Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s the weekend now: Saturday, May 20, in the year of Ceiling Cat 2017. It’s National Quiche Lorraine Day, but I don’t know what nation they’re talking about, as this isn’t France! It’s also World Metrology Day, and no, I didn’t misspell “meteorology”: this is a day to celebrate and promulgate the metric system. Note: as of this morning, the hoax paper on the Conceptual Penis is still online at the journal site.

On this day in 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama finally found a sea route to India, landing at Kozhikode (formerly Calicut) on India’s west coast. On May 20, 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published—in London by Thomas Thorpe.  And it’s a blue-ribbon day for most of us, for 144 years ago today, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented blue jeans with copper rivets, something that millions of people still wear (I wear Wranglers: the boot jean). On this date in 1883, the volcano Krakatoa—in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra—began erupting, with the serious and famous explosion occurring on August 27, causing tsunamis that killed at least 35,400 people. The explosion was heard 4800 km away, the volcano’s pressure wave circled the globe 3½ times, and scientists estimate that anyone within 18 km of the volcano would have been deafened.  Also on this day in 1940, the first prisoners arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Finally, on May 20, 1964, Robert Woodrow Wilson and Arno Penzias discovered “cosmic background radiation”. Correctly interpreting this as a leftover from the Big Bang, both men won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Notables born on this day include Honoré de Balzac (1799), John Stuart Mill (1806), Joe Cocker (1944, died 2014), and Cher (1946). Let’s have songs from the last two. Here’s Cocker, in his inimitable singing style (well. imitable by John Belushi), singing “With a little help from my friends” in a famous performance at Woodstock:

And here’s a long-forgotten (lipsynched) hit from Sonny and Cher: “Baby Don’t Go“, first released in 1964 to little acclaim, and then rereleased a year later, when it became a huge hit. I happen to like it a lot. Wikipedia describes Cher, by the way, as “the only artist to date to have a number-one single on a Billboard chart in each decade from the 1960s to the 2010s”.

A bit more about the song lipsynched above (you hear the recorded version):

The song was originally intended for only Cher to sing, but she got nervous and froze in the studio and asked Sonny to join her. She said later that the situation was like a classic Disney film: “[Sonny joined] me on the choruses, which was enough to take the pressure off me. Sonny was like Dumbo’s good luck feather for me. If he was by my side, I had the confidence to do anything.” Indeed, it was on this recording that Cher began to develop the assurance in her voice that would manifest itself in future hits. Moreover, the harmony scheme they adopted for the song – Cher singing low and Sonny doing the high part – was the opposite of the conventional male-female duo; it gave them a distinctive sound and they retained the practice on subsequent records.

Those who died on this day include Clara Schumann (1896) , Gilda Radner (1989, she was 43), Stephen Jay Gould (2001), and Robin Gibb (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Cyrus appears to have made a new d*g friend:

Hili: I hope…
A: What do you hope?
Hili: That the little dog that’s friends with Cyrus stay out of our garden.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam nadzieję…
Ja: Że co?
Hili: Że ten mały piesek, który się zaprzyjaźnił z Cyrusem nie będzie przychodził do naszego sadu.

And here is Cyrus’s new pal; Malgorzata says, “It’s a neighbour’s puppy. He adores Cyrus and runs to him from afar.”

Today’s lagnaippe is an optical illusion found by the estimable Dr. Cobb. Yes, there are 12 black dots in the picture. Can you spot all of them?


  1. Ken
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Tomorrow I’m going to see the four hour director’s cut of Woodstock at the Embassy in Wellington, the cinema with the best sound system in town 🙂

    • Blue mAAs
      Posted May 20, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I was there. All 72+ hours’ worth of Woodstock up upon Mr Yasgur’s sloping and dairying acres.

      I adore this man. Mr Cocker died on my birthday. So, so missed — the man. Came to his game from Mr Cocker’s having first been a Brit gas pipefitter playing no instrument at all. Other than that voice of his: The Gravel.

      Two more of Darling Mr Cocker’s for our enjoyment: and

      “If I, if I have been unkind,
      I hope that you can just let it go on by.
      And if I, if I have been untrue
      I hope you know it was never, it was never you.”

      When Mr Cocker sings these words, I can actually believe that they are meant.


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 20, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Don’t eat the brown acid, man; the brown acid is bad.

  2. Carl Powers
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I loved SJG. At one point in my life I believe I had read every word he published. I subscribed to Natural History magazine just to read his columns. Of course, I read the other stuff too! He propelled me to a life of curiosity about biology, natural history and evolution. Maybe his ideas were flawed but he did great good in the world, and really that’s all we can ask of anyone.

    • Ken
      Posted May 20, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Me too. It was Gould’s essays that started me reading about evo bio three decades ago. I found his science lessons wrapped in history lessons just irresistible. While I ultimately decided Dawkins and others were more persuasive on some important topics, Gould deserves his place as the primary populariser of the field in the late 20th century.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Can only see 11 dots (black) and one that’s not. Bought the Woodstock album at the BX in Aviano, Italy in 70 or 71. Three record set as I recall.

    • Janet
      Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Ditto re seeing 11…maybe they are including the grey one with the i inside?

      • compuholio
        Posted May 20, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        Had the same problem: Click on the image to open in on twitter and there is your 12th point. It seems like the embedding also puts in an overlaying symbol exactly at the location where the 12th is supposed to be.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 20, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          That is a very powerful illustration of the propensity of your eye (or rather your eye-brain combination) to ‘fill in the blanks’ with ‘more of the same’.

          I can only see two black dots (max) at a time – I can choose which dots by looking midway between them. Interestingly, moving the screen further away doesn’t bring more dots into view, so it’s not just a matter of the angle subtended by dots.

          I wonder if the average density of [the dot plus white ring around] is equal to the grey of the lines – whether this is a necessary condition for the off-centre dots not to appear as an anomaly in the lower-acuity field of peripheral vision.


  4. rickflick
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Listening to Cocker hurts my throat. I just can’t figure out how he can make it through a song with such laryngeal abuse, let alone a whole career. I still can’t believe his unique sound is gone.

  5. Marina
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I saw them all looking from top down. Is it good or bad?

  6. Craw
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Might I suggest a new feature at WEIT? Spot The Conceptual Penis.

    • Darren Garrison
      Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Wasn’t that the original version of the comic strip Spot the Frog?

  7. nicky
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    One of the, if not The, best website(s) for optical illusions and visual phenomena is

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry, now I’ve got “Baby Don’t Go” as an earworm — though, as earworms go, you could do worse.

    Now if I just get Congressman Bono’s vest out of my mind’s eye …

  9. revelator60
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Cher, does anyone read her twitter account ( It’s a hoot. She has revived the lost art of hieroglyphics!

  10. KCS
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey. Regarding the optical illus. If you are familiar with Magic Eye pictures, you can use that semi-cross eyed technique to see most of the dots at one time. Thanks kcs

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