Tuesday: Hili dialogue

April 13, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, April 13, 2021: National Peach Cobbler Day (a dessert on offer at some of the BBQ restaurants I visited in Texas). It’s also Scrabble Day (celebrating the 1899 birthday of the game’s inventor, Alfred Butts), and Thomas Jefferson Day (he was born April 13, 1743).

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) marks the 151st anniversary of the opening of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, showing some of the items on display.

News of the Day:

There’s been another shooting of a black man by a Minnesota cop; this time a 20 year old named Daunte Wright was killed by a single shot from a cop (the cop’s race was unspecified, but of course is vital in cases like this). Wright was pulled over for an expired registration when the incident took place. Apparently bodycam footage shows that the cop mistook her (it was a woman) gun for a taser. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but there will be an investigation. According to the NYT, “protests, violence, and looting” broke out in a suburb north of Minneapolis. Joe Biden reacted with the proper restraint and condemnation of violent protest::

President Biden said he had watched the body-camera footage, which he described as “fairly graphic.”

“The question is: Was it an accident? Was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.

“In the meantime,” he added, “I want to make it clear again: There is absolutely no justification — none — for looting, no justification for violence.”

Wright’s mother has also called for calm.

Speaking of police killings, there’s an op-ed in the WaPo called “How toxic masculinity helped kill George Floyd.” The argument for that motivation or cause is, shall we say, extremely thin (if you hold it sideways, it disappears). The editorial is ludicrous and should not have been published. It shows that the Post is not just woke, but woke to the point of losing any semblance of journalistic standards.

The lockdown has eased in England, as shops, hairdressers, and PUBS have reopened after a Johnson-imposed lockdown.  I’ve missed my trips to the UK and especially those great, well-kept pints of real ale. Oh for a Taylor’s Landlord!

The BBC reports that a deaf sheepdog in Norfolk named Peggy has learned to respond to hand signals and body language instead of whistles and calls. The link gives more information, but I’ve put a video below. (There’s a similar situation with a deaf dog named Gus, though he transitioned from sheep to goats.) [h/t: Jez]

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 562,007, an increase of just 476 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,961,025, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 13 includes:


  • 1861 – American Civil War: Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces.
  • 1870 – The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art is founded. [See above]
  • 1873 – The Colfax massacre, in which more than 60 black men are murdered, takes place.

Some details from Wikipedia:

The Colfax massacre, sometimes referred to by the euphemism Colfax riot, occurred on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, in Colfax, Louisiana, the seat of Grant Parish. An estimated 62-153 black militia men were killed while surrendering to a mob of former Confederate soldiers, members of the Ku Klux Klan and the White League. Three white men also died in the confrontation.

In the wake of the contested 1872 election for governor of Louisiana and local offices, a group of white Democrats armed with rifles and a small cannon, overpowered Republican freedmen and state militia (also black) occupying the Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax. Most of the freedmen were killed after surrendering; nearly 50 were killed later that night after being held as prisoners for several hours. Estimates of the number of dead have varied, ranging from 62 to 153; three whites died but the number of black victims was difficult to determine because many bodies were thrown into the Red River or removed for burial, possibly at mass graves.

Here’s a picture from the time: “All native men were forced to crawl the Kucha Kurrichhan on their hands and knees as punishment, 1919″.  This was also ordered by General Dyer before the massacre because a group of Indians had assaulted a female missionary on that street. Dyer was a nasty piece of work. 

This is another massacre of the innocents, one that gave considerable leverage to the Indian independence movement. Dyer was removed from duty but not otherwise punished. To some, he was even a hero!  Here’s a re-creation of the massacre from the movie “Gandhi”:

  • 1943 – The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C., on the 200th anniversary of President Thomas Jefferson’s birth.
  • 1958 – American pianist Van Cliburn is awarded first prize at the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Here’s a report on his prize (you can see his whole performance here):

Here’s Poitier’s award, presented by Anne Bancroft. Poitier is still alive at 94.

  • 1976 – The United States Treasury Department reintroduces the two-dollar bill as a Federal Reserve Note on Thomas Jefferson’s 233rd birthday as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration.
  • 1997 – Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer to win the Masters Tournament.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1519 – Catherine de’ Medici, Italian-French wife of Henry II of France (d. 1589)
  • 1570 – Guy Fawkes, English soldier, planned the Gunpowder Plot (probable; d. 1606)
  • 1743 – Thomas Jefferson, American lawyer and politician, 3rd President of the United States (d. 1826)
  • 1866 – Butch Cassidy, American criminal (d. 1908

Here’s Cassidy (seated, right) with a bunch of his thuggish associates, the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Harry Longabaugh, “the “Sundance Kid”,  is seated on the extreme left:

  • 1906 – Samuel Beckett, Irish novelist, poet, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
  • 1909 – Eudora Welty, American short story writer and novelist (d. 2001)
  • 1919 – Madalyn Murray O’Hair, American activist, founded American Atheists (d. 1995)
  • 1924 – Jack T. Chick, American author, illustrator, and publisher (d. 2016)

Many of us read and enjoyed Chick’s over-the-top Christian pamphlets, especially the ones about evolution. Here’s a few frames from his famous “Big Daddy” strip, in which a Christian student dismantles his evolution-teaching professor:

  • 1939 – Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)

Those who went to a greater glory on April 13 include:

This financier and businessman was known for his power as a trencherman. Here’s an account of his meals from Wikipedia:

Brady’s enormous appetite was as legendary as his wealth, though modern experts believe it was greatly exaggerated. It was not unusual, according to the legend, for Brady to eat enough food for ten people at a sitting. George Rector, owner of a favorite restaurant, described Brady as “the best 25 customers I ever had”. For breakfast, he would eat “vast quantities of hominy, eggs, cornbread, muffins, flapjacks, chops, fried potatoes, beefsteak, washing it all down with a gallon of fresh orange juice”. A mid-morning snack would consist of “two or three dozen clams or Lynnhaven oysters”. Luncheon would consist of “shellfish…two or three deviled crabs, a brace of boiled lobsters, a joint of beef, and an enormous salad”. He would also include a dessert of “several pieces of homemade pie” and more orange juice. Brady would take afternoon tea, which consisted of “another platter of seafood, accompanied by two or three bottles of lemon soda”. Dinner was the main meal of the day, taken at Rector’s Restaurant. It usually comprised “two or three dozens oysters, six crabs, and two bowls of green turtle soup. Then in sumptuous procession came six or seven lobsters, two canvasback ducks, a double portion of terrapin, sirloin steak, vegetables, and for dessert a platter of French pastries.” Brady would even include two pounds of chocolate candy to finish off the meal.

I’m in awe!

  • 1956 – Emil Nolde, Danish-German painter and educator (b. 1867)

Here’s a fine cat painting by Nolde:

  • 1993 – Wallace Stegner, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1909)
  • 2006 – Muriel Spark, Scottish novelist, poet, and critic (b. 1918)

If you haven’t read any Spark, I recommend The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which was made into a movie starring Maggie Smith, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

Likewise, Grass’s early novels, especially The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, and Dog Years, are terrific.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains the dialogue:

Old people are grumpy, pessimistic and fearful. The fact that both Andrzej and Hili find the situation (in the world) terrifying may be a sign that they are both old and not a verdict on the state of the world.

The dialogue:

Hili: All this horrifies me.
A: Me too.
Hili: We are getting old.
In Polish:
Hili: Przeraża mnie to wszystko.
Ja: Mnie też.
Hili: Starzejemy się.
And a photo of Szaron (on the first floor windowsill) with the caption, “A view from Paulia’s balcony”.
In Polish: Widok z Pauliny balkonu.

From Facebook:

From Bruce:

An optical illusion from Jesus of the Day:

Titania finds more examples of opposite actions that are both racist:

This was on the news last night. Michael Fisher, once a master sergeant in the Marine Corps, gives the first salute to his newly-commissioned son, Second Lieutenant Triston Fisher, who followed in his dad’s footsteps to become a jarhead. It’s a moving moment, and dad calls his son “sir,” for a Second Lt. outranks a Master Sergeant.

