Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the Humpiest Day: it’s Wednesday, February 17, 2021: National Café au Lait Day.  It’s also National Cabbage Day, National Indian Pudding Day (have you tried it yet? You must!), Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Public Science Day, and Ash Wednesday.

Wine of the Day:  The bottle below is one of the few Greek wines I’ve had in the States, though I tend to guzzle retsina when I’m in Greece (it does not transplant well to the US). The bottle below was pricey ($26 when I bought it several years ago), and is from the gorgeous island of Santorini, where I stayed for a week in 1972. At that time I was a hippie backpacker and could afford only the cheaper red wines of the island, which, with its volcanic soil, is capable of producing great wines like this. It’s made with two white grapes (see the label). I can’t remember when I bought it, but it must have come highly recommended by my wine store. Robert Parker, my erstwhile wine guru (he’s mostly retired from evaluating wines), gives this vintage the very good score of 95 out of 100, which he rarely did for wines this cheap.

At any rate, it’s a rare (in the U.S.) and terrific white wine, with an unusual nose strongly redolent of apricots and, above all pineapple. It’s viscous, with a long finish, and a tad off-dry; it would go well with Chinese or Indian food (though I prefer beer with those cuisines). It complemented my simple dinner of pinto beans and homemade cornbread very well, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops tomorrow. Right now, five years after harvest, it shows no sign of going over the hill (i.e., no oxidation or loss of fruit).

I’m now getting into my fancier wines as I want to drink them before they’re too old. If you can get hold of this one, and it’s not above your psychological price barrier, I recommend it very highly. It shows that although Greek wines are often seen as plonk, Santorini, at least, is capable of making world class whites.

Pro-tip: like many whites, this is best drunk cool rather than cold: don’t serve it straight out of the refrigerator. As I write this on Tuesday evenig, I’m drinking a glass I poured nearly an hour ago, and it just gets better and better.

News of the Day:

Now that Trump is dumped, he’s spending his time plotting against those who, he thinks, didn’t defend him strongly enough. The latest target is Mitch “666” McConnell, who, though he voted for acquittal in the impeachment trial, took out after Trump in a post-vote statement. Now the Orange Man has ripped Mitch a new one, calling for his replacement and describing him as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.” I find the whole thing amusing, and hope the GOP self immolates, to rise from the ashes as a more centrist phoenix.

Tomorrow the Mars Rover “Perseverence” is scheduled to land on the Red Planet after the “seven minutes of terror”: the complicated technological ballet that is designed to deposit it gently and unscathed on the surface. As the WaPo reports:

This is one of NASA’s most important endeavors, the first multibillion-dollar Mars mission in nine years and the initial phase of a three-mission campaign to return samples of Martian soil to Earth. The rover is poised to land just days after two other robotic spacecraft, launched by China and the United Arab Emirates, reached Mars and went into orbit.

Perseverance will do more than probe the surface: It will also test technologies that someday could be used on Mars by astronauts, including a system for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide to oxygen. NASA’s human spaceflight program aims for a return mission to the moon in coming years, but Mars remains the horizon goal.

I often think of those brave pioneers who will volunteer to be the first humans on Mars. The round trip is at least nine months, and many things could go wrong. I won’t see it during my lifetime, but perhaps the younger readers will. I’ll have a post on the rover later today and a live feed will be posted around landing time tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 487,851, an increase of about 1,700 deaths over yesterday’s figure We are still liable to exceed half a million deaths within the month. The reported world death toll stands 2,431,445, an increase of about 11,100 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate appears to be dropping worldwide, too.

Stuff that happened on February 17 includes:

  • 1600 – On his way to be burned at the stake for heresy, at Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, the philosopher Giordano Bruno has a wooden vise put on his tongue to prevent him continuing to speak.
  • 1801 – An electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr is resolved when Jefferson is elected President of the United States and Burr, Vice President by the United States House of Representatives.
  • 1819 – The United States House of Representatives passes the Missouri Compromise for the first time.
  • 1867 – The first ship passes through the Suez Canal.
  • 1904 – Madama Butterfly receives its première at La Scala in Milan.

One of my favorite arias (from that opera) by one of my favorite classical singers, Dame Kiri. Here’s a song from Act II, Un bel di vedremo:

  • 1940 Matthew found this tweet honoring Libby Hyman, the great invertebrate zoologist who happened to be in my department at the University of Chicago. An autographed picture of her hangs in our conference room, along with all retired profs, including me.  A Jewish woman who made good in biology: a rarity in those days! Sadly, I don’t think she held a regular professorial position here: another slap against women at the time.

Le Chaim:

  • 1964 – In Wesberry v. Sanders the Supreme Court of the United States rules that congressional districts have to be approximately equal in population.
  • 1980 – First winter ascent of Mount Everest by Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy.

Wielicki, a cold-resistant Pole, made several first winter ascents: here he is atop Gasherbrum:

  • 1996 – In Philadelphia, world champion Garry Kasparov beats the Deep Blue supercomputer in a chess match.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1864 – Banjo Paterson, Australian journalist, author, and poet (d. 1941)
  • 1890 – Ronald Fisher, English-Australian statistician, biologist, and geneticist (d. 1962)

Fisher, one of the greats of evolutionary genetics, is now being canceled for writing about eugenics:

Here’s the odious old creationist. I once heard him speak in Sacramento, California, and the audience waved their Bibles as he attacked evolution. He’s famous for the “Gish Gallop“: going quickly from one disparate subject to another in a debate so the poor evolutionist opponent couldn’t keep up in front of an audience who didn’t know much biology.

  • 1934 – Alan Bates, English actor (d. 2003)
  • 1941 – Gene Pitney, American singer-songwriter (d. 2006)
  • 1942 – Huey P. Newton, American activist, co-founded the Black Panther Party (d. 1989)
  • 1981 – Paris Hilton, American model, media personality, actress, singer, DJ, author and businesswoman

Those who checked out on February 17 include:

  • 1600 – Giordano Bruno, Italian mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1548)
  • 1680 – Jan Swammerdam, Dutch biologist, zoologist, and entomologist (b. 1637)

Matthew wrote a piece, illustrated with his photos, on the Swammerdam site; his post is here. He also wrote about Swammerdam in his first book, The Egg and Sperm Race. I always thought there should be an opera about this early scientist called “Die Swammerdammerung.”

  • 1856 – Heinrich Heine, German journalist and poet (b. 1797)
  • 1909 – Geronimo, American tribal leader (b. 1829)
  • 2006 – Bill Cowsill, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1948)

Maybe you remember this song by the Cowsills, a hit in 1967.. It’s kind of sappy, but I like it. The performance is from 2004: a benefit concert for the ailing musician. From one website:

In 2004, with Billy Cowsill’s health in decline, members of the Cowsills, including Barry Cowsill, played a benefit concert for him in Los Angeles. Peter Tork of the Monkees, a fellow act from the 1960s pop fraternity, and Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, the 1980s band that echoed 1960s harmonies, appeared, as did Oscar-winner Shirley Jones, star of the 1970-74 sitcom, The Partridge Family, which the Cowsills inspired. While the Partridges bantered, the Cowsills imploded – the band, consisting of brothers Billy, Bob, Barry, John and Paul, sister Susan and mother Barbara – was over even as their TV selves tickled the laugh track. As Bob Cowsill once observed per an oft-cited quote: “It wasn’t just the end of a business, it was the end of a family.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili was bad. Malgorzata explains, “Hili chewed the notebook. In this picture Hili is herself behind the curtain. She is deliberately misdirecting Andrzej by telling him not to look behind the curtain.”

A: My whole notebook is chewed up.
Hili: Do not look for the culprit behind the curtain.
In Polish:
Ja: Mój zeszyt jest cały pogryziony.
Hili: Nie szukaj winnych za firanką.

And here is Szaron:

Divy sent an Oatmeal cartoon:

From Diana, a stats-geek joke:

From Jesus of the Day:


A tweet from Ginger K. The tweeter must have been really baked him/herself?

Tweets from Matthew. I had an inkling that it would end as it did. . .

Or both at once, as in this case:

What a great grandpa Ale is! He even put a motor in to make it rotate!

This looks like heaven:

But this looks like hell, except hell isn’t frozen:

I might have posted this before, but here it is again. Cat on a perp!

The advantage of opposable toes:

35 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. ‘calling for his replacement and describing him as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”’

    Well, against type,, the blind squirrel finally found a nut….

    1. Tr*mp on McConnell: The second Whine of the Day.

      If ever there was someone who needed to “get over himself,” it is Tr*mp, acting as if he is some great wrongfully deposed leader in exile.

    2. Only thing surprised me about the diatribe was that Unemployed Florida Man didn’t toss a turtle insult McConnell’s way.

  2. I always thought there should be an opera about this early scientist called “Die Swammerdammerung.”

    A mash-up of parts two and four of the cycle?

      1. One should not belittle Jan Swammerdam, he is one of those giants upon whose shoulders others are standing. Living in the middle of the 17th century, he’s known for many discoveries, such as that insects do have an internal anatomy, that the ‘king’ bee actually is a ‘queen’ bee, that nervous impulses are not mediated by a fluid or gas flow, and much, much more.
        Above all he was one of the earliest to elaborate the scientific method, as we would cal it now.
        He died at 43, what would he not have found if dying later?
        Also note his father wanted him to study theology, something he steadfastly refused.
        I think it is hard to overestimate the debt we owe this true giant.

    1. Thanks for the link. Very nice video. Amazong decrease in size of landing uncertainty ellipsoid. One of the early pathfinder investigators, bobby braun, was a colleague at NASA Langley Research Center in the 80’s and 90’s, but i had lost touch with these amazing missions over the intervening years. It was good to catch up.

  3. Libbie H. Hyman is one of my scientific heroes. Her 6-volume Invertebrates texts are beautiful. And yeah, she never held a professorship anywhere but she did write two books, A Laboratory Manual for Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and A Laboratory Manual for Elementary Zoology. Both widely used and she called Vertebrate Anatomy her “bread and butter” and gave her more freedom than otherwise would have been possible at the time. She also helped to describe some of Ed Ricketts’ collections (“Doc”, from Steinbeck‘a Sea of Cortez) which I found out when I bought her work, The Polyclad Flatworms of the Pacific Coast of North America on eBay. And yes, no doubt sexism was an issue for her but her biggest detractor was her own mother; a miserable woman according to a biography in Riser and Morse Biology of Turbellaria. In her field she was highly respected. She deserves to be remembered more widely.

    1. Thankyou for the note on Libbie Hyman which brought back memories of the library copies of her texts I studied as part of my undergrad.course on Invertebrates at Auckland Uni., back in the 60s.They were terrific and when a set appeared in the uni bookshop I agonised over whether I could afford them. Alas I could not, and to this day still regret passing that opportunity. One could read her text for the sheer pleasure of its elegance; a wonderful scholar.

  4. Maybe you remember this song by the Cowsills, a hit in 1967.

    My kid sister had that 45 and played it ceaselessly on her little turntable. Had she not finally acceded to my instance that she desist while I was home, things might have descended into as much familial acrimony for the Kukecs as they did for the Cowsills. 🙂

  5. … here he is atop Gasherbrum:

    K2 in the background, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum IV in the middle-distance?

    I often think of those brave pioneers who will volunteer to be the first humans on Mars. The round trip is at least nine months, …

    It won’t neccessarily be a round trip, though public opinion might have something to say about that.

  6. “except hell isn’t frozen”

    According to Dante, the deepest (and thus worst) circle of Hell IS frozen. That’s where Satan is, with his three heads chewing on Cassius, Brutus, and Judas. If I recall correctly. It always seemed a bit unfair to Brutus, to me, since (according to Shakespeare, anyway) he thought he was doing the right thing.

  7. I remembered that the last chapter in Saul Needleman’s (1970) Protein Sequence Determination, which was an early requisite reference for chemical (Edman) protein sequencing, was by a Gish. I’ve long thought it was Duane’s brother, but just now plucking the book up I see that it’s by Duane hisself(!), on chemical peptide synthesis.

    I strongly suspect that Duane became a creationist as solution-phase peptide synthesis, and the wonderful variety of chemistries that were employed, was eclipsed by Nobel Laureate Bruce Merrifield’s solid-phase approach – the same direction Behe went when his research tanked.

  8. Retsina: I too love it with certain meals. And I also found it hard to find something reasonable in the states, most of it being second rate with the resin being to syrupy. But if you haven’t tried it, pick up a bottle of Gaia Ritinitis Nobilis Retsina. ~$16, and the closest I found to sitting on a beach on the south coast of Crete eating whole grilled fish.

    1. I bought a bottle of retsina everywhere I went in Crete, and found that no two are similar. Happily, the one from the little store beside our hotel/apartment was the best. In the two wks we were there, 1984, I ran the price up from $1 to $1.20.

  9. re: Wine of the day
    Jerry, you ‘d probably like to replace the Asyrtiko/Athiri – exceptional indeed -you are finishing today. May I suggest a Robola (Kefalonia), a Verdea (Zante), or the white of Lemnos?
    Greek wines have a non-deserved reputation as plonk because of Retsina, the plonkiest plonk in the world! But … περί γούστου, κολοκυθόπιτα!

        1. I do not celebrate his death, but I still feel no regret. Nor would I feel regret at the death of any other person who incites hatred and violence.

  10. Sorry it this is too mean, but perhaps part of Gish’s technique involved distracting his opponents with what looks like a horrible toupee. Pence’s fly was more subtle.

  11. Mean Girls implies the existence Median Girls, Mode Girls, and Range Girls.

    Hence the necessity of belle curves.

  12. ‘Now the Orange Man has ripped Mitch a new one, calling for his replacement and describing him as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”’

    Trump must have happenstancely been looking in the mirror when he said that.

  13. “Babies come shrieking into this world . . . .”

    Am reminded of a Hitch sidewalk interview, where he reflects to the effect that we are expelled from our mother’s uterus, on a trajectory toward a barn door studded with rusty nails and files. . . .

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