Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March is going out, but not like a lamb: it’s March 31, 2020, and it’s both National Oysters on the Half Shell Day and National Clams on the Half Shell Day. Fat chance that any of us will get these things right now!  It’s also International Transgender Day of Visibility, World Backup Day, César Chavéz Day, celebrating the activist’s birthday in 1927 (he died of unspecified natural causes in 1993), Eiffel Tower Day, celebrating the day that structure was opened in 1889, and National Bunsen Burner Day.

Who was Bunsen, you ask? It was the burner’s inventor, Robert Bunsen (1811-1899), who was actually born on March 30, not March 31. He was a German chemist, founder of emission spectroscopy, and co-discoverer of caesium and rubidium. As Wikipedia notes:

He discontinued his work with Roscoe in 1859 and joined Gustav Kirchhoff to study emission spectra of heated elements, a research area called spectrum analysis. For this work, Bunsen and his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, had perfected a special gas burner by 1855, which was influenced by earlier models. The newer design of Bunsen and Desaga, which provided a very hot and clean flame, is now called simply the “Bunsen burner“, a common laboratory equipment.

Here’s Mr. Burner Bunsen:

News of the Day: Not good. Three out of four Americans are now under stay-at-home orders, the U.S. government is set to predict between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the nation (3,000 have died already), Trump continues to insult governors, CEOs, and Nancy Pelosi, calling the latter a “sick puppy”. (The targets of his insults are usually women.) In New York, the Empire State Building is now lighted to denote an emergency (h/t Matthew):

And in the UK, as Boorish Johnson is infected, today’s press briefing will be held by Larry the Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office (h/t: Jacques):


Stuff that happened on March 31 includes:

  • 1492 – Queen Isabella of Castile issues the Alhambra Decree, ordering her 150,000 Jewish and Muslim subjects to convert to Christianity or face expulsion.
  • 1774 – American Revolutionary War: The Kingdom of Great Britain orders the port of Boston, Massachusetts closed pursuant to the Boston Port Act.
  • 1854 – Commodore Matthew Perry signs the Convention of Kanagawa with the Tokugawa Shogunate, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade.
  • 1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened. [see above]
  • 1913 – The Vienna Concert Society rioted during a performance of modernist music by Arnold SchoenbergAlban BergAlexander von Zemlinsky, and Anton von Webern, causing a premature end to the concert due to violence; this concert became known as the Skandalkonzert.

Here’s a cartoon of the Skandalkonzert from the newspaper Die Zeit:

  • 1918 – Daylight saving time goes into effect in the United States for the first time.
  • 1930 – The Motion Picture Production Code is instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion and violence in film, in the U.S., for the next thirty-eight years.
  • 1945 – World War II: A defecting German pilot delivers a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, to the Americans, the first to fall into Allied hands.

Here’s one of those planes, which, though envisioned and partly designed before the war, encountered problems and didn’t go into production until mid-1944—way too late for Hitler:

  • 1959 – The 14th Dalai Lama, crosses the border into India and is granted political asylum.
  • 1968 – American President Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation of “Steps to Limit the War in Vietnam” in a television address. At the conclusion of his speech, he announces: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

Here’s that announcement:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1596 – René Descartes, French mathematician and philosopher (d. 1650)
  • 1809 – Edward FitzGerald, English poet and translator (d. 1883)

Fitzgerald translated the sayings of the Persian mathematician Omar Khayyam, and Fitzgerald’s is, to me, the definitive translation. I have a copy at home which I read from time to time; it was given to me when I was a child by my late Uncle Moe.

  • 1809 – Nikolai Gogol, Ukrainian-Russian short story writer, novelist, and playwright (d. 1852)
  • 1872 – Sergei Diaghilev, Russian ballet manager and critic, founded the Ballets Russes (d. 1929)
  • 1928 – Gordie Howe, Canadian ice hockey player (d. 2016)
  • 1938 – Patrick Bateson, English biologist and academic (d. 2017)
  • 1948 – Al Gore, American soldier and politician, 45th Vice President of the United States and Nobel Prize laureate

Those who packed it in on March 31 include:

  • 1631 – John Donne, English lawyer and poet (b. 1572)
  • 1855 – Charlotte Brontë, English novelist and poet (b. 1816)
  • 1913 – J. P. Morgan, American banker and financier (b. 1837)
  • 1917 – Emil von Behring, German physiologist and immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1854)
  • 1931 – Knute Rockne, American football player and coach (b. 1888)
  • 1976 – Paul Strand, American photographer and director (b. 1890)

Strand is another of my favorite “street photographers.” Source: International Center for Photography,  Here’s a famous photo he took, “Blind Woman, New York”, from 1985.


  • 1980 – Jesse Owens, American sprinter and long jumper (b. 1913)
  • 1995 – Selena, American singer-songwriter (b. 1971)
  • 2005 – Frank Perdue, American businessman (b. 1920)

Here’s the once enormously popular Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez performing live at the Astrodome. She was murdered by her fan club’s manager when she was only 23 years old.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili misses the real signs of spring:

A: Look, such pretty crocuses.
Hili: But the birds are not coming to them.
In Polish:
Ja: Patrz jakie ładne krokusy.
Hili: Tak, ale ptaki do nich nie przylatują.

From Purple Clover on Facebook:


From Heather Hastie:

From Bad Cat Clothing (why are these women always named Karen?):

Ceiling Cat bless these people. Look at the precautions they have to take!

Seriously, why would we even consider re-electing this man?

From Titania. Good to see the UK still waffles on free speech.

Nick Heath is a sports commentator who now has nothing to announce, so has resorted to sport-ish descriptions of everyday life. Here’s one:

Tweets from Matthew. Both he and I love examples of crypsis (camouflage), and this is a good one:

New York is silent. It’s sad but necessary:

A frustrated and stir-crazy cat:

Stentors are large ciliate protozoans, very large single-celled species:



  1. Gerdien
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Spring and birds nesting:

    • rickflick
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks. I needed that.

  2. Susan Davies
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Thank the gods that Hitler never got to use those jets. Things might have turned out very differently. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    • Frank Bath
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Indeed but I like to think that Britain’s Meteors would have shot them out of the sky.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Both Britain and the US were not too far behind and if the Nazis had managed to get 262s in service in significant numbers they would have prioritized their jet programs even more. The Nazis definitely would have had an advantage for some time in the air, though for several reasons it would not have won them the war or significantly extended it.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      The Luftwaffe deployed Messerschmidt jets near War’s end, but it was too little, too late for the Third Reich.

      I knew a lawyer in Miami, and old-timer when I was first starting out, who took a bullet to the shoulder from one that was making a strafing run against his infantry unit in eastern France. The first time he ever saw a jet, or realized that such flying machines even existed, one came over the crest of a ridge and was shooting at him.

      • darrelle
        Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        A very lucky man to have survived a hit in the shoulder from a 30 mm autocannon.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          The wound was sufficiently severe to instantly end his participation in a combat theater for the remainder of the War.

          • darrelle
            Posted March 31, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

            I can believe that!

      • Posted March 31, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        They would have been in action sooner but Hitler insisted the German engineers develop a jet bomber rather than a jet fighter. It didn’t work and delayed the jet fighter by nearly two years.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 31, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          Doubt it would’ve changed the outcome of the War. But it sure would’ve made things dicier for those Brit and American aircrews flying mission after mission, day after day, in their Flying Fortresses, through the flak-filled skies above Germany.

    • George
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Today’s entry of World War 2 Today –

    • davelenny
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Whether the 262 could have made much difference is a matter of debate.

      1) Problems with unreliable engines, especially because of shortages of raw materials, delayed their introduction. At the war’s end there were many airframes without engines.

      2) Despite Hitler’s insistence on the bomber version, private development of the fighter version continued, though probably not at the same pace open, state-supported development would have made possible.

      3) The 262 did not have a particularly distinguished combat record, despite being reserved for experienced pilots, though this possibly reflects the difficult circumstances under which it operated.

      Germany might have slowed the daylight bomber offensive much more if the Luftwaffe had concentrated its existing fighter force for an all out, one day effort against American bomber streams, as advocated by some leading fighter pilots, rather than the Pyrrhic victory it achieved on Jan 1, 1945, against Allied frontline airfields.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    [ weighs cool facts to share vs. other things ]

    Muppets character Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is a reference to Robert Bunsen – or at least Jim Henson’s recollections of one of the most memorable objects science class. Honeydew I suggest is a reference to Honeywell, but that’s a wild guess.

  4. Ken Pidcock
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    My father spoke very little about his war experience, but he did describe seeing one of those jets. People were awestruck.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Yes, the reality was that Germany was being bombed into the stone age, the entire Russian Army was on the way and a few jets would make little difference. They were nearly as dangerous for the pilots that flew them as the enemy they were after.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    1913 – The Vienna Concert Society rioted during a performance of modernist music by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Alexander von Zemlinsky, and Anton von Webern, causing a premature end to the concert due to violence …

    I’m no longhair music maven, but wasn’t that around the same time that Schoenberg’s rival Stravinsky caused a riot of sorts in Paris with the debut of “The Rite of Spring”?

    • rickflick
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      The Riot of Spring?

  7. Posted March 31, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Actually, Johnson’s stand-in is not a cat called Larry, but Michael, a ventriloquist dummy. It’s a bit disconcerting to watch. Almost creepily lifelike.

  8. Posted March 31, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Bunsen’s invention of the spectroscope was actually far more impactful than his burner. Thanks to the spectroscope we learned the composition of the stars.

  9. openidname
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, according to those can actually read Persian, Fitzgerald’s work is not really a “translation,” as such — more like a riff on various themes by Omar Khayyam.

    It really is a great poem, though, and to me, that just means Fitzgerald deserves most of the credit.

  10. openidname
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    I think the Karen thing is partly because women named Karen are all of a certain age. See:


  11. sugould
    Posted April 1, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t this be lovely to hear again! “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

%d bloggers like this: