Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 29, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, January 29, 2019, and a cold morning in Chicago (right now it’s 10°F or -12°C). But Wednesday is going to be the real killer, with a high of -12°F or -24°C). With the wind, it may feel like—get this— -50°F, or -46°C! That would be the lowest temperature I’ve experienced in Chicago, and perhaps a record.

And so, for only the second time in my 33 years at the University of Chicago, the administration has canceled classes tomorrow. Part of their email:

In light of weather forecasts calling for potentially hazardous low temperatures well below zero in Chicago on Wednesday, Jan. 30, the President and Provost, in discussion with the deans, have canceled all classes and non-essential activities at Chicago locations for Wednesday. The cancellation covers classes in Hyde Park as well as those at the Gleacher Center and NBC Tower downtown.

The National Weather Service is predicting that temperatures could reach 20 degrees below zero on Wednesday, with the potential for low temperatures Tuesday through Thursday. University classes and activities currently scheduled for Tuesday night may be affected as well, since the current weather advisory begins at 6pm Tuesday. Please check with organizers or the venue ahead of time if you’re unsure.

But in Ireland, reports Grania, warmer temperatures have still engendered panic. (The Irish are weenies about cold.) Here’s today’s headline from the Irish News:

Back to quotidian affiars. It’s National Corn Chip Day: the perfect accompaniment to a good sandwich. (Are corn chips endemic to the UK?) In Kansas it’s Kansas Day, celebrating the admission of that state to the Union in 1861. As Wikipedia notes,

“Annual Kansas Day celebrations include school field trips and special projects to study the history of Kansas, pioneer-style meals, special visits by students to the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas, performances of Home on the Range, the Kansas State Song, and special proclamations by the Governor of Kansas and members of the Kansas Legislature.”

On this day in 1819, Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore, shortly thereafter claiming it for Britain. On January 29, 1845, Edgar Allen Poe, using his name for the first time in a public work, published “The Raven” in the Evening Mirror. In 1886, Karl Benz patented the first successful automobile driven by gasoline. And on this day in 1891, Liliuokalani was proclaimed the last monarch (and only queen regnant) of Hawaii. Her rule lasted only two years before Hawaii became an American-controlled republic. Here she is (nb.: she also wrote the song Aloha ʻOe whose Yiddish version is Aloha, Oy!).

Queen Liliʻuokalani

On this day in 1936, the first inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced; they were Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner. Now they induct almost anyone.  And in 1963, the first inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced, though I can’t be arsed to look them up.

On January 29 1967, according to Wikipedia, “The ‘ultimate high’ of the hippie era, the Mantra-Rock Dance, [took] place in San Francisco [featuring] Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and Allen Ginsberg.” On this day in 1980, the Rubik’s Cube debuted at the Ideal Toy Corporation in London. Here’s the world’s record for solving the Cube: 4.221 seconds!

Finally, on this day ten years ago, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed from office after being convicted for corruption. Sentenced to 14 years, and now in the pen, he’s appealed to Donald Trump for a commutation of his sentence, and may well get it.

Notables born on this day include Emanuel Swedenborg (1688), Thomas Paine (1737), William McKinley (1843), W. C. Fields (1880), Paddy Chayefsky (1923), Germaine Greer (1939), Linda Buck (1947; Nobel Laureate), Oprah Winfrey (1954), and Heather Graham (1970).

Those who died on January 29 include King George III (1820), Edward Lear (1888), Alfred Sisley (1899), Fritz Haber (1934; Nobel Laureate), H. L. Mencken (1956), Jimmy Durante (1980), and Rod McKuen (2015).

Here’s my favorite poem by Lear, read with the original illustrations:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is disgusted with the weather:

Hili: This white, fluffy stuff is falling from the sky again.
A: It’s snow.
Hili: I know. It had the same name last year.
In Polish:
Hili: Znowu to białe, puchate coś leci z nieba!
Ja: To jest śnieg.
Hili: Wiem, w zeszłym roku też się tak nazywał.

A special treat: a picture of kitten Hili resting atop Darwin, Andrzej and Malgorzata’s late dog (photo by Sarah Lawson):

A shaved alpaca sent by reader gravelinspector. All I can say is “double oy!”


Tweets from Heather Hastie, the first showing CPR by a lion. Heather calls this a “dream come true.”


This is just the way cats are, but turn up the sound:


And another way cats are:


Tweets from Matthew. The first shows a longhorn beetle mimicking a wasp. Pretty good resemblance, eh?

This will anger philosophers for sure. . .

And another wonder of nature. A floating barnacle that grows its own gas-filled float! Be sure to check out the linked video:

Tweets from Grania. She calls the first one “the stuff of nightmares”:


Another floating animal that makes its own raft. Check out the video on this one, too:

Cheetahs may be fierce, but they have voices like kittens:


75 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

    1. Is snow general over Ireland? No, usually not & it doesn’t stay for long. There’s the huge heat sink of the Atlantic on the Irish West coast which moderates the temperature all year round – thus relatively warm winters & relatively cool summers for the latitude. Then there’s the effect of the maritime tropical winds from the Caribbean which permits coconut trees & other tropical flora to live happily on the West coast of Ireland, Scotland & Cornwall/Devon. Ireland is known for rain, rain, rain, sleet, slush, rain, snap frosts & rain.

      Snow/ice can have a large effect on road transport because unpredictable weather & many, many small roads/tracks to be gritted/salted [or not].

      Chicago is on the same latitude as Corsica & Rome, but you wouldn’t think so from the weather. Lake Michigan raises the humidity & in Winter the city gets smacked in the face by “lake effect snow” – so I’m told.

      1. Today’s forecast for western Manitoba is -31°C, with a wind chill of -50°C. My students like to remind me that -3°C is perfect for sandals and shorts – as long as you remember to plug the car in at night and have remote start.

        1. 🙂 Temps that don’t rise close to zero C are safest & quickest as others have already said here 🙂 Napoleon & that moustachioed corporal would agree.

    2. Victoria BC has very infrequent snow and by Michael Fisher’s description, Victoria’s weather is very similar. The temperature tends to hover around freezing or just above at night and warms significantly during the day. When it snows it usually melts very soon after. If there is enough snow it partially melts during the day then freezes again at night turning roads and sidewalks into ice.

      Since it snows so infrequently there simply isn’t enough clearing equipment for much more than the major roads. Snow gets compacted by cars, partially melts during the day and freezes at night. We wind up with ice on the roads, especially on roads that are in shadow most of the day.

      The other problem is lots of cars don’t have snow tires and most drivers aren’t used to driving in the snow.

  1. I always liked The Raven. A beautifully crafted piece of work.

    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;


  2. Thanks for that bit on Kansas. Never would have known if not reading this post and I live in the middle of the place. I’ll guess not many around here know it’s Kansas Day. I won’t wait for the fire works. Before it was Kansas it was Bloody Kansas and I don’t mean that in British terms. Kind of pre Civil War games.

  3. I did a Rubik’s cube that fast once.

    Difference was, I used a screwdriver. (My brother and I were back home visiting the moms, and I just wanted to see the look on his face when he walked back into the living room and saw I had done it in no time flat.)

    1. 2 minutes is an reasonable time if you’ve a half-decent eye for symmetries and pattern matching.
      I couldn’t dismantle and mantle (why isn’t that a word-pair?) a Rubik anything like that fast.
      If someone does deliberately put a rubik back together with one cube wrong, it takes a couple of shuffles and (failed) solves) to confirm what they’ve done; say 5 minutes. And I had an acne-ridden nephew who tried to be super-crafty and switch two blocks while booby-trapping one for me, and he inadvertently duplicated a symmetry pattern and was most put out when I solved it, while continuing a conversation with his mum.
      I like Rubiks. Then again, I quite liked crystallography too – which most of my class mates struggled with and hated. The two facts are probably not unrelated.

        1. Errr, no. Space groups, symmetry classes, identifying composition by cleavage-extinction intersection angles, that sort of thing. The skill set also correlated fairly strongly with map-making, interpreting relations in re-folded terrains with multiple generations of surfaces and so on.
          Some “IQ tests” display objects made from 5 or 6 cubes linked end-to-end, viewed from different angles, and in excruciatingly contorted prose ask you to match one or more objects to each other. For some people, the test is in matching the objects, for some it was writing instructions they clearly don’t understand themselves, and for some, it tests understanding the instructions. Three distantly-related bits of data hammered into one bit.

  4. [Blagojevich]’s appealed to Donald Trump for a commutation of his sentence, and may well get it.

    The Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice — the office charged with investigating, processing, and making recommendations to the president regarding matters of executive clemency — must be feeling as lonely these days as the Maytag repairman in those old tv commercials.

    Put “executive clemency” down as another government institution Donald Trump doesn’t play according to Hoyle.

    1. The most recent President to use the pardon power properly was Jimmy Carter. He was also the most recent President that I can be absolutely sure is a truly decent and kind man who only wanted to better the country and nothing more. He never cared about his own power or interests. One can see this in his post-Presidency work. No President has ever spent the rest of his life building homes for people and literally getting their hands dirty doing charity work. The rest just build libraries, create big and opaque global funds, or sit around doing nothing but painting pictures of dogs and hanging out because being a Very Important Person is just too dang hard.

      1. Other presidents, most infamously Bill Clinton, have gone outside the recommendations of the Pardon Attorney’s office to grant clemency right before leaving office. Trump is the only president, that I can think of in modern times anyway, who appears to operate completely outside the usual clemency channels.

        1. In a way, I see making your worst pardons right before you leave office as even more dishonest than doing it in the middle of your term. But I agree that Trump’s most prominent pardons are pretty disgusting.

          1. I think some of Trump’s pardons, like that of Joe Arpaio, have been disgusting (as was Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich).

            But my point above didn’t go to the merits of Trump’s pardons; it goes only to Trump’s completely ignoring the well-established clemency process, just as he ignores or undermines so many other processes and norms and institutions of the United States government.

            1. I must be ignorant on this issue, as I don’t know the whole process. What part of the process has he ignored? As in, what process did, say, Clinton go through when he pardoned Rich that Trump didn’t go through when he pardoned people?

              1. I think your missing my point, BJ. Earlier presidents issued the majority of their pardons through the processes established by the Pardon Attorney’s office in the Department of Justice (which includes formal application, background investigation, and written recommendation). As far as I can tell, none of Trump’s pardons has followed that process.

                There’s a long-standing tradition of lame-duck presidents granting clemency (pardons, commutations of sentences, etc.) in their final days in office, especially in cases where that action might have had adverse political consequences if done earlier. That power can be used for good or for ill (compare Obama’s commutation of the sentences of offenders who had been battered spouses, with Clinton’s pardon of Rich), as has been the case with the pardon power since time immemorial.

                Just ask Barabbas. 🙂

              2. Yeah, I don’t understand what the normal process is. That’s what I was asking, but I can just look it up. Still, it’s more fun when you explain it.

        2. And I think that goes more broadly for Main Justice itself. Trump’s interest in the Department of Justice seems to be exclusively two-fold — to find somebody to keep it offa his ass, and to sic it on his enemies, if he can.

    2. I’m slightly surprised that on a 14 year sentence, he’s still in lock-up after 10 years. That would (on this side of the pond) indicate that he’d been involved in significant misbehaviour while in prison, resulting in additional sentences to what he was originally jailed for. AND that he’s completely unwilling to even pretend to the parole board that he’s accepted his guilt, repented, and is safe to release.
      Unless, of course, someone is profiting from his being inside. Does Illinois have a for-profit prison system – in which case, would anyone ever get out?

      1. Federal prisoners in the US generally do about 85% of the time they’re sentenced to (with 15% off for “credit for good time”). There’s federal legislation pending to increase that amount amount of good time, but only marginally.

        The federal system did away with parole back in the late 1980s.

  5. My research urge cannot be arrested (and I have nothing better to do). Here is a list of the first inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame. About half the names I have never heard of. It would take a football scholar to recognize all of them. One name that anybody in Chicago would recognize is George Halas. The Bears would never allow you to forget.

    Class of 1963
    (September 7, 1963)
    Sammy Baugh
    Bert Bell
    Joe Carr
    Earl (Dutch) Clark
    Harold (Red) Grange
    George Halas
    Mel Hein
    Wilbur (Pete) Henry
    Robert (Cal) Hubbard
    Don Hutson
    Earl (Curly) Lambeau
    Tim Mara
    George Preston Marshall
    John (Blood) McNally
    Bronko Nagurski
    Ernie Nevers
    Jim Thorpe

    1. Yes, that kind of says it all for hall of fames. What you need is a hall of fame for historians. That would be a rough crowd.

  6. Ireland is worried about -3 degrees celsius?!? What a bunch of ninnies! They’d never survive the Fallout universe. Grania would be the only one left. All those years of gaming would finally pay off.

    1. A recent headline in London’s Evening Standard: ‘Overnight temperature set to plunge to -2.’ (Centigrade).
      A BBC online photograph headlined: ‘Glasgow hit by a flurry of snow.’
      Of course irony comes heavy here in Britland but there was nothing to indicate it, just sensationalism and pathetic journalism.

