Monday: Hili dialogue

May 1, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Monday and the FIRST DAY OF MAY; yep, it’s May 1, 2023. I always celebrate May Dayt by playing Julie Andrews’ rendition of Lerner and Loewe’s “The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot. The 1960 play was made into a movie, but Andrews turned down her role as Guinevere, and was replaced by the Vanessa Redgrave, who could sing, but not nearly as good as Julie.

They don’t write Broadway songs (or musicals) like this any more. Great tune, and lots of clever (and internal) rhymes.

It’s also National Chocolate Parfait Day, as well as these food months:

National Beef Month
National Barbecue Month
National Loaded Potato Month
National Egg Month
National Hamburger Month
National Salad Month
National Salsa Month
National Strawberry Month
May 1-7: National Raisin Week
May 3-9: National Herb Week
And May 1 is also these holidays: Frequent Flyer Day, Melanoma Monday, Mother Goose Day, Save the Rhino DayInternational Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening DayLei Day in Hawaii, International Workers’ Day or Labour Day (an international holiday), Law Day in the United States), formerly intended to counterbalance the celebration of Labour Day. (United States), and, of course,  May Day (beginning of Summer). But it’s also Samhain, celebrated by Celtic neopagans and Wiccans in the Southern Hemisphere.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 1 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*As I recall (though I may be wrong), Trump didn’t give the traditional Presidential stand-up comedy shtick at the Annual White House Correspondents’ dinners, but Biden does. He did it two nights ago, and, as the NYT reports, he finally got a chance to make fun of Fox News.

Whatever news gods decided that the cable television stars Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon should be fired the same week that President Biden was scheduled to give a funny speech ribbing the news media certainly were generous in providing fresh material. And Mr. Biden took advantage on Saturday night as he gleefully mocked some of his favorite foils.

In his annual appearance at the black-tie White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the one night a year that a president is expected to play a stand-up comic, Mr. Biden made the most of the opportunity with some timely skewering of those who usually skewer him — most notably Fox News, which fired Mr. Carlson on Monday just days after settling a defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million.

But instead of letting you read about it, why don’t you just listen to Biden’s remarks yourself in the video below. Unfortunately, he decided to make a speech about Americans held in Russian captivity before getting funny, but you can skip that and start at about 7:45.  He gets in a good shot at Marjorie Taylor Greene. He’s not as funny as Obama, but at least he’s tolerable as a humorist. But then in the last five minutes he reverts to politics again.  “Our administration did great things.”  The dinner isn’t really the place to start running for reelection.

*As part of the pandemic-induced drive to raise prices but being sneaky about it, many restaurants are, according to the NYT, skipping the free bread and serving a “bread course” for which you are charged. (You’d never see that in France!)

At Nura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it’s two fresh rounds of butter-drenched naan, nestling a pair of warm Parker House rolls. At Dauphine’s, in Washington, D.C., it’s fat slices of sweet potato brioche with buttermilk biscuits and a demi-baguette. Bird Dog, in Palo Alto, Calif., serves everything-togarashi challah — a Jewish-Japanese hybrid — and at Audrey, in Nashville, there are burnished orbs of Appalachian salt-risen bread.

At a certain tier of restaurants, the bread has been good for decades. But now it has emerged as a course of its own.

“Our Breads,” declares the menu at Marcus Samuelsson’s Hav & Mar, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. At Le Fantastique, in San Francisco, the “Bread & Butter” gets equal billing with the mains: $12 for a baguette with smoked-peppercorn-and-yuzu-kosho-infused butter. Hav & Mar’s basket with Ethiopian-influenced teff buttermilk biscuits and sweet blue cornbread is $19, Nura’s basket is $21 and both offerings come with an assortment of dips.

Twenty bucks for bread? Even if it sounds good, that is a ripoff. But they have an excuse:

“Yes, flour is cheap,” said the chef and restaurateur Greg Baxtrom, whose Rockefeller Center restaurant, Five Acres, serves a laminated carrot curry milk bread accompanied by a copper ring of fresh pea butter for $14, “but labor is expensive.”

I’m sorry, but I’m morally opposed to paying for bread. What’s next, a water course? They already have that: Badoit, Perrier, and other fancy waters. But never in France will I pay for water when you can order a free “carafe d’eau”.

*Palestine is going to continue its “pay-for-slay” program (also called “The Palestinian Authority Martyr’s Fund“) in which Palestinians convicted of harming or killing Jews in terrorist attacks get payments for themselves or their families while they’re in prison. And remember, money that America gives to Palestine eventually finds its way into these funds. That means YOUR taxpayer dollars.

The PA government recently approved its 2023 budget. Presenting the budget to the cabinet, Shtayyeh explained that the budget included a deficit of US$610 million. While acknowledging that the PA’s terror reward payments are causing financial damage to the PA, Shtayyeh clarified that the PA has no intention to abolish the payments:

Shtayyeh: “The Israeli monetary deductions and the decrease in the number of donors are meant to pressure us and subdue us, but everyone knows that we will not trade in policy for money, and what is important is that we rely on each other and understand the reality we live in.”  [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 4, 2023]

Fortunately, Israel has a way of taking back that money from Palestine:

“The Israeli monetary deductions” Shtayyeh complained about, refer to deductions made pursuant to Israel’s Anti-Pay-for-Slay law. The law, passed in 2018 with the assistance of Palestinian Media Watch, provides that Israel must deduct from the taxes it collects and transfers to the PA, the sum the PA spent in the previous year paying salaries to imprisoned and released terrorists and allowances to the wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists – cumulatively known as the PA’s Pay-for-Slay policy.

Since the law was first implemented in February 2019, Israel has made decisions to deduct 2,479,478,454 shekels – a sum equivalent to the PA’s Pay-for-Slay payments in 2018 through 2022. As of the end of March 2023, Israel had actually deducted 2,014,058,985 shekels, and the remainder will be deducted during the rest of 2023.

According to the law, the sums deducted are frozen and held till such a time when the PA abolishes its policy.

But, as noted above, the Palestinians still underwrite terrorism despite the economic loss to the rest of the country. This shows where their priorities are. (And yes, the American taxpayer does subsidize this, for our government gives $$ to Palestine, with the caveat that it can’t be used to pay terrorists, but of course this just frees up money from other sources that can now be used to pay terrorists!

It’s a travesty that the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israelis groups ignore this “pay for slay” policy. Can you imagine the field day that the American media would have if they discovered that Israel was paying its own civilians to kill Palestinians, and gave them a salary if they were caught? The world would be outraged! But when the Palestinian Authority does it, well, it’s business as usual.  The old double standard.

*Part of the “Hanoi Hilton,” the infamous North Vietnamese prison where downed American airmen were kept during the Vietnam war, has now been salvaged and is on display at the American Heritage Museum outside Boston. (I believe John McCain was kept there.) A fascinating article at CBS News describes the prison, its horrible torturous regimen, and the reactions of former prisoners who visited the exhibit.

Robert Shumaker, who was shot down in 1965, said, “You’re on top of the world, flying this fighter that could go a thousand miles an hour, you know? You’re invincible. And there you are on the ground, you know, and reduced to almost being an animal.”

Often injured when they bailed out, the pilots were abused by angry villagers, given crude medical care, and held under not just harsh, but cruel conditions.

Shumaker showed Martin leg irons that were applied to those who “misbehaved.” “They’d lock your ankles in here,” he said.

“How long would they leave you in those things?” Martin asked.

“I was in it for, I think, maybe two or three weeks or so.”

And worse, much worse, awaited them in a place called the Knobby Room – the torture room where the Vietnamese would try to extract information from the prisoners. “I was tortured 12 times,” Shumaker said.

Drawings by Mike McGrath show us exactly what that torture looked like. “They put your arms behind your back and they’ll cinch up your elbows until your ribs start pulling apart here,” McGrath said. “Then they rotate over your head until your shoulder dislocates, and no man can stand the pain.”

Shumaker noted, “They ran a metal bar down my throat to keep me from screaming.”

What were they trying to get out of you? Shumaker said, “They just wanted to get propaganda statements out of us, about how we (according to them) bombed churches and pagodas and all kinds of things, which was untrue.”

McGrath said, “No man stuck to name, rank, serial number. Impossible. We all had guilt feelings that we broke a bond with the United States and gave information, whether false or true.”

Four-hundred-and-ninety-three men the North Vietnamese called “air pirates” were captured in North Vietnam. Twenty-eight died in prison.

The rest came home.

Even those these men were brave, it was a senseless war, and 50,000 more died for no good reason.

*In what almost looks like an attempt to smear people who were associated with the late and much-despised Jeffrey Epstein, the Wall Street Journal has dug up some more people who met with Epstein and whose association with the convicted sex offender had not been previously publicized.

The nation’s spy chief, a longtime college president and top women in finance. The circle of people who associated with Jeffrey Epstein years after he was a convicted sex offender is wider than previously reported, according to a trove of documents that include his schedules.

William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency since 2021, had three meetings scheduled with Epstein in 2014, when he was deputy secretary of state, the documents show. They first met in Washington and then Mr. Burns visited Epstein’s townhouse in Manhattan.

Kathryn Ruemmler, a White House counsel under President Barack Obama, had dozens of meetings with Epstein in the years after her White House service and before she became a top lawyer at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 2020. He also planned for her to join a 2015 trip to Paris and a 2017 visit to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean.

Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, invited Epstein, who brought a group of young female guests, to the campus. Noam Chomsky, a professor, author and political activist, was scheduled to fly with Epstein to have dinner at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse in 2015.

None of their names appear in Epstein’s now-public “black book” of contacts or in the public flight logs of passengers who traveled on his private jet. The documents show that Epstein arranged multiple meetings with each of them after he had served jail time in 2008 for a sex crime involving a teenage girl and was registered as a sex offender. The documents, which include thousands of pages of emails and schedules from 2013 to 2017, haven’t been previously reported.

The documents don’t reveal the purpose of most of the meetings. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t verify whether every scheduled meeting took place.

Well isn’t that special? Now these people will be fighting off inquiries for the rest of their lives. Chomsky’s response was particularly pungent:

When asked about his relationship with Epstein, Mr. Chomsky replied in an email: “First response is that it is none of your business. Or anyone’s. Second is that I knew him and we met occasionally.”

Finally, and this is old news, there’s an evolutionary biologist whose work we’ve discussed before:

In March 2015, Epstein scheduled a gathering with Mr. Chomsky and Harvard University professor Martin Nowak and other academics, according to the documents. Mr. Chomsky said they had several meetings at Mr. Nowak’s research institute to discuss neuroscience and other topics.

Epstein donated at least $850,000 to MIT between 2002 and 2017, and more than $9.1 million to Harvard from 1998 to 2008, the schools have said. In 2021, Harvard said it was sanctioning Mr. Nowak for violating university policies in his dealings with Epstein, and was shutting a research center he ran that Epstein had funded. MIT said it was inappropriate to accept Epstein’s gifts, and that it later donated $850,000 to nonprofits supporting survivors of sexual abuse.

Here’s Epstein’s mansion in the Virgin Islands, reportedly the site of sexual abuse of underaged girls:

(From WSJ): Epstein’s former residence on a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO: EMILY MICHOT/TNS/ZUMA PRESS
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Kulka are about to scrap again:
Hili: I know very well what your plan is.
Kulka: But I’m not doing anything.
(Photo: Paulina)
In Polish:
Hili: Dobrze wiem co planujesz.
Kulka: Przecież nic nie robię.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)

And a photo of Mr. Szaron:


A meme from Nicole:

Another misspelling from David:

Asparagus Man!  A Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, contributed by Merilee:

A tweet from Masih. Man, the Iranian theocrats are getting really antsy about women removing their hijabs. Let’s remember this when we hear some Western feminists or hijabis inform us that the hijab is a “choice”.


Titania clarifies all:


From Luana, who says that “someone misses the point” of our paper.  Indeed.

From Malcom, a samurai arrow. Sound up, of course! Freaky!

A humorous tweet from Barry:

From the Auschwitz Memorial: A girl, 12, was gassed upon arrival.  She would have been 91 today.

From Matthew, who says that this berg was also seen in Conception Bay.

Can you answer this question? Read the thread:

I may have posted this before. If so, well, here it is again. It’s the amazing crow-raising-the-water-level-with-stones trick:

49 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1707 – The Act of Union joining England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain takes effect.

    1753 – Publication of Species Plantarum by Linnaeus, and the formal start date of plant taxonomy adopted by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

    1807 – The Slave Trade Act 1807 takes effect, abolishing the slave trade within the British Empire.

    1840 – The Penny Black, the first official adhesive postage stamp, is issued in the United Kingdom.

    1851 – Queen Victoria opens The Great Exhibition at The Crystal Palace in London.

    1866 – The Memphis Race Riots begin. In three days time, 46 blacks and two whites were killed. Reports of the atrocities influenced passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    1886 – Rallies are held throughout the United States demanding the eight-hour work day, culminating in the Haymarket affair in Chicago, in commemoration of which May 1 is celebrated as International Workers’ Day in many countries.