Reader Barry says this about the tweet below:

“Not your favorite mammal, …but his reaction to what he sees on the television screen fascinates me. Why does the dog react this way? It seems to ‘know’ that Darth Vader is a menacing character. Is the dog reacting to the heavy breathing? Is it because Vader is dressed in black and towers over everyone? Is it the music? I’d love to hear from a dog specialist and ask what’s going on, how it is that a dog can have such a reaction to a two-dimensional moving image with music. Amazing.”

Tweets from Matthew. I read this Crick anecdote somewhere before. The guy had moxie—and principles!

Look at that head stabilization!

Two people with futuristic cat carriers. I’ve seen these devices on the Internet, but never in person:

I truly wonder whether this memorandum is for real:

There is no insect funnier-looking than this one!

Monday: Hili dialogue

April 12, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a wet Monday, April 12, 2021: National Grilled Cheese Day (the sandwich must be paired with tomato soup, as the combination for some reason is not only felicitous, but also imperative). It’s also National Licorice Day, Drop Everything and Read Day, and International Day of Human Space Flight, honoring the exploration begun on this day by Yuri Gagarin when he orbited the earth once in 1961. Since there were no provisions for a safe re-entry of his Vostok capsule, he parachuted out by himself at 8000 feet and landed safely.

This is the 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s orbit; here’s a very brief documentary:

Wine of the Day: Here’s an Italian red made from the Freisa grape, a varietal I haven’t had. The first link goes to where I bought it for about $20 and some tasting notes. I drank it with homemade turkey chili (I didn”t go meatless for a week as I’d planned). It was delicious, full of fruit and the taste of cherries; the only problem was that it was pretty tannic, a problem that may resolve after I let the remnants sit overnight. Also, it was the first alcohol I’ve had since I went to Texas.

News of the Day:

With talks underway in Vienna for the U.S. to resume its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (as I’ve said, a “deal” will accomplish nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons), a mysterious blackout hit the Nantanz nuclear facility, now being rebuilt. It looks as if Israel is sending a message to Iran, as it may have done with the mysterious fire that occurred there a year ago.

Empathy in the animal world: the Washington Post reviews a new book about animal behavior, “When Animals Rescue: Amazing True Stories about Heroic and Helpful Creatures,” by writer Belinda Recio. Her thesis is that animals are feel humanlike emotions, like altruism and kindness, far more often than we think. The reviewer, a journalist, says that the treatment is too anecdotal, and there may be other explanations for these behaviors, but concludes:

If it is anthropomorphic to say that animals genuinely care for one another, then why isn’t it also anthropomorphic to say that they are hungry or thirsty or sexually aroused? Yet those who hesitate to attribute “higher” ethical motives to other species rarely have a problem discerning in them the more “primitive” drives that humans are also subject to.

Wisely, Recio stays out of this contentious debate. She lets the stories speak for themselves. We cannot help but be delighted by them, if not transformed.

But the readers should be informed by Recio about possible alternative explanations for the behaviors. If these might not rest on a shared set of emotions with animals, then we can’t be “transformed.” It is not a particularly trenchant review. I’d recommend Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (h/t: Barry)

Important squirrel news: the Washington Post has a piece about how an amateur wildlife photographer, Dani Connor, became famous overnight by taking the video (below) of a red squirrel emitting noises of pleasure as it eats seeds.  The squirrel was one of an litter orphaned when its mother was killed by a car, and she cared for the four babies. Now she has a Patreon account and can make a living from her photography. Good for her!

When the pandemic began hitting the U.S. and Europe hard, I predicted that India, with a poor and crowded population and insufficient medical facilities, would be hit even harder. I was pleased that it wasn’t: there is even a New Yorker article by Sid Mukherjee about this anomaly. Now, however, the pandemic is beginning to hit my beloved India, with reported cases undergoing the biggest surge ever. As Reuters notes:

New cases in the world’s second-most populous country have totalled the most of anywhere in the world over the last two weeks. India’s overall tally of 13.21 million is the third-highest globally, just shy of Brazil and below the worst affected country, the United States.

The second surge in infections, which has spread much more rapidly than the first one that peaked in September, has forced many states to impose fresh curbs but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a national lockdown given the high economic costs.

Here’s a daily graph of daily new cases, which reached about 169,000 yesterday.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 561,527, an increase of just 294 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,950,823, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on April 12 includes:

This is considered the beginning of the Civil War, and happened soon after Lincoln took office in March. I can’t find a date for the formal declaration of war, but you can still visit the ruined fort in Charleston Harbor:

  • 1928 – The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west.  This is a year after Lindbergh’s solo flight, and the Bremen had a three-man crew, ergo it’s not remembered so much. Here’s the plane that made it, landing in a peat bog in Newfoundland:

If you’re in Georgia, as I was in 2013, I recommend visiting the house in Warm Springs where Roosevelt died. (He was with his mistress Lucy Mercer when stricken with a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and Lucy was hustled out of the house before Eleanor arrived.) Here are a few photos of the cottage that I took.

The house:

A poignant message on the wall from FDR’s cook:

The room in which he was sitting when stricken by the hemorrhage:

The bed in the next room where he died:

  • 1955 – The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.
  • 1961 – Cold War: Space Race: The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, Vostok 1.
  • 1983 – Harold Washington is elected as the first black mayor of Chicago.

Washington was a good mayor, and I especially liked him because he was fond of the monk parrots who nested in a tree across from his apartment, which was in Hyde Park. He died the year after I moved to Chicago.

  • 1999 – United States President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving “intentionally false statements” in a civil lawsuit; he is later fined and disbarred.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1777 – Henry Clay, American lawyer and politician, 9th United States Secretary of State (d. 1852)
  • 1883 – Imogen Cunningham, American photographer and educator (d. 1976)

An underappreciated photographer, Cunningham was one of the first women to photograph nudes, which was considered scandalous. Here’s one of her famous pictures, “Three Dancers, Mills College. 1929.” © The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012.

And I can’t resist adding this photograph by Judy Dater showing an aged Cunningham (she was 90) with her camera and a nude, “Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud at Yosemite
1974.” (It has its own Wikipedia entry.) Wikipedia notes, “The photo was the first adult full frontal nude photograph published in Life magazine.”

  • 1916 – Benjamin Libet, American neuropsychologist and academic (d. 2007)
  • 1923 – Ann Miller, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2004)

Here’s Miller, a great dancer now forgotten, paired with Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade.” Judy Garland gives them the stinkeye:

  • 1932 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (d. 1996)
  • 1947 – David Letterman, American comedian and talk show host
  • 1981 – Tulsi Gabbard, American politician

Those who kicked the bucket on April 12 include:

  • 1912 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founded the American Red Cross (b. 1821)
  • 1945 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and politician, 32nd President of the United States (b. 1882)
  • 1981 – Joe Louis, American boxer and wrestler (b. 1914)
  • 1988 – Alan Paton, South African historian and author (b. 1903)
  • 1989 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist, co-founded Youth International Party (b. 1936)

Here’s the famous Yippie the year he died (he committed suicide with an overdose of phenobarbital):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a plea:

Hili: Education is important.
A: That’s true.
Hili: How to teach Kulka that my bowls are sacrosanct and untouchable?
A: It’s not possible.
In Polish:
Hili: Edukacja jest ważna.
Ja: To prawda.
Hili: Jak nauczyć Kulkę, że moje miseczki są święte i nietykalne?
Ja: To nie jest możliwe.

Paulina photographed Szaron and Kulka out on the tiles:

Caption: Night, cats, and Paulina with her camera.  (In Polish: Noc, koty i Paulina z jej aparatem.)

From Pyers:

From Nicole:

From Jesus of the Day. This happens to be true.

This is what’s called a “burn.” Apple Martin, Gwynnie’s daughter, isn’t keen on her mother’s “morning routine”, though Apple has one too. See more here.


When you get roasted by your gen z daughter… #motherdaughter #goop #fyp #gwynethpaltrow

♬ original sound – Goop


And I found this, too, which is one reason I dislike Gwynnie. She actually had a video made about getting ready for the Met Gala and posted it on Twitter!

From Barry.  Whipped cream sounds are to d*gs as opening tuna cans are to cats.

