Tuesday: Hili dialogue

August 27, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, August 27, 2019, and the dreaded September is drawing near. It’s National Burger Day (yay!), as well as Kiss Me Day (celebrating Popeye’s first kiss with Olive Oyl, which “occurred in a comic strip on August 27, 1929, and was followed by Olive Oyl exclaiming, “Oh. Excuse me Popeye—I imagined you were my lover.” Here’s that first kiss (I wonder if Popeye tasted like spinach):


The 1980 movie starred Robin Williams as Popeye, but the best casting was Shelley Duvall—a perfect Olive Oyl:

In Texas it’s an official state holiday: Lyndon Baines Johnson Day (he was born on August 27, 1908). It’s also National Banana Lovers Day, National Petroleum Day, and World Rock Paper Scissors Day I wondered if there’s an optimal strategy for winning that game, and I found a paper on the issue, taking advantage of human psychology deduced from observing 360 students each playing 300 games. Click on the screenshot to see the paper; I’ve put the strategy below that:

Your strategy from Ars Technica; which assumes repeated games. If you’re playing only once, it’s 50/50, I guess (my emphasis):

What they found was that “if a player wins over her opponent in one play, her probability of repeating the same action in the next play is considerably higher than her probabilities of shifting actions.” If a player has lost two or more times, she is likely to shift her play, and more likely to shift to the play that will beat the one that has just beaten her than the same one her opponent just used to beat her. For instance, if Megan loses by playing scissors to Casey’s rock, Megan is most likely to switch to paper, which would beat Casey’s rock. Per the research, this is a sound strategy, since Casey is likely to keep playing the hand that has been winning. The authors refer to this as the “win-stay, lose-shift” strategy.

Therefore, this is the best way to win at rock-paper-scissors: if you lose the first round, switch to the thing that beats the thing your opponent just played. If you win, don’t keep playing the same thing, but instead switch to the thing that would beat the thing that you just played. In other words, play the hand your losing opponent just played. To wit: you win a round with rock against someone else’s scissors. They are about to switch to paper. You should switch to scissors. Got it? Good.]

But this doesn’t make sense. If you win with rock against scissors, the formula above implies that YOU should switch to paper, because you won and paper beats “the thing you just played” (rock). Why should you switch to scissors? Where have I gone wrong here? Are the instructions contradictory?

Stuff that happened on August 27 include:

  • 410 – The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ends after three days.
  • 1859 – Petroleum is discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania leading to the world’s first commercially successful oil well.

Here’s that first well:

  • 1883 – Eruption of Krakatoa: Four enormous explosions destroy the island of Krakatoa and cause years of climate change.
  • 1896 – Anglo-Zanzibar War: The shortest war in world history (09:02 to 09:40), between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar.
  • 1927 – Five Canadian women file a petition to the Supreme Court of Canada, asking, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?”
  • 1928 – The Kellogg–Briand Pact outlawing war is signed by fifteen nations. Ultimately sixty-one nations will sign it.
  • 1979 – The Troubles: Eighteen British soldiers are killed in an ambush by the Provisional Irish Republican Army near Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, in the deadliest attack on British forces during Operation Banner. An IRA bomb also kills British royal family member Lord Mountbatten and three others on his boat at Mullaghmore, Republic of Ireland.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1865 – Charles G. Dawes, American general and politician, 30th Vice President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1951)
  • 1871 – Theodore Dreiser, American novelist and journalist (d. 1945)
  • 1874 – Carl Bosch, German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1940)
  • 1890 – Man Ray, American-French photographer and painter (d. 1976)
  • 1906 – Ed Gein, American murderer and body snatcher, The Butcher of Plainfield (d. 1982)
  • 1908 – Don Bradman, Australian cricketer and manager (d. 2001)
  • 1909 – Lester Young, American saxophonist and clarinet player (d. 1959)
  • 1939 – William Least Heat-Moon, American travel writer and historian
  • 1952 – Paul Reubens, American actor and comedian

Young is one of my favorite jazz musicians. His sax tone was light, but his improvisations incredibly inventive. Here’s Prez playing “Mean to Me”, a year before he died:

Oh hell, let’s hear some more jazz. Here’s a famous session described by Wikipedia this way:

On December 8, 1957, Young appeared with Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, and Gerry Mulligan in the CBS television special The Sound of Jazz, performing Holiday’s tune “Fine and Mellow.” It was a reunion with Holiday, with whom he had lost contact over the years. She was also in physical decline, near the end of her career, yet they both gave moving performances. Young’s solo was brilliant, acclaimed by some observers as an unparalleled marvel of economy, phrasing and extraordinarily moving emotion; Nat Hentoff, one of the show’s producers, later commented, “Lester got up, and he played the purest blues I have ever heard…in the control room we were all crying.”

Young’s solo is from 1:30 to 2:03; he and Holiday (who nods during his playing) were an incomparable. What they forgot to mention above is that Roy Eldridge and Doc Cheatam were on trumpet and Milt Hinton on bass (Eldridge form 5:06 to 6:17). This was truly a gathering of the greats. Don’t miss it!

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include:

  • 1576 – Titian, Italian painter and educator (b. 1488)
  • 1931 – Frank Harris, Irish-American journalist and author (b. 1856)
  • 1963 – W. E. B. Du Bois, American sociologist, historian, and activist (b. 1868)
  • 1965 – Le Corbusier, Swiss-French architect and urban planner, designed the Philips Pavilion (b. 1887)
  • 1967 – Brian Epstein, English businessman and manager (b. 1934)
  • 1971 – Margaret Bourke-White, American photographer and journalist (b. 1906)
  • 1975 – Haile Selassie, Ethiopian emperor (b. 1892)
  • 1990 – Stevie Ray Vaughan, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1954) (Double Trouble)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is climbing again:

A: What are you doing so high up?
Hili: I’m looking at the world from a different perspective.
In Polish:
Ja: Co ty robisz tak wysoko?
Hili: Patrzę na świat z innej perspektywy.

A cartoon from Stash Krod. Many people would benefit considerably by becoming a mallard:

A tweet sent by Grania on February 4 of this year.

The guy whose genes are crossing the road protects them:

A beautiful photo sent by Heather Hastie:


From reader AWS, a straightforward answer to an inquiring mind:

Two videos of animals leaping objects that aren’t obstacles. First, cows from reader Barry:


And from Nilou, who says, “I see your cows jumping over the white line and I’ll raise you guinea pigs jumping over rug gaps.”


Two tweets from Matthew Cobb. In the first, a lizard runs for its life, but you can’t see that until it’s slowed down, and then you see the bird. As Matthew calls it: “Reptile on reptile on reptile.”

Be sure to look at the other excerpts in this thread:


45 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. If Kiss Me Day is named after Popeye and Olive Oyl, is National Burger Day named after their pal Wimpy, who would gladly pay you Tuesday for a burger today?

    1. Man is that movie weird. It’s like a puzzle I’ve been trying to solve for decades, and I’m more perplexed now than when I saw it all those years ago.

      Why did Robert Altman make it? He never made a movie for the money in his life, at least as far as I can tell from his filmography. Was he really into Popeye? The screenplay writer was someone who never did anything of note before or since. It’s just so bizarre.

      1. I was thinking of the old cartoon shorts, which used to play on tv all the time when I was a kid, when I wrote that comment.

        But then I saw the still from Altman’s movie and thought about it, and how it doesn’t really fit into the Altman oeuvre. Altman loved making movies, and made dozens and dozens of them, even though he didn’t achieve any acclaim until he was already 45 years old with MASH. He always had a difficult time with the Hollywood studios and in raising money and took on some projects just to keep working.

        I think he was hoping for a big box-office pay-day with Popeye, to free him financially to make anything he wanted to thereafter. As it turned out, Popeye was a dud and led to a series of box-office flops in the Eighties, after his great films of the Seventies, and before his comeback in the early Nineties with The Player and Short-Cuts, and then his blaze of glory at the end, especially Gosford Park.

        He was one of the all-time greats. He made more than a half-dozen truly great films, and his body of work stands up against anyone’s. Plus, there’s something of interest to see in all his movies, even the flops.

        1. That makes a lot of sense. Steven Soderbergh is the absolute master of this system, constantly switching between big studio blockbusters and his personal projects. By the way, did you ever watch his Showtime series, The Knick? Absolutely phenomenal stuff. Seek it out if you haven’t seen it.

          Altman has directed many movies on my “Favorites Shelf,” the greatest of them in my estimation being The Long Goodbye. I know there aren’t many (any?) people who agree with me on this, but I just love that movie. The Player, California Split, Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Gosford Park are all on either my first or second level Favorites Shelves (I have three Favorites levels sorted by director and, if no multiple directors, by genre, and then a fourth level filed alphabetically for movies I merely enjoy and own).

      2. I love that film. When I was studying marine archaeology at university, it came out on VHS and just struck a chord with all of us in the program.
        At the time, the biggest compliment people in my peer group could pay was referring to someone or something as “highly nautical”. Popeye was certainly that. We watched the film a lot. Several of us even made the pilgrimage to the set in Malta.
        Even now, all these years later, whenever it is my turn to cook, “Everything is Food” runs through my head.
        And yes, Shelly Duvall was cast perfectly.

        1. That’s a pretty good story! I could see why a bunch of oceanic nerds would like that film 😛

          Don’t worry, I consider “nerd” to be a compliment, not an insult.

  2. Brachiopod fossil or alien head? You decide

    Some geologists had already had to make that assessment (in late 1985, as I recall).

    I’m guessing this was filled with dolomite, then the calcite (?) of the shell dissolved (in the ground) to leave the internal mould presented.
    But carbonate solution chemistry is complex.
    [..] There were a couple in the teaching collection at Uni, but I’ve never found such myself despite keeping eyes open.

    I still haven’t seen such “in the wild”. In fact, I can’t think when I last saw brachiopoda at work – they’re pretty rare this side of the Jurassic. You do see fragments in thin sections, but that’s very much work that’s done onshore and post-well, not at the wellsite. Though I have been asked to work out the logistics (time, materials, deckspace, hazmat disposal) for doing the job on site.

    1. I knew Brachiopod moulds as ‘vulva stones’, since they resemble -obviously- human vulvas. The ‘extraterrestrial’ Brachiopod is new to me.
      Now, what is the connection between ET and vulvas? Brachiopoda! A great question has been answered.

      1. If you think that brachiopods look like human vulvæ, then you have either got some very interesting friends, or a fairly limited acquaintance with the phylum Brachiopoda and it’s five orders. There’s a lot of diversity in that phylum.

  3. Any “strategy” in Rock-Paper-Scissors can only work against some assumed non-random behavior of your opponent. If either player picks moves uniformly and independently, then both will win 50% of the non-ties (long term) no matter what the other does.

    Playing any non-random strategy allows the possibility of your opponent figuring out (some or all of) your plan and taking advantage of it, so in the sense of minimizing the chance of long-run loss, your best bet is to randomly pick among the three choices time after time (i.e. roll a die or whatever), insuring a 50/50 long term result.

    The more practical point is, of course, why would anyone play RPS repeatedly? 😉

    1. You would play RPS repeatedly to decide who buys the next round.

      “Playing any non-random strategy allows the possibility of your opponent figuring out (some or all of) your plan and taking advantage of it, so in the sense of minimizing the chance of long-run loss, your best bet is to randomly pick among the three choices time after time (i.e. roll a die or whatever), insuring a 50/50 long term result”

      Not IRL. Against a range of opponents over a drinking session the profitable strategy is to figure out their bias & act accordingly.

      Hardly anybody I’ve encountered plays RPS truly randomly [using some unobstructive event such as the second hand of a watch or the 2nd letter of the next overheard three syllable word spoken etc], those that consciously TRY to be random in their next selection usually have a detectable bias of not changing enough, changing too often or cycling r-p-s in some order. Truly random opponents with a balanced strategy are very rare IRL.

      An example of poor human randomness is in accounting fraud – say exaggerating cash flow [or the opposite]. The leading digit [the most leftward column] value in any truly random list of numbers should appear with this frequency**:

      1 30%
      2,3 total 30%
      4,5,6,7 total 30%
      8,9 total 10%

      Fraudsters tend to write their lead digits too balanced – say 11% for each.


      ** Though if the business is selling widgets of a certain one fixed value Benford’s law will not apply, but other non-random cues still DO apply.

      Michael, The Poker Player.

      1. As a practical matter, I would find it extremely difficult to make a decent attempt to ‘randomise’ my choices. I would inevitably find myself repeating the same move or the same pattern.

        On another point –
        “The leading digit [the most leftward column] value in any truly random list of numbers should appear with this frequency**:
        1 30%
        2,3 total 30%
        4,5,6,7 total 30%
        8,9 total 10% ”

        Do you have a reference that explains that simply? I sort of intuit that in a random spread of numbers from one to [huge], the lower numbers should predominate and therefore 10 to 19 should crop up more often than 80 to 89, but I can’t quite nail it down and I could be quite wrong.


        1. @infinite

          I’ve been thinking about your question for a few hours & looking at poor [& often obviously wrong] explanations on the net – some of them by bright people.


          Benford’s Law [BL] is a description of the relation between the members of a set of numbers where the set ISN’T generated quite randomly – there is an exponent weighing involved in the generation process of the set.

          Thus BL doesn’t appear if you generate a set of truly random numbers & the set also needs to be scattered across a few orders of magnitude – the more orders the better.

          The principle underlying BL is the tendency for systems [human created & natural] to grow or shrink in a cumulative manner where the value of the latest member of the set depends on the one before. If you look at the set of numbers listing the surface areas of rivers, the populations of countries [not cities, towns, villages etc because insufficient orders of magnitude], the value of your investments at the end of each day over a long enough period you’ll find that BL holds true. This is because these are dynamic self-referencing systems of change.

          So the reason BL works in human society is we care about growth [& negative growth] processes & write those down & presumably we care about these types of processes because nature as we know it operates that way.

          BTW A nice little feature of a set that follows the BL distribution is that it’s scale invariant – you could take any BL set & multiply each one of the numbers by a randomly chosen constant & the new set STILL follows the BL distribution!

          This video is the best synthesis of what I’ve written above. I hope it helps!:


          1. Thanks for that. I had guessed that a log distribution would be involved – I guess predictable when the proportions of 1,2,3 etc repeat for 10, 20, 30 and 100, 200, 300 and so on. I still find the concept a little hard to nail down though.

            Having watched the video, I *think* it’s more a property of natural data sets than numbers themselves – the presenter comments (IIRC) that truly random numbers would have an equal distribution of first digits.

            I certainly find it easier to visualise it as a property of lengths of rivers etc (though just because I find it easier to visualise doesn’t mean it’s right! 🙂


          2. “…I *think* it’s more a property of natural data sets than numbers themselves – the presenter comments (IIRC) that truly random numbers would have an equal distribution of first digits”

            That is right & that is what I wrote.

        2. I’m seeing this now. I usually win at Rocks, Paper, Scissors. If I play now as an adult, I still win. I love it best when I win Paper over Rocks because I can cup the other person’s hand. I play random strategy I suppose but there’s some subconscious intuition in there somewhere.

          1. If you play and win rock-paper-scissors often enough, you may have internalized the algorithm described here without even knowing it. You have become an RPS guru! Too bad it isn’t an Olympic event. 😉

          2. Yes. That’s probably a better way to put it. I wouldn’t say guru, though. I don’t always win.

    2. Kids used to play over & over. The most I’ve played as an adult is best-of-three.

      I invariably win. I read the other person’s face just before the throw.

      Does anyone else know the game as ‘Rochambault’? We called it ‘RPS’ growing up but in Northern California at least it’s the former.

      1. I play it regularly with my young children, I read them too, but I often let them win, lest they lose interest. It is a great way to spend time with your children, because generally we go on to do other things.

    1. Or every other kid walking on paving slabs, including me when I still qualified as 100% kid rather than just the current 75%.

    2. In South Africa, we were fascinated to see 20 or so zebra walking in single file along the white line down an airport runway. Maybe they thought it was a bridge. But zebras on the bright white stripe down the black asphalt seemed weird.

        1. As a habitual barefoot walker, I can vouch for that. Black tarseal can get very hot on sunny days and a white (or yellow) line can be many tens of decrees cooler than the adjacent roadway.


    3. I’ll repeat here my theory that I gave on Twitter.

      Those painted lines on roads are really slippery when wet. Ask any bicyclist. Perhaps the cows just don’t like slipping. The same explanation might work for the rodents too though perhaps they do it because they can and its fun.

  4. Charles G. Dawes used to be the answer to a trivia question. Who was the only person to win a Nobel Prize and also compose a #1 Billboard hit? In 1912 Dawes, an amateur composer, wrote the music for an instrumental which had modest success. But, years later, lyrics were added, and it became what we know today as “It’s All in the Game”. It became a hit in the late 50s, but Dawes died in 1951, so guess the royalties went to his heirs. But, a few years ago, Bob Dylan was awarded his Nobel Prize, so Dawes no longer stands alone. Still the only VP with that distinction though!

    1. Which Bob Dylan song was a Billboard #1 hit?

      Only asking because I’ve done 10 minutes of research and while it looks like Bob Dylan had no number ones, there have been a lot of covers.

      1. But Bob Scott Placier uses the words “compose a #1 Billboard hit” for Dawes & goes on to say Dawes “no longer stands alone” – Dylan wrote The Byrds’ #1 Billboard hit Mr. Tambourine Man [Dylan’s sole #1 as writer].

        1. But Bob Scott Placier uses the words “compose a #1 Billboard hit”

          Yes, that hadn’t escaped my attention. That’s why I wrote

          while it looks like Bob Dylan had no number ones, there have been a lot of covers

          Maybe I should have made it more clear that the reason I was asking the question was because I couldn’t be bothered to check the cover versions, not that I was discounting them.

          I suppose you could argue that “Hey Mr Tambouring Man” should have been obvious.

  5. Yes — that is contradictory. They clearly got confused maybe because of a possible double meaning in the word played.

    “switch to the thing that would beat the thing that you just played…” — you just played rock, so switch to paper

    “…In other words, play the hand your losing opponent just played.” — the opponent just played scissors, so switch to scissors.

    So much for the peer review system!

  6. Thank you for that mind-blowing ‘Fine and Mellow’, what a beautiful singer Billy was, and her crew as great. Could not keep it dry, of course (something that most often, but not exclusively -obviously-, happens with Baroque music here).
    Why are we crying when hearing beautiful music? What is the mechanism?

  7. Somehow this wonderful photograph of Marcin Ryczek made me think of MC Escher. Less symmetrical, but definitely the contrast.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *