Thursday: Hili dialogue

Posting will probably be light until tomorrow as duck-tending duties have taken an onerous (but not bad) turn; I will explain in the next post. First, Hili:

Good morning on Thursday, May 21, 2020: National Strawberries and Cream Day. (It’s been a bit too chilly for strawberries to appear this early.) It’s also National Apéritif Day, Hummus Day, National Waiters and Waitresses Day, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, and Rapture Party Day, based on Harold Camping’s Christian Family Network radio prediction that the Rapture would begin about 6 pm on May 21, 2011. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out, though many of Camping’s followers sold their possessions and quit their jobs.

Today’s Google Doodle goes to an animation/game about the mbira, the national instrument of Zimbabwe. Click on the screenshot to play.

News of the Day: The New York Times reports that delays in implementing lockdowns in the U.S. cost at least 36,000 lives; this figure is based on models whose validity I can’t assess. That’s over a third of the reported deaths due to the virus in the U.S., which now stands at 93,806. The figure for the world is about 328,000.

Stuff that happened on May 21:

  • 1758 – Ten-year-old Mary Campbell is abducted in Pennsylvania by Lenape during the French and Indian War. She is returned six and a half years later.
  • 1871 – French troops invade the Paris Commune and engage its residents in street fighting. By the close of “Bloody Week”, some 20,000 communards have been killed and 38,000 arrested.
  • 1881 – The American Red Cross is established by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.
  • 1924 – University of Chicago students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks in a “thrill killing“.

The Leopold/Loeb kidnapping and killing was huge news in the U.S., as it involved two really smart students who killed someone just to see if they could get away with it. They almost did, but Loeb left his glasses where the body was dumped, and, the hinges of the spectacles being very rare, he was tracked down. Both men confessed and pleaded guilty, but their lawyer, Clarence Darrow, made his most famous courtroom speech, 12 hours long, trying to save them from the death penalty (the reasons were partly based on determinism). They both got life, but Loeb was killed in prison in 1936. Leopold was released in 1958, moved to Puerto Rico, and died of a heart attack in 1971. Here are both men with Darrow:

Left to right: Loeb, Darrow, Leopold 

  • 1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1936 – Sada Abe is arrested after wandering the streets of Tokyo for days with her dead lover’s severed genitals in her handbag. Her story soon becomes one of Japan’s most notorious scandals.

This is the basis of the 1976 movie In the Realm of the Senses, which I thought was very good (note: there’s explicit sex). This is Abe after her arrest; she was sentenced to six years in prison but served only four. 

  • 1946 – Physicist Louis Slotin is fatally irradiated in a criticality incident during an experiment with the demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • 1972 – Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is damaged by a vandal, the mentally disturbed Hungarian geologist Laszlo Toth.
  • 1991 – Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by a female suicide bomber near Madras.
  • 1992 – After 30 seasons Johnny Carson hosted his penultimate episode and last featuring guests (Robin Williams and Bette Midler) of The Tonight Show. Here’s the very last show:

  • 2011 – Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on this date.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1471 – Albrecht Dürer, German painter, engraver, and mathematician (d. 1528)
  • 1799 – Mary Anning, English paleontologist (d. 1847)[10]
  • 1843 – Louis Renault, French jurist, educator, and Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1918)
  • 1921 – Andrei Sakharov, Russian physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
  • 1936 – Günter Blobel, Polish-American biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
  • 1951 – Al Franken, American actor, screenwriter, and politician
  • 1972 – The Notorious B.I.G., American rapper (d. 1997)

Those who expired on May 21 include:

  • 1771 – Christopher Smart, English actor, playwright, and poet (b. 1722)

While confined in a lunatic asylum, Smart wrote the best poem about cats ever, a fragment of his longer poem jubilate Agno. The fragment is called “For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey”, and you can find it here:

  • 1935 – Jane Addams, American activist and author, co-founded Hull House, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1860)
  • 1935 – Hugo de Vries, Dutch botanist and geneticist (b. 1848)
  • 2000 – John Gielgud, English actor (b. 1904)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili reproves Andrzej:

Hili: A pillow used to be here.
A: I’ve taken it away.
Hili: That was wrong.
In Polish:
Hili: Kiedyś tu była jeszcze poduszka.
Ja: Zabrałem ją.
Hili: Niesłusznie.

A meme from Merilee:

From Jesus of the Day:

And more scatological humor, posted by John Faithful Hamer:

Titania on the pandemic:

From Barry. What a lucky guy! But I think a peregrine needs more than that!

Tweets from Matthew. First, a grumpy local building:

We have to have a baby duck tweet, right?

A great diagram of the coronavirus from Eric Topol:

Well, the sight made Darwin sick because he didn’t fully understand at the time why males had such ornaments (he later hit on sexual selection):

If I posted this before (I can’t quite remember), well, here it is again:

More wild pigs roaming amok during the pandemic, this time in Poland:



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    If 36,000 is a good guess for how many additional deaths were caused by the slow response, how many more since by the incompetent handling throughout and lack of federal action/authority? At least another 20 to 30 thousand. This is why America is exceptional(number one).

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Should also mention that signing up for unemployment has now reached nearly 40 million. Nobody does it like America.

      • GBJames
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        As President tRump says, it is a great honor to have so many cases.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        I read the US is finally getting close to deciding to start to begin (soon, I guess) relief similar to the European model where the government pays to keep workers on the payroll where they work.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          I saw that as well. Will not hold my breath.

        • Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          You mean they’re not doing that in the US! No wonder everyone wants to end the lockdown, regardless of risk. So how much unemployment do they get over there.

          • GBJames
            Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

            Many get none. Because freedom, you know.

          • rickflick
            Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:51 am | Permalink

            It varies by state. In Idaho, if you earn $60,000 per year, you would get $414 for 21 weeks. There is another $600 per week from the COVID 19 federal supplement, if you qualify, while it lasts.

  2. John Dentinger
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The anniversary of the Pieta vandalism reminds me that everyone needs a good laugh in this troubled time. Confused? Read The Lazlo Letters by Don Novello, and you’ll understand.
    And then check out The Blade, the best high school yearbook ever (says me, who was once a HS Yearbook Advisor, which didn’t end well).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Lazlo Thoth is the best! And so is Father Sarducci!

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    1843 – Louis Renault, French jurist, educator, and Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1918)

    I am shocked — shocked! — to see he shares a name with the unabashedly corrupt police prefect played by Claude Rains in Casablanca.

    Round up the usual suspects.

  4. Jim batterson
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    What is the function of helicase with single-stranded rna?

    • EdwardM
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      RNA helicases have a number of functions including binding and remodeling of RNA-Protean complexes and annealing and unwinding of the RNA molecule. I do not know its function in this virus.

      • EdwardM
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        “protein”, of course

        • Jim batterson
          Posted May 21, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

          Do you know whether the rna is circular ring as in most prokaryotes or linear strands as in eukaryotes in this virus?

          • EdwardM
            Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            Corona virus genomic RNA is single stranded and linear. There are double stranded RNA viruses and, like almost all RNA, viral genomic can have significant secondary structure and sometimes that structure itself is functional.

            Corona viruses are the largest group of viruses in the Nidovirales order of single positive RNA strand viruses. This order is characterized as having the largest RNA genomes known, often >13 kb in size. Members of this order exhibit a weird and distinctive kind of gene expression, controlled in part by the replicase, wherein “nested” 3′ domains of the RNA genome are expressed. In fact, the name “Nidovirus” comes from “nido” or “nest”.

            I assume (but don’t know) that SARS-Cov2 replicase acts in s similar way.

            • EdwardM
              Posted May 21, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

              sorry. Controlled in part by the helicase. Of course the replicase is involved!

              • Jim batterson
                Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

                Thank you for all that edwardm. My background is aerospace engineering and now in retirement am trying to understand life sciences through general reading. I know that thisthank you is a day late and you likely will not see it, but please be assured that you have been very helpful.

  5. merilee
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink


  6. Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Ha! I love that “Smell the Roses” comic. I forwarded that to my sister and her family weeks ago. Their last name is Rose, of course. In fact, since my sister’s middle name is also Rose, she’s twice a Rose.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Well, as Gertrude Stein said, Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose!

      • GBJames
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        (Or something like that!)

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Then there’s “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Mmmm, the irresistible fragrance of dog’s butt.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Someone should let the visiting dog couple in that cartoon know that a Rose by any other name would smell … like butt.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Ha! Looks like we posted the same thought at about the same time, within the space of a minute.

        In one of your comments in previous post, I inquired if John Gleeson was one of the prosecutors in the Gotti trial that you participated in on the defense side but perhaps you didn’t see it. And if he was, are you aware that he was the judge named by Judge Emmett Sullivan, as a friend of the court, to argue against the Justice Dept.’s move to dismiss the Flynn case? What think you about that?

      • GBJames
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Weren’t those the words spoken on the deathbed in Citizen Kane? Rose butts?

  7. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    That diagram of the virus gives me the shudders. Not because of its effects, but it just looks so horrifically creepy. Like something out of a horror film.


  8. BJ
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    My favorite tweet in ages:

    (you’ll only get it if you’re a fan of Arrested Development

  9. BJ
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    That tweet from Titania and the article to which it refers reminded me immediately of an infamous Hillary Clinton quote:

    “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.”

    • grasshopper
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. It’s fate worse than death.

  10. Jenny Haniver
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how Hili would react those Polish pigs? Or does she have no truck with trayf?

    In the event, they need to keep a weather eye out or they’ll be turned into kielbasa.

    • John Dentinger
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Hey, anybody here from Cleveland? Back in my grad school days (way back), I used to watch clips on late-night TV starring “The Kielbasy Kid,” which were sort of Candid Camera spoofs. He had a sausage in his holster, as I recall . . . .

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        There are some Big Chuck and Li’l John videos
        on Youtube, some featuring “The Kielbasy Kid.” Really goofy and full of ridiculous ethnic stereotypes, especially of Polish American culture,lots of polka music and one skit called “Dueling Accordions,” and various skits featuring “A Certain Ethnic…” “Ethnic” here invariably means Polish American,such as “A certain Ethnic Break Dancer” in which a gangly Polish guy watches some real break dancers (black and white), then a mouse crawls up his leg and by his efforts to get the mouse out of his pants, he puts all the real break dancers to shame. The skits in in themselves definitely fall into the category of Polish jokes.

    • BJ
      Posted May 21, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if those smaller ones are anything like pot-bellied pigs or the other breeds people have as pets, but domesticated pigs are super-loveable! There are many good videos around of cats and pigs living together in harmony 😀

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted May 21, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes, domesticated pigs are, as you say, super-loveable, super-smart, and super-amusing. I’d love one for a pet (but not too large!) Some years ago a woman here in Berkeley had a very pretty russet pig named Daisy, not a pot-belly but not large, either, quite svelte for a pig. Most days the woman would take Daisy and her pet goat pal to the university grounds to get some exercise but when it was time to go, Daisy, who did not want to leave, would invariably start rooting in the grass (which apparently she didn’t do very much except when stressed), then would operatically keel over as if she was dying. It would usually take several tries before Daisy would get going. The woman told me that Daisy and the goat liked beer and to get some, the goat could open the fridge and then knock some cans of beer onto the floor, then Daisy would pierce them with her teeth and they’d both snuffle up the beer. I asked her what they were like when inebriated vs. sober. She said that she couldn’t tell the difference. When I saw them on campus loved watching both of them; endlessly amusing.

        • BJ
          Posted May 21, 2020 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          “… then would operatically keel over as if she was dying.”

          I rarely laugh out loud while reading something, but this did it for me.

          • Doug
            Posted May 21, 2020 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

            How do those wild pigs know to use the crosswalk?

            • GBJames
              Posted May 21, 2020 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

              Good parenting.

            • BJ
              Posted May 21, 2020 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

              Holy shit, you’re right…

        • merilee
          Posted May 21, 2020 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          Great story!🤓

  11. grasshopper
    Posted May 21, 2020 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    In the Leopold and Loeb trial, Clarence Darrow opted for a trial before a judge only, not a trial before twelve peers, so his eloquence only had to sway a single mind.

  12. Posted May 21, 2020 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing blog. I must say you are doing a great job. Keep doing such hard work. Your blogs are really very informative. Keep posting! Good Luck for your upcoming updates.

  13. Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Amelia Earhart writing to the NYT publisher in 1932 requesting that the paper stop referring to her as her wife’s husband and start calling her by her name.

    I didn’t realise anybody was so progressive back then. I assume the words “wife” and husband” got transposed by the tweeter.

    Anyway, I don’t see this in the same way as the Tweeter. She was just asking for the same professional courtesy to be applied to her as the second Mrs Fairbanks, who would almost certainly have been referred to as Mary Pickford by the NYT.

%d bloggers like this: