Thursday: Hili dialogue

April 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

It won’t be long now until we have ducklings, as it’s Thursday, April 22, 2021: National Jelly Bean Day. And it’s Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970. Here’s the “Earth Flag” (also called the “Earth Day Flag”, designed by John McConnell in 1970. Let’s hope on this day (and every day) that we don’t destroy the planet. (We won’t, really, because if we go extinct Earth will still recover, though we’ll take a lot of species with us. But those species deserve to live as much as we do, especially the ducks.)

Today Google has a lovely “Earth Day” Doodle, which depicts one generation after another planting trees and growing up as the trees do. It’s an inducement to plant trees, which can help ameliorate climate change.

Click on the screenshot to see the 40-second video:

Vaccinations against Covid are going well in the U.S.: yesterday we hit 200 million (I’ll use the odious phrase) “shots in arms”, doubling Uncle Joe’s goal of 100 million in his first hundred days in office (I think he’s been in ninety-some days). The down side, and this isn’t Biden’s fault, is that “vaccine hesitancy” is afoot, and the rate of inoculations is slowing markedly. I wonder if we’ll reach the vaunted “herd immunity.” Trying to figure that out, I found out that we don’t know the proportion of Americans that need to get their jabs to reach this goal. The World Health Organization says this (my emphasis):

The percentage of people who need to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%. The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known. This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors.  

In lesser news, it’s “In God We Trust Day,” for it was on April 22, 1864, that Congress approved the words “In God We Trust” for usage on U.S. coins. The phrase didn’t appear on bills until 1957—a relic of American determination to show that we weren’t like godless Communists. Our currency should revert to the original motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” which holds for all of us.  Finally, it’s Love Your Thighs Day, which is bizarre; I haven’t thought about my thighs in, well, ever.

Wine of the Day: This 2017 Pinot Grigio was about $20 a couple of years ago, and I drank it last night with a juicy pork chop, rice, and fresh tomatoes (this seems to be my standard meal these days). With warmer weather coming, I need to break out some whites. This was a good one: a very heavy and gutsy version of Pinot Grigio, light gold in color and with a nose of pears and flowers. It would go well with almost anything save red meat. And although I don’t favor wine with Chinese or Mexican food (beer is my tipple of choice), this would do well, though I’d prefer something a bit more sweet like a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. This one is very good value for the price.

News of the Day:

As I predicted, Derek Chauvin has been deemed a “prisoner at risk”; he’s being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day at Minnesota’s only high-security prison.  I doubt he’ll survive his sentence. His one hour out of the cell involves solitary exercise: the same routine given to federal prisoners at the Florence ADX “shoe” prison.

The Guardian has an article about “the king of absentees”, an Italian hospital employee who didn’t work for fifteen years but still drew a salary that whole time. His stipendiary emoluments amounted to almost $650,000, and he faces charges of abuse of office, forgery and aggravated extortion. Apparently he was about to be disciplined years ago, but his boss retired and they forgot to check on the miscreant’s attendance after that (h/t Jez).

Dorothy, Honey, and Shmuley made the Chicago Tribune yesterday, in a photo illustrating an article about the resumption of “normal” student activities on our campus. Here’s the photo and caption. THEY DON’T MENTION THE DUCKS!:

Update: I’m told that in the printed version of the paper, the caption is: “A bicyclist passes by ducks on Botany Pond on the University of Chicago campus March 24.”

But a member of Team Duck suggested a better caption:
“Honey, Dorothy, and Shmuley, the three legendary ducks of Botany Pond at the University of Chicago, ignore a passing cyclist.”
I Skyped with a friend in Delhi, India yesterday, who painted a very grim picture of the Covid epidemic in the country: hospitals full to bursting, a shortage of oxygen, and a dearth of vaccinations. This is verified by a report from Reuters:

Television showed images of people with empty oxygen cylinders crowding refilling facilities in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, as they scrambled to save stricken relatives in hospital.

The situation was so severe that some people tried to loot an oxygen tanker, forcing authorities to beef up security, according to the health minister of the northern state of Haryana.

India now faces a coronavirus “storm” overwhelming its health system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national address on Tuesday, adding that authorities were working with states and private firms to deliver oxygen with speed.

Because of the pandemic, India has banned all incoming international passenger flights until April 30, and many places, like Hong Kong and England, have severely restricted flights coming from India.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 568,962, an increase of 721 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now at 3,073,912, an increase of about 13,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 22 includes:

Santa Anna survived, and even became President of Mexico briefly, but then spent the rest of his life wandering from country to country in exile, dying in 1874.  A cannonball hit required amputation of much of his left leg, and he wore a prosthetic. Curiously, his wooden leg is on display at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. Here it is:

Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune

The game was between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston “baseball club”: Boston won 6-5.

Here’s a photo of the land rush; 50,000 people hurried to claim 12,000 designated plots of land (don’t ask about the Native Americans):

Now banned, this gas is mean stuff, but I’m not sure exactly why it’s considered worse than, say, bullets, which can cause equal death and suffering.  Here’s a photo from Wikipedia labeled, “British troops blinded by poison gas during the Battle of Estaires, 1918.”  It is very depressing to see this:

  • 1954 – Red Scare: Witnesses begin testifying and live television coverage of the Army–McCarthy hearings begins.
  • 1970 – The first Earth Day is celebrated.
  • 2016 – The Paris Agreement is signed, an agreement to help fight global warming.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1451 – Isabella I of Castile (d. 1504)
  • 1707 – Henry Fielding, English novelist and playwright (d. 1754)
  • 1724 – Immanuel Kant, German anthropologist, philosopher, and academic (d. 1804)
  • 1870 – Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary and founder of Soviet Russia (d. 1924)

Lenin was a cat lover, though that doesn’t compensate for the 3+ million people who died because of his actions:


Nabokov loved not cats, but moths and butterflies. For six years he was curator of Lepidoptera at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, where I got my Ph.D. I have seen specimens he collected, but he was long gone when I was there.  Here he is with his beloved insects:

  • 1922 – Charles Mingus, American bassist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1979)
  • 1936 – Glen Campbell, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (d. 2017)

I love to show this clip of Campbell singing “Gentle on My Mind” in a group of country music greats. It shows what a fantastic guitarist he was (he was a “session player” before he became famous). Can you recognize the other stars.

Those whose metabolism ground to a halt on April 22 include:

  • 1984 – Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist (b. 1902)

Here’s Adams’s “Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, From Lone Pine”. I’ve seen a version of this view many times—each time I drove to Death Valley for field work. It’s taken from the turnoff to Death Valley from California Route 395, in my view the most beautiful road in the lower 48 states. Note the horse. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S., is visible too, but I’ll let you figure out which one it is. The shadowed hills in the foreground are the Alabama Hills, where many early Western movies were filmed.

  • 1994 – Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (b. 1913)
  • 2013 – Richie Havens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1941)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina is photographing the Princess:

Paulina: Smile.
Hili: Like La Gioconda or like Cheshire cat?
In Polish:
Paulina: Uśmiechnij się.
Hili: Jak Gioconda, czy jak kot z Cheshire?

Here’s little Kulka up in the trees again:

Maarten Boudry’s cat Winston Purrchill is a very late entry for 2014’s “Cat Confession Contest.” When I asked Maarten whether Winston really did that, he responded, “Yes, he did! He ruins half of the toilet rolls by dragging them down from the shelf and inside the bowl, and then rips apart the remaining non-soaked ones. 🙂 (I keep forgett!ing to close the door).

Remember, this is in Belgium, where there’s again a lockdown. Martin reports, “Yes, we’re having a partial lockdown again: bars and restaurants still closed, even outside gatherings are limited, vaccination is agonizingly slow, and ICUs are almost at full capacity.”

From Jesus of the Day:

From Bruce:

Titania has a list of her predictions come true:

A tweet from Simon. This is the weirdest place I’ve ever seen a cat sleeping:


Tweets from Matthew. The second one shows what I believe is a stupendous case of mimicry: a jumping spider pattern on a butterfly wing (jumping spiders are to be avoided).

Here I’ve rotated the spider picture 90° counterclockwise so you can see the mimicry better. I can’t imagine what else the pattern would be!

A beautiful visualization of the wind on Mars from the Ingenuity flight:

My retirement job has been advertised: CAT SCIENTIST!

Okay, this is the weirdest sea creature going. You get two videos!

36 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Yes, it is hard or really impossible to determine the percent of population “not susceptibles” required for herd immunity in the middle of a pandemic because the R-effective statistic is still being estimated. My limited understanding of the meaning of herd immunity is that it is the per cent of a population that is immune to a disease due either to being previously infected by the wild virus or by being vaccinated. Herd immunity means that the population is protected from an uncontrolled outbreak or epidemic. Individuals can still get infected and there can still be local outbreaks, but such outbreaks will be contained. So the only way, other than living your life in a bubble, to almost guarantee immunity is to get a damn vaccination!

  2. I’m not sure exactly why it’s [chlorine gas] considered worse than, say, bullets, which can cause equal death and suffering.

    In general, chemical weapons:
    1. Are less discriminate and harder to target for a specific effect.
    2. Produce long-term chronic injuries which the war-supporting civilian population doesn’t approve of. Thus, in democracies their involvement makes a war less politically and socially supportable.
    3. Because of #1, they are pretty lousy “take the hill” weapons.
    4. Something of a golden rule effect: after WWI, the western militaries generally considered they would prefer the weapons not be used on them vs. being allowed to use them on others. I suspect this is because they cause a lot more injuries than deaths, and in some respects – and I’m about to say something potentially offensive here – deaths are easier for militaries to deal with. Serious battlefield injuries have a longer logistics train: a death takes out 1 soldier. An injury takes out 2+ soldiers: the one injured, and the ones who have to evacuate him/her, plus then you have to have medical staff to treat the injured, and so on.

    1. All good points, eric.

      In his book Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker discusses why poisons, such as gas, cause more moral revulsion than guns or swords. Basically, poisoners are considered “scheming, fraudulent and weak,” and there’s some good old-fashioned sexism at play: “Poison is the weapon of the woman, with her terrifying control of the kitchen and the medicine chest, rather than the man.”

      1. There’s an old story which i probably at least partially true, that the UK researched mustard gas use before the Germans did. The UK didn’t move forward with it because it typically caused injuries, not deaths. The Germans moved forward with it because it typically caused injuries, not deaths…and they realized the military potential of that.

        1. I appear to recall that JBS Haldane did -with his father- some experiments with poison gas on himself. He was of the opinion that gas suffering didn’t beat a good old septic shrapnel wound.

    2. Another factor similar to your #3, major military powers (at least the US) determined that chemical / biological weapons just would not be particularly effective at achieving military goals because they are fairly easy for the enemy military to guard against. They might be good for killing civilians but they aren’t very good for killing the military forces that are the actual target. Very messy, very costly morally and politically speaking, and not very effective to boot.

      1. Chemical/biological weapons for war never went away just because the world announced them illegal. We kept making them for years. In more recent history we have spent billions trying to dispose of them. Out in Colorado and even more Johnson Island in the pacific became the site, the factory to kill these weapons.

  3. It sounds as if India is turning into a real disaster. I wonder if these vaccine deniers over here would do well with a visit to India. Meanwhile the red states are already slamming thru legislation attempting to eliminate demonstrations and give the cops more protection. Much of it is unconstitutional but that has never stopped them yet. One part of the legislation in Florida will give you immunity if you run over protesters with your car.

      1. Amazing stuff but it does beg the question. If you have to make oxygen to breath or drag it along with you, why are you going there other than a visit. Lets work on better oxygen down here.

  4. Lenin- “that doesn’t compensate for the 3+ million people who died because of his actions” – 😞😿

  5. “Curiously, his wooden leg is on display at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. ” As I’ve mentioned below the line before, General Antonio de López de Santa Anna is a fascinating character.

    He has the unique distinction of being head of state of the same country on eleven occasions (once, for just a fortnight).

    His fancy wooden leg (worth $1,300 back in 1847!) was taken by the victorious Americans in the Battle of Cerro Gordo and is in the Illinois State Military Museum, while his cheaper spare peg-leg was used as a baseball bat by General Abner Doubleday and is on display in the Oglesby Mansion Museum in Decatur, Georgia.

