Sunday: Duck report

I believe it’s nesting season, as both of the hens (Honey and Dorothy) have taken to sitting on the ledges of Erman, the building that overlooks Botany Pond. In the meantime, Wingman sits in the pond, viciously expelling any interloper drake who comes by. (They are few now.)

Here’s Dorothy on her customary third-floor perch from yesterday morning:

She wasn’t quacking yesterday, just sitting there placidly and looking out. I suspect they’re scoping out nest sites, but they’re not yet building any, so I’m a bit puzzled.

Closer up:

The bill patterns, with the dot on the right side of her bill, tells you it’s Dorothy. I’m beginning to suspect she’s Honey’s daughter, as they’re almost inseparable.

The other side of Dorothy’s bill, also matching what we’ve seen before:

And a view from below:

Last year Honey nested on the third floor on the fourth window from the right. Yesterday afternoon she was sitting right below that window, on the second floor.

A bit closer:

The bill markings, which I discerned only after I downloaded and enlarged the picture, show that this is undoubtedly Honey.

And it’s also Honey from the right side. She looks plump and healthy, and I hope she’s pondering a nest site. I can handle two broods this summer.

Paul Simon sings in isolation

I sense a new series coming on: musicians playing in self-quarantine (see the recent post on An die Freude). Here’s Paul Simon singing one of his best songs. Yes, the voice is a far cry from the old days, but take the will for the deed.

Reader Tom Czarny, who sent this, comments:

I wept listening to this.  Suddenly, unbeckoned, I was in tears.   I usually don’t do that sort of thing.  This song meant a great deal to me as a young man in 1973, but to hear Simon sing it again alone in some unknown, empty space under this lowering cloud of pandemic just opened the floodgates.

Hope to talk to you again on the other side of all this.

Jonathan Chait: the Trump Bump is temporary

Lately, Trump’s behavior relative to the pandemic has not only not been Presidential, but positively puerile. He’s trying to deny New York the ventilators it needs, he’s dissing CEOs, and—what really irks me—he’s threatening to punish states whose governors don’t toady to him. What kind of leadership is that? And yet we know that his approval rating has risen to about 50%—the highest since he’s been elected.

That “bump” depressed me, making me worry that he’ll be reelected—and shame on our country if, after four years of his insanity, they allow it to continue—but Jon Chait at New York Magazine feels otherwise. The title of his piece says it all, but click the screenshot to read.


Chait thinks the bump is temporary because all leaders get a bounce when there’s a national crisis. Further, Trump’s Bump is much smaller than those enjoyed by other leaders, including Boorish Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, and the Italian government. Chait puts an optimistic spin (for us Democrats) on it:

Against a backdrop where every leader is enjoying soaring, almost rapturous levels of public approval, Trump’s step up to almost 50 percent approval should be seen not as good news, but as a devastating political indictment of his leadership style. It’s like a Major League Baseball player competing against high schoolers and hitting 0.280.

What’s as bad as Trump trying to force governors to kowtow to him is his implicit promise to end social distancing and restart businesses before any rational person thinks the pandemic is waning, as well as scaling back protective measures sooner in states that support him and have “incredible governors” and “incredible senators”:

It may be true that high-density cities have suffered much faster outbreaks. It is not true, as Trump implies, that the lagging pace of the virus in red states is caused by superior Republican governance. Red states are not identifying patients with coronavirus and putting them in quarantine. They are experiencing the same unchecked community spread as blue states, and while the virus has taken hold more slowly, they are catching up rapidly. As Nate Silver points out, “Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016.”

Trump’s plan to relax social distancing in the states with the lowest levels of reported outbreak — without yet having widespread, fast-working tests in place — is a recipe to extend the outbreak and delay the recovery he craves.

He may well be persuaded to abandon his plans to do so. (Dr. Anthony Fauci is certainly working to dissuade him.) But that leaves open the question of just what Trump will gain by repeatedly promising the country that social distancing will end soon, and the recovery will be rapid. Rather than prepare the country for a long, painful road to return to normal, he has ramped up expectations to a level even a highly competent president would have trouble meeting.

And a bit more optimism:

Trump has conspicuously failed even to pantomime what that kind of leadership looks like. Mostly he talks about other things to blame: China, the Obama administration, various Democratic governors, General Motors, and the supposed (and clearly untrue) fact that “nobody saw this coming.” He said on camera, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” a line that will appear in almost every Democratic ad, because it violates Americans’ most fundamental requirements of their leaders.

Maybe I’ll win my $100 bet (that he won’t be reelected) after all. Truly, I was appalled when Trump was elected, but to see people still praising him when, during a very serious crisis, he’s acting like an out-of-control maniac, makes me very pessimistic for the future of this country. A house divided against itself cannot stand. 

And here’s a very good ad for Joe Biden about Trump’s pandemic problem (h/t Heather Hastie):

h/t: Simon

Advice about Covid-19 from a pulmonary critical-care doctor

Reader Rick sent me this video, which I’ve listened to in its entirety (57 minutes). It’s made by Dr. David Price, a critical pulmonary-care specialist at Weill Cornell Hospital in New York City. Usually he deals with all kinds of respiratory ailments, but, as he says, now he’s dealing only with COVID-19 patients. Here Price offers advice, and it’s somewhat reassuring, as the precautions you need are not onerous but are IMPORTANT. Reader Rick added this information.

I found this encouraging.

Dr. David Price is a critical care pulmonologist. He does a conference call describing  his experience.  It’s a long video, but quite valuable.

Bottom line: COVID-19 is becoming well understood.  If you practice good hand cleanliness procedures and distancing, you have nothing to worry about.

  1. Hand to face is the critical path. Spray, rarely.
  2. Get into the habit of knowing where your hands are and be sure they are clean. (sanitizer)
  3. Wear a mask, not to protect you, but simply to avoid hand to face contact.
  4. You don’t need an N-95 mask. Anything will do.  Give N-97 to your local hospital.
  5. Carry sanitizer with you when you go out.
  6. Be friendly and social, just stay 6′ away.
  7. Shrink your social circle.  You don’t want to be in large groups.
  8. Go to the hospital only if you are short of breath. Headache, fever, muscle ache, cough – stay home.
  9. Course of the disease is 7 -14 days. Immunity then follows.

If  you follow the simple rules, you will not get COVID-19.  This should be liberating.

Again, I’m not a doctor and so you must make your own judgment about this doctor’s advice.  The first 20 minutes of the video are recommendations for general behavior (i.e., wear a mask in public, but only to keep you from touching your face. Price doesn’t mention gloves).  From 20-30 minutes in, Price discusses what you should do if you think your’e infected, or if you have a family member who is infected. From 30 minutes to the end, Price deals with general questions.

My favorite excerpts from English literature

I’ve been reading two books on great prose by—yes—author Francine Prose: Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want To Write Them, and What to Read and Why. I am not reading them to learn how to write better, as they’re all about fiction, a genre I don’t dare to essay, but it’s fascinating to see what writing an accomplished writer loves most, and why. (She particularly likes Chekhov’s short stories, which I also love, but now want to read them all.)

I decided to put together my favorite bits of prose—those bits that are especially lovely—and post them here, though the post will be rather long. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of my favorites, but the excepts below are especially poetic, and some of them I can’t read without tearing up. These are selections only from literature written in English; I’ve left out, for example, my favorite Russian literature, as that has been translated.

I’d invite readers to submit their own selections, but that would make the comments too long. Instead, you might just tell us what work or what passage moves you in the way these pieces move me.  Here we go:


As I’ve said repeatedly, what I consider the most beautiful thing ever written in English is Joyce’s short story (or novella) The Dead, the last piece in his collection Dubliners.  It is perfect in every way, but the ending is both perfect and incomparably beautiful. It comes after an evening when the protagonist, Gabriel, has been to a Christmas party at his aunts’ house, and has been his usual self-absorbed and pretentious self. His wife Greta reacts strongly to a song that somebody sings at the party (“The Lass of Aughrim”), and when they go back to their Dublin hotel, Gabriel asks Greta why she reacted to the song that way. She tells him that it was sung to her when she was just a lass by her great love Michael Furey, who died after having come to her house in the rain when he was ill, a visit that caused his death. Gabriel learns at that point that his marriage has always been more or less a sham, for Greta loved Michael in a way that she could never love him. As Greta falls asleep, Gabriel ponders his tepid life and pompous demeanor in this beautiful ending, one of Joyce’s famous “epiphanies”. The last paragraph is pure poetry.

