Friday: Hili dialogue

Well, I’m leaving Dobrzyn for Warsaw today, so it’s a sad occasion. It’s been a peaceful and happy two weeks with my friends, and I’ve also spent much of it encatted. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the USA, the Land O’ Trump, among all the political turmoil, wrath, and finger-pointing, and will be there until November. Already this morning I see the bad news—North Korea has launched yet another missile, which flew directly over Japan, despite the new sanctions against the DPRK. No good can come of this. On the other hand, The Donald appears to have changed his position on DACA, now supporting the act that allows “dreamers” to stay in the US. At least that’s the update for today, though yesterday Trump appeared to tie his DACA support to the building of the Accursed Wall.

As I’ll be traveling today and tomorrow, posting will be light.

So it goes on a windy, overcast, and rainy (again!) day in Dobrzyn: Friday, September 15, 2017. It’s National Linguine Day, a dish I used to prepare when pressed for time: two cans of chopped clams, a pot of linguine, garlic, olive oil, and chopped parsley. Sauté finely chopped garlic in olive oil (and perhaps a bit of butter), then add the clams to heat through, add salt and then toss with the linguine, perhaps with a bit more olive oil.  Top with chopped parsley. It’s also “The Day of Knowledge” in Russia, but why limit it to one country. Tell us something in the comments that you think we don’t know.  Here’s one biological fact:

Humans are more closely related to mushrooms than mushrooms are to daisies (or other “green plants”).  

Most of you biologists (and perhaps others) know the second fact, which I’m sure it will make you a big hit at cocktail parties. Add your own fact below, perhaps sharing some of your own professional knowledge.

On this day in 1812, Napoleon, in his ill-fated Russian campaign, reached Moscow and the Kremlin, but the city was burned on orders of the city’s governor and Napoleon began his famous and fatal retreat. Wikipedia reports that “nearly 10,000 men and horses froze to death on the night of 8/9 November alone.” On a happier note, it was on September 15, 1835, that HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard as captain’s companion, reached the Galápagos, a destination  important in the history of biology. On this day in 1916, tanks were used as weapons of war for the first time—at the battle of the Somme.  On September 15, 1935, there were two events in Nazi Germany: the Nuremberg Laws deprived German Jews of citizenship, and the Nazis adopted the new national flag bearing the swastika. On this day in 1959, Nikita Khrushchev became the first Russian leader to visit the U.S.. On September 15, 1981, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Including O’Connor, only four women have served as Justices. Can you name the other three?

Notables born on this day include James Fenimore Cooper (1789), William Howard Taft (1857), Bruno Walter (1876), Agatha Christie (1890), Murray Gell-Mann (1929), Jessye Norman (1945), Oliver Stone (1946), and Prince Harry of Wales (1984). Those who died on this day include writer Thomas Wolfe (1938, age only 37). No, not “Tom Wolfe”, but Thomas Wolfe, one of my favorite writers, and one who is scorned by English professors and others for overwriting. All I can say is that if you read his short story “The Child by Tiger“, about an African-American who could no longer tolerate racism, you’ll see Wolfe’s talents, which were indeed wasted in some of his other prose. Others who died on this day include Cootie Williams (1985), Garner Ted Armstrong (2003), Johnny Ramone (2004), and Oriana Fallaci (2006). (Imagine what a psychic toll it takes to write up these deaths every day, seeing that their birthdates get closer and closer to mine.)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I’m saying farewell to my favorite cat with a Japanese “cat’s snack”. She’ll miss me, but for the wrong reasons. . .

Jerry: Do you like it?
Hili: Very much. I’m already starting to miss you.
 In Polish:
Jerry: Smakuje ci?
Hili: Bardzo, już zaczynam za tobą tęsknić.

I’m going to steal a couple of Heather Hastie’s daily tw**ts (she finds good ones); be sure to go to the link for the first one and watch the video:

And. . . spot the kitten!







  1. Posted September 15, 2017 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Welcome back, Jerry.

  2. Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Something useless but interesting I learned today: about the Limes Norrlandicus. Astonishingly, it has no english Wikipedia article.

    It was named and described by Carl Linnaeus (the one) and refers to a natural border between northern-european woodland and the boreal ecosystem at around the 59° latitude.

    During the Iron Age, the people northwards were still hunter-gatherers, while those in the souths already had agriculture. That also makes it a cultural borderline (I’m totally into how “lines” in “reality” shape cognition and history).

    Trading between these two types of societies was beneficial. This has led to many trading settlements of which some may sound familliar: Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. See, I even worked in the Russian angle.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Facts that we don’t know. George Washington did not have wooden teeth. The govt. created in Philadelphia was completely secular, void of an religious involvement except to state there would be no religious test for office. Charles Lindbergh was a pretty seedy hero, having had several affairs and children that even his wife did not know about.

    • Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Lindbergh: another fun fact. The first powered flight was by one Gustav Weißkopf, not the Wrights. The Smithsonian Institute is mainly responsible for this distortion of historical facts, for they signed a contract with the Wrights to promote them as the pioneers in exchange for the plane they flew. You were lied to all these years!

      • Randy schenck
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Other fun facts – the Wright brothers were hardly noticed in the U.S. for some years after their success in flying and actually went to Europe for recognition and contracts to build airplanes. Despite the Wrights, the U.S. lagged behind in aviation for many years.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        And Lindbergh was briefly infatuated with the Nazis

        • Randy schenck
          Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Lindbergh was almost a Nazis in many ways.

          • Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            So was Henry Ford. When he was confronted to what he contributed from afar, he suffered a final stroke and died shortly thereafter.

            While we are with grim facts. It’s well known that most Germans who lived in the Nazi Reich claimed to have had no knowledge of the concentration camps. Of course, they knew. But what I gathered, it was a topic that was a taboo at once. I also learned that people at the time had the widespread delusion that such atrocities happened against the will of Hitler, saying things like “if that Hitler knew!” when they witnessed something that disturbed them.

            Closing the bracket, the allies also most certainly knew what was going on. Some Jews escaped and were dead certainly interviewed about everything they knew. Also, we know that Jews were rejected and sent back to their deaths by the Good Americans and Britains in many occasions, parts of history that are still preferably swept under the rug.

            And one more, the allies later had good intelligence and knew very well where factories and such things were, even of sites that were kept secret, but we are still led to believe they were surprised by the camps. The sad truth is that antisemitism was very widespread and many people, in the US, too, deliberately looked the other way — people much like Henry Ford.

  4. Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Thought to share this really amazing speech by one of the greatest scientists –

    Ludwig Boltzmann gave a popular lecture on entropy in which he said: “If you ask me about my innermost conviction whether our century will be called the century of iron or the century of steam or electricity, I answer without hesitation: it will be called the century of the mechanical view of nature, the century of Darwin.”

    • Posted September 15, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Is there a good biography of Boltzmann in English? (Or French – my German isn’t up to it, alas.) One always hears about his tragic end, but little else.

      • Posted September 15, 2017 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man Who Trusted Atoms by Carlo Cercignani. I haven’t read this book myself, its in my reading list. But i think its at least authoritative, because the foreword is written by Roger Penrose and Published by Oxford University Press.

  5. rickflick
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Rescue cats! My first cat was one I rescued on my way home from school when I was in, I think, grade two. She was gray with matted fur and thin. I took it home and asked my mother if we could keep it. She said OK, and the rest is history.

  6. dabertini
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Your recipe for linguine with clams is spot-on. I like to add a splash of white wine and the zest of a lemon and its juice. Oh, can’t forget the red chili. Cheers and welcome back PCC(E).

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I’d opt for lime juice over lemon, and add a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes.

      I’d also use live clams, which (unlike mussels) are very easy to prep. Just keep them on ice until ready to cook, then hose them off in the sink before popping them into the saucepan with the bubbling sauce. Cover tightly and don’t peek for five minutes. Discard any that fail to open in the pan.

      But maybe fresh clams are hard to come by in Chicago.

  7. polly3yr
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Just think of our Cassini probe and all she taught us about Saturn and it’s moons…that’ll make you feel better about us Earthlings and all we’ve accomplished so far

  8. polly3yr
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Its moons…smartypants autocorrect isn’t always, well, correct!

    • ploubere
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      I was about to lecture you. 🙂

  9. Randy schenck
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Not being a participant of facebook I had no idea they provided so much campaign fun for the Russians in their work to elect Trump. Sometimes our own unregulated technology is not a good thing.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    The tongue of the blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant.

    • BJ
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      That rheology of cats paper is the greatest thing ever, and so perfectly written. I appreciate it when people in these fields write so a layman like me can understand every word. Such a contrast with certain humanities, where everything is written to be as opaque as possible. I guess it’s the difference between wishing to spread knowledge and wishing to be the arbiters of knowledge.

  11. davidintoronto
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The trivial “fact” about Marilyn’s toe count was debunked by the Snopes link given. But perhaps this debunking was, in fact, the fact.


    • Posted September 15, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      You’re right–I read it too fast and screwed up. I’ve omitted it now. Thanks!

  12. BJ
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Did you know that dogs can’t look up?

    Did you know that, despite being the planet closest to the sun, Mercury is not the hottest planet? Venus is hottest due to the greenhouse effect caused by its atmosphere.

    • Mark Ayling
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      On that subject, the coldest known place (by measurement) in the Solar System is not Pluto (43 kelvin), but a crater on the Moon near the north pole (Hermite) that is in permanent shadow (26 kelvin).

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted September 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Larry Niven’s first published SF story, in 1964, was called “The Coldest Place” — i.e. the dark side of Mercury, which at the time he wrote it was thought to be permanently tide-locked. Unfortunately for Niven, this “fact” was already obsolete before the story saw print.

  13. Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    In science news, the spacecraft Cassini died today (or should I say ceased functioning) after thirteen years of amazing discovery around Saturn. I don’t know why I feel sad about a machine, but I do.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      That robot had a significant role to play in my life. I followed the events from the launch and all the amazing discoveries that followed. I share your grief(if that’s not to strong a word for a robot). But, we all know there is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man…

  14. Claudia Baker
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Thomas Wolfe wrote a story called “I Have a Thing to Tell You”, about an incident he witnessed while travelling on a train in Germany in 1936. The border police arrested a Jew who was in the compartment with Wolfe. As they took the man away, Wolfe describes himself as trembling “with a murderous and incomprehensible anger”.

    In the Palladium in 1850, Sydney Dobell, an English poet and critic, described the writing of Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights as “the ‘large utterance’ of a baby-god”.

    • Posted September 15, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s the other superb story he wrote, but I oiuldn’t find it online. It’s a great, great tale, though full of tension.

  15. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    William the Conqueror had his sarcophagus prepared before his death. When he died he became bloated quite quickly and they had trouble squashing him into it. The lid was put on, and it was all too much. He popped, and those at his funeral were subjected to the smell.

    Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger on one hand.

    It was Richard II, a boy king who was pretty full of himself by the time he reached adulthood, who started insisting he be called “Your Majesty”. Before that, English kings were generally known only as “Sire”.

    James I of England/ James VI of Scotland wrote an anti-smoking pamphlet, which was published under a pseudonym.

    When George I went to England from Germany to become its king, he left his queen behind and took his two mistresses with him instead.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Whenever I hear of folks with a sixth finger, I immediately think of both:

      a) The Outer Limits episode “The Sixth Finger” in which David McCallum (looking a tad like Richard Dawkins) plays a man who exposes himself to some machine that accelerates evolution, and develops a big head and a sixth finger. (Evidently the authors didn’t see adaptation to an environment as a driving factor here.)

      b) an old Saturday night live fake ad for a finger removal kit (for people with 6th fingers) that you can handily buy at your local drugstore.

      • John Frum
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        A sixth finger always makes me think of Haruki Murakamis novel, ‘Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage’, possibly my favourite book of all time.
        I read it once a year.

  16. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I recently learned about Corporal Wojtek the soldier bear, so am glad to be able to mention him while you’re still in Poland. He was a Syrian brown bear purchased as a cub during WWII by some Polish troops, and served with them in Italy, helping move ammunition and entertaining the troops. His Wiki says that he was enlisted as a private and rose to the rank of corporal for his service. After the war he spent his retirement at the Edinburgh Zoo.

    Here’s a short video about him; others on Youtube.

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    When asked who the other female Supreme Court justices were, I could immediately name Ruth Bader Ginzberg, and Sonia Sontomayer (if not necessarily spell them correctly), but I had to look up Elena Kagan.

  18. Liz
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I was unable to spot the kitten among the kiwi fruit.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      You are probably in the northern hemisphere. Try rotating 180 degrees. 😎

      • Liz
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 10:00 pm | Permalink


  19. Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Fun trivia:

    1) By some understandings, neon is the most noble of the noble gases, with, last I checked, no compounds at all. (Argon and helium sort of do, and the heavier ones have well-known compounds, to the point that one can get some of them from Aldrich.)

    2) Galileo wrote an anti-miracles pamphlet, now “lost”. (Destroyed, presumably.)

    3) Aristotle seems to think that the universe is made to be beautiful. (His version of the argument from design.)

    4) Mendeleev thought (eventually) that there might be elements lighter than hydrogen and “between” hydrogen and helium.

    5) Dedekind was not a mathematical Platonist, rather he seemed to think that humans create numbers. (Somehow.)

    6) Turing’s machines are (descriptions of) *people* who do rote routine calculations.

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    OK, my contribution to the “Day of Knowledge”.

    The author of the popular theme music for “The Twilight Zone”, Marius Constant, received no recompense or credit for it.
    Best known as a composer of avant-garde ballet scores for French companies, he wrote it as a work for hire for the CBS music library.
    He was “commissioned by Lud Gluskin of CBS to create a number of short pieces for the CBS stock music library that could be used as music for CBS radio and TV shows.”

    Rod Serling was unsatisfied with the Bernard Herrmann music used in season 1 and poked around the CBS music library for something better.

    Wikipedia notes “The theme quickly became iconic, and is easily Constant’s most well-known work in the public mind. Constant himself was apparently unaware [while living in France-JLH] for some years that his music was being used as The Twilight Zone’s theme, this music being a part of a “work made for hire” agreement with CBS, Constant thereby derived no ongoing income [or credit-JLH] from it.”

    The Wikipedia article on Constant fails to note that when later movies and TV shows “quoted” the Twilight Zone theme, he WAS credited and paid.
    Thus as a consequence of one of Elliott’s friends in Speilberg’s “E.T.” going “Dah-dee-dah-dah” (F#-G-F#-E), Constant got credited and paid a bundle, though he never saw a dime (or centime) from the original show.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Another musical trivia fact, for fans of the BBC/PBS “Inspector Morse” TV mysteries: the title music, by Barrington Pheloung, has as its opening theme the word “Morse” spelled out in Morse code.

      • John Frum
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        I have read that sometimes the morse code spelt the name of the murderer.

  21. Darren Garrison
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    If the Earth were a hollow shell, all gravitationaly rounded moons, the 5 largest dwarf planets, Ceres, and Mercury and Mars could fit inside it. All other KBOs and asteroids could likely fit in the spaces in between.

    (I discovered this while playing around with CG to produce a short video that I hope Jerry doesn’t mind me posting. I broke the URL so it wouldn’t embed–remove the space in “youtube” to view it.)

  22. Another Tom
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Hysteria in the Victorian era was diagnosed in women who got uppity to their husbands. If they were not obedient or respectful enough a specialist doctor would be called. He would show up at the home with his bag of sex toys and use vibrators on the woman until he deemed her cured of hysteria.

  23. ploubere
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Many here probably know this, but I find it mind boggling that there are more water molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans.

  24. John Frum
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Some possibly not well known computer info –
    A bit is short for binary digit
    A nibble is 4 bits
    8 bits is called a byte but also an octet when referring to IP addresses

  25. Dale Franzwa
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    How do young saplings survive and grow up in a forest of tall trees? Remember, a tree’s energy comes from the sun but the forest floor is shaded by the other trees. Their mother trees feed them with excess electrical energy from the sun, collected by the mother’s own solar panels (green leaves).

    How does this work? A mother tree transmits its electrical energy through its roots to precisely its own sapling children not to other saplings. How does a mother tree know which seeds in the ground are her children? Well, scientists don’t know the answer to that. Nevertheless, the mother tree is able to grow her roots out to only her own children (seeds and saplings). And all without a brain of her own. Wow!

    • John Frum
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      This is an example of not even wrong.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      You might convince me that trees exchange chemical nutrients with nearby kin through their roots. But electricity? That seems very unlikely.

      Beyond that, this fails to explain the survival of saplings that germinate far outside their parent’s root zone. Some seeds are designed for wide dispersal; how could this evolve if young trees depend on root connections to nearby parents?

      • Dale Franzwa
        Posted September 17, 2017 at 12:47 am | Permalink

        Well, the leaves contain chlorophyll which takes the energy from the sun and uses that to create sugars. The whole thing is photosynthesis and Wikibooks has a short article on that.

        The source of the article from which I drew my discussion, I believe, was from one of those “News” posts on the old Richard Dawkins website a few weeks or months ago which discussed how “mother trees” nourished their offspring. I don’t recall it discussing seeds that are widely dispersed. So much of this is just from my memory of that article but I thought it constituted “One new thing that most people don’t know.” Doubt it if you wish.

  26. Posted September 16, 2017 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    The pneumatic tyre (tire) was not invented by John Dunlop. His patent application was declared invalid when it was noted that the idea had been patented more than forty years earlier by fellow Scot RW Thomson. Dunlop was unaware of Thomson’s patent, and he had in fact re-invented the pneumatic tyre. Great minds think alike.

  27. Mark Ayling
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Buridan’s Principle: it is not possible to make a device that can make a binary decision (yes or no) output from a continuous-valued input in a bounded time. Put another way, for any practical device, there will be a non-zero input region that causes it to be unable to ‘make up its mind’ (enter a ‘metastable state’) for a considerable time.

    This has a real-world application in electronic circuit design, where it is often necessary to estimate how often a device will fail due to this metastability phenomenon. Fortunately, a ‘Mean Time Between Failure’ of trillions of years is achievable with proper design, so this issue can be avoided in practical terms. For example: for a design I completed recently, I calculated a MTBF of 1.12 x 10^27 years.'s_ass#Buridan.27s_principle

  28. Mark Ayling
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Newton’s Principia was translated into French by Émilie du Châtelet, lover of Voltaire and female physicist (when such a thing was unheard of). She rushed to finish the translation after becoming pregnant in her 40’s, knowing that there was a substantial risk of death in childbirth in middle age at that time, and added the concept of conservation of energy in her commentary.

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