Matthew and Harry

Matthew Cobb is sometimes a bit of a curmudgeon (especially when he’s yelling at me), but he’s a softie inside. You can see that from this one tw**t he made about his new kitten, Harry, and the two pictures he sent to me.

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Mattew and Harry

Mattew et Harry

Jimmy Kimmel musters doctors supporting vaccination

As far as I know, every commenter on this site is in favor of vaccinating children, but it’s still worthwhile to watch this video in which late-night host Jimmy Kimmel criticizes anti-vaxers, and, at the end, pulls out a bunch of real doctors who use some salty language to criticize those opposing vaccination. The doctors are hilarious.

And here is his update, showing some of the tw**ts he got after the anti-vaxer segment, giving his reaction to them, and sending out a bogus team of anti-vaxers (promoting the view that children should be able to choose whether to be vaccinated) to see the public’s reaction.

h/t: jsp

Are we atheists really that angry?

We’ve encountered the journalist Oliver Burkeman before on this site, when he praised David Bentley Hart’s ponderous and nebulous lucubrations about Sophisticated Theology™, and when he wrote what I considered to be 2010’s worst piece of science journalism, arguing that the notion of epigenetics (environmental modification of the DNA sequence) could completely revise our notions of evolution. In that piece he said this:

What if Darwin’s theory of evolution – or, at least, Darwin’s theory of evolution as most of us learned it at school and believe we understand it – is, in crucial respects, not entirely accurate? Such talk, naturally, is liable to drive evolutionary biologists into a rage, or, in the case of Richard Dawkins, into even more of a rage than usual.

Both of these pieces were in the Guardian. Burkeman seems to have a thing about “rage,” because he’s now going after New Atheists, including me, for being a bunch of angry people, literally poisoning ourselves with rage. This, too, is in the Guardian, which seems to spend a lot of time going after atheists these days (I’ll post tomorrow on John Gray’s new atheist-bashing piece). Burkeman’s latest article,”Are all atheists simply angry, or just the ones to whom you’re listening?“, is a bit confused and, I think misleading.

He starts out by saying that atheists seem “angry” to a lot of people, but then cites recent research showing that, according to psychology tests, atheists show no more “disposition to anger” than do believers. Burkeman is then left with explaining why people are get the impression that atheists are angry. His solution is that because public atheists, people like Sam Harris, or Dawkins, or even me, are angry, and these are the atheists who get attention, people thus get the impression that all atheists are angry.

But the “angry atheist” cliché is also another reminder of just how far the celebrity New Atheists have shortchanged the rest of us who identify, more broadly, with the causes of secularism and rationalism. Because the New Atheists really do seem unusually angry.

Go back and read Sam Harris’s or Bill Maher’s denunciations of Islam as a whole in the wake of atrocities committed in its name. Or Dawkins’s insistence that being raised Catholic might be more damaging than child sex abuse. Or the frequent expostulations of the University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne, who (commendably, I’d say) never tries to sugarcoat his fury at those who don’t share his blanket condemnation of religion. Then tell me these aren’t strikingly angry men.

“Commendably” my tuchus! As far as the first paragraph goes, yes, some New Atheists, including me, are anti-theists, but are we really “unusually” angry compared to the “old atheists”? I suggest that you read some of those old atheists and see if they’re really markedly different in tone from people like Dawkins and Harris. Read, for instance, Nietzsche (now there’s anger!), H. L. Mencken, R. G. Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell, and even Carl Sagan, who took more than few sarcastic potshots at faith in his time.

I don’t think Burkeman has had a look at Mencken or Ingersoll, because if he did he wouldn’t argue that New Atheists are unusually angry compared to the old ones. What’s new, I think, is not our level of passion, but the willingness to be public about it instead of shutting up, combined with the notion that religions make claims that can be tested through reason and empiricism: religious tenets are, by and large, hypotheses. What’s largely new in New Atheism, therefore, isn’t “anger,” but unwillingness to keep quiet combined with applying a scientific approach to religion.

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And really, Burkeman is unfair to the atheists he cites, for among the angriest people around, according to his criterion, are religionists. Just read some David Bentley Hart, Terry Eagleton, or even John Haught if you want to see vociferous scorn of atheism. Why are religionists so angry? I’m not mentioning, of course, the many Muslim believers and theologians—the angriest people at all. Atheists, after all, don’t issue fatwas or kill people with whom they disagree. Burkeman is silent on the issue of religionist anger.

As for the second paragraph, I suggest you click on the links, including the three of mine at this site, and see if you see those as embodying pure anger rather than passionate arguments against the harms of religion—harms that Burkeman, according to his piece, doesn’t accept.

Burkeman’s biggest mistake is construing the writings of New Atheists as showing prima facie that they are angrier than other people, even the “quiet’ atheists. I, for one, have never in my life been described as an “angry  person” (at least as far as I know), though of course I do get angry at times. Nor, from having known the other New Atheists, can I think of one that I think of as inherently an angry person. Dawkins, for example, is mild-mannered, though he can be passionate when he’s either discussing the harms of religion or fighting back in response to what he sees as unfounded criticism. I have never known either Sam Harris or Steve Pinker to even raise their voices. If you gave all of us the same psychological tests that those other atheists took, would we show abnormal “dispositions to anger”? I don’t think so.  So why don’t you put a muzzle on it, Mr. Burkeman, until we’ve all had our psychological tests? In light of that, this statement of Burkeman is simply unfounded:

By contrast, merely not believing in God doesn’t entail believing that religion is the greatest evil the world has ever known, nor even necessarily that religion is any problem at all. It means what it means: not believing in God. And, as this research confirms, that’s something most atheists manage to do without any abnormal levels of anger.

Burkeman’s second mistake is assuming that situational anger is a bad thing. Greta Christina’s book, Why are you Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things that Piss off the Godless, lists a lot of the bad things about religion that do inspire anger. What is our response suppose to be to child rape by priests? To the beheading of apostates by ISIS? To the murder of witches in Africa? To the demonization of gays by American Christians? To such things anger is the appropriate response, for it’s anger and a sense of injustice that motivates action. I wonder what Burkeman’s reponse would be to the “anger” of civil rights activists in the sixties.

But you can be angry about some things and still not be an “angry person.” If I were to list the atheists whom I so see as angry people, it would be those “ragebloggers” who seem to make a career of dissing other atheists, finding offense at everything, and, most important, in giving the impression that there is little in life that brings any joy.

So here’s Burkeman’s summing-up:

Ultimately, I suspect that the impression that atheists are angrier than other people stems from a more general problem, one that skews our assessment of all sorts of other phenomena, too: it’s always the loudest people who make the most noise. That might sound obvious, yet it’s alarmingly easy to forget – as you roam around Facebook or Twitter or the wider internet, or channel-hop through television shows – that you’re inevitably going to hear far more from people prone to anger and condemnation than from those whose beliefs are more quietly held.

It is regularly argued that the internet provides a glimpse into humanity’s collective id – that the fury and fear and bigotry revealed daily on Twitter, or in comment sections, represents the truth we otherwise hide behind polite offline facades. There’s probably something to that (and online abuse is a serious problem). But it’s still worth remembering that most people don’t spend their days picking fights, or screaming at people they hate – only the fight-pickers and the screamers and the haters do. Likewise, in debates about religion, it’s the angry participants on both sides who create the impression that such debates must always be fractious. It’s not atheists in general who are angry; it’s just the angry ones.

There’s not a scintilla of evidence here that the loudest people are also the angriest people. If Burkeman is going to let the “quiet” atheists off the hook because psychological tests show that they’re no angrier than anyone else, then he should keep quiet until he uses the same tests to show a correlation between the “anger” of atheists and their participation in public life. After all, there are plenty of public atheists who aren’t “angry” by even Burkeman’s lights, including Chris Stedman, Michael Ruse, Philip Kitcher, Massimo Pigliucci, and the physicist Sean Carroll. Clearly a public avowal of nonbelief doesn’t mean you’re angry. But I reject the whole notion that we’re angrier than others, since it’s based on Burkeman’s own biased impression of what “anger” is, his ignorance of historical atheism, and his failure to consider the “anger” of religionists and accommodationists.

h/t: Christopher, Heather

Kirkus Reviews gives Faith vs. Fact a thumbs-up

Kirkus Reviews is one of the review sites that evaluates books before they’re published, with the aim of giving bookstores and book lovers some guidance about what to buy. They just published a pre-review of the Albatross based on the galley proofs they received, and I’m pleased to see that it’s positive. Kirkus is known for being the most critical of the vetting services, and of course my book is controversial and not exactly kind toward religion, so I was doubly chuffed to read this (especially the last sentence):

KIRKUS REVIEW

A scientist assails superstition and irrationality.

After evolutionary biologist Coyne (Ecology and Evolution/Univ. of Chicago; Why Evolution Is True, 2009, etc.) published a widely read book presenting evidence for evolution, he was astonished to find that “the proportion of creationists in America didn’t budge,” hovering between 40 and 46 percent. Faith, he concluded, “led them to discount and reject the facts right before their noses.” In his latest book, the author takes on the problem of faith directly, arguing that “understanding reality…is best achieved using the tools of science, and is never achieved using the methods of faith.” Although he makes a clear and cogent argument, he may find that, once again, he is preaching to his own choir. Coyne defines science “as a collection of methods” yielding knowledge that can be rejected or confirmed through testing. Religion derives its authority from belief in “a god, gods, or similar superhuman power.” Coyne focuses on religions “that make empirical claims about the existence of a deity, the nature of that deity, and how it interacts with the world,” in particular Judaism, Islam, and especially Christianity. Discounting the efforts of accommodationists, who strive to find common ground between science and religion, Coyne asserts that the two are incompatible “because they have different methods of getting knowledge about reality, different ways of assessing the reliability of that knowledge, and, in the end, arrive at conflicting conclusions about the universe.” He notes that evolutionary biology is a special focus of incredulity or outright attack by the faithful, but he sees that other areas as well—e.g., stem cell research, vaccination, euthanasia, homosexuality, and global warming—have been undermined by religious claims. Coyne celebrates a world without faith, claiming that there would be no loss of compassion and morality, only of pseudoscientific thought that can “do real damage to our species and our planet.”

Deeply religious readers may not even pick it up, but this is an important book that deserves an open-minded readership.

As Farmer Hoggett said to Babe: “That’ll do, pig; that’ll do.”

If you haven’t pre-ordered it, and want to make Professor Ceiling Cat very happy on a dolorous day, you can buy it in advance (and not be charged till it’s out in May) by clicking the links at the upper right of the site.

A new book on science and religion

I’ve just finished reading the recently-published collection of short essays edited by Gregg Caruso, Science and Religion: 5 Questions. Caruso posed the same five questions to 33 theologians, scientists, philosophers, and others who have worked on or written about the relationship of science and religion. Here are the five questions:

  1. What initially drew you to theorizing about science and religion?
  2. Do you think science and religion are compatible when it comes to understanding cosmology (the origin of the universe), biology (the origin of life and of the human species), ethics, and/or the human mind (minds, brains, souls, and free will)?
  3. Some theorists maintain that science and religion occupy non-overlapping magisteria—i.e., that science and religion each have legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority, and these two domains do not overlap. Do you agree? [JAC: This of course is Steve Gould’s famous NOMA solution to the science-religion “conflict,” though others like Whitehead had proposed it earlier.]
  4. What do you consider to be your own most important contribution(s) to theorizing about science and religion?
  5. What are the most important open questions, problems or challenges confronting the relationship between science and religion, and what are the prospects for progress?

When this book appeared after I’d already finished The Albatross, I was a bit upset, as I thought it would have been a good resource to inform my arguments about the incompatibility of science and religion. It turned out, though, that I’d already read most of the contributors’ thoughts on this, and so I didn’t learn much that was new. But for those of you who haven’t spent several years reading deeply about science and religion, the book is a valuable resource to begin investigating this very live controversy.

Here are some of the contributors: Susan Blackmore, Sean Carroll, Rabbi David Wolpe (misspelled “Wople” in both the contents and chapter heading), Victor Stenger, Peter van Inwagen, Michael Shermer, Alex Rosenberg, William Dembski, William Lane Craig, Daniel Dennett, John Haught, Rebecca Goldstein, James Randi, John Searle, Mary Midgeley, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Ruse, and John Polkinghorne. You can see that there’s a good mix of philosphers, scientists, and theologians.

As I said, if you’ve read these people’s works you won’t be very surprised at their answers. What did surprise me, however, were two things. First, the relative lengths of the contributions of theologians versus everybody else. Theologians like Polkinghorne, Haught, and van Inwagen would often write ten pages of answers, dilating at length on their views about theology and science (especially the former), while the contributions of scientists and philosophers seemed on average shorter (I haven’t done the statistics). The philosopher of mind John Searle, for instance, wrote only a page and a half, answering each question in three to seven lines. In other words, the theologians were more full of hot air.

Second, the answer to question number 3—whether science and religion occupy distinct magisteria—was almost uniformly “no.” In other words, nobody is buying Gould’s hypothesis. While some of the answers are qualified, I can’t name anyone offhand who agreed with Gould’s thesis. (I myself have rejected it in two longer pieces—here and here—though I don’t have a piece in this volume.)

And the reason is heartening, at least to me. One of the main theses in The Albatross is that the incompatibility of science and religion rests on their competition to understand the universe, and on the inability of religion’s methodology to achieve any understanding. That thesis, in turn, depends on the supposition that religion makes truth claims, and is not just about sociality, morality, or nebulous and indescribable Grounds of Being. Now anyone with the slightest acquaintance of religion as it’s practiced by most believers knows that this is true—religions do make truth claims, often many of them. Christianity, for example, is grounded on the claims that Jesus was the son of God (or was part of God), came to Earth, and was crucified and resurrected for our sins. Those are claims about the existence of God, of a historical Jesus and what happened to him, and about our existence beyond death.

Any honest theologian knows that. Even though he or she might reject the very notion of religious truth claims, they surely know that most believers’ faith indeed rests on such claims. If people knew for sure that Jesus was a pure fiction, and didn’t get crucified and wasn’t resurrected, how many people would be Christians?

Many theologians answer “no” to question 3 precisely because they realize that Gould’s claim of nonoverlap—part of which said that science embraced questions about the natural world, and religion only about meaning and morals—wasn’t true. Religion, they say, does make claims about the natural world (let’s not quibble about “supernatural” versus “natural” here; we can simply say that both science and the Abrahamic religions make claims about about reality—about what exists).

Here, for example, is part of theologian Peter van Inwagen’s answer to that question about NOMA:

. . . I don’t think that, taken as a whole, the “non-overlapping magisteria” view is acceptable. My reason for saying this is not profound; it consists simply of a recognition of the fact that most religions—mine included—incorporate doctrines that pertain to matters other than morals and the way we should live our lives and the meaning of those lives. Here is one example that I have already touched on: if the steady-state cosmology had turned out to be strongly supported by the cosmological evidence, that support would have raised an important obstacle to my belief in the Christian doctrine of creation.

So there you have it: religious claims are subject to adjudication by evidence. Presumably van Inwagen sees a steady-state Universe as refuting the idea that God created the universe, so it had a beginning. But I think he’s misunderstanding the steady-state universe here, since, as far as I know, that obsolete theory proposed that the universe did have a beginning, and is still expanding, but that new matter comes into being as the universe expands, so it always looks the same everywhere. [Correction: See note below when I vetted this to our Official Website physicist.]

Regardless, why doesn’t the doctrine of evolution “raise an important obstacle” to van Inwagen’s belief in creation? I suspect he’d answer that God created through the process of evolution.  Well, why couldn’t God make a steady-state universe, then? After all, even the steady-state universe, I think,  is supposed to have had a beginning. But at any rate, the near-unanimity of theologians who reject NOMA in this book do so on the grounds that religion does indeed make claims about reality.

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_____________

Update: I’ve asked the Official Website Physicist™ Sean Carroll about the nature of the steady-state universe, and van Ingwagen’s theological take on it, and he’s responded as follows:

I’m not an expert on different varieties of steady-state universes. Certainly the traditional understanding is that they don’t have a beginning — that overall they look the same at every moment in time (thus the name). But I can’t promise that someone hasn’t attached the name “steady-state” to some unusual model with a beginning. (Steady state is very different from “inflationary,” which is a type of universe that often does have a beginning.)

Also, I see no problem whatsoever for a clever Christian theologian to reconcile a beginningless universe with traditional theology. (“You didn’t think we meant that God created the universe with some literal first moment of time, did you? How charmingly non-sophisticated you are!”)

 

 

The most incredible animal photo in the history of Earth (and lagniappe)

This morning we’ll skip the “readers’ wildlife photos” post in favor of a few striking animal pictures and videos that readers sent me. The first four items are either scary or gruesome, but, you know, that’s nature.

I’ve seen a lot of animal photos in my time, but the first one in the series below takes the cake. I was loath to publish it yesterday as I wasn’t sure if I’d have to get permission, but now it’s everywhere, including PuffHo UK (which includes the story), and so I feel no compunction about putting up the series. The photos were taken by Martin Le-May, a “hobby photographer” from London, and shows a stunning encounter between a European green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and a weasel, probably the least weasel (Musetla nivalis)—in all likelihood a juvenile.

The whole story:

[Le-May] told Huffington Post UK: “It was a sunny afternoon, with the occasional cloud making the Hornchurch Country Park seem that grey brown dull winter colour even though it was the 2nd March.

“My wife, Ann, and I had gone for a walk. I had hoped that she might see a green woodpecker as she has not really seen one before.

“As we walked we heard a distressed squawking and I saw that flash of green. So hurriedly I pointed out to Ann the bird and it settled into the grass behind a couple of small silver birch trees.

“Both of us trained our binoculars and it occurred that the woodpecker was unnaturally hopping about like it was treading on a hot surface. Lots of wing flapping showing that gloriously yellow/white colour interspersed with the flash of red head feathers. Just after I switched from my binoculars to my camera the bird flew across us and slightly in our direction; suddenly it was obvious it had a small mammal on its back and this was a struggle for life.

“The woodpecker landed in front of us and I feared the worst. I guess though our presence, maybe 25 metres away, momentarily distracted the weasel. The woodpecker seized the opportunity and flew up and away into some bushes away to our left. Quickly the bird gathered its self respect and flew up into the trees and away from our sight.

“The woodpecker left with its life, the weasel just disappeared into the long grass, hungry.”

Diane G. (who sent the elephant link below) calls these photos “Woodpecker airlines”:

o-WEASEL-RIDES-WOODPECKER-900

Given its size, I suspect this was not a full-grown adult. Also, if it had been a full grown adult, I doubt the bird would have survived. Young ‘uns haven’t yet mastered the fatal bite to the neck. It could, however, be a small adult female, which can weigh as little as 55 grams (2 ounces).

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*******

From Condé Nast Traveller last August, we have a series of photos in which an African elephant decides to rub itself on a car. All photos by Armand Grobler / Barcroft Media.

The story from the site:

The incredible images were taken by Armand Grobler, 21, a field guide and lodge manager, in Pilanesburg National Park in South Africa. He said, “I was doing ethology—the study of animal behaviour—at the time, so I had a basic understanding of what was going on.

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The elephant was presumably on Musth, which is a time that an elephant male has an excess amount of testosterone, turning even the calmest Dumbo into a raging bull. “Yet even though it was in this condition, it displayed no signs of aggression or frustration and was in a more playful mood.”

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Elephants frequently use logs, small trees and rocks to relieve an itch or remove parasites—but with the car so close to hand, it was a chance too good for the ellie to pass up. Armand added: “We were unsure of what to do in the situation when the elephant made contact with the car, and when the car was being crushed, we feared for the lives of the driver and passenger but our efforts were very limited as to what we could do. The all-round emotion that was within our vehicle, as we watched in horror, was that we were rushed with adrenaline yet terrified and helpless”

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The two passengers in the car, male and female, both in late 20s or early 30s, were not harmed, only badly shaken up. They were both in shock but happy to be alive. “The car was not so lucky. All four tyres had been blown and the chassis broken.”

*******

From the Daily Mail (h/t Melissa), we have the story (and a video on YouTube) of a snake vs. spider battle:

A Victorian farmer was astonished to find an enormous red-back spider [Latrodectus hasseltii, related to the black widow] had lifted an eastern brown snake off the ground and ‘hurled it’ into its web under one of the family’s car at the weekend.

‘It’s just mindboggling,’ said Neale Postlethwaite, a farmer of 20 years from Gooroc, north of Melbourne.

‘I can’t believe it was actually able to stop it and then hurl it up backwards into its nest.’

Mr Postlethwaite found the baby snake suspended off the ground on Saturday evening, the large spider sitting on top.

To his surprise, the snake was still alive at the time, with the farmer daring to place his finger nearby.

‘I thought the snake was dead and went to put my finger there and the snake was still alive at the time,’ Mr Postlethwaite said.

The eastern brown snake is known for its potent venom, which can cause sudden death, neurotoxity, coagulation disturbances and nephrotoxicity, according to researchers.

But this baby snake was presumably a victim of the spider’s poison.

The snake died overnight, with Mr Postlethwaite finding its corpse being devoured by ants in the dust the next day.

Mr Postlethwaite told Daily Mail Australia his family often found redbacks on their property.

This particular creature had been living under his wife’s car. She is a little reticent about getting back behind the wheel, the farmer said.

‘My wife doesn’t want to drive her car until she can get an underbody car wash,’ he joked.

The video:

*******

A gazillion readers sent me links to this video, which is everywhere, so I decided—as part of today’s theme of “animal horrors”—that I should post it. The video shows how far a hungry cephalopod will go to get noms.

The story from Business Insider (!):

Porsche Indrisie was relaxing and shooting some video on the beach in Yallingup, Western Australia, when she captured an incredible unexpected moment.

The cephalopod launches itself out of the water onto the crab. And even though the crab tries to make its escape across land into a different pool, the octopus doesn’t give up then.

It follows then drags the crab back across land into its hidden lair.

“I didn’t know why i chose to film this crab, but thought i would try and get closer to it but something else beat me to it,” she comments on her video.

There, it most likely punctured the crustacean with its beak, allowing it access to the tender morsels inside.

*******

As a palliative to all this natural horror (which proves there’s no God, since God could have created herbivorous octopuses), here’s a photo from the Telegraph’s “Pictures of the day” (h/t: Roo). I have a draft post on the Cat Island of Japan, and will try to post it soon.

The caption:

Cats crowd the harbour on Aoshima Island in the Ehime prefecture in southern Japan. An army of cats rules the remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one. Picture: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

potd-cats_3217674k

You can get an idea of the gene frequencies on this island from the picture above: a prevalence of tabby and orange genes.

Krauss versus Chopra: No contest

How about a bit of Twi**er humor this morning to wake us up? And who better to tickle our funnybone than the inimitable Deepakity? Here Chopra tries to engage Lawrence Krauss, a move that, for a man of Chopra’s temperament and knowledge, is always a mistake.

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The last tw**t is a zinger!

h/t: Barry

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Tuesday’s cat is full of mice, but apparently Hili’s worried about whether the supply of noms is reliable:

Hili: I’m thinking about the future.
A: And what is your conclusion?
Hili: That it is difficult to predict.

(Photo: Sarah Lawson)
aa Hili%2c_sarah In Polish:
Hili: Myślę o przyszłości.
Ja: I do jakich doszłaś wniosków?
Hili: Że trudno ją przewidzieć.
(Zdjęcie: Sarah Lawson)

Coyne’s Third Rule for Life

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, when I was about twelve I decided to compile a list of “Coyne’s Rules for Life”: a series of simple instructions that, I supposed, would improve everyone’s existence.  Ah, I was a lad full of hauteur then!  But I still maintain that the first two rules,  formulated at that early age, are useful. I never got past the second rule.

But now I’d like to report that, more than half a century later, I’ve come up with Rule #3!

First, let’s review rules #1 and #2:

Rule 1: When you’re buttoning your shirt or sweater, always start with the bottom button, and work your way up. (That way you’re sure not to put a button in the wrong hole.) Everyone should do this!

Rule 2: When running the water for a bath or tuning on a shower, turn the cold water on first, then add the hot. In that way you won’t scald yourself when testing the water.

And now I present the the rule I formulated today after nearly bumping into someone on the street at high speed, and then engaging in one of those “body-jousting contests” in which each person moves to the same side so that bumping is not avoided. Sometimes the mutual side-stepping can go on several times. The solution?:

Rule 3: When you are walking down the sidewalk, or in the street, and encounter another human or bicycle about to  bump into you, stop walking and stand in place! The other person or vehicle will swerve to avoid you, and thus avoid a collision.

I invite readers to add to these rules. Remember, these are Rules for Life, which differ from “Laws of Life,” like “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I am asking for practical hints that will help nearly everyone.

A reader wins the “name the kitten” prize

On February 2, I showed the following picture of this unnamed Bengal kitten (to be precise, a “seal lynx point” Bengal), and asked readers to suggest a name, offering an autographed and cat-emblazoned copy of WEIT to whoever gave an adopted name.

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One of the names that owner Joe and his people were tossing around was “Ozzy,” and a reader suggested this:

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Sure enough, I’ve just ascertained that pacopicopiedra’s name was adopted as the cat’s official pedigree name. Joe wrote me this:

Yes, his full name is Jayuzuri Blizzard of Oz, with us calling him Ozzy.

So, pacopicopedra, whoever you are, send me your address and how you want your book signed, and I’ll get one out (I’ve now replenished my supply). By the way, I asked Joe for the latest picture of Ozzy, and here it is;

Ozzy

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