A Taste of the Wild

Red Deer Stag

In early April Kevin and I were due to take a vacation on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada. Obviously that won’t happen now, but I’ve mostly been able to have today off and I took the opportunity to catch up with the BBC’s 2017 wildlife series, Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World. Like Vancouver Island, Western Ireland exists on the north-eastern edge of a great ocean, and it too has a wonderful assortment of wildlife. This two-episode series has the usual focus on mating and murder, but it also has some absolutely stunning photography. There are gannets, puffins, dolphins, red deer, pine martens, basking sharks and much more. It is well worth a look.

The thing that really struck me, however, was a story. Years ago a group of men from the Blasket Islands were on their way home in their curraghs when they heard an unearthly sound coming up through the bottoms of their boats. One of the men was a musician, and that night he made a song that, as best as he was able, captured the sounds he had heard. It is called Port na bPúcaí (the song of the pookas) and it became a very popular slow air. Here it is:

For a long time this was assumed to be nothing more than a fairly tale, but now we have had the opportunity to study such music we know exactly what magnificent creatures made it, and what a good job that ancient Irishman made of reproducing their song.

Humpback whale

Today on Ujima – PapayaFest, Discrimination at Work, Fungi & Ellen Datlow

I did a radio show today. Here’s what went down.

I started out with a visit from my good friend Tamsin Clarke. We kept our clothes on this time. As you may recall, Tamsin is from Venezuela. She has been putting together a festival of Latinx culture called PapayaFest. It will feature Tamsin’s theatre productions and a great line-up of bands and DJs. Because Tamsin has such great topics for her plays we ended up talking about Simón Bolívar, matriarchal families and the current state of feminism in Latin America.

Next up I was joined by Karen and Erin from Bristol Law Centre. They have come up with an interesting new way of funding employment discrimination cases and they wanted to get the word out there. I was pleased to be able to point out what good work they do, and how necessary they have become because of the current government’s actions designed to make recourse to the law something that is only available to the very rich.

Guest three was my friend Esme who has got involved with mushrooms. They really are fascinating life forms, and most people have no idea how many types of fungi there are, or how crucial they are both to the ecosystem and to many modern industries. There will be a Fungus Day at Arnos Vale Cemetery on Saturday, which I’d be very tempeted to go along to if I wasn’t booked elsewhere.

And finally I ran part of the interview I did with Ellen Datlow at TitanCon. This extract includes how she got her job at Omni, what “best of the year” means, who is the only writer ever to have scared her, and why she once turned down a story by Margaret Atwood. The full interview will run in Salon Futura at the end of the month.

You can hear the whole show via Ujima’s Listen Again service here.

The playlist for this month’s show is as follows:

  • Simón Díaz – Caballo Viejo
  • WARA – Leave to Remain
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman
  • Elsa J – 9 to 5
  • Carlos Santana – Flor d’Luna
  • Janelle Monáe – Mushrooms & Roses
  • Sade – Nothing can come between us
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller

New BBC SF Audiodrama

Forest 404

Our local media in Bristol keeps an eye on what the local BBC offices are up to. Today they had news of a new science-fiction audiodrama. Forest 404 is a post-apocalyptic story set in a world where forests no longer exist. The lead character, Pan, is a sound archivist who uncovers recordings of forest life from centuries before. She’s played by Pearl Mackie who will be best known to you as Bill Potts from Doctor Who.

The 27-part podcast series will also include, “factual talks from a range of speakers including musicians, bioethicists and anthropologists who guide the audience through the themes and issues the podcast presents.”

For more details, see Bristol 24/7.

Lobsters for Emojis

When I was at Trans Pride in Brighton I was rather confused by some people in the parade apparently dressed as lobsters, and carrying plastic lobsters, and flags with lobsters on them. I mean, I’m very fond of lobsters, but why at Trans Pride?

Being a good investgative jouralist, I looked for them in Brunswick Gardens and, having found their stall, asked them what this was all about. It turns out that it is all the fault of Google, Apple and Facebook. Bear with me.

Of course most things bad in the world are the fault of Facebook these days, but lobsters are not bad, and why Apple and Google as well? Well, because they are all voting members of an IT industry body called Unicode which is responsible, among other things, for regulating emojis.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of flags missing from the set of emojis available on your phone or tablet. There is no Welsh flag, for example. Almost as importantly for me, there is no trans flag. That would be very useful. Apparently it is one of the most commonly requested new emojis. But Unicode says there is no need for one.

And yet, when a small group of people petitioned Unicode for a lobster emoji, apparently on the grounds that having to use a shrimp or a crab would be confusing, this was quickly granted.

As a result, the lobster has become a symbol for the campaign for a trans flag emoji. And this, as the petition points out, is rather apt, because lobsters are one of the select group of creatures that can become gynandromorphs. That is, you can find lobsters that are male on one side of their body and female on the other side. Biology is way more complicated than the average anti-trans activist would like to admit.

So if you see me using a lobster emoji on Twitter in future, you will know what it means.

Ujima Today – Review of 2017

My first Ujima show of the year was today, which was also the first day we were back live on air after the holidays. Indeed, I was the first live show. I marked this by being half asleep as I had been kept awake most of last night by the storms. I do wish that the Jotun would manage to hold their New Year parties on the right night.

Anyway, as I didn’t expect that anyone would want to be a guest today, and there were no back office staff on duty, I decided to make the show a look back at 2017 and re-run some old interviews.

First up was the Sarah Pinborough interview from BristolCon 2016, which was totally 2017 news because last year was the year that Sarah changed from being a moderately successful writer of dark fantasy to a global superstar. Behind Her Eyes has sold over 100,000 copies each in paperback and ebook, and has been listed as one of the 100 top selling books of all kinds in the UK last year. Well done Sarah, I’m absolutely delighted for you. Can I come and stay with you when you buy your Caribbean island? 😉

Also in the first hour I re-ran my interview with D.B. Redfern of M-Shed about Doris the Pilosaurus, because there are still parents wondering what to do with the kids between now and school starting.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with a look back on the women’s cricket season with triumphs both for England and for Western Storm. That included interviews with Lisa Pagett and Stafanie Taylor.

Next up I re-ran my interview with anti-FGM campaigner and WEP parliamentary candidate, Nimco Ali.

And finally there was my interview with Nalo Hopkinson at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The music for today’s show was inspired partly by the New Year’s Eve shows on the BBC, and partly by the trip that Kevin and I made to New Orleans back in the days when I was allowed into the USA. The connection is the very fine Trombone Shorty & New Orleans Avenue who are this year’s discovery from my watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny.

  • The Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
  • Trombone Shorty – Here Come the Girls
  • Cedric Watson – Zydeco Paradise
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band – When the Saints Come Marching In
  • Jamil Sharif – On the Sunny Side of the Street
  • Chic – Rebels Are We
  • Liane la Havas – Midnight
  • Jamiroquai – Blow your mind

My next show will be on February 7th and will doubtless have an LGBT History focus.

Self-Fertilizing Fish

Every so often I come across a news article that is relevant both to trans science and science fiction. Yesterday was one of those magical days, because I discovered the existence of self-fertilizing fish.

I should probably go back a few stages here by way of explanation.

To start with there is the whole question of what we mean by “biological sex”. Fish do not share the same XX/XY chromosome system familiar from mammals. In fact there are a wide range of different biological mechanisms that fish use to differentiate sex. When I talk about the biological sex of a fish here I mean whether the fish produces eggs, fertilizes eggs, or both.

Readers in the UK are probably familiar with the recent episode of Blue Planet II in which David Attenborough’s team filmed a Sheepshead Wrasse in the process of changing sex. There are, in fact, many fish species that practice what is called Sequential Hermaphroditism, in which the animal is male for part of its life cycle and female for another part. The much loved Clown Fish from Finding Nemo is another example. These fish only exhibit one sex at any one time in their lives.

There are also many fish species that exhibit Simultaneous Hermaphroditism. That is, they are capable of producing eggs and fertilizing eggs. Some species of Sea Bass have these abilities, which is something worth pondering next time you eat one. However, these fish have to have sex with other, similarly hermaphroditic, fish in order to make baby fish. How else would genetic diversity be achieved, right?

However, there is one species of fish (well, more properly two closely related species) that can make babies by individuals having sex with themselves. Enter the spectacularly named Mangrove Killifish.

The killifish is pretty amazing on several levels. It can live in both fresh and salt water, and it can survive for up to two months on land. But self-fertilization is seemingly the most miraculous ability because surely all of the fish would be clones, so how would they evolve? Mutation doesn’t seem an adequate explanation.

