Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, and in about a week I’ll be leaving Delhi to head to Bangalore, where I’ll visit Mr. Das and his 40 cats (I’m hoping to write a children’s book about him; titles and suggested plots welcome, though I have some ideas). Then on to Bhubaneswar on the southeast coast to speak to the Institute of Life Sciences. I return to Chicago April 3. Posting will definitely be lighter during that period, as I may lack internet access and at any rate will be out and about, but I expect readers to be faithful! After that, I’ll be in Houston around April 10 for the Lone Star Book fair, and then in Portland, Oregon, where I’ll speak for the Center for Inquiry on April 22. Then, like God, I shall rest.

If you’re in North America, be aware that the hours have advanced by one last night: it’s now Daylight Savings Time.

On March 13, 1639, Harvard College was named after John Harvard (a clergyman); it’s now the oldest college in the U.S. (BTW, the second oldest college, William & Mary, is my alma mater as well; it was founded in 1693.) On this day in 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus (no jokes, please), and in 1930, the discovery of Pluto was announced, which is of course also a planet! In 1996, the Dunblane School Massacre took place in Scotland, giving rise to new laws effectively banning private ownership of handguns—the same type of laws that should be enacted in the U.S. Oh, right, we’re not Scotland; I forgot. And, in 2003, the journal Nature reported the discovery of the Laetoli footprints by Mary Leakey and Paul Abell, a trail made 3.6 million years ago by a pair of Australopithecus afarensis.

Notable births on this day include Joseph Priestley (1733), Percival Lowell (1855), L. Ron Hubbard (1911), Neal Sedaka (1939), and another of my hearthrobs, Dana Delaney (1956). Those who died on this day include Susan B. Anthony (1906), Clarence Darrow (1938, defense lawyer in the Scopes trial and many others), and, in 2006, Robert C. Baker, inventor of the the chicken nugget that plagues us so today (I’m proud to say that I’ve never eaten a single nugget). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being insouciant toward Andrzej, but the picture is cute: Andrzej is in my spot!

Hili: Nothing develops one better than reading books.
A: It would be difficult not to agree with you, but not all books are equally good.
Hili: It doesn’t make any difference to me.
P1030916 (1)
In Polish:
Hili: Nic tak nie rozwija jak czytanie książek.
Ja: Trudno mi się z tobą nie zgodzić, ale nie wszystkie książki są równie dobre.
Hili: Mnie wszystko jedno.



  1. rickflick
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    That looks like a very comfortable book…er…I mean intellectually stimulating book.

  2. JohnnieCanuck
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Very uncomfortable, intellectually speaking.

    It is about anti-Semitism in Poland in the 1930s. Something a lot of people would like to pretend never happened.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Title suggestion: Asian Cat Man.

    Pluto was announced, which is of course also a planet!

    Only if carbon dioxide is an organic molecule…

    Pluto joins Ceres in being an astronomical dwarf planet instead of an astronomical planet, by definition. And of course it is an astrophysical planet among thousands others. (Depending on your useful definition of “planet” du jour.)

    I’m not sure why people make such a fuss about Pluto but forgets poor Ceres! And what about the moons that would be planets on their own right, if they weren’t orbitally challenged?

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      To be clear, the planet definition (which seems set to be extended to exoplanets) is based on a deeper understanding of orbital mechanics. The planets that are of long term interest are those that gravitationally dominate their orbit, because they will mostly be around billions of years later when we observe them.

      As an example, the solar system has only 1 % chance of being different (lost at least Mercury) at the time the Sun will become red giant. We can thank Einstein, in a Newtonian universe the solar system would have > 50 % chance of changes. [ ]

      [Pluto is an odd duck, since it is kept in orbit by having been forced into a resonance with Neptune. Once in a blue ‘planet’…]

  4. Charlie
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    One of the many disadvantages of children is that sooner or later chicken nuggets will be consumed. Just yesterday we were at an Odyssey of the Mind tournament held in a local high school. For lunch, chicken nuggets were the least revolting of the very few food items for sale in the cafeteria. They were, of course, disgusting.

  5. Gail
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Mr. Das and his 40 cats… reminded me of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. I’m sure this is of no help at all, just one of those weird things that occur to me! 🙂

    • Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      You beat me to it… I’m too slow on the keyboard… mine is a little different though. (See #8.)

  6. GBJames
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Daylight Savings Time, I’m convinced that any presidential candidate who ran on a platform of ridding the country of this nonsense would win hands-down.

    I hate Spring Forward. /grump

  7. Randy Schenck
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Can not think of a logical reason for the invention of a chicken nugget, other than to sell more breading. Why not just have a grilled chicken sandwich on some good sour dough?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I suspect it’s because chicken nuggets are a good size for children’s fingers that they’re popular.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 13, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s because you can stuff a lot of them in your mouth at once thereby eating more product before your brain gets “stop eating, you’re full, fat ass” signal. 🙂

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted March 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink


  8. Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    How abaut a bilingual title? I can’t vouch for Google Translate…. 😀 Someone *please* tidy it up!

    Chaalees Billiyon
    (Forty Cats)


    Khush Das aur usake chaalees billee ke samaan mitron
    (Happy Das and His Forty Feline Friends)

    • Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      .. or Happy Das And His Forty Cats … this is catchier.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I like that Cyrus’s rump made it into the picture.

    My friend is in Bangalore right now visiting her family. She is taking her daughters all over and they were recently drinking coconut water out of the coconut.

  10. Michael Scullin
    Posted March 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Just a note — the Laetoli footprints were discovered in 1976 by Mary Leakey’s team. They were much photographed, and cast for subsequent study. Then the entire site was buried to minimize weathering. She died in 1996 – well beloved and greatly respected.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      While Mary Leakey was generally respected and certainly deserves much credit I think she may have had some shortcomings as a paleontologist. I remember reading years ago that a collaborator on the footprints was worried that Leakey’s rough technique in handling the impressions was damaging them. He described her as scraping out the footprints with tools which removed much of the fine texture and preserved only the general shape of the impressions. If I remember correctly the colleague was Tim White, a notoriously careful worker. Leakey’s forte may have been finding, not so much preserving.

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