Thursday: Duck report (with zoomies!)

Here’s the last video Anna (Mueller) made of our ducks before she leaves today for Indiana. This is an awesome clip that she calls “teens with zoomies”. It shows not only Anna Mallard’s brood eating corn in the foreground (they’re much bigger since I left!), but also, fortuitously filmed in the background, Katie’s teenaged brood doing the “zoomies.”

“Zoomies” are spontaneous and infectious outbursts of duckling racing combined with underwater diving. The behavior is, I think, practice for taking off—a prelude to flight that tests the ducklings’ muscles. Last year, the first duckling flights occurred during the zoomies.

Anna says, “The teens are exploring speed and their wings.”

Be sure to make the video as large as you can:

And Anna’s caption for the photos below: “More pics of the cuties from my last visit…”  It’s sad that she’s leaving. Captions are Jerry’s:

Anna Mallard and her brood. How large they’ve gotten just since Saturday!

Human Anna with her duck namesake:

Katie’s brood. All ten have survived and grown to nearly full size, though their wings aren’t yet big enough to permit flight.

Anna with Katie’s brood:

And so it’s goodbye today to Anna Mueller, but thanks for all the ducks!

But wait! There’s more!  Our anonymous Duck Farmer sent this report (words indented), as well as three videos.

Katie’s brood were in the smaller part of the pond and sitting in the water almost motionless, which led me to take the first video and photo because it amused me that I watched them for so long and they just weren’t moving, which is so unlike them.

The second two videos are from June 17 showing Anna’s brood in the chilly weather. I like this one because Anna keeps popping up her head like a Brontosaurus!

A video duckling flower. Look at that selfish dude trying to worm its way into the middle!

When I got to the pond late this afternoon.  Anna and her brood were on one of the islands and Katie and her brood were on the beach.  A reversal of where I have usually found everyone.  At first I couldn’t figure out where Katie and her brood had gone, but then Katie popped her head up.

Everyone enjoyed a nice meal, mostly without any territorial skirmishes.  They were quite close together despite my best efforts to keep them apart occasionally one mom or the other worried that the other was getting too close and chase ensued, but they ended quickly. [JAC: Anna reports one sighting of old and new ducklings foraging side by side!]

After everyone ate, they each settled on an island, along with many of the turtles who were enjoying seeing the sun after several days of cold foggy weather.

From Jerry: This is my dream—a duck version of Isaiah’s Propecy: “And the ducks shall lie side by side on the two islands.” And indeed, Anna’s brood is on South Duck Island, and Katie’s on North Duck Island, as in the two photos above. They are getting along swimmingly, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The last picture does a better job of capturing the blue speculum on one of Katie’s babies than my effort a few days ago.

JAC: It looks as if all 18 are going to make it (fingers crossed), which makes me very happy.


Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. And then the days of our lives grow shorter. . .

It’s National Vanilla Milkshake Day, and, as far as I know, I’ve never had one; why would one want such a bland concoction? And it’s World Refugee Day.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot below) is another one highlighting the Women’s World Cup in soccer, and cycles through a number of soccer-related cartoons.

If you click on the Doodle on the Google page, you’ll be sent to the page with the match updates and standings: here are yesterday’s and today’s (the U.S./Sweden match will be on soon as the times shown are “Aleutian standard time”, which I guess is the local time in Hawaii).

Everyone who’s weighed in seems to favor Grania’s “bullet-point” list of days in history and births/deaths of notables. I will thus continue it indefinitely in her honor unless more people weigh in below in favor of the old format.

At that time the Seal had the national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”). That motto is now sadly, “In God We Trust“, established only in 1956 during a cold-war bill signed by President Eisenhower.

  • 1837 – Queen Victoria succeeds to the British throne.
  • 1840 – Samuel Morse receives the patent for the telegraph.
  • 1893 – Lizzie Borden is acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother.
  • 1900 – Boxer Rebellion: The Imperial Chinese Army begins a 55-day siege of the Legation Quarter in Beijing, China.
  • 1941 – The United States Army Air Corps is deprecated to being the American training and logistics section of what is known until 1947 as the United States Army Air Forces, just two days before Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

My father was in the Army Air Corps, but then, because his vision wasn’t 20/20, became a member of the regular Army when the Air Force was created.

  • 1944 – The experimental MW 18014 V-2 rocket reaches an altitude of 176 km, becoming the first man-made object to reach outer space.
  • 1945 – The United States Secretary of State approves the transfer of Wernher von Braun and his team of Nazi rocket scientists to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip.

This is a bit ironic given that von Braun helped develop the V-2 rocket, designed to be used as a Nazi weapon against the Allies in World War II. But the facilities and rockets were captured before use, and many German scientists, having expertise in missile technology, were transferred to U.S. missile programs.

  • 1972 – Watergate scandal: An 18½-minute gap appears in the tape recording of the conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and his advisers regarding the recent arrests of his operatives while breaking into the Watergate complex.
  • 1975 – The film Jaws is released in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing film of that time and starting the trend of films known as “summer blockbusters”.

Notables born on this day include

  • 1875 – Reginald Punnett, English geneticist, statistician, and academic (d. 1967)
  • 1909 – Errol Flynn, Australian-American actor (d. 1959)

It’s not clear whether the common expression “In like Flynn” refers to the actor’s well-known predilection for sexual activity.

  • 1928 – Eric Dolphy, American saxophonist, flute player, and composer (d. 1964)
  • 1928 – Jean-Marie Le Pen, French intelligence officer and politician
  • 1942 – Brian Wilson, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1945 – Anne Murray, Canadian singer and guitarist
  • 1949 – Lionel Richie, American singer-songwriter, pianist, producer, and actor

Those who died on June 20 include

  • 1925 – Josef Breuer, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1842)
  • 1958 – Kurt Alder, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)
  • 2002 – Erwin Chargaff, Austrian-American biochemist and academic (b. 1905)

Read about Chargaff, who never got the Nobel Prize (but perhaps should have) in Matthew Cobb’s book Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code. Chargaff’s great contribution, which helped Watson and Crick elucidate the structure of DNA, was his finding that the number of adenine bases equaled the number of thymine bases, and that the number of guanine bases equaled the number of cytosine bases. From this Watson and Crick deduced that in DNA As paired with Ts, and Gs paired with Cs. That, in turn, led to the first model of DNA published in Nature 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is about to attack:

A: I don’t know whether God is mathematics, but the concentration before a jump surely is.
Hili: Don’t disturb me.
In Polish:
Ja: Nie wiem, czy Bóg jest matematyką, ale koncentracja przed skokiem na pewno.
Hili: Nie przeszkadzaj.
Speaking of cats, here’s a felid meme from Facebook:

A tweet from reader Barry (sound on): “I can’t work. I’ve got four bed rats!”

From Nilou: who knew that otters were this brave (or foolish)?

Some tweets from Heather Hastie. It’s been a bumper year for kakapos in New Zealand, and here’s a healthy chick, or rather a healthy teenager:

Play this for your friends without letting them see it and ask them what kind of animal it is. One person I asked said, “A goat.”

Just to show that all cats are the same inside: a snow leopard attacking a pumpkin (via Ann German):

Tweets from Matthew. The first is one of his beloved illusions:

I may have posted this before, but if I did, learning is best achieved through repetition.

From the abstract of the paper below comparing the DNA sequences of Denisovans and Neanderthals with “modern” humans, showing which changes arose on the human branch:

We suggest that molecular mechanisms in cell division and networks affecting cellular features of neurons were prominently modified by these changes. Complex phenotypes in brain growth trajectory and cognitive traits are likely influenced by these networks and other non-coding changes presented here. We propose that at least some of these changes contributed to uniquely human traits, and should be prioritized for experimental validation.

Well, is it exactly 16,000 chromosomes? Still, this fact will make you the hit of any party.


HuffPost’s repeated smears of Joe Biden

HuffPost, of course, is not a source of news, but an Authoritarian Leftist rag where opinion masquerades as news. Their agenda is so transparent that you can see it simply by scanning the “headlines.”

Right now the site is busy smearing every Democratic candidate save Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and it especially hates Joe Biden. Well, I’ll tell you this: I think Biden would make a decent President, a gazillion times better than the moron who currently holds the office, and I’d vote for him over Trump any day. But I don’t yet have a favorite Democratic candidate, as it’s way too early.

But HuffPost (is it in secret thrall to Trump?) is trying to divide Democrats by backing only a few candidates and denigrating the rest. To that end, it tries to turn readers against Biden with articles like the one below, whose headline implies that Biden was either a racist or was friendly to segregationists. But read the damn article (click on screenshot):

Here’s what Biden was “guilty” of:

Speaking at a New York City hotel, Biden recalled his working relationships with the late Sens. James Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.), who served under a much more uneven Democratic party platform. Both men fiercely opposed desegregation.

