Wednesday: Hili dialogue

April 29, 2020 • 6:45 am

Good (?) morning on Hump Day: Wednesday, April 29, 2020, about four days from Hatch Day. It’s going to rain today and tomorrow in Chicago, but the weather should improve for the ducklings.

It’s also National Shrimp Scampi Day (more cultural appropriation), International Dance Day, Denim Day (you must read about the origin of this day), International Guide Dog Day, International Noise Awareness Day, and Zipper Day, celebrating the data on which this most useful closure was patented in 1913 by Gideon Sundback.

Today’s Google Doodle is part of the site’s continuing attempt to keep people amused by playing computer games. When you click on the screenshot below, you go to a game, “Fischinger,” in which you can compose your own music:

News of the Day: No worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Confirmed coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are currently at 58,964; worldwide they stand at roughly 217,000. But remember, as they say annoyingly and frequently, “we’re all in this together.” Who decided that that mantra was going to cheer us up?

The New York Times has an interesting article today detailing how Sweden has handled the pandemic: no lockdowns, trust in citizens to keep social distance, wash their hands, and so on, and no closing of stores or schools.  It has not been a disaster. Excerpts:

While other countries were slamming on the brakes, Sweden kept its borders open, allowed restaurants and bars to keep serving, left preschools and grade schools in session and placed no limits on public transport or outings in local parks. Hairdressers, yoga studios, gyms and even some cinemas have remained open.

Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned. Museums have closed and sporting events have been canceled. At the end of March, the authorities banned visits to nursing homes.

That’s roughly it. There are almost no fines, and police officers can only ask people to oblige. Pedestrians wearing masks are generally stared at as if they have just landed from Mars.

The results? Much better than one would have predicted:

Trust is high in Sweden — in government, institutions and fellow Swedes. When the government defied conventional wisdom and refused to order a wholesale lockdown to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus epidemic, public health officials pointed to trust as a central justification.

Swedes, they said, could be trusted to stay home, follow social distancing protocols and wash their hands to slow the spread of the virus — without any mandatory orders. And, to a large extent, Sweden does seem to have been as successful in controlling the virus as most other nations.

Before you pooh-pooh this because you think that U.S. lockdowns must surely be the right solution, at least read the piece. And I calculated this:

U.S. population size/Sweden population size: about 32.1
U.S. coronavirus deaths/Sweden coronavirus deaths: about 25.0.

I think those figures are correct. Sweden still has more per capita deaths, but the difference is not huge. Of course other countries with lockdowns have even lower death rates than does America, and the U.S. has the huge aggregations of people in places like New York and Chicago.

Stuff that happened on April 29 includes:

  • 1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans.
  • 1770 – James Cook arrives in Australia at Botany Bay, which he names.
  • 1834 – Charles Darwin during the second survey voyage of HMS Beagle, ascended the Bell mountain, Cerro La Campana on 17 August 1834, his visit being commemorated by a memorial plaque.

Here is that mountain, which is 1880 meters tall:

  • 1916 – Easter Rising: After six days of fighting, Irish rebel leaders surrender to British forces in Dublin, bringing the Easter Rising to an end.
  • 1944 – World War II: British agent Nancy Wake, a leading figure in the French Resistance and the Gestapo’s most wanted person, parachutes back into France to be a liaison between London and the local maquis group.
  • 1945 – World War II: Führerbunker: Adolf Hitler marries his longtime partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker and designates Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor; Hitler and Braun both commit suicide the following day.
  • 1945 – Dachau concentration camp is liberated by United States troops.
  • 1967 – After refusing induction into the United States Army the previous day, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his boxing title.
  • 1968 – The controversial musical Hair, a product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, opens at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, with some of its songs becoming anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Here’s a performance by the revival cast of the musical at the 2009 Tony Awards. This is one of the enduring songs from that musical, along with “Aquarius”.  Wikipedia says the songs weren’t well received by the cognosecenti:

The music did not resonate with everyone. Leonard Bernstein remarked “the songs are just laundry lists” and walked out of the production. Richard Rodgers could only hear the beat and called it “one-third music”. John Fogerty said, “Hair is such a watered down version of what is really going on that I can’t get behind it at all.” Gene Lees, writing for High Fidelity, stated that John Lennon found it “dull”, and he wrote, “I do not know any musician who thinks it’s good.”

Ah, the good old hippie days! We thought we’d change the world, and what do we got we got now? TRUMP!

  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: United States President Richard Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of White House tape recordings relating to the scandal.
  • 1992 – Riots in Los Angeles, following the acquittal of police officers charged with excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. Over the next three days 63 people are killed and hundreds of buildings are destroyed.
  • 2015 – A baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox sets the all-time low attendance mark for Major League Baseball. Zero fans were in attendance for the game, as the stadium was officially closed to the public due to the 2015 Baltimore protests.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1854 – Henri Poincaré, French mathematician, physicist, and engineer (d. 1912)
  • 1863 – William Randolph Hearst, American publisher and politician, founded the Hearst Corporation (d. 1951)
  • 1893 – Harold Urey, American chemist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
  • 1899 – Duke Ellington, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1974)
  • 1901 – Hirohito, Japanese emperor (d. 1989)
  • 1933 – Willie Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor
  • 1945 – Brian Charlesworth, English biologist, geneticist, and academic

It’s the 75th for my pal, collaborator and ex-chair, now retired (but still working hard) at the University of Edinburgh.  Here’s a photo of Brian:

  • 1951 – Dale Earnhardt, American race car driver (d. 2001)
  • 1954 – Jerry Seinfeld, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1970 – Andre Agassi, American tennis player
  • 1970 – Uma Thurman, American actress

Since it’s the Duke’s birthday, and tomorrow is International Jazz Day, let’s have a video of his band playing his signature song, “Take the A Train.”  The main was a fricking genius, and employed some of the best musicians of that era as well as composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn, who wrote this song. (The original release by the “Blanton/Webster” version of his band didn’t have vocals, and is better; listen to it here.)

The man loved his food, and it shows. Brain Pickings has a summary of his diet taken from Terry Teachout’s biography (his dessert is amazing, and the items were combined in one bowl):

Duke, who is always worrying about keeping his weight down, may announce that he intends to have nothing but Shredded Wheat and black tea. . . . Duke’s resolution about not overeating frequently collapses at this point. When it does, he orders a steak, and after finishing it he engages in another moral struggle for about five minutes. Then he really begins to eat. He has another steak, smothered in onions, a double portion of fried potatoes, a salad, a bowl of sliced tomatoes, a giant lobster and melted butter, coffee, and an Ellington dessert — perhaps a combination of pie, cake, ice cream, custard, pastry, jello, fruit, and cheese. His appetite really whetted, he may order ham and eggs, a half-dozen pancakes, waffles and syrup, and some hot biscuits. Then, determined to get back on his diet, he will finish, as he began, with Shredded Wheat and black tea.

Those who croaked on April 29 include:

  • 1951 – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-English philosopher and academic (b. 1889)
  • 1980 – Alfred Hitchcock, English-American director and producer (b. 1899).

Matthew sent a tweet honoring the laconic director:

  • 1997 – Mike Royko, American journalist and author (b. 1932)
  • 2008 – Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist and academic (b. 1906)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Szaron is trying to cadge food from Hili:

Szaron: Share with me.
Hili: You had exactly the same in your bowl.
Szaron: Yes, but I’m growing and you are already too big.
In Polish:
Szaron: Podziel się.
Hili: Miałeś dokładnie to samo w twojej misce.
Szaron: Tak, ale ja rosnę, a ty już jesteś zbyt duża.

Here’s another a picture of Szaron:

. . . and of the Vistula river that abuts the property of Hili, Andrzej, and Malgorzata. After you walk through the cherry orchard, you come to a cliff that runs down to this view:


In nearby Wloclawek, Leon and Mitek are in charge.

The cats: We’re taking over!

In Polish: Przejmujemy kontrolę


From Bad Cat Clothing:

I guess it’s All Cats Day. This is from Jesus of the Day:

Fricking Pence! He went to the Mayo Clinic to visit the staff and patients and learn about antibody testing, was told that everyone had to wear a mask, and he didn’t, even though he was informed well in advance. He stood right beside a coronavirus patient unmasked! What point is the dumbass VP trying to make?

For some reason the Mayo Clinic took down this tweet (I suspect Trumpites were beserk), but Matthew had a screenshot:

From Simon: Randy Rainbow sings about drinking Clorox:

A tweet from Heather Hastie via Ann German. Nobody hates Trump like Ricky Gervais!

Tweets from Matthew. First: why the planets don’t really orbit the Sun.  Good luck figuring this mess out! Matthew says the explanation is in the thread, but if you need to do that, you shouldn’t be tweeting. Tweets should be self-contained!

Any idea what this burrowing owl is doing with the antenna?

This is just mean and unfair!



69 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. The results [of Sweden’s Covid-19 response]? Much better than one would have predicted:

    So, just for comparison:

    South Korea: 4.8 deaths/million
    U.S.: 176 deaths/million
    Sweden: 233 deaths/million
    Italy: 452 deaths/million

    1. Ah, sorry, forgot citation. It’s Our World In Data, chart titled “Total Confirmed Covid-19 deaths per million people, Apr 29, 2020.”

      Note also that considering total population size doesn’t really help the Swedish case either; in general, deaths/capita correlate with larger population size, with bigger countries tending to have higher death rates per capita. Unfortunately, several countries in Europe or associated buck this trend quite hard, as the graph shows. Sweden is one of them.

      1. Also, in terms of population density Sweden is ranked 198th with just 23 people per km2. London, with a population not much smaller than the whole of Sweden, has a population density of 5,666 per km 2,

      2. It’s worse than that. The rate that per capita deaths is increasing in Sweden is currently above the world average rate of increase, also ahead of the US, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Canada, The Netherlands,Australia, and France, just from the group of Western countries I’ve been keeping an eye on. The only one clearly doing worse is Spain.

        1. I didn’t want to comment on rates because frankly I’m not sure where they are in their timeline (i.e. still on upslope, on downslope, etc.)

        1. The scary thing from my point of view is that Australia’s Prime Minister seemed to be waffling between Sweden’s approach and The Netherlands’ approach. Fortunately, our States locked down despite him. We’ve had less than 3.5 deaths/million. We could have had around 250 and climbing.

    2. I think that the example set by Mike Pence and the way protestors are demanding we open the economy shows that had the U.S. done what Sweden is doing we probably would be seeing a much, much higher infection and death rate.

  2. “Ah, the good old hippie days! We thought we’d change the world, and what do we got we got now? TRUMP!”

    Back in the 1960s, many of us on college campuses thought we were going to change the world and how wrong we were! There were cultural changes (women’s rights, gay rights), but in the political arena, the 1960s were followed by a half century of conservative dominance. I think the reason for this is that students on campus wrongly believed that their views reflected those of the larger nation. In fact, most of the nation, including non-college educated youth, were repulsed by what they perceived they saw on college campuses – extreme leftism, anti-Americanism (opposition to the war in Vietnam), the breakdown of law and order, and a threat to the prevailing cultural norms. Thus, law and order candidates such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Raegan won elections by supposedly speaking for the silent Americans. This half century old strategy is still being used today.

    We know that older Americans today, the youth of the 1960s, strongly supported Trump and other Republicans. What I would like to know is whether these people were leftist in the 1960s and turned more conservative with time or these are the same folks that hated the “damn hippies” back then. I haven’t run across a poll that provides this information. In any case, people who were leftist in the 1960s and have remained that way cannot be anything but totally disillusioned about the failure of the “greening of America.”

    1. You did make changes.

      I think the cautionary message here is that no social change (for the better) should be taken for granted or assumed to be permanent.

      I do think the overall trend is in the right direction, but the last several years make clear that what can be achieved, can be un-achieved.

    2. The thing about those 60s is the break down is not so easy to make. Sure there were the leftest and the right. But there were also many that did not go hard either way. I am pretty sure I was one of those. However, there is no one today that dislikes Trump or even the republican movement of the 80s and beyond more than I. I was just your average atheist in the 1960s that I am today.

    3. I’d make a slightly different case. I think the hippie revolution of the 60’s was the direct precursor to the rise of the religious right. Specifically, the ethic of “do your own thing” and the notion that there were “alternate realities” delegitimized scientific/critical thinking. We quietly watched as fantasies took hold. Finally, we got the Bush administration’s “we make our own reality” wars and today’s entire Republican Party operating with “alternate facts”. (This is the case made by Kurt Andersen’s How America Went Haywire)

      1. I would find it hard to get the connection between the hippy movement of the 60s and the religious right? Besides, there was already a religious right before the hippies of the 60s. And really, the hippies came and went in the urban areas and the college students of the time. It did not infect everyone in all regions. I went to high school in the Midwest and there were no hippies around.

        1. Andersen makes the case better than I can. As for “the Midwest”, it is a big place. There were plenty of them in Milwaukee and Madison, my neck of the woods, at the time. I’m guessing your high school was small town or rural. ??

          1. That is right and you had hippies in large numbers in Madison because, guess what, big university. I am only attempting to put this in perspective to all the people who were not there, were not born yet. Hippies got going out on the West Coast and were copied at colleges all over the country. Herd mentality as always. But the hippy movement died just like most of the other college fads. The religious right did not die it just turned into a Trump swamp.

            1. The hippy “movement” didn’t die. It morphed into many other things, including Jesus Freaks (remember them?) and all manner of religious and quasi-religious social phenomena. The religious right of course existed before. But it got a shot in the arm when “make your own reality” infected the culture.

              1. Yes, how big was the hippy movement in Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska or Iowa. Religion is really big in those states and several others. But hippies? I don’t think so. So did they move there and start religion?

              2. You are just ignoring the changes that occurred in the 70’s and 80’s. The religious right expanded it’s influence across the country. That didn’t happen in a vacuum. Cultural change happened across the country (and globe). It isn’t/wasn’t limited to isolated geographic pockets. Hippies didn’t vanish into thin air.

      2. “New Journalists,” including Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, wrote about the connection between hippies and the so-called “Jesus freaks” back in the Seventies.

        1. So please tell us, how many of those Jesus Freaks were there? I suspect they were a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers of hippies. I’m guessing that most of the hippies left school in one form or the other, cut their hair and got a job. Kind of joined the rest of the human race. Yes the younger kids coming up attempted to copy the first hippies for a while but it fell out of fashion like most other movements.

          1. I was in the SF Bay Area during the height of the hippie days and very few of them were even in school to leave it. There were the lefties, many of whom who were in school, and the lefties and the hippies certainly overlapped, but the stone hippies I knew, while some may have started college, were way too spaced (if not on drugs then on life in general) to attend school or even care about formal education; most were also proudly anti-intellectual and anti-science, preferring horoscopes, numerology, parapsychology, homeopathy etc., and ‘vibes’ to navigate the world.

            However, I’ve found that the definition of a hippie depends on who’s doing the defining. To a ‘straight’ (in the old 1960s sense) person, damned near any young man who wasn’t clean shaven and sporting a crew cut or well-clipped and Brylcreemed haircut was a hippie (or an anti-social derelict), and any young woman who didn’t hew to the traditional sex and gender strictures was a hippie (and a slut), in school or out.

            Then came the 1970s, horrors.

              1. Thanks very much for that article. This quote near the beginning stood out “Now, m 1967, there is not much
                doubt that Berkeley haS gone through
                a revolution of some kind, but the
                end resWt is not exactly what the
                original leaders had m mind.”

    4. You’re quite right that the campus anti-war movements of the 1960s were not supported by most Americans. I was surprised to learn (just the other day, in fact) that 58% of Americans approved of the National Guard’s actions at Kent state and over 70% approved of the Chicago Police for what they did at the ’68 Democratic Convention.

      But you commies DID change the world. People didn’t like you but that was because you spoke the truth.

  3. “What point is the dumbass VP trying to make?”

    The same point that Trump was trying to make when he looked at an eclipse. Beyond that, I have no idea.

  4. What point is the dumbass VP trying to make?

    My guess is that the simpering, nutless sycophant won’t wear a mask because Dear Leader refuses to wear a mask (shades of the infamous water bottle incident).

    And my guess is that Trump refuses to be seen wearing a mask in public because he knows how ridiculous the mask would look smeared with his orange makeup.

      1. That picture was taken outdoors at an airport in Colorado, not indoors at the Mayo Clinic, which has an express written policy requiring all visitors to wear masks.

    1. I remember seeing the musical Hair in the 60s. I don’t think anyone in the audience cared about the musical quality of the songs, but rather liked the general counter culture vibe. What the video misses, as many might know, when the grand finale came and as the last few notes of the song were played, none of the cast on stage were wearing any clothes.

  5. A couple wks ago Sweden had 5x per capita daily COVID deaths vs. Norway, 10x vs. Finland, and was about on par with Italy.

    IIRC, about 10% of their population lives in greater Stockholm. Comparisons from just within the most populous cities and a correlation with the population densities there might be another useful way of comparison. I have a friend (daughter of a close friend) who works in the largest COVID ward in Stockholm, where she describes a nightmare. The three heads of that ward all contracted it. So far, AFAIK, she is negative, and still manages to post about her dog on FB.

  6. Duke Ellington is “Duke”

    John Wayne is “The Duke”

    Gene Chandler is “The Duke of Earl”

    (to the best of my understanding)

  7. “First: why the planets don’t really orbit the Sun. Good luck figuring this mess out!”

    Everything orbits the centre of mass of the Solar System (also known as the barycentre), including the Sun. This is basic Newtonian mechanics.

    It’s one of the ways in which we can detect planets orbiting other stars, because the motion of a star around the barycentre of its planetary system causes a small periodic variation in its velocity along the line of sight. That in turn causes the lines in the spectrum of the star to be Doppler-shifted, which astronomers can measure using very sensitive spectrographs.

    1. This is basic Newtonian mechanics.

      Though it took general relativity to understand the perihelion precession of Mercury (the way a rank layman such as I heard about it, anyway).

      1. According to the NASA article I linked in my comment, the barycenter is sometimes outside the sun. Still, as you say, we can still talk about planets orbiting the sun and be fairly accurate but it’s nowhere near good enough for astronomy or space navigation.

          1. It’s interesting to imagine aliens living on some planet going around a nearby star are seeing our sun wobble (ie, orbiting the solar system’s barycenter), deducing that there must be planets going around it. They may be firing up their StarCruiser™ as we speak, shortly to pay us a visit.

            1. The discovery of exoplanets is momentous. When I was young we were ignorant of whether there were planets around other stars. I can remember speculating about it in school science classes. Now we’ve identified thousands. I look forward to the discovery of more knowledge about them.

  8. Given his eating habits, it’s a wonder that Duke Ellington had any time for making music.
    His appetite rivaled that of Diamond Jim Brady.

  9. Forget about Pence not wearing a mask! How about the hypocrisy of Fauci at the briefings (tRump campaign evens) no mask, no social distancing while lecturing others. Time for the little fellow we trust to stand up for what’s right and come out against tRump’s policies. This might even make a difference in national policy.

    1. Once again, the Mayo Clinic has specific rules on wearing a mask. Pence violated those rules.

      The WH does not have a specific rule demanding speakers (POTUS, Fauci) wear a mask.

      See the difference? Pence was flouting local hospital health regulations. Fauci is not.

      1. You really aren’t seeing the big picture. tRump seems to corrupt everyone that associates with him. That’s his one true genius. Seems to working with Fauci who should set a better example, with his power comes responsibility.
        Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and I wouldn’t know it from some of his behavior. As soon as tRump suggested doctors try injecting bleach to kill the coronavirus, Fauci should have quit and come out against all of this idiocy. He could describe how ignorant, insensitive and stupid tRump is from his personal experience. Like I said, I’d help pay for armed guards to fend off the tRump crazies.

    2. I wonder why reporters have not asked Fauci and other officials why they’re not wearing masks at the briefings. A notion too difficult to conceptualize and articulate? (Actually, they need to ask only Trump that. A good chance that that would stop his participation in briefings.)

      The NY Times article duly acknowledges how “socially-compliant” Swedes apparently are compared to individualistic human primates besotted with “American Exceptionalism.”

      The Times reporters state that “Pedestrians wearing masks are generally stared at as if they have just landed from Mars.”

      Fatuous reportorial bloviation. I don’t see how the reporters can possibly – “generally” – know this without some sort of objective citation. I thank them for their personal opinion about the matter. Perfectly fine by me if they instead quote someone (no more knowledgeable about the matter) to that effect.

      (Am reminded of U.S. hospital administrator types – with no experience in direct patient care – reprimanding staff for wearing masks in corridors, worried about “how it would look.”)

  10. If Fauci would stand up, I’d be willing to contribute to a go fund me so he could hire armed guards to protect himself against inevitable tRump crazies.

  11. I hate tRump with all my heart but the only worrying thing, should he die, is being left with Pence. Can anyone fathom what’s behind his zombie eyes? Oh the horror

  12. I don’t understand why they allowed Pence into the Mayo Clinic without a mask if their policy is that no one comes in without one. The clinic is not part of the executive branch of the federal government; his title as the VP of the USA doesn’t give him authority to go in if they say you can’t come without a mask anymore than it gives him the right to walk into my house (without a warrant).

    Now, if the masks were solely or primarily about protecting HIM from infection, I’d say, by all means, come in and take a deep breath, dipsh*t. But since mask use is about protecting others from the wearer (and since it’s also probably a good thing to minimize everyone’s exposure to his FACE as much as possible) they should have just turned him away at the door. He’s putting other people at risk in a medical facility! He may as well be driving drunk.

    Surely this could count as depraved indifference to human life.

    1. The Mayo Clinic knuckled under to raw power, pure and simple. As our host notes above, it’s even taken down its tweet stating that it told Pence ahead of time about its policy requiring visitors to wear masks.

      This is some third-world bowing down before el caudillo bullshit right here.

  13. Pence’s excuse for not wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic:

    “And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.'”

    Looking at the pictures, no one’s mask covers their eyes. This is an excuse worthy of the master himself. The stupidity in this administration doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  14. One of the memes circulating in the wing-nutty-sphere is that Sweden has developed herd immunity therefore social distancing makes things worse and vaccines are stupid.

  15. I love that photo of Andrzej’s and Malgorzata’s property. It’s a bit of paradise right there.

    Speaking of paradise, I’m missing Stephen Barnard’s photos of his own eden in Idaho. I hope he and the other old regulars (who seem to be kinda AWOL) are doing OK during this awful pandemic. Also where’s Ben Goren when we need his infusion of good sense?

Leave a Reply