Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 16, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Thursday, September 16. By the time you read this I’ll either be at the airport or in the air on my way to Boston. It’s National Peach Pie Day, and I hope you can have some. Posting will likely be lighter than usual for a week.

It’s also Mexican Independence Day(see below), which goes along with the fact that it’s Free Queso Day (but only at Moe’s Southwest Grill), and National Guacamole Day. Further, it’s National Cinnamon Raisin Bread Day, Mayflower Day (the day the ship left Plymouth in 1620), World Play-Doh Day (it was introduced on this day in 1955), Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (see below).

News of the Day:

It’s been 239 days since the Bidens moved into the White House and still, as far as I know, there is no First Cat. WHERE IS THE PROMISED CAT, JOE?

*The SpaceX launch, for which I gave a live feed last night, was a big success, with the booster successfully returning to Earth and all four astronauts happily in orbit for three days. It was, as they say, “nominal”.

*North Korea’s on a really aggressive path: on Wednesday it launched two ballistic missiles, after having launched two cruise missiles last week. According to the NYT, this violates “multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from conducting such tests.” Also, on the very same day, South Korea did its first ballistic missile launch from a submarine, joining the U.S., Russia, Britain, India, China, and France as countries capable of submarine launches. The U.S., of course, has nuclear-missile-launching subs around the Korean peninsula, but no nukes on the peninsula itself.

*Here’s a U.S. tentative response to China, who, the U.S. fears, might become yet more autocratic or even emboldened to take over Taiwan. In collaboration with the UK, the U.S. is helping Australia acquire nuclear submarines.

“The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have long been faithful and capable partners and we’re even closer today,” the President said. “Today, we’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalize cooperation among all three of our nations, because we all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.”

I guess Aussie nuclear subs are some kind of deterrent, but how much more deterrence will we need? If China attacks and takes over Taiwan, will they fire those nukes?

*Another sign of global warming. Mount Shasta in California (height 14,179 feet or 4322 m) invariably has snow on the summit in the summer. Not this year. The glaciers on the north side have lost 50% of their usual mass just since 2000, and here’s a series of photos showing the amount of snow on the mountain (green splotch) in July or August:

Here’s a tweet of the sadly denuded mountain:

*In his newest column in the NYT, John McWhorter neglects race and returns to language. His topic today is about the best way to learn another language, and he has a definite answer, involving a program. (I don’t know how many languages he speaks, but it must be a lot.)

. . . I have spent my life compulsively teaching myself to get around in languages — I have the polyglot disease — and I know of a way to get farther than people usually get. There is no reason that Glossika shouldn’t be as well known as Duolingo and Babbel. It teaches you real language, and it gets you used to just hearing the language, rather than relying as much on text as sound. After all, there are no subtitles in real life.

The method is pretty simple. You get recordings of 5,000 sentences in the language of your choice. Glossika comes in more than 60 languages at this point: If you feel your life isn’t complete without immersing yourself in some Slovenian or Uzbek, Glossika is for you. But the important part here is that the sentences are real ones. The first time I used it, the first sentence was about being good at tennis. Think: In a foreign language you know, were you ever taught how to say “good at”? To speak a language is to know how to say things like that.

. . . After that, the next move is immersion with real people. After I did one set, a speaker told me, “You know a lot of words!” That hedged but sincere compliment was dead on; I spoke roughly like a bright 4-year-old, and Glossika did that.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 666,816 an increase of 1,943 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,675,036, an increase of about 10,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 16 includes:

This was a small merchant ship, with 102 Pilgrims crammed together during the 66-day trip (two died). And, during the first winter, half of the rest died. Here’s a drawing showing how everyone was crammed together:

“Grito de Dolores” means “Cry of Dolores”, and Dolores is a city in Central Mexico. On this day in 1810, “Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang his church bell and gave the call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence.” Here’s the church from whose portico the call to arms was issued, Our Lady of Sorrows:

  • 1880 – The Cornell Daily Sun prints its first issue in Ithaca, New York. The Sun is the United States’ oldest, continuously-independent college daily.
  • 1908 – The General Motors Corporation is founded.
  • 1955 – The military coup to unseat President Juan Perón of Argentina is launched at midnight.

This was the end of his second term as President. He went into exile but returned and was re-elected in 1973. Here he is with his famous wife Eva (“Evita”):

  • 1959 – The first successful photocopier, the Xerox 914, is introduced in a demonstration on live television from New York City.

Here’s what I think is that commercial:

  • 1966 – The Metropolitan Opera House opens at Lincoln Center in New York City with the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s opera Antony and Cleopatra.
  • 1976 – Armenian champion swimmer Shavarsh Karapetyan saves 20 people from a trolleybus that had fallen into a Yerevan reservoir.

The word “hero” is flung around carelessly these days, but if anybody is a true hero, it’s Shavarsh Karapetyan. Here’s a 7-minute summary of his life and heroic act:

  • 1987 – The Montreal Protocol is signed to protect the ozone layer from depletion.
  • 1992 – The trial of the deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega ends in the United States with a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Noriega, still incarcerated, died of a brain hemorrhage in 2017. His mug shot:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1886 – Jean Arp, Alsatian sculptor and painter (d. 1966)
  • 1893 – Albert Szent-Györgyi, Hungarian-American physiologist and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)

Szent-Györgyi isolated vitamin C and worked out the citric acid cycle (“Krebs cycle”), both of which contributed to his Nobel Prize in 1937. Here he is around 1948:

Remember this scene from “The Big Sleep”:

  • 1925 – Charlie Byrd, American singer and guitarist (d. 1999)
  • 1925 – B.B. King, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2015)

Here’s what is perhaps his most famous song, “The Thrill is Gone“, performed in 1993:

  • 1950 – Henry Louis Gates Jr., American historian, scholar, and journalist
  • 1971 – Amy Poehler, American actress, comedian, and producer

Those whose lives were quenched on September 16 include:

  • 1936 – Jean-Baptiste Charcot, French physician and explorer (b. 1867)
  • 1977 – Maria Callas, Greek operatic soprano (b. 1923)

Here’s La Callas singing my favorite operatic aria in Paris:

  • 1980 – Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist and philosopher (b. 1896)
  • 2009 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (b. 1936)

Here’s a rare melange of great singers: Cass Elliot, Joni Mitchell, and Mary Travers, singing the Dylan song, “I shall be released.” The performance was in 1969 on Mama Cass’s television show.

  • 2016 – Edward Albee, American director and playwright (b. 1928)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is having her customary thoughts:

A: What are you musing about?
I wonder when the next meal will be.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym dumasz?
Hili: Zastanawiam się kiedy będzie następny posiłek.

And a photo of Kulka and Szaron on the windowsill, taken by Paulina:

From smipowell. This is my Teddy, Toasty!

From Facebook:

Also from Facebook:

From Simon, which shows you who is pro- and anti-vaccination:

From Barry. I think more religions should chart their beliefs like this, as it would show their craziness:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

From Luana. Polygenic scores are of course underestimates because, based on even medium-sized samples, they don’t account for low-frequency variants affecting a trait, so most correlations are probably underestimates as well.

From Dom: a nefarious parasite that makes ants bite grass before they die so the next host, sheep, eat the ants and get infected too. Then sheep poop out eggs that infect snails, who release eggs that are eaten by an ant, and the cycle starts again. One parasite and three hosts: an old but classic “zombie ant parasite” story.


Tweets from Matthew. He and I both love the Dodo videos with kittens. As Matthew noted, “Yes if the world were like the Dodo everything would be fine.”

These are wonderful sculptures; be sure to look at each photo:

Colorful mushrooms in New Zealand, including a blue one!

44 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. I guess Aussie nuclear subs are some kind of deterrent, but how much more deterrence will we need? If China attacks and takes over Taiwan, will they fire those nukes?

    Just to point out that the Aussie subs will have nuclear-powered engines (making them better at hiding for longer periods), but will not have nuclear weapons.

    1. Nuclear-powered subs, because they are better at hiding for longer, can strike first from anywhere, making their acquisition the first step in the development of a credible nuclear deterrent, and you don’t have to worry so much about your ICBM capacity, because you can strike from close proximity (most of China’s development is on the Northern Coast close to the Korean peninsula).

      If Taiwan were invaded, I would be surprised if there wasn’t some nuclear lend-lease program, with the U.S. “storing” nukes in Japan and Australia. Whether this opened some Cuban missile crisis in East Asia is another question. Japan is crazy at this point if they are not secretly developing nuclear weapons, they will be next if Taiwan falls.

      1. Nuclear deterrence does not deter because using nukes is suicide, and the crazy side (not necessarily the other side) doesn’t give a hoot. A book I read as a teen in the 1950s made a tremendous impression on me: Nevil Shute, “On the Beach”. A friend at the time joked: “At school, in case the siren sounds indicating a nuclear attack, return to your desk, put your head down between your knees, and kiss your ass goodbye.”

        1. If nuclear weapons do not deter, why hasn’t there been another continental-sized war since World War II? Why didn’t the US and the Soviets have it out in Europe, or the Soviets and the Chinese in Asia? Why did we invade Iraq but we haven’t invaded North Korea? Why did the Soviets pull the missiles out of Cuba?

          1. I suspect we have been lucky. In the case of Cuba, Castro was given guarantees and Khrushchev got the US to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey. I see no reason that the Soviet Union would want to invade China or vice-versa. In those alternative universes where nuclear deterrence did not work, no one was left to make the argument that nuclear deterrence works. See “anthropic principle”.

      2. For 30 or so years Japan has used MOX fuel in its reactors* – the only country to do so – which (I think, no expert here) is already very highly enriched.
        As for the rest: Japan has a well developed, satellite launching space program called JAXA. So Japan is a bit sneaky – they’ve got all the bits for nukes such that a bit of tinkering will give them full nuclear weapon club entry….. all the while banging on about no-nukes.
        *The Economist, late 1990s

    1. Am I the only one who thinks that in this drawing the Hell/Paradise section (lower left-hand corner) looks like a child’s scrawl of meat and two veg?

    2. I think there is some theological dispute amongst fundamentalists whether the Rapture happens before or after the 1000 year reign of the Anti-Christ (“the Great Tribulation”), this one clearly has it pre-tribulation. I don’t know about the “souls/spirit” thing, that is interesting, moderns/Paul have Flesh/Spirit dichotomy, Platonists had a tripartate psychology, Egyptians were really complex.

  2. In collaboration with the UK, the U.S. is helping Australia acquire nuclear submarines.

    Something of a bittersweet collaboration, given that Australia and NZ broke up the ANZUS treaty over opposition to nuclear powered and nuclear armed vessels docking in their ports. Though in fairness to the Aussies, I think it was more NZ than them.

    how much more deterrence will we need? If China attacks and takes over Taiwan, will they fire those nukes?

    As Coel refers to, the deterrence here is that nuclear powered subs can remain on station a long time undetected/without surfacing, thus China can’t be sure how much resistance it will meet. But if it ever gets to the point where they’re firing at a fleet invading Taiwan, they would presumably be firing conventionally armed missiles or torpedoes or whatever.
    And why shouldn’t Australia mount a deterrence? They are an ‘Asian’ country in many economic respects, with direct trade and military interest in the stability of SE Asia and western Pacific. The US, honestly, less so.

    1. The problem with the submarine deal with the U.K. and U.S. is that Australia had a deal with France to build the subs. They are not too happy about this sudden change. France reminded us that just 240 years ago they saved our ass by defeating the British in Chesapeake Bay. Oh yeah, so bring that little detail up again.

    2. I lived in NZ in the 1980s when they happened upon their big anti-nuke virtue signaling stance which was mixed in with a mass ignorance of anything nuclear.
      It provided a “powerful position” for them to take – an identity – and an easy choice to remove themselves from under US (nuclear) umbrella and protection b/c who is going to attack them?
      There would be no danger of a Fijian Missile Crisis or Bay of Tonga invasion. 🙂
      They’re keeping up this crazy stance as a cultural fetish.
      NYC (formerly Auckland)

  3. Noriega, still incarcerated, died of a brain hemorrhage in 2017.

    “Tony” Noriega (as he was known) died in prison in Panama. He finished his federal bid in Miami in 2007. He was then extradited to France, before being returned to Panama to serve the sentence that had been imposed upon him in absentia there while he was in the US.

  4. Remember this scene from “The Big Sleep” …

    Heck, it was while watching To Have and Have Not on the Late Show as a kid that Lauren Bacall taught me how to whistle:

  5. That parasite’s takeover of the ant is even weirder than I thought:

    As evening approaches and the air cools, the infected ant is drawn away from other members of the colony and upward to the top of a blade of grass. Once there, it clamps its mandibles onto the top of the blade and stays there until dawn. Afterward, it goes back to its normal activity at the ant colony. If the host ant were to be subjected to the heat of the direct sun, it would die along with the parasite. Night after night, the ant goes back to the top of a blade of grass until a grazing animal comes along and eats the blade, ingesting the ant along with it, thus putting lancet flukes back inside their host. They live out their adult lives inside the animal, reproducing so that the cycle begins again.

    1. The blind watchmaker is an indifferent bastard. The twists and turns that nature takes in order to find a survival strategy are so complex that it looks designed, how could this all happen by an unknowing process? It’s amazing, not only in the takeover of the ant brain’s will, but also in survival in each of the five phases that depend on the others.

      But, a being who would design such a cruel way to die, well, to be deliberate in this would reveal a god who is meaner, nastier, more evil than any of the Old Ones, even Cthulhu, and not worthy of worship nor the “loving God” nickname that Jehovah is given nor even the “Merciful” as is claimed for Allah.

      1. This is a lovely comment. When I deconverted, I found great relief in the concept of a cold, uncaring universe where nothing is ‘meant’ to happen. It helped me reconcile a personal tragedy that my then-religion told me was some sort of a plan. F-that idea. No planner of such a thing would deserve any sort of worship.

      2. Maybe its just me but I’ve always interpreted that “merciful” God thing to the same way North Koreans lavish praises on their great leader. Call it aspirational.

        1. Yup, the picture of eternity in heaven conjured up by Revelation was never very appealing even in my indoctrinated days. I’m with Billy Joel on this one:

          They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
          Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
          I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
          The sinners are much more fun

          1. The Apocalypse is cool, its just the ending that is pretty pat and boring. Just let it all disappear into the great void like Ragnarok.

            1. Hell never made much sense, because we have pleasure/pain sensations for a reason, and there is no point in just being tortured in pain for eternity. You experience pain so you know to take your hand off the stove.

              Heaven just seems boring, and further, the only reason human life has any value is that it is limited. Eternal life just seems to negate the point of existence. Further, the idea that everything has some kind of higher meaning basically negates the absurdity of human existence, which negates the meaning of existence, wrestling with the absurdity and ultimate pointlessness of all things. A denial of the given in exchange for imaginary sand castles.

  6. I love the vocals in that rendition of “I Shall Be Released.” If I could remix, I would cut back on the bass, which is a bit overpowering and nearly drowns the singing. I realize that most television sound was either one or two channel so that’s difficult. Just a thought.

    As with almost all of Dylans’ songs there are different renditions of this one that change the song almost entirely. This and the Band’s version were based on one rendition, there is a reggae version by Bob Marley, and there is a cover by Rising Appalachia (beaufitufl vocals)

    But my absolute favorite is Dylan’s own cover on the Greatest Hits Vol. 2, This is the one that changes the song, and it really has the flavor of the blues as sung by a prisoner:

    I’m going to sing this on my Retirement Day in about 4 years.

    1. Interesting – so Dolores del Rio is something like Sorrows by the River? Looks like her name is a condensation of one of her long and complicated birth names on her W’pedia page..

      1. Granted, but I maintain that a Spanish speaker will see/hear “Sorrows” just as he will see/hear “The Angels” for that city in California. That said, the reverse translation of “Cry of Sorrows or Pains” would most likely be “Grito de Los Dolores,” which confirms the advice Wikipedia gives.🙂

  7. Re the religious map. The author of it has done an inadvertant scholarly job of trying to reconcile the various views of the afterlife that developed in Christianity in the first millennium. A good book (!) is Bart Ehrman, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (2020). Ehrman is a no-longer-believing distinguished historian of Christianity (Lost Christianities [not a typo]) is good, too. In both you learn how many radically incompatible theologies had to be pruned and mashed together to try to promote a single religion.

  8. Once again, it bears pointing out “Go Joe Biden!” Out of the Afghan quagmire, and a new security collaboration to provide necessary stability in the Pacific.

  9. I find it ironic that an air traveler would be lamenting, as if they were not in part responsible, the paucity of snow on Mr. Shasta while flying over in a 737 (say) that is belching into the stratosphere abt. 7.5 tons (back of envelope calculation) of carbon dioxide every hour it’s in the air.

  10. I adore much of the music Jerry puts up on this site, and I’m often introduced to gems I had not known.

    That said, re Buddy Guy, my vision of hell is being eternally subjected to The Blues, that classic version, as exemplified by Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and even some old Elvis.

    Something about the basic, repetitious blues licks played at dirge speed with overwrought emotion just seems to be a cringe-inducing combination to my brain.

    Doesn’t help that I’m an audiophile and when I attend audio shows it seems The Blues is constantly requested and played by older relaxed-jean-wearing audiophiles, who sit bobbing their head at how “awesomely emotional” the playing is. I have to get outta the room quick.

    Pure subjective reaction, not an objective take by any means.

  11. Many nice videos of conversations and interviews on YouTube show Mrs Callas’ personality. I feel an urge to refer to an interview Mrs Callas shows a charming way of giving sincere answers. In particular, I love the playing on words regarding her nationality and the Ancient Greeks (at the end of the second part). Here is the link:

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