Friday: Hili dialogue

June 18, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Friday, June 18, 2021: International Picnic Day.  It’s also International Sushi Day, National Flip Flop Day (I’m with the plan), Ugliest Dog Day, and, in the UK, Waterloo Day. 

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest was cancelled in 2020, but here’s the 2019 winner, Scamp the Tramp. He doesn’t look so bad to me!

I forgot to note that it was two years ago yesterday when I learned that Grania died, though she had died the day before—on June 16. It’s better late than never, though, to pay tribute to someone who was not only a good friend and counselor, but a valuable contributor to this website. She was also one of the founders of Atheist Ireland and its first secretary. I never met her, but we spoke via Skype nearly every day. And I still often think about what she’d have to say about today’s events.

Here are photos of Grania young and old (though she was never old, since she wasn’t even 49 when she died); both sent by her sister Gisela.

News of the Day:

It may seem weird that a conservative Supreme Court could issue a ruling supporting Obamacare, and by a vote of 7-2 (Alito and Gorsuch dissented), but the decision (here) was based solely on “standing”.  The state of Texas, the court ruled, hadn’t shown that it suffered a direct injury by the contentious bit of Obamacare: the requirement that all Americans be insured. The court avoided ruling on that issue, which is a big one. Courts often rule on standing when they’re not comfortable about making a big, meaningful decision. But in effect they said that Obama care is probably here to stay.

From the WaPo’s piece on this decision:

The case posed three questions: Have the challengers — 18 states and a couple of individuals — suffered injuries that give them legal standing to bring the challenge? Did changes Congress made in 2017 render unconstitutional the ACA’s requirement for individuals to buy insurance? And if so, can the rest of the law be separated out, or must it fall in its entirety?

Breyer [who wrote the opinion] said that answering the first question negated the necessity of deciding the others.

I’ve mentioned before that several big publishers assert that they won’t consider publishing Trump’s memoirs, though he says that he’s had two offers from prestigious publishers and turned both down. According to a new short piece in Vanity Fair, though,

According to Politico, none of the editors and publishers contacted at the Big Five publishing houses—Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster—said they were aware of any such offer. One source was openly “skeptical” of his claims. “He’s screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president, none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore,” the source told Politico.

The reason, beyond a fear of a mass staff walkout, is in the tweet below from CNN’s chief media correspondent:

Speaking of enforced patriotism, the Washington Examiner reports that Republican senators are pursuing a Constitutional amendment that would ban burning the American flag. Doing so now is perfectly legal, regarded as a form of free expression protected by the First Amendment. This new proposal, surely doomed to failure, would presumably carve out an exception for Old Glory. The paper adds, “In 2019, former President Donald Trump called the amendment a “no-brainer,” saying he was “all-in” for the proposal.”  The amendment is doomed as it requires passage by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and then passage by three-quarters of state legislatures. (h/t Ken).

Amazing biology news: A study of the coelacanth, a “living fossil” fish whose appearance hasn’t changed much in 400 million years, revealed that the females don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re 50 years old, and males between 40 and 69. They can live to be 100 and, oddly enough, the embryos appear to have a gestation period of five years. Now this appears based on an somewhat questionable way to age fish using scale “rings” (only dead fish can be analyzed since they’re rarely caught) and on a very small sample. The paper is here in Current Biology, and I haven’t read it yet.

Here are unborn embryos up to five years old taken from caught fish. The bottom fish was already free-living:

Author Janet Malcolm died, one of my favorite writers for The New Yorker. She was 86.

Here are the top searches that got readers to my website yesterday. Number four is a hoot. I’ve never written about that in my life!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 600,524, an increase of 312 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll is now 3,858,704, an increase of about 9,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on June 18 includes:

  • 1178 – Five Canterbury monks see what is possibly the Giordano Bruno crater being formed. It is believed that the current oscillations of the Moon‘s distance from the Earth (on the order of meters) are a result of this collision.

Geologist Jack B. Hartung believes that the monks’ account explains the crater’s formation, probably by impact with a comet or an asteroid. From Wikipedia:

Five monks from Canterbury reported to the abbey’s chronicler, Gervase, that shortly after sunset on 18 June 1178, (25 June on the proleptic Gregorian calendar) they saw “the upper horn [of the moon] split in two”. Furthermore, Gervase writes:

From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.

Here’s an “LRO mosaic” photo of the crater:

  • 1429 – French forces under the leadership of Joan of Arc defeat the main English army under Sir John Fastolf at the Battle of Patay. This turns the tide of the Hundred Years’ War.
  • 1812 – The United States declaration of war upon the United Kingdom is signed by President James Madison, beginning the War of 1812.
  • 1858 – Charles Darwin receives a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace that includes nearly identical conclusions about evolution as Darwin’s own, prompting Darwin to publish his theory.

Although Darwin kept nearly all his correspondence, this most famous letter is missing. It’s thought that Darwin handed it to his colleagues for their joint publication in the Journal of the Linnean Society in 1858, and it was lost or destroyed at the printer’s.

Here’s Anthony, who dressed in black for 50 years; the color was because of her Quaker religion and also as a symbol of her suffragism:

  • 1928 – Aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean (she is a passenger; Wilmer Stultz is the pilot and Lou Gordon the mechanic).
  • 1940 – The “Finest Hour” speech is delivered by Winston Churchill.

Here are 5.5 minutes of that speech. The famous phrase occurs at 4:47.  What a speechwriter he was!

Here’s Joyce (he had been shot in the leg while being arrested). He was the last person to be executed for treason in the UK, and died an unrepentant Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite:

  • 1948 – Columbia Records introduces the long-playing record album in a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
  • 1983 – Space Shuttle programSTS-7Astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.

Here’s Ride on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She died at only 61.

Notables born on this day include:

We still don’t know if Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit of Everest. His body was found in 1999, but with few clues about whether he’d made the top.  Here’s a photo of the 1924 expedition on which Mallory and Irvine died; Mallory is highlighted:

George Mallory (midden, met cirkel rond het hoofd) en andere leden van de Engelse expeditie die in 1924 als eerste de top van de Mount Everest wilde bereiken. Mallory verloor zijn leven bij de expeditie.
  • 1918 – Franco Modigliani, Italian-American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2003)
  • 1942 – Roger Ebert, American journalist, critic, and screenwriter (d. 2013)
  • 1942 – Paul McCartney, English singer-songwriter and guitarist

Here’s McCartney doing one of my favorite of his songs (2004 at Glastonbury):

  • 1952 – Isabella Rossellini, Italian actress, director, producer, and screenwriter

Those who paid their fee to Charon on June 18 include:

  • 1464 – Rogier van der Weyden, Flemish painter (b. 1400)
  • 1902 – Samuel Butler, English novelist, satirist, and critic (b. 1835)
  • 1936 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1868)

Here’s Gorky in 1906, when he was about 38:

  • 1982 – Djuna Barnes, American novelist, journalist, and playwright (b. 1892)
  • 1989 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (b. 1907)
  • 2020 – Vera Lynn, English singer who was the “Forces’ Sweetheart” in World War II (b. 1917)

Lynn, known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart” for boosting morale of UK troops in World War II, was perhaps most famous for the song below:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili once pretends to be a “green cat”. But I suspect her”care” involves removal of rodents:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: Be quiet, I’m caring for the environment.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Cicho, dbam o środowisko.

A photo of Szaron:

From Divy:

From Nicole:

From Bruce:

Reader Rupinder found a good cat Twitter site, “place where cat shouldn’t be“. There are a gazillion moggies in unseemly places, like this pair:

The famous “dress illusion” tweeted by Steve Stewart-Williams. Is this for real? You be the judge.

Tweets from Matthew. This one, made by the good Dr. Cobb himself, came with a note, “I made a meme to open with (this is a very fashionable meme right now, and shows what happens when you tell your family you have published an article). Indeed, I had exactly this conversation with my mom when I published my first paper!

There was an old picture in Life magazine similar to this. The dairyman has good aim (and a good heart)!

Watch the whole video; it’s heartwarming.

Another tweet by Matthew himself. His note: “My tweet of wisdom today. It was after I spent some time explaining something to Ollie, to no avail.” Matthew doesn’t realize that catsplaining doesn’t work.

Click on the “visit the cave” link for a fabulous virtual tour of Lascaux. It’s closed for good, so this is the only way you can really see it. The paintings are estimated at about 17,000 years old.

This goalie should be fired, if not shot:

69 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. It’s been a few years since I’ve followed you web site regularly. Sorry to hear about Grania – I remember her and her contributions well.

  2. Thank you for helping us remember gentle Grania on this anniversary of that shocking day two years ago.

  3. Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” moves me as no other song, even though meeting again could imply heaven. It is a song of great hope in darkest times. This video was particularly touching as the British soldiers sang along knowing that death on the battlefield was a distinct possibility.

    1. That is a beautiful song. I have similar feelings about another famous song of hers, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover.” It reminds me of my WWII-vet father, who spent most of his three enlisted years in England.

      I had no idea that she died so recently, at 103!

    2. We’ll Meet Again video brought tears to my eyes. Again.
      I actually remember hearing Canadian soldiers singing it when I was a little kid.

  4. I just checked the dress illusion panel, and it is real. I copied the first frame of the video, then cut out that piece of the black and purple dress and moved it to the white and yellow dress, and it looked exactly like the corresponding image in the tweet, and the illusion’s strength was exactly the same. Amazing.

      1. That’s really interesting. Perhaps our brains are calculating the expected locations of shadows based on apparent direction of light and the shape of the objects, affecting our conscious interpretation of the stimulus.

  5. In addition to the Obamacare case yesterday, SCOTUS issued its decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In that case, the Court held, on First Amendment Free Exercise Clause grounds, that the City could not cancel its contract with Catholic Social Services for placing children with foster families because the latter refused to place children with same-sex couples.

    The case was decided unanimously. Interesting thing about it, though, was that six justice (in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts) decided the case on the narrowest possible grounds. Three other justices, all among the Court’s most conservative — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — would have gone much further, and would have overruled Employment Division v. Smith, the 1990 SCOTUS decision holding that facially neutral, generally applicable laws that happen to have an adverse impact on religious practices do not violate the Free Exercise Clause. The NYT story about the case is here.

    Between this case and the case upholding Obamacare, it seems we’re starting to see not only the traditional liberal-conservative split on SCOTUS, but also a divide on the right between conservatives and the more extreme rightwing.

  6. One of the dumbest wars of all the stupid ones we have fought – the war of 1812 accomplished nothing. With no army, almost no navy and no money it was the perfect plan. Lucky the enemy was more than 3000 miles away and hardly had time to mess with the U.S.

    1. The War of 1812 accomplished little from a material point of view. A major cause of the war was the British impressment of American sailors, who were originally British. War hawks, such as John C. Calhoun, argued that impressment was a slap in the face of American honor and had to be resisted. They also thought that the war would be an easy way to annex Canada. That turned out to be a total fiasco. Interestingly, the Treaty of Ghent, which restored the status quo, did not even mention impressment. However, Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans, fought after the peace treaty was signed, offered a pretext for claiming the U.S. won the war. If communications had been better in those days, the battle would not have been fought, Jackson’s meteoric rise to hero might not have taken place, and he might never have become president. Who would have been on the $20 bill? 😊

      1. Yes, the notice Jackson got is probably one of the worst things to come out of the war. It was also the only time the capital was sacked until the arrival of Trump. I think Trump said that Jackson was his hero and most favorite presidents (other than himself of course).

  7. 1942 – Roger Ebert, American journalist, critic, and screenwriter (d. 2013)

    Ebert was one of the so-called “Paulettes” — film critics who came of age under the influence of the famous New Yorker critic Pauline Kael. His judgment regarding movies was, I think, like his mentor’s, often questionable (and I detested the silly tv show he did with his fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel, with its puerile two-thumbs-up nonsense). But, again like his mentor, he was a damn fine prose stylist. And, weird thing was, he kept getting better over the years. Even at the end, when he was ravaged by cancer, he was still churning out top-flight copy, especially as regards matters other than movies. I’ve always found oddly moving the piece he wrote right near the end explaining how he could be both an atheist and Catholic.

    1. Maybe. Or maybe they’ll spend several years trying to get a manuscript out of Trump’s ghost-writer (being realistic here) who is refusing to release his manuscript until the cheque from the Tangerine nightsoil actually clears.

      Do publisher’s have “staff” ghostwriters? People paid a salary to turn (contractually enforced) face-time with a subject into verbiage on sacrificed trees. That might be a way around writer’s block in ones target.

      I don’t get the assertion that

      “Their reluctance is driven by several factors, though the underlying fear is that whatever Trump would write wouldn’t be truthful,”

      I don’t think it holds much water. Nobody expects a politician to tell the truth (*), particularly in memoirs. And if Trump lies in what he presents to them, either their lawyers will catch it and squash it pre-publication, or Trump takes personal liability for “lie-bel” that he insists to the lawyers is true.

      I suspect their concern is more about paying a fat advance fee, then having to harass for years beyond deadline to get either their verbiage or their advance back.

      (*) “… the whole truth and nothing but the truth” ; things will be omitted ; things will not be addressed ; slants will be leaned on to near horizontality. And internal monologues will be re-written in the glare of 100% hindsight.

      1. I don’t know if they have ghost writers “on staff”; but they certainly have “go-to” ghost writers they hire regularly.

        Interestingly, many nf books by famous people these days list the ghost writer (or “co-author”) on the cover. This is good practice in my opinion.

        1. This is good practice in my opinion.

          So, not Trumpian practice? (Future-wise : I don’t know whether his previous “ghosts” got due credit.)

      2. Oh disreputable company (like “all the best people” we were promised) will publish it – lots of people will buy it as xmas gifts for relatives who won’t read it. (If they read a lot other than Facebook they probably wouldn’t be MAGAs.) Arrogant, moi? hehehe

        He’ll lie his head off of course, or rather have his ghostwriter in his/her MAGA hat lie for him.
        But Trump won’t write it.
        Consider this –
        The “ghostwriter” of The Art of the Deal said he did *all* the writing based on some conversations w/ Trump and doubted Trump even READ the final copy.

        To “get” Trump you have to consider everything through the lens of total narcissism. And a man with so little intellectual curiosity he might not have even read “his” own books.

        But it’ll be published. Maybe Pillow Guy can ghost writer it? hahaha I can’t wait to not read it.
        D.A.
        NYC

      1. Especially if he actually did the writing himself — random capitalizations and punctuation, misspellings, and fractured syntax intact.

        Here a “covfefe,” and there a “covfefe,” too, why not?

    1. A remarkable experience I’ve been told too – but a sad reflection of the damage done by visitors to the original cave. Not deliberate damage – a consequence of increased ventilation, humidity from visitor’s breath and light from the lights.
      The cave’s managers tried all sorts of things (modified ventilation, IR-triggered lighting, limiting numbers) for years before taking this approach – very reluctantly.
      Developments are being closely followed by people with a conservation responsibility for other cave artefacts the world over.
      I bet this doesn’t happen to the Grotte Cosquer. (Ici aussi.)Unless some fool finds and publicises an air-entrance.

  8. Re: Blackbird. One of my favorites as well.

    Reminds me of the old joke:
    Q: How many guitar players does ti take to change a lightbulb?
    A: 200. 1 to play the guitar and 199 to sit in the audience and say “I could do that!”

    Here’s me playing Blackbird waaaay too fast:

    1. The version I play here is transcribed from the original recording and is slightly different in some details from the version McCartney plays in the posted video. Again, too fast!

  9. Grania is definitely missed, even by me, though I only knew her through this comments section and the conversations we had in it. There’s nobody I’ve had longer conversations with in this space than her. She was kind, intelligent, and Great fun.

    Winston Churchill is one of my “top three heroes.” Many people I know today definitely would not be alive if it wasn’t for his leadership and courage. I might not be alive. One of the best biographies I’ve ever read and in my opinion the greatest biography of Churchill is Roy Jenkins’ Churchill. It’s a very long read, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to get as close to the full story of his life as possible.

    1. Agree on Churchill. And excellent writer as well. I haven’t read that bio of Churchill but I have read Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts, which I can highly recommend.

  10. Number four is a hoot. I’ve never written about that in my life!

    Lots of transgender discussions ; lots of pussies, Caturday included. I can see how Gooble would make the connection.

  11. The SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare, besides being based on solid legal reasoning, may also have been a way for the supposedly conservative court to push back on the GOP’s hope that they can be used to do their political dirty work. Even if that’s the case, I’m sure the GOP won’t listen and Trump will continue to talk about “my judges”.

  12. Thank you so much for the remembrance of Grania, who is still very much missed. Her insights were often marked by an international viewpoint due to her having lived in different cultures–something I appreciated, as I did her love of animals.

  13. That is the most insane own-goal I’ve ever seen. How could that keeper show his face in public after the game?! Misses the ball cleanly, twice.

  14. Coelacanths were very diverse back in the Late Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if mawsoniid coelacanths (which lived between the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous) that grew up to 20 feet long, had an endothermic poikilothermic/mesothermic metabolism similar to today’s great white sharks and tuna since they were living in mostly freshwater environments and had a 3-chambered lung unlike today’s latimerids that only have one chamber in their lung.

  15. So glad the email conx to WEIT is back! Sometimes would forget to check the website and miss a day or two. But now its there daily in my in-box again.

  16. Amazing biology news: A study of the coelacanth, a “living fossil” fish whose appearance hasn’t changed much in 400 million years,

    While modern coelacanth fishes retain characteristics that are visibly comparable with their Devonian ancestors, they have had their own evolutionary trajectories since then. One thing that struck me on a day trip into the “stacks” of the NHM to see some of their Mesozoic coelacanth fossils is the disparity in sheer size between the Mawsonia and Macropoma, (on forearm-size slabs in the drawers) and the Latimeria in a 1.5m long formalin tank in an alcove of the main hall, overlooked by “Dippy”. The coelacanths have changed a lot over 400 million years – like sharks – otherwise nobody would consider Helicoprion to look odd, while seeing a hammerhead shark would have people drug-testing the people describing them. They’re still recognisably sharks, lobe-finned fishes, etc – but not exactly the same as their forebears, nor even particularly similar.

    Pet peeve.

    1. A friend of mine gave me his expired Comoros passport because they have coelathanths printed in the pages and I’m a big fan of the fish. Wonderful! It is also on the currency of the Comoros Islands.
      D.A.
      NYC

      1. Oh, very cool!
        If I ever make it back to East Africa, I’ll try to find some Comoros currency to add to my collection. (Madagascar has both an energy problem, and appreciable hydrocarbon reserves. The Comoros themselves are essentially volcanic – unprospective.)

          1. Maybe the 2nd coming of Jacques Plante.
            Lots of Haitians in Quebec.
            Not sure if any play or played (ice) hockey, much less in goal!

              1. I saw him many times at Maple Leaf Gardens between 1959 and 1963. Perhaps the best goalie ever (Dryden better??), won Stanley Cups 6 or 7 times, invented the goalie mask, invented goalies getting out of the crease to play the puck. I can still remember him robbing Big Frank Mahovlich, snapping the glove out to grab a clear slap shot from only about 20 feet out. Later they switched teams, more-or-less.

                But he was no good at football, AKA soccer–sorry, just a joke.

              2. I didn’t move to Canuckland until 1977 and knew squat about hockey until my son started playing in the late 80s (as a little squirt).

      1. That explains it! 🙂 The commentator also said ‘His first touch isn’t great’ 🙂 The attempt at a first touch did not seem at all successful. I don’t think he touched the ball at all.

        1. I don’t think he touched the ball at all

          Look at the replay at 1:20. As he’s lining up for his second swing, he toe punts the ball with his left foot which means he misses with his right.

          1. Right. You mean he touched the ball when setting himself for his second swing. I was talking about his first attempt. Do you think he touched ball at all (never mind a good touch) with his first attempt? I could not see clearly.

  17. There they go again with flag-burning. But quite OK to break down the doors of the Capitol.

    Otherwise, to judge from the extraordinary Art Nouveau touches (not least of which is the curved marble staircase) at his mansion in Moscow – which in itself seems impossible – Gorky did quite well for himself.

  18. “…English army under Sir John Fastolf…”

    No connection with the fictional Sir John Falstaff I don’t suppose, though the timelines are not dissimilar.

  19. That’s a great photo of Grania as an adult, Mona Lisa-like in the ambiguity of her expression.

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