Friday: Hili dialogue

June 15, 2018 • 7:00 am

It’s Friday again! Hallelujah for June 15, 2018, and National Lobster Day. Don’t eat one; just pet one! In the UK it’s National Beer Day, celebrating the day the Magna Carta was signed, which mentions beer in clause 35:

Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely ‘the London quarter’

In its honor, you Brits should have a decent pint—and if you want to drink in my honor, have a Tim Taylor’s Landlord, my perennial favorite.

For those who inquired about the absence of yesterday’s duck report, let me assure you that all is well: the eight ducklings are healthy, vigorous, and growing fast, and even Honey seems to be putting on some weight. Hank and Frank remain, with Frank being the usual pain in the butt at feeding time, but my Super Soaker seems to have driven the other two intruding drakes away for good. There will be a duck report this afternoon.

On this day in 1215, King John of England affixed the royal seal to the Magna Carta, explaining National Beer Day.  On June 15, 1648, Margaret Jones was hanged in Boston for witchcraft; it was the first of fifteen such executions in a crazed furor that lasted from 1648 to 1693. Jones was convicted using a list of evidence for witches compiled by an English “witch-finder”, Matthew Hopkins. Here’s a scary drawing (c. 1647) of Hopkins identifying the Satanic “imps” of a witch. There appears to be a cat without a name, but the other names are weird. Do you recognize “Pyewackett”?

On this day in 1752, Ben Franklin (according to tradition) proved that lightning was a form of electricity. On June 15, 1846, a treaty established the 49th parallel as the border between the U.S and Canada, extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On June 15, 1878, Eadweard Muybridge, the famous motion photographer, proved, using a series of photos of a horse and rider, that all four feet of a horse do indeed leave the ground when it runs. It’s hard to believe that that hadn’t been established before, but of course all “proof” before that would be hearsay. Here is real proof—one of Muybridge’s photos:


On this day in 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight (not solo), landing in Galway, Ireland.  How far aviation had come since the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903! On this day in 1970, Charles Manson went on trial for the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends in Los Angeles. Finally, exactly six years ago today, Nik Wallenda became the first person to successfully walk a tightrope directly over Niagra Falls. He had to wear a safety harness (not needed in this case), and here’s a video of his feat:

Notables born on this day include Edvard Grieg (1843), Erik Erikson (1902), Saul Steinberg (1914), Erroll Garner (1921), Waylon Jennings (1937), Harry Nilsson (1941), Johnny Hallyday (1943, died last year), Helen Hunt (1963), Courteney Cox (1964), and Leah Remini (1970). Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include James Knox Polk (1849), Ella Fitzgerald (1996), and Casey Kasem (2014).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is house-shaming his staff. Yes, their house does have that name (it’s on the plaque over the door), and the name comes from the eponymous Bergman movie.

Hili: So what is the name of our house?
A:  Smultronstället, or “Where The Wild Strawberries Grow.”
Hili: Somebody’s lost his mind.
In Polish:
​ Hili: To jak się ten nasz dom nazywa?
Ja: Smultronstället, czyli tam gdzie rosną poziomki.
Hili: Ktoś zwariował. ​
Shhhh. . . . Gus is sleeping:

Some tweets contributed by Dr. Cobb. This first video is fantastic.

Bilby! You may remember that Aussies make chocolate bilbies during Easter.

A new finding of ancient and well-preserved frogs in amber; the link is in the tweet:

And a 3-D model of that find:

A gaggle of geese, young and old, living in perfect harmony:

A cryptic black cat:

You might look up the link about a blood-drinking Mexican cult:

And once again Trump chews on his metatarsals. Listen to this nonsense!

Tweets from Ann German via Heather Hastie:


Here’s how religionists’ views have become more tolerant of politicians committing immoral acts. Only the unaffiliated remain unforgiving (if that’s the word!):

Sound up for this one: a mistake that happens to be true:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

June 14, 2018 • 7:00 am

It’s already Thursday, June 14, 2018, and National Strawberry Shortcake Day. I like it New England style: served on a biscuit with whipped cream, and not too sweet. Here in the U.S. it’s Flag Day, celebrating the day when our Flag (Make American Great Again!) was adopted in 1777. (It’s also The Donald’s damn birthday.) The World Cup begins today in Russia, and I hope the grad students manage to set up the conference room so we can watch some games on the big screen. Google has a Doodle celebrating the event

I’m not watching today’s game:

Forbes notes that there’s also a secret minigame in which you can defend against goal kicks:

This isn’t the first soccer Doodle Google has put out. The search giant released a Soccer Google Doodle mini-game that let you play as the goalie against an AI kicker.

While this is (sadly) not a diverting mini-game, it’s still a good-looking Doodle. It’s also just the beginning. Google will release a new Google Doodle every single day of the tournament from June 14th to July 15th when the World Cup ends.

A total of 32 teams from around the globe will compete over the next month, with the first game, between Russia and Saudi Arabia, kicking off Thursday morning.

32 different artists from each of the competing nations will contribute Google Doodles over the course of the next few weeks, with all 32 artists collaborating on this first entry.

Clicking on the Doodle will take you to a schedule of upcoming games. Scroll down and you’ll find current news stories and other relevant information.

I am having trouble braining again today, and have no idea what to write, or whether to write. We will see if the Muse strikes, as she struck yesterday.

On this day in 1775, the U.S. Army was born as the Continental Army, as established by the Continental Congress. And on June 14 two years later, the Stars and Stripes was adopted by Congress as the U.S. flag.  On this day in 1789, as reported by Wikipedia, “HMS Bounty mutiny survivors including Captain William Bligh and 18 others reach Timor after a nearly 7,400 km (4,600 mi) journey in an open boat.”  On June 14, 1822, Charles Babbage proposed his “difference engine” (a computer) in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society; it was to be used to compute mathematical and astronomical tables. On this day in 1907, Norwegian women got the right to vote.  On June 14, 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown left from St. John’s, Newfoundland on the first nonstop transatlantic flight. Using a biplane, they arrived in Galway, Ireland, the next day. It’s not often known that Charles Lindberg was feted not for making the first nonstop transatlantic flight, but the first nonstop SOLO transatlantic flight (1927). On June 14, 1937, the U.S. Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act. This prescribed a tax (and special revenue stamps) for growing, selling, and prescribing “marihuana”.  But of course it was illegal, so buying the stamps incriminated you. Here’s what they looked like:

A dark day for the First Amendment: on this day in 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill establishing that the words “under god” would be inserted into the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. Finally, on June 14, 1966, the Vatican finally deep-sixed its list of prohibited books (started in 1557): the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Notables born on June 14 include author Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811), Nobel Laureate Karl Lansteiner (1868, he distinguished the A, B, and O blood groups), Burl Ives (1909), Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928), Junior Walker (1931), and, yes, Donald Trump (1946). Also Leon Wieseltier, my old editor at the New Republic (1952) and Steffi Graf (1969). Those who joined the choir invisible on this day include Benedict Arnold (1801), Edward FitzGerald (1883), Adlai Stevenson I (1914), Mary Cassatt (1926), G. K. Chesterton (1936), Jorge Luis Borges (1986) and Alan Jay Lerner (1986).

Here’s a Cassatt: “Children playing with cat” (1908):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is trying to insert herself into the Oppression Hierarchy. Malgorzata explains:

“Hili doesn’t know why she feel excluded. But it’s nice to be a victim and she wants to be one as well so she is working hard to find a reason for feeling excluded and to blame somebody for it.”

Hili: I feel excluded.
A: From what?
Hili: That’s what I have to investigate.
In Polish:
Hili: Czuję się wykluczona.
Ja: Z czego?
Hili: Właśnie muszę to zbadać.

And in Winnipeg, Gus looks cute—”Earless and fearless,” as I call him

From reader Gethyn, part of Theo’s staff, we have a cat discovering refraction. I do believe this is real and shows the cat’s puzzlement at its paw not being where it feels it should be.

Grania sent some tweets:

From BBC’s Moscow correspondent, showing the Russian press billing Kim Jong-un as the “victor” in the Singapore summit. Ask me if I care.

The same goes, of course, in the DPRK:

As I wrote the other day, Trump’s biggest faux pas was lauding Kim Jong-un and his supposed love for his people:

Achilles, of whom we’ll probably hear much in the next month, predicts a Russian soccer win over Saudi Arabia. Reader Michael sent a link to news about Achilles, the FIFA “Official Animal Oracle”.

A new species of turtle. Translation of the French:  “Let’s take a moment to greet the arrival of this little tortoise in the scientific world. Kinosternon vogti is a totally new species discovered in Mexico and this photo is… ❤
The link to the species description is here.

Tweets from Matthew: Look at those antennae!

A lovely fly, though I have no videos of the “leaping larvae”:

Move over, Gene Krupa! Listen to this girl play the drums:

And I find this completely appropriate; after all, raccoons are Honorary Persons. I still think the female Procyon lotor should have been given its own woods and many treats. It wasn’t even named!

From reader Su: a SJW cat up for adoption kvetches about cultural appropriation:

And from Merilee. This trope on Air Force One has been going around, but I think it’s hilarious:


Sunday: Hili dialogue

June 10, 2018 • 6:45 am

Well, the academic year here is at an end and the campus will be empty all summer. Graduation was yesterday, and now it’s a quiet Sunday, June 10, 2018: National Iced Tea Day.  This morning it was raining hard (lucky it wasn’t this bad during yesterday’s Convocation) and I was worried that the pond level would rise, inundating the tree islands and eliminating resting space for the ducks. Fortunately, that hasn’t yet happened, but the level is still rising. While checking the pond at 6 a.m., I saw a big shadow and eight smaller shadows emerged from the darkness, waddling toward me on the grass. It was, of course, Honey and her hungry brood, and I immediately went upstairs to get corn and duckling chow to feed them. I’m now soaked, but the ducks are well fed and, for the nonce, have energy to swim.  I am pathetic, for the purpose of my life has become to help a mallard hen fledge 8 ducklings.

Today’s Google Doodle is a game celebrating garden gnomes (you can get to it by clicking on the screenshot below). As C|Net notes:

To celebrate our obsession with the figurines, Google on Sunday dedicated an interactive game doodle to teaching us how they’re made — and how far they’ll fly by applying the optimum trajectory. Using the keyboard’s space bar to start the doodle’s catapult swing, players tap a second time to launch their clay figure as far into their garden as they can. The further your gnome goes, the more flowers (and points) you get.

You can experiment with different shapes, weights and bounciness to make your gnome travel further. (Pro tip: Tap the down-arrow button in the lower right corner of the game before your gnome hits the ground to get extra bounce and distance.)

There’s a bit of Angry Birds in this, but without the destruction on the other side. Have a little fun with yet another of Google’s addicting game doodles.

I’m not much of a gamer, and haven’t played it, but go try your skill:

On this day in 1793, the Jardin des Plantes museum opened in Paris, and a year later became the first public zoo. I spent many pleasant hours in the gardens and Museum when I worked for a month at Paris VI nearby.  On June 10, 1829, the first boat race between Oxford and Cambridge took place on the Thames in London. I can’t be arsed to look up who won. In New Zealand in 1885, Mount Tarawera erupted, killing 153 and burying two of the great attractions of that country, the Pink and White Terraces.  In 1916, Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, declared the Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire. Famous to us because of T. E. Lawrence’s participation, it was a display of skill and bravery by everyone fighting the Turks. Here’s a photo of the Arab delegation at the Versailles Conference that declared an end to WWI.  The caption from Wikipedia:  “Left to right: Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal’s slave (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri.”

Prince Faisal looks pretty much as he did in the movie, where he was played by Alec Guinness:

On June 10, 1935, after Dr. Robert Smith took his last drink, he and Bill Wilson started Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio.  Exactly 7 years later, the Nazis razed the Czech village of Lidice, killed all its men over age 16, and sending the women to concentration camps in reprisal for the assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.  On this day in 1944, Joe Nuxhall pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the youngest player ever to participate in a major-league baseball game. He was just 15 (there was a player shortage during the war). Exactly two decades later, the U.S. Senate ended a 75-day filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and this landmark bill was quickly passed (LBJ was instrumental in its passage).

Notables born on this day include Hattie McDaniel (1895), Prince Philip (1921), Judy Garland (1922), Maurice Sendak (1928), biologist E. O. Wilson (1929), Elizabeth Hurley (1965), Kate Snow (1969; I’ll watch her on the NBC News tonight), Tara Lipinski (1982), and Kate Upton (1992). Those who croaked on this day include Alexander the Great (323 B.C.; are they sure?), Antoni Gaudi (1926), Jack Johnson (1946), Spencer Tracy (1967), Ray Charles (2004), and Gordie Howe (2016).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems to be afflicted again with a bad case of narcissism:

Hili: I hope that you understand how important it is?
A: What?
Hili: To look good.
In Polish:
Hili: Chyba rozumiesz jakie to ważne?
Ja: Co takiego?
Hili: Żebym dobrze wyglądała.

And in Winnipeg, we have “Gus in the garden”:


Some tweets from Grania. About the first one she asserts, “This is what I’ve been saying all along.”

Trump is behaving badly at the G-7 summit, as usual. And soon he’ll meet Kim Jong-un, which should be good for a few laughs.

Stephen Fry introduced an odious NRA tweet about gun silencers like this:

The tweet at issue; be sure to watch the video:

As I’ve long maintained, the British don’t know how to make a proper sandwich, though many readers object, claiming that the sandwiches are getting better. Yes they are, but they’re still pretty dire, consisting of a thin filling between two pieces of forgettable bread. And they sometimes have “SWEETCORN” (as opposed to SOURCORN) in them!  Here’s a tweet showing some British sandwiches from 1972, sent by Dr. Matthew Cobb. I’ll add a quote from Douglas Adams contributed by Grania:

“There is a feeling which persists in England that making a sandwich interesting, attractive, or in any way pleasant to eat is something sinful that only foreigners do. “Make ’em dry,” is the instruction buried somewhere in the collective national consciousness, “make ’em rubbery. If you have to keep the buggers fresh, do it by washing ’em once a week.” It is by eating sandwiches in pubs on Saturday lunchtimes that the British seek to atone for whatever their national sins have been. They’re not altogether clear what those sins are, and don’t want to know either. Sins are not the sort of things one wants to know about. But whatever their sins are they are amply atoned for by the sandwiches they make themselves eat.”

More from Matthew: a beetle mimicking a bee, a cool example of Batesian mimicry:

Definitive refutation of a flat earth:

A video of a beetle feeding on a tree:

Who doesn’t love puffins?

Matthew was insistent that I show his tweet, and he’s right in his claim. See here for the proof.


Friday: Hili dialogue

June 8, 2018 • 6:30 am

It’s Friday, June 8, 2018—one day until graduation (“Convocation“) at the University of Chicago. As usual, we don’t get famous people to speak, only scholars. It’s all part of our serious ethos—the same ethos that got rid of varsity sports and made this school dead last on the list of America’s 300 best party schools. Here are two photos of the set-up for graduation: the entire quad is filled with chairs, with the stage at the east end:

It’s also National Jelly Donut Day, and Bounty Day (named after the ship) on Norfolk Island.

