Thursday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Thursday, August 10, 2017. On the personal front, my hand and shoulder injuries are healing very well, thanks to some excellent physical therapists as well as my own diligence at home exercises, which I perform religiously diligently. And my beloved duck Honey is still with me, though she’s getting finicky: she will no longer eat peas, but only corn and freeze-dried grubs. Yesterday afternoon, when I was the way to the hospital for therapy, Honey jumped out of the pond and started waddling after me! I felt so guilty at leaving her without food that rather than going home after treatment, I went back to the pond and gave her some dinner.

It’s also National S’Mores Day, celebrating a treat I’m pretty sure is endemic to the U.S. If you’re not an American, but have these in your land, weigh in below:

Two Graham crackers with a toasted marshmallow squished in between them, topped with four squares of a Hershey chocolate bar. Yum!

On this day in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan, his men, and five five ships left Seville, Spain to sail around the world (they went downriver to the sea). Although Magellan is often said to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe, he didn’t really make it, for he was killed in a battle with Philippine natives on April 17, 1521. He was about 41. The second highest officer, Juan Sebastián Elcano, took over and completed the circumnavigation.

More ship-related news: on this day in 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa sank in Stockholm harbor immediately after beginning her first voyage (a gust of wind caused her to tilt, and water flooded the ship through the gunports). Total distance sailed: 1300 meters. The ship, in good condition, was raised and restored in 1961, and now sits in Stockholm’s Vasa Museum, an enormously popular tourist destination. Here’s the view of the Vasa‘s port side:

On this day in 1793, the Musée du Louvre was officially opened in Paris.  Finally, August 10, 2003 was a scorcher in the UK, with the temperature attaining the highest value ever recorded in the UK: a hair-curling 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) in Kent. It was the first time the United Kingdom ever recorded a temperature over 100 °F (38 °C), and, as I recall, lots of people died as they weren’t used to such heat, and air conditioning was not as common as in the U.S. (We occasionally get temperatures this high in Chicago, and the southwest U.S. gets them for days on end every summer.) If you’re a Brit, give us your remembrances of that day.

It is not a banner day for birthdays and deathdays. Notable people born on August 10 include Herbert Hoover (1874), Rosanna Arquette (1959), and Indian “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi (1963, assassinated 2001). Those who died on this day include Rin Tin Tin (a movie d*g, who died in 1932 at the ripe old age of 14), and Robert Goddard (1945).

“Rinty”, as the German Shepherd was called, was rescued as a puppy on a battlefield in World War I (he was part of a litter of puppies in a German battle-dog kennel), made his way to Los Angeles with his rescuer, and eventually wound up in the movies, where he became a huge international star. He sometimes played a wolf rather than a d*g, for, as we know, being canine is only a social construct with “dog” just one point on the continuous canid spectrum. Here’s Rinty (front and center) with the 135th Aero squadron shortly after he was rescued (he also had a sister named Nanette):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, as usual, has to be right.

Hili: I think there is a raven over there.
A: Ravens are bigger.
Hili: So it may be a little raven.
In Polish:
Hili: Mam wrażenie, że tam jest kruk.
Ja: Kruki są większe.
Hili: To może być mały kruk.

Our own Matthew Cobb just attended SciFoo, a science “camp”  (actually a conference) run for a few days by Google and other sponsors at the Googleplex facility in Mountain View, California. Matthew went to San Francisco afterwards, and here’s a video of a cable car ride filmed and posted by Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, who also writes for the Guardian. Matthew is wearing the green fleece and blue backpack, Curry the straw hat:

Reader Mel sent me this lovely “meme” (the only good use for the word). I would have added, “Science: It answers questions.”

Mel also directed me to the Canadian memes Google image search page, where there are lots of funny memes about Canada and Canadians. Almost none of them are nasty, for there’s not much to dislike about Canada and its super polite people. Here’s one I liked:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    That’s a great ship!

    Hoover – PCC(E), anything ELSE about Hoover? 🙂

    • Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      I don’t understand the question.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        Emailed you a while ago about how Hoover translated De Re Metallica – was secretly hoping you’d have a bit on it.

        • Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Oh yes. I have a friend who’s a HUGE Hoover fan and he will undoubtedly post something here about H.H.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

            looking forward to it!


            It’s funny, but the initials “H.H.” form the honorific (?) of The Dalai Lama….

            • bric
              Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

              Also Humbert Humbert
              “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.”

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                This is how a Thursday should always start – thank you!

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

                THough chosen by the character as a pseudonym.

                From Chapter 2 “And I have toyed with many pseudonyms for myself before I hit on a particularly apt one. There are in my notes “Otto Otto” and “Mesmer Mesmer” and “Lumbert Lambert,” but for some reason I think my choice expresses the nastiness best.”

        • Hempenstein
          Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          Indeed to PCC[E]’s comment and glad to know there’s someone else out there who is aware of De Re Metallica, which has been termed the greatest scholarly work by a US President. I own one of the 3000 original copies printed on vellum (bought on eBay for a steal, I think since the seller listed it in an obscure category), and it’s one of my prize possessions – apparently rescued from a dumpster after the auction of the contents of the estate of an eccentric heiress called “Brownie”, somewhere in North Carolina, it’s in near-pristine condition – the pages haven’t even been cut.

          Quick summary – De Re was a mining treatise from the 1500’s written in Latin that was the reference manual for mining for a couple centuries. It was so important that copies would be chained to the altars of churches (presumably for the gold that would result from successful mining). It had long defied translation since by the time it was written Latin was a dead language and so some of the terms were invented. I’ve seen it stated that HH and Lou Henry Hoover conducted experiments to determine the correct translation of some of these terms, but I’ve never seen any explanation of what exactly those experiments were.

          LHH was apparently a language maven and from their time in China during the Boxer Rebellion (they were under siege and shelled at one point) they would converse in Chinese in the White House if they didn’t want to be overheard. LHH was also the first female graduate in Geology from Stanford. She was also accomplished in architecture, co-designing their house that is now the residence of the president of Stanford. She also started documenting the original furnishings of the WH, a document that was very important to Jackie Kennedy when she started on the same quest.

          Personally to the above, it was to great astonishment that I learned 45yrs after our relationship that the father of an old college girlfriend was a mining engineer like HH and also a personal friend of his, and that he used to visit her father from time to time. There’s apparently a pic of her @ ~3y/o on HH’s knee. He also gave her father a copy of De Re. Somewhat conversely, I guess, as a junior leader in the Girl Scouts organization, my mother became friends with LHH and went on a trail-camping trip with her and others in Estes Park CO, in late spring, 1937.

          Hoover was a colossal human being, greatly misunderstood now. For anyone interested in trying to understand him, recommend starting lightly with Hal Wert’s Hoover: The Fishing President. Then read his three-part autobiography. When I read it, W was POTUS. I felt like crying in contrast to what we had then. If I were to read it now, I surely would cry.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Oh wowww – vellum.

            Take a look for a BBC show with Stephen Fry who guides the viewer through the Gutenberg press – it’s on YouTube. It has subtitles.

            • Hempenstein
              Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              Oops, I should have said bound in vellum, not printed on. As I recall the story, HH found a printer/binder in retirement – I believe this was in the UK – who took the task on. There was something to the effect that the fellow had always wanted to produce a book like that.

              I just pulled it out – published by The Mining Magazine, Salisbury House, London, it appears to be copy 2141, which at one time it lived in Berlin. And from a copy of the email I received on buying it nearly 10yrs ago, it came from Antoinette Brown’s estate in SC, not NC.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                [ thumbs up ]

                If you dig that you’ll probably dig the Fry show – I emailed PCC(E) about that one day as well but never heard back.

                The YouTube version is annoying because it’s broken into 10 parts but it all plays correctly. I watched it over dinner one time.

              • Hempenstein
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

                Thx, I just found Fry, which now seems to be in one piece.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                Oh well done!

              • Hempenstein
                Posted August 18, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

                Watched the Fry video. Very good! Especially the technique for carving screw threads, the connection to grape presses, and the sleuthing via artwork to come to a reasonable model to base the design on.

                Re. HH and humanitarianism, you may find this video interesting.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted August 19, 2017 at 5:27 am | Permalink

                Glad to hear it!

                Yes the threads – I need to see that again!

  2. Mike
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Looking at those S’mores, it’s no wonder Diabetes is on the increase, having said that,I’ll try one or four next time I’m in the good ole USA.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      They aren’t commonly found for sale, for example at restaurants, bakeries, pre-packaged. It’s really a home-made treat. Traditionally they are made over an open fire. You have your graham crackers and chocolate ready while you toast your marshmallow on a skewer over an open fire (camp fire, fire place). When your marshmallow is toasted to your liking you assemble the S’more and the residual heat sort of melts everything together into a sticky mess.

      To properly toast a marshmallow you hold it above the flame steadily rotating it, heating it slowly so that the heat has time to penetrate and melt the marshmallow all the through. Then for the coup de grâce you place it directly in the flame so that it catches fire, pull it out, wait a second or two, then blow it out. And there you have it, the perfectly toasted marshmallow.

      Actually I’m not a big fan of S’mores. They’re OK, but I don’t really like graham crackers.

      • Wonderer
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink


        Contrary to such blashphemous advice, the marshmallow should only be toasted to a rich golden brown. This is clearly shown in the image above. Those who would make the surface of their marshmallows into charcoal should not be allowed near the fire.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          🙂 What we got here is a schism!

        • Posted August 10, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          I like my marshmallows BURNT: I let them go on fire till the outside is completely black and crusted. YUM!

  3. TJR
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I spent 9.5 hours in the Louvre and didn’t see a single painting.

  4. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    “On this day in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan, his men, and five five ships left Seville, Spain to sail around the world (they went downriver to the sea).”

    Actually, the Magellan’s expedition did not have the purpose to sail around the world. They where supposed to reach the Moluccas Island (because of the clove) via the Pacific and come back the same way. The idea was to have access to the clove’s islands without having to cross Portuguese territories. The sailing around the world by a small group of the expedition resulted by accident. The is a very good, and beautiful, book in French with the translation of the Antonio Pigafetta’s journal of the expedition and the translation of the King of Spain letter to Magellan forbidding him to go through Portuguese territories.

    • Doug
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      It is possible, but not certain, that a Malay slave named Enrique was the first person to circumnavigate the globe. He was owned by Magellan, who took him to Europe; Enrique accompanied Magellan on his final voyage. Enrique deserted shortly after Magellan’s death. If he was able to make it back to his homeland [which is unknown], then he was the first person to cross every line of longitude.

  5. David Harper
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The August 2003 heatwave wasn’t limited to the United Kingdom. France was affected to a much greater degree, including, tragically, a far greater number of heat-related deaths. Many other countries in southern and central Europe also experienced abnormally high temperatures.

    Also, it wasn’t a one-day event. The hot weather lasted for ten days in August, and the UK Meteorological Office recorded temperatures in excess of 30 Celsius on all ten days.

    But for most Brits over the age of about 45, the summer of 1976 is the one that still sets the standard for prolonged hot and dry weather. There were severe water shortages because little or no rain fell to replenish depleted reservoirs. Water rationing was widespread, and the government offered suggestions such as “take a bath with a friend” to save water.

    At the end of August, the government appointed a Minister for Drought. A few days later, the heavens opened and the rain continued for the next two months, making the Minister’s new role thankfully redundant.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I was going to mention that 1976 heatwave. I was in Germany at the time. It was over 85 F every day for two weeks. By our (my families) US standards that was a non event, but it was a big deal there. Though we weren’t really impressed by the temperatures it was very noticeably atypical weather. I don’t think I saw as much sun during the entire three years I lived there, excluding this heatwave, as I saw during that heatwave.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Elcano was not forgotten! The Spanish built a gunboat named Elcano in the 1880s, which was captured during the Spanish-American War, and taken into US service as the USS Elcano. She served with the Asiatic Fleet for over twenty-five years, mostly on the Yangtze.

  7. E.A. Blair
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    hemoglobin (v): circumnavigating the earth. First elicited in response to the question, “Where’s your husband, Mrs. Magellan?”

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      I … I don’t even ….

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Wouldn’t that be hologlobin?

      Ahh, I see. Mrs. Magellan was a pessimist. Turned out she was right.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Phonetically, that’s transcribed “heem a-globin'”.

  8. Randy schenck
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Just a bit more on Rin Tin Tin as I am reading a book presently that includes this. Under contract to Warner Bros. he was probably the biggest star in Hollywood after Clara Bow in 1927. Was voted the Academy Award for best actor but they thought the award should go to a person. There were actually 18 look-alike dogs used for the movies.

