Friday: Hili dialogue

January 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday, January 29, 2021: National Corn Chip Day.  I do like a titer of corn chips beside a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It’s also National Carnation Day, National Puzzle Day, and, in honor of your host, Freethinkers Day and Curmudgeons Day (designed to coincide with the birthday of W. C. Fields, one of the original curmudgeons). And, in Kansas, it’s Kansas Day (see below).

News of the Day:

A well know science-and-health reporter for the NYT, Donald McNeil, Jr., was disciplined by the paper for blatantly racist remarks, including the use of the n-word but also because “he did not believe in white privilege” McNeil denies the charges, and it’s unclear what “discipline” he got. But other Times staffers have been fired outright for much less, including op-ed editor James Bennett (he published Tom Cotton’s editorial) and Quinn Norton, who was accused of making racist tweets. The Times apparently retains those writers who are most useful, and fires the others. (h/t William)

I will not write about the GameStop fracas, as I find it far more boring than the news seems to. I doubt it will bring down Wall Street.

What got me more excited was the appearance on Wednesday of a snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) in Central Park, Manhattan—the first time the species has been seen there since 1890. Of course the local birders, alerted by their  Internet sources, showed up in droves, but so did crows and hawks, harassing the predator, and even a drone trying to get an overhead shot. Disturbed, the owl stayed just a day and then buggered off.  What’s going on there: first a Mandarin Duck in 2018-2019, and this year a Snowy Owl? Could it be climate change, or just the Zeitgeist?  Here’s a photo:

NYT photo by Maryté Mercado

You want real news? The Chicago Teachers Union is still at odds with the School District about opening schools to live instruction (teachers are wary of infection; the School Board says it’s safe). Classes were supposed to start on Wednesday but only a third of the teachers showed up. This is going to get nasty.

Oy gewalt! The BBC reports on the travails of one Bandit the Ferret from Leeds, who went through an entire 100-minute cycle of a washing machine and still survived. It was touch-and-go at first: the poor guy had bruises and a collapsed lung, and was given only a 1% of survival by the vet. But the intrepid mustelid soon took a few steps, and now he’s going to be fine.

Here’s poor Bandit resting at home; he looks knackered!

Reader Jez, who sent me the ferret story, had his own near-misses; as he recounts (with a photo):

Our foolish cat Tilly (sadly no longer with us) had a penchant for sitting in the washing machine (photo attached), but fortunately never went for a spin. And yes, she had a crazy moustache (and a goatee, too, although that isn’t very visible in the shot).

The lesson is to always check your washer and dryer for mammals before you insert the clothing.

The actress Cicely Tyson died; I was stunned to realize that she was 96. Perhaps you remember her great performances in the movie “Sounder” and the television film “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman“.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 433,174, a big increase of about 3,800 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We are likely to exceed half a million deaths in less than a month. The reported world death toll stands at 2,202,672, an increase of about 16,200 deaths over yesterday’s total, or about 11.2 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 29 includes:

  • 1819 – Stamford Raffles lands on the island of Singapore.
  • 1845 – “The Raven” is published in The Evening Mirror in New York, the first publication with the name of the author, Edgar Allan Poe

Here’s Gustave Doré’s engraving of the poem’s subject:

And here’s Poe, who died of unknown causes, but while delirious, at age 40:

  • 1850 – Henry Clay introduces the Compromise of 1850 to the U.S. Congress.
  • 1861 – Kansas is admitted as the 34th U.S. state.
  • 1886 – Karl Benz patents the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
  • 1891 – Liliʻuokalani is proclaimed the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The queen reigned for just two years. Here she is:

Here they are: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.

Over 350 million Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best-selling toys of all time—and making Ernő Rubik a rich man. Here he is, still with us (born in 1944):

  • 2002 – In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush describes “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of evil, in which he includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
  • 2009 – Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich is removed from office following his conviction of several corruption charges, including the alleged solicitation of personal benefit in exchange for an appointment to the United States Senate as a replacement for then-U.S. president-elect Barack Obama.

Blag was pardoned by Trump. He’s an odious and slippery piece of work.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1688 – Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish astronomer, philosopher, and theologian (d. 1772)
  • 1843 – William McKinley, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 25th President of the United States (d. 1901)
  • 1860 – Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short story writer (d. 1904)
  • 1880 – W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian, and screenwriter (d. 1946) [see above]
  • 1888 – Wellington Koo, Chinese statesman (d. 1985)
  • 1923 – Paddy Chayefsky, American author and screenwriter (d. 1981)
  • 1939 – Germaine Greer, Australian journalist and author
  • 1954 – Oprah Winfrey, American talk show host, actress, and producer, founded Harpo Productions

Those who croaked on January 29 include:

Lear looked as you would have expected him to. Here’s a portrait taken a year before his death; his arm was supposedly bent because he was holding his cat, which “leapt away”:

This is claimed to be a drawing by Sisley, “The Cat” (1870):


  • 1934 – Fritz Haber, Polish-German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868)
  • 1956 – H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic (b. 1880)

I haven’t been able to find a video of Mencken, one of my heroes for his writing abilities (but a horrible racist towards blacks and Jews); you can find an hourlong interview with him here.

  • 1980 – Jimmy Durante, American entertainer (b. 1893)
  • 2002 – Harold Russell, Canadian-American soldier and actor (b. 1914)
  • 2015 – Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter and poet (b. 1933)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is disdainful of Kulka’s romps in the snow:

Hili: She never gets enough of the snow.
A: Do you want to go out as well?
Hili: No, thank you.
In Polish:
Hili: Ona nigdy nie ma dość tego śniegu.
Ja; Chcesz też iść na dwór?
Hili: Nie, dziękuję.

From Donna, and I bet this is real because it’s too twisted to make up (plus the names are effaced):

From Facebook, a cartoon from Dan Piraro:

From Mark. It took me a while to figure this one out, but yes, it’s a real photo:

Titania goes after segregation:

And some self-flagellation (the “confession” is real):

From Jez (h/t his wife): A dog discovers the joys of a nose flute:

Tweets from Matthew. This seems more like a Fifties dinner party than a Seventies one. I’d totally nom it, though.

As I said when I retweeted this, the article is very cool (Africans drank milk as adults before the spread of the lactose-tolerance gene), but I don’t think “explosive diarrhea” is the inevitable outcome of lactose intolerance!

I’ve posted about Hypno-Cat before, but it’s worth seeing again. Be sure to read the caption of the newspaper article, and if you want more information on The Amazing Puffy, go here.

I may have posted this recently, but you can’t see it too often:

Here’s a snippet of a longer video at the YouTube link. A must-see for spaceophiles:


44 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. The mischievous part of me wanted to say “not it isn’t math, it’s maths” but unfortunately, I’ve awakened the pedant in me who says it’s neither: it’s arithmetic.

    Anyway, there are two fails in the dialogue, the first is, of course, needing a source to show that 2,000 miles / 75 mph is 26 hours and 40 minutes and the second is the implication that not sleeping will allow you to pack more than 24 hours in a day.

      1. Very stoopid person in that dialogue…

        Has anyone produced an IQ test which you can complete with a good reliable Acheulean hand-axe?
        Good grief – what numpty drew the distribution map in that (linked-to) wiki article? How do they think the tool-makers got to that isolated blob in the Karakoram? Fly? Carried there by rocs? Walked, and we just haven’t found their intermediate tool-use sites? Mutter, mutter, “… off my lawn!”

        1. Yes, it got a good review on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row this evening. (Though no doubt Carey Mulligan is “too hot” to play Edith Pretty, which will make a change after her recent complaints about a year-old Variety review about an earlier film…)

        2. A friend in SF just wrote that he had watched it today and that it was very good! I’ve got it ✔️ed on Netflix. And this same friend recommended the excellent French intelligence series The Bureau. Have only watched one episode so far but loved it. Our library has 5 seasons! Canuck amazon prime also has it.
          I want to thank whoever it was on this site who recommended Flame and Citron maybe a month ago. Watched it last night and enjoyed it very much!

  2. The rumor I’d always heard regarding E.A. Poe is that he fell victim to the drink that’s been the ruin of many a poor literary boy: absinthe (though the beverage of choice for the so-called “Poe Toasters” is cognac).

  3. I, too, am in awe of Mencken’s writing abilities. He’s one of my quartet of the eminently quotable, the other three being Twain, Wilde, and Parker.

    1. I usually breed through the notables born on this day section but I posted a comment about my own cat and her love of my dryer, and noticed your comment mentioning I thought it was Alan Menken the Disney music composer (“The Little Mermaid” “Beauty And The Beast”). I had to go back and reread it just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating

        1. You should get a countdown timer giving you 15 minutes to complete your edits after you first post. The timer doesn’t re-set after each edit, and after that 15 minute window, the link to re-open the editor disappears.
          It works ; is good. Well, certainly better than no edting facility.

  4. I know that my own cat likes to chill out in my dryer but I have one of those stackable units and honestly I never put clothes away after I’ve done the actual laundry so she likes to sleep on my nice, clean, just been in the dryer, clothes.

  5. You won’t comment on the Gamestop thing, but I will. I’m getting out my popcorn. Not to watch Wall Street go down – nothing about our country, its laws or institutions, people or politics, will bring harm to them.

    Instead, I’m enjoying watching the clown show with the certified idiots stumbling all over themselves in their glee at what they really believe is imminent; some kind of comeuppance, whether financial or regulatory, from fate or politics for the stock markets. I see OAC, who I am struggling to like, is on top of it! That’ll get them Wall Street types ashakin in the boots, I tellyouwhat.

    Despite the entertainment value of this nonsense, it will be a forlorn kind of popcorn eating though as there is only one path forward; Wall Street interests will prevail, as they always do, and nothing will change. OAC will get to go on twitter rants (that’s her thing; a bizarro world Trumpian infatuation with Twatter), many talking heads on the TeeVee will be apoplectic with indignation and support for the poor deluded fools who think they are on a mission, there will be loud calls for reform from the usual suspects and lots of regular investors will lose their shirts. But in the end there will be no change to the way the flow of money is controlled in the US (it is only one way).

    Same as it ever was.

    1. I think this is one case where the media is more interested in this story than the financial wizards. Except for the companies involved, and their investors, this is pretty much a non-event. Driving up stock prices for spite is not likely to catch on.

    2. Not sure how ‘wall street interests will prevail’, they are a bit hoist by their own petard here. What I mean by that is they wanted deregulation, they wanted legal stock speculation well beyond what a direct or first-order estimation of stock value should be, and they want regular people to invest in stocks (vs. bonds or savings or other more stable instruments) because that drives the whole market up. That is essentially what the grass-roots Gamestop purchasers are doing – regular people investing, speculatively. The only way to stop self-organized purchasing of stocks that large companies have shorted would be to regulate stock prices or regulate purchases, which is exactly what they don’t want to happen. Sure, the SEC will get some folks for insider trading because I’m sure there were some insincere folks out there who’s intent was to make the stock balloon up then down, or whose plan was to short the shorting companies themselves and thus profit from their losses. But the notion of “these guys shorted the stock…let’s show them by buying it” is perfectly legal and easily accomplished – because those exact Wall Street folks caught out by it want speculative trades to be legal and easily accomplished.

    3. While a lot [most?] of Wall Street is useless rent-seeking, short sellers do serve a purpose. The GameStop debacle could cripple, or perhaps even end, that business. The first rule of short selling: make sure you can stay solvent longer than the market can remain irrational. If an online mob of gullible investors can in a very short time drive a stock up to 30 times its rational value, it’s not possible to ever be sure you can outlast the market madness.
      CNBC has an interesting article on the social implications of GameStop
      A key paragraph: “There are scores of similarities between former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement and the GameStop surge. There is a sense of fighting back against disrespect of the elites, belief that systemic rules have been written to benefit insiders at the expense of regular people, and new internet technologies that widely distribute power that was once held exclusively by a small group.”
      Unless it is true that “It is different this time” [almost never true], a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money.

      1. The first rule of short selling is “cover/hedge your potential losses” with covered calls/puts, etc. – there are lots of options strategies to practice risk management. Why these hedge funds didn’t is beyond me. Hubris? Greed (the hedging strategies do cut into profits).

        A few years ago there was a HUUUGE scandal as some hedge funds shorted Herballife, a criminal ponzi scheme using pseudo-science as its “product”* (Herballife products). I was rooting for the funds that time – I love to see woo-woo purveyors that rob the gullible of their little money like Herballife go down the toilet.


        *Similar to a scam our orange ex-president was involved with in the 2000s. When I heard that I wondered “Is there a scam/grift/ rip off he HASN’T tried?” I was gobsmacked.

    4. Indeed. Wanna buy this fantastic Dutch Tulip bulb? GREAT returns…so far!
      I used to be a proprietary trader (other people’s Money) on Wall St – back when I had more hair and more testosterone. Deciding against a heart attack I went to law school instead.

      Particularly more recently the fix is in for the big boys of trading but this flash mob of gamers are out of their depth IMHO.

  6. Another Mencken admirer here. I swear I can often see his shade grinning at me through a haze of cigar smoke when I read political news. His racism and antisemitism are undeniable, but a fuller picture of his views on race and ethnicity can come from reading his essay “The Anglo-Saxon.” I read it for the first time in my teens and it was a formative thing.

  7. in the 1980s i never pictured this is what the 2020s would be

    I can’t see quite enough of the street signs, shop signs and vehicle registration plates to be sure, but I’m going to hazard a guess that the skateboarding Moggie-Man is in Japan. Somehow it just seems very Japanese to me.

  8. W. C. Fields, one of the original curmudgeons)

    Awww, c’mon. The curmudgeon was an established trope well before W.C.Fields played in Peoria. Literarally, Conan-Doyle’s Prof.Challenger was surely based on someone real (probably one of C-D’s professors, not the beloved Prof Bell-Holmes). Ditto, several generations earlier, Dickens’ readers probably smirked at Scrooge and pointed a finger at a public figure of the time as the character’s inspiration.

    1. Well, since the term itself goes back a few hundred years…! According to Wiktionary:

      The word is attested from the late 1500s in the forms curmudgeon and curmudgen, and during the 17th century in numerous spelling variants, including cormogeon, cormogion, cormoggian, cormudgeon, curmudgion, curmuggion, curmudgin, curr-mudgin, curre-megient.

      1. Not surprised. It’s got a rather “Middle English” feel to it – as best I can remember from ploughing through Chaucer.

  9. Yes, always check the washer/drier for pets. Sadly, my brother lost a beloved cat in a dryer incident. I was actually on the phone with him when he opened the drier to see his dying cat, Buddy. It was the most horrible scream I have ever heard from a fellow human…I can still remember it. Especially since he immediately hung up the phone (to take the cat to the vet). I had no idea what had happened and was beside myself for an hour or so before he called me back with the horrible news. Talk about learning a lesson the hard way.

    1. Yes indeed darrelle and JezG. It happened sometime in the early 90’s, and I’ve never brought it up to him since. He’s never talked about it either. I don’t know the general clinical rule, but in my family, trauma is usually met with trying to forget. I haven’t forgotten, obviously, but I don’t know if talking would help, so it’s easy enough to not bring it up around family. Nice to express it here…love this WEIT realm.

      Edit: thinking about it again, it has come up. It definitely has come up, but now I’m remembering my bro being very uncomfortable…I know he’s hugely guilty about it. I think it’s best to let it lie in the past.

  10. I remember being shocked when I opened Mencken’s translation of Nietzsche’s The Antichrist and found this in his introduction: “The case against the Jews is long and damning; it would justify ten thousand times as many pogroms as now go on in the world.”
    Was Mencken satisfied by the Holocaust then? I would love to know if Mencken was confronted about this after WWII. He wrote that vile sentence in 1918, and just a couple decades later history granted his wish.
    How is it that such a clever, witty man could indulge in such stupid, witless bigotry?

  11. I’m happy that you mentioned “Sounder” in writing of Ms. Tyson’s career. It’s a beautiful and beautifully acted film.

  12. With regard to lactose intolerance, you are correct in saying explosive diarrhoea isnt an inevitable consequence. However, from my own unfortunate experience, and at the risk of being a bit too explicit, anything above about 200 ml of milk results in exactly that. My belly will start to gurgle and distend, painful cramps set in, noxious gas builds up needing to escape, and within 90 mins I’ll be rushing to thee loo to explode for the first of two or three visits! Its not pretty or pleasant, but it is certainly explosive! It’s horrible and unpleasant enough to put me off. I never consume more than about 50 – 100 ml a day now and it never bothers me. Above the 200 ml limit and all bets are off!

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