Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Hump Day: October 7, 2020. It’s National Frappe Day, and a “frappe” in general is a frozen, slushy drink. If you ask for a “frappe” in New England, you’ll get what the rest of the U.S. calls a milkshake: ice cream, milk, and flavoring, usually topped with whipped cream. If you ask for a “milkshake” in New England, you’ll get a mixture of milk and flavoring, like the “egg cream” of New York City. If you ask for a “frappe” outside of New England, you’ll be met with blank stares.

It’s also National Pumpkin Seed Day, National Kale Day (a “food” that never passes my lips), and National Flower Day. 

News of the Day: Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this morning. See my post on it here.

Don’t forget tonight’s debate between Vice-President Pence and Vice-President-to-Be Kamala Harris. I’m hoping it will afford much entertainment and a smackdown of Pence. Most sites and t.v. stations will be showing it live. The details from NPR:

When? 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. (You can listen to the debate on NPR, and we’ll have a livestream video online.)

Where? The University of Utah, Salt Lake City.  The university offered a lottery for fewer than 100 students to represent the campus inside the debate site. The school stressed that attendees will be spaced out and that face masks will be required.

Who’s moderating? Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief, USA Today.

What’s the format? The debate will be divided into nine 10-minute sections. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to the opening question in each segment.

The singer Rihanna is in trouble after using a song in her latest lingerie fashion show that included a verse from the Muslim hadith. Social media struck back hard, forcing Rihanna’s representative to apologize fulsomely. But the use of that song appears to reflect ignorance on the part of the team: they didn’t know what was in the song they used. Ignorance, however, doesn’t matter in cases like these.

The New York Times has a dire description of the pandemic sweeping through British Universities. Manchester Uni, where Matthew teaches, was hit especially hard.  One of the reasons is that UK universities, denied “rescue money” by Boris Johnson, were forced to reopen to stay afloat. According to the Guardian, more than 5,000 university students have been infected in the UK, with more than 1,000 at Manchester Uni alone, which has just suspended in-person teaching.

Here’s the Guardian‘s graph of UK coronaviruses over time; it’s not a pretty picture:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 210,749, an increase of about 720 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll remains at “1.0 million +”, with 5,339 deaths reported yesterday.

Stuff that happened on October 7 includes:

  • 1477 – Uppsala University is inaugurated after receiving its corporate rights from Pope Sixtus IV in February the same year.
  • 1868 – Cornell University holds opening day ceremonies; initial student enrollment is 412, the highest at any American university to that date.
  • 1916 – Georgia Tech defeats Cumberland University 222–0 in the most lopsided college football game in American history.

Here’s a photo of the scoreboard from that game; the first four numbers add up to 222, and the last “222” is the total.

  • 1944 – World War II: During an uprising at Birkenau concentration camp, Jewish prisoners burn down Crematorium IV.
  • 1949 – The communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is formed.
  • 1950 – Mother Teresa establishes the Missionaries of Charity.
  • 1985 – Four men from the Palestine Liberation Front hijack the MS Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt.

This is the hijacking that led to the death of wheelchair bound Leon Klinghoffer, killed because he was American. The four highjackers, being flown at their request to Tunisia, were intercepted by US fighter jets and flown to Italy, where they were tried and sentenced to jail.

  • 1988 – A hunter discovers three gray whales trapped under the ice near Alaska; the situation becomes a multinational effort to free the whales.
  • 1996 – Fox News Channel begins broadcasting.
  • 1998 – Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, is found tied to a fence after being savagely beaten by two young adults in Laramie, Wyoming. He died five days later.

Shepard was gay, but it’s still in dispute whether his murder involved him making a sexual advance toward one of the two convicted of his murder, or whether his being gay played a role in the killing (the killers are serving life sentences). The crime nevertheless prompted much hate crime legislation. Here’s Shepard, who was only 21 when he was brutally murdered.

  • 2001 – The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan begins with an air assault and covert operations on the ground.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1849 – James Whitcomb Riley, American poet and author (d. 1916)
  • 1879 – Joe Hill, Swedish-born American labor activist and poet (d. 1915)

Hill, a union activist, was convicted of a murder that he may well not have committed and executed by firing squad. Here he is:

  • 1885 – Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and philosopher, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1962)
  • 1900 – Heinrich Himmler, German commander and politician (d. 1945)
  • 1923 – Irma Grese, German SS officer (d. 1945)

Grese, who was hanged at age 22 for war crimes, was known as “the beautiful beast” for her horrible abuse and torture of prisoners at Belsen and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Wikipedia article on her gives almost detail of her abuses, but you can read about them here.  A picture of Grese is below:

  • 1931 – Desmond Tutu, South African archbishop and activist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1943 – Oliver North, American colonel, journalist, and author
  • 1955 – Yo-Yo Ma, French-American cellist and educator
  • 1975 – Tim Minchin, English-Australian comedian, actor, and singer
  • 1992 – Mookie Betts, American baseball player

The Red Sox’s trade of Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers was a terrible decision; Betts may be the best player in baseball today.

Those who did perish from this Earth on October 7 include:

  • 1925 – Christy Mathewson, American baseball player and manager (b. 1880)
  • 1991 – Leo Durocher, American baseball player and manager (b. 1905)
  • 1992 – Allan Bloom, American philosopher and educator (b. 1930)
  • 2009 – Irving Penn, American photographer (b. 1917)

Here’s one of Penn’s great portraits, “Truman Capote, New York, 1948“. Capote was about 24 then.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is musing:

Hili: Autumn is conducive to reverie.
A: You better come inside.
Hili: You are right, I have to take a nap.
In Polish:
Hili: Jesień skłania do zadumy.
Ja: Chodź lepiej do domu.
Hili: Masz rację, trzeba się przespać.

From a note on reddit, with the caption “Sign outside of a restaurant, offering their latest creation: a Trump Sandwich with a small pickle.” (h/t: Woody)


A Halloween decoration from Facebook, sent in by Stash Krod:

Reader Divy sent a photo of her favorite cat with the note: “Jango voted! He wants Trump out.” You go, cat!

And while we’re displaying cats, here’s Matthew’s cat, still recuperating from a badly bitten tail. Matthew’s caption: “All wrapped up under the covers after watching S2/ep2 of the Sopranos”.

I’ve started watching The Sopranos on Matthew’s advice (I never saw the show), and am liking it a lot. (I watch one episode per day.) It starts with Tony falling in love with a duck family that grows up in his swimming pool! How could a show be better?

Tony en famille:


A tweet from TED and Titania’s reply:

From her article:

I was thrilled to see that TED — the company that runs all those online lectures — has decided henceforth to use “womxn” rather than the outdated word “women”. This is because “women” excludes non-cisgender people. And because transwomen are women, it’s essential that they have a different word to show that they are exactly the same.

From Barry: a magnificent elk says, “Get off my damn lawn!” Sound up.

Tweets from Matthew. We don’t know where the eels breed, but this new paper raises the possibility that it might not be the classic locale: the Sargasso Sea. Have a look at the article, free with the legal Unpaywall app.

Hili comes in on the windowsill like this, but at least she has the good sense to face inward! Don’t ask me where Ms. McGree’s name comes from.

This is for real, but it’s sick:

Hummingbird avoids wasp; the real time spanned by this slo-mo video just is 0.3 seconds:

Matthew said “This doesn’t work for a Brit.” I asked, “Should it be ‘bum,’ then?” and Matthew responded, “No. Arse.”

Part of the title is positively Darwinian.



  1. Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    A frappe in New England is usually more like a malted milk rather than a straight milkshake, but these days it’s often wise to ask if there’s malt, at least if you like it as much as I do.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    No. 8 on the list of 100 greatest guitar players you linked to the other day is no more. Eddie Van Halen has played his last riff, dead at age 65.

    The music of the band Van Halen wasn’t something that really spoke to me in the way other bands’ has, but dude could play.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Van Halen 1.0 figured prominently in the music-scape of my formative years. Still love quite a bit of their music. And Eddie was one of the giants of guitar rock.

      Makes me feel really old. Also brings to mind my first cool car sound system, I saved up for a pair of Jensen Triaxial speakers and a nice Pioneer stereo. Tested them out with Van Halen 1, on 11. Thought life was good and I was cool. Within no more than 2 weeks later I returned to my car one afternoon to find a broken window and my new stereo and Jensen Triaxials gone.

      Still listening to Van Halen though. So long Eddie.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Thought life was good and I was cool. Within no more than 2 weeks later I returned to my car one afternoon to find a broken window and my new stereo and Jensen Triaxials gone.

        F*ckers can steal your stereo, man, but let no one deny you your cool.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        I had a killer Blaupunkt stereo that got nicked the same way- after about 2 months of ownership. They also stole my favorite Zappa cds. Fookers!

        I too liked Van Halen and still enjoy them. Saw both Van Halen and “Van Haggar” in concert as well. Diamond Dave was way more entertaining than Sammy. Eddie rocked no matter who was the front man.

        I read a quote by Joe Satriani this morning:
        “He also scared the hell out of a million guitarists because he was so damn good…”

        • darrelle
          Posted October 7, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          Blaupunkt was definitely upper crust back then.

          I definitely prefer the DLR era over the Sammy Hagar era, but that could simply be bias from growing up with the music of the DLR era. I believe Hagar is probably a better singer from a technical perspective, but I like Dave’s sound and style better. The Hagar era music is also far more polished over all, but to me Van Halen was at their best raw, as in 1 thru 1984.

          This morning I came across this interesting NYT article featuring Kirk Hammett’s (Metallica) thoughts on EVH.

          Metallica’s Kirk Hammett: Eddie Van Halen ‘Blew Open Everyone’s Minds’

          • Mark R.
            Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the article Darrelle. High praise for sure. I enjoy Matallica’s (esp. early) repertoire as well. Also agree with your assessment of DLR and SH.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      He died of throat cancer.

      I recall all the videos with him brashly brandishing his frankenstrat with a cigarette in the headstock strings. Theres a word for it, the feeling that it was a terrible idea to smoke. Utterly tragic and sad.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      A funny quote, Pete Townsend talking about Eddie Van Halen . . .

      “As he got older he became more generous and amusing and self-effacing about his enormous gifts. He shared so many tricks through guitar workshops, online and on TV shows. Immense talent. The Great American Guitar Player. I was hoping he might be President one day,” Townshend says.

      Hey, if it was between Trump and EVH right now, I’d vote for EVH with no hesitation.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        In that match-up I’d take EVH, dead or alive.

    • jezgrove
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      The dude could certainly play, indeed. Eddie certainly wasn’t the first to use two-handed tapping, but Eruption brought it to the world’s attention!

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        It’s more than merely raising awareness.

        Eruption in particular had a sound never heard before. Hearing it for the first time, one was confused – the question would be “what IS that?!” And is honestly made one wonder what it was – synthesizer? Special effects? Some other thing? Personally, Alex’s intro on Hot For Teacher is in that category.

        Combine that with his other playing, guitar and keyboard, and composition – he took a place in the rare category of musicians who had their own *sound*.

        • Mark R.
          Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          Wanted to add that your comment is very well put.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            Thanks – I ought to give credit to Rick Beato here, especially how he asked the question “what IS that?” – numerous times on his channel. It’s precisely what I thought and my friends too – that is a rarity, to hear something that is quite unlike anything you or the world has heard before.

            It is tragic, knowing his signature cigarette in the headstock – all those years – if only someone could have removed it.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Before reading this I told my wife: “I would bet $10k that Eruption has played at least a million times since Eddie’s death.” I’m actually listening to it right now. Cheers Eddie!

  3. David Harper
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The sudden and alarming spike in new cases of COVID-19 in the U.K. shown in the graph may not be real. News reports suggest that it may have been caused by a fault in the I.T setup which is being used to record and collate the results of tests carried out the centralised testing labs, specifically a limit on the number of rows that can be stored in an Excel spreadsheet. The Guardian reported on it yesterday:

    The disastrous outbreaks in many U.K. universities are real, though, and they are now halting in-person teaching:

    • A C Harper
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Quite so. There’s a note in the Government web site which says: England
      Data include only pillar 1 cases until 2 July, from when pillar 2 cases are also included. A technical issue identified on 2 October 2020 resulted in a delay in reporting of 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October. These cases were instead reported on 3 and 4 October creating an artificial spike in the number of cases reported on these dates. Cases by specimen date data are not affected.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Eddie Van Halen died yesterday from throat cancer. He was 65.

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:50 am | Permalink


  6. Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Does anyone here worry that…
    1. He will pack SCOTUS (careful what you wish for here)
    2. China prefers Joe
    3. He has “been wrong on almost every foreign policy and security issue in the last forty years”… (true ‘dat).
    4. His 47-year legislative achievement is zero when you exclude the ones he has disavowed.
    5. A vote for Joe is really a vote for Kamala
    6. He is complicit in Hunter’s corruption (denial does not equal debunking)
    7. And just generally that he bears the imprint of the last person that sat on him.

    I mean, two *very* poor candidates and all, but seriously…

    (An Aussie in Hong Kong)

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      You got it wrong. A vote for Biden is a vote against Trump and that is all that counts at the moment. This is America man, it’s the best we can do.

      • Historian
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        You are absolutely correct. Our Australian friend gives away the game when he says that a vote for Joe is actually a vote for Kamala. I’m glad that Kamala scares him. She must be doing something right. It seems that even the foreign far right-wingers (which Peter will probably deny he is one) are getting nervous that their soulmate Trump may be out the door soon, or so we hope.

        • Peter N
          Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          As far as I am concerned, a vote for Joe is indeed a vote for Kamala, which I shall be casting this very day.

        • Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Dang, they got kool-aid in the antipodes? Who knew?

    • Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      You should have led with #6, then we could have saved time reading the rest.

      • jezgrove
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Very true…

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    [Joe] Hill, a union activist, was convicted of a murder that he may well not have committed and executed by firing squad.

    Hill, who was executed in Utah, wrote his last letter to “Big” Bill Haywood, leader of the “Wobblies” (aka the Industrial Workers of the World or IWW) asking that his body be hauled to the state line to be buried, because “I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

    Hill’s famous last words were, “Don’t mourn. Organize!”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Hill was immortalized in the song “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” (sometimes known simply as “Joe Hill”). There are hundreds of recordings of it, perhaps most famously by Paul Robeson.

      I’d heard of Joe Hill as a kid, but the first time I heard the song — or at least the first time it made a real impression on me — was the recording (and film) of Joan Baez singing it at Woodstock, where she dedicated it to her then-husband, David Harris, who was at the time imprisoned as a Vietnam-era draft resister:

  8. Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    It’s been hypothesized that Bruce Banner’s muscular alter-ego is green because he’s made of kale, which is why he’s called “The Inedible Hulk”.

  9. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Re: Donald Trump commemorative coins at the White House Gift Shop. You might think The Onion but no, actual text:
    Regular Price: $100.00”

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      At the WP this morning I saw an op-ed that made the best suggestion and they could put it on the Trump Coin. Donald J Trump Defeated Empathy.

  10. Mike
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The hummingbird flares head feathers starting at about 0:18. I had thought that was a display against other hummingbirds but maybe it’s a general “oh, shit” sort of response.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I’ve started watching The Sopranos …

    Sopranos was the one changed the game, moving the cutting-edge artistic action, at least for a while, from the big screen to tv. There were some forerunners — Oz, also on HBO, and dating all the way back to Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere on broadcast television — but Sopranos was the turning point, the show that gave the small screen some serious artistic cred.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Also from HBO was a pretty good one called The Wire. I think it lasted about 4 years.

      • Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        The Wire was even better than the Sopranos. Perhaps the best TV series ever made.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

          Yep, The Wire is the apotheosis, the best boob-tube fare ever, as intricately plotted as a Russian novel.

          The Sopranos, OTOH, is Shakespeare — not peak Shakespeare, maybe, not Hamlet or Macbeth or Lear, but up there with second-tier Shakespeare, like Anthony and Carmella … er, I mean Anthony and Cleopatra. 🙂

  12. rickflick
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Mookie Betts, American baseball player, is also a top level bowler. I suspect he’d do well at almost any sport.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    [Irma] Grese, who was hanged at age 22 for war crimes, was known as “the beautiful beast” …

    I dunno, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all, but she looks to me kinda like Kiefer Sutherland circa “Young Guns”:

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      She, the real Irma, looks like a rather hard transvestite in rather bad get-up. Kiefer is the beautiful one.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Kieffer’s a good-lookin’ guy, but I’m not sure he could pull off drag — at least not better than Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo in To Wong Foo. 🙂

    • Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      She also looked a little like Elisabeth Moss, the star of Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    To understand the plot of coronavirus +’ves in the UK would require the number of tests performed. It could easily be fewer in the spring, and vastly increased in the fall.

  15. C.
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    So is it just the vowels that are racist/sexist/transphobic? Dx X nxxd tx stxp xsxng thxm sx X cxn dxmxnstrxtx my cxmmxymxnt tx sxcxxl jxstxcx?

    • John Dentinger
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Think Nat’l Spelling Bee. The horror! THX HXRRXR!

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    … a “Donald J. Trump defeats Covid” commemorative coin.

    Could become a real collectors’ item if the Donald goes all Herman Cain and croaks before election day — you know, like that stamp with the upside down airplane.

    Too morbid for my tastes to bet on the come like that, but it might be a hell of an investment.

  17. Posted October 7, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Just saw this tw**t from Trump:


    Does anyone have any idea what he’s on about, or has he finally totally lost the plot.

    • Posted October 7, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      If you are talking about the first part about the Dems getting “caught cold”, I suspect it is just Trump referring to the sum of all the GOP tropes, rather than some specific event where the Dems have been “caught”. The remainder is just his usual message though “entitled” shows his desperation. He has repeatedly claimed that he has been treated so badly during his election and first term, that he deserves four more years just to replace the term he “lost”. He never lacks chutzpah.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 7, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        I suspect Trump is pushing his Roy Cohen-like attorney general, Bill Barr, and Barr’s hired gun, John Durham, to launch some sort of fanciful “Obamagate” October surprise, ripping the mask off the malefactions of the Deep State in Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

        Good luck with that bullshit, Donnie.

        • Posted October 7, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          So you think Trump has just come out of a meeting in which the Durham Report was discussed in terms of its potential to be a game-changing October Surprise and this is his celebratory tweet? It would fit. My guess is the report won’t even move the needle at this point. It will have nothing really new to offer, the issues it will raise have already been litigated in the media, and Trump’s position on them is well known.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Remember, he’s stoked on roids man.

    • jezgrove
      Posted October 7, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, he’s lost the plot and the means of turning off the caps lock.

  18. Curtis
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    The surge of cases in all the major European (UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany) was predictable. (At least, I predicted it.) You can only lock people up for so long before they rebel. The world is stuck in a bad situation until (if) we get a vaccine.

    The original idea behind the lock downs was to “flatten the curve.” That was the correct approach and the idea that we could eliminate coronavirus once it became endemic was faulty. The common cold cannot be beat and the coronavirus is basically an extremely virulent cold.

    Fortunately, deaths are not rising as rapidly. Treatment has gotten better and countries are doing a better job of protecting the vulnerable.

    • Posted October 7, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Now tell the rest of the story. By keeping the total number of infected people low, it makes testing and contact tracing practical. This is something most countries understood. US scientists also understood this but Trump failed to take advantage and 210,000 are dead as a result. And it isn’t over yet.

  19. Posted October 8, 2020 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Oh boy. I can’t believe you’ve missed the Sopranos until now, professor.
    I’ve watched the entire series maybe 4 times.

    As I see it its the best show in the last 20 years. You are in for a treat.

    D.A., NYC

  20. merilee
    Posted October 8, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    For some strange reason milkshakes are called “cabinets” in Rhode Island.

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