    I remember the first time I drove down Lombard Street around 1980 in my old 1972 Ford Galaxy. You wanted the brakes to work.

    • Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I seem to remember having a book (a second hand one, from my grandmother) where Rin Tin Tin was a *character*. Must have been from the 1950s or something. Does anyone have any idea what that could be?

      Also, for the briefest time I was confused by Rin Tin Tin and Tintin both existing … (I got my first Tintin “album” about the same time as I remember the book above.)

  9. Alan Clark
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Interestingly, the temperature of 38.5C in England is even hotter than the record for Singapore, 1 degree north of the equator, at 37.0. It makes sense when you remember that Singapore is mostly surrounded by sea, while Britain is close to a continental land mass.

    • David Harper
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Britain’s climate is temperate oceanic. We rarely get extended periods of very hot or very cold weather, which is why 2003 and 1976 are so noteworthy. That said, when extremes do occur, they are generally caused by inflows of very hot or very cold air from mainland Europe. The UK Met Office even has a name for an inflow of hot air from southern Europe: it’s a “Spanish plume”.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      When you live in a land where air conditioning is almost unheard of, a temperature or heat wave like that is much worse than people understand. Here in the states where air conditioning is nearly everywhere, we don’t realize this. We all should live in Hawaii where they don’t have air conditioning or heat.

      • nay
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        “We all should live in Hawaii where they don’t have air conditioning or heat” – oh, yes, we do! Increasingly so (Global Warming is real, folks). When I was a kid, the temperature never hit 90; now it happens regularly. This week, the temp in my bedroom hit 92, with all the windows open. Outside, where you could get a breeze, it was 88. We also use heaters – when the temp gets down to the low 70’s-high 60’s, everyone says “it’s Freezing!” and pulls out sweaters, parkas, socks and boots.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          Yes the temp does get up a bit if you are on the tourist side of the Island. I knew folks down in Hawaii Kai and had air conditioners hanging out of the windows. I lived on the windward side and it was pretty nice there. I know you locals like to put on coats when it gets down in the 60s in winter but really.
          Freezing?? Trouble is, who can afford the electricity for heat or air?

      • wetherjeff
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        This very true – we probably get a couple of spells of uncomfortably hot weather (>30C and high humidity) every summer, plus the odd day here or there. Most offices are air conditioned these days so work is OK for some, but virtually no homes have AC. Which means after work there’s no escape, especially at night. Unless you spend the evening in a mall or supermarket (I’d rather stick pins in my eyes). I hate hot, muggy weather in the UK for this reason.

        My recollections of that hot day are pretty funny. I was working in London, which was stifling, and lost the key for my company car. I called the office, and although they weren’t impressed agreed to get the spare down to me ASAP.I thought it would arrive by courier, but 4 hours later Tim from the office turned up. The bastards had sent the youngest, most junior guy they could find. Even worse, they made him go in his own car – it was a horrible little red 2-door thing, about 15 years old with no AC and jammed front windows (the back ones were static). He had driven 200 miles in that heat with about an inch of open window. He looked like he had run a marathon, but had to get straight back in his sweat box and drive 200 miles home. I felt SO guilty, but he was a very nice kid and took it really well. It was a crappy company though – I didn’t stick there long after that, funnily enough Tim didn’t either!

    • wetherjeff
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Actually, this is something I’ve long wondered about. The tropics never get hotter than about 37-38C, but the areas either side, which receive less energy from the sun per unit area can get almost 20 degrees C hotter. Furthermore you often see an explanation for very hot weather elsewhere being due to hot air from the tropics moving in, but surely this air can’t make the air in the temperate regions hotter than it was in the tropics. I know there are many local effects that lead to a tendency for some places to have hot weather – like high pressure, hot air being trapped over Phoenix because of high mountain barriers. However, local effects can’t explain the general observation that the tropics aren’t as hot as other areas ~20-25 degrees north or south of the equator. I have looked into this before and found vague explanations such as the amount of water in the air is higher in the tropics and reflects the suns energy. But to my mind this only happens because more of the sun’s energy reaches the surface, which should make it hotter. Does anyone have a more cogent explanation as it confuses the hell out of me?

  10. Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Someone clearly does not remember the Stanley Cup riot of 2011. Canadians can go as crazy as anyone. However the good citizens of Vancouver quickly cleared up the damage.

    • Craw
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Yes. Or recent G20 riots near Toronto. Or … Stereotypes die hard. There’s a decent amount of rioting in Canadian history. We’ve even had a few full scale rebellions, the most consequent in terms of history being one as long ago as 1837.
      In my lifetime Canada has been under martial law.

  11. Hempenstein
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The Vasa is absolutely great. Visited it and the museum it’s housed in many times. It is possible to rent the place for a banquet (as in, for a conference, but I imagine if you had the dosh it wouldn’t matter what it was for). Last time I was there it was under those circumstances, and I dined with a Nobel Laureate (Gerald Edelman) and the founder of Amylin Pharmaceuticals (co-discoverer of amylin), Garth Cooper. A very swell evening!

    The story of the discovery of the Vasa is a tale of dogged pursuit. I think it qualifies as dogged scientific pursuit, and may be a counter-example of the aphorism that idiocy is repeating the same experiment over and over again, expecting a different result. As I recall he found the wreck in the one place everyone told him it wouldn’t be, as well.

    (And that reminds me of a story about the acknowledgements in the preface of a PhD thesis: “… I would also like to thank my advisor for his many suggestions, without which this thesis would have been completed a year ago.”

    • Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      The semi-joke I heard is that every dissertation and thesis (including masters’ ones) contain at least one chapter or section that is there just to shut the committee up but is regarded by the author as being rather redundant. (For example, a purely historical chapter that is a slight digression from the main theme.)

      • Hempenstein
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        I started my acknowledgements with, “I should like to thank my advisor…” which was written to sound formal. But I actually meant it in the common sense of “should, but won’t”.

        I, too, would have been done a year sooner had it not been for her relentless – nay maniacal – insistence that the two major forms of human liver aldehyde dehydrogenase just HAD to differ by just a six or so amino acid residue as per the example of isoenzymes of horse liver ALCOHOL dehydrogenase. My post-doctoral work showed that the two ALDHs differ at almost 1/3 of the positions in the chain (160/500 residues), validating my peptide maps.

  12. Merilee
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I remember when I lived in Vienna in high school treating my Austrian date to a late night snack of some marshmallows heated over our gas stove, using a long fork. Can’t remember if I did the whole ‘smores nine yards. Austria guy: These American girls be craaaazy.

    Yes, the bottom of Lombard Street is great fun with iffy brakes and clutch…

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Oh, you do not want a clutch in San Francisco. Unless, you want to purchase new ones every so often.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Cars need clutches. The automatic transmission has a clutch inside.

    • jwthomas
      Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      My Chevy K10 Blazer with the 4-Wheel drive switched on made Lombard a breeze when I lived in SF during the late 70’s.
      I’d never been able to walk it either way and only tourists rode the

  13. nay
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Philosophy: Questions that may never be answers; Religion: Answers that must never be questioned. Science: Answers and More Questions!

  14. skiptic
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I see you have taken another swipe at memetic evolutionary theory. If you don’t accept a Darwinian-style explanation for the evolution of culture, what is your preferred explanation/theory for cultural development?

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    The phil/religion meme led me to wonder if any questions in philosophy are ultimately answerable by science, and surely the old one about where generalizations come from (inborn or from experience or a combo) is answerable by psychology.

    A list of 101 philosophical questions is here:

    Surely, these three are answerable by cognitive psychology.
    #59. Do we think with language or pictures?
    60. Why do we dream?
    61. Can animals reason?

    Any scientist can answer:
    #96 Why believe in electrons and blackholes if we can’t see them?

    Lawrence Krauss should be able to address
    #85 Does every event have a cause?

    Finally, both mathematicians AND philosophers have a variety of answers to
    86. “This sentence is false.” Is it true or false?


    The religion half reminds me of the joke:
    What do you get if you cross a Unitarian with a Ku Klux Klansman??
    Someone who burns a question mark on your lawn.

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Interesting stuff on Rin Tin Tin’s Wikipedia page including, unsurprisingly, where the name came from. But also that Warner Bros Studios owed its continued existence to RTT, and that Darryl F Zanuck probably owed him considerable gratitude, too.

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