Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 15, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Thursday: July 15, 2021: National Tapioca Pudding Day.  It’s also Gummi Worm Day (I hate all things gummi), I Love Horses Day, Orange Chicken Day, National Give Something Away Day, and National Respect Canada Day.

Here are some questions that people who do not respect Canada posted on a tourism website. Don’t be like these people!

And in Kiribati it’s Elderly Men Day, a public holiday.

Wine of the Day: I found the bottle below languishing in my collection; it’s mostly a mixture of Grenache and Syrah, which promises some stuffing. Robert Parker scored it with a high 93, but said (probably in 2014), that it should be drunk in the next 4-6 years. I thus worried it could be over the hill. It’s also said to be a terrific value; the site gives a price at $15 but I’m sure I paid a fair amount less when I bought it.

After a rough day, all I wanted was a crispy baguette, some tasty cheese, some fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, and a good bottle of red. I have the first three, and will essay the wine in about two hours.

It’s essayed and it’s terrific: juicy, fruity, and ripe. Age has tamed this puppy, and I’m guessing that it’s at its peak, with the tannin and “heat” tamed, and the fruit predominating: cherries and raspberries. If you can find this at around $10 bottle (not the 2013s, of course), look it up and, if it’s recommended, buy it. Côtes du Roussillon wines can be great values, for the mixture of Grenache and Syrah are found in southern Rhone wines, some of my favorites.

For the cheese, I looked up cheese ratings at Trader Joe’s (we have one now in Hyde Park) and saw that the #1 rated cheese on this site (and several others) was Old Amsterdam Premium Aged Gouda, so I bought a decent chunk. I had some the other day and it was fabulous, with a bit of gritty crunch like an aged Comté.  It’s about $12 per pound, so it ain’t cheap, but I can recommend it very highly. If you’re a cheese lover and have access to Trader Joe’s, try it (photo below):

Encomiums from the site: Add this Old Amsterdam Gouda to the list of “Things I Didn’t See Coming in 2021.” It’s been around for a bit but I finally gave it the time of day and, oh my God. This is the best cheese I’ve had in so long and it has secured the title of My All-Time Favorite Trader Joe’s Cheese. It’s a gouda cheese that is smooth with crunchy crystals, full of flavor, and an exquisite mix of savory and sweet. I seriously don’t know how I lived without this stuff.

Agreed on the cheese!

News of the Day:

I’ve written fairly often about (and posted tweets from) Iranian activist and journalist Masih Alinejad, and The New York Times reveals that Iran was hatching a plot to have her kidnapped after being lured to a third country. (Shades of Jamal Khashoggi!). Four Iranians (all in Iran) have been indicted, so there’s no chance of catching them, but one, charged with supporting the plot by collecting money for the scheme (but, oddly, not for not participating in the conspiracy), has been arrested in California.

An excerpt:

According to the indictment, in 2018, the Iranian government tried to pay relatives of Ms. Alinejad who live in Iran to invite her to travel to a third country, apparently for the purpose of having her arrested or detained and taken to Iran to be imprisoned. Her relatives did not accept the offer, the indictment said.

The Iranian government began plotting to abduct her from the United States as early as June of last year, the indictment said, with the goal of silencing her criticism of Iran’s human rights abuses, discrimination against women and use of arbitrary imprisonment and torture to target political opponents.

I am a huge admirer of this brave woman, who left Iran and has campaigned tirelessly and publicly for women’s rights and freedom in her natal country. She now works for the Voice of America Persian, and is a vocal opponent of Biden’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, a bad business that I too oppose. You should support Masih’s work for women’s rights however you can.

(From the NYT). Masih. Photo by Cole Wilson for The New York Times

(h/t Debbie)

What do you do when you might have a gene for a fatal disease, like Huntington’s Disease, that doesn’t produce symptoms until later in your life, but you can get your DNA tested for it to see if you were going to be afflicted? If it’s a dominant gene, like that for Huntington’s, if one parent has it you have half a chance of getting it.  The New York Times discusses one woman facing this dilemma with that disease: Katharine Moser. Sadly, her tests showed that she carried the dominant gene, and although she shows no symptoms at 40, the long, slow, and horrible downhill progress of this disease is likely to start within a decade.

I often wonder if I’d get tested for the gene if I had parents with a dominant gene for a horrible disease. Moser, however, has coped pretty well, now living for the moment, abandoning her plans to have children (you can now get embryos tested for the gene before implantation, though), and retaining her sense of humor. Would you get tested if you had a parent with Huntington’s?

The Guardian has an article on the contentious topic of toilet roll orientation. Over or under? The most vociferous proponent of the aberrant “under” orientation is reader Diana MacPherson, but that’s a minority view. To quote the Guardian  (h/t Matthew):

There’s a decent chance you have strong feelings about toilet paper too. It’s a surprisingly fraught issue: there’s even a dedicated Wikipedia entry on “toilet paper orientation” that is more than 2,000 words long and contains 66 footnotes. When the writer of the popular “Ann Landers” advice column was asked her opinion on the subject in 1986, she replied “under” – an assertion so controversial that it generated a record-breaking 15,000 letters in response, along with several follow-up columns. “Would you believe I got more letters on the toilet paper issue than on the Persian Gulf war?” Landers (a pen name) complained in a 1992 column.

Landers’ opinion on the subject, to be clear, is very much the minority view. Surveys demonstrate that most people are very much Team Over – including Oprah Winfrey.

The common “over” orientation:

I’m a fan of that, too, though Diana will chew me out. But most important, cats LOVE the “over” orientation because they can unroll an entire roll of t.p. with their paws, which they can’t do in the “under” configuration.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 607,365, an increase of 284 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,075,592, an increase of about 8,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 15 includes

Here’s the famous “Battle on the Ice” scene (this battle was in 1242) from the movie Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Eisenstein (musical score by Sergei Prokofiev):

  • 1741 – Aleksei Chirikov sights land in Southeast Alaska. He sends men ashore in a longboat, making them the first Europeans to visit Alaska.
  • 1799 – The Rosetta Stone is found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard during Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign.
  • 1815 – Napoleonic WarsNapoleon Bonaparte surrenders aboard HMS Bellerophon.

Napoleon was soon sent into exile on St. Helena, where he died in 1821.

Here’s Emerson in 1857, he is a huge hero for reader Laurie:

  • 1910 – In his book Clinical Psychiatry, Emil Kraepelin gives a name to Alzheimer’s disease, naming it after his colleague Alois Alzheimer.
  • 2002 – “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh pleads guilty to supplying aid to the enemy and possession of explosives during the commission of a felony.

Lindh was released from prison in 2019.

  • 2006 – Twitter, later one of the largest social media platforms in the world, is launched.

The company, Ceiling Cat help us, was co-founded by Jack Dorsey, and here’s his original vision, with the caption from Wikipedia:

A sketch, c. 2006, by Jack Dorsey, envisioning an SMS-based social network.


Notables born on this day include:

Here’s the beautiful Queen’s House in Greenwich, built between 1616 and 1635, said to be the first consciously designed classical building in England. It is a beaut:

Here’s the only Rembrandt rendering of a cat I could find: “Holy family with a cat“, an engraving from 1654. I’ve circled the cat:


  • 1919 – Iris Murdoch, Anglo-Irish British novelist and philosopher (d. 1999)
  • 1922 – Leon M. Lederman, American physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
  • 1926 – Raymond Gosling, English physicist and academic (d. 2015)

Gosling (below) worked with Rosalind Franklin to produce the critical crystallographic-structure data on DNA:

  • 1928 – Carl Woese, American microbiologist and biophysicist (d. 2012)
  • 1930 – Jacques Derrida, Algerian-French philosopher and academic (d. 2004)
One of the men who ruined academia
  • 1943 – Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Northern Irish astrophysicist, astronomer, and academic
  • 1946 – Linda Ronstadt, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
  • 1950 – Arianna Huffington, Greek-American journalist and publisher

Those who ceased to be on July 15 include:

Tom Thumb, whose real name was Charles Stratton, was a “little person” (WIkipedia says “dwarf,” but I think that’s out of fashion), who married another little person, Lavinia Warren, in a gala wedding that made the front pages in 1863.  Stratton died young of a stroke. Here’s the wedding photo with Wikipedia’s caption:

From Wikipedia: The Fairy Wedding group: Stratton and his bride Lavinia Warren, alongside her sister Minnie and George Washington Morrison Nutt (“Commodore Nutt”); entertainers associated with P.T. Barnum.

Chekhov, one of my favorite writers and perhaps the most gifted short story writer in history, died at only 44 of tuberculosis. Here’s his wife’s account of his final moments written by his wife Olga:

Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (“I’m dying”). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: “It’s a long time since I drank champagne.” He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child …

Here he is with another favorite Russian writer whom you will recognize. The photo was taken at Yalta in 1900.

  • 1940 – Robert Wadlow, American giant, 8″11′ 271 cm (b.1918)

Wadlow, standing 8 feet 11.1 inches high (2.72 m) and weighing 439 pounds at his death at 22 years old, was the tallest person in recorded history. He suffered from hypertrophy of the pituitary gland and apparently was still growing when he died. He wore size 37AA shoes.

Here he is pictured next to his “averaged sized” father.

  • 1948 – John J. Pershing, American general (b. 1860)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I am lacking a Hili dialogue today and can’t get through to Malgorzata or Andrzej; I have heard through one of their friends that there are once again severe storms in Poland that have knocked out the power in the area, though Andrzej and Malgorzata, their house, and their cherry orchard are okay.  There may not be Hili dialogues for a few days!

Kulka had an anniversary!

Caption: Kulka celebrates the first anniversary of finding Paulina.

In Polish: Kulka obchodzi dziś pierwszą rocznicę znalezienia Pauliny.

From Facebook (h/t: Lenora)

Also from Facebook:

From the Not Another Science Cat page:

Speaking of Iran repressing women, here’s a tweet from reader Barry. The video apparently was taken during the raid. What kind of country makes it illegal for women to let their hair fly free?

Also from Barry. Can anybody identify this?

A tweet from reader Ken, who adds, “Newsmax host Rob Schmitt has some thoughts on vaccines. They are not very good thoughts (and, indeed, sound a lot like eugenics)”:

Tweets from Matthew. The first two are from the same site, but very different. First, a very savvy bird.

I found this video mesmerizing. At first I didn’t think the guys knew what they ere doing, but it turns out the machine operator is very clever! Be sure you watch the whole thing.

Everybody is called a “hero” these days, but here is the true story of a true hero.  You can read about his exploits here.

53 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

    1. The Canada Q&A is a running gag on the web. There are versions for all kinds of countries. I read an Australia Q&A a few years ago, which also included the hippo race. Another question was whether you could listen to the Vienna Boys’ Choir in Australia. (Remember Australien ≠ Austria) 🙂

    1. Chekhov got an INJECTION of camphor? Not surprised he promptly slept the big sleep.

      P.S. Autocorrect keeps changing “Chekhov” to “checkout.”

  1. The “scorpion family member” is, apparently, a replica movie prop (stage 1 xenomorph, aka Facehugger) from Alien that has been doing the fake news rounds.
    Sorry, a real thing might have been more interesting

      1. I sent a video clip of that creature’s reappearance to my Boss, when he was in hospital after his first heart attack. He liked it – it was the thought that counted.

  2. Huntington’s is the disease that killed yesterday’s birthday boy Woody Guthrie (as well as two of his eight children). Woody died at 55, although his health had been deteriorating for near to two decades before.

    1. Two children out of eight. So, it’s a sex-linked autosomal dominant?
      That is the sort of confirmation that the father-of-record is the genetic father which you don’t want.
      There was a guy at work who died of Huntington’s (I had to learn his magic sauce for some communications stuff before he died), and he was very worried what this meant for his children. First known case in his family. Life’s a bitch.

      1. It’s straight autosomal dominant. Interestingly, and perhaps counterintuitively since we think of genetic disorders as involving loss of function, it’s classically dominant. The population in Venezuela that has been so important to HD research includes people who are homozygous for the disease allele, and the course of their disease, including age at onset, is not notably more severe than for heterozygotes.

        1. Hmmm, interesting. Shades of the sickle-cell versus malaria story.
          I waded through that “Darwin’s Radio” by Greg Bear a while ago, and still think I missed something in it’s fictionalised genetics. I saw a lot of information-theory holes in the plot, but I suspect there were bits of the pseudo-genetics I was missing too. Not sure if it’s worth another read.
          I’m surprised it hasn’t come back on the shelves recently, since it is largely about the communal paralysis of governments and societies in the face of highly transmissible diseases.

          1. Shades of the sickle-cell versus malaria story.

            Don’t want to be a pest, but wished to point out that there is a more speculative cystic fibrosis versus cholera story. If you’re looking for selective pressure, there’s nothing like a lethal infectious disease.

            1. Have things like cholera, and “farmyard diseases” been pressurising the human “disease-ome” for long enough to have well established lineages? A couple of hundred generations is a bit short, unless the selective benefits are really large.

      2. First known case in his family.

        It is an interesting question what allows the disease allele to persist at relatively high prevalence (on the order of one in ten thousand persons). General biology textbooks suggest that, because the disease is typically late onset, the disease allele isn’t selected against, but that simply isn’t true. What seems to be the case is that the allele is maintained by high forward mutation frequency. It’s a repeat expansion that can arise from replication error. So your colleague may not only be the first known case in his family, but actually the first case.

        1. “a repeat expansion that can arise from replication error” … goes over the table edge for my genetics. I’ve got a vague idea what you mean, but – do you have a worked example?

    2. My mother-in-law had a photograph of her late husband on a park bench with Marjorie Guthrie. Back then, what is today the Huntington’s Disease Society of America was known as the Committee to Combat Huntington’s Disease. Great New York lefty organization name.

  3. Checkhov [sic], one of my favorite writers and perhaps the most gifted short story writer in history …

    Chekhov was a great short-story writer, no question about it, but I think his most enduring literary contributions are his plays — particularly Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, and Uncle Vanya.

    1. Indeed, although in The Cherry Orchard Chekhov broke his famous maxim:

      Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

    2. Is Chekhov the only writer to have achieved greatness as a short story writer and a playwright? Off the top of my head I can’t think of any short story masters who achieved equal acclaim as dramatists.

      1. Not sure – maybe Truman Capote or Samuel Beckett could qualify? Perhaps even Brendan Behan? I guess it’s down to how you judge these things…

  4. Is anyone else bothered by the fact that “fraught” has begun to be used alone on almost all occasions, such as in the excerpt from the toilet paper article, instead of as the beginning of a phrase such as “fraught with danger”? I suspect I’m the only one.

    1. It’s just a fashion in speech ; comes and goes. When I started caving, you knew that if a boulder choke or a low airspace crawl was described as “a bit fraught”, you were guaranteed all the walls, floor and ceiling to be mobile as you tried to get through, or you were going to get blisters on one side of your nose tip from it rubbing against the roof as you were really careful to not make waves for 30m of crawling on your back.
      But that’s spekken Yorkshire, not English. So I’m not sure it counts. The sort of people who would say “I left my leg down that ‘ole” without mentioning (because you were meant to know) that they went into the ‘ole with one tin leg, and kept a good leg in the back of the van.
      Vale, Chester, you were a full pint’s worth. Even if you would sometimes put your foot in the bar’s fire to freak out the tourists.

    2. No, you’re not alone. That’s one of my favorite pet language peeves these days, and I hate it when people pet my peeves.

    3. “…. toilet roll orientation.”

      We all can picture the St. Bernard in the Swiss alps with the brandy keg hanging around its neck.

      Well, off topic really, but The Far Side has a very good 2-panel cartoon (not to be reproduced!), the first being a stranded person in an outdoor privy shouting his distress—” wouldn’t you know it!! helllllp!!!!!”; the second, off on the nearby hill, a St. Bernard with you know what hanging (inward not outward) around its neck.

      Two pictures are worth two thousand words.

  5. I’m married to someone at risk for Huntington Disease. Thank you for bringing attention to the challenges faced by that community.

  6. It’s something from the scorpion family although not that deadly.

    Can any of the resident “arthropodologists” (arthropodiatrists?) straighten out the calumny against the “scorpion family”? As in, what proportion of the family’s members produce enough sufficiently-potent venoms to make a non-infant human unwell, or worse.
    My first guess would be, not very many.
    Which said, I learned to turn my boots upside down by my bunk and knock them out before kitting up, when I was working in the tropics. I don’t particularly want to have to put up with several days of leaden-footed hobbling and I certainly don’t want to kill some poor unsuspecting arthropod trying to earn an honest husk (of some other arthropod).
    It’s the bleary-eyed wake at god-awful o’clock when the night shift come round to knock you up that you need to think before booting-up.
    Am I opening a can of arthropods? Are the “scorpions” anything like a monophyletic group?

  7. Newsmax host Rob Schmitt has some thoughts on vaccines. They are not very good thoughts (and, indeed, sound a lot like eugenics)”:

    Eugenics implies having some target in mind for directing evolution towards – the “eu-” meaning “good” (by whatever criteria are being used) for the “-genics” being promoted.

    and some diseases are “supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people

    That’s just plain vanilla “cull the weak”, with weak defined as “immune systems which haven’t met this type of ACE-2-binding ‘spike’ protein before”. How that maps to “good” (votes like your parents did) versus “bad” (everyone else) isn’t at all clear.
    This is just straight evolution by culling, not eugenics. Though I’ll grant that the meaning of “eugenics” is being considerably diluted over the last few years to mean just “evolution”. Which is pointless, because we already have the word “evolution” to mean “evolution”.
    I’m almost completely uninterested in who or what Rob Schmitt and NewsMax are. I infer some ultra-extreme right-wing news advertisement organisation with occasional contact with reality. Or by American standards, middle-of-the-road politically.

  8. Would you get tested if you had a parent with Huntington’s? – Genetic testing showed that my father must have had the CHEK2 genetic anomaly which is not a fatal disease, but does predispose females to breast cancer and slightly increases the risk of several other cancers. I advised all descendants to get tested to figure out if extra screening was warranted. Surprisingly, several relatives did not want to bother and one was afraid to know. I definitely wanted to know. I tested positive, and have colonoscopy every 5 rather than 10 years.

  9. At first I didn’t think the guys knew what they ere doing, but it turns out the machine operator is very clever! Be sure you watch the whole thing.

    Very canny. It’s also clear that the banksman has done this more than a few times.
    I was wondering how they’d avoid the engine overhang catching the edge of the lorry, but they’d thought that one out beforehand. I suspect it’s a by product of the overall geometry – you’ll note that the engine overhang doesn’t extend beyond the corners of the caterpillar tracks. Some very canny engineering goes into those machines – but I bet the designers hadn’t intended them to be used like this.

    1. This is absolutely how they are loaded/unloaded. Usually here they are on specially designed trailers so they’re lower to the ground, but they use the same techniques.

  10. but here is the true story of a true hero

    Rings a bell – the guy became famous for some sort of sporting activity, IIRC.

    I remember the story from one or three Olympics ago. Speaking of which, I see the hecatomb in Japan is starting to warm up.

  11. I couldn’t find a comment section for Jerry’s cheese choice. I have to say his wine wisdom is outstanding but no one who loves good cheese would ever buy cheese that is pre wrapped in plastic, which adversely affects the taste (to put it mildly). Always buy cheese cut fresh from the wheel, and NEVER buy it wrapped in plastic. After they cut it make sure they wrap it in paper.
    There are special paper cheese bags that you can use to store them at home. If you can afford it, order French cheeses directly from in France, which has a large selection of excellent raw milk cheeses. Their best ones are Pont L’Eveque, Maroilles, Comte and Raclette. Shipping costs are high but if you buy five or six, or order with a friend, the cost per individual cheese is reduced, and you get the best raw milk cheeses in good condition at a price that is probably no higher than you would pay in a gourmet cheese shop (such shops are rare since maintaining good cheeses is hard work). In NYC get our cheeses at Murray’s if possible, or alternatively Citarella….cut from the big wheel of course!

    1. When I visited NYC 10 years ago or so I visited Murray’s. What a terrific store- I felt like I was in Europe again.

    2. And another thing: the infuriating marketing nonsense. Old Amsterdam has nothing to do with Amsterdam, which is not a traditional ‘cheese-city’ anyway. They came up with the ‘brand’ in 1985. The name is a geographical contradiction in terms: Gouda cheese is associated with the city of Gouda (pronounced ‘gowda’ with a hard /ɣ/, not ‘gooda’, btw). Finally, Old Amsterdam is only 8 months old instead of one year, so technically it’s not even ‘old cheese’ according to professional standards. Now that I got that off my chest, if Prof CC(E) likes it, who am I to argue? De gustibus non etc.

  12. That machine operator was very clever getting the loader off the flat bed. Question is, how will he get it back on, and how did it get on there in the first place? Maybe the truck had a lift that broke while in transit, or maybe the machine operator was just showing off.

    I read about the Katharine Moser yesterday- a brave and inspirational woman. I don’t know if I’d want to get tested. I would probably stay uninformed with a disease like Huntington’s that has no cure; but if there was a chance, I wouldn’t have kids.

  13. “1930 – Jacques Derrida….”

    He is the last of the individuals given a page or more in A.C. Grayling’s recent history of philosophy. The final paragraph says it all:

    “Therefore despite—again despite—the refusal to acknowledge a theory that can stand still long enough for evaluation by the canons of a philosophical approach that Derrida is at pains to deconstruct, it is hard to see how to avoid the charge that if he is right, forty books about it would be thirty-nine (perhaps even forty) too many.”

    From a Brooklyn bookstore message board several decades ago:

    Dis is da’ creed a’
    Monsieur Jacques Derrida
    Dere ain’d no Wrida’,
    An’ dere ain’d no Reada’,

    Actually, I am given to understand that the emphasis is on the first syllable of his name,
    not the middle one as above—slightly spoils it—sorry.

    1. “Actually, I am given to understand that the emphasis is on the first syllable of his name [..] —slightly spoils it—sorry.” – Nah – I’m not going to let that spoil my enjoyment. Thanks, Peter!

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