Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 3, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to this week’s Hump Day, Wednesday, February 3, 2021: National Carrot Cake Day: the only vegetable that can improve a dessert (so long as the cake has cream-cheese frosting). I just recalled that one of my favorite Indian desserts is Gajaar ka halwa: carrot halwa, another great carrot sweet. I made it once, but it’s very laborious, requiring constant stirring and lots of ghee (clarified butter; one recipe is here).

It’s best eaten warm

It’s also American Painters Day, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Take a Cruise Day (not this year!), and The Day the Music Died, memorializing the day in 1959 when a plane crash killed four, including the rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Speaking of memorializing the death of four, it’s also Four Chaplains Memorial Day, honoring four pastors who died on this day in 1943 after their troopship was torpedoed and they gave their life jackets to other men before going down with the ship. Here they are: a Methodist, a Jew, a Catholic, and a Reformed Church pastor. Very sad, and brave, too.

There was a stamp, too, which still resides somewhere in my boyhood stamp collection:

News of the Day:

Trump’s lawyers are laying out the outlines of their defense, which is that Trump can’t be impeached because he’s no longer in office. I doubt that the Democrats will give up in the face of this argument, but it may make Republicans even more reluctant to vote to convict. But of course Trump’s not going to be convicted anyway. The proceedings start next week.

Oh dear! Sir “Captain Tom” Moor , the man who walked 100 laps of his garden and thereby raised £ 45 million pounds for British hospitals, has died of covid-related pneumonia at 100. What can you say except that he was a good man and an inspiration to all of us?

Credit: Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The Great Western Railway, which named a locomotive after him, issued a memorial tweet:

I guess Jeff Bezos is going to kick back and enjoy his millions, as he’s announced that he’s stepping down as CEO of Amazon, which he founded and has led for 27 years. His new role is “executive chair”, whatever that means. How rich is he? Try $182 billion, making him by far the richest person in the world, and, with the appropriate adjustments, the richest person who ever lived. Click on this link to see world’s the five “centibillionaires”. I bet you can guess at least four of them.

Have you ever wondered where the Amish and Mennonites go on holiday? You probably thought that they didn’t go on holiday. But some of them do! And when they want some sun and sand, they head to the tiny community of Pinecraft, Florida.  The BBC has a 7-minute video about this place, with narration and photos by Dana Litovsky. Click on the screenshot below to see it, and go to this link if you want to read more about Pinecraft. (As you might expect, the pie in Pinecraft is fantastic.)

Women’s volleyball! Watch the movie; it’s fascinating.


CNN reports that Russia’s own Covid-19 vaccine, called Sputnik V, is remarkably effective against the virus: 91.6%, to be precise. Good news for my friends in Russia, and I suppose for Putin, too. But I don’t wish anyone to get ill, even killer oligarchs.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 446,641, an increase of about 3,400 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The death rate is now falling in America, but we’re still likely to exceed half a million deaths within a month. The reported world death toll stands 2,264,633, an increase of about 16,600 deaths over yesterday’s total and about 11.6 deaths per minute.

Stuff that happened on February 3 includes:

Here’s that first currency:

  • 1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
  • 1913 – The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
  • 1917 – First World War: The American entry into World War I begins when diplomatic relations with Germany are severed due to its unrestricted submarine warfare.

Here’s that declaration of war:

The Four Chaplains were aboard (see above).  674 of the 904 aboard were lost, with one survivor dying after rescue.

Here’s the wreckage of the plane after “The Day the Music Died”

  • 1971 – New York Police Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a drug bust in Brooklyn and survives to later testify against police corruption

Here’s Serpico, still around and lecturing on police corruption, with Al Pacino, who played him in the 1973 movie “Serpico”. Hard to believe that was 48 years ago!

  • 1972 – The first day of the seven-day 1972 Iran blizzard, which would kill at least 4,000 people, making it the deadliest snowstorm in history.
  • 1984 – John Buster and the research team at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center announce history’s first embryo transfer, from one woman to another resulting in a live birth.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1809 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1847)
  • 1821 – Elizabeth Blackwell, American physician and educator (d. 1910)

Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States:

Elizabeth Blackwell

Here’s one of Rockwell’s famous “Four Freedoms” paintings; this one is “Freedom from Want”:

  • 1904 – Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (d. 1934)
  • 1920 – Henry Heimlich, American physician and author (d. 2016)
  • 1957 – Eric Lander, American mathematician, geneticist, and academic

For more on a recent kerfuffle about Lander, named as Biden’s chief science adviser, go here.

Those who went belly up on February 3 include:

  • 1399 – John of Gaunt, Belgian-English politician, Lord High Steward (b. 1340)
  • 1924 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian, academic, and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)1959 – The Day the Music Died[21]
    • The Big Bopper, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1930)
    • Buddy Holly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1936)
    • Ritchie Valens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1941)
  • 2005 – Ernst Mayr, German-American biologist and ornithologist (b. 1904)

Once again I extol Mayr, who is largely forgotten by today’s young evolutionary biologists despite his immense influence on the field.  Here he is as Harvard’s Curator of Ornithology. And here’s his obituary that I wrote for Science soon after he died at 100.

  • 2011 – Maria Schneider, French actress (b. 1952)
  • 2020 – George Steiner, French-American philosopher, author, and critic (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Spring can’t come soon enough for Hili:

Hili: A bit warmer puff of wind.
A: It’s always a reason to rejoice.
In Polish:
Hili: Jakiś cieplejszy powiew.
Ja: To zawsze powód do radości.

And a photo of little Kulka under the veranda, with a reference to Orwell:

Caption: Little Sister is watching you. (Photo by Paulia R.)

In Polish: Mała siostra patrzy. (Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

From Cats Without Gods:

I can’t resist another Bernie meme from Facebook:

And a meme (certainly not real) from Bruce:

Biden is not woke enough for Titania:

Two tweets from Barry. Ignore the first one, which you’ve seen, and watch the second (I haven’t learned how to separate linked tweets; suggestions welcome.) The second shows the spineless George Bridges of cats. As Barry notes, “If there’s cat in the world that’s more spineless than this one (yes, I do remember the cat chasing the rat across the street and then running away from it), I haven’t seen it”:

From Dom: Mollusc of the Year, and a lovely one it is, too!

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is sweet: Stadler is a senior bat: a 33 year old (!) flying fox, and can’t fly any more, so his caretakers take him out for faux flights every day, give him fruit, and then hang him up again. Sound up.

Tweet below the first: old Statler, keeping warm and eating fruit. He’s the oldest known bat alive today.  See a video of his birthday party here and get more information, viz:

On April the 28th, 2020, Statler turned 33 years old. Statler had a difficult life before he came to Bat World Sanctuary. He was born in a zoo and has a few battle scars, and somehow over the years he lost an eye. He came to us two years ago after the small zoo (where he was mistreated) thankfully closed. Statler loves to recline in a hammock where his favorite foods are close by. He gets arthritis medication every day as well as a warm facial and gentle brushes. Statler is the oldest living bat in captivity; we hope to give him many more years of daily pampering. (And in case you are wondering, Statler’s friend, Chessie, got a piece of “cake” as well).

The comments on the thread after the first tweet below are largely odious, nasty, and show the worst aspects of humanity.

I love Statler. Be sure to check in tomorrow at the site below, where Statler’s going to “fly” again today:

My answer was “to get lipids,” which I considered a perfectly respectable answer; but Matthew thought it tautological. It isn’t. That’s just one of several answers to the “why?” question.

Goose and cat love. Grania would have liked this, for she was keen on interspecific animal friendships.

Here we have a cool tweet followed by a haughty response from a Pecksniff:

It goes on, of course, because this is Twitter:

38 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. … Four Chaplains Memorial Day, honoring four pastors who died on this day in 1943 after their troopship was torpedoed and they gave their life jackets to other men before going down with the ship. Here they are: a Methodist, a Jew, a Catholic, and a Reformed Church pastor.

    Now there’s ecumenism even a stone-cold non-believer can appreciate.

    1. Hey, Ken. I’ve been on a Kurosawa kick lately, and it confirmed my top five list. Tied for first place are High and Low and Ran, and Red Beard holds third place. After those come Throne of Blood and Ikiru. I’d put Rashomon in sixth or seventh place. I know Rashomon was great for its time, but it pales in comparison to the later works I chose, which had far more intricate direction and better writing. My recent reviewing of his work has only confirmed to me that he was still developing as an artist when he made Rashomon.

      I know Rashomon is your favorite, but what are your other top five?

      1. Ken can speak for himself, but Seven Samurai is far my favorite Kurosawa work and it is among the best movies of all time.

        If you like the golden age of Japanese cinema, may I recommend films by Shohei Imamura, particularly Pigs and Battleships, Insect Woman and A Man Vanishes

        1. Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve watched a lot of contemporary Japanese cinema, but my viewing of older movies has been limited to the giants of the time, like Kurosawa, Ozu, Fukasaku, etc.

      2. I can also recommend Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “Women in the Dunes”, based on the eponymous novel by “the Edgar Allen Poe” of Japan, Kobo Abe.

      3. The others filling out my top five (without specifically ranking them in order) would be Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Ran (but then, as to the latter two, Macbeth and King Lear are two of my favorite Shakespeare plays, so I suppose that would follow).

        I understand a strong case can be made that Rashomon isn’t actually Kurosawa’s best — contemporary Japanese audiences didn’t seem to think so — but it’s the first of his I saw (and was Kurosawa’s breakthrough with western audiences, having won the Golden Lion in Venice). That, and the role it plays as metaphor in my mental landscape, gives it pride of place.

        1. Ah, that makes much more sense. It’s more about what it means to you personally than how it stacks up against his other work.

          Macbeth and King Lear are two of my favorite Shakespeare plays as well, and adapting them as samurai sagas was a brilliant idea. If I remember correctly (I’m not sure where I read this), Peter O’Toole had asked Kurosawa about filming King Lear several years before Ran, and Kurosawa didn’t initially intend for Ran to be an adaptation of the play, but eventually found that it was just working out that way and he decided to roll with it.

    1. I was the family doc for a community of Mennonites for 30 years, and I doubt they would like that video. As photographic subjects, they ought not be photographed as curiosities (look at this – volleyball in long dresses!) I may not have the chance for health reasons, but I’d bet if I asked them if I could be allowed in to make a photographic record of their real lives they would say yes to me, and I hope I could do it justice. Perhaps if I get over the next health-hurdle I shall give it a try. Could be fun.

    2. Kinda funny that the video purports to be about the Amish in Lancaster, PA, but it’s obviously not PA scenery. It was actually filmed in Ventura county, and I would guess Hidden Valley because of the white fencing and surrounding mountains.

      Our family spent several months in Pinecraft one winter to escape the northern Indiana cold. I was in first grade at a two room school. Odd mix of “English”, Mennos and Amish.

  2. I have been reading Mayr’s “The History of Biological Thought” as part of my quarantine readings on the history and philosophy of science and find that it provides me with a whole new set of perspectives on the organization and content of the sciences that we of this generation have often taken for granted. I would love to read your obit to Mayr but clicking gives me access to a big, fat “Science” paywall.

  3. I don’t know much detail of the airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly but it appeared to be a case of a somewhat inexperienced pilot and a flight that should have been cancelled. I don’t think they ever discovered the exact cause, possible icing or even mechanical. Often the cause is just listed as weather which kills more pilots than just about anything. Flying beyond the pilots training or capability is often the cause. I am often curious why passengers do not take more interest in the plane and especially the pilot they are going up with. Chances are none of those who died in this one gave it a thought.

      1. Yes, I think the deal with Jennings was a coin flip with someone so that was pure luck. And I don’t mean all crashes are like this but there are many. A passenger that takes charter flights should know a few basic things to be better informed. Does the pilot flying the plane have a commercial license? He or she must have a commercial rating /license to be flying charter. If you are paying anything for the flight the pilot should be a commercial pilot. Just a private pilot license does not get it. Does the pilot have an instrument rating/license? To fly in weather or even at night, visual flight rules are not enough, you need to have your instrument rating. You might ask, how many hours does the pilot have. If he has all the ratings and says 4 or 5 hundred hours, that is pretty new. If he says 4000 hours that is better.

        1. Bruce Dickinson, lead singer with Iron Maiden (and a published author, brewer, and fencer (at one time ranked seventh in the UK) is also a commercial airline pilot, and did that as his main job when he took a break from Maiden back in the 1990s. His is the pilot of their tour plane, currently a 747. He said that on stage his role is to create drama, whereas that as a pilot is the opposite.

      1. I am taking up way to much space here but this tragedy was caused by an idiot pilot and passengers that never should have gotten in. Notice the plane is just like the one Buddy Holly died in. A Beach Bonanza.

    1. I was once told by the son of an air force pilot, who’s father later became a commercial pilot: “I will never fly in a private plane unless the pilot has military training.” Good advice. Years later, one of his neighbors got his pilot license and kept wanting him to join him for recreational flights. He always declined. It took three years until the neighbor got caught in a dust storm his limited training couldn’t get him out of and he crashed and died. Luckily, he was the only person in the plane.

    2. Sometimes it is the passengers that put the pressure on the pilot. Holly had a schedule to maintain. If he was stuck at an airport with no other means of getting to his destination, he might have persuaded Peterson to fly against his better judgement. That’s also possibly what happened in the Kobe Bryant case.

      1. The same thing happened with the R&B singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001. The plane was overloaded and crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 9 people on board. Evidently the party HAD to get back to New York and would not take “no” for an answer.

        Afterward, people on TV were asking why God “took” Aaliyah at such a young age. (Never mind the other 8 people.) I think some people don’t realize that a plane is simply a machine that can lift a certain amount of weight, and if you go over that weight, it will crash, even if you are a celebrity. They think planes are magic. In her autobiography, Nichelle Nichols (Uhura on “Star Trek”) said that she believed in miracles and offered airplanes as an example (“Iron flying?”) She was serious.

  4. As to wishing oligarchs ill, how about this: a long healthy life in abject poverty and even more important, obscurity. I get a lot of pleasure out of imagining Mr. Trump having to scramble for minimum wage jobs, failing to get them, and not being able to get a single person’s attention. Surely you could apply that fantasy to Mr. Putin as well with a safe conscience.

    1. I agree with you, although a Scrooge-like epiphany and personal transformation, followed by him using his influence and power for good might be nice. But I don’t know if things like that ever happen to real people.

      1. Your fantasy says a lot more about you than it does about Trump or Putin, I’m afraid. Personally, I really don’t care whether they can help being horrible people, and I don’t believe an epiphany is in the cards for either of them, but anyway, I want them to suffer until they are dead. That tells you about me!

        1. Believe me, I sympathize with your point of view. Heck, I would love to be the one to MAKE them suffer…but it would be nice if some redemption happened instead. I think you’re right, though. It’s not in the cards.

  5. The still frame at the beginning of the volleyball video looks much like a painting that would be done by Vermeer.

    And why have tiny bits of carrots in carrot cake? I see no reason other than to give reason to call it carrot cake.

  6. Caveat emptor to the bit about the Amish and their pies. Worst peach pie I ever had was one bought from an Amish roadside stand, bought with the anticipation of great delight.

  7. I had no idea the Amish went on holiday! It almost seems antithetical to their beliefs, but I guess I don’t really know much about them. This did remind me of a great joke I heard Christopher Hitchens tell:

    Why did the Amish girl get excommunicated?
    Too Mennonite! (say it out loud if you don’t get it)

    Regarding Serpico, I have to say that I never liked the movie. I’ve always found Pacino’s performance and the movie as a whole to be overwrought and generally irritating. Sidney Lumet was a phenomenal director, but I’ve just never liked Serpico.

  8. Bezos is not the richest man in America anymore – Elon is. Besides, many Saudi princes are much richer. And Putin.

    1. Russia’s 10 richest control fortunes “modest” by Western standards, ranging from $14 billion up to a maximum of $26 billion. Nine of the ten are described by Business Insider as “self-made”. Vladimir Putin is not among them, although BI notes that the holdings of important people in Russia may be difficult to ascertain. The claim that Putin is worth $200 billion seems to come from influential Putin critic Bill (William Felix) Browder, a wheeler-dealer bitter over being treated badly and expelled by Russia in 2005. On Forbes’s list of wealthy Americans, the richest Russian billionaire would clock in as 18th. If you include Elon, the “best” Russian falls to 19th.

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