Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning: it’s Thursday, May 11, and we’re approaching the weekend, but Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) is already tired. It’s National “Eat What You Want” Day, which is somewhat tautological as most people eat what they want by definition. Even if you’re on a diet and crave a burger but eat a salad instead, you’re eating “what you want.” It’s all determined by the laws of physics, anyway. In India it’s National Technology Day, but that’s celebrated because it’s the day when India carried out five nuclear tests in 1998. Oy!

On this day in 1949, Israel joined the United Nations, thenceforth to be increasingly demonized by that body. And, in 1960, the Mossad (of Israel) captured Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. He was brought back to Israel, tried for crimes against humanity, and hanged (I’d prefer life imprisonment). On this day in 1996, eight people died trying to climb Mount Everest: an avoidable tragedy detailed by Jon Krakauer in his superb book Into Thin Air. Exactly one year later, the chess-playing computer Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov: a first. Finally, seven years ago today saw David Cameron become Prime Minister of the UK.

Notables born on this day include Baron Munchausen (1720), Irving Berlin (1888), Martha Graham (1894), Salvador Dali (1904), Phil Silvers (1911), Richard Feynman (1918), Anthony Hewish (1924), Eric Burdon (1941), and Butch Trucks (1947). Those who died on this day include John Herschel (1871), Juan Gris (1927), and Douglas Adams (2001).

Douglas Adams was a funny man and an insightful one; his work is underappreciated by Americans, I think. His book Last Chance to See with Mark Carwardine, which was made into a BBC series after Adams’s untimely death (Stephen Fry replaced Adams on the tv show), is at once a funny and ineffably sad paean to vanishing species. Do read it! Here’s an interview with Adams that’s partly about the book, which Adams said was his favorite among his works.

If you liked that, watch Adams’s lecture at the University of California at Santa Barbara, delivered just a few days before he died. (He had a massive heart attack at the gym.) And here are two pieces by Richard Dawkins lamenting and honoring the death of his closest friend,

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is laconic–and sleepy.

Hili: There are moments when I stop believing in anything.
A: What are you not believing in now?
Hili: That it’s May.
In Polish:
Hili: Są chwile, kiedy przestaję wierzyć w cokolwiek.
Ja: W co nie wierzysz?
Hili: Że jest maj.


  1. David Harper
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    BBC Radio 4 made a radio series of “Last Chance to See” back in the late 1980s. There were six episodes, and they featured Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. The episode about the kakapo is here: (I hope the iPlayer link works for folks outside the UK!)

    The episode is introduced by Peter Jones, who was the Voice of the Book on BBC Radio 4’s original production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  2. busterggi
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Hili, you are so right!

  3. John Ottaway
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    That means it is only two weeks until International Towel Day… DON’T PANIC

  4. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Doug Adams was an imaginative genius (with the most legendary case of writers’ block).

    Interesting interview. His mention of being a rock star – he was actually invited to play rhythm guitar with Pink Floyd by his friend Dave Gilmour (and – surprise – *everything* surfaces on Youtube sooner or later )

    I’ve often suspected that his fictional band Disaster Area was based on Pink Floyd.

    Though it’s odd that the one guitar hero he mentions by name is Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits who could ‘make a Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer’ – surely something Gilmour could do too.

    What is notable about the five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy is that the convoluted and developing plotline all hangs together logically (so far as I can work it out).

    What comes through in those interviews is that he was a techno-sceptic – that is to say, he could see the clunky limitations of technology that promised to be seamless and usually fell short. He was a genius at pointing out the little snags that caused complex systems to fall over, in a sort of mechanistic Catch-22. (Doubtless his computer programming experience illuminated this). The first chapter of his fifth book Mostly Harmless is a classic description of that sort of thing – “A
    meteorite had knocked a large hole in the ship. The ship had not previously detected this because the meteorite had neatly knocked out that part of the
    ship’s processing equipment which was supposed to detect if the ship had been
    hit by a meteorite.”


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget DNA’s other fictional series – the Dirk Gently books. Utterly bizarre and surreally engrossing. If you happen to like that sort of thing.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I was thrilled to discover the Dirk Gently books after absolutely adoring the HHGTTG books. I enjoyed them immensely too.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

          The TV adaptations were … well, neither of them was a patch on the novel series. They had their moments, but not many.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            Yeah. They were okay, but nowhere near as good as the books.

  5. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    And I just discovered that if you type “The answer to life the universe and everything” into Google, it gives the answer 42.

    (In binary, 101010.

    And 2 x 3 x 7 = 42
    and 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/7 + 1/42 = 1.

    These curiosities from Numberphile )

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I was all set to have a bowl of wholegrain cereal this morning, when I read here that it’s “eat what you want day.” So I walked down to the corner deli for some nova lox & an everything bagel with a big thick schmear.

    Ain’t physics grand?

  7. FloM
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    You’re not eating what you want, ever, because there is no free will…

    • busterggi
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      If free will existed would I be at work now?

  8. Mobius
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Loved the interview with Douglas Adams.

    His book, Last Chance to See is well worth reading. As well as being full of Adams’ wonderful use of language and humor it also gives a beautiful description of some very rare animals.

    You can see a speech by Adams at the University of California titled “Parrots the Universe and Everything” which is largely about this book. You can see it at…

  9. Andrea Kenner
    Posted May 12, 2017 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Awwww… Hili’s little stripey tail peeking out from under her blankie…. Priceless!

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