Monday: Hili dialogue

February 14, 2022 • 7:30 am

Good morning on Monday February 14, 2022: Valentine’s Day! Two memes to start the day right.  First, a ducky one:

and a. .  a humorous one

There is also a Valentine’s Day Google Doodle (click on screenshot below) that leads you to a Valentine’s Day animated game with hamsters!

As Google notes:

Sometimes love takes you by surprise. It can be full of twists and turns, but through all its ups and downs, it can still bring the world closer together (no matter the species).

Just look at the two smitten hamsters featured in today’s interactive 3-D Doodle. Can you piece their path together and clear the way for them to scamper into each other’s precious paws? As they say, home is where the heart is.

Another site tells you how to play:

In the game, people have to complete the maze by pushing little buttons and levers by joining the pieces of the maze. Once it is completed, the two hamsters meet in the middle of a big heart after clicking a shining “heart-shaped” icon. Whenever one will click the icon, colourful hearts are seen to be pouring out from a chimney.

It’s dead easy: just move levers and push buttons and stuff until the “GOOGLE” word is completed, providing an unimpeded path for the hamsters to rush to their nuptial chamber in the middle. Love ensues.

And of course it’s National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day. On top of that, it’s also Oatmeal Monday, National Poop Day (the byproduct of mass consumption on Super Bowl Sunday, Read to Your Child Day, National Organ Donor Day, Frederick Douglass Day (believed to have been born on this day in 1818), International Book Giving Day (give one away), Library Lovers Day, and Race Relations Day.

News of the Day:

*The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 with a last minute, one yard touchdown pass. That’s today’s sports news except for the Olympic stuff below. Here are the last three minutes of the game. Watch it on YouTube by clicking the underlined bit below:

*The NYT describes a now-defunct sport in the Winter Olympics: ski ballet!

Recently, the official Olympics YouTube account posted a video both beautiful and strange. Skiers in flamboyant jumpsuits perform choreographed routines to music — flipping over their poles, gliding through complex spins, accenting transitions with jazzy flourishes of their arms. “HOW was this an Olympic sport?” the video’s title wonders.

OY! Well, I suppose it’s no worse than curling.

The footage is from the 1992 Olympic finals in ballet skiing, also called ski ballet, or simply “ballet” by some practitioners. On social media, it’s easy to get lost in videos of this bygone athletic art. Clips from its Olympic appearances as a demonstration sport — at Calgary, Alberta, in 1988and Albertville, France, in 1992 —surface frequently on YouTube and TikTok, to the fascination of dance and sports enthusiasts.

Today ballet skiing lives almost exclusively online. By the time the sport made it to the Olympics, after nearly two fraught decades of competitive evolution, it had already begun to decline: 1992 was its final Olympic showing. Less than a decade later, it had all but vanished.

*Speaking of the Olympics again, here’s an example of the “new” journalism of our era. It’s all about the journalist expressing his or her feelings (feelings are all), and then throwing in some two-bit, thoughtless analysis to lend gravitas to their feelings. Submitted for your approval, Lindsay Crouse’s NYT column, “Why the Beijing Olympics are so hard to watch.”  The feeling and the analysis (note also the patronizing “why” that begins the column, like the many stories that start “what you need to know about”):

The Winter Olympics have always been less popular than the Summer, and this year’s opening ceremony’s ratings were the lowest in history.

There is a lot of speculation as to why we’re not watching. But as a longtime sucker for the no-limits narratives concocted for us by the Olympics and its marketers, I’ll say I’m just not feeling it this year. The Games’ core appeal has always been inspiration, the pursuit of impossible dreams. Two years into a pandemic, when so many of our dreams have been shelved, these Games just aren’t delivering that kind of inspiration. Instead of showcasing the best of what humanity can do, this Olympics seem to reflect what we can’t.

No, they don’t reflect out failure; those problems are in other areas, not in the sport (except for the  Russian doping issue).  But there’s more PONTIFICATING:

With their spectacle of extreme athletics held against a backdrop of climate emergency, public health disaster, political brinkmanship and rampant corruption, the Games reek of societal decline. When anxiety and misery are all around us, and many of us have lost our faith in institutions’ ability or will to solve these problems, state- and corporate-sponsored inspiration doesn’t land the way it used to.

For you, Ms. Crouse, for you. Do you think you’re making a grand analysis that applies to everyone here? That may be your job, but you haven’t pulled it off. This is an example of New-Yorker style prose that sounds good but says virtually nothing.

*About a week, I’d say, until the Russians invade Ukraine.

*Here are some Brits who nearly got lucky .The BBC reports that a British power company, sending compensation checks to its customers for power outages, accidentally mistook meter numbers for money, resulting in some customers getting checks for TRILLIONS OF POUNDS!  Here’s one for over two trillion pounds:

Of course they won’t really get the dosh:

Gareth Hughes, 44, from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, shared a picture of his cheque for more than £2.3tn.

Mr Hughes, who was without power for more than three days, said he had been sent a previous cheque for £135 but had complained as he was told he was entitled to more.

He said the new cheque make him smile, adding: “But I knew it wasn’t a value that could be realistic.”

A spokeswoman for Northern Powergrid said an electricity meter reference was incorrectly quoted as the payment sum.

“As soon as we identified the clerical error we ensured all 74 customers’ cheques were stopped so they could not be cashed,” she said.

*Was it inevitable that the word “gringo” would become the white version of the n-word? The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Mary Salas, the mayor of Chula Vista, Californa, ribbed one of her colleagues who couldn’t take the heat in some food at a local Mexican restaurant. But then this ensued (h/t Eric):

“So I said, ‘Oh, John, you’re such a gringo,’” the two-term mayor and former state assemblywoman told me in a phone interview. “And he started laughing after that.”

Salas thought nothing of saying “gringo,” a Spanish word long used in the American West to refer to white people and across Latin America to denote foreigners.

It’s technically a slur, but it’s such a part of life in these parts that its power to offend nowadays is minimal. “Gringo” and its derivatives are found in the names of restaurants small (Gringo’s Fish Tacos in Mid-City) and large (El Gringo in Manhattan Beach), in hot sauces (Gringo Bandito, by Dexter Holland of The Offspring), in bad movies (the 2018 bomb “Gringo” that wasted the talents of Charlize Theron and David Oyewolo), in craft beers and even in clothing labels like Old Gringo Boots.

That’s why Salas was stupefied when nine days after her encounter with McCann, he filed a complaint with the city’s human resources department, alleging racial discrimination by the mayor for her “gringo” jab.

“I felt shocked by her statement,” he wrote, “since it was aimed at diminishing me because of my ethnicity and race.”

It’s only a matter of time before “gringo” becomes as taboo as the n-word. After all, it’s a racial slur. I myself have been criticized for calling non-Jews “goys”.

The outcome? The town hired an outside lawyer to adjudicate, and his opinion was this:

 Though Salas’ use of “gringo” was “inappropriate,” it didn’t constitute discrimination.

“Here the use of the word ‘gringo,’ on one occasion in this informal setting and to describe a person’s attribute of not being able to eat spicy food,” the investigation concluded, “does not rise to the level of … creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.”

The Voice of San Diego broke the story last month and also found out how much this combo platter of victimhood cost Chula Vista taxpayers: nearly $16,000.


*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 918,373, an increase of 2,465 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,836,240, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 14 include:

  • 1349 – Several hundred Jews are burned to death by mobs while the remaining Jews are forcibly removed from Strasbourg.
  • 1530 – Spanish conquistadores, led by Nuño de Guzmán, overthrow and execute Tangaxuan II, the last independent monarch of the Tarascan state in present-day central Mexico.
  • 1556 – Thomas Cranmer is declared a heretic.

He was burned at the stake, thrusting his “unworthy hand” into the fire first as in the photo below:

A painting of Akbar hunting with cheetahs (1602):

  • 1779 – James Cook is killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii.
  • 1849 – In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes the first serving President of the United States to have his photograph taken.

Here he is in a Daguerrotype:

Here’s a drawing of the device from the patent application, and then the patent itself:

  • 1899 – Voting machines are approved by the U.S. Congress for use in federal elections.
  • 1912 – Arizona is admitted as the 48th and the last contiguous U.S. state.
  • 1929 – Saint. Valentine’s Day Massacre: Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone‘s gang, are murdered in Chicago.

Here’s the aftermath showing six of the seven murdered men:

And a short video documentary of the events leading up to the killing:

Here’s a sad photo of the destruction of the city taken from the top of the city hall. 25,000 died in this raid by British and American bombers. Kurt Vonnegut was a P.O.W. during the bombing, which led to one of his best books, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

  • 1949 – The Knesset (parliament of Israel) convenes for the first time.
  • 1961 – Discovery of the chemical elements: Element 103, Lawrencium, is first synthesized at the University of California.
  • 1966 – Australian currency is decimalized.
  • 1989 – Union Carbide agrees to pay $470 million to the Indian government for damages it caused in the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
  • 1989 – Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini issues a fatwa encouraging Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.

The perp, Nikolas Cruz, has still not been sentenced. Here’s a photo of him shooting and then being apprehended:

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz can be seen on surveillance footage aiming his gun on the second floor hallway of building 12. No one on the second floor was injured or killed.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1483 – Babur, Moghul emperor (d. 1530)
  • 1882 – John Barrymore, American actor (d. 1942)
  • 1894 – Jack Benny, American actor and producer (d. 1974)

Like most comedians of his era, Benny was Jewish; his birth name was Benjamin Kubelsky.

  • 1913 – Jimmy Hoffa, American trade union leader (d. 1975)

Gone but not forgotten. . ..

  • 1934 – Florence Henderson, American actress and singer (d. 2016)
  • 1946 – Gregory Hines, American actor, singer, and dancer (d. 2003)

Here’s Hines demonstrating his dance techniques. He died young and was funeralized:

  • 1951 – Terry Gross, American radio host and producer
  • 1959 – Renée Fleming, American soprano and actress

Those who made the frog sound on February 14 include:

  • 1933 – Carl Correns, German botanist and geneticist (b. 1864)
  • 1943 – David Hilbert, Russian-German mathematician, physicist, and philosopher (b. 1862)
  • 1989 – James Bond, American ornithologist and zoologist (b. 1900)
  • 2011 – George Shearing, English-American pianist and composer (b. 1919)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej discuss private knowledge:

Hili: Looking for a reasonable explanation without knowledge of the facts ends badly.
A: Don’t tell this to humans, they will get depressed.
In Polish:
Hili: Szukanie rozsądnego wyjaśnienia bez znajomości faktów źle się kończy.
Ja: Nie mów tego ludziom, bo wpadną w depresję.

How kawai!  A kitty goes shopping with its staff in Japan.

A Valentine’s Day meme from Thomas:

From David, though I don’t think this is a real Peanuts cartoon:

From Peter: Snow kitties!

From Paul and also Matthew. I don’t know enough about cat genetics to see if this is a feasible litter. I am dubious. . .

From Simon.   A vial of Covid vaccine really is a message (messenger RNA) in a bottle:

From Ginger K.: If this letter is real, I’d like to shake the hand of the doctor who wrote it:

From Richard: a cat making biscuits on another

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. First, some hard-working sheepdogs! (Bialiba is a town in Australia):

A border collie (an Honorary Cat® ) herding ducks to water!

Me too: Many times!

22 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. It appears you have misplaced the dividing line between those born and those making the frog sound. We do pay attention…..

  2. OY! Well, I suppose it’s no worse than curling.

    I think it is worse. Well, not worse, but not so much a sport. In my opinion, any sport where the measure of who wins is subjective has no place in the Olympics i.e. anything that has a category of scoring for “artistic impression” or equivalent should not be in the Olympics.

    Under this criterion, curling is Olympics eligible but dancing on skis would not be.

    Orthogonal to that point, I’d rather watch a curling match than ski ballet any day.

    1. Curling is somewhat subjective. It is a “gentleman’s game” where the players collectively decide on which stone is closest. The players are also responsible for reporting their own fouls or faults (that makes it subjective) and deciding collectively what to do about a fault (again, subjective). There are refs, but they’re generally only called in when the players can’t agree, and this is rare.

      In the US-China match, the US players subjectively decided they had tapped a Chinese stone with their broom. There is no video replay, no confirming evidence, and no ref who made that call. The Chinese team decided what to do about it, and again, no video was used to confirm the tap. Had they decided to penalize the Americans (they didn’t), they would’ve put the stones back “where they think they would’ve ended up without the tap”. But again, that judgement call would’ve been made with no access to a replay, no objective measure of force or angle, and without even an independent call or positioning by a ref. The only thing the ref did in this case was describe the situation and the options the Chinese team had to their translator.

      Now if you watched the ice skating, you may have noticed the “running tally” scoring they showed. That’s because specific moves are given a difficulty and thus a quantitative score when done right, and as well penalties for not doing them right are given a defined amount of score subtracted.

      The larger point being, there is often not a bright line between objective and subjective measures. The timed races are objective, but many events are more “gray area” where the rules interpretations as well as the results leave room for both subjective and objective measures to determine the outcome. I have no idea about ski ballet, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t have some objective measure of trick difficulty the way figure skating or even the freestyle skiing has.

      1. Even in a timed race, could there be subjective interference calls? [Not that there were any in the Super Bowl.]

      2. I reject your argument. Curling is fundamentally about getting your blobby stone things closer to a target than somebody else’s blobby stone things. The fact that the means of measuring relies effectively on good sportsmanship is incidental. There’s no “artistic impression”. There’s nobody applying a personal aesthetic judgement.

  3. There is a lot of speculation as to why we’re not watching.

    Well first, citing the opening ceremony’s ratings doesn’t say much about whether we’re watching or not watching the events.

    Second, the Olympics (both summer and winter) are partly to blame, in that in order to fit all the events in they now run events before and during the opening ceremonies. If you’re an Olympic event fan, which are you going to tune into – the ceremony, or the actual sporting event going on on a different channel?

    Third, if you put most of the events on a pay-for-service internet channel, then yes, a lot of people are going to opt out of paying the fee, and instead just watch what’s on the basic cable channels. Balkanization of TV has some pretty obvious consequences, and less households watching X as the price and inconvenience to watch X goes up has got to be one of the most obvious. IOW, you somewhat screwed yourselves, NBC, by trying to extract more money from the coverage.

    Last but not least, when the Olympics are held in a distance timezone and you air the events live from 11pm-5am – and then you just air bits of them during regular US prime time, again that’s a pretty obvious contributor to reasons people may not watch as much. Now we can’t do anything about the time zone difference, and the channel with the rights can’t prevent other channels from announcing the results, but still, if the channel with the rights wants to get better ratings, do a better job giving ‘live tape delay’ events with less commenting and human interest stories. I’d note along with this that NBC’s two channels were both pretty atrocious at sticking to their listed schedules. Maybe shoddy basic cable coverage was part of their plan to get people to buy their pay-per-service access?

    Okay, that’s my vent for the day.

    Was it inevitable that the word “gringo” would become the white version of the n-word?

    I say let both words die a natural death in the larger English-speaking world. This doesn’t mean banning them. This doesn’t mean sub-communities can’t use them. It doesn’t even mean make a big deal to our kids about how horrible they are. It just means that like behoof or gyve, regular people stop using them until they pass out of general use. Find another insult.

    1. I’ve always really enjoyed the Olympics. Call me a hopeless optimist. And contrary to the average, I’ve always liked the winter Olympics more.

      Like you said though, it has become more difficult to watch without paying extra, unless you just happen to already subscribe to NBC, which I don’t. I used to spend hours and hours watching Olympic coverage but so far during this Olympics I’ve only spent perhaps an hour skimming 4 minute clips on youtube.

  4. Hey PCC (or other evolutionary biologists looking at this), have you had a chance to read the paper in Genome Research, “De novo mutation rates at the single-mutation resolution in a human HBB gene-region associated with adaptation and genetic disease”? Published Jan 14, 2022.

    The authors seem to be saying that the rate of mutation (in this region) is higher in populations with a history of exposure to malaria. IOW, not random but correlated with environment. IOW, maybe Lamarck-like.

    Though I can think of one less revolutionary explanation. While mutation is ‘random’ in the sense that future development has zero impact on mutation probability, that doesn’t mean all mutations are equiprobable in all sequences. It’s possible that for a given sequence and a given mutational mechanism, some sequences more often undergo mutation via that mechanism than others. So if there is some selective pressure for the sequences around the sequence in question to be what they are, and what they are also has the effect of making that sequence more likely to undergo this specific mutation, that would be Darwinian selection.

    But, I’m just SWAGging and am not trying to defend that idea. I really just wanted to know what you think about the paper’s implications.

  5. Is President Polk sporting a mullet? A man ahead of his times. 🤣

    I loved that letter to the insurance company. It’s absurd that insurance companies act like they know the best treatment for patients they’ve never met. My wife one time tripped by getting her foot caught beneath a rug and falling forward. The particular way in which she broke it is called a Lisfranc fracture (named after the doctor who treated many of these fractures in Napoleon’s army; it happened when soldiers got flung from their horses, and the stirrups broke their midfoot). Anyway, this type of fracture often results in damaged ligaments/tendons and so an MRI is used to determine if any soft tissue is compromised. Well, the insurance company decided the doctor shouldn’t have given an MRI for a bone-break and declined paying the $2,000. I know this is anecdotal, but this experience is not rare as far as I can tell. Having an insurance company between a patient and their doctor is completely ass-backwards for a functioning health care system. America exceptionalism my ass.

    1. >Having an insurance company between a patient and their doctor is completely ass-backwards for a functioning health care system.

      What would be the ass-frontwards way to do it? The doctor did the MRI and you discovered after the fact that the insurance company wouldn’t pay for it when she (or the MRI clinic) submitted the bill. That doesn’t sound to me like the insurance company was inserting itself into the clinical decisions “between” the doctor and your wife. It’s only after the treatment was completed that the insurance company got involved. Isn’t that what people say they want?

      Putting the insurance company between her and the doctor would have entailed some kind of prior-approval scheme where the doctor would have had to know that your particular insurance company (our of dozens he has to deal with) had a prior-approval rule. He would have had to write a letter explaining why he wanted an MRI, which would have been denied. Your wife would have insisted he write a more convincing letter. Doctors hate dealing with insurance companies. Much better just to do the best job he can, each provider bills you directly, and they all ignore the insurance company altogether. Then if he insurance won’t pay, that’s an issue between the company and the policy-holder, the two parties to the contract that has nothing to do with any of the providers.

      Or are you envisioning a system where the insurance company never says No and pays for everything the doctor and patient believe might be helpful? Trust me, even single-payer won’t give you that, especially at American prices.

      I hope your wife found the information from the MRI was worth $2,000 and that it helped plan the best treatment. If she didn’t, then perhaps you can see why the insurance company didn’t think it would be worth $2,000, either.

      Insurance companies don’t claim to know what the best treatment is for a patient they’ve never met. They only know what treatments they are willing to pay for under the contract of insurance. Ideally those match up. But they need not.

  6. Cat parents look like two mothers to me (not that there is anything wrong with that). Google agrees and says cats are given sedatives to arrange such photos. Did not expect that. Also genetics wrong as suggested.

  7. The “gringo” fracas suggests that we’re becoming a low-trust society where playful teasing gets interpreted as hostile prejudice. This is doubly unfortunate, because playful teasing plays a beneficial role in social bonding between people from different ethnic groups. When people can no longer make even mild, unaggressive jokes on ethnic/cultural differences, they will become on-edge and paranoid. Humorless people cause trouble.

  8. I enjoyed the sheep and duck herding. I own a Mini Australian Shepherd who loves to herd anything he can: his toys, us, children, etc.
    In New Zealand many years ago they had a weekly TV show featuring a new dog each week doing its sheep herding job. It was fantastic. 🙂

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