Wednesday: Hili dialogue

April 6, 2022 • 7:40 am

I have landed will produce a truncated Hili dialogue today as I recover from my trip and get up to speed. Greetings on a Hump Day (“Araw ng ubok”, as they say in Filipino), April 6, 2022: National Caramel Popcorn Day. And of course the absolute best caramel popcorn in the world can only be obtained at Garrett’s Popcorn Shops in Chicago. (You can order it in tins, but it’s best freshly popped. What you really want is half caramel popcorn and half cheese corn, which Chicagoans in the know call “Garrett mix.” It sounds weird, but it’s absolutely scrumptious:

One more time: please add any events, births, or deaths on this day that you find worthy of note: consult the Wikipedia page for April 6.

Here’s the banner headline from today’s New York Times (click on screenshot to read):

Here is their news summary:

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine pushed world leaders to impose more “powerful sanctions” on Russian banks and energy companies as he criticized their response to the invasion of his country. Hours earlier, he showed the U.N. Security Council a graphic video of what he called war crimes committed by Russian forces against civilians in the city of Bucha.

“Now is a crucial moment, especially for Western leaders,” said Mr. Zelensky in a translation of his evening speech to Ukrainians. “After what the world saw in Bucha, sanctions against Russia must be commensurate with the gravity of the occupiers’ war crimes.”

While Russia has denied committing war crimes, European leaders are scheduled to vote on Wednesday on measures that could cut off imports of Russian coal. It will be a test for the continent, which depends on oil, natural gas and coal from Russia. So far, Europe remains divided on blocking Russian gas.

Biden has announced a new ratcheting-up of sanctions on Russia, though it involves restrictions on only two banks. And the Red Cross convoy supposed to bring aid to and evacuate people from Mariupol STILL hasn’t it through, thanks to Russian interference. It seems like at least two weeks since they’ve been trying, but the latest report, yesterday, says this: “The latest hurdle for the convoy came on Monday, when members of the team were detained on the outskirts of Mariupol. The team was released Monday night.”

Finally, it’s no been confirmed that Russians wantonly killed civilians in areas around Kyiv. The NBC Evening News last night had a heartbreaking piece on some of these murders, showing the dead, their graves, and interviews with some who were there. Apparently Russians just broke into apartments looking for males, and some of them were summarily executed in the streets. One woman recounted how her husband was simply taken in to the streets, stripped of his warm clothing, and shot in the head. I hope, but do not expect, that Russian leaders will be tried for war crimes for incidents like this (and many others.

*There is also lots of non-war news, most of it not as depressing.

*The bad news is that Oklahoma is set to pass the strictest abortion law in the county, which is so unconstitutional that I can’t believe it passed. Here’s what PBS New Hour says, which also calls the bill “A tipping point in the fight against Roe v. Wade”

Oklahoma’s state House voted 78-19 to pass a near-complete ban on abortions in mid-March, legislation that would go farther than the Texas six-week ban on which it was modeled.

Under the Oklahoma bill, abortions would be banned immediately after conception unless it met one of two exceptions: “to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency” or if the pregnancy was the “result of rape, sexual assault, or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.”

The bill, which abortion rights advocates call the strictest anti-abortion bill in the country if passed, is now headed to the state Senate next week for a vote. [JAC: This was from March 31 so it may be passed this week, and the state’s governor has vowed to sign it if the Senate passes it, which of course it will:

Oklahoma’s state House voted 78-19 to pass a near-complete ban on abortions in mid-March, legislation that would go farther than the Texas six-week ban on which it was modeled.

The law would make performing an abortion a felony, but only the doctor would be punished, and could get up to ten years in stir.

*Thanks to many people who reported that some of Darwin’s notebooks, which were priceless bits of science history, and had been stolen from the Cambridge University archives, were mysteriously returned. The BBC reports:

Two “stolen” notebooks written by Charles Darwin have been mysteriously returned to Cambridge University, 22 years after they were last seen.

The small leather-bound books are worth many millions of pounds and include the scientist’s “tree of life” sketch.

Their return comes 15 months after the BBC first highlighted they had gone missing and the library launched a worldwide appeal to find them.

“I feel joyous,” the university’s librarian Dr Jessica Gardner says.

. . But who returned the two postcard-sized notepads is a real whodunit. They were left anonymously in a bright pink gift bag containing the original blue box the notebooks were kept in and a plain brown envelope.

The wrapping (all photos from Cambridge University Library):

On it was printed a short message: “Librarian, Happy Easter X.”

The note:

And one of the two missing notebooks contained the first sketch by anyone of a tree showing a genealogical relationship between species, along with Darwin’s famous “I think” comment (below).

This was a major heist, and wasn’t even announced until 15 months ago. Those notebooks (one show below the diagram) are worth millions of pounds:

Notebook “B”. There’s a lot more in the article, so do read it if you’re a Darwin or evolution aficionado.

*Reader Steve sent a link to a paper in ScienceAlert reporting that Ecuador has become the first country in the world to recognize the rights of individual animals, though there are animal-welfare laws in many countries.

While some countries struggle to uphold human rights, Ecuador has forged ahead and ruled wild animals possess distinct legal rights, including the right to exist.

This 7-2 court ruling in February was a landmark interpretation of the country’s “rights of nature” constitutional laws and elevated the legal status of nonhuman animals.

“In America, the rights of nature sounds like a fringe idea, but people don’t realize how mainstream it is around the world,” Kristen Stilt, an expert in animal law, told Inside Climate News.

The case involved a woolly monkey named Estrellita that was a pet for 18 years in a home, and learned to socialize with the family. The locals then seized the monkey and put it into captivity, where it had a cardiac event and died:

Before hearing of her death, Burbano filed a case to get Estrellita back, citing the distress Estrellita was likely experiencing, having been so abruptly torn from everything familiar to her.

The case relied on scientific evidence of the cognitive and social complexity of woolly monkeys (Lagothrix sp.) to argue Estrellita “should at minimum possess the right to bodily liberty” and the “environmental authority should have protected Estrellita’s rights by examining her specific circumstances before placing her in the zoo.”

The court ruled that both the authorities and Burbano [the family who had her] violated Estrellita’s rights, the former for failing to consider her specific needs before relocating her and the latter for removing her from the wild in the first place.

Oh, and a bit more. Ecuador is leading the world in animal-right legislation!

The decision follows a landmark ruling in Ecuador last year that found mining in a protected cloud forest violates the rights of nature.

Ecuador was the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature at a constitutional level back in 2008.

I hope reader/biologist Lou Jost, who works in Ecuador, will comment on this.

*You may remember that in his latest book, John McWhorter gave three cures for racism, and that was all, he said, was needed. They were teach everyone to read using phonics, end the war on drugs, and stop making everyone go to college. He expands on the latter in his latest column in the New York Times, “College became the default. Let’s rethink that.” He not only criticizes college as a requirement to succeed in the work force, but also attacks the notion that you have to finish high school before you go to college (that’s what McWhorter did). An excerpt:

True, in-class instruction, with its required attendance and the availability of professors for questions, has its advantages, as does the experience of spending four years interacting with a wide range of people. But the question is whether those advantages are so very important as to justify continuing to think of college, including the expense and debt involved, as a default American experience. There is no sacrosanct reason for keeping students in high school through 12th grade, and even less for enshrining eight further semesters of formal education as something we quietly pity people for having done without.

We think of four years of high school and four years of college as normal, because it’s what we know. But we could be a society of solidly educated people if we improved and bolstered public education while reclassifying a college education as a choice among many. Call this a pipe dream — I realize it wouldn’t happen overnight. But I suspect quite a few would see Botstein’s idea as valuable if we rolled back the tape and started over. That kind of hypothetical is invaluable to assessing where we are and where we might like to go.

*A piece read. On March 31 writer Margaret Atwood was awarded the sixth annual Hitchens Prize, to honor “writers whose work exemplifies “a commitment to free expression and inquiry, a range and depth of intellect, and a willingness to pursue the truth without regard to personal or professional consequence.”  I didn’t even know there was a Hitchens Prize, but you can see more details and a list of the five other winners here.

The Atlantic reprinted Atwood’s speech in response, called “Your feelings are no excuse“, mostly reprising her interactions with Hitchens, imagining what he’d think of today’s messes, and limning the ways they were similar. (h/t Stephen). A quote:

Having feelings was not a thing back then. We would not have admitted to owning such marshmallow-like appendages, and if we did have any feelings, we’d have considered them irrelevant as arguments. Feelings are real—people do have them, I have observed—and they can certainly be plausible explanations for all kinds of behavior. But they are not excuses or justifications. If they were, men who murder their wives because they’re feeling cranky that day would never get convicted.

You can’t exist as a writer for very long without learning that something you write is going to upset someone, sometime, somewhere. Whether you end up with a bullet in your neck will depend on many factors—there are lots of bullets, and some necks are thicker than others—but let us pause to remember that the most important meaning of freedom of expression is not that you can say anything you like without any consequences whatsoever but that the bullet should not be your government’s, and it should not be fired into your neck for an expression of political views that don’t coincide with theirs.

The New York Times should have adopted this concept of freedom of speech instead of using their own misguided definition in their pompous op-ed on the topic. To them, freedom of speech gives people “the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.” Only a bunch of doofuses could write that.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej engage in their usual repartee:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m searching for a smart answer to your question.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Szukam mądrej odpowiedzi na twoje pytanie.

From Nicole: the best cat poem ever! And drawings!:

From Divy:

I posted this on Facebook two years ago, but can’t remember where I got it:

He’s infallible, you know!

From Barry, who uses this as an example of places where secular education never took hold in America:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. Chocolate bilbies have long been a fashion at Easter in Australia, but now there’s a monotreme. I’d eat the bill first:

I’ve never heard of this cuvée, but I guessed the wine would be good, and one comment on the thread says as much:

I haven’t read this paper yet, but I suppose it suggests that the cost of being colorful, either in both sexes (as in macaws) or in one sex (birds of paradise), is less when food is abundant. But I don’t see why that should be, unless “when life is easier” also means “there’s less chance of predation.” But I refuse to buy the argument that bright colors are fripperies. They could be to help you recognize other individuals of your species or, in the case of sexual selection, could appeal to female preferences:

This is fantastic!:

Sound up. I’m surprised at how much music is being made outside by Ukrainians as the Russians try to destroy their country. Sound up.

24 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Awesome opener for “Back to School”!… “school” being, of course, campus. You get the idea.

    Great topics – I wrote comments and promptly deleted them for fear of criticism/other.

    [ obtains copy of 1984 and Farenheit 451 ]

  2. Sometimes Hili is kind of like the talking cat in the H.H. Monro story.

    That squid video was fantastic. Imagine being a diver and seeing that.

    There’s a lot I don’t understand about religion, but what is the point of those people praying for Trump to be the president if they’re certain that God means for Trump to be the president? Is it just like cheerleading God’s decisions? I suppose there’s always a thrill of being around like-minded people, but I don’t understand what the prayer part is supposed to do.

    1. Yes, Hili does occasionally have shades of a resemblance to Tobermory in Saki’s The Chronicles of Clovis at times – well spotted.

  3. As a (much poorer than this man) cellist, I can only give the faintest impression of how beautiful that music is to me, especially in its current setting, and how wonderful it is that his cello (and he) survived. So far at least.

    1. +1

      (Except the cellist part, I’ve not the slightest ability to play cello. But I love cello music.)

  4. At the Trump rally in Michigan this past weekend at which the wingnut preacher gave the excellent opening prayer recorded in the tweet in the post above, the sitting Republican US congresswoman for Michigan’s 10th district, Lisa McClain, claimed that Donald Trump caught Osama bin Laden, which seems a spectacular feat given that, in 2011 when bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, Trump was was busy hosting tv’s The Apprentice and spreading Birtherism bullshit:

    1. Yes it is. Though someone should tell American/Canadian typesetters that if a sentence ends in a quote then you need a full stop (aka “period”) after the quotation marks, otherwise it looks weird and is hard to parse.

  5. Oops, but better late than never…

    On this day:
    1320 – The Scots reaffirm their independence by signing the Declaration of Arbroath.

    1712 – The New York Slave Revolt of 1712 begins near Broadway.

    1896 – In Athens, the opening of the first modern Olympic Games is celebrated, 1,500 years after the original games are banned by Roman emperor Theodosius I.

    1929 – Huey P. Long, Governor of Louisiana, is impeached by the Louisiana House of Representatives.

    1930 – At the end of the Salt March, Gandhi raises a lump of mud and salt and declares, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.”

    1965 – Launch of Early Bird, the first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit.

    1992 – The Bosnian War begins.

    1994 – The Rwandan genocide begins when the aircraft carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira is shot down.

    1135 – Maimonides, Jewish philosopher, Torah scholar, physician and astronomer (March 30 also proposed, d. 1204)

    1810 – Philip Henry Gosse, English biologist and academic (d. 1888) – catalyst for an aquarium craze in early Victorian England. His sin Edmund wasn’t very taken by his parenting skills…!

    1929 – André Previn, American pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 2019)

    1931 – Ram Dass, American author and educator (d. 2019)

    1937 – Merle Haggard, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2016) – also died on his birthday.

    1949 – Horst Ludwig Störmer, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate

    Those who went the way of all things:
    1971 – Igor Stravinsky, Russian-American pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1882)

    1992 – Isaac Asimov, American science fiction writer (b. 1920)

    1998 – Tammy Wynette, American singer-songwriter (b. 1942)

    2003 – Anita Borg, American computer scientist and educator; founded Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (b. 1949)

    2014 – Mickey Rooney, American soldier, actor, and dancer (b. 1920)

    2014 – Chuck Stone, American soldier, journalist, and academic (b. 1924) – Great name!

    2015 – Ray Charles, American singer-songwriter and conductor (b. 1918)

  6. There appears to be a similar latitudinal trend in colourfulness in fish with tropical reef fish being especially notable for the dazzling colours. Life on the reef does not appear to be ‘easy’ for the inhabitants though with fierce competition for space apparently the norm.. So it doesn’t seem likely that bright colours for tropical fish are a ‘fripper’ that they can more easily afford than fish from higher latitudes.

    1. Could it be a matter of more vitamins and/or sunlight being available, thus increasing the material necessary for producing colors?

      (sorry if this is stupid. I’m not very educated in biology or evolution, but I know that at least some colors are driven by vitamins, and some vitamins are driven by sunlight)

  7. For me it took a single trip to Chicago with my son to become utterly besotted with the Garret Mix popcorn (or “Chicago Popcorn” as it’s known by us outsiders). I seek it out all the time but mostly find simulacrums, and hope some day to return for some of the original stuff.

  8. Hi Jerry, welcome back! I saw your request for a comment on Ecuador’s “rights of nature”. It has been a very important advance for conservation, and the mining case that you mentioned (which was also decided by a 7-2 vote) involves a reserve adjacent to one of ours, which faces the same threats. (Our Dracula Reserve where Atelopus coynei lives is also threatened by mining, so the Ecuadorian court decision on that case helps us protect your frog. The court ruled that the mining concessions were granted without adequate public hearings and ignored the fact that the areas concessioned to the mining companies were in protected nature reserves. The exact same situation pertains to parts of our Dracula Reserve, and miners there are illegally entering that reserve:

    The mining companies involved are large international companies with a lot of power. It is striking that the courts here have ruled against them in spite of the fact that our current government is pro-mining.

    Continuing our fight against mining, we have recently worked with the city of Tulcan, whose territory includes most of our Dracula Reserve, to declare our reserve an official municipal protected area

    This gives an extra layer of protection agains mining.

    I’m also happy to report that our two protected populations of A. coynei in that reserve are stable, though there appears to be a high turnover of individuals. We also found another population, but it is outside our reserve. However, the population where the species was first rediscovered (by Andreas Kay) has now been destroyed. We did not buy that forest because the owner was a dangerous drug smuggler and arms trafficker.

  9. God, unfortunately, is correct; the smart money is on ‘never’ when it comes to stopping, let alone reversing, climate change. It’s getting worse every year, and all the proof in the world (which we currently have) won’t change a damn thing. The only way to truly halt climate change is a united world, and this world is as un-united as it’s been since WWII. The authoritarian vs. democracy wars are getting worse, not better (as if the democracies of the world have done a good job mitigating climate change). In America, by far the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, millions of citizens and half the government are deluded beyond hope (thanks to greed and religion). If this world ever does what it has never done before, and actually becomes united on all fronts against a cause larger than its myriad self-interests, then that time is in a very distant future. Are there any readers here who actually think climate change will be mitigated at all within their lifetimes?

    1. Sadly, that’s a “No” from me on that final question, Mark. I never thought I’d be in agreement with g*d on anything…

    2. “In America, by far the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, millions of citizens and half the government are deluded beyond hope (thanks to greed and religion).”

      In 2009 I clipped a McClatchy paper article reporting that China had bypassed the U.S. for the number one position in the production of greenhouse gasses. However, the article was devious in my opinion in that it somehow neglected to account for what percentage of China’s manufacturing/greenhouse gasses production was attributable to the offshoring of manufacturing for U.S. businesses. The article also somehow neglected to state that the U.S. was number one by far in per capita production of greenhouse gasses. It would be much more obviously so were U.S. manufacturing not offshored. If I wasn’t skeptical of media before, I certainly started to be skeptical then.

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