Monday: Hili dialogue

It’s September 12, 2016, and National Chocolate Milkshake Day.  Do they have real milkshakes (with ice cream) in the UK—except at American nostalgia joints? And while I’m on the subject, I always thought that someone could make a pile of money in Great Britain if they opened a shop selling real hoagie sandwiches (not the Subway brand) instead of what passes for a sandwich (a “butty”) in Old Blighty:  1 mm of meat and cheese, barely discernible to the taste, on two pieces of dry bread, often dressed with some enigmatic substance called “sweetcorn.” Here’s what I mean by a sandwich:


To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee: “Now THIS is a sandwich!”

To be fair, I’ll list the foods I miss in the UK: real ale at proper temperature (like a well-kept pint of Landlord), aged farmhouse cheddar cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies, real fish and chips with mushy peas, trifles, and all kinds of biscuits (esp. cow biscuits, Boasters, squashed fly biscuits, and McVitie’s dark chocolate digestives).

On this day in 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning. Wikipedia says this about an event on September 12, 1933: “Leó Szilárd, waiting for a red light on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, conceives the idea of the nuclear chain reaction.” In 1940, the Lascaux cave paintings were discovered on this day, and, in 1953, John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (♥) in Rhode Island.

Notables born on this day include Jesse Owens (1913), Barry White (1944; who likes his music?), and Nan Goldin (1953, subject of a recent and fascinating New Yorker article).  Those who died on this day include Steve Biko (1977, succumbed while in custody of the South African police after torture and beatings; the perpetrators were never tried) and Johnny Cash. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is petulant and had an urge to bat a rock:

Hili: Homeopaths say that water remembers. Do stones remember as well?
A: Why are you asking?
Hili: I would like to whack it.
In Polish:
Hili: Homeopaci mówią, że woda pamięta. Czy kamienie też pamiętają?
Ja: Dlaczego pytasz?
Hili: Bo mam mu ochotę przyłożyć.
We have no photos of Gus or Leon today, but here’s a swell eye-fooler pointed out by Matthew Cobb. The caption is right about the twelve dots, but I don’t understand why we can’t see them.


  1. Stackpole
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Milkshake vs. ??

    Growing up in New England (lo those many, like 70, years ago) near Boston anyway, one had to be careful what one asked for: a “milkshake” was just milk frothed up with chocolate syrup (yuk). To get the (usually chocolate) ice cream included in the mix, you had to ask for a “Frappe”.

    Still true? Don’t know.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Yes, although “frappe” is dying out in New England. It’s a rough equivalent to the New York “egg cream,” although the latter has neither cream nor egg.

      • Doug
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        I’m from New England (Connecticut) and never heard it called “frappe.” (I’m 56.) It was always a “milk shake.”

        Are there any other New Englanders here? What do you call it in your neck of the woods?

        Also, what you call “hoagies” we call “grinders.”

        • Achrachno
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

          I’m not a New Englander, but have inlaws in RI. They often call milkshakes “cabinets” and “coffee cabinets” were apparently traditionally a big thing.

          • Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

            57, milkshake, and sub growing up just south of Boston.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t “frappe” one of those things the put on the menu at “49 types of coffee” coffee shops (“Moby Dick,” “roman Fiddler” and other relted brands of overpriced sludge), and you’re meant to know what they mean because they never describe it?
      There have been various things labelled as a milkshake. Damned if I can remeber what they comprised though. We used to do a thing called a “coke float” of chucking a scoop of ice cream into a glass of some brand of fizzy water, but I don’t recall trying to make one with milk.

  2. TJR
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Nice to know that you like Melton Mowbray pork pies. I’m originally from Melton and its only since moving away that I’ve discovered how famous our pork pies are.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      It is, of course, purely coincidental that one of the other major employers in Melton Mowbray is the Defence Animal Centre, which no doubt regularly has horses that are surplus to requirements….

      • TJR
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        There are two big employers in Melton:

        The Defence Animal Centre

        Pedigree Petfoods

        Make of that what you will……

        • David Harper
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

          Other disturbing coincidences:

          Newmarket in Suffolk is the home of British horse-racing. It’s also where you’ll find the company that makes the legendary (and very delicious!) Powter’s Newmarket sausage.

          My wife says that Poweter’s ought to use “First past the post!” as their marketing slogan, but I don’t think that would really improve sales 🙂

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            There’s a Blackadder (3rd?) line about “I am very suspicious about this sausage” in a cod-French accent.

