Tuesday: Hili dialogue

August 30, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the penultimate day of the month: August 30 2022: National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I like to ignite mine so that it winds up looking like the one on the extreme right (“well done”). Like with fried chicken, the crust is the best part!


It’s also National Beach Day, National Holistic Pet Day, Frankenstein Day (celebrating the birth of author Mary Shelley in 1797), International Day of the Disappeared, and  International Whale Shark Day. (Whale sharks are the largest living fish species and the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate.)

Speaking of Mary Shelly, a first edition of her 3-volume Frankenstein, with the original boards, sold last year for $1,170,000: a record for a book written by a woman (it was published anonymously). Here it is; photo courtesy of Christie’s:

Things that happened on August 30 include:

Read “Wonderful Life” by Steve Gould for an overview, though many of the taxa Gould said were novel have now been placed within existing groups. Here’s a fossil of Hallucigenia, now recognized as an early lobopodian. (The “spines” are not legs, as they were first thought to be.)

Here’s a reconstruction of the beast:

If you like adventure stories do read a good one about Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. (I recommend Endurance, by Alfred Lansing.) After their ship was crushed in the ice and the men marooned on Elephant Island, Shackleton and five men traveled 720 nautical miles to South Georgia, an island with a whaling station. That they made it was a miracle, and Shackleton ultimately returned to Elephant Island to retrieve his crew. Not a single man perished.

Here’s Shackleton photographed taking off from Elephant Island in the desperate attempt to effect a rescue; he’s in a modified lifeboat called the James Caird:

Here’s a photo of the grim site where the men were marooned for 4½ months, taken on my first Antarctic trip in 2019. The statue is to the tugboat captain who took Shackleton to the island to rescue the men (note the penguins).

Kaplan was executed on September 3. Wikipedia reports the toll of the resulting Terror:

Estimates for the total number of victims of Bolshevik repression vary widely in numbers and scope. One source gives estimates of 28,000 executions per year from December 1917 to February 1922. Estimates for the number of people shot during the initial period of the Red Terror are at least 10,000.  Estimates for the whole period go for a low of 50,000 to highs of 140,000 and 200,000 executed. The most reliable estimations for the number of executions in total put the number at about 100,000.

The shooting, in which a bullet passed through Lenin’s neck and the other lodged in his left shoulder. The injuries are thought to have contributed to the stroke that killed Lenin in 1924.

One of the main people justifying this slaughter was Leon Trotsky. Here’s a Polish poster of Trotsky with the caption, “Bolshevik freedom” – Polish propaganda poster with nude caricature of Leon Trotsky from the Polish–Soviet War:

Here’s a photo of Kaplan, looking as if she’s just been beat up by the Cheka:

I’ll show this video again, as it documents the desperation of Afghans to get out before the Taliban took over. Whenever I see this video, I wonder if anybody got hurt.

Da Nooz:

*Trump is getting deeper and deeper into trouble as the Mar-a-Lago search and affidavit come to light. First, the Justice Department has already set aside those documents seized from Trump’s mansion that might be subject to attorney-client privilege. This is a blow to Trump, because the DOJ isn’t going to use those documents as it moves forward with a criminal investigation, rendering the appointment of a document review “master” (requested by Trump) as moot:

On Saturday, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida suggested she was leaning toward the appointment of a special master to look at the materials taken by federal agents from Mar-a-Lago. She ordered the Justice Department to respond by Tuesday and share a complete list of documents, some of them highly classified, taken in the search on Aug. 8.

Mr. Trump’s request for a special master — which was filed far later than is typical — is significant because it could provide his legal team with an opportunity to contest the government’s seizure of specific documents whose ownership, and possibly classification levels, they see as being in dispute.

But the Justice Department’s three-page filing on Monday, noting that its review of the materials was completed, threw up a significant obstacle to that request. In the filing, lawyers at the department disclosed that its privilege review team had finished its assessment of the documents and set aside “a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client information,” a requirement that was mandated by the original search warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in Florida this month.

While Mr. Trump and his legal team have advanced arguments about executive privilege, most of the cases they cited in their filing asking for a special master concerned independent reviews of seized documents for those shielded by attorney-client privilege.

*Further, the NYT reports that Trump’s legal team is desperately flailing around looking for some good explanation for the purloined classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. And they don’t have one, it seems. Trump’s claims that he can wave his pudgy little hand over the documents, miraculously “de-classifying” them, is simply not going to wash. And of course Trump hasn’t shown particularly good judgment in choosing lawyers. (Giuliani, anyone?)

As the partial release of the search warrant affidavit on Friday, including the May 25 letter, illustrated, Mr. Trump is going into the battle over the documents with a hastily assembled team. The lawyers have offered up a variety of arguments on his behalf that have yet to do much to fend off a Justice Department that has adopted a determined, focused and so far largely successful legal approach.

