Saturday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Saturday, November 21, 2020: National Gingerbread Cookie Day and, as Turkey Day is approaching, also National Cranberry Day, National Stuffing Day, National Gingerbread (by itself) Day, Pumpkin Pie Day. It’s also World Television Day (a UN holiday), and Alascatallo Day, honoring “a fictitious animal that is a cross between a moose and a walrus, that is said to have been bred by miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush around the turn of the twentieth century.” Sadly, I can’t find a single depiction of this animal online.

News of the Day:

The well-known environmental activist Erin Brockovich, subject of the eponymous movie that won Julia Roberts an Oscar, goes after Joe Biden in the Guardian for appointing a DuPont industry flak, Michael McCabe, as head of the new Environmental Protection Agency transition team (h/t Jez). Click on the screenshot below; here’s a quote:

Let us not forget where these chemicals came from and who is responsible for putting them in our environment. Let us not bring the fox back into the hen house. DuPont executives should have no place in the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reader Tom reported that the weights of supermarket turkeys, thanks to selective breeding, are increasing exponentially. (It’s gotten so bad that the breasts of the males are too big to enable them to mount females, so they’re bred via artificial insemination.) Tom said, “Here’s a fun turkey graph (original from Marginal Revolution). What happened c. 1980?” They have doubled in weight since 1930, thanks to the power of artificial selection. As Darwin said in The Origin, “Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organisation as something plastic, which they can model almost as they please.”

Trump has failed in his attempt to strong-arm Michigan Republican state legislators into changing their Electoral College vote to Trump, despite Biden’s win in the state. The legislators nevertheless left Washington saying that they would, as usual, certify the winner of the popular vote.

Here’s a funny Onion article on the vaccine (click on screenshot):

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 254,320, a big increase of about 2,000 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,379,441, a huge increase of about 12,000 over yesterday’s report—the biggest daily death toll I’ve seen yet. 

Stuff that happened on November 21 (a busy day!) includes:

Hanukkah goes from December 10-18 this year, and thus won’t overlap with Koynezaa (my personal holiday), which, as always, goes from December 25 through December 30 (my birthday).

Romer didn’t explicitly calculate the speed, but his data enabled other to calculate it at about 212,000 kilometers per second; the correct value is nearly 300,000 kilometers per second.

  • 1877 – Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a machine that can record and play sound.
  • 1905 – Albert Einstein‘s paper that leads to the mass–energy equivalence formula, E = mc², is published in the journal Annalen der Physik.

As I wrote before about this paper, ”

The paper is here (it’s only three pages), and I couldn’t find the equation in that form, but I believe it’s on the page below in the fourth paragraph from the bottom: “Gibt ein Körper die Energie L in Form von Strahlung ab, so verkleinert sich seine Masse um L/V².”

My rough German translates this as “If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, then  its mass will be reduced by L/V²”.  Rearranging, if mass is M, then the energy accompanying that loss of mass, where I use “m” to stand for mass, is L = mV².  Clearly Einstein was using “V” instead of “c” to stand for the speed of light, and, as he says, energy is “L.” If you use “E” and “c”, then E = mc². (I probably screwed up something here, but this is the best I can do at 6:00 a.m.)

  • 1918 – The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 is passed, allowing women to stand for Parliament in the UK.
  • 1920 – Irish War of Independence: In Dublin, 31 people are killed in what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
  • 1922 – Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia takes the oath of office, becoming the first female United States Senator.
  • 1953 – The Natural History Museum, London announces that the “Piltdown Man” skull, initially believed to be one of the most important fossilized hominid skulls ever found, is a hoax.
  • 1964 – The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opens to traffic. At the time it is the world’s longest bridge span.
  • 1980 – A deadly fire breaks out at the MGM Grand Hotel in Paradise, Nevada (now Bally’s Las Vegas). Eighty-seven people are killed and more than 650 are injured in the worst disaster in Nevada history.
  • 1985 – United States Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard is arrested for spying after being caught giving Israel classified information on Arab nations. He is subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Pollard was paroled for five years in 2015, and his parole expired this year—in fact, yesterday (federal “life sentences” mandate parole after 30 years if there’s good behavior). Here he is:

