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

Readers’ wildlife: My ducks

We’re down to two ducks: Honey and her daughter Phoebe, once a runt but now getting bigger. Phoebe is able to fly (we’ve seen her take to the air twice), but is still hanging around her mom, as she’s a timorous and clinging duck. She is also well fed on corn and mealworms. (Phoebe is a female because when she was isolated she would sometimes quack loudly. Only female mallards quack.)

The antagonism between the two has waned to almost nothing: they forage together on the grass and only very rarely does Honey give Phoebe a light peck. They’re both eating well and look pretty plump.

Yesterday afternoon was magical: the ducks were resting in the shade on the west grassy lawn of the pond, and nobody was around. I fed them a lot of corn on the grass (my favorite way to feed them, as none is wasted by sinking in the water), and, after lunch, they sat together on the cement ledge at the edge of the pond. They know me and trust me, so I was able to sit only a few feet away from them, and for about 15 minutes we just communed, looking at each other and—I like to think—enjoying each other’s company. Then some kids came by, chased the ducks into the pond, and their dad gave them Cheez-Its to feed to the ducks. I said, “I don’t think it’s wise to feed them that stuff,” and the father said, “It’s only a few.” But Cheez-Its are not good for ducks, and they had already fled to the Duck Island, so the turtles got them. Perhaps next year I’ll ask the University to put up a “Do not feed the ducks” sign.

I am going to Connecticut from Wednesday through Sunday, and I don’t know if they’ll still be here when I return, as Honey’s flight feathers are growing in rapidly. My hope is that Mom and Phoebe will fly away together so that Honey can show little Phoebe the ropes.

Here are three photos from our Moment Together yesterday. I took a lot more photos and videos and will try to post them by Wednesday.

First, the pair resting by the pond. Note that Honey (foreground) is growing in her wing feathers, and that mom and daughter are comfortable with each other.  Phoebe has also grown! They both have lovely blue speculums. A down feather is hanging off Honey’s breast.

A close-up of Honey. It’s a good shot of her right side bill markings that I can use to identify her should she return next year:

The left side of Honey’s bill for identification:

And our favorite duckling, Phoebe. She was once traumatized and I was really worried that she would die, but I like to think I helped her by making sure she was amply fed when her siblings chased her away. Note that her bill is longer and without stippling:


Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Rise and greet the new day: Monday, August 13, 2018: National Filet Mignon Day. I have to say that I never eat that cut of beef, because while it’s tender, it’s also relatively flavorless. Give me a rib-eye steak or a hanger steak any day! It’s also International Lefthanders Day, so lefties are welcome to flaunt their sinistrality in the comments.

I have a big radio interview this morning; details later. Posting may be light today.

On this day in 1521, Spanish consquistador Hernán Cortés and his forces captured the Aztec ruler Tlatoani Cuauhtémoc and thereby captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan near present-day Mexico City. It was a long and bloody siege, and is well worth reading about for many reasons.  Cortés had the king executed, and here’s a reconstruction of the scene: “The Martyrdom of Cuauhtémoc”, a 19th-century painting by Leandro Izaguirre:

On August 13, 1889, William Gray of Hartford, Connecticut, got a patent for the first pay phone, called “coin-controlled apparatus for telephones.” I am not sure that coin-operated phones even exist in the U.S. any longer.  On this day in 1918, women first enlisted in the Marine Corps, with Opha May Johnson being the first woman to enlist. She was a member of the Marine Corps Reserve and of course was assigned to a desk job.  On August 13, 1961, East Germany closed the border between East and West Berlin and began building the Berlin Wall. When I was a child I went through it at Checkpoint Charlie with my father, who had to wear his U.S. Army Uniform. We spent much of the day in East Berlin, and I found it scary!  Finally, on this day in 1964, two men, Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans, became the last people executed in the UK, having been found guilty of the murder of John Alan West.

Notables born on this day include Annie Oakley (1860), Bert Lahr (1895), Alfred Hitchcock (1899), Salvador Luria (1912, Nobel-winning molecular geneticist), George Shearing (1919), Fidel Castro (1926), Don Ho (1930), Kathleen Battle (1948) and Sarah Huckabee “I’m paid to lie” Sanders (1982). Those who died on August 13 include Eugène Delacrois (1863), Ignaz Semmelweis (1865), Florence Nightingale (1910), H. G. Wells (1946), Mickey Mantle (1995), Julia Child (2004), Les Paul (2009), Edwin Newman (2010), and Helen Gurley Brown (2012).  Here’s a nice painting by Delacroix, “A young tiger playing with its mother” (in French: “Jeune tigre jouant avec sa mère), first exhibited in 1831. Clearly, at least some artists had learned to paint cats by the beginning of the 19th century. But which one is the mother, and which the cub?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Cyrus face a “choice,” though their path was already determined by the laws of physics:

Cyrus: We are at the crossroads.
Hili: Tell him to flip a coin.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Jesteśmy na rozdrożu.
Hili: Powiedz mu, żeby rzucił monetą.

Near Dobrzyn, Leon is off on another hike, but worries about the provisions.

Leon: Are you sure you packed up my treats?

A tweet from reader Barry:

A tweet from Matthew, showing one of his favorite topics—optical illusions:

Tweets from Heather Hastie (the first via Ann German). I don’t know if the first one is real, but it looks real.

Owl selfie! (Turn on video and sound):

Heather says, “How can they do this without laughing?” But it’s the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a very solemn ceremony. Any spectator laughing would be admonished by the soldiers (I’ve seen that happen).

Tweets from Grania: kitty has trouble waiting for her turn:

One I found: backlash from the women-in-STEM movement as recounted by The Onion:

Grania and Orli both sent me what is apparently a real Facebook exchange, also highlighted on the parody Twitter account “The Mossad.” Jews control everything!
As lagniappe, click on this screenshot to go to an awesome video of mom and cub snow leopard in action (h/t: John):


Gibby the spoiled squirrel

Let’s finish up this hot Sunday with a video featuring Gibby the Terribly Spoiled Squirrel, also an Honorary Cat™.


h/t: Diane G.

Saudi Arabia, called out for human rights violations, goes after Canada

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Justin Trudeau, though I tend to side with his political positions, but now I must strongly applaud the stand of his government and its ministers in calling out Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations. Referring in particular to Samur Badawi, imprisoned again for fighting for human rights and women’s rights, and including her imprisoned brother Raif Badawi, jailed (and flogged) for apostasy and “insulting Islam”, the Canadian government took a strong (and almost unique) public stand against Saudi Arabia:

This is from Canada’s foreign minister:

I’d rank Saudi Arabia and Syria just slightly above North Korea in the degree to which they violate the human rights of their citizens; all are odious countries and deserve the world’s opprobrium. But of course we need the oil and don’t want to offend monsters like Assad. (North Korea has been criticized, but now Trump is almost praising its leaders.) So kudos to Canada for going public; it’s the right thing to do. And it’s shameful that the U.S. doesn’t have the moxie to join our northern neighbor, but it will be a cold day in August when the Trump administration starts criticizing any country for human rights abuses.

Saudi Arabia, full of hubris, of course got back at Canada, recalling its ambassador, expelling the Canadian ambassador in Riyadh, freezing new trade agreements, and cutting off all scholarships supporting Saudi students in Canada. It also went on a public media campaign:

As Ali Rizvi noted, Saudi Arabia even darkly threatened Canada with this now deleted Twitter statement from Saudi state media.

Now, as described in this National Post article (click on screenshot), Saudi Arabia is going after Canada with a campaign whose theme is “you’re worse than we are.” (Click on screenshot to see the piece.)

Some of Saudi’s accusations have merit: for example, Canada has treated its indigenous people abysmally. But they’re trying now to rectify that. I suppose you could say that Saudis are now allowing women to drive, but overall, and considering women, I think most of us would rather live in Canada than Saudi Arabia. Here are the other accusations that Saudi has leveled against Canada, all of which are discussed and answered by The Post:

  • Jordan Peterson is a “Canadian political prisoner.” That’s insane; he’s free. Raif and Samar Badawi, on the other hand, are political prisoners.  Here I’ll mention the horrible punishments Saudi inflicts on criminals, including beheading and amputation of body parts. You can also be executed for blasphemy, atheism, and adultery in Saudi, but these aren’t even real crimes in Canada.
  • Canada has a lot of homeless people. True, and it could always do better, but Saudi Arabia has even more: one estimate is that it has 83,000 homeless children, as well as arresting beggars and journalists who try to document the Kingdom’s poorer quarters.
  • “Canada is one of the worst oppressors of women.” This is absolutely unbelievable—and laughable. Much of this is based on the reported incidents of domestic abuse and spousal rape in Canada, but those are not crimes in Saudi Arabia. In contrast, women have many more rights in Canada than in Saudi Arabia, including the right to go outside without wearing a sack and the ability to make decisions about travel and employment without consulting a male “guardian.”
  • Racism is rife in Canada.  The support for this, mentioned by a Saudi lobbyist in Washington, is simply that a Canadian woman verbally abused a table full of Afghan men. In contrast, Saudi Arabia goes after its own minorities, including Shia Muslims, and bans the public practice of any religion save Islam. They also use “guest workers” as a form of slavery.
  • Quebec Francophones are an oppressed minority. I’ll let you decide about that. Which would you rather be: a French-speaking Canadian or a Saudi woman?
  • Canada supports international terrorism.  Given Saudi Arabia’s record on this, they should just keep their yap shut. The only evidence given for Canadian support of terrorism is the Saudi claim that by criticizing Saudi Arabia, Canada is supporting terrorists.

Canada is a great country and a good place to live—far, far better on human rights issues than Saudi Arabia, and far better than the U.S. in calling out other countries’ abuse of human rights. We should stand with Canada. I do, but our administration won’t.

Here’s are two video clips that explain and document the new fight between Canada and Saudi Arabia. The “We Will Boycott Tim Horton’s” in the first clip cracks me up.

An eight-minute CBC news report emphasizing the failure of Canada’s allies to join it in condemning Saudi Arabia:

h/t: Nilou