Tuesday: Hili dialogue

December 27, 2022 • 6:45 am

Greetings on the cruelest day: Tuesday, December 27, 2022. It’s the Third Day of Coynezaa, as well as the third of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Western Christianity). What a coincidence!  Foodwise, it’s National Fruitcake Day, celebrating the single fruitcake that circulates endlessly around America.

It’s also Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day and Visit the Zoo Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 27 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT’s news analysis says that Russia seems to have reached the limits of its on-the-ground military capabilities, and will have to continue the war in the air. I’m not sure what that means for Ukraine, which now faces being bombed to hell, but for a big country like Russia to run out of conventional options, well, that’s not good optics.

Ukraine is striking more boldly at targets deep in Russian territory because Kyiv has assessed that Moscow’s military is fighting at the limits of its conventional capabilities, former military officials and analysts say.

So far, the Ukrainian long-range attacks that hit airfields in the heart of Russia, along the Volga River, have not caused extensive damage. The latest, on Monday, killed three servicemen, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, after air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone approaching Engels air base, near the city of Saratov.

But the attacks, which remain sensitive enough that the Ukrainian government has not publicly acknowledged them, have forced Russia to move planes, potentially complicating Moscow’s campaign of aiming cruise missile strikes at Ukraine’s energy grid.

Since some cruise missiles are launched from bombers that fly from the airfields hit in the attacks, the strikes could potentially destroy the missiles on the ground at the Russian airfields before they can be deployed.

With the sense widespread in Kyiv among officials and civilians that, short of nuclear intensification, Russia cannot do much more to Ukraine that it is not already doing, the allure of curtailing Moscow’s missile capabilities at home outweighs any escalatory concern.

. . .The United States and Ukraine have agreed that Kyiv will not strike targets in Russia with American-provided weaponry. The Biden administration has vowed to avoid American involvement that could escalate to direct confrontation with Russia. But American officials clarified they will not object to Ukraine striking back with its own weaponry.

A Ukrainian state-owned military contractor has said it developed a long-range drone that would, theoretically, be able to hit Moscow. Russia said Ukraine used Soviet-era, jet-powered reconnaissance drones to hit air bases on Dec. 5.

I’m amazed that Ukraine still has the capability to make its own long-range drones! You go, Zelensky(y)!

*The Washington Post reports that the pandemic has changed the restaurant business—perhaps forever. I’ve already noticed that when I go to one of my standby restaurants, fewer people are eating in, and many of my friends, when I urge them to try a place, assume they’ll be eating takeout.

“We are going to see a hollowing-out in the restaurant world,” said Laurie Thomas, owner of two restaurants in San Francisco and executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

“We will end up with the super expensive, bespoke opportunities that you’re paying through the nose for, and then you’re going to have the fast casual restaurants. The middle restaurants will be much fewer. It won’t be an economically viable part of the industry going forward,” she said.

Independent restaurants may suffer most, but some restaurant groups that may have difficulty with culture change are in the category of sit-down family dining like the name-brand stalwarts you might find circling a suburban mall that are less about “an experience or uniqueness.”

But those are some of my favorite place: home-style cooking, usually of the ethnic stripe. And for me even eating there is a treat: relaxing, enjoying the ambiance, and being served. On the way out. There’s more:

Restaurants are still seeing 16 percent fewer people dining on-premises compared to before the pandemic. Off-premises dining, however, has picked up precisely that much, according to the National Restaurant Association. But how that breaks down is telling: Delivery is up more than 5 percent while carryout is down 3. The big winner? Drive-through, up 13 percent.

At this moment, 39 percent of all restaurant traffic is bumper to bumper in a drive-through lane, said Hudson Riehle, an economist for the National Restaurant Association.

Drive-through? That’s exactly what I don’t want. Even at In and Out Burger, I always go inside and sit down. Eating out is a time to relax, not get in your car, rush out, rush home with cold food, and nosh. Oy, my kishkes!

*My friend Asra Nomani, a reliable reporter who used to work for the WSJ, wrote an article about how Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia pulled what is known as a “rookie move” (TJ, as it was known in my day, was one of our high-school sports rivals. In the name of equity, which apparently justifies all manner of academic malfeasance, the school is hiding students’ own accomplishments—from them!  The purpose: so no student looks better than any other. (h/t Enrico)

For years, two administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) have been withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college admission prospects and earn scholarships. This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” School administrators, for instance, have implemented an “equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of “NTI” for assignments not turned in. It’s a race to the bottom.

An intrepid Thomas Jefferson parent, Shawna Yashar, a lawyer, uncovered the withholding of National Merit awards. Since starting as a freshman at the school in September 2019, her son, who is part Arab American, studied statistical analysis, literature reviews, and college-level science late into the night. This workload was necessary to keep him up to speed with the advanced studies at TJ, which US News & World Report ranks as America’s top school.

Last fall, along with about 1.5 million US high school juniors, the Yashar teen took the PSAT, which determines whether a student qualifies as a prestigious National Merit scholar. When it came time to submit his college applications this fall, he didn’t have a National Merit honor to report — but it wasn’t because he hadn’t earned the award. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a nonprofit based in Evanston, Illinois, had recognized him as a Commended Student in the top 3 percent nationwide — one of about 50,000 students earning that distinction. Principals usually celebrate National Merit scholars with special breakfastsaward ceremoniesYouTube videospress releases and social media announcements.

Asra’s son went to TJ:

But TJ School officials had decided to withhold announcement of the award. Indeed, it turns out that the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years. Recognition by National Merit opens the door to millions of dollars in college scholarships and 800 Special Scholarships from corporate sponsors.

I learned — two years after the fact — that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of TJ’s Class of 2021, as a Commended Student in a September 10, 2020, letter that National Merit sent to Bonitatibus. But the principal, who lobbied that fall to nix the school’s merit-based admission test to increase “diversity,” never told us about it. Parents from earlier years told me that she also didn’t tell them about any Commended Student awards. One former student said he learned he had won the award through a random email from the school to a school district email account that students rarely check; the principal neither told his parents nor made a public announcement.

*The New York Times asks “What’s your trigger?” In a series of 24 questions, they’ll suss out exactly what makes you angry. Here, for example, is the first question:

Now THIS one triggers me: nothing makes me antsier than misplacing my wallet, keys or cellphone Ithe wallet is the worst, but I’ve only misplaced it for a couple of hours.

So I took all 24 questions and here’s my report:

That sounds about right. And nobody is harder on me than I am!

*Finally, five of the AP’s “best photos of the World cup.” More at the site.

FILE – Argentina’s Lionel Messi escapes with the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Australia at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)


FILE – Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after teammate Pepe missed a chance to score during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)


FILE – Argentina players celebrate at the end of the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)


FILE – German’s team covers their mouth during the team photo prior to the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)


FILE – France’s Kylian Mbappe sits on the bench at the end of the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)


FILE – Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates with the trophy in front of fans after winning the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Dec. 18, 2022. A World Cup that ended with Lionel Messi finally holding the golden trophy in his hands produced some unforgettable images from the staff of Associated Press photographers at the tournament in Qatar. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is asking the Big Shakespearian Question:

A: What are you thinking about?
Hili: Whether to sit here or to go to sleep.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym tak myślisz?
Hili: Nad tym, czy mam tu posiedzieć, czy raczej iść spać.


From David:

From Elsie: Messi and a good-luck kitty:

From Gary, a Maria Scrivan cartoon:

God speaks on Mastodon:

From Masih, another impending execution in Iran, apparently on frivolous grounds:

From Malcolm, a fun thought exercise:

. . and a kitten-brooding hen:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, Larry the Cat (the Head Mouser) speaks up:

Just what you wanted to know!

Matthew says, “I don’t watch Tik Tok at all but some of these are very good.” Here are three:


24 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. “The NYT’s news analysis says that Russia seems to have reached the limits of its on-the-ground military capabilities, and will have to continue the war in the air.”

    “Ukraine is striking more boldly at targets deep in Russian territory because Kyiv has assessed that Moscow’s military is fighting at the limits of its conventional capabilities, former military officials and analysts say.”

    These sound like good things for Ukraine, but I fear they may actually be dire. Russia is now conclusively losing the war and, far worse, has Ukraine nipping at its heels, threatening to strike within Russian territory. Moreover, Ukraine is slowly taking areas that were not simply caught by Russia in its initial push, but were in fact officially annexed by Russia. I’m especially concerned about what happens if Ukraine starts taking back Crimea. At this point, Russia/Putin has no way of achieving a face-saving negotiated peace, as Ukraine has no reason to come to the table. Putin also has little reason to try and make up with the West, because (1) it may be impossible in the short- and medium-term, and (2) European nations are now striking deals with other countries for energy infrastructure and supplies.

    All of this may add up to the calculation by Putin that the only viable remaining option is to bomb Ukraine to hell. Since the beginning of this war, I’ve contended that Russia would never drop a nuke, but I also never expected the war to end up here. If the only option left is to let Ukraine retake all of its lands — including those officially annexed by Russia — and regularly threaten targets within Russia, Putin may decide that using a single or several tactical low-yield nukes to obliterate Ukrainian manpower, logistics, and supplies is the only route to anything less than a complete disaster. The question remains whether 100,000 dead civilians would only further increase Ukraine’s resolve or completely demoralize it, but I think Putin probably feels that there’s no risk of the West/NATO retaliating against a nuclear attack with further escalation; rather, there would probably be a day of outrage from Western leaders, ultimately leading to “pursuing a diplomatic solution.” Regardless of the fact that Russia would likely lose a conventional war, I don’t think the West wants one, no matter what happens.

    As much as I’ve wanted to see Ukraine win this war, this is the most concerned I’ve been about the situation since it began.

    1. There seems to be a growing divide among American foreign policy analysts as to how the Biden administration should react to the Russia-Ukraine war. One group feels that the U.S. should provide Ukraine with whatever it needs to drive out the Russians. This policy could push Putin into a corner, increase the likelihood of him using nuclear weapons, and possibly result in a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation. A second policy recommendation, the one apparently adopted by Biden, is to give Ukraine enough weapons to deter a Russian victory, but not those offensive weapons that could spur Putin to act recklessly. The downside of this policy is that the war could go on endlessly in stalemate with its resolution murky as best. A third viewpoint is that the U.S. needs to put pressure on Ukraine to actively negotiate with Putin to end the war even if it means Ukraine would cede territory to Russia. U.S. attention should be focused on shoring up NATO. The further destruction of Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war would cease. The problem with this approach is that it assumes without any compelling evidence that Putin would be content with taking over just a sliver of Ukraine and not invade it again sometime in the future, thus placing Russian forces in direct proximity to NATO countries. Although no historical analogy is exact, to me this viewpoint suffers from the stench of Munich – an appeasement policy that failed.

      The sad reality is that there is no outcome to this war that will satisfy all parties involved – Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO. Nor does anyone have a crystal ball to predict the long-term consequences of the conflict. Nevertheless, the U.S. has to have a policy and hope for the best. Thus, I would go with the Biden policy, which is provide Ukraine with the defensive means (not offensive) to deter the Russian aggression with the hope that the Russians will ultimately retreat from Ukraine without provoking a world cataclysm. Obviously, I am not privy to the inner thoughts of the Biden administration, but I hope it would not urge Ukraine to cede territory to Russia under the rationale that Putin would be satisfied with this. In 1938, there were those that thought Hitler would be satisfied with just parts of Czechoslovakia. We know how that turned out. I wonder how the territory for peace advocates would feel if China invaded the U.S. and to end the war the U.S. would be compelled to cede California to it.

  2. I concur with Jerry’s lament, now verified by wapo, on the loss of the middle of the dining out industry. Maybe it is just nostalgia of this genre of affordable restaurant that kept me fed through grad school and early days of dinners out for our young family (choice of chopped steak, fried chicken, hamburger, meat loaf, etc) or maybe it is still my pent up covid-times-desire not to have to plan a meal or to meet family for a meal where everyone can choose different items from a menu. One thing I missed most during quarantine was going into a restaurant, sitting down, and choosing from the menu, the ambiance of other diners chatting and enjoying themselves, the possibility of talking with a neighbor or friend who has dropped in, a place where our extended family could afford and enjoy dinner without huge logistics of meal-planning and clean-up at home. I know its a first world problem but ….

    A note on TJ: I had several visits there as I was kibbitzing on STEM ed with two local civic groups looking to create similar governor’s schools in another part (southeastern) of Virginia about ten or twelve years ago. It was an amazing school with an amazing student body and curriculum – all created from scratch over 25 years. There was (and to this day is) no statewide leadership to develop their unique curriculum and most disappointingly there was not even a statewide effort to hold it up as a best practice curriculum. I do not know what happened with the commended student notification, but it would be worthwhile to inquire regarding recognition of the NMSQT semi-finalists and finalists, both categories being well represented at TJ over the years.

    1. I’m much less pessimistic about the restaurant loss. My neighbourhood has a place that opened a month before the first shutdown in March 2020. They squeaked through the pandemic on patio service, and now they’re thriving mainly because it’s become a haven for the locals from the neighbourhood. My daughter works at a bigger restaurant that’s not bespoke fine dining but a step up from Olive Garden. Their problem is not lack of customers – they can’t hire enough staff.

  3. The single fruitcake that formerly circulated endlessly around the country has reached the end of its journey. I’m eating it right now! I love fruitcake. The more pecans and mystery candied fruit, the better! It just is not Christmas without one!

    1. This is bc fruitcake reproduces asexually, either by budding or by a horrific form of mitosis. This is thought to happen only while it is shipped through the mail.

    2. I must admit, I really like fruitcake. Proper, well-made, from a good bakery, not the mass-market cheap Wal-Shart stuff. I would love to get my hands on one from Vinman’s Bakery, from downtown Ellensburg, Washington (You gotta love it!), but almost any decent bakery can make one worthy of eating. However, a real and proper stollen or panattone is just as welcome.

  4. This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”

    Do these idiots not realise that “Everybody has won and all must have prizes” comes from a work of literary nonsense and not an instruction manual? I hope that one of the students who missed out on a scholarship as a result of TJ’s shenanigans sues for losses resulting from the school’s maladministration.

  5. TJHSST: Oy! That’s my alma mater! It was just TJHS when I was there, one of I guess at least a dozen high schools in the Fairfax Co VA school system. The Science & Tech part came in 1988. Bven when I was there, ’64-7*, three of my good friends subsequently became PhD electrical engineers out of UVA and VA Tech – two have had interactions with Steven Jobs & Bill Gates, and the other went into the CIA.

    *Construction of the school had not been completed when I was a freshman so I went to another one for that, but I grew up in a house directly adjoining the school property. I spent my youth up to about age 11 in the wonderful woods that were once on that site. I can’t imagine how my outlook on everything would have differed without experience.

  6. As far as the strike on Engels Field, the Russian report that a Ukrainian drone was shot down NEAR the base and three Russian servicemen were killed by falling debris, and that at least one aircraft was slightly damaged doesn’t wash. Seems to me that shooting down near an airbase would imply that the Russians got it before it could do damage and so if anyone was going to be killed by falling debris, they would be much more likely to be non-military. Also, how do you wind up inflicting some damage on an aircraft if you shot it down before reaching the airport.

    Seems more like Russian lying and damage control to me.

    This report supports this>. (The sense I got about this site is that videos may update on the same URL, so I’m not sure that it will remain the same video over time).

    Best would if the strikes took out the airstrips enough to be unusable for the duration of winter, given the inability to cure concrete properly when temps are below freezing.

    Things would change greatly after a funeral for P*tin.

    Oh, and ref, Zelensky(y), to further complicate things I saw another spelling yesterday: Yelinskyj Or maybe it was Yelenskyj

  7. The latest farce from Thomas Jefferson HS perfectly illustrates the woke deification of equity—which, at bottom, means that the wokely cannot put up with the concept
    of distributions. Sometimes they don’t understand what the word means (as in the notorious Sci Am quote about the normal distribution); or sometimes they just reject the concept of distributions as unfair. After all, anything distributed randomly—mutations, chromosomes at meiosis, gas molecules—is not under supervision by the DEI Committee. No wonder that fringe issues (sexual dimorphism, indigenous “ways of knowing”, reputations of iconic past scientists) keeps revealing this basic woke hostility to Genetics, to probability theory, to evolution by natural selection— to everything in the natural world alien to the rules of wokedom, and which must therefore be “decolonized”.

  8. Many restaurants in SF have shifted their business model to fast casual because of the expenses mandated by the city such as the ever increasing minimum wage and the health mandate. The fast casual biz model eliminates most of the front-of-the-house expenses (i.e., the hostess plus the servers and bussers). Unintended consequence: fewer restaurant jobs.

    This is much like the rental housing situation in SF. Rent control causes owners to keep their places off the rental market. Unintended consequence: fewer rentals.

    SF’s answer to that: Proposition M – Tax owners who don’t rent out their places.

  9. *The Washington Post reports that the pandemic has changed the restaurant business—perhaps forever.

    Yeah, that’s been a source of some despair for me.

    I’m a “foodie” and by far one of my greatest joys in life was eating out in great restaurants with friends. I’m not rich, so my money would go to those experiences vs, say, a nice car or expensive vacations.

    During the worst of the pandemic I couldn’t even watch food shows any more because they just reminded me of “Before Times” when such stuff was part of the elan of life for me.

    It’s a bummer that, per the article, the industry hasn’t totally bounced back. But still, I live in an urban area and our local strip is packed with restaurants, most of which look full at least on weekends. I was all ready to join most people I know going “post pandemic” and getting back to eating out at restaurants again. But covid had other plans for me (and many others), so…that’s a pipe dream now.

    Boy do I miss it!

    1. Sorry….why/how is Covid still preventing you from going out to eat? Not trying to be nosey about your health, but I am honestly perplexed that going to a restaurant is a (permanent?) pipe dream for you, especially as a foodie.

      1. Hi Leslie,

        I ended up with Long Covid from my infection last December. Turned my life upside down and hasn’t resolved over this past year. Dizziness, headaches and heart palpitations with any exertion, insomnia, newly acquired alcohol intolerance, etc. So while everyone else I know bounced back after Covid and went on with their lives, going out to restaurants, movies, trips etc, I’m left mortified by the prospect of getting Covid again while I haven’t even recovered from my first bout (and many with LC get worse with subsequent infections).

        So…not exactly conducive to being able to relax about the prospect of being infected in the type of settings I used to enjoy in restaurants. And unfortunately virtually all the news about LC is bad – each new study seems to identify ever more damage done by covid and they still don’t know how to treat LC,. Meanwhile the virus is out there mutating away to ever more infectious variants. So…no off-ramp for the foreseeable future…

        (My wife and kids took yet another vacation without me being able to join them over Christmas…so…feeling it especially at this time).

        Hoping some day to be a foodie again….:-)

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