Friday: Hili dialogue

November 20, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the end of the work week already: Friday, November 20, 2020: National Peanut Butter Fudge Day. It’s also National Absurdity Day and Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

I am going to the dentist this morning, so posting may be light. But you’ll be glad to know that my post-op appointment for hernia surgery inspection showed all was healing perfectly.

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot below) celebrates Benoit Mandelbrodt, born on this day in 1924 and considered the “Father of Fractal Geometry”. Clicking on the picture takes you to an intractive site where you can explore fracalism or fractality, or whatever they call it

News of the day:

Here’s the new state flag adopted by Mississippi. The old one had the Confederate “stars and bars”. The old one is odious; the new one is merely unconstitutional (h/t Stephen):

Matthew is even more famous than before! His new book, The Idea of the Brain, has gotten a very positive review in the Guardian. The money quote:

“So runs the argument of the zoologist Matthew Cobb’s rich and fascinating book, which divides neatly into two parts, or hemispheres. . .”

In other news, Franco is still dead and Trump, whose loss is being confirmed, still won’t concede the election. Yesterday, Georgia’s recount of its votes confirmed Biden as the winner, by 12,284 votes.

In his continuing mendacity, Trump, who lost Michigan by a substantial number of votes, is trying to overturn the electoral process there by iinviting Michigan state Republican lawmakers to the White House. As the NYT explains, this is likely an attempt to get the legislators to overturn the rules (all Michigan’s electoral votes go to Biden). Biden’s getting ticked off:

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that President Trump was showing “incredible irresponsibility” by contesting the results of the presidential election and delaying the beginning of a transition process.

“Incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” Mr. Biden said, adding that Mr. Trump’s reaction would ensure that he is remembered “as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 252,373, a big increase of about 2,000 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,367,5721, a huge increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s report. Nearly ten thousand people died!

Stuff that happened on November 20 include:

  • 1789 – New Jersey becomes the first U.S. state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
  • 1805 – Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, premieres in Vienna.
  • 1820 – An 80-ton sperm whale attacks and sinks the Essex (a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts) 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America. (Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick is in part inspired by this story.)
  • 1945 – Nuremberg trials: Trials against 24 Nazi war criminals start at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg.

A tweet found by Matthew showing the Nuremberg Court:

Here’s a short newsreel showing the Nuremberg verdicts (I believe I’ve posted this recently):

  • 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis ends: In response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ends the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.
  • 1969 – Vietnam War: The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) publishes explicit photographs of dead villagers from the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam.

Here’s the headline that day, and if you want to see some of the photos (gruesome) go here.

  • 1993 – Savings and loan crisis: The United States Senate Ethics Committee issues a stern censure of California senator Alan Cranston for his “dealings” with savings-and-loan executive Charles Keating.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1733 – Philip Schuyler, American general and senator (d. 1804)

Scuyler was the father-in-law of Alexander Hamilton; we met him the other day.

  • 1889 – Edwin Hubble, American astronomer and cosmologist (d. 1953)
  • 1908 – Alistair Cooke, British-American journalist and author (d. 2004)
  • 1923 – Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist, short story writer, and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1936 – Don DeLillo, American novelist, essayist, and playwright

Have you read any DeLillo books? If so, which do you recommend.

  • 1939 – Dick Smothers, American actor and comedian
  • 1941 – Dr. John, American singer and songwriter (d. 2019)

Here’s Dr. John (real name Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. ) with one of his great songs, “Such a night”:

Suze Rotola, a friend of a friend of mine, died a while back; somebody needs to correct the Wikipedia entry to reflect her death. Here is her moment of glory with Dylan on the cover of his “Freewheelin” album:

  • 1948 – John R. Bolton, American lawyer and diplomat, 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Those whose lives ended on November 20 include:

  • 1910 – Leo Tolstoy, Russian author and playwright (b. 1828)
  • 1973 – Allan Sherman, American actor, comedian, and producer (b. 1924)
  • 1976 – Trofim Lysenko, Ukrainian-Russian biologist and agronomist (b. 1898)

