Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 15, 2021 • 7:00 am

Welcome to  December 15, 2021. It is a Hump Day, or as the Albanians would say, një ditë me gunga. It’s National Gingerbread Latte Day, but before shooting me lest I drink one, do realize that this verifies Coyne’s Fourth Dictum: “All beverages evolve into confections over time.” The Fifth Dictum is that “All granola bars evolve into candy bars over time.”

It’s also National Cupcake Day, National Lemon Cupcake Day, International Tea Day, Bill of Rights Day (it was on December 15, 1791, that Virginia, by ratifying the Bill of Rights, made them part of the Constitution), National Wear Your Pearls Day, and Cat Herder’s Day.  Here is my favorite commercial of all time, and it’s about Cat Herders:

Finally, it’s Zamenhof Day , the birthday of the creator of Esperanto, L. L. Zamenhof. I tried to teach it to myself as a teenager (it’s much like Spanish) but gave up when I realized that nobody actually uses what was designed to be a universal language. Google will translate English into Esperanto for you. For example, my sentence “This afternoon I will feed the ducks” is, in Esperanto, “Hodiaŭ posttagmeze mi manĝigos la anasojn.”

There are only ten shopping day left until Coynezaa.

News of the Day:

A settlement has been reached in the case of convicted child molester Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of female gymnasts during the 18 years when he was team doctor of the United States women’s national gymnastics team. Nassar is now serving life without parole, and on Monday, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee agreed to pay $380 million to over 500 of his victims. As the NYT reports:

The settlement, announced on Monday during U.S.A. Gymnastics’ bankruptcy proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is among the largest ever for a sexual abuse case. The funds would seek to compensate more than 500 abuse victims, including Olympic gold medalists like Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. A number of those victims were abused by their coaches or others in the sport.

This is on top of $500 million paid by Michigan State University to the survivors of Nassar’s abuse (he worked there as while while treating people), “the largest settlement reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university.” Money won’t efface the trauma of which some of these women have spoken eloquently, but perhaps it will act as a deterrent.

Nassar could have been stopped earlier. Among others who could have halted it was the FBI. As the Wikipedia article on Nassar reports:

Four elite American gymnasts, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman, testified before the U.S. Senate on September 15, 2021, regarding the mishandling by FBI agents of abuse allegations brought against Nassar and how the agents made false statements regarding their reports and misinformation about the botched investigation. Maroney testified that she was met with silence by an FBI agent after telling the agent of Nassar’s “… molestations in extreme detail.” She further stated that the FBI falsified her statement, said the agents involved should be indicted, and criticized Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for not appearing at the hearing.

*Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff, has defied a subpoena to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. By today the committee, which is bipartisan, may vote to hold him in criminal contempt.

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000; further action rests with the Justice Department.

It’s up to the Attorney General to decide whether to bring charges against Meadows, but the refusal of several people to testify suggests that something is rotten in Mar-A-Lago.

UPDATE: Last night the House voted to refer Meadows’s case to the Justice Department, recommending criminal contempt charges. (I write most of the Hili stuff the evening before it goes up.)

The vote was 222-208. Two Republicans who sit on the select committee, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted with Democrats in favor of the referral.

*The “producer-price” index—the price that wholesalers charge retailers or regular customers—jumped 9.6% in the last year, the highest yearly increase on record. I noticed that when I went to buy milk today, it was about $4.50 per gallon, over a dollar more than I’ve been paying (I need my lattes!). Gas is nearly $4 per gallon here, and my groceries are costing more. I can afford this level of inflation, but many can’t, and if it doesn’t go down, Biden will be in deeper doo-doo. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The higher-than-expected producer-price numbers suggest that consumer inflation, which hit a nearly four-decade high of 6.8% last month, will stay elevated into 2022 as price pressures persist.

The index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, rose 0.8% from October, an acceleration from the 0.6% gain in each of the previous three months. Higher prices for energy, wholesale food, and transportation and warehousing contributed to the pickup in inflation.

“This is a testament to the fact that inflation continues to broaden out,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont.

*For the first time, a human spacecraft has penetrated the Sun’s corona. The AP reports:

A NASA spacecraft has officially “touched” the sun, plunging through the unexplored solar atmosphere known as the corona.

Scientists announced the news Tuesday during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The Parker Solar Probe actually flew through the corona in April during the spacecraft’s eighth close approach to the sun. Scientists said it took a few months to get the data back and then several more months to confirm.

“Fascinatingly exciting,” said project scientist Nour Raouafi of Johns Hopkins University.

Now the corona’s farthest point is still 8 milliion miles from the Sun’s center, but that’s close enough to get data we don’t have:

The corona appeared dustier than expected, according to Raouafi. Future coronal excursions will help scientist better understand the origin of the solar wind, he said, and how it is heated and accelerated out into space. Because the sun lacks a solid surface, the corona is where the action is; exploring this magnetically intense region up close can help scientists better understand solar outbursts that can interfere with life here on Earth.

The probe will keep dipping deeper and deeper into the corona for several years until, in 2025, it plunges to a fiery extinction. Here’s “an artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins APL/NASA via AP).”

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 798,945 an increase of 1,285 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,440,016, an increase of about 8,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 15 includes:

This is an original copy of the proposed 12 amendments, though only ten of them were ratified and added to the Constitution:

Ezo (on the island now called Hokkaido) lasted only six months. Here’s a photo of some of its military:

(From Wikipedia): The French military advisors and their Japanese allies in Ezo. Front row, second from left: Jules Brunet, turning towards Matsudaira Tarō

Here he is, and he looks tough!

Around 300 Lakota men, women, and children were killed in the Wounded Knee massacre. Here’s a photo of soldiers standing around a mass grave of the victims, who were frozen (it was cold). The U.S. soldiers won because they had machine guns, and the Lakota had largely been disarmed.

  • 1893 – Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World” a.k.a. the “New World Symphony”) by Antonín Dvořák premieres in a public afternoon rehearsal at Carnegie Hall in New York City, followed by a concert premiere on the evening of December 16.
  • 1903 – Italian American food cart vendor Italo Marchiony receives a U.S. patent for inventing a machine that makes ice cream cones.

There is in fact substantial dispute about who invented the cone.

(From Wikipedia): Page 1 of a September 1917 article in Western Confectioner, describing the creation of inventor-entrepreneur Frederick Bruckman’s “Real Cake Ice Cream Cone Machine”

Scarlett meets Rhett:

  • 1941 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: German troops murder over 15,000 Jews at Drobytsky Yar, a ravine southeast of the city of Kharkiv.

I am reading a book, Bloodlands, about the Soviet and German war crimes during WWII, which details many such killings as well as the fluctuating relationship between the two countries. I believe a reader recommended this book, and I too recommend it.

Wikipedia notes this:

Notably on 15 December 1941, when the temperature was −15 °C (5 °F), around 15,000 Jews were shot. Children were thrown into pits alive, to save bullets, in the expectation that they would quickly freeze to death.

  • 1961 – Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death after being found guilty by an Israeli court of 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Eichmann in the dock. He was kidnapped from Buenos Aires by the Mossad in 1960 and taken to Israel for his trial. He was hanged.

Here’s the fake passport with which Eichmann entered Argentina (as “Ricardo Klement”) in 1950:

  • 1970 – Soviet spacecraft Venera 7 successfully lands on Venus. It is the first successful soft landing on another planet.
  • 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association votes 13–0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • 1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that the United States will recognize the People’s Republic of China and sever diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
  • 1981 – A suicide car bombing targeting the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, levels the embassy and kills 61 people, including Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon. The attack is considered the first modern suicide bombing.
  • 2001 – The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.

Here it is. Now tell me how many degrees from the vertical it’s tilted (answer at bottom):

Notables born on this day include:

Teniers the younger painted this famous work, “Katzenkonzert” (“Cat Concert”). Isn’t it great? There is a monkey on the horn and an owl turns the pages.

  • 1832 – Gustave Eiffel, French architect and engineer, co-designed the Eiffel Tower (d. 1923)
  • 1852 – Henri Becquerel, French physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1908)
  • 1859 – L. L. Zamenhof, Polish linguist and ophthalmologist, created Esperanto (d. 1917)

Here’s Zamenhof speaking Esperanto at an International Esperanto Conference.

  • 1892 – J. Paul Getty, American-English businessman and art collector, founded Getty Oil (d. 1976)
  • 1910 – John Hammond, American record producer and critic (d. 1987)
  • 1911 – Stan Kenton, American pianist and composer (d. 1979)
  • 1916 – Maurice Wilkins, New Zealand-English physicist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2004)

Here’s Wilkins, who, thinks Dr. Cobb, would have been co-winner of the Chemistry Prize with Rosalind Franklin had she lived:

  • 1923 – Freeman Dyson, English-American physicist and mathematician (d. 2020)

Those who popped their clogs on December 15 include:

  • 1675 – Johannes Vermeer, Dutch painter and educator (b. 1632) [He did have clogs!]

By universal acclamation, Vermeer was of the greatest painters of all time, but only 36 of his estimated 60 paintings survive. This one, which I’ve seen, is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Vermeer was only 43 when he died, and had the laws of physics not determined that, we’d have a lot more wonderful paintings:

See above.

  • 1943 – Fats Waller, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1904)

Waller mugged a lot, but he was a fantastic jazz pianist. Here’s his most famous song, “Ain’t Misbehaving” from the movie “Stormy Weather.” Waller helped write the tune:

People often forget Patel (given the honorific “Sardar”) and his big role in Indian Independence. Here’s a photo:

  • 1958 – Wolfgang Pauli, Austrian-Swiss physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1900)
  • 1966 – Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (b. 1901)
  • 2009 – Oral Roberts, American evangelist, founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (b. 1918)
  • 2011 – Christopher Hitchens, English-American essayist, literary critic, and journalist (b. 1949)

It’s the tenth anniversary of Hitchens’s death. Let’s have a moment of silence for the great man.

Here’s what I consider the best bit of oratory by Hitchens, given by Hitchens at the University of Toronto on November 15, 2006.  It is of course about freedom of speech.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, there’s a complicated dialogue. Malgorzata explains:

Andrzej is in an aggressively anti-religious mood and he presents to HIli an imagined dialogue between Jesus and one of the thieves on the cross. Hili thinks that he is too aggressive and that he had overdone it. [Look at Hili’s expression!]
A: “Humanity doesn’t realise how I suffer”, said Jesus to the one who was hanging on his right.
“My Lord, with one word you could end my agony”, wheezed out the thief.
“No way, man”, answered Jesus.
Hili: Oh, Jesus, now you’ve overdone it.
In Polish:
Ja: Ludzkość nie zdaje sobie sprawy z tego jak ja cierpię – powiedział Jezus do tego, który wisiał po jego prawicy.
– Panie, jednym słowem mógłbyś skrócić moją mękę – wycharczał łotr.
– No way, man – odpowiedział Jezus.
Hili: O Jezu, teraz ty przesadziłeś.

A cat meme from Bruce:

From Nicole:

From the Cute Duck FB site. Sound up.

Masih once again highlights the brave women of Iran, a country that regularly violates human rights but with whom we’re negotiating, oblivious to the government’s perfidy:

WordPress has always acted as an arm of the Indian and Pakistani governments, enforcing their censorship laws and deleting my posts if they’re offensive. Now Twitter is doing it, too! This is the chilling of speech.

From Simon. This movie was originally retweeted by someone else with the heading “Endless forms most beautiful” (that’s from the last line of Darwin’s The Origin). Well, that tweet is gone, but think of those words when you see the original video.

From Ginger K. This is an ineffably adorable video:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lasted about three months.

Tweets from Professor Cobb, who, knowing I just sent in my spit to 23 And Me, sent me this saying, “You won’t find anything alarming out I guess, but it isn’t neutral.” The comic linked to the tweet tells the tale:

With this you can truly say “endless forms most beautiful”:

I’m just passing this along and am not giving it a cachet of truth, but if it IS true, well, it’s your tax money at work!

Answer to Pisa question: The tilt is only 3.97 degrees from the vertical. You thought it was more, didn’t you?

57 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. I thought more like 8 or 10 degrees. The story of how they caught Eichmann and brought him back for trial is a good one all should read. Out here in Kansas today we have wind. No other weather, just wind. Some places are closing school, imagine that.

    1. I’d guestimated it at five degrees. I just imagined a compass rose superimposed over the tower, and figured its heading to be 005°.

      Close enough for coastal navigation. 🙂

      1. Actually, I was just goofin’ on our host’s Hamlet allusion. The question posed is the line by Horatio that elicits Marcellus’s remark that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

  2. “It’s up to the Attorney General to decide whether to bring charges against Meadows, but the refusal of several people to testify suggests that something is rotten in Mar-A-Lago.”

    Unless, of course, the people refusing to testify think there is something rotten in the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol “insurrection”. If you read the ‘About’ page it states the investigation is into a domestic terrorist attack which stacks the investigation from the start.

    Were the people involved behaving badly? Yes. Have they been treated badly in prison? Yes. Who would want to encourage a political show trial in a Select Committee?

      1. I deliberately used understated language to try and avoid generating emotional over-reactions. Ha.

        As far as I know only one person (a protester) died during the events of 6 of January, although a couple of deaths were reported occurring after the events which may, or may not, have been related. There was so much FUD in the MSM at the time that reports of everything are unreliable. Whether there was an attempt to overthrow an elected government or it was just some half-assed riot remains to be established.

        I carry no particular brief for either Republicans or Democrats but I do object to history being re-written on a daily basis by either side’s reporters.

        1. I think you must be watching too much Fox. We are soon to move into the Watergate part of this coup and things are picking up. You should try to catch some of it.

          1. Yes…over 140 injuries, some of them quite severe (and that’s just physical injuries, not psychological). Someone almost got their eye gouged out (I don’t know if doctors were able to save his eye), there were multiple concussions from baseball bats, pipes and the like, someone lost the tip of a finger, many lost consciousness from being squeezed and crushed and many suffered rib fractures, lots of chemical burns and one officer had a hear attack. Covid cases also surged in the police and national guard personnel who were at the riot. It was a complete an utter 180 minutes of horror for those trying to defend the Capitol. And Trump relished every minute.

            AC Harper is the one trying to rewrite history. And to do it on this site, thinking he wouldn’t be called out? Strange.

              1. If you mean this quote from Wikipedia:

                “Five people died either shortly before, during, or following the event: one was shot by Capitol Police, another died of a drug overdose, and three died of natural causes. ”

                …then you stretch the definition of blame beyond the normally accepted meaning, except for the person shot by Capitol Police.

              2. I wasn’t referring specifically to Wikipedia. Nor was I assessing blame in any kind of detail. Simply observing that 5 people died that wouldn’t have if the insurrection hadn’t occurred. We can argue about the details but that’s someone else’s job, not mine.

              3. At least one of those dying of natural causes, a police officer having been bludgeoned by the mob, might be alive today if he hadn’t been so attacked. The police officer suicides might also not have occurred if they had not been involved. The assault on the Capitol is likely a contributing cause of their deaths.

            1. Ashli Elizabeth Babbitt (gunshot), Brian Sicknick (stroke after being pepper sprayed), Rosanne Boyland (amphetamine overdose and trampling), Kevin Greeson (cardiac arrest), Benjamin Philips (cardiac arrest).

              Also four LEO’s present committed suicide after the attack but we can’t be sure they committed suicide because of the attack.

    1. Unless, of course, the people refusing to testify think there is something rotten in the House committee investigating…

      Doesn’t matter. A congressional subpoena is much like a court summons. You can believe yourself innocent, heck you can be nothing more than a witness, but it’s still illegal to not show up.

    2. … the investigation is into a domestic terrorist attack which stacks the investigation from the start.

      If you’ll recall, sir, the original proposal was to establish a fully bipartisan commission to investigate this matter — the matter being the concerted effort by a lame-duck president and his henchmen to subvert the results of a legitimate democratic election, culminating in a violent attack on this nation’s Capitol.

      Republicans nixed the idea of a bipartisan commission, then refused to participate in good-faith in the back-up plan of forming a bipartisan congressional committee, precisely so they could raise the stacked-investigation talking point you’ve mouthed. This is what happens when the Republican delegation in the US House of Representatives forsakes any interest in legislating to embrace the use of their offices as platforms for trolling.

      1. the matter being the concerted effort by a lame-duck president and his henchmen to subvert the results of a legitimate democratic election, culminating in a violent attack on this nation’s Capitol.

        And I would add: Direct, actionable threats to the two people next in line for the presidency: The VP Mike Pence and Speaker Pelosi.

        The evidence of Voldemort being directly involved in the initiation of this attempted insurrection (or coup or overthrow, pick your noun) is overwhelming. Woodward and Costa have assembled it conveniently for us in their latest book: Peril (which I have only not read because I am doing my best to never hear about Voldemort ever again).

        Voldemort gleefully observed the goings on and refused for hours to do anything to stop them. Why would he? It was going exactly as wanted it to.

        And this was a serious attempt to prevent, for the first time in US history, the peaceful transfer of power to the next duly elected President. Anyone who doubts this is either blinded by partisanship or not paying attention.

    3. You seem to be just nibbling around the edges on this. You argue about how many people died and their cause of death. You suggest that people are being mistreated in prison. You claim that the investigation might be rigged. You seem to just want to throw a little dirt on efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the insurrection. You wonder if those accused might think it’s a sham investigation. Who cares? Many criminals take the position that they aren’t guilty and are being treated unfairly. I see no evidence that they are in this case. I have faith in the legal process.

      1. Strangely enough I see my activities as throwing a little light on the events of 6 January. If you really have faith in the legal process then that’s fine – but you should also recognise that it is too soon for anyone to be certain about events before the legal processes have run.

  3. “Mi vidas verdan stelon sur via jako. Ĉu vi parolas Esperante?” Also from teenage perusal of the intro book. This was what to say when you meet someone at a congress and see they wear the green star, international symbol of Esperanto.

  4. One of my greatest regrets is never seeing Hitchens (we can refer to him thusly, as nobody thinks of his brother when talking of great intellectuals) live. I often lament that the internet ever got beyond Geocities, but seeing the number of times any Hitchens video has been watched can occasionally dissuade me of that opinion.

    It’s my opinion that Hitchens was the greatest debater of modern times and, since I can’t opine on speakers who came before video, surely among the greatest ever, though I can’t know where he falls in that latter list. His presence was imperious, as if a titan had just walked on stage, towering over everyone else…and then he opened his mouth and his words began to flow. As soon as he spoke, he suddenly became both intimidatingly perceptive and eloquent, but also invitingly witty and almost joyful in the act of engaging his opponents, comrades, and audience. He spoke in a manner through which it seemed he was initiating every person watching in conversation, as if inviting the audience to participate in his activity solely through his disposition. I’ve never seen someone inhabit the qualities of being both terrifyingly knowledgeable and nimble, and yet warm and welcoming. Just watching videos of him makes me feel as if I’m the dumbest person on Earth, but also that he would gladly tie one off with me 🙂

    That is my humble tribute to Mr. Hitchens, to say nothing of his marvelous writing and contributions to so many critical matters of his times and the time since he passed. As so many of us do, I still consistently lament his loss, and the world’s loss from not hearing his passionate oratory for the last ten years.

    Christopher Hitchens. Intellectual behemoth. Colossus of rhetoric. Luminous author. And taken from this vast universe far too soon.

  5. The Fifth Circuit has rejected DHS’s appeal of the order to reinstate the Remain in Mexico Policy. Come for the Back to the Future reference (p. 28), stay for the discussion of the dispensing power of the Royal prerogative under the later Stuart kings (p. 69).

    The Government’s position in this case has far-reaching implications for the separation of powers and the rule of law. The Government says it has unreviewable and unilateral discretion to create and to eliminate entire components of the federal bureaucracy that affect countless people, tax dollars, and sovereign States. The Government also says it has unreviewable and unilateral discretion to ignore statutory limits imposed by Congress and to remake entire titles of the United States Code to suit the preferences of the executive branch. And the Government says it can do all of this by typing up a new “memo” and posting it on the internet. If the Government were correct, it would supplant the rule of law with the rule of say-so. We hold the Government is wrong. [p. 117]

    1. I looked on Google Earth and whilst I could not see any boats, there was a massive concrete building with a curiously elongated frontage and also a carpark that was maybe a quarter full.

  6. Here it is. Now tell me how many degrees from the vertical it’s tilted (answer at bottom):

    Without looking at the spoiler, the answer is somewhere between “variable” and “undefined”.
    The tower was already tilting as it was being built – over several centuries – and has about 3 degrees of bend built into it, from attempts to make the upper levels “level” as the lower levels had already been tilted off-horizontal.
    It ain’t straight. Nor is it even, internally. It’s doubtful if it has enough of an axis of symmetry to even clearly define a tilt at each level.
    My Soil Science tutor used a picture of the Leaning Tower in his 5 minute pitch to try to attract second years into the Department. His “thing” was the swelling properties of smectite clays – which has almost nothing to do with the campanile’s tilt – but pre-selected me for a sympathy to AG Cairns-Smith’s “life from clay” theory when he presented it a couple of years later.

  7. My (52 year old) daughter submitted her saliva to 23&me, and in the results found she had a cousin we didn’t know about. My sister gave up a child for adoption in 1970 so we surmised that’s who it was. We worked on a way to ask her about it, and when we finally did, we found she had already discovered her daughter, now a woman with her own daughter and granddaughter, and they have been corresponding and planned to meet soon. Interestingly, we found out that my sister is the first among us (I have four sisters and a brother) to become a great grandmother.

    1. Cool!

      One of my work colleagues was adopted as an infant. Through one of the DNA services, he found his birth mother and birth sister and and has visited them several times. A very happy story!

      1. A friend of mine received a 23 & Me kit as a Christmas gift, but didn’t want to go digging into his roots. So he gave it to me and I sent in a sample. My family was convinced that my maternal grandfather was part Native American due to his facial features and lack of facial hair.. Also, unlike most men in my family, he retained a full head of thick, wavy hair until his death at nearly 90 years of age.

        Imagine my surprise when the test showed almost no Native American DNA, but enough Caucasian DNA to indicate that my grandfather was probably one quarter white.

        1. Well, it’s not impossible that your maternal grandfather really was part native American.

          Nobody in my family has ever done a DNA test but my mother researched her family tree and found several anomalies. For example, one woman lied about her age on her marriage certificate for no apparent reason, until until my mother discovered her birth certificate and her parents’ marriage certificate: she was born out of wedlock. going back to about 1800 there seems to have been a lot of playing away in our family, so to speak.

          After my paternal grandfather died we discovered he had been adopted by his birth mother’s sister and her husband (because his mother was unmarried), so I am, alas, not the descendant of a Portuguese sea captain who came to Britain in the 18th century. This came as a bit of a surprise and several of my female relatives by marriage threatened divorce (jokingly) because their husbands did not have exotic ancestry as advertised. My Dad ended all the arguments by pointing out that your genetic ancestry has only limited importance in deciding who you are: your character is mostly shaped by who brought you up.

          Anyway, your DNA test tells you where your biological ancestors came from. It doesn’t necessarily tell you where your parents, grandparents etc came from because they might not be biologically your ancestors but that really isn’t important in any other sense.

          1. “I am, alas, not the descendant of a Portuguese sea captain who came to Britain in the 18th century.”

            My view of you crushed forever! 😀

            (I did wonder about your Portuguese surname.)

  8. Given Hitch’s defence of free speech, I devoted my few minutes of silence to listening to his 2006 video at Hart House. Loved the Hogwarts reference.
    I’m glad to say that TVO, who broadcast the debate, is a publicly funded (tax plus donations plus shoestrings) outlet that does some good stuff. The CBC wouldn’t have touched this event with a barge pole.

  9. According to the pseudoscientific comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, we can torture and kill people from a distance by force of will.
    We can also send small robotic research stations to certain places in the solar system. Worse with landing, sometimes landing, sometimes not (Mars, moon)
    We are actually illiterate when it comes to manned long-range space missions. The moon is a very long relatively distance, with an emphasis on relatively.In the event of a really large asteroid or comet hitting, anything over 12 km kills us and we can’t do anything, end of story homo sapiens.In the event of a collision with something with the dimensions of C / 2014 UN271 or even much larger (like the moon), we can only literally wait for death.The whole planet waiting to die must be a terrible place, nothing works but killing each other together.
    If someone is a magician, he can stare at the goats to the end.
    I tried to realistically assess where we are in history and what we have at our disposal to develop and grow.

  10. Now Twitter is doing it, too! This is the chilling of speech.

    I took the opposite message from that statement by Twitter. They received a take down request from Mumbai Police. They told God about the request but they’re not doing anything about it “at this time”.

    Regarding Robert Gates and the Ark: I wonder how conscientiously, the CIA agents tasked with finding the Ark worked. I would just blow it off and just give occasional status reports “nope, not found anything yet”.

      1. I can think of two reasons:

        1. virtue signalling: “look: we are defending your free speech, not like those losers at WordPress”

        2. They are not bothered, but you might be. You might be a person who cares about how Indians perceive you. More importantly, you might be planning a trip to India and you might not want to get arrested as soon as you land in Mumbai.

        Point 2 would make more sense if they had informed God which Tweet broke Indian law. Maybe they assume God already knows because he is omniscient, but then, why bother to send the notice at all?

  11. Pisa: I guessed 3.5 degrees; I’ve straightened a lot of pictures in image editors and was aware of the tendency to imagine that small angles are bigger. Even a 1 degree tilt is enough to look wrong.

  12. I’ve just finished listening to Bloodlands also – it is a long, sad read. Amazing anybody was left alive in that area. The author has some (pretty good) talks and interviews, lectures etc on youtube which are worth a watch also.

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