Monday: Hili dialogue

August 29, 2022 • 6:45 am

I put up an earlier post on the launching of the Orion module; go check here to see if the launch is still on. When I looked a while back they were having leakage problems with the hydrogen.

Top o’ the week to you; it’s Monday, August 29, 2022, and National Chop Suey Day, celebrating a dish that isn’t Chinese, but still culturally appropriated because it’s a dreadful mockery of real Chinese food. Unfortunately, that’s the only Chinese food I knew as a kid, as my mom made it all the time, sprinkling those dreadful canned dry noodles over the top comme ça:

It’s also Lemon Juice Day, National Swiss Winegrowers Day, More Herbs, Less Salt Day (brought to you by the Leisure Fascists®), and International Day against Nuclear Tests.

Yesterday I found the copy of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam given to me by my Uncle Moe; I thought I had lost it.  I must have been in my early teens, or even earlier when I got it. It made a big impression on me as a reminder of life’s priorities, and I can still quote from it.  This is the Fitzgerald translation—the best one.

And here’s Uncle Bernie (left) and Uncle Moe (right) at the links (naturally at a Jewish country club).

Stuff that happened on August 29 includes:

A photo of Faraday with the caption, “Faraday holding a type of glass bar he used in 1845 to show magnetism affects light in dielectric material.”

Here’s a Reitwagen from that year. It doesn’t look comfortable, what with its wooden wheels:

Ishi, of the Yahi people, was taken in by anthropologists at Stanford and worked as a janitor. Lacking immunity to diseases of European origin, he was often ill and died of TB in 1916. (In college, the well known book Ishi in Two Worlds was required reading.) Here he is demonstrating how the Yahi made fire:

  • 1930 – The last 36 remaining inhabitants of St Kilda are voluntarily evacuated to other parts of Scotland.

A short video about the evacuation of St Kilda, whose inhabitants asked to be moved:

Here’s the RDS-1 “fat-man type Soviet bomb exploded in 1949):

Da Nooz:

*According to the Washington Post, a new covid vaccine will be here soon, so get ready to roll up your sleeves for shot #5. Like the others, it will be an mRNA vaccine, it will arrive soon after Labor Day, and it will be available to Americans over the age of 12—or, for the Moderna vaccine, over 18. But there are two problems. The first is that new variants are arising all the time, and, like the flu vaccine, the boosters are designed using predictions:

Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have asked the government for emergency use authorization for a bivalent booster that would be based on the earlier vaccine as well as target the now-prevalent BA.4/5 subvariants. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to give a green light in coming days. The Pfizer dose is for those 12 years and older; Moderna’s for 18 and older. In both cases, before the booster, a patient must have taken the two primary doses. But the new booster will be administered to anyone who has none, one or two of the previous booster shots.

The advantage of the bivalent booster is that it has a better chance of protecting against the variant that dominates today. No one knows how much better, but experts say it could boost the levels of protection, as well as the duration and the breadth. Unfortunately, it is still a booster, and there might need to be more. Science is still chasing the goal of a pan-coronavirus vaccine that will last a long time.

And here’s the second problem:

What’s different this time is that this booster is being rolled out before human clinical trials are complete. (The trials are getting underway.) This is a bit of a gamble that past is prologue — that the experience with billions of doses of the earlier vaccines shows they are safe and effective. Also, tests in mice show that the boosters work, and this testing method has been used often in the past with the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Well, if my doctor says to get one, I will, since he looks at the literature on boosters. My guess is that a yearly covid vaccine will be something we have to expect, like a flu vaccine. We will not lick covid like we licked polio. Oh, and this might be the last free vaccination; the government has ordered 175 million doses, but Congress hasn’t approved any more pandemic funding.

*The Associated Press has an article and a video interpreting the redactions (and non-redactions) in the government’s affidavit against Trump (the video is below).  Here are the four “takeaway lessons” from the affidavit as given by the AP:


Agents who inspected the boxes found special markings suggesting they included information from highly sensitive human sources or the collection of electronic “signals” authorized by a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

. . . The affidavit lists several markings, including ORCON, or “Originator Controlled.” That means officials at the intelligence agency responsible for the report did not want it distributed to other agencies without their permission.


Some of those classified records were mixed with other documents, the affidavit says, citing a letter from the Archives.

. . . Of most significant concern: “highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly (sic) identified.”


The affidavit makes clear yet again that Trump had numerous opportunities to return the documents to the government, but simply chose not to.

A lengthy process to retrieve the documents had been underway essentially since Trump left the White House. The document states that on or about May 6, 2021, the Archives made a request for the missing records “and continued to make requests until approximately late December 2021,” when it was informed 12 boxes were found and ready for retrieval from the club.


Trump has long insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that he fully cooperated with government officials and had every right to have the documents on site. On his social media site, he responded to the unsealing by continuing to vilify law enforcement.

He called it a “total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ” and said “WE GAVE THEM MUCH.” In another post, he offered just two words: “WITCH HUNT!!!”

And here’s a 2½-minute interpretive video from the AP:

*You’ve probably heard of the project to find doppelgängers—unrelated people that look so much alike that they could pass for identical twins. It’s been publicized, according to the NYT,

in a photography project by François Brunelle, a Canadian artist. The picture series, “I’m not a look-alike!,” was inspired by Mr. Brunelle’s discovery of his own look-alike, the English actor Rowan Atkinson.

Here are two pair of unrelated doppelgängers:

(from the NYT) Charlie Chasen and Michael Malone, Atlanta, 2014.
(from the NYT): Garrett Levenbrook and Roniel Tessler, New York, 2013.

But the really interesting thing is the genetic analysis. As the NYT says

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, Dr. Esteller and his team recruited 32 pairs of look-alikes from Mr. Brunelle’s photographs to take DNA tests and complete questionnaires about their lifestyles. The researchers used facial recognition software to quantify the similarities between the participants’ faces. Sixteen of those 32 pairs achieved similar overall scores to identical twins analyzed by the same software. The researchers then compared the DNA of these 16 pairs of doppelgängers to see if their DNA was as similar as their faces.

Dr. Esteller found that the 16 pairs who were “true” look-alikes shared significantly more of their genes than the other 16 pairs that the software deemed less similar. “These people really look alike because they share important parts of the genome, or the DNA sequence,” he said. That people who look more alike have more genes in common “would seem like common sense, but never had been shown,” he added.

Now a lot of those genes are surely involved in producing facial configuration and body type, accounting for the resemblance, but could those genes have other effects, like on behavior, or could they be physically linked on chromosome with genes affecting variation in behavior? In both cases one would expect that the physical similarity would be paralleled by behavioral similarities, though perhaps not as striking. We will know soon!

*Quillette has a long critique by Bo Winegard of the editorial in Nature Human Behavior that I discussed the other day. Two paragraphs from Winegard’s piece:

In plain language, this means that from now on, the journal will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.

. . . Imagine for a moment that this editorial were written, not by political progressives, but by conservative Catholics, who announced that any research promoting (even “inadvertently”) promiscuous sex, the breakdown of the nuclear family, agnosticism and atheism, or the decline of the nation state would be suppressed or rejected lest it inflict unspecified “harm” on vaguely defined groups or individuals. Many of those presently nodding along with Nature’s editors would have no difficulty identifying the subordination of science to a political agenda. One need not argue that opposing racism or promoting the nuclear family are dubious goals in order to also worry about elevating them over free inquiry and the dispassionate pursuit of understanding.

. . . Science is a human activity, and like all human activities, it is influenced by human values, human biases, and human imperfections. Those will never be eliminated. The banner of science has undoubtedly been waved to justify, excuse, or otherwise rationalize appalling crimes and atrocities, from the racial pseudoscience of the Nazis to the blank slatism (and Lysenkoism) of the communists. But the correct response to these distortions is not to endorse a highly partisan vision of science that promotes a progressive worldview, alienating all those who disagree and further encouraging doubt about the objectivity of scientific endeavor. The correct response is to preserve an adversarial vision of science that promotes debate, disagreement, and free inquiry as the best way to reach the truth.

*And an absorbing piece from the NYT: “How to do everything,” which gives 63 life hacks of varying utility. They include (I’ll take one from each of the nine rows) “how to knot a cherry stem with your tongue,” “how to become less angry,” “how to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s,” “how to forget something,” “how to tell a joke,” “how to escape a burning building,” “how to get someone out of a cult,” “how to write a love letter” (having written my share, I think this particular advice is worthless), and “how to pose for a photograph.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is supervising the Collecting of the Apples:

Hili: May I help you?
Małgorzata: I don’t think so.
Hili: So I will just watch.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy mogę ci pomóc?
Małgorzata: Nie sądzę.
Hili: To tylko popatrzę.

And a photo by Paulina of Szaron and Kukla cuddling:


From Things With Faces:

From Jean: a New Yorker cartoon by Mick Stevens:

From Stash Krod. I wondered why all those ketchup memes were appearing on the Internet!

Here’s the meme that originally got me puzzled:

The Tweet of God. The Big Guy is irascible these days (well, actually, he’s always been that way):

A bald eagle goes through TSA on a plane flight. The explanation is here: it’s a rescue eagle on its way to help celebrate a graduation (but was that necessary?)

From Malcolm; be sure to watch until the end:

From Simon: a list of stuff Trump could be tried for:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

From Matthew Cobb, who has a piece in today’s Sunday Post: an excerpt from his new book, The Genetic Age: Our Perilous Quest To Edit Life. The book is out in the UK, and will be out Nov. 15 in the U.S,, but with the title As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age (as usual, the UK title is better).

I’ll feature this on an upcoming Caturday, but at least look at the “cat” in the tweet. It has a willy in its mouth, and a woman’s trying to swap that for a sardine:

Matthew says, “This show that cats understand how mirrors work. Do they know they are in them?”   I’m not sure I agree, as the cat could simply be seeking solace from its staff when it sees a weird cat face in the mirror.

This is one of the rare ones that I understand more readily than Matthew:

22 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. Interesting that the disconcerted cats viewing their humans’ filtered faces on a screen seem well aware that the screen is projecting themselves and their humans, such that they look from screen to human and back as if to ascertain that the transformation onscreen is not real.

  2. Posh! The golf cart looks like (probably is) a Rolls-Royce.

    I once watched a little girl trying to break a board with a side kick. Her kicks were too feeble and she bounced off with her first two attempts. A third failure would have meant a failure at the belt test. But the kind instructor who was holding the board was full of smiles and good cheer. He put the board down and asked the girl to have a go at his chest. Poor man. Seeing a bigger target, the girl ran up and gave him an almighty whack with her right heel to the middle of his chest. He was not smiling when she broke the board with her perfect third attempt.

    1. Doing research for a paper while doing my English Lit degree, I came across the James Joyce/Nora letters one day in the University library. Suffice to say, I did not get a lot of work done that day; taking the book to my work area and reading the whole damn thing. It was a bit shocking to say the least. Never could look at Joyce the same after that. Added a whole new dimension to his work.

  3. Aside from the “Cats Reacting” video clip above, observing my own cats over the years has me fairly convinced that cats, at least some of them, do understand what they are seeing in a mirror. In particular our Coco Chanel, who like many cats is very economical in her expenditure of energy, routinely uses a mirror to keep tabs on what is going on around her rather than expend the energy to lift her head up and look around.

  4. … look at the “cat” in the tweet. It has a willy in its mouth, and a woman’s trying to swap that for a sardine …

    As one does.

      1. That explains it, then. 🙂

        Swapping a cat a sardine for a disembodied willy was part of every medieval novitiate’s training, obvs.

    1. However, the cat with the nun’s dildo undeniably looks like a cat. Could medieval illustrators depict cats after all?

  5. I like the Anne Boleyn duck. Reminds me of the Hugh Dennis joke: “Henry VIII liked his wife’s athletic…and that was her downfall. She wouldn’t run. She wouldn’t walk. She would only Anne Boleyn.”

  6. And, yet, he hasn’t been arrested. For anything. Could it be that this is just a political move to try to make him (and his supporters) untouchable before the election, and is not actually about criminal wrong-doing? It’s had to say since the Washington Post declared war on him the day he was sworn in. And whatever happened to the January 6 committee?

    1. Trump Apologists always manage to confuse me. First they accuse that the DOJ is overstepping and next they complain that he hasn’t been arrested yet.

      No, this is most definitely about criminal wrong-doing. I thought all of us here favored looking to the evidence? There is so much, I’ll just mention one line. Can you really dismiss all of the experts (hundreds of them) ranging from ex cabinet members, judges, investigators and more, at least half of which were appointed by Republican administrations, that have been making statements since the Mueller Report was issued that Trump has committed indictable crimes and that he should be indicted?

      Yes, I can see that many still are able to, despite the enormous amount of clear evidence, going back since long before his political career, that Trump is a criminal, as dirty as they come. To you statements like that sound just like the meaningless smears your side engages in. The difference is that your side engages in them with little to no warrant while what I wrote above, well, a mountain of evidence has long since made it obvious that it is true.

      I get that you have a prior ideological commitment to conservatism. But I implore you, take another good look. The Republican Party of today bears no commonality with the respectable conservatism of your past. It’s a completely different animal. If you are a proponent of that respectable conservatism of the past, the one that used to fully engage in the political process of governing hand in hand with all the other parties and was sincerely loyal to the ideas and documents that created our government, then you should be working, or at least hoping for, the death or complete rebuilding of the current Republican Party.

    2. August recess. Just because someone has not been arrested doesn’t mean that person won’t eventually be charged. Your logic (illogic) puzzles me.

  7. I love the picture of Uncles Bernie and Moe in front of their Rolls Royce style golf cart at the local Jewish country club. It took me back. I had a Jewish country club golfing uncle in Birmingham (Alabama) who would fit right into that photo.

  8. Trump stole the documents in January of 2021, and among them, as has been reported in recent days, were documents including intelligence gathered by “clandestine human sources.”

    Note that, as was reported by the NYT and others in October of 2021,

    “Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.”[]

    I’m still going with my guess from when this Mara Lago secret documents stash issue first became news. It seems very likely to me that a major reason the government escalated its efforts to get these documents back is because they have seen indications “in the wild” that information from these documents has been leaked. Trump is a traitor who has compromised his country’s security by selling or passing secret information to foreign nations, and gotten people who were working for his country’s security interests killed, for personal gain. Lock him up. But first, let’s fully investigate and fairly try him so it is all exposed for all to see.

    Anyone still making excuses for this guy, or engaging in both-sides arguments, or pretending this is all merely political theater, you need to check your “probability of correspondence with reality” systems because they are seriously out of whack.

    1. Maybe Bayesian estimatation is relevant here. Given some new evidence, one should apply it to update one’s prior estimate. But when the prior is close enough to zero (or one) then even very strong counter-evidence will have no significant effect. So the inference system might be in very good working order, but all the updated estimates will all end close to zero (or one) if the the earlier ones are.

      “Never attribute to malace, insanity, or feeble-mindedness that which can be adequately explained by strongly-held priors.”

  9. Coincidental with your mention of Ishi, USA Today reports that the last member of a tribe in Brazil has died. He lived in the Rondonia state Tanaru Indigenous Territory, alone for the last 26 years, the lone member of his group,who had been murdered by locals in 1995, most likely by cattle ranchers who surround the territory. He didn’t have a name, the article only refers to him as “Man of the Hole” due to to use of pits for catching wildlife for food.

  10. Re. “Hili: May I help you?” Sorry, I have a hard time imagining Hili (or any cat) saying such a thing, except maybe sarcastically. I think s/he must be saying something like, “You’re not doing that right, I suppose I need to take over.”

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