Improving Our Bird Brains, Part 6: Brown Pelican

This is the last installment of my Improving Our Bird Brains series. By now we must be birdbrain geniuses. We’ve become so smart that I think there’s little room for further improvement, and therefore no more need for these featherbrained posts.

Before I get into the Brown pelican bird, I want to warn readers that there’s a tobacco substitute, as well as several sex acts, also called the Brown pelican. It’s all disgusting and vile, and anyone who’s asked if they’d like a Brown pelican is well advised to run like hell.

As for the bird, there are eight species of pelicans worldwide, divided into two groups: the browns and the whites, with four species of browns (actually, some are grayish pink), and four species of whites (actually, one is black and white, and one is grayish white). It appears that whoever did the dividing was also a little birdbrained.

This is the kind of Brown pelican I’m referring to.

The skies and waters of the United States host only two of these species of pelican, imaginatively called the Brown pelican and the American white pelican. These birds have a lot of similarities, but there are also some differences.

For instance all pelicans feed by swimming around in the water until they spot a fish, then plunging their beaks in and grabbing it. However, Brown pelicans also often fish by flying more than 30 to 60 feet above the water, and diving in head first. Diving from such heights is a derring-do that no other pelican possesses.

A Brown pelican diving for fish, at Bahia Honda State Park, Florida.

In shallow waters, pelicans will use teamwork to catch fish. Several form a line, and drive small schools into the shallow waters by beating their wings against the water. Then they dive in and scoop up their prey. Those who don’t get any fish, punch out on a time clock and have to wait until every other Friday for their share of the catch.

A couple of Brown pelicans fishing together, at Bahia Honda State Park, Florida.

Pelicans often catch multiple fish before eating, and store them in their big throat pouch. In order to eat the fish, a pelican has to tilt its beak forward to drain the water from the pouch. This can take up to a full minute, and gives other sea birds a chance to zip in and steal the food right out of the pelican’s mouth. This must be draining for pelicans, in more ways than one.

Brown pelicans are masterful fliers. They often fly in group formation, skimming the ocean just inches above the waves. They have long, broad wings, with an unusually large number of 30 to 35 secondary flight feathers. They use these great wings to create an air cushion between themselves and the ocean, and this enables them to glide very close to the water without touching the surface. It’s an effortless way to fly, and they often employ it to travel long distances.

But when pelicans need to fly further, they go high instead of low. They catch a thermal and soar to heights up to 10,000 feet. Then they glide for distances over 90 miles, to feeding areas.

Pelicans nest in colonies, and are monogamous. But they only stay married for one season. After that, it’s Splitsville, and off to a new mate with each new season. And as usual, the lawyers get everything.

These Brown pelicans off of Florida’s Little Torch Key have long faces, because it’s raining.

People are stupid when it comes to pelicans. For centuries human beans have tried to kill these great birds off, because they’re seen as competition for fish. However most of the fish that pelicans eat are not the type that people eat. They’re not much competition at all.

But this hasn’t stopped large culling campaigns, dating back to the 19th century in America. And it’s still happening. In 2016, the Idaho Fish and Game department launched an attack on pelicans with the goal of cutting their population in half. And this even though they are classified as a “species of greatest conservation need.” Fuckin’ potato heads.

Pelicans eat lots of fish, but not usually the kind humans eat.

Human ignorance has also led to pelicans being revered. In medieval times they were thought to be self-sacrificial parents that would wound their own breasts and feed their own blood to their young, when no other food was available. This is a myth, brought on by the observation that pelicans sometimes press their bills very hard into their chests. But they’re not stabbing themselves with their bills. Actually, they’re trying to completely empty their pouches and finish swallowing all their caught fish.

Religious statue of a pelican wounding its breast to feed its young. Photo by Andreas Praefcke. CC BY 3.0.

Nonetheless this myth of self-sacrifice has allowed the pelican admission into Christian iconology, as they remind the pious of Christ’s self-sacrifice. It’s not uncommon to see drawings of these birds on the cover pages of bibles, or to see pelican statues at churches or other Christian institutions. Which I think is appropriate, since I find religion hard to swallow, just like the pelican trying to empty its pouch.

DDT caused a major decline in the population of pelicans in the 1950s and 1960s, but they have since made an impressive recovery. Today there are around a quarter-million Brown pelicans in the United States and the Caribbean, and more than 150,000 American white pelicans in the United States.

I have no more to say about the pelican, so I’ll leave off with these words, often misattributed to Ogden Nash, but actually written in 1910 by American poet Dixon Lanier Merritt:

A wonderful bird is the pelican.
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Food enough for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

What the Heck is Herd Immunity?

Have you herd of herd immunity? Sorry, but that’s one of Jason Frels’ favorite puns, and I had to beat him to the punch.

Herd immunity is not some cutesy wootsy term invented by anti-lockdown activists. No, it’s been around since the 1930s, when epidemiologists recognized that after a bunch of kids in a community caught the measles, there were fewer new cases for awhile. That’s because enough people in that community had acquired antibodies to the measles virus, through infection, to slow the spread of the virus.

It’s an unflattering term. Personally, I prefer the term “community immunity”. It rhymes and it’s catchy, just like viruses. I hope epidemiologists didn’t come up with “herd immunity” because they regard us as cattle. Lately, with their draconian rules, I’ve been wondering about that.

If I have a virus, but others have the antibodies, they can’t catch the virus from me, even if I get in everyone’s faces and make mooing sounds. That’s herd immunity.

Herd immunity only occurs with contagious diseases. So, since tetanus is not contagious, herd immunity cannot stop this disease.

But on the other hand, the more contagious a disease, the harder it is to attain full herd immunity. That’s because more people have to have the antibodies in order to prevent the spread of the disease. For instance, measles is so contagious, 95% of the population must have the antibodies, either through having been infected or vaccinated, in order to stop its spread.

The coronavirus is probably not as contagious as measles, but it’s still highly contagious. Experts vary widely in their estimates of how much herd immunity is needed, from 50% to 80%, or more. That’s because the experts don’t know jackshit about the coronavirus, and need more time to study it. My guess is they’ll figure it out about the same time we non-experts do.

There are two kinds of herd immunity: natural and vaccination. Vaccination is always healthiest, but first we have to have a vaccine. This may take a year or two, with the coronavirus, if it happens at all. So for now, we’re stuck with the method of natural herd immunity.

Natural herd immunity fights the virus the hard way. It’s sort of like a fait accompli, because you must catch the virus and suffer from it, in order to become immune to it. It’s like falling on a grenade to save yourself. Or like getting rid of bedbugs by burning your bed. Or like telling your spouse you cheated on him or her, in order to get the repercussions over with, from being caught.

And even with all this pain and suffering, if we do acquire herd immunity, that damned virus might mutate on us and we’ll have to start all over again.

Some scoff at the logic of natural herd immunity. They argue that you cannot logically claim it prevents the spread of the virus, since it requires the virus to spread in order to attain widespread immunity. There’s sort of a Catch-22 with Covid-19.

These are powerful arguments against natural herd immunity, in my view. However there are counterarguments which I believe are also powerful. Let me confuse you, by throwing those in the mix.

If the virus is allowed to spread among younger, healthier people, who are just itching to get out and have fun with their friends anyway, far less suffering and death would be caused by it. Especially if wiser, older people stayed away from these idiot younger people during this time. Younger people seem nearly bulletproof from this virus, and have often caught it without ever knowing they had it. So let them risk catching it all they want.

Eventually, the herd immunity younger people would acquire would prevent the virus from spreading to older people, who are far more likely to suffer or die from this disease. Thus, although this approach to natural herd immunity wouldn’t prevent the spread of the virus, it would prevent much suffering and death from the virus.

Also, the more young people with immunity, the slower the virus would spread, and the less likely our hospitals would be overwhelmed. This would help prevent many deaths, not just from the coronavirus, but also from all the other ailments that send people to hospitals.

Another argument for natural herd immunity is that if it’s allowed to occur quickly enough, it might eradicate the virus before it has time to mutate into something even more dangerous. That’s a gamble, but it could be another form of prevention.

So in my opinion, natural herd immunity, as a form of prevention, does make some logical sense.

Natural herd immunity is a hot topic these days, with lots of biased opinions both for and against it. But I won’t be buffaloed. I’ve tried to learn about it from unbiased sources on the internet. It’s been a challenge, but I managed some success from the following websites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

https://www.webmd.com/lung/what-is-herd-immunity#1

https://www.healthline.com/health/herd-immunity

How To End This Awful Crisis

We’ve had a worldwide toilet paper shortage since March, and I think I’ve figured out who’s to blame. Women. Especially my sister.

My sister paid us an illegal visit a few days ago, and as a token of our love for her, we gifted her with a highly coveted six-pack of Charmin Ultra Strong toilet tissue. Her eyes lit up like open sphincters the instant she laid eyes on it. She thanked us profusely, confessing that she only had two rolls left at home, and that this was enough to last her six whole weeks.

It will take me 5 more months to finish off this 6-pack.

What the fuck? Six weeks?!

That means she goes through an entire roll a week. And these are the “Mega” rolls, where Charmin’s packaging claims that one Mega roll is the equivalent to four regular rolls. Doing the math, my sister goes through 24 regular rolls of toilet paper in six weeks. That’s four rolls a week, or a little over one roll every two days!

And she lives alone, now that she’s a widow, so there’s only one ass and one pudendum being wiped in her house on a regular basis. This really seems excessive to me. My wife and I use separate bathrooms, so I know how much toilet paper I go through, and my experience demonstrates that one Mega roll will carry me through at least an entire month.

Not wanting to embarrass my sister, I didn’t interrogate her over her profligate use of this precious paper, but after she left I brought the matter up with my wife. She sat me down and explained the difference between men and women when it comes to wiping.

Men and women probably use the same amount of toilet paper for cleaning up a shit, according to the light of my life. But pissing is a whole different ball game. After a man pisses, she explained, he just wags his wanger around to get rid of the drips, then stuffs it back into his pants. No toilet paper necessary. But when a woman pisses, she’s left with a swampy mess in her nether regions. It’s going to require half a forest to clean up her delicate parts.

My wife demonstrated by pulling from a roll, what she described as a reasonable amount of tissue to swab herself below decks. I couldn’t believe it! She wound layer after layer after layer around her hand, until I had a hard time distinguishing which was the original roll of toilet paper, the paper on the spool or the many squares covering her hand like an oven mitt.

This enabled her to wipe herself without a single drop of urine coming into contact with her hand skin. Which I suppose is the goal. Apparently, no woman wants her hand to come into contact with her own urine.

But then she showed me a trick she recently learned, in response to the worldwide toilet paper crisis. She keeps a spray bottle full of water by her toilet. Nowadays, after she takes a leak, she rinses her downunder with spritzes of water. This enables her to dry herself out with just one or two squares of treasured tissue, without any danger of coming into contact with urine. This technique enables a roll to last much longer for Mrs. Gnu, than ever before.

This toilet paper shortage is threatening the very fabric of society. Fistfights are breaking out in the toilet tissue aisles of supermarkets. A black market for overpriced t.p. is thriving, and gangbangers are shooting each other for the rights to sell it at street corners. Something must be done, and I think women hold the key.

I believe women can end the toilet paper shortage by simply changing their cleansing habits. All they have to do is follow the good example of Mrs. Gnu. How much does a little spray bottle cost? A tiny fraction of a truckload of toilet paper, I’ll tell you that.

Women could save their households a ton of money with a spritzer, and end one of the most devastating crises to ravage the world in centuries. Not only that, but they’d save rainforests, the taiga, and deciduous woodlands the world over. They could even end global warming.

Women would have a learning curve, though, that could take some time to get over. That’s because they’d have to develop their underhanded aim. But with some practice and skill, I think any woman could make a six-pack of Charmin Ultra Strong last an entire six months.

Number Six

When he awoke, his head hurt. The drizzly fog of sleep thinned and parted. Rays of reality sliced through the departing clouds of his mind, and he gradually regained the ability to think clearly. But his head still hurt. Felt like a fever.

A realization stung him like a slap in the face. This could be number six! He shuddered. But he knew it would come one day. How could anyone escape number six?

He tried to think positive. Maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t it. Perhaps it was only a head cold. He stumbled into the bathroom and examined his eyes in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. They were bloodshot. Not a good sign.

Below the quartz countertop of the vanity was a drawer, which he slid open with his left hand, while steadying himself with his right, next to the sink. Shaky fingers extracted a thermometer that had been in his wife’s mouth and his own mouth many times before. “May God rest her soul,” his lips murmured.

A minute later he pulled it out and read 99. Not too bad. Probably just a head cold. He returned it to its home and slowly slid the drawer closed.

He walked to work, a grocery store, a mere two blocks from his home. Before this all started he’d been a waiter. But after all the restaurants were shut down, he’d spent two years unemployed, on government assistance.

His restaurant never reopened, but a job did, at the grocery store, and he was next in line. Employment was practically mandatory, because the offer of a job always meant the end of one’s assistance check, whether the job was accepted or not. He needed money, so he accepted the job.

That was a year ago. Covid-19 had been ravaging his world for three full years now. It was stumping science. After three years, the experts were still scratching their heads. What few experts remained. They knew a lot more about it now than they did when the pandemic began, but they weren’t anywhere close to a cure or effective vaccine.

He rubbed his forehead as a maskless pedestrian passed closely by, brushing his shoulder. Masks had been proven unhelpful at preventing transmission, and most people had stopped using them. Social distancing rules were still in effect, but more and more people ignored them these days, with a fatalistic “what’s the use?” attitude.

The morning sky was so blue it stunned him, and managed to stimulate his mood to a slightly lighter side from the persistent heavy sadness of his heart. He noticed more birds flying around than he’d ever seen before in the city. And the overgrown yards of the homes where nobody lived anymore, hinted of a revivifying forest.

He passed through the parting doors of the supermarket, headed for the back, and within minutes was assigned his first task of the day. Canned beans were running low, and someone had to restock them.

“Hey Terrance!” a man tapped his shoulder as he was settling three cans onto a shelf. He turned and faced Lamont, a former co-worker at the restaurant. “Finally got beans in, huh? I’ll take a few.” Lamont leaned over Terrance’s kneeling figure and pulled the same three cans off, and dropped them in his cart.

“How you been, Lamont?”

“Fine, fine, how about you?”

“Oh, alright.” He didn’t want to admit to his headache and 99 degree fever. That sort of news sometimes freaked people out.

Lamont held up four fingers. “Four times, man, four times I’ve had it. How about you?”

“Five, I think.”

“Five?! Oh shit man, watch out. Hey, if you get it a sixth time, I hope you break a record,” Lamont said with both pity and hope.

One of the few things scientists had discovered about the coronavirus was that nobody survived more than five known infections. The sixth time, for those who managed to make it to a sixth time, was always fatal.

“Thanks. See ya around, Lamont.” He turned back to his box of beans and resumed restocking, not wanting his eyes to betray the fear of death.

Returning home that evening, Terrance thought he heard a wolf howl far off in the darkling twilight, and quickened his step. There’d been rumors of wolf sightings, but it seemed unbelievable to have such large, wild predators prowling the city. Mother Nature couldn’t be recovering that quickly, he reasoned. Impossible.

He shut the door behind him. Safe now, from wolves or whatever was out there. Safe. Safe from all but the invisible enemy. He rubbed the palms of his hands on his burning forehead. He felt tired. His body ached all over. More so than it should.

Into the bathroom he trudged, to the drawer that held the thermometer that had portended his wife’s death. And she after only three times! Why had he lasted through five? Who knew? No one knew.

What scientists did know, was that each infection was followed by antibodies. But those antibodies only protected people for about four to twelve months. And each reinfection weakened the body more and more, like a cannonade cracking the ramparts of a castle. Infections left survivors with permanently damaged lungs, hearts, kidneys, and other organs, creating within them underlying conditions.

Those who already had underlying conditions often died from their first infection. For healthier victims, it usually took two, three, four, five, and rarely six. Nobody had ever been known to survive six infections. Number six always broke the castle walls down.

He shook the mercury to the bottom with a few flicks of his wrist, then stuck the thermometer under his tongue. He studied his ridiculous reflection in the mirror, with the glass stick jutting out from between his lips. He pulled it out and examined the result.

101 degrees.

Terrance didn’t bother putting the glass stick away. He just left it sitting in a puddle of his saliva, on the quartz countertop.

His body was warm, but he felt cold. In fact, he felt like he was freezing. And he was so tired. He wanted nothing more than to snuggle into his bed, under some deep, warm covers, and rest his aching muscles.

Hunger had fled his stomach. He only wanted rest. And so, within minutes, Terrance found himself crawling between sheets and sinking into the comfort of his mattress. He’d neglected to draw the curtains of his bedroom window, but felt too tired and achy to care.

Glancing out the window as he adjusted blankets around his shivering body and head, Terrance caught the vestigial red glow of a recently submerged sunset. He finished adjusting and stopped moving, readying himself for sleep. He coughed a few times.

His tussive fit died down, and a silence enswathed him like heavy cloth. Outside, no city sounds seeped through his window. Just an eldritch quiet, that perfused every molecule of the universe.

Except that somewhere, way off in the dark, between starlight and a wilderness of trees and vacant homes, there drifted a faint howling.

Trump’s Agenda

Carolyn, at joyroses13.wordpress.com, has submitted a Unicorn Beam. Thank you Carolyn, I need all the help I can get. Carolyn has sent us the agenda for our president’s daily COVID-19 press conferences.

Although this agenda seems accurate, it may also be outdated. It seems that after Trump’s last press conference, where he suggested that we drink disinfectant, The Orange One has decided to lay low and discontinue his little standups. For how long, who knows? Hopefully forever.

But in case he returns, and you need some guidance to follow along and understand the confusion, here’s the agenda:

The Good & The Bad, as of 4/25/20

Bad news about Covid-19 seems to spread as fast as the virus itself. But there’s also been good news. So I’ve combined the latest good and bad news, to help us keep a balanced perspective:

Good News:
On April 23rd, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the pandemic is fast turning into a human rights crisis, and he warned that any emergency measures must be “legal, proportionate, necessary, and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration, and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health.” At last, we finally have a world leader advocating for human rights!

Bad News:
Everyone seems to have ignored the U.N. Secretary General, in my view, except Sweden and the state of South Dakota. Also, the weather is damned cold in Sweden and South Dakota. If you lived there, you’d want to stay at home anyways.


Bad News:
A test of antibodies in residents of New York City indicates that 21% of the population have had the coronavirus. Apparently, it’s been spreading all over the place.

Good News:
The virus spreading all over the place could very well increase herd immunity, reducing the likelihood of a major second wave of infections.

Also, the population of New York City is over 8 million. If 21% of NYC residents have had the coronavirus, that equates to about 1,680,000 infected residents. As of this writing, NYC’s death toll from the virus is about 10,000. This equates to 1 death for every 168 infections, or a death rate of about 0.6%. This is far lower than many alarming death rates that have been reported, such as 2.1% or 6%.

And given that those age 50 or older are dying at about 27 times the rate of those under 50, it would appear that young, healthy people have little to fear from the coronavirus. Yes, there are news stories of young people dying, but these cases seem to be rare exceptions.


Bad News:
President Trump recently suggested that injecting disinfectant into the body might kill the coronavirus.

Good News:
According to subscribers of the theory of Social Darwinism, this suggestion by Trump could result in the culling of millions of idiots from our country’s population. This will improve the overall intelligence of our nation, and ensure Trump’s defeat in November.

Memento Mori:
I’m not a doctor nor the president, but I have this medical advice for those inclined to regard our president as a doctor: Do NOT ingest or inject yourself with disinfectant! It will kill you! No matter how much you may love the president, please acknowledge that at least occasionally he can be wrong. It will kill you! I repeat, it will kill you! 💀💀💀

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