Caturday felid trifecta: recapturing California’s “fire cats”, cats made up to look like Trump, cheetah mom gives birth to EIGHT cubs in a zoo

The New York Times has a piece (click on screenshot) about finding the cats who went missing in the October wildfires in California. While fire-panicked dogs tended to run to their “masters” (cats don’t have masters; they have staff), cats simply took off, and the story tells about the dedicated volunteers trying to find people’s pets:

“If you want to catch a cat you have to stay up all night — that’s just the name of the game,” Ms. Petruska said as she prepared for another dark and cold round of cat stalking. “I’ve been a horrible insomniac my whole life, so it suits me.”

Coffey Park, the neighborhood where Ms. Petruska is focusing her efforts, may as well have been struck by a bomb. Well over 1,000 homes were leveled. Ms. Petruska and her team say they realize that with nearly 5,000 homes destroyed in the Santa Rosa area alone their effort is ancillary to the grieving and massive effort of reconstruction that is only just beginning.

Volunteers posted flyers of cats found in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The bleak landscape of charred lots is still teeming with creatures stealthily crawling throughout the night, mostly unseen.

Ms. Petruska says she knows there are still many cats on the loose because her motion-activated cameras capture them nearly every night, along with a parade of other nocturnal animals such as skunks, opossums and raccoons.

Barbara Gray, right, and her daughter Kelly searched through a burned property where cat traps had been set out earlier. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

To the families who lost everything, recounting how Ms. Petruska helped recover their cats often brings tears.

“I just wanted my cat — that was the only thing I wanted back,” said Kelly Stinson, whose home in Coffey Park was destroyed. “I spent hours every single day looking for her.“

Ms. Petruska located Evy and after an evening of coaxing returned a day later and grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck.

A cat that was found at the Journeys End Mobile Park in Santa Rosa.

. . . To lure Santa Rosa’s fire cats back into domestic life, Ms. Petruska assembles personality profiles of each cat she stalks. One cat likes the sound of whipped cream fizzing from a can. She carries a can in her car. Another cat answers to the sound of the crinkling of a bag of a specific brand of cat treats. She carries the treats.

Unsurprisingly the most effective lure appears to be fish. Ms. Petruska soaks socks in the juices from cans of mackerel and hangs them from trees.


Yes, reddit has a sub-reddit with cats made up to look like Trump. The Internet has everything—especially related to cats.  Here are a few: (they’re usually orange cats because their wigs are made from their own fur):


In November a female cheetah at the St. Louis Zoo gave birth to eight—yes, eight!—cubs. This is a first for a zoo: the average litter size is 3-4 cubs.

Four-year-old Bingwa (pronounced BING-wah), which means “champion” in Swahili, continues to be an exemplary mother, according to the cheetah care team. She has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs — grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively.

Here are three videos at different ages.

Three weeks:

At seven weeks:

Here they are at ten weeks:

h/t: Ed Suominen, Jim E., Julius aka Moto

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader George Pawlus, who once brought me diet sodas during the Great Soda Tax Episode in Cook Country, found Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) in Illinois:

Attached are some pictures of a pair of Sandhill Cranes I took in my girlfriend’s backyard –in Bartlett, IL.  They are 4 to 4.5 feet tall.  Completely unafraid of people. I got within 10 feet of them to take the pics.  Their beaks dissuaded me from getting closer. I put the pics up on her Facebook site with this comment:

“My recent visitors. These two have been hanging around my back yard for a couple of weeks. They vocalize (very loud), poop, dig in my lawn with their beaks and preen. Sometimes they go to the front of the house. They walk down the street. You can get very close to them. One has been banded. Has a green band with the letters JHZ. Should I call him/her Juhaz?”

Diana MacPherson has been AWOL (we can expect more photos when her chipmunks emerge), but sent three photos:

Here is a picture of a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) in the Snow. I took this picture February 7 but only got around to downloading it now.

Junco on the fat and American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) tail:

Finally: harbingers of Spring from reader Christopher;

Here are three photos of the delightful Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, in various stages of growth that I took exactly two years ago at the Lyon Forest Preserve near the Fox River, Yorkville Il. It’s a fantastically bizarre early spring wetland plant with a funky smell released by crushing or tearing a leaf. According to Wikipedia, and I did not test this to see if it’s true, “While not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth, the leaves may be dried and used in soups and stews.”

Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s the weekend: Saturday, March 24, 2018, and it’s National Cake Pop Day, an overpriced treat beloved by yuppies in fancy restaurants. It’s also WHO’s World Tuberculosis Day (see below for the date 1882).

Some sad news from France:

Beltrame, the French gendarme who swapped places with a woman hostage taken by the Islamist killer in Trèbes, and then was shot, has died.  Yes, the word “hero” is overused, applied to, say, fencers who wear hijabs, but this man is a genuine hero: he gave his life for another. Beltrame leaves behind a wife but no children.

Arnaud Beltrame

On this day in 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated six concertos to Malgrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, now known as the Brandenburg Concertos. One of my favorite pieces of classical music is the last (allegro) movement of of Concerto Number 6 in B flat major. Lovely! And here it is:

On March 24, 1837, Canada gave black men (not women) the right to vote. In 1882, Robert Koch announced that the agent responsible for tuberculosis was the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. On this day in 1944, 76 Allied prisoners of war escaped the German camp Stalag Luft III through a tunnel they’d dug secretly (this was dramatized in the movie “The Great Escape”). Of the 76, only 3 made it to freedom, and of the 73 recaptured, 50 were executed.  On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army.  31 years later, the ship Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska, spilling 240,000 barrels of crude oil.  Finally, exactly ten years ago, Bhutan officially became a democracy, having its very first election.

Matthew sent this tweet about the execution of Poles who saved Jews, at risk to their lives, during the Nazi era. There are 13 tweets in the series, and they’re well worth a look, helping restore one’s faith in humanity. Unfortunately, the family was turned in by other Poles, and merely mentioning any complicity of Poles in the Holocaust is now against the law in Poland.

Notables born on this day include Harry Houdini (1874), Nobel laureate physicist Peter Debye (1884), photographer Edward Weston (1886), George Sisler (1893), Wilhelm Reich (1897), Clyde Barrow (1909; shot to death in 1934), Nobel laureate biochemist John Kendrew (1917), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919; still alive at 99!), Steve McQueen (1930, curiously, he was a star of “The Great Escape”), paleontologist Robert T. Bakker (1945), Peyton Manning (1976) and Jessica Chastain (1977). Edward Weston loved cats, and her he is with some of his beloved felids (photo by Imogen Cunningham):

Deaths were few on March 24; they include Pieter de Hooch (1684), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1882), Garry Shandling (2016), and the famous soccer player Johan Cruyff (2016). Curiously Cruyff, who died of lung cancer, was one of the sport’s all-time greats despite being a lifelong heavy smoker. He’s famous for a dribbling trick:

The Cruyff Turn (also spelled Cruijff Turn in the Netherlands) is an evasive football move that was named after Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff.  To do this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. Instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his crossing foot, turn through 180 degrees, and accelerate away from the defender. This feint was executed by Cruyff in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, first being seen in the Netherlands’ match against Sweden where he outwitted Swedish defender Jan Olsson.  The move was soon widely copied by other players around the world. It remains one of the most commonly used dribbling tricks in the modern game.

Here it is:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sad about the news, which includes a bad abortion bill in Poland (fetuses cannot be aborted when they have grave illnesses or deformities) and more UN resolutions against Israel (Hili is a Zionist cat):

Hili: Czytałam rano wiadomości ze świata.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Moje królestwo nie jest z tego świata.

Reader Frank reminds us the Philomena will return in a BBC2 series on Britain, which, sadly, I’ll be unable to see. Readers in the UK—please report.

From Grania, a cat who doesn’t like things that aren’t in their proper place:

Well, here’s someone who doesn’t understand either evolution or scientific writing (“Abstract” is a short, one-paragraph summary that appears at the beginning or end of every biology paper.)

From Matthew, who says pay attention to the dates of these tweets!

A giant cat:

And the death of a subspecies:

As well as the death of a beloved Tower raven:

Finally, a cool trick with a top and a paper clip:

Porcupine rescue!

Diana MacPherson from Ontario found a CBC video that I was able to embed here. Like many end-of-the-week videos, it shows a nice human rescuing an animal, in this case a North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) that got tipped over trying to climb a snowbank. Dexterously wielding an ice scraper, the nice Canadian woman (are those two adjectives redundant?) not only rights the hapless rodent, but digs it a ramp so it can get up the snowbank.

Good thing, too, as it seemed unable to get upright in the snow, leaving it with its unprotected belly exposed to predators.

Be sure to turn the sound on by clicking on the microphone icon at lower right.

The details:

Raelene Prieb lives between Yorkton and Melville [Saskatchewan]. She was on her way home on Monday when she spotted a porcupine in a turtle-like state, on its back and unable to get up.

Rather than pick the prickly rodent up with her hands, she instead grabbed her window scraper. The porcupine grabbed on and managed to roll over. When the porcupine was upright, it looked at the snowbank, which had presumably felled it. It attempted to scale it.

“I didn’t know if I should kinda push him up [the snowbank],” Prieb said. “I didn’t really want to touch him.”

The critter’s attempt did not go well and it tumbled back onto its backside. Prieb once again helped it up, then used the same scraper to clear a path through the snowbank, allowing the animal to finally get on its merry way.

When Prieb got home, she uploaded the video to her Facebook profile unedited, unaware that the settings for the video were set to public.

The video blew up.

At one point, she excitedly told her daughter that it had more than 5,000 views. It has since eclipsed 1.2 million.

As for why she thinks the video is so popular, she said people are drawn to a feel-good story.

“People need to see compassion and mercy and grace out there,” Prieb said.

Comedians stand up for Count Dankula

As I noted three days ago, the Scot Markus Meechan, otherwise known as “Count Dankula”, was convincted of purveying hate speech through public media (YouTube). In what he says was a joke to tick off his girlfriend, Meechan taught her pug dog to raise its paw when Meechan said “Heil Hitler”, and to react when Meechan said, “Do you want to gas the Jews?” True, the joke was in awful taste, and offensive to many, but if Meechan did it, as he said, to anger his girlfriend, then it really was a joke, though not a great one.

But it wasn’t “hate speech”, despite what the judge said. Meechan will be sentenced in April, and I hope that he appeals. What he did wouldn’t be illegal in the U.S., but as the UK becomes increasingly snowflakey, anything that can be considered offensive by almost anyone can be deemed a hate crime.

One would expect the comedians to go to bat for Meechan, as their stock in trade is often to shock people with outré statements: think of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce. And, sure enough, three comedians whom I admire have gone to bat for Meechan and his bad joke.

The first is Shappi Khorsandi, a British comedian of Iranian extraction, who happens to be an atheist and former President of the British Humanists (I much regretted that she wasn’t in attendance when I gave my Darwin Day speech for the Humanists in London last year). Here’s her defense, which mentions the second comedian, Jonathan Pie.

Pie, whose real name is Tom Walker, has a “comedy” schtick in which he’s a newsman, and then interrupts his report to go on a rant, usually political. The rants, while funny, are still meant seriously, and here he goes on one of his most vehement tirades—about the prosecution of Meechan. He clearly feels quite strongly about it!

In this video, made in February before Meechan was convicted, comedians Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel discuss the dog trick, both recognizing that it was a joke, and jokes aren’t hate speech.

Finally: a sensible discussion of “race”

And by “sensible,” of course, I mean a discussion that aligns with my own views. I’ve often written that while there are no finite and strongly genetically demarcated human “races”, there are meaningful and statistically diagnostic differences between populations, ethnic groups, or whatever you want to call them. This is in opposition to the common Left-wing view that races are purely “social constructs” having no biological reality.

Well, there aren’t a finite number of groups whose members are 100% genetically differentiated from other groups. But when you take all genes together, there are sufficient average frequency differences that one can discern statistical clusters that, in turn, allow you to use lots of genes to pretty much diagnose where somebody’s from and who their ancestors were. These “statistical clusters” are real, not social constructs, for they fall out regardless of the politics or biases of the investigator.

Recognizing their existence by no means justifies bigotry or stereotyping, but we shouldn’t dismiss the existence of those clusters simply because, in the past, people with an incorrect idea of “race” have used differences to justify segregation and prejudice. Yet all too often, as with genetic differences among ethnic groups, behavioral differences between the sexes, and evolutionary psychology, those on the Left simply dismiss entire fields because of a fear that scientific research will justify discrimination. And in theory it could, as it did in the past, but it’s better to know the facts and at the same time absorb the idea that the moral and legal equality of all humans, and the equality of opportunity they deserve, does not depend on evolutionary or genetic details. For if it did, then scientific findings could be used to justify prejudice—something that all humanists reject. Asserting that entire fields, like genetic analysis of human ethnic groups, are simply parsing “social constructs” is a form of anti-intellectualism that will stifle scientific progress. If some Leftists had their way, for instance, there would be no evolutionary psychology, no attempt to understand the evolutionary roots of modern human behavior. Do we really want to impose a moratorium on such work?

The recognition of genetic clusters as meaningful entities is the point that David Reich makes in the article given below. Reich, as you may know, is an accomplished professor of genetics at Harvard who’s done a lot of work on DNA-based human and primate phylogenies, human disease genes, interbreeding among ancient lineages of hominins (e.g., Denisovans, Neanderthals, etc.), and mapping human ancestry by looking at statistical grouping. (There’s a big NYT article about his work here.)

I highly recommend you read his essay in the New York Times‘s Sunday Review (click on screenshot):

I’ll give just two quotes from Reich: one about the scientific data and the other about its moral implications—or lack thereof. But read the article!

The data:

[After the 1972 paper of my advisor Dick Lewontin], a consensus was established that among human populations there are no differences large enough to support the concept of “biological race.” Instead, it was argued, race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries.

It is true that race is a social construct. It is also true, as Dr. Lewontin wrote, that human populations “are remarkably similar to each other” from a genetic point of view.

But over the years this consensus has morphed, seemingly without questioning, into an orthodoxy. The orthodoxy maintains that the average genetic differences among people grouped according to today’s racial terms are so trivial when it comes to any meaningful biological traits that those differences can be ignored.

The orthodoxy goes further, holding that we should be anxious about any research into genetic differences among populations. The concern is that such research, no matter how well-intentioned, is located on a slippery slope that leads to the kinds of pseudoscientific arguments about biological difference that were used in the past to try to justify the slave trade, the eugenics movement and the Nazis’ murder of six million Jews.

I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.”

Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.

Recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases. For example, we now know that genetic factors help explain why northern Europeans are taller on average than southern Europeans, why multiple sclerosis is more common in European-Americans than in African-Americans, and why the reverse is true for end-stage kidney disease.

I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made — and we truly have no idea yet what they will be — will be cited as “scientific proof” that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

And how we should handle the future discoveries of genetics:

For me, a natural response to the challenge is to learn from the example of the biological differences that exist between males and females. The differences between the sexes are far more profound than those that exist among human populations, reflecting more than 100 million years of evolution and adaptation. Males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material — a Y chromosome that males have and that females don’t, and a second X chromosome that females have and males don’t. [JAC: I find this statement somewhat misleading, because he’s talking about “biological” differences, not differences in genetic content, and the Y chromosome doesn’t have many genes.]

Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound [JAC: Again, it’s not clear what he means by “profound,” but I’d agree that they are there and that they do explain differences between the sexes in both morphology and behavior.] In addition to anatomical differences, men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength. (There are also average differences in temperament and behavior, though there are important unresolved questions about the extent to which these differences are influenced by social expectations and upbringing.)

How do we accommodate the biological differences between men and women? I think the answer is obvious: We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.

It is clear from the inequities that persist between women and men in our society that fulfilling these aspirations in practice is a challenge. Yet conceptually it is straightforward. And if this is the case with men and women, then it is surely the case with whatever differences we may find among human populations, the great majority of which will be far less profound.

An abiding challenge for our civilization is to treat each human being as an individual and to empower all people, regardless of what hand they are dealt from the deck of life. Compared with the enormous differences that exist among individuals, differences among populations are on average many times smaller, so it should be only a modest challenge to accommodate a reality in which the average genetic contributions to human traits differ.

It is important to face whatever science will reveal without prejudging the outcome and with the confidence that we can be mature enough to handle any findings. Arguing that no substantial differences among human populations are possible will only invite the racist misuse of genetics that we wish to avoid.

Between the unwarranted pseudoscientific statements of Nicholas Wade and James Watson on one hand (both criticized in Reich’s article) and the genetic blank-slateism of various ideologically-biased scientists and cultural anthropologists (who don’t act like scientists) on the other, lies the reasonable position—the one limned by Reich.

Greg’s Take on Reich’s Article

by Greg Mayer

I also like Reich’s article, but if he hopes to be able to talk about genetic differentiation, he’s going to have to stop accepting the “race is a social construction” fallacy, because that means everyone who thinks race is a social construction, or been convinced it is because they keep getting told it is, will ignore everything else he says. As he points out, there is measurable genetic variation; that that variation can be important (clinically, cognitively, etc.); and that that variation allows the identification of the geographic origin of individuals– and the latter is what race means. (As always, I use the zoological definition of a geographic race or subspecies. Subspecies may be described when it is the case that if you show me a specimen I can tell you where it is from, and, conversely, if you tell me where it is from I can tell you what it looks like.) The mass of genetic data on humans now allows us to divide indigenous populations  (i.e. pre-Columbian) into so many races that fit the zoological definition of a race that one of the chief arguments against recognizing races is that there are too many recognizable races– 23 and Me is selling microracial identification on television! Very fine scale genetic data make recognition of geographic groupings so easy that the problem with subspecies isn’t that you can’t tell them apart, but rather you can tell everything apart, even local populations.  Nomenclaturally, subspecies are optional, and there could be reasons, both practical and social, not to name them.

Reich cites Dick Lewontin‘s 1972 apportionment of diversity finding (which, of course, is true), but then doesn’t mention (or perhaps even realize) that that finding  says nothing about whether there are recognizable races. What Reich does do, although more indirectly than I would, is to argue that human moral equality must not rest upon an empirical finding of no genetic differences, because then the finding of genetic differences will undermine the argument for moral equality. I 100% endorse him on the principle that human moral equality should NOT depend on an empirical argument about genetic differentiation. The problem with basing human moral and civil equality on empirical claims about human biological similarity is that such claims may prove to be mistaken. Tony Edwards, in his commentary on Dick’s 1972 paper, says it quite nicely:

“But it is a dangerous mistake to premise the moral equality of human beings on biological similarity because dissimilarity, once revealed, then becomes an argument for moral inequality.”

[Also, Reich seems terribly naive if he thinks “Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound.” I predict he will be assailed from the left on this point. And, Jerry and I wrote our commentaries independently of one another.]

h/t: Rodney, Greg

Two scholars: Jesus was a #MeToo victim because he was stripped before the Crucifixion

The Conversation, which I thought was a site for intellectual discourse (its motto is “Academic rigor, journalistic flair”), is increasingly publishing bizarre pieces that lack both rigor and flair. One of these, by Katie Edwards and David Tombs, insists on dragging Jesus into today’s sexual harassment debate, arguing that because Jesus was stripped during the Crucifixion, he should be recognized as a victim of sexual abuse and violence. Click on the screenshot to see this dire piece:

Dr. Katie Edwards is Director of SIIBS [the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies], and Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Culture and Society, and she participates in The Shiloh Project: Rape Culture, Religion and The Bible, a joint venture of the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds, and Auckland. Tombs is the Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues at the University of Otago. Both are insistent that we pay attention to the fact that Jesus was stripped as part of his Crucifixion. And both apparently see this as a historical reality.

As I just verified by reading the bits of the four Gospels dealing with the Crucifixion, most mention the disrobing of Jesus. Although Luke doesn’t note any stripping, Matthew, Mark, and John say that Jesus was first cloaked in a robe to mock him as King of the Jews, and then the robe was removed and Jesus walked to the site of the Crucifixion. There he was apparently stripped, for his clothes were “parted” (divided among the soldiers) after he was hung up on the cross. But he wasn’t naked while dragging the cross to Golgotha.

Nevertheless, The Conversation allows these two authors, who apparently have too much time on their hands, to bloviate about the “sexual abuse” suffered by Jesus, which consisted solely of his pre-Crucifixion disrobing. Some quotes:

With this in mind, during this present Lenten period, it seems especially appropriate to recall the stripping of Jesus – and to name it for what it was intended to be: a powerful display of humiliation and gender-based violence, which should be acknowledged as an act of sexual violence and abuse.

The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a “supreme punishment” and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment. [JAC: note that here they don’t mention sexual abuse.]

The convention in Christian art of covering Christ’s nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.

Historical reality? Do Edwards and Tombs not know that there is no extra-Biblical evidence for the Crucifixion, and nothing outside scripture that says he was stripped? Nowhere do they even consider the possibility that this story was fictional, though perhaps they’d just say in response, “Well, he was sexually abused in fiction! That’s just as important.”

And how do we know that there wouldn’t have been a loincloth replacing Jesus’s garments? We have no “historical reality”, as there is no way to cross-check the made-up stuff in the Bible. In fact, there is no extra-Biblical evidence for a person on whom Jesus was even based, though theologians twist themselves into pretzels trying to claim that the Bible itself is sufficient to prove Jesus’s existence if not his divinity. (Similarly, Paul Bunyan is sufficient evidence for a giant blue ox, and Beowulf for a fearsome monster named Grendel.)

Stripping Jesus, even if it did happen, would most likely have been to humiliate him, not sexually abuse him. Still, the authors strain at gnats to consider such stripping not just humiliation or simple abuse, but sexual abuse.

It seems to me that if abuse is to have a “sexual” aspect, then there has to be something sex-related in it. Jesus wasn’t leered at (at least, the Gospels don’t mention it), nor was he sexually violated. Although the authors say that if Jesus had been a woman, the sexual abuse would have been obvious, I don’t buy that, for a naked woman is more likely to be the object of sexual attention than a naked man. An equally plausible interpretation is that, by being stripped of his clothes, as was Vercingetorix in the paragraph below, he was stripped of his authority and dignity:

Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified. The way that the stripping of Vercingetorix, King of the Arverni, is depicted in the first episode of the first series of the HBO series Rome is an example of this.

Wikipedia, by the way, tells a different story of Vercingetroix’s fate:

According to Plutarch, Caes. 27.8-10, Vercingetorix surrendered in a dramatic fashion, riding his beautifully adorned horse out of Alesia and around Caesar’s camp before dismounting in front of Caesar, stripping himself of his armor and sitting down at his opponent’s feet, where he remained motionless until he was taken away. Caesar provides a first-hand contradiction of this account, De Bell. Gal. 7.89, describing Vercingetorix’s surrender much more modestly. He was imprisoned in the Tullianum in Rome for almost six years, before being publicly displayed in Caesar’s triumph in 46 BC. He was executed after the triumph, probably by strangulation in his prison, as ancient custom would have it.

In the end, why is it so important for the authors to claim that Jesus was a victim of sexual abuse? Because, they assert, unless we recognize the sexual humiliation aspect of the Crucifixion, we’ll be resistant to recognizing sexual abuse in our own society!

This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.

A HUGE DIFFERENCE? Are these authors living in Cloud-Cuckoo Land? But wait—there’s more!

. . . We may not want to dwell on the disturbing indignity of crucifixion for the whole year, but it is not right to forget about it completely either. The sexual abuse of Jesus is a missing part of Passion and Easter story retellings. It’s appropriate to recognise Jesus as a victim of sexual violence to address the continuing stigma for those who’ve experienced sexual abuse, especially men.

Lent offers a period in which this stark reality of crucifixion might be recalled and connected to the important questions that movements like #MeToo are raising for the churches and for wider society. Once we acknowledge the sexual abuse of Jesus perhaps we’ll be more willing to acknowledge sexual abuse in our own contexts.

There is nothing, it seems, that can’t be folded into the movement against the sexual abuse of women by theologians who desperately want to be relevant. But we don’t need theology to have this important discussion. Yes, men can be sexually abused too, but where is the “sex” dimension of the crucifixion? In fact, dragging fictional characters into the movement (and we might as well include the rape victims in novels The Raj Quartet and A Passage to India) does absolutely nothing to help abused women. Are Edwards and Tombs serious about the urgency of recognizing the abuse of Jesus as helping us recognize the abuse of women (and some men) in the present? You have to be either nuts or an intersectional theologian to think that.

All this goes to demonstrate that theologians have too much time on their hands, as expected when they’re studying, as Dan Barker puts it, “A subject without an object.” And they want their dusty old works of fiction to remain relevant.

Finally, if you want more palaver, the article links to this:

 “Now available! The recording of Professor David Tombs and Dr Jayme Reaves speaking at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) on 16th January 2018.”

If you want to sit through an hour of this, click on the screenshot below.

h/t: Michael

Duck update: my hen isn’t Honey

Well, my pair of mallards returned to the pond yesterday afternoon.  I walked home, but without duck food as I thought they’d gone for good. But I whistled as I walked by the pond, just to be sure.  And there were immediately two “plops” in the water as the pair, cavorting on the bank, jumped in and swam to me.

I realized that I had to go back to my lab and get some duck food, which took me about five minutes. To re-enter the building, I walk up a flight of stairs and then turn left into a covered breezeway that leads to the door.

When I returned five minutes later, the pair of ducks were waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me! They had exited the pond and gone to the last place they’d seen me. That was adorable.

I fed them a big ration of corn on land (always more efficient as they can eat faster and don’t miss the kernels that sink to the pond bottom), and then they took them to the water for their mealworms. But I photographed them on land as I wanted to see if the hen’s feet had the same pattern as Honey’s.

First, here’s the handsome pair (I still haven’t named them, but it’s time):


I photographed the feet, but didn’t notice until I wrote this post that the new hen is missing a toe on her left foot! She’s maimed!

She seems to swim okay, but I hope she’s not somehow slowed down:

At any rate, here is Honey (and her feet) from last year. You see that she had all her toes, and her feet were brighter and much more mottled than the present hen’s. Unless Honey lost a toe over the winter, and her feet and bill changed color, what I have is a new duck:

Honey the duck


Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader John Riegsecker sent these photos on February 26; his notes are indented:

Saturday I photographed an American Kestrel eating a snake, which got me to thinking about a series of photos I made of a Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) eating a rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa).  I am not an expert on Newt identification, but I’m pretty certain that is correct. I knew that rough-skinned newts were poisonous, so I asked around and did some Googling. The first thing I found was that someone had died from eating one:

The second thing I learned was of an arms race between the newts who kept developing more poison, and garter snakes that ate them developing more resistance to the poison.  The third thing I learned was that the 
potency of the poison varied by location: most potent in the  Willamette Valley of Oregon and decreasing in potency as one goes north.

These photos were taken at Ridgefield, a wildlife reserve in Southern Washington, so it is unclear how poisonous the newt would  be, but there is a good chance that was the duck’s last meal.

When most people see one of these ducks they think it should be called a Ring-billed Duck.  The first photo is of a Drake and shows that, in fact, there really is a ring around the neck.

The other photos show the hen eating the newt.

Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

We’ve made it through another week, as it’s Friday, March 23, 2018. Some snow is predicted for Chicago tonight, although it may barely miss us. Snowfall in the area is predicted to be between 6 and 10 inches. It’s National Chips and Dip Day, and unless I miss my guess this is an explicitly American contribution to world cuisine.

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia. This speech is credited with helping deliver Virginia’s troops to the American Continental Army (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were in the audience: what a group that was!). On March 23, 1806, Lewis and Clark, having reached the Pacific Ocean with their “Corps of Discovery”, turned around and started trekking back home. They reached St. Louis on September 23 after 2½ years of exploring the West at the behest of Thomas Jefferson.  On this day in 1919, Mussolini founded the Italian Fascist movement in Milan. And, on March 23, 1933, the Reichstag of Germany passed the Enabling Act of 1933, which made Adolf Hitler the absolute dictator of Germany. Finally, on March 23, 1956, Pakistan became the world’s first Islamic Republic (before that it was a “dominion”).

Notables born on this day include Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749), Emmy Noether (1882), Juan Gris (1887), Eric Fromm (1900), Joan Crawford (1906), Wernher von Braun (1912), Roger Bannister (1929, died recently), and Rex Tillerson (1952, now fired by Trump). Those who expired on March 23 include Stendahl (1842), Raoul Dufy (1953), Peter Lorre (1964), Elizabeth Taylor (2011). Can you name how many times Taylor was married?

Here’s a Dufy drawing, “Le Chat”, from 1920:

I found a better version of my own “Whistler’s Mother” picture: an Amish or Mennonite woman I photographed on the train back from Madison. I love natural window light from the side.

Here’s the original by James McNeill Whistler, which I’ve flipped horizontally for comparison:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pontificating again (her beau Ignatz hasn’t been seen in three days):
Hili: It all looks different from my point of view.
A: Everybody has his own vision.
In Polish:
Hili: Z mojego punktu widzenia to wszystko inaczej wygląda.
Ja: Każdy ma swoją iluzję.

In nearby Wloclawek, the Dark Tabby Leon is nomming the flowers, though he shouldn’t:

Leon: Tulips have a more pronounced taste.

In Polish: “Tulipany maja bardziej wyrazisty smak.”

Gus went to the vet yesterday; his staff Taskin reported: “The funniest thing was that his nose, ears and foot pads went really bright pink from the stress. As pink as if he’d been out in the cold for a long time. Here are a few pics.” The captions are Taskin’s interpretations of Gus’s thoughts:

This can’t be good…
That sounds like a BIG dog…
That’s a BIG needle…
What a strange dream I had…

Gus is fine; he’s healthy, got two shots in the tuchas, and is going on a new wet food to keep his weight down.

From Matthew: a trailcam shows a puma (cougar) and her two kittens:

From Grania; read the news link and you’ll see that this is true. Yep, the Jews made the snow fall!

If you want a Cat in a Hat, this Japanese vending machine is happy to oblige: