Thursday: Hili dialogue

June 20, 2019 • 10:00 am

Good morning on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. And then the days of our lives grow shorter. . .

It’s National Vanilla Milkshake Day, and, as far as I know, I’ve never had one; why would one want such a bland concoction? And it’s World Refugee Day.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot below) is another one highlighting the Women’s World Cup in soccer, and cycles through a number of soccer-related cartoons.

If you click on the Doodle on the Google page, you’ll be sent to the page with the match updates and standings: here are yesterday’s and today’s (the U.S./Sweden match will be on soon as the times shown are “Aleutian standard time”, which I guess is the local time in Hawaii).

Everyone who’s weighed in seems to favor Grania’s “bullet-point” list of days in history and births/deaths of notables. I will thus continue it indefinitely in her honor unless more people weigh in below in favor of the old format.

At that time the Seal had the national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”). That motto is now sadly, “In God We Trust“, established only in 1956 during a cold-war bill signed by President Eisenhower.

  • 1837 – Queen Victoria succeeds to the British throne.
  • 1840 – Samuel Morse receives the patent for the telegraph.
  • 1893 – Lizzie Borden is acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother.
  • 1900 – Boxer Rebellion: The Imperial Chinese Army begins a 55-day siege of the Legation Quarter in Beijing, China.
  • 1941 – The United States Army Air Corps is deprecated to being the American training and logistics section of what is known until 1947 as the United States Army Air Forces, just two days before Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

My father was in the Army Air Corps, but then, because his vision wasn’t 20/20, became a member of the regular Army when the Air Force was created.

  • 1944 – The experimental MW 18014 V-2 rocket reaches an altitude of 176 km, becoming the first man-made object to reach outer space.
  • 1945 – The United States Secretary of State approves the transfer of Wernher von Braun and his team of Nazi rocket scientists to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip.

This is a bit ironic given that von Braun helped develop the V-2 rocket, designed to be used as a Nazi weapon against the Allies in World War II. But the facilities and rockets were captured before use, and many German scientists, having expertise in missile technology, were transferred to U.S. missile programs.

  • 1972 – Watergate scandal: An 18½-minute gap appears in the tape recording of the conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and his advisers regarding the recent arrests of his operatives while breaking into the Watergate complex.
  • 1975 – The film Jaws is released in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing film of that time and starting the trend of films known as “summer blockbusters”.

Notables born on this day include

  • 1875 – Reginald Punnett, English geneticist, statistician, and academic (d. 1967)
  • 1909 – Errol Flynn, Australian-American actor (d. 1959)

It’s not clear whether the common expression “In like Flynn” refers to the actor’s well-known predilection for sexual activity.

  • 1928 – Eric Dolphy, American saxophonist, flute player, and composer (d. 1964)
  • 1928 – Jean-Marie Le Pen, French intelligence officer and politician
  • 1942 – Brian Wilson, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1945 – Anne Murray, Canadian singer and guitarist
  • 1949 – Lionel Richie, American singer-songwriter, pianist, producer, and actor

Those who died on June 20 include

  • 1925 – Josef Breuer, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1842)
  • 1958 – Kurt Alder, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)
  • 2002 – Erwin Chargaff, Austrian-American biochemist and academic (b. 1905)

Read about Chargaff, who never got the Nobel Prize (but perhaps should have) in Matthew Cobb’s book Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code. Chargaff’s great contribution, which helped Watson and Crick elucidate the structure of DNA, was his finding that the number of adenine bases equaled the number of thymine bases, and that the number of guanine bases equaled the number of cytosine bases. From this Watson and Crick deduced that in DNA As paired with Ts, and Gs paired with Cs. That, in turn, led to the first model of DNA published in Nature 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is about to attack:

A: I don’t know whether God is mathematics, but the concentration before a jump surely is.
Hili: Don’t disturb me.
In Polish:
Ja: Nie wiem, czy Bóg jest matematyką, ale koncentracja przed skokiem na pewno.
Hili: Nie przeszkadzaj.
Speaking of cats, here’s a felid meme from Facebook:

A tweet from reader Barry (sound on): “I can’t work. I’ve got four bed rats!”

From Nilou: who knew that otters were this brave (or foolish)?

Some tweets from Heather Hastie. It’s been a bumper year for kakapos in New Zealand, and here’s a healthy chick, or rather a healthy teenager:

Play this for your friends without letting them see it and ask them what kind of animal it is. One person I asked said, “A goat.”

Just to show that all cats are the same inside: a snow leopard attacking a pumpkin (via Ann German):

Tweets from Matthew. The first is one of his beloved illusions:

I may have posted this before, but if I did, learning is best achieved through repetition.

