Sunday: Hili dialogue

June 30, 2019 • 7:00 am

It’s Sunday, June 30, 2019, which means it’s my sister Susan’s birthday (she’s exactly 2.5 years younger than I) and my own half-birthday. Appropriately, it’s National Mai Tai Day, so perhaps I’ll raise one in her honor. It’s also Asteroid Day as well as Meteor Watch Day and National Organization for Women Day.

Things that happened on June 30 include:

  • 1520 – Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés fight their way out of Tenochtitlan.
  • 1859 – French acrobat Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
  • 1860 – The 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History takes place.

This is the debate in which Huxley supposedly bested Bishop Wilberforce with the remark about the ape and the grandfather: “Huxley rose to defend Darwin’s theory, finishing his speech with the now-legendary assertion that he was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth.”

It’s not clear whether that actually was said, but we do know that both Huxley and Joseph Hooker (see below) spoke in defense of Darwin’s theory.

  • 1905 – Albert Einstein sends the article On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, in which he introduces special relativity, for publication in Annalen der Physik.
  • 1934 – The Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler’s violent purge of his political rivals in Germany, takes place.
  • 1953 – The first Chevrolet Corvette rolls off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.

This is a 1954 ‘vette, which looks pretty much the same as that first one:

  • 1966 – The National Organization for Women, the United States’ largest feminist organization, is founded.
  • 1990 – East Germany and West Germany merge their economies.
  • 1997 – The United Kingdom transfers sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
  • 2013 – Protests begin around Egypt against President Mohamed Morsi and the ruling Freedom and Justice Party, leading to their overthrow during the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état

Notables born on this day include:

Hooker was one of Darwin’s trusted pals who helped broker a solution when Darwin received a letter in 1858 from Alfred Russel Wallace, outlining a theory of evolution by natural selection. The solution was to present two papers orally in a meeting of Britain’s Linnean Society, and then to publish Wallace’s letter (without his permission or knowledge) back to back in the Society’s journal along with a hastily-written abstract by Darwin. Darwin, of course, had worked out and written about his theory (privately) well before 1858, and, spurred by Wallace’s letter, quickly wrote and published On the Origin of Species. That’s why Darwin gets the lion’s share of the credit for the theory of evolution.

Wallace was a good sport about it, though, and even called his first book on evolution Darwinism. 

  • 1893 – Walter Ulbricht, German soldier and politician (d. 1973)
  • 1917 – Susan Hayward, American actress (d. 1975)
  • 1917 – Lena Horne, American actress, singer, and activist (d. 2010)
  • 1926 – Paul Berg, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1952 – Susan Jane Coyne (my sister)
  • 1985 – Michael Phelps, American swimmer

Those who passed on on June 30 include:

  • 1882 – Charles J. Guiteau, American preacher and lawyer, assassin of James A. Garfield (b. 1841)
  • 1961 – Lee de Forest, American inventor, invented the audion tube (b. 1873)
  • 1973 – Nancy Mitford, English journalist and author (b. 1904)
  • 1984 – Lillian Hellman, American author and playwright (b. 1905)
  • 2003 – Buddy Hackett, American actor and comedian (b. 1924)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we have a selfie with Andrzej and Hili:

Hili: This picture should be a record of our dignity.
A: Or vanity.
In Polish
Hili: To zdjęcie powinno być zapisem naszej godności.
Ja: Lub próżności.

And here I am smooching with my favorite cat:

Two tweets from Nilou. For the first one, why indeed?

History re-enacted with cows and DUCKS!

A tweet from reader Barry: politics portrayed with cats and ducks:

Three cat tweets from Heather Hastie. Look how polite this kitty is!

A raincoat for a cat? I’m not sure how practical this is:

When will cats learn that their tails are part of their bodies?

And three tweets from Matthew. Bird poop may be exrement to us, but to these insects it’s food. (The scrapping occurs right at the end.)

Have you ever really looked at a platypus’s foot?

A sad but sweet message:


42 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. They don’t call him flake for nothing. By the way, that president stepped into North Korea yesterday. Who knows why. Maybe it is his love for walls and borders.

      1. I’m not sure they have one for kissing up to every dictator on the planet but maybe they will create a new category.

      2. He’s got about the same chance of winning the Nobel for Peace as he does for Literature (or for Physics, for that matter).

  2. It’s “… younger than me.”, not “… younger than I”. When referring to the subject, it’s “I”; when the object, it’s “me”. If a professor can’t get this right, is it no wonder that so many others get it wrong as well?

    1. What a boorish and rude comment, Mr. Schiffelbein. Not only are you rude, but you’re wrong, too. See here:

      Reader’s question: Which is correct?

      He is younger than me.
      He is younger than I.

      Answer: ‘I’ is more correct in formal English, but ‘me’ is acceptable in informal English and is increasingly used in formal English too.

      ‘I’ is more ‘correct’ because you’re comparing two subjects.

      However, when I did some more more research, I discovered that the distinction also hinges on whether you regard ‘than’ as a conjunction or preposition.

      If you see ‘than’ as a conjunction, then ‘He is younger than I’ is correct. The second construction, ‘He is younger than me’, is using ‘than’ as a preposition and this construction has been around since the C16.

      I suggest you post elsewhere from now on, as you aren’t polite enough to deserve commenting privileges here.

  3. Bit of little known history about Walter Ulbricht: as a member of the Communist Party in the 30s he shared a stage with Joseph Goebbels at a Nazi-organised rally, combining forces to defeat their common enemy, the Social Democrats.

    (Here’s a photo of it — in Berlin at what is today Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Prenzlauerberg. Goebbels is front left.)

    He was later the leader of East Germany who famously in 1962 stated, “No one is intending to build a wall”, just as the first barbed wire was being laid around Berlin’s ‘West’ sector.

  4. Apologies in advance for this personal post:

    My stepdad died five years ago after a fifteen-year-long slow surrender to multiple strokes and increasing dementia. He was a producer at the BBC in the seventies and the eighties, worked on Panorama at its height and interviewed Rupert Murdoch on a horse(!). A very successful, proud guy, who loved my mum.

    But by the end he was in a very poor state, couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. His two daughters, my sisters(half sisters, although I don’t call them that), had to go through their pre-teen and teenage years watching this happen in slow-motion to their father. Eventually he didn’t recognise them.
    Of course his descent started so early in their lives that they barely remember the man who would dance in the kitchen, or embarrass me by singing Welsh nonsense rhymes in front of girls I liked, or take my sisters on his shoulders and walk them around the garden.

    I think it was in one of the later years, when he was wheelchair bound but could still just about move his hands, that my mum got a valentine’s card from him that broke my heart.
    It was his writing in the card that did it to me – it was illegible. I couldn’t read any of it, but it had obviously taken huge effort to write it. It trailed off towards the end, moving diagonally down the inside of the card.
    I can’t explain why it moved me so much. We never got along, and he was barely a person by then. But the ferocity of whatever of his old self remained in him was ready to force his hands and fingers to work when he really, really needed them to. He died a few years after that.
    The valentine card is still in the family’s possession, even after we moved house and all of us went our separate ways. I kept it when we were throwing things out, otherwise it would have gone – I don’t think either my sisters or my mum could bear to have it around.

    I don’t know why I’ve written this except that the lowermost tweet reminded me.

    I’ve also wanted to talk about it for a while now, and it’s probably easier talking about this to people I’ve never met, and who don’t know me or my family. Anyway, apologies for rambling.

    1. That was very good. Excellent really. Many people, fortunately do not have to experience the slow decline and death of a family member and that is lucky. For others who do, they rarely talk about it in public or maybe not at all and that is not good. Get it out there and have the guts to explain it to others. Some will know exactly what you are talking about and it will help them identify.

      1. I don’t think so. They’re off doing their thing, tearing it up in London, very successfully I might add. I don’t think they want me bringing up something painful like this.

        The only reason I can just about manage to talk about that card, and find a kind of pathetic, fierce beauty in it, is because he wasn’t my father. If he had been, it would have just been too bleak to contemplate.

        As it is, he didn’t like me very much growing up, and we didn’t get on, so I have just enough emotional distance to be able to analyse his life without it being excruciatingly painful every time his name comes up. My sisters can’t do that I don’t think.

        I should probably have screamed all this into the sky, but thanks for reading nevertheless.

        1. Thanks for letting us in on your private world. I view it as a poignant reminder of those who have past on in my lifetime. I’ve preserved a bit of my own father’s last writings. Just barely legible.

    2. I can certainly understand the distressing emotions that this would evoke in you and others in your family Saul. But from my remove this is a snapshot of one beautifully poignant aspect of being human. There is beauty in both the actions of your stepfather and in your expression of how his actions impacted you.

      Regarding Ken’s suggestion, I would not urge you to do anything one way or the other. However I wonder if some day your sisters may very much appreciate reading what you wrote here. Not even so much as insight into your stepfather but insight into you.

    3. I appreciate your sharing such private and poignant thoughts and feelings, Saul. It was a privilege to read what you wrote, and it stirred up insights and memories about my MIL who has dementia.

        1. Thanks. She’s now 91 y.o. and the disease progressed over perhaps a decade or so. She started to deteriorate more rapidly recently and her daughter discovered that the staff was overmedicating her with painkillers. When that was set right, she improved considerably… still has dementia but is no longer like a ‘zombie’ (her daughter’s description).

    4. Fuck’n A man. Intense, and thanks for the load. I’m way late for this thread, but figure from such a personal revelation revealed, you’ve subbed. If not, so be it.

      The most heartbreaking bit for me was the poor relationship you had with your step-dad. Plus the fact that you recognized this early and throughout your life. It seems your sisters were a positive influence when it comes to your acceptance of your step-father’s ill will and they counterbalanced his negativity. I think your awareness of not bringing up bad memories to your sisters is spot-on…I’ve done this a couple of times, and it’s always counter-productive. My brother was involved in some violent altercations when he was 18 or so, assault and stealing and stuff. At this point he’s a cool human and let’s just say I no longer bring this detail into the light. I remember the details, but I believe my parents have blanked it out of their memory. Gollum “found” the ring.

      I have an old friend whose step-dad was a major ass. Highway Patrol control freak. He forced his step-son (said friend) to work at least 40 hours a week once he turned 16. For shit’s sake he was a sophomore in high school! Another stipulation was one section of the refrigerator that was “his” and everything else cost money. No SHIT. I’ll never forget as a 16 year-old grabbing a coke out of their fridge and he said “no grab the one on this shelf here”. I was holding a can. I say “Is that because the ones on that shelf are in bottles?” He answers: “No, this is my part of the fridge, and I have to pay for what’s not in my section.” I’ve always remembered that, and we’re still good friends (though his stance on Trump is still “give him a chance”…he’s a non-voter political Luddite though). We don’t speak politics and I’ve never repeated the above story to him, but I KNOW he’d remember it. He was looking very directly and speaking forcefully when he was describing the fridge situation. He got lucky and was able to escape in his Senior year by a well-off friend’s family who realized his shit-situation and obliged him room and board. And as it goes in many of these dramas, it ends with him joining the forces. Navy subs in his case.

      Damn…I’ve blabbed more than you Saul. Just typing fast with resurgent memories. As Randall said, this brought up emotions that I identify with, thus the elephant talk. Thanks for the catalyst.

      1. All that stuff about the fridge sounds very familiar. There was a lot of that kind of thing, only more and more extreme as my stepdad got more and more mentally…loose.

        Glad you’re getting along with your brother too.

  5. Don’t let “big greeting card” get ahold of the half-birthday idea. Hopefully nobody from the greeting card lobby is reading this now.

  6. I was intrigued to see that after the Oxford debate between Wilberforce and Huxley (among others) Wilberforce and Darwin remained on good terms after the debate. I wonder if Wilberforce did not come over to Darwin’s side quite quickly after the event.

  7. Groin kicking is to learn to not react (as much) if a guy gets kicked in a fight. Saw an Aikido sensei demonstrate this on one of his students. And it can be done.

    Why it has a cult following with Johnny Knoxville, I don’t know. They seem to do it for fun.

    1. Getting kicked or hit in the groin is no big deal unless it happens to be right on target. If the blow hits the nuts in just the right way there is no amount of stoicism or training that is going to enable you to go on like nothing happened, and it doesn’t take much force at all. But if the blow doesn’t hit the nuts just right then you can take a pretty hard blow as the groin is not otherwise particularly sensitive.

      I guarantee the guys in this video are being quite careful.

      1. Indeed. If the punt was particularly unfortunate, the kickee could be instantaneously eliminated from the gene pool.

  8. Thanks for the note about Guiteau — a plagiarist and narcissist according to the very detailed Wikipedia page; I guess not much has changed in American politics in 130 years!

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