Friday: Hili dialogue

We’ve made it through another damn week: it’s Friday, August 21, 2020. It’s National Sweet Tea Day, celebrating that hyperglycemic iced tea served with Southern cuisine. It’s known as “the table wine of the South,” and you either love it or hate it. I quite like it because it’s the perfect complement for heavy and greasy Southern food, like a nice lunch of “meat and three.”

Here’s a classic meat and three from the estimable food guide Roadfood. Not shown, but they better be there: cornbread and sweet tea. (Mac and cheese counts as a vegetable.) And I’d prefer country ham or fried chicken over the meatloaf below.

It’s also National Spumoni Day, Poet’s Day (which poet?), National Senior Citizens’ Day, and National Men’s Grooming Day, which reminds me—I need a haircut! Maybe this weekend.

News of the Day: Another Putin critic meets a rotten fate: dissident Alexei Navainy, imprisoned several times and attacked several more, was poisoned before he boarded a plane in Siberia. Putin, of course, says he had nothing to do with it.  Navainy is a brave man, and I hope he pulls through (he’s in hospital in Omsk, in a coma on a ventilator).

New York Times columnists describe the best and worst moments of Day 3 of the Democratic National Convention, as they’ve been doing every day. Obama is high on the “best” list. I didn’t watch the convention last night but will watch the highlights. Biden, of course, accepted the nomination and is officially the Democratic candidate for President.

Science of the day: Below, abstruse article title of the year. This is from the latest Science; click on the screenshot if you hanker to understand it (h/t: Matthew):

Here’s what HuffPo considers “news”. Without Twitter, the site would be devoid of content:

Of the nine largest secondary-school districts in America, eight are not having in-person classes this fall. The exception is New York City. But now NYC teachers, worried about the pandemic, are threatening to strike unless the city meets their demands for constant testing and an on-site nurse.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 174,137, an increase of about 1,000 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 793,257, an increase of about 6,300 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on August 21 includes:

  • 1770 – James Cook formally claims eastern Australia for Great Britain, naming it New South Wales.
  • 1791 – A Vodou ceremony, led by Dutty Boukman, turns into a violent slave rebellion, beginning the Haitian Revolution.
  • 1831 – Nat Turner leads black slaves and free blacks in a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, which will claim the lives of 55 to 65 whites and about twice that number of blacks.

Turner was hanged; I’m surprised he didn’t undergo torture beforehand.

  • 1858 – The first of the Lincoln–Douglas debates is held in Ottawa, Illinois.
  • 1888 – The first successful adding machine in the United States is patented by William Seward Burroughs.

Burroughs was the grandfather of the famous beat writer William S. Burroughs III, author of Naked Lunch. The writer was independently wealthy from the family adding-machine business. Here’s grandpa’s first patent, dated August 21:

Peruggia, who claimed to be stealing the painting to return it to its home, Italy, was caught when he tried to sell the painting to an art dealer in Italy. He served only seven months for the theft.

Here’s the 6.2 kg “demon core” of plutonium and gallium onto which Daghlian dropped a tungsten-carbide brick, exceeding the critical mass and triggering fusion. It took Daghlian 25 days to die. The same core later killed another worker as it exceeded critical mass. That physicist, Louis Slotin, took nine days to die. It’s not a good way to go.

  • 1959 – United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an executive order proclaiming Hawaii the 50th state of the union. Hawaii’s admission is currently commemorated by Hawaii Admission Day.
  • 2000 – Tiger Woods, American professional golfer, wins the 82nd PGA Championship and becomes the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in a calendar year.

Here’s a short recap of Woods’s victory in 2000. He seems to have fallen on harder times lately, though I don’t know why.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s a lovely cat illustration by Beardsley, who died at only 25 from tuberculosis:

  • 1904 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1984)
  • 1936 – Wilt Chamberlain, American basketball player and coach (d. 1999)
  • 1986 – Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter

Bolt holds the world record for the 100-meter dash: 9.58 seconds, set in 2009. Here’s that race:

Those who went toes up on August 21 include:

Here’s part of Trotsky’s compound in Mexico city, designed to repel assassins, as Stalin kept sending people after him. (I took the photo in November of 2012). Yesterday I put up a picture of the desk at which Trotsky met his end, struck in the head with an ice axe. Trotsky was attacked by an assassin on August 20 but it took him a day to die.


  • 1971 – George Jackson, American activist and author, co-founded the Black Guerrilla Family (b. 1941)
  • 1974 – Buford Pusser, American police officer (b. 1937)
  • 1995 – Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Indian-American astrophysicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1910)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili displays a new sense:

Hili: I’m going in the right direction.
A: How do you know?
Hili: Feline intuition.
In Polish:
Hili: Idę we właściwym kierunku.
Ja: Skąd wiesz?
Hili: Kocia intuicja.

Here are some nice pictures of kitten Kulka and her BFF Szaron. In the last photo, says Malgorzata, “Szaron is going together with Kulka like Winnie the Pooh with Piglet.” All were taken by Andrzej:


A New Yorker cartoon by Charlie Hankin from Jean:

From Stash Krod:


From reader Charles. The sign looks photoshopped, and I’m wondering if anything about this photo is real. Regardless, it’s funny:

It looks as if the placement of Titania’s book amongst genuine woke treatises at the Cal State Poly bookstore was a mistake, not a joke:

This is truly amazing. Try it!

From reader Barry, who says, “Athena started it!” I agree.

From reader Simon who, like me, applauds the French for their behavior in this instance. They threw a passenger off the TGV in the middle of nowhere!

Tweets from Matthew. I doubt there are many films of people born in the 18th century, like this 104-year-old weaver, born the year America’s Bill of Rights was ratified.

What a lovely (and safe) way to observe the behavior of wasps in their nest:

An informative tweet by Dr. Cobb himself:

Matthew called my attention to UBC biologist Judith Mank’s new result, and I tweeted a bit about it. It’s her 100th paper, so congrats to her!


47 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. The good quality of the photograph of the demon core rather surprises me – it would have been taken on film and photographic film is sensitive to all kinds of radiation, not just visible light. Hence its use in dosimeters. Maybe it was taken from across the room with a longer lens.

    1. Uranium and plutonium primarily alpha decay. This wouldn’t affect a camera several feet away. Their gamma signature is actually quite small compared to the radioisotopes you’d normally encounter in medicine, dentistry, etc.

      Criticality reactions go fast, meaning the gamma radiation ramped up many orders of magnitude even in just the few seconds it took Daghlian to knock the brick off. Browsing wikipedia, I see they estimate the criticality event resulted in about a 5 Sv dose before he could stop it. To put that in perspective, your average yearly dose from background radiation is 6 mSv, so he got about a thousand times an annual dose in a matter of a few seconds (I’m approximating that time; I don’t really know how long he stood there getting the brick off).

  2. I’ve been looking for a name for quarantine Fridays and now I’ve got it: “End-of-another-damn-week Day.” My friend who went to church (before COVID) says that Tuesday, Garbage Day, is the only significant day of the week left, so we’ve got Tuesday and Friday named. Suggestions for the other days?

  3. Nat Turner’s revolt revealed the mental contradictions in the white slave South. The revolt terrified the slaveholders, now more fearful than ever that their throats would be cut in the middle of the night. On the other hand, they persisted in arguing that the enslaved were happy in their condition. Slavery in the South must have imposed a tremendous mental burden on the supporters of the institution.

    1. Cognitive dissonance does wonders for one’s contradictory thoughts. I doubt they were burdened much.

  4. Impressive video of the weaver born in 1791, but unless my maths (UK usage, so not math) is correct, if she was filmed in 1905, that would make her 114.

    1. Besides the doubtful math. the ages were doubtful in most places at the time (no or bad records). In fact it sounds like the filmers found an age that suited their purpose.

  5. 1831 – Nat Turner leads black slaves and free blacks in a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, which will claim the lives of 55 to 65 whites and about twice that number of blacks.

    When I first got to college, William Styron’s novel about the incident, The Confessions of Nat Turner, which had won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction a few years earlier, was a big deal, at least within the crowd I ran with. Now, I suppose it’d be considered the apotheosis of cultural appropriation (as it was by some even then, now that I think of it, though not in those precise terms), especially given that it was written as a first-person narrative in the voice of the rebellious protagonist himself.

    1. Styron’s daughter has written a piece for the Atlantic discussing her father’s cultural appropriation. Her conclusion is:

      “The novel’s greatest strength, though, might be the very thing that would ensure its destruction today: the author’s arrogance. Only a writer as assured as my father could have weathered the firestorm and gone back for more. It was the arrogance of a privileged white man, for sure, safe on a pedestal the era provided him. But he also took the imperative stance of a serious artist. Regardless of gender or race, serious artists labor beyond the call of the censor because they know their work is valuable and humane, and because they must.”

      1. William Styron managed it all while suffering from crippling depression. He wrote a memoir about it, Darkness Visible.

  6. It seems like Bronco Bookstore ignored one of the basic principles of literature: Never judge a book by its cover. Rookie mistake.

  7. Burroughs was the grandfather of the famous beat writer William S. Burroughs III, author of Naked Lunch. The writer was independently wealthy from the family adding-machine business.

    Nuthin’ works like inherited wealth to keep a fella stocked with ink, paper, and powerful dope in Tangier.

  8. Not wishing to spoil a good story, but the TGV passenger who refused to wear a mask was put off the train at the station in Le Creusot according to the article at

    I’m pretty sure that TGV tracks are enclosed by fences in the open countryside, probably because a collision between a stray cow and a TGV moving at 200+ mph is not going to end well for either party.

    1. Yes, we were taken in by a false tweet. I wonder if the person thrown off got a refund on his ticket. It’s probably something covered in the fine print on the ticket.

    2. I wonder if people who refuse to wear masks in public object to the requirement that, if they go into society while driving a car, they are also required to keep the car’s braking system in good repair.

      1. The difference would be that we can easily demonstrate that brakes stop a car, but there is scant epidemic evidence that masks are useful during a pandemic.

        If you keep social distance and wash your hands, you don’t need masks. First rule of medicine – do no harm. We don’t know if masks are useful or harmful in these situations. (But they may help break infection chains when you can’t keep distance – we’ll see – they certainly are used in medical facilities). But we do know they aren’t strictly necessary to stop local covid-19 epidemics.

        Of course, if your nation has mandated masks, you should wear them. But that is another argument all together.

    3. “From reader Simon who, like me, applauds the French for their behavior in this instance.”

      Even with a fake tweet, if it happened there seems nothing to applaud. Authority abrogated, since if was already a fine in du process.

      This is is the kind of abuse of authority that makes societies insecure, and should be pointed out and fought. (I’m at risk at Godwinning my argument, but I am reminded of yesterday’s row of a Belgian police movie that showed an arrest situation that lead to a death in much the same manner as recently happened in US – knee in the back. The video showed one of the policemen prancing about and making “nazi salutes” while the man was dying – it led to the head of the police resigning at once.)

  9. I just read that Alexei Navainy is in critical condition and cannot be moved to Germany for better care. No poison was found yet, but I suspect there are poisons used by the KGB (or whatever they call themselves now) that don’t leave a detectable trace. tRump loves Putin.

  10. He [Tiger Woods] seems to have fallen on harder times lately, though I don’t know why.

    Tiger has been cranking golf balls a country mile since he was a tyke. That kinda torque takes a toll on a person’s back. Plus there was all the publicity generated by his infidelity-fueled divorce and a high-profile DUI bust.

    Still, Woods made a comeback of sorts last year, winning The Masters for the fifth time, after a decade dry spell without a major-tournament title.

    1. I tried this too. At this moment I am listening to light rock from some station in Timmins in northern Ontario where I grew up. Technology continues to amaze me. Content is as vacuous as it is here in Kelowna BC. Sigh. I would love to get CBC on this.

  11. How fascinating about such dramatically different male morphologies associated with so few Y chromosomal genes. And five different Ys! Has this sort of genetic variation been seen before?

    1. Yes Judith Mank and her research group are awesome.

      Just to clarify about “5 Y chromosomes”: each individual male fish has just 1 Y chromosome (not 5); populations include males with 5 different classes of Y that encode different versions of genes that result in 5 different male morphological types (with the fancy color differences).

      Human populations also include many different Y chromosomes with different alleles (DNA sequences), but they just don’t lead to these dramatic morphological differences.

  12. “Meat and three” – we get that here at the Vietnamese plate lunch place: choice of entree and 3 veggies (and two scoops rice, of course).
    As to what happened to Tiger Woods – 20 years happened! He’s had back surgery, knee surgery, a one-car crash, sex scandal and a contested divorce. I’m happy he can still play because he’s the only golfer I can stand to watch. Love watching him on the beach (sand trap) and in the woods (in the woods). One time, I swear, the ball looked like it wove through the trees to get back on the green!

  13. Re. that hay bale, I’m sure the bale is realm, anyway. Yrs back the farmer who works property I own in far NW ND (grandfather, a MN dentist, bought it in 1915), was eager to show me something. Out there, the land is divided into sections, 1mile x 1mile, and sections are bounded by roads. The standard unit of real estate is a quarter-section (160acres).

    At least 6ft on either side along the roads is mowed with a sickle bar and the resulting hay is baled in round bales like that. They’re left for some time until eventual collection. He took me out to one that had two pairs of cowboy boots, one obvious women’s, with toes facing each other, stuck into the end of one of those bales. Tee hee! It was pretty funny, both of itself and the fun they were having with it. But there were no signs.

  14. Weaver and spinner here — the ‘weaver’ isn’t weaving, she is spinning, inserting twist in wool to create yarn. Weavers use looms to create fabric from that yarn.

  15. “Szaron is going together with Kulka like Winnie the Pooh with Piglet.”

    Loved that photo…had me giggling.

  16. I find the Radio Garden both amazing and depressing. Depressing that a lone radio station in (I think) the middle of Uzbekistan is playing the same pop drivel I can hear coming from the car driving past my front window. Try as I can I have yet to find any actual local or indigenous music.

  17. Actually, Artemis makes the first move but then Athena’s split second reaction completely overwhelms that first move.

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