Monday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Monday, March 16, 2020. Will the week bring us any good news? Well, if you like artichokes, it’s National Artichoke Heart Day. It’s two animal days, too: Curlew Day and Panda Day.

And in Lithuania it’s The Day of the Book Smugglers.

There’s no doubt that things are tough these days: people are sick, people are quarantined, travel is all but shut down, and people are kept away from others who could provide solace during this crisis. In Chicago, all the bars and restaurants are closed at least until the end of March. The same goes for Ohio, and New York City; and California has closed its bars. There’s not much of a silver lining, except that perhaps that Trump’s chances of being elected have waned. I can offer little but a video showing a cat enjoying its social isolation. And he doesn’t want his movie taken away!

. . .  and also a heartwarming photo of a wild cat now tamed: here is Szaron with his new staff Paulina. Andrzej calls this “Lady with Szaron,” after da Vinci’s “Lady With an Ermine“. (There’s another picture of Szaron below Hili.)

Lady with an Ermine:

Stuff that happened on March 16 includes:

  • 1870 – The first version of the overture fantasy Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky receives its première performance.
  • 1872 – The Wanderers F.C. won the first FA Cup, the oldest football competition in the world, beating Royal Engineers A.F.C. 1–0 at The Oval in Kennington, London.
  • 1898 – In Melbourne the representatives of five colonies adopted a constitution, which would become the basis of the Commonwealth of Australia.[3]
  • 1900 – Sir Arthur Evans purchased the land around the ruins of Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete.
  • 1926 – History of RocketryRobert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket, at Auburn, Massachusetts.

Here’s that rocket, with Goddard. The NASA caption: “Robert Goddard, bundled against the cold weather of March 16, 1926, holds the launching frame of his most notable invention — the first liquid-fueled rocket.”

  • 1935 – Adolf Hitler orders Germany to rearm herself in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Conscription is reintroduced to form the Wehrmacht.
  • 1945 – World War II: The Battle of Iwo Jima ended, but small pockets of Japanese resistance persisted.
  • 1968 – Vietnam War: My Lai Massacre occurs; between 347 and 500 Vietnamese villagers (men, women, and children) are killed by American troops.
  • 1988 – Iran–Contra affair: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • 1995 – Mississippi formally ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified in 1865.

Notables born on this day include:

Physicist Brian Cox named his female tortoiseshell cat after Caroline Herschel.

  • 1906 – Henny Youngman, English-American violinist and comedian (d. 1998)
  • 1911 – Josef Mengele, German physician and captain (d. 1979)
  • 1912 – Pat Nixon, First Lady of the United States (d. 1993)
  • 1926 – Jerry Lewis, American actor and comedian (d. 2017)
  • 1943 – Ursula Goodenough, American biologist, zoologist, and author

She’s a reader here, so Happy Birthday, Ursula! Here’s a photo from her Wikipedia page, captioned “Ursula Goodenough in Dharamsala, India with Richard GereEric Lander and a Buddhist Bhikkhu.” There must be a story behind that!

  • 1953 – Isabelle Huppert, French actress

Those who crossed the Styx on March 16 were few; I have but two:

  • 1903 – Roy Bean, American lawyer and judge (b. 1825)
  • 1983 – Arthur Godfrey, American actor and television host (b. 1903)

Here’s Judge Roy Bean, the “law west of the Pecos,” with the Wikipedia caption, “Judge Roy Bean, the `Law West of the Pecos,’ holding court at the old town of Langtry, Texas in 1900, trying a horse thief. This building was courthouse and saloon. No other peace officers in the locality at that time.”

Bean is the bearded guy sitting on the barrel. He was a true eccentric: read the “later years and death” section of his Wikipedia biography.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is reading (through her butt):

Hili: A difficult text must be thought through.
A: Do you have any conclusions?
Hili: Yes, on some books you have to sit twice.
In Polish:
Hili: Trudną lekturę trzeba przemyśleć.
Ja: Masz jakieś wnioski?
Hili: Tak, na niektórych książkach trzeba siedzieć dwa razy.

A first! Two days ago Andrzej and Hili went for a walk down to the Vistula river, and Szaron joined them. The tomcat kept his distance from Hili, but they haven’t attacked each other.

Caption:  First walk together by the Vistula river. I wonder if this will become a custom?

In Polish: Pierwszy wspólny spacer nad Wisłę. Ciekawe czy to stanie się obyczajem?

From Facebook:

Related to that, here’s a meme posted by Ali Rizvi:

From The Yardner, posted on FB by Diana MacPherson:

From Jesus of the Day:

All flights from “hot” countries to the U.S. are routed through 13 airports so that all entering residents and citizens can be checked for the virus. The result: pandemonium. Here’s Chicago:

From reader Barry.  English gives the gist of the article, which is “Catholicism poisons everything.” If you can read Polish, click on the link:

Also from Barry, who said, “Not the most attractive cat you’ll ever see.” But all cats are beautiful in the eyes of Ceiling Cat! Meet Meowsferatu:

Tweets from Matthew. I have no turtle, but I have a lot of books:

I retweeted this one, sent by Dr. Cobb:

Here’s a tweet that links to a great animation showing the spread of the coronavirus linked to its phylogeny as it mutated (see the video here):

A tweet from the Master himself. But I think the cockroaches will inherit the planet, and they ain’t beetles (they’re actually related more closely to termites).

I would like to think that both stories are true:



  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    “Ursula Goodenough in Dharamsala, India with Richard Gere, Eric Lander and a Buddhist Bhikkhu.” There must be a story behind that!

    Just so long as it doesn’t involve a gerbil.

  2. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The ermine (stoat) in da Vinci’s painting seems very large. Typical nose to tail length in a stoat is about 30 cm. I wonder if the animal in the painting was actually intended to be a ferret?

    • Posted March 16, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      The woman might be smaller than modern women. The size difference between Ecuadorian women of the past century and those of the present time is huge, due to better nutrition now. Sometimes old rural women are still seen on roadsides hoarvesting greens for their cuys (guinea pigs which they eat)and they can behalf the height of modern women. This of course is confounded with the ordinary shrinkage of people with age, but diet was also involved.

      On the other hand the painted woman was probably wealthy and ate well for her time, so maybe my point doesn’t apply to her.

    • grasshopper
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      “Stoatal Warfare, or Ermine Kampf”: Hitler’s lesser known justification for attacking Minsk.

  3. ursula goodenough
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Jerry requested an explanation of my sojourn to Dharamsala in 2002 to meet with the Dalai Lama. I was invited by an outfit called the Mind and Life Institute to spend 5 days with him and his senior monks, along with a few other scientists including Eric Lander and Steven Chu. The topic was “What is Matter? What is Life?” and I was asked to talk about evolution. “His Holiness,” as he was and I assume still is called, was hugely attentive as well as hugely charming, asking great questions via translators, and the venue — a hall saturated with Buddhist art — was stunning, not to mention the surrounding Himalayas. Invitees included his groupies/funders, including Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn. It was mind-blowing. Even better, they invited me to bring a family member so my son Thomas, then 19, had his mind blown as well. I returned the following winter to give a crash course in biology/evolution to ~30 of his monks. I of course don’t buy into many Buddhist understandings of the natural world, and it’s not clear that I convinced him/them that mine was preferable, but I did my best to help them understand it.

    • Posted March 16, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      What a fascinating tale! Thank you for sharing that.

    • Posted March 16, 2020 at 9:55 am | Permalink


    • rickflick
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      It would have been great to have filmed the meetings and shared them more widely. Thanks for the description.

      • ursula goodenough
        Posted March 16, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        They were in fact filmed. I was sent a boatload of VHS tapes that I tossed when packing to move a few years ago, but should you actually be interested, Mind&Life may by now have them digitized.

        • rickflick
          Posted March 16, 2020 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          Good idea. Thanks.

    • Mark R.
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the elaboration. As far as religions go, I count Buddhism as one of the more benign.

      • grasshopper
        Posted March 16, 2020 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        I think I am a born-again Buddhist. In a previous life I was Shirley Maclaine.

  4. Posted March 16, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Wikipedia is quite lyrical sometimes:

    ” As he aged, Bean spent much of his profits helping the poor of the area and always made sure that the local schoolhouse had free firewood in winter. Roy Bean died peacefully in his bed on 16 March 1903 after a bout of heavy drinking…”

  5. Posted March 16, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    ihe name for that cat that immediately came to mind was Nightmare

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Oh no. The poor baby can’t help his ears slid down. Something more royal like the name of some mythological god.

  6. GBJames
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The tRump-induced chaos at O’Hare and other airports is guaranteed to do exactly the opposite of what was intended. What mind-numbing stupidity!

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      A riot in the beginning.

  7. rickflick
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Andrzej’s “Lady with Szaron,” is so well named I had to look for a “Lady with Cat”, by Leonardo. Well, even better – I came across a page by an Abyssinian cat chief editor Johnny, and his human servants. Many fine drawings of cats and other things.

    Leonardo Da Vinci: Cats Drawings and 6 Quotes:

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 16, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Much appreciated, thanks rickflick!

  8. boudiccadylis
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m very happy Szaron is fitting in. I have in the past worked with feral cats & kittens. It takes enormous patience and quiet to hold one.

  9. Nin Guino
    Posted March 16, 2020 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Regarding that chart on the Coronavirus, isn’t it strange that the initial cases in Wuhan are so separated genetically? That does not look like one single focus. Could this virus had been hanging around before Wuhan? Or I am misinterpreting badly that tree?

  10. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    All flights from “hot” countries to the U.S. are routed through 13 airports so that all entering residents and citizens can be checked for the virus.

    That’s the spirit! Better make sure everyone becomes infected …

    Blessed are the beetles, for they shall inherit the Earth.

    “More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.”

    “There are more than 350,000 species of beetle and many are thought to have declined, especially dung beetles.”

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