From the abstract of the paper below comparing the DNA sequences of Denisovans and Neanderthals with “modern” humans, showing which changes arose on the human branch:

We suggest that molecular mechanisms in cell division and networks affecting cellular features of neurons were prominently modified by these changes. Complex phenotypes in brain growth trajectory and cognitive traits are likely influenced by these networks and other non-coding changes presented here. We propose that at least some of these changes contributed to uniquely human traits, and should be prioritized for experimental validation.

Well, is it exactly 16,000 chromosomes? Still, this fact will make you the hit of any party.


52 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. It’s National Vanilla Milkshake Day, and, as far as I know, I’ve never had one; why would one want such a bland concoction?

    I dunno, I kinda like vanilla. Maybe it has to do with a girlfriend back in the day who used to put on a drop of vanilla extract in lieu of perfume. You ask me, it beat the hell outta patchouli. 🙂

    1. Vanilla can be very good. You can put things on it and it tends to agree with anything you try. Cherries, nuts, chocolate syrup, butterscotch, Kahlua, strawberry sauce, banana (split or otherwise), whipped cream, hot fudge, chocolate chips, coconut…

      1. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If a girl smells like homemade cookies, how can you go wrong?

    2. Real vanilla, from properly cured pods, gives one of the greatest smells in this world. There is nothing bland about it.
      It is true that vanilla and particularly ‘artificial’ vanilla flavours are wide spread.

    3. Take a big glass of vanilla ice cream. Pour unsweetened sour sop juice (get the good one by Rubicon or fresh if you can get it) over the ice cream. Mix and slurp. Most excellent!

  2. That’s a super cool chromosome fact

    Surely there a nice plot of :

    Chromosome number
    Base pair length

    And perhaps things like introns, exons, non coding regions…?

    Also -awesome illusion

  3. At that time the Seal had the national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”). That motto is now sadly, “In God We Trust“, established only in 1956 during a cold-war bill signed by President Eisenhower.

    This makes me so sad. The original is such a better motto, and a sorely needed message in today’s climate. Maybe I’ll just get a tattoo of it with a flag or something.

    1. It shows what expectations one has, but I only just looked at the seal for the first time, and realised that the eagle is only single-headed (I thought it was double-headed, like on so much heraldry ; Janus meets Machiavelli, perhaps).
      The bundle of arrows in one claw is a clear derivative of the fasces seen in other herldric plaver.
      What is the worst that could happen if you were to display one of the old-style God-free flags? The stocks, hanging, drawing and quartering, or a mortality of The Donald telling you why he’s right and you’re wrong, while strapped into a Vogon Poetry Appreciation Couch?
      There is something surreally appropriate about the way I can only find an image of a Vogon P.A.C. which comes from the film. Meta-Vogon! Verily, Bob is a Vogon with a pipe!

  4. Everyone who’s weighed in seems to favor Grania’s “bullet-point” list of days in history and births/deaths of notables. I will thus continue it indefinitely in her honor unless more people weigh in below in favor of the old format.

    Let me sound a discordant note of dissent. I liked the way Grania did it, a lot. But it was Grania’s way of doing things, and I’d like to see it kept that way, in her honor, as a remembrance of things past.

    Plus, I’ve always been interested to see how you make the narrative transitions between historical events, and the serendipitous juxtapositions that sometimes result.

    1. I’m not understanding the “discordant note” since you say you’d like it to be kept that way. (unless “that way” refers to Jerry’s old way?)

      Anyway… my vote is for the bullets. They look nice and it will long be a reminder of Grania’s contributions.

      1. I think Ken meant that we should keep the bullet point Gania’s, and not emulate. At least to me that sounds like ‘discordance’.
        I vote for the bullet points and particularly the addition of the year of death added to the birthdays.

  5. For air corp or air force, eyesight was always the catch. Many were knocked out of training because of the dreaded depth perception. If they didn’t pass that one, you were soon doing something other than pilot. That is where many of the navigators and other crew were made.

    1. Spike Milligan claims he was rejected as a pilot because of bad eye sight ,he could train as a rear gunner ,he replied “No Thank You Sir I Don’t Want To Sit In The Back ”

      Adolf Galland a Luffewaffe ace was supposed to be blind in one eye ,he is said to have memorised the eye chart used in eye sight tests.
      But that might be a myth ,most of the things i post on here are shot down (haha ) .

      Von Braun ,if he wasn’t so useful to the Americans he might have been jailed for his use of slave labour .

        1. I’m reminded of this exchange between LBJ and the Wernher von Braun character in the film version of The Right Stuff:

      1. Spike Milligan […] replied “No Thank You Sir I Don’t Want To Sit In The Back ”

        I’d have to go back and check numbers and dates, but I suspect that Milligram already knew that tail-gunner was a job with a very high mortality rate, compared to other jobs on a bomber. Mad as a Hatter, he may have been, but daft as a brush he wasn’t.

        Adolf Galland […] is said to have memorised the eye chart used in eye sight tests.

        An early form of optical testing equipment had texts – pages from the Bible) posted at different positions from the eye. The obvious challenge was that in Victorian England, very likely people already knew the texts, so memorising the tests was easily achieved.
        The designer replied that perhaps he should have used ages from a set of log tables.

  6. speaking of crocodiles and daredevils otters and otherwise, purely by happenstance and shortly before today’s Hili Dialog was posted, I was reading about a 16th century Ottoman historian, Mustafa Ali Çelebi, who spent time in Egypt and came by the curious notion that in Egypt “local Arabs are more licentious and prone to bestiality with crocodiles due to the hot climate of the land.” I have watched videos on youtube of young women kissing crocodiles and alligators, but male or female, copulating with them? Not on your life. It may be fake news for sensational purposes or he may well have believed it.

    However, not fake news is this alligator mating display which is absolutely spectacular and something I wouldn’t have believed unless I’d seen this video of male alligators producing the most amazing dancing water droplet “water feature” on their dorsal side, via sound, to attract females

      1. I’d never have imagined that alligators were hydraulic engineers and that the females judged the quality of their “jeux d’eau” in partner selection. If I were a two-legged hydraulic engineer, I’d find a way to replicate this in a garden. I think one could do all manner of things using this principle.

    1. The 17th century Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi also writes about human-crocodile sex in his Seyahatname, perhaps the longest travel book ever written (but definitely not the most accurate). There is an excellent English translation/codnensation called “An Ottoman Traveler,” and here is what Evliya wrote in his section on Egypt regarding crocosex:

      “Some Arab tribesmen, in order to rid themselves of gonorrhea, or else prompted by lust, hide in the sand and scrub and, while the female is lying on her back and before the male has done the deed, rushes out of his ambush with a shout. The male runs off into the Nile, but the female is left paralyzed, like a tortoise, unable to move. This is because her forelegs are short, her locomotion in the water being through her tail and mouth; and unless the male, after sex, turns her right side up, she is stuck there with her vagina sticking out beneath her hind legs. So the lustful pervert covers her hind legs with sand and piles sand over her tail as well, then fearlessly performs the ugly deed—-God be our refuge! But the rakish devil swears that the pleasure derived from a crocodile is greater than that from a virgin maid, indeed that the female crocodile is exceedingly hot and that each time she has sex she is a virgin and gushes with blood. Also, the pudendum of a man who has sex with a crocodile exudes a musk-like perfume for an entire week. As for the crocodile’s vagina, it is reportedly white and ‘Chinese’ like that of an Abassynian slavegirl. And that is a fact, as I can witness, since they once brought a female crocodile to Özbek Beg, the governor of Circe, and it had a rounded vagina exactly as I have described.”

      1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I see that the English translation (selections) is available on Amazon. Are you quoting from an English translation, if so, which one, or are you translating it into English yourself?

        I think the entire book would be great reading, but if I have to settle for selections, that’s okay. I love old travel books.

        1. I quoted from “An Ottoman Traveler,” translated by Robert Dankoff, who is the foremost Evliya Çelebi scholar. There’s no way I could have translated Ottoman Turkish, which is a very difficult language that blends old Turkish, Persian, and Arabic. There is no complete English translation of the Seyahatname, but “An Ottoman Traveler” is still a pretty lengthy book.

          1. I find that “An Ottoman Traveler” is available on Amazon. I’m going to order it. I knew nothing about Ottoman Turkish, so looked it up. Fascinating.

            1. Glad to hear that! I hope you’ll enjoy Evliya’s travels. He has more wild stories to tell you. It’s an indescribable book that mixes tall tales, actual observations, linguistics, adventure, and more.

      2. Wow!
        I’ll file that one as a garnish to the od line about “a woman for children, a boy for pleasure, and a goat for warmth”.
        There were a couple of books I got 2nd-hand many house-moves before I got married, purporting to be “the real Marco Polo – unexpurgated”, with a thick sprinkling of such stories. (The second book, same author, re-told a lot of very similar material in an Aztec/Inca context.) I’m damned if I can remember the author, but the cures for VD that were purported were rather less extreme than that.
        I’d be inclined to stick to the Zappa position.

      3. Along the lines of other aspersions like Gerald of Wales about Irish kingship rituals –
        “There is in a northern and remote part of Ulster, among the Kenelcunil, a certain tribe which is wont to install a king over itself by an excessively savage and abominable ritual. In the presence of all the people of this land in one place, a white mare is brought into their midst. Thereupon he who is to be elevated, not to a prince but to a beast, not to a king but to an outlaw, steps forward in beastly fashion and exhibits his bestiality.

        “Right thereafter the mare is killed and boiled piecemeal in water, and in the same water a bath is prepared for him. He gets into the bath and eats of the flesh that is brought to him, with his people standing around and sharing it with him. He also imbibes the broth in which he is bathed, not from any vessel, nor with his hand, but only with his mouth.

        “When this is done right according to such unrighteous ritual, his rule and sovereignty are consecrated.”

        Possibly just one of the stories neighbouring countries use against each other…

  7. I may be in the minority but I prefer PCC(e)’s original format to the bullet lists for historical events. It tickles me when things seem to be related but aren’t.

    Like 1837, Queen Victoria succeedes to the British Throne, and exactly 56 years later Lizzie Borden is aquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother.

  8. It’s not clear whether the common expression “In like Flynn” refers to the actor’s well-known predilection for sexual activity.

    Too late to ask Tyrone Power, I suppose, with whom Errol Flynn was long rumored to have crossed swords. Any port in a storm, as swashbuckling sailors are wont to say.

  9. A friend of mine worked on black caimans at Manu National Park in Peru. They were frequently missing part or all of a limb. He worked out that the responsible party was the families of giant Amazon river otters. Bad ass.

    1. Not just giant river otters but even regular sized river otters can kill alligators, as shown in this series of photos of a river otter in Florida killing an aligator, biting it behind the neck just like a jaguar goes after a cayman.

      Since otters hunt in packs as well as singly, the otters in the photo could be taking down the reptile for a dinner party since I don’t think they’re playing daredevil.

      1. Wow that’s incredible. Yeah the pack hunting is impressive and terrifying. My friend said he never much minded the caimans in the lake at Manu, but that he stopped swimming in the lake after he realized what the otters could do.

  10. The V2 rockets were certainly not captured before use. I was in London at the time and I can assure you a good many were used. They made a bloody great hole and one destroyed a Woolworth’s quite near us, in New Cross, with many deaths.

    1. The Polish Home Army did collect bits of the V2 s that were being being tested in Poland and crashed ,don’t know if they managed to get their hands on a whole one .

    2. 9251 V1’s versus 1115 V2’s.

      The V1 was probably more cost-effective – carried about the same payload, but could be simply and crudely made compared with the V2. Also, since the V1 came down in a flat glide, the blast tended to go out sideways, whereas the V2 buried itself and the blast went upwards, to less effect.

      The V1 could of course be intercepted and shot down where the V2 was not intercept-able.


      1. My school was evacuated to the south of London and only a tree which altered its flight parh prevented a V1 from hitting our house. All the kids were watching from the windows; kids have no fears.

        They moved us to Devon.

  11. Always informative. Frequently hilarious! And your readers are so darn smart. This planet is quite amazing!

  12. I’m not particular about the bullets or not, but I would prefer if you continue with the bullets in remembrance.

  13. “E Pluribus Unum” is indeed so much better a motto than “In God We Trust”. So much more about what the best in the US is about.
    Moreover, the latter is way to close to the SS belt buckle motto “Gott mit Uns” for comfort.

  14. Enjoy the hols – my world is out of whack as I cannot get my head around seeing the diary a day late!

    I’ll be away in Norfolk next week so will be without interweb (no smart phone!)…

  15. In 1960, a bio-film about Werner von Brau was released titled “I Aim at the Stars.” In Britain, it was subtitled “But Sometimes I Hit London.”

  16. “Vanilla ice cream” is one of those things that is different in different places. Traditionally for a while here it was yellow and very bland. Then so-called “French vanilla” arrived, which was white and much more flavourful.

    I have on the authority of some Americans I knew at CMU that this labelling is actually reversed in some places – the yellow bland stuff being called “French vanilla” there.

    In any case, I wouldn’t want a milkshake or anything made from the yellow, but the white stuff isn’t so bad. Also not too bad is the Mexican (?) inspired light brown stuff that is sold locally …

  17. Chargaff, Watson/Crick
    Congratulations to Jerry Coyne on this website and the excellent posts (and on the 60K+ followers)! I’ve just read several posts especially those related to J.D. Watson. I myself too made an interview with Watson back in September 1986 when I spent one month in CSH. Another one with E. Chargaff (December 1986), a third one with G.S. Stent (January 1987). I asked all three of them about the double helix, recombinant DNA, success in sience, and the role of science, among others. It was interesting to hear their occasionally confronting answers. Chargaff really would have deserved the Nobel-prize. (These interviews have been published only in Hungarian, back in 1987.)

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