Friday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

We’ve reached the end of a snowy week, and it’s Friday, February 7, 2020,  We had another dusting of snow yesterday evening, and perhaps will get more today, and a bit more on Sunday. But so far the accumulation, at least in Hyde Park, is not serious, and the Ceiling Catmobile is safely ensconced in the University garage. And only 192 subscribers left until we hit 70,000. I am of course chuffed, and wonder if we’ll get to the big 100,000 before I become an ex-Coyne.

It’s National Fettucinne Alfredo Day, as well as Bubble Gum Day, Ballet Day, and Rose Day, celebrating the fact that it’s a week until Valentine’s Day. Now’s the time to think about a love gift for your significant other; chocolates are always appreciated.

Finally, it’s two science-related holidays: National Periodic Table Day and “e” Day, the latter celebrating the mathematical constant discovered and named by Leonhard Euler. It goes on forever: 2.718 etc. etc., but the first two digits are 2/7, thus making February 7 an appropriate day to celebrate (in Europe, however, “e” Day would be July 2!).

News of the Day: It’s a big mess for Democrats in Iowa, with Mayor Peter and The Bern in a virtual dead heat for the lead (I can’t be arsed to care much about who “won” there). A New York Times investigation found that the Iowa results are “riddled with problems.”

Both candidates are claiming victory, and there’s increasing rancor between Sanders and the DNC. The turnout in Iowa was surprisingly low, too. Polls in New Hampshire, the next primary, show that Buttigieg and Sanders are leading. It’s going to be a tumultuous year. Oh, and of course Trump and the GOP are gloating over this cockup.

The results to date:

Stuff that happened on February 7 includes:

This was of course the incident that gave rise to the title of Tom Wolfe’s book.

It took four years to bring the epidemic to heel, largely because authorities wouldn’t admit there was a problem. (Sound familiar?) In the end, after quarantine brought the pestilence to heel, 121 cases were identified, with 119 deaths.

Here’s a short clip from that movie of Pinocchio going to school. Note the cute kitten who’s told, “School is not for you.”

  • 1962 – The United States bans all Cuban imports and exports.
  • 1979 – Pluto moves inside Neptune’s orbit for the first time since either was discovered.
  • 1986 – Twenty-eight years of one-family rule end in Haiti, when President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees the Caribbean nation.
  • 1990 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union: The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agrees to give up its monopoly on power.
  • 1992 – The Maastricht Treaty is signed, leading to the creation of the European Union.
  • 2013 – The U.S. state of Mississippi officially certifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was formally ratified by Mississippi in 1995.

2013!!! Mississippi!

Notables  born on this day include:

  • 1741 – Henry Fuseli, Swiss-English painter and academic (d. 1825)
  • 1812 – Charles Dickens, English novelist and critic (d. 1870)
  • 1825 – Karl Möbius, German zoologist and ecologist (d. 1908)
  • 1867 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, American author (d. 1957)
  • 1877 – G. H. Hardy, English mathematician and geneticist (d. 1947)
  • 1958 – Matt Ridley, English journalist, author, and politician
  • 1965 – Chris Rock, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter

Fuseli had a dark and supernatural style, especially for that era. Here’s one of his “Nightmares” from 1791 (and it’s a real mare):

Notables whose existence waned on February 7 were few, and include:

  • 1979 – Josef Mengele, German SS officer and physician (b. 1911)
  • 1999 – King Hussein of Jordan (b. 1935)
  • 2001 – Dale Evans, American singer-songwriter and actress (b. 1912)
  • 2001 – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American author and pilot (b. 1906)

Another sad death to report: that of Tim, one of Africa’s few remaining Big Tuskers. Here’s the announcement and a photo in a tweet found by Matthew. Tim was only 50, had had a rough life and now his body (avec tusks) is on the way to Kenya’s National Museum to be stuffed (read the letter). Only 20 of these “Big Tuskers” are said to remain.  Read the thread connected with the tweet, which has more information on Tim and his entourage.

RIP Tim.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili channels Proust:

A: Where are you going?
Hili: In search of lost time.
In Polish:
Ja: Dokąd idziesz?
Hili: W poszukiwaniu straconego czasu.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek the kitten is trying to be helpful.

Mietek: Let’s start washing.

In Polish: No to bierzemy się za zmywanie.

