Friday: Hili dialogue

March 31, 2023 • 7:15 am

This post is late because I overslept by 1.5 hours. I’m not sure how much sleep I got, though, as it took me forever to fall asleep. Anyway, do not worry: I am not dead.

We’ve once again reached the end of the work week (and also the end of the month), as it’s Friday March 31, 2023, and Oysters on the Half Shell Day.

It’s also National Clams on the Half Shell Day, César Chávez Day (he was born on this day in 1927), Eiffel Tower Day (it was unveiled on this day in 1889), National Bunsen Burner Day, National Crayon Day, National Farm Workers Day, National Tater Day (honoring the humble spud), International Transgender Day of Visibility, and World Backup Day (is your computer backed up?).

Chavez (below), who crusaded tirelessly on behalf of beleaguered farm workers, was one of the heroes of my generation. I well remember not eating grapes during the great grape strike beginning in 1965:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 31 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The big news is of course that Trump was indicted in connection with hush money paid to keep his affair with Stormy Daniels quiet. I posted about that minutes after it was released to the press; you heard it here first! We’ll have more on that later today.

*It wasn’t long ago that the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut looked as if it would be taken over by the Russians who had nearly encircled it. That would be  one of the rare victories for Putin’s war criminals. Now, however a crack unit of Ukrainian soldiers may have turned the tide:

Six weeks after coming to help defend Bakhmut, the men of the Adam Tactical Group, one of Ukraine’s most effective battle units, were quietly confident they had turned the tide against Russian troops trying to encircle and capture it.

“The enemy exhausted all its reserves,” the commander, Col. Yevhen Mezhevikin, 40, said on Tuesday, straddling a chair as artillery, air defense and intelligence-gathering teams worked around him.

Through wave after wave of Russian assault and tenacious Ukrainian defense, Bakhmut has, over eight months, become a central battlefield of Russia’s invasion despite limited strategic significance.

Russia has lost extraordinary numbers of troops in the battle, and Ukraine large numbers, too, and as casualties have mounted, so has the political symbolism of the city. Kremlin officials have described it as a necessary prize in the campaign to seize Ukraine’s Donbas region. To Ukraine, it has become an important line to hold, both to whittle down Russia’s forces and to deprive them of a victory.

But now, Colonel Mezhevikin said, the Russian assaults have slowed and the imminent threat of encirclement has been thwarted. “The density of assaults dropped by several times,” he said. “Before, they could assault in all directions simultaneously and in groups of not less than 20, 30 or 40 people, but gradually it is dying down.”

Who would have thought that the Russian Army—drawn from a vast population—would have been so incompetent. But thank Ceiling Cat they are! And of course Putin has lost a substantial amount of credibility among his own people, who don’t want a war that has no justification save Lebensraum.

*Just when you thought the NY grand jury investigating Trump and Stormy Daniels was about to either put up or shut up, things have become more complicated.  Now it’s investigating possible hush money paid to yet a second woman, a Playboy Playmate.

Manhattan prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s role in paying hush money to a porn star also have been examining a $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model who alleged that she had an affair with the former president, according to people familiar with the matter, raising the prospect that Mr. Trump could face charges connected to the silencing of both women.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been presenting a grand jury with evidence of Mr. Trump’s involvement in a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels since January. In those proceedings, the people said, Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors also have questioned grand-jury witnesses extensively about an earlier deal involving Karen McDougal, Playboy Magazine’s Playmate of the Year in 1998, who has said she began a 10-month relationship with Mr. Trump in 2006.

The extent of prosecutors’ interest in Ms. McDougal hasn’t been previously reported. Prosecutors could use any McDougal evidence either to bring charges directly related to the McDougal payment or to establish an alleged pattern of conduct by Mr. Trump, the people said. Participants in the deals with both women allege that Mr. Trump played a central role.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg declined to comment. A lawyer for Ms. McDougal didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Trump didn’t immediately comment. Mr. Trump has called the investigation by Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, a “witch hunt” and has said that he didn’t do anything wrong.

I think most people consider adultery wrong, and Trump was married at the time (he still is). We’ll see if there’s legal wrongs, I suspect. What puzzles me is why so many attractive women want to have a relationship with such an odious man. It can’t be that he’s a charming, likable fellow in person. It’s gotta be about money and power.

*The school shooting at Christ Presbyterian Church is another unfathomable tragedy, and the killing of three young children, one of them the pastor’s daughter, makes it even worse by forcing us to think about lives cut off at the very beginning. Several readers have tried to suggest ways to stop this carnage, but the calls for more gun restrictions and better mental health care are unworkable. An op-ed in the NYT suggests another thing to ameliorate the misery: prayer. But not prayer as a placebo—prayer as a way to connect with God. It’s another NYT op-ed extolling a deity who almost surely doesn’t exist:

In an increasingly secular culture, there is often a misunderstanding of the true purpose of prayer. If you don’t believe in God, it may strike you as silly, something beneficial only to the extent that it provides a placebo effect. At its worst it can seem like a cheap and easy way to respond to a terrible, preventable tragedy. Prayer, in this formulation, is a substitute for action. It’s a way that a guilty culture can feel good about itself even as it does nothing — nothing but watch children die. Again.

Moreover, there’s no doubt that there are some people who use declarations like “I’ll pray for you” as a polite form of dismissal. It’s a way of expressing a vague blanket concern, and nothing more. This is the way that the rote recitation of “thoughts and prayers” turns the sacred into the profane.

But when there is genuine belief and genuine humility, prayer is something else entirely. It’s an act that — again, presuming you believe anything close to what I believe —connects you to the creator of the universe. In that way, Morrow is exactly right. Petitioning God is more powerful than petitioning any president. After all, the Book of Proverbs declares that “a king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever he chooses.”

. . .For the faithful believer, prayer isn’t a substitute for action, it’s a prerequisite for action. It grounds us before we move to serve others. It grounds us before we speak in the public square.

Moreover, petitioning God is a tangible act of faith. It reminds believers of their ultimate sense of trust in an eternal presence. It reminds us of the very concept of eternal life. As my friend Scott Sauls, Christ Presbyterian Church’s senior pastor, said in the service, “We grieve, and we hope.” Prayer helps us grieve. Prayer helps us hope.

I grieve for the families and loved ones of the dead, but do these people ever ask themselves, “if there’s a God up there who’s listening, and can give us eternal life, why does he let children die in school shooting after school shooting?” What kind of God is that? Why would you worship a God who lets these things happen? the most parsimonious answer (unless you think God is a sadist) is of course that God doesn’t exist, and I don’t mean to exploit this tragedy to say that. But it’s times like these when the emotional vacuity of religion becomes most evident.

*Of course any biologist is going to click on a WaPo article called “Scientists say your idea of how the T. rex looked is probably wrong.” Well, actually, our idea is mostly right: it walked on two big hindlegs, had two tiny forelegs and a large tail. It was carnivorous and huge. What the article is really about (the author, amusingly, is named “Dino Grandoni,” which sounds like a joke but isn’t) is that T. rex (note the italics) probably had LIPS that covered its big choppers. That’s about it. They don’t even mention the possibility that the dino was covered with small feathers.

Close your eyes and imagine a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Your dinosaur probably has a hulking frame, scaly skin, puny arms and protruding teeth it wielded to be the apex predator of its era. Right?

If so, sorry: Your image of a T. rex with a big, fierce grin with bare teeth may be wrong. The oversized dagger teeth of the T. rex and its relatives were probably completely covered by thin, scaly “lips,” according to a new study that aims to crack the image of the carnivore popularized by the film “Jurassic Park.”

For decades, many paleontologists and artists alike depicted the T. rex family with lipless mouths, similar to modern-day crocodiles. For illustrators and movie makers, the bare teeth gave their creations a fierce edge. For fossil hunters, the teeth they found in the ground simply seemed too big to be covered by lips.

But now an international team of scientists is challenging some of the best-known depictions of dinosaurs in television and movies. Instead, these researchers say, the T. rex looked more like a lizard, with scaly lips covering and sealing their mouths when closed.

“There were lots of monster movies with toothy dinosaurs,” said Robert Reisz, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga who co-wrote the paper published Thursday in the journal Science. But it was the 1990s “Jurassic Park” series, he said, “that made me groan and moan about the multitude of errors and inaccuracies that started us talking about this issue.”

Only a scientist could groan and moan about the failure to depict the lips of T. rex!

Yet the specific suggestion of a lipped T. rex is poised to spark a debate as ferocious as the dinosaur itself, with other paleontologists pointing to fossil evidence suggesting these carnivores indeed had the bare teeth seen in the movies.

“Completely unconvincing,” Thomas Carr, a paleontologist at Carthage College in Wisconsin whose own work suggests lipless tyrannosaurs, said of the latest study.

And so it goes. Here’s a series of drawings from the piece, with the paper’s original caption:

(from the WaPo): Scientists and artists have developed two principal models of predatory dinosaur facial appearance: crocodylian-like lipless jaws, or a lizardlike lipped mouth. New data suggests that the latter model, lizardlike lips, applies to most or all predatory dinosaur species. This finding challenges many popular depictions of carnivorous species like tyrannosaurus rex. (Image by Mark P. Witton)

I’d still be scared of it if it had lips!

*The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is the world’s rarest marine mammal. Found only in the northern end of the Gulf of California off Baja California, it’s a small porpoise (less than five feet long) and the total number of individuals is around ten. It’s on the brink of extinction, which is heartbreaking.

Now the Mexican government will be sanctioned by the international agreement known as CITES for failure to protect the vaquita, whose numbers have dropped due largely to gill netting and as “bycatch”.

The sanctions have not yet been announced, but they could make it difficult for Mexico to export some regulated animal and plant products like crocodile or snake skins, orchids and cactuses. Commercial seafood species like shrimp would not be affected, but the ruling sets a precedent and some groups are pushing for seafood import bans.

“While no one relishes economically painful sanctions, all other efforts to prompt Mexico to save the vaquita have failed,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope these strong measures wake up the Mexican government.”

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said in a statement that CITES had ruled that Mexico’s protection plan for the vaquita was insufficient.

Studies estimate there may be as few as eight vaquitas remaining in the Gulf of California, the only place they exist and where they often become entangled in illegal gill nets and drown.

The Foreign Relations Department said CITES had ruled the protection plan “inadequate” and said the full ruling — and possible sanctions — “will be officially announced next week.”

Here’s a three-year-old, half-hour video about this adorable animal:

Please, Ceiling Cat, save the vaquita!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows a rare bout of self-correction:

Hili: I’m analysing my opinions about everything.
A: And?
Hili: They require corrections.
In Polish:
Hili: Analizuję moje poglądy na wszystko.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Wymagają korekty.


This is about as tricky as a caterpillar can get. Another marvel of evolution, sent by Malcolm. Sound up to hear the dulcet tones of David Attenborough:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From the same Facebook page:

From Masih. Remember this Iranian sport climber, who climbed without a hijab in international competition (and then said she’d “forgotten it”)? Now she seems to be under a permanent ban.

From Barry: the late, great James Randi trying to overdose on homeopathic medicine. LOL! Sound up.

Two  tweets from reader Simon, a Brit who lived in Nashville for a while (and now is in Chicago). These reflect “Tennessee gun culture.”

And then Simon says, “A tweet making the point that it doesn’t have to be this way”:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who died in her early forties.

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, two photos on Google Maps Images. Find the cat in the second one:

A quadrupedal squid!

The journal Science first went along with Nature’s bright idea of endorsing political candidates. Then it backtracked (Holden Thorp is the editor of Science). One of my retweets. Note: there is NO sensitive material here!

20 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1492 – Queen Isabella of Castile issues the Alhambra Decree, ordering her 150,000 Jewish and Muslim subjects to convert to Christianity or face expulsion.

    1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened.

    1913 – The Vienna Concert Society rioted during a performance of modernist music by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Alexander von Zemlinsky, and Anton von Webern, causing a premature end to the concert due to violence; this concert became known as the Skandalkonzert.

    1918 – Daylight saving time goes into effect in the United States for the first time.

    1921 – The Royal Australian Air Force is formed.

    1930 – The Motion Picture Production Code is instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion and violence in film, in the U.S., for the next thirty-eight years.

    1939 – Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain pledges British military support to the Second Polish Republic in the event of an invasion by Nazi Germany.

    1945 – World War II: A defecting German pilot delivers a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, to the Americans, the first to fall into Allied hands.

    1959 – The 14th Dalai Lama, crosses the border into India and is granted political asylum.

    1966 – The Soviet Union launches Luna 10 which later becomes the first space probe to enter orbit around the Moon.

    1968 – American President Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation of “Steps to Limit the War in Vietnam” in a television address. At the conclusion of his speech, he announces: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

    1990 – Approximately 200,000 protesters take to the streets of London to protest against the newly introduced Poll Tax. [My oldest friend’s flatmate, Roy, was falsely arrested, beaten up in the back of a police van, and made history when the jury asked the judge to stop his trial because the police evidence was so laughable.]

    1991 – Georgian independence referendum: Nearly 99 percent of the voters support the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.

    1991 – The Warsaw Pact formally disbands.

    1995 – Selena is murdered by her fan club president Yolanda Saldívar at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas.

    Births: [A good day for composers.]
    1596 – René Descartes, French mathematician and philosopher (d. 1650).

    1621 – Andrew Marvell, English poet and politician (d. 1678).

    1685 – Johann Sebastian Bach (d. 1750).

    1732 – Joseph Haydn, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1809).

    1747 – Johann Abraham Peter Schulz, German pianist and composer (d. 1800).

    1809 – Otto Lindblad, Swedish composer (d. 1864). [Most famous for the musical score of Kungssången, the Swedish royal anthem.]

    1872 – Sergei Diaghilev, Russian ballet manager and critic, founded the Ballets Russes (d. 1929).

    1890 – William Lawrence Bragg, Australian-English physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1971).

    1926 – John Fowles, English novelist (d. 2005).

    1938 – Patrick Bateson, English biologist and academic (d. 2017).

    1943 – Christopher Walken, American actor.

    1944 – Mick Ralphs, English singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1948 – Al Gore, American soldier and politician, 45th Vice President of the United States and Nobel Prize laureate.

    1955 – Angus Young, Scottish-Australian guitarist and songwriter.

    1971 – Ewan McGregor, Scottish actor.

    If the devil has a pitchfork and the Duck of Death has a scythe, agriculture must be a huge industry in the underworld: [With apologies to Fuad Alakbarov.]

    1631 – John Donne, English lawyer and poet (b. 1572).

    1837 – John Constable, English painter and educator (b. 1776).

    1855 – Charlotte Brontë, English novelist and poet (b. 1816).

    1917 – Emil von Behring, German physiologist and immunologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1854).

    1980 – Jesse Owens, American sprinter and long jumper (b. 1913).

    1993 – Brandon Lee, American actor and martial artist (b. 1965).

    2002 – Barry Took, English comedian, actor, and screenwriter (b. 1928).

    2016 – Ronnie Corbett, Scottish comedian, actor and screenwriter (b. 1930).

    2016 – Zaha Hadid, Iraqi-born English architect and academic, designed the Bridge Pavilion (b. 1950).

    1. Happy Birthday, Andrew Marvell! I’ll never forget reading his classic poem, “To His Coy Mistress”, the spiritual predecessor to Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”, and a poem quoted directly by Steven Moffat in the title of series 10, episode 11 of Doctor Who and (I believe) paraphrased by Pink Floyd in “Time”.

      “Thus, though we cannot make our sun
      Stand still, yet we will make him run.”

      1. I first learned about using an “accent grave” over an è in English to mark it as part of a separate syllable in a word you might not usually say that way, from Marvell’s lines

        And at my back I always hear
        Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near

    2. If agriculture in the underworld still uses pitchforks and scythes it must be collectivized. No shortage of labour, I suppose, and not much risk of escape.

  2. “What puzzles me is why so many attractive women want to have a relationship with such an odious man.”

    He pays them?


  3. Well, the Dems have introduced purely partisan nomination hearings, impeachments, and now indictments. So much for pluralism.

    1. Well, the Repubs introduced purely partisan nomination hearings (Supreme Court Justices), impeachments (Bill Clinton), and now yearn for future indictments (Hunter Biden). So much for pluralism.

    1. So it’s THE Peter Frampton?!?

      Wao wao wao wao

      I want yoooo-oo-oo

      To show meee the way

  4. So many to choose from!

    I’ll take:

    How can “content” be “sensitive”? Does content have a nervous system? Did the content go for a walk with sandals and now the heel is sensitive? Does content need to use Sensodyne toothpaste?

    I guess it is a scientific journal, so it must be true :

    content is conscious!

  5. What puzzles me is why so many attractive women want to have a relationship with such an odious man. It can’t be that he’s a charming, likable fellow in person. It’s gotta be about money and power.

    According to Stormy Daniels, Trump wooed her with a promise to give her a role on his unreality tv show. Stormy said she went to the bathroom as she was getting ready to leave Trump’s hotel room, and that she when she came out it was plain to her that Trump was expecting sex.

    Stormy says she didn’t actually want to do the nasty with the Donald, but she figured she’s big girl who put herself in this situation, which wasn’t her first rodeo, so she went through with it — essentially lying back, closing her eyes, and thinking of England a guest starring role on Celebrity Apprentice. (Actually, I should think that, as a professional porn actress, she probably put in her standard performance.)

  6. If there are only about 10 vaquita left in the world, seems to me it’s too late to expect that sanctions against Mexico could affect their extinction. A day late and a dollar short. It seems very improbable that their extinction could be avoided at this point no matter the effort to save them.

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