Baby goat befriends barn kittens

(Note: there may be an ad at the beginning of the video, which you can skip.) I’m feeling quite sad about the fracas at the pond today: Honey still hasn’t shown, and Phoebe is cowering on the duck island, though I managed to lure her out with some corn to dabble a bit in the cement “bathtub.” She then retired to the duck island again. Anna will return tomorrow when I’m gone, and promises to take good care of Phoebe. I know she will.

Here, to lighten the mood a bit, is a baby goat befriending—or trying to befriend—barn kittens.  The YouTube notes:

Hector the Nigerian Dwarf baby goat is just 2 days old. His Mama Amelia Earhart is a little protective of her only kid (most goats have 3-4 babies at once!) While he waits for cousins to be born in the stall next door, he has befriended the three barn kittens. Mom is not so sure about this plan! The kittens did inspire him to climb the wood shavings bale for the first time! You can watch all the cuteness on the live barn cam!…


h/t: Grania

Troubles in the duck pond

The latest duck report is a bit sad. Without telling me, and despite their promise that they wouldn’t do anything to the pond, Grounds and Landscape Services sent two people to the pond this morning to cut down the tall reeds at the north end of the big pond, and they used small chainsaws and stuff, which must have made a lot of noise. When I went down this morning to feed Honey and Phoebe, there were no ducks in the pond–they might have been spooked. I complained, though it was of course too late, and they told me that they “were under the impression the ducks had moved on.” Of course they neither looked at the pond nor asked me.

When I went back later in the morning, and again just now, Phoebe was there, but was really, really scared, cowering in a corner of the pond (in the small one). I tried to feed her twice, but I can’t even get close enough to her to toss her food. She is, apparently traumatized.  She will eat corn and mealworms if you can toss them hard enough to reach her, but she won’t come when I whistle, and may miss her companion Honey as well. Honey appears gone for good, though perhaps she may return. I hope so but don’t think so.

This would be a sad way to end Honey’s tenure here, and I’m a bit worried about Phoebe being able to migrate on her own.  I was going to post pictures and videos today, but I’ll wait a bit to see if mom comes back.

Jeremy Corbyn celebrates terrorists who murdered Jews in the 1972 Olympics

We all know about the increasing anti-Semitism of the Labour Party. Some say that it’s simply catering to the Muslim vote, which is bigger than the Jewish vote, while others, like Nick Cohen (whom I trust,) say it really is an anti-Semitism festering at the heart of Labour.  I’m rather eclectic on this, but Jeremy Corbyn’s constant pandering to Muslims has often verged on anti-Semitism, and this is one case. (Corbyn, of course, could be Britain’s next Prime Minister given the criticism of Conservatives because of their pro-Brexit stand. )

This tweet from Maajid Nawas (h/t: Grania) shows two instances of what can most charitably be called unwise behavior by Corbyn.  On the right, Corbyn was present at a wreath-laying at the graves of four Palestinian terrorists who killed eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. This odious gesture has caused increasing consternation in the Labour Party over Corbyn’s reputed anti-Semitism. (On the left, he gives a Muslim Brotherhood sign).

First Corbyn claimed it was not a ceremony for the terrorist assassins. Then he said it was, but he “wasn’t involved in the wreath-laying”. Now it appears he might have been. But it didn’t matter whether he laid the wreath; what mattered was that he celebrated Muslim terrorists who killed innocent Israeli athletes. If that’s not anti-Semitism, it sure walks and quacks like it! And these are his weasel words of explanation:

“I was present at that wreath-laying, I don’t think I was actually involved in it,” he said. “I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere. Because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence, the only way you can pursue peace [is] by a cycle of dialogue.”

Yes, you can end terrorism by feting the terrorists! Lord, what has Corbyn been smoking? He was called out by several people on Twitter, most notably Nick Cohen (see below).

Cohen’s statement is absolutely on the mark, and makes a mockery out of Corbyn’s apologetics:

Corbyn should resign as leader of Labour. He does not have the judgment to be Prime Minister, and he’s perilously close to being an anti-Semite, if he isn’t indeed one.

The new regressive New York Times: op-ed defends Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations against criticism by Canada

As I reported two days ago, the Canadian government has called out Saudi Arabia for human rights violations, which include imprisoning “blasphemer” Raif Badawi and his activist sister Samur. These violations were initially highlighted by tweets from the Canadian government’s foreign policy site and Canada’s foreign minister, to wit:

The Saudi government, not used to being criticized by other governments for its odious and repressive ways, struck back, recalling its ambassador from Canada, expelling Canada’s ambassador from Riyadh, freezing all new trade agreements with Canada, cutting off aid to Saudi students in Canada, and darkly threatening Canada with images of 9-11 displayed on Saudi state media (these have now been deleted).

But all is not over: the regressive New York Times come to the defense of Saudi Arabia! An op-ed by Ali Shihabi, a Saudi national and founder of the think tank Arabia Foundation, chides Canada for offending Saudi culture and sensibilities. See the apologetics by clicking on the link below:

Shihabi argues along the lines of “it was just a tweet, for crying out loud!” and “you don’t understand how Price Mohammed is trying to reform the country, and can’t be lectured to by foreign powers”.  See for yourself:

This situation must be understood in the context of Saudi and Islamic culture. Any Arab leader, particularly a young one who has recently assumed power in a traditional and mostly tribal society, has to carefully maintain his and his country’s stature and prestige, what classical Muslim scholars called hayba. This refers to the awe and respect that a ruler and his state must command in order to maintain order and stability without having to resort to excessive coercion, and without which there is no basis for legitimate rule.

This means that Prince Mohammed cannot allow himself or his country to be publicly lectured by Western leaders — especially in his own language. This was particularly the case since the Canadian embassy in Riyadh posted the tweet in Arabic, ensuring a wide circulation on local social media. Such perceived blatant interference in Saudi Arabia’s domestic affairs could not go unanswered without damaging the prestige of the state in the eyes of its people.

Interference in Saudi domestic affairs? Well, maybe so, but so is every criticism of human rights violations, including those in Syria and North Korea. I guess Amnesty International should disband. The apologetics go on:

Let’s be clear: This has nothing to do with Prince Mohammed’s status as a reformer. The crown prince’s stated goal is social, economic, and cultural and religious transformation of his kingdom — not political reform. This is a point his Western critics often forget. In fact, to implement the enormous changes he wants, he has felt the need to further limit the margin of free speech in order to control public debate on these reforms and ensure that they do not escalate into civil unrest.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: the Prince can’t allow free speech because it would cause unrest. And he needs to go slow, because rapid change would give support to Saudi’s religious conservatives.

Yes, women can now drive—a Band-Aid on the gaping wound of female oppression—but the rhetoric here reminds me of what I heard during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. At that time, segregationists and their sympathizers (and even President Lydon Johnson) said the same thing. “We need to go much more slowly; we can’t have rapid change in civil rights. That would only make the segregationists more resistant.” But of course Dr. King and his supporters didn’t go slowly, and things happened quickly.

Further, to claim that the Prince was already implementing these reforms is to claim the unknowable. In light of Saudi Arabia’s continuing human rights violations, it’s not wrong for other countries to criticize Saudi Arabia. After all, people are still being oppressed, killed, and imprisoned for things that aren’t crimes in our lands. We should shut up about that?

Now it’s possible that Shihabi is right in claiming that Saudi citizens might see future reforms as a sign of foreign interference and not necessarily as something coming from their own government. But until reform happens and is public, there is nothing wrong with criticizing the continuing human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. After all, Raif and Samur Badawi remain in prison, women are still under oppressive dress and “guardianship” restrictions, and the Kingdom still cuts off people’s heads and limbs for apostasy, blasphemy, and theft. We are supposed to wait, comforted by these words from a Saudi national?:

Does this mean that the Saudi government didn’t overreact? No. But Western nations have a vested interest in the success of Saudi Arabia’s attempt to transform itself, and so they must understand the political limitations and treacherous risks under which the leadership is attempting to bring about change. Prince Mohammed has every interest in maintaining good relations between his country and the West. The crown prince is very open to Western leaders and is in constant communication with many of them. Feel-good public posturing may play well with liberals in Canada, but quiet diplomacy is far more effective.

And of course there’s all that oil . . .

Remember that, as a Saudi National, Shihabi is more or less forced, if he says anything, to defend his government, lest he never be allowed to go back to his natal country. Now he may really feel this way, but we don’t have to. We should keep criticizing human rights violations in every country until they are corrected, and not rely on the nebulous “promises” of apologists like Shihabi.

Here’s a reaction from Steve Pinker, and I endorse it.

Another attack in London injures three pedestrians outside Parliament, suspect arrested on suspicion of terrorism

This just happened, and I’ll give the story from the Torygraph and a few excerpts:


A terror suspect arrested after a car crashed into a barrier at the Houses of Parliament at high speed is not believed to be known to the security services, police have said.

At least three people were injured when the silver Ford Fiesta hit a group of cyclists and pedestrians waiting for traffic lights to change. Witnesses said the car mounted the pavement on the wrong side of the road at up to 50mph and travelled around 40 metres (130ft) before hitting a bollard.

