Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s Thursday, October 22, 2020, and National Nut Day, a holiday that could have been named after Donald Trump. It’s also Eat a Pretzel Day, INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY, Wombat Day, and Fechner Day, celebrating the psychophysicist Gustav Fechner.

News of the Day: The Amazing Randi—James Randi—died on Tuesday at 92. Many of us knew him or met him (me included) and it’s a sad loss for skepticism, magic, and humanity. There’s a long obituary at the New York Times. (h/t Ginger K)

This is from the Independent, and I tweeted the link. (h/t Luana)

 Pope Francis has voiced approval for same-sex civil unions, though he didn’t say anything about same-sex marriages in the Catholic Church.  I applaud this, of course, but I wonder how pious Catholics will comport this with the official Vatican view that “Homosexual acts are, according to the catechism, ‘intrinsically disordered’ and ‘contrary to natural law.'” Not confessing such acts is considered, as I recall a “grave sin” that can send you to Hell. Is the Pope approving a union that involves disordered acts? And do partners in civil marriages have to repeatedly confess their grave sins? Inquiring minds want to know.

President Trump walked off a “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl, and has started going after her (see below). I chatted with Stahl at the “Kent Presents” meeting a couple of years ago as we drove back to our hotel in a limo, and I asked her how she was going to interview Henry Kissinger at the meeting the next day. She told me she was not going to throw him softball questions.  I expect she didn’t do that to Trump, either. That, of course, would piss off the President. Stahl is an excellent, hard-nosed reporter. I hope CBS airs the incomplete interview.

Musician Spencer Davis died on Monday at 81.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 222,157, an increase of about 1,200 over yesterday. The world death toll is 1,137,190, a big increase of about 6,700 over yesterday’s report.   

Stuff that happened on October 22 include:

  • 1721 – Russian Empire is proclaimed by Tsar Peter I after the Swedish defeat in the Great Northern War.
  • 1746 – The College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University) receives its charter.
  • 1844 – Millerites, followers of Baptist preacher William Miller anticipate the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ. The following day became known as the Great Disappointment.

The Great Disappointment exemplifies the cognitive dissonance of the deluded. After Jesus didn’t come, Millerites (some of whom had given up all their possessions in anticipation), said, no, really what had happened was that Jesus was beginning to cleanse the world in anticipation of the Second Coming. Well, we’re still waiting.

  • 1879 – Using a filament of carbonized thread, Thomas Edison tests the first practical electric incandescent light bulb (it lasts 13​12 hours before burning out).
  • 1883 – The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City opens with a performance of Gounod’s Faust.
  • 1884 – The International Meridian Conference designates the Royal Observatory, Greenwich as the world’s prime meridian.

Here’s Philomena at Greenwich, and you can see her at the Meridian at 1:44. What is clocks?:

  • 1895 – In Paris an express train derails after overrunning the buffer stop, crossing almost 30 metres (100 ft) of concourse before crashing through a wall and falling 10 metres (33 ft) to the road below.

Surprisingly, only one person was killed by this accident: a woman on the street who was crushed by falling masonry. It took several days to get the locomotive removed, so there are lots of pictures of this.

  • 1934 – In East Liverpool, Ohio, FBI agents shoot and kill notorious bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd.

Here’s a short video about Pretty Boy Floyd, who wasn’t all that pretty!

  • 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: President Kennedy, after internal counsel from Dwight D. Eisenhower, announces that American reconnaissance planes have discovered Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, and that he has ordered a naval “quarantine” of the Communist nation.
  • 1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, but turns down the honor.
  • 1976 – Red Dye No. 4 is banned by the US Food and Drug Administration after it is discovered that it causes tumors in the bladders of dogs.
  • 1983 – Two correctional officers are killed by inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. The incident inspires the Supermax model of prisons.
  • 2019 – Same-sex marriage is legalised, and abortion is decriminalised in Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland Assembly not being restored.

I’m sad that Grania wasn’t alive to see this. It would have been great to see her celebrate.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1811 – Franz Liszt, Hungarian pianist and composer (d. 1886)
  • 1844 – Sarah Bernhardt, French actress and manager (d. 1923)
  • 1870 – Lord Alfred Douglas, English author and poet (d. 1945)

Here’s Bosie (Douglas’s nickname) and his lover, Oscar Wilde. They had a fraught relationship, to say the least:

Reed died of typhus in Russia, but was so revered by the Soviets that his body was interred in the Kremlin. He’s one of only three Americans buried there; can you name the other two? Here’s Reed’s body lying in State in Moscow:

Beadle, who was President of the University of Chicago from 1961-1968 (troubled times for colleges), won the Nobel Prize with Edward Tatum for their work on Neurospora, leading to the “one gene-one enzyme hypothesis.” He’s the only geneticist I know who was President of a major university.  Here’s Beadle (left) with another Laureate Linus Pauling:

  • 1903 – Curly Howard, American comedian and vaudevillian (d. 1952)

Yes, THE Curly, born Jerome Lester Horwitz and the brother of Moe and Shemp.

  • 1913 – Robert Capa, Hungarian-American photographer and journalist (d. 1954)

Here’s one of Capa’s most famous photos, shot on D-Day, with soldiers crawling ashore on June 6, 1944. Ten years later Capa died in Vietnam after stepping on a land mine:

Annette was the first love of many of us prepubescent boys, and was the highlight of the Mickey Mouse Club. Here she is at 14. I must have been 7 or 8 years old when I was enamored of her:

  • 1946 – Deepak Chopra, Indian-American physician and author

Those who shuffled off this mortal coil on October 22 include:

  • 1906 – Paul Cézanne, French painter (b. 1839)
  • 1934 – Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (b. 1904) [see above]
  • 1973 – Pablo Casals, Catalan cellist and conductor (b. 1876)
  • 1995 – Kingsley Amis, English novelist, poet, critic (b. 1922)
  • 2009 – Soupy Sales, American comedian and actor (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Malgorzata are about to retire:

Małgorzata: Time to end the day. It’s very late.
Hili: Don’t switch off the light. I sleep best when it’s on.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Trzeba już kończyć, jest bardzo późno.
Hili: Nie gaś jeszcze światła, Tak mi się najlepiej śpi.

And Kulka is climbing on the veranda again:

Szaron and Hili, socially distanced:

. . . and Szaron:

A meme from Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

Also from Jesus of the Day:

From Titania. I’m guessing this is a real list, as I can’t imagine Andrew Doyle making it up:

Several readers (all of them Brits who send that they weren’t conservative) sent me a version of this video tweet. The speaker is a Tory, Kemi Badenoch (UK Treasury & Equalities Minister) speaking in Parliament on Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter:

From Barry, who says, “Fun tweet from Sarah Cooper. It has nothing to do with Trump and features your favorite animal (after cats, of course)”. These are Indian runner ducks being let loose in a field to eat pests, and it is NOT awful!

Another duck tweet, which I found when Matthew sent me the one below it. This is a call duck.

And tweets from Matthew. First, another sleeping duck:

And a two-headed snake. I understand that some of these can live for a very long time. Studying their behavior must be fascinating.

I retweeted this one, which went through several hands, because I wanted to add how amazing it is that natural selection, acting on the tiny brain of a larva, can make it prompt such a complex behavior:

Look at those pincers!

31 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Can’t resist posting some Woody Guthrie lyrics here, in tribute to Pretty Boy Floyd:

    “Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
    I’ve seen lots of funny men.
    Some will rob you with a six-gun
    And some with a fountain pen.

      1. I was in college when I read his book “Flim-Flam!” It was a real eye-opener. As naive as this sounds, it had never occurred to me that astrology, Uri Gellar, flying saucers, ancient astronauts, the Bermuda Triangle, and so on weren’t real. There were books on them in the school library, every newspaper had an astrology column, my 7th-grade biology [!] teacher spent a large part of the course teaching us about parapsychology [it was the ’70s], there were “documentaries” about this stuff on TV, etc. I thought that this junk was science. When your biology teacher tells you that plants can read minds, you say “Huh! How about that.” At least, I did.

        I had recently started reading the Bible, under the assumption that it was the word of God, and quickly realized that there were so many absurdities and contradictions that it couldn’t be completely true. This may have primed me to be receptive to Randi’s message. At one point he said that just because a book is marketed as “non-fiction” doesn’t mean that it’s true. I hadn’t realized that. I found Randi’s book persuasive and it set me on the road to skepticism. There is no other book that had such an impact on my world-view.

    1. Randi gave a very entertaining and educational lecture at Butler University, Indianapolis in 2009. Though I never met him personally, I did some supplemental marketing for that presentation and some earlier graphic audit work on his JREF website.

      But what I always loved him for was his public takedown of the loathsome Peter Popoff, who specialized in fleecing desperately sick people.

      Randi and company checked their parting dumpster trash and found Popoff’s organization didn’t even bother to cash small donations by checks of $5 or $10. Wasn’t worth their time.

  2. One side effect of this virus has been the excessive amount of old tv shows I’ve watched. But I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw the Amazing Randi appear on a Happy Days episode! Too bad he accidentally got “drunk” and couldn’t perform his act. I wish I could have met him in person but I’m just glad my philosophy teacher, Verle Muhrer (hope I spelled that right) introduced me to Randi’s work. He also introduced me to Hitch and Dawkins.

    As for gay marriage, well, guess Catholics have to accept it now. After all, the pope is inflammable.

    1. True story – when I was young a couple of friends and I took a road trip from NYC to Florida. The driver of the car insisted he had plenty of music for the trip (we knew that once you got south of DC the radio stations only played both kinds of music).

      The driver lied. The only music of any sort he had was an 8 track (!) of Stevie Winwood’s Arc of a Diver.

      Somewhere in Georgia, while he was inside on a bio break, we put that damn tape on the pavement and drove over it, back and forth, enough to ensure no one would ever have to listen to that again. You have to understand. Our sanity was at stake. It was a close call.

  3. I would not expect that the dobsonfly lineage would be more ancient than the dragonfly lineage. Dobsonflies are holometabolous (larva and pupal stages) and are neopterous (have folding wings. Dragonflies are hemimetabolous (growing up as nymphs), and they have the primitive paleopterous or non-folding wings.

    1. I wonder if the original poster confused Megaloptera[including Sialidae] and the extinct, paleopteran order Megasecoptera.

      Both megaloptera and crown-group odonates emerged in the mid to late Permian. But as Mark notes the palaeopterous dragonflies a bit earlier. And stem-odonates were around in the Carboniferous, long before any of the holometablous [complete metamorphosis] orders.

      [See Grimaldi and Engel, Evolution of the Insects, and Rasnitsyn, History of Insects]

  4. The official Vatican view that “Homosexual acts are a “grave sin” that can send you to Hell! The Vatican itself is full of homosexuals. I’m sure Francis knows that. Hypocrisy has never slowed the Church in it’s efforts to maintain power over a billion followers and their donations.

  5. Another geneticist who became president of a major university (Princeton from 2002-2013) is Shirley Tilghman. She was involved in early work on mRNA splicing and spent much of her career studying genomic imprinting in mammals. She received much acclaim for her visionary thinking while president.

  6. Another item to add to your calendar: 22 October 4004 BCE is the date that Bishop James Ussher calculated as the moment of biblical creation, and that it occurred at nightfall.

    Later extrapolations of Ussher’s calculations put the end of the world on 23 October 1997. I must have slept through it.

  7. John Reed was the author of “Ten Days that Shook the World”, still the best direct account of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, albeit not 100% objective. Stalin banned the book because it gave prominence to Trostki, while hardly mentioning him.
    The other two Americans would be Bill Haywood and Charles Ruthenberg?

  8. Kingsley Amis, who appears on today’s deathlist, was also an atheist, though he could be cheeky about it. Asked if he did not believe in God he said, “It’s really more that I hate him.”

    1. Yes, that comes from when he was one of the hosts of the visit to the UK by Yevgeni Yevtushenko in 1962. (Yevtushenko: ‘You atheist?’ Amis: ‘Well, yes, but it’s more that I hate him’).

      One of Amis’s novels from the 60s is the now almost-forgotten ‘The Green Man’, a ghost story which features God in a cameo role as a youthful, cynical, callous individual. A lot of Amis’s books are almost unreadable nowadays, but this one is worth looking up.

      1. Thank you for sourcing that comment—I’d forgotten where I’d read it. I’ve only read a few of Amis’s books, but “The Green Man” and “The Alteration” hold up very well as genre fiction. “Lucky Jim” was not as funny as it must have been back in the repressive 50s but it remains comedically effective. Amis also wrote the only James Bond novel (“Colonel Sun”) that ranks with Ian Fleming’s originals.

        I can also recommend two of Amis’s nonfiction works: “Everyday Drinking” (a collection of journalism on alcohol, a subject Amis knew firsthand too well) and “The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage” (often funny, genuinely useful, and not as crotchety as one would expect).

      2. Actually, I partly take that back. A fair bit of Amis is still readable. ‘Lucky Jim’, of course; and his two enjoyably heartless novels about old people, ‘Ending Up’ and ‘The Old Devils’. But some of the stuff from the 50s and 60s is pretty dated; and his later books, when (I think) he was starting to show signs of dementia, are not very good at all.

  9. Actually, I partly take that back. A fair bit of Amis is still readable. ‘Lucky Jim’, of course; and his two enjoyably heartless novels about old people, ‘Ending Up’ and ‘The Old Devils’. But some of the stuff from the 50s and 60s is pretty dated; and his later books, when (I think) he was starting to show signs of dementia, are not very good at all.

    1. In response to revelator60 above: I agree about ‘The Alteration’ and ‘Colonel Sun’; not so much about Amis’s writings on booze (OK on spirits; useless on wine or beer) or on the use of English (old-fashioned prescriptiveness).

      For my money, the best books about English writing are Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense of Style’, Oliver Kamm’s ‘Accidence Will Happen’, and (for us old Civil service fogies) Sir Ernest Gowers’ ‘Plain Words’.

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