All posts by Greg Laden

Please eschew the Twitter-Virtue Olympics

Please eschew the Twitter-Virtue Olympics.

As Musk sullies up the place, and Trump throws his tantrum, and the Nazis, anti-Semites, racists, and other slobs throw their vacuous weight around, many people are considering leaving Twitter, or have already left. Others have chosen to stay until some threshold is reached, and still others don’t have solid plans to leave, and that lack of planning is often intentional, they’ve just decided to stay for one reason or another.

As intentions are declared, we sometimes see a virtue-based argument advanced, and in one out of five* of those cases, the virtuous justification for staying/waiting/leaving comes along with an urgent plea or even a demand that other so the same.

Stop doing that shit, please.

A friend told me he’d had enough, with Trump coming on (which he hasn’t actually done yet) and he can’t stomach being there. I get that. I have similar intestinal reactions. Today I had lunch with someone in the voting biz, who said, “I can’t leave Twitter, because so much of the election protection community is operating there, it would be irresponsible.”

Another person told me they’d prefer to leave behind Musk and Trump, but she also didn’t believe that Musk will own Twitter for much longer. Others have noted that they don’t want to be here but also want to see it collapsing from the inside. No one can turn away from the train wreck. This may be a unique opportunity to watch the train crash from inside the train.

Some have made the argument that their data will be stolen if security lapses. There’s a good argument there, if Twitter has your credit card, but I’m not sure how leaving protects the information they already have. So maybe that isn’t a good argument.

I’m simply asking people to note that there is a very small chance that your particular decision as to what to do with Twitter is the absolutely correct decision, and that the argument you are making to justify your choice is the best possible argument. One in five chance you have it right*. So when you make the argument, and then attach to it an admonition to others who have a different argument that you are doing the right thing and they are not, you have a four in five chance* that you are being obnoxious, not wise. So, the smart money is on stating your case but with a framework of openness to other ideas, rather than using your decision to signal your virtue and smartness.


*These are of course totally made up numbers, but you get the point.

Minnesota Environmental Issues, Politics, Geology and All

The first two in a series of Ikonokast podcasts:

Episode 30 – Protecting the Watershed with Megan Bond

Megan Bond has a BS in Public Administration with a Minor in Health Care Adminstration, a J.D. and an M.A. in Public Policy and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas. She began working in water conservation as a teenager in Las Vegas and has found her way into the environmental movement wherever she’s lived, and made environmental policy a major focus of her studies at all levels, even earning the Dean’s Award in Environmental Law in law school. She is an attorney and a solo practitioner at Bond Law Office, in International Falls, MN, concentrating in public interest defense work, including defending 37 water protectors protesting the Line 3 project in 2020 and 2021. She lives on the shores of Rainy Lake near Voyageurs National Park, in the heart of the Rainy River Watershed. Outside of her career, she chairs theDFL Environmental Caucus, chairs the Science and Policy Committee for Voyageurs Conservancy, serves on the Board of Directors of her local Food Shelf, and spends as much time camping in the summers and hiking in the autumns as she can.

CLICK HERE

Episode 31 – The Range, the North Shore And More

This is an overlapping continuation of episode 31, including the part about Silver Bay. Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich spoke a bit more, about our travels and experiences along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. We also talked about the Iron Range in some greater detail, we talked about the gas fires in a flooded Grand Forks in 1997, how Hibbing had to move for the mines in the 1920’s and how even the mountains in Minnesota are almost flat.

CLICK HERE!

Messaging vs. Marketing

As an active activist, I’ve seen this countless times: An effort is being made to bring more people in to the fold. So there is a meeting of some kind and there are new people there. All great so far. Then, one of the new people confesses that they are a “marketing” person, which usually means they have a minor or major in some related area, and work for a big corporation in the marketing department. This is taken by almost everyone else in the group as a signal that this new person is now in charge of the group’s “marketing” by which everyone really means “messaging.” Since some of the most important things a volunteer issue or political activist group can do are a form of messaging (protests, letter writing, speaking to electeds, etc.), this new person, that no one knows, is now in charge of everything. In 98 out of 100 cases this person, who probably understands what just happened better than most of the other folks at the meeting, is never seen again.

One fallacy that this parable exposes is the equivalence between marketing and messaging that many people incorrectly assume. Both do start with the letter “M,” to be sure. And there are certainly overlaps in methodology. But the objectives are very different.

Typically, in activism, messaging has one of two flavors. 1) To convince people to believe something they currently don’t believe. Sometimes this means changing people’s minds, other times it means brining people into a way of thinking in an area where they don’t currently have an opinion. This is very difficult and usually unsuccessful on a person-by-person basis. A blindingly successful activist messaging campaign run over a few months changes a couple-few percent of people’s likely behavior (as in voting for a particular candidate or preferring a specific policy). 2) To get those already in your camp to take some action, like a GOTV (get out the vote) campaign, or a petition drive.*

Marketing has a very different goal. Most marketing can assume the target audience is already leaning towards a decision, perhaps to buy a particular product. Marketing is there to get the person to pick your iteration of the project, as opposed to some other company’s version. Maybe the plethora of car ads helps make more members of the general population want to own a car, but the marketing department at Ford Automotive is mainly trying to get the prospective car buyer to pick an F-100 over a Chevy truck.

If marketing methodology were applied to many messaging needs, it might be like trying to get someone who is about to buy an apple to go to the other side of the grocery store, and instead of buying an apple, pick up some milk. Or, instead of buying the amazing, giant, wonderfully colored, flawless Crispois Wunder-Apple just invented at the University of Podunk and that everybody is eating these days, picking up a bag of locally grown, small, less interesting apples because it is better for the planet.

In other words, marketing is usually getting someone who already wants to do a thing to actually do the thing they want to do, with you instead of with some other company. Messaging in the activist community is often getting someone to act either contrary to, or simply not in accord with, their pre-existing prurient tendency.

Internally, methodologically, marketing and messaging share a lot of research, process, etc. But so do civil engineering and mechanical engineering. But you wouldn’t hire a traffic engineer who would be great at configuring a busy intersection, to design a new helicopter. Just as importantly, that engineer would not want that job. This is why the new volunteer who confesses to be in marketing excuses themselves to go to the bathroom and is never seen again…


  • I’m assuming your petition is a legal or procedural step towards some goal, and not just some useless on-line petition somebody made up.

Cheap Books: Gaiman, Anderson, Storr

Cheap on Kindle right now:

The End of the World: Stories of the Apocalypse* by Neil Gaiman and others.

Before The Road by Cormac McCarthy brought apocalyptic fiction into the mainstream, there was science fiction. No longer relegated to the fringes of literature, this explosive collection of the world’s best apocalyptic writers brings the inventors of alien invasions, devastating meteors, doomsday scenarios, and all-out nuclear war back to the bookstores with a bang.

The best writers of the early 1900s were the first to flood New York with tidal waves, destroy Illinois with alien invaders, paralyze Washington with meteors, and lay waste to the Midwest with nuclear fallout. Now collected for the first time ever in one apocalyptic volume are those early doomsday writers and their contemporaries, including Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Lucius Shepard, Robert Sheckley, Norman Spinrad, Arthur C. Clarke, William F. Nolan, Poul Anderson, Fredric Brown, Lester del Rey, and more. Relive these childhood classics or discover them here for the first time. Each story details the eerie political, social, and environmental destruction of our world.

The Star Fox* by Poul Anderson in wich “An intergalactic privateer resolves to rescue a human space colony taken captive by alien aggressors.”

The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science (1st Edition) by Will Storr.

Why, that is, did the obviously intelligent man beside him sincerely believe in Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and a six-thousand-year-old Earth, in spite of the evidence against them? It was the start of a journey that would lead Storr all over the world—from Texas to Warsaw to the Outer Hebrides—meeting an extraordinary cast of modern heretics whom he tries his best to understand. Storr tours Holocaust sites with famed denier David Irving and a band of neo-Nazis, experiences his own murder during “past life regression” hypnosis, discusses the looming One World Government with an iconic climate skeptic, and investigates the tragic life and death of a woman who believed her parents were high priests in a baby-eating cult.