She was fast asleep.

Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept, as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful, but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.

Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt’s supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

As I posted recently, I much admire Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet, but especially love the beginning, which limns the feel of India in just a few words, just as Karen Blixen does for Africa in the excerpt below. This is the beginning of the first of Scott’s four novels, The Jewel in the Crown:

The ending of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is justifiably famous, as Gatsby ponders the necessary but futile ambition that drives people to fulfill their dreams. He compares the green light on the dock belonging to the house of Daisy, his love, with the dreams of the sailors who first came to America:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Fitzgerald’s writing is also gorgeous in his largely unread book Tender is the Night.  The scene at the dinner party, for instance, when the table seems to rise with the fellow-feeling of the guests, is fantastic.

Although I love the writing of Thomas Wolfe, I must admit that at times it’s long-winded and pompous. Literature professors have repeatedly mocked my affection for his big books, regarding it as puerile. And yet he’s worth reading for the times when he hits his stride, as in his “poem to October” from Of Time and the River. (If you want to read a complete piece of Wolfe that stands on its own as great literature, read The Child by Tiger, a fictionalized account of a lynching that really happened in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.)

Nobody could evoke the feeling and weathers of America better than Wolfe, as he does here. Every word is essential and adds to the atmosphere.

Now October has come again which in our land is different from October in the other lands.  The ripe, the golden month has come again, and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling.  Frost sharps the middle music of the seasons, and all things living on the earth turn home again. The country is so big that you cannot say that the country has the same October. In Maine, the frost comes sharp and quick as driven nails, just for a week or so the woods, all of the bright and bitter leaves, flare up; the maples turn a blazing bitter red, and other leaves turn yellow like a living light, falling upon you as you walk the woods, falling about you like small pieces of the sun so that you cannot say where that sunlight shakes and flutters on the ground, and where the leaves. . .

October is the richest of the seasons: the fields are cut, the granaries are full, the bins are loaded to the brim with fatness, and from the cider-press the rich brown oozings of the York Imperials run.  The bee bores to the belly of the yellowed grape, the fly gets old and fat and blue, he buzzes loud, crawls slow, creeps heavily to death on sill and ceiling, the sun goes down in blood and pollen across the bronzed and mown fields of old October.

The corn is shocked: it sticks out in hard yellow rows upon dried ears, fit now for great red barns in Pennsylvania, and the big stained teeth of crunching horses. The indolent hooves kick swiftly at the boards, the barn is sweet with hay and leather, wood and apples—this, and the clean dry crunching of the teeth is all:  the sweat, the labor, and the plow is over. The late pears mellow on a sunny shelf, smoked hams hang to the warped barn rafters; the pantry shelves are loaded with 300 jars of fruit. Meanwhile the leaves are turning, turning up in Maine, the chestnut burrs plop thickly to the earth in gusts of wind, and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling.

Finally we have Karen Blixen, who published under the male name Isak Dinesen, and of course is famous for her autobiographical work Out of Africa. This is the only nonfiction here, but the writing is as good as anything in literature. It’s even more remarkable when you realize that her native language was not English but Danish. (It’s just as remarkable as Conrad’s great writing in English, his second language after Polish).
I have two excerpts from Out of Africa. The first is the opening when she describes her farm and its environs. You will have heard this. Some of it was recited by Meryl Streep at the beginning of the eponymous movie.

I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.

The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world. There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet. like the strong and refined essence of a continent. The colours were dry and burnt. like the colours in pottery. The trees had a light delicate foliage, the structure of which was different from that of the trees in Europe; it did not grow in bows or cupolas, but in horizontal layers, and the formation gave to the tall solitary trees a likeness to the palms, or a heroic and romantic air like full-rigged ships with their sails furled, and to the edge of a wood a strange appearance as if the whole wood were faintly vibrating. Upon the grass of the great plains the crooked bare old thorn trees were scattered, and the grass was spiced like thyme and bog-myrtles; in some places the scent was so strong that it smarted in the nostrils. All the flowers that you found or plains, or upon the creepers and liana in the native forest, were diminutive like flowers of the downs – only just in the beginning of the long rains a number of big, massive heavy-scented lilies sprang out on the plains. The views were immensely wide. Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequaled nobility.

The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it. was the air. Looking back on a sojourn in the African highlands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air. The sky was rarely more than pale blue or violet, with a profusion of mighty, weightless, ever-changing clouds towering up and sailing on it, but it has a blue vigour in it, and at a short distance it painted the ranges of hills and the woods a fresh deep blue. In the middle of the day the air was alive over the land, like a flame burning; it scintillated, waved and shone like running water, mirrored and doubled all objects, and created great Fata Morgana. Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.

And this piece, like the ending of The Dead, always makes me tear up, no matter how many times I read it. Blixen’s great love, Denys Finch Hatton, died in a plane crash during their romance in Africa. She was shattered, and they buried Finch Hatton in the hills overlooking the plain. Here she describes his grave and how the lions came to sit on it.  The last three sentences are a work of genius.

I often drove out to Denys’s grave. In a bee-line, it was not more than five miles from my house, but round by the road it was fifteen. The grave was a thousand feet higher up than my house, the air was different here, as clear as a glass of water; light sweet winds lifted your hair when you took off your hat; over the peaks of the hills, the clouds came wandering from the East, drew their live shadow over the wide undulating land, and were dissolved and disappeared over the Rift Valley.

I bought at the dhuka a yard of the white cloth which the Natives call Americani, and Farah and I raised three tall poles in the ground behind the grave, and nailed the cloth on to them, then from my house I could distinguish the exact spot of the grave, like a little white point in the green hill.

The long rains had been heavy, and I was afraid that the grass would grow up and cover the grave so that its place would be lost. Therefore one day we took up all the whitewashed stones along my drive, the same that Karomenya had had trouble in pulling up and carrying to the front door; we loaded them into my box-body car and drove them up into the hills. We cut down the grass round the grave, and set the stones in a square to mark it; now the place could always be found.

As I went so often to the grave, and took the children of my household with me, it became a familiar place to them; they could show the way out there to the people who came to see it. They built a small bower in the bush of the hill near it. In the course of the summer, Ali bin Salim, whose friend Denys had been, came from Mombasa to go out and lie on the grave and weep, in the Arab way.

One day I found Hugh Martin by the grave, and we sat in the grass and talked for a long time. Hugh Martin had taken Denys’s death much to heart. If any human being at all had held a place in his queer seclusive existence, it would have been Denys. An ideal is a strange thing, you would never have given Hugh credit for harbouring the idea of one, neither would you have thought that the loss of it would have affected him, like, somehow, the loss of a vital organ. But since Denys’s death he had aged and changed much, his face was blotched and drawn. All the same he preserved his placid, smiling likeness to a Chinese Idol, as if he knew of something exceedingly satisfactory, that was hidden to the general. He told me now that he had, in the night, suddenly struck upon the right epitaph for Denys. I think that he had got it from an ancient Greek author, he quoted it to me in Greek, then translated it in order that I should understand it. It went: “Though in death fire be mixed with my dust yet care I not. For with me now all is well.”

Later on, Denys’s brother, Lord Winchilsea, had an obelisk set on his grave, with an inscription out of “The Ancient Mariner,” which was a poem that Denys had much admired. I myself had never heard it until Denys quoted it to me,—the first time was, I remember, as we were going to Bilea’s wedding. I have not seen the obelisk; it was put up after I had left Africa.

In England there is also a monument to Denys. His old schoolfellows, in memory of him, built a stone bridge over a small stream between two fields at Eton. On one of the balustrades is inscribed his name, and the dates of his stay at Eton, and on the other the words: “Famous in these fields and by his many friends much beloved.”

Between the river in the mellow English landscape and the African mountain ridge, ran the path of his life; it is an optical illusion that it seemed to wind and swerve,—the surroundings swerved. The bow-string was released on the bridge at Eton, the arrow described its orbit, and hit the obelisk in the Ngong Hills.

After I had left Africa, Gustav Mohr wrote to me of a strange thing that had happened by Denys’ grave, the like of which I have never heard. “The Masai,” he wrote, “have reported to the District Commissioner at Ngong, that many times, at sunrise and sunset, they have seen lions on Finch-Hatton’s grave in the Hills. A lion and a lioness have come there, and stood, or lain, on the grave for a long time. Some of the Indians who have passed the place in their lorries on the way to Kajado have also seen them. After you went away, the ground round the grave was levelled out, into a sort of big terrace, I suppose that the level place makes a good site for the lions, from there they can have a view over the plain, and the cattle and game on it.”

It was fit and decorous that the lions should come to Denys’s grave and make him an African monument. “And renowned be thy grave.” Lord Nelson himself, I have reflected, in Trafalgar Square, has his lions made only out of stone.

Answer to math teaser

Yesterday I posted this math teaser:

128 people came up with answers. I said there were two, depending on where one puts the parentheses in the last equation, but the mathies say that there is a convention: one does the multiplication first, and then the addition. The only trick in the piece was the last line: the kid is wearing two sneakers and holding two cones of whatever that stuff is. (What is it?)

Here is my answer, which I think is correct if you use the “multiply first convention”

6 sneakers = 30, ergo 1 sneaker = 5
Two boys + two sneakers = 20.  Two boys + 10 = 20, ergo one boy = 5
4 cones plus one boy = 13. 4 cones + 5 = 13; ergo 4 cones = 8, so that one cone = 2.

In the last picture, we have one sneaker plus (one boy with two cones and two sneakers) times one cone.
Ergo 5 + (5 + 4 + 10) X 2 is the solution. That is 5 + 19 X 2
Using the multiplication rule first, that works out to 5 + 38 = 43.

If you put the parentheses in the last equation around (sneaker plus boy with cones and sneakers) X cone, you’d get 24 X 2 or 48. But the mathies say that this is wrong under the convention.

So the correct answer is 43. (I hope I didn’t screw up!)

Thyroid Planet was the first to post the correct answer(s) 29 minutes after the contest started, saying “48 or 43”.

Readers’ wildlife photos: Duck O’ the Day

From now on, every Sunday’s wildlife photos will comprise ducks, for evolutionist John Avise has kindly offered to send weekly allotments of duck photos to get us through the pandemic. Each Sunday will feature one species of duck, and your job is to guess the species. I will put the correct answer below the fold, along with an interesting Fact About That Duck.

This will give you a chance, during our joint quarantine, to learn some of the many species of this awesome group, and to see their pervasive sexual dimorphism. John has about 21 species of North American duck, so that should keep us occupied for 5 months, and (knock on wood) perhaps the pandemic will have abated by then.

Here’s the Duck O’ the Day. What species is it? (Answer and fact below the fold.)





What’s that duck? Click “read more” for the answer and a Duck Fact.

Read More »

Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s the beginning of a new week and almost the end of March, which has refused to go out like a lamb. On this Sunday, March 29, 2020, we can only hope that April will be better. It’s National Chiffon Cake Day, National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day (not a good year for this), National Vietnam War Veterans Day.  and Good Deeds Day. I know this sentiment has been repeated endlessly, but let me join the chorus: kudos and love to all the healthcare workers and first responders who are working during this pandemic, risking their lives to help others. One doesn’t often see such mass altruism (9-11 was another example), and it’s a testament to the better angels of our nature.

News of the day: Again, it’s all bad, almost enough to make me stop watching the evening news. Deaths in the U.S. from coronavirus have reached 2,000. As the pandemic spreads in India, thousands of migrants in New Delhi, now homeless and jobless after the government’s lockdown, are desperately trying to get to their hometowns in the countryside so they won’t starve.

Look at this photo from the NYT; the caption is “Credit: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images.” There’s no better way to spread the virus! (And many of these desperate people, trekking home on foot, were beaten back by the police at the city border.)

Here in the U.S., people are going stir-crazy, often using their cats for amusement. And, since everyone has huge supplies of bogroll, they can combine them (tweet sent by Matthew):

Stuff that happened on March 29 includes:

  • 845 – Paris is sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collects a huge ransom in exchange for leaving.


  • 1806 – Construction is authorized of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road, becoming the first United States federal highway.

Here’s the route of the original road:

  • 1857 – Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the 34th Regiment, Bengal Native Infantry mutinies against the East India Company’s rule in India and inspires the protracted Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny.
  • 1867 – Queen Victoria gives Royal Assent to the British North America Act which establishes Canada on July 1.
  • 1871 – Royal Albert Hall is opened by Queen Victoria.
  • 1886 – John Pemberton brews the first batch of Coca-Cola in a backyard in Atlanta.
  • 1936 – Adolf Hitler receives 99% of the votes in the 1936 German parliamentary election and referendum.
  • 1951 – Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage
  • 1971 – My Lai Massacre: Lieutenant William Calley is convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Calley served only three years, part of that under house arrest. He sold jewelry for a while in Georgia, and is now retired.

  • 1973 – Vietnam War: The last United States combat soldiers leave South Vietnam.
  • 1999 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above the 10,000 mark (10,006.78) for the first time, during the height of the dot-com bubble.
  • 2014 – The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales are performed.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1867 – Cy Young, American baseball player and manager (d. 1955)
  • 1916 – Eugene McCarthy, American poet and politician (d. 2005)
  • 1918 – Pearl Bailey, American actress and singer (d. 1990)
  • 1929 – Richard Lewontin, American biologist, geneticist, and academic, Ph.D. advisor of Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus)

Yes, Dick (aka “The Boss”) is 91 today. Here’s a photo of me paying the proper homage to Dick in October of 2017:

  • 1940 – Astrud Gilberto, Brazilian singer-songwriter
  • 1943 – Eric Idle, English actor and comedian
  • 1968 – Lucy Lawless, New Zealand actress

Those who decamped from life on March 29 include:

  • 1772 – Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish astronomer, philosopher, and theologian (b. 1688)
  • 1912 – Robert Falcon Scott, English lieutenant and explorer (b. 1868)
  • 1912 – Edward Adrian Wilson, English physician and explorer (b. 1872)
  • 1957 – Joyce Cary, Anglo-Irish novelist (b. 1888)
  • 2016 – Patty Duke, American actress (b. 1946)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is up to mischief:

Małgorzata: Leave my notebook alone.
Hili: I’m just checking what this ribbon is for.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Zostaw mój notes.
Hili: Ja tylko sprawdzam do czego jest ta tasiemka.

From Stephen Law: a children’s book:


A leggy bird from Jesus of the Day, with description and photo credits beneath:

Reader Charles Sawicki sent this, and I bet you got one, too (I got THREE). He was peeved for the same reason I was:

We just got this postcard today. Probably all Americans will get one.The orange asshole is using a disastrous pandemic for self-promotion. This pretends that ideas from experts originated with tRump. Using all the government resources he can to promote his reelection!

That’s true; I can’t imagine a postcard like this saying “President Obama’s Coronavirus Guidelines. . . ”  Yes, they’re good guidelines, but they are NOT Trump’s!

A good satirical tweet from The Queen. I have to say, it really irks me when people gloat when a public figure/politician they dislike is diagnosed with the virus. What kind of sphincter behaves like that?


From Simon. I may have posted this useful video before, but if I did there’s no harm in look at it again. Don’t forget those thumbs!

From Barry. What is it like to be a cow in love with a pig? (Or vice versa.)

And from Heather Hastie, a pig in love with a dog (and vice versa):

Tweets from Matthew. First an annoying cat:

And then an endearing duck (in this case, a molting mallard drake, so the “she” is a misgendering!). I wish Honey would knock on my office window, though.

It took me about 25 tries to succeed, but when I retweeted this I was excoriated because many people got it within 3 or 4 tries.

This is surely a joke, but it does look “official”!

A duck teaser

Spot the mallard hen! There will be no answer; you simply have to find her yourself.

Yes, it’s Honey, and tomorrow I’ll show close-up pictures to prove it.

Click to enlarge:

A math teaser

Matthew sent me this tweet, which has people’s knickers in a twist. It looks easy, right? Three equations, three unknowns, and you don’t even have to combine them. But if you look at the thread after the tweet, the answers are all over the map.

Actually. there are two correct answers, depending on where you put the parentheses in the last equation. But I advise you to look carefully, and then answer below.