Sunday: Hili dialogue

February 5, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Sunday, February 5, 2023:  National Frozen Yogurt Day (I mistakenly said yesterday was Frozen Yogurt Day, but it was really National Homemade Soup Day).

But today is World Nutella Day, National Chocolate Fondue Day, California Western Monarch Day, Dump Your Significant Jerk Day, but also National Shower with a Friend Day, National Fart Day, and, in Denmark, it’s Crown Princess Mary’s birthday. Here she is, turning 51 today.  Some day, perhaps, she’ll be Queen of Denmark, though she was born of Scottish parents and raised in Australia. From Wikipedia:

Mary has been named one of the world’s most fashionable people in Vanity Fair‘s annual International Best-Dressed List and has posed and given interviews for magazines including Vogue Australia (where she used pieces of foreign designers, such as Hugo Boss, Prada, Louis Vuitton or Gaultier, and Danish designers, like Malene Birger and Georg Jensen), Dansk (Danish Magazine, dedicated to Danish fashion) and German Vogue (where she was photographed between pieces of Danish modern art in Amalienborg Palace).

It’s also [Johan Ludvig] Runeberg’s Birthday, celebrating the national poet of Finland, who wrote in Swedish. This is all very confusing!

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 5 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT reports a horrible fact that compounds the enormity that was the apparent murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, and may well have contributed to his death:

The two emergency medical technicians who first arrived to treat Tyre Nichols after he was severely beaten by Memphis police officers did not provide any care for 19 minutes after getting to the scene, a regulatory agency concluded on Friday as it voted to suspend their licenses.

Members of the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board voted unanimously to suspend the licenses of the E.M.T.s, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, who could be seen on video largely standing around as Mr. Nichols, 29, writhed in pain on the ground.

In the case of the E.M.T.s, the emergency medical services board found that for 19 minutes, neither had taken Mr. Nichols’s vital signs, conducted an examination of him, or administered oxygen. Mr. Sandridge, who, as an advanced E.M.T., was also authorized to administer an IV line and perform cardiac monitoring, did not do so, the board found. Mr. Nichols died three days after the Jan. 7 beating.

. . .Dennis Rowe, an ambulance service operator on the board, said there was “every reason to believe” that the E.M.T.s’ inaction “may have contributed to the demise of that patient.”

The suspension is temporary, and there will be a later hearing to determine if the two will be permanently barred in the state from acting as EMTs. I suppose licensing is state by state, but I hope that if they apply to work in other states, the licensing board will know about this.

*Here’s the ending of Andrew Sullivan’s latest piece on the tendency of the American Mainstream Media to force every story into a preexisting ideologican narrative. I summarized his piece in the Nooz yesterday, but couldn’t resist adding his conclusion:

We live in the freest, most multiracial democracy in the history of the planet. Of course traditional prejudices linger, ebb and flow, and the past has helped define the present. But they do not come near to definitively describing the infinitely fascinating interactions between all of us, in every possible combination, our shared humanity, the cross-racial friendships and marriages, our individual personalities, our different upbringings. They cannot account for the extraordinary changes since the 1960s. The transcendence of race and sex and orientation happens all around us every day — and reducing our entire world to these allegedly irreconcilable abstractions of “hate” is a pathological distraction from reality.

And reality is so much more interesting than the dogma the MSM now brings to almost every story, almost every time. You don’t have to ignore racism’s enduring effect in society. But you can see the world in a lens other than the neo-Marxist vision of permanent, zero-sum group-warfare in which some groups are always the oppressor and some the oppressed.

Journalists used to do this — searching for truth rather than enforcing pre-existing narratives, alert to the surprising “specific” more than the predictable “structural” and “systemic”; and be alert to the twists and turns of this diverse culture, rather than constantly returning to history to insist it’s always repeating itself. And you know what? Readers were interested, rather than bored, engaged rather than condescended to — and the press thrived.

Now look at it. The US media has the lowest credibility — 26 percent — of 46 nations, according to a 2022 study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. And “moral clarity” journalists seem intent on driving it even lower.

This is one of the best pieces I’ve read from Sullivan this year.

*The U.S. finally got some cojones (sorry, for I have used a harmful word) and shot down the Chinese spy balloon:

U.S. fighter aircraft, acting on an order from President Biden, downed a Chinese surveillance balloon off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, the Pentagon said, ending what senior administration officials contend was an audacious attempt by Beijing to collect intelligence on sensitive American military sites.

Biden had authorized the takedown on Wednesday “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement confirming the operation.

The balloon was brought down over the Atlantic Ocean shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered ground stops for all flights in and out of Wilmington, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Charleston, S.C. The agency, which had said the action was to “support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” lifted the order at 3:20 p.m., allowing normal flight activity to resume.

But wait! There are at least two more balloons!

The discovery of this balloon and others — the presence of a second craft loitering over Latin America was disclosed on Friday, and officials say there is likely a third operating near U.S. interests elsewhere — is highly embarrassing to the Chinese. One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity citing the matter’s sensitivity, said that Beijing was “freaked” by the incident.

“They’re in a very tough place,” this person said. “And they have very few cards to play right now.”

Could there be 99 Luftballons? I couldn’t find any video to embed, but you can see a 4.5-minute video of the balloon going down on a Fox News site. The commentators take the government to task for not shooting the balloon down earlier, as, they say, it was surely tracked as it crossed the northern Pacific ocean and could have been taken down safely. However, the WaPo adds:

Without elaborating, officials have insisted that the administration had taken steps to thwart the craft’s ability to collect information that would undermine U.S. national security.

“We took very early action to make sure those sites don’t show anything that anybody would find interesting,” one defense official said.

What the U.S. wants to do now is recover the balloon and find out what technology the Chinese used here. That may be hard as it appears to have landed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. The Chinese may be embarrassed, but although this may increase U.S./Chinese tension, it’s not going to bring on a war or anything. After all, we do the same thing to them.

*Speaking of China, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Chinese are helping Russia pursue its war with Ukraine.

China is providing technology that Moscow’s military needs to prosecute the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine despite an international cordon of sanctions and export controls, according to a Wall Street Journal review of Russian customs data.

The customs records show Chinese state-owned defense companies shipping navigation equipment, jamming technology and fighter-jet parts to sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies.

Those are but a handful of tens of thousands of shipments of dual-use goods—products that have both commercial and military applications—that Russia imported following its invasion last year, according to the customs records provided to the Journal by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in identifying national-security threats. Most of the dual-use shipments were from China, the records show.

. . . The Journal analyzed more than 84,000 shipments recorded by Russia’s customs office in the period after the West launched the economic pressure campaign that focused on commodities the Biden administration red-flagged as critical to the Russian military. The official Russian customs records, which C4ADS said might not include all records, detail each shipment into the country, providing dates, shippers, recipients, purchasers, addresses and product descriptions.

A Demand for ChipsRussia’s imports of computer chips and chip components are nearing pre-war averages.Chip importsSource: Russia Federal Customs Service via C4ADS, U.N. ComtradeNote: Imports under tariff code 8541. Monthly average is from 2014 to 2021
April 2022MayJuneJulyAug.Sept.Oct.102030$40millionTotalFrom ChinaMonthly average

The Journal also identified from the records more than a dozen Russian and Chinese companies targeted by the U.S. under the Russia pressure campaign, as well as all other sanctions programs.

Industry and government officials said the data offers substantial evidence of how Russia is able to sidestep the centerpiece of the West’s response to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

A new Axis of Evil!

*According to the Associated Press, Mexico supplies 92% of America’s avocados, and it’s a lucrative business given their price in supermarkets. And now, just like the demand for turkeys peaks at Thanksgiving, so the demand for avocados peaks during the Superbowl, as Americans of Size dig into big bowls of guacamole during the game.  There’s big bucks to be made, but the Mexican growers and wholesalers face a dangerous trek from tree to game—so dangerous that they need a police escort for a 40-mile drive:

It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl.

