Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 6, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the Sabbath for Jewish cats: Saturday, March 6, 2021. Here’s a landskat to get it started right (h/t: Matthew). I’m not sure, though, that cats are allowed to play on the Sabbath; I think they’re supposed to rest and study the Talmud.

It’s National Oreo Day (I have a “family pack” of mint Oreos I bought two weeks ago, and polished off seven last night (with a glass of milk) to celebrate finally finishing Kendi’s book on antiracism. I once got a bag of matcha (powdered green tea) Oreos, which I believe are sold only in Japan, and they were surprisingly toothsome:

It’s also National Frozen Food Day, National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day (forget about that; there are only two varieties of cheesecake that are acceptable: plain and with cherries), and, as a complement to the cheesecake, it’s National Dentist’s Day, with the apostrophe implying that only a single dentist is being celebrated. Finally, it’s European Day of the Righteous, commemorating “those who have stood up against crimes against humanity and totalitarism with their own moral responsibility.”

Wine of the Day: I don’t often drink Barolos, as they’re pricey, but I treated myself last night when I made some bucattini pasta with red sauce and vegetables, and decided to pair it with an Italian red. This was an excellent specimen of “the king of Italian wines” (is that sexist?). I put it upright for a week beforehand as I knew it had sediment, decanted it carefully, and let it sit open for an hour before drinking.

This is a wine with guts, perhaps better suited to a steak than to pasta. It shows no sign of aging, and smells powerfully of blackcurrants and (amazingly) roses! I’m drinking my second large glass at this moment, and it’s getting better and better. I have only a few Barolos among my wines, and I look forward to comparing this big boy with others. Rating: 8.7724/10.

News of the Day:

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is now being injected in to Americans, and I think one in six of us has received at least one shot.  In fact, with the J&J jab all you need is one shot, which makes it appealing to many. And it’s as efficacious as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at keeping people out of the hospital and alive. There is, however, a difference in efficacy (95% vs. about a 72% reduction in infection likelihood), and I suppose if one had a choice, and didn’t mind two shots, you’d go for the two-jab rather than the J&J shots. But few people have that choice, and Fauci’s advice to take what you’re offered is good.

What bothers me is that if we DID have a choice, I’d take Pfizer or Moderna because of their higher efficacy, regardless of Fauci’s statement that the trials were done on different populations. Fauci’s interest differs from ours: his is getting herd immunity as fast as possible, while ours is both our own health and the health of the country as a whole. There’s some conflict here, and I’d feel better if at least someone admitted that.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az) is a centrist Democrat, but also something of a showoff. On the vote about minimum wages in the Senate yesterday, she had to make a big show of “thumbs down.” It’s not only immature, but a poke in the eye at her many constituents who could use a higher wage. (She was also carrying a cake, though it’s not certain it was a Marie Antoinette move.) Here’s her vote:

There’s an interesting op-ed in the NYT called “The Empty Religions of Instagram“, about how “influencers” like Glennon Doyle are the replacement for televangelists, offering us unsatisfying cures for our Weltschmerz. I thought “Yeah! You go!” until I read the last two paragraphs from author Leigh Stein:

There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can provide. We’re looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?

Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life. It’s time to search for meaning beyond the electric church that keeps us addicted to our phones and alienated from our closest kin.

She wants us to go back to God, for crying out loud!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 522,511, an increase of about 2,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,593,526, an increase of about 10,400 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 6 includes:

  • 632 – The Farewell Sermon (Khutbah, Khutbatul Wada’) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
  • 845 – The 42 Martyrs of Amorium are killed after refusing to convert to Islam.
  • 1665 – The first joint Secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg, publishes the first issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the world’s longest-running scientific journal.
  • 1788 – The First Fleet arrives at Norfolk Island in order to found a convict settlement.
  • 1834 – York, Upper Canada, is incorporated as Toronto.
  • 1857 – The Supreme Court of the United States rules 7-2 in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case that the Constitution does not confer citizenship on black people.

Although Scott (who was enslaved) lost, he was manumitted. Sadly, his freedom lasted only a year, as he died of tuberculosis in 1858:

Here’s that first table, with the caption from Wikipedia:

The first version of Mendeleev’s periodic table, 1 March 1869 (N.S.): An attempt at a system of elements based on their atomic weights and chemical similarities. Here the periods are presented vertically, and the groups horizontally.

I saw this painting for real in Stockbridge, MA at the Rockwell studio and museum, and studied it carefully, especially the food. It depicts Thanksgiving, of course, with Mom serving up a monster turkey. But the rest of the table is surprisingly bare. Note the dish of celery, once considered a rare treat (oy!):

There have been many memes of that painting, of course. Here’s one:

Here’s Ali and Malcolm X in a rare video.

  • 1967 – Cold War: Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva defects to the United States.
  • 1975 – For the first time the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is shown in motion to a national TV audience by Robert J. Groden and Dick Gregory.

The film is sad a gruesome, showing first the shot through Kennedy’s neck and then his head exploding as the second shot strikes. I won’t embed it here, but you can watch it by clicking here.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1340 – John of Gaunt (d. 1399)
  • 1619 – Cyrano de Bergerac, French author and playwright (d. 1655)
  • 1885 – Ring Lardner, American journalist and author (d. 1933)
  • 1906 – Lou Costello, American actor and comedian (d. 1959)
  • 1926 – Alan Greenspan, American economist and politician
  • 1927 – Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian journalist and author, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1944 – Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand soprano and actress

As I’ve said many times, Dame Kiri is one of my favorite classical singers. Here she is singing what is perhaps the most famous of all operatic arias (you hear it in the movies all the time). This performance is from 1990 on the BBC.

Like me, Carolyn is a huge Beatles fan. Here she is in London with her team, reenacting the cover of “Abbey Road”:

She also likes Michael Jackson, and won a contest for both impersonating and dancing like Jackson; here’s a picture from Facebook:

  • 1967 – Glenn Greenwald, American journalist and author
  • 1972 – Shaquille O’Neal, American basketball player, actor, and rapper

Those who were no more on March 6 include:

  • 1836 – Deaths at the Battle of the Alamo:
    • James Bonham, American lawyer and soldier (b. 1807)
    • James Bowie, American colonel (b. 1796)
    • Davy Crockett, American soldier and politician (b. 1786)
  • 1888 – Louisa May Alcott, American novelist and poet (b. 1832)

Here’s the author of Little Women at 20:

  • 1932 – John Philip Sousa, American conductor and composer (b. 1854)
  • 1935 – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., American colonel, lawyer, and jurist (b. 1841)
  • 1973 – Pearl S. Buck, American novelist, essayist, short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1892)
  • 1982 – Ayn Rand, Russian-American philosopher, author, and playwright (b. 1905)
  • 1986 – Georgia O’Keeffe, American painter (b. 1887)

O’Keeffee liked both cats and d*gs; here she is with a kitten. (It’s curious, but I think that artists who own cats tend to favor Siamese ones.)

  • 2005 – Hans Bethe, German-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Malgorzata explain today’s Hili:

“Andrzej says that we live in times similar to the past. And Hili, knowing history, is terrified. (The English exclamation ‘OMG’ is also used in Poland.) She doesn’t want the horrors of history to return.”

The dialogue:

A: History repeats itself.
Hili: OMG.
In Polish:
Ja: Historia się powtarza.
Hili: OMG

Kulka is sitting on the windowsill outside; she wants in!

From Facebook:

From Nicole:

From Tom:

A tweet from Merilee:

Tweets from Matthew. First, Wisdom’s latest chick has hatched, and this Laysan albatross is at least 70! No menopause in that tough bird (or any other animal save humans, pilot whales, beluga whales, narwhals and orcas).

The color develops quite quickly, though I regret that they had to sacrifice a butterfly to make this video.

This is probably the first photography contest won by an invertebrate, much less an animal:

Another remarkable case of mimicry. Google translation: “From the moment I started to observe and study animals, I would never have imagined that I would encounter so many different animals. And it was the case of this incredible saw-wood beetle of the species Sphecomorpha murina that perfectly mimics a Polistinae wasp.”

Here’s a thread with many annoying architectural errors. The last one is unbelievable.

A lovely pair of photos. Read further in the thread to find out what was happening (I alluded to the event the other day):

79 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. ” … and polished off seven last night (with a glass of milk) to celebrate finally finishing Kendi’s book on antiracism”

    I take that as a good sign – all I am doing this morning is interpreting everything as power structures and individuals as solely representatives of race.

        1. Kendi has suggested that he is interested in dialogue if a person can claim they are on the faculty of a university.

          I heard that in Coleman Hughes’ update on his letter to Kendi. See Hughes’ podcast (can we find a better word for these? YouTube channel? So awkward.)

            1. Oh I see – yes, I recall that. My guess is it was a dig a Hughes who is maybe a grad student.

  2. Unfortunately Dred Scott was not the only low point in the Supreme Court’s history as there have been many more. Today, unless the Democrats wake up and fight like hell, our democracy will soon be in the history as well. In the state legislatures, many run by republicans, voting rights are being attacked with great speed. Most seem to remain ignorant while this continues but it is currently the most important thing going on in politics. The virus will pass but the passing of democracy may not be far behind.

