Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 26, 2021 • 6:45 am

Greetings on Sunday, December 26, 2021, the second day of Coynezaa and, of course, National Candy Cane Day. These confections are much of a muchness, with one exception: King Leo® Peppermint Sticks. These are packed with peppermint flavor and aren’t much softer than the usual canes, so you can either suck or chew the Leo Sticks. They’re head and shoulders above the others, and come packed in a lovely old-fashioned tin (they were created in 1901):

If you’re a peppermint fan, try a tin; you won’t be sorry, believe me. You can buy them on Amazon.

Today is also Boxing Day, National Thank You Day, and National Whiner’s Day, dedicated to all the woke students at Ivy League colleges.

Finally, it’s also these holidays:

News of the Day:

*Desmond Tutu died at 90 in Capetown on Christmas Day:

The statement did not mention a cause of death. Archbishop Tutu had fought an on-and-off battle with prostate cancer since 1997.

As leader of the South African Council of Churches and later as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Tutu led the church to the forefront of Black South Africans’ decades-long struggle for freedom. His voice was a powerful force for nonviolence in the anti-apartheid movement, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

When that movement triumphed in the early 1990s, he prodded the country toward a new relationship between its white and Black citizens, and, as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he gathered testimony documenting the viciousness of apartheid.

*I hope you were up early enough (in America, at least) to see the launch of the James Webb space telescope, an amazing fold-out device that will land in an orbit around the Sun a million miles from Earth.

Below is a video the successful separation of the folded-up scope from its booster, taken by a camera on the booster. We will not see it again, but fingers crossed that it works well and helps us learns amazing new things.

As I say below, what amazes me the most is that all this technology and material was wrested from the Earth and its atmosphere. Maybe that’s what Gregory Robinson meant in the first sentence below:

“The world gave us this telescope and we’re handing it back to the world today,” said Gregory Robinson, the Webb telescope’s program director, during a post-launch news conference in French Guiana.

The telescope, named for the NASA administrator who led the space agency through the early years of the Apollo program, is designed to see farther in space and further back in time than the vaunted Hubble Space Telescope. Its primary light gathering mirror is 21 feet across, about three times bigger than Hubble, and seven times more sensitive.

The Webb’s mission is to seek out the earliest, most distant stars and galaxies, which appeared 13.7 billion years ago, burning their way out of a fog leftover from the Big Bang (which occurred 13.8 billion years ago).

To me this is the biggest story of the day, but it gets below-the-fold treatment in media like the NYT. It’s SCIENCE, Jake!

*The NASA launch was somewhat marred by a celebratory speech by NASA administrator Bill Nelson, who blathered on and, at the end, made some religious remarks about Jesus, God, and the Star of Bethlehem. His sermon begins at 2:00:39 in the official NASA video below, with the goddy stuff intruding at 2:02:45.  He says that the telescope is going to visualize “the handiwork of God,” mentions Psalm 19, ending with “God bless you, and God bless planet Earth.” This guy is a government official and doesn’t know about the separation of Church and Space!

*At first I thought this Washington Post headline (below)was overblown, but, after reading the piece, there’s something to it. (Click on screenshot to read). It turns out that Bing Crosby’s classic rendition of “White Christmas” (the best-selling song of all time (100 million records sold), was first presented live on the radio on Christmas Day, 1941—less then three weeks after Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the American war against Japan.

For the many young men away at war, the song hit home. The early days of World War II were not good for the United States. Beginning with Pearl Harbor, the country suffered a string of defeats in the first few months of combat. Morale was low, and people needed something to hold onto. “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn” became a lifeline for many Americans — especially overseas servicemen who heard it played on the Armed Services Radio Network.

But what’s odd about this is that the archetypal Christmas song was composed by Irving Berlin, who was Jewish—the son of a rabbi.

“White Christmas” was the brainchild of one on America’s greatest songwriters. Born Israel Beilin in western Siberia in 1888, Irving Berlin grew up on the mean streets of the Lower East Side of New York City. As a child, this son of an Orthodox rabbi [JAC note: Wikipedia says his dad was a cantor, not a rabbi.] learned about Christmas from an equally poor Irish Catholic family, the O’Haras. Young Izzy, as his childhood companions called him, was welcomed into their home, where they introduced him to what could best be described as a Charlie Brown tree. It left a lasting impression.

“This was my first sight of a Christmas tree,” Berlin told The Washington Post in 1954. “The O’Haras were very poor and later, as I grew used to their annual tree, I realized they had to buy one with broken branches and small height, but to me that first tree seemed to tower to heaven.”

Later, after incredible success as a writer of the American songbook, Berlin turned his attention back to those days to compose “White Christmas.” According to Kaplan, he probably tinkered with the idea for years before inspiration struck in early January 1940, when he said to his secretary, “I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

Berlin later said he intended to use “White Christmas” in a revue he planned to produce, but then decided to hold it for the movie “Holiday Inn,” which starred Crosby and Fred Astaire. That film, about a couple of country inn owners who put on musicals for each holiday, spawned several Berlin hits, including “Easter Parade,” “Happy Holiday” and “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.”

“White Christmas” was aded to “Holiday Inn”, and the rest was history. Try to listen to this as if you’ve never heard it before; it’s a great song:

“White Christmas” won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1942.

Israel Beilin as a soldier in 1918. He lived to be 101.

*This is what we’ve come to, at least in the Wall Street Journal. Food and now drink are not pleasures, but medicine. Click on the screenshot if you want wines without alcohol:

*Reader Geoff sent in a link to a short BBC article and a 3-minute video of Polly Verity, a Welsh woman who does the most extraordinary paper folding. It’s not like classical origami, but what she creates is stunning. Cliick on the screenshot below (showing one of her works) to go to the article and video. (Her website is here, and you can buy her artwork. Another video is here.)

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 814,891, an increase of 1,345 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,414,808, an increase of about 3,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 26 includes:

This is why George Washington crossed the Delaware with his men on Christmas Day.

  • 1799 – Henry Lee III’s eulogy to George Washington in congress declares him as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. (This is not to be confused with Washington’s funeral on December 18.)
  • 1825 – Advocates of liberalism in Russia rise up against Czar Nicholas I but are suppressed in the Decembrist revolt in Saint Petersburg.
  • 1862 – The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, where 38 Native Americans died.

The crime? Killing settlers. Here’s a photo of the hanging, still the largest number of people executed in one day, and a partial list of the hanged below that. They designed a special scaffold to hang all 38 at once. 4,000 people showed up to watch.

From the Death Penalty Information Center:

After the execution, it was discovered that two men had been mistakenly hanged. The Minnesota Historical Society reports that “Wicaƞḣpi Wastedaƞpi (We-chank-wash-ta-don-pee), who went by the common name of Caske (meaning first-born son), reportedly stepped forward when the name ‘Caske’ was called, and was then separated for execution from the other prisoners. The other, Wasicuƞ, was a young white man who had been adopted by the Dakota at an early age. Wasicuƞ had been acquitted.”

  • 1871 – Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, debuts. It does modestly well, but the two would not collaborate again for four years and the score has been lost.
  • 1898 – Marie and Pierre Curie announce the isolation of radium.

Here are the pair, who won the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1903. The family itself won five Nobel Prizes, as their daughter and son-in-law each won one (shared) and Marie won yet another. I believe this is the most Nobels garnered by a single family.

Photo from 1895:

My late friend Kenny King regarded the Bambino as the best player in the history of baseball, as he was a great pitcher as well as a great slugger. Here he is starting his career in school:

(From Wikipedia): Ruth (top row, center) at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1912

Patton died in an automobile accident in December 1945. Paralyzed from the neck down, he lived for two weeks before he died, saying, “This is a hell of a way to die.” Here’s his simple grave in Luxembourg City:

  • 1963 – The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are released in the United States, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.
  • 1966 – The first Kwanzaa is celebrated by Maulana Karenga, the chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach.

Like mine, this is a recent holiday, with considerable overlap of the times.

  • 1991 – The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union meets and formally dissolves the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War.

Notables born on this day include:

Somerville and Caroline Herschel were the first women elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. An early portrait of Somerville, after whom Somerville College in Oxford is named:

Painting of Mary Somerville by Thomas Phillips (1834)

She’s also on the Scottish £10 polymer note:

  • 1791 – Charles Babbage, English mathematician and engineer, invented the Difference engine
  • 1872 – Norman Angell, English journalist, academic, and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)
  • 1883 – Maurice Utrillo, French painter (d. 1955)

Sadly, Utrillo was a d*g lover and painted no cats. Here he is with his wife Suzanne Valore:

Miller in his house at Big Sur:

Here’s the Chairman in 1908 at age 15 or so:

  • 1939 – Phil Spector, American singer-songwriter and producer (d. 2021)/

Convicted of murder, Spector died in prison in January of this year. Below: Spector in court with a dreadful wig, and his mug shot:

  • 1956 – David Sedaris, American comedian, author, and radio host

Those who bit the dust on December 26 include:

  • 1530 – Babur, Mughal emperor (b. 1483)
  • 1890 – Heinrich Schliemann, German-Italian archaeologist and author (b. 1822)

Schliemann excavated (badly) the ruins of what seems to be Troy, giving some credibility to Homer’s writings. Here’s his wife Sophia wearing some of the treasures they found at “Troy”:

Remington was famous for his Western art depicting cowboys and Native Americans. Here’s one of his paintings, “The Flight”:

  • 1968 – Weegee, Ukrainian-American photographer and journalist (b. 1898)

Born Arthur Feilig, Weegee specialized in photos of NYC’s Lower East Side, specializing in murders, accidents, bizarre things, and everyday life of which the photo below is an example. He must have used a flash to get it. . .

  • 1974 – Jack Benny, American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, and violinist (b. 1894)
  • 1996 – JonBenét Ramsey, American child beauty queen and prominent unsolved murder victim (b. 1990)
  • 2006 – Gerald Ford, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 38th President of the United States (b. 1913)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is having a bit of fun with Szaron. (there are two photos in this dialogue):

Hili: I will jump on him in a moment.
A: It’s not funny.
Hili: It depends on one’s viewpoint.

Hili’s target:

In Polish
Hili: Zaraz na niego skoczę.
Ja: To nie jest śmieszne.
Hili: Jak dla kogo.

Below: a cat footprint on the stairs leading to Andrzej’s and Malgorzata’s house. As Malgorzata relates,

This morning we went out and found this footprint on the first step.There were no more footprints. Andrzej’s caption is “This step and no more. Too cold.”

Clearly one of the three cats gave up on going out!

From Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day. Can you spot the cat? (Click photo to enlarge.) It’s easy for some (but not for me). Answer is below the fold at the bottom of this post.

I was SO thrilled to see the rocket lift off successfully, and so far all has gone well. It still stuns me to realize that every bit of this rocket and the technology needed to forge it was created out of things taken from material pried from the Earth and its atmosphere. The takeoff:

Titania McGrath plays Scrooge:

From Simon, who says, “This is a bit like using rope circles to trap cats!” I’m not sure what the arthropods are. Sound up if you want to hear the animals scream (in human voices. I’m not quite why this is like a thesis proposal. . . .

From Ginger K. WHY did somebody do this?

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew:

This commercial is pretty good, but isn’t nearly as good as The Cat Herders!

A batty Christmas! But it’s a sad Christmas without Statler, the aged fruit bat, who died this year.

Click “continue reading” below to find out where the cat is.

THE REVEAL (I’ve circled the cat):

21 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. 1. The question for NASA administrator Nelson is :

    “What the hell?!?”

    2. Louis Armstrong sang White Christmas, and I could swear he is expressing something deep, and somewhat subversive, and I think we know what it is – quite stirring, and powerful – but far removed from the other takes… let me find it… :

  2. The critters are arachnids called pseudoscorpions. The ink likely has chemicals that are repellent to the pseudoscorpions, hence their reactions. We do something similar as a General Entomology lab exercise with Tribolium beetles and different substances to see if they are attractants, repellents, or neutral.

  3. “1780 – Mary Somerville, Scottish mathematician, astronomer, and author (d. 1872)
    Somerville and Caroline Herschel were the first women elected to the Royal Astronomical Society.”

    If PCC(E) will forgive a point of historical pedantry, this isn’t entirely accurate. Mary Somerville and Caroline Herschel were honorary members. The Royal Astronomical Society did not allow women to be full members (known as Fellows) until 1916. The royal charter which established the RAS in 1831 referred to Fellows as “he”, and the governing body of the RAS adopted a very narrow legal interpretation of the wording, allowing only men to be elected to full membership. The royal charter was updated in 1916 with more inclusive language, and women could finally be elected as Fellows. To put this in context, that was still three years before women were allowed to vote in parliamentary elections in Britain.

      1. These days, the RAS has many women Fellows, and the current president is a woman: Professor Emma Bunce of the University of Leicester. To date, the RAS has had four female presidents, the first being Professor Carole Jordan (1994-96).

  4. Rasputin and Bobby Farrell (Boney M. star who sang ra ra ra ra) both died on the 30th of December, the last day of Coynzaa. Farrell, too, died in St. Petersburg.

    I didn’t watch the launch, but Nelson might have pissed off the people who think that the universe IS god — everything in it is a part of god and plays its role in god’s purpose, so nothing is god’s creation. As god was, the universe was. As god is the universe is. As god will always be, the universe will always be.

    I have no idea if there exist people who believe that, but I would not be surprised…

  5. I knew Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas, but I didn’t know the backstory. It makes sense to me. Even as an atheist Jew, I still hope for snow on Christmas morning, and I enjoy all the lights and seeing other people’s trees. I love decorating a Christmas tree with a Christian friend. Christmas is definitely part of the fabric of the US, and I’m perfectly fine with that (though not with NASA officials making religious sermons during government-funded launches!!!!). I remember when my parents used to drive me and my siblings to this crazy rich neighborhood like one hour away from where we lived because they had a Christmas light sort of “challenge” every year to see which house could do the craziest decorations. What the families would do with their decorations was so amazing that cars would line up for a mile every night just to drive through.

    Nothing wrong with enjoying the fun afforded to us by other cultures. It’s what this country is supposed to be all about 🙂

  6. > She’s also on the Scottish £10 polymer note:

    On the RBS Scottish £10 note. Three banks in Scotland are licensed to print and issue their own Scottish notes, all at par with each other and with the (Bank of England) Pound Sterling. It was interesting going to ATMs in Scotland where each bank gave me different banknotes.

    1. And sometimes an ATM at one bank will disgorge notes from one (or more) of the other banks.
      Northern Irish bank notes also turn up from time to time.
      I can’t recall the Welsh ever agitating to get their own note-issuing authority, but I may not have been paying attention. I’d expect a “dragon” theme, so if they missed the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon they’ll have to fall back on Idris.

  7. Just FYI, the James Web Space Telescope has just performed another deployment step:

    Webb Antenna Released and Tested

    Shortly after 10 am EST on Dec. 26, the Webb team began the process of releasing the gimbaled antenna assembly, or GAA, which includes Webb’s high-data-rate dish antenna. This antenna will be used to send at least 28.6 Gbytes of science data down from the observatory, twice a day. The team has now released and tested the motion of the antenna assembly — the entire process took about one hour.

    Separately, overnight, the temperature sensors and strain gauges on the telescope were activated for the first time. Temperature and strain data are now available to engineers monitoring Webb’s thermal and structural systems.

  8. I acknowledge the impact of the Auschwitz entries. In fact when I’m up for a particularly horrible event at the dentist I tell myself “just think how it was in Auschwitz.”. However, I also think we should recognize those who risked all to provide escape. I recently read about young sisters, unfortunately I can’t remember where, that helped escapes.

    There is an event in Austin Texas that recognizes bats. They are somehow affiliated with the Merlin group.

  9. 1963 – The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are released in the United States …

    Just over a month after JFK got clipped in Dallas. It was the thing to bring a nation — or at least the segment of it under 30 — out of its funk.

  10. The 1862 mass hanging of American Indians in Minnesota is best described as state-sponsored mass homicide, and racist at that. The Indians had declared war only after the US reneged on earlier treaty obligation to respect treaty land and supply food to villages. Much of the money allocated was stolen by US government officials, resulting in widespread starvation. Wikipedia informs:
    “The trials …were deficient, even by military standards; and [they were not even conducted] … according to military law. The 400-odd of trials … [were completed in five weeks]. [S]ome lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by defense attorneys. … The trials were also conducted in an atmosphere of extreme racist hostility towards the defendants expressed by the citizenry, the elected officials of the state of Minnesota and by the men conducting the trials themselves. By 3 November, the military commission had held trials of 392 Dakota men, with as many as 42 tried in a single day. … The military commission announced that 303 Sioux prisoners had been convicted of murder and rape and were sentenced to death.”

      1. ‘kipedia sez:
        In the end, Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 prisoners, but he allowed the execution of 39 men. However, “[on] December 23, [Lincoln] suspended the execution of one of the condemned men […] after [General] Sibley telegraphed that new information led him to doubt the prisoner’s guilt.” Thus, the number of condemned men was reduced to the final 38.

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