Wednesday: Hili dialogue

August 11, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Wednesday, August 11, 2021: National Panini Day, which we shouldn’t celebrate as it’s a case of cultural appropriation. (The Italian singular is “panino”, anyway.)

It’s also National Raspberry Bombe Day, National Raspberry Tart Day, Annual Medical Checkup Day, World Calligraphy Day, and, in Japan it’s Mountain Day, a public holiday.  Here are some lovely examples of calligarphy; I don’t understand how people can do this freehand!

Wine of the Day: I love Riojas, and couldn’t resist treating myself to a 17-year-old specimen from Rioja Alta on T-bone Night. It’s dicey to count on it remaining good after so long (I can’t remember when I bought it or what I paid for it), but the reviews were encouraging (and positive), with James Suckling saying the wine “will go on for years”, and others putting a drink-by date of 2020 or 2020+.  Let’s see how it’ll go with a rare T-bone, fresh corn, and fresh tomatoes. . .

Verdict: a superb Rioja, not at all over the hill. Gutsy and with a nose of freshly shaved cedar and a hint of cherry (well, it’s the closest I can get), it went perfectly with the steak.  I urge readers to seek out Riojas, but  vet them for quality online or with a knowledgable wine-store person. Value-wise, they are some of the world’s greatest (relatively) inexpensive wines.

News of the Day:

Well, that didn’t take long: Andrew Cuomo resigned yesterday as governor of New York. And here, from Simon is a relevant tweet. I heard that he said something like this, but I still can’t believe it. It turns out that the first tweet is simply a translation of the second, but he did indeed say what’s in the second tweet (in yellow).

The trillion-$+ bipartisan infrastructure bill has finally passed the Senate, with 19 Republicans, including Mitch McConnell joining the 50 Democrats for a 69-30 vote (one Republican didn’t vote). Don’t expect easy sailing, though, for waiting in the wings is a larger bill, a $3.5 trillion budget package for things like health and education programs. Republicans are already calling it “socialist.”

Greg Weiner, political scientist and former aide to Sen. Bob Kerrey (ergo a Democrat) has an intriguing op-ed in the NYT, “This is no way to rule a country.” Of course that’s a clickbait title, but it’s worth a read. The point is that on extending evictions moratorium, neither Biden nor Congress wanted to do it themselves, so each tried to toss it to the other. (The extension may be unconstitutional). Weiner’s take:

The framers assumed that each branch of government would maintain the separation of powers by jealously guarding its authority from encroachments by the others. The evictions episode was less tug of war than hot potato: Congress wanted the president to use executive authority, and the president wanted the legislature to legislate.

. . . The acid test of separation of powers is whether members of Congress are willing to assert their authority against a president of their own party. Democrats failed that on evictions, just as Republicans did by handing off authority to Donald Trump. Given this bipartisan consensus for presidential authority, it may be time to acknowledge reality: The concept of the separation of powers — which depends on members of Congress unifying to protect legislative power — has collapsed in the United States. We have become a de facto parliamentary system in which competing parties battle for executive power. The problem is that we have acquired all the vices of such a system but none of its virtues.

Goodbye Afghanistan, hello Islamist theocracy. The country was always problematic, but now it’s doomed.

From Ken, who sent a Guardian report that anti-vax protestors tried to storm what they thought was a BBC building, only to discover the the Beeb had vacated that site a decade ago.  (They hold the BBC News responsible for promoting vaccinations.)

Rejoice, all you lovers of Mountain Dew, that caffeine-laden, super-sweet, viscidly green soft drink. Now there’s an alcoholic version! The alcoholic “drink” will be produced by both Pepsi and Boston Beer, the brewer of Sam Adams. “Hard Dew” will contain 5% alcohol. Look for it early in 2022. I won’t be trying it.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 618,363, an increase of 608 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,328,344, an increase of about 10,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on August 11 includes:

It begins on the supposed date of creation; as Wikipedia notes, “Using a modified vigesimal tally, the Long Count calendar identifies a day by counting the number of days passed since a mythical creation date that corresponds to August 11, 3114 BCE in the Proleptic Gregorian calendar.”  That myth specifies that after a few botched creation attempts to make humans from mud and wood, to Mayan gods finally succeeded by using maize.  Here’s the date on stone; caption from Wikipedia:

East side of stela C, Quirigua with the mythical creation date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku – August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.
  • 1315 – The Great Famine of Europe becomes so dire that even the king of England has difficulties buying bread for himself and his entourage.

Here’s an illustration from a Bible made at the time of the Great Famine. The caption, from “Wikipedia” is: “From the Apocalypse in a Biblia Pauperum illuminated at Erfurt around the time of the Great Famine. Death sits astride a manticore whose long tail ends in a ball of flame (Hell). Famine points to her hungry mouth.”

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s The Great Agnostic himself, by all accounts a great guy and a mesmerizing speaker (not to mention a great writer). He was the Hitchens of his day, but not as ascerbic in person (see below).

  • 1926 – Aaron Klug, Lithuanian-English chemist and biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
  • 1933 – Jerry Falwell, American minister and television host (d. 2007)

Speaking of Hitchens, here’s his reaction (opposed to that of Ralph Reed) on the Hannity and Colmes show on May 16, 2007. I don’t speak ill of the dead until some time has passed, but I can’t help relish Hitchens’s pugnacious words in this “discussion”.

  • 1967 – Joe Rogan, American actor, comedian, and television host

Those who “passed” on August 11 include:

  • 1890 – John Henry Newman, English cardinal and theologian (b. 1801)
  • 1919 – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist, founded the Carnegie Steel Company and Carnegie Hall (b. 1835)[15]
  • 1937 – Edith Wharton, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1862)
  • 1956 – Jackson Pollock, American painter (b. 1912)

A nice Pollock; the one abstract artist I’d put in my top ten:

Pollock, Jackson (1912_1956) © Museum of Modern Art, New York Painting 173×264,2 Abstract Art Number 1A, 1948
  • 2020 – Trini Lopez, Mexican American singer and guitarist (b. 1937) 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn:

Hili: The bowls are empty, but at least there is water.
A: Water is important.
Hili: Stop philosophizing and fill the bowls.
In Polish:
Hili: Miski puste, dobrze, że jest przynajmniej woda.
Ja: Woda jest ważna.
Hili: Nie filozofuj, napełnij miski.
And here’s little Kulka having a nap:


From Peter, an optical illusion from a 1911 issue of Strand magazine. Measure for yourself:

Matthew sent a New Yorker cartoon (creator: Asher Perlman) from the August 16 issue.  You’ll have to know that it’s a capital crime in Chicago to put ketchup on hot dogs:

And a lovely lynx blep from Fat Cat Art:

I have no idea what this means; perhaps readers can suggest reasons for the disparity:

Two tweets from Ginger K.  First, a lovely thunderstorm:

Owls rest during the day, so there’s likely to be selection for crypsis (camouflage). At any rate, here’s a cryptic owl:

Tweets from Matthew. Translation of the first one: “Youkai ear licks:. Sound up!

The first tweet is your Fact O’ the Day (be sure to read the linked article), the second shows a fabulously expensive watch:

The tweet of interest here is the second one showing an Australian bird as a baby, with mouth marking to help mom insert the food properly, and then the same species as an adult:

And a whole thread of a whip scorpion (a beloved one, apparently) molting, with lots of pictures and vids. I’ll show a few: Whip scorpiions constitute an order of arachnids, and are also called “vinegaroons”, as they can discharge a noxious liquid that smells like vinegar.

Arachnid molting is mesmerizing. I used to have about a half-dozen tarantulas and would be entranced by this amazing process. What evolution can do is amazing. A whole new animal forms inside the old one!

58 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. You tell them Hili…fill the bowls.

    Afghanistan is nothing more than a rerun of Vietnam. The U.S. learns nothing.

    Weiner says the eviction may have been unconstitutional. Maybe we should call the police? If eviction is a constitutional issue what might insurrection be? We live in a banana republic now and hardly know what a democracy would be.

    1. Afghanistan is nothing more than a rerun of Vietnam

      In what sense apart from the very general one in which the USA sends troops and then removes them only because of a lack of political will?

      In pretty much every other sense they are very different. For example, the Taliban are very much worse for the general population than the North Vietnamese government turned out to be. The reasons for going in to Afghanistan were (IMO) more logical and less ideological.

      1. The U.S. went into both conflicts blind and stupid. In either case they had no idea what winning looked like. They had no strategy to get there. The people they were attempting to save or turn the country over to were hopeless against the enemy. In both cases they left themselves no way to actually get to the enemy. In Vietnam they came from the north and that was the source. Yet we could not go there. In Afghanistan they came from Pakistan, again, a safe haven for the enemy. You cannot conduct any kind of successful war in this matter. They were carbon copies of each other with no way to go but out. The defeat was total. The enemy removed our will to fight. That is what winning looks like.

        1. I think what you say is true of Vietnam, but I think the reasons for failure in Afghanistan are different. They originally went in to turf out Al Qaida. If they had stuck to that mission and if strategic missteps elsewhere (Iraq) had not occurred, I think they would have been successful.

          I think Afghanistan is closer to Iraq as an example. In both cases, the military battle was won and the victors didn’t know what to do after that. In Vietnam, the military battle was never won, although it could have been, but, again, I don’t think the USA would have known what to do next.

          1. The individual battle in Vietnam was almost always won – but it was meaningless. You take this piece of ground and then leave and give it back. Over and over again they did this in Vietnam. They did the same in Afghanistan. Move in with ground troops and lots of air power and blow the hell out them. Then move on and do it again. Meaningless. Both places were more or less civil wars which we inserted ourselves into. That is something you should never do. Picking sides in a civil war is a no no. Both places we spent tons of money and time training the guys we assumed were on our side to fight the enemy. This was a complete failure. Look how quickly both countries went down after we left. They were mirror images of American failure.

      2. If we had helped the Soviet backed government against the Taliban, instead of the other way around, I can’t help but think that the women of Afghanistan would be much better off today. But we had to stick it to the atheist commies; what was best for the people of the country was immaterial.

    2. Your statement on evictions is unclear. Do you mean the eviction moratorium is not unconstitutional, is unconstitutional, or … ?

      Seems to me that preventing someone from making production use of their property by preventing them from obtaining a paying renter is a legal sanction (a monetary penalty, a taking or property by the state) against that property owner. The constitutionality of that taking is open to debate.

      Is there any plan to compensate property owners for their losses? What if they go bankrupt or their creditor(s) repossess? Whose ox gets gored? Is it fair to place the cost entirely upon rental property owners?

      (I may well have missed some of this in the news; please enlighten me. I’ve been on vacation and disconnected for three weeks; and I don’t listen to much news anyway.)

      How will society expect property owners to provide affordable housing (and really good housing: “equitable” with everyone else, since that seems to be the goal) if: They lose money due to actions such as this moratorium (or, as in some places now, can’t use the credit rating of potential renters as a criterion, or check their crime conviction status), and they could easily put the property to more productive (remunerative) uses?

      I’m not against the moratorium in principle; but these questions should be openly debated and decided upon. (Someone who isn’t willing to openly discuss these issues, seems to me, is being dishonest.)

      1. I was making light of the eviction problem. As we have heard by others at this web site, this is probably unconstitutional. Stopping landlords from throwing millions into the streets is against their constitutional rights. Maybe so. But considering what has gone on in this country since Trump came into view, kind of a minor point don’t you think. But really, let’s just solve the eviction business and everything will be fine. It was my understanding that the money going to the states to prevent evictions was so the people could pay their past due rents. That would be going to the landlord, right? And a part of the funds was also to go directly to the landlords.

        In case no one is paying attention, we have this pandemic. That is what causes these massive problems of unemployment and inability to pay mortgages and rent. If you. look back at our history, this is when governments are suppose to act.

        1. I agree that the right mode to address this is direct support to the people in need: The renters. And the property owners, assuming the direct aid to renters doesn’t cover the rents. (As I said, I don’t follow the news very closely.)

          This spreads the cost over all of society (that deems this the right move), which seems fair.

          I agree that the Federal government should act in the case of the pandemic (much as they did in 2008 and onward). This is exactly the right case for such action.

          I am in the bullseye for additional Federal taxation to pay for such actions; and I support such actions (done intelligently and transparently).

      2. It was never intended to make landlords bear the financial burden of the evictions moratorium and the impact on landlords was not overlooked. A problem, though, is that funds that are intended to go to renters to pay landlords and funds intended to go directly to landlords, are lagging behind the moratorium which went into effect rapidly. And of course the RP is following their long established SOP, obstruct getting funding authorized while complaining that landlords are being unfairly stuck bearing the financial costs.

        I’m not saying this isn’t a burden to landlords. Even when it all eventually works out for them it still will have been a burden, and there will inevitably be some fraction of landlords affected by this that get screwed to one degree or another. That by itself doesn’t mean the evictions moratorium isn’t an appropriate tactic to ameliorate the problem of people whose income has been compromised due to the pandemic from becoming homeless.

        I’m not clear on the Constitutional issue. From what I understand legal experts are saying that it is Unconstitutional for the president to order the moratorium, but that it would not be for Congress to pass legislation to enact it.

        1. Governments and often institutions are great at plans and directives. But when it comes to execution they can really suck. Coming up with a plan or idea is the easy part. Execution never is. I learned this all the years I was in business. That is why sitting at home in front of the computer is easy. Anyone can do that. Sitting in a classroom is also not so hard. Execution is hard.

          1. Definitely. It’s hard enough in the general case, but especially so when there are competing interests.

          2. In addition to the normal difficulties with implementation, the government suffers from a lack of personnel because of the hollowing out of government agencies that began in the 80’s and accelerated under the orange con man.

  2. As a member of the UK Labour Party, I can only assume that the reason that Labour MPs are so bad at the probability question is that it has been so long since the party has had two competent heads in a row, that we’ve forgotten how it works…

    1. The correct answer to that question is of course “It depends on how many coins you are tossing”.

      With two coins it’s 1/4, with 3 coins it’s 3/8 etc etc.

      I never thought I would be nostalgic for Neil Kinnock…..

        1. Yes and therein lies, I think, the source of at least some of the incorrect answers. Some may have misunderstood the question to mean; what is the likelihood the second toss will be heads? It will 50%, as are all tosses of a fair coin, no matter how many times it is tossed.

          Often people get asked these kinds of questions in a way that doesn’t make the person being asked really think about the question. So they give little thought and answer the question they thought they were asked. It’s fun to poke fun at people with the results.

    2. I think there is a joke in there, 23 percent of one party answered correctly, close to the actual probability of the two coin tosses. While the other party was 50/50, the chance of each individual toss

  3. The anti-vaxxers who turned up outside the old BBC Television Centre to protest – having failed to notice that the Beeb moved out in 2013 – included Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

    1. In fairness, I wouldn’t accuse any of the protest’s ‘headliners’ of being idiots. They probably just got asked to show up at spot X at time T so they did. It’s the organizers who were idiots.

        1. And I should have remembered this. I collaborated on a program of Pete Seeger songs several years ago, and this song was on the program. Ah, the senior moments! They be coming more and more frequently…(or else I can blame my faulty recall on lack of morning caffeine when I posted the original comment.)😴

  4. The optical illusion illustration in The Strand (1911) is not identical to the illustration of the same optical illusion in the book 101 Puzzles by Yakov Perelman (2nd ed. 1919), but it is so close as to not be a mistake.

    It is not clear (to me) when the first edition of 101 Puzzles was published. I note that the book 101 Puzzles was originally published in the Soviet Union, prior to 1919 (if the existing information is accurate).

  5. “. . . The acid test of separation of powers is whether members of Congress are willing to assert their authority against a president of their own party. Democrats failed that on evictions, just as Republicans did by handing off authority to Donald Trump.”

    Maybe I’m just being dense, it happens, but this doesn’t make sense to me at all. How is Biden expecting Congress to act and Congress expecting Biden to act, on an issue they are in agreement on, an example of Congress not willing to assert their authority against a president of their own party? This is the sort of muddled writing that puts me off even when the writer is more generally correct. In this case this could indeed be an example of the imbalance of power between branches being so ingrained that Congress expects the president to do something that is properly their job, but it isn’t an example of Congress failing to exert their proper authority against a president of their own party.

    The writer is correct, though, that the Executive branch has been stealing power from both the other branches for decades, contrary to what the designers of our government intended. The Bush Jr. administration took the gloves off in this respect and got downright belligerent about it. Obama failed to walk any of it back. I’d say that Trump simply ignored all rules, regulations and precedents, but that would be giving him too much credit. In truth he didn’t have a clue how government worked and could not care less. He simply ran the government in the only way he cares to know, like a crime boss. If this evictions issue is an example of how unbalanced the current DP Congress and President are, then halle-f!@$ing-luiah. I’ll take this over what the RP has given us over the past several decades, every day of the week.

  6. Considering the amount of caffeine in a typical can of Dew, I suggest the following slogan for the hard version: “Soused and Buzzed!”

  7. Here are some lovely examples of calligarphy; I don’t understand how people can do this freehand!

    Heck, it seems most kids today can’t even write in cursive. It’s becoming a lost art — kept alive by the equivalent of monks in medieval monasteries assiduously copying ancient texts.

    1. When I was in grade school I won awards for my handwriting (cursive), but by high school it had gotten a bit sloppy. In college, between all the forms you are constantly filling out as a proto-adult, which had to be printed, no cursive, and most written assignments needing to be typed, my handwriting went straight to hell. It’s pretty much stayed there too. I’m a veritable artist on a keyboard though.

    2. But they. don’t really need to develop skills in writing by hand, since as the progress through the grades they soon move up into doing all assignments in a computer. Handwriting won’t become an extinct skill, like knowing how to use a slide rule or use a stick shift.

    3. And “they” stopped teaching children cursive so the kids can’t read the Constitution and Bill of Rights anymore! Just kidding, but there is a conspiracy theory going around stating just that.

      So if kids don’t learn cursive, do they just print their names where a signature is called for? I haven’t looked it up for a while, but some American school boards have done away with teaching cursive, and some haven’t. I don’t know what the breakdown is. I do know a couple countries stopped teaching it in lieu of teaching typing. But I still don’t know about the “signature problem”…a signature is bio-metrics, which is a simple and damn good way to stop many forms of fraud.

      1. One of the most important classes I took in high school way back when was a semester of typing. It saved me many times since.

        1. Agree, typing is an invaluable skill. It’s easier than learning a musical instrument or a foreign language but (sorry, folks) a lot more useful. That depends on your vocation, of course, but for most instances it stands.

      2. Signature – no problem. You just need to print an “X” and have two witnesses. Oops; didn’t consider what to do when we run out of witnesses who can sign their name.

      3. Worse some petitions, sites, and even one legal contract was happy to supply me with one of several electronic “signatures,” none of which were even in remotely acceptable font.

      1. I’ll have to try that at my local place where I just got a Chicago Dog with The Works minutes before writing this. Although it still has all the obligatory Chicago memorabilia on its walls, it’s owned by Asians with Hispanic cooks. I doubt any of them are familiar with “run it through the garden” but who knows? They do make a good Chicago dog, probably because they were trained by the original owners who I think were Chicagoans.

    1. Ah, but what sort of mustard do you put on them? Some of us consider American ‘mustard’ to be a crime in itself.

      1. When you order it as I did, they put on the default mustard, which is French’s yellow or equivalent. I generally prefer more interesting mustards but perhaps they would mess with the finely tuned flavor profile of the Chicago Dog.

  8. Why do clocks run clockwise? Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I am much aware that looking in the the general direction of the sun, i.e. to the North, the sun rises on the right (East) and cuts high across the sky before it descends westward on my left. I don’t think there is any reason to invoke the sun’s shadow on a sundial. It would have been obvious (but wrong) for Northern Hemisphere thinkers to conclude that the sun circled the earth from left to right in a clockwise motion and build clocks similarly. Hats off to the Bolivian nations, all four of them, for their tradition-breaking timepiece!

    1. I have my late father’s watch which runs backward. Of course, he was known as “Wrong Way” – just because he once made a small 5,600 mile navigation error.

  9. FWIW, maybe this appeared here earlier but I don’t remember it. The mortality table for 2020 shows COVID #3 behind heart disease and cancer, and it can be readily appreciated that the overall increase in total deaths in 2020 v. 2019 is more than the number of COVID deaths, so there goes the notion that all the COVID victims who died were all going to die anyway.

  10. The arthopod in the video isn’t a vinegaroon, it’s a tailless whip scorpion (order Amblypygi). Vinegaroons are order Thelyphonida (which are confusingly also called whip scorpions). They are stouter animals with shorter, more massive pedipalps.

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