Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 28, 2017 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a chilly Saturday (in Chicago): greet January 28, 2017. It’s National Blueberry Pancake Day, and I’ll add that to this wonderful breakfast treat you must add real butter and a drizzle of good maple syrup (preferably the darkest grade). It’s also Data Privacy Day (known as “Data Protection Day” in Europe), so remember not to give out compromising or secure things (if you’re in the U.S., NEVER give out your Social Security number on the phone, particularly during tax season). Beware of robot calls purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service: I got four of those last year but knew they were a scam. Note that the IRS will never call you, so these calls are always attempts to steal your money.

Today is also the beginning of Chinese (Lunar)New Year; and there’s a Google Doodle; or should I say a Google Cock-a-Doodle? For it’s the Year of the Rooster, and if you don’t know your year, look it up (I’m a stalwart Ox).


On this day in 1547, Henry VIII of England died at the age of 55, a death probably hastened by obesity. His 9-year-old son became King Edward VI. In 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first published, and 7 years later a Russian expedition discovered Antarctica. On January 28, 1935, Iceland became the first Western nation to legalize therapeutic abortion. 1935! It’s also one of the world’s six most atheistic nations. On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley first appeared on US television. No, it wasn’t his famed (and censored) appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but a stint on CBS’s “Stage Show.” In 1965, the Canadian Parliament approved the current design for the Canadian flag (I think it should have a beaver rather than a maple leaf).

Real flag:


Better flag:


And, a sad day in 1986: the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Dick Scobee, and Michael J. Smith. I remember watching it live, with everyone uncomprehending and hoping beyond hope that nobody was hurt, even after the outcome was clear.

Notables born on this day include Henry Morton Stanley (1841), Colette (1873), Claes Oldenburg (1929), Alan Alda (1936), and Rick “Purpose Driven” Warren (1954). Those who died on this day, include beside Henry VIII and the seven Challenger astronauts, Charlemagne (814, probably wrong calendar) and W. B Yeats (1939), one of my favorite poets. Here’s Yeats’s grave in Drumcliff, Ireland; the inscription, penned by Yeats himself, comes from the final stanza of his great poem “Under Ben Bulben“:

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago; a church stands near,
By the road an ancient Cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase,
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
               Cast a cold eye
               On life, on death.
               Horseman, pass by!



Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is taking apart a familiar Latin phrase (click the link if you don’t know it or who said it):

Hili: You are always thinking that you are unique.
In Polish:
Ja: Errare humanum est.
Hili: Zawsze wam się zdaje, że jesteście tacy wyjątkowi.

33 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. Dear PCC(E) – a suggestion, if I may – and I apologize for any impertinence – let’s try for a day with no Trump posts – I’m losing sleep over here.

    1. I don’t think I have any scheduled for today. So you can relax for a day. But tomorrow, well, it’s another day. I have nothing in mind for tomorrow, but who knows what shenanigans President Cheeto could commit by then?

      Let me say that during the campaign itself I put up virtually no Trump posts! (Of course, I didn’t think he’d win. . .) Did I get any credit for that???

  2. Happy Saturday, PCC(E). That beaver on your proposed replacement Canadian flag looks as if he is rather enjoying having his wicked way with that chunk of wood, bit I guess that’s practically the definition of a beaver.
    Having little better to do on a dull day I often try to see how long I can keep one of those tax scam/Microsoft security service guys on the line. I’m no expert and my best is about 45 minutes (at which point I hit the jackpot and was told in broken English that the caller would ‘f*ck my wife, my mother and my daughter’. ‘And will you let me off the back taxes after you’ve done that?’ ‘Click’.
    They say little things please little minds, and I seem to be paying more attention to the tiny ones, perhaps for a better fit…

    1. When the guy from “Windows” with the thick Indian accent would call, he would want me to get my computer going. I would say, sure, but it will take a couple of minutes — then just set the receiver down and get on with my day.

      1. When they instruct me to open “windows” I usually tell them that it is rather cold outside and wonder if it is really necessary as the room will get cold. They try to explain and eventually get fed up with my dumb refusal to understand. They rely on our ignorance to take advantage of us but there’s a level of ignorance that is beyond their ability to exploit!