Westminster was in lockdown as armed police swarmed the scene on Tuesday morning. One witness said: “It looked intentional – the car drove at speed and towards the barriers.”

Scotland Yard said a man in his late 20s was arrested after the incident at around 7.30am. The suspect was taken to a south London police station, where he remains on suspicion of terrorism offences. He is not co-operating with officers.

This is, of course, the site of previous terror attacks, which is why the barriers are in place. The paper has photos of the suspect and the injured, as well as of the crime scene. No motivations have yet been revealed, and of course “terrorism” doesn’t necessarily imply “Islamic-inspired terrorism.”

Readers’ wildlife photos

Nature can be lovely even close to home. Reader Will Savage in England sent some pictures of the British countryside near his home. His captions are indented:

All of these were taken in early summer at a nature reserve not far from my home in Norfolk, England. The reserve runs alongside the River Wensum, which is a gin-clear chalk stream: a type of river system almost confined to southern England. Of the approximately 210 chalk streams in the world, 160 are in England. The water is totally clear because it has been filtered through hundreds of feet of chalk rock. Two Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) in the distance.

The water meadows are full of wild plants. Here are wild rose (Rosa canina), Ragged-Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) in two colour forms and, I think, Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermiss).

Wild Rose, also known as the Dog Rose:


Spotted Orchids:

Southern Marsh Orchid:

There were many insects, but these were the most interesting. A slightly unusual damselfly, the wonderfully-named Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). I think this is a female.
Also the year’s first Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui).
Last, but not least, birds. A Greylag Goose (Anser anser) with goslings. Many are feral here, but there are also wild birds.

A male Ruff (Calidris pugnax) in full breeding plumage. You can see how it got its name!


Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Tuesday, the cruelest day, August 14, 2018, and National Creamsicle Day, celebrating my favorite quiescently frozen confection. I’ll be at KentPresents from tomorrow through Sunday, but Grania has kindly offered to take over the Hili dialogues, needless to say, posting will be light.  The schedule for the sold-out meeting is here: I am the last talk, but could be considered the opening act for Wynton Marsalis. The schedule actually looks pretty terrific.  I also see that Lesley Stahl will be having a conversation onstage with Henry Kissinger. I wonder who’s Kissinger now?

On this day in 1457, according to Wikipedia, occurred the “Publication of the Mainz Psalter, the first book to feature a printed date of publication and printed colophon.” What’s a colophon, you ask? It’s this:

On August 14, 1888, again according to Wikipedia, “an audio recording of English composer Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord“, one of the first recordings of music ever made, is played during a press conference introducing Thomas Edison’s phonograph in London, England.” On this day in 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, a real act of socialism.

One year later, in the last known public execution in the United States, Rainey Bethea, a black man who confessed to rape and murder, was hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky. 20,000 happy spectators came out, the atmosphere was festive, and the hangman was drunk. No wonder it was the last one! (Although I’m opposed to the death penalty, sometimes I think that executions should all be public, just so people know what they’re favoring.)  Finally, on August 14, 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened in London, still the longest-running film in history.

Happy postmortem birthday to what was claimed to be one of the world’s oldest cats, Nutmeg, who died on this day last year at 30-31. (h/t: Grania). There’s no real documentation for that: the documented record is held by Creme Puff, who lived a tad over 34 years. As Creme Puff’s Wikipedia entry says, “the longevity of [Jake] Perry’s cats may have had something to do with an unusual diet of, among other things, bacon and eggs, asparagus, broccoli, and coffee with heavy cream, concluding that Perry ‘must be doing something right’.” You can see a video of Perry’s ancient cats, including Creme Puff and the cats’ diet, here.

Notables born on this day include, besides Nutmeg, Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840), Doc Holliday (1851), John Galsworthy (1867), Lina Wertmüller (1928), David Crosby (1941), Steve Martin (1945), Gary Larson (1950), Magic Johnson (1959), Halle Berry (1966), and Tim Tebow (1987).  Those who died on August 14 include William Randolph Hearst (1951; ROSEBUD), Bertolt Brecht (1956), Frédérick Joliot-Curie (1958; Nobel Laureate), John Sirica (1992), and Pee Wee Reese (1999).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s pronouncements become more and more opaque. This one required a long explanation from Malgorzata:

Hili finds the idea of “moderate Islam” quite funny. She is playing with using the word “moderate” to other religions: “moderate Catholicism”, “moderate Protestantism”, “moderate Mormonism”. Then she went over to ideology: “moderate Fascism”, “moderate Communism”. Finally, she wanted to generalise and asked  Andrzej whether any Absolute can be moderate. Actually, she has a suggestion: rather than talking about “moderate religion” humans should use a three steps scale  “lukewarm believer”, “believer” and “fanatical believer”. It sounds more reasonable to her.
Hili: Can Absolute be moderate?
A: I’ve never met one.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy Absolut może być umiarkowany?
Ja: Nie spotkałem takiego.

Tweets from Heather Hastie. First, a cat gets pissed off:

Heather says that this is funny even though it’s a d*g:

Biological fact o’ the day:

A tweet from Matthew. This is fricking amazing! Look at that wave! It was in Portugal, and was estimated at 80 feet tall.


Tweets from Grania: ancient cat footprints.

Once again Maru seeks psychological comfort:

Brtitish hypocrisy:

Do you know what this bird is (play video). Readers will answer in the comments.

From reader Barry, a rescued and sodden bunny.


Vote for cats!

Brady Haran, who, among other things makes YouTube videos about science, is taking a vote on who favors dogs vs. who favors cats.

You know what to do: click on the tweet below to go to Haran’s twitter site, and then vote for felids! I don’t ask readers for much, and never for money, so humor me and vote the right way by clicking on the tweet below. There are only a few thousand votes, d*gs are winning, the vote ends at about 4 pm Chicago time on Tuesday, and we have 56,000 subscribers. Do the old Professor a favor.   

We can do it!

h/t: David

Our World Cup contest winner (and boot lagniappe)

Reader Jack Dostal won our World Cup contest even though he didn’t get the winner (he got the closest, though). Jack dropped by the lab today on his way from North Carolina to Iowa, and I gave him his prize, an autographed copy of WEIT with a soccer-playing cat drawn in it, wearing Belgium’s team colors. (Jack guessed Belgium beating Croatia in the final, which was the closest anyone got). Here’s Jack and the cat I drew (note that he’s wearing cowboy boots).

I never claimed to be an artist! (The team colors, red with yellow diamonds and a Belgian shield in the middle, are accurate.)

Fortuitously, Jack also collects cowboy boots, and his collection is much larger than mine (I have about 125 pairs). He brought some by to show me, and this custom pair, by the famous bootmaker Dave Little in San Antonio, caught my eye, for it was in my size. Jack sold it to me for a song, and now I have a pair of Dave Little navy blue ostrich boots. Many thanks to him.

NYT down the rabbit hole again: dumb op-ed stereotypes nerds as misogynists, jocks as woke people

What the bloody hell is going on at the New York Times? As I’ve claimed repeatedly, my theory (which is mine) is that the Times has made a conscious decision to become more social-justice-y, and reflects that in both the articles and op-eds it is publishing—with the op-eds often worthless pieces of tripe that would never have been published when the Times had more gravitas.

Here’s a new one, which uses six anecdotes (two nerds, four jocks) to show that nerds are misogynists and jocks (athletes) are woke good guys. And that’s all it is: cherry-picking examples of women-bashing “nerds” (she doesn’t define the term) and upright anti-patriarchal athletes to buttress her thesis. Author Jennifer Wright happens to be the political editor of Harper’s Bazaar and a writer.

Look, I’ve disagreed with many NYT editorials, especially by conservatives like Ross Douthat. My beef here is not that the Times shouldn’t publish anything they want, but that this editorial is so thin, so tendentious, and so mindlessly SJW-ish, that it should never have been published in any good newspaper, much less the NYT. It’s just a rant based on anecdotes. And the paper is increasingly publishing this species of pap.

Wright begins by expressing her disillusionment with nerds, which seem to be geeks more interested in computers and comic books than in women. She used to like them, she avers, but now has discovered that the whole lot of them are raging misogynists:

I used to love nerds. Or at least, I loved the idea of nerds. In the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, there was an endless stream of movies and media, from “Revenge of the Nerds” to “Spider-Man” to “Beauty and the Geek,” dedicated to telling women that they’d be better off with nerds than with the arrogant jocks who would grunt cavemanlike in response to anything women said, before kicking sand in a nerd’s face.

Nerds were smart and decent underdogs who just needed a good-hearted lady to notice them and maybe get them a pair of contact lenses.

Boy, that stereotype does not hold up in 2018.

These days, stories of misogyny in nerd-world — and allegations of sexual harassment in tech companies — have become incredibly common. If I see someone in a Batman T-shirt, I no longer assume they’re a sensitive soul. Instead, I wonder if they harassed women during Gamergate or hang out on incel message boards talking about how Elliot Rodger was right to kill “blonde sorority sluts.” The most realistic part of “Revenge of the Nerds” now seems to be the creepy scene where the nerd protagonist tricks a woman into sex.

