Saturday: Hili dialogue

July 4, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a U.S. holiday: Saturday, July 4, 2020, or Independence Day—the day when the Continental Congress, in the Declaration of Independence, declared that the 13 colonies were no longer subjects of the British king, but were free and independent states.

There’s a Google Doodle gif celebrating the Fourth today, and clicking on it goes to a site that has additional fireworks.

Appropriately, it’s National Barbecue Day, though nearly everyone will be grilling at home today—no parties (except in Texas and Florida). It’s also Independence from Meat Day, National Barbecued Spareribs Day, Jackfruit Day, National Caesar Salad Day, National Country Music Day, and International Cherry Pit Spitting Day (the record distance for this feat is a reamarkable 93 feet and 6.5 inches (28.51 m), set in 2004 by Brian “Young Gun” Krause).

It’s going to be a scorcher of a week in Chicago, with high temperatures reaching the mid-80s to 90s for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t mind some cooler temperature and rain for the ducks’ sake.

News of the day:  According to the New York Times, Trump gave a strong and divisive speech at Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July. You can read about it here. I have no doubts the speech was execrable, but this seems another case where editorializing seeps into a straight journalistic report.

For the seventh day out of nine, the U.S. set a record for the number of coronavirus cases reported: a shocking figure of 57,497. That’s in a single day! How is Trump going to explain this away? Remember when he said there were only a few cases and it would go away in the summer?

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 129,407,  an increase of about 800 deaths over yesterday’s report.  The world death toll now stands at 526,035, an increase of about 5800 from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 4 include:

Here’s a reconstruction of how it would have been seen in China in 1054 (caption from Wikipedia). Remember that it’s 6,500 light years away, so the event would have occurred several millennia before it was observed. The supernova was visible for about two years.

Simulated image of supernova en:SN 1054 at the position of modern Crab Nebula, as presumably would have been observed from Kaifeng, China at 04:30 local time, July 4th, 1054. Chinese asterism as provided within software. Screenshot of Stellarium version 0.13.3, supernova simulation provided by Alexander Wolf’s Historical Supernovae Plug-in version 0.2.17.

And how it looks today as The Crab Nebula (caption again from Wikipedia):

This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Nebula , a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans. The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula’s eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star’s rotation. A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.

  • 1776 – American Revolution: The United States Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
  • 1826 – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively the second and third presidents of the United States, die the same day, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

This is one of those remarkable coincidences of American history, though one suspects that Adams and Jefferson were hanging on until the 50th anniversary. Sadly, when Adam spoke those words, Jefferson had been dead for several hours.

  • 1831 – Samuel Francis Smith writes “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” for the Boston, Massachusetts July 4 festivities.
  • 1845 – Henry David Thoreau moves into a small cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau’s account of his two years there, Walden, will become a touchstone of the environmental movement.
  • 1855 – The first edition of Walt Whitman‘s book of poems, Leaves of Grass, is published In Brooklyn.

The first edition, printed in only 200 copies, will run you near $300,000:


  • 1862 – Lewis Carroll tells Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels.
  • 1918 – Bolsheviks kill Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family (Julian calendar date).
  • 1934 – Leo Szilard patents the chain-reaction design that would later be used in the atomic bomb.
  • 1939 – Lou Gehrig, recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, informs a crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considers himself “The luckiest man on the face of the earth”, then announces his retirement from major league baseball.

Gehrig knew he was dying, and was a shy man who didn’t want to speak. Pressed into service, he made this remarkable short oration (he said more, but this is all that was recorded on film). He died on June 2, 1941.

  • 1947 – The “Indian Independence Bill” is presented before the British House of Commons, proposing the independence of the Provinces of British India into two sovereign countries: India and Pakistan.
  • 1951 – William Shockley announces the invention of the junction transistor.
  • 2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the World Trade Center site in New York City.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1790 – George Everest, Welsh geographer and surveyor (d. 1866)
  • 1816 – Hiram Walker, American businessman, founded Canadian Club whisky (d. 1899)
  • 1872 – Calvin Coolidge, American lawyer and politician, 30th President of the United States (d. 1933)
  • 1881 – Ulysses S. Grant III, American general (d. 1968)
  • 1883 – Rube Goldberg, American sculptor, cartoonist, and engineer (d. 1970)
  • 1937 – Thomas Nagel, American philosopher and academic

America’s equivalent of the British cartoonist W. Heath Robinson, Goldberg devised hundreds of impractical but funny machines. I found one that involves ducks, or rather vitamin-fed “superducks”:

Those who met the Grim Reaper on July 4 include:

  • 1826 – John Adams, American lawyer and politician, 2nd President of the United States (b. 1735)
  • 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, American architect, lawyer, and politician, 3rd President of the United States (b. 1743)
  • 1831 – James Monroe, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 5th President of the United States (b. 1758)
  • 1934 – Marie Curie, French-Polish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1867)[19]
  • 2003 – Barry White, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer (b. 1944)
  • 2008 – Jesse Helms, American politician (b. 1921)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is contemplating going on walkies to the Vistula:

A: Are you going with us to the river?
Hili: I’m entertaining the idea.
In Polish:
Ja: Idziesz z nami nad Wisłę?
Hili: Zastanawiam się.

From Simon, who says, ” Even 350 years or so on, Pepys seems to have it nailed.” Pepys is talking about bubonic plague, not syphilis, of course.

UPDATE: This quote turns out to be bogus (see here; h/t: Matthew Cobb), but I’ve left it up anyway as an object lesson in getting fooled.

A Walt Handelsman cartoon (in inadvertently makes fun of the irritating statement, “All lives matter” used as a retort to “Black lives matter.”

From Writing About Writing:

I’m famous! Andrew Sullivan tweeted about my post yesterday about the redefinition of transgender women. “Back-hole” is used sarcastically: it’s the new woke term for “anus”.

2,000 people a year still die from bubonic plague, caused by a bacillus that’s the direct descendant of the species that killed millions in the 14th century. Two suspected cases have just appeared in western Mongolia.

From Gethyn: amazingly realistic cakes (I may have posted this one before):

From cesar, who says, correctly, that both the Woke and creationists are trying to cancel Darwin. I’m just waiting for the inevitable toppling of Darwin statues. We can look forward to the renamed town of Huxley, Australia.

From a biology professor at Tel Aviv University, sent by reader Simon. Simon Says, “his guy does an amazing job of finding things and giving them great science-related labels.” Yep, that’s the way big labs work these days:

And another from Rechavi:

Tweets from Matthew. These reptiles could rule the world if they wanted:

Matthew says, “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!”

Sound up to hear Gabby the Gator Girl:

22 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. 250 years since the Boston Massacre and I wonder about the number of modern “Americans” who would cheer on the Redcoats in support of their King.

  2. Pubs in England are re-opening today for the first time since the pandemic closed them, so I can see the relevance. However, I think the Pepys quote is bogus. I can find no record of it in the searchable online versions of the diary and something about the language seems more pastiche than Pepys.

        1. Very good – and smugness fully justified! To be fair to the person/people behind the spoof Pepys Diary account, their posts were taken out of context and they did attempt to draw attention to the misrepresentation of their efforts.

      1. Oh well, the sentiment is good nonetheless. I did wonder about the word dram from someone living in London. Thanks for the peer review!

        As an aside, I was standing outside a local brewery last night picking up tacos and beer with “the end of the world as we know it” playing to the outside diners.

  3. Declaring independence and getting independence is, of course not the same thing. Sometimes we think the declaration made it so. It was not and there was still a war to fight and a Constitution to write. Also the war for independence started some time before the declaration. The Federalists made the Constitution law yet there was only one Federalist president. I don’t count George Washington because he refused the idea of parties.

  4. So to go back north, you’d have to put a hair dryer set to “high” on there?… or reroute the heater core to blow on the ducks? … but then the car would necessarily go in reverse….

  5. “Vitamin-fed super ducks” – now we know what lies behind the expensive duck chow at Botany Pond!

  6. PCC,

    “Back hole” is a “new, woke term”?

    IMHO it could be more accurately described as a new term for you and some other USA-ians

    ‘Back-hole’ has been a term for arsehole (note the “correct” spelling!) here in the UK for all of my life (born ’66) and I don’t think it was coined by my generation either.

    However, I wouldn’t mind some of those super-vitamins as I have a garden to weed



    1. IMHO it could be more accurately described as a new term for you and some other USA-ians

      Clarification: I’m pretty sure you mean it is a new term to PCCE et al. i.e. one they have not heard before, not one used to describe them, which is how I read it the first time.

      I was also born in the UK in 1966 and I would say “black hole” is not usually a synonym for arsehole (although it clearly is in this context). I think more of the Black Hole of Calcutta.

  7. On second viewing the first author and others clip, I see there’s a single suspender attached. Handled by the publisher?

  8. The Times’ article is terrible, and typical of its reportage about politics today. It quotes Michael Beschloss more than it quotes from Trump’s speech, and is full of editorializations. I suppose it is divisive in the sense that it’s not heralding surrender. I find nothing objectionable in this statement:

    Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.

    Or this:

    One of their political weapons is cancel culture, driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and to our values and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America…. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.

    Or this:

    This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution. In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.

    Or this:

    Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but that were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies, all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.

    Or this:

    In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America, their goal is to end America. In its place, they want power for themselves….

    Or this:

    They would tear down the principles that propelled the abolition of slavery and ultimately around the world ending an evil institution that had plagued humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream and the ideas that were the foundation of the righteous movement for Civil Rights. They would tear down the beliefs, culture and identity, that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the earth. My fellow Americans, it is time to speak up loudly and strongly and powerfully and defend the integrity of our country.

    Quotes from the transcript hear:

    Sorry for the long post, I know I am treading on the da roolz. But everything else aside, it is a dereliction of the Times’ journalistic duty to “report” on a President’s speech in the way they have. Unless Biden comes out to see his shadow, and stands up in this way against BLM, then I am voting Trump this time.

      1. Well said. What comes sadly to mind is that anyone with sense saw, well before 2016, that he was incapable of leading through any crisis. What voters said, in effect, was, we don’t care.

  9. From what I’ve read on Twitter, and live excerpts seen on TV, Trump’s speech was not at all strong. He read it from a teleprompter and slurred and mispronounced his words. And don’t get me started on his themes.

    Some thought, after seeing the drops in his polls, he would take some new direction and “reboot” his campaign. Instead, it was just pure feeding of the culture wars. He’s betting on widespread outrage at the protests and statue-topplings. I don’t see how that can possibly give him the win in November.

    1. A couple of years ago, I was salmon fishing in Scotland when I caught a large fish. Just as I was about to bop it on the head, it said “stop! My name is Rusty and I’m a talking fish”. I was quite surprised but we exchanged pleasantries and then I let him go.

      Anyway, last year, I was fishing again and I caught another big fish. I was about to bop it on the head when it said “stop! Remember me, it’s Rusty the talking fish”.

      “Hey, Rusty,” I said. “Where you been?”

      “I’ve been touring the north Atlantic,” said Rusty. “I found the wreck of an old ocean liner. In fact, I was so moved, I wrote some poetry. It got published in a book. You must have heard of it.”


      “Sure you have. It’s called ‘The Titanic Verses’ by Salmon Rusty”.

      Thank you, I’m here all week.

  10. “From Cesar, who says, correctly, that both the Woke and creationists are trying to cancel Darwin. I’m just waiting for the inevitable toppling of Darwin statues. We can look forward to the renamed town of Huxley, Australia.”

    Australians would never be that stupid. We just sit here, watching, and say to each other “only in America”

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