Tuesday: Hili dialogue

December 21, 2021 • 7:00 am

Welcome to the Cruelest day: Tuesday, December 21, 2021: National Hamburger Day, a truly American sandwich. Remember Wimpy’s love of burgers in the Popeye cartoon strip? He was always short of cash:

What’s the best burger in America? Many vote for Hodad’s in San Diego, which produces this behemoth.  The owner recommends not taking it out of the wrapper, and eating the famous onion rings first:

IT’S WINTER! The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is marked by the winter solstice, which occurs on today at 10:59 A.M. EST. Here are some related observances:

There’s Google Doodle today informing us of Winter’s onset (click on the screenshot):

It’s also National Kiwi Fruit Day, Ribbon Candy Day, National French Fried Shrimp Day, Anne and Samantha Day (honoring Anne Frank and Samantha Smith), Don’t Make Your Bed Day (too late!), National Short Story Day, Crossword Puzzle Day (see below under 1913), Forefathers’ Day (in Plymouth, Massachusetts), and São Tomé Day. 

News of the Day:

*The bad news is that the omicron variant of Covid-19, highly infectious, has now surged from being found rarely in the U.S. to the dominant variant causing new cases, comprising (according to last night’s NBC News) 73% of them. If you’re vaccinated, though, especially with a booster, the chances of a severe case are very slim, and the death rate with the three-shot combo is about 1 in a million. While 12 deaths from the omicron variant have been reported in Britain, there are no data on whether any of the dead had been vaccinated.

*Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of procuring underaged women for the late Jeffrey Epstein, is now waiting for the jury’s verdict, as her trial has ended. The jury deliberated for an hour yesterday and will resume deliberations today.  The NYT’s takeaways from the closing arguments:

Prosecutors urged jurors to believe the accusers

Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, began her closing argument by telling jurors that Ms. Maxwell had worked closely with Mr. Epstein, intentionally bringing young girls into his orbit knowing that he wanted to sexually abuse them.

“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” Ms. Moe said. “She manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse.”

The defense focused on the unreliability of accusers’ memories

“Ghislaine Maxwell is an innocent woman wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit,” one of her defense lawyers, Laura Menninger, announced to jurors as she began her summation.

My prediction, though I haven’t followed the case that closely, is that she will be found guilty on at least a couple of the six counts of which she’s accused—two counts of sex trafficking and four involving conspiracy “to entice and transport underage girls to Mr. Epstein for sexual abuse.”

*It doesn’t look like any Republican Senators will vote for Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill, which means that Joe Manchin’s stated opposition to the bill will kill it for the nonce. As the Associated Press reports, Biden and the rest of the Democrats in Congress are really peeved:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Monday that the chamber would vote early in the new year on Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” as it now stands, so every senator “has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” That was a biting reference to Manchin’s sudden TV announcement against the bill on Sunday.

But the conservative West Virginia Democrat and his party are so far apart, his relationships so bruised after months of failed talks, it’s unclear how they even get back to the negotiating table, let alone revive the sprawling more than 2,100-page social services and climate change bill.

“We’re going to work like hell to get it done,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, repeating the phrase several times at a briefing but never saying how.

*What’s up with the Biden’s promised first cat? Well, we’re 348 days into the new administration, and we finally have some news. But it’s neither good nor bad. CNN reports that the Bidens have a New First Puppy, a German Shepherd named Commander, but they mention a cat iat the very end of the short report. (h/t John):

. . . The Biden’s [sic] have also promised they will add a cat to the White House menagerie.

In April, Jill Biden said in an interview that a female cat is “waiting in the wings.” Two people familiar with the Biden’s cat situation have told CNN the cat is being fostered with acquaintances until the best time for it to make the move into the White House and that date has not yet been set, but “it is expected to be in the very near future.”

It better be in the next three years, because it won’t have a home in the White House after that.  All we get from Uncle Joe and Aunt Jill is temporizing about the cat! As T. S. Eliot wrote (in caps), “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME!” And what’s with the grocer’s apostrophe in the first paragraph?

*And speaking of cats, what’s happening with Jack the Cat in Boston?  (Remember his terrible accident?) He’s improving but isn’t quite there yet. From part of the staff:

A note from his staff:

Hi Jerry! Jack went back to Angell a couple weeks after hardware was removed because he wasn’t using the injured leg as vets had predicted. Those X-rays looked great, they said he was healed well, sent home with some pain meds. He is now walking on it intermittently, he did walk on it while my parents were here, my dad just captured a moment when he was not using it. He jumps up on everything and walks across his staff using all four legs… I think he’s just taking his sweet time getting back to using all four legs all the time. He does not seem to be in pain.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 803,355, an increase of 1,299 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,379,662, an increase of about 7,300 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 21 includes:

Well, we’re not sure they landed at this rock, which does still sit in Plymouth Harbor. But it’s a tradition, and here it is:

(From Wikipedia): Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. At the left of the rock can be seen where it was split in two in 1774, with the top part relocated to the town’s meetinghouse. The two parts were later rejoined in 1880, at which time the date 1620 was inscribed into the rock. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

Remember, though, that the true date of America’s founding is 1619, a year earlier.

The Wikipedia entry on the Medal, the U.S.’s highest military award for valor, is fascinating: 19 people have received it twice. It’s also awarded posthumously, as to James Monteith, killed after performing heroic deeds during the Normandy Invasion.  He was 26.

His grave in Normandy, adorned with the Medal of Honor annotation:

  • 1872 – Challenger expedition: HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain George Nares, sails from Portsmouth, England.
  • 1913 – Arthur Wynne‘s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

Here’s a re-creation of that puzzle. Can you do it? (I’m lousy at this stuff):

Goldman, who had a colorful life (some of it in jail):

Can you name the seven dwarfs? I can. I’ll put their names at the bottom, but first try to guess.  Here she meets the dwarfs: (ignore the Disney mini-ads at the beginning and end)

  • 1967 – Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a human-to-human heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, having lived for 18 days after the transplant.
  • 1988 – A bomb explodes on board Pan Am Flight 103 over LockerbieDumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270. This is to date the deadliest air disaster to occur on British soil.

Nobody survived: here are the remains of the cockpit:

  • 2020 – A great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs, with the two planets separated in the sky by 0.1 degrees. This is the closest conjunction between the two planets since 1623.

Here’s the Great Conjunction with a caption from Wikipedia:

Stacked photograph of the great conjunction of 2020 four hours before closest approach, with Jupiter 6–7 arcminutes below Saturn. The moons Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Titan are visible.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1550 – Man Singh I, Mughal noble (d. 1614)
  • 1615 – Benedict Arnold, Rhode Island colonial governor (d. 1678)
  • 1795 – Jack Russell, English priest, hunter, and dog breeder (d. 1883)

Yes, he bred the terrier. Here he is and a specimen of the d*g breed:

  • 1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
  • 1866 – Maud Gonne, Irish nationalist and political activist (d. 1953)

Gonne, a republican activist, was also a muse for Yeats, who proposed to her four times, and was turned down every time. I would like to have met her to see what so enamored Yeats:

  • 1889 – Sewall Wright, American geneticist and biologist (d. 1988)
  • 1890 – Hermann Joseph Muller, American geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)

Two great biologists and geneticists, born a year apart to the day. I met Wright, but not Muller. Here’s H.J., who worked on flies and is looking at them with a loupe.

  • 1917 – Heinrich Böll, German novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1985)
  • 1918 – Kurt Waldheim, Austrian colonel, war criminal, and politician; 9th President of Austria (d. 2007)
  • 1926 – Joe Paterno, American football player and coach (d. 2012)
  • 1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress and activist
  • 1940 – Frank Zappa, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 1993)

Remember this poster?

  • 1969 – Julie Delpy, French model, actress, director, and screenwriter

Another actor I’m smitten with. She’s now an American citizen. Her three movies with Ethan Hawke (the “Before Trilogy“) are very good.

She’s also spoken about the trend to pay women actors less:

Those who snuffed it on December 21 include:

  • 1824 – James Parkinson, English physician and paleontologist (b. 1755)

Yep, he described Parkinson’s disease.

Fitz and Zelda. If you can, do get the volume of letters between Fitzgerald and his daughter Scottie when she was young. They are FANTASTIC, but I see the book is expensive now.

Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald pose for a photo at the Sayre home in Montgomery, Ala., in 1919, the year before they married.
  • 1988 – Nikolaas Tinbergen, Dutch-English ethologist and ornithologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1907)
  • 2009 – Edwin G. Krebs, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems to have been reading Steve Pinker’s new book. Hili despises revolutionary romanticism

Hili: I was grabbed by revolutionary romanticism.
A: And what happened?
Hili: Reason set me free.
In Polish:
Hili: Porwał mnie rewolucyjny romantyzm.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Rozum mnie wyzwolił.
And Andrzej took a cute photo of Kulka with her paw on the window:

From Athayde:

From Bruce:


From Nicole:

From Titania: The Year of Thoughtcrime!

From Anna. We’ve read about Yasmeen before,  though she’s no longer the DEI Senator for student at USC. Here’s some of her social-media hatred. As I said in my post, she has the right to tweet this stuff, but doesn’t qualify to be a “DEI” senator, since the “I” doesn’t include Jews. They gave her a different job.

The Divine Sarah, as always, gets raunchy. Click on the blue arrow:

From Ginger K., who said she figured it was an Aussie.

And for your listening pleasure, I found the 112.4-decibel burp:


Loudest burp (male) 🗣 112.4 db by Neville Sharp 🇦🇺

♬ WALTZ THE HAPPY CURMUDGEON – Pedro Jos├⌐ Bern├írdez Sarr├¡a

From Barry:

Tweets from Matthew: Well, I suppose this isn’t that bad for a medieval cat drawing. Mite!

Matthew and I love Little Nemo, one of the surrealistic comic strips drawn by Winsor McCay. They don’t make comics like this any more!

This is interesting: I always do it the same way, and my way is #6. What’s yours?

The Seven Dwarfs: Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Doc, and Bashful. Everybody always forgets the last two.

58 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. “The two parts were later rejoined in 1880, at which time the date 1620 was inscribed into the rock.”

    And in a nutshell you have Fantasyland – just make it up. 1620, 1619 – believe it and it is true in Fantasyland!

  2. “The defense focused on the unreliability of accusers’ memories” – Yes, they accused the prosecution witnesses of having faulty memories and then called a defence witness who was a former girlfriend of Epstein’s, Eva Dubin, who claimed “It’s very hard for me to remember from far back […] Sometimes I can’t remember things from last month… my family notices it.” You couldn’t make it up.

    1. #8–me, too. And, in regard to Wimpy’s lover of burgers, check out Wimpy’s in Osterville on the cape–highly recommended by all members of Oysterville Yacht Club!

      1. Me too – an informative exercise in knowing that others think/do things in a way that seems to be intuitively wrong!

        1. #7, most def!
          Btw, Jez, I just re-encountered the wonderful “reverse ferret” expression you introduced us to a few months ago. It was in the final episode of the mini-series “Press.”

    2. Another 8-er here.
      Today’s birthday Hermann Joseph Muller was a very smart and insightful fellow. In a paper published in the late 1950s, about the time he left us, Muller estimated the number of genes in the human genome as not many more than 30,000. Today, molecular genetics places the number of protein coding genes at a little more than 20,000. This latter does not take into account what may be several thousand regulatory genes that do not code proteins. Up until the year 2000 and the Human Genome Project, almost all molecular geneticists guessed, wrongly, that the human genome would be found to contain hundreds of thousands of genes.
      Muller, through his own work on genetic load, also found good reasons explaining why asexual reproduction has evolved so rarely in nature. Theory later developed by U. Chicago evolutionary biologist Leigh van Valen — called the Red Queen Hypothesis — went far in explaining why almost all higher organisms have two, not fewer and not more, sexes. Here is a link:

  3. “Snow White” is the first US animated full-length movie, not the world’s…

    (It sounds so snippy to just type a correction, and nothing else, so: Merry First Day of Winter!)

      1. It seems that Fantasmagorie (1907) teaches people not to mess with the hats of women parked in front of them at the cinema. It also teaches people the ills of smoking — apparently you can get trapped in a bottle, which turns into a flower, which in turn becomes an elephant.

  4. Bernie Sanders has the right idea on this bill. Get it on the floor and take a vote. A step further – discuss it, allow amendments. Do it like it use to be done in congress and they might just pass something. This is the way things use to get done in congress. Not this nonsense of working a bill over for months and then only allowing an up or down vote. Do it as it is suppose to be done. Debate, amend and vote. Right now it is like a congress that has forgotten how to operate.

      1. They can only do one bill using reconciliation, which bypasses a cloture vote requiring 60 senators to vote aye. Regular bills would never get past the senate.

  5. “2020 – A great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs, with the two planets separated in the sky by 0.1 degrees. This is the closest conjunction between the two planets since 1623.”

    Actually, 0.012 degrees. There will be an even closer conjunction (0.100 degrees) on 15 March 2080, and then a 337-year gap until the next really close one, on 24 August 2417 (just 0.090 degrees).

    1. Always had ribbon candy at my aunt’s and grandmother’s house when I was a kid. I have two boxes of it scheduled to be delivered today. It is critical to find the thin ribbon candy from Sevigny’s. There are thick versions that are just awful.

      1. Yes, some I’ve had in the many decades since has tasted terrible.
        My dad was the U.S. Consul to Martinique and we kids got invited to go on board the SS Whatever (are subs designated SS? – i know they are called boats and not shios).and it must have been around Xmas because we were offered ribbon candy. I found going “downstairs” on the sub kinda claustrophobic even at that age. Watching the recent series, Vigil, creeped me out even more.”
        WordPress is playing silly buggers again by making me sign in every time🙀

  6. Well, of course, Virginia was founded in 1607, so if were saying that the Founding was a colonial event, then surely that is the date of origin (for continuous, English settlement).

  7. I always say, the seven dwarfs* describe me nicely. I’m occasionally happy, often bashful, regularly sleepy, often grumpy, frequently dopey, from time to time sneezy, and always Doc.

    *I have a hard time with the non-Tolkien spelling, and definitely prefer “dwarves”.

  8. “The bad news is that the omicron variant of Covid 19, highly infectious, has now surged from being found rarely in the U.S. has surged to the dominant variant….”
    I’m not sure that is bad news, it may be a blessing in disguise. In South Africa it has completely replaced other variants, and cases are skyrocketing, but the ICUs are not filled with Covid patients, in fact hospitalizations are nothing compared to the third wave.
    Now it is possible that the apparent relative inocuousness of omicron in SA maybe due to the high previous exposure rates of the unvaccinated, but it really looks as if omicron is much less virulent than the previous delta variant.
    If that is correct, we should actually consider it good news. A kind of ‘natural vaccination’ .

    1. With omicron going wild, I expect new variants of the omicron variant will arise shortly (just like more deadly forms have arisen from previous variants) and neutralize those “blessings in disguise”. There are few advantages of living in a Communist state, but one in countries like China is the ability to put in place lockdowns that actually work to protect citizens from their own irresponsibility.

      1. That’s not the way to bet. While wishful thinking is not a plan, nonetheless, the only variant that has turned out to be more virulent was Alpha. Compared to Wuhan, there was about a doubling of the age-adjusted risk (from a low baseline for people under 70) that a given case would need admission to ICU but no clear evidence of a mortality penalty. Part of this is numbers. With our case-fatality rate of 1.7% and most deaths in people over 80, it is difficult to distinguish a death signal from noise statistically, especially when most deaths in people under 80 occur at the end of a long stay in the ICU. We are still counting deaths from Alpha in ICUs nearly a year later, usually when their hopes for getting a lung transplant finally flicker out. (With case-fatality rates lower in the U.S. than here all through the pandemic — at the beginning we were at 2.5%–, virulence measured as deaths is even harder to see.)

        ICU admission rate is a reasonable outcome to concentrate on and is probably the only one that matters. The managers of the health system don’t really care how many people die and would prefer they die quickly. No cases at all would be the win-win, of course. Only the politicians care if the deaths cluster in politically noisy groups. If the ICUs are jammed with people taking many weeks to months (yes) to die, that spills over into other areas of life. Even at that, what brought our health system to the brink of collapse in several populous provinces was Delta, more so than Alpha. There were just so many more cases.

        Our Prime Minister has similar enthusiasm for Chinese methods. Before winning his first election, he thought China would be the world’s exemplar for climate change because “they can turn their economy around on a dime.” Thing is, we have no idea how well China is doing containing Covid now, because they lie. One can argue, without reliable data to rebut it, that the reason China’s economy stumbled in 2021 was the rigid lockdowns that actually worked, to prevent citizens from carrying out life-giving economic activity. And of course, importations are not likely because no foreigner has a really good reason to visit China any more, in case they get kidnapped for hostage diplomacy.

        1. The US has 800,000+ coronavirus deaths so far and China, since the beginning of the pandemic, only a little oved 4,600 live lost. That’s getting close to a million unnecessary American funerals.

          1. Not all your deaths were unnecessary. To say that is to imply that with better pandemic management, no one would have died….from a disease that mostly kills people over 80 and people with underlying health conditions driven by obesity. That is absurd. Could the U.S. have done better? I’ll leave that to Americans.

            China’s statistics are simply unbelievable and are not included in international comparisons about the progress of the pandemic. No one believes them and China does not care.

            1. The Chinese had informed everyone of the dangerous virus by the second half of January, 2020. They were caught by surprise and did a good job of controlling the outbreak. The West was pre-warned, at least the health workers who were not sleeping, and did zilch.

  9. “Julie Delpy reveals that in #BeforeSunrise she was paid “maybe a tenth” of what Ethan Hawke was paid, in #BeforeSunset she was paid “half” and that for #BeforeMidnight, she demanded equal pay https://t.co/9jJoNgvRqE | Variety Lounge at #ZFF2019 presented by @creditsuisse pic.twitter.com/R0MlQP0KRU”

    I assume that this is because he’s Ethan Hawke and she’s Julie Delpy, and not because of their genitals. If she was, say, Julia Roberts, she’d be in much higher demand, and likely get paid more than Ethan Hawke.

    1. I agree. He’d been in successful films since he was little more than a kid, and was a pretty bankable asset already. By the third movie, she was just as bankable as he was, certainly in that trilogy.

      1. Right, and the only reason her pay went up was because it was necessary for that trilogy. Even now, most people don’t know Julie Delpy. Ethan Hawke is a “star.” To say that this somehow has to do with their respective sexes is absurd.

  10. Jerry, that ‘X’ method is intriguing and I have a suggestion to survey readers. A poll! Reproduce the tweet with a poll underneath with the 8 options and let’s see how it comes out.
    I’d stress the ‘first stroke is coloured’ or ‘first and second strokes are numbered 1 and 2’ bit as I missed that initially and put 8 instead of 7.

        1. That’s a useful addition Jeremy, but it only needs 2 more options; L and R. You’d just select 1-8 and one of L or R But perhaps including handedness at all as a ‘sub-answer’ overly complicates the poll program Jerry uses, I’ve no idea…

  11. Elizabeth Loftus, famed psychologist and memory expert, has testified for the defense in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. I don’t know enough about this area of psychology to have much of an opinion, other than to note Loftus has made a career as an expert witness, one that is skewed heavily toward the defense. I’m curious if any WEIT readers have any insight on the quality of Loftus’s scholarship.

  12. No. No. No. If you can’t put it in your mouth and take a bite, it isn’t a hamburger. Sorry about Da Roolz, but this is my area of expertise.

      1. I don’t know what to call it but if it has to be eaten in parts or with a knife and fork it is another triumph of form over function.

  13. Abebooks.com lists one copy of Fitzgerald’s Letters to His Daughter for $27.50. It is at a book shop in Aslhand, Oregon.

  14. Draw X #7 And I am a leftie. Have a leftie sister, and two right-handed sibs, one of each sex. Will have to poll them to see what happens with them. It’s been interesting that the two of us lefties have brown eyes, the righties are blue-eyed. Think that is just a coincidence.

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