Tuesday: Hili dialogue

November 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the cruelest day of the week, for it’s Tuesday November 9, 2021: National Greek Yogurt Day. The thicker the better: I recommend Cabot Yogurt at 10% fat, which is hard to find in Chicago.  I used to mix it with a bit of wild huckleberry preserves (available on Amazon and very good) for a dessert treat.

If you’re not in the South and can’t have grits for breakfast, have scrapple (if you’re in Pennsylvania). Scrapple is at 6 o’clock in the photo below:

It’s also National Scrapple Day (I love the stuff), Carl Sagan Day (he was born on November 9, 1934), and World Freedom Day. 

News of the Day:

Very bad news reported by the New York Times (and pointed out by a commenter yesterday): there’s a new study on Arχiv showing that white-tailed deer in Iowa can contract the Covid-19 virus from humans and transmit it to other deer. Over 33% of wild deer tested in that location carried the virus. Researchers don’t know how the deer got the virus from humans (but they did, as the DNA sequence is very nearly identical), and they don’t know if humans can get the virus from deer. If the latter is true, then we have a wild reservoir for the virus and should start worrying now.

*I had forgotten about the missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti, so I checked. The latest news I could find was from three days ago: the kidnappers sent video of the hostages, 16 Americans and one Canadian, to the Biden administration, which affirmed that, at least then, they were still alive. The members of the 400 Mawozo gang holding the hostages have threatened to kill them if the ransom of $1 million per hostage isn’t paid, and they won’t bargain. The U.S. policy is not to bargain, either, and the FBI is reportedly on the ground looking for them. The Washington Post has a general editorial on the issue: “More countries are taking Americans hostage. The U.S. is losing its ability to stop it.”

*This is what DNA is good for. From the Associated Press:

Two California couples gave birth to each others’ babies after a mix-up at a fertility clinic and spent months raising children that weren’t theirs before swapping the infants, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles.

Daphna Cardinale said she and her husband, Alexander, had immediate suspicions that the girl she gave birth to in late 2019 wasn’t theirs because the child had a darker complexion than they do.

They suppressed their doubts because they fell in love with the baby and trusted the in vitro fertilization process and their doctors, Daphna said. Learning months later that she had been pregnant with another couple’s baby, and that another woman had been carrying her child, caused enduring trauma, she said.

This being America, there is a lawsuit pending.

*Speaking of the virus, I’ve reported before about Van Morrison’s anti-vax sentiments, which he put into a song that he sang with Eric Clapton: “Stand and Deliver” (totally forgettable, by the way). Now the Northern Ireland minister of health is suing Morrison for defamation:

The Belfast-born singer opposes restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, and has released several songs criticizing lockdowns. He denounced Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann during a gathering at Belfast’s Europa Hotel in June after a Morrison concert was canceled at the last minute because of virus restrictions.

The defamation suit relates to three incidents in which Morrison criticized Swann, calling him “a fraud” and “very dangerous.”

Swann responded in an article for Rolling Stone magazine, calling the “Moondance” singer’s claims “bizarre and irresponsible.”

Swann’s lawyer, Paul Tweed, said proceedings “are at an advanced stage with an anticipated hearing date early in 2022.”

Those would probably be grounds for defamation in the U.S. as well.

*If you’re an avid follower of the MIT kerfuffle over Dorian Abbot’s disinvitation to speak, and want to know all the “deets”, as HuffPo calls them, here are two. First, there’s Williams College geoscience professor Phoebe Cohen, who responded to the cancellation by saying stuff like this (from the NYT).

Dr. Cohen agreed that Dr. Abbot’s views reflect a broad current in American society. Ideally, she said, a university should not invite speakers who do not share its values on diversity and affirmative action. Nor was she enamored of M.I.T.’s offer to let him speak at a later date to the M.I.T. professors. “Honestly, I don’t know that I agree with that choice,” she said. “To me, the professional consequences are extremely minimal.”

What, she was asked, of the effect on academic debate? Should the academy serve as a bastion of unfettered speech?

“This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated,” she replied.

For that racist statement she got drubbed on social media, closed her Twitter account, and has now written a whiny op-ed in Inside Higher Ed claiming that she was widely misquoted and has become “clickbait.” She argues that Dorian Abbot should accept the consequences of his “speech” that led to the cancellation, just as she had to accept the “harm” from social media. However, that speech was a critique of DEI and had nothing to do with Abbot’s MIT talk.

The same website published a critique of the cancellation, though, “Who comes after Dorian Abbot?” Author Alex Small says this:

Ultimately, attempted justifications for disinviting Dorian Abbot founder on the diversity of perspectives that are present in academic communities. The reality is that these varied and opinionated people work together productively despite disagreements, as we share a commitment to broad education for engaged citizenship. I have been privileged to learn from teachers, colleagues and friends who are Marxists and capitalists, atheists and fundamentalists, and people who straddle every other conceivable divide. When inviting scientific speakers, their opinions on controversial social issues should be as irrelevant as their preferred pizza toppings.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 755,273, an increase of 1,226 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,073,945, an increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 9 includes:

  • 694 – At the Seventeenth Council of Toledo, Egica, a king of the Visigoths of Hispania, accuses Jews of aiding Muslims, sentencing all Jews to slavery.
  • 1620 – Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower sight land at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  • 1862 – American Civil WarUnion General Ambrose Burnside assumes command of the Army of the Potomac, after George B. McClellan is removed.

The term “sideburns” supposedly derives from Burnside’s name, and you can see why from his photo below:

Here’s Teddy sitting inside a steam-powered digging machine on his visit to Panama. I just finished a terrific book on the building of the Canal: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914  by David McCullough. Highly recommended! You won’t believe how incredibly difficult but ingenious that endeavor was.

The original rough diamond, 3,107 karats, was cut into nine gemstones, the two largest of which went into England’s royal scepter and royal crown. Read more about them here (source of photos and captions).

The sceptre comprises a gold rod, formed in three sections, with enamelled collars at the intersections, surmounted by an enamelled heart-shaped structure, which holds a huge drop-shaped diamond, Cullinan I, or the Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats. The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. Credit: The Royal Collection Trust.


The Imperial State Crown. Set in The Imperial State Crown is a magnificent 317.4 carat Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Lesser Star of Africa, was cut by the Asscher Diamond Company. Great Britain’s Crown Jewels. Image: Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

On “Crystal Night”, so called because of all the broken glass, Germans attacked synagogues, Jewish businesses, and Jewish homes. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Here’s the remains of a synagogue in Berlin, though damage occurred throughout Germany:

  • 1979 – Cold War: Nuclear false alarm: The NORAD computers and the Alternate National Military Command Center in Fort Ritchie, Maryland detected purported massive Soviet nuclear strike. After reviewing the raw data from satellites and checking the early-warning radars, the alert is cancelled.
  • 1985 – Garry Kasparov, 22, of the Soviet Union becomes the youngest World Chess Champion by beating fellow Soviet Anatoly Karpov.

For you chess mavens, here’s an analysis of the final game:

  • 1998 – Capital punishment in the United Kingdom, already abolished for murder, is completely abolished for all remaining capital offences.
  • 2004 – Firefox 1.0 is released.

Notables born on this day include:

I read Turgenev but don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo. Here is one of him getting an honorary doctorate in 1879:

  • 1886 – Ed Wynn, American actor (d. 1966)
  • 1914 – Hedy Lamarr, Austrian-American actress and inventor (d. 2000)

Hedy Lamarr became famous from the film Ecstasy (1933), a Czech film in which she was tricked into appearing nude and then acted out the first orgasm in film history.  She later became a stage and then a screen star for MGM, spending her last years as a recluse who communicated only by phone. Here’s poster for the movie, banned in many places and condemned by the Vatican:

  • 1918 – Spiro Agnew, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 39th Vice President of the United States (d. 1996)
  • 1922 – Dorothy Dandridge, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 1965)

Dandridge, a multitalented and beautiful singer, dancer, and actor, had an unhappy life and almost certainly committed suicide. Here’s a clip from one of her famous roles, Carmen Jones (1954), starring Harry Belafonte (can you spot him?) as well and directed by Otto Preminger, with whom Dandridge had a long affair:


His photo book, The Americans, is a masterpiece. This photo, from the book, is very expressive. Back of the bus!

“Trolley — New Orleans,” 1955.Credit…Robert Frank, via Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

A very good poet (not great, in my view) who also died young of suicide. Here’s a photo:

  • 1934 – Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist (d. 1996) [see above]
  • 1936 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (d. 2009)

Here’s Travers singing the Dylan Song, “I shall be released,” in a trio with Joni Mitchell and Mama Cass on Cass’s television special in 1969. What a trio!

Those who went “home” on November 9 include:

Forever infamous for signing the bogus Munich Agreement, and then declaring “Peace in our time” right before WWII, Chamberlain died the year he resigned as PM. Here’s a photo of those at the Munich Agreement:

(From Wikipedia): From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano as they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement

And Chamberlain waving the signed agreement in triumph as he returns to England:

He’s one of my favorite modern poets. Here he is with wife Catilin in a pub:

  • 1991 – Yves Montand, Italian-French actor (b. 1921)
  • 2003 – Art Carney, American actor and comedian (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: We have a narrative for the two following cat photos. Malgorzata writes: “I washed the curtains and – because they are so huge – I draped the sofa with them to dry. Hili went to lie on the wet curtain.”

A: Hili, What are you doing?!
Hili: I’m drying the curtains.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, co ty robisz?!
Hili: Suszę firanki.

More: “And there is a picture of Szaron behind the curtain (already hung back on the window).”

From Facebook; apparently an apostrophe was moved from “toucan’s” to “its”.

Another one from Facebook:

From Divy:

I may have posted this before. Titania recalls when the ACLU changed Ruth a Bader Ginsburg expurgating her references to “women” and changing them to “person”.

From reader Paul. I’m not sure this is gratitude, but, as Jake said in The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” What a great guy to help the sloth!

From Simon. I mentioned this yesterday, and find that Andrew Sullivan did the day before. Again we have a superfluous apostrophe, though.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Anne Frank was of course one of many Dutch Jewish children who died in the camps; she’s famous because, unlike Betsij Kaatje, who resembles Anne, Frank left a written record.

Tweets from Matthew; first another correlation/causation meme, but with a DUCK!

Do you know what a Scutigera is? Go here.  This one is molting.

How did this happen? Was a malefactor involved? But a nice man saved the kitten. As Matthew says, “If the whole world were like The Dodo, things would be a lot better.”

Sound up to hear the mews.

Tweeted by Matthew himself: a gorgeous tree kangaroo.

43 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Minor quibble: Anne Frank was originally German, but fled with her family to the Netherlands at an early age. Her famous diaries are written in Dutch. The Nazis also took away their German citizenship.

    When introducing an encore while conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle said that they would now play a piece by the famous English composer Handel. 🙂

    1. Well, Handel was officially ‘naturalised’ as an Englishman in1727 (IIRC). I think he never left England until his death in 1759. So yeah, one could call him an English composer without really bending the truth.

  2. In other news, yesterday a new university was announced! A group of academics and writers has banded together to create the University of Austin. Good luck to them. I’ve wondered where our modern Rockefeller was who would found a new university on old principles.

  3. That was a great sentence in the extract from Alex Small about the MIT/ Dorian Abbot kerfuffle: “When inviting scientific speakers, their opinions on controversial social issues should be as irrelevant as their preferred pizza toppings”.

    1. Great quote. I can see it applying to other, similar situations; how about “When inviting celebrity speakers, their opinions on science should be as irrelevant as their preferred pizza toppings.”

  4. This being America, there is a lawsuit pending.

    A mix-up in the implantation of embryos at a fertility clinic appears to bespeak negligence on the part of the clinic.

    Res ipsa loquitur

  5. This was an incredible post. There’s so much to explore and admire in this one. The scutigera looks like a bizarre undersea creature. Thank you for the link you sent with that amazing photo. Also, Moses! What a beautiful and gentle man, and what a gentleman. How wonderful that he appreciated the kitten playing and going back to its mother. How can you not love a man with a soft voice like his, patiently and carefully snipping away the rope? It took me a few seconds to get the toucan joke, but once I did I laughed so hard, I disturbed my own cat. Thank you, Dr. Coyne.

  6. “When inviting scientific speakers, their opinions on controversial social issues should be as irrelevant as their preferred pizza toppings.”

    That is brilliant – Microsoft needs to add those toppings!

  7. Neville Chamberlain was a great man of peace & has been much maligned. He knew the horror of war & did his best to avoid it. The UK was never going to be able to fight a war to defend Czechoslovakia in 1938, & was not in a position to support Poland more than morally in 1939.
    https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/in-defence-of-neville-chamberlain May interest some…

    By the way the paper was the last minute statement he got Hitler to sign about Anglo-German relations.

    “We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.

    “We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German naval agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.

    “We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.”

    1. Yes, but, Chamberlain dragged he’s feet on rearmament well beyond the point where he should have seen that war was inevitable. I recommend Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England for a view of how contemporaries saw him between Munich and Poland.

  8. Scrapple sounds a lot like what my mother who was born in England used to make from leftover potatoes, vegetables and whatever else was handy. She called it Bubble and Squeak. It made a tasty breakfast.

  9. The Chicago neighborhood called Burnside was also (if indirectly) named for the general with the sideburns. I was confirming that info on Wikipedia just now, but was put off by their description of its location as far South Side — it’s just around 91st to 95th Streets (between Stony island and Cottage Grove Avenues) which I would still call mid-South.

  10. I fully agree on David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas. Terrific history, very engagingly told. McCullough’s writing is always excellent.

  11. Th”ose [Van Morrison’s statements regarding Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann] would probably be grounds for defamation in the U.S. as well.

    I dunno. Calling an honest public servant “a fraud” and “very dangerous” is reprehensible, but it seems to me Swann would have a uphill battle maintaining a defamation lawsuit in US courts under the interpretation given the First Amendment Free Speech clause in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

    If not, Dr. Fauci should take heed. I mean, at least Van the Man has a catalog of great music he’s contributed to the commonweal. What the hell have the likes of Rand Paul and Jim Jordan ever done of any value? (Paul and Jordan have immunity from suit under the Speech and Debate Clause of Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 of the US constitution for statements made in congress. Not so, for statements that they — and a host of other idiots — have made on tv talk shows and in other public fora.)

  12. Quick hit: “Isn’t it pretty to think so.” is Jake’s response to Brett’s “Oh, Jake, we could have had such a damned good time together.”

  13. they don’t know if humans can get the virus from deer. If the latter is true, then we have a wild reservoir for the virus and should start worrying now.

    Another wild reservoir. The original, probably bat, reservoir is still out there. Unless the Chinese and Laotians have been indulging in a preventative extinction, and not mentioned it.
    Given that the US caving community (good work yesterday, BTW, by the S.Wales CRT, UWFRA, and various Mendip-area teams ; long carry of a spinally injured victim from deep within OFD) have been studiously avoiding bat-roost cave areas in America for around a decade because of White Nose Syndrome, meaning that there’s probably a lot of under-studying of the hazard.

    1. Right now the biggest wild reservoir is wild humans who refuse to be vaccinated. Once we deal with them (so to speak) we can address other reservoirs if necessary. At least, that’s my knee-jerk reaction to this.

      1. A dumb question occurred to me :

        Does the set of unvaccinated individuals overlap with the set of deer hunters, and by how much?

  14. re: Panama Canal and ‘You won’t believe how incredibly difficult but ingenious that endeavor was.’: Go see the local, northern Illinois, ‘Hennepin Canal was first American canal built of concrete without cut stone facings. Although it did not play a role in the region’s transportation system for long, its engineering innovations were significant.
    Construction of the Panama Canal borrowed techniques from the Hennepin.’ Canals remains are found in beautiful state parks.

  15. The following songs have been approved by the @ACLU. 🎶

    Titania forgot the famous Wombs, wombs, wombs by Motley Crue.

  16. Just out of morbid curiosity, I did a quick search and found that there are only 18 US cities that would not have been completely depopulated had all the US Covid-19 deaths (as of today) happened in one place…and Seattle would only have about 1000 survivors.

  17. Re the swapped babies, there was a story in genealogy circles a few years ago about two women who got puzzling results on their DNA tests: one of them expected to be 100% Irish but was actually 50% Jewish; the other expected to be 100% Jewish and was only 50%. After two years of searching for genetic relatives they found each other, and figured out that their father and grandfather had been swapped in a Bronx hospital in 1913.

  18. I saw the photo of Ambrose Burnside before I read the caption, and thought he looked like a relative of Dr. Cobb.

    Both animal-saving videos were excellent.

  19. More apropos Hedy Lamarr: She led another life outside the movie studio. From Wikipedia: At the beginning of World War II, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi. This is described in an excellent documentary entitled “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”. Definitely worth watching, if only to demonstrate the truth of the maxim that we don’t really know very much about people who we think we know, famous or not.

  20. Jerry wrote:

    Researchers don’t know how the deer got the virus from humans…

    Indeed. I mean if it were sheep, I could understand.

  21. A wild-animal reservoir is really awful news only if we were still thinking we could eradicate the virus from the face of the earth. (That’s why the smallpox campaign succeeded. Polio might also, now that the Taliban have indicated they will stop murdering vaccinators in rural districts of Afghanistan.). With Covid we gave up on that idea some time between Alpha and Delta for purely human reasons.

    Certainly a zoonotic disease that transmitted easily to humans if given the opportunity and then spread rapidly among humans would be nothing to sneeze at — plague and rabies can. But if the disease is causing a lot of cases among humans even without the deer cases, the additional cases from the deer (if such even occurs) may not matter much. Another reason, as if any were needed, to get vaccinated.

  22. Another minor quibble: the Kasparov – Karpov video is of game 11 of the match in 1985, not the final game (they played 24 games).

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