    1930 – “Pluto” is officially proposed for the name of the newly discovered dwarf planet Pluto by Vesto Slipher in the Lowell Observatory Observation Circular. The name quickly catches on.

    1931 – The Empire State Building is dedicated in New York City.

    1946 – Start of three-year Pilbara strike of Indigenous Australians.

    1956 – The polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk is made available to the public.

    1960 – Cold War: U-2 incident: Francis Gary Powers, in a Lockheed U-2 spyplane, is shot down over the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Soviet Union, sparking a diplomatic crisis.

    1978 – Japan’s Naomi Uemura, travelling by dog sled, becomes the first person to reach the North Pole alone.

    1999 – The body of British climber George Mallory is found on Mount Everest, 75 years after his disappearance in 1924.

    2003 – Invasion of Iraq: In what becomes known as the “Mission Accomplished” speech, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (off the coast of California), U.S. President George W. Bush declares that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended”.

    1764 – Benjamin Henry Latrobe, English-American architect, designed the United States Capitol (d. 1820).

    1769 – Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Irish-English field marshal and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1852).

    1852 – Calamity Jane, American frontierswoman and professional scout (d. 1903).

    1852 – Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1934).

    1857 – Theo van Gogh, Dutch art dealer (d. 1891).

    1923 – Joseph Heller, American novelist, short story writer, and playwright (d. 1999).

    1930 – Little Walter Jacobs, American blues harp player and singer (d. 1968).

    1937 – Una Stubbs, English actress and dancer (d. 2021).

    1939 – Judy Collins, American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1945 – Rita Coolidge, American singer-songwriter.

    1946 – Joanna Lumley, English actress, voice-over artist, author, and activist.

    1953 – Glen Ballard, American songwriter and producer.

    1969 – Wes Anderson, American director, producer, and screenwriter.

    But learn that to die is a debt we must all pay:
    1873 – David Livingstone, Scottish-English missionary and explorer (b. 1813).

    1904 – Antonín Dvořák, Czech composer and academic (b. 1841).

    1965 – Spike Jones, American singer and bandleader (b. 1911).

    1994 – Ayrton Senna, Brazilian race car driver (b. 1960).

    2011 – Henry Cooper, English boxer (b. 1934).

    2021 – Olympia Dukakis, American actress (b. 1931).

    1. Why is the night sky dark?
      1) The Universe isn’t homogenous; it’s lumpy, hence stars, galaxies, galactic clusters, inter-galactic dust- and gas clouds, etc.
      2) The Universe isn’t eternal: it had a beginning, it will have an end one way or another.
      3) Even if it were eternal, individual stars are not otherwise the Universe would be infinitely hot.

      In short, the question is moot because the two conditionals – universal homogeneity and eternity – are false.

      1. No idea why the above appeared as a reply to CM’s comment as it was intended as a stand-alone comment.

      2. The lumpiness doesn’t help because, if the Universe were infinite in time and space, every line of sight would end in a lump.

        Olber’s paradox was formulated in 1823 at a time when the question of whether the Universe is eternal was still open. I don’t think it is really a paradox in that it is easily resolved if the Universe had a beginning.

  2. Meanwhile, if you want to watch a video featuring Glenn Loury, John McWhorter and Mark Goldblatt that was banned from Youtube for containing “hate speech”, here it is.

    It’s mostly about wokeism and trans issues, but (surprise, surprise), there’s no actual “hate speech”.

    1. I watched it, and I agree: no hate speech to be found anywhere. Of course, YouTube is afraid of the coercive progressives (h/t Christopher Moss above), for whom any expression of disagreement, no matter how civilly proffered, is “hate speech.”
      I think Goldblatt gets to the heart of the matter in saying that the Woke are in thrall to subjectivism.

    2. How very hateful of you to point out the lack of hate speech in that video. You are committing real violence on people who identify as offended.

    3. The claim that “hate speech” is not in the speech of the non-trans cis-het male patriarchs merely serves to underscore the social subtext of dialectic violence derived from the post-capitalist hegemony.

      It might appear to be a “pomo hoax”, but no – it is proof of the social construction of knowledge itself – neither an elliptical nihilism, nor a post-materialistic fungibility, but identity
      interpolated into a nihilism that includes truth as a paradox.

