Florida Aquarium in Tampa has spawned endangered coral

I am fond of saying there is a technological solution for everything, but this technological solution to an environmental problem is especially cool:

Scientific history is being made at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa as endangered Atlantic pillar coral have spawned for the first time ever, in a lab setting….

Generating a spawn has never been done for corals native to the Atlantic, so the system was set up to see if it could work. According to Germann, many coral experts even doubted that the aquarium’s efforts would produce successful results.

The team started working on the research in 2014 with the Staghorn coral, but then the focus shifted to pillar coral because of a disease that has been devastating to the Florida Reef Tract. Pillar coral are now classified as almost extinct since the remaining male and female clusters are too far apart to reproduce.

“It’s quite possible that we just had our last wild spawning of pillar coral this year due to the Stoney Coral Tissue Loss Disease,” the aquarium’s coral expert Keri O’Neill said. “But with the success of this project, as a scientist, I now know that every year for the foreseeable future we can spawn Florida pillar corals in the laboratory and continue our work trying to rebuild the population.

According to the aquarium, the coral greenhouses use advanced LED technology and computer-control systems to mimic the natural environment of the coral to subtly signal the corals to reproduce. They spent months mimicking the natural environment of corals using advanced technology to reproduce the timing of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets to trigger the animals to spawn.

The spawning now shows that genetic diversity and resilience are possible, and it will help keep the ecosystems, as well as Florida’s tourist economy, intact.

This project is a “head start” program for coral. The Aquarium will raise the juvenile corals long enough to give them a better chance of survival than they would have had as larvae in the ocean.

Our first tropical storm?

It looks like we might be getting our first tropical storm since moving to the Florida coast. We have a 70% chance of formation over 48 hours and 90% chance over five days. (And another might form right after it.)

They’ve suspended the search for the missing fishermen here, which is terribly sad. If by some miracle they are adrift, I hope the currents have carried them north.

Now Scholastic is pushing identity politics on very young children

Anyone who has spent much time in the children’s section of a library over the last decade or so has likely observed a shift in the selection of books available for children to borrow. The books have become (1) a lot more politically correct, and (2) a lot dumber overall. More and more of the books explicitly push a far left-leaning political agenda. And the people who write children’s literature because they have an agenda generally do not care about things like building a child’s vocabulary. (Indeed, there is something about needing to tell people what they should believe that is infantilizing in its own right.) Some urban libraries now offer children’s programs like Drag Queen Story Hour – which started off controversial and became even more so after a Houston library invited a registered sex offender convicted of assaulting an eight-year-old boy to read to the kids.

If you have followed the professional organizations for library staffers on Twitter or Facebook, this behavior would not surprise you at all. Many of their posts are ideological in nature, because apparently it is hard to increase literacy among children without being divisive. Your tax dollars at work.

Public schools and libraries are attractive to political activists precisely because they offer access to children. Not unlike pedophiles and other child predators, these folks engage in “grooming” behavior. They do a thousand little things to build trust with children and then they try to exploit that relationship.

Political activists deliberately target ever younger children because they are betting that they will beat parents and churches to these conversations. Why does a kindergartner need to be hanging out with drag queens at the library? Because chances are parents have not had a conversation about sexuality with a five-year-old and most parents do not think they are dropping their child off in the children’s library to learn about getting a sex change.

I learned early on in parenthood that I needed to pre-read what our daughter found at the library because children’s books were becoming ever more inappropriate, glorifying promiscuity and suicide and many other destructive, antisocial behaviors. Children’s television has also followed suit. Now we have shows like 13 Reasons Why – which fetishizes the depression of a young girl and makes her suicide seem so deliciously full of drama. They are coming out with a Nancy Drew series, but this time the detective work involves casual sex. A relative was telling me that when her son was in 7th grade, his teacher passed out boxes of condoms to every kid in his class. Because in public schools, the assumption is that responsible adults encourage seeking sexual partners among girls who are barely old enough to have gotten their period. Is it really surprising that Jeffrey Epstein was once a school teacher?

You have to be a royally fucked up person to delight in sexualizing childhood. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fucked up people working in schools and libraries now.

Beyond sex and suicide, there are now a lot of books targeting very young children intended to subvert values like patriotism. Consider this book – with third-graders as its target audience – that is written from the point of view of the illegitimate sons Thomas Jefferson had with one of his slaves. Twenty years ago, eight-year-old children were reading books like Charlotte’s Web and Abel’s Island. Now they are given books about raping female slaves. Help your child question the meaning of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” its Amazon listing boasts. Just what every third-grader needs to be doing.

Scholastic Books used to be the definition of a wholesome service for kids. Teachers would distribute the company’s fliers to kids in their classroom, the kids would take it home like a Toys R Us catalog, beg their parents for the money, and then wait for their package to arrive at their desk weeks later.

Now Scholastic is promoting books like:

Caroline Mackler’s Not If I Can Help It, where the main character discovers her father is sleeping with her best friend’s mother

Alex Gino’ George, about a transgender elementary school student

Barbara Dee’s Star Crossed, about a middle school girl who discovers that she is bisexual during their school’s production of Romeo and Juliet

Alex Gino’s You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P, which includes text like this:

Jillian prides herself on not being a bigot. She has an aunt who is black and her aunt has a partner, whom Jillian loves as well. Her Aunt Alicia, who is black has two children, Justin and Jamila, 3 and 5 respectively and Jillian just loves them. However, she has other family members such as her grandmother and her Uncle Mike, a singular buffoon who display their bigotry. The grandmother asks her daughter-in-law Alicia to bring ethnic foods such as a sweet potato pie. She also makes comments about Jamila’s hair. Many people might not catch the subtle bigotry in that, but to me and many others the subtext is quite plain…The uncle is Archie Bunker revisited, an unabashed bigot who defends his ignorant comments, even when he sees that he is driving others away. You just want to shove a drumstick down his throat.

Then Molly Osertag’s The Witch Boy, because now gendered followers of the occult are oppressors:

In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

All of these books are targeted at 8- to 12-year-old children.

These folks are not going to stop until they trash everything associated with childhood. They are doing everything they can to ensure that the chasm between people who invent and fetishize suffering and everyone else is multi-generational. And the end result will be that there are a lot of normals whose kids will not experience the joy of getting books from the library because there’s nothing but garbage on the shelves. And, probably, at some point, governments will stop subsidizing public libraries altogether because it’s too controversial.

I used to laugh at my mother when she’d say things to me like, “you should really buy up all the classics you can, because they are going to stop selling them.” Now I see that’s a sort of wisdom.

Stress and anxiety are not status symbols

I think a lot about how much unnecessary misery our culture creates by mandating how families spend every moment of their day. With the technology that is now easily available in developed countries, there’s no reason more of our workforce should not be able to work from home (or from a sailboat, or from a coffee shop). There’s no reason we should have millions of people sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, spewing horrible toxins into the air we breathe, just so a middle manager can pretend to babysit them all day. There’s no reason that a new mother should be putting her weeks-old infant in a day care center and pumping milk in a maintenance closet. (And politicians think the solution to all of her problems is to help her pay for the day care.)

If you look at the way our country lives now, where ordinary people are so filled with rage they become social media trolls in their private time, where kids want to do real physical harm to their peers, etc., how much of that derives from how mentally unhealthy folks’ daily lives have become? How much of that could be eliminated by allowing people to have more home-centered lives? To be able to get out and do things they love for a little chunk of their day, every day? To not be carrying around this oppressive sense that their days are being eaten away by a million meaningless endeavors? Even our children carry the anxiety of purposelessness around with them.

I’ve met a lot of people who are downright snobbish about being overworked. This is particularly true of women who need to feel good about putting their career before raising a family, as if it is even necessary for those to be antithetical in this day and age. I get depressed on their behalf every time I talk to them. I wish people would stop pretending stress is some bogus status symbol and start advocating for better, healthier, more productive ways of living for everyone – especially for children. Our society desperately needs to stop eroding family units, and as with most things, there is a technological solution for this problem.

One of the best things about being a homeschooling family is that there is no arbitrary school day schedule. You don’t have to wake your child up at 6 a.m. (which everyone agrees isn’t good for developing brains) to get ready; shove a cereal bar down their throat so they can make it until their next scheduled feeding time; hurry through morning traffic so you can sit in a car line (which only exists because schools are now common targets for violence and predators); all so they can sit at a desk and try to pay attention when they’d much rather be sleeping (as they should be). And so you can go to an office and do the exact same thing.

With homeschooling, you can cover within a few hours much of the content that is covered in a traditional school in the course of an entire week. That’s the power of having a 1:1 student-teacher ratio and not having most of the week taken up by administrative affairs, discipline, and just generally wasting time. It’s a simple change that eliminates a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety for both parents and children.

In place of all that, you can substitute things that bring your family joy. This morning, our daughter had her hunter-jumper horseback riding lessons. We drove out to the stables, let her practice, gave the pony a bath together, and returned him to his pasture. We drove back into town and picked up Dad for lunch.

For lunch, everyone wanted a cheeseburger. We live on the ocean in Florida, so we went to Whaam Burger on Flagler Beach. They have the most incredible burgers I have ever tasted, and I grew up in Los Angeles with In-N-Out. We ate our lunch on the boardwalk watching the ocean.

Elise had put on a bathing suit under her clothes so she could play in the surf for half an hour after lunch. This is our version of recess.

We stood in the surf and talked through work issues while she was swimming and chasing sandpipers. It was a gorgeous summer day. Since the traditional school year has started, there were almost no tourists around. Then we showered off all the sand, came home, then Elise hit the books and we went back to work.

We try to use our break times to get out into nature as much as possible. We often go on long hikes or walks in the morning to start the day. (You really can’t do this in the evening in Florida, unless you love the company of mosquitoes.) In fact, one of the reasons we chose to move to Palm Coast was the town has 135 miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails. If you are relatively fit, you don’t even need a car to live here. You can go everywhere in town on a bicycle. You can even take bicycle paths along the A1A to other towns, and from those towns to other towns. (Between that, the pristine beaches, and AT&T Fiber’s ultra high speed Internet, I have no idea why every tech entrepreneur in the country isn’t moving here. But I guess I should keep that to myself if I want it to last.)

This also means our daughter has the opportunity to talk to a lot of people and experience a lot of things she would be missing if she went to a traditional school. She meets people from Portugal, Italy, the Caribbean, and Mexico while out around town. She also gets to see first-hand how we earn a living and navigate the business world. I like to call this a modern apprenticeship.

It seems the biggest obstacle to this way of life being available to all or most families in the US are these archaic notions of how adults should be able to get their own work done.

As much as policymakers and other observers love to debate the seemingly intractable issues that come with having a mental health crisis in this country, it’s amazing no one ever talks about simply encouraging businesses to enable the vast majority of Americans to change their lifestyles and thereby change their kids’ lifestyles. Be around the people they love. Be genuinely social and interact with people in the real world instead of having fake fights online. Be less sedentary.

The chattering class loves the perceived enormity of cultural problems and the talking points they use to convince Americans that enriching them to guide some pointless piece of legislation through Washington will be the panacea everyone needs. Changing gun laws, for example, is not going to cure the problem that there are a lot of kids in the US now that want to hurt their peers. On some level, everyone knows that the real problem is the hate and toxicity that has come to characterize schools. The fact that social media has taken bullying from being chased away from the bus stop to being hectored 24/7, with the cumulative effect being that kids want to destroy themselves or others. The fact that girls are starting to objectify themselves from the moment they can read, to the point that women in their 20s are now the largest demographic getting Botox injections and capped teeth. We’ve created one epic destructive environment for both adults and children, and it seems so pervasive and ubiquitous that the problems it creates seem inescapable except to the most densely partisan people in our country.

The philosopher Aristotle thought the success of the polis traced back to the home. Homes are the cells of social organisms. The fundamental building blocks of life. If our country wants to fix its myriad problems, it needs to start by fixing Americans’ homes.

What many Democrats do not get about conservative views on higher education

The Atlantic published an article yesterday, Why Conservatives are Turning Against Higher Education. The article is mostly about legislation proposed by Josh Hawley, the extremely vocal junior senator from Missouri, that would allow federal funds earmarked for college assistance to also be applied toward the costs of vocational training. The Atlantic paints this legislation as part of a growing disdain among conservatives toward colleges and universities.

This is a terrible article on many levels, but mostly because it is factually inaccurate about who does and does not benefit from a college education. According to The Atlantic, Hawley is peeved by the fact that the perceived need for a degree, even in lines of work that do not require specialized training, is hurting the prospects of working class (read: white working class) Americans, and leading to a litany of social ills, including suicide and addiction. I’ve always been skeptical of this story line, living as we do in Florida, where skilled tradesmen can easily earn six digits with benefits. There are people laying pipes here that out-earn CPAs. But maybe that’s not true for Missouri. (Or maybe Hawley knows fewer working class people than he lets on.)

If anything hurt this population, it was the financial crisis and the steep economic downturn that accompanied it. These events created two scenarios: (1) wages in general were reversed to 1990s levels and many people found themselves competing for work for the first time in their lives; (2) many people rode out the recession on college campuses, where they could borrow virtually unlimited amounts of money from the federal government to live off of, and colleges sold people a lot of degrees they really did not need and many really were not qualified for. (Higher education is not any different than mortgage banking. Extreme cash flows into the industry lowers professional standards. The industry becomes about keeping the money coming in, not achieving a great product. The overwhelming majority of US colleges accept nearly all of the students that apply to them. Getting a college degree does not make you special because higher education is no longer competitive.) If you look at a chart of the total student debt outstanding in this country, it skyrockets in 2008. That’s not an accident. A lot of people who would otherwise have been on the unemployment rolls took out massive amounts of student debt instead. And that decision continues to ruin their financial lives, even as the people who were on the unemployment rolls then have found work and higher wages.

You see these circumstances reflected in the Millennial generation, which is simultaneously the most educated and worst educated crop of kids in modern American history. They have a lot of degrees, but many are unemployable and surely not worthy of promotion within a corporate culture.

All that said, it is not white working class folks that are kept from enjoying the benefits of a college education statistically. I have written about this fallacy before. Economic data from the Federal Reserve and other sources clearly demonstrates that there is no increase in net worth to Hispanics or African Americans with degrees over those with no degrees. These are the two groups where getting a degree literally has no value, because they are the most likely to go to college and still end up in a job that could be done without a college degree (and that’s not as a tradesman). It says a lot about how much colleges and universities truly care about where their graduates end up and how little all these new diversity departments on college campuses are achieving for the communities they were ostensibly created to help.

What is probably the most entertaining aspect of the article, however, is this notion that Republicans are now the party of the working class, and their policy prerogatives are now working against affluent populations. Democrats may be the party of suburban women who think they are special because they have an undergraduate degree like everyone else, but that is not affluence. Golf courses are not loaded with registered Democrats who think the rich do not pay enough in taxes. They are loaded with rich small businessmen and executives who happily voted for Trump and will do it again.

Which brings me to this: It’s not only working poor people who question our country’s perceived obsession with getting a college education. It’s corporate executives and entrepreneurs, who are looking at generations of “educated,” yet unskilled, workers that they really don’t want to hire. Spend twenty minutes around a twenty-something who can’t spell and thinks it’s appropriate to bring their identity politics into the workplace and then ponder why businesses want to automate away every function under the sun. These are the workers colleges are producing, and they are very different from earlier generations, where a college degree was an unassailable object of pride.

If you have a bachelor’s degree, you have taken a lot of core classes and a few electives on the subject-matter that you eventually want to seek employment in. Many of those core classes are now being taught by people who have gone completely off the deep end. I often think I received a college education just in time, because I did not have to experience all the absurdities that are taking place on college campuses now. My philosophy classes were actually about the works of great philosophers, not some instructor spewing their batshit political beliefs for hours. I didn’t have to suffer through listening to a Baby Boomer with comfortable stock portfolio lecturing me about how socialism is the ideal form of governance.

Class angst is not dominating the discussion about whether a degree is worth it. Ultimately, culture is. Are colleges turning out respectable professionals that are capable of financial independence? No, they absolutely are not. They are trading indentured servitude for listening to garbage ideologues for four years. That’s not an education, period, let alone an advanced education. A lot of college graduates resent the fact that they will carry $50,000 of debt for a piece of paper that didn’t actually prepare them for a practical existence in the corporate world. This is not only the opinion of bitter steelworkers and coal miners. It’s also not only the opinion of Republicans.

If trades are a solid path to good earnings, the government should subsidize them over alternatives that involve less desirable consequences. That is good governance. Continuing to throw trillions of dollars at institutions that now specialize in providing a second infancy is not.

I’m not sure that most people genuinely believe going into trades is a better alternative to getting a college education, if we are talking about what a college education could be versus what it has become. They just want to see the culture on college campuses return to some level of rationality. They want a college education to be worth the investment again.

Hiking through Linear Park

We’ve had Elise doing some intense school work this week. We decided to take her on a long hike this morning so her day would not be completely dominated by school. We woke up early, walked down the Intracoastal Waterway, and up the trails into Linear Park, which is a patch of forest through the interior of our town. It took us two hours, round trip. It’s definitely a lot more fun to walk all these trails when the weather is cooler, but you have to leave the air conditioning sometime.

I love all of the ancient, sprawling oaks covered in resurrection ferns. It makes you wonder how much history these guys have seen.