Wednesday: Hili dialogue

May 25, 2022 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Hump Day (known as Dia de Gepa in Catalan), May 25, 2022:  an excellent day for food and drink because it’s National Wine Day , and I’ll celebrate by introducing you to one of the world’ finest sweet sherries (below). In the U.S. it’s also National Missing Children’s Day, National Tap Dance Day, and Towel Day in honour of the work of the writer Douglas Adams.

Here’s the best tap dance routine I know of, with a fantastic performance by the Nicholas Brothers beginning about 1:32. It has lagniappe: a starting bit by Cab Calloway singing in his usual “jive” style. Don’t miss this if you haven’t seen it:


Stuff that happened on May 25 include:

  • 240 BC – First recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
  • 1521 – The Diet of Worms ends when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Here’s a reconstruction of that meeting. Everyone was much relieved when the DIet ended.

  • 1787 – After a delay of 11 days, the United States Constitutional Convention formally convenes in Philadelphia after a quorum of seven states is secured.
  • 1895 – Playwright, poet and novelist Oscar Wilde is convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.

That broke his health, and then he went to Paris, where he died. Here’s Wilde (from the Oscar Wilde Site):

I always show this photo when I mention Scopes because the Discovery Institute hates it, and made it into an entire column. The issue: Scopes taught from a textbook that, they say, had eugenics in it. The response: Scopes taught biology for only one day as a substitute teacher, and didn’t teach eugenics. Here I am at his and his wife’s gravesite in Paducah, Kentucky (2013). It was hard to find that gravestone!

One of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Kangchenjunga is best viewed from Darjeeling, 75 km away. I went there especially to see the mountain, but the view is usually socked in by clouds. Finally, on my fifth and last day, clouds lifted to reveal a view like this from atop Tiger Hill (not my photo; from Wikipedia):


As I recall, they didn’t form a continuous line of people across the U.S. holding each other’s hands, but they did pretty well, and raised $15 million for charity

Weihenmayer, who had a rare disease that rendered him totally blind at 14, made it to the top with the help of voice commands, from his co-climbers. Not only that, but he climbed the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on every continent). Here’s a brief video and interview with him.

Wine of the Day:  I’ve been touting sherries for a long time as one of the world’s best wine values. (They’re not for everyone, but the quality/price ratio is extraordinarily high. My favorites are at the driest end (finos; the ideal aperitif drink) and at the sweetest end. The wine below, made entirely from the Pedo Ximénez grape, a white grape that’s dried in the sun to concentrate the sugars and then pressed for its fantastic nectar. If you are not a sherry maven, you’ll want to look for wines by Lustau: I’ve never had a bad one. And the Lustau sherries tend to come in the cheaper (but still good) versions without a name, and then the top-of-the-line versions usually labeled “Almencista”.

For example, this wine (aged eight years in a solera [stack of barrels of various age] before bottling) is thecheaper “San Emilio” version of Pedro Ximénez sherry, but there’s one I haven’t had (“VORS,” or “very old rare sherry”) that was aged 30 years before bottling and comes in 500 cl bottles.

San Emilio PX is simply luscious. Thick, sweet, and intensely flavored with dried fruits: figs, raisins, and prunes. A little goes a long way, so this $23 bottle (a great bargain) will provide at least ten glasses. It’s best drunk on its own, either as dessert or after dessert. The flavor lasts minutes in your mouth, and it’s the ideal wine to sip while reading a good book. I’ve never seen a bad review of a Lustau PX; you can see a few here.

Though made from a white grape, the drying and aging process turns the wine dark brown. Here’s a glass held up to the light, an even then you can barely see through it. Note the “legs”: the glycerin drops left on the side of the glass when you swirl it. Only thick sweet lines will leave these markings.

I can’t recommend this wine highly enough if you like sweet wines. It’s not a cloying sweet wines like the junk I used to buy for 99¢ a bottle in college (“Sly Fox” or “Boone’s Farm Apple Wine”); this is a serious, world-class tipple. And because all sherries are fortified, with alcohol added to stop the fermentation, it’s also very alcoholic: 17.3%.  But you won’t get drunk, for just a third of a very small glass will do for you.

Da Nooz:

*I hate leading off this way, but once again there’s another mass shooting in America, at another school, that apparently has killed several people (as I write this on Tuesday night only two are reported dead. According to the New York Times, and 18 year old man with a handgun and possibly a rifle entered an elementary school in Ulvalde, Texas yesterday afternoon and started firing. The toll, as I said, is two dead with 14 others wounded, and the assailant is reported to be in police custody.

This is the 212th mass shooting in America just since the beginning of the year. 

UPDATE: Half an hour later (5 p.m. Chicago time), the toll has risen to 14 children and one teacher dead. The suspect is also dead. And I’ve just listened to Lester Holt, anchor of the NBC Evening News end his broadcast saying that we need a solution, but all he could suggest is to “hold your love ones close.” That, of course, is no solution at all. If you could make one technical change to prevent these shootings, just enact gun laws as strict as there are in England and Scotland. That, of course, is politically impossible in our Wild West Society, but how many deaths will it take till they know that too many people have died? Now, listening to the Illinois gubernatorial debate, the three candidates have nothing better to offer than “enforce existing gun laws.” It makes me sick. (The killer, Salvador Ramos, bought his guns legally.)

And now another update: today’s NYT relates that 19 children and 2 adults were killed, the greatest toll since the Sandy Hook massacre ten years ago (that one killed 20 children and six adults. I keep imagining a parent at home getting an unexpected call with the horrible news that their child was dead. The pain is unimaginable, and then multiply it by the number of victims (as for the adults, they have loved ones who also grieve.  No motive has yet been revealed.

Guns are the leading cause of death for children in America.

*Henry Kissinger, soon to turn 99, is regarded as some kind of god in Foreign Affairs, and I won’t doubt the man is canny. But neither can I worship his latest pronouncement, a declaration that Ukraine should simply surrender territory to Russia to end the war.

Former U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger said Monday that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion, suggesting a position that a vast majority of Ukrainians are against as the war enters its fourth month.

Speaking at a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger urged the United States and the West to not seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, warning it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability.

After saying that Western countries should remember Russia’s importance to Europe and not get swept up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger also pushed for the West to force Ukraine into accepting negotiations with a “status quo ante,” which means the previous state of affairs.

By “status quo ante”, Kissinger means a return to the situation in which Russia formally controlled Crimea and informally controlled the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. Ukrainian President Zelensky is unlikely to agree to the second bit, and I doubt that Putin will agree to this at all. After all, if he agrees, he’s gone to war and achieved nothing. Not only that, but there may be two new countries in NATO.

*President Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki (a William & Mary alum), has finally given up her position at the White House to accept an undoubtedly more lucrative position at MSNBC. Her new job will apparently involve appearances on the network’s streaming and cable shows, as well as her own show. She lasted a bit more than two years.

*John McWhorter’s latest column in the NYT is called, “Constantly updating terminology isn’t going to achieve progressive aims,” and I cheered when I read it. On some level progressives have to realize that this is true, but they keep updating anyway. The latest was “Latine”, a supposedly improved version of “Latinx” (rejected by Hispanics), which itself was an upgrade from “Latina” or “Latino”, which could be best replaced by “Hispanice”. But changing lingo is a cost-free way of demonstrating virtue, and so it goes. An excerpt:

I’m certainly not arguing for intolerance toward those who can become pregnant but don’t identify as women. I’m saying that even if we’re not being forced to use the new terms, the way they’re introduced, almost as if by fiat, can make it seem as if sticking with the old ones is a kind of thought crime. But it isn’t that those on the left have some weird, childish yen for control. Rather, they seem to be operating under an attractive but shaky idea that language channels thought: Change how people say things and you change how they think about things and then the world changes.

That’s not how it works, though. Good intentions frequently don’t translate into efficacy. So, the question is, how much does changing terminology really accomplish?

His answer is “not much, and research supports that”, but he uses some almost humorous examples of what Steve Pinker calls the “euphemism treadmill.” This is one of McWhorter’s better columns, and I recommend reading it. It also has a good ending:

Far better to teach people what you think they should think about something, and why, instead of classifying the way they express themselves about it as a form of disrespect or backwardness. After a while, if you teach well, they won’t be saying what you don’t want them to say. Mind you, you may not be around to see the fruits of the endeavor — a frustrating aspect of change is that it tends to happen slowly. But “Change words!” is no watchcry for a serious progressivism.

*If you’ve studied biology, you probably know what is considered the paradigmatic case of natural selection in action: the evolutionary change in color of the peppered moth, Biston betularia.  During and after the Industrial revolution in Britain, the black-and-white speckled moth evolved into a largely black form because of predation by visually-hunting birds. If you want to be considered at least partly educated in evolutionary biology, read Current Biology‘s (free) quick guide to what we know about this rapid change. (There’s also a free pdf.)

The study of industrial melanism in the British peppered moth population has produced one of the most complete examples of adaptation through natural selection. The melanic carbonaria form was first discovered in Britain in the mid-19th century. Over the next 50 years, it rapidly increased in frequency to make up over 90% of the population in some industrial and smoke-blackened regions. This was followed by a decline in melanic frequency in these areas after smoke control was introduced in the mid-1970s. A number of experiments have demonstrated that selective predation by insectivorous birds is the major factor driving these frequency changes. Light morphs are better camouflaged against light backgrounds, such as lichen-covered trees, whereas black morphs are better camouflaged against dark backgrounds, such as tree barks darkened by coal pollution. Crucially, the rapidity of the phenotypic change in populations of the adult moths provided the first evidence that natural selection could be very strong, challenging the prevailing view of early evolutionary biologists that evolutionary change was invariably slow.

Here’s the change in color that occurred in most populations in the mid-19th century when soot covered the trees, making the darker forms to the right (the “carbonaria” morph) more camouflaged from birds. What’s equally remarkable is that a similar change occurred independently in the northern industrial parts of the U.S. some time later (this is the work of my undergraduate advisor Bruce Grant). And to up the ante, when pollution abated in both countries, the lighter form (“typica”) began increasing in frequency again.

That info will make you an instant hit at parties.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili declares herself not guilty of avicide:

A: What are those feathers on the verandah?
Hili: I don’t know, ask Kulka.
In Polish:
Ja: Co to za piórka na werandzie?
Hili: Nie wiem, zapytaj Kulki.

From Ginger K.:

From Peter: a cat hopelessly addicted to ‘nip: (click the arrow):

The most intense catnip experience from MadeMeSmile

Contributed to Facebook by Manar Al-Ahmed.  Remember, animals get hot, too. 

Richard Dawkins’s mother Jean, who wrote poetry, died not long ago at 102.  Richard reproduces his poems read by his former wife, actress Lalla Ward. Richard also notes that the poems are reproduced on his website.

A photo of Jean Dawkins:



From Al:

From Barry: Duck 1, Cats 0 (I refer to the second tweet, which I can’t separate from the first; can some reader help me separate linked tweets?)

From Ginger K: Cats teach biology:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew: This one’s called “play the flute at feeding time”:

Well, I hope you got the pun. Somebody else didn’t and the tweeter toyed witg them (to me it seems a bit cruel):

How tall was Wadlow? How about nearly nine feet: to be exact, 8 feet 11 inches (2.72 m), and he weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death. Sadly, he died at just 22, for he had abnormal levels of growth hormone, and was in fact still growing when he died.

Such a condition doomed him to an early death, and here is its cause:

On July 4, 1940, during a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, leading to infection. He was treated with a blood transfusion and surgery, but his condition worsened due to an autoimmune disorder; he died in his sleep on July 15.

I wonder if today’s antibiotics could have saved his life, at least for a while.

Wikipedia shows one of Wadlow’s shoes with the caption: “Wadlow’s shoe (US size 37 AA; UK size 36 or approximately European size 75) compared to a US size 12.  Us size 12 is still a large shoe!


42 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. 1. In my dream, I was reading (I read?) PCC(E)’s latest (dreamland) Hili Dialogue.

    There was a story of a train that was designed to never stop. But one day, they had to stop it. (Like I understand that).

    Reason : the doors had caught a man’s jacket.

    But the interesting thing was PCC(E) described the doors as “mimes”. Mime doors – the pair of doors which slide to seal vertically. Shortened to slang as “mimes”.

    Mimes! Is that a thing? I thought it was clever! Like a mime with their hands – yes?

    2. “… all he [Lester Holt] could suggest is to “hold your love ones close.” That, of course, is no solution at all.”

    Quite religious, I’d say – a palliative prayer punt to imagined future generations who fix that stuff that we individually were powerless to up and do, the way it always goes : septic systems to eliminate cholera, vaccines to eradicate smallpox, improved travel safety – the invisible hand of the future.

  2. Typos! Jen Psaki lasted TWO years? We are less than a year and a half into the Biden presidency.
    Also, unless there is something we don’t know about his mother (anything is possible these days) Dawkins is reproducing “her” poems!
    Happy Wednesday

  3. Why aren’t the pro-life people busy with doing something about the school shootings? You’d think this would be a huge priority, a top priority even, for people who care so much about the well-being of babies and children.

    1. They are, Desiree! Pro-life Republicans are all over this!

      For instance, Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz are speaking out against gun control laws at an NRA event this Friday. And Ted sent his heartfelt hopes and prayers.

      Thom Tillis issued a press statement that the 18 year old could not have been stopped by anything Congress could do, and that red flag laws would be overreach.

      Ken Paxton (Texas A.G.) issued a statement suggesting the solution is to arm all teachers.

      And in a nod to fire safety and good evacuation planning, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick suggested that the solution was to have schools have only a single entry/exit point: “We have to harden these targets so that no one can get in ever except through one entrance,”

      So you see Desiree, how much and what Republicans at the state and national level are doing to promote gun violence! Er, I mean prevent gun safety! Er…

      It’s also worth mentioning that after the 2018 school shooting in Texas, Abbott convened a series of meetings to discuss introducing red flag legislation. Those meetings ultimately resulted in Texas GOP legislators passing a law allowing non-licensed open carry (and no red flag laws). So if history is any judge, we can expect this event will result in Texas legislators passing laws that make it easier for anyone to get and carry a gun.

      1. Many years ago, in relatively more innocent times, there was a single shooting incident that caused much discussion. In that one a kid squirted their neighbor with one of those large ‘super soaker’ squirt guns. The neighbor promptly got a gun and murdered the kid. This provoked much hand-wringing and debate, and it (of course) focused on the question of perhaps banning …
        super soakers!

        1. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the five justices in the majority reinterpreted the Second Amendment with the same alacrity with which the pigs in Animal Farm, armed with ladders and paint, obliterated the Seven Commandments on the barn wall and replaced them with one.

          1. ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’? IIRC that is. Recalling was not exactly encouraged on the Animal Farm though, I may have recalled wrongly.

    2. There is a lot of rumbling on the internet about that. The rights’ obsession with protecting unborn children but not born children. Their obsession with preventing CRT from getting into schools but not heavily armed gunmen.
      This sick thing is, they (not we. They) are resolved to just accept these as the cost of their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

      1. “… they (not we. They) are resolved to just accept these as the cost of their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.”

        It’s just like in the Bible stories! All the violence, killing, death, nation destruction, god blowing sh!t to hell – it’s the brutal facts of life!

        “But he LOVES you!”
        -George Carlin

      2. There are tweets from people explicitly stating that while it’s sad so many children are lost, it’s a price we have to pay for “freedom”, or some such. I guess some are past the “hopes and prayers” stage.

        1. In light of the recent posting re: Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins, I’m interested in hearing from the former about this massacre.

          Will he recommend a prayer vigil? This morning NPR reported a vigil. This seems to occur to people only after a massacre. Perhaps we needed a national prayer vigil prior to this massacre, and the one before and the one before . . . .

          Perhaps a national hotline number: “If you’re thinking about killing others – especially a group of elementary students – call this number. Option: call this other number to discuss suicide.”

  4. Similar to the bread joke: an English egg decides he wants to visit France. So he builds himself a catapult, straps himself in, and catapults himself across the channel. He lands hard, knocks the wind out of himself, and exclaims “oeuf!”

  5. The elementary school slaughter was condemned by: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Mitch McConnel, Susan Collins, Ted Cruz, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama and Justin Trudeau according to Wikipedia (cited in order of apperance). Good to know some famous politicians condemn murder of children. Thoughts and prayers.

    1. “Thoughts”

      We need to start asking precisely what “thoughts” are being given out to us … [deleted] so outrageous.

      1. I have no opinions about gun control issues. But I am amused by the reaction of religious leaders. According to this, Jesus man said, ‘I believe the little children that died are in heaven, safely in the arms of Jesus.
        Let’s all pray for their families that God comforts them with the special comfort only he can give.’


  6. My comment is missing so I put an addendum :

    strike out “sadly” – because there is nothing sad about it – and put “I love Joe Jackson, but nobody can ever out-do the original Calloway as shown in the video – simply genius!”

  7. Yesterday’s shooting has overshadowed news about some important primary elections, particularly in Georgia. Trump staked a lot of political capital on two primary elections in that state: for governor and secretary of state. In both, his endorsed candidates lost badly. Trump wanted particularly revenge against Brad Raffensperger, the incumbent secretary of state, who after the 2020 election refused Trump’s pleading to corruptly overturn the election results that showed Biden had won the state. Raffensperger defeated the Trumpist candidate, Jody Hice, 52.3% to 33.4%. Pundits will now debate whether Trump’s dominance of the Republican Party is fading, and, if so, does it mean Trumpism without Trump will also decline? At this point, these question cannot be answered. But, certainly, if Trumpism remains should Trump exit the scene then democracy is still in deep trouble.

    1. The overwhelming margins surprised me. My cynical side says GA GOP voters were essentially voting in fear of Abrams as governor rather than out of any particular preference for Kemp and Raffensperger over against Trump’s candidates.

      1. Some analysts are saying the results reflect the fact that some Democrats voted GOP in the primary. GA evidently allows that. Each voter simply choses which ballot, Dem or GOP, they want. Voting for one party in the primary doesn’t prevent a voter from voting for the other party in the general election.

        1. Yes many states allow any registered voter to vote in ONE primary – i.e. Dem or GOP, but not both in the same cycle. In a situation like this where one party has a single dominant candidate (Dems, Abrams), it makes some sense to vote in the other primary. I did that myself in the 2016 presidential election – opted to vote in the GOP primary where it might matter (ultimately, it didn’t), rather than just be one more endorsement vote for Clinton.

          I’m ambivalent about the process. On the one hand, parties are private organizations. They should absolutely be allowed to limit party voting to party members, if that’s their choice. On the other, in districts or states dominated by a single party, allowing everyone to vote in the primary is closer to the American ideal that all the constituents (i.e. we the people) get to elect our leaders. I guess for independents like me, it is a good thing that the parties themselves regularly (but not always) feel it is in their own best interests to open the primary voting to non-party members. Because forcing them to do so at the point of a gun is probably not the best solution, but them not doing so is also not the best solution. The parties voluntarily doing so seems to be the ‘least worst’ option.

          1. Given the chance in 2000, I would have voted for John McCain over George W. Bush in the Republican presidential primary, especially after the Bushies pulled their dirty tricks in South Carolina, including the whisper campaign that the daughter McCain had adopted from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.

            Alas, Florida does not permit such cross-over primary voting.

  8. The sax player on the right during the dance routine who cautiously sways as the dancers fly past (~2:00) looks like a man who’s been kicked in the head a few times during rehearsal. What an amazing performance by all.

    1. Ken do you know if that includes the shooter’s grandmother, or is that a count of the ‘on-site’ deaths?

  9. I am not sure about that mass shooting number. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one where four or more people are killed. Some sites (such as the Gun Violence Archive) don’t use that definition. Looking at the Gun Violence Archive’s Visit own numbers , the number of incidents that meet that definition for 2022 is 10.

  10. 1895 – Playwright, poet and novelist Oscar Wilde is convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.

    Wilde got a long narrative poem out of his stay in stir, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

    After all, as Hunter Thompson’s character observed in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when he believed he was about to be arrested for defrauding an innkeeper, “Many fine books have been written in prison.” 🙂

  11. Can I just add a little levity, and express sincere thanks to Trouteyes for his/her caption enabling me to identify Robert Wadlow from his position in the photograph; this might just trump the similar “penguin is the one on the right” comment!

    1. Yup, “Robert Wadlow, tallest human in recorded history (back, middle)” was just a teeny bit unnecessary!

  12. The trash pandas are being lured by the sound of a recorder, not a flute? (Unless that’s another difference between British and US English.)

  13. I think Kissinger’s comments are not helpful. Ceding territory to Russia will only encourage further invasions, at least as long as Putin is in power.
    There are rumours he’s a terminal cancer patient, but I don’t know how much credence to give those.
    Whichever way he’s removed from power, until then it is kinda suicidal for Ukraine -and the West- to give in to Putin’s demands.
    As Churchill remarked to Neville Chamberlain (I think our host posted this quote recently): “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.”

  14. “Robert Wadlow, tallest human in recorded history (back, middle) with his parents and siblings”
    – I’m so glad they pointed him out lol!

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