Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 31, 2021 • 6:30 am

We had our first big snow last night, and it’s still coming down. I estimate about 7 inches so far, but it may get up to a foot. Here’s a shot on my way to work:

Welcome to Sunday, January 31, 2021. National Hot Chocolate Day (I’m drinking some now, with two shots of espresso and plenty of miniature marshmallows!). It’s also a day for a bad libation and a bad comestible: Brandy Alexander Day and (OMG) Eat Brussel Sprouts Day. On a better note, it’s Scotch Tape Day, celebrating the day in 1930 when 3M began marketing the miracle tape, and Inspire Your Heart with Art Day. Here’s the world’s best painting:

News of the Day:

In a NYT op-ed that attributed the frenzy of school renaming in San Francisco to a pandemic-caused pause in the pursuit of normal activities, Ross Douthat gives a link to a Google spreadsheet giving the committee’s reasons for renaming 44 schools.  He also says this:

After the vote, I spent some time reading the Google spreadsheet helpfully compiled by the renaming effort, which listed the justification for each erasure: for Washington, slave-owning; for Revere, helping to command a doomed Revolutionary War military operation on the Maine coast that nonetheless supposedly contributed to the “colonization” of the Penobscot tribe; for Stevenson, writing a “cringeworthy poem” that includes words like “Eskimo” and “Japanee.” (It may not surprise you that some of these justifications, often pulled from Wikipedia, included significant errors of historical fact.)

Trump’s second impeachment trial is set to begin February 8, presided over by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), now out of the hospital where he was sent for muscle spasms. Why isn’t Chief Justice John Roberts in charge again? Because reasons (as the kids say):

Chief Justice John Roberts oversaw the first Trump impeachment trial, as required by the Constitution. But the law is silent on who presides over the trial of a former president, and the chief justice declined to participate in this one, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who said that Mr. Leahy was next in line for the role as president pro tempore of the Senate.

“Sen. Leahy’s job is a little tougher in that he doesn’t come into it with the basic presumption of impartiality that normally attaches to a judge,” said Frank Bowman, a University of Missouri law professor who is an authority on impeachment. “He’s going to have to strain to appear evenhanded in any circumstance where there is sort of a partisan valence to any decision that he makes.”

But it really doesn’t matter: Trump is not going to be convicted. The trial also looks to be pretty short: a week or less.

Speaking of the trial, CNN reports that all five of the attorneys Trump took on to defend him during the impeachment trial have quit. He is now without legal representation, and with the trial set for about a week from now.  The reason? Well, here’s a possible one:

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

An exciting story from HuffPost (not!), using their cringemaking clickbait. Click on screenshot. Isn’t “they got arrested, not antifa” clever? (Not!)

A food writer at the Washington Post published an endearing and mouthwatering essay on the advantages of being a regular at a food emporium or restaurant, especially during the pandemic.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 439,421, an increase of about 2,700 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We are likely to exceed half a million deaths by March. The reported world death toll stands at 2,230,914, an increase of about 12,900 deaths over yesterday’s tota—about 9 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on January 31 includes:

  • 1606 – Gunpowder Plot: Four of the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, are executed for treason by hanging, drawing and quartering, for plotting against Parliament and King James.
  • 1747 – The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief.

After his appointment, Lee was busy creating units of slaves to fight the Union. Oy!

  • 1915 – World War I: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.

As Wikipedia notes, this wasn’t successful: “The Battle of Bolimów was the first attempt by the Germans at a large-scale use of poison gas; the eighteen thousand gas shells they fired proved unsuccessful when the xylyl bromide—a type of tear gas—was blown back at their own lines. The gas caused few, if any, casualties, however, since the cold weather caused it to freeze, rendering it ineffective.”

Here’s Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Lev Kamenev “[motivating] the troops to fight on the Soviet-Polish war. 1 May 1920.”

Here’s Slovik. “Although 21,000 American soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, including 49 death sentences, Slovik’s death sentence was the only one that was carried out.” He was 24.

  • 1945 – World War II: About 3,000 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp are forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.
  • 1949 – These Are My Children, the first television daytime soap opera, is broadcast by the NBC station in Chicago.
  • 1950 – President Truman orders the development of thermonuclear weapons.
  • 1971 – Apollo programApollo 14: Astronauts Alan ShepardStuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell, aboard a Saturn V, lift off for a mission to the Fra Mauro Highlands on the Moon.

Here’s Shepard on the Moon; as a Mercury astronaut, he was also the first American to travel into space (1961, only ten years before).

  • 2001 – In the Netherlands, a Scottish court convicts Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and acquits another Libyan citizen for their part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
  • 2020 – The United Kingdom‘s membership within the European Union ceases in accordance with Article 50, after 47 years of being a member state.

It’s the first anniversary of Brexit!

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Franz Schubert, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1828)
  • 1872 – Zane Grey, American author (d. 1939)
  • 1929 – Rudolf Mössbauer, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2011)
  • 1931 – Ernie Banks, American baseball player and coach (d. 2015)

Known as “Mr. Cub”, Banks played his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, form 1953 to 1971. He was one of the greatest players ever (and voted by fans as the “Best Cub of all Time”), but he never played in a World Series:

  • 1937 – Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (d. 2008)
  • 1947 – Nolan Ryan, American baseball player
  • 1981 – Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor

Those who hied themselves underground on January 31 include:

  • 1606 – Guy Fawkes, English conspirator, leader of the Gunpowder Plot (b. 1570)
  • 1888 – John Bosco, Italian priest and educator, founded the Salesian Society (b. 1815)
  • 1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882)
  • 1969 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (b. 1894)

Here’s Meher Baba with his famous slogan. I have this photo on my wall beside my desk, having put it up in a vain attempt to be happy:

Giant Baba is on the left. Perhaps Meher Baba should have been called “Mini Baba”:

  • 2007 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (b. 1944)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is already sick of winter:

Hili: There used to be green grass everywhere.
A: It will return.
Hili: Let it hurry.
In Polish:
Hili: Tu wszędzie była zielona trawa.
Ja: Będzie znowu.
Hili: Niech się pospieszy.

And here’s Szaron, washing his face upside-down:

From Ken, a post that requires a preliminary explanation:

As you make recall, when environmental activist Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine Person of the Year, a jealous Donald Trump first tweeted that she needed to “work on her Anger Management problem” [random majuscules in original] then later followed up with a sarcastic, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Ms. Thunberg has responded in kind:

A twist on a familiar meme, sent in by Mark:

A true science meme from Ginger K.:

Ricky Gervais loves his kitty, which is a good sign. His name is Pickle.  Here are three tweets showing the moggy, with the first being the official announcement of his name.

The second shows the “scrumble”, a tummy rub (sound up).

And the “skritch”:

Simon sends a wily and lazy cat:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a weird forest of sponges on stalks (second one is a video):

A d*g saves the day!

This takes real skill:

A three-species interaction (see more pictures of the event here):

My guess would be about the age of thirty.

41 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. “I estimate about 7 inches so far, but it may get up to a foot. “

    Wow – it will be impossible to —

    “Here’s a shot on my way to work”

    level : BOSS

    1. Ha! But not an onerous commute on foot… & it is Ceiling Cat’s Day! I did not realise Jerry writes from the office at weekrnds!

      1. I thought of some more:

        “There is an earthquake today. Here’s what it looked like on my way to work.”

        “A wildfire is approaching the building. Here’s what it looks like from my office.”

        And so on.

  2. That paint brush handle must have a reservoir of paint that is being dispensed, right? – I wouldn’t think the bristles could hold that much paint.

  3. An interesting choice of world’s best painting, particularly for an atheist. I’m not quite so keen on depictions of plague-ridden people being tortured to death myself, but chacun à son goût!

    1. My favourite is without doubt Guernica by Picasso, at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. I believe a sign of good art is that it moves you. That it conveys a story, a mood, a sunny day, a storm, or whatever with more passion or beauty or horror than the real thing.

      Gurnica did that to me. Its good enough on a print, but in real life it is incredible. The canvas is 11 ft high and 25 ft wide and it is just so powerful. I found it incredibly moving, the horror and carnage just leapt out and hits me. Its not the most pleasant of subjects to depict, but it made me feel the true horrors of war more than anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s truly stunning.

      Btw – for any art lovers, Madrid is about as good as it gets. The Reina Sofia and Prado are 10 mins walk apart and easily my favourite art museums. Ill be back when lockdown is over.

      1. The Prado is on my bucket list. I’m just now reading ‘The Vanishing Velazquez’ by Laura Cumming, (discussed here recently). It’s a fine book about an English book store owner obsessed over a painting he owned by Velazquez. Perhaps the finest painting ever painted is Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’ in the Prado, which I must see before I die.

        1. Thanks! I will be ordering that book in the morning. The first time I went to the Prado i couldnt wait until i got home, just so I could order some books on Velazquez. You’ll love the Prado – it’s stupefyingly good, I find the place almost magical. Dont miss the Reina Sofia though, Picasso’s works on display there are truly amazing. You’ll Have a great time when you are finally able to get there!

  4. “My guess would be about the age of thirty.” – My wife Lyn and our 18-year -old daughter reckon that there’s probably a buffer zone somewhere around the mid-twenties in which people don’t want to be older or younger?

    1. A curious and alarming fact: because we experience our lives passing by more quickly as we age, the subjective mid-point of our lives averages at 17. I believe that was suggested by the results of a large survey, but I imagine it wouldn’t be very reliable.

      1. Even more alarming than that was a website I once visited. It was one of those productivity sites that encourage you to take life by the horns and follow your dreams. The spanner in the works was a table that the author had created to illustrate how little time we have on this earth. I imagine it was included as a clumsy attempt to motivate the reader. Not that it did that for me, that table still haunts me to this day – there were 90 rows and 52 columns. On paper that really doesn’t look like much. And when presented in such stark terms our existence feels even more fleeting that it actually is. It forced me to conclude that we have a terrifyingly small number of boxes, and many of us have ticked off far more than we have left!

    2. For me it was around age 35, when my longtime relationship ended, my son and I were forced to move back in with my parents, and decided to take a couple of classes at university only to find myself surrounded by a mass of 18-21yr olds whose music, language, clothing, and attitude I found grating. I think I aged 10 years that year.

      1. It was between 23 and 35 for me.
        A friend of mine also decided to return to university when we were 34 I think When she told me of her first day she said she felt surrounded by “fetuses” who she found grating.

  5. The video of the dog saving the fish is fascinating. How does the dog “know” that something is wrong? Okay, maybe because it sees the other fish in the water. So would the dog have saved the fish on the floor if it had been the only fish? Still, there’s some kind of calculus going on there: “Fish on floor. Not right. Should be in water.” So the dog not only “knows” something is wrong, but it’s also expressing concern for the fish?

    Next to mimicry, animals helping other animals (especially across species) forever fascinates me.

    1. I don’t know. And it is particularly puzzling since there is not much about a fish that would trigger a non-human mammal into nurturing it. But maybe the cat had done this before, and the dog saw its humans get all emotional about it, and its emulating how they put the fish back.

      1. Interesting. My dog, a large standard poodle, came up to us one day looking worried. She opened her mouth and carefully released a fledgling bird which she had been carrying safely. The only explanations I’ve though of are either a misplaced maternal drive seeing something helpless, or some kind of thought process along the lines of: “This doesn’t belong here – better get humans to fix.”

    2. My suspicion is that this is staged, that the dog is trained to ‘pick up’ and ‘drop’ and object, perhaps? Otherwise, why would they have been filming this rather than helping the fish?

  6. “After his appointment, Lee was busy creating units of slaves to fight the Union. Oy!”

    This is incorrect. Out of a sense of desperation, in 1865 (March 13th), the Confederate Congress did authorize the recruitment of slaves for the Confederate Army, it never happened as the war ended too soon. Nor is there any evidence that Lee was involved in creating units of slaves, although Lee supported the law. Sam Smith, in an article on the American Battlefield Trust site, states:

    “Active fighting ended less than three weeks after the law was passed, and there is no evidence that any black units were accepted into the Confederate Army as a result of the law. Whatever black combat service might have occurred during the war, it was not sanctioned by the Confederate government. Even beyond the Official Records, there is no known letter, diary entry, or any other primary source in which a Confederate mentions serving with black soldiers.”

    Smith concludes:

    “The modern myth of black Confederate soldiers is akin to a conspiracy theory—shoddy analysis has been presented, repeated, amplified, and twisted to such an extent that utterly baseless claims of as many as 80,000 black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy (which would roughly equal the size of Lee’s army at Gettysburg) have even made their way into classroom textbooks. It is right to study, discover, and share facts about the complex lives of 19th century black Americans. It is wrong to exaggerate, obfuscate, and ignore those facts in order to suit 21st century opinions.”

    In other words, the notion that slaves fought for the Confederacy is a big lie of Trumpian proportions perpetuated by neo-Confederates to fool people to think that slaves were happy to fight for the Confederacy.

    1. Take it up with Wikipedia: As the South ran out of manpower the issue of arming the slaves became paramount. Lee explained, “We should employ them without delay … [along with] gradual and general emancipation”. The first units were in training as the war ended.”

      I think my comment was reasonable, given what I saw. And I didn’t say they fought for the Confederate Army, so don’t imply that I did. He certainly did support the dictum.

        1. My reading of history must agree with Historian. I recall there was one confederate of high rank, I cannot recall the name who started pushing the idea of black soldiers but most others ignored or wrote him off. As the war went on and the south become increasingly desperate this idea surfaced again. But it never was actually accomplished. Most of the southerners were deathly afraid of actually putting weapons into the hands of slaves and they could never get past it. Lots of x slaves did fight for the north and made a sizable difference on the field of batte.

      1. I second the comment by Historian.

        Until March 1865, Confederate Army policy specifically prohibited Black people from serving as soldiers. Some Confederate officers wanted to enlist enslaved people earlier: Gen. Patrick Cleburne proposed enlisting African American soldiers early in 1864, but Jefferson Davis rejected the suggestion and ordered it never to be discussed again. Finally, in the last weeks of the conflict, the Confederate government gave in to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s desperate plea for more men, allowing enslaved people to enlist in exchange for some kind of post-war freedom. A small number signed up for training, but there’s no evidence they saw combat. My guess is that most confederates feared that blacks would be untrustworthy as gun toting confederate soldiers.

        1. Some Confederate slave-owners took their slaves with them into the army; the slaves were sometimes put to work digging ditches or building fortifications. In propaganda, these laborers are ret-conned into “Black soldiers” even though they were not inducted into the army and held no rank.

          1. The black man in Emanuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” was apparently the black slave of one of General Washington’s officers, if not of Washington himself. Carrying your slaves along with you is apparently a long American (European, and Middle East) tradition, at least among the rich, and was not invented by the Confederacy.
            I have read an unconfirmed report that at the Battle of Perryville, KY (Oct 8 1862) that darker-skinned Confederate troops from Louisiana captured by an Ohio (I believe) unit were executed. In the mid-1800s virulent racism was the rule. Participation in the big KKK marches in Washington the late 1920s was national in scope and only flew (in the photos and films I have seen) American flags. If it weren’t for scandals in the KKK ranks, American history after 1930 would probably have been very different.

  7. It’s worth noting that Guy Fawkes didn’t suffer the same horrors as his co-conspirators. He was on the scaffold with his noose in place, and they were ready to start the strangulation hanging, dissembowling and castration etc. But before they got going, he sneakily jumped off the scaffold, which broke his neck. He therefore never had to watch them barbecue his insides or experience the unusual sensation of being pulled apart by four horses.

  8. Perhaps justice Roberts is reveling a bit of his character or lack thereof. Or may just one among many of the cowardly X republicans who see no need to do their duty, whatever that was. The republican party is history in case any care to look. As Paul Krugman recently said, they have parted ways with the facts, logic and democracy. We could name them the party of insurrection or party of treason or just domestic terrorist. It really makes no difference because it will soon be dead, just like some of the people they killed on the 6th.

  9. Thanks for the Grünewald images, Prof! Now I must listen to Paul Hindemith’s whole “Mathis der Maler” Symphony, a perfect accompaniment to this snowy day in northern Illinois. Here’s an excerpt, the closing section of the work.

  10. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to love the Grunewalds. I appreciate the mastery in technique and artistry, but not the subject matter. Hence, I conclude it’s a shortcoming on my part.

    I am in awe of the one stroke painting. That’s a worthwhile application of ‘locked and loaded’!
    Szaron is adorable and a very contented cat.

  11. 1945 – World War II: About 3,000 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp are forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.

    I really dislike this use of “executed”. These people were murdered. “Executed” implies at least some sort of judicial process.

  12. Speaking of the great Ernie Banks who spent his career with the not so great Chicago Cubs, my favorite quote from him: “The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.”

  13. There are better routes to happiness than that old fraud Meher Baba. For instance, I’m partial to the psychedelics he railed against (competition, y’see). Oh, and the *absence* of any pictures of Meher Baba next to my desk helps make me happy.
    And for a “Don’t Worry Be Happy” guy he sure got into a lot of car accidents but at least he didn’t make a lot of noise. 🙂

    1. Pete Townshend has been a follower of Baba for decades. The song Baba O’Riley refers to him (and Terry Riley). Tommy is a (pretty good) satire on the new religions which sprung up in the 60s, though few people get it. Ironic that Townshend himself is a follower of a guru. Of course, one’s own guru is always right and the others are fake.

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