Friday: Hili dialogue

August 14, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the end of the week; welcome to Friday, August 14, 2020, National Creamsicle Day. I used to love those quiescently frozen confections, but haven’t had one in years. It’s also National Kool-Aid Day, National Navajo Code Talkers Day (I still find this a clever and remarkable tactic, see here for more information), and National Tattoo Removal Day (some day I must do a feature on readers’ tattoos).

News of the day: Lots of news today. First, a Vice-Presidential debate has been scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at the University of Utah. That will certainly be worth watching for the LOLs, as I expect Harris to make mincemeat of Pence (is he allowed to be onstage with a woman? Here’s a relevant cartoon by Clay Jones, contributed by reader Charles:


Israel and the United Arab Emirates struck a peace agreement yesterday, part of which involves Israel “[forgoing] for now plans to annex occupied West Bank territory in order to focus on improving its ties with the rest of the Arab world.” Good news! This makes the UAE the third Arab country to establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel, joining Egypt and Jordan.

According to the Washington Post, the feds have accused Yale University of illegally discriminating against whites and Asians in their admissions process. Yale denies the charges, and a similar case at Harvard failed when a judge ruled that there was no discrimination against Asian-Americans (that ruling is being appealed).

Humanist and blogger Ed Brayton died yesterday morning in hospice care. Though I didn’t know the man, never met him, and read his site only rarely, he seemed to be one of the good guys, fighting for secularism and humanism, and (I didn’t know this) was one of the founder’s of Panda’s Thumb (he also helped launch Freethought Blogs). Hemant Mehta has a short obituary.

And, OMG this is true. Click on screenshot to go to BBC report:

The US government has proposed changing the definition of a showerhead to allow increased water flow, following complaints from President Donald Trump about his hair routine.

Under a 1992 law, showerheads in the US are not allowed to produce more than 2.5 gallons (9.5l) of water per minute.

The Trump administration wants this limit to apply to each nozzle, rather than the overall fixture.

Consumer and conservation groups argue that it is wasteful and unnecessary.

The changes were proposed by the Department of Energy on Wednesday following complaints by Mr Trump at the White House last month.

“So showerheads – you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect,” he said.



Yesterday, Stanford University announced it had changed its plans with respect to the fall semester. While they planned to have undergraduates on campus and in-person lectures, that’s now changed, as it has in so many places. The President made this announcement yesterday.

We will not be able to invite first-year, sophomore and new transfer undergraduate cohorts to be in residence on campus for the autumn quarter, as we had hoped. We also are planning for almost all undergraduate instruction to be delivered remotely during the autumn quarter, with very limited in-person offerings. We will continue to offer on-campus housing for those undergraduates who were previously approved to be in residence due to a special circumstance and who continue to wish to be on campus, despite the plan for mostly remote instruction.

This is happening everywhere on both public-school and university level, and I wonder what will happen to the University of Chicago, which still plans limited in-person learning and student residence on campus for the fall quarter.

My hair continues to grow because I’m still a bit wary of getting a haircut. Today’s photo (I really do need to get it trimmed):

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 167,133, an increase of about 1200 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 755,294, an increase of about 7300 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on August 14 include:

  • 1040 – King Duncan I is killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth. The latter succeeds him as King of Scotland.
  • 1457 – Publication of the Mainz Psalter, the first book to feature a printed date of publication and printed colophon.

What is a colophon?, you ask. Go here for the answer. And here’s the colophon of printers Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer:

  • 1791 – Slaves from plantations in Saint-Domingue hold a Vodou ceremony led by houngan Dutty Boukman at Bois Caïman, marking the start of the Haitian Revolution.
  • 1885 – Japan’s first patent is issued to the inventor of a rust-proof paint.
  • 1888 – An audio recording of English composer Arthur Sullivan‘s “The Lost Chord“, one of the first recordings of music ever made, is played during a press conference introducing Thomas Edison’s phonograph in London, England.

Here is that recording:

Whitehead’s “flight” in the craft shown below (note engine) lacks documentation, giving precedence to the Wright Brothers’ flight two years later:

Bethea was black and the hangman was drunk. It was a shameful exhibition. But if the death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent (which it isn’t), why are present-day executions always conducted in secrecy? Shouldn’t they be public, too, so people know what they are favoring when they want capital punishment?

Here’s a bit of that recording:

This was a recording, and probably the first time in Japanese history that the Emperor had spoken to the “regular” people.

  • 1969 – The Troubles: British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland as political and sectarian violence breaks out, marking the start of the 37-year Operation Banner.
  • 1980 – Lech Wałęsa leads strikes at the Gdańsk, Poland shipyards.
  • 2015 – The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba re-opens after 54 years of being closed when Cuba–United States relations were broken off.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1840 – Richard von Krafft-Ebing, German-Austrian psychologist and author (d. 1902)
  • 1867 – John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1933)
  • 1883 – Ernest Everett Just, American biologist and academic (d. 1941)
  • 1928 – Lina Wertmüller, Italian director and screenwriter
  • 1941 – David Crosby, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1945 – Steve Martin, American actor, comedian, musician, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1950 – Gary Larson, American cartoonist

Larson is 70 today, and I hope he won’t mind too much if I put up my favorite cartoon of his on my website. Happy birthday to every biologists’ favorite cartoonist.



  • 1959 – Magic Johnson, American basketball player and coach
  • 1963 – Emmanuelle Béart, French actress
  • 1966 – Halle Berry, American model, actress, and producer, Miss World United States 1986
  • 1987 – Tim Tebow, American football and baseball player, television personality and sportscaster

Tebow was famous for kneeling on field, but it wasn’t at all the same as today’s “taking a knee” (he’s thanking god):

Those who “passed” on August 14 include:

  • 1870 – David Farragut, American admiral (b. 1801)
  • 1951 – William Randolph Hearst, American publisher and politician, founded the Hearst Corporation (b. 1863)
  • 1988 – Enzo Ferrari, Italian race car driver and businessman, founded Ferrari (b. 1898)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili returns home—poetically.

A: Are you coming home for the night?
Hili: Yes, let’s leave this gloomy darkness behind the gate.
In Polish:
Ja: Wracasz na noc do domu?
Hili: Tak, zostawimy ten ponury mrok za bramą.

Shhhh—Szaron is sleeping: His tummy is almost white! (He doesn’t mind having it rubbed.)

And here’s kitten Kulka. She now weight about a kilogram—she’s doubled her weight!

From Laurie Ann:


From Jesus of the Day:

This is going around on Facebook—and I’ll withhold comment:

As usual, Titania is speaking truth to power:

A tweet from Simon, who says (“Simon says”): “Does he think he gets better as he repeats himself?”

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this gorgeous “jellyfish sprite” a form of upper-atmosphere lightning (I’ve never seen one):

There are still life stages of creatures whose adult forms are unknown. The second tweet shows one described by David Attenborough. The first shows larval barnacles.

“Beewolves” are predatory wasps, and very strong ones:

Well, to me this looks more like leaping than flying or gliding:

And a lovely video to finish this morning’s Hili:


56 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. “Happy birthday to the biologist’s favorite cartoonist.” To quote a constant refrain from this site, only one?

  2. Well, now Werewolves of London will be stuck in my head for the next few hours. Geez, an ear worm this early in the morning? I’m just waking up!

    I’m wondering if our resident law expert, Ken Kukec, would be willing to explain the decision of the trial court in Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and whether there’s a chance for it to be overturned on appeal. According to the decision, “the Court therefore concludes that the data demonstrates a statistically significant and negative relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating assigned by Harvard admissions officers, holding constant any reasonable set of observable characteristics.”

    So, the opinion admits that Harvard uses the “personal rating” system in a “constant” way to ensure that Asians (I won’t say “Asian-Americans,” as many of them are here on student visas and thus member of other countries) receive lower admissions scores. However, the Court also says, “Several admissions officers testified at trial and forcefully denied the suggestion that racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans infect Harvard’s admissions process. See, e.g., [Oct. 24 Tr. 175:11–17]. Consistent with this, the Court finds no persuasive documentary evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans.”

    How can the plaintiff prove such “animus,” and/or is there another way for them to win the case, and/or is it possible for an Appeals Court to rule that animus can be inferred from the extreme correlation between the “personal ratings” and low scores for prospective Asian students? It seems pretty damn clear that the remarkable consistency in low scores for “personal ratings” is used as a tool to reduce the number of Asian students, but the Court found this to be acceptable because animus against Asian applicants wasn’t proved.

    1. Sorry, I should reword the first sentence of the third paragraph. The Court only admits that the lower “personal ratings” for prospective Asian students is constant, but does not admit it is has been proved that it’s used as a tool to ensure they receive lower admissions scores.

  3. Israel and Lebanon don’t have normalized diplomatic relations. Jerry, I think you were thinking of Jordan.


    I’m very concerned about the relationship between kitten (K) and older cat (OC). A few days ago, the two started playing together, with OC pinning K to the ground, the cats chasing each other, etc. There was no growling or hissing on the part of OC, and K has never shown anything but a desire for affection and bonding. Since the first couple of days when they seemed to be getting closer by playing and K sleeping on the couch next to OC during the day (that was between about last Friday through Sunday), attempts by K to play with or sometimes even approach OC have been met with hissing, and K is no longer trying to sleep next to OC. I’ve noticed that K has received the apparent message that OC does not want anything to do with him, and so backs off as soon as OC gives him a glare when K approaches. They occasionally meet by chance and sniff each other without incident, but that’s it. Their relationship has gone downhill since what I thought were good omens late last week.

    So, it seems their relationship is at a stalemate, with OC very upset. Especially concerning is that OC is not sleeping in his normal places and not being as affectionate toward me anymore. His sleeping routine has been interrupted. He seems very unhappy and occasionally hisses at me when K has just annoyed him. OC had never hissed at me during the ten years he owned me before K’s arrival.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

  5. The incident about Trump and the shower rules is almost laughable and small potatoes in the larger scheme of things. Still, it is indicative of how a bureaucracy can change on a dime to satisfy the whims of a leader. This is why dictators can remain in power. In order to keep their jobs, most bureaucrats will follow blindly orders from the top. It doesn’t matter what they are. This is why dictators are hard to remove once they gain power. A much more important and terrifying example is the Department of Justice. Except for a relatively few brave people, most of the career people at the DOJ that had worked for Obama now follow Trump’s and Barr’s directives, despite personal reservations. Should Trump lose the election and attempt to stay in office, the response of the bureaucracy (at all its levels and departments) may very well determine if he succeeds.

    1. I have to guess the Dept of Justice folks are just trying to hang on until the King is dead. If tRump gets another term, they could exit en masse, stage left.

    2. But more importantly the real power in the state is the military. If the Supreme Court is quiescent in this affair and if the congress calls upon them to oust Trump and they respond, then it’s all over with and then Agent Orange will be thrown in the slammer for the rest of his life.

  6. My latin is really old and rusty but looking at the date in the colophon:

    anno M.cccc.lxxi.xviii kaledis iulius

    I get “year 1471 18 calendar julius”

    Perhaps this is the colophon from a later edition of the 1457 book or a different book.

  7. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News yesterday, Donald Trump gave Attorney General William Barr (and his secret attack prosecutor, John Durham) their marching orders: bring back indictments against Joe Biden and Barack Obama between now and election day:

    Fasten your seatbelts. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

    1. We speculate often with good reason about what Trump would do if he loses the election. Now we need to fear what Trump may do before the election. We worry about Trump inspired right-wing violence. There is less talk about what the center and left (a significant majority of the country) may do if they perceive that Trump has stolen the election. Will these folks just resign themselves to the end of democracy, contenting themselves with ineffectual rallies, even if they are massive in scale? This may happen, but it would not be a sure thing. It is a distinct possibility that they would do what the right-wing militias have argued for years: tyranny warrants a violent response. In other words, we may be on the precipice of civil war, with no way to predict the outcome. If events do come to this then the only thing we can be sure of is that the year 2020 could equal or surpass 1861 as the most consequential one in the nation’s history.

        1. The salubrious election outcome for the American body politic would be a complete blowout — one that puts the results beyond cheating distance.

          That may also be the only outcome that gives the Republican Party a fighting chance to put its house in order, post-Trump.

          1. If what’s written about in that article is any indication, the counting of votes will take so long, there will be so much disorganization, and so many votes will be thrown out that even a landslide — in either Party’s favor — can be perceived as a conspiracy. We’re headed for a catastrophe with this election because we have neither the infrastructure nor organization, on both state and federal levels, to handle the voting.

            1. You’d think that anyone interested in having a fair and honest election would want to devote the necessary funds to having a fully functioning post office and well-regulated mail-in voting — or, in the alternative, to devote even much more money to opening many more polling places configured to allow socially distance ballot casting during the time of a pandemic — instead of doing precisely the opposite.

              1. It’s kinda strange living in WA where we’ve voted by mail for years with absolutely no problems. We and the other states who have successfully implemented VBM won’t have a problem at all in 2020. I look at the rest of the states (esp. red states) and just shake my head. It’s not a difficult endeavor, just takes some organizing and political will, and of course the requirement to actually want Americans to vote. It’s staggering, really, that we have an entire political party who is against citizens voting. Why would anyone want to be affiliated to such a party in a so-called democracy.

                Also, USPS is used to fluctuations in mail, including massive increases. I imagine each Christmas would be similar to the 2020 vote (imagine every American sending out one Christmas card…sort of equivalent to everyone voting). America, get your shit correct! I know it doesn’t help when the “Post Master” is getting rid of sorters, cancelling overtime and limiting mail stops. I guess he figures only the evil Democrats use the post office; yup, sounds about right for Trump’s “best people”.

              2. @Mark R.

                Just because your state’s VBM has worked well in the past does not mean it will work well this year. The article I linked explains why and provides examples that have already occurred, obviously on a much smaller scale than a contentious election for President. The infrastructure to handle the amount of votes by mail that will likely be submitted is simply not there. The Christmas analogy for the USPS doesn’t really work, as the USPS knows approximately how much their work will increase at that particular time of year because they’ve been dealing with it for…well, I guess since the USPS was established. Additionally, it’s not just about the USPS, but the infrastructure to deliver ballots to people, receive the completed ballots, ensure the security of the ballots, analyze the ballots for irregularities, and count them, and all of these things require states to have better organizing and infrastructure. Most of the issues are out of the USPS’ control.

    2. Hey, Ken, did you happen to notice my request for your analysis of the Harvard case above? I figure you might not have seen your name mentioned there, though no worries if you just don’t feel like responding 🙂

  8. There will be no audience at the VP debate, so Pence will have to bring his wife along to prevent him from being driven mad by sexual desire. The bonus, of course, is that she will have to see Harris whip his ass!

    1. “There will be no audience at the VP debate, so Pence will have to bring his wife along to prevent him from being driven mad by sexual desire. The bonus, of course, is that she will have to see Harris whip his ass!”

      Much thanks for the audience info so that I don’t have to look it up. At least there won’t be repeated audience tent-revival clapping and ululating, making one have to strain to clearly hear a candidate’s answer.

      I’ll be voting for Biden-Harris. I don’t doubt that Harris will win the debate on the merits of most Democratic policy positions. But, regarding the ennobling, elevated spirit of “ass-whoopin’,” as has been her wont in past debates she will be hard-pressed to refrain from repeatedly interrupting Pence when he’s answering a question from one of the panelists.

      I assume it’s a panel format with questions only from the panel and no back-and-forth jabbering between the candidates. If not it should be. Re: Nixon-JFK debates, I don’t care how long ago it was. Harris could learn a few things watching those debates, like impulse control. Unlike with her gratuitous courtroom and Senate hearing room verbal digs at witnesses (which generally seems the breathtakingly-entitled tendency in that chamber) many will be watching for signs of (non-Trumpian) Presidential demeanor and decorum (especially as regards Biden’s fitness to withstand four years in office), the coarsening of U.S. culture notwithstanding. If she’s elected – and I hope she is – she’ll have to consider the theoretical possibility of occasionally taming her sharp shrew’s tongue when she goes abroad representing the U.S.

      Regarding the possibility of discovering that Pence has been alone in a room with a woman other than his wife, time is running out. It must gall not a few Dems that they have not been able to so discover, especially in the context of Harris accusing Biden of improprieties to his face in front of millions. (As a consolation maybe the Dems will get around to asking Pence if he can prove he has never been alone in a room with a woman not his wife.) She must be one heck of a strategic candidate for him to take that on the chin and play mutual makeup. I wonder if Harris herself has ever been in a room alone with a man not her husband. Were it not for the pandemic I reasonably gather that she otherwise would have been alone with Biden during the VP vetting process.

  9. It’s good to be wary of getting a haircut. The situation with dentists is far worse, since they are breathing in your face for 30 minutes or more and you can’t wear a mask. Yesterday, the WHO recommended dental visits be postponed. Dental organizations have strongly objected ($$$$$). Take care of those teeth and stay safe!

    1. I have been to the dentist a couple of times because it was needed. I also have had several hair cuts since things opened up. I would say a trip to the grocery in crowed conditions is a bigger problem.

      Now everyone at the barbers wear masks and the all do at the dentists as well.

    2. I have been to the dentist recently. They are being quite safe. First they have you gargle with a hydrogen peroxid mouthwash. Hygienist and dentist wear masks, gloves, face shields. They did not use any of the fancier power tools that would create an aerosol spray. They change PPE between each patient and they keep patients apart.

  10. The “What I Ordered” won’t be on the menu for another four years. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ birth date is 13 October 1989, which means that she will be 35 (the minimum age for eligibility for the presidency per Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the US Constitution). This means that she first becomes eligible to be either president or vice-president in the 2024 election (Amendment XII explicitly states that the qualifications for the vice-presidence are the same as those for the presidency).

    1. Oops:

      “…which means that she will be 35 (the minimum age for eligibility for the presidency per Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the US Constitution).”

      should have read:

      “…which means that she will be 35 (the minimum age for eligibility for the presidency per Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the US Constitution) just in time for the next presidential election.”

    1. I used to cut mine / have it cut that way. Self-cut sides and have someone cut it straight across the back. Stopped entirely about 5yrs ago. It reaches a steady-state.

  11. Re the David Attenborough plankton clip – couldn’t someone just keep one in a tank and see what it grows up to be? Apologies if this is a stupid question!

      1. That was exactly my thought. DNA sequencing would put the mystery larva in its taxonomic cubbyhole before you could say barnacle.

  12. “Almost cut my hair
    Happened just the other day
    It’s gettin’ kind of long
    I could’ve said it was in my way
    But I didn’t and I wonder why
    I feel like letting my freak flag fly…”

    Happy Birthday to David Crosby, who is clearly telling you that you should NOT get a haircut.

  13. I know this doesn’t count as “documentation,” but my grandmother saw one of Gustave Whitehead’s early flights; I believe it was the one over Long Island Sound. Decades later, she told my mother about it, who wrote a paper for History class and got an A.

    With many inventions, there were several people working (with varying degrees of success) on solving the problem, from the steamboat to the telephone to the electric light to movies to television. The person we remember as “THE inventor” is the one whose prototype makes it to the market. The Wright Brothers’ plane went into production; Whitehead’s didn’t.

  14. A couple days ago I shaved my head bald. Easy and feels great. Problem solved. Though after mowing the lawn I got my first skull sunburn. OUCH! Lesson learned, wear a hat while the sun is shining dummy.

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