“I know the new New Left tells me that I’m ― this is old-fashioned,” Biden said, according to a pool report. “Well guess what? If we can’t reach a consensus in our system, what happens? It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president. That’s what it does.”

Biden, who was elected to the Senate in 1973, told the crowd how Eastland used to call him “son,” rather than “boy,” and labelled Talmadge “one of the meanest guys I ever knew.”

“Well guess what? At least there was some civility,” Biden continued. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

. . . He has previously pointed to his successful working relationship with Eastland as proof that people with opposing views can work together in Washington. Yet Eastland and Talmadge held views that would likely shock many present-day Democrats.

This is slander, though it’s not illegal slander. Biden is not a racist, and yes, both Republicans and Democrats have demonized each other to the point where cooperation is not possible. We all know that, regardless of whom you consider most to blame. (I think it’s mostly Republicans, because while we have many centrist Democrats, centrist Republicans are very scarce.)

Recall that Lyndon Johnson courted a number of segregationist Senators to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. He rubbed elbows with many racists to enact the greatest anti-segregationist law of our generation.

The point of the Senate and House is to make laws, and to do that you have to work with people who often hold reprehensible views. If you refused to do that, nothing would get done.

And HuffPost can shove their opinions, generated by millennials who get paid virtually nothing to parade their vacuity.


Hawaii: Day 2

Yesterday included a visit to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, a plethora of lovely plants residing in a volcanic crater. Wikipedia describes it like this:

The Koko Crater Botanical Garden (60 acres) is a botanical garden located within the Koko Crater (Koko Head) on the eastern end of Oahu, Hawaii. It was given the dual title of the Charles M. Wills Cactus Garden by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, in recognition of his contributions to the garden, in 1966.

The garden is part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, and first established in 1958. Its hot, dry climate is suitable for Plumeria and Bougainvillea cultivars in the outer crater, kiawe (Prosopis pallida) and koa haole (Leucaena leucocephala) trees, and four major collections organized by region (Africa, the Americas, Hawaii, and Pacifica). Other collections include adeniums, alluaudias, aloes, baobabs, cacti, euphorbias, palms, and sansevierias, as well as a native grove of wiliwili trees (Erythrina sandwicensis). A loop trail (2 miles) runs through the collections. They have about 500 trees and 200 species of trees.

Before we begin, though, I have to show my three favorite animals on Oahu. The first is Fergus the Duck, who lives in a marina not far from where I’m staying. Fergus (and his many duck friends) get fed a big meal of Mazuri waterfowl food (for adults, not for ducklings) at least once a day. They all live on an island in the marina, and so are safe from predators.

Fergus always comes to his name, and always leads the other ducks to the edge of the marina where they get fed. He seems to be a mallard, but with at least some domesticated genes. His name, of course, comes from the Yeats poem, and from the fact that he’s always the lead duck:

And my local Hawaiian cat bros, Loki and Pi. The view of Pi is what I get every morning when I rise at 4:30 a.m. so you can have something to read!

Pi keeps me company for hours as I write:

On to the botanical garden. I do not know much about plants, but will identify the ones I remember. The rest I leave to the readers.

The crater walls rise all around the garden, and there’s a circular loop trail of two miles inside:

Right now the Plumeria are in bloom all over Oahu, and are especially resplendent in the crater. Their fallen blooms litter the ground.


A screwpine, Pandanus tectorius, native to Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. The stilt roots are unusual; its fruit is eaten while the leaves are used as flavoring in cakes and jams (I even have a bar of Pandanus soap that is wonderfully fragrant).

You tell me what this is, ’cause I don’t know:

A golden barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii, endemic to Mexico:

What is this?

And I don’t know this bird, either. Readers will have to help with the IDs for this post:

The yellow hibiscus, the official state flower of Hawaii:

And a red one:

Now here’s a wierd plant, the salacious “sausage tree”, Kigelia africana, a monospecific genus native to Africa. Their weird fruits, which give the tree its name, can be up to 60 cm (2 feet) long and weigh as much as 12 kg (26 pounds).

The fruit “sausages” are used for medicines and as containers.

What kind of animals ate that fruit?

I didn’t see a flower on the tree (there were some wilted ones on the ground), but here’s what one looks like (from Wikipedia):

Pachypodium rutenberianum, a weird plant native to Madagascar:

This may be another specimen of the species, but you tell me.

I’m not sure what tree this is, but it was replete with red flowers that attracted birds, and several small birds (unidentified) made their nests in it, probably because the thorns offer some protection from predators like mongooses (mongeese?):


A baobob tree, Adansonia sp., with its bulbous trunk making it look like one of the world’s strangest-looking trees. It’s native to Africa, Australia, Madagascar, and Arabia:

This lovely flowering tree, Bougainvilla, I think, is in bloom all over the island:

The obligatory vanity photo, courtesy of Nilou:

Hiking around in the sun makes you hungry, and so for lunch we repaired to an all-you-can eat shabu-shabu restaurant in the ritzy Ala Moana mall, Shabuya. For less than twenty bucks you can get all the meat, veggies, seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp) that you can cook in your personal hotpot, along with appetizers like gyoza and fresh noodles, including soba and udon. We took full advantage of the place, ordering many trays of meat, which you can cook in a lovely broth that doubles as a soup on the side.

The meats are two cuts of pork and two of beef; we made repeated orders of the beef at the extreme right:

Cooking away in the hot pot:

Conveniently, the best shave ice place I know, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, was in the same mall, and so we had dessert. A nice shave ice is the best ending to a hotpot meal.

There’s a better, sitdown Uncle Clay’s in Aina Haina, which is also cheaper.

Strawberry shave ice:

I deviated from my usual practice of having the matcha (green tea) shave ice with azuki beans and mochi, trying instead the taro malasada (Hawaiian/Portuguese spherical donut) cut in half and filled with gourmet Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

And so endeth another day in Paradise.



Here’s the mongoose!

Did you spot it in this morning’s post? Here’s the reveal and an enlargement.



Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ moderation

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “way,” came with the email message “Moderate, but not *too* moderate.” And on the page itself one can see this:

Also, what is “moderate” about believing so strongly in something which is almost certainly not true?

Unfortunately, Mohamed’s argument self destructs in the end.



A farewell to Anna the Human

Anna Mueller’s namesake, the hen Anna Mallard, is still with us, along with her eight healthy ducklings, but Human Anna is leaving tomorrow to take a job at Indiana University in Bloomington. I doubt that she’ll return for the rest of the summer, and so the ducks she tended will grow, and then depart, and she won’t see that. But I will keep her updated with doings at Botany Pond.

Anna was glad that we named the new mallard hen after her, and expressed her happiness on Twitter, as you see below. (Note that Twitter considers some of my duck pictures to be “sensitive content”, which is part of the site’s algorithmic stupidity. I think it comes from my having tweeted Jesus and Mo cartoons!)

So Anna came over to Botany Pond last Saturday, graduation day at the U of C, so we could give the ducks and ducklings their last supper from the two of us. She also brought organic strawberries and blueberries as a special treat for the waterfowl.

The ducks turned up their bills at the strawberries, but did go after the blueberries, though they had a hard time processing them. I think the fruits were too hard to squash with their bills. Here we see one of Katie’s teenaged ducklings going after a blueberry, trying to squash it, dropping it, dabbling it back up, and finally losing it in the pond (or so it seems to me):

Anna feeding the eight-duckling brood of her namesake:

It made both her and the ducks happy:

She didn’t neglect Katie’s brood, either. Here she feeds what she called the “Angry Teenagers”, because they got pissed off when we ran out of food at mealtime. You can see the expensive but uneaten strawberries on the bank.

And Anna took the obligatory selfies with me, Anna’s brood and Katie’s brood. I was unshaven and haggard after a long weekend of work, but I’ll be spiffy when I travel the day after writing this. Katie et al. are in the background:

Some graduates posing by Botany Pond (a favorite post-graduation picture spot), and there are some tiny ducklings among the water lilies that are invisible.

So farewell to Dr. Mueller, and best of luck in her new job! She was a superb duck farmer, and we will miss her. I only hope that she finds some new ducks to tend Bloomington.

Duck reports will be fewer in the next three weeks as I’ll be in Hawaii, but our two Duck Farmers promise to provide me with regular reports, and I’ll pass those on to you.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

At least for this week we’ll continue with Grania’s format for the dialogue, as well as using only the tweets she sent me.  As she is not around to add the Hili dialogue to my pre-written posts, Hili dialogues (and all other posts) will be several hours late until I return to Chicago.

So it’s Wednesday, June 19, 2019, and National Martini Day. If I want a “sophisticated” drink, I’ll have a martini, or rather a Gibson, which is a martini with a pickled onion instead of an olive. And I’ll go very light on the vermouth:

It’s Juneteenth as well, which has been celebrated, especially by the African-American community, for over 100 years, as it commemorates the announcment in Texas of the abolition of slavery throughout the U.S.—on June 19, 1865. The event that marks this is given in Wikipedia:

On June 18, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The following day, standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Other events on this day include (all bullet points taken from Wikipedia):

  • 325 – The original Nicene Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea.
  • 1269 – King Louis IX of France orders all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge to be fined ten livres of silver.
  • 1862 – The U.S. Congress prohibits slavery in United States territories, nullifying Dred Scott v. Sandford.
  • 1865 – Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas, United States, are finally informed of their freedom. The anniversary is still officially celebrated in Texas and 41 other contiguous states as Juneteenth.
  • 1953 – Cold War: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing, in New York.
  • 1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is approved after surviving an 83-day filibuster in the United States Senate.
  • 1991 – The Soviet occupation of Hungary ends.
  • 2012 – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange requested asylum in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for fear of extradition to the US after publication of previously classified documents including footage of civilian killings by the US army.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1623 – Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and physicist (d. 1662)
  • 1896 – Wallis Simpson, American wife of Edward VIII (d. 1986)
  • 1902 – Guy Lombardo, Canadian-American violinist and bandleader (d. 1977)
  • 1903 – Lou Gehrig, American baseball player (d. 1941)
  • 1914 – Lester Flatt, American bluegrass singer-songwriter, guitarist, and mandolin player (d. 1979)
  • 1945 – Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese politician, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1947 – Salman Rushdie, Indian-English novelist and essayist
  • 1963 – Laura Ingraham, American radio host and author

Those who died on June 19 include:

  • 1953 – Ethel Rosenberg, American spy (b. 1915)
  • 1953 – Julius Rosenberg, American spy (b. 1918)

Both were executed for espionage.  And, finally,

  • 2018 – Koko, western lowland gorilla and user of American Sign Language (b. 1971)

Koko is the only non-human individual whose death I’ve seen listed on a Wikipedia “date page”. There may of course be more.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Hili have a Serious Discussion about evolution. I think Andrzej is right.

Hili: Is memory an adaptation?
A: It’s possible, because without it we wouldn’t be able to learn, and learning is crucial for
In Polish:
Hili: Czy pamięć jest adaptacją?
Ja: Raczej tak, bez niej nie moglibyśmy się uczyć, a uczenie się jest konieczne dla przetrwania.

Finally, these are the very last tweets that Grania sent me. There will be no more from her, and it’s just so sad. I’ll present them without comment.

Grania loved the Twitter site Emergency Kittens, and also sent me one or two kitten tweets when I was sad or depressed. And here is the last one from her:

Spot the mongoose!

Yesterday, at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, we spotted a mongoose darting furtively through the underbrush. Mongooses (mongeese?) aren’t native to Hawaii, but were introduced in a disasterous plan to control rodents. As reports:

The mongooses found in Hawai’i are native to India and were originally introduced to Hawai’i Island in 1883 by the sugar industry to control rats in sugarcane fields on Maui, Moloka’i and O’ahu. The introduction of mongoose to Hawaii with the intent to control rats was misguided, because while rodents make up a large portion of the mongooses’ diet, the their substantial negative impact on other desirable birds, insects, and animals outweighs their minor impact on rat. Mongoose are now widespread on all of the main Hawaiian islands except for Lanaʻi and Kauaʻi, where there are no known populations. Mongooses can live in both wet and dry conditions including gardens, grasslands, and forests.

Here’s one. Can you spot it? (Click to enlarge.) I would rate this as “fairly easy”. Answer at noon Chicago time.

Now: WEIT with 60K subscribers

I just noticed, at 5:10 Chicago time, that we had attained this goal:

Technically, it’s 60.001, since I’m following it, too, but I don’t count. Over 10 years, this means about 6,000 subscribers a year. I can’t hope for that pace to maintain itself, but if it does, in 7 more years (if I’m still alive), we’ll reach my dream goal of 100,000 subscribers. Then I can retire and raise ducks.

Oops. . . I just noticed it went back down to 59,999. Who’s the miscreant who unsubscribed?