Saturday: Hili dialogue

December 21, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Saturday, December 21, and in the West all creatures are turning home again for the holidays. Today is the Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year, which means it’s also the beginning of Yule. I will be reducing the frequency of posts, and eliminating science posts, over the holidays since few people are reading then. (Of course, my intentions never pan out exactly the way I say.)

It’s National French Fried Shrimp Day (not kosher!), and also many other days, including Anne and Samantha Day, honoring, for some reason, both Anne Frank and Samantha Smith, neither of whom was born or died on this day. Perhaps it’s because they were two famous girls who died too young. Here’s a tweet I emitted this morning (h/t: Matthew):

And that’s not nearly all: it’s Crossword Puzzle Day (I don’t do ’em, but see below), Don’t Make Your Bed Day (I cannot help but do that every morning; it’s a good orderly start to the day!), National Flashlight Day, International Dalek Remembrance Day, National Hamburger Day, National Kiwi Fruit Day (a friend of mine calls them “gorilla balls”—a perfect name), Short Girl Appreciation Day, and National Short Story Day (read Joyce’s The Dead, free online here). I suppose that the “short” bits come because it’s the shortest day of the year. Finally, in São Tomé and Príncipe, it’s São Tomé Day, commemorating the day in 1470 when Portuguese navigators first set foot on São Tomé (this is St. Thomas’s Day, accounting for the nation’s name). It was uninhabited then, but it’s not a good day to celebrate because it wasn’t long before the island became a slave depot and a place where sugar plantations were worked by slaves. Their descendants. Portuguese-speaking black people, still populate the island, where I used to work on flies.

Stuff that happened on December 21 include:

  • 1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • 1879 – World premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • 1913 – Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

Here’s a re-creation of that first crossword puzzle. Aficionados can try their skill:

  • 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the world’s first full-length animated feature, premieres at the Carthay Circle Theatre.

Can you name all the dwarfs? There are two whose names are always forgotten. Go here after you rack your brains and give up.

  • 1967 – Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a human-to-human heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, having lived for 18 days after the transplant.
  • 1988 – A bomb explodes on board Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270. This is to date the deadliest air disaster to occur in British soil.

Those who were born on this day include:

  • 1603 – Roger Williams, English minister, theologian, and politician, 9th President of the Colony of Rhode Island (d. 1684)
  • 1615 – Benedict Arnold, Rhode Island colonial governor (d. 1678)
  • 1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
  • 1866 – Maud Gonne, Irish nationalist and political activist (d. 1953)

Maud Gonne, a feminist, actress, and, famously, the muse of William Butler Yeats, inspired a lot of poetry. Yeats proposed to her at least four times (and later to her daughter!), but was turned down every time. Here she is:

Two geneticists were born on this day in successive years:

  • 1889 – Sewall Wright, American geneticist and biologist (d. 1988)
  • 1890 – Hermann Joseph Muller, American geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)

I made a tweet!:

  • 1917 – Heinrich Böll, German novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1985)
  • 1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress, producer, and activist
  • 1948 – Barry Gordon, American actor and voice artist; longest-serving president of the Screen Actors Guild (1988–95)
  • 1948 – Samuel L. Jackson, American actor and producer
  • 1969 – Julie Delpy, French model, actress, director, and screenwriter

Those who snuffed it on December 21 include:

  • 1937 – Frank B. Kellogg, American lawyer and politician, 45th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
  • 1940 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1896) [A great writer, though he couldn’t spell worth squat.]
  • 1945 – George S. Patton, American general (b. 1885)

Patton, a four-star general, head of the Third Army in World War II, and a brilliant military leader (but a hot-headed one), was famously portrayed by George C. Scott in the eponymous movie. Patton died in 1945, age 60, after a car accident in Germany.  Doesn’t he look formidable?:

He was famous for carrying an ivory-handled revolver, which many mistakenly think was a pearl-handled revolver. Here it is:

Patton was buried in Germany in a military cemetery with soldiers from his Third Army; he wanted to be interred with his men. Here’s his simple grave:

Two more scientists (both of whom nabbed a Nobel) were born on Decembr 21:

  • 1988 – Nikolaas Tinbergen, Dutch-English ethologist and ornithologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1907)
  • 2009 – Edwin G. Krebs, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is bothering Andrzej, who’s trying to write:

A: Have you finished washing yourself?
Hili: Why do you ask?
A: Because you may be more comfortable on the sofa?
Hili: I don’t think so.
In Polish:
Ja: Umyłaś się już?
Hili: Dlaczego pytasz?
Ja: Bo może na sofie byłoby ci wygodniej?
Hili: Nie sądzę.

From Cats on Catnip:From Merilee, who calls this “Truckers’ Paradise”:

A cartoon drawn and sent in by reader Dom:

Two tweets from reader Barry. He says about this first one, “I don’t know what this is or what it’s for, but it’s pretty cool.” Any guesses? (I have no idea.)

And another one with a comment: “You’re not a dog person, but this is funny: ‘You will feed me and you will feed me now.’ Notice a little detail: The dog really slams or flings down the food bowl. He doesn’t drop it.”

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. The first one I dub “Lounge lizards”:

Poor baby polar bear!

And a quartet of tweets from Matthew. The first is, as usual, the morning rush hour at Marsh Farm, but today features donkeys:

Matthew sent this to me saying, “The future beckons.” Of course he means my future!

I’ll be interested in seeing if this meets my criteria for “a new species”:

Finally, a weevil with strong sexual dimorphism. Would you care to guess which one is the male?


30 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

    1. It’s from the back of Dommy’s hand-drawn Yule (not Xmas!) card. He doesn’t have internet access at home and is on vacation until the New Year (“Nude Year” as he insists on calling it) but he’ll be delighted by your comment so I’ll drop him a text.

        1. Yes he certainly is. There are runic curses buried in the walls of St Paul’s Cathedral from Dommy’s days working there as a stone mason.

  1. Benedict Arnold had a couple of decendants that turned out not so good, the Benedict Arnold of the revolution is one but the other Steven Douglas of the Lincoln/Douglas debates is another. Douglas help us get to the civil war as well as anyone.

    1. Stephen A. Douglas was a much more complicated figure than you depict him. Yes, he was a virulent racist, had no moral qualms about slavery, and spent much of his career trying to curry favor with the southern planter class. Yet, he was also a unionist. This is why in the 1860 election he ran as a northern Democrat in opposition to the southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Douglas opposed the demand of the southern Democrats that Congress enact a slave code for the federal territories, meaning that the federal government would protect slavery in the territories. For more than half a decade, Douglas was touting the notion of “popular sovereignty” for the territories in which the people in them would decide whether or not slavery would be allowed in them. For many reasons, Lincoln and the Republicans derided the idea of popular sovereignty. So, in 1860, Douglas was detested by both the South and much of the North and he did very poorly.

      Douglas died soon after the start of the Civil War. But, before that he supported Lincoln’s effort to suppress the rebellion. So, Douglas was a major figure in American politics in the decade preceding the war. But, I would not go so far as to say he can be pinned for inciting the Civil War.

      1. Well, you admit he was very much a pusher of popular sovereignty. Let the states decide. That was not going to fly in the north or the south. Was he also not a prime factor in the Kansas/Nebraska Act. Many historians might say that was one of the major factors leading to the civil war. It destroyed the compromise of 1850. His was an effort to appease the south and South Carolina was not in the mood. Let’s see, who started the war?

        1. Yes, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (arguably the most consequential legislation ever passed into law), with Douglas being its prime advocate, was beyond a doubt a major factor in the increasing rift between the sections. So, in this sense, Douglas’ unwitting actions pushed the nation to Civil War. But, Douglas the man did not intend this. He thought, quite mistakenly, that his policies would prevent division.

          Stephen Douglas was not a traitor such as Benedict Arnold or the secessionists. He was just a very influential politician who did not understand what was happening in the nation.

          1. Yes, a traitor he was not. But Douglas did have his part in the lead to Civil War and that is all that I said. Good intentions does not always go so well and good intentions can end very badly. I was thinking of a few recent wars with this idea.

  2. Patton was riding in a 1939 Series 75 Cadillac – note those horns!! on a pleasure trip, contemplating retirement and about to leave Germany when his fatal accident occurred, which resulted in a broken neck. Everyone thinks of him as tough as nails, and I don’t think anyone doubts that, but his final days illustrate just how tough he was. In traction in a hospital, the Crutchfield tongs used to position his head kept slipping so “large caliber” fish hooks were inserted below his cheekbones! (cf. pp 35)

    (The Cadillac was restored and is or at least was on display in a museum at Ft Knox.)


    Edwin Krebs’ Nobel shared with Ed Fischer was for discovery of the enormously important regulatory process of protein phosphorylation. His short autobiography in Annual Review of Biochemistry specifically mentions having grown up in a town with a Carnegie Library, which I’ve cited many times in illustration of their historical significance.

    1. Patton was taken to the Nachrichten Kaserne in Heidelberg, Germany for treatment. I had knee surgery in the room. The physician and I talked about Patton’s fish hook treatment and both agreed that it must have been worse than the pain from his broken neck.

      Patton is not buried in Germany, rather in Luxembourg.

    2. I doubt that the fish hooks were especially painful, except during insertion. I was in the hospital with a young fellow who had a traction pin through his arm. It looked terrible, but he said it didn’t bother him. I think the tissues stop sending pain signals once the wound is stable.

  3. I am told it’s better not to make up your bed because then you’ve got less mites between the sheets. They hate light.

    1. Oh thank you, where were you for the last 60 years of my life! I’ve always been looking for a reason why it is better not to make up a bed (because I never do).

  4. I’m not sure those weevils are sexually dimorphic – a translation of the caption says:
    “Euscelus scutellatus on the left.
    On the right, a female looking like E. guirensis.
    Both species are rarities … There are weird leaf-rolling weevils in the world.”

  5. 1940 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1896) [A great writer, though he couldn’t spell worth squat.]

    So do you think F. Scott meant to use the rare word “orgastic” in the penultimate paragraph of Gatsby, or was it the result of a misspelling?

      1. I take it you have a wry sense of humor, too, so spelled it like the grain that gives us fine whiskey and bread. 🙂

      2. Someone, somewhere needs to make up a recipe for a beer brewed from rye and spelt (an archaic breed of wheat, vintage neolithic to bronze age).

  6. I actually remembered the names of all the Seven Dwarfs! Maybe I’m not deteriorating as much as I thought.

    A little anecdote: former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is famously short. Back in 2010, it is said, Simon Burns MP backed his car into the Speaker’s official vehicle. Bercow stormed out of his apartment shouting, “I’m not happy!” to which Mr Burns allegedly responded: “Well, which one are you?”

  7. International Dalek Remembrance Day? Who makes up these things? Well, apart from the good doctor, obviously. In this case.
    From, “Dalek Remembrance Day is a recognition of the first time that the Daleks appeared on Doctor Who in 1963”
    If I had a sink plunger, I’d prowl town carrying it, just to be able to tell them why. That should get me a trip to the Funny Farm, if nothing else.

  8. I’ll be interested in seeing if this meets my criteria for “a new species”:

    My god, ANOTHER new primate species in the Amazon, that’s the third of 2019

    (Can WP handle nested blockquotes?) My first though was that the description matched the tepui country of the Guyana-Venuzuela-Brazil border region (many people know the Angel Falls, tallest waterfall in the world, from this region ; see also the inspiration for Conan-Doyle’s “Lost World”). But it’s not there, it’s pretty much the opposite corner of Brazil. The satellite imagery is a grim patchwork of blocks of stripped forest and slivers of remaining forest.
    The paper is unsubtle : “Type locality: The Rondon II hydroelectric dam on the middle Rio Comemoração,”
    I think the source paper is at (Gusmão & 14 others. 2019. A New Species of Titi Monkey, Plecturocebus Byrne et al., 2016 (Primates, Pitheciidae), from Southwestern Amazonia, Brazil. Primate Conservation. 33; S. 1–15.). Part of the abstract states that “A phylogenetic analysis of the new species revealed a monophyletic clade with the four geographically closest species, and four scenarios of species delimitation indicated that speciation was recent. The geographic distribution of the new species is still poorly defined.” Data examined included cranial measurements (23 characters), “molecular analyses were based on 26 samples of blood and muscle tissue preserved in alcohol”, and 10 characters of pigmentation pattern.
    The cranial measurements were equivocal about being distinguishable (small sample size). The pigmentation likewise. The molecular data gives this as a new species with 99% probability. If the sequence data has been put into a public database somewhere, I can’t see a reference in the paper. Is that normal?

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