Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Thursday, November 5, 2020. I’m slowly getting back to business as my wounded belly begins to heal. Since we curtailed feeding, the duck population is way down: yesterday it was between 6 and 12 birds. I’m not sure if Honey was among them, but I’ll find out today. I hope she’s left for part south.

It’s National Chinese Take-Out Day. I prefer to eat in the restaurants, and I’ve almost never taken Chinese food home (really, almost any food). Part of the dining experience is being with other tables and seeing what they’re eating—particularly Chinese restaurants. I’ve often learned new dishes by seeing what Chinese people order in serious Chinese restaurants, asking them (they’re always hospitable), and ordering the same thing.

It’s also National Doughnut Appreciation Day, International Stout Day (as in Guinness), and National Men Make Dinner Day™. Here’s the explanation:

According to the official website for National Men Make Dinner Day, most men cook, but some don’t, feeling lost when they are in kitchens. This day is for the latter group of men to attempt to make dinner and is not directed at those men who already do cook. Being that it is a holiday about men cooking, the implication seems to be that women usually do most of the cooking. Sandy Sharkey, then a radio broadcaster in Ottawa, Canada, filed for a Canadian trademark for the holiday in 2001. She created the day so she would get a meal a day from her non-cooking husband once a year.

I’m one of the Men Who Can Cook. Overseas, it’s Guy Fawkes Night in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

News of the day: Well, you all know the election news, and when I touch up this post on Thursday morning it may be different.

NOTE: It is not different; the headline in the New York Times is the same as yesterday’s. Who would have thought that Nevada would be the linchpin here? Arizona looks reliably for Biden, Nevada is leaning Democratic but with 49.3% for Biden, 48.7% for Trump (a margin of about 7,600 votes), and Pennsylvania is bloody slow counting the ballots, which will be largely for Biden (right now it’s 50.7% for Trump, 48.1% for Biden). Biden stands a chance to win there, in which case it’s all over, but there’s a case before the Supreme court. . . .   If Biden wins both Nevada and Arizona, he gets 270 electoral votes and it’s all over.


Let’s just say that Trump’s already declared himself the winner, and has lawsuits pending in at least three states trying to block counting of post-election-day ballots or other falsely declared malfeasances—a travesty of democracy. He’s asking for a recount in Wisconsin, but that depends on the margin of victory.

I’ve seen several columns saying that the fact that this election is a squeaker is a kind of victory for “Trumpism”, since it nearly won and hence wasn’t soundly rejected (one such column is here, another here, and another here). And that’s true: we’re not going to heal as a country in many years—if we ever do. What angers me is watching the news night after night and seeing people who look perfectly normal and rational say they voted for Trump because he’s going to save their jobs/keep America strong/cure the pandemic.

England and Italy begin their second lockdown Thursday, along with Poland and Lithuania. In Italy, residents of six regions will be prohibited from leaving the region, and in those area bars and restaurants will be closed. In England, according to the NYT, “stores, restaurants, pubs and other nonessential businesses must close for a month, though schools will remain open. People will be asked to stay home unless they are needed at work, or out to buy food or exercise.” These rules already hold in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. No pubs! What a bummer!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 234,223, a big increase of about 1,600 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,232,328, another big increase of about 10,600 over yesterday’s report. It’s a grim season. 

Stuff that happened on November 5 includes:

  • 1605 – Gunpowder Plot: Guy Fawkes is arrested.
  • 1831 – Nat Turner, American slave leader, is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in Virginia.
  • 1872 – Women’s suffrage in the United States: In defiance of the law, suffragist Susan B. Anthony votes for the first time, and is later fined $100.
  • 1912 – Woodrow Wilson is elected the 28th President of the United States, defeating incumbent William Howard Taft.
  • 1917 – Lenin calls for the October Revolution.
  • 1925 – Secret agent Sidney Reilly, the first “super-spy” of the 20th century, is executed by the OGPU, the secret police of the Soviet Union.

This guy, who spied for at least four different countries, has an interesting story and a long Wikipedia article. You might want to read about him:

  • 1940 – Franklin D. Roosevelt is the first and only President of the United States to be elected to a third term.
  • 1968 – Richard Nixon is elected as 37th President of the United States.
  • 1996 – Bill Clinton is reelected President of the United States.
  • 2006 – Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq, and his co-defendants Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, are sentenced to death in the al-Dujail trial for their roles in the 1982 massacre of 148 Shi’a Muslims.
  • 2009 – U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan murders 13 and wounds 32 at Fort Hood, Texas in the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military installation.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1855 – Eugene V. Debs, American union leader and politician (d. 1926)

Debs was arrested in 1918, for urging resistance to the draft, was imprisoned for three years, and then died in a sanatorium from a prison-related illness. Here he is speaking to a crowd in 1918.

I’ve written about Haldane before. Here’s a photo and an aerogramme he wrote to my old Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin, while Lewontin was at Rochester. Dick gave it to me as a graduation present from Harvard. It was in Talllahassee, mentioned in this letter, that he was diagnosed with the colon cancer that killed him.

  • 1911 – Roy Rogers, American singer, guitarist, and actor (d. 1998)
  • 1943 – Sam Shepard, American playwright and actor (d. 2017)
  • 1960 – Tilda Swinton, English actress

Those who became ex-persons on November 5 include:

  • 1879 – James Clerk Maxwell, Scottish physicist and mathematician (b. 1831)
  • 1933 – Texas Guinan, American actress and businesswoman (b. 1884)

Guinan, an entertainer, was most famous for running a chain of speakeasies (illicit bars) during Prohibition:

  • 1942 – George M. Cohan, American actor, singer, composer, author and theatre manager/owner (b. 1878)

Here’s a 7-minute PBS documentary on Cohan, the subject of the cheesy but wonderful film “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942), played by James Cagney. If I see that film on t.v., I’ll always watch it to the end.

  • 1944 – Alexis Carrel, French surgeon and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1873)
  • 1956 – Art Tatum, American pianist and composer (b. 1909)

Tatum, a blind pianist, was one of the greatest of jazz musicians. He died of uremia at only 47. Here’s some rare live footage:

Tatum, who won the Nobel Prize with George Beadle for their “one gene/one enzyme” hypothesis. He was one of the three people who interviewed me for my admission to Rockefeller University (the other two were H. Keffer Hartline, another Nobel Laureate, and Peter Marler, an animal behaviorist). It was daunting, but I got in.

  • 1975 – Lionel Trilling, American critic, essayist, short story writer, and educator (b. 1905)
  • 1991 – Fred MacMurray, American actor and businessman (b. 1908)
  • 2010 – Jill Clayburgh, American actress and singer (b. 1944)
  • 2013 – Charlie Trotter, American chef and author (b. 1959)

I went to Trotter’s iconic Chicago restaurant twice. The first time was on my birthday, I sat at the kitchen table, and they comped us with “The Dessert Wave”: a full serving of every dessert made by the kitchen. There were over a dozen, covering the table, and we couldn’t eat more than a bite of each. A great cook, but oy, was he a tyrant in the kitchen (I got to see that). He died way too young.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili joins the large number of women protesting Poland’s new restrictions on abortion:

Hili: I’m furious.
A: You are not alone.
Hili: I know, we females are all furious.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem wściekła.
Ja: Nie ty jedna.
Hili: Wiem, wszystkie jesteśmy wściekłe.

Here’s little Kulka, who’s a healthy teenage kitten. Andrzej has a caption referring to her resemblance to Hili:

Caption: This is Kulka, soon it will be difficult to distinguish them.

In Polish: To Kulka, niedługo trudno je będzie odróżnć od siebie.

From Jesus of the Day:

From Nicole: a cat social-distancing in the voting line:

From Su: Girl high-fives a blessing priest:

Titania comments on a post by Matt Breuig who is, of course, a Leftie. If these figures are right, I’m appalled—but for a different reason than the one given by Ms. McGrath:

Sarah Cooper AND Helen Mirren do the famous Trump/Billy Bush conversation:

As reader Barry suspects, I also suspect that this dog was trained to do the whole act. Why else would the owner leave the room but film it. There’s music.

Tweets from Matthew:

Poor Matthew! But I would have done the same thing. (He started the “spot the. . . ” feature here.)

Originally from Olivia Munn. Perhaps when you read this on Thursday the tweet will be superfluous:

Oy! Shoot me now!

Let’s end with some good biology. I may have posted this before, but so what? Remember, this complex behavior is coded in a brain that’s the size of two grains of sand:

36 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. “What angers me is watching the news night after night and seeing people who look perfectly normal and rational say they voted for Trump because he’s going to save their jobs/keep America strong/cure the pandemic.”

    It makes me angry too, but these are largely normal and rational people. There are people that I know and probably people that you know. It’s tempting to think they are less intelligent, but not necessarily. We are all prone to confirmation bias. Those of us who can’t understand how people think that way are prone to other types of delusion. We’ve picked out serious distortions in liberal newspaper stories when we know a thing or two about their subjects. The distortions are either deliberate or a part of that same confirmation bias. Trump has proven very good at manipulating the disinformation machine. In this very tense political climate and amid the ravages of Covid on the psyche, it’s easy to become a bit unhinged and latch onto a conspiracy theory. He knows this. He is precisely that sort of man with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” that Hamilton warned us in Federalist number 68 that the electors should protect us from. This is why.

