Friday: Hili dialogue

July 8, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning—we’ve made it through another week because it’s TCCIF (thank Ceiling Cat it’s Friday). Yes, Friday, July 8. 2022: National Chocolate with Almonds Day. It’s also National Ice Cream Sundae Day, World Kebab Day, Be A Kid Again Day, and Air Force and Air Defense Forces Day in Ukraine.

Breaking news: Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, was assassinated this morning in Nara, Japan, where he was giving a speech. He was only 67, and had served as PM for eight years: a long time in Japan. The weapon was a gun, and they have a suspect in custody:  41-year-old Yamagami Tetsuya.  Here’s a photo of Abe from the NYT labeled, ” Credit…Kyodo News, via Associated Press.”

Wine of the Day: I think I paid about $25 for this wine, but I discarded the empty bottle on which I’d written the price. At any rate, I chose it to accompany the weekly t-bone steak I need to keep my constitution strong for writing this website. The Cabernet in it (see Parker’s “94” review below) is immediately detectable, but the wine also has a Rhone-like black olive flavor: it’s like a blend of Cabernet and Chateauneuf, but a bit lighter. It also had berry overtones, and was even better the second day.  I suspect it will improve over five or so years, but this was all I had. I’ll let Robert Parker, my erstwhile wine guru, do the talking:

Rating: 94/100. This is such a fun edition of this wine with a fluttering heart sketched onto the front label. I imagine that the heart could be dedicated to proprietor Luca Sanjust’s rambunctious mother who recently passed away. Made with organic fruit, the Petrolo 2018 Val d’Arno di Sopra Torrione is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine opens to a dark and rich appearance with punchy aromas of tart cherry and wild berry. Warm aromas of tobacco, spice and cedar wood appear gradually as the wine opens in the glass.

Recommended if you see it at a decent price, but I suspect it will be hard to find.

Stuff that happened on July 8 includes:

  • 1497 – Vasco da Gama sets sail on the first direct European voyage to India.

Here’s his first route there and back. He died in India on the third of his voyages, and is now buried in Lisbon. On this first voyage, he left Lisbon on On 8 July 1497 and returned on August 29 two years later. Half his crew had died.

I’ve never seen this most famous icon of American liberty, but here’s a bit of lore:

Although no immediate announcement was made of the Second Continental Congress’s vote for independence—and so the bell could not have rung on July 4, 1776, related to that vote—bells were rung on July 8 to mark the reading of the United States Declaration of Independence. While there is no contemporary account of the Liberty Bell ringing, most historians believe it was one of the bells rung. After American independence was secured, the bell fell into relative obscurity until, in the 1830s, the bell was adopted as a symbol by abolitionist societies, who dubbed it the “Liberty Bell”.

The bell acquired its distinctive large crack some time in the early 19th century—a widespread story claims it cracked while ringing after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.

It’s in Philadelphia:

  • 1879 – Sailing ship USS Jeannette departs San Francisco carrying an ill-fated expedition to the North Pole.

Trapped in the ice for two years, and then crushed and sunk in the briny, the ship. didn’t make it. Only 13 survived of the crew of 33. Here’s the Jeannette before the expedition.

Here’s Soapy, so called because he scammed people with bars of soap supposedly containing money. He was killed by a gold miner whom he’d swindled, and is buried outside the Skagway city cemetery.


Soapy’s unprepossessing grave:

  • 1932 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average reaches its lowest level of the Great Depression, closing at 41.22.
  • 1960 – Francis Gary Powers is charged with espionage resulting from his flight over the Soviet Union.

Shot down by a Soviet missile (he parachuted out of his U-2 spy plane), Powers spent two years in a Russian prison before he was returned in a prisoner swap. Here is is the the U-2.

Here’s the Dear Leader himself with another odious dictator:


And if you want a laugh, go to the Wikipedia page “List of Kim Jong-Il’s titles“. There are dozens of them, including:

Dear Leader, Who is a Perfect Incarnation of the Appearance that a Leader Should Have
Shining Star of Paektu Mountain
Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander
Great Man, Who Is a Man of Deeds
Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven
World Leader of The 21st Century

They loved the guy! LOL!

  • 2021 – President Joe Biden announces that the official conclusion of the U.S. involvement in the War in Afghanistan will be on August 31, 2021.

Da Nooz:

Look at this! It came via Matthew. Go outside at 7:15 EDT so you can be part of this!

*Boris Johnson is toast, so pat yourself on the back if you voted that he was on the way out. (I suspect there was some post facto voting here):

Boris Johnson said on Thursday that he would step down as Britain’s prime minister, after a wholesale rebellion of his cabinet, a wave of government resignations and a devastating loss of party support prompted by his handling of the the latest scandal that has engulfed his leadership.

Mr. Johnson said he would stay on in his post until the Conservative Party chooses a new leader, which could take several months. He said he expected the timetable for his departure and the selection of a successor to be decided on Monday by a committee of senior Conservative lawmakers.

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader,” Mr. Johnson said in remarks outside Downing Street. “The process of choosing that new leader should begin now.”

Mr. Johnson’s resignation brings an abrupt end to a tumultuous tenure that was distinguished by the landslide victory three years ago and a successful drive to pull Britain out of the European Union, but that collapsed under the weight of a relentless series of scandals.

Done and dusted, as they say!

*Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter  for kneeling on the neck and killing George Floyd, was already serving 22½ years for those crimes, but now has been sentenced on federal charges as well. Chauvin got 21 years for violating Floyd’s civil rights, with seven months off for time served.  But he won’t spend any extra time in jail, as the sentence was imposed to run concurrently with the murder and manslaughter charges.

Chauvin initially pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, but he changed his plea in December. At the time, he also admitted guilt in a separate federal indictment in connection with allegations that he deprived a 14-year-old boy of his civil rights in an encounter in September 2017.

The guilty plea allowed Chauvin to avoid another high-profile trial. The sentence reflects 20 years for the charges related to Floyd and five months for the other case.

Chauvin spoke briefly before he was sentenced, telling the Floyd family that he wished them “all the best in their life,” but did not apologize.

*In another guilty verdict, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, partner of Elizabeth Holmes in the Theranos scandal, was convicted on all 12 counts with which he was charged: 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He could be sentenced fo 20 years on each count, but that won’t happen. I’m curious, though to see what the sentences will be for both Balwani and Holmes, who was found guilty of 4 of 11 charges). Holmes wlll be sentenced in September. More about that later today.

*James Caan, the actor most famous for playing Sonny ‘Corleone in the first “Godfather” film, has died at 82. No cause was announced.

Caan was originally cast in Al Pacino’s role in the mob classic, but he soon took over as Santino “Sonny” Corleone, the hair-trigged eldest son of a mob family. “The character is a real ballbreaker,” Caan told Rolling Stone in 1981. Although his character was dispatched early in the saga, Caan’s volcanic portrayal of Sonny resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

As Caan told Rolling Stone, Coppola later wanted to cast him as the lead in Apocalypse Now (ultimately played by Martin Sheen), but he and the director couldn’t agree on a fee. The instance was one of dozens of roles that Caan reportedly turned down as he eschewed blockbusters for more challenging work.

“They want me to play Sonny for the rest of my life,” Caan said, and after briefly returning to the character in a one-scene cameo flashback in The Godfather Part II, he took on roles that avoided the stereotype. He appeared in off-beat fare like 1973’s Slither and Cinderella Liberty. He starred as a self-destructive gambling addict in the 1974’s now-cut classic The Gambler, the foil to Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice in the Funny Girl sequel Funny Lady and as a superstar athlete-turned-revolutionary in the 1974 sci-fi sports film Rollerball.

Here’s a “volcanic” scene in which Sonny beats up his sister’s husband for hitting her.

*Brittney Griner, the NBA star on trial in Russia for smuggling hashish vaping oil, has pleaded guilty, shortening a trial in a country where 99% of the accused are convicted. Gringer is hoping for a diplomatic solution: a prisoner swap.

Appearing before a judge outside the Russian capital on the second day of her trial, Ms. Griner said she had unintentionally carried a banned substance into the country because she had packed in a hurry. The Russian authorities say they found vape cartridges with 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage when Ms. Griner arrived in February to play basketball, and she has been detained ever since, facing 10 years in prison in a penal colony.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Ms. Griner said in English, which was then translated into Russian, according to a Reuters reporter in the courtroom.

Ms. Griner told the court she would say more on the next day of her trial, scheduled for July 14. She is charged with illegal drug possession and with smuggling a “significant amount.”

By pleading guilty, Ms. Griner has potentially accelerated her case’s conclusion, clearing a path for either a deal with the United States or, perhaps, a request for clemency.

With a guilty verdict an all but a foregone conclusion in a Russian legal system that heavily favors the prosecution, her best hope, experts say, is that the Biden administration secure her freedom by releasing a Russian held in the United States. The name of one prisoner in particular has emerged: Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence.

I wouldn’t consider 0.7 grams of hashish oil to be a “significant amount”!

*Everyone’s memory, it seems, gets worse as they age, but Dr. Richard Restak, a neurologist and clinical professor at George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine and Health, says that this decline is not inevitable. In the NYT he offers “Seven tips to protect your memory.” Here they are, but go to the article to see what he means:

  1. Pay more attention
  2. Find regular everyday memory challenges
  3. Play games
  4. Read more novels (you have to remember what’s happened earlier in the book
  5. Beware of technology (it impedes our ability to focus)
  6. Work with a mental health professional if you need to (mood affects what you can remember)
  7. Determine whether there is cause for concern (some memory slips are normal, but some are not, and may indicate a problem like dementia)

Finally, a picture of Dolly the sheep sent by a friend who’s visiting the National Museum in Edinburgh. I didn’t know she’d been stuffed and mounted there. Monday was the 26th anniversary of her origin through cloning (h/t Lepus).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is casting a cold eye on life and on death:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m looking critically.
In Polish:
Ja: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Patrzę krytycznym okiem.

And Baby Kulka resting:

From Merilee. Will Larry really leave 10 Downing Street?


From Doc Bill:

From I Can Haz Cheeseburger via reader Malcolm

I love this very short video from the why you should have a duck Twitter page:

The Tweet of God:

From Jez, who can’t believe that New Zealand is this woke. I can, but I’m not sure if the question is real.  The thread suggests a possible professor who wrote the exam, but you’ll have to look for yourself as there’s still no convincing evidence that this is real:

From Luana. An “A” is a 4, and a “B” a 3, so the average GPA was halfway between and A and a B in 2005 (it must be higher now), and at Brown it was an A- in 2012.  Can it get higher than an “A”? The tweet below was deleted for some reason, but the data remain:

Update: Though the tweet has disappeared, but here’s a chart of grade inflation in four-year American colleges. This is from Inside Higher Ed, which adds:

A is by far the most common grade on both four-year and two-year college campuses (more than 42 percent of grades). At four-year schools, awarding of A’s [the red line] has been going up five to six percentage points per decade and A’s are now three times more common than they were in 1960.

From Simon we have Larry the Spokescat:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. Here’s a link to a load of articles memorializing Dick Lewontin:

Like all rational Brits, Matthew despises Boris. Sound up for this 9-minute bio of Johnson.

Platypus attack! If it was a male ‘pus, he could also have used his venomous leg spurs.

Matthew says, “This is the work of jokers in Parliament Square. Better than an attack on the Capitol.”

23 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, was assassinated this morning … . The weapon was a gun …

    Sounds like cultural appropriation by the Japanese. Maybe this makes up for the kimonos.

    (Sorry, I’ve got a thing for gallows humor.)

  2. Got my earworm for the day: “Yakety Sax.” 🎷
    Love that tweet of God, BTW! I just ordered his book (not the Bible, Koran, Vedas, Guru Granth…)

    1. Here’s a live version of “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph, the great saxophonist who co-wrote and introduced the song:

  3. The “Led by Donkeys” clip about Boris’ johnson also contained amusing (and disturbing) narratives about Boris Johnson.

  4. Memory aids in conflict (at least for me) –

    Find regular everyday memory challenges.
    Play games.

    Beware of technology (it impedes our ability to focus).

    I play games and do the crosswords on my computer.

    Now what do I do?


  5. Mr. Johnson’s resignation brings an abrupt end to a tumultuous tenure that was distinguished by the landslide victory three years ago …

    Took Dick Nixon less than two years to go from his landslide victory in the 1972 US presidential election (60+% of the popular vote; +503 electoral-college votes) to his disgraced resignation.

    But then those were the days when US politicians were still capable of shame, and the GOP was still a functioning party that could deliver bad news to its lawbreaking leader.

  6. Aside from Sonny Corleone, my favorite role of Jimmy Caan’s was in the title role of director Michael Mann’s 1981 feature-film debut, Thief.

    1. One of my favorite Caan characters was Walter in Elf. His dead-pan humor in that movie, opposite the over-the-top Will Farrell had me rolling. I also enjoyed the (forgotten?) movie Alien Nation.

        1. Yeah, Caan was great in Misery, confined to bed and wheelchair, opposite Kathy Bates in her breakout roll as the ever-loonier Annie.

        2. Yeah, Misery is pretty much the perfect horror film. I also think it’s the best adaptation of a King book.

  7. Your friendly pedantic astronomer writes apropos the claim that “Once a year, for a rare moment at 7:15 AM EDT on July 8th, 99% of the world’s population will be in the Sun.”:

    The Sun’s declination, which is the latitude on the Earth’s surface at which it is directly overhead at noon, varies very slowly in the two or three weeks either side of the solstice. This means that the phenomenon depicted in that map of the Earth is repeated every day from the start of June to the middle of July, with only a negligible variation. It’s certainly not unique to one day each year.

    Moreover, if you follow the link to the page where this claim originates, you’ll find that they are including regions in the three shaded bands which cover the western half of the United States to get their figure of 99% of humanity. But those are regions where the Sun is actually BELOW the horizon, in varying levels of twilight. That’s not ‘in the Sun’ nor (as claimed in the article itself) ‘some degree of sunlight’.

    That’s just shoddy reporting beneath a grossly misleading click-bait headline, much like the recent article on evolution in the Guardian about which PCC(E) wrote such an excoriating critique.

  8. Done and dusted, as they say!

    Not yet. A lot of people don’t want him to stay on as a caretaker PM. In fact, I don’t see how he can since almost nobody will work for him anymore.

    So this is going to run and run until he is actually out the door.

  9. I was wrong, I thought he would get away with it. If you can get away with ‘Partygate’, you can get away with anything, or so I thought. Apparently not.

  10. Everyone talks about James Caan’s roles in “Rollerball” or “The Godfather”. But I prefer one of his first appearances. Namely as Alan Bourdillion Traherne in Howard Hawk’s western “El Dorado” (1966) alongside acting legends like Robert Mitchum and John Wayne.

  11. Having lived in Japan long term as a younger man I was AMAZED by Abe’s assassination! Guns are almost unknown there w/ gun deaths being negligible. Which is nice. Every Japanese person I’ve spoken to about guns over the decades agree guns are too dangerous for normal people, anywhere, to own. I tend to agree.

  12. Fun coincidence: I also received a picture of Dolly this week, from my daughter who’s been traveling in Scotland.

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