Friday: Special Hili dialogue

December 30, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to the last Friday of the year and the last day of Coynezaa! (It wasn’t a terrific Coynezaa this year as I was supposed to be in Poland.) Kvetching aside, it’s Friday, December 30, 2022, and my birthday. As for food days, it’s National Baking Soda Day. What kind of crappy food birthday is that??

From Marie:

Jacques Hauser sent me a nice shrew-themed birthday card (he works on shrews):

It’s also Bacon Day, No Interruptions Day, the fifth day of Kwanzaa and the sixth of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 30 Wikipedia page. But here are a few people born on my birthday:  Roman emperor Titus, Rudyard Kipling, Al Smith, Bo Diddley, Skeeter Davis, Sandy Koufax, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith (two Monkees!), Patti Smith, Tracey Ullman, Heidi Fleiss, Tiger Woods, and LeBron James. 

Matthew says:

Google Chicxulub crater, and see. . . .

Do it!

Da Nooz:

*Russia has just launched a new barrage of missiles and drones on Ukraine, mostly aimed at destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Explosions rocked towns and cities around Ukraine on Thursday morning and electricity went out in several regions as Russia launched what appeared to be one of its biggest strikes to date on the country’s energy grid.

The attack combined a swarm of drones and a volley of cruise missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said on Facebook. Iranian-made exploding drones, which Russia began acquiring last summer, were launched in a first wave, apparently to bog down air defenses before the cruise missile strikes, it said, adding that its defense forces had shot down 54 of 69 missiles and knocked out drones.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter that Russia had been “saving one of the most massive missile attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion for the last days of the year.” Authorities were still assessing the damage, though an official in the Kharkiv region said two people had died there.

For three months, Russia has launched waves of cruise missiles at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in what military analysts say is a strategy to plunge the country into cold and darkness and to demoralize the population. The volleys have come about every week or two.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said last week that another barrage was expected during the holidays. “With the approaching holiday season, Russian terrorists may become active again,” he said in a nightly address to Ukrainians.

This is a war crime, and someday I hope Putin suffers for it, if only by being deposed from power. I still wonder what would have happened if Ukraine had been a member of NATO. Would Putin still have attacked it, and, if so, would the other NATO members defend it, as they would be sworn to do?

*From the Guardian via Gravelinspector comes a pretty horrifying piece, “What is it like to survive an execution by lethal injection?” It details two condemned men who survived the attempt to kill them because the technicians couldn’t find a vein to inject the cocktail of three lethal chemicals. The executions were called off, but it was a grim scenario:

“With each jab, Mr [Kenneth] Smith could feel the needle going in and out and moving around under his skin, causing him great pain,” the lawyers recorded.

When no workable veins could be found, Blue Scrubs [names for the technicians] instructed the prison guards to flip the gurney backward so that the prisoner’s feet pointed towards the ceiling while his head bowed to the ground. Smith now found himself, curiously for a man of religion, in an inverse crucifixion.

Then the IV team left the chamber, leaving him in that position for several minutes. On their return, they righted the gurney.

Red Scrubs, swathed now in face mask and shield to protect himself from splattering blood, produced a large-gauge needle. He began piercing it under Smith’s collarbone in search of a central line straight into his subclavian artery.

After five or six jabs, still with no success, a deputy warden moved Smith’s head to the side to provide a clearer run for the needle.

By now the condemned prisoner was in excruciating pain, according to his lawyers. When Smith protested, the deputy warden clasping his head reportedly told him: “Kenny, this is for your own good.”

. . .In Smith’s case, the IV team’s labours failed. He was still in the chamber when the US supreme court gave its go-ahead for the execution, but shortly before midnight when the death warrant would expire the procedure was called off.

The prisoner, still alive but riddled with holes and profoundly traumatized, was returned to his cell. He had been strapped to the gurney for four hours.

*Here’s a bit of holiday cheer from the BBC via Jez: “Doncaster surgery sends cancer text instead of festive message“:

A GP surgery accidentally told patients they had aggressive lung cancer instead of wishing them a merry Christmas.

Askern Medical Practice sent the text message to people registered with the surgery in Doncaster on 23 December.

Sarah Hargreaves, who was waiting for medical test results, said she “broke down” when she received the text, only to be later told it was sent in error.

The group which runs the surgery said nobody was available for comment. The centre has almost 8,000 patients.

The first text told recipients they had “aggressive lung cancer with metastases”, a type of secondary malignant growth.

It directed patients to fill out a DS1500 form, which allows people with terminal diseases to claim certain benefits.

However, about an hour later people received a second text telling them it was an error and it was meant to wish them a merry Christmas instead.

Ms Hargreaves said after she received the original text while she was out shopping, she “felt sick to my teeth and broke down”.

She added: “I had just had a mole removed and was awaiting a result from a biopsy and I had been to hospital as my smear test came back abnormal, so yes, I was very worried.”

They note that perhaps the email was meant for ONE person, who now thinks that he/she doesn’t have lung cancer.

*Did penguins pass the mirror test? It’s a test of self-recognition involving an animal with its head marked who then looks in a mirror. If it touches the mark on its own head after seeing a reflection, it passes. As Wikipedia notes:

Very few species have passed the MSR test. Species that have include the great apes, a single Asiatic elephant, rays, dolphins, orcas, the Eurasian magpie, and the cleaner wrasse. A wide range of species has been reported to fail the test, including several species of monkeys, giant pandas, and sea lions.

I don’t buy this test completely, but it is indicative of something. At any rate, a report in Hakai magazine has the provocative title, “Penguins may have passed the mirror test.” The thing is, there’s no good evidence that the subject, Adélie penguins, did indeed pass the test—there was no real sign of self-awareness when the penguins looked at stickers on the mirror at head level (they’d be expected to touch their own heads) or had to wear bibs. Despite that, the scientists are trying to add penguins to the group of species that “passed”. They’ll have to do a lot better than that!

*As expected, soccer legend Pelé died yesterday at a hospital in São Paulo. He was 82, and had terminal cancer.

Pelé’s eminence in soccer spanned three decades in which he helped Brazil win World Cup titles in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Quick, agile, adept with both feet and laser-like with his headers, Pelé was built for scoring and blessed with a jazz master’s improvisational skills on the soccer pitch.

During his 22-year professional career, Pelé appeared in more than 1,300 matches and scored almost as many goals, yet he was hardly a one-man show. He saw the field the way a chess champion sees the board — two, three, four moves ahead — with the tactical savvy to pass to teammates better positioned to strike.

He was barely 20 when the president of Brazil proclaimed him an official national treasure. It was an honorific and an economic restraint; it barred him from being transferred to a wealthy European club willing to pay hugely for his services. Pelé was an asset too essential to the national interest to export.

. . .A year earlier, the international governing body of soccer, FIFA, named Pelé and Argentina’s Diego Maradona co-players of the 20th century. The question of who was the game’s greatest of all time — Pelé, with his three World Cup titles, or Maradona, with his one championship in four World Cup appearances — roiled passions well beyond South America. It was a debate that offended Pelé.

Pelé did not hide his lack of regard for Maradona, the Argentine 20 years his junior whom he deemed a bad role model because of his drug addiction, personal scandals and inept turn as Argentina’s national coach for the 2010 World Cup.

Well, we’re in the 21st century now, and although I never watched Pelé play a lot, I’d still say that Messi has a shot for the “greatest of all time.” Pele after that, then Maradona. Let’s honor the Brazilian with a retrospective (click on “Watch on YouTube”:


*Remember the fracas at Hamline University, which fired a professor for simply showing old paintings of Muhammad (depicting his face or body) in class? Well, now FIRE has got into the act:  (h/t cesar)

As PEN America said last week, this is “one of the most egregious violations of academic freedom in recent memory.”

Hamline reportedly justified dismissing the instructor based on concerns about “Islamophobia,” as many Muslims believe Muhammad should not be depicted in any way. However, blanket bans on displaying pedagogically relevant material are not acceptable at a university that commits to academic freedom.

FIRE wrote Hamline urging it to reinstate the instructor.

You can see their letter here. Here’s a excerpt:

Hamline’s nonrenewal of the instructor for showing an image of Muhammad violates the instructor’s pedagogical autonomyprotected by basic tenets of academic freedomto determine whether and how to introduce or approach material that may be challenging, upsetting, or even deeply offensive to some. An instructor’s right to navigate difficult materiallike whether to display a historical painting of Muhammad when many Muslims believe Muhammad “should not be pictured in any wayis well within Hamline’s commitment to protect academic speech that may “potentially be unpopular and unsettling.” Hamline’s policy also reflects nations broader commitment to academic freedom. In warning against laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom,” the Supreme Court called academic freedom “a special concern to the First Amendment and a principle of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned.”

. . . Lecturers, librarians, researchers, and other contingent faculty members’ expressive rights therefore depend on their institutions’ commitments to refrain from using contract renewals  as a vehicle to respond to criticism or unpopular speech. While an institution may generally decline to renew a contract for a good reason, a poor reason, or no reason at all, it cannot do so
for a retaliatory reason, including retaliation for the expression of protected speech. The breathing room afforded classroom discussion depends increasingly on institutions’ in-practice commitment to uphold their promises of academic freedom, and to zealously guard against signaling that particular discussions, language, or materials may risk nonrenewal.

If Hamline doesn’t back down, I smell a lawsuit.

*Quick news: a NYT op-ed called “Poetry died 100 years ago this month.” Why? Because that’s when Eliot published “The Waste Land,” which, according to author Matthew Walther, made further poetic progress impossible.

The problem is not that Eliot put poetry on the wrong track. It’s that he went as far down that track as anyone could, exhausting its possibilities and leaving little or no work for those who came after him. It is precisely this mystique of belatedness that is the source of Eliot’s considerable power. What he seems to be suggesting is that he is the final poet, the last in a long unbroken line of seers to whom the very last visions are being bequeathed, and that he has come to share them with his dying breaths.

I’m convinced. Eliot finished poetry off.

Walther’s pretty much right, though Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney are nothing to sniff at. As for the stuff that passes for “poetry” these days, I can’t get excited. Like rock music, it’s had its day and will wither away.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, there’s a special Hili for me, and even a title: “Birthday Hili”!:

A: Hili, get out of this wardrobe at once.
Hili: I don’t want to. Jerry was supposed to be here but everything went wrong and now I have to give him birthday wishes from a distance.
Happy Birthday, Jerry.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, wyjdź wreszcie z szafy.
Hili: Nie chcę, Jerry miał tu być, ale wszystko się pokręciło i muszę mu składać życzenia na odległość.
Happy Birthday, Jerry.


From the FB Page Religion Poisons Everything:

From Anna, a Dave Blazek cartoon:

From Facebook. I bet this is the place in St. Ives, Cornwall, where a seagull nicked my pasty:

Two tweets/toots from God on Mastodon:

From Masih: More protests in Iran:

From the Divine Sarah (note Baddiel’s “Schrödinger’s Whites” theory of Judaism):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, two things to remember on this day:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. What a beautiful baby bird this is! I’d give anything to weigh it!

Another penguin tweet, and I think I posted this a while back. It’s a cliffhanger, but ends up well:

A bizarre story of deceit and Photoshopping; follow the thread:

Look at the one in Wales!

51 thoughts on “Friday: Special Hili dialogue

  1. Happy Birthday. Sorry you didn’t get to Poland.

    Look at the one in Wales!

    There are three in Wales. I assume though, you mean Llanfair PG. I haven’t looked it up, but I think the long form of the name was basically manufactured to attract tourists.

    Whilst I think Davids Baddiel is right that the Nazis murdered six million Jews because of their ethnic group, not because of their religion, it seems a little bit strange that we even have to have this debate. The implication is that it is somehow not as bad to murder people for their religion as to murder them for being in a certain ethnic group.

  2. Happy birthday Coyne! Though you cannot be in Poland eating fresh pies with Hili and the rest of your surrogate family, I hope you can at least find a great meal among Chicago’s numerous offerings tonight. And, since we are at the end of the calendar year, thank you for all of the thought-provoking articles you have brought us over the past year.

  3. The map misses off Ugley in Essex.
    A joke for you…
    I have bad news for you” says the doctor. “You have only 10…” “What?! Years? Months? Weeks?!” “…9, 8,7…”

    1. Another…
      My friend Was on his way home from the pub in Christmas Eve, when he suddenly remembered he’d done no Christmas shopping. Still, he managed to pick up some flowers for his wife, & some cuddly toys for the children. One of the positives sbout living near an accident black spot.

    2. And it has missed the glorious names near Worcester …

      Piddle Brook, Wyre Piddle and North Piddle!

      (elsewhere the name has morphed into the more polite “Puddle”!)

  4. Chemistry is not far from where I was brought up – near Whitchurch in Shropshire and is not far from the Welsh Border. It got its name, I believe, from a tanning works that was once there.

    ( And Happy Birthday PCC!)

  5. Dull, Perthshire, Scotland is naturally twinned with Boring, Oregon, USA. And let us not forget the village of Killiecrankie, Perth and Kinross, Scotland, from whence some of my ancestors came.

    And as for food day/birthday foodstuffs, don’t think of baking soda as crappy, think of all the wonderful things it makes better, like all the biscuits, cookies, pancakes, breads, cakes…a quite important ingredient that adds a bit of levity to this otherwise far too heavy world.

  6. Happy Birthday Jerry!

    You are honoured in A Word A Day today.

    In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice. -Jerry Coyne, biology professor (b. 30 Dec 1949)

  7. Happy Birthday! It’s really a shame that the food of the day is baking soda and not one of those fabulous dishes that you post. One consolation is that you share the day with Sandy Koufax. Not to shabby!

  8. Happy birthday, Jerry! I am sorry you couldn’t make it to Poland, and hope your adoptive family is feeling better.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the discussion of lethal injections for capital punishment now that they are being used for assisted suicide in Canada. Will they become Schrödinger’s injections?

    1. This is an unforeseen limitation of lethal injection for execution. It is not more humane than hanging for everyone. Or even less noisy and messy.

      Very few euthanasia requests (none?) in Canada come from long-standing drug addicts who have destroyed all their accessible veins by injecting drugs into them with dirty needles several times a day….including during their time in prison. A person on Death Row has no incentive to keep his veins pristine to ease the task for his executioner.

      One of the advantages of hanging is that while not every condemned person has superficial veins, every one of them has a neck.

  9. Happy birthday from California, hope your special day is full of smiles and laughter. Thank you for your thoughtful and well written blog, it has become an important part of my day.

  10. Happiest Birthday Jerry! ….and a meow from Peaches (cat).
    I’m so sorry you couldn’t celebrate in Poland this year. I truly hope your adoptive family gets well soon.
    Next year in Poland!

    Thank you so much for this website. It has brought so much into my life.

  11. Happy Birthday! You were quoted on Today’s Word.a.Day

    with Anu Garg


    (ok-see-GOO/GYOO-zee/zhee-uh, -zhuh)

    noun: An acute sense of taste.

    From Greek oxy- (sharp) + -geusia (taste). Earliest documented use: 1848.

    Oxygeusia is the shortest word with all six vowels. The opposite is hypogeusia (a diminished sense of taste), which also has all six vowels, but is one-letter longer. A complete lack of taste is ageusia. Example: People who like to cover everything around them in fake gold show their ageusia.

    “Don’t you see, Watson? If the thief had oxygeusia as he had claimed, he wouldn’t have partaken of so much of that bland corn at the supper. Can you believe it, six bowel movements?”
    Anu Garg, channeling Arthur Conan Doyle; The Adventure of Slivered Maize; 2022.

    In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice. -Jerry Coyne, biology professor (b. 30 Dec 1949)

  12. A very Happy Birthday Dr. Coyne. I hope you have a fucking great year!
    *ducking… damn autocorrect.

    Weatherman pronounces Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

  13. I tried watching some Pele highlights to see what the fuss was about. It didn’t work. When I see highlights of icons in other sports I can usually go “wow,” I get it.

    But I simply don’t know enough about soccer for my brain to register anything special about what I’m seeing. It just looks like a soccer player moving around with the ball scoring goals like any other figure on the field.

    I’ll just have to take people’s word he was great.

    1. supreme sportswomen & men have a grace & control that other good sports people cannot attain. It is the same watching a skilled craftsman at work, when they have mastered the trade. Also, old TV images do not make it easy to see. Alot of sport is about achieving balance & control. Like an opera singer – exactly the same. That requires strength & training as well as native talent.
      But you know this! 😉

      1. Yes but to my untrained eye whenever I see soccer highlights of any kind, the athletes all look stellar, far beyond my capabilities. So my eye just isn’t trained enough to be discerning in regard to soccer greats.

  14. A very happy birthday, Jerry. May there be many more!

    I used to live near a village in Kent called Pratts Bottom. A bit further away was another called Badgers Mount.

    On the map, Brown Willy (the highest point on Bodmin Moor) is in the wrong place. It should be further towards the SW.

  15. I played drums in a trio called Tooting Bob which was taken from a place name in the UK. We thought it had connotations to a recreational pastime… if not a little amusing (maybe just to us)
    Happy Birthday from down under Prof(E).

  16. Happy Birthday, Jerry! Well, I guess baking soda has some cool chemical properties, like an endothermic reaction when paired with vinegar. Not to mention levity in some baking goods. So not a bad “sciency food”. I’m trying to be optimistic here. 😉

    I’ll echo many others here in thanking you for maintaining the best website out there! (Or at least my favorite.)

    1. I have yet to test this in the lab : sprinkle on ground beef – pH drops – less coagulation (think like making cheese) – more tender.

      1. I’ve done that with hamburger. It works! Browns a lot faster and more thoroughly. Need to let it sit 15 minutes or so after mixing it in. I forget the proportions. You can find it via google.

        1. Thank you.

          As payment, I offer :

          Do not make ricotta from anything beyond “pasteurized” milk. Any higher pasteurization produces protein that does not coagulate properly.

          I only read this – have not tried.

          1. I don’t deal with ricotta…though I like lasagna. Don’t try to make cheese. Like bread, too much hassle. I honor and respect the bakers and cheese-makers of the world. Even Jesus loved the cheese-makers. 🙂

  17. Happy birthday Prof. Coyne!

    “I’d still say that Messi has a shot for the “greatest of all time.” Pele after that, then Maradona.” 😁

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