Wednesday: Hili dialogue

January 13, 2021 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Wednesday, January 13, 2021: National Peach Melba Day, a dish of peaches, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce, said to have been invented by the great French chef Escoffier to honor his friend, Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. (Melba has the honor of having two comestibles named after her: the other is Melba toast.) Although the preceding link calls the dessert “one of the most famous and beloved desserts in the world,” I’ve never had it. Has anyone?

It’s also National Rubber Ducky Day, Korean American Day, and Stephen Foster Memorial Day: Foster died on this day in 1864.

Wine of the DayA lovely Austrian Riesling (I don’t drink many Austrian wines and consider Grüner Veltliner overrated). It accompanied a simple dinner of rice and Trader Joe’s Channa Masala, a dish of curried chickpeas. It’s a simple meal for when you don’t want to cook, is authentic in its taste (and spicy), but also requires a good, fruity wine to wash it down. I was pleased to find that the Riesling, described as “bone dry”, was not: it was off dry, and that touch of sweetness went well with the dish. At 12.5%, the wine is low in alcohol.

News of the Day: I can’t seem to get away from Trump, impeachment and the Capitol riots. And somehow I don’t think Trump will go gentle into his retirement. Here’s one tweet that I find reassuring, though the need for it isn’t reassuring. The Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed a letter disavowing violence like that occurring at the Capitol (and may occur again in the next few days), and emphasizing that their brief is to defend the Constitution. The letter is in the tweet below or, if you can’t read it, at this link.

And, as CNN reports, it’s unprecedented for the Joint Chiefs to issue a statement like this,

America’s most senior military leaders condemned the violent invasion of the US Capitol last week and reminded service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism in a statement that underscored the unprecedented challenges facing the country in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection attempt by President Donald Trump’s supporters.

“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” said the statement, released Tuesday and signed by America’s most senior general, Mark Milley, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is comprised of the heads of each military branch

The extraordinary statement underscores the scale of the challenge and the depth of the uncertainty and concern in Washington, where officials across the US security establishment scramble to deal with the aftermath of the chaos at the Capitol, and around the country, as all 50 states are preparing for possible violence.

Trump has also absolved himself of any responsibility for inciting the invasion of the Capitol:

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

Yes, some did, but not the sane ones.

On the upside, Mitch “666” McConnell may lose one of his 6s. According to the New York Times, McConnell privately backs the impeachment proceedings against Trump, but, although the Senators are starting to break ranks, we still need 17 Republican Senators to vote to convict before the Orange Man gets his punishment.  Oh, and the third most powerful Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, is also voting in favor of impeachment, which is pretty much a done deal since it requires just a majority in the House:

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

For those who thought the Capitol rioters would at best get a slap on the wrist, relax. The New York Times reports that many more arrests are in the offing, and some protestors are going to get hit with very serious charges:

The top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday that more than 70 people tied to the Capitol riot had been charged with crimes and that he expected that number to rise into the hundreds, with prosecutors looking at charging some rioters with sedition and conspiracy.

. . . In addition to pursuing possible charges of seditious conspiracy, which is defined as an effort by two or more people to overthrow the government or use force to hinder its operations, investigators are also prioritizing investigations into attacks against police officers, theft of confidential information from the Capitol and attacks against reporters.

If you go to the link above, you’ll find out what “seditious conspiracy” means:

Current federal criminal code defines “seditious conspiracy” as an effort by two or more people “to conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

It also appears to mean long prison terms.

More arrests to come in the storming of the Capitol. The Washington Post reports that cellphone records and extensive video will be the petard on which the rioters are hoisted:

The Capitol, more than most buildings, has a vast cellular and wireless data infrastructure of its own to make communications efficient in a building made largely of stone and that extends deep underground and has pockets of shielded areas. Such infrastructure, such as individual cell towers, can turn any connected phone into its own tracking device.

Phone records make determining the owners of these devices trivially easy. Congressional investigators and federal prosecutors can also identify devices and users who may have connected wittingly or automatically to congressional guest WiFi networks — unless rioters made a point of deactivating their devices or leaving them behind during the takeover.

