Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, November 25, 2016, and most Americans will have recovered from yesterday’s food coma. If you have, then take advantage of the fact that today is National Parfait Day. It’s also Black Friday, when, traditionally, Americans assail the stores hoping to snap up bargains, crushing each other in the process. Finally, it’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The date honors the murder of four siblings, the Mirabel sisters, beaten to death in 1960 on orders of the Dominican Republic strongman Rafael Trujillo for their political activism.

On this day in 1915, Albert Einstein presented the equations of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. On November 25, 1952, Agatha Christie’s play “The Mousetrap” opened in London’s West End—and it’s still running after 64 years, the longest continuously performed play in history. And on this day in 1999, the 5-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez was rescued trying to reach the U.S. in an inner tube. As you might remember, on orders of Janet Reno he was forcibly sent back to his father in Cuba, inciting a huge protest among many Americans.

Notables born on this day include Lewis Thomas (1913; does anybody read his essays any more?), Joe DiMaggio (1914), Percy Sledge (1940), John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1960, died in a plane crash in 1999), and Jill Hennessy (1968♥). Those who died on this day include Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1944), famous for handling the Chicago Black Sox case of cheating in baseball, Upton Sinclair (1968), and footballer George Best (2005). Best (born 1946), abused his body severely with alcohol (he had a liver transplant, and, at the end, asked that a picture of him on his deathbed be published with the caption “Don’t be like me.”) Despite that, he is still considered one of the best footballers of all time, and the best Irish player in history; here are a few highlights showing his skill at dribbling:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili sagaciously comments on how the interpretation of historical events changes with time:

Hili: Is history sensitive to fashion?
A: Very much so.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy historia jest wrażliwa na modę?
Ja: Bardzo.
Out in frigid Winnipeg, Gus is sleeping sweetly; his staff sent this photo titled “Polar bear muzzle”:


  1. Winnie
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell was what got me started on popular science books. I still have my stained and dog-eared copy from when I was 12 years old. I reread The Youngest Science a couple of years ago, and still found it charming.

  2. rickflick
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The JFK junior air crash was a sad story indeed. He was headed from New Jersey to Martha’s Vineyard in a Piper Saratoga. His wife and her sister were passengers. They crashed into the ocean when he experienced spacial disorientation descending through clouds.
    The accident is used by aviation safety presenters as an example of numerous instances of pilot error leading to a crash. Some have called the event part of the Kennedy Curse.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 25, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Although he must have had instrument rating, just how much experience he had to be making this trip….I do not know?

      • rickflick
        Posted November 25, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        He did not yet have an instrument rating but had been in training for it. He did not strictly require one since the conditions were not completely opaque and were listed as VFR. However, the big problem was probably inexperience. Without an instrument rating and flight plan, he had to rely on some visual cues to stay oriented. He took a short cut over the ocean instead of along the shore where lights would have been visible. With the horizon obscured by haze it is very difficult to tell up from down. In principle he could have used instruments to orient, but distractions and panic can remove the chance of recovery.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 25, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          Well, all I can say is that he was damn reckless. The inexperience would include taking passengers that did not need to die and not knowing how to turn around and not fly into stuff without the rating.

          The non-pilots need to be much more cautious about who they get into an airplane with. Knowing the person does not get it in this business. Knowing the qualifications and hours is a lot better.

          • rickflick
            Posted November 25, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

            That’s absolutely right. In Kennedy’s case there might have been an issue with machismo. He had planned on a daylight trip but delays put them into dusk at departure. Other options were clearly at hand…but he went anyway.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 25, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      We had a couple of CFITs within a few months of each other a few years ago, both ascribed to spatial disorientation, both in fully time-served and within-hours pilots and copilots. The first one, everyone decamped from the aircraft into the liferaft in a textbook evacuation. The second one, 16 or 18 dead. No obvious reason why the difference.
      “CFIT” is one of the most horrible acronyms I’ve had to learn. Controlled Flight Into Terrain.

      • rickflick
        Posted November 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        A possible reason the two events ended so differently might be luck, or skill. With spacial disorientation the pilot may have no visual cues outside the aircraft and so may drift quickly into a random orientation such as heading strait up, or inverted and angled down. You can’t detect this by the seat of your pants because the plane provides it’s own inertial system disguising the direction of gravity. A quick turn of the head can lead to total loss of inner ear balance. We pilots are trained to notice this problem with a glance at the panel instruments and to quickly provide yoke and rudder inputs. The pilot who saved the plane most likely detected the problem early and perhaps broke out of the clouds in time to level out and do a safe ditching. Or she might have been, by chance, almost level at impact.
        The unlucky pilot must have been distracted and if the problem was noticed, it was too late to correct. As I recall, the Kennedy plane reached a high speed and crashed at a high angle.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 25, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          Not believing the instruments can lead to many of those bad outcomes as well, don’t you think.

          • rickflick
            Posted November 25, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

            The training covers that. The instruments must be trusted in the clouds since that’s all you have to go by for orientation and navigation. In case the different instruments don’t agree, there are procedures for isolating the bad one and flying partial panel. In Kennedy’s case he had tuned the radios incorrectly so he was unable to communicate with the ground and would not have accurate weather. This seems to me to be a sign he was under stress and unable to concentrate. That distraction may have contributed to the accident.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 25, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          As I recall from the AAIB’s reports, the survivor’s flight did a straight flight into the sea – CFIT indeed – while on the fatal flight they realised what was happening, attempted to correct the helicopter’s attitude and lost control impacting the sea surface at high speed and a high roll angle. From the CVRs, both pilots and copilots were fully aware and responsive throughout both incidents.
          Digesting those reports was not a fun part of volunteering for the union.
          Then there was the ring vortex in Shetland a couple of years ago. 16 dead and very hard to describe what was happening to the aircraft.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    George Best was a great player and a preview of Lionel Missei. A good example of the fact that in this sport you do not have to be large.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      It’s very difficult to compare across generations but there is little doubt that Best was one of the finest players of all time. If he was playing today he would walk into any of the top European club sides. Those skills were mesmerising and you can’t help but feel sorry for the defenders that he left clutching at air in his wake!

  4. allison
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    One minor nitpick: of the four Mirabal Sisters, only three were assassinated in 1960. The fourth sister, Dede, who was much less active in the resistance to Trujillo than her sisters, lived until 2014.

    I would not know this but for the fact that I finished reading Junot Diaz’s magnificent novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” two days ago (the novel is based largely upon the abuses of the Trujillo regime).

  5. E.A. Blair
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I used to be a teacher (Freshman Composition), and there were two essays I always assigned as readings on my first day of class: Politics and the English Language by George Orwell and On Punctuation by Lewis Thomas. I assigned the Thomas essay as an example of the joy and fun one could have with the technics of grammar.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 25, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I’ve been reading a book on punctuation (but didn’t know about Lewis’s essay (and I love Fowler (but frequently get lost going from citation to citation (thanks for the reference(!))))).

  6. Frank Bath
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the George Best video. Not just a great footballer but a lovely person, and not without humour.
    ‘I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.’

  7. Posted November 25, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I still read The Lives of a Cell about once a year.

  8. Diane G.
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I loved the The Lives of a Cell and The Medusa and the Snail, but it’s been a while–somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 years for the first. They’re on my shelves & it’s definitely time for a re-read. Got more than a few favorite passages in mind that I need to find so I can quote them correctly. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: