Friday: Hili dialogue

August 6, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday, August 6, 2021: National Root Beer Float Day, a fountain drink that has largely disappeared. It’s also Braham Pie Day, named not after a pie but after a city in Minnesota:

Braham was named the “Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota” by Governor Rudy Perpich in 1990, and the first Braham Pie Day was held in July of that year. It was a pie and ice cream social that was funded by a Celebrate Minnesota tourism grant. In 1992, the date for the event was changed to the first Friday of August, where it has remained since. Why was Braham chosen as the pie capital? In the 1930s and 1940s, Braham started becoming known for their pie, when people driving from the Twin Cities to their lake homes near Duluth started stopping at Braham’s Park Cafe for pie and coffee.

Pity I’m not in Braham today.

Further, it’s International Beer Day, Farmworker Appreciation Day, National Gossip Day, National Fresh Breath Day. In Japan it’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, commemorating the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima this day in 1945 (see below).

News of the Day:

The NYT asked seven legal scholars and writers how they would change the Constitution. Answers (which have further explanation as well as a fully-written amendment for each answer) run from “International law shall be part of American law” to “the Supreme Court shall be expanded and its powers limited” to “The word ‘person’ shall apply to all human life—born or unborn.” Guess which was written by a Republican?

CNN reports that U.S. scientists have come across a “treasure trove” of genetic data from the Wuhan virus lab that may help us track down the origins of the Covid-19 virus. Sadly, the article doesn’t reveal how we got the genetic data or how they could tell us about the origins of the coronavirus (a good science reporter would at least do the latter). An excerpt:(h/t Paul)

Investigators both inside and outside the government have long sought genetic data from 22,000 virus samples that were being studied at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That data was removed from the internet by Chinese officials in September 2019, and China has since refused to turn over this and other raw data on early coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization and the US.

The question for investigators is whether the WIV or other labs in China possessed virus samples or other contextual information that could help them trace the coronavirus’ evolutionary history.

Investigators are now using supercomputers to analyze the data, which, says the article, may tell us which animal was the reservoir for the virus, and whether it escaped the Wuhan lab. The latter issue was declared decided in the “no” direction a while back, but science has a way of overcoming ideology. If six months ago you expressed the doubts in the paragraph below, you were labeled a conspiracy theorist:

For now, senior intelligence officials still say that they are genuinely split between the two prevailing theories on the pandemic’s origins, or some combination of both scenarios. CNN reported last month that senior Biden administration officials overseeing the 90-day review now believe the theory that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility that it emerged naturally in the wild — a dramatic shift from a year ago, when Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory

Diversity isn’t enough, at least when it comes to the famous Sports illustrated swimsuit issue. The models now include transgender women, women with alopecia, overweight women, and models wearing burkinis. But that doesn’t satisfy the author of the article below, for the models are often shown posing in “abnormal” (i.e., alluring) ways. Read the short and weigh in below (click on screenshot). I can understand using a broader array of women, but the bit about posing rubs me the wrong way; I’m not sure why, but perhaps because it denigrates sexual desire itself, something the woke left seems to be against.

Have a look at the Washington Post these days; it’s getting more and more like HuffPost.

Activists are fleeing Belarus like rats from a sinking ship. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian swimmer, cleverly used Google Translate on her phone to seek asylum in Poland before being forced to board a plane to return home. (She’d criticized her team’s managers, which I suspect is a capital offense in her godforsaken country.) The Poles granted her asylum, as they’ve done for other Belarusian activists.

If you want to fly Virgin Galactic into space, you’ll have to be rich to purchase that few minutes of weightlessnes—but now you’ll have to be even richer. Branson raised the price of the 15 minute flight from $250,000 to at least $450,000—nearly a doubling of price from the 2014 fee that obtained when ticket sales were frozen. (Branson originally envisioned flights beginning in 2008, but there were repeated delays.) Still, I suppose there are enough people with that kind of dosh that he’ll have no trouble selling seats.

And the best soccer player in the history of the universe, Lionel Messi, has announced that he’s finally leaving the Barcelona club, having spent his entire and illustrious career with the team (he first played in 2004). The problem is twofold: he’s not getting any younger, and what other team could afford him? Barca hasn’t done particularly well lately, but Messi scored 672 goals for the team: the most of any player in history with a single club. It’s hard to imagine Messi playing, for example, in the English Premier League.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 615,408, an increase of 439 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,481,716, an increase of about 10,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 6 includes:

I’m not sure what happened to the proof sheets, but here’s the first page of the original document, inscribed on parchment by Jacob Shallus (you can see it at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.). Like the Declaration of Independence, it’s faded badly with time. Both documents are now preserved in argon-filled cases at 40% relative humidity and 67°F (19.4°C). In case of nuclear attack, the documents are automatically lowered deep underground.

This was a botched execution; you can read the grim details at Kemmler’s Wikipedia page.

Here’s a silent newsreel film of her swim (accompanied by a band in a boat); there’s also a parade in NYC at the end:

  • 1942 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands becomes the first reigning queen to address a joint session of the United States Congress.
  • 1944 – The Warsaw Uprising occurs on August 1. It is brutally suppressed and all able-bodied men in Kraków are detained afterwards to prevent a similar uprising, the Kraków Uprising, that was planned but never carried out.

This massive effort by the Polish resistance failed. Here’s an armored car they put together to fight the Germans; the caption is from Wikipedia:

(from Wikipedia): Kubuś, an armoured car made by the Home Army during the Uprising. A single unit was built by the “Krybar” Regiment on the chassis of a Chevrolet 157 van.

Here’s a Today video of the bombing with interviews of some of the participants, victims, and commentators:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t really explicitly address the issue of racial discrimination in voting, but the Voting Rights act, urged on Congress by Lyndon Johnson, did. Its precursors, however, included those famous marches from Selma to Montgomery, including the “Bloody Sunday” march of March 7, 1965, when peaceful civil rights marchers were violently attacked and beaten by Alabama cops. The violence of that day helped galvanize Americans, and led to subsequent marches and then to the bill. Here’s a video about the Bloody Sunday march:

  • 1991 – Tim Berners-Lee releases files describing his idea for the World Wide Web. WWW debuts as a publicly available service on the Internet.
  • 1996 – The Ramones played their farewell concert at The Palace, Los Angeles, CA.
  • 2012 – NASA‘s Curiosity rover lands on the surface of Mars.

Did you know that, nine years later, the Curiosity (below) is still active on Mars? It was designed for only a two year mission, but today celebrates its ninth anniversary of sending back data:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, English poet (d. 1892)
  • 1881 – Alexander Fleming, Scottish biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1955)
  • 1902 – Dutch Schultz, American gangster (d. 1935)

Schultz was a Jewish mobster whose real name was Arthur Simon Flegenheimer; his mugshot is below. Like most of his profession, he died young from a sudden and unexpected infusion of lead:

  • 1911 – Lucille Ball, American actress, television producer and businesswoman (d. 1989)[16]
  • 1917 – Robert Mitchum, American actor (d. 1997)
  • 1928 – Andy Warhol, American painter, photographer and film director (d. 1987)
  • 1970 – M. Night Shyamalan, Indian-American director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1973 – Vera Farmiga, American actress

I love this scene from the absorbing movie “Up in the Air”, in which George Clooney and Farmiga start their affair by comparing the  mileage cards in their wallets:

Those who took up residence on their cloud on August 6 include:

  • 1637 – Ben Jonson, English poet and playwright (b. 1572)
  • 1660 – Diego Velázquez, Spanish painter and educator (b. 1599)

I always forget Velázquez when making lists of the world’s great painters, for he’s surely one of them. Here’s his famous and influential “Las Meninas”, which features a d*g but not a cat:

  • 1931 – Bix Beiderbecke, American cornet player, pianist, and composer (b. 1903)

Beiderbecke was, like his contemporary Louis Armstrong, important in creating the concept of the jazz solo. Sadly, he died of the constitutional affliction of jazzmen—alcoholism—at only 28. Here’s perhaps his most famous cornet solo, from “Singin’ the Blues“, recorded in 1927 with Frank Trumbauer and His Orchestra:

  • 1991 – Harry Reasoner, American journalist, co-created 60 Minutes (b. 1923)
  • 2012 – Marvin Hamlisch, American pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1944)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn:  Hili found some vegetables:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m eating a diet supplement.
In Polish:
Ja: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Zjadam suplement diety.

From Ali Rizvi:

From Facebook via reader Lenora; the best excuse yet!

From John (I may have posted this before):

A tweet from Titania, and as far as I know the data are true (see here for the poll). Why, then, do white people insist on using “Latinx” to refer to Hispanics? Aren’t you supposed to call members of groups what they prefer to be called?

Here’s a perfect 10 for a 14-year-old Chinese diver in the Olympics:


Tweets from Dr. Cobb, still on hols. First, Gene Hackman is still with us, but with a small clarification (and no, he’s not picking his toes in Poughkeepsie). (The tweet seems to have disappeared.)

Your etymology for the day:

An extremely duplicitous tweet:

How could your day not improve?

I can’t verify that this story is real, but there you go:

And some interest felid research:

34 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. If I were going to pay $450,000 to go into space, I’d want to go at least into orbit, not stick my toe in the water the way Branson and Bezos did. That’s like saying you’ve been to Paris because you connected through Charles de Gaulle.

    1. I think they’re just charging what the market will bear. Since the number of flights will initially be small and they have a lot of development costs to recover, this makes sense. Wait until you see what they charge for an orbital flight or one around the moon. These suborbital flights will seem like a bargain. Coming soon.

  2. “The word ‘person’ shall apply to all human life—born or unborn.”

    Were such a “personhood” amendment ever ratified, a women obtaining an abortion (as well as her doctor and anyone else assisting her) would have to be be punished as a murderer, of necessity under the Equal Protection Clause, the same as someone who commits filicide.

    This is the ultimate goal of anti-abortion activists.

  3. I think that the absurdity of the Swimsuit Issue is that it exists at all. It may have started innocently enough, but the idea that the only women who were appearing in the magazine were the occasional stories of Billie Jean King, or other tennis stars, were models in bikinis is what rubbed feminists the wrong way. It was just a bit of titillation for the guys, you know?

    Now with the focus on “inclusivity,” whatever that means, it’s even lost that point. A burkini? Those are great for oppressed women who want to be able to swim but remain “modest” according to religious rules. The religious rules are still sexist even if they try to circumvent them.

    What’s the point of this issue? It’s an institution, in a sense, but I stopped caring when I turned 18 and could buy Playboy in the 7-11.

    Sports Illustrated can be a good sports magazine, but they should just drop this thing. Men who want it will have Maxim to turn to for the Girl Next Door.

    1. If Sports Illustrated wants to be fully inclusive, it will include men in suggestive poses wearing tiny “swimsuits.” Short of that, the swimsuit issue is an archaic, sexist objectification of women, by its nature belittling.

  4. If six months ago you expressed the doubts in the paragraph below, you were labeled a conspiracy theorist …

    What got one labeled a conspiracy theorist — and what still merits labeling one a conspiracy theorist — is the unevidenced contention that the coronavirus was weaponized inside the Wuhan laboratory and then intentionally released into the Wuhan population with the intent that it be transmitted to the United States as an attack upon the homeland.

    This theory is still being bruited about by the likes of Kentucky US senator, and doctor of ophthalmology, Rand Paul.

    1. When I first heard about the outbreak in Wuhan my immediate thought was that this was most likely a naturally occurring virus which was being studied in the lab and escaped due to lax biosecurity.

      So far I’ve not seen anything that contradicts this initial guess.

      If it was deliberate it would be pretty daft to release it right next to a virology lab in your own country, unless it is all a cunning double bluff.

    2. The last I heard on this, and this is from maybe a month or so ago on TWiV, is that of viruses isolated on an expedition in search of a natural reservoir of SARS-CoV-2, one isolate had one gene (IIRC number 10, which is not the spike gene – I think that’s 7) that was 100% identical to SARS-SoV-2. Others were in the 95% identity range across the board except for spike, where % identities tanked.

      95% sounds really close, but given the number of substitutions that make up 5%, and that they’re spread across the genome, you’d have to posit a ridiculous level of engineering for the express purpose of covering the trail.

      I think it’s the spike from RaTG13 that’s still closest to SARS-CoV-2. That’s the virus that was isolated after people exploring a cave became very ill in 2013, and for which a short gene sequence existed when SARS-CoV-2 was sequenced. That segment from RaTG13 was the closest hit at the time and my understanding is that RaTG13 is still the closest overall match to SARS-CoV-2, unless something new exists in this undisclosed information. The overall (IIRC) 96.something% identity of the two is still low enough to require an extraordinary degree of randomly-directed mutagenesis for SARS-CoV-2 to have been created from RaTG13. The estimate is that SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 shared a common ancestor something like 50yrs ago.

      So for the lab-designed scenario to gain traction, what you’d want to see are two viruses, one with a genome 99.9+% identical to SARS-CoV-2 except for the spike protein, and another with 99.9+% identity to spike, and if there are any differences in spike vs. a natural isolate, you’d want differences with a rationale re. interaction with the our angiotensin-converting enzyme, ACE-2.

      Another thing to keep in mind, is that the Wuhan lab was not closed to non-Chinese investigators. And as to the argument that, “Isn’t it extraordinary that COVID-19 developed right where there was a virology lab,” the lab was built after the first SARS ca. 2003, since it was felt that this area was a hotbed for this sort of thing to occur. Also re. that, which I only learned from that TWiV episode: the CDC is located in Atlanta since at one time malaria was endemic down there.

    3. Yes, this is what I’ve been saying also. Anyone who claims something without evidence, and without admitting they are just guessing, deserves to be called a conspiracy theorist even if what they claim later turns out to be true.

  5. “Activists are fleeing Belarus like rats from a sinking ship” – indeed! A Polish official interviewed by the BBC a couple of days ago said that around 100,000 Belarusians have been accommodated since last year’s presidential election was (genuinely) stolen by Alexander Lukashenko.

    1. Lukashenko is a monster. Sadly, many of his people have no opportunity to leave and, as we have seen, even those that do escape are not entirely safe as Lukashenko has no compunction in taking his thuggery beyond his own borders.

  6. IANAL, or a legal scholar.

    But I would change the Constitution by getting rid of the Electoral College, and electing the President and Vice President by popular vote.

    I suspect I’m not alone in this opinion.


  7. I like the ‘What’s the magic word’ cartoon. And I liked it when you posted it yesterday too!

  8. Beiderbecke was, like his contemporary Louis Armstrong, important in creating the concept of the jazz solo.

    Bix and Pops played together just one time, afterhours at the Sunset Theater in Chicago. (White and black musicians were prohibited from appearing on stage together by then-extant segregation laws.) There was long rumored to be a recording of this session — a holy grail of sorts in the jazz world — but none have ever been discovered.

    Here’s Pops discussing it.

    1. If there can be a punchline from Bix’s alcoholism, here it is (this is in Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary):

      The trumpet player who stood next to Bix in Paul Whiteman’s band had to write a reminder to himself in his part just before Bix’s solo: the reminder was, “Wake up Bix.”

  9. Quan Hongchan (the Chinese diver) didn’t get a perfect score, she got TWO perfect scores out of five dives. Another of her dives got six 10s from the judges with the seventh judge giving her a 9.5 or something like that. Quite an astounding feat, she outscored the silver medalist by ~40 points in a sport where in most years the places come down to a point or two. I recommend folks watch her two best dives on the internet. A layperson like me can’t really tell the difference between a 9 or 10 dive, but based on the commentary from the experts, these are pretty much the most perfect dives you’re ever going to see.

    1. I doubt the experts can really tell the difference between a 9 and a 10 either but I guess someone has got to try. Perhaps these events will be judged by AI someday.

      1. Based on the live commentary I think they can. Like any other discipline, the folks who do it a lot are better at picking out details and nuance than laypeople. So whereas I would never notice (at least not in real time) if some diver’s toes were curled or not, or whether their knees are truly together or separated by a few inches, the diving commentators see it, talk about it, and understand what gets deductions and what doesn’t.

        1. Of course! Like all experts, they’ve learned what to say to make the crowd think they are experts. I’m just saying that if we could do a controlled experiment, I’m betting we’d find that there is a high degree of subjectivity in their decisions and they aren’t very consistent.

    2. I am wondering about the physics of this. She in particular is small and thin, and wouldn’t that alone reduce the splash upon entry? I give all accolades to her skill and form, but size also seems to be a factor.

      1. Yes but what a fiasco would result if the judges would factor that in. This should be an issue in many sports. Have you seen how tiny Simone Biles is? Have you seen how tall many of the basketball players are? 😉

      2. I have jokingly said that she is so small she would not make much of a splash if she did a belly flop. I dove on the high school swim team many years ago, and she is actually a fantastic athlete, although I think her small size is a great asset when she makes an entry into the water. Larger divers cannot help but to create a larger splash when they enter, but judges should take that into account and judge on how verticle the entry is. Little things can make a difference between getting a 10 or a 9.5 on seemingly identical dives, such as not having both feet completely together throughout the dive. It may be subtle, but judges are looking for those little things.

        1. And the splash size is probably proportional to the square of cross-sectional area entering the water, or something like that, so the advantage of the tiny is even better than it appears to normal eyes. Physicists, correct me please.

      3. Someone has done an analysis of body size of competitors in the 2012 Olympics here

        Divers (both sexes combined) had the lowest average weight of all the events listed and and only artistic gymnasts had a lower average height. Average BMI for divers was also one of the lowest with only endurance events such triathlon and road cycling having lower average BMI. The analysis was not very deep and the results may reflect either that small size is advantageous in diving or that large size is advantageous in some other sports but not in diving or a combination of both (most likely).

        Although putting boxers and wrestlers into different weight classes for competition seems natural and fair (and also necessary to avoid serious injury in the case of significant size mis-match) I don’t think it is desirable that in general the size and shape of athletes should somehow be factored in to the scoring. Of course achieving success in elite sport depends on commitment, training, diet, coaching, etc, but also on the the anatomical and physiological attributes that form your particular genetic inheritance. There is nothing wrong with that.

  10. “International law shall be part of American law”

    Article II section 2 is pretty light on the subject, but AFAIK judicial rulings have been pretty consistent in interpreting the treaty section as meaning that any treaties made by the President and approved by the Senate become “the law of the land” i.e. US law.

    1. I think this proposed amendment goes further. I can’t imagine how it would work though. Surely a real amendment would add words to the effect that US law supersedes international law when they conflict. And what law is considered international law? Do we have to sign a treaty first? If so, as you point out, what’s the purpose of the amendment. If we don’t have to sign a treaty, can any old NGO make up some “international” laws and we have to abide by them?

  11. “Las Meninas” is one of the most renown pictures ever painted. It very complex on many levels – not least of which is psychological and sociological. Many backstories lay within it. Much has been written about it. Picasso did a famous revisit that shows his respect for Velázquez. A curious thing about Velázquez is that, although he painted hundreds of portraits, many of them masterpieces, he spent the majority of his time as an organizer, planner, and did logistical service for Philip IV, whose image appears in the mirror standing with his wife on the back wall of Las Meninas.

  12. Along with Braham, Minnesota and Beulah, Michigan for great pies, add Pie Town, New Mexico. It is a tiny place a bit west of the Very Large Array radio telescope site. One famous pie place, called the Pie-O-Neer, closed a while back, but there is now a new owner. I had homemade blueberry pie for breakfast this morning. The last of my birthday pie.

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