The countless hours of video — much of it taken by the rioters themselves and uploaded to social media — also offers an ideal data set for facial recognition. Many scenes were captured from multiple angles, with good lighting, over several minutes. Few people wore masks. While facial recognition technology often struggles to reliably identify people with dark skin, the large majority of the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol on Wednesday appeared to be White.

Lock ’em up!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 380,878, a big increase of about 4,400 deaths from yesterday’s figure, or about 3 deaths per minute. In roughly a week we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 1,972,380, a big increase of about 17,200 deaths over yesterday’s total. That’s about 12 deaths a minute, or one every five seconds. We’ll pass 2 million deaths worldwide in just a couple of days.

Stuff that happened on January 13 includes:

Here’s the 1822 flag with the modern flag below it:

I’ll put a space here because I don’t want the designs to run together:

Actually, he was the sole European survivor; several Indian sepoys survived as well.

  • 1879 – In Mozart Gardens Brooklyn Ada Anderson completed a great feat of pedestrianism – 2700 quarter miles in 2700 quarter hours, earning her $8000.

Anderson had to be awake except for her short rest periods, and finished the feat.  2700 quarter hours is 28 days, and induces severe sleep deprivation.

This famous essay, which got Zola convicted of libel (he fled to England), also helped free Dreyfus from his conviction for espionage, though Dreyfus was not exonerated until 1906. Here’s Zola’s famous defense of Dreyfus in L’Aurore:

  • 1910 – The first public radio broadcast takes place; a live performance of the operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are sent out over the airwaves from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
  • 1942 – World War II: First use of an aircraft ejection seat by a German test pilot in a Heinkel He 280 jet fighter.

Here’s a more recent ejection from 2003: “Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from his F-16 aircraft with an ACES II ejection seat on 14 September 2003 at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Stricklin was not injured.”  Caption from Wikipedia, and video is here. Note that Stricklin says that this was considered an “unsurvivable ejection” because he and his parachute landed in the plane’s fireball.

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho . . . . Stricklin, who was not injured, ejected after both guiding the jet away from the crowd of more than 60,000 people and ensuring he couldn’t save the aircraft. This was only the second crash since the Air Force began using F-16 Falcons for its demonstration team in 1982. The ACES II ejection seat performed flawlessly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
  • 1953 – An article appears in Pravda accusing some of the most prestigious and prominent doctors, mostly Jews, in the Soviet Union of taking part in a vast plot to poison members of the top Soviet political and military leadership.
  • 1966 – Robert C. Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when he is appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • 1968 – Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom State Prison.
  • 1982 – Shortly after takeoff, Air Florida Flight 90, a Boeing 737 jet, crashes into Washington, D.C.‘s 14th Street Bridge and falls into the Potomac River, killing 78 including four motorists.

Harvard entomologist Bob Silberglied, a lovely guy whom many of us knew at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, was one of those killed. He’s still the only person I knew who died in a plane crash.

  • 1990 – Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African American governor as he takes office as Governor of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia

Notables born on this day include:

It’s a little known fact that Salmon Chase was depicted on the highest-value American currency ever circulated, the $10,000 bill. Chase was one of only 3 people to appear on currency who was not a President. Can you name the others? Heeeeeere’s Salmon!:

  • 1832 – Horatio Alger, Jr., American novelist and journalist (d. 1899)
  • 1893 – Chaim Soutine, Belarusian-French painter (d. 1943)

I’m a fan of this expressionist painter. Here’s his “Cagnes Landscape with Tree,” painted in 1926-26:

Cagnes Landscape with Tree c.1925-6 Cha?m Soutine 1893-1943 Bequeathed by John Levy 1977 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02132
  • 1924 – Paul Feyerabend, Austrian-Swiss philosopher and academic (d. 1994)
  • 1927 – Sydney Brenner, South African biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2019)

Matthew wrote an obituary on Brenner, a titanic figure in modern biology. To interview him, Matthew traveled to sweltering Singapore, where Brenner lived during his last years.  One upshot was a half-hour BBC program featuring Matthew’s conversation with Brenner and his take on Brenner’s life and career. You can listen to that interview here.

In this photo, Brenner is on the extreme right. But there are a number of other famous molecular geneticists here. Can you name any?

  • 1938 – Cabu, French cartoonist (d. 2015)

Cabu was one of the artists killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

  • 1961 – Wayne Coyne, American singer-songwriter and musician

I don’t really know who Wayne Coyne is, but I put him up because he might be a distant relative.

Those who crossed the River Styx on this day include:

  • 858 – Æthelwulf, king of Wessex
  • 1864 – Stephen Foster, American composer and songwriter (b. 1826)
  • 1929 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (b. 1848)
  • 1941 – James Joyce, Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet (b. 1882)
  • 1956 – Lyonel Feininger, German-American painter and illustrator (b. 1871)

Feininger is also one of my favorite artists, and underappreciated. Here’s one of his paintings:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, “Jerry Maguire” Hili says “Show me the label!”

Hili: Show me the label of this cat food.
A: Why?
Hili: I have to check “best before” date.
In Polish:
Hili: Pokaż mi opakowanie tej karmy.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Muszę sprawdzić datę ważności.

And here’s Szaron on Andrzej’s desk, looking sleepy:

From Facebook: This scam has irked me for a long time! Under this nefarious scheme, you have to buy four packages of dogs and 5 of buns to come out even:

From Barry:

From Beth:

A tweet from Barry. Assuming this is the North American Baltimore Oriole, it is not at all customary for them to overwinter where there’s snow. They do like fruit, though. I’m glad this one was happy.

Tweets from Matthew, who calls this first one “grimly impressive.” Indeed.

A beautiful flashing ctenophore:

Forgetting passwords is a bad business, but this one’s especially bad, as it may cost the hapless guy $220 million:

A lovely cover for Birding Magazine. It almost looks as if the woodpecker were a hero in a Marvel Comic:

This is very sad. I importuned Matthew to go and take his daughters, but, as he told me when he sent me this tweet, “I never got a chance to go. . . ”

University of Alabama students violate pandemic restrictions big time! It’s a football victory, of course.

Finally, can you guess what this invention is? Like the polio vaccine (never patented by Salk), it’s a lifesaver. Answer is in the thread.

37 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Ooooooooooooooooh the Camptown ladies sing this song…

    The hot dog and bread roll people missed a trick as 8 and 10 are both divisible by 2. 8 and 11 would have been much better or 7 and 10.

    I’ve seen the Volvo story before but I can’t remember the punch line. I’m going to click on the link to find out in a sec, but I’ll guess it’s the inertia reel seatbelt.

    ETA: wrong!

    1. Ooooooooooooooooh Susanna!

      I made the same wrong guess about the Volvo invention. Although Wikipedia (I know…!) says

      “However, the first modern three-point seat belt (the so-called CIR-Griswold restraint) used in most consumer vehicles today was patented in 1955 U.S. Patent 2,710,649 by the Americans Roger W. Griswold and Hugh DeHaven.”

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seat_belt#History

      1. last night I heard an interview with an African American man who had been a member of the Capitol Police refer to Capitol Hill as the “last plantation,” a term that has been used to describe jim crow practices at various government agencies and establishments, which has special significance for Washington DC itself.

        In this light, I say, Let’s put Massa back in the Cold, Cold Ground.

    2. Rich Hall, inventor of Sniglets [words that should be in the dictionary but aren’t], once discussed the hotdog/bun issue:
      If you have more buns than hotdogs, you have “excess bunnage.”
      If you have more hotdogs, you have “excess wienerage.”
      If you have the same amount of both, you are “frankuilized.”

    1. Oh dear, the metadata wasn’t even removed so the FBI won’t have to work too hard identifying those responsible for the videos and photos.

      1. I suspect that “not removing metadata” isn’t accidental. Firstly, it takes appreciable computational effort to locate the metadata in a media file – which means you have to parse the whole thing. There are multiple, contradictory, overlapping and duplicated “standards” for storing metadata in media “container” files, so you need to do quite a bit of parsing.
        But that’s just a “cost-based” reason. More fundamentally (to people like those who specified Parler to their coders), reading a dataobject, removing the metadata and then re-presenting the dataobject is actually an act of censorship. A perfectly reasonable part of Parler’s terms of service could be “If you want to make your location unclear, that is your choice. Do it. Before you post the data to our service. We won’t assume that you want it done and do it for you.” (Actually, that’s a potential line for a “Plus” version of the service. Automated bottom-wiping for the grown adults in their target audience.)
        I doubt that Parler’s average user is more careful about reading and interpreting the Ts&Cs of a platform than the average person. Like almost everyone else, they’ll refuse to RTFM.
        I never looked at it – was Parler a paid-for service (needing bank details etc), or did it fund itself by selling it’s users to advertising algorithms? If the latter, then it was important to the advertisers to identify the users, and that would have been captured in the traffic to and from the site.

        Of course, with image data in a known location, along with a time stamp, the metadata isn’t particularly important. If there’s video of – say – a militia “training camp” (as Al Quaeda used to run in Afghanistan and Sudan), and the location of that is unclear, well that’s potentially a hassle. But the weaker link for investigation is likely to be identifying people by faces, then squeezing the pips until they squeak. Metadata is convenient, but not essential.

        Amazon will have preserved the state of Parler’s servers when the “terminate service” button was pushed, if for no other reason than if Parler were to get a court order requiring Amazon to reinstate service, they could comply with the court order, to the moment (microsecond) that someone at Amazon hit the button. Amazon won’t even consider entering a high-pissing competition with the FBI – they’ll already have the chain of evidence documented and dumps of the data written to some portable data volumes. This isn’t a new situation for them and 80TB isn’t even approaching awkward to move around. Hell, we were chucking that out, daily, in the 1990s from a seismic boat.
        The last time I read Amazon’s AWS terms of service, I noticed a phrase about Amazon “complying with local law enforcement instructions”, which fully covers, e.g. the FBI getting a copy of all traffic, logs and the contents of storage. That’s why, for example, an email service that overspills onto AWS for overloads cannot be considered “secure” in any sense.

  2. The New York Times reports that many more arrests are in the offing, and some protestors are going to get hit with very serious charges …

    Wonder whether any of the rioters will try to put on a reliance on apparent public authority defense, the way the Watergate burglars did at their trial, based on the Nixonian theory that “if the president [encourages] it, it can’t be illegal.”

    It didn’t work then, and is even less likely to succeed here, but when a defendant is caught in the act red-handed, in person or on video, the options for presenting a theory of defense tend to be tightly constrained.

  3. Meanwhile we discover that Twitter has a sense of humour and that its policy unit is playing the Loki troll:

    “Ahead of the Ugandan election, we’re hearing reports that Internet service providers are being ordered to block social media and messaging apps.”

    “We strongly condemn internet shutdowns – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet.”

    “Access to information and freedom of expression, including the public conversation on Twitter, is never more important than during democratic processes, particularly elections.”

  4. The wording around Dr. Brydon’s exploit is often very loose. He was the only member of the Indian government or Army (17,000 all told, with wives and children) to complete the journey from Kabul to Jellalabad, but many others were captured and survived. The harrowing story of the retreat from Kabul, and the unbelievable stupidity that led to it, is told well in Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game. The regiment garrisoning Jellalabad, the 13th Foot (later Somerset Light Infantry), had Jellalabad Day as their regimental day. During the First World War, the Somersets went over the top, and the sole survivor from a company tumbled back into the trench, feeling, he said, “just like Dr. Brydon at Jellalabad.” (No relation.)

  5. I have never eaten peach melba either. Nor have I ever seen it on a menu. But, hey, I am an Appalachian, not a destination for fancy cuisine.

    Perhaps the unfamiliarity of peach melba on menus traces back to Typhoid Mary. She was a cook, and that was one of her favorite recipes.

    1. For fine Appalachian cuisine, four places come to mind: The Inn at Washington VA, on the approach to Skyline Drive, the dining room at Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah Natl Park, The Tavern in Abingdon VA, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview VA (close to Abingdon). Also probably many places in Charlottesville VA and Asheville NC.

  6. Thank you for the connection to matthew’s excellent interview with sydney brenner. I was drawn into the real excitement of this remarkable work of the 50’s and 60’s. Highly recommend this half-hour listen.

  7. Also on currency, Hamilton on the $10 since 1928, Ben Franklin of course, who has long had the spot on $100s, and Hugh McCullough on the 1902 Series $20. IIRC he was Secy Treas in the late 1860s.

    But I think also Secy War Edwin Stanton appeared on a fractional note in the 1880s or thereabouts. And I also think there was a Colonial-era-looking guy on one of the Gold Notes of the 1920s but can’t remember who that was.

      1. Generally considered separate esp since they come from different places – Printing & Engraving vs. the Mint.

        But in mentioning the Bureau, I watched a presentation they did yesterday about Inaugural Invitations that they had printed in the past. I quite liked the one for Cleveland’s 1885 inaugurationsince the allegorical Liberty, atop the images of Grover and his VP Hendricks, are the allegorical Education and Science.

        (Relatedly, Cleveland is on the 1914 $20 and the $1000 of 1928 & 34).

    1. Chase, Hamilton, Franklin are the only three non-presidents to appear on modern, small size currency. On pre-1928 “large size” currency, there are about three dozen. And about another half dozen on fractional currency. Oh, and Chase put himself on our first federally issued one dollar bill, series 1862.

  8. “12.5%, the wine is low in alcohol.” The range of ABV for unfortified wine is about 5.5% to 16%. When we make our own wine, the advice is to aim for 12.5% for a dry, medium bodied, red. Whites are typically lower averaging about 11%. Some yeasts can survive and keep adding alcohol longer than others, as long as there is sugar present. Eventually the alcohol they make kills them.

    1. I was going to say I know there is a higher alcohol content in many wines these days, I thought 11% was about normal, but I know nowt…

  9. the great French chef Escoffier

    Ah – that’s where I’d heard “Gilou”‘s name before. It always sounded suspiciously familiar.
    (That’s a Spiral/ Engrenages reference, for those unfamiliar with it. Last season currently showing, and I’m studiously resisting the temptation to binge-watch the remaining 8 hours despite having downloaded them for a friend.)
    Oh, combat troops deployed on Capitol Hill. Odds of Trump’s cowardly big-talkers launching an assault tend towards zero decrease.

  10. Re National Peach Melba day: If the nation in question is in the northern hemisphere this seems a little odd since neither peaches nor raspberries are in season in January. I might just make it as a treat, since it’s mid-summer here and both are available in plentiful supply.

  11. What am I not getting about Ada Anderson? Is my math wrong?

    I can walk three miles an hour. At that rate, I can cover 2700 quarter miles (675 miles) in 900 quarter hours (225 hours). That leaves 1800 quarter hours (450 hours) for sleeping, eating, peeing, and whatever else.

  12. Are you going to reveal who are the persons in the picture with Uncle Sid? I’m bad in recognizing faces, but it seems to me that both Jacob and Monod are there, as well as McClintock? I tried to cheat, but Google Images doesn’t work with faces.

    1. Matthew found the key, which is here: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Escherichia-coli-and-the-Emergence-of-Molecular-Ullmann/95f8c021aa8f153e15d2a13e28921a698132d7e9/figure/8

      To wit: Figure 9 Picnic: Charles Steinberg, Francois Jacob, Max Delbruck, Matthew Meselson, Ronald Rolfe, Gunther Stent, and Sydney Brenner in the Delbruck garden in Pasadena at the time of the Brenner, Jacob, Meselson messenger experiment in 1960. Photo courtesy of Matthew Meselson.

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