Friday: Hili dialogue

December 11, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the end of the week: Friday, December 11. 2020, and 2021 is coming on us like gangbusters. It’s National Noodle Ring Day, a concoction of noodles, eggs, cheese, and past a cooked in a ring mold, comme ça:

Not very appetizing, eh? As one of my friends used to say when faced with a dish like that, “Are you gonna eat that? Or did you already eat that?”

And once again it’s National Have a Bagel Day (without the scare quotes around “have a bagel” this time), a day that seems to have occurred three times in the last week.  It’s also International Mountain Day, and the first full day of Hanukkah, which began last night and lasts until sundown a week from today. (Remember, too that the sacred festival of Coynezaa begins on December 25 and lasts six full days.)

I’m quite dispirited today so posting may be light. As always, and like Maru, I do my best.

News of the Day:

According to HuffPost (and those three words alone should make your toes curl), the “progressive” Democrats are already kvetching about Biden’s cabinet choices. Either they’re not “diverse” enough (I think he’s done a good job with that), they’re old and we need “fresh voices,” or Biden knows them (“cronyism”). As Ricky Nelson sang in “Garden Party” (remember that?), “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

“Cut and married in droves”: the NYT reports on an epidemic of genital mutilation and child marriages in Kenya (sometimes the “brides” are 10 years old or younger), a plague exacerbated by social unrest accompanying the pandemic.

By now you know that yesterday the FDA advisory panel voted 17-4, with one abstention, to recommend approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. I’m writing this on Thursday evening; by Friday morning I expect the FDA to approve it, and the jabs to begin on Monday. I expect every man, woman, and other on this site to get their shot unless they have a good medical reason why not.

Things are getting really bad, and just when vaccination is starting up (the deaths on 9-11 were 2977, and if we have 3,000 deaths per day for 60 days (the lower estimate below), the total toll will be 473,000 at the end of that period—a figure that was unimaginable last spring. Half a million deaths!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 292,747, a big increase of about 2,923 from yesterday’s figure—about 2 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,590,689, another big increase of about 12,700 over yesterday’s report—about 9 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 11 includes:

  • 1688 – Glorious Revolution: James II of England, while trying to flee to France, throws the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames.

But the Great Seal simply swam away. (I’ll be here all year, folks.)

  • 1917 – World War I: British General Edmund Allenby enters Jerusalem on foot and declares martial law.
  • 1934 – Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, takes his last drink and enters treatment for the final time.
  • 1936 – Abdication Crisis: Edward VIII’s abdication as King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, and Emperor of India, becomes effective.
  • 1941 – World War II: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the Americans’ declaration of war on the Empire of Japan in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States, in turn, declares war on them.

Here’s the declaration of war on Japan (yes, it is a document):

Here’s Che speaking in his fatigues to the UN. 2½ years later he was killed while fomenting insurrection in Bolivia. He was 39.

October 10, 1967: Guevara’s body is displayed the day after his execution:

That mission had a lunar rover, driven here by Eugene Cernan:

  • 1978 – The Lufthansa heist is committed by a group led by Lucchese family associate Jimmy Burke. It was the largest cash robbery ever committed on American soil, at that time.
  • 2006 – Felipe Calderón, the President of Mexico, launches a military-led offensive to put down the drug cartel violence in the state of Michoacán. This effort is often regarded as the first event in the Mexican Drug War.
  • 2008 – Bernard Madoff is arrested and charged with securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Notables born on this day include:

He died on his birthday. As Wikipedia notes:

Kamehameha V did not name a successor. He died on December 11, 1872, while the preparations for his birthday celebration were underway. As Lot [his given name was Lot Kapuāiwa] lay bedstricken, he answered those that came to visit him: “The Good Lord cannot take me today, today is my birthday”

But the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Koch, below, won the Prize for discovering the bacillus that caused tuberculosis, but he also discovered the causative agents of cholera and anthrax, and did much more in microbiology.

  • 1882 – Max Born, German physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1970)
  • 1918 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2008)
  • 1943 – John Kerry, American lieutenant, lawyer, and politician, 68th United States Secretary of State
  • 1944 – Brenda Lee, American singer-songwriter

Lee was only 4’9″ tall, which is why she’s called “little” in this video. But she had a huge voice:

Wikipedia left out that Charpentier is now a Nobel Laureate, who won with Jennifer Doudna this year for the CRISPR-Cas9 system. There’s a footnote to that effect (the “8”), but Nobel Laureates are designated in the description, not in a footnote.  We have Wikipedia editors here, so please fix that!

Those whose life was quenched on December 11 include:

  • 1872 – Kamehameha V of Hawaii (b. 1830) [see above]
  • 1964 – Sam Cooke, American singer-songwriter (b. 1931)

Cooke, dead at only 33, was shot in the heart in a motel in Los Angeles; the circumstances were unclear. He wrote and sang what I consider the best civil rights song ever, and one of the best soul songs of all time, “A Change is Gonna Come“:


  • 2008 – Bettie Page, American model (b. 1923)
  • 2012 – Ravi Shankar, Indian-American sitar player and composer (b. 1920)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t like all the sparrows. Malgorzata explains: “Hili is territorial and rational. She knows that she can’t eat them all and there were so many that she felt it as a taking over of her property.”

Hili: We have swarms of sparrows in the garden.
A: So what?
Hili: I’m thinking whether to chase them away or just to keep looking.
In Polish:
Hili: Mamy chmarę wróbli w ogrodzie.
Ja: I co z tego?
Hili: Zastanawiam się, wygonić, czy tylko patrzeć.

And here’s Szaron:

From Ursula:

Seen on Facebook:

From Marie:

From reader Barry. I’m worried about this animal. What is it? It is deformed or injured? Sound up, because the sound is almost as bad as its appearance. UPDATE: After asking what this is on Twitter, I got an answer, which I put below the tweet

Also from Barry. You’ll want to read all 8 tweets in the thread to see what the excitement was about:

From Simon. I didn’t have the cojones to write about this, but my friend Melissa Chen tweeted it. The story is true if you check the links:

Tweets from Matthew, the first one being his own.  Click on the text to see the last three sentences of the excerpt:

I’ve had cats but never Christmas trees. Do they really do this? Apparently so—unless a bunch of wags are sticking cats into the trees. I guess cats have an innate desire to climb, and Christmas is the only time an indoor cat sees a real tree.

Matthew asks (in caps), “DOES IT HURT?”  I don’t know: what is it like to be a deer? It sure looks gruesome!

. . . and they deserved it:

Okay, what is this thing? Be sure to click on the photo to the right.

41 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I’ve added “and Nobel laureate” to Charpentier’s entry on Wikipedia’s 11 December page (her Nobel prize was correctly mentioned in the opening paragraph of the main article about her).

  2. I drove the family nuts playing “A Change Is Gonna Come” on repeat on 5 November 2008. Twelve years on, it turns out that I was a little over-optimistic sadly.

  3. 3000 deaths per day for next 60 days….just spitballing here (as a former math modeling guy) but to first order if we use a logistic curve for cumulative infections per day, and its inflection point is around 50per cent of u.s. population (u.s. population is around 330M), and we are just above 15M cases now (with total infections perhaps 5-10 times that number): if cases =infections ie 15M, then number of new casesand thus daily deaths will continue to accelerate for weeks; if infections = 5x15M, cases and daily deaths will continue to accelerate but not as long; if infections are 10x15M already, then new cases and daily deaths arenow peaking andwill slowly drop in the coming weeks. Of course at some point the effect of the number of people being removed from the susceptable population via vaccination should be seen. So regardless of current number of infecteds, we are on the steep upslope of the curve right now. I will be happy to be corrected by anyone with real expertise in epidemiology.

  4. As Ricky Nelson sang in “Garden Party” (remember that?) …

    Sure, it’s when Ricky went through a bit of a Dylanesque metamorphosis, in his case going from teen idol to country folk-rock singer. Reminds me a little of the transformation Bobby Darin had undergone somewhat earlier, from a junior Rat-Pack-style nightclub singer to a socially conscious folk musician.

    I never related to Ricky Nelson the way I did to Bobby Darin, but both of ’em died tragically young — Ricky in a plane crash, Bobby from a childhood heart condition.

  5. Eugene Cernan lent his name to the Cernan Earth & Space Center of Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It’s a wonderful place, open to the public, with many programs and shows. During this time of the pandemic, of course, many of those programs have been suspended. Check the Center’s Website for more information.

  6. “But the Great Seal simply swam away. (I’ll be here all year, folks.)”

    Whilst we’re doing seal jokes … one of the great offices of state in Britain rejoices in the title of Lord Privy Seal. Curiously, the Lord Privy Seal is not a member of the House of Lords. When the title was bestowed on Ernest Bevin, a noted British politician of the mid 20th century, he is said to have remarked that he was neither a Lord, nor a privy, nor a seal.

  7. Have always had cats but no Xmas trees. I think they would more likely strip all the decorations off as high as they can reach. More likely that photo is staged. Cats are atheist.

