Sunday: Hili dialogue

July 31, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s the day of rest for everyone, but especially cats, who, unlike God, rest every day of the week: it’s Sunday, July 31, 2022, and August will be here tomorrow. And it’s National Cotton Candy Day, the most insubstantial of confections (or foods).  Here’s how it’s made (pure sugar)

It’s also National Raspberry Cake Day, National Avocado Day, Shredded Wheat Day, and National Jump for Jelly Beans Day.

And there’s a Google Doodle today (click in it to play the French game of pétanque, a game that uses boules.

Stuff that happened on July 31 include:

  • 781 – The oldest recorded eruption of Mount Fuji (Traditional Japanese date: Sixth day of the seventh month of the first year of the Ten’o (天応) era).
  • 1492 – All remaining Jews are expelled from Spain when the Alhambra Decree takes effect.

Here’s a signed copy of the Edict of Expulsion (note that this is when Columbus left Castile for the Americas). Nobody wants the Jews:

Certainly the most powerful of the Mughal emperors, Aurungzeb expanded the empire to its greatest extent, and also patronized the arts and architecture. But he also did his best to destroy Hinduism.  Here’s a miniature painting of Aurungzeb holding a hawk:

  • 1703 – Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but is pelted with flowers.
  • 1790 – The first U.S. patent is issued, to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.

Here’s U.S. Patent #1 given to Hopkins; note that it’s signed by George Washington.

  • 1874 – Dr. Patrick Francis Healy became the first African-American inaugurated as president of a predominantly white university, Georgetown University.

Well, Healy was only one-sixteenth black, as his mother was one-eighth black and his father was white. Further, Healy considered himself white and was regarded as white. Nevertheless, he’s seen as a pathbreaker. Here’s his photo:

It lasted until November, and was one of the bloodiest battles of WWI, with estimates of up to 400,000 casualties

Here’s a photo from the battle, labeled, “Wounded men at the side of a road after the Battle of Menin Road”:

  • 1941 – The Holocaust: Under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring orders SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish question.”

Here’s a letter often used to show Holocaust denialists that the Germans planned to exterminate the Jews. It’s a letter to Martin Luther (not the theologian but a Nazi undersecretary) from Reinhard Heydrich, asking for assistance in effecting the “Endlösung der Judenfrage” (Final Solution of the Jewish Question). Both men had attended the Wannsee Conference, convened in 1942 to get the entire government apparatus on board with the “Final Solution”.  I’ve highlighted the “final solution” bit:

At the time, the ration was one-eight of an imperial pint per sailor. Below: sailors lining up for their tot. In the 17th century it was a gallon of beer per man per day, but then changed to rum, whose amount was gradually reduced over the years.

  • 1991 – The United States and Soviet Union both sign the START I Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first to reduce (with verification) both countries’ stockpiles.
  • 2006 – Fidel Castro hands over power to his brother, Raúl.
  • 2012 – Michael Phelps breaks the record set in 1964 by Larisa Latynina for the most medals won at the Olympics

He has 28!

Da Nooz:

*Say it ain’t so, Joe! But it is so: President Biden has had a relapse of covid-19. He’s asymptomatic, but the virus, which apparently had become undetectable using the test, came back, and Uncle Joe has to isolate again. It’s nothing to worry about, though:

President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus again on Saturday morning, a rebound attributed to the Paxlovid treatment he was taking, but he has not experienced a recurrence of symptoms, the White House physician said.

Mr. Biden “continues to feel quite well,” the physician, Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor, said in a memo released by the White House. “This being the case, there is no reason to reinitiate treatment at this time, but we will obviously continue close observation,” he added.

The positive test, however, means that Mr. Biden will resume “strict isolation procedures,” as Dr. O’Connor put it, in keeping with medical advice. The White House said he would no longer make a planned trip to his home in Wilmington, Del., on Sunday or a work trip to Michigan on Tuesday.

Mr. Biden first tested positive for the virus on July 21. After five days of isolation, he tested negative on Tuesday evening and returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, declaring that his relatively mild case demonstrated how much progress had been made in fighting the virus. But doctors were watching for signs of Paxlovid rebound and tested him daily since. He tested negative on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Saturday morning’s positive result.

Apparently rebounds like this aren’t that rare in people taking the antiviral Paxlovid: studies vary from 1-6%, and most are asymptomatic, like Biden’s. But he’s still capable of transmitting the virus, and has to sequester himself in the White House for another short while.

*Clarence Thomas has voluntarily given up teaching the Constitutional Law seminar he’s held at George Washington University for the past eleven years. He’s opinionated, but he’s also thin-skinned, and his decision to step away from he classroom came after he concurred in the decision that canned Roe v. Wade and the students rebelled.

At GWU, some 7,000 students petitioned the university to fire Thomas, who has taught a constitutional law seminar since 2011. A separate petition sponsored by MoveOn is demanding Thomas’s impeachment, citing not only his concurrence in the abortion case but also the alleged participation of his wife, Virginia Thomas, in the rally ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and her efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The petition thus far has 1.2 million signatures.

To its credit, the university refused to fire Thomas. In an email Tuesday, Provost Christopher Bracey and GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew, while disavowing Thomas’s views, wrote that the university honors “academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry.” They added that it’s not the university’s job to “shield” students from opinions they might find offensive, they said. Hear, hear.

But Thomas has now withdrawn of his own accord. He’s no longer listed on GW Law’s course list. His co-lecturer and former clerk, Gregory Maggs, sent an email to students who had registered for the seminar, saying that Thomas is “unavailable” to teach this fall.

Kathleen Park, a WaPo columnist, regrets his decision, which she imputes to his age, not to cowardice:

His recusal from teaching is a loss for the university and for the students whose self-anointed betters have effectively denied those who wanted a chance to hear Thomas — and perhaps to challenge him. The self-righteousness of the close-minded is nothing short of bigotry.

I agree, and though I couldn’t disagree with Thomas more, the University sent a mixed message: while refusing to deep-six him, they also “disavowed his views.” It’s not the University’s job to take public stands on issues (they didn’t name them), and they should have said, as the University of Chicago would have, “We honor the academic freedom of all our teachers.” Period.

*Back in Ukraine, 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war died in an apparent shelling or missile attack on a prison in a separatist-controlled region of the country. Each side is blaming the other for the attack, but I doubt Ukraine would want to kill their own soldiers! Some think that the deed was done by Russia to “cover up atrocities.” Meanwhile, Russia won’t let the Red Cross near the site, a violation of what’s mandated by international law.

Ukrainian and Russian officials blamed each other Saturday for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an attack on a prison in a separatist-controlled area. The International Red Cross asked to visit the prison to make sure the scores of wounded POWs had proper treatment but said their request had not been granted so far.

Meanwhile, Russia kept on launching attacks on several Ukrainian cities, hitting a school and a bus station.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the ICRC and the United Nations have a duty to react after the shelling Friday of the prison complex in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province.

“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskyy said in a video address late Friday. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and wounded another 75. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday issued a list naming 48 Ukrainian fighters, aged 20 to 62, who died in the attack; it was not clear if the ministry had revised its fatality count.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has organized civilian evacuations and worked to monitor the treatment of POWs held by Russia and Ukraine, said it requested access to the prison “to determine the health and condition of all the people present on-site at the time of the attack.”

. . .But the organization said late Saturday that its request to access the prison had not been granted.

“Granting ICRC access to POWs is an obligation of parties to conflict under the Geneva Conventions,” the ICRC said on Twitter. “We will not stop seeking access to these POWs and to all POWs of this international armed conflict who we have not had access to yet.”

I’m betting that Russia, which is acting ruthlessly did it, and if so you can chalk up another war crime to Putin and his flunkies.

*Canada’s Supreme court, overturning a lower-court decision, has ruled that if two people agree to have sex only if the man wears a condom, it becomes sexual assault if he doesn’t do so.:

The decision sends a British Columbia man back to trial for sexual assault, and sets legal precedent in Canada, further clarifying the law governing sexual consent in a country that has been raising the bar for it for decades.

“In no other jurisdiction in the world is it as clear that when someone has agreed to sex with a condom, and removed it without their consent, this constitutes sexual assault or rape,” said Lise Gotell, professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Alberta, and an expert on sexual consent and Canadian law.

“The court says very clearly there is no consent in that circumstance — it doesn’t matter whether or not the non-consensual condom removal was overt, or if it was deceptive,” she added.

The case in question involves two people who interacted online in 2017, met in person to see if they were sexually compatible, and then met to have sex. The woman, whose name was shielded by a publication ban, had predicated her agreement to sex on the use of a condom. During one of two sexual encounters at that meeting, the accused man didn’t wear a condom, unknown to the woman, who later took preventive H.I.V. treatment.

Sexual assault/rape seems a bit harsh to me for this act, though it clearly is breaking consent, and if the man has an STD and knows it, it becomes even more of a crime. But I’ll let the female readers decide if the Canadian high court ruled properly.

*Now this is plain weird. The leader of Spain has urged his male countrymen to go without ties as an energy saving measure!  What energy is being saved: the effort to tie a tie?  Apparently wearing a tie makes you hot and liable to turn up the a.c., which uses energy.  Of all the schemes I’ve seen to go green, this is the looniest:

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has asked government officials and people working in the private sector to save energy by giving up wearing neckties at work.

Appearing at a news conference in an open-necked white shirt and blue jacket, Sánchez explained he had dressed less formally not as a nod to the casual Friday custom but to curb utility use — presumably air-conditioning, but he did not spell that out.

“I´d like you to note that I am not wearing a tie. That means that we can all make savings from an energy point of view,” the prime minister said at the news conference called to summarize his government’s annual performance.

He said he encouraged his ministers and public officials, “that if not necessary, don’t use a tie.”

Spain has sweltered for more than a month, with temperatures in parts of the country often surpassing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The government has urged people to reduce electricity costs by not overusing air conditioning.

Here be the green PM. Okay, he means well, but would tee-shirts and shorts be even better. (Yes, I know, Spaniards regard shorts as Satan’s Garb.)

Credit: Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via AP

*If you’re still checking luggage given the high rates of luggage loss combined with waits by the conveyer belt, you’re a sap. ALWAYS carry on your stuff unless you’re moving. I went to Antarctica for five weeks with a carryon smaller than the regulation size. The Wall Street Journal gives some really good tips in its new article, “How the experts pack their carry-on bags.” I found that I already do everything they recommend. The most valuable advice: use packing cubes. I swear by the Dot & Dot product, which is light, comes in different colors, and has a mesh top so you can see what’s in it. And roll your shirts and pants (always lightweight polyester or nylon for quick drying) to save space. I’d recommend a set of large cubes and a set of medium ones.

I’m not the big expert in this, for my friend Andrew Berry traveled to India for over a month with just a briefcase. The trick is to wash your clothes in your room or hotel, or, in India, get them cleaned by a dhobi, who will beat the hell out of them for just a few rupees.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili sees a small worm—or maybe she’s imagining it.

Hili: Astonishing.
A: What?
Hili: What is this little worm looking for on my paw?
In Polish:
Hili: Zdumiewające.
Ja: Co?
Hili: Czego ten robaczek szuka na mojej łapce?
. . . and a picture of Kulka and Szaron by Paulina:


From Mark:

From Laurie Ann:

From Anna, a cartoon by Scott Metzger:

The Tweet of God. Many people think that quantum mechanics is evidence for God—I got an email asserting that the other day:

Why you should have a duck:

From Simon. There is a difference in the frequency of usage: Americans don’t use “shit” as often as an adjective. I wonder if Brian’s change will stick:

Another tweet from God, this time sent by reader Barry, who wrote “You half agree with this.”  Well, God left out ducks!

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a mention of “the final solution”, more ammunition against the persistent Holocaust deniers:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first one is from the Live and Learn Department:

Look at these birds!

A nice cat picture. Oh yes, there’s a human in there, too:

This isn’t so shaky, and it’s a lovely video. I’d love to see these things in the wild, but I hear it isn’t so easy:

23 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. Dear professor,
    I am a Spaniard and quite fond of shorts in these high temperatures! None of my relatives or friends consider them Satan’s garb. 😉
    I agree that our President’s suggestion is indeed weird.

    1. I’ve never been to Spain…do a lot of guys wear ties there? In America, tie-wearing has been in steady decline for years, and Covid made it worse. I rarely wear a tie, and I find them uncomfortable, and yes, if it’s hot out, they make you hotter- it’s like wearing a turtle-neck.

  2. What I don’t understand, is cotton candy _flavor_. It tastes different from, but the ingredient is probably identical to, cherry, or something.

    There’s even cotton candy flavor grapes – actual freakin’ grapes, and actual cotton candy flavor.

    1. Um…no.

      Those flavors are artificial chemical additives to the sugar.

      The restaurant has a cotton candy spinner, and the ingredients listed on the cartons of sugar don’t say anything more specific than “artificial flavor”. I don’t think we really want to know.


      1. But what is the chemical identity of “cotton candy flavor”?

        Nootkatone is grapefruit.
        Sotolone is fake maple syrup.
        __________ is cotton candy.

        It’s gotta be somethin’!

        1. I poked around and found that trade names for the most common flavors are pink vanilla and blue raspberry. Its probably a chemical blend of some kind.

          1. Excellent

            I bet concentration is the key – the “raspberry” too … might get some raspberry jam and try it with vanilla.

  3. Well, I had a corona infection a few weeks ago despite triple vaccination. Fortunately, it was really mild, i.e., I only had a severe cold and irritating cough, but I was not bedridden with fever, so that I could pursue normal activities in isolation.

  4. Unfortunately, showing documents containing the phrase “final solution” doesn’t do much to convince the denialists, since it is an ambiguous euphemism that theoretically could mean, or could have meant, almost anything. And as we all know, if one has strong ideological, emotional or social reasons for not wanting to believe something, all the evidence in the world isn’t going to move you. Hence flat earthers, moon landing deniers, young earth creationists, etc.

  5. The Clarence Thomas incident is one of many that revolves around the issue of academic freedom and free speech for faculty members. Certainly, the university was correct in rejecting calls for Thomas to be fired. But, there is a related question that I believe has been discussed in academic circles, but not so much by the general public: who should be hired in the first place?

    For many years, conservatives have complained that the overwhelming majority of faculty members in the humanities and social sciences are liberal. They argue that colleges and universities should make a more concerted effort to hire conservatives so that students are exposed to a diverse range of views, allowing them to make up their own minds on how to come down on any given issue. From a very practical perspective, how would this be implemented? Probably in most colleges and universities, the various course topics are usually taught by one instructor, particularly for advanced, professional or graduate courses. Take for example the course in constitutional law taught in law school. Anyone paying attention to the news knows that there is great controversy on how the constitution should be interpreted. Now, suppose that a university has an opening for an instructor in this course. How does it choose whom to hire? Based on credentials alone, the hiring committee has narrowed the candidates down to two – a liberal and conservative, who disagree on almost everything about the constitution. Carrying on the example, suppose the hiring committee is composed of mostly liberals that reject the conservative’s understanding of the constitution. Why would one expect the committee to hire the conservative when it believes that person will provide the students with a biased in the wrong direction view of the constitution?

    Even if a university has two professors teaching controversial topics such as constitutional law or American history – one a liberal and one a conservative — are the students really being exposed to viewpoint diversity? I don’t think so since students will be taught by only one of the professors. Hence, viewpoint diversity on campus, although welcome in theory, is extremely difficult to implement on campus. Students desirous of exploring the “clash of ideas” need to look elsewhere than in their classrooms.

    1. In practice there is often a lot of overlap in content between courses, and under-pinning ideas can be relevant in multiple courses. Thus in arts/humanities and social-science courses the students would indeed benefit from having some fraction of the courses taught by a conservative.

  6. The ideal would be a moderate who is knowledgeable about the arguments coming from different directions, and they can describe them well. This would be exceedingly difficult to find and hire. However, another approach would be where the text books were crafted along those lines. But instructors would have to be persuaded to adapt those books.

  7. As with all publicly controversial issues, men should certainly be able have an opinion on the condom consent question. We are the ones who stand to be convicted in all cases of alleged sexual assault in which a penis is involved. Juries who hear cases of men charged with sexual assault will always include some men. The Canadian Supreme Court has five male justices (of nine). By definition it has the last word (except in Charter cases where the government can temporarily override its decision with the “notwithstanding clause”) and so arguments second-guessing its correctness are of no more relevance than in your country. They are fun to lose friends over, though.

    That said, I was surprised that the defence appealed the conviction given the facts reported at the time. If consent to intercourse was contingent on condom use, non-use unambiguously (to me) violates the consent terms. Since our concept of double jeopardy doesn’t exclude a re-trial on the same offence if the original acquittal was struck down on appeal (as here), the defendant has to stand trial again where this interpretation of consent will be part of the settled law.

    For disclosure, I should say I donated money to the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Legal Clinic who filed what Americans call an amicus curiae brief—I don’t know if we use that term in Canada—which supported that interpretation of consent. Money well spent.

    1. By definition it has the last word … and so arguments second-guessing its correctness are of no more relevance than in your country.

      “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

      Brown v. Allen (1953), concurring opinion by Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson

  8. 1703 – Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but is pelted with flowers.

    Inspiring Lou Reed? (If he wrote the lyrics for “Vicious”.)

    Meanwhile, Russia won’t let the Red Cross near the site, a violation of what’s mandated by international law.

    Is Russia still maintaining it’s assertion that there is no “war”, just a “denazification special military operation”? If so, then there can’t be any prisoners of war for the Red Cross to visit. Two birds, one stone.
    I’m not defending their claims – merely pointing out that one action is the logical consequence of the other. It won’t help any Russian soldiers in a war crimes trial, not that Russia is going to voluntarily surrender any of their criminals.

  9. Apropos removing ties in hot weather, as a kid in England in the 1970s, I had to wear a tie as part of my school uniform from age 7 to 15. It was always a red letter day each summer, usually in mid May, when the headmaster announced that we were allowed to remove our ties.

  10. Just today I had my first negative test following an 11-day-long Paxlovid rebound infection. The original infection lasted 8 days. I had one negative day in between. So, sick with COVID for 20 days in all. Mild symptoms throughout, but a long time to out of action.

  11. I go book shopping when abroad, so checked bags are essential to me. Of course the internet has made buying books from overseas much easier, but many museum guides and other specialist books are still hard to find online. Additionally, overseas shipping has become much more expensive after Covid, Brexit, inflation, and so on.

    And to be honest, I also dislike doing laundry on vacation, especially since I don’t have much downtime. I’m one of those travelers who makes over-detailed plans and tries to do as much sight-seeing as possible (I always joke about looking forward to having some free time after I get back). I usually take my holidays in September and October, so the airlines are less busy and there’s less chance of my checked bag getting lost.

  12. A comment on Biden’s Covid status. It is not clear if he is having a real Covid rebound or just a “positive Covid test rebound”. If the latter, he is now unable to infect anyone. We will know in a few days.

    It is very common for people recovered from Covid to test positive after testing negative. Often there is alternation for a while. The reason is that neither the PCR test (which detects viral RNA) or the antigen test (which detects segments of viral proteins) can distinguish between infectious viruses and harmless viral fragments. Moreover the tests are done by nasal swab which only tells you what is going on in the nose. A recovered patient has macrophages in the blood that have consumed viruses tagged with antibodies. They need to be gotten rid of and some are expelled through the nose. The presence of viral fragments will cause a positive test.

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