“He needs a quarterback who’s a real lawyer,” said David I. Schoen, a lawyer who defended Mr. Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial. Mr. Schoen called it “an honor” to represent Mr. Trump, but said it was problematic to keep lawyers “rotating in and out.”

Often tinged with Mr. Trump’s own bombast and sometimes conflating his powers as president with his role as a private citizen, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.

He didn’t have to take those documents from the White House; what did he have to gain? But Trump being Trump, he dived into the swamp anyway.

*This is some really bad news from the Washington Post. It turns out that human-induced global warming has reached the point that even if we stopped pumping out greenhouse gases right now, 3.3% of the big Greenland ice sheet would still melt (this is from a new paper in Nature Climate Change). Here’s the science lingo from the paper’s abstract (“SLR” is “sea level rise”):

We find that Greenland ice imbalance with the recent (2000–2019) climate commits at least 274 ± 68 mm SLR from 59 ± 15 × 103 km2 ice retreat, equivalent to 3.3 ± 0.9% volume loss, regardless of twenty-first-century climate pathways. This is a result of increasing mass turnover from precipitation, ice flow discharge and meltwater run-off. The high-melt year of 2012 applied in perpetuity yields an ice loss commitment of 782 ± 135 mm SLR, serving as an ominous prognosis for Greenland’s trajectory through a twenty-first century of warming.

274 mm is 274 centimeters, or about 10.7 inches: a much higher rise than predicted by others. And this will probably happen within the lifetime of your newborn children—by 2100.

“Every study has bigger numbers than the last. It’s always faster than forecast,” Colgan said.

One reason that new research appears worse than other findings may just be that it is simpler. It tries to calculate how much ice Greenland must loseas it recalibrates to a warmer climate. In contrast, sophisticated computer simulations of how the ice sheet will behave under future scenarios for global emissionshave produced less alarming predictions.

Well, that’s for the experts to judge. But a one-foot rise in sea level is not innocuous:

A one-foot rise in global sea levels would have severe consequences. If the sea level along the U.S. coasts rose by an average of 10 to 12 inches by 2050, a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found, the most destructive floods would take place five times as often, and moderate floods would become 10 times as frequent.

Other countries — low-lying island nations and developing ones, like Bangladesh — are even more vulnerable. These nations, which have done little to fuel the higher temperatures that are now thawing the Greenland ice sheet, lack the billions of dollars it will take to adapt to rising seas.

*Yesterday I reported on a new study of Doppelgängers—pairs of unrelated people who were so similar in appearance that they could be taken for identical twins. DNA analysis showed that members of a pair shared far more DNA sequence than did other unrelated people, implying that the shared DNA helps produce physical and facial features. And I wondered if they were more behaviorally similar as well. Well, they did assay behavior via questionnaires, and I simply missed it. The answer is in this except from the paper:

Physical traits such as weight and height as well as behavioral traits such as smoking and education were correlated in look-alike pairs, suggesting that shared genetic variation not only relates to shared physical appearance but may also influence common habits and behavior.

So there are similarities in behavior as well as appearance. Why? The only reasons i can think of are a.) the Doppelgängers share blocks of linked genes (small DNA segments) that include genes affecting behavior as well as morphology. Alternatively, some of the genetic variation affecting “looks” could also affect behavior, a phenomenon known as pleiotropy (mutations can affect several traits at once). That seems less likely, since behavior genes are likely to be expressed in the brain and not necessarily the face and body. But who knows? This is an intriguing observation that we can’t yet explain.

*As you noticed if you were watching, the Artemis launch was scrubbed after a problem was detected 40 minutes before launch. The problem was that the system used to cool the engines before takeoff failed. (The fuel is a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and if that fuel were suddenly pumped into ambient-temperature tanks, all hell would break loose.) As CNN reports:

The launch team knew that the bleed test was a risk because they weren’t able to include it in previous wet dress rehearsal tests simulating the launch, and Monday was the first time demonstrating that, Sarafin said. [Mike Sarafin is the Artemis mission manager.]

Currently, the issue doesn’t suggest an engine problem, but rather an issue within the bleed system that is used to cool the engine, he said.

“We need the engine to be at the cryogenically cool temperature such that when it starts, it’s not shocked with all the cold fuel that flows through it. So we needed a little extra time to assess that,” Sarafin said.

It may be a while before we see the rocket take off. The earliest opportunity is this coming Friday:

The next launch window is September 2, opening at 12:48 p.m. ET and closing at 2:48 p.m. ET. The next window after that is September 5, opening at 5:12 p.m. ET and closing at 6:42 p.m. ET.

We shouldn’t regard this as a failure, as glitches are normal when trying out a new vehicle (a Space Shuttle flight was scrubbed four times). “Failure” would have been an explosion. (h/t: Bat)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, both Hili and Szaron didn’t come in last evening, so, as usual, nests were prepared for them in chairs on the veranda. Here’s Hili sleeping on Malgorzata’s coat:

Hili: I have a serious problem.
A: What problem?
Hili: Whether to exchange the comfort of the rattan chair for the bed or go into the garden.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam poważny problem.
Ja: Jaki?
Hili: Czy zmienić komfort wiklinowego fotela na łóżko, czy iść do ogrodu?
And a lovely portrait of Baby Kulka by Paulina:


From Divy, a Gary Larson cartoon:

From Susan: A sticker on a Davis, California outhouse:

From Gregory:

God is really angry these days!

Ducklings can do this trick as soon as they’re out of the nest. This is why it was so hard for me to catch the ones for rehab (I got 31, and no losses!)

From Malcolm, a rescue Amur leopard:

From Jez: The Big Race to Dinner:

From the Auschwitz Memorial

Tweets from Matthew.  This one’s great, though it should be “heroin”:

I’ve put the tweet Matthew’s referring to below his own:

Live And Learn Department:

And some history of biology:

29 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Thomas Paine quote appears to be from :

    “A Discourse delivered by Thomas Paine, at the Society of the Theophilanthropists at Paris, 1798”, reviewed in The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, Vol. 30, pp. 113-4, by Ralph Griffiths, G. E. Griffiths (1799); republished in Miscellaneous Letters and Essays, on Various Subjects (1817), pp. 62–72

    Source-of-source : https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine

    … awesome quotes in there! Check it put!

  2. ^^^^Uh-oh – spoke too soon?

    “All the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles; he can only discover them, and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.”

    …. eesh…

    1. Paine wasn’t an atheist. Like most intellectuals of the day he held to a form of Deism. Theology is not the study of God but of what people have said and written about God which is considerable and revealing.

      1. I presume you mean “revealing about theologians and wish-thinking” not “revealing about God”. For theology has revealed absolutely NOTHING about God If you think it has, please enlighten us.

        1. The distinction I am making seems clear enough. A culture’s conception of the divine springs out of its values. You can learn a great deal about a culture by examining its concept of the divine. That these gods don’t actually exist doesn’t make that any less true.

  3. The S. S. United States was designed by Gibbs and Cox of New York and built at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, Va. She was built in a deal with the government for partial funding who had found themselves extremely short of troop carriers at the start of WW2. The ship was designed to serve as a passenger ship in times of peace, but also to be quickly converted to an extremely fast (outrun submarines and enemy surface warships) and fire resistant troop carrier in the case of war. Just compare her profile and lines with those of today’s bathtub-like cruise ships. The shipyard workers had great pride in their ship and many would show up on the cliffs above the James River in the 1950’s to cheer her on her yearly return to the local shipyard for annual maintenance.

    1. The metric system is quite a great and cohesive system, but one should not make typos with commas ‘n points.
      27.4 cm is bad enough, although I don’t doubt it could indeed become 274 cm (Aka 2.74 m) in a few later decades or centuries. What would happen if the permafrost would thaw and release thousands of tons of methane (not to mention the oceanic clathrate mats of methane hydrate)? We should not forget sea levels have varied over a few hundreds of meters over the millions of years.

      1. Although that is a good quip, I doubt it.
        Stalin (Dugashvili) in 2018 was not yet the Stalin of 1922. I guess Leon Trotski (Bronstein) would have taken over. He was commander of the Red Army, and Stalin was still a relative nobody, a people’s commissar and a minor commander in the Red Army (criticised because of great losses against the White Russians and his ruthless ways) in 1918. A fortnight is a long time in politics (Harold Wilson), let alone 4 years.
        Lenin survived. What if’s are nearly as difficult as predicting, especially the future.
        Eg. I predict the Ukrainians are on the verge of inflicting a heavy defeat on the Russian invaders by retaking Kherson, and might even take back the Crimea, but I could be seriously wrong there.

  4. She [federal district judge Aileen Cannon] ordered the Justice Department to respond by Tuesday and share a complete list of documents, some of them highly classified, taken in the search on Aug. 8.

    Judge Cannon entered an order last Saturday (a Saturday order by a federal court being something of a rarity in itself) that the government respond by today, Tuesday 8/30, to Trump’s request to appoint a special master to do a privilege review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. This seems a rather expedited schedule, given that Trump’s lawyers delayed, for reasons unexplained, filing its request for a special master for 14 days after the execution of the search warrant before filing its request.

    Despite the expedited schedule, the government — in a joint filing by the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and the Chief of the Counterintelligence and Security Division — has requested (and been granted) the opportunity to file a 40-page memorandum in response to Trump’s request, double the 20-page limit allowed by the local rules of the Southern District of Florida. This suggests that the government has some things to get off its chest regarding Trump’s request. It should make for interesting reading.

    Judge Cannon has set a hearing on the matter for this Thursday at 1:00 pm.

    1. According to Joyce Vance (Substack blog, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance) this, giving the DOJ the opportunity to file a 40 page memorandum, is very likely to be another example of the Trump legal team shooting their client in the foot. Looking forward to it.

  5. Tweets from Matthew. This one’s great, though it should be “heroin” …

    Or “heron” as it’s pronounced in the ‘hood.

    The BBC reporter, Quentin Somerville, is taking the concept of “chasing the dragon” to a record-setting length.

  6. I like the “Leash your god” sticker. I once made a meme of a similar sort that read “Spay or neuter your dogma.” Your god might’ve worked better and been funnier.

    1. I liked that sticker too, and also wondered what the “Go Dark” meant on the bottom left. I know what that means in military lingo, but couldn’t figure it out in this context. Maybe it’s the sticker’s brand name or something?

      1. You got me curious! After a little internet searching of “go dark”, I’d surmise that in this instance it might mean to cease communication with God.

        Searching the term “leash your god”, alas, returns only opportunities to buy dog leashes printed with religious messages.

        I’ll keep an eye on that outhouse and try to find out more 🙂

        1. Thanks for your diligence…I did some googling but only got the military jargon, which is common. I like the “cease communication with g*d” interpretation. Don’t pray, go dark. Or how about: “Ghost God” like the kids say about ‘breaking up’ via text or some such.

  7. What would happen if the permafrost would thaw and release thousands of tons of methane

    To continue the theme of slipping decimal places, I think you mean gigatonnes (possibly teratonnes), not kilotonnes – which would be a few days production from a good gas well. (The Deepwater Horizons blowout was flowing at around 5kilotonnes/day, but that wasn’t being produced optimally.)

    (not to mention the oceanic clathrate mats of methane hydrate)?

    People have this concept that the seabeds are coated in sheets of methane hydrates. This does happen, but is volumetrically insignificant. The overwhelming (I’ll get to why “overwhelming” in a few moments) majority of the clathrate reservoir is in the sediment pile, where decomposing organic matter (typically several % by mass) releases methane which, under the right pressure/temperature conditions, combines with pore water to form the methane hydrates as a sort of (displacive) cement between the sediment mineral and organic grains. This cement changes the acoustic velocity of the sediment resulting in reflections visible in seismic profiles, and reasonably easily measured. Hence, “overwhelming”. The bottom “edge” of this high-velocity band is controlled by the increase in temperature downwards through the pile exceeding the P/T stability limits of hydrates ; the upper edge is typically pressure controlled. Sometimes on a novel prospect (unproved – not a “reserve”) the oil company will change operating practices to allow collection of sediment and released gas samples from such zones (samples caught by Yours Truely) to prove and improve understanding of the properties and producibility of such hydrocarbon accumulations. That can be decades, literally, before considering actually extracting the hydrocarbons, but the records are kept and are commercially valuable in prospect transactions between oil companies and governments. On the other hand, doing the sampling could easily cost several million dollars, on an as-yet unproven prospect ; it’s not done routinely. A considerable number of these clathrate reservoirs are known and (roughly) evaluated, but if they were produced – say, in response to a politically induced gas shortage – they’d be booked as “discovered 1975, put into production 2024”, which is true, but misleading.
    In the last few days, I’ve heard that “several decades between discovery and production” statistic cited in discussions about the current gas shortages. As I said – true, but misleading.

    We should not forget sea levels have varied over a few hundreds of meters over the millions of years.

    Continuiing the theme of true but misleading … timescales matter.
    Sea level changes possible due to melting of land-supported ice are of the order of 100m, with a timescale of centuries to take place. There’s another Order(10m) of change due from the thermal expansion of seawater as the surface temperatures conduct (and convect) into the depths ; timescale Order(10,000 years). But the big changes, Order(300m) are due to the changes of volume in ocean basins due to changes in temperature of mid-ocean ridges causing them to rise (or fall) relative to the abyssal plains. They happen on timescales Order(10 million years). The timescales are important. Two of those can reasonably be ascribed to human responsibility ; one can’t.
    And the new number of “Quarterly Journal of Rabid Oil Exploration” just arrived, in it’s environmentally-friendly paper envelope.
    Edit :
    That was a reply to

    Nicolaas Stempels August 30, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    under #4 above.
    Deranged by WP gremlins, possibly fixed now. .. or maybe still gremlining. Whatever the verb is.
    Oh, I worked out how to delete a comment. Roast gremlin for me, tonight!

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