Friday: Hili dialogue

May 31, 2019 • 6:30 am

Well, we’ve reached the end of May, as it’s May 31, 2019, and June is just tomorrow. It’s National Macaroon Day (real chewy macaroons are far better than those chi-chi and pricey French “macarons” that are all the rage now), and also World No Tobacco Day, though I enjoy a good cigar now and again.

News of the day: Nick Cohen  calls the Labour party racist; click on Theo Isherwood’s tweet to hear the recording of a Labour flak accusing the Israeli Embassy of organizing anti-Labour sentiment (not true).

On May 31, 1669, Samuel Pepys set down the last event in his diary, fearing he would go blind writing in the dim light if he continued. He lived another 34 years without loss of vision, but never wrote in his famous diary again. In 1859, the clock tower at Britain’s Parliament, housing Big Ben (that’s the name of the bell, not the clock), began keeping time. On this day in 1889, the great Johnstown Flood: occurred in the eponymous town in Pennsylvania and other nearby towns, killed over 2,200 people after a dam burst.  One witness, seeing the flood full of animals, houses, and trees said the water resembled “a huge hill rolling over and over”. Here’s a contemporary rendition, which of course may be overly dramatic:

On May 31, 1910, the South Africa Act of the British Parliament established the Union of South Africa. Exactly one year later, the RMS Titanic was launched in Belfast.  And in 1927, the last Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line.

And on this day in 1942, midget submarines of the Japanese Imperial Navy began attacking Sydney, Australia, sinking a ship and killing 21 people. These small submarines also played a role in the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor; you can see a very short video of them below. It was over 130 degrees F inside these things!

On May 31, 1975, the only high school dance ever held at the White House took place, the senior prom of the Holten-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s because Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford, was in the senior class. Exactly 30 years later, Vanity Fair revealed that “Deep Throat” of the Watergate era was FBI agent Mark Felt.

On this day in 2009, Usain Bolt broke the world’s record in the 100-meter dash, with a time of 9.72 seconds. A year later he set the current record, 9.58 seconds, an amazing feat. You can see that performance below, but you’ll have to click on the “watch on YouTube” words.

Notables born on this day include: Walt Whitman (1819), John Ringling (1866), Don Ameche (1908), Clint Eastwood (1930), Joe Namath (1943), and Brooke Shields (1965).

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on May 31 include Tintoretto (1594), Billy Strayhorn (1967), Jacques Monod (1976, Nobel Laureate), Jack Dempsey (1983), Timothy Leary (1996), and Jean Stapleton (2013).

Here is Tintoretto’s “Last Supper” (1592-1594); it has a cat in it!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is messing with everyone.

Hili: I can hear the grass growing.
A: I think you are exaggerating.
Hili: Well, maybe a bit.
In Polish:
Hili: Słyszę jak trawa rośnie.
Ja: Chyba przesadzasz.
Hili: No może troszkę.

My cat BFF Pi got his face washed, and he didn’t like it, leaping away before he could be dried:

A tweet from Barry, who says, “Incredible reflexes!” Look at the speed of that crocodile—and of the faster antelope!

From Nilou, whose tweet describes a rather disgusting scientific experiment:

Also from Nilou. There’s a whole thread on  the Cat with the World’s Best Name:

Tweets from Grania. The first shows a skilled crustacean architect:

What I would have given to see this!

These are like ducklings except that they’re insects:

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows not a fish, but a fish-shaped brood pouch of a mussel whose appearance attracts predatory fish. When the predators open their mouths to ingest the faux fish, a brood of young and temporarily parasitic mussel larvae is ejected into their gaping maws. This is a stunning case of “aggressive mimicry”.

Some lovely jewelry designed by an entomologist at London’s Natural History Museum:

I’m not sure I get all the lingo, but I like the cats:




41 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. That last supper seems a bit crowded ,they should have chosen a quieter diner mid week .

    Note ,sarcasm alert .

      1. In the other lost supper by that Len bloke ,you can tell who Judas is .Can’t do that with this one .

        1. He’s on the other side of the table. Judas is often on the other side of the table. He had the most sense – I mean really, let’s all sit on the same side!

  2. Jesus is red, white, and blue in Tintoretto’s “Last Supper”. This is clear evident that the USA is God’s favorite nation.

    1. No, that’s France. Or Russia. Or possibly even the United Kingdom. Or Cuba.

      Or the Netherlands, or Nepal, or New Zealand, or North Korea (!), or Norway, or Czechia (where?), or Samoa, or Slovakia, or Taiwan, or Thailand, or Iceland, or Laos, or Liberia, or Luxembourg…

      (I may have missed a few)

      Democratic, God is.


    1. Looks like a traumatic amputation (dog, door, rocking chair, tail-docking human bastard) to me. The Manxes I’ve seen have much less prominent stumps.

  3. If you have never studied the Johnstown flood or been to the museum, you should check it out. A lake was built in the mountains of Pennsylvania as part of a canal project that went bust. The lake was converted into a summer retreat for the rich people of Pittsburgh, and wouldn’t you know they cut corners and did not maintain the dam. Torrential rains cause the dam to fail, and a literal wall of water chased down the valley and into the city of Johnstown. Just trying to imagine that seen boggles my mind!

      1. The reservoir was on the Little Conenaugh River near South Fork. New Florence is on the Conemaugh River.

        Johnstown Flood National Memorial is a National Park Service site. There is a great NPS museum with a really good film about the disaster. The city of Johnstown also has a museum. While the city museum is also well done, they basically just copied the NPS museum plans.

        The flood response is also notable as it was the first disaster that the Red Cross including Clara Barton responded to.

        1. I grew up swimming in a reservoir on Ross Mountain Road near New Florence (when we weren’t living abroad). This was attached to Ross Mt. Club, a not terribly snooty residential golf club that some semi-rich people from Pittsburgh went to on weekends.
          The snooty club was Rolling Rock Club, but I don’t think it has/had a reservoir and dam. I need to read McCullough’s book on the flood.

    1. There are several rockfall-dammed lakes around the world with some really horrendous potential for Bad Stuff when – not if – the dam fails. As I recall, the largest is up in the Kazakh Hindu Kush with around ten million in the firing line. That one is having some work to stabilise the dam and try to drain the lake safely, but most are just sitting there. Ticking.
      I forget what the body count on that Brazilian dam collapse of a few months ago was, but the governement has recently admitted that several other tailings dams are in a bad way. It’s quite a common problem.

    2. I tend to doubt that, as per painting, the entire town burst instantly into flames. Although I acknowledge that the wreckage caught fire afterwards.

      The really mind-boggling disaster though, was the one that befell Longarone in northern Italy when a landslide fell off Mount Toc into the lake above the Vajont Dam. You can stand in Longarone and look up the narrow side gorge to the dam 860 feet above and see the hill that is the landslide towering above it. You can try to visualise that the wave of water went 800 feet over the top of the crest but I just can’t imagine it. Or you can stand on the road just above the dam crest and look at the huge hill that is the landslide where the lake used to be. It was a superbly well-built dam and now, almost certainly, the world’s highest retaining wall.


    3. From an old Ross Mt./Pittsburgh friend I queried:

      No Merilee, That was the dam at the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, founded by Frick and Carnegie about the same time as Ross. It existed less than a decade; the flood killed 2,000 people—- all locals, and none of the Club members. Sending this email from the Toronto Westin, while attending a family Law Conference. Come visit Ross soon! Love, Hugh

  4. That skilled crustacean architect seems to be making a Le Corbusier-like use of a Fibonacci sequence.

  5. Never tried macarons. Somehow I doubt they taste anywhere near as good as a Twinkie. What’s the point of going to all the trouble of something if it doesn’t taste as good as a Twinkie or a Little Debbie? I bet most of the fancy schmancy deserts wouldn’t pass the Twinkie Little Debbie test. Same goes for the fancy meals. I bet the Beef Wellington I never had don’t taste anywhere near as good as a Big Mac.

    1. I’ve got a haggis in the fridge. What address do I send it to? Snail mail – it should be absolutely bursting with ripeness by the time it gets there. Peak succulence!

  6. Oh, I don’t think you’re supposed to call them midgets anymore. I think you are supposed to call them “little” submarines.

  7. Those baby praying mantises are going to do kung foo fighting. Seriously, won’t they eat one another?

  8. And on this day in 1942, midget submarines of the Japanese Imperial Navy

    At about the same time, the Royal Navy were developing similar subs (“chariots”) for sabotage operations. I think the only successful deployment was under the Tirpitz, which they significantly damaged.

    Horrible death rate for the operators on service and in training. There’s are several war graves 80-100m down in a certain Scottish sea loch which are probably becoming vulnerable to the “technical diving” community now.

  9. whose tweet describes a rather disgusting scientific experiment


    rating their bowel movements using a Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score.

    That sounds like Medic’s gallows humour. Coupled with a mild outbreak of Acronymphomania. On which subject, Arxiv got an interesting tool a suspicious couple of days before April 1st.

    ACRONYM: Acronym CReatiON for You and Me

    We present ACRONYM, a command-line program developed specifically to assist astronomers in identifying the best acronyms for ongoing projects. The code returns all approximately-English-language words that appear within an input string of text, regardless of whether the letters occur at the beginning of the component words (in true astronomer fashion).

    Personally, I suspect the blame for this contribution lies squarely with the H0LICOW collaboration, but the world is full of strained acronyms, and will be fuller in the future.
    (Actually, I couldn’t get the damned thing to compile. You may be grateful for this.)

    1. My favourite comes from Red Dwarf
      the “Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society”


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