Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 14, 2021 • 6:30 am

Did you remember to set your clocks forward? The time changed at 2 a.m. this morning. This will be posted at 6:30 a.m. Chicago time, or 7:30 a.m. Eastern time.

So a dark good morning on Sunday, March 14, 2021: National Potato Chip Day.  And it’s Pi Day, of course, being 3/14 in American notation. Here’s Larry Shaw, a physicist at the San Francisco Exploratorium, who started Pi Day in 1988.

Other holidays include Celebrate Scientists Day, honoring the most famous modern scientist, who was born on this day in 1879; Genius Dayalso celebrating Einstein; Science Education Day; National Save a Spider Day; Learn About Butterflies Day; and Moth-er Day, celebrating moths. Finally, as Wikipedia tells us, it’s “White Day in Japan and other parts of Asia, a day “on which men give gifts to women; complementary to Valentine’s Day.

Lagniappe: A lovely photo from My Modern Met: It was taken by Daniel Kordan in Russia. To wit:

There are some landscape images that are so enchanting you’d think they were out of a storybook. Such is the case with a photo by renowned photographer Daniel Kordan. In 2016, he was leading a photography workshop in Kamchatka, Russia, when the Klyuchevskaya volcano was in the midst of an eruption. While the lava alone is a spectacular sight, it was made even more magical with a meteor that is barreling above it. And best of all, Kordan was in the right place at the right time to serendipitously record it all.

Wine of the Day: I chose this Bordeaux to accompany my first commercial pizza since the pandemic started last year. And oy, was it a good choice! It was gutsy and jammy and thick, and that heft was needed to counteract Chicago’s gutsiest pizza. (All the vintages from 2016-2019 are rated very highly, so pick this up if you want a treat.)

Dark purple and redolent of raspberry jam, this wine has years to go, and certainly had the stuffing to go with one of Chicago’s specialities. a stuffed “Giordano’s Special” stuffed pizza from the eponymous local chain. Stuffed pizza happens to be my favorite pizza, though Pecksniffs claim that it’s “not real pizza.” Well, screw the semantic argument; it is good, whatever you call it. And don’t try arguing with me in the comments.

Stuffed pizza consists of a bottom crust, then, in this case, layered with homemade sausage, then a ton of cheese, and then a layer of mushroom, onions, and green peppers. Finally a top crust is put on, covered with tomato sauce, and the whole schmear baked for 45 minutes. I got a big one, which will provide me with a total of five meals (two slices per meal):

Side view of a slice:

After that pizza and a good Bordeaux, I’m a happy man. Well, at least a complacent one.

News of the Day:

Should student debt be canceled? Biden says, well, maybe up to $10,000, but Elizabeth Warren wants $50,000 wiped out, which will cost the rest of us taxpayers a trillion bucks. I lean towards Biden’s side, but also feel that it’s unfair to those who paid off their debts or will incur debt in the future. See all the pros and cons in this NYT editorial.

The U.S. Capitol is still surrounded by a high perimeter fence, and security has been beefed up with extra D.C. police, Capitol Police, and even the National Guard. Lawmakers are upset at the gamut they have to run to get to work, but people are still afraid of another assault. Who knows when things will get back to normal, especially since Trump is still alive and his minions aren’t dying off soon. I wonder if citizens can even visit the Capitol now (I used to go fairly often as a child when I lived across the river in Arlington).

Let nobody claim that Charlie Hebdo has good taste. As the Guardian reports:

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked outrage with a cartoon depiction of Queen Elizabeth kneeling on the neck of Meghan Markle, echoing the death of George Floyd.

The controversial publication’s cartoon comes after the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, told US interviewer Oprah Winfrey of apparent racism within the royal family, though they did not criticise the Queen. But Markle said courtiers refused her permission to leave Kensington Palace on occasion and that she once only left twice in four months, leading her to experience severe loneliness and suicidal ideations.

In the cartoon, published on Saturday and titled “Why Meghan quit”, the Duchess of Sussex is depicted saying, “Because I couldn’t breathe any more”.

Of course the Guardian didn’t have the guts to show the cartoon, but reader Jez, who sent me the link, also sent me a separate link to the image:

Good thing the Royal Family isn’t into beheading!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 533,904, an increase of 1,846 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,660,516, an increase of about about 7,100 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 14 includes:

Byng, who failed to relieve the British garrison at Minorca against the French, was convicted for “failing to do his utmost” against the enemy. He was shot on a ship, with the depiction below. The firing squad appears perilously close to Byng, and their rifles are super big!

Here’s Whitney’s drawing that accompanied his patent. This, of course, revolutionized cotton processing in the American South.

  • 1885 – The Mikado, a light opera by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, receives its first public performance at the Savoy Theatre in London.
  • 1931 – Alam Ara, India’s first talking film, is released.

Sadly, the film has been completely lost. All we have is a poster for the movie:

  • 1942 – Anne Miller becomes the first American patient to be treated with penicillin, under the care of Orvan Hess and John Bumstead.

Here’s Miller, inches away from death when her doctors learned about penicillin from Reader’s Digest. They got some, gave it to her, and within a day she was nearly cured. She lived to be 90.

Here’s a photo of the “selection” on the railroad platform at Birkenau, the camp next to Auschwitz. Nazi doctors and SS men separated the arrivals into two columns, one of which would be gassed immediately. The selection took place 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Most of the Jews in Kraków died in this way. Photos like this one affect me profoundly. It’s hard to imagine the confusion, the uncertainty, and the duplicity that ended in the gas chambers, only a few steps from the platform.

From The Auschwitz Album
  • 1964 – Jack Ruby is convicted of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the assumed assassin of John F. Kennedy.
  • 1967 – The body of U.S. President John F. Kennedy is moved to a permanent burial place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1804 – Johann Strauss I, Austrian composer and conductor (d. 1849)
  • 1836 – Isabella Beeton, English author of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (d. 1865)
  • 1854 – Paul Ehrlich, German physician and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1915)
  • 1863 – Casey Jones, American engineer (d. 1900)

Jones, a locomotive engineer, stayed on his train, trying to slow it as it rear-ended another train. He was the only fatality, and that gave rise to the legend. Here he is in his cab:

See above!

  • 1923 – Diane Arbus, American photographer (d. 1971)

Of course I must show something of Arbus. Here’s a nice 14-minute documentary of her life, and it shows a lot of her photos. Afflicted with depression, she killed herself at 48.

  • 1933 – Michael Caine, English actor and author
  • 1948 – Billy Crystal, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1997 – Simone Biles, American gymnast

Those who gave up the ghost on March 14 include:

Here’s a two-minute film that shows Berkeley’s inimitable style:

Here’s Berkeley:

  • 2018 – Stephen Hawking, English physicist and author (b. 1942)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is too lazy to bother with climbing today.

Hili: I have to change my plans.
A: What were your plans?
Hili: To climb a tree, but I don’t know whether there is any sense to it.
In Polish:
Hili: Muszę zmienić plany.
Ja: A co planowałaś?
Hili: Wdrapać się na drzewo, ale nie wiem, czy to ma sens.
And Szaron plays gingerly with a string:

From Philosophy Matters. Oy! “Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics.”

From Bruce:

From Moto:

A tweet from Simon. Nichols was good on this one!

A tweet from Barry, who said, “‘I’ll have just one.’ He lied.”

Tweets from Matthew. What a thing to find on your roof!

They don’t wear masks for nothing!

I like the “I do appreciate your being round” statement:

Duck species are known to hybridize widely, though the interspecific hybrids are usually either physiologically or behaviorally sterile (the latter means that the intermediate appearance of a hybrid makes it unlikely to be attractive to an opposite-sex individual of either parental species). But I never knew that mallards could successfully produce hybrids with a wood duck.

Wood ducks and mallards last had a common ancestor about 20 million years ago. This is like getting a viable hybrid between a human and an orangutan (15 million years of divergence)!

And this makes no sense at all, but hey, it’s the Internet!

47 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. “Good thing the Royal Family isn’t into beheading!”

    I do not know what to write to express the comedic punch of this joke!

    This cane to mind :
    “It’s gold, Jerry – GOLD!”
    -Banya (from Seinfeld)

  2. Should student debt be canceled?

    I’m surprised by (both in the UK and the US) cancellation of student debt being advocated by the left. It amounts to a transfer of wealth from the half of the population that does not go to college to the half that does — when the half that does is by far the more prosperous.

    In such ways, left-wing policies these days are more for the benefit of the scions of the well-off middle class than for the benefit of the poorer working class that the left used to be all about.

    1. It’s simpler than that. The vast majority of the left calling for the cancellation of student debt went to college.

      Full disclosure: I also went to college, but when I did, my fees were paid by the local education authority. I finished college with a total debt of £9

    2. “It amounts to a transfer of wealth from the half of the population that does not go to college to the half that does”

      This is not true. What it amounts to is a transfer of wealth from those who have the most money in society to those who have a whole lot less. Nobody is suggesting that this be paid for by a tax on the working poor.

      1. But the less-well-off do pay plenty of tax (including sales tax and taxes on fuel, tobacco etc). Thus any major expenditure that does not benefit them (and those working-class, lower-earning people who didn’t go to college get no benefit at all from a student-debt write-off) amounts to a transfer away from them.

        1. Irrelevant. Taxes will need to be increased to cover this sort of program. Nobody (but you) has suggested that we pay for it by increases in sales, fuel, or tobacco taxes. (Some of which are irrelevant because they happen at the state level anyway.) Taxes on the wealthy will need to be raised. Cry me a river if you’re going to say that would be unfair.

          “Lower earning people who didn’t go to college…” Why do you suppose most of those folk didn’t go to to college?

          1. I’ve not suggested that it’s paid for by any particular taxes, it’s simply a general point that the Dems are proposing rather large expenditure that does nothing to benefit lower-earning people who did not go to college, but instead will mostly benefit middle-income, middle-class people.

            And the idea that people who didn’t attend college tend to earn less and are much more likely to be relatively poor is pretty well established.

            1. As I said before, low income people (whether they attended college or not) are not being asked to pay for this. Your objection is dismissed on that basis.

              1. I think you are intentionally missing the point. Taxation rates are not uniform. And not everyone is taxed equally. You know this as well as I do. So I’ll leave the thread now.

  3. Wait, Einstein was not just German-American. He was also Swiss and has been Swiss for a much longer time than American.

    I do not argue about pizzas. American pizza is a different food, neither better nor worse, than the Neapolitan one. I think divergent evolution has led to speciation in allopatry. Speciation is probably happening in France too. Selective pressures are clearly different between pizza populations.

    1. Here’s another celebrity birthday; it was actually yesterday, March 13, but I just found out about it:

      Cartoonist Al Jaffee, creator of the MAD Fold-In, turned 100 yesterday! He began drawing for comic books in the 1940s, and published his last cartoon in MAD in 2020. The Guinness Book of Records says he has the longest career of any cartoonist.

  4. Let nobody claim that Charlie Hebdo has good taste …

    Guess I don’t either, ’cause I laughed at the description, before even scrolling down to see the cover.

    1. Likewise. When comedy is genuinely funny nobody praises it by saying “it was in such good taste!” Satire is usually better off in bad taste as well.

    1. Yeah, didn’t the Tudor Family Values (as C. Hitchens used to call them) start out with a bunch of decapitations?

  5. I love the bonnet of the bus rider/watcher. Wonder what success I’d have putting one on one of my cats.

  6. 1964 – Jack Ruby is convicted of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the assumed assassin of John F. Kennedy.

    No tv cameras were allowed in the courtroom during Ruby’s trial, but they were allowed in for the verdict. I recall watching it as a kid (I think live) when the verdict was read, finding Ruby guilty and sentencing him to death.

    Ruby’s lawyer, Melvin Belli (who wasn’t a bona fide criminal defense lawyer but a famous San Francisco personal-injury specialist, known as “the King of Torts”), went fairly nuts after the verdict, screaming both inside and outside the courtroom. I think he was POed that Ruby, who had pled temporary insanity, wasn’t granted a change of venue to move the case out of Dallas. (Ruby’s conviction was reversed on appeal, but he died in prison, of cancer, before the retrial could be held.)

  7. … like getting a viable hybrid between a human and an orangutan …

    As the old ladies of the parish used to say when I was a kid, any time there was any kind of mixed marriage: “The only thing that really matters is, will the children be raised Catholic?”

  8. Feeling persnickity this morning. Perhaps it’s the time change.

    “While the lava alone is a spectacular sight, it was made even more magical with a meteor that is barreling above it.”

    Barreling? Meteors don’t “barrel”, as that word means “to move rapidly, especially in a vehicle” and refers to the rolling of barrels to move them from place to place. They are notoriously hard to control. A meteor isn’t controlled, of course, but generally moves in a straight line. Just seems like the wrong word to me.

  9. You’re killing me with that pizza, Jerry. Of all the things I miss from Chicago, I miss the food the most. And of those, I miss Chicago pizza most. (Second would be Vienna Beef stands.) My favorite, though, is pepperoni, onions, and garlic, but the garlic has to be sliced.

  10. “Should student debt be canceled?”

    What’s the good of a one-time canceling of student debt? As you point out, it won’t benefit earlier or later students and does nothing to reform how education is funded. It’s just a hand-out. This is the kind of thing that makes me less interested in the views of Elizabeth Warren.

    1. Perhaps a permanent cancellation of student debt would be better than a one-time version. (Presumably that would mean some kind of long term subsidized college). But this isn’t an argument against doing the limited version. And saying “just an handout” only expresses your disapproval, also not an argument against it. Nor, to my mind, is “unfair to people who have already paid off their loans” very convincing. One doesn’t condemn people to drown in a flood simply because others have managed to swim to safety.

      What is at stake here is the consequences of student debt in a time where education costs are massively higher than they used to be and wages have been essentially flat for decades.

      When I was a freshman in 1968 tuition was $150 a semester. It was easy to pay off my student debt. Not so, today.

      1. Doing the limited version, as you call it, will indeed take away from developing a long-term solution. Support is a limited resource. If a long-term bill is introduced after doing the short-term fix, critics will say “Didn’t we just dismiss student debt? Why are we dealing with this again? Don’t we have more important things to deal with?”

        As far as an argument against the short-term fix, I did offer arguments against it. It’s unfair to those who have recently paid off their student debt and now have no savings. It’s unfair to future students who will still have to borrow to meet the cost of their education. Your short-term fix is even less than throwing money at the problem. It just kicks the can down the road.

        The best thing this country can do for future well-being is invest in its citizen’s education. A one-time payoff just doesn’t do that much toward that goal.

        1. No, it doesn’t “just kicks the can down the road”. It gets a large number of people out of debt and able to build solid economic futures. The word “just” is misapplied.

          Note: I am not saying that a long term fix isn’t preferable. I am saying that making the perfect be the enemy of the good is never a sound way to make decisions. Almost all progress is made incrementally. And we never, to my knowledge, have claimed that offering free public K-12 education was unfair to all those who had to do without before we started building public schools.

          1. “I am not saying that a long term fix isn’t preferable.”

            You kind of are. As I said, doing a short-term fix will reduce the chances of getting a long-term fix. While the Biden administration hasn’t yet even attempted a long-term fix, you want to abandon it in favor of the short-term fix.

            “And we never, to my knowledge, have claimed that offering free public K-12 education was unfair to all those who had to do without before we started building public schools.”

            This is a fallacious argument. Free public K-12 education benefits future citizens. A one-time dismissing of student debt only helps a few students and does nothing for the future.

            1. I explicitly didn’t, Paul.

              There are two arguments here and you’re confusing things by mixing them up. 1) Short term fixes don’t preclude long term ones. Most progress is incremental. 2) Benefits for people now should not be blocked because previously people didn’t get them.

              1. Short term fixes DO preclude long term ones for the reason I’ve already stated. If you are going to ignore my arguments, you are wasting both our times. Good day to you sir!

              2. Social security was signed in 1935. There were no disability benefits they were added in the 1950s. Cost of living adjustments didn’t happen until the 1970’s. Medicare was passed in 1965. Changes have been made to the program ever since. The ACA brought a slew of improvements to our health insurance system, but it didn’t “solve the problem”, a “long term fix” remains to be done. Social oppression against black people didn’t get fixed by the civli war. There was no long term fix for voting rights when black men were granted the vote, nor when women got the franchise. Nor when the Civil Rights Act was passed. We’re still working to make progress without having the “long term fix”.

                “Long term fixes” are illusory. We make progress by making things better, not by making them perfect.

              3. All you are saying here is that long-term fixes often need mid-course corrections to maintain their effectiveness. No argument with that but it doesn’t make them “illusory”. All these programs you list were created as long-term programs, not one-off fixes.

                Are you suggesting that the one-time dismissing of student debt might be “corrected” into becoming a long-term fix? Do you really envision a president looking at this every year, or every four years, and thinking “Hey, forgiving student loans was a good thing. Let’s just do it again.” If so, that’s a huge stretch. Sorry, I can’t see that happening.

              4. I think you understand my points. And I’m not interested in getting into a quibble about the definition of “long time fix”. Progress happens incrementally. Opposing incremental improvements on the basis of “not long-term enough” is pointless.

  11. The firing squad appears perilously close to Byng, and their rifles are super big!

    They aren’t rifles, they are muskets, which might seem a trivial point, but muskets are far less accurate than rifles and you have to stand much closer to be sure of hitting your target. Even so, I suspect some artistic licence has been used here, especially as, in real life, they are unlikely to have fixed bayonets for the execution.

    1. I thought the bayonets was an odd touch. The whole Byng case was a travesty – the court

      acquitted Byng of personal cowardice. However its principal findings were that Byng had failed to keep his fleet together while engaging the French; that his flagship had opened fire at too great a distance to have any effect; and that he should have proceeded to the immediate relief of Minorca rather than returning to Gibraltar. As a consequence of these actions, the court held that Byng had “not done his utmost” to engage or destroy the enemy, thereby breaching the 12th Article of War.

      Once the court determined that Byng had “failed to do his utmost”, it had no discretion over punishment under the Articles of War. In accordance with those Articles the court condemned Byng to death, but unanimously recommended that the Lords of the Admiralty ask King George II to exercise his royal prerogative of mercy.

      Mercy wasn’t forthcoming, of course.

  12. It occurs to me that since Brits write dates day first, month second, and since 22/7 is a good fractional approximation to π, then they could celebrate July 22nd as π day

  13. Professor that Giordano’s Special pizza looks yummy. I have never heard of stuffed pizza, I don’ think it is available here in Christchurch, NZ. I don’t care for pizza as most available here are bland and forgettable. The Giordano’s Special looks wonderful. Enjoy!

  14. I paid off all my school debt within 18 months of graduating medical school. Of course I went to a state university for undergrad, went to work on my 16th birthday to save college money, and my medical school tuition was almost completely state supported ($900/yr in 1980!). And thus, this was the only reason someone from my background could achieve that level of professional education. The cost of education is so much higher now. With even state schools costing just south of 30k/yr and liberal arts colleges closer to $60k/yr we are losing ground back toward the days when only the elite could afford an education.

    I believe higher Ed and study abroad are the two best ways to foster a more informed electorate. Personally, I’d accept higher taxes to pay for college for those that can’t afford it. A great investment in my opinion.

  15. The photograph of the jews being sorted at Birkenau is horrifying. The Nazis calmly standing by with the people obediently lined up, probably not fully understanding their predicament, defies comprehension. Israel must remain a Jewish nation so that this can never happen again.

  16. Thermodynamics (and stat methods/suicide) was the most hilarious thing I have seen in a long time.
    “Perhaps it is wise to approach this subject cautiously.”


    1. Yes, the author’s dry and dark sense of humour is all the better for the unexpected context in which it is deployed.

  17. If you travel to Austin, make it a point to watch the bats fly out at night. You may also want to see the Stevie ray Vaughn statue if it has not been removed.

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