Using a unique mix of highly personal memoir, investigative journalism, and the latest research from neuroscience and experimental psychology, Storr reveals how the stories we tell ourselves about the world invisibly shape our beliefs, and how the neurological “hero maker” inside us all can so easily lead to self-deception, toxic partisanship and science denial.

Gen Z minus 8

Everyone is excited about this graph showing that “Gen Z” saved us from a red wave:

I love that voters between the ages of 18 and 29, inclusively, have voted in higher numbers during the last two midterms. But this midterm, there was a drop, not an increase, in Gen Z involvement, even though they had more at stake. Also, the number is not that large to begin with. Look at the scale of the graph; it maxes out at 50%. Only about a quarter of folks in this age group showed up in an election that promised to ruin their lives forever. I would have preferred to see at least the modest trend demonstrated in 2018 continue, rather than somewhat reverse. Like this:

When democratic activists like myself complain that the youth vote is not there, it has become common to gets scolded that we should not be so tough on the youth vote, and look, they showed up after all!

Listen: You can and should scold me when I’m wrong, but not when I’m right. Younger voters don’t show up (3 out of 4 don’t show up, kind of a lot), they showed up in smaller, not larger, numbers this midterm (if these preliminary data from Tufts hold up), enough to help, and kudos to the one in 4 who did show up. But can you imagine what would have happened if 10% more showed up? A trifecta, that’s what would have happened.

All we need for a full on demographic transition is a change in behavior in existing age groups. Then we’d be done.

  • Make the voting age 17.
  • Ask states to provide a special holiday: students and teachers in public schools are off on voting day (but no one else, or voting day holiday will decrease, not increase, voter turnout).
  • Incentivize election authorities to use the space in schools for voting locations where possible.
  • Incentivize schools to incorporate voting day into their programing.
  • Allow 17 and 18 year old voters in schools to treat their school location as a valid voting location, as an option (split books if necessary, so their vote is registered in their home district).

This way the major transition that is HS to College, or some other life history stage, carries voting and involvement in our political process with it, rather than making it harder and more likely. Then we’d have this graph (note change in the y-axis scale):

This is what a red wave looks like; a preliminary analysis of the Nov 2022 election*

Republicans told us they expected a red wave in this year’s election. There was absolutely no rational reason to say that, but they said it, and since they said it, the so-called but not-really “liberal” press reported it as fact.

So, since the Republicans, who only lie and would not know the truth if it bit them on the ass (which it frequently does in fact do) said it, and the New York Times verified it in breathless scary headline speak, let us assume it is true. There was a red wave on November 8th. Given this, we can now define what a red wave looks like.

  • Democrats hold their slim grasp on the senate.
  • Repbulicans will win the house as all out-of-white-house parties do, but by one of the slimest margins in history (and they could actually not win, not all the votes are counted yet).
  • Democrats won gubernatorial races that were either flips or serious threats against incumbents in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Maryland, and Massachustts.
  • Democrats flipped the legislatures in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania.
  • Abortion rights were enshrined in the constitutions of California, Michigan, Vermont.
  • Kentucky rejected an abortion ban.
  • Missouri and Maryland legalized Marijuana.
  • Nebraska raised the minimum wage.
  • South Dakota expanded medicaid.
  • There is evidence that the November 8th election is the death knell for Donald Trump’s relevance. Finally.

So, that is what a red wave looks like! We love red waves! All hail the red wave!

So, how did it happen? Because all politics are local, and I’m not talking about pot-hole local, but local as in each election is in fact an independent thing.

  • Independents voted with Democrats.
  • People were not tricked into voting for odious candidates because Trump told them to.
  • For the first time in history other than 2002, the in-the-white-house party almost cleared the table.

I suspect that the places where the Democrats did less well, they were hampered for these reasons, depending on the race (and this is mainly in the house):

  • Highly focused gerrymandering by Republican governors.
  • Trump failed to zero in on a particular candidate, so they were less likely to be rejected in an election that, in part, was a repudiation of Trump and MAGA.
  • In a few places, highly privileged white supremacists are simply in too high a number to ever do the right thing.
  • Inflation and other economic issue blunted Democratic support in some cases.

Analyses are still being done, but keep this in mind: it appears that Republicans outperformed Democrats in many areas in voter turnout (R+4). Republicans showed up to protect their MAGA nuts, and Democrats did not show up to protect democracy in as large a number. It was the Independents showing up that saved us, especially independent women, especially in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. So, when Democrats say over the next two years “there are more of us than there are of them” and “we just have to turn up” tell that person to STFU and get to work on actually turning out Democrats and not just pretending Democrats turn out. Because they don’t. If they did not in this election, Democrats are proven unreliable.

Preliminary exit polling shows that abortion was the second most important issue across the board for most voters, and the most important issue for most Democrats, more so in certain states where the issue was more on the table in local legislation.


*Most of the data presented here, and much of the opinion, is stolen directly from Pod Save America, “You Vetter Believe It!” podcast.

Greg Laden Blog Julia

The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Nicole Meet Florida

November 8th

Florida is about to get another hurricane. Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to develop into a Category 1 hurricane and come ashoire on the East Coast somewhere near Palm Bay, north of West Palm Beach, late in the day Wednesday. This is going to be a physically large storm, with effects over a broad area.

November 2nd

Somewhat suddenly there are two named storms in the Atlantic.

Lisa is a Category 1 hurricane bearing down on the coast of Belize, with Belize City in the front right quadrant of the storm. This will be going on for several more hours, then the storm will convert to a tropical storm or strong depression, until it exist land to the Gulf of Mexico, or possibly (but not likely) the Pacific.

Martin is a Category 1 hurricane way out in the middle of the Atlantic. Martin may develop into a Category 2 hurricane as it moves north, reaching nearly Category 3 strength, before weakening and wandering clumsily into the part of the Atlantic between Iceland and the UK.

October 18th

I’m not going to call an end to the season. But the season seems to be over.

October 11th later that day

The original plan was to keep the name Julia for whatever storm might have formed from Remnant Julia. But instead, a second storm formed right next to Julia Proper and created Clone Julia. That storm then moved into the Gulf of Mexico, and got up enough gumption to get an name, and its name is Karl with a K. (You don’t say the “with a K” part.)

This storm will shortly turn back into Mexico and land not far from Veracruz as a tropical storm, not a hurricane.

October 11th

Just a quick note: It is looking like the remnant of Julia is passing back over the sea in the Gulf of Mexico, highly likely to become a tropical storm, but then with an uncertain future. Stay tuned.

October 9th

Julia came ashore on Nicaragua’s coast as a Category 1 hurricane, and is now a tropical storm dumping a lot of rain in the interior. It is very likely to re-emerge on the Pacific side and will likely hug the Pacific coast for several hours.

From the NHC:

Regardless of Julia’s track and future status as a tropical cyclone,
the evolving weather pattern is likely to lead to heavy rains over
Central America and southern Mexico for several days, which could
cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in
areas of mountainous terrain.

Since Julia’s low-level circulation is expected to survive its
passage across Nicaragua, the cyclone will retain the same name
when it moves into the eastern Pacific basin. The intermediate
advisory at 100 PM CDT (1800 UTC) will be issued under the same
Atlantic product headers as before. However, now that all coastal
watches and warnings are located along the Pacific coast of Central
America, product headers will change to eastern Pacific headers
beginning with the next complete advisory at 400 PM CDT (2100 UTC),
with the ATCF identifier changing from AL132022 to EP182022.

If Julia regains hurricane status, there is a non-zero chance it will make a second landfall in Mexico.

October 8th

Julia is the name of the below mentioned new system in the Atlantic Basin. This is now a tropical storm heading due west, which is expected to turn into a Category 1 hurricane prior to making landfall on the east coast of Nicaragua. The island of San Andrés, part of Columbia, is dead in the middle of the expected track. After landfall it is not unlikely that the remnants of Julia will pass into the Eastern Pacific with enough ooomph to be a concern, or less likely, but possible, to recurve north into the Gulf of Mexico and make a second landfall (hopefully not as a hurricane). One model (don’t believe the models yet) has it hitting Florida in the general vicinity of where Ian recently caused major devastation. Not likely but a reminder that if you get hit once with a Hurricane you can get hit twice with a hurricane.