            My wife says that Poweter’s ought to use “First past the post!” as their marketing slogan,

            “Last past the post”, surely?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      “Wee growlers,” according to one of my friends who used to live near Melton and worked at Grimbledon Down Germ Warfare Establishment.

  3. Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Don’t get it with the dots. Something to do with the symmetry? I can manage to see two horizontally spaced ones at once (I think…), but not more.

  4. dargndorp
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    If one wants to see all 12 dots at once, make sure you look at the picture on a crappy monitor and look at it from an angle (the crappy monitor makes the grays lighter while keeping the dark dots dark). Works best for me when I look at the picture peering down at the monitor at a 30° angle, but results will vary according to monitor crappiness.

    Those with high quality equipment are out of luck 🙂

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Interesting. After reading your comment, all I did was tilt a notebook screen forward, and they were clear as day.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Springs out for my laptop too. Doesn’t work on the tablet though.

  5. Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I often sing the Peter Gabriel song, “Biko” to my daughter as a lullaby to put her to sleep. I’ll have to stop when she’s old enough to understand the words, but for now it works pretty well.

  6. Dimitris Klaras
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    With the trick I frequently use to see clearly without my reading glasses, you see them all: I make with my fingers a small hole and I look through it.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I miss the fish and chips shops the most. Also the birds.

  8. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Re. the illusion, which is very cool by the way: my first guess was that you can’t see the dots because they’re so spaced as to place themselves in your eye’s blindspot. But then you can’t see the ones above and below the dot you’re looking at, or to the right either, so it can’t be solely down to that. And when I pan out the dots disappear altogether. Funky.

    I’d love an explanation.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure I can summarize it very well, but Sekuler & Blake’s textbook of perception has an explanation.

      (I can try later …)

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Who likes big Barry’s music? I can’t get enough of that love, baby.

    One look at that pic told me I’ll be picking up gabagool grinders for my household tonight.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      One person who really liked Barry: Glodine

  10. Marilyn
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I live in Jefferson Park and I buy McVitie’s dark chocolate digestive biscuits at Ada’s Market on Northwest Highway in Norwood Park. The only store on the northwest side that consistently carries them.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Mariano’s carry milk chocolate digestives, also hobnobs. I guess plain chocolate is less in demand. Don’t recall seeing dead fly biscuits in the US.

      Have not found decent fish and chips in Chicagoland. But I’ve only been looking for a couple of years 😦

      In the Nashville area (if anyone is interested) Cool Springs Brewery has great fish and chips (and good beer). But it’s a bit of a hike for me now.

  11. Duncan
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Ooooh Boasters. Thanks Jerry. I now have to nip out and get some to go with my afternoon coffee.

    btw I guess one of the reasons we don’t generally have that sort of sandwich is that food is (comparatively) expensive here. I mean you can find that kind of (bloody delicious looking) sandwich but it costs an arm and a leg.

    Please note this opinion has been offered by a naturalised Yorkshireman

  12. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Barry White!! Although I am a bit embarrassed when playing it loud, and my kids hear it.

    That optical illusion is cooking my noodle. I know the dots are not really there…

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      I printed it, to see how that worked. It’s easier to see more spots on the printout, if you bend the paper and look along a line you can see up to four, and if you get them out of the same plane sometimes more pop into simultaneous view.

      Putzing around with the scaling on the screen display also alter how many you can see (or at least how many I can see)

      Nice illustration of how much of our visual field is getting filled din by our brains at any moment.

  13. David Harper
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    As a fellow fan of aged farmhouse cheddar, may I recommend that PCC(E) should try it with Branston Pickle, which is a sweet chutney-style relish comprising diced vegetables in a sauce made from vinegar, tomatoes and spices. It’s the classic accompaniment to a piece of really strong cheddar cheese in a ploughman’s lunch.

    I’m not sure where you’d get in it the U.S., though.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Branson was something we always used to have to import. United airlines managed to break a catering sized jar in my in-laws’ suitcase once – well packed so no leakage but a major tragedy.

      It’s available in the “foreign” foods sections of most decent supermarkets now. Overpriced but essential to life.

      • David Harper
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        United Airlines is famous for breaking things. Just Google “united breaks guitars” for a musical tale of woe about their baggage handlers’ ineptitude.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      I’m never quite sure how to use chutney, but I did buy an onion chutney at a discount shop, one where they get all the odds and ends that didn’t sell, and I’ve ben smearing it on sandwiches. Is that what one would do with this mysterious Branston Pickle?

      and yes, as a Yank, I always thought that Branston Pickle was a famous variety of pickled cucumber. I am, however, quite familiar with the various digestives and other treats, thanks to the store Brits, in Lawrence KS, and the World Market chain stores.

  14. Karen Welsh
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    And oddly not mentioned… It was 50 years ago tonight at 7:30, 6:30 Central that The Monkees premiered on NBC. Yes, it is possible to be an atheist and a fan of the Monkees at the same time. We are rare but do exist!

    • Kevin
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I like the Monkeys. So possible, yes.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I like the Monkees as well.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      I fell in love with the Monkees thanks to summer rerun TV, the music was catchy and the show was goofy slapstick; all perfect for the 10yr old me. Really, thanks to TV reruns and a lack of exposure to the new and expensive (for my family) technology of Cable TV, I got to see a lot of great old TV shows and horrible (but wonderful) sci-fi movies from the 50’s and 60’s. Now, with endless Hulu, NetFlix, and Youtube videos, kids can binge on only what they already know and love and never experience being forced to watch something (even in Black & White!) because there’s nothing else on, yet find a new love because of that limitation.

  15. enl
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The dots illusion takes advantage of the reduced spacial resolution of the eye outside the fovea. The brain tends to fill in based on color and brightness. The dots are adjusted such that on appropriate display the average brightness is the same as the gray of the lines. The brain fills in the missing edges to form continuity in the periphery. I can’t see well enough to get far enough back for more than one dot to be in the foveal region, and think the, even if I could, the dots and white rings are sized such that they will be too small to resolve at that distance, but, if I could see that far, they should resolve.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      If you slide the image up-down or left-right so that the outermost row or column is on the verge of being cut off by the edge of the viewing window (i.e. so that the outermost diagonal segments are cut off,) you can easily see all the dots in the row/column. This tells me there is sort of inhibition processing created by the diagonals. A fovea explanation therefore is insufficient. One can easily remove the diagonals altogether in a thought experiment and realize that all the dots would be visible.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        One can certainly conjecture that removing the diagonals would make all the dots visible.

        But without the diagonals, the dotted intersections would be larger than the undotted ones, and visually distinctive for that reason, so that’s not conclusive.

  16. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    If you click on the tweet, and look at Kerslake’s feed, there is another tweet from him referencing a paper on the Hermann Grid.

    In short, the Hermann Grid causes the eye to see a non-existent gray dot at intersections outside of the foveal region. (There are many variations of it in the paper).

    So in this case, those “Hermann Grid” gray dots are obscuring the actual black dots, except in the foveal area. Very slick!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      That’s interesting. Looking at it I felt like I would be able to see more black dots at a time if I had a bigger centre to my visual field by which I mean that I could focus on a bigger area at once.

  17. Darren Garrison
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    The “why you can’t see the dots” issue–I don’t remember if that issue specifically is covered in Beyond the Zonules of Zinn by David Bainbridge, but it is worth a read no matter what.

    The short of the issue is that you “see” much less than you think that you see, and much of what your brain presents to you as “vision” is extrapolated from bits and pieces of visual information coming in from various types of cones and rods with varying “pixel densities” and light/color/motion sensitivities. One of the “tricks” the brain (and even pre-processing in the eye) has up it’s sleeve is filling in holes in your visual field–not only solid colors, but also patterns. See this wiki:

  18. dave
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    If you ever visit Cardiff, Wales; pop into The New York Deli
    i think they must be genuine hoagies because the three cheese one (I’m a veggie) is enormous!

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    H. L. Mencken born this day, 1880

  20. bluemaas
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Besides titles of this or that all up and down the decades since ~the 1660s (, wasn’t there, though too, an actual sandwich concocted abd invented … … after which its introduction .to. this first so – entitled (in more ways than that one) Earl ThereOf Sandwich, that actual word … … sandwich … … came in to common English – language parlance ? that is, because of said concoction / invention .for. that earldom’s dude ?

    Something about the servants swiftly slapping victuals betwixt two slabs of sourdough so’s the gambling – guy could keep on betting at the tables and not have to leave off of his wagers in order to take time out to prehend platefuls of actual sustenance ?

    Or is that story … … well, bloody bunkum ?


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