Monday: Hili dialogue

December 13, 2021 • 6:30 am

I hope the start of the work week finds you well: It’s Monday, December 13, 2021: National Popcorn String Day, a way to decorate your tree with edibles.

It’s also Ice Cream Day, National Day of the Horse, National Violin Day, and Acadian Remembrance Day.

For Violin Day, I have a picture of the famous biologist Mark Ptashne playing his violin to one of his two Abyssinian cats, McCoy. (See more on this incident here.) Mark also told me this about his violin and sent a photo of it:

As I wrote on my post about Mark and his cats:

I asked Mark whether his own violin was a Strad, and he responded:

No, it is actually a well-known violin called “the Plowden” (1735, made by Guarneri del gesu)—better than a Strad!

And a picture of the Plowden:

News of the Day:

*A NYT investigation relying on 4 former U.S. intelligence officials revealed that American bomb strikes against ISIS in Syria regularly killed large numbers of civilians.

A single top secret American strike cell launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles against the Islamic State in Syria, but in the process of hammering a vicious enemy, the shadowy force sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians, according to multiple current and former military and intelligence officials.

The unit was called Talon Anvil, and it worked in three shifts around the clock between 2014 and 2019, pinpointing targets for the United States’ formidable air power to hit: convoys, car bombs, command centers and squads of enemy fighters.

But people who worked with the strike cell say in the rush to destroy enemies, it circumvented rules imposed to protect noncombatants, and alarmed its partners in the military and the C.I.A. by killing people who had no role in the conflict: farmers trying to harvest, children in the street, families fleeing fighting, and villagers sheltering in buildings.

The Army billed the 112,000 bomb and missile strikes as “precise”, but that wasn’t the case. “Defensive” strikes were ordered willy-nilly, resulting in a civilian casualty rate ten times higher than the rate in Afghanistan. Here’s one “defensive” strike ordered on virtually no evidence:

As the smoke cleared, the former officer said, his team stared at their screens in dismay. The infrared cameras showed women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead.

A photo of a big strike:

Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

*According to the Associated Press, Iran, still engaging in “disarmament” talks with Europe and the U.S., is preparing to launch a satellite (they’ve tried before, but have failed each time). This supposedly reflects Irans Iran’s desire to play hardball:

Conducting a launch amid the Vienna talks fits the hard-line posture struck by Tehran’s negotiators, who already described six previous rounds of diplomacy as a “draft,” exasperating Western nations. Germany’s new foreign minister has gone as far as to warn that “time is running out for us at this point.” about the nuclear talks,

I am still baffled as to what these talks are supposed to accomplish. They’re not going to stop Iran producing nuclear material and warheads; everyone admits that. It may slow Iran down some, but not much. Iran will get its nuclear weapons no matter what happens in the talks, so what is the point of negotiation? Many on the Left seem to feel that, well, the talks will bring peace, but they’re fooling themselves. Sooner or later, Israel, facing an existential threat, will take matters into its own hands, with or without the cooperation of the U.S. I support sanctions, not giving lots of dosh to Iran while it secretly fabricates nuclear weapons.

*One of Mexico’s most popular singers, Vincente Fernández, died on Sunday at age 81 after being hospitalized for several months. He was famous for “ranchera” music (traditional Mexican music, often played by mariachi bands), and he performed as a “charro”:

Emblematic of the macho Mexico of romantic legend, in his concert performances Mr. Fernández typically wore the traditional charro outfit of a Mexican rodeo cowboy consisting of a silk tie, vest jacket, tight pants with silver clasps, and a wide brimmed hat, all embroidered with gold and silver thread.

Wikipedia reports his honors:

Fernández’s work earned him three Grammy Awards, eight Latin Grammy Awards, fourteen Lo Nuestro Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He sold over 50 million copies worldwide, making him one of the best-selling regional Mexican artists of all time. In 2016, Fernández retired from performing live, although he continued to record and publish music.

Of course you’ll want to see him if you haven’t before, so here’s the man known as “Chente” or “El Charro de Huentitán”:

*Sadly, I still haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back,” featuring previously unseen video of the group having to produce 14 new songs in 14 days. I’ve seen a bunch of clips on YouTube, though, and it’s frankly amazing how their creativity worked. Starting from just a few chords, a fantastic song would appear within a few minutes.  The NYT has an analysis of the magic in an op-ed by Jere Hester: “‘Improvise it, man.’ How to make magic like the Beatles.” From the eight-hour documentary Hester draws eight “creativity lessons.” Here’s one and an accompanying video:

New Blood Can Freshen Things Up

The arrival of the master keyboardist Billy Preston improves the vibe, the playing and the behavior of the Beatles as a unit. The creative spirit revived by Mr. Preston radiates beyond the band — to Yoko Ono’s impromptu vocalizing and Linda Eastman’s capturing the sessions in photos, each offering their own brand of inspiration. Ringo Starr goes from behind the drums to the piano to write “Octopus’s Garden.”

The guest appearance is so successful that Mr. Lennon suggests that Mr. Preston be made a Beatle, and Mr. Harrison calls for adding Bob Dylan. Mr. McCartney chooses humor over exasperation in his response: “It’s bad enough with four.”

*OY! A cream cheese shortage in New York City! That’s like a herbivore shortage in the Serengeti!  It’s a result of the supply-chain shortage (or perhaps a nefarious anti-Semitic plot), and only the NYT would print such a long article about it, for a bagel without cream cheese is virtually useless.

Mr. Pugliese of Tompkins Square Bagels said he had pondered eliminating less popular cream cheese flavors like espresso for a few weeks. Others said they had turned to lower-quality suppliers.

“It sounds kind of silly, talking about this like it’s some kind of huge crisis,” Mr. Pugliese said.

But, he noted, a bagel with cream cheese is a New York institution and a “big deal” to many of his customers.

“Sunday bagels are sacred,” Mr. Pugliese said. “I hate feeling like I’ve let people down.”

Anybody who puts espresso-flavored cream cheese on a bagel deserves to run out of product!  (h/t Stash Krod).

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 795,922, an increase of 1,298 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,324,322, an increase of about 4,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 13 includes:

  • 1545 – The Council of Trent begins as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.
  • 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.

He returned to Plymouth three years later, on September 28, 1580 with Spanish treasure (Drake was somewhat of a privateer) and spices. The queen got half, and Drake was knighted. Heres a map of his voyage with a caption by Wikipedia:

A map of Drake’s route around the world. The northern limit of Drake’s exploration of the Pacific coast of North America is still in dispute. Drake’s Bay is south of Cape Mendocino.
  • 1623 – The Plymouth colonist established the system of trial by 12-men jury in the American colonies.
  • 1642 – Abel Tasman is the first recorded European to sight New Zealand.

Here’s Abel, painted by Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, ca. 1637. It was thus probably painted from life: the only way we know what these people looked like:

The God Incarnate (1970) with his full set of decorations:

Here’s one of their EVAs in which they collect Moon rocks:

I used to visit this majestic building on the Rajpath every time I went to New Delhi, but since the attack you can’t even get close to it:

  • 2003 – Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.

Hussein right after capture:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Heinrich Heine, German journalist, poet, and critic (d. 1856)

Heine, bed-bound for eight years before his death, was determined from hair samples to have died from chronic lead poisoning.

Here she is photographed sometime during the CivilWar:

  • 1887 – Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
  • 1925 – Dick Van Dyke, American actor, singer, and dancer

Remember the opening of the Dick Van Dyke show? He’s 96 today!

  • 1929 – Christopher Plummer, Canadian actor and producer (d. 2021)
  • 1989 – Taylor Swift, American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress

Those who bit the big one on December 13 include:

My Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin used to quote Maimonides upon occasion. The rabbi’s house in Fez, Morocco, still stands. Here it is:

And Dr. Johnson’s birthplace, in Lichfield, still stands:


Kandinsky is one of my favorite painters, and I believe was the first well known painter to produce a fully abstract work. This one is on the way to abstraction:

Painting with Houses (Bild mit Häusern) (1909). Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

She was a nasty piece of work, sometimes called “the bitch of Belsen” [the camp]. She was one of the few women camp guards who were hanged. The caption below is from WIkipedia:

Irma Grese and former SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer in prison in Celle in August 1945
  • 1947 – Henry James, American lawyer and author (b. 1879)
  • 1961 – Grandma Moses, American painter (b. 1860)

One of her well known paintings (several on the theme of making maple syrup), “Sugaring Off”:

Here’s my favorite song from the group, “You didn’t have to be so nice“. Yanovsky is playing lead guitar in front, with John Sebastian on autoharp.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili touts the “cat way of knowing”:

A: Earth, seen from cosmos, is a blue dot.
Hili: From my point of view it looks different.
In Polish:
Ja: Ziemia widziana z kosmosu jest błękitną kropką.
Hili: Z mojego punktu widzenia to wygląda inaczej.

Szaron looking out at the snow. “Nope”, he’s thinking:

A great photo by Paulina of Kulka in action:

Matthew Cobb, picking up one of his daughters at Cambridge Uni. yesterday:

From Nicole, a seasonal highway sign:

From Bruce:

Titania is tweeting again:

From Ginger K., who says that John Scalzi is one of her favorite authors:

From Luana; J. K. Rowling keeps the outrage going. If you read the linked article, though, this does seem absurd:

Police have been criticised for saying they will record rapes by offenders with male genitalia as being committed by a woman if the attacker “identifies as a female”.

Police Scotland said that they would log rapes as being carried out by a woman if the accused person insists, even if they have not legally changed gender.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: Death from starvation in the ghetto

Tweets from Matthew. Poor kitty!

These are especially horrifying for reasons I don’t understand:

It’s that time of year again:A

A great place for scouting prey. The Polish translation is roughly, “Oh fuck, what action this is!”

34 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. I know the audience here knows better than to assume a violin bow is an afterthought – but hoo-boy violin bows are _necessarily_ expensive – because of re-hairing etc. – not that I understand… for lack of insight I offer a 2 Set Violin vid :

    1. Cannot edit edit :

      Cheap bows of course work and are useful – but its like $30 and they fray sooner than later.

    2. My Uncle Arthur re-haired bows for the main London orchestra violinists for decades from his little workshop in Soho in London. Sadly, he died a couple of years ago, although his sister Linda, who worked with him, is still alive and well.

      1. Fascinating … think it is possible that the bow is so formidable a part that the bow itself is an instrument, maintained and produced best by individuals dedicated to the bow craft alone.. but I do not know…

        The wood can also be _necessarily_ exquisite…

        1. The bow is definitely an underrated part of the music production process. I seem to recall a cellist my wife knows as regarding £800 as a totally reasonable price for a bow – and not for a professional musician.

          Of course, the equipment vs technique vs technology gets really complicated when it comes down to electric guitars, strings, pickups, amps, effects pedals …..!

    3. About 40 years ago, there was day at school where various artists came, gave demonstrations, talked about what they do, and so on. I remember someone saying that one couldn’t get a decent bow for less than $250,000.

      I call BS on that. There have been double-blind tests where the top players cannot tell the difference between famous Stradivari and Guarneri instruments and good but modern instruments costing, say, 20,000 (expensive, but the old ones can be more than 100 times as expensive). I’m sure that that goes for the bows as well. Of course, they can tell the differences between the instruments, and have their favourites, but no trend towards the old ones.

      Similarly, double-blind tests have shown that it is impossible to tell the difference between the original source and CD-quality music. Sure, some prefer vinyl, like some prefer black-and-white photography, but one can’t argue that it is a better reproduction of reality.

      1. Yes the sound as perceived by the audience is most important, but the feel of the musician – that is, the feel, response, etc. of every part in the system – is necessary… meaning, how the things feel and work in trained hands, their own sound perception, response, etc. , and it is no surprise that it is probably highly subjective, as it is art…

  2. … Acadian Remembrance Day …

    Seems a fitting excuse to break out a tune by the Canadian lads in The Band and their Canadian friends, Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Young:

    1. Thanks Ken. I regularly jam with a fellow who is Canadian, and he regularly reminds us of all of the Canadian rockers. Impressive number.

  3. Even my wife laughed out loud at this from The Babylon Bee:

    Nation’s Husbands Freaking Out About Omicron After Learning Symptoms Are Like A Mild Cold.

    Then a friend of mine said, “I hope Jussie doesn’t beat himself up over the verdict.”

  4. 1623 – The Plymouth colonist established the system of trial by 12-men jury in the American colonies.

    The 12-member jury (though no longer all men, of course) is still a requirement in federal criminal trials. (Six jurors may hear federal civil trials.) Some states allow six-member juries in criminal cases — a practice SCOTUS found constitutional in Williams v. Florida (1970) — though not in capital cases, where 12 jurors are required to determine both guilt and punishment.

    1. Speaking of jury duty. I received my first request from the state of Kansas a few weeks ago and filled out the requested information on line. However, I decided a person of my age, and still in a corona
      virus epidemic, should not have to go this time. So I called up and they gave me a pass this time. The idea of hanging out in a closed space with 11 other people who may or may not be vaccinated did not appeal to me.

  5. Here’s my favorite song [The Lovin’ Spoonful], “You didn’t have to be so nice“.

    I’ve always been partial to the John Sebastian-penned Spoonful tune “Darlin’ Be Home Soon.” Matter of fact, now that I think of it, a high-school girlfriend and I once broke up in part because she hated that song. Christ, I haven’t thought about that in three or four decades.

    1. That’s an excellent song, too. I forgot about it, and would put it up there alongside my own favorite. But it’s almost ruined by the rhyme “dawdled” and “toddled” in the chorus. What a hideous forced rhyme.

      1. I dunno, slant rhymes have never bothered me much. A lot of great songwriters have used them. (After all, in “Anything Goes,” Cole Porter rhymed “the set that’s smart
        Is/intruding in nudist parties.” 🙂 Then again, he didn’t use it in the chorus where it would get repeated, so I take your point.)

        1. There once was a pirate named Gates
          Who danced the fandango on skates.
          Till he tripped o’er his cutlass,
          Which rendered him nutless
          And pretty much useless on dates.

  6. The Atlantic has posted an article on the coronavirus by Matthew Walther, described as “editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal, and a contributing editor at the American Conservative.” He claims that in rural southwest Michigan where he lives, no one wears masks or cares about the virus. He asserts that “outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.” He brags that over the past two years he has attended many public gatherings without wearing a mask. He seems angry that last year his church temporarily closed down and he had to say the rosary at home.

    For Walther, mask wearing requirements are just another attempt of the “elites” to impose their values on the commonsense plain folks. Curiously, he doesn’t state whether he or his family have been vaccinated. So, for Walther, the virus is a bid ado over nothing. And here we see the Trumpian appeal.

    I wonder why the Atlantic posted this article. Perhaps it was to provide insight as to why mask wearing has become a political issue. If so, the magazine has achieved its purpose.

  7. “No, it is actually a well-known violin called “the Plowden” (1735, made by Guarneri del gesu)—better than a Strad!”

    Stradivari had a sign in his window in Cremona: “The best violins in the world”. Down the street, Guarneri had a sign in his window: “The best violins in town”.

    Context is everything.

  8. If I hadn’t known beforehand I would have thought that McCoy, the Abyssinian entranced by his staff’s violin playing, was my own Princess Leia. I really can’t see any notable difference between them.

  9. Experiments with cats watching TV especially fascinate me. Mostly they ignore the TV, making me wonder if they recognize what’s on it. They do react to certain sounds, such as animal sounds on nature shows. I’ve also seen my cats suddenly start paying attention when they see fish or birds on screen. That said, they don’t attack the screen so they know what they are looking at isn’t real. Still, as the video here shows, they can’t help reacting to a predator seeming to swoop down on them.

    1. Something I noticed with one of our cats that surprised me is that she has some understanding of what she sees in a mirror. She routinely uses a mirror to keep tabs on me (anybody) when it is easier for her to look in the mirror rather than expend the energy to turn and look directly.

      I’ve tested this many times to try and figure out if she really has some understanding of what she is seeing. For example, by suddenly moving my hand or a toy and she immediately turns unerringly to me. Or by making eye contact with her through the mirror, which excites her, and again, she turns from looking at me in the mirror to looking directly at me.

      I’ve never noticed this in another cat, but maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

      1. We know that kittens often attack their image in a mirror but, as far as I know, they get over this pretty quick. Still, it isn’t clear to me whether they understand that it is their own image that they’re seeing or they think of it like the TV. I believe only apes can learn to use a mirror like we do. Perhaps corvids can. Cats don’t seem to figure this out but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t recognize themselves. They just aren’t tool users.

    2. There’s a lot of articles on the internet – of what value I don’t know – indicating that because cats have faster visual processing rates than humans, what they see is likely different from what we see, and not smooth motion. A bit perhaps like the old hand-cranked movies which are jerky when transferred to modern frame rates, or a series of static images.

      My cat Larry generally ignores the TV, but a couple of times has shown great interest. One was a close-up of a tiger’s face, which led Larry to reach up to the TV and pat the screen. He seemed perfectly satisfied with the result and walked off. Another programme featured the reconstruction of a giant fossil rhino relative, Paraceratherium walking the landscape. That caught his attention for a few minutes.

      My impression is that cats react more to clear, high-contrast images on the TV, where there is little visual clutter – like the shark hunter.

      1. Years ago, I was watching a National Geographic special about cats. There was a segment in the show on the various sounds cats make, and my roommate’s cat went bonkers tearing around the house and running up and down the stairs looking for the “intruder”. The cat never figured out that the sounds were coming from the television. Another time however, this same cat sat entranced watching a televised performance of a dancer twirling a chain under strobe lights. The jerky movement of the chain seemed to hypnotize her.

        1. I experienced something similar with our family cat when I was a child. Someone was engaging in a phone conversation where the person on the other end could be heard quite clearly. Our cat reacted as you described, running around the house looking for the missing person. I don’t remember if it was someone whose voice was familiar to the cat.

      2. I have heard that before and always doubt it. I imagine the reasoning goes something like this. Some neuroscientist thinks they’ve localized some part of the human visual system and proposes its function. They look for the analogous structure in cats and fail to find it. They conclude that the cat lacks the proposed function. That’s a chain of reasoning that can go wrong in a number of ways.

        I can’t imagine that humans have an evolutionary need to perceive smooth motion that cats lack. It seems so basic that it’s something that was developed before our common ancestor arrived on the scene. It also seems likely that all animals’ vision systems perceive things in a jumpy manner at some unconscious level but higher level processing fools our consciousness into thinking the motion was smooth. This is important for hand-eye, and paw-eye, coordination. Has anyone actually shown that cats have some sort of deficit in this regard? If so, that’s news to me.

        I suspect that the high-contrast TV images may make it harder for cats to ignore, even though they know the images aren’t real. While your cat perceives the tiger’s face and is interested in it, he or she is not scared of it. The image just was hard for your cat to ignore.

  10. I miss a name, what exactly the US was doing with these bombs … I mean, what is the correct name for it?
    I wonder what world would the USA create if it had a monopoly on nuclear weapons until the 21st century?

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