Monday: Hili dialogue

A new work week has begun: it’s Monday, September 18, 2017, and I’m still jet-lagged, sleepless, and unaccountably low. I will try to struggle through. First-year students are arriving on campus with their parents, having begun their orientation period last Saturday, while classes start on September 25—early this year. It’s National Cheeseburger Day, which I celebrated by consuming one yesterday, with the works, as today I begin my experimental twice-weekly day of fasting. It’s also “International Read an eBook Day,” but I’m incapable of reading one, even though I know it uses up trees. I can’t even read an article longer than two pages without printing it out.

September 18 is not a day on which many earth-shaking events happened. On this day in 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building, and in 1851, the New York Times, then known as The New-York Daily Times, began publication. On September 18, 1919, women gained the right to vote in Ireland. Finally, in 2014 voters in a referendum in Scotland decided against independence from the UK. I wonder if the vote would be different were it held now.

Notables born on this day include Samuel Johnson (1709), who’s honored by today’s animated Google Doodle :

Apropos, the Guardian reports that either today or somewhere near today is the 30th anniversay of the gif (however you pronounce it), and reproduces several popular gifs. I’ve show “thieving raccoon” before (it was created in 2013), but you can’t see it often enough:

Also born on September 18 were Greta Garbo (1905), Frankie Avalon (1940), Ben Carson (1951; mention of a birthday does not denote approval of the individual!), Steven Pinker (1954) and Tara Fitzgerald (1967). Those who died on this day include Leonhard Euler (1783), Dag Hammarskjöld (1961),  Clive Bell (1964), and Jimi Hendrix (1970).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s still sitting on her wicker shelf trying to decide what to do. Such decisions are the most difficult part of a cat’s life, which means I wish I were a cat (but with a longer life):

Hili: I’m trying to decide.
A: Decide what?
Hili: Whether I’m comfortable here or adventure calls.​
In Polish:
Hili: Próbuję się zdecydować.
Ja: Na co?
Hili: Czy mi tu dobrze, czy ciągnie mnie przygoda?​


Out in Winnipeg, Gus’s staff says “I caught Gus with his tongue out at the end of a big yawn.”

Matthew Cobb found some nice “evidence” for life on Mars. Martians had cats!

And I’ve pinched two tweets from Heather Hastie’s website:

To paraphrase the aforementioned Dr. Johnson, “When a man is tired of squirrels, he is tired of life.” I’ll revise that quote in light of modern sensibilities, changing “a man” to “a person.”


  1. Posted September 18, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    “When a man is tired of squirrels, he is tired of life.” That, of course, also goes for women.

    “When a man is tired of women, he is tired of life”??

    • Randy schenck
      Posted September 18, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      And that is a question?

      Unfortunately Washington never got to see the finished capital but the location of Washington DC is interesting as well, if you have time. Located in a southern region was more convenient for all the southern presidents to come as they did not have to worry about those pesky laws about a certain species of property.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted September 18, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        As it was, in 1800 there were still many slaves north of the Mason-Dixon Line, although it had been found unconstitutional in 1783 in Massachusetts by the MA Supreme Court (a finding based on the MA Constitution, of course, as there was not yet a U.S. Constitution) but in other northern states laws had been enacted for the gradual end of slavery, with, for example, the last legal slave in New York freed in 1827 and those in New Jersey and New Hampshire having to wait until 1865. Even so, as slavery was in steep decline in the North, it was expanding ever more rapidly in the South, at least partially due to the recently invented cotton gin making the use of slaves to pick cotton ever more profitable. Contrary to the lies of many modern apologists for the Confederacy, slavery was not dying out in the South in 1861 and the very wealthy planter class would not have given up on slavery without a war.

    • Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      No, of course I meant to replace “man” with “woman” in the text so that both sexes were included and not just men. I have corrected it. Just a glitch.

  2. Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Johnson also said, “I am willing to love all mankind, except an American” …!

    • Frank Bath
      Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      I don’t wish to start a trans-Atlantic slinging match but Johnson also said “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”
      We are different people now.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink


      • Historian
        Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        Johnson’s statement is emblematic of a debate still roiling the United States, recently reignited by the controversy over removing Confederate statues. Namely, should the Founders who owned slaves be honored still for the “good” things they did? The debate is particularly acrimonious over Jefferson. However one may feel on the issue, rest assured it will never be politically possible to remove the slave owning Founders from places of honor. The fragile American psyche could not handle such a blow to the reputation of these semi-mythic individuals.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted September 18, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

          Good point for sure. But a better question might be what is the correct date to use in judging people of the past for something we fully reject today.

          We can say today pretty clearly that James Madison never questioned or even gave much thought to the issue of slavery. Partly because he really had never traveled much outside of his surroundings but like many other people he never knew anything else. Highly educated as he was, he grew up with slaves and never thought of them in any other way. I am sure there are many here today that condemn him for this only because they do no either understand the culture of his day or care to learn about it. They refuse to move their understanding of history to a more realistic view.

          • Historian
            Posted September 18, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

            Actually, Madison thought quite a bit about slavery as the quotes below indicate.

            “[The Convention] thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”
            — James Madison, Records of the Convention, August 25, 1787

            “We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”
            — James Madison, speech at the Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787

            Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves.
            — James Madison, Letter to R. H. Lee, July 17, 1785 (Madison, 1865, I, page 161)

            [W]e must deny the fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities: being considered by our laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property. In being compelled to labor, not for himself, but for a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and in being subject at all times to be restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with those irrational animals which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in being punishable himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as a mere article of property.
            — James Madison, Federalist, no. 54

            American citizens are instrumental in carrying on a traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country. The same just and benevolent motives which produced interdiction in force against this criminal conduct will doubtless be felt by Congress in devising further means of suppressing the evil.
            — James Madison, State of the Union,1810

            It is due to justice; due to humanity; due to truth; due to the sympathies of our nature; in fine, to our character as a people, both abroad and at home, that they should be considered, as much as possible, in the light of human beings, and not as mere property. As such, they are acted on by our laws, and have an interest in our laws. They may be considered as making a part, though a degraded part, of the families to which they belong.
            — James Madison, Speech in the Virginia State Convention of 1829-30, on the Question of the Ratio of Representation in the two Branches of the Legislature, December 2, 1829.

            Outlets for the freed blacks are alone wanted for the erasure of the blot from our Republican character.
            — James Madison, Letter to General La Fayette, February 1, 1830.

            [I]f slavery, as a national evil, is to be abolished, and it be just that it be done at the national expense, the amount of the expense is not a paramount consideration.
            — James Madison, Letter to Robert J. Evans

            In contemplating the pecuniary resources needed for the removal of such a number to so great a distance [freed slaves to Africa], my thoughts and hopes have long been turned to the rich fund presented in the western lands of the nation . . .”
            — James Madison, Letter to R. R. Gurley, December 28, 1831.


            I have not been able to find any evidence that Madison freed many slaves in his lifetime or in his will. I could be wrong here since my research has been cursory. Wikipedia does note that “Between 1834 and 1835, he sold 25% of his slaves to offset financial losses on his plantation.” Madison was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society, which was dedicated to sending freed slaves back to Africa. All in all, it appears that Madison was like many of the slave holding Founders: much talk about the evils of slavery, but little real action to end it.

            • Randy schenck
              Posted September 18, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

              Okay he wrote some on the issue as he would have in his business in politics. But he mostly, like all others in the south simply did not discuss the matter in public. There is nothing in his written comments that hint of any real personal concern with the issue. I would agree with the historical thought that he was not a racist but a racialist, whose observations of black people could not imagine them much beyond the state of slavery. Even Lincoln, years later than this thought the ship them back to Africa idea was a good one.

              I suppose I will not get any date here.

      • Posted September 18, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Interesting! And the other comments below…

        • Doug
          Posted September 18, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          The issue with the Founders and slavery was not that they took it for granted; many of them–including Washington and Jefferson–believed that slavery was wrong. The question was, “What happens AFTER slavery is abolished?” What status would free Blacks have?

          Should they be made full citizens? Most Whites would not accept that. As people at the time asked, “Do you really want to see a White man arrested by a Negro sheriff, judged by a Negro
          jury, sentenced by a Negro judge, executed by a Negro hangman?” Even well-intentioned Whites, who opposed slavery, would not have been willing to go that far.

          Perhaps Blacks could be freed, but not made full citizens? They would not be slaves, but they also could not vote, hold office etc. The fear was that Blacks would not accept such second-class citizenship and would rebel, leading to a race war. This was Jefferson’s fear, leading him to say, “Justice is in one scale, self-preservation in the other.”

          If Whites would not accept Blacks as equals, and Blacks would not accept second-class citizenship, what was left? This is why many White Americans, from Madison through Henry Clay to Lincoln, favored colonizing the Blacks “back” to Africa. This would have deprived the South of its labor force, however (who is going to pick the cotton if the Blacks are gone? Abolitionists?), and was never a realistic goal.

          • Historian
            Posted September 18, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Yes, for virtually the entire white South and much of the white North, it was inconceivable during the period from independence to the Civil War that African-Americans could exist in society on an equal status with whites. There were some free blacks in the South, but they were third class citizens at best. There were many legal impediments placed on them, such as they could not vote or serve on juries. Some southern states required free blacks to leave their jurisdictions. And, yes, the American Colonization Society was somewhat of a joke. It is for these reasons that the Founders talked about the evils of slavery and did little about it. After the generation of the Founders passed, southern slave owners no longer even bothered to profess the evils of slavery. By the 1850s, most white Southerners argued that slavery was a “positive good.”

          • Randy schenck
            Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            I am not even sure that Washington was trouble with slavery as his actions during his life did not show much. He held one slave in high regard and that was his own William Lee, personal valet. He did not like selling off parts of slave family and therefore, had more slaves than were needed and this was an economic problem for him. Also his farms were moving from tobacco to grain farming where far fewer slaves were required.

            Fact is, the cotton gin and the farming of cotton probably saved the economics of slavery for the middle part of the century. The founders, prior to this time believed slavery would go away by it’s own economic condition.

            As far as accepting blacks on equal ground with whites, this did not take place in the south or for that matter in parts of the north for a 100 years after the civil war. This problem is still with us today. My problem is with people today judging the founders or even prior to this period judging the people as if they were the same bigoted racists we come across today.

  3. James Walker
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Now that I’ve moved Down Under, I’m all about the koala stories:

  4. Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    The Pinkah is probably an avid reader of this site, but will be busy today: Happy Belated Birthday, Steven Pinker!

    To paraphrase the aforementioned Dr. Johnson, “When a man is tired of squirrels, he is tired of life.”

    Hear hear. 🙂

    • Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      The birthday note is in the text above; didn’t you see it?

      • Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        I am not sure I understand. Even though I enjoyed his books, I was not yet prepared to know his birthday by heart, and learned that from your list of people, yes. 🙂

  5. Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    My heartiest contrafibularities to Mr Johnson.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Blackadder and The Simpsons – collectively making you unsure whether a word is genuine since the late eighties.

  6. Teresa Carson
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I am surprised that the cats in the gif are so docile in the presence of the raccoon. A raccoon once visited our backyard and came up to the large window on our patio. Our cats immediately began hissing and yowling. Since it was dark outside, it took me a few minutes to discover the cause of the disturbance, which seemed completely unconcerned by the caterwauling.

  7. busterggi
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    My big alpha raccoon Grizzly was back last night, hadn’t seen him since March. Not a thief, just a neighbor who borrows a lot.

  8. Claudia Baker
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    “I’m…unaccountably low.”

    I can account for it:

    1) no more homemade pies, daily
    2) no Hili to snuggle with
    3) no walkies along the Vistula
    4) no adopted grandparents to converse with face-to-face

    Not to mention that it’s September and you’re a teacher.

    And last, but not least, the toll that hurtling through space in a metal tube takes on one’s body and psyche.

    TLC is what you need right now. Here’s a virtual hug: (((PCC)))

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Euler is one of those folks who made extraordinary contributions to math AND astronomy- the latter by helping LaPlace out with his refinement of the understanding of the orbits of the planets using perturbation theory.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Fun Fact: Samuel Johnson used to drink at least 20 cups of tea a day while writing his dictionary.

  11. ploubere
    Posted September 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    I read Faith vs Fact as an ebook, mostly while traveling. I am fond of paper books, but they are bulky and take up a lot of space. Sometimes technology is convenient.

  12. Harold
    Posted September 20, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I doubt the picture of the cat with different coloured eyes is genuine. The green eye is too uniform hue-wise. Even the reflection in it is all the same hue.

  13. Posted September 20, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, have you heard about the intermittent fasting method? It’s a lot easier than twice-weekly whole day fasting.

    I find at my age, I can get by on 3 light meals or 2 wholesome meals (with portion control of course) during an eight-hour period (your choice – it could be noon to 8pm, or 10am to 6pm, etc). The rest of the time there’s no snacking, but you can drink black tea, green tea, herb tea, black coffee, water or water with lemon or lime juice.

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