Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 18, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a Thursday, March 18, 2021: National Sloppy Joe Day. It’s also National Sloppy Joe Day, honoring a sandwich I haven’t had in years (it was supposedly invented in Iowa, where they still sell equivalents called “loosemeats”), National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day (?), Oranges and Lemons Day, Goddess of Fertility Day, and Forgive Mom and Dad Day.

News of the Day:

Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine died March 9 at age 77 in Palm Springs, California. It’s not clear why they waited 9 days to announce his death. As the New York Times reports early in its obituary, Levine left the Met under a cloud:

After investigating accounts of sexual improprieties by Mr. Levine with younger men stretching over decades, the Met first suspended and then fired him in 2018, a precipitous fall from grace at the age of 74. He fought back with a defamation lawsuit.

CNN and everybody else report that there’s been a dustup between Biden and Putin: after Biden announced that Russia would “pay a price” for interfering in the 2020 election, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. back to Moscow for consultations.

The President wouldn’t provide more details to ABC on what “price” Putin will pay, but the Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week, three US State Department officials have told CNN. The officials did not disclose any details related to the expected sanctions but said that they will target multiple countries including Russia, China and Iran.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment on Tuesday about foreign threats to the 2020 US federal elections. The assessment found that Russia pursued efforts aimed at “denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.

I don’t mind that, but this is wonky:

“Look, most important thing dealing with foreign leaders, and I’ve dealt with a lot of them over my career, is just know the other guy,” Biden told ABC.

When interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he thought Putin was “a killer,” the President said, “Mhmm. I do.”

Joe should not have agreed that Putin was a killer—not if he wants to keep diplomatic relations, and some form of peace, with this important country. It’s called “diplomacy” for a reason. Biden certainly did not call the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a “killer”, nor impose sanctions on his country. What’s up, Joe?

Behind on your taxes? The Internal Revenue Service is pushing back the April 15 deadline by about a month. But don’t procrastinate!

An editorial in the NYT by Thomas Edsall says that Biden has a canny strategy of ignoring the “culture wars”, downplaying wokeness and concentrating on his help for the working class. I disagree that Biden is completely ignoring the culture wars, as he’s catering to the Woke in non-trivial ways, but of course I pay more attention to that stuff than do most Americans. Edsall is, however, partly right. One caveat:

Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster with decades of experience in federal and state elections, is optimistic about Biden’s current prospects, but he warned that the administration will have to gain control of immigration: “The border matters,” he said, “and Republicans will use images from the border to sear into people’s consciousness. It is very important that they” — the Democrats — “are soon seen to be managing the border and immigration.”

Steve Pinker is quoted at length in the article about how to best counter Republican attacks on Dems.

This is what we all dream about: winning the lottery of life. As NPR reports, a blue and white bowl bought at a yard sale for $35 was discovered to be an extremely rare Ming Dynasty piece (early 15th century). It was auctioned off by Sotheby’s for $721,800! Only six other specimens are known. Here’s the lovely piece, and it’s a good thing the guy who bought it had it appraised:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 537,649, an increase of 1,177 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,693,959, an increase of about about 10,300 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 18 includes:

  • 1241 – First Mongol invasion of Poland: Mongols overwhelm Polish armies in Kraków in the Battle of Chmielnik and plunder the city.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: The Congress of the Confederate States adjourns for the last time.
  • 1871 – Declaration of the Paris Commune; President of the French Republic, Adolphe Thiers, orders the evacuation of Paris.
  • 1915 – World War I: During the Battle of Gallipoli, three battleships are sunk during a failed British and French naval attack on the Dardanelles.
  • 1922 – In India, Mohandas Gandhi is sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience, of which he serves only two.

Here’s Gandhi in jail:

Here’s a short video of that meeting, which took place in a railroad car:

And here’s an image of that first spacewalk:

  • 1967 – The supertanker Torrey Canyon runs aground off the Cornish coast.
  • 1990 – Germans in the German Democratic Republic vote in the first democratic elections in the former communist dictatorship.
  • 1990 – In the largest art theft in US history, 12 paintings, collectively worth around $500 million, are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

The 13 paintings were never recovered, and one of them, “The Concert” by Vermeer, is worth about $250 million—the most valuable unrecovered painting in the world. Here’s that Vermeer, and below that an empty frame still hanging to mark a stolen Rembrandt (if you go to the ISG, you’ll see 13 empty frames):

Where Rembrand’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee used to be:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1690 – Christian Goldbach, Prussian-German mathematician and academic (d. 1764)
  • 1837 – Grover Cleveland, American lawyer and politician, 22nd and 24th President of the United States (d. 1908)
  • 1844 – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian composer and academic (d. 1908)
  • 1846 – Kicking Bear, Native American tribal leader (d. 1904)

Here’s Kicking Bear. Below that is a sculpture on Washington D.C.’s Q Street Bridge made from a life mask of the great warrior.

  • 1869 – Neville Chamberlain, English businessman and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1940)


Linda is a friend of mine and has become a famous British geneticist. (She’s now “Dame Partridge’—or is it “Dame Linda”?) We even published together, though I haven’t seen her in a decade or more.

  • 1970 – Queen Latifah, American rapper, producer, and actress
  • 1979 – Adam Levine, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and television personality

Those who ceased respiring on March 18 include:

  • 1845 – Johnny Appleseed, American gardener and missionary (b. 1774)
  • 1965 – Farouk of Egypt (b. 1920)
  • 2009 – Natasha Richardson, English-American actress (b. 1963)

The daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, the actress died in a tragic skiing accident at only 45. They dimmed the lights on both Broadway and London’s West End in her honour.

  • 2010 – Fess Parker, American actor and businessman (b. 1924)
  • 2017 – Chuck Berry, American guitarist, singer and songwriter (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is going to ask the returning starlings where they’ve been, as she proposed in yesterday’s dialogue.

A; What are you doing?
Hili: I’m conducting a survey of public opinion.
A: And?
Hili: The respondents are refusing to cooperate.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Przeprowadzam sondaż opinii publicznej.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Respondenci odmawiają kooperacji.

Paulina took a lovely photo of Kulka, and you can clearly see her golden eyes:

From Su:

From Mark:

From Homer Blind WonderCat:

We haven’t checked in with Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad in a while. It’s always heartening to see the feminist heroes she highlights, who go up against the theocracy/patriarchy of Iran. Here’s one:


Congressional testimony by Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage (h/t: Luana). There are two parts.

Tweets from Matthew. Below: a man after my own heart (except for the kidney!). And he used “only” in the proper position, too!

Sound up on this one. Listen to how loud that whale song is, and yet you can’t see the singer. The song can apparently be heard hundreds of kilometers away by other whales.

And I found this gorgeous lionfish while listening to whale song:

Another lovely murmuration, favorites of Matthew and I:

Matthew said, “Darwin would love this.” And indeed he would, for you’ll remember that Darwin bred pigeons. He also said this in the Origin: “Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organization as something quite plastic, which they can model almost as they please.”

Here’s the ancestor (from Wikipedia), so you can see how “plastic” the pigeon (rock dove) is:

49 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. The Pope Francis pic was great.

    Our host’s friend is “Professor Dame Linda Partridge” in full or “Dame Linda” less formally.

  2. Reading about the Gardner museum theft always makes me sad, because I spent many peaceful, restorative hours there while I was in college in Boston. The Vermeer was a particular favorite of mine.

  3. Biden has been so closely managed over the last year or so that we forget that, when he speaks extemporaneously, he pretty much shoots from the hip. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said about Obama. By his own admission he is a “gaffe machine.” Looking forward to his press conference.

    1. I think Biden’s view regarding Putin’s criminality is deep and sincere and was not simply a gaffe. If I am right, it does not bide well for humankind. Biden, for example, has also claimed Putin lacks a human soul. The president first expressed this view back in 2011 when he was vice. It is a worrying accusation to be made by a devout Catholic and a dangerous one when that Catholic is president of the US. And people thought Trump was crazy! I advise all to hold on to their hats.

  4. I think many democrats are far more concerned with every word out of Biden’s mouth than they were about Trump. They are also suddenly more concerned about what is going on at the boarder now than all the years that Trump was screwing it up. Think about it – the problems at the border now are the results of damage done by Trump. The democrats have a paper thin chance of getting anything done legislatively and that is what they should be worried about.

    1. The Dems need to ram the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the US senate before Republican state legislatures suppress the vote of everyone darker than alabaster, under the pretext of the need for “election security” made manifest by how Donald Trump’s magnificent “landslide victory” in 2020 was stolen through massive election fraud

      1. Without a doubt the most important item in the future of democracy for this country. Of course the reality of what the state republicans are doing should tell all remaining republicans they are part of a loosing tribe. If you have no plan for the people just suppress the vote?

        1. Or at least modifying it like they did with budget reconciliation. Change the rule to “you can’t filibuster a bill that deals with civil rights, or the foundations of democracy” or some such. Then maybe the two dem sticks-in-the-mud will move from their ludicrous positions.

  5. 2009 – Natasha Richardson, English-American actress (b. 1963)

    The daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson …

    Granddaughter of Sir Michael, daughter of director Tony Richardson, niece of Lynn, and sister of Joely. As a family, they’ve brought home a lot of hardware from theater and film festivals and awards ceremonies.

  6. Not a great food day. Oatmeal cookies are a travesty and Sloppy Joes not only don’t taste good but you can’t take a bite of one without squeezing the filling out of the bun in all directions. Now, a good chili can be worth the mess, but Sloppy Joe? Not.

      1. I bet home made is better, and lots more variation. I’ve only had the stuff out of a can.

        By the way, we recently got ourselves a multicooker. Not Instapot brand, but this Zavor model. My wife got an especially good price on it through some sort of membership.

        Now we just need to learn how to use it. The only thing we’ve used it for so far is brown rice. The brown rice mode on it does give much better results than we’ve ever achieved on a stove top. Sometime soon I’m going to try the sous vide mode.

          1. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I remember seeing settings for both hard and soft boiled eggs in the instruction manual when I skimmed it.

            1. Perfect hard-boiled in 2 min. Use the rack and add a cup of water. Can do lots at a time and they are MUCH easier to peel than the usual way. Let the pressure release naturally.

          2. A few years ago I was asked to cook the beans for a Mexican-food themed wedding with 100 guests. My Instapot saved my butt. I was able to precook the onion/garlic/ham hock on the “sauté” setting, and then click over to the “pressure cooker” setting and add the beans and water. I was able to make about 12 portions in 40 minutes. The beans came out perfectly, and were WAY cheaper than buying pre-made beans.

            1. I pooh-poohed the insta pot at first, but having the sauté plus pressure is really useful. Also having it turn off by itself is great. Soooo much better than the old pressure cookers which you had to watch like a hawk. Mmmmm, you’re making me think about getting that smoky ham hock out of the freezer and throwing it in with some black beans and chili powder.

        1. Does your Zavor do sous vide? SV is something I’ve never tried. I use a little rice cooker for rice, but the IP is really good for black beans, and I also made a good risotto with minimal stirring.
          My aunt’s Sloppy Josés were usually servec in soft tortillas and used all kinds of delicious leftovers she’d find in her fridge. Never knew about the canned stuff.

          1. Yes, the Zavor has a sous vide function. It doesn’t have a means to circulate the water like a true sous vide machine, it just maintains the water at a fairly precise temperature.

          2. Golden parboiled rice comes out great on the stove top, but brown rice never seems to come out very good. In the Zavor it was easy and came out perfect.

      1. Definitely better, both structurally and taste-wise. Cheese makes just about anything better.

        Though I’d use a spoon. Decent for cutting and good for scooping.

      2. That is a good way to eat it; I used to have it at a diner who served it open-face w/ cheese. I usually make turkey Sloppy Joes and put them on a buttered soft bun with pickle and melted cheese. Yumz.

  7. Some think that while the Soviets did achieve the first spacewalk (nearly killing Alexei Leonov), that they faked the footage. If you look at the reflection in his visor you can see three light sources.

  8. ”Christian Goldbach, Prussian-German mathematician and academic”

    His conjecture: every even number greater than two is the sum of two prime numbers. Still hasn’t been proved.

  9. “it’s a good thing the guy who bought it had it appraised”

    I see this differently. It is a sad thing that the guy who sold it had not gotten it appraised!

  10. It’s Dame Linda, since Dame is the female equivalent of Sir, the honorific which denotes a knighthood. Had Dame Linda been made a member of the House of Lords, she would be Lady Partridge or Baroness Partridge. But for a knighthood/damehood, it’s Sir/Dame followed by the given name.

    I see from Dame Linda’s Wikipedia entry that she is a DBE, which makes her a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. She’s also a Fellow of the Royal Society, which is an accolade bestowed by her fellow scientists, and therefore arguably worth more than a gong from whoever happens to be Prime Minister at the time.

  11. Finally got the time to watch the videos of Abigail Shrier’s Congressional testimony – powerful stuff.

  12. I agree with Schrier (and our host) regarding trans women in women’s sports, but I believe she overstates the risk of men identifying as women solely to do harm to them. As much as the social stigma of identifying as transsexual has diminished, it is still there to a large enough extent that it’s difficult to imagine cis men claiming a female identity simply to give them opportunities to use a ladies’ bathroom, or to accompany little girls to the bathroom as a “female” teacher.

    1. “it’s difficult to imagine cis men claiming a female identity simply to give them opportunities”

      According to Schrier’s testimony this just happened in a prison situation.

      1. Prison is the most likely place for this kind of scenario. I imagine doing time in a women’s prison would be far preferable than in a men’s prison. And since you’re already a convicted felon, with all the social opprobrium that entails, the marginal social cost of pretending to be trans is small.

        I’m not sure how you sort that out. A genuine trans woman would be at grave risk in a men’s prison, so a blanket genital-based approach is too blunt an instrument.

  13. I watched with dismay the testimony by Abigail, and to see the same unfounded tropes and misdirection is depressing. On the point of women being raped in prison, I’d think that the fact that anyone gets raped in prison is a disgrace worthy of note, but this seems like a matter of convenient and selective timing on her part. There is no trans person, and surely no trans activist, who would condone the conditions leading to anyone being raped in any situation, including prison. Surely there are ways of avoiding these situations, and nobody is claiming that any system is perfect and cannot do better – Abigail’s time might be better spent finding ways to improve the prison system and reduce incidences of rape (and elsewhere) there instead of targeting an already vulnerable population with a rhetorical shotgun blast. On the women in sports issue, I’ve said this before, but the evidence to date does not support the claims of those wringing their hands over the mere possibility that some unscrupulous person may claim to be transgender in order to dominate a sport (see NCAA and Olympic sports history in allowing transgender athletes to compete). In fact, here in NC, a biological female recently dominated wrestling in her weight class among boys and girls. The alarmism around this issue is uncalled for; as I’ve also said before, it seems that every single LGBT gain no matter how small, has to be nitpicked and analyzed, and never so by people like me who are actually part of the minority in question. Somehow those opposing this particular bill feel that every jot and tittle has to be perfect, and that every single hypothetical case, no matter how unlikely or unproven, has to be handled up front, or else they will oppose it, even if that means that tens of thousands of young people, already vulnerable targets in so many ways, will continue to suffer discrimination. Others have dealt with the alarmist claims and done so better than I, so I’m linking a youtube video by Natalie Wynn where she talks about Joanne Rowling’s comments, and why they’re both largely untrue and hurtful – many of them are similar or identical to those spoken of by Abigail above. It’s a fairly entertaining video, but she makes some excellent points so please stick with it; I’d hope that those on the other side of this debate would take the time to listen fully. Natalie is both smart and fair-minded in this treatment.

    We’re all victims of our own biases, and I don’t know why so many have such a visceral reaction to the thought of transgender people having equal rights (and I’m not claiming that Jerry or anyone here is in that camp). I feel that Abigail’s reactions, and also Joanne Rowling’s, are in that same vein. But I can say that they way they allow those visceral reactions to guide and, I’d argue, vitiate their reasoning is genuinely harmful to people like me. Not in the sense of inciting violence directly, but it impedes progress by giving cover to genuinely bigoted people who have and use power to the detriment of the well-being of folks like myself.

    1. Your case, I think, relies on the assumption that there simply are no biological differences between male and female humans. I don’t think the argument as much about “rights” as it is about wether biology matters to human animals or not.

    2. ”it seems that every single LGBT gain no matter how small, has to be nitpicked and analyzed”

      Don’t lump T together with LGBT. Excluding the stupid people who reject any of the four letters (or any of the others which are sometimes included; by leaving them out, are you just as bad as those who want to leave you out?), most “liberal” people have no qualms at all with L, G, or B people. Not treating them like everyone else is just stupid, there is no reason to discriminate against them,, and it is simply a fact that some people are L, G, B, or whatever. The reasons for it are irrelevant. Not so with T. One often hears the claim that T people are equivalent in every way to their chosen gender, which is obvious biological bullshit, as Jerry has pointed out here many times. Also, if they really are equivalent in every way, why the letter T applied to only some of the corresponding group? In addition, in some areas, treating them the same as people born into their chosen gender does disadvantage others, trans women dominating women’s sports is a good example (which has happened in many places at lower levels, if not yet at the Olympics).

      Other reasons for the difference: The LGB community has been at the forefront of the idea of treating people as people, based on what they do and what they say, and not because they are the member of this or that group. But the whole point of T is the desire to be treated like a member of a certain group, to be discriminated (for or against), in some sense returning to gender role models many find obsolete today. Also (though I don’t agree with it), many campaigners for equal rights claim (whether or not they believe it) that men and women are intellectually equal in every way. That is obviously incompatible with the idea of T, which only works if one assumes that there is such a thing as a male brain and a female brain.

      1. Please, as I pointed out above, stop saying that trans people always think we are the same as a person born with the biological gender with which we identify. We simply don’t, except in rare and ignorant occasions. It’s a straw man argument, and the reason you keep hearing it (and that people keep fearing it) is basically the same reason that republican senators are now claiming there’s substantial public concern about the election being “rigged” when they are the ones who constantly pushed the false narrative that the election was “rigged.” I would ask again that you watch the video I linked to, as Natalie does a much better job of going through this than I can do in a comment thread.

        1. The video is way longer than I have time to watch. It seems, from my attempt to start into it, that there’s a lot more theatrics than necessary. You might just try to make your case. It doesn’t seem reasonable to just demand that everyone watch a movie.

    3. Sorry, but I reject your claim that either me, Rowling, or Shrier are “vitiating our reasoning”, which is a way of claiming that we’re irrational. And I reject your claim that any of us are giving cover to bigots and impeding progress, much less harming you. This is normal argument over principles, and none of the people you named is a “transphobe.”

      Lumping me with Rowling and Shrier (and I don’t mind that company) and then saying that we’re all harming your cause and providing cover for bigots is an unwarranted insult.

      Further, on this site we have never nitpicked “every LGBT gain”, as you claim. The only thing I’ve questioned is the issue about sports, rape counseling, and prisons–several worrisome concomitants of claiming that you’re a member of the gender different from the sex to which you’re born.

    4. “In fact, here in NC, a biological female recently dominated wrestling in her weight class among boys and girls. The alarmism around this issue is uncalled for; as I’ve also said before, it seems that every single LGBT gain no matter how small, has to be nitpicked and analyzed, and never so by people like me who are actually part of the minority in question.” – Reading your sentences, I genuinely can’t help wondering who is doing the nitpicking here.

      How common do you imagine it is for a biological female to dominate in her weight class like that? What ages were the competitors? And for how much longer do you see her continuing to do so?

      These are sincere questions to which I would appreciate equally sincere answers.

  14. Iranian lady Ms. Masih is a REAL hero. Talentless narcissists like Demi Lovato/ Kardassians, et al can go f themselves.

    Ming dish: REALLY? $700K+ for something “sacred” that in all functionality and aesthetics is no better than a $5 one I got in Chinatown lately? Sacralizing objects (to me) seems just dumb.
    Now you know. 😉

    D.A., NYC

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