University of Wisconsin-Parkside professor and dean suggests, on Hezbollah t.v., that U.S. made and released coronavirus to conquer other countries, and that Hitler wasn’t so unusual in his behavior

Well, here we see a snake employed as an American professor (of sociology) as well as a dean in a respectable university. Meet an unhinged, muddled, lying, and hate-spreading academic: Seif Da’na, a Palestinian-American Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP).  He’s not only a tenured professor there, but also an associate dean and a departmental chair. And he teaches these classes listed on his website:


One wonders if he passes on his palpably crazy views to his students, or instills them with hatred on completely bogus grounds.  A short video and transcript of what he said in a recent t.v. interview can be seen by clicking on the screenshot below. (I note that Da’na appears to be an anti-Zionist as well, claiming that the entire country of Israel is a “pure settlement.”)

The 1.75-minute excerpt is posted on the MEMRI site, and comes from Da’na’s interview with Manar TV, a Hezbollah operation from Lebanon. Here he says a bunch of insane things about Hitler, about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, most of all, about the U.S. possibly making and “leaking” Covid-19 as a way to subjugate and kill people in other countries. (Too bad the scientists who might have “leaked” the virus didn’t anticipate that it would come back to the U.S.!)

Click on the screenshot below to go to the MEMRI site:

And you can see the video clip by clicking on the video at the same site.

Da’na is not far away from me: UWP happens to be where Greg teaches, but he notes that he was unaware of Da’na’s views until I brought them to his attention this morning, and adds that he doesn’t agree with the views expressed in this clip.

Here’s MEMRI’s transcript of what Da’na says, where he suggests that this might be a conspiracy, but slightly hedges his words so he doesn’t claim it outright. But you get the gist of what he’s saying:

Seif Da’na: “[Regarding the coronavirus] – more people die every year not just from diseases that you can get vaccinated for, like malaria – from which half a million people [die] in Africa – but also from the West’s economic policies – at least in the 20th century and the two decades of the 21st century. More people die every year from the consequences of these economic issues than from what is happening now.

“This is exactly like what happened with Hitler. Hitler did not do anything out of the ordinary. He did not do anything that had not been done by the Europeans before. In the colonial days, in the countries of the [global] south, they would kill hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. Hitler came to be viewed as Satan just because he did what he did in Europe.

“The question about how this virus appeared has not been settled yet. As of now, there is no ‘patient zero’ in China, and therefore, we do not talk here about a conspiracy as much as we talk about the leaking of the viruses from a laboratory at Fort Detrick in the United States.

“Perhaps this leaking was not deliberate. We are not talking here about a conspiracy, even though the U.S. annihilated two whole cities in Japan during WWII, despite this being unnecessary. They were already winning the war, but they still used the nuclear bombs.”

First, Da’na is dead wrong about there being a malaria vaccine—there isn’t one! As Greg notes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that there’s no malaria vaccine, that people are working on one, and that perhaps we’ll have one by 2030. One hopes!

Note that Da’na says that the Covid-19 pandemic might not be a conspiracy but adds that the viruses might have “leaked” from Fort Detrick, once the U.S. center for biological weapons but now, according to Wikipedia, it hosts “most elements of the United States biological defense program.” This casual, unevidenced mention of Fort Detrick, with the assurance that Da’na isn’t not conspiracy mongering, is, of course, classical conspiracy mongering: a virus at Fort Detrick “leaked” “non-deliberately”—to a city in central China? This, along with the false assertion that there’s a malaria vaccine, is the kind of stuff that gives sociology a bad name.

Finally, Da’na compares the “leaking” of the virus to the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, furthering the idea that the “release” of the virus was intended to destroy American enemies, just like the nuclear weapons.  Re the atomic bomb, Greg wrote me this, which I quote with his permission:

While there is debate about the necessity of the atomic bombings of Japan, I strongly believe there can only be legitimate questioning of the second (Nagasaki). The quite effective changes in defensive tactics adopted by the Japanese Army in response to prior Allied victories, which the Japanese Army used skillfully in the horrific battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa (horrific for everyone, and even more so for the Japanese), meant that the invasion of the main islands would have been unthinkable. Japan could have been eventually blockaded, starved, and conventionally bombed into submission, but it would have been many months more, and almost certainly with more deaths and suffering.

Now I don’t think Da’na should be fired or penalized for expressing these views. It’s his First Amendment right, and falls under academic freedom as well. But what he doesn’t have the right to do is to assert them as facts (or, perhaps, even as unevidenced suggestions) to his classes. (I have no idea what he tells his students.) That would be the equivalent of a creationist teaching Biblical creationism (or any creationism) in biology class—in my view a disciplining or firing offense. You can say whatever crazy things you want when you’re off the clock, but academics don’t have the right to teach lies to their classes, and it’s a dereliction of duty to propagandize your class.

But I wonder if Da’na’s colleagues and administrators know that he even holds these crazy views. At least they could—as Lehigh University’s biology department does with Michael Behe—disavow them, especially since Da’na is a dean.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have photos from Chile by Joe Dickinson, who was kind enough to include food photos for my benefit. Joe’s notes are indented:

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Chile that we stuck with in careless disregard of CDC admonitions (i.e., that people of our age should in no circumstances get on an airplane).  Knowing that you are a bit of a “foodie”, I’ve also included some shots of former wildlife (mussels and clams) being converted into a unique and delicious meal.

Not exactly wildlife, this monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) was one of several on the grounds of our hotel, which were set up more as a botanical garden than formal landscaping.

Black necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) seemed to be quite common.  It is the largest species of waterfowl native to South America.  Is that an oystercatcher in the foreground?

Of, I believe, two species of penguin found on the Chilean coast in temperate latitudes, we saw only the Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus).


I first thought this individual had some sort of parasite, but I now believe it is just molting.

When I first saw a gull eating a starfish (which they swallow whole) I thought “this can’t end well for either party”, but it turns out to be pretty common.  I presume that birds have digestive and respiratory tracts that do not intersect in a way that allows choking.  I can’t identify either species in this case.

These are neotropic cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus).  Such graceful birds.

Again not exactly wildlife, Chileans claim the oldest purebred line of horses in the Americas [JAC: “Criollos“].  Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and the Atacama Desert, the lineage has remained isolated since introduced by the Spaniards.

The Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis) was the main ingredient for a traditional meal cooked in a pit over heated rocks and covered with rhubarb leaves and then sod.  Some of the diverse local varieties of potato also were featured along with some pieces of pork and potato dumplings that looked more like pancakes.

Here is my share of the finished product.

Finally, neither wildlife nor food, this “Lady of the Lake” sculpture represents a mythical figure who gave fishermen clues as to when it was safe to go out.  She dances here in front of the Fugi-like Vulcan Osorno seen from Puerto Varas.

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Szaron monologue)

It’s Thursday, April 2, 2019, and we’re still here, thank Ceiling Cat. It’s now become hard for me to remember what day of the week it is without looking it up: every day seems like a weekend because the streets are so empty. Does anybody else have that problem?

It’s National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, and that’s just what I’m having for lunch today (I’m out of tuna). It’s also National Burrito Day, National Ferret Day, World Autism Awareness Day, and International Children’s Book Day.

News of the Day: We’re still approaching hell in our joint handbasket. Emergency medical supplies are running low most everywhere, and the economic report due today will show millions more jobless—no surprise given the lockdowns. And, horrible as it is, Americans fearing “civil unrest” during a pandemic bought nearly two million guns in March. Why are gun stores still open? Related to that, government pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has been given increased security protection after death threats from conspiracy theorists who think he’s trying to undermine Trump. Can you believe this country?

The only good news, and by “good” I mean “not horrible” is that the dilatory and increasingly infected state of Florida has finally ordered lockdowns.

Stuff that happened on April 2 includes:

  • 1513 – Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León first sights land in what is now the United States state of Florida.
  • 1800 – Ludwig van Beethoven leads the premiere of his First Symphony in Vienna.
  • 1902 – “Electric Theatre”, the first full-time movie theater in the United States, opens in Los Angeles.

Here’s a picture of that theater (get a load of the ads), as well as an ad for it in the April 5, 1902 Los Angeles Times. “Moral and refined. Pleasing to ladies, gentlemen, and children.”

  • 1912 – The ill-fated RMS Titanic begins sea trials.
  • 1917 – World War I: United States President Woodrow Wilson asks the U.S. Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.
  • 1956 – As the World Turns and The Edge of Night premiere on CBS. The two soaps become the first daytime dramas to debut in the 30-minute format.
  • 1972 – Actor Charlie Chaplin returns to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.
  • 1982 – Falklands WarArgentina invades the Falkland Islands.

The animosity towards Argentina still lingers there. Here’s a sign someone taped to their window in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands. I photographed it when we stopped there on our Antarctic cruise on November 24 of last year:


  • 1991 – Rita Johnston becomes the first female Premier of a Canadian province when she succeeds William Vander Zalm (who had resigned) as Premier of British Columbia.
  • 2014 – A spree shooting occurs at the Fort Hood army base in Texas, with four dead, including the gunman, and 16 others injured.
  • 2015 – Four men steal items worth up to £200 million from an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area in what has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”

The perpetrators were all caught and jailed. But shouldn’t that be “largest burglary in English illegal history”?

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1725 – Giacomo Casanova, Italian explorer and author (d. 1798)
  • 1805 – Hans Christian Andersen, Danish novelist, short story writer, and poet (d. 1875)
  • 1840 – Émile Zola, French novelist, playwright, journalist (d. 1902)
  • 1891 – Max Ernst, German painter, sculptor, and poet (d. 1976)
  • 1928 – Serge Gainsbourg, French singer-songwriter, actor, and director (d. 1991)
  • 1942 – Leon Russell, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 2016)
  • 1947 – Emmylou Harris, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1947 – Camille Paglia, American author and critic
  • 1965 – Rodney King, American victim of police brutality (d. 2012)

Below is a famous (and salacious) written by Gainsbourg for Brigitte Bardot and recorded in 1967 by Gainsbourg with his paramour Jane Birkin.  It’s called “Je t’aime. . . moi non plus” (“I love you. . . me neither.”) The heavy breathing (the couple is clearly singing in flagrante delicto) starts at about 2:30, and the sexual nature of the song led to its being banned in several countries. As Wikipedia notes:

The lyrics are written as a dialogue between two lovers during sex. Phrases include:

“Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins” (“I go and I come, between your loins”)
“Tu es la vague, moi l’île nue” (“You are the wave, I the bare island”)
“L’amour physique est sans issue” (“Physical love is a dead end” [Gainsbourg sings ‘sensationnel’ in another version)

The song culminates in orgasm sounds by Birkin: mostly because of this, it was banned from radio in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy,  and Portugal, banned before 11 pm in France, not played by many radio stations in the United States because it was deemed too risqué, and denounced by the Vatican and the L’Osservatore Romano; one report even claimed the Vatican excommunicated the record executive who released it in Italy. Birkin says Gainsbourg called the Pope “our greatest PR man”.

After that, I’m sure you’ll want to listen to it. It was a huge hit in Europe. The translation is here. (TRIGGER WARNING: Beast with two backs.) I wonder what the prominence of the Eiffel Tower means here 🙂

Those who “passed” on April 2 were few, and include these two:

  • 1872 – Samuel Morse, American painter and academic, invented the Morse code (b. 1791)
  • 1987 – Buddy Rich, American drummer, songwriter, and bandleader (b. 1917)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hilis is begging for noms, as usual. But how can one resist that cute face?

Hili: A strange phenomenon.
A: What phenomenon?
Hili: You are calmly writing something and I’m hungry.
In Polish:
Hili: Dziwne zjawisko.
Ja: Jakie?
Hili: Ty sobie coś piszesz, a ja jestem głodna.

While the lodgers are at work, Szaron spends the days downstairs with Andrzej and Malgorzata, often with Hili in the same room (the two cats are still wary, but aren’t fighting). When Paulina gets home, she takes Szaron upstairs for his dinner and the night. Here he is in his quarters upstairs (not a carrier but a real cat bed) with a word of advice for all:

Szaron: One has to take care about social distance.

In Polish: Należy dbać o społeczny dystans.

From Jesus of the Day, true words!

From Spencer Lucas on FB. I’d add to it to learn the difference between its and it’s, and how to avoid the grocer’s apostrophe (“Potatoe’s on sale”):


A polite pelican at the Emporium of Unique and Wondrous Things:

Titania really hates the self-important behavior of celebrities about the coronavirus:

A tweet found by Simon.

From Gethyn, another crazy behavior produced by the lockdown. But the squirrels must like it!

Jeremy found some tweets about a herd of wild goats taking over a locked-down Welsh town:


Tweets from Matthew. First, a corvid on covid. (Sound on if you want to hear its muttering.)

Ducks get deferred mortgage payments, too! (Sound on.)

What a civic-minded bear!

Another amazing case of mimicry. I retweeted it but got the first picture from Matthew:


The first commercial Wizard of Oz release, never shown in theaters

Thanks to reader Barry to alerting me to this 8½-minute cartoon, highlighted in a short piece at Boing Boing. That piece largely draws on the Wikipedia article about this 1933 cartoon, The Wizard of Oz, which came out six years  before the famous movie. According to the article, the cartoon version never made it into theaters because it used Technicolor, which was at that time licensed only to Walt Disney. In fact, what you see below didn’t appear for sale until 1985.

But we can watch it now.  A few words about this version:

[This] is a 1933 Canadian-American animated short film directed by Ted Eshbaugh. The story is credited to “Col. Frank Baum.” Frank Joslyn Baum, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and eldest son of writer L. Frank Baum, was involved in the film’s production, and may have had an involvement in the film’s script, which is loosely inspired by the elder Baum’s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It runs approximately eight and a half minutes and is nearly wordless, working mainly with arrangements of classical music created by Carl W. Stalling.

It’s a lovely cartoon with a plot considerably different from that of the 1939 movie. There are no witches, no Cowardly Lion, and very few words spoken. Nor is the Wizard a little man behind the curtain. But there are a lot of pictures of bloomers and underwear—even the Wizard’s, as well as two salacious honeybees.  But what the cartoon and movie have in common is the initial monochrome setting in Kansas that becomes multicolored when Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz. I wonder if the movie’s director, Victor Fleming, got the idea from this cartoon.


Coronavirus forces thousands of impoverished Indians to leave cities, walking hundreds of miles to get to their villages

When the coronavirus began spreading, and I hadn’t heard much about India, I thought to myself, “My god, when it gets there it will be a debacle!” I’ve been all over India and love the country, but it’s an incubator just waiting for an injection of virus. The cities are terribly crowded and there’s virtually no opportunity (especially in those cities) to “self-segregate”—especially for the poor who are often jammed together in shantytowns. (Even in the country entire families occupy small spaces, often one room.)

And since many live hand to mouth, a shutdown of commerce would lead to starvation. To this add the sub-par medical care, with even that completely unavailable to the impoverished, i.e., most of the populace. Finally, the nature of the country, with a lot of independent people who have only the bare essentials (India is the world’s largest democracy) means that a draconian lockdown à la China is unlikely to work.

Well, Covid-19 has struck India, there was a government lockdown of commerce, and that had a result I didn’t foresee: mass migration of the poor out of the cities in a desperate attempt to reach their home villages. As the article below notes, this is migration almost on the scale of the Partition: when Pakistan was created and the Muslims in India migrated to their new country, while the Hindus in Pakistan went south to India. The only difference is that the 1947 migration was larger, and a lot of people of different religions were slaughtering each other.

It will break your heart to look at the pictures in this Associated Press article (click on the link):

An excerpt (the story is mostly pictures, and that’s pretty much what we need to see to comprehend the disaster in progress):

Over the past week, India’s migrant workers — the mainstay of the country’s labor force — spilled out of big cities that have been shuttered due to the coronavirus and returned to their villages, sparking fears that the virus could spread to the countryside.

It was an exodus unlike anything seen in India since the 1947 Partition, when British colonial rule ended and the subcontinent was split between Hindu-majority India and mostly Muslim Pakistan.

India’s 21-day lockdown has effectively kept 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies. But the world’s largest lockdown has turned into a humanitarian crisis for India’s improvised workforce.

They mostly live in squalid housing in congested urban ghettos. But with no daily earnings, no savings, and thus no way to buy food, they must head to their home villages to survive.

Train services are suspended, taxis are unaffordable and the hundreds of buses brought to the outskirts of New Delhi to ferry people home lacked enough seats.

That leaves walking. The government told India’s top court on Tuesday that 500,000 to 600,000 migrants have walked to their villages from cities.

As the crisis worsened, authorities scrambled to arrange transport, shelter and food for them.

But it was too late.

Reader John sent me a quote he found on Twitter purportedly from an Indian doctor, though he couldn’t authenticate it. But the sentiments are authentic enough, and let’s remember this when it comes time for us to step up for the poor countries:

Here are some photos from the article, with captions and credits:

In this Saturday, March 28, 2020, file photo, Indian migrant laborers wait for buses provided by the government to transport them to their hometowns, following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo)


In this Friday, March 27, 2020, file photo, migrant daily wage laborers crowd a bus as they travel to their respective hometowns following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

This is a familiar sight to those who use buses to travel under normal circumstances; now it’s even worse. And buses are always crowded: NO social distancing:

In this Saturday, March 28, 2020, photo, an Indian migrant worker tries to make his way through a window of a bus provided by the government, as they leave for their respective villages following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Many of these people are going to get ill, and they don’t even have a bed to lie down on, much less food or medical care.

In this Saturday, March 28, 2020, file photo, an Indian migrant family waits for transportation to their village following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

To me, this photo says it all:

In this Monday, March 30, 2020, file photo, an injured foot of a daily wage laborer is seen as he rests on way to his village following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus on the outskirts of Prayagraj, India. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Reader Enrico called my attention to two new articles on the likelihood of pandemic disasters in poor countries like India (here and here). The first article gives this horrifying fact:

It was called the Spanish influenza, but given the number of Indians it killed, the flu pandemic of 1918-19 should perhaps have carried a different name. Some 18m are thought to have died, or 6% of the country’s population at the time. A century later, with covid-19 lapping at India’s now far more crowded shores, fears are rising that the world’s second-most-populous country could again bear a disproportionate share of the global agony.

Eighteen million deaths in India! Imagine what could happen now. . . .

Matthew’s theory, which is his, about why Covid-19 and other viral infections often reduce one’s sense of smell

Matthew tweeted his new theory, which is his, about why Covid-19 patients very often experience “smell blindness”, technically known as anosmia—the loss of one’s sense of smell (which of course also reduces one’s ability to taste). I asked him if he wanted to post it here, and he’s rewritten it so it’s understandable by the science-friendly layperson. And so, without further ado:

A hypothesis to explain why the Covid-19 virus affects the sense of smell in some people

By Matthew Cobb


In a recent study by King’s College, London of 579 people who reported having a positive Covid-19 test, 59% said they had reported a loss of smell or taste. This is not unique to Covid-19 – many other viruses can cause the same effect. It has never been quite clear how this occurs. The great amount of attention being paid to Covid-19 has helped reveal one possible mechanism.

We smell volatile molecules, but we don’t directly detect them in the air – our smell neurons would shrivel up and die. Our neurons are protected by a layer of mucus, and the smell molecules have to get through that.

The chemical structure of most smells means they are what is known as hydrophobic – they won’t dissolve easily in water, such as that found in the mucus. It is widely thought that the smells are transported by rather mysterious chaperones called olfactory binding proteins (OBPs).

These molecules are secreted into the mucus by cells called Bowman’s cells in the olfactory epithelium – the layer of skin, high up in the roof of your nasal cavity, which is where you smell things. Many scientists think that OBPs deliver the odour to the receptor on the neuron, and then appear to be taken up by cells called sustentacular cells which lie next door.

A paper that appeared a few days ago suggests that our olfactory neurons don’t express the ACE proteins that are the virus target, and that disruption to our neurons is therefore not the cause of anosmia. However, other cells in the olfactory epithelium, the sustentacular cells and the Bowman’s cells that produce OBPs, do express the ACE protein. Both these cell types are involved in the way that OBPs work.

If the virus is attacking these cells, then the metabolism of OBPs, and thereby the balance of detection of molecules will be altered. This may explain the widespread reports of anosmia following covid-19 infection, and, in some cases like that of the science journalist Adam Rutherford, who had symptoms of covid-19,  hyperosmia (increased sensitivity). Sustentacular cells are also electrically active in newborn mice, perhaps indicating a more complex function for these cell types.

All this suggests that the return of normal olfactory functioning in patients with covid-19, or other coronaviruses, which may also cause these effects, probably depends on the time it takes for the Bowman’s cells and the sustentacular cells to recover.

A simpler explanation – advanced by @stevenmunger on Twitter in response to this – is that infection of these specific cell types merely causes inflammation, which alters tissue function. There may be other hypotheses, too. And some scientists don’t agree that OBPs play much of a role at all in olfaction. “For example, although humans have a number of genes that encode for OBPs, only one kind has so far been identified in the human olfactory epithelium. We clearly need to understand more about this aspect of how we smell.”

Whatever the exact mechanism involved, as Prof Tim Spector of King’s College said: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.”

For advice on living with anosmia:

BBC report of the King’s College study:


Brann et al (2020) – Gene expression in olfactory epithelium, on covid-19 and entry:

Strotmann & Breer (2011) – OBPs and sustentacular cells

Vogalis et al (2005) – Electrical activity in sustentacular cells

Badonnel et al (2009) – OBPs secreted by Bowman’s cells


The Chicago Tribune does a story on my ducks

UPDATE: Mary emailed me saying that she’d gotten a lot of email from people saying, in essence, “Thank you for making me cry and feel more hopeful this morning.”  Such is the power and value of good journalism!



A few days ago, Colleen Mastony, the Director of Media Relations at the University of Chicago, contacted me, saying that she’d heard about my duck-feeding activities as well as the letter from our Provost and President allowing me access to Botany Pond during the lockdown. Colleen used to work for our biggest local paper, the Chicago Tribune, and wanted to pitch the story to the Trib, saying that she thought it would make a nice “feel-good” story for these troubled times.  She wrote up a prospectus and sent it to her former colleague Mary Schmich, who writes a regular column for the Trib.

Schmich is a big presence in Chicago media (indeed, nationally): she writes a regular, widely-read, and nationally syndicated column for the paper for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. On top of that, she wrote the comic strip “Brenda Starr, Reporter” from 1985 to 2011, and penned one of the most famous “advice” pieces of our era, a column called “Wear Sunscreen“, incorporating the advice that she’d give were she asked to deliver a commencement address. That column became an eponymous book and was turned into a piece of mix music by Baz Luhrmann, which you can see and hear here (I can’t find the column online, but its words are in the video).

At any rate, Mary liked the idea of the story, interviewed me about Honey and the ducks over the phone, and, two days ago, appeared at the pond with a Tribune photographer, Terrence James. Mary asked lots of questions while Terrence snapped Honey, Dorothy, and Wingman, who cooperated by eating duck food for the camera and then preening on the center “bathtub ring”. He also photographed me feeding the birds. Fortunately, no other ducks showed up to cause trouble.

After those two interviews, Mary texted me with more questions: she was punctilious about getting all the details correct. And then, that same day (yesterday), her story on Honey, me, the ducks, and the University went online. And today it’s in the paper version of the paper. If you’re in the U.S. you’ll be able to access the story from the links below, but if you’re overseas those links won’t work and you’ll have to use this “wayback” link.

Yanks can read the online story, complete with two photos, at either the Tribune link below or the Effingham Daily News link below that (click on the screenshot).  Note that you can get one free Tribune story per month, but can subscribe for only 99 cents for three months.

I won’t reproduce the story; see it by clicking on these headlines or on the link above.



from the Effingham Daily News:

Mary did a terrific job synthesizing everything and giving it the necessary background, atmosphere, and feel-good patina (see the ending). I went down to the pond a few minutes ago and told the ducks, but they seemed more interested in their mealworms than in their newfound fame.

The original online story had two photos by Terrence (below), but the new online story, as well as the paper edition, has only the photo of me. Here they both are, along with the Trib’s original online captions:

Jerry Coyne, a widely respected evolutionary biologist and an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, feeds migratory ducks on Botany Pond on the University of Chicago campus March 30, 2020. He feeds the ducks three times a day.(Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Here, in order from left to right, are Dorothy, Wingman, and Honey:

Migratory ducks return to Botany Pond on the University of Chicago campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where they are seen preening on March 30, 2020. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Finally, I sneaked a peek at the neighbor’s version in front of their door, and found that the story occupies half of page three. This is what you see when you turn the front page. Truth be told, I know why they used a photo of me but they should have had one of the ducks!

Anyway, now that Honey and her friends are famous, perhaps it will lead to more people visiting the pond. That carries the risk of them feeding bad stuff to the ducks, but the University has promised me a swell new “Do not feed the ducks” sign that will go up by the pond next week. It will say “Please do not feed the ducks. They are well taken care of” (my wording). More on that later.

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ skepticism

Wednesday is Jesus and Mo Day, and today’s strip, called “guard”, came with an email note:

Today’s strip was inspired by this book review.

The book, “Not Born Yesterday” by Hugo Mercier, is on my to-read list.

Here’s the book from Princeton University Press, and if you click on the screenshot you’ll go to the US Amazon link. It was published on January 28 of this year, and looks well worth reading.

Now to the strip, which shows another example of religious doublethink:


Readers’ wildlife photos

Remember, landscapes and astronomical bodies count as “wildlife” here. Please send in your good photos.

Today we have both birds and the cosmos. First, some birds from reader Garry VanGelderen, sent on March 5. All IDs and notes are indented. I’d call this “Five Ways of Looking At a Blue Jay”:

Since about a week or so ago I have a new camera, a bit of an upgrade of the one before. I also have now a resident Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and I have some reasonably good pictures:

The first one was taken early in the morning when it was -20°C and the bird was sitting in my feeder all puffed up to stay warm.

The next few pictures were taken today… a sunny day with the temperature hovering around +3°C (by the way perfect weather for the maple sap harvest which has now started in my area):

And the cosmos from Tim Anderson in Australia:

Attached is an image of a globular star cluster, NGC3201, which is located in the Vela constellation close to the Southern Cross. The cluster has a radial velocity of 490 kilometres per second, which is unusually large, but not high enough to escape the gravitational attraction of the Milky Way.

The image was made by combining 120 separate photos taken with a 100mm refracting telescope and a monochrome camera fitted with a set of LRGB filters.

No viruses were harmed in the creation of this astrophotograph.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Wednesday, April 1, 2020—April Fools’ Day—and I’m guessing that people are too dispirited to post April Fool’s jokes, for fooling people doesn’t seem so funny now. I predict we’ll see a paucity of such humor today.

First, the food months. April is National Florida Tomato Month, National BLT Sandwich Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, National Soyfoods Month, National Grilled Cheese Month, and National Garlic Month. April 1 is National Soylent Green Day as well as National Sourdough Bread Day.  Curiously, Soylent Green is not a real food, but a cracker from the 1973 dystopian movie of the same name (there is a Soylent food company but it doesn’t make “Green”). Soylent Green was made of PEOPLE, and today’s link suggests an April Fool’s joke.

It’s also Boomer Bonus Day, in which we Boomers (aka “seniors”) are supposed to get special prices on goods. Too bad everything’s closed. It’s also International Fun at Work Day (have fun at home!), National One Cent Day (celebrating the useless penny), and Edible Book Day. That’s right: today’s the day that people make books that can be eaten. Here’s one:

Finally, it’s National Atheist’s Day, with the poor placement of the apostrophe suggesting that it’s celebrating only a single atheist. People really should proofread their stuff.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) goes to a bunch of information about its subject: Dame Jean Macnamara (1899-1968), described by Wikipedia as “an Australian medical doctor and scientist, best known for her contributions to children’s health and welfare.” Her research showed that there was more than one strain of polio, a fact that apparently helped in the development of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.

News of the Day: It’s too depressing to recount. Just read the front page of any good newspaper. More than 1,000 have died in New York City alone, with the state’s death toll increasing by over 30% per day. And healthcare workers everywhere are being struck down. Here are some more depressing data posted by a physician/scientist:

As for April Fool’s Day, here’s the Chicago Tribune‘s April Fool’s issue from 114 years ago (h/t Matthew)

Stuff that happened on April 1 includes:

Here’s one reference for that #2 above. Oy, is that evidence weak, and, of course, it comes straight from Scripture. Reading my new book on the shroud of Turin, I find that there were many relics of the Last Supper circulating around Europe in the Middle Ages, including plates from that meal and some Last Supper bread. (Other relics include the True Cross, nails that supposedly affixed Jesus thereto, and, weirdly, some of Mary’s breast milk.)

More news:

  • 1789 – In New York City, the United States House of Representatives achieves its first quorum and elects Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania as its first Speaker.
  • 1854 – Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times begins serialisation in his magazine Household Words.
  • 1867 – Singapore becomes a British crown colony.
  • 1918 – The Royal Air Force is created by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
  • 1924 – Adolf Hitler is sentenced to five years imprisonment for his participation in the “Beer Hall Putsch” but spends only nine months in jail.
  • 1960 – The TIROS-1 satellite transmits the first television picture from space.

Here’s a NASA documentary showing some of the weather satellite’s pictures:

Here’s a takeoff of a Harrier; I’m not sure if they’re still being used:

  • 1970 – President Richard Nixon signs the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, requiring the Surgeon General’s warnings on tobacco products and banning cigarette advertising on television and radio in the United States, effective 1 January 1971.
  • 1976 – Apple Inc. is formed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in Cupertino, California, USA.
  • 1979 – Iran becomes an Islamic republic by a 99% vote, officially overthrowing the Shah.
  • 1999 – Nunavut is established as a Canadian territory carved out of the eastern part of the Northwest Territories.
  • 2001 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in the Netherlands, the first contemporary country to allow it.
  • 2004 – Google announces Gmail to the public.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1578 – William Harvey, English physician and academic (d. 1657)
  • 1815 – Otto von Bismarck, German lawyer and politician, 1st Chancellor of the German Empire (d. 1898)
  • 1873 – Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1943)
  • 1885 – Wallace Beery, American actor (d. 1949)
  • 1885 – Clementine Churchill, English wife of Winston Churchill (d. 1977)
  • 1932 – Debbie Reynolds, Scottish-Irish American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2016)
  • 1939 – Ali MacGraw, American model and actress
  • 1947 – Francine Prose, American novelist, short story writer, and critic
  • 1950 – Samuel Alito, American lawyer and jurist
  • 1955 – Terry Nichols, American criminal
  • 1961 – Susan Boyle, Scottish singer
  • 1973 – Rachel Maddow, American journalist and author

Remember when Susan Boyle stunned the audience and judges of “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009?  Everybody laughed at her at the beginning, but the snickers turned to shock and then to tears. Here’s her song: talk about feel-good moments! Since then she’s sold over 25 million records. I just watched it again, and I must have something in my eye.

Those who succumbed on this day include:

  • 1914 – Rube Waddell, American baseball player (b. 1876)
  • 1917 – Scott Joplin, American pianist and composer (b. 1868)
  • 1976 – Max Ernst, German painter and sculptor (b. 1891)
  • 1984 – Marvin Gaye, American singer-songwriter (b. 1939)
  • 2017 – Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Soviet and Russian poet and writer (b. 1932)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Editor Hili is impeding progress:

Malgorzata: Can you please vacate my chair?
Hili: Not now, maybe later.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Czy możesz zwolnić mój fotel?
Hili: Nie teraz, może później.

In nearby Wloclawek, where Leon’s staff Elzbieta (a teacher) is teaching remotely, Leon is also learning that way. Here he learns about snails:

Leon: Distant education. We are managing.

In Polish: Edukacja zdalna. Radzimy sobie.

Malgorzata notes this about Poland: “Remote teaching already is a huge problem. Some families have more children than they have computers or laptops. Some poor families are living in very small flats, and children do not have their own rooms. All non-essential lessons (like music, which Leon’s other staff member teaches) are just being skipped.”

From Margaret Morgan on Facebook:

Posted by Angus Calder on Facebook:

From Barry, evidence that prayer is not only futile, but harmful:

From Titania. She forgot the additional good news, for the woke, that more men than women are afflicted:

Two tweets from reader Barry (be sure to play the video to see the nunchucks).

And a bunch of future patients:

Tweets from Matthew. About the first one he says, “Thread in which GG kicks the ass of the New York Times and rightly so. The UK press has same problem: political journos out of their depth.” The thread is here. 

Crikey, these otters are bellicose!

A sizable brood! I hope Honey has as many this year:

As Matthew points out in his retweet, this shark has been around the block: