Friday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning! Welcome to the end of the week.

In 1561 there was a strange phenomenon over the city of Nuremberg described in the local broadsheet from eyewitness accounts the next day as an aerial battle of spheres and other objects. Over the centuries various people have tried to explain this, often more fancifully than the original folk who saw the event. The most likely is that it was a sun dog (light reflecting off ice crystals in the atmosphere).

I recall from my youth a day when a weather balloon floated over the quiet little town in which I lived. It was perhaps off its usual course, as I had never seen one over our town before, nor did I even see one again. But this was the 1980s, not the 14th century, everyone knew what a weather balloon looked like. The local newspaper the next day printed an article recounting eyewitnesses who saw a UFO with blinking lights over the town. It proved two things: some eyewitnesses are delusional muppets (or just liars); and some newspapers will print anything.



In 1865 Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (do read the NYT account of it at the link). John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators intended to destabilise the government but also appears to have been motivated by hatred of racial equality and revenge for the South’s losses in the Civil War.

Today in 2003 the Human Genome Project was declared complete.

Credit: National Human Genome Research Institute

On the music front, today R&B and Soul legend Percy Sledge died (1940 – 2015).

There is high drama in the felid world today.

A: What’s the matter?
Hili: I went upstairs for a detective novel and here is a corpse lying on the window sill.

In Polish:

Ja: Czemu masz taką minę?
Hili: Bo poszłam na górę po jakiś kryminał, a tu trup leży na oknie.


  1. Chris Lang
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I once saw an odd light drifting several hundred feet above our neighborhood, in suburban Portland, Oregon. It clearly did not fit into any ordinary category of object (plane, astronomical, etc). I turned a telescope on it. It turned out to be a homemade hot air balloon, a dry cleaner bag with a balsa or soda straw frame on the bottom, held aloft by the heat of the candles that illuminated it. I’d heard of these, but was impressed that it works so well. I could easily imagine it could generate a UFO report.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Looking like a UFO was perhaps what was intended.

      • Chris Lang
        Posted April 14, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes indeed.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      They are commercially available as well. We were given several, a couple of years ago. These were made of thin paper with a wire frame that held a solid fuel block centered in the mouth. Very effective.

      It had rained recently when we launched them from the beach with an offshore wind, as this is a forested area. When they got to about 300 feet, their wind changed and took them parallel to the shore. They were several miles away and maybe 1000 feet up before they burned out and fell into the ocean.

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    There has been so many books on just the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is would be impossible to count them. The act caused many things, such as the largest man hunt in the nation, later the near impeachment of the next President. What it did not do was to teach the nation anything about the need for better protection of the president. Three more Presidential assassinations were to come.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I prefer the Google Translate version:

    Me: Why do you have such a face?
    Hili: Because I went upstairs for some crime, and here the corpse lies on the window.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      There is just one problem with Google translation: “kryminal” doesn’t mean “crime” but “crime story” o detective novel”. Besides all my detective stories (a substantial collection) are upstairs while we are now living downstairs. So when Hili or I want some light reading we have to go upstairs. And that’s what Hili did when she discovered the corpse.

      • jwthomas
        Posted April 14, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        If Malgorzata is an Agatha Christie fan (as I am) she’ll enjoy this article in today’s NYT:

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 14, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

          Dame Agatha was something of an anti-Semite, as I understand it. There’s a passage in Hitch-22, IIRC, in which Hitchens describes a rather uncomfortable dinner he shared with the grande dame of crime fiction.

          I’ve enjoyed Christie’s writing over the years, and ordinarily I try to dissociate politics from aesthetic judgment, but, in retrospect, there was a vague flavor to her prose, with its references to “Hebraic people” and certain stereotypes regarding “financiers.”

          • jwthomas
            Posted April 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            She was a product of her times, like everybody’s grandmother and as you are of your time.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

              Her times lasted until 1976, which overlaps with the first couple decades of my times.

              The dinner with Hitchens was in the late Sixties, by which time anti-Semitism should’ve passed from fashion, if it was ever so.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 14, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        I was thinking the Polish says something like “Why the look [on your face]?” & Hili does have an interesting expression on her clock. “What’s the matter?” seems a poor translation because it doesn’t reference her face at all.

        Who do you like to read most? I like Georges Simenon, Patricia Highsmith [superbly amoral characters], Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, Michael Connelly, the outrageous, but funny Florida stories of Carl Hiassen & nearly all the miserable Nordic Noir writers

        I hear there’s some very good Polish crime writers – who would you recommend?

        • Malgorzata
          Posted April 14, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Yes, I understand, but the idea was, as I understood it, more of “What happened?”
          My favourites are Minette Walters and Dick Francis. First crime novels I ever read were in English and, frankly, I have trouble to read them in any other language. The thrill is not there. So I don’t know Polish crime writers at all.

    • W.Benson
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      The dead butterfly seems to be ‘Nymphalis io’ the Peacock butterfly.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted April 15, 2017 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        My initial reaction was one of the nymphalidae, and on enlarging the picture I agree that it is a peacock. Most species of the nymphalidae hibernate, emerging in early spring to breed and die. They often find their way into houses to hibernate; I suspect that Hili’s was trying to reach the open air, and ran out of resources while trying to fly through the window.

  4. Malgorzata
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks! What a nice read!

  5. Posted April 14, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Folks sure believed strange stuff back in 1561. Not like now. Ooops.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


  6. Posted April 14, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I saw an UFO once — a strange configuration of lights hovering over the horizon just before dawn, moving lazily. I even called my parents (who were living on the other side of town, in the direction of the UFO) to let them know they might want to have a look.

    Then, I grabbed a camera with a telephoto lens to get a good picture…

    …at which point it became obvious that it was a dozen-stories-tall construction crane with aviation warning lights….



    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Well, technically it was a UFO:
      1: it was unidentified.
      2: it was flying and
      3: it was an object. 🙂

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 15, 2017 at 2:54 am | Permalink

        Well, they fly over my house all the time. I know *exactly* what they are, but if the police were to drag me down to Auckland Airport and point me at the line-up in front of the terminal and asked me to identify the plane in question, I would be utterly unable to.

        It’s all in the terminology. 🙂


        P.S. Ben’s, however, wasn’t flying. At least we hope not.

        • Posted April 15, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          Mine flew only in the sense that flags fly…and maybe not even that much….




  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    What a marvelous job you are doing, Grania! Really interesting and varied posts that all are enjoying.
    Thank you!

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Seconded. Educational and entertaining. A worthy substitute.

  8. rom
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    The only UFO like thing I have seen was when flying into SeaTac from Spokane. I would guess we were at an altitude of 500 to 1000 m. We were flying through interspersed cloud. I would guess 10 to 20 metres below the plane and maybe 50 m away in a cloud break there was a bright yellow fluorescent sphere … may be the size of a beach balloon. It appeared stationary. But all these dimensions are at best guesses in that there was not a good frame of reference.

    Anyway my best guess it was ball lightning. I can remember my hair standing on end at the time.

    • jwthomas
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      During WW2 US pilots called these ‘foo fighters.’

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Read the Times account of the Lincoln assassination you linked to. Leaves us guessing as to whether Mrs. Lincoln stuck around to see how “Our American Cousin” turns out.

    All the news that’s fit to print, my eye.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Too soon?

      • Posted April 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        They left in the bit about brains oozing out, which I suspect these days would be considered Not Fit To Print.


    • Randy schenck
      Posted April 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I think that fits into the category of – Give us your dirty laundry?

  10. Roger
    Posted April 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “Leaping sundogs”.

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