Caturday felid trifecta: Girls and their cats, Child reads to blind shelter cat to gain the cat’s trust, Simon’s cats,

Photographer BriAnne Wills has a site called “Girls and their Cats” (GATC); she’s described as “a Brooklyn-based fashion photographer who moved to New York in September 2014 with her husband and two rescue cats.” and the site is “a photo series created by BriAnne as a way to showcase cat-owning women in a positive light. She’s photographed over 200 women so far.” There’s a summary of photos at her site but also at a WordPress site. Here are a few choice images with descriptions; click on the name to see more.

Thanu Yakupitiyage, Bug & Fish (only one shown).


Beth Ryan, Fez, Grendel & Inkling


Feminist artist and model Aisha Awadallah with her cats Tigger Oscar Wilde, Xena Warrior Princess, and Alexander the Great.

Vintage clothing buyer Sara Anderson and her Sphynx named Loki.

There are a lot more at the GATC site.


This is a lovely story from The Dodo (click on screenshot to go there):

Stevie, a blind five-year-old cat, was picked up from the streets of Richmond Virginia and taken to a shelter.  He was wary and didn’t trust anyone.

Transferred to a group living area, Stevie met Price McIntyre, a 19-year-old shelter volunteer, who decided to try to make the blind cat more comfortable around humans; he’d do that by reading Harry Potter to Stevie. Price would go to the shelter and read to the cat for several hours every day.  At first Stevie was wary, but over time he warmed up, and then became a loving lap-sitter:

And a happy ending:

Since he’s become so close with Stevie, McIntyre is hoping to be able to adopt him in the near future.

. . . “As soon as I get the green light from my mother, I’m marching there and adopting him,” McIntyre said.

“He lets me pet him now and kiss his head, and he’s become such a sweetheart,” McIntyre said. “It took a while, but it’s worth it.”


Finally, two new issues of Simon’s Cat. The first is a Simon’s Cat Logic video, which has information about how to find a missing cat (imparted by Nicky Trevarrow of Cats Protection) and Simon Tofield’s own story about how he recovered his lost cat.


A special World Cup edition of Simon’s Cat:



h/t: Keith, Michael, Heather, John

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Christopher Moss sent a passel of baby spiders, a bird, and Eastern chipmunk babies:

Araneus diadematus [the European garden spider] I think. The nest is on the glass of my conservatory, here in Nova Scotia. It doubles as a greenhouse at this time of year so there’s lots of garden spiders in there. These are the kind where the nest ‘explodes’ if you touch it as all the baby spiders jump for their lives. After a few minutes they crawl back up their silken lifelines and you can’t tell that anything happened.

Two babies [Tamias striatus] emerged this morning, and while I didn’t catch them together on camera, they behave quite unlike the adults who chase each other aggressively. These two are still acting like nest mates and crawl all over each other!

Downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens). He comes and steals the squirrels’ food!

Tara Tanaka in Florida (Vimeo page here, Flickr page here)  has discovered that she actually has two bobcats on her land: the one I posted about a week ago, which turns out to be a female (now named Bobera), and a male. The female appears to be denning nearby, and let’s hope we see BOBKITTENS soon. Here’s the male, now named the real Bob. Note the testicles under the tail.

Does anybody know why these cats (and many felid species) have white spots on their ears, and a white under-tail? They must be used to make the animal visible from the rear, suggesting that it’s a signal to conspecifics or kittens, but I don’t know.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s Saturday, my Day of Rest: June 16, 2018, and National Fudge Day. And in Sussex it’s Sussex Day. And of course it’s Bloomsday; see below. The weather will be HOT for the next three days in Chicago, with high temperatures exceeding 94°F (34°C) each day.

But I’m totally bummed that I’m missing the World Cup. I don’t have cable, and the only way to see it is to go downtown early in the morning and watch it at a bar. Who wants a beer at 6 a.m.? Here are yesterday’s (and today’s) results, with France vs. Australia having 21 minutes to go as I write.

Ronaldo scored a hat trick for Portugal, denying Spain a win, and you can see the highlights here. (With 84 international goals, Ronaldo just tied that record for a European player.) I don’t want any damn highlights; I want to watch the games. Readers who can help are welcome. Sigh. Over in Manchester, Matthew is happily watching all the games.

Watch these Spain/Portugal highlights soon, as FIFA will force the video to be taken down:

On this day in 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided speech in Springfield, Illinois. Although it didn’t gain him the Senate seat for which he was running, he was prescient about the coming conflict:

A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

On this day in 1903, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated. And of course, on June 16, 1904, James Joyce began his relationship with Nora Barnacle, who became his wife, and he commemorated that day by setting the entire novel of Ulysses in Dublin on that very day. On this day in 1944, George Junius Stinney, Jr. became the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. He was black, of course, the trial was in South Carolina, and it was basically over in a day: guilty of murder. Stinney was executed at age 14. Read the horrible details at the link. On June 16, 1961, Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union during a gig in Paris.  Exactly two years later, during the Vostok 6 mission, Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Finally, on this day in 2010, Bhutan became the first country in the world to totally ban tobacco.

Notables born on Bloomsday include Adam Smith (1723), Geronimo (1829), Stan Laurel (1890), Barbara McClintock and George Gaylord Simpson (both 1902; McClintock was a Nobel Laureate in Biology and Simpson one of the greatest paleobiologists of the last century), ecologist Archie Carr (1909), Katherine Graham and Irving Penn (both 1917), Joyce Carol Oates (1938; she’s 80 today), and Tupac Shakur (1971).

Not many notables died on this day; those who expired include Wernher von Braun (1977) and Helmut Kohl (last year).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is doing a cold reading:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m reading a mind.
A: Whose mind?
The one of that mouse sitting in the burrow.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Czytam umysł.
Ja: Czyj?
Hili: Tej myszy, która siedzi w norce.

From reader Paul, we have a kitten who wants to be a bridesmaid:

From reader Gethyn, a bad pun but still funny:

From Grania: Princess Anne describes a failed attempt to kidnap her in 1974.

Matthew’s tweets. This first one is a doozy! (What species is that woodpecker?)

Two kids awed by Ronaldo before his game against Spain:

A striking visualization of the amount of water on the planet, though I don’t know the dimensions of those drops (the “all water” one looks pretty small):

Hamster on the loose!

Matthew tweeted part of an unhinged letter he got from a flat-Earther:

Some lovely video from the BBC Springwatch:

Are those capybaras or buses? The caption is clever.

Finally, a reconstructed flyby showing the surface of Mars. The YouTube link is in the tweet.

True Facts about the anteater

Why is ZeFrank like lox? Because he’s on a roll—pumping out a lot of new videos telling us the TRUTH about nature. Here are some true facts about the anteater. It’s a good one, too!

Friday: Duck report

Good afternoon, all. This duck report covers both yesterday and today, as I lacked time (and photos) to do a proper one yesterday.

Here’s yesterday’s postprandial bathing. I love this photo as Honey looks as if she’s smiling at her brood (I suggest enlarging it). Yes, there are eight ducklings there.

And this morning’s feeding

Yesterday after lunch, Honey and Frank washed up together:

And Honey flapped her wings to shake the water off:

The ducklings are starting to grow in their real feathers, starting at the butt going anteriorly, and at the neck going towards the posterior:

They’re still at the adorable stage, but they’re definitely developing a ducklike profile.

So all is well at Botany Pond, with frequent feedings and happy ducks. Here’s Honey standing guard on Duck Island, watching her brood do their postprandial ablutions after lunch today.


Andrew Sullivan is mad as hell at the Republicans

. . . and he has every reason to be. I know many people around here don’t trust Sullivan in view of his conservative past and stands on several issues, but about Trump and his misdeeds he’s been unsparing. In today’s column at New York Magazine, he’s also angry at the American people (and the GOP) for buying Trump’s lies and ignoring his antics, like his execrable behavior toward Canada and his fawning behavior toward Kim Jong-un.  As I have ducks to feed, I’ll let you read his piece and proffer a few excerpts from it (he has separate bits on May and Merkel’s imperiled regimes and the victories of transgender athletes).

Ugh, the column, “Trump is making us all live in his delusional reality show,” has vanished behind a paywall, and I fear I’ll have to type this out from my printout. Keep checking back in case they put it online. [JAC: a kind reader sent me a transcript, so if ye ask, well, you know. . . ]

. . .If you had any doubts that the GOP is now a cult, this week’s primary results should put them to rest. Republican voters have decided that they will follow their leader no matter what he says, and if that means changing their minds on a dime so be it. Take Canada. Not so long ago, it was funny to attack our benevolent neighbor to the north. Countless episodes of South Park wouldn’t have worked without the baseline of reality that Canada is about as good and boring a neighbor as you can possibly imagine. [JAC: I take exception to the “boring” bit]. But Trump has the power to change minds instantly. So in February of this year, 94 percent had a favorable view of Canada. Now only 66 percent have a favorable view, with 13 in opposition and 22 percent suddenly unsure. Only two years ago, free trade was as solid a shibboleth for the GOP as it gets; now, it’s anathema, even for Larry Kudlow! And watching every Republican senator, apart from McCain, Flake, and Corker (all retiring), stay utterly silent after their president praised a mass-murdering dictator and gave him a global PR coup . . . well, it’s no longer surprising, but it should remain shocking.

I’m not opposed to his meeting Kim Jong-un, by the way. It’s worth a shot. If somehow Trump’s gambit pays off, he’ll deserve a lot of credit. I even see the point. If somehow Trump’s gambit pays off, he’ll deserve a lot of credit. I even see the point of withdrawing U.S. troops at some point. [JAC: I’m not so sure I’m with him!] I’m basically with him in unraveling the American empire. But I’m afraid I cannot forgive or forget Trump’s praise for the most hideously totalitarian regime on the planet, for a bloodthirsty scion who conducts regular public hangings, keeps his subject in a state of mind-control, holds hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, and threatens the world with nuclear destruction. To watch an American president give his tacit blessing to all of that, to laud Kim for being “rough” on his people, right on the heels of attacking every democratic ally, is an obscenity.

. . . We live in a lie now, perpetrated from the very top, enhanced by relentless propaganda, and designed to shore up what is a cult. It is growing in strength. It is precisely now that we must manage at every moment to dispel it. And then to vote, en masse, for its extinction.

The mass loss in elections of Republican candidates who refused to toe the Trump Cult line is dispiriting, and I’m horrified that anybody has any respect for the man now. “It can’t happen here?” Well, it did.


h/t: Simon


What does God look like?

Well, I’m not going to dwell on this paper, which has gotten a lot of publicity, as I have a much more interesting paper (about crab spiders and their silk balloons) to report on, but I’ll direct you to the article in Plos ONE. Click on the screenshot to read it:

The author’s sample was 511 Americans (74% Caucasian and the rest African-American), and the goal was to see how various classes of Americans envision the face of God. The results are pretty much as you expect. From the abstract:

Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind. In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance. Liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful. All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race. These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases. Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.

What the researchers did was use a technique that starts with a generic American face and then altering it randomly, giving people pairs of faces to choose, and then asking them to choose which face comes closest to their conception of God’s face. They did this 300 times in a row, coming up with an image that, for a given participant, apparently corresponds to what he or she thinks God looks like. (Why they did this is beyond me!) After every subject had chosen a face, the images were combined to get a General God Face.

Here’s God to American Christians (left). The “anti-face” to the right is the one that people chose as not looking like God. The God that Americans generally envision is a pleasant-looking chap, lacking a beard and having a stylish haircut:

(All captions from paper): Fig 3. God’s perceived face (left) and anti-face (right) across American Christians.


Below is how liberals (left) and conservatives (right) imagine God. As the authors note,

The conservatives’ God was perceived as more masculine, older, more powerful, and wealthier than the liberals’ God, ts > 2.20, ps < .03, reflecting conservatives’ motivation for a God who enforces order. Conversely, liberals’ God was more African American and more loving than the conservatives’ God, ts > 3.49, ps < .002, reflecting their motivation for a God who encourages tolerance (see Fig 5; see S2 Table for full statistics). Conservatives visualized a God who was better-suited to meet their motivation for social order, while liberals visualized a God who was better-suited to meet their motivation for social tolerance.

Frankly, I don’t see that much difference.

Aggregates of the images that liberal participants (left panel) and conservative participants (right panel) associated with how they viewed God.

