Tuesday: Hili dialogue

May 9, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, May 9, 2023, and National Shrimp Day. In honor of the tasty crustaceans, here’s the world’s largest shrimp cocktail, made in Mazatlán, Mexico, as certified by Guinness:

The glass itself took four months to manufacture, a Plexiglas acrylic cocktail glass replica that boasted a diameter of 1.36 m (4 ft 5 in) and a height of 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in). The group started with 675 kg (1,488 lb) of unpeeled shrimp before a group of about 80 chefs started a six-hour task at 5:30 a.m. of peeling, cleaning, and cooking what ended up as 488 kg (1,075 lb.) of prepared shrimp. Estimates of the total number of shrimp used soared past 33,000, although not all prepared shrimp were saved for the final cocktail.

As for the dipping sauce, it featured 57 kg (127 lb) of ketchup, 10 kg (22 lb) of lemon juice, 5.6 kg (12 lb) of “salsa brava,” 4.025 kg (8 lb 14 oz) of Worcestershire sauce, 3 kg (6 lb 9 oz.) of salt, 1.014 kg (2 lb 3 oz) of Tabasco sauce, and a relative pinch of 30 g (1 oz.) of pepper.

I’d dive right in there!

It’s also National Butterscotch Brownie Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day, National Moscato Day, Tear the Tags off the Mattress DayEurope Day, commemorating the Schuman Declaration. (European Union), Victory Day observances, celebration of the Soviet Union victory over Nazi Germany, and, in Ukraine, Victory Day over Nazism in World War II. 

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 9 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*This year’s Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday. You can see the whole list as this Associated Press site, but what interested me the most were the prizes for artistic endeavor, and here they are:

FICTION: “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver; “Trust” by Hernan Diaz

DRAMA: “English” by Sanaz Toossi

According to the Pulitzer website, the jury for this prize attends plays in New York and in regional theaters – while the award goes to the playwright, the actual productions of the shows are factored in.

GENERAL NONFICTION: “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa

BIOGRAPHY: “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” by Beverly Gage


POETRY: “Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020,” by Carl Phillips

MUSIC: “Omar,” by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abel

Crikey, I’ve heard of only one of these. But it’s a book I’m reading at the moment: G-Man, a biography of J. Edgar Hoover. I’m only 230 pages in, but that’s just a third of this behemoth book. So far, I’d definitely say it’s Pulitzer worthy, a mesmerizing tale of a generally self-absorbed, odious, but immensely powerful man. I want to see what happens after WWII, especially his animus against (and wiretapping of) Martin Luther King, Jr. And yes, he was probably gay, something that historians have wondered about for years.

*Over at the NYT, Daniel Pfeiffer, senior advisor to President Obama, maintains that Biden should not negotiate with the Republicans over the debt ceiling, even as the debt crisis is less than month away.

Mr. Biden’s strategy is undoubtedly risky. But from the perspective of someone who had a front-row seat inside the White House to the last two debt-limit standoffs between a Democratic president and a Republican House, Mr. Biden’s refusal to negotiate on the debt ceiling is the best strategy. Facing an urgent deadline and a daunting political context — with the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, joined to an unstable, far-right bloc of Republican representatives who limit his maneuverability — the president can ideally find a way to extend discussions around the debt ceiling and fiscal issues. Otherwise, he will have to find a way around the House.

Okay, you ask, so how’s he gonna do that? Don’t ask me. This is what Pfeiffer says:

 Republicans won control of the House in the midterms. They have a legitimate voice in any debates over the country’s fiscal future. Mr. Biden should negotiate with Mr. McCarthy over the budget and other fiscal matters and propose a process for doing that — but first, Mr. McCarthy must remove the threat of imminent default.

President Barack Obama confronted similar scenarios twice. In 2011, he spent months negotiating with Speaker John Boehner to strike a “grand bargain” that would help solve America’s longstanding fiscal problems. But Mr. Boehner couldn’t deliver his caucus in support of the framework, and the nation hurtled toward default. With only a few days to go, negotiators were able to strike a smaller agreement that satisfied no one, left both sides angry about the result and was damaging for the country. The United States’ credit rating was downgraded for the first time in the nation’s history, and borrowing costs for the government went up.

That’s not a solution, but a dream. Still, if the nation crashes, they may blame it on the GOP (or not), but they could easily blame it on Biden. Pfeiffer argues, correctly, that if Biden negotiates on the debt limit, the Republicans will hold him hostage forever.

Still, the most important reason to avoid entering into negotiations over the debt limit itself goes beyond politics. It is why, in 2011, Mr. Obama pledged never again after trying to negotiate with the Republicans. Allowing the Republicans to use the threat of default as extortion could cripple the remainder of Mr. Biden’s presidency.

Yes, but what will REALLY cripple Biden’s presidency is a genuine, actual default. Don’t ask me how to solve the problem. I suspect somebody will give in at some point before June 1, but I can’t predict who. I’m a biologist, not a pundit:

*News from reader Ken

Here’s an excerpt from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves‘s video announcing the launch of his reelection campaign:


Aside from the unbelievable bad taste of running such an ad during a time of so many mass shootings, Reeves’s pudgy round face looks ridiculous atop Clintwood’s rawboned body.

. . . and a followup: Tate Reeves’s Democratic opponent in the Mississippi gubernatorial race is one Brandon Presley — yes, none other than The King’s cousin. Reeves currently trails Presley in the polls, based mainly on Reeves’s involvement in the Mississippi welfare scandal (in which, among other things, $6 million earmarked to help Mississippi’s impoverished citizens was instead diverted to a former NFL quarterback so he could build a volleyball stadium for his daughter at the University of Southern Mississippi and in which another cool $1.1 million went directly into the former QB’s pocket.

The NFL quarterback in question is none other than Brett Favre, famous for his play with the Green Bay Packers. The articles says that  “$1.1 million went to Favre himself.”  That money, according to Wikipedia, went to Favre for two speaking appearances for which he didn’t show; he still hasn’t repaid more than $200,000 of it, but his lawyer says Favre didn’t know the money came from a fund intended to help the poor.

*The BBC News reports something very sad: the execution in Iran of two men convictd of blasphemy.   (h/t Gravelinspector)

Iran has executed two men who were convicted of “burning the Quran” and “insulting the Prophet of Islam”, the country’s judiciary says.

Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare ran dozens of social media accounts “dedicated to atheism and desecration of the sanctities”, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported.

Mr Mehdad’s lawyer had insisted that he was innocent and his sentence unjust.

A rights group called their executions “a cruel act by a medieval regime”.

There has been a surge in executions in the Islamic Republic amid continuing anti-government unrest, but those for blasphemy convictions are rare.

Mizan said Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare were hanged at Arak Prison in central Iran on Monday morning.

The two men were arrested in 2020 and accused of running a Telegram channel called “Criticism of Superstition and Religion”, according to Iran’s Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). They were held in solitary confinement for the first two months and denied access to a lawyer, it said.

In 2021, the Arak Criminal Court convicted Mr Mehrad and Mr Fazeli-Zare on blasphemy charges and sentenced them to death, HRANA added. They were also given six-year prison sentences for “running groups to act against national security”.

The Supreme Court rejected their appeals against the verdicts and upheld their death sentences later that year, Mizan said, adding that both men had “clearly confessed to their crimes”.

Human rights group say Iranian courts regularly fall far short of providing fair trials and use false “confessions” obtained under torture as evidence.

Yes, never believe a “confession” obtained from Iranian prisons. Masih’s tweet below shows a hanging of two men, but I doubt it was these two. Hanging on cranes is usually done for public executions, and, unlike the “long drop” method that kills instantly, this method, by slowly raising a noosed person up with a crane, causes a much longer death by strangulation. But of course the main crime here is the regime’s making free speech against religion a capital offense.

*The other day I posted a tweet showing hundreds of pounds of cooked pasta apparently dumped in New Jersey. Remember this one? (You saw it here first!)

After much speculation and mirth on the Twitter thread, this mystery remains mysterious, although we know the pasta wasn’t cooked:

Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry said Friday that the pasta, including spaghetti and macaroni, was cleaned up last week by public works crews, shortly after officials learned about the oodles of noodles that quickly drew national attention when photos of the pasta were posted on social media.

The estimated 500 pounds (225 kilograms) of pasta were apparently raw when it was dumped, but subsequent heavy rains softened the food and made the mounds look like they had been cooked, officials have said. It’s unclear who dumped the pasta there or why, but it’s not believed the pasta had been at the site for long before it was discovered.

Henry said the pasta did not cause any environmental damage or health issues and he considers the matter closed.

“It certainly shouldn’t have ended up in the woods — putting in or near the stream bed was not the best idea — but I certainly hope our police are not putting more time into this” he said. “Assuming the pasta was still usable, I wish it had ended up in our food bank, which could have really used it.”


Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is enigmatic.  When I asked Malgorzata what “medial multiverses” are, she replied, “If you compare a description of the world in NYT and in Fox News, you could think that they are writing about different worlds. That’s what Hili means with ‘medial multiverses’.”

Paulina: What are you thinking about?
Hili: About medial multiverses.
(Photo: Paulina)
In Polish:
Paulina: Nad czym myślisz?
Hili: Nad medialnymi wieloświatami.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina)
. . . and a photo of the estimable Szaron:


A meme from Scott; I’m well familiar with this pizza!:

From Facebook, a cartoon from Paul Noth (I have a drawing of “dogs playing poker” in my lab):

From Nicole:

A tweet from Masih; see above for the news:

Here we have an anthropology professor (what is with anthropologists?) trying to show that I’m the same as Trump because he evinced ideas derived from sexual selection while the article she cites by me doesn’t mention sexual selection: it’s about determinism.

From Malcolm; this is a new one on me:

From Barry: parrots playing basketball:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a family gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a squirrel playing basketball! (sound up)

An etymology lesson:

It’s interesting that America is below England in average longevity, but there’s much less disparity among the rich than the poor. I’m not surprised, because in England the poor have the NHS and the rich can afford private care.

24 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Another thing to think about with respect to the life expectancy curve is that median income in the UK is lower than median income in the USA. So you can imagine the England curve should be shifted a bit to the left which increases the disparity.

  2. It’s interesting that America is below England in average longevity, but there’s much less disparity among the rich than the poor. I’m not surprised, because in England the poor have the NHS and the rich can afford private care.

    I would bet that differences in health care are not the biggest factor here. I’d suggest that the number one cause of lower life expectancy in the US is obesity (and its resulting illnesses), and after that a range of factors including road deaths (US rate is triple the UK rate), overdoses (the “opioid epidemic” is mostly a US thing), gun deaths, suicide (US rate is twice UK) etc.

    1. Life expectancy at birth is heavily influenced by deaths early in life. So infant mortality, childhood diseases preventable by vaccines, clean drinking water and less crowding, accidental deaths including gunshots but more commonly motor vehicle crashes (including being run over), suicide, homicide, and drowning. Even a few excess deaths below age 20 will have outsize impact on average life expectancy. Prompt treatment for cancer and heart attacks with lavish use of stents and the latest experimental drugs and surgery in the Medicare population makes almost no impact on life expectancy at birth, but does improve life expectancy (modestly) at age 65 in America compared to countries with more tightly rationed systems.

      In the middle years, the opiate epidemic has caused life expectancy at birth in the United States to fall for the first time ever, which even Covid could not do, an effect comparable to the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa affecting similar age groups. This is the public health story of the century.

      Finally, among black Americans (but not residents of modern-day African countries), high blood pressure is almost universal and is less likely to be adequately treated than among whites. This increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure in middle life even without obesity and diabetes. I would go out on a limb and say this is the only condition affecting life expectancy that improved access to medical care might make a difference in..

      There was a similar presentation here a couple of weeks ago looking at regional variations. The district in England and Wales (Blackpool I think?) with the worst life expectancy was still well ahead of the best American state. In all these comparisons you have to consider granularity, especially since socio-economic status is so important . “Illinois” includes the South Side of Chicago, rural areas, and very wealthy enclaves where life expectancy could differ by 20 years.

      I haven’t reviewed the impact of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion recently to be able to comment on whether lowered financial barriers to medical care among the poor have improved any health outcome, never mind the tough nut of life expectancy.

      1. “The district in England and Wales (Blackpool I think?) with the worst life expectancy was still well ahead of the best American state.”

        In a word, No. Not even close. Check out the actual Blackpool data over at https://www.blackpooljsna.org.uk/Blackpool-Profile/Life-Expectancy.aspx. Check out the state by state US data over at ttps://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/life_expectancy/life_expectancy.htm

        For the 2017-2019 period life expectancy for women in Blackpool was 79.5 years. For men in Blackpool life expectancy was 74.4 years. The US state with the highest life expectancy was/is Hawaii. For women, life expectancy was 83.0 years. For men life expectancy was 77.6 years.

        1. The third graph in the expanded tweet series shows that Blackpool indeed has the lowest life expectancy in England (and it’s the one I was referring to.). It is equal to the average life expectancy in America, not that of the best state. My mistake.

          The expanded series is well worth reading. I’m not on Twitter and sometimes these multi-page ones don’t load easily but this one works very well.

          Edit: and in this comparison it’s healthy life expectancy, which is somewhat subjective. If you lost your leg in a motorcycle accident at 22 and you were well-rehabilitated, got a good job, raised a family, and died suddenly at 80, did you have 80 years of good health or only 22?

          1. “It is equal to the average life expectancy in America”

            In a word, No. Check out the actual Blackpool data over at https://www.blackpooljsna.org.uk/Blackpool-Profile/Life-Expectancy.aspx. The US data for 2017 can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db328.htm. The US data for 2018 can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db355.htm. The US data for 2019 can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2020/202012.htm
            For the 2017-2019 period life expectancy for women in Blackpool was 79.5 years. For men in Blackpool life expectancy was 74.4 years. For the US as a whole (2017-2019) male life expectancy was 76.2 Female life expectancy was 81.2
            The concept of ‘healthy life expectancy’ (hLE) is (as you point out) inherently subjective and ambiguous. Unlike “life expectancy’ different sources give very different numbers for the US. For example, the Twitter author puts HLE for the US at around 65 years. By contrast, another source (https://www.verywellhealth.com/understanding-healthy-life-expectancy-2223919) puts HE for the US at around 78.9 years.
            It turns out that HLE numbers can be found for Blackpool (see https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/lancashire-insight/health-and-care/health/health-inequalities/healthy-life-expectancy/). Predictably, Blackpool appears to fall below the US average.

  3. … hundreds of pounds of cooked pasta apparently dumped in New Jersey.

    It being Jersey, they might find the body of the chef who failed to cook the pasta al dente dumped in there, too.

    1. Hey, Ken! Have you seen Paul Schrader’s most recent character study, The Card Counter? I think it’s his best since Affliction. Absolutely riveting in its intensity, buoyed by an incredible performance by Oscar Isaac.

      Also, ever get around to seeing Hanna?

      1. Yeah, I saw The Card Counter at the theater the week it came out and thought it was great.

        I haven’t seen Hanna yet, but put it on my list after you mentioned it before. I thought Cate Blanchett was also great in the 1950s period piece Carol, as the older, closeted lesbian opposite Rooney Mara. That flick struck me as of a piece with the Douglas Sirk style and subject matter director Todd Haynes explored in Far From Heaven.

        1. I haven’t seen Carol, but it’s now on my list. Your description reminded me (solely by association with a couple of subjects) of another Blanchett movie, Notes on a Scandal, which is also excellent.

  4. On this day:
    1386 – England and Portugal formally ratify their alliance with the signing of the Treaty of Windsor, making it the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world which is still in force.

    1671 – Thomas Blood, disguised as a clergyman, attempts to steal England’s Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

    1901 – Australia opens its first national parliament in Melbourne.

    1920 – Polish–Soviet War: The Polish army under General Edward Rydz-Śmigły celebrates its capture of Kiev with a victory parade on Khreshchatyk.

    1926 – Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett claim to have flown over the North Pole (later discovery of Byrd’s diary appears to cast some doubt on the claim.)

    1941 – World War II: The German submarine U-110 is captured by the Royal Navy. On board is the latest Enigma machine which Allied cryptographers later use to break coded German messages.

    1942 – The Holocaust in Ukraine: The SS executes 588 Jewish residents of the Podolian town of Zinkiv (Khmelnytska oblast. The Zoludek Ghetto (in Belarus) is destroyed and all its inhabitants executed or deported.

    1955 – Cold War: West Germany joins NATO.

    1960 – The Food and Drug Administration announces it will approve birth control as an additional indication for Searle’s Enovid, making Enovid the world’s first approved oral contraceptive pill.

    1800 – John Brown, American activist (d. 1859).

    1860 – J. M. Barrie, Scottish novelist and playwright (d. 1937).

    1874 – Howard Carter, English archaeologist and historian (d. 1939).

    1905 – Lilí Álvarez, Spanish tennis player, author, and feminist (d. 1998).

    1920 – Richard Adams, English novelist (d. 2016).

    1921 – Sophie Scholl, German activist (d. 1943).

    1930 – Joan Sims, English actress (d. 2001).

    1934 – Alan Bennett, English screenwriter, playwright, and novelist.

    1935 – Roger Hargreaves, English author and illustrator (d. 1988).

    1936 – Albert Finney, English actor (d. 2019).

    1936 – Glenda Jackson, English actress and politician.

    1937 – Sonny Curtis, American singer-songwriter and guitarist. [A
    member of the Crickets, Curtis continued with the band after Buddy Holly’s death. His best known compositions include “Walk Right Back”, a major hit in 1961 for the Everly Brothers; “I Fought the Law”, notably covered by the Bobby Fuller Four and the Clash; and “Love is All Around,” the theme song for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.]

    1942 – Tommy Roe, American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1943 – Colin Pillinger, English astronomer, chemist, and academic (d. 2014).

    1949 – Billy Joel, American singer-songwriter and pianist.

    1962 – Paul Heaton, English singer-songwriter.

    1989 – Ellen White, English footballer.

    Death alone discloses how insignificant are the puny bodies of men:
    1805 – Friedrich Schiller, German poet, playwright, and historian (b. 1759).

    1976 – Ulrike Meinhof, German militant, co-founded the Red Army Faction (b. 1934).

    1986 – Tenzing Norgay, Nepalese mountaineer (b. 1914).

    2010 – Lena Horne, American singer, actress, and activist (b. 1917).

    2019 – Freddie Starr, English comedian, impressionist, singer and actor (1943).

    2020 – Little Richard, American singer, songwriter, and pianist (b. 1932).

    1. Coincidentally, one of my sons and I were discussing Mt. Everest today, and Tenzing Norgay’s name naturally came up. I learned something new from our discussion. The South Base Camp, at 5,364 meters altitude, is higher than the North Base Camp at 5,150 meters.

  5. The debt limit problem is just a small reflection of a much bigger problem: there is a significant minority in this country that would burn our society down if they cannot live in a world where they are in control. It is obvious that democracy is not important to them, for look at the support Trump still receives, not to mention endless voter suppression tactics. Rules and norms can be thrown out to advance their cause, see how they withheld Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court and rushed in Amy Coney Barret (sp?). Ethics – not an issue for Either Trump or Clarence Thomas, if you are for our side ethics are unimportant. I am not sure what their end game is, perhaps glory and power from leading their own tribe, the rest of us be damned. But they love Jesus.

  6. What’s the difference between the squirrel on the b-ball court and Michael Jordan?

    You can’t fool the squirrel with a crossover dribble:

  7. The tweet by John Burn-Murdoch on US-UK life expectancy is part of a longish thread which is very worth reading. He mentions the effect of absolute income, as opposed to percentile income, and it has just the effect Jeremy Pereira suggested– it increases the disparity. (It’s also interesting to visually see the difference in the absolute income distribution.)

    Most interestingly, he also shows that it’s not the NHS; older people (>40) do just fine in the US. It’s the shockingly high death rates among American young adults that causes the disparity in life expectancy. His full article in the Financial Times is pay-walled, but, the Twitter thread conveys a great deal– it’s a must-read.


  8. To Holly Dunsworth, you are Trump. She has no problem thinking you and Trump have the same worldview. If you doubt that ‘sex is a spectrum’, you are Trump to her.

  9. I once looked into life expectancy in the US (and more specifically Texas). The results were ‘interesting’. Scotch-Irish Americans have relatively low life expectancy. Type ‘life expectancy in U.S.’ into Google for a map (or see https://www.gnxp.com/blog/2009/07/dont-blame-canada.php). Predictably, states settled by Northern Europeans tend to have relatively high life expectancy. One surprising result is that poor, heavily Hispanic areas tend to have high life expectancy. This is known as the ‘Hispanic Paradox’ (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic_paradox). In Texas, the German (the Hill country) areas and Hispanic areas have relatively high life expectancy. The Scotch-Irish areas do not.

  10. I just want to drop a recommendation for Demon Copperhead. It’s modeled after David Copperfield, and is a searing presentation of the damage caused by opiates in Appalachia. Well worth the read.

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