Saturday: Hili dialogue

September 28, 2019 • 6:30 am

Happy weekend: it’s Saturday, September 28, 2019, and only three more days to go until October. It’s National Strawberry Cream Pie Day (strawberry pies are the best pies!), as well as International Rabbit Day, Fish Amnesty Day (a PETA holiday designed to respect living fish and urge people not kill them for fun), World Rabies Day (Louis Pasteur died on this day in 1895), and, as appropriate for a Saturday, National Drink Beer Day.

Stuff that happened on September 28 includes the following:

  • 1066 – William the Conqueror lands in England, beginning the Norman conquest.
  • 1787 – The Congress of the Confederation votes to send the newly-written United States Constitution to the state legislatures for approval.
  • 1871 – The Brazilian Parliament passes a law that frees all children thereafter born to slaves, and all government-owned slaves.
  • 1928 – Alexander Fleming notices a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory, discovering what later became known as penicillin.

Here’s a picture taken by Fleming himself of the inhibition of bacterial growth around the mold; I’m not sure whether this is the plate. Along with Florey and Chain, Fleming won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1945 for discovering the world’s first antibiotic, and he was knighted in 1944. Well deserved!

  • 1941 – Ted Williams achieves a .406 batting average for the season, and becomes the last major league baseball player to bat .400 or better.

As is well known, Williams was facing a double-header on the season’s last day, and his batting average was 0.3995, which technically could have been rounded to .400 if he’d simply sat out those last two games. But, as Williams said, ““If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”  He decided to play, and went 6 for 8 in the last two games, which gave him his .406 average. No player has batted that well in the last 8 decades. In fact, one analyst concluded that if Williams was batting today, his average would actually have been .413, for in 1941 a “sacrifice fly” was counted as a time at bat, while now it is not. Williams hit eight sacrifice flies in 1941, and if you subtract 8 from Williams’s total times at bat, his average that year goes up to .413.

  • 1970 – Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser dies of a heart attack in Cairo.
  • 2008 – Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid-fuel ground-launched vehicle to put a payload into orbit.

Notables born on this day include:

Well, if you look at the Wikipedia entry for ballcock, Crapper isn’t mentioned, but two other inventors were. I suspect Crapper invented an improved ballcock for a toilet. He did found a plumbing company, and here’s one of their toilets:

  • 1841 – Georges Clemenceau, French journalist, physician, and politician, 85th Prime Minister of France (d. 1929)
  • 1901 – Ed Sullivan, American television host (d. 1974)
  • 1915 – Ethel Rosenberg, American spy (d. 1953)
  • 1934 – Brigitte Bardot, French actress
  • 1964 – Janeane Garofalo, American comedian, actress, and screenwriter
  • 1967 – Mira Sorvino, American actress

Those who took the dirt nap on September 28 include:

  • 1891 – Herman Melville, American author and poet (b. 1819)
  • 1895 – Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist (b. 1822)
  • 1953 – Edwin Hubble, American astronomer and scholar (b. 1889)
  • 1964 – Harpo Marx, American comedian, actor, and singer (b. 1888)
  • 1970 – John Dos Passos, American novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright (b. 1896)
  • 1970 – Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egyptian colonel and politician, 2nd President of Egypt (b. 1918)
  • 1989 – Ferdinand Marcos, Filipino lawyer and politician, 10th President of the Philippines (b. 1917)
  • 1991 – Miles Davis, American trumpet player, composer, and bandleader (b. 1926)
  • 2000 – Pierre Trudeau, Canadian journalist, lawyer, and politician, 15th Prime Minister of Canada (b. 1919)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is given fusses by a musician:

Hili: Stroking is like music for cats.
Mateusz: And I am actually a musician.
In Polish:
Hili: Głaskanie jest dla kotów jak muzyka.
Mateusz: A ja właśnie jestem muzykiem.

Via Stash Krod, a preview of next week’s New Yorker cover, called “Whack Job”—clearly a double entendre:

From Amazing Things.  Having once lived in a house with five women and no other men, I get this.

Mechanized cat massaging from reader gravelinspector. If cats had thumbs, this would make the staff superfluous (presumably they could use can openers, too):

Coincidentally, a complementary post from Barry, another “best thing I’ve seen today,” but with a different cat:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. Unlike crows, this first one looks as if the goatlets are practicing their ability to climb rather than having fun (cf. ravens sledding on a roof):

Poor kitten!

Four tweets from Matthew Cobb. In the first one, follow the thread. Then look at the tweets I’ve embedded below, which suggests that this enticing story isn’t entirely true.

Follow this thread for useful information that is true:

A humorous meme in which someone is depicted as trying to feed Boris Johnson his speech at the UN (and yes, Johnson really did say that stuff!).

And a Fun Farsi Fact:

39 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. “If cats had thumbs,” Cats have thumbs, but not opposable thumbs.
    My cat made good use of her thumbs when removing the vet’s cone meant to prevent her washing her stitches form her neck. Hooked both thumbs under the rim and off the cone went.

    1. I recall that not too long ago in a Hilly Dialogue there was a twitter post of a tiny kitten on its back sucking what I now must call its thumb. At the time I was struck by that because it was just like a human infant.

      I’d never seen a cat do that before but I see cats on WEIT that do lots of things I’ve never seen cats do before, that I didn’t think they were capable of. I never cease to be amazed.

      1. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I misspelled Hili’s name.

        My profound apologies to Dame Hili. Can I say that I hadn’t yet had my coffee when I wrote that?

        I also misspelled “misspelled” but thankfully caught it before I posted. Trump’s (mistaking the hyphen for an “l” I’d spelled Trumpls) grammar and syntax are infectious. Am I going the way of Trumpl?

  2. After the Congress of the Confederacy sent the Constitution out to the states, each state held a state convention to debate and decide on the document. Rhode Island did not participate as they had not attended the meeting in Philadelphia. Nobody missed them. The Magic number was 9, as it would take 9 states voting positive to ratify the constitution. In more recent years there have been some good books covering the history of the ratification. I think one of the primary reasons it was passed was the sequence of state conventions. Most of the states that were sure to pass held their conventions first. This put pressure on others such as New York and Virginia where the conclusion was not so positive. If 9 states passed it would be a done deal so if your state denied, you would be out in the cold. Nobody wanted to be left out but for Rhode Island, who joined up a few years later.

  3. I love the mechanised cat-massage vids. The first cat’s eyes cross as though it’s in utter ecstasy.

    I’ve said it before but the daily dialogues are such a glorious aggregation of bits and bobs. I get so many of my favourite viral videos from here(and from the comment section of course).

  4. The tweet about the train tracks…I read that earlier, the sequence of claims about how far back the rationale for the width of the train tracks stretches, and it immediately felt dodgy.

    The tweeter was using it to illustrate some grand point about how pervasive pointless bureaucracy is – and any time someone starts using empirical claims, especially about history, to make a particular political/ideological point there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll stretch and bend those claims to fit it.

    Also, it was all just far too neat: that there was an unbroken chain of causation going back thousands of years that precisely explained the width between railway tracks.

    …I think that’s one of the biggest boons of getting into science and new atheism: you get a nose for when something’s off.

    1. The story about railway track gauge is one of those partly-true things that has been stretched far too much by ‘just so’ stories.

      Early British railways were an extension of the colliery tramways and they probably did originate from wagon wheel spacing. And they were deliberately made the same gauge, 4′ 8.5″ (George Stephenson reputedly said, when asked for advice, ‘make ’em all the same gauge, they’ll all be joined up one day’).

      The earliest American lines used imported British locos so there was no reason to go to a different gauge. The same went for early lines in Europe.

      However the story that Space Shuttle boosters somehow derive from that is sheer nonsense since the structure gauge – such as the size of a tunnel – is not tied to track gauge in any meaningful way. The American and Russian structure gauges are enormously larger than British or European gauges, as any Brit who has been staggered by the space in Russian sleeping cars will attest.

      A minor ‘improvement’ to 5 feet was adopted in Russia, 5’3″ in Ireland, and 5’6″ in Iberia, but this was probably a mistake and has been causing difficulties ever since. The change of gauge from Russian to European gauge has been accommodated on through passenger trains by jacking up the train at the border and running a different set of bogies (trucks) under them. The difference is small enough that special gauge-changing passenger cars on the (Spanish) Talgo principle can run through slowly changing gauge as they do so, but obviously it’s a hassle. Apparently the Talgo can even handle the switch from 5’6″ to standard gauge, I was surprised to see a Talgo train in Zurich in 1991. But it’s an enforcedly weight-saving design that doesn’t lend itself to heavy weight or luxury.

      Then there’s ‘narrow gauge’ which accommodates curvature more easily in mountains – commonly 3’6″ in British-influenced countries (South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand) and metre gauge in Europe and East Africa. This does not cause such frequent problems since such lines tend not to be trunk through routes. Except in Australia which has 3’6″ gauge (West Australia and Queensland), standard gauge (New South Wales and South Australia) and 5’3″ gauge (Victoria); they have been very slowly attempting to commonise their gauges ever since.

      Real ‘narrow gauge’ of – usually – around 2 feet is reserved for the most rural of backwoods short lines, scattered around the world.


  5. SCALP MASSAGER: What a nice idea! I took a look around & realised these cat scalp & tummy massagers promoted as for cat use are suspiciously cheap [at around £$15 to £$20]. These things began for human scalp massage to relieve symptoms of stress, pain & migraine & the ones with plenty of 4/5 star genuine reviews are double/treble the price of the cat version.

    Cheap, flimsy knock offs – looking at reviews the cheap ones are very noisy, only work for a few minutes before requiring a long recharge, break in weeks [quite a few moving parts to break] & aren’t properly waterproof.


  6. Apropos the railway gauge thread: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, arguably the greatest civil engineer of the 19th century, built his Great Western Railway on a gauge of 7 ft 1/4 in, because it allowed higher speeds, gave a more comfortable ride, and offered greater freight capacity.

    1. I would argue about that. Brunel tended to grand visions and spectacular excesses and his designs went disastrously wrong as often as they succeeded.

      In particular, 7 foot gauge would seem to be quite unnecessarily wide, as evidenced by the fact that the huge American locomotives, and high speed European trains, all run quite satisfactorily to this day on Standard Gauge (4′ 8.5″). The wider the gauge, the greater are the limits on curvature, which significantly increases the cost and area required for trackwork in stations.

      Broad gauge did not offer higher speed or comfort, Brunel’s ‘baulk road’ (rails carried on timber beams sitting on piles at intervals) became very rough as the beams sagged between the piles and soon had to replaced with rails on conventional sleepers (cross ties). The quality of the track maintenance and alignment has a greater influence on riding than the gauge (within limits).

      And this quite aside from the predictable difficulties at ‘break of gauge’ with all the other railways in the country.

      Brunel’s main line was magnificently laid out, some of the secondary main lines, such as west of Exeter, less so – though they did prove he could work to a budget.


      1. Brunel used a train as an office & quarters – as the line advanced he could keep up in comfort. The uncommonly broad gauge was so he could comfortably fit his double bed, bath & piano in one carriage. The next carriage was for his top hat & his top hat minder!

        OK, I admit that’s all just something I made up, [taking lessons from a creationist] but it would be great to stick it on Wiki & mess with historians & rail buffs. There is a grain of truth in the top hat part because the height of ones silk top hat was an indication of status for a while. In my town the wealthy merchants of the Jewellery Quarter would hire two horse & carriages – one for the hat [the hat cost more than one years wages for a factory worker] – the fact that one hired two carriages was a further bit of one-upmanship in the Victorian/Edwardian version of rapper bling wars.

  7. Nineteen hundred and forty-one, the year Ted Williams hit .406 was the same year Joe DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak. DiMaggio wound up with a batting average of .357 (ordinarily enough to win the batting title, but not that year) and was the American League’s Most Valuable Player (the Yankees having won the World Series).

    It was the last baseball season before the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War Two.

  8. I credit Dr Fleming for my existence.

    ” You will die, ” the American doctors told
    Daddy, their trying to help the wounded off
    of the Himalayan theater.

    ” Wuuuull no. Do not amputate. I ‘ll take
    off for Djibouti. There is this thing they
    have there called penicillin. It ‘ll stop
    the gangrene. ”

    Alone, Daddy flew himself and his hand and
    his arm blowing up over to Ethiopia. y1944.
    This worked. Saved his hand. Saved his arm.
    Saved his life.

    I came along … … years later.


  9. 1964 – Harpo Marx, American comedian, actor, and singer (b. 1888)

    Singer? I know he played the harp, but I don’t recall hearing Harpo ever even speak in any of the Marx Brothers’ movies, let alone sing.

  10. I find the “Fun Farsi Facts” tweet extremely interesting. Some dismiss it as an insufferably puerile endeavor but I’ve long been something of an amateur crepitologist. I gather fart facts, history, and lore; and I note that it’s now become a legitimate academic discipline. Interestingly, women seem predominant in the field and have written a number of books on the subject.

    It’s fascinating to study fart lore in various cultures. I think all cultures and most sub-cultures (including junkies and homeless people) have well-developed body of knowledge of facts and lore about farts, including classification systems.

    Any day, gogle “farting news” and one finds newsworthy farting news from all over the world.

    I recall a poem by Al-Shirbini, a 17th century Egyptian writer who, in his satirical masterpiece, “Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shafuf Expounded,” penned a paean wherein a man praises his catamite’s farts. The book contains much fart lore. It’s an amazing book.

    Flatulence isn’t just funny, it can be deadly. A couple of examples from the past: “How a Fart Killed 10,000 people” and this on Roland le Peteur

    This potentially deadly encounter occurred last year, when a Florida woman farted loudly and then pulled out a knife and threatened to “gut” the complainer. Well, he’d never fart again. Pace Ken Kukec but this is one of those “Only in Florida” Stories, lists of which abound on the internet.

      1. Holy Crap: “In English a noisy fart is a trump. Been true for centuries, but never been truer than right now.”

        Alexander Pope wrote of “Fame’s posterior trumpet.”

          1. You’re right, “Fart politics is fun!”

            I’m loath to write this but when he makes that tight O with his mouth, it reminds me of nothing so much as an anus.

          2. I heard Trump blasted the CIA for blowing the whistle when he broke the winding rules of ethics. He really cut a cheesy remark about it.

              1. A Gooz = a Trump
                A Choss = a Silent Stinker
                Farsi appears easy…
                However, the Norse are at four, indeed likely the long winter evenings before TV as suggested
                I propose a ‘Pence’ for the little ‘prott’.
                And how does a ‘Pruitt’ smell? I’m sure a ‘Pruitt’ is one of those that will leave a mark.

    1. Thanks for posting this.

      This isn’t simply an article about religious jokes that happens to contain a wickedly funny joke that has parallels with our politics of the moment as illustrated by the devastating New Yorker cover. It is an important commentary on and reflection about religious humor and why such humor is under siege. It was written in 2005 and is even more relevant today.

  11. Speaking of just so stories, one worthy of Snopes’ investigation would be whether the British term for visiting the bathroom – taking a crap – is a back-formation from the lettering cast on the traditional plumbing by its manufacturer, Thomas Crapper.

    I’m inclined to believe it. In fact I really want to believe it.



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