Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on a chilly (in Chicago) December 13, 2016, which is National Popcorn String Day. That’s not popcorn for eating, but for threading on a string and draping around your Christmas tree. In Poland today is Martial Law Victims Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981 (Wikipedia says 2002, but that appears to be wrong).

On this day in history, the Council of Trent began in 1545. In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin their third and final walk on the Moon, which is the last time that humans have set foot on that body.  I know some decry the enormous costs of manned spaceflight, and the lack of scientific rewards (though there have been some), but I still see it as a tremendous adventure, and feel that our species is enriched by having traveled to another planet. No other species is remotely capable of doing something like that. And, on December 13, 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured, hiding in a hole, near Tikrit.

Notables born on this day include Alvin C. York (1887), Van Heflin (1908), Dick Van Dyke (1925), and Steve Buscemi (1957). Those who died on this day include a writer and three painters: Donatello (1466), Wassily Kandinsky (1944, one of my favorites), Henry James (1947), and Grandma Moses (1961; she died at 101 and her real name was Anna Mary Robertson Moses).

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Donatello’s “David” (ca. 1430)

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Grandma Moses, “Sugaring Off” (1943)

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Kandinsky, Composition VI (1913)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making bon mots:

 

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m trying to catch the right moment.
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In Polish:
Ja: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Próbuję złapać właściwy moment.
Here in Chicago, I’m busy feeding squirrels; they’re getting peanuts and sunflower seeds, and the birds also help themselves to the seeds. So far my squirrels are fat and fed up, and they’re stashing peanuts in the ground as if there’s no tomorrow.  We have in fact trained each other. When I open the lab window to feed them (3-4 times per day), I whistle four times and they’re there within a minute, climbing the vines up the side of the building to the windowsill where they’re fed.  (They are amazing acrobats.) But they’ve also trained me. If they’re out of food, one squirrel will often climb the screen in my office (outside the lab where they’re fed) and make a racket scratching and banging on the screen.  That’s a signal that I need to feed them, so I address the squirrel, tell him/her that I’m going to feed them, point to the east (where my lab is), and then walk to the windowsill. The squirrel is already there waiting for nuts and seeds. And so we’ve evolved a system whereby the animals get what they need, and let me know when they’re out of noms.   Here’s one of them doing his “feed me” routine yesterday:
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19 Comments

  1. Posted December 13, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Too much fun!

    Our bird feeders have attracted a red squirrel to our deck. First one that has made regular appearances in our yard.

  2. Christopher
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I just realized that Grandma Moses is like an American Bruegel, which is why her “simple” paintings appeal to me. I love the busy, almost ethnographic nature of paintings of this type; capturing a day-in-the-life sort of feeling.

    on the bird/squirrel feeding front, I’ve checked, and it’s less that 30 seconds after I’ve filled the feeders that birds return, even when they’ve been absent all day. Chickadees and nuthatches in particular seem to have an eager eye out for me and are the first to return. Starlings can be almost as bad with suet, which requires a long term break in pattern, forcing them to go elsewhere for more dependable noms. Then I can sneak it back out and give the woodpeckers a few days of quiet feeding time. The squirrels are less observant, but will strip a new corn cob clean of it’s kernels within an hour of putting a new one on their feeder..

    • Mike
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Just thinking the same thing as I looked at it.

  3. colnago80
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I know some decry the enormous costs of manned spaceflight, and the lack of scientific rewards (though there have been some), but I still see it as a tremendous adventure, and feel that our species is enriched by having traveled to another planet. No other species is remotely capable of doing something like that.

    The manned space program made some sense back in the 1960s when robotics was in its infancy. However, today, with robotics now quite robust, it makes little sense from a scientific viewpoint. Every dime spent on manned space flight is a dime not available to be spent on scientific discovery. In this, I agree with Steven Weinberg and Bob Park that the manned space program should be scaled back.

    Most annoying is the current plan to send astronauts to Mars. Bob Park, before his stroke, wrote an essay on this subject pointing out that this plan serves no purpose.

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-virtual-astronaut

    • Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I concur.

    • Paul S.
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Does it need to have a scientific a purpose, or more correctly, of one that you approve? Even if we never get to Mars, the planning that goes into human survival on Mars could can translate to ideas to fix problems on Earth. There are several technologies that we would not have, or would have been years away had it not for our space program.

      Robotics are also useful in sea exploration too, but there’s nothing like being there. You can see photos of the blue hole, Belize, but being there is an experience that cannot be conveyed in pictures.
      What others see as a waste of money I see as an exciting adventure.

      I also doubt that cutting back the space program will put dollars into other science projects. That’s generally not how government spending works. E.G. the lotteries don’t support education as originally billed.

      • colnago80
        Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Even if we never get to Mars, the planning that goes into human survival on Mars could can translate to ideas to fix problems on Earth.

        If the research is potentially valuable, we don’t have to have as it’s goal to go to Mars. It should stand on its own.

        I also doubt that cutting back the space program will put dollars into other science projects. That’s generally not how government spending works. E.G. the lotteries don’t support education as originally billed.

        Excuse me, apparently I didn’t make myself clear. I would reprogram the money saved by cutting back on the manned space program into space related robotic projects. For instance, moving up the proposed mission to Europa as part of the search for exo-life. The discovery of exo-life would be at least as rewarding as anything accomplished by sending astronauts to Mars.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Neil deGrasse Tyson makes the point that if you don’t have people going into space, there would be little public backing for funding any other efforts.
      Additionally, the humans in space program may be doing a lot to encourage the young to enter science programs in school. Also, you could make the case humans in space increase appreciation of all science among the general population.

  4. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you’re the Pavlov of squirrels.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Squirrel whisperer.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    We are also covered up with squirrels here. Red ones and black, all fox squirrels. Sometimes seven to ten at a time.

  6. Mike
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Talking of Acrobatic Squirrels, watch the following one as well.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Cute squirrels. Those jades look a little worn though!

  8. Kevin
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Kandinsky, Composition VI is the background of my phone. 🎨

  9. Stephanie Mayer
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Jerry, do you still have the large orchid collection in your lab? I remember you talking about how much you disliked “bastard hybrids” (orchids).

  10. Lars
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Which Henry James is being referred to here? The only one I know of died in 1916 or 1917, I believe. Is there another one I’m unaware of?

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    What a cool relationship to have with the squirrels! I’m quite envious! 🙂

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Posting a day late.

    Technically, by post-Copernican astronomy, the moon is not a planet, though by pre-Copernican astronomy it is.

    However, I suppose it could be termed a celestial body.

  13. Helen Hollis
    Posted December 14, 2016 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Would it have been so hard to recognize the death of Rob Sherman?


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