Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 27, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on December 27, 2020, the third day of Coynezaa (as well as the third of the Twelve Days of Christmas), and, unfortunately, National Fruitcake Day, when the sole fruitcake that exists in America wends its way to another home, later to be multiply “regifted”. It’s also Visit the Zoo Day, but not much of a chance this year, as well News of the Day:

Trump’s still holed up in Mar-a-Lago, and he let the pandemic relief bill expire last night without signing it. Unemployed Americans will lose their benefits, businesses some critical assistance, and the whole government may shut down on Tuesday. Given his lack of empathy for Americans, I’m not sure what’s motivating this.

He’s still tweeting his insanity, though. Two examples:

. . . and Biden gets called a “fake President”:

There’s a NYT op-ed in which author Kim Brooks suggests that the pandemic, by closing child-care facilities and taking women disproportionately out of the workforce, has probably permanently unraveled three decades of progress in women’s equality.

As a result, some suggest that a year of Covid-19 may undo decades worth of progress toward gender equity in America, that even after the pandemic is brought under control, a generation of working mothers will never recover what they lost.

It makes you wonder: How meaningful was the progress we’ve made in the last three decades, if it can be undone so quickly and so ferociously?

I sympathize with her, as women always get the short end of the stick when people want to work and have children too, but I can’t believe that feminism, which has progressed so far during my lifetime through moral suasion, has been set back permanently and can never recover. Of course more work is needed, like adopting Sweden’s model of sharing childcare between parents, but progress, I think, has been steady and will continue. The pandemic is a blip, but the arc bends towards justice.

DO NOT read this article (they also ate d*g):

Today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 332,011, an increase of about 1,700 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,766,045 an increase of about 7,100 over yesterday’s total.

Finally, yesterday we passed a sad mark: at least one in every thousand Americans has died of coronavirus. (US population at the moment: about 330,755,300 ).

Stuff that happened on December 27 includes:

  • 537 – The construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is completed.
  • 1657 – The Flushing Remonstrance articulates for the first time in North American history that freedom of religion is a fundamental right.

True, but not much came of the Flushing Remonstrance.

Here’s my tweet, which shows Darwin’s voyage and a picture of the ship (which was later lost):

  • 1845 – Ether anesthetic is used for childbirth for the first time by Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia.
  • 1911 – “Jana Gana Mana“, the national anthem of India, is first sung in the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress.

The song was written by the famous artist, writer, poet, and everything else Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote many beautiful songs. The song, performed here by several famous Indian singers, is infinitely better than The Star-Spangled Banner. (You can see the lyrics in Hindi, Bengali, and English here.)

I can’t wait to get back to India!

Here’s the ship in Tokyo Bay. It even participated in the battle of Midway in 1942, but was scrapped four years lateer.

  • 1929 – Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin orders the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class”.
  • 1935 – Regina Jonas is ordained as the first female rabbi in the history of Judaism.

Jonas was ordained in Berlin by a liberal Jewish sect (of course), but then was deported to the Theresienstadt camp in 1942.  After serving there for several years, she was sent to Auschwitz in October, 1944, where she was killed almost immediately. Here’s a photo:

Here’s a base jumper hurtling into the cave, with narration by David Attenborough:


  • 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, ending the first orbital manned mission to the Moon.
  • 1978 – Spain becomes a democracy after 40 years of fascist dictatorship.
  • 2004 – Radiation from an explosion on the magnetar SGR 1806-20 reaches Earth. It is the brightest extrasolar event known to have been witnessed on the planet.

This neutron star is only about 20 km wide! Here’s an explanatory video:

More information from Wikipedia:

Fifty thousand years after a starquake occurred on the surface of SGR 1806-20, the radiation from the resultant explosion reached Earth on December 27, 2004 (GRB 041227). In terms of gamma rays, the burst had an absolute magnitude around −29.[a] It was the brightest event known to have been sighted on this planet from an origin outside the Solar System, until the GRB 080319B. The magnetar released more energy in one-tenth of a second (1.0×1040 J) than the Sun releases in 150,000 years (4×1026 W × 4.8×1012  s = 1.85×1039 J). Such a burst is thought to be the largest explosion observed in this galaxy by humans since the SN 1604 supernova observed by Johannes Kepler in 1604. The gamma rays struck Earth’s ionosphere and created more ionization, which briefly expanded the ionosphere.

