Thursday: Hili dialogue, Mietek and duck updates, farm rush hour and some farewells

November 28, 2019 • 2:10 am

by Matthew Cobb

Another UK university strike day, so this is posted as I rush off to the picket line (the strike will continue until next Wednesday). In Manchester we are organising ‘teach outs’ with various talks being given – I’m speaking about ‘The Idea of the Brain’ today at lunchtime.

In Poland, Hili has some heartening words:

Hili: The world needs courage.
A: And reason.
Hili: Undoubtedly.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat potrzebuje odwagi.
Ja: I rozsądku.
Hili: Bez wątpienia.
Mietek update from JAC:  The kitten is doing well, and, according to Elzbieta, Mietek has gained 300 grams since they got him. In fact, he’s eating so voraciously that they’re worried he’ll become as fat as Hili! But he’s just trying to gain back the weight he lost when he was mistreated and malnourished. Here’s a new photo of the lad:

Duck report: In cold Chicago, one of the Secret Duck Farmers reports:

We had 6 ducks for breakfast: 4 males and 2 females. It was about 45 degrees this morning and very windy. We may have gusts up to 50 mph today.

We had 16 ducks for lunch; 8 males and 8 females. It was colder and windier than this morning. Brrr.

Down on the farm, things are a rush:

Yesterday, we said farewell to two very cultured men – the Australian writer, poet and critic Clive James, and the physician and director Jonathan Miller. James, aged 80, received his first terminal diagnosis ten years ago, and carried on writing until very near the end. Miller, aged 85, shot to fame as part of the 1960s satire boom, with Beyond the Fringe, before abandoning both comedy and medicine to become a brilliant theatre director.

As Twitter noted, both men were lucid about the future. First, Paul Bronks with an uncharacteristically animal-free tweet:

A link to the news of Miller’s death:

This video has been going the rounds in various forms. Here’s the version I first saw, with a Spanish title:

Two stunning photos of a metallic blue rove beetle:

Fascinating use of ancient DNA:

All cats do this, we just can’t see:

Do whales know it’s raining?

Remember those tacky Nespresso ads Clooney made?

The linked article is over-long, but very interesting. Have any readers seen this?

A couple of tweets from me. This is true:

And this may be:


30 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue, Mietek and duck updates, farm rush hour and some farewells

  1. TWEET Cormac Browne @SimplyTome QUOTE:

    “Today I found out the most fucking insane thing and that’s George Clooney did all those Nespresso ads so he could spend millions of dollars keeping his own private satellite in orbit over Sudan for years to keep track of war crimes being committed by the Sudanese government”

    Complete bollocks of course. The story goes back a few years before Clooney sold his tequila company, Casamigos & before his biggest movie pay days. There’s no way he had the spend back then to support a private satellite for the sole purpose of being “in orbit over Sudan” [a laughable phrase] – we’re talking $10Ms just for launch fees & $100Ms for the sat itself. He could afford the cheaper, smaller cube-sats available now, maybe $300k launch, but the ability to steer in LEO & take photos requires a fairly heavy piece of kit in the $100Ms even today AND it can’t stay over Sudan while in LEO – it would have to whip around the Earth every 50 mins & be in Sudan sky for a brief time each orbit.

    The truth is more mundane. Gorgeous George fronted around $750k [a tiny fraction of his Nespresso earnings] to finance the Satellite Sentinel Project, which works like this:

    “DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in conjunction with DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center analyzes imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases the reports to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook”

    MORE INFO HERE I don’t think George put further money in, just his name, face & time.

    1. Just checked & Sudan not near enough to the Equator for a practical GSO [to truly orbit over Sudan] spy sat circa 2010 & it would cost near $1B back then anyway.

    2. This sentence was enough to tell me the Tweet was bullshit

      keeping his own private satellite in orbit over Sudan for years

      I checked: Sudan is not on the equator, you can’t keep a satellite in orbit over it.

  2. Patrick McCray’s study of the 26,000 year clock shows that at the Hoover Dam is a remarkable work of techno-art. It uses the fact that the Earth wobbles on it’s axis to mark time over millennia. I’ve never visited the Dam, but I probably shall, and the clock will be something to pay attention to.

    1. I agree about the techno-art, it’s retro-futurism to my eye [20s/30s SciFi art] mixed with ancient Egyptian revival. I wouldnt say it’s a clock as such – it points to a moment in the past

      “to preserve for future generations the date on which President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the dam and the power plant”

      [1935, September, 30th, 21:30] – apparently the encoding is accurate enough to get you back to the minute from anywhere in the next 10 millennia!

      Wally Motloch, has a lovely & seemingly accurate & not insane article on it with great pictures too, over at Graham Hancock’s** crank site. GO HERE [no malware lurking]

      ** Old, Scottish pseudo-archaeologist, drug taker, grifter & probable loon.

      Here’s a 12-PAGE B&W PDF BOOKLET – it doesn’t scroll, you flip the pages sideways with the arrows at the bottom. Nice.

      1. “Since man thus encases the core of his being within the thermos bottle of his cranium, it follows that all other members and organs of the human body are organized as specialized equipment ordained to move, defend, feed, reproduce, and maintain in gravitational balance the being who dwells in space within his cranium.”

        Hansen seems to be taking advantage of his position as inscrutable artist, as well displaying a warm sense of humor.

        1. I think his sense of humour included poking fun at the gullible by creating myths about himself & spinning words into a verbose tangle that added up to… not very much.

          According to him he came to America in 1910 having been a globe spanning [five circumnavigations] Norwegian merchant seaman & attaining the rank of General of Brigade in the North African French Foreign Legion AND after 1910 was a U.S. Army Major. His pre-1910 life is magnificently uncheckable even back in his day. I do know it’s unusual for a non-French citizen to earn a Foreign Legion commissioned rank so I suspect he heroically burnished his CV – not exactly lies – more like the bottle washer describing himself as head chef.

          I think he knew how to big himself up & how to network without having an Instagram account – he also framed himself as a mystic & astronomer, but I know from looking around that the layout & calcs for his ‘clock’ didn’t come from his own brain – I can imagine he was competent with the navigation tools of the sea & got a lot of help from there onwards.

          I found one of his books on an auction site with an inscription by him in the flyleaf to Howard Hughes – that’s what I call networking! NOTE THE VERBOSITY ON THIS PAGE

          1. It might have been interesting to run into this guy in an English pub. On the other hand, after the first few tales of adventure and puffery, you might need to head home to feed the dog.

    2. When you do, tell us what the time is! I asked two people on the way to work & the both told me different times!


  3. Rove Beetles ,if you touch one they tend to bend their backsides towards you ,one species is known as the devils coach horse .

    1. I actually have that same shiny blue rove beetle (or a close look-alike) in my yard here on the other side of the Andes, in Banos. I have a dead one on my desk…stunningly beautiful.

      1. Lucky you ,the beetles we have in Britain are not that very colourful ,apart from the LadyBirds and some Burrowing beetles ,and the odd Tiger beetle .

        Just started Tropical Nature ,one of the author’s stamping ground is Ecuador ,don’t know if you have heard of the book ,it is the one where the doc does his own version of Alien .He lets a Bot fly hatch out on his head ,sooner him than me .

        1. Yes, I know the book well, probably one of the things that influenced me to move to the tropics. I also did the alien thing, but I managed to raise my botfly to adulthood.

          1. Wow,I would tear the thing out with my bare hands .I would love to visit a rain forest ,before they cut them all down .
            Only two things stopping me ,fear of them big spiders ,and poverty .

  4. “Do whales know it’s raining?” Well, in one indicator of my intellectual oddity, I always felt as a child that swimming in the rain was undesirable – I’d get wet! Even as an adult, if I swim in the rain I prefer to keep as much of me immersed as possible, to keep out of the rain, don’t you know. Presumably my distant ancestors avoided getting soaking wet by responding to the impact of raindrops, rather than waiting till water seeped right through their pelts.

    1. I have swum in the rain a few times, and it gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush. I guess I subconsciously imagined a bolt of lightning plunking me on the head.

  5. Now we have proof. The UK is 6 hours ahead of the Midwest. Either that or some people are working the night shift.

  6. The introduction of malaria into the Americas by Europeans was one of a series of such incidents that helped Europeans “conquer” the New World. Germs, as much as steel, helped shape the course of human history.

    1. Undoubtedly true, but it pays to remember that no one then had the slightest idea of how disease was actually transmitted nor did they understand why these diseases were so fatal to Native Americans and less so to them. The Native American genocide was a biological one (greater than 90% of deaths post contact are attributed to disease, not conquest) but it was, largely, an accidental genocide.

      Related to this is an example of how one needs to be careful in wording. This sentence from the malaria tweet is a misstatement, likely unintentional;

      “…show that Europeans introduced malaria to the Americas in the 15th century.

      The wording suggests that it has been shown the Europeans are responsible for malaria in the New World. However, the paper cited found that the strain eradicated in Europe is indeed in the New World, but it makes up less than 5% of malaria cases. It does suggest that European contact was the source of malaria in the New World, but this paper only shows evidence for this one, eradicated strain.

  7. “I don’t have a name for not believing in pixies.”

    No doubt that name would exist if Elizabeth II held the title of Supreme Governor of Pixies, instead of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

  8. Clive James was also an atheist. He famously described religion as “advertisement for a product that doesn’t exist.”

    He had this to say about Christianity:
    “Where do you fit Christ in when a pack of peanut-brained Nazis who believe in the divinity of Hitler start exterminating whole populations that don’t believe in Christ? You can’t. It’s my belief that you have to throw away the book, keeping only a few homilies and parables, such as the bits about loving your neighbor and not chucking rocks at the local whore. Not much to go on, but better than nothing.”

    He had an incredible career: poet, essayist, lyricist, memoirist, critic, and TV personality (he hosted numerous clip and talk shows). His book “Clive James on Television” contains some of the wittiest arts criticism ever written, while his later masterwork “Cultural Amnesia” consist of short, unpredictable essays on an incredible grabbag of Western civilization’s most prominent artists and politicians.

    Jonathan Miller was an equally brilliant man, whose work spanned everything from “Beyond the Fringe” to the incredible TV series “Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief,” which should be watched by every non-believer interested in ideas. It was not well promoted in the US and was relabeled “A Brief History of Disbelief.” All three episodes are on YouTube:

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