottom of the false narrative.  At any rate, O'Keefe, whose own sex boat scheme was to have been a reverse honeypot, alienated Seddon with his low-set sights, or in his words "O'Keefe's desire to produce quick media content rather than to run long-term infiltration operations."

This is what you get when your intelligence operation is run by the stupid.  While Seddon wanted some real cloak-and-dagger stuff, O'Keefe just wanted to produce boob bait to keep the rubes' money flowing in.  





Rich Man 

Poor Man

Stupid Man


Thursday, May 13, 2021

She Knows How to Deal With Workplace Harassment

My mother is a Bronx girl, and even after twenty-odd years living in Northern Virginia, she still retains the accent and bearing of her native borough... you can take the girl out of the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx out of the girl.  So it is with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who left a yelling Marjorie Taylor Greene in her wake, refusing to take the debate bait being dangled by the Congress conspiracist.  Greene was framing her argument in terms of Black Lives Matter and antifascist activists being terrorists.  There's nothing to gain by being dragged into an argument with a loon whose positions are based on false premises.

AOC is a New Yorker, we are all used to dealing with ranting lunatics on the street.  AOC's skill at dealing with abusive idiots was further honed by her work as a bartender, and her description of her interaction was pitch-perfect:

AOC is a magnet for all sorts of right-wing loons, who want to 'debate' her (and pure creep nonsense, for that matter), and her responses are always spot on, the reponses a woman has to formulate while simply existing. She doesn't owe her time to anyone but her constituents. She especially doesn't owe any time to psycho reactionaries:  

"For me, this isn't even about how I feel. It's that I refuse to allow young women, people of color, people who are standing up for what they believe, to see this kind of intimidation attempts by a person who supports White supremacists in our nation's capital." 

Representative Ocasio-Cortez is a Bronx girl, she knows how to deal with harassers of all stripes. You can take the girl out of the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx out of the girl.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Antibodies Do a Body Good

 It's been two weeks since my second Pfizer inoculation, two weeks of building antibodies to fight the COVID-19 virus.  Being fortified thus, I indulged in a year-long dream, and went out for a draft beer at the Captain Lawrence Brewery in Elmsford, NY.  I have been going to the brewery since it opened in 2006 in a smaller location in Pleasantville, NY, and love the beer and the people.  The founder knew he wanted to be a brewmaster before he was of legal drinking age, received the blessings of his parents, and made his dream happen in a big way, even going to college in the San Francisco Bay Area so he could intern with the Anchor Steam Brewing company.  He's a good guy, living out his passion, and he makes a fine variety of beers, which he sells by the growler.  As I noted, I've been jonesing a draft beer for a year, and a locally brewed brown ale was the perfect reintroduction.

I was fortunate enough to be able to meet with several friends as well, and now that we are all vaccinated, I even shook hands, once considered a risky proposition.  Of course, masks were still de rigeur while not sitting at our table, but that's a small concession to drinking a real, bonafide draft beer.  If it weren't a work night, I'd probably have consumed four of five, just to remember what drinking beer properly feels like.

The next course of action is to download the New York State Excelsior Pass (named in honor of Stan Lee, I suppose) when I become eligible tomorrow, and then it's time to buy a New York MTA metrocard and end my year long exile from Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Being full of antibodies, this body can now move beyond the boundaries that have been imposed for a year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

He Shamed His Dojo

One rule of thumb that I live by, stated half-jocularly, is "Do not bring shame upon your dojo."  It's partly a riff on the wuxia movie trope of one's pupils possibly going bad,  but it's mostly a sincere expression of the need for respect when playing a potentially dangerous contact sport.  When we judoka enter a dojo, we bow to show our respect- I liken this to acknowledging that we are entering an uncommon space where we must be better than our normal inclinations- and we bow to each other, to demonstrate trust and respect.

It is with this in mind that I am expressing my real disgust and horror at the story, out of Taiwan, of a seven year old boy who remains in a coma after a judo class run by an incompetent sadist:

A disturbing video has emerged showing him being thrown on a mat by an older classmate during judo practice.

As the lesson continues, he is heard screaming "my leg", "my head" and "I don't want it!" but his coach keeps ordering him to stand up and tells the older boy to go on throwing him. 

