Monthly Archives: June 2015

Here’s more pictures from Sunday.
Woman-in-Pink-WigSine the post is so has so many pictures but I didn’t want to use the WordPress gallery format, I’m putting more below the fold. Consider the first one a tease.

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I’m currently visiting Sissy in Baltimore. Yesterday, while she was at work, I spent a lot of time in her yard. I caught sight of this little fellow. He’s only about seven centimeters. This close up was taken with extension tubes.

Somehow, I missed that yesterday was Loving Day.

mulatto diaries

I love surprising intersections of the things I love the most.  Such as Volkswagen and Loving Day.  I’m not sure if I am more passionate about any other subjects.  That may be an exaggeration, but anyway I am super into VW as well as the progression of our society toward a more loving, open way of living.  Without Loving v. Virginia it is likely that there would be no me nor so many others. This is inspiring and undeniable progress for which I am grateful.

b:w beetles

That being said, you can imagine my delight when the Volkswagen ad below hit the circuit just in time for Loving Day- commemoration of the day that the Supreme Court declared interracial marriage to be legal nation wide with their verdict in the Loving vs. Virginia case.  48 years ago.  That was basically yesterday folks.  And though we’ve come a long-ass way in the last 48 years, we…

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I have a cousin. She’s about five foot six, has curly black hair, skin that’s about the color of café au lait in the summer, and a little lighter in the winter, green eyes. When she was a child, the black girls in school used to beat her up for refusing to “admit” she was biracial, or “mulatto” as they called it at the time. Her father had died when she was young and I never met him. He said he was Italian and Native American. Some people thought he was black, but he was never confronted on it. Adding to this, my cousin once confessed to me, after a few drinks, that her father was racist, couldn’t stand black people and had taught her to be racist, too. It wasn’t until she was an adult and she had a job where she became friendly with some black coworkers that she realized her father had been wrong.

One of my closest friends has two white parents. His father’s family is of English descent and his mother is Jewish. They had three biological children and two adopted children, one girl and one boy. The two adopted children were both “black.” The girl had dark skin and the boy was very light-skinned. One day, my friend, one of the biological children, said to me, “I think my brother has identity issues. He seems to think he’s white.”

The grandmother of another close friend of mine came from a Jewish family from Vienna. One day, she took out all the old family photos, including some from nineteenth century Vienna. According to my friend, looking at the photos, her mother said, “Ima, your grandmother was a schwartze.” I remember this quote because of the weird mix of Hebrew, Yiddish and English. She told me that they looked at this old picture of a woman in nineteenth century European dress, with dark skin and kinky hair and wondered where she came from. Since Jewish identity is considered to be matrilineal, this was an important question to them. After tossing around some possibilities, the finally came to the conclusion that she must have been from North Africa, although the possibility that she was from Ethiopia was also considered.

In the book Detroit: An American Autopsy, the author, Charlie LeDuff, traces his family’s migration to the city of Detroit from New Orleans. He had no reason from his appearance to think he was anything but white, yet it turns out that his grandfather was biracial, mulatto or black, depending on your definitions. LeDuff describes himself, with humor, as “the palest black man in Michigan,” but he’s probably wrong. If you subscribe to the “one drop rule”, there’s probably a blond-haired, blue-eyed person out there who is “black.”

In recent years, the “one drop rule” has been popularized by people like U.S. President Barack Obama and American actress Halle Berry. In Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, he writes very condescendingly of a woman he met in college who insisted that she was biracial and did not want to identify as solely black or white. Obama considers her to be confused, which irritated me because I have been close to several people who also felt that way and did not seem to be to be confused. In fact, since the woman he describes grew up in an intact family, with both parents, I would venture to say that, if anyone is less emotionally conflicted, it is she.

In fact, if Rachel Dolezal was able to pass as black without any postcolumbian African ancestry, it was probably due to this belief in “the one drop rule.” The one drop rule has an almost mythical status. It says that a person with even a drop of sub-Saharan African ancestry is to be considered “black.” Despite popular mythology, there was no law of this type until twentieth century. In the early twentieth century, interest in eugenics led to laws about racial mixing.

I have a book called, Strategies for Survival. It is about groups of people sometimes called “tri-racial isolates” by anthropologists. This is a subject that’s on my list of things I want to write about, but for now I’ll try to limit myself to the portion that applies to the subject at hand. The book covers several mixed race communities which identify as Native American. There are many others. One branch of my own biological family traces to a Powhatan group, making it highly possible, although not at all certain, that I myself might qualify as black according to someone who believes the one drop rule, which I don’t. These highly racially mixed tribes each have their own history and different average percentages of European, African and North American ancestry. The Powhatan tribes were heavily affected by Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

The Racial Integrity Act required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth and divided society into only two classifications: white and colored (essentially all other, which included numerous American Indians). It defined race by the “one-drop rule”, defining as “colored” persons with any African or Native American ancestry. It also expanded the scope of Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation law) by criminalizing all marriages between white persons and non-white persons.

