Wednesday: Hili dialogue

November 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Es un dia de joroba: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 and National Baklava Day, celebrating what may be my favorite pastry of all (when made properly with lots of butter, many layers of filo  and, best of all, pistachios instead of walnuts). Below: best pastry store of all, in Istanbul, and my plate of baklava (nobody ever has just one piece in Turkey). If you’re really decadent, you can get it with thick whipped cream slathered all over the top. Photographed in March, 2008:

My plate.  Their baklava has pistachios in it. There is also kataifi and another sweet.  One plate = 1 serving, calories unknown

It’s also Homemade Bread Day, National Butter Day, National Unfriend Day (time to clear the chaff out of Facebook), International Happy Gose Day, celebrating that sour German beer, International Students’ Day (see 1939 below), and World Prematurity Day. 

News of the Day:

*The Washington Post highlights a growing trouble for the Democrats: “Inflation emerges as defining economic challenge of Biden presidency, with no obvious solution at hand.”  High demand coupled with lower supply means higher prices: a basic conclusion of economics. But things apparently aren’t so simple:

This inflationary burst has no single cause and no obvious solution. Trillions of dollars in federal aid approved by Congress in response to the pandemic have led American consumers and companies to purchase more goods than ever before, putting new strains on global supply chains to accommodate the soaring volume. But that higher demand has collided with shortages in workers, supplies and transportation capacity — challenges caused in part by the pandemic as well as long-standing structural deficiencies in the national economy.

After initially appearing limited to sectors particularly hit by the pandemic, higher prices have spread throughout most key sectors of the economy. Gas prices are at a seven-year high amid a global energy crisis, exacerbated by unusually high demand in Europe and a coal shortage in China. Food prices are rising at the highest level in 12 years amid severe droughts and spiking demand from families and restaurant reopenings. Meat, fish and egg prices are up nearly 12 percent from a year ago — the highest increase since 1979 (other than the early days of the pandemic) — partly fueled by processing plants’ struggle to find workers.

Although the bottom 40% of Americans, income-wise, are better off than they were last year (reason: higher wages and government aid), the middle class is suffering more. Consumer confidence is down, and what will the Build Back Better bill do to the economy? The fact is that economists have no idea what will happen, but that’s nothing new.

*Over at Quillette, Lawrence Krauss recounts a particularly odious attempt at cancelling an academic. Krauss’s piece is called “An astronomer cancels his own research—because his results weren’t popular.” It’s really sad: astronomer John Kormendy, who’s quite well known in the field, wrote a paper in PNAS trying to see which metrics of early-career professors (publications, citations, and so on—there are ten measures) were correlated with their achievements ten years later. This was an attempt to make the assessment of young astronomers more objective. Kormendy used a group of 22 astronomers to subjectively assess the current quality of the 512 subjects. These subjective assessments were also correlated with their earlier data, and a combination metric was able to predict with good accuracy the astronomers’ later-career performance. That was basically it  But Kormendy got attacked widely for using objective metrics (largely for neglecting race, though not a “metric”, was a criterion some people wanted to use to access performance), and he eventually withdrew his PNAS paper and tendered a fulsome and cringeworthy apology. The whole mess made me so disgusted that I didn’t want to write about it. But Krauss did, so go read his account. By the way, I managed to get a pdf of the paper before it was withdrawn, so you can ask or go to the Wayback Machine.

*I’m a big fan of Frida Kahlo, and if you’re ever in Mexico City, by all means go visit the home that she shared with Diego Rivera. It is just as it was when they lived there, with several of her works, her easel (in front of which which stands her wheelchair), and several of the painted casts she wore to straighten her battered body (she was in a trolley accident when young). Now one of her works, “Diego and I” from 1949, has just set a record  auction price for a Latin American artist: $34.9 million at Sotheby’s (the previous record was for a painting by her husband Diego Rivera (same Diego), which sold in 2018 for $9.76 million.  Here’s Kahlo’s painting, showing Diego up in the head of a sad Frida (their marriage was turbulent, marked by fights and mutual infidelities).

*John McWhorter’s latest biweekly column, “‘Woke went the way of ‘P.C’ and ‘liberal’,” shows, as we know, that a term once used to mean “sincerely committed to and active in social justice” is now used as a pejorative term for people who espouse social justice but go to nonproductive extremes in their rhetoric. (“P.C” underwent the same transmogrification.) And some, like AOC, still claim that they’re “woke” in the old sense. McWhorter thinks we need a new and less confusing term, though I don’t think “woke” is any more confusing than “politically correct.” His solution is not a linguistic one, though:

So here’s another modest proposal: Progressives inclined to tar people for their perceived complicity in an assortment of injustices — for having insufficiently woke views — might temper their fervor. If they could manage that, a new equivalent to “woke” as a mere descriptor, with the positive-to-neutral connotation it had not so long ago, might last a little longer.

*A roadrunner made a big road trip—from Las Vegas to Maine. These adorable birds are native to the American Southwest, but one found its way into a moving van headed across country. Fortunately, it was found and is now in rehab until it’s in good enough condition to be sent back to Vegas. Rumors are that the van was owned by the Acme Moving Company.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 764,592, an increase of 1,092 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,132,632, an increase of about 7,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 17 includes:

Here’s the “Darnley portrait” of Elizabeth I, almost certainly painted from life (1575-1576). The caption is from Wikipedia: this is the source of every later portrait of Elizabeth:

Raleigh got out in 1617, went on a voyage and, upon his returned, was imprisoned again for hostile acts against Spain. This time he was beheaded (1618).

Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster on 29 October 1618. “Let us dispatch”, he said to his executioner. “At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear.” After he was allowed to see the axe that would be used to behead him, he mused: “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries.” According to biographers, Raleigh’s last words, spoken to the hesitating executioner, were: “What dost thou fear? Strike, man, strike!”

  • 1800 – The United States Congress holds its first session in Washington, D.C.
  • 1869 – In Egypt, the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, is inaugurated.

Here’s a ship making a transit of the Suez Canal, sped up so as to compress the 16-hour transit into three minutes. Note the lakes and bypass canals:

  • 1939 – Nine Czech students are executed as a response to anti-Nazi demonstrations prompted by the death of Jan Opletal. All Czech universities are shut down and more than 1,200 students sent to concentration camps. Since this event, International Students’ Day is celebrated in many countries, especially in the Czech Republic.
  • 1968 – Viewers of the Raiders–Jets football game in the eastern United States are denied the opportunity to watch its exciting finish when NBC broadcasts Heidi instead, prompting changes to sports broadcasting in the U.S.

The movie started when the Jets were ahead, but then the Raiders scored twice in the last few minutes and won. Viewers didn’t know that! Here’s a short documentary:

  • 1970 – Vietnam War: Lieutenant William Calley goes on trial for the My Lai Massacre.
  • 1973 – Watergate scandal: In Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells 400 Associated Press managing editors “I am not a crook.”

Here he is saying that Big Lie:

Did you know that Arnold collects and wears cowboy boots? Here he is smoking a stogie and showing off his boots. Many of them are very high end, made by Tres Outlaws in El Paso. When I visited the factory, they showed me a pair being made for Arnold as a Christmas present from his then wife Maria Shriver. They were black leather with inlaid silver skulls, and cost about $25,000.

  • 2019 – The first known case of COVID-19 is traced to a 55-year-old man who had visited a market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s a recording Monty addressing the 8th Army. And he did exactly what he predicted, known from then on as “Montgomery of Alamein”.

  • 1901 – Lee Strasberg, Ukrainian-American actor and director (d. 1982)
  • 1902 – Eugene Wigner, Hungarian physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1995)
  • 1925 – Rock Hudson, American actor (d. 1985)
  • 1938 – Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist

Here’s a treat if you like Lightfoot as much as I do: an hourlong performance from Soundstage in 1979, including many of his big hits.  He’s 83 today.

  • 1944 – Lorne Michaels, Canadian-American screenwriter and producer, created Saturday Night Live

Those who shoved off on November 17 include:

Here’s a portrait of Catherine in the 1850s painted from life by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder

  • 1917 – Auguste Rodin, French sculptor and illustrator (b. 1840)
  • 1940 – Raymond Pearl, American biologist and academic (b. 1879)
  • 2013 – Doris Lessing, British novelist, poet, playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1919)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, a new habit has started. According to Malgorzata, “Lately Hili sometimes demands to be let upstairs. Paulina took this picture during one of Hili’s rare visits there.” Hili is still wary of Kulka, but at least tolerates her presence without much hissing.

Kulka: It’s nice to see you.
Hili: Hmm.
(Photo: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Kulka: Miło cię widzieć.
Hili: Mhm.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

Posted on FB by Seth Andrews:

From Merilee:

From Nicole:

Look at this plump frog, and make sure the sound is up so you can here its weird call:

From Ginger K. I always let my cats on the counter, as it’s futile to try to prevent them. You just have to clean up the counter afterwards.

From Barry, who says, “I wonder what it’s waiting for?” I’m guessing this is a real black bear and not a man in a bear suit.

From Ken, who said, “Now I know what I’m getting you for Coynezaa this year.” Please, NO!  But look how low Milo Yiannopoulis has fallen: trying to sell plastic Virgin Marys on television!

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows my favorite wild cat. What a beaut!

. . . and an unusual flower:

. . . and an unusual bird, flying underwater.

55 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

    1. We have coyotes and roadrunners in our yard frequently, but I have not seen a coyote go after a roadrunner. The coyotes must know better. But, roadrunners are amazingly tough birds. My wife watched a fight between a Cooper’s hawk and a roadrunner and the hawk had to retreat.

  1. Skeleton flower is a perfect name for that beautiful and eerie little plant. I have never seen a crucifix frog. He sounds a little bit like a mourning dove.

  2. Fortunately, it [the roadrunner] was found and is now in rehab until it’s in good enough condition to be sent back to Vegas. Rumors are that the van was owned by the Acme Moving Company.

    What lies on the other side of the painted cave.

  3. Those who shoved off on November 17 include:

    1796 – Catherine the Great, of Russia (b. 1729)

    Here’s a portrait of Catherine in the 1850s painted from life by Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder

    She’s looking good for somebody who had been dead for 60 years in the 1850’s. Possible typo?

    1. Thanks to rabble-rouser Raleigh and Queen Mary’s historically questionable virginity, Americans were gifted with Virginia.

      1. Queen Elizabeth’s, but your point stands. And the British were gifted with tobacco (I feel a Bob Newhart sketch coming on).

    2. As were those of Giuseppe Zangara, the Italian-born anarchist who murdered Chicago mayor Anton Cermak during a failed attempt to assassinate then-president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when asked if he had any final words before his execution in the electric chair: “Pusha da button! Go ahead, pusha da button!”

  4. 1973 – Watergate scandal: In Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells 400 Associated Press managing editors “I am not a crook.”

    The same kind of maudlin, self-pitying BS Nixon spouted in his infamous “Checker’s Speech” by which he stayed on the bottom half of Ike’s 1952 ticket — difference being that, in 1952, most Americans did not yet own television sets, thus heard it on radio, so were spared Nixon’s shifty-eyed, sweaty-lipped, used-car-salesman persona, thereby permitting him to get away with his mendaciousness.

  5. 1901 – Lee Strasberg, Ukrainian-American actor and director (d. 1982)

    Strasberg made his biggest mark as an acting teacher, as director of the Actors Studio, in New York and Los Angeles, immersing a generation of US actors in “the method” originally developed by the Russian theater actor Konstantin Stanislavski.

  6. I watched the Suez Canal transit video and OMG! Who picks the music for these videos? I don’t think I’ve ever heard one that is either any good or which suits the video.

    1. How ’bout this one featuring The Clancy Brothers?
      This Gulf Oil commercial ran many times during NBC’s live coverage of Apollo 11 in 1969, and possibly later, promoting the new “Universe” line of supertankers and its oil terminal in Bantry Bay, Ireland. Someone has “updated” it with more interesting footage of open-ocean tanker operations but this is the original. Always ended with the voice-over: “Gulf. For whatever work there is to be done.”
      Attention spans were longer then: this is a 2-minute commercial!

  7. Well, Sir Walter might’ve been a stupid git (according to John Lennon, anyway) for bringing tobacco to England, but if the above description of his execution is at all accurate, he was also what I would call One Bad Mother F*r. That’s a pretty courageous way to face the axe; sharp Medicine indeed.

    1. Made me remember the Plastic Jesus song: “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, Long as I got my Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car.”
      As the link indicates, many versions. Doesn’t list one of my favorite verses, though: “Got no fear of doing ninety, Long as I got the High and Mighty, Glued to the dashboard of my car.” see also

  8. I saw yesterday that someone said the use of the term “Critical Race Theory” as a pejorative is now racist. I don’t know why they can’t just admit that their definition of racist is just anyone who opposes them.

    I used to be a fan of Schwarzenegger, but then he said fuck my rights. It’s always somewhat poignant to see a man you’ve respected lose vigor and become an old man; it’s a downright shame when he becomes an old woman.

        1. Sorry, I have to agree with Arnold on this point. Your freedom to swing your fist ends where someone else begins, your freedom to get drunk ends when you get in a car on a road with other humans, and your freedom not to wear masks or be vaccinated makes you a possible danger to innocent other people (for no good reason) and worse than a schmuck. A virus doesn’t respect anyone’s rights. Other people have a legitimate right not to be exposed to unnecessary danger because some people are spoiled little brats whose p*ssies hurt if they have to wear masks or get vaccinated or social distance.

          1. A right not to be exposed to a virus is absurd because it cannot be meaningfully enforced. Even the vaccinated can transmit the virus. You don’t not have right to absolutely safety, and a government established to provide it would be the worst totalitarian government ever. I don’t say that there aren’t trade offs here, but for Schwartzenegger or anyone else to say that there is no meaningful issue of right is incorrect.

              1. Responding to DrBrydon: The only reason vaccines and mask mandates aren’t working as well as they should is because millions of Americans are self-centered, conspiracy-theory-addled, petulant adult-children. Along with that, we have governors and other politicians who have made mandates a political tool (as if health mandates are a novel injustice in the US). In places where politicians aren’t politicizing the virus and where citizens are responsible and care for one another, i.e. not afraid mandates, Covid is waning. At what cost, you ask? Well, the cost is death for many who refuse the vaccine and the mandates. After all, as is often reported, it is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

            1. Misleading on the facts: While the vaccinated “can” transmit the virus, they have to become infected first, and the vaccinated are much less likely to become infected in the first place. So in reality, 1000 vaccinated people screened for symptoms transmit less than 1000 unvaccinated, as long as there is any transmission at all in the community. Keeping the unvaccinated out of gatherings of the vaccinated is useful to better protect those vaccinated. Also, it is not yet known if infected vaccinees are as likely to transmit as infected non-vaccinees. They might be, but to glibly imply that they do is not supported by current facts.

              Misleading on the rights issue: The state has the right to restrict behaviour that, in its opinion, (not yours), endangers others. It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle when you have a blood-alcohol level over some defined value. It is irrelevant if you think that this set level should be something else for you, or should not be taken as sole evidence of impairment. (We all know people who appear to be sober at much higher levels.) Doesn’t matter. The state has the power (and therefore the right, because its rights flow from the power the people allow it to have) to set the drunk driving laws as one of the tools available to it to do more good than harm. If you think the law is wrong, you can ask your legislators to change it. But you can’t claim the law is a violation of liberty just because it’s not perfect. The courts will need a stronger argument than that from challengers.

              Yes, the public-goods benefit achieved from vaccination needs to be continually addressed. And there are important vaccine-equity issues such as, is it right to vaccinate children 5-11 when nearly all the benefit will be enjoyed not by them but their grandparents? But those discussions belong in the arguments about making the law, not in whether you have to obey it or not.

            2. I didn’t get the impression that he said there was no meaningful issue of right–in fact, he specifically said fine, you have a right not to wear a mask, but if you don’t wear one you’re a schmuck–but the right for other people to be free from UNNECESSARY increased relative risk is more pertinent and controlling than the right NOT to have to wear a mask in public places where other people have to go to make a living or buy food or get their education. As a society, we have long since accepted that it can be a legitimate imposition to require vaccination for people to engage in activities such as school and travel, precisely because it’s not possible PERFECTLY to protect against viruses. Even the vaccinated CAN transmit the virus, but the unvaccinated are VASTLY more likely to do so. Similarly, even sober people get in car accidents, and not every drunk driver gets in an accident every time he or she drives drunk, but drunk people are much more likely to get in accidents that involve not just themselves but innocent other people than sober drivers are. No one is claiming a right to, nor expecting, absolute safety (no on I’ve heard from, anyway), but people should have the right not to have their own lives and safety put at INCREASED risk due to the stupidity of spoiled brats who don’t want to have to make any personal concessions to mutual safety as members of a civil society because, you know, they are FREE. Perfect freedom is no more possible nor any more a right than is absolute safety. Talk about “snowflakes”, people are likening themselves to Holocaust victims because they don’t want to have to get vaccinated or wear masks or social distance? How pathetic, how cowardly, how un-American are such creatures? It’s disgusting and contemptible.

  9. In other news, a Fox News correspondent says he was tipped to familiarize himself with the confirmation process for a Vice-President in the House and Senate. This could only be for a process following the resignation of a sitting Vice-President. Again, I suggest that the Democrats are going to force Harris to resign, and then remove Joe on health grounds. It’s their only hope.

    1. My only advice would be stop watching fox. All the garbage coming out of Trump land and this is what you got? I think the story about the Pentagon sending a team over to Germany to rescue the CIA director is much better.

      1. You have to diversify your sources these days. If you got all of your news from CNN or NBC, just as examples, You will hear any particular story only from a particular political viewpoint. When the story is about I subject where I have in depth knowledge or professional expertise, the news reports always seem to be terribly biased, with misrepresented facts, exaggerations, and often commentary that is at odds with the truth. I have heard from others with different areas of knowledge who tend to see the same thing.
        Fox has some commenters that are clearly right wing. But they also have some that tend to the left.
        Newsmax is, I think, actually what people claim Fox to be.
        As far as I can tell, there are no longer any mainstream news sources where stories are presented by giving all known pertinent objective facts of the case, delivered objectively, with any opinion clearly separated and defined as such. MSNBC or Newsmax clearly deliver opinion as objective news, the other networks and papers all do it, to some extent. Any facts of a story which do not support their political agenda are just omitted and ignored.
        Journalists should be a professional class, like physicians, with a strict code of conduct, and a mechanism for punishing malpractice. I can easily find versions of a Code of Ethics for journalists, but it appears that those standards are seen as more of a list of suggestions.

        If you confine yourself to a narrow range of news sources, you are going to develop strong opinions about various issues, but your opinions are going to be based on a carefully curated and edited set of facts about the issue. And that presentation is designed not to fully inform you of the facts of the issue, but to steer you to a desired conclusion. Often that conclusion is opposite to the one you would likely reach if you had the whole story.

      2. I don’t watch Fox or any TV news. This came up on another site. I haven’t seen anything about the CIA director. I did see, though, where it turns out the whole Russian collusion thing was a hoax.

        1. “I don’t watch Fox or any TV news.”

          So this kind of throws your earlier comment’s analysis of various TV news outlets (their accuracy, political position, etc.) under the bus.

    2. Gee, I would have guessed they were already familiar, as they should have been ready to report on a more pliable replacement for Pence on 1/6, after the Trumpers had found him.

  10. Our two cats, one especially, used to go up on kitchen counters in search of food when they were kittens. We discouraged them consistently and persistently and now they no longer do it. I suppose it depends on the cat and how hungry they are. We keep ours well fed.

      1. “Cats are really just eating machines. They sleep in between eating.”

        Yes. My two cats, Fiddle and Bow, are right at my pant legs when they hear the cat food can open, like “Hurry it up–we’re gonna be late for our naps!”

  11. Baklava is definitely better in Istanbul than in the US! My go-to store in Istanbul is Karaköy Güllüoğlu, which also makes baklava with lots of pistachios, but Ali Usta’s sweets look scrumptious too.

  12. Another important consideration when assessing the causes of the current inflation is that the economy is doing much better than corporations forecasted. To focus on one example: the reason there is a shortage of microchips in many industries (like automobiles) is that auto-manufacturers didn’t order enough chips to meet current demands. Their forecasts for 2021 were much bleaker than the economic reality. Also, the influx of people working from home has also increased demand for microchips. This is another “disaster” that the media simplifies and exaggerates in hopes of pissing people off and making money; they also conveniently leave out that the US is not an outlier; they seem to think that the US is in its own “inflation bubble” and the rest of the world is doing just fine.

    Either way, it doesn’t seem like inflation is curbing consumers’ buying habits. Consumer sales are booming according to the latest reports. After all, for an entire year, people weren’t travelling, going to malls, going to restaurants/bars/clubs/stadiums- they’re spending money they’ve saved during the pandemic.

    1. I have spent a lot of time on ships, including a bunch of trips through the Suez, as depicted in the post.
      One of the things you need to get used to on the larger ships is that you need to keep yourself oriented in time way ahead of the present. When you need to turn or stop, the action itself is started a long time before you need it to actually happen. Likewise, when things go wrong, you often have a lot of time to reflect on the situation before it actually happens.
      From the beginning of the Covid measures, it has seemed to me that the complicated effects could not easily be predicted, and they would likely happen in slow motion, like a ship collision.
      When Psaki made a joke about the “tragedy of the delayed treadmill”, it was apparent that she does not see the scope of this. Even something like a collapse of treadmill availability is going to ripple through the economy in unexpected ways.
      But a larger issue right now is that fertilizer, seed, fuel and other expenses for agricultural production have gone way up. Fertilizer has doubled. But the prices we get as farmers for agricultural products are mostly stable. An exception is baled hay, which we did pretty well on this year. But of course we sell that to other ranchers, mostly.
      Anyway, there is not a huge margin in farming or ranching. For a lot of people, this year’s profits will not cover next year’s production cost, if costs do not go down.

      An optimist could conclude that this will be, in the long term, a correction. That we will emerge a leaner society, and one more resistant to such stresses. But there is a decent chance that between now and then, things are going to be pretty bad for a lot of people. That certainly includes people on the margins all over the world, who rely on our ability to produce vast amounts of food at very low prices.

  13. Thanks, Jerry, for the Gordon Lightfoot, a long-time favorite of mine. He and I are the same age and I saw him four or five times in person at small venues in Southern Cal when I was going to UC Irvine. “If You Could Read My Mind” has to be one of the greatest relationship songs of all time:

    “I never thought I could feel this way
    And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
    I don’t know where we went wrong
    But the feeling’s gone
    And I just can’t get it back.”

    Also love “Did She Mention My Name,” “Carefree Highway,” and so many more that weren’t on the video. Thanks again.

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