Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s December 23: only two shopping days left till Christmas and the First Day of Koynezaa. It’s another double food holiday as well: National Bake Day and National Pfeffernüsse Day—an estimable cookie, and one eaten more in Europe than the U.S. It’s also HumanLight, a secular holiday celebrated in the U.S.—except I don’t know anybody who celebrates it, and I’ve never heard of it.

On this day in 1893, Humperdinck’s opera opera Hansel and Gretel was first performed. On December 23, 1947, the transistor was first demonstrated at Bell Labs, later to win a Nobel for its three inventors. Scientific medicine: on this day in 1954. Hartwell Harrison and Joseph Murray, performed the first successful kidney transplant. Finally, on this day in 1986, Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, becoming the first aircraft to fly nonstop around the world without any refueling. The flight took a tad over nine days, and here’s the plane:


Notables born on this day include the old faker Joseph Smith (father of Mormonism, 1805), photographer Yousuf Karsh, (1908), Chet Baker (1929), and Joan Severance (1958). Those who died on this day include the Russian NKVD head, terror-monger, and rapist Lavrentiy Beria (1953, tried and executed on Khruschev’s orders; Beria was a nasty piece of work), Charles Atlas (1973), Victor Borge (2000), and Oscar Peterson (2007). Meanwhile in Dobrzyhn, Hili and Cyrus are discussing the holidays:

Cyrus: Do we have any plans for Christmas?
Hili: Yes, we will organize a family meeting in the kitchen.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Czy mamy jakieś plany na święta?
Hili: Tak, urządzimy sobie rodzinne spotkanie w kuchni.
 Reader Gayle Ferguson sent a photo of Jerry Coyne the cat, now residing in Christchurch, New Zealand. What a fine, furry fellow he’s become! He’s now almost two, and you can follow his growth at the link. Gayle continues to take in litters of stray kittens and foster them until they can find good homes. Kudos to her!


Here’s Jerry as a kitten:


And there’s a Google Doodle today, though I don’t think it has sound. It’s called “‘Tis the Season“, and here’s Google’s explanation:

Each of the letters in the word ‘Google’ represent a caroler with the letter ‘l’ waiting patiently to strike the triangle when the conductor, the letter ‘e’, gives it the nod.



  1. Gregg
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    In addition to the other holidays mentioned, let me wish you and all your readers a Happy Festivus!

    • DrBrydon
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Came here to say this. This year the Tampe Bay Times has gotten into the Festivus spirit by publishing readers grievances.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        Gah! “Tampa.”

  2. David Duncan
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Beriya was a nasty piece of work, and liked females of all ages. He was alleged to send out his NKVD goons to pick up women and girls to be raped. And even females with powerful connections weren’t safe: top Soviet officials would warn their daughters to on no account accept a lift in his car.

  3. Dominic
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    In Cornwall it is Tom Bawcock’s eve – star-gazy pie anyone?!'s_Eve

  4. GBJames
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    This is the day in 1888 when Vincent Van Gogh chopped off his ear.

    I watched a recent Secrets of the Dead episode about the incident. The conclusion is that he chopped the whole ear off leaving only a bit of lobe connected to his head.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    At least Cyrus and Hili have plans.

    Just a tivia note: Dick Rutan was a pilot in the same outfit I was crew chief, while in the Air Forces about 45 years ago. I did not really think about it until later years when his more famous brother was designing aircraft.

    • George
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Hili always has plans to meet in the kitchen – with or without the family.

      Today, I will start preparing the traditional Christmas lasagna. Went to Caputos yesterday to get pancetta, pecorino, tomatoes and other key ingredients. Looks like we will have a wet Christmas in Chicago. Most of the snow on the ground may be gone by Monday when the temperature might hit 50F (10C).

      • darrelle
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        I too will be starting Christmas food preparations today. Lots to do.

        My wife has had the entire week off and has been baking cookies nearly every day this week and vacuum sealing them to keep them fresh. She has invented 2 new cookies, with some collaboration with the kids and me. The 2 new cookies are some of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          I’ve been off since Wednesday and I managed to clean some of the bathroom. The scrubbing bubbles are working on my tub right now. I also went out and bought wine and cheese and that was very dangerous because it’s like the apocolypse out there!!

          • darrelle
            Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

            Indeed it is. And I am on 2 wheels today, so it’s sort of like playing Frogger. I especially like when the 7000 lb SUV driver looks right at me for several seconds and then pulls right out in front of me anyway.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

              That happens when I’m in my Miata (which is hibernating). I put the lights on full all the time now & that seems to help.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I just realized I have not one Pfeffernüsse cookie for Xmas. Bummer. I usually buy them. I do have a marzipan Stollen in the freezer though. 🙂

  7. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Is Jeana Yeager any relation to Chuck?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      No. The google on Jeana even states she is not related to Chuck. Just share same last name.

      • jaxkayaker
        Posted December 24, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Thanks. I guess I should have checked.

  8. Dale Franzwa
    Posted December 24, 2016 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    For opera lovers. Sat Met Opera Matinee radio broadcast (12-23) is an encore bdcst of the Met’s Hansel and Gretel production of a few years ago. One pm eastern.

    I remember Charles Atlas and his cartoon ads of the skinny guy who gets sand kicked in his face by the beach Nazis. He then takes Atlas’ magic muscle building course to bulk up and nobody ever kicks sand in his face again.

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