Wednesday: Hili dialogue

October 20, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to ein holpriger Tag: Wednesday, October 20, 2021: National Eggo Day. Eggos (or is it eggoes?) are frozen waffles prepared in a toaster. Not even close to real waffles. A famous commercial from the old days shows kids tussling over a waffle and one shouting, “Leggo my Eggo!” There are many of these on YouTube; I’ve put one below.

It’s also Office Chocolate Day (treat your colleagues!), Hagfish Day (“Hagfish Day was created in 2009 by WhaleTimes to encourage children to examine all creatures in the food web, not just sightly looking ones”, so hagfish represent all “ugly” animals), International Chefs Day, Love Your Body Day, National Brandied Fruit Day, National Chicken and Waffles Day (not Eggo waffles!), World Osteoporosis Day. and World Statistics Day.

Here’s an animal I consider uglier than the hagfish: the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber):

I wonder who first had the idea of combining chicken and waffles? It was a good one! What other tasty combinations remain undiscovered? What if coffee didn’t exist? We wouldn’t be able to imagine how wonderful it is! Now think of all the other foods just as good or better, but that don’t exist. 

News of the Day:

Oy gewalt! Trump has responded to the death of Colin Powell, and in a very Trumpian way, even asking for donations at the end (click on the statement to read the whole thing. Reader Simon, who sent me this, adds, “”Trump exhibits all the class you’d expect in extolling the virtues of a recently deceased Republican leader”. Yes, Powell screwed up over Iraq, but I still respect the guy, and at any rate, Trump shows his typical lack of class.

*The gang that kidnapped 17 missionaries in Haiti (16 Americans and a Canadian) has now spoken: they want $1 million per hostageThe Haitian Justice minister, however, says that the gang is open to bargaining:

“Usually, they request more, then people close to the kidnapped persons will negotiate,” Quitel said. “Usually, even when they ask for a ransom, they know they don’t get all that they ask.”

But I thought the U.S. had a policy of not paying ransom for hostages. (The FBI reaffirmed that on the NBC News last night.) But if they do, surely no American will be safe in Haiti from now on.

*Steve Bannon is on the road to indictment. The House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection will almost surely vote to hold Steve Bannon for contempt of court for refusing to respond to his subpoena.  If the vote is “aye,” it will go to the full house, and then is up to the decision of a federal prosecutor. Bannon claims that he doesn’t have to honor the subpoena or produce information because Jesus (aka Trump) told him so.

*The NYT science section has an article “Can skeletons have a racial identity?“, since forensic anthropologists often use skull configuration to tentatively diagnose the ethnicity of an unknown skeleton. It’s a good question, but author Sabrina Imbler gets all balled up trying to debunk the concept of race, replacing it with “affinity”, which pretty much corresponds to “ethnicity”, both terms being better than “race”, which is freighted with past misconceptions. It turns out that yes, you can often get at least a clue to “affinity”: from a skull, but of course that causes worries among the easily offended. It would have been a much better article had they played down the ideology and racism a bit and dealt more with the scientific issue, which is interesting.  A quote (I’ve added a bio link):

Still, Dr. DiGangi said that switching to affinity may not address racial biases in law enforcement. Until she sees evidence that bias does not preclude people from becoming identified, she says, she does not want a “checkbox” that gets at ancestry or affinity.

Is that relevant?

*The Center for Inquiry’s Robyn Blumner rips Ken Ham a new one.  Paul Fidalgo of CFI notes first that Tom Flynn, somewhat of a a humanist icon editor of Free Inquiry magazine and former director of the Council for Secular Humanism, died suddenly at 66 on August 23. The nefarious creationist Ken Ham used Flynn’s death in a fundraising appeal, writing this:

I certainly agree that this man’s death was a “tragedy of epic proportions.” As a member of the human family, he is (yes “is,” because he will live for eternity) our relative. And as far as we know from his own actions and all that’s been said about him, he will be separated from God for eternity. Yes, that is a tragedy. And this atheist group is applauding another tragedy by praising Tom Flynn for “helping to cause the Rise of the Nones,” sadly putting more on the broad way, and we want to do our best to put them on the narrow way that leads to life.

So Blumner issued a stinging response, also at the link above, part of which is this:

So the idea that Ken Ham, who trafficks in falsehoods based on laughable antiscience assertions, could ever hope to “undo the work of Tom Flynn” is absurd. That Ham would use Tom’s death as an excuse to extract millions of dollars from followers is sadly predictable. Tom Flynn’s legacy is one of progress and enlightenment. Whereas Ken Ham, with his ahistorical Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, is building a legacy of ignorance through Elmer Gantry–type ploys.

Referring to a child who had allegedly praised one of his creationist sermons, Ham wrote, “If only Tom Flynn would have had the faith of this child.”

In fact, Tom was a man of faith. The real kind, grounded in life’s experiences and evidence. He had faith in his family, his friends, his colleagues, and in the potential for human civilization to abandon fairy tales and reject provably ridiculous notions such as Ham’s young Earth creationism. No wonder Ham wants to “undo” Tom’s legacy.

Ham may be able to soak his followers of money, but what he cannot do is make our world better, smarter, or more enlightened. That job falls to those of us who embrace reason, science, and compassion—in other words, it falls to those following the example of Tom Flynn.

Ceiling Cat praise Blumner!

Here are the results of yesterday’s poll on whether they should remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson from the council chamber of New York’s City Hall: more than 7 to 1 in favor of leaving the statue up. Of course our readers are hardly a random sample of Americans, much less African-Americans, but I don’t think they’re racists, either!


*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 728,400, an increase of 1,557 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,930,707, an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 20 includes:

  • 1572 – Eighty Years’ War: Three thousand Spanish soldiers wade through fifteen miles of water in one night to effect the relief of Goes.

Given the difficulty of this, it’s a miracle that only nine men drowned. And their mission was successful.

  • 1803 – The United States Senate ratifies the Louisiana Purchase.
  • 1935 – The Long March, a mammoth retreat undertaken by the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party a year prior, ends.

Of course Wikipedia notes that October 22 (1936) was the real end of the long march, so it should once again clean up its act.

  • 1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry, resulting in a blacklist that prevents some from working in the industry for years.

Here are the “Hollywood Ten” cited for contempt of Conrgess and then blacklisted afterwards. They were also fined $1,000 each and sentenced to between six months and a year in prison:

This was an unconscionable racial assault. As Wikipedia notes:

The Johnny Bright incident was a violent on-field assault against African-American player Johnny Bright by a white opposing player during an American college football game held on October 20, 1951, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The game was significant in itself as it marked the first time that an African-American athlete with a national profile and of critical importance to the success of his team, the Drake Bulldogs, had played against Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) at Oklahoma A&M’s Lewis Field. Bright’s injury also highlighted the racial tensions of the times and assumed notoriety when it was captured in what was later to become both a widely disseminated and eventually Pulitzer Prize-winning photo sequence.

The targeted Bright was knocked unconscious three times in the game’s first seven minutes, and later his jaw was broken, impeding his performance for the rest of the season. He still played, though, and went on to a career in the Canadian football league, where they presumably treated black players like human beings instead of targets. Oklahoma State (who won the game) did not apologize to Drake University until 2005.

  • 1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre”: United States President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who is finally fired by Robert Bork.
  • 1973 – The Sydney Opera House is opened by Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.

Here’s a video of Elizabeth at the opening of that wonderful piece of architecture:

  • 1981 – Two police officers and an armored car guard are killed during an armed robbery carried out by members of the Black Liberation Army and Weather Underground.

Nine people were tried and convicted of the crime; all served serious time. The most famous, Kathy Boudin, is now Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia University.

What is a “cosmic structure”? I didn’t know, so I had to look it up. It turns out to be a “dense cluster of galaxies”, and such clusters are predicted by cosmology. From the Sloan Digital Sky Survey:

Matter in the universe is not distributed randomly. Galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic gas outline a pattern that has been compared to soap bubbles – large voids surrounded by thin walls of galaxies, with dense galaxy clusters where walls intersect. One of the primary goals of the SDSS is to map this structure in great detail, out to large distances. Scientists have many theories about how the universe evolved, and the theories predict different large-scale structures for the universe. The SDSS’s map may tell us which theories are right – or whether we will have to come up with entirely new ideas.

Here’s the largest cosmic structure now known, the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, nearly ten billion light years across (to be precise, 9,700,000,000)! Below is an “artist’s conception based on an axonometric view of the inferred superstructure Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall.” It is the biggest “thing” in the Universe as far as we know.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1632 – Christopher Wren, English physicist, mathematician, and architect, designed St Paul’s Cathedral (d. 1723)

Here’s the only building Wren designed in America: the “Wren Building” at my alma mater, The College of William and Mary. I had the privilege of taking three English classes in this lovely place:

More than anyone else, Matthew anticipated Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In an appendix to his book on using wood to build ships, On Naval Timber and Aboriculture (1831), Matthew described a theory very like Darwin’s idea of natural selection.  Matthew contacted Darwin after The Origin was published, and in later editions of his book Darwin gave Matthew credit for anticipating Darwin’s own theory. The resemblance is remarkable, though of course Darwin worked it out in great detail rather than touching briefly on it as Matthew did. Darwin therefore gets the lion’s share of the credit.

  • 1819 – Báb, Iranian religious leader, founded Bábism (d. 1850)

There are no photos of The Báb that I could find.

Here’s the poet, who died of bone cancer at 37:

  • 1925 – Art Buchwald, American soldier and journalist (d. 2007)
  • 1927 – Joyce Brothers, American psychologist, author, and actress (d. 2013)
  • 1950 – Tom Petty, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2017)
  • 1951 – Ken Ham, Australian-American evangelist
  • 1964 – Kamala Harris, American politician and lawyer, 49th Vice President of the United States

Kamala was supposed to be in charge of immigration, especially out of Mexico, but as far as I can see she hasn’t done jack.

  • 1971 – Snoop Dogg, American rapper, producer, and actor

Snoop Dogg is fifty today. Here he is singing “Roaches in my Ashtray”:

Those whose Krebs Cycle stopped cycling on October 20 include:

Debs (below) served two prison terms totaling a bit over three years, the second for sedition. That sentence was commuted by President Harding:

Here’s Sullivan and her famous pupil, Helen Keller:

  • 1964 – Herbert Hoover, American engineer and politician, 31st President of the United States (b. 1874)
  • 1984 – Paul Dirac, English-American physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

Here’s a brief biography of Dirac that shows some video of him teaching at Florida State University:

I love this movie, and this scene was about the most erotic thing going in 1953. His mate here is Deborah Kerr, the wife of his captain in the movie.

  • 2020 – James Randi, Canadian-American stage magician and author (b. 1928)

It’s hard to believe that it was just a year ago that Randi died. Here’s a photo I took of him at The Amazing Meeting in July, 2013:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is wary, as she can’t abide either children or d*gs:

A: What do you see over there?
Hili: Children.
A: So what?
Hili: You never know with children.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Dzieci.
Ja: No to co?
Hili: Z dziećmi nigdy nic nie wiadomo.
. . . and Baby Kulka on top of the refrigerator:

From Bizarre and Wonderful World:

and from the same site, with the caption, “Beautiful sculptures of animals made by carving bushes. Source: Reddit:

From Barry, who says he’ll pass on this comestible. Could this be in the cat food section?

From Ken, who adds this: “Nationally syndicated right-wing talk-radio jock (and proprietor of Prager U) Dennis Prager has contracted COVID-19. According to what he says below, he has eschewed vaccination, but has been on a strict regimen of hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and other crank preventatives. Prager also says — get this! — that he has been intentionally exposing himself, maskless, to strangers in the hope of getting COVID.”

Prager succeeded. I guess the hydroxychlorquinone and ivermectin didn’t work. Sound up, of course.

From Dom; Google translation: “The White Swan School Sailing Ship @marmilbr crashed on a bridge in Ecuador. And so goes our armed forces.” Dom adds that if you think you’re having a bad day, imagine being the captain of this boat. 

The thread shows the aftermath, which isn’t pretty. Here’s are two more tweets

Tweets from Matthew, who loves bats as much as I:

A beautiful photo:

The pollution of science by ideology (click to read the whole title). Is there a list of accepted genders for hamsters?

And a very good philosophy cartoon:

Look at the ecstatic expression on this donkey! Sound up.

30 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. All this talk of waffles and National Waffle Day makes me think of the Parts Unknown episode where chef Sean Brock took Tony Bourdain to a Waffle House.

    Gotta admit that my personal experience with Waffle Houses came in my youth when I was running fast and hard and the open-all-night Waffle Houses were often the only option for food at certain hours. I’ve also gotta admit that the Waffle House food in that particular episode looked … well, if not exactly gourmet fare, then at least more enticing than I remember it:

  2. Did the ship have an engine failure? It looks like it’s caught in the current. A later tweet shows a small tugboat trying and failing to control the ship (the tugboat capsized in the end).

  3. Both Ken Ham and the Haitian kidnappers ask ransoms of $17 million. The Haitians may have mitigating circumstances, I don’t think Ham do.

  4. The House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection will almost surely vote to hold Steve Bannon for contempt of court for refusing to respond to his subpoena. If the vote is “aye,” it will go to the full house, and then is up to the decision of a federal prosecutor.

    The vote last night was nine-zip, all “ayes” to hold Bannon in contempt. The vibe in the chamber reminded me a bit of the Rodino committee during the Watergate days.

    Assuming the full House votes in favor of a Justice Department referral (as it must, if the House is to retain any self-respect and authority), AG Merrick Garland should send the matter to the DC US Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution. Because it is a criminal contempt referral at issue, I think the DC feds could open a grand jury investigation under the Presentment Clause of the Fifth Amendment to consider the matter (although a grand jury indictment is not strictly required under the Fifth Amendment for a criminal contempt charge, since it is a misdemeanor rather than felony).

    My idea is that, since the primary issue in a criminal contempt case is the willfulness of the recalcitrant witness, the DC grand jury investigating Bannon could drop a subpoena on none other than Donald John Trump himself, to question him about whatever conversations he may have had with Bannon to dissuade him from responding to the House committee subpoena. If Trump refuses to appear — or if he appears and refuses to answer questions under some bogus assertion of executive privilege — he can be held in civil contempt under the streamlined procedures available in the federal court system. That’d be one way to clear out the underbrush and get this matter moving expeditiously.

    1. The real question now concerning Bannon will be, how much time is wasted getting him into jail. The extremely slow movement once anything hits the courts will drag this operation far into next year. Our justice system is a broken system when it comes to Trump and goes nowhere. Lots of talk, lots of motions and no action.

      1. Congress needs a mechanism for summarily exercising its “inherent contempt” power — similar to the civil-contempt power wielded by federal judges for dealing with contumacious witnesses. Let the sonsabitches sit in stir until they appear as summonsed and answer questions. Otherwise, congress’s subpoena power is useless as teats on a boar, and every Tom, Dick, or Steve Bannon can thumb their nose at it with impunity.

        Time was, these matters could be worked out as a matter of comity between co-equal branches of government. No more, in the Age of Trump.

        Democrats need to start playing the game as down and dirty as the GOP — at least until both sides agree to abide by the rule of law again.

        1. Yeah. The partial record in the Wikipedia entry for Contempt of Congress is not impressive. Makes one wonder what the point is.

          If congressional investigations are to mean anything, and it sure seems like they should, then they need the ability to execute their responsibilities. Congress definitely needs the authority and capability to enforce contempt of congress charges in a timely and sufficient manner. As in immediately after a verdict is reached send some US Marshalls, or whatever appropriate type of law enforcement, to collect the offender.

    2. That’s what I like to hear – this matter moving expeditiously. But, several sources who cautiously slip into candid-mode say Bannon is unlikely to be affected. Except, I suppose, for having to pay for a defense. In my heart, I’d love to see Trump’s whole band of enablers (we all know who they are (includes most of the Republican leadership)), spend 20 years in prison for sedition. But, I fear, nothing will happen in the real world.

  5. Better than trying to find synonyms for “race” would simply be to accept that, yes, “race” is a biologically meaningful concept. Why is it such a big deal that, as humans spread across the globe, we came to show shared-ancestry clustering patterns?

    1. I thinjk the problem here, as with (imo) so much of the ‘woke’ movement, is polysemy.
      The term ‘race’ may well mean ‘geographic clusters of genetic variation’ to you, but to somebody else it means the culturally constructed categories that are used by societies for, usually, purposes of discrimination. One is indeed a biologically meaningful concept, the other a sociologically meaningful concept, but they are not the same thing at all (e.g. treatment in the U.S. of people of Irish ancestry now vs. the mid-1800s). There are doubtless other variously nuanced definitions in play.
      Arguments about the importance or relevance of ‘race’ ought to depend critically on defining the term first, but this never seems to happen before the battle is joined and the mutually unintelligible shitshow predictably ensues.

      1. Agreed, yes, though much of the time the socially-constructed categories that society uses do actually map pretty well to real, shared-ancestry clustering patterns.

        A good example where this isn’t the case is the current US usage of “Hispanic” which conflates together the descendants of people who came from Spain with the descendants of indigenous groups who migrated into the Americas from Siberia 12,000 years (or more) ago.

  6. Interesting piece in Politico on why getting Bannon on contempt might be a long shot.

    Also, that Equadorian naval mishap reminded me that the absolutely damning report on the Bonhomme Richard fire was released yesterday. It identifies several egregious failures in training and performance in damage control that led to the complete loss of an aircraft carrier by fire when in port.

    Specifically, the report said the crew did not know how to use the ship’s main fire fighting foam system, which was also poorly maintained. The system had a button to activate it, but the report said “no member of the crew interviewed considered this action or had specific knowledge as to the location of the button or its function,” according to the AP. From The Hill

    There have been repeated accidents that have shown our Navy is woefully unprepared for its mission. I, for one, am happy to say that a portion of the blame for this lies with Donald Trump, who, for all his saber rattling, never did a damn thing to remediate short-comings in personnel and training that were clear for years. I am sure that the People’s Liberation Army Navy is having a good laugh.

    1. Minor clarification, the Bonhomme Richard is, or rather was, an amphibious assault ship. They do operate some V/STOL aircraft and helicopters and are sometimes called “aircraft carriers” but they are quite different from the dedicated aircraft carriers most people think of when they hear the term.

      They are designed to carry a marine ground force and all the equipment to deploy it, especially landing craft (boats, hovercrafts) to transport the troops and their equipment from ship to shore. They carry aircraft and helicopters primarily to support the ground forces they deploy. They don’t have catapults so can only deploy aircraft capable of Vertical / Short Take-Off and Landing.

  7. One sad aspect of that NYT article about skulls and race is how much better it could have been if a real science reporter (with, like, science expertise) had written it. Carl Zimmer, where are you?

    And thanks for highlighting Johnny Bright. He was a legend in my home town when I was a kid. Great guy.

  8. “[Kamala Harris] hasn’t done jack”

    Right. Although I can’t see Harris winning the presidency after Biden leaves office, I would have expected her to have a higher profile than she has. On the other hand, I wish someone else would take that role, perhaps Buttigieg, so that’s fine with me.

  9. But I thought the U.S. had a policy of not paying ransom for hostages. (The FBI reaffirmed that on the NBC News last night.) But if they do, surely no American will be safe in Haiti from now on.

    True, but evangelical organizations will. Maybe we should, I don’t know, stop sending missionaries to other countries? Seems like it would be better for everyone involved. When they aren’t kidnapping children to adopt off to their member families, they’re coercively giving out aid in return for conversions. I find it repugnant.

    1. “Hamsterdam” was what the hoppers called the couple of blocks in west Baltimore in which police major Colby de facto legalized drugs in The Wire, to keep the drug dealing out of the residential neighborhoods:

      1. Yes. If I remember correctly, one of the cops joked about the area being like Amsterdam in drugs being legal but the “hoppers” didn’t get the reference and called it Hamsterdam. Stuff like that is what made The Wire a great show.

  10. With regard to hamster genders:
    This is another polysemy issue. Before the whole society got focused onto the concept of trans-ness, the term ‘gender’ was widely used and understood in (at least) the vertebrate-biologyl literature as a straight synonym for (biological) ‘sex’. Many even preferred the use of ‘gender’ in this context because the noun ‘sex’ could be construed to mean the sex act. (‘Sex affects locomotor endurance.’ Does that mean that males and females differ in endurance, or that endurance is different post copulo? ‘Gender’ is, or rather was, unambiguous.) I once had a student whose thesis on sexual dimorphism was edited by an older colleague on her committee to change ‘sex’ to ‘gender’ throughout, for just this reason. He was very surprised to hear that sociologists had redefined ‘gender’ and his edits would be problematic to most younger readers.
    Anyway. The Chinese authors of the article in question could not be expected to understand this case of subtle and local meaning-drift. Maybe Titania was a little uncharitable here.

  11. Back in 1990, when I was driving from Illinois to Florida, I found that Waffle House had the BEST COFFEE EVER! They told me the regular customers would beg them to sell a bag of coffee at any price. A year or two later, when I was making the same trip, I eagerly anticipated stopping by Waffle House for that delicious coffee. But, Nooooo! It seems their corporate office decided to get cheaper coffee from a different source! I haven’t been back since then.

  12. I just had me some classic Eggo Waffles for breakfast this morning! I still really like them.
    But I cover the waffles with fruit and syrup, which helps freshen them up.

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