Monday: Hili dialogue

April 12, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a wet Monday, April 12, 2021: National Grilled Cheese Day (the sandwich must be paired with tomato soup, as the combination for some reason is not only felicitous, but also imperative). It’s also National Licorice Day, Drop Everything and Read Day, and International Day of Human Space Flight, honoring the exploration begun on this day by Yuri Gagarin when he orbited the earth once in 1961. Since there were no provisions for a safe re-entry of his Vostok capsule, he parachuted out by himself at 8000 feet and landed safely.

This is the 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s orbit; here’s a very brief documentary:

Wine of the Day: Here’s an Italian red made from the Freisa grape, a varietal I haven’t had. The first link goes to where I bought it for about $20 and some tasting notes. I drank it with homemade turkey chili (I didn”t go meatless for a week as I’d planned). It was delicious, full of fruit and the taste of cherries; the only problem was that it was pretty tannic, a problem that may resolve after I let the remnants sit overnight. Also, it was the first alcohol I’ve had since I went to Texas.

News of the Day:

With talks underway in Vienna for the U.S. to resume its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (as I’ve said, a “deal” will accomplish nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons), a mysterious blackout hit the Nantanz nuclear facility, now being rebuilt. It looks as if Israel is sending a message to Iran, as it may have done with the mysterious fire that occurred there a year ago.

Empathy in the animal world: the Washington Post reviews a new book about animal behavior, “When Animals Rescue: Amazing True Stories about Heroic and Helpful Creatures,” by writer Belinda Recio. Her thesis is that animals are feel humanlike emotions, like altruism and kindness, far more often than we think. The reviewer, a journalist, says that the treatment is too anecdotal, and there may be other explanations for these behaviors, but concludes:

If it is anthropomorphic to say that animals genuinely care for one another, then why isn’t it also anthropomorphic to say that they are hungry or thirsty or sexually aroused? Yet those who hesitate to attribute “higher” ethical motives to other species rarely have a problem discerning in them the more “primitive” drives that humans are also subject to.

Wisely, Recio stays out of this contentious debate. She lets the stories speak for themselves. We cannot help but be delighted by them, if not transformed.

But the readers should be informed by Recio about possible alternative explanations for the behaviors. If these might not rest on a shared set of emotions with animals, then we can’t be “transformed.” It is not a particularly trenchant review. I’d recommend Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (h/t: Barry)

Important squirrel news: the Washington Post has a piece about how an amateur wildlife photographer, Dani Connor, became famous overnight by taking the video (below) of a red squirrel emitting noises of pleasure as it eats seeds.  The squirrel was one of an litter orphaned when its mother was killed by a car, and she cared for the four babies. Now she has a Patreon account and can make a living from her photography. Good for her!

When the pandemic began hitting the U.S. and Europe hard, I predicted that India, with a poor and crowded population and insufficient medical facilities, would be hit even harder. I was pleased that it wasn’t: there is even a New Yorker article by Sid Mukherjee about this anomaly. Now, however, the pandemic is beginning to hit my beloved India, with reported cases undergoing the biggest surge ever. As Reuters notes:

New cases in the world’s second-most populous country have totalled the most of anywhere in the world over the last two weeks. India’s overall tally of 13.21 million is the third-highest globally, just shy of Brazil and below the worst affected country, the United States.

The second surge in infections, which has spread much more rapidly than the first one that peaked in September, has forced many states to impose fresh curbs but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a national lockdown given the high economic costs.

Here’s a daily graph of daily new cases, which reached about 169,000 yesterday.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 561,527, an increase of just 294 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,950,823, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 12 includes:

This is considered the beginning of the Civil War, and happened soon after Lincoln took office in March. I can’t find a date for the formal declaration of war, but you can still visit the ruined fort in Charleston Harbor:

  • 1928 – The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west.  This is a year after Lindbergh’s solo flight, and the Bremen had a three-man crew, ergo it’s not remembered so much. Here’s the plane that made it, landing in a peat bog in Newfoundland:

If you’re in Georgia, as I was in 2013, I recommend visiting the house in Warm Springs where Roosevelt died. (He was with his mistress Lucy Mercer when stricken with a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and Lucy was hustled out of the house before Eleanor arrived.) Here are a few photos of the cottage that I took.

The house:

A poignant message on the wall from FDR’s cook:

The room in which he was sitting when stricken by the hemorrhage:

The bed in the next room where he died:

  • 1955 – The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.
  • 1961 – Cold War: Space Race: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, Vostok 1.
  • 1983 – Harold Washington is elected as the first black mayor of Chicago.

Washington was a good mayor, and I especially liked him because he was fond of the monk parrots who nested in a tree across from his apartment, which was in Hyde Park. He died the year after I moved to Chicago.

  • 1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving “intentionally false statements” in a civil lawsuit; he is later fined and disbarred.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1777 – Henry Clay, American lawyer and politician, 9th United States Secretary of State (d. 1852)
  • 1883 – Imogen Cunningham, American photographer and educator (d. 1976)

An underappreciated photographer, Cunningham was one of the first women to photograph nudes, which was considered scandalous. Here’s one of her famous pictures, “Three Dancers, Mills College. 1929.” © The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012.

And I can’t resist adding this photograph by Judy Dater showing an aged Cunningham (she was 90) with her camera and a nude, “Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud at Yosemite
1974.” (It has its own Wikipedia entry.) Wikipedia notes, “The photo was the first adult full frontal nude photograph published in Life magazine.”

  • 1916 – Benjamin Libet, American neuropsychologist and academic (d. 2007)
  • 1923 – Ann Miller, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2004)

Here’s Miller, a great dancer now forgotten, paired with Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade.” Judy Garland gives them the stinkeye:

  • 1932 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (d. 1996)
  • 1947 – David Letterman, American comedian and talk show host
  • 1981 – Tulsi Gabbard, American politician

Those who kicked the bucket on April 12 include:

  • 1912 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founded the American Red Cross (b. 1821)
  • 1945 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and politician, 32nd President of the United States (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Joe Louis, American boxer and wrestler (b. 1914)
  • 1988 – Alan Paton, South African historian and author (b. 1903)
  • 1989 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist, co-founded Youth International Party (b. 1936)

Here’s the famous Yippie the year he died (he committed suicide with an overdose of phenobarbital):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a plea:

Hili: Education is important.
A: That’s true.
Hili: How to teach Kulka that my bowls are sacrosanct and untouchable?
A: It’s not possible.
In Polish:
Hili: Edukacja jest ważna.
Ja: To prawda.
Hili: Jak nauczyć Kulkę, że moje miseczki są święte i nietykalne?
Ja: To nie jest możliwe.

Paulina photographed Szaron and Kulka out on the tiles:

Caption: Night, cats, and Paulina with her camera.  (In Polish: Noc, koty i Paulina z jej aparatem.)

From Pyers:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day. This happens to be true.

This is what’s called a “burn.” Apple Martin, Gwynnie’s daughter, isn’t keen on her mother’s “morning routine”, though Apple has one too. See more here.


When you get roasted by your gen z daughter… #motherdaughter #goop #fyp #gwynethpaltrow

♬ original sound – Goop


And I found this, too, which is one reason I dislike Gwynnie. She actually had a video made about getting ready for the Met Gala and posted it on Twitter!

From Barry.  Whipped cream sounds are to d*gs as opening tuna cans are to cats.

Second tweet: what is that cat drinking??

Tweets from Matthew, who says to notice the little nose nudge at the end to get things just right. But I’m disturbed by the bear’s personal pronoun, “they”. Is this a genderfluid bear?

I could tell you what this is, but that would deprive you of the joy of discovery. Check out the thread itself.

If this swarm can really move faster than a single caterpillar, I don’t understand why. Is this true?

Coincidence—or corporate collusion?

30 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. There was no declaration of war in the American Civil War since Lincoln never recognized the Confederacy as an independent nation. Rather, he considered the Confederacy as composed of individuals within certain states in insurrection against the United States. It also appears that the Jefferson Davis government never thought it necessary to declare war against the United States.

    1. Very important point you make. Lincoln also believed it was important to insure that the South started the conflict, not the north. The south illegally took control of federal property all over the south, including Fort Sumter, leaving them little more than traitors. You do not negotiate with traitors.

    2. I think it was Hofstadter that compared the firing on fort Sumter with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both acts “forced the hand” of Lincoln and Roosevelt in a country that wasn’t ready for war. And the attacks also succeeded in making Lincoln and Roosevelt perceived as defenders, not aggressors; an important distinction.

      1. Fort Sumter was attacked by South Carolina state militia, not the Confederacy. Different from Pearl Harbor, it wasn’t a surprise attack, it could have been avoided had the fort surrendered outright, and in any case, no one on either side was killed in the engagement. Unlike Japan, whose flag can be seen flying shamelessly almost anywhere, the Confederacy did not participate in widespread war crimes (other than slavery, which president Lincoln at his inauguration declared he had nothing against) such mass murders, burning enemy cities, and the systematic destruction of civilian property. Otherwise the two situations are practically identical (s).

        1. The historical setting is what I’m talking about. Two Presidents engaged in an impending conflict where they didn’t want to be, but knew that doing nothing was folly. Both were handed the reaction and each took advantage of it. Not talking about war crimes and rules of engagement etc. Distilling the similarities between the wars and interesting similarities there are.

  2. I don’t know about sqrlls, but it seems plausible that the chirpy sounds are an automated stream of vocalizations to communicate its location to mom.

    The caterpillars on top are clearly moving faster than the ones on the bottom, and their velocity = their crawling speed + the crawling speed of the caterpillars on the bottom. That is all I got.

  3. If you’re in Georgia, I recommend visiting the house in Warm Springs where Roosevelt died, as I did in 2013.

    I must say, you’re pretty sprightly for somebody who died eight years ago.

    As for the caterpillar swarm, technically it is not true that the swarm is moving faster than any individual caterpillar. If a caterpillar moves at a standard speed, let’s call it c for “speed of caterpillar ex vacuo” to avoid confusion, then the caterpillars on its back are moving at 2 x c and those on their backs are moving at 3 x c.

    If we measure the speed of the swarm by the speed of the frontmost caterpillar and we have a two level stack of caterpillars, the speed of the swarm is c until a top caterpillar overhangs the front of the leading bottom caterpillar. Then, as long as the top caterpillar can keep his feet off the ground, the swarm will be moving along at 2c. When the top caterpillar falls off the front of the bottom caterpillar, the swarm he and the swarm slow down to c and so it remains until the next top caterpillar overtakes the front bottom caterpillar.

    Or think of it another way. Imagine the caterpillars are walking on a treadmill that moves backwards at c. One caterpillar alone walking forwards at c would be stationary. If another caterpillar can climb on its back and walk forwards until it’s overhanging the front of the first caterpillar and then jump off, and then the first caterpillar repeats that and so on, the two caterpillars will move forward on the treadmill even though neither of them can walk faster than c. I call this phenomenon a “caterpillar track”.

  4. With talks underway in Vienna for the U.S. to resume its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (as I’ve said, a “deal” will accomplish nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons) …

    Be that as it may, it is almost always better to talk than not to talk. Sure, Iran has repugnant and untrustworthy leadership, but it also has a long, cultured history, and I believe there is a good bit of pro-Western sentiment simmering below the surface among segments of its population. It will not remain a theocracy forever, but will someday, let us hope, rejoin the community of nations. If its development of nuclear weapons can be forestalled even temporarily, so much the better.

    Plus, let us not overlook the US’s own sordid role in the last three-quarters’ of a century of Iranian/Persian history — from the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh (who had at least some chance, I think, of doing for his nation what Kemal Atatürk had done for Turkey), to propping up the Shah and his brutal SAVAK secret police for decades, to the dsub rosa support elements within the Reagan-Bush administration supplied to Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist Iraq regime during its protracted war with Iran, in contravention of the US’s official position of neutrality.

    1. Let’s also remember who made the deal with Iran and then broke the deal. When and if Iran has the bomb is about as important as North Korea with the bomb.

  5. The cat seems to be drinking soda like coke or pepsi with no gas.
    I think the person called the bear a ‘they’ because we can’t know his sex. I would call the bear a he because in my mother language everything is gendered and all bears are masculine, while giraffes, for example, are feminine.

    1. I was thinking coffee, because (to me) its face looked like “Ack, it’s sooo bitter!” And I don’t know about cats, but dogs I’ve had seem to like sweet.

  6. “Since there were no provisions for a safe re-entry of [Yuri Gagarin’s] Vostok capsule, he parachuted out by himself at 8000 feet and landed safely.”

    I just finished reading Stephen Walker’s recently-published book “Beyond” which is a fascinating and detailed account of Yuri Gagarin’s flight and the events leading up to it. According to Walker, the Vostok capsule was designed with the intention that the cosmonaut occupant would exit using an ejection seat and land by parachute. I guess this saved the Russian spacecraft designers from having to equip the capsule itself with a parachute. I can recommend Walker’s book without hesitation if you want to learn about the huge risks that Gagarin faced. The parachute landing was the least of them!

    1. I was wondering about that phrasing too. Clearly the novel part of the re-entry had been accomplished safely – the bass-ackward impact on the atmosphere, the partial melting of the heatshield etc had been accomplished. Parachutes for landing large gear from thousands of feet up were old hat by then, so I infer that the stage which they weren’t confident of was controlling the opening of the parachutes within a few seconds (at terminal velocity) of impacting the ground. (Terminal velocity for a human at sea level is ~120mph, so 8000ft is on the thin side of a minute.)
      My guess would be that they weren’t confident that the ground-proximity detectors were reliable enough, hence the “press button B” option, which was already within the test pilot’s skill set. A relatively small amount of further testing/ development would allow the system to be man-rated. for subsequent Vostok missions.
      Does anyone with an ‘in’ on Soviet space technology know if the ejector seat and “press Button B” equipment remained in Vostok landing capsules until … well, are they still there? Does, for example, the current Soyuz module include ejector seats (and the associated hatch pyrotechnics, cabling loom etc)?
      Another seems-odd-to-me thing – people have only made a thing about the final stage of descent & landing being by parachute for the last few years, and have claimed that it was a necessary stage for an “official” orbital flight. (I note that PCC(E)’s precis doesn’t include that claim) But, before Gargarin’s unexpected (outside the Vostok programme) first flight, who had published such a set of rules? And what made them “official”? That fuss always seemed a severe case of “sour grapes” to me.
      How much propellant would a human+gear need to carry, to decelerate from orbital velocity to Baumgartner velocity, and complete return from orbit by parachute?

      1. Walker’s account makes it clear that the first Vostok was a very basic spacecraft. The entire re-entry process was controlled by a primitive mechanical timer. There was no ground-proximity detector, and the ejector seat and parachute were the only option available to Gagarin.

        Gagarin’s descent by parachute would have invalidated several claims that the Russians wanted to make for world records, including the altitude record. The rules were set by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, which required the pilot to stay in his craft during the entire flight. Walker’s book describes the lengths the Russians went to in order to deceive the FAI.

        1. The question of why they’d be wanting aviation records in an extra-atmospheric craft … shrug.

  7. I do not know what kind of creature this is but I identify with it very strongly

    It’s an orangutan in an Ewok suit?
    With hands that reach to the ground when it’s standing upright, it’s clearly a brachiator. Which also means that it could likely make you do the same trick, if it chose to. That is one muscly Ewok.
    Quoth the Librarian, “Ook!”

    1. Rhinopithecus roxellana, golden snub-nosed monkey. Accordong tp Wikipedia: “The distribution of the golden snub-nosed monkey is limited to temperate forests on mountains in four provinces in China: Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, and Hubei.” I am not sure whether tehy brachiate.

      To find it I googled “asian monkeys”. I actually did not google, I duckduckgoed (duckduckwent?).

      1. I duckducktravel too, but “orangutan in an Ewok suit” is still what it looks like.
        Being primates, sharing a planet with humans, I estimate they’re within a century of extinction in the wild.

  8. If this swarm can really move faster than a single caterpillar, I don’t understand why. Is this true?

    Isn’t this the same case as the occasionally reported faster-than-light light? It must be a few years ago now – I remember struggling (and failing) to understand the explanation on CIS:SCIMATH, by a Fermilab physicist, so it was almost certainly pre-millennium.
    A Wiki on the difference between wave velocity and group velocity. I note that the actual explanations are Victorian-era physics (Kelvin, Airy of the astronomical disc and Rayleigh of the scattering) which our quantum-mechanical interlocutor did not pick holes in.
    Hmmm, this Nature paper sounds about right for when I was thinking of. FTFA, my emphasis :

    Here we use gain-assisted linear anomalous dispersion to demonstrate superluminal light propagation in atomic caesium gas. The group velocity of a laser pulse in this region exceeds c and can even become negative [refs], while the shape of the pulse is preserved. We measure a group-velocity index of ng = -310(±5); in practice, this means that a light pulse propagating through the atomic vapour cell appears at the exit side so much earlier than if it had propagated the same distance in a vacuum that the peak of the pulse appears to leave the cell before entering it. The observed superluminal light pulse propagation is not at odds with causality, being a direct consequence of classical interference between its different frequency components in an anomalous dispersion region.

  9. The coronavirus death data are looking really positive. The death tolls on April 4th and 11th (284 and 283) are the second and third lowest since the pandemic started last March. The death count passed 300 on March 25th 2019 and has only dropped below that number three time since. The reporting varies tremendously by the day of the week, so this can only occur on Sundays. Usually the rolling average is a better gauge but there was a major reporting blip on the 7th when the count was over 2500 making it unreliable for now.

    1. From that same site I see that the weekly rolling average for the 11th of April is 969.29 deaths a day. Rolling (or moving or running) average remains much more informative than the daily death toll. It ‘absorbs & neutralizes’ those blibs in either direction, as it were.

      1. “Usually the rolling average is a better gauge but there was a major reporting blip on the 7th when the count was over 2500 making it unreliable for now.”

        I am not sure how often you look at the data. Sometimes states “find” thousands of old deaths and report them in one day. This occurred on April 7th and the 7 day rolling average jumped 27% on that day and will fall accordingly on April 14th. You can find the same problem occurring on February 24th.

        When there is a large jump/fall in the seven day average, it is a reporting issue not reality. Drops have occurred is at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  10. “The photo was the first adult full frontal nude photograph published in Life magazine.”

    If published today the model would almost certainly be shaved down below, thanks to the influence of internet porn. I find it curious that feminists have not made more outcry about the modern expectation/pressure for a woman to be unnaturally bald down there. And now the trend of manscaping means that men are also viewing pubic hair as if it was a sign of lycanthropy.

  11. I also worried about India when all this stuff started a year ago. I thought of the crowding there and worried it’d burn through those cities like a prairie fire.

    I note just now they’re (still!) having the Krum Mela, the largest religious festival on earth – waaaay larger even than the Hajj. That as our court says it is OK to have services (sigh).
    Those ancient fairy tales pack ’em in everywhere, coughing, crowding, chanting, singing their lungs out over each other. Always a help to humanity, religion.

    Yuri Gagarin, it was rumored at the time, got drunk and flew his plane into a mountain. So Soviet. I’d probably do that.

    My dog can hear the cream can dispensing from far away and instantly turns up. He’s here-


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