Monday: Hili dialogue

February 15, 2021 • 6:30 am

It snowed again last night, scotching my plans to go to the grocery store this morning (I am desperately in need of milk, without which I cannot have my wake-up latte. No latte, no website! The temperature in Chicago now is 3° F or -16° C. But I am at work and WHO’S a good boy? Am I as good a boy as Balto (see below)?

But I digress. Welcome to a new week: it’s: Monday, February 15, 2021: National Gumdrop Day, a holiday beloved of kookaburras. It’s a federal holiday today in the U.S., too: President’s Day, also known as Washington’s Birthday. Actually, George Washington was born on February 22 (1732), but the holiday is always celebrated on the third Monday in February to ensure that people get a three-day weekend.

It’s also National I Want Butterscotch Day, Shrove Monday, Susan B. Anthony Day (born on this date in 1820), and National Hippo Day.

Finally, in Vanatu it’s John Frum Day, celebrating the cargo cult figure. The Frum “cargo cult” has disappeared from most islands, but is still celebrated today on the island of Vanatu. Here are adults and kids marching in honor of the apocryphal Bringer of Cargo:

This cult seems weird, but is no weirder than Christians thinking that Jesus will return shortly to divide the sheep from the goats. The goats will get roasted while the sheep will play harps.

John Frum Little Soldiers / Flickr

News of the Day:

The BBC reports that there’s now another Ebola outbreak, this time in Guinea. At least three people have died after attending the funeral of a nurse. This is the first death from that virus since 2016. The epidemic between 2013 and 2016 began in Guinea, and killed 11,000. The WHO is flying newly-developed vaccines to the country.  (h/t: Gravelinspector)

At the New York Times, Katie Edmonson analyzes what the six GOP Senators who voted to convict Trump had in common:

But the senators were united by a common thread: Each of them, for their own reasons, was unafraid of political retribution from Mr. Trump or his supporters.

“Two are retiring, and three are not up until 2026, and who knows what the world will look like five years from now,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “It looked pretty different five years ago than it did today. All seven of them have a measure of independence that those who have to run in 2022 in a closed Republican primary just don’t have.”

The unbearable smugness of Mitch “666” McConnell: After voting to acquit Trump, this Friend of the Devil said this: “Former President Trump’s actions [that] preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. . . Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”  But if he was practically and morally responsible for provoking the siege of the Capitol, why did Mitch vote “not guilty.”? You know why: he wants a career in the G.O.P. He had the temerity to add that, as the Washington Post notes, “a criminal prosecution of Trump could be in the cards.”

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 485,154, an increase of only 1,100 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The daily death toll (and hospitalizations) are dropping in America, but we are still likely to exceed half a million deaths within the month. The reported world death toll stands 2,412,587, an increase of about 6,000 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate appears to be dropping here, too.

Stuff that happened on February 15 includes:

  • 1879 – Women’s rights: US President Rutherford B. Hayes signs a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • 1923 – Greece becomes the last European country to adopt the Gregorian calendar.
  • 1925 – The 1925 serum run to Nome: The second delivery of serum arrives in Nome, Alaska.

This was a 5.5-day dogsled transport of diphtheria serum from Nenanan to Nome, a distance of 674 miles (1,085 km). Without the serum, they estimated the mortality in Nome could have been 100%. Planes couldn’t transport the serum in the frigid weather, so several teams of dog-pulled sleds, driven by “mushers”, did a relay, and saved the town. What heroes—both men and dogs! The lead sled dog in the final leg to Nome was the famous Balto (1919-1933), who was a GOOD BOY.  Here’s his photo and a commemorative statue in Central Park.

Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen. Norwegian immigrant Gunnar Kaasen was the musher on the last dog team that successfully delivered diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska in 1925. Balto was the lead dog for that final leg of 53 miles of the total 674-mile trip.

 

A statue of Balto in Central Park by Frederick Roth. Inscription: Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925. Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence[
Balto did the vaudeville circuit after he became famous, and was rescued after being found in bad condition. A Siberian Husky, he was stuffed and mounted after his death; you can see him in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

  • 1946 – ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer, is formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Here’s ENIAC. I’m sure a Mac laptop could far exceed what that computer did then:

Here’s one of the scrolls, the second-oldest known version of the Hebrew Bible. They date between 300 BC and 100 AD:

  • 1971 – The decimalisation of British coinage is completed on Decimal Day.
  • 1992 – Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is sentenced in Milwaukee to life in prison.
  • 2001 – The first draft of the complete human genome is published in Nature.

Here’s the paper’s first page:

Notables born on this day include:

Anthony, who adorns the rare American one-dollar coin, is always depicted as old, but she was young once. Here she is in 1848 at 28:

  • 1861 – Alfred North Whitehead, English mathematician and philosopher (d. 1947)
  • 1873 – Hans von Euler-Chelpin, German-Swedish biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1964
  • 1874 – Ernest Shackleton, Anglo-Irish captain and explorer (d. 1922)
  • 1948 – Art Spiegelman, Swedish-American cartoonist and critic

Spegelman’s graphic novel, Maus, in which the Jews were mice and the Nazis cats, won the Pulitzer Prize, the only graphic novel to do so. It deserved it:

  • 1954 – Matt Groening, American animator, producer, and screenwriter

Those who departed this existence on February 15 include:

  • 1965 – Nat King Cole, American singer and pianist (b. 1919)
  • 1981 – Mike Bloomfield, American guitarist and songwriter (b. 1943)
  • 1988 – Richard Feynman, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)
  • 1998 – Martha Gellhorn, American journalist and author (b. 1908)

Gellhorn was a feminist and a famous war correspondent, though today she’s best known as Ernest Hemingway’s third wife. Here are the pair in 1940:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili gets an unexpected treat:

A: Does anybody want a piece of ham?
Hili: Yes, yes!
In Polish:
Ja: Czy ktoś chce kawałek szynki?
Hili: Tak, tak!

From Stash Krod:

From Facebook:

From Jesus of the Day:

A very athletic cat:

From Simon, who doesn’t care what the physiological relevance is (nor do I).

Tweets from Matthew. Margaret Atwood identifies as trans-species. Me, too, though I don’t lick my butt:

Some people are enjoying the cold weather in the UK:

. . . and in Amsterdam, too, where they’ll drink hot cocoa and eat snert (pea soup) after skating:

An older and sadder picture of skating in Amsterdam:

Le kangorou assaults the photographer:

This is a sweet story. As the Irish Times reports:

Sam, the fox living on the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin, and who was seen wandering the streets of Dublin during the first lockdown, has found love and is pregnant.

Last year the health of the vixen was of concern as she appeared emaciated. With all restaurants and bars closed and the city centre all but deserted during the first lockdown she was deprived of scraps. She also developed mange on her tail.

In response, staff at Trinity College Dublin left out meat infused with an antibiotic for her and she has not looked back.

The latest development involving Sam the fox happened last month, when she was in heat.

She attracted two suitors, who have been named Prince and Scar by college staff, who fought for her affections.

A loving couple of tawny owls (Strix aluco), Bomber and Luna. Sound up:

67 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. My own addendum for the Hili Dialogue:

    Bill Gates interviewed by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes 14 February, 2020 :
    1: https://youtu.be/bNKdlnoAqIs
    2: https://youtu.be/K4uBlzPdLos

    Topic is – I’d say – change. What kind? Climate, agricultural, construction, medical, energy, all the way to personal, that sort of thing. Many interesting basic ideas that have working prototypes I hadn’t heard of. For example : a liquid sodium nuclear reactor.

      1. Thanks

        Another technology they didn’t mention that is starting to appear more is geothermal – I thought it was something about volcanoes in Iceland but it is not so specialized.

        1. It’s certainly not restricted to Icelandic volcanoes, but the potential for geothermal energy is quite irregularly distributed. To a first approximation, it follows the plate boundaries, but it is also considerably variable on much smaller scales too. A classic example would be the geothermal springs at Bath (Aquae Sulis, to the Romans), which are the consequence of geological structures on the scale of tens of km, not thousands of km.
          A project currently attracting a lot of attention is the proposal for a regional heat scheme for Glasgow, utilising heat from water that floods mine workings under Glasgow. That is bringing heat from a fraction of a kilometre depth to the surface for concentration and use, in an area of modest geothermal gradient. Certainly a more modest geothermal gradient than Iceland. How much effect it will have in the real world? Well, it would mark the third geothermal scheme in the country, and by far the largest. (Hmmm, the second one could have been an interesting side-line to our oil well plans in the area. Before the anti-frackers and oil price destroyed the project, that might have been an valuable tie-in, along with the halting of methane venting. Certainly sand in the eyes of the pseudo-environmentalists.)

      2. “…actually reduce pollution…”

        Yes, any nuclear reactor, even the old more dangerous ones, working to produce electricity, is almost certainly reducing pollution considerably, though not ideally. That is true as long as this reduction is measured in terms of pollution causing human (and other, by the way) years of life to be shortened, and is done over the long term.

        The public has been foolish in panicking about sudden disasters, many such people being utterly confused about reactors and weapons.

        Please think before accusing me of ignoring other methods which in the end (probably fusion–thermonuclear reactors–if we’re lucky–) may work before we make the earth descend into becoming utterly unliveable for 10 billion humans. I do happen to be lucky enough to have long had solar panels, which more than produced all my electricity, until the point where I invested in both geothermal house heating and electric vehicles, including yard maintenance ones. (Too old now to push a hand mower much, though maybe that’s selfish hoarding of my physical energy for other things!)

        So the above is hopefully not bragging or whatever about my own good luck in life. I’m as strong a believer as there is about solar, wind etc., but it just ain’t enough for the next 3 or more dangerous decades.

        1. becoming utterly unliveable for 10 billion humans.

          Remind me again – is that due in 20 years, or 30? I’ve given up carrying population predictions in my head because it is just too depressing data to keep on hand.

          many such people being utterly confused about reactors and weapons.

          Many people are, in John Wheeler’s scathing phrase, “not even wrong” on pretty much any technical matter.

        2. I invested in both geothermal house heating

          Do you mean geothermal (using the radioactive and primordial heat of the Earth) or a ground-source heat pump, which uses solar energy absorbed by the ground and concentrated by … well, a heat pump. Some GSHPs can also be run in reverse to provide residential cooling, if the environment needs it.
          We were examining the idea some years ago ourselves, but the people proposing the idea were very unclear about the physics of the system they were selling (typical salesman – no understanding of what they were selling). Then the oil price slumped and we sold the house for somewhere more economical.

          1. It’s a ground source heat pump, but I believe more of that heat comes from underneath (basically radioactivity) than from above (sun), actually considerably more. Our best friends in Norway drilled deep, that being more costly, because of too much rock sideways. It’s pretty deep, so very clearly almost all of their heat is coming from ground heat, not sun heating the ground.

            We fortunately had a good field to do it, they dug what could look like the foundation for a large building, strung out about 3500 feet of pipe for the liquid. Its only about 7 feet down, but apparently the temperature there stays near 10 (=50 Faren-medieval-heit) all the time (100 km. from Toronto), only a few degrees colder in winter. So that liquid ‘heat-exchanges’ in the basement. Rurally we had no natural gas here. I guessed the large (compared to new furnaces) capital cost would be covered in about 10 years, but it’s so good it looks more like 8 years. I estimated $1000/yr average for the electric to run it, but it’s less. The fuel (furnace, i.e. diesel) had ranged from $4000 to $5000. It does the air conditioning too. ($CDN so take ¾ or 4/5 of it for $US.)

            My Dad was a mining engineer, so I got down there deepish a few times as a kid (surely illegal these days!). But lots of heat!

            Governments should give people interest-free 10 year loans to install these. None do that I know of, not even subsidies of any kind, and in Canada, natural gas is much too cheap for the good of the human race in the long run, though it’s a hell of a lot better than oil (or propane I think).

            My reasonably accurate estimate was 25kWh per day, average for the year before those, another 12kWh for running the geothermal, and maybe 12 kWh for running a couple of Chev Volts, much less this year.

            The solar produces 34 kWh per day average for the year, but only if I get up there and get the snow off sometime in January and keep it off. Solar panels are more efficient when cold than hot, and it’s amazing how much you can get starting in Feb. till April, despite the short hours of sun. But not if there’s 3 feet thick snow on there!

            1. At that depth, it is basically solar heating. The contribution from below would be fairly small. Also, if I infer a Canadian location, you’re going to have a fairly low heat gradient – which is something I had to measure at work, because it’s an important factor in whether or not buried organic matter is biologically processed into methane (and frequently vented to surface) or “cooked” into higher hydrocarbons. (Or over-cooked and thermally cracked back to methane, but with a different isotopic balance to the biogenic gas.)
              You’ve got me thinking now – I think there’s a noticeable thermal anomaly over the Sudbury impact site – because the crust is somewhat thinner there. I’ll have to dig around for that.
              In Britain, the highest heat gradients are associated with radioactively “hot” granites (Cornwall, some of the Scottish granites), to a lesser extent over the top of salt structures in the Permian basins, and under the North Sea’s Central graben.

      3. Dounreay, up on the North Shore is something in well excess of 25 years into it’s decommissioning programme. Active decommissionsing work is planned to end in about 2036, and the site returned to “brownfield” (i.e. ex-industrial) status in the 2300s. OK, it was an experimental site, where by definition they wouldn’t do things that way a second time. But there have been some very … “questionable” choices. The local environmental activists have plenty of contaminated materials in storage for doing nasty PR things to the government, should they choose to do so.
        Anything that involves many tonnes of sodium-potassium eutectic is an interesting use of the word “safe”. Yes, you can handle the material with an acceptable degree of risk, but you really need to think carefully about how you do it. There’s a lot of potential in “non-standard” nuclear designs, disregarding the unreasoned revulsion that the topic often arouses. But you do need to work hard on managing the hazards – and that is not something that humans are good at doing. You need organisations for that.
        (I’ve known several people who have worked on the site when it was “hot”, and in the decommissioning operations too. Normally through dealing with safety issues in their other work offshore, which they compared with the relatively good culture at the Dounreay worksite. But it’s still a type of operation which you need to be damned careful running, for some centuries afterwards.)

  2. “Here’s ENIAC. I’m sure a Mac laptop could far exceed what that computer did then” – According to Wikipedia,

    In 1996, in honor of the ENIAC’s 50th anniversary, The University of Pennsylvania sponsored a project named, “ENIAC-on-a-Chip”, where a very small silicon computer chip measuring 7.44 mm by 5.29 mm was built with the same functionality as ENIAC. Although this 20 MHz chip was many times faster than ENIAC, it had but a fraction of the speed of its contemporary microprocessors in the late 1990s.

    So by now, I imagine a smartphone can easily outperform ENIAC.

    1. ENIAC operated at 5kHz and could perform one operation per clock cycle. Let’s a assume a modern phone can perform operations at a rate of 500MHz (that’s probably an underestimate, but not by as much as an order of magnitude). We see that a phone CPU core is about 100,000 times faster.

      Modern phones tend to have more than one core, of course and an “operation” is more than just the addition and subtraction of ENIAC. Also, ENIAC operated on ten digit decimals whereas modern phones work on 64 digit binary numbers (roughly 18 decimal digits).

      Then again a modern phone CPU also has a GPU or several built in and maybe specialised hardware for machine learning tasks. For example, the Apple A13 in the iPhone X has six “conventional” CPUs and four GPUs. Two of the conventional CPUs have special circuitry to optimise matrix operations that are claimed to be capable of 1 trillion single precision (32 bit floating point) operations per second.

  3. So sorry about your morning latte, I can relate to the angst.  I have searched long and hard for acceptable shelf-stable coffee creamer products and have found a few powdered products I keep on hand for emergency situations (which have occurred regularly during lockdown).  All from Amazon. My favorite is Hoosier Hill Farm heavy cream powder.  Nido Nestle Instant Milk Powder is good and doesn’t have that horrible powdered milk taste that I remember from my childhood.  And since I’m trying to avoid lactose these days, the Hester Farm Lactose-Free Whey Milk is ok. (I also have a coconut powder that I mix with soy milk.)

    1. For some reason, Horizon shelf-stable 2% organic milk (ultra Pasteurized, I think) tastes particularly good – they undoubtably do something to it, like concentrate it or something – but that might fill in for creamer in a pinch.

  4. In 4th grade I bought the book Race Against Death, a book about the outbreak of diphtheria in Nome and the race to get serum there, through the Scholastic Book Service at school. Loved that book. Though I’ve never known how historically accurate it was.

    1. Death from diphtheria is one the scariest things I ever learned about and 20 years later it still gives me nightmares. Hard to imagine the author would need to embellish.

      1. The main focus of the story was the “adventures” of the mushers and their dog teams, with the focus on Gunner and his teams. It’s those details about which I am pretty sure some license was taken, but how much I don’t really know.

      1. It was always exciting when an order finally arrived. Like a holiday. A stack of boxes and the teacher handing out the presents.

        1. Yeah I loved ordering all the books then you’d wait forever and forget about it then suddenly one day you got all your books!

    2. Man, I forgot all about the SBS! I too remember the excitement getting those new books…they smelled good too! I remember one book was about a prison that was run by a computer AI, and how two prisoners outsmarted it and escaped. Don’t remember the title, but remember reading the book a bunch of times.

  5. The Frum “cargo cult” has disappeared from most islands, but is still celebrated today on the island of Vanatu.

    There’s a great, hilarious travelogue/memoir by the Dutch-American writer J. Maarten Troost regarding the time he and his wife spent living on Vanatu, Getting Stoned with Savages. It’s a sequel of sorts to Troost’s earlier memoir/travelogue regarding the two years he and his wife spent living on another Pacific island, Tarawa, The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

        1. Iirc, “In Trouble Again: a journey between the Orinoco and the Amazon” is my favorite so far. Memoracle bit on candiru fish and why not to pee in the river.

  6. Crimony! Balto’s feet are like snow shoes!

    And Susan Anthony surely must have won the dour countenance award that year. I read somewhere that SBA-as-an-old-woman appeared on the coin vs. a young SBA at the wishes of her family. I don’t think it’s any improvement, but this may suggest why.

  7. About the unbearable smugness of Mitch McConnell and his post-impeachment-acquittal speech: McConnell’s reading Trump for filth from the senate floor was cynical to the max, but it was (to my thinking at least) the most surprising development of the entire impeachment proceedings.

    The question that faces this nation, and the existential crisis facing today’s Republican Party, is, of the 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election, how many remain reachable by reason and evidence versus how many have gone completely over the edge into the Trump cult of personality.

    I’d like to believe that at least half are so reachable, but think the number is probably closer to a quarter, and fear it may be even lower still. It does not bode well that somewhere north of 80% of Republicans continue approve of Trump’s performance even post-January 6th. Also boding ill is the celerity with which the GOP faithful back home immediately moved not to distance themselves from Donald Trump, but to censure the ten Republicans in the House and the seven in the Senate who had the temerity to vote their conscience to impeach him.

      1. Nothing would stop him from running. What would stop Trump from winning is his profound unpopularity. We’re talking here about a candidate who, in two runs for the presidency, managed to lose the popular vote both times by a combined 10 million ballots, a former president who, in four years in office, never once had an approval rating above 50%.

        Trump’s forming a third party would be a short-term disaster for the electoral prospects of the GOP, but might well provide the the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness back to the center-right.

        Office-seekers who were to follow Trump into such a third party might win some regional races deep within Trump-country, but could never mount a serious national campaign.

          1. Come January 20, 2024, Donald Trump is much more likely to find himself wearing prison coveralls than to be celebrating his inauguration as the USA’s 47th president.

            1. I hope so. It will prevent him from running again. But the way he weasels out if everything I’m not so sure.

            2. Do you think Vladimir would import a set for his pet ex-President in his new dacha in Novy Urengoy?
              You don’t seriously think that he wouldn’t abscond as the prosecutors closed in?

              1. No. Some states disenfranchise felons from voting, but a felony conviction does not disqualify someone from running for federal office.

                Indeed, the famous US labor leader, Eugene V. Debs, ran for president on the Socialist ticket in 1920 while serving a prison sentence in the Atlanta federal penitentiary. Got damn near a million votes, too.

              2. Thanks Ken. So in some states you can’t vote, but can run for federal office, after a felony conviction. Your US idea of democracy never ceases to surprise and amaze me.

        1. According to FiveThirtyEight, his approval rating when leaving office was 39%. That’s pretty high, considering his abundant malfeasance. Nixon’s approval rating when he resigned was 24%, and that was a HUGE decline since he was in the 60’s most of his Presidency. So after all of Trump’s horrific conduct, his approval dropped less than 10%. Obviously, Americans (or rather, Republicans) nowadays don’t really care if a POTUS is corrupt, or perhaps because of the news they consume (or don’t consume), don’t know/believe that he is corrupt. Either scenario is damning for a healthy democracy moving forward. And it seems the GOP doesn’t care about national public opinion anymore. After all, they have built in advantages in the Senate, which gives more power to white, rural states, plus they love their filibuster and with their gerrymandering, voter suppression, the Electoral College, and a large population of partisan judges, why should they worry about public opinion? They’ve managed to rule successfully from the minority, and they’ll continue to do so it seems. Democrats still haven’t figured out how to alleviate their disadvantages, and leverage their advantages; or they lack the political courage to do so.

    1. I agree on the significance of McConnell’s statement. I wonder how much blowback he’ll receive for it. I suspect he’s done a good job of triangulating the situation, knowing exactly how much anti-Trumpness he can get away with.

      David Frum of the Atlantic assures us that even though the impeachment didn’t result in a conviction, the process has dinged Trump’s reputation sufficiently that we don’t have to worry about him too much. I agree but still worry about his supporters. Meanwhile, many of the state-level GOP organizations are still very Trumpy and are passing as many voter suppression measures as they are able. My guess is that they’ll face enormous backlash in each state from the Dems and sane Republicans but there’s no guarantee in states where virtually all government officials are Trumpy.

      Here’s a legal question for you: So how much is McConnell’s statement and the impeachment vote worth in the various criminal and civil suits that Trump may face in the coming year? After all, a majority still voted to convict.

        1. That’s what I was afraid of. But any future trial can use whatever evidence the impeachment brought to light, right? That phone call between Trump and McCarthy seems particularly relevant to Trump’s state of mind and his inaction. But that’s still a distant link between Trump and, say, the Capitol cop’s wrongful death.

          1. The mid-riot conversation with McCarthy is devastating to Trump in exposing him as an utterly conscienceless sociopath.

            But, while I think it a close question whether Trump’s conduct leading to the Jan. 6th Capitol riot rose to the level of criminal incitement, I’d just as soon see prosecutors go after Trump for his myriad other criminal conduct instead, rather than to risk making bad law regarding the First Amendment.

            1. Makes sense though the other things probably don’t change his supporters’ minds as much as behavior associated with his office. They can easily dismiss these legal battles as just coastal elites pursuing him unfairly. Still, as long as he can be kept busy fighting all these battles, he will have less time to muck things up.

  8. The Guardian has an article marking the 50th anniversary of the adoption of decimal coinage in Britain:

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2021/feb/15/d-day-uk-marks-50-years-since-decimalisation

    I still have vivid memories of special lessons in school (I was 7 at the time) where we learned to recognise the new decimal coins using plastic replicas. I also remember the old coins. An old penny was a serious chunk of metal, the size of a Kennedy half-dollar. If you had a pocketful of pennies, you knew about it! There was also the sixpence, which was about the size of a dime, and the three-penny bit, a 12-sided coin which was the same yellow-brass colour as the pound coin that came along in 1983. The new pound coin (introduced in 2016) is also 12-sided, in homage to the old three-penny bit.

    But the coin I really miss is the half-crown, which was silver in colour and slightly bigger than an old penny. It was worth two and a half shillings, or 12.5 pence in today’s money. My grandparents would always give me and my brother a half-crown when they visited us, usually slipped into our hands as they were leaving. You could buy a lot of candy with a half-crown 🙂

    1. I remember endless games of Bingo in primary school to familiarise ourselves with the new decimal coins before they were issued. For a few days after their introduction it was exciting getting one of the shiny new coins, but the thrill soon wore off.

      Sadly, it meant that there was no longer the chance of finding an old Victorian penny in your change at the sweet shop, which happened more often than you’d think before decimalisation. Strange to think that we used paper money back then for the equivalent of 50p (the old “ten bob note”).

  9. Gellhorn was a feminist and a famous war correspondent, though today she’s best known as Ernest Hemingway’s third wife.

    There was a pretty good HBO movie a few years ago Hemingway & Gellhorn, with Nicole Kidman as Martha Gellhorn and Clive Owen as Papa, directed by Philip Kaufman (of The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being fame) and scripted by Jerry Stahl (of Permanent Midnight fame).

  10. Alfred North Whitehead was a God-freak. A brilliant mathematician, he co-wrote the Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell. Russell, of course, was famously an atheist, but Whitehead harbored gobs of spiritualism. Some kind of lesson in that. 🤫

  11. Some additional ENIAC details (adding to what has already been provided):
    Weight: About 30 tons.
    Footprint: About 1,500 square feet.
    Storage: Twenty 10 digit numbers.
    Computing capability: Originally designed for computing ballistic tables (ENIAC was not originally a general purpose computer but changes allowed for other computations, although programming was *very* difficult).
    Programming time: Typically multiple days per program since you had to rewire a patch panel each time you wanted to change the program. The patch panel was the actual instruction store.
    Logic elements: 17,500 vacuum tubes, 6,000 switches, 1,500 relays.
    Compute rate: Up to 5,000 additions per second.
    Power requirements: About 175,000W, a smart phone usually requires 5W or less.
    Cost: About $400,000 (in 1946 dollars).

      1. But ENIAC comes out *way* ahead in the very important metric that I just made up: the mass that you get per dollar (important if you are buying bulk materials like steel, brass, aluminum, etc).

        ENIAC: 2.7E7gm/$5.7E6 = 4.77gm/$
        Smart Phone: 200gm/$650 = 0.31gm/$

        So you get over 15 times as much mass for your dollar with ENIAC! Along with at least a 35,000 times higher power bill (ENIAC had to run 24 hours per day to extend the vacuum tube life so it couldn’t take advantage of lower rates for off peak hours).

  12. “Balto …. Siberian Husky,…”

    Earlier by 15 years, Amundsen believed, and sort of proved it in Antarctica, that the North Greenland huskies were the best sled dogs, having discovered that when he and crew learned a very great many things from the Inuit while being the first to sail through the Northwest Passage.

    I’m surprised they would use Siberian huskies in the land of the Inuit—maybe really “Siberian-descended’ was meant.

    Even earlier by 20 years, Nansen had had some trouble with his Siberian ones, which he picked up going along much of the recently sailed Northeast passage, in his attempt to be first to the North Pole. But those dogs were essential, in this case all expiring heroically in the effort.

    But I’m sure saving those lives is far more important than geographical dallying.

    Captain Scott didn’t do so well at the life-saving, not just his own, and eschewed dogs for Siberian ponies, who, one may say sarcastically, must have just loved all that delicious antarctic vegetation to keep them vigorous—those which didn’t drown, falling through the ice on unloading from the ship. Hard to know if he was stupider about that or about skis.

    Off topic, as typical!

  13. My farher-in-law, Harry D. Huskey, worked on that ENIAC then, after the war, went to England to work with Alan Turing.

  14. If anyone has been wondering about the weird numbers for coronavirus deaths recently, it is because Ohio screwed up their counting. Somehow they failed to report 4000 deaths and then recorded them over a few days. That is why deaths were 5443 on Friday compared to 1088 yesterday. Also the deaths reports are always low on Sunday.

    1. It will be interesting a few years from now, when they compare the excess from the statistically expected average number of deaths in normal times, compared to the numbers reported while we’re in the middle of this horrible stuff. My guess is that the actual excess is 30% to 35% more than reported, though not that this was a deliberate mis-reporting.

      But I’ve droned on about that at least twice before.

      It will be not unfair to regard Drumpf as the basic cause of the mass murder of ¼ million people in US, less than half the total, but rather a lot of unnecessary deaths, to put it unemotionally. Woodward’s recorded stuff shows murder, not accidental manslaughter. Talk about deserving impeachment conviction—it’s hard to suppress ones instinct to regard drawing and quartering as being too kindly.

  15. Both the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and the Sacagawea dollar coin are very popular in Ecuador, which uses the U.S. dollar as its currency. Rare to ever see one in use in the US. Biggest mistake the mint made in the design, IMO, was to make these almost the same size as a quarter.

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