Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, January 6, 2017, and we’ve reach the end of the week. It’s a frigid 1º F in Chicago (-17 º C), though we have no snow.  Today’s food holidays are a double-header: National Shortbread Day and National Bean Day. Otherwise, it’s armed forces day in Iraq, and the less said about that the better.

On this day in history, the first Montessori school opened in Milan in 1907 (are they good? readers can weigh in). New Mexico became our 47th state in 1912, and, in 1929, Mother Teresa arrived in Calcutta to begin pretending to help the poor. In 1941, Roosevelt delivered his famous “Four Freedoms” speech, saying that everyone on the planet should enjoy freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. These were depicted in a series of four paintings by Norman Rockwell published in the Saturday Evening Post; here are two of the originals in the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (photos taken during the Moving Naturalism Forward meeting in 2012, photo of me by Dan Dennett).

Freedom of speech: an ordinary citizen speaks during a New England town meeting:


Freedom of worship: an atheist pretends to pray:


Notables born on this day include Joan of Arc (1412), Heinrich Schliemann (1822, the excavator of Troy), Gustave Doré (1832), Carl Sandburg (1878), Alan Watts (1915), Earl Scruggs (1924), and Justin Welby (1956). Those who died on this day include Georg Cantor and (1918), Dizzy Gillespie and Rudolf Nureyev (both 1993).  Meanwhile in Dobzyn, Hili meanly rebukes Cyrus:

Hili: If my paws freeze it will be your fault.
Cyrus: No, my dear, you are suffering for the sins of your forebears.
[JAC: I’m tempted to say he’s suffering for the sins of his forepaws.  And here’s one of my jokes: how many paws does a cat have? A: Six: forepaws and two hindpaws.]
In Polish:
Hili: Jak mi łapki zmarzną to będzie twoja wina.
Cyrus: Nie, moja kochana, cierpisz za grzechy przodków.
Lagniappe: A cartoon sent by reader John W.:



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    It is below 0 here this morning. How much below – does it matter? I knew someone who ran a Montessori school, however I know almost nothing about them. As someone who was a student at one time, in various schools, I would say generally, the school is only as good as the teacher.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      My wife was phoning a friend at her old home town a couple of days ago, where it had been -50° for a month or so. Centigrade, and it does matter a bit : -58°F.
      With conditions like that, you can see why the residents can retire at 50 y.o. on three times normal pension. You need carrots.

  2. GBJames
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Some evangelical is going to find that picture of JC-in-prayer and claim a conversion victory!

    And yes, it is cold this morning. -2.5°F at our weather station right now. Brrrr.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Although I have to say, it’s a very nice pic of Jerry.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        I just returned from a pre-funeral visitation at a Catholic church. (No… I didn’t stay for the service.)

        I thought of that picture of Praying JC while there. It would have fit right in with all the other iconography.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 7, 2017 at 3:00 am | Permalink

          I’ve just realised (per the Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch that gravelinspector linked to yesterday ) that our worthy Prof shares the same initials as the Comic Messiah – John Cleese. (And also some other fellow whose name I can’t recall at the moment).


  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Since you asked

    I conclude that Montessori schools are nothing but marketing on par with Whole Foods. The only sensible reason I ever heard to use them is the hours of operation. I could go on.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      Also there’s a Science paper – what I got from it was they significantly improved school/education for a specific school that was inner-city or some similar school setting – IOW Montessori schools have yet to demonstrate a magical transformation to schooling in general that they lead parents to think.

    • Christopher
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      It is easy to forget why Montessori schools were created in the first place, which was to educate the “uneducatable” children. These kids would most likely have been placed in what we today would call a Special or Exceptional Education classroom. Obviously, the goal of Montessori has changed since then (and we have have actual SpEd classes in all schools, where applicable, required by law)which is why for some cases, I’d agree, it is a bit like Whole Foods, or at least attracts that same demographic. Parents who are anti-vaxxers love them, as do parents with children on the autism spectrum who think the problem isn’t their child, but the traditional school (a fair bit of denial there). Not surprisingly, the schools are only as good as their staff and community, therefor they vary wildly and not all actually follow the Montessori methods very well either. Inner-city versions not up to par with the suburban ones? No surprises there either, but for the same reasons that the public schools suck. They have potential, but they are not a cure-all, just like every other school.

    • bytz
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      My wife has been a Montessori teacher for around 15 years and both of our daughters attended Montessori schools.

      As I understand it, Marie Montessori did develop her teaching methods by observing how “uneducable” children (or rather children that had been institutionalized and thus developmentally disabled due to the conditions) learn and tailored her methods to those observations. So now Montessori schools try to teach the way that children learn best at for their age including using as many of the senses as possible and older children mentoring the younger ones.

      It’s not a “silver bullet” and won’t magically cure all the problems with public schools across the economic spectrum, but I suspect that it is a better way to educate most children.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 6, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        The local public school near our home is a Montessori school. From all reports it is one of the best in the city.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted January 6, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          to clarify my position : I am certain a Montessori school is “good” and will not harm anyone. I would choose them only if the hours were more convenient. And I have never heard of a public school being simultaneously a Montessori school.

          here’s the Science Magazine article I recall that showed IIRC significant improvement over an already disadvantaged or otherwise public school :

          another important variable with Montessori Schools is the price – it is way more than public.

          • GBJames
            Posted January 6, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

            Here’s the MPS page about Milwaukee’s public Montessori schools.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted January 6, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

              I tried to stay out of this – but I fall for some things to easily:

              That writeup is typical of MS material on the Internet that I found, with the exception that they don’t make a point of using only wooden toys and do not tout Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, et. al. as alumni.

              The methods as described only seem to differ in the age grouping. Otherwise, why can’t public school teachers do any of the things described? Montessori (I personally think is a cult of personality) is always described as having a special, privileged insight to education. That was a while ago. People study this stuff at Harvard today. Certainly there are modern insights? Then, what is keeping public schools or any other schools from using the best results of Montessori’s results, or why couldn’t they adapt some of the methods? In fact they do based on my reading, such as using unstructured time, free learning. I can’t say I know from experience about special needs programs but the same questions apply – why not use these general methods? And after all this, what precisely ARE these “astounding” methods? Something beyond what we just read in the pamphlet? If not, then… what is so special? Are there patents on methods?!

              I’m not convinced MSs are anything beyond marketing of otherwise typical good education programs and methods, especially to new parents who are anxious about how their kids are going to do and are willing to pay let’s say a significant amount more – some can’t, and go with affordable public offerings on a $$ basis – though I don’t understand how Milwaukee decided to do what it did. Part of the marketing is adapting the school hours to busy families where the public schools don’t.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

                Hey, I’ve got no dog in this fight and am not selling the protocol. I’m just pointing out that there are public Montessori schools and that they are among the more desirable schools in our city. The one in our neighborhood is the reason why we have families with young kids living nearby. My kid all grown up and so I have no direct experience with it. But there is probably something that accounts for these facts beyond marketing.

    • peepuk
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      For a career in philosophy, sociology, art, used cars and quackery they are very good. If your kid is a bit autistic, modest, quiet and likes math I wouldn’t recommend it.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted January 6, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        I admit that I don’t know that much about Montessori schools, but from what I do know, I’d rather send a child to a Montessori school than a Waldorf school, of which there are a number in the SF Bay Area. These schools follow the precepts of loopy old “esotericist” Rudolph Steiner.

  4. Dominic
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    It is Haxey Hood Day!

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    That was a funny cartoon.

    I have always liked Norman Rockwell, and I personally consider him to be both a very good artist and illustrator.

  6. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    -40F = -40C in Stanley, Idaho yesterday morning. I was planning to go to my cabin there, but reconsidered.

    • Posted January 6, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Everybody should learn that -40 is the only temperature at which the Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures are equal.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 6, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        So does that mean we in f land will freeze equally with those in C land.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted January 6, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        An isosbestic point, of sorts.

  7. jeremy pereira
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Georg Cantor was a great mathematician. His contributions to the field were quite literally uncountable.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Hili is a natural scientist.

    She makes good use of many pawzes, and gets traction and re-traction.

  9. Patrick
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Another terrific photo of the two furry buddies. Question for Jerry: do they ever squabble (nips, paw swipes, etc.), or is it perpetual amity?

    • Posted January 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Perpetual amity. Cyrus really loves Hili, and she tolerates his affection but really uses him for warmth! They never squabble, as they were introduced to each other properly and with great care by Andrzej and Malgorzata.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Today is also the day that using fairly weitd logic Sherlock Holmes fans have decided is the master sleuths birthday.

  11. George
    Posted January 6, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    You mention Earl Scruggs and do not provide a link??? OUTRAGEOUS!!!

    Foggy Mountain Breakdown

    • stephen
      Posted January 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink


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