My sympathies to this woman’s recent struggles, but I am reminded why I despise royalty.

“On cue, the sun broke through the showers to shine on her — and the whole world said in unison…it’s lovely to see you too, Kate”

Nope, I didn’t say that at all. It was more like muttering under my breath at the annoying overdose of saccharine and non-news in the news. Fuck off, Kate, and take your annoying kids with you.

Rupert can stop simpering over this one family, too.

(It’s nothing personal, I just get so annoyed at empty propaganda and the excesses of tabloid “journalism”.)

Black Widows: the most boring pet ever?

I didn’t expect it, but wow, black widows are incredibly lazy. They find a corner and park their large butts there and don’t move at all, all day long. I know they wander about at night stringing silk all over the place, but otherwise, they’re like sulking teenagers who don’t wanna do nothin’ whenever you look at them. Boring!

Or are they?

I think maybe I haven’t been feeding them right. Yesterday, I caught a small grasshopper in our garden, and I tossed it into the black widow container. It bounced off a couple of strands of silk, and the effect was electric: the widow leapt out of her corner and stood poised in the center, suspended on its web, looking extraordinarily alert. She wasn’t looking directly at the hopper, but was delicately touching multiple lines — you could tell she was poised to sense any motion in her trap.

The moment was tense and dramatic.

The hopper moved. The widow instantly charged at it, tried to use her hind legs to tangle it up, and failed, so she retreated back to her central lookout. The hopper was terrified, and remained motionless for at least 5 minutes, while the spider was also motionless, but alert.

Finally, the hopper took a small step, and the widow surged forward and snared it with more silk. The hopper was kicking frantically, trying to leap away, but was hampered by the strong sticky silk, and every leap tangled it further in all that silk. So much silk. Finally, the black widow gave it one little kiss, and the hopper was almost instantly dead. Then she dragged her prey up to her calm quiet corner and ate.

I’ve been feeding her mealworms all this time. Maybe it’s not the spider that’s boring, but the food I’ve been giving her. The next feeding day is Tuesday, I think I’m going to have to buy a box of crickets.

A brilliant approach

While we’re at it, can we ban these? (Minneapolitans know what I mean)

I love this idea out of any country other than the US.

Last month this Scottish city — filled with medieval spires and shadowed by the looming castle on the hill said to have inspired the Harry Potter books — made a startlingly modern decision. Edinburgh’s city council voted to ban fossil fuel advertisements on city property, undermining the ability of not only oil companies, but also car manufacturers, airlines and cruise ships, to promote their products. The ban targeted arms manufacturers as well.

Edinburgh is not alone. Amsterdam and Sydney have cracked down on advertisements for fossil fuels and high-emissions products. France also limited the promotion of coal, gas and hydrogen made from fossil fuels. Even the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has joined in, endorsing a ban on fossil fuel ads this month in a speech in New York this month: “Stop the Mad Men from fueling the madness.”

A fantastically potent tactic, I think. It’s not just that the general public will lose a source of misinformation and propaganda for practices that harm the world, but that media will lose an incentive to peddle petroleum products. What would the news be like if mass media were no longer motivated to downplay ideas, like climate change, because big corporations were no longer sensitive to specific kinds of advertisers?

Here in the US I’d also like to see a ban on advertising pharmaceuticals. I don’t watch broadcast television much at all anymore, but one of the reasons is the infuriatingly stupid ads for drugs. Killing car commercials and Ozempic ads would have interesting side effects on the commentary out of the news room.

First bike!

Next week, we’re driving all the way to Madison to see my daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter, and we’re bringing a present: her first bike. I got it all assembled today, although I’m going to suggest that Kyle & Skatje give it a once-over and make sure I didn’t forget something.

I remember my first bike, and really, my only bike. We were poor, so we had to take whatever we could get, and my father was quite proud to have gotten this used bike from a friend. I was 7 or 8, and he gave me this monstrous adult bike (I’d grow into it), dark red, with the words “English Racer” written on the frame (I later learned that it wasn’t really a racing bike, but a Raleigh Sports bike.) It was very light and stripped down, only 3 speeds — high, higher, and so high you’ll rupture yourself trying to turn that crank — and no fenders, which was not a great option in the Pacific Northwest, where I’d spend most of my adolescence with a muddy stripe up my back. It had these tires that were about as thick as my index finger, so no, this wasn’t for riding on the back roads.

Also, no training wheels, of course.

So my dad taught me how to ride by putting me on this razor thin rail on wheels, where I couldn’t simultaneously sit on the seat and reach the pedals, and pushed me off down the driveway. I had to learn to balance or die.

As you can see, I didn’t die. That was my bike all through grade school, and I think my parents didn’t junk it until I went off to college — at least, it disappeared then, and I don’t think it flew away. It was a great bike. Meanwhile, my brother would get a 10-speed with fat tires — I felt sorry for him that he was driving such an inferior vehicle. My bike was a beast to get rolling from a stationary start, but once you got moving, I could easily outrace my brother and all of my friends. As long as there was no turning involved. Or braking. Or going uphill. Downhill on the straightaway, it was glorious.

I don’t think Iliana’s bike will have the staying power of my old Red Racer, but it’s a much more practical and safer way to start bicycling. Maybe when she gets older she can get a skinny death machine and terrorize everyone going down hills.

Maybe crime is spread through the drinking water?

Royce White is a former professional basketball player who really, really wants to replace our Democratic Senator, Amy Klobuchar. Say what you want about Klobuchar, I don’t think she’s going to be sweating over this race.

White posted a map of the “out-of-control crime” in Minneapolis and said we need to refund the police.

One problem.

White, a 33-year-old retired NBA player who was recently accused of dropping $1,200 of campaign funds at a Miami strip club, appeared to have ripped the graphic from another account on X who had shared it sarcastically. It showed dozens of green dots, which indicated working fountains, and a handful of red and yellow dots, which signified those broken and being repaired across Minneapolis.

Hey, you never know. Maybe he’s like John Snow and the Broad Street Pump — he’s discovered a previously unknown vector for the spread of crime, not cholera, in the city. Unfortunately for that hypothesis, he quickly deleted his tweet, and is now really angry at the people who exposed his foolishness (not to mention his abuse of campaign funds at a strip club.)

You’re a cuck. We’re leaving the plantation, White tweeted at a Minnesota-based reporter, Christopher Ingraham, who pointed out the error. You and your weird liberal buddies read it and weep.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, he’s running for office as a Republican.

If only they hadn’t made that last comment

Honestly, I could have ignored this. It’s nothing but familiar anti-trans stupidity, inventing sharp distinctions out of blurry ones, pretending overlaps in morphology don’t exist. There’s just so much of it that I don’t have the will to address it all. But that last bit…I saw red.

Male skeletons literally have more ribs than female skeletons and many other differences. Did you go to an online college?

That is simply not true. Did you go to a bible college?

“There’s something to be said for Minnesota nice”

I read a horrific story about road rage. A 35 year old man was so outraged about getting honked at that he followed the honker to her home, spun donuts in her parking lot, punched her in the face, and chased and ran over her boyfriend killing him. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

That’s just one ugly story. What was interesting is that the article ranked states for road rage, and number one at the top was Arizona.

A recent study from FINN put Arizona’s road rage score at 8 out of 10, the highest in the U.S. The state also came out on top for confrontational drivers.

“A huge 81% of drivers in Arizona have been yelled at, insulted or threatened when driving,” according to the report. “As well as this, a shocking 22.5% of drivers in the state have been forced off the road.”

Arizona ranked ahead of Montana, South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama for road rage.

Where’s Pennsylvania? Once upon a time I had a daily commute on the Schuylkill Expressway, and that was mildly terrifying. I once saw a truck cut off a guy on the freeway entrance, and the guy pulled out a pistol and started peppering the truck. You do not want to be on the Schuylkill at rush hour.

But then…a nice surprise.

The best state to avoid road rage? Finn said Minnesota, where drivers encounter the least aggressive driving in the country. There’s something to be said for Minnesota nice, apparently.

As usual, the author doesn’t understand “Minnesota nice,” a phrase referring to the extremes of passive-aggressive behavior here. But sure, come to Minnesota, where we probably won’t force you off the road and murder your boyfriend. Probably.

Do other countries have this sick obsession with flags?

I was checking my calendar as I do every morning, when I discovered that today, 14 June, is an official US holiday (but not a federal holiday — sorry, you don’t get to take a day off work). It’s Flag Day!

I’ve never been much of a fan of flags. I got weirded out back in third grade when I suddenly realized that the morning ritual the school put us through every day was to pledge allegiance to a flag, and I just plain stopped. I’d stand up and try to blend into the background, because I didn’t want to get beat up on the playground afterwards, but wouldn’t say any words. Why? Because they were stupid. A flag is a colorful piece of cloth, nothing more, and not a sentient being or a principle or a deity.

Flag Day has a new level of meaning this year, because flags have become a potent symbol of political disagreement. We’re a polarized nation, so why not trot out a big flag, the uglier the better, to declare your affiliation? I’ve noticed that most of my neighbors don’t have any flags at all; there’s just one house several blocks away that I see with flags tacked up everywhere. They’re all Gadsden flags or blue line flags, and they’re interspersed with Trump signs, and they’ve got “JESUS” spray-painted on their roof.

Maybe flags do have a useful function, then. They’re markers for where the town assholes live.

With that purpose in mind, then, we can see the latest scandal in a new light. Justice Samuel Alito and his wife Martha-Ann have been warring with their neighbors, waving flags to symbolize their allegiance to the Empire of Assholes.

Martha-Ann, when asked about it by a reporter, started screaming and eventually hoisted another, different, flag up the flagpole—did figure in it. It was more about how the Alitos are, as neighbors and just in general.

So it fit that, when given an opportunity or just a moment of otherwise neutral space through which to charge, Martha-Ann simply ran her mania up there in the assumption that the person who had just begun talking to her at a fundraiser would salute. “I’m putting it up and I’m gonna send them a message every day, maybe every week, I’ll be changing the flags,'” she fantasized, to someone she’d never previously met. “They’ll be all kinds. I made a flag in my head. This is how I satisfy myself. I made a flag. It’s white and has yellow and orange flames around it. And in the middle is the word ‘vergogna.’ ‘Vergogna’ in Italian means shame—vergogna. V-E-R-G-O-G-N-A. Vergogna.” Anyway, it’s a nice thing to think about, someday being able to raise a flag above your home that tells the neighbors that you think they are disgusting and going to hell.

I can see how flags can have some significance. I just don’t see the point of celebrating that.