House science committee endorses climate-denialism article

As I noted in Faith Versus Fact, an important science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is loaded with climate-change denialists—and that was before Trump was elected. Get a load of some of the statements that have come from Republican (of course) members of that committee (this is from FvF, pp. 249-250):

And even when not motivated by religion, climate-change denialists still make palpably false claims resembling those used by advocates of alien abduction or Holocaust denialism. Climate denialists have, for example, claimed that scientists on a climate-change panel of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, whose report implicated fossil fuels in global warming, actually profited financially from their efforts (not true: they don’t get a penny for such work). Other arguments are that climate-change scientists don’t base their conclusions on “real scientific facts”; that the “real” evidence shows no trend of global warming, which is “one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community . . . there is no scientific consensus”; and that climate-change concern is “a massive international scientific fraud.” Amazingly, all of these quotations come from Republican members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the committee responsible for formulating U.S. policy on such issues. Fully 72 percent of the Committee members are outright climate-change denialists or have voted against bills to alleviate global warming.

The beat goes on: as Motherboard reported, the Committee’s official twitter feed issued this, endorsing a Breitbart article saying that land temperatures have “plunged” 1°C this year, calling such drops “the final death rattle of the global warming scare.”  Motherboard adds,

“The Breitbart News story aggregates a Daily Mail article that insinuates global warming is a byproduct of El Niño. (It’s not.)

. . . Breitbart and Daily Mail based their stories on a statistically incomplete infographic that appears to have been created by the latter publication. It cites climate data from 1998 to 2016 without proper context, and for a specific reason.

“This is the portion that people usually show if they want to avoid showing the large increase in temperature over the forty previous years. If you look at the longer temperature record, there’s a clear upward trend,” Daniel Walton, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Center for Climate Science, told me.

“Both 2015 and early 2016 were very warm periods. Often El Niños are followed by La Niñas, which could bring cold anomalies. Just because one year has especially high or low temperatures doesn’t contradict idea of a long-term trend because we expect there to be considerable interannual variability,” he added.

For further refutation of that Breitbart claim, see yesterday’s article in The Washington Post.

Here’s the long term data on land-temperature “anomalies” (year round as well as October) since 1880; as you can see, the long-term trend is definitely upward: ice caps and glaciers are melting, coral reefs are dying, and all the climate-change accords in the world don’t seem to be helping.

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Here’s the tw**t from the House Committee:

Now this is just one posting on Twi**er, but remember that this is the official site for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Note the word “science”, which seems out of place. If our legislature is giving tacit approval to a bogus claim like this, it can only get worse under the next administration.

I’m really glad I won’t be around in 150 years to see the icecaps and polar bears gone, and the Great Barrier Reef bleached to death.

h/t: Michael F.

My talk at NUS in Singapore on the nature of and evidence for evolution

When the local Humanist Society invited me to talk in Singapore, I proposed to talk about the relationship between science and religion. That made the organizers nervous, because offending religious sentiments is against the law in that country. But it’s easy to give such a talk without saying anything that would violate the law, and, after all, it was the Humanist Society.  Still, they counter-proposed that I talk about Halloween, telling me that I could apply skepticism to issues like ghosts and witches. I refused, for the issue of ghosts, goblins and the like is far less pressing than that of religious malfeasance.

In the end we compromised: I’d give a general evolution talk to the students and faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and then talk about science and religion in a discussion at the Yale-NUS consortium (a self-contained educational unit run jointly by NUS and Yale University).

I’ve put the first talk below, and it’s similar to many other talks I’ve given on the evidence for evolution, so it won’t be new to many of you. If you’re new here, and need a refresher, go ahead. (As usual, I can’t bear to listen to my own talks.) I’m told that there’s a wonky bit for 20 sec or so around 1:07:00, but that it’ll be fixed. Go to the original Vimeo site to see it full screen.

The Q&A bit starts about 1 hour and 13 minutes in and lasts for 15 minutes.

My thanks to the Singapore Humanists, NUS, and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for sponsoring my talk and providing excellent hospitality (and good noms).

Readers’ wildlife photos


Send in your photos soon if you got ’em, please!

Reader Joe Dickinson, to complement the elephant photos he sent earlier, now gives us lions and zebras from Tanzania. His notes are indented.

Here is the first of several sets of photos from a recent trip to Tanzania.  We first visited one of the less well known parks, Tarangire. We were at the expected end of the dry season but the rains were late and Tarangire is centered on a river and a swamp that provide reliable water, so the concentration of game was impressive.

First, lots of zebras (Equus quagga) headed toward the swamp (green line) with cape buffalo [Syncerus caffer] and/or wildebeest (Connochaetes sp., dark line) in between.
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Then, some closer shots of zebras.
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And now, not for the squeamish, a lioness (Panthera leo) at a fairly fresh zebra kill:
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Another member of the pride:
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And zebra survivors keeping an eye on the pride.
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Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s now the second of December, 2016, and the days are getting shorter as we head toward the winter solstice. In the U.S., it’s National Fritters Day, and while a good corn fritter would hit the spot, there’s small chance of finding one these days. In Cuba, as Castro’s ashes wend their way around his country, it’s also Armed Forces Day, celebrating the transport of rebel fighters (including the Castro brothers and Che Guevara) from Mexico to Cuba on the yacht Granma in 1956. It was the nominal (and inauspicious) beginning of the revolution that would overthrow Batista.

On this day in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of the French in Notre Dame cathedral. On this day in 1942, about a block away from where am sitting just now, Enrico Fermi created the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in the “Chicago Pile“. It was to culminate, less than three years later, in the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. In 1954, Joe McCarthy was censured by the United States Senate for his odious anti-Communist smearings, and seven years later Castro announced on December 2 that Cuba was going to be a Communist nation.

Notables born on this day include Maria Callas (1923) and Lucy Liu (1968). Those who died on this day include Hernán Cortés, (1547), the Marquis de Sade (1814), and Aaron Copland (1990). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili uses the ear muscles which we humans share, but only in vestigial form:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m pricking up my ears.
A: And?
Hili: All quiet in the outer space.
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In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Nadstawiam ucha.
Ja: I co?
Hili: W kosmosie bez zmian.

And we have three non-Hili readers’ cats today. The first comes Dan B., who noticed my post on the lovely Singapura cat the other day:

I was struck by how much the Singapura picture you posted resembled our Burmese cat.  I went looking around the internet and found an article that said a study done on cat genetics had found that some breeds were not distinguishable genetically.  Burmese and Singapura were one of the examples.
Bunny (our Burmese) is 4 years old now and weighs 6 1/2 pounds.  When we first got her at a year old she was 5 1/2 pounds.  The cattery that we got her from had an adult breeding female that was more petite than Bunny at the time.  That cat was probably the friendliest and most affectionate cat I have ever met.  Bunny looks and acts more kittenish than our other cats.  She spends much more time playing.
Heeeere’s Bunny!:
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Out in snowy Winnipeg, reader Taskin has noticed that Gus’s nose can serve as a kind of thermometer, for it gets deeper red in colder temperatures, undoubtedly due to more blood flow to the exposed bits of the cat:

Pink nose! I judge it to be about -3°C.

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Finally, reader Laurie from London sent a picture of neighborhood cat whom they’ve named Jerry Coyne, visiting their own cat Theo. (There are now five cats named after me).

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Nigel Warburton: Best philosophy books of 2016

Sophie Roell of Five Books interviewed freelance philosopher Nigel Warburton  (bio here) on his choices for the best popular philosophy books of 2016. The choices are interesting, and I’ll read at least two of them—probably the first two. I’ll show the books and then summarize a few of Warburton’s comments (indented)

An intro:

Over the last decade there has been a huge growth in popular philosophy. The result is that you’re not just getting general introductions to philosophy, but some significant books that deal with important philosophical questions. They’re written by philosophers, but pitched at a general public, so don’t use highly technical language or too many footnotes. This year has been a good year for this sort of book.

The books:

This is the best philosophy book that I’ve read this year. It is exceptional. Sarah Bakewell wrote a brilliant book about Montaigne, several years ago, which won a number of prizes. I think, in some ways, this book is even better. She explains the philosophy and situates it in the time, but she does this with a very light touch.

What she’s managed to do is combine the story of predominantly French existentialism (focusing on Sartre and de Beauvoir as well as Merleau-Ponty) with digressions about Heidegger and others. She’s combined that with some autobiographical elements and a real passion for the subject.

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My selection of books is quite idiosyncratic. It’s the five best books that I’ve read in philosophy this year — but I’ve excluded more technical, academic monographs because I think it’s appropriate that we should focus on books that a general reader would find interesting.

For me, Peter Singer is one of the best stylists alive in philosophy. Very few people realise this. People rarely remark on his writing style, but he is the most lucid of writers. He writes about complex matters very succinctly, very calmly, so that his writing is almost transparent to what he is saying. It is not flamboyant. It is almost invisible. He manages, in these essays, to address really deep questions in just two or three pages — often saying more than other people say in a whole book.

. . . Many thousands of people have been converted to vegetarianism and veganism by his arguments. Many people have also been convinced by his arguments about effective uses of charitable donations. They have led people to give up promising academic careers and go and work in the City in order to generate more income, which they can then distribute charitably. He’s triggered some extremely rich people to make very significant donations to medical research and to medical-based charities. He’s had a big effect on the world. I would be hard-pressed to think of another philosopher who’s made a comparable impact for good in the world.

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This book gives us a glimpse of the world of the early Enlightenment period, when many prominent philosophers risked excommunication, exile, or even execution for their views. These were people who were writing, knowing very well that their views were considered heretical by the church, threatening by monarchs, and possibly even sacrilegious by the general public. Many of them were hounded from country to country. I’m thinking particularly of Rousseau—he wasn’t safe anywhere he went—but there are a number of philosophers in this book whose lives were seriously disrupted by threats from the church and the powers that be.

. . . This was a world when it really was dangerous to think. Kant described the Enlightenment as an age where people dared to think. The word ‘dare’ is important. It wasn’t just that they were being audacious in thinking for themselves, there was a real risk attached to it. To be a philosopher in that period—to be an original philosopher prepared to follow the arguments through like Spinoza did, for example—was an extremely brave thing to do, in the same sense that Socrates’s standing in Athens expressing views which his compatriots thought were heretical, was a brave thing to do, and resulted in his death.

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This is a really interesting book. Martha Nussbaum began as a classical philosopher and has immersed herself in ancient philosophy. She has read very widely in literature. She is politically engaged and she travels widely – often to India. She has a huge range of experience and understanding through life and books that she brings into this book.

Lurking behind it is Seneca: the Roman philosopher who talked about anger being a useless emotion. What Nussbaum argues in the book is that there is something confused about what we think we will get from our emotion of anger. We feel anger, anger is often used in political contexts, and anger is often praised: we feel that we should feel angry about how people have been treated, the injustice. She argues that we should get beyond anger, and the associated desire for payback, and that it usually exacerbates the evil in a situation rather than removing it. It is often more about getting a good feeling from expressing the anger than it is about bringing about beneficial results of the kind that we claim to want to bring about.

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The Path is very interesting because it’s written for a popular audience. It’s a very easy read, but it makes Chinese philosophy quite fresh. It’s written by a Harvard academic, who put on a course in Chinese philosophy that was incredibly popular with students. So he’s worked out ways to draw people into the subject. The big focus is on how you should live. That is the basic question in philosophy, the question Socrates was asking. It is not a trivial question, nor an easy one to answer.

What he does in the book is run through a number of answers given by Chinese philosophers in a way that makes them seem, to me at least, part of the same activity as the greats of western philosophy. He talks, in particular, about the philosopher Mencius, who was working in a Confucian tradition. Mencius made some important points about the cultivation of virtue, starting with the family and how important it was to recognise your place within the family before you try to extend the circle wider and include other people.

So Chinese philosophers are addressing the kinds of questions that Peter Singer addresses, for example, about how much care we should give to people beyond our nearest circle. But they do it in very interesting ways.

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Warburton on the value of philosophy:

There are some popular philosophy writers around at the moment whose books could just as easily sit in the self-help sections of bookshops as under philosophy. Some have their source in Roman philosophy, which put a big emphasis on studying philosophy to improve how you live. The problem with that for me is not so much that people are writing these books, but rather that they give the impression that this is what philosophy essentially is – a set of psychological techniques gleaned from great thinkers of the past that will make things go better for individuals. In contrast, I see philosophy as enquiry: you can’t prejudge the outcome. It is an on-going enquiry into the way things are, and how best to cope with them; but you can’t know in advance that following that enquiry—thinking about the nature of reality, the limits of your knowledge and how best to live—will actually improve your life or make you happier than you would otherwise have been. It might make things worse. You might get a glimpse of the abyss and find life unbearable.

There are some popular philosophy writers around at the moment whose books could just as easily sit in the self-help sections of bookshops as under philosophy. Some have their source in Roman philosophy, which put a big emphasis on studying philosophy to improve how you live. The problem with that for me is not so much that people are writing these books, but rather that they give the impression that this is what philosophy essentially is – a set of psychological techniques gleaned from great thinkers of the past that will make things go better for individuals. In contrast, I see philosophy as enquiry: you can’t prejudge the outcome. It is an on-going enquiry into the way things are, and how best to cope with them; but you can’t know in advance that following that enquiry—thinking about the nature of reality, the limits of your knowledge and how best to live—will actually improve your life or make you happier than you would otherwise have been. It might make things worse. You might get a glimpse of the abyss and find life unbearable.

. . . Philosophy aims to give a clearer picture of how things are, and how we might live better. It may or may not achieve those things. It’s an on-going conversation aiming to reduce our ignorance, a subject with a 2,500 year history. It is not a subject of neat little answers that will, if applied to your love life, bring amazing outcomes. If that’s what you want, I recommend studying empirically-tested psychology. Philosophy is still a wonderful subject, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to put anyone off exploring it. But we should recognise it for what it is.

Nick Cohen on Gad Saad’s podcast

I’ve now heard from two people about how interesting Gad Saad’s interview was with British journalist Nick Cohen, who’s sort of a hero of mine. (Do read Cohen’s splendid books, What’s Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way and You Can’t Read this Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom.) The full video (about an hour) is below, and it’s a shame Saad hadn’t read Cohen’s books before the interview.

I haven’t yet had time to watch it, but be assured I will. In the meantime, the artist, writer, and podcaster (and ex-Muslim) Eiynah (“Nice Mangos“), who has seen it, described the video to me (indented), and sent a link (below) that starts at an interesting time:

I don’t know if you’ve seen this video with Gad Saad and Nick Cohen, but about a half hour in it gets really good…. for once Gad is challenged tremendously on his own show, and is unable to honestly state his support for the alt right and for Trump… in fact he downplays it and pretends like he’s with Nick in challenging these guys when in fact he’s explicitly promoted and joined hands with many on the far right. Saad also tweeted about having some small part in getting Trump elected.*

CORRECTION: It wasn’t Saad who tweeted about that, but someone else who did, and then Saad “favorited” the tweet.

Anyhow.. i thought it was amazing how Nick persistently challenged Gad … I’m not sure where you land on this immigration stuff but I’ve noticed a further and further right-leaning trend in the “atheist” community ..where it’s become almost normalized to single out Muslim immigrants, a trend that may have helped give rise to the alt right/white nationalist movement.

Gad mentions he would stand against the KKK of course, but what about Paul Joseph Watson of INFOWARS or Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters and Pegida? All these contribute to a strengthened far right, and Gad has promoted them.

i thought you might enjoy it. Nick is awesome…!

Here’s the video starting about half an hour in:

The mighty pinch of the coconut crab

The coconut crab, or “robber crab” (Birgus latro), is the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world, with individuals weighing up to four kg (about 9 pounds).  They have a wide range:

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But because of their size and the fact that they’re tasty, they’ve been largely driven extinct by humans on populated islands. Here’s how big they are:

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They come in different colors, often red or blue. Here’s a beautiful blue one:

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Two facts about these species. First, they’re fairly close relatives of the hermit crab, and in fact are descended from hermit crabs that occupied shells throughout their lives. But this species is sufficiently large as to have few predators besides humans, and so only the very young and small coconut crabs live in shells (sometimes bits of coconut shells). They’re also completely terrestrial, and will die if put in salt water.

You can see the hermit-crab ancestry in the reduced and curled abdomen behind the carapace:

Hermit crab without shell:

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Coconut crab:

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I’ve written two earlier posts on coconut crabs (here and here), including photos by reader Dennis Hansen from the Indian Ocean of Aldabra. There they invade the field station, making off with leftover food from the table, and they can also open garbage cans, as they have great climbing skills:

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They’re HUGE! Second Fun Coconut Crab fact: they do indeed open coconuts, and can climb trees to get them, though they’re omnivores and coconuts are not a main part of their diet. Wikipedia gives the details (my emphasis):

The diet of coconut crabs consists primarily of fleshy fruits (particularly Ochrosia ackeringae, Arenga listeri, Pandanus elatus, P. christmatensis), nuts (coconuts Cocos nucifera, Aleurites moluccanus) and seeds (Annona reticulata), and the pith of fallen trees. However, as they are omnivores, they will consume other organic materials such as tortoise hatchlings and dead animals. They have been observed to prey upon crabs like Gecarcoidea natalis and Discoplax hirtipes, as well as scavenge on the carcasses of other coconut crabs. During a tagging experiment, one coconut crab was observed killing and eating a Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans). Coconut crabs may be responsible for the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s remains, consuming them after her death and hoarding her skeletal remnants in their burrows.

The coconut crab can take a coconut from the ground and cut it to a husk nut, take it with its claw, climb up a tree 10 m (33 ft) high and drop the husk nut, to access the coconut meat inside. They often descend from the trees by falling, and can survive a fall of at least 4.5 metres (15 ft) unhurt. Coconut crabs cut holes into coconuts with their strong claws and eat the contents, although it can take several days before the coconut is opened.

Thomas Hale Streets discussed the behaviour in 1877, doubting that the animal would climb trees to get at the nuts. In the 1980s, Holger Rumpff was able to confirm Streets’s report, observing and studying how they open coconuts in the wild. The animal has developed a special technique to do so: if the coconut is still covered with husk, it will use its claws to rip off strips, always starting from the side with the three germination pores, the group of three small circles found on the outside of the coconut. Once the pores are visible, the coconut crab will bang its pincers on one of them until they break. Afterwards, it will turn around and use the smaller pincers on its other legs to pull out the white flesh of the coconut. Using their strong claws, larger individuals can even break the hard coconut into smaller pieces for easier consumption.

Here’s one at work; remember that it can take them several days to do this:

Clearly, these animals must be strong. Indeed, they can lift up to 28 kg (62 pounds)—at least seven times their own weight.

This is all leading up to a new paper published in PLOS ONE by Shin-Ichiro Oka et al. (reference and free download below), in which the authors measured the pinching force of 29 coconut crabs. As you might expect, they pinch hard, exerting more force per gram of body weight than nearly any other animal, including terrestrial carnivores.  The authors used these devices in this way (caption from the paper):

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Fig 1. Measurement of the pinching force and claw morphology in the coconut crabs. (a) The force was measured with the SK-MBF-01F device (SkyScience Co. Tokyo, Japan) and related sensors and (b) demonstration of the method by which pinching force was measured. (c) Claw measurements of the coconut crab used in this study. The placement of the sensor used for pressure measurement is highlighted in green. The measurements used for claw length (CL), claw height (CH), and claw width (CW) are also indicated. L1: in-lever length from the fulcrum to the apodemes insertion; LBAE: out-lever length from the fulcrum to the tubercle (the contact point with the device sensor). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166108.g001

And the results? Here’s what the paper says:

The pinching force exerted by coconut crabs was extremely strong. Maximum pinching force ranged from 29.4 to 1765.2 N. The scaling factor in the allometric equation for pinching force and BW was 0.82. This value was significantly greater than the predicted isometric scaling of pinching force (proportional to muscle cross-sectional area) against BW (a = 0.67). According to a previous study, the reported maximum BW of the coconut crab is 4 kg. Applying our allometric scaling equation, the pinching force of the coconut crab of 4 kg BW was estimated to be 3300 N. This force greatly exceeds that in all other crustacean species that have been reported, as well as the bite force for the majority of modern terrestrial predators, other than alligators.

Here, from the paper, is a log/log graph showing the amount of force exerted by different groups as a function of their body weight. Of course larger animals in a group are capable of biting or pinching more strongly, but the coconut crab, judging by the amount of force exerted per kg of body weight, is the king, with only a few other crabs being relatively stronger:

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Fig 3. Regression analysis of the maximum force per unit body weight vs. body mass across several animal groups, including coconut crabs. The shaded gray area represents the range of the maximum force exerted by various animal activities (running, jumping, pushing, pulling, swimming, flight, nipping, and biting) [11]. Colored lines were calculated based on the relationship between the closing forces of crustacean chelae, vertebrate jaws and body masses determined previously [1, 2].

Why did they evolve such strength and size? The authors note that these large claws not only help them procure food, including rats as well as coconuts—drupes (not nuts) native to many of their habitats—and also to drive off predators and competitors.

Because the crabs are relatively small compared to lions and alligators, I don’t think they can pinch your finger off, and I haven’t seen reports of severe wounds in humans produced by these crabs. (But they can crush plastic pens, as you can see here.) Nevertheless, if you’re lucky to come across one, you’d best handle it carefully, as the guy is doing in the photo above.

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Reference:  Si, O., T. Tomita, K. Miyamoto. 2016. A Mighty Claw: Pinching Force of the Coconut Crab, the Largest Terrestrial Crustacean. PLOS ONE 11(11): e0166108. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166108

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Tom Hennessy send some insect photos a while back, and I misplaced them. Fortunately, he re-sent them, and here they are. His notes are indented; note that all these insects are all brightly colored and quite visible—likely examples of aposematic (“warning“) coloration because the sap of the milkweed contains toxic compounds, probably rendering the insects distasteful to predators. That’s the reason why monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), which also feed on milkweeds, are bright orange and black.

I have a series of photographs that you may be interested in.  The first four were taken this past summer at Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden in Richmond, VA.  First, is the flower of a common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) and the second is the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on the flowers.  As I looked closer on one of the plants, I also saw an infestation of tiny Oleander aphids (Aphis nerii), shown in the third and fourth photos.
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Then in mid-October, I visited a large meadow in Shenandoah National Park.  There were hundreds of milkweed plants and many were burst open to spread their seeds.  The next couple of photos are of the pods and seeds.  In addition, there were numerous milkweed bugs on the pods, both adults and juveniles.
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Wet-weather boots

When it’s wet and slushy outside, as it promises to be today, I don’t wear fancy or expensive cowboy boots, for water (and, in winter, salt) is death on boots. But I have some well-made and sturdy boots that are my standbys for bad weather. Here’s a nice pair: Lucchese calf boots from the “San Antonio” days (, when these off-the-shelf boots were of a quality similar to custom boots.

Because they’re calf, they’re prone to cracking; this can’t be avoided even with good boot care. (This is why my new custom pair of boots is kangaroo, which doesn’t crack.) You can see the surface cracks in the picture below. But I love the color, and these things, even if worn in dire conditions, are sturdy enough to outlive me. 
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The sign of a good handmade boot: wooden pegs used to hold the sole onto the boot. The pegs (traditionally lemonwood) are hammered in my by hand, and wooden pegs are better than the metal ones used in cheaper boots as wood swells when it’s wet, giving extra binding force hold on the sole. Lucchese “San Antonios” were all like this, but haven’t been made for years. Now the comparable boots are the top-of-the-line Lucchese “Classics,” which are quite pricey.

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Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on the first day of December, 2016. Foodwise, it’s not a good day for your arteries, as it’s both National Fried Pie Day and National French Fried Clam Day. It’s also Military Abolition Day in Costa Rica, which, I believe is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have an army; it was abolished in 1948.

On this day in 1918, Iceland became a sovereign state; are any Icelanders reading here? On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, launching the Montgomery bus boycott that was a major impetus for the U.S. civil rights movement. (This day is celebrated as Rosa Parks Day in Alabama and Oregon.) Parks, also a secretary for the local NAACP, was arrested for violating the segregation law of Montgomery city; here’s her booking photo:

rosa_parks_bookingOn this day in 1847, Julia A. Moore, the “Sweet Singer of Michigan” was born; she was one of the worst poets in history and you can read some specimens of her work on her Wikipedia page; here’s a sample of her writing, this one about the Great Chicago Fire:

The great Chicago Fire, friends,
Will never be forgot;
In the history of Chicago
It will remain a darken spot.
It was a dreadful horrid sight
To see that City in flames;
But no human aid could save it,
For all skill was tried in vain.

Also born on this day was Lou Rawls (1933), Woody Allen (1935), Bette Midler (1945), and Carol Alt (1960, ♥). Those who died on this day include mathematician G. H. Hardy (1947) and J. B. S. Haldane (1964), both of whom made contributions to population genetics. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili claims intellectual hegemony over Andrzej. But how can one criticize her, as she’s so cute?:

Hili: I hope you agree with me.
A: Absolutely.
Hili: It’s good that we understand each other without words.
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In Polish:
Hili: Mam nadzieję, że się ze mną zgadzasz?
Ja: Absolutnie.
Hili: Dobrze, że rozumiemy się bez słów.