All posts by Greg Laden

Cheap books of interest to you, I suspect UPDATED WITH GREAT NEW BOOKS

The Dark Tower I* by Stephen King.

The Sands of Mars* by Arthur Clarke!

Shalimar the Clown* by Salman Rushdie.

The book of unnecessary quotation marks* by “Bethany Keeley” on sale in “Kindle” format!

Also: Stephen Fry’s Mythos* (Ancient Greek Mythology Book for Adults, Modern Telling of Classical Greek Myths Book) is on Kindle cheap. Also the Marvel Encyclopedia*.

All Minnesota Republicans Have Extremist Anti-Women Positions

GOP Extremist Erik Mortensen
“Mortensen [invited] Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison to his home for a Thanksgiving weekend party last year during the pandemic, in defiance of public health orders at the time that discouraged … gathering to limit the spread of COVID-19.” -Minnesota Reformer
As far as I can tell.

Want me to go over them one at a time? OK, fine.

Let’s start with The Mort.

Republican Minnesota House representative Erik “The Mort” Mortensen (Shakopee area, southeast of the Twin Cities)* wants all civil and legal rights granted to a fertilized human egg. Mortensen only barely won his most recent race, and is running for re-election against Brad Tabke, DFL endorsed**. Marijuana candidate Ryan Martin is also running in this race, and is likely to spoil the election for the DFL as he did last time, allowing a rabid anti-abortion member back into the house (and forestalling the legalization of Marijuana***).

Mortensen has staked out his position on abortion very clearly in legislation he has introduced: He intends to control women’s reproductive choice by using a draconian law, and will do so if the Extremist Republicans running in the North Star state take over the government.

GOP Extremist Erik Mortensen
Mortensen recently got into trouble for doxx’ing a fellow legislator in the Minnesota house. A DFL woman, of course. He has no sense of boundary or respect.
If you want to protect reproductive rights in Minnesota, consider helping out Brad Tabke in this key race. If you want to see Marijuana legalized in Minnesota, do not support the legalize marijuana candidate, that won’t do it.

There are Republicans who will tell you that Mortensen is not so much one of theirs. He has, in fact, been in big trouble with the Minnesota Republican caucus (in the house), but not because of his extreme policy views. Rather, he has complained openly to and about the Republican leadership, and how they handle the process of making sausage, er, laws, from bills. Mortensen, in effect, knows nothing about how the legislative process works, so when he sees something he does not understand, he thinks about it carefully and learns, becomming a better person. Only kidding. What he actually does is to go off the handle and complain. He is not smart enough to figure out what to actually get mad at vs. what to learn from.

The problem with the MN GOP washing their hands of Mort is that Mort is right on board policy wise, and is a leader in the anti-choice movement within the Party of Strong Dislike****. The abiding truth is that the Republican Party has a single position on each issue, and it is easily discerned: Whatever makes liberals cry. In this case, as they see it, taking away the rights from each and every woman and giving those rights to a cell.


GOP Extremist Erik Mortensen
Mortensen drew an HR complaint on his first day on the House Floor when he spoke inappropriately to two DFL women, one of which happened to be Speaker. What an offensive dummy.
*Fort those outside of Minnesota, that’s Erik with a “K,” which goes along with Mortensen with an “en,” and the town is not “Shake -0- pea” (like when you make a veggie smoothie with legumes) but rather “Shock -a- pee” (like when you are shocked about something and have to pee). We also pronounce the K in Knute and Knife. Well, one of those anyway.

** DFL is Minnesotan for “Democratic Party.”

*** Yes, there appear to have been times when a Republican faked being a legalize Marijuana candidate in order to help another Republican win, though I’m not saying this is the case here. But it is. This particular candidate, Ryan Martin, is known to be a Republican and has ties to a known spoiler of this nature who ran for Congress in Minnesota’s second Congressional district.

