Google Doodle celebrates Gloria Anzaldúa

With this Doodle (click on screenshot to get there), I’ve become convinced that Google Doodles are the HuffPo of search engines. For today, with all possible birthdays to be celebrated (see previous dialogue), it’s marking the 75th birthday of Gloria E. Anzaldúa, described as “an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.” Google definitely has an ideological agendas behind their Doodles: Here’s part of her Wikipedia entry (she died in 2004):

Anzaldúa described herself as a very spiritual person and stated that she experienced four out-of-body experiences during her lifetime. In many of her works, she referred to her devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Nahuatl/Toltec divinities, and to the Yoruba orishás Yemayá and OshúnIn 1993, she expressed regret that scholars had largely ignored the “unsafe” spiritual aspects of Borderlands and bemoaned the resistance to such an important part of her work. In her later writings, she developed the concepts of spiritual activism and nepantleras to describe the ways contemporary social actors can combine spirituality with politics to enact revolutionary change.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Gooday, mate! It’s Tuesday, September 26, 2017, and although the heat is abating in Chicago, we’ll still have a high temperature of 88° F (31° C) today—nearly 20° F above normal temperatures. (The last six days in Chicago have all set records for high temperatures.)

Also, I didn’t see my duck yesterday. Posting will be light today for two reasons 1). I have multiple tasks and 2). It’s one of those days when I don’t have much to say, and won’t afflict you with persiflage.

It’s National Pancake Day, and boy, could I use a stack with plenty of butter and maple syrup (I had a fast day yesterday—just one cup of coffee and water—and today I will EAT). It’s also National Good Neighbor Day in the U.S., so if you live next door to me, please bring me pancakes.

On September 26, 1580, Francis Drake finished his sail around the world. It was really the second circumnavigation of the Earth (do you remember who was in charge of the first one?), but in this case the captain was alive throughout the whole voyage. It took Drake three years, and here’s his route:

I still can’t fathom the mindset of someone who takes off into the great unknown for an indeterminate number of years, leaving everything behind and still likely to die on the voyage. The spirit of curiosity (and desire for wealth) is great. On this day in 1687, the Venetian army besieging the Greeks in Athens fired a shell that blew up an ammunition store in the Parthenon, one of the most culturally devastating rounds in history. I lived in Athens, and much regret that all we have left is the shell, with many of the sculptures residing (apparently permanently) in London.

On this day in 1905, Einstein published his first paper on the special theory of relativity, one of his three “Annus Mirabilis” papers. A friend told me yesterday that no scientific discovery ever comes out of nowhere: other people have always paved the way by having similar ideas (he was referring to Darwin and The Origin). I responded that Einstein’s work on relativity seemed to have no real predecessors; it was sui generis. 

On this day in 1942, as Wikipedia notes, “August Frank, a higher official of the SS concentration camp administration department, issues a memorandum containing a great deal of operational detail in how Jews should be ‘evacuated’.” This was an important document in the history of the Holocaust, and read the text on Wikipedia if you want to have your blood chilled. It all presumes, without saying, that the Jews won’t need their stuff any more. Here’s a bit:

b. Foreign exchange (coined or uncoined), rare metals, jewelry, precious and semi-precious stones, pearls, gold from teeth and scrap gold have to be delivered to the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office. The latter is responsible for the immediate delivery to the Reichsbank.

On this day in 1960, the first Kennedy-Nixon debate took place in Chicago. I watched it, and many think that Nixon’s poor performance (and appearance!) helped swing the election. Finally, on September 26, 1969, the Beatles released their album they recorded last “Abbey Road.” (Most of “Let it Be”, the last album released, was recorded earlier).

Notables born on this day include Johnny Appleseed (1774), Ivan Pavlov (1849), Winsor McCay (1867), T. S. Eliot (1888), George Gershwin (1898), Jack LaLanne (1914), and Olivia Newton-John (1948; her cancer seems to have recurred and it looks dire for her). Those who died on this day include Daniel Boone (1820), Levi Strauss (1902; I wear his invention daily), Bessie Smith (1937), George Santayana (1952), and Paul Newman (2008; I would have wanted to be him: talented, immensely handsome, and a truly nice and generous guy).  Here are the two handsomest actors of our time:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a curmudgeon:

Hili: Today’s youth!
A: What don’t you like about it?
Hili: Today’s youth is playing ball exactly like yesterday’s youth.
In Polish:
Hili: Dzisiejsza młodzież!
Ja: Co ci się nie podoba?
Hili: Dzisiejsza młodzież gra w piłkę tak samo jak wczorajsza.
Here are two tw**ts contributed by Dr. Cobb; I’m not responsible for the accuracy of this first one, but you should watch it

And Matthew’s favorite subject: spot the flounder! (This one is dead easy.)

