Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologues)

There are only 20 shopping days—since Sunday is now a shopping day—until Christmas. Yes, it’s December 5, 2016, and we’ve had snow yesterday in Chicago: several inches. And it’s a double Food Day: National Comfort Food Day and National Sacher Torte Day. So Austrians, eat up! In Austria it’s Krampusnacht, when the Devil strides the street, damning those who haven’t had Sachertorte.

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola (now called the Dominican Republic), often considered the first European colonization of the New World. On December 5, 1952, The Great Smog of London, caused by pollution and a combination of unusual weather, descended on the city, eventually killing nearly 12,000 people. I had no idea, and perhaps some readers here can give us their recollections.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott began on this day in 1955, lasting over a year and calling national attention to Southern segregation. With thousands of blacks refusing to ride buses, and organizing teams of carpools to get people to work, the bus company eventually capitulated.

Notables born on this day include Christina Rossetti (1830), Fritz Lang (1890), Walt Disney and Werner Heisenberg, and Little Richard (1932). Those who died on this day include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791), Claude Monet (1926), and Nelson Mandela (2013). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili waxes philosophical—and solipsistic.

Hili: What is a human being?
A: It’s the end product of countless number of chances, and every human being is different.
Hili: It’s exactly like a cat only a cat is perfect.
In Polish:
Hili: Co to jest człowiek?
Ja: Końcowy produkt niezliczonej ilości przypadków, a każdy człowiek jest inny.
Hili: To tak jak kot, tylko kot jest doskonalszy.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon is visited by a strange but cute cat. Malgorzata, who forwards and translates Leon’s monologues, has no idea who the cat is:

Unknown cat: Good morning. Is Leon in?



Leon: Listen, old man. Who is this whippersnapper you brought in? Keep him away from my bowl!


Robin Cornwell sent a picture of  her cat Jerry (another felid named after me) lurking about her Christmas tree. Given Jerry’s penchant for mischief, as well as his clumsiness, there’s bound to be trouble in store:



Finally, Matthew sent a deep cartoon about Dog Philosophy which is pretty funny. It’s too big to post here, so check the link.


  1. Frank Bath
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I well remember the London smogs and the 1952 one on particular. Long before then London was known as ‘The Smoke’. I was 12 at the time and me and my mates just loved it, we could go anywhere, do what we want and not get caught. Well, that was the idea.
    Buses crawled with their lights on, there was little road traffic in those day, and it was quicker to walk than ride, unless you got lost. People did get lost, they feared to go out, and buses got lost too.
    Alas a law banning the burning of domestic coal was passed and we never enjoyed such smogs again.

  2. chris moffatt
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I do remember reading about the great killer smog. Back then many people still heated their homes with regular old coal open fires and stoves. Coal heat provided not only for warmth but also for hot water so a lot of coal was used and most houses had a ‘coal bunker’ for storage of up to a ton or more. Coal delivery wagons were a common sight in the streets. Smogs were very common – the famous London fogs you read about in Sherlock Holmes. This one in 1952 was about the worst and led to the adoption of so-called smokeless fuels – anthracite and coke which did actually smoke a lot less, and eventually to a complete ban on open fires IIRC.

    BTW wasn’t it Sghroedinger’s Cat not Heisenberg’s cat?

    • rickflick
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Actually Schrodinger appropriated the cat for his famous experiment. Heisenberg originally owned the cat, but when they looked into the box the cat owned Heisenberg. True story.

    • Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Yes, it was Schrödinger’s cat; my mistake (corrected)

      • serendipitydawg
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Curse touch screen keyboards… that makes #4 a non sequitur; still my favourite physics joke though.

  3. Chris G
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    The island of Hispaniola, where Columbus landed in 1492, actually still retains that geographic-name but is also the location of two nations, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
    Just saying, Chris G.

  4. serendipitydawg
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I thought Schrödinger used felines in his thought experiments… which reminds me of a ‘joke’:

    Schrödinger and Heisenberg were driving down the road one day when they were pulled over by a traffic cop.

    “Do you know how fast you were going?” asked the cop.

    “No, but I know where we are”, said Heisenberg.

    The cop assumed intoxication and insisted on searching for empty bottles. Heisenberg popped the trunk and the cop said, “Did you know there’s a dead cat in here?”.

    “We do now”, said Schrödinger.

