New Namesake for Johnson County

I never knew until today that Johnson County; Iowa had originally been named for a slaveholder. That has changed since the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to rename the county for distinguished African American scholar, Dr. Lulu Merle Johnson on June 24, 2021. Read the Iowa Now story for the details. The drive to rename the county for Dr. Johnson, an accomplished University of Iowa alumna, began last year with an on-line petition that gathered 1,000 signatures, led by David McCartney, an archivist in UI Libraries’ Special Collections.

According to the Iowa Now story, the drive to rename the county for Dr. Johnson was also in the context of the deaths of several African Americans by police officers earlier this year. It reminds me of another famous African American, James Alan McPherson, a long-time faculty member at the Iowa Writers Workshop, for whom a local neighborhood park was recently renamed. Part of the drive for that came from members of Black Lives Matter.

McPherson was written about in the book Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era, edited by former UI faculty, Lena and Michael Hill. Although Dr. Johnson was not mentioned in their book, she certainly could have been because of her towering status as an educator, historian, and activist.

Support for the change also came from Leslie Schwalm, professor of gender, women’s and sexuality studies, and members of Dr. Johnson’s family.

Results of CDC Emergency Meeting Today on COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

The ACIP presentation slide sets available for June 23, 2021 regarding safety of COVID-19 vaccine including myocarditis and pericarditis and booster doses are here. Updated CDC recommendations for myocarditis and pericarditis following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination are here. Data does not support recommending booster doses currently although monitoring will continue.

Get the Bullet Head Cut

Man, you know you’re retired when the most exciting event going on in a typical day is going out to get a haircut. It was an even bigger deal today because I haven’t been in a barber’s chair in about 35 years. Sena usually cuts my hair, but if I hadn’t gone out today to get a pro job haircut, I’d have very little else to write about except this poem that occurred to me last night.

I cannot say I know

That any UFO

Has an interstellar driver.

And if I then insist

No aliens exist,

Would you think I’m even wiser?

Weirdly, this doggerel is relevant since my head now reminds me of a bald alien. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think the stylist (I guess that’s what you call them nowadays) did a great job. I call it the Bullet Head cut or just the Bullet Head for short.

There were only two stylists and only one wore a mask. Masks were optional and since I’ve been fully vaccinated for almost 3 months, I left mine in my pocket.

My haircut took only 15 minutes. Did you want that sentence served with “literally?” OK here you go, but just this once: My haircut literally took only 15 minutes.  I’ve never had such a fast haircut. On the other hand, I’ve had a lot shorter times sitting in barber shop waiting rooms. The shop takes walk-ins, if you’re willing to wait for at least an hour, often longer. The air-conditioning really worked. I was afraid to step outside to warm up a little because I didn’t know if that would remove me from my place on the wait list, which I could see on a video screen from my chair (along with the wait time, typically 90 minutes or more). Step to the right, step to the left, attempt to escape.

The other thing I was not hip to was that I could have checked in on-line using my smartphone. It also sounded like they would give you a jingle a few minutes ahead of your appointment time. I did it the old-fashioned way—and spent a long time reading the labels on hair care products. Ever wonder what’s in that tall red spray can labeled Big Sexy Hair? Me neither.

I know you’re wondering what clipper guard number the stylist used. It was a number 2, which typically leaves about a quarter inch length on a scalp which could burn under a noonday sun. But I like it. I got the senior discount and a coupon for next time. You probably want to know the name of the place; it was Great Clips. I would go back, especially if they turn the thermostat up. If you go, ask for the Bullet Head. Tell them I sent you.

Common Trekkie Birds

We took a walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail yesterday and were struck by a goggle-eyed looking Tree Swallow, which was caused by the angle of the sunlight and the shot direction—we think. It reminded us of a big-eyed alien.

Partly because I’m kind of a Star Trek fan, I think many common birds have fascinating features which can make them seem almost alien. For example, the Common Yellowthroat has a weird call, which one author has described as “witchety-witchety-wichety-witchety” (Birds of Iowa: Field Guide by Stan Tekiela). We just managed to catch it–the bird’s call, not the bird.

The Eastern Kingbird is well known for its Klingon-like aggression. The Red-wing Blackbirds tend to dive bomb you if you get too close to their nest.

It was good to get outside. There are a lot of people who get credited with the quote “Keep looking up.” The one I remember is Jack Horkheimer, who used to host the public TV show Star Gazer.

Keep looking up.

Update: CDC Emergency Meeting June 23-25, 2021 on COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Including Myocarditis

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) emergency meeting is re-scheduled for June 23-25, 2021 to discuss COVID-19 vaccine safety including myocarditis after Vaccine Safety Technical Work Group assessment. You can find a webcast link and the draft of the working agenda details here. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee report slide set summary as of May 31, 2021 is on slide 26. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) news story is here.

Magnetically Speaking

Today I saw the story about a nurse practitioner in the Ohio state legislature who tried to demonstrate how the COVID-19 vaccine magnetized her. However, she was like Teflon—nothing stuck. This occurred during the Ohio state legislature hearing about House Bill 248, which would prohibit mandatory vaccinations. I gather it is still being considered, although not on the strength of the scientific evidence favoring any magneto-genic properties of the vaccine. Even the CDC has a web page debunking this.

You know, when we were grade school kids, we used to do this trick of placing a spoon on our noses. The spoon sticks to your nose mainly because of the oil on your skin. The school lunchroom monitors did not get a big kick out of this, for some reason. They would make us sit in the bleachers. They also caught us stuffing spinach and fruitcake into our milk cartons, which brought the same penalty.

The CDC forgot to mention the other important issue, though. Aliens are installing tracking devices into the injection site. They want to see how many people are going to the marijuana shops in the states where it’s legal to get free joints for getting the jabs. Those aliens got it all wrong. In fact, I guess it’s tough to get the jab in the first place. You only get the marijuana for actually getting the shot in the pot shop (try saying that three times really fast), not for proving that you already got one by showing your vaccination card (like at beer gardens). It turns out that health care professionals are leery of administering the injections at pot shops because of some federal law against using or selling marijuana. Imagine that.

Anyway, there is no scientific evidence for COVID-19 vaccines making you magnetic. And they won’t make you like fruitcake, either. Is there any evidence for human magnetism at all, meaning can you make metal objects stick to you as if you’re a human magnet? Probably not. There are some colorful characters out there who claim they’re magnetic, though.

But is there evidence for humans having magnetoreception or some kind of magnetic sense? There might be some evidence although definite conclusions can’t be made yet. In an earlier post I mentioned that scientists believe there is evidence supporting a magnetic sense in some animals including foxes.

Try the sticky spoon trick at home.

Aliens Dancing on My TV Remote Again

Remember my post last month on dancing aliens causing my TV remote to make clicking noises all by itself? Well, despite changing batteries, the clicking noises returned, only a couple of days later. The thing clicks even when I’m holding it in my hand but not pressing any buttons. I don’t know what causes it, but the probability that aliens are involved is really low.

That reminds me of the upcoming government report on UFOs this month—which will probably be delayed and not contain any evidence proving aliens exist. I used to say that I can’t prove a negative, meaning that I can’t prove the non-existence of things like aliens, Bigfoot, and tasty fruitcake.

It turns out I’m probably wrong about that. There are philosophers out there who say you can prove a negative, although not with absolute certainty, but through induction. One of them is Dr. Steven D. Hales, who wrote “Thinking Tools: You Can Prove a Negative” in 2005. Dr. Hales is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. It was published in eSkeptic, the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society and Think (vol. 10, Summer, 2005) pp. 109-112.

I got by in my freshman philosophy class in college, but I can follow Dr. Hale’s article fairly well. My college professor worked really hard explaining inductive reasoning. Dr. Hales does it effortlessly and he has a pretty good sense of humor.

Therefore, inductively speaking, there is no such thing as tasty fruitcake.

Go Baby Robins!

We have a robin’s nest in our back yard with 3 nestlings. I can hear Momma robin nearby, nervous about me and my camera. I’m careful not to disturb them too much, not to stay too long. I hope they make it. I hope for a lot of things like civility, peace, love, acceptance. It should be alright to hope for this one little thing extra—that baby robins grow up.

Music credit:

Midsummer Sky by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Who’s in Charge of UFOs and Dehumidifiers?

There’s this great line in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” After Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is captured by the military and he has been briefed by scientists, he gets a little upset and says, “Well I got a couple of thousand goddamn questions, you know. I want to speak to someone in charge. I want to lodge a complaint. You have no right to make people crazy!”

I feel like Roy about this UFO thing that’s now being called UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon). The UAP Task Force is supposed to give some kind of report on this sometime this month. Reports of UFOs (I’m going to keep using that term) have been going on for years and they’ve been getting more complicated lately as stuff gets declassified about them.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about the UAP Task Force report. I have trouble understanding small stuff, like dehumidifiers for example. Sena bought one the other day, one with a 40-pint capacity. Sena asked the salesman how many pints there are in a gallon. The guy asked his smartphone the question—and then said “2”.

OK, I admit I’m no whiz kid in math. But even I could get the right answer by duplicating what he did. I asked my smartphone, for the first time, mind you. I had never tried that feature. It clearly and audibly gave the correct answer of 8 pints in a gallon. I’m not sure how that got messed up at the store. Sena also asked if the dehumidifier had a filter. The salesman said he did not think so. There is a very large, flat filter visible to the naked eye on the rear of the unit that just snaps in and out of place.

And don’t get me started about the operating instructions for the timer on it.  I know it’s not a clock. The instructions tell us how to program the timer to turn the thing on and off by using the arrow buttons. They go on at length about how to program it by pressing the Timer OFF or Timer ON, either when the unit is off or on. They tell you to press the arrow buttons left or right to increase or decrease the Timer by 0.5 or 1.0 hour increments up to 24 hours. You set both Timer OFF and Timer ON and the green lights come on, indicating it’s programmed.

What they don’t tell you is that you can’t program multiple time intervals. You can make it come on and go off for one interval. It does that by counting “down the time remaining until start.” What they also don’t tell you is that you need to set both by using time zero as the starting point. If you set Timer ON for 0.5 hours FROM NOW (say time zero is 7:30, meaning you want it to come on at 8:00), and you want the unit to turn itself off after 4 hours, you need to set Timer OFF counting from 7:30, not 8:00.

A clock would have been nice—and clear instructions as well.

So, I want someone with authority to give me the straight story on UFOs. I want to know who’s in charge here. I have my doubts that I’m going to get straight answers if you can’t get them from a guy selling dehumidifiers who doesn’t even known how to use his own smartphone.

Anyway, I found this website called Metabunk and it debunks a fair amount of UFO phenomena. It’s run by Mick West. I can tell it’s fascinating, but I really don’t understand much of what he and others discuss. It’s over my head (of course, since almost everything is). A lot of the language is technical since a lot of what we’re seeing and hearing about UFOs can be misunderstood because, let’s face it, some of this stuff is faked and some of it is ordinary. There are many camera, CGI, and puppet-type tricks which can be applied to give the impression of strange, alien spacecraft. See the extensive post, “How Do You Stage UFO Photos and Videos? Let Us Count the Ways.”

But Metabunk isn’t just about debunking; it’s also about understanding science and technology. When I watch Ancient Aliens or similar TV shows, I really don’t have to do much thinking because they’re mostly speculative. It helps to see something which challenges that view; see West’s article, “The aliens haven’t landed: Why you should be skeptical of recent reports on UFO sightings.”

Maybe he’ll post about dehumidifiers and dehumidifier salesmen. They can’t be from this planet.

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