Tuesday: Hili dialogue

February 8, 2022 • 7:15 am

Welcome to The Cruelest Day, Tuesday February 8, 2022: National Potato Lover’s Day. But who is the single spudophile being fêted here? (If it was a day for all those who love potatoes, and who doesn’t?, it would be “National Potato Lovers’ Day” or “National Potato Lovers Day.” But not just the grocer’s apostrophe! Here: have what’s known in the U.S. as a loaded baked potato. This comes with a side of stents.


It’s also National Molasses Bar Day, Opera Day, Boy Scouts Day (founded in the U.S. on this day in 1909), Safer Internet Day, National Kite Flying Day, and Propose Day, mostly celebrated in India. It’s the day  you’re supposed to pop the question.

News of the Day:

*America’s Internal Revenue Service (‘the tax people”) had been using facial recognition software (run by the the third party service “ID.me”) on the websites of taxpayers who wished to access their accounts online. People didn’t like their biometric data bandied about, especially in the hands of third parties. It’s too much like China (though that’s how my iPhone identifies me!). And it didn’t work well.

But the IRS is bailing now:

The I.R.S. was already coping with a daunting tax season, faced with backlogs of old tax returns, staffing shortages and the additional complexity of paying stimulus and child tax credits. Now the agency must also change how it verifies the identity of taxpayers.

The I.R.S. said on Monday that it would “transition away” from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating online accounts. The transition will occur over the coming weeks to prevent additional disruptions to the tax filing season, which ends April 18.

The tax agency came under criticism after the Treasury Department awarded ID.me, an identity verification company, an $86 million contract last year to make taxpayer accounts more secure from data leaks, a growing concern. But the service, which requires taxpayers to take video selfies as part of the verification process, frustrated taxpayers and raised concerns about the collection of sensitive biometric data.

“The I.R.S. takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said Charles P. Rettig, the agency commissioner. “Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”

What’s next? Will we start accumulating social credits?

*Over at Bari Weiss’s Substack site, there’s a piece by Michael Shellenberger “Slow-motion suicide in San Francisco.” (It also has an intro by Nellie Bowles.) I hadn’t realized how dire things had gotten in the city, which I decided was, along with Cambridge, MA, would be one of the two American cities where I’d like to live. After reading about the profusion of addicts and street people that has already driven so many people from The City by the Bay, I’ll narrow my list to Cambridge alone.  Excerpts:

Something very different is happening in San Francisco. The city is carrying out a bizarre medical experiment whereby addicts are given everything they need to maintain their addiction—cash, hot meals, shelter—in exchange for . . . almost nothing. Voters have found themselves in the strange position of paying for fentanyl, meth and crack use on public property.

You can go and witness all of this if you simply walk down Market Street and peek your head over a newly erected fence in the southwest corner of United Nations Plaza. You will see that the city is permitting people to openly use and even deal drugs in a cordoned-off area of the public square.

. . .In obeisance to woke ideology, the official position of the Department of Public Health and progressives on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is that police should not be involved except perhaps to revive people with Narcan after they overdose. Many on the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney believe that drug dealers—who the latter refers to as victims—should not be prosecuted.

The result is that the city is spending roughly $100,000 per year per homeless person, or over $1 billion annually, to maintain a large, unemployed, and very sick addict population in San Francisco’s public squares at the cost of human life and the loss of peace, walkability and livability—the very qualities that have long attracted so many to San Francisco.

The mayor has promised to “clean up” the city and find housing and jobs for the homeless (little has been done).  Shellenberger describes how some cities have dealt with similar problems more successfully, but nothing seems to be happening in S.F. except the city is getting harder to inhabit. I haven’t been to SF for years; it really as bad there as he describes?

*The NYT has an interview with that most enigmatic and inimitable actor, Christopher Walken. I had no idea he started off as a dancer. Here’s a bit relevant to that, but you’ll have to read yourself about Walken’s hero being Elvis Presley and what he’d say to Elvis if the two of them met.

This is another question about acting: There are actors who transform and then there are performers, like yourself, who are pretty much always themselves. Can you explain what that distinction means for how you play a role?I’d have to emphasize that when I talk about that, I’m talking strictly about me, that having come to being an actor sort of accidentally through being a dancer, my approach has to do with what I did as a dancer: rhythm, hearing the beat, responding physically — probably different than most actors come at it. I didn’t go to acting class until I was already working as an actor. SoI think of myself as a performer. It’s important to entertain. People buy a ticket, and they sit there and they watch you. I hope that it’s interesting, that it’s entertaining, that it’s fun. That word “fun” is banged around, but it’s a rather serious word. It’s important to have fun.

How do you have fun? Working. Most of the time.The car ride home from the set at the end of the day: You get in the car to go back to the hotel, and the best thing is to think,I was good today. A terrible feeling is to sit in the car and think, I could have done that much better. For me, it boils down to things like that: How do you feel when you go home in the car?

*NOOOOO!!!! The WaPo reports that England’s oldest pub, possibly dating back 1,229 years (the Guinness people put its founding at AD793!), is closing because of the pandemic. “Ye Olde Fighting Cocks” in St. Albans, England, burdened with financial problems, is shutting its doors.

They are trying to find new management, and I just refuse to believe that Brits would let their oldest pub close for good. They just wouldn’t. I had previously had a couple of pints at what used to be touted as the UK’s oldest pub—Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, but that was established in 1189.  (It’s also hollowed out of a cliff, so you’re drinking in windowless rock chamgers.) Please, British readers, do something about this!

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 904,144, an increase of 2,598 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,771,030, an increase of about 11,000 over yesterday’s total.

Look at that curve falling! But will it shoot back up again?

Stuff that happened on February 8 include:

My diploma! We are the only college in America with a royal seal.

  • 1865 – Delaware refuses to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Slavery was outlawed in the United States, including Delaware, when the Amendment was ratified by the requisite number of states on December 6, 1865. Delaware ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on February 12, 1901, which was the ninety-second anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Took them long enough, didn’t it?

The movie is infamous for lauding the Klan and denigrating black people. Here’s one scene showing “The Birth of the Klan” (see also this scene of the Klan riding to save Southern womanhood).

Here’s the gas chamber at New Mexico State Penitentiary. It was used only once. It’s a horrible way to kill and a horrible way to die:

  • 1946 – The first portion of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the first serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized King James Version, is published.
  • 1960 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issues an Order-in-Council, stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor, and that her descendants will take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.

Wikipedia gives this introduction to Prince Charles:

Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948)

Where’s the “Mountbatten-Windsor part?

  • 1993 – General Motors sues NBC after Dateline NBC allegedly rigs two crashes intended to demonstrate that some GM pickups can easily catch fire if hit in certain places. NBC settles the lawsuit the next day.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1577 – Robert Burton, English priest, physician, and scholar (d. 1640)
  • 1819 – John Ruskin, English author, critic, and academic (d. 1900)
  • 1828 – Jules Verne, French author, poet, and playwright (d. 1905)

They photographed the author on his deathbed! Here’s the photo from Wikipedia:

Here’s the great chemist, looking like a graying Rasputin:

Here’s a long rap by Neal as he drove Ken Kesey’s “FURTHUR” bus across the country. He always drove, and talked constantly:

At the wheel:


The bus:


James Dean at the wheel (where he died):

  • 1949 – Brooke Adams, American actress, producer, and screenwriter

Brooke Adams was one star of one of my favorite movies, Terrence Malick’s 1978 Days of Heaven (also starring Richard Gere and Sam Shepard).  While the story isn’t substantial, the photography is the most beautiful I know of in any American film

  • 1953 – Mary Steenburgen, American actress

Those who Bought the Farm on February 8 include:

Here’s the execution scene, drawn by an eyewitness (Robert Beale.)

A report from Wikipedia:

Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe. Afterwards, he held her head aloft and declared “God save the Queen.” At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand turned out to be a wig and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair.

Here’s a picture of the tomb of Peter the Great in the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg (Peters everywhere!); photographed by me in July, 2011. I can read “Peter I” in Cyrillic, but not the second word. (

  • 1957 – Walther Bothe, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1891)
  • 1957 – John von Neumann, Hungarian-American mathematician and physicist (b. 1903)
  • 1990 – Del Shannon, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1934)
  • 2021 – Mary Wilson, American singer (b. 1944)

One of the original Supremes with Diana Ross and Flo Ballard. Here they are singing “You can’t hurry love” on the Ed Sullivan show:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again frustrated by the weather:

Hili: Snow again.
A: It’s still February
In Polish:
Hili: Znowu śnieg.
Ja: To nadal jest luty.

Szaron is also getting antsy waiting for Spring:

A lovely meme from Barry. I bet the d*g got a good case of indigestion!


From Jesus of the Day— for Dr. Who fans:

Here’s my favorite species of wild felid showing how smart it is:

Titania appears to be having fits of rage:


Simon sends us tweets from Oded Rechavi quite often; Oded likes to take give an academic twist to funny Twitter photos. But he also specializes in “graphical abstracts” (cartoons that summarize the paper) in scientific publications. Here’s one from a paper on which Rechavi was senior author.

From Barry:

From Ginger K.  Go here to read about Kate DiCamillo.

Tweets from Matthew. First, a blue-nosed squirrel is busted. Why, and what did he do? Read the article.

A photographic hint:

A tweet that Matthew made. Remember this Chinese man?

Fear and loathing. Remember Carter as a drug guide on SNL? What a great piece by Dan Ackroyd?

36 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Christopher Walken. I had no idea he started off as a dancer.

    Ah yes. There’s a wonderful Fatboy Slim video of him dancing.

    Where’s the “Mountbatten-Windsor part?

    We don’t use surnames for royalty. If it’s King or Queen or Prince or Princess, we don’t use the surname. There’s some convention from the mists of time that tells you when to use surnames and when not, but I can’t be bothered to look it up.

    1. We don’t use surnames for royalty.

      Even Private Eye would not be so gauche as to refer to her as Brenda Saxe-Coborg Gotha de Mountbatten Plantagenate Bàtard Tudor (or whatever the full incantation is, for summoning her into the pentacle).

    2. Walken showed off his skills as a hoofer early in his film career, in the 1981 Depression-era musical comedy Pennies From Heaven, opposite Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters:

      1. I’d also recommend checking out the TV miniseries that the film was based on. That version of Pennies From Heaven doesn’t have Christopher Walken, but it gives the story has more room to unfold and has greater emotional impact. Writer Dennis Potter went on to script The Singing Detective, another masterpiece (avoid the film version).

  2. “Here: have what’s known in the U.S. as a loaded baked potato. This comes with a side of stents.”

    Ironically, under the various forms of the keto diet, it’s the potato itself which is the no-no. And the sour cream, cheese and bacon which is good for you. It’s the combination – like a two-part explosive – that is dangerous!

  3. I last left California in 2003 after retirement. L.A. and San Fran are probably the worst for homeless and street people and have been for a long time. Always figured there was a good chance of ending. up like that if I stayed. The cost of living and the year round nice weather is a curse.

    1. Where did you end up Randall?

      We are leaving Minnesota for Washington state in a few months.

      I worked in Orange County for about 6 months in the 1990s (on the company’s dime). Loved it. But: Too expensive and too crowded for me. (I was born in California.)

      1. You might want to think about that move to Washington, especially if you are talking about Seattle. I headed back home to Iowa but that did not work out and I ended up in Wichita. You never know for sure. Good luck with that next move.

        1. We are in very rural WA. Red county, we will help shift more purple. (Plenty of “well, if ya don’ like the jake brakes at 2am on the log trucks, go away!” Which I can actually understand somewhat.)

          We are about 15 miles east of the Cascade crest (much drier and sunnier than Seattle or Portland) at about 2100 feet elevation in the edges of the mountains, which moderates summer temperatures. I’ve had the property since 2001 and we’ve been there every year since, at least for a few weeks. We know the place very well.

          I am very anxious to leave the Midwest behind. I dislike the winter weather and I also dislike the heat, humidity, and bugs of the summer. We get about 6 weeks of really nice weather each year.

          I lived in Seattle from 1984 until 2002 and knew I would never go back: Waaaaay too crowded. The crowding destroyed almost everything I loved about living there. At my last home, I could drive to a mountain (small mountain) trailhead for hiking in 9 minutes. But I found that I was avoiding all kinds of activities due to the horrible traffic. I knew the time was up. The difference between 1984 and 2002 is hard to exaggerate.

        2. Glad the move to Wichita is working out for you. I worked there a few times for Boeing. I enjoyed the local minor league baseball. Very family-like affair.

          I took long walks in the evening, often out of the hotel, ducked tornadoes, went to baseball games (walked there from my hotel), and ate nothing but steak and burgers (and salads).

          The old joke at Boeing (Seattle/Renton/Everett) was: “There’s nothing to do in Wichita except work overtime and drink.” Lots of contract engineers worked there (they got per diem plus time-and-a-half for overtime).

          1. Yes, Boeing finally left the city, selling their location to Spirit. Kind of a contractor to Boeing. Some of the other aviation companies like Cessna and Beechcraft have been sold off as well but continue to grind along. The newest version of a baseball team has a brand new stadium by the river but the name is terrible — Wind Surge. They say they were looking for an aviation like name — well dah. Why not Barnstormers. I guess I am too old.

            1. I like Barnstormers! If I remember correctly, your housing cost must have gone down by about 90%! (CA to Wichita.)

    2. Thousands of people in the Bay area who were living in very high rent were hoping and trying to move east 40 or 50 miles and afford to buy something. Many did this and then faced 3 hours of grid lock traffic commuting to work. But worse than that – Stockton and Lathrop were not Bay Area.

      1. Indeed. I knew quite a few guys (fellow engineers) who drove in to Long Beach from Riverside every working day!!! They can’t have had any free time.

  4. My sister mentioned the large number of homeless people in an area of Portland, Oregon where she went to a gig last week. She didn’t mention why there were so many, but I suspect that the situation has something in common with that in San Francisco.

  5. My wife and I had a pint of bitter at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks when we visited St. Albans. That was ten years ago! I can’t imagine that a new proprietor won’t be found. The location is beautiful, along the River Ver below the old abbey. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  6. I was literally just thinking last night about Delaware and slavery. A lot of people don’t realize that, at the time of the Civil War, Delaware was a slave state. I was thinking that a history of Delaware during the Civil War in relation to slavery would be interesting. Not being a border state they don’t seem to have have had the issues that those slave states had, but I’ve really never seen anything about it. The fact that they didn’t pass the Thirteenth Amendment is very interesting, though, as would be the experience of ex-slaves there.

  7. 1. Walken :

    “You get in the car to go back to the hotel, and the best thing is to think,I was good today. A terrible feeling is to sit in the car and think, I could have done that much better. For me, it boils down to things like that: How do you feel when you go home in the car?”

    That is perfect. How did he do that, on the spot?

    2. Baked potato :

    I found a go-to prep to get a delicious crust :

    Clean the spuds.
    Poke with knife thoroughly (easiest for me).
    Lots of salt
    a garam masala or any Indian spice mix.
    Olive oil or other – not too much. Paste is the idea.
    Get it all over. Hands.
    Sit in fridge overnight.
    Next day bake them a long time.
    375 – hour or so. Turn oven off and leave them if desired. Don’t worry about too long / too much.

    Continue as desired.
    I like to whip the insides, add cooked fresh green peas, cumin seed, and return to the boat-like shell with a lid.

    Sorry for length but its good stuff!

  8. From Jesus of the Day— for Dr. Who fans:

    Cat had probably been sleeping peacefully under the porch when the car started making Tardis-like noises and had been chasing it for most of that kilometre to see what the crazy Staff was up to.
    caveat : Possibly sleeping peacefully under a nearby porch, where the cat had been conducting interviews for the newly inaugurated post of “Alternating Days Staff and Housekeepers”.
    Not being a Whovian, I’m not sure, but hasn’t the tardis itself changed sounds on several occasions, so you really need to specify the Incarnation to get the sound right. Mind you, the theme tune has been updated several times too. There are a number of moderately interesting programmes about the composer, Delia Derbyshire.

    1. As far as I can tell, the basic Tardis sound has remained basically consistent throughout the course of the show…though, of course, the sound quality has improved. The box itself has evolved over time, in minor ways (not as much as the Doctor of course), at least on the outside. The inside changes dramatically between regenerations, especially in the modern version.

  9. Let Jimmy Carter talk you down- very funny. Other videos that are a fix, Russell Crowe in a dating game talking about his expertise with female genitalia. And my favorite, but not SNL, Second City, Half Wits. Dan Aykroyd and his Bass o Matic. And this one is not available in Canada, but amazing comedy, Chris Elliott in a marketing meeting for a candy bar called Nutlicious, It’s ‘nut’ something you want to put in your mouth. It’s ‘nut’ very good.

  10. Speaking of Fear & Loathing, Jimmy Carter, and acid — Hunter Thompson wrote a longform piece for Rolling Stone in June 1976 titled “Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith.” (Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone‘s editor and publisher, originally gave the piece the subtitle “an endorsement with fear and loathing,” but Hunter made him take it off of reprints, since HST didn’t think journalists had any business giving out endorsements. You can see the original RS cover with the endorsement subtitle here.)

    In the RS piece, Thompson announced that he would not be covering the 1976 presidential campaign as he had the ’72 campaign (in part because life on the campaign trail interfered with Thompson’s ability to consume a decent daily breakfast). Thompson did say in the piece that he would be voting for Carter in the ’76 election. He also recounted his first meeting Jimmy Carter in 1974, while on assignment covering Teddy Kennedy (who at the time bade fair to be the ’76 Democratic nominee) back when Carter was a little known one-term governor from Georgia. Thompson was impressed by the Law Day Speech Carter gave at the University of Georgia and that Kennedy had attended as a guest of honor. As a result, Thompson spent a good deal of time interviewing Carter, even before Carter announced his intention of running for the ’76 Democratic nomination. Thompson mentioned in the piece that he kept a couple tabs of acid on him when he’d visit Carter, to give to Jimmy if Jimmy ever tried laying any of his born-again evangelical shit on him — but that never happened.

    There’s an article about the long friendship between Carter and Thompson here.

  11. Birth of a Nation: Adapted from racist fiction penned by a Carolinian, screenplay co-written by a Pennsylvanian, film produced by a Wisconsinite and directed by Kentuckian born just across the Ohio River from Indiana, acted blackface by Californians, screened in the White House, stimulated a fundamentally new KKK organized true as national racist fraternity, something it never was before, with paid membership and chapters from New Jersey to Oregon. Pure Americana!

  12. The Li Wenliang case posted by Matthew Cobb is incomplete. On the same day Dr. Li was talking with associates about a possible new virus circulating in Wuhan, the Chinese CDC put out a general e-mail alert on the existence of a new dangerous viral disease concentrated the Wuhan region. Dr. Li, an optometrist, had no expertise in viral infections, was spreading what at that point was an unconfirmed rumor, and was ask to stop. The cat was out of the bag with the official communication — not because of Dr. Li’s suspicions — in the first week of January, 2020. Chinese molecular biologists in short order had sequenced the virus and posted their results on the internet; this happened less than 2 weeks after the first alert. No one elsewhere seemed to have noticed, much less called the alarm. I only learned about the virus from reading a news report on Jan. 24 saying the city of Yuhan had been put on lockdown, but the article was unable to say much about why. Xi telephoned Donald Trump around Feb 5 to warn that Covid-19 transmission was spread by air, but America’s Supreme Leader kept mum. The US today totals 930,000 Covid-19 deaths. China with a population >four times that of the U.S. has registered a little over 4600 deaths, about 1/200 that of the U.S. In other words, China has done almost 1000 times better than we have in saving lives.

  13. Christopher Walken started out not only as a dancer but also as a child actor. If anyone wants to see one of his early starring roles, the National Film Preservation Foundation has uploaded the short film “The Boy Who Saw Through” (1958), which features 14-year-old Walken as a boy who develops the ability to see through walls and causes much consternation in his stuffy 1890s community:

  14. “I can read “Peter I” in Cyrillic, but not the second word.”

    I assume it’s the older spelling of великий ‘great’.

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