My new bathroom accessory

Yes, I bought it. It stands 22 inches high, very solid (all resin), and anatomically correct except for the annoying speculum, which extends over the whole wing. But the rest of it is accurate, including the “nail” on the bill and the leg band.  (The white on his bill is a piece of the styrofoam packing). The company also has other animals proffering bogroll, like bears and dogs, but this is by far the best.

If you come visit me, you’ll have the privilege of getting your t.p. from this bathroom gnome I now call Billzebum:


At least one reader I know will object to the orientation of the toilet roll.

If you want one, they’re here, and $7 cheaper than on Amazon. But there are only two left! The customer reviews are very positive:

Two comments (the first is a bit ungrammatical):


And then there’s this for only $9.93 (includes shakers). I can vouch for the quality of these products; they are solid and cute:

Can you tell that I miss my ducks?

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) is back, with effusive thanks to Grania for taking over the Hili Dialogues during my stint in Croatia. It’s Sunday, October 21, 2018, and I’m off to Paris in less than two weeks. This means a strict diet between now and then! That abstemiousness is promoted by the unappetizing nature of today’s food holiday: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Oy gewalt! Soon the pumpkin spice lattes will be upon us as well: signs of upper middle class female whiteness. It’s also a day to call attention to a much better snack: International Day of the Nacho, celebrating a dish invented around 1943. Here are some Fun Facts about this snack, vastly superior to pumpkin-flavored cheesecake:

Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. In 1943, the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. The maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, created a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, added sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, and served them.

When asked what the dish was called, he answered, “Nacho’s especiales“. As word of the dish traveled, the apostrophe was lost, and Nacho’s “specials” became “special nachos”.

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, “Nacho’s Restaurant”, in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s Cookbook.

Would you like some of these right now? I would!

On this day in 1512, Martin Luther joined the theology faculty of the University of Wittenburg. Exactly eight years later to the day, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the strait that now bears his name. On October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution (nicknamed “Old Ironsides”) was launched in Boston Harbor. It’s still there with its 44 guns: the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.  On October 21, 1854, Florence Nightingale and her team of 38 nurses were sent to the Crimean War. Here she is four years later:

On this day in 1879, Thomas Edison applied for his patent on an incandescent electric light bulb.  In 1940, this day saw the publication of Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (in truth, the only novel of his I really like is The Sun Also Rises, but I rank his short stories at the top with that one). Exactly four years later, the Japanese launched the first kamikaze attack against an Australian ship off Leyte Island.

On October 21, 1945, women were allowed to vote in France for the first time, and in 1959 Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order allowing the transfer of Wernher von Braun and other German scientists to NASA. And so the most excellent Tom Lehrer song:

It was on this day in 1983 that the meter was formally defined as “the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.”  Finally, it was on this day in 1994 that North Korea and the U.S. signed a pact that required the DPRK to agree to stop developing nuclear weapons and to agree to inspections. That was one of many agreements broken by the DPRK, and a lesson not learned by “President” Trump.

Notables born on this day include Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772), Alfred Nobel (1833), Oswald Avery (1877; look him up), Don Byas (1912), Georg Solti (1912), Dizzy Gillespie (1917), Ursula Le Guin (1929), Carrie Fisher (1956), and of course Kim Kardashian (1980). Those who expired on October 21 include Horatio Nelson (1805), Jack Kerouac (1969, age only 47), Hans Asperger (1980), François Truffaut (1984), George McGovern (2012), and Ben Bradlee (2014).

I campaigned for McGovern when he ran for President in 1972 and wrote this campaign poem for him.

McG! McG!
Yes, he’s the man for me.
Though his head is bald as a billiard ball,
He’s the savviest one of all.
McG! McG!
Yes, he’s the man for me.

Needless to say, he lost big time—and to Nixon. I was heartbroken, for McG was a good man. I remember watching the election returns on television in the lobby of the Rockefeller University student center (that’s where I began grad school), sitting on a couch next to the philosopher Saul Kripke. As the bad news came in, Kripke davened back and forth like a praying Jew. Bradlee, though a good editor, was a man I had little use for, as on one occasion he insulted me gratuitously. But that’s a story for another time.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn and all over Poland, today is election day. Malgorzata is on her way to vote, but encounters a campaigning Hili:

Hili: Vote for me.
Małgorzata: Why?
Hili: To make my rule look democratic.
In Polish:
Hili: Głosuj na mnie.
Małgorzata: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby moje rządy wyglądały demokratycznie.

Nearby, at the site of his future home, Leon is feeling the change of seasons.

Leon: It’s colllllllld! I’d better be going home!

In Polish:   Ziiiiiiiimno, zbieram się do domu!

Theologists continue to grapple with the problem of Missing Evidence for the Divine (h/t Diana MacPherson):

A tweet from reader Jim, and I hope no readers here make these mistakes:

Reader Rick sent some tweets of X-rays taken at the Oregon Zoo.

From reader Blue, we have a future Alex Honnold:

From reader Paul, a real scientist reacts to a pretend scientist:

A few tweets from Matthew, beginning with the weirdest-looking squirrel I’ve ever seen. Apparently it’s both leucistic and melanistic, giving it a Phantom of the Opera appearance:

I still don’t understand the trick here. Some reader please explain it to me!

The first tweet, was posted yesterday by Grania, but there’s a followup from Matthew:

From reader Florian. How did things change so fast? I am dubious.


Heron in a Dutch perfume shop

Reader Peter posted a link earlier today to this video, which shows a gray heron (Ardea cinerea) that somehow wandered into a perfume shop in the Netherlands. After perusing the wares, and making a raucous squawk, he flies around a bit and manages to exit the shop. I’m glad he didn’t run into anything!

Here’s a translation from Google Translate, which didn’t do a bad job:

A perfumery in the center of Gouda got a special customer in the shop last Wednesday: a heron walked inside. The animal walked quietly into the store while the customers and staff looked surprised.

The traveler, after a short walk, spread his wings to come out again. ‘For a moment I thought it would be chaos, but it was not so bad,’ says a shop assistant. After having flopped back and forth a few times, the big bird managed to fly out again without loot.

Maybe it was looking for cheese and not perfume.

The Right uses the Left’s tactics: Nancy Pelosi viciously harassed at a Florida venue

Now it’s become common practice to viciously harass in public politicians you don’t like. It’s happened recently with Republicans Ted Cruz, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, while White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia. I haven’t seen much of this kind of public harassment happen to Democrats, but it has now—and it will happen more frequently.  I’ve decried this practice as uncivil, and a disturbance of the privacy that people should have when they’re eating or trying to avoid attention as they go about their business in the street. And some the harassment of Democrats to come is the fault of the Left.
Grania sent me the tweet below, with the excerpt of a longer video that I’ve added below. She added these words:

“Who ever saw this coming? Apart from all of us, I mean. The Right has been taking notes.”

Early reports were that this took place in  a restaurant (see right below), but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Rather, Pelosi was entering a venue to campaign for the congressional seat sought by Democrat Donna Shalala.

The slightly erroneous report from Mediaite (it wasn’t a restaurant):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the latest politician to be harassed by angry protesters who insisted he doesn’t f*cking “belong here.”

On Wednesday, video was captured of Pelosi entering a restaurant in Florida for a campaign stop as a swarm of people being described as “Trump supporting Cuban Americans” confronted her.

“Look at Nancy Pelosi right here, look at this piece of sh*t right here. Look at this piece of sh*t Pelosi right here,” a protester is heard yelling. “F***ing communist! You don’t belong here you fucking communist! Get the f**k out of here! Get the f**k out of here! F**k you and your f**king Democrats!”

After she entered the building, the protesters then began pounding on the door. The mob can be seen holding several anti-communism signs.

They then chanted “Socialism sucks!”

Here’s the full video:

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill political protest, but personal harassment. It’s legal, but it’s uncivil and reprehensible. This group, at least, is a small basket of deplorables.  And, I claim, this tactic was adopted by Republicans who took it from the Democratic playbook.  It reflects, of course, the increasingly nasty and apparently irreconcilable gap between the Left and the Right. Journalist Benny Johnson, now on the Right, has it pretty well right:

When I posted this on my Facebook page, with an indictment of the Left for “normalizing” this behavior, one person, eager to defend the Left at all costs, wrote this:

I’m now suspicious that these are paid left wing activists acting as if they are right wingers heckling.

This shows how eager some are to demonize the other side and “angel-ize” their own. Face it, folks, we’re polarized, and Lefties can act as bad as Righties. In fact, this tactic was popularized by the Left: at colleges, by Antifa, and by all those determined to shut down free speech. And the bulk of deplatforming of speakers at U.S. colleges in the past four years has come from the Left.

Well, the Facebook conspiracy theorist was wrong: the Washington Post (click on screenshot below) identifies these people not as disguised Leftists, but as diehard right-wingers, many of them members of an extreme-Right group called The Proud Boys.

An excerpt:

The video shows a small group of protesters cursing at Pelosi (D-Calif.), and calling her a communist in English and Spanish, as she enters an event on Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla., to campaign for Democrat Donna Shalala, who is running to fill the seat vacated by the retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) in Miami.

“You don’t belong here,” one says. “Afuera!”

After Pelosi calmly walks by them and enters the building, people bang on the door.

“Open up! It’s the Proud Boys in here,” one says, referencing the far-right group that was implicated in a street brawl in New York last weekend.

“Socialism sucks,” others chant.

Photographs taken of the protest around the event, which appears to have been organized by Nelson Diaz, the chairman of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade County, according to emails posted online by radio host Grant Stern, show some protesters with Proud Boys gear.

. . . “I don’t agree with Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, but this is absolutely the wrong way to express those disagreements,” Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded in a shooting at a congressional baseball team practice in 2017, wrote on Twitter. “If you want to stop her policies, don’t threaten her, VOTE! That’s how we settle our differences.”

In a statement Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said President Trump and Republicans were to blame for stoking the flames of “incivility, intolerance and aggression.”

And, as if to confirm Grania’s correct diagnosis, there’s this (my emphasis):

The video did not appear to have traveled widely on YouTube, but it was seized on by fringe right-wing sites as a sign of the retribution Democrats face in the wake of other high-profile incidents where Republicans have been confronted by protesters in public at places such as restaurants.

“Nancy Pelosi was heckled at a Miami Restaurant by Trump Supporting Cuban Americans,” reported one.

“Nancy Pelosi shouted out of a restaurant — by Cuban Americans in Miami,” wrote another.


The protest did not however take place at a restaurant. It occurred at Shalala’s headquarters, where protests during an event were widely reported earlier this week.

Well, this wasn’t at a restaurant, but it well could have been, and expect to see this kind of unruly and reprehensible behavior by both sides in the coming mobs. And yes, Trump and his insane behavior has grossly exacerbated the passions that divide Americans so sharply. But Pelosi’s spokesman doesn’t have it completely right. It’s not just Trump and the Republicans that are to blame here: it’s also the Left, which made it okay to confront political figures in public and scream abuse at them.

In my post on other incidents like this, with Republicans confronted in restaurants by angry and abusive Democrats, some readers said this kind of behavior was okay. “They deserve it”, said some, while others saw nothing wrong with disrupting people’s behavior in public by screaming abuse at them.  Well, what’s sauce for the GOP goose is sauce for the Democratic gander. If you think this is okay, you’ll also have to also approve of shouting at people like Pelosi, or Barack Obama, or Joe Biden when they go out to eat. (It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re in office, of course.)

Do you want to live in a country like that? I don’t. The civility I expect on this website is the kind of civility we should exercise when politicians are in public. Listen: protest the actions of Republicans if you want, but don’t disrupt their lives or call them names. They are people and deserve some consideration; remember, many of them hold their views honestly, even if we think those views are wrong. Better yet, do what Representative Scalise said: VOTE!

When I put the video on Facebook, another person commented:

 I agree we should call out awful behavior where we see it. But I’m very skeptical of claims that actions by one side or the other “make it okay” for the other side to respond in kind. Bad behavior always finds an excuse. You can probably imagine how many Trump supporters think he’s justified in calling for protesters to be beaten or say disgusting things about his opponents or one-night-stands because of some imagined offense by the left. Maybe all we can do is continue to stand for what’s right, regardless of party, and do all we can to maintain decent norms.

And I responded that the only point I really wanted to make was in his last sentence (I’ve put it in bold). I’m not so sure that “bad behavior always finds an excuse,” though. Sometimes it’s lubricated when you see others do it and those others aren’t criticized.

Here’s the owl!

I hope you found the owl in Stephen Barnard’s photo this morning. It wasn’t all that hard, I think. He’s circled it in the reveal below (click to enlarge):

What’s the species? Stephen reveals it below with a photo he’s taken of this individual:

I’ve attached another photo of the Great Horned Owl [Bubo virginianus] in a more typical pose. It’s worn away the bark on its favorite morning perch, so it can be spotted from a long distance by looking for that feature.

He added this:

This owl is really chill. I walked up from far away (using the “just looking for my keys” tactic) and it never even fully opened its eyes. They like to bask in the morning sun after a cold night hunting.

Caturday felid trifecta: Beach vacations for cat lovers; two cat memes; and the rare Chinese mountain cat

Do you love cats and beaches? Then site Coastal Living has an article just for you (click on the screenshot):

The sites include Amsterdam, Key West, the “cat islands” of Aoshima and Tashirojima in Japan, San Francisco (that’s bogus as it’s based on two cat cafes and a cat museum), Tampa, Florida, San Diego, California, Mykonos in Greece, Seattle, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Malta.

But one could go on much longer. Other cat towns I love include Paris, Plovdiv, Bulgaria (not on the water), and any village on the coast of the Peloponnese (just sit down at a seaside restaurant and they’ll come). And how the deuce could they forget Istanbul???

Here are some scenes from an Atlantic article on the cat island of Aosima:


Here are two cat memes, the first sent by Heather Hastie and the second by reader Merilee. Note that Freddie Mercury had a cat named Jerry. If only he’d given it the last name “Coyne”!

This is almost certainly posed, but who cares?


From Birding Beijing we have some information on the rare Chinese Mountain Cat, Felis beiti. In truth, I didn’t even know of this species’ existence! While Wikipedia notes that it was classified as a subspecies of the “regular” wildcat (Felis silvestris beiti), it now appears to be a named full species, and the only cat species endemic to China. Wikipedia says this about it:

The Chinese mountain cat is endemic to China and lives on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. It was recorded only in eastern Qinghai and north-western Sichuan. It inhabits high-elevation steppe grassland, alpine meadow, alpine shrubland and coniferous forest edges between 2,500 and 5,000 m (8,200 and 16,400 ft) elevation. It has not been confirmed in true desert or heavily forested mountains.

The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken by camera traps during light snow in May 2007 at 3,570 m (11,710 ft) altitude in Sichuan. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains. One individual was observed and photographed in May 2015 in the Ruoergai grasslands. In 2018, employees of the Shanshui Conservation Center found a den of a mother cat and her two kittens in Yushu, and captured them over three days using a camera trap.

Some photos and videos from Birding Beijing, which, in an article published only 8 days ago, adds this:

It was therefore with some excitement that I heard about the discovery of an active den while in the Valley of the Cats, near Yushu, in mid-September and was fortunate and privileged to be taken to the site by the finder, local ShanShui employee Dawa.

Dawa had been working with Han Xuesong, ShanShui’s project lead on another Tibetan Plateau species – Black-necked Crane – when he spotted movement alongside the road.  Thinking the animal was a Tibetan Fox, common in the area, he grabbed his camera and took a series of photographs.  It was only when he later looked through the images that he realised he had photographed not a Tibetan Fox but a cat..  and after circulating the images to colleagues at ShanShui, it was soon confirmed as a Chinese Mountain Cat, a poorly known and rarely seen felid.

On returning to the site, the ShanShui staff were delighted to find not one cat but three – a mother with two young kittens.  They had found an active den – possibly the first ever discovered in the wild.  The location, close to a road, meant that the cats appeared to be relatively used to seeing people and so, not long after, while the mother cat was away from the den hunting for prey, Dawa and Xuesong placed a camera trap close to one of the three entrances to the den (thought to be an old Himalayan Marmot hole).  The resulting footage is spectacular and, courtesy of ShanShui Conservation Center, a compilation can be seen below.

There’s a swell 1:41 video at the site courtesy of the ShanShui Conservation Centre; click on the screenshot to get to some adorable Mountain Cat kitten action:

h/t: Tom, Ben

A farewell to wings: a reprise of this year’s duck tails

I’ve just checked the pond and it is bereft of ducks. Sanja told us yesterday—she’s filling in while Anna and I are gone—that she hasn’t seen the pair for over two days, and the corn she left on Duck Island #1 has gone untouched.

I suspect that they’re really gone now (but of course I’ve been wrong before), and have headed to either the “staging area” or due south on the Mississippi flyway. My one consolation is that this story ended as a love story should, with Honey and James leaving together—but stay tuned.  Here are some photos reprising our spring and summer.

Honey showed up on April 12, apparently swollen with an egg or so, and was accompanied by her first husband Frank. She then disappeared, incubating her eggs somewhere. Taken on April 12, this is the first shot I have of the lass, showing her distinctive beak marks. She then went off to a site unknown to sit on her eggs.


After I returned from France, Honey reappeared on May 20 with 10 ducklings. (It takes about four to five weeks to incubate eggs to hatching, and they all hatch on a single day although only one egg is laid per day.) One duckling died almost immediately after being stranded in the cement ring overnight, unable to leap out of it (I rescued two others and then built a brick ramp). Here she is with the nine. Doesn’t she look proud?

Make way for ducklings!

My favorite duckling photo:

Another duckling died when it was young; I found it in bad shape by the pond and took it to my office in a warm box, but it died quickly. I was heartbroken and vowed that the remaining eight would all fledge and fly away. They did.

With the help of Anna and Sanja, the remaining eight grew into awkward teenagers, and began learning how to be ducks. Here they are on June 23:

Nearly adults on July 27:

Honey heads the pack:

They learned to dabble. . .

. . . .to squabble over food. . . .

. . . and to fly!

One of the brood, Phoebe, was picked on and shunned by the others, which made me very anxious. She went off by herself, and it was hard to feed her. But after her seven siblings flew away, she recovered and hung out with Honey. Phoebe eventually flew away as well, and I hope she’s integrated into another group.

Here she is lonely and shunned:

And then with mom, recovering and eating well (Honey’s in the foreground):

After Phoebe left and Honey began molting, the beautiful, giant, and gentle mallard James Pond appeared. He was the ideal mate for Honey, or so I thought until the dreaded Billzebub showed up and displaced him. It was a sad day, especially because I saved Billzebub’s life when I really wanted to wring his neck!

The beautiful James:

What a lovely speculum he had!

He was good to Honey, letting her eat first and have all the choicest morsels, and guarded her as she slept:

Yes, they’re gone now, but fingers crossed that Honey (perhaps with James in tow) will return next year. Safe flight, ducks, enjoy the warm South, and come back to us!

The last video of Honey and James (see here), taken by Anna on October 15. I can only imagine how delighted James was to see Honey return after having waited for her on the duck island, alone and bereft for over a week.

I’ll remember Honey from the feathers she molted:

And I want to give special thanks to Anna (top) and Sanja (bottom) for tending our favorite waterfowl:



Spot the owl!

Stephen Barnard sent a “spot the. . .” photo from Idaho, and in it, somewhere, lurks an owl (I don’t know the species, but I’ll ask). Click on the photo to enlarge it (twice to make it really big), and I’ll post a reveal at noon Chicago time.

This one ranks as “medium”, but please do not reveal in the comments where it is. If you found it, just note that.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

Before we begin Grania’s last Hili post for my latest trip, I’d like to present her with a certificate. Let’s hear if for her diligence, without which the site would have been sad and empty on some days.

Now, back to her Hili:

Good morning! Jerry is back in Chicago and dealing with jet-lag. [JAC: Indeed I am; it’s 3:45 a.m. and I am wide awake after about 4 hours of sleep.]

Have a wonderful weekend.

Today is the birthday of rapper / singer Snoop Dogg (1971), Tom Petty singer / writer (1950-2017) and actor / producer Viggo Mortensen (1958), and Jelly Roll Morton (1885-1941), American pianist, composer, and bandleader.

I love that Wikipedia had to put this disambiguation notice up:

Indeed, Wikipedia. Indeed.

This gives us plenty of music from very diverse sources to listen to this morning.

Tom Petty with the song that served as his breakthrough number.

And finally this is one of the earlier hits that put Mr Dogg on the map.

Today in history:

1968 – Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre“: United States President Richard Nixon fired U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was finally fired by Robert Bork.

1973 – The Sydney Opera House was opened by Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.

In Poland today, Hili is sleeping the sleep of the just.

A: Hili, breakfast.
Hili: Wake me up once everything is on the table.

In Polish:

Ja: Hili, śniadanie.
Hili: Obudź mnie jak wszystko będzie już na stole.

Weird and wonderful Twitter:

One hopes the mongoose had the good sense to quit while it was ahead.

Try this one cool trick to get people to remember your wedding forever (see whole thread)


More here.


Silly, cute and adorable Twitter



JAC: I’m adding this so you can see, in the second tweet, the chick of a kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot and a great favorite of mine. (It’s the world’s cutest parrot.) This came from a thread that Grania highlighted yesterday:

Demotivational message of the day

Current events Twitter

Careful now


Dear god

Is there a single person in the entire universe that believes this one? (OK, maybe Trump)


Hat-tip: Heather, Matthew

On the way home

While Americans are sleeping, I’m waiting at the gate in Zagreb, on my way back to Chicago via Zurich. As I write this it’s 1:30 a.m. Chicago time.)

Here are a few random pictures from my visit as preparation for the last two posts about my visit to this lovely city.

The local Serbian Orthodox Church, or the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord:

A typical Croatian (actually Balkan) dish, and a wonderful appetizer. Sweet red peppers pickled and served in olive oil.

An old Opel (I know nothing about this car):

And right before my talk on free will (photo by Igor Mikloušić):