However, it turns out that killifish come in two sexes: both and male. The males are very rare, but very popular. If a clone family of both-sex spots one they’ll seek him out and make lots of baby fish. In that way a certain amount of genetic diversity is maintained.

For those who are interested, there is more scientific detail here.

And for those of you thinking of interesting ideas to use in alien biology, have at it!

Dinomania at Bristol

Here are some more photos I took of the dinosaurs on view at Bristol Zoo.

As usual with animals, getting them to stay still to be photographed is not always easy. Some of them, such as the Pachyrhinosaurus, were gently snoozing. Others were very busy. The most active of them was the dilophosaurus, which seemed to fancy itself as a dragon and delighted in spraying small children with water. Here it is in action. (The background noise is the rain.)

Better photos and more information about the various creatures can be found here.

Conference Wrap and Dinosaur Hunting


Day 3 of Creative Histories continued smoothly with a lot of interesting presentations. These included one by my colleague, Andy Foyle, about the LGBT History Mapping Project that we undertook. Andy co-presented with Josie McLellan of the University of Bristol History Department with whom we worked on the project. (The University’s IT department wrote the software.)

I have a lot more I want to say about the conference. Some of that will be here over the next couple of days, and I have also promised a post to Will Pooley, the genius behind the event, for his blog. Many of the other presenters will also be doing guest posts for him. For now suffice it to say that I had a fabulous three days and have come away with some new friends, and a lot to think about.

We had an hour and a half between the end of the conference and closing time at the zoo, so I took myself off on a dinosaur hunt. You can see the entrance to their enclosure above, and in the distance a few kids playing with a friendly pachyrhinosaurus. I’ll have some more pictures, and possibly some video, for you over the weekend. In the meantime here’s a selfie that I took with my new friend, Rex.

Eurocon Trip Report


Germany’s recent Eurocon was quite small in comparison to recent events in places such as Spain, Sweden, Croatia and Finland. The total attendance was under 300, and seemed to skew towards an old, white male demographic. That was a shame, but nevertheless it ran well and was an enjoyable weekend for those of us who attended.

Dortmund is not high on the list of German tourist venues. Razed to the ground by the RAF in WWII, it boasts a modern, mostly pedestrianized city center surrounded by a ring road. The small airport has direct bus links to the railway station which sits on the ring road and is a short walk from several hotels and the convention venue. It was all very convenient.

The city seems obsessed with winged rhinos. Not only do they have a large collection scattered around the street, they are also used widely on signs and posters. Apparently the animal is the mascot of the local orchestra.

Dortmund’s main tourist attractions are a large soccer museum (reflecting one of the city’s abiding passions), a beer museum (reflecting the other) and a tram museum. The city’s tram network has been moved underground recently, though part of a line through the center has been preserved, complete with a tram restaurant. The museum was running vehicles on the Sunday and a fair number of British fans disappeared off to see them.

Back at the convention, I spent most of my time behind the Worldcon #76 table. We were not expecting to sell many membership, but sometimes it is good just to fly the (bear) flag. Also I wanted to gauge feelings about the convention in Europe. Most people, of course, simply couldn’t afford to go, but of those who could more than half cited fear of the current political regime in the USA as a reason for not attending.

I got to see very little programming, but I was delighted to get a chance to listen to my Czech friend, Julie Nováková, hold forth on the subject of icy moons. There is way more water in the solar system than anyone expected, and the possibility for some form life existing on one of those moons is encouragingly high.

The Art Guest of Honor was German-based Brit, Autun Purser. In his day job he works with as a deep sea ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremen, doing fun things like photographing life on the sea floor using remote controlled submarines. Julie, as an astrobiologist, and I, as a former oceanographer, we delighted to see some of his footage.

To get an idea of the sort of thing Autun does, check out this article in which he is talking about the supremely cute ghost octopus. And of course he does art too.

Sadly I didn’t get to see any program items featuring the other Guests of Honor: Aleksandar Žiljak, Andreas Eschbach and Dave Hutchinson.

There were a lot of dealers. Thankfully most of the books on sale were in German, so I did not get tempted to buy any. However, I was very impressed by the steampunk group who had a big stall covering one end of the room I was in. Steampunk is clearly a big thing in Germany, and they told me how they tried to avoid any association with Prussians and German imperialism. The Griffin that they use in their arms is the symbol of the Grand Duchy of Baden.

A much more suitable hero for a steampunk story might be King Ludwig II of Bavaria, most famous for his fairytale castle but also a keen designer of airships. Which brings me to mention of my new pal, Ju Honisch. She has a lot of big fantasy novels out in German. However, she has one available but unpublished in English which features Ludwig, albeit briefly. You may hear more of this book in the near future. Charlie Stross and I both liked what we heard of it. Ju (pronounced “you”) is also a very fine filker and those of you on the convention filk circuit may have already met her.

I didn’t manage to get to the Business Meeting as I had a table to manage, but I understand that there was not much business to discuss and the sessions were over very quickly. Efficient meetings are appreciated by all.

The ESFS Awards were given out on Saturday evening. Many of them are encouragement awards for up and coming talent, so I don’t expect to know their work. One may be known to you, however. Hanuš Sainer is a talented Czech writer, one of whose stories, translated by Julie, has appeared in Strange Horizons.

In the career awards I was pleased to see some recognition for Judith Clute. Ian Watson, having staged a very successful Eurocon in Barcelona last year, was given the Best Promoter award (which he rightly said he was sharing with his Spanish wife, Christina). This year’s Hall of Fame award went to Serbia’s Zoran Živković, and about time too.

Incidentally, all of Zoran’s work is in the process of being reprinted in beautiful new editions. See here for details.

That was Eurocon done for another year. In 2018 we will be in Amiens in France, a city that was home to Jules Verne for most of his writing career. The easiest way to get there is by train, either from Paris, or Eurostar to Lille if you are coming from the UK or Belgium. In 2019 the Eurocon will be in Belfast, hopefully the weekend after the Dublin Worldcon if all goes according to plan. Rijeka in Croatia is still unopposed for 2020.

My thanks to Ju & Jela Schmidt who were great company in the dealers’ room, to the Ukrainians for the honey-chili vodka, to the convention committee, to the kind people who transported Worldcon #76 materials back and fore for me, to Fluff Cthulhu for refraining from eating me, and to all of the fine folks who made it such a lovely weekend. I still owe you a beer or two, Christina.

My final picture is the most science-fictional thing in Dortmund, the space elevator.

Today on Ujima – Dinosaurs, Afrofuturism, Psychology & Feminism

It was radio day again today. I think I had a great bunch of guests on Women’s Outlook. Hopefully you do too.

We began with DB Redfern from the Bristol Museums Service telling us all about the fabulous new dinosaur exhibit they have open this summer. Actually it is not strictly a dinosaur thing, because the star attraction, Doris the Pliosaurus, was a sea dweller. She might have eaten dinosaurs, though. Anyway, she was a magnificent monster: as long as a bus with teeth the size of bananas. Doris would have eaten great white sharks as snacks. DB and I had a great discussion, covering important topics such as dinosaur poop and whether Nessie exists. Kids of all ages will love this one.

After the news I was joined by Zahra Ash-Harper and Edson Burton to discuss the Afrofuturism event, Afrometropolis, that I attended a couple of weeks ago. We had a great chat about what Aforfuturism, and an African-centered future, might mean. I got in a plug for Worldcon 75, Nalo and Karen. I do hope we get more events like this in Bristol.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

For the second hour I was joined my a new friend, Clare Mehta, who is a psychology professor from Boston. She’s doing some really interesting work on human ideas of gender and how they are affected by social settings. This all harks back to some of the things that Cordelia Fine was talking about in Testosterone Rex. Fascinatingly, your social environment, and the sort of things that you are doing, can affect your hormone levels. And yes, women do have testosterone in their bodies, and men have estrogen.

Also in that segment I had a pre-recorded interview with Nimco Ali that I did when she was in town doing a talk on the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation. One of the things she talks about in the interview is having to leave Bristol because she was getting death threats. Ironically today on Twitter she was talking about getting death threats for standing as a Women’s Equality Party candidate. Hopefully once the election is over I can catch up with her again and talk about her experiences as a candidate.

To go with the interview I played the wonderful song, “My Clitoris”, produced by a local charity. I had to check the OfCom regulations carefully for that, but apparently it is perfectly OK to say “vagina” and “clitoris” on the radio. Thank goodness for that, because if we can’t talk openly about this stuff then we are never going to put an end to FGM.

