Saturday: Hili dialogue

August 3, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s a lovely Caturday in Chicago: August 3, 2019, and National Watermelon Day. I love the fruit, but my ducks hate it, which is very bizarre given the number of YouTube videos of mallards gobbling watermelon (see here and here, for instance). It will enlighten you to know that watermelons originated in West Africa, where the wild ancestor still grows in the Kalahari desert. Here’s what it looks like:

I’ve tried giving my ducks watermelon several times, and at most one duck will take a desultory bite. It’s also Grab Some Nuts Day (I suppose one could think of this as revenge on Trump), and National Mustard Day, celebrating the only sauce-like condiment that should be put on a hot dog.

News of the day (from Nilou). God help us:

Stuff that happened on August 3 includes:

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus sets sail from Palos de la Frontera, Spain.
  • 1778 – The theatre La Scala in Milan is inaugurated with the première of Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta.
  • 1811 – First ascent of Jungfrau, third highest summit in the Bernese Alps by brothers Johann Rudolf and Hieronymus Meyer.
  • 1914 – World War I: Germany declares war against France, while Romania declares its neutrality.
  • 1936 – Jesse Owens wins the 100 metre dash, defeating Ralph Metcalfe, at the Berlin Olympics.

Here’s the video of Owens winning the gold. Another black American, Ralph Metcalfe, finished second, and that really pissed off Hitler, who was watching.

Other stuff that happened on August 3:

  • 1948 – Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a communist and a spy for the Soviet Union.
  • 1958 – The world’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, became the first vessel to complete a submerged transit of the geographical North Pole.
  • 1997 – The tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere, Sky Tower in downtown Auckland, New Zealand, opens after two-and-a-half years of construction. 

It’s still the tallest free-standing structure south of the Equator, standing 1,076 feet (328 metres), but it’s only the 25th tallest tower in the world. Here it is (I don’t remember seeing it when I was in Auckland):

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1887 – Rupert Brooke, English poet (d. 1915)
  • 1900 – Ernie Pyle, American soldier and journalist (d. 1945)
  • 1900 – John T. Scopes, American educator (d. 1970)
  • 1926 – Tony Bennett, American singer and actor
  • 1941 – Martha Stewart, American businesswoman, publisher, and author, founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
  • 1977 – Tom Brady, American football player

Those who went West on this day include:

  • 1924 – Joseph Conrad, Polish-born British novelist (b. 1857)
  • 1929 – Thorstein Veblen, American economist and sociologist (b. 1857)
  • 1964 – Flannery O’Connor, American short story writer and novelist (b. 1925)
  • 1966 – Lenny Bruce, American comedian, actor, and screenwriter (b. 1925)
  • 1983 – Carolyn Jones, American actress (b. 1930)
  • 1995 – Ida Lupino, English-American actress and director (b. 1918)
  • 2010 – Bobby Hebb, American singer-songwriter (b. 1938)

Hebb is of course best known for writing and singing one of the best of all soul songs (or any rock ballad), “Sunny.” As Wikipedia reports:

Hebb wrote the song in the 48 hours following a double tragedy on November 22, 1963: the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Hebb’s older brother Harold was also stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and many critics say that those events, and critically the loss of his older brother, inspired the lyrics and tune. According to Hebb, he merely wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a “sunny” disposition over a “lousy” disposition following the murder of his brother.

Here’s a great live version of the song with Hebb on the guitar:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a rare moment of doubt. Malgorzata explains: “Hili is thinking about something (unknown) and wondering aloud whether she is right in her assumptions (not known either). Andrzej is praising her doubts because to be too sure about one’s own assumptions often leads to fallacy.”

Hili: I don’t know whether I’m right.
A: It’s worse when we are too sure of ourselves.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie wiem, czy mam rację.
Ja: Gorzej kiedy jesteśmy nazbyt pewni siebie.

A Jesus cat meme from reader Barry:

The only way to hunt. And I have to say: the only good zucchini is a dead zucchini.


A lovely murmuration sent to me by Grania on December 3 of last year:

From Nilou. Grania used to love videos and tweets about interspecific animal friendship, like this one:

Also from reader Barry. I hear this year’s crop of awesome!

From j.j. I may have posted this before (I can’t recall), but you can’t see this flower too often. I may make it the Official Website Flower®:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. Okay, what species of shark is this? (I have no idea):

A leaf butterfly which is cryptic when it folds its wings, visible to conspecific individuals when it opens them:

Two tweets from Matthew. This first one came from him, and is about Tr-mp:

A cool experiment: apparently caterpillars of the famous peppered moth, Biston betularia, can change their colors to match the background without having to see the background—at least with their eyes. They can detect color through their skin! (Link to the paper is in tweet; I’ll report on it later this week.)

31 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. The zucchini photograph made me laugh because in Italian Switzerland zucchini is a moniker applied to people from the German speaking areas of the country. It is not meant to be a compliment.

  2. puréed squash and zucchini can be added to pasta fagiole during the cooking process and I think the result is pretty good because the flavor and identity of the squashes is obscured, yet the nutritive properties should be there.

    Also Romano and Parmesan cheese.

  3. Angular roughshark Oxynotus centrina

    Those top teeth are good for crunching through crustaceans – it strolls along just above the sea bottom looking for lunch below. It’s ignored by most predators because of its ‘bony’ fins & particularly hard & sharp skin.

        1. Definitely H.R. Giger base material. In the context of sharks, it is amusing to me that you go by the handle “Jenny Haniver.” 🙂

    1. My ‘favoured’ shark is the ‘cookie cutter’: small, nasty and enigmatic.
      And it won me a local quiz once, which makes it endearing to me.

      1. I absolutely agree, what a nasty little creature. Your comment Nicolaas, made me think of lampreys & their circular [though obviously quite different] sucker feeding mechanism. I’ve wondered if the below is possibly true or a superstitious misunderstanding of the beast. Do you know the answer?:

        …one of his slaves had broken a crystal cup. Vedius ordered him to be seized and then put to death, but in an unusual way. He ordered him to be thrown to the huge lampreys which he had in his fish pond. Who would not think he did this for display? Yet it was out of cruelty. The boy slipped from the captor’s hands and fled to Augustus’ feet asking nothing else other than a different way to die – he did not want to be eaten. Augustus was moved by the novelty of the cruelty and ordered him to be released, all the crystal cups to be broken before his eyes, and the fish pond to be filled in…

        Seneca, On Anger, III

        1. They can certainly bite and many swimmers have suffered. The story has the distinct air of truthiness to it but if something like it really did occur, apart from drowning, I suspect the fear in the lad was almost entirely the only threat to his life.

      1. Yes, I think that is fucked up. And when these creatures ‘moult’ into a new bigger ‘skin’ it is done again. As a dedicated consumer of lamb & beef I’m conflicted [a pussy] on this area of how we treat other animals.

  4. Watching Williamson on Bill Maher at the moment. I new she was some kind of New Age bigwig, but didn’t know she was from the Course in Miracles church. Oh dear. It was channeled by Helen Schucman who thinks Jesus spoke to her and she was his secretary. And for some reason Jesus had learned a weirdly modernised form of Shakespearean English, instead of booking himself into a proper English course learning how to express himself more clearly.

    Maher gripes about it a bit, but Williamson ducks it by saying atheists also read the book, and gets let off the hook.

    Then they talk about mental health. The Miracle Church believes that people are responsible for everything that happens to them — ‘we create our own reality’ — and thus vastly overestimates the power of positive thinking. (It’s a different church from Trump’s Positive Thinking Church, and slightly less hysterical and greedy.) There’s plenty to criticise about the pharmaceutical industry, but vastly overestimating the ‘powers of the mind’ only adds to the problem.

      1. Bill Maher: He is a caricature of a sceptic where “sceptic” means to “question theories not to your taste”. For example he has expressed doubts about the the relation between germs & disease, or rather as a good ‘sceptic’ – he ‘questions’ it… I watched the monologue stand up part of a recent show this morning on YouTube [see below] & every single gag & theme was recycled from the pool of writers who feed the American TV chat show host industry. Dreadful stuff! And a thoroughly pre-warmed audience doesn’t hide how poor his material is. When will gag comedy die? Pointless crap.

        1. Maher is a funny guy but he makes the fallacy of thinking that being skeptical means doubting – it doesn’t. Being a skeptic means not accepting a claim without (good) evidence.

        2. I kind of like him. He is a bit of a relief valve for the angst that develops watching Trump crap all over the place on a daily basis. His interviews are often interesting, although he uses way too much time on his own views. I much prefer Colbert though.

          1. Agreed – interviews are often good [not so much the dated gag stand up though] & agreed that Colbert is preferable.

      2. I think he’s a bit of a fence-sitter, in the sense that he actually accepts childhood vaccinations, but doesn’t feel like having his annual flu-shot.

  5. My brother-in-law, a commercial fisherman, catches a lot of dogfish. They breed like mad and eat a lot of the young of the pelagic species, but finding a market for them can be difficult. Dogfish are used for fish & chips in the UK, but mostly for institutional cooking in the US.

    1. Dogfish are often sold as ‘sea-eel’ or even ‘conger eel’ in commercial settings in Europe. Their taste is quite good.
      However, the angular roughshark, as correctly identified by Michael at 4, is of no commercial value. They are found from western South Africa to the Mediterranean, not really rare, but uncommon enough as to not be the target of commercial fishing.

      1. Yes, “rock salmon” is really usually a dogfish [a shark as Matt says], but “rock salmon” in UK trade descriptions [fish labelling] terms can be any & all species of Galeorhinus, Mustelus, Scyliorhinus, Galeus melastomus & Squalus acanthias some of which aren’t dogfish by any stretch of the imagination.

        In the real world of UK fish & chip shop it is even murkier – anything can be anything if it increases the profit margin. The differences are hard to detect if the frying fat [or oil] has also served to cook chips, chicken, fritters & sausages. I know of only one fish & chip shop [of 50 or so] within 5 miles of me that fries chips in separate oil to fish – & ONLY white fish & nothing but white fish goes in that oil.

    2. When I was a young lad I spearfished a lot in New England, primarily hunting Tautog, Stripped Bass, Flounder and Haddock, but Dogfish was always a reliable and tasty alternative. Like flounder and sole, they’re easy to spear as their initial defense is to lie perfectly still thinking I couldn’t see them. As a consequence, I developed the ability to distinguish their taste from other commonly eaten local fishes and found that many restaurants substitute them for more expensive fillet-o-fish. One common scam is to use a cookie-cutter to cut round chunks out of the “wings” of a Skate (a relative of both Dogfish and Rays) and pass them off as scallops. The give-away (besides the odd taste) is that the cookie cutter leaves a perfect circle, whilst a scallop’s abductor muscle (what we eat) is usually oval shaped.

      When buying fish it is always caveat emptor

  6. I seem to be recommending a lot of YouTube stuff as of late. The Ben G Thomas channel is doing a video every day for Shark Week, from shark news to hammerhead evolution to prehistoric and weird sharks. It’s great.

    In other news, my favorites are the hammerheads. Previously it was the bonnethead specifically because they’re omnivorous, but then I learned they didn’t have binocular vision behind them, which is a bit disappointing.


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