Lysenko is the model of a. confirmation bias and b. what happens when a government adopts an ideology that goes counter to the facts. Millions died because of this man and Stalin, and Lysenko suffered no punishments. He looks evil, doesn’t he? He was: a miscreant and a charlatan:

  • 2006 – Robert Altman, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1925)
  • 2018 – Aaron Klug, Lithuanian-English chemist and biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is getting impertinent as winter comes on:

Hili: I’ve read that cat food is unhealthy for cats.
A: Really?
Hili: Yes, you should buy me a fresh sirloin every day.
In Polish:
Hili: Czytałam, że ta karma nie jest dla kotów zdrowa.
Ja: Naprawdę?
Hili: Tak, powinieneś mi codziennie kupować świeżą polędwicę.

A meme from Nicole; cartoon by Mark Parisi:

From Woody:

From Jesus of the Day (and I hope this isn’t “fake news”):

I tweeted this, but the article with photos came from reader David:

Titania on International Men’s Day:

From Barry, who adds, “A hedgehog and your least favorite domesticated animal (with a great expression)”:

Tweets from Matthew. The Rodent of Size was set free:


Matthew and I both have beloved but time-battered bears:

There is precious little good news these days:

Mr Crow sez: “If you don’t have a playmate, play with yourself.”


54 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I saw the bit about Don Dellilo and misread it as Don Camillo. I’ve never read any Dellilo but will now take a look. For anyone interested in Camillo he is a character in Giovanni Guareschi’s series about life in a little town in Italy just after WW2. Well worth reading.

    1. The BBC did several nice radio series based on the Italian Don Camillo stories, but sadly they aren’t available now.

  2. The question to ask of those two Michigan election officials is – Why are you getting on that airplane. I guess some of the cult would jump off a cliff.

  3. I was surprised that Giuliani’s extraordinary rant didn’t get a mention, although it was rather overshadowed by his poor choice of hair dye.

    1. Her last name is spelled Rotolo and her Wikipedia entry lists her date of death as February 25, 2011, last edited a month ago.

    2. I watched the entire presser with Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and the rest of Trump’s “legal strike force” on YouTube. (It’s available here.) It may be the most bizarre thing I’ve ever scene. In addition to a massive, widespread fraud coordinated from the top, they’re alleging that Biden’s victory over Trump was the result of an international communist conspiracy somehow involving Venezuela, Cuba, the Clinton Foundation, globalists, Antifa, and George Soros (among others).

      I thought this kinda paranoid crap went out of fashion with the John Birch Society, but apparently not. What an embarrassment to this nation.

    3. It’s the sort of thing that, if it happened in a movie in a banana republic, we’d all dismiss as over-the-top Hollywood fantasising.

      Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

  4. The A&W burger story is true:

    One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

    Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray.

    1. I guess if A & W had gone for a 1/2 pounder they would also have lost. A two is smaller than four. The people eating at McDonald’s are just fractionally stupid.

      1. I guess the clever marketing thing for them would have been to put out a 1/5 pound burger. Charge more for it, use less beef…get money from innumerate people, possibly slightly decreasing their overall reproduction rate…

        1. “My dad gave me one dollar bill,
          ‘Cause I’m his smartest son.
          And I swapped it for two shiny quarters,
          ‘Cause two is more than one!”
          -Shel Silverstein

  5. Have you read any DeLillo books? If so, which do you recommend.

    White Noise and Underworld. The opening chapter of the latter, “Pafko at the Wall,” was published as a stand-alone short story in Harper’s. If you’re a subscriber, you can access it here.

    1. I enjoyed White Noise, and I have Underworld on my reading list…what a tome. But my favorite of his I think is Mao II. I loved the characters, especially the novelist Bill Gray. And it has some interesting commentary on cults and cultists, which is ironic seeing what happened to many Trump worshipers- “the future belongs to crowds”. Lastly, I enjoyed his recreation of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra.

  6. The Mandelbrot doodle cannot go without the joke: what does the B in Benoit B Mandelbrot stand for?

    Benoit B Mandelbrot.

      1. I’ve tried Firefox and Chrome in addition to my normal Safari browser. All the same… no way for me to get emailed comments.

  7. I should have put this in /c ref to Billy Sunday yesterday, but got sidetracked. I thought the name Christakis sounded familiar when I recently heard it, and indeed he was late of the Sillman College @ Yale imbroglio. He’s surfaced again, in a spot on NPR about COVID and ramifications, asserting among other things that it will result in a rise in religiosity. I don’t think that will happen because now we know exactly what the epidemic is due to and what to do about it. So the ignorant and already religious may become more religious, but those who aren’t already will surely follow what’s going on scientifically and not run for magical answers. They might also note the fates of holy-rollers like Landon Spradlin who took a powder precisely because his personal jesus told him that it was all a hoax.

    But back 102yrs ago when we didn’t even know what a virus was, I don’t doubt that religiousity increased in the fact of the 1918 Flu Epidemic, altho I don’t recall specifically reading about that aspect. And that gets to historical figures like Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson. Their rise stemmed from latching onto the newly-arrived miracle of radio to spread their message. Were they preaching to an audience newly-receptive because of the 1918 flu?

  8. Joe Biden, American politician, 47th Vice President of the United States, current President-elect of the United States

    Happy birthday, Mr. President…
    [holds skirt down…]

  9. Among old composers, Google Doodle does not too badly:

    Bach, Beethoven, Mozart.

    IMHO, too bad Mahler is missing.

    Mathematicians, not so good.

    Nice to see Mandelbrot there, and Newton, Turing both as well, at another level altogether.

    But missing among 20th century giants:

    Early: Poincare, Hilbert, Godel

    More recent: Grothendieck, Serre, Atiyah.

    All these are an order of magnitude more important, if less famous to the masses.

  10. It is also the birthday (1981) of Scott Hutchison, late frontman of the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit. He was a wonderful man and musician who is still very much missed by those who knew him and his music.

  11. Re:”Suze Rotola, a friend of a friend of mine, died a while back; somebody needs to correct the Wikipedia entry to reflect her death. Here is her moment of glory with Dylan on the cover of his “Freewheelin” album:”

    Suze RotolO passed away in 2011. She has her own Wikipedia article which has die many years mentioned her death

    I surmise you mean it should be mentioned in the lengthy Wikipedia article on Dylan’s album “The FreeWheelin’ Bob Dylan” which mentions Rotolo well over a dozen times in different context, but never mentions her death.

    I’ll try to find a way to work it in.

    1. The Wikipedia The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album article doesn’t directly relate to Suze Rotolo, apart from her appearance on the cover, so her death isn’t relevant to it, so I don’t think you need to “work it in” at all. As you say, the date of her death is included in her own article, which the album’s one links to.

      1. Yes, I realized this AFTER I posted the previous comment. But I saw people honestly defending Valerie Solanas at this point, Poe Law’s is very to fall for these days.

  12. For those of you tweeting about “International Women’s Day”, a quick reminder of what it is you’re celebrating…

    Ok, fine, I forgot that Titania McGrath is a satire account when I read this. But I saw so many unironically tweets such as this that is very easy to fall for Poe’s Law. (And you have a history of quoting people such as Phyllis Chesler, who unironically wrote an article defending Valerie Solanas, Coyne.

    1. Well, la-dee-dah, we have a rude one here and someone indicting me because I quoted “people such as Phyllis Chesler, who unironically defended Valerie Solanas.” I don’t defend Valerie Solanas, and never did, so, Bannach, you can get your rude tuchas off this site. You made no contribution here and won’t get a chance to make further ones.

      I do not like to be called “Coyne”, by the way, but that’s the least of your transgressions.

Leave a Reply