They’re hot on my trail!

[CONTENT NOTE: graphic image of child’s arm showing injuries after a squirrel attack.]

I read with alarm a terrifying story out of Jacksonville, Florida:

Young boy among 3 attacked by squirrels at Jacksonville park

Several people including a child are recovering after they were attacked by a squirrel at a park in Jacksonville.

:o

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Multicellularity, male privilege and also I need $10 million.

I watched a video of my colleagues at FreethoughtBlogs, Matt Herron of Fierce Roller and PZ Myers of Tentacly Overlord infamy, discussing some very cool science-y stuff about the evolution of multicellularity. One of the most interesting takeaways for me is that it had long been thought that evolving multicellularity would be an exceedingly rare and difficult jump to make. But it has been discovered, only in the last five to ten years, that this is actually relatively easy and common:

Matt (@3:51): I think there’s been sort of a natural assumption that it has to be difficult. And maybe it is difficult to evolve a complex multicellular organism, with lots and lots of cell types and tissues and maybe even organs, because that hasn’t happened very many times. But Rick Grossberg has a paper where he argues basically what we’ve found, which is that at least the initial steps towards a multicellular lifestyle really aren’t that difficult. It’s happened lots of times that we know of, at least a couple of dozen times, and probably more because in a lot of cases these things don’t leave any fossil record. It is surprising, compared to what people thought five or ten years ago, that multicellularity evolves so easily, but now we’ve seen it in several of these experiments. And in a lot of cases it happens within just a few hundred generations.

OMG cool, right?

Then they touch on the intersection of philosophy and biology, and specifically the question of what exactly constitutes an individual organism, as opposed to, say, a colony of creatures that appear to function as one. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets my beanie spinning. I am reminded of my unfortunate encounter with a species known as Physalia physalis, a.k.a. the “floating terror,” a.k.a. the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war, which I would henceforth (and forevermore) refer to as a “sea squirrel.” Despite its similarity in appearance to the common jellyfish—an individual multicellular organism that will also sting the everloving shit out of you if given a chance—it turns out that the Sea Squirrel™ is actually something very different:

[T]he Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which, unlike jellyfish, is not actually a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. These polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like a so-called individual animal.

Mind: blown.

These weird little fuckers are carnivorous, wielding their wickedly venomous tentacles to paralyze prey (e.g. small fish), and to inflict upon barefoot beachwalkers excruciating pain even after they are long dead (the sea squirrels, not the beachwalkers).

Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting cephalopod angle here. Blanket octopuses are immune to sea squirrel venom, which is an amazing enough trick to evolve. But these cephalopods go waaaaaay beyond that: they rip the venomous tentacles right off of those critters (hopefully while mocking them mercilessly), and then they carry the tentacles around with them to wield as weapons for defensive (and possibly offensive) purposes. Now that is some serious next level shit, blanket octopuses! I mean, can you just picture that? Because I sure can!

 

octopusseasquirrelweaponsOctopus Wielding Sea Squirrel™ Tentacles Against Douchefish.
©Iris Vander Pluym
8′ x 11′
(oil on canvas)
$10,000,000.00

But! I digress. As beanie-spinning as all of this clearly is (as evidenced by the foregoing blather), it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post. Continue reading

News from the Texas Republic of Gilead.

Via AP:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lawmakers in Texas largely failed to take any significant action to address the state’s skyrocketing rate of pregnancy-related deaths just months after researchers found it to be the highest in not only the U.S., but the developed world.

Conservatives are pro-life, everyone. FYI.

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We suck. Help save the oceans.

seaturtle

(image via Avaaz)

It’s no secret that I have no love for homo sapiens (or for Sciuridae for that matter, but they are not the goddamn problem FOR ONCE). I do, however, harbor deep affection and compassion for our cousins that dwell in the Earth’s seas.

papagayocr

This is a picture of all my aquatic friends in Costa Rica.
I don’t have an underwater camera. But since I snorkeled extensively in these waters, I can assure you they are fucking amazing.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marine habitats all over this planet, humans suck giant walrus balls. Hard. In fact, it invites karmic justice of the highest order that President Cheetohead and his merry band of motherfrackers are busy ensuring Earth’s glaciers and polar ice caps completely melt, covering the entire surface of the globe in water. (BONUS: this would also solve the fucking squirrel problem once and for all. Lard knows future aquatic space alien visitors shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.)

But at least occasionally, we humans attempt to mitigate some of the worst aspects of our lamentable existence. If only momentarily, we will put our violent domination proclivities on hold and shift to a collaborative worldview, as if our very lives depended on it. They actually do, of course. And this is one of those moments.

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BREAKING: I might be terrible.

Readers, I am more than a little disturbed at myself. You see, I have an affinity (<-hi Caine!) for some very dark humor, by which I mean the kind I feel terrible about for finding funny, because it is either rooted in harmful stereotypes, or taboo subjects, or punching down instead of up, that sort of thing. And yet! I still find myself laughing nonetheless.

This laughter, mind you, is inevitably followed by overwhelming feelings of shame, embarrassment and self-admonishment. That is NOT funny, Iris! I will exhort internally. Get a hold of yourself, woman! You should NOT be laughing at this!

Alas, as anyone who has ever commanded themselves to STOP THAT LAUGHING RIGHT NOW! can attest, this exercise is utterly, fatally doomed.

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Coincidence? I DON’T THINK SO.

South Berwick, Maine is a typical small New England town (pop. 7,220) just a stone’s throw from the New Hampshire border. At 97.5% white and solidly middle class, it sounds unexceptionally boring. In fact, the only thing that ever happens in South Berwick is a yearly “strawberry festival” held on its elementary school grounds. Highlights apparently include “shops, food, games and rides for children and trolley rides.”

*yawn*

Since virtually everyone else in the world completely ignores this dreadfully boring town, the squirrels have taken notice—and taken up residence. Indeed, South Berwick seems to be the ideal location for the enemy rodents to perfect their latest stealth technology: winter camouflage.

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OMG Karma is real!

So maybe it doesn’t work all that well among humans, but have scientists reeeeeally studied whether interspecies karma is in play when it comes to elephants? And possibly crocodiles? NO I DON’T THINK SO.

A data point:

South African Hunter Crushed to Death By Elephant

A South African big game hunter died after being crushed by an elephant cow that had been shot on a game reserve in Zimbabwe at the weekend.

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Conversion therapy: kill it with fire.

equality-180

Feel like exercising your constitutional right (while it lasts…) to click links? GOOD!

Click on over to Freethought Resistance, then click the link to CREDO* Action’s petition to Congress to ban conversion therapy. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA33), sponsor of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, says of the legislation:

It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.

As a California state senator in 2012, Rep. Lieu was also instrumental in enacting a similar law, the first of its kind in the nation. Just last month, the California law withstood a final appeal to the US Supreme Court based on a “religious freedom” argument. In the wake of the high court’s rejection, there is some momentum on which to capitalize here: the national legislation has been referred to committee in both the House and Senate.

Come on, you godless heathens! You know you enjoy trampling the “religious freedom” of bigoted fraudulent assholes at least as much as I do. Get your click on.

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*CREDO Mobile is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic donors like AT&T that fund conservatives. They offer a lot of the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.