Wednesday: Hili dialogue

October 21, 2020 • 6:30 am

Happy Hump Day on October 21, 2020: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Yuk! Why not just eat pumpkin pie or plain cheesecake (preferably from Junior’s)? Mixing them is a travesty. In the last decade we’ve seen the pumpkinization of many foods, with the nadir being the ever-popular pumpkin spice latte (380 calories in the Starbuck’s “grande” version, or the equivalent of more than 8 tablespoons of sugar). It’s also Apple Day, Garbanzo Bean Day, International Day of the Nacho, Hagfish Day, Reptile Awareness Day, and the second day of the two-day Baháʼí holiday, Birth of the Báb.

News of the Day: Yesterday NASA’s OSIRIS-REX mission landed on a small asteroid named Bennu (the size of a skyscraper) 200 million miles away. The probe collected a quick sample, and then took off. It will continue to orbit the asteroid, and then head back to Earth in mid-2021 (there is time for two more sampling attempts).  As the NYT reported:

“The asteroids are like time capsules, floating in space, that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said during a news conference on Monday.

Many asteroids — including Bennu — cross the orbit of Earth and could collide with our planet someday. A better understanding of these space rocks, which come in many types, could aid humanity’s ability to divert one that might slam into Earth.

Here’s a tweet showing the jubilation at NASA when the mission seemed successful (we won’t know for sure for a few days).

Rush Limbaugh, who has lung cancer (I didn’t know) just announced that it was terminal.

Jeff Bridges also announced that he has lymphoma, though, depending on the type of lymphoma and how far it’s advanced, he may have a good chance of being cured.

The New York Times‘s series on religionists and their thoughts about death and the afterlife concludes with an interview with an atheist, philosopher and authorTodd May, a professor at Clemson.  He takes special care—too much, in my view)—to avoid offending believers. For example:

[Todd] May: Whether atheists have committed wrongs in the name of atheism is a tricky question. The Soviet Union, for instance, persecuted Jews and other believers in the name of a doctrine that they at least saw as tied to atheism, and today the Chinese government is committing genocidal acts against the Uighurs for related reasons. Even if we lay those aside, the condescension that some prominent atheists display toward religious believers, although not nearly as grievous, is nothing to be particularly proud of. (Of course, historically we atheists haven’t fared too well at the hands of organized religion, either.)

That old canard that atheism helped create Russian and Chinese murders. No consideration that these governments constituted a secular religion, and didn’t want competition.

Of course we should respect believers—as we respect the humanity of all human beings. But we needn’t for a second respect their superstitious beliefs. A lot of what May has to say about death, though, is sensible, but he’s certainly a Tame Atheist. The NYT ain’t gonna get a Dawkins to represent nonbelievers!

Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer in the night sky, and, in mid-December, a “great conjunction” will occur, when the planetary images nearly merge. This won’t happen again until 2028. Reader Dawn sent this gorgeous image of this picture from yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, with the caption, “Pictured, the astrophotographer and partner eyed the planetary duo above the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) in the Italian Alps about two weeks ago.”

Saturn and Jupiter over Italian Peaks Image Credit & Copyright: Giorgia Hofer.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 220,987, an increase of about 930 over yesterday. The world death toll is 1,130,496, a big increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s report.   

Stuff that happened on October 21 includes:

  • 1512 – Martin Luther joins the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg.
  • 1520 – Ferdinand Magellan discovers a strait now known as the Strait of Magellan.
  • 1797 – In Boston Harbor, the 44-gun United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched.

Old Ironsides is still with us. Here’s the USS Constitution, which lives in Boston Harbor, firing a 17-gun salute in 2014:

Nightingale lived to be 90. Here’s a photo by Henry Hering:

  • 1879 – Thomas Edison applies for a patent for his design for an incandescent light bulb.

And here’s the patent,  granted in 1880:

  • 1921 – President Warren G. Harding delivers the first speech by a sitting U.S. President against lynching in the deep South.
  • 1940 – The first edition of the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is published.

Not my favorite Hemingway novel (that would be The Sun Also Rises), this one, in a signed first edition, will set you back about $17,500:

  • 1945 – French women vote for the first time during the 1945 French legislative election.
  • 1973 – Fred Dryer of the Los Angeles Rams becomes the first player in NFL history to score two safeties in the same game.

A “safety can be scored in several ways; the most common is when a player is tackled in his own end zone by the opposing team, which then is awarded two points. Besides this claim to fame, Dryer was almost cast as Sam Malone in the t.v. show “Cheers,” a role that went to Ted Danson.

  • 1983 – The metre is defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
  • 2019 – In Canada, the 2019 Canadian Federal Election ends, resulting in incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remaining in office, albeit in a minority government. (Global) (CBC)

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1772 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet, philosopher, and critic (d. 1834)
  • 1877 – Oswald Avery, Canadian-American physician and microbiologist (d. 1955)
  • 1914 – Martin Gardner, American mathematician and author (d. 2010)
  • 1915 – Owen Bradley, American country music record producer (d. 1998)
  • 1917 – Dizzy Gillespie, American trumpet player, composer, and bandleader (d. 1993)

Here’s Diz playing “A Night in Tunisia,” a song that he wrote:

  • 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin, American author and critic (d. 2018)
  • 1949 – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli captain and politician, 9th Prime Minister of Israel
  • 1956 – Carrie Fisher, American actress and screenwriter (d. 2016)
  • 1958 – Andre Geim, Russian-English physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate

Those who went to a Better Place on October 21 include:

  • 1805 – Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, English admiral (b. 1758)
  • 1969 – Jack Kerouac, American novelist and poet (b. 1922)
  • 1980 – Hans Asperger, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1906)
  • 2012 – George McGovern, American historian, lieutenant, and politician (b. 1922)
  • 2014 – Ben Bradlee, American journalist and author (b. 1921)

I once wrote a letter to the editor of the Post (Bradlee) complaining about some poor evolution coverage. I got a withering reply from the “great man” himself, asking me why he should pay attention to an “Assistant Professor” (I was at Maryland at the time). What a jerk!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is in a state:

Hili: I’m in a dreadful mood.
A: Why?
Hili: Does there have to be a reason?
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem w paskudnym nastroju.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: A musi być powód?

Kulka is climbing on Andrzej again:

From Matthew, originally from Dan Piraro at Bizarro Comics:

From Facebook:

From Jesus of the Day:


From Barry: Kitten rescue! (Sound up, though it’s in French and you’ll hear the guy say he can’t keep the kitty because he has allergies.)

From Simon. Very clever response:

Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on the second and most excellent tweet, but I couldn’t embed it by itself (the first tweet inspired the second):

He’s right about the reelection of Trump:

This caterpillar has a false head on its rear end (combined with scary pink tentacles) to distract and scare potential predators:

Matthew himself on Darwin:

This is why kittens melt the heart:

73 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. 1958 – Andre Geim, Russian-English physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate

    Andre Geim is the only person to have won both a Nobel and and IgNobel prize. Quite an achievement.

  2. Actually, the swallowtail caterpillar’s fake head is on the anterior end, the real head is small. The tentacles are osmeteria, which are defensive glands that pop out when the caterpillar is threatened. They have a really bad odor, and then disappear back into the body.

    1. The fake head is a snake– even the “scale” patterns are about right. So a bifid organ protruding from a snake’s mouth must be a tongue, right? The cleft is too deep to really look like a tongue, though.


    1. I just watched five minutes of tyson and his sidekick interviewing a serious nasa goddard scientist…the full video is 16 minutes… and i have to say that i am flabbergasted by the banality of the hosts of this show. It is the first startalk i have seen. It is no wonder that science is not taken seriously by some if shows like this provide their window into current research. You kids get off my lawn!

      1. The show is embarassing. I am convinced NDT wanted it to sound like Car Talk. It sorta does, but fails to claim Car Talk’s status. It is also an easy way to get insight to things while falling asleep (the best use I have found for it). Theres got to be an expression for that – a lame product that nonetheless fills some gap – the insomniac information appetite.

        1. Perhaps that NPR show with Kristina Tippett that PCC(E) loves to despise is another example of such a radio-style show.

      2. PCC (E) in a separate post asked what readers think wrong with America. In the mass pop culture banality mightily manifests itself, as well as fatuity, “bread and circuses” self-absorption, and lack of epistemic humility. (Does decadence exist anymore?)

  3. It is certain Pat Roberson will fit in a matchbox. I’m not saying he is totally full of shit but it is a close call.

  4. That photo of the Tre Cimi is almost certainly a composite.

    Nighttime shadows do not look like those in the photo (in moonlit or starlit scenes, the shadows have essentially zero illumination – perfectly black in a photo, unlike daytime shadows), the foreground is much too bright, and the exposure values for stars and the the foreground are far too different.

    Pretty photo though.

    I think For Whom the Bell Tolls is my favorite Hemingway novel. 🙂

    1. Maybe. But I see a lot of long exposure pictures of sky and landscape scenes like this. A long exposure brings out surprising details and even colors, and these are then enhanced by post-processing in Photoshop.

    2. I’ve got to side with our host here on The Sun Also Rises (though I think Hemingway’s best writing is actually the short stories he published in the 1920s and 1930s).

      For Whom the Bell Tolls certainly has its fans, though. Oddly, during the 2008 presidential campaign, as I recall, both John McCain and Barack Obama cited it as among their favorite novels. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Obama included an allusion to the novel in his eulogy for McCain at the latter’s funeral.

      1. My favorite Hemingway works are:
        By Line: Ernest Hemingway
        Green Hills of Africa

        The Old Man and the Sea, which I very recently re-read.

        In my opinion he touches broader, more general human themes in Bell and Old Man.

        I was blown away by Bell when I first read it in my 30s. (I need to reread it.) The subtleties of the interactions of the characters, given by the simplest descriptions, really struck me. I remember thinking, there’s no way anyone young (high school age for instance) is going to get ten percent of what makes this book great. You need plenty of life experience before you read it.

          1. Too much Jesus in TOM&tS for me; Bell has several great scenes, like Pilar recounting the massacre of the fascists, and the assault on the mountain top, but like PCC, I’m a huge fan of Sun, and spent several days following Jake around in Paris. Also like Jake, I find it damn hard to always do the right thing–I’m no Pedro Romero!

      2. Agree with you about The Sun Also Rises. I don’t know the short stories; maybe I should. I also enjoyed Death in the Afternoon among the non-fiction.

        This theme reminds me of the tale about the bloke who returned ‘Across the river and into the trees’ to the bookshop. He had thought it was a book about golf.

    3. Composite or not (and I think you may be right), the Italian Dolomites are one of the most spectacularly beautiful places that I’ve ever been. I climbed the Cima Grande (the middle one) when I was in high school, by the back (easier) side, which is still no stroll in the park.

      1. What grade of difficulty is that route?

        I spent my 20s doing little except climbing (and that little was back-country skiing and sea- and whitewater-kayaking).

        My rock level (on mountains) only reached 5.7 (US grade), not very hard. I’m too large (6′-5″ and not thinly built, even then) for anything harder. Plus I just didn’t have the drive to put in the required training time.

        1. The ‘normal’ or south face route (FA 1869!) on the CG is rated 5.3, although there’s lots of easier scrambling. Of course, as an invincible 17-year-old, I did it solo, unroped. I only had one problem on the descent, where I got into the wrong gully system and ended up at the top of a vertical wall (easy to backtrack and find the correct gully).
          The north face (‘Comici’) route is a different animal at 5.10+

  5. Thanks for heads up on osiris rex mission. The mission team has provided some amazing you tube videos of the asteroid from their surveillance activities to locate a landing zone over the past two years. I just googled the “osiris rex project” and was able to choose several to watch. Continuing congrats to the nasa/university of arizona/lockheed et al mission team on their successes!

  6. That one joke is the other side of a favorite: If I had to describe myself in one word I guess it would have to be doesn’t follow orders well.

  7. Hello everyone! I have a question for all of you stargazers out there: is there a map of star visibility for the US? I live near a large metropolitan area, so I can’t see many stars at night. I’d love to know where and how far I’d have to travel to see a really good night sky, especially with the “great conjunction” coming up.

      1. Thanks for remembering and checking up 🙂

        Unfortunately, things have only become worse with time. At first, older cat was usually curious or indifferent when he encountered her in the house, but now he hisses nearly every time he sees her. He’s also started hissing and growling at me, I guess because he (rightly) blames me for bringing the kitten into our home.

        I would have fostered the kitten if I had known things would turn out this way, but I figured that older cat would slowly warm up to her over time because he wasn’t hostile from the start. Kitten still just wants to be friends, but OG OC is having none of it. I certainly can’t foster the kitten now, as she follows me everywhere like a puppy. She’s absolutely adorable, but I don’t know if my older cat is ever going to get over her presence. I just have to hope that he’ll learn to live with her, even if they don’t become friends.

        1. Oh, shoot. I’m sorry to hear that. In our similar situation things have gotten much better with time. Though it did take a good while. Our older cat now will even play with the young one, on her terms, but only tolerates so much. And of course the little one almost always pushes things to “too much.”

    1. I don’t know about all his books, but I know that A Farewell to Arms was hand written as the manuscript was up for auction(or maybe exhibition, I don’t recall) sometime ago. The handwriting in the manuscript though looked nothing like the signature above. It was far rougher and rather scrawling. He wrote something like 45 endings to the book and many of them were simply crossed out.

  8. A press conference from the OSIRIS-REx mission will be held at 5pm EDT. That should include images and I can’t imagine them any other than being amazing.

  9. The metre is defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.

    Ha! Proof that God does not exist. If God created the Universe, this would be a neat round number so school kids could memorize it.

  10. I have to confess I rather like a good pumpkin spice latte. Starbucks’ is dreck, but we have a local coffee shop chain that makes much better drinks.
    Also I’ve recently discovered pumpkin ales. Dammit, I like them!

    1. Some years ago, in Flying Dog brewery’s early days, each fall they would issue a limited holiday brew pumpkin ale. It was a small number of barrels and if you were lucky your town maybe had one place that maybe got one barrel. And if you were really lucky you managed to show up on the day they got it and were able to drink a glass or two. Because it was phenomenal. Easily a top 20 beer, maybe even top 10.

      Just a couple of weeks ago I was at the grocery store and was brought to a dead stop by a small display in the beer section. A stack of 6-pack bottles of Flying Dog seasonal pumpkin ale. Of course I bought it. Of course, I shouldn’t have. It was nothing like the stuff they brewed in such small batches in the early days. It was sanitized of so much of the subtle complexities and depths that made those early brews special, it was like drinking something from Anheuser Busch. Not bad, but not remotely special.

      I is sad.

      But there’s hope! Flying Dog now has another pumpkin ale, called The Fear. It is a 9% Nitro Imperial Ale, each batch of 50 barrels is brewed with 300 lbs of pumpkin, and of course there are spices. Haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

  11. Pat Robertson is a real piece of work.

    In May 1982: by the fall of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.
    January 2007: “mass killings” were to come in the year 2007.
    January 2012: Mitt Romney would win.
    May 2019: God would get rid of the USA for the Equality Act.

    I predict the old codger will bite the dust of history before he has a chance to make another absurd prediction.

  12. Bummer about Jeff Bridges, man. As though 2020 didn’t suck enough already. And props to him for announcing his misfortune with a Dude-like tweet that, “New shit has come to light.”

    First thing I ever saw him in is one of our host’s all-time favorite flicks, The Last Picture Show. If there’s ever been a more naturalistic American screen actor — or one who’s put in more consistently top-notch performances over the last 50 years — I can’t think of who it is.

    From what I’ve seen of him in interviews, he also seems like a legitimately nice and decent guy. Best of luck to him in beating the lymphoma

    1. He does stand a good chance to beat it but it depends a great deal on what kind of lymphoma he has and what stage it is at. Unfortunately his age is a disadvantage.

    2. He was on Bill Maher and talked about Buckminster Fuller’s notion of the social equivalent of the trim tab – a fin structure in an ocean vessel that is small, yet leads to the entire ship moving how the trim tab dictated.

  13. Oooo ! … …in re ” why he should pay
    attention to an ‘Assistant Professor.’
    What a jerk! ” I utterly appreciate this
    ” concluding – assessment ” of yours, Dr Coyne.

    As ‘ just the secretary ‘ within a
    university’s academic or administrative
    department, I cannot count the number
    of times I ‘ve had ‘ to take ‘ ON to
    my person from alleged colleagues / co – workers
    … … such dismissing and degrading muck.

    What became so, so funny … … = the
    muckers’ jaws dropping: when my bosses ‘ld
    saunter by, hand me something and comment
    to me stuffz such as, ” Dr Maas, may I have
    25 copies of this one ? ”


    1. Or as is sometimes said, ‘Do you want to talk to the man in charge, or the woman who knows what’s going on?’

  14. One of our classmates had a form of lymphoma. When I saw her four yrs ago, she looked just as she had 5yrs before that. But within those five yrs she had gotten lymphoma, had her T-cells harvested which were sent off for genetic modification, had her immune system ablated, was given the modified cells back and spent a month in isolation in a sterile stainless chamber. Last I heard, she’s still OK.

    Another friend is in remission from similar but less drastic treatment vs. her lymphoma.

    So yes, some forms of lymphoma do seem to be treatable.

    1. She sounds like she had Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, a new way of treating blood borne cancers. Disclaimer – this is what I do for a living.

      For some cancers it has very exciting success rates; one set of trials on non-small cell B cell lymphoma (likely the kind Bridges has – it’s the most common B cell cancer in older people) showed a 60% complete remission rate in older people who’ve failed all other therapies, including BMT. These were patients who had little time left (indeed, some of the patients in the trials died before they could get their modified T cells back) but 60% now show no sign of the disease.

      This is a new and emerging therapy that promises real hope for many who’ve failed their conventional therapies. There are, as expected, toxicity issues and not everyone responds, but this approach is a game changer. You can expect to see versions of the therapy becoming much more common soon (not just T cells, people are doing CAR NK and B cells too). The trick is get to work on solid tumors and to get an over the counter version (right now we must remove a patients T cells, modify them withe the CAR and then re-infuse them – that is very expensive).

      1. Thx!

        Is there a “leaf cell” lymphoma? That’s what I recall the first friend saying that hers was, but when I went looking for that before posting I couldn’t find anything using those terms.

        (I’m a biochemist and get nervous even throwing terms like B-cell and T-cell around.)

  15. I type from memory, a monologue by Diz, on a live recording with his “UN” orchestra (featuring Paquito D’Riviera, among others):

    “… It has withstood the vicissitudes of the contingent world, and moved – in an oddessy — to the realm of the [ drum accent ] metaphysical.”

    that was his intro to A Night in Tunisia. Now, of course, cultural appropriation and racist.

  16. Rush Limbaugh, who has lung cancer (I didn’t know) just announced that it was terminal.

    Was terminal? Doesn’t that imply that that Limbaugh’s illness isn’t terminal anymore

    1. This is something I struggle with when writing. I think in this situation the tense of the verb in the subordinate clause is supposed to agree with the one in the main clause (so our host’s choice of tense is correct), but it is a bit confusing.

      1. No I think that’s wrong in this case. If the sentence was “he announced it was terminal” it’s fine, but “he [has] just announced it was terminal” sounds like it was terminal in the past but is not longer terminal.

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