A lower bar for Christians?

Today’s Doonesbury, sent by reader Taskin, shows clearly how much American churches have had to bend on dogma and faith to retain their flocks.  Or is this simply a way to show that Trump is still an exponent of “Christian values”?


The effect of helicopter parents on their kids

“Helicopter parenting” refers to parents who incessantly hover like a helicopter around their kids.  Some have blamed this style of parenting on the palpable entitlement felt and exercised by this generation of college students. Reader Brian called my attention to this short (2-minute) video from the Atlantic, one of a series on parenting. The Atlantic gives some background:

“Initially, helicopter parenting appears to work,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. “As a kid, you’re kept safe, you’re given direction, and you might get a better grade because the parent is arguing with the teacher.” But, ultimately, parents end up getting in the child’s way. In the first episode of Home SchoolThe Atlantic’s new animated series on parenting, Lythcott-Haims explains how helicopter parenting strips children of agency and the ability to cultivate their own tools to navigate the world. “Our job as parents is—like it or not—to put ourselves out of a job,” she says.

This episode of Home School was produced by Elyse Kelly.

Gus is right-pawed

Reader Taskin, staff of Gus, took a tip from Simon’s Cat Logic—those episodes of Simon’s Cat in which Nicky Trevorrow of Cats Protection gives cat-tending advice.

One of her suggestions for cats who were housebound and possibly bored was to give them some stimulation by making them search for their food. She suggested building a series of cardboard tubes in which treats were sequestered, making the cat snatch them out with its paw.

Taskin built the device below, which I call the Tower o’ Treats. I asked her to watch Gus retrieve at least 100 treats and record which paw was used to nab the bit of kibble.

The data are below. “Combo” means that both paws were used in the order given, so that “RLR” means that he tried his right paw, then the left, and then pulled out the treat with a final right-pawed grab. In the statistical analysis, I omit the two cases in which the treat fell out of the tubes.

In the picture above, Gus is retrieving a treat with his right paw.

Here are the data:

Right paw only:  96
Left paw only:    3
Combinations ending with right paw: 3
Combinations ending with left paw:   2

Using only the single-paw grabs (96 vs. 3), we expect, if paws were used randomly, that half the time each paw would be used: 49.5 times for the right and 49.5 times for the left (we can ignore the fact that “half instances” can’t be seen). Using a chi-square analysis under the expectation of equality, with one degree of freedom, we get:

χ² = 87.36; p = 0.00000000000000000000905

If we do the same thing but add the few “last paw used” observations to the “single grab” data, so that “RL” counts as “left” and “LRLRR” counts as “right” (I take the last paw as dispawsitive), we get a similar chi-square statistic:

χ² = 84.96; p = 0.0000000000000000000304 

(Thanks to Greg for calculating these probabilities.)

In both cases, the probability of a deviation from equality as large as we see with Gus is less than one trillionth of one-percent, which is considered a highly significant deviation from equality.

CONCLUSION: Gus is right-pawed. 

Try this with your cat! You won’t need 100 observations, but fifty would be good.

I calculated this by hand, so forgive any errors. Statistics really aren’t needed for data this skewed, but I calculated them anyway.


An insulting misuse of quotation marks

I spotted this sign in one of the fancy-schmancy stores that sell arts and crafts around the perimeter of the old Plaza of Santa Fe:

Why the scare quotes around “artisans”? Are they not real artisans but faux artisans or artisans manqué? And wouldn’t they be insulted to find the denigrating quotation marks around their status?

There’s no excuse for this in a high-toned store, but of course the use of inappropriate quotation marks is common. See here for many posts and even websites that specialize in collecting these errors.

SPLC removed its “field guide to anti-Muslim activists,” which included Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) once played a pivotal role in fighting for the rights of African-Americans in America, but has now fallen on hard times; or rather, flush with cash and needing to cry wolf, they’ve shifted focus to more questionable activities. They’ve engaged in sleazy behavior, like funneling millions of their dollars to offshore accounts (legal but probably unethical), and then extended their accusations to people whom the SPLC should have defended.

I refer in particular to the SPLC’s one-time “field guide to anti-Muslim extremists”, which was a “Islamophobe list”, put up in December, 2016, along the lines of Joe McCarthy’s “Communist list” (for my posts on the SPLC and this list, go here).

I wasn’t familiar with most of the names on that list, but I did know of two: Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Nawaz is a liberal Muslim, Ali a Muslim apostate, but both are engaged in liberalizing and reforming Islam. I can’t speak for the others once listed, but the activity of making such lists is questionable, and I am absolutely opposed to the inclusion of Nawaz and Hirsi Ali on any such list. The SPLC’s “field guide” page (you can find my post about it here) demonized 14 people as Islamophobes in this way:

Fueling this hatred [against Muslims] has been the propaganda, the vast majority of it completely baseless, produced and popularized by a network of anti-Muslim extremists and their enablers. These men and women have shamelessly exploited terrorist attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis, among other things, to demonize the entire Islamic faith.

Well, Nawaz is a Muslim, and Hirsi Ali’s latest book is a description of five ways Islam should reform to become more progressive (e.g., stop taking the Qur’an literally, etc.).

Both Hirsi Ali and Nawaz objected vehemently to their inclusion on this list; she wrote a NYT op-ed, “Why is the Southern Poverty Law Center Targeting Liberals?“, and Nawaz took the more direct action of threatening to sue the SPLC.  In addition, a petition on Change.org, which I and probably many readers signed, got over 14,000 people urging the SPLC to remove these two from their “little list.”

Well, I doubt that the petition did much—these things rarely do—but in America the threat of legal action speaks loudly. And so, according to the National Review (try finding this information in the left-wing media!), the SPLC has quietly removed the entire page from its site. When you go to the old SPLC page, you get this:

The list still exists in pdf form, however; it’s here (along with the indictments of both Hirsi Ali and Nawaz). I don’t know how long it will be up, though someone will surely archive it.  At any rate, the National Review reports this:

Nawaz, who founded the anti-extremist think tank Quilliam, said during a Wednesday night appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, a popular podcast hosted by comedian Joe Rogan, that the report was removed from the SPLC website under legal threat sometime in the last two days.

“We have retained Clare Locke, they are writing to the Southern Poverty Law Center as we speak. I think they’ve got wind of it — the Southern Poverty Law Center — and as of yesterday, or the day before, they’ve removed the entire list that’s been up there for two years,” Nawaz said on the podcast.

Of course the SPLC didn’t announce the deep-sixing; they just quietly put the list in the bin. They could have removed just Nawaz, or Nawaz and Hirsi Ali, but the entire page is gone.

In my view, they owe not only those two, but everyone else on the list, as well as the SPLC’s supporters, an explanation for why they acted as they did. But the SPLC being not only sleazy but pusillanimous, I doubt we’ll see one. After all, they’d have to say, “Well, folks, maybe we overstepped, and we retreated in the face of legal threats.”

I would like to see some non-conservative sites reporting this, and if you find any, by all means let us know in the comments.



Sunday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning! It’s the birthday of philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724), eccentric actor-director John Waters (1946) and a curiously large number of footballers.

It’s also the London Marathon today and KV Switzer is running.

In the cat portion of this post, another cat has succumbed to Maru Syndrome.

A toasted marshmallow (AKA Gus)


And a cat for sale.

Typical indeed.

Finally, on to Poland where Hili is strategising.

Hili: I have to hide.
A: Why?
Hili: So I could jump out suddenly.

In Polish:

Hili: Muszę się schować.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby potem nagle wyskoczyć.



Hat-tip: Heather, Taskin, Gethyn

Name the tree

I posted this picture of the trunk of a tree growing near where I’m staying. Readers demanded to see the leaves before a definitive ID, with one surmising that it might be an aspen. Here’s the trunk:

And here are the leaves  catkins (no leaves yet). Anybody know? I await the correct answer.

New Mexico: Silver City to Santa Fe

It’s sunny and snowing in Santa Fe as I write this morning, but I suppose it happens: after all, the town is nearly 7200 feet above sea level (ca. 2200 m). And it was chilly last night, so I’m glad I brought a fleece.

I arrived yesterday afternoon from Silver City, making a circuit around the area on routes 180 and 12 back to Interstate 25 north to Santa Fe.  The route is below: from Silver City around the Gila National Forest and then heading east, intersecting I-25 at Socorro and heading about 2.5 hours north to Santa Fe:

There are almost no towns and no traffic on this road, so I had a pleasant circuit, including having to watch out for elk (I didn’t see any):

This is the Ceiling Cat RentalMobile parked in the middle of nowhere in the high desert.

Between the towns of Datil and Magdalena sits a weird group of radiotelescopes in the desert: the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (known as the VLA), built between 1973 and 1980. There are 27 of the antennae (scopes) sitting alongside a Y shaped railroad route, which is how they’re moved about. Each arm of the Y is  13 miles (21 km) long. Here’s a view of a few of them north of the road, looking like weird mushrooms sprouting from the desert:

Wikipedia tells us how they’re used:

Each of the massive telescopes is mounted on double parallel railroad tracks, so the radius and density of the array can be transformed to adjust the balance between its angular resolution and its surface brightness sensitivity. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and protoplanetary disks around young stars, discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.

. . . at one point [JAC: see my pic below], [the railroad track] intersects with U.S. Route 60 at a level crossing—and a specially designed lifting locomotive (“Hein’s Trein”), the antennas can be physically relocated to a number of prepared positions, allowing aperture synthesis interferometry with up to 351 independent baselines: in essence, the array acts as a single antenna with a variable diameter. The angular resolution that can be reached is between 0.2 and 0.04 arcseconds.

There are four commonly used configurations, designated A (the largest) through D (the tightest, when all the dishes are within 600 m of the center point). The observatory normally cycles through all the various possible configurations (including several hybrids) every 16 months.

Finally, the article adds “The VLA is present in the 1997 movie Contact, as the location where the alien signal is first detected.”  Here’s a better picture from Wikipedia:

I eventually reached Interstate 25 at the town of Socorro, where friends told me to eat at the New-Mex/Mex restaurant of Sofia’s Kitchen (full name: Sofia’s Kitchen and Burrito Tyme).

I lucked out, as chile relleno, one of my favorite dishes, was on special. It’s Mexican and originated in the city of Puebla, where I went to a meeting just a few months ago. There are of course variations, but they all involve a roasted green pepper stuffed with either meat or cheese (I favor cheese), and then breaded and deep-fried. It’s then covered with either green or red chile sauce and, often, more cheese, like the one below, which was served with refried beans and Spanish rice, with a tortilla on the side. The combination of the breading, sauce, vegetal pepper, and molten cheese is fantastic:

The inside of the breading, showing the cheese-filled pepper:

Santa Fe (population about 84,000) is of course one of the most famous tourist cities of the American Southwest, and rightfully so. It’s lovely and full of local architecture, modeled on the adobe dwellings of the local Native Americans. This is the plaza, first settled by the native Tewa around 900 AD. It’s still the center of town:

Sundry pictures around downtown Santa Fe. A traditional bunch of hanging dried chiles:

These adorned animals must have some connection with local Native American tradition, but I have no idea what they are. The jaguar is particularly resplendent:

Around the plaza; I liked all the blue colors:

I don’t know who this chap is, but I bet his party has something to do with marijuana:

A local tree of some sort (a birch?). The scars on the trunk looked so much like eyes that I thought someone had painted them on:

With all the great local food, it was no surprise to see the “Chicago Dog Express” not only devoid of customers, but closed. Get your Chicago dogs in Chicago!

I spent two pleasant hours in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum near the Plaza. Most of you know of O’Keeffe, one of America’s greatest painters, famed for her colorful landscapes and large paintings of flowers, bones, and other artifacts.

Born in Wisconsin in 1887 (she died at 98), O’Keeffe lived in New York City for many years, marrying the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. She discovered the beauty of New Mexico in 1929, and spent several months painting in the state until she moved here permanently after Stieglitz’s death. The Museum harbors what must be the largest collection of her paintings in the world, and also contains lots of photographs of her at her famous Ghost Ranch house, as well as photos taken by Stieglitz, who used her as a subject. Here’s the entrance to the Museum, which, fortunately, was open late on Friday:

Here are some of her paintings that I liked. She began with more conventional art: portraits, still lifes, and so on, but found her true painting “voice” in New Mexico. The first painting is early; the rest are classic O’Keeffe. You’re allowed to photograph the art so long as you don’t use a flash, so excuse the quality of these hand-held photos of paintings:

The paint box frequently used by O’Keeffe:

Here’s a photo of O’Keeffe taken by Stieglitz in 1918, when she was about 30. He often concentrated on her hands, which were quite lovely:

To end this episode, here’s this morning’s breakfast at the famous local joint, the Tecolote Cafe. I had blue-corn batter pancakes filled with toasted pine nuts, topped with ample lashings of butter and syrup. I overordered: one would have been sufficient, but I got the “long stack”: three plate-sized flapjacks. I could eat only half of them.

Here’s the order; I’ve cut into one of the cakes to show the color, but you can see it better in the second photograph.

Lovely blue-ish interior filled with pine nuts. I love those nuts, but they’re expensive and virtually impossible to find.

I’ll go back to this place for breakfast tomorrow before I head north to Taos and the surrounding area.

Caturday felid trifecta (and lagniappe): World’s most photogenic cat; Russian cats passing, Rock-climbing cat

I have to admit that this cat, which is not a fancy breed or anything, may well be the world’s most photogenic cat. Bored Panda explains in its article “This cat is physically unable to have a bad photo taken of him.

Nyankichi, a male tabby from Kagoshima, Japan, and his human have been traveling around the country, taking photos along the way. As the numerous pictures by the owner suggest, Nyankichi is such a photogenic kitty, he should be model on the catwalk.

Here are five of the ten photos of Nyankichi:


How do two Siamese cats pass on a narrow ledge? With care and dexterity!:


From The Dodo, here’s the story of a rescue cat named Denali who, with his new family, has taken to rock climbing:

When Sandra Samman decided to adopt a cat, she knew she wanted one who shared her love for adventure, and could keep up with her fast-paced, outdoorsy lifestyle. When she met Denali, she immediately knew he fit the role — but had no idea just how adventurous he really was, or how much he would love rock climbing with his new family.

Denali and his littermates were rescued from a barn in New Mexico and brought to Foothills Animal Shelter in Colorado. The 2-month-old kitten had only been at the shelter for a few days before his new mom found him, and she immediately knew he was meant to be a member of her family.

A few photos:

Samman became an avid rock climber after a trip through Southeast Asia; she spends a lot of time climbing at the rock climbing gym as well as outdoors. From the very beginning, Denali wanted to be with his mom all the time, going wherever she goes, so she started bringing him to the climbing gym, and was amazed by how much he loved it.

Whenever he comes across a new mountain or crag (climbing area), he immediately begins to climb.

“He does a bit of both, his own climbing and adventuring up cliff faces and trees, then in my pack which he also loves,” Samman said.



Lagniappe: a bonus photo and story from reader Barn Owl:

Attached is a photo of one of the warning signs at my local garden center – there’s a very surly cat on the premises.  [JAC: see below—his name is Spartacus!] I’d like to get a photo of the cat AND the sign, because he’s often lounging on the checkout counter, but when I visited this time he was out supervising his staff while they were watering.  The cat has been on the premises at least 8 years, maybe longer.

From the garden center’s FAQ:

Where is the cat?
If he’s not on the counter, we don’t know. He’s out doing kitty things.

What is the cat’s name?

Can I pet him?
Pet at your own risk! He is grumpy and unpredictable. He WILL BITE or scratch. If he approaches you, he probably will let you pet him. If he’s sleeping on the counter, that’s a different story. Parents, please do not encourage your children to pet him.

h/t: Su, Snowy Owl


Saturday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning! It’s Saturday, with a bit of luck it’s a Saturday with blue skies round your way.

Here’s an eclectic collection of tweets to start your day.


A bird foot of a Syrrhaptes Sandgrouse. Wikipedia says: “The small feet lack a hind toe, and the three front toes are fused together. The upper surface is feathered, and the underneath has a fleshy pad.”

A fearsome adversary.

The post warrior.


Here’s a lovely video of a sugar glider.

Master strategist Hili is trying out a new tactic which may or may not work.

Hili: I have an allergy.
A: To what?
Hili: Just now to everything except cream.

In Polish:

Hili: Mam alergię.
Ja: Na co?
Hili: W tej chwili na wszystko poza śmietanką.

JAC addendum: today’s Google Doodle features Jane Goodall, and if you click on it (click on screenshot first), you’ll see a video and cartoon of her talking about the importance of Earth Day,which is tomorrow.

Hat-tip: Barn Owl, Barry