Google Doodle celebrates National Teacher Appreciation Day

Although I no longer teach at my own University, as a secular Jew (i.e., one who needs love and approbation, which explains why so many comedians are Jewish), I will claim that I’m included in the group being celebrated today by Google. And I still teach here and there. . . .

I left out this holiday in the Hili post, but include it here, along with the cute animated Doodle. Click on it to see where it goes:


I have a feeling that the last pencil in line, stunted, alone, and upside down, is making some kind of political or ideological statement, but maybe I’ve been in the game too long. Your guess?

Matthew Cobb, however, still teaches, so we can celebrate him. And also Leicester City, which clinched the championship of the Premier League yesterday after my beloved Spurs didn’t beat Chelsea, tying them at 2-2.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s May 3, and the weather continues to improve in Chicago. But it’s Tuesday, the most depressing day of the week. On this day in 1921, the partition of Ireland into Northern and Southern Ireland took place, and, in 2003, New Hampshires famous rock formation the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed.

Those born on this day include Pete Seeger (1919), James Brown (1933), Franki Valli (1934), and Christopher Cross (1951), all musicians. Not many deaths of notables on this day; one is Jerzy Kosiński, who died in 1991. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess is ticked off. She really needs a catflap, but I suspect that even if she had one she’d still want to be carried inside.

Hili: I was meowing and you didn’t hear me. I was scratching and you didn’t see me.
A: And?
Hili: I was peeved.
In Polish:
Hili: Miauczałam, a nie słyszeliście mnie, drapałam, a nie widzieliście mnie…
Ja: I co?
Hili: Obraziłam się.

As lagniappe, the cherry trees in Dobrzyn are in full bloom, and Hili is out a lot roaming among them:



Finally Gus was filmed making a Big Jump; here are the notes from staff Taskin:

Here’s a short Gus video. This jump is impressive to me because it goes over the stairway, so it’s a long way down if he misses. Doesn’t faze him at all though: he sure sticks the landing.

While my ukelele gently weeps

It’s been a long and hectic day, and I want to go home. I had a lot of stuff to say today, but got sidetracked by the plagiarism issue and trying to suss it out.

Here’s a nice ukelele rendition of George Harrison’s “While my guitar gently weeps.” Jake Shimabukuro is the musician. I guess I had no idea you could play stuff like this on the uke.

Jake has more videos here.

The Great Hijab Debate

On Saturday I went to The Great Hijab Debate, more formally known as “Politics and Clothing: The Hijab,” held at the Art Institute of Chicago; it was part of the Chicago Humanities Festival under its rubric of “fashion.” (See my pre-debate post here.) Below is the announcement, which is now gone from the Web (the Festival ended), and I’ve added links to the principals:

When Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana announced its first hijab collection, it wasn’t just the fashion world that took notice. In many ways, hijab is becoming part of mainstream Western culture, worn by characters on television series, Olympic athletes, even a new Barbie doll. Still the wearing of hijab continues to spark other responses, from attacks on women in Paris, to calls from some Muslim women to end what they view as an oppressive form of dress. CHF convenes a conversation to discuss the complex and sometimes contradictory responses to hijab, including Asra Nomani, journalist and author of Standing Alone in Mecca and Hoda Katebi, activist and author of Tehran Street Style, moderated by Duaa Eldeib of the Chicago Tribune.

Katebi, a senior at my own university, also has a fashion-and-politics blog at JooJoo Azad. From looking at her blog, and also knowing Asra’s views and writings, I knew that this was going to be a rather heated exchange. Nomani is a liberal Muslim and her work is largely involved in giving Muslim women equal rights, and, while favoring giving women the choice to wear a hijab, she’s opposed to mandatory wearing of the headscarf as in Iran, seeing it as a tool of female oppression. (See her article with Hala Arafa on “Hijab Day” in last December’s Washington Post, “As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab as a sign of interfaith solidarity,”).

Katebi wears a hijab, and has written about her reasons for so doing on her website. The first reason is that “it’s sexually liberating,” which is a bit puzzling to me, even after she explained it.

The moderator, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, also wears the hijab; here are the three of them; left to right, Nomani, Eldeib, and Katebi (all photos below by Orli Peter except where noted).


I have to admit that I’m not completely unbiased here; I’ve long admired Asra’s work as a feminist and reformer, have written about her several times on my website, and in fact was on MSNBC with her on once in a short segment (we were in different studios) discussing whether ISIS represents “real” or “true” Islam (see here; the video is no longer up). Asra reminded me of that: I’d long since forgotten.

Here’s Asra before the debate doing her homework, i.e. reading the Qur’an:

Asra Quran

Below is a friendly shot before the discussion.


As I expected, things pretty quickly became less friendly when the discussion commenced. I believe Hoda wanted this to be a conflagration, for she tweeted “Shit’s goin’ down!” the days before the talk. She later removed the tw**t after Asra pointed out that it was uncivil and had also been copied to people who harassed her (Asra) previously. Hoda also characterized herself as a “#Muslimmeangirl”, which of course refers to the movie “Mean Girls,” in which high school students conspire to bully others.
Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.48.23 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.48.38 PM

Asra maintained that the hijab, while it should remain a personal choice, was mandatory in several Middle Eastern countries, and that its maintenance was fueled by a hijab “industry”, which promotes “Wear a Hijab Day” and whose aim is to continue and extend the subjugation of women. She tried at all times to keep the focus on those women who have no choice, and on the forces that prevent them from acquiring one.

In contrast, from the outset Hoda spoke on a more personal level, repeatedly noting how she had been mocked or reviled for wearing the hijab. In my opinion, this was more of a victimhood narrative than a political narrative, and one that led, as one person noted in the Q&A, to both speakers talking past each other. Here we had a classic conflict: an older Leftist feminist concerned with the plight of Muslims worldwide, versus a younger Authoritarian Leftist feminist far more concerned with her own identity and vilification (I am not saying here, of course, that Hoda is oblivious to the plight of her Muslim sisters elsewhere, but it didn’t seem nearly as much a priority for her as it was for Asra). In other words, it was a confrontation between Global Politics and Identity Politics.

To show this, here’s a backstory. Asra asked for some security at the event, for as a liberal reformist Muslim she is of course threatened and demonized far more (for an odious example, go here). It’s a shame that any liberal Muslim speaking in public almost requires security these days–and for obvious reasons. Hoda, however, didn’t want security, as she said that some of her black friends would be attending the event, that they have been “under surveillance” by the police, and therefore those friends didn’t want security at the event. The Chicago Humanities Festival, however, did finally hire plainclothes security. I would think that for any empathic person the security of a speaker would take precedence over unfounded worries about “surveillance” of friends.

I don’t want to make this too long, and there will be a complete video up soon (I’ll add it here if it’s up today), but a few more points:

  • Hoda constantly noted that Muslims are a diverse group, and do not even agree as a majority on any issues. Her point seemed to be that many women put on the hijab as a choice, while others have it forced upon them. I of course agree on the diversity of Muslim views, but on the issue of subjugation of women there is pretty much agreement in the Muslim community worldwide. I’ve shown the figure below from the 2013 Pew Report on the world’s Muslims, and will show it again:


It would be even worse if Iran and Saudi Arabia were included, and I’d say that this is evidence that throughout the Muslim world, or at least in Muslim-majority countries, women are pretty much second-class citizens. (That, of course, is mandated by sharia law, also widely—but not as strongly—favored in these countries.)

  • And let me add this as well for those who claim that Muslims are very diverse in their opinions. Remember that countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iran weren’t surveyed—for obvious reasons. homosexuality
  • Both speakers, then, agreed that the hijab should be a matter of choice. But the question remains, “How can you determine who wears the hijab by “choice”, without external compulsion?” (I’m not going to get into free will here.) Asra noted that girls as young as 5 or 6 in American Muslim schools are forced to wear the hijab, and thus to internalize the view that women are vessels of honor and sexuality, carrying the responsibility to not inflame men by showing their bodies (including hair). And if you’re brought up as a Muslim to wear the hijab, how do we know that you’d wear the hijab without compulsion? The evidence is that many women wouldn’t: there wouldn’t be a need for morality police to enforce its wearing in Iran, or for the #mystealthyfreedom Facebook page in which Iranian women bravely remove their hijabs. And, of course, women were not nearly as veiled in countries like Iran and Afghanistan before they came under Muslim theocracy. These fact clearly mean that many women in those countries would dispense with the hijab were they not forced to wear it. And how many women in the U.S. or England, for example, would also remove it if they didn’t fear being seen by Muslim Mean Girls as “bad Muslims” if they did? Sadly, the concept of “choice” was not touched on at all in the discussion.
  • To Hoda’s credit, she said that she “denounced” the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia for making hijabs and other coverings compulsory, as well as the government of France for prohibiting it, and that her denunciations have appeared in her fashion book Tehran Streetstyle.
  • Relevant to this, Asra told me before the debate that she thought it was the responsibility of women who did have a choice (like Hoda) to help extend the same choice to women under compulsion—that is, to make Islam a more woman-friendly and woman-tolerant faith. I thought that statement summed up her own position (and actions) very well, but, sadly, she didn’t say that in her presentation. That statement sums up my own view on the issue.
  • Hoda blamed things like the mistreatment of women under Islam on “Western imperialism.”  My own view is that this is a misguided statement, and if you believe that, then you can pin anything bad done in any Islamist country on imperialism. That kind of blaming has its limits.
  • Finally, in the Q&A, the last question came from a woman wearing a hijab. She asked Asra, after reciting a litany of Asra’s liberal views, “Why are you still a Muslim?” (Believe me, she does consider herself a Muslim, as I questioned her closely about that at dinner!). It was a question that was pretty rude, but it was also a softball, and Asra hit it out of the park. (You can guess what her answer was.) But I’ll leave the answer for the video, which I’ll post either here or separately when it’s available. Just let me say that there was loud applause after her answer.

Anyway, it was a pretty heated exchange, but one that provided a lot of food for thought, and the audience lingered a long time afterwards talking to the speakers and to each other. They finally had to be shooed out of the Art Institute.  Several of us then repaired for dinner and postmortem at Russian Tea Time, a restaurant across the street.

Here is Asra and one of her BFF’s, Dr. Orli Peter, a psychologist from Los Angeles. Orli flew all the way across the country to support her friend.


In the Green Room before the debate, Asra and I exchanged books. She brought her son Shibli along; he’s a budding scientist and so he’s holding WEIT. I’m holding my autographed copy of Asra’s book, Standing Alone in Mecca: An  American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. 


And here’s dinner afterwards, with big glasses of tea and the Tower O’ Treats (my name), an offering of both sweet and savory pastries to accompany tea. We talked for several hours before we had to repair home in the cold Chicago rain—without head coverings.


Here’s the scorpionfish!

From the post earlier today, here’s the cryptic scorpionfish photographed by Gayle Ferguson.

Photo 1

I’m ready for my closeup, Dr. Ferguson!

Photo 2

Someone recounts my botfly tale: Is this plagiarism?

Someone called my attention to a new piece on Nautilus, “Parasites are us: how biological invaders challenge our notion of self and others” by Robert Levine, who’s identified this way:

Robert V. Levine is a professor of psychology at California State University, Fresno and former president of the Western Psychological Association. His previous books include 
A Geography of Time and The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold.

And the article is described this way:

An excerpt from the book Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self © 2016 by Robert V. Levine, published by Princeton University Press on May 10, 2016.

I was at first chuffed, as Levine’s piece starts out with a longish description of my experience with a botfly larva injected by a mosquito into my head when I was a graduate student doing a summer course in Costa Rica. This story has been recounted in the book Tropical Nature (Forsyth and Miyata 1984)as well as on RadioLab in a piece by Robert Krulwich (see below). Levine’s piece then segues into a nice discussion of how parasites become part of the body of afflicted individuals.

But as I read the piece, and saw the numerous quotations, I became upset, for Levine not only misrepresents quotes as being given to him when they weren’t, but also seems to copy wording from Tropical Nature. 

First, although Levine gives the impression that most of my words that he quotes come from his own interview with me, they’re actually taken, word for word and without attribution, from an interview I did some years ago with Robert Krulwich for RadioLab. That interview,  “Yellow Fluff and Other Curious Encounters” is available on the RadioLab website, and goes from 45:19 extends to 55:45. Here’s an excerpt from Levine’s piece:

The most common treatment where Coyne was living was known as the “meat cure.” He was told to strap a slab of meat—a steak, maybe—to his head. This cuts off the maggot’s air supply, and the maggot, thinking the steak is part of Coyne’s flesh, burrows into it searching for air. Once the maggot gets far enough, he would just have to pull off the steak with the worm in it. It made sense, but Coyne respectfully declined. “The idea of toiling in the tropical heat every day with a T-bone strapped to my head was not something that I wanted to do.”

Meanwhile, the symptoms were getting worse. “It’s a terrible itch and from time to time it would like move or twitch and you would feel this sort of sharp pain in your skull or you could feel it grinding up against it,” Coyne recalled. “And when I went swimming or took a shower, it would sort of freak out because its airhole would be cut off, then it would really go nuts. You know, make a lot of pain. So I tried to avoid getting my head under water.”

All of my quotes come directly from the NPR piece, but are unsourced by Levine. The non-quoted parts are also derived from my discussion with Krulwich. The impression throughout the piece is that Levine got the quotes directly from me, which isn’t the case. In fact, the person who sent me the link said that Levine appears to have done a great job interviewing me.

From time to time Levine gives quotes that he says came from his conversation with me, and that may well be true, though I don’t remember talking to him. But those very few quotes are embedded in a much larger group of quotes that taken from RadioLab, but not identified as such. Here’s an example. What I am said to have told Levine is in bold (“Coyne told me”), and the rest of the quotes are taken, word for word, from my interview with Krulwich:

The botfly wasn’t that painful and I knew it was going to come out on its own after a while,”Coyne told me. He decided to just try to enjoy and marvel at what was happening inside him as much as he could.

“This behavior might seem weird to a lay person,” he said, but “I make my living on flies. I work with fruit flies. I’m a geneticist, and here is a fly making its living on me.” Coyne was intrigued to find himself inside a food chain instead of on his usual perch as a consumer at its end. The botfly was fattening up on Coyne, and Coyne was becoming increasingly fond of the botfly. “I was getting more and more curious when it would come out. I didn’t want to kill it.”

And there are unquoted bits that seem to have been taken largely from RadioLab, like this bit from Levine’s piece:

The botfly kept growing. Within a couple of weeks it had become the size of an egg, then a quail egg. Coyne started wearing a baseball cap. One night he was at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park with his friend Sarah Rogerson. .

Here’s what RadioLab says, with my words, and my friend Sarah’s, put in quotation marks, with the rest (not in quotes) being Krulwich’s narration:

So, a couple of weeks passed and the botfly is just getting “bigger and bigger and bigger.” It goes from jellybean size to something like “the size of an egg”. An egg? “Yeah, it was pretty big.” Like a quail egg. Well, he’s covering it now with a baseball cap, which is maybe one reason they decided to go to Fenway Park.

And here’s one direct quote from me to Levine embedded in a mass of quotes taken directly from the RadioLab interview:

But mostly he wanted to save the fly. He looked at his baby on the pillow and decided to try to rear it into an adult fly. “I’d prepared a jar of sterile sand and I took the worm and dropped it in the sand and put on a top with an airhole,” Coyne said. “But unfortunately it died.” Looking back, he said that he was sorry he “didn’t just put it into a jar of alcohol to preserve it.” Coyne felt extremely sad afterward. “You know in the temperate zone in Boston the botfly is not going to make it. It just can’t live and so it was doomed from the start. I wanted to see it complete its life cycle but unfortunately it didn’t quite make it. I did the best I could with what I knew.” He felt the loss. “It added richness into my life, it really did. People still get completely horrified when I tell them the story even though to me it’s sort of a nice story.” And, he told me, “It was my botfly.”

All quotes here, except for the one in bold, are from the NPR story. Clearly, Levine is implying that all the quotes were given to him by me, but in reality they are taken from NPR. I call that misrepresentation.

Finally, there’s one bit whose wording appears to have been taken from the place where Krulwich got the story: the book Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America (Scribners, 1984) by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata, my best friends when I was in graduate school at Harvard. (Ken died in a fishing accident in 1983, and never saw the published book.) In Chapter 13, “Jerry’s Maggot,” they use my botfly tale to begin a discussion of interspecies relationships in the tropics.  Here’s a quote from p. 154 (you can find it on the web here), and the words in quotations are from an email I sent the authors when they asked me to tell them what I remembered about the botfly. The rest of the words are Forsyth and Miyata’s.

Jerry is a biologist. At the time, he was a graduate student at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Well versed in evolutionary logic, genetical theory, Ivy League ecology, and tile use of biometrical tools, he was also aware that his actual experience with living creatures was “limited to unexciting fruit flies crawling feebly around food-filled glass tubes.” Working in the Museum of Comparative Zoology had done little to change that. The Museum was no longer what it had been in the days of its founder, tile celebrated Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, whose constant exhortation to “study Nature, not books” was practiced by all. Jerry’s biological interactions continued to be with fruit flies in a crowded, sterile lab, and tile only animals he saw, aside from his fellow graduate students and the ubiquitous dogs of Cambridge, were the stuffed mammals that resided in the display cases between his office and tile Pepsi machine. Finally, after a winter and spring of listening to some of us urge him to get out of the lab, he enrolled in a field course in tropical ecology. Soon he was jetting to Costa Rica, determined to experience for himself the riches of tropical nature.

And here’s from Levine’s piece. The bits in bold, which are more than my own quotations, bear a remarkable similarity to Forsyth and Miyata’s chapter.

This, however, is a more personal story about Coyne. It goes back to 1973, when he was a mere 24-year-old graduate student at Harvard. As he moved through the program, Coyne was becoming well versed in the intellectual tools of his trade—genetics, evolutionary logic, research methods, and the like. But when it came to real-life contact with nature, his experience was pretty much “limited to unexciting fruit flies crawling feebly around food-filled glass tubes.” He was even more frustrated working at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. This was the same museum that was founded by the great Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, under the guiding philosophy to “study nature, not books.”But, aside from fruit flies in a sterile lab, the only nature Coyne was seeing were stuffed mammals in a display case on his way to the Pepsi machine. When given the opportunity to take a summer field course in tropical ecology in Costa Rica, Coyne didn’t hesitate. He never imagined how close to nature he would get.

That’s annoying, especially the direct lifting of the bits about Louis Agassize, and about the animals between my office and the Pepsi machine, the latter typical of Adrian and Ken’s humor.

I haven’t investigated the piece beyond the bit on my botfly, nor even looked super-closely at the botfly bit. But there’s enough here to make me think that not only is there sloppiness going on—quotes that Levine implies were given to him by me, but in reality were given to Krulwich by me, but also copying of words and ideas from the show and from the book Tropical Nature, and content from RadioLab.

Now it may be that the unattributed quotes in the article are given attribution in the book, but what’s in the article should also have been sourced and explained. And the use of wording from Tropical Nature seems to me to approach plagiarism.

In short, I think this is a combination of sloppiness and possible plagiarism, but wanted to see what readers think.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Posting may be a bit light today as I’m Skyping in 20 minutes with a college evolution class in New York (it’s about WEIT); and I just did some virtue signaling. But enjoy these recent photographs from Stephen Barnard in Idaho, including the butt of a Great Horned Owl. His captions are indented:

Desi bringing home the bacon. [JAC: Looks like a trout. The eaglets are Jewish and don’t eat pork.]

This is an unusual perspective of a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). I disturbed him from his morning nap in the sun and he flew a short distance to this perch. This could have been a great photo if he’s turned his head to look at me, but he refused. I was practically jumping up and down and Deets was carrying on, but nothing worked. I’ve seen this owl many times. He’s annoyed, not frightened.


The fourth photo is of a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and a Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) drake. The Blue-winged Teal is a new bird for me.


These three are American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana). They show up on Loving Creek for a few weeks when the water level is low and they can wade and feed on insect larvae and small crustaceans. When the aquatic weeds come in and cause the water level to rise they leave for their breeding grounds.




And my friend Ivan in California just sent me a photo of his new “pet”. He’s has lizards almost as long as I’ve known him, but mostly leopard geckos.

This is our new Northern Blue Tongued Skink [Tiliqua scincoides intermedia], named Bernie. Little Surya, our leopard gecko, died about two months ago from complications of an intermittent GI obstruction.  After an appropriate mourning period we were going to get another leopard gecko, but when we went to the lizard store, Jan and I really took to this guy. He apparently became too much hassle for his prior owner, who gave him to the store to be sold. This happens with larger lizards, notably with the big monitors.


Bernie comes from northern Australia, one of 6 species native to that continent.  He lives in the brush naturally (we give him dry moss) and he eats almost anything.  We feed him dog food, pinkies, grubs, snails, insects, etc.  He is not very fast moving and is really sweet.  He loves being with people, so we take him out of his cage at least once a day for lap time and petting.  I am sure you will warm to him when you next visit.  He is a big guy–probably 16″ long and pretty hefty.


Here’s a photo, taken from Animal Spot, of the full beast:



Spot the scorpionfish

Reader Gayle Ferguson, you may recall, is a biologist at Massey University in Aukland, New Zealand (she once worked with Matthew in Manchester), and rescues batch after batch of orphaned kittens, for which she gets the title of Official Website Kitten Rescuer™. (One of the kittens she saved is Jerry Coyne the Cat.) She also does scuba diving, and took this photo of a camouflaged baby scorpionfish.

Gayle’s notes say “Photo taken on a scuba dive at the Poor Knights Islands off Tutukaka on the East Coast near Whangarei.”

Can you see it? It’s not terribly hard, but does show some nice camouflage:


Answer at 11 a.m. Chicago time.

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon lagniappe)

It’s Monday, May 2, at least in Chicago, and I can hear the wind howling outside my crib. It will be more dire weather today.  On this day in 1611, the first King James Bible was published in London, gulling all subsequent Christians into thinking that its lovely bits were written, in English, by God. And, in 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Special Forces.

Notables born on this day include Catherine the Great of Rusia (1729), Emma Darwin (1808), without whose care (and money) Charles might have had to get a real job, and famous cricketer Brian Lara (1969). Those who breathed their last on May 2 include Leonardo da Vinci (1519), on my list of the best 5 painters of all time (others are Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Turner, and Picasso), J. Edgar Hoover (1972), and Lynn Redgrave (2010). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is dissing Andrzej again, but at least the cherries are doing well:

A: So far everything is well.
Hili: A bit of rain would be useful.
A: But we might get a hailstorm instead!
Hili: You farmers are always afraid of something.
In Polish:
Ja: Jak dotąd wszystko dobrze.
Hili: Przydałoby się trochę deszczu.
Ja: Żeby tylko nie spadł grad.
Hili: Wy, rolnicy, ciągle się czegoś boicie.
And, in Wrocklawek, Leon is riding in the car, perhaps to his future country home, which is now under construction.

Leon: Are we changing gears?


Crab: armed and dangerous

Don’t mess with this Gangster Crab:

It’s time these crustaceans fought back against the cruel process of boiling them alive. But what are those kitten noises?


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