When Wei Wei is too weak to get up, the coach, much bigger than him, picks him up and throws him several times as well. At one point, the child vomits, but the "training" doesn't stop.

Altogether, his family says, he was thrown more than 27 times.

As a teacher of children's judo classes, I consider this a most egregious betrayal of a child who wanted to learn judo, of his trusting parents, and of the other students in the class.  I get sick thinking that this child, if he had caring senseis, could have continued playing judo until after his retirement age, rather than lying in a vegetative state at the age of seven.

We stress a safe environment in which to learn and grow together, and we closely monitor those occasions in which the children compete against each other.  We also make sure they have a strong grounding in safe falling techniques, and safe, clean throwing techniques.  When we have older students working with younger students, we trust them to treat the little kids with compassion.  We're lucky to have a great bunch of kids to teach, a bunch of kids who have a genuine love for each other.  A judo class shouldn't be a painful ordeal, it should be a joy.  This is what a workout should look like.

This Ho idiot in Taiwan brought shame upon his dojo, and his betrayal forces the rest of us to justify ourselves to the public.  Judo is supposed to have a moral component, one of the principles of judo, articulated by founder Sensei Jigoro Kano, is the concept of jita kyōei, harmony and cooperation for mutual benefit.  We're not saints, but we strive to be decent people, so an atrocity like the grievous wounding of seven year old Wei Wei cuts to the bone.

Monday, May 10, 2021

I'm Beginning to See a Trend

 For the third time in the space of a week, I'm able to riff off of a classic line delivered by Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars.  Yes, once again, it's a post about an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, and this one's a doozy, by which I mean a dookie...

There is no detail about the story of a crazy drunken man attacking police with a full colostomy bag that isn't perfect... the fact that it occurred at the 'Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N Roll Steakhouse' owned by Kid Rock (himself a colostomy bag) is perfect, the perpetrator's face tattoos, pefect!  Now THAT is an shitty elegant weapon for a more crappy civilized age!

This is truly the American Greatness that Donald Trump sought to recapture in his campaign and maladministration... what could be more emblematic in MAGAland than a drunken boor, enraged at being told not to block a safety exit, flinging his poo at those around him until he is forcibly stopped?  This is truly a man who exercises his Amendment Number Two rights.  If he is isn't incarcerated in 2022, he'd make a perfect GOP congressional candidate.

I can already see his campaign slogan: "What can brown do for you?"

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Happy Mothers' Day, to a Certain Extent

Here's wishing a happy Mothers' Day to all of the mothers in my reading audience. It's tough celebrating Mothers' Day while remaining socially isolated, but I think we've learned to make due with suboptimal holidays. I called Mom up this morning after getting home from work, and had a nice chat. I'm sure that my other siblings all followed suit, we being a devoted lot. The weather being pretty crappy here on the Eastern Seaboard, Mom had no real plans more than relaxing at home (something uncharacteristic of my active, hardworking mother). 

Mom received her second Pfizer inoculation last Thursday, so I can plan a trip to see her in a week and a half or so. I figure that she could use some help with her Spring planting, the weather being non-conducive right now for planting annuals. I mean, she was talking about temperatures hitting 40F (4.4C) tonight. I joked about the current conditions favoring procrastinators. 

At any rate, Mom is in good spirits, but I can tell she's champing at the bit to hit the road to see her kids and grandkids. That will come soon, and that is the best procrastinators' Mothers' Day present of all. Happy Mothers' Day, everybody.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

From the House Floor, I Stab at Thee

 It's not every week that I can write a second topical post using the 'elegant weapon for a more civilized age' trope, but this is not an ordinary week.  Arizona representative Ruben Gallego (D-7th district), a former Marine, used the elegant weapon of sarcasm on Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Cloudcuckooland), describing a search for an elegant weapon:

We live in a society in which the seemingly ever-present danger of workplace violence has led to discussions about the need to improvise weapons in case the unthinkable occurs, and the unthinkable occurring is largely due to the policies and rhetoric of evil mothers like Taylor Greene. I can picture Representative Gallego shopping for steel nib fountain pens the day after the Insurrection. Post title adapted, of course, from Moby Dick, by which I mean The Wrath of Khan.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Piecing Together the Extent of the Horror

Yesterday, I posted about the good news that my mother received her second COVID-19 inoculation, which has me feeling a great deal of relief.  The news on the national level is not so great, however, even though we seem to have turned a corner, as the idiom goes.  Via Tengrain, we have this sobering reminder that the COVID-19 death toll is, on a global scale, probably double that reported by various governments, in the case of the United States, the figure is probably about 38% higher, with a total death toll of over nine hundred thousand Americans.

This particular figure has been calculated by tallying excess deaths, over the statistical average, for the COVID-19 era.  Globally, there has been a discrepancy between official death counts and excess death statistics.

Months ago, I noted that the Former Guy actually stated that not testing for COVID-19 would drive the numbers down, and took away the FDA's authority to regulate COVID-19 testing kits.  Last July, the Trump Maladministration forced the CDC to stop releasing hospitalization and ICU statistics, handing the authority to the Department of Health and Human Services.  It has to be noted that the lowballing of COVID-19 deaths in the US was greatest in localities that supported Trump, though even in New York, nursing home deaths were underreported by the thousands.

A year ago, I predicted that a half-million Americans would die before the pandemic ran its course, and my co-worker countered by saying it would be a million.  I'm starting to think that I may have been a Pollyanna... and to think that I've always maintained that I'm a cynic!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

COVID Relief

Gradually, we seem to be finding our way out of the COVID crisis.  To my vast relief, my mom received her second Pfizer inoculation this afternoon.  I called her a couple of hours after her jab, and she told me she was doing fine- no pain, no fatigue, no adverse reactions at all.  Basically, her experience with the shot seems to be mirroring mine.  I advised her to drink plenty of water, but I'm sure she'll be fine.  Mom walks six miles a day, weather permitting.

The real significance of her second inoculation is that, in two weeks, I should be able to visit Mom without any qualms.  I figure it would be nice to help her out with some gardening, and the weather should be decent enough to do some planting by then (it still gets down to the 40s at night, so it's premature to plant any basil or tomatoes).  Even more importantly, Mom will be able to travel to see her grandchildren.  It's been too long since she's taken a good, long trip.

I don't worry about Mom, she's in good health and has a good local support network in her neighborhood.  She's well squared away, but it's nice to know that she'll be protected from this out-of-the-ordinary scourge. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Your Annual Warning Against the Marxican Threat

For years, I have been warning against the Marxican threat on Cinco de Mao, that perilous day when leftists celebrate the birthday of Karl Marx by drinking a lot of tequila, mezcal, and cervezas. 

Having completely capitulated to the Marxican menace, I signaled my surrender to the Cinco de Mao forces by stopping at a Pueblan restaurant not too far from work to grab some tacos before punching the clock. A lot of other persons had the same idea, the wait for takeout orders was a half hour, plenty of time to call Mom up and tell her I had submitted to the Marxist cause (Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo are Mexican names, no?). Unfortunately, there aren't taco trucks on every corner, but a guy makes do with the taquerias he's got in his various milieus. That being said, La Perla Poblanita puts out some fine cuisine.

Why am I using French vocabulary on this night which celebrates a Mexican vicory over a French army? No puedo decir! It's a pity I couldn't drink any tequila, this being a work night- I actually found some tripe on sale at the supermarket (it used to be cheap), and tomorrow I plan on cooking a world class hangover cure.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Petrol Pump Paladin

 Champions exist among us, those brave souls who, when faced by the evil deeds of evildoers, take arms against the malfeasors, leaving this world safer for the meek-but-law-abiding. Here, we have a veritable Jedi master, facing multiple opponents with an elegant weapon for a more civilized age:

It's not as clumsy or random as a blaster!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Dart the Reluctant

It's infuriating that a sizable percentage of the population is experiencing 'vaccine reluctance'.  It's even more infuriating that the talking points being deployed by the anti-vaxxers, who also tend to be anti-mask and anti-lockdown... being pro-pandemic for all intents and purposes.  The latest lunacy is that vaccinated people shed vaccine particles which interfere with menstrual cycles of those in the vicinity.  This is now being pushed by a QAnon whacko who ran unsuccessfully against Nancy Pelosi.  She believes that vaccines are satanic:

 At this point, we'll never achieve herd immunity with so many vaccine holdouts unless we take drastic measures.  It's time to shoot those idiots with dart guns firing vaccination needles.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Eerie Cries and Nazgûl Eyes

The common red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is an uncommonly beautiful animal, sleek of form and pleasant of hue.  We have them in my neck of the woods, but it is a rare occasion, usually around dawn, when I see one.  Hearing them, though, is another story entirely... it's enough to raise one's hackles.

Right around four-thirty this morning, I heard that screa suh m and rushed out to the field with a high-powered flashlight to get a glimpse.  While I could see the sleek profile of the wee beastie, the most prominent visible features were the twin glows of the animal's tapeta lucida reflecting back at me.  Needless to say, the cat wasn't too happy knowing that there was another predator in the vicinity.  She eagerly jumped onto my shoulder, even though the fox kept a distance of about fifty meters, and was glad when we eventually went back inside.

I'm not the sort of person who scares easily, I couldn't function in my job if I were, but there's something unheimlich about such a sound, even coming from a small, pretty animal.  Of course, my natural inclination is to investigate the sources... contrary to John Bellairs' advice: "Unexplained noises are best left unexplained."

I love my job, I find it a continuous source of beauty and wonder, but it's not for everyone.  To my knowledge, two new hires didn't even last a shift.  I like to think that it's my investigative bent which keeps me here... well, that and a certain level-headedness.  I know I'm the most dangerous animal onsite.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Hooray Hooray the First of May!

 Outdoor judo starts today!

Today was the return of my Saturday morning coaching gig.  In an ordinary year, this program runs from October to March, and takes place indoors- the model of the program being that the children would participate in school athletics in the Spring and Summer.  With social distancing guidelines still in place, we have adapted to the new conditions, and will be running an outdoor program throughout May and June, a semester of eight weeks rather than our traditional ten.

Judo being a contact sport, we haven't really been able to conduct complete classes in which the kids can compete with each other.  Today, we just went over the steps necessary for the throws ippon seoi nage, tai otoshi (my personal favorite), and o soto gari.  We were practicing in a gorgeous locale on the shore of Long Island Sound, and while the scenery was beautiful, when we started it was windy and a bit chilly for early May.

Of course the highlight of the morning was seeing everyone- administrators, coaches, parents, and kids.  We all compared vaccination notes, most of us have received the requisite number of shots (we're not getting any older), and we look forward to a day when we can return to our usual digs,  On a sad note, I learned that Roberto Rulli, loving father, doting grandfather, skilled judoka, brilliant mentor, and good friend, passed away at the age of eighty in Florence, Italy.  He was a kind man, but one who knew more than a few tricks to use on opponents.  Condolences to his loved ones.

After the program ended, a restorative lunch with friends at the venerable Mister Taco in New Rochelle was in order.  Some guacamole, a couple of tacos, and a glass of horchata were accompanied by a lively discussion of the infamous North Avenue bars, which from the late seventies to the mid nineties were positively overrun by underage drinkings (uh, I'm not admitting to anything).  Yes, until the mid nineties, when there was a drunk driving incident which claimed the life of a teenager, the neighborhood was pretty much a destination for free-range high schoolers looking to get loaded.  Thankfully, the county social scene shifted to my neighborhood, where the taverns are more professionally operated, at the time, leaving the former party district of North Avenue open to development by immigrant business owners from Mexico and Jamaica.  It was a hell of a nostalgia trip, with tales of debauchery in dives with fetid accommodations... quite the contrast to the morning's wholesome outdoor activity.  I think next week, I'll introduce my friends to the varied restaurants on New Rochelle's busy Main Street... there's a really good Peruvian place among the quality Mexican restaurants.

It's good to have this part of my routine return, even though it's not exactly what it was in the Before Times.  Someday, we'll be able to really play our sport (my great and good friend Gentle Jimmy G made it clear to me that he's looking forward to beating me up), someday soon.  In the meantime, we make do with imparting the bare fundamentals and figuring out how to teach under very limiting circumstances.