Monday: Hili dialogue

January 2, 2023 • 6:45 am

Translation: A happy New Year!

Welcome to the first Monday of the year, and it’s January 2, 2023, and a good holiday: National Buffet Day. Give me a decent buffet and I’m a happy man, and guaranteed to leave full!

It’s also 55 MPH Speed Limit Day (signed into law by Nixon on this day in 1974), National Cream Puff Day, Swiss Cheese Day, National Science Fiction Day, World Introvert Day, and holidays honoring the New Year: the second day of New Year (a holiday in Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine), and New Year Holiday in Scotland.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 2 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The NYT has a long and rather beside-the-point discussion of the question, “when does life begin”? That’s not, of course, the same question as “when does it become unethical to terminate the life of a fetus, but the questions are conflated as if answering one would answer the other, which, at least to people like me, it doesn’t. In fact, when I saw the title of the piece, I came up with the same answer as someone quoted in the piece:

Nick Hopwood, a professor at the University of Cambridge, has spent years researching the history of reproduction. The question of when life begins may be inherited from the idea of ensoulment, and the idea that you can pinpoint a specific moment when that happens, but by the 20th century many biologists rejected the question as “not a good question,” he said.

“The egg is alive, the sperm is alive, the cells from which they develop are alive, it is a continuum,” he said. “There might be slightly more acceptance of the question, ‘When does a life begin?’ And then different biologists might point to different stages.”

Surely a zygote is not life produced from non-life! Now if you want to know when the process that culminates in the development of an infant begins, that’s a different question yet, and the answer is “when the egg is fertilized.” But that’s not the beginning of life, it’s the beginning of development of an individual organism. And it still doesn’t convince me that a fertilized egg cannot be aborted (most of them are spontaneously, anyway).

*We still don’t know the motive for the killer who stabbed four University of Idaho students to death, nor has the law released how they tracked the suspect down. But this CNN article gives us a bit of evidence:

The suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho college students plans to waive his extradition hearing this week, his attorney said, to expedite his return to the Gem State, where he faces four counts of first-degree murder.

Bryan Christopher Kohberger is “shocked a little bit,” Jason LaBar, the chief public defender for Monroe County, Pennsylvania, told CNN Saturday, a day after the 28-year-old’s arrest in his home state on charges related to the fatal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20. He also faces a charge of felony burglary, according to Latah County, Idaho, Prosecutor Bill Thompson.

. . .Investigators homed in on Kohberger as a suspect through DNA evidence and by confirming his ownership of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene, according to two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. Authorities say he lived just minutes from the site of the stabbings.

He drove cross-country in a white Hyundai Elantra and arrived at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania around Christmas, according to a law enforcement source. Authorities began tracking him at some point during his trip east from Idaho.

An FBI surveillance team tracked him for four days before his arrest while law enforcement worked with prosecutors to develop enough probable cause to obtain a warrant, the two law enforcement sources said.

Genetic genealogy techniques were used to connect Kohberger to unidentified DNA evidence, another source with knowledge of the case told CNN. The DNA was run through a public database to find potential family member matches, and subsequent investigative work by law enforcement led to his identification as the suspect, the source said.

LaBar confirmed Kohberger, accompanied by his father, had driven from Idaho to Pennsylvania to celebrate the holidays with his family. A white Hyundai Elantra was found at his parents’ home, LaBar said, where authorities apprehended Kohberger early Friday.

I gather there were about 12,000 white Hyundai Elantras in the area, so it would help to find those owned by people nearby the “murder house. But what the DNA contributed mystifies me. They would have had to have a sample of the suspect’s DNA, and find, in the public database, a match consistent with a relative. But where did they get the suspect’s DNA. There was no sexual assault, so it couldn’t have been semen? Well, if we hold on briefly, we’ll know when the indictment comes down

*What were Pope Benedict’s last words? As this article reports, he was faithful unto death:

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s last words were “Lord, I love you,” his longtime secretary said Sunday, quoting a nurse who helped care for the 95-year-old former pontiff in his final hours.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, a German prelate who lived in the Vatican monastery where Benedict took up residence after his 2013 retirement, said the nurse recounted hearing Benedict utter those words at about 3 a.m. Saturday. The retired pope died later that morning.

“Benedict XVI, with a faint voice but in a very distinct way, said in Italian, ‘Lord, I love you,’″ Gaenswein told the Vatican’s official media, adding that it happened when the aides tending to Benedict were changing shifts.

“I wasn’t there in that moment, but the nurse a little later recounted it,″ the archbishop said. ”They were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards, he wasn’t able to express himself any more.”

Gaenswein did not identify the male nurse who shared the information.

I don’t intend to be mean-spirited when I say this, but the issue with thinking you’ll go to Heaven is that you’ll never find out you were wrong, because when you die your consciousness disappears, and thus there will never be a time when you can think, “Damn! I was wrong!” At least we atheists don’t have that problem.

*According to the AP, the Swiss government has rejected gender options beyond the sex-based binary of male and female.

The Swiss government on Wednesday rejected the idea of introducing a third gender option or no-gender option for official records, a position which differs from that of some neighboring countries.

Responding to two proposals from parliament, the governing Federal Council said “the binary gender model is still strongly anchored in Swiss society.”

“The social preconditions for the introduction of a third gender or for a general waiver of the gender entry in the civil registry currently are not there,” it said.

The Federal Council added that such options would require “numerous” changes to the Swiss Constitution and to laws both at the national level and in the country’s 26 cantons (states). Currently, people are entered into the civil registry as male or female, with no other option.

The government said a national ethics commission found in a 2020 report that the time wasn’t yet right for a change to the system.

Ah, the conservative Swiss! I wonder if they’ll replace J. K. Rowling as the Great Satan.

*This was sad, and when I saw the Guardian headline, “Thirteen bison killed after road crash near Yellowstone National Park,” I couldn’t imagine what kind of crash could kill so many large, bulky mammals. Well, it was a semi, and it was in the dark. Even so, was the guy driving too fast?

In a statement released on Facebook, the West Yellowstone police department announced that around 6.30pm on Wednesday “multiple bison were struck by a semi-truck near mile marker 4 on Highway 191”, referring to a highway north of the town of West Yellowstone.

According to the police, 13 bison were killed after the truck smashed into a herd, with some of the bison needing to be euthanized “due to severe injuries”. Authorities initially believed that two other passenger vehicles were also involved in the traffic incident but found, upon further investigation, that all the bison were hit but the semi-truck and that the two other vehicles were involved in secondary accidents.

The gory scene occurred amid a severe winter storm that swept across the nation earlier this week.

“In the winter months, [the bison] are most often found near paved roadways and snowmobile trails due to these areas being easier for them to travel. This often puts them near or on the highway and in the path of vehicles,” police said.

“Although speed may not necessarily have been a factor in this accident, road conditions at the time would dictate traveling below the posted speed limit,” the police continued, urging drivers to slow down and drive appropriately to road and weather conditions.

. . .The Montana wildlife advocacy group the Buffalo Field Campaign said on its website that the animal victims were mothers and their yearlings, and called for lower speed limits in the area, complaining of drivers “barreling down that portion of Highway 191 where bison-vehicle collisions are inevitable”.

According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone is the only place in the US where “bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times”.

Babies killed, too! If the guy was driving too fast for conditions, that’s a violation, and he should at least be given a hefty fine as a deterrent. Believe me, if he killed 13 humans he’d be in jail.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is showing signs of clinical depression:

Hili: I don’t see any reasons for joy.
A: And what do you see?
Hili: Reasons to go to sleep.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie widzę powodów do radości.
Ja: A co widzisz?
Hili: Powody do pójścia spać.

************************

One I posted about five years ago, but still good:

True! But now some restaurants are charging for bread.

And our generation in about ten years (a David Sipress cartoon):

An announcement from God on Mastodon (but He is still on Twitter because God is everywhere):

According to Masih, the protestors (which include the Kurds), have now made barricades in the street:

From Steve: a brave cat escapes a coyote. Sound up. I guess this was a home security camera that could be zoomed later, because otherwise it would be a heartless S.O.B. who filmed this without intervening.

From Ginger K. I have no idea whether the tweet is true:

From Malcolm; kittens don’t get more adorable than this. There’s an annoying soundtrack if you want to listen:

From the Auschwitz Memorial; one who survived, another who did not:

Tweets from Full Professor Matthew Cobb. The Scarborough Walrus, Thor, has apparently left the town. Good!

The second tweet is an oldie (the scene is of New Year’s Eve in Manchester), but they’ve photoshopped in Thor:

Here’s Thor again. I didn’t know what was going on here, but Matthew informed me that the walrus was masturbating. In public! Looking at it again, I saw the huge member. . .

28 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1921 – World premiere of the science fiction play R.U.R. by the Czech writer Karel Čapek. [The play is the origin of the word “robot”.]

    1959 – Luna 1, the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and to orbit the Sun, is launched by the Soviet Union.

    1967 – Ronald Reagan, past movie actor and future President of the United States, is sworn in as Governor of California.

    1974 – United States President Richard Nixon signs a bill lowering the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 MPH in order to conserve gasoline during an OPEC embargo.

    1981 – One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, is arrested in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

    2004 – Stardust successfully flies past Comet Wild 2, collecting samples that are returned to Earth.

    Born:
    1886 – Apsley Cherry-Garrard, English explorer and author (d. 1959). Member of the Terra Nova expedition and acclaimed for his 1922 account of it, The Worst Journey in the World.

    1895 – Folke Bernadotte, Swedish diplomat (d. 1948). Negotiated the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps. In 1945 he received a German surrender offer from Heinrich Himmler, which was ultimately rejected. He was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948 by the paramilitary Zionist group Lehi while pursuing his official duties as United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab–Israeli conflict of 1947–1948.

    1903 – Kane Tanaka, Japanese Supercentenarian, Oldest Japanese person ever, Second oldest verified person in world history (d. 2022).

    1920 (probable) – Isaac Asimov, American writer and professor of biochemistry (d. 1992).

    1968 – Cuba Gooding, Jr., American actor and producer.

    Pining for the fjords
    1951 – Edith New, English militant suffragette (b. 1877).

    1953 – Guccio Gucci, Italian businessman and fashion designer, founder of Gucci (b. 1881). [Great name!]

    1977 – Erroll Garner, American pianist and composer (b. 1921).

    2005 – Maclyn McCarty, American geneticist and physician (b. 1911).

    2011 – Pete Postlethwaite, English actor (b. 1946).

    2022 – Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleontologist and politician (b. 1944).

    1. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Ken. One of my favorite songs of my teen years was Room to Move. I still quote from the lyrics at appropriate times. Now the song is going to be my earworm today!

  2. “it is a continuum”

    Sure, in the way everything is a “continuum” – which of course is to mean life is _not_ a “continuum”. Maybe it is a web, or network, or multi-layered.

    What the hell? Continuum is a useful word but is it me or is it used for everything nowadays?

    A definition I found :

    Continuum:

    “A continuous series or whole, no part of which is noticeably different from its adjacent parts, although the ends or extremes of it are very different from each other.”

    1. Ditto “exponential”, used seemingly ubiquitously — and incorrectly — to denote a rapid increase.

      Don’t mind me, I’m just a grumpy old mathematician.

    2. The only legitimate answer to the question “when does life begin?” is “About three and a half billion years ago*”, because it’s been continuous ever since, albeit branching in numerous directions, most of which are no longer extant. But there is a continuous trail from the first life (that has ANY descendants, anyway) to every living thing today.

      *give or take a Tuesday

      1. Right – a cascade, a chain reaction, perhaps – but those words appeal to different readers’ palates, or not, as the case may be.

        “Chain reaction” of course is associated with nukes, “cascade” with clean dishes (in the U.S.), …

        Yeah, “continuous” might be the accurate word here. But the general audience might not grasp it immediately. Begging the question (I think), why continuum?

        Because it sounds and looks cool.

    3. What I think I hear even more often than “continuum” is “spectrum”. And the conditions for really finding a spectrum are probably even narrower than for a continuum.

    4. I don’t really see the issue. Seems like a perfectly correct word to use. There is never a moment anywhere in the process of procreation where dead stuff becomes living stuff. All the stuff involved, mother, father, eggs, sperm, fertilized egg, embryo, is living at every point in the process. And that continuum goes back about 3.5 billion years, as best we currently understand it.

      Sure, one can argue that what is meant by “life” by those posing the question is something like, “When does this living stuff become a new, unique living organism?” But to my mind that doesn’t make the question any easier or clearer to answer, at all. And the continuum viewpoint seem to me to be a good way to point out the issues with the question, trying to figure out and justify where to draw the line. It also happens to be correct.

      1. Using a definition from wordnik :

        “no part of which is noticeably different from its adjacent parts”

        For egg, sperm, zygote, and so on. “Alive”. OK.

        It seems at worst subjective, at most meaningless – it’s twitching or not. But it’s all in living cells all the way down and up.

        Multi-ordered, maybe, I’d say, as I mull it over. Or just all alive – same “alive” for each one.

        But I understand I indulge with the language – and I got dough to make – IT’S ALIVE!

        Cheers

      2. OK OK hang on – I see the sense in it now – but by those lights, “pregnant” would be a continuum…?

  3. If the DEI jobs are really drying up, as per the tweet, we may be turning the corner. That’s good news! (If true.)

  4. Okay, exactly what did that cat do to prompt ABC News into assuming the cat was “fearless?” I saw no taunting or teasing in that video, just a terrified domestic animal trying to get away from a determined predator. I’ll grant that the cat was “brave,” but courage is not the absence of fear: it is the mastery of fear.

  5. As the late Philip Kurland (University of Chicago Law School) once quipped, “Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies.” I think the best formulation of the problem I’ve heard is, When does the fetus attain personhood rights that outweigh the right to bodily autonomy of the mother? The question of “life”–principally thanks to Roe–has been very unhelpfully and confusingly used as a synonym for “person with rights.”

  6. “when does it become unethical to terminate the life of a fetus …”

    A better question is, when does it become ethical to deny a woman full autonomy over her body ?

    To talk about the rights of a fetus is to move attention away from the real issue, the rights of women for equal treatment under the law.

    1. “Real” in your opinion. Not in the opinion of those who feel framing it that way is a red herring. You can’t just shout over them to get your way. You have to either convince them or outvote them.

  7. “ And it still doesn’t convince me that a fertilized egg cannot be aborted (most of them are spontaneously, anyway).“

    I think that by concentrating on that argument, the “pro-choice” faction might actually be able to make some headway. Why? Because most “pro-life” people don’t have a funeral after a spontaneous abortion, and most don’t oppose the IUD as a contraceptive. Some will realize that they are hypocrites and come around.

    But just as essential as the above is to give up the other extreme position, namely that abortion should be allowed for any reason up to (or, some argue, even after) birth (whether that technically counts as an abortion is beside the point). Even if you really believe that, surely it would be better to come to some sort of sensible compromise than prolong the state of affairs in the USA today. Note that in most countries where there is essentially no abortion debate, it is because there is a compromise, allowing it generally up to, say, three months then after that only in special cases.

  8. “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s last words were ‘Lord, I love you.”’

    Another version is that he saw the risen Christ and that his last words were “rose bud,” as in “Lord, am I glad to see you rose, bud.”

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