        1. If you have a VoIP phone (AT&T U-verse, Comcast, etc.), you might consider NoMoRobo (
          We used to have a regular landline and DSL internet service, but switched to U-verse a couple of months back for the extra speed; and it comes with VoIP phone service if you want it. We would get up to a half-dozen calls per day of various types (Windows, contractors, even the occasional IRS call); but NoMoRobo has cut them off. The phone rings once, then hangs up, so I don’t even have to look at caller ID to see who it is.
          You give NoMoRobo your phone number, and it gives you another number you program into your VoIP (instructions provided for a bunch of phone utilities), routing the call also to that number. When a caller on their spam list calls, NoMoRobo picks up the call then disconnects it, so you hear one ring, then it’s gone. The website gives details.
          It works like a treat – and it’s free! (though if you want it for a cell phone, you have to pay a couple of dollars a month).
          Highly recommended, and I have no connection with them other than being a satisfied user.

  3. A beaver you say? Most people remember where they were, or what they were doing during big events. When the Shuttle Challenger blew up in Jan. 1986, I was on a road trip from Yokota AB in Japan to Misawa AB. It was very cold and about two feet of snow in Misawa.

  4. I was, of course, familiar with the Pope version of “to err is human”, didn’t know that Seneca took it in such a different direction. So applicable in the current circumstances.

  5. I like this piece of history about the Canadian flag on Wikipedia:

    In 1963, the minority Liberal government of Lester B. Pearson gained power and decided to adopt an official Canadian flag through parliamentary debate. The principal political proponent of the change was Pearson. He had been a significant broker during the Suez Crisis of 1956, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[33] During the crisis, Pearson was disturbed when the Egyptian government objected to Canadian peacekeeping forces on the grounds that the Canadian flag (the Red Ensign) contained the same symbol (the Union Flag) also used as a flag by the United Kingdom, one of the belligerents.[33] Pearson’s goal was for the Canadian flag to be distinctive and unmistakably Canadian.

    That’s the Canada that I grew up with – the peacekeepers. Of course Diefenbaker opposed the whole thing and wanted a union flag that pissed off Quebec. 🙁

    It’s Canada’s 150th this year and what a world we are dealing with after all this time with our flag!

    As for data security – having just had my US iTunes account stolen by someone who broke into it, changed the password and email address then put security questions for themselves (in another language), I recommend that you set up two factor authentication and strong passwords generated through a program like 1Password. My old account was a stand along Apple ID and back when I opened it in the early 2000’s there was no such authentication so it was easy for the person to steal it. Though Apple believed I was the owner of the account, they would not restore it to me and deleted it. I had $87 USD in gift cards on the account. For my trouble though, they did allow me to pick out any Apple accessory I wanted for $100 USD. I picked the Apple charging case for $99 USD.

    Now, all my accounts have at least two-step security enable with most having two-factor. This includes Google, Dropbox and anyone else who offers it. I also have changed all my passwords to be as hard as the system will accept.

  6. I’ve always loved that “Cast a Cold Eye” poem but never felt like I really understood it. Anyone want to comment?

    1. My own take is that the poem is a call to return to tradition (duhhh), and the last stanza, which has been the enigmatic one, is that one has to take the long view of one’s ephemeral existence, which is subsumed in that tradition.

      1. I suggest reading Harold Bloom’s criticism of the poem, which he characterises rightly as a structure of ‘cant and rant’. Does being ‘fighting mad’ really lead to vision? Is Mitchel’s prayer ‘Send war in our time, O Lord!’ a prayer that we can respect as Yeats seems to respect it? What respect can the thoughtful person, particularly one who has knowledge of Yeats’s snobbery, his flirtation with fascism, and his espousal of eugenics (read the essay ‘On the Boiler’), have for the lines about Irish poets being admonished to scorn work written by the ‘Base-born products of base beds’? The latter include, perhaps somebody like Seamus Heaney, the son of a small farmer, who was a wonderful man and whose work I introduced on his first visit to Japan? If you want to read a great late poem by Yeats, then read ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’. It is honest, as rather too often, seduced by his powers of rhetoric and rant, Yeats was not. And if you want to read a very great political poem (far greater than the better-known ‘The Second Coming’), then I suggest ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’, which I am teaching at the moment, and which seems to an odd premonition of Donald Drumpf in its final lines:

        But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon
        There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
        Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
        That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
        To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
        Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks.

        1. “There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
          Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,”

          My god, I may have to start believing in precognition!

          1. Yes, I was really struck by it! And it is a great poem, for me perhaps Yeats’s greatest – one that is in places intentionally ugly, as are some of Bach’s cantatas – e.g. ‘Liebster Gott’, with the text ‘My sins sicken me like pus in the bones’is so written as to make it impossible for singer (a boy treble soloist) and instrumentalist to sound ‘beautiful’. The musicologist Richard Taruskin that the idea that good orb great music can be ugly, or ugly music good or great is unthinkable to most music lovers nowadays, which shows, Taruskin says, ‘how far we have strayed from the ancient aesthetic of the sublime.’ Replace the word ‘music’ with that of ‘poetry’ in the foregoing, and it is also true. The ugly is not necessarily the bad.

            ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’ is highly political and highly intelligent,and it lacks the seductive ranting and posturing of ‘On Ben Bulben’ and other poems that persuade the inattentive reader that something worthwhile must being said since the sound is such a lovely full-throated roar – but of course that kind of reader tends to assume from the beginning that all poetry is fundamentally meaningless, a grand-sounding wash of words that is fundamentally an expression of arbitrary ‘subjective’ feelings and has nothing to do with thought or knowledge, and so they do not bother to actually read and understand poems, are unable to distinguish between good poetry and bad, don’t see the value in doing so, and don’t want to do so…

            An old friend of mine, the poet C.H. Sisson, remarked of Yeats’s epitaph that it showed he was frivolous enough to want to cut a figure even in death. Even in Yeats’s time, there were few enough horsemen trotting past Drumcliff churchyard.

    2. There’s a very good audio recital of the poem somewhere by Richard Harris- I heard it years ago & I’m going to look see if I can buy a download from somewhere

      There’s too much to say re the whole poem, but it’s one of WB’s last works & he’s well aware there’s not much time left for him – he’s partly reflecting on his own mortality.

      By “cast a cold eye”… I think he means one should look at ones life & death with a clear, unsentimental eye unclouded by emotional baggage. – to not think of yourself as the centre of things, because when you pop your clogs the World of human affairs carries on fine without you [people riding by your grave going about their business as per normal].

      My simple take from the poem is: “don’t hamper yourself by fear of death & pack in experience while you can!” [WB was an old goat with the ladies into advanced years – he enjoyed his earthly pleasures]

      1. P.S. Re Richard Harris: His great reading of the poem DOESN’T make of for him covering Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park – a candidate for the worst song ever written.

  7. I’m personally quite fond of the Canadian flag. Beats our ugly-ass thing by a long shot.

    and for those who have not yet heard the news, John Hurt, of Elephant Man, Alien, Dr. Who, and Harry Potter fame, died yesterday, age 77, from pancreatic cancer.

  8. Here’s Yeats himself reading his own poetry. Alas, not very much of it. Nonetheless, I find it haunting. I think there are afew other recordings of him reading his own poetry, but difficult to find. Would prefer to hear him reading his own work. Not every poet can read what they write.

  9. My Dad hated the “new” Canadian flag. He was loyal to the Red Ensign and thought the new flag looked like a beer label. Me? I was 14 or 15 at the time and didn’t much give a damn either way. I had other things to think about…school, for instance. But, mostly boys.

    I have always loved Yeats too, ever since I studied Irish poetry at University. “The Second Coming” blew my mind. Dare I say that we now know what rough beast’s hour has come round at last?

  10. Edward Tufte, Prof Em (Yale), who describes PowerPoint as “One damned thing after another,” has presented a strong argument that the Challenger disaster might not have happened if decision makers had not been briefed with a misleading chart. His WebSite is , and the explanation might be in one of his books. Sorry – gave away mine when I retired.

  11. The beaver emblem isn’t bad, but I’ll have to respectfully disagree on which flag is the better one. Think of how iconic that simple red maple leaf has become. Around the world, it is instantly associated with Canada. A more generic looking shield with an ornate beaver decoration doesn’t carry nearly the same kind of instant recognition or iconic weight in my opinion.

  12. Always liked Auden’s lines on the death of Yeats – in part:

    Earth, receive an honoured guest,
    William Yeats is laid to rest.
    Let the Irish vessel lie,
    Emptied of its poetry.

  13. Speaking of roosters, I got a kick out of this: Roosters take credit for what they never accomplish (Mike Santoli, CNBC – apologies if I misspelled his name).

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