Friday: Hili dialogue

September 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Posting will likely be light this week as I’m on vacation. Hey, if Andrew Sullivan can stop posting when he’s vacationing in Provincetown, don’t I get some time off? Do bear with me. I will do my best.

Greetings from Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, September 17: National Apple Dumpling Day17/sept.  It’s also and Constitution Day, the day in 1787 when the document was signed in Philadelphia, and National Bakery Day, International Grenache Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and National Monte Cristo Day (not the Count but a sandwich “fried and usually made with Swiss cheese and ham. Other types of cheese can be used, and sliced turkey or chicken are sometimes added as well. The sandwich is usually dipped in egg batter before being pan-fried or deep-fried until it is golden brown.”

Here’s a Monte Cristo sandwich; for some reason they sometimes put powdered sugar on top:

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the life and work of Japanese scientist Michiyo Tsujimura, whose research focused on the components of green tea. Born on this day in 1888, she became a research student at Riken, a research institute, and made her name by isolating the components of green tea. With her 1932 thesis, “On the Chemical Components of Green Tea”, she obtained her doctorate in agriculture from Tokyo Imperial University, becoming the first Japanese woman to get a doctorate in that field. She died in 1969. I’ve put a photo below the Doodle.

News of the Day:

I have almost no news today as I was traveling and schmoozing, and so haven’t read the papers. Readers are welcome to put the events of yesterday (or today) in the comments.

Over at the NYT, Ellen Pao, described as “a tech investor and chief executive of Project Include, a diversity, equity and inclusion nonprofit,” decries the prosecution of Elizabeth Holmes of ex-Theranos as an example of sexism.

. . . Ms. Holmes is also exceptional for the basic fact that she is a woman. Time and again, we see that the boys’ club that is the tech industry supports and protects its own — even when the costs are huge. And when the door cracks open ever so slightly to let a woman in, the same rules don’t apply. Indeed, as Ms. Holmes’s trial for fraud continues in San Jose, it’s clear that two things can be true. She should be held accountable for her actions as chief executive of Theranos. And it can be sexist to hold her accountable for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold an array of men accountable for reports of wrongdoing or bad judgment.

Questionable, unethical, even dangerous behavior has run rampant in the male-dominated world of tech start-ups. Though never charged with crimes, WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick hyped their way into raising over $10 billion for their companies, claiming they would disrupt their stagnant, tired industries.

Perhaps Pao is right, though I don’t know the details of these two cases (she describe several others). The solution, of course, is for the law to go after all accused malefactors, regardless of their sex. The thing about Holmes, though, is that the law was almost forced to take action after John Carreyrou’s reports came out in the Wall Street Journal, followed by his damning book.

Taking a cue from George Church, scientists, according to The Onion, have created a new hybrid form of life. It ain’t a woolly mammoth, but on the screenshot to see what they made.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 670,231 an increase of 1,969 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,685,793, an increase of about 10,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 17 includes:

His observations, the first of protozoans, are described in Matthew’s first book, The Egg and Sperm Race. He also observed this, according to Wikipedia. But Wikipedia gives the data above as 1683, which is WRONG.

 He was also the first to document microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa, red blood cells, crystals in gouty tophi, and among the first to see blood flow in capillaries.

The spermatozoa was, I believe, from the scientist himself, collected from his wife, which caused somewhat of a scandal.

  • 1787 – The United States Constitution is signed in Philadelphia. [see above]
  • 1849 – American abolitionist Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery.

There’s been a delay, but Tubman is schedule to be on the U.S. $20 bill. Here’s a photo:

Unidentified photographer, A large albumen photograph of Harriet Tubman by Tabby Studios in Auburn, NY. Enlarged from an older print.
  • 1908 – The Wright Flyer flown by Orville Wright, with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge as passenger, crashes, killing Selfridge, who becomes the first airplane fatality.

Here’s the wreckage of the plane, which nose-dived into the ground from 150 feet up. Orville survived:

  • 1916 – World War I: Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”), a flying ace of the German Luftstreitkräfte, wins his first aerial combat near Cambrai, France.

The “ace of aces”, Richtofen is credited with 80 victories. Here’s the Red Baron:

  • 1939 – World War II: The Soviet invasion of Poland begins.
  • 1961 – The world’s first retractable roof stadium, the Civic Arena, opens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • 1978 – The Camp David Accords are signed by Israel and Egypt.
  • 1983 – Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America.

Sadly, she reigned only a year after Penthouse published nude photos of Williams before she was crowned. But she got her revenge, as now she’s a successful singer and actress:

  • 2011 – Occupy Wall Street movement begins in Zuccotti Park, New York City.
  • 2013 – Grand Theft Auto V earns more than half a billion dollars on its first day of release.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1859 – Billy the Kid, American gunman (d. 1881)
  • 1907 – Warren E. Burger, American lawyer and judge, 15th Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1995)
  • 1923 – Hank Williams, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1953)

Here’s Williams, the year before he died (at 29), singing “Cold cold heart“:

  • 1931 – Anne Bancroft, American actress (d. 2005)
  • 1935 – Ken Kesey, American novelist, essayist, and poet (d. 2001)
  • 1944 – Reinhold Messner, Italian mountaineer and explorer

Many,including me, regard Messner as the greatest Himalayan climber of all time. His greatest feat was a SOLO climb of Everest without oxygen (1980) but he has many other intrepid feats under his belt. Here’s a “selfie” of him on the summit from that 1980 climb; he must have used a self timer:

  • 1968 – Cheryl Strayed, American author

Those who checked out on September 17 include:

Scott was of course the plaintiff in the famous 1857 case where the Supreme Court declared, in a 7-2 vote, that African Americans could not be American citizens. Scott:

  • 1899 – Charles Alfred Pillsbury, American businessman, co-founded the Pillsbury Company (b. 1842)
  • 1993 – Willie Mosconi, American pool player and actor (b. 1913)

Mosconi clears the table. Remember, he’s always calculating where the cue ball will wind up for his next shot:

  • 1994 – Karl Popper, Austrian-English philosopher and academic (b. 1902)
  • 1996 – Spiro Agnew, American soldier and politician, 39th Vice President of the United States (b. 1918)
  • 2019 – Cokie Roberts, American journalist and bestselling author (b. 1943)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hil isn’t too successful on the hunt:

A: What did you find?
Hili: A little worm.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam znalazłaś?
Hili: Robaczka.
And here’s Paulina’s photo of the lovely young Kulka:

From Stash Krod:

From Jesus of the Day:

Also from JotD:

From Titania, and she’s right (look at all the photos). Britain has got to ratchet down this hate-crime prosecution:

From Barry. It sure looks as if this cat is imitating its staff’s hairbrushing. What do you think?

From Luana. I can’t verify where this picture came from, or where (if it’s genuine); but there are lots of copies on the Internet, with one saying it “came from a military sponsored preschool program.”

From Masih:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a bit of history; see above.

Tweets from Matthew. Look at these flying squid!

Animal empathy:

Here’s a cat who will be glad to become an empty nester:

58 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I sometimes find it hard to accept that this site is the work of a single, very busy person – and now it appears even when our host is taking a well deserved trip! Also, I like that it attracts so many knowledgeable commenters.

    Sad news about Sir Clive Sinclair:

    1. Thank you for that comment, Peter, regarding our host and the range of helpful and knowledgeable commenters. I fully agree and am thankful for the daily discussions that generally address several sides of many current issues.

    2. Yes, it’s sad about Sinclair. I still remember the launch of his programmable pocket calculator with its teeny buttons: a review described it as “brilliant provided you have a trained stick insect to operate it”. To be fair, it came with a stylus, if I recall correctly – but that review has been stuck in my mind ever since.

  2. Insurrection 2.0 will be taking place this weekend. Not sure if today or tomorrow but the fences are up around the capital and supreme court. Why the court I’m not sure as they would most likely be cheerleading the even.

    The menu looks like Hawaii to me. Although not usually on the menu as much…just a given.

        1. Probably better that they not convene. Of course, the fact that people would be afraid to protest the treatment and extended incarceration of people charged with minor felonies and misdemeanors is not a good thing.

          1. “Minor felonies and misdemeanors?”….Maybe I saw different videos than you did. I guess Pence just missed out on being the victim of something minor or less. And if you were on the receiving end of some of those assults that I saw, would you still consider them “minor?”

          2. The only thing keeping these wingnut paranoiacs from protesting is their own wingnut paranoia.

            Can you identify the Jan. 6th insurrectionists you believe have been treated unfairly by the justice system? So far, it seems like kid-gloves’ treatment to me.

            1. This Trump movement needs to be broken. It’s causing lives and it’s a mass sickness of tribalism and cult regression. Your governor, Ken, is a piece of work; he should be sued for gross negligence and some form of something worse. He’s killing people for christ’s sake (and he’s not the only governor doing so, of course). I know I’m hyperbolic here, but is there any legal grounds for a governor downplaying a preventative vaccine for a deadly disease and pushing the idiotic alternatives? And we need not go into all the hypotheticals of his money-gush “treatment” with the antibody dealy. De Santos is one of the most repugnant people/politicians I’ve ever had the bad luck to “know”. He’s not as bad as Moscow Mitch, but he would probably be worse, if he had the turtle’s power. This new world the GOP is trying to create really sucks and scares the shit out of me. “It Could Happen Here” …after Trump it changed to “It Happened Here”. Holy shit! I still don’t know why the media can’t call a spade a spade. They can’t admit that the Republican Party is a conspiracy cult with a Trump center and no reality to hang a hat on and very dangerous to boot. Just as it took the MSM 4 years to call Trump a liar, they still can’t be on the level with what we’re dealing with here. What a disservice to this nation. The GOP is a fever swamp delivering authoritarian and fascistic “cures to our ailing country”, so, those not on the FOX team, start shouting it from the rooftops! This country depends on it to survive. This reality sucks.

              1. Regarding our governor down here: owing to his gross mishandling of the COVID pandemic, he’s earned the sobriquet “Ron DeathSantis.”

                That should make for some catchy campaign posters and bumper-stickers during his run for reelection next year.

              2. The Dems should generally be able to use the GOP’s pandemic response against them in the run-up to the 2022 elections. Right now, vaccine mandates are favored by the majority of voters but will they remember a year from now? Probably, since we’ll still be fighting COVID.

              3. “Ron DeathSantis”…that’s a good one. I hope it sticks since it’s exactly right.

                I’m with you Paul, the GOP is handing the Dems seats on a plate, as long as the Dems know how to take advantage of it (since we know they’re not good at messaging).

        2. Jan 6 was a big exception; the usual rule of right-wing rallies in DC (at least for the last decade or two) is that they are very poorly attended and do fizzle out. This was a subject Ed Brayton got great pleasure out of tracking and laughing about.

          Still, I make zero predictions about this round. I simply have no idea what the actual attendance or ‘level of peacefulness’ will be.

    1. It’s likely to be a big nothing. People tend not to want to go to a rally where large forces to contain them have been gathered in advance. The biggest danger is from some “lone wolf” terrorist attack but I’m pretty sure the police, FBI, etc. will be on the lookout for that too.

  3. Jerry suggested I post this clarification about how Leeuwenhoek (the ‘van’ business was a later affection) got his semen sample.

    As he explained in his letter, he had initially been approached by a medical student called Ham, who told him that he had a “friend” who had lain with an unclear woman, and that this “friend” had subsequently had an unpleastant discharge. The “friend” gave a sample to Ham who looked at it and found lots of unmoving eel-like things. (Modern physicians suggest that Ham’s “friend” suffered from gonorrhea, which leads to both a discharge and dead sperm).

    On hearing this, Leeuwenhoek decided to have a look himself, without dealing with Ham’s “friend”. that his semen was not obtained by any ‘sinful contrivance’ but by ‘the excess which Nature provided me in my conjugal relations.’ He explained that a mere ‘six heartbeats’ after ejaculation, he found ‘a vast number of living animalcules’.

    To translate this into the real world: he’s shagging with Cornelia, in the daytime with the curtains drawn (microscope wouldn’t work otherwise), he ejaculates, counts his pounding heartbeats then squeezes it out/scoops it up, puts a capillary tube over the sample so it goes up into the tube, and then rushes over to the window, holds his single-lens microscope (basically a 2-3mm glass ball in a metal frame) and looks at what he can see…

    Quite amazing.

    Much more about this in my book Generation which you can pick up for less than $8.

    1. When I got a microscope in my 20’s, I did the same thing, although to get the sample I used a ‘sinful contrivance’. 😉

  4. Just a heads up that the FDA Advisory committee meeting on boosters just started online at 0830 eastern US time this morning. The Sept 13 Lancet article labeled “Viewpoints” with the authors’ caveat that it presents their personal professional opinions and views and not neccessarily those of their institutions was helpful background for me. Article title is “Considerations in Boosting Covid-19 vaccine immune responses” and four-page pdf should be available at

  5. In other news:

    Firefighters have wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada.

    The colossal General Sherman tree in Sequoia national park’s giant forest, some of the other sequoias, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings were wrapped as protection against the possibility of intense flames, fire spokesperson Rebecca Paterson said.

  6. I can’t remember what show it was back in the 70s or 80s that showed scientists doing a conjectural reconstruction of an animal based on a partial remnant. The remnant was a thumb, and the reconstruction looked like an elephant with a thumb (oversized) for the trunk. Could have been anything from Monty Python to Tennessee Tuxedo.

  7. There has been quite a few belated descriptions about how Vanessa Williams was poorly treated by just about everybody. If the events were somehow repeated today, I can only hope that it would unfold very differently.

    1. Just this morning I finished part 1 of the podcast You’re Wrong About featuring Ms. Williams. Fascinating stuff, and she seems like a good human.

  8. Idaho public health has declared they are in medical crisis condition in their state. Alaska and Montana are not far behind. This means they are over capacity in their hospital system and care will now be rationed according to priority. Better not get sick if you live there. Vaccination in Idaho is running about 40%. Lots of freedom up there. Great place to live or die.

    1. I saw a comment somewhere or other to the effect that triage at hospitals should be based on whether the patient is a denier – in which case they would be put on a gurney on the sidewalk. I found that just a smidgen violent, but an amusing idea nonetheless.

        1. My cousin is an MD in rural Idaho – and from his account it is heartbreaking. And yes, the CSC model means that people who have a better chance of recovery (ie- they got vaccinated) will get priority of treatment over those less likely to recover.

            1. I just saw a statewide DNR order for adult cardiac arrest patients. Kids will still get resuscitated, but not any adults. Grim stuff.

    2. One report up in Alaska was that people coming to the emergency at the hospital were told to wait in the car for hours before they could be seen.

  9. The spermatozoa was, I believe, from the scientist himself, collected from his wife, which caused somewhat of a scandal.

    Scandal, what scandal? Better that he should collect samples from his gumar, or get his wife to schtup a stranger? A case of “I would do anything for love science, but I won’t do THAT”?

    Seems to me, play your cards right, it could be kinda romantic. A Sinatra LP on the stereo, a bottle of bubbly, some slow dancing, then coo “C’mon, baby, let’s go get busy for science!”

  10. I see a number of academic credentials in a number Tw337s above.

    … what does that mean?

    Would it be different if a publisher printed an author’s academic credentials on a general audience book?

    I ask because I had a back-and-forth once one WEIT about the printing of “M.D./Ph.D.” on a “parenting” book that was sold in the United States. I then took a look and found that a number of best-selling authors’ general audience book covers do _not_ include their academic credentials. Yet, some do – on at least some editions or printings – such as Andrew Weil, M.D., or David A. Sinclair, Ph.D. (Perhaps readers know about those).

    The meaning of this is not clear to me – sooooo, I wondered if Tw337s v. books are a distinction with a difference?…

    I do not intend to insinuate the book discussion here – just to give the background for my question about the Tw337s.

    1. Elizabeth Blackburn’s recent general audience book about telomeres also has the “Ph.D.” on the book cover.

  11. In my experience, they virtually always put powdered sugar on Monte Cristo sandwiches. Occasionally, they serve it with strawberry jam too. All to my dismay. I order it without for a good sandwich.

    1. That’s some next-level pandering to an ignorant base regarding a matter that wouldn’t have a prayer of being held constitutional.

  12. Minus the lobster thermidor item, café breakfast menus in 60s Britain often did list many combinations of eggs, beans, spam, bacon, chips, peas, sausages, etc, each with separate prices. All combinations were too numerous to be listed so if you ordered one of the missing ones, the staff had to wing it. I loved eating at those places. They are much harder to find these days, especially in London.

    1. I remember the working men’s caffs of my youth – called ‘greasy spoons’ these days. Over a steaming mug of tea and using an algebra we liked to work out the true price of every combination in order to find mistakes to our advantage and order accordingly.

      1. I am glad I am not the only person who liked to treat the menu as a maths puzzle! I used to work out the individual cost of each item and look for inconsistencies, even pointing one out to a confused waitress once. I was just doing the same thing with the spam menu above.

    2. Oh, you can still find them all over the place, Paul; and these days they include culturally-appropriated items such as hash browns. Not to mention black pudding.

      I did raise my eyebrows at peas. Are you sure?

  13. Regarding violent protests – not sure how they will pan out in DC, but here in WA, we’re prepping for it. The Proud Boys are rolling into town tomorrow, fixin’ for a rumble. Two weeks ago they did the same, running through town with guns and bats, chasing anyone dressed in black (or whatever they deem to be ‘antifa attire’.) It’s ridiculous. And while I might like to try to go down to farmers market, I’ll avoid, because there will certainly be violence afoot.

  14. Holmes didn’t just defraud investors. Her company engaged in egregious medical malpractice. To me, this is a distinction that has nothing to do with sexism. There may well be sexism with regard to who is prosecuted for criminal behavior by tech startups, but I don’t think her case provides particularly good evidence of it.

    1. The defense of Holmes above is one of the stupidest things I’ve read in a LONG time.
      One gets the opinion from this side of the Atlantic that the entire British police force has gone rainbow crazy and is obsessed with LGBT stuff. I see it all the time!

      All best wishes for our host’s fun/pleasant/interesting time on his New England jaunt.


  15. The mention of the late (and wonderful) Sir Karl Popper reminds me of one of the strangest and most moving events of his life: in 1992, just after Chernobyl, he signed up to Volunteers for Ionising Radiation, which proposed that older people, whose lives were drawing to a close anyway, should offer to go into similar disaster zones to help make them safe rather than expose younger people to almost certain death. An account is here:

  16. The Leeuwenhoek explanation reminded me of a Fahrenheit story. The story goes that Fahrenheit immersed mercury in a vacuum glass tube in brine water on the Scottish coast to set the freezing point of water (32 degrees) and in a boiling kettle to mark the boiling point of water (212 degrees). He set 100 degrees based on his wife’s body temperature (his wife was a “menstrating person” when he set the temperature of the human body and was running a bit of a temperature.

    1. Memory can play funny tricks – For decades I thought I’D made up that story in my many rants against the (what I see as illogic) of Fahrenheit along the lines of: “Mr. Fahrenheit just picked a number randomly and multiplied it by the heat of his wife’s p***y and came up with the freezing point of water. PRESTO!” – which always got a lot of laughs and nobody ever called me on it.

      Think I’ll still use it because Fahrenheit is still dumb. 🙂

  17. Just to remember, when the Soviet Union “invaded” Poland in 1939, Poland no longer had a legal government (the Polish government fled to Rumania, a then neutral nation). Also, eastern Poland was, up until 1920 or so, part of the Soviet Union, was conquered by Poland during the Soviet-Polish war of 1920, and only became incorporated into Poland at the Peace of Riga in 1921. This 250 km wide was inhabited by people who in their majority spoke Belarussian and Ukrainian. In short, the 1939 “partition” USSR returned territory and people that had been illegitimately, by armed aggression, been transferred to Poland some 20 years before. It should be noted that after the 1939 partition of Poland, France and the UK declared war on Germany and not the USSR, and that at the end of WW2 the Soviet Union, without any objection from the Allies (USA, UK, France, etc.) or the UN, kept essentially all of the territory (now parts of Belarus and Ukraine) gained from the 1939 “partition”. See links

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