Monday: Hili dialogue

It’s the start of another damn work week: Monday, September  14, 2020: National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day. (I must admit a weakness for Dunkin Donut’s Boston Creme donut, which I get in a pair with the double chocolate donut.) It’s also Eat a Hoagie Day (for non-Americans, hoagies are big “submarine sandwiches”; the term is used in the Northeastern US), Gobstopper Day (for Americans, “gobstoppers” are the candy called “jawbreakers”), and Boston Marathon Day (it’s to be run “virtually” this year, and I have no idea how that will work). In India, it’s Hindi Day, celebrating one of India’s 22 official languages.

Today is the big announcement of “life on Venus”, as shown below; I’m guessing this is what all the secrecy was about. I’m dubious.

Don’t forget to vote for Clarence the Cat; you can vote once daily through Facebook. If he wins, his vet bills will be paid off. Only 3.5 days to go!

Clarence with a lion cut:

News of the Day: It’s all about Trump! Surprise!

In a review of Bob Woodward’s new book Rage for the New York Times, Jennifer Szalai renders a “meh” verdict, saying that Woodward allowed Trump to ramble on too much, and missed a lot of the real story. Her conclusion:

Woodward ends “Rage” by delivering his grave verdict. “When his performance as president is taken in its entirety,” he intones, “I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.” It’s an anticlimactic declaration that could surprise no one other than maybe Bob Woodward. In “The Choice,” his book about the 1996 presidential campaign, he explained something that still seems a core belief of his: “When all is said and sifted, character is what matters most.” But if the roiling and ultimately empty palace intrigues documented in “Rage” and “Fear” are any indications, this lofty view comes up woefully short. What if the real story about the Trump era is less about Trump and more about the people who surround and protect him, standing by him in public even as they denounce him (or talk to Woodward) in private — a tale not of character but of complicity?

Yesterday Tr*mp held an indoor rally at a commercial facility in Nevada, not socially distanced and with no mask requirement, and in violation of Nevada state quarantine regulationsHow he gets away with this is beyond me. He’s supposed to set an example, at least by obeying the law. I know, I know: he is setting an example—for his base.

With the Presidential race in the key state of Florida narrowing (oy!), Michael Bloomberg has pledged to donate $100 million to Biden’s campaign.  Here’s the latest average of polls as calculated by Five Thirty Eight, showing Biden ahead by seven points, which is a smaller gap than two weeks ago.

The site also favors Biden to win counting the electoral college vote, but adds, “Joe Biden still leads in national polls by about 7 or 8 percentage points, and state polls also show a relatively stable race, with most — excluding those in Florida — containing good news for Biden. However, don’t count President Trump out yet. He still has a roughly one-in-four chance of pulling off an upset.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 193,950, an increase of about 400 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 923,462, an increase of about 3,700 deaths from yesterday. And we’re approaching a million deaths worldwide. 

Stuff that happened on September 14 includes:

  • 1752 – The British Empire adopts the Gregorian calendar, skipping eleven days (the previous day was September 2).
  • 1814 – Battle of Baltimore: The poem Defence of Fort McHenry is written by Francis Scott Key. The poem is later used as the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • 1901 – U.S. President William McKinley dies after being mortally wounded on September 6 by anarchist Leon Czolgosz and is succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • 1975 – The first American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, is canonized by Pope Paul VI.

You can read one of the miracles that got Seton canonized, here: it’s in the Linacre Quarterly, the journal of the Catholic Medical Association, and describes the remission of acute lymphocytic leukemia in a young girl. According to the journal, no remission had ever been seen, so it was a miracle. The authors then praise God. You be the judge! From the article:

 In the 1950s, at a time when a durable cure was not known for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, God allowed himself to be moved by the prayers and supplications of members of the Church Militant and his servant, Elizabeth Seton, to heal a little girl. The saint-making process of the Roman Catholic Church makes provision for a healthy respect between the physician and the theologian, and the process cannot advance without physicians’ input. Simply put, this process makes evident God’s ongoing interaction with creation, and for this, we are grateful.

  • 1994 – The Major League Baseball season is canceled because of a strike.
  • 2007 – Financial crisis of 2007–2008: The Northern Rock bank experiences the first bank run in the United Kingdom in 150 years.
  • 2015 – The first observation of gravitational waves was made, announced by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations on 11 February 2016.