Winnie sent this picture of tasty Korean comestibles, photographed in a supermarket in Hong Kong. She hastens to add that these should feed into a stereotype of Asians as “pig rectum eaters”!

Posted on FB by my friend Avis:

From Jesus of the Day:


Queen Titania responds to a tweet from United Nations Women, suggesting her own word replacements:

And a response to the UN’s claim (above) that gender-free language helps fight gender bias. Of course it’s just a bad (but humorous) argument answering an evidence-free assertion, but I still like Karlsson’s riposte:

From Barry. This is one of the most amazing bird behaviors I’ve seen, and I have no idea how it evolved. I suppose the Discovery Institute would say “The Designer” (aka “God”):

From reader Evgeny (I may have posted this before, but no matter). How many circles. Do you see any? (Answer below the fold)

A long graph of sex differences from the paper below this first tweet (click on the graph to see the whole thing). I may write about it later after I’ve read the longish paper.

Tweets from Matthew. Did you know that slime molds are no longer considered fungi? They’re now protists. So behold an iridescent protist:

Yes, this is an excellent logo, but I think the mallard needs to be more prominent:

Now, how many circles in the tweet above?  Click “read more”

Answer: There are sixteen circles.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Cambridge Lecturer James Grimes on e :

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    OHHHHH I see 16 now! Clever!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      …. now that’s fine, somehow I feel compelled to engage in risky behavior.. or cheating… definitely not… cookery… or… that other one.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I had to look up the clue thru the link. Then I can’t unsee them.

      • Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        They come and go for me. Like a Necker cube flipping.

  3. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I think the Democrats are in real trouble, with the caveat that my perspective comes from rural Texas and my sample size is two: your note that the turn-out in Iowa was surprisingly low, and my pod of elderly friends in California who all have their mail-in ballots but are waiting without enthusiasm to see how things shake out.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      I think it’s a problem only because the choices seem rather limited. Nobody really stands out except Bernie and he’s far too old.

      When it comes to the real election in November, there will be more motivation.

      • Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        As it is a characteristic of Dems to worry, my worry is that with so many candidates, the winners will be swapped out through this whole process in state after state. In this way the actual candidate that could actually beat trump does not get enough wins to get the nomination to go up against trump.

        • Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think it matters which candidate wins up to a point. Any of them can beat Trump. It’s a case of making sure that everybody who wants to see Trump gone votes and the Dems as a group don’t screw up.

          • Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            Jeremy, this is exactly right, in my opinion (as a USian of almost 60 years).

            If I remember correctly, you are a UK resident. Very perceptive of you.

            Virtually everyone I know is saying something along the lines of: “I am not super excited about the Dem candidates, I like XX best; but I will, without a doubt, be marking the box next to whichever Dem is running against Trump.”

            Just this morning on NPR they interviewed a life-long Republican in Iowa who said, reluctantly, that she was definitely voting for the Democrat candidate for President, whoever it was.

            I simply cannot imagine Trump holding any of the independents he got in 2016 after his performances and mischief.

            Drumpf won by 77,000 votes (our of more than 137M, 0.056% of the popular vote, an “historic LANDSLIDE” in Drumpf’s telling*) spread through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

            * He lost the popular vote by 2.87M votes (2.1%) and his was the fourth closest Electoral College margin since 1940. Yeah, a real landslide there.

            • Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

              I am a UK citizen and resident but I’m following US politics very closely at the moment, partly because, although it is an utter disaster, my distance from it means it doesn’t make me despair.

              British politics is probably even more of what you would call a dumpster fire, but it’s my dumpster that is on fire and it makes me very sad.

            • Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

              I just checked, fourth closest EC margin since 1920 (by count of EC votes).

              (There were 531 EC votes then and there are 538 now. It’s been 538 since the 1964 election.)

      • rickflick
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        The choices are many, but they all lack charisma. Where’s the John Kennedy these days?

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I don’t find the turn out being low as indicative of a problem. My theory (which is mine, but I’ve heard it said by others) is that the majority of Dems are going to vote blue no matter who, so they don’t really care who wins the nomination. I feel that way too. But at the same time, I agree that none of the candidates really excite like Obama did. Yet Trump disgusts with such dominance, any Dem nominee will look like Prince Charming by comparison.

      • merilee
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        “Disgusts with dominance…”. You nailed it.

  4. Reggie Cormack
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Weird. Couldn’t see the circles at all at first. But now I see ’em I can’t not see ’em.
    And how about the tailorbird – isn’t nature beyond wonderful.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      I couldn’t see them at all so went so dug up the answer key from the tweet. Now I can make them come and go at will. Perception is a strange beast.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    This [Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities] was of course the incident that gave rise to the title of Tom Wolfe’s book.

    As I recall, a second inspiration for the title of Wolfe’s first novel was William Makepeace Thakeray’s novel Vanity Fair, inasmuch as Wolfe was a big fan both of that novel in particular and of realistic 19th-century novels in general, and patterned his own work after those broad, cross-sectional depictions of contemporary society. It’s also why Wolfe elected to publish the novel initially in serial form (in Rolling Stone), as Thakeray and Dickens and others had serially published theirs during the Victorian era.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      ‘Vanity Fair’ is also a threatening pit stop for Christian in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      “Wolfe was a big fan both of that novel in particular and of realistic 19th-century novels in general, and patterned his own work after those.”

      Don’t forget that He also patterned his sartorial get-up after 19th century fashions.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    2013 – The U.S. state of Mississippi officially certifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was formally ratified by Mississippi in 1995.

    I think Ms. Nina Simone said it best:

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      That was very real.

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Yep… I just heard the excellent young German pianist Igor Levit (who just released a recording of all the Beethoven sonatas) saying he’d give anything to be able to play just one note with as much feeling as Nina Simone could sing.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Her cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” always blows me away.

        • Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

          That’s beautiful. I haven’t listened to enough of her music.

          • merilee
            Posted February 7, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            At one time I think I had 13 of Nina’s albums on vinyl. Probably still have them. I remember my mother saying something like “what’s that caterwauling?” but I was finally able to turn her into an appreciator if not a fan. Black is the Color of My True Love’s hair is especially beautiful. She was a very talented pianist as well.

  7. Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    A typo – in your own name.

    before I become an ex-Coyme

    Also, and I wouldn’t normally bother with this one, but since I’m doing typos anyway:

    Mayor Peter and The Bern in a virtual dead head for the lead

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      LOL, maybe the Bern really is a Dead head!
      I’ll fix these, thanks.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        That might explain a few things!

  8. Daniaq
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    It was really easy to see the circles for me.
    This changing language thing is really ridiculous. The boyfriend, girlfriend is the worse…how is that even biased if there is a female and male term!?

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      If I, a heterosexual male, talk about my girlfriend then I am “othering” other kinds of relationships. You are not allowed to talk about things that might exclude certain classes of people.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Some adjustments I have no problem with and actually prefer, particularly those associated with professions.

      However, there are those in the trans community who cancel even other trans people as enemies of non-binary people if they dare use “transsexual” instead of “transgender.” An interesting review in which the trans activist says this happened to her However, then the non-binary people must banish any and every term that has the slightest hint of binary genders in it.

  9. merilee
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink


  10. rickflick
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The Tailorbird shows that a rather complex behavior can be ingrained by natural selection. Spiders are another example. There, the complex behavior is packaged into a much smaller speck of neurons. It’s therefore not surprising that early humans, with a much larger brain, used an almost unchanging stone technology for hundreds of thousands of years. Perhaps they didn’t have to think very deeply about what they were doing with the tools. It was “hard coded” like the Tailorbird.

  11. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    That Swan & Mallard sign is really good, great even. A real Trinity.

  12. HBB
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Plague, of course, continues to cause problems in North America by “jumping” to native rodents and spreading eastward. It reached the eastern edge of the black-tailed prairie dog’s range in South Dakota a few years ago. In addition to causing a few human cases each year, plague is one of the major drivers of the near extinction of the black-footed ferret, an endemic weasel that feeds almost exclusively on prairie dogs. I understand that Australia had more success in stopping a nascent invasion by plague in about the same time frame.

  13. Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Zero on the circles thing.

    On the slime molds: I was taught (in high school and CEGEP 25 or so years ago) that some slime molds were protists, some fungi, IIRC.

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Trouble with that UN list is that many of the substitutions do not mean quite the same.

    Never mind that ‘chair’ is a thing I sit on. ‘Landlord’ is not equivalent to ‘owner’ – your landlord might be the lessee, for example.

    And ‘partner’ for boy/girlfriend always makes me cringe. You can have legal partners, dance partners, partners in a card game – doesn’t mean you’re shagging them.


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