Out in Winnipeg, Gus’s staff is having both of their bathrooms renovated, and of course that means strange people and noises in the house, always a disturbance for cats, as they don’t like their routine disrupted. Today have two videos of Gus’s reaction accompanied by notes from his staff member Taskin (indented):

The sink, bathtub and flooring were removed from the bathroom today. Gus is inspecting the work and sniffing all the tools. Notice the small hesitation as he approaches the hole in the floor.

Video #2. Fear of the hole has decreased, fascination with the hole has increased:

A beetle with remarkable eyes

Here’s  tw**t found by Matthew Cobb:

Now I’m not sure exactly what a “behemoth beetle” is except a “big beetle” (I can’t find the group), but never mind. Here are its eyes, which don’t go 360 degrees around, but pretty far:

This means that the beetle can see above its head and below it, in other words nearly a complete fisheye view of the world around its head. What it can’t see is a comprehensive and similar view from its head to its tail vertically or horizontally: the median and dorsal planes shown here.

Such an arrangement of the eyes, which is surely a result of natural selection, means that this species has to pay particular attention to what is above and below its head.  Any guesses what’s going on? (Don’t ask me, I just work here.)

Is Steve Bannon crazy like a fox?

To James Kirchick, a liberal who intensely dislikes Trump, the answer to the title question is “Yes!”. Kirchick’s new piece in the Spectator, “The ominous political genius of Steve Bannon,” shows a man who, as a big force in Trump’s political campaign and later as Chief White House Strategist, explicitly used the Left’s identity politics against them, making this famous statement in an interview with Steve Kuttner in The American Prospect

‘”The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em’. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Well, Trump didn’t crush the Democrats with votes, though he did psychologically, but he did better than he had any right to, and better than any of us suspected (I lost $500 betting against Trump).

Kirchick thinks that, before he left the White House, Bannon threw in his lot with three issues that enranged Leftists but played well with everyone else:

Throughout his short, eight-month tenure at the White House, Bannon – who has been described as a ‘Leninist’ – committed himself to effectuating this dialectic. His influence can be seen in three policy battles he helped instigate, all aimed at forcing Trump’s political adversaries and the media (dubbed ‘the opposition party’ by Bannon) onto political terrain where the right traditionally has a home field advantage: the so-called ‘Muslim travel ban’, the hastily-announced prohibition on transgender military service, and the just-erupted fight over statues and historical memory. In each case, Bannon nudged Democrats and liberals into adopting positions that, while fashionable with their activist base and media elite, are either unpopular or considered irrelevant to a wide majority of the American people. And by repeatedly taking his bait, the American left is allowing Bannon to define them.

With respect to the travel ban, polls are said to show that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of it (60% pro, 28% against), and the liberal outrage following the ban just heartened the Right. While most Americans support the presence of transgender people in the military, they don’t see this as a crucial issue. And as for the Confederate monuments, Kirchick says the issue also outraged the Left despite most Americans not supporting their removal:

As with the travel and transgender bans, the response from the ‘resistance’ was Pavlovian. Over the past two weeks, mobs have taken down Confederate statues, graffiti was sprayed on the Lincoln Memorial, a Lincoln bust was defaced in Chicago, a Democratic CNN analyst demanded that monuments to Washington and Jefferson be demolished (which would mean the destruction of two of Washington, D.C.’s most iconic attractions, if not the renaming of the national capital itself), and Democratic congressional leaders wrote bills mandating the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol building. All this occurs against the backdrop of a poll reporting 62 percent of Americans want Confederate statues to remain in place, a finding that includes 44 percent of Democrats and, most surprisingly, a plurality of African-Americans.

Kirchick’s conclusion is that the Left’s increasing divisiveness and identity politics is making it look more radical, playing into the hands of middle Americans, and that the Democratic Party is ” increasingly becoming hostage to its activist, progressive, identity politics-driven base, which obsesses over issues not relevant to the vast majority of the American people but that play well on Twitter and MSNBC.” Like me, Kirchick was against Bannon’s policies, but there’s a lot of sense in his conclusions:

For what it’s worth, I disagree with Bannon and Trump on the travel ban, the transgender ban, and the removal of Confederate icons. But I’m not the sort of person Democrats need to win future elections. Bannon is a master storyteller and creator of narratives, skills he honed making political documentaries and sharpened in more lurid form at Breitbart. The grand narrative he’s spent the last several years shaping is one in which the Democrats gradually become the caricature villain of a Breitbart comments section: the party of Colin Kaepernick and Melissa Click and the screaming girl at Yale and the people defacing the Lincoln Memorial and the pundits who equivocate over condemning Antifa and the transgender YouTube activist who insists that ‘some women have penises’. Democrats shouldn’t fall into his trap.

After all, who wants America to wind up looking like the campus of Evergreen State University? And that’s what happens when Leftists go crazy over “moral purity” issues. Somehow we have to dial down this craziness without losing our principles, and stop casting our opponents (and even fellow Leftists) as morally tainted. Perhaps Bannon’s departure will short-circuit a strategy that worked better than any of us expected, despite Trump’s low approval rating, but Trump has other advisors, and in many ways he’s like Bannon.

To see one strategy for the Left (suggested by an anti-Trump conservative), read Bret Stephens’s new piece in the New York Times, “The dying art of disagreement.”

h/t: Grania

North Korea says that U.S. has declared war on their country

The Dance of the Loons proceeds as two leaders do the fandango, but if one of them slips there will be hell to pay. And so several sources, including the BBC, report this late-breaking news: North Korea says that the U.S. has declared war on it. To wit (my emphasis):

North Korea’s foreign minister has accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war on his country.

Ri Yong-ho told reporters in New York that North Korea reserved the right to shoot down US bombers.

This applied even when they were not in North Korean airspace, the minister added. The world “should clearly remember” it was the US that first declared war, Mr Ri said.

The two sides have been engaged in an increasingly angry war of words.

Despite weeks of tension, experts have played down the risk of direct conflict between the two.

After Mr Ri addressed the United Nations on Saturday, the US president responded by tweeting that Mr Ri and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer” if they continued their rhetoric.

I’m still not worried, simply because I don’t think Kim Jong-un is suicidal. And for Trump, who has less to lose than the entire Korean peninsula, I’m confident his military advisors would strongly advise him against a first strike as being a crazy move that would kill millions of people, mostly civilians, to no real purpose except to bring down the North Korean regime (while killing many of its people, inflicting China with a huge political problem, and wiping out Seoul).  Still, one never knows. . . .

Dumbest activist ever: Linda Sarsour

Yes, this is a genuine tweet on Muslim activist Linda Sarsour‘s feed, but in case she takes it down—and really, she should have already—I’ve also provided a screenshot.

Rumor has it Sarsour wants to run for office, perhaps even winding up in Congress. Right now, though, she’s even more ignorant than Trump (I almost wrote “Turnip!) Now what point do you suppose Sarsour is trying to make here? My guess is that she’s trying to denigrate Trump by saying that the North Koreans he hates really do like their country, as they’re not trying to immigrate to the U.S.

Oh and “smh” means “shaking my head.”

The proper response to her tweet, of course, is “THEY CAN’T!

Below is the screenshot for when she comes to her senses and deep-sixes the tweet above.

Trump vs. athletes’s knees

If you live in the U.S., you’ll know all about the football protests yesterday, when dozens of coaches and players either refused to appear for the traditional playing of the National Anthem or went down on one knee instead of standing erect. (You can read a comprehensive report in the New York Times.) This was a mass protest against Donald Trump’s hamhanded call to fire players who don’t “respect” the flag and the anthem.  Well, the reaction was predictable: although owners can indeed fire those players, the original going down on the knee, started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, constituted sincere demonstrations of speech against bigotry. It’s a crime that that after Kaepernick didn’t renew his contract, no other team will touch him, but his playing hasn’t been stellar in the last few seasons. However, in the end Kaepernick’s protest has swelled, and has done so because Trump tried to demonize him and others who spoke out against bigotry. (This isn’t really “free speech” in the First Amendment sense since football teams are privately owned, and players don’t have a right to demonstrate on the field any way they want. But the owners, managers, and players, consider it “free speech” in the sense that such demonstrations shouldn’t be punished.)