Finally, the authors tested for the role of egocentricity, and they did it like this:

 We tested for the role of egocentrism in the perception of God by comparing God’s composite faces of (a) the youngest third of our sample with the oldest third of our sample (see Fig 6), (b) the least attractive third of our sample with the most attractive third of our sample (See S1 Fig), (c) African American participants with Caucasian participants (See S2 Fig), and (d) men versus women (See S3 Fig)

Why age and race should be indices of egocentricity defies me, but I can’t be arsed to look it up. (I can imagine why more attractive people might be more egocentric, but it’s not a given.) Here’s the effect of one factor, how young (left) versus older people (right) see God:

Aggregates of the images that young participants (left panel) and old participants (right panel) associated with how they viewed God.

The summary for egocentricity:

Independent ratings suggest that, as predicted, perceptions of God’s face are shaped by egocentrism. Older participants saw an older God, t(377) = 13.96, p < .001, more attractive participants saw a more attractive God, t(378) = 12.33, p < .001, and African Americans saw a marginally more African American God, t(375) = 1.86, p = .06. Perceptions of God’s face did not vary across gender, t(377) = .93, p = .36; both men and women saw God as similarly male.

Okay, I’ll accept that the God to the right looks older, but it was interesting that both men and women see God as male, and even blacks see him as white. For the patriarchal God, that’s probably because according to the Bible God was male, but surely a few feminist women would take the female route. Why blacks see God as white is beyond me; perhaps it’s because he’s assumed to be Jesus’s dad and Jesus was white—or at least Middle Eastern (n.b. that’s not white to Authoritarian Lefists!).

The conclusions, which are pretty lame, are in the abstract above, but one conclusion the authors don’t make is that God is indeed envisioned as a real person. If these Americans adhered to David Bentley Hart’s and other Sophisticated Theologians’™ conception of God, he would not be a personlike being, but an ineffable force outside of space and time that is not at all like a real person. Of course, theologians like Hart think that they know better than the Little People, but they really don’t: they are just trained academics who get paid for devising arcane and untestable views of what God is really like.

You might want to amuse yourself by seeing which living person most resembles Americans’ view of God. To me he looks like a young Timothy Bottoms:


h/t: Matthew

Jeff Sessions cites Bible as rationale for separating children from immigrant families; reporters and Sarah Sanders battle it out

I still find it unconscionable, regardless of the law, to separate children from their parents and families when illegal immigrants are apprehended entering the United States. I can only imagine the misery and pain that the children experience, and the horror of parents not knowing whether they’d ever see their kids again. It’s reminiscent of children ripped from their parents’ arms on the arrival platform of Auschwitz.

Nevertheless, yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who devised and is implementing this new policy, justified it on the grounds that it’s the law—and that the Bible tells us to obey the law.  The tweet below, and then the video after that, shows Sessions saying we must accept this horror because it’s the law, and because the Bible tells us to obey the law. Sessions cites Romans 13 in support, and here are the first seven verses of that chapter, verses that he apparently had in mind:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Just a comment: this is a justification for obeying not only unjust laws, like racial segregation, but for following the dictates of any government, however horrible, authoritarian, or dictatorial. For “doing what is good” can conflict with “obeying God-given authority” as it does in this case, and in many cases we’ve seen. (The same justification was used for segregation in the South.)  This is but one reason why using the Bible as an arbiter of morality is a crock.  Do these people really believe that Trump and Sessions were “appointed by God”?

And here, in an MSNBC report about a particularly fractious press conference in which Sarah Huckabee Sanders fights with reporters, is Sanders’s defense of Sessions’ policy. I’ve never seen such animosity between reporters and the press secretary (rumors say she’s on her way out of the administration).

Note Sanders’s statement “It is very Biblical to enforce the law” and her nasty statement about a reporter being “unable to understand short sentences.”  This is pretty much of a meltdown by Sanders, and explains why she’s probably not going to be around much longer.

As the discussion notes, it does seem that the purpose of the separation policy is simply to be cruel to immigrants, as is the new policy to disallow gang violence and domestic abuse as justifications for fleeing to America.

h/t: Bat

Readers’ wildlife photos

Stephen Barnard in Idaho weighs in with some diverse and lovely pictures from Idaho (I especially like the swallows and the heron being harassed). His notes are indented.

Two species of kingbirds in the same day. A Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis), showing off his yellow breast in early morning light. An Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), less flashy but debonaire. Both species are bold and feisty. They typically occupy a conspicuous perch, daring lesser birds to approach. They aren’t called kingbirds for nothing.

Meanwhile, the American kestrels (Falco sparverius) are breeding, though the chicks remain hidden in the nest box:

It gets bloody. Natasha appears to have prepped this rodent for the chicks.

A few more photos of Natasha, the female American Kestrel. In the first photo Boris had just brought her a freshly killed vole.

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) harassing a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):

Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) feeding over the creek:

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus):

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). In the second photo it’s being harassed by a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus):

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis):

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni):

Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday again! Hallelujah for June 15, 2018, and National Lobster Day. Don’t eat one; just pet one! In the UK it’s National Beer Day, celebrating the day the Magna Carta was signed, which mentions beer in clause 35:

Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely ‘the London quarter’

In its honor, you Brits should have a decent pint—and if you want to drink in my honor, have a Tim Taylor’s Landlord, my perennial favorite.

For those who inquired about the absence of yesterday’s duck report, let me assure you that all is well: the eight ducklings are healthy, vigorous, and growing fast, and even Honey seems to be putting on some weight. Hank and Frank remain, with Frank being the usual pain in the butt at feeding time, but my Super Soaker seems to have driven the other two intruding drakes away for good. There will be a duck report this afternoon.

On this day in 1215, King John of England affixed the royal seal to the Magna Carta, explaining National Beer Day.  On June 15, 1648, Margaret Jones was hanged in Boston for witchcraft; it was the first of fifteen such executions in a crazed furor that lasted from 1648 to 1693. Jones was convicted using a list of evidence for witches compiled by an English “witch-finder”, Matthew Hopkins. Here’s a scary drawing (c. 1647) of Hopkins identifying the Satanic “imps” of a witch. There appears to be a cat without a name, but the other names are weird. Do you recognize “Pyewackett”?

On this day in 1752, Ben Franklin (according to tradition) proved that lightning was a form of electricity. On June 15, 1846, a treaty established the 49th parallel as the border between the U.S and Canada, extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On June 15, 1878, Eadweard Muybridge, the famous motion photographer, proved, using a series of photos of a horse and rider, that all four feet of a horse do indeed leave the ground when it runs. It’s hard to believe that that hadn’t been established before, but of course all “proof” before that would be hearsay. Here is real proof—one of Muybridge’s photos:


On this day in 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight (not solo), landing in Galway, Ireland.  How far aviation had come since the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903! On this day in 1970, Charles Manson went on trial for the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends in Los Angeles. Finally, exactly six years ago today, Nik Wallenda became the first person to successfully walk a tightrope directly over Niagra Falls. He had to wear a safety harness (not needed in this case), and here’s a video of his feat:

Notables born on this day include Edvard Grieg (1843), Erik Erikson (1902), Saul Steinberg (1914), Erroll Garner (1921), Waylon Jennings (1937), Harry Nilsson (1941), Johnny Hallyday (1943, died last year), Helen Hunt (1963), Courteney Cox (1964), and Leah Remini (1970). Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include James Knox Polk (1849), Ella Fitzgerald (1996), and Casey Kasem (2014).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is house-shaming his staff. Yes, their house does have that name (it’s on the plaque over the door), and the name comes from the eponymous Bergman movie.

Hili: So what is the name of our house?
A:  Smultronstället, or “Where The Wild Strawberries Grow.”
Hili: Somebody’s lost his mind.
In Polish:
​ Hili: To jak się ten nasz dom nazywa?
Ja: Smultronstället, czyli tam gdzie rosną poziomki.
Hili: Ktoś zwariował. ​
Shhhh. . . . Gus is sleeping:

Some tweets contributed by Dr. Cobb. This first video is fantastic.

Bilby! You may remember that Aussies make chocolate bilbies during Easter.

A new finding of ancient and well-preserved frogs in amber; the link is in the tweet:

And a 3-D model of that find:

A gaggle of geese, young and old, living in perfect harmony:

A cryptic black cat:

You might look up the link about a blood-drinking Mexican cult:

And once again Trump chews on his metatarsals. Listen to this nonsense!

Tweets from Ann German via Heather Hastie:


Here’s how religionists’ views have become more tolerant of politicians committing immoral acts. Only the unaffiliated remain unforgiving (if that’s the word!):

Sound up for this one: a mistake that happens to be true: