Thursday: Hili dialogue

February 3, 2022 • 7:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, February 3, 2022: National Carrot Cake Day. This is the only treat made with a vegetable that I like (corn fritters may be another). A good carrot cake (with cream-cheese frosting, of course), is hard to beat. But please, hand me no rhubarb pies, and if you tell me they’re good; I’ll respond that taste is subjective.

It’s also Four Chaplains Day (United States, also considered a Feast Day by the Episcopal Church), American Painters Day, International Golden Retrievers Day, National Sweater Day (in Canada), and The Day the Music Died. (you know about that one, but if not see “1959” below). Finally, it’s Martyrs’ Day in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Read about the Four Chaplains here. A true case of altruism: sacrificing one’s life, attaining no reproductive benefits, but saving the lives of others, allowing them to reproduce. (Of course one of the chaplains was Catholic.) The point is, however, that you almost never see such altruism in nature. It is a cultural phenomenon and cannot be the product of natural selection.

Wine of the Day:  I haven’t drunk many Barolos, as they’re usually above my psychological price barrier, but this fine specimen of a 1997 (photo below) was given to me by a generous reader. And oy, was it good! 25 years old, and still years to go (there was a substantial sediment, and the cork crumbled, but careful decanting and filtration fixed that).

Dark garnet in color, and with a strong aroma of road tar and roses (yes, that’s what I smelled), this is a beefy wine that perfectly complemented my weekly T-bone. (My meat consumption has dropped to a bit above one meal per week). In fact, this wine was so delicious that I broke my rule and drank 2/3 of a bottle instead of half, making myself slightly tipsy.

Don’t ask the price, as it was a gift. Suffice it to say that we would bridle at the price—if we could find it, but it was undoubtedly cheaper when purchased a quarter century ago. The bad thing is that now I’ve developed a taste for great Barolo, and a) the good stuff is out of my price range and b.) I’ll be dead when a young Barolo matures. Many thanks to the kind reader who sent it to me for Coynezaa!

News of the Day:

*Things are heating up with respect to the Ukraine situation. Biden has announced that he’ll send 3,000 U.S. troops to the region. Not to fight, mind you, but to help our allies fight:

The troops, including 1,000 already in Germany, will head to Poland and Romania, the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said. Their purpose will be to reassure NATO allies that while the United States has no intention of sending troops into Ukraine, where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has been threatening an invasion, Mr. Biden would protect America’s NATO allies from any Russian aggression.

“Its important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and the world that NATO matters,” Mr. Kirby told reporters at a news conference. “We are making it clear that we are going to be prepared to defend our NATO allies if it comes to that.”

Yes, it does send a signal, but what’s the distinction between “fighting” and “helping our allies fight”?

*A new column in the NYT by Tom Friedman, “Neil Young and Liz Cheney, thanks for sticking your necks out,” Friedman applauds those who take personal risk to stand by their principles. For Young it was giving Spotify an ultimatum, “Carry me or carry Joe Rogan, or I’m gone” (they chose Rogan), and for Cheney is for being the one Republican who stands up against the mania afflicting that party.  His mantra is “truth and trust”: (h/t Ken)

We are out of harmony with each other and out of harmony with nature. Unless more people take principled stands against those undermining truth and trust, we simply will not have the tools we need to roll back extreme politics or extreme weather or extreme pandemics — once we’ve exhausted all the other possibilities. Later will be too late.

Both lack of truth and lack of trust play out in politics these days:

When Fox News and Donald Trump have converted the G.O.P. into a cult where the price of admission is embracing a Big Lie on election integrity, we can’t depend on the truth protecting us. When social networks like Facebook and Spotify are just fine with making money by prioritizing or hosting voices spewing outright falsehoods about vaccines, we can’t count on trust protecting us. When progressive cancel culture has permeated so many universities, institutions and newsrooms that many people are afraid to say what they believe — or to challenge orthodoxies — truth and trust are both hobbled.

Nothing could be more dangerous, because truth and trust are to our democracy what polar ice caps and tropical forests are to our biosphere: essential stabilizers that keep the system working. Once they melt away, a democratic system starts to unravel.

But Friedman’s conclusions seem unjustifiably optimistic

But both she and Young are just reminding us — we have agency! If enough Americans stand up to defend a sacred commons, a space where truth must prevail and trust can be forged, we can make a difference. Without that effort, our democracy and our planet are in peril.

The problem, of course, is that people have been cowed into standing up for free speech by both sides (mostly the Left), while of course Republicans are cowed into silence for fear of Trump’s power. And who will actually do something about our Great Tragedy of the Commons: global warming?

*The “Havana Syndrome”, as you probably know, is a complex of neurological and physical symptoms suffered by American diplomats and their families who claimed that it came on after they heard weird, high-pitched noises. For a while it was taken seriously as the result of hostile governments’ actions, but lately HS has been dismissed a psychological phenomenon not connected to anything outside embassies. This seemed improbable to me given the number of cases, where the onset occurred, and the similarity of symptoms among the afflicted.

Now, however, opinion is being walked back. According to The Washington Post, a panel of experts has issued a report on “Anomalous Health Incidents” that concludes that there could indeed be external and hostile causes. Here’s the summary of the experts’ report (see also here):

The key: “psychosocial factors alone cannot account for the core characteristics” of the syndrome.”  The WaPo adds more from the report:

In the end, the experts determined that “pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radio-frequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics” of the health incidents. That finding was not definitive, and “information gaps exist,” the panel wrote in a summary of its findings. But “there are several plausible pathways involving various forms of pulsed electromagnetic energy, each with its own requirements, limitations, and unknowns” that could be making people sick.

Sources of energy exist, the experts wrote, that “could generate the required stimulus” on the human body, and that could be concealed and have “moderate power requirements,” suggesting that the energy could come from a portable device.

Such a device would apparently not be common, but it could be effective. “Using nonstandard antennas and techniques, the signals could be propagated with low loss through air for tens to hundreds of meters, and with some loss, through most building materials,” the summary stated.

That’s nefarious, and also violates all rules of diplomacy. The worrisome thing is that the U.S. apparently doesn’t apparently have the technology that can clarify all this. If we did, the claims of the victims would have never been doubted by the government and by scientists.

*Below, an announcement from the FB page of Art Spiegelman, creator of the recently-Tennessee-banned graphic novel Maus (his book has jumped up to #3 on Amazon, a great example of the Streisand Effect).

He’ll be in a conversation hosted by “concerned Tennessee officials” on Monday at 7 pm Eastern Time. I’ll try to remember to announce the link. This should be good. (h/t Jean):

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 893,147, an increase of 2,658 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,720,580, an increase of about 12,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 3 include:

Here’s the first twenty-shilling note:

  • 1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
  • 1913 – The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
  • 1917 – World War I: The American entry into World War I begins when diplomatic relations with Germany are severed due to its unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • 1933 – Adolf Hitler announces that the expansion of Lebensraum into Eastern Europe, and its ruthless Germanisation, are the ultimate geopolitical objectives of Third Reich foreign policy.

Here’s how much Lebensraum Hitler planned for, and it got most of it and more—for a short while:

(From Wikipedia): The Greater Germanic Reich, to be realised with the policies of Lebensraum, had boundaries derived from the plans of the Generalplan Ost, the state administration, and the Schutzstaffel (SS).
  • 1943 – The SS Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survive.

The Four Chaplains gave their life jackets to others and went down with the ship. Here’s a 1948 stamp honoring them; I remember it well from my stamp collection:

Hundreds of the locals were killed, brutalized, and tortured. A picture:

  • 1971 – New York Police Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a drug bust in Brooklyn and survives to later testify against police corruption.  Here’s a trailer for a documentary of Serpico, featuring the man himself:
  • 1995 – Astronaut Eileen Collins becomes the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 gets underway from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1809 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1847)
  • 1821 – Elizabeth Blackwell, American physician and educator (d. 1910)

Blackwell, below, was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S.

  • 1874 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright, (d. 1946)

She’s way overrated as a writer, but here’s a photo of her in her studio in Paris with her modern art collection. The big painting to the right is a portrait of her by Picasso:

  • 1894 – Norman Rockwell, American painter and illustrator (d. 1978)
  • 1904 – Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (d. 1934)
  • 1920 – Henry Heimlich, American physician and author (d. 2016)

Yes, he invented the Heimlich Maneuver, but now the Red Cross recommends the “five and five” maneuver, with five sharp blows on the back and five “old” Heimlich abdominal thrusts, repeated until the throat is clear.

The mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, but don’t hold Danner responsible A scene with Danner; one of my favorites (from “The Prince of Tides”):

  • 1957 – Eric Lander, American mathematician, geneticist, and academic

Those who entered The Great Beyond on February 3 include:

  • 1924 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian, academic, and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
  • 1959 – The Day the Music Died[35]
    • The Big Bopper, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1930)
    • Buddy Holly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1936)
    • Ritchie Valens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1941)
  • 2005 – Ernst Mayr, German-American biologist and ornithologist (b. 1904)

One of my mentors and role models, Mayr was in the MCZ where I got my degree, though I didn’t see him often. After I came to Chicago, we did correspond fairly regularly, and perhaps I should donate his letters to some archives:

  • 2020 – George Steiner, French-American philosopher, author, and critic (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is bored—and probably thinking of noms.

A: Is there something interesting?
Hili: No, I think I will stop observing.
In Polish:
Ja: Coś ciekawego?
Hili: Nie, chyba przestanę obserwować.

Here are Szaron and Kulka on the same windowsill as above. Every cat has their own blanket but Kulka isn’t using hers:

From Facebook, a cool duck boat:

From Divy:

From In Otter News:

God addresses humanity. But isn’t he omniscient, even about the future?

From reader Ken, who notes, “Kari Lake, the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in this year’s election for governor of Arizona:”

From Ginger K. Is the cat really doing science according to the demarcation criteria?

Tweets from Matthew.  Google translation of the first one: “When I was shooting, this happening  (Both are straddling, so my palm hurts)”.  I think it’s a bit cruel, though:

Is this really ridiculous? The shape, originally fashioned by natural selection to be cryptic and look like a twig, might simply be constrained by development, while the insect might have become toxic and advertised its toxicity with “warning coloration”.

This tweet seems to have vanished, but I have a screenshot. I like it.

I may have put this up before, but I love jumping spiders. I had one on my desk the other day, and I’ll put its photo below.

I wonder if this is a real phobia:


It was, after all, in a Far Side cartoon:

50 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. “1874 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright, (d. 1946) She’s way overrated as a writer” – Indeed: “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”…!

    1. In 1912, the London publisher Arthur C. Field sent her this rejection letter, mocking her style. It’s pretty hilarious, but I bet she wasn’t laughing.

      Dear Madam, I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one. Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

      I learned of this letter’s existence from Jeopardy! earlier this week. It was the final question, and they only used a snippet and asked who the author was who received the rejection letter. No contestant got it right…I didn’t know it either.

      1. Fascinating, thanks! Another example of Gertrude’s genius shows how right Field was:

        No sense in no sense innocence of what of not and what of delight. In no sense innocence in no sense and what in delight and not, in no sense innocence in no sense no sense what, in no sense and delight, and in no sense and delight and not in no sense and delight and not, no sense in no sense innocence and delight.
        “Are There Arithmetics” (28 May 1927) [written in 1923]

  2. I wouldn’t normally mention such things because it’s understandably hard to keep track of the many interesting snippets you post, but the duck boat is a repeat appearance from yesterday.

    1. Tar and roses are the classic aromas of Barolo (and often Barbaresco, made from the same grape: Nebbiolo). I can attest to smelling these often in examples of Barolo and Barbaresco.

      Jerry: Lucky you! 25-year-old Barolo! A fine gift indeed!

      1. Road tar and roses. I looked it up on Normal for Barolo wine. Decanting or aggressively swirling the wine can help those notes blow off, says Dr. Vinny. In the Barolo these are prized aromatic notes.

    1. Aibohphobia, the fear of palindromes, is itself a palindrome, proving we have nothing to fear but fear itself!

  3. … what’s the distinction between “fighting” and “helping our allies fight”?

    Putting US GIs in harm’s way, I assume.

    1. Yeah I wrote longer post but it seems to have died. Probably what this means is that our troops will sit in Polish and Romanian bases doing normal base stuff while the Polish and Romanian troops are deployed to their borders with Ukraine.

      1. A state of war had a specific meaning in international law. It meant you intended to exercise the right of conquest over the country you had declared war on, given the dispute (causus belli, sometimes a pretence) had not yielded to diplomacy short of war. Under the UN Charter of 1945, member states renounced the right of conquest and are meant to respect existing borders forever. This was the point The Economist was making with its much-lampooned cover about Ukraine. All the parodies referred to pre-1945 border-setting by imperialists or conquerors and so missed the point.

        All armed conflicts since 1945 have been something other than war so defined, therefore. This is an important distinction for a non-belligerent nation in terms of its right to trade with either belligerent (or both of them.) Absent a state of war, neutral ships and aircraft may not be molested by the military forces of the belligerents, and the territory of the allies of one belligerent is supposed to be respected by allies of the other.

  4. I am proud to say that there is a category for people who are eating less meat and it is called reducetarianism. It was the word of the day last week. Lol Great posting. I really enjoyed the history of this day and who was born and who died on this day. Speaking of which Wikipedia had the musician Randy Newman as an evangelical, months ago, and then I looked again recently and all that was removed. And today someone tweeted that Brent Spiner would have been 100 years old today and we miss the old guy, and it was retweeted by Brent Spiner lol

      1. Ol’ Randy sang about his family’s Jewishness in his autobiographical tune “Dixie Flyer”, about the train trip he and his mom took from Los Angeles to New Orleans while his dad was fighting in the Army during WW2:

        Her brothers and her sisters came down from Jackson, Mississippi
        In a great green Hudson driven by a Gentile they knew
        Drinkin’ rye whiskey from a flask in the back seat
        Tryin’ to do like the Gentiles do
        Christ, they wanted to be Gentiles, too
        Who wouldn’t down there, wouldn’t you?

      2. It would be very hard to imagine the man who wrote “God’s Song” as an evangelical:

        “I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
        From the squalor and the filth and the misery
        How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
        That’s why I love mankind.

        …I burn down your cities—how blind you must be
        I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
        You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
        That’s why I love mankind
        You really need me
        That’s why I love mankind”

      1. Oops, not sure how the stray word “match” ended up in my post – my Kindle does weird things if I backspace when I write.

      2. That is fascinating and somehow comforting to hear, and thank you for this validation. It is funny how, with a common sounding name, you can change a Wikipedia to fit the person you know lol

  5. The first time I saw Blythe Danner was in a Columbo episode. At that time I did not know she was Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, but I found the resemblance so remarkable that I looked her up. And I do hold her responsible for her offspring’s woolly headedness — a mother, just like God, always knows.

  6. Interesting that the Lebensraum map includes Sweden and excludes Finland. An error or some nuance of history of which I am unaware?

    1. Yep, I wondered that, too. 1933 was of course before the Winter War and before the pact that Finland reluctantly entered into with Hitler (that they subsequently gradually and deftly extracted themselves from as Germany weakened).

    2. [Also Iceland was apparently excluded from the map.]

      Possible reasons (taken from the web).

      The Finns were also fighting the Soviets (co-belligerent or waffenbruder).

      Or, as everything relates to race:

      It all goes down to race – The most obvious reason that people think of first, and the most popular reason in the other answers to this question- it all goes down to race. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland are made up of the Scandinavian/Nordic race. Russia, Poland and all the other Eastern European countries including in the Reich are made up of the Slavic race. Finland is made up of the Finnish race. All three of these races are similar, but Nordic was considered more akin to the German race. The Finns were not regarded as being that closely affiliated so they were not desired as a mainstay.

    3. I think Finland and Germany were allies in the ‘winter war’ between Finland and the Soviet Union. You do not annex your allies, I’d say.
      However, that map is from 1933, while the winter war was in 1939. I’m sure some historian can point out the alliance predated the actual war.

  7. “The point is, however, that you almost never see such altruism in nature. It is a cultural phenomenon and cannot be the product of natural selection.”

    What if altruistic behavior were akin to a recessive trait. Those that only carried the recessive trait would not be altruistic but those that had the full Monty would be and would buttress the survival of those that only carried the allele for altruism. It’s not quite heterozygous advantage, but more like heterozygous serendipity, where the altruists foster the survival of those likely to only carry the allele. The allele for altruism becomes a self-buttressing allele, like a butler helping a privileged lord or lady. So long as more with one allele, in the company of true altruists, outcompeted those without, the allele, if not the full blown expression, would prosper.

      1. I will admit there are definite flaws in this type of theory. Likely they would be related and thus would initially project the altruism onto their relatives, and thus this is simply kin selection. But it could work outside of kin selection or recip. altruism under certain conditions like prolonged droughts or resource downturns or pandemics. The altruists would be altruistic towards everybody and would be at a survival disadvantage and would die during the drought. The heterozygotes though would enjoy the survival advantage by being close by. If in a random group of four individuals, where the allele is prevalent, one altruist might helps three survive. This outcompetes a group of four individuals where the allele is not prevalent and only one or two survives the downturn. It sounds like group selection but it really is allelic selection.

    1. IMO it’s the “duckling imprinting” problem. They evolved a sloppy instinct because a more exacting one didn’t have much adaptive value over the sloppy one. The adaptation is to follow mama. But mama is usually the first (non-sib) animal they see. So they just evolved a ‘follow the first animal you see’ instinct.

      Humans probably evolved in kin-based social groups. The adaptation that helps spread our genes is “help your kin.” But since we were almost always surrounded by other humans who were our kin, we evolved the sloppy “help those you’re familiar with” instinct version instead.

      All just my opinion.

      Apologies if this is a repeat. Experiencing connection issues, this is like the third time I’ve tried to post here on this topic…

  8. The day the music died crash was a perfect example of why the common non pilot person should learn some basic elements of flying. Even in 1959 they should have known not to get into an airplane with this pilot in this weather.

  9. Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 893,147, an increase of 2,658 deaths over yesterday’s figure.

    I wonder what the numbers would be if Florida didn’t lie about theirs?

      1. We’d be even more exceptional if the FL death count followed the recent winter surge in cases the way it does in most other states. Click thru the states here. Maryland is a good one for comparison.

    1. It seems that all the states that opened early (FL, GA, AZ) fudged their numbers to make it look like cases and deaths were falling, thus justifying reopening. Note, all the states that did this had Republican governors- the cult kills.

  10. I was not aware of the four chaplains and the S.S. Dorchester sinking. I was disappointed to read that they were not eligible for the Medal of Honor owing to being deemed not to have been in combat. Being torpedoed, albeit in a civilian ship, isn’t combat? I realize that civilian merchant mariners on that convoy run struggled for many years to be recognized as having served in a war zone but the chaplains were military personnel. I’m glad to see they did receive a special award, and a stamp.

    A Canadian Army chaplain, John Weir Foote, received the Victoria Cross, the Empire’s highest award for valour, for his actions assisting casualties under fire on the beach during the Dieppe fiasco of 1942 and on the long march to (and in) the prisoner-of-war camps that followed.

    Altruism in combat was not limited to chaplains of course and requires more than a religious calling to explain. F/Lt. David Hornell, RCAF, refused his turn in the life raft—only one was abled to be launched— after his Canso flying boat was shot down by a U-Boat during the act of sinking it. He received his VC posthumously, as have many MoH recipients.

  11. If Kari Lake felt so much better after a short course of Ivermectin (whether 6 or 3 pills), we may safely assume she was infested with worms.

  12. 1997 is a great old Barolo, but I just had a wonderful 2013 Barolo from the Sarmassa area with my son and Dil, and it was wonderful. Of course, another ten years and….but you’re right, we don’t know how long we all have.

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