Monday: Hili dialogue

Well, another damn work week is upon us. Greetings, brothers and sisters, comrades, ladies and gentlemen: it’s Monday, August 24, 2020: National Peach Pie Day, a summer treat I haven’t had for years. It’s also National Waffle Day, National Lobster Thermidor Day, National Peanut Butter Day, and National Eskimo Pie Day. You might be aware that “Eskimo Pies” are being renamed because the name is considered racist. I don’t think a replacement name has yet been chosen, but “Inuit Pies” are probably not it.

Speaking of lobsters, here’s a joke:

A man walks into a bar carrying a large lobster and orders a double scotch.  The barman pours him a drink and remarks “That’s a good-sized lobster you have there.”
“Do you like lobsters?” asks the man, who obviously has had several scotches prior to arriving at this bar.
“I love them.” replies the barman.
“Well, here. Take it.” The drunken sod passed the lobster to the barman.
“Thank you very much.” he said. “I’ll take it home for dinner.”
“No, no, no.” said the drunk. “He’s already had his dinner. Why don’t you take him to see a movie or something?”

It’s also National Compliment Day, which brings up another food-related joke:

 A man goes into one of those Seattle fern bars and orders a drink. As he nurses his white wine, a peanut jumps out of the bowl on the table, runs up to him and says, “Nice turtleneck, buddy” and proceeds out the door.
“Whoa”, thinks the man with the wine.
A minute later, another goober runs by and yells, “Great haircut, pal”, and strides out the door.
Enough !!!
“Hey bartender”, calls out the patron, “What’s with these peanuts?”
“Oh, they’re complimentary snacks, sir”.

I’ll be here all year, folks. (I just discovered that the last three holidays are actually on January 24, but I’d already put down the jokes, so grin and bear it.

News of the Day: In our poll yesterday on Trump and his dark mutterings about mail-in voting, readers were overwhelmingly of the opinion that he would try to hold on to the Presidency in defeat. Here’s the poll as of 4:30 a.m. today (the ungodly hour when I arose:

I am not that pessimistic, so if one reader wants to bet me $50 that Trump will not concede defeat if he loses, and will continue to fight for his office, I’ll take that bet! (We’ll need a neutral third party to set down the rules.)

I’m not sure why this is touted as Big News, but I’ve seen it everywhere: Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, was secretly recorded by her niece, Mary L. Trump, disparaging the Donald. Mary Trump (also the President’s niece), has published a new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. It’s unethical, though I think in some places legal, to record somebody without telling them (there are 15 hours of these tapes!), but at any rate Barry was recorded as saying stuff like this:

“His goddamned tweet and the lying, oh, my God,” she says in one of the recordings posted by the newspaper. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying.”

Is that really “news”? We already knew all that.

This is not news but cool: a very famous “selective attention test,” which takes just a minute. Take it here and answer the questions(s).

The latest college to experience a Covid-19 outbreak is Georgia Tech, which so far has recorded 251 cases, with 33 new cases recorded on Saturday, including 17 in one fraternity house.  That house is now on lockdown. As Neil Young sang in “Ohio”, “How many more?” CNN has an article on “The simple reason why colleges are reopening,” and the answer is what you might expect: it’s the dosh, Jake. The piece gives many ways that the influx of money into universities is reduced when students learn virtually and don’t show up on campus.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 176,694, an increase of about 450 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 808,243, an increase of about 4,300 deaths from yesterday. The death toll worldwide is creeping towards a million.  

Stuff that happened on August 24 include:

  • 410 – The Visigoths under king Alaric I begin to pillage Rome.
  • 1349 – Six thousand Jews are killed in Mainz after being blamed for the bubonic plague.
  • 1662 – The Act of Uniformity requires England to accept the Book of Common Prayer.
  • 1682 – William Penn receives the area that is now the state of Delaware, and adds it to his colony of Pennsylvania.
  • 1814 – British troops invade Washington, D.C. and during the Burning of Washington the White House, the Capitol and many other buildings are set ablaze.
  • 1909 – Workers start pouring concrete for the Panama Canal.
  • 1932 – Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly across the United States non-stop (from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey).

Here’s Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, in which she flew across the US (that flight took ) as well as across the Atlantic. The trans-US flight took 19 hours and 5 minutes. You can see this plane in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in northern Virginia:

Amelia Earhart Lockheed Vega 5B (A19670093000) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. Photo taken by Eric Long. Photo taken on December 28, 2016. (A19670093000.3T8A4249) (A19670093000-NASM2018-10363)


This is a video of her departure that May on her solo flight across the Atlantic in the same plane. It took her 15 hours to fly from Newfoundland to Londonderry. She was the first woman to do that solo flight, and the first person since Lindbergh’s 1927 flight, which took 33.5 hours.

  • 1941 – Adolf Hitler orders the cessation of Nazi Germany’s systematic T4 euthanasia program of the mentally ill and the handicapped due to protests, although killings continue for the remainder of the war.
  • 1967 – Led by Abbie Hoffman, the Youth International Party temporarily disrupts trading at the New York Stock Exchange by throwing dollar bills from the viewing gallery, causing trading to cease as brokers scramble to grab them.

Here’s a short video about Hoffman and the incident, designed to draw attention to his cause (protesting the Vietnam war):

That’s sizeism! It is a planet, not a “dwarf” planet!

Notables born on this day include:

Weddell’s Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii), which I saw in Antarctica, is named after him, since his expedition was the first to discover the species. It has this amazing habit of gnawing holes in sea ice, as it lives on the ice and has to have a way to fish, to surface, and to breathe when underwater. As you can imagine, this wears down its teeth seriously, and many seals have abscesses:

  • 1872 – Max Beerbohm, English essayist, parodist, and caricaturist (d. 1956)
  • 1898 – Malcolm Cowley, American novelist, poet, literary critic (d. 1989)
  • 1929 – Yasser Arafat, Egyptian-Palestinian engineer and politician, 1st President of the Palestinian National Authority (d. 2004)
  • 1950 – Tim D. White, American paleoanthropologist and academic
  • 1955 – Mike Huckabee, American minister and politician, 44th Governor of Arkansas
  • 1957 – Stephen Fry, English actor, journalist, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1960 – Cal Ripken, Jr., American baseball player and coach
  • 1965 – Marlee Matlin, American actress and producer
  • 1973 – Dave Chappelle, American comedian, actor, producer and screenwriter

Here’s Chappelle’s recounting of the Jussie Smollett incident in Chicago, in which Chappell dubs him “The French actor Juicy Smulliet” (note: n-word!)

Those who began resting in peace on August 24 include:

  • 1943 – Simone Weil, French philosopher and activist (b. 1909)
  • 2004 – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Swiss-American psychiatrist and academic (b. 1926)
  • 2013 – Julie Harris, American actress (b. 1925)
  • 2018 – Robin Leach, English entertainment reporter and writer (b. 1941)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has become so cynical that she even suspects the weather report is “fake news”:

A: They are forecasting a heat wave for tomorrow.
Hili: Probably they are being paid to say so.
In Polish:
Ja: Zapowiadają na jutro upał.
Hili: Pewnie im za to płacą.

Andrzej took four photos of Szaron and Kulka; Malgorzata explains:

Here is a series of pictures of Szaron eating from a bowl in the kitchen and Kulka trying to fit into a tiny space under the kitchen shelves:

I’m told that Kulka weighs almost a kilo now (2.2 pounds!).

And Matthew sent in this picture of his three cats lounging in the garden. His notes:

Harry at 12 o’clock, Pepper at 4 o’clock, Ollie at 8 o’clock . Harry is nearly 6. Ollie and Pepper are 13 and are brothers. They all have fleas at the mo.
Ollie is the one who clawed my nose open.

From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe:

From Jesus of the Daywe have Ceiling Cat!

From Merilee, a street artist running amok:

Titania’s back in action (actually, I approve of Ben and Jerry’s social-conscience activism):

I found this (I think), but after I retweeted it I read that you’re not supposed to pick up sloths because it stresses them out. Still, I think that’s better than being run over by a car!

From reader Simon (a scientist), who likes this site because it uses videos and photos as metaphors for doing science:

Tweets from Matthew. Remember “Gladly the cross-eyed bear”? Here’s Gladly the cross-eyed cat, natty in pinstripes:

This is amazing, but also kind of sad:

There’s nothing cuter in the world of waterfowl than a mother merganser giving her babies a ride:

I had no idea these planes existed until Matthew sent me this tweet. Kudos to the skillful pilots who fly them.

Something else I was unaware of. The plants are parasites on underground fungi: they do not photosynthesize and so produce none of their own nutrients.

55 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. 410 – The Visigoths under king Alaric I begin to pillage Rome.

    Speaking of pillaging Visigoths, the Republicans kick off their national convention in Charlotte, NC, today.

    I expect to see Donald Trump pivot this week to responsible conservatism and equanimity toward all.

    I also expect that, any minute now, Olivia Wilde will show up on my doorstep, nekkid as a jaybird, a magnum of Dom Pérignon in one hand, a can of whipped cream in the other, and — why the hell not? — a stack of winning lottery tickets tucked under her arm.

    The odds of those two things happening are approximately the same, I figure.

    1. The now retired kings of water bombers, the Martin Mars, were based near here. About 30 years ago, late on a summer afternoon, some drunken louts set fire to an old (but still in service at the time) wooden logging-railroad trestle across the Nanaimo River about a mile down the road from our house. I ended up in a crowd of bystanders watching the plane make repeated drops on the trestle. Don’t let the lacy appearance of the water fool you, even from the baby sister pictured above. From about 150 yards away, the combined impact of the four 2500 HP Wright Cyclone eighteen cylinder radial engines swinging fifteen foot diameter propellers, and about thirty tons of water, delivers a physical punch to the chest.

  2. “Is that really “news”? We already knew all that.”

    Yes it is news. It confirms something that we didn’t know, that tRump’s own siblings are as freaked out about the dishonesty as much as we are.

    One party recording of conversations is legal in 38 states, according to my quick check online this morning. I think the ethics are debatable but at the moment it seems fine to me. Perhaps that’s my view because I’m in one of the one-party states.

  3. Dave Chappelle is a genius. If you have not seen the Racial Draft, head over to youtube and watch it.

    Two lines struck me –
    “It was minus 16 degrees”
    and “Find out where Kanye West was last night.”

    They cracked me up. Chicago is by no means all racial harmony and kumbaya. We spent the 1980s screaming at each other about race. This was when Harold Washington was elected the city’s first Black mayor. The Wall Street Journal called Chicago “Beirut by the Lake.” We have come to a modus vivendi since then. We not only elected a Black lesbian mayor, we are looking for more Black lesbians to put in charge of things.

      1. In such a situation I would die of extremely acute agoraphobia plus claustrophobia.

        By the way, seing these huge mass of ants turning in circles reminds me of the huge mass of people turning around the Kaaba in Mecca.

  4. “2006 – The International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefines the term “planet” such that Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet.”

    I wonder how long it will take before it’s decided that we need to change terms like “dwarf planet,” “dwarf star,” etc. to something less offensive, like “planet/star of smaller size.” As NASA announced on their website, they’re already “reexamin[ing] nicknames for cosmic objects” because “As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful.” (emphasis mine)

    Also, I think Titania was less mocking Ben And Jerry’s, and more mocking the progressive blind spot for horrors taking place in or perpetrated by Muslim and African countries. They focus on places like Israel, where the number of civilians killed in their entire history is dwarfed (sorry!) by the number of civilians killed by the Saudi-led coalition in just over four years; if you exclude the wars started by the countries surrounding Israel where Israel was fighting in self-defense, the number of civilians likely doesn’t even rise to one tenth, in over 50 years of Israel’s existence. Hell, the number of civilians killed (and displaced) by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has, by some studies’ figures (200,000 civilians killed) already surpassed the entire Iraq War.

    1. Indeed. Should we put up with the fat-shaming associated with terms like “red giant”?

      Also, racism.

    2. ‘Dwarf planet’ offensive? Let us remedy that. I propose “Pygmy Planet”, wouldn’t that do fine?

      [Or what about PORC: planet of restricted calibre?]

    3. There is also quite a bit of pushback against Ben & Jerry’s social media team (largely from the right, it has to be said). The Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly tweeted: “Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream, please?”

      But there is also criticism because B&J’s is now owned by Unilever, which has faced widespread criticism over workers’ rights, lobbying, animal testing, environmental issues, tax-dodging and more. On the whole, I think B&J’s has done itself more harm than good in the UK by issuing this tweet.

      1. Holy balls, I had no idea Unilever’s owned B&J’s for nearly twenty years! So, not only did the beloved progressive owners sell out (not that I wouldn’t!), but the increasingly-political-over-the-years brand has been owned by a mega-corporation the entire time its been becoming more “political.” That’s freaking unreal.

        It’s as I’ve said before: corporate signalling to the Left is the easiest and most cost-effective marketing around, and it helps distract activists from the real issues that are created by the corporations. No, those issues aren’t “how many people of color are CEOs/work in the science and coding-based departments,” it’s sweatshops, union-busting, mistreatment of workers, environmental mismanagement, and…well, you already know. I don’t need to list them for you.

  5. The mention of the Visigoth raiding reminds me of a question I have for our resident history students: has anyone here watched The Last Kingdom on Netflix? I’m curious about its veracity with regard to fighting tactics, fortresses, politics, and other such things (the story itself is not of much consequence as it obviously involves much fabrication). It seemed to me that the battle in the first episode represented a poor understanding of military tactics back then. I understand that the Danes fought in a manner not familiar to the Saxons, but the idea that the Saxon army didn’t have scouts that knew of the Vikings in the forest just a few feet away ready to outflank the Saxons seemed silly. Among other silliness, there was also the attack on King Alfred’s fortress/palace. Why were the gates wide open? Why were there no lookouts? Why were there no scouts even half a mile from the fortress? These are just a very small number of things I found unrealistic in the show, though I am still enjoying it. It’s better than Vikings, at least.

    I do like how they show the division of “England,” where there are many different “kings” throughout the land, all with small fiefdoms.

  6. The water scooper aircraft is a Bombardier CL-415. Note the engines on top of the wing to avoid sucking up water into the engine. We did some island hopping in a similar aircraft, I think the de Havilland Twin Otter. It was a great flight – landing on water with big spray, taxiing right up on land.

  7. A lot of people want schools to re-open because they believe it is the best way to get an education and the risk in their city is low. I live in a small city where random testing showed that approximately 1 person out of 2000 is infected.

    IMO, the value of a better education is worth the risk HERE. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Corvallis Oregon where Oregon State University did random testing in various neighborhoods trying to get an accurate representation of the entire population. These two articles report zero out of 672 and zero out of 615. There were earlier rounds of testing that I believe found approximately one out of a thousand. OSU was planning on doing more testing but consecutive zero made them move to other communities.

        As I said, with this rate (that you apparently did not believe), I think opening schools HERE makes sense. If the testing found a significantly higher rate, I would have a different view.

        1. Asking for further information is not the same as “not believing”.

          As for significantly higher rates, there’s one good way to get them. Put a lot of humans in close proximity with each other, indoors, day after day. Corvalis isn’t immune to the virus, and the virus doesn’t care about anything except proximity of one host to another.

          1. Everything in life has risks. I believe it is likely that more students will die because of suicide with no school than coronovirus with schools. I feel a quality education is worth the risk HERE with such a low rate of infection. If the infection goes up, we could change plans.

            I have a teacher friend who has spent her summer working to get the online teaching working (for no extra pay) and she says it going to be a disaster.

            My daughter’s senior year is likely to be useless academically. She is taking an online class at her hoped-for college in lieu of one AP class. We are pushing for her to enter college in the spring but she wants the time with her friends. In any case, she is applying early to keep options open.

            1. 177000 deaths so far this year. We’re not talking about the same kind of risks as when you drive to the store. It wouldn’t have been like this except for people who don’t take it seriously.

              1. Actually, in Corvallis the odds are pretty much the same. We have have had one coronavirus death and two fatal car accidents in the past 4 months.

              2. Viruses don’t really recognize community boundaries. The only thing that matters to them is proximity of host to host. Why is this such a difficult concept to grapple with?

            2. Oh please stop with this kind of hyperbole- students killing themselves because they can’t attend school. Do you honestly think one student in the history of the world has committed suicide because they weren’t allowed to go to school for an extended length of time. If so, the particular student needs a lot more help than an education will give them.

              1. One of my wife’s coworkers committed suicide after a few weeks of lock down. I have reason to believe a local girl has recently committed suicide. It is likely that these incidents color my viewpoint.

                Schools can and should provide additional mental health resources. I do not believe that will happen with online schools.

          2. I’m curious as to what level of infection you deem to be safe enough for children to go back to school. COVID19 is never going away. At some point the damage done to people’s education has got to outweigh the risk of catching the disease.

            1. I don’t think there is a magic number. I do think that it can’t happen while people imagine the virus to be a hoax. I do know that it can’t happen while we don’t bother to have widespread testing and contact tracing.

              1. How many people in the USA are not taking the virus seriously at the moment? Since the number will never be zero, what percentage of the people not taking the virus seriously is acceptably low?

                How do you plan to educate these people in such a way as to make them start taking the virus seriously?

                I think, if you keep saying “we’ve got to wait until it’s bit safer”, your children are never going back to school.

              2. How many? I’d say about 30% aren’t taking it seriously. You know… about the number of Republicans.

                How are you going to educate them? You have to install a government that can communicate clearly using a science based message.

                What’s the alternative? Viruses don’t give a shit about anyone’s desire for economic “normality”. They care about proximity to the next host, nothing else.

              1. That is clearly not an answer but I will try to use logic.
                1. GBJames does not believe we should open school until the US takes coronavirus seriously.
                2. GBJames does not believe the red states will ever take corovirus seriously.

                Ergo, GBJames does not think schools should ever reopen. That’s obviously not what you

              2. That’s not an answer but I will try to use logic.
                1. GBJames does not think schools should open until the US takes coronavirus seriously.
                2. GBJames does not think the red states will ever take the coronavirus seriously because of Trump.

                Ergo, GBJames does not think that schools should ever reopen.

                Clearly that’s not what you actually think but it is the appropriate conclusions from your statements.

              3. Sadly, there is little evidence that Republican leaders are capable of taking the virus seriously. I hope I am wrong. I would like to be wrong. It is logically possible for them to change. Maybe you can convince them to do so.

              4. My comment here isn’t necessarily addressed to you Curtis, you just happen to be the last comment in the sub-thread with a reply button and I wanted to throw a couple of cents in.

                The problem with the US going back to school is that we are doing it when we don’t have the virus mitigated at all and we aren’t and haven’t been taking the measures necessary to mitigate it.

                I mean this in comparison to the other countries around the world that people have pointed to and said, see, they went back to school and it’s fine. The think is, those examples are places in which they took measures to mitigate the virus, successfully did so and then went back to school carefully, maintaining all mitigation measures including mask wearing, social distancing, large scale testing, contact tracing and isolating positive cases.

                In general the US has done none of those things. The result? doesn’t look good so far though it is early days. School has just started and already there have been many re-closures due to large numbers of positive tests.

                The US is a big place and sure, conditions are not homogeneous. At any given time some areas have 0 cases while others lead the entire planet. Some areas people take measures seriously while in others you won’t find hardly anyone taking measures of any kind. That your area doesn’t currently have any cases is great, but don’t be complacent about that. Things change. While New York was running out of places to stack dead bodies my area had nothing. Now we are one of the hottest spots in the world.

                I do think getting back to school is a serious, urgent, problem. But because we haven’t been doing the right things all along we are now boxed into a corner. I am in a state that has recently been leading the country, the world at times, in cases and deaths. It is also a state in which the majority of people don’t bother taking any preventive measures. There ain’t no fucking way my kids are going back to regular school. Anyone who has had kids aught to remember what it was like the first 4 – 6 years their kids started school. It’s pretty much constant sick around the house for years. A kid brings something home and it cycles through the family. About the time the last person is getting over that something new gets brought home from school. Anyone who believes that this virus won’t find schools a prime breeding ground is denying reality.

                Our public schools finally decided on 3 options, left up to the parents. Normal school, some mix of normal and remote and all remote. School started yesterday. It’s been reported that about 3/4 of students are doing normal school. Not my kids. It didn’t have to be this way. If we had done things well from the beginning we could go back to school reasonably safely. Other countries have shown how it could be done. But we didn’t do that. Your local school might be reasonably safe but US schools in general are not safe. When 50K or 100K more people have died and the US leads the world in deaths, how many will we be able to say were due to opening schools? Hard to tell. What’s not hard to tell though is that we have continuously done stupid things, from the get go, and collectively our pathetic response to this crisis has resulted in thousands upon thousands of deaths that could have been prevented had we responded with competence and integrity.

                Too long and rambling, sorry.

  8. Following up on the Thismia, a somewhat common mycoheterotroph of N. America is the Monotropa uniflora, Ericaceae family, sometimes called the Indian pipe or the ghost plant. It, too, parasites mycorrhizal fungi who are associated with certain tree species, so it is getting its photosynthetic energy from fungi who get it from trees, if I understand that correctly. I’ve only found it in the Missouri Ozarks. If the weather is cooperative then it should be popping up these next two moths or so.

  9. Ohio is a one party state for recording someone. Meaning only one party needs to know they are recording. Silly name. If there is recording taking place, doesn’t that imply one person must know? I am not sure about recording phone conversations. On the other hand “Ohio is a one party state” could certainly refer to the how red we are. Ohio is very close Trump vs Biden. Trumps statement about tires certainly hasn’t helped him. It’s hard being blue in red Ohio.

      1. You are right. Still in the mode of only a 2 way conversation; not a 3rd party listening in/recording. Thanks for the additional detail/clarification.

  10. That’s sizeism! It is a planet, not a “dwarf” planet!

    Of course it is, that is why Sun is no longer a planet either. 😀

    But it is actually not its low mass but its low mass in combination with its orbit that kicked the debris object out (the “domination” parameter).

  11. Since Weddell Seals were mentioned, I have no choice but to post this video of a very lazy Weddell Seal pup who makes very silly noises (sound on!):

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