Winter squirrels

It’s been pretty cold in much of America’s north and east, which gives us even more reason to feed the wildlife. Since my mallard hen has abandoned me—at least for the winter—I am left with a scurry of squirrels (yes, that’s the correct term for a group of these rodents). Although I didn’t feed my squirrels when I was in India, I’m now back giving them daily peanuts, and am pleased to see that they’re fat and fluffy. Here’s one, covered with snow, getting a treat yesterday. (There’s a water dish, too, but it freezes quickly, even when the water is warm.)

Nosing about:

Being offered a nut:



A question to Brits (or Kiwis, or anyone who drives on the left)

On my way to the Divinity School for lunch—their cafe, called “Hallowed Grounds”, has a good selection of ethnic food though it bears the unfortunate motto “Where God drinks coffee”)—I saw that classes had just let out and students were crowding the sidewalks. I also noticed that students were walking like cars on a road: each stream was walking to the right.

I was just wondering if it’s the opposite in countries like the UK where people drive on the left side of the road. Do people also walk on the left?

Raoul Martinez on free will and the implications of determinism

I’ve published related talks by polymath Raoul Martinez before (see here), but not this one: a 17.5-minute talk delivered in 2013 and called “Creating freedom.” It has only a bit more than 36,000 views, and given the importance of its message, it deserves more. I suppose it’s because it’s delivered in a very low key manner, and the topic doesn’t stir many people. Indeed, Martinez could have been a bit clearer in his exposition. But it’s still a good talk.

If you’ve read my posts on free will, you’ll see that I’m in pretty full agreement with Martinez. He draws the now-familiar analogy between a man who commits a crime (collecting child pornography) because of a brain tumor—a true story—and a tumorless criminal who has no more control over his behavior than does the pornography guy. The law and nearly everyone else see them as different in terms of “moral responsibility,” but they’re not.  (One problem with Martinez’s talk is that he uses “responsibility” to mean “moral responsibility”, and not just “this person did it”.)

Martinez says, correctly, I think, that you’re morally responsible only if you can choose your own identity, and since you can’t, you’re not morally responsible for the actions that come from your identity, which itself devolves solely form your genes and your environment.  And because our legal system is based largely on the presumption that you can choose your identity and actions—for what else makes a tumor a “mitigating factor”?—this has immense implications for how miscreants are treated. As Martinez says, “A prisoner is no more deserving of his sentence than the judge who passes it.” “Deserving” is the key word here: to Martinez it means not that a criminal shouldn’t be locked up, but that he shouldn’t be locked up under the presumption that he made the wrong choice.

I won’t go on, as I’ve said these things before, except to emphasize Martinez’s claim that all of science comes down on the side of determinism of behavior, while no scientific finding supports any notion of libertarian free choice. And, at the end, he outlines the salubrious effects of accepting determinism. These involve not just judicial reform, but awakening an increasing compassion for those who have lost, through no fault of their own, life’s lottery of wealth, power, and inequality.

Indeed, this is one difference between Democrats and Republicans. The latter, by and large, think that the poor are poor because they made the wrong choices, while Democrats, at least implicitly, recognize that we’re all the victims of circumstance. (I’d like to know whether Democrats are more likely to be determinists than are Republicans!)

I agree with Martinez’s last sentence: “It’s through understanding and questioning, not ignorance, that we empower ourselves to create a fairer, happier, more compassionate world.”

Would that philosophers would help create that world rather than confecting or explaining useless definitions of free will that, while compatible with determinism, do nothing to reform society. Surely the recognition and promulgation of determinism is a worthier endeavor than semantic tomfoolery. And philosophers are eminently qualified to participate in that reform—it’s not that they’re better places to explain compatibilism than determinism!

The YouTube notes says this:

Raoul is an artist, writer, and award-winning documentarian. His portraits ( have been selected for exhibition in London’s National Portrait Gallery, and he has painted leading figures in the arts and academia as well as a series of symbolic works. He is currently working on his first documentary series, entitled Creating Freedom with filmmaker Joshua van Praag. In developing the series as writer, director, and producer, he has travelled extensively, interviewing leading intellectuals, journalists and activists, including Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, Amy Goodman, Steven Pinker, Bill Mckibben, and Christopher Hedges. Creating Freedom ( explores the subjects of freedom, control and power in modern society. To accompany the series, and based on his many interviews and years of research, Raoul is currently writing a book of the same name. Raoul lives and works in his London studio.

His book came out in 2017 (click on screenshot to buy it), but I haven’t yet seen a documentary series. Maybe that’s because public intellectuals either get muddled when they discuss free will (e.g., Chomsky) or flee from the topic like a gazelle from a lion.

British Humanists come out against “hate speech”

Two years ago I gave the Darwin Day talk in London for the British Humanist Association, which has now changed its name to Humanists UK.  I much admired the group—and still do—because they actually engage in real action to promote humanism and secularism, and I like the people who run it.

But they’re not perfect, I guess. Five days ago the organization put this cartoon on its Facebook page with the caption: “Karl Popper, a member of Humanists UK’s advisory council in the twentieth century, on the paradox of tolerance.” I’ve hear this quote before, but here it is in cartoon form, complete with Nazis:

Well, the message here is pretty clear: “We have to make hate speech illegal, because such speech, if countenanced, will lead to the erosion of society, turning it totalitarian.” In other words (last panel), “Kick a Nazi.”

This is about as wrongheaded a message as a humanist organization can convey. First, there are the usual problems with defining speech that “preaches intolerance and persecution”. Who will define that? What about intolerance of undocumented immigrants? Of Donald Trump? Of religion? (Remember, many countries have blasphemy laws prohibit the dissing of religion.) Of Zionists?  What, exactly, does Humanists UK mean by “intolerance”? Perhaps I’ll write to the President and inquire.

Let’s look at countries where there is freedom of speech. Have they become “intolerant” dictatorships? The prime example is the U.S. (even Canada has blasphemy laws). You might mention Trump, but of course you can’t pin Trump’s election on the U.S. policy of free speech. If you say that, then you’re saying that he should have been muzzled before the election. But how could we do that?

No, by and large the U.S. policy of almost unrestricted free speech, which bars only illegal speech like harassment in the workplace or direct, on-the-spot incitement of violence, has worked pretty well. And even Britain, with its right-wing parties, is tolerant of intolerance. And Britain is not going to go under.

I can’t imagine a situation in this world where giving a country the kind of free speech we have in the U.S. would make it become a dictatorship. Would that happen to Canada if it ditched its unenforced blasphemy laws, or Germany, where blasphemy laws and anti-Nazi laws are enforced? Not a chance. And remember, Hitler got to power, and then silenced free speech, because the people voted him into power. That could always happen in a democracy, as we know from Trump’s election. But I’d rather have free speech and the possibility that the people will choose unwisely than censorship, which takes away from the people the right to even consider issues.

If you don’t agree with me, read Wikipedia’s pages on “blasphemy laws” or “freedom of speech by country” and tell me which countries are better off because they restrict speech that’s considered “intolerant.”

You blew it this time, Humanists UK! I’ve written their Chief Executive, Andrew Copson, whom I know, making a gentle inquiry:

Hi Andrew,

I was a bit dismayed to see on the Humanists UK Facebook page post a Karl Popper cartoon urging suppression of “intolerant” speech, with the implication that if such speech were permitted, a Hitler would eventually take over. (Cartoon attached.) As you know, we have pretty much untrammeled free speech in the US, and although we have the moronic Trump in power, that’s not because of free speech: it’s because people voted for him. And he won’t be able to dismantle the free-speech guarantees in the Constitution.

I am wondering exactly what kind of “intolerant” speech the Humanists UK want to ban (yes, ban: the Popper cartoon says that “any movement that preaches intolerance and persecution must be outside the law”). What kind of speech should be illegal? I’m sure you don’t mean anti-religious speech, because the Humanists wouldn’t want to ban that!

At any rate, if Humanists UK have an official position on banning some kinds of speech, as implied by your posting the cartoon and giving it the caption “Karl Popper, a member of Humanists UK’s advisory council in the twentieth century, on the paradox of tolerance”, I’d like to know what that position is.

best wishes,
Jerry Coyne


A false report of hijab-cutting

I remember seeing this report four days ago on HuffPo (click screenshot to see the report).

The gist of it was that a young Canadian hijabi reported being attacked by a man wielding scissors:

An assailant, in two attempts within 10 minutes, cut the girl’s hijab using scissors while she was walking to school with her brother, a Toronto police spokeswoman said.

The hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women and girls. It covers the hair but not the face.

“I felt confused, scared, terrified,” Khawlah Noman, who is in Grade 6, told reporters at her school on Friday.

“I screamed. The man just ran away. We followed this crowd of people to be safe. He came again. He continued cutting my hijab again.”

Noman held a press conference at her school to report how terrified she was.

When I read this, I thought it was weird, as why would a man be carrying scissors around and b) attack the girl twice, the second time in a crowd? Wouldn’t someone intervene? While there are Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. and Canada, there have also been false reports of hijab-snatching (one, involving a Louisiana university student, is here; another, involving an 18 year old in New York, is here). I never automatically believe accusations unless there’s independent confirmation, but I didn’t write about the Canadian one because it was premature (police were investigating), and I didn’t want to doubt this publicly for obvious reasons.

Now, however, the story has proven to be false: the girl fabricated the story and police found that out (they won’t say how). This was reported by Global News Canada at 9 a.m. Chicago time yesterday and later by CBC News, which said this:

“After a detailed investigation, police have determined that the events described in the original news release did not happen,” police said.

. . . . “These allegations were extremely serious and not surprisingly, they received national and international attention,” police spokesperson Mark Pugash said in an interview.

“Investigators worked extremely hard since the allegations on Friday. They gathered evidence from a variety of sources,” before concluding the story was untrue, Pugash said, adding that the girl who reported the incident will not face any legal consequences.

Yet so far, 24 hours after the retraction, HuffPo US still hasn’t corrected its story (I’ve archived the story here). (HuffPo Canada, however, did report that the crime didn’t happen, as did Reuters, the source of HuffPo’s US story.) I can either wait to see how long it takes HuffPo US to correct its story—if it does!—or I can put a comment in the thread that they need to correct it. What should I do?


UPDATE: I see now that yesterday afternoon HuffPo US published a separate article saying the girl’s claim was false, but they haven’t yet corrected the original story. I’ll go leave a note that they should fix it.


At any rate, the main story here is twofold. First, don’t automatically believe such claims, especially if there’s no corroboration. The “believe the victim” trope is especially tempting if the reported victimization plays into your political narrative, as it does for Authoritarian Leftists who automatically defend anything connected with Islam.

Now I’m not going to come down on the girl. She’s only 11, and probably wanted to attract attention, perhaps because she feels marginalized or ignored. She’s young, though the other two cases are less excusable and, in fact, at least one falsely reporting hijabi has been charged with a crime. Those who seem more at fault are the girl’s parents, if they encouraged her to file a report and go public, or, more likely, the political climate in which cutting a hijab appears to be a “hate crime”—far more serious than cutting someone else’s headgear. (I’ve long thought that we should abolish the notion of “hate crimes”.)

The second lesson of this story involves the reaction of people when this occurred. Rather than what I’d consider a “proper” response—which would be something like “false reporting is reprehensible because it unnecessarily uses up valuable police time, and also may make future and true reports seem less credible”—various organizations didn’t say a word against the false reporting, but simply used it to advance their narrative. For example, from the CBC (my emphasis):

Amira Elghawaby, a human rights advocate based in Ottawa, said she was saddened to learn that the girl’s story was not true, adding it will likely only serve to embolden “those who do hold discriminatory views of Muslims.”

Saddened? Isn’t she supposed to be glad that an Islamophobic crime didn’t occur? No, Elghawby is saddened because what really happened undermines her own narrative. I’d think that people would be glad that this crime, or any crime, didn’t happen, even if there was a false report. No, Elghawby and others rush to exculpate the girl and just strengthen their narrative. More from the CBC article:

[Elghawaby] also stressed that, as an 11-year-old, “she probably doesn’t really understand the full implications of what she’s done” and deserves compassion from adults.

“Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure the police, and the school and everyone will be reviewing how this was addressed. And we, as community members, all we want to do is think about this young girl — give her support — we don’t want her to be vilified,” said Elghawaby.

Support? Well, if she’s vilified or harassed, yes, she should be supported. But the girl should be told in no uncertain terms that was she did was bad and harmful to others.

Here’s another from Global News, again lacking a condemnation of the report but expressing the fear that it would make future reports less credible. (Guess what—it does! Investigate such reports by all means, but don’t accept them as true on their face, which HuffPo US apparently did). Several people even use this incident to rehash other instances of crimes against Muslims. (I add that any such crimes are reprehensible, as is bigotry that motivates them):

Pugash [a Toronto police spokesman] said it’s “very unusual” for someone to make false allegations of this type and said he hopes it will not discourage others from coming forward.

A Canadian Muslim organization expressed similar concerns, saying they feared others who experience hate crimes may be reluctant to report them out of worry that they will not be believed.

Safwan Choudhry, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said it would also be naive to ignore the risk of potential backlash against the girl and her family as well as other Muslims in light of Monday’s news.

“While this incident has proven not to be true, we did all witness that just a couple years ago a Muslim mother was brutally beaten up in Toronto while she was dropping her kids off at school,” he said. In that alleged incident in 2015, police had said the woman was kicked and beaten and had her cellphone stolen by two males before she fled to a nearby school.

And of course Justin Trudeau, whom I’m starting to dislike, weighs in, but without condemning the false report by the girl:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who strongly denounced the alleged hijab-cutting incident on Friday, told The Canadian Press on Monday he would not comment on the findings of the police investigation. But he said there is nonetheless a pattern of hate crimes against religious minorities, particularly women, that needs to be addressed.

“This is something that we need to take very, very, very seriously and the pattern or trend lines that we’re seeing is … one of those warning signs about intolerance,” he said.

“And reminding people that we are a country that defends freedom of religion, defends freedom of expression, defends people’s rights to goto school and not be fearful or harassed is fundamental to who we are.”

What a mealy-mouthed git! The story was false, and he should condemn false reporting, for that even supports his narrative of fighting bigotry! If you want to fight bigotry, after all, you should condemn false reports of it, which make genuine reports seem less credible.

This story reminds me of those people who go on the internet and manufacture stories about having cancer, or other woes, as an excuse to ask for money. When such false stories are exposed, there’s nothing but dislike and shaming of the perpetrators. (You don’t even hear the claim that “false reports make it less likely that real people with cancer will be ignored.”) There’s no attempt to exculpate these people or remind everyone that other people do get cancer for real. The difference, of course, is that the hijab story plays into the Leftist narrative of Islamophobia while the cancer story does not.

Oh, and there’s another lesson. Perhaps journalists, rather than jumping on a story that’s congenial to their ideology, and implying it’s true, might wait a bit until a police investigation is conducted or the story is corroborated. After all, this investigation took only three days.

h/t: Cindy

Readers’ wildlife photos (with “spot the. . .” lagniappe)

We have some odds and ends today, but they’re none the worse for that. First, Diana MacPherson sends a raccoon (Procyon lotor):

Since you’re back, I thought I’d send you this picture of a raccoon I took in December. It was in a tree in my yard after Kala, my dog, barked him up there. He looks like a young one so maybe a late summer litter. He left cute raccoon footprints in the snow all over my backyard.

I hope he isn’t sick as he’s been wandering around my yard all day.

Garry vanGelderen from Ontario sent a photo of a coyote (Canis latrans) in the snow:

Here’s a mystery from reader Tom Alves:

I was in Bhutan where I found this grasshopper with holes in the body. I’ve no idea what it is or why. Perhaps your readers might shed some light on the subject?

JAC: I don’t think these are puncture wounds; they really look like natural perforations:

Finally, Emma Crawford sent an unusual creature with a “spot the” extra:

My partner and I recently spent some time at a field centre in Sabah, Borneo. We thought you and your readers would find these photos interesting.

We had taken a number of photos of the Bornean least pygmy squirrel (Exilisciurus exilis) whilst exploring the jungle. Several weeks later when editing the photographs, we noticed someone else in a few of the images!

See if you can spot the photobomber who appears in both the following photos. [JAC: I reveal it below the fold.]

Read More »

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Well, yesterday it turned out to be a holiday at my school, but now it’s Tuesday, January 16, 2018, and it’s business as usual. It’s National Hot and Spicy Food Day, as well as Day of the Shining Star (Kim Jong-il’s birthday) in the world’s worst country

The New York Times and other venues report a horrible case of child abuse in which a California couple kept their 13 children, aged 2-29, shackled to beds without adequate nutrition. (Police said the 17 year old who managed to report the crime looked as if she were ten.) The parents are in jail with 9 million dollars bond. And there’s a big kerfuffle in Kazakhstan, as the country is adopting a new alphabet (they didn’t have their own written language, but used Cyrillic), and the president wants to use a ton of apostrophes to represent Kazakh sounds. Everyone else says it’s a mess.

Today’s Google Doodle shows Katy Jurado  (born on this day in 1924, died in 2002), a Mexican actress who was unknown to me but, I see, appeared in some well known films, including, High NoonArrowheadBroken LanceOne-Eyed Jacks, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. As Wikipedia reports, she “was the first Latin American actress nominated for an Academy Award, as Best Supporting Actress for her work in Broken Lance, and was the first to win a Golden Globe Award for her performance in High Noon.” Here’s her Doodle:

Here’s a clip with Jurado (and Grace Kelly) in High Noon. And I do remember this scene after I watched it.

UPDATE!!! Reader Roger informs me that these things happened on FEBRUARY 16, not January 16, and he’s right. Well, so be it; you’ll see these events highlighted in a month. In the meantime, I’m busy and can’t be arsed to fix it! To see what really happened on January 16, see the Wikipedia link for this day.

Only a few notable things happened on January 16. In 1923, Howard Carter opened the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun in Egypt. On this day in 1959, Fidel Castro became the Premier of Cuba after overthrowing Batista. On January 16, 1968, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone number became operative—in Haleyville, Alabama. Exactly ten years later, the first computer bulletin board system (CBBS in Chicago) was created. In 1985, Hezbollah was founded, and in 2005, the entire 2004-2005 National Hockey League season was canceled because of a labor dispute.

Notables born on this day include three biologists, and I hope you know of at least two of them: Francis Galton (1822), Ernst Haeckel (1834), and Hugo de Vries (1848).  Also born on January 16 were Sonny Bono (1935), Kim Jong-il (1941, see above), science journalist Natalie Angier (1958), and Elizabeth Olsen (1989). There weren’t many deaths on this day: all I could find were William Masters (2001) and Lesley Gore (2015, born Lesley Goldstein). Here’s Gore with a live performance of what is probably her most famous song (“You Don’t Own Me”, however, is better).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess is demanding transport off the windowsill into the house:

A: Why don’t you come when I call you?
Hili: Because I prefer you to carry me.
In Polish:
Ja: Dlaczego nie przychodzisz jak cię wołam?
Hili: Bo wolę jak mnie nosisz na rękach.

A tw**t from Grania—look at that octopus change color!

Also from Grania—Scotch shadows:

From Matthew, an amazing cocoon:

And the well known migration of red crabs on Christmas Island (watch the video):

You can’t see this video too often!


Leisure fascism: Vegan says that a carnivore can’t eat tofu because it’s “cultural appropriation”

Well, yes, this is from The Sun, but it does give names and I suspect it’s true (it’s reported at multiple places, including msn) .  Click on the screenshot for the LOLs:

The relevant bit of their exchange (in case you didn’t know, “tofurkey” is a turkey substitute made out of tofu, intended for consumption at Thanksgiving):

How well the termites have dined—or have not dined! I’m crying and shaking now. I can’t even. . .

Read the original article for more fun, including to see how the carnivorous tofu-eater was temporarily banned from her Facebook group.

h/t: Cindy

Rooster runs at top speed to greet its staff returning from school

This beautiful clip apparently shows a rooster named Frog running to the school bus, as he does daily, to greet his beloved staff Savannah. Look at that rooster run! I had no idea chickens could feel such affection: I wish someone would do that for me!

Bangalore: Science and food

I have three posts remaining about my trip to India, and this is the next-to-penultimate one. I was invited to give two lectures in Bangalore (now called “Bengaluru,” but I’ll use the old name), hosted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, a lovely garden campus on the outskirts of this rapidly growing and confusing city.  First, as you enter the campus you see a stone with Nehru’s words engraved on it:

This is the faculty and student canteen, which serves lovely vegetarian food and where you can sit outside and eat, or simply have a tea or South Indian coffee:

The campus has won many awards for its landscaping, which are prominently displayed in the administration building:

My wonderful hosts on this visit were T. N. C. Vidya (left) and Amitabh Joshi (right), here posing with a picture of Nehru himself.  Amitabh is an evolutionary biologist and geneticist, Vidya—the “T. N. C.” is short for some very long South Indian words and often dropped—is an organismal, conservation and evolutionary biologist. There are several evolutionists on the staff, a welcome change from when I visited India several decades ago, a time there was only one evolutionary biologist I knew of in the whole country—in Mysore. I often wanted to do a sabbatical in India, but at the time when I had sabbaticals, there was really nobody to work with.

Part of Vidya’s work is on wild Indian elephants, and here she is with some of her subjects. I’ve importuned her to let me visit the elephants the next time I go to India.

Here’s a vegetarian lunch that several of us (including the Institute’s President) had at the canteen. There are several kinds of yogurt and veg dishes as well as two types of bread (the one at the top is made from rice flour), as well as sambar, the spicy soup near the center. As usual with these thali meals, portions were unlimited, with the staff coming around to refill your plates. Not shown: firni, or rice pudding, for dessert.

As I said, I gave two talks, though one (on “ways of knowing”) was at The Indian Academy of Sciences at Bangalore.  After my research talk on flies at the Nehru Institute, there were goodies served, and I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Goodies and my bouquet are shown in the photo below.  There are always snacks after talks, and on this visit to India it was usually tea and samosas. This time, though, it was tea, cake, and french fries!

We had a simple but wonderful lunch at Hali Mane (“Village Home”), a place designed to mimic the inside of a South Indian home. We got there a bit early (lunchtime in India is about 1-1:30 pm), which is fortunate as it rapidly got crowded. This is scene from the balcony. People eat at standup tables, but there are sit-down places upstairs:

The menu, a panoply of great food. And it’s cheap: it’s about 66 rupees to the dollar now. As you can see, coffee is about 16¢ and an akki roti (see below) about 45¢. If you’re smart you go for the South Indian food on the left. Everybody seemed to.

This really is local food: my meal consisted of  akkit roti (left on the plate; a rice-flour bread), ragi roti (right on the plate; a millet bread, something I’d never had before), onion chutney, a dry condiment (puri), and a sweet bread called obbatu (in the fluted paper):

Amitabh and Vidya chowing down. Note: everyone eats with their right hands. If you go to India, that’s what you’re gonna do.

All washed down with frothy cup of strong South Indian coffee:

On the way back from lunch we passed an outlet of K. C. Das, the chain of sweet shops owned by Mr. Birenda Das, the subject of my children’s book. He actually came to my talk at the Indian Academy of Sciences, but I didn’t photograph him as he doesn’t like his picture taken (it was with great difficulty that we got him to allow us to photograph him for the book).

Here’s Birenda with one of his many cats, photographed in his home by my friend Shubhra Chakrabarti, who did the importuning. He wears traditional Indian clothing made from the finest cotton, and that’s what he wore to my lecture. It was good to see him, and I was sorry I couldn’t visit him and his cats, for I had to head to Trivandrum:

Outside Hali Mane people were lining up at its stall making sweet breads, of which they had many kinds:

“Holiga” is the same thing as obbatu. They’re about 30-50 cents each:

On the griddle:

Finally, we had a blowout dinner at Sattvam, which serves “sattvic cuisine“, not overly spiced and abjuring meat, onions, and garlic. This restaurant was buffet only, with a fantastic selection of tasty food. So forgive me while I show you a lot of photos, which show only part of what was on offer (I left out the Western style food).

The first “course” was a bowl of tangy tomato soup, served with a “tower of treats” that appear to be desserts. The tower was smoking from dry ice immersed in water. Amitabh looks dubious:

And then another small plate of appetizers before you hit the buffet. These small bites (I believe there’s a samosa-like item at upper left and paneer with pepper at lower right) were excellent:

And then we had to choose from this array (foods are labeled, click pictures to read the signs). Savory drinks were first:


Hot foods:

Desserts, with a trifle as a nod to the Raj:

Halwas (yum!):

My desserts (there was an ice cream station, too, with a marble mix-in slab, but I was too full to even try). The chocolate covered pineapple came from a chocolate fountain:

A well-fed table: Vidya, me, Geetha Gadagkar and Raghavendra Gadagkar, who studies the evolution of social behavior (photo by Amitabh). This was a pretty spiffy restaurant, but you notice that everyone still eats with their right hands.  Just as Chinese cuisine is designed to be eaten with chopsticks, Indian cuisine is meant to be eaten with the hands, using rice or bread as a vehicle to lift the food:

Thanks to Amitabh and Vidya for hosting me; may we meet again!