Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s the last day of the year—December 31, 2016, and within a month we’ll have to refer to “President Trump”—a phrase that sticks in my craw. But such are the laws of physics. Today is National Champagne Day, but also National Vinegar Day: a strange pairing. Koynezaa is now over (though not technically, since I was born at 11:45 pm on December 30), but it’s the sixth day of its namesake holiday, Kwanzaa.

On this day in 1759, the Guinness factory was opened, and the stout is still being made and is still good for you. In 1853, Wikipedia reports that this happened on December 31: “A dinner party is held inside a life-size model of an iguanodon created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Sir Richard Owen in south London, England.” That was, of course, 6 years before Darwin’s Origin was published.  On this day in 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada, and so it remains.  On December 31, 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrated his incandescent light bulb to the public for the first time. In 1991, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved, and one year later Czechoslovakia was split in two. On this day in 1999, Boris Yeltsin resigned as Russia’s president, leaving the odious Putin in charge, and on that same day the U.S. handed over the Panama Canal to Panama.

Those who were born on the last day of the year include Henri Matisse (1869), Simon Wiesenthal (1908), Alex Ferguson (1941), Ben Kingsley (1943), Donna Summer (1948, died 2012), Bebe Neuwirth (1958 ♥), and Val Kilmer (1959). Those who died on this day include Robert Boyle (1691), Roberto Clemente (1972; I saw him play for the Pirates), Marshall McLuhan (1980) and Natalie Cole (2015). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Ms. Hili can’t think of what message she wants to impart to the world at year’s end. Perhaps tomorrow. . . .

A: What would you like to tell the world today?
Hili: This requires some thought.
In Polish:
Ja: Co chciałabyś dziś przekazać światu?
Hili: To wymaga przemyślenia.
Finally, I wanted to put up a drawing that Official Website Artist™ Kelly Houle (creator of the Illuminated Origin project) made for me. There is of course a backstory. I don’t think it’s a secret that Kelly and I are working on a children’s book together—one about a wonderful Indian man I met in Bangalore, Mr. Das, and the fifty cats whom he’s taken into his house. I did the text and Kelly has the much harder job of doing the illustrations. One of the jobs I had was to get the names of all fifty cats, which was no easy task given that Mr. Das had forgotten many of them! But with the help of his grand-nephew, I recovered them. But there was one kitten left over—this one:

Always eager to slap my name on every unnamed cat I find, I told him that it should be named “Jerry”. Mr. Das bridled, telling me that “Jerry” was actually a female kitten and that women weren’t named “Jerry”. I immediately Googled Jerry Hall and showed him that women could bear that name, and so he relented, and that’s the kitten’s name.

Now Mr. Das is famous as a sweetmaker: he runs the K.C. Das & Company chain of sweetshops, and has factories in Calcutta, and Bangalore. One of his products, and my second favorite among all Indian sweets (the first is sonpapri which is very different), is rasmalai, a declicious confection of Indian cottage cheese boiled in sugar syrup and then served soaked in cream or condensed milk, flavored with cardamom, pistachio, and sometimes saffron. It’s served cold.

So here we have kitten Jerry enjoying a treat on his (presumably my) birthday. This is not an illustration for our book, and I hope some publisher actually picks up our book, but I hope we will get it published and that both American and Indian children (and their parents) will like it.

The kitten is ecstatic, of course (her eyes are closed in joy!), and Kelly has called this sketch:

Rasmalai for Jerry
December 30, 2016


Don’t forget that you can support Kelly’s work by purchasing some of her art at her eBay store, and don’t forget the fantastic gold-embossed Darwin greeting cards, now back in stock (only 7 boxes left).


  1. Posted December 31, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    This year is almost gone, indeed. Something good will happen regardless of the chaos we see. Thank you for writing this post.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Nothing could be better than a good cat story. Maybe a kitty story.

  3. mfdempsey1946
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Here is one meat puppet who is determined never to speak or write the word “president” and the word “Trump” in the same phrase.

    Not that this is the meat puppet’s decision, of course.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Same here. The best I can do, without resorting to expletives, is refer to him as trumpkin.

      • jaxkayaker
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        How about trumped-up? That seems apropos for his style.

  4. Frank Bath
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I shall refer to the next president of the USA as The Donald – with it’s Disney allusion – and leave it at that. And I live in the UK.

  5. David Coxill
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Hi ,the photo of Hili ,is that a twig she has brought in ?, my 2 kittens do the same .They bring leaves in as well .

    • Malgorzata
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Hili doesn’t have to bring in any twigs. There are always twigs on the verandah from the wood we use in our fireplace and she plays with them without bringing in any additional ones. She does bring things in but mostly (unfortunately) they are mice.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        A whole mouse is better than half a mouse.

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Hi ,mine bring dead and live mice ,they sometimes let the live ones loose before i can take them off them .
        Had to buy 2 humane mouse traps to catch the mice .If they bring live birds in and they survive i take them to a wildlife rescue center .

  6. Taskin
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Kelly’s drawing is brilliant, love it. Looking forward to the book!

    • Blue
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      It so is, indeed, and me, too, that book !


  7. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Guinness is the most important beer producer in the world for their employment of William Sealy Gosset, aka “Student”, developer of the t-distribution.

  8. bluemaas
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    A wildly talented cognoscente is one (Beatrice) Bebe Neuwirth: dancer, singer, actress. I rarely view television anymore (‘cept for our Cubbies’ wins & a few other baseball, ice hockey and soccer deals and PBS programs re nature); but if Ms Neuwirth is on that screen, then I shall make with myself an appointment to watch her deal.

    She, portraying Nadine (a darling countrified and assuredly Midwestern appellation baptized onto baby girls born within the 1940s and 1950s and onto not very many others of us since) Tolliver in the recent Madam Secretary (CBS) series, is .the. primary excuse for my regularly tuning in to it. The page re her has a statement there that Ms Neuwirth raises funds in order to care for stray cats (& d*gs, too), curiously in line as well … … with Mr Das’ labors.


    • David Coxill
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      She was in Cheers and Fraser .
      Her best line in Fraser was ,
      I finally get the closet of my dreams and my husband comes out of it.

  9. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    “The Smoke that Thunders”: if Zimbabwe ever becomes a marijuana exporter, they have a great catchphrase ready-made.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Oops, wrong thread. Ignore, please.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Once again, a wikipedia date article is off by a bit. The Soviet Union dissolved officiall on December 26. A few government institutions straggled on in the job of turning over their work to either Russia or other states.

    Will fix in Wikipedia.

  11. Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    “…we’ll have to refer to “President Trump.” No. On the right, it was never “President Obama,” it was just ” Obama.” (And that was when they were feeling charitable.)

    I don’t have to speak those two words together. POTUS is fine by me.

  12. Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Magnificent kitty drawings. It will be a terrific book.

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