The odds I would ever make it to Guyana were slim…

Now, they’re non-existent.

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.
A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Oh, hell no.

Another reason tipping waitstaff needs to stop

Ask anyone who works as a waiter or waitress: tipping sucks, and it needs to stop.

Queue the same old repugnant arguments about “quality control” and “customer service” from the same curmudgeonly conservative jackasses who have always promoted them, as if paying waitstaff a liveable hourly rate–a luxury just about every other profession affords its workers–would somehow lead to a dramatic, unalterable decline in the quality of service received at restaurants across the country. It’s a bullshit nonsensical argument from bullshit nonsensical people, too quick to upset and too dishonest to admit the real reason they think the tips-as-wages scheme is the way to go.

They like it because it gives them power over people. Continue reading

What Reza Aslan gets Wrong About New Atheism

I really don’t understand the fascination with Reza Aslan.

Whether or not you agree with Sam Harris’ and Bill Maher’s scathing appraisal of one of the world’s larger religions, you’d have to be blind not to see Aslan’s interest in discussing his religion on the public forum. He’s an apologist, and like any other apologist he’s made a job out of twisting himself into cognitive knots trying to convince everyone his religion is anything but anachronistic and regressive. It’s quite stunning that right-thinking liberals who wouldn’t think twice about tossing the likes of William Lane Craig into the crazy bin fawn over Aslan like he’s some monolithic warrior for social justice, defending 1.57 billion people from the tyranny of two middle-aged atheist Americans.

After the much-publicized kerfuffle between Harris and white guilt poster child Ben Affleck, Aslan is still harping on them, and people are still eating his nonsense up like it’s in short supply. Continue reading

Ebola Outbreak 101: Why There’s No Vaccine

In an interview with the Huffington Post, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins — the fine gentleman who led the Human Genome Project — explained why we don’t have a vaccine to protect against Ebola. The answer should be surprising to no one… except Republicans.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

For medical and biological scientists, who most rely upon the NIH’s coveted R01 grant to support their research, have been warning us for years that cutting funding to the sciences is not without its consequences. It is pretty sad that only now, with a potential outbreak of Ebola knocking on our front door, that these warnings have finally reached the pages of a (somewhat) major news outlet. Continue reading

Third Rule of Preventing an Ebola Outbreak: Ignore Jesse Jackson

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national being treated for Ebola in Dallas, Texas, is dead, and no one should find that surprising. With a lethality rate somewhere between 50-60%, your chances of surviving EVD aren’t all that great to begin with, never mind the total lack of demonstrably effective treatments for the disease.

Healthcare expert Rev. Jesse Jackson, however, is suspicious.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who’s serving as a spokesman for the family, said that was a concern.

“I would tend to think that those who do not have insurance, those who do not have Medicaid, do not have the same priorities as those who do,” the civil rights leader said.

Continue reading

Movie Review: Gone Girl

When I think of my wife, I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains, trying to get answers: What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?

The somber, contemplative voice of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) speaks these words as he slowly runs his fingers through his wife’s hair. As the dreadful soliloquy comes to its inexorable end, the woman shifts her gaze upward. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) cracks a chilling smile.

Thus begins Gone Girl, David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel of the same name. What follows is no less disturbing, a glacial two-hour-and-twenty-five minute luge down a winding track of lies and infidelity. Trust is the theme in these parts, and by the time the film hits the half-hour mark, trust should be in short supply. Continue reading

Second Rule of Preventing an Ebola Outbreak: Do not listen to Ted Cruz

It isn’t often Texas governor Rick Perry displays a moment of competency, and this one is definitely worth talking about.

Regarding the man currently being treated for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Dallas, Perry said:

“There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case. … The public should have every confidence that the highly trained professionals involved here will succeed in this very important mission.”

I guess the smartguy glasses are working.

I guess the smartguy glasses are working

Much of the public panic over this disease largely stems from an abject failure to understand anything about it. The news isn’t entirely to blame for this; while mainstream outlets are milking this case for all the sensationalism it is worth, most articles have been quite clear in how the virus is transmitted from host to host. The bare fact of the matter, what many Americans just can’t seem to get through their thick skulls, is that Ebola has been enormously successful in West Africa because the region is seriously lacking infrastructure, technology, education and public trust. The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone are, by all measure, manifestly ill-equipped to combat the Ebola virus. We, however, are not. Continue reading

How to FAP in public

Kudos to Tom and Cecil from the Cognitive Dissonance podcast. Despite predictably cold and windy Illinois weather, their first Fan Appreciation Picnic (yes, FAP) went off without a hitch — unless you, like me, made the foolhardy decision of trusting your GPS for directions to the picnic grounds.

But no matter. Good food, home-brewed beer, and, best of all, a great crowd made for the best time I’ve had in a long time. Glory Hole, in-fucking-deed.

Tom, Me, Cecil, & Mrs. Russell.

Tom, Me, Cecil, & Mrs. Russell.