Friday: Hili dialogue

October 8, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Friday, October 8, 2021: National Fluffernutter Day. In case you don’t know what’s being honored, it’s a peanut-butter sandwich with marshmallow spread (it has its own Wikipedia page!). I may have eaten one six decades or so ago, but I can’t recall whether I liked it. Now it sounds repugnant.

The components:

Assembled and submitted for your approval:

It’s also National Pierogi Day (cultural appropriation), World Egg Day, World Octopus Day, Alvin C. York Day, celebrating that soldier’s remarkable achievement, which earned him a Medal of Honor (see below), International Lesbian Day, and World Day against the Death Penalty.  And we’re still in World Space Week (October 4-10.)

Here’s a lovely video showing the ability of this octopus to change color and pattern in an instant (the music is of course by Iz):

News of the Day:

*The Nobel peace prize has been announced, with the awardees the journalists Mara Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, journalists who stand for all their colleagues who fight for freedom of expression. Ressa works in the Philippines, Muratov in Russia. . More on that later.

*I forgot to announce yesterday that the Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah nabbed the Nobel Prize in Literature, assuring that once again nobody won this year’s Guess the Laureates contest (you had to guess the winners of the Literature and of the Peace prizes).  Gurnah has written ten novels, all in English, and is highly praised by fellow writers. I will have to investigate, but how can I do that when I’m busy trying to read all the Booker Prize winners?

From the NYT announcement:

On Thursday, Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, widely regarded as the most prestigious literary award in the world, for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

Gurnah is the first Black writer to receive the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993, and some observers saw his selection as a long overdue corrective after years of European and American Nobel laureates. He is the first African to win the award in more than a decade, preceded by Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in 1986, Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt, who won in 1988; and the South African winners Nadine Gordimer in 1991 and John Maxwell Coetzee in 2003. The British-Zimbabwean novelist Doris Lessing won in 2007.

Amid the heated speculation in the run-up to this year’s award, the literature prize was called out for lacking diversity among its winners.

*Of all the places to leave anti-Semitic graffiti, the barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp would seem to be the most inappropriate—and most immoral. But someone (or several people) did it, and they must have hated Jews very much.

Here’s the statement from the Auschwitz Memorial, which gives you all the information you need save the two NYT paragraphs below:

Officials at Auschwitz-Birkenau said their decision to not specify the wording of the slurs on the barracks, in an area of the camp where men were packed into crude wooden bunks, stacked three high from floor to ceiling, was a conscious effort to avoid spreading antisemitic hate any further.

“Because the intent of the perpetrator or perpetrators was to spread hate speech, we have decided not to make the images or the content of the graffiti public,” said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial, which preserves the site of the death camp.

The NYT suggests that this act is part of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. Malgorzata wrote me this when I asked her about the graffiti:

Yes, I know about antisemitic graffiti at Auschwitz. But people who are visibly Jews can still walk safely on the streets of Polish cities. They can’t do it in West-European cities nor in some parts of American cities.

*In Elizabeth Holmes’s trial for wire fraud in the Theranos case, the evidence that she was duplicitous continues to mount, and yet, just as she charmed her donors, she’s charmed some jurors. NBC News reports:

[Safeway CEO] Burd’s testimony came on the heels of the judge excusing juror No. 4. The juror said she was a Buddhist and expressed significant concern and anxiety about the topic of punishment.

“It’s really hard for me,” the juror told the judge. “I’m thinking what happened if she has to be there for a long, long time. It’s my fault, and I feel guilty for that.” The juror said she believes in love, compassion and forgiveness.

“Your responsibility as a juror is to only decide the facts of the case, you are not to determine any punishment at all,” U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila said. “That’s for the court to decide. That’s not your decision.”

NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said having a juror excused because they demonstrate overwhelming sympathy for a defendant is “incredibly rare.”

Oy! One juror has already been excused for financial hardship, and the Buddhist’s replacement also expressed concern about hurting Holmes’s future because “she’s so young.” That leaves three alternate jurors from the original five, raising the possibility of a mistrial. I swear, Holmes might go free just because she’s young and attractive. She hasn’t yet said a word in court, except for “not guilty”. (If you read John Carreyrou’s book about Holmes and Theranos, you won’t have much doubt of her guilt.)

*In a laudatory op-ed in the Washington Post about NIH Director Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian whose scientific leadership I also laud, Collins admits that there’s tension between science and faith:

For Collins — an outspoken Christian — it is especially disturbing that evangelicals are among America’s strongest bastions of vaccine resistance. There are, he said, a number of reasons for the tension between science and faith. Some of it is rooted in “old battles about origins, about the age of the Earth, the relatedness of species and the place of humans among them.” Evangelicals were often “not at ease with the conclusions of the scientific method” and became convinced that “science was driven by atheists with an agenda hostile to faith.”

These suspicions have been compounded by tribal loyalty. “It is difficult to dissent,” Collins said, “when surrounded by a community that shares a misguided view. You lose your identity.” An atmosphere of fear further entrenches wrongheaded beliefs — encouraging not only skepticism about truth but also artificial certainty about quack cures or conspiracy theories. “People anchor themselves further. They think, ‘At least I know this.’”

At issue, Collins said, is “how truth gets discovered.” Here Collins is a rigorous defender of the scientific method.

But he adds this:

At the moment, Collins is urgently encouraging evangelicals to respect scientific knowledge. Over an unusual career, he has also urged scientists to accept the possibility of religious and moral truth. In his view, the “relationship between order and beauty” raises legitimate theological questions. “Why should nature follow such elegant mathematical laws? Is there an author?”

Strongly antireligious scientists, he said, “want to limit the kind of questions that can be asked or answered.” But to be “fully alive,” humans need to “ask questions that start with ‘how’ but also questions that begin with ‘why.’” He continued: “In our daily life, we encounter both science and spirituality. They are two very different aspects to the same creation. Together, the story is so much more amazing than either by itself.”

I will accept the possibility of religious truth (not moral truth, though, since morality is subjective), but I want to know how you determine religious truth. For that is the real source of tension between science and religion: how you find out what is “true.” In fact, Collins pinpoints this when saying at issue is “how truth gets discovered.”

As for the why questions, well, many of them have scientific answers (e.g., “Why do bowerbirds decorate their bowers?”). The other “why” questions are religious, and there is no way of finding convincing answers to them.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 710,342, an increase of 1,765 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,851,118,, an increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 8 includes:

  • 1645 – Jeanne Mance opens the first lay hospital in North America.

A date found by Matthew:

  • 1871 – Slash-and-burn land management, months of drought, and the passage of a strong cold front cause the Peshtigo Fire, the Great Chicago Fire and the Great Michigan Fires to break out.
  • 1918 – World War I: Corporal Alvin C. York kills 28 German soldiers and captures 132 for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

York’s story was great, and memorialized by Gary Cooper, who played him in the 1941 movie Sergeant York. Here’s a photo of York returning to his life of farming, hunting, and fishing after the war; do read the caption.

(From Wikipedia): U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin C. York after his return to his Tennessee home. His mother is pouring water into the basin and his younger sister is standing on the cabin’s back porch. York turned down many lucrative offers, including one worth $30,000 ($447,800 in 2021) to appear in vaudeville, to return to the life he had known before the war.
  • 1956 – The New York Yankees’s Don Larsen pitches the only perfect game in a World Series.

A “perfect” baseball game is one in which nobody on the opposing team reaches first base. There have been 23 in modern baseball history, with Larsen’s being the only one in a World Series.  Here’s the final out, with Yogi Berra behind the plate:

  • 1967 – Guerrilla leader Che Guevara and his men are captured in Bolivia.

Guevara was executed two days later. Here the Bolivians display his body (Wikipedia caption “The day after his execution on 10 October 1967, Guevara’s corpse was displayed to the news media in the laundry house of the Vallegrande hospital. (photo by Freddy Alborta).

  • 1969 – The opening rally of the Days of Rage occurs, organized by the Weather Underground in Chicago.
  • 1970 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize in literature.
  • 1978 – Australia’s Ken Warby sets the current world water speed record of 275.97 knots (318 mph, 511 km/hour) at Blowering Dam, Australia.

Here’s a history of speed records on land and water, showing Warby’s record, which still holds. Several have died trying to set or beat the record.

  • 1982 – After its London premiere, Cats opens on Broadway and runs for nearly 18 years before closing on September 10, 2000.
  • 2014 – Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with Ebola, dies.

Duncan was a Liberian citizen visiting family in Texas.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1883 – Otto Heinrich Warburg, German physiologist and physician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1970)
  • 1890 – Eddie Rickenbacker, American soldier and pilot, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1973)
  • 1895 – Zog I of Albania (d. 1961)

Zog was the first President and later, as Zog I, the first King of Albania. I like the name. Here’s Zog:

(Fondi Zogu ne Fototeken e AQSH. Marre nga Blend Fevziu)

Here’s Perón with Evita, who’s an inseparable part of his story:

  • 1910 – Gus Hall, American soldier and politician (d. 2000)

Hall, head of the Communist Party of the USA, ran for President four times between 1972 and 1984. I remember that well.

Weaver of course is most famous for the “Alien” movies, but I like her performance in the underrated movie “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982), also starring Linda Hunt and Mel Gibson. Do see it if you can! Hunt won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars and also at Cannes. Here’s the official trailer:

Those whose neurons stopped firing on October 8 include:

  • 1594 – Ishikawa Goemon, ninja and thief of Japan (b. 1558)
  • 1754 – Henry Fielding, English novelist and playwright (b. 1707)
  • 1793 – John Hancock, American merchant and politician, 1st Governor of Massachusetts (b. 1737)

Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence (below), and to this day one’s signature is called “your John Hancock”.  He wrote larger than anyone else.

A Yankee his whole career, Ford was a great pitcher, with a lifetime won-loss record of 236-106:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili reproves Andrzej. Malgorzata explains, “Andrzej was surprised when he found Hili inside the wardrobe. He was sure Szaron was there. Hili talks about the human habit to jump into conclusions without first checking facts – he should’ve checked who was in the wardrobe and not assume that it was Szaron.”

Hili: Why are you so surprised?
A: I thought Szaron was here.
Hili: Humans tend to draw conclusions without checking.
In Polish:
Hili: Czemu jesteś taki zdziwiony?
Ja: Myślałem, że tu jest Szaron.
Hili: Ludzie mają tendencję do wyciągania wniosków bez sprawdzania.

Reader Pliny the in Between’s first cartoon showing a DUCK! (From the Far Corner Cafe). Click to enlarge:

From Brian. This has GOT to be a New Yorker cartoon.

From Jesus of the Day:

From Luana: a tweet you don’t see very often:  a transgender person who doesn’t care what personal pronoun you use.

Two tweets from Barry. He calls the first, “Regrets were immediately had.”:

Barry says this about the next tweet: ”

I do love the reaction of the one who goes without:
Some title contenders in the thread:
My Cousin from Hell
Better Lick Next Time
Survival of the Fittest [yep!]
I do hope the guy on the left got some worms!

Tweets from Matthew. Lucy Lapwing, naturalist, has a poetic soul that I admire:

The advice below is wrong,, but you don’t want to put a fancy vase where a cat can get at it:

WHO’S a good cat?

“Scherz” is German for “joke”, but Matthew adds that these species names are real:

38 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I will accept the possibility of religious truth (not moral truth, though, since morality is subjective), but I want to know how you determine religious truth.

    Traditionally, through Jihad.

  2. But people who are visibly Jews can still walk safely on the streets of Polish cities. They can’t do it in West-European cities nor in some parts of American cities.

    Which West European cities? I live in one (Bristol) and I’m pretty sure that people who are visibly Jewish could walk around safely here.

    1. London, Paris, Berlin and many more. Jews in kippas or with necklaces with Star od David were physically attacked. In some places advice is give to Jews to hide such signs of their Jewishness. Just this week a German-Jewish singer was refused a place in hotel because he had a necklace with Star of David, In NYC there was a long serie of attacks oh Haredim.

      1. I can’t comment about Paris or Berlin, but I know London quite well and I’ve seen Jews walking about that city in reasonable safety just like everybody else.

        Of course the UK has its share of racist thugs but I don’t think Jews are in any more danger from them than people of any other minority cultural group – or even supporter of the wrong football team.

          1. Here’s some more data:


            Does the data in my link negate your assertion that it is safe for visibly Jewish people to walk the streets of your cities? Neither, I think, does your data negate my assertion. There is antisemitism in the UK, unfortunately, but if you walk through my city wearing a kippa or sporting a Star of David, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get through it without even any verbal abuse.

            1. There were no physical attacks on visible Jews in Warsaw; there were many physical attack on Jews in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and many other European big cities. Some victims required hospital care. Antisemitism in Poland is growing but (for now) it doesn’t come to physical assaults on people – it’s verbal harrasment, defacing and destroying Jewish graveyards and landmarks, producing antisemitic films, writing antisemitic content on social media, etc. However, we are always behind Western Europe so we probably still have a few years before we advance to the level of brute force.

              1. A quick check via google gives 10,000-20,000 Jews in Poland and about 260,000 in England. England’s total population is about 50% larger than Poland’s: 60 million vs. 40 million. If anti-Semitism were equal in the two, we could still expect a crude rate of anti-Semitic acts more than 10 times greater in England simply through size effects. I also suspect that reporting in Poland may not be as complete as in European countries farther west. That’s my 2 cents.

        1. According to Wikipedia (I know…!), cases of extreme violence have fluctuated, but never going above five per year. However, incidents of assault have grown steadily (from 19 in 1997 to 122 in 2018, the last year that the article has data for). Cases of damage and desecration have grown more slowly, but threats have grown enormously (19 in 1997; 109 in 2018) as have incidents of abusive behaviour (86 in 1997; 1,300 in 2018).

          Of course, there may have been changes in reporting methods, and/or the willingness to report such incidents, and the ease with which threats and abuse can be spread via social media. Nevertheless, it is not a pretty picture and certainly not one that I am proud of – notwithstanding the reasonable point made by W. Benson about population and proportionality.

  3. Strongly antireligious scientists, he said, “want to limit the kind of questions that can be asked or answered.”

    This is one of those truisms that I hear far too often, and I believe it is based on a stereotype. Science can only do what science can do, which is to test nature and reality. If we can come up with a way to reliably test supernatural claims, then strongly anti-religious scientists will embrace such a process. The sad thing is for the religious, unweaving their particular rainbows may lead to some deep disappointment. If supernatural claims become testable, then they are no longer supernatural. They become natural.

    I have an atheist friend who showed me a video of monks the Shao-Lin order performing fantastic feats that look supernatural. He believes that they are harnessing a form of energy that hasn’t been discovered yet, and said that “a scientist” examined their tricks and said that they can’t be explained with current science. So, I asked him how there are undiscovered forms of energy that interact with physical bodies. They may be undescribed (and I went through why that is very unlikely) forms of energy, but they are not undiscovered. If it takes a bigger supercollider to find them, then a monk isn’t going to be able to harness them to stop a spear from penetrating his neck. If there is “xi,” then it would have been described by now, at least sooner than boson fields. (I also explained to him that the guy sitting on glass shards at Venice Beach isn’t protected by xi, but by the distribution of weight. He hasn’t brought that up again.)

    Atheists are all agnostic, meaning that we are contingent on religion, pending some sort of evidence. We simply find no reason to believe in god(s.) Show us a reason and we will examine it. In the meantime, scientists do ask all the questions, but can’t always find a way to answer them.

    1. If supernatural claims become testable, then they are no longer supernatural. They become natural.

      A common argument which IMO misses the trees for the forest. I don’t care if you bucket laying on hands or shao-lin feats in the ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ categories. Those terms are category names – forest – but they don’t negate the presence of novel events or forces – the trees. What I and other scientists care about is whether the claims are true. Science can absolutely test shao-lin levitation or long-range punching. Science can absolutely test faith healing. These claims will end up being supported by controlled experimental testing, or they will not.

      So getting back to the quote you start with, Collins is just flat wrong. Scientists don’t want to limit the study of such claims. The closest thing we come to that is not wanting to waste our own time and money. So you probably won’t see the NSF or some major researcher doing a Chi force study on their own initiative – because they view it as a waste. However, if someone else wants to fund a controlled reproducible study of the force produced by shao-lin monks, I’m sure such a funder would have no problem finding scientists (even reputable scientists) willing to do it for the right pay. After all, reputable studies have been done on telepathy, telekinesis, even the impact of prayer. Collins is wrong to claim the scientific community wants these out of bounds. They are all in bounds. It is more true to say that most scientists see them as high risk low payoff studies and therefore bad bets, and so it takes a pretty good monetary or reputation incentive to get them to drop their more low risk high payoff work to do these studies instead.

      1. +1

        Regarding natural / supernatural, I was about to write a similar comment, but then I saw you had it covered, and better than I would have.

        The methods and tools of science are simply prosthetics that enable us to “see” what’s what better than we can with our Mark 1 human capabilities. It doesn’t matter what is out there to “see.” Call it what you will, if it interacts in any way with any of the other already characterized things in our reality, including human bodies, then it is in principal detectable by science. If it isn’t then, in principal, it is impossible to ever know anything about it.

    2. Michael, I infer by “xi” you are referring to the invisible breath energy that is supposed to inform the seemingly magical powers of Chinese martial artists. FYI, the pinyin spelling is “qi.” The older Wade-Giles spelling is “ch’i.” Respectfully, Steve

    1. Wikipedia says this: “The sandwich is particularly popular in New England and has been proposed as the official state sandwich of Massachusetts.”

      Has it actually been passed by the legislature as such?

  4. Zog was the first President and later, as Zog I, the first King of Albania. I like the name. Here’s Zog:

    Kneel before Zog!
    Someone had to say it. Even if the fictional one is ‘d’ instead of ‘g’.

  5. I am inclined to say that they should let some of the anti-Semitic graffiti at Auschwitz alone. In a place that one would expect to engender only sympathy for Jews, as well as other victims of the Nazis, having current anti-Semitic graffiti would be a reminder that, if we are complacent, old evils can return.

  6. About evangelicals and any tendency of theirs to not get vaccinated against Covid: It would be a good thing if the Templeton Foundation put forward big fat awards for people advocate that it is a Christian duty to get vaccinated. For once, the foundation would be doing something useful.

  7. I think Dawkins response to Collins’ ”awakening” to a divine, all loving creator is more honest and satisfying; that the possibility of a creator can be considered, but the odds are staggering and overwhelmingly against it. Personally, I prefer Christopher Hitchens more brutal assessment of being a non theist as the very concept of a supernatural, all powerful deity is offensive and demeaning.

  8. As the barmaid said, “Because you keep coming into my bar!” – the news illustrates this clearly :

    – religion poisons fair trials (Theranos)
    – religion poisons scientific inquiry (Collins)

    … tension between science (fact, truth claims) and faith is just a grain of sand on the beach.

    I quote , “Religion poisons everything” – (Christopher Hitchens) and emphasize that it – and faith – does so *on a daily basis*.

    1. It IS annoying. It’s also not any sort of useful fraud prevention measure, because the state doesn’t keep signatures on file, so how would they ever tell if some signature doesn’t match a name? And given that the witness doesn’t need to be a registered voter or even a citizen, they aren’t going to be able to tell when a witness name and signature is fake either.

      We should be clear here: the signature and witness requirement is a fraud litigation measure. Requiring an official signature allows the state to prosecute someone for fraud when they have other evidence a vote fraud was committed. Because you’ve claimed on an official document to be someone you’re not, which is illegal. But the signature and witness signature in themselves do not help detect or prevent fraud.

  9. Ken Miyata was going to name a new species of tree frog Hyla howarya, but the genus was split, and the new species wound up in the genus Ololygon. E.R. Dunn named two species of salamanders Oedipus rex and Oedipus complex, but they were later placed in other genera.


    1. Me, I don’t care for the cute binomials unless they follow the traditional Linnean Noun / adjective pattern. Stuff like ‘scule’ or ‘howarya’ are not valid adjectives imo.
      (Although admittedly, classic names like Bufo bufo or Bombus bombus don’t seem to strictly follow the rule either.)

      1. The specific epithets of names like Bufo bufo can be thought of as nouns in apposition, can’t they? (Like Thecadactylus rapicauda, which doesn’t agree in gender, because rapicauda is a noun.)


  10. (1)”Strongly antireligious scientists, he said, “want to limit the kind of questions that can be asked or answered.”

    What exactly is this supposed to mean? Does he mean they want to limit the kinds of questions science can ask? Many scientists no doubt do argue that science should only be used to answer the kinds of questions it is capable of answering. What’s wrong with that? As Jerry points out Collins said as much himself.

    Does he mean some scientists want to limit other people from pursuing answers to certain kinds of questions by ‘other ways of knowing’? BS.

    Does he mean antireligious scientists want to limit themselves personally? I think it is obviously inaccurate but even if true, so what?

    (2)”But to be “fully alive,” humans need to “ask questions that start with ‘how’ but also questions that begin with ‘why.’”

    Yes. So? Does he mean that atheists aren’t capable, or willing, or perhaps are inhibited by lack of faith from recognizing the importance to human well being in asking / answering these ‘why’ questions. Wrong, and cliché. Show me some convincing evidence, as opposed to poor rationalizations based on ridiculously wrong premises of atheist characteristics.

    Or does he mean that Evangelical Christianity is the best way to pursue answers to ‘why’ questions? Or merely any sort of faith based religion? How cliché is that? Show me some convincing evidence. NOMA was the dumbest thing Gould ever came up with.

    (3)He continued: “In our daily life, we encounter both science and spirituality. They are two very different aspects to the same creation. Together, the story is so much more amazing than either by itself.”

    For certain values of ‘spirituality’ I agree. And common clichés of Vulcan like scientists aside, I’m confident that the majority of scientists, even antireligious ones, would also agree. Let’s go right to the worst of the worst for examples, the Four Horseman. How could anyone being honest with themselves read or listen to Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris and say these people are lacking in ‘spirituality’ or that they deny spirituality is important? They ooze spirituality out of every pore, as they point out that religion is completely unnecessary to experience, value or seek understanding of it.

  11. I read in this post:

    “Malgorzata wrote me this when I asked her about the graffiti:

    Yes, I know about antisemitic graffiti at Auschwitz. But people who are visibly Jews can still walk safely on the streets of Polish cities. They can’t do it in West-European cities nor in some parts of American cities.”

    People who are visibly Jews can’t walk safely in West-European cities”… ? ! ?….

    Well, ahum, oh please, omg… Please… why do people utter such BS ?

    1. It would be a good idea to read Da Roolz (at the bottom of the page). It’s the job – and prerogative – of our host to point this out, of course, but he might well choose to do so less politely, so I urge you to take my advice.

  12. The German word for joke is spass. The Italian word for joke is scherzo (you removed the final O,
    so it then looks like German, but it is Italian.

    1. “The Italian word for joke is scherzo”

      Is that the same for the pieces of music titled “scherzo”?

        1. And my ‘late romantic slop’ taste in Scherzos is Mahler #2, #5 and #7. Not really slop at all! Seriously entertaining IMHO.
          Mahler made his dough by conducting in winter, his serious fun by composing in summer.
          Mathematicians (and others) make their dough by teaching in winter, serious fun by researching in summer.

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