    4. [Sarc]: The video broadcasts hate* right in the first 20 seconds of its introduction when Mr. Goldblatt (in remarks on childbearing) says that transgender men are women. [/sarc]

      The video is of course not hateful in any way and I was glad to be able to watch it.

      To observe International Women’s Day, no less a personage than our Prime Minister made it clear:
      And with a disturbing rise in anti-transgender hate here in Canada and around the world recently, I want to be very clear about one more thing: Trans women are women. We will always stand up to this hate – whenever and wherever it occurs. [my italics — LM]

      — Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 8, 2023

      The tweet is lifted, with the addition of my emphasized “this”, from his longer official statement about IWD.
      * We in Canada have to be careful with the full phrase “hate speech” because it is a criminal offence in Canada (Sec. 319(1 and 2) Criminal Code of Canada.) One must be circumspect even in sarcasm about appearing to accuse someone of something that the police might feel obligated to investigate. Hate itself is not illegal and is not actionable by the state’s monopoly on the use of violence in any way, other than “standing up to it”…which I guess means standing idly by while trans activists beat up speakers who disagree with them, as seems to be the practice here.

    5. Transphobic speech is included under hate speech, and though many dictionaries define “transphobia” very simply as “irrational fear or hatred of trans people,” activist organizations spell it out more clearly:

      The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it.

      I can’t think of any oppressed minority which routinely includes disagreement with their philosophical or scientific beliefs as a form of oppression.

  3. I love how all the tw337s on the bottom of the webpage say “The following media includes potentially sensitive content.”
    – even the damselfly one!

  4. Try again, see if this one appears as a stand-alone comment or as a reply to somebody (as per comment #2, above).
    Why is the night sky dark?
    1) The Universe isn’t homogenous; it’s lumpy, hence stars, galaxies, galactic clusters, inter-galactic dust- and gas clouds, etc.
    2) The Universe isn’t eternal: it had a beginning, it will have an end one way or another.
    3) Even if it were eternal, individual stars are not otherwise the Universe would be infinitely hot.

    In short, the question is moot because the two conditionals – universal homogeneity and eternity – are false.

    1. My underrstanding is that it’s because of expansion the light is red shifted so we can’t see it. Or rather, we do, but not with our eyeballs; it’s the cosmic background radiation.

      As I am not a physicist, ICBM, though

    2. But even without homogeneity and eternity, the problem remains. I think the real answer is red-shifting because the universe expands, plus the existence of opaque interstellar dust (you can see dark dust avenues in the Milky Way easily with your unaided eyes).

      1. But the question specifically posited an eternal, homogenous Universe where every line of sight would end on the surface of a star. That would entail not just an eternal Universe but an infinite number of eternal stars.
        Even in an expanding eternal Universe the night sky would be infinitely bright and the Universe infinitely hot, because the light- and heat energy would have had an eternity to permeate the entire Universe.
        The night sky is dark (in visible light) because the Universe is not eternal and there is not an infinite number of eternal stars.

      2. Even if the Universe were not expanding the night sky would still be dark.
        This is partly because a great deal of stars will have been far enough away when they ‘switched on’ that their light has not yet had time to reach us. On top of that, the number of photons that reach our eyes from even the closest stars is tiny; the photons that hit our eyes from entire galaxies millions or billions of light years away is infinitesimally smaller still; so small that our brains don’t even register them unless we’re looking through extremely powerful telescopes.
        But mostly, space is so vast that despite the hundreds of billions of galaxies and untold trillions of stars within it, it is to a pretty good approximation, almost completely empty. The amount of empty space between galaxies is (with apologies for overuse of the word) infinitesimally greater than the amount of space taken up by the galaxies, so there are vast blank, direct line-of-vision paths between us and the edge of the observable Universe.
        Think of the Oort cloud surrounding our solar system; there are possibly trillions of icy planetoids in that cloud, far more than the number of galaxies in the entire Universe, yet we still have an unhindered view of space beyond because those trillions of planetoids inhabit an area of space so vast that there is (if I remember correctly) an average of one light year’s distance between each individual planetoid and it’s nearest neighbour.
        So, yes, stars and galaxies are numerous, but the sheer size of the Universe means that it is nonsense to assume that any line-of-sight must end on the surface of a star. If nothing else, it is the size of the Universe itself that renders the initial question moot.

  5. Part of the “Hanoi Hilton,” the infamous North Vietnamese prison where wowned American airmen were kept during the Vietnam war, has now been salvaged and is on display at the American Heritage Museum outside Boston. (I believe John McCain was kept there.) A fascinating article at CBS News describes the prison, its horrible torturous regimen, and the reactions of former prisoners who visited the exhibit.

    Some people like war heroes who weren’t captured, okay?

    That’s the type of detestable comment that would have ended the political careers of presidential primary candidates such as Bill Clinton or George W. Bush or Barack Obama. Not so for a guy who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War era with five deferments, the last for a spurious case of bone spurs.

    When that comment caused on a blip on primary candidate Donald Trump’s GOP approval rating was the moment I understood that something fundamental had changed on The Right.

    1. I acknowledged the fundamental change when his admission of sexually assaulting women didn’t end his Whitehouse bid. Now, of course, nothing surprises me as to the depravity of The Right when it comes to Trump.

      1. Come on. That was just locker room talk…

        … between Trump and somebody who he didn’t know …

        … at a TV shoot with microphones all around…

        … and, if I’d heard it in a locker room, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it would negatively affect my judgement of the character of the person saying it.

  6. …The little man felt ill at ease
    He said some bread sir if you please
    The waiter hollered down the hall
    You gets no bread with one meat ball
    One meat ball
    One meat ball
    Well, you gets no bread with one meat ball!

  7. Rebecca Sear: Demographer, anthropologist, human behavioural ecologist
    “Science is political, because it is done by humans with all their attendant biases.”

    Another social ‘science’ person who cannot tell the difference between the sociology of something from that somethng. .e = mc^2 exists if your black or white, nazi or communist, democrat or republican. The suns of this universe will be applying e = mc^2 to their hydrogen and helium with or without the presence of humans and their social constructs. Her claim is without merit.

    1. How do you know the gender identification of the “suns” are all male? You might be oppressing them by misgend….Oh. … Wait….
      Carry on.

  8. In my heyday serving dinner parties to up to twelve people, based mostly on Julia Child’s cookbooks, I learned early to stop serving bread with the soup course. I put a lot of money and effort into the main course, and I discovered when I offered bread, people would fill up on it dooming my work on the main course.

  9. Astronomers couldn’t explain the night sky until Hubble found the expanding universe, putting most light into the infra-red region.

  10. “Science is political, because it is done by humans with all their attendant biases.”

    Marriage is . . .
    Sex is . . .
    Grocery shopping is . . .

  11. I remember a sign advertising a “GROJ Sale”. It was not a misspelling – “GROJ” stood for “Get Rid Of Junk”.

    Another sign promoted a “Dragin Sale” (with an appropriately reptilian illustration) – they decided to drag in a bunch of stuff and try to sell it.

  12. Charging for bread in restaurants illustrates the same economic problem for the baker as trying to capture carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for mitigation of climate change. The processes are expensive but the value of the products is low….negative in the case of CO2. It costs $600-900 to sequester a tonne of CO2, yet typical carbon taxes where applied are $150/tonne of CO2. So it will be cheaper for all of us to just pay the tax and vent it to the atmosphere than trying to sequester it to avoid the tax. Some say the whole idea is greenwashing or a grift to harvest subsidies. I don’t mean to get into that argument. I’m just illustrating the economics of expensively producing low-value goods. Like bread in restaurants.

    Rational people ought not to pay as much for bread as a restaurant charges to make it fresh for every meal. As Ronsch99 says, and Jerry implies, better to do without or buy it in an artisanal bakery and eat it at home. Similarly, carbon dioxide can’t be sold* as such — it must be stored underground forever or manufactured into very expensive limestone bricks (which, so far I’m told, aren’t as good as regular clay bricks or concrete blocks for the price.) So for both bread and CO2, you’re spending a lot of money to make something that customers have to be manipulated (Ethiopian butter! Net-Zero bricks!) into buying, or for which there is no market at all.

    CO2 sequestration directly from the global atmosphere would have to be financed as a public good, like lighthouses, but it would compete for funding with other public goods desired by voters, like sewers and national defence. Bread in restaurants used to be a sort of public good but like all public goods, it distorts the price for private goods through its consumption of the resources to make it. Free bread should be provided only if it is “efficient”– i.e. everybody wants it, like plates and cutlery and air conditioning –, which it isn’t because a lot of free bread gets thrown away.

    A related problem arises in trying to store surplus electricity generated on sunny windy weekends to use on calm nights and Dunkelflaute. It’s like buying a barrel made of pure gold to store flour in. You can’t sell the resulting bread for a high-enough price (even to fancy restaurants) to finance the cost of the barrel. Better to arrange for a reliable supply of flour to your bakery.

    Anyway, electricity and flour are basic to our lives. Since I do make bread at home regularly, I indulge myself some thinking about the economics. And I would never pay for bread in a restaurant. Unless it came with a pile of pastrami on it and a pickle on the side.
    * It is claimed that someday we will, with the input of abundant nearly free energy, be able to make aviation fuel from CO2, in effect powering airplanes with their own exhaust. It is also claimed that cheaper storage media will be invented and practicalized someday. Both doubtless true.

    1. I’m not sure I follow this. Bread is clearly not a “low value good” in the sense that you can’t sell it for as much as the cost to make it. If it were, there would be no bakers.

      The economics of restaurants are different to what most people think. The raw materials, even when good quality are a small fraction of the costs. The major costs are staff hire, the lease, power and maintenance.

      Most restaurants probably buy their bread wholesale from a local bakery (if they are any good). If that’s the case, per person, it probably costs them pennies.

      If they make their own (as it seems happens in the establishments mentioned above), there’s more labour involved because they don’t have the same economy of scale that a bakery has. Therefore you’ve got to charge more for the bread. Either you charge it as a separate item, or you raise all the prices across the board.

      Now I don’t know about restaurant culture in the USA, but here in the UK, nobody really eats bread with the meal, at least not in the kinds of restaurants I usually go to. It would therefore seem sensible to target the price increase at the people who do want the fancy bread “course”.

      In France, it is different: bread is always part of the meal. Frequently you’ll find there is not enough on your plate to satiate you unless you eat the bread, and that’s expected. Charging separately for the bread would seem as outrageous to a French person as charging separately for the chips (fries) would to an English person, probably more so.

      1. Bakers and retailers can sell self-serve bread for a price that allows a profit, of course. It’s not clear that restaurants can serve bread economically, though, because, as you say, restaurants have high fixed costs that every menu item has to contribute margin to. Restaurants we visit have taken to asking us if we want bread. Since we never do, I don’t know if they charge. I don’t recall seeing it on a menu except at this really nice place we go for anniversary and Mrs. M’s birthday. There they explained the modest charge was to reduce the amount that gets thrown away, so only really hungry people who intended to eat it would order it. Food portions tend to be smaller here than in the U.S. but still rarely do we need bread.

        We’ll see if this bread course fad lasts. Bread in a North American restaurant is not an efficient public good, either, so it might disappear.

  13. I hear that Camelot is back on Broadway, in a version heavily revised by Aaron Sorkin that apparently eliminates the magical elements and emphasizes progressive sentiments. I’m not terribly interested and the tickets would be too expensive anyway.

    My dad had an LP of the original recording of Camelot, which he recorded to casette tape and used to play in the car during family vacations. I never saw the musical but I love the album as if it was a childhood friend. I did see the movie, which was a disaster thanks to the recasting—Richard Harris hamming away as Arthur, Franco Nero at sea as Lancelot, and the otherwise lovely Vanessa Redgarve revealing her vocal limitations. The film was also long and very badly directed.

    To be honest, the Arthurian legends haven’t had much luck in the cinema. The only excellent Arthurian films I can think of are Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981), Lancelot du Lac (1974, Robert Bresson), and Perceval (1978, Éric Rohmer). Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic, but it’s a send-up.

  14. I first read the night sky question in A Brief History of Time (q1988), p. 7 :

    “Another objection to an infinite static universe is normally ascribed to the German philosopher Heinrich Olbers, who wrote about this theory in 1823. […] The difficulty is that in an infinite static universe nearly every line of sight would end on the surface of a star. Thus one would expect that the whole sky would be as bright as the sun, even at night.
    Olbers’s counterargument was that the light from distant stars would be dimmed by absorption by intervening matter. However, if that happened the intervening matter would eventually heat up until it glowed as brightly as the stars. The only way of avoiding the conclusion that the whole of the night sky should be as bright as the surface of the sun would be to assume that the stars had not been shining forever but had turned on at some finite time in the past. In that case the absorbing matter might not have heated up yet or the light from distant stars might not yet have reached us. And that brings us to the question of what could have caused the stars to have turned on in the first place.”

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