    1. Randall,

      We’ve always had both cats and trees and every cat climbed every tree until they were aged 3 or 4. Then they seem to give up – since height attained was inversely proportional to size they probably no longer felt safe given the size of tree we could fit at home.

      One year when new kittens and Christmas coincided we effectively got five new active baubles for the tree. We took the lights and non-plastic baubles off and let them get on with it, often accompanied by the worried cries of mama cat prowling at the bottom.

      Bauble batting was also at 100% of kitties but one Siamese cat would steal and hide -aka “leave when bored” – baubles throughout her life.

      Our latest – Mozzie – pretty much lived within the tree over his first two Christmases. This made adjusting baubles and placing/moving presents surprisingly dangerous for the unwary!

      Not saying the photos aren’t posed but there’s a good chance they aren’t


      1. Cats are always in search of the next Mt Everest. Trees, ladders, bookcases, that 1.25″ open door top ledge … all worked fine, for my felines, from kittenhood to 14yo.

      2. I hope our cats never stop climbing trees. This is their main escape route from dogs and coyotes so I want them to keep in practice. They are now 4 years old and still occasionally go up our trees and run around on our roof. If they stop doing it, I may have to chase them myself or physically place them in the trees. 😉

    2. Yes, as I remember from my youth with christmas trees*, that is my impression too, getting a jumping hit at a bauble is the thing most cats are interested in. However, we had one cat who was more interested in climbing, and toppling the tree in the process. And more than once at that (can’t remember the solution though).
      * [I live in South Africa now, and a christmas tree in high summer somehow doesn’t fit. haven’t had a christmas tree for decades.]

  8. FWIW, if anyone is curious about what the changes in the RNA segments that the Moderna (and, apparently, the Pfizer, too) vaccines have that result in proline substitutions at two places in the SARS-CoV-2 spike segment (Moderna)/protein (Pfizer), I finally found this article in Chemical and Engineering News that lays it all out.

    This is beyond cool, and should be a poster child highlighting the value of basic research since, without that, we’d be light-years behind in developing an effective vaccine.

  9. 1941 – World War II: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the Americans’ declaration of war on the Empire of Japan in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States, in turn, declares war on them.

    The last time the US congress exercised its sole power to declare war under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the constitution — though sometimes it seems we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, or maybe Eurasia, ever since.

  10. ” the “progressive” Democrats are already kvetching about Biden’s cabinet choices”

    The Bernie bros helped Trump into the WH and they’ll do it again for ‘purity’.

    1. It’s similar to the mentality that leads a jealous, jilted, or unrequited lover to kill the object of his* affection rather than let anyone else be with them.

      *It’s usually men.

  11. He [Sam Cooke] wrote and sang what I consider the best civil rights song ever, and one of the best soul songs of all time, “A Change is Gonna Come“ …

    I agree it’s the best civil rights song ever, but when it comes to Sam’s most soulful performance, for pure Rhythm & Blues, I gotta go with “Bring It On Home to Me”:

  12. The first time I heard about James II chucking the Great Seal in the Thames (and ever since), I’ve thought that there must be a ton of loot at the bottom of the Thames, if you could drain it and sift it. And then a couple years ago this website appear with stuff found during repairs of a canal in Amsterdam. DRAIN THE THAMES!!

    I remember in Buckaroo Banzai that the President is presented with “Declaration of War (Short Form)” prior to the alien-engineered world war.

    We have a cat who is enjoying his first Xmas. I’ve sprayed the base of the tree and lower branches with diluted lemon juice. He seems to have lost interest.

    I’ve heard the story of Sam Cooke’s death a couple times, and all you can say is that it was a mess.

    1. At the bottom of the Ohio River, somewhere below the Second Street Bridge between Louisville, KY and Jefferson IN, lies the gold medal Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) won as a light-heavyweight at the 1960 Summer Olympiad in Rome. Ali threw his medal away in a fit of pique after a being refused service at a whites-only restaurant where the bürgermeisters of Louisville who had formed a consortium for the purpose of investing in his professional career were dining. I have a large-format pen-and-ink drawing of Ali sitting at the spot on the bridge whence he tossed it.

  13. Internecine warfare within the Democratic Party was suppressed during the campaign. Now it is breaking out in the open. It is a reflection of the diverse and contentious coalition that makes up the party. This is not surprising and works to the favor of the Republicans, particularly since the Democrats will have only a paper thin majority in the House of Representatives. Biden will have performed a political miracle if he is able to placate all groups within the party. Since this will be rather unlikely, Biden’s tenure in office will be quite rocky: the Democrats will be biting at each other and the Republicans will cooperate with him on virtually nothing.

    1. You’re right. It’s going to be a pointless administration. Nothing much will be accomplished and a Republican will be elected to the office in 2024. But one of the great tragedies of the Trump years is the near total loss in the dignity, gravitas and respect for the office of the President. If Biden/Harris can restore some of that, I will regard their administration as a success.

      1. @ EdwardM
        A “pointless administration?” Just reversing some of the hundreds of executive orders from Trump regarding the environment, immigration, banking, civil rights, the ACA, regulatory reform, and so many others, will make it one of the most meaningful administrations within memory. “Pointless” from the wacko right-wing viewpoint.

        1. Yeah he’ll be able to do some things but I expect he will be even more stymied than Obama was. And as for your comment that I have some kind of wacko right-wing viewpoint; GFY

      2. You’re actually prognosticating who will win in 2024, and it’s going to be a Republican? Give me a break. And I don’t think the loss of dignity/gravitas/respect for the office of President is a “great tragedy” since Trump will soon be gone, and that kind of perception can be reversed very quickly. I don’t know about people in the cult, and I don’t much care about their opinion since they have no idea what those three words mean. And as TomH said above, just reversing what Trump did via executive order will be a meaningful accomplishment. You’re just hoping Biden/Harris will improve the window dressing…well yeah, they will, but that’s far from what is important at this point.

    2. Yep, Biden hasn’t even been acknowledged as the winner by one party and maybe a third of the voters, and democrats— true to tradition— are already miffed that Biden hasn’t fixed everything yet.

    3. Sure but once Biden’s administration takes office, it will be people largely not in power (Far Left Dems) against those who are. I think this will focus people’s attention on actual political activities. Of course, if the GOP still control the Senate, it may be all executive orders. Even so, that war will take precedence over the Dems internecine warfare.

  14. In an odd conjunction between Dr Koch, his discovery of the cholera bacilli and the pandemic, I recently read up a man who I knew nothing about and neither, apparently, does the rest of the world, even though he ought to be among our past medical heroes; Waldemar Haffkine.

    A zoologist, he dedicated himself to inventing, developing and testing vaccines for cholera and bubonic plaque, saving untold thousands of lives in some of the poorest parts of India in the early 1900s. He is not well known today for two reasons. First, he was a zoologist, not an MD and, like today if you don’t have a PhD in the sciences, no matter how much work you do or publications you have, you will always be considered a trained monkey, not a scientist. So his work was dismissed by much of the medical community (but not all). And second, a disaster struck during one of his vaccination campaigns when an assistant dropped a needle but failed to clean it before using the same bottle of vaccine to inoculate people. Several dozen got tetanus from that and Haffkine’s efforts were over. More people should be aware of this man’s work.

  15. Cornell’s exemptions for “personal concerns… historical injustices” and “current events,” makes me think of Donnie’s preemptive Pardons for Friends.

  16. Loved the joke about the noodle ring’s appearance! It reminded me of a scene from “Malcolm in the Middle” where at a big family gathering, and old Jewish man looked down at a piece of gefilte fish on his plate. Alarmed, he looked up and said, “Did I do that?”

  17. Absolutely cats love climbing in Christmas trees! We have a fake one and as soon as we get it out of the box, they are ready to climb it. I imagine they think of it as climbing perfection as the branches are very close together so they can easily hide, or at least pretend to.

  18. You’d have to be insane to eat a Noodle Ring, though not as insane as the person who thought up the recipe.

    And even that person is more sane than the sick mind who devised Cornell’s “person of color” flu vaccine exemption. Not merely an offense against commonsense, but a racist offense against public health!

    Sam Cooke’s perpetually relevant “A Change Is Gonna Come” is indeed a masterpiece. My only criticism of the song involves its flowery arrangement, which is why I tend to prefer Otis Redding’s even more soulful cover:

  19. The link to the great seal of the UK was very interesting (like many of the hyperlinks herein most days).
    They have one in Japan and Korea also but they don’t use wax – it is a stone or gold “inkan/hanko” seal like people who live in Japan use every day in place of signatures, albeit a fancier one (than, say, mine!). Some are very elaborate.

    The Big One is large and used by the Emperor in Japan to officiate documents, laws, the surrender documents of WW2, etc.
    You can see versions in East Asian artwork where the artist uses it (it is that little red box or circle at the bottom of the print) – or the censor’s seal also in olden times.
    One registers a personal seal at the city office and possession of one is the equivalent of power of attorney.

    Here it is the state one:
    I think it is cool.

    NYC (formerly of Tokyo)

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