Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 10, 2021 • 6:30 am

It is Cat Sabbath: January 10, 2021: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day. It’s also National Sunday Supper Day, National Oysters Rockefeller Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, Save the Eagles Day (they’re already saved), and No Pants Subway Ride Day, which is exactly what it sounds like (although this started in New York, people now do this in 60 cities). You’re supposed to ride in your skivvies, though some people cheat and wear shorts. This Google image search shows some photos.

In the Falkland Islands it’s Margaret Thatcher Day. Because she “won the war” with Argentina, she’s a big hero there, as I discovered last November when I visited. Here’s a statue of the Iron Lady on Thatcher Drive:

Wine of the Day: This Bordeaux-like red is a Cotes de Castillon, a “satellite appellation” of Bordeaux, and I couldn’t have told it from its better-known relative. Full bodied, plummy, and with some sediment, it requires decanting and a bit of breathing. It could age for at least another five years, but was delightful now. A good red with a baguette and aged cheddar, as well as fresh tomatoes in olive oil. I’ll have the rest tonight with my weekly steak.  A very good value for the money.

News of the Day: There is lots of news about the dumpster fire that is the Presidency and the people it inflamed to commit insurrection. Just a few highlights.

First, the Washington Post reports that a week before Trump tried pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to “find more votes,” he pressured yet another elections official in that state:

President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.

Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas — while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta, according to people familiar with the episode.

The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.

These two phone calls are certainly something that should be part of any impeachment charges.

I was pleased to see on last night’s news that the feds have already tracked down a number of miscreants who stormed the capital, and have arrested them at home, making them do public “perp walks”. Those arrested include the guy who put his feet up on Pelosi’s desk, the Fur Hat Viking Man, a state lawmaker from West Virginia (now resigned), and the guy who stole and brandished Pelosi’s lectern. But so far they haven’t found those who killed the Capitol police officer. The BBC reports 82 arrests as of last evening, but I expect a lot more, and, given that this was an attempted takeover of the government, I hope that those convicted get harsh sentences—as a deterrent, though it will come too late to deter those bent on similar protests during the inauguration. (Believe me, there will be a lot more security ten days from now.)

The FBI has put up a number of photos of suspects on its Twitter account, seeking identification. Some of those already arrested were identified by people who knew them.

How did an Air Force veteran, Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot to death while storming the Capitol, become an unhinged QAnon addict? The Washington Post reprises her life and, sure enough, she carried a lot of repressed anger, even while in the service.  Here—watch one of her video tweets (note that she says she is “woke”):

A new story from the Washington Post reports that, before he was “President,” Trump repeatedly pretended, in phone calls to reporters, that he was his own publicist. You can hear a recording at the link. He often used the pseudonym John Barron, and now a satire Twitter account has sprung up under the “John Barron” nickname. Click on screenshot; it’s already got over 300K followers. (h/t Joe Routon)

Okay, enough political news. I think I should be posting more kitten videos now because the stress from ten months of pandemic combined with a fascist president and an attempted insurrection has got us all on edge.

A litter of cute kittens

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 372,651, an increase of 3,300 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,936,317, 1,924,037, a big increase of about 12,300 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 10 includes:

The Rubicon, which marked the border between Roman Italy and Gaul, wasn’t and isn’t a big river. There’s a later Roman bridge near the spot where Caesar crossed (below), an action now synonymous with doing something irrevocable:


It’s hard to find first editions of this famous 47-page pamphlet urging independence of the colonies (only three in decent condition have been auctioned since 1945), but this one sold in 2013 for $545,000:

As Wikipedia notes, “In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best-selling American title and is still in print today.”

  • 1863 – The Metropolitan Railway, the world’s oldest underground railway, opens between Paddington and Farringdon, marking the beginning of the London Underground.
  • 1870 – John D. Rockefeller incorporates Standard Oil.
  • 1901 – The first great Texas oil gusher is discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas.

And here’s a photo of the Spindletop gusher:

Here’s an English trailer of this film, which I’ve seen. Note the Big Brother-like atmosphere. (You can see the whole movie, aber auf Deutsch, here).

  • 1946 – The United States Army Signal Corps successfully conducts Project Diana, bouncing radio waves off the Moon and receiving the reflected signals.
  • 1984 – Holy See–United States relations: The United States and Holy See (Vatican City) re-establish full diplomatic relations after almost 117 years, overturning the United States Congress’s 1867 ban on public funding for such a diplomatic envoy.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1887 – Robinson Jeffers, American poet and philosopher (d. 1962)
  • 1904 – Ray Bolger, American actor and dancer (d. 1987)
  • 1936 – Robert Woodrow Wilson, American physicist and astronomer, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1939 – Sal Mineo, American actor (d. 1976)

Mineo, most famous for his role as “Plato” in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), died at 37 from a stab wound to the heart, probably from a homosexual encounter. Here’s the famous scene in which Jim, played by James Dean, gives Plato his jacket:

I knew Hewitt, and he was a mentor of several of my friends a colleagues. A very lovely guy, smart but not arrogant.  If you knew him you’ll recognize this picture instantly:

I can’t mention Jim Croce without showing this great live performance of my favorite of his songs, “Operator” (1972). Accompanying him is Maury Muehleisen; both men died in a plane crash, with Croce just 30 years old.

Linda Susan Boreman (her real name) died at 53 of an automobile accident. She’d had a rough life.

  • 1981 – Jared Kushner, American real estate investor and political figure

Those who “fell asleep” on January 10 include:

  • 1778 – Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist and physician (b. 1707)
  • 1862 – Samuel Colt, American engineer and businessman, founded Colt’s Manufacturing Company (b. 1814)
  • 1917 – Buffalo Bill, American soldier and hunter (b. 1846)
  • 1951 – Sinclair Lewis, American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1885)
  • 1957 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, American novelist (b. 1867)
  • 1961 – Dashiell Hammett, American detective novelist and screenwriter (b. 1894)
  • 1971 – Coco Chanel, French fashion designer, founded Chanel (b. 1883)
  • 2016 – David Bowie, English singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (b. 1947)

Today is the fifth anniversary of his death.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants to escape the cold:

Hili: The night is coming. Let’s go home.
A: You are right; frost is supposed to come.
In Polish:
Hili: Idzie noc, wracamy do domu.
Ja: Masz rację, ma być mróz.

Andrzej says, “Three pictures taken by Paulina and one by me (guess which one).”  (In Polish: “Trzy zdjęcia zrobione przez Paulinę i jedno moje (zgadnijcie które.”) 

Kulka and Szaron gambol in the snow, and we see Paulina hugging her beloved Kulka. Look at Paulina’s expression! She loves her kitty. 

From Jeff:

Screenshot of a tweet found by Divy:

From Cats Making Funny Faces. The poster’s answer was “Jolene by Dolly Parton”; someone else said “I will always love you,” which I think is a better answer.

Titania in cognitive dissonance mode. I do want to read that book, though:

Simon sent two tweets. Is the first one a real video?

And Simon says “step back two steps”. Just kidding! He really says he’s known grad students like this (actually, I was one of them). Look at that chimp carry with its opposable toes!

From Barry, who assumes (as do I) that this is real and that a soundtrack wasn’t added afterwards:


A lovely snake fossil:

A fairly new photo with an old caption:

Even Pinker can’t figure this one out, so I’m not even going to try:

Another illusion, and I’ve saved the best for last. Read either side and listen to the sound. You will hear what you’re reading. This shows that your ears are conditioned to hear words that your eyes see. Try listening again without reading anything; the sound is ambiguous. I We are altering the sound in our minds. hadn’t seen an auditory illusion like this before, but it definitely says something about the evolution of and interactions between our senses.

What’s even odder is that the two words/phases: “Green noodle” and “Brainstorm” have different numbers of syllables!

54 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. In other news, Amazon is now refusing to provide website-hosting for Parler. So, a day after Twitter and Facebook banned Trump, Apple, Google and Amazon have all acted in concert to destroy Parler, the main alternative to Twitter.

    The companies just named, between them, have a strangle-hold on communication over the internet. Independent websites still need basic web-hosting services.

    Put aside Trump for a moment, this is simply way too much control by monopoly companies all acting in concert. It’s ok to declare “private companies can decline service” so long as there are reasonable alternatives! If you’re tempted by “I applaud because they’re using the power against people I dislike”, think about how this is going to progress and rediscover Voltaire!

    1. “The companies just named, between them, have a strangle-hold on communication over the internet. Independent websites still need basic web-hosting services.“

      There are many, many, many other web-hosting services. Yes, they aren‘t as big as the three you mentioned, but since you are claiming that the large size of the others is a problem, you should be rooting for them, rather than ignoring them. If you behave as if there is no alternative, then that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      You don‘t even need a web-hosting service; just run your webserver on your computer. I’ve been doing that for decades.

      An independent website relying on other sites for hosting is an oxymoron.

      1. Hosting your own website on a computer only works for low-volume sites (and it’s also vulnerable to DDS attacks etc, and you’re still dependent on an ISP, etc). There’s no way it could work for anything like an alternative to Twitter.

        1. Sure, but it‘s simply not true that all big websites run on services provided by one of the three big companies you mention.

        2. If your low-volume site has need of more resources you can purchase larger capacity, build out more infrastructure, and scale up. Sven is right. Large scale operations grew from small ones. Nothing prevents you from doing the same thing all on your own,

          1. Ever since Mill, “free speech” has been about what can de facto be said as part of the normal conversation in society.

            “First build your own internet infrastructure …” is an unreasonable hurdle. Even then, they still need co-operation from others, they still need to plug their fibre-optic cable into someone else’s kit. And I guess next they’d be expected to generate their own electricity, design their own computer chips, and mine their own silicon?

            1. You seem to think of internet infrastructure as some kind of binary limited resource. It isn’t. It is scalar. You can start small and grow as need be. The idea that you have to have Amazon scale operations off the bat or your free speech is limited is simply wrong.

              1. By Mill’s criterion, in order to have free speech, you do indeed need to be able to express yourself freely on the internet at little effort/cost, if others in society can generally do that.

              2. You can at little cost. If you want to have a giant megaphone, you need to either build your own megaphone, bit by bit, or comply with the rules established by other megaphone owners. Nobody’s speech is curtailed.

              3. And if the megaphone owners are a de-facto monopoly, and their rules say: “only Democrats allowed, no Republicans” (or the reverse), and constructing ones own megaphone is a huge task, and if you do try to create your own megaphone then the megaphone monopoly tries everything it can to stop you?

              4. I don’t think we’re connecting, Coel. It is not a “you have a megaphone or you don’t” situation. Megaphones come in all sizes. You can start small and grow your megaphone. The fact that you or I don’t own the NYTimes doesn’t mean we have no freedom of speech or that our right to publish our views are non-existent. I’ll stop now because I don’t think we’re going to resolve this if you can’t abandon your binary image of internet communications technology.

    2. Amazon Web Services (AWS) told Parler: “AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site. However we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.” Provided that they enforce their rules fairly across the political spectrum that sounds reasonable enough?

      It amuses me that the racist right have been flocking to a site that has a name presumably derived from the French for “to talk”.

      1. First, the idea that Amazon Web Services is monitoring the content of everything it hosts for “incites violence” is ludicrous.

        Second, there is a vast amount content that “encourages or incites violence” on Twitter and elsewhere that is not taken down.

        E.g. This Tweet by Colin Kaepernick:

        “When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction. The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance. We have the right to fight back! Rest in Power George Floyd”

        Do you see Twitter deleting that or banning Kaepernick? Have hosting services taken down Twitter because Twitter has not banned it?

        That Tweet is much more directly and clearly “inciting violence” than any of Trump’s Tweets (which you have to “interpreted” to read as actually inciting violence; there is no way they would stand up in court as “inciting violence”).

        But Big Tech is in favour of BLM, so that Tweet is ok. The “incites violence” justifications are the excuse, the underlying motive is political.

    3. Monopoly is definitely a lesson learned by this. Another is, it took these companies with their guts and gumption to silence a maniac, but so far the congress (read GOP) has abrogated their responsibility. Two important lessons.

    4. You’ve been making this point here and I have to say overall, I agree with your position. As much as I think cutting off Trump’s ability to foment violence is a necessary thing, I think we are in very dangerous waters for precisely the reasons you give.

      I am not persuaded by arguments that those de-platformed by the big techs can simply go elsewhere. Although strictly possible (why did regional phone companies object to Ma Bell when all they had to do was build their own infrastructure?), the real world isn’t like that and we are handing over control of much political speech to people who are driven by profits and unconstrained by law. It is a perilous thing.

      We are living the curse of interesting times.

      1. I suspect this censorship is a temporary thing, lasting only until the immediate insurrection threat is over. I see it as social media companies saying, “We will help you out for the time being but you guys in government really need to deal with this.” Hopefully it will spark serious discussion about a more appropriate long-term solution to the spread of disinformation and calls to violence via the internet. IMHO, this is where the solution belongs, with internet companies’ cooperation.

        1. Agreed. ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. However, like Coel, I am deeply worried about ceding so much control to for-profit companies who only answer to the public needs if they feel it is in their own best interest. I’d like to think most people here grok Coel’s arguments and under different circumstances might agree.

          1. I am not at all worried as I believe these companies want the same “consummation”. They’ve been saying this all along. They don’t want to be in the business of deciding what should be suppressed. Those that want to pretend their motives are nefarious have been engaged in fear-mongering for their own political reasons. I’m not saying these companies always do the right thing. They are interested in profit. They are not interested in censorship but, if censorship is what’s needed by society, they don’t want to be the ones who decide what needs to be censored.

  2. the curious brainstorm/green needle thing :

    I think the high-level concept of syllable breaks down with this phenomenon. it is really at a low level here.

    as for deconstructing it, here is a real-time log of my thought process:

    in particular, I am focusing on the “nst” and “eed” sounds… I am listening only… at first, each sound disappears as I read either word…

    now I practice alternating between them, without reading…

    soon, I find it hard to hear “green needle”…

    why “green needle” anyway? It really doesn’t fit as well as “brainstorm”.

    and then, from Twi773r, there is the thing to try : swap “brain” with “green”, and vice-versa.

    … “Clyde Built” on Twi773r says “I believe it’s called ‘The McGurk Effect’…

    let’s see… yep :

    it shows something about neurological conditions – Autism, Alzheimer’s, etc.

    … I imagine this is like that other one that went around… what was it… Yanny and Laurel…

    1. Once I had tried it a couple of times, I found I could close my eyes and hear what I wanted by just thinking of the words. Also green storm and bran needle worked, but other words don’t.

      I think they just created sounds that are ambiguous between green and brain and needle and storm and let your bran make the assumptions.

      1. The soundtrack has two ‘words’, but with my eyes closed those two sound different – although they are supposed to be repeating the same word, so that is confusing. I agree with Jeremy to listen with your eyes closed and hear how ambiguous the sounds are.

    2. I read green needle first and heard the same. Then I tried to read brainstorm and could only hear brain needle. Never could hear the sound of storm after multiple tries.

    3. Swapping brain for green did sorta give me “braineedle,” but I can more easily hear “greyneedle” and now after 4 minutes I can even “we’re needed,” and now (6 mins), into “were needled” territory, but darned if I can get I “storm.” No matter how long I listen, read or try.

      The Yanny and Laurel one I got easily. But I am not going to look up what brain neural condition to see what I have.

  3. Mineo, most famous for his role as “Plato” in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) …

    Sal Mineo’s other famous role was playing the great jazz drummer in The Gene Krupa Story. That and Nicholas Ray’s Rebel were staples of the Late Show movies on tv when I was a kid. I watched ’em every chance I got. Here’s the trailer:

  4. I think the FBI should hold off arresting and charging the rioters until after Jan 20. The Tangerine Wanker will probably pardon them/

    1. That’s not a solution, George. If he wants to he can issue preemptive pardons. President Carter preemptively pardoned all Vietnam draft dodgers, the vast majority of whom had not been charged.

      1. I think the politically correct term (avant la lettre) would be draft “resisters” rather than “dodgers”; some of them went to prison for their principles (like Joan Baez’s first husband, David Harris) and some fought in court for their conscientious objector status (like Muhammad Ali and our host).

        I can’t fault anyone for what they did to avoid that godawful war, though the lowest rung would be someone whose rich daddy paid off a corrupt doctor to claim they had spurious bone spurs.

        But then, they couldn’t all be fortunate sons, oh no.

    2. The 82 arrest figure is misleading. I read that 68 of those were picked up for curfew violation. There are many hundreds who still must be identified and brought in for the really serious crime of invading the capitol building by force and interfering with the constitutional duty of congress.

  5. Yes, more kittens. Those kittens are American Ragdolls. Just before Xmas my wife and I got a new Ragdoll kitten, who looks like the kittens here that have the heavy black smudges around their noses, although his ears are lighter. At they get older portions of their body fur darken, so they are not so light as they get older. They get to be big cats, both long and heavy (20+ pounds), but are reputed to be easy-going and very lovey. We also have a one-year-old that we got last year right after Xmas from the same breeder, so they are vaguely cousins, and already enjoying each other’s company.

  6. Can you guys help clear something up for me? In the states where Trump was trying to change the vote so that he “won”, is it not the case that the ballots contain many other options to vote for, including Senate and House vacancies? Is it not also the case that in at least some of these elections, although Trump lost, the other Republicans on the form won? I genuinely don’t know how this works, so perhaps I’ve got it wrong, but surely if this is the case, it must be obvious that Trump lost fair and square.

    What I mean is, if votes for Trump were destroyed as he alleges, then that would mean votes for the Senate and House would be destroyed at the same time. In other words, if his claim of missing votes is true, then surely the Senators and Representatives would have lost as well. The corollary would also be true in the case of thousands of extra illegal ballots being brought in, with votes going to the Democrats on them across the board.

    Am I right, or does it work some other way?

    1. You are correct, Colin. When pressed on this, Republicans insist they are only contesting the presidential votes. Consistency on such matters isn’t part of their program.

    2. I’ve heard this argument many times and it irks me a bit each time. It is true that throwing out entire ballots would eliminate votes for all, not just Trump. However, some of the other frauds could still change only Trump votes. If Dominion machines were corrupted, to name one, the hack could perhaps change on Trump votes into Biden votes. Of course, none of this actually happened.

    1. That’s very good to know. I was hoping they wouldn’t get away with it but despaired that they would never be identified. I’m concerned that Trump will pardon all of them, anyway. Can he pardon a murderer? I guess he can since he pardoned a bunch of war criminals from Blackwater who murdered innocent women and children.

  7. I was surprised how small the Rubicon is. Sort of anti-climatic…From now on, I’ll always think of it as Rubicon Creek.

    1. Same thing with the Suwannee River. Stephen Foster had never seen it; he needed the name of a Southern river and picked it out of an atlas. It had too many syllables, so he changed it to “Swannee.” Tourists are always disappointed when they see this creek. “That’s IT?”

    2. Wouldn’t take much to cast a die across, or even a pair of dice.

      Now, tossing a silver dollar across the mighty Delaware, OTOH — that would take a helluva good arm.

  8. From a Tweet by Slate:

    “Non-violence is an important tool for protests, but so is violence.” “Big structural change in America doesn’t happen without violence.”

    Has Slate been booted of Twitter? Has Apple ditched the Slate app? Has their hosting company pulled the plug?

    Ha, ha, need you ask?

  9. Pinky’s Japanese optical illusion text says “Eastern Illusion Police” in Japanese. You should read his “How the mind works” – more technical than his blockbusters but excellent. Love that guy!

    About horned and Viking MAGA Capitol monsters: On visiting he US as a tourist as well as later for my Green Card and naturalization there was always a question: “Have you ever tried to overthrow the U.S. Government by armed force?” – which made me chuckle. “Well not lately. I mean not TODAY at least!” hehe

    They also asked me if I was ever “a member of the Nazi Party between 1939-1945” (let’s see….) or any communist party (“except to obtain the basics of everyday life”). A real brain teaser, INS. To be fair, subsequently I learned as a lawyer it was a trap so if you lied they could you deport you for immigration fraud later on. Like John Demjanjuk, say.

    That shot lady in the Capitol apparently voted for Obama before she fell into the Q-anon MAGA mine shaft rabbit hole. Which is strange when you think about it. Late onset schizophrenia maybe? Head injury?

    Proud New-ish American who has *never* tried to overthrow the US government by force.


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