In fact, just yesterday the Washington Post wrote about his new freedom, with Pollard now planning to move to Israel (he’s on the left below):

  • 2002 – Arturo Guzmán Decena, founder of Los Zetas and high-member of the Gulf Cartel, was killed in a shoot-out with the Mexican Army and the police.
  • 2017 – Robert Mugabe formally resigns as President of Zimbabwe, after thirty-seven years in office.
  • 2019 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1694 – Voltaire, French historian, playwright, and philosopher (d. 1778)
  • 1898 – René Magritte, Belgian painter (d. 1967)

Here’s a fine Magritte: “La vocation” (1964):

  • 1902 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1991)
  • 1912 – Eleanor Powell, American actress and dancer (d. 1982)
  • 1920 – Stan Musial, American baseball player and manager (d. 2013)

Musial, who was the star of the St. Louis Cardinals, is my favorite ballplayer of all time. He was a fantastic player and a gentleman on the field: I’m told he never once questioned an umpire’s call. My father saw him play many times; I saw him play but once, in the twilight of his career. He’s a short video about Stan the Man (or “the Donora Greyhound”)—clicking will take you to the YouTube video.

Musial batted .331 over the course of his career and set National League (NL) records for career hits (3,630), runs batted in (1,951), games played (3,026), at bats (10,972), runs scored (1,949) and doubles (725). His 475 career home runs then ranked second in NL history behind Mel Ott’s total of 511. His 6,134 total bases remained a major league record until surpassed by Hank Aaron, and his hit total still ranks fourth all-time, and is the highest by any player who spent his career with only one team. A seven-time batting champion with identical totals of 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, he was named the National League’s (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and led St. Louis to three World Series championships. He also shares the major league record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays

  • 1945 – Goldie Hawn, American actress, singer, and producer
  • 1965 – Björk, Icelandic singer-songwriter

Those who became quiescent on November 21 include:

  • 1695 – Henry Purcell, English organist and composer (b. 1659)
  • 1945 – Robert Benchley, American humorist, newspaper columnist, and actor (b. 1889)
  • 2017 – David Cassidy, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1950)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on Andrezj’s stomach, preventing him from getting off the couch and back to work at his desk:

Hili: There are places that are conducive to thinking.
A: I know but I have to go back to work.
In Polish:

Hili: Są miejsca, które sprzyjają myśleniu.
Ja: Ja wiem, ale muszę wracać do pracy.

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Seth Andrews on Facebook, who apparently doesn’t see that there is no such thing as “objective morality”!

From Thomas: this Twitter thread by actor Edward Norton has gone viral; it purports to explain all of Trump’s behavior as a way to obviate his impending legal troubles. It’s going over and reading the whole thing:

From Barry. I’m not sure what the two cat personalities are:

From Enrico. The d*gs recognize their masters:

A fantastic tweet found by Merilee. NO KID LEFT UNHUGGED! (Sound up.)

Tweets from Matthew. What’s doing with all these ducklings?

Life is short, except for trees:

A cold hystrichomorph:

Another of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions.

44 Comments

  1. jezgrove
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    “It’s gotten so bad that the breasts of the males are too big to enable them to mount females, so they’re bred via artificial insemination.” Is it cruel to wonder if the artificial insemination is achieved using turkey basters?

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      The insemination process raises questions but it’s the other end of the procedure that puzzles me. I suppose our society is sufficiently specialized for one to make a career of turkey wanking. I now have something else to be thankful for.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      How turkeys are inseminated, from the Dirty Jobs television series:

    • darwinwins
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      You mean God didn’t create turkeys that way?

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Trump has failed in his attempt to strong-arm Michigan Republican state legislators into changing their Electoral College vote to Trump, despite Biden’s win in the state.

    He moved on them very heavily, but he couldn’t get there. Maybe he should have tried taking them furniture shopping.

    • SA GOULD
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the update. I hold my breath on these things…

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    … (federal “life sentences” mandate parole after 30 years if there’s good behavior).

    Parole for federal inmates was abolished by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Pollard qualified for parole because his offense had occurred before the effective date of the Sentencing Reform Act; thus, application of the Act to him would have violated the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws.

    A federal life sentence now means “natural life” — viz., no chance of release (save a presidential pardon or commutation of sentence).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Many never forgave Judge Aubrey Robinson for sentencing Pollard to prison, irrespective of his guilt or innocence or protecting America from amoral people like Pollard. They cared nothing for justice, all they wanted to do was protect Pollard, and they’re as guilty as he is for championing a spy. Dershowitz is one of them. He called Judge Robinson a “Mau-Mau judge.” Dershowitz is the legal Mau-Mau — as long as he has on his tightie whities.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    “the first quantitative measurements of the speed of light.“

    The speed of light cannot and will not be measured : https://youtu.be/pTn6Ewhb27k

    • jezgrove
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Good grief – interesting video, now my brain hurts!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      … perhaps “will not” is a bit of an over-the-top prophecy, but the assumption is, as always, based on the sum total of knowledge as of today, and assuming further that there will not be a profound change in understanding in the future, which would then lead to an understanding that bears upon making experimental measurements, which in turn would have a direct bearing upon what we know as, the speed of light…. you know, science!

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I saw that Onion piece yesterday and love that proline is mentioned along with lipid and mRNA. An indication of creeping scientific literacy in at least a segment of the population.

    (I’d love to see an explanation of why the proline substitutions in the code with the Moderna vaccine, too — if it conforms to what I expect is the basis for them, and also whether other variants were tested.)

  6. finknottle
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know that Stan Musial was Jerry’s favorite. I know my baseball history inside and out and am familiar with his astonishing career. But I grew up in the Boston market and NL players could be a bit overlooked. Oh and the man in the center of the video pic, Mr. Williams, simply towered over baseball culture in these parts. We are never allowed to forget that he flew combat missions in both WWII and Korea — costing him prime years of his career. They say he would have owned virtually every batting record if he wasn’t otherwise occupied being an American war hero

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      … he [Ted Williams] flew combat missions in both WWII and Korea …

      Teddy Ballgame was commissioned as a Naval aviator (and Marine 2nd Lt.) in WWII, but I think he served as a flight instructor and didn’t fly any combat missions until the conflict in Korea (where he was future astronaut and US senator John Glenn’s wingman).

      • John Dentinger
        Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Working as a night janitor during the summer college hiatus, I used to sneak up to the roof of the old Taylor Instrument plant to listen to my favorite, “The Great One” play for the Pirates. KDKA was so powerful that it came in loud & clear in Rochester, NY. Green Weenie power!

  7. jezgrove
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    An English language version of a Middle East satirical website like the Onion has just been launched: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/20/onion-style-arabic-satirical-news-website-launches-english-edition-al-hudood

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    From that twitter thread, it seems Edward Norton picked up some moxie about Texas Hold ‘Em playing the role of “Worm” in Rounders:

    • BJ
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I’ve read about him playing high-stakes poker for years. I’ve always liked him as an actor, at least when he’s trying (he certainly wasn’t in e.g. Red Dragon), but he always seemed like a bit of a smug dick in person. Still, he just shot up the likability index for me with this tweet:
      “I will allow that he’s also a whiny, sulky, petulant, Grinchy, vindictive little 10-ply-super-soft bitch who no doubt is just throwing a wicked pout fest & trying to give a tiny-hand middle finger to the whole country for pure spite, without a single thought for the dead & dying”

      “10-ply-super-soft bitch” is just about as sick as a burn can get!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 21, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        Norton had a helluva debut in Primal Fear. And he’s given some great performances over the years — American History X, Fight Club, 25th Hour, and Birdman are the first to come to mind. And it was a kick to see him sharing the screen with De Niro and Brando in The Score.

        • BJ
          Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          No doubt! He’s a phenomenal actor. And The Score is criminally underrated, to the point where, if you were still practicing and we could charge people for underrating movies, you’d have a lot of clients. It’s weird that Frank Oz directed it, and even weirder that Brando is somehow good in it. That was the last movie Brando was in, he hadn’t been in another movie for three years before it, and he died three years later. And this was after he reached his nadir in The Island of Dr. Moreau. All he did was sit around in a bathrobe. But damn it, he worked out.

        • Mark R.
          Posted November 21, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          I recently watched Motherless Brooklyn where Norton plays a private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome. I enjoyed the movie, and even if the movie sucked, it is worth watching Norton’s brilliant and hilarious acting. He’s always great at playing people with ticks and mental disorders (real or not).

          • BJ
            Posted November 21, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            I kept seeing that show up on the movie channels, but i never watched it because it didn’t sound particularly interesting. I’ll give it a shot now.

  9. Robert J Van Orden
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The Brooklyn tower of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was built in my hometown of South Plainfield NJ by Harris Structural Steel.

    It’s a red brick factory, the type fitted with tracks and a crane so train cars could be loaded and on the grounds. It’s adjacent to the Lehigh Line; per Thomas Harris’ NY Times obituary the Company were involved in a number of large NYC construction projects. The crane is still operational, though as far as I can tell they are more of a trucking company these days.

  10. pablo
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I read somewhere that the Maccabees were the Taliban of ancient Israel. They’d kill any Hebrew they thought was acting too Greek.

  11. Historian
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    The future Biden administration is already being attacked by elements within the Democratic Party even before it takes power. It is being accused of being too cozy with the Woke while simultaneously getting in bed with the business interests, such as implied by Erin Brockovich. If either or both of these charges pan out then Biden has more to fear than just the Republicans, which is bad enough. The Democratic Party is made up of a coalition of many disparate interests. This means that it will be virtually impossible for any Democrat to be pleased totally with what Biden will do. This creates a built-in advantage for Republicans that one can be sure they will exploit. This situation, in combination with a likely Republican control of the Senate and a narrow Democratic majority in the House, will make it extraordinary difficult for Biden to get his legislative agenda passed. He will be forced to fall back on executive orders, as did Trump. Biden will stop Trump’s insanity and attack on democracy, but his seeming belief that he will restore some idealized version of American government that he remembers from his Senate days where all groups work together with a willingness to compromise for the common good is pure fantasy.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

      — Will Rodgers, 1935

      Plus ça change …

    • Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      His choice of EPA team leader is shockingly bad. He could at least have gotten a neutral person.

    • SA GOULD
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      ABT. Anyone But Trump. That’s what I hoped for, and that’s all I got. Which is enough for now.

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    “Strongarm? Surely not. There was no physical intimidation. No peaceful protest. I think the correct word would be convince or, at worst, browbeat.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      However one may choose to characterize it, Trump’s summonsing state legislators to the White House in an effort to convince them to undermine the results of an election was an illegitimate exercise of presidential power and, arguably, constituted a criminal violation of 18 USC section 242.

    • Paul Topping
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I’d say browbeat was the least Trump did. Judging by the letter they wrote, and reading between the lines, it really sounds like Trump tried to bribe them with COVID funds for their state. Of course, they won’t admit that. Then again, it might just be very slim cover for their totally inappropriate visit to the White House.

      https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2020/11/20/biden-adviser-michigan-lawmakers-cant-intervene-election-result/6355274002/

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 21, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Once the Biden administration’s new attorney general settles into office at Main Justice, Messers. Shirkey and Chatfield, the two Michigan Republican legislative leaders, may find themselves served with federal grand jury subpoenas and called upon to answer those questions upon pain of perjury.

        I seriously doubt they’ll risk lying, or do down time on civil contempt, for ex-president Donald Trump.

        Why they agreed to take the meeting in the first place is a mystery to me. Maybe Trump promised to comp them some trinkets from the White House souvenir shop, or a couple MAGA hats.

      • Mark R.
        Posted November 21, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        For all of Trump’s self-aggrandizement as being a great deal maker, it seems the only kind of deal he ever tries to make is of the quid pro quo variety. There’s not much in his arsenal of tactics, just dirty tricks.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. I say strong arm robbery does not involve violence, but the threat of violence, and a weapon is not used.

  13. Posted November 21, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The appointment of Michael McCabe is a pretty typical move for Democrats (too). You could argue that it’s a good thing to have someone on your side who knows how corporations operate. Unfortunately, there are not really two “sides”, but one, the interests of corporations. It’s not balancing their commercial interests against well-being of people of environment, but balancing short-term interests of the company against its long-term interests. Someone such elastic to even defend pollution with a known harmful substance is also susceptible to being bought, which is perfectly legal in the USA.

    Other than that, (German, original*) gingerbread is the best sweet. This is as uncontroversial as the theory of evolution. That is to say, some gingerbread creationists exist, but they are wrong.


    * yes, earlier, lesser, unrefined forms were invented elsewhere.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I agree, naming a Dupont executive as the one to rebuild the EPA might not be a smart move. On the other hand, we do not really know McCabe, maybe uncle Joe knows things we do not.

  14. Paul Topping
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Ironically, this year people want smaller turkeys as they are not meeting with their extended families over Thanksgiving due to the pandemic. In response, the turkey factories are slaughtering their birds two weeks early so they’re the right size. Poor birds!

  15. Martin Stubbs
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    An artist’s depiction of an alascattalo https://twitter.com/mck_alice/status/932979295206510592/photo/1

  16. darwinwins
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    You are right. Einstein expressed mass-energy equivalence as energy divided by the speed of light squared rather than e=mc^2. The upper-case V notation for the speed of light was Maxwell’s. I thought Einstein used c but I guess that came later.

    • Posted November 21, 2020 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I’d like to add this excerpt from the earthsky website:
      “Interestingly, the equation E=mc2 does not appear in “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy-Content?” That’s because Einstein used V to mean the speed of light in a vacuum and L to mean the energy lost by a body in the form of radiation.

      E=mc2 was not originally written as a formula but as a sentence in German that meant:

      …if a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/V2. ”

      https://earthsky.org/human-world/this-date-in-science-emc2#:~:text=Bottom%20line%3A%20On%20September%2027,%2C%20or%20E%3Dmc2.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted November 22, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Einstein worked out the kinetic energy K = mv^2 difference for a certain photon process at an initial energy L and velocity V as delta-K = LV^-2 v^2/2, i.e. m = LV^-2 or in modern notation E = mc^2.

        I’m pretty sure that if L was L_1-L_2 it would have been written such (but that would be on the page before).

  17. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    The timeline of turkey weights raises some puzzling questions about, if not exactly evolution through selection, then at least the operation of the turkey breeding industry. First, there is an impressive ~42% rise in weight from 1930 to the late 1940s. Then a sharp, mysterious 11% drop, and then essentially stasis during the 1950s. Then a slow but steady 11% rise from 1960 to 1980, and after that a faster-than-linear rise from 1980 to 2010. I wonder what explains these kinetics?

  18. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 21, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Hallelujah! Hilli’s back to recognizable size. But I’d bet she’s more than miffed because she yearns to be monumental in every way, embiggened beyond belief.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted November 21, 2020 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      She’s the most cromulent cat ever.


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