Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 5, 2019 • 6:30 am

The weekend is approaching, as it’s already Thursday, December 5, 2019. It’s also National Comfort Food Day (mine’s ice cream; what’s yours?), as well as National Blue Jeans Day, a day I observe year round. In Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Poland and the UK, it’s Saint Nicholas’ Eve, but in Austria it’s  Krampusnacht, when the horrible hornéd beast Krampus comes out and whips children who have been bad, as in this early 20th-century greeting card. Look at those horns and that tongue! Could it be. . . . .SATAN? (Note that “Satan” and “Santa” are anagrams.)

There remain 20 shopping days until the beginning of Coynezaa.

Duck report: We stopped feeding the ducks cold turkey (and yes, cold duck) two days ago. As we hoped, fewer of them have started coming to the pond.  There was just one mallard yesterday morning, but then about a dozen flew in for lunch and stayed all day. They did not get fed.

It breaks my heart to do this to them, but I think it’s the right thing. I can’t bear to walk by the pond, though, as they’ll all swim up to me expecting food. But we simply can’t have ducks hanging around a frozen pond all winter, keeping them alive by giving them commercial duck chow. Can you imagine how many hens we’d have nesting here next spring? All I can do now is peek around the corner at the pond and hope they don’t see me. (I can count them from my office window.)

Stuff that happened on December 5 include the following:

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
  • 1848 – California Gold Rush: In a message to the United States Congress, U.S. President James K. Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California.
  • 1933 – The Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified.

That’s the amendment that repealed Prohibition, a bad social experiment if ever there was one.

  • 1952 – Great Smog: A cold fog descends upon London, combining with air pollution and killing at least 12,000 in the weeks and months that follow.

Here’s a 3-minute video showing the Great Smog:

  • 1955 – E. D. Nixon and Rosa Parks lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • 1964 – Lloyd J. Old discovered the first linkage between the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and disease—mouse leukemia—opening the way for the recognition of the importance of the MHC in the immune response.
  • 2017 – The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics for doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1782 – Martin Van Buren, American lawyer and politician, 8th President of the United States (d. 1862)
  • 1830 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and author (d. 1894)
  • 1839 – George Armstrong Custer, American general (d. 1876)
  • 1868 – Arnold Sommerfeld, German physicist and academic (d. 1951)
  • 1901 – Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (d. 1966)
  • 1901 – Werner Heisenberg, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1976)
  • 1912 – Sonny Boy Williamson II, American singer-songwriter and harmonica player (d. 1965)

Here’s Sonny Boy blowing some; I don’t know the date. He seems to be missing quite a few teeth; I wonder if that helped his playing:

  • 1932 – Little Richard, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actor
  • 1935 – Calvin Trillin, American novelist, humorist, and journalist

Trillin was a great food writer, and still contributes occasionally to The New Yorker.  His first food book, American Fried, is a classic, and funny as hell.

Those who fell asleep on December 5 include five artists or musicians and a gutsy but empathic leader:

  • 1791 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer and musician (b. 1756)
  • 1870 – Alexandre Dumas, French novelist and playwright (b. 1802)
  • 1926 – Claude Monet, French painter (b. 1840)
  • 2012 – Dave Brubeck, American pianist and composer (b. 1920)
  • 2013 – Nelson Mandela, South African lawyer and politician, 1st President of South Africa, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has become very vain again. But you have to admit that she’s quite fetching:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m going in for the art of being beautiful.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Uprawiam sztukę bycia piękną.

And in nearby Wlocawek, the ineffably cute (and healed!) Mietek asks if his staff has any issues with him parking himself on the dining-room table:

Mietek: I’m just lying here, any problems?
In Polish: Leżę sobie, jakiś problem?

As of January 1, sales of recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois. Will we see the same for catnip? This is from reader Merilee:

Emus always seem excited to me, but this one is off the map.

Five tweets from Matthew. Down on Marsh farm, the animals get a special treat: apples and carrots! And have a look at the door decoration.


Here’s a nice new article which includes a zoomable plot showing the phylogenetic relationships among nearly six thousand species of mammals. This is the first of eight tweets in Upham’s thread:

Lynxes are awesome and don’t get near the attention they deserve. Look at these lovely beasts!

I always wondered if a jet could land on a carrier in complete darkness. Apparently they can, with the use of instruments. Matthew himself retweeted the proof:

Sound up on this one: a touching story of a girl’s devotion to her cow, and then her grandcow.

Three tweets from Heather Hastie.  Octopuses are wicked smart, but how did this one know which way to turn the lid?

There’s no doubt what this cat’s gesture means, even though I love having cats lick my fingers with their sandpaper tongues.

I’m wondering if this is real. “Democracy dies in darkness.” Is that a WaPo motto?



48 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. This may interest readers –
    Flight initiation distance, color and camouflage

    Camouflage is widespread throughout the animal kingdom allowing individuals to avoid detection and hence save time and energy rather than escape from an approaching predator. Thus, camouflage is likely to have co-evolved with antipredator behavior. Here, we propose that camouflage results in dichotomous escape behavior within and among species with classes of individuals and species with cryptic coloration having shorter flight initiation distances (FIDs; the distance at which an individual takes flight when approached by a human). We report the results of 2 tests of this hypothesis. First, bird species with cryptically colored plumage have consistently shorter FID than closely related species without such color. Within species with sexually dimorphic plumage, brightly colored adult male common pheasants Phasianus colchicus and golden pheasants Chrysolophus pictus have long and variable FID, whereas cryptically colored juveniles and adult females have short and invariable FID. Second, FID in females was predicted by presence or absence of cryptic color, FID in males and their interaction. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that risk-taking behavior has been attuned to camouflage, and that species with different levels of camouflage differ consistently in their FID.

  2. I believe the Democracy Dies in Darkness was a commercial by the Washington Post that ran on TV. Mainly a message about journalists killed on duty. And of course it can be viewed on the net.

      1. “Democracy dies in darkness.” Definitely has been on the front page ever since I’ve had a subscription. It’s especially relevant when the president’s motto is “I’m above the law”.

      1. My first year was $1 – I think it was some American Express card special. Now $100/year, still worth it. The WP is not perfect, but a lot better than the NYT.

  3. Night carrier landings are very interesting. During the Vietnam War the US Navy had a program to investigate pilot stress during air combat operations. Pilots were fitted with sensors to measure and record stress levels throughout their missions. It was reasonably assumed that the most stressful periods of a mission were when pilots were engaged in a fight with an enemy fighter, a dogfight. However the data did not support that obvious assumption. What the data actually showed, by all accounts to everyone’s surprise, was that nighttime carrier landings were the most stressful moments in a Navy air combat pilot’s mission.

    1. I can understand that one. Landing at night or crappy weather is always stressful but on a carrier – nuts. I guess the light system allows them to do it.

      1. I agree, “nuts.” From this non-pilot’s perspective it doesn’t surprise me much either. I can easily imagine it would be very stressful.

    2. In his book, Lost Moon, Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell tells of a close call he had in 1953 while flying an McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee night fighter. It was a WestPac deployment aboard the carrier USS Shangri-La fitted with the new fangled angled deck [a concept thought up by the RN the year before] & Lovell was flying a night exercise.

      When it came close to the time to land he couldn’t find the carrier. He was following a homing signal but instead of leading him to the carrier it was leading him away from it. The homing signal that he was following was a different signal that originated on the mainland of Japan and it was broadcasting on the same frequency as the carrier’s.

      When he realised that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be, Lovell turned to his knee board. Back then pilots used to have a little board that they attached to the top of their knees. On it was written all the day’s communication codes. Those codes were given to the pilots just before they took off and Lovell needed some of the codes to communicate with the carrier.

      The problem was that the codes were written in such tiny print that in the past Lovell had had trouble reading them in the dim light of the cockpit. Lovell had therefore devised what he thought was an ingenious invention. He had collected some spare parts and made up a little light that he attached to his knee board. He could plug it into the airplane’s electrical receptacle and all he had to do was flip a switch, it would then give him enough light to read the knee board. This would be his first chance to try out his invention.

      When he flipped the switch there was a brilliant flash of light and everything went black. Lovell had overloaded the circuitry and it had shorted itself out, losing every bulb in the instrument panel. He quickly got out his tiny flash light to look over his instrument panel. He knew that he was in a lot of trouble and thought that he might have to ditch in the sea. After a few seconds he switched his flash light off and contemplated what he was going to do.

      That’s when he saw, far below, a faint greenish glow that formed a shimmery trail in the water. The propellers of the aircraft carrier had disturbed some phosphorescent algae in the water and churned it so that it glowed faintly. Lovell followed this trail and soon found his carrier. He later said that if his cockpit lights had not have shorted out, he never would have seen the phosphorescent trail, it could only be seen in the pitch dark. The shorting out of his instrument lights had actually saved him.

      On first approach, without instruments, believing that he was approaching the deck at 75 metres/250 feet, he realised at the last moment that he was actually only 6 metres/20 feet above the water!

      He hauled back hard on his stick & on the next approach he came in at 150 metres/500 feet, higher than the norm. He decided to drop to the deck rather than possibly slam into the stern of the carrier. He blew two tyres after he fortunately snagged the last tail hook cable.

      The incident is celebrated movingly in the Apollo 13 film where he’s played by Tom Hanks. YOUTUBE CLIP HERE

      I took ages looking for the above info [copy/pasted from various sources & probably accurate] – hampered by a false memory that it was Armstrong, not Lovell! Age.

      1. The second part of that clip shows Lovell during the emergency return to Earth, I think. I was just reading(here?) about Poppy Northcutt who was a ‘return to Earth’ specialist at NASA who’s team designed the procedures required to get Lovell and crew back to Earth. Northcutt was a mathematician who later became a lawyer defending women’s rights. I’m not sure why Lovell is portrayed pressuring Houston for a plan, I think contingency plans and trajectories were already worked out for most any emergency.

        1. Good clip.

          I agree, that seems like artist’s licence as is the filmic drama portrayed in the making on Earth of that box for filtering the air. An interesting true unknown that wasn’t planned for was the separation of the Lunar Module prior to Earth re-entry – nobody imagined that thing would have to come back from the Moon to Earth in the manner that it happened! [I think I have that right].

          NASA phoned up a Canadian geezer & gave him a deadline to phone back with an optimum psi figure for the air in the tunnel – that air being the improvised mechanism for pushing the two craft apart just before re-entry. More details here:

          1. And no point putting Canadians in a US ‘Disaster Drama’ since they be cool as cucumbers under pressure [as was everybody in real life in that 13 incident].

        2. That “power on” procedure the crew was waiting on. I found this:

          Once a system had been turned on in the Odyssey, it had to stay on, so “the only variable was how few systems could we turn on and how late could we wait?” he explains.
          “When they got back I realized, ‘Oh my goodness, I built this incredible procedure that had to be executed perfectly, and I handed it off to a crew that hadn’t had any sleep for three days’”

          Aaron had an inspiration. Normally in a spaceship power-up sequence, one of the first things to be turned on is the instrumentation system so that everyone can be sure the rest of the sequence is progressing normally. But for Apollo 13, the instrumentation would be turned on last for a final check of the Odyssey just before re-entry began.

          It was a gutsy move. It required the crew — in particular the command module pilot, Swigert — to perform the entire power-up procedure in the blind. If he made a mistake, by the time the instrumentation was turned on and the error was detected, it could be too late to fix. But, as a good flight controller should, Aaron was confident his sequence was the right thing to do.

          “I still wake up at nights in a cold sweat and wonder about that,” an older and wiser Aaron told Spectrum, “because the one thing I wasn’t conscious of, and I prided myself on being conscious of everything, was the condition of the crew.” Despite the cold, and the fatigue, and the stress, the crew had voiced few complaints. “You couldn’t tell from listening to their voices how bad conditions had got. When they got back I realized, ‘Oh my goodness, I built this incredible procedure that had to be executed perfectly, and I handed it off to a crew that hadn’t had any sleep for three days,’” shudders Aaron, “I’ve thought about that a lot, ever since.”

          But Swigert and the rest of the crew powered up the Odyssey, seemingly effortlessly. “Therein lies the reason we chose test pilots” to be astronauts, says Kraft. “They were used to putting their lives on the line, used to making decisions, used to putting themselves in critical situations. You wanted people who would not panic under those circumstances. These three guys, having been test pilots, were the personification of that theory,” explains Kraft.

          1. I recently watched “First Man on the Moon”, the PBS documentary. They did a riveting bio of Armstrong which showed just how steely these guys could be. You may remember, during testing of the lander here on Earth, the test vehicle went out of control and exploded. As the smoke cleared, Neil could be seen drifting down in his chute. He just went on with his work the same day. It is sad to think that these pilots we know of were some of the survivors. Some military test pilots didn’t have long careers.

  4. Apologies for being off topic, but perhaps of interest here: David Gibson died on 16 November aged 65. It wasn’t much covered by mainstream media. Daniel McGraw, who reported on the Oberlin trial for Legal Insurrection, has a rather sad tribute at Quillette. This, I think, shows the fundamental decency of the man:

    “In September, I asked Gibson why he had agreed to reduce the charges [against the shoplifters from felonies to misdemeanours]. “I’ve done this before and feel the same way as I always have,” he told me. “A felony can follow them further down the road, and I don’t want anyone to have to deal with that because of something stupid they did in college.”

  5. A schoolboy I well remember the London Smogs. Unfortunately the photographs in the video don’t convey the lack of visibility – otherwise no photo. At times you couldn’t see a few yards ahead.

      1. As far as I recall coal smoke, damp and slightly choking. We burned coal at home as did almost everyone else. Chimneys of London and all that.

        1. When I lived in London as a young teen in the early 60s I remember the cuffs and collars of my white blouses getting black after one wearing.

    1. The Clean Air Act of 1956 did for the worst of the smogs, but it took a long time to eliminate them completely. I remember an extraordinary day in Nov or Dec 1962, when I was at school in south London, when the sky turned dark green at about 4pm and the fog descended. We still get the occasional fog (it was pretty dense here in Kent a couple of days ago) but the pea-soupers of the past seem to have stayed there. Not everything was better in the old days!

  6. The emu playing catch is interesting. But I thought they were rather dangerous to be near. That person appeared to be a child.

    1. There are lots of Krampuslaeufe and Perchtenlaeufe in Austria in the week or two leading up to Krampusnacht. We got to two of them last year, in Villach and Klagenfurt. Here are a couple of videos:

      Many towns have their own Krampus groups, and you can rent a few Krampuses (Krampi?) to come to your house and scare the bejeesus out of your kids.

  7. Cool emu! There’s a farm north of us with a ton of these guys (drives our dog crazy) and you can purchase their giant eggs. We were sadly there out of egg season. Because they’re from the southern hemisphere, they seemed to be laying in our winter. I dudpect their cycle might eventually change??

  8. The WaPo heading, Dog Lick Death, is true. A German man recently died of a bacteria in dog saliva he picked up from licking. I once had a mild infection which made my foot itch. My dog licked my foot for a few minutes. The rough tongue felt soothing. Later my foot turned red and I had a headache. Symptoms went away in about 48 hours. So, I would recommend not allowing animals to lick you or small children – even tho dogs and cats licking babies looks cute, it carries a risk.

  9. That video was recorded in Stockholm in November, 1963 for Swedish TV. He died 18 months later.

    Whose Gonna Take Care Of You
    It’s Rainy [or Raining] Outdoors Baby
    Have You Enjoyed My Playing [spoken improv]

    SBW II, voc & harps
    Lennart Nyhlen, guitar
    Sture Nordin, double bass

    Those Swedish boys are doing their best, but they’re on shaky ground here 🙂

    Sonny Boy Williamson II’s name was Alex, Aleck or “Rice” Miller & then Aleck Ford, but he ‘adopted’ the name of another more famous blues man & lied about his own age – adding years to make the claim he was Sonny Boy Williamson before the real Sonny Boy Williamson. These days a “I” & “II” is put after SBW to distinguish them.

    A right character. On his European tours he discovered how London City gents dressed & adopted their uniform with tweaks eg his suit was two tone I believe although I can’t find a colour photo to confirm this – He started to keep his harps in a huge briefcase & sported a brolly at all times [of course].

    It is claimed that he had this to say about Brit blues players of the very early 60s: “those British boys want to play the blues real bad, and they do.” He went on to play with the Yardbirds & The Animals who were doing the Blues a bit better by then, but not The Blues as SBW II understood the term.

  10. Hitch was always complaining about the New York Times’ motto “All the news that’s fit to print”. I think the WaPo has outdone it.

    They started running it immediately after Trump was elected. They still haven’t realised that there’s no need to be so melodramatic and conspiratorial. Democracy in the US is dying in broad daylight.

    1. Years ago I did a post-doc at the University of Florida in Gainesville. There was an independent newspaper in Gainesville called the Alligator. I liked their motto: “All the news that’s fit to print…and then some”.

  11. Note that the tree is an amalgam (supermatrix), still needed to cope with that large a tree. I would not trust it too much – but it is a start.

  12. I’m so glad to see you’ve kept the Morning Rush Hour! The other videos are great as well, but that one’s my favorite!

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