Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Today, Tuesday, October 24, 2017, is the last full day of my sojourn to Cambridge, and tomorrow afternoon I’ll be back home in Chicago. In America it’s National Bologna (also spelled “Baloney”) Day, which mean we can expect especially egregious statements from our “President.” It’s also World Polio Day, which is true, but Wikipedia notes that it’s “was established by Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk” (WHO says the same thing). Yet Wikipedia and The Salk Institute both note that Salk was born on October 28, 1914, so I’m confused.  Why would you commemorate someone’s birth four days before they were born?

What is true is that Salk and Sabin’s vaccines were stunning accomplishments of science that have reduced human suffering enormously. I remember, as a child, the big polio scares, and being warned not to go to public swimming pools—thought to breed the disease—in summer. (Ingestion of infected fecal matter is a main cause of transmission.) I remember horrible pictures of children confined in iron lungs. This is largely a thing of the past, although polio, in contrast to smallpox and the animal disease rinderpest, hasn’t been eliminated. In principle it could be, which would make it the third disease wiped off the planet. Here’s an Egyptian stele thought to depict a polio victim with a withered leg and a cane  (18th Dynasty; 1403–1365 BC).

On this day in 1260, Chartres Cathedral was dedicated in the presence of Louis IX; it’s a magnificent site and should be visited (via a short train trip) when you go to Paris. In 1648, the signing of the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War. On October 24, 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph line in the U.S. was completed. On this day in 1926, Houdini, suffering from a ruptured appendix (supposedly brought on by his inviting a woman to hit him in the abdomen to demonstrate his strength), gave his last performance. He died 7 days later at the age of 52. On October 24, 1945, the United Nations was founded. And on this day in 1946, the first photo of Earth from outer space was taken:

The White Sands rocket (official name V-2 No. 13) was a modified V2 rocket that became the first man-made object to take a photograph of the Earth from outer space. Launched on October 24, 1946, at the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, the rocket reached a maximum altitude of 65 mi (105 km).

The famous photograph was taken with an attached DeVry35mm black-and-white motion picture camera.

Here it is:

On this day in 1980, the Polish government legalized the Solidarity trade union, marking the beginning of the end of Soviet control over that country.  And on October 24, 2003, the Concorde made its last commercial flight. A pity; I always dreamed (but couldn’t afford) traveling on that plane.

Notables born on this day include Rafael Trujillo (1891), Denise Levertov (1923), The Big Bopper (1930) and Wayne Rooney (1985). Those who died on October 24 include Jane Seymour (1537), Tycho Brahe (1601), Daniel Webster (1852), G. E. Moore (1958), Jackie Robinson (1972), Gene Roddenberry (1991), Rosa Parks (2005), and Bobby Vee (2016).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej is patiently instructing Hili about faith and fact:

Hