Monday: Hili Dialogue

Good morning!

However bad today may seem for you, it was a worse day for Nixon, for today was the day back in 1974 that the House Judiciary Committee recommended that he be impeached and removed from office.

Apparently Stalin also outlawed “cowards” on this day in 1943. Govern yourselves accordingly.

On the science side, there was an amazing breakthrough in Canada in 1921 when insulin was isolated by Frederick Banting and Charles Best in an effort to prevent and treat diabetes.

Over in Poland, the furry Princess may or may not be thinking of higher things.

Olaf: What do cats most enjoy talking about?
Hili: Allow me to ponder that question for a moment.

olafab

In Polish:

Olaf: O czym najchętniej rozmawiają koty?
Hili: Pozwól, że się zastanowię.

A four-legged snake

by Greg Mayer

It has long been known that some snakes are two-legged, because many modern species have two legs– externally visible hind limbs– a fact we’ve noticed here at WEIT before.

Hindlimbs ('spurs') of a ball python (Python regius). The spurs are next to the anal scale, which covers the vent of the cloaca. (Front of snake is toward top of photo.)

Hindlimbs (‘spurs’) of a ball python (Python regius). The spurs are next to the anal scale, which covers the vent of the cloaca. (Front of snake is toward top of photo.)

These small external legs, capped by keratinous claws, are supported internally by vestigial femurs and a vestigial pelvis. They are larger in males, and are used during courtship. In the fossil record, snakes with much larger hind limbs have been known since Georg Haas described Pachyrachis in 1979 and Ophiomorphus in 1980 from the early Late Cretaceous (about 95 mya). In these the legs were less rudimentary than in modern snakes, having, in addition to the femur and pelvis, a distinct tibia and fibula, and tarsal bones. That legless tetrapods would have legged ancestors is of course expected, and for the caecilians, a modern group of legless amphibians, a four-legged progenitor was described by Farish Jenkins and colleagues several years ago.

In a new paper paper in Science, David Martill, Helmut Tischlinger, and Nicholas Longrich describe a four-legged snake from the late Early Cretaceous (about 120 mya), of Brazil, giving it the rather aptly descriptive name Tetrapodophis, “four-legged snake”. The fore and hind legs are small, but well developed, with five digits on each. The limbs are suggested to have been used during prey capture. They also interpret it as being fossorial. This is significant, as the two major theories of snake origin are that they came from fossorial (burrowing) ancestors, or that they came from marine ancestors (some of the closest known relatives of snakes are extinct aquatic lizards, and Haas’s specimens come from marine sediments).

T. amplectus appendicular morphology. Fig. 4 from Martill et al. (2015). (A) Forelimb. (B) Manus. (C) Hindlimbs and pelvis. (D) Pes. (E) Pelvis. Abbreviations: fem, femur; fib, fibula; hu, humerus; il, ilium; lym, lymphapophysis; man, manus; mc, metacarpal; mt, metatarsals; ph, phalanges; ra, radius; sr, sacral rib; tib, tibia; ul, ulna; un, ungual.

T. amplectus appendicular morphology. Fig. 4 from Martill et al. (2015).
(A) Forelimb. (B) Manus. (C) Hindlimbs and pelvis. (D) Pes. (E) Pelvis. Abbreviations: fem, femur; fib, fibula; hu, humerus; il, ilium; lym, lymphapophysis; man, manus; mc, metacarpal; mt, metatarsals; ph, phalanges; ra, radius; sr, sacral rib; tib, tibia; ul, ulna; un, ungual.

A long, flexible body, recurved teeth, and intramandibular joint (for opening the mouth wide) all suggest to Martill and colleagues that Tetrapodophis was a constrictor, preying on other vertebrates. This also has significance for what it says about the origin of snakes. Under the fossorial theory, the earliest snakes should have been insectivorous or eating other small prey (as are many supposedly primitive burrowing snakes today). Under the marine theory, the earliest snakes should have been predators of prey “bigger than their heads“, having large, extensible mouths, and associated adaptations of the skeleton and musculature– such snakes are called macrostomatan (literally, ‘large mouthed’). Haas’s two-legged marine snakes are macrostomatan. Martill and colleagues have found what they consider to be a very early macrostomatan, yet fossorial, snake– a cross between the two theories.

Tetrapodophis constricting and eating a small mammal, reconstruction by Julius Cstonyi.

Tetrapodophis constricting and eating a small mammal, reconstruction by Julius Cstonyi.

Almost immediately upon its publication, the paper became enmeshed in a series of overlapping controversies, which, while nothing compared to the brouhaha over the insults traded between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, has created quite a stir in the small world of science social media. There are at least three areas in which questions have been raised, so let’s take them one at a time.

Where (and thus when) is the type specimen of Tetrapodophis from? It turns out that the authors of the paper don’t actually know the provenance of the specimen. They have made an inference about it (and they may very well be right), but the fact that they do not even mention the assumed nature of the specimen’s provenance in the paper is shocking. A specimen’s provenance is absolutely crucial information in systematic biology; it is especially so for fossil specimens, because in most instances it is only by examining the geological context of the discovery (the associated fossils within the bed, and the nature of the over- and underlying beds) that we can date the fossil. In this case, we are not really sure where the specimen came from, and thus we cannot be certain of when the specimen died and was entombed in sediment.

I read the paper, and did not realize the provenance was uncertain. The uncertainty, and the argument for why the authors felt they could identify the provenance, are buried in an online supplement. To some it may seem like I’ve been a bit “hey you damned kids, get off of my lawn” about it”, but I’ve long complained of the growing practice of journals, especially Science, of burying key details of papers in ephemeral online sources, and in this case such warnings have come home to roost. Where (and thus when) it’s from is just about the most basic thing you can say about a fossil, and to hide the fact that in this case it’s unknown in an online supplement is unconscionable.

In the online material, Martill and colleagues state that “no notes as to its [the specimen’s] acquisition or provenance are available.” However, in an interview with the BBC, Martill says that he first saw the specimen at the Museum Solnhofen in an “exhibition of Brazilian fossils”, so some notes on provenance seem to have been available to the Museum. Another source states that the exhibit was of fossils specifically from the “Crato Formation”.

Is the fossil, as the authors claim, from the Nova Olinda member of the Crato Formation of Ceara, Brazil? It might well be. Martill is an expert on the formation. Certain fossil localities do have a distinctive lithology and preservation– I can (usually) recognize Green River Formation fossils myself. But to not mention this up front, and provide the justification for the assignment to provenance in the paper, is beyond the pale.

Is Tetrapodophis even a snake? In a news posting on Science‘s website, Michael Caldwell alleges that the specimen is not a snake; in fact, he says, it’s not even a reptile. Rather, the article says, Caldwell thinks it might be a surviving member of a “group of extinct amphibians that died out during mass extinctions about 251 million years ago, long before Tetrapodophis appeared on the scene.” (I’m not sure what amphibians he’s thinking of– perhaps microsaurs or lysorophids?) This would be astonishing– that a group survives 150 million years without a fossil record and then reappears (which does, though, have a partial precedent in the coelacanth), and that the authors and reviewers of a paper in Science could be so wildly off in the identification of the subject of the paper. This of course is not impossible, but it would be surprising. I have only seen the published figures, but Martill and colleagues do discuss and defend the characters by which they assign the specimen to the snakes. Caldwell has published on early snakes and should know their morphology, but he has not seen the specimen either, so it’s hard to give full credence to his views. We’ll have to wait till others get to look at the specimen more closely, or perhaps for a monographic treatment by Martill and colleagues. This is the scientifically most important controversy (although the first controversy is right up there, because much of its significance as a four-legged snake depends on its supposed time of occurrence).

Should fossil collecting and/or exporting require a permit or license? Since the specimen has no collecting data accompanying it, it is unclear if the specimen was collected legally. Fossil collecting in Brazil has required a license since 1942 (or perhaps 1988– recent sources diverge on the date). This is of course not a scientific question, but a question of public policy that has implications for science. To a great extent, the controversy is an old one in paleontology– does  amateur and commercial collecting enhance or retard the growth of scientific knowledge?  There are strong opinions on both sides. In the United States, this argument flared up over Tyrannosaurus Sue, which was discovered and collected by commercial collectors, but eventually seized from them without recompense (one even went to jail). The downside of such regulation is that many specimens will never come to light, or, if found, will be tossed aside and left to degrade, as their possession would be illegal. A commercial black market may develop, in which the best fossils may be found, but then disappear, unstudied, into private collections. The upside is that specimens will have known provenance, and be of maximal scientific value. Martill has long argued (also here) that in Brazil the permitting system has become so corrupt that scientists are driven out of the field, and that, through bribery, commercial trade flourishes, while many fossils are left to erode and break, as no one may legally save them. He also says it was not always so– for years he worked successfully under Brazil’s regulations. His view:

‘Protecting fossils’ criminalises palaeontologists. Laws banning fossil collecting and private fossil collections deter amateur palaeontologists, drive them underground and stifle curiosity. Fossils left in the ground weather away and are lost. Banning commercial collecting loses tax revenue.

A group of Brazilian paleontologists led by Max Langer, in a strong riposte to one of Martill’s pieces, wrote

Instead, the Brazilian perspective is that taking fossils out of the country is depleting its scientific resources. Brazil has a growing, but still minor scientific community. For palaeontology, keeping the fossils in the country is a way of promoting scientific opportunities. International partnerships are most welcome, but simply allowing fossils to leave Brazil to be studied by foreign scientists mostly helps science in the other countries.

On the issue of regulation, my own view is an in-between one. An analogy can be made (one which Martill disputes) with wildlife conservation. Many species and natural areas require protection. It is often scientists who are at the forefront of advocating for such protections, even though it will add to the difficulty of doing scientific work on the protected species and habitats.  It is true that sometimes such regulations can be over-zealously enforced against scientists (in part because they are so visible and have no economic clout), while ignoring the truly endangering factors. But when scientifically informed and sensibly applied, these protections are welcomed by scientists. And, indeed, Martill describes a formerly good relationship with the Brazilian authorities. I do not know enough about the situation in Brazil to have an informed opinion on whether Brazilian policy and practice on this matter has achieved the right balance to encourage discovery and scientific research, while maintaining proper stewardship of their resources.

Another analogy with wildlife conservation issues is what to do with illegally collected specimens. It is standard for wildlife enforcement agencies to donate such materials to museums or educational institutions (although their value as scientific specimens is lowered by the frequent lack of provenance). More controversial is what to do with seized specimens of commercial, but no scientific, value. For example, some advocate the destruction of seized elephant ivory, while others argue that that only drives up prices, leading to more poaching. In the case of fossils, what scientific value there is in them can be extracted by describing them (again subject to the constraints of knowledge of provenance) and placing them in museums (not, by any means, destroying them!).

Regarding the issue of whether fossils should be exported, I am sympathetic to the need to develop scientific institutions throughout the world, and thus to build local collections and relationships between foreign and local institutions and researchers. This must be tempered by recognition that not all places are in a position to care for important collections or engage in collaboration. In this regard, I would note that Brazil has at least one distinguished student of early snake evolution, Hussam Zaher, and at least some excellent museums, although I do not know enough about the situation with the Crato fossils to have an informed opinion on that specific case. I would point to the recent return of Tiktaalik to the Canadian Museum of Nature after 11 years of study in the U.S., and Costa Rica’s policy of a division of collected specimens among foreign and Costa Rican institutions as policies that seem to be working.

The Brazilian journalist Herton Escobar has conducted an email interview with Martill. In it, Martill’s frustration with being denied further access to his field sites in Brazil is evident. He asserts (correctly, in my opinion) that the scientific value of the fossil is not affected by the legality of its collection (to which, I should add, there is no suggestion that Martill or his colleagues were involved in its collection– he first saw it in Museum Solnhofen during a class field trip); its value is affected by the lack of certain provenance. In response to a question as to whether he had sought a Brazilian collaborator, Martill said he did not. Not seeking a Brazilian collaborator is fair enough– he worked with colleagues in England and Solnhofen, close to him and the fossil, and he had at best difficult personal relationships with Brazilian workers at the time. But Martill also goes off on an odd rant about ethnic and sexual diversity in research groups– not at all what Escobar was asking about.


Haas, G. 1979. On a new snakelike reptile from the Lower Cenomanian of Ein Jabrud, near Jerusalem. Bulletin du Museum national d’Histoire naturelle 4: 51–64.

Haas, G. 1980. Remarks on a new ophiomorph reptile from the lower Cenomanian of Ein Jabrud, Israel. pp. 177–192. In Jacobs, L.L.,
ed., Aspects of Vertebrate History. Museum of Northern Arizona Press, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Martill, D.M., H. Tischlinger, and N.R. Longrich. 2015. A four-legged snake form the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana. Science 349:416-419.

h/t Matthew

Sin and The Sinner

by Grania

I noticed a comment that said something along the lines of trying to find common ground for a person while despising most of their political beliefs was somewhat like the old Christian aphorism “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

cahs

 

It’s a slogan that makes most liberal people, even  non-atheists, choke a little. But it really deserves some unpacking because I don’t think that the analogy is completely fair. I am not trying to call anyone out on this, I’ve seen it in many places before. In fact I am pretty sure I’ve used it myself.

The reason why “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a slogan that deservedly gets a lot of scorn and eye-rolling is not really because of what it says but because of what its common association is: i.e. a rather smug self-congratulatory  phrase used by bigots in an attempt to paint themselves as reasonable and compassionate, usually seconds after announcing that a percentage of the human race deserves to be treated as second class citizens in all perpetuity for reasons of having been born with different proclivities to their own.

However, in and of itself the idea of being able to discriminate between people and their actions and beliefs is not only a laudable one; but is probably something that all humans do.

For example, if your child comes home from school having gotten themselves into a brawl, even a brawl that is largely their own fault; you are probably not going to stop loving them and cut off all ties with them. Compassion and discrimination are much more important here than absolutism.

Another example, in 2002 Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, and Richard Dawkins worked together on an issue that concerned them: that of the teaching of Creationism in “faith schools” in the UK. They may fundamentally disagree on whether there is a god or not, but clearly their passion for good standards in education is far more important than their philosophical differences.

For some time now politics in the media has fostered a culture of polarizing the “other”, to pretty much the detriment of everyone. If Obama’s years in office have shown the US and the world anything, it’s just how destructive absolute refusal to accommodate and compromise can be. As a non-American, I must confess to just gaping at the non-stop filibustering that has marked his term. The damage done must be hard to quantify.

Anyway, all of this is a long-winded way of saying that one does not have to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. One can find common ground with and compassion for the “sinner”, even if one has serious reservations about the “sin”. There is nothing inherently wrong or illogical with that line of thought.

Of course, none of this means you have to tolerate bigotry, racism or homophobia in your midst; no matter what flowery terms it gets couched in. However, just because some people rather cynically misuse an otherwise fairly sane and astute observation about humanity, doesn’t make it a useless point worthy of consideration. You shouldn’t have to agree with someone on every point to be able to work together on issues that matter to both of you.

 

Readers’ Wildlife Photos: The Moth Edition

Jonathan Wallace from England sent Jerry some amazing photographs of moths.

As always if you click through twice on a photograph you can see it in its original size.

Jonathan writes:

I thought I’d send you a few pictures around the theme of protective colouration in moths to help top up your tank.

First, two aposematic species, the Six-spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena filipendulae) and the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena lonicerae). 

0169 six-spot burnet

0171 Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet bThese moths are noxious to predators such as birds.  As they are closely related I am not sure if they could be said to be mimics (as presumably they could both have inherited the same colour pattern from a common ancestor) but the two species do fly together in grasslands and presumably they reinforce each other’s aposematic signal in the manner of Mullerian mimics.  There are a number of other Zygaena species all with variations on this same colour scheme.

Another two aposematic species the Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).  This species is widespread in the UK but has declined significantly in recent decades.

2057 Garden Tiger b

2057 Garden Tiger c

The Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaea) has conspicuously striped larvae which feed on Common Ragwort (Sennecio jacobaea) from which they sequester toxins.  The adults superficially resemble the Burnet Moths to which they are not closely related.

2069 Cinnabar Moth larva

2452 red underwing

A final picture of a cryptic species.  I guess a majority of moths, certainly in the UK rely to a greater or lesser extent on camouflage to avoid getting eaten.  This one is a V-Pug (Chloroclystis v-ata) resting on a tree branch.  I should state that this is not where I found the moth, which was caught in a light trap and I released it onto the branch.  I was struck by how well it blended in.

1858 v-pug

Thanks Jonathan, for the beautiful photographs and the fascinating comments to go with them.

FvF competition: readers in all the right places

Don’t forget the new Fact v Faith competition, with the rules:

Send a photo of yourself (or a member of your family) holding Faith versus Fact in the most incongruous place or situation you can think of. Be creative. 

We’ve already had some great ones, and we have a few more now. Send yours in before August 20th.

Reader Laurie Sindoni sent us this:

Whom shall I believe…Professor Jerry A. Coyne or the trees? So; here is Geth; reading our new favourite book (he had better finish it before 4 August when we leave for Santorini because that’s MY beach reading!) in front of a tree.  I refer, of course, to the oft-employed retort by Christians when offering undisputed proof of their god: “look at the trees.”

FullSizeRender

 

Richard Page sent this in:

This is my attempt at a FvF selfie… taken on Royal Street behind St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Before Katrina hit, the space was occupied by an enormous live oak (possibly the largest in New Orleans), but the storm caused too much damage and was removed. A touchdown Jesus statue was put in its place, and lit to cast a rather ominous shadow on the back of the cathedral at night. It’s a popular spot for FQ walking tours, including the vampire tours.
Unfortunately, it will have to be disqualified for the contest because I couldn’t get an exposure that would show both the shadow on the building and the cover page on my Kindle… so the cover is dropped in from another underexposed shot… oh well.
st_louis_cath_fvf

 

Debra Copran wrote in:

I am sending this to you from La Jolla, California.
The controversy over this cross has been in the courts for 25 years.
It was owned by the city of San Diego on public land until they finally found a way to save it.
It has a long history so I won’t go into it here. Rest assured, it will never come down now that the city sold it to a Veteran’s group and now sits on private property so it could be saved.

IMG_5504

Peregrinations: New Mexico, part deux

I have long wanted to visit Linda Calhoun and her goat dairy in Mountainair, New Mexico, and I can report that the mission is accomplished. Here’s a brief report.

Linda has, as I recall, 23 goats, which include a bunch of lactating females, a small group of young kids, and five large, bearded males. I believe the ones shown below are the young ‘uns (Linda will weigh in on this, and supply the breed’s name which I can’t recall):

Goats 2

The goats are friendly and curious, and will suck on your fingers but not bite them. They did, however, try to gnaw the hair off my arms. They have a reputation for eating everything, including the classic tin can motif in cartoons, but Linda says that they don’t eat the cans: they are only trying to gnaw off the paper, which resembles the vegetation they eat in the wild.

And their eyes photograph blue with a flash:

goats 3

The goats will stand up if you approach the pen, and thrust their goaty faces right at you!

Goats 4

See?

Goats

The males are kept individually or in amiable pairs, for they tend to fight each other. And their pens are covered with sheet metal on the sides so they can’t see the females, for if they did they’d try to butt down the barriers. Typical males!

Males

Twice a day it’s milking time (the males and older females go off for meat, but the main object of the dairy is of course to produce goat milk). The milk usually goes to feed baby goats on other farms rather than cheese, but the cats get it, as does Linda’s husband John on his morning cereal. Linda gets up at about 2:30 a.m. to do the first of the day’s two milkings.

Each goat is restrained on a special raised platform while being milked; it has a feeding trough to distract them and lure them up (they willingly climb on each device as they are called: each goat knows its name):

This goat’s udder attests to its load of milk:

Milking 1

A suction device is attached to each goat (two goats are milked at a time). It takes only about a minute to pump each goat dry. Here’s Linda in action:

Milking 2

The milk is aspirated out of the two teats. . .

Milking 3

. . . and is collected in a scrupulously clean stainless steel receptacle. After being milked, each goat gets a handful of peanuts, which they consider a great treat.

Milking 4

Linda has (and I may have gotten this wrong) five cats. I believe two are in the barn and three in the house; the barn cats are mousers but also get to live in Linda’s heated office. All of them are treated well and are in great condition. Sadly, I lost the email in which Linda gave me all their names, so I’ll have to ask her to supply most of them below.

This is barn cat #1, a fuzzy black cat.

Barn cat 1

Barn cat #2, a short-haired black cat:

Barn cat 2

This is Clawed Monet, the best name for a cat I’ve ever heard. He’s a friendly fellow and was acquired as a feral tom, so he got a large “apple head” before he was neutered. Clawed liked me, and so I found him on my bed when I turned in for the night. What a nice sight that was!

Clawed on bed

Clawed snoozing:

Clawed sleeping

I believe there is a third housecat, which is very shy; I never saw it.

Pewter is a friendly gray cat who has the unusual habit of drinking water from the sink. When you go into the bathroom, he magically appears from nowhere and waits for you to turn on the tap. When you do, he jumps on the sink and laps away. He does not care if the water soaks his head in the process, as it’s doing below:

Pewter

One day we drove the ten miles into town for lunch. It’s a town frozen in time, looking exactly as it must have sixty years ago. (Movies have been filmed in the town because it requires no props to look old.) The drugstore, for instance, sports exactly the kind of soda fountain that I remember from my childhood:

Drugstore

And at the west end of town is the local restaurant, Jerry’s Ancient Cities Cafe:

Jerry's

In my namesake cafe I had a New Mexican signature dish: chiles rellenos, filled with cheese.

Relleno

I dissected one so that you can see the batter-fried covered chile filled with cheese. These two were great:

Relleno inside

On the second evening I was there, John prepared a great mixed salad, and offered me a local beer—one flavored with pecans. (Pecans are one of the major cash crops in New Mexico.) Of course I tried it, as I’d never had a pecan-flavored beer, and I thought it was quite good:
Pecan beer

And there’s one local site of historical interest: Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument. One part of the trio of monuments is the Quarai ruins, where the Spanish built a mission in the early 17th century, basically enslaving the Indians to produce goods that would enrich Spain. Below you can see the ruins of the mission, surrounded by the barely visible remains of the Native American villages, once part of a thriving community that traded salt and other products. The missionaries, I was told, were there mainly to extract wealth for the Spanish crown, not to convert the Indians to Christianity, though that was done as well—forcibly.

Mission

Thanks to John and Linda for their hospitality, tour of the goat farm, and provision of felids!

 

Sunday: Hili Dialogue

Good morning, welcome to Sunday. Jerry is back on the road today, but he has prepared some posts and will check in later.

Today is the day that the back in 1775 U.S. postal system established and Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956. Oh, and in 1943 Mick Jagger was born. Happy birthday Mr Jagger.

Hili is Up To Something today. This can only end well.

Hili: I have an excellent idea.
A: What’s that?
Hili: I’m going to jump on Cyrus from the side!

 

P1030137

In Polish:

Hili: Mam świetny pomysł.
Ja; Jaki?
Hili: Skoczę na Cyrusa z boku

Lunches: Louisiana

I’m hanging around Cajun country for a few days, centered in Lafayette, Louisiana, for I know I can take only one large Cajun meal per day. (On this trip I’ve generally been eating only one meal of any sort per day, as I usually have just coffee in the morning and I find that I get drowsy if I drive after lunch.)

Yesterday, after arriving in this capital of Cajun country, I went to what’s perhaps the most famous Cajun restaurant in Lafayette, Prejean’s. Yes, it’s a bit touristy with faux-log supports and a big alligator over the servers’ station, but it’s justly famous for its food. I can verify that after my lunch of crawfish étoufée, a crawfish pie (remember the lyrics of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya“?), and rice. It was absolutely superb, with the crawfish stew studded with nuggets of sweet meat, which also went well with the buttery crust of the “pie” (more like a pasty).

Prejean's

And today I went to another famous place, this time located in Breaux Bridge, which proclaims itself the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” (It’s also famous for allowing residents to use nicknames in the phone book.) The place is Café des Amis. Built in the 1890s and refurbished after two fires, it still has some of the old fixtures and considerable authentic charm:

P1080899

The inside. It’s usually crowded but there was a zydeco breakfast this morning, with lots of dancing, and people left after breakfast while they cleared out the instruments and amplifiers and replaced the tables for lunch.

P1080895

My lunch: first, a cup of chicken and sausage gumbo with fresh, locally made bread (potato salad on the side). Yum!

P1080896

Then an oyster po-boy, which they gave me with three sauces. I used the one the locals eat: a mixture of ketchup, mustard, mayo, and hot sauce. You dress the sandwich lightly, as you want to taste those fried oysters. For those of you who find the idea of a fried-oyster sandwich weird, all I can say is that you haven’t lived till you’ve had a good one.

P1080897

Look at all the fresh, plump oysters on that sandwich!

I knew that I wanted the local dessert, found only in this region: gateau sirop, a heavy, pecan-studded spice cake over which they pour cane syrup (a thin form of molasses), and then top with ice cream. But I was too full to tuck into it there, so I asked for one to go. The waiter, who was a really nice guy, told me that since I wouldn’t be able to take out the ice cream, they’d give me as lagniappe a piece of their famous white-chocolate bread pudding. Here are both desserts. I’ve polished off the gateau sirop, which was stunningly good (and HEAVY), and will essay the bread pudding later.

P1080900

Remember, folks, I don’t always eat like this, so no food policing, please.

Man bathes goldfinch in his hands

Reader Adrian sent me a link to this video, which I found on YouTube and can thus embed. It’s a lovely relationship between a man and a goldfinch. I know nothing else about it.

Altar of the Oppressionhood Olympics

by Grania Spingies

I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about this one, but it makes me uneasy.

This news story floated by me on Twitter:

Swedish “Far-Right” Plans Gay Pride Parade Through Muslim Areas; Leftists And Gay Rights Groups Decry The Parade As Racist

The fuss seems to be that a right-wing affiliated Pride Parade plans to go through certain areas in Stockholm where there is a high density of Muslim immigrants.

This is being denounced as “an expression of pure racism” by left-wing and liberal groups.

I can’t read Swedish, but it seems the parade intends to engage in such acts as singing and kissing. Those can hardly be called racist.

Personally I think that deciding to put a Pride march through such an area is deeply misconceived, it’s entirely possible that it will end in violence which is—and always will be—a bad end to seek.

On the other hand, I think a Pride parade going through areas that were predominantly, for example,  Southern Baptist would be praised by the media instead of denounced. None of us need try very hard to imagine the scorn and outrage if a Pride Parade was told that it could not march through through a neighborhood because the marchers had to be “culturally sensitive” to the religion of the ultra-conservative Christian inhabitants.

What is racist is to assume that all heterosexual Muslims in Stockholm are homophobes. From the response I am seeing, the Left is no better than the Right in their assumptions and pronouncements on this one.

Bottom line: I guess what makes me uneasy is how quickly the Left is to sacrifice certain people that they normally would champion, including women such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and now an LGBT group, when it appears it might tread on the toes of certain religious sensibilities.

Do we really only care about gender equality and the right to sexual identity and freedom so long as it doesn’t offend religious communities? Do we only champion women and LGBT issues so long as they closely share our politics?

It makes this leftist liberal really uncomfortable.

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