Strategies for Survival noted that the U.S. never had records that were up to the task. Many racially mixed people became “white” in the wake of this law. Indeed, earlier attempts to define race by law had been rejected due to the difficulty of classification.

In 1895 in South Carolina during discussion, George D. Tillman said,

It is a scientific fact that there is not one full-blooded Caucasian on the floor of this convention. Every member has in him a certain mixture of… colored blood…It would be a cruel injustice and the source of endless litigation, of scandal, horror, feud, and bloodshed to undertake to annul or forbid marriage for a remote, perhaps obsolete trace of Negro blood. The doors would be open to scandal, malice, and greed.

A well-known short story by Kate Chopin, “Désirée’s Baby” utilizes the fact that many people are unfamiliar with their own ancestry as a plot point. After the birth of a child with African features, a wealthy French Creole planter rejects his wife who was adopted as a child and had unknown origins. What he does not know is that his “French” mother who died when he was a child had African ancestry. Somehow, I imagine the husband in that story, Armand, looking not unlike Charlie LeDuff.

At the moment everyone seems shocked that Donezal was able to pass as black, but there is really nothing odd about it at all. Studies have shown that context contributes greatly to people’s perception of race. This is not the study I originally had in mind, but searching a came across a study that found

stereotypes interact with physical cues to shape person categorization, and suggest that social and contextual factors guide the perception of race.

Further evidence about how ambiguous race can be can be seen by looking at 10 Black Celebs Who Can Pass for White. In this context it is interesting to note the inclusion of Melissa Gorga, who says she is of entirely Italian descent. Apparently, some people don’t believe it.

There are quite a few odd parts of Dolezal’s story, but the question Katie Zavadski and Lizzie Crocker ask in the Daily Beast, “How did she trick so many people?”, betrays a tremendous ignorance about how we categorize and perceive race.


snapping turtle emerging from the waterI’ve assumed that there must be snapping turtles in the lake in the park, but I haven’t seen one before. I caught a glimpse of this fellow today. It tickled my fancy to think that perhaps he was going to see Jurassic World.

Before I write what I am going to say, I need to get a few preliminaries out of the way. A few days ago, on impulse, I took the “political compass” quiz. It locates people on a plane with two axes, one representing authoritarianism-libertarianism, and another representing a left-right economic continuum.

POLITICAL-COMPASSI’ve put locations I’ve found for famous political people and Milton Friedman. Obviously, they are estimates and I’ve seen Obama located at various points all over the upper right quadrant. However, I think it’s safe to say I am not a conservative.

Secondly, I believe that race is a cultural construct. In other words, there are no significant biological differences among people of different races.

Thirdly, I believe there is racism in the U.S. Enough studies have shown that black people with the same qualifications are less likely to be hired for a job than white people. According to one study: “Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.”

Now that I’ve said that, I would also like to say that I am skeptical of the outrage directed toward McKinney, Texas from the left of the political spectrum. On the one hand, not having been there, I can’t possibly know for certain what happened. On the other hand, if I run it by my own past experience, I find the left’s story really hard to believe. It doesn’t pass the smell test. What is easier to believe? That a young woman who has lived in a planned community called Craig Ranch, a community with only 3,025 residents and several friends, also residents of this small community, were unrecognized by their neighbors, who suddenly, with no provocation whatsoever, started calling them “black fuckers” and slapped one young woman. Or, that a young woman who is trying to make money by throwing parties had hired a dj, posted information on social media sites advertizing a party with images of a pool although the party was only adjacent to the pool, the people who arrived to the party, mostly teenagers, who may or may not have been personal friends of the “host”, smoked pot, got annoyed when they realized that they could not go into the pool despite the invite that brought them there, climbed the fence, did not leave when asked.

In my nearly fifty years on this earth, most of which have been spent in the United States, I have never once heard anyone yell “black fuckers” at anyone. “Go back to your Section 8 housing” being yelled at people who are behaving contrary to community norms in a middle class community is something I can imagine easily. (Section 8 is what people call a program in the U.S. that gives housing subsidies to poor people.) At the same time, I’ve seen teenagers get out of hand at parties and have seen cops called. Mainly, as it happens, I’ve seen this happen to white teenagers.

A few problems I have with the story:

  • What is the name of the “host?” I’ve seen, variously, Tatiana Rose, Tatiana Rhodes and Tatyana Rhodes.
  • How old is she? A teenager? An adult? 19? 20?
  • Is she employed? Is she in school?
  • Where does she reside? Most stories have said that she lives in Craig Ranch. The average home price in Craig Ranch is over $400,000.00. Does she own? Does she rent? If she rents, is she the primary lease holder on the residence? If not, who is? The average rent in Craig Ranch is $2,000.00 a month.
  • Her mother, LaShauna Burkes, was also involved in the party. Where is her mother’s legal residence?
  • The party was supposed to be an end of year party for school. What school? When I was fourteen, my parents would not have allowed me to go to a party hosted by a twenty-year old, and my parents were highly permissive. Did the party attendees’ parents know where they were?
  • Why were the racist residents not yelling “black fuckers” at other black people who were at the pool that day?
  • Does Rhodes want the woman who she says hit her to be prosecuted for assault? In not, why not?
  • Did Rhodes have a card permitting access to the pool?
  • Do residents typically hire deejays to play in the park? (The homeowner’s association mentions noise limits.)
  • How many people were there? The limit for a party is 20.
  • Did Rhodes pay the rental fee and security deposit to have a party at the pool?

When I was in high school, the kids living next door would throw really wild parties when their parents went away. Once, kids they didn’t know started showing up and things got really our of hand (all white, btw). The cops came. Things got broken. The kids were never allowed to have a party again. I’ve seen this pattern so many times. There was no social media back then, but a parent would say things like, “You can have a party, but NO open house.” An “open house” meant anybody could come, and those sorts of parties could get out of hand.

Fortunately, no social media also meant no outrage. The cops came, the party would end. A couple of kids who were stupid enough to mouth back might wind up sitting in the back of a police car or waiting at the station until their parents picked them up. Typically, no one would be prosecuted for anything. The cops would pretty much rely on the anger of the parents. When I was a teenager, this was not a fun ending to a party, and I would typically leave if that was the way things appeared to be going. “Hey, anyone want to head to the diner and share a plate of fries with gravy?” Always a graceful exit in New Jersey.

Anyway, this all should be nothing. Kids got out of hand. Nothing serious. The cops got called. No one got hurt. But no, we have a major racial incident because Tatiana Rhodes is a little lowlife who doesn’t know how to behave in an upscale neighborhood. Look, I don’t live in a neighborhood like that myself and for a reason. I’m not that uptight. But I know if I go there I have to abide by their norms.

People living in McKinney who have had the nerve to say anything negative about the party goers have been threatened. Activists have tried to get the host of a “progressive talk show”, who resides in Craig Ranch and was at the pool that day, fired for saying that the incident was not racial. That’s right, black activists want a black, progressive host of a talk show fired for not agreeing with them one hundred percent. The Black Lives Matter movement has pretty much discredited itself to me. “Let’s go swimming” is a far cry from “hands up, don’t shoot.” They want to swim in a pool someone else has paid for and maintains. Don’t they know, there will be no pools for anyone? Look, I’m a liberal. I would love to see tax dollars spent to create public pools for everyone in the nation. Really. I know, I just lost every conservative with that statement. But I also know that we live in a democracy and until we vote for that we won’t have it. I accept that. Craig Ranch is a planned community, but it isn’t “gated.” Maybe it will be next time. I know from when I was younger, incidents like this often lead to stricter rules. They may find that rather than vague rules like “keep noise levels down and be considerate of neighbors” they will get “no amplified music ever.” Instead of “parties limited to 20 guests” and no one raises a fuss if there’s really 21 or 22, it will simply be “the pool may not be used for parties.” I grew up in the seventies, in the wake of the sixties, we had no school dances because they had gotten out of control in the years before I was in school. If some people can’t behave properly, the amenities are taken away for everyone.

There’s a lot of pressure in the left leaning political circle I frequent to voice outrage about the “racist cop.” I don’t feel that way. I feel disgust towards the young adult “entrepreneur” who sends out invites to a pool party with no pool and who lets her party get out of hand and can’t take the responsibility to even say, “Sorry, I messed up. I miscalculated. More people came than I expected,” or whatever her explanation is.

People really ought to consider how this incident will be regarded. People may not be willing to say it out loud on social media due to fear of being targeted by overzealous radicals looking for the next cause, but I grew up in a planned community with a swimming pool and I’m pretty sure I understand how middle class people will view this. Note that I didn’t say “white people”, I said “middle class.” Middle class people are very afraid of low-class people like Tatiana Rhodes coming into their neighborhoods. The people I lived with didn’t like poor whites either. They may or may not approve of the way one particular cop handled the situation, but I can promise you they do not approve of Tatiana Rhodes either and don’t see the tremendous racism of the incident. If the far left is going to jump on this bandwagon, they’re going to lose a lot of supporters. Between this incident and the support they lent to the drug dealers and thieves during the Baltimore riots, kindly calling them “protesters”, the Black Lives Matter has most certainly lost my support. Look at the chart I posted at the beginning of this post. If they’re losing my support, do you really think I’m alone?

Oh, yeah, they may have just lost the election for Hillary Clinton.

According to my calculations, the goslings should have hatched on the first and the lovely goose is still sitting on her eggs. I’m starting to think that maybe they won’t hatch. That would be a disappointment. Meanwhile, I looked for other things to photograph. Sure enough, I found a raccoon.

A few days earlier, when I started anticipating goslings and visiting the goose more often, I saw a raccoon with a baby in its mouth.Racoon with Baby

It’s not a very good shot. I understand that when the young are little they will live in a hole in a tree, but when they get bigger the mother moves them to the ground. This looks like a pretty big kit, so perhaps that’s what she’s doing. Today in the same location, a raccoon quietly descended a tree right next to me, but I couldn’t get a shot due to all the leave between us.

When we were kids, our house had a porch and there was always something living under it. One year it was an opossum. Another year, a skunk. We were not popular in school that year. Our whole house and all our clothes smelled of skunk every time the creature got scared and sprayed. More often then not, however, the animal under the porch was a raccoon. For those of you who are not familiar with them, these animals are shockingly smart.

So, today, after seeing the goose get up and gently turn her eggs over, so I knew they hadn’t hatched yet, I went to a locale at the edge of the lake, near a bridge, where I’d seen a raccoon. Indeed, there was a racoon where I’d seen one before. I don’t think it was the same raccoon since his face was not as white as the one I’d seen before.

raccoon at the edge of a lake in shallow water standing on his hind legs looking up

If you’re not familiar with raccoons, take a look at these hands… oops, I mean paws.


With their long digits with no webbing between them, the are remarkably dexterous. The sense of touch is extremely accute. According to Wikipedia:

The most important sense for the raccoon is its sense of touch. The “hyper sensitive” front paws are protected by a thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet. … Almost two-thirds of the area responsible for sensory perception in the raccoon’s cerebral cortex is specialized for the interpretation of tactile impulses, more than in any other studied animal. They are able to identify objects before touching them with vibrissae located above their sharp, nonretractable claws.

Indeed, if you watch a raccoon, it’s hard to not notice that they seem to want to touch everything.

A raccoon with its hands in the water.Here, you can see the raccoon making the washing motions the he’s known for. Although they’re famous for eating just about anything, a large portion of a raccoon’s diet it comprised of invertebrates, which is probably what this critter is feeling around in the mud for.

raccoon-2I saw at least three different raccoons in the late afternoon.

Finally, a raccoon raiding the garbage.


Being more a photographer than a birder, I don’t just have a list of birds I’d like to see, but a list of birds I would like to photograph. It’s not a formal list since it exists mainly in my head. If you asked what birds are on it, I’d have to think for a bit. Not infrequently, they’re birds I’ve seen but somehow missed getting a decent shot.

Today, as I was checking up on my lady goose to see if the eggs had hatched or not, it started to rain. I was tucking away my camera in my bag. The sky cleared for a few minutes and I heard a bird call close behind me. I turned around to see on the top of some stairs a Norther Flicker. They’re not uncommon birds, but I don’t see them very often. There was a pair that lived somewhere near my sister’s yard. I think they’re quite beautiful birds. They’re a type of woodpecker, but the prefer to eat ants and beetles and spend much of their time much close to the ground than other woodpeckers. They’re about 30 cm in length with a wingspan of about 45 cm.

The bird flew down and landed in a shaft of sunlight at the top of some stairs, putting it on eye level with me.

The bird flew down and landed in a shaft of sunlight at the top of some stairs, putting it on eye level with me.

This is clearly a female since the males have streaks on their cheeks that resemble a mustache. From this angle, you can see part of the black, breastplate like, mark on her chest. With their colorful splotches and spotted undersides, I think they resemble circus clowns.

This is clearly a female since the males have streaks on their cheeks that resemble a mustache. From this angle, you can see part of the black, breastplate like, mark on her chest. With their colorful splotches and spotted undersides, I think they resemble circus clowns.

In this photo, you can see the yellow feathers under the tail.

In this photo, you can see the yellow feathers under the tail.

You can also see the wing feathers have yellow on them, which is hidden when they are still by is visible when they fly. It's this flash of yellow when they fly that gives them their name.

You can also see the wing feathers have yellow on them, which is hidden when they are still by is visible when they fly. It’s this flash of yellow when they fly that gives them their name.

Here's the last photo, taken as someone approached and scared her away. You can see the red mark at the nape of her neck.

Here’s the last photo, taken as someone approached and scared her away. You can see the red mark at the nape of her neck.