Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and a Gusiversary special)

February 21, 2017 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a tropical February 21 (2017) in Chicago, with a predicted high temperature of 64° F (18° C) today. It’s a triple-header food holiday, too: National Pancake Day, National Sticky Bun Day, and National Biscuits and Gravy Day. I can get behind all of those, and if you haven’t had good Southern biscuits and gravy for breakfast, well, you haven’t lived. Seriously.

It’s also UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, and in Bhutan it’s the first of three days honoring the Birth Anniversary (birthday) of “Fifth Druk Gyalpo”, the Oxford-educated “Dragon King” of Bhutan. His real name is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (འཇིགས་མེད་གེ་སར་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་དབང་ཕྱུག་ in Bhutanese), and what a handsome fellow he is!:


On this day in 1804, the first completely self-propelled steam locomotive chugged out of the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.  Exactly 44 years later, Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto, and thirty years after that the world’s first telephone directory was published—in New Haven, Connecticut. On February 21, 1918, the very last Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. The world’s northernmost known species of parrot, it lived as far north as New England, and there were millions of them. Deforestation and hunting (for feathers)0 helped knock the population down, but the final extinction may have been promoted by disease. Here’s a mounted specimen of one of these lovely creatures that, thanks to our own species, will never be seen again. (I doubt that even George Church could resurrect it.)


On this day in 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated the first “instant camera”: the P9laroid Land, now driven extinct by digital cameras.  On Februay 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York, and exactly ten years later, John N. Mitchell H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman were sentenced to prison for their role in the Watergate coverup.

Notables born on this day include Anaïs Nin (1903), John Rawls (1921), Nina Simone (1933), Kelsey Grammer (1955), and David Foster Wallace (1962). Those who died on this day include Baruch Spinoza (1677), Eric Liddell (1945), author Mikhail Sholokhov (1984), and hockey great Tim Horton (1974)—the man who launched a million donuts; he died at only 44 in a car crash. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili looks very grumpy, but only because she has nothing to kvetch about. There is not satisfying this cat!

Hili: I’m outraged.
A: Why?
Hili: I have nothing to complain about today.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestm oburzona.
Ja: Na co?
Hili: Nie mam dziś na co narzekać.

And it’s a big day in Winnipeg: the Gusiversary III—the third year from when Gus is estimated to have been born (remember, he was live-trapped as an adolescent, which, because it was winter and the trap was not checked, made him lose his ears from frostbite). In honor of this special day, his staff (Taskin) made a special video. It shows Gus slowly destroying his Ikea box. Be sure to watch to the end:

Happy birthday, Gus!


17 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and a Gusiversary special)

  1. I know Darwin speculated that great apes other than us used facial expressions in much the same way as we do. Correlations of expressions to various behaviors can tell us a lot about a chimp’s mental states, presumably. But what about other species, like cats and dogs? Hili looks grumpy, but is she? Maybe she simply want’s to impress the camera operator with her acting skills, squinting like Clint Eastwood.

  2. To quote William Beebe writing about another lost bird species.

    “The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.”

    Sadly, there are several rethuglican politicians trying to repeal the Endangered Species Act and facilitate more of this vandalism To quote the OED.

    “The wilful or ignorant destruction of something beautiful, venerable or worthy of preservation.”

  3. Interesting thing about the Polaroid instant camera; it’s not quite extinct.

    Supply of a key chemical for image processing dried up and Polaroid subsequently abandoned film manufacture. Then a group of young enthusiasts in the Netherlands acquired Polaroid properties and set out to reinvent the instant film as The Impossible Project. Business has been successful enough for them to design and build their own cameras as well as provide film for existing Polaroid cameras worldwide.

    I bought a Polaroid SX-70 Sonar in the early 80s and it was still working perfectly when I donated it to a young friend last year. After 40 years shooting film I finally moved to digital and haven’t looked back.

  4. “On February 21, 1918, the very last Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.”

    That’s hogwash.

    The last flock of Carolina parakeets ended up in the cooking pots of a village inn in Thuringia (Central Germany)in December 1929. They had been kept as free-flying birds by aptly named Sittich Karl Rudolf Hans von Berlepsch, the founder of Seebach Bird Observatory (also Thuringia).



    1. That reminds me of Howard Waldrop’s Nebula-winning science fiction story “The Ugly Chickens” (sorry for the illegible page layout), in which a population of dodos survive into the 20th century on a remote farm in Mississippi.

      1. The difference is that Berlepsch’s Carolina parakeets were real.

        Details can be found in:
        H.v. Berlepsch, Der gesamte Vogelschutz. Seine Begruendung und Ausfuehrung [Reprint 2012]

  5. I think you’ll find that the Norwegian Blue is the most northerly of the parrots. The clue is in the name.

    Yours pedantically….

  6. I LOL’d at the dialog & pic of Hili today. 😀

    Man, Gus is a striking-looking cat! I wish mine would entertain themselves that way! Even my dogs don’t chew up boxes with quite the same persistence.

Leave a Reply