Friday: Hili dialogue

March 20, 2020 • 6:45 am

It’s the end of a week even worse than the last one: it’s Friday, March 20, 2020, and another celebration of cultural appropriation: National Ravioli Day.

The most important holiday today is Atheist Pride Day, so let your godless flag fly! It’s also a United Nations Holiday: International Day of Happiness. (Remember that sporadically the UN surveys the countries of the world to calculate their “happiness index”. The happiness of the world’s nations is inversely proportion to their religiosity! ). It’s also National Bock Beer Day, French Language Day, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” Day, celebrating the birthday of Fred Rogers in 1928, and Bibliomania Day, celebrated on this day because:

[It was on] March 20, 1990, Stephen Blumberg’s bibliomania caught up with him. He was arrested for stealing more than 23,600 books (weighing 19 tons) from 268 libraries, universities, and museums. It had taken him over 20 years to steal them, and he got them from 45 states, Washington D.C., and Canada. After originally being thought to be valued at around $20 million, the value of the books was estimated at $5.3 million. He is known as the number one book thief in American history and became known as the Book Bandit. The books he stole, which included a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin among other rare books, became known as the “Blumberg Collection.”

An acquaintance of Blumberg, Kenneth J. Rhodes, turned him in for a $56,000 reward. During Blumberg’s trial, a psychiatric doctor let it be known that Blumberg had gone through psychiatric treatment as an adolescent. The defense claimed that Blumberg had stolen the books because of psychiatric issues beyond his control. According to the defense, Blumberg had thought he was saving the books from destruction by stealing them. He thought that the government was trying to keep them so that everyday people wouldn’t have them, and he thought he was acting as custodian of the books and doing something good. Because he was well-intentioned, he said he would have never sold any of the books for a profit, and hoped they would go to another person who would take good care of them after he was gone. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to 71 months in prison and given a $200,000 fine, and insanity or psychology wasn’t factored into the decision. He was released on December 29, 1995, and has since been arrested for burglary multiple times.

And it’s World Sparrow Day, designed to raise awareness of the lovely but overlooked house sparrow, Passer domesticus. Here’s a photo of a female feeding her offspring:

Photo by L. B. Tettenborn, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) goes to a YouTube video in which Ignaz Semmelweiss (1818-1865), who saved multitudes of lives by introducing handwashing to medicine, presents the WHO guidelines for how to properly wash your hands. (Note his short life: read the link to see the ironic way he died.)

News of the Day: As usual these days, it’s pretty much bad. The governor of California has issued a “shelter in place” order for his 40 million residents, and the virus continues to spread worldwide, except in China. And Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina benefited from what might be conceived as “insider trading”: selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock after Trump declared that the pandemic was not as serious as people imagined, even though Burr believed otherwise. (h/t: cesar)

Matthew, who’s teaching remotely from home, is lounging in bed but working, and is wearing his famous dinosaur pyjamas (for Americans, pajamas). After I begged him sufficiently hard, he sent me a photo (oy! he’s wearing fuzzy slippers, too!):

Stuff that happened on March 20 includes:

  • 1616 – Sir Walter Raleigh is freed from the Tower of London after 13 years of imprisonment.
  • 1852 – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published.
  • 1854 – The Republican Party of the United States is organized in Ripon, Wisconsin.
  • 1915 – Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity.

For the life of me, I can’t find an image of the paper with a March, 1915 date on it. Otherwise I would have posted it.

  • 1922 – The USS Langley is commissioned as the first United States Navy aircraft carrier.
  • 1923 – The Arts Club of Chicago hosts the opening of Pablo Picasso’s first United States showing, entitled Original Drawings by Pablo Picasso, becoming an early proponent of modern art in the United States.
  • 1933 – Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the creation of Dachau concentration camp as Chief of Police of Munich and appointed Theodor Eicke as the camp commandant.
  • 1985 – Libby Riddles becomes the first woman to win the 1,135-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Riddles also loves cats and has two, Ester and Chilkat (a great name). Here she is with Ester:

  • 1985 – Canadian paraplegic athlete and humanitarian Rick Hansen begins his circumnavigation of the globe in a wheelchair in the name of spinal cord injury medical research.

Fox traveled over 40,000 km on his circumnavigation, finishing with a roll across Canada. Here he is:

  • 1995 – The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo carries out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and wounding over 6,200 people.
  • 2000 – Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a former Black Panther once known as H. Rap Brown, is captured after murdering Georgia sheriff’s deputy Ricky Kinchen and critically wounding Deputy Aldranon English.

Al-Amin remains in prison, having been convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 43 BC – Ovid, Roman poet (d. 17)
  • 1811 – George Caleb Bingham, American painter and politician, State Treasurer of Missouri (d. 1879)

Here’s Bingham’s most famous painting, “Fur traders descending the Missouri” (1845). It’s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Now, is that a fox or a cat in the prow? Why is it there?

  • 1828 – Henrik Ibsen, Norwegian poet, playwright, and director (d. 1906)
  • 1904 – B. F. Skinner, American psychologist and author (d. 1990)
  • 1906 – Ozzie Nelson, American actor and bandleader (d. 1975)
  • 1922 – Carl Reiner, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1925 – John Ehrlichman, American lawyer, 12th White House Counsel (d. 1999)
  • 1928 – Fred Rogers, American television host and producer (d. 2003)

Here’s an appropriate quote from Mr. Rogers:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster”, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.

  • 1940 – Mary Ellen Mark, American photographer and journalist (d. 2015)

Here’s one of Mark’s famous photos, “Ram Prakash Singh with his elephant Shyama, Great Golden Circus, Ahmedabad, India, 1990”.

From the Guardian
  • 1947 – John Boswell, American historian, philologist, and academic (d. 1994)

Boswell, who became a famous historian at Yale writing largely about gay issues, lived across the hall from me in college sophomore year. He was gay (back then it was kept under wraps) and died of AIDS at the age of only 47.

  • 1957 – Spike Lee, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1958 – Holly Hunter, American actress and producer
  • 1925 – George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, English politician, 35th Governor-General of India (b. 1859)

Those who were done for on March 20 include:

  • 1974 – Chet Huntley, American journalist (b. 1911)
  • 1997 – V. S. Pritchett, English short story writer, essayist, and critic (b. 1900)
  • 2017 – David Rockefeller, American billionaire and philanthropist (b. 1915)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili joins those giving us good advice in the Time of Virus:

Hili: Never lick a door knob.
A: Yes, I’ve read that viruses like them
In Polish:
Hili: Nigdy nie liż klamek.
Ja: Tak, czytałem, że wirusy je lubią.

And Szaron, who’s getting increasingly tame, has a few words to say about the world:

Szaron: I will tell you: not everything is clear yet.

In Polish: Szaron: Ja ci powiem, nie wszystko jest jeszcze jasne.

Szaron: Ja ci powiem, nie wszystko jest jeszcze jasne.

Posted on Frans de Waal’s public Facebook Page, “a Large frogmouth with chick, in Malaysia, by Yfeng Lim”:

Posted by my friend Moto:

A picture from a tweet by TheWitchesHammer (h/t: Muffy)


An appropriate analogy here:

Tweets from Barry. First, Anthony Hopkins’s cat keeps him healthy:

. . . and a response:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. Mr. Lumpy the badger is a nasty piece of work, hoarding bogroll and turning up his nose at cookies:

Not only this, but a dolphin appeared in the city’s canals for the first time in 60 years:

Tweets from Matthew. The first is bittersweet, but mostly bitter (read about the Drancy lager, located just outside Paris, here).

This is a lovely computer-generated image:

From the Arctic to the Antarctic and back: the world’s longest migration.

44 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Hi Jerry,
    Possible errors in your post?

    1. The pic of Riddles shows her with a d*g, not a cat. Or maybe this is a ‘spot the cat’ challenge…if so, I failed.

    2. Just below that, you refer to Rick Hansen as Fox. Maybe you were thinking of the text for Bingham’s painting while your fingers were typing the Hansen piece?

  2. At my feeder, no native bird can withstand the organized, concerted attack of 30 house sparrows.

  3. “The most important holiday today is Atheist Pride Day…”

    I’m as proud of identifying with the word-that-should-not-have-to-exist “atheist” as I am of identifying with the notion of being “not a golfer”, or being “not a cross-sticher”. But there are no word in existence to describe “not a golfer” or “not a cross-sticher”.

    That might sound grumpy but I must say I’m on the happy end of things, generally.

      1. “Agolfist”, and you can call back “acurlingist”, maybe.

        I noticed I made an error:

        Really specifically, the comparative words-that-should-not-exist (and, therefore, dont) would be :



  4. When I first took a picture of a male house sparrow, it took me two weeks to identify it. I started thinking it was some rare bird.

  5. And Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina benefited from what might be conceived as “insider trading”: selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock after Trump declared that the pandemic was not as serious as people imagined, even though Burr believed otherwise.

    The news reports I’ve heard say Burr sold off up to $1.7 million in stock after having received, in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, secret briefings on the danger presented by the coronavirus. There are similar reports that Republican US senator from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler — reportedly the richest member of the US senate and the wife of NY stock-exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher — also dumped millions of dollars in stocks under similarly suspicious circumstances. (There are also rumors at least of similar suspicious stock transactions by Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.)

    If any of this proves true — if any of these US senators used information unavailable to the public, but available to them because of their official positions, to advance their own financial interests — the guilty parties should be tarred and feathered and ridden on a rail somewhere outside the Beltway.

    It’s news like this during times like this that will put the American public in a real tumbrel-rolling frame of mind.

    1. I read that Feinstein’s stocks are in a blind trust so she had nothing to do with the sell offs. If other senators’ stocks are also in blind trusts, no biggie, but if not, yes, they need to be tarred and feathered or otherwise fired and investigated.

      1. Yeah, but Burr seems have made his own trades, and seems to have moved essential his entire net worth out of the market at the most propitious moment. He’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

        Loeffler claims all her transactions were handled by independent traders, but those transactions seem particularly suspicious — getting out of imperiled stocks and buying tech stocks that stood to gain from an increase in telecommuting, almost immediately after her Health, Education, and Labor committee got a briefing on the COVID-19 threat.

        1. I’m with you Ken, Burr is looking like the corrupt Republican that seems to be the new trend among his political party. I use “party” loosely; it’s more like a mafioso ring.

  6. 1906 – Ozzie Nelson, American actor and bandleader (d. 1975)

    Bandleader, huh? Always wondered what that cat did to make a living. I mean, all he ever seemed to do all day was hang around the house in a cardigan sweater, waiting for Rickie and David to need help building a kite, or for Harriet to clog the kitchen drain. 🙂

    1. Yes, he was a bandleader in the Big Band era and Harriet Hilliard (sp?) was the singer. They did a sweet meet-cute movie in which Ozzie led and Harriet sang. I’ve forgotten the title, but it’s probably available on TCM.

      1. Thanks. I don’t think there was any mention of Ozzie’s occupation in the in-world tv show, though — unlike, say, Danny Williams (Danny Thomas) who was a singer at the Copa on Make Room for Daddy or Ricky Ricardo, who had a Babalu band on I Love Lucy.

        Ozzie, OTOH, seemed to be part of some idle leisure class. 🙂

  7. Regarding the panic buying that has been occcurring in various places as a result of the corona virus pandemic I believe the German government has expressed concern that the shops may run out of sausage and cheese. That would be the wurst kase scenario, though.

    (I’ll get my coat!)

      1. I have to agree with you and the professor, but if it is a domestic cat how come, or what can it mean? Surely not symbolic, perhaps it’s some kind of tamed wild cat.

      2. It’s an interesting puzzle, isn’t it?

        If you go to the MMA site you can greatly enlarge details of the painting. The animal clearly has a long snout. SO: not a cat.

        If a black bear it must be a very young cub (it’s rather small). BUT: the ears are too pointed, as you suggest. Also cubs have snubbier snouts than in the painting and they are usually white-ish.

        SO: I tend to favour (a dark version of a silver) fox. The painting’s slender snout fits better. Also they were much prized by fur traders, often worth, it is said, 40 beaver pelts. And these were fur traders.

        FINALLY: It has it’s tongue hanging out! Isn’t that more common in foxes (dogs generally) than bears?

        1. Yes I agree about the snout. In the image posted here I was seeing it as facing away from the viewer but on closer examination it is not and as you say appears to have a longish snout that is not cat-like. I am still sure it is not a bear though!

          1. So, then, a fox? I must say I resisted that at first. The peaked ears, humped back, said ‘cat’. Then, on magnification, I saw the snout.

            I can’t find any explanation for why the Met favours a bear.

            I may try asking them! In my experience, often such institutions will respond to questions.

  8. The moving city can be viewed in short increments. It like twisting faster and faster until one is too dizzy.

  9. What were the Italians doing to the canals of Venice that made them so turbid? My imagination lurches and grunts just to think about it. Maybe, whatever it is, they should do less of it from now on.

      1. Or maybe the incessant sequence of cruise liners churning up the silt across the entire lagoon for the past 30 years or so?

    1. Venice gets 30 million visitors every year, so about 2.5 million a month. That’s a lot of extra poo and pee; Venice uses the canal system partly as its sewer system. Too bad they don’t invest in a modern system, maybe this will encourage that.

      What surprises me is how quickly the waters cleared; that’s heartening.

      1. er…that’s what my imagination was lurching about. Perhaps the lesson will be learned. Perhaps not.

  10. In honor of Atheist Pride Day taken from Aetheist Republic site:
    Pastor Mrs. Veronica who is the founder of Life of Faith and Prosperity Ministry, Asaba, Delta State, has made a wonderful statement and offer a solution to men who have infertility problems. She said during a church service she was offering a sermon and said that any man that makes love to her will be healed of his fertility problem. She said that her mission on earth is to cure fertility problems in men and once any of them sleeps with her and her body fluid touches his cucumber, such a man will be healed of his fertility problem. She went ahead to give her phone number so that any man with such a problem can contact her for a session.

    1. Of course her patients, in order to be treated, will all have to swear on a stack of frozen cucumbers that they do indeed suffer from infertility.

  11. “For the life of me, I can’t find an image of the paper with a March, 1915 date on it. Otherwise I would have posted it.”

    That’s because he presented the theory to the Prussian Academy in Nov. 1915 but it wasn’t published in a professional journal until early 1916. And that’s why GR’s year of birth is sometimes given as 1915, sometimes 1916.
    E.g Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene say 1915, Steven Weinberg says 1916 and John Gribbin says “intially in 1915 and more completely in 1916” so take your pick.
    I’d’ve thought 1916 would be the correct year given that that was when it was actually published?

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