Friday: Hili dialogue

July 24, 2020 • 6:30 am

Again we’ve reached the end of the “work” week, and July is waning: it’s July 24, 2020: National Jellybeans Day. It’s also National Tequila Day, Amelia Earhart Day (celebrating her birth on this day in 1897) and, in Ecuador, Venezuela, Colmbia, and Bolivia, Simón Bolívar Day, celebrating the liberator born on July 24, 1783.

News of the Day: In the two papers to which I subscribe (the NYT and WaPo), it’s all about race and coronavirus. To see a list and figure of the top ten countries for coronavirus deaths, go to this piece at the New York Times (yes, the U.S. is up there with the Persian Gulf, Israel, and South Africa.

A temporary lift for me: Why Evolution is True was named by the BBC as one of the “five best books on evolution” (h/t: Matthew)

Yesterday Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch to open the short 2020 Major League Baseball season. I saw him in an interview before the game, and he said he was “very nervous.” Indeed! It’s a good thing he’s a better immunologist than a pitcher.

Over at the New York Times, David Brooks celebrates new platforms for heterodox thinkers, including Andrew Sullivan’s Weekly Dish and one I’d not heard of: Yascha Monck’s Persuasion on the Substack platform. (Brooks also claims, wrongly, I think, that Christopher Hitchens would be unemployable were he alive today.)

You already know that Trump has canceled the Jacksonville, Florida part of the Republican National Convention because of coronavirus (it had previously been moved from Charlotte, North Carolina).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 144,283, an increase of about 1100 deaths over yesterday’s report. It is no longer unimaginable, as it was a while ago, that our country will reach 200,000 dead.  (Deaths from “regular” influenza in 2019 were between 24,000 and 62,000). The world death toll now stands at 633,104, a big increase of about 9800 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on July 24 includes:

  • 1567 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is forced to abdicate and replaced by her 1-year-old son James VI.
  • 1847 – After 17 months of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, resulting in the establishment of Salt Lake City.
  • 1901 – O. Henry is released from prison in Columbus, Ohio, after serving three years for embezzlement from a bank.
  • 1911 – Hiram Bingham III re-discovers Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”.

Here are two photos of Machu Picchu from HowToPeru, the first taken by Bingham before excavation began, and the second five years ago. Both photos are taken from roughly the same place. You must go if you ever get a chance!

  • 1935 – The Dust Bowl heat wave reaches its peak, sending temperatures to 109 °F (43 °C) in Chicago and 104 °F (40 °C) in Milwaukee.
  • 1937 – Alabama drops rape charges against the “Scottsboro Boys“.

The story of the Scottsboro Boys is a sad but familiar one of innocent blacks convicted by Southern all-white juries.  All but one of the nine accused were convicted, and all but two served time in prison.  Here’s a photo from Wikipedia with their great attorney (in the mold of Clarence Darrow) Samuel Leibowitz:

(from Wikipedia): The Scottsboro Boys, with attorney Samuel Leibowitz, under guard by the state militia, 1932

Basejumping from El Cap wasn’t banned until fairly recently. Here’s a video about the brave and foolhardy souls who do it:

  • 1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.
  • 1987 – Hulda Crooks, at 91 years of age, climbed Mt. Fuji. Crooks became the oldest person to climb Japan’s highest peak.

Here’s Crooks on Mt. Fuji. She died in 1997:


Notables born on this day include:

  • 1783 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan commander and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (d. 1830) [see above]
  • 1860 – Alphonse Mucha, Czech painter and illustrator (d. 1939)
  • 1897 – Amelia Earhart, American pilot and author (d. 1937) [see above]
  • 1900 – Zelda Fitzgerald, American author and poet (d. 1948)

Here’s a famous Christmas-card photo of Scott, Zelda, and their daughter Scottie:

American author F Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) dances with his wife Zelda Fitzgerald (nee Sayre) (1900 – 1948) and daughter Frances (aka ‘Scottie’) in front of the Christmas tree in Paris. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • 1951 – Lynda Carter, American actress
  • 1964 – Barry Bonds, American baseball player
  • 1969 – Jennifer Lopez, American actress, singer, and dancer

Those who left the building on July 24 were few, and include these two:

  • 1980 – Peter Sellers, English actor and comedian (b. 1925)
  • 1991 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is spooked:

Hili: What was it?
A: I don’t know. Perhaps the ghost of Hamlet’s father. He is often wandering around.
In Polish:
Hili: Co to było?
Ja: Nie wiem, może duch ojca Hamleta. On tu często łazi.

A meme from Bruce:

From reader Charles (see this post if you don’t understand it):

From Jesus of the Day (the ad appears to be real):

Tweets from Matthew. This first one, of baby Muscovy ducklings, was intended to cheer me up, and it did. But the mixture of colors in the offspring implies that either one or more Muscovy females mated to a domestic white male.

Did you know that red fish are camouflaged below a certain depth?

This creature is the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), a South American canid that looks like a fox on stilts. It’s one of the things that you can’t imagine could be well adapted to anything. But it is! And it’s not closely related to any other canid.

Matthew sez: “Thread has references, other examples, etc.” The eyes resemble those of a jumping spider, which other insects want to avoid.

I’ve put up a following tweet with other possible examples of this mimicry; a jumping spider is at lower left.

Lots of luck, indeed!

A huge ant mating lek (place where animals congregate to mate). I had no idea ants did this:

This is so lovely. I hope the foal will be okay.

42 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

    1. I would like to congratulate,too. And it is even better that Richard Dawkins is on the list.

  1. I do wonder what Hitchens would do now. I don’t think he’d be unemployable, either- he had connections to a lot of outlets and most would probably still be loath to see such a talent disappear from their contributors. However, he’d face a lot of pushback (not that he’d care about that; as I’ve said previously, he was happy to resign from places he felt out of step with). I wonder if he’d go it alone like Sullivan- I don’t think he was great with tech, but I’m sure he’d have had plenty of people willing to help on that side of things. How great it would be to have a Hitchens blog these days! Alas.

  2. Yesterday Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch to open the short 2020 Major League Baseball season.

    As one wag who watched the game said, Fauci figured out how “to flatten the curve.” 🙂

    Or, as former major league ballplayer Bob Euker, playing the announcer in the movie Major League, might have called the pitch, it was juuuust a bit outside:

      1. Thankfully, he never claimed to be a pitcher, unlike his boss who frequently plays a doctor on TV.

  3. (Brooks also claims, wrongly, I think, that Christopher Hitchens would be unemployable were he alive today.)

    Hell, Brooks has been wrong at nearly everything else he’s put his pen to, why not this one as well?

    Talent and prolificacy will out every time. And Hitchens had both in spades.

    1. I agree with you (and Daniel) Hitch would find a market for his commentaries. I note that Brooks managed to write this column and never mention his erstwhile colleague Bari Weiss.

    2. Yes — people would have been cueueing up Hitchens today. People forget that Hitchens was an excellent communicator, not just a firebrand or a one hit wonder. He was always gracious to his hosts in debates — often in churches at their invitation.

  4. Did you know that red fish are camouflaged below a certain depth?

    Doesn’t help actual Redfish (the kind Paul Prudhomme made famous by blackening), since their habitat is shallow coastal waters. They were driven near to extinction by the food fad, until strict bag and size limits, and a shortening of the season in which they could be taken, brought them back.

  5. A good brief summing up of Why Evolution is True from the BBC–

    “If you ever need to gird your loins for an intellectual joust with someone who “doesn’t believe in evolution” then Why Evolution is True is the book for you. Clearly written, engaging and comprehensive, the book presents as compelling a case for evolution now as it did when it first came out 10 years ago.”

  6. The saga of the Scottsburo Boys reads like a dystopian novel. The South was like a 3rd world county with only the basic framework of a legal system. That was just 80 years ago. One lifetime.

  7. Congrats on WEIT being named in the top five. I haven’t read all of the other four but, to me, WEIT stands alone on marshaling the evidence.

    Love the Smithsonian cartoon. Says it all. Racism is racism.

    I am guessing the maned wolf (aka “fox on stilts”) is very well adapted at chasing prey.

  8. Dear Hili,
    We lost a fervent reader of you dialogues this morning. Tasha “Tiggie” Tiger, a daily reader, if not admirer, died at 9:30am CDT.
    She will be missed.

    Warmest regards,
    Paul & Sue S, staff.

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry. We all here, Hili as well, know how hard it is to lose a friend/member of the family. The emptiness remains – but also memories.

  9. About oxygen and masks. I have an oximeter and decided to test the issue for my self. For me and my wife, both old, I measured blood oxygen concentration with and without masks holding everything constant as best I could. Without masks, our blood oxygen concentration was about 98%. After wearing a mask for an hour, it measures 93%. So for us oldies, at least, there is an impact. You do not want concentrations less than 90%.

      1. Not arguing that, although masks protect others more than oneself. I’m just arguing that the impact on blood oxygen should not be dismissed as silly. People seem to get dismissive on either side when an issue gets politicized. I can imagine masks may be a problem for people with breathing issues.

        Personally, I only notice a problem when I try to exercise wearing a mask.

    1. I’m guessing there is a period of adaptation while your diaphragm begins to use a little more strength than it did before. Perhaps after a longer period of time you’d get back to 98%. If you redo the experiment, consciously breathing slightly harder, you might get back to normal O2.

      1. I’m sure by purposefully breathing harder I can get my blood oxygen up. I did the test breathing normally. I’ve been wearing a mask (three ply surgical) since March, so if I haven’t adapted by now, I expect I’m not going to.

        1. It might be possible to work out for an hour a day wearing a 6 ply mask until you diaphragm bulks up a bit.
          (I’m being facetious)

        2. My wife, a 61 year old grocery cashier has been breathing heavier since she started wearing the mask for work in mid / late March. It seems to take a toll.

  10. When we are talking about the US handling of the coronavirus, you need to compare it to comparable countries e.g. the large western European ones. The US rate (446/million) is lower than the UK (673), Spain (608), Italy (581) and France (462). Only Germany (110) does better. (The West German rate is much higher but still lower than the US). No matter how much you hate Trump, the US is not an outlier.

    There is a lot of speculation about why large, rich western countries have done so badly but it is indisputable that they have.

    1. Not sure where you get your numbers, but it looks like you are taking an average over time and that’s misleading.
      Italy had 280 new cases yesterday.

      The difference is they had a spike of 6,557 in March and implemented a shutdown policy. As a result the case rate dropped precipitously.

      The US on the other hand has skyrocketed.

      world data

  11. I agree on Machu Picchu, a unique experience.

    To see a list and figure of the top ten countries for coronavirus deaths, go to this piece at the New York Times (yes, the U.S. is up there with the Persian Gulf, Israel, and South Africa.

    I checked with the graph for Sweden which I know the local statistics of, and it looks botched. US and Sweden use differenbt definitions for covid-19 deaths (with vs from) and our numbers of deaths per capita have consistently been beneath US at some 60 %. More damning is that we are down to about 1 death from covid-19 per 1 million, and we are below normal mortaölity due to continued pandemic measures.

    If NYT forgot to adjust for population size, the numbers match better [ ].

    lek (place where animals congregate to mate).

    Obligatory etymology: “The term derives from the Swedish lek, a noun which typically denotes pleasurable and less rule-bound games and activities (“play”, as by children).”
    [ ]

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