Second tweet: what is that cat drinking??

Tweets from Matthew, who says to notice the little nose nudge at the end to get things just right. But I’m disturbed by the bear’s personal pronoun, “they”. Is this a genderfluid bear?

I could tell you what this is, but that would deprive you of the joy of discovery. Check out the thread itself.

If this swarm can really move faster than a single caterpillar, I don’t understand why. Is this true?

Coincidence—or corporate collusion?

Friday: Hili dialogue

April 9, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday, April 9, 2021: National Chinese Almond Cookie Day. I’m home after my jaunt to Texas, and am starting my kale juice cleanse! (Only kidding—but I’m going vegetarian for at least a week.) Yes, I am home, and the anxiety is already creeping in, much of it related to ducks.

News of the day:

Prince Philip died at 99.

Good for Uncle Joe, who declared some modest gun-control measures via executive action yesterday. These include banning “ghost guns” (guns that can be made from kits, lacking the serial numbers that make them traceable), as well as “closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and stripping gun manufacturers of protection from lawsuits.” Republicans, of course, are incensed, and too bad for them. I just wonder if these measures could be derailed by the courts. The NYT however, did do a fact-check on Biden’s claims, and found some errors or misrepresentations, including his claim that only gun manufacturers can’t be sued (they can for certain things, and some tech companies can be immune from lawsuits).

An article in Quillette called “Diversity, inclusion, and academic freedom: the case of gender biology,” tells a harrowing tale of how a seemingly respectful lecture by a pediatric endocrinologist on disorders of sexual development, particularly congenital adrenal hyperplasia, led to an explosion of outrage that led to the doctor’s being replaced in his course. Gender and medicine is a minefield these days.

Important news from HuffPost! (Click on screenshot):

Irresponsible undergraduate students at my university have created a big outbreak of Covid-19 on campus . According to CBS2 News, and reports sent to us at the University of Chicago, more than 50 undergraduates have just tested positive for the virus, most of them having attended “parties held at off-campus fraternities” over the last week. Severe restrictions have been imposed on all undergraduates, including include 7-day mandatory quarantining for all students in residence halls, no in-person classes for undergraduates for at least a week, and no lab work for those undergrads doing research. The student government has called for disciplining those who facilitated the parties, but the U of C has been loath to punish anyone for violating the “Health Pact” that we all had to sign.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 559,575, an increase of 595 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,917,645, an increase of about 13,400 over yesterday’s total.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is wheedling for a snack:

Hili: What’s the time?
A: A quarter to.
Hili: So it’s time now.
In Polish:
Hili: Która godzina?
Ja: Za kwadrans.
Hili: A, to już pora.
Kulka and Szaron are on the steps outside, and it looks as if a little butt-sniffing is going on:

A meme from Facebook. Canada geese are the worst!

From Jesus of the Day:  I hope this is real. If it is, Matthew needs to go to this hotel!

From Nicole. Again, I wonder if this is real. I know that every country in Scandinavia makes fun of every other country in Scandinavia. I once had a Danish officemate, for instance, who told me, “The Finns drink gasoline, you know—regular on weekdays and unleaded on Sundays.”

A tweet from Barry. I’m told that these lizards can really make a mess of you.

Tweets from Matthew. I’m not sure whether this book involved “moveable” type, with each character re-used, or was simply engraved in toto. I’m too lazy to look it up.

Matthew calls this one “Stalin,” and he’s pretty much on the money:

Look at this fat hamster get under a door!

Ah, the beautiful wood ducks. They and their congeners, the Mandarins, are the world’s most beautiful ducks. We had a female and two male wood ducks for a few weeks last fall on Botany Pond:

Cod and chips please; hold the chips:

A duck nesting on a seventh floor balcony. If you worry about how the ducklings get down, read the next tweets.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 30, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the penultimate day of the month: Tuesday, March 30, 2021. It’s National Hot Chicken Day, and by “hot” chicken they mean “spicy,” not “warm”. In recent years hot chicken has become a fad in the South, starting in Nashville, Tennessee.

I’m in Luling, Texas, contemplating a late breakfast of BBQ, and so the Hili dialogues will be truncated until I return in ten days or so. Bear with me: in their place ye shall have noms.

News of the Day:

Glory be! The Ever Given container ship is free! With a combination of high tide and tugboats, they got the bow away from the shore, and the ship has been towed to a lake in the canal for inspection. In the meantime, they’re not letting the waiting ships into the canal yet because the canal’s depth could have been changed.

The NYT has a heartening story about how a group of women in Assam are trying to save the world’s rarest stork, the Greater Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos dubius), a scavenger that stands five feet tall. The total species size is estimated at only about a thousand birds, and there are only three breeding populations. Its habitat is threatened by landfills (see second photo), but a corps of conservation-minded Assamese women are protecting nest sites, rescuing baby birds, and educating the locals.

Coronavirus cases have been on the upsurge for a while as restive Americans, encouraged by the removal of mask mandates in states like Texas, are behaving like they did before the pandemic. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, warned of “impending doom” due to a fourth surge of the virus. From the NYT:

According to a New York Times database, the seven-day average of new virus cases as of Sunday was about 63,000, a level comparable with late October’s average. That was up from 54,000 a day two weeks earlier, an increase of more than 16 percent. Similar upticks in Europe have led to major surges in the spread of Covid-19, Dr. Walensky said.

Public health experts say that the nation is in a race between the vaccination campaign and new, worrisome coronavirus variants. Although more than one in three American adults have received at least one shot and nearly one-fifth are fully vaccinated, the nation is a long way away from reaching so-called herd immunity — the tipping point that comes when spread of a virus begins to slow because so many people, estimated at 70 to 90 percent of the population, are immune to it.

Here’s Walensky on Rachel Maddow’s show. Note that she says that “vaccinated people can’t carry the virus.” I’m not sure we have good data on that, but it would be great news.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 549,552, an increase of “just” 685 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands a 2,806,709, an increase of about 6,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a funny:

Hili: We have an elephant in the garden.
A: What? Where did he come from?
Hili: He left the room.

In Polish:

Hili: Mamy słonia w ogrodzie.
Ja: Tak? Skąd się tam wziął?
Hili: Wyszedł z salonu.

And here’s a photo of Szaron:

A meme fron Nicole:

And one from Bruce:

Matthew posted this on my Facebook page. That must have been a damn good book!

From reader Barry. But where are the kittens gonna get milk?

Tweets from Matthew. First, cat crunches:

Amazing drawings from a fervent desire to preserve the past:

A cat person becomes a cat person through familiarity. Sound up.

A duckling and a baby emu. Which is cuter?

This taxidermist is as good at stuffing sloths as medieval artists were at drawing cats:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 27, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Cat Sabbath: Saturday March 27, 2021: International Whisk(e)y Day (make mine Springbank). It’s also National Spanish Paella Day (you can’t have any since it’s cultural appropriation), World Theater Day, and Brothers’ and Sisters’ Day (the apostrophes are superfluous).

Wine of the Day:

Here we have an inexpensive but terrific Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. As I keep telling people, deep-six the Pinot Grigio and expensive chardonnays for a while, and drink some Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc. This puppy cost me $17.45, which, though above my youthful psychological price barrier (it’s risen as I age), was well worth it. I drank it with fettuccine alfredo, of a sort, and lacked any wines like Riesling or Gewurztraminer to offset the cheese with some sweetness.

It was a full-bodied wine with flavors of minerals and the classic Sauvignon Blanc grassiness, but also some grapefruit. Highly recommended if you can get it for less than twenty bucks. And do look out for good bottles of this grape.

News of the Day:

Instigated by Republicans, and perhaps by Senatorial defeats last fall, the Georgia legislature passed a new law that makes voting difficult in several ways. Outside drop-off ballot boxes are out, and for mail-in ballots you have to provide your driver’s license number. Democrats object because they think these rules make it harder for black people to vote (for instance, a smaller proportion of blacks have a government ID). It’s hard to deny such motivation given who’s pushing the bill and the timing of its passage.