Here’s an explanation of how the waves were detected; it truly was an amazing accomplishment:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1804 – John Gould, English ornithologist and illustrator (d. 1881)
  • 1879 – Margaret Sanger, American nurse and activist (d. 1966)
  • 1886 – Jan Masaryk, Czech soldier and politician, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs (d. 1948)
  • 1914 – Clayton Moore, American actor (d. 1999)
  • 1930 – Allan Bloom, American philosopher and academic (d. 1992)
  • 1934 – Kate Millett, American author and activist (d. 2017)
  • 1983 – Amy Winehouse, English singer-songwriter (d. 2011)

Here’s Amy singing one of her most famous songs, which she co-wrote:

Those who breathed their last on September 14 include:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, HIli and Szaron pass like ships in the night:

Hili: It’s very nice of him to go in the other direction.
A: Try to be more polite.
Hili: Am I not polite enough?
In Polish:
Hili: Jak miło z jego strony, że idzie w innym kierunku.
Ja: Spróbuj być bardziej uprzejma.
Hili: Czyż nie jestem uprzejma?

Two pictures of little Kulka, who’s gallivanting up in the trees:

From Annie:

From Jesus of the Day. Is Dr. Bronner driving that car?

From Melissa:

A tweet from Woody. Look at that wave! The men’s record isn’t much higher: a wave of 80 feet (24.3 meters).

I can’t believe this is anything more than a coincidence:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a lovely flyover of Mars:

Okay, as I mentioned above, I’m assuming that today’s big announcement (I’m actually writing this on Sunday) has to do with finding the compound phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere. That’s what the linked article below says (it was cached), though its video has been withdrawn. But finding phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere is not at all the same as showing strong evidence for life there. We don’t know if non-biotic processes can produce phosphine in a place like Venus. Talk to me when they find organisms.

You saw it here first! But I’m still not convinced—not nearly.

The term “Siamese scorpions” is of course politically incorrect, but these conjoined ones have one head and two stingers:

Speaking of alien life . . .

Matthew said this in his email to me with this Tweet. “This plus Stone’s call for martial law if Trump loses make me less sanguine about November than you are…”  But I’d still bet Matthew fifty pounds that Biden is going to win.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    No – Deepak Chopra discovered consciousness in phosphine.

    Sorry that was mean.

    About Seton – is that where Seton Hall comes from? It’s so terrible that the doctors let such a case go under the radar – so much could have been learned.

  2. Harrison
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    I’m glad Bloomberg has now promised to spend an amount of money orders of magnitudes smaller than the last sum of money he promised to spend and then didn’t.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    “God allowed himself to be moved by the prayers and supplications of members of the Church Militant and his servant, Elizabeth Seton, to heal a little girl.”

    What kind of God requires prayers and supplication to be moved to heal a innocent child of leukemia? What kind of God, capable of intervening in human affairs, would allow an innocent child to contract cancer in the first place?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Also, strange: “God allowed himself”

      Since he controls everything, I guess that’s the way they have to write that.

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Most irritating is what is left out; why that little girl? The parents of thousands of other little girls and boys prayed their hearts out too and Jesus’ pops response? “Meh”. That Yaweh is a downright evil son of a bitch.

    • grasshopper
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      I always imagine God giving the Walt Whitman defence for his mysterious ways –

      Do I contradict myself?
      Very well then I contradict myself,
      (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

  4. jezgrove
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    “With the Presidential race in the key state of Florida narrowing (oy!), Michael Bloomberg has pledged to donate $100 million to Biden’s campaign.” Is a rich guy effectively attempting to buy the election (nothing new there, I guess) really going to help?

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    1930 – Allan Bloom, American philosopher and academic (d. 1992)

    The inspiration for the title character of the roman à clef Ravelstein, Nobel laureate Saul Bellow’s final novel, written when Bellow was well into his eighties.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Regarding the car with the signs, why is it that crazy people always feel the need to use more than two colors in their declarations? And is he trying to say “blasphemy against God’s holy [whole I] spirit”? I guess this is the modern equivalent of the sandwich board.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      And why is it that so many go all-out for maniacal capitalization and crazy syntax? Maniacal capitalization and crazy syntax? Sounds like somebody we’re all too familiar with.

  7. busterggi
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Pleased to meet you Mr. Dubious.

  8. Historian
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Szalai says:

    “What if the real story about the Trump era is less about Trump and more about the people who surround and protect him, standing by him in public even as they denounce him (or talk to Woodward) in private — a tale not of character but of complicity?”

    I say:

    What if the real story about the Trump era is less about Trump and less about the people who surround and protect him and more about the 40% of the population that cares nothing about democracy, but only about a changing country that they do not understand and fear?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Not trying to be confrontational here, but, as we use the terms, there has always been a conservation/liberal split in this country around the role of government. Maybe that 40% DOES care about democracy, but thinks that Trump (the bumbler) is less a danger to democracy than the people who want to use government to remake society? Why must we ascribe bad motives to people using their free vote?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Mebbe so, DrB, but Donald Trump hardly represents traditional conservative values. And the reactionary nonsense he spouts — guns, God, ending women’s reproductive rights, xenophobia, white nationalism, protectionism and isolationism — he quite obviously doesn’t actually believe, or at least doesn’t care enough about to have ever given any of it any serious thought. It’s merely the front story in furtherance of a long con.

        That upwards of 40% of the American public can’t see through this, that they’ve somehow deluded themselves into thinking that this career grifter and reality-tv buffoon Donald Trump is a LESSER a danger to democracy than his opponent, is in itself frightening.

  9. Linda Calhoun
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    And Trump is now talking about a third term.


    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, it will be called six feet under.

      • grasshopper
        Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

        Or, as they say in Alaska (where climate change isn’t happening) … six feet tundra.

        (Do they really say that?)

  10. rickflick
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    The Catholic’s mealy language is amusing.
    “God allowed himself to be moved by the prayers and supplications”

    People: “Pleeez…”
    God: “Naw.
    People: “Pleeeeeeeeez…”
    God: “Get the hell lost.”
    God: “Jesus H. Christ! Haven’t I done enough for you?…Well, OK. Just this once. Who’s was under the weather again?”

  11. eric
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    …(it’s to be run “virtually” this year, and I have no idea how that will work).

    My community has an annual fun run, and is running it virtually this year. Don’t know if this is similar to what Boston is doing (obviously, we’re talking a huge scale difference), but for us it means you pay your entry fee, get a t-shirt and I think a number, then on the day of the race you run it wherever and whenever you want, with no official times recorded.

    IOW we’re basically donating to the charity that typically organizes the run, without an “official” run. Which is fine, the cause is good anyway.

    • Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      I guess they could also use some form of GPS tracker and timer through an app to make the whole thing official, but I don’t know if that would rule out cheating…though I guess they could include a pedometer function of some kind to keep it consistent.

      Just speculating.

    • jezgrove
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The UK’s Great North Run was held virtually yesterday:

  12. Blue
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Indeed ! totally IS Dr Bronner … … driving !

    For folks not familiar ? Dr Bronner’s
    SO – LABELED products ‘ve been around
    the Midwest for sale for just eons.


  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    From the NYT review by Jennifer Szalai, linked to in the post above, of Woodward’s new book on Trump:

    Readers who pick up Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” and are tantalized by the promise on its dust jacket of “an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind,” will quickly get schooled in a lesson that apartment hunters in New York often have to learn: A window can be only so vivid if it looks out onto an air shaft.

    Pretty slick stuff.

  14. Hempenstein
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Even better if the phosphine turns out to be from some primitive enzymes resulting from a nascent abiogenic process.

    But to determin that would require a trip to Venus and probably a lot of luck.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Horribile dictu, but reggae icon Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals fame is dead at 77. No cause of death has been announced officially, but he was tested for coronavirus a couple weeks ago and placed in intensive care.

    One of my all-time favoritemost albums is the one he made at the Stax studio, Toots in Memphis, to record some of the great soul tunes from the Stax/Volt catalog. Here he is covering the Eddie Floyd tune “Knock on Wood”:

  16. Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    My biggest fear about the election is that states with Republican leadership will listen to Trump’s call and mess with their state’s electoral college vote. Second is Trump’s army of “poll watchers” that he is currently recruiting. Obviously these are about voter intimidation which is illegal but we know about the GOP’s current opinion on what’s legal.

  17. Curtis
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Just remember that the popular vote is meaningless. A 2% swing could change NC, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania to Trump and he would win the electoral college. These states plus Nevada, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan are all up for grabs and will determine the winner.

    We have three debates and both candidates are old and tend to being inarticulate. There could easily give a big swing toward either candidate.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Given the unprecedented consistency of the polling so far — essentially Biden up by 8% plus or minus a point — and the unprecedented consistency of Donald Trump’s underwater approval ratings over the last three-and-a-half years, a large swing seems unlikely.

      Biden looks solid in all the states Hillary won in 2016 as well as in Michigan and Wisconsin. That being the case, all he needs to put him over the top with 270 electoral votes is to win one of the following four states: Pennsylvania (where he’s currently a 3-1 favorite), Arizona (where he’s a 2-1 favorite), Florida (where he’s 3-2), or North Carolina (rated a toss-up, with Biden having a very slight lead).

      • Curtis
        Posted September 14, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        The thing to remember is that the polls are not independent variables. The states are likely to all shift together. A two percentage swing to Trump changes everything.

        Two geriatric men are going to debate. I would bet on at least one of them making a major gaffe. Part of Biden’s appeal is competence and therefore a gaffe will hurt him more. We all know Trump is a buffoon and gaffes are just part of his character.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 14, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Dunno if you’ve noticed, but Donald Trump’s debating skills will never be mistaken for those of an Oxford Union champion. Of course, Joe Biden is no great shakes, either.

          But if the debates are kept anywhere in the vicinity of public policy, Biden should do just fine — for, after 40-something years in national office, he knows some, while Donald Trump knows none. (Donald Trump came to the presidency pig-ignorant of public policy, and he’s destined to leave pig-ignorant, too. In its place, all Trump knows are slogans.)

          Trump’s only advantage in a debate is that no one will go lower in hurling vile and vulgar insults at an opponent.

          • Posted September 14, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

            Biden’s performance will hinge on his memory. Trump is always in the present moment and ignores, disowns, or lies about anything from his past. If Biden can dredge up appropriate facts about what Trump has said or done, he can damn Trump to hell. As many have noted, there’s a Trump tweet or quote for every occasion.

            • rickflick
              Posted September 14, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              I have fantasized Biden walking in with a 5 or 10 page list of bullets which are tRump egregious lies and failures. When it’s his turn to talk Joe need just calmly read bullets until his time is up. When it’s all over most people who didn’t already know it will understand that tRump should be in jail not in the Oval Office.

              • Posted September 14, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Yes, that’s my dream also. Quite frankly, I doubt Biden has the ability to be so disciplined. It is also not how he approaches such situations. He just wants to appear folksy. A combination of the two, folksy zingers, would be devastating to Trump. He also has to outdo Trump on confidence. It’s a tall order.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 14, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                Jeez, you had me nervous for a second with the talk about “bullets,” Rick. When I first read it, I thought, nah, working him over with a sap or a billy club oughta be enough to teach the uncouth bastard some manners. 🙂

              • rickflick
                Posted September 14, 2020 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                Ha! That occurs to me too. Every night as I am falling asleep. POW! CRUNCH! ZING!

  18. Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I am very worried about Biden looking demented in the debate. I saw a clip of him recently straining to distinguish the Taliban from al-qaeda and ISIS/ISIL. I don’t think he ever did recall the last one correctly. Honestly, he looked like a frustrated nursing home resident.

  19. Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    It’s perhaps worth remembering that Phosphine gas is sometimes blamed for the willo-the-whisp phenomenon.

    And, isn’t the conjoined scorpion photo simply a scorpion molting?

  20. Vaal
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    “God allowed himself to be moved by the prayers and supplications of members of the Church Militant and his servant, Elizabeth Seton, to heal a little girl. “

    ^^^^^How the logic/implications of that survives even the barest moment of contemplation in the mind of a believer is, to me, more miraculous than any of the miracles they actually offer.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 14, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and contemplation is supposed to be a significant part of religious life. The phenomenon of religiosity would be totally unexpected if you just extrapolate from a smart hominid with language working out civilized living. You’d think logic would be quickly seen as obviously better than magical thinking. I suppose we just have to accept it as the way we evolved.
      Double ridiculous when you try to think why any kind of a God worth wanting would chose to generate one tiny miracle at a time, like a stage magician, when he could surely “reveal” himself by simply curing all human diseases and signing his name across the face of the moon.

      • Vaal
        Posted September 14, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        God is the ultimate inoculation against having to reason consistently.

        Why did God save my little girl when my family prayed for her to survive the school fire, but allowed my friend’s daughter to die horribly when they prayed as fervently to God?


        But I don’t have to put those pieces together. God does that. God isn’t inconstant; He’s omniscient and mysterious to us mere mortals. I’m sure He has a Good Reason.

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