Friday: Hili dialogue

February 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the week’s end: Friday, February 19, 2021: National Chocolate Mint Day. It’s also Friday Fish Fry Day, and (appropriately) National Tartar Sauce Day, as well as Iwo Jima Day, marking the day in 1945 when the battle on that island began.

Here’s a view of Lake Michigan at sunrise yesterday, looking east from high above Hyde Park. (The road is Lake Shore Drive.)  Photographer Phoebe Rice gives the caption: “The sun trying to rise over/through lake-effect snow clouds.  In person it was more like a thin pillar of light pointing up.”

I think at least 30% of the lake is frozen over now; I haven’t seen that since I arrived in Chicago in 1986.

News of the Day:

Bitter cold has gripped the southern U.S., especially Texas and Louisiana. Many have been without power for days, and people are also without heat, and melting snow on their stoves for water. Here is an unheard-of view of the bayou, with icicles amidst the Spanish Moss, in Louisiana —from The duck girl (!):

I hoped you watched the Mars Rover land yesterday; it was really exciting and gripping. I think they’ll soon start broadcasting video and some audio soon, as well as sending up the four-pound helicopter drone to scout the terrain.  I checked out the landing site this morning, and oy, was it cold!

Make your own Mars photos here, courtesy of NASA.


Here’s another treat, and I’ll save you the time by telling you to click here (and wait a few seconds):

Bob Dole announced yesterday that he has stage 4 lung cancer, which of course is a terminal diagnosis. These days he seems like a positively centrist Republican, doesn’t he? At any rate, he’s 97 and was low key in his announcement:

“My first treatment will begin on Monday. While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” the 97-year-old Dole said in a statement.

A black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), one of the most threatened species in America, has been cloned, the first time an individual of an American endangered species has been produced this way. The female, named Elizabeth Ann (below) was derived from the cells of a ferret who was frozen after its death in 1988. After gestation of the embryo in a domestic ferret, the lovely Elizabeth Ann was born healthy, and is being kept along with future clones siblings in a research center. Their offspring will be bred to wild black-footed ferrets to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population, now estimated at about 1,000. However, the wild ones are highly inbred, being in effect half-siblings. Here’s Elizabeth Ann:

Isn’t she adorable? credit: USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center

Lucky man of the week. According to the BBC, a healthy Brit in his thirties was offered the Covid vaccine after his height was mistakenly recorded as 6.2 cm (that’s 2.4 inches!). He’s actually 6′ 2″, but the erroneous measurement gave him a body mass index of 28,000, which is way, way above “morbidly obsese” (“obsese” is a BMI of 30).

[Liam Thorp] told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’ve put on a few pounds in lockdown but I was surprised to have made it to clinically, morbidly-obese.

“It really made me rethink what I was going to do for pancake night.”

An honest man, Thorp checked with the NHS, which is how the error was discovered.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 492,946, an increase of about 2,600 deaths over yesterday’s figure We are likely to exceed half a million deaths within a week. The reported world death toll stands 2,454,251, an increase of about 11,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. The death rate appears to be dropping worldwide, as well as in the U.S.

A lot of stuff happened on February 19, and includes:

  • 1600 – The Peruvian stratovolcano Huaynaputina explodes in the most violent eruption in the recorded history of South America.
  • 1674 – England and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Westminster, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A provision of the agreement transfers the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it is renamed New York.
  • 1807 – Former Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr is arrested for treason in Wakefield, Alabama and confined to Fort Stoddert.
  • 1847 – The first group of rescuers reaches the Donner Party.
  • 1878 – Thomas Edison patents the phonograph.

Here’s that patent:

Wikipedia says this: “To date, Lascuráin’s presidency is the shortest in history, even briefer than that of Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello in 2002.”

Here’s a photo of the landing:

At the time Pound, an American, was locked in St. Elizabeths mental hospital in Washington, D.C., where he stayed for 12 years.  He had been charged with treason but was never tried. His fellow artists helped secure his release in 1958, and he went to Italy, where he died in 1972. Here’s his mug shot when he was arrested:

  • 1963 – The publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique reawakens the feminist movement in the United States as women’s organizations and consciousness raising groups spread.
  • 1976 – Executive Order 9066, which led to the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps, is rescinded by President Gerald Ford’s Proclamation 4417.
  • 2002 – NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1473 – Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish mathematician and astronomer (d. 1543)
  • 1859 – Svante Arrhenius, Swedish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1927)
  • 1876 – Constantin Brâncuși, Romanian-French sculptor, painter, and photographer (d. 1957)

Here’s Brancusi’s sculptural portrait of the heiress and activist Nancy Cunard, along with the subject:

  • 1917 – Carson McCullers, American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and essayist (d. 1967)
  • 1940 – Smokey Robinson, American singer-songwriter and producer

What a great musician! Here’s Robinson with The Miracles, live, singing what I think is his best song (and among the best five soul songs):


  • 1942 – Will Provine, American biologist, historian, and academic (d. 2015)
  • 1946 – Karen Silkwood, American technician and activist (d. 1974)

Silkwood, played by Meryl Streep in the eponymous movie, died in a mysterious car crash at the age of just 28; she had been critical of the safety at the nuclear-fuel facilities at the Kerr-McGee plant in Oklahoma, and many think that the company had her killed. Here she is:

Those who met Cerberus on February 19 include:

  • 1916 – Ernst Mach, Austrian-Czech physicist and philosopher (b. 1838)
  • 1951 – André Gide, French novelist, essayist, and dramatist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1869)
  • 2016 – Umberto Eco, Italian novelist, literary critic, and philosopher (b. 1932)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Dudess abides:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m waiting for better times.

In Polish

Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Czekam na lepsze czasy.

And the baby kitty (Paulina takes a gazillion pictures of Kulka and Szaron):

Caption:  Kulka in Paulina’s lens.

In Polish: Kulka w obiektywie Pauliny.

From Pyers, who said “This popped up within 15 minutes after the rover landed on Mars.” It uses a photo from the rover itself, so someone was just waiting with a Bernie shot:

From Moto. Does anybody fall for this any more? I still get about three calls a week, and my Honda is 21 years old!

From Merilee, a great way to designate restrooms. For foreigners who might be baffled, there’s a convenient penis on the male d*g.

From Titania, defending the argot of the Woke.

From Luana. This is what happens, as I predicted, when you “defund the police”:

Tweets from Matthew. The first is a long thread detailing a cat rescue by an astrophysicist. Follow it up to today: the cat is getting better!

There are literally hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles warming up at rescue centers in Texas. Kudos to the volunteers who are saving the turtles’ lives.

Look at the colors on this squirrel! The white bit is probably leucistic, but I don’t get the calico coloring, which I’ve never seen before in a squirrel:

Matthew sent me this trying to cheer me up after I was moaning about being mortal. Sadly, I had to respond:

And look! A gazillion harvestmen! As I said when I retweeted this, Harvestmen are not spiders, as commonly thought. Instead, they are arthropods in the order Opiliones, an order different from that of the spiders (Araneae).

And a man makes friends with a wary foster cat, who soon becomes a Forever Cat. Lottie!

29 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I have to comment on BMI: It’s a terrible way to assess an individual’s weight for health. Even the person who originally proposed it as a population metric said so and warned people off it.

    It makes tall people “look” more unhealthy than they are because it uses the wrong formula. Being 99th percentile in height (for the USA, which is quite tall by world standards) I find this annoying (and it has had adverse practical and economic consequences).

    More about BMI here.

    1. Agreed – just looking at someone’s BMI can’t help you distinguish between whether they are a fat lazy slob or an active muscular athlete (though I suspect there are more of the former out there…)

    2. Yes indeed, BMI is a statistical tool for use with populations, not individuals.

      Most of my adult life I also had a BMI that on occasion gave a doctor some concern, until they saw me in person. And I’m quite average size and build, not particularly short or tall, average frame. The perturbing factor was just a hobby of weight training. Not body building, no bulking up, just strength training. More than average fitness throws BMI way off, showing just how silly it is to use it as a metric for individuals.

  2. Here’s Robinson with The Miracles, live, singing what I think is his best song (and among the best five soul songs) …

    It might’ve been a bit derivative of Sam Cooke’s classic “Bring It On Home to Me,” but I still think Smokey’s best R&B tune was “You Really Got a Hold on Me”:

  3. At the time Pound, an American, was locked in St. Elizabeths mental hospital in Washington, D.C.

    Now the home of the Department of Homeland Security. Draw your own conclusions…

    this guy is determined to get his foster cat to love him

    Meh. He’s getting overly dramatic about normal cat behavior. They’re very territorial; stick them in an unfamiliar place, most of them freak out. It has nothing to do with whether they like you or not.

  4. Will Provine was my ex-wife’s honors thesis advisor at Cornell. She was neither a science student specifically, nor a budding scientist (she’s a lawyer – went to U of C law school!), but she loved Professor Provine and his classes. She got a summa cum laude on her thesis; you all would probably appreciate it: “The Oxymoron Offensive; how the religious right are attempting to evade the first amendment with the use of ‘creation science’ and ‘secular humanism religion’.” I may have gotten the subtitle a little off, but that was the gist. It was 1989, so it was well before the Dover trial. She was actually the one who first got me reading Richard Dawkins’s work (I was studying Physics and then English…then I went to med school. Go figure.).

    I met him a few times when she visited him after graduating. He was a very cool guy.

  5. FYI: The NOVA series from PBS will present a program “Mars 2020” about the Perseverance landing. It will be broadcast in Chicago on Wednesday 2/24 at 9pm on channel 11.

  6. A black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), one of the most threatened species in America, has been cloned, …

    Cool! How far are we from being able to clone an Ivory-bill from taxidermal specimens into, say, a Pileated egg? (Or would a chicken egg do just as well?)

    And that designer squirrel is great!! I hope someone can at least get a genomic sample from it.

      1. I’d think that the rapid desiccation of specimens for museums might bode well for that, but I have no idea if they do more for such purposes like soak them in eg tannic acid, that might (?) react in some way with the DNA.

        I just Googled: gathering genomic data from museum archived specimens

        And got this hit to read later.

  7. Regarding your tweet about life expectancy being about lowering child mortality, not true! See this page for full details, but here’s an excerpt:

    It’s often argued that life expectancy across the world has only increased because child mortality has fallen. If this were true, this would mean that we’ve become much better at preventing young children from dying, but have achieved nothing to improve the survival of older children, adolescents and adults. Once past childhood, people would be expected to enjoy the same length of life as they did centuries ago.

    This, as we will see in the data below, is untrue. Life expectancy has increased at all ages. The average person can expect to live a longer life than in the past, irrespective of what age they are.

    1. I didn’t say that the increase in life expectancy was SOLELY due to the reduction of child mortality, just that most of it was. And the reference you give me supports my contention. Adults have a higher life expectancy once they become adults, but look at the decrease in child mortality compared to the decrease in adult mortality.

      1. Think about all the things that could infect, ravage, eat or prong you to death 100 years ago – the likelihood, statistically – verses now. Except for falls (and even they’re improved a bit) MOST accidental forms of demise are down also.
        Re-read Pinker’s book, prof. – it’ll buck up anybody’s pessimism.

  8. “stage 4 lung cancer, which of course is a terminal diagnosis”. Medical science has made exponential strides. I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2016. Thanks to revolutionary immunotherapy treatment, I now am all clear. Former president Jimmy Carter received similar successful treatment. I am sure Bob Dole will get the best treatment and I wish him well.

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