A bit extreme, no?

Wright then gives two—count them, two—examples of nerds who are said to be misogynists. They come, of course, from the tech industry, and I’m surprised she doesn’t include James Damore among them.

I wasn’t that surprised, then, when Chloe Dykstra, the ex-girlfriend of the Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick (whom Rolling Stone has called “King of the Nerds”), wrote in an essay that her boyfriend of three years had emotionally and sexually abused her. (While she did not name him, the piece is understood by everyone in the industry to refer to him. He denied the abuse.)

Women aren’t the only victims of bad behavior by nerdy guys. Another “King of the Nerds,” Elon Musk, didn’t improve nerds’ image when he tweeted that a diver who assisted in rescuing 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand was a pedophile. Mr. Musk later apologized, and said he had been angry with the diver for criticizing Mr. Musk’s design of a mini-submarine to rescue the boys.

The notion of nerds being kinder than other men fades faster every day.

Note that Chris Hardwick hasn’t been named, and denies the charges, but that doesn’t matter at all to Wright, who finds him guilty as charged. And Musk may be a boorish man, but I’m not convinced he’s a jerk. And even if he is, all Wright uses to prove her thesis about misogynistic nerds are these two people whose behavior has disillusioned her. But what about other “nerds” who are nice guys? One is Bill Gates, who’s giving away billions of dollars to help those far less fortunate than he. By all accounts, he’s a nice guy, and I’m pretty sure he counts as a “nerd.” Another nerd who’s a pro-feminist and has a nice guy image? Neil deGrasse Tyson (see this video for proof). Another? Tech billionaire Gordon Moore, who is giving away his money to charity. I could add Carl Sagan as well. I could add others, too, but I’ll stop here.

I’m sure you can think of others but I’ve made my point: Wright is cherry-picking. It’s not clear to me that even the nerds in the tech industry are not as nice as the average man, for we hear about the cases of misogyny or sexual harassment (Damore is NOT one of these) but not about the many nerds who are nice guys who treat women with respect. And is tech really as plagued with abusive or sexist men as are other organizations? Look at the entertainment industry these days.

Well, Wright thinks that athletics is far better, because she can name four “jocks” who are pro-woman or “woke”:

On July 30, the N.B.A. star LeBron James opened a school in Akron, Ohio, that promises free lunches, bicycles and tuition to all its students, as well as guaranteed tuition at the University of Akron for all of its graduates. Many on Twitter pointed out that this might be a more generous use of wealth than attempting to fund space travel, as Mr. Musk hopes to do.

Last week, another N.B.A. player, Stephen Curry, raised over $21,000 through a live-streamed event to help benefit the family of Nia Wilson, a young woman who was stabbed to death at a train station in Oakland, Calif.

In June, the former N.F.L. player-turned-actor Terry Crews gave Senate testimony in which he spoke about having been sexually assaulted and warned against the “cult of toxic masculinity” that led him to believe he was more important than women.

And of course there’s Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, who drew national attention to police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

She gets in a few licks at Trump, saying that the President went after Kaepernick and Curry, but that’s irrelevant to her thesis, though it may have helped her mushy piece get published. She concludes like this:

None of these guys sound like the heartless, monosyllabic brutes pop culture made jocks out to be. They sound like the kind of men who would patiently listen to you and commiserate after a nerd sexually harasses you.

To be sure, some nerds are nice, and some jocks are still jerks — like Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers and Sean Newcomb of the Atlanta Braves, who recently apologized for old racist and homophobic tweets. But they’ve been overshadowed by people like Mr. James. Maybe it’s time to readjust stereotypes accordingly.

These jocks are deeply decent men standing up to bullies in power. Just like nerds in old movies used to do.

Well, it’s more than just two athletes who apologized for bad tweets: many athletes and coaches have been accused of sexually of physically abusing women in the last few years. Here’s a video, for instance, of ten NFL (National Football League) players who beat and abused women. And that’s just football.

I don’t know whether nerds are as woke as athletes, but my default hypothesis is that nice guys—guys who respect women—are as common among geeks as among athletes. (In reality, given “jock culture”, I’d marginally favor the nerds.) That is the null hypothesis that Wright tries to disprove by using a few anecdotes. And that’s the whole basis of this stupid op-ed: anecdotes.  Frankly, I think that Wright’s piece stinks to high heaven, and it’s puzzling to me that the Times found it worthy of publication. But welcome to the new social justice Times.

h/t: BJ, Grania