Wednesday: Hili dialogue

April 20, 2022 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Wednesday, April 20, 2020, a Hump Day (or hrbový deň, as they say in Slovak). It’s National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day, and that is a cake, however hokey, I truly love, especially when made from canned pineapple. My mom used to make it, but I haven’t had it in years. Doesn’t this look delicious? (Cherries are optional.)

It’s also National Banana Day, National Cheddar Fries Day, Lima Bean Respect Day (no way! I abhor those beans. See tweet below!), 420 (cannabis culture), and UN Chinese Language Day.

I am going downtown to take care of trip business this morning, so posting may be light today.

Wine of the Day: For those who habitually drink Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, I often recommend two relatively neglected whites: Sauvignon Blanc and, especially, Chenin Blanc, the grape used to make this Vouvray (below).  This bottle was pricy: $39. Before I looked it up, my first impression was of two flavors: pear and mineral, so I was chuffed to find Robert Parker’s site singling out those features among the wine’s notes. His very high 95-point review is here and here are the tasting notes:

The deep brown clay soils of the Haut-Lieu plateau provide the typical fruitiness and freshness wonderfully in Huet’s 2019 Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec. Ripe pear, tangerine and orange fruits with notes of lemon grass and green pimientos intertwined with very fine chalky and later tobacco notes give a remarkably fine, elegant and harmonious, subtly complex and simply gorgeous bouquet with floral (lime blossom!) and yeasty aromas that are immediately attractive. Delicate and linear on the palate, this is a pure, fresh, bone-dry, lean and textured, highly refined and perfectly interwoven Chenin with persistent purity, finesse, salty-mineral tension and very fine tannins. Highly finessed and so pure and vivacious! This is a chalky picture-book Haut-Lieu that can age for many years, even though it is already dangerously seductive! There was no dry Le Haut-Lieu produced in 2018, but the 2019 is possibly the finest, most delicate and elegant I’ve had in recent years, at least at this early stage. A terrific and buoyant Vouvray that any Chenin lover should try—or, better yet, cellar!  (7/2020)

Parker was right (I had this with bread, goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, and olives). This is a gorgeous wine, and perfectly complemented my meal. Is it worth the bucks? To me it was, but there are very good chenin blancs a lot cheaper than this one. It would behoove you to look for them. I have the 2020 vintage of this same wine, and will be curious to see how it turns out. This cuvée is supposed to age well for a long time.

Stuff that happened on April 20 includes:

  • 1453 – Three Genoese galleys and a Byzantine blockade runner fight their way through an Ottoman blockading fleet a few weeks before the fall of Constantinople.
  • 1496 – After his return from the New World Christopher Columbus entered the court of his sponsors King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. For more an hour, the sovereigns besieged the seaman with questions.

Just an hour?

  • 1534 – Jacques Cartier begins his first voyage to what is today the east coast of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • 1535 – The sun dog phenomenon is observed over Stockholm, as later depicted in the famous painting Vädersolstavlan.

Here’s the painting: it’s the oldest depiction of Stockholm in color, “arguably also the oldest Swedish landscape painting and the oldest depiction of sun dogs”. The painting was created shortly after the event, but was lost; this is a reproduction of the original thought to an accurate copy:

Below is a real sun dog from Wikipedia, photographed in Fargo, North Dakota. The explanation (also from Wikipedia):

Sun dogs are commonly caused by the refraction and scattering of light from horizontally oriented plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals either suspended in high and cold cirrus or cirrostratus clouds, or drifting in freezing moist air at low levels as diamond dust. The crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22°. As the crystals gently float downwards with their large hexagonal faces almost horizontal, sunlight is refracted horizontally, and sun dogs are seen to the left and right of the Sun. Larger plates wobble more, and thus produce taller sun dogs

  • 1775 – American Revolutionary War: The Siege of Boston begins, following the battles at Lexington and Concord.
  • 1861 – American Civil War: Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army in order to command the forces of the state of Virginia.

Here’s Lee in 1850 when he was a lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Army:

Here’s a photo of Pasteur in his lab and a diagram of one of the experiments that disproved spontaneous generation. Neither he nor Bernard won the Nobel Prize as they both died before the first Prizes were given. Otherwise they would have gotten the awards.

The third experiments grew particles because the nutrient liquid was allowed to wash the contaminated tube of the flask:

  • 1918 – Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. The Red Baron, shoots down his 79th and 80th victims, his final victories before his death the following day.

Here’s Richthofen’s as well as his plane, the latter photographed shortly before his death. He was only 25 when he died in air combat, crashing after having been fatally shot:

He shot himself ten days later.

Below is part of his speech, in which he vehemently opposed immigration into England. The repercussions were wide: as Wikipedia says:

The speech caused a political storm, making Powell one of the most talked about and divisive politicians in the country, and leading to his controversial dismissal from the Shadow cabinet by Conservative Party leader Edward Heath.  According to most accounts, the popularity of Powell’s perspective on immigration may have been a decisive factor in the Conservatives’ surprise victory in the 1970 general election, and he became one of the most persistent opponents of the subsequent Heath government.

Here are the two perps stalking the school during the shooting:

  • 2021 – State of Minnesota v. Derek Michael Chauvin: Derek Chauvin is found guilty of all charges in the murder of George Floyd by the Fourth Judicial District Court of Minnesota.

Notables born on this day include:

Here, by Redon, is “Bazon: The Artist’s Cat”, painted in 1905:

Miró painted a lot of moggies, and you can see a lot of them at The Great Cat (a wonderful cat art site). I had to pick just one, so here is his “Jumping Cat”

  • 1913 – Willi Hennig, German biologist and entomologist (d. 1976)
  • 1949 – Jessica Lange, American actress

Those who packed it in on April 20 were few, an include:

A first edition, first printing of this classic will run you about $50,000:

  • 1993 – Cantinflas, Mexican actor, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1911)

Without a doubt he was Mexico’s most famous comedian. Here’s five minutes of the man—with English subtitles.


*Here are two headlines from this morning’s NYT. To me, they both bode ill (click either to read; they go to the same place):

The news summary from the NYT:

Ukraine’s allies are scrambling to deliver more advanced weapons, long sought by President Volodymyr Zelensky, to bolster the nation’s defense against an escalating Russian campaign to capture the east.

Russia’s new offensive — and the ability of Ukraine’s trench-based forces in the Donbas region to fend it off — is expected to rely on long-range missiles, howitzers and armed drones. President Biden said after a call with allies on Tuesday that the United States would send more artillery designed for such attacks. He is expected to announce more military aid soon.

. . . Russia’s eastern campaign is expected to be more methodical than its initial push in the north, which relied on rapid and ultimately unsuccessful advances of tanks and helicopters.

Russia is also ratcheting up pressure on Mariupol, where a group of holdout Ukrainian fighters are issuing increasingly dire pleas for help from the Azovstal steel plant where civilians are also sheltering. On Tuesday night, a soldier who gave his name as Gasim but would not confirm he was in the plant, told a New York Times reporter that “as we’re talking to you, they’re firing on us from the air, dropping bombs.”

How can those fighters possibly survive the Russian onslaught? And once again the Russians are promising to allow an evacuation from Mariupol: “Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a plan to allow civilians to escape Mariupol Wednesday, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, said. The corridor leading to Zaporizhzhia starts at 2 p.m. and will allow women, children and the elderly to get to safety, she wrote on Telegram.”  These promises have been made at least five times before, and the Russians reneged. I have little confidence in this new one.

*In further news, Wimbledon has banned the participation of players from Russia or Belarus in this year’s tournament. This is the first time that any tennis group has imposed such sanctions. The tournament begins in late June.

*The New York Times has a new executive editor replacing the trainwreck that was Dean Baquet. As the paper reports:

Joseph F. Kahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning China correspondent who rose to lead the international desk of The New York Times, and then as managing editor helped steer the newspaper into the digital era, has been selected to be The Times’s next executive editor, the top newsroom job.

Mr. Kahn, 57, currently the No. 2-ranking editor at The Times, will take on one of the most powerful positions in American media and the global news business. He is to succeed Dean Baquet, whose eight-year tenure is expected to conclude in June.

Baquet was the person who fired Don McNeil for using the “n word” in a didactic way, and was responsible for the Times’s shameful apology about publishing the Tom Cotton editorial. As Greg said when sending me this link, “It would be difficult to be worse than Baquet.” Indeed!

And when I asked Greg who Kahn was (his Wikipedia bio is here), he replied, “He’s an online guy, but with a background in real news. But given how bad Baquet was, I figure he’ll probably be an improvement.” I sure hope so!

*Justice now! Travel & Leisure magazine reports the largest fine yet handed out by the FAA for passengers’ bad behavior in flight.  And it’s about damn time!  The “deets,” as they say:

The Federal Aviation Administration has fined a pair of unruly passengers more than $159,000 — the largest-ever penalties for bad behavior on a flight.

The administration proposed a fine of $81,950 against one passenger and $77,272 against another with each incident involving violent passengers last year who had to be physically restrained.

In the first incident on July 7, a passenger was fined more than $81,000 after she allegedly pushed and threatened to hurt a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte when the crew member tried to help her following a fall into the aisle. The passenger is then accused of trying to open the cabin door and hitting a flight attendant on the head before being restrained in flex cuffs.

In the second incident, a passenger on a July 16 Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta was physically restrained by crew after she allegedly tried to hug and kiss the passenger next to her, walked to the front of the aircraft to try and get off during the flight, refused to return to her seat, and bit another passenger multiple times.

The passenger then allegedly spit, bit, and tried to kick the crew and her fellow passengers. She was apprehended by law enforcement officials upon landing in Charlotte.

Both were women! And one of them bit other passengers! I think the biter should get the bigger fine.

*Most of the bad behavior reported on planes in the last months has been due to people objecting to the mask mandate. That’s now been overturned by a federal judge, but the government said it appealed. In the meantime, the Washington Post answers five questions about whether you need to/should wear a mask while flying. The individual questions are below, and there are links to go to them directly.

As for me, when I travel on Friday I will still mask up in airports and planes. I don’t find masks onerous to wear, and thus I have nothing to lose and perhaps a bit to gain (reduced chance of infection).

*In his biweekly column, John McWhorter puts a pox on both houses in his piece “The Right likes book bans. That fuels the Left’s cancel culture.” He goes after the Right for trying to ban books on sex, sexuality, and race, saying,

. . .  a true education requires knowing about slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement. After all, that stuff did happen, and it did matter; it did shape our present. And there’s no reason to presume that learning about it will turn kids or anyone else into hyper-woke partisans, happily canceling anyone who dares question hard-leftist proselytizing on race.

He’s right of course, and adds this:

Which is what the book-banning right must urgently come to grips with, because its increasingly illiberal streak parallels the excesses of the hard left’s engaging in hyper-woke partisanship in the guise of progress and social justice.

What? The Left is illiberal, too? Tell me it ain’t so! But of course it is. McWhorter recounts how a new book was pulled by Leftists from circulation (yes, canceled!) for enacting “cultural appropriation”, and I remember when Chase Strangio of the ACLU wanted to ban Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage. McWhorter:

These cancellations are part of a larger project, seeking to muzzle opinions antithetical to the woke quest to eternally contest power differentials and endlessly expand the definition of white supremacy. People on the right are duly appalled by this mind-set. But they miss that their book bans are just as tinny, just as local to petty concerns of our moment and just as, well, unjust. And by revving up its own cancel culture, the anti-woke right is providing the woke left with bulletin-board material: The left, when called on its excesses, can just point to the right’s school-board crusades to justify its own inquisitional zeal. Don’t ban “Bad and Boujee”? How about: Don’t ban “The Bluest Eye”! I’ve encountered endless renditions of this argument in the wake of my book, “Woke Racism.”

I always thought of the Right as the ideology that bans books, and the (extreme) Left as the ideology that bans people (check FIRE’s “disinvitation database“).  Actually, I myself haven’t encountered the tu quoque argument that McWhorter sees as common. It’s bad enough for the Left to ban or deplatform speakers.

*In a post called “The Testosterone Hangover” at Bari Weiss’s Substack, her sister Suzi writes about “gender-affirming medical care,” which the Biden administration says it will guarantee:

Chloe was the beneficiary of what transgender activists call “gender-affirming care,” which means all the adults in her life—doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, parents—actively supported her decision to become the person she believed she was meant to be, even if that person required an elective mastectomy in high school. Or taking puberty-blocking drugs. Or injecting cross-sex hormones, like testosterone.

In this, Chloe is also the poster child for the Biden administration’s recently announced transgender policy.

Gender-affirming care, the president’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, explained at a recent press conference, was “best practice and potentially lifesaving.” The point was: If trans kids weren’t able to transition, not just socially, but medically with cross sex hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries, they might well kill themselves.

The Biden policy was presented as commonsensical, but it is out of step with many progressive countries and some leading experts. Countries that have gone down the “gender affirming” road—like NorwaySwedenFrance—are now reversing course in the absence of evidence that such care actually improves mental health outcomes for dysphoric children. Pioneering doctors, like Erica Anderson of the University of California San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic—herself a transwoman who has helped hundreds of teens through their transitions—are warning of the dangers of this policy. Critics say that even the phrase “gender-affirming” is misleading—a euphemism for something closer to medical malpractice. When else do we trust children to self-diagnose and make lifelong medical decisions?

. . . Proponents of gender-affirming care say its benefits dramatically outweigh the risks. But there’s little data to back that up, and in any case this is still a new phenomenon about which a great deal is not known. The American Medical Association staunchly supports gender-affirming care. Same with universities, especially elite universities. Same with the president of the United States. It’s unclear whether there is any academic or professional space left for the skeptics.

Weiss is right about the absence of data, and she provides only a few anecdotes about “detransitioners.” However, we should read as much as we can about this phenomenon before taking a position, as this is one case where data are relevant.


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is kvetching. When I asked what Hili meant by the “cause of pâté,” I got this reply:

Yes, cause. There is “Palestinian cause” and people are shouting about it, and Hili hears much about this at home. For her, to get a pâté that she knows is in the fridge is equally important. That’s why she is meowing in the cause of pâté.

The dialogue:

A: What cause are you meowing about now?
Hili: About the cause of pâté.
In Polish:
Ja: W jakiej sprawie miauczysz?
Hili: W sprawie pasztetu.

Cat-decorated Easter Eggs from Andrzej on Facebook:

From Drew: A closeup of a longhorn beetle face:

Two from Jesus of the Day:

Speaking of seahorses:

The wisdom of God:

This came in my Magical Twitter Feed because I think Mark Cuban, in an attempt to bring down the ridiculously high prices of American prescription drugs, has started a company that sells drugs at dirt-cheap prices. If this is the case, it would be a very great thing. If you’re paying too much for drugs, do some research. You can start here, but do read other stuff too.

From Ginger K. in honor of Lima Bean Respect Day (today!):

Another from my magical twitter feed: an obituary that is worth reading. You can find the NYT article here.

Tweets from Matthew. Of this first one he says, “Fab vid of various aquatic insect larvae. The Google translation: “Mayfly and stonefly larvae seen for the first time” It is interesting to have various tracheal gills.”

Technically, these ducks are “dabbling”, not diving: they’re sifting the pond bottom for food.

Duck species hybridize like crazy, but often the hybrids are “behaviorally sterile” because the males don’t look right, and are rejected by females of the pure species, while females have intermediate preferences and don’t consider any pure-species male a suitable mate.

This is both sad and ironic:

I LOVE this one.  How clever to make a dance based on duck mating behavior! Sound up.

57 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. I always thought of the Right as the ideology that bans books, and the (extreme) Left as the ideology that bans people …

    The Woke have made multiple attempts to ban books, especially on trans issues. The latest is a petition complaining that Oxford University Press will shortly publish a book by Holly Lawford-Smith that is likely to contain blasphemy (aka views the woke disapprove of). Luckily, most of these attempts have failed.

    Other books dropped by a publisher owing to woke disapproval include Kate Clancy’s “Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me”, and various books in the realm of young-adult fiction.

    Weiss is right about the absence of data, and she provides only a few anecdotes about “detransitioners.”

    A big reason for the absence of data is that the relevant trans clinics have deliberately not kept records and not made long-term studies of outcomes, because in trans ideology the very idea of a detransitioner is too heretical and blasphemous.

  2. The mating “ducks” are in fact Hooded Grebes, an endangered species from Argentina, with only about 800 left in the world.

      1. Smac and Malia do a pretty good impression, I’d say. I suspect their video is slightly speeded up, all the more impressive the simultaneity with the grebes. I played it 3 times and my blasé youngsters liked it too.

  3. Regarding online pharmacies such as Cost Plus, there seems to be a lot of complexity to navigate to get the bottom line pricing: membership fees, does the retailer take insurance, ship to all states, offer name brand drugs, etc:

    From the article:
    Five of the sites we reviewed—ScriptCo, Ro Pharmacy, Honeybee, GeniusRx, and Cost Plus—are not full-service pharmacies offering a comprehensive selection of medications. Instead, they focus on low-cost generic drugs. And at Cost Plus, we were unable to buy pioglitazone (Actos), which is used to treat diabetes and was one of the common generics we shopped for. Mark Cuban, the billionaire who launched Cost Plus, says he expects his company to “expand the number of drugs we offer patients beyond just generics into thousands of branded and generic drugs.” The company says it will add 900 by the end of this year.

  4. “Both were women! And one of them bit other passengers!” – I expect that in the two incidents cited both offenders were indeed women, but there’s a worrying trend (at least here in the UK) of transwomen’s offences being misleadingly recorded as perpetrated by women. Since men are overwhelmingly responsible for violent and sexual crimes the statistics are getting unnecessarily distorted:

    1. I can concur. Of the half dozen ‘sexually aggressive’ encounters with women I had, four were with trans ‘women’. And the other two were drunk.

    2. That is a good example of false signaling which erodes social trust. If medical diplomas are easily forged, then no diploma-holder can be trusted. It is one of the challenges in supporting, as tolerant liberals, full equal moral and civil rights for trans people. “Transwomen are women. Get over it” does not really ask us to believe the absurd proposition that a man can transition into a woman. What it means is the seemingly less radical and more liberal proposition that every person who calls herself a woman must be regarded as immune from having her claim tested on at least two counts:

      1) Is she a cis-woman or a transwoman? Meaningless question, say the advocates. None of your business what my karyotype or sex organs look like. (Here the cis-women would be motivated to prove that they are indeed women, if they were allowed to and if it would make any difference. But it wouldn’t, except in dating.)

      2) If she discloses (either voluntarily or by failure to “pass”) that she is a transwoman, is the claim sincere or is there an ulterior motive for dissembling that would unfairly (because of the insincerity) disadvantage some other rights-possessing person? You can’t find out, and therefore can’t protect that other rights-possessing person from disadvantage, because you are not allowed to examine her claim. The advocates deny that any claim could be anything other than sincere anyway, so why ask? The interests of other women can never be unfairly impaired by adding one more woman to the pool.

      This false signaling doesn’t occur with sexual orientation and only rarely with race. (And opprobrium falls heavily on racial dissemblers; claims of sincerity are mocked in order to protect the game from interlopers.) If a person says he or she is gay, there is no reason to doubt the claim. We accept it at face value. Fortunately it is now hardly ever necessary for a gay person to dissemble as straight and enter an unhappy marriage for cover: civil rights and public tolerance for homosexuals has seen to that in all enlightened places. Yet promotion of similar rights for trans people increases, instead of decreasing, the social problem of false signaling. Crime statistics are only the tip of the iceberg.

  5. “1861 – Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the U.S. Army…”. Sometime ago, in this column,, Historian recommended Ty Seidule’s book “Robert E. Lee and Me” in which Seidule makes a case that Lee and other U.S. Army officers who were assigned to West Point and resigned from the U.S. Army to go to the South either just not to fight against their families or to join the Confederate forces and fight against the Northern forces (read the U.S. Army), were guilty of treason. This is an excellent book, particularly for a boy born, raised, and educated in the South in the 50’s and 60’s (though I expect nothing has changed in the curriculum today!) to understand Lee as a traitor to the nation rather than the hero he is recognized as across Virginia. The author, who is a retired general officer, was raised in Alexandria, VA which was Lee’s boyhood home along with places in the deeper South and Lee was Seidule’s role model for many years through university and his career in the army….until as a history professor at West Point he better researched and understood Lee’s history there and during the Civil War. I appreciate Historian bringing it to my attention highly recommend this book.

    1. A few months ago I finished a new biography of Lee by Allen C. Guelzo, one of today’s leading historians of the Civil War. It is well written and seems balanced. He forthrightly says that Lee committed treason. Guelzo is an extremely good lecturer and a multitude of his lectures and interviews are available on YouTube. Most deal with the Civil War. Here is one in which he discusses his Lee book.

      1. Thanks once again, Historian! Jerry, These types of interactions are some of the very best outcomes from this site (IMHO).

  6. A problem, that I have not seen mentioned with trans males competing as females lies in the population differences of hormone receptors present from birth. Males are born with more testosterone receptors and females with more estrogen receptors. Blood levels of hormones are a poor measure of “maleness” and “femaleness”.

  7. “Weiss is right about the absence of data, and she provides only a few anecdotes about “detransitioners.” However, we should read as much as we can about this phenomenon before taking a position, as this is one case where data are relevant.” – There’s an interesting interview with Dr David Bell, who was treated abysmally for questioning the ideological imposition of the “affirmative” approach to children at the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). He gives a clear explanation of why affirmation is a dangerous course of action (skip to 1:35 minutes in to avoid the annoying banter at the start of the programme):

    1. David Bell is quite impressive. But then maybe I’m biased, because I read Strier’s “Irreversible Damage”.
      A point he does not address (but Strier does) is the ‘victimhood’ angle. Another political hot button. White ‘Valley girls’ in puberty want victimhood status (what else to tweet about?). What better way than to declare oneself ‘trans’, so you’re are obviously ‘victimised’. I think many of these trans ‘boys’ would have been anorexia patients a decade or three ago.
      What I particularly, and profoundly despise is the threat of suicide by the trans-activists: If you don’t support (read reinforce) your child in their gender dysphoria, she (or he) may commit suicide.
      There is indeed a relatively high suicide rate among these troubled children, but there is no evidence whatsoever that ‘transitioning’ reduces those rates.

      1. The basic issue with trans persons is that their expectations are not possible to achieve. It is not currently possible to actually change sex, and live authentically as the opposite sex. Even if it were, that is not the goal of trans people. They want to live as they imagine life is like for the opposite sex, which is usually an idealized version, and not what people of that sex actually experience.

        I often think of it like Scientology. The goal of “clear” is not really attainable. But they always push the claim that the next level will be the one that really makes the difference. After a while, people are so invested that they just keep going. Plus, each person thinks they are the sole exception that is not actually making the claimed progress. It is a secret personal failing, and not the whole system which is flawed.
        Trans kids are always being sold on the next level of transition, which will finally make them happy. But it never does. The most a parent can hope for is that their kid has an epiphany and realizes the impossibility of it all before too much irreversible damage is done.

  8. “gender-affirming medical care,” which the Biden administration says it will guarantee…

    At first blush this seems idiotic. I don’t want my doctor “affirming” my opinion, I already know what my opinion is. I want them (and pay them) to give me their opinion.

    However I expect the situation may be more complex when you’re talking about optional or elective procedures. I’ve known 5, 6 maybe more people who suffered neck or back pain for herniated disks (including myself), and in every case, across different doctors, the answer was pretty much the same: “if the pain is bad enough that you feel you need it, get surgery. If not, don’t.” Perhaps “affirming” medical care is supposed to follow that sort of model?

  9. I’ll eat lima beans, and like ’em, in a steamed vegetable medley or in a dish like succotash. And lima bean soup can be pretty tasty, too. But a bowl of nuthin’ but lima beans? No thanks.

    1. I’m not sure about Lima beans, If they are the same as butter beans, they are great, I have several relatives that consider my ‘chicken and butterbeans’ a favourite.

  10. About duck hybridization — if hybrid offspring are “behaviorily sterile” because they don’t look right to potential mates, how do the hybrids get created in the first place?

    1. When you’re at the sand bar, it’s 2am, and that last dappled seaweed was probably one seaweed too many…

      Okay more seriously, given that duck mating seems to involve some amount of coercion to begin with, I expect newly mature young males sometimes aggressively pick the “wrong” victims out of inexperience or raging hormones.

  11. Apropos badly-behaved passengers on planes, I’m reminded of the time I was on a flight from London to Minneapolis/St Paul in the late 1990s. The flight departed late because one group of passengers were busy drinking at the airport bar and missed, or ignored, the boarding calls. Once on board, they pestered the cabin crew for more booze, but were refused. Then they sent their kids to raid the galley at the rear of the plane for the little bottles of whisky and brandy. When the cabin crew tried to put a stop to this, the adults in the group became rowdy. Eventually the captain of the flight was called to restore order, whereupon one of the drunken passengers punched him.

    That was a big mistake. It turned out that the U.S. Olympic wrestling team was up in first class, and several very large guys came back to the scene of the fracas in the economy cabin, and dragged the perpetrator up to an empty seat, where he was handcuffed for the rest of the flight.

    The entire group was detained when we arrived at MSP and sent home on the next flight, missing the big family wedding that they were travelling to. All except the guy who punched the captain, who was arrested and charged with a felony offence.

    1. That’s better than my story which I’m going to tell anyway.

      I was flying from SFO to LHR – about 11 hours. Half way through there was a bit of a fracas outside the nearest toilet to me. A man about four rows back had gone in there to smoke a cigarette. The smoke alarm went off but he refused to open the door when requested by the flight attendant. The flight attendant opened the door anyway (because of course you can from the outside even when it’s locked) and demanded that the man surrender his cigarettes and his lighter. The man refused.

      A bunch more flight attendants arrived. They had to walk past my seat. One of the women had both hands behind her back and after she went past I saw she was concealing a set of arm and leg restraints. The man spent the entire rest of the flight in his seat trussed up like a chicken. When we landed, there were police waiting for us at the gate and he was swiftly removed before we were allowed to disembark.

      1. I was on a flight from Sydney to LA where someone died.
        Not much of a story beyond that though; it was natural causes or long-term illness (in other words, nothing violent or scene-inducing), and their traveling companion worked with the crew to keep it hush-hush. The other passengers were told at disembarkation. Still, a pretty weird experience.

  12. I LOVE this one. How clever to make a dance based on duck mating behavior! Sound up.

    I’m sensing the biggest dance craze to come along since Chubby Checker went to #1 with a bullet on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “The Twist.”

  13. I know Cantinflas principally for the role of Passepartout in the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days starring David Niven.

  14. I’m pretty sure it was Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech that Eric Clapton was referencing with his notoriously racist “Enoch was right” rant on stage in 1976.

  15. “…a passenger on a July 16 Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta was physically restrained by crew after she allegedly tried to hug and kiss the passenger next to her, walked to the front of the aircraft to try and get off during the flight, refused to return to her seat, and bit another passenger multiple times.”

    I had literally this exact thing happen to me on a long flight, but I didn’t report the woman who was doing it. She was drunk when she got on the plane and refused to leave me alone. She tried to kiss me multiple times, repeatedly put her arms around me, tried to touch my genitals at least three times, and would not stop talking about how much she wanted me to…erm…go to the bathroom with her. She also smoked at least one cigarette in the bathroom (I know that because she told me she was going to and reeked of it after, not because I went in there with her!).

    I have a feeling that if men reported equivalent unwanted physical sexual behavior from women, there would be a surprising amount of parity in the numbers. But, despite everything she did, I didn’t want to get her in trouble for some reason. While I was extremely disgusted, uncomfortable, and angry throughout the flight, I didn’t say anything

  16. To people who find masking too difficult — and one wonders through how mattresses they are able to feel a presence of a pea such that it makes them unable to sleep — I can only say that I sincerely hope that, if they have surgery, their whole OR team takes their masks off, and doesn’t bother to scrub the patient, either. Jeez, Louise.

    1. Scrub-prepping the skin for surgery has nothing to do with masking and has no counterpart on airplanes.

      Masking of the surgical OR team to prevent wound infection is an early part of what evolved into a bundle of rituals that goes back to 1897. The benefit seems intuitive but clinical trials done in recent years (reviewed in 2015):
      find no discernable proof of benefit. For reasons of legal liability and public confidence no one wants to stop masking in ORs, and it just wouldn’t feel right — like those dreams where you go to work naked and no one says anything. It might help, just small effect size, and doesn’t hurt because surgical staff imbibe the ritual as part of training under irresistible pressure from preceptors. Not so for members of the general public.

      The purpose of the studies is best regarded as not to lead a crusade to end mask-wearing in ORs, but to learn more about the mechanisms by which patients suffer wound infections, still a major source of morbidity in our increasingly frail surgical patients. Bacteria from the surgeon’s nose and mouth do not seem to matter much.

      Almost all surgical wound infections are endogenous to the patient, not transmitted from the OR team. When there are rare outbreaks of what appear to be exogenous infection from a “carrier” on the OR team, case review typically does not show behavioural failures in mask compliance. If virulent or numerous enough, the little buggers seem to escape and fall into the wound somehow. In one published outbreak the implicated surgeon carried Group A strep perianally and nowhere else at the time of investigation. I helped investigate a small cluster traced to a surgical resident who had a full beard that was (mostly) covered by his mask. (His chief made him shave.) But these are memorable because rare.

      People are narcissistic. They have no cognitive dissonance in demanding that the OR staff all wear masks to protect “Me me me!” while simultaneously refusing to wear a mask to protect others on a plane. This even though the evidence of efficacy for masks is (somewhat) stronger in the case of respiratory viruses than it is for wound infections.

      I will be honest. With mask and vax mandates ended in Ontario, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has requested all patrons to consider wearing masks but they don’t require it (even though by law they could.) Respecting the age demographic of our audience, my wife and I were fully willing to wear masks throughout the performance. Yet only about two-thirds were, which declined to half by the next concert. Here is where internal and external motivational factors work. As a medical student, I could stand in an OR holding a retractor for two or three hours wearing a mask, under the unblinking eyes of a dragon (old word for a senior OR nurse) making sure I didn’t “break technique”. The mask was the very least of my discomforts and everyone else was similarly absorbed in the task. Yet when half of the 80-year-olds in my section at the orchestra aren’t wearing masks, the intermittent fogging of my classes and the back and forth flapping of the mask as I breathe starts to interfere with my enjoyment of the performance. So yes we both took our masks off — no one gave us stink-eye — and probably won’t wear them at all this Friday unless everyone else is.

      1. Thank you for this very informative post.

        I believe I read a couple of years ago that about 200,000 people a year in the US die from infections caused by hospitalization/surgery. Is this figure about right? I also remember reading a few studies at the time showing that providing a mandatory “checklist” of procedures nurses need to go through drastically reduced the rates of infection and deaths, and there was a push for such measures to be made a standard throughout hospitals across the country, as most of these infections are very preventable through simple proper care processes. Has this checklist system (or something similar) been implemented yet? If so, what has the outcome been?

        1. The sad thing is, it’s almost certain that many of those deaths are due to simple, routine failure to wash hands between patients, by nurses, doctors, technicians, etc. I have some sympathy, since, after all, life in the hospital is busy and stressful and unforgiving, but it’s something that probably SHOULD be applied dogmatically.

          1. From what I recall, a significant number were post-surgery, and even those that were from the surgery were not treated properly or left untreated until it was too late. But, again, this is from recollection of studies I read somewhere around two years ago.

            Aside: the COVID lockdowns have really made time a blur over the last two years. Considering the studies that have been done in the last few months, it seems that they were not even close to as effective as they were said to be, and the severity and especially the length of time during which the lockdowns were in effect makes a lot of what our governments did look like security theater. Security theater with severely detrimental effects for a lot of people. It really grinds my gears thinking about how much I missed out on and, even more importantly, kids like my nieces and nephews. Kids didn’t go to school in person for so long, and it really had a lot of serious effects. Among the effects I’ve seen are depression, anxiety, and, of course, the loss of social experience at the most critical points of development in their lives; the first two are obviously true of the entire population, which was already suffering before COVID from an epidemic of loneliness and, by extension, depression.

            1. I can’t disagree about the lockdowns’ questionable efficacy and the very “theatrical” character many of them have displayed. It’s hard to be sure that the lockdowns didn’t do more harm than good, given their uncertain benefits and the economic, social, and educational harm they at least sometimes engendered. There would have been less impetus to try to maintain them if people had been more conscientious about masking, self-care, vaccination, etc., and people and education and commerce would probably have taken lighter blows. I can ascertain that my own inherent tendency toward social withdrawal, loneliness, and depression have NOT been improved by the whole situation.

              And you are right, if I recall, that most infection problems were really post-surgical, often impressively so. ORs tend to be pretty ruthlessly clean, in my limited experience.

              1. I am also highly prone to social withdrawal and depression and, despite my often asocial tendencies, the lockdown blues really hit me hard. Like, needed even more care than I normally do hard.

                I wish I could believe that the lockdown restrictions and lengths would have been reduced by wider vaccination and masking rates, but I don’t think that’s the case. Even in places that required vaccines (like schools) and thus had near-100% vaccination were still locked down. And if you look at them by region, the places that had the highest rates of vaccination and general compliance with CDC and state guidelines also had the longest and most draconian lockdowns (on average). As the saying goes, “the distinguishing feature of government programs is that they never end.” In this case, the lockdowns ended — you can’t keep people essentially locked in their homes forever — but far too late. Perhaps most importantly and concerning, we’ve ceded power to the government to impose lockdowns whenever it decides there’s a “threat” in the future.

                Studies are also now bringing the effectiveness of masking into question, though masking naturally has much higher efficacy in an enclosed space that recycles air, like an airplane. The CDC admitted a few months ago that it simply made up the “6 feet rule,” picking an arbitrary number because they didn’t know what else to do, and they thought forcing people to distance themselves from one another might do something.

                Anecdata: I’m a big sports fan and attend games sometimes. A little before the big Omicron outbreak, my local venue started allowing fans in again, requiring that they wear masks so long as they weren’t eating or drinking. Many other states had been allowing fans to return for a couple of months at that point. Naturally, 4/5 of the crowd didn’t wear their masks at all once inside. I was with my father for my first game back. He watches MSNBC all day and thus was in the midst of a years-long COVID panic, and he desperately wanted to leave. He just kept shaking his head and saying, “this is a super-spreader event. I can’t believe this. This is a super-spreader…” Of course, the many games played at the venue did not end up being “super-spreader” events at all, and the same has been true of arenas and stadiums throughout the US: people tightly packed together in an enclosed space, largely without masks. I give this anecdote not just to demonstrate how much COVID measures were disproportional to the threat, but also to touch on how much fear and anxiety was caused these measures and the reporting on COVID generally. We shouldn’t underestimate the mental effects of that fear, in addition to everything else you mentioned. Until the last month or two, my parents were living in a state of constant fear for two straight years, and it definitely took a toll.

          2. I contemplate the number of hospital visitors who (notwithstanding the Covid restrictions of the last two years) can’t be bothered to use the visitor’s restroom down the hall but use the patient’s restroom, and in either case can’t be bothered to wash their hands, and where they can impose their unsanitary (nasty) habits on staff and patients. If it’s mentioned in the media, or has been the object of scientific infection control studies/research, I’ve not seen it, and in any event for sure the hospital doesn’t want to rile pure-as-the-driven snow visitors.

            Also: as far as I am concerned, the locution “gender-affirming care” – involving the removal of healthy body parts – is a vile and manipulative linguistic construction.

        2. You’re welcome, Carbon Copy. Appreciate your interest, and Jerry’s forbearance.

          That was the 2016 Johns Hopkins study reported here:

          It is paywalled and the abstract is not at all helpful in describing even what kind of study it was. A BMJ news release suggests it is a review of previous studies back to 1999 and is not original research. Publicity around the study suggested it was 250,000 deaths a year due to medical misfortunes of all types, not just infections. This is not a direct count (like the Covid deaths compiled by the state public health authorities) but an extrapolation from the much smaller (and manageable) sample sizes used in the individual studies.) Some of these may not necessarily have been preventable, but rather unavoidable risks of treatment for serious disease. If your colon perforates during a colonoscopy, that is not necessarily an error, but it could be if the operator was not careful. You’d have to read the study in detail. The letters commenting on the study are interesting to read. As with Covid deaths, did the person die with the infection or injury, or because of it? Often much harder to tell than with Covid.

          The surgical checklist was one of those good ideas brought over from aviation. It was hoped that this was something you could bottle and sell it. But a checklist is only as good as the motivations of people using the checklist. If an inspector makes you use a checklist, you can show him that you checked all the boxes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your patients will do as well as the group who walked the talk, as it were. You can lead a horse to water…

          Finally, a 2000 book-length review published by the Institute of Medicine, To Err is Human got the patient-safety movement off the ground, if you want to dig into this:

      2. Oh, and thanks for that info on the studies regarding masking in OR. I’m pretty sure the antiseptic technique in general does prevent many infections that would otherwise happen, but probably in surgery the masks are, as you say, often superfluous. Maybe we could recommend not scrubbing or gloving up? Gloves, particularly when you double-glove, are more uncomfortable than masks, and darn it, even the best ones take SOME of your dexterity away… I’m spiteful, what can I say?

  17. Why are most wound infections ‘endogenic’? Because surgeons wash their hands and mask up. It is the unsung hero Ignatz Semmelweiss that showed that convincingly. .
    You are welcome to have your cataract or appendix removed by an unmasked or ‘unhandwhashed’ surgeon, but I’d go for one that does.
    If surgeons are properly ‘clean’ it goes without saying that ‘cleaning the field’, becomes the prime target.

    1. You are entitled to your opinion and preferences, but that is not what the data show about surgical masks in operating rooms. The linked article makes it clear why ORs never did abandon masks and never will.

      If I needed emergency surgery and the hospital tent had run out of masks I would not hesitate to let the surgeon go ahead bare-faced. Even gloveless, if he could wash his hands after sewing up the perforated colon of the previous patient. And if there was no soap, well, I’d have to take my chances.

      I’m trying to make the point that many things are only modestly effective at the margin, and often there is great conflict and effort put into resolving whether some intervention “works” when it is often close to a toss-up in real life. Great profit attends a new drug that shows a 1% improvement in some outcome, as everyone will clamour for that now-best therapy that is always much more expensive.

      Semmelweiss enforced handwashing with antiseptic soap to remove invisible “cadaveric particles” (much later found to be Group A strep) from the hands of obstetricians who would go directly from the autopsy room to the open charity wards to examine labouring and post-partum women in that era before Pasteur. Masks played no role in his investigations. Handwashing quickly eliminated dreaded puerperal sepsis (childbed fever) from the women in his lying-in wards.

      Semmelweiss and Nightingale are the two patron saints of infection control, especially remarkable considering that “germs” had not yet been discovered when they made their ground-breaking observations and translated them into organizational improvements….although Nightingale was much more successful in changing attitudes and policy than Semmelweiss was. (He didn’t publish.) Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. described the contagiousness of childbed fever before Semmelweiss but missed the idea of scrupulous hand-washing as a preventive measure. But no masks.

      1. Semmelweiss was basically killed for his efforts.
        However, one should not forget that (eg.) 5% of endophthalmitis cases after intra-vitreal injection of anti-VEGF’s are not ‘endogenic’. [I wear a mask, sterilise my hands and sterilise the field before injecting.] 5% may not be much, but it is far from zero.

        1. In no way should my general remarks reflect on what a dedicated surgeon does based on his best understanding of the evidence to make patient care as safe as possible — especially for specialized treatments that didn’t even exist until recently. Doing everything feasible to go after that 5% seems obviously like the right thing to do, especially for scheduled procedures on someone’s eye,

  18. The wonderful music with the aquatic larvae tweet is Camille Saint-Saëns “Aquarium” from his “Carnival of the Animals”.

  19. I read a great idea (can’t remember where, Quora?) to house the surrendering and captured Russian soldiers in the impounded mansions of the oligarchs and luxury hotels, feed them well (including vodka), and above all: give them cell phones.
    Treating POWs decently is one thing, required, but treating them royally has never been tried before, AFAiK.
    If this is implemented seriously and systematically, theRussian forces would be severely depleted. And it would cost less than 800 million.

    1. That’s a really novel idea! I like it. Though I can’t imagine that the people fighting them would fancy the idea of putting their enemies in luxury suites and mansions that 99.9999% of Ukrainian people have never come close to experiencing, and that 0% of soldiers on the ground have ever experienced. Still, if everyone was a rational actor, this would be an idea worth trying, just to see what happens.

      1. Yeah, we would love to treat the refugees royally too, but that would not serve a good strategic purpose. The idea is that as a POW you are going to live ‘the good life’ and can -if you want- communicate that back home.
        As said, I’m not sure it has ever been tried before, but with the allegedly low morale of the Russian troops, exposed to all kinds of deprivations, it might just work.
        On a legal level there would be no problem. Ukraine should see that POWs are not put in danger, and with the recent bombardment of Lviv it can easily and convincingly be argued there are no safe places in Ukraine. Moreover, there is no law preventing POWs to be moved to a safer place in a non-combatant country, as far as I know.
        I think the idea is BRILLIANT.

        1. Oh, I’m not questioning the pure logistics or legality. I’m just saying that it will never happen because because soldiers don’t tend to like the people they’re fighting (especially when those people are invaders!), and thus I think it’s very unlikely that the Ukrainian army or government would ever agree to this experiment. I’d love to see someone try the idea, but I doubt it will ever happen anywhere.

          1. I fear you’re right, Carbon, but it would be an outstanding strategical move. Enticing whole regiments to surrender.

          2. You’re probably right. Still. it would br a great experiment. I see droves of Russian soldiers surrendering.
            Especially if they can phone home.

  20. A fish was originally of course any water living creature – a whalefish was missing from the list. Oh yes a walrus is a whale horse!

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