Monday: Hili dialogue

January 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning and top o’ the week to you: it’s Monday, January 25, 2021, and National Irish Coffee Day, a concoction I rather like, and appropriate for these freezing days. It’s also Burns Night, a time to celebrate his birthday (see below) by reciting his poetry, eating haggis, and drinking whisky; A Room of One’s Own Day, celebrating the birth of Virginia Woolf on January 25, 1882; Macintosh Computer Day; and Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Is there anyone who doesn’t like to pop the stuff? Here’s a bunch of New Jersey high school students setting the world record for bubble popping:


Wine of the Day: I made chili with ground beef, and for that you need a gutsy red, preferably (because the dish is spicy) nothing too expensive. This inexpensive Cotes-du-Rhone fills the bill (you can pay more, but I paid $14; the trick is to find a wine store like Vin Chicago, with knowledgable staff but low overhead). It’s an unusual wine given the appellation, as it’s 100% Syrah, and that means stuffing.  I should have let it age, but this was at hand yesterday.

It was an excellent bottle: ready to drink but I’d like to see how it improves over time (sadly, I had but one bottle). Redolent of raspberry fruit, but full-bodied, it tasted like a cross between a Zinfandel and a Beaujolais.  As the reviewer said, “I’d pay $30+ for a Syrah of this quality and be very happy,” I was even happier for paying less than half that.

News of the Day:

Big kerfuffle in Chicago: the school board has said that it’s safe for teachers to resume in-class teaching in secondary schools, but the teacher’s union has said no: they ain’t teaching live until they get vaccinated.  Since a vaccination takes at least 5-6 weeks to confer full immunity, this has created something of an impasse, and it’s a big deal here. The school board has paused classes until Wednesday, but there may be a strike.

If you’re interested in such things, this year’s Superbowl, to be held on February 7 in Tampa Bay, Florida will now feature the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay quarterback unwisely let go by the New England Patriots, is 43, and old for a player, but still the best in the league.  And his team beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26, with Brady firing some great touchdown passes. Old is not passé! Brady has six Super Bowl rings and could get a seventh, covering most of his fingers.

Will Biden get his legislative agenda through the Senate? Not if the GOP invokes the filibuster, which means you need 60 votes to get legislation passed. Two writers at the Washington Post aren’t optimistic:

Much of the current conflict over the Senate rules comes courtesy of veteran Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who transitioned to minority leader Wednesday after six years as majority leader.

Just hours after Biden’s inauguration, moments after a smiling Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was first recognized as majority leader, McConnell pointedly noted on the Senate floor that the country elected a smaller House Democratic majority, an evenly split Senate and a “president who promised unity.”

“The people intentionally entrusted both political sides with significant power to shape our nation’s direction,” he said. “May we work together to honor that trust.”

Two days earlier, he had notified his Republican colleagues in the Senate that he would deliver Schumer a sharp ultimatum: agree to preserve the legislative filibuster, the centerpiece of minority power in the Senate or forget about any semblance of cooperation — starting with an agreement on the chamber’s operating rules.

The calculations for McConnell, according to Republicans, are simple. Not only is preserving the filibuster a matter that Republicans can unify around, it is something that potentially divides Democrats, who are under enormous pressure to discard it to advance their governing agenda.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 419,207, an increase of about 1,900 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We may pass half a million deaths in less than a month. The reported world death toll stands at 2,140,425, an increase of about 8,700 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 25 includes:

  • 1533 – Henry VIII of England secretly marries his second wife Anne Boleyn.
  • 1858 – The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is played at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia, and becomes a popular wedding processional.
  • 1881 – Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell form the Oriental Telephone Company.
  • 1890 – Nellie Bly completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days.

Here’s Bly (real name Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) at 26. Three years earlier, she became famous by feigning insanity and getting herself committed to the New York City Mental Health Hospital on Blackwell’s island to write an exposé about the horrible conditions there. Then, of course, she made her famous journey, following Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Carrying just a small satchel with a few clothes, and $200 in cash, she made it in 72 days, mostly traveling alone.  Her Wikipedia article summarizes an extremely interesting life; there’s a lot more!

  • 1909 – Richard Strauss’s opera Elektra receives its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.
  • 1915 – Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
  • 1947 – Thomas Goldsmith Jr. files a patent for a “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device”, the first ever electronic game.
  • 1961 – In Washington, D.C., President John F. Kennedy delivers the first live presidential television news conference.

Here’s ten minutes of that 37-minute press conference:

Actually, Charles “Tex” Watson was also convicted. (Fix that, Wikipedia!) Of the five convicted, Watson, Krenwinkel, and van Houten remain alive and incarcerated.   Here are the three women convicted:

Note the Xs carved in their forehead, aping Charlie’s swastika.

This was a close one. For the only time in history, a nuclear briefcase was activated (Yeltsin’s), but then de-activated when the Russians determined that the missile was headed away from their country.

  • 1996 – Billy Bailey becomes the last person to be hanged in the U.S.A.

Bailey chose hanging over lethal injection because he didn’t want to be “put to sleep”. For his last meal, he requested a well-done steak, a baked potato with sour cream and butter, buttered rolls, peas, and vanilla ice cream. Have a look at that link to see other prisoners’ last meals, which I find fascinating. Eichmann even got a bottle of kosher wine! (Alcohol is forbidden to U.S. condemned prisoners.) But a well done steak! Oy!

Here are the gallows used to hang Bailey:

  • 2011 – The first wave of the Egyptian revolution begins throughout the country, marked by street demonstrations, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, riots, labour strikes, and violent clashes.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1627 – Robert Boyle, Anglo-Irish chemist and physicist (d. 1691)
  • 1759 – Robert Burns, Scottish poet and songwriter (d. 1796)
  • 1874 – W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist, and short story writer (d. 1965)
  • 1882 – Virginia Woolf, English novelist, essayist, short story writer, and critic (d. 1941)

Here Jodie Comer reads a poignant letter that Vita Sackville-West sent to her lover Woolf (you can hear the reply here). Very good letters and, at least on Comer’s part, a fantastic reading. They don’t make love letters like that any more!

Doby was my academic grandfather, the advisor of my Ph.D. advisor. Here he is at the scope, probably looking at chromosome squashes.

  • 1949 – Paul Nurse, English geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1981 – Alicia Keys, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress

Those who started the Big Sleep on January 25 include:

  • 1586 – Lucas Cranach the Younger, German painter (b. 1515)
  • 1640 – Robert Burton, English physician and scholar (b. 1577)
  • 1891 – Theo van Gogh, Art dealer, the brother of Vincent van Gogh (b. 1857)

Theo and his brother both died young; they are buried side by side in Auvers-sur-Oise (go see the place if you’re in Paris). Vincent shot himself, of course, and Theo died of syphillis.  The simple gravesite is immensely touching. Always at odds with each other, the brothers reconciled only in death.

  • 1947 – Al Capone, American gangster and mob boss (b. 1899)
  • 1990 – Ava Gardner, American actress (b. 1922)

I still think she was the world’s most beautiful woman, and remains so:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili urges Andrzej to work harder on Listy:

Hili: We can’t stop our efforts.
A: I totally agree.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie możemy ustawać w wysiłkach.
Ja: Całkowicie podzielam twoje zdanie.
Szaron is looking sad, but he’s really only shy:

I can’t resist yet another Bernie meme from Mark. And it’s one of my favorite albums:

I can’t stop myself; here’s another Bernie album-cover meme from Gregory:

From Jesus of the Day. I’ll try to see if this is a real sign. Yes. it seems to be real, and appears to be at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Titania, following the unrestrained exultation of the newsperson here, compares Joe Biden to the first two rulers of North Korea. Be sure to listen to the over-the-top video.

From Gethyn, a remarkable find:

. . . and in case you’ve forgotten what the Cookie Monster looks like:

From Simon. Look at that cat!

From Barry, we have a cat severely in need of rehab!

If you want Cat Crack (a product of Canada), you can buy it on Amazon.

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s a moving clip in which the team of Nepalese climbers who recently made the first winter ascent of K2 (second highest peak on Earth) march to the summit arm in arm, singing the Nepalese National Anthem. Sound up (the fancy music is, of course, superimposed on the clip):

There are a gazillion ways to address this question; I’ll let readers find their own answers (put them below, please):

I just keep getting these memes from readers, and believe me, there are more to come in the next few days’ Hili posts:

And some peace to end with, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings  Sound up.

41 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Two days earlier, he had notified his Republican colleagues in the Senate that he would deliver Schumer a sharp ultimatum: agree to preserve the legislative filibuster, the centerpiece of minority power in the Senate or forget about any semblance of cooperation — starting with an agreement on the chamber’s operating rules.

    In a sane world, the threat “let us uncooperatively block all your legislation, or we will refuse to cooperate with you on your legislation” would provoke a laughing response and a full steam ahead approach. Unfortunately, as you say, the Dems will likely wrap themselves around the axle and fight amongst themselves over the issue of the filibuster, leading to weeks or months of the GOP getting what they want – no judicial appointments, no major legislation, and the ammo they need to claim this is a confused, disorganized, do-nothing administration.

    1. Well, given that it’s been a parliamentary practice in the Senate for over 200 years, I’d be more worried about the Democrats willingness to forego any attempt to build consensus around legislation. Senate confirmation votes are subject to cloture, and cannot be filibustered.

  2. St. Cosme is a superb producer in Gigondas (one of my favorite places on earth), so there’s no surprise the bottle is a good one. If you can get their Gigondas, try it. I favor Grenache (I think AOC Gigondas has to be minimum 65% Grenache; just checked: Min. 50%. But 65% is more typical) for the spice and garrigue; but the syrah from this area is also excellent.

    Head-trained vines (click the link below) with the village of Gigondas and the Dentelles de Montmirail in the background:

  3. Jerry, don’t call Dobie a “Ukrainian geneticist”!! Dobie was Russian to the core– I asked Dick (Lewontin) specifically about this when I visited him 2 summers ago. His birthplace is now in the independent state of the Ukraine, but that’s an accident of geopolitical history that occurred after he died. Ethnically, his ancestry was diverse (I’ve been told his surname is of Polish origin), but linguistically and culturally he was Russian, and has always been referred to as such (or Russian-American). The attempt to label him Ukrainian is a recent (post-Soviet) development.


    1. Greg,

      I didn’t call him that–Wikipedia did! I just cut and pasted the entry. If you don’t like Wikipedia’s take, well, you already have an article way back in the queue about why Wikipedia is wrong.

  4. Actually, Charles “Tex” Watson was also convicted. (Fix that, Wikipedia!) – Fixed now. As so often, the error was in the list of events occurring on a particular day of the year but the relevant main article was correct.

    1. I’m still getting over the incredibly hairy legs on Charlie’s (Manson) angels there. Phew. Time for another valium for sexist pigs like me. Those “girls” must be incredibly old now – those hairs are all grey. Let that thought detonate in your brain, friends.

      Now I’m going to read the link about what Fatah says the Mossad is doing with animals – their propaganda never disappoints (for more, see
      Then 🙂


      1. What is your problem with the legs?

        I remember one controversial blogger who claimed that the thing which by far produced the most hate mail and death threats was a picture where some underarm and leg hair was visible.

  5. I oppose the death penalty even for those — like Bill Bailey — who order their steaks well-done, which is about as close to a culinary capital crime as one can come.

    1. I’m prepared to forgive and forget foibles like that. I, for instance, am often happy to drink red wine with fish even if it does unmask me as a Russian agent.

      However, for my last meal, I would choose whatever the cook does best. I would go to my death with much hatred in my heart if I chose my favourite thing and the cook made a mess of it.

      Mrs Ploppy: I’m the last meal cook Sir. The prisoners may ask for what they fancy for their last meal…..

      Blackadder: And you cook for them what they desire ?

      Mrs Ploppy: Oh yes Sir, provided they ask for sausages. Otherwise they tend to get a tiny bit disappointed. Sausages is all I got.

      1. I expect asking for fugu (pufferfish) prepared by the prison’s chef would be rejected? If not, it could end up being a “you can’t fire me, I quit” sort of final statement…

          1. Yeah, if you’re ever given a choice regarding the means of your execution, “I’ll take my chances with the puffer fish” isn’t a bad response.

            A napkin and fork beats a blindfold and cigarette anytime.

  6. Of course there is no selective advantage to disbelieve in evolution. The more plausible conjecture is there is a selective advantage to believe in particular other things. One being to believe in “agency” behind unknown events. That rustling in the bushes could be a lion, so I should run from it. Religion could be a spin-off from that primitive adaptive behavior.

  7. Man, those Krenwinkel legs! Naturally, I cast no aspersions on girls who choose to fight the patriarchy with furry legs, I’m merely suggesting she was ahead of her time…

    1. It makes no sense, but I don’t know which is more off-putting: women’s hairy legs or the bikini wax, which I believe it was Kathy Griffin who said that it makes women (unclothed ones) look like Barbie dolls.

    1. Haven’t seen the show, but based on the video above, Ms. Comer is welcome to drop by to read me to sleep any day of the week.

  8. Say what you will about JFK’s political acumen, his sexcapades, or even his foolhardiness for agreeing to an open convertible driven through downtown Dallas, the man had class and suavity coming out his rear end. And of course the best presidential hair ever.

  9. There could be an evolutionary advantage to being what one might call “gullible.”

    The phenomenon of “truth bias” is well-known. It means we tend to assume that what someone tells us is true, unless and until it conflicts with some other evidence that we have or acquire.

    The benefit is that you pick lots of true and useful information from your fellow humans; you develop a hive mind. If there were an “untruth bias,” you couldn’t believe anything until it was confirmed by other evidence. Plus, while some people will always game the system by lying, social controls (shunning the person, never believing them again, etc.) exist to discourage lying.

    Of course, this system works best in the ancestral (read small tribe) environment. Add in Twitter and fake news, and it arguably breaks down.

    1. Indeed. This could be related to the tendency to believe in authorities. If a child is told not to go into the swamp because there are alligators, there is strong selective pressure to believe unquestioningly.

Leave a Reply