Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 9, 2022 • 6:30 am

Where we are now: According to our real-time position map, we’re west of the Antarctic peninsula, north of Enterprise Island, and heading toward Orne Harbor for our daily landing.

The ship’s panocam is dark, but at 6:50 a.m. from my balcony I see blue sea and sky punctuated only by two small icebergs. But I did see a small fin, most likely from a fin whale, at breakfast.

It is Hump Day (the Norwegians would say “Det er Pukkeldag”), March 9, 2022, and National Crab Day

*We successfully dropped off our baker’s dozen of Ukrainian scientists and staff, who will be overwintering at Vernadsky Research Base. They took several long Zodiac rides from the boat to the base and got there safely while we moored and waited for the boats to return. The group thanked us for our hospitality and now will be looking at a long period of darkness, literal and metaphorical. Good luck to them; they seem to have cheered up on board, at least according to two of the staff I talked to.

*As of two days ago, we had several new cases of covid, at least one among the passengers and one among the staff. They won’t tell us how many (there aren’t many, to be sure), but this is one result:

All passengers were again antigen-tested yesterday (I’ve consistently been negative), and I think they turned up a few more cases. The testing will continue, as will the incessant sanitizing of every surface by the diligent staff.  Those found to have Covid are quarantined in their cabin for seven days and aren’t allowed to leave. Food is brought to them. It’s a dire way to spend a cruise, and believe me, I am diligent about wearing masks (required everywhere except ashore or on the outside decks) and about washing my hands.

This ship, by the way, has the hardest working and most amiable staff imaginable, with the vast majority of them Filipino.

*The New York Times and other sources report that a prisoner in Guantánamo Naval Base’s “detention camp“, a Saudi Arabian named Mohammed al-Qahtani, I can’t believe that we still have prisoners in Cuba and have not tried them in U.S. courts, which is their due. To our shame, the U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld the right to detail suspected terrorists at the Base without the right of a trial, and to our further shame, these prisoners have been tortured and kept isolated for twenty years.

al-Qahtani is one of these, and has been released only because he’s become insane, partly because of torture:

The Biden administration on Monday repatriated to Saudi Arabia for mental health care a prisoner who had been tortured so badly by U.S. interrogators that he was ruled ineligible for trial as the suspected would-be 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, in his 40s, is the second to be transferred from the wartime prison under the administration.

A government panel recommended recently that Mr. Qahtani, who had spent 20 years at Guantánamo Bay, be released after a Navy doctor advised that he was too impaired to pose a future threat — particularly if he was sent to inpatient mental care. The doctor last year upheld an independent psychiatrist’s finding that Mr. Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and could not receive adequate care at the U.S. military prison.

Isn’t it time that the Biden Administration either try the prisoners or let them go? Even if an executive order cannot do this, perhaps Congress could, for I can’t believe that we couldn’t get a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate to treat these people fairly. Of course if we have to rely on the U.S. Supreme Court, they might as well bury the prisoners now.

*This is all over the news (about a dozen readers emailed me, and thanks!), and was unexpected as well as appropriate given where I am. Searchers have finally found the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, crushed by the ice in 1915 during the famous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.  Shackleton and his men tried camping on the ice, but eventually the drifting ice destroyed some of their lifebooks, but also took them to  to nearby Elephant Island.

Most of the mean waited on that island waited while Shackleton and five other men navigated in one lifeboat over 1300 km of polar sea to South Georgia Island, where there was a whaling station. Three of them then had to cross the island’s mountainous interior without climbing equipment and go to the station, where they summoned help for the 22 other men, who were eventually rescued by a Chilean tugboat after nearly four months of camping on an inhospitable spit of land.

Every man survived (but they shot the beloved ship’s cat, Mrs. Chippy. , Besides that sad bit, it is one of the great adventure stories of all time. Here’s a photo of the men left on Elephant Island:

Here’s Mrs. Chippy on the shoulder of crew member Perce Blackborow. She was murdered along with five sled dogs:

The latest Endurance news, and the denoument of this tale, is that the wreck of the ship was just found in the Weddell see east of the Antarctic peninsula, not far from where we are. As the NYT reports:

The wreck of Endurance has been found in the Antarctic, 106 years after the historic ship was crushed in pack ice and sank during an expedition by the explorer Ernest Shackleton.

A team of adventurers, marine archaeologists and technicians located the wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula, using undersea drones. Battling sea ice and freezing temperatures, the team had been searching for more than two weeks in a 150-square-mile area around where the ship went down in 1915.

. . .The hunt for the wreck, which cost more than $10 million, provided by a donor who wished to remain anonymous, was conducted from a South African icebreaker that left Cape Town in early February. Aside from a few technical glitches involving the two submersibles, and part of a day spent icebound when operations were suspended, the search proceeded relatively smoothly.

The battery-powered submersibles combed the seafloor twice a day, for about six hours at a time. They used sonar to scan a swath of the smooth seabed, looking for anything that rose above it. Once the wreck was located several days ago, the equipment was swapped for high-resolution cameras and other instruments to make detailed images and scans.

The ship is remarkably well preserved: the cold water staves off organisms that would destroy the wood in a warmer clime. But the wreck is protected by treaty and as a historical monument, and cannot be touched. To see video from the drones, go to the NYT, or the BBC article in this tweet:

*I am deprived of news on the Ukraine; although I have access to the major newspapers online, I barely have time to read them. I did see that President Zelensky made a dramatic speech to Parliament in Britain:

With Ukraine’s outgunned army holding firm despite Russian bombardments that have displaced millions of civilians, the war in Ukraine has become a grim spectacle of resistance, no one more defiant than the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who vowed on Tuesday never to give in to Russia’s tanks, troops or artillery shells.

In a dramatic video address to Britain’s Parliament, clad in his now-famous military fatigue T-shirt, Mr. Zelensky echoed Winston Churchill’s famous words of no surrender to the same chamber at the dawn of World War II as Britain faced a looming onslaught from Nazi Germany.

“We will fight till the end, at sea, in the air,” Mr. Zelensky said with the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag draped behind him. “We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

The speech, the first ever by a foreign leader to the House of Commons, was the climax of Mr. Zelensky’s darkest-hour messaging to fellow Ukrainians and the world in what has become a typical 20-hour day for him in Kyiv, the besieged capital.

If he survives this war, the ex-comedian will be remembered as a man who truly rose to the occasion.

In the ultimate U.S. sanction, McDonald’s has said it will close for the nonce all of its restaurants in Russia. The same goes for Starbucks, and Pepsi will stop selling soft drinks. We can surely force Russia to its knees by taking away their bugers, lattes, and Pepsis.  But these are symbolic acts, of course; the sanctions are all we can do, and I fear that in the face of Putin’s lunacy, they won’t do squat to stop Russia from annexing Ukraine.

Intelligence experts agree,

Top U.S. intelligence officials said on Tuesday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had been surprised and unsettled by the problems that have hampered his military in Ukraine, issues that will make it more difficult for Russian forces to control the country.

But Mr. Putin is determined to succeed in Ukraine, and will try to double down and use ever more brutal tactics, the officials said during an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee.

. . . Some allied intelligence services believe that Mr. Putin’s early military problems could cause him to readjust his plans to take control of the whole country, and stop his advance after he captures Kyiv, particularly if military officers highlight how many additional forces it will require to secure Ukraine.

Well, we’ll see. I see many readers are still optimistic, thinking that Ukraine will win, but I think the chances of that will be close to zero.

*By the way, if you need to replace your old iPhone, now’s the time. The iPhone SE (along with a new iPad) just went on sale, and it’s just (!) $429. If they’d had that one when I replaced mine two months ago, I would have gotten it, as I have a fancy phone with features I just don’t need. It’s good for taking photos from the ship, though.


Go to the March 9 Wikipedia page to find notable events, births, or deaths that happened on this day, and then report your favorites in the comments.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on the veranda and can’t decide whether to go inside our stay out:

A: Make a decision.
Hili: I like being indecisive.
In Polish:
Ja: Zdecyduj się wreszcie.
Hili: Lubię być niezdecydowana.
Baby Kulka on the windowsill,  probably waiting for noms:


A meme from Divy:

The popular Twitter website “God”, with over six million followers, is now #GodStandsWithUkraine. And the deity is mad as hall and isn’t going to take it any more.

Vlad’s flacks beefed about that tweet:

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is unbelievable, ranking with QAnon as a loony conspricacy theory. Jewified? Really? If you want more lunacy, read the other four tweets in the thread.

This therapist puts Freud to shame. (He was a quack anyway.)

A two part video. These people are fricking brave!

Life goes on in Ukraine. Two soldiers got married, and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is played in Odessa, about to fall to Russia. I’ve never seen anything like the wry humor of these people.

Stunning video:sound up!

A century of progress in Drosophila work; I couldn’t be happier!




30 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. In a proposed move to assist Ukraine, Poland agreed to give all of its MiG 29s, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly, to the US in exchange for used fighters of similar capability. The US has branded the suggestion “untenable” .

    On this day:

    1945 – World War II: Allied forces carry out firebombing over Tokyo, destroying most of the capital and killing over 100,000 civilians.

    1956 – Soviet forces suppress mass demonstrations in the Georgian SSR, reacting to Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policy.

    1997 – The Notorious B.I.G. is murdered in Los Angeles after attending the Soul Train Music Awards. He is gunned down leaving an after party at the Petersen Automotive Museum. His murder remains unsolved.


    1890 – Vyacheslav Molotov, Russian politician and diplomat, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs (d. 1986) – Ukrainians are currently preparing to er… toast invading Russians with the eponymous cocktail.

    1892 – Vita Sackville-West, English author, poet, and gardener (d. 1962) (parodied as Vera Sackcloth-Vest, played by Miriam Margolyes, in the BBC Radio 4 spoof Gloomsbury.

    Depleted of their mortal coils:

    1847 – Mary Anning, English paleontologist (b. 1799) – no longer selling seashells by the seashore.

    1992 – Menachem Begin, Belarusian-Israeli soldier, politician and Prime Minister of Israel, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1913)

        1. Interesting, I always thought that Molotov invented them, due to the name. My respect (very little to start with) of Molotov has sunk close to rock bottom now,

  2. Professor, I’m enough of a geography nerd that I’d like to ask you maybe to include your local timezone. It’s fascinating to see how time observance operates in circumpolar regions. Thanks!

    1. It’s quite normal on ships to only change time zone occasionally. The consequent disruption to crew’s sleep cycles makes it unproductive if not positively harmful to change them frequently. So if you’re on a long E-W voyage, you’d probably change time zone the day after leaving port to the time zone of your next port.
      The only people to whom it makes a working difference are bridge crew, and possibly passengers.

      1. Our general rule, on the big blue ships, is to figure the number of time changes between the origin and destination, then try to schedule them evenly over the time of the voyage. It is the normal duty of the 2nd officer to schedule the time changes, and ensure that notice of such is posted in the mess halls and on the bridge.

        The ship’s clocks are officially changed at midnight, but during the evening leading up to the midnight change, each of the three watch teams shorten or extend their evening watch by 20 minutes, so it affects each watch evenly. The bridge clock (not the same as ship’s clock) is advanced or retarded 20 minutes at 1900, 2200, and 0000, to help watchstanders keep track. It is done at night to minimize the need to torment the day workers. It sounds sort of complicated, but you get used to it.

  3. Just a note: the Bush administration and the CIA were responsible for the torture to terrorist. The FBI did not take part because they knew it was illegal and useless.

    1. “[B]ecause they knew” requires three things to be true in order for the statement to be true:

      1) you have accurate knowledge of the FBI’s sincerely held corporate opinion on the question of legality and usefulness
      2) both those opinions that you attribute to the FBI (if they held them) were factually correct.
      3) there is a causal connection between the FBI’s beliefs (if true and held) and their non-participation in the interrogations. (Alternative reasons could be that the FBI was told to butt out because not within their jurisdiction, or they wanted the CIA to do the dirty work, or there was bureaucratic infighting that prevented cooperation and the necessary sharing of sensitive foreign intelligence for the FBI to be let in on it.)

      That’s a lot of knowledge of facts and people’s motivation to pack into one short sentence. I submit that your known knowns are mostly unknown unknowns.

      The Bush administration argued the opposite on the legality and usefulness.
      An interview in Metro with by-then-retired Donald Rumsfeld reprinted in HuffPost in 2011
      “Donald Rumsfeld: Being Waterboarded Is Better Than Being Killed by a Drone”

      1. “Donald Rumsfeld: Being Waterboarded Is Better Than Being Killed by a Drone”

        Nobody took a backseat to Rummy when it came to false dichotomies.

        Best headline ever on the occasion of Rumsfeld’s death: “OBSOLETE WARHEAD DEACTIVATED.”

        There’s been substantial information uncovered regarding the matter Randy mentions, taking it out of the realm of pure speculation. Dunno if you’ve seen the documentary The Forever Prisoner, Leslie.

  4. From the “never let a crisis go to waste” department, a Democratic Representative has introduced a bill “to combat Russian misinformation and educate Americans on how to properly seek out information about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine”.

    The act is in response to the Russian invasion but would help address the larger problem of misinformation in the U.S., which took center stage during the COVID-19 pandemic. . . .

    The bill would also establish a grant program to improve “resiliency” in Americans against misinformation and disinformation and commission a study on the extent of media literacy among Americans, with the goal of improving media literacy.

    “Media literacy” is a new euphemism for pro-Administration propaganda. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

    1. That seems excessively paranoid. Teaching people to think critically about online (and other) news sources is probably the best solution to the problem of misinformation we have, since to the extent it can (partially) solve the problem, it does so without restricting individual rights to expression or corporate rights to host and manage their fora the way they want.

      I absolutely support federal grants to fund such education. Do I expect 100% of such grants will be used in ways I personally approve of? No. Do I think they could provide a net benefit? Yes. If ‘smarter, less credulous consumers’ is the goal, funding education programs that teach consumers to be smarter seems a pretty direct way to accomplish it.

      1. Seems to me that the Nineteen Eighty-Four reference in DrBrydon’s last line is most applicable to the pro-Putin Republicans and Fox News personalities who’ve retreated into their cocoons since public opinion in the US (and elsewhere in the West) has sided so strongly with Ukraine.

        “The Republican Party is at war with Vladimir Putin. The Republican Party has always been at war with Vladimir Putin.”

        1. “War is Peace.
          Slavery is Freedom
          Ignorance is strength.”
          And the Republican party has always been at war with Vladimir Putin.

          Straight from Big Brother, so it must be true.

      2. Totally, I think the good Dr.B is showing his political bias here. Media literacy classes have been very successful in Estonia where they have a BIG problem with Russian bs that they flood Estonia with. Lots of Fox style fake news courtesy of RT.

    1. Always a bad idea. When you have a horse who has never been ridden and a cowboy who has never ridden a horse. This was the Trump administration in spades. The national guard in Russia is trained as riot police so if we see this group coming in to the war to fight like regular military you will know they are in big trouble. As Washington discovered during the revolutionary war, the militia was a nice idea but did not amount to much in an actual battle with regular forces.

    2. Since the creation of the office of the US Secretary of Defense in 1947, about a third of the 30-odd men who have held the office in either a confirmed or temporary capacity have also had no prior military experience.

      I was moved to look that one up upon recalling that Dick Cheney, who served as Bush the Elder’s SecDef during the First Gulf War, had avoided military service himself during the Vietnam War era by seeking and obtaining five deferments.

      1. Yes but Cheney had a company who made millions off the govt. and the military. He was kind of the Donald Trump for his time. His retirement money went far beyond any govt. pension system.

  5. I hope the ship is hepafiltering the air supply between cabins. Surface cleaning and closing toilets is essentially play acting (or since you are on a ship, an exercise in deck chair reorganization) against a virus that is principally spread by droplets in the air. So, masks, hand washing and social distancing should all be beneficial – but spraying droplets carrying viral particles through the air supply would certainly counteract the benefits! Good luck.

    1. I think this got wide circulation at the time but it bears repeating. In trying to figure out how the SARS-Cov2 virus gets from one person to another, the physicians and the physicists talked past each other about aerosols vs. droplets (the six-foot rule) without realizing where they were in substantial agreement — well, actually the physicians talked over the physicists and that is a big part of the story.

      “The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill
      “All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols! At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.”

      When you say that surface cleaning and closing toilets is essentially play-acting (or pandemic theatre), you are correct. The Wired article explains how we got it wrong. Do you remember all the screaming in the early months about people getting too close to you even in casual passing outside? All the people condemned as “Covidiots” enjoying the beach in that first spring? The elaborate dance on the sidewalk? The stern reminders that walking for exercise might be permissible (though we’d really rather everyone stayed inside alone for 2 years.) but running or using playground elements was bad because you would make more snot droplets to be ejected with greater force and distance. Bicycling was even worse because the greater speed allowed riders to stray too far from home where all kinds of bad things might happen.

      To be fair, part of the motivation for the belief that the virus “had to be” droplets was that there would be an international panic “if this thing were ever to mutate to get airborne” where pandemic theatre would no longer work. Turns out it was all along.

      I do hope everyone on Jerry’s ship turns out OK. Naturally all aboard must follow the instructions of the captain as he bears the responsibility for their safety. If nothing else, masks and handwashing will likely slow down transmission during the rest of the voyage so more people are able to board their scheduled flights for home.

      1. Remember the hand dryers though – they promote airborne spread of potentially infectious particles, etc.

        PCC(E) wrote a piece on this.

    2. I hope the ship is hepafiltering the air supply between cabins.

      Why on Earth would you build a HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system that also has to quintuple up for fire control, which includes air movement between cabins and between workspaces? You put an air inlet pipe across the top of your cabins, and an air extract pipe, each one stepping diameters as appropriate, and pump air into one side of each cabin, through that cabin, and extract it from that cabin, pipe it to that deck’s HVAC exhaust, then dump it outboard. (The incoming air may be pre-warmed by the outgoing air. Or pre-cooled when the boat is in the tropics.) If the smoke/ heat detectors (in each cabin roof, and in the air outlet pipe system) goes off, typically the air inlet pump would be switched off, and the air extract fan turned to max (so the cabins would have a negative pressure compared to the corridors, sucking smoke and fumes out of the corridors, which your POB are evacuating along and your fire-control team are approaching the fire along.
      Alternative reading : Pursers don’t want to deal with complaints from cabin 145 about the small of sweaty feet coming from cabin 147. So they don’t want any circulation of air between cabins. Ditto for workspaces, but that would be the Master or Chief Engineer, not the Purser (passenger mollifier) dealing with complaints.
      There may be a ventilation grille in the bottom of the door, typically as part of a kick panel – but that is there to allow light and (relatively) clean air into the cabin in the event of a fire, to assist people waking up in the cabin to wailing alarms “Muster stations!This is not a drill!” tannoys, and the circuit breakers to your cabin blown by whatever triggered the fire (or remotely,by the fire control panel, to avoid electrocuting the fire control team). You get out of bed, drop to the floor if you can smell smoke, find and don your smoke hood (BA set if it’s a toxic gas alarm – but that’s unlikely on a passenger boat) and work out from the tannoy which of your planned exit strategies you’re going to follow.
      I’m slightly surprised to hear that Jerry’s cabin has a balcony. The glass would need to be hurricane wind- and wave- rated, and at the very least there would be some way for the Ballast Control Officer (bridge, or down in the bowels of Crew Country) to tell if the balcony window is open, closed, or closed and locked. I’ve never seen that implemented on a boat, so I’m not sure what you’d need to put in against water ingress in storm conditions.

      1. Another thing about the blue ships, at least of the vintage that I have worked on. The ventilation system was cleverly designed so that air from intakes all over the ship was mixed and sent to one of the vents on the port side of the bridge. The down side of that is that the bridge smells of whatever is being cooked or served, and of chemicals when the floors are being stripped.
        The fiendishly clever part is that when an electric fan left unattended in a lounge four decks below starts to burn up, the bridge crew smells smoke almost immediately.

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