Thursday: Hili dialogue

How the week has flown: it’s already Thursday, and August 3, 2017. For me that means a finger inspection by the hand surgeon in the morning (I will not allow cutting!) and then shoulder therapy at noon. Posting will perforce be light. What a dreadful day! But I have a duck to console me.

It’s also National Watermelon Day, and I already had my first one this summer: a big round seedless baby that I nommed last week (I sense that someone will note they prefer it with seeds.) Seedless watermelons are triploid, made by hybridization, and because they contain three copies of every chromosome instead of the normal two, when it comes time for the parent plant to form seeds after pollination, the chromosomes don’t pair properly and the seeds abort. That’s why there are those lame and edible white seed remnants in the seedless fruit. (Read here if you want to know more; it will make you a big hit at those summer picnics.) But I add that there are few summer treats as satisfying as a big hunk of cold, ripe watermelon.

Their ancestor is from southern Africa, and they were likely selected in Ancient Egypt. Here’s what they look like in the wild:

. . and the inside, before artificial selection. I suspect these are edible, or they wouldn’t have been selected and cultivated.

On the evening of this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus left from Palos de la Frontera, Spain for his first voyage. There were three ships, and every American can name them. Allthough Columbus is said to have “discovered America”, he actually landed only on what are now the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola. Here’s the diagram of that voyage:

On August 3, 1778, The theatre La Scala saw its first performance, and on this day in 1914, Germany declared war on France to start a major part of World War I. Finally, on August 3, 1936, African-American athlete Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the Berlin Olympics. Hitler was watching, and he wasn’t happy. You can see the video below: Owens blows away the field but was almost caught by teammate Ralph Metcalfe. Metcalfe, also a great sprinter, later had a career in politics in Chicago, and was in the U.S. House of Representatives for for terms (8 years).

Notables born on this day include Rupert Brooke (1887), John T. Scopes (of the “Monkey Trial”; 1900), Tony Bennett (1926; he’s 91 today), Martha Stewart (1941), and Tom Brady (1977). Today’s Google Doodle celebrates another birthday—that of Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio (August 3, 1904-April 11, 1983), described by Wikipedia as “the first major female Hispanic cross-over star in Hollywood” and “a mythical figure in Latin America. . considered, representative, par excellence, of the feminine face of Mexico in the whole world.” Perhaps in Mexico, but I think few Americans, Europeans, or anyone outside Mexico knows her name.

Here’s a short clip of Del Rio in “Caliente”, and you know what that means:

Those who died on August 3 include Joseph Conrad (1924), Thorstein Veblen (1929), Flannery O’Connor (1964), Lenny Bruce (1966), Henri Cartier-Bresson (2004), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (2008), and Bobby Hebb (2010; his song “Sunny”, I recall, was a strong contender in our “best soul song” contest). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili had a bad experience with an umbrella:

Hili: This thing attacked me yesterday.
A: Don’t be afraid. When the sun is shining it is asleep.
In Polish:
Hili: To coś wczoraj na mnie napadło.
Ja: Nie boj się, jak świeci słońce to on śpi.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Ah! The Christopher Columbus theme of the Hili Dialogues!

    Somehow I really like this, even though CC was a jerk, there were far greater explorers than him, and the United States of America is completely unrelated to CC.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      It struck me – seeing that map – how those weeks afloat without hint of land, followed by a flurry of island after island, stand as mute testimony to what we now consider the obviously true paradigm of continental shelves, oceanic abysses and the core understandings of plate tectonics.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 4, 2017 at 1:20 am | Permalink

        “…those weeks afloat without hint of land…”

        And weeks, and weeks, and weeks:

        “Over several days, ships of Columbus’s day would average a little less than 4 knots. Top speed for the vessels was about 8 knots, and minimum speed was zero. These speeds were quite typical for vessels of the period. So overall, 90 or 100 miles in a day would be typical, and 200 phenomenal.”

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Altogether Columbus made four trips and always with similar results. He was desperately looking for gold and China but did not find either.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      He had a reasonable idea, but got his maths hopelessly wrong – as he was told at the time. Literally, his and his crew’s lives were saved by blind luck, not good captaincy.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        And even if he had gotten the math right his way to China was nearly completely blocked by the Americas. Magellan managed it just a few decades later but going by the accounts I’ve read I don’t think CC was up to a voyage like that.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          Yes, I think even Magellan himself did not make the whole trip.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          From the state of knowledge at the time, Columbus couldn’t have predicted the existence of the Americas (caveat follows), but as people of the time pointed out – while objecting to their various masters funding Columbus – his estimate for the size of the Earth, and therefore the distance to the “Spice Isles” was considerably wrong.
          The concept that “people believed the world to be flat before Columbus” is a myth invented in the late 1800s by, IIRC, an astronomer with a pathological hatred of Catholicism. Most people just didn’t care, and those who did (astronomers, geographers) knew the Earth was a sphere and had various techniques for estimating the size to about 10% of the present measures. Columbus’ erroneous estimate (and provisioning plan for the expedition) was something like 25% wrong, and he was told so, repeatedly.
          Compare Scott, Columbus, and Shackleton. Scott had moderately bad luck, and died with his men ; Shackleton had very bad luck, and brought every one of his men back (but not the ship’s cat). Columbus got lucky. I know which one I’d choose to serve under.
          (caveat : “sea beans” and driftwood brought up the Gulf Stream to wash ashore in Ireland were known to be tropical, but without better botany and wood-ology (dendrology?) than was applied at the time, these were interpreted by Columbus as being from the Spice Islands. I count that datum as a draw on Columbus’ scoresheet.)

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Can Americans really name the three ships in Columbus’s expedition? This must be a leg pull. I found myself in an all American tour group who couldn’t answer their guide when he asked what famously happened in 1492. Embarrassed I had to squeak up.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Very sad but true. Would not be surprised if some thought he might have landed at Washington DC.

      Nina, Pinta and the flag ship Santa Maria.

    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Yes they can; but as you noted, may not be able to identify the year of the first landfall in the Americas.

      Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria

      And the other voyages?: 1493, 1498, 1502

      • Doug
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        “Look, all I know is Columbus discovered Ohio in 1776.”–Ricky Ricardo

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          You might want to check out the Northwest Ordinance – 1787 that implicated Ohio into that Territory. So Ricky said that?

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 1:26 am | Permalink


          With his good friends Cleveland and Cincinnati.

      • Taz
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

        Kids don’t learn that anymore?

    • Kevin
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I can not name them without looking. I should ask my sons if they know without Googling.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      I remember the names from primary school in
      NZ, mainly because my younger brother used to chant them over and over again. My younger siblings would listen as I was tested on my homework and remember the bits that appealed to them.

      My 3 year old sister would go around saying, “I can spell interesting,” and then do it. It was similar to spelling Mississippi to her, which she also did.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      I’d have thought so. Though few can pronounce the first one properly.

  4. Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Surely this requires a reference to the Mitchell and Webb watermelon sketch.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink


  5. David Duncan
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    When I’m buying watermelons I *only* buy seedless, although I will eat seeded ones from other people’s tables.

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Like the reference to “Here’s what they look like in the wild.” Maybe like chickens we have free range watermelons.

  7. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    That video called: “Jesse Owens Wins 100m Olympic Gold in front of Hitler at 1936 Olympics” is watermarked as the British Pathé news outfit, but…

    Doesn’t the short insert clip at 0:38 look fishy to you folks? Pythonesque? The camera just happened to be perfectly positioned for a javelin to land mid-screen close up? It’s all wrong – like an Attenborough wildlife reconstruction.

    So I got curious & looked at the javelin distances thrown in the Summer ’36 Olympics & I conclude the women’s 45 m javelin throw depicted is definitely a post-production fake. It beats the record thrown that year.

    Someone must have went out afterwards & threw a javelin into the ground just past the 45 m mark. It looks to be half a javelin length beyond 45 m. A javelin is roughly 2 m in length so that clip indicates a throw of 46 m.

    There’s a Brit voice narrating on there, but is it a Brit camera crew? I’m wondering if a ‘pool’ camera crew was used – one crew for all nations & then each nation put their own narration track on top of the pool film? Film cameras were unwieldy beasts back then. Was it a Leni Riefenstahl production?

    ** A Pathé film doesn’t mention the Brit female javelin entry Kathleen Connall? Yeah, yeah – she managed only 27.80 m & came dead last

    ** Germany Luise Krüger [died in Dresden…] threw 43.29 m for silver & the wonderful Ottilie (“Tilly”) Fleischer [her daughter Gisele claimed Adolf Hitler as her daddy in 1966…] threw 45.18 m for gold. Tilly was the only one to throw over the 45 m mark

    ** 45.18 m is only 0.18 m past the mark [7″ for Americans!], but the camera indicates nearer a metre past the mark [3 foot or so]

    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      That’s a nifty bit of sleuthing!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Thank you prof!

        Just sent you a great NEW FFRF video link with allied info. They’re suing Trump! Beautiful.

    • ploubere
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Journalistic standards were weaker in those days.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        LOL. Nice one.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      An early example of FAKE NEWS!

      Seriously, this is why I love the commenters here.

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Here’s the same javelin throwing from another film – it doesn’t prove my point, but it shows why Fleischer won IMO


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink


  9. Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Whenever I hear of the poet Rupert Brooke I think of the episode of M*A*S*H where Klinger is reading a book of poetry, gives it to Radar and Radar calls him, “Ruptured Brook.”

  10. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Vincent Price signed autographs as “Dolores del Río” after her death – “I promised Dolores on her deathbed that I would not let people forget about her” [probably a bit of Price invention IMO]

    I heard of Dolores via that great scandal-bio “The Moon’s a Balloon” by David Niven [my favourite book on Hollywood], who shared digs with the Aussie ‘swordsman’ Errol Flynn. I reckon [but don’t know] that it was all that ‘swinging’ that caught up with Dolores in her later life, as it did with many others. Hepatitis & the like.

  11. Phil Rounds
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Hey! Watermelon man!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      @Phil Herbie is cool – respectfully, it’s a great tune

      but my era is “twistin’ my melon man” out of Madchester – mainly the driving drum beat:

  12. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I prefer seeded watermelons, I generally find them more flavourful (when properly selected). They are getting harder and harder to find, most stores around here don’t carry seeded watermelons. This year they are much smaller than in the past.

    I don’t mind the smaller size, the big ones took up too much room in the fridge, even quartered, and half would go bad before I could eat it all. I tried giving half away, but family didn’t want it and strangers walk away a little faster when you shout at them from your doorway, offering them half a watermelon.

    I have to say if that’s the extent of my problems, I consider myself pretty fortunate.

    • nicky
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      And what is there to shoot with if there’s no pips? Cherries are way too expensive nowadays 🙂

  13. ploubere
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The problem with most watermelons, and most other fruit in the U.S., is that they’re grown in Florida, which has a lot of sun but the worst soil in the country, and grown to produce as much fruit as fast as possible with no regard to flavor. They don’t get enough ripening time to produce sugars. If you want a sweet watermelon, you probably have to grow it yourself or get it from someone local.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Every summer, there is a man who sells watermelons from the back of his truck, who parks along the road not far from our house. He sits there for hours. He is around for several months and then disappears until the next summer. He has a large sign that says, “Texas, Blessed by Jesus, Watermelons.” I thought I had a photo of his truck, but I can’t find it.

  14. George
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Jesse Owens set the world record in the 100 meter dash on June 20, 1936, at Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, right across the street from PCC(e)’s office. Back then it was Stagg Field and UofC, then a member of the Big Ten, was hosting the NCAA Track championship. Enrico Fermi did something of importance under the west stand of Stagg Field on December 2, 1942.

    Ralph Metcalfe held the record in the 100, from 1932-35. In his last collegiate race (at Marquette) in 1934, he beat Jesse Owens of Ohio State. Metcalfe began his political career as a regular Democrat, a member of the Daley Machine. He split with Daley the First in the early 1970s over the issue of police brutality. Some things never change. That was the beginning of the black empowerment movement in Chicago which eventually led to Harold Washington and then to Barack Obama.

    Owens was a regular visitor to the University of Chicago during his collegiate career. It was also his last stop before being buried. His funeral in 1980 was held at Rockefeller Chapel at UofC. I was in business school then. It was the beginning of spring quarter. The funeral was massive. He could have been buried at Arlington but his family elected to keep him close by, at Oak Woods Cemetery on the South Side.

    Metcalfe died two years earlier. He had converted to Catholicism as a student at Marquette. He was a devout Catholic and his neighborhood parish was overflowing for his funeral. He is buried in a Catholic cemetery on the south side.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      Most interesting, thanks!

  15. Chris Swart
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    del Rio danced with Fred Astaire, was the mistress of Orson Welles during the filming of Citizen Caine (despite being 10 years older than him), and played the mother of Elvis Presley in one of his movies. She had quite a life and career.

  16. jahigginbotham
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    So Hitler wasn’t happy about Jesse Owens winning?

    At least he didn’t have to watch Marty Glickman(*) and Sam Stoller(*) win gold because Avery Brundage wouldn’t let them run.

    (*) Jew

%d bloggers like this: