Otter cries for noms

As you read this, I will be speaking in a fancy Zagreb theater on religion vs. science. But I’ve scheduled this in advance so you can hear this lovely otter vocalize as I vocalize less cutely. The YouTube notes:

Boo the pet otter loves his food and is always excited for dinner time, so much so he makes strange cat-like mewing and squealing noises, caught here on camera by his owner last month (September). “I love the noise he makes when he eats,” said the owner.

Elizabeth Warren is “native American”—or is she?

Well, she has at least one Native American ancestor some ways back. But I wouldn’t exactly say that makes her a “Native American”—any more than nearly all American blacks are “white” because most of them have at least some white ancestors. I believe the average African-American has 20% of their genes from whites.) At this point you can claim what identity you want, as there are no rules.

Further, I never much cared whether Warren had such ancestry or not; I’d vote for her against Trump any day. The real miscreant was Donald Trump, who repeatedly called Warren “Pocahontas”, a stereotype used as a slur.

But, for the record, here’s one article from The Daily Beast (click on the screenshot):

There’s also a longer article from the Boston Globe, which says this:

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence’’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations, an unprecedented move by one of the top possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.

Warren, whose claims to Native American blood have been mocked by President Trump and other Republicans, provided the test results to the Globe on Sunday in an effort to defuse questions about her ancestry that have persisted for years. She planned an elaborate rollout Monday of the results as she aimed for widespread attention.

The analysis of Warren’s DNA was done by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor and expert in the field who won a 2010 MacArthur fellowship, also known as a genius grant, for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis.

He concluded that “the vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, but he added that “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”

. . . The inherent imprecision of the six-page DNA analysis could provide fodder for Warren’s critics. If her great-great-great-grandmother was Native American, that puts her at 1/32nd American Indian. But the report includes the possibility that she’s just 1/512th Native American if the ancestor is 10 generations back.

For you genetics mavens, the Globe gives more details on what genes they used and how they used South and Central American DNA as a stand-in for “Native Americans” (they are evolutionarily related, of course).

If it were my call, I wouldn’t call Warren a “Native American (I’d say “she had a small fraction of genes from Native Americans”); but of course calling her that satisfies the Daily Beast‘s political preferences as well as defusing Trump’s misogyny.

The Boston Globe is more reserved in its headline:

But is this of any import? Only if Warren claimed she was a Native American and benefited from it without knowing for sure whether she had any such ancestry.That would be a bit of a misstep. I’m not quite sure whether she did that, except that the DNA results take precedence over oral family history, which without documentation (and I don’t think she had any) is not convincing. Perhaps she misrepresented herself in the absence of good DNA data, but seriously, is that worth worrying about, much less making a campaign issue about? Not when the issue is Donald Trump and his attack on progressivism.

Nevertheles, the fact that Warren took a DNA test and released the results (would she have done so if she had no Native American ancestry, though?), tells me that she’s going to be a Presidential candidate in 2020.  I’d be glad to vote for her, though her chances of winning seem slim at this point. It’s too easy for her to be dismissed as “another New England liberal” like John Kerry and Michael Dukakis.

Cambridge University students vote against “Remembrance Sunday”

I was a conscientious objector, but my stand was always that there could be such a thing as “just wars” in which it would not be immoral to fight and kill. One of those just wars was World War II. (I wouldn’t fight in Vietnam because it wasn’t a just war but a useless and meaningless one.

Students at Cambridge University, however, have voted against promoting the “Remembrance Day,” which honors those killed in all British wars, on the grounds that it “glorifies war.”  I haven’t time to dissect this, but read the Torygraph at the screenshot, or MetroUK:

Now there is some merit in campaigning against “glorifying war”, or in recognizing the victims of war beyond just dead British soldiers. But this, I think goes beyond that, and, to my mind, at least devalues the sacrifices of the British in the the last just war: World War II. For without those sacrifices, these students would be offering resolutions in German—if they were allowed to offer resolutions at all.

It is a mean spirited form of virtue signaling. I doubt that the same thing will happen in Australia and New Zealand on ANZAC Day.

Honey is back!

Well, this is absolutely beyond belief. Anna reports that Honey has returned to the pond—and to James. To quote her:

Honey is back and James seems quite happy. I’m concerned about the disgusting film in the pond though. What do you think it is?

Perhaps Billzebub proved too aggressive for her, or she got hungry (she looks a bit thin). I’m not sure what Anna means about the “film” on the pond, but it could be that white stuff on the surface at the top of the first two pictures. Readers?

First, a video of the loving couple reunited, taken by Anna. She is sure from Honey’s behavior and bill markings that it really is her. I’m very pleased.

Three photos:

And so the soap opera continues: As the Pond Turns.

Monday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Thus endeth the weekend, alas. Welcome to Monday. It’s Global Handwashing Day, so, you know, encourage your friends and colleagues to act like members of an advanced society and not like animals.

In birthdays we have Virgil, Roman poet (70 BC – 19 BC);  James Tissot, French painter and illustrator 1836 – 1902);  P. G. Wodehouse, English novelist and playwright (1881 – 1975) and the man who gave us Jeeves and Wooster; and in 1953 Tito Jackson, American singer-songwriter and guitarist, and member of The Jackson 5.


Today in history in 1878 The Edison Electric Light Company began operation. In 1888 the “From Hell” letter allegedly sent by Jack the Ripper was received by investigators. It was regarded at the time as possibly authentic among hundreds of hoax letters received at the time. However there is no consensus as to whether it was the real thing and as the ‘Ripper’ was never caught it is destined to remain a mystery.

In 1966 the Black Panther Party was created by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. In 1990 Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to lessen Cold War tensions. In 1997 the Cassini probe launched from Cape Canaveral on its way to Saturn.

Hili is concerned about keeping up appearances today.

Hili: This window must be washed.
A: It’s not so very dirty yet.
Hili: But in this picture I look like a crying cat.

In Polish:

Hili: To okno trzeba umyć.
Ja: Wcale nie jest jeszcze takie brudne.
Hili: Ale na zdjęciu wyglądam jak zapłakany kot.



From Twitter for your delectation.

Clearly the stairs were out of order

Birthday Candles are hard

A fascinating plant

Amazing photograph of centipede eggs.

A really beautiful time-lapse by Maciej Winiarczyk. You can watch the full video here.

A remarkable video of the clearest ice I’ve ever seen

Watch the cat face

No words for this one.

More cat shenanigans

The Project Mars film winners.

God is snippy today

Victorians were weird

And the herald of the end of all sports. I mean, seriously, when the revolution comes do we really think Arnold will save us all?


Hasta la vista, baby.

Zagreb, Day 1

I’ve been busy sightseeing (that includes eating), the weather is absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve been having a lot of fun. First, where I’m located: in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia (right edge of photo in the middle). Italy, Austria, and Slovenia are right next door.

Yesterday included several large meals (not including the breakfast buffet in the hotel), and dinner last night as well as lunch today (Sunday) will appear in the next installment. The day began with my new friend Darko Polšek (a professor of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zagreb) showing me around the center of the Old Town. This is a lovely city that was barely touched during the Second world War.

On Saturday there’s a big market, which runs every day but is busiest on the weekend. Flowers:

A stall that sold almost nothing but dried figs:

The cheeses of Croatia, which, as Anthony Bourdain discovered, are superb:

Honey and olive oil are big local products:

Peppers are ubiquitous in the Balkans, and so here; I’ve already eaten them several times:

Fresh dates for sale (the unit of currency is the Croatian kuna, worth about sixteen U.S. cents), so these dates are about $6.50 per kilo:

The fish market is busiest on Friday (this is, after all, a Catholic country), but was humming on Saturday as well:

I don’t know the species:

Zagreb Cathedral, described by Wikipedia as. .

. . . a Roman Catholic institution and not only the tallest building in Croatia but also the most monumental sacral building in Gothic style southeast of the Alps. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus. The cathedral is typically Gothic, as is its sacristy, which is of great architectural value. Its prominent spires are considered to be landmarks as they are visible from most parts of the city.

It was rebuilt in the 13th century after being destroyed by the Mongols; it was again rebuilt after being largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1880.

Some local priests or monks or whoever wears these kind of frocks:

The “upper town”, part of Old Town, is located atop a small hill; there sits the government offices and other interesting sights. Note the sight indicated third from the bottom:

Yes, it’s the famous Museum of Broken Relationships, wherein resides the residua of failed marriages, betrothals, and other unsuccessful romantic entanglements. This is one place I will definitely be visiting. Here’s the entrance, and you can read more about it at the Wikipedia link above. I will report further after my visit:

An icon in the alleyway, where a mother and daughter kneeled to pray:

St. Mark’s Church, built in the 13th century and altered in the 14th. The tiled roofs are more recent, and represent the coat of arms of Zagreb (the white castle) and Croatia (the partly checkered shield to the left):

I’m told this is the world’s shortest funicular, which must take about one minute to ascend. It runs between the upper and lower parts of Old Town and costs one tram ticket to ride (trams are the public transport in Old Town):

Lunchtime at this traditional restaurant:

My lunch started with paški, a famous sheep cheese from the Adriatic island of Pag. I’m told the island is bare and small, and so the sheep graze on salty and fragrant herbs. (Thanks to Pavel for getting the food names for me.)

My main course: vješalica: pork rolls filled with melted cheese and wrapped with bacon. Note that peppers are in both courses.

. . . washed down with a local brew. The beer is very good here. I’m limiting myself as far as possible to traditional Croatian food and local beer, although Croatian food overlaps heavily with other Balkan cuisines like Serbian. Beers come in 0.3 and 0.5 liters; I favor the latter, of course.

A view over the lower town and the cathedral:

The next two photos are by Darko. The first is by a government building, and the last word on the sign is the Croatian word for “Croatia,” (“Hrvatske”), which I am totally unable to pronounce (the “r” is rolled”).

And a selfie with Darko and me:


More photos and tales tomorrow, including our visit to the Neanderthal Museum and two more excellent meals.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning!

It’s the birthday of Marie of Anjou (1404 –1463) wife of King Charles VII and regent in his absence. She had 14 children (dear God); Other notables’ birthdays are E. E. Cummings, American poet and playwright (1894 -1962); Cliff Richard (1940), English singer-songwriter and actor; Craig Venter (1946), American biologist, geneticist, and academic; and Usher (1978), American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor.

The musical offerings are this one from way back, when musicals and movies were charmingly naive.

I’m somewhat under-educated on Mr Usher’s oeuvre, this one is melodious enough for a Sunday morning.

In history today all the way back in 1066 the Norman conquest of England was underway: during the Battle of Hastings the Norman forces of William the Conqueror defeated the English army and killed King Harold II of England. In 1656 Massachusetts enacted the first punitive legislation against the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Wikipedia notes: “The marriage of church-and-state in Puritanism makes them regard the Quakers as spiritually apostate and politically subversive”.

In 1908 the Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers, 2–0, to win the World Series; they didn’t win it again til 2016. In 1926 the children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne, was published. In 1979 the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Washington, D.C. was held, advocating for equal civil rights.

And now on to business.


Hili is being very enigmatical today. But she is quite correct.

Hili: Everything has to be checked.
A: Why?
Hili: Too many illusions are hanging around.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszystko trzeba sprawdzać.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Za dużo iluzji się tu kręci.
From Twitter:
When the world will not cooperate with you.

I know we are living in the future, but I am not sure the world needs this. Couldn’t we just get hoverboards? (I bet Douglas Adams would be kicking himself for not dreaming up this an an alternative plot for Hotblack Desiato).

Cat art, of a sort

A fine fossil. The tweet author also added “The eater is Mioplosus Labracoides, an early- to mid-Eocene fish. The eatee is Knightia Eocaena, the state fossil of Wyoming, related to herrings and sardines.”

A Kundt’s Tube in action

And this is a dad in action

Angry Australians

If J. Michael Straczynski ‏ says it, then it’s true.

An optical illusion

Cow gets scritches

Finally, one step for man, etc…


Should I start a GoFundMe?

Reader Amy called my attention to this awesome product from The Ozark Source. Somehow I can’t justify spending the dosh on it, but oy, is it awesome!

This is too menial a task to call the duck “James,” but “Billzebub” fits it nicely.

Rutgers cancels free-speech lecture because of “Islamophobia”

Rutgers, a high-quality university in New Jersey, is proving itself to be one of the more censorious and Authoritarian Leftist campuses in America. Now it’s canceled yet another speech by someone who might have offended the campus community, Lisa Daftari.

Click on the screenshot to read the story from Mediaite, which I think leans toward the left (you can also find the story on various Rightish websites, of course):

Part of the Mediaite report:

Fox News contributor Lisa Daftari had a speaking engagement cancelled on her by Rutgers University.

Daftari, a Middle East and counterterrorism analyst who was a graduate from Rutgers and an Iranian Jew, was scheduled to speak on “Radicalism on College Campuses,” which would put focus on free speech on college campuses.

However, a student-led petition accused her of Islamophobia, citing this remark she said to the Heritage Foundation as a “small sample of harmful rhetoric.”

“Islamic terror takes its guidance and teachings from the Quran, which is Sharia law.”

Well, that statement happens to be true. If it’s harmful, my response would be, “Are you harmed by the truth? If so, too bad for you! And you have no right not to be offended, especially on a campus.”

More from Mediaite:

Rutgers’ associate director of public and media relations Neal Buccino told the Jewish Journal that they “postponed” the event, saying the university “will continue to go forward on events that reflect a wide variety of perspectives.”

Mr. Buccino (contact information here) will hear from me. Look at his weaselly statement!

I wouldn’t doubt that Muslim student organizations were behind the petition to deplatform Daftari, especially because that petition was started by one Adeel Ahmed.

Part of the Islamist playbook, which has proven remarkably effective among Leftists and credulous college students, is to prevent criticism of Islam by labeling its critics “Islamophobes” or “racists”. It worked in this case, but we need to stand up against the censorship of criticism, especially against religion, which tries mightily not to answer criticism, but to prevent it.

I’ve just written Neal Buccino, to wit:

Dear Mr. Buccino,

I read with dismay your statement on the cancellation/postponement (which is it?) of Lisa Daftari’s talk on Islam and free speech. If Rutgers values a diversity of opinion, as you claim, why do you allow your campus to censor a critic of Islam (not of Muslims, but of a religious ideology)?

Do you think that the true statement that ISIS justifies its actions using the Qur’an, the basis of sharia law, should be suppressed at Rutgers? If so, I’d like to know why.

I consider myself a liberal, but also a free speech advocate; and I’m appalled that your university is deplatforming an already-invited speaker and that you have issued an ambiguous statement supporting free speech but at the same time implicitly saying it’s ok to censor a speaker. Please let me know what is behind Rutgers’s action, and whether you intend to host Ms. Daftari in the future.

What is most distressing is that this censorship was the action of your own university. Universities are supposed to be venues of free speech, to which you pay lip service while at the same time denigrating it.

Jerry Coyne

Professor Emeritus
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago

I also sent a copy to Rutgers’s President, Robert Barchi. Any bets on whether either of them replies, or replies with a substantive answer?

h/t: Orli

New evidence that Jamal Khashoggi tortured and killed by Saudis

Dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Turkish consulate in Istanbul a week ago, seeking permission to divorce his first wife so he could marry his Turkish fiancée. He never came out. It’s possible, and now likely, that he was tortured and murdered by the Saudis for criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a nasty piece of work who pretends to be modernizing his country.

As CNN reports below, Khashoggi’s Apple watch may have given a clue to his fate (click on screenshot), though CNN could not verify the Turkish story:


Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded his own death, a Turkish newspaper reported Saturday morning.

Khashoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 , according to Sabah newspaper.

The moments of his “interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud,” the pro-government, privately owned newspaper paper reported. The Turkish newspaper said conversations of the men involved in the reported assassination were recorded.

Security forces leading the investigation found the audio file inside the phone Khasshoggi left with his fiancé, according to Sabah.

Upon noticing the watch, Sabah reports, Khashoggi’s assailants tried to unlock the Apple Watch with multiple password attempts, ultimately using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock the smart watch. They were successful in deleting only some of the files, Sabah reported.

However, on its website, Apple does not list fingerprint verification as one of the Apple Watch’s capabilities. A representative from the company confirmed to CNN the watches do not have the feature.

It was not immediately clear whether it would have been technically feasible for Khashoggi’s Apple phone to transfer audio to his phone, which he had given to his fiancee before entering the consulate.

CNN cannot independently verify Sabah report and is seeking comment from both Saudi and Turkish officials.

The Saudis deny any hand in the killing, despite the arrival of two planes filled with Saudis that arrived before Khashoggi disappeared and left shortly afterwards. The Saudi government claims that Khashoggi left the consulate, but there’s no record of that. And the U.S. has some intercepted transmissions from Saudi officials proving that they planned to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia to “detain” (aka kill) him.

My bet is that he never shows up again, as the Saudis probably killed him. And the U.S. should condemn his disappearance as strongly as possible and get out of bed with this odious regime. U.S. companies like CNN are already pulling out of Saudi meetings and conferences, but, as usual, the U.S. is going on with diplomatic relations.

Here’s a video of the news:

Jamal Khashoggi (posted by him on his Facebook page)