Monday: Hili dialogue

April 11, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Monday, April 11, 2022: National Cheese Fondue Day. This is an excellent dish and a lot of fun; I wonder why it’s almost disappeared.


Wine Debacle of the Day: This white burgundy from the Ladoix region, only six years old, had very high ratings and I had very high expectations. It’s all chardonnay, but for $45 it was a bust. The wine was somewhat oxidized, and although drinkable, the sherry-ish flavors caused by the oxidation seriously marred the fruit flavors. I was really upset to find such a young wine, stored at proper temperature, to be off. Maybe it had been exposed to heat before I bought it. Anyway, I’ve had very few white burgundies, and the good ones are seriously great, but this one, well, I’d best forget it. See other people’s laudatory reviews here and here. I’d hate to give up my quest for good white Burgundy, but when you fail, your wallet gets a lot thinner.

Stuff that happened on April 11 include:

A write from the pair led to the founding of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1693. It’s the second oldest college in the U.S. after Harvard, and the undergraduate alma mater of Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus). Here’s its first building: the famous Wren Building; it’s the only building in North America designed by Christopher Wren. It housed the English Department when I was there, and I had several classes in the building. (Tourists going around Colonial Williamsburg would sometimes wander into our classes.)

  • 1727 – Premiere of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion BWV 244b at the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig
  • 1881 – Spelman College is founded in Atlanta, Georgia as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, an institute of higher education for African-American women.

Here are the founders, Harriet E. Giles and Sophia B. Packard:

Two Buchenwald photos from Wikipedia. This one is labeled “Prisoner of KZ Buchenwald with member of SS personnel after entry of U.S. Army, 1945″:

  • 1951 – The Stone of Scone, the stone upon which Scottish monarchs were traditionally crowned, is found on the site of the altar of Arbroath Abbey. It had been taken by Scottish nationalist students from its place in Westminster Abbey.

First of all, it was also the stone on which ENGLISH monarchs were traditionally crowned as well. Further, we’re not sure that the stone that was returned is the original one, but now it’s going to be located in Perth City Hall, to be used only during future coronations. Here’s how the throne looks with the stone:

  • 1961 – The trial of Adolf Eichmann begins in Jerusalem.
  • 1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.

I could show him signing the 1968 bill, but here he is signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only a few hours after the bill was passed. He uses more than a hundred pens! Do read Caro’s 4-volume biography of LBJ; the story of how he bulled the bill through Congress is totally engrossing.

Here’s a photo from Wikipedia, with the caption “Original 1976 Apple I computer in a briefcase. From the Sydney Powerhouse Museum collection.Note audio cassette player inside.

He was a brutal and nasty piece of work, and, in his later years, eccentric. Look at this title (my emphasis):

As the years progressed, Amin’s behaviour became more erratic, unpredictable, and strident. After the United Kingdom broke off all diplomatic relations with his regime in 1977, Amin declared that he had defeated the British, and he conferred on himself the decoration of CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire). His full self-bestowed title ultimately became: “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”, in addition to his officially stated claim of being the uncrowned king of Scotland.

His Excellency, etc.:

  • 2021 – 20 year old Daunte Wright is shot and killed in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota by officer Kimberly Potter, sparking protests in the city, when the officer allegedly mistakes her own gun for her taser.

Notables born on this day include:

Smart, while locked up in a mental hospital, wrote a long poem, Jubilate Agno (“Rejoice in the Lamb”), that contains the best poetry about cats ever written: “For I will Consider my Cat Jeoffry.” You must read it now! Here’s one of its pages:

  • 1925 – Viola Liuzzo, American civil rights activist (d. 1965)
  • 1945 – John Krebs, Baron Krebs, English zoologist and academic

Those who hied themselves underground on April 11 include:

  • 1890 – Joseph Merrick, English man with severe deformities (b. 1862)

He was, of course, nown as “The Elephant Man”, and even now we’re not sure what malady he suffered from.  Here’s an 1889 photo of Merrick with its Wikipedia caption:

Joseph Merrick (1862-1890). The photograph was circulated to members of the public c. 1889 as a Carte de visite. This photograph was first published in The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu (first published in London and the United States in 1971; OCLC: 732266137)

. . . and the only surviving letter he wrote:

  • 1926 – Luther Burbank, American botanist and academic (b. 1849)
  • 1985 – Enver Hoxha, Albanian educator and politician, 21st Prime Minister of Albania (b. 1908)
  • 1987 – Erskine Caldwell, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1903)
  • 1987 – Primo Levi, Italian chemist and author (b. 1919)
  • 2007 – Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1922)

Here’s an hourlong biography and interview with Vonnegut filmed in 1983, when he was 61.  He also reads from some of his works:

  • 2017 – J. Geils, American singer and guitarist (b. 1946)

*Today’s NYT banner headline is especially distressing (click to read):

Their news summary:

Ukraine braced on Monday for a renewed Russian assault along its eastern front, even as officials continued to document and expose atrocities committed by Moscow’s forces around the capital of Kyiv, in what a growing number of Western officials claim are war crimes.

Officials in eastern Ukraine warned civilians still living in the region that time was running out to escape, as newly released satellite images showed an eight-mile-long convoy of Russian armored vehicles and trucks with towed artillery moving east of Kharkiv, the nation’s second-largest city,.

“Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state,” Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, told the nation overnight Sunday. “But we are preparing for their actions. We will respond.”

I have a bad feeling about all this. Russia’s getting frustrated at its slow progress, the “Butcher of Syria” is now in charge of the army, and I think Putin wants an end to this, and is willing to do anything to get it.

*It looks like Macron will win the French Presidential elections, despite predictions that he might lose to right-winger Marine Le Pen. In the first round of the multi-candidate election, Macron got 28% of the total vote, Le Pen 23%. Still, it’s closer than liberals (or centrist Macron) would like, and a lot closer than the last election, when Macron came in 30% ahead of Le Pen. The final election will be held April 24.

*Yesterday I wrote about Lizelle Herrera, the 26-year-old who was arrested in Texas and charged with murder after participating in a “self-induced abortion”. The problem for Texas is that the act of which she was accused didn’t appear to violate any state law. The murder charges against Herrera have now been dropped, and the state no longer considers this a “criminal matter”. However, Herrera is still subject to Texas’s new unconstitutional anti-abortion law if she helped someone else in the “self-induced abortion.” But, as I noted, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the Supremes throw the decision back to the states, it’s open season on women:

Her case could be an early sign of what is to come if Roe is overturned, Vladeck said.

When prosecutors charged Herrera, they might have been thinking of a pre-Roe abortion ban that is still on the books in Texas, Vladeck added, but has not been in effect since 1973 because it is unconstitutional under Roe.

Nine states still have pre-Roe bans, which could come back to life depending on what the Supreme Court decides in June.

*Reader Scott reports, via Newsweek, yet another case of a professor disciplined for using the n-word in a didactic way. This time it happened at San Diego State University.

Philosophy and ethics professor J. Angelo Corlett, of San Diego State University (SDSU), was removed from two courses—Philosophy, Racism and Justice, and Critical Thinking and Composition—on March 1, after complaints he used the n-word in a lecture.

Corlett said he used the slur to distinguish between racist language, and racial language; the latter he defined as “the mere ‘mentioning’ of a racial slur, without racist intent.”

In an op-ed published on Sunday in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Corlett said the SDSU dean had received “numerous student complaints” and claimed she told him he was “no longer effective in the course.”

Okay, this is yet another case of entitled student pretending offense, for surely they’re smart enough to distinguish the word used as a slur and didactically to make a point. It’s not rocket science!

*Are the days of repeated covid booster shots nearly over? The Washington Post reports that scientists are turning their attention to a less invasive and possibly more effective strategy: nasal sprays. This stops the virus where it’s most likely to enter the body:

The immunology is complex, but the idea is simple. A puff of droplets up people’s nostrils could provoke “mucosal” immunity — a virus-fighting force embedded in the tissue that lines the airways. The localized protection could stanch transmission and help stifle the next variant.

. .  .the idea is gaining traction. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University School of Medicine, said that in early 2021, she thought of her nasal vaccine research as preparation for the next pandemic. Then, the omicron variant changed the equation.

“Having seen all these new variants that are so much more transmissible and rendering our vaccines useless for infection prevention — that’s when we realized we may have the chance to contribute something during this pandemic,” Iwasaki said.

There are lots of problems with nasal vaccines, so don’t expect this to happen any time soon. And ask your doctor whether you really need a second booster (for most people, their fourth covid vaccine).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn;

Hili: I’m guarding the new deal.
A: Take care not to exhaust yourself.
In Polish:
IIHili: Pilnuję ładu.
Ja: Uważaj, żebyś się nie zmęczyła.

And a note from Malgorzata about their refugee/guest, 8 year old Karolina. Paulina is the upstairs lodger who’s half the staff of Kulka and 1/4 of the staff of Szaron:

And there is a (not very good) picture of Karolina with her face painted as a cat and another cat on her arm. Paulina took her today to Włocławek to an event for children and Karolina was deliriously happy.
(See picture below.)

Andrzej’s caption: Paulina zabrała dziś Karolinę na zabawę dla dzieci pracowników w jej miejscu pracy i oddała dziecię jak malowane.

Malgorzata’s translation: Today Paulina took Karoline to an event for kids in her place of work and returned the child like a painting.

Cat on the arm!


Reader John sent a swell cat cartoon; click to enlarge:

Source: Imbattable, by Pascal Jousselin

And from another reader, whose email I’ve lost (thanks and sorry):

From Tom:

A pretty funny piece from The Onion:

Yes, Dr. Oz is running in the Republican senatorial primary from Pennsylvania. Reader Simon found this:


From Barry: Canine crypsis:

This came up on the Gmail I get daily with tweets. Otter showing off!

From Ginger K.: a good person.

Tweets from Matthew. This bird builds a nest with a false, blind opening to stymie snakes. The second tweet gives a diagram:

I cannot explain this one:


54 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Fondue day comments: We still eat it semi regularly but only in the winter (mitigating circumstance, my wife is Swiss). As a dinner party dish though, Raclette has become far more popular and less messy. The link you gave for National Cheese Fondue Day is filled with mistakes! “The way the Swiss dish obtained a French name is a mystery, though there is a powerful influence of French language speakers in Switzerland even today.” Are you kidding? 30% of Switzerland is French speaking and it’s one of the 4 official languages of the country. And current practice is if you drop your bread you have to take off an article of clothing, which is why people semi seriously show up with several layers of extra clothing on them (eg 3 pairs of socks).

    1. >And current practice is if you drop your bread you have to take off an article of clothing, which is why people semi seriously show up with several layers of extra clothing on them (eg 3 pairs of socks).

      Sometime in the dim past I remember hearing that and thought it was an urban legend. Like the existence of Mazola parties which I never got invited to either, so likewise cannot confirm.

        1. Not having the faintest idea who Madison Cawthorn might be, I googled him and found this statement in one of the hits:

          “Congressman Madison Cawthorn [R-NC] just told me that he has NOT retracted his claims about sex fueled orgies among DC elites.”

          Well, I should hope not. Can’t imagine there’d be much point in running for office or becoming a lobbyist otherwise.

          But a “sex-fueled” orgy? I thought the whole point of an orgy was the sex. If the sex only fuels an orgy, it implies the point of the orgy was something else and the sex only gives it staying power (or something.) Sex as the means to an end? What end? Blackmail? Cheese fondue?

          Trust Republicans to take the fun out of everything.

          1. Cawthorn also claimed he saw senior Republicans shoveling blow up their noses (or as he referred to it “doing key bumps”), so the statement should probably read “drug-fueled orgies.”

            But, yeah, H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun. And Republicans in the national spotlight, most of them, sure like to play-act at being Puritans.

            If you’re a Republican congresscritter, you can appear onstage with white nationalists, spout crazy QAnon conspiracy theories, or be under federal investigation for sex-trafficking a minor, and not a peep out of Republican leadership. But accuse your colleagues of clandestine sex-and-drugs action — now that will bring the wrath of House minority leader Kevin McCarthy down on your head.

    2. In Asterix in Switzerland, the first time you drop your bread, you get beaten with a stick; the second time, you get twenty lashes; the third time, they drop you in a lake with weights tied to your feet. But this was a long time ago. I don’t think they do it like that anymore.

    3. I ate it last month, with my pre-teen sons. I was not aware it got out of fashion. Maybe I’m getting old.

  2. Re the “Stone of Scone”, another question is whether the stone taken south by Edward I in 1296 is indeed the real one. It’s a rough lump of sandstone with nothing remarkable about it (whereas early legends talk of a dark, metallic, polished stone). It was quarried nearby to the Stone abbey (geology proves that), whereas the legends were that it came with the “Scots” from Ireland and then the Argyll region, where the early Scots kings were seated, and was then only moved to Scone when the Scots unified Scotland and took up a central seat.

    The monks of Scone knew that Edward I wanted to destroy Scottish kingship, along with destroying Scotland’s status as an independent kingdom. So did they just wait around for Edward’s army to come and take the stone? Or did they quarry a lump of local sandstone to hand to Edward, while hiding the real one?

        1. There was also no reason to keep it hidden once Scotland regained its independence which was only a few years after Edward nicked it. Surely one of the monks could remember where they put it.

          On a more philosophical note: since the current stone has now been used for longer than the alleged original, isn’t it fair to say to say that this is the real one?

  3. Good for that sweet woman who helped out in the Tesco. Those are the sorts of things can snowball quickly and turn into huge disasters, and probably all that poor woman needed was a little support and kindness.

    I don’t think a lot of the anti-choice group think about things like this when they are insisting on taking away reproductive rights. Children are expensive! And there is a lot of judgment and not much help for mothers, especially for single mothers.

    1. I think anti-choice groups know all about the hardships of motherhood, especially single motherhood, but they simply don’t care; for them, cruelty is a feature, not a bug. I can’t prove it, I just know it’s true.

      1. ——I think anti-choice groups know all about the hardships of motherhood, especially single motherhood, but they simply don’t care; for them, cruelty is a feature, not a bug. I can’t prove it, I just know it’s true. —-

        Oh, Mark. I hope you don’t think that is true for all pro-life groups or individuals. It is not true of me.

        1. Look, if the pro-life proponents were serious about reducing the number of abortions, they would be on the barricades for the only way that has shown to actually do that: good sexual education and easy access to contraception.
          They are not, hence I suspect, well one cannot conclude otherwise, other motives.
          That is why I find thst whole ‘pro-life’ cabal extremely suspicious.

      2. Pro-life has little to do with children or even fetuses. It is all about preventing promiscuity. If only we had an evolutionary biologist in the house to confirm this assertion.

    2. —-probably all that poor woman needed was a little support and kindness. —-

      She probably needs a LOT of support and kindness.
      Children ARE expensive but there is a quite a bit of material support available for these needy families. What there is not a lot of is emotional support.
      These women need to be in supportive family households that can help them with the day-to-day management of life and child-rearing. Sometimes it takes two people to change the diaper of a strong-as-an-ox toddler!! The economy is such that the days of single-family dwellings may eventually give way to multi-generational homes. This could actually be a good thing for single parents.

  4. The same image illusion is explained in “Brain Bugs” by Dean Buonomano. It is the brain being confused by perspective. Normally parallel lines are seen to converge in the distance, but when they do not the brain’s expectation for convergence causes it to interpret the scene as non parallel and thus creates the illusion of divergence . (pg 144) If the various quirks of our senses interests you I recommend this book, it is full of interesting ideas.

      1. David, on second thoughts, I think your explanation is right, and it is different from the ‘café wall’ illusion.

  5. 1881 – Spelman College is founded in Atlanta, Georgia as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, an institute of higher education for African-American women.

    In the days before desegregation, Spelman was to Morehouse essentially as Radcliffe was to Harvard before the two became coeducational.

  6. Do read Caro’s 4-volume biography of LBJ …

    It started out as a projected three-volume biography, grew to four, and then, a decade ago, when he published Passage to Power, Caro announced it would take yet another volume to finish. Caro’s 86 y.o. now, and it’s plainly a race against time to finish. He’s still got the 1964 campaign, the Great Society legislation, Vietnam, and LBJ’s decision not seek reelection in ’68 to cover — essentially everything after the CRA ’64, the whole of LBJ’s time as president except for the first few months of JFK’s unexpired term.

    Last I heard, he’d finished writing about Medicare and Medicaid, but his long-planned research trip to Vietnam had been postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Hope to hell he brings his baby home in time.

    Given the state of the book-publishing business, we’ll not see its like again.

    1. I’ve read the first volume and loved it. Got the following two on my shelves, still unopened, plus his one on the press. In the middle of a good novel about the CIA in ‘Nam: Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson.
      There was a good multi-part series about LBJ on CNN recently.

      1. Caro’s third volume, Master of the Senate, is particularly good — LBJ at the height of his powers as senate majority leader during the 1950s. Johnson was undoubtedly the most effective American legislator of the 20th century, and maybe of all time. No one ever understood how to manipulate the hidden buttons and levers of government — and the vulnerabilities of his colleagues — better.

  7. Today Karl Nehammer, the Austrian chancellor, will become the first European leader to meet Putin in person since the conflict began.

    Hope he brings a Novichok detector with him — and takes a pass on the polonium tea. Never put anything past Putin.

  8. Inner monologue while reading the six-panel cartoon :

    OK, I’ll bite …
    yeah …
    [ guy picks up cat from other panel ]
    … this better be real good or I’ll be pissed
    [ lady is confused ]
    … you have one panel to make this count..
    “It’s just a little bit out of sync”
    I LOVE IT!

  9. The dog blending with sheep is a Great Pyrenees who’s job is to guard the sheep (from wolves). The Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, etc. do the herding.

  10. Side-by-side photo :

    Does anyone notice anything interesting switching right-left over and over? How far away the screen is?

    I think it is something to do with that – the image on the right is farther away from the left eye and vice versa – in the recording lingo, it amounts to a phase difference, but I’m pretty sure a phase difference in optics is the same phenomenon.

    1. … EXCEPT [ I blurt out ] of course, the sound travels much slower than LIGHT….

      But the SOURCE of the light, that’s the idea.

      1. I did by now, thanks!

        But I think my point (really just popped in my head, no research) is if we measure the distance from one image to the left eye, and again for the right eye, that distance difference – of course very small – might not in fact be negligible.

        That – the nitty gritty measurements – would be subsumed by the larger idea of divergence, perception, etc. I also would think the explanation for our instinct for right left (see the post from what, Friday?) would help from this.

        I’m going to enjoy reading on this.

        1. To save you the time of trying to measure eye-to-subject distance, just consider that it is possible in principle to centre the pictures on your viewing platform so that the distance to the two eyes is exactly, precisely, equal. You can move the picture slowly from left to right so that initially the pictures are closer to the left eye, pass through the equi-distant point, and then become closer to the right eye. Nothing in the perception of the pictures changes. Even if you look at them with first one eye closed and then the other, the illusion of difference persists. (The images may jump side to side reflecting eye dominance, unrelated to the illusion.)

          As David says in #4, it is just a trick of perspective. Parallel lines (like railway tracks) appear to converge in a picture painted on a flat surface. If the lines are depicted to be parallel (as corresponding lines in the two images are), they appear to diverge because there are now two vanishing points in the composite image. That’s all there is to it.

          There is a painting in the Chicago Art Institute made during the early exploration of perspective — sorry, visit was so long ago I forget the artist — where you can see the faint penciled (?) guide lines the artist used to establish the vanishing point to make sure all his parallel lines looked parallel.

          1. I am intrigued by this so much I share :

            I printed out three 8-1/2″ X 11″ pictures of the street. It makes it easy to :
            -switch them around
            -put three in a row
            -stack vertically

            All sorts of things to check if the illusion persists, and it does, with corrective lenses or not. Might even cut each photo out, but not yet. BTW each photo, effectively identical, are cropped differently.

            I’m still not settled with the right eye v. left eye and what that might have to do with my sense of absolute right and absolute left..,

  11. The English poet John Davidson was born OTD 1857 (died by suicide 1909). It seems that this is Obscure Poets Day. Davidson is best known for “Thirty Bob a Week,” of which T.S. Eliot says, “The personage which Davidson has created in this poem has haunted me all my life, and the poem is to me a great poem for ever.”

    Haunting, indeed:

    “I was the love that chose my mother out;
    I joined two lives and from the union burst;
    My weakness and my strength without a doubt
    Are mine alone forever from the first.”

  12. Seeing the photos of wine constantly posted these days on the site is kinda rubbing it in for me at the moment. In the category “Small complaints given what is going on in the world:” Since having a mild case of COVID in December, aside from other lingering issues, I seem to have picked up a newly acquired intolerance for alcohol! Literally a few sips will wreak havoc on me (unable to sleep, pounding heart, dizziness, headaches…). Apparently a newly acquired intolerance for alcohol is being seen in some people post covid, particularly in those with long covid. Agh!

  13. The case of Professor Corlett is infuriating. Professors are now being removed from their classes for saying a forbidden word. Not forbidden ideas, which would at least be more understandable, but a word.

    The idea that certain words must never be uttered, and that the tender ears of students must never hear the taboo (regardless of context) goes against the very idea of college and higher education. Students now insist on being treated like children, apparently because they need a “safe space” to protect them from a society that is far less racist than it was half a century ago, when people fought for civil rights and didn’t whine if a professor used a racial epithet in a non-racist context.

    Any college that punishes a professor for saying “a forbidden word” is a joke. And students who bring on that punishment are entitled creeps who don’t know a damn thing about how to actually combat racism and should get counseling to help them deal with reality. As long as universities treat students as ultra-touchy customers who must be satisfied, professors like Corlett will continue being unjustly punished.

    1. Indeed – the open racism of teachers at my grammar school in Kent in south east England is unthinkable now.

    2. Perhaps they should just play some choice rap music and leave it there and open to discussion. Would they then be offended?

    3. It’s a power play. Content is irrelevant. Too bad there are no competent adults in referee position.

  14. “The Butcher of Syria” now in command is not a good sign. Not just from a war crime/genocide pov, but also a purely military one. This guy has war experience. It does not look good in the South East.
    I think the West is way too shy in giving military support to Ukraine. They need more than Javelins. Czechia delivered tanks without an actual Russian reaction. Let us be clear: Ukraine is fighting our war for us. The West could, and should, do much more.

  15. I REALLY hate “Dr” Oz – one (of many) of Oprah Winfrey’s public health hazard alums. There’s a special place in hell if it existed for people who are ALREADY rich becoming grifters. Take note Gwyneth Paltrow.


    1. I love the irony that this endorsement caused consternation among the MAGAs. They dislike the endorsement because Oz is a grifter. WOW!

  16. The cat cartoon annoys me – “there’s” = “there is” but it is a plural cat so should be “there’re” = “there are”!!!!!!!

    1. I am wondering if “It’s” is correct …

      I use the famous title we all know to check :

      “Its time to take the penis of it’s pedestal”

      … by that, “It’s just a little bit out of sync.” should be “Its just a little bit out of sync.”

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