Monday: Hili dialogue

September 4, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on Monday, September 4, 2023, and National Macademia Nut Day, celebrating what I think is the world’s best nut (cashews and pistachios tie for second place). Two fun macadamia facts: although now grown widely, it was indigenous to Australia. Second, it has a very hard shell: the hardest of all nuts. Wikipedia says this:

The shell material is five times harder than hazelnut shells and has mechanical properties similar to aluminum. It has a Vickers hardness of 35. [That’s not too far from iron.]

It’s also Labor Day, a federal holiday in the U.S., Eat an Extra Dessert Day (yes!), National Wildlife DayNewspaper Carrier Day, and, in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Toothfish Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 4 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*The annual Burning Man festival in Nevada should be called “Drowning Man” this year. The weather is abysmal, and somebody died.

More than 70,000 Burning Man attendees are unable to drive to or leave the event in Black Rock City, Nev., after hours of wind and rain turned the festival’s desert campgrounds into sticky mud.

“Due to heavy rain, the gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City at the Burning Man event will remain closed,” the Burning Man Project said in a statement Saturday morning. “No driving is permitted until the playa surface dries up, with the exception of emergency vehicles. Participants are encouraged to conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space. We will keep the community informed on a regular basis.” The gate was still shut early Sunday morning, organizers said.

Local authorities are also looking into a death at the event. In an emailed statement late Saturday, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said the sheriff’s office was “investigating a death which occurred during this rain event,” adding that the family had been notified.

. . . Each year since 1986, tens of thousands of Burning Man participants, called Burners, gather in Black Rock City, a temporary desert city that is built and torn down on a dry lake bed that was once Lake Lahontan in northern Nevada. Burners are expected to be self-sustaining, which means they must supply their own food, water and shelter for the event.

And an escapee tweeted below. Burning Man is this generation’s Woodstock, and though I have no desire to go, I don’t criticize it, either. It’s a pity that it was rained out. There was rain at Woodstock, too, but it wasn’t in the desert and so wasn’t canceled.

*The overly capitalistic Wall Street Journal discusses whether you need to buy the new iPhone 15 (I have a 13, which I got only because my old 5S didn’t support my network). Apparently some misguided souls buy a new iPhone each year, which is ludicrous. They last for YEARS, especially if you get the batteries replaced–far cheaper than buying a new phone.

Their advice is if your phone supports IOS17 and just needs a new battery, just get the battery changed. Mine does support IOS17 but I haven’t downloaded it yet. I don’t see the need.

Whether or not you buy one of the new iPhone 15 models expected at Apple’s Sept. 12 event depends on three factors: the condition of your current phone, the compatibility of the imminent iOS 17 update, and the next phone’s new features. If your iPhone is two or three years old and works fine, you can probably get another year or two out of it.

Don’t upgrade if…

You just need a fresh battery. The iPhone’s lithium-ion batteries decay over time. After about two years—technically 500 complete charge cycles, though temperature can also affect longevity—your battery life won’t last as long and performance may slow. Apps might take longer to launch. The screen might seem laggy while scrolling.

My phone is about two years old and still has 95% of its battery power. Learn how to conserve battery life (various websites will tell you how to charge it optimally). Of course, if you’re on the phone 24/7, you’ll need a new battery sooner. But they’re not expensive!

If this is you, a fresh battery, not a new phone, may do the trick. It could keep the phone running longer and speed things up.

If your battery’s maximum capacity is below 80%, Apple says it should be replaced. An Apple-certified replacement costs much less than a new phone, usually $89. If you bought AppleCare+ coverage, battery replacements are included. To assess, check battery health in Settings > Battery > Battery Health & Charging.

Only the screen needs repair. Cracked screens are not OK. But if your iPhone is otherwise fully functional, check the price of a replacement display. It might be a better deal than a replacement phone, and it can increase your current phone’s trade-in value. The iPhone XR is the oldest model that supports iOS 17. Apple values one with a cracked screen at $55, while one with a good screen fetches $150.

Upgrade only if your device needs serious repairs or your phone doesn’t support IOS 17 (nearly all models around do.)

*The NYT claims in an op-ed called “Yiddish is having a moment“, by Ilan Stavans, that the Eastern European hybrid language is undergoing some kind of resurgence. (Stavans is an consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary and a Yiddish expert.) But I read the piece more as Yiddish having a death rattle:

Yiddish has been experiencing something of a revival. Online courses mean that anyone from Buenos Aires to Melbourne might learn to speak it. There are new translations of long-forgotten works and literary classics. A Broadway staging of “Fiddler on the Roof” was performed in Yiddish. And streaming platforms like Netflix have released series, including “Shtisel,” “Unorthodox” and “Rough Diamonds,” fully or partially in Yiddish.

Before World War II, approximately 13 million Jews, both secular and religious, spoke Yiddish. Today it is estimated that there are about a quarter of a million speakers in the United States, about the same number in Israel and roughly another 100,000 in the rest of the world. Nowadays the vast majority of those who speak the language are ultra-Orthodox. They aren’t multilingual, as secular Yiddish speakers always were.

This next part is like New Yorker writing: it sounds good but it’s hogwash:

Hebrew, which officially became the national language of the state of Israel in 1948, is spoken by about nine million people around the world. For some, the language symbolizes far-right Israeli militarism.

Give me a break! He had to throw that in there, didn’t he, ignoring the fact that many Hebrew-speaking Israelis are left wing and opposed to the present government (as this week’s rioting demonstrates)?

In contrast, Yiddish represents exile — a longing for home. It was the backbone of the Jewish labor movement in the United States, and the feminist Emma Goldman championed women’s equality and free love in Yiddish. Abraham Cahan, the feisty, commanding editor in chief of Forverts — The Forward, the left-leaning Yiddish daily in New York at the turn of the century — saw the language as a tool for educating Jewish immigrants about their rights.

That’s because the most of the immigrants at that time were Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews.

Given everything Yiddish has gone through — how it was a tool of cross-border continuity, how it was pushed to the crematories by the Nazis, how after the Shoah it thrived in some diasporas but was pushed aside in others — its sheer endurance is nothing short of miraculous.

Yet nostalgia alone cannot push a revival beyond its narrow means. It continues to be a language without a homeland, without an army, a flag, a post office or a central bank, the language of a small, dispersed people. Its speakers may be few, but as my maternal grandmother used to say, words should be weighted, not counted.

More hogwash. I find Yiddish far more colorful and interesting than Hebrew, but that’s my opinion. And I don’t know what he means by words being “weighed”. Does that mean that writing in Yiddish (and I don’t mean literature) has been far more important than writing in Hebrew?

But I would go so far as to say that every educated American should have an armamentarium of Yiddish words in their vocabulary, just because they’re fun to use (Wikipedia has a very good list of Yiddish words used in English). You probably already do, for the word “glitch,” meaning a foul-up or small mistake, comes from Yiddish.

*I’m heading to Tel Aviv on Friday, and CNN reports that there have been violent riots there involving, of all things, the Eritrean government. That’s because most of the Africans seeking asylum in Israel are from Eritrea. An excerpt:

Dozens of people were injured in Tel Aviv on Saturday as hundreds of Eritrean government supporters and opponents clashed with each other and with Israeli police, authorities in Israel said.

Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service said more than 114 people had been treated for injuries, including dozens of police officers. Eight of the injuries were serious, MDA said in a statement.

Israeli Police later said 49 officers had been injured and 39 people were arrested. Police who felt threatened fired live ammunition while extricating themselves from crowds, they said. It was not immediately clear if any of the day’s injuries were from the police live fire.

Videos on social media showed Eritrean government supporters clashing with anti-government protesters.

Eritreans make up the majority of African asylum seekers in Israel.

Israeli police fired stun grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd, while some protesters hurled stones at police and set fire to trash bins.

According to the BBC, Netanyahu now wants all Eritreans seeking asylum sent back to their dysfunctional country:

Israel is considering tough steps including the immediate deportation of Eritrean asylum seekers involved in riots in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “a red line” had been crossed.

He also ordered a new plan to remove all African migrants that he described as “illegal infiltrators”.

Saturday’s unprecedented disorder began after activists opposed to the Eritrean government said that they had asked Israeli authorities to cancel an event organised by their country’s embassy.

They broke through a police barricade around the venue, which was then vandalised.

I hoped to see some peaceful antigovernment demonstrations here, just to get a sense of what’s going on in Israel. But I have no appetite for violent demonstrations, and hope that they’re over by Friday.

*Norway has built a monument to and unfortunate walrus named Freya, who was seen swimming along the coasts of several European countries last year until, after jumping on (and sinking) several moored boats, and attracting huge crowds, was deliberately shot by Norwegian marksmen on the grounds of “public safety”. That decision was cruel and unconscionable, as she never hurt any human.

It’s been just over a year since an orphaned walrus who swam into the hearts of thousands of Norwegians last summer ended up being killed by Norwegian authorities. A new, privately financed memorial to the walrus called Freya has helped fill her absence this summer.

The large bronze replica of Freya rests at the end of a breakwater at Frognerkilen in Oslo, just across the harbour from some of Norway’s monuments to Arctic exploration at Bygdøy (far left). The scupture was unveiled late last spring and steadily draws small groups of Freya’s fans, often paying tribute by laying down flowers or handwritten messages.

. . .The memorial created by sculptor Astri Tonoian also includes a message of its own that refers to “the sins” tied to how humans confront something new or unknown. The plaque notes how Freya’s death at the hands of Norway’s fisheries directorate “raised important ethical questions” about human relations to, and knowledge of, nature.

Experts believe Freya was separated from her mother in the Arctic waters off Northern Norway, forcing the young but large walrus to try to find her own way. She first started appearing in boat harbours along the Norwegian coast, then as far south as the Netherlands before making a major splash in the popular coastal town of Kragerø. Then she continued swimming up the coast to Oslo.

The monument to Freya:

Poor walrus! I still get steamed when I think about their shooting her.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili mourns the end of summer:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m analysing the coming end of summer.
In Polish:
A: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Analizuję zbliżający się koniec lata.


From Merilee: a worthy cat charity and a cartoon by Scott Metzger:

From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe, a cartoon called “Probate”:

From reader David, a grammar Nazi cartoon by Mike Osresh:

A tweet from Masih. The Iranian theocracy just can’t stop blinding protestors. And yet they are extraordinarily sanguine about their loss of sight.

From Malcolm: Kitten tries to catch a sunbeam

From Simon, a new twist on an old meme. Note, the material is NOT sensitive!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, the most iconic people to die in the camp:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a palindrome of the Loch Ness Monster, which reads the same backwards and forwards:

Cat reverses direction on a narrow ledge:

The Nature paper suggests that the population of modern H. sapiens went through a bottleneck of nearly 1300 individuals.  This tweeter (a human evolutionary geneticist suggests that one shouldn’t accept that conclusion, and in the thread gives some reasons why:

27 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1666 – In London, England, the most destructive damage from the Great Fire occurs.

    1774 – New Caledonia is first sighted by Europeans, during the second voyage of Captain James Cook.

    1781 – Los Angeles is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels) by 44 Spanish settlers.

    1867 – Sheffield Wednesday Football Club are founded at the Adelphi Hotel in Sheffield becoming one of the first football clubs in the world.

    1882 – The Pearl Street Station in New York City becomes the first power plant to supply electricity to paying customers.

    1886 – American Indian Wars: After almost 30 years of fighting, Apache leader Geronimo, with his remaining warriors, surrenders to General Nelson Miles in Arizona.

    1888 – George Eastman registers the trademark Kodak and receives a patent for his camera that uses roll film.

    1939 – World War II: William J. Murphy commands the first Royal Air Force attack on Germany.

    1941 – World War II: A German submarine makes the first attack of the war against a United States warship, the USS Greer.

    1949 – The Peekskill riots erupt after a Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill, New York.

    1951 – The first live transcontinental television broadcast takes place in San Francisco, from the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference.

    1957 – American Civil Rights Movement: Little Rock Crisis: The governor of Arkansas calls out the National Guard to prevent African American students from enrolling in Little Rock Central High School, resulting in the lawsuit Cooper v. Aaron the following year.

    1972 – Mark Spitz becomes the first competitor to win seven medals at a single Olympic Games.

    1972 – The Price Is Right premieres on CBS. It currently is the longest running game show on American television.

    1985 – The discovery of Buckminsterfullerene, the first fullerene molecule of carbon.

    1998 – Google is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University.

    2022 – Ten people are killed and 15 are injured in a stabbing spree in 13 locations on the James Smith Cree Nation and in Weldon, Saskatchewan. [Yikes, a year already…]

    1596 – Constantijn Huygens, Dutch poet and composer (d. 1687).

    1901 – William Lyons, English businessman, co-founded Jaguar Cars (d. 1985).

    1905 – Walter Zapp, Latvian-Estonian inventor, invented the Minox (d. 2003).

    1908 – Richard Wright, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet (d. 1960).

    1926 – George William Gray, British chemist who developed liquid crystals that made displays possible (d. 2013).

    1928 – Dick York, American actor (d. 1992). [I’m trying to picture him, but can only see the cartoon likeness from the Bewitched title credits.]

    1944 – Gene Parsons, American singer-songwriter, drummer, guitarist, and banjo player.

    1958 – Jacqueline Hewitt, American astrophysicist and astronomer.

    1962 – Shinya Yamanaka, Japanese physician and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate. [In 2012, he and John Gurdon were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.]

    1975 – Mark Ronson, English DJ, producer, and songwriter, co-founded Allido Records.

    1981 – Beyoncé, American singer-songwriter, producer, dancer, and actress.

    And in the wreck of noble lives
    Something immortal still survives:

    1784 – César-François Cassini de Thury, French astronomer and cartographer (b. 1714).

    1852 – William MacGillivray, Scottish biologist and ornithologist (b. 1796).

    1907 – Edvard Grieg, Norwegian pianist and composer (b. 1843).

    1911 – John Francon Williams, Welsh-born writer, journalist, geographer, historian, cartographer and inventor (b. 1854).

    1940 – George William de Carteret, French-English journalist and author (b. 1869).

    1977 – E. F. Schumacher, German-English economist and statistician (b. 1911).

    1990 – Irene Dunne, American actress and singer (b. 1898). [Dunne is considered one of the finest actresses never to have won an Academy Award (she had five nominations for Best Actress). Some critics feel that her performances have been underappreciated and largely forgotten, often overshadowed by later remakes and better-known co-stars.]

    1996 – Joan Clarke, English cryptanalyst and numismatist (b. 1917).

    2006 – Steve Irwin, Australian zoologist and television host (b. 1962).

    2014 – Joan Rivers, American comedian, television host, and author (b. 1933).

    2022 – Peter Straub, American novelist (b. 1943).

    1. I just read “Lessons from Little Rock” by Terrence Roberts, one of the Little Rock nine students who eventually were admitted to the white Central High School. It is a short paperback of his memories of the event and follow-on behaviors over the years. The hatred and horrors did not end with these kids being successfully escorted into the school in the well known pictures from that day, but the racial hatred continued overtly for years. As a southern white raised in Virginia in the 1950’s and 60’s, I am afraid that much of what he says rings very true to my memories of that time here in southeastern Virginia. I recommend the book as a very informative read.

    2. 1928 – Dick York, American actor (d. 1992). [I’m trying to picture him, but can only see the cartoon likeness from the Bewitched title credits.]

      York played the character based on John Scopes in the film Inherit the Wind. The scene in which he’s arrested for teaching human evolution is below:

    3. Mark Ronson has a great documentary on Apple TV: “Watch the Sound.” He produced Amy Winehouse, including her hit “Back to Black.” Whenever I hear people say “rap music sucks” I think of Ronson’s documentary and have to disagree.

  2. Mine does support IOS17 but I haven’t downloaded it yet. I don’t see the need.

    Unless you are in the beta program, you can’t download it yet.

    There’s usually no need to upgrade an operating system until the version you are on stops receiving security updates. On the other hand, I like having all the latest bells and whistles and it’s free, so I tend to upgrade ASAP. The prudent person waits for the first point release (e.g. 17.1) which will have most of the worst bugs in the first release (e.g. 17.0) fixed.

  3. The poet and children’s author Michael Rosen devoted an episode of his excellent BBC Radio 4 series “Word of Mouth” to the history and linguistic richness of Yiddish. His parents often used Yiddish expressions when he was a child, and he decided recently to learn the language, to reconnect with his family history. In this episode, talks with his Yiddish teacher. The result is both informative and entertaining. It’s well worth half an hour of your time.

    1. Thanks for the link, David. A very informative half hour. Both of my parents, born 1914-16 to default Yiddish-speaking immigrant to U.S. parents (my grand-parents who all died before I was born) were raised and educated in U.S. schools speaking English. Much like Michael, we children picked up Yiddish phrases when our parents would lapse into Yiddish for some adult conversation or, often, for some event that was just better described by its Yiddish cognate. I know enough words to be comfortable with Jerry’s or Ken’s occasional reference, but unfortunately I have passed absolutely none of the culture on the my children. Thank you again for the link.

      1. You’re welcome. I’m pleased that you enjoyed it, and glad that the BBC Sounds link works outside the UK! I’m afraid that my linguistic inheritance is limited to a handful of north Lancashire dialect words. Nothing as colourful as Yiddish, nor anything that I can throw casually into conversation down here in Cambridge.

  4. I am very curious what were the arguments made by Aylwyn Scally against the human bottleneck. As I am not an X user I couldn’t figure out how to see them…..Is there a link that explains more about this?

    1. In the Twitter / X thread Scally said:

      I don’t like to be harsh about a paper, but the fanfare around this one makes it necessary to respond.

      There are many ways to go wrong when inferring past events from genomic data; the datasets are large and noisy, and computational methods get complicated.

      Thus it’s essential to demonstrate clearly that your results are not an artefact of data processing or methodology, or the consequence of overfitting to a particular aspect of the data.

      Simulations are a vital tool for this, and they need to show that your results are robust to alternative scenarios that violate the assumptions of your model. They also need to show that the observed data are indeed consistent with the model you have inferred. Sadly, it’s not clear that these requirements have been met in the paper published in Science.

      (I assume that he meant Nature in that final sentence).

      There’s an archived copy of the paper itself here:

      1. Oops, I got confused – the Nature article was commenting on something published in Science. The archived link I gave was for the Nature piece.

      2. Thank you very much for this. I was expecting that Scally had positive reasons for disbelieving the result, but this seems like just a general curmudgeonly complaint that the results are simply not yet as robustly demonstrated as he would like.

  5. My first iPhone was a hand-me-down iPhone 5. It was small and fit in my pocket. I got it when my wife upgraded to an iPhone 6. I kept the 5 around until it would no longer connect to the cell tower, so I couldn’t call my wife from the grocery store to ask a question.

    By the time my wife had upgraded to the iPhone 10, her iPhone 6 had been through a couple of battery changes and was no longer getting security updates. Since it was truly obsolete, I didn’t get the hand-me-down this time.

    That left me phoneless. And I’m still phoneless. My main reason is that today’s phones are mostly too big to manage (don’t fit readily in my pocket) and too small to be useful (screen too small to use). My wife loves her phone and doesn’t mind dealing with having the one phone for both of us. I almost never get calls and the only calls I make are to service providers.

    I agree with Jerry Pereira, above. Keep your current phone until it can’t accept security updates and becomes a menace to society.

  6. A reason to upgrade your iPhone: cameras. I’d think this would be a big factor for anyone who travels a lot. There was a huge advance in the iPhone camera at 12 (which I have now). So much so that it became my go-to travel camera without need for an SLR. And, apparently the 14 made additional significant advances, though I did not research that carefully. My 12 still works great, but will likely go for the 15.

  7. My favorite Yiddish word is ‘schtup’. Learned this and many others from Pamela Adlon’s character in “Better Things”.

  8. If Eritrean expats in Israel are displeased with their government back home in Eritrea, why don’t they go home and demonstrate against their government there, instead of demonstrating against Israels’s government? Why is it Israel’s job to fix Eritrea’s government for them? Wouldn’t that be “Jewish imperialism” for Israel to even try?

    1. Similar riots in Toronto and Edmonton. Local festival celebrating Eritrean culture, busted up by Eritrean protestors who say the festival is supported by and endorses the current Eritrean government. Violence on both sides, imported to Canada (and to Israel) from Eritrea.

      1. You can almost guarantee that Canada will not deport any illegal protesters or probably do anything about the violence and any criticism will be “discouraged “

          1. I did not know that, I spoke out of turn, however after perusing the internet I can see that persons on Visas work permits or even permanent residence status may be subject to sanction for misdeeds. However a byline news item also said that more than one million individuals had overstayed visas and the government immigration dept does not know where they are!

  9. On the subject of phone upgrades, this book flap copy immediately came to mind :

    “Imagine […] implantable mobile phones made of biosynthetic materials.”

    From book flap (author unknown) of:

    The Fourth Industrial Revolution
    Klaus Schwab
    World Economic Forum
    Crown Publishing
    Also : Penguin Random House

    Appendix 23 discusses “Neurotechnologies”, but it does not appear that Dr. Schwab is proposing implantable mobile phones (as of 2016), but I haven’t read the whole thing yet.

    But Dr. Schwab’s vision of The Future is very optimistic, so it will be interesting to perhaps give it a shot.

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