Please go HERE to get the current forecast and advisory.

October 6th

There is a new storm, very likely to become a hurricane just before hitting land. In about 3 days the as yet unnamed storm will likely come assure in Nicaragua. There is a very good chance the storm will pass over Central America and emerge as a non-hurricane with potential in the Eastern Pacific. It will not be stronger than a Category 1 hurricane, but there could be serious problems in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. The island of

October 2nd

Ian’s Death Toll. Sometimes, when a deadly disaster happens, and the death toll starts to come in, you can get a feeling for how absurd the initial numbers are, and for what the order of magnitude of the final count is likely to be. And indeed we were seeing some pretty low and absurd numbers a few days ago for Ian’s mortality count, but I have no idea where this is going. There are neighborhoods where it seems like every single person present must have been killed, but what we don’t know is how many had left before the storm tide came in. Yesterdays estiamte was round 35, thius mornings estimates range from 44 to 67. The highest current estimate I know of is 77. Continue reading The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Nicole Meet Florida

Don Prothero Book Cheap!

Reality CheckHow Science Deniers Threaten Our Future* by my close personal friend Don Prothero (author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters*) is now on sale in Kindle form for cheap! Get it while they last!

A thought-provoking look at science denialism “for popular science readers who want better to be able to explain and defend science and scientific methods to others” (Library Journal).

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.

“Prothero’s treatise will give the science-minded something to cheer about, a brief summary of the real data that supports so many critical aspects of modern life.” —Publishers Weekly

This is not the West Wing: Listen to Dan Pfeiffer spill his guts

This is a take that gets a blog.

I direct you to a five minute portion of the November 3rd episode of Pod Save America, “Last Call for Democracy.”

Pfeiffer is correct, and you have to listen to his rant on Pod Save America. This is a brilliantly articulated version of what rolls around in my head all the time.

Starts at 25 minutes and 15 seconds (to include John Favreau sigh). Ends at 29:20

“Last Call for Democracy.”


Listen to all of it, please. Then report back in the comments.

Walk out your fucking door, and touch some grass.

Shindler, Eugenics, Ancient History: Cheap books

Shindlers List* cheap on Kindle now.

The History of the Ancient World*: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome cheap now on Kindle. I’ve been listening to the Our Fake History podcast and this is a handy reference to position some of the pods on older time periods.

One you might no know, but related to a writing project I’ve go going: The Orphans of Davenport: Eugenics, the Great Depression, and the War over Children’s Intelligence*, Kindle format, cheap.

“Doomed from birth” was how psychologist Harold Skeels described two toddler girls at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in Davenport, Iowa, in 1934. Their IQ scores, added together, totaled just 81. Following prevailing eugenic beliefs of the times, Skeels and his colleague Marie Skodak assumed that the girls had inherited their parents’ low intelligence and were therefore unfit for adoption. The girls were sent to an institution for the “feebleminded” to be cared for by “moron” women. To Skeels and Skodak’s astonishment, under the women’s care, the children’s IQ scores became normal.
Now considered one of the most important scientific findings of the twentieth century, the discovery that environment shapes children’s intelligence was also one of the most fiercely contested—and its origin story has never been told. In The Orphans of Davenport, psychologist and esteemed historian Marilyn Brookwood chronicles how a band of young psychologists in 1930s Iowa shattered the nature-versus-nurture debate and overthrew long-accepted racist and classist views of childhood development.

Transporting readers to a rural Iowa devastated by dust storms and economic collapse, Brookwood reveals just how profoundly unlikely it was for this breakthrough to come from the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station. Funded by the University of Iowa and the Rockefeller Foundation, and modeled on America’s experimental agricultural stations, the Iowa Station was virtually unknown, a backwater compared to the renowned psychology faculties of Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton. Despite the challenges they faced, the Iowa psychologists replicated increased intelligence in thirteen more “retarded” children.

When Skeels published their incredible work, America’s leading psychologists—eugenicists all—attacked and condemned his conclusions. The loudest critic was Lewis M. Terman, who advocated for forced sterilization of low-intelligence women and whose own widely accepted IQ test was threatened by the Iowa research. Terman and his opponents insisted that intelligence was hereditary, and their prestige ensured that the research would be ignored for decades. Remarkably, it was not until the 1960s that a new generation of psychologists accepted environment’s role in intelligence and helped launch the modern field of developmental neuroscience..

Drawing on prodigious archival research, Brookwood reclaims the Iowa researchers as intrepid heroes and movingly recounts the stories of the orphans themselves, many of whom later credited the psychologists with giving them the opportunity to forge successful lives. A radiant story of the power and promise of science to better the lives of us all, The Orphans of Davenport unearths an essential history at a moment when race science is dangerously resurgent.

Terrorists Poised To Take Over United States

In American Jews start to think the unthinkable Dana Milbank talks about a recent service in Temple in which about half the congregants admitted to giving serious consideration to developing an exit plan for when the MAGA Republicans come for the Jews, as Nazi-types tend to do. The recent attack on the Pelozi household (see Assailant shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’ in break-in at speaker’s home, attack on Paul Pelosi) was a reprise of the treasonous “Where’s Pelosi/kill Pelosi/Where’s Pence/Kill Pence” January 6th insurrection. It reminds us of other ongoing threats, such as the incessant so far mostly verbal attacks and threats against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (see In wake of Pelosi home invasion, Omar attacked online for hiring security.)

The MAGA Republican Party is a terrorist organization, but one that has infiltrated enough of the Justice Department, State Department, and Congress to not allow our country to classify it correctly as such. Hopefully in a few days, enough voters will realize this that they won’t be allowed to take over our country.

It will be a very sad day if we wake up on November 9th and realize that Americans have chosen to end democracy.

From Scrivener’s Mouth to OpenSource Ears?

I am a Scrivener user. I like Scrivener so much that I maintain a Windows computer to run it on, because, sadly, it does not have a Linux version. There are two things that Scrivener does that I don’t think are widely adopted, and I am writing this post in the hopes that OpenSource software developers will notice and adopt.

Help: Search Menus

The first one is totally unique to Scrivener in my experience. This is an item under “help” that simply searches all the menus for what you are searching for. Never mind counter arguments to deploying this idea, that any help system will produce the same results mixed up with other results, etc. Especially never mind those arguments from OpenSource world, where the help item on the menu is, traditionally, so useless that I for one don’t even bother using it. It is vestigial. One way to resurrect the idea of OpenSource software even having a useful help option is to simply deploy a search for a term among the menu items in the software itself as a routine feature. This is incredibly useful in complex software where there are perhaps a hundred or so items across all the menu choices. This should be easy to implement. The list of menu items is certainly a set of objects in the software, and probably comes with links to information that could be added to the results. Play around with it, people!

File: Favorite Projects

The second item exists in some form or another here and there,. Qgiss might have something like this (I’ve not paid attention). This is the “favorite project” or “favorite file” menu item. For Scrivener, I have something like 30 projects on my computer, but some are old and done(ish), some are false starts or experiments, some are long term and at any given moment not of interest. So, I put the four or five that I’m currently working on in the Favorite Projects menu.

I want that for all my software.

Greg Laden's BlogThere are four of five files that I use in Libre Office often enough to want them handy as shortcuts or favorites, but not often enough that they remain near the top of the “Recent Files” list in LibreOffice. A few years ago I tried to convince the LibreOffice community to make the Recent Files item include (as an option?) only files opened in a particular program. The way it works now, recent files opened in Calc (the spreadsheet) are on the list when you are working in the word processor (Writer). Sometimes, when I’m using Calc for a particular project, I may have 10 or 15 files (imported CSV files, various spreadsheets, etc) open over a work session, almost none of which I ever want to see again, but all of which populate the Recent Files menu list. This makes that list less useful, and if the list was separate for each different program (Cals, Writer, Draw, etc.) at least the problem would be partly contained. I don’t remember the reason they gave that this could not be done, but I didn’t buy it at the time. A technical glitch that seemed very solvable.

A “Favorite File” menu item in that software suit would solve this problem.

Microsoft’s office suit actually does this, I discovered while lamenting this problem. They are “pinned” items you can have in the otherwise very clumsy opening screen on the “Home” ribbon item. That good, but I’m not sure if I count that as a solution, since it involves using Microsoft Office and who wants to do that?

James Webb Cancelled

Above: The telescope formerly known as James Webb.

The Royal Astronomical Society has implemented a policy that papers published in its journals that make reference to the telescope formerly known as James Web use only the acronym JWST to signify this particular machine. This is because James Webb, who died in 1992, has a history.

James E. Webb was not a scientist. He was a government administrator with a law degree, some military experience, and a BA in Education. In 1961, JFK put him in charge of NASA where he worked until 1968.

Prior to any of this, there occurred what is known as the “Lavender Scare,” a nationwide panic that Teh Gay was poised to take over key positions in the American societal landscape. Gays and Commies were conflated, and suspected socialists or communists and gay people were hunted down and persecuted, and if working for the government, fired.

In March 2021, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Brian Nord, all scientists in the astronomy field, wrote a piece for Scientific American, in which certain aspects of Webb’s history were pointed out.

When Webb joined the recently created NASA, it was government policy to purge LGBT individuals from the federal workforce. That was happening earlier as well, and in those earlier times, Webb was with the US Department of State. The authors point to a book, The Lavender Scare*, by Javid Johnson, which includes evidence that Webb (and others) were involved in the deployment of these anti LGBT policies. Webb, apparently, remained silent as the LBTG purge happened at the Department of State, and actively participated in it at NASA.

To some extent, this is a case of someone “going along” with the culture of his time. For example, in 1950, a senior Stater Department administrator sent Webb a set of memoranda including a roadmap for this purge, and Webb passed the memos on to those he was overseeing. So, he didn’t start it, but also, he didn’t stop it, and who knows what he was thinking at the time.

Astronomers and others in cognate fields have defended Webb, in some cases by pointing out that some of the evidence against him was false or misattributed, or by pointing out that he did, after all, oversee the greatest successes ever during the period of the greatest expansion of space science ever.

The authors of the Scientific American piece make an important point, that I agree with. Had this been an historical wrong, a wrong yes but an old wrong, a part of a period in history where the wrong was normal (and this is clearly true in this case) but not part of the present, than we might view this differently. We don’t forgive Founders who enslaved Africans and African descendants in our early nation, but we also don’t see those wrongs as pertaining directly to current events in their historical form, because there is no widespread enslavement of African Americans by plantation owners today. But anti-LGBT sentiment and action in the living scientific community is not erased by recent wokeness. Indeed, the whole idea that gayness is a security risk was until very recently part of national self-policing in both the US and the UK. Still might be, for all I know. So, we don’t worry about the energy unit “Newtons” even though Newton certainly had some ideas we would not accept today (beyond his really poor grasp of elemental chemistry) but we do regard certain older or recently deceased old timey scientists as having been legit jerks in on way or another, having to do with LGBT rights, sexism, or racism. Don’t make me start a list here, not time or space.

So, in Great Britain, no more James Webb. We will see how this plays out in the US. See Society bans James Webb Name in the current Science.

#Chalk The Vote

This weekend, the weekend of Sat October 29th and Sunday October 30th, is #ChalkTheVote weekend. Note that participatns are welcome to chalk early, on that Friday, or later, on that Monday, but don’t get stepped on by monsters and ghosts if you are down on the sidewalk chalking too late in the day Monday.

This is a GOTV effort. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Create chalk messages to inspire your community to vote.
  2. Take a picture or video of your artwork.
  3. Post it to Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok with the hashtag #ChalkTheVote. Tag @parentstogether so we can feature your art!

Make sure your post is public so we can see it! The folks at Parents Together, Chalk The Vote HQ, will repost some of their favorites.

Check out some ideas to get started!