On this day in 632 A.D., the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died in Mecca. But how do they know that?  On June 8, 1042, Edward the Confessor became King of England, one of its last Anglo-Saxon kings. On June 8, 1789, James Madison introduced into Congress twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution; ten of these became the Bill of Rights, including our great First Amendment and the ambiguous Second. On this day in 1856 (see above), 194 residents of Pitcairn Island, descended from the mutineers of HMS Bounty, arrived at Norfolk Island to settle it. And on June 8, 1949, an FBI report named Communist Party members, including, for crying out loud, Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Frederick March, Paul Muni, Danny Kaye, and Edward G. Robinson. Also on that day, ironically enough, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. On this day in 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restaurants in Washington, D. C. could not refuse to serve black customers. It was another 11 years before that became national policy. On June 8, 1972, as Wikipedia reports, “Vietnam War: Nine-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc is burned by napalm, an event captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut moments later while the young girl is seen running down a road, in what would become an iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photo. Here’s that photo, which did much to turn American sentiment against the war:

Finally, on this day in 1987, New Zealand established a national nuclear-free zone. No ship carrying nuclear weapons, including any from its ally the U.S., can stop in a New Zealand Port.

Notables born on June 8 include Robert Schumann (1810), Frank Lloyd Wright (1867), Francis Crick (1916), Barbara Bush (1925, died this year), Joan Rivers (1933, died 2014), Boz Scaggs (1944) and Julianna Margulies (1966). Those who sent to sleep on this day include Muhammad (632, see above), Thomas Paine (1809), Cochise (1874), George Sand (1876), Gerard Manley Hopkins (1889), and Satchel Paige (1982).

Here’s my favorite Boz Scaggs song: “Georgia“:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the animals are reproaching Andrzej. As Malgorzata notes, “In case it’s not obvious: both animals are looking at Andrzej who is sitting at his desk instead of being in the kitchen and preparing breakfast.”

Hili: You were supposed to prepare a breakfast.
Cyrus: Exactly.
In Polish:
Hili: Miałeś robić śniadanie.
Cyrus: Właśnie

Up in Winnipeg, Gus’s staff played with him, including giving him the Dangerous Belly Rub. He takes a few retaliatory swipes:

Heather Hastie sent this tweet of my favorite bird. Be sure to read the thread following it to see how concerned Kiwis are about the world’s only flightless parrot. Each nest has a tent full of people and machines nearby to monitor the single egg!

From Matthew: Duck FTW!

A sad commentary on what’s happening in U.S. schools:

Two species, but so different!

More ducks FTW. They’re replacing pesticides and herbicides!

Monkey see, monkey do:

This is unbelievable: how do wombats do this:

Music once banned in the Soviet Union.  Tina Turner! Van Halen!

Read the whole thread following this tweet:

From Grania; the horrible moment of realization:


Tuesday: Hili dilalogue

June 5, 2018 • 6:30 am

We’re now at Tuesday, June 5, 2018, and I’m feeling like a visit to 47th Street this afternoon to pick up rib tips. I’ve been a good boy eating healthy food since returning from France, so it’s time for a mini-debauch. It’s National Ketchup Day (Heinz is the only decent variety, of course), but ketchup isn’t a food, although Ronald Reagan’s administration considered it a “vegetable” on school lunch menus. It’s also World Day against Speciesism, a day that I heartily approve. Don’t squash insects today! They value their lives, too!

On June 5, 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an anti-slavery tome, began appearing as a serial in the abolitionist newspaper The National Era. It became the best selling novel of the 19th century, and the best selling book after the Bible. On this day in 1893, the sensational trial of Lizzie Borden began in Massachusetts; she was accused of killing her parents with an axe. She was acquitted. On June 5, 1916, the Arab Revolt began against the Ottoman Empire, and of course we know about it through this movie:

On June 5, 1956, Elvis Presley sang “Hound Dog” in public for the first time, on the Milton Berle Show. As Wikipedia notes, he “scandalized the audience with his suggestive hip movements.” See for yourself:

On June 5, 1968, after winning the California Presidential primary, Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel by the Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy died the next day. Could he have become President? (The alternative was Hubert Humphrey.) We’ll never know.  Sirhan is still in prison at age 74, and his next parole hearing is in 2021.  On this day in 1981, the CDC’s “Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report” noted that five people in Los Angeles were afflicted with a form of pneumonia seen only in immunocompromised people. These were the first recognized cases of AIDS.

Exactly eight years later, “Tank Man” stopped the progress of five Chinese tanks (for half an hour) in Tianamen Square. Remember this? The man remains unknown after nearly thirty years:

Finally, on this day in 2003,  a brutal heat wave in Pakistan and India peaked, reaching temperatures over 50 °C (122 °F). 

Notables born on June 5 include Pancho Villa (1878, assassinated in 1923), John Maynard Keynes (1883), Bill Moyers (1934) and Margaret Drabble (1939). Those who died on this day include Stephen Crane (1900, age 28), Mel Tormé (1999), Ronald Reagan (2004), Ray Bradbury (2012) and Tariq Aziz (2015).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Cyrus are deep into theology:

Hili: Did you ever wonder about the mystery of the Holy Trinity?
Cyrus: No.
Hili: Neither did I.
In Polish:
Hili: Zastanawiałeś się nad misterium trójcy świętej?
Cyrus: Nie.
Hili: Ja też nie.

And up in Winnipeg, Gus is enjoying spending the warm weather in his garden, though he’s bothered by the chickadees. Look at that head!

From Matthew, a solar eclipse passing over Earth:

A dead fish, swimming!

Why, Nature? Sexual selection, of course! But I’m not sure whether this is a vervet monkey.

How did an ancient Egyptian coin get to Australia? See here.

This jumping spider is unusually wary:

. . and this insect, an adult, is beyond belief:

Seeds with amazing dispersal ability:

A panoply of ladybird beetles:

Yes, Virginia, there are blue bees.

And a reminder of America’s ludicrous healthcare system:

To close, a cartoon sent by reader Douglas. I didn’t know what “Psych!” means, but he says it means something like “Gotcha!”:

Monday: Hili dialogue

June 4, 2018 • 6:50 am

Sadly, Monday is here again. It’s not only the start of another work week, but we’re also one day closer to death. (As Dawkins would say, “That makes us the lucky ones,” but somehow I’m not consoled.) It’s June 4, 2018, and National Eggs Benedict Day, a dish that Anthony Bourdain says never to order at brunch (in fact, he says avoid restaurant brunches.) And it’s also International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

Lots happened on June 4. In 1411, according to Wikipedia “King Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of Roquefort cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon as they had been doing for centuries.”That means, of course, that it should be International Roquefort Cheese Day.  On this day in 1783, the Montgolfier brothers gave the first public demonstration of their hot air balloon (montgolfière). On June 4, 1876, the first transcontinental train journey in the U.S. ended in San Francisco; it took only 83 hours and 39 minutes from New York, and I don’t think that’s much slower (or even faster) than the trains today.  On June 4, 1896, Henry Ford finished the “Ford Quadricycle”, his first gasoline powered vehicle, and drove it successfully.  On June 4, 1912, Massachusetts became America’s first state to mandate a minimum wage, though New Zealand was the first country to do so: in 1894. Go Kiwis!  It was on this day in 1913 that an infamous episode in the history of women’s rights took place: the suffragette Emily Davison deliberately ran in front of King George V’s horse at “The Derby” race, was struck severely, and died after four days. Here’s a video, but don’t watch it if you don’t want to see her get hit:

Exactly six years later, however, there was a happier event: the U.S. Senate approved the 19th Amendment to our Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. It was then sent to the states for ratification, and next year became part of the Constitution. Again, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote—in 1893.

Here’s a sad June 4 event, underscoring how little other countries cared for Jewish refugees from the Nazis:  as Wikipedia notes, on this day in 1939, “The MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 963 Jewish refugees, is denied permission to land in Florida, in the United States, after already being turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, more than 200 of its passengers later die in Nazi concentration camps.”

On June 4, 1940, the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk ended; 338,000 men were returned safely. On that day Winston Churchill gave his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons. Here it is, a bit more low-key than I remember:

On this day in 1944, the U.S. Navy captured the German submarine U-505: a foreign vessel capture that had not happened since the eighteenth century. The sub is now on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, just a few blocks from where I sit, and is well worth seeing. I believe part of the movie Das Boot was filmed inside it. It’s remarkably cramped in there! Finally, on June 4, 2010, the first flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took place from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After orbiting the Earth, it re-entered and disintegrated on June 27. Some highlights:

Notables born on this day include George III of England (1738), and Tom Longboat, a Canadian runner and soldier and a member of the  Onondaga tribe from the Six Nations Reserve. He was the premier long distance runner of his time, and the subject of today’s Google Doodle:

Here’s Longboat with his World Marathon trophy:

Others born on this day include Rosalind Russell (1907), Bruce Dern (1936), Michelle Phillips (1944), and Russell Brand and Angelina Jolie (both 1975). Those who died on June 4 include W. H. R. Rivers (1922), one of the subjects of Pat Barker’s wonderful Ghost Road fiction trilogy, Serge Koussevitzky (1951), and two baseball players who later became managers: Clete Boyer (2007) and Don Zimmer (2014).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants IN!

Hili: Nobody pays any attention to me.
A: I understand. I’m coming.
In Polish:
Hili: Nikt nie zwraca na mnie uwagi.
Ja: Rozumiem, już idę.

And here’s Gus in Winnipeg, the photo simply called “A happy cat.”

Some tweets from Dr. Cobb:

This man, James Harrison, is an unsung hero. You can read about him here.

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

If you look in the dictionary under “romping”, you’ll find this illustration:

The first moment of wren flight! How I long to see this for my ducklings:

An amazingly cryptic cephalopod, the flamboyant cuttlefish (yes, that’s its vernacular name):

Billions and billions of stars!

Music randomly selected to be on a music-themed cafe. Do you know the music they chose? Hint: It ain’t Mozart! (Answer below the fold.)

A black kitten to start the day:

But not all moggies are sweet:

We already knew we were screwed!:

And from reader Barry:

Read below to see the music gracing the menu of the Amadeus Cafe:

Continue reading “Monday: Hili dialogue”

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

June 3, 2018 • 6:37 am

It’s Sunday, June 3, 2018: National Egg Day (but whose eggs?) It’s also both World Clubfoot Day and the first official World Bicycle Day.  The ducklings are still eight, and look healthy, but now when they see me walk by, they come peeping up to the bank with Honey. I think they now recognize me.

Despite this, I am depressed this morning after finding out that so many readers not only think it’s fine to call Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” just for posting a Twitter picture of her and her baby, but that it’s great to do that.  These are the same people who would be upset if Nancy Pelosi (or their own mother or sister) were called the same name. Apparently it’s okay to call anyone as vile a name as you want so long as you disagree with their politics. I am disappointed that so many people defend the use of name-calling on a site where I don’t allow one reader to do that to another. Do not bother to reply in the comments here; I am just saying that I am disappointed at some people. (It’s even worse on Facebook.) /rant

On this day in 1539, Hernando de Soto claimed Florida as a Spanish possession. Nearly 400 years later, in 1937, the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson, having abdicated the throne of England after reigning for only 11 months as Edward VIII. For mountaineering fans like me, this is the day in 1950 on which Lionel Herzog and Louis Lachenal, members of a French expedition, reached the summit of Annapurna, the first 8,000 m peak (8091 to be exact) to be scaled. Herzog’s book on the expedition, Annapurna, which details the climb and its gruesome aftermath (many fingers and toes lost to frostbite) is one of the classics of mountaineering literature. Here’s the cover of Paris Match showing Herzog on top:

On June 3, 1989, the Chinese government sent troops to Tiananmen Square to remove the protestors after seven weeks of occupation. I remember that well; it was a sad time. On this day 6 years ago, the pageant celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II took place in London. Finally, exactly five years ago today, U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning went on trial for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. At that time the name was Bradley Manning, but he transitioned to a woman. Manning served seven years in jail and is now free.

Notables born on this day include the geologist James Hutton (1726), Jefferson Davis (1808), Raoul Dufy (1877), Alla Nazimova and biologist Raymond Pearl (both 1879), Josephine Baker (1906), Jimmy Rogers and Torsten Wiesel (both 1924), Allen Ginsberg (1926), Larry McMurtry (1936) and Anderson Cooper (1967). Those who died on June 3 include William Harvey (1657), Johann Strauss II (1899), Franz Kafka (1924), Ozzie Nelson (1975), Anthony Quinn (2001), David Carradine (2009), and Muhammad Ali (two years ago today).

Here is Le Chat by Dufy:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is plotting for beef:

Hili: We have to persuade them that they can eat any old thing and that the tenderloin in the fridge is for us.
Cyrus: Good idea.
In Polish:
Hili: Musimy ich przekonać, że mogą zjeść cokolwiek, a ta polędwica w lodówce jest dla nas.
Cyrus: Dobry pomysł.

Leon and his staff’s house, a few km from Hili and her staff, is being built at last!. For the nonce the family is staying in their flat in Wloclawek, where it’s been rainy:

Leon: Oh, these storms!

(Note the lovely blotches on his forelegs.)

In Polish: “Leon: Ach, te burze!”

Out in Winnipeg, here’s a video of Gus getting his very first taste of salmon: grilled Pacific salmon. He’s a bit wary of new foods, but winds up scarfing it:

From Matthew we have this is an amazing but sweet tale:

A not so amusing tale: Only in America:

Some nice science:

Some puzzling data:

A fluffy leaping cat:

A peregrine in Chicago! I must see it!

Here’s an angle I didn’t know existed:

From Grania, samurai cats!

. . . and pet sweat.

Friday: Hili dialogue

June 1, 2018 • 6:30 am

It’s JUNE! June 1, 2018, and the month that summer begins. It’s National Hazelnut Cake Day, a comestible which I’m sure is delicious, though I’ve never had it.  Further, it’s also Neighbour’s Day, though the link gives no instructions on what to do about it. Borrow a cup of sugar?

On June 1, 1495, the monk John Cor of Fife, probably an apothecary on the side, records the first known mention of Scotch whisky. The data from Wikipedia: “To Brother John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae VIII bolls of malt.” — Exchequer Rolls 1494–95, Vol x, p. 487. 

On this day in 1533, Ann Boleyn was crowned Queen of England; she lasted three years before being beheaded.  On June 1, 1812, U.S. President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on the UK, beginning the War of 1812. On this day in 1916, Louis Brandeis became the first Jew appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving until 1939.  On June 1, 1962, Adolf Eichmann, abducted from Argentina, was hanged in Israel.  And a banner day for me: it was on this day in 1967 that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was released—the album that made me an atheist. On this day in 1974, the Heimlich maneuver was published in the journal Emergency Medicine. You may not know that it’s not now recommended as the first course of action for conscious but choking people. Or so Wikipedia reportsm (my emphasis):

From 1985 to 2005, abdominal thrusts were the only recommended treatment for choking in the published guidelines of the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. In 2006, both organizations drastically changed course and “downgraded” the use of the technique. For conscious victims, the new guidelines recommend first applying back slaps; if this method failed to remove the airway obstruction, rescuers were to then apply abdominal thrusts. For unconscious victims, the new guidelines recommend chest thrusts.

