Friday: Hili dialogue

January 31, 2020 • 6:45 am

Good morning! It’s January 31st, 2020, and we’ve reached the end of January at last, although this morning we had a light dusting of snow in Chicago. Every Chicagoan is glad to see this month go: although we haven’t had a lot of snow, it’s been unremittingly gray and overcast most of the time. That’s why it’s good that it’s Hot Chocolate Day.

It’s also Brandy Alexander Day (not as good as plain hot chocolate), Eat Brussels Sprouts Day (nope; never had one I liked, no matter how it was cooked), Appreciate Your Social Security Check Day (I do!), National Fun at Work Day, Scotch Tape Day (this useful product was first marketed on January 31, 1930), and Inspire your Heart with Art Day. Here’s some inspirational art:

Stuff that happened on January 31 include:

  • 1606 – Gunpowder Plot: Four of the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, are executed for treason by hanging, drawing and quartering, for plotting against Parliament and King James.[4]
  • 1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief.
  • 1915 – World War I: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.
  • 1930 – 3M begins marketing Scotch Tape.

It was invented to enable car painters to give their cars a two-tone paint job without sloppy edges (you can read about the history of this beloved tape here, and how the name originated—as a national slur). Here’s the first edition of the tape:


  • 1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War. [JAC: And the last.]

Here’s a dramatic scene of the execution, based on Slovik’s story from the 1963 movie “The Victors” (trigger warning: firing squad). Sinatra sings a Christmas song during the scene. You may recognize some of the stars (the movie had an all-star cast).

  • 1949 – These Are My Children, the first television daytime soap opera, is broadcast by the NBC station in Chicago.
  • 1961 – Project Mercury: Mercury-Redstone 2: Ham the Chimp travels into outer space.
  • 2001 – In the Netherlands, a Scottish court convicts Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and acquits another Libyan citizen for their part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
  • 2018 – Both a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse occur

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Franz Schubert, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1828)
  • 1835 – Lunalilo of Hawaii (d. 1874)
  • 1892 – Eddie Cantor, American singer-songwriter, actor, and dancer (d. 1964)
  • 1902 – Tallulah Bankhead, American actress (d. 1968)
  • 1931 – Ernie Banks, American baseball player and coach (d. 2015)
  • 1937 – Philip Glass, American composer
  • 1970 – Minnie Driver, English singer-songwriter and actress [Driver (Remember her from “Good Will Hunting” is 50 today]
  • 1981 – Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor

Those who shuffled off the mortal coil on January 31 include:

  • 1606 – Guy Fawkes, English conspirator, leader of the Gunpowder Plot (b. 1570)
  • 1933 – John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1867)
  • 1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882)

  • 1969 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (b. 1894)

  • 1974 – Samuel Goldwyn, Polish-American film producer, co-founded Goldwyn Pictures (b. 1882) [JAC: real name was Szmuel Gelbfisz, meaning “Samuel Goldfish” in Yiddish]
  • 2007 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (b. 1944)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili managed to get inside the wardrobe, which is normally closed:

Hili: This place should always be accessible.
Andrzej: I have a dissenting opinion in this matter.
In Polish:
Hili: To miejsce powinno być zawsze dostępne.
Ja: Mam w tej kwestii zdanie odrębne.

From the increasingly famous Dover Public Library site:

A cartoon from The New Yorker (h/t: Ginger). The cat is speaking:

“It seems to distract her from the impeachment trial”

An excellent meme from Pinterest:


Apparently you can be arrested upon returning home if you “represent Iran” overseas but aren’t wearing your hijab. The tweeter, Natasha Fatah, is a Canadian journalist for the CBC.

From reader Barry: Bastet bookends!

Tweets from Matthew. But first, he sent me links to new data showing that Neandertals migrated back to Africa and hybridized with African populations (Guardian report here, Cell paper here).  Matthew then sent this new and accurate phylogenetic diagram of human evolution:


The law that the Trump admin is ditching penalizes companies for killing birds if it’s a byproduct of their activities:

Matthew’s upcoming book made it to the list of Best Free Will Books of All Time, even though he says virtually nothing about free will in that book (as he says, “I assiduously avoided the topic”). But it’s an excellent book and I recommend it.

This is amazing: Jurassic predation—a pterosaur (flying reptile) tried to catch a squid  and failed, leaving a tooth in the squid fossil:

Yes, young caecilians really do eat their mother’s skin. (It’s like mother’s milk, but in legless amphibians, which is what these are).

Finally, this scary video, showing the spread of a fire in Australia, is in real time!

41 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Eat Brussels Sprouts Day (nope; never had one I liked, no matter how it was cooked).

    I was never that crazy about Brussels sprouts myself, either — until my bestie, a teaching chef at a culinary school, sautéed me some in duck fat. I’d gladly polish off a heaping platter of those bad boys every day of the week.

    1. Dry-roasted with olive oil and spices. Divine. Even hard core sprout-haters like mine. (“They are almost like potato chips!” which is a high compliment in my book.)

    2. Sliced into quarters or so, stir fried with ginger, garlic, another leafy vegetable, small amount of onion, chili flakes, soy sauce and a protein source. (I would use scallops, but tofu or salmon also are nice.) Serve with chow mein or rice.

  2. “ If you were spending the weekend with your grandmother and were often the chance to take her to either a Greek symposium or a Roman orgy, probably the best one would be the orgy. Orgies were not sexual in Roman times. They were mainly huge, showy feasts. The orgy also provided entertainment for the whole family. Caligula at the time was more famous for having orgies which featured solid gold food and fish that was bright blue so it looked like it was still in the sea. Symposia tended to be wilder.”


    1. Symposia from what I was told were basically drinking parties. To the point that we wrote “welcome to the symposium” on the room we used for philosophy students association wine and cheeses when I was an undergraduate

  3. Not mentioned above but this is the last day that the UK is in the EU (for a while, at least). As somebody said on Twitter, the UK has made history as being the only country to impose sanctions on itself.

  4. Eisenhower could’ve called off the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik with just a word. Instead, he let the dumb little scared bohunk get offed as a lesson to the others. Slovik’s blood is on Ike’s hands — as is the blood of Ethel Rosenberg, whose execution Eisenhower also had the power and opportunity to prevent, this time as president.

    It would’ve served as a condign conclusion to Eisenhower’s presidency if he spent his last days roaming the halls of the White House residence, as Lady Macbeth did Inverness, struggling to wipe that blood away. Not to mention his crime against humanity of giving Richard Milhous Nixon his start in national politics.

    Whew, feels good to get THAT off my chest. 🙂

    1. Had Trump been president back then instead of Trumam it is likely he would have stepped in and saved Slovik. If only we’d had a Monarchy as we do now…..

      1. Trump prefers to pardon war criminals, like that other Eddie, Gallagher.

        A deserter like Slovik, Trump doubtless would’ve put on a big tough-guy show of presiding over his execution personally — as long as Cadet Bonespurs didn’t have to venture into a combat zone or see any blood himself.

        Didn’t Trump complain that Bowe Bergdahl should’ve faced a firing squad?

        1. Recent history does not agree. Trump loves to step in where he is not wanted, especially with the military. Look no further than Eddie Gallagher, certainly guilty of much more than Slovik ever dreamed of.

    2. Actually, Nixon was involved in national politics before Ike picked him for Veep in 1952 as a representative then a senator from California. I just did a little research and discovered that in 1950 he defeated his Democratic opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, by a landslide (59.23% to 40.76%). He may have been tricky, but he did know how to get votes. His being an arch anti-communist in those days was a political winner and it is not surprising that Ike picked him.

      1. Oh, I’m well aware of Dick Nixon’s tawdry political history. He got his start running a dirty campaign for congress against Jerry Voorhis. Got his first taste of the national spotlight as the hatchet man for HUAC, going after Alger Hiss. He then clawed his way into the senate by smearing Helen Gahagan Douglas (wife of actor Melvyn), claiming she was “pink” right down to her panties.

        I was referring above specifically to Eisenhower’s giving the then-40-year-old Nixon the second spot on the national ticket — and to his keeping him there, when Nixon’s California slush fund was exposed, following Nixon’s maudlin “Checker’s speech” on national teevee.

        For good or ill, I’ve got a minor obsession with Dick Nixon and his multifarious misdeeds. He fouled the air of the American Dream for three generations. Now it’s left to see whether Donald Trump will finish it off for good.

        1. Trump is worse than Nixon and who would have thought that was possible? At least Nixon did not block his aides from testifying to the Senate Watergate committee and he did turn over the tapes. Nixon did not have a zombie cult and at least some in his party were willing to go against him. Democracy is much more threatened now than under Nixon.

          1. An interesting difference between the two is that Nixon was very smart and applied himself cravenly to a life of criminal politics. He plotted and schemed through the complex maze of Republican politics oblivious to scruples of any sort. tRump, on the other hand, is a total narcissistic fool who has no ideology whatsoever – who uses only base instinct and years of experience as a petty con artist to stumble into the biggest and best job he could find. Nixon was aware of his criminality while tRump is too dim to fully realize it.

          2. Trump makes Nixon seem like a statesman, practically Pericles in the golden age of Athens.

            Nixon at least had a base level of competency concerning governmental affairs and an interest in policy, particularly foreign policy. He also understood the role of institutions and norms in our American Republic (even as he was not above subverting them to his own end). At least with Nixon we never had to worry that he had divided loyalties, as we do with Trump, to his own economic interests, at the very least, and quite possibly to the interests of foreign despots as well.

            These are the darkest days for American democracy in our lifetimes.

  5. I’ve seen The Victors several times, although not for at least twenty years. I don’t remember the execution scene. I wonder if they cut that for TV broadcast? Sometimes IMDB makes note of things like that, but in this case they are no help.

  6. I have to admit, I find myself evaluating films (The Victors) for errors. Here I notices several things wrnog. The biggest was the sound of howling wind near the climax, which added drama, but there was no visible evidence of wind in any of the shots.

  7. The Dunmore RFS bushfire video – more info:

    100% volunteer Rural Fire Service, Dunmore, NSW, Australia

    We are watching the dashcam of the fire truck & crew who remained at the scene to protect a property to the left from the right-to-left moving burning embers that skipped over the road. Keeping the truck in place as a fire front whips in & through & out [assumes not too much undergrowth at the truck location] – is a survival drill called “burnover” which you can see in this demo video at CFA HQ, Burwood East, VIC, Australia:

    The Dunmore crew enacted a kind of burnover drill – protecting the truck, but the crew largely remained out in the open during the passage of the fire front according to this NEWSPAPER REPORT [edited – shortened & tamed of journo-speak]

    Within three minutes, day turned to night as winds of 100km/h lashed the area, embers rained down and the Currowan inferno passed over a Dunmore Rural Fire Service crew. As they were overrun with the fire front, the captain knew he had three jobs to do: save the Tomerong property, protect the truck but most importantly keep his crew safe.

    Dunmore brigade captain Greg Hardy has released dashcam footage of the truck being hit with fire while the crew was doing property protection along Turpentine Road on January 4th. The crew were receiving a supply of drinking water from another RFS truck when a southerly wind change arrived 10 minutes earlier than forecast. Mr Hardy said the the first sign of fire was 100-metres away and only one-metre tall. The other truck left.

    “We were covered with smoke by 7pm and less than a minute later there was an extreme ember attack and multiple spot fires, then we were overrun by the fire. Flames were more than 50 metres high. We were out of the truck defending the house with a hose line. We couldn’t even see the house – we didn’t know whether it was alight”

    Mr Hardy said a crew member jumped into the truck to turn on the cabin spray to protect the vehicle from embers.

    “I was running around hitting the truck with water while another crew member used a small hose line to douse the rest of the truck to keep it safe, the fire was moving north [to the left] rapidly. We turned the spray off because we didn’t want to lose all our water. We did that another two times – it was crazy and full on.”

    Mr Hardy said visibility was so poor that they could only see five or eight metres in front of them.

    “We knew where the house was, so we were pointing the hose towards it. We kept using the hoses to wet ourselves and the truck. Under the 50-metre flame height, with a southerly, the heat was massive and extreme, our adrenaline was high and because we were doing our jobs we forgot about it, but it was bloody hot in our gear and helmets. Continually hosing ourselves helped.”

    Mr Hardy said after the main fire front had passed, the crew had to quickly fill the truck with water from a neighbouring property’s dam and got back to the house as there was still a major risk of it catching alight from embers. Mr Hardy said the house was saved but some of the garden was burnt. The crew continued to patrol the area into the night to make sure no spot fires ignited.

    At one point, Mr Hardy told two of his crew members to go inside as they were starting to cough. They got into the truck to have a breather but within 30 seconds they were back out helping. “I expected them to stay in longer but they wanted to be involved, help and make sure everyone else was safe”

    Mr Greg Hardy: “Another captain may have gone into an emergency drill and stayed in the truck but I knew I had a good, experienced crew, I had faith in them and I knew we would get through it”


      1. What impressed me especially is one of the volunteer firefighters who ‘ran’ to the left & stayed at the scene hosing the house & truck down, obviously had a shot hip [or both hips] – not as fit as pro Brit firefighters obviously.

        These volunteer firefighters protecting property belonging to a neighbour [all they can do – they can’t do more] really are the cream. I’d like to go visit & see what I could do about setting up a permanent bar tab [while having a sip myself – might have to stay months].

        I noticed they were on Turpentine Road – I assume that’s because turpentine trees thereabouts – I assume those must burn enthusiastically in a drought.

        1. You might want to see what you could do about establishing your own bar and incorporating turpentine into drinks. I know juniper supplies the essence of any good martini. Nothing could be more appropriate for toasting the heroes in the department.

    1. Thanks for the added information. That burnover video is the sort of thing that anyone spending time in the backcountry should see.
      Last yer, I started carrying a fire shelter in my pack whenever I am up in the mountains.

      Also, anyone who has not read “Young Men and Fire” should do so.

      All of the wildland firefighters deserve our utmost respect.

    1. BookAuthority [BA] is a robot App bullshit site with an impressive name.

      BA “…identifies and rates the best books in the world, based on public mentions, recommendations, ratings and sentiment” & is an “Amazon associate” – thus they make money by linking to non-fiction books on Amazon & they will get a kickback from Amazon for each sale going through their link.

      Matt’s book appears on the BA 44 Best Free Will Books of All Time list because Dr. David Rutherford [Brit geneticist, author, and broadcaster] recommended it somewhere [maybe Twitter] & the BA algorithm picked that up & plugged the book into their Free Will list. BUT BA isn’t touting it “as a case for Free Will” as their list has a range of views represented & BA doesn’t appear to be very picky about accuracy. I would expect that any non-fiction book with “Brain” in the title, or other trigger terms, recommended by a ‘trusted source’ will get listed.

      HERE IS THAT FREE WILL LIST at BA & at the bottom is further recommendations for reading & I notice one of them is My Grain & Brain Cookbook

      I suppose that it’s robot bot app that started off quite recently by scraping many sites for the book recommendations made by celebs, business leaders, scientists etc & amalgamating the data into these lists. I tried to join BA [to probe the inner workings], but the only way seems to be via facebook – so maybe fb pays them for sign ups too! A waste-of-time, not very smart site.

  8. new data showing that Neandertals migrated back to Africa and hybridized with African populations (Guardian report here, Cell paper here).

    Late to the party, but the paper hypothesis is that early migrations (such as the one to Israel > 100 ka) flowed African alleles into Neanderthals, and later migrations of humans flowed Neanderthal alleles back into Africa. A new admixture software can discern that without having to assume sub-Saharan Africa is without much Neanderthal alleles.

    But the figure is morally (in)correct. And incidentally, and consistently, one of the paper’s references has more evidence for Erectus (likely) flow into Denisovans and that way into extant Asians.

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