Dobrzyn: Thursday

Today was quiet and cooler, and the Princess came in after a night on the tiles. I noticed (after all this time) that her nose is two colors: pink and brick red (with a lining of black on one side). I’m sure you’re keen to see a picture of a cat nose:

bicolored nose

Cyrus is still nosing about and preventing me from my Quality Hili Time, so when I temporarily leave her on the couch I block her from the d*g’s view so he won’t disturb her. A keen observer will see one white catsock protruding:

Hili hidden

After a morning’s work, we had a typical lunch: ham, sausages (note the thin ones), cheese (including goat cheese), bread, and fresh tomatoes. And, of course cherry pie for dessert. It is almost gone, and that will be the last of the cherry pie for us, as the harvest is over and I’ve scoured the orchard. :-(


Dinner was a succulent beef tenderloin with salad and a Polish specialty: pickled mushrooms, all washed down with a hearty Zubr beer. Oh, and of course cherry pie for dessert. I helped by browning the beef; it was good to do just a bit of cooking again. (There is now only one small piece of pie left. . . ):




Walkies after dinner with the whole family. Here are Andrzej and Malgorzata on the bluff above the Vistula:

M&A by river

And the non-hoomans. Can you spot Hili and Cyrus?

D*g and cat

And so home again to a late snack, reading (de Waal really hates New Atheists; his book is gratuitiously larded with snipes at them and assertions of his own superiority). This is a typical view of Hili as she accompanies us through the orchard. Her white nose stripe is quite visible in the twilight:

Hili on walk


World’s smallest copy of WEIT

I can’t believe it: it’s quarter of an inch (6.1 mm) across! You can spot it below on the back of the vehicle, part of a military load.

It was produced by reader Mark, who explains:

I build dioramas when I’m not reading WEIT. And I eat when I get the chance. This diorama is far from done, but I wanted to show you the smallest WEIT book ever created. It’s hard to spot, but the third photo I think reveals for those who can’t see it. Nightjars are real…as are anachronisms.

These U.S. tankers seek the truth, that’s why they keep their “bible” as part of their kit. I thought it turned out well. Your book still holds up at .24″ ;)
Given the scale, the quality of work is amazing.
See it in book in the back? Just to show that it’s the real thing, here’s the US edition, the one that the soldiers have.  Rumor has it that it will, if put into your breast pocket, stop bullets.

Turkish women defy deputy prime minister by laughing publicly

Just as fast as Turkey’s deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç declared that women of his country shouldn’t tarnish their pure image by laughing in public, so the women of Turkey are responding by laughing and tw**ting about it, laughing at Muslim Leisure Fascist Arınç at the same time. And some men are supporting them.  As the Guardian reports,

On Wednesday thousands of women posted pictures of themselves laughing out loud, with the hashtags #direnkahkaha (resist laughter) and #direnkadin (resist woman) trending on Twitter.

Turkish men also took to social media to express their solidarity. “The men of a country in which women are not allowed to laugh are cowards”, tweeted one user.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the main opposition presidential candidate running against current prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in next Sunday’s elections, joined a chorus of male voices criticising Bülent Arinç’s comment, tweeting: “More than anything else, our country needs women to smile and to hear everybody’s laughter.”

Other opposition figures pointed out that Arinç’s comments highlighted the dismal state of women’s rights in Turkey. Calling on people to protest against massive violence towards women at a demonstration next week, Melda Onur, an Istanbul MP for the main opposition Republican People’s party, wrote on Twitter: “We would have left Arinç to his fantasies and wouldn’t even have laughed about it, but while so many murders are being committed he makes [women] a target by stressing the need for chastity.”

I knew I could count on Turkish women to defy this stupid Diktat! Maybe there’s a chance for secularism after all.

Note: some of the pictures feature nudity, and you can see more at the Femen Turkey website. Here are a few of the pictures that are Safe for Work. ‘ Be sure to read the captions.

On holiday without their husbands!!!:

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High Turkish official: there should be no female laughter in public

I love Turkey. I’ve been there several times, for both touristic and academic visits, and have found the people friendly, the scenery incomparable, and the food fantastic (is there any better confection than pistachio baklava?). The Muslim students with whom I’ve interacted have been amiable, but I’ve interacted only with the ones attending Middle East Technical University, where the headscarf (hijab) is banned and Muslim women like it that way.

Kemal Atatürtk’s attempts to secularize the country were largely successful—but now appear to be going astray as Islam begins to creep into one of the nations harboring less extreme forms of Islam.  There are recurrent attempts to lift the ban on headscarves, which have been successful for women in government  jobs, and creationism is making deeper inroads thanks to Adnan Okstar (Harun Yahya) and his band of thugs. Censorship is increasing, as the government—ultimately without success—tried to block Twitter and YouTube. 

St. Paul famously said that women should remain silent in Church, but now Bülent Arınç has said that Turkish women shouldn’t laugh out loud in public. Who is Arınç? He’s the deputy prime minister of Turkey.

As the Independent reports:

Women should not laugh in public in Turkey, the Deputy Prime Minister has said in a speech on “moral corruption” in the country.

Bülent Arınç used a meeting for Eid al-Fitr on Monday to condemn perceived moral regression, consumerism and even excessive mobile phone use.

He called for chastity in both men and women and blamed television and the media for turning teenagers into “sex addicts”, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

“[The man] will not be a womaniser. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness,” Mr Arınç said according to the paper.

He called for Turkish people to rediscover the Koran and stop moral regression.

“Where are our girls, who slightly blush, lower their heads and turn their eyes away when we look at their face, becoming the symbol of chastity?” he said.

Jebus! If you go to Istanbul and see it pullulating with life, the biggest city in an Islamic country where Islam doesn’t dictate everyone’s actions, you’d see how stupid these strictures sound.  Blushing women with lowered heads? Women not laughing? That’s not the Turkey I know, nor the one Atatürk wanted.  Rediscovering the Qur’an is the last thing they need!

There are more signs of retrograde activity; this is due not to culture but to religion:

Turkey has historically been more progressive with women’s rights than neighbouring countries but recent changes and continuing problems with wage gaps, child brides, honour killings and domestic violence have prompted concerns by activists that the country is slipping backwards.

Although abortion is legal up to 10 weeks, the Prime Minister has spoken out against terminations and floated plans to restrict the law.

It is sad to se Atatürk’s reforms being undone bit by bit, and a great country in danger of turning into Saudi Arabia. I’d hate to think of my Turkish friends—the women (including Muslims) unveiled and dancing with men, everyone drinking raki, listening to music and enjoying their freedom—being subjected to some form of sharia law.  All I can be grateful for is that it won’t happen in my lifetime.

h/t: Jonathan

Ban it!

Think of the second-hand effects: cat staff getting SCRATCHED! And it could lead to other countries adopting catnip!

From you youTube notes:

Watch more short films curated by Sundance Institute:

Written and Directed by Jason Willis. Starring Giovanni Dominice, Neil Kight and Terry Easley.

h/t: Aneris

Legalize it!

Since I was a teenager and college student in the Sixties, I’m familiar, as everyone was, with the prevalence of drug use. People often took psychedelic drugs for “spiritual” experiences, but the social drug of choice was marijuana. Everyone I knew, with very few exceptions, used it, nobody was harmed by it, and, at least in my observation, it wasn’t a gateway to “harder” drugs like heroin. None of my friends have become addicted to those “harder” drugs.

Research has borne out the relative harmlessness of marijuana: it is far less damaging to society, and to one’s health, than are tobacco and alcohol—both legal drugs. There are now no good reasons to make alcohol legal for adults but prohibit marijuana. Indeed, marijuana, unlike alcohol and tobacco, has positive health effects, and its medicinal uses are sanctioned in several states.

Nevertheless, I’ve watched my friends, as they’ve grown older and become parents themselves, become more dubious about pot.  Often they’ve stopped smoking it themselves, and, almost without exception, they warn their children against it, speaking darkly of its inimical effects. Yet these are the very children who used pot themselves, and have become respectable pillars of society: doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, and military officers.

Many public figures have also “admitted” to pot use, including Bill Clinton (though he “didn’t inhale’), Oprah Winfrey, Clarence Thomas (!), John Kerry, Bill Gates, George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Turner, David Letterman, Martha Stewart (“of course I know how to roll a joint”), Andrew Sullivan, Sarah Palin (!), Oliver Stone, Rick Steves, and, of course, Snoop Dogg (or Lion, whatever he calls himself now).

I’ve learned not to argue with my old friends about their anti-dope stand. It has something to do, I suppose, with “protecting” their children, although when they were young adults they would have scoffed at the idea of needing protection from pot. I accept their views as irrational, like being religious. Let’s face it: pot is fun. It doesn’t hurt you—unless it leads to overconsumption of chocolate-chip cookies. (I once watched one of my stoned friends, now a famous biologist who will remain unnamed, consume an entire one-pound box of brown sugar with a spoon.)

It’s time to legalize marijana and hashish for adults. As a side note, I’d argue that we should legalize every drug that doesn’t cause its user to hurt other people, and that is most drugs. (We already know that legalizing alcohol will cause deaths from drunken drivers.) Besides producing tax revenues, as marijuana has in Colorado and Washington—the states where it’s legal—legalizing psychedelic drugs for adults would give them the possibility of wonderful mental experiences now barred to them. (See Sam Harris’s upcoming book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion). Legalizing heroin use, as Switzerland has, would allow states to make sure usage was safer, and get rid of most of the criminal activity involved in purveying these drugs. (I’m not so sure abut methamphetimine, as its regular usage causes addiction and substantial physical damage.) And thousands of people in jail for using or selling marijuana simply wouldn’t be there; that’s an enormous savings to the state and federal government.

One can argue about some drugs, but I see no sensible argument for banning marijuana use, and big advantages for governments via tax revenue and the elimination of criminal activity, not to mention increased pleasure of our citizens.  One can also argue about the age of usage. In a new editorial, “Repeal Prohibition, Again”, the New York Times says that the age of use should be set at 21 (they claim concerns about the “development of adolescent brains; see below), while I’d provisionally favor 18, the age at which most countries allow legal consumption of alcohol (it’s 19 in Canada).

I’m glad the Times is taking the lead on this. Like gay marriage, I think the legalization of marijuana and hashish for both medical and recreational use in the U.S. is inevitable, for—also like gay marriage—there is no down side save the ire of those ignorant of its effects.  And yay! for the Times:

It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws. . .

. . . The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.

Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.

. . . We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.

Finally, if you’re going to carp about the health effects of pot, read an ancillary article in the Times: “What science says about marijuana,” by Philip M Boffey. Boffey notes that the stronger strains of dope may have minor health risks, but risks that are much smaller than those of alcohol and tobacco. And the chance of “addiction” to marijuana is vastly overrated (and without severe health effects anyway); the Times gives this graph:

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If you’re a user, you’re just as likely to be addicted to Xanax as you are to marijuana.

Boffey counters many arguments against dope, asserting that these can be minimized with a system of government regulation like we have against alcohol. There is little danger, based on other studies, that legalization will lead to a public health epidemic.

As with other recreational substances, marijuana’s health effects depend on the frequency of use, the potency and amount of marijuana consumed, and the age of the consumer. Casual use by adults poses little or no risk for healthy people. Its effects are mostly euphoric and mild, whereas alcohol turns some drinkers into barroom brawlers, domestic abusers or maniacs behind the wheel.

How bad is pot for you? Read this:

While tobacco causes cancer, and alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis, no clear causal connection between marijuana and a deadly disease has been made. Experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the scientific arm of the federal anti-drug campaign, published a review of the adverse health effects of marijuana in June that pointed to a few disease risks but was remarkably frank in acknowledging widespread uncertainties. Though the authors believed that legalization would expose more people to health hazards, they said the link to lung cancer is “unclear,” and that it is lower than the risk of smoking tobacco.

The very heaviest users can experience symptoms of bronchitis, such as wheezing and coughing, but moderate smoking poses little risk. A 2012 study found that smoking a joint a day for seven years was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function. Experts say that marijuana increases the heart rate and the volume of blood pumped by the heart, but that poses a risk mostly to older users who already have cardiac or other health problems.

Nevertheless, Boffey cites two studies that heavy dope usage when young might erode IQ, though that’s not the final word:

A long-term study based in New Zealand, published in 2012, found that people who began smoking heavily in their teens and continued into adulthood lost an average of eight I.Q. points by age 38 that could not be fully restored. A Canadian study published in 2002 also found an I.Q. loss among heavy school-age users who smoked at least five joints a week.

The case is not completely settled. The New Zealand study was challenged by a Norwegian researcher who said socio-economic factors may have played a role in the I.Q. loss.

But of course alcohol and tobacco are far more harmful: young kids who drink and smoke are likely to continue to do so when they get older, posing serious problems to their own health and leading to larger public-health problems.

If we’re going to ban pot, let’s first ban tobacco and alcohol. Fat chance! If we allow people to have the pleasurable uses of alcohol, but control its abuse by taxation and restriction of sales to adults, then there is no credible argument against treating marijuana the same way.

If cats can have their catnip, why can’t we have ours?


Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Ed Kroc sent a passel of photos from Vancouver Island:

I was recently lucky enough to take a short trip to northern Vancouver Island with my partner to see some sights and creatures on the edge of the continent.  Here’s a few pictures I thought you might enjoy.

First up is a beautiful Lorquin’s Admiral (Limenitis lorquini) from Strathcona Provincial Park.  In addition to having an excellent name that commands attention, these butterflies are extremely territorial.  They left me alone, but I did spot one of them dive-bombing the head of a shiba inu as she wandered too close by with her human staff.

Lorquins Admiral
Next up are two pictures of a Sea Raft, or simply a Velella (Velella velella).  This is the only known species in the genus, and it’s a weird one.  The velella is pleustonic and relies on the wind for locomotion, possessing no means of autonomous movement.  They’re still part of the animal kingdom (which reminds me just how varied that kingdom really is), and are actually carnivorous, feeding on plankton by means of tiny tentacles that emit toxins into their prey.  The large translucent sail on the velella’s back is precisely that: a literal sail it uses to ride the winds.  This undoubtedly explains its other names: purple sail and little sail.  The winds occasionally wash hundreds or even thousands of them up on the western shores of Vancouver Island.  But this specimen was only one of maybe half a dozen I saw at Cape Scott Provincial Park.


And of course, some birds to end with.  Here’s one photo of a juvenile Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), also from Cape Scott Provincial Park.  This was one of three juveniles likely from the same clutch that were resting in San Josef Bay.  They were extremely wary of humans, definitely a difference from the typical Vancouver waterfowl.

Common Merganser Juvenile
Finally, two photos of some Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Bald eagles are very common along the shores of Hardy Bay.  The photo shows a pair of bald eagles chatting in the trees near the Cluxewe River estuary, a short distance outside Port McNeill, also on the northern shores of Vancouver Island.

Bald Eagle pair

Finally, since I have no place for this photograph, which was sent by several readers, I’ll just add it here:


Is that Al Gore’s hand on the left?

Thursday: Hili dialogue

Hili: It’s nice that at least the evening is cool.
Cyrus: Let’s go to the river, it is wonderful there.

10350453_10203922148641410_7958635860523663532_nIn Polish:

Hili: Dobrze, że przynajmniej wieczór jest chłodny.
Cyrus: Chodź nad samą rzekę, tam jest wspaniale.


Wednesday: Dobrzyn

It’s less than a week until I leave, but the time has sped by. Take yesterday, for instance. I got up, wrote some things on this website, ate, patted the Polish cat, ate, worked a bit, ate, picked cherries, helped make a pie (Malgorzata did most of the work), ate, read a book (de Waal’s The Bonobo and the Atheist, which is replete with cringe-making atheist bashing), and so to bed.  Where did the day go?

At any rate, nothing extraordinary happened yesterday, but small comforts are valuable. One of them, of course, is the Feline Princess of Poland, shown here in her many aspects. One can’t have too many pictures of Hili.

At breakfast, she put her butt in one of her three food bowls (one for milk, one for dry food, one for wet food):

Butt in food bowl

The Europeans are suffering under what they call a “heat wave,” though it’s only 32°C (about 90°F), a temperature that would be regarded as tolerable in Chicago.  Nevertheless, Hili disdains cuddles in the heat, and sprawls in heat-disseminating positions on the couch:




Is there anything sweeter than the peace of a sleeping cat?

Sleeping cat

In the afternoon, Hili had an attack of hilarity (or something) on the lawn after chasing bees:

Spaz attack 2
The cherry harvest finished yesterday, and there was nary a cherry to be seen. Neverththeless, Malgorzata promised to make a cherry pie (with a walnut-and-almond crust) if I managed to fill a small bucket with cherries. Braving the afternoon heat, I ambled through the orchard, picking one lone cherry from one tree, three from another, and so on. It took a long time to fill this bucket, and I swear that there is not an edible cherry left in the 3,000 trees. This is THE END :-( :


The resultant pie. I’ve just had a luscious slice for breakfast:


Dinner last night was beef tenderloin (rare for me), potatoes, salad, and a premium Polish beer (see below). It turned out that the darkish beer had a weird, funky taste. Reading the back label, Malgorzata found that it was a “winter beer,” recommended to be warmed up with herbs, fruits, vanilla, and cinnamon added. I don’t know why anyone would do that to a beer (though I do like mulled wine on occasion), but the beer was almost undrinkable: the one off-note in an otherwise great dinner.

Do any readers do this to beer in the winter?


This is the beer. In the unlikely event you see it, avoid it!



Update: Jerry Coyne the Cat

From Christchurch, New Zealand we get a report on Jerry Coyne the Cat from his adoptive staff, forwarded by his original foster mom Gayle Ferguson. And the news is heartening:

Well Jerry continues to rule. His coat is very thick and his tail gets fluffier every day. Growing so fast and will be a big cat I think. A very loud purr box and sleeps under the covers on the cold nights. Chases all the neighbourhood cats away and regularly hangs out with the chickens. One day lying with them in the sunshine but moved before I got the camera ready. He still doesn’t quite get the cat door which is a pain but when he wants to come in he flies in so you have to stand back!

An absolute sweetie who is much more of a lap cat than he was initially. Gives Loki [the other cat in the house] hell still but it is mutual. Never a dull moment. He still sucks on your bootie and throws it around a lot.

Before you get any ideas, the “bootie” was a knitted baby’s bootie that Jerry used to toss about when he was just a kitten. As you can see below, he’s no longer a kitten!



From his youth Jerry has always had hairy ears and long whiskers:


Look at that tail! It’s nearly as big as a raccoon’s!


And lest we forget, here’s Jerry from only a few short months ago:




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