Friday: Hili dialogue

Hola, bonjour, bom Dia, 早上好, and guten Morgen! It’s the end of the week: Friday, February 21, 2028, and only two days before I depart for Paris (I’ll be gone a week).

It’s a day of delicious but unhealthy breakfasts:National Pancake Day and also National Sticky Buns Day (the latter could denote what happens when you sit on chewing gum). It’s also National Grain-Free Day, which conflicts with the previous two holidays, and International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO holiday designed “to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism.” (I participated with the morning salutation.)

Clicking on today’s Google Doodle reveals that it’s the birthday of the subject, Chesperito, otherwise known as Roberto Gómez Bolaños (1929-2014), identified by Wikipedia as “a Mexican screenwriter, actor, comedian, film director, television director, playwright, singer, songwriter, and author. He is widely regarded as the most important Spanish-language humorist of all time.” His name has an unusual origin:

His stage name, “Chespirito”, was given to him by a producer during Gómez Bolaños’ first years as a writer, and was concocted from the Spanish phonetic pronunciation of William Shakespeare — “Chespir” — combined with “ito,” a diminutive commonly used in Spanish, ergo Shakespearito, meaning “small Shakespeare”

Here’s a short segment of one of his television shows, showing King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Chesperito plays the King:

Stuff that happened on February 21 includes:

Here’s a relevant tweet sent by Matthew; Trevethick was the builder of that locomotive, and I’ve put a picture of the reconstruction below:

  • 1848 – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto.
  • 1878 – The first telephone directory is issued in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • 1885 – The newly completed Washington Monument is dedicated.
  • 1918 – The last Carolina parakeet dies in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Here’s what one of these lovely birds looked like (this one is a stuffed specimen at Chicago’s Field Museum):

  • 1925 – The New Yorker publishes its first issue. [JAC: Fie on them.]
  • 1947 – In New York City, Edwin Land demonstrates the first “instant camera”, the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.
  • 1958 – The CND symbol, aka peace symbol, commissioned by the Direct Action Committee in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, is designed and completed by Gerald Holtom.

We know it as the “peace symbol,” and you still see it everywhere:

Wikipedia describes its origin:

In the 1950s the “peace sign”, as it is known today, was designed by Gerald Holtom as the logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a group at the forefront of the peace movement in the UK, and adopted by anti-war and counterculture activists in the US and elsewhere. The symbol is a super-imposition of the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D”, taken to stand for “nuclear disarmament”, while simultaneously acting as a reference to Goya‘s The Third of May 1808 (1814) (aka “Peasant Before the Firing Squad”).

Here’s the famous Goya painting, and the man with his hands up is probably the bit of the painting to which they refer:

  • 1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated while giving a talk at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
  • 1975 – Watergate scandal: Former United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman are sentenced to prison.

Notables born on this day are few, and include:

  • 1621 – Rebecca Nurse, Massachusetts colonist, executed as a witch (d. 1692)
  • 1801 – John Henry Newman, English cardinal (d. 1890)
  • 1903 – Anaïs Nin, French-American essayist and memoirist (d. 1977)
  • 1921 – John Rawls, American philosopher and academic (d. 2002)

Here’s Rawls, whose Theory of Justice was enormously influential on me, and is still a benchmark in thinking about how to build a just society:

  • 1962 – David Foster Wallace, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (d. 2008)
  • 1987 – Ellen Page, Canadian actress

Those who were extirpated on February 21 include:

  • 1941 – Frederick Banting, Canadian physician and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1891)
  • 1965 – Malcolm X, American minister and activist (b. 1925; assassinated)
  • 1968 – Howard Florey, Australian pathologist and pharmacologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1898)
  • 1974 – Tim Horton, Canadian ice hockey player and businessman, co-founded Tim Hortons (b. 1930)
  • 1984 – Mikhail Sholokhov, Russian novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1905)
  • 2018 – Billy Graham, American evangelist (b. 1918)
  • 2019 – Peter Tork, American musician and actor (b. 1942)

Meawhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is, as usual, famished:

Hili: I’m sad.
A: What’s the matter?
Hili: I would like to eat what I’ve already eaten.
In Polish:
Hili: Smutno mi.
Ja: Z jakiego powodu?
Hili: Bo to co bym chciała zjeść, to już zjadłam.
And the news from Dobrzyn is very good: the feral cat Szaron now has a forever home, apparently upstairs from Hili. Malgorzata reports:
Great news here. Yesterday, very late in the evening, Szaron came to the verandah when we were sitting on it. We both petted him and then Paulina [the lodger] came as well. While the door to the house and to the upstairs flat were open, Szaron ran inside and up the stairs. Then he refused to move from there and he spent the night with our lodgers! It seems he will be living upstairs from now on! I gave Paulina a cat bed and a packet of cat food and I’m waiting impatiently for them to wake up and tell me how the night went. Anyhow, the operation “Taming Szaron” was successful!
This morning’s report is that Szaron had a peaceful night upstairs and has gone out this morning. We will see if he returns.

Here’s the new cat with a Forever Home, Szaron:

From Wild and Wonderful. I love it when swans carry their young on their backs:

I can’t remember where I saw this on Facebook, but it’s cryptic popcorn:

From Jesus of the Day:

I retweeted this, which was sent me by reader Simon:

From Dom: a tarantula hawk wasp taking a tarantula. A single sting has paralyzed the spider, and the wasp will soon lay one egg on it so that the wasp larva can consume still-leaving fresh meat:

A tweet from Luana: a baby rhino gets a brushing.  I’d recommend doing what the site asks and saying something about their posts. The stuff is good.

The tweet above is one of their most recent ones, so you should support them with a “like” or a comment.

An off-the-cuff cat adoption:

Tweets from Matthew: the annual Christmas Island crab jamboree. I’ve put a video of it below the tweet; it’s truly an amazing spectacle.

Here they are going the other way: out to the sea. They seem to travel in packs:

I don’t think this is the only thermometer cricket, but it is amazing that it works for Fahrenheit. But it’ll also work for Celsius, as you can calculate (put the formula in the comments) .

Look at the face on that black cat!


  1. Posted February 21, 2020 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Just saw this – I don’t think it has been on here?

    • rickflick
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Big family!

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      You’re right, it’s new. I saw it very recently on the news – such beautiful cats!

  2. Posted February 21, 2020 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Also born today, Sir Frances Ronalds FRS, 1788 – he created the first electric telegraph

  3. Roger
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Why does Richard Trevithick look soooo much like he could be a 70s TV police lieutenant.

    • Roger
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Ookay Malachi Throne might be the guy I’m thinking of. He was the Commodore in the Star Trek “The Menagerie” court-martial episode.

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      He doesn’t look anything like Peter Falk to me. Or Telly Savalis.

      • Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink


      • Roger
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        How about Noah Bain (from “It Takes a Thief”.)

        • Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Yes. I had to Google him though because I don’t remember that series.

          It only just qualifies as a 70’s series though.

  4. daniaq
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Chespirito is part of the childhood of most latin americans. His characters are still very famous in Brazil, specially for people born in the 80s,90s.

  5. sted24
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Bret Weinstein has been of considerable interest here, so may I draw attention to a recent edition of The Portal (#19) where he talks to his brother, Eric. It is fascinating for all kinds of reasons, not least family dynamics.

    Principally it deals with Bret’s paper which claimed that lab-bred mice had unusually long telomeres. This made them unsuitable models for testing the safety of human drugs. Michael Zimmerman, biologist and former colleagues of Bret’s at Evergreen, explains the paper:

    In the podcast, Bret makes several incendiary* claims about Carolyn Greider who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres.

    Briefly (and I apologise if I have any of this wrong): Bret contacted her and explained his ideas prior to the publication of his paper; that she subsequently played a role in blocking its publication; that she then published a paper based on his ideas without giving him credit, and repeated the ideas (again without credit) in her Nobel Prize address.

    *Incendary is perhaps the least of it when you accuse a Nobel Prize-winner of scientific misconduct.

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      We must be petty at all levels.(SARCASM)

  6. rickflick
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Fredrick Banting was the co-discoverer of insulin, and it was for that that he and John Macleod won the Nobel. He was only 32 when he won the prize. I would have enjoyed washing glassware in their lab.

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      He’s not the same Banting (or related to the one) who was the first proponent of dieting, is he?

      • rickflick
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        I don’t know.

      • Rita Prangle
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        No, that Banting lived a long time ago, 1800’s I think.

  7. Jim batterson
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    John rawls and a theory of justice has had a similar important impact on my life since being introduced to the book as an undergraduate physics major 50 years ago. Thanks be to ceiling cat for liberal arts colleges where students can easily schmooze with students and faculty from a range of disciplines.

    Fly safe jerry.

  8. DrBrydon
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I would highly recommend the National Railway Museum in York to anyone who finds themselves in that neck of the woods.

    • Jim batterson
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Strongly Agreewith dr brydon. I visited the museum when at a weeklong conference at york university. The historical rolling stock on display and commentary were incredible to me as an aerospace engineer.

  9. Posted February 21, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Do you mean to imply that The New Yorker is an unweeded garden that grows to seed, that things rank and gross in nature possess it merely?

  10. Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    The peace sign reminded me that it was also called “The Footprint of the American Chicken.” Remember that? A little Trumpian blast from the past.

  11. Karen Welsh
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Professor, for mentioning Peter Tork as one of those who ceased to exist on this day one year ago. But why no video of just what a talented multi-instrumentalist he was?

    From 1968 Peter plays Bach

    And Peter plays the Banjo:

    And Peter plays the bass:

    Note that at the 1:19 mark Michael cues Peter’s boffo imitation on his bass of the steel pedal guitar, played by Michael on the original recording of Michael’s The Kind of Girl I Could Love

    You’re welcome.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I found this quote attributed to Mr. Tork under his birth name of Peter Halsten Thorkelson:

      “I Don’t believe in ‘my country right or wrong’. My country wrond needs my help”.

      • Karen Welsh
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Yep, he said that in a magazine interview in ’66 or ’67 and found himself hauled into The Monkees’ producers office to be told that he couldn’t say such things to the press! This wasn’t the image they wanted projected to the fans. All four were very anti Viet Nam war, but weren’t allowed to express this until they got more creative control.

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Great trip down memory lane. I used to have a crush on Peter when I was just a girl.

  12. merilee
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink


  13. E.A. Blair
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “But it’ll also work for Celsius, as you can calculate (put the formula in the comments).”

    Here you are:

    Cricket to Celsius: (([°F]−32)×​5)⁄9
    Cricket to Delisle: ((212−[°F])×​5)⁄6
    Cricket to Kelvin: ((([°F]−32)×​5)⁄9)+273.15
    Cricket to Rankine: [°F]+459.67
    Cricket to Réaumur: (([°F]−32)×​4)⁄9
    Cricket to Rømer: ((([°F]−32)×​7)⁄24)+7.5

    As of 2020, the only independent countries using the Fahrenheit scale are the United States and Liberia.

    • Paul S
      Posted February 21, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      But it makes me feel better when the temp changes from 79f to 80f instead of staying 26c.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted February 21, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I feel uncomfortable when the temperature changes from 79°F to 80°F. Heat aggrivates my athsma.

        I worked as a technical writer at a government laboratory for many years, and everything we did used SI (i.e., metric). I got used to it – I find it more honest (and more informative) when freezing is 0°. A comfortable room temperature is a nice round number: 20°, and a satisfying hot bath is 40°. I even managed to get a stove with an oven that can be calibrated in Celsius. Oh, well, I guess that as long as the US in technological lockstep with Liberia, we’re OK.

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Good job!

  14. Simon Hayward
    Posted February 21, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Pancake day is next Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras). It’s a movable feast, linked to Easter, not a fixed date.

    Have crepes in Paris! (On Tuesday)

  15. Posted February 21, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Jerry: Did you meet Rawls when you were at Harvard?

    Also, on the crickets: I remember fondly the “Case of the Missing Memory” – from The Bloodhoud Gang, the show-within-a-show on 3-2-1 Contact.

    No spoilers even if the show is ~40 years old though. 🙂

    • Posted February 21, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      No, I didn’t meet Rawls; I suppose i had forgotten when I got to grad school where he was. My ethics teacher at William and Mary was one of Rawls’s students. (That was a great course!)

  16. Posted February 21, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    For the Celsius conversion for the thermometer cricket it should be

  17. Posted February 21, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    That’s one helluva guy to adopt that stray cat! I love hearing those stories.

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