    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      And I keep wondering what, exactly, they think their dictatorship will look like. I think that what they envision is a society where they make the rules and the rest of us meekly go along. They are sadly mistaken, and they should take a hard look at Myanmar, for example, or other places where the majority did not meekly go along.


      1. My take is they think it will look like a theocracy- Christian god at the top, everyone else in servitude. What they don’t seem to consider is that it is difficult to run a country as a minority. They’re doing it now, but is it sustainable? Not in a healthy democracy, and then again, one “party” wants nothing to do with a healthy democracy.

    2. Yep, the party that isn’t a party anymore doesn’t believe in democracy anymore either. Yet another reason why the filibuster must go…either the filibuster, or our democracy…why is it so hard to understand, and why hold on to antiquated procedures which were only created to stop civil rights legislation and other progressive legislation from being passed? Surely, the Senators know the history of the filibuster. I doubt they can pass voting rights through budget reconciliation. Though I have heard talk of modifying the rules of the filibuster so it can’t be used on civil rights legislation, which includes voting rights…I’d go along with that compromise as well, even though it’s just stalling the inevitable.

  3. “…there are only two varieties of cheesecake that are acceptable: plain and with cherries…”

    On behalf of my customers and me, I must respectfully disagree. If there are only two varieties that you like, so be it, don’t eat the others, but we move a lot of chocolate chip cheesecake (with an Oreo crumb crust), and strawberry sauce is more popular over plain cheesecake than cherries. We also make blueberry sauce for a topping for plain cheesecake, which runs about equal in popularity with cherry. Also, since we try to do the fruit sauces with fresh fruit rather than frozen, the window for fresh cherries is pretty narrow, end of July to the middle of August, whereas we can usually get strawberries and blueberries for most of the spring and summer and early fall.


    1. You can do a lot of fun things with cheesecake! You can make a pumpkin pie cheesecake, which I love. I like my cheesecake without any fruit, but creative. I also love graham cracker crust and a brûléed top. I just love crème brûlée, but only when done right: it should come out of the kitchen warm from having just been caramelized. Too many restaurants make it at the beginning of the day and then just refrigerate it.

      1. We do pumpkin cheesecake in the fall when pumpkins are in season. Again, fresh pumpkin which we process in-house. Canned pumpkin is an instrument of the devil.


    2. Ever do a lemon sauce of some kind? It seems like lemon would pair well with the richness of cheesecake.

      1. I don’t do lemon desserts of any kind.

        I don’t like lemon and sugar together, although I know that most people do. Lemon to me is a savory flavor, belonging on potatoes, or fish, or chicken, or in salad dressings and sauces.

        Lemon desserts taste very bitter and chemical to me, and if I make something that I don’t like and I have to taste it, I have no idea whether it tastes right before I send it out.

        I have taken a lot of grief for this, but I can’t help it.


        1. I do very much like lemon in savory dishes too. Lemon and lime both. The zest of either is sublime.

              1. Fyi- ginger tip I just learned. Pop fresh gingerroot into the freezer and then it’s a piece of cake to grate.

    3. I recently had a delicious olallieberry cheesecake at Lynn’s in Cambria (near San Simeon) and therefore must respectfully disagree with PCC as well.

    1. I was thinking of the same thing. It’s a bit of a disservice to Professor Bethe, but it’s the first thing I think of whenever I see his name. Gamow was my kind of physicist.

  4. What bothers me is that if we DID have a choice, I’d take Pfizer or Moderna because of their higher efficacy, regardless of Fauci’s statement that the trials were done on different populations.

    Interesting. We have a similar discussion in Germany involving the vaccines from Biontech and Moderna on the one hand and AstraZeneca on the other. All vaccines show very good results, with Biontech and Moderna being even better than AstraZeneca. In addition, the latter leads more often to vaccination reactions such as flu-like symptoms for 1-2 days.

    This has led to the paradoxical situation that despite the pandemic und despite urgent advice of the national health authorities AstraZeneca vaccine is piling up in some vaccination centers because people would rather have Biontech or Moderna injected.

    Discussions are now underway to adjust the vaccination order and move lower priority groups such as teachers, educators and police officers to the front of the line.

    And as is typically German, this decision takes time. If it should come at all. (Sorry for being sarcastic),

    1. Just my experience with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Mileage may vary. I am 68 years old and got the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of a clinical trial on October 29 and November 12. My 63 year old sister, a nurse, got her second dose of the Moderna vaccine a couple of weeks ago. I experienced very mild flu like symptoms after the first shot that lasted about 12 hours. My sister got chills, fever and fatigue that lasted 24 hours after the second shot. She felt so ill that she stayed in bed the next day. My sister also got the sore arm that many complain about. I have a pretty high pain threshold and shots don’t bother me after having been a regular blood donor for over 30 years. I barely felt the needle going in and no pain at the injection site afterwards.

      Last week, I decided to take an antibody test to make sure I got the vaccine and not the placebo in the clinical trial (The trial can’t be “unblinded” until the vaccine is approved by the FDA). There are several clinics around Richmond that do antibody testing, so I made an appointment and had the results 15 minutes after giving a couple drops of blood. Positive for antibodies. A friend who is participating in the same clinical trial also took an antibody test and got the same results. She too is positive for antibodies after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine several months ago.

  5. Kursten Sinima’s little act in congress just shows a lack of originality and a bit stupid on her part. Drawing attention to your vote against raising the minimum wage – that really showed them. But copying John McCain while making a stupid vote?

  6. Japan has a lot of crazy junk food. They have over 100 flavors of Kit Kat!

    Barolos and Malbecs are probably my favorite wines.

    1. HA! I was just thinking of the Japanese kit-kat madness (my fave: cherry/sakura). There’s a Japanese grocery near me and they have all that stuff. Sublime. And the flavors of ice cream will blow your mind.
      NYC (formerly Tokyo)

    2. A friend visited Japan a few years ago and brought me several weird gifts. The funniest was a package of “Chocolate Filled Colons”. They were light brown cookie “straws” filled with dark chocolate. Actually tasty, but the name…

      1. Chicken fingers
        Nipples of Venus (apparently real)
        Angel Hair Pasta
        Chocolate filled colons

        One of these things just doesn’t work the way it should by following the pattern.

  7. For other scientists at Abbey Road, the back cover of Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual (2nd edition, IIRC) has a photo of the authors Sambrook, Maniatis, Fritsch and Russell re-enacting the crossing.

  8. The “redneck” version of “Freedom From Want” needs to be updated. Where are the MAGA hats?

    How long until Carolyn Porco is attacked for appropriating Michael Jackson?

    1. I know what you mean. It feels like something from The Haunting of Hill House or an H. P. Lovecraft story – someplace where triangles don’t add up to 180 degrees and things father away look larger rather than smaller and the counting numbers are irrational…or where two and two always makes a five.

      1. someplace where triangles don’t add up to 180 degrees

        Any place on Earth.
        Or on any other spherical surface.
        Sorry, any surface of a positive curvature.
        Sorry, any surface of a non-zero curvature.

        things father away look larger rather than smaller

        Hmm, I think there’s a geometry for that, though the name escapes me. I’d bet the price of a beer against there being no published geometry which didn’t have that property.

        1. Yes, we all know about non-Euclidean geometry. I’m thinking more about being in a defined Euclidean space and still not having triangles measure 180…perhaps having the internal angles of a triangle add up to 540 degrees. Or to e + 18i degrees. Something along those lines. And I’m pretty sure there’s no published geometry with those properties…though I could be wrong.

    2. Most of them make me think more of “measure twice, cut once”. Though some of the “builders” involved probably only got their saw the right way up half the time.
      There are also paens to the reason for there being standard sizes, and for thinking at least twice more before cutting down from a standard size piece.

    3. Reminds me of the “Winchester Mystery House” in San Jose, CA. Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester, the firearm inventor, believed she was haunted by the Indians slain by her late husband’s firearms. She believed that the noise made by carpenters working on her house kept the spirits at bay. She didn’t care what they did, as long as they continued to work. So there are doors that open to reveal only a wall, staircases that lead into the ceiling and other architectural oddities. I took the tour when I was a kid and found it very creepy but enjoyable.

  9. GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Fox Business: “Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they’re protectors of their family, they are resilient, they’re resourceful, they tend to their own. So, I think Joe Biden needs to rethink what he is saying.”

    Yeah, well, except for traces of their DNA in our own species, Neanderthals are also extinct. The GOP may be undergoing an extinction event of its own right now. So, it’s probably Sen. Marsha Blackburn who oughta do the rethinking.

  10. Between the moon and me, Andrew, between the moon and me. If the descriptivists can countenance “I,” then I can start saying disirregardless if I want to.

    1. The way for writers to ensure they get that one right is to try substituting “we” or “us” in its place. People rarely make a mistake regarding the proper case for a pronoun following a preposition in the first-person plural.

      1. Good point. Now if something can be done about “for further details, contact myself or my colleagues.”

        1. “‘Myself” is the foxhole of ignorance where cowards take refuge because they were taught that “me” is vulgar and “I” is egotistical.

          — Red Smith

          1. “The me that is really me was being held back by the I that I am and now is coming out all over my face [i.e., a beard].–Goober Pyle
            Perhaps it’s a fear of hearing the wrong pronouns that keeps atheists out of foxholes?

    2. I was disturbed to hear Steven Pinker say “I” was okay, but ever since then I’ve been trying to let it go. It’s a lost cause now anyway I think.

      1. I have great trouble letting that go, though I have kinda given up on saying This is she on the phone, because it tends to confuse people.😬 I love your “disirregardless.”!

        1. I say, “This is he” in formal settings, such as at the office when I don’t know who’s asking.

          Sometimes I’d answer the office phone when the receptionist was at lunch, and it would be one of my sons when they were kids. They wouldn’t recognize my “office voice,” so would ask for me formally by name. In that instance, I’d say, “It’s me, ya doofus.” 🙂

          1. 🤣
            Sometimes I answer as my favorite grandfather did with “Listening.” Don’t think he did that at work.

          2. I like “‘tis I”.
            Hey! My Lucy Poochie gravatar inexplicably reappeared after inexplicably disappearing a few months ago. The wonders of WP🙀

      2. Pinker said the nominative case “I” was okay as the object of a preposition?

        Dang, I’m no prescriptivist, but that doesn’t sound right to me, at all.

  11. 1932 – John Philip Sousa, American conductor and composer (b. 1854)

    Ah, that would explain why his name turned up in a marginellar quiz yesterday. Perhaps. Weren’t Sousa marches involved in a spy film somewhere – Ipcress, or a Bond? That was the image that came up with the name from my neurones, at least.

  12. Couple of things re the J and J vaccine. First, a straight comparison with the mRNA vaccine data isn’t really fair, as you note, the conditions and data collected were different so just looking at the top line numbers can be misleading. Notably the J and J vaccine was tested in environments with the new variants, which were not a factor in the earlier mRNA trials. Second J and J are doing a new trial to test whether a subsequent booster shot boosts immunity (so it would become another two dose vaccine). This seems plausible, we will see. And third, I saw some data a few days ago (that of course I can’t find now to get a Hande on reliability) suggesting that the increase in immunity with J and J develops more slowly – so it seems to become more effective over several weeks. Not sure what to make of that but it’s a different approach – modified adenovirus, so perhaps it just keeps making spike proteins for longer.

    The main point is that these vaccines should stop you from dying! “Take whatever they offer you” seems like solid advice,

    To see the effects vaccines in the real world here is the Israeli data, which is interesting.

    Which one is next? Novavax or AZ? We are going to end up with a lot of options.

  13. The picture “From Nicole:” doesn’t ring any bells on this side of the pond. From the flag and the context, I infer that some recently elected senator (-ish) was putting up some stupid slogan in her office, but the photoshopping away of her slogan for the homeshcool biology matches nothing that made it to this side of the Pond. I’m going to guess it’s a god-squaddy anti-evolution jibe, but that’s just a guess.

    1. It appears to be a photoshopped still from the video below in which recently elected congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-QAnon) posted the subject sign across the hall from another freshman member of the House of Representatives, Marie Newman (D-Illinois), who has an adult transgender daughter:

  14. The Abbey Road picture actually shows the Cassini Imaging Science Team, whose membership was drawn from universities in Britain, France and Germany as well as U.S. universities and research institutes. Carolyn Porco was the team leader. If I recall correctly, my old friend and colleague Professor Carl Murray (Queen Mary University of London, second from left in the picture) helped to organise the photo op during a meeting of the team in London.

  15. If I remember correctly, were you not having trouble finding bucatini in Chicago?: We had bucatini all’amatriciana earlier in the week. It would go well with a strong red wine–all I had was cabernet sauvignon. We can’t find guaciale (cured pork cheek) easily here in New Mexico, so we substitute thick sliced bacon. When we were in Italy a few years ago, we bought a packet of premixed spices for the dish at an open air market. I am sure there are many good recipes on the interwebs.

  16. Yes, I did have trouble finding it here; the FDA put a hold on it for a while because–get this–the iron content was too low. I think that hold is removed now, but I still can’t find it. But a really generous reader sent me 12 one-pound packages of excellent bucattini, so I’m set for a while.

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