    1. It is unfair to lay that Hamilton quote as making much sense today. With no more than 13 states and no vote by the citizens for president or Senate, give him a break. There were less than 4 million people total in the U.S. back then and damn few of them could vote for anything. The electoral college is garbage and everyone knows it. Even a poll of the masses says get rid of it. By the time this election is over Trump will have lost by 4 million or more votes. That is more voters than citizens before 1790. Biden’s popular vote difference is larger than several past elections including Kennedy and the first for Nixon.

      1. The electoral college is garbage because they rubber stamp the states’ votes. They are not supposed to do that, but because they haven’t done that part of the job in centuries, to have actually done it would have presented as a constitutional crisis. The electoral system itself is a way for allowing smaller states to have more say than they otherwise would in a Presidential election. The mostly rural states would be overwhelmed. You probably think that’s okay, but it’s not. Hamilton was right about that and many other things.

        1. Just to make sure I’ve got your point…. It is perfectly OK for voters in large states to have their votes overwhelmed by voters in small states. Right?

          1. It’s a federal government and states have equal status, regardless of population. States have their own local concerns, so yes. It’s acceptable in this form of government for citizens of large states whose own state failed to deliver their vote to be disappointed by the results in other states. You want a different form of government, that’s a long road and a huge can of worms. I wouldn’t disagree. Personally I think the damn thing should be split apart.

          1. The states elect the President under this system. If you keep that in mind, then it seems fairer. The states can get out of balance and the electors need to be adjusted sometimes. But under a system of popular vote, the least populous states would have virtually no influence. Urban areas would dictate everything in a Presidential election and that’s unfair. You could let each Congressional district return its own results, but under that sort of system the states lose their autonomy. The populations of states are reflected in the number of electors they get to send, so there’s not really all that much to get upset about. Anyway, no change can happen without a constitutional amendment, which is virtually impossible. We can cry all we like about the popular vote, but the popular vote doesn’t decide it.

            1. “But under a system of popular vote, the least populous states would have virtually no influence.”

              They would have influence as much as anyone else at the federal level which seems fair to me. It would have nothing to do with a state’s ability to run its own state government. The feds still help small states as much as large states (or at least proportionally) when it comes to natural disasters. I don’t see the problem you think the EC solves.

              The only argument that I’ve heard that made me think is that having every state run its own voting system is protection against outsiders hacking the vote. But after thinking about it, I realize it’s a stupid argument. The real problem is poor election system security. We know from the current election that only one or two states need to have their voting hacked to affect the election outcome. Everyone knew that PA was going to be a swing state and slow to count their votes.

              1. In a Parliamentary style government like Britain, the executive is formed from the representatives. If enough reps from one party are elected to form a stable government, the leader of that party is the leader of government. Parliament holds sovereignty, and the power of the executive is limited in that way. That’s not how it works in America. Though states are represented equally in the Senate and by population in the House, they cannot through representation elect the executive. Because of the wholly separate nature of the executive and the power that it wields independent of the legislature, I believe it is necessary to allow the states to elect the President. It’s as simple as that really.

            2. “Urban areas would dictate everything in a Presidential election and that’s unfair.”

              Kindly explain why its ‘fair’ for a minority to dictate to the majority?

              1. I’ve explained it like a dozen times already. This is a democratic republic, not a strict popular democracy. No minority dictates anything. It’s first past the post with each state giving its own results tally. The fact that the result doesn’t always follow the popular vote just shows the rebalancing that can sometimes happen because of the elevated importance of each individual state. The United States has too many states and it has become too big and practically ungovernable. In my opinion, it should be split apart. That’s mainly because Congress is no longer functional and the checks and balances don’t work. The electoral college is not the problem.

  2. “No pubs! What a bummer!” – pubs that provide food are allowed to do a takeaway /takeout service and this can include alcohol (unlike the first lockdown in March, when thousands of gallons of beer went down the drain).

    1. I think that in this lockdown pubs are allowed to offer takeaway booze without food, so long as orders are placed in advance by phone, email, text or (!) in writing.

      I’m tempted to write a letter to my nearest pub, The Mount Edgcumbe ( – c’mon and visit, it’s a great place!) to inform them that I intend to purchase four pints of Harvey’s Best on Sunday evening, if they would be so good as to get them ready.

  3. I remember fondly the television series Reilly, Ace of Spies, which made Sam Neill into a big star. It’s the second best TV series I’ve ever watched, after my all-time favorite I, Claudius.

    1. Yes, and the haunting theme music that I learned after long effort is by Shostakovich – from “The Gadfly”, IIRC, that brings me to tears whenever I hear it since I inevitably start to think of the monumental loss that was was Russia 1917-91.

  4. There is that series. “Reilly, Ace of Spies,” with Sam Neill, that is entertaining and interesting, although Reilly does not come across as a very sympathetic character, as perhaps he wasn’t.

  5. Face it – you live in a country that was willing to sit back & let Hitler conquer Europe along with his holocaust until the Japanese forced it to fight.

    Fascism runs deep in AmeriKKKa.

    1. You mean unlike Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, Greece, and the Soviet Union? (Not to mention Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, and Turkey, or Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria). And points to Britain and France for standing by Poland, but not too many, because they did just “stand by” while Hitler conquered her (and let’s not forget what they did for Czechoslovakia).

  6. I love almost all of Titania’s tweets, but I don’t love this one. People of color should have voted for Biden not because they were told to do so by woke white people, but because they could see for themselves what a piece of waste matter Trump is.

    (I mean, I understand what she’s getting at – white SJWs patronize people of color by treating them as an ideological monolith – but the tweet almost comes across as praising Trump voters for being so daring and nonconformist, and I don’t love that.)

  7. Georgia is still in play for Biden. They in GA who do the counting claim that they will finish at noon today. Although Trump is slightly ahead in the count, the remaining ballots are from urban and suburban counties which largely go for Biden.

  8. Concerning Butterworth’s tweet, we can be cheered by the countervailing fact that Biden is on track to win more than 300 electoral votes and more popular votes than any presidential candidate in history — possibly more than 80 million. Still, as encouraging as that fact is, I think it doesn’t obviate Butterworth’s point, which signifies that our country is rifted in two, most likely irreparably for the remainder of our lifetimes. Since it’s clear that the Trumpists and the rest of us have irreconcilable differences, I’m thinking that federalism is the best chance we all have to live in relative peace with one another, especially when brandishing deadly weapons in public is such a thing in the USA. Yes, I realize that federalism is an old conservative saw, but I, a liberal Leftie, am now looking at it in a new light.

    1. If populations segregated along state lines then sure, that might work. But I’m guessing you hold that view from California or New York or some other very blue state. Here in Wisconsin it is a close thing whether I’d be living in a democratic republic or a ruby colored theocracy.

      1. Your supposition is correct. I live in blue state Illinois, in Lake County, to be exact, not too far from the border of your Wisconsin. I realize that you live in the state that gave us McCarthy, Ryan, and Walker, but it’s also the state that has given us Proxmire, Feingold, and Baldwin. There is hope for a democratic republic in America’s Dairyland.

        1. Well, I’m not all that proud of Proxmire but I would add Gaylord Nelson to your list of positive contributions. And let us not forget Robert La Follette and Milwaukee’s Socialist mayors in further-past times!

          I just don’t want to live out my days in a red theocracy simply because I got unlucky when I settled down.

    2. Butterworth is not wrong about the coalition for Trump-like thoughts being there.

      But I wouldn’t read much into the 10m more votes. IIRC, easier mail-in voting tends to increase response overall, for both parties. So what we are seeing here may be better detection of Trump-likers, vice more of them. (And the same goes for Biden; big numbers may simply mean this year’s voting process gave us better detection of Biden-likers, not more of them.)

  9. Although Trump performed better than we thought he would, he still couldn’t overcome the huge advantage that being in the White House gives to a presidential candidate. This well-documented advantage was doubled in the case of Trump. The MSM had to report on his every word as he is the President. Ironically, his incompetency helped in this regard. The MSM felt duty-bound to report and discuss every stupid thing he did. This forces Fox News and the rest of the right-wing press to explain how this stupid thing was actually a smart thing which helped Trump in the minds of his base — not just the rabid ones, but the run-of-the-mill voters who live in the Fox News bubble.

    That all said, it still seems that the election has also proven that many find a populist strong man attractive. Partly this is just human nature but it is also the end-result of a decades-long campaign by the GOP to undermine respect for government that Dems have really done nothing to counter.

  10. Particularly since I’m in PA, my eyes stay mostly on PA. Interestingly, since last night the % reporting has dropped from 89 to 87%, while Joe’s % v. Dolt has gained from 48.1 to 48.4%. Only thing I can think is that now some provisional ballots have been included, and/or more mail-ins have arrived.

  11. As foundational (to molecular biology) and Nobel Award winning as it was, Tatum and Beadle’s One gene/One Protein hypothesis turned out to be wrong. Or rather, an oversimplification. We now know it is not strictly true – gene expression is quite a bit more complicated than envisioned by Tatum and Beadle.

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