  • 2007 – Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in a shooting incident.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1822 – Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist (d. 1895)

Here’s a restored photo of Pasteur:

  • 1901 – Marlene Dietrich, German-American actress and singer (d. 1992)
  • 1915 – William Masters, American gynecologist, author, and academic (d. 2001)
  • 1943 – Cokie Roberts, American journalist and author (d. 2019)

Those who withered on the vine on December 27 include:

  • 1943 – Cokie Roberts, American journalist and author (d. 2019)
  • 1923 – Gustave Eiffel, French architect and engineer, co-designed the Eiffel Tower (b. 1832)
  • 1938 – Calvin Bridges, American geneticist and academic (b. 1889)

Bridges, extremely smart and wickedly handsome, was one of the more colorful characters in the history of genetics. With his huge mane of blond hair, he was irresistible to women, and pursued them relentlessly. Some day there will be a good biography of him. Here he is at the scope:

  • 1950 – Max Beckmann, German-American painter and sculptor (b. 1884)

Beckmann did several pictures that included cats; here’s one of them:

  • 1981 – Hoagy Carmichael, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actor (b. 1899)
  • 2007 – Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani financier and politician, 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan (b. 1953)
  • 2012 – Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., American general and engineer (b. 1934)
  • 2015 – Meadowlark Lemon, American basketball player and minister (b. 1932)
  • 2016 – Carrie Fisher, American actress, screenwriter, author, producer, and speaker (b. 1956)

It was likely drugs. And it was sad; this is from Wikipedia:

The day after Fisher’s death, her mother Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke at the home of son Todd, where the family was planning Fisher’s burial arrangements. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died later that afternoon.  According to Todd Fisher, Reynolds had said, “I want to be with Carrie” immediately prior to suffering the stroke.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili sees a strange bird for the area:

Hili: What is a seagull looking for in our garden?
A: I don’t know, but it will not find a fish here.
In Polish:
Hili: Czego szuka mewa w naszym ogrodzie?
Ja: Nie wiem, ale ryby tu nie znajdzie.
Little Kulka is also downstairs, gazing out the window:

From Bruce: “The Scream” of 2020:

From Land of Cats:

From Jesus of Day:

I tweeted this, but Sue steered me to the video, which is great.

My philosophical colleague Maarten Boudry in Ghent sent a video of his grown-up kitten, Winston Purrchill. Here they do a duet on the piano.

Tweets from Matthew. I have to say that this pair comprises some of the biggest loons I’ve seen this year. How can people believe this crap?

This is a stunning find. At first I thought they ate wolves, but Matthew’s convinced me it was dogs. They ate mallards, too, but we won’t speak of that.

Matthew says this about this: “Fabulous (if rather gruesome) closeup of a centipede eating. Fab eyes and appendage action.”

From the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. I think Larry is trying to tell us that cats will be cats.

A great case of Batesian mimicry: the harmless fly deters predators by resembling a wasp. My prediction: there’s a real wasp that looks like this living in the same area as the fly.

43 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. If you don’t like fruitcake, it’s because you’ve never had my mother’s homemade fruitcake. TO. DIE. FOR. Soaked in brandy for over a month. One small piece is like a taste of heaven.

    1. I don’t understand the hatred towards fruitcake. We only had it around Christmas and I always looked forward to having it. There is no such thing as me “regifting” a fruitcake. I will eat the entire thing if necessary! Waistline be damned!

        1. The linked article says:
          “One surprise find was the complete skeleton of a dog. The discovery intrigued the excavators, since it wasn’t a ‘large, muscular dog like that painted on the counter but of an extremely small example” of an adult dog, whose height at shoulder level was 20-to-25 centimeters (8-to-10 inches), Amoretti said. It’s rather rare, Amoretti said, to find remains from ancient times of such small dogs, discoveries that ‘attest to selective breeding in the Roman epoch to obtain this result.'”

          It sounds like this was a lapdog that perished in the eruption. The Romans ate some unusual critters (dormice were considered a delicacy) but I haven’t heard about them consuming dogs.

    1. You beat me to the question of how to get OUT of the cave shaft!
      Also love the horsey coconuts and the avoidance of plosives😂The plosives must be particularly risky in India.
      And the vibrations nutjobs🙀
      PS Love the edit feature, which I just had to use twice…

    2. OK OK, I looked it up. Seems that the answer is mechanical ascenders, which I guess are some sort of ratchet devices. Anyway, some great shots in this one, and also notes of other perils like bee nests near the surface. Oy!

  2. “537 – The construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is completed”

    The architecture of many centuries ago never ceases to amaze me, especially that of the Romans and Greeks. I can’t even fathom today how they built so many of their wonders, and I consider things like aqueducts wonders. Even the way Roman legions were able to build fortresses and other military installations like bridges in a single day astounds me.

    I had no idea that Maarten Boudry’s cat was named Winston Purrchill! That’s what I was going to name the kitten I rescued a few months ago, but her name ended up being Milo because that’s just what came out of my mouth when she showed up at my door, and it stuck. After I had been calling her Milo for a couple of weeks, I felt like I couldn’t change the name, even after the vet informed me on her second visit that there had been a mistake and she was actually a girl. My next cat will be named Winston Purrchill, and the one after that will be named Marcus Clawrelius (I realize after the holiday photos from the other day that someone else on this site has a cat named Marcus Clawrelius, but that was my second choice when I found Milo and started to think of cat names! Well, I thought of that and “Meowcus Aurelius, but “Meowcus” would be too difficult to pronounce and shorten for nicknaming). Some day, I will have two cats named after two of my personal heroes.

    Boss: I believe you mistakenly included Cokie Roberts in the list of people who bit the dust on this date.

  3. I keep hearing about astronomical events that give off huge huge huge amounts of energy. How can it be that a star-derived object can yield a jillion jillion… times more than the sun in 1/10 of a second when the presumed mass of the thing is on the order of a star?

    1. Not a physicist here, but I believe the answer is E = mc2 (that 2 should be a superscript). It’s not the mass of the star that tells; it’s the amount of the star’s mass that’s converted to energy.

      1. It seems to me I’ve heard, I think in descriptions of fast radio bursts, that the amount of energy involved exceeds what could come from a strict matter to energy conversion, but I must be wrong.

        I guess it’s as you said and the point is that when a lot of matter is converted to energy, and there is so much energy tied up in even a small amount of matter, the effects are ridiculously big, compared to the trickle produced from nuclear fusion within a star.

  4. With regard to the second voyage of the Beagle, let us also raise a glass to its captain who, at his own expense, supplied 6 Harrison H4 chronometers to supplement the 18 provided by the admiralty to check both their accuracy and utility. He is also effectively the founder of the UK met office, providing weather stations around the coast for the purposes of producing accurate weather forecasts (again, at his own expense), and of course, the Beagle’s survey work provided a chain of accurate longitude points that circled the globe. More information here. Darwin’s role as gentelman companion to prevent Fitroy’s mental deterioration on the voyage was likely invaluable, given that Fitzroy did indeed ultimately end his own life in the way he feared, so thanks go to Darwin for the met office!

    1. Vibrations? Never wear a mask? Ms Clinton got crucified for it, but she spoke the truth, a substantial part of the Trump supporters are deplorable indeed.
      The US needs to improve it’s educational system, methinks. Maybe not leave all of it to the states?
      Michael Costa opened my eyes in this regard, it starts at 1:35

  5. I recently bought the Monty Python and the Holy Grail 40th anniversary castle box set. It comes in a big castle with a catapult you can install, allowing you to launch the included farm animals across the parapets!

  6. Again, I have to come to the defense of the noble fruitcake. If properly made at home, it becomes the envy of the extended family. We made 4 cakes just yesterday and I can already hear them banging at the door. 😜

    1. I agree. First, there are many varieties of fruit cake, some better than others. My favorite growing up was called Genoa fruit cake. Second, baking takes skill that many fruitcake bakers lack.

    1. I think Calvin Bridges worked with Drosophila, a predecessor to our host in a sense.
      His good looks, allowing him to womanize so easily, were also his doom. It is thought his early death at 49 was due to syphilis.

  7. According to the US Bureau of labour statistics, the unemployment rate for men over 20 y in age was 9.4 % and 10.5 % for women. Prior to COVID it was pretty even. Data as of July.

    As of the end of Nov the respective rates were 6.1 and 6.7 percent. they had flipped (marginally)

    1. There is monthly data available going back twenty years … On average the unemployment rate for women way about 0.3% lower than the men’s. Though there are blips in recessions where this is temporarily reversed.

      Having said that there is a fairly technical definition of “unemployment” which no doubt harbours some inequalities.

  8. He [Trump]’s still tweeting his insanity, though.

    Trump is still carping about “voting fraud,” though I see that his big booster at Fox News, Lou Dobbs, and Newsmax, owned by Trump’s crony Christopher Ruddy, both have eviscerated his claims regarding votes being flipped to Biden by the Dominion voting systems and Smartmatic software:

      1. Yeah, when it came time to put up or shut up, they opted to shut up (and to retract the arrant bullshit they’d previously put up).

  9. 537 – The construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is completed.

    537, Jan 2nd – Building contractors in Istanbul start praying for an earthquake – just a small one!
    From Wiki :

    Earthquakes in August 553 and on 14 December 557 caused cracks in the main dome and eastern semi-dome.

    Prayers answered!

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