  5. HaggisForBrains
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I’m having a problem accessing replies to my comments. When I click on the speech bubble top right, it fails to open fully, and I just get an endlessly rotating download circle. Firefox 50.0.02.

    I just tried it in Chrome, and it doesn’t respond at all, not even the download circle.

    Anyone else? I’ve tried switching off various adblockers, “HTTPS Everywhere” and “Privacy Badger”, all to no avail. I’ve just enabled email notification, in case anyone replies and I can’t see it!

    • serendipitydawg
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      I am using the same FF version without issue… ad blocking is enabled.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        Thanks. Got that by email, but still can’t open the speech bubble. Looks like I’ll have to use email notifications from now on 😦

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Update: it seems the problem was caused by Privacy Badger, which I’ve now permanently de-activated for this site. Your reply help me to confirm the problem was at my end – thanks.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          I get the same circle of inaccessibility from time to time, particularly if I shift between (synced) Firefoxes on Windows and Linux and Android machines. I’ve put it down to some fight between FF’s security, ad-blocking settings and JS-control add-ins. Sometimes updates get out of sync. Normally cures itself, or I go through the various digital thumbscrews and slacken them here, tighten them there.

  6. Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Again some imprecision. It was not Heisenberg but Schrödinger who placed in a Gedankenexperiment “his” cat in a box with one decaying atom that when it happened would open a bottle of hydrogen cyanide. The cat is referred to as being half dead and half alive.

  7. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Have Leon and Hili ever met?
    If they did meet, would they have a trilogue? Or would it be like [Famous Raconteur #1] going for a walk with [Famous Raconteur #2]? Both came back complaining that they couldn’t get a word in edgeways.
    “Fishslice” is a good word for getting in edgeways.

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Finally, Matthew sent a deep cartoon about Dog Philosophy which is pretty funny. It’s too big to post here, so check the link.

    If you read that comic zoomed out to fit on one page, you can’t see Schroedinger’s cat running circles around the dogs. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not there.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Finally, Matthew sent a deep cartoon about Dog Philosophy which is pretty funny. It’s too big to post here, so check the link.

      Borked the link. Link de-borked here.

  9. Posted December 5, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    My parents and uncle told me a bit about the fogs they experienced as kids. My uncle told me about encountering one that was like a wall, and that you could put your arm into and barely see your own hand. Another scary thing was that the fogs could enter houses and buildings. At least one play had to be cancelled because the audience couldn’t see the stage.

  10. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    The site linked to in the dog cartoon, “Existential Comics,” is pretty good. I clicked the “random” button and up popped this one, which is a funny one about free will featuring Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir arguing over a stupid existential game on “game night.”

    Also neat link is the site “Dead Philosophers in Heaven” Haven’t checked out the others yet.

  11. Frank Wagner
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    There is an episode of the the Netflix series “The Crown” about the great smog of 1952. I don’t know if the history is correct, but the show implies that the weather bureau sent a cover your ass letter to Churchill, the PM, which got stolen by a newspaperman. The point of the episode is that Churchill ignored the problem until a young woman aide of his was killed by a bus in the fog. BTW, “The Crown” is a great series, well worth watching for the curious life of a British royal. A life of luxury and wealth, but no real power and forced to live as a national symbol rather than a free human being.

  12. Diane G.
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading that the killer smog melted the nylons off women’s legs.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 6, 2016 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      That sounds like a myth to me. Assuming the nylons were in fact made of nylon, which is highly resistant to most acids, alkalis, and organic compounds. In particular it can be used for fuel lines, so it’s very resistant to hydrocarbons.

      Given that the principal constituent of smog (aside from water vapour) is probably hydrocarbons, also possibly oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, I would expect the nylons to be intact long after the wearer had dissolved.


  13. Diane G.
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I’m sure you’re right. I did a brief bit of Googling before posting that, found nothing; just looked at several more pages, more nothing.

    Lots of interesting articles and photo galleries from 2012, though, the 60th anniversary of the fog. They almost all described the pollutants as follows:

    During the period of the fog, huge amounts of impurities were released into the atmosphere. On each day during the foggy period, the following pollutants were emitted: 1,000 tonnes of smoke particles, 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 14 tonnes of fluorine compounds. In addition, and perhaps most dangerously, 370 tonnes of sulphur dioxide were converted into 800 tonnes of sulphuric acid.

%d bloggers like this: