Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

December 19, 2022 • 6:45 am

Top o’ the week to you: it’s Monday, December 19: six days until the beginning of Coynezaa and seven until I leave for a visit to Poland.  It’s National Hard Candy Day!

It’s also National Oatmeal Muffin Day (ugh), Holly DaySaint Nicholas Day, and the first day of Hanukkah.

According to Wikipedia, here’s how the legend of St. Nicholas as Santa got started:

Nicholas of Myra, according to Christian tradition, was born in Patar in Asia Minor. He is said to have made a pilgrimage to the Egypt to study theology under the Desert Fathers after which he was consecrated the Bishop of Myra. During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, Nicholas of Myra was imprisoned. He was released after Constantine the Great promulgated the Edict of Milan in 313, which allowed for the public practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Nicholas of Myra was known for his generosity through a Christian legend, in which he gave a poor father money in order to prevent his daughters from being taken into slavery, as the father did not have the funds for his daughters’ dowries. It is said that Nicholas of Myra threw the money through the family’s window, which landed in their shoes, which were drying near their fireplace.

From Wikipedia as well: “A depiction of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, giving dowry money to three poor girls”:

There’s also a Google Doodle; if you click on the screenshot, you’ll see that it celebrates the life and work of Judith Leyster (1609-1660), a neglected Dutch painter. Wikipedia says this:

Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster; baptised July 28, 1609 – February 10, 1660) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She painted genre works, portraits and still lifes. Although her work was highly regarded by her contemporaries, Leyster and her work became almost forgotten after her death. Her entire oeuvre was attributed to Frans Hals or to her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, until 1893. It was not until the late 19th century that she was recognized for her artistic abilities

Da Nooz:

The news is very thin today; I guess everybody’s hunkering down for the holidays. In fact, there’s nothing significant on the front page of the NYT, with several articles (and the headline) being about the World Cup. Let us see if there’s anything interesting.

*Well, there’s one semi-interesting article in the WaPo about a movie about the ship Titanic made in Nazi Germany. It was apparently a stinkeroo, but the ship that stood in for the real Titanic in Nazi Germany had a sad and tragic fate.

After shooting wrapped, the boat that stood in for the Titanic, the Cap Arcona, was briefly used to move troops around the Baltic before being reclassified as a prison ship and docked in the Bay of Lübeck.

On May 3, 1945, three days after Adolf Hitler’s suicide, it was holding a reported 6,000 prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp, driven there by Nazis anxious to conceal their atrocities from the advancing Allies. (Some estimates put the number of prisoners as high as 7,000.)

Western intelligence had discovered that SS leaders were amassing in the German harbor city of Flensburg, plotting a potential sea escape to Norway. Believing the Cap Arcona to be filled with fleeing Nazi military elite, the British Royal Air Force bombed the ship, which capsized and sank. Pilots then shot at survivors in the water.

The death toll from the ship that had once masqueraded as the Titanic is estimated to be between 4,500 and 7,000 lives. The real Titanic claimed 1,517.

In a final twist worthy of James Cameron’s romanticized 1997 film, star-crossed lovers were united at the height of the tragedy. One of the 350 survivors of the Cap Arcona tragedy was German communist prisoner Willi Neurath. His wife, who was stationed nearby as a navy assistant at Neustadt submarine school, found her husband on the beach by sheer luck, exhausted but alive. Unable to swim, he’d survived by remaining on the burning ship, and was rescued by a British reconnaissance regiment once the Royal Air Force had learned the fatal error of its attack.

*You may recall that transsexual women athletes cleaned up in Connecticut high school competitions, even if they had had no medical intervention or surgery. That’s legal: if a biological male declares that he/she is a woman, that has to be respected. It’s a mess, and also deeply unfair for those competing against medically untreated biological men. But a federal appeals court just upheld the law.

A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a challenge to Connecticut’s policy of allowing transgender girls to compete in girls high school sports, rejecting arguments by four cisgender runners who said they were unfairly forced to race against transgender athletes.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City upheld a lower court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the policy. The panel said the four cisgender athletes lacked standing to sue — in part because their claims that they were deprived of wins, state titles and athletic scholarship opportunities were speculative.

“All four Plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where Plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events,” the decision said. “And, on numerous occasions, Plaintiffs were indeed “champions,” finishing first in various events, even sometimes when competing against (transgender athletes).”

The judges added, “Plaintiffs simply have not been deprived of a ‘chance to be champions.’”

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council argued its policy is designed to comply with a state law that requires all high school students be treated according to their gender identity. It also said the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.

It’s no surprise that the ACLU helped defen the two transsexual runners at the center of the controversy.  I hope the losers appeal, because surely the issue of medically untreated transgender female athletes is a no-brainer: they should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports purely on the basis of their claim that they’re woman.

*Migrants at the U.S.’s southern border are reaching crisis numbers, as prospective entrants anticipate that Title 42 expulsions put in place under Trump will end on December 21. Things are disastrous as the number of migrants is way to high to handle them effectively, and that includes housing and food:

The mayor of a Texas border city declared a state of emergency Saturday over concerns about the community’s ability to handle an anticipated influx of migrants across the Southern border.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser issued the state of emergency declaration to allow the city on the U.S. border with Mexico to tap into additional resources that are expected to become necessary after Title 42 expulsions end on Dec. 21, the El Paso Times reported.

Leeser had previously resisted issuing an emergency declaration, but said he was moved to action by the sight of people on downtown streets with temperatures dipping below freezing, the Times reported.

“That’s not the way we want to treat people,” Leeser said during a news conference Saturday evening.

ruling Friday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals means restrictions that have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. in recent years are still set to be lifted Wednesday, unless further appeals are filed.

Leeser added that the increase would be “incredible” after Wednesday, when daily apprehensions and street releases could reach up to 6,000 per day, the Times reported.

Last I heard Congress was trying to cobble together some kind of immigration bill, but I haven’t heard anything since. I suspect that this may go up to the Supreme Court.

*As I wrote yesterday, the World Cup was a real squeaker, with Argentina leading 2-0 at the half, and France tying it at 90 minutes. The score was again even, this time 3-3, after the two overtime periods, but it went down to penalty kicks, Argentina’s speciality.

Lionel Messi had to wait, and wait, and wait. He had to wait until he was 35. He had to wait until he had already lost a World Cup final. He had to wait after he had seemed to have won it for Argentina in normal time, and he had to wait after he believed he had beaten France again in extra time.

He had to wait until the end of the most extraordinary final in the tournament’s history, in which Messi offered a career-defining performance and was still, somehow, outdone by Kylian Mbappé, scorer of the first hat-trick in the biggest game there is for more than half a century.

Only then, at the last, was his wait, his agony, over. Only then did he deliver the World Cup, that precious third star, to Argentina, cementing his claim to be the greatest player to have ever played the game.

After extra time started:

. . .For a while, it seemed as though Argentina’s hopes could extend no further than making it to extra time, and then hanging on for penalties. Messi, though, intervened once more, unwilling to accept an ending he had not written. When Hugo Lloris blocked a shot from Lautaro Martínez, there was Messi to drive the ball home.

He celebrated, then, as though he knew just how close he was, his team was; he had not reckoned with Mbappé’s own determination to be the master of his own destiny. His shot was handled by Gonzalo Montiel; with 117 minutes played, he stepped up to take the penalty, to complete his hat-trick in a World Cup final, to ensure the game went the distance, to the sweetest, cruellest conclusion imaginable.

Mbappé scored. Messi scored. But Kingsley Coman and Aurelién Tchouámeni did not, and that left Montiel, the right back, to take the shot that would echo through the ages. The roar that Argentina’s fans emitted when the ball struck the back of the net seemed to pierce the sky. Messi sunk to his knees, clasping his teammates close, his wait over, at last.

Here are the highlights:

Oh, and if you’re wondering whether the winning team gets money, money for both its federation and for individual players, the answer is “yes.”

The New York Times has two op-eds on the World Cup, both of them absoutely awful. Please give “Argentina just won the World Cup, and Lionel Messi is the perfect man for this moment,” and “This was the perfect World Cup for our strange era” a miss. The second one in particular isn’t worth the electrons it’s printed on.

*According to the Guardian, two elderly ladies from Alabama were convicted for trapping, feeding, and neutering stray cats, all to keep the cat population down.  (h/t Jez).

Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, of Wetumpka, Alabama, were sentenced to two years of unsupervised parole and a $100 fine each on Tuesday, reported the Montgomery Advertiser. The women were also given suspended 10-day jail sentences.

“A warning, an arrest, and a conviction – all because maybe we were about to feed stray cats, and because we were solving a feral cat problem that the city couldn’t solve,” Roberts told the Washington Post.

The women were convicted of multiple misdemeanors after a five-and-a-half hour trial. Officials accused the pair of feeding feral cats near the courthouse, claiming it had resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.

The women were arrested on 25 June after the mayor, Jerry Willis, called officers to a property owned by Wetumpka county. Officer Brendan Foster said that when he arrived he found Alston holding a can of Fancy Feast cat food.

Alston informed him that she was trapping feral cats, and the officer responded that she had to stop or he would arrest her for trespassing.

“Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?” said Alston in a video of the initial encounter. “It’s unbelievable.”

Roberts was arrested first, as officers had previously given her a trespassing order for feeding cats, and Alston was arrested when she spoke against Roberts’ arrest, reported Alabama Live.

The sentencing of the two women has caught the attention of national animal rights organizations, who say trapping feral cats to have them neutered is a successful way to stop the stray cat problem.

“Compassion is not a crime,” said Alice Burton, director of programs for Alley Cat Allies, a feral cat advocacy group that supports trap-and-neuter initiatives.

I say the women should be given medals for reducing the future cat population, and the cops should be locked up.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s kvetching about winter again:

Hili: Can you put an end to winter?
A: It’s not in my power.

Hili: I had a higher opinion of you.

In Polish:
Hili: Czy możesz skończyć zimę?
Ja: To nie jest w mojej mocy.
Hili. Ceniłam cię wyżej.
And Paulina’s photo of Baby Kulka enjoying the snow:

And Mietek in Wlockawek has one word:  “MONDAY?”


Cats at Christmas (click to enlarge; from FB). The artist is the famous Louis Wain, who was later institutionalized for mental illness:

A great cat (and d*g) tree from Merilee:

From Diana:

From Masih. The brutality of the regime is unspeakable:

Two from Malcolm: Lord of the Flames:

And my ideal work environment, too:

A tweet by Dawkins on a now-unpaywalled article by Krauss on the incursion of ideology into science. A quote:

Are we at a point where the heart of the nation’s scientific research enterprise is to be held hostage to ideology? Will the U.S. government refuse to fund major national-laboratory initiatives to explore forefront fundamental and applied science because scientists show insufficient zeal for fashionable causes?

Besides skewing scientific priorities, this represents an inappropriate skewing of national priorities. There are serious societal inequities, but they run much deeper and include lack of support for K-12 education, safe housing and child care in inner cities, among other things. Attempting to jerry-rig participation at the highest echelons of science is a waste of time and money.

From the Auschwitz Memorial: another child killed upon arrival:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first holds some mysteries. Enlarge the video for the best view:

Teaselcat hunts a hand:

A lovely butterfly:

What a task!

37 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. “It also said the policy is in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.”

    I perceive a conflict between facts and public relations with the affirmative judiciary – as Feynman said, in the context of technology :

    “”For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled”

    – Richard P. Feynman
    (June 6, 1986). “Volume 2: Appendix F – Personal Observations on Reliability of Shuttle”. Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. NASA

    1. Thank you for re-surfacing Feynman’s Appendix F, a short publication that I made required reading for all of my summer students and new-hires in my NASA organization. Unfortunately that was apparently not true throughout the agency, as a culture similar to that which gave us Challenger, later gave us Columbia.

    1. If he takes care of himself like his big brother, he’ll be able to carry a 40 pound backpack for a hundred miles over 10 days. 🙂

  2. I say the women should be given medals for reducing the future cat population, and the cops should be locked up.

    Jeez, Jerry, maybe you could head on down to Wetumpka County, AL and subject those coppers to a citizen’s arrest. 🙂

    1. I second the motion! Hooray!
      And have anyone considered a trap-neuter-release program for AL police and petty government officials?

  3. I can’t stand the taint of Musk, so I’ll avoid watching the tw@tter video but I keep a birdhouse gourd and a coconut birdhouse on my front porch and have been frightened out of my meager wits a time or two when leaving the house at night only to have a half dozen wrens burst out of the dark shelters and fly past my face. If I can remember to be quiet about it, I can often catch sight of a packed mass of feathers and faces in these little domiciles, huddled against the winter night.

  4. This is all a bit fuzzy in my continuously fading memory, but I think it was in the late 1980’s or 90’s when I served on several engineering grant proposal review panels, that the NSF required grant proposals to address two NSF mission areas. The first and most important in scoring was, of course, the technical content and impact. At that time, a second area was something like societal impact: things such as working your results with K12, presentations to the community or museum talks, demonstrations or exhibits. In other words, if I recall correctly, it was about comunicating what was taking place in the often-isolated university environment out to the rest of the world. I do not recall how much of the scoring was reserved for this second area…certainly not much as I noticed when later serving on a Committee of Visitors which reviewed all proposals of the past five years as to how/whether/to what extent their results fulfilled the NSF mission. Looking over more than a hundred “jackets”, again if I recall correctly, really strong technical proposals were funded regardless of the quality of the societal impact plan or even in the total absence of such a plan in one case. Whereas proposals with excellent societal impact plans but not top-rated technical plans were not funded. So at most the societal plan could have been a tie-breaker and I do not recall it ever coming into play during evaluation panel discussions. That said, as a non-university guy, I found it good that proposers were asked to at least be aware and think about taking their work and knowledge to the community at larging…particularly K12 teachers and students. However with dei becoming institutionalized and hardwired into so many universities and given the resulting institutional advocacy, I fear it could become a secondary tail wagging the research institution dog.

    1. Was the question ever asked whether the society at large was actually interested in the research?

      It strikes me a certain way the assumption that society at large is an eager audience for anything produced by research labs, or that it can be “phoned in”.

      It takes more work than I think is assumed to do it well. And then the figurative lab and library is empty – because the investigator is on their World Tour.

      1. It is not an either or. Not every research scientist need do this , but all should be aware of a need and opportunity imho. For example, richard feyman, a Nobel Prize Laureate from te world of theoretical particle physics, served on a los angeles school district science textbook review committee and on the Rogers Commission Challenger Accident Review Board. One of the issues is/was whether society at large is even aware enough to know whether or not they should be interested. Certainly there is a problem with many K12 science and math teachers not having a clue regarding any science or currently useful math that has developed since they graduated college. They are not encouraged by the professional ed structure to stay up to date technically. While the latest incarnation of the nsf org chart has at least taken education out of a miasma of human resources and soft sciences, STEM ed is now a directorate isolated from the STEM research directorates. How about an off-diagonal term in this damn matrix?

        1. “One of the issues is/was whether society at large is even aware enough to know whether or not they should be interested.”

          Thanks. A lot to consider there!

  5. The article by Lawrence Krauss that Richard Dawkins tweeted about is dispiriting. I’m sure that scientists will be delighted that research grant applications are going to become even more onerous and time-consuming.

    1. One might simply identify as a scientist, therefore one’s grant should be funded.

      Or, if one is brave, argue that the self is not only an illusion, but that the illusion itself is an illusion. Identifying as an a-identitarian, personal identity will not apply to the grant the study section is reviewing. Furthermore, a-identitarians are not represented in research labs at the frequency with which they can be encountered in the local population, so the grant is doubly compelling to fund.

      Let me know how that turns out!

  6. two elderly ladies from Alabama were convicted for trapping, feeding, and neutering stray cats

    More news supporting my cynicism. Always a disappointment, never a surprise. I am, however, thrilled to see what the women were doing.

    they were unfairly forced to race against transgender athletes

    No one forced them to race, so no one forced them to race against [insert opponent here]. The logic is a bit more complicated, but if the positive verb in a sentence is false, it generally doesn’t matter what the object of the verb is, the sentence is still generally false.

    The judges added, “Plaintiffs simply have not been deprived of a ‘chance to be champions.’”

    Great! We might finally be on our way to striking down gender segregation!

    Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.

    Males and females both have the same opportunity to run a file-minute mile. The fact that the outcomes are strongly weighted does not support the policy of segregation.

    1. “We might finally be on our way to striking down gender segregation!”

      This is specious reasoning.

      Consider that athletics is also “segregated” by developmental anomaly, limb parity, and so on – the Special Olympians (no scare quotes because that is the name of the organization and I mean it seriously).

      Or maybe the Special Olympians are _not_ “segregated” – a word forever associated with the post-Civil War U.S. – but given honest, ample opportunity to compete – based on what we _know_ about basic human anatomy and athletics.

    2. The fact that the outcomes are strongly weighted does not support the policy of segregation.

      It is more about what people want and people want to see segregated sports. They want segregation by sex and age and sometime weight and perhaps other criteria, depending on the sport. You may not want some of those segregations, maybe you don’t want any of them. But other people do, and they decide what does or does not support the policy of segregation because it is a policy they make up.

      I want to see women play cricket and soccer. So I am quite pleased with the way things are.

      1. Yes, people want fairness in competition – and safety in contact sports. Men competing against women undermines these things.

      2. I hope the Connecticut women appeal, and I hope they win. It is important for truth that men can’t self-identify as women, even if one doesn’t care much about sports. There is no such thing as a trans-woman, certainly not where women are concerned.

        Having said that, why do we want to watch women play all-female sports when we know that the level of competition is much below that of men’s sports? The women’s game may be more interesting to watch in some sports, or at least interesting in different ways from the way men play it. Fans could explain why. We can admire women athletes who perform at the very top of their field and win medals even though their strength, stamina, and (usually) skill is less than what men bring.

        Do we suspend our disbelief about this when only women are on the field? Does the illusion shatter only when a man comes off the bench and his strength and speed dominate the women?

        What the trans activists need to know is that if they come to dominate women’s sporting competitions, no one will watch them. If a fan can watch the six best (male) sprinters in the world race for Gold, there is no incentive to watch also the 200th- , 201st- , 202nd- , 203rd- , 204th- , and 205th- best race for Gold-with-an-asterisk, even if one of those sprinters once in a great long while is a woman. Men will continue to want to race as men as long as they think they might have a chance at the podium in at least a few races over their career. That’s where the purses and endorsements go. So that’s probably the, what, 100 best male runners at a time? At some point, many will identify as women so they can podium in something before they go back to flipping burgers or selling life insurance.* But they won’t be racing against women, not at that level. They’ll be racing against other men doing the same thing, salvaging what they can from a career that didn’t quite work out: has-beens, coulda-beens, and never-quite-wozzers, like Kevin Costner’s minor-league baseball catcher in Bull Durham.

        But the fans and sponsors will know what’s going on. They won’t watch a travesty.
        Women’s sports will be simply a venue for that legion of men who couldn’t make it to The Show. Women will be driven out of the Women’s League both because they won’t be able to make any of these second-rate teams and from fear of injury from even accidental collisions with the bigger, stronger, faster men. Ironically, the quality of play will improve even as fan interest collapses!

        If that’s what society wants, it will get it. The only bizarre part is the cheerleading from the media over another “first-ever!!” trans achievement of men thumping women in yet another sport. Is it just to avoid appearing trans-phobic à la the Emperor’s New Clothes? I mean, who now still thinks of Lia Thomas as a path-breaking hero?

  7. The NYT has an interesting article about the brouhaha around naming the Webb telescope. It focuses on a scientist, Hakeem Oluseyi, who dove in and concluded that there was “zero evidence” that Webb was guilty of any discrimination against gays. For saying so he was duly crucified by various editors and societies. Note also it mentions our friend Laura Helmuth at Sci Am.

    1. I was merely reacting to this sentence: “two elderly ladies from Alabama were convicted for trapping, feeding, and neutering stray cats, all to keep the cat population down.”
      But feeding them does not keep the population down. That was my entire point.

      I expressed no personal desire to “deny food to a starving animal.” (Nor is there any information provided that suggests the feral cats in question are “starving.”)
      Perhaps these elderly ladies really are providing food only to facilitate the trapping, as other commenters suggest. But that’s not what it says in the quoted article. It says in several places that they were feeding the cats, full stop.
      My admittedly cynical guess would be the opposite: the trapping and neutering thing is a well-intentioned excuse for these compassionate “rescuers” to feed them. But whatever.

      I realize that this website is probably not an appropriate place to stir up cat-relateed controversy, but anyone interested in the facts about TNR programs could start here:

      [p.s., I am no cat hater. I am loving staff to two, Mila and Opal, and I built them a catio so they could enjoy being outdoors without murdering the local wildlife.]

      1. You are quite right, Chas. The news story says only that women were charged and convicted of feeding feral cats, an offense. It was only the assertion of one that they were trapping them with the intent to spay them. This claim was not tested as a defense or as an additional charge and so had nothing to do with their punishment.
        The claim that they were fined for feeding, trapping, and neutering stray cats is not supported.

        I must say I don’t pay much attention to cat stories but I think we owe you one for encouraging careful reading here. A town near us that tried to cope with feral cats with a TNR program had to abandon it as ineffective and a poor use of resources, even with a vet donating his service, consistent with the link you provided.

  8. Feral cats are a problem in Hawaii, where they were introduced from ships in the 19th Century, and have led to the extinction or endangerment of at least 30 bird species. The toxoplasmosis they shed in their faeces has infected many mammalian species including dolphins and endangered monk seals. What to do about them is a challenge, says The Economist:

    What can be done? A bill that could have directed the [Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC)] to cull cats using poisoned bait, as Australia has done, died in the state legislature earlier this year. Animal-lovers prefer to focus on capturing, neutering and releasing wild cats so that they have no kittens. But HISC contends that such programmes do not actually help curtail cat numbers [Emphasis added]. [Scientist Kristi] West suggests that people are too quick to blame the cats, when there is another culprit. “People have to stop abandoning these poor cats,” she says. “It’s not really a cat problem. It’s a human problem.” Might be paywalled. Print p. 26, Dec 10-16 issue.

    1. Briefly, I should mention that I lived on an island where feral cats were everywhere, and a visiting biologist decided that they should be culled to save the native birds. The culling was done, with the primary result being that the rat population exploded. People who had never before seen a rat on the island were finding themselves waking up with a rat running across their bed in the middle of the night. Methods of food storage had to be completely rethought, and it turned out that the rats were worse for the birds than the cats ever were.
      This is exactly the sort of thing that happens when people treat complex systems as if they were simple.

  9. It’s funny you mention the german propaganda movie Titanic (propaganda as Titanic sank because of greedy British capitalists, the bad guy is the Chair of the White Star Line who has a j*wish look (according to Nazi lore of course) and the heroes are the First Lieutenant who is German, as the other one who is a Professor who sacrifies himself having found the magic formula. It is not bad overall , second degree, and features real footage of the TItanic sailing off to meet its fate.
    I was on a Titanic movie binge and saw that one (the only movie named “Titanic”) after watching the !(^! docudrama “One night to remember” which is apparently very true to real events. One can see how much of those 2 movies have inspired James Cameron’s scenarists (prison scene in the german movie; collision and evacuation details in the british one) so I recommend both, on YouT.

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