Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s December 20, 2016, with five shopping days left until Christmas and the first day of Koynezaa. The weather report for Chicago yesterday announced that it was colder here than at the South Pole–and on Mars! It’s another weird combination of food days: National Hard Candy Day and National Sangria Day. When made properly, with a decent red wine, not too much sugar, and good fruit, sangria is a tasty and underestimated summer drink. It’s also International Human Solidarity Day.

On this day in history, the Louisiana Purchase was completed (1803), Macau was given to China by Portugal (1999), and, in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (second was Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days).

It’s not a great day for the birth of famous people; I’ll cite only Branch Rickey (December 20, 1881), best known for fighting to bring the first black baseball player, Jackie Robinson, into the major leagues (Brooklyn Dodgers). Those who died on this day include Scacagawea (1812), John Steinbeck (1968), Bobby Darin (died young in 1973, as he was born in 1936), and our Secular Hero of the Day, Carl Sagan, who died of myelodysplasia on December 20, 1996. I haven’t read everything that Sagan ever wrote, but one of my favorites is The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God (named, of course, after William James’s work on religion), but with “Religious” replaced by “Scientific.” You’ll find that, at least in this book, Sagan was far more crticial of the follies of faith than most people think. It’s a wonderful book, published posthumously and edited by his wife Ann Druyan.  Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we are getting better pictures of Hili since Andrzej bought a new camera; here is The Princess discussing science with Malgorzata, but of course there’s an ulterior motive:

Hili: Science opens eyes.
M: In relation to what are you saying this?
Hili: Come and tell me how you learned the science of opening cans.
In Polish
Hili: Nauka otwiera oczy.
Małgorzata: W związku z czym to mówisz?
Hili: Chodź opowiesz mi jak nauczyłaś się otwierać puszki.


  1. Billy Bl.
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I think you meant William James.

  2. Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    International Human Solidarity Day!! We must resist the incursions that many species of higher animals are making into our peaceful realms.

  3. somer
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Malgorzata has a giant cat.

  4. Stephen
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea” are well worth a listen. He knew how to build the energy level of a song.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      A great talent who died far too young.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        Talented, perhaps, but I felt he had a harsh, sneering, arrogance about him that I couldn’t appreciate. I remember he was reported to have said he’d be greater than Sinatra. I can listen to more Mel Torme. Mel was humble and lovable.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

          I try to separate my appreciation of an artist’s work from the personality of the artist. Many great artists were terrible people.

          I make an exception in the case of Kanye West. 🙂

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Well, one could say the same about Sinatra, in spades — Sinatra could be violent and abusive. Yet, they weren’t merely exceptionally talented a-holes; there was a lot more too them.

          I met Bobby Darin once, briefly, when he came to the Ash Grove in LA and went backstage to pay his respects to Lightnin’ Hopkins. I was pals with Lightnin’, hanging out in the dressing room shooting the bull, and when Darin came in, I almost fell on the floor — my teen heartthrob, second only to Sinatra (I was drawn to the bad boys). I though it was exemplary, and humbling, that such a pop idol of the day would go out of his way to let Lightnin’ know how much he liked and valued his music.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            Now, this is easy to listen to. No pretension.


            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

              Wow! Thanks. I’d not previously known of that video. Very nice. As you say, “easy to listen to. No pretension. ” That does take me back to the good old days with “Po’ Lightnin'” as he was wont to call himself on occasion.

  5. Don Quijote
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    National Sangria Day? Cultural appropriation I tells ya!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      At this time of year National Glühwein Day would make more sense. in fact, I think I’ll just go and warm some now

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        I had to look that up. It sounds pretty good. You’re supposed to drink it warm, when you’re outside in the cold.


        Ingredients (for 4 bottles with 750ml content)
        750 ml white wine, dry
        750 ml wine, rosé (Moscato)
        1500 ml red wine, (Bordeaux)
        300 g sugar
        1 organic lemon
        1 organic orange2 cinnamon sticks
        1 pinch nutmeg
        5 cloves
        2 star-anise
        1/2 tbsp allspice

    • Walt Jones
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      And appreciation!

  6. rickflick
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I’d never heard of National Sangria Day, but it’s a good idea. We made sangria a while ago for a dinner party. We used:

    a good bottle of red Rioja
    a cup of brandy
    a cup of orange juice
    chopped orange, lemon, lime, apple
    2 tablespoons of sugar

    We were in a hurry and forgot to add some sparkling water, but nobody noticed it’s absence. It turned out great!

    I wonder why, if Sangria is considered a summer drink, it’s national day is in December. Could it be that rent for a day in summer is just too expensive?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      It’s not winter everywhere! 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        When the Earth reaches it’s tipping point, it should end up on it’s side. Then we’ll all share the same weather and the same recipes. 😎

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          The tipping point might be reached more quickly if we all have more Sangria. 🙂

          • rickflick
            Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink


  7. Christopher
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Not a great day for the birth of famous people? Pshaw! Were you unaware that a mere 70 years ago, the universe bestowed it’s greatest gift to humankind with the mind- and spoon-bending birth of…Uri Geller!

    I wonder if he bent the forceps?

    Also, although clearly not as important as Uri, it is the birthday of Robert Van De Graaff, of eponymous generator fame, Peter Criss, of Kiss, Chris Robinson of the Black Crows, and the absolutely lovely and talented Jenny Agutter.

    • David Duncan
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Van De Graaff generators are heaps of fun, especially if you have long hair.

      Jenny Agutter ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

  8. David Duncan
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t yesterday National Hard Candy Day?

    • Christopher
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      yes, I believe it was. Still, it give me pause for reflection…I dearly miss those brightly colored hard candies including those ribbon candies, that my great grandparents always seemed to have in a dedicated candy jar whenever we visited. An more innocent time, perhaps, when candy (and soda, pizza, chips…) was seen as a real treat, rather than the ubiquitous omnipresence it has become. I’m sure it was horrible candy, but I’d buy it again just for the nostalgia factor.

  9. Posted December 20, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I would like to call out the birthday (1838) of Edwin Abbott Abbott, a schoolmaster and theologian, who is famous for writing a book titled Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The book, which I read in my youth and filled me with wonder, is a remarkable combination of mathematics and Swiftian social satire.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The title “Varieties of Scientific Experience” was made after Sagan’s death by his widow Ann Druyan. It’s clever but not really at all a reflection of the contents of the book.

    Sagan’s very best remains “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”. Sagan is deferential to some religious thinkers, but only selectively.

  11. Rita
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Good to know about Koynezaa! My local Humanist group will be celebrating Festivus this Thursday evening, we’ll be sure to lift a glass for Koynezaa as well. 🙂

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