Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

August 11, 2019 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a lovely Sunday (in Chicago): August 11, 2019. It’s National Panini Day (you can’t eat one if you’re not Italian, for making it a “national”—i.e., U.S. day—is pure cultural appropriation). It’s also Ingersoll Day, celebrating “The Great Agnostic” (actually an atheist), born on this day in 1833, and Presidential Joke Day, celebrating humorous quips made by U.S. Presidents (the date was picked by Reagan’s infamous “we begin bombing” remark in 1984; see below). As our current President is a joke, I think he wins.

But oh to have these days back! Obama wasn’t perfect as President, but he was a decent human being, not an authoritarian jerk. Here are some of his quips:

Stuff that happened on this day include:

  • 1858 – The Eiger in the Bernese Alps is ascended for the first time by Charles Barrington accompanied by Christian Almer and Peter Bohren.
  • 1929 – Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs in his career with a home run at League Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

Read more about that homer here. As most baseball mavens know, Ruth hit 714 homers in his career, a lifetime record that was unsurpassed until Hank Aaron hit his last and 755th homer in 2007.

  • 1934 – The first civilian prisoners arrive at the Federal prison on Alcatraz Island.
  • 1942 – Actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil receive a patent for a Frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication system that later became the basis for modern technologies in wireless telephones and Wi-Fi.
  • 1965 – Race riots (the Watts Riots) begin in the Watts area of Los Angeles, California.
  • 1984 – “We begin bombing in five minutes“: United States President Ronald Reagan, while running for re-election, jokes while preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio.

Here’s that joke, which was recorded. It put the Soviet Union on alert status, but that was quickly rescinded.

Notables born on this day include:

Ah, the Great Agnostic: a fine man and an unparalleled speaker—the Hitchens of his time. There’s a long page of his quotations here, and his picture is below.  Here’s a quotation, not on that page, that I love to use in my talks:

There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.”

  • 1905 – Erwin Chargaff, Austrian-American biochemist and academic (d. 2002)

Chargaff discovered that in DNA, the number of A bases equalled the number of T bases, and the number of Cs equaled the number of Gs. This was a clue to Watson and Crick that, in the double helix, adenines paired with thymines and cytosines with guanines. Chargaff, however, didn’t win a Nobel for this key discovery.

  • 1933 – Jerry Falwell, American minister and television host (d. 2007)
  • 1950 – Steve Wozniak, American computer scientist and programmer, co-founded Apple Inc.
  • 1953 – Hulk Hogan, American wrestler

Those who met their Maker (nature) on this day include:

Here’s a fine portrait by Memling, painted about 1485 and probably part of a tryptych, “Portrait of a Young Man Praying”:


  • 1596 – Hamnet Shakespeare, son of William Shakespeare (b. 1585)
  • 1890 – John Henry Newman, English cardinal and theologian (b. 1801)
  • 1919 – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist, founded the Carnegie Steel Company and Carnegie Hall (b. 1835)
  • 1937 – Edith Wharton, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1862)
  • 1956 – Jackson Pollock, American painter (b. 1912)
  • 2002 – Galen Rowell, American photographer and mountaineer (b. 1940)
  • 2014 – Robin Williams, American actor and comedian (b. 1951)
  • 2018 – V S Naipaul, British writer (b. 1932)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on Andrzej’s lap, but tells him not to get too complacent about it:

Hili:: A cat lying on his human gives the human an illusion of a battle won.
A: Actually, you are right.
In Polish:
Hili: Kot leżąc na człowieku daje mu złudzenie wygranej bitwy.
A: Właściwie masz rację.

And nearby, in the site of his future home, Leon observes the birds:

Leon: Why are the swallows flying round and round?
In Polish: Czemu te jaskółki tak latają w kółko?

A gif by Ollie Engstrom. Recognize it?

Reader Gregory found this post, apparently a humorous ad for a sign company:


From the Facebook page “Jesus of the Day”:

Grania sent me this tweet on January 25 of this year:

From Gethyn. Good luck with this job, pal!

Two cat tweets from Heather Hastie. The first is a cat surprise.:

. . . and the other a cat decoy: a frustrating iPad video:

I found this one; though I don’t formally follow any site, I do look at some of them, including this one, started by the brave Iranian feminist Masih Alinejad

And the silence of the clams:

Three from Matthew. The first is a famous Yosemite “firefall”, or, in this case, a “rainbowfall”. Be sure to play the video.

This is what happens when an idiot missed his exit and decides to go back and try again:

Yes, this big cat is now extinct east of the Rockies. How ineffably sad!


35 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

    1. Yes, to me it looks weird when I see paninis with an s to mean the plural.

      By the way a panino is just a sandwich and I never understood why the italian word is used in English, French, German, etc. It is the short form of panino imbottito, meaning something like filled bread or filled roll.

  1. How sad to read the declaration that the eastern puma is extinct. In this case, at least, extinction may not be forever; there are puma in eastern Canada and sometimes in the eastern US, apparently stragglers from the western population, and there is some debate whether the western population was ever a distinct subspecies from the eastern one. They could populate the eastern US again, if we give them the chance. Meanwhile, the good news is that there is still a different eastern subspecies of puma in Florida. And the puma is still one of the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, ranging from Alaska to southern South America.

    1. The Florida panther had to be crossbred with Texas cougars a couple decades ago to keep it from going extinct. The population is back up to about 400 from its low of 30.

  2. Women in Iran now face decades in prison for the crime of attempting to walk freely in the world.

    And the most power female voices in the world say nothing.

    1. If those three are “the most powerful female voices in the world” we are in deep doo-doo.

      They can’t (or won’t) say anything because it would be ideologically impure to criticize the religion of brown(ish) people, but there have been many other female voices who’ve spoken up. One of them sent that tweet. I suspect the story will disappear though. Something shiny will come along.

    2. If it was up to Linda Sarsour, she would treat these brave women just as harshly and “take their vaginas away. They don’t deserve to be women.” (that’s what she said about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who suffered genital mutilation as a Somali child)

    3. “…the most power female voices in the world…”

      How are they the most powerful? I’ve never understood this. I read something on here about Linda Sarsour once and didn’t understand the criticism. I don’t believe she was mentioned here. Why is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in any way responsible? She was working in the Bronx apparently as a bartender just recently. I was in the Bronx in 2003 visiting. We left the gates of Fordham to go out. I was talking to people about religion by myself. Later in the evening, my friend and I were walking along a dark street and there was a “hooked-up” Mercedes on the side of the street. A man who looked like a drug dealer from a different culture (he looked Arabian at the time) was standing next to it. To get a rise out of him or just be whatever I thought I was doing to sort of say hello, I slid across the hood of his car. I was smiling and happy until he grabbed my hair, pulled my neck back hard, and twisted me around to look at me. I said, very scared and trying not to show fear, “Is this how you treat all of your women?”

      He let me go and I went sprinting up the street. My friend was already way ahead running, having left me. I guess she told her mom and her mom thought I put our lives in danger. We don’t have it that much better over here enough to make a difference. If anyone wants to speak up, it should be the men living in the United States from any culture. Or both men and women. Everyone can come together to try and do something. Why are they singling out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? They hadn’t heard of her until very recently which means they are desperate for help. Maybe the men can talk to their men. That would be more helpful than a woman saying something.

  3. 1984 – “We begin bombing in five minutes“: United States President Ronald Reagan, while running for re-election, jokes while preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio.

    And suddenly, McCain’s “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” joke seems quaint. Fucking hell!

    1. I thought Obama’s guest spot from The Oval on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” was pretty goddamn funny:

      1. I haven’t seen that yet, there’s so much on Netflix I get choice paralysis.

        He’s got that bone-dry delivery down pat though. I saw his appearance on ‘In-between Two Ferns'(which is admittedly a very hit and miss show) and he somehow out-deadpanned Zach Galifianakis. Which is like out-trolling Trump. It shouldn’t be possible.

      2. It was pretty goddamned funny, and it also firmly placed Obama into the category of: cool cat.

        Has there ever been two back to back US Presidents who are as contrary as Obama and Trump? (Of course, it’s not an apples to apples comparison since Trump is only “president”.)

        1. Nixon to Jimmy Carter was a pretty big leap (if you don’t count the accidental Ford interregnum between them).

          1. I thought of that, but I did slip in the Ford blip to make it not count. But you’re right, that was a sharp contrast as well.

        2. Trump is only “president”.

          I’m simply staggered by the notion that historians will be forced to account for Trump in some way. They will have to see him as an extraordinary exception, but exactly the way he will be described is beyond imagining. They may have to invent a new vocabulary.

          1. If some latter-day Gibbon does a “Decline and Fall” treatise on the United States, Trump will be our Caligula, our Nero, our Constantine rolled into one.

            1. Well, no, I don’t think those are apt comparisons. Trump is more of a clown than a ruthless militarist or political saboteur. He has narcissism in common with those egregious thugs, but resembles a Monty Python character more than anything. He’s self-satirizing. That’s what I mean by him needing a new vocabulary. He won’t be comparable and he won’t be easy to categorize using the language of political historians.

  4. The mountain lion story might need some checking. Though the tweet is recent, the linked story is from January of this year, and immediately following the mountain lion post, the website has numerous posts about aliens, Martians, the Earth being flat, and NASA finally admitting to all of these things.

    There are still mountain lions east of the Rockies. There’s the well-known, and endangered, population in south Florida, and also mountain lions keep popping up in various places in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Some of these are known to have been long distance wanderers from South Dakota, and others could be escapees from captivity. If protected, the wanderers might re-expand the range of the species back into certain parts of eastern North America.

    “Eastern” mountain lions are a different subspecies than the western and south Florida ones, and so the survival of the “eastern” mountain lion is a question of whether there are any left that descend from those original “eastern” populations. It may well be the case that there aren’t any, and that the the Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded this to be the case; perhaps that was the factoid buried behind the story on the aliens and NASA website.

    A fair amount of work has been done on the molecular genetic population structure of mountain lions, but I don’t follow this work closely. I’m not sure how the old subspecies have held up in the light of this work.

  5. I’ve never seen a rainbow waterfall.

    Beautiful…even though the rainbow has been unwoven. I find it odd that romantics like Keats considered figuring stuff out through science somehow destroyed its beauty. That horrible and destructive Newton!!! I find the explanation of a rainbow quite beautiful.

    1. I can understand where Keats was coming from though – it’s taken me a while to admit it. I think science is elegant and austere – but not beautiful. That’s something different.

      IMO beauty is a fantasy, it’s something human, we invented the idea, and it carries our foibles with it. It’s not something objective, like symmetry. It’s a nonsense emotional response cobbled together evolutionarily from our neuroses and desires.

      We’re scared of too much clarity, maybe because clarity brings with it the knowledge that we’re going to die and stop existing; so we find science cold and austere. Some people find it actively ugly, frightening.

      Also, beauty relies on our need for enigma and mystery, and our desire to believe that the things we love are unique and inexplicable.
      When you explain something you dissipate the mystery, and you turn it into something explicable and thus reproducible. So it’s not unique anymore. Which means it’s not personal any more. And that crushes our ego a little, because everybody thinks the things they love exist just for the purpose of being loved by them.

      I admit that it’s not at all a rational response, to get cross with Newton for ruining a rainbow’s beauty, but I understand it.
      I used to feel that way, before I became interested in science. Now I can at least appreciate the elegance and reach of the explanation, but I don’t find that having it laid out in front of me makes it more beautiful.

      I accept that the world has become a little bit less beautiful as I’ve educated myself. As compensation I understand vastly more than I ever used to, and I feel awe and a sense of wonder at, say, the way special relativity works, or natural selection operates. Or the idea of many worlds…
      My view of the world has been massively expanded, and I wouldn’t exchange that for anything. But it’s also true that I’ve lost a certain sense of mystery along the way – a beautiful, luxurious fog has lifted. It’s childish to regret its departure, I don’t do that; but I still notice it’s gone.

      Apologies for the length Mark, I’m tired and probably just writing to clarify my own thoughts.

      1. As Mark said, beautifully put.

        I’ve found the same with movies and TV series. One should always watch the ‘making of’ video *after* watching the episode. And wandering around the locations is fascinating and it builds on the interest, but the knowledge does detract from the emotional intensity when re-watching the episode.


  6. The driver of the car was not only an utter imbecile for attempting this reckless manoeuvre but apparently also a complete a-hole for driving away from a serious road traffic accident that he (or she) had caused.

    1. I am not normally an aficionado of watching cars get squashed by heavy trucks but there would have been a lot of schadenfreude operating had that happened in this instance.



  7. Andrew Carnegie’s fortune made possible the construction of over 2500 public libraries worldwide (1,679 in the US), which unquestionably advanced the intellectual development of the country, particularly in the midwest.

    On the other hand, by one account there is compelling evidence to suggest that he was behind the seemingly premature demise of his steelmaking genius Captain Bill Jones, after a mill mishap in 1889. Without Jones, who at the time was planning to depart Carnegie Steel along with his patents, Carnegie would never have had a vast fortune to disburse.

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