Friday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

May 8, 2020 • 6:30 am

DUCK UPDATE:  All 17 ducklings are still thriving in the pond, and two remain in ICU, with one in great shape , the other being tended and not in terrible shape, but not really vigorous. We are keeping them together as pals (they stimulate and warm each other) and tomorrow may be a release day for at least one. One hen (Honey?) has only two ducklings, while 15 are swimming with the other one (it was too dark to tell the hens apart). The marauding drakes seem to be leaving the hens alone, and Wingman is keeping them away. So, apart from the unequal division of offspring, which may change, things aren’t too bad. Tonight will be freezing and thus rough for the little ones, so keep your fingers crossed.


It’s Friday, May 8, 2020, and I’ll slowly try to get back to normal postings—and normal Hili posts—when duck duties are a bit less onerous.  It’s going to be chilly today in Chicago, with a high of only 42° F (6°C), and the low tonight is right at the freezing points (32°F, 0° C).  That’s very cold for newborn ducklings, and I have to say I’m more than a bit worried. I can in fact hear the wind howling as I’m warmly ensconced in bed.

It’s National Coconut Cream Pie Day, as well as National Give Someone a Cupcake Day, National Have a Coke Day, No Socks Day (too cold for that here), and a day to appreciate sharks called Fintastic Friday: Giving Sharks a Voice.

Today’s Google Doodle revives an old favorite game: Pac Man. Click on the screenshot to play:

News of the Day: Still pretty bad. The Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr have dropped charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor. Flynn had already pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to FBI agents. It’s unprecedented for charges—and these are felony charges—to be dropped after a guilty plea, but of course Trump has been campaigning for this for months. Barr and his Justice Department, supposedly an independent government agency, is in the pocket of our moronic “President.”

Reported deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. stand at 76,537 and worldwide at about 270,000. We will surely exceed one lower estimate of 100,000 deaths in the U.S.

The only good news comes from one study that appears to show that those who have recovered from coronavirus carries antibodies to it. That means that those people may be at least partly immune, and that, in turn, is good news for the possible efficacy of a vaccine.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili gets “shut down” for her witticism.

Hili: People play with mice all the time.
Małgorzata: But at least we don’t harm them.
In Polish:
Hili: Ludzie ciągle bawią się myszami.
Małgorzata: Ale przynajmniej nie robimy im krzywdy.
Today Mietek is going on a trip, but his monologue needs some explanation from Malgorzata:

This is difficult to translate. In Polish: Podróże kształcą?

Which means verbatim: Journeys educate?

There is a saying in Polish which says just that but without the question mark. It’s taken for granted that journeys can educate you. Here Mietek is not happy going on a journey and he questions this common wisdom. He repeats it sarcastically and puts question mark after it.

A cat meme:

I suspect Matthew had me in mind when he sent me this, as I’m known for kvetching about science posts that receive few comments!

And a few tweets (as I said, this site is opening up slowly, like the U.S.)

Titania has a new article in The Critic (a spoof, of course):

From Simon. Andrew, like many, is doubting the Swedish model of dealing with coronavirus:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. The first, of course, plays the video in reverse, but it’s still funny:

via Ann German. This is not a good boy; it’s a sore loser:

Tweets from Matthew: His cat Pepper is not a bad cat, just a cat!

Note Tina (Christina Purcell’s response to the one below; she’s Matthew’s spouse):

And this is the malefactor Ollie, who laid my nose open with a wicked claw. Although Matthew loves dinosaurs, Ollie isn’t impressed. He is a bad cat.

60 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. Today we can also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 75th birthday of Keith Jarret.

        1. Yes, also in WWI. But lucky for you we did, eh. Good thing we did not follow the Churchill strategy – most of Europe would be speaking Russian today.

  2. I think that the English equivalent of Malgorzata’s Polish proverb is “Travel broadens the mind”?

  3. One of the hens is out on the pond with ten (or so – they are hard to count) ducklings so maybe Dorothy and Honey have sorted this out somewhat. The only human out there is jerry.

    From Youtube chat:

    Jerry Coyne
    ​It’s going to be a cold night here, right at the freezing point, and it’s critical that everybody get fed well. I’m giving them extra today. Fingers crossed!

    Jerry Coyne
    ​It’s important also that the ducklings not be disturbed from their spot under mom on the islands, as they need to be kept warm.

    1. I think the ducklings don’t really care which of the hens is their mother. All of them were swimming around, pretty much on their own, at the far end of the pond. One of the hens was near the far island, the other near the right end of the beach. Then the hen by the island swam toward the combined brood, got about half the ducklings and went back to the island. The rest went to the mother by the beach. Rewind to about 9:45am Chicago time to see this.

      Their is a second drake on the pond that Wingman confronted aggressively and then chased off. So everything is normsl. It is pretty cool in Chicago today. 40F (5C) right now. Supposed to get down to 32F (0C) overnight. That is close to the lake. Out here in the suburbs, down to 28F (-2C).

      Nick Feamster posted some more pics.

      1. OK – I have no idea what is going on. Will wait to hear from Jerry. Basically looks almost like co-parenting with a dominant hen. The ducklings are wandering all over the place. One of the hens is farther away.

        There is an interloper drake but Wingman is handling him easily.

        1. I count 17 at 2:21 pm Chicago time. And one mother has them all. Not sure which. The other is off by herself in the corner of the pond by the far tree.

          1. I wondered what happened to the other mother. Probably Honey. Poor thing. If one mother’s ducklings are ducknapped by the other mother, will Wingman or his pal or one of the marauders mate with her soon?

          2. Yes, I counted 17 this evening. It’s been very stressful watching another drake harass one of the hens. Jerry had to get out the super soaker. Then later it looks like the hens were at it again. It’s the wild wild west out there.

            1. The wild wild west it sure is. I wonder what the advantage is for one female duck to claim every duckling in the pond as hers? As for the ducklings that Jerry was trying to help divide between mothers yesterday, he was playing Solomon with a super soaker but I guess it didn’t work.

              1. Can’t fight Mother Nature, that’s for sure. I’ve been wondering if Honey is fighting for dominance over the pond and the food source, since the babies are all at the same extremely vulnerable stage. Last year, as PCC(E) pointed out, the three broods were hatched three weeks apart. Big difference in sizes. It’s too bad, the current situation, as the two hens could more effectively keep two similar broods huddled under them during this cold snap.

              2. I wonder, too. I think a close observation of this drama would make for a good paper. On Botany Pond, two drakes can cooperate to rape and possibly kill hens with chicks, and two drakes can cooperate in defending the family of one of them; yet these two hens won’t or can’t cooperate and each is determined to claim the whole kit and caboodle of the ducklings. But I’ve read they could do worse, that a female will try to kill another’s duckling if it gets too close to hers. Here, though, I guess that kind of confusion wouldn’t happen since each sees them as hers.

              3. Jenny, you’ve put me in mind of how evolution is about antagonism and balance. Even within a mom’s body, she is essentially at chemical war with her fetus. The fetus exudes hormones to exact more nutrition from the host, while the host tries to keep it’s own equilibrium. The battle goes on until birth, when they, chemically, become independent.

  4. Some seem to not like calling this a depression. They look up definitions and say, oh, it has to last 3 years or reduce GDP by so much. Well, you can call it recession if it makes you feel better but what it is – depression. When was the last time we measured 15% unemployment? When were we this far in debt?

  5. I’m kinda surprised the ducklings themselves don’t distinguish better. I’d have thought that, at the very least, the walk to the pond would’ve sealed some imprinting/identification of ‘mom’ on them. I know it’s hard for humans to sometimes tell the hens apart, but to ducklings I’d think it was as obvious as us telling humans apart.

  6. The Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr have dropped charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor. Flynn had already pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to FBI agents.

    The machinations of Attorney General William Barr on Donald Trump’s behalf are much worse than what Richard Nixon’s “big enchilada” at Main Justice, John Mitchell, did for him.

    Mitchell tried to help his old buddy Dick cover up the Watergate burglary (and, before that, to cover up an illegal cash contribution fugitive financier Robert Vesco had made to Nixon’s campaign), crimes for which Mitchell served 19 months in federal prison.

    William Barr is undermining the rule of law itself. He is weaponizing the US Justice Department on Trump’s behalf, turning it into both Trump’s sword and his shield — a shield to protect Trump and his cronies from the consequences of their unlawful conduct, a sword to go after Trump “enemies” (Donald Trump’s enemies being public servants who’ve demonstrated “disloyalty” to Trump by performing their duties honestly, without fear or favor).

    1. But all Trump was doing was finding an AG that was as crooked and corrupt as himself. They are a matching pair with a combined weight of about 600 pounds. That’s a lot of corruption.

    2. Trump called the DOJ prosecutors “human scum”.
      If Trump wants to see authentic scum he should look in a mirror.

    3. Trump has stumbled into a political strategy that he thinks will be a winner. Namely, commit his many crimes and abominations in public. There is no need to hide anything. Because of the volume of these actions, the public and the press doesn’t have the time or resources to focus on any single one for an extended period. This situation, plus his calling any news he doesn’t like as “fake” and the pandemic, allows him to get away with everything. The question at hand is whether this strategy, aside from reinforcing his cult’s attachment to him, will fool enough people to allow him to win the election. Currently, polls indicate otherwise, but November seems a long time away.

      1. How we created a system in this country that allowed this kind of corruption to stand is also a mistake. I wonder if it will ever be fixed? I doubt it.

        1. Our system depends on there being responsible, competent, and ethical leaders. It can tolerate one or two bad ones but not an entire administration full of them.

          I think it can be repaired if we can get rid of Trump. It seems unlikely we’ll have another “leader” like Trump anytime soon. Sure, Trumpers will survive and line up behind a new Chosen One but everyone else will cry “Remember Trump” and they won’t win.

    4. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. They’re doing it because we’ll let them do it.

  7. I don’t know if I’d say that the Connect Four dog is a sore loser*…I suspect the human trained him to do this trick, and praised him for it, then changed the game on him unexpectedly. The dog is understandably miffed (rather as when one plays fetch with a dog, then makes a feint throw and hides the ball behind one’s back). That’s a “bad human”. No cookie!

    *Not that I really think you’re holding the dog to blame, of course.

  8. The Swedish herd immunity strategy is provoking a lot of debate here in Stockholm. The proponents, such as State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell and his previous boss, Johan Giesecke, have latched onto a study that showed a figure of 25% showing antibodies against the virus. They extrapolate this to say that 25% of Stockholm was infected and with this number increasing we will have 60% infected by the end of this month.
    The problem is that the study was carried out on hospital employees – hardly a random selection of the population during a pandemic – plus the test hasn’t been independently validated. Other studies done since then show between 5 – 10% with antibodies.
    That is nowhere near herd immunity levels.

    1. What’s wrong with journeys educate. I’m currently learning 2 new languages and neither of them seem to need so many extraneous words to make a simple statement.

  9. Regarding Sweden’s approach to the pandemic, it seems to me that it really isn’t working for them. They currently have more deaths per capita than the UK in spite of the fact that the UK was late to start and is vastly more densely populated. For example there are almost as many people living in London as there are in the entire country of Sweden.

    If you compare deaths in Sweden with its close and similar neighbours – Norway and Finland – Sweden is far worse affected than either of those countries.

    1. Sweden has a population density comparable to the US state of Oklahoma where the death rate is 66/million while Sweden is at 301/million. We won’t know until next year if Sweden’s approach was better since they’re taking the long view. I tend to think Sweden has made a mistake.

    2. I think that comparing the number of deaths a year from now between Sweden and, say, the US or UK is not really the critical measure. Deaths may be similar. The real question is which of the countries still have a functioning health care system and how many nurses and doctors have died under the approaches being compared.

      1. Good point. Ultimately there will be many measures of success including those we haven’t considered yet. It’s hard to dismiss deaths though and I doubt anyone would not include them as a major component of their assessment when this is all over.

      2. It’s entirely possible to maintain a functioning health care system just by turning away whatever percentage of patients you need to in order to keep it functioning. So that’s not IMO a very good criteria. Excess deaths is IMO better; that sweeps in both deaths from the virus and deaths from other causes because you gave a bed to a serious but not life-threatened coronavirus patient rather than someone else.

        I would guess Sweden has a much healthier population than the U.S. on average, especially a healthier older population. Less obesity, etc. So they have that going for them. I bet ‘Sweden, no isolation’ would do better than ‘US, no isolation.’ But count me as one of the skeptics who don’t buy that ‘Sweden, no isolation’ is doing just as well as ‘Sweden, with isolation’ would do, in terms of body count.

        1. A health-care system that turns away people who desperately need it is not a functioning health-care system in my book.

  10. The study showing antibodies in the sera of people who’ve recovered from an infection is good news and confirms the observations of clinicians around the word; virus free plasma therapy from patients who’ve recovered is effective in treating others. This means that that plasma must have had neutralizing antibodies, suggesting immunity is possible. This study confirms it, suggesting that immunity in individuals is possible and that bodes well for herd immunity and for the development of vaccines.

    This really is good news. For the more pessimistic among us; at least one less thing to worry about.

  11. I think Sullivan’s wrong. Sweden may have a similar number of cases per capita in the end, but fewer deaths due to a healthier population than the U.S. And see today’s NYT article on Denmark, with fewer cases per capita, open schools, and extensive testing. Some countries may be able to get to a vaccine era with fewer cases.
    BTW, that Denmark article really got me down, showing how far the U.S. is from where it needs to be in just about every way. And notably a more poorly educated populous on the whole, which will be a driver for keeping it that way.

    1. The arguments about who is doing the right things are endless; viral epidemics are incredibly complex and likely policies that work in one place won’t in others. Conversely, diametrically opposite strategies may produce the same results in different places. The fact is that we’re making this up as we go along. Understanding will mostly be post-hoc.

  12. On a happy note, today is the 50th anniversary of the release of the BEATLES LET IT BE album.

  13. I am coming to the same conclusion as Eric Topol. It is very unlikely we will have a vaccine in a year (IMO <10%) and reasonably likely we will not have one for several years. This means there is no ideal solution.

    I think we should open up businesses with the exception of large crowds and tight crowded spaces like night clubs. Nursing homes will need to keep strict rules to protect the vulnerable elderly. We should encourage outdoor dining and shopping which likely means loosening some health regulations (bathrooms are a major issue with this.) Mega churches and other religious organizations will need to policed tightly.

    Most people will avoid close contact and wear masks. Most restaurants and other businesses will take precautions and people will frequent the safer ones.

    Yes, this will increase cases over the summer but I think that is the ideal time to try it. Masks and being outdoors will reduce the initial viral load and the cases will likely be milder.

    It will mean more deaths this summer but fewer deaths in the long run. Depending on what happens, we can decide about schools later.

    A tight lock down cannot continue. IMO, this is the least bad alternative.

  14. Trump is taking this country down the fast road to ruin. The virus is getting worse and we are not testing and tracing enough to amount to anything. The unemployment rate will soon be over 20 percent. The food lines and starvation will get much worse. And Trump says open up. Go to work and die if you do.

    Other countries are winning the battle. New Zealand has just about done it. Several other countries are on their way to winning and then there is us. The biggest losers are the people who put this guy in office.

    1. I wouldn’t say NZ has ‘won’ the battle. We seem to have repulsed the first assault and we’re about to go from Level 3 (most businesses closed to customers except via mail order, travel severely restricted) to Level 2 (almost back to normal). This is because the number of new cases has declined significantly. And prompt action by our government did control the situation.

      However, we’re still just as vulnerable and mostly cut off from the rest of the world. Incoming visitors are virtually prohibited. Since tourism is a significant proportion of our economy this is not a comfortable situation. We can’t open up our borders until the rest of the world has Covid under control and if we do we risk the epidemic taking off again. Or until a vaccine is developed.

      To extend your metaphor, I guess we’ve won the initial battle but we’re still under siege and it’s going to be a long war.


  15. Anyone who reads the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the charges Flynn can’t honestly say it was because the DOJ is in President Trump’s pocket.

    As the motion spells out, Flynn was innocent.

    He was set up — he was interviewed in connection with an investigation that was all but closed, he was misled into believing he was not a target, he was not given the usual warning that it would be a crime to lie, and, most of all, any false statement he made (and it is debatable that he ever made one) WAS NOT MATERIAL.

    But yeah, Orange Man Bad.

Leave a Reply