Thursday: Hili dialogue

August 6, 2020 • 6:30 am

The weekend is nearly here: it’s Thursday, August 6, 2020: National Root Beer Float Day. This delicious drink, made with root beer and vanilla ice cream, is also called a “black cow” in the U.S.

It’s also Farmworker Appreciation Day, National IPA Day (a beer vastly overrated in its common incarnation as a tankard of bitter hops with no other flavor, National Gossip Day, and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, commemorating the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima 75 years ago. Here’s a tweet that Matthew found:

News of the Day: Good news (from Jeremy): 96 year old Giuseppe Paternò (below), whose desire to get a university degree in the 1930s was derailed by poverty and war, has fulfilled his dream at last, getting a degree in philosophy at the University of Palermo. And he finished at the top of his class (part of it was remote learning)! He’s thinking of continuing on to a graduate program since his family is long lived. Congrats, Giuseppe, you’re the oldest person to graduate college in the history of Italy! Click on the screenshot to read the Guardian article.

From the site I love to hate: HuffPo, of course. Although they take a “progressive liberal” stance on politics, they are infatuated with the British Royal Family. To wit, see the piece below in the site’s “coronavirus” section (click on screenshot). They just love a “safe and stylish duchess”!

Originally, Chicago public schools were going to open this fall with in-person attendance and “social distancing” and mask precautions. Yesterday, after threats of strikes from the teacher’s union and complaints from parents, the school department has relented, and our schools will be totally “virtual” this fall. That is, no students will be in the school building.  As the NYT says, “[this leaves] New York City as the only major school system in the country that will try to offer in-person classes when schools start this fall.”

What does this mean for the University of Chicago, which is supposed to open for a mixture of in-person and virtual classes this fall, with students living and working on campus? Again, I predict that colleges that try for such on-campus learning this fall are facing disaster.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is  158,551, an increase of about 1200 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 707,744, an increase of about 6800 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on August 6 include:

  • 1787 – Sixty proof sheets of the Constitution of the United States are delivered to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • 1890 – At Auburn Prison in New York, murderer William Kemmler becomes the first person to be executed by electric chair.

You may not want to read this next bit, which describes how things didn’t go well during that first execution (excerpt from Wikipedia).

The generator was charged with the 1,000 volts, which was assumed to be adequate to induce quick unconsciousness and cardiac arrest. The chair had already been thoroughly tested; a horse had been electrocuted the day before. Current was passed through Kemmler for 17 seconds. The power was turned off and Kemmler was declared dead by Edward Charles Spitzka. Witnesses noticed Kemmler was still breathing. The attending physicians, Spitzka and Carlos Frederick MacDonald, came forward to examine Kemmler. After confirming Kemmler was still alive, Spitzka reportedly called out, “Have the current turned on again, quick—no delay”.

In the second attempt, Kemmler was shocked with 2,000 volts. Blood vessels under the skin ruptured and bled and some witnesses erroneously claimed his body caught fire. The New York Times reported instead that “an awful odor began to permeate the death chamber, and then, as though to cap the climax of this fearful sight, it was seen that the hair under and around the electrode on the head and the flesh under and around the electrode at the base of the spine was singeing. The stench was unbearable.” Upon autopsy, doctors had found the blood vessels under the cap of the skull had carbonized and the top of the brain had actually hardened. Witnesses reported the smell of burning flesh and several nauseated spectators tried to leave the room.

The killing took approximately eight minutes. The competitive newspaper reporters covering the Kemmler execution jumped on the abnormalities as each newspaper source tried to outdo each other with sensational headlines and reports. A reporter who witnessed it also said it was “an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging”. Westinghouse later commented “They would have done better using an axe”.

  • 1914 – World War I: First Battle of the Atlantic: Two days after the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany over the German invasion of Belgium, ten German U-boats leave their base in Heligoland to attack Royal Navy warships in the North Sea.
  • 1914 – World War I: Serbia declares war on Germany; Austria declares war on Russia.
  • 1926 – Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

Here’s a three minute video of Ederle’s swim (remember, this was in the era of silent films). Note the tickertape parade in NYC celebrating her achievement:

Here’s the bomb that did it; though it contained over 60 kg of uranium, only a kg underwent fission. Caption is from Wikipedia:

Little Boy in the bomb pit on Tinian island, before being loaded into Enola Gay’s bomb bay. A section of the bomb bay door is visible on the top right.

Here is an overly celebratory 20-minute Air Force film showing the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagysaki:

  • 1962 – Jamaica becomes independent from the United Kingdom.
  • 1965 – US President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.
  • 1996 – The Ramones played their farewell concert at The Palace, Los Angeles, CA.
  • 2011 – War in Afghanistan: A United States military helicopter is shot down, killing 30 American special forces members and a working dog, seven Afghan soldiers, and one Afghan civilian. It was the deadliest single event for the United States in the War in Afghanistan.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s Fleming in his lab in 1953:

  • 1911 – Lucille Ball, American actress, television producer and businesswoman (d. 1989)
  • 1928 – Andy Warhol, American painter and photographer (d. 1987)
  • 1970 – M. Night Shyamalan, Indian-American director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1973 – Vera Farmiga, American actress

Here’s the famous episode of “I Love Lucy” in which Ethel and Lucy desperately try to pack chocolates:

Those who ceased to be on August 6 include:

Hamlisch was one of only sixteen people to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. This collection of all four is referred to as an “EGOT“. He is one of only two people (along with composer Richard Rodgers) to have won those four prizes and a Pulitzer Prize (“PEGOT”).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cherry harvest is over, and there were a lot of cherries this year. Hili is using it to mark time:

Hili: The cherries are picked, the branches have lifted.
A: And that means that half the summer is behind us.
In Polish:
Hili: Wiśnie zebrane, gałęzie się podniosły.
Ja: A to znaczy, że połowa lata za nami.
And here’s Szaron, sleeping on the couch downstairs where I work when I’m in Dobrzyn. He’s a handsome lad, and has become best pals with the kitten Kulka, but Hili barely tolerates either of them (and hisses at the kitten).

From Jesus of the Day:

A meme from Bruce:

From Laurie Ann, and this is so true! Moreover, cats always prefer to vomit on the carpet, even when they could do it on a hard floor.

A tweet from Titania:

Tweets from Matthew. I’ve shown this viper before, with its tail having evolved into a terrific mock spider, almost certainly to attract predatory birds or vertebrates that themselves become lunch for the viper. This is one of the finest examples of mimicry that Matthew and I know of:

You simply must turn up the sound to hear the noises of this nomming baby squirrel:

This is the duckling of an Indian runner duck, a breed of domesticated mallard known for its fast speed (they run rather than waddle) and erect posture. They cannot fly.

Matthew says this venue is right down the road from where he lives.

Trump interviews himself! (also sent by Dom)

Look at this lovely clouded leopard (Neofilis nebulosa) in a tree in Malaysia. The birds don’t like it one bit!

A weird strawberry but apparently a giant one. I’d totally nom that bad boy with cream and sugar!

40 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. The indentation goes askew at the end of the execution quote.

    Also, I think this was the execution used by Edison to try to discredit alternating current for domestic electricity supplies. Edison was backing DC.

  2. While remembering the dropping of the bomb in 1945, I would request that we also learn more and read about the last major battle of WWII. The battle of Okinawa, where more people died than in both bombs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yes it was old fashion killing but it only took 82 days.

    1. Yes, it was horrendous, but the casualties at the battle of Okinawa were mostly combatants whereas the casualties at Hiroshima were mostly civilians—men, women and children.

      1. The population of Okinawa at the time of the battle was approximately 300,000. It is estimated that one third of the population was killed in the battle. That would be about 100,000 civilians. So if you think it necessary to separate the killing, combat verses civilian, you may want to consider this as well. Frankly, in war such as WWII, the civilian death is generally more. Bombing and heavy guns causes this. Even at Normandy, on D-day, there were lots and lots of French people killed. It all goes with the territory. Should we have told Ike, hey, don’t kill any French people.

        1. A number of the Okinawan casualties were men drafted by the Japanese. I assume the rest were collateral damage, as were civilians who died in the liberation of France. I doubt Eisenhower deliberately targeted the civilians.

        2. The thing about WWII was that it was to a large extent seen as a total war. Meaning, people had given up on the idea that some negotiation or compromise, or a chivalrous code of honor, would bring an end to it. So, the US and allies were driven to extremes which today seem difficult to wrap our heads around. The bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc. The rational was, for better or worse, and probably mostly worse, it was decided that civilians gave the military it’s energy and drive. Kill enough civilians and the armies will be sapped of energy and the war will end. Civilian deaths were not really to be regretted. People, at all costs, wanted the war to end. That’s my feeble attempt to make sense of the senseless.

          1. Not feeble at all. Insightful, actually.

            My take. In making moral judgments, we should *not* try to put ourselves in the shoes of the WWII observers. I think, if I were one of them, I might have cheered the civilian bombings too. But moral judgments require the so called “ideal observer”—an imaginary observer who is impartial and fully informed. The WWII observers were far too emotionally involved. Perhaps, 75 years after the war, we are closer to being ideal observers. I think an ideal observer would judge the allied civilian bombings (the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden, all conducted after the enemy was all but defeated) were immoral. They were done for revenge.

            Just my opinion.

            1. The moral to the story, if you will, is that we should work to avoid war of this type. Later wars, as Steven Pinker has pointed out have been minor in comparison. Let’s hope that’s a trend. One way to help avoid conflict is, of course, to elect capable leaders. Need I say more?

            2. In contrast, the 1943 bombing of Hamburg, which literally flattened the city and killed 45,000 people, was morally justifiable, I think (maybe). It destroyed a crucial port and industrial center, and sent an important message to Nazi Germany how vulnerable it was. If the Nazis were not so crazy, it may have shortened the war.

            3. Political leaders and generals in time of war can never be ideal observers. They have an agenda: They were hired/charged with that agenda.

              It’s hard to imagine any nation deciding to sacrifice more of its citizens to save more of the opponent’s citizens, in order to end the war.

              From my reading of WWII history, the idea that either Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan would have surrendered without a full-scale, bitter-end invasion is absurd. Both had war cultures that prevented that; and both were ruled by military juntas (in Germany’s case headed by a delusional madman).

              The use of the atomic bombs on Japan likely saved a very large number of Japanese lives.

              The other knock-on effect of their use, in my opinion, is they demonstrated in the real world what (very feeble) nuclear weapons would do to cities and people. This may well have helped (primarily the USSR and the USA) prevent their subsequent use during what became the Great Peace (as Pinker calls it).

  3. The stuff about Kindergarten Cop is ridiculous! Of course, the school principal Miss Schlowski is played by Linda Hunt who won an Oscar for her role playing the male character Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously. Not sure what the Woke would make of that casting nowadays…

  4. The Hiroshima film, with its deadpan narrative and bleak, b&w footage, is the most depressing thing I have watched in a long time.

    1. The blast in Beirut caused by 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate seemed almost of nuclear proportions. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was rated at 14 kt TNT (Wiki). I am not sure how the explosive power of ammonium nitrate rates with TNT, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lebanon blast came within 5%-10% of the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.

      1. Here’s a question for all the bombers who read WEIT. Ok, chemists might also answer. Doesn’t ammonium nitrate have to be mixed with fuel oil to make a bomb: the classic combination of fuel and oxidizer? Is that not the case? Were they really storing thousands of tons of a completely ready-to-blow explosive in a warehouse, just waiting for any old spark to set it off?

          1. Thanks! It is still hard to believe there would be that much combustible material next to the ammonium nitrate. Wouldn’t they have to be well mixed to make an explosion rather than just a really hot fire? Perhaps we’ll never know as the Palestinians seemed rather careless and maybe they have no idea what was stored next to the nitrate.

            1. Those were my thoughts too. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the investigation results. It does seem somewhat lax that the Lebanese government wasn’t able to do something with this for six years.

            2. Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy with representative offices divided along religious lines. The country’s president is Christian, the Prime Minister is Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker in parliament is Shi’a Muslim. What could go wrong?
              The ammonium nitrate was seized by Lebanon’s judiciary in 2014 from an unseaworthy Russian cargo ship sailing from Georgia to Mozambique. The port administration knew the seized cargo was dangerous and tried on six occasions to get the courts to remove or auction off the material. If I were to place blame, I would put it on the lack of action of Lebanon’s judiciary.
              As I understand it, the neighborhoods surrounding the docks are mainly Christian. There is a large Sunni presence elsewhere in Beirute whereas Shi’a, including Hezbollah, predominate in areas south of the city. There are no Palestinians to speak of.

        1. Here’s a question for all the bombers who read WEIT.

          I’ve got a recommendation for all the bombers who read WEIT. It’s the same recommendation Mickey Rourke gave William Hurt in Body Heat: Don’t do it. 🙂

  5. I think it should be mandatory that everyone who thinks the death penalty is sane should read that electric chair description. My favorite line, “They would have done better using an axe”.

    1. If a death penalty (government sanctioned blood lust) must exist then the most humane way I know of is by firing squad. It’s been proven time and again the threat of execution does not deter a crime being committed.

  6. Perhaps I would be more impressed with ND der Tag and Junge Welt had they said never again to any war, not just nuclear war. I am going to guess that their stories don’t begin with Warsaw or Rotterdam or Belgrade. Or even with Prague in March 1939, when Goering threatened to bomb the Czech capitol unless Hácha agreed to allow the Germans to annex the rump of Czechoslovakia. But, sure, bravo for taking a stand against nuclear war, what with so many people agitating in favor of it.

  7. The spider-tailed horned viper has to be one of the most remarkable examples of adaptation on the planet. It could have mimicked an generic bug, but it “chose” a white arachnid. And look at it run in circles like a spider really do. Who says there’s no free will!

    1. The viper’s use of a “fake-news” spider to lure prey suggests that birds and lizards readily pursue spiders as food. When real spiders mimic other creatures such as ants — many excellent examples have been presented here at WEIT — it’s likely that protective Batesian mimicry is often involved.

      1. Yes, Batesian mimicry is what it is. The spider model, then, is no accident. It has been shaped by what the pray finds most attractive.

  8. Although a root beer float can be called a Black Cow, this term covers a lot more ground, including coke floats and root beer floats with added chocolate syrup. I would try that last one but I suspect I’d prefer a plain old root beer float and save the chocolate syrup for a future ice cream sundae.

  9. Hersey’s Pulitzer Prize winning account Hiroshima should be required reading in public High Schools. I read it in college, and upon finishing, remember thinking “why wasn’t I made to read this in High School?”

    1. in re 06 Nettaiya y1945, Getsuyōbi @ ~8:15am Japan time and if one likes knowing, even now,
      a c t u a l and accurately encompassing history, then … … here, Mr Mark R, is
      Mr Hersey’s 24 August y1946 Hiroshima piece within the New Yorker’s 31 August y1946 issue … … within which Mr Hersey remembered some o’the
      women who, once a g a i n, were caught up
      within men’s warring with each other: … … in full.


        1. Thanks a lot for the links Blue. I think I’ll pick up Blume’s book; this is the first I’ve heard of it.

        2. More enlightenment from PBS Newshour’s
          Special Correspondent Ms Grace Lee’s
          eight minutes’ worth aired yesterday … …
          in re HOW Hiroshima’s schoolchildren,
          shielded under pandemic’s face coverings,
          are in today’s World trying to well –
          remember .that. which happened to their
          ancestors before they themselves ever … …


        3. From PBS Newshour’s Mr Jeffrey Brown, aired
          yesterday and specifically in re Ms Blume’s
          chronicle, FALLOUT, of the reporting of then
          31 – year – old Mr John Hersey in that August
          y1946 issue of the New Yorker:

          NPR this morning ( 08 August 2020 /
 ) reports that while Kyoto, then, was
          the intended second target upon 09 August
          y1945, there that day was extremely heavy
          cloud cover. So, the pilot whose birthday
          it was that day, as well, and with little
          fuel left flew the second atomic bomb
          on to its alternative, nearby target city,
          Nagasaki, and, there, stating that the clouds
          had somewhat parted, dropped it.

          Local persons since ? Local persons since
          report that the clouds had not parted,
          that the bomb was likely dropped upon them
          inside Nagasaki … … blindly.


  10. A few years ago I met an American who nearly died in Hiroshima, Tom Cartwright. Most of his flight mates died there. He was a U.S. Army Air Force Pilot in WWII. On July 28, 1945 he piloted the Lonesome Lady, a B-24 on a bombing mission attacking a Japanese battleship in Honshu harbor. Their plane was shot down. Surviving crew were captured and taken to police building in Hiroshima. After a couple of days he was removed to the Tokyo area for interrogation. Hiroshima was bombed eight days after he was shot down.

    He wrote a short book titled A Date With The Lonesome Lady, A Hiroshima POW Returns. He retired to Moab, Utah, where I live.

  11. Moreover, cats always prefer to vomit on the carpet, even when they could do it on a hard floor.

    This is so true. And they won’t even stay on the hard floor if you put them there. I’ve had mine run back onto the carpet multiple times in their efforts to adorn the carpeting.

    Hank forbid that the cat makes the vomit easy to clean up for the staff!

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