Across the U.S., but especially in Idaho, state legislatures are trying to pass bills restricting the teaching of critical theory, especially Critical Race Theory. While I don’t think kids should be taught it in its most divisive and authoritarian form, neither do I think that state legislatures should set curricula. (However, I think they should ban the teaching of creationism; is that hypocritical of me?) At any rate, if you want to see a defense of teaching CRT in schools, read this column in the NYT (of course) by Michelle Goldberg.

Checking the Washington Post, I can’t find a single editorial that isn’t on the Left side of the political spectrum, or in the center. This means that the paper has gone fully woke, purging all opinion it doesn’t like. And that means that I am likely to cancel my subscription. Even though I consider myself on the Left, a paper’s duty is to present a spectrum of editorial opinions, and I like to challenge myself by reading columnists on the other side of the aisle.

Larry McMurtry, who forged good novels and screenplays from his life in rural Texas, has died at 84. His novels include Lonesome Dove (a Pulitzer winner and a great t.v. miniseries), Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show, which was made into my favorite American movie. McMurtry wrote the screenplay for that movie, too, as well as the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. McMurtry died at his home in Archer City, Texas, the godforsaken outback town where The Last Picture Show was filmed (it was called “Anarene” in the movie). I made a pilgrimage to that town in 1972 because I liked the movie so much. (The book is good, but not nearly as good as the movie.)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 547,600, an increase of 1,260 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands a 2,781,011, an increase of about 12,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 27 includes:

  • 1625 – Charles I becomes King of England, Scotland and Ireland as well as claiming the title King of France.
  • 1794 – The United States Government establishes a permanent navy and authorizes the building of six frigates.
  • 1866 – President of the United States of America Andrew Johnson vetoes the Civil Rights Act of 1866. His veto is overridden by Congress and the bill passes into law on April 9.

That act made anyone born in the U.S. a citizen and gave those of all races equal rights, but only in certain areas.

  • 1871 – The first international rugby football match, when Scotland defeats England in Edinburgh at Raeburn Place.
  • 1886 – GeronimoApache warrior, surrenders to the U.S. Army, ending the main phase of the Apache Wars.

Here’s Geronimo as a U.S. prisoner in 1905, when he was about 76. He was thrown from his horse in 1909 and subsequently died of pneumonia. His last words were reportedly imparted to his nephew:

 “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.”

Mary Mallon spent the last 23 years of her life in quarantine in a hospital on North Brother Island in New York’s East River. She had sickened 53 people, of whom 3 died. This was the first known U.S. quarantine of an asymptomatic carrier. Here’s Mallon (foreground) in a hospital bed:

  • 1964 – The Good Friday earthquake, the most powerful earthquake recorded in North American history at a magnitude of 9.2 strikes Southcentral Alaska, killing 125 people and inflicting massive damage to the city of Anchorage.
  • 1977 – Tenerife airport disaster: Two Boeing 747 airliners collide on a foggy runway on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, killing 583 (all 248 on KLM and 335 on Pan Am). Sixty-one survived on the Pan Am flight. This is the deadliest aviation accident in history.

Here’s a photo after the collision:

  • 1981 – The Solidarity movement in Poland stages a warning strike, in which at least 12 million Poles walk off their jobs for four hours.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1845 – Wilhelm Röntgen, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1923)

Here’s what’s shown by Wikipedia as “First medical X-ray by Wilhelm Röntgen of his wife Anna Bertha Ludwig’s hand”:

  • 1863 – Henry Royce, English engineer and businessman, founded Rolls-Royce Limited (d. 1933)
  • 1879 – Edward Steichen, Luxembourger-American painter and photographer (d. 1973)

Here’s a Steichen photo of Loretta Young sitting on a staircase:

  • 1886 – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German-American architect, designed IBM Plaza and Seagram Building (d. 1969)
  • 1899 – Gloria Swanson, American actress and producer (d. 1983)
  • 1909 – Ben Webster, American saxophonist (d. 1973)

Webster is among the top five jazz saxophonists in my pantheon. Here he is in a rare live film, playing “Over the Rainbow”:

And here’s Sassy singing the same song you just heard Webster play. She died of lung cancer: too many cigarettes. I don’t understand why many great singers smoked (and died from it); another example is Nat King Cole:

  • 1942 – John Sulston, English biologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
  • 1963 – Quentin Tarantino, American director, producer, screenwriter and actor
  • 1969 – Mariah Carey, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress

Those who began singing in the Choir Invisible on March 27 include:

Gagarin was the first human sent into space, orbiting for 106 minutes, and then exiting his capsule as it plummeted to Earth, landing by parachute. (He died at 34 in a training-jet crash.) Here’s his Vostok capsule:

  • 2002 – Milton Berle, American comedian and actor (b. 1908)

Berle’s real name was Mendel Berlinger, but, being a Jew, he had to change it. I still have no theory about why Jews dominated comedy so heavily.

  • 2002 – Dudley Moore, English actor (b. 1935)
  • 2012 – Adrienne Rich, American poet, essayist and feminist (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili went upstairs to hunt (photo by Paulina):

Paulina: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m hunting an ostrich.
Paulina: Ostriches are huge.
Hili: I’m hunting a tiny ostrich.
In Polish:
Paulina: Co robisz?
Hili: Poluję na strusia.
Paulina: Strusie są ogromne.
Hili: Poluję na bardzo małego strusia.

Szaron gazing outside:

From Nicole:

From Bruce.

From Facebook:

More “Titania educates” (it should be called “Titania trolling”):

A tweet from Dom. With a dozen of these d*gs they could free the container ship Ever Given within a few hours. (It’s rudder has been freed and they’ve dredged around it, so the ship may be on its way this weekend.) But they don’t need the cat to dredge:

From Luana: a survey on racism:

Tweets from Matthew. The “Gessner” in the photo below is the book Historia animalium by the Swiss physician and polymath Conrad Gessner. The book was published in 1551-1558 and again in 1587. But they still couldn’t draw cats in the mid-sixteenth century. Look at that travesty of a cat portrait!

Matthew’s daughter Lauren turned 25 two days ago. Here’s part of the celebration with Ollie, whose deft claws laid my nose open a few years ago:

Darwin having a rough day:

Dispersal time for the puggles!

Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 25, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Thursday, March 25, 2021. I leave for Texas next week—my first trip in a whole year!

It’s International Waffle Day. It’s been a long time since I had one of these corrugated pancakes (I have no waffle iron, and restaurants have been closed). I suppose I should try chicken and waffles some time, as it’s a big dish in Chicago. Here’s a local version.

It’s also National Lobster Newburg Day (another dish I haven’t had), Pecan Day, Tolkien Reading Day (March 25 was the downfall of Sauron in Lord of the Rings), International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

It’s Medal of Honor Day. marking the day in 1862 when the Great Locomotive Chase took place, with Union Soldiers commandeering a Confederate train and taking it north, damaging the railroad line as they went. Some of the surviving Union soldiers (the Confederates caught and shot some of them) were given the very first Medals of Honor, the highest award the military gives for bravery in combat.

Wine of the Day: I looked in vain for a vintage year on this bottle, which I bought Ceiling Cat knows when, but found via Google that it’s a “nonvintage” wine: a rarity in this price range. In fact, it’s a blend of wines from five vintages (2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017) and ten plots in the Southern Rhone, a great area for red wines. It’s mostly Grenache (85%), with 5% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre.

I wouldn’t have known this is a Rhone wine, as it tasted like a good, gutsy California grenache, with a nose of blackberries and cherries. It really was the perfect accompaniment to my weekly rare T-bone (while others bought toilet paper during the initial lockdown, I loaded up my freezer with steaks). Powerful and tasty, but not overly tannic, I would have liked to taste this puppy in five more years. Sadly, I had only one bottle.

News of the Day:

Talk about a squeaker: a Republican candidate for a House set in Iowa, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, won her election by just six votes out of a total of nearly 400,000. Her opponent, Democrat Rita Hart, says that 22 ballots were discarded by officials that would have given her the victory. Hart has appealed to the House to overturn the results. Sound familiar? The House, as per the law, is looking into the matter, with Republicans objecting strenuously.

Trouble in Israel: In yesterday’s election, Netanyahu’s right wing bloc fell short of the votes needed for him to form a government. He could still prevail with help from the Arab-Islamist Ra’am Party (get that, arguers that Israel is an “apartheid state”), but they want concessions for the Arab Israelis in return.

Five White House staffers were fired for past marijuana use, which seems unfair to me. After all, Kamala Harris has admitted to and endorsed recreational marijuana use. Here’s Jen Psaki’s rationale for the firing, which seems pretty thin. Of course, we don’t know all the details, but why did she play the “federal crime” card?

A 1300-foot-long container ship, blinded by dust storms, ran aground in the Suez canal, wedging itself sideways and blocking the damn passage, creating a lineup of over 100 ships. So far efforts to free it have failed.  12% of world trade passes through the canal, and oil prices have already risen over the incident. And, as of this morning, it’s still stuck! Here’s an Instagram photo of one of the world’s longest ships wedged in tight:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 545,070, an increase of 1,591 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,758,100, an increase of about 9,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 25 includes:

  • 1306 – Robert the Bruce becomes King of Scots (Scotland).
  • 1584 – Sir Walter Raleigh is granted a patent to colonize Virginia.
  • 1655 – Saturn‘s largest moon, Titan, is discovered by Christiaan Huygens.

Here’s a gif of Titan visualized with infrared light. It’s the only moon known to have a stable atmosphere (nitrogen) and standing liquid (hydrocarbon lakes), and it’s about 40% as wide as the Earth:

  • 1807 – The Swansea and Mumbles Railway, then known as the Oystermouth Railway, becomes the first passenger-carrying railway in the world.
  • 1811 – Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from the University of Oxford for publishing the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism.

Here’s the pamphlet, on which no author appears. I’m not sure how Shelley was identified as the author.

This tragedy, due to a fire and to the exit doors being blocked, resulted in the deaths of 123 women and 23 men, mainly Italian and Jewish immigrants. Many of them leaped from the upper floors of the building to their deaths, as shown below:

This was an accusation of rape made up by a white woman against nine black adolescents, who were prosecuted and convicted. After a retrial, seven were convicted and five served prison sentences. There was no evidence of a rape, physical or otherwise. The last defendant died in 1989, and the Alabama legislature gave them all posthumous pardons in 2013. 

(From Wikipedia): The Scottsboro Boys, with attorney Samuel Leibowitz, under guard by the state militia, 1932

A first edition, first printing of the poem will run you around $3,500:

Here’s part of King’s speech at the end of this final march:

If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. He gave him Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. And he ate Jim Crow. And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings.

  • 1995 – WikiWikiWeb, the world’s first wiki, and part of the Portland Pattern Repository, is made public by Ward Cunningham.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1908 – David Lean, English director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1991)

Lean directed three of the most famous (and best) epic movies of our era, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). Here are the first ten minutes of “Lawrence”:


  • 1918 – Howard Cosell, American soldier, journalist, and author (d. 1995)
  • 1920 – Paul Scott, English author, poet, and playwright (d. 1978)

I implore you to read Scott’s four novels The Raj Quartet, and its Booker Prize-winning sequel, Staying On. If I can’t persuade you, perhaps Christopher Hitchens can. It’s one of the best modern novels, as you can consider all five volumes part of a single story.

  • 1925 – Flannery O’Connor, American short story writer and novelist (d. 1964)
  • 1934 – Gloria Steinem, American feminist activist, co-founded the Women’s Media Center
  • 1942 – Aretha Franklin, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 2018)

Here’s Aretha’s famous turn in “The Blues Brothers”:

  • 1965 – Sarah Jessica Parker, American actress, producer, and designer
  • 1967 – Debi Thomas, American figure skater and physician
  • 1982 – Danica Patrick, American race car driver

Those who became permanently quiescent on March 25 include:

A Chicago resident for much of her life, Wells was perhaps the most famous black woman in America, and a well known activist, as well as one of the founders of the NAACP. Here’s a famous pamphlet she wrote:

  • 1973 – Edward Steichen, Luxembourgian-American photographer, painter, and curator (b. 1879)

Here’s Steichen’s famous photo of Greta Garbo, taken in 1928:

  • 2006 – Buck Owens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,

Hili: One has to look the truth in the eye.
A: And what?
Hili: Consume it.
In Polish:
Hili: Trzeba spojrzeć prawdzie w oczy.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Skonsumować.

And here is Szaron having a stretch:

From Facebook:

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From a conservative source via Luana, but I swear it’s pretty accurate.  It’s from The Critical Theory Handbook of Journalism. Be sure to look at the whole chart:

Tweets from Matthew. I’d heard this first story before, but it still amazes me. The guy must have assumed that he’d die when he hit the ground.

A nice display of mutual sexual selection, especially the “cross the neck” manuever:

Jaguar on the border! Will DHS let it in?

This is ineffably sweet; sound up!

All of us!:

A sad map of where the US government stuck the Native Americans.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 21, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Ceiling Cat’s Day: Sunday, March 21, 2021. It’s National Crunchy Taco Day. (I prefer mine uncrunchy.)

It’s also many other holidays: Great American Meatout, National California Strawberry DayNational French Bread DayNational Healthy Fats DayNational Fragrance DayBuzzard DayWorld Sparrow DayInternational Day of ForestsInternational Francophonie DayWorld Poetry DayInternational Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, World Poetry Day, World Puppetry Day, and Atheist Pride Day.

In honor of World Sparrow Day, here’s a white-throat sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis):

News of the Day:

You probably already know most of the news, and there isn’t much for me to add: Atlanta is having big demonstrations against hatred of Asians (we had one in Chicago, too), an you can read about each of the eight victims of the Atlanta shooting here.

Unaccompanied children continue to accumulate at and across the border. As The Washington Post reports:

There are currently more than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children in the care of Health and Human Services, and 5,000 more in the care of Customs and Border Protection, nearly twice the previous record, according to the latest figures obtained by The Washington Post.

Many of these children are still in custody despite the legal requirement of no detention longer than 72 hours. I still have no idea where these children will go if their parents don’t enter the country. Who will take care of them? Don’t they need their parents with them? In the meantime, the Biden administration denies, in the face of all the facts, as well as statements of the immigrants themselves, that new immigration policies had anything to do with this situation, nor that there’s a crisis, even though the NBC Evening News headlined the story as “Border Crisis”.  Dems have to fix this mess quickly and humanely lest the GOP make this a big selling point during the midterms.

As I said repeatedly, we can now stick a fork in New York governor Andrew Cuomo, because he’s done. Another woman has come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct, creating an unpleasant atmosphere in his office. And “in his office” is relevant, for the accuser, Alyssa McGrath, is currently an employee in Cuomo’s office. Although most elected officials from New York have suggested he step down, 50% of New York voters don’t think he should resign immediately, while only 35% say he should, with 15% undecided. This is a curious disconnect between the opinion of the public and of elected officials.

Have you been fully vaccinated and are wondering what you can now do safely? There are two new articles on this, one in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 541,493, an increase of 773 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The death rate is clearly falling; I don’t remember a daily figure of fewer than a hundred in the past year.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,723,088, an increase of about about 8,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 21 includes:

  • 630 – Emperor Heraclius returns the True Cross, one of the holiest Christian relics, to Jerusalem.
  • 1556 – On the day of his execution in Oxford, former archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer deviates from the scripted sermon by renouncing the recantations he has made and adds, “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.”

More details of Cranmer’s recantation and execution from Wikipedia:

Cranmer was told that he would be able to make a final recantation but this time in public during a service at the University Church. He wrote and submitted the speech in advance and it was published after his death. At the pulpit on the day of his execution, he opened with a prayer and an exhortation to obey the king and queen, but he ended his sermon totally unexpectedly, deviating from the prepared script. He renounced the recantations that he had written or signed with his own hand since his degradation and he stated that, in consequence, his hand would be punished by being burnt first. He then said, “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.”[105] He was pulled from the pulpit and taken to where Latimer and Ridley had been burnt six months before. As the flames drew around him, he fulfilled his promise by placing his right hand into the heart of the fire while saying “that unworthy hand”. His dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit …; I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

It’s a pity that such bravery has to go to defending one religion against another instead of something more meaningful.

Here’s the first page of the Butler Act, which of course was challenged by John Scopes that same year and adjudicated (and upheld) by the Scopes “Monkey Trial”. Note that the bill prohibits the teaching of human evolution, not evolution occurring in any other species. Had substitute-teacher Scopes talked about evolution in general in his class, and hadn’t mentioned evolution, he could not have been a test case of The Butler Act.

  • 1928 – Charles Lindbergh is presented with the Medal of Honor for the first solo trans-Atlantic flight.
  • 1935 – Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi formally asks the international community to call Persia by its native name, Iran.
  • 1946 – The Los Angeles Rams sign Kenny Washington, making him the first African American player in professional American football since 1933.
  • 1963 – Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (in California) closes.
  • 1965 – Martin Luther King Jr. leads 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Here’s a photo of some marchers. There were several marches during that period, culminating in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

This is one of the most recent cases of mass hysteria we have, but read about nine others throughout history, and don’t miss the “Meowing and Biting Nuns”!

Here’s a short documentation of the unpowered flight, which lasted nearly 20 days:

Notables born on this day were few, and include:

Wally ‘n’ me!, May 2013. He was visiting to give a talk, and when I met with him we talked photography rather than science (he’s an avid amateur photographer). On the screen, one of his photos. Note that his posture is much better than mine.

  • 1970 – Cenk Uygur, Turkish-American political activist

Cenk is 50 today. I don’t like him.

Those who experienced a demise on March 21 were also few, and include:

  • 1556 – Thomas Cranmer, English archbishop (b. 1489)
  • 1617 – Pocahontas, Algonquian Indigenous princess (b. c. 1595)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is observing Andrzej through the window:

A: What are you looking at?
Hili: I’m observing you how you think.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu się tak przyglądasz?
Hili: Patrzę jak myślisz, to bardzo zabawnie wygląda. It looks very funny.

And here’s a photo of Szaron, who is getting along much better with Hili these days:

From Rick: A most excellent SMBC cartoon:

From Bruce:

Someone sent this to me, but I forgot who (sorry!). It’s a cartoon by Mark Parisi.

I found a tweet of a Japanese temple deer bowing, but it disappeared overnight. Here’s another one. Apparently the sacred deer have learned to bow for deer crackers:

Here’s one from Instagram:

From Simon. Cats and turtles all the way down!

Tweets from Matthew. I didn’t know prairie dogs could do this. They’re like animal Slinkies:

The beautiful sand cat, Felis margarita.

Here’s another photo from Wikipedia:

A restorative act of humanity:

Neymar gets his jab!

This is the biggest fly I’ve ever seen, by a long shot:

A bracing minute of barn owls:

Friday: Hili dialogue

March 19, 2021 • 6:30 am

We’re at week’s end, as it’s Friday, March 19, 2021: National Oatmeal Cookie Day (my most unfaorite cookie, but still better than no cookie at all).  It’s also National Chocolate Caramel Day, National Poultry Day, Certified Nurses Day, and Let’s Laugh Day. In honor of the last one, here’s a joke.

Sam gets a telephone call from a doctor. The doctor says: “About this medical test I did on you: I have some good news and some bad news.”

Sam asks for the good news first.

“The good news is that you have 24 hours to live,” says the doctor.

Horrified, Sam asked: “If that is the good news, then what is the bad news??”

“I couldn’t reach you yesterday.”

I’ll be here all year, folks.

Wine of the Day: I’m on a week of meatless meals, and today had a dinner of black beans and rice mixed with a little thick Greek yogurt for creaminess. WIth a simple meal like that you want a fruity white wine, and a good Riesling fills the bill.

Of the five grades of quality Riesling, Kabinett is the driest, though this one tasted a bit sweeter, almost like the next sweetest wine: a Spätlese. But that’s fine, as people don’t appreciate that a slightly sweet wine can be a great companion to food. It depends on the food, of course. I’ve found that foie gras and Sauternes (an exceedingly sweet wine) are a great pairing, and the French realized this long ago, so often proffer a glass of sauternes when you get foie gras with toasted baguette.

This wine was excellent: low in alcohol (about 9%), with a light straw color, an apple-y flavor, and a short but good finish. German wine labels put some people off but they’re easy. The maker, Dönhoff, is at the top, then the village (Niederhäuser), then the vineyard (Klamm), and then the grape and the grade of the wine (Riesling Kabinett: riesling, of course, and the driest grade). Elsewhere on the bottle it says this wine is from the winemaking region calIed Nahe.

I think it’s the label “confusion” that puts a lot of people off a very good and often very affordable wine. Drink more Riesling!

News of the Day:

Some good news: the House of Representatives passed two gun bills this week that will strengthen the rules on background checks for purchasing firearms. Although 80% of Americans support these measures, the Senate is unlikely to pass them given the filibuster rules and Republican opposition.

Robert Aaron Long, who killed eight people, six of them Asians, is being touted widely as an example of a xenophobe motivated by hatred of Asians. This is not yet clear, as the suspect himself denied it, and it may be sex-related. Long was a customer at both spas, and these businesses often provide sex on the side. He had also spent time in rehab for “sex addiction”, and, as a religious person, battled with his own impulses and his church’s prohibition of extramarital sex.

Others aren’t so quick draw conclusions about racism:

On NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said that “while the motive remains still under investigation at the moment, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated. But I really would defer to the state and local investigation on that for now.”

The rush to judgment (HuffPo is determined to judge this a racist act—even if the shooter simply preferred to have sex with Asian women, still considered a form of racism— when we have no information, makes me feel that people want this to be a hate crime, and I don’t really understand that. The killing is already reprehensible, and should be deplored, but we should hold off on ascribing motivations until the investigation is complete. There’s no doubt, however, that genuine hate crimes committed on Asians are rising.

Absolutely Predictable Department: The mayor of Lyon, France, a city where I’ve spent some time feeding on the city’s meaty and copious cuisine, announced that school lunches for 29,000 elementary-school students would no longer include meat. Well, the reaction was guaranteed:

Not so, thundered Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister. He tweeted that dropping meat was an “unacceptable insult to French farmers and butchers” that betrays “an elitist and moralist” attitude. Julien Denormandie, the agriculture minister, called the mayor’s embrace of the meatless lunch “shameful from a social point of view” and “aberrational from a nutritional point of view.”

I’m not that upset, as the kids will get plenty of meat elsewhere. But the fracas is funny.

Remember the hilarious “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld? I didn’t watch it often, but that was good. Well, it’s not good any more: a restaurant run by a Chinese-American in Everett, Washington, named “The Soup Nazi Kitchen” was vandalized so often because of the name that the owner renamed it. Was it so wrong to call a guy the “soup Nazi”? I’m a (cultural) Jew, and it doesn’t bother me. (h/t: Neil).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. 539,128 is, an increase of 1,549 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,704,440, an increase of about about 10,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 19 includes:

  • 1284 – The Statute of Rhuddlan incorporates the Principality of Wales into England.
  • 1649 – The House of Commons of England passes an act abolishing the House of Lords, declaring it “useless and dangerous to the people of England”.
  • 1895 – Auguste and Louis Lumière record their first footage using their newly patented cinematograph.

Here is some of that footage:

He was drunk, and had to shoot himself in the head three times to finish the job (he completely missed the first time). Nitti was about to face a grand jury indictment for extortion. Here’s a headline from the time.

  • 1945 – World War II: Adolf Hitler issues his “Nero Decree” ordering all industries, military installations, shops, transportation facilities, and communications facilities in Germany to be destroyed.
  • 1979 – The United States House of Representatives begins broadcasting its day-to-day business via the cable television network C-SPAN.
  • 1982 – Falklands War: Argentinian forces land on South Georgia Island, precipitating war with the United Kingdom.
  • 2008 – GRB 080319B: A cosmic burst that is the farthest object visible to the naked eye is briefly observed.

Here’s a double image of the burst, with X-ray visualization on the left and a UV image on the right. The burst was visible for about 30 seconds, and it was about 2.9 million light years away.

This is one of two subspecies of the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum ). Here’s a photo of one of them while it still lived:

Notables born on this day include:

Livingstone died in Africa at 60 of malaria and dysentery. Here’s a photo from 1864:

  • 1848 – Wyatt Earp, American police officer (d. 1929)
  • 1891 – Earl Warren, American lieutenant, jurist, and politician, 14th Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1974)
  • 1894 – Moms Mabley, American comedian and singer (d. 1975)
  • 1905 – Albert Speer, German architect and politician (d. 1981)
  • 1906 – Adolf Eichmann, German SS officer (d. 1962)
  • 1933 – Philip Roth, American novelist (d. 2018)

Here’s a snippet of a BBC interview from 2009 in which Roth discusses his life and work:

  • 1952 – Harvey Weinstein, American director and producer
  • 1955 – Bruce Willis, German-American actor and producer

Those whose metabolism ground to a halt on March 19 include:

  • 1930 – Arthur Balfour, Scottish-English politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1848)
  • 1950 – Edgar Rice Burroughs, American soldier and author (b. 1875)
  • 1950 – Norman Haworth, English chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1883)
  • 1984 – Garry Winogrand, American photographer (b. 1928)

Winograd was a great street photographer. Here’s an untitled specimen of his work from the 1970s:

  • 1987 – Louis de Broglie, French physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1892)
  • 1997 – Willem de Kooning, Dutch-American painter and educator (b. 1904)
  • 2005 – John DeLorean, American engineer and businessman, founded the DeLorean Motor Company (b. 1925)

DeLorean was a car designer, and of course his most famous car was the DMC DeLorean with gull-wing doors. It was not a success.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,

Szaron: I have a feeling that she is ignoring me.
Hili: I think I will have to accept him.
In Polish:
Szaron: Mam wrażenie, że ona mnie ignoruje.
Hili: Chyba trzeba go będzie zaakceptować.

And here’s Szaron catching forty winks:

From Divy:

From Facebook:

From Bruce:

From Barry. There’s nothing more alert than an alert cat!

Another video turned into an academic meme by Oded Rechavi. This was sent by Simon, who is guilty of tweeting about his new paper just this week!

Reader Ken has a long explanation for this tweet:

Eugene Vindman, whose career was torpedoed by Donald Trump for no reason other than that his twin brother, purple-heart recipient Alexander, gave truthful testimony, under subpoena, to the House Intelligence Committee regarding Trump’s perfect “do-me-a-favor-though” phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, has finally received his well-deserved promotion to full-bird colonel:

Tweets from Matthew. Nope, not a walking stick; in fact, it’s in a different order of insects altogether. There’s a hint, but first look at the picture and guess.

This is a lovely video. I presume the fish in that compartment are bait fish.

Another attentive cat video:

Turn the sound up! This is a possum sea shanty!

I agree with the caption. I ain’t getting into one of those cars.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Szaron monologue)

March 17, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on a humpish day: Wednesday, March 17, 2021: National Irish Cuisine Day, as well as a specimen of that cuisine: Corned Beef and Cabbage Day.  And of course this is all because it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, a big holiday in Ireland and in Chicago, too. Two days ago they even dyed the Chicago River vivid green, as they always do, despite saying they wouldn’t do it this year because of the pandemic.

Here’s a news piece about the celebrations in Chicago, including the traditional river dyeing, which was done as a surprise:

There’s a Google Doodle celebrating St. Patrick’s Day; if you click on it you go to a lot of information about the holiday:

News of the Day:

There’s not a lot of big news today, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

Well, a tax increase is in the offing, and is needed to pay for all of Biden’s expensive initiatives. The good news is that very few of us have to pay a higher percentage. The proposal from Biden’s aides says that the tax rate will be raised only for those making more than $400,000 per year, that corporate tax rates will rise to 28% from 21%, that there will be an increase in the estate tax, and that there will be an increase in the capital gains tax for individuals making more than a million bucks a year.

There was an unusual ending to a story on yesterday’s NBC Evening News. A car hitched to a trailer went over the edge of a bridge in Idaho, and a man, his wife, and their two dogs were hanging off the bridge 100 feet over the water, held up only by the chains connecting the car to the trailer. If you go to the last segment, you’ll see Lester Holt describing the incident and the successful rescue of the people and animals by a specialized team. His final words:

“The heroic rescue–less a miracle than a reflection of the training, teamwork, and dedication of those who served.”

At last the credit is given to people and not God!

More and more, the New York Times is changing from straight news to a tabloidy content, including an increase in celebrity gossip. Here’s a new specimen of that from the front page (click on screenshot). My view is: who cares? The more important query is “How crappy can this paper get?”

And yet, for some reason I’m more interested in the work of Lily Hevesh, known on YouTube as Hevesh5, the Queen of Dominos. The Washington Post has an article on her work, which consists of making videos of elaborate domino tableaux in which everything topples. Hevesh left college to pursue her dream job—building domino sets—and is actually making a living doing it.

Her works include “the amazing triple spiral,” involving 15,000 dominoes, and whose fall has 1.4 million views. Watch it below. Hevesh has set her sights on breaking the world record for a domino fall: 5 million pieces.

Here’s my latest read: a 350-page book all about Texas BBQ! It was a gift from a barbecue-loving friend in Texas:


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 536,472, an increase of 1,245 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,683,643, an increase of about about 10,100 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 17 includes:

  • 180 – Commodus becomes sole emperor of the Roman Empire at the age of eighteen, following the death of his father, Marcus Aurelius.
  • 1776 – American Revolution: The British Army evacuates Boston, ending the Siege of Boston, after George Washington and Henry Knox place artillery in positions overlooking the city.
  • 1942 – Holocaust: The first Jews from the Lvov Ghetto are gassed at the Belzec death camp in what is today eastern Poland.

Here are Jews heading to Belzec from Zamość.  Virtually every Jew sent to the camp was gassed on the spot.

  • 1945 – The Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen, Germany, collapses, ten days after its capture.
  • 1950 – Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley announce the creation of element 98, which they name “californium”.
  • 1960 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action program that will ultimately lead to the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • 1968 – As a result of nerve gas testing by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in Skull Valley, Utah, over 6,000 sheep are found dead.
  • 1969 – Golda Meir becomes the first female Prime Minister of Israel.
  • 1985 – Serial killer Richard Ramirez, aka the “Night Stalker”, commits the first two murders in his Los Angeles murder spree.
  • 1992 – A referendum to end apartheid in South Africa is passed 68.7% to 31.2%.

Notables born on this day include:

Oates famously sacrificed himself during Robert Scott’s ill-fated return from the South Pole, during which every man died. Oates walked outside into a blizzard, and to his death, after saying, “I am going outside and may be some time.” Here he is before that deadly trek, tending the horses (his job on the expedition):

  • 1881 – Walter Rudolf Hess, Swiss physiologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1973)
  • 1919 – Nat King Cole, American singer, pianist, and television host (d. 1965)
  • 1938 – Rudolf Nureyev, Russian-French dancer and choreographer (d. 1993)

Here’s a pas de deux with Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn from “Swan Lake” (1963).

  • 1941 – Paul Kantner, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2016)
  • 1944 – Pattie Boyd, English model, author, and photographer
  • 1972 – Mia Hamm, American soccer player
  • 1979 – Stormy Daniels, born Stephanie Gregory, American adult film actress
  • 1997 – Katie Ledecky, American swimmer

Those who croaked on March 17 include:

  • 180 – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (b. 121)
  • 1782 – Daniel Bernoulli, Dutch-Swiss mathematician and physicist (b. 1700)
  • 1871 – Robert Chambers, Scottish geologist and publisher, co-founded Chambers Harrap (b. 1802)
  • 1956 – Irène Joliot-Curie, French physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1897)

Joliot-Curie, the eldest daughter of Marie Curie, won the Nobel with her husband Frederic for creating radioactive elements by bombarding non-radioactive ones with alpha particles. She died at 58 of leukemia, probably from exposure to radiation. This may be the only case of a whole family getting Nobel Prizes. Here’s Irène with her mother in 1925:


  • 1965 – Amos Alonzo Stagg, American football player and coach (b. 1862)
  • 1974 – Louis Kahn, American architect and academic, designed Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban (b. 1901)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants to “ask” a starling something, which will be the last question that bird ever answers:

Hili: The starlings have returned.
A: I wonder where they have been.
Hili: I’ll have to ask one of them.
In Polish:
Hili: Szpaki wróciły.
Ja: Ciekaw jestem gdzie były?
Hili: Muszę któregoś zapytać.

And we have a lovely monologue from Szaron!

Szaron: I’m no longer a frightened, half-wild cat. (Photo by Paulina R.)

In Plish: Nie jestem już wystraszonym półdzikim kotem. (Zdjęcie Paulina R.)

From Terrible Maps, the most oddly named town in each state. Britain, of course, has much weirder names, like Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Still, Satan’s Kingdom, Massachusetts, shouldn’t be sniffed at, nor should Toad Suck, Arkansas.

From Nicole:

From John:

Yes, there’s James Lindsay and Fox News in there, but there’s also a point:

Tweets from Matthew. Both he and I love lanky mustelids like martens and stoats. Here’s a young brood of European pine martens (Martes martes) disporting themselves.

A skillful glass artist ensures that the number of tibial segments is correct:

Matthew follows the Auschwitz Memorial account, and this put up five days ago. Notice the shaved head and deer-in-the-headlights appearance common to new arrivals at Auschwitz. This is one of the lucky ones who survived the war:

Don’t watch this if you’re prone to seasickness.

Spot the snail!

I’m starting to really dislike pelicans. . .

Two lovely blue slugs:

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 16, 2021 • 6:30 am

Posting will be light today as I must go to the dentist to get fitted with a crown for my recent implant. Bear with me; I may start a discussion thread.

Good morning on the cruelest day: Tuesday, March 16, 2021: National Artichoke Heart Day. It’s also Curlew DayLips Appreciation Day, Day of the Book Smugglers (in Lithuana; read about it), and National Panda Day.

Here’s the public presentation of 23 baby pandas in 2016 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a place I visited some years ago. Is there anything cuter than this?

Wine of the Day:

This Brunello di Montalcino, made solely of Sangiovese grapes, was a super wine, though perhaps too elegant to accompany a cheesy/oniony/green peppery leftover stuffed pizza. Curiously, it had the “black olive” aroma I associate with Rhone reds, but there is no Sangiovese in Rhones. Dark garnet in color, and a wee bit off dry, it would have gone better with, say, lamb than with a pedestrian pizza. If there was one flaw, it was that the finish wasn’t too long. Still, this was an excellent wine and has at least several years until it peaks.

News of the Day:

So much for Pope Francis as a liberal reformer of the Vatican. He decreed yesterday that Catholic priests cannot bless same-sex unions because that would be blessing SIN. This is the same Pope who, eight years ago, responded to questions about homosexuality by saying, “Who am I to judge?” Well, he has judged—and negatively. Catholicism’s “new tolerance” has reached its limits. I wonder what Andrew Sullivan would say.

Here’s a relevant tweet sent by Matthew:

Here’s a brave teacher from Loudon County, Virginia, standing up loudly against the infiltration of Critical Race Theory into her schools.

Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children have recently entered the U.S. from Mexico, coming, no doubt, because Biden promised to make the immigration process more humane. I truly don’t know what to make of this, because although I wanted immigration reform, I didn’t think it would lead to so many unaccompanied kids being sequestered in shelters in the U.S. And won’t they grow up without their real parents? How does this happen? Do parents just give up their kids at the border?

The NYT has an interesting interview with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, Would he make his classic series, “The Civil War” (my favorite t.v. documentary of all time) differently in light of the present Zeitgeist? Was Shelby Foote a Confederate sympathizer? And why was Burns so changed by the early death of his mother?

“Shots in arms,” as they say. And a lot of them:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 535,227, an increase of just {well, “just” may not be a good word) 751 deaths over yesterday’s figure—a very low number.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,673,558, an increase of about about 7,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. 

Stuff that happened on March 16 includes:

Most of them killed themselves after setting the tower ablaze; about 150 perished; this was much like Masada.

Here’s what’s described as “The only known photo of the team, taken in 1863 when the club was still known as Forest F.C.”

Well, here’s Goddard and his rocket taken on that day:

(From Wikipedia) Robert Goddard, bundled against the cold weather of March 16, 1926, holds the launching frame of his most notable invention — the first liquid-fueled rocket.
  • 1935 – Adolf Hitler orders Germany to rearm herself in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Conscription is reintroduced to form the Wehrmacht.
  • 1945 – World War II: The Battle of Iwo Jima ended, but small pockets of Japanese resistance persisted.
  • 1968 – Vietnam War: My Lai Massacre occurs; between 347 and 500 Vietnamese villagers (men, women, and children) are killed by American troops.
  • 1978 – Supertanker Amoco Cadiz splits in two after running aground on the Portsall Rocks, three miles off the coast of Brittany, resulting in the largest oil spill in history at that time.

Number of barrels spilled: 1.6 million!  Here’s a photo of the broken up ship leaking oil.

  • 1985 – Associated Press newsman Terry Anderson is taken hostage in Beirut. He is released on December 4, 1991.
  • 1988 – Iran–Contra affair: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • 1995 – Mississippi formally ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified in 1865.

Here’s the official amendment from the National Archives, signed by Abraham Lincoln, whose statue is being pulled down throughout the U.S.:

Notables born on this day include:

This woman astronomer is where Brian Cox’s female cat got her name. To wit:

  • 1751 – James Madison, American academic and politician, 4th President of the United States (d. 1836)
  • 1774 – Matthew Flinders, English navigator and cartographer (d. 1814)

Flinders’s cat was famous: “Australia holds a large collection of statues erected in Flinders’ honour. In his native England, the first statue of Flinders was erected on 16 March 2006 (his birthday) in his hometown of Donington. The statue also depicts his beloved cat Trim, who accompanied him on his voyages ”

Trim has his own Wikipedia page, and appears more than once with Flinders. Here are two statues:

  • 1906 – Henny Youngman, English-American violinist and comedian (d. 1998)
  • 1911 – Josef Mengele, German physician and captain (d. 1979)
  • 1920 – Traudl Junge, German secretary (d. 2002)

Junge, born Traudl Humps (what a name!) was Hitler’s private secretary right to the end. She escaped the Russians but then was arrested and interrogated for five months before being released. Here she is with her husband, Hans Junge, who happened to be Hitler’s household manager:

  • 1926 – Jerry Lewis, American actor and comedian (d. 2017)
  • 1943 – Ursula Goodenough, American biologist, zoologist, and author

Ursula is one of our readers, so happy birthday to her! Here’s a photo of her with the Dalai Lama in Dharmasala, India:

  • 1950 – Kate Nelligan, Canadian actress
  • 1953 – Isabelle Huppert, French actress

Those who went to the Great Beyond on March 16 were few, and include:

  • AD 37 – Tiberius, Roman emperor (b. 42 BC)
  • 1898 – Aubrey Beardsley, English author and illustrator (b. 1872)

Beardsley was a great illustrator, and died of tuberculosis at only 25. Here’s one of his cat drawings:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is impatient for warmer weather:

Hili: Things are going in the right direction.
A: And that means?
Hili: In the direction of summer.
In Polish:
Hili: Sprawy idą we właściwym kierunku.
Ja: To znaczy?
Hili: W kierunku lata.

A few pictures of Szaron and Kulka playing.

The caption from Andzej: “Paulina dragged herself from her intellectual work and grabbed the camera.”

(In Polish: “Paulina oderwała się od pracy intelektualnej i złapała się za aparat fotograficzny.”

From Mark:

From Facebook:

From Bruce. This is a terrific idea and I think someone should try it with their cat.

A new chapter (part 16) in “Titania Educates”

From Barry, an adorable cat tweet. Look at that agitated kitten!

From Dom: a lovely Roman mosaic of two parrots that are recognizable species (see below)

Tweets from Matthew. Now here’s a bird I didn’t know existed: a flightless bird (it can glide) of the tropical forest. Its closest relatives are a mystery. Sound up.

Check out Spain, Italy, and France!  I like Iceland, too.

This isn’t really a first (there have been several sightings of walruses around Ireland), but it’s pretty unusual. I hope this one will be all right.