Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on The Cruelest Day: Tuesday, January 19, 2021. The best news is that as of noon tomorrow, Trump will no longer be President of the United States. Perhaps appropriately, then, it’s National Popcorn Day.

It’s also Tin Can Day, World Quark Day, but it’s not the physics quark being fêted:

Created by The Queen of Quark, a German-born author and advocate for quark and healthy eating, World Quark Day celebrates quark, a fresh dairy product that is part of the acid-set cheese group. During the first year’s celebration, in 2019, The Queen of Quark teamed up with Hawthorne Valley Farm at GrowNYC Greenmarket in New York City’s Union Square, and gave away quark recipes and copies of The Queen of Quark’s new book, The Ultimate Quark Guide and Cookbook.

Here is quark cheese:

Finally, there are two holidays that I don’t think are going to be observed today: Confederate Heroes Day (Texas), and its related observance: Robert E. Lee Day (AlabamaArkansasFloridaGeorgia and Mississippi).

Wine of the Day: You need a good wine to offset a modest meal like black beans and rice with hot sauce and a fried egg on top. And the wine should be fruity. This Argentinian beauty filled the bill. Semillon, a classical component of the sweet French Sauternes, is rarely made in a dry style, but it’s worth seeking out. This version tasted like somewhat a sauvignon blanc, but with the grassy notes replaced with a touch of honey that became more pronounced as the wine lost its chill. You could almost taste the embryo of its big brother, Sauternes, hiding in there.  It’s was better after I let the glass sit for about ten minutes to warm up; few white wines are better at refrigerator temperature than when slightly less cold.

News of the Day:

The CBC and other venues report that a Thai woman, identified only by her first name of Anchan, has been sentenced to 43½ years in jail for “insulting the monarchy”, i.e., criticizing it. This is equivalent to a strict blasphemy law, with the monarchy serving as religion.

The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country’s lese majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.

Conviction is punishable by 3-15 years of imprisonment per count. The law is being invoked to crack down on pro-democracy protests in Thailand. Here’s a photo of Anchan:

ABC News 6 in Pennsylvania reports that the woman who allegedly stole a laptop or hard drive from Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Capitol siege (not Pelosi’s own laptop, but an office laptop used for presentations) has been arrested. She’s identified as Riley June Williams of Harrisburg, and she was turned in after her ex-romantic partner (sex unidentified) spotted the “wanted” photo (below). Reports also said that Williams was planning to sell the laptop to the Russians via an intermediary.  The charges include “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds”. It would seem that an intent to sell the device to the Russians might add some charges. Here’s Williams in action and her mug shot:

The NYT has a piece on Capitol invader Klete Keller, the now-notorious medal-winning Olympic athlete (he won two golds on relays with Michael Phelps). Friends and teammates identified him to the feds, and they found the incendiary Facebook post below. He’s been charged with three federal crimes: being in a restricted building, disorderly conduct and obstructing law enforcement.

An excerpt:

On Thursday, the day Keller was taken into custody in Colorado and then released after a brief appearance in court, he spoke to Urbanchek, the coach he had once described in U.S.A. Swimming’s media guide as “the type of man I want to be.”

Urbanchek said Keller cried throughout their 15-minute conversation. He was upset with himself, Urbanchek said, and told his old coach that “he never thought about what could happen.”

Urbanchek added, “He was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.”

Keller’s had a tough life, including a divorce, lost of child custody, and a period of homelessness, but his friends still don’t know what turned him into an insurgent Trumpite. But being with the wrong people at the wrong time at the wrong place cannot excuse him from punishment. No, he couldn’t have done other that what he did, but he needs to be sequestered from others until he’s “cured”, and we need to punish these people swiftly as a deterrent to others.  But strip him of his medals, as some have urged? No way!

Bloomberg has a U.S. state and world vaccination tracker site, with interactive maps so you can see who has been give their jabs where. Click on the screenshot below to go to the site:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 399,052, an increase of about 1,400 deaths from yesterday’s figure. By the time you read this we’ll probably have passed 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 2,051,350, a big increase of about 10,300 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Lots of stuff happened on January 19, and include:

  • 1764 – Bolle Willum Luxdorph records in his diary that a mail bomb, possibly the world’s first, has severely injured the Danish Colonel Poulsen, residing at Børglum Abbey.
  • 1817 – An army of 5,423 soldiers, led by General José de San Martín, crosses the Andes from Argentina to liberate Chile and then Peru.
  • 1829 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy receives its premiere performance.
  • 1853 – Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore receives its premiere performance in Rome.
  • 1883 – The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begins service at Roselle, New Jersey.
  • 1915 – Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube for use in advertising.
  • 1920 – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is founded.
  • 1953 – Almost 72 percent of all television sets in the United States are tuned into I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth.

Here’s a bit of that episode: As Wikipedia notes:

“Lucy Goes to the Hospital” is an episode of the 1950s American television show I Love Lucy in which the title character, Lucy Ricardo, gives birth to her son, “Little Ricky,” after a “predictably chaotic” sequence of events. Twelve hours before the broadcast, the actress who played Lucy Ricardo, Lucille Ball, had given birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr. by cesarean section. The episode had actually been filmed on November 14, 1952.

The episode was the culmination of an unprecedented pairing of the fictional pregnancy of Lucy with the real-life pregnancy of Lucille Ball; “real-time pregnancy was fictively narrated for the first time on American television.


  • 1969 – Student Jan Palach dies after setting himself on fire three days earlier in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest about the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968. His funeral turns into another major protest.

You can see photos of his self-immolation here.

  • 1978 – The last Volkswagen Beetle made in Germany leaves VW’s plant in Emden. Beetle production in Latin America continues until 2003.
  • 1981 – Iran hostage crisis: United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.
  • 1983 – The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, is announced.

Here’s an Apple Lisa, “with an Apple ProFile external hard disk sitting atop it, and dual 5.25-inch floppy drives.”

This is the part of Antarctica farthest from the sea, and is much harder to reach than the South Pole itself. For a few weeks in 1958, four Russians lived in a base there monitoring the weather. Here’s where it is, though, maddeningly, I can’t find how far it is from the sea itself, though you can easily find how far it is from the South Pole (878 km or 545 miles):

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1736 – James Watt, Scottish-English chemist and engineer (d. 1819)
  • 1807 – Robert E. Lee, American general and academic (d. 1870)
  • 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, American short story writer, poet, and critic (d. 1849)
  • 1839 – Paul Cézanne, French painter (d. 1906)

Here is a fine Cézanne, modified a tad for the Internet:

  • 1921 – Patricia Highsmith, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1995)
  • 1939 – Phil Everly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2014)

Matthew sent me this tweet about a Hungarian girl who was born on this day in 1940:

  • 1943 – Janis Joplin, American singer-songwriter (d. 1970)
  • 1946 – Dolly Parton, American singer-songwriter and actress

Dolly’s 75 today, and here’s her best song: a farewell to her association with Porter Wagoner as she embarked on a solo career.

  • 1954 – Cindy Sherman, American photographer and director
  • 1982 – Pete Buttigieg, American politician

Those who found quietus on January 19 include:

  • 1729 – William Congreve, English playwright and poet (b. 1670)
  • 1968 – Ray Harroun, American race car driver and engineer (b. 1879)
  • 1975 – Thomas Hart Benton, American painter and educator (b. 1889)

This painting “Still Life with Black Cat” purports to be a Benton, but I’m not sure. It sort of resembles the faux Cézanne above.

  • 1997 – James Dickey, American poet and novelist (b. 1923)
  • 1998 – Carl Perkins, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1932)
  • 2008 – Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (b. 1937)
  • 2013 – Stan Musial, American baseball player and manager (b. 1920)

Musial is my favorite ballplayer of our era, not just for his record but because he was a gentleman, never questioning an umpire’s call) and because he played for my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s still the only guy to have hit five home runs in a single day—in a double-header. Here’s a nice video of his career, with Barack Obama reading his citation as he bestows the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Musial.

  • 2016 – Richard Levins, American ecologist and geneticist (b. 1930)

Levins who, along with a students, shared a floor with our lab at Harvard’s MCZ labs, was a real man of the people, and ran his own group like a Communist cell, complete with self-criticism sessions.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,

A: Why are you constantly looking behind you?
Hili: I’m checking to see whether anybody is following me.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu się tak oglądasz?
Hili: Sprawdzam, czy nikt za mną nie chodzi.

Kulka went outside in the snow, and it’s very cold!

Caption: The crackling cold continues. We have winter like in the old days. Only Kulka thinks it’s wonderful. (Photo by Paulina R.)

In Polish: Nadal trzaskający mróz. Mamy zimę jak za dawnych lat. Tylko Kulka uważa, że to wspaniale. (Zdjęcie Paulina R. )

From Facebook: A Fact you didn’t know. (Maybe they’re playing pattycake)

From Donna the Crazy Cat Lady. Are these cats from Yorkshire?

From Jesus of the Day:

A tweet from Su: a tiger chew toy. Look at the strength of that cat!


Tweets from Matthew. The first one has some good news about the persistence of immunity in those infected and resistance to mutant spike proteins. Given that and the efficacy of the vaccine, Matthew’s surely right. But it will take some time and the willingness of people to take their jabs.


This one has a 7+ minute video that will teach you about some of the logos and symbols used by various white-supremacist, nativist, QAnon racist alt-right, militia, gun-loony, and neo-Nazi groups. This is some disturbing footage!

“Stoat on a trampoline” has to be a contender for best animal tweet of 2021 so far:

Want to see more mammals having fun? Check out these surfing sea lions (I think this video is from California):

Translation: “Hanging scroll composition” (?). It’s a centipede, which means that it’s venomous. But it’s also pretty. (As Matthew notes, centipedes have one pair of legs per segment, as this creature does, while millipedes have two.)

Finally, a fellow who maintains his wit in difficult circumstances, like having half his colon removed (I used a screenshot since I couldn’t separate this tweet from its antecedent):



29 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

      1. None of the locations for the pole of inaccessibility in that Wikipedia table correspond to the locations given by the British Antarctic Survey; nor does it specify whether the distances are to the presumed seaward edge of land, or to the edge of the ice shelf. (The BAS calculated the pole for both edges; I used the ice shelf, as that is the distance the expedition would have to travel.) Perhaps this illustrates Jerry’s point that determining the distance is maddening!


    1. It’s also fairly close to several actual and planned locations for (roboticised) telescopes : Dome A – the coldest place, housing infra-red telescopes ; Dome C with extraordinarily good seeing (air stability).
      Primate watchers may be interested in the area as a breeding ground for the lesser spotted brass monkey, whose peregrinations in search of lost balls gravitate to this area.

        1. Hmmm, They’d heat up (relatively) during the sunlight period, so they’d sink into the ice. but once a certain distance into the ice, the heating effect would diminish, resulting in a particular stratum below the surface having a maximal concentration of brass per volume of water-ice. (Do these places ever get cold enough to precipitate CO2? Hmmm, interesting possibilities. Unfortunately the south polar vortex would restrict exchange with the rest of the atmosphere, so you’d not get a lot of benefit from siting a CO2-capture plant there, even if the low temperatures did (for example) enhance CO2 absorption into conventional ammonia/ ethyl amine absorption counter-current towers. Sorry – complete sideline into geoengineering.)
          Where was I? Oh yes, optimal strategy for mining the (putative) brass ball stratum. You’d need to find out what depth any such horizon is at, at minimal cost. That sounds like a job for … hmmm. Aero-resistivity would only be helpful if the balls were dense enough to be in at least occasional contact with each other – else you’d just end up measuring the liquid water content at different depths. Same for surface-probe resistivity, but more expensively – fancy warm boots on very cold grounds. Airborne ground-penetrating radar – same restriction ; not a lot of signal if the balls don’t contact each other, at least sometimes.
          Nope, I think that at the several percent brass monkey ball to water-ice level that would start becoming interesting as a resource, you’re going to struggle to appraise the prospect without boots on the ground. Which is where things start to get political. Ho hum – put that prospect on the back burner – along with every other Antarctic prospect that I’ve ever discussed. Damn.

    1. For someone like me, son of a Scottish mother and an English father, Anglo-Scottish is an acceptable description, but I prefer British anyway.

  1. World Quark Day, but it’s not the physics quark being fêted:

    She Who Must Be Obeyed can have her treat of творк and honey tonight without even a sliver of carp. I may even find some Икра too – off to the Polish shop!

    1. Икра (Ikra – caviar) is a strange (only, I think) word that organically is the same in Russian as in Japanese (“Ik’ra” – caviar) that you get on sushi – comes in orange or black. Apart from loan words like karate, judo, vodka etc, it is one of the only words common to these neighboring countries – being a traditional food in both.

      Lifelong casual student of Japanese and Russian.

      1. Peculiar.
        Икра is pretty much the only fish product that I’d actually cross the road to buy. It was a considerable surprise to be introduced to it in Russia.

  2. Matthew talks of beating the virus. I maintain that using the language of battles & war with naturally occurring organisms & creatures is not appropriate. I know Darwin used that sort of imagery & that there is a Struggle for existence, but…

    1. The virus will evolve to a “point” in the adaptive landscape (I’m using Dawkin’s “Mount Improbable” simile, though it really ought to be in a several thousand dimension space) where it’s interests and those of humans no longer conflict. Then we’ll stop trying to kill it, and the number of us that it kills will be low enough that “the powers that be” don’t find it scary.
      See also : Malaria – which we are approaching the capability to eradicate, but the deaths of several million people per year hasn’t troubled the consciences of most of the “powers that be” for most of the last few decades. When it killed a lot of white soldiers during World War 2, it attracted the side attentions of the warring powers, resulting in various chemicals like DDT and a better understanding of the disease and it’s lifecycle.

      Sounds better?

  3. “Those who found quietus on January 19 include:
    1729 – William Congreve, English playwright and poet (b. 1670)” – indeed.

    Defer not till tomorrow to be wise,
    Tomorrow’s sun to thee may never rise.

  4. I first learned about quark, the cheese, when I made a German-style boxed cheesecake mix: Dr. Oetker Käsekuchen. It supplied all the needed ingredients except yogurt, quark, eggs, and butter. I had to look up quark and then visit a half dozen local stores before I found it. It’s a bit like yogurt and found in the yogurt section of well-stocked supermarkets. The cheesecake was delicious. I’ve made it twice.


    1. Visit your local Polish (or Romanian, or other Balkan-ish) shop and look in the fridge for packages of “Twarog” or “Tvorok”. It’s normally there (frequency : staple) and there’s a good chance of getting a choice of high-, medium- or low- fat formulations. She Who Must Be Obeyed normally oscillates between two packets (400g) of high-fat, and one each of high- and medium-. The fat content does change how the stuff handles, but not a lot. Hence the guilty oscillation.

    1. Brazil started vaccinating health workers yesterday. Once sufficient vaccines become available, things should go rapidly as there is no shortage of public health clinics. My age group is scheduled for early February. “Yay!”

      1. It’s funny how no non-native English speakers seem to be able to pronounce our “i”s without it coming out “ee”. That sound must not exist in any other languages.
        We used to get robocalls saying “Ees Boris. Best Price Movers.” This Boris allegedly made off with some poor sucker’s furniture and never delivered it.

  5. Total US deaths from the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1919) is was abt. 650,000. This means that despite 100 years of medical advances and increased biological understanding, we are on the way to matching even that sad mark.

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