Monday: Hili dialogue

April 4, 2022 • 6:45 am

Where I am now: writing on my laptop in bed at the Santiago Airport Holiday Inn. It was a nightmare getting here from the ship: TONS of paperwork to disembark and then, in the heat, a packed, un-airconditioned bus with a crazy driver who first got us stuck in a traffic jam and then GOT LOST and had to get out and ask directions. Then he let all the crew off about a 15-minute hike in the heat from the hotel, with many of them had havingbeen on the ship for months and trying to haul tons of luggage. What should have been a 1.5 hour trip maximum took about four, and I’m still recovering after quaffing tons of water. (Once again my thirst was slaked within seconds.)

My lovely view of Terminal 1:

(I’ve recovered after breakfast.)

See how much I can kvetch when I just came back from a fantastic month in Antarctica? It should have chilled me out literally and figuratively, but here I am back in the rat race of documents, schedules, and airports, and the anxiety is already seeping back into my psyche.

Well, welcome anyway to Monday, April 4, 2022:  National “Cordon Bleu” Day.  What is that, you ask? Wikipedia is your friend!

cordon bleu or schnitzel cordon bleu is a dish of meat wrapped around cheese (or with cheese filling), then breaded and pan-fried or deep-fried. Veal or pork cordon bleu is made of veal or pork pounded thin and wrapped around a slice of ham and a slice of cheese, breaded, and then pan fried or baked. For chicken cordon bleu chicken breast is used instead of veal. Ham cordon bleu is ham stuffed with mushrooms and cheese

And what does the name mean?

The French term cordon bleu is translated as “blue ribbon”.[4] According to Larousse Gastronomique cordon bleu “was originally a wide blue ribbon worn by members of the highest order of knighthood, L’Ordre des chevaliers du Saint-Esprit, instituted by Henri III of France in 1578. By extension, the term has since been applied to food preparation to a very high standard and by outstanding cooks. The analogy no doubt arose from the similarity between the sash worn by the knights and the ribbons (generally blue) of a cook’s apron.”

I’ve never had any dish of this type. Here’s chicken cordon bleu:

And for a couple more days I’ll ask readers to help me out by going to the Wikipedia page for April 4 and singling out in the comments any notable events, births, or deaths.

*Here’s today’s banner headline (online) from the New York Times. Click to read:

The top news:

As the world reacted in horror to images of dead bodies lying in the streets of Kyiv’s suburbs — some with their hands bound — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on Western leaders to take tougher steps to ensure that the killings blamed on retreating Russian forces were the “last manifestation of such evil on earth.”

The photos of civilians, who Ukrainian officials said had been executed, prompted some European leaders to demand further sanctions against Russia, potentially including a cutoff of Russian gas. But European Union nations remained divided on Monday over such a drastic step, underscoring the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy, even as some Western allies said that Russia had committed war crimes.

Russia denies executing civilians, and these incidents have not been absolutely confirmed, but I doubt that the Ukrainians would fake these executions. That would involve shooting their fellow citizen in the head and then binding their hands! Here’s one example:

In Bucha, bodies lay in yards and roadways days after Russian troops withdrew from the area. A mother described burying her daughter under plastic sheeting and boards after Russian forces shot her. At a mass grave, a pile of excavated dirt lay nearby to pile onto bodies, as shoes and body parts protruded from a thin layer of earth.

And nobody can claim that these civilians were executed because they were acting as soldiers, bearing weapons, firing at Russians, and therefore “available” to be shot. That doesn’t fly because these people had been captured, and even if they were apprehended in combat they should at worst be POWs. Plus some of them are children. This is the sign not of war, but of genocide.

*The EU, dependent on Russian gas, is still reluctant to tighten the sanctions further by cutting off that gas, but it’s very strange that the EU would still do business with a regime that is involved in genocide of Ukrainians.

*I would have thought that Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine would have boosted his popularity, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. An op-ed in the Washington Post frets about the Prez’s low approval rating and why it remains so low (41%!):

Democrats who hoped that the strong monthly job numbers and the war in Ukraine would buoy Biden’s poll numbers have been thoroughly disappointed. After a brief rise in early March, the president’s approval rating sits at a lowly 41 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. The party’s chances of holding the Senate rest on a knife edge at best, and the prospects of a Democratic House next year grow dimmer by the day.

“I’m not quite sure what the disconnect is between the accomplishments,” [Hillary] Clinton told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “… and some of the polling.” But the answer is clear: In a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, the top two issues for Americans were inflation (32 percent) and the economy (27 percent). Bloomberg economists estimate that inflation will cost households an extra $5,200 this year. And as I noted last fall, though the administration may be proud of its achievements, many Democrats and most independents think Biden has accomplished little as president.

And he’ll accomplish even less if the Democrats lose big in the midterms. The author, James Downie, recommends that the Dems adopt the tactics that Amazon workers used in Staten Island to successfully unionize:

Like those Amazon workers, Democrats cannot be afraid to fight. Just because a handful of moderate holdouts have derailed key parts of Biden’s legislative agenda doesn’t mean the struggle is over. While a president has no boss to “antagonize,” Democrats can take on other people’s bosses — both proverbial and literal. Building on the president’s “billionaire minimum income tax” with executive actions to lower drug prices, strengthen overtime, boost worker protections and tackle student debt will provide immediate relief to millions and reinvigorate unmotivated voters.

Well, I’d like to hear what James Carville has to say.

*Former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has an eponymous Substack site, and it’s a good one, ranging thoughtfully over a range of topics. The man is a polymath: the next thing you know he’ll be making breakfast foods: “Kareem of Wheat.” But seriously, folks, his pieces are well worth a look, and one of the best is his take on Slapgate, called “Will Smith did a bad, bad thing.”   (h/t: Richard) An excerpt:

Some have romanticized Smith’s actions as that of a loving husband defending his wife. Comedian Tiffany Haddish, who starred in the movie Girls Trip with Pinkett Smith, praised Smith’s actions: “[F]or me, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives.”

Actually, it was the opposite. Smith’s slap was also a slap to women. If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith’s intervention would have been welcome. Or if he’d remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable. But by hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself—against words. From everything I’d seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she’s a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show.

This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor lest they swoon from the vapors. . . .

*Reader Malcolm recommends we read the post by David Lat at Original Jurisdiction: Is free speech in American Law schools a lost cause?”  There’s no firm prognostication, but Lat says this:

One final thought: I can’t believe I’m having to write a defense of a free-speech regime in which people listen respectfully to the other side, even when they find the other side’s views abhorrent, as opposed to a free-speech regime where “freedom” belongs to whoever can yell the loudest. You would have expected—and hoped—that law students, as future lawyers, would understand the value of the former and the problems with the latter.

When these law students become lawyers, and many of them have to go to court or a negotiating table, they will have to listen to the other side—whether they like it or not, and no matter how “offensive,” “triggering,” or “violent” they find the views of the other side to be. Shouting down opposing counsel, then claiming that you’re just engaging in your own form of “free speech” or “zealous advocacy,” will not fly in the world beyond Yale Law School.

*And another op-ed article for your delectation, with the link sent by several readers. From Microsoft News via Newsweek: “Scientific institutions are going woke—and hemorrhaging credibility.” This is not news to many of us immersed in academic science, but people might be startled at the degree to which ideology has infused science.  The piece is a bit exaggerated (for example, I don’t think that the fulminating wokeness of science is the reason people are resistant to science like covid advice, but there’s certainly truth it it:

This phenomenon is called institutional capture, which refers to what happens when organizations get caught in a moral puritanical movement and lose sight of their primary missions—as places of knowledge, objective learning, and the free exchange of ideas.

And then these same organizations are befuddled when the public doesn’t trust them on critical issues such as vaccines or climate change.

Part of the issue is that scientific institutions are signaling allegiance with progressive culture war causes. This not only turns off half the population on the other side of these debates (as well as many on the center), but it makes these organizations appear ideological rather than neutral. They appear untrustworthy—or even nuts.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili muses on how the war puts things in perspective:

Hili: I wonder.
A: What about?
Hili: What were we worried about before the war?
In Polish:
Hili: Zastanawiam się.
Ja: Nad czym?
Hili: Czym martwiliśmy się przed wojną?

And here is Karolina cuddling an unhappy Kulka, with a caption and the explanation:

Caption: “Today there is an Advent retreat in school and Karolina stayed at home, for she would as soon sit in a Polish Mass as in a Turkish sermon.”

In Polish: Dziś w szkole rekolekcje, więc Karolina zostaje w domu, bo siedziałaby na polskiej mszy jak na tureckim kazaniu.
Malgorzata’s explanation:  “In the strange hidden theocracy in Poland,  all nominally secular schools are obliged to send all Catholic pupils to the church a few times a year for a religious retreat. Non-Catholic pupils stay at home. And the explanation for ‘Turkish sermom’:. It’s a popular description of something totally incomprehensible.

Some takes on Slapgate sent by Divy:

And a cat toy (for staff, actually), sent by Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day:


Here are the top recent searches on this website. The answer to the second question is “YES!”

I don’t know which of the cakes in the second tweet below is the most amazing, but I have to say that the oyster cake is truly remarkable. I have no idea what that first tweet is about, but I couldn’t embed the second without the first (I’ll have to learn to do that some day):

As I mentioned earlier, for some reason I get a small selection of tweets sent to me daily in my Gmail account. I don’t know how this happened, but there’s some good ones. Here’s one:

And here’s another (I really AM sick of long threads). If you often have a lot to say, get a website!

And yet another:

Tweets from Matthew. Go to the reddit video for full appreciation:

Ukrainian soldiers and their cats (there’s some other animal in there, too):

Well, I’ll be! Did you know there were gastropods with two shells?

Translation of the tweet below from Google:

One of the shellfish in Okayama prefecture that must not be forgotten is the snail Tamanomidorigai, which has a bivalve-like shell but is actually a snail. In 1959, Professor Shiro Kawaguchi (at that time) of the Tamano Seaside Experiment Station, Okayama University, surprised the world by reporting raw shellfish for the first time. It has antennae, eyes, and radula, and the fetal shell at the top of the shell is rolled, so it is a clear snail. It grows on Iwazuta in the tide zone. …

Would you put this in your home?:

38 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1581 – Francis Drake is knighted by Queen Elizabeth I for completing a circumnavigation of the world. – Or as the (probably apocryphal) schoolboy howler had it, “circumsising the world with his 100-foot clipper”.

    1796 – Georges Cuvier delivers the first paleontological lecture.

    1818 – The United States Congress, affirming the Second Continental Congress, adopts the flag of the United States with 13 red and white stripes and one star for each state (20 at that time).

    1841 – William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia, becoming the first President of the United States to die in office, and setting the record for the briefest administration.

    1949 – Cold War: Twelve nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    1964 – The Beatles occupy the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

    1984 – President Ronald Reagan calls for an international ban on chemical weapons.

    2017 – Syria conducts an air strike on Khan Shaykhun using chemical weapons, killing 89 civilians.

    1640 – Gaspar Sanz, Spanish guitarist, composer, and priest (d. 1710)

    1802 – Dorothea Dix, American nurse and activist (d. 1887) – Created the first generation of American mental asylums and served as a Superintendent of Army Nurses during the American Civil War.

    1868 – Philippa Fawcett, English mathematician and educator (d. 1948)

    1913 – Muddy Waters, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1983)

    1928 – Maya Angelou, American memoirist and poet (d. 2014)

    1932 – Anthony Perkins, American actor (d. 1992)

    1939 – Hugh Masekela, South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer (d. 2018)

    1946 – Dave Hill, English guitarist – Cum On Feel the Noize!

    1952 – Gary Moore, Northern Irish singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2011) – There’ll be a Cold Day In Hell…

    Those who got a pine domicile:
    1617 – John Napier, Scottish mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (b. 1550) – Best known as the discoverer of logarithms; popularised the use of the decimal point in arithmetic and mathematics.

    1923 – John Venn, English mathematician and philosopher, created the Venn diagram (b. 1834)

    1968 – Martin Luther King Jr., American minister and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (assassinated) (b. 1929)

    1995 – Kenny Everett, English radio and television host (b. 1944)

    2013 – Roger Ebert, American journalist, critic, and screenwriter (b. 1942)

    1. A big thank you to JezGrove for keeping all of us up on events of the day in history during our host’s expeditions!

      I did notice the juxtaposition of Reagan’s 1987 call for international ban on chemical weapons and their use thirty three years hence…though I expect there were other uses that some readers know of in between.

  2. So after Tweeting about the importance of free speech and criticising Twitter for not supporting free speech sufficiently, Elon Musk has just bought 10% of Twitter.

    (It must be nice to have the odd $3 billion in spare change for such impulse buys.)

      1. Why put any of his time and effort into it?
        Should it fail, it’s all their fault, not anything he did or didn’t do.

        Why tamper with success— this is what he does.

  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Nooooooooo! Every time I see his name written out somewhere I lose two hours of my life to watching Airplane! clips on Youtube. Yes, that is longer than the actual film.

    Anyway, in spite of all the bad repercussions I’m still not convinced that the slap wasn’t staged.

    Edited to add:

    but it’s very strange that the EU would still do business with a regime that is involved in genocide of Ukrainians

    Some countries in the EU are highly dependent on Russian fossil fuels, Germany and Italy for example. If they stopped taking Russian gas and oil there would be severe energy problems in both of those countries. Granted, they wouldn’t be anything like as severe as the problems being faced by Ukrainians as we speak, but Ukrainians don’t vote in Germany or Italy.

    1. The only time Chris Rock looked surprised is after the windup roundhouse slap, as Will Smith’s fingertips barely grazed his face. Rock just stood there before and after the “the assault “with his hands behind his back.

      That two professional celebrity actors might do some improv to boost Oscar viewing ratings and keep their tabloid “feud” alive makes sense.

      1. Will Smith (and I think lots of people working in the movie industry) are reportedly paying a heavy price, as several of his current movie projects have been put on hold.

    2. But what about the two f-bombs that Smith dropped on the air after he returned to his seat? Those seem to indicate that the contretemps wasn’t staged.

      1. I wasn’t aware of those but I was aware of the repercussions that Mark mentioned above.

        On the assumption that it was genuine, I still think people are over reacting a bit.

    3. Underscoring your remark about Kareem…and Airplane! BTW, I met him in person many years ago at a library conference, which he attended because he was promoting one of his books. The tallest human I’ve ever encountered. I must admit that I admire him. As our host points out, he’s a polymath, an engaging conversationalist, and, lest we forget, a great athlete.

  4. Oof – somehow, the tale of travel is a good vigorous start to the week – adventure!

    Just think of those magnificent photos – instant power up IMO.

  5. Russians may have shot Ukrainian civilians as Francs-tireurs. If so, it would be good if Russia announced that this is their policy.

    The Billionaire Income Tax is another case of legislative misrepresentation for it would apply to anyone with $100,000,000 (a tenth of a billion) worth, and it is not a tax on income but on wealth.

  6. “Cordon Bleu” is also the name of a network of culinary schools, teaching French haute cuisine, begun in Paris in the late 19th century and now stretching across the globe.

  7. The bivalved Gastropod is a saccoglossan, a sea slug group with a single row of radula teeth with which it penetrates individual plant cells to suck up the sap. At least some species within the group ingest chloroplasts which they “farm” in their tissues to use the nutrients produced in photosynthesis; they become at least partially autotrophic animals!

  8. As an outsider I’m a bit puzzled by Biden’s low approval ratings.
    He appears a pretty good president:
    – A bipartisan Covid relief package
    – An outstanding Covid vaccination programme, that is estimated to have saved more than a million lives, despite sabotage by the anti-vaxxers.
    – Out of Afghanistan, a bit messy, but with minimal loss of life (armchair strategist would have done it much better, of course)
    – A comprehensive infrastructure bill (none of his predecessors could)
    – A growing economy with low unemployment.
    – An outstanding response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, giving Ukraine much support, but short of provoking a WWIII.
    – and some more.
    There are a few negatives, such as not pushing back enough to the trans-craziness.
    And if coursethere are some 50-50’s. Higher inflation and high petrol prices, but it is difficult to blame Biden for those. Note that inflation was way higher in the seventies eighties, hitting 20-30%. The increased violent crime, but that started early 2020 (under Trump) and is still far from the eighties rates.
    The border question is also a 50-50. The title 42 should be abandoned of course, not only does it appear inhumane, it prevents collecting data on criminal syndicates. Abandoning it is a good thing, but it should be followed up with a good policy.
    I’d say he did pretty well.

    1. All good reasons, and I will add that his administration is decidedly low-key on broadcasting those accomplishments so that they get inside our heads. Also it is not unusual for voters here to base their approval on the economy – or really their perception of the economy.

    2. I recently heard an explanation that sounds right. His ratings went down with the Afghanistan pullout debacle, then inflation hit with higher gas and food prices. Inflation is not Biden’s fault, of course, but voters are silly sheep.

      1. Can you think of any ‘forced’* pull out that wasn’t a debacle?
        I can’t think of one (although that doesn’t mean there aren’t, just that I can’t think of one right now).
        And as far as debacles go, this was far from the worst.

        * the Afghanistan pull out was ‘forced’ in two ways:
        – The Taliban, after their defeat by the Uzbeks (with US help) under Dostum, did not disappear and continued their war of attrition, greatly supported buy the US ‘ally’ Pakistan. A forced withdrawal
        – Biden’s predecessor agreed to a time scale Biden could hardly deviate from (of course, there is a lot more to say there). A forced time scale.

        1. Sure but clearly the administration failed to realize that the Taliban would take over the country in mere days. I’m not suggesting that Biden deserves such low poll numbers because of this mistake, just that it was a mistake.

          1. I think the more accurate assessment is that the Biden administration was handed a FUBAR situation and they did a pretty darn good job of dealing with it. To add a bit to Nicolaas Stempels comment, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was “planned” and mostly executed by the Trump Administration in 2020. By January 15th 2021, just five days before Trump left office, the US was down to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

            That final withdrawal by Trump was also illegal as it violated the National Defense Authorization Act which Congress passed explicitly to prevent Trump from doing that, and which he vetoed but Congress passed again overriding his veto.

            Earlier withdrawals by the Trump administration occurred in March 2020, 13,000 troops, and December 2020, 8,500 troops.

            In 2020 Trump and Pompeo made plans with the Taliban during meetings that the Afghani government, our allies, were excluded from. They agreed on a timetable for US withdrawal, including a deadline of May 1, 2021. The US also agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghani government, and then pressured them to make that happen. The last of those prisoners was released by September 2020.

            The Biden administration didn’t withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan, the Trump administration did. They also gave them back 5,000 leaders and shooters. The Biden administration had limited choices to complete the withdrawal of US personnel and allies.

            They could remobilize enough troops to regain significant control of the country and stay there until everyone had been gotten out. Except we all no that not everyone would have gone. They never do, until the last minute when the bad guys are overrunning them. And how many troops would need to be remobilized to do that? 20,000? 30,000? And how long to get them and their equipment there? 3 months? 6? And stay there for how much longer? 6 months? A year? How long would it take for conditions there to change such that there would be no ethical downside to withdrawal?

            The Biden administration decided not to do that. Instead they went with a “get the heck out as fast as possible” plan and remobilized a relatively small force of marines to protect the mass evacuation effort, and flew out about 120,000 people in less than 14 days, and then withdrew the last of the military forces.

            I think people expect way to much in situations like this. Could it have gone better. Of course. Could have gone so much worse. I think the Biden administration did a good job when they were handed a truly epic debacle. The only way to have avoided some sort of nastiness like this would have been to have not invaded, taken over and tried to install a government in the first place. But that also has ethical downsides. Which would have been better?

    3. A big part of his low approval ratings (imo) is the media environment. It’s pretty complicated with lots of nuance, but the basic premise is this: 1/2 the msm still tries to follow journalistic norms, and this is where the Dems communicate with their base. Some coverage will be critical (like the Afghanistan withdrawal, and shame on the media for barely mentioning Trump’s prior actions that forced the withdrawal and made it difficult for Afghani’s who aided the U.S. to leave the country) and some coverage will be neutral or even positive. The other 1/2 of the msm is a right-wing propaganda apparatus that makes no effort in following journalistic norms. So while the GOP may be criticized by 1/2 of the media, just like the Dems and Biden are, the other 1/2 of the media paints the GOP as free from blame, the true American patriots, and the Dems and Biden as evil incarnate and the source of all America’s problems. And it can’t be repeated enough that the Dems really suck at messaging and touting their accomplishments; they don’t have a propaganda media apparatus, but they also don’t know how to use the media like the GOP does.

      Lastly, the msm on both sides treat bad news as more newsworthy than good news; if it bleeds, it leads.

  9. > Like those Amazon workers, Democrats cannot be afraid to fight. Just because a handful of moderate holdouts have derailed key parts of Biden’s legislative agenda doesn’t mean the struggle is over.

    What I’ve seen over the last 30 years is that once one side takes up a tactic, the other side does, too. It took the New Left maybe 20 years to learn from Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and the Republican Revolution. If this works for Democrats today (Old Left or New Left), I fully expect Republicans to try the same thing. I’m concerned that this may be framed in a way to grant numerical minorities in Congress (any group that has not reached the relevant Constitutional threshold to pass a bill, etc.) the power to steamroll. If the Left enables it, the Right will escalate it.

    > While a president has no boss to “antagonize,”

    The President does have a boss for the Left to antagonize: the American people. We’ve seen Republicans holding them hostage in the annual budget crisis for decades now. Even out of power, the Right already antagonizes the President’s boss, and I won’t be surprised to see the Left find a way to do it, too.

  10. Why I hate travel abroad! Reminds me of a trip to Turin in the winter, flight landed at Milan due to fog, then a very long bus drive – but instead of dropping us in Turin, they dropped us at the ruddy airport! AND the driver played a Richard Clayderman CD TWICE!!!

    1. A Clayderman CD twice is, I believe, a violation of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You may want to pursue a case at The Hague.

  11. “Would you put this in your home?”

    At first I said yes, because it would be an awesome party piece. But then I thought about being home alone with it, or getting up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and seeing it staring at me with all six eyes in the darkness. Then I said no.

  12. “I’ve never been to me” is the most hilarious song I’ve heard not written by either Dr. Demento or Tom Lehrer. It is wildly funny but I don’t think it was written as such.

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