****(Minnesotan for “hate.”)

Sources:
New House Republican caucus gives Shakopee lawmaker the boot

Shakopee GOP lawmaker doxxes DFL colleague in Facebook post, could face ethics complaint

Freshman Shakopee lawmaker jokes about getting HR complaint on first day

Emergence of ‘Mort’ draws scrutiny of race where pot candidate pulled votes

How U2 saved us from the 80s

I am not a music person, in that I can name musicians or songs, or, Heqet forbid, actually sing. In fact, music is to me something like tiny physics or higher math. I know it is interesting, and I like to read or watch well written stories about it, but don’t ask me to explain anything. So, if I were you, I’d stop reading this post right about now.

I am a fan of U2, and I had assumed I was a fan because they make good music. But more recently, I realized that I like U2 also because they saved us from the 1980s.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with Guns N’ Roses, Queen, Metalica, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Journey, or Motorhead. Probably. Well, to be honest, I can’t name a single song any of them ever made. But my impression is that most of these bands were continuing traditions that date back to the late 1960 (which ran from 1971 to 1977), and not doing a lot of innovation. Doesn’t matter, I’m not an expert. But I’m pretty sure U2 innovated.

Their greatest album is probably Joshua Tree. A couple of years ago I went to the Joshua Tree (revival?) concert performance at the Big Corporate Thingie Stadium* in Minneapolis. It was the best of concerts, it was the worst of concerts. Best because it was one of the great bands of the century (last century; too early to tell for this century) performing their arguably best album with all their own retrospect sewn in. Worst because Big Corporate Thingie Stadium was not built for musical performance despite the oversize duvet covers they hung on some of the walls. That stadium was built, more than any other stadium built to date since Roman times, to have the worst acoustics possible, which is necessary to confabulate the visiting offense during football games.

Eagle Rock produced a documentary on The Joshua Tree (1999), which includes conversations with U2’s members. (Did you know one of them is named The Edge? Well, that’s Mr Edge to you. Me and The, we’re on a first name basis. I wrote him a letter recently. It started out, “Dear The,” But I digress.) Anyway, the conversations are revealing because they pin down the ways U2 stepped aside from what was going on, musically, in the middle of the 1980s, and how they scraped against, and punctured through, the envelope everyone else was operating in. The thing is, U2’s hard turn from the usual direction “immediately catapulted the band into the category of rock superstars.” This catapulting caused the innovation by this group to be fully real, to not just fade away. Innovation, breaking away from traditional producing methods, paying attention to the rhythm section (aka drums), producing the album in a house instead of a studio, embracing encouragement over competition. All these things and more.

Joshua tree was in part a response to an ongoing takeover of of America by extremist Republicans (not recognized by most at the time) and similar deterioration of humanity going on elsewhere, and thumb in the nose to the stolid keepers of the musical way of the time (see list of bands above).

I won’t discuss the how or why here, but the album came along at a time in my life that was well suited to that particular soundtrack. That, however, means almost nothing compared to the meaning for the mothers in Chile.

A century and a half ago, my ancestors came forth on this continent because they chose a risky move over near certain starvation in Ireland. Just under a half century ago my distant cousins came forth to address America with a series of questions and inspirations. When you think about it, there is nothing more American than starvation. It also turns out that there is nothing more American than a foreign band adopting us as their errand child. Also, just so you know, Yucca brevifolia is endemic, nothing more American than the Joshua tree.

Songs on this album:
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit
Mothers of the Disappeared

U2 Band Members past and present:
Bono
Ethe Edge
Adam Claton
Larry Mullen Jr
Dik Evans
Ivan McCormick


*I prefer not to partake in the “naming rights” scam, thank you. I refer here to the stadium the Vikings play in.

Cheap On Kindle: Vonegut and Marvel

Cover of Galapagos by Kurt VonegutCheap: Galapagos* by Kurt Vonnegut. If you have not read this novel, just read this novel. Don’t deprive your Big Brain.

Cheap: Marvel Myths and Legends*: The epic origins of Thor, the Eternals, Black Panther, and the Marvel Universe, Kindle edition, by James Hill might be necessary background reading if you care about the origins of Thor, The Eternals, Black Panther, etc. If you use primarily a Paperwhite Kindle, I would not recommend this book. If on the other hand you typically read ebooks on your computer using an open-source ebook reader or the like, or a Kindle Fire*, then you may enjoy the graphics.

The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

June 24th

Although it is too early to say much, about half the known models now put this storm (as yet unnamed) strengthening to hurricane level, possibly reaching or going beyond Category 2. Most of the models also having it brushing the coast of South America and possibly making landfall in Central America, which is a bit odd.

June 23rd

There is a disturbance in the Atlantic.

It is off the coast of West Africa, and heading due west. It is expected to strengthen to Tropical Storm level and will probably be a named storm, but it may or may not become a hurricane. Then, early estimates suggest it will weaken. That does not rule out the possibility that this storm would then seed another cycle of strengthening, but it is way too early to say.

June 12

Sorry to intrude, and this is probably not a very important update, but here goes: There is nothing of interest happening in the Atlantic Basis with respect to tropical storms.

But, there is a new storm forming in the Eastern Pacific, and you know what happened last time that occurred! (See below.)

This newly forming storm is likely to become a tropical storm, but not likely to become a hurricane. It is likely to not land ashore, but it could bring some stormy conditions to Mexico’s pacific coast or along Central America’s coast. It is highly unlikely to make the transition to an Atlantic storm.

So, really, this wasn’t very interesting. Sorry.

June 5

Oh yea of little faith, shut up!

Alex Lives! Impressive and important Eastern Pacific Hurricane Agatha ran hard into Mexico, lingered as a giant wet spot over the land, emerged in along the Gulf/Caribbean border, rained on Florida, exited to the Atlantic, all the time being unnamable, but then got itself organized to become Alex the Tropical Cyclone!

So, one storm system, two names, each the first in it’s own basin for the year.

Alex nee Agatha will move across the mid Atlantic from west to east, menacing Bermuda, as a tropical storm, until it turns back into a tropical depression about a third of the way to Europe. There is a tropical storm warning in effect for Bermuda.

June 3

It turns out that the storm we have watching has failed to become sufficiently organized to be deemed a tropical cyclone. It remains a tropical storm, with several different centers, and is not expected to become a named storm. It will rain all over Florida, but will not exhibit the remarkable behavior of being the first of the season hurricane, or even just a named storm, in first the Eastern Pacific then the Atlantic.

June 1

This is the first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2022.

Nee Agatha is now heading towards the Atlantic the hard way, through the Yucatan. This is probably not good for the Yucatan. There is a high probability that this disturbance will turn into a namable tropical storm over the weekend or soon after. It would become Alex, unless another disturbance located near the Bahamas gets to that stage first (unlikely). For reference, here are the storm names for the Atlantic basin this year:

The list of names for 2022 is as follows:

Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Martin
Nicole
Owen
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter

Note that last year, the name “Ida” was retired from the list.

May 30

If you go right now (mid day Tuesday, 31 May, 2022) to the National Hurricane Center’s site and look at the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic (go back and forth, look at Mexico) you’ll that the Pacific side shows the remains of Hurricane Agatha over the highlands, and being ripped apart into a possible tropical depression. Then, if you look at the Atlantic side you’ll see a “large and complex area of low pressure” that has a 70% chance of developing into some sort of tropical storm over the next 5 days.

And they are the same thing!

So, the first storm of the season in the Eastern Pacific basis, named Agatha, was the strongest storm recorded yet to hit the west coast of Mexico (most Eastern Pacific storms move westish and don’t hit Mexico), and that first storm of the season, a few days early by the way, is not crossing Mexico where, with good timing and the right conditions, it will become the first tropical storm for the season in the Atlantic.

I don’t think this has happened recently, if ever.

If and when this large and complex thing makes this transition, they will go from Agatha to Alex. Agatha will be Alex’s dead name, meteorologically speaking. Alex will have some work to do to break its own record, other than being a transitional Pacific to Atlantic storm, early in the season, and all that.

Of the too early to really use available models, most have Alex not developing past tropical storm strength, but some have it barely touching hurricane status. But if it is ever going to get to hurricane status, that would be in a few days from now. I wouldn’t put much faith in these predictions, either way, until at least two days from now, so mid day Thursday.

Those few models that have the storm moving away from the southern Gulf at all have it slicing Florida in half. Not literally, just in terms of its route. But again, tool early to say. This will be an interesting storm to track.

Kolata’s Flu and Shutt’s Heart: Two great books cheap

Flu* by amazing science writer Gina Kolata, is currently available cheap in kindle form. This book takes you up to a critical point in time in the understanding of the influenza pandemic of 1918. A lot of things were discovered after Gina’s book came out, so it is admittedly not current, but it is nonetheless a classic.

Also on sale, the very recently released Pump* by Bill Schutt (see also our Ikonoklast interview)

Some really interesting (mostly science) currently cheap on Kindle books about dinos, brains, electricity, and one novel.

The Complete Dinosaur, an edited volume.* Editors: Thomas H oltz, James Farlo, Bob Walters and Michael Brett, is currently on sale in kindle form, and it looks like a great value. I don’t know the book, but I looked through the sample and bought it.

In a completely different vein, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil* the classic best seller by John Berendt is also available cheap in kindle form.

The Spark of Life* by Frances Ashcroft covers electricity’s role in physiology, focusing on the human body.

And finally, What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite* by David DiSalvo, newly updated and revised.

It is wrong to automatically assume an automatic rifle is the worst case scenario

If you pull the trigger of a rifle and it shoots, and then you have to add a new bullet to shoot again, you might be firing an old fashioned weapon (that may not even be a rifle, technically) and you are probably a hobbyist.

If you pull the trigger of a rifle and it shoots, and then you have to wiggle a metal object around to move a bullet from a storage area within the firearm, into the chamber from which it can be shot, you are using a non-automatic rifle, and you might be living in the old days (as a soldier) or perhaps you are a hunter, because many excellent hunting rifles work this way. It is also possible that you are a sniper of some kind, depending.

If you pull the trigger of a rifle and it shoots a bullet, and then you pull it again and it shoots one more bullet, and so on, with no additional wiggling of metal parts, you are firing a semi-automatic rifle, or at least, a rifle in semi-automatic mode. This is the ideal rifle for accurately hitting several targets, and if the rifle has a couple of additional design features, it may be the ideal rifle for killing the maximum number of people in a given killing bout.

Like for instance, a classroom full of students or a church full of worshippers or a grocery store full of shoppers.

If you choose, instead, to fire a fully automatic rifle in that school room, church, or grocery store, then you are being a firearms idiot. A rifle on a fully automatic setting fires a lot of bullets all in a short time when you pull the trigger. Most of the bullets will miss their targets, and you will run out of bullets really quickly. The students, churchgoers, or grocery shoppers will duck out of the way, and then when you are out of bullets they will (hopefully) swarm you and rip out your liver.

In fact, an automatic rifle is not really designed, while in full-auto mode, to fire at targets, so much as it is designed to fill the air over and near a target.

Does this seem wrong to you? If so, that could be because you, as a non-gun nut, have fallen into a trap frequently set by gun-nut trolls.

You may ask, if a fully automatic rifle is not an effective means of killing school children, then what kind of rifle should I get for that job? (If you were actually thinking that, call 911 and turn yourself in.)

The misconception arises because non experts tend to put rifles on a spectrum, where on one end is the musket like firearm, in the middle are non-automatic and semi-automatic rifles, and at the far end is a fully automatic rifle such as the MG34, one of the earlier fully automatic war machines that could fire over a thousand bullets a minute. Clearly, the rifles on that high-yield end of the spectrum are best for a mass murder, right?

No, actually. Fully automatic fire is not for killing. It is for suppressing. Consider this scenario. Eight or so soldiers are advancing into a village they intend to occupy. A couple of them are carrying radios, or are medics, or in charge, or whatever. Most of them are carrying fully automatic rifles but set on semi-automatic, so they will be shooting one bullet at time. Two of them are carrying the same rifle, but set on full auto.

They are all hiding behind trees and rocks. The enemy is in sight, so if they advance, they will be shot at. So one of the full auto soldiers pulls out from cover an fires a burst of automatic fire in the general direction of the enemy, and ducks back down, while the other full auto soldier then does the same. They take turns doing this, and the enemy keeps their heads down because they are being suppressed. And maybe repressed too, depending.

Meanwhile, while these two are blasting thin air with lead, the other soldiers with the semi-auto settings turned on, don’t fire their rifles, but they run ahead to a better, closer location with a view of the enemy. The enemy did not see this because they were busy ducking. Then, a bit later, the semi-auto soldiers start picking off the enemy, one carefully fired bullet at a time.

The enemy backs off a ways, maybe one or more are wounded or killed, by they are hit by the soldiers firing one bullet at a time, and NOT by the “bam bam bam” fully automatic soldier.

So, when gun nuts* try to tell you that everything is OK because automatic weapons are not legal, only semi-automatic, you may want to tell them that you already know that the ideal killing machine in a school classroom, temple, grocery store, or nightclub is a semi-automatic assault style rifle, not an automatic weapon, and if you are using an automatic rifle, better set it on semi-auto mode to maximize the number of people you are going to tear apart with bullets.


*I chose the term “gun nut” to single out people who are not merely pro-gun, but rabidly so. Pro-gun people are not necessarily anti-gun regulation.

A Trove of Excellent Books Cheap

The intersection of STEM and equity; moving stories of overcoming racism and unfairness. Cheap on Kindle for most of you (YMMV).

I Never Had It Made:An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson*.

Before Barry Bonds, before Reggie Jackson, before Hank Aaron, baseball’s stars had one undeniable trait in common: they were all white. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke that barrier, striking a crucial blow for racial equality and changing the world of sports forever. I Never Had It Made is Robinson’s own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues.

I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson’s early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school’s first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the “Noble Experiment”—Robinson would step up to bat to integrate and revolutionize baseball.

More than a baseball story, I Never Had It Made also reveals the highs and lows of Robinson’s life after baseball. He recounts his political aspirations and civil rights activism; his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Buckley, Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller; and his troubled relationship with his son, Jackie, Jr.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope*

Now a Netflix Film, Starring and Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual’s ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir Kindle Edition*

In 2015, at the age of 97, Katherine Johnson became a global celebrity. President Barack Obama awarded her the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—for her pioneering work as a mathematician on NASA’s first flights into space. Her contributions to America’s space program were celebrated in a blockbuster and Academy-award nominated movie.

In this memoir, Katherine shares her personal journey from child prodigy in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia to NASA human computer. In her life after retirement, she served as a beacon of light for her family and community alike. Her story is centered around the basic tenets of her life—no one is better than you, education is paramount, and asking questions can break barriers. The memoir captures the many facets of this unique woman: the curious “daddy’s girl,” pioneering professional, and sage elder.

This multidimensional portrait is also the record of a century of racial history that reveals the influential role educators at segregated schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities played in nurturing the dreams of trailblazers like Katherine. The author pays homage to her mentor—the African American professor who inspired her to become a research mathematician despite having his own dream crushed by racism.