  7. Ah yes, cheetahs. So cute! Most people don’t know that only a few of the big cats can roar, which are the ones of the genus panthera.

  8. Please allow me to rant a bit, about the weather:

    When it’s really hot out, even record temps, we all can usually hear “it’s global warming”. Yet, when there are very cold days, that chorus changes to something like “oh that is predicted by global warming models.” Fair enough. But the other chorus comes in to say (Edward G. Robinson voice) “where’s your global warming now?”

    It’s just one day’s weather in one location. Global warming is the entire planet. Global warming is marked by more record highs than lows. Global warming is a decades long trend. One days weather extremes alone does not mean global warming, nor does it disprove global warming.

    Ok that’s all. Maybe I’m wrong. Thank you. I feel better.

    1. According to this Politico article, the American Meteorological Society is taking a new approach to discussing climate change: don’t use the term, avoid politics, and don’t mention that it is man made. The idea is to win over skeptics by just as Joe Friday would say, stating the facts. Once skeptics accept the facts of climate change, then the man made part can enter the picture. I’m not sure this approach will work, but it seems sure that meteorologists are scared of a backlash, particularly if they work in conservative areas.


      1. Yesterday a guy at work claimed climate change was a hoax. I asked him how he knew that. His reply was:
        “Rush Limbaugh said so.”

        I’m afraid I reacted poorly, I couldn’t stop laughing.

        1. moments like that are very important I think, yet, deceptive because it seems so easy – you might ask questions and such, but it’s not going to go well. Because in that moment, neither interlocutor (?) can point at the mass of CO2 in the air. They can’t experience what winter was like 200 years ago.

        2. I’d carry a yoga mat or something with you. It makes rolling around on the floor helpless with mirth rather more comfortable.

    2. I’m not in total agreement with you on this Thyroid. According to NASA…

      “Global warming” refers only to the long-term warming of the planet since the early 20th century & most notably since the late ’70s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

      For the actual effects it is better to speak of “Climate Change” – the broad range of global phenomena that arises from “Global Warming”:- sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events i.e. locales that have become [for a part of the year or permanently] windier, hotter, cooler, wetter, dryer etc.

      It is quite legitimate to talk about the roots of a current weather event spanning Europe as being likely due to some new normal & it does need to be pointed out NOW [in a sensible way of course] rather than in ten years when we have more data to indicate it is indeed a new normal!

      An example of this is a discussion in WeatherWatch: from a week ago:

      “…the recent record-breaking dumps of snow across much of southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria are more likely a consequence of global warming. Why? Balmy temperatures in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are cooking up the ideal conditions to create snow…”

      which makes sense given that those seas are couple of degrees warmer than is typical for the time of year. Water can absorb huge amounts of energy per degree rise & one thing we’re definitely seeing is an increase worldwide in ocean temps.

      That’s my amateur thoughts on the matter anyway. “The term “Global Warming” doesn’t help is my main message – the increase in energy being stored in climate systems might be better.

      1. That’s all great, I agree with all that.

        My focus is in the moment of chatting about the weather. If it is snowing, it’s snowing. It’s not “climate changing”. There’s snowflakes, there’s snow shovels, there’s snowballs. But that does not disprove climate change. Climate change is a larger scale phenomenon. It is not experiential- I can’t experience the time between the industrial revolution and this very moment, in this very moment. I can look at it on a graph, but then I’m not chatting with my neighbors about shoveling the snow before sunset, I’m on the computer with a cup of hot cocoa.

        I think there’s a difference.

  9. No cancellations for universities in Southern Ontario today or tomorrow but all other schools are closed today.

  10. State offices are closed in Atlanta today. Prediction is for one go two inches of snow between fleecing Nd twelve and afternoon sunny in the mid forties. We don’t take chances with possible snowstorms and bad roads.

    1. People always mock the southern states for shutting things down when they get an inch or two of snow, but they don’t seem to understand the logistics of the situation. For states that almost never get snow, it’s inefficient to exhaust resources on the wide array of machinery and materials needed to treat roads. Furthermore, I imagine far fewer people own AWD cars in those states. So, it’s probably more economical to simply shut down schools and some other things on the rare occasions that snow shows up than to invest in the infrastructure to deal with it.

      1. It is the ice on the roads that dies it. A small amount of snow falls, then freezes . Five years ago we had two inches of snow that quickly froze on the roads.
        And we always get it when it is not predicted.

        Plus you are right about the lack of equipment. And lack of experience driving in those conditions.

        1. In Canada if you don’t brave the snow you’re considered a “snow wimp” so Vancouver is always being called a “snow wimp” and southern ontario is called a “snow wimp” by the rest of Canada besides Vancouver. Toronto City Hall closed because of the dump of snow and everyone is laughing at them from the maritimes. When Toronto called in the army one year to help with snow removal (it had been a long time since snow was so plentiful and they didn’t have enough equipment) everyone laughed at them and are still laughing.

    2. All the schools have closed where I am, too. Temperatures should be pushing 36 C by Friday! It’s Brazil! It’s SUMMER!
      [Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that. But, actually, the 36 degree forecast for where I live up in the hills is just one degree under our all-time record high.]

  11. In the UK, we have things called tortilla chips. I think they’re the same as corn chips. Most supermarkets sell them, alongside various basins of gloop to dip them in.

    1. While tortilla chips are chips made from corn, when we say “corn chips” in the US we usually mean the smaller, thicker kind typified by the Fritos brand. It’s not just a change in form factor. They have quite a different taste and texture.

      1. And smell. To me there’s a whiff of stale urine to corn chips of the Fritos varieties that has always put me off.

      2. It is the frito style corn chip that makes a proper Frito Pie. If you use tortilla chips, the dish becomes a Taco Salad, at least in my house. The author of the article attributes the Frito pie invention to the lady in Santa Fe, but there are those in Texas who dispute this. Here in New Mexico, we do not. The article incorrectly calls it a Frito Chili (sic) Pie, but no one calls it that. It is a Frito Pie and it is made with chile, not chili, and it is properly made by opening the small bag of Fritos and pouring the chile, beans, etc. on top of the chips. And, to be a real Frito Pie it must be made with red chile. Anything else is heresy.

  12. Unsalted tortilla chips are available.

    I “discovered” this by hypothesizing that sodium gives me headaches.

    in case that’s interesting for anyone.

  13. If we’re Irish-shaming (and why should we – they’re not governed by our collection of lunatics – they’ve got their own lunatics in charge) might I point out an amusing little product from this side of the North Channel, where we can find where our fleet of gritters are in near-real time. Obviously that reflects back on someone’s point about investment in material, though the gritting lorries are more-or-less regular tipper lorries onto which they bolt gritting/ snow-ploughing equipment when necessary.
    So, by the look of things, “Gangsta Granny Gritter” has just started on the run from Inverness to Ulapool (a route which has had me doing a 720° spin), while “Gritty McVittie” and “Gritty Gonzales” are working the Glasgow-Edinburgh motorways. Not that we take the weather at all seriously.

  14. I have a minor correction to submit.

    While reading this entry/article, I thought I had recently read that the Rubik’s Cube record holder/time had changed since the 4.22 and found I was correct upon investigation.

    Single time: The world record time for solving a 3×3×3 Rubik’s Cube is 3.47 seconds, held by Du Yusheng of China, on November 24th, 2018 in Wuhu Open 2018. (Wikipedia)

    Here’s a link to the vid in which he accomplishes the feat. To save the viewer some time orienting to his position in the video, he’s contestant 3 in the lower right corner of the screen.

  15. (This is a second attempt to submit since my first produced an odd blank screen and redirect elsewhere – I have no idea why but for ghosts in the machine)

    I have a minor correction to submit.

    While reading this entry/article, I thought I had recently read that the Rubik’s Cube record holder/time had changed since the 4.22 and found I was correct upon investigation.

    Single time: The world record time for solving a 3×3×3 Rubik’s Cube is 3.47 seconds, held by Du Yusheng of China, on November 24th, 2018 in Wuhu Open 2018. (Wikipedia)

    Here’s a link to the vid in which he accomplishes the feat. To save the viewer some time orienting to his position in the video, he’s contestant 3 in the lower right corner of the screen.

  16. As to the weather in Chicago, I’ll bet Der Drumpenfuehrer is saying “we could sure use some of that ol’ global warming now”

    1. Nice… particularly appropriate is:

      Quoth the kitten, ‘Get some more.’

      Though somewhat pleasing is:

      24,302 people found this helpful

  17. Meanwhile, on the underside of the planet, (New Zealand), we’re having a heatwave with near-record highs.

    So if you folks could just package up a little bit of your cold (not too much!! – maybe five or ten degrees worth) and send it our way it would be much appreciated. Thank you.


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