Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s already the end of the “work” week: Friday, September 25, 2020: National Lobster Day. Instead of eating one, let’s learn its scientific name: the American lobster (one of many species called “lobster”) is Homarus americanus. It’s also National Crab Meat Newburg Day, German Butterbrot Day (it’s just bread and butter auf Deutsch), National Quesadilla Day, National Cooking Day, National Bakery Day (lots of food holidays!), Hug a Vegetarian Day (not on this year), and Save the Koala Day.

From National Geographic; photo by Anne Keiser.

News of the Day:  First the good news: a giant African pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus) named Magawa has been given a gold medal for clearing land mines. Click on the screenshot to read the Guardian story (h/t Jeremy):

An excerpt:

A landmine detection rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”.

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia since he was trained by charity APOPO. He is the charity’s most successful Hero Rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 20 football pitches.

Magawa has been formally recognised for his work and been presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross. He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an award.

Check out the APOPO link, whose motto is, “Training rats to save lives.” Here’s Magawa with his medal. I guess he’s too light to blow himself up!

Photograph: PDSA/PA

Now the bad news. Once again Trump repeated his assertion that he wasn’t certain that the November ballots would be “honest”.  He even contradicted what his press secretary said:

“We want to make sure that the election is honest and I’m not sure that it can be,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving the White House for North Carolina.

Mr. Trump was responding to a reporter’s question about whether he would consider the November election results legitimate only if he wins.

Instead of repeating his press secretary’s assurance earlier in the day that he would accept the results of a “free and fair” election, Mr. Trump instead launched into his latest complaint about mail-in ballots, which he has repeatedly asserted without evidence are likely to be tainted by widespread fraud, and suggested that the election will not, in fact, be fairly decided.

But the odious press secretary herself hedged the supposed ‘assurance’, for she simply said this:

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly avoided saying whether President Donald Trump will agree to a “peaceful transfer of power” if he loses his reelection, instead repeating to reporters Thursday that he “will accept the results of a free and fair election.”

That is NOT the same thing, of course, because Trump can always say that any election was not “free and fair.”

And although some GOP senators like Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio are themselves promising a peaceful transfer of power, they won’t name Trump in these statements, and some are even saying, “Well, will the Democrats agree to that?” Give me a break! Do you think Joe Biden will insist on taking office if he loses the Electoral College vote?

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 202,707, an increase of about 1,000 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands 982,551 975,841, an increase of about 6,700 deaths from yesterday. And we’re approaching a million deaths worldwide., which is likely to happen within a week. 

Stuff that happened on September 25 include:

  • 1066 – In the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harald Hardrada, the invading King of Norway, is defeated by King Harold II of England.
  • 1513 – Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa reaches what would become known as the Pacific Ocean.

And here I must reproduce Keats’s great poem, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer“, which is really about Balboa but Keats got mixed up and said it was about Cortez:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Here’s that single issue newspaper:

  • 1789 – The United States Congress passes twelve constitutional amendments: the ten known as the Bill of Rights, the (unratified) Congressional Apportionment Amendment, and the Congressional Compensation Amendment.
  • 1926 – The international Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery is first signed.
  • 1956 – TAT-1, the first submarine transatlantic telephone cable system, is inaugurated.

There were earlier cables, but not like this one, though I’m not quite sure why TAT-1 differed from this. Oy was it expensive! But people used it.

A radio-based transatlantic telephone service was started in 1927, charging £9[5] (about $45 USD, or roughly $550 in 2010 dollars) for three minutes and handling around 300,000 calls a year. Although a telephone cable was discussed at that time, it was not practical until a number of technological advances arrived in the 1940s.

  • 1957 – Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, is integrated by the use of United States Army troops.

Here’s one of the brave “Little Rock Nine” going to school accompanied by the jeers of local racists. They were guarded by troops of the 101st Airborne Division, who had been federalized by President Eisenhower.

  • 1963 – Lord Denning releases the UK government’s official report on the Profumo affair.
  • 1977 – About 4,200 people take part in the first running of the Chicago Marathon.
  • 2018 – Bill Cosby is sentenced to three to ten years in prison for aggravated sexual assault.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 201,822, an increase of about 1,100 deaths over 

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1764 – Fletcher Christian, English sailor (d. 1793)
  • 1866 – Thomas Hunt Morgan, American biologist, geneticist, and embryologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1945)

Morgan is my academic great-grandfather, the first to use Drosophila to study genetics in a concerted way. My family tree from FlyBase. Note the paucity of my grad students (I had four) but the huge academic fitness I had through my students, who produced many grand-students:

Here’s Morgan “pushing flies,” as we call it:

  • 1897 – William Faulkner, American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1962)
  • 1903 – Mark Rothko, Latvian-American painter and educator (d. 1970)
  • 1906 – Dmitri Shostakovich, Russian pianist and composer (d. 1975)
  • 1930 – Shel Silverstein, American author, poet, illustrator, and songwriter (d. 1999)
  • 1944 – Michael Douglas, American actor and producer
  • 1947 – Cheryl Tiegs, American model and actress
  • 1952 – bell hooks, American author and activist
  • 1968 – Will Smith, American actor, producer, and rapper
  • 1969 – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Welsh actress

Those who went the way of all flesh on September 25 include:

  • 1849 – Johann Strauss I, Austrian composer (b. 1804)
  • 1933 – Ring Lardner, American journalist and author (b. 1885)
  • 1970 – Erich Maria Remarque, German-Swiss author and translator (b. 1898)
  • 2003 – George Plimpton, American writer and literary editor (b. 1927)
  • 2003 – Edward Said, Palestinian-American philosopher and critic (b. 1935)
  • 2012 – Andy Williams, American singer (b. 1927)
  • 2016 – Arnold Palmer, American golfer (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron have another antagonistic encounter (Szaron likes Hili, but she’ll have nothing to do with him):

Szaron: Why are you hissing at me? You do know me.
Hili: Yes, but I’m still not sure I like you.
In Polish:
Szaron: Czemu syczysz, przecież mnie znasz?
Hili: Tak, ale ciągle nie jestem pewna czy cię lubię.

Also in Dobrzyn, little Kulka (no longer a kitten) eats from Szaron’s bowl:

From Christine, an old meme repurposed:

From Charles, a misspelling especially appropriate during the pandemic:

From Bruce:

This is how low we’ve sunk as a nation:

Titania redacts Martin Luther King:

The rest of the tweets are from the estimable Dr. Cobb. Once again, an old autochrome from a century ago, and it makes me sad to realize that all the people in such photos are dead:

We’d say: This is a dictatorship!

This is just in three years! Next, the penguins vanish.

Did you know that some insects have such sedulous parental behavior?

They forgot “that said,. . ” and “dog’s breakfast”:

A double clutcher! This has to be Osprey of the Year:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Awesome rat story!

    Green Jackfruit is a good substitute for crab. TJ’s has it. Add Old Bay.

    The Ignobels were awarded.

    • eric
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      They were awarded last week! Can’t believe I missed it.

      Lots of fun ones. Alligators on helium. Diplomats doing the old ding dong ditch. Here is a link.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Seeing that Osprey reminds me of what the soldier in combat said to his group – Spread out men, one hand grenade could get us all.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    National Lobster Day. Instead of eating one, let’s learn its scientific name …

    This we can do by considering the lobster along with David Foster Wallace, in one of the late novelist’s occasional forays into journalism.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    1066 – In the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harald Hardrada, the invading King of Norway, is defeated by King Harold II of England.

    Just a couple weeks before Harold took a lickin’ from the Normans on his southern flank at the Battle of Hastings, if memory serves.

  5. StephenB
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Regarding this statement by some GOP senators, “Well, will the Democrats agree to that?”, I wonder if journalists are trained to recognize a “tu qouque” logical fallacy and then to sidestep it and continue to pursue getting an answer to their question. The “tu quoque” deflection is stock in trade of politicians, especially the GOP variety, yet it seems to always stun reporters and thereby end the interview.

    • eric
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      I’m sure they’re politically astute enough to recognize it and sidestep it if they want to. But if there is money to be made/stories to be sold by creating a false equivalency, some journalists are going to do that instead.

      About a month ago Hilary Clinton made the remark that Biden shouldn’t concede on election night (assuming it looks like Trump is narrowly ahead), because counting mail-in votes could continue for days. Her actual quote was: “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out.” Pretty obvious and bland statement, right? But I’ve seen at least one right-winger truncate that, ending the sentence after “circumstances” to give the impression that the Democrats mean to start a war or something rather than concede. I’m guessing that that false reporting/intentional misinterpretation of her statement is the grain on which their tu quoque demand is based.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    They [the Little Rock Nine] were guarded by troops of the 101st Airborne Division, who had been federalized by President Eisenhower.

    Ike federalized the Arkansas national guard, but the “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st didn’t need any federalizing, merely deployment from Fort Campbell, KY.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Reckon Michael Douglas doesn’t have any excuse for forgetting the birthday of his wife, Ms. Zeta-Jones.

  8. TJR
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Love the list of cliches.

    Made me finally look up what “mordant” means too.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    RBG’s casket is currently being carried into the Capitol rotunda to lie in state. From what I’m hearing she is the first woman, and the first Jew, to have been accorded this honor.

    How could this not have been done before for someone who provided such service to this nation as, say, a justice Louis Brandeis, or a woman such as, I don’t know, Margaret Chase Smith?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Correction. Justice Ginsburg is NOT lying in state in the Capitol’s rotunda, but in its Statuary Hall.

      Apparently, to admit her to lying in state in the rotunda would’ve required a joint resolution between the House and the Senate.

      Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican congressional leadership (with the exception of House whip Steve Scalise) did not attend. Seems awfully petty.

      • Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for telling me this. When I heard RBG was lying in state in the Rotunda, I wondered how it could happen with Trump and the GOP in charge. Now I see that they still getting their dig in. The earth still spins on its axis.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, RBG is still the first woman (or Jew) to lie in state in the Capitol building; she’s just not in its rotunda, but in Statuary Hall (which is controlled solely by the House of Representatives, rather than jointly with the Senate, as is the rotunda).

      • merilee
        Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Did you see T getting booed outside the SC?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, he went full Glenn Close in the closing scene at the opera in Dangerous Liaisons.

          Never go full Glenn Close in the final scene at the opera in Dangerous Liaisons, man. 🙂

          • merilee
            Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Minus the heaving boobs🤣

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              That we know of, anyway.

              I’ll bet there are some man-boobs (moobs?) under those ill-fitting suits.

              • merilee
                Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

                Most likely very unattractive ones😖

  10. BJ
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Can someone explain to me how koalas continue to survive? They’re dumb as rocks, can only eat one type of leaf, can barely digest even that one thing they can eat, and can’t even hydrate themselves by drinking water like a normal damn animal. They seem like the least adapted animal alive.

    • BJ
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      They seem like the least adapted animal alive.*

      *Except maybe the sloth

    • sugould
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Consider pandas. The cutest animals get the most outside support.

      • BJ
        Posted September 25, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        But there are tens of thousands more koalas than pandas, and they’re not protected to nearly the same extent. We’re basically willing pandas out of extinction, but koalas seem to be…surviving? Somehow?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      As Jules said of dogs in Pulp Fiction — koalas got personality, and personality goes a long way. 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        It still weirds me out to see John Travolta in that role. He somehow works completely, but it just doesn’t seem like he should. It’s almost like cognitive dissonance. My disbelief is suspended, but I’m wondering in the back of my mind why it is.

        • merilee
          Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          His great tongue-in-cheek twisting with Uma Thurman.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Travolta as Vincent Vega is almost a dead ringer for an old client of mine, right down to the walk.

          Think of him as Vinnie Barbarino, all growed up.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            The Vincent Vega role is what put Travolta back on the A-list.

            There’s only so many Look Who’s Talking sequels you can cash in on.

            • BJ
              Posted September 25, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

              He sure didn’t stay on that A-list for long! Though I am a sucker for him and Nicolas Cage hamming it up in Face/Off.

    • eric
      Posted September 25, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Well, AFAIK Australia had no large, native, tree-climbing predators. Plus there’s no competition for their food and water source (gum tree leaves), and that source is plentiful. Those are two pretty good adaptations, I’d say. Not having to rely on fresh water on a fairly arid continent is particularly beneficial, and if the predators can’t get to where you are, you don’t need to be fast or smart or tough to protect yourself from them.

      • BJ
        Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Ah, I just assumed Australia had plenty of predators who could climb trees. This explains it, though I’m shocked. Australia is, like, the land of freaky stuff that can kill you. I always imagined it like this (though I know there are no cheetahs there):

        Australia is the land of “damn nature, you scary” in my head.

        • eric
          Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          I think the wedge-tailed eagle eats them. But running through Australia’s other large predators, let’s see – crocs, dingos, and in the past thylacines can’t climb trees. Various snakes can, but I don’t think the native Australian ones get big enough to threaten a 30-lb koala. Devils are kinda small (about half the size), but they might have been a threat before they went extinct on the mainland, I really don’t know about that.

          • BJ
            Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            I’m impressed by your knowledge and/or research skills!

            I just looked up some videos on the wedge-tailed eagle. Damn, nature, that’s scary! Raptors are pretty awesome though. The awesomeness of anything that can dive-bomb a large mammal and snatch it up can’t be denied, no matter how horrific the videos might sometimes be. Though it appears the wedge-tailed eagle is among the slowest raptors.

            Raptors are the descendants of dinosaurs: you really want to watch them do stuff, but you don’t want to be nearby when they do.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            The dingo took my baby koala?

            • EdwardM
              Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              Travolta? Methinks the link stinks.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

                Here ya go.

                The Travolta link was left over from my discussion with BJ above.

            • eric
              Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

              Leave it to the Australians to take a gruesome excuse for murder that basically nobody believed, and turn it into a long-running joke.

              • eric
                Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

                On second thought, we have “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” so I guess reacting to such rulings with humor is pretty general. Still, we didn’t come up with anything that has the popularity or staying power of dingo ate my baby.

              • BJ
                Posted September 25, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                Actually, it was Johnnie Cochran himself who held the gloves up during the trial and said, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” which I guess eventually got lengthened slightly to the saying you brought up. It’s more like an idiom than a joke.

  11. Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    A “dictatorship”? Really?
    He must be the worst dictator in history

    • Posted September 25, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      He’s a wannabe dictator for sure. He’s just practicing now for the real thing.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Trump lacks the moxie and ambition to be a for-real dictator.

        He’s just in it for the dough and the ass-kissin’.

        • Posted September 25, 2020 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          I agree but there are always people around him that are more than happy to supply the evil ideas and execute them. Trump has been doing a lot of things in the last four years that he couldn’t possibly do alone. After all, we know he watches TV and tweets most weekdays and golfs on weekends. It doesn’t take him much time to tell an evil minion, “Yeah. Sounds good. Go do it.”

          • rickflick
            Posted September 25, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know why, but Steven Miller always comes to mind in this context.

            • merilee
              Posted September 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

              Fortunately haven’t seen hide nor hair of that weaselly Miller of late.

            • Posted September 25, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

              Yes, and perhaps Jared.

  12. boudiccadylis
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    When I see these pictures of black people being humiliated, overtly protected or physically abused where there are non black people in the picture, I often wonder how the non black feels about their own faces showing the scorn other derogatory appearances today. Personally I would be so embarrassed that I would probably attempt to change my appearance.
    I also don’t know how these particular black people maintained their calm.

  13. Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    They sure spelled funnily back in 1690. Why didn’t they spell correctly, like we do now? They must have been stupid, as well as immoral.

  14. merilee
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Love the tracker rat!

  15. rickflick
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Osprey with two fish will have to land carefully to keep them both…but I think she can manage.

  16. Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Would it be a good time to retire Magawa? Surely he’s done his bit.

  17. Posted September 25, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    You remember saying, “That said, ” the other day?

  18. jezgrove
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    “Those who went the way of all flesh on September 25” also include Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham:

  19. merilee
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Hallelujah! My Santa Clara County, Calif, absentee ballot just arrived in the mail. Canuck Post can be slow, and combined with current USPS, even slower, so I was a bit worried. Will probably UPS it back To be on the safe side. Not that my Dem votes will make that much difference in that particular safely Dem county.

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