Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 5, 2020 • 7:00 am

It’s a Hump Day: Wednesday, February 5, 2020. It was a cold and windy day in Chicago yesterday, though a mallard drake and two hens landed in the pond for a few hours and had a nap. Tomorrow we may get several inches of snow—enough to require plowing. But we’re tough in the Midwest, and it takes a lot of snow to disrupt us. See?:

It’s National Frozen Yogurt Day, National Chocolate Fondue Day, and World Nutella Day. About a year ago, having never tasted the stuff, I bought a jar of Nutella. I finished it, but didn’t become a big fan: the stuff was simply too cloying. I still don’t understand why it’s so popular around the world.

On the non-food front, it’s California Western Monarch Day, roughly marking the time when Monarch butterflies arrive en masse to roost and mate in trees along California’s central coast, National Shower with a Friend Day, and National Girls and Women in Sport Day.

Many Monarchs overwinter in Pacific Grove California, designated an official Monarch Sanctuary. Here’s how they cluster. After they mate, they leave in March for their migration, one of the marvels of nature.

News of the Day:   Not being able to listen to Trump any more, I didn’t watch last night’s State of the Union address. Apparently Trump didn’t mention impeachment, which is what I expected. CNN gives this headline to its report on the speech: “Donald Trump’s theatrical State of the Union prompts partisan outrage.” Their report included this, which is very sad:

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — with whom Trump hasn’t spoken in months — extended her hand to greet the President, he turned away and left her hanging. She smiled broadly as she glanced toward her Democratic caucus and shrugged.
As the speech wore on, Democratic members of Congress sat mostly silent even as their Republican colleagues stood and cheered. Some even rose to walk out at various intervals. And when the President concluded, Pelosi could be seen on camera stoically ripping up the pages on which Trump’s speech was printed.
We are terminally polarized.

The New York Times fact-checked Trump’s claims, finding the major ones false, misleading, or lacking context. They also checked two claims of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her Democratic response, finding them exaggerated or lacking context.

Finally, here are the latest results of the Iowa caucus from the New York Times, reaffirming the earlier ones. Let us on the Left hope that one of these candidates (or Bloomberg) can beat Trump in nine months. (Election Day is November 3).

Stuff that happened on February 5 include:

This did considerable damage to the city, and to Herculaneum, but the Big One—the eruption of Vesuvius—didn’t take place until 17 years later.

  • 1852 – The New Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, opens to the public.
  • 1869 – The largest alluvial gold nugget in history, called the “Welcome Stranger“, is found in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia.

The original is gone, and there are no photographs, but here’s a reproduction based on a drawing (to scale) at the time. However, this guy wouldn’t have been able to lift it like this, as it weighed 214 pounds (see below)

Photo: Rachel Buckley

And some information from Wikipedia:

The Welcome Stranger is the biggest alluvial gold nugget found, which had a calculated refined weight of 97.14 kilograms (3,123 ozt). It measured 61 by 31 cm (24 by 12 in) and was discovered by prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates on 5 February 1869 at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia. . . Deason, Oates, and a few friends took the nugget to the London Chartered Bank of Australia, in Dunolly, which advanced them £9,000. Deason and Oates were finally paid an estimated £9,381 for their nugget, which became known as the “Welcome Stranger”. At August 2019 gold prices, it would be worth US$3.4 million [2.3 million GBP]. [JAC: See more here.] 

  • 1885 – King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo as a personal possession.
  • 1907 – Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland announces the creation of Bakelite, the world’s first synthetic plastic.
  • 1919 – Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith launch United Artists.
  • 1924 – The Royal Greenwich Observatory begins broadcasting the hourly time signals known as the Greenwich Time Signal.
  • 1939 – Generalísimo Francisco Franco becomes the 68th “Caudillo de España“, or Leader of Spain. [Note: He’s still dead.]
  • 1945 – World War II: General Douglas MacArthur returns to Manila.
  • 1958 – A hydrogen bomb known as the Tybee Bomb is lost by the US Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, never to be recovered.
  • 1971 – Astronauts land on the moon in the Apollo 14 mission.

Very few births and deaths of famous people occurred on February 5. Notables born on this day include:

  • 1788 – Robert Peel, English lieutenant and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1850)
  • 1900 – Adlai Stevenson II, American soldier, politician, and diplomat, 5th United States Ambassador to the United Nations (d. 1965)
  • 1914 – William S. Burroughs, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (d. 1997)
  • 1934 – Hank Aaron, American baseball player
  • 1944 – Al Kooper, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1946 – Charlotte Rampling, English actress

Notables who met their demise on February 5 were few, and include:

  • 1972 – Marianne Moore, American poet, author, critic, and translator (b. 1887)
  • 1999 – Wassily Leontief, Russian-American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is thinking about evolution. (Malgorzata assures me that Hili thinks humans are beautiful, but not as beautiful as cats.)

Hili: Is it true that we had common ancestors?
A: Yes.
Hili: They must’ve been beautiful.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy to prawda, że mamy wspólnych przodków?
Ja: Tak.
Hili: Musieli być bardzo piękni.

And look! Here’s one of Matthew’s three cats. This one’s Ollie, who bit me in the nose, drawing copious amounts of blood, when I visited Matthew in Manchester (the other two are named Harry and Pepper). I was trying to nuzzle Ollie at the time, but Matthew says I was “looming”. He adds that Ollie is a bit dim, but I think he’s cute, even if he did tear my nose to shreds.

From reader Divy (who owns two cats, a d*g, and many reptiles):

People really need to spell, especially if they decorate cakes. (h/t: Donna):

From Jesus of the Day:

A most beautiful black cat, and friendly as well!

A tweet from reader Dom, who was surprised (as was I) that coyotes and badgers hunt together. How does that work?

From reader Barry: really bad animals. My favorite is the one of the seal dragging that woman into the water.

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s some good animals. Recognize the chick in the first tweet? And there’s a loving chicken in the second, something I haven’t seen.

Matthew notes here that many insect orders arose in the Jurassic. The caption says it all:

This freaks me out—seriously. It didn’t eat for seven years? Read the linked article.

And a master of neologism, Thomas Browne (1605-1682). I’d never even heard of the man, but look at the words he coyned:

66 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

      1. Yup, when the first conservationist disappeared and was later found dead it was dismissed as being unrelated to his work, but two dying in the same area looks like more than coincidence.

    1. I live in London (aka Lunnon) & spend time in Norfolk (the original one) – for us, it has been a winterless winter – & I never wear a coat.

    2. But you do not understand, when a big snow hits the Midwest there is hardly anyone there to see it. And many who do are probably republicans so who cares.

      1. The 5.2 million people in Cook County IL, as well as those in the surrounding suburban counties might contest that analysis.

        1. 5.2 million you say. Cook county does not count in the Midwest. That is more population than Iowa and Nebraska combined.

  1. The snow chart seriously underestimates the level of panic in the south. We saw schools closed for frost (and once for “weather” on a 53f morning with light rain)

    1. In Wichita the weather people on TV send others out to drive on the streets when there is nothing happening. So the report back live from the driver is…nothing happening.

    2. Hell, back in the late 80s when I was working in DC, they closed the government because of a snw forecast (we got no snow).

  2. 1914 – William S. Burroughs, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (d. 1997)

    Burroughs had a cameo in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film (set in 1971), Drugstore Cowboy, playing — what else? — an old-time ex-junkie:

  3. “We are terminally polarized.”

    As seen from the North, it seems that more “coproclouds” are accumulating on the USA, thanks to Trump’s politic and economic “skills”. Sadly, they will burst after the next election and he will dismiss any responsibility, as ever. And Republican leaders will agree, at least publicly, because his henchmen will certainly fare as well as himself and his family.

    “From reader Barry: really bad animals”

    I am on the impression that some of them act like they do in response to human inappropriate behaviors.

  4. Before I click on the video of “really bad animals” does it show people dying or being eaten or anything? I’m a bit squeamish about such things.

    The Twitter thread suggests that there is a bear attack after which the human involved died.

    Also, my ten minutes of internet research tells me that the common ancestor of Hili and me is a shrew like animal that Hili would probably think looks quite nutritional.

    1. Some of the attacks are pretty brutal but it seems to be edited to omit the worst parts. That said, proceed with caution.

      I don’t want to see people get killed by wild animals but wouldn’t mind if some of them had permanent damage to their reproductive organs. Maybe, as humans encroach further into their habitats, bull elk will evolve a special antler tine just for that purpose.

  5. “…we’re tough in the Midwest.” I grew up in Michigan and have lived in the East (NY) and now in the West (ID). It’s true. Midwesterners adapt to snow and cold. I remember the interstate was cleared by a pair of enormous plows, racing in tandem at about 50 mph, throwing snow a hundred feet into the fields in a silver arc. Half the population have snowmobiles so they can cross the county off-road over the heavy snow. People wear snowsuits like astronauts. The snow and cold didn’t bother us because we were used to it. Here in Idaho, I live in a town where the local snowplow is an old pickup truck, which for most of the winter stays parked behind the fire barn.

  6. “really bad animals” harassing bulls, elephants, rhinos and the lime and finding out the hard way that life ain’t no Disney movie. Hakuna matata my ass! Put Down The Selfie Stick! I don’t wish harm (ok, rarely) on others but damn, stupid hurts sometimes and if your only achievement in life is featuring in a fail video, so be it. But even being highly misanthropic, it’s hard to watch, especially since other humans, wishing to protect the people who keep peeing in the gene pool, almost certainly killed a majority of the other species in the videos.

    As for the Nutella, no need to apologize for disliking it. As with every European dessert it’s made with palm oil, so unless you like the taste of deforestation and dead orangutans, you’re not missing anything.

    1. As a resident of Rochester (aka the current snowiest city in the nation), I think that chart is pretty funny. All I can say to the Midwest is, “I know snow. You don’t know snow.”
      Here is a poem that I once submitted to The Saturday Review of Literature (which, sadly, Norman Cousins rejected)
      Hello snow,
      Do you know
      Where to go?

  7. Despite myself, I am watching the video of the State of the Union. Not reported anywhere that I’ve seen: Trump didn’t shake Pence’s hand either. I don’t think Trump was purposely slighting Pelosi. I don’t think he was expecting a handshake there, when he was giving the Vice-President and Speaker their copies of the speech.

    1. Doesn’t he have a phobia about handshakes? Afraid he’s going to pick up an infection, or something like that? Perhaps someone’s read him a news story about coronavirus.

  8. Interesting that the West is missing from the snow chart. We don’t have snow where I live (ok, once or twice we could see a few flakes in the air) but we definitely have snow nearby.

    1. Up here in Western Washington, I’d say we’re like the South. We’ll close schools with a bad forecast, and definitely if there is any snow or ice on the roads. To be fair, the Seattle area is very hilly and there aren’t a lot of snowplows since only a couple snowstorms hit every year. Yet with climate change, our winter storms are getting more severe…more moisture in the air and all that.

  9. “Coyotes & badgers are known to hunt together.” I just watched a YouTube video claiming this for fact & featuring both animals – but never in the same frame & with different ground cover for each creature. Baloney [so far] like those faked nature video setups demonstrating something known to be true. Then there’s this FWS.ORG ARTICLE that makes a claim about hunting together [with photos of them together], but not indulging in cooperative hunting behaviour.

    This 1992 PAPER however says it’s true – confirming old native American reports:


    Coyotes (Canis latrans) associating with badgers (Taxidea taxus) appeared to hunt Uinta ground squirrels (Spermophilus armatus) more effectively than lone coyotes. Coyotes with badgers consumed prey at higher rates (P = 0.09) and had an expanded habitat base and lower locomotion costs. Badgers with coyotes spent more time below ground and active (P = 0.02), and probably had decreased locomotion and excavation costs.

    Overall, prey vulnerability appeared to increase when both carnivores hunted in partnership…

    So both predator species benefit over time without sharing any kills & obviously neither predator is going to normally turn on the other – all those teeth & claws make it to expensive.

    1. I was secretly hoping for a Disneyesque partnership. “OK Yippy, you goes left ’round the bush and I’ll keep an eye for anything headin’ for the hole over yonder…and don’t fergit, I gits du organ meat”.

      1. IMO, your scenario is precisely what the posted video promises as a teaser. The coyote is concerned and makes certain the badger isn’t dawdling, and is obviously so excited and eager to get going. It’s almost as if the badger says “so sorry to have kept you waiting”; then they set off through the culvert together, the badger wagging its butt as they disappear in the looming darkness, just two pals heading out for night on the town. It’s Wiley E. Coyote and Mr. Lumpy went trotting off into the sunset together, and that’s what gave me pause. I love the thought but it seems too good to be true. Is this an unedited video of a real event? Is it staged? Has the footage been manipulated?

        I saw some of the still photos of them lounging together in an open space. I’m amazed. I sure hope it’s true. What a pair they make – the tall, long-legged coyote and the low-slung, scuttling badger.

        1. It is a real event captured in California by a Peninsula Open Space Trust night-vision camera in November 2019 at around 1am. The daylight photos you refer to are of a different pair in Colorado, taken in 2016 – [Or at least the reports I’ve seen are using non-associated night & day pictures].

          1. Thanks for the confirmation. I wonder what they do during their down time because they look pretty relaxed couched down in Colorado, and the coyote in the culvert in California, I think must know that badger is his (or her) hunting partner; again they seem quite familiar, like situational pals, more than just a hunting pair.. I wonder if they play a bit.

            1. This is from the Wiki on coyote:

              “When hunting large prey, the coyote often works in pairs or small groups. Success in killing large ungulates depends on factors such as snow depth and crust density. Younger animals usually avoid participating in such hunts, with the breeding pair typically doing most of the work. […] Coyotes catch mouse-sized rodents by pouncing, whereas ground squirrels are chased. Although coyotes can live in large groups, small prey is typically caught singly. […] Recent evidence demonstrates that at least some coyotes have become more nocturnal in hunting, presumably to avoid humans.

              Coyotes may occasionally form mutualistic hunting relationships with American badgers, assisting each other in digging up rodent prey. The relationship between the two species may occasionally border on apparent “friendship”, as some coyotes have been observed laying their heads on their badger companions or licking their faces without protest. The amicable interactions between coyotes and badgers were known to pre-Columbian civilizations, as shown on a Mexican jar dated to 1250 – 1300 CE depicting the relationship between the two”

              I speculate that you’ll never find mutualistic hunting between TWO coyote & a single badger because the coyote team would then attack the badger as prey. Perhaps this mutualism only arises with coyote who are at a stage in life [& pack hierarchy] when they are solo predators – solo coyote predators [see top of quote] live off small rodent kills & sensibly avoid large prey. It is only when a coyote goes solo that its interests overlap with those of a badger.

              Another aspect is sleep cycles – the American badger Wiki says they’re generally nocturnal; however, in remote areas with no human encroachment they are routinely observed foraging during the day. Seasonally, a badger observed during daylight hours in the Spring months of late March to early May often represents a female foraging during daylight and spending nights with her young. I would guess that coyote/badger partnerships depend on some synchronisation of sleep & if there’s plenty of rodent prey they’ll not cooperate.

              Perhaps parents teach their kiddos about inter-species cooperation & Jesus is really a coyote [death cult religion, water into blood etc etc]

              1. Absolutely fascinating stuff! And my surmise about the intimate nature of their inter-species friendship was borne out. I was afraid that I was anthropomorphizing and reading too much into what I saw but I did sense that in both the video from CA and the stills from CO, there was a kind of bond of friendship between the coyotes and badgers that was something more than a purely opportunistic hunting hook-up.

        2. Yes, Virginia. There ain’t no stinkin’ Santa Claus. Except in a Disney cartoon. But nature’s quirks are even more interesting when they are kept in the realm of fact.

  10. First, a link to an image of Nutella’s composition that went viral a couple of years ago. As pointed out in comment 9, conversion of southeast Asian forests to palm oil plantations is a serious conservation problem:

    Second, the total population count of the western Monarch Butterfly winter roosts in California has been less than 30,000 for the past two years, down by more than 99% from even two decades ago. This is even a greater crisis situation than that of the more famous and much more numerous eastern population that overwinters in Mexico.

    1. I didn’t take it as a technical therm, I took it to mean simply that when PCCE came close, the cat perceived the large person to be “looming” over him, probably encroaching on the kitty’s comfort zone, and responded to it with displeasure and a “Don’t even think of getting in my face again for any reason” gesture. We don’t like looming, either.

        1. Exactly. I’m not a cat but I’d damned sure sink my fangs into that guy’s nose!

          I once knew a guy like that and whenever we got together to talk in a cafe, I’d end up scooting my chair back and around, this way and that, trying to pretend that I was just getting comfortable but really endeavoring to escape his overweening need to be in extremely close proximity when talking. It got ridiculous and I was finally driven to say something but it made no difference.

    1. Had to get in his reality TV bit, did he? No surprise. As if Private Bone Spurs gives a shit about the military or its soldiers. Just a political tool and that is all.

      1. Recognizing guests has been going on for several administrations. Not sure who started it. The blacks and hispanics he recognized snd rewarded with promotions and scholarships did not seem to mind being turned into pawns in a big game. The republicans loved it, the democrats sat looking on in disgust.

        1. Not sure that “president” Trump knows what pawns are – though I suspect he might be familiar with a homophone (and possibly with some homophobes, too if the auto correct on my tablet is to be believed).

    2. Some SC Justices sat stoically in front. What intrigues me is the piece of brown tape (on the camera I guess) that hid the face from what I assume was Justice Roberts.
      Anybody with any explanation?

      1. The “brown tape”: See picture below. It is indeed Chief Justice John Roberts, but his mush is being covered by the glass face of Trump’s teleprompter – it appears light brown rather than transparent, because from that camera angle, there’s a reflection off the pale wood top of Trump’s podium.

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