    Yet another of Santa Anna’s claims to fame is that through his habit of chewing chicle gum, whilst in exile in New York, he introduced American inventor Thomas Adams to the substance. Adams bought a ton of the stuff from Santa Anna, which he hoped would be a cheap substitute for rubber. That project failed, but by adding sugar to it Adams founded the chewing gum industry – his company later merged with Wrigley’s, which in 2006 had a turnover of $4.6 billion…

    1. I had somehow gotten the impression that the United States had returned the leg to Mexico. Coincidentally, I read a story about another battlefield prize the other day: the flag of the 28th Virginia Infantry, captured at Gettysburg by the 1st Minnesota. In spite of repeated calls by Virginia for its return, Minnesota has held fast. Governor Jesse Ventura said, “Why? We won.… We took it. That makes it our heritage.”

      1. My information might be out of date – it came from the 2009 book The Book of the Dead, which was a birthday gift from WEIT reader Dom a few years ago.

    2. Just today, my wife was reading me some information about her employer offering a choice of laptop (with Windows) or iPad, the latter with a “chicklet keyboard”. She had never heard the word (even though she is an English teacher), and I had never heard the term, but presumably it is because the keys resemble the chewing gum by that name, obviously named after chicle.

  6. Not that I’m ignoring the serious subjects in today’s Dialogue, I am continuing to chuckle over the lot of funny stuff here, especially the Hili dialogue itself. La Gioconda indeed! Thanks, Professor!

  7. Those whose metabolism ground to a halt on April 22 … 1994 – Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (b. 1913)

    “Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that ‘I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.’

    “I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

    “Nixon laughed when I told him this. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.'”

    — Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone (1994)

      1. Except it doesn’t look like Mozzarella. Not sure which Italian cheese would grate like that. Provolone?

        1. It looks like USian skim-mozzarella (an abomination!!!) that melts on pizza. Funny aside, my kiddo is a hater of cheese, I’m still not sure what I did wrong. However, the only cheese he’d eat was fresh mozzarella (or burrata). That, I cannot fault him for.

  8. Pedantically, when you refer to a “shoe” prison, I think you mean SHU, an acronym for Secure Housing Unit. Something I learned by watching Orange is the New Black.

  9. Chauvin is going to have a miserable experience in jail. Either he will be segregated for his entire term, or repeatedly attacked and likely killed in gen-pop.

    Perhaps the US should consider building prison wings for incarcerated former police officers. If we subscribe to a determinist view of behavior, and the consequent conclusion that their criminal actions have no moral component, then we should advocate for the safe quarantine of ex-police from society.*

    I would take no pleasure from hearing of Chauvin’s demise in prison, no matter how horrific the death of George Floyd.

    *The poor prospects for police officers in prison could well be a contributing factor to the difficulty in securing convictions. Juries might look at a crime and give the officer a pass simply because they know what will happen to the officer in prison, and don’t think that dire punishment is warranted.

  10. “At noon, thousands rush to claim land in the Land Rush of 1889.”

    This is the subject of the classic Western “Tumbleweeds” (1925), the last film to feature William S. Hart, one of the greatest early Western stars.

    A link to the best-looking version of the film online is below. For those who want to skip to the Land Rush sequence, which remains a bravura work of cinema, go to 01:04:24.
    The entire film is worth seeing though, including the sound prologue.

  11. Man, I wish I was earlier to today’s comments section. I can’t believe nobody has mentioned that the brilliant John Hartford wrote Gentle on My Mind. John Hartford basically started “newgrass,” particularly with his masterpiece of an album, Aereo-Plain. He was one of the best bluegrass musicians ever. He played multiple instruments masterfully, which led him to create the album Mark Twang, on which he plays and sings every note from guitar to fiddle to banjo and more.

    EDIT: And Aereo-Plain, in addition to being one of the greatest albums of all time, is a fantastic road trip album. It won’t last you the whole ride, but it’s a lovely way to start!

  12. “Finally, it’s Love Your Thighs Day, which is bizarre; I haven’t thought about my thighs in, well, ever.”

    Ah, but have you thought about a woman’s thighs? Women know that men think about them, so they worry about whether their thighs are good thighs.

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