Thursday: Hili dialogue

It is 5:51 a.m. and still dark. I am in my office, having trudged through the still-falling snow to get here, and am now caffeinating myself while writing this post. What greater sacrifice could a man make for his website. AND I am supposed to be retired! So it goes. Good morning on Thursday, February 13, 2019—one day until Valentine’s Day. Don’t neglect your sweetie! It’s National “Italian Food” Day, and again we have the inappropriate scare quotes. Does this imply that Italians in fact don’t have food, or that what purports to be Italian food is not what we’d consider food?

Three other food holidays: it’s National Cheddar Day, National Tortellini Day, and National Crab Rangoon Day, as well as “Kiss Day,” the day before Valentine’s Day. But don’t forget, if you’re gonna pucker up, to get affirmative consent. Finally, it’s World Radio Day.

Stuff that happened on February 13 includes:

  • 1542 – Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII of England, is executed for adultery.
  • 1633 – Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome for his trial before the Inquisition.
  • 1931 – The British Raj completes its transfer from Calcutta to New Delhi.
  • 1945 – World War II: Royal Air Force bombers are dispatched to Dresden, Germany to attack the city with a massive aerial bombardment.

We all know about this attack on civilians (the bombing lasted two days) and the terrible firestorm that followed, captured in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Approximately 25,000 Germans were killed. Here’s a view of some of the devastation from the city hall:

  • 1955 – Israel obtains four of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • 1960 – Black college students stage the first of the Nashville sit-ins at three lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  Here’s a photo of that sit-in from sixty years ago with the racists harassing the students:

There had actually been sit-ins before this, but this was the first one held by black college students. Here’s a photo from sixty years ago today. On May 1 of that year, Nashville’s lunch counters were de-segregated.


Here are two pages of those codices drawing a commission that Leonardo accepted but never completed: the Sforza Monument, a giant equestrian statue for the Duke of Milan):

  • 2017 – Kim Jong-nam, brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, is assassinated at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1849 – Lord Randolph Churchill, English lawyer and politician, Chancellor of the Exchequer (d. 1895)
  • 1891 – Grant Wood, American painter and academic (d. 1942)
  • 1910 – William Shockley, English-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
  • 1919 – Tennessee Ernie Ford, American singer and actor (d. 1991)
  • 1923 – Chuck Yeager, American general and pilot; first test pilot to break the sound barrier

Yeager, still with us, is 97 today. And only 7 years ago, at 89, he broke the sound barrier AGAIN as a copilot in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. Here’s Yeager and the plane in which he first broke the sound barrier in 1947:

  • 1979 – Mena Suvari, American actress and fashion designer

Those whose life concluded on February 13 include:

  • 1542 – Catherine Howard, English wife of Henry VIII of England (executed; b. 1521)
  • 1883 – Richard Wagner, German composer (b. 1813)
  • 2002 – Waylon Jennings, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1937)
  • 2016 – Antonin Scalia, American lawyer and judge, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (b. 1936)
  • 2017 – Kim Jong-nam, North Korean politician (b. 1971)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we have news: new cats! Andrzej and Malgorzata have been feeding four stray cats and trying to make them tame. Only one has gotten tamer, but he’s a good candidate for adoption—and maybe as a companion for Hili. Here’s the tame one with Malgorzata’s caption (the cats pronoun remains unknown):

This is the first picture of the cat from our garage. Andrzej can now stroke him while he is eating. We still don’t know whether it’s a “he” or “she”. Andrzej says that he is very talkative now.

And of course the Princess is still around. When I asked who was reading and, if it was Andrzej, why Hili would want him to keep reading instead of working (remember, Hili is the editor of Listy, Malgorzata replied,

Andrzej is reading the book and Hili is on his lap. This is the situation where she always wants him to continue reading. She is not allowed to sit on his lap when he is in front of the computer.

The dialogue:

A: I have a feeling that it’s time to put the book aside and return to the computer.
Hili: I’m not sure this is healthy.
In Polish:
Ja: Mam wrażenie, że trzeba odłożyć książkę i wrócić do komputera.
Hili: Nie jestem pewna, czy to jest zdrowe.

It is a brave person who got this ink (from Jesus of the Day):


From Bad Cat Clothing:

From the Facebook page of Astarte Nectar:

Queen Titania responds to a rather ill-advised tweet from Jane Fonda:

From Simon, a lovely Darwin Day cake from yesterday. Recognize the diagram?

From Ivan, a Darwin-Award video in Russian (sound up); there is captioning:

From Barry, and all I can say is “OUCH!”

Tweets from Matthew. This first one surprised me, even though I knew that mercury was dense. I used to play with it with my fingers when I was a kid; I guess I’m lucky I’m still alive.

Matthew and I are dubious whether the “Chinese mountain cat” really is a species different from the regular wildcat Felis silvestris, and it doesn’t coexist with that wildcat and there appear to be only a few differences in morphology. It might be a biological “race” or “ecotype” of Felis silvestris.

I’ve seen this display in the Galápagos; the blue feet are like semaphore flags saying, “Hey, baby. .  ”  Sound up to hear the whistles.

This is commensalism, as the cat gets all the benefits and the d*g gets squat:


  1. Posted February 13, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Does chloroform really act that fast? Some people on the Twitter thread were claiming the video is faked, although the fall looks pretty real to me.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Looks real to me. His head hits the table top very hard.

  2. sted24
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    On the Nashville lunch counters:

    There is a row brewing at UVA about segregated spaces. Titania (of course) has a Tweet about it which is worth checking out. She cites Martin Luther King and everything.

    • mikeb
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      The Mcgrath thing is tired.

      But that’s the Internet for you.

  3. Posted February 13, 2020 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I have actually seen the Chinese Mountain Cat in the wild and even more photographs are now appearing. I have written about its status as a separate species here:
    with a follow-on post that can be also be found there. Being very sceptical of ‘splits’ I do note, however, that sympatry with the wildcat cannot be ruled out. Indeed some relatively recent photographs suggest the two forms do overlap in some places on the Tibetan plateua. Like the local tabby, I will sit on the fence.

  4. Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I can’t read or hear the words “blue-footed booby” without hearing them in the voice of Dr. Smith from the original “Lost in Space” TV show.

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Does Jane Fonda wear those sustainable jewels when she’s doing her catch=and-release celebrities-get=arrested shtick at the Capitol?

    Lest the brickbats come from those offended by my levity, I’m not anti-climate change and I’m not anti-peaceful demonstrations, or celebrities demonstrating. However the ostentatious displays some celebrities engage in when they make political statements is exceedingly off-putting to me, and Jane Fonda is right up there at the top and she annoys the heck out of me, even though I sincerely hope that her protests do some good and I’m sure they do.

    • merilee
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 9:02 am | Permalink


  6. Dominic
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The UK is getting some dinosaur coins – I reckon you will never see them as they will get hoovered up by collectors…

  7. marioz
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I think the Sforza Monument (by Leonardo) was commissioned by the Duke of MILAN, not Madrid

    • Francisco Garcia Mac
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Correct. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.

    • Posted February 13, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Yep, fixed that–thanks!

  8. Jim batterson
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Writing as just one of your almost 70k followers, i appreciate your continuing and continuous success at posting on your website. I find your authoritative posts on biology and often the thread of knowledgeable comments they generate, the ffrf-relaled material, recent and current university free speech issues, and contributions from greg and matthew of particular value both to me and a number of my friends. Of course the pictures from your travels (antarctica pics were unbelieveably impactful on me) including your degustation commentary are always a treat. So please continue the postings through rain, snow, sleet and retirement as regularly as practicable. They are clearly appreciated.

    • Posted February 13, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      It has to be a labor of love, or why else does PCC do it? Whatever the reason, I am appreciative too.

    • Posted February 13, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Laws of physics; I have no choice! (But of course I do like it, despite the occasional moment of “I have nothing to say today!”)

      Thanks, Bat!

  9. rickflick
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I am reminded that one of the most striking talents Chuck Yeager possessed was his remarkable eyesight. He led a fighter squad in WWII which was very successful due to his ability to spot enemy planes at a distance of 50 miles. His autobiography is fascinating.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      One of the few remaining from our greatest generation. Yeager was also among the first test pilots during development of the plane I worked on, the F-100. First guy to fly super sonic testing the first super sonic jet for the Air Force.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 13, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        Lucky you.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          I don’t mean to leave the impression he was doing this testing and flying at the same time I was around this. I’m sure his time reference this was early and mid 50s. I was not working on it until 1969.

  10. Claudia Baker
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    The most interesting and devastating description of the firebombing of Dresden that I have read is given in Victor Klemperer’s “I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945”. He and his wife, Eva, made a harrowing and miraculous escape. The whole series of his diaries is riveting.

  11. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Glennis, Glennis & some bird named Ava


    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Theirs is quite a love story. The AF jocks were inundated with lovely women, but Yeager claims the men were actually not much for cattin’ around. He swears he never strayed.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I’ve always maintained that the love story at the center of Philip Kaufman’s film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff was not so much between Yeager and his wife (played by Barbara Hershey), but the bromance between Sam Shepard’s Yeager and his Beaman’s-chewing-gum-lending flight engineer Jack Ridley, played by Levon Helm. 🙂

        • rickflick
          Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink


        • darrelle
          Posted February 13, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          By all accounts they were indeed tight in real life. Paraphrasing Yeager, he trusted Ridley above all others. If Ridley said it was OK then Chuck was good to go.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        Yes, Ava never got a look in.

        • rickflick
          Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          A real southern gentleman.

  12. Posted February 13, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Cake? Looks like a lasagna!

  13. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 13, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Re Mercury: “I used to play with it with my fingers when I was a kid; I guess I’m lucky I’m still alive.”

    I think you’re not only lucky to be alive, you’re really lucky that you didn’t suffer from:
    – impaired motor skills, problems thinking or problem-solving
    – difficulties learning to speak or understanding language
    – issues with hand-eye coordination
    – being physically unaware of one’s surroundings.

    And if you were so impaired, just think of what you could have accomplished if you’d never played with Mercury! 😺

    • Rita Prangle
      Posted February 14, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Back when I was a kid in the 1950’s, no one knew mercury was so hazardous. We would have a small quantity of mercury from time to time, and it was fun to play with it. You could smash a small puddle of it, and it would break up into tiny balls that would then settle back into the puddle. We also coated some dimes with it, using our fingers.

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