Here’s one example of how Trump really can’t control himself:

Although many football players are black and thus not fans of Trump, yesterday’s demonstrations included dozens of white players and coaches, all standing up for the right to not stand up. True, many fans were peeved by what they saw as a denigration of America, but really, what does America stand for except for the right to dissent? And many fans were supportive.

What we saw yesterday was not a bunch of academic liberals decrying Trump, but a bunch of athletes, engaged in one of America’s favorite sports, defying our President. I’m often wrong about politics, but I’ll say that this is a watershed moment in Trump’s continuing loss of credibility.  When Walter Cronkite came out against the war, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” I’ll paraphrase those words by saying that “If Trump loses football, he’s lost Middle America.”

Wildlife photos: National Geographic’s annual contest

Instead of putting up readers’ photos today, let me show you some of the winners of National Geographic’s 2017 Nature Photographer of the Year contest. I’ve chosen just a few images, but there are many wonderful photos to see. I’ve used the captions from the site.

You can download these photos directly from the site to use as wallpaper for your computer.

CABLE BEACH CAMEL CARAVAN. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY TODD KENNEDY A birds eye view of a caravan of camels walking along Cable beach at sunset.


INVASIVE BEAUTY. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY STEVEN KOVACS a portrait of a lionfish in its beautiful pelagic larval stage taken during a drift dive at night near the surface in water over 600 feet deep. Palm Beach, Florida. WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES


ALIEN. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY ADAM SILVERMAN This is one of my favorite photos of my favorite critter. Shot with a +25 magnifier, it really brings out the detail in this otherwise very small skeleton shrimp. It’s face is clear, it’s reddish eyes are visible, and the way it faces my camera with it’s arms wide makes it almost symmetrical. It’s clear color matches the hydra that it is living on. Plus the colors in the background really make this an interesting and beautiful photo. Don’t think there are aliens on earth? Look no further! MAKAWIDEY, NORTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA


RORSCHACH TEST. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY JERRY AM ENDE Golden Hour at Bombay Hook NWR this morning. There was not a hint of wind when this Great Blue Heron began to preen. LOCATION: DONAS LANDING, DELAWARE, UNITED STATES


MOTHER NATURES CAMO. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY COLE FRECHOU (Mother Natures camo) Gator waiting in Duckweed in New Orleans, LA. This was taken off of a board walk so dont worry for my safety. LOCATION: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES

And of course we need a cat photo:

ÉTIREMENT.  PHOTO AND CAPTION BY JOËL FISCHER A lioness stretches into the immensity of Masai Mara, Kenya. LOCATION: MASAI MARA, RIFT VALLEY, KENYA



FIGHT FOR LIFE. PHOTO AND CAPTION BY CHAN KWOK HUNG Taken in Maasai mara, Kenya this is my third time visit there, finally I see it!!!! I see it happening very close!!!! the animal migration!!!! LOCATION: MASAI MARA, RIFT VALLEY, KENYA


COORG YELLOW BUSH FROG PHOTO AND CAPTION BY ANGAD ACHAPPA a coorg yellow bush frog photographed in the rainforests of Agumbe, Karnataka. The frog was formerly known as blue-eyed bush frog due to the blue ring around its eye.

h/t: Diane G

Monday: Hili dialogue

SORRY: This is out of order! I didn’t sleep very well last night, and forgot to schedule this.

Well, it’s Monday again, September 25, 2017, and classes begin today at the University of Chicago. Today’s food holiday doesn’t celebrate the food but its purveyors: it’s National Food Service Workers Day (roughly a quarter of Americans have worked in food service; have you?).

On a side note, have you been watching the new PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The Vietnam War”? I am making an exception of my “almost no t.v.” rule to watch this, and it’s a fantastic documentary, weaving together deftly the military actions in Asia with antiwar ferment stateside, as well as the history of the conflict and recordings by people like LBJ and many soldiers who participated. The series is 18 hours long, and you’ll learn a lot. 50,000 Americans died in that losing cause along with over a million Vietnamese, many of the civilians. Nothing was accomplished. What’s new to me is the sheer bloodiness of the conflict: an aspect of the war hidden from Americans at the time by the government and the media. Parts are quite gruesome.

1066 was a rough year for England. Beside the Normans, the Brits took on the Vikings, defeating them on this day at The Battle of Stamford Bridge.  On this day in 1513, the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa “reached what would become known as the Pacific Ocean.” That’s what Wikipedia says, but on that day Balboa only saw the Pacific from a mountain peak after crossing the Isthmus of Panama. He didn’t get to the ocean for four more days. On this day in 1789, the U.S. Congress passed twelve amendments to the Constitution, including the ten known as the Bill of Rights, which had the famous First Amendment (freedom of religion, assembly, and speech), and the infamous Second (possession of guns to permit formation of well regulated militias). Finally, on this day in 1957, with the help of U.S. Army troops ordered out by President Eisenhower, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas was integrated. Here’s a short video showing the “Little Rock Nine” (the six black women and three black men who broke the barriers). It shows how far we’ve come:


Notables born on this day include Fletcher Christian (1764), Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866; my academic great-grandfather: advisor to the advisor of my advisor), William Faulkner (1897), Mark Rothko (1903), Barbara Walters (1929), Shel Silverstein (1930), Glenn Gould (1932) and Catherine Zeta-J0nes (1969; shares birthday with her husband Michael Douglas, born in 1945).  Here’s a Rothko—”Woman and Cat” (1933):

Those who died on this day include Ring Lardner (1933), Emily Post (1960), Hugo Black (1971), Billy Carter (1988; remember “Billy Beer”?), Edward Said and George Plimpton (both 2003), Andy Williams (2012) and Arnold Palmer (last year).  Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the drainpipe was broken by a vine, as it is yearly, and Hili calls attention to it. It’s now been fixed:

Hili: You have to fix this drain pipe.
A: Yes, I’m afraid I have to.
 In Polish:
Hili: Musisz naprawić tę rynnę.
Ja: Też się tego obawiam.

Here are two tw**ts stolen from Heather Hastie’s daily compendium:

And one found by Matthew Cobb. Be sure to turn the sound up to hear the fearsome roars!

Finally, Grania sends in two pictures with a note: “Here is a photo series you have seen before but you cannot see it too often. FISHING EXPEDITION”:

Explanatory notes:

I waited two years to try to capture this behaviour which is only possible when the Savute Channel starts to recede leaving the catfish stranded in the isolated pools of water. It wasn’t until August in the second year that I was there when the conditions were right and after many days waiting, I was finally rewarded with this female leopard jumping into the muddy pool with remarkable success. There are three related leopards in the area that are known to fish although tney rarely try it in daylight. Not only is the behaviour remarkable, it has been learnt by the oldest female in the last 5 years as before that the channel had not flowed for 30 years. She has then taught it to two separate litters of offspring.

My duck came back!!!

I was told that if the weather was unseasonably warm for a few days, there was a chance that my beloved mallard hen Honey would return to our pond. And, sure enough, it’s been over 90°F for four days in a row. Every day since I’ve been back, regardless of the temperature, I’ve gone out to the pond and whistled for her, all to no avail. I have to admit that I was a bit relieved when she didn’t come, as I was hoping she’d fly south. But I’m told that some mallards overwinter in this area (although in larger bodies of water that don’t freeze), and that she might come back for a visit.

But yesterday afternoon, on my way home, I walked by the pond and whistled again. And, lo and behold, Honey swam out of the reeds, paddling towards me rapidly. I could tell it was her because of her immediate response to my whistle and by the identifying marks on her bill. (These are iPhone photos, so the quality isn’t great.)

Beak marks:

Enlargement of bill from several months ago: note matching stippling on left side with three black blotches:

Honey duck bill markings


Naturally, I had to go back to my lab and break open my saved bag of mealworms, and she got a fine treat.

Honey nomming mealworms:

I’ll see if she’s here today, and will feed her if she is. Then I’ll have to go to the store to buy frozen corn.

Truth be told, I do love this duck, but I don’t want her to hang around when the weather gets cold. She’s still a bit skittish, as if she went feral after her ducklings fledged (she used to eat out of my hand), and my delight at seeing her is tempered with typical Jewish tsouris about her fate.

Oh, duck experts: how do mallards manage to find their way back to a small pond like this when they’re far away?