Comet Fragments

The temperature has dropped off the side of a cliff and I’m all caught up on school. It’s time for another link dump. So let’s get started.

The mysterious black hole of the Pacific Ocean: Apparently, this is just an optical effect, which is good because for a second there, I was concerned about the state of the world.

Hundreds of three-eyed ‘dinosaur shrimp’ emerge after Arizona monsoon: And there’s really nothing to worry about at all. Just try to ignore the three-eyed dinosaur shrimp. They’re just part of the beauty and wonder of nature. Fucking nature. At least, humans have their shit together. There’s still that, right? Humans?

Are US booster shots sapping the world’s vaccine supply?: I wish the ethical case was enough to get the rich countries to stop hoarding vaccines, get off their asses and start sharing the vaccines and the capacity to make them but, well . . . So maybe self-interest?

“If the coronavirus continues spreading anywhere in the world, it has the capacity to spread everywhere. Every new infection provides the virus with an opportunity to mutate, potentially generating a new variant—like the Delta variant, first identified in India in early 2021.”

This whole situation is fucking disgusting.


A letter to a refugee child who must ‘survive’ in a new country: This was really very touching. A lot of people are really being put through it these days and a lot more will be in days to come. (I have some bad news — these are still The Good Old Days.) So it’s nice to see someone reach out to help someone who is in the same situation they once were, even if it’s just with words. It’s much better than the usual approach of kicking out the ladder you climbed up, pouring boiling oil down on anyone trying to scamper up after you, then setting everything on fire because, well, why should anyone ever have anything easier than you?

South Korean Workers Dress Up As ‘Squid Game’ Characters To Protest For Labour Rights: There was a one day general strike in South Korea. Probably goes without saying (I hope it does anyway) but I’m on the side of the strikers. I hope they get everything they’re demanding and more besides. It’s good that people fighting for more than the shit they get.

Because like — what the fuck? We’re not a bunch of goddamn prey cows for the rich to feed upon. And it’s well past time the rich learned that. Again.

Aside from the strike itself, a thing that cheered me up (well, that’s a bit strong – let’s say ‘gave me some hope’) is the appearance of Squid Game at the strike. Basically, since that came out, I’ve seen it primarily talked about as a success story, heard about the craze it’s started, and seen it turned into shopping. That’s a bit depressing.

I mean, it’s basically impossible for an anti-capitalist piece of art to be more successful than Squid Game and yet it became a SUCCESS story and started shopping crazes. For someone like me, who has a pony in that race with their own book (TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL – SHOP NOW!) that’s just totally depressing. So seeing Squid Game being used in a strike rather than a shopping campaign? Seeing it being used to communicate the problems in a way that’s paired with action?

Good stuff.

Hurts So Good: The Culture and Science of Pain on Purpose: Speaking of good stuff.

My copy of Hurts So Good by Leigh Cowart arrived the other day. But, being a shallow fucker, I waited for my new bookmark to arrive before digging in.

I’ve known Leigh for . . . Phew, yeesh . . . A long time now. Leigh is one of the only people I know from the internet that I’ve ever had a skype conversation, let alone multiple ones, with. They’re a really fucking good writer and they have been for a long time. I can’t think of anyone who deserves to sell a book more than Leigh. So I was expecting the book to be good. I was not expecting it to be great. And I think this is a great fucking book.

It’s one of the best popular science books I’ve ever read. I don’t even know if I’d call it that. If it’s popular science, then it’s popular science for freaks not geeks. But it’s much more than that. It’s not a simple “explainer” but a really personal and powerful piece of writing. It delves into the question of masochism. Of all types and on all sorts of levels. It made me laugh and it made me wince. It made me think about things, including myself, in new ways.

One difference between a first rate book and a third rate book is a first rate books provides more questions than answers and a third rate book provides more answers than questions. Rather than an answer, the book has questions. The attempt to answer these questions uncovers a lot about science, sex, society, and even the duck billed fucking platypus – if you can believe it. The fucking platypus! I’ll never look at those fuckers the same way again.

That, to me, is the sort of writing I like. Something that starts with a question and then digs, just fucking digs, right into it. Shit that starts with an answer? Bores me.

Above and beyond its humor, its power, and its gruesome bits, Hurts So Good is an honest and profound inquiry into machoism. If you ask me, honesty is the most important quality of any piece of art — so important that even lies are allowed in its pursuit. And honesty is a quality that is too often lacking in art, writing, or anything these days. Maybe all days. All times. Here to never forever. But Hurts So Good is honest. And it’s fucking great.

So go buy it.

(I’m pretty happy with that bookmark too.)

Chernobyl Mold for Space

Given the sort of year (decade, century, life) it’s been, one could be forgiven for getting a case of the willies and what-nows when they hear the term “self-replicating Chernobyl mold.” But it’s nothing like that. This mold isn’t using human brains as a food source (yet) and it definitely has not, I repeat: HAS NOT, affixed itself to head of powerful world leaders disguised as a ridiculous mop of yellow hair. That would be bonkers.

Instead of feeding on us while usurping our governments, self-replicating Chernobyl mold could protect the ISS from space radiation.

A new study, yet to undergo peer review, was published on the pre-print repository bioRxiv on July 17 and examines one of these species, Cladosporium sphaerospermum. It suggests the fungi could be used as a self-healing, self-replicating shield to protect astronauts in deep space. Specialist science publication New Scientist reported on the findings on July 24.

Self-replicating Chernobyl mold could protect the ISS from space radiation

Is that good news? I can’t even tell anymore. I suppose, if space radiation is a concern of yours, yeah, mold is good news. But for those of us here on Earth? Please remember to clean your surfaces, wash your hands, and wear a mask. Especially around mold.

Seismic Quiet

Looks like COVID quieted down the humans a little bit.

“The length and quiescence of this period represents the longest and most coherent global seismic noise reduction in recorded history,” the scientists reported on Thursday in the journal Science. The quieting, they added, resulted from social distancing, industrial shutdowns and drops in travel and tourism. The overall decline far exceeded the kind typically observed on weekends and holidays.

With Covid-19, a Seismic Quiet Like No Other

So, if nothing else, you have already lived through the longest seismic noise reduction in recorded history. That is, so far, at least.

Dubious Health Benefits of Sex With Robots

sex robot

There’s a new report that says that there’s no evidence regarding the health benefits of having sex with robots. I had no idea these things were even being marketed as tools to improve any sort of health but apparently that’s a thing that’s happening.

A data void hasn’t prevented the spread of beneficial claims. “We became aware that doctors are being asked for their professional opinions on sex dolls and robots,” Cox-George said. Sexbots have been suggested as a way to promote safe sex or as therapies for people with companionship problems.

Doctors are expected to have a “professional opinion” on sex robots? You know, if your doctor prescribes a sex robot, I’d consider getting another doctor. But what if you’re lonely? Isn’t there supposed to be a cure for that?

In an interview published last year, Douglas Hines, chief executive of interactive sex doll maker TrueCompanion, told the Foundation for Responsible Robotics: “Roxxxy, our sex robot, provides what every adult needs – unconditional love and support. The ability to feel the loving embrace of a lover is a right every adult should be granted. We provide a solution to help adults meet their social as well as sexual needs.” (TrueCompanion and Realbotix did not respond to requests for comment.)

Look, I’ve got some bad news for you, here. This thing about what every adult needs – unconditional love and support? That’s not a thing an adult needs or should even expect. That’s for children. I’m not even totally convinced that it does children much good. Hell, I would say most of adulthood is about functioning without unconditional love and support. You grow up, you realize there’s terms and conditions. Even to love.

And yeah, you might still crave something like that. That’s why we have dogs. But you should still look after your dog. You still have responsibilities. You’re supposed to feed and love the dog back, you know? Take it for walks. There’s still conditions.

Like, Jesus Fucking Christ and Mother Mary, just my unprofessional opinion here, but grow the fuck up. Humping a doll isn’t going to help you with shit. Nice world if it did but get off the crap already.


Super Strong Heroin Rats

So here’s a thing. Strength training reduces heroin use by altering key neurological system, study finds. That study, as you can probably imagine was conducted on rats.1978-Winchester-CEC

The researchers found that rats that were used to taking heroin — and trained to self-administer it — did so significantly less after an exercise regimen that involved repeatedly climbing a vertical ladder wearing a weighted vest.

As if rats weren’t bad enough. We now get them strung out and then, since junkie rats aren’t bad enough, work them out so that they’re strong too. Have you ever dealt with rats? I have. And I can tell you this: Super strong junkie rats? No one needs that in their life. But, aside from the casual creation of a creature that will no doubt supplant us (after stealing all our cheese and heroin) the study reports evidence that:

“ . . . resistance exercise is reducing drug use by producing functional changes within the neurological systems that drive compulsive patterns of drug use in individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders.”

In particular, the researchers observed exercise-induced changes in gene expression in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain associated with the processing of reward.

So, if you’re a junkie, it might be time to get those weights back from the pawn shop. Whether the exercise will help you quit or not is anyone’s guess but you’re going to need to get strong if you want to protect your heroin from these rats. Word is, they’ve been working out.

Night Owls Doomed to Early Death

I’ve been a night-owl for about as long as I can remember and the news about it has never really been good but this is new one: Why being a night owl may lead to earlier death. Just what we all need. An earlier death. Mine seems overdue by about a thousand years. I’m still haunted by the loss of the Mesopotamian temples.

Anyway, you can probably guess the reasons for our imminent demise. We go through life jet-lagged by a world built on a different schedule. The sun can boil up our blood and send us into frothing fits. Standing in direct light has been known to blind us and send us screaming into oncoming traffic. And then there’s the crows. Those fucking crows . . .

But there’s some hope. Well, not really. What there really is, is a quiz. Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire. It basically tries to find out your chronotype. After informing me that it was not built with people like me in mind, it actually did a pretty good job. It located my bedtime at 8:30am. That’s about right. 7am always feels like I’m getting an early night at 9am always feels like I’ve been up late. It’s also the first time anyone has told me that my bedtime is at 8:30am. Usually they say things like “GET UP!” or “You’re still awake?” So there’s some comfort in being given an approximately right bedtime, even if I cannot possibly vouch for the accuracy of the quiz. It made me feel better, okay? Sometimes that has to be enough. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.

Anyway, don’t make mine a morning funeral. Do it at a sensible hour. Like midnight.