Infused with the uplifting wisdom of a woman who handled great fame with genuine humility and great tragedy with enduring hope, My Remarkable Journey ultimately brings into focus a determined woman who navigated tough racial terrain with soft-spoken grace—and the unrelenting grit required to make history and inspire future generations.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir*

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness, Esquire, Electric Literature, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and InStyle

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition*

The uplifting, amazing true story—a New York Times bestseller!

This edition of Margot Lee Shetterly’s acclaimed book is perfect for young readers. It’s the powerful story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

The Three Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Natural Selection

Natural Selection is the key creative force in evolution. Natural selection, together with specific histories of populations (species) and adaptations, is responsible for the design of organisms. Most people have some idea of what Natural Selection is. However, it is easy to make conceptual errors when thinking about this important force of nature. One way to improve how we think about a concept like this is to carefully exam its formal definition.

In this post, we will do the following:

  • Discuss historical and contextual aspects of the term “Natural Selection” in order to make clear exactly what it might mean (and not mean).
  • Provide what I feel is the best exact set of terms to use for these “three conditions,” because the words one uses are very important (there are probably some wrong ways to do it one would like to avoid).
  • Discuss why the terms should be put in a certain order (for pedagogical reasons, mainly) and how they relate and don’t related to each other.

When you are done reading this post you should be able to:

  • Make erudite and opaque comments to creationists that will get you points with your web friends.
  • Write really tricky Multiple Choice Exam Questions if you are a teacher.
  • Evolve more efficiently towards your ultimate goal because you will be more in control of the Random Evolutionary Process (only kidding on this third one…)

Continue reading The Three Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Natural Selection

My Journey Through Race and Racism

When I was a kid, everyone in my neighborhood was divided into categories along three dimensions. There were color differences (light vs. dark hair and skin), there was the Catholic vs. Protestant divide, and there was the binary distinction of whether or not your dad served in World War II. In fourth grade and again in seventh, I attended a new school and each time encountered a greater diversity of kids and teachers than I knew before, and learned about new kinds of people. At the same time, I would often visit my father at work, and during the summer he and I would have breakfast downtown at the Dewitt Clinton. Then we’d go our separate ways to our respective jobs (he had a real job…I had one of those urban make-work jobs designed to get the kids off the streets), and in these contexts, I met some adults that were different from the ones in my neighborhood.

So, over time, I learned about people who were different from me, and like anyone else, I formed opinions not just of these people, but opinions of the kinds of people I was beginning to learn about. Most of this ended up having to do with “ethnicity” and that, in turn, was shaped mainly by complexion, hair, and other physical features, and to a lesser but not insignificant degree, religion, cuisine, and other cultural traits. I was getting my identity ducks in a row. Continue reading My Journey Through Race and Racism

What happens if I eat mold?

A common concern people have is the outcome of eating food that is moldy. This happens when you are not paying attention to what you are eating and suddenly realize that you just ate half a sandwich made with bread that has some mold on it. Then you go “Oh, crap, I just ate some mold” and then you google it to find out if you are going to die ….
Continue reading What happens if I eat mold?

The Truth About The Brown Recluse Spider

Everything you thought you knew about Brown Recluse Spiders is wrong. There is now a book,The Brown Recluse Spider, to set you straight. This is my review of that book.

His name was Bob. I was a kid, he was an adult that all the other adults seemed to think was cool. He used to have a job launching nuclear missiles for the Air Force, but then later got a job as a Hippie. He, another person or two, and I were sitting on a rock pile out in the woods, checking out the patch of marijuana planted, mysteriously, on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor was the head of the local John Birch Society. Whoever planted the patch of pot figured it would be better found, if ever found by the cops, on his property than on the property occupied by the hippies.

Somebody moved a rock. Bob said, “Oh, look, a Brown Recluse spider. They are deadly, but they hardly ever bite.”

I watched the Brown Recluse spider very carefully for a while and memorized it. I found many more over that summer, and in subsequent years. I became very good at identifying them.

This is what it looked like: Continue reading The Truth About The Brown Recluse Spider