Finally, on this day in 2004, Terry Nichols was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without possibility of parole for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing—a Guinness World Record for the longest prison sentence in recorded history.

Notables born on June 1 include physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot (1796), Brigham Young (1801), Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe (both 1926), ecologist Richard Levins (1930), Pat Boone (1934; he’s still with us at 84), Morgan Freeman (1937), Frederica von Stade (1945) and Heidi Klum (1973).  Those who died on this day include U.S. President James Buchanan (1868), Lizzie “The Axe” Borden (1927), Hugh Walpole (1960), Paula Hitler (Adolf’s sister, 1960), Adolf Eichmann (1962; see above), Reinhold Niebuhr (1971), David Ruffin (1991) and Yves Saint Laurent (2008).

Most of you probably don’t know that Hitler had a sister, who of course kept a low profile after the war. She gave but one interview (excerpt below), and was said by her American interrogators to have had a remarkable resemblance to Adolf. Well, judge for yourself (it may help to Photoshop in a mustache and the Adolfian hairdo:


A small bit of the one interview she gave, most of which has been lost:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Hili dialogue needs a bit of explaining. Malgorzata notes, “Andrzej means that the best thing you can do with a good advice is to give it to somebody else and forget it. You can also forget it without giving it to anybody.”

Hili: The weeds under the trees are taken care of but it’s time to mow the grass.
A: I love good advice, I immediately hand it over to others.
In Polish:
Hili: Pod drzewami chwasty wypalone, ale trawę pora skosić.
Ja: Kocham dobre rady, natychmiast przekazuję je innym.
In Winnipeg, Gus ignores the lovely flowers for he sees something else—probably a squirrel, which, he’s heard, tastes like chicken.


From Grania, a protective rhino baby (cub?):

Some history for your delectation:

Please put the sound on; can dogs actually MAKE such a noise?

A historically inaccurate crack about the Roseanne Excuse:

From Matthew, who notes that we all need to learn how to pronounce “Euler”:

This video is said to demonstrate British politeness, but I don’t think it’s polite for a motorcycle to ride between lanes of traffic:

A wingless fly with a funny joke in response:

A video illustrated with a limerick:

Those are some fugly sandals that Einstein bought! But of course he never cared about his appearance.

Pigeon in the airport; one of the comments was: “Surely that’s carrion luggage”:

Reader Gethyn, part of Theo’s staff, sent a video telling us how to keep our cats cool this summer:

And reader Bryan sent me this:

The 2018 Scripps Spelling Bee final word was :


“The Greek word “koinonia” — most commonly pronounced “koy-nuh-NEE-uh” — is defined as “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.””

Monday: Hili dialogue

May 28, 2018 • 6:30 am

We’re getting close to June, as today is Monday, May 28, 2018, the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. and National Brisket Day, a holiday for both Jews and Texans. It’s also Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day instituted by a German NGO. As it’s a holiday, and nobody is at work, I am insane for being in the office. But there are ducks to feed.

On this day in 585 B.C., a solar eclipse occurred, and one predicted by the Greek philosopher and scientist Thales. It took place while Alyattes was battling Cyaxares in the Battle of Halys and the astronomical event led to a truce. As Wikipedia notes, “This is one of the cardinal dates from which other dates can be calculated.” But I’m amazed that they could predict such an eclipse so long ago. On May 28, 1588, the Spanish Armada (130 ships, 30,000 men) set sail from Lisbon, heading towards England.  It took three days for all the ships to depart. The assault failed, of course, and a third of the Spanish ships failed to make it home. On May 28, 1871, the Paris Commune fell. And 21 years later to the day, John Muir organized the Sierra Club in San Francisco.

When I was young, the Dionne quintuplets, born to a French-Canadian family in Ontario, were a big deal. Born on this day in 1934, they were the first quintuplets known to have survived infancy. These days this isn’t such an unusual event, but back then they were very famous, and were even presented to Queen Elizabeth II. Here they are at the age of 13. Two of them are still alive:

On this day in 1937, the German automobile company Volkswagen was founded. And exactly five years later, Nazis in Czechoslovakia killed over 1800 people in retribution for the assassination attempt (successful) on Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich. As Wikipedia reports, the assassins were linked “to the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. Both villages were razed; all men and boys over the age of 16 were shot, and all but a handful of the women and children were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps.”  On May 28, 1987—and you may remember this—the West German pilot Mathias Rust (age 18), landed a private plane in Red Square in Moscow. Detained, he was released on August 3 of the next year.  Here’s a short documentary on Rust’s achievement:

On May 28, 1999, Leonardo’s “The Last Supper”, after undergoing renovation for 22 years, was put back on display. And on this day in 2002, the last girder was removed from the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attack. The end of “cleanup” was celebrated with a ceremony at Ground Zero.

