Friday: Hili dialogue

December 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to  the end of the work week: Friday, December 17, 2021. It’s National Maple Syrup Day, and I really do love the stuff. It’s really good over vanilla ice cream or mixed with yogurt. There used to be three grades—A, B, and C, with C being the darkest and having the best maple-y flavor. Now they’ve changed the rankings so there’s no hierarchy (sound familiar?); there are four grades that you can see here. I would recommend you get the “very dark color with strong taste” grade, produced at the end of the sugaring season. It’s not only better, but cheaper: a rare example of a product for which price is negatively correlated with quality. I’d recommend this specimen from Amazon.

It’s also Underdog DayPan American Aviation Day, which has the same rationale as Wright Brothers Day, a United States federal observance by Presidential proclamation. It was on this day that the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight in 1903. And it’s National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (why do people wear those?)

Reader Bill found the ugliest sweater of all, and he sent me a picture with a : ” I just saw this posted on Facebook.  The FB site is Distractify, but they posted it in 2014.  A friend reposted it tonight.”

OY! Is that a carrot you have on your sweater or are you glad to see me?

As a generous gesture, reader Cate Plys baked me a fantastic homemade blueberry pie yesterday, and brought it over to my crib when it was still warm. Not only that, but she added pint of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream on the side. This was without a doubt the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had—bursting with fresh blueberries and a thick, buttery, flaky crust. Yum! Many thanks to Cate! (I just had some for breakfast, too.)

She adds: “This is the Cook’s Illustrated classic American pie recipe, with 4 TBSP of instant tapioca added to the filling ingredients.”

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) highlights Émilie du Châtelet; Wikipedia describes her achievements:

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet (French pronunciation: [emili dy ʃɑtlɛ] (About this soundlisten); 17 December 1706–10 September 1749) was a French natural philosopher and mathematician during the early 1730s until her death due to complications during childbirth in 1749. Her most recognized achievement is her translation of and commentary on Isaac Newton’s 1687 book Principia containing basic laws of physics. The translation, published posthumously in 1756, is still considered the standard French translation today.

She also had a philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique, which got a lot of attention:

News of the Day:

*The data say that we’re headed into another surge season for Covid-19, this time with Omicron prognosticated to replace Delta as America’s most common variant. (According to the NBC Evening News last night Omicron replicates 70 times higher than Delta in the human airway.) Hopes for a festive winter are fading:

Offices are canceling holiday parties. Broadway performances are being shuttered because of breakthrough infections among the casts. College finals are being moved online, and some colleges and universities are switching back to remote instruction after the winter break, at least for a time.

Coronavirus cases are spiking again in New York City, beyond anything seen since last winter, and in much of the United States, where the Delta variant remains by far the dominant version. The country is reporting more than 120,000 new cases a day on average, according to a New York Times database — a 40 percent increase from two weeks ago, and 70 percent more than when cases stopped falling in early November.

While most people who are unvaccinated remain at much higher risk, a combination of factors — widespread transmission, waning immunity and the circulation of highly infectious variants — has led to breakthrough infections among the vaccinated.

It’s these breakthrough infections that worry me as a geezer, though I’ve had my booster. My main self-protection is becoming more hermitic, though I will be on those two trips to Antarctica in March—unless they’re canceled. If you haven’t gotten your booster, please do so!

*The remaining 12 Christian missionaries kidnapped by a Haitian gang have been released (17 were originally kidnapped, and five were already released). Remember that the kidnappers demanded a random of $1 million per hostage, and the US said “we don’t pay randoms.” But somehow a ransom was paid (I presume with government “help), though it wasn’t $15 million:

The gang that authorities said was responsible for the kidnappings, 400 Mawozo, had initially demanded a ransom of $1 million per hostage, according to Haiti’s then-justice minister Liszt Quitel.

A ransom was paid to the 400 Mawozo, according to the source. A US official also said that a ransom was paid, but not by the US government. Though the exact amount is not known, the source said it was far less than the original request of $1 million per hostage.

Paying ransom, of course, just encourages more kidnappings, and it doesn’t matter whether the U.S. government does it directly or facilitates the payment: the encouragement is the same.

*It seems to me that this op-ed headline in the Washington Post is a bit hyperbolic (click to read):

I’m no fan of S&M’s dawdling, but they are not pondering whether democracy is worth saving. They’re pondering their own political future as well as whether they want to try ditching the filibuster rule. Everybody’s getting so damn apocalyptic these days! At any rate, voting-rights bills and the Build Back Better package is on the table.  If the Republicans had the White House, and thus the key tie-breaking vote, the Democrats would be favoring the filibuster. Or so I think.

*Yesterday Joe Biden awarded the nation’s highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for three soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iran. Two of them got the medal posthumously, and one of the dead was the first African-American to get the Medal since the Vietnam war. Read about their deeds at CNN.

*Reader David sent me a hilarious obituary (yes, they can be) from the Fayetteville (NC) Observer, which starts in an unusual way (click on screenshot to read the rest, which is equally weird. The first sentence: “A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday” (click screenshot to enlarge. The late Ms. Corren, though Jewish, loved ham and atheism! The obituary was written by her son.

*Planning on making a cheesecake for the holidays? Think twice, as NPR and other sites report, Kraft’s, the maker of the famous “Philadelphia Cream Cheese” brick, is paying people not to make cheesecakes! That’s because there’s a shortage of schmear, and they want to help alleviate the problem, which is especially bad in New York City. The details:

Kraft Heinz, which owns the Philadelphia brand, is offering to reimburse thousands of holiday shoppers $20 each for desserts they bake or buy that don’t contain any cream cheese.

“You may not be able to find Philly to make a cheesecake,” reads its website. “So get any other dessert on us.”

The “Spread the Feeling” promotion will run from Friday to Jan. 4, but dessert devotees will have just two days to try to claim a spot. The company says that 10,000 online reservations will open at noon ET on Friday, and another 8,000 will become available at noon the next day.

Note, you have a link above, note that reservations start at noon ET today, and they’re gonna go fast!

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 802,194, an increase of 1,288 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,355,749, an increase of about 7,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 17 includes:

Thie was the Roman Mardi Gras!

(From Wikipedia): Saturnalia (1783) by Antoine Callet, showing his interpretation of what the Saturna

It now resides in Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology, one of the best and most interesting museums in the world. I went there, but no photos are allowed. Here’s the famous stone from Wikipedia; it was carved between 1502 and 1520.

  • 1819 – Simón Bolívar declares the independence of Gran Colombia in Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela).
  • 1903 – The Wright brothers make the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Here’s a photo of that historic event, with Orville aboard and Wilbur watching:

  • 1933 – The first NFL Championship Game is played at Wrigley Field in Chicago between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears. The Bears won 23–21.
  • 1938 – Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

They don’t mention that Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944 (he also discover strontium-rubidium dating). Here he is:

In the Malmedy massacre, German soldiers shot 84 American prisoners of war in cold blood. That’s a violation of the Geneva Convention, but the Germans did it regularly to Soviet soldiers and vice versa. Americans were usually treated better, but not this time. Here are the bodies of those unfortunate POWs:

Curiously, no animals were killed, though several elephants escaped.

Here’s part one of that episode, and you can see part two here:

He lived until December 31, and here are some photos, which you might not want to look at. There was no chance he would survive with such extensive third-degree burns. (He had burns over 90% of his body.) But his death ignited a revolution.

  • 2014 – The United States and Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations after severing them in 1961.

But it’s still illegal for Americans to buy Cuban cigars!

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1778 – Humphry Davy, English chemist and physicist (d. 1829)
  • 1807 – John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet and activist (d. 1892)
  • 1903 – Erskine Caldwell, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1987)
  • 1908 – Willard Libby, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1980)

Libby got the Prize for devising radiocarbon dating, which has revolutionized anthropology and archaeology. Here he is:

  • 1929 – William Safire, American journalist and author (d. 2009)
  • 1936 – Pope Francis
  • 1987 – Chelsea Manning, American soldier and intelligence analyst

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, but served only 4 years when her sentence was commuted by Obama. She’s a transwoman, and now makes her living from speaking engagements.

Those who said goodbye on December 17 include:

  • 1830 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783)
  • 1833 – Kaspar Hauser, German feral child (b. 1812?)
  • 1957 – Dorothy L. Sayers, English author, poet, and playwright (b. 1893)
  • 2009 – Jennifer Jones, American actress (b. 1919)
  • 2011 – Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (b. 1941)

A  propagandistic portrait of the Supreme Leader with his dad, the founder of the despotic dynasty:

  • 2013 – Janet Rowley, American geneticist and biologist (b. 1925)
  • 2016 – Henry Heimlich, American doctor (b. 1920)

Yes, the Heimlich, inventor of the Maneuver, which you can learn about here. I think that it’s recommended now that you don’t do this, but lean the person over a chair and pound on their back very hard, but I’m not a doctor so look around for the best procedure.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is still cynical (and tired):

A: We have to get up and see what’s going on in the world.
Hili: This is a very stupid idea.
In Polish:
Ja: Trzeba wstać i zobaczyć, co się dzieje na świecie.
Hili: To bardzo głupi pomysł.

And Andrzej has a picture of baby Kulka:

A meme from Divy:

And another Christmas cat meme from Bruce:

From Woody via reddit.  Okay, how did they do this?

From Simon (music on). Santa brawl! Rechavi likes to take videos or photos and give them a scientific slant.

From Barry, a chrysomelid  (leaf beetle) with wonderful feet. But why are they like that?

From Ginger K. Trigger warning: violence.

From Luana: A gallery of optical illusions:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a Millipede+; if you look at the link, you’ll find a new species of millipede found deep in a drill hole in Australia. None of the 7,000 known species of “thousand-leggers” had close to a thousand legs: the previous record was 750.  But this one (quote from the link):

The “true” millipede has been dubbed Eumillipes persephone. The new species was discovered in a borehole, drilled as part of a Western Australian mining operation, almost 200 feet (60 meters) below the Earth’s surface. It’s the first millipede to live up to its multi-legged moniker with a staggering 1,306 legs.

I think “staggering” (my emphasis) is the wrong adjective here. . . At any rate, I want to know if every individual of a given millipede species has the same number of legs. Kudos to the reader who can find the answer for me. Does every E. persephone individual have 1,306 legs?

And, a molecular phylogeny (below) shows that elongation in millipedes has evolved repeatedly and independently. (Matthew’s note: “LOOK AT THE FIGURE!”)

National stereotypes (translation: “This is genuinely funny. And true”).

What it looks like to plunge into the Sun’s corona. Play the video first, and then see the IDs of the planets below:

29 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. I’m a big fan of the Heimlich maneuver, even if there is something better out there. I was on a flight from the Amazon to Quito and it was very rough. I got sick and vomited, and the vomit got stuck in my windpipe and I could not breathe. Not enough air left in my lungs to exhale and force it out. As I was suffocating I remembered seeing TV shows that used the Heimlich maneuver, so I tried to do it to myself, hugging my body and suddenly squeezing myself with all my force. The vomit came out and I could inhale again!!!!!! What a great feeling!!!!!!!!

    1. Holy smokes! That was a horrible situation.

      I once choked and know how it feels thinking you have moments of consciousness left to get it sorted out. Someone tried the Heimlich maneuver on me several times, but it didn’t work. Eventually some sort of involuntary ‘spasm’ ejected the blockage. Scrambled eggs and horse-pill sized vitamins.

  2. I think Paul Waldman’s argument is that Sinema and Manchin’s refusal to end the filibuster just for voting rights (sometimes referred to as a “carveout”) endangers democracy. It doesn’t matter whether they believe the filibuster is sacred or that when the Republicans regain control of Congress that they may reverse the voting rights legislation. If no action is taken soon, extremist Republican legislators in red or purples states will through voter suppression techniques make it impossible for them to be dislodged no matter what unpopular legislation they may pass, such as draconian anti-abortion laws. As the cliché puts it: legislators are picking the voters rather than the voters picking the legislators. For example, we are seeing this in Georgia, a closely divided state, where the Republicans are making it very difficult for Democrats to win statewide office, including it making it much easier for Republicans to overturn election results.

    I think Waldman is correct that this is a time that we cannot worry what may happen in the future. Voting rights must be assured in time for the crucial 2022 and 2024 elections. Sinema and Manchin are preventing this. They are reveling in their power because of the 50-50 Senate. Although they probably don’t care, I will be so bold to predict that they will live in infamy in the history books with, of course, almost the entire Republican Party.

    1. I thought Bernie had the best statement on Manchin and Sinema. Something he said just yesterday. It was in regard to the Build Back Better thing but said we have 48 Senators and a President who are for this. Yet we have 2 egomaniacs who think they know better. Bernie is pissed. Many people are.

      1. As others have pointed out, Bernie’s math is unique. There are actually forty-eight Senators for it, and fifty-two against it.

        1. There are 50 who are against anything so that goes without saying. Real comedian. However, they are really happy to take credit for the democrats get passed.

        2. They are obviously missing Bernie’s point, or intentionally pretending to in order to make their own.

          Bernie is obviously talking about the DP, which holds the executive, has a majority in the House and a sort of majority in the Senate, not being able to pass their legislation even though they have the numbers to do it despite the standard uniform opposition of the RP. Because of two holdouts.

          1. I do know ‘that is not how the US works’, but what percentage of the US voters do the 50 senators of each party represent?

            1. I don’t know the breakdown by party — I guess you just count the population of each state and put each into the Dem vs GOP columns. Sanders is an independent. It’s a bit tricky because a state could have one senator from each party. Both are elected at large and both theoretically represent the entire state jointly.

              I did figure out once that if you rank the states by population and take the smallest 25, you could get your 50 senators to make a majority (with the VP) with 29% of the population. Because the thinly populated states are often Republican, that gives a hint about how minority rule has turned out to work. In reality, some of the small states elect Democrats and so to get their 50 Senators, the GOP has to win some large states too, so they as a party don’t actually control the Senate with 29%.
              (My understanding is the Founding Fathers hoped that political parties wouldn’t be necessary. The design of the Senate was merely to make sure that the more populous northern states wouldn’t tyrannize the small ones and make them give up slavery. But by the time the Republic started adding new states, parties had emerged. With the modern platforms of the two present-day parties, this design of the Senate gives the GOP a substantial advantage.

              If an American citizen gives a better answer, take his/hers!

              1. Well explained! You should get a green card as a reward – a better understanding than most Americans I’d say.

                The inequality of the power of one’s vote is incredible here. A Wyoming vote is worth something like 60 times the strength of mine or a Californian. Many countries favor rural voters (Australia and Japan come to mind – I’ve lived in both) but not to our extent. Yay USA! Number One!

                D.A., (NYC attorney)

    2. I entirely agree. And it is quite clear that Sinema and Manchin are not operating in good faith. They aren’t standing on principle, even misguided principle, or acting in the best interests of their constituents. They are motivated solely by maintaining their immediate access to power and money.

      I think the filibuster, as it is now, is ludicrous and entirely contrary to how our government is supposed to work and the principles it is supposed to be based on. Arguments of the sort that the DP shouldn’t do X because then the RP might do worse or might have an advantage at some later time are unconvincing at best. It has been a constant litany of do nothing for fear of the consequences. Meanwhile the RP continues, year after year, breaking the rules, more and more blatantly and boldly with every success.

      The key take away here is that the RP is going to continue to ignore ethics, rules and laws without concern no matter what the DP does. When you’re in that kind of situation you don’t continue to let your assailant beat the crap out of you because it’s impolite to fight back. No, you go all out to render your assailant incapable of further harming you before they maim or kill you.

  3. “Kudos to the reader who can find the answer for me. Does every E. persephone individual have 1,306 legs?”

    Not according to the paper in Scientific Reports, which says:

    “Males have fewer segments and legs; specimen T147101 has 198 segments and 778 legs (Supplementary Fig. S7), and T147100 has 208 segments and 818 legs (Supplementary Fig. S8). Female specimen T147124 possesses 330 segments and 1,306 legs (Fig. 1A, Supplementary Fig. S6), and T146684 has 253 segments and 998 legs.”

  4. Of course, encouraging people to not use cream cheese doesn’t really alleviate the shortage. There’s still a shortage; there are only fewer people trying to buy it. You would alleviate the shortage by actually making more cream cheese available.

    Here’s a great article from a few years back talking about Canada’s Great Maple Syrup Heist, which explains the maple syrup industry.

    People talk about the brutalization of the Eastern Front as one of the causes of the Malmedy Massacre, but SS atrocities pre-date the war in the East. In the West the SS killed 97 British soldiers in the Le Paradis massacre of May 27, 1940, followed the next day by the Wormhoudt massacre, when SS troops from a different unit shot 80 British and French prisoners.

    Finally, the headline of the week (in my estimation) from The Babylon Bee: “Rudolph Changes Name To Rolanda, Dominates Female Reindeer Games.”

  5. I awoke this morning to breathless reporting of a political earthquake across the pond. From this distance, it appears to be significant but the coverage seemed a bit overblown. For our UK friends, is the Lib Dems win in North Shropshire as big a deal as the BBC seems to think it is? How damaging is this to Johnson?

    1. There’s a long tradition of mid-term by-elections being a “protest vote” that gives the incumbent government a good kicking, but then has little bearing on the next general election.

  6. 1938 – Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

    They don’t mention that Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944 (he also discover strontium-rubidium dating).

    Fun fact, the US discovered element 105 in about 1970 and proposed to name it Hahnium after him. But this was the cold war, every discovery was contested, and the Russians then came out and claimed to have produced it a few years earlier and just not published on it. Eventually the Russians were awarded the naming rights and element 105 became Dubnium, after Dubna, the location of JINR (their lab), rather than Hahnium.

    Now for some opinion, which is my own and which is certainly not shared by all. IMO this was a diplomatic compromise that did not follow the science. The US production pathway has been reproduced and the half-life (about a second and a half) of the isotope they discovered has been reconfirmed by many experiments. Meanwhile AFAIK the Russian production pathway has never been reproduced and the half-life they reported back in the ’70s was far less precise (they gave it a wide range). So was what they produced 105? I guess that depends on how much you value reproducibility. Now I will say that JINR is an amazing lab that that has done a lot of amazing work in nuclear physics and chemistry. So IMO Dubna certainly deserves an element named after it (in parallel to Berkelium). It’s just that this old discovery claim from the cold war is a bit on thin ice, IMO.

  7. “My main self-protection [against Covid] is becoming more hermitic. . . .”

    I hear you. Our household has been put on a 10-day quarantine because we were exposed to Covid and one of us has a weakened immune system. Not having much else to do, I composed a carol to commemorate the occasion.


    On the first day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    A parsnip to help prepare tea.

    On the second day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the third day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On he fourth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the fifth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the sixth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Six needles jabbing
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the seventh day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Seven swabs a swabbing
    Six needles jabbing
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the eighth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Eight masks a molding
    Seven swabs a swabbing
    Six needles jabbing
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the ninth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Nine lawyers laughing
    Eight masks a molding
    Seven swabs a swabbing
    Six needles jabbing
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

    On the tenth day of quarantine Dr. Fauci sent to me
    Big Pharma milking
    Nine lawyers laughing
    Eight masks a molding
    Seven swabs a swabbing
    Six needles jabbing
    Four bawling bards
    Three friends’ tests
    Two rubber gloves
    and a parsnip to help prepare tea

  8. The book “Passionate Minds” about du Chatelet (and Voltaire) is a good read. In that book, she is also given a sort of anticipatory credit for relativity (!) because of her recognition of how the strength of phenomena such as light decrease by a square of the distance. Or something like that. I always thought that was a bit of a leap.

    1. Indeed. But women get leaps assigned to them. Look at all the hype about Ada Lovelace being the first computer programmer or whatever and how it has been debunked by historians of science (who are not misogynistic).

      1. Though I think that has far more to do with a pretty severe ignorance about the ‘universal’ computer and Turing’s major advance (NOT ‘advancement’; goddammit that’s a shitty word however ancient!), more than it has to do with any unhealthy versions of feminism, the latter seeming to be your implication.

        To me, there is little question that the inventor of the computer, if that notion has any meaning, is Turing—not Babbage nor Lovelace nor von Neumann, nor some guys in US who created a machine with electronic tubes for solving linear systems.

          1. Any UNIVERSAL Turing machine can emulate any other Turing machine, a rather important omitted adjective there.

            The fact that such a machine exists, and the fact that many serious attempts after, as well as Church’s lambda calculus just before, all can be shown to have the same computing power exactly, these are the important facts, ones of which no one before Turing was aware as being important questions, not even Godel it seems. Turing gave the definitive analysis, in a situation where no one other than Godel beforehand (or maybe Hilbert too) seemed to have any inkling at all of the importance, clearly not the Brits, female or otherwise, of the 19th century.

            I worded it in such a way as to suggest the notion of ‘inventor of the computer’ is to me not so easy to be meaningful, despite my babble above and below.

            I find the sort of blog, like that to which you refer, to be of little interest, very opinionated with no references.

            As to Zuse, and though the concept had no name that early, he had no idea of the notion of what is now called “Turing-complete”. Zuse was an early genius at computing equipment of course, but any claim along the lines that this is an understanding of the basic idea of computer is a bit laughable, since the 1950s if not before. And Babbage and Ada Lovelace much earlier and much the same.

            Despite his fantastic contributions to mathematics and elsewhere, von Neumann did miss out on the most fundamental contributions of both Turing and Godel. He’s perhaps the only one that people think might well have discovered those results somewhat earlier. In both cases, he immediately understood the significance.

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