My final guests were Byrony and Liza from See It From Her, a wonderful new group that exists to promote women and non-binary people in the media. They are putting on a one-day event called Borderless on Sunday, and it is sort of a Women’s Outlook co-production because both Yaz and I are on the programme chairing panels. Yaz is doing the one on racism, and I’m doing the one on identity. It is a free event, but you do need to book via Eventbrite so that they can keep an eye on the numbers. Even if you are not interested in what Yaz and I are doing, do come anyway because food is being provided by Kalpna’s Woolf’s amazing 91 Ways project. There’s lots of other stuff too. The full programme is on the Eventbrite page.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Whitney Houston – Love will save the day
  • George Clinton – Walk the Dinosaur
  • Janelle Monae – Dance Apocalyptic
  • Sun Ra – Blues at Midnight
  • Integrate – My Clitoris
  • Michael Jackson – Human Nature
  • Meet Your Feet – World Party
  • O Jays – Love Train

And because the video is so good (and we had to cut the song a little short) here is the You Tube version of “My Clitoris”.

Accidental Birds of Prey

On my way home from Hay I chanced upon some signs directing me to the International Centre for Birds of Prey. Well, you have to stop, don’t you. And I’m delighted that I did. There was no wedgie, of course, so the eagles looked a little small to me, but there were lots of splendid birds on display, including Moccas the condor who has her own Twitter feed.

There are, of course, live flying displays. The one I sat in on lasted about 45 minutes, though they can run longer if the birds decide they want more time on the wing. I got to see a variety of birds including an eagle, a burrowing owl, a peregrine and some harris hawks.

The staff know their stuff. I learned quite a lot about the birds. One of the more interesting bits of information is that a peregrine and a harris hawk are about the same weight. The hawk looks much bigger, but the peregrine is solid muscle with tiny wings built for diving at speed. The hawk has much bigger wings designed to allow it to turn on a sixpence so that it can hunt the insects that it preys on. While a peregrine is an awesome sight, I must admit a certain fondness for a bird that might eat mosquitoes by the score.

Dinosaur Babies

One of the things that came up on the show today was this news story involving Prof. Mike Benton, a palaeontologist from the University of Bristol. Up until now it was thought that all dinosaurs laid eggs, but a new discovery in China has turned all that on its head. A fossil of a plesiosaur-like creature called Dinocephalosaurus has evidence of what looks like a well-developed baby inside of the adult. That means that Dinocephalosaurus must have given birth to live young, just like whales and dolphins. On the face of it, this makes good sense. An animal that size isn’t going to find it easy to lay eggs on a beach the way turtles do. But it does seem to be a major new piece of evidence, always assuming of course that the news media has got it right.

Parthenogenesis – How It Is Done

Yesterday I posted a a story about one of the classic themes of biological SF – regenerative medicine. However, there is one area of SF that sees quite a different aspect of biology as more important. Feminist SF has for some time been very keen on the idea of Parthenogenesis, the ability to have babies by asexual reproduction, without the need for men.

Can it be done? Well sure. Amoeba do it all the time. For that matter is has been observed in lizards, sharks and chickens. There are (according to Wikipedia) a few cases of it having been done on small mammals. But now a German-Israeli team of biologists think that they have found a genetic trigger that turns on the ability in any species that has that gene. Thus far they have only done it in plants, but that’s obviously just a start.

Queen of the Jungle

Mmamoriri


This is Mmamoriri. She’s a rather unusual lioness. As you can see, not only does she have a full mane, but it is quite dark which is indicative of high testosterone levels, even for a male lion.

The media has managed to make a right mess of this story. My favorite is the piece in the Independent which manages to suggest that this is an evolutionary adaptation, states that Mmamoriri is probably infertile, but adds that she will probably be able to pass on her unusual features to her offspring.

Fortunately they link to a report by an actual scientist in Africa Geographic. This dispenses with all the nonsense about evolution and mutations, and instead focuses on the much more likely explanation of an intersex condition. Chromosome testing has shown that Mmamoriri is XX, but as the article notes there are other conditions well documented in humans that could explain such features in lions.

Interestingly the researchers monitoring Mmamoriri’s pride have noticed other lionesses with similar features in other groups. They think that the relatively isolated nature of the lion population on Chief’s Island in the Okavango Delta, Botswana may be part of the explanation for this.

Some of the reaction I have seen on Twitter has praised Mmamoriri for adopting male gender performance, but a mane is not clothing; she had no choice in this. Human women who have beards get bullied rather than praised. Thankfully lions don’t appear to be so obsessed with biological essentialism. There’s no suggestion in the scientific reports that Mmamoriri has been in any way ostracized by her pride because of her appearance. Obviously lions are much more sensible than humans.

Karen Joy Fowler & Cats

This past weekend the Cheltenham Festival of Literature had a panel featuring the finalists for the Booker Prize. As you should know, Karen Joy Fowler is one of those writers, and on her way to Cheltenham she stopped off to do a reading for Toppings in Bath. She has, after all, written The Jane Austen Book Club, and had not visited Bath before. A visit was clearly overdue. Obviously I had to go along and show support.

I’m not going to say much more about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. There’s a review here if you are interested. What I want to talk about (and those of you who have read the book will know why this is relevant) is animal behavior.

The thing that struck me most about Karen’s talk was when she got onto the subject of animal communities. Some animals, for example most cats (lions being the obvious exception) are fairly solitary. Other animals like to gather in groups. Humans are an example of the latter. We like forming tribes, and we are very protective of fellow tribe members. But there is a corollary, in that we are also very hostile to anyone we see as not part of the tribe.

Politicians understand this; right wing populists such as Nigel Farage build their careers on it. The more they can make people think that life is a constant battle of “us” against “them”, the better they do in the polls. For Farage, and Rupert Murdoch, life is a constant effort to shrink and homogenize the group of people that is regarded as “us”.

What Karen said in her talk is that it is the duty of Art to constantly try to grow the group of people that is regarded as “us”, until it encompasses the whole species, and even beyond. She thinks that it is the duty of Art to encourage empathy for our fellow beings. That’s a project I am happy to get behind.

With this sort of thing in mind, once the signing was over I had a chat with Karen about the recent BBC Horizon series on cat behavior, because some of it is also very relevant. In particular, in the second program, they noted how cat personality is very plastic. The period between around 2 and 8 weeks old is crucial for kittens. If, during that time, you give them constant contact with humans, then they will grow up to behave like domestic cats. If, on the other hand, they are kept away from people, they will grow up to behave like ferals. Where they were born, and the lives of their parents, is not relevant.

That’s a classic example of nurture over nature. But of course it isn’t the only aspect of cat personality. Hunting, it appears, is instinctive. Cats will display hunting behavior, regardless of how domesticated they are. They won’t necessarily kill if they are not hungry, but they will hunt. Some are better at it than others. Here’s the scary bit.

The program put cameras on a couple of the best hunters to see how they did it. One of the cats was caught imitating bird calls. Not song, obviously, as cats don’t have the vocal skills, but they can apparently mimic cawing and clucking noises. Cats are smart. I guess it is just as well that they don’t mimic human speech.

Post-Finncon

Today we traveled back to Helsinki from Jyväskylä. As usual, my Finnish friends insisted on showing me some of the best parts of their beautiful country.

The day began with breakfast with Irma at a cafe on a place called Women’s Island. I have no idea where the name came from, but the island is in part of the network of lakes and waterways that surrounds Jyväskylä. There are a couple of hydro-power stations on the island: an old one which is now a bat sanctuary, and a new one that actually provides power. There is also a large lock that we got to see in operation as a Finnish family on a boating holiday came through while we were looking around.

While we were eating a red squirrel wandered into the cafe gardens. Wisely it wasn’t going to let the very large cat get too close, but Paula managed to sneak up and get a good picture.

Red squirrel

In the afternoon we took the scenic route back to Helsinki. The road Otto took ran along a narrow ridge between two lakes and had some magnificent views.

Back in Helsinki we checked out some of the new construction by the railway station. It is mainly offices, but several of the buildings have restaurants on the ground floor. A place called Eatos doesn’t sound very promising, but Otto had seen it recommended in the Helsinki Sanomat so we checked it out. The food was seriously good. So if you want Mexican food in Helsinki you now know where to go.

I’m flying back to London tomorrow and will be offline most of the day. Then it is back into the Ujima studio on Wednesday, for which I have an interview with Tobias Buckell.

More Mad Gender Biology

Via Gio Clairval on Twitter I found this article from Cosmos magazine. It is primarily about the way in which the function of the Y chromosome has evolved in mammals. From my point of view, the most startling thing about it is that two species of rodent — mole voles of Eastern Europe and spiny rats of Japan — have no Y chromosomes at all, and yet they still manage to produce males.

Those TERFs who yell “but science!” in support of their contention that chromosomes can be used to rigidly divide humans into males and females are looking sillier and sillier all the time.