Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Wednesday, January 29, 2020, with only two more days left in this wretched month. It’s National Corn Chip Day, and the first ones made, Fritos, have been with us for nearly a century. One of the dishes I’d much like to try is Frito Pie, preferably served in the bag. A culinary product of the American Southwest, it was even tried and approved by Anthony Bourdain! (The video below shows what a Frito Pie is.)

And there are two holidays to celebrate for me: Curmudgeon’s Day and Freethinkers Day,  celebrating the birth of Thomas Paine in 1737 (see below).

News of the day: Reader Bruce Lyon and a colleague have a new paper published in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. describing their research on why the chicks of the American coot are so colorful (see his latest pictures here, including one of a coot chick). And he got the cover of the journal!  Click on the link above to see their explanation for this weird coloration. He’s described this research in four “readers’ wildlife posts” (see here).

Stuff that happened on January 29 includes:

  • 1834 – US President Andrew Jackson orders first use of federal soldiers to suppress a labor dispute.
  • 1845 – “The Raven” is published in The Evening Mirror in New York, the first publication with the name of the author, Edgar Allan Poe.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz patents the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
  • 1891 – Liliuokalani is proclaimed the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Here is Hawaii’s only queen. She ruled for only two years until she was deposed in 1893 with the advent of the Republic of Hawai’i:

  • 1936 – The first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced.

Can you name them? They were Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner: a formidable batch!

Ahh. . . I remember those days. Here’s the poster for that event, created by Harvey Cohen. If you weren’t alive when all of us youngsters thought we’d change the worlds with music and drugs (it didn’t work), I pity you:

  • 1980 – The Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut at the Ideal Toy Corp. in Earl’s Court, London.
  • 2002 – In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush describes “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of evil, in which he includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
  • 2009 – Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich is removed from office following his conviction of several corruption charges, including the alleged solicitation of personal benefit in exchange for an appointment to the United States Senate as a replacement for then-U.S. president-elect Barack Obama.

Those who found quietus on January 29 include:

  • 1888 – Edward Lear, English poet and illustrator (b. 1812)
  • 1899 – Alfred Sisley, French-English painter (b. 1839)
  • 1934 – Fritz Haber, Polish-German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
  • 1956 – H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic (b. 1880)
  • 1962 – Fritz Kreisler, Austrian-American violinist and composer (b. 1875)
  • 1963 – Robert Frost, American poet and playwright (b. 1874)
  • 1980 – Jimmy Durante, American entertainer (b. 1893)
  • 2015 – Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter and poet (b. 1933)

Here’s Sisley’s drawing, “The Cat”, from 1870:

And did you know that Lear, besides being an author and poet, was also a painter. Here’s his “Masada on the Dead Sea” from 1858:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is puzzling over physics:

Hili: Although string theory is mathematically coherent, I still don’t understand it.
A: I’m afraid you are not alone.
In Polish:
Hili: Aczkolwiek teoria strun jest matematycznie spójna, ja jej nadal nie rozumiem.
Ja: Obawiam się, że nie jesteś w tym osamotniona.

From Cole and Marmalade:

Also seen on Facebook. It’s a good one:

From Jesus of the Day:

Titania highlights (and comments on) the most ridiculous “advice” question I’ve ever seen:

I haven’t read this paper yet, but I’ve printed it out for reading. It bears on innate sex differences in behavior (toy preference), and this difference is apparently shown by other primates as well:

Also from Steve Stewart-Williams—artistry with chocolate: a confectionary birdcage!


Reader Barry was intrigued by a strange Japanese species, one that Maru used to be obsessed with. Yes, raccoon dogs are in the family Canidae, not in the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoons. The resemblance is an example of evolutionary convergence.

Tweets sent by Matthew. There’s some cognitive dissonance in this one:

Wombats are among the world’s cutest mammals. Here’s a baby exploring outside its den for the first time:

I’ve shown this sign before, but perhaps the goose has returned. I love the humor of those who make the Underground announcements:

OMG! I’m flummoxed! Make sure the sound is up! I thought koalas would make a cute noise, not a noise like a cat vomiting a hairball:


29 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

    1. That’s tragic! He almost succeeds. Yet more evidence that G*d (or maybe Nature) is cruel and malicious.


    1. Lear has a similar artistic niche as James Audubon. Audubon published Birds of America beginning in 1827. Lear published parrots images in 1846.

  1. Fuckin’ Bourdain. I miss that guy.

    I’d try a Frito pie, given the opportunity. Still would never chance the seafood omelet at a Sunday brunch, though.

      1. Yep. Restaurants — particularly the New York spots where Bourdain worked the line — generally get their fish deliveries on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Mondays, they’re still selling whatever they couldn’t pawn off on the suckers who ordered the seafood omelet at Sunday brunch.

        Chef Tony never had an encouraging word to say about Sunday brunches.

        1. Yes, Kitchen Confidential was an eye opener when it comes to NYC’s restaurant scene (and I extrapolated his observations to restaurants everywhere). That bit about the likelihood of human blood being in your food made me cringe.

  2. Frito pie – I want to meet the genius who dared to push that envelope.. or, as it were, foil pouch…

    I think I can taste it already…, and my viscera are reaching out for it…

    1. The “five and dime” on Santa Fe plaza was once a Woolworth’s, and it was there that the New Mexico Frito pie was born and enjoyed for many, many years. When Woolworth’s closed it was feared that the era of the original Frito pie was over, but the new store wisely kept it.

      Bourdain is wrong. They do not use Hormel chili, which is an abomination. The chile is made from scratch, and there is a video on youtube to prove this. I don’t know any other place that makes the Frito pie in the actual Frito bag. You can find Frito pies in most New Mexican restaurants. Most places garnish it with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and onion, and give you an option of red or green chile, but any real New Mexican will tell you that if it is not made with red chile, it is not a true Frito pie.

  3. Can we call a spade a spade? The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of US business interests who wanted Hawaii to be a part of the US. Another wonderful chapter in US history that is generally kept swept under the rug. But let’s Make America Great Again, no?

    1. I didn’t say otherwise; I guess you’re grumpy because I failed to recount all the perfidies of American history.

      Take some Pepto Bismol and chill. Nobody’s touting Trump around here.


  4. Paper on the coot chick mystery: “Coots lay eggs in each other’s nests, but brood parasitic chicks were less colorful than host chicks, suggesting ornaments are not used to dupe hosts into feeding them more. Instead, chicks from later eggs were redder, and redder chicks were more likely to be chosen as the favored chicks that parents pamper. Chick coloration allows parents to invest in the chicks that most benefit from parental food.” Also parasitic chicks are laid earlier, so generally less colorful.

    Nice work and interesting!

  5. I want that baby wombat! Well, not really, but it’s so damn cute…

    The chocolate birdcage was something else…what to do with it afterwards though? Maybe after painting it can keep indefinitely in a temperature controlled space.

  6. Maybe the joke is that a large boulder and a small boulder are the same thing, because all boulders are large, even the small ones.

    1. I’d say that ‘large’ boulder is less dangerous than a ‘small’ one of maybe a foot in height which you might not see in time to safely avoid but which could still take out your steering and/or sump…


    1. Yeah, I was wondering what that Koalas voice reminded me of, and it wasn’t near to cats and vomiting and such. Yes. Heavy metal vocalists…Meshugah and some of them Northern Europeans figure in the mix.

  7. Apologies if this shows up twice. I tried posting it and nothing happened so I’m going to give it one more shot.

    On gender differences:

    I was in a colleague’s lab last week (they study mouse pain/behavior) and he was watching video of some mice, monitoring their behavior after some procedure had been done on them. I asked if it was the case that the mice behave differently if someone is in the room with them versus watching them on video, and he told me something that I’d never heard before: mice display differing pain tolerances when a man is in the room observing them than they do when a woman, or no one is observing them.

    He told me about this professor named Jeff Mogil who did this study that showed that men simply being in the room with mice caused them to be less sensitive to pain than they were with women in the room. It apparently had been something that people had been whispering about at meetings for years but no one had ever done a systematic study about it until Mogil. It has nothing to do with the way the animals are treated by the men vs. women either, it’s something to do with scent because they found that if you took a shirt that had been worn by a man the day prior and put it in the room, the mice exhibited the same resistance to pain as if the man was actually in the room, and female mice exhibited this to a greater degree than male mice did. They attribute the tolerance to a stress response in the mice.

    It was published in Nature Methods some years ago [Nature Methods. 11:629–32(2014)].

    I know it’s only peripherally related to the gender behavioral experiment discussed above but I thought it was interesting and wanted to share it.

    1. Fascinating. I’ll be sure to keep my shirts clean. No need to cause undue stress. 😎

      I wonder if they did some detailed study to determine whether a particular masculine hormone or other scent was responsible.

  8. Here is a very timely quote from H.L. Mencken. From 1928.
    “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron”

    1. That’s a botched quote that’s been debunked here before. Check Wikiquote. Ion particular, it is retooled to sound like its for you know who.

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