Notables born on this day include William Pitt the Younger (1759), Louis Agassiz (1807), Jim Thorpe (1888), Patrick White (1912), Walker Percy (1916), Rudy Giuliani (1944), Gladys Knight (1944), Leland Sklar (1947), Kylie Minogue (1968; she’s 50 today), and Carey Mulligan (1985). Notables who died on May 28 were few; they include Noah Webster (1843), war hero Audie Murphy (1971), and Maya Angelou (2014).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is contradicting Steve Pinker:

Hili: Memory has an optimistic feature.
A: And that means?
Hili: I’m always thinking that it was better in the past.
In Polish:
Hili: Optymistyczna cecha pamięci…
Ja: To znaczy?
Hili: Zawsze myślę, że dawniej było lepiej.


And in Winnipeg, Gus shows his “third eye”:

Tweets from Grania. The Catholic Church, butthurt by the outcome of the referendum, is calling their believers who voted for repeal “sinners”. Nya nya nya, Vatican!

. . . and here are some tweets that affirm this:

CubeSats are miniature satellites (see here):

These consorting felids are caught in the act; the black one gives the stink eye to the camera:

Matthew sent honeyguides; they are brood parasites of other species and the eggtooth is for killing not their siblings, but their unrelated nestmates:

It’s spring, and all baby animals are out. Which reminds me—it’s time to tend the ducklings:

Look at the tongue on this numbat. There are several species, but all eat termites:

Okay, you tell me why camels have “filters” on their cheeks.

Maternity time:

And guess who this evolutionary geneticist is.  I knew him. Hint: he’s dead now.

A puffin soaring on thermals:

And on a more sober note, this is how Palestinian children graduate from kindergarten (h/t Malgorzata):


Sunday: Hili dialogue

May 27, 2018 • 6:30 am

It’s Ceiling Cat’s Day: Sunday, May 27, 2018, and it’s National Italian Beef Day, a sandwich made famous by Chicago and made properly only in Chicago. It’s also the start of National Reconciliation Week in Australia, a celebration of aboriginal rights and their long-term neglect.

I haven’t yet done the daily Duck Count and Feeding, but I have to say that my first visit to the pond each day is always fraught with anxiety. Yesterday, thanks to kind reader Linda Calhoun, who found them, I ordered $35 worth of floating “starter duck pellets”. This morning I go on another shopping trip to buy corn, shredded wheat, and oatmeal. (The ducks eat better than I do!)

On this day in 1703, Peter the Great founded the city of Saint Petersburg. On May 27, 1927, the Ford Motor Company made its last model T, preparing to make its successor, the Ford Model A. On this day in 1933, the Walt Disney company released its cartoon Three Little Pigs, considered the most successful animated short ever made. It was helped by its hit song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”  Here it is! The song starts at 1:55:

On May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened—first to pedestrian traffic only—connecting San Francisco and Marin County, California.  Exactly three decades later, Australians passed a constitutional referendum giving the government power to make laws ameliorating the plight of indigenous Australians, who before that weren’t even counted in the census. (See “National Reconciliation Week” above.) Finally, exactly two years ago, Barack Obama became the first US President to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and meet survivors of the American A-bombing of that city.

Notables born on this day include Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794) and Amelia Bloomer (1818), best known for giving her name to the ladies’ garment (the first widespread attempt of women to wear pants), but in reality a well known journalist and feminist activist. About those bloomers, shown below, Wikipedia says this:

In 1851, New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (aka Libby Miller) adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, like women’s trousers worn in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest. The costume was worn publicly by actress Fanny Kemble. Miller displayed her new clothing to Stanton, her cousin, who found it sensible and becoming, and adopted it immediately. In this garb Stanton visited Bloomer, who began to wear the costume and promote it enthusiastically in her magazine. Articles on the clothing trend were picked up in The New York Tribune. More women wore the fashion which was promptly dubbed The Bloomer Costume or “Bloomers“. However, the Bloomers were subjected to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, saying that a new invention, the crinoline, was a sufficient reform that she could return to conventional dress.


Others born on this day include Julia Ward Howe (1819), Wild Bill Hickok (1837), painter Georges Rouault (1871), Dashiell Hammett (1894), Rachel Carson (1907), John Cheever (1912), Sam Snead (1912), Henry Kissinger (1923), and Ramsey Lewis (1935).  Kissinger is 95 today, and outlived his nemesis Christopher Hitchens, who once said one of the worst things that could happen to him (Hitchens) was to die before Kissinger. He did.

Those who died on May 27 include Niccolò Paganini (1782), Robert Koch (1910; Nobel Laureate), Robert Ripley (1949), Jawaharlal Nehru (1964), Gil Scott-Heron (2011), and, just last year, Gregg Allman (2017).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is acting like royalty again:

Hili: In principle we understand each other without words.
A: I’m glad.
Hili: But you could try harder.
In Polish:
Hili: W zasadzie rozumiemy się bez słów.
Ja: Cieszę się.
Hili: Ale czasem mógłbyś się lepiej starać. ​

Out in Winnipeg, Gus, briefly untended, got into the catnip plant, winding up completely baked!




Matthew sent a bunch of tweets. Here’s an example of scientific inflation.

If you didn’t believe the photo I put up the other day of goats grazing on the side of a dam, standing on tiny bits of protruding wall, have a look at this:

Why did this cat make such a big leap? Have a look:

A banana eel:

One would think this would hurt the bobcats, but they seem to climb cactuses frequently:

And an optical illusion: