Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s the weekend—Saturday, June 24, 2017, and it promises to be a lovely day in Chicago: sunny with a high of only 23º C (74º F). I’m happy to report, being an Honorary Kiwi and all, that (via Heather Hastie) the All Blacks decisively won their first rugby test match against the British and Irish Lions yesterday—30-15. It’s also National Praline Day, celebrating a southern U.S. confection culturally appropriated from the French. When properly made, with lots of pecans, it’s a delicacy not to be sniffed at:

It’s also Saint John’s Day, with “midsummer” celebrations occurring widely.

On June 24, 1374, there was a huge outbreak of “Dancing Mania” (also called “St. John’s Dance”) in Aachen, Germany, a phenomenon that recurred throughout the Middle Ages. It’s not clear whether it was due to social pressure or a real disease; explanations of the latter usually include ergot poisoning. Wikipedia describes it:

[Dancing mania] involved groups of people dancing erratically, sometimes thousands at a time. The mania affected men, women, and children who danced until they collapsed from exhaustion. One of the first major outbreaks was in Aachen, in the Holy Roman Empire, in 1374, and it quickly spread throughout Europe; one particularly notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518, also in the Holy Roman Empire.

Now wouldn’t that have been something to see? On this day in 1509, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were crowned King and Queen of England. In 1880, this day saw the very first performance of “O Canada,” the Canadian National Anthem, at the Congrès national des Canadiens-Français. Here is a good version performed by Sarah MacLachlan before a hockey game:

On this day in 1939, Siam was renamed Thailand by prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram, and in 1948 the yearlong Berlin Blockade by the Soviets began, circumvented by Allied airlifts. On this day in 1982, the British Airways Flight 9 incident occurred, in which all four engines of a Boeing 747 stopped, clogged by ash from an erupting volcano. After gliding a long time, the engines eventually restarted and the pilots, under dire conditions of visibility, landed the plane safely. It was a sad day in 1995 for us Kiwis, as South Africa defeated our land in the Rugby World Cup final, with Nelson Mandela presenting his white countryman Francois Pienaar with the trophy. This was the game that inspired the movie “Invictus.”  Here is the end of the game and the trophy presentation (1:51):

Notables born on this day include Ambrose Bierce (1842), Jack Dempsey (1895), Anita Desai (1937), Mick Fleetwood (1947) and Minka Kelly (1980). Those who died on this day include Grover Cleveland (1908), Jackie Gleason (1987) and Eli Wallach (2014). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again being a Philosopher Cat:

Hili: We shouldn’t waste time.
A: Has something happened?
Hili: No, this is a general principle.
 In Polish:
​Hili: Nie powinniśmy marnować czasu.
Ja: Czy coś się stało?
Hili: Nie, to jest generalna zasada.
And in the forest near Wloclawek, Leon’s monologue requires an explanation, which Malgorzata provided:
This is the first day of school summer holidays and you remember that both Leon’s humans are teachers, so this is the first day of their holiday as well. Leon regards himself as a teacher as well, and he thinks that on the first day of HIS holiday he doesn’t have to go for long walks where his humans want to go. I don’t know whether he means that they should carry him or return home.

The monologue:

Leon: I’m not going any further. After all, I have summer holidays!

Finally, once again Grania found us a tweet, this time from Larry the Cat, who, as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, is the highest-ranking cat in Britain:

Last post of the workweek: ducks and skipping

It’s the end of the week and a heavy thunderstorm in Chicago has become a hot and humid day. To end the week, I’ll first show how my mallard ducklings have grown. This picture, with Mother Duck, was taken on May 31 when they were fuzzy little shavers:

And this picture was taken today: June 23, a bit more than three weeks later. How they’ve grown! I believe, based on the green heads, that I have three drakes and a hen. I would have preferred more females, as that means more ducklings in the future, but I’ll take what I can get. What’s amazing is that the duck genome can turn oatmeal, mealworms, and Cheerios into living ducks! No human can accomplish that feat, though I supplied the noms.

They’re flapping their wings now, have lost all their down, and I guess they’ll soon be off to more expansive waters. I’ll be sad, but I’m also glad they all came through without attrition.

Look at Loki the Bengal cat–what a clever moggie! Look at how he pulls in his tail at the last second:


Finally, for amazing sports, here’s a team of Japanese kids from Fuji Municipal Harada Elementary School in Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan setting the Guinness World Record for team rope-skipping. As the Guinness website notes, “each of the 14 skippers leap over the rope more than 18 times, setting incredible new group record of 225 skips.” That beat the previous record, also set by Japanese kids, of 217. This is an incredible feat of speed and coordination:

And here’s the world record, also held by a Japanese, for “double Dutch” skips in 30 seconds, with each jump over both ropes considered just a single skip. The skipper is 23-year-old Ayumi Sakamaki of “team Diana”, and she jumped both ropes 129 times in 30 seconds, or more than four times per second. As the site said, they had to watch the video in slow motion to get an accurate count. Note that this seems even more amazing when you consider that both her feet must be off the ground simultaneously to allow each rope to pass.

For some reason two Hello Bunnies are observing because, well, Japan. . .

Gwyneth pushes more expensive woo

A while back, Gwyneth Paltrow, who is among the world’s most disliked celebrities for her hauteur and insouciance, was selling jade “eggs” on her Goop website to insert into women’s vaginas. Unfortunately, the porous stone could cause infections, and doctors strongly warned against this practice.

Now she’s back with another quack remedy. Unlike the jade eggs, this one won’t cause any harm—except to your pocketbook.  The woo this time comprises “wearable stickers” that promote healing. No dope–seriously! Paltrow, undoubtedly for a cut of the profits, is pushing “healing skin stickers” from the Body Vibes site. Click on screenshot to see the woo:

Gwynnie not only links to the Body Vibes site, but touts the stickers on Goop like this (my emphasis):

We’ve been geeking out about the healing power of energy recently (see our stories on earthing, and the fascinating research at the HeartMath Institute)—so it’s no surprise that Body Vibes, wearable stickers that rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies, have become a major obsession around goop HQ.

The concept: Human bodies operate at an ideal energetic frequency, but everyday stresses and anxiety can throw off our internal balance, depleting our energy reserves and weakening our immune systems. Body Vibes stickers come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances. While you’re wearing them—close to your heart, on your left shoulder or arm—they’ll fill in the deficiencies in your reserves, creating a calming effect, smoothing out both physical tension and anxiety. The founders, both aestheticians, also say they help clear skin by reducing inflammation and boosting cell turnover.

P.S. Leaving them on for the prescribed three-day period left a few goop staffers with marks on their skin, so be careful to stick them somewhere concealable if you’ve got an event coming up.

Jebus! What woo I see before me!

If you click on the link about “earthing,” you learn that walking around barefoot will “ground” you, like an appliance, and allow the electrons of the Earth to flow into your body through your feet, neutralizing all those nasty free radicals that can hurt you. And you can buy “earthing” yoga mats, shoes, and even sheets so you can sleep grounded. Of course, they’re not cheap:

Here are some of the stickers, which, as the video below will tell you, have been pre-tuned with different frequencies of “bio-energy” that will seep into your body and cure any number of ailments:

Since they’re $6 per sticker, and the woman above is wearing three at a time, and you’re supposed to wear them no longer than three days, a month of this quackery will cost you about $180 (Goop is not cheap!)

If you want a laugh, listen to this eight-minute video of Richard Eaton explaining how these stickers can imbue your body with bio-energy. I’ve never heard such bullshit in my life.

The Goop website used to have, along with the description above, these words in bold:

“Body Vibes stickers (made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut’s vitals during wear) come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances.”

Well, Gizmodo contacted NASA and found out that’s just a lie (the phrase is now gone):

A representative from NASA’s spacewalk office told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.” Spacesuits are actually made of synthetic polymers, spandex, and other materials that serve a purpose beyond making their wearer look like a resident of Nightmare Coachella.

Gizmodo has asked Body Vibes to provide us with the peer-reviewed research that supports their claim that their “astronaut” stickers have any impact on the human body. We’ve also asked Body Vibes and Goop for their response to NASA’s assertion that they definitely do not use a “carbonate material” to line their spacesuits. So far, no luck on either front.

As for the bio-energy in the damn stickers, a NASA guy took down Eaton, too:

“Without going into a long explanation about the research and development of this technology, it comes down to this; I found a way to tap into the human body’s bio-frequency, which the body is receptive to outside energy signatures,” Eaton told Gizmodo. He added that, conveniently, “Most of the research that has been collected is confidential and is held as company private information.”

Mark Shelhamer, former chief scientist at NASA’s human research division, wasn’t wooed by Body Vibes or its secret research.

“Wow,” he told Gizmodo. “What a load of BS this is.”

Shelhamer reiterated that space suits are not lined with carbon material, and that even if they were, it would be for adding strength to the suit—not for monitoring vital signs.

This is homeopathy for the rich. The real reason to dislike Paltrow is not her smugness, but her constant preying on the credulous, charging them tons of money for useless New Age “remedies” on her Goop website. Have a look around if you want to see how she enriches herself by bilking people.

It’s Grania’s birthday!

I erroneously wished Grania a happy birthday about a month ago here when I saw a Facebook notification. Sadly, it was for her sister Gisela, and I erred.

But today IS Grania’s birthday, and I hope readers join me in extending congratulations to her for orbiting the Sun once again. Happy birthday, Grania, and thanks for your many posts, comments, and tips for posts!

Grania begged me not to post this, but the laws of physics dictated otherwise. Since she has the keys to this site, I hope she doesn’t go into the dashboard and delete this!

White women should get abortions to end white supremacy

UPDATE:  Several people have suggested that this website is a fake–that is, the pieces are satirizing extreme social-justice warriorism. It’s possible, but as Ben pointed out in the comments, it’s not good satire since it’s indistinguishable from the object it’s satirizing. In other words, it’s not pure satire but a hoax, designed to be misleading.

Now I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I’ve been taken in, and have written to the site asking if it’s a hoax. (Of course, why should I believe anything they tell me?). But if a reader can prove it’s a hoax, then I’ll send him/her/it/hir/them an autographed copy of either of my trade books.


Medusa, an online magazine whose masthead proclaims “Feminist Revolution Now”, seems like a version of Everyday Feminism for women a bit older: it aims to shame everyone who doesn’t conform to its rigid ideology, and is unabashedly Control-Left. (See, for instance, its recent piece calling Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein a racist who should be fired immediately for refusing to leave campus as a white man in the Day of Departure). But the article below, which at first I took to be a joke, is about the worst thing I’ve seen coming from intersectional feminism. The title of the piece by Nicole Valentine tells all; click on the screenshot to go to the article.

It’s blatantly racist, recalling the bad old days of eugenics, but of course the intersectional feminists will say that calling for white people to abort their fetuses to stop white hegemony is not racism, because “racism equals prejudice plus power.” I don’t buy that, and I don’t think anyone should buy into that, or allow anyone to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity just because they’re from an ethnic group lower down on the Ladder of Oppression. The ranking of The Oppressed is problematic anyway, for it actually puts Jews at the Unoppressed top, and where do you rank Hispanics versus Muslims? The right thing to do is decry bigotry in all its forms, while remaining conscious that some groups suffer a lot more from bigotry than others. But Valentine, whose Gravatar profile is below, wants to do what the Nazis did to those deemed inferior: stop them from giving birth. In this case, it’s through the abortion (presumably voluntary!) of white fetuses.

No, this is no joke. Valentine’s thesis is that white breeding “replicates the white family unit,” thus reinforcing white supremacy. White abortion solves at once the problems of too many white people in America as well as the hours white people devote to raising their kids, which could be used to assist women of color. Although a Pew Survey from 2015 shows that black and Hispanic families are already larger than white families, Valentine seems to want the average family size of whites to be zero (as she says in her piece, “the white family unit must be destroyed”). Here are the Pew data:

Among mothers near the end of their childbearing years, Hispanics and blacks have the largest families. On average, a Hispanic mother ages 40 to 44 has had about 2.6 children. By comparison, black mothers have had about 2.5. White and Asian mothers have families that are a bit smaller, on average. White mothers have 2.3 children, and Asian mothers have 2.2 children.

Okay, on to Valentine’s piece; I give a few quotes:

It is no surprise, then, that America’s fascination with the white family unit has gone hand-in-hand with the historical proliferation of white supremacy. After Bacon’s Rebellion, white micro-fieftans thought it necessary to expand the definition of white family to encompass the entirety of white society, so as to coerce the working class to fight amongst itself based on racial lines. Whites are embedded from birth with the sense of common white identity, and this identity conditions them to replicate the white family unit, thus furthering the cycle of white supremacy in America. That is why the white family unit must be destroyed.

And the call to arms (or to Planned Parenthood), which says that white women who call themselves progressives, but have any kids, are hypocrites:

White women: it is time to do your part! Your white children reinforce the white supremacist society that benefits you. If you claim to be progressive, and yet willingly birth white children by your own choice, you are a hypocrite. White women should be encouraged to abort their white children, and to use their freed-up time and resources to assist women of color who have no other choice but to raise their children. Women of color are in need of financial and humanitarian resources. As this white supremacist society continues to imprison black fathers, women of color are forced to stand alone in their plight to raise the next generation of Americans. White women: instead of devoting your time and energy to white children who will reinforce the struggles of women of color, how about asking women of color in what ways you can assist them in their self-liberation? How about adopting children of color who have lost their parents to the destructive white supremacist society that you have enabled and encouraged?

Of course, the best choice is to act preventatively to ensure that white children are not at risk of being born. But in circumstances in which termination and generation are the options, it is best to take advantage of your right to choose, and abort in favor of assisting women of color.

Of course there’s still racism in America, and we must remain aware of it and fight against it. You can see plenty of that racism on white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites, and I decry it in the strongest terms. But the difference between that racism and the views of Nicole Valentine, which aren’t that different, is that white supremacists are mocked and reviled by all thinking people, while Valentine’s racist and eugenics views are on tap in a progressive feminist website. Oh, the humanity!

Here’s Valentine’s Gravatar profile, showing a bit more racism

h/t: Orli

Turkey orders secondary schools to stop teaching evolution

According to both the Guardian and The Independentthe Turkish government, with the approval of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has just stopped the teaching of evolution in secondary schools, saying that students in the ninth grade aren’t able to understand the idea. Although—according to a friend who teaches evolution in a Turkish university—evolution is often left out of the secondary school curriculum (as it often is in the U.S.), now it won’t be offered in any secondary schools.

According to the Guardian, the announcement was made here, and if you understand Turkish, do tell us what this guy is saying (click screenshot to go to video):

Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Durmuş said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

. . . The subject of evolution in particular stirred debate earlier this year after Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy prime minister, described the process as a theory that was both archaic and lacking sufficient evidence.

There is no doubt why this is happening: it’s part of the increasing Islamicization of Turkey by the theocratic strongman Erdoğan, who is increasingly demolishing the secular government set up by Kemal Atatürk in favor of Muslim habits and strictures. Besides arresting 50,000 perceived opponents, arrogating more power for himself, imposing more restrictions in alcohol, and reintroducing religious (i.e., Islamic) education in schools,Erdoğan’s now attacking science education.

Since the Qur’an states that humans were created like this:

And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay
Then We place him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging
Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and we made [from] the lump bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.*

. . . and because many Muslims believe the Qur’an should be read literally, teaching evolution can be seen as anti-Islam, and few Muslim-majority countries teach it in secondary schools. (I once had a Turkish cab driver lecture to me about evolution and how the Qur’an says that humans were created, though he didn’t know I was an evolutionary biologist.)

The Guardian also reports that other secular aspects of the curriculum will be diminished, including downplaying the achievements of Atatürk, who would be spinning in his grave were he to see what Erdoğan is doing:

Reports in Turkish media in recent weeks, based on apparent leaks of school board meetings, have also predicted a diminished role in the curriculum for the study of Atatürk, and an increase in the hours devoted to studying religion. Durmuş said that a greater emphasis would be placed on the contributions of Muslim and Turkish scientists and history classes would move away from a “Euro-centric” approach.

The changes were based on a broad public consultation in which parents and the public played a key role, he said.

I weep for Turkey, a country I love. I was invited to Ankara this winter to speak about evolution, but didn’t go, and now I wish I had. Perhaps they’ll invite me again, and this time I’d be delighted to tell my audiences why evolution is TRUE.


*note that the words “developed him into another creation” could be taken as a kind of theistic evolution, but I haven’t seen Muslims, who usually don’t take the Qur’an as metaphor, interpret it this way.

h/t: Charleen, Ant

Friday’s verbal infelicity

I heard this phrase twice yesterday, which reminded me that it’s quite common—and I don’t like it:

“The thing is, is that. . . . “

It’s used for emphasis, as in the sentence, “The thing is, is that I’d already done the job but I still got chewed out.”

Now this is just wrong: the second “is” can be omitted without any ambiguity of meaning. I suppose the repeated word is used for emphasis, but my arrector pilae contract when I hear this.

I suppose it’s time that readers get a chance to share their beefs about language, so put yours below.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Up first we have four photos from reader Will from Morris, Illinois, showing Nature red in scale and fang. His notes are indented:

Yet another reason for me to like fishing:  I get out and see things like this.  While fishing the Fox River near Yorkville, Illinois, I came upon a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) swallowing a stonecat (Noturus flavus).  The Fox River is an environmental  success story.  It is a much healthier habitat than in the 70s.

He added that “a stonecat is a small, venomous catfish. Yep, venomous.  They have venom glands associated with their pectoral spines.  That snake has to be tough to stomach that.”

And birds from reader Don Bredes:

Here are a couple of American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) portraits. A rather ordinary creature hereabouts, to be sure, but the bird Vermonters call the “wild canary” is just as welcome after such a long winter as are the daffodils.
They’re easily spooked. One morning two years ago, while several males and females were crunching the sunflower seed on the deck rail, and when I approached the window with my camera, they panicked, and one flew into the door glass.  Stunned, he lay there for a couple of minutes till one of our voracious bluejays swooped in and killed it.  Then the jay flew off with it for breakfast.

Finally, a reader requests an ID on this snake. Can readers help?

My name is Alex Kleine and I’ve been a follower of the great Ceiling Cat for about two to three years as of now. I was wondering if you could post these photos (they are of cellphone quality so not really the highest camera quality) in another one of your upcoming Readers’ Wildlife Photos section. I need help in identifying this beautiful snake that sadly was a victim of roadkill in Hays, Kansas. I did some photo closeups of the head, and trunk scale patterns for further detail.


Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, June 23, 2017, and didn’t this week go by fast? Now the days are beginning to shorten in the Northern Hemisphere, but you can console yourself by celebrating National Pecan Sandy Day. Not my favorite cookie (or “biscuit” to Brits), but I’d rather have them than, say, oatmeal raisin cookies, the health nut’s chocolate chip cookie. Here’s a pecan sandy; doesn’t it look appetizing? (NOT!):

It’s also a United Nations Day: International Widows Day.

On June 23, 1868, the typewriter was patented in the U.S. by Christopher Latham Sholes: he called it the “Type-Writer.” On this day in 1926, the first SAT exam was administered to students. I can still remember my scores, and I took it in 1966! (That’s 51 years ago; OY!) In 1942, a train full of Parisian Jews arrived at Auschwitz, and the “passengers” were subject to the very first selection for the gas chamber. And this day in 1951, the ocean liner SS United States was christened and launched. It was the fastest liner of the time (or any time), and my family and I crossed the Atlantic on it from England to the U.S. in 1957; at that time the U.S. Army allowed its officers to change duty stations on a luxury liner!  The ship still holds the “Blue Riband” for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in either direction by a passenger liner: in 1952, for instance, she crossed from England to New Jersey in 3 days, 10 hours, and, 40 minutes! The ship went out of service in 1969 and is still moored in Philadelphia, subject to various schemes about being scrapped or turned into some other venue. Here she be: isn’t she a beaut?

On this day in 1972, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was changed to prohibit sex discrimination in any school program receiving federal funds; it was a big boost to women’s athletics, and to women’s rights in general. Finally, it was exactly a year ago today (can you believe it?) that the UK voted to leave the European Union in a general referendum (51.9% vs 48.1%); it was a bleak day for many of us.

Those born on this day include Alan Turing (1912), Bob Fosse (1927), Wilma Rudolph and Stu Sutcliffe (both 1940), and James Levine (1943). Those who died on this day include Jonas Salk (1995), Ed McMahon (2009) and Peter Falk (2011). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the beasts are helping Andrzej read a crime story (looks like it’s on a Kindle):

Hili: He will tell us all about it later.
Cyrus: I can’t wait.
In Polish:
Hili: Potem on nam to wszystko opowie.
Cyrus: Nie mogę się już doczekać.

Out in Winnipeg, reader Taskin snapped her Gus just as he was waking from his beauty sleep. He seems to have a “sleep crease” in his fur:

And from Grania we have two tweets. First, a squirrel, tired of nuts, goes full throttle for a baguette. The French word for squirrel is “écureuil”. Can you pronounce that? It isn’t easy, but I can do it!

And a dancing gorilla. Is this really the best thing on the Internet this year?

A daft woodpecker

What the hell is it doing?