It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. The roads are so dangerous — beset by drug cartels, common criminals, and extortion and kidnap gangs — that state police provide escorts for the trucks brave enough to face the 40-mile (60-kilometer) trip to packing and shipping plants in the city of Uruapan.

Truck driver Jesús Quintero starts early in the morning, gathering crates of avocados picked the day before in orchards around Santa Ana, before he takes them to a weighing station. Then he joins up with other trucks waiting for a convoy of blue-and-white state police trucks — they recently changed their name to Civil Guard — to start out for Uruapan.

“It is more peaceful now with the patrol trucks accompanying us, because this is a very dangerous area,” Quintero said while waiting for the convoy to pull out.

With hundreds of 22-pound (10-kilogram) crates of the dark green fruit aboard his 10-ton truck, Quintero’s load represents a small fortune in these parts. Avocados sell for as much as $2.50 apiece in the United States, so a single crate holding 40 is worth $100, while an average truck load is worth as much as $80,000 to $100,000.

The imports were halted for a while last year when a U.S. inspector was threatened (all imported fruits have to be vetted), and that cost growers big time. Now things are resuming. When you dip your chips into a bowl of green mush a week from today, give thanks to the federales who ensure safe shipments!

*Some idiot committed a copycat crime by cutting open a cage containing a Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) named Flaco—in captivity for a decade—in the Central Park Zoo. The owl escaped and is now flying aimlessly around Manhattan. So far attempts to capture Flaco have failed. It’s cold there, and he probably doesn’t know how to hunt, so people fear that Flaco will die unless he’s recaptured. I bet it’s a copy of the animal releases (and a vulture murder) in Texas.  I hope they lock the miscreant up and throw away the key! Here’s a news report about the owlnapping.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems to be developing an eating disorder

A: This is Szaron’s bowl.
Hili: I’m just checking whether his food is better.
I always use Malgorzata’s translations of Andrzej’s dialogues, but Facebook translates the Polish as well, and I thought I’d put up today’s version:
In Polish:
Ja: To jest miseczka Szarona.
Hili: Ja tylko sprawdzam, czy jego chrupki nie są lepsze.

And a photo of Szaron:


From Jesus of the Day:

From Elsie, a Mike Lukovich cartoon about Florida schools (published in the Chicago Tribune):

Also from Jesus of the Day:

From Masih. The ability of Iranian women to overcome their oppression always amazes me. Look at this!

From Malcolm. A quokka, the world’s happiest-looking animal, chows down on a beet. The population (in Australia only) is small and listed as “vulnerable”, so please help them. It would be a tragedy if these happy creatures were to go extinct.

From Barry, ducks and a patient kitten, along with the d*g tweet that I can’t get rid of (I showed it the other day, but I haven’t learned how to separate linked tweets).

From Athayde, a segment apparently from BBC’s “question time”. He says, “The word ‘woman’ has been banned from Scotland.”  Have a look at the comments in the thread following this post:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a boy gassed at age four:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a beetle named after the lovely and talented Kate, one of my favorite actors.  But what about a frog named after ME???

There are three tweets by Ashby in this thread, all showing why the endeavor is ludicrous, and then he answers questions and goes after the dodo enthusiasts:

The caption makes this tweet:

Maher on woke overkill

February 4, 2023 • 1:30 pm

Here’s a seven-minute segment from Bill Maher’s latest show in which he compares Communist revolutions (especially the Cultural Revolution) with the Woke Revolution. The parallels are numerous, and Maher makes one comment that made me laugh out loud, something I do rarely (guess which comment).

The YouTube notes say this, which is a quote from Maher

The problem with communism – and with some very recent ideologies here at home – is that they think you can change reality by screaming at it.

He ends by going after the wokesters who want to revise biology so it conforms to “progressive” ideology.

h/t: Divy

Heather Hastie died

February 4, 2023 • 11:45 am

It’s with tremendous sorrow that I report the death in New Zealand of my friend Heather Hastie, who passed away at 5:30 a.m. Friday New Zealand time after a bout with cancer. She was only 59 years old, and left this world peacefully, with her family by her side.

Heather appeared on this website often, for we were of like mind: rationalist, science loving, and thoroughly atheistic. Her website, Heather’s Homilies, was a haven of good sense, and I often called attention to her posts, which became increasingly rare over the last few years. On her “About Me” page she describes her medical woes, starting with a hockey injury when young, which led to spinal surgeries, and, ironically, to her creating her website as a way of connecting with the world when she was largely immobile.

We became friends the way Grania and I became friends: I noticed an exceptionally keen mind in the blogosphere who was also a liberal nonbeliever, and we began exchanging emails. And, as with Grania, that led to Skyping, which for several years took place once a week or so. We had long chats about everything: politics, New Zealand, our personal woes, food, and so on. I often asked her advice, particularly about feminism, for she was an ardent advocate for women’s rights, and sometimes I vetted my posts by showing them to her before I published them. Talking to her was always a pleasant break for me, and I think Heather enjoyed our interactions, too.  She eventually adopted a neighbor’s cat, who she named Reilly: a gray tabby who she spoiled rotten. Many times I’d insist on her putting the cat on video to say “hi”.

When I finally got to New Zealand in 2017, I of course visited Heather in her small town of Taumarunui on NZ’s North Island, and I spent several pleasant days in her company. Although it was difficult for her to get around, she insisted on showing me the area, including trips to the mountains, the famous glowworm caves, and wildlife parks. We had a great time and promised to see each other again on my next visit to New Zealand. It was, I hoped, to take place not long from now.

Sadly, that second meeting will never happen.  Again like Grania, Heather has departed way too young, leaving a big hole in my existence, and of course in that of her friends and family.  During the pandemic, both of us became more hermitic and the frequency of our calls waned, probably because it, like everything else, became a huge effort to arrange things. We last Skyped five months ago, and it was clear then that she was not doing great. She hadn’t written on her website, and said that she didn’t feel well.  The next I heard was that she was in the hospital with an undiagnosed malady. It was quickly diagnosed as stomach cancer, and deemed terminal.  They gave her at most three months to live, and that was about a month ago. She went into hospice care, and I got the sad news this morning.

Heather made no bones about her lack of religious belief, so although there will likely be a memorial service for her, and it may be livestreamed (stay tuned), she would not want any palaver about “going to a better place.” Where she stays will be in our memories, but that’s all we have, and it’s an inferior substitute for the woman herself.

Farewell, my friend, and Ceiling Cat speed to you. My only hope now is that, knowing how deeply she loved her cat Reilly, someone will be taking good care of it, for I know that that would be one of her greatest wishes.

If there is a streamed memorial service, I’ll let you know.

I would put up a picture of Heather, but I have only one, and she made me promise never to show it to anyone or put it on my site. (Like many of us, she didn’t like the way her photos looked.) So I will respect her wishes and not show it now, but I will always picture her sitting in her special orthopedic, mechanically-tilting easy chair, computer on her lap and the inevitable can of lemon soda by her side. I imagine she would have had an insightful take on Jacinda Ardern’s stepping down as the Kiwi Prime Minister, for we talked about Ardern often. But Heather was nearly gone when Ardern made her announcement.

All I can say is that New Zealand’s titer of insight, rationality, and sanity has palpably dropped in the last few days. My deep condolences to her friends and family.

Caturday felids : Once again, Bristol’s cat pub; desirable cat tee-shirts; what people named their cats in the Middle Ages; and lagniappe

February 4, 2023 • 10:15 am

I’ve written before about the Bag of Nails pub in Bristol (see here and here), which became famous because it featured more than a dozen moggies roaming about. The customers loved it (who wouldn’t?), and I even induced a reader to visit and send me a photo of himself enjoying a pint among the cats (see second link above). It closed for a while during the pandemic, and I was worried, but it’s now open again and doing better than ever.

This new article from BristolLIVE (click on screenshot) shows that the Bag of Nails has become even more famous, with people from around the world droppping in. I tell you, putting cats in a shop or business (if they’re allowed) is the best way to make it grow.

Quotes are indented:

When landlord Luke Daniels took over the Bag of Nails pub in Hotwells in 2012, he never thought it would become home to 14 felines, let alone a destination for cat tourists to visit in their droves. Bag of Nails on St George’s Road started out as a traditional real ale boozer, and after Luke took in one of his friend’s cats, Malcom, the feline residents grew over the years with as many as 24 at one time after the arrival of several litters.

What started as Bristol’s best-kept secret exploded with a flurry of national media attention that stemmed from an article in the Bristol Evening Post in 2015. “From that moment onwards my life went completely mental for six months straight,” Luke remembered. His phone was ringing non-stop with national papers all hoping to get the story.

Bag of Nails went global having been picked up by dozens of websites in Russia, Thailand and Japan, with two Japanese film crews visiting in 2016. “For about six months, the pub was rammed. The furthest distance someone travelled just to come to our pub was Tokyo. Imagine someone flying all that way just to see the Bag of Nails? It’s just a bit mad.”

Photo: Dan Regan/BristolLive

The clientele is mixed, Luke said. “With our customers, it’s about half cat tourists, half people who like good beer and good music.” ‘Cat tourism’ is one of the latest travel phenomena to grip the world.

There are hundreds of cat cafes, hotels and attractions that charge entry – Bristol once had You&Meow, a cafe inspired by Japanese zen gardens – but the Bag of Nails is different. In reality, it’s just a traditional boozer where cats happen to live.

Luke moved in above the pub at the start of the pandemic to take care of the cats while it was closed. “The lockdown was obviously quite difficult but it was difficult for all of the pubs, but very quickly we started doing takeaway beer. As soon as the Government said breweries with taprooms are allowed to do takeaway beer I thought ‘we have the same licence, we must be able to do it as well’.”

Photo: James Beck/Freelance

The pub lies on the boundary of the Clean Air Zone, and Luke believes a loading bay near the pub is just outside of the CAZ. Fortunately, Bag of Nails has found a local brewery that can sell quality beers for a sensible price, meaning that pints of ale stays low.

Luke added: “We’re going to always try and have Cheddar Ales for £3.50 a pint so that there’s always an affordable option for people. I think that’s quite important at the minute, some people have got money and some people just don’t anymore.”

But do they have Tim Taylor’s Landlord. If they did, I’d just move in and never leave.  Here’s the publican, Luke Daniels:

Photo: James Beck/Freelance

Along with its strong range of real ales and its resident cats, the pub is also known for its very specific set of rules – some of which are not printable – including ‘No Scientology’ and ‘Babies and toddlers must be stored in the cellar’. Most of the rules have stayed the same apart from one rule – ‘No mobile phones’.

“People keep on breaking this rule. During the World Cup, some people came in and started watching a match at top volume on their phone. I had to ask them to turn it down because there were other people in the pub who don’t want to watch it.”

It’s known for being a sport-free pub that prioritises good music. Luke recently acquired a gramophone meaning they can play original 78s and LPs. It’s also popular for its extensive board game selection and has recently started a Monday poker night.

Bag of Nails is certainly unique due to its furry residents who live rent-free, but besides being a cat pub, prioritises quality, local breweries above all. It’s garnered a following beyond cat tourism which means it’s cemented itself as a pub to stay within the Hotwells area.

If you want to go there, and you should if you’re not that far, it’s at 141 St George’s Rd, Hotwells, Bristol (BS1 5UW). Here’s a photo from WhatPub, and the pub’s Facebook page is here.


From I Heart Cats comes a collection of great teeshirts for cat lovers (they don’t just have to be for men!):

Sadly, they don’t tell you where you can order them, but I suppose a Google Image Search will help you out. Here are my favorite six:

. . . and the “if it fits, I sits” classic:


Here from Open Culture is an article of tremendous historical interest: a compilation of cat names used in the Middle Ages (you may be familiar with Pangur Bán). Click to read; I’ve indented excerpts.

The text:

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,” declares the opening poem in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. But the possibilities are many and varied: “Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James”; “Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter”; “Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat.” Things must have been  less complicated in the Middle Ages, when you could just call a cat Gyb and be done with it. “The shortened form of the male name Gilbert, Gyb” explains Kathleen Walker-Meikle in Medieval Cats, dates as “a popular name for individual pet cats” at least back to the late fourteenth century.

In a slightly different form, the name even appears in Shakespeare, when Falstaff describes himself as “as melancholy as a gib cat.” Gyb’s equivalent across the Chanel was Tibers or Tibert; the sixteenth-century French poet Joachim du Bellay kept a “beloved gray cat” named Belaud.

Legal texts reveal that the Irish went in for “cat names that refer to the animal’s physical appearance,” like Méone (“little meow”), Cruibne (“little paws”), and Bréone (“little flame”). Walker-Meikle also highlights Pangur Bán, a cat “immortalized in a ninth-century poem by an Irish monk.” This hymn to the parallel skills of human and feline begins, in Seamus Heaney’s English translation, as follows:

Pangur Bán and I at work,

Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:

His whole instinct is to hunt,

Mine to free the meaning pent.

I like Auden’s translation better, and I’ve put it below.

Frequent Open Culture readers may be reminded of the twelfth-century Chinese poet who wrote of being domesticated by his own cats, verses we featured here a few years ago. More recently, we put up a list of 1,065 Medieval dog names, which run the gamut from Garlik, Nosewise, and Hosewife to Hornyball, Argument, and Filthe. You’ll notice that the names given to dogs in the Middle Ages seem to have been more amusing, if less dignified, than the ones given to cats. Perhaps this reflects the strong, clearly centuries-and-centuries-old differences between the natures of the animals themselves, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. But whatever our preferences in that area, who among us couldn’t do with a Pangur Bán of our own?

This link gives the Pangur Bán poem (the name means “white Pangur”) in the original old Irish text, and below is the original transcription by an Irish monk living in Germany: (I’ve indicated the poem):

Samuel Barber turned the English version of the poem into one of his “Hermit Songs“; below is a beautiful version by Barbara Bonney with André Previn at the keyboard. I love the poem because it compares a scholar’s efforts to study with a cat’s efforts to catch a mouse. The lyrics are Auden’s version, the best translation I know of. I rate this poem, along with “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry” (a fragment of Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno) as the two best cat poems ever.

The Monk and His Cat

adapted by W. H. Auden from an 8th or 9th century anonymous Irish text

Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.


Lagniappe: Readers’ cats in Boxes.

Here’s reader Divy’s cat Jango, playing a homeless moggy. As she said, “This is what happens when you leave an unattended box. He kept hanging out there so much that I placed the little cup next to it. He didn’t mind”  Note what’s written on the cup:

And here’s reader Merilee’s 18-pound chonk named Booker T, in a photo called “Even if I don’t fits. . .”

From Deborah:

This is Morrie (of (Morrie’s Bar & Grille) recovering from a catnip hangover.  He owns the joint, so he sleeps it off in his box on top of the video game, in a sunbeam by morning.  And he never lacks company, since thanks to his beer goggles, all girl cats become Persians at last call.

h/t: Ginger K.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 4, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have a “late summer mix” of photos sent in September by reader Ruth Berger. Her notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. 

Here is what I recently caught on walks in Frankfurt near a semi-natural part of the Main river with my 28mm automatic camera.

The perennial pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a favorite fodder of the violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) and this year, without fail, wherever there were there were peas there were (carpenter) bees.

Xylocopa violacea is striking due to its large size and iridescent black color. They like a warm-temperate climate and have recently moved north of 50 degrees latitude in continental Western Europe, where 50 degrees at low altitude can now be said to be warm-temperate, very different from 50 degrees latitude in Canada. I’ll add a photo I took in March, when I found some males of Xylocopa violacea frantically patrolling a crumbling Main river sandstone wall. Presumably, females where overwintering in the cracks and holes. Here is one the males, recognizable from the rust-colored rings near the ends of the antennae, just crawling out of a hole that he had inspected.

Here is a ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) sitting on sorrelat a place I call “behind Aldi” (our equivalent to Walmart), where I like to go to read:

The immediate vicinity of the dragonfly photo on the non-Aldi adjacent side:

As you can guess from the reeds, there is an overgrown pond there (I think it’s ground water and runoff from the business park filling a ditch), with very variable water levels. For dragonflies, frogs and myself, it’s a miniature paradise.

This very small bee on ragwort, either Megachile sp. or Osmia sp. cf spinulosa, is one that collects pollen with its belly, not its hindlegs, as you can see from the yellow coloring of its underside. Species who belly-collect move their abdomen in a characteristic, belly-dance-like way when they are on a flower.

This unassuming smallish bee I frequently see on Tanacetum vulgare must be Colletes sp., possibly Colletes daviesanus, and like most bees, including honeybees, it uses the standard leggy method of carrying pollen, see the 3rd pair of legs with their yellow freight:

My camera and I are not good at birds, but this one of an Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is near acceptable. The goose was all by itself—a rare thing in this species (photo taken in September, maybe it’s a seasonal thing?). They have completely colonized the Rhine-Main region now, where they were unknown a generation ago. For a time, it looked as though they were outcompeting other waterfowl, whom they aggressively chased in herd-like groups of 20, 30, 40 individuals. But the population seems to have crashed at some point, and at the moment, they are just one more anatine species at the river, without sticking out. I guess it is mallards who suffer most from their competition, being smaller and far less clannish, and mallards seem rarer here now than they used to be.

Here is the “indigenous” eponymic Eurasian goose, Anser anser, the greylag goose, taken a few days before the first rains (we had a record-breakingly dry summer, followed with ample rain in September):

Apatura ilia, the lesser purple emperor, is a butterfly that comes in two sex-independent morphs, one blue/purple, the other red/rust. Here is the red morph, Apatura ilia f. clytie, licking water or minerals at the river edge:

I watched it move around for a while, and got the impression it was in some pain or slightly restricted in movement from the wing damage. It could still fly, though. Willows, the caterpillar food,  grow nearby in the form of Salix albaA picture of the blue morph, taken at the same location in an earlier year, is here if you scroll down a bit.

My final ones are of hoverflies, a group that unjustly tends to get overlooked among pollinating insects. Different from Lepidoptera (butterflies), whose caterpillars can be agricultural/forestry pests, hoverflies are wholly beneficial for humans, at least to my knowledge. Both pics were taken on windy, rainy, cool days that signaled the beginning of autumn.   This fragile beauty must be from the Eupeodes genus, but I’m not at all sure about the species (cf. nielseni), as the speckles were clearly white, not yellow:

The other hoverfly, likewise sitting on common chicory (Cichorium intybus), is Dasysyrphus tricinctusand that’s all for today:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

February 4, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Saturday, February 4, 2023: shabbos for Jewish cats and National Frozen Yogurt Day, which some cats like to eat.

It’s also National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, National No One Eats Alone Day, International Cribbage Day, World Cancer Day, International Day of Human Fraternity, and Rosa Parks Day, celebrating the civil rights heroine who was  born on this day in 1913 (she died in 2005). Here’s a brief biography:


Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 4 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*This op-ed by NYT writer Zeynep Tufekci, scared the hell out of me: “An even deadlier pandemic could soon be here” What the hell? It’s bird flu, which is one reason eggs cost so much now, But I didn’t realize that it could kill humans, too (56% mortality rate!):

As the world is just beginning to recover from the devastation of Covid-19, it is facing the possibility of a pandemic of a far more deadly pathogen.

Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic.

But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.

Alarmingly, it was recently reported that a mutant H5N1 strain was not only infecting minks at a fur farm in Spain but also most likely spreading among them, unprecedented among mammals. Even worse, the mink’s upper respiratory tract is exceptionally well suited to act as a conduit to humans, Thomas Peacock, a virologist who has studied avian influenza, told me.

The world needs to act now, before H5N1 has any chance of becoming a devastating pandemic.

We have many of the tools that are needed, including vaccines. What’s missing is a sense of urgency and immediate action.

We have effective vaccines against bird flu, but not enough to get them into arms for six months or more (and many are made from chicken eggs—not the optimal strategy). We should, she says, develop mRNA vaccines. But who would do that and get them on the market until the bird flu touches of an epidemics in humans? Tufekci also recommends prophylactic killing of minks (which would be killed for their fur anyway).

I looked Tufekci up on Wikipedia and got ever more worried when I read this about her:

She has been described as “having a habit of being right on the big things” by The New York Times and as one of the most prominent academic voices on social media and the new public sphere by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Right on the big things! Oy!

*From reader Ken, acting as legal newsman (Indented words are his except for the quote)

A three-judge panel of the ultra-conservative federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (comprising two Trump appointees and a holdover from the Reagan era) has struck down as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment a federal statute that prohibits persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms, 18 USC section 922(g)(8).

In the case, United States v. Rahimi, a Texas state court judge entered a civil protective order against the defendant in February 2020 after an alleged assault against his ex-girlfriend. Then, according to the criminal complaint filed against him:
“Between December 2020 and January 2021, Rahimi was involved in five shootings in and around Arlington, Texas. On December 1, after selling narcotics to an individual, he fired multiple shots into that individual’s residence. The following day, Rahimi was involved in a car accident. He exited his vehicle, shot at the other driver, and fled the scene. He returned to the scene in a different vehicle and shot at the other driver’s car. On December 22, Rahimi shot at a constable’s vehicle. On January 7, Rahimi fired multiple shots in the air after his friend’s credit card was declined at a Whataburger restaurant.”
The Fifth Circuit decision is the bitter fruit of Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion for SCOTUS last term striking down New York state’s concealed-carry licensing law in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (2022).

You can read the Fifth Circuit’s opinion and weep, er, duck, here.

“Everybody has their Second Amendment rights and all must have guns.” —the Dodo Bird’s verdict, updated.

*Over at the Free Press, Nellie Bowles has her weekly snarky news summary; this week’s is “TGIF: 99 Spy Balloons“. As usual, I’ll give three of her items. I put the first one in because of the Diet Coke button (do click that link; its fascinating):

→ Trump distances himself from the best thing he did: Whatever you think of Donald J. Trump (few really have strong opinions, but if you had to force yourself…), the man oversaw the incredibly fast development of the Covid vaccine. Operation Warp Speed, which cut through bureaucratic red tape, was a huge accomplishment. That, and the Diet Coke button. But the Republican base has turned on the vax. The vax has been coded lib. It’s basically the Latinx of healthcare. And so now we see likely presidential contender Ron DeSantis and Trump sparring over who cared less about the pandemic. Here’s Trump:

Bowles added that “Nikki Haley, two-term governor of South Carolina, is about to announce that she’s running for president.”  She’s a Republican of course. Were I a Republican, I’d consider her a good alternative to the existing wackos.

→ Hispanic Democrats want to ban Latinx from state docs: A bunch of racist, transphobic fascists (Hispanic Democrats) are trying to take the most important word in the progressive lexicon and ban it. Yes, elected officials in Connecticut are pushing for a law that would ban Latinx from state documents. “I’m of Puerto Rican descent and I find it offensive,” said state representative Geraldo Reyes Jr., who I’m guessing also doesn’t share his pronouns in his email signature. Hispanic leaders need to sit this one out. Latinx is what white progressives want to call you, and that’s a conversation that happened internally in the white community led by white lived experience. That should be respected. Geraldo should read his Robin DiAngelo.

→ The French had a funny response to being told their name is racist: After the AP said that the term the French is dehumanizing, much fun was had about what to call people experiencing Frenchness. The French had a great response:

*In her new column at the Washington Post, columnist (and atheistic Jew) Kate Cohen decries the fact that the default behavior in American life is to be religious (it’s called “In America, you have to opt out of religion in public life. That’s backward“).  h/t: Merilee

. . . in our country, religion is the default, and the burden of opting out — even the burden of knowing you have the right to — falls on the nonbeliever.

The New York state legislature tried to shift the burden a little last year by passing the Nonreligious Recovery Options bill, which required judges to inform defendants of their right to secular treatment [for recovery from addiction]. “It should be a priority of the court,” the legislature said, “to ensure that a defendant’s treatment matches their preferences so they can actually benefit from the treatment.”

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul demurred, claiming the law set an “uncomfortable precedent” in which judges might have to inform litigants of “their rights to opt out of other mandates.” And so, her veto saved New Yorkers from a dystopian future in which citizens are, willy nilly, informed of all their rights. And it left nonbelievers, once again, with the burden of opting out.

. . .I am grateful for my civil rights and am keenly aware that many countries afford no such escape clause. But mine is supposed to be a nation whose laws and institutions do not endorse any religion, even as they offer protection to those who believe.

In a secular nation, if your public school required you to get your children vaccinated, but your religious beliefs prevented you from doing so, you could get an exemption — not from lifesaving public health regulations, of course, but from public school.

In a secular nation, if you believed Islam prohibited you from seeing an image of the prophet Muhammad, you could choose not to look.

. . .In a secular nation, a legislator who thought abortion was a sin would absolutely have the right not to have one.

In our nation, by contrast, after that religious belief is enshrined into law, someone has to make the legal argument that Missourians “have the absolute right to live free from the religious dictates of others.”

They do — they have that right. We all have that right. It’s right there in the establishment clause of the First Amendment. But as long as this country’s default setting is religious — both culturally and politically — we have to fight for it.

Good for her. If she lived another 200 years or so, Cohen might actually find an America in which secular is the default status.

*The big story at Andrew Sullivan’s new Weekly Dish column, “When the media narratives meet reality” is about three recent narratives that don’t conform to what the media want.  Sullivan first mentions the bias of the mainstream media (MSM), including the NYT, which now, he says, tings all race-based stories with the color of the 1619 Project. He adds:

And this week, the former executive editor, Len Downie, a near-icon of the old school, published a report on journalism and found a broad consensus among his colleagues that, in the words of one editor-in-chief, “Objectivity has got to go!” So every story now assumes “white supremacy” as the core truth of the world.

But this narrative comes up against the three stories:

So what happens when stories arrive which, on the face of it, seem to refute that entirely? Take three recent events: two mass killings of Asian-Americans within two days in California by an Asian-American (in Monterey Park) and a Chinese national (in Half Moon Bay); five black police officers in a majority-black police force with a black police chief all but lynched and murdered an innocent black man; and a trans woman was convicted of the rape of two other women with the use of her penis.

How on earth do these fit into the pre-arranged “white supremacy” template?

What the MSM does, says Sully, is force all such incidents into a Procrustean bed of white malfeasance:

When a non-white person does something awful, it’s called “multiracial whiteness” — a term made famous by the WokePo.

Then we had the horrific murder of Tyre Nichols. The five black cops, we were told, killed another black man because they had internalized white supremacy: “If you think the Memphis police officers had to be white in order to exhibit anti-Blackness, you need to take that AP African American Studies course Ron DeSantis just banned,” Mondaire Jones, a former congressman, explained, referring to critical race theory, which posits exactly that.

For The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill, the murderous cops were non-white people “carrying water” for whiteness:

I need so many people to understand this regarding Tyre Nichols. Several of the police officers who murdered Freddie Gray were Black. The entire system of policing is based on white supremacist violence. We see people under the boot of oppression carry its water all the time.

. . .This is why, in pieces devoted to the disproportionate number of black men in jail for murder, the MSM never provide data on the disproportionate number of black male murderers. You’d think that would just be logically relevant. Ninety percent of those convicted of murder are men — but we don’t view the system as biased against them, because they commit 90 percent of the murders! Similarly, if black men — around six percent of the population — have been responsible for more than 50 percent of all murders over the years, you can see why they might be over-represented in prison, without any reference to any system of “whiteness” at all.

But with critical race theory, the black officers didn’t actually kill anyone. Whiteness did — by infesting their brains and souls, like the fungally-challenged people in “The Last of Us.” CRT denies human agency to members of minorities, strips them of choice, renders them inert as individuals. They are only ever instruments of the “system.” They may identify as black, but they’re all Clayton Bigsby underneath.

In other words, what used to be called “Oreos.”

. . . My point is simply that every case is different, that multiple explanations of each are possible, that racial animus can go in every direction from every racial group to any other racial group, and that the fiction that someone with a dick is in every respect indistinguishable from a woman born as female is bound to come undone at some point. Because it just isn’t true.

There’s a lot more to this column, and it’s one of Sullivan’s best ones, showing up not only the hypocrisy of the “MSM” (mainstream media), but its desperately incessant confirmation bias. Read it (and subscribe it you frequent his site).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is frustrated (but she’s very pretty today).

Hili: I have a dilemma.
A: What dilemma?
Hili: I don’t understand everything.
A: Welcome to the club.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam dylemat.
Ja: Jaki?
Hili: Nie wszystko rozumiem.
Ja: Witaj w klubie.

And here is Andrzej’s picture of Baby Kulka:


From Merilee: A Persian rug:

From America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy on FB.  Does a baguette dog count?

From Malcolm: a reverse waterfall in Utah, with wind blowing the waters back up:

Titania tweeted! (This is about the Scottish affair, of course.)

From Masih:

From Ken. The great news is that the two purloined Emperor tamarin monkeys have returned to the Dallas Zoo. I thought they were wearing oxygen masks but those are their mustaches! (Click on the picture to see both monkeys.) The news says they were found in an abandoned house in Lancaster, Texas. Stay tuned; they need to find the thief!

An academic analogy from nature sent by reader Simon. This scares the hell out of me, and I hope the antelopes were okay.

From Luana: ChatGPT doesn’t like men:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, one who survived (and turns 98 today!) and one who didn’t.

Tweets from Matthew First, a duck being watered by a duck.

Manchester University faculty and students, including Matthew, are on strike for 18 days. Here’s a picket line, and a bus going by announces its solidarity with the strikers:

Two songs from PPL

February 3, 2023 • 2:00 pm

As Rodney Dangerfield (real name Jacob Rodney Cohen) would say, “Oy, have I had a rough day!” (adjusts knot of tie). But I got a lot done—just not on this website. I wrote a long letter to a secularist organization, an op-ed for a newspaper publicizing an upcoming paper of which I’m an author (stay tuned), and other assorted mishigas. Now I’m tired and will go home to do more work, rest, cook, and read a bit. I have a good bottle of red waiting, too.

In lieu of intellectual fodder, I’ll put up some Seventies music, put out right when rock was beginning its decline into perdition.

Last night I heard “Amie“, the 1972 country-rock song by Pure Prairie League that became a #27 Billboard hit in the U.S. It deserved more than that, I think. Here it is sung live by Vince Gill, though the original singer was Craig Fuller.  Gill’s guitar work isn’t as good as that on the original, but I couldn’t find a live version with the original musicians.

I like it because of the acoustic guitars (and the solo), as well as its bouncy beat. I could dance to it, so I’ll give it an eight. But what woman was ever named “Amie” with an “ie”?

This is the other PPL song I like, also sung by Vince Gill, who by 1980, when this was released, had become the band’s lead singer. Gill of course, went on to become a huge country star, and is now in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

This version is certainly lip-synched to the original, and I can’t find a version that’s completely live. Still, it’s a lovely song—and quite romantic. It’s clearly about a guy trying to win over a woman who’s pining for her ex. (The sax work by David Sanborn is great, too.)

When you find out how good love can be
You’re so lost when it sets you free;
They say once in your life you find someone that’s right
Someone who loves you like me.

Pamela Paul’s funny (and trenchant) op-ed on campus free speech (trigger warning: many harmful words!)

February 3, 2023 • 9:30 am

Although the word “woke” and its derivatives seem to trigger some readers, I still can’t find a good substitute. I just read Andrew Doyle’s new book, The New Puritans: How the Religion of Social Justice Captured the Western World, and I see that that Doyle doesn’t much like “woke” either. (His book is a good complement to John McWhorter’s book Woke Racism.) At any rate, I tried to find a replacement in Doyle’s critique, but the best replacement I could come up with for the pejorative “woke” is “illiberal Left”, which is a mouthful. And it becomes “anti-illiberal Left” (a bigger mouthful) when characterizing people like Doyle or McWhorter. So I’ll perhaps use both terms. (Remember that Doyle is the creator of Titania McGrath, who hasn’t been tweeting much lately.)

But I digress. Pamela Paul, who used to be the Sunday Book Review editor for the New York Times, now writes a weekly column for the paper. Not only is she a good and clever writer, but she appears to be anti-woke anti-illiberal Left. That makes at least two good NYT columnists of that ideological stripe: Paul and McWhorter.

Her piece this week (click below to read, and I see it’s been archived here) is about the woke Language Police at Stanford, and about the chilling of speech in general on American campuses.  The amusing bit is that her piece uses over a quarter of the words that the Stanford University IT group recommended be changed, and she’s put them in bold. Her intro (I added the link to the list, now archived):

The following is a celebration of the cancellation of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, an attempt by a committee of IT leaders at Stanford University to ban 161 common words and phrases. Of those 161 phrases, I have taken pains to use 45 of them here. Read at your own risk.

Click to read, but you may incur much harm. Her message, though, has hopeful bits.

Note that even “Hip Hip Hooray!”  in the title was deemed harmful by the guide:

Paul uses 20 “harmful” words in the first three paragraphs alone:

Is the media addicted to bad news? It’s not a dumb question, nor are you crazy to ask. After all, we follow tragedy like hounds on the chase, whether it’s stories about teenagers who commit suicide, victims of domestic violence or survivors of accidents in which someone winds up quadriplegiccrippled for life or confined to a wheelchair.We report on the hurdles former convicts face after incarceration, hostile attitudes toward immigrants and the plight of prostitutes and the homeless. Given the perilous state of the planet, you might consider this barrage of ill tidings to be tone-deaf.

Well, I’m happy to report good news for a change. You might call it a corrective, or a sanity check, but whatever you call it — and what you can call things here is key — there have been several positive developments on American campuses. The chilling effects of censorship and shaming that have trapped students between the competing diktats of “silence is violence” and “speech is violence” — the Scylla and Charybdis of campus speech — may finally be showing some cracks.

Matters looked especially grim in December, when the internet discovered the 13-page dystopicallly titled “Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. A kind of white paper on contemporary illiberalism, it listed 161 verboten expressions, divided into categories of transgression, including “person-first,” “institutionalized racism” and the blissfully unironic “imprecise language.” The document offered preferred substitutions, many of which required feats of linguistic limbo to avoid simple terms like “insane,” “mentally ill” and — not to beat a dead horse,but I’ll add one more — “rule of thumb.” Naturally, it tore its way across the internet to widespread mockery despite a “content warning” in bold type: “This website contains language that is offensive or harmful. Please engage with this website at your own pace.”

By using those words, Paul of course emphasizes the inanity of claiming that they’re “harmful.”  She does add that the Stanford list has been taken down (the link above is to a WSJ copy), and considers this good news—part of a salubrious trend that she sees in American education. But she can’t resist using perhaps the dumbest “harmful word” on the list (save “American”):

Could this be a seminal moment for academic freedom? Consider other bright spots: Harvard recently went ahead with its fellowship offer to Kenneth Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, which was earlier rejected, allegedly owing to his critical views on Israel. M.I.T.’s faculty voted to embrace a “Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom.” At Yale Law School, which has been roiled by repeated attempts to suppress speech, a conservative lawyer was allowed to appear on a panel with a former president of the A.C.L.U. after protests disrupted her visit the year before. And Hamline University, which had refused to renew an art history professor’s contract because she showed an artwork that some Muslim students may have found offensive, walked back its characterization of her as “Islamophobic.”

Finally, when an office within the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California banned the terms “fieldwork” and “in the field” to describe research projects because their “anti-Black” associations might offend some descendants of American slavery, U.S.C.’s interim provost issued a statement that “The university does not maintain a list of banned or discouraged words.”

And here is a form of linguistic conflict that I hadn’t noticed:

The chilling effects of censorship and shaming that have trapped students between the competing diktats of “silence is violence” and “speech is violence” — the Scylla and Charybdis of campus speech — may finally be showing some cracks.

From the guide (not the column):

She continues, causing a lot more harm but making a point at the same time:

But we do know two things: First, college students are suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues more than ever before, and second, fewer feel comfortable expressing disagreement lest their peers go on the warpath. It would be a ballsy move to risk being denounced, expelled from their tribe, become a black sheep. No one can blame any teenager who has been under a social media pile-on for feeling like a basket case. Why take the chance.

Yet when in life is it more appropriate for people to take risks than in college — to test out ideas and encounter other points of view? College students should be encouraged to use their voices and colleges to let them be heard. It’s nearly impossible to do this while mastering speech codes, especially when the master lists employ a kind of tribal knowledge known only to their guru creators. A normal person of any age may have trouble submitting, let alone remembering that “African American” is not just discouraged but verboten, that he or she can’t refer to a professor’s “walk-in” hours or call for a brown bag lunchpowwow or stand-up meeting with their peers.

Now that you know woke language guidelines, you’ll be able to figure out why the Puritans see all the words in bold as harmful. (Having trouble with “African American? Go here.)

Paul then gives the worrying statistics about the drop over time in the proportion of students who think that free speech rights are secure and notes the frightening 2/3 of students who think that college climates prevent people from expressing views that could be seen as offensive.

In the last two paragraphs she drops the use of “harmful words” and makes her serious point:

It is reasonable to wonder whether any conceivable harm to a few on hearing the occasional upsetting term outweighs the harm to everyone in suppressing speech. Or whether overcoming the relatively minor discomforts of an unintentional, insensitive or inept comment might help students develop the resilience necessary to surmount life’s considerably greater challenges — challenges that will not likely be mediated by college administrators after they graduate.

Rather than muzzle students, we should allow them to hear and be heard. Opportunities to engage and respond. It’s worth remembering how children once responded to schoolyard epithets: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Narrow restrictions on putatively harmful speech leave young people distracted from and ill-prepared for the actual violence they’ll encounter in the real world.

And this type of bowdlerization is performative. In the end, it accomplishes nothing. The people who promulgate these changes are the Entitled Woke, and the tut-tutting directed at people who will continue to use the old argot. The changes are made for one reason: to flaunt one’s virtue.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 3, 2023 • 8:15 am

Reader Simon Hayward sent some photos of Mount McKinley (aka Denali), America’s highest mountain at 20,310 feet (6,190 m). These were taken on his trip to Alaska, the first part of which (including caribou and bears) you can see here.  Simon’s captions are indented, and you can click the photos to enlarge them.

I put five of my own photos at the bottom, taken on a visit to the park in April, 2006, when I hopped on a small plane taking climbers to the Denali glacier. (I was in Alaska debating a creationist for the Alaska Bar Association!)

Simon: This is the glacier coming down mt Denali. You must have landed near the top (I assume)

Just an amazing wild place:

And the train! (Which we didn’t catch, but seems a good way to get there). This is the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star train that runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

As I said, I was in Alaska in 2006 and rented a car to drive to Denali, where I parked and slept overnight. (It was the coldest night I’ve ever spent, even though I was inside the car in a sleeping bag). The next day I drove to Talkeetna, where I hoped to get on a small plane to get a close view of the peak. But I did better than that: a bush pilot was flying two climbers to the mountain TO LET THEM OFF HIGH UP ON ITS GLACIER. I was allowed, for a fee, to ride along, and managed to wangle my way into the seat next to the woman pilot.  We flew up, landed on the glacier, let the two climbers off, and then the pilot taxied back and forth on the snow to make a strip from which to take off. It was tricky, the plane was tiny, the journey was bumpy, and I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit scared. But it was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done. (I showed these photos years ago.)

Here’s our bush plane, equipped with skis, loading up before takeoff. The pilot is wearing the green headscarf:

A view of Denali from my seat. These small planes, with only a thin floorboard between you and the air, induce a bit of fear!

Flying through the peaks to the landing site:

Me on the glacier with the peak in the background to the left:

And the pilot making a runway to use for takeoff. She had to go back and forth about five times.  What a skillful pilot!

Friday: Hili dialogue

February 3, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Friday, February 3, 2023, and it’s a great day because it’s National Carrot Cake Day!  I happen to love this dessert (the only one made with vegetables that I like), and it’s best with cream-cheese frosting. Here’s a photo of one from Wikipedia; the foodstuff apparently goes back to 1591. They add, “Many food historians believe carrot cake originated from such carrot puddings eaten by Europeans in the Middle Ages, when sugar and sweeteners were expensive and many people used carrots as a substitute for sugar.”

Doesn’t this look good?

It’s also Bubble Gum Day, National Cordova Ice Worm Day (see also here), American Painters Day, International Golden Retrievers Day, National Wear Red Day, The Day the Music Died (memorializing the plane crash that, on this day in 1959, killed, among others, Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens), and Four Chaplains Day (United States, also considered a Feast Day by the Episcopal Church). Here are the four chaplains who gave up their lifejackets to others, and thus died, when their troop ship (the S.S. Dorchester) was torpedoed on this day in 1943. Their denominations: Methodist minister the Reverend George L. FoxReform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling.

And you’ll remember this 1971 monster hit by Don McLean about The Day the Music Died. This is a BBC performance from 1972.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 3 Wikipedia page.

Wine of the Day: Here we have a specimen of Côtes-de-Castillon, a sub-appellation of Côtes-de-Bordeaux, and thus a Bordeaux-style red made with the three classic Bordeaux grapes (see below), with a hefty dose of Merlot. I had it with a fresh baguette, aged Cheddar cheese, and tomatoes, as I wanted a simple meal to highlight the wine. (It goes for about $33 now when you can find it, but I’ve had it a while and it was much cheaper when I bought it.) As it was old, the cork broke up when I opened it and so I decanted it using a decanting funnel and clean linen (it threw quite a sediment). This also helped aerate the wine. It had a nose of blackberries with a hint of mint, was medium-bodied on the gutsy side, and slightly off-dry.  Even though it was 14 years old, it was a long way from maturity: I’d expect this puppy, if stored well, to last another decade. It was delicious and went perfectly with bread and cheese.  This vintage was hard to find on the internet, but here’s Robert Parker’s 91-point review:

The 2009 is possibly the best Cap de Faugeres yet made, a sleeper of the vintage, and a realistically priced one at that. A blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon that hit 14% natural alcohol, the wine displays loads of charcoal, blackberry, espresso roast and white chocolate. It is full-bodied, unctuously textured, with very sweet tannin and stunning purity, texture and length. This is a super-duper wine, bottled unfined and unfiltered under the guidance of the consultant Michel Rolland. Drink it over the next 10+ years. Under new proprietor Silvio Denz, the wines from this property, as well as his Chateau Faugeres in St.-Emilion, have gotten better, even by the high standards maintained by the previous proprietor.

Da Nooz:

***OMG OMG There’s a Chinese spy balloon floating over Montana.  ]

A massive spy balloon believed to be from China was seen above Montana and is being tracked as it flies across the continental United States, with President Joe Biden for now deciding against “military options” because of the risk to civilians, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Still, officials insisted, they continue to closely monitor the vessel as they have since it entered the country — while voicing their concern to Beijing.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday. “NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely.”

Here it is; apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened. They won’t shoot the sucker down for fear of debris hitting people on the ground.

*I have long believed that Ilhan Omar, a member of “The Squad” of progressive congresswomen, was an anti-Semite. (In fact, all of them appear to be anti-Zionists in their embrace of BDS.) But Omar’s remarks went way beyond just supporting BDS. Ironically, now the Republicans have punished her for those views, ousting her from the prestigious Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Republican-led House voted after raucous debate Thursday to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her anti-Israel comments, in a dramatic response to Democrats last session booting far-right GOP lawmakers over incendiary remarks.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was able to solidify Republican support against the Somali-born Muslim in the new Congress although some GOP lawmakers had expressed reservations. Removal of lawmakers from House committees was essentially unprecedented until the Democratic ousters two years ago of hard-right Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

The 218-211 vote, along party lines, came after a heated, voices-raised debate in which Democrats accused the GOP of targeting Omar based on her race. Omar defended herself on the House floor, asking if anyone was surprised she was being targeted, “because when you push power, power pushes back.” Democratic colleagues hugged her during the vote.

“My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world,” Omar said in a closing speech.

Republicans focused on six statements Omar has made that “under the totality of the circumstances, disqualify her from serving on the Committee of Foreign Affairs,” said Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, the incoming chairman of the House Ethics Committee.

Well, I have mixed feelings. I think it’s a good thing that her anti-Semitism is made public, though she was called out for it by her own party four years ago. In 2019, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress condemned Omar and made her apologize for remarks that could easily be seen as anti-Semitic.  (Remember the “it’s about the Benamins, baby” statement?). Below: from the February 11, 2019 WaPo:

But for most Democrats on Monday, Omar’s tweets crossed the line by playing into ancient stereotypes about wealthy Jews — forcing action from party leaders who had brushed off earlier accusations of anti-Semitism against Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only two Muslim women in Congress.

I’m still conflicted. I don’t like the idea of bigots in Congress, but I can’t rule out, based on the party-line vote, that the Republicans are punishing Omar not for anti-Semitism, but for being Muslim. If so, then that is bigotry: real “Islamophobia.” And she shouldn’t be punished for that. (Part of this may be the GOP’s desire to get back at Democrats, and this is one way of doing it.) It’s telling that no Democrat voted to kick her off the committee! The NYT notes the retributive aspect of this move:

The 218 to 211 party-line vote, with one member voting “present,” settled a partisan score that has been festering since 2021, when the House, then controlled by Democrats, stripped Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona of their committee assignments for social media posts in which they endorsed violence against Democrats.

The removal of Ms. Omar delivered on a threat that Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California made at the time to retaliate if his party took the House majority by removing Democrats whom Republicans regarded as unfit to serve on committees. Last week, he unilaterally removed Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where membership is appointed and thus not subject to a vote.

It’s gonna be a long two years until election day in 2024.

*In a NYT essay called “Inclusive or alientating? The language wars go on“, Nicholas Kristof discusses the constant changing of terms by progressives, and, surprisingly (at least to me) takes an antiwoke point of view. Of course he first mocks the A.P. Stylebook’s retracted advice to not use “the” in front of people, like “the French”, a Diktat that caused much mirth. But he goes on:

Latino to Latinx. Women to people with uterusesHomeless to houseless. L.G.B.T. to LGBTQIA2S+. Breastfeeding to chestfeeding. Asian American to A.A.P.I. Ex-felon to returning citizen. Pro-choice to pro-decision. I inhabit the world of words, and even I’m a bit dizzy.

As for my friends who are homeless, what they yearn for isn’t to be called houseless; they want housing.

Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat who identifies as Afro-Latino, noted that a Pew survey found that only 3 percent of Hispanics themselves use the term Latinx.

“I have no personal objection to the term ‘Latinx’ and will use the term myself before an audience that prefers it,” Torres told me. “But it’s worth asking if the widespread use of the term ‘Latinx’ in both government and corporate America reflects the agenda-setting power of white leftists rather than the actual preferences of working-class Latinos.”

Similarly, terms like BIPOC — for Black, Indigenous and People of Color — seem to be employed primarily by white liberals. A national poll for The Times found that white Democrats were more than twice as likely to feel “very favorable” toward the term as nonwhite people.

A legitimate concern for transgender men who have uteruses has also led to linguistic gymnastics to avoid the word “women.” In an effort to be inclusive, the American Cancer Society recommends cancer screenings for “individuals with a cervix,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance “for breastfeeding people” and Cleveland Clinic offers advice for “people who menstruate.”

The aim is to avoid dehumanizing anyone. But some women feel dehumanized when referred to as “birthing people,” or when The Lancet had a cover about “bodies with vaginas.”

He gives three reasons why this campaign is worrisome:

First, much of this effort seems to me performative rather than substantive. Instead of a spur to action, it seems a substitute for it.

Second, problems are easier to solve when we use clear, incisive language. The A.M.A. style guide’s recommendations for discussing health are instead a wordy model of obfuscation, cant and sloppy analysis.

Third, while this new terminology is meant to be inclusive, it bewilders and alienates millions of Americans. It creates an in-group of educated elites fluent in terms like BIPOC and A.A.P.I. and a larger out-group of baffled and offended voters, expanding the gulf between well-educated liberals and the 62 percent majority of Americans who lack a bachelor’s degree — which is why Republicans like Ron DeSantis have seized upon all things woke.

He worries that Wokespeak will wind up “creating fuel for right-wing leaders”. I think he’s right.

*From reader Ken: “Here’s a piece from the Anti-Defamation League about the concomitant rise of white nationalism and antisemitism in Florida over the past two years.”  They do go together you know; this is not a mere correlation. A few findings:

  • Florida is home to an extensive, interconnected network of white supremacists and other far-right extremists. This network, which often collaborates in planning and executing propaganda distribution campaigns, banner drops and in-person demonstrations, includes the White Lives Matter (WLM) network, the antisemitic Goyim Defense League (GDL), the New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA), NSDAP (named after the Nazi Party of Germany), the neo-Nazi Sunshine State Nationalists (SSN),  NatSoc Florida (NSF) and the National Socialist Movement (NSM). Many of the individuals in this network, which includes dozens, attend events organized by multiple groups giving each group an outsized appearance.
  • From January 2020 to August 2022, ADL Center on Extremism (COE)  recorded over 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution in Florida.  The overwhelming majority of these incidents involved the white supremacist groups Patriot Front and the New Jersey European Heritage Association. Ninety-five of these incidents included antisemitic language or symbols, targeted Jewish institutions, or both. Propaganda allows extremists to disseminate hateful messages and gain attention with little risk of public exposure.
  • Hate crimes continued to rise in the state of Florida over the last several years. According to the FBI’s 2020  Hate Crime Statistics report  (the most recent data available), 56.1% of nationally reported religion-based hate crimes in 2020 targeted the Jewish community. In Florida, hate crimes against Jews accounted for 80% of the religiously motivated incidents in 2020, and antisemitic hate crimes have risen 300% since 2012.

Jews (both religious and secular) make up 2.4% of the American population, which means that they make up about 3% or so of all religious people.  Talk about inequity! Why are we considered “minoritized”?

  • Florida has seen a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents, according to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. In 2021, the number of reported incidents increased 50% over 2020 numbers, rising from 127 to 190. This included 142 instances of harassment, 47 instances of vandalism and one antisemitic assault.

*The Boston Herald reports that the state government is considering a bill that would give early release from prison for inmates donating an organ or bone marrow. (h/t Thomas):

proposal by a state lawmaker would grant prisoners early release from their court imposed sentences of up to one year if they volunteer to donate their organs or bone marrow.

If made law, the bill would “allow eligible incarcerated individuals to gain not less than 60 and not more than 365 day reduction in the length of their committed sentence in Department of Corrections facilities, or House of Correction facilities if they are serving a Department of Correction sentence in a House of Corrections facility, on the condition that the incarcerated individual has donated bone marrow or organ(s),” the proposal reads in part.

Submitted to this year’s Legislature by state Reps. Carlos González, Springfield, and Judith A. Garcia, Chelsea and Everette, the bill would “establish a Marrow and Organ Donation Program within the Department of Correction and a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Committee.”

According to Garcia, who took to Twitter to explain the proposal, there isn’t currently a way for an incarcerated person to donate bone marrow or organs, even if a close relative would benefit from the donation.

“Nearly 5,000 MA residents are currently awaiting organ transplants,” a graphic she shared explains, before saying the bill would “restore bodily autonomy to incarcerated folks by providing opportunity to donate organs and bone marrow.”

Twitter users did not seem to respond well to the plan, some calling the incentive to leave prison up to a year early coercion, others simply referring to it as “abhorrent.”

It won’t fly if there’s that much public disapproval. But do you think it’s unethical to offer such incentives? It’s purely voluntary, and they used to give prisoners shortened time if they participated in drug or medical trials. But perhaps there’s an element of coerction here.

*The NYT has an interview with Kerry Condon, who played the sensible Siobhan in the excellent Oscar-nominated movie “The Banshees of Inisherin”. She was also nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and It turns out that writer Martin McDonagh conceived of the movie as a vehicle for Condon. And she’s an animal lover.

It’s a breakthrough role for the 40-year-old Condon, who met me for lunch in Los Angeles just days after her nomination to discuss a career full of ups and downs. “I don’t think anything has ever come easy to me, so I have the opposite of a sense of entitlement,” she said.

Though Condon grew up in the country town of Tipperary, she was always keen to make her mark in Hollywood: When she was just 10, she even wrote an unanswered letter to the well-known agent Mike Ovitz, asking him to represent her. (It didn’t work, but you’ve got to admire the chutzpah.) After graduating from the equivalent of high school, Condon worked in theater and could be seen in supporting parts on dramas like “Rome,” “Luck” and “Better Call Saul,” but the major screen role that would kick her career into a higher gear had been hard to come by until now.

With her Irish accent and impish sense of humor, Condon has been a welcome presence in every awards ballroom, though all that glad-handing can take its toll, she said: “I’m extremely introverted and I live alone, so when I come back from those things, I need to be hooked up to a drip!” Still, she’s thrilled to have the recognition, excited to be nominated alongside her three castmates, and ready for whatever happens to her screen career.

An introvert who lives alone: that’s just the woman for me. There just one hitch, evinced in this Q&A:

How did you feel when [McDonah] offered you “Banshees”?

I can’t remember because my dog died just before Covid, and the lead-up to my dog dying was a whole thing. I was very distracted, and on the horizon was this possible “Banshees” thing, but I couldn’t think beyond my dog. I paused everything. I said to my agent a year before that, “I’m not doing any jobs, I have to see this through. I don’t care what I’m missing, I have to be with her.” It was hard because I lived alone with her, and when you don’t have children, she was just everything to me.

That death had such a profound effect on me that it made me go, “Why aren’t people crying all the time? Why aren’t people talking about the fact that we all just disappear?” I remember thinking it was like when you lose your virginity: You hear about sex and you’re like, “What is that?” And then you have it, and the world cracks open, and there’s no going back. That’s how it felt with grief: I was like, “Oh, this is something I am going to have to deal with throughout my life.”

Here’s her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, which begins with a clip from the movie.

Maybe Kerry could learn to love cats (and me). . .

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is in the way.

A: May I make the bed?
Hili: I don’t see any need to.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy mogę posłać łóżko?
Hili: Nie widzę takiej potrzeby.


From Malcolm: a lovely murmuration from the BBC:

From Merilee, a Dan Reynolds cartoon:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Masih. Translation from Farsi:

“Farhad Maithami, a political activist who lost a lot of weight as a result of a hunger strike for 4 months in prison, wrote in a letter from Rajaeeshahr prison that he will make the water he drinks bitter in the next 10 days to be a sign of ‘times more bitter than poison’ that the rulers of the Islamic Republic ‘created for everyone in all aspects’.”

From Barry, who says “If there’s anything more adorable than this, I haven’t seen it.” But I wonder if that puppy is practicing to EAT DUCKS!

From the National Park Service, which has a sense of humor:

From Luana. I didn’t know that ideology was built into ChatGPT:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 42 year old woman who died in the camp.

Tweets from Matthew. Look at the brood of this tarantula! What if a baby falls off?

This is hilarious, especially if it’s true:

This isn’t satire, and there’s a huge squabble in the thread. Personally, I can’t see myself moving much from the left to the right (also metaphorically).