Monday: Hili dialogue

July 5, 2021 • 5:30 am

I woke up to find that there is now an active shooter at the University of Chicago. From our email bulletin:

This update is in regards to the security event at or in the Medical Center.
Be advised shots were fired OUTSIDE the Adult Emergency Room. CPD and UCPD is both on scene and the Hospital is currently on LOCKDOWN.
But the ducks aren’t going to feed themselves, and we haven’t been advised to avoid campus.

Good morning (?) on Monday, July 5, 2021: National Apple Turnover Day. And since it’s still a holiday, what’s more American than apple turnover? It’s also National Graham Cracker Day, Bikini Day, Mechanical Pencil Day, and  National Workaholics Day (I should be sleeping now).  It’s also Independence holidays in these countries: Independence Day (Algeria), celebrating the independence of Algeria from France in 1962, Independence Day (Cape Verde), celebrating the independence of Cape Verde from Portugal in 1975, and  Independence Day (Venezuela), celebrating the independence of Venezuela from Spain in 1811; also National Armed Forces Day.

News of the Day:

It’s been 166 days since Joe Biden took office and there’s still no litter box in the White House. What gives?

Dick Lewontin, my once and forever Boss (Ph.D. advisor), died yesterday morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 92, and his beloved wife Mary Jane had passed away only three days before.  I’ll will cobble together a memoriam this morning, but it will be hard. The world isn’t the same without The Boss in it. (Yes, that was the name we always called him.)

Here’s a tweet Matthew sent me with a quote from a piece he wrote after hearing one of Dick’s lectures.

Like Dick and Mary Jane, who married before they were 20, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have had a terrific and close relationship, and on Wednesday will celebrate their 75th anniversary. Jimmy is 96, Rosalynn 93. On the NBC news last night, Carter declared that asking Rosalynn to be his wife was the best decision he ever made. Here’s a photo from the NYT:

The Washington Post has an anodyne description by By Samuel Hoadley-Brill of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which claims that everyone agrees what it is and it’s nothing to be afraid of. (The CRT movement, says Hoadley-Brill, is “a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.”) Ross Douthat of the NYT, on the other hand, describes why many Americans are afraid of CRT. What I’m wondering is whether even if there is a scholarly consensus on the nature of CRT, that’s even relevant given that what’s being taught in some schools does bear resemblance to what Douthat describes.  In fact, the Post‘s piece winds up nearly saying that opponents of CRT are racists:

It’s plain. Today’s attacks on critical race theory aren’t meant to rebut its main arguments. They’re meant to paint it with such broad brushstrokes that any basic effort to reckon with the causes and impact of racism in our society can be demonized and dismissed.

Pope Frances had surgery, though it doesn’t sound as if it was a very serious operation. He was treated for a stenosis (narrowing) of the large intestine, and seems to have come through with flying colors.

A University of Chicago student died after having been shot in the neck Thursday while riding the Green Line CTA train on 51st Street near the University. The student was identified by the Provost’s announcement as Max Solomon Lewis, a “rising third-year student”. Lewis was presumably an innocent bystander of one of the many shooting incidents that plague the South Side.

Once again Nathan’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest was won by Joey Chestnut, who broke his own world record by downing 76 hot dogs (and buns!) within just ten minutes. You don’t have to watch the video below if you have issues with this type of contest:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 604,752, an increase of 214 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,994,310, an increase of about 6,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 5 includes:

Here’s the cover of the first edition:

  • 1841 – Thomas Cook organises the first package excursion, from Leicester to Loughborough.
  • 1937 – Spam, the luncheon meat, is introduced into the market by the Hormel Foods Corporation.

You’ve certainly seen this Monty Python skit on Spam, but it never gets old:

  • 1948 – National Health Service Acts create the national public health system in the United Kingdom.
  • 1950 – Zionism: The Knesset passes the Law of Return which grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel.
  • 1954 – The BBC broadcasts its first television news bulletin.
  • 1954 – Elvis Presley records his first single, “That’s All Right“, at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

Sun Records was not a big studio, but oy, the influence it had!

The “million-dollar quartet” assembles in the one-room recording studio for a jam session: Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis:

Here they are singing “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”. The influence of Southern gospel music on early rock is evident.

  • 1971 – The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years, is formally certified by President Richard Nixon.
  • 1975 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black man to win the Wimbledon singles title.

Some highlights from Ashe’s Grand Slam Title:

  • 1989 – Iran–Contra affair: Oliver North is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours community service. His convictions are later overturned.
  • 1996 – Dolly the sheep becomes the first mammal cloned from an adult cell.

Dolly lived 6½ years, only about half a sheep’s normal life span. Here she is postmortem, stuffed and mounted:

Here’s a bracelet or cuff from the Staffordshire Hoard, dating to the 6th or 7th centuries AD:

Here are highlights of the final: the most-watched match ever on t.v., including both men’s and women’s soccer. You’ll have to click on “Watch on YouTube”

Notables born on this day include:

They might have mentioned that he captained the second Beagle voyage, and that Charles Darwin was enlisted to be FitzRoy’s companion! (FitzRoy was prone to depression and needed a hired friend. FitzRoy later killed himself with a razor). Here’s Fitzroy around 1855:

  • 1810 – P. T. Barnum, American businessman, co-founded Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (d. 1891)
  • 1853 – Cecil Rhodes, English-South African businessman and politician, 6th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (d. 1902)
  • 1889 – Jean Cocteau, French novelist, poet, and playwright (d. 1963)
  • 1904 – Ernst Mayr, German-American biologist and ornithologist (d. 2005)

Mayr was a huge influence on my becoming an evolutionary biologist, and his works, especially the 1963 Animal Species and Evolution, certainly steered me towards work on speciation. He was a curmudgeonly mentor of mine at Harvard, and I wrote an obituary for him in Science and a summary of his achievements in Evolution. Here he is on his youthful expedition to collect birds in New Guinea for the Rothschilds, and then later as I knew him:

1928: Ernst Mayr with Sario, one of his Malay assistants, in the former Dutch New Guinea. Mayr led ornithological expeditions to Dutch New Guinea and German Mandated New Guinea. An experience that fulfilled “the greatest ambition of [his] youth.” He collected around 7000 bird skins in two and a half years.

  • 1950 – Huey Lewis, American singer-songwriter and actor
  • 1963 – Edie Falco, American actress

Notables who succumbed on July 5 were few, and include:

  • 1826 – Stamford Raffles, English politician, founded Singapore (b. 1782)
  • 1969 – Walter Gropius, German architect, designed the John F. Kennedy Federal Building and Werkbund Exhibition (b. 1883)
  • 2002 – Ted Williams, American baseball player and manager (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is idling away the hours outdoors.

A: What do you see over there?
Hili: Nothing interesting so far, but something may come up.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Jeszcze nic ciekawego, ale może się coś pokazać.

From Bruce, and you’ll have to guess the answer:

An explanation of evolution from John:

A sign sent by David:

Did your animals get scared last night from the firecrackers and fireworks? One person had a clever solution:

A tweet from a Presidential historian sent by reader Barry, who comments, “Yep, this is straight-up fascism.”

Tweets from Matthew:

Trouble with cows!

The call of the wild. Japanese translation from Google: “Courage jumping spot-billed duck chick.”

This fly is two inches long, and it’s in Chicago! How come I haven’t seen one?  I met Allen Drummond this week at Botany Pond; he’s a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and also he makes fantastic metal models of arthropods, some of which you can see here.

A bee-eater going after a bat, presumably without success. Google translation: “Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) tries to eat a bat, exceptional prey, photo captured in Palestine / Israel.  Shuki Cheled.”

You may have to ponder this for a second:

48 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

    1. Very sad news – I enjoyed learning about his work and more from this site – and delightful pictures such as the one where he has – I think – Dante’s Divine Comedy, and also PCC(E) in a reverent position. I perceived a good sense of humor and wit in that.

    2. My condolences too.
      Words are hardly adequate, but you seemed to have had many good times with your boss.

          1. Jerry, I know this was a big song for your generation, but how do you feel about Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth? I’ve always thought the lyrics to that song are pretty terrible too.

            Lyrics like “Young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind.” From behind? Who’s behind them, and how are they giving them resistance if they’re behind them? They clearly just needed a word that (almost) rhymed with “minds,” so they chose “behind,” even though it makes no sense. In politics, a person/group/institution that’s “behind” something is supporting it. Even in the physical sense, it doesn’t add up unless the young people are trying to, um, walk backwards or something.

            And then there are lines like “singing songs and carrying signs, mostly say ‘hooray for our side’,” and “paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep,” and “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware.” The most simplistic rhyming scheme possible as well as some very bad lines…

            Anyway, that’s my two cents…

        1. THANK YOU. That’s the first line I always bring up when someone tells me it’s a good song. And then every other line. “In the desert you can’t remember your name because there ain’t no one for to give you no pain/shame.” Holy crap. Just the worst.

        2. Was “things” there to rhyme with another word? Can’t remember.
          Btw, much worse song than MacArthur Park.

          1. As a teen in the ’70s, I loved “Horse With No Name.” the lyrics aren’t great, but the image of riding a horse through the desert was neat. (Not that I would ever do that in real life, but that’s why we have imaginations.)

            The America song I always hated, and still do, is “Tin Man:”

            “Oz never did give nothin’ to the Tin Man,
            That he didn’t, didn’t already have,
            And cause never was the reason for the evening,
            Or the Tropic of Sir Galahad.

            “So please believe in me
            When I say I’m spinning ’round, ’round, ’round, ’round.”

            I especially like how he says “So,” as though he’s proven a point.

            I suspect drugs were involved. Not just in writing the song, but in the fact that it became a huge hit.

            1. Nonsense lyrics in rock songs? When did that start happening? 😉 I actually like the songs, probably because I focus more on the music than the lyrics.

          2. I like the Beatles song “Come Together”, but it has some of the most ridiculous lyrics that I’ve ever heard.

            Here come old flat top
            He come grooving up slowly
            He got joo joo eyeball
            He one holy roller
            He got hair down to his knee
            Got to be a joker he just do what he please

            He wear no shoe shine
            He got toe jam football
            He got monkey finger
            He shoot Coca-Cola
            He say I know you, you know me
            One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
            Come together, right now, over me

            He bag production
            He got walrus gumboot
            He got Ono sideboard
            He one spinal cracker
            He got feet down below his knee
            Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
            Come together, right now, over me

            He roller coaster
            He got early warning
            He got muddy water
            He one mojo filter
            He say, “one and one makes three”

            1. So what?

              They sound great – _sound_, as in hearing the voice project them, in rhythmic complement to the beat. I’d venture they were a stroke of genius.

      1. There’s a lot of those “soft rock” songs of the ‘70’s I grew up hearing that I either ignored or absolutely hated that now bring back warm fuzzy feelings of childhood and have created a new fondness for them. (Just don’t tell that to 18 yr old me, obsessed with Sabbath, Zeppelin, and the Stones) same for a lot of country rock and lots of other things I never understood. I hated Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Chicago. Carly Simon and Carol King bored me, so either I’ve mellowed, I’ve matured, or compared to the utter shite that’s popular now I’ve reassessed past music more fairly and with an open mind. I don’t think anything, excepting perhaps severe blunt force trauma to the head would help me appreciate Bieber, Minaj (sp?)or that crazy bastard tRump-humpin’ Kanye.

        1. The complexity and craft alone from even the minor bands back then tower over the mainstream crap today.
          I just looked at the past winners of Grammy awards thru the late 60s – early 70s (as a way to measure what was pushed by the mainstream industry back then), and was surprised that what won awards was always soft rock. Acceptable and Unobjectionable music. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” for 1969, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” for ’72.

      1. I think the melody, feel, harmony, expression, etc. are compelling.

        The lyrics, it seems, did not achieve the intended effect.

  1. “the most-watched match ever on t.v., including both men’s and women’s soccer.”. This is valid only for American TV.

    1. Indeed: “With the Fox Network reporting 25.4 million viewers and Spanish-language Telemundo reporting 1.3 million viewers, the combined 26.7 million viewers made the final the most-watched soccer game in American history.”

      Of course, 20 million watched the Ukraine v England match on Saturday, and that was only a quarter final…

    1. Yes. My condolences also. He always looked so robust in the photos that you and Greg posted from your recent visits with him, it was hard to believe that he was in his 90’s. Your stories about his lively lab were always entertaining….lively and a very productive lab. “The smartest guy I have known” means a lot.

  2. I am sorry to hear about Lewontin’s death, but his contributions to evolutionary biology and population genetics were monumental. He was my academic uncle, but I only met him once. When I started in graduate school in 1974, Lewontin and Hubby (1966) had already reshaped population genetics and indeed provided the framework for my dissertation research. Furthermore, my mentor Rollin Richmond used his book “The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change” as a text in the graduate level population genetics course he taught. It is still on my shelf. Finally, an overview of the original Lewontin and Hubby work was part of the evolutionary genetics course I taught up until my retirement in 2017.

    1. One important consequence of Lewontin’s Drosophila work with John Hubby was the follow-up discovery that, despite the relative climatic uniformity of the tropics, genetic variability in tropical animal and plant populations in general was much greater than that found in similar creatures inhabiting temperate and polar regions. His insights and discoveries, even those from 50+ years ago, are still giving fruit. An example is this 2020 paper by a team of Chinese biologists that while it doesn’t cite L&H, L&H are there:
      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ecog.05082

  3. Fixed the paragraph quoted from the WaPo piece in question, mutatis mutandis:

    “It’s plain. Today’s defenses of critical race theory aren’t meant to confirm its main arguments. They’re meant to paint it with such broad brushstrokes that any nuanced effort to reckon with the causes and impact of racism in our society can be demonized and dismissed.”

    To continue along the lines of Douthat’s argument, it seems that the defenders of CRT have now resorted to a motte-and-bailey strategy.

    1. As an occasional fan of Victorian pornography, “motte and bailey” brings a completely different image to mind.
      Actually, it’s hard to work out what you mean, despite that. Do you mean “defence in depth”, multi-layered defence, “sit there and take it” (which is how mottes and baileys worked).

      1. To be specific, I’m referring to the motte-and-bailey logical fallacy. In this instance regarding the defenders of CRT, they take the easier-to-defend position, the motte, which is that there’s still racism in our society, and conflate it with the controversial position, the bailey, which is that, e.g., all white people are racists, whether they’re conscious of it or not.
        Regarding Victorian pornography, I’ll have to look into that…(ahem!)

        1. I’ve never heard that intellectual laziness described as a “motte and bailey” strategy. As a strategy – well it’s more like a straw-man strategy, because you defend different things with the motte versus the bailey. You could lose your bailey and keep your motte, but then be unable to pursue the attackers if you were relieved, because they’d have taken (or killed) your horses in the bailey. To me, I’d think to anyone who paid attention to their mediaeval history fieldwork at school, it just means a specific set of defensive structures which any town founded before the middle 1200s has in it’s street plan, if not in visible structures.

          Trying to think if the fallacy has a different name in English versus American.

  4. > He was treated for a stenosis (narrowing) of the large intestine, and seems to have come through with flying colors.

    Surely one of the more remarkable side effects of intestinal surgery. Wouldn’t want to have to clean up after that, though.

    1. Contemptible though they are in general, the Vatican have long had a need for an astronomy department. That annoyingly luni-solar calculation for the date of Easter needs reasonably good ephemerides – and better ones the further into the future you want to go. Since their calculations would eventually be shown up as “wrong” by reality, they do need to track a godless reality quite well.
      A spin off from that was Gregory the Wotsit (Pope of the cheesy snacks) propounding his astronomer’s modifications to Julius’ (Caesar, not Pontiff) calendar. One, two, three or four centuries ago, depending on where you were, or what you believed.
      One would certainly hope they have their own surgeons. You wouldn’t want to accidentally get contaminated with bits of pope, would you?

  5. “But the ducks aren’t going to feed themselves”

    Pretty sure ducks have had a successful evolutionary history doing just that. Be safe!

    1. Yes, the “I woke up to find that there is now an active shooter at the University of Chicago. […] But the ducks aren’t going to feed themselves, and we haven’t been advised to avoid campus.” certainly got my attention – I had no idea duck farming was so hard core!

  6. The soccer video is a good one. Besides the play, I was really impressed by the superb quality of the video. We’ve come a long way from those old grainy sports videos.

  7. Beschloss is an ass. I am sick of decontextualized quotes. If the prior statement was a person saying “I’m innocent”, this sounds totally different. Slamming Trump for anything he does is a cheap way to seem virtuous. But to quote Ignazio Silone, the next time fascism comes, it will be called anti-fascism. The danger isn’t from an idiot.

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