Monday: Hili dialogue

April 13, 2020 • 6:30 am

Another “work-from-home week” has begun: it’s Monday, April 13, 2020, and National Peach Cobbler Day. It’s a toothsome dessert, and a Southern one, but is also a product of Big Peach: the holiday was created by the Georgia Peach Council in the 1950s as a way to sell canned peaches. It’s also Scrabble Day, celebrating the birthday of its inventor, Alfred Mosher Butts, in 1899.  Here’s Butts holding his name in letters:

In Butts’s Wikipedia biography, there’s this:

To memorialize Butts’s importance to the invention of the game, there is a street sign at 35th Avenue and 81st Street in Jackson Heights that is stylized using letters, with their values in Scrabble as a subscript.

And, sure enough, here it is:

Photo by Andres Schiffino on Atlas Obscura

It’s also Jefferson’s Birthday, celebrating the 1743 birthday of our third President and, by any account, a “founding father.”  Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826, aged 83; it was the very same day that John Adams (the second President) died, and the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which he wrote. He clearly wanted to stay alive until that day, as evidenced by his asking people, “Is it the Fourth?”

Today Google takes up again its series of thanks to “coronavirus helpers”, thanking those who stock and sell our groceries (notice the social distancing). Click on screenshot to see the thanks:

News of the Day: Depressing, naturally. Deaths from the coronavirus have reached 22,106 in the U.S. and 114,331 throughout the world. Meanwhile, Trump is squabbling with Anthony Fauci after Fauci accused the government of an overly slow response to the spreading virus.

In the NYT, Charlie Warzel ponders the question of when life will be normal again. Answer: Who the hell knows? Finally, the paper has investigated Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault by Joe Biden, and doesn’t find a smoking gun, or even a gun. You can read the article here.

My hair grows ever longer and is quite shaggy and unkempt. I have no idea when it will be neat again. (The photo below, taken this morning, doesn’t look too bad as I’d just washed my hair and it hadn’t yet gotten floofy):

Stuff that happened on April 13 includes:

  • 1742 – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah makes its world-premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
  • 1861 – American Civil War: Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces.
  • 1870 – The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art is founded.
  • 1919 – Jallianwala Bagh massacre: British troops gun down at least 379 unarmed demonstrators in Amritsar, India; at least 1200 are wounded.

In this infamous incident, armed British soldiers attacked unarmed Indians celebrating a holiday, opening fire without warning. Fire was concentrated on the narrow exits, and 120 people died by jumping into a well to escape the bullets.  General Reginald Dyer, who gave the order, was regarded by many in Britain as a hero, but he was demoted and then resigned from the Army. Rabindrath Tagore, India’s great poet and songwriter, resigned his knighthood when he heard of the massacre. Here’s a re-enactment from the movie Gandhi:

  • 1943 – The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C., on the 200th anniversary of President Thomas Jefferson’s birth.
  • 1958 – American pianist Van Cliburn is awarded first prize at the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.
  • 1964 – At the Academy Awards, Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American male to win the Best Actor award for the 1963 film Lilies of the Field.
  • 1976 – The United States Treasury Department reintroduces the two-dollar bill as a Federal Reserve Note on Thomas Jefferson‘s 233rd birthday as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration.

How many of us have even seen a two-dollar bill—much less have one in your wallet—even though they’re legal tender? Here’s one, and perhaps you’ve forgotten that Jefferson’s visage adorns it (photo from Wikipedia):

  • 1992 – Basements throughout the Chicago Loop are flooded, forcing the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to close.
  • 1997 – Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer to win the Masters Tournament.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s Butch Cassidy (real name Robert LeRoy Parker), with the photo of the Sundance Kid (Harry Longabaugh). Both were gunned down, as in the movie, in southern Bolivia.


Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) and Etta Place just before they sailed for South America
  • 1899 – Alfred Mosher Butts, American architect and game designer, created Scrabble (d. 1993)
  • 1901 – Jacques Lacan, French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst (d. 1981)
  • 1906 – Samuel Beckett, Irish novelist, poet, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
  • 1906 – Bud Freeman, American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1991)
  • 1909 – Eudora Welty, American short story writer and novelist (d. 2001)
  • 1924 – Jack T. Chick, American author, illustrator, and publisher (d. 2016)

Surely, if you’re an American evolutionist, you’ve seen Chick’s evangelical pamphlets:


  • 1939 – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
  • 1949 – Christopher Hitchens, English-American essayist, literary critic, and journalist (d. 2011)
  • 1945 – Tony Dow, American actor
  • 1963 – Garry Kasparov, Russian chess player and author

Those who were annihilated on April 13 include:

Brady, the first American to own a car, was famous for being a trencherman as well as a philanthropist and the lover of Lillian Russell. Here’s a description of his dining habits from Wikipedia:

Brady’s enormous appetite was as legendary as his wealth, though modern experts believe it was greatly exaggerated. It was not unusual, according to the legend, for Brady to eat enough food for ten people at a sitting. George Rector, owner of a favorite restaurant, described Brady as “the best 25 customers I ever had”. For breakfast, he would eat “vast quantities of hominy, eggs, cornbread, muffins, flapjacks, chops, fried potatoes, beefsteak, washing it all down with a gallon of fresh orange juice”. A mid-morning snack would consist of “two or three dozen clams or Lynnhaven oysters”. Luncheon would consist of “shellfish…two or three deviled crabs, a brace of boiled lobsters, a joint of beef, and an enormous salad”. He would also include a dessert of “several pieces of homemade pie” and more orange juice. Brady would take afternoon tea, which consisted of “another platter of seafood, accompanied by two or three bottles of lemon soda”. Dinner was the main meal of the day, taken at Rector’s Restaurant. It usually comprised “two or three dozens oysters, six crabs, and two bowls of green turtle soup. Then in sumptuous procession came six or seven lobsters, two canvasback ducks, a double portion of terrapin, sirloin steak, vegetables, and for dessert a platter of French pastries.” Brady would even include two pounds of chocolate candy to finish off the meal.

This is surely exaggerated, but I do object to the canvasback ducks.

  • 1956 – Emil Nolde, Danish-German painter and educator (b. 1867)
  • 1993 – Wallace Stegner, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1909)
  • 2006 – Muriel Spark, Scottish novelist, poet, and critic (b. 1918)
  • 2015 – Günter Grass, German novelist, poet, playwright, and illustrator, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1927).

Here’s a fine painting by Nolde:

Emil Nolde. Exotic Figures II, 1911. Oil on canvas, 65.5 x 78 cm. © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.

Reader Scott informed me that John Conway (see also the obituary by Scott Aaronson) died two days ago of coronavirus.  SMBC‘s Zach Weinersmith made a poignant cartoon referring to Conway’s invention, the “Game of Life”:


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej is pessimistic about everything.

Hili: What do you think?
A: What about?
Hili: About all this.
A: It doesn’t look good.
In Polish:
Hili: Co sądzisz?
Ja: O czym?
Hili: O tym wszystkim.
Ja: Nie wygląda to dobrze.

And a picture of handsome Szaron, without a caption:

Posted on FB by Margaret Downey:

From Nicole:

And from Merilee, a lovely antiviral mask:


A tweet from Muffy. It’s hard to even see the gecko even though it’s in plain sight.

From reader John; of course the cat wins:

From Simon; re the Empty Tomb that we discussed yesterday:

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is not a joke: it’s TRUE. Read the article in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Peacock fights!

A rare view of Los Angeles:

A lot of people look prescient today:



26 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. It was John Conway’s Game of Life book that led me to accept that complex behaviour could arise from a few simple rules. And then I read Blind Watchmaker…

    1. Ah, good times

      John Conway was featured on Numberphile relatively recently- his personality is very likable and fascinating. So sad.

  2. Jack Chick, more proof that if you yell loud and underline caps and use a lot of exclamation points you can go ahead and just throw in a QED right after it. YOU did not accept the LOARD JESUS! YOU’RE RONG. QED.

    1. I doubt he could spell FDR let alone something twice as long.

      I miss having a president like Obama who can string coherent sentences together to delineate a vision, and address serious issues without gaslighting and insulting people. I thought that W. was pretty much the bottom of the barrel (I still think he was a terrible president) but even he could show empathy, albeit often in a somewhat garbled manner.

      Right now we’ve got the worst person at the wrong moment.

      1. The worst at the wrong. That is a good way to put it.

        It is fascinating to see how the greatness of FDR is overlooked in history. This is partly due to the fact that he did not survive to the end of the war and write his story. His strategy is the one that won the war or at least made our part successful, not the military, not Churchill, no one but him. Anyone who wishes to know more about this should consider Nigel Hamilton’s book Commander In Chief.

  3. I can already hear how “conservatives” will discredit and otherwise trash anything Obama said –

    “every President warns about things but nothing ever happens”
    “Obama had no idea how it would really work, his plan would’ve failed “
    “We know now that all these other things which Obama never talked about are important”
    “It would have been much worse if Obama had been in charge of it”
    “Obama wanted globalization so this is what we would’ve got”.
    And so on.

    … “investing” in a system way out in advance is literally a conservative thing to do.

    The PBS reporter had such excellent delivery of the question- so clear, so straight ahead – it was thrilling- oh boy would I have screwed that up.

  4. Re: $2.00 bill — I get them from the bank and send them to my grandkids. They get a kick out of trying to spend them. Oh wait…I guess that won’t be happening anymore. Damn virus!

    1. I have an envelope with some $2 bills, somewhere. I recently learned that they are very popular in Ecuador, which uses the US dollar as its currency. If I had known, I would have taken them with me when I visited there and used them for tips. Ecuador also uses the Sacajawea and Susan B. Anthony one dollar coins.

      1. My grandfather drowned in the 1980’s in a lake in winter; his body wasn’t found until the next spring when the water warmed (yuck, I know). But he was still wearing his wallet. Inside was a 1953 $2 bill with a red seal. Apparently he’d been carrying it in his wallet since ‘53. My grandmother gave it to me as a gift and I still have it.

  5. LA, great improvement! I arrived in Pasadena in 1962 to attend school and took a walk. After on mile my eyes were burning and I was coughing.

    1. I got to Pasadena in 1967 and it was still like that. It would hurt to take a deep breath on some days. It was over a month before it rained and I learned that Mount Wilson was 3 miles from where I lived.

  6. Dept of Better Late Than Never: A group of disgusted Republicans has mounted a campaign to get rid of Tweet, improbably enough co-founded by Kellyanne Conway’s husband.

    Otherwise, in re. the $2, I currently have 10 of them in my wallet, my defense vs. being handed a stack of $1s in change. If the Treasury would quit printing $1’s and stop striking pennies, with monetary units of comparable value, there’d be places for $2s and dollar coins in the till. And, Jefferson is a fellow W&M alum.

  7. The great Preston Sturges scripted “Diamond Jim,” a film about Brady starring Edward Arnold. It has yet to be released on DVD or Blu-Ray, presumably for obscure rights issues, but it’s good fun, though far from historically accurate. The unexpectedly dark ending involves Jim’s gargantuan appetite…

  8. With respect to things returning to “normal”…surely there never has been a “normal” in human civilization; it’s a system that has not been at anything like equilibrium since the dawn of agriculture at least, and in the modern era it’s farther from any equilibrium than ever.

    1. Depends, I suppose, on the size of your window. Time-wise, and geography-wise. Frame of reference is everything.

      1. Of course, and I agree with you completely. But I can certainly note that there has been no persistent normal in MY lifetime. I’m only 50, so that’s limited, but on longer timescales it seems even more wiggly.

        I think people might be a little less stressed out if they recognized that normalcy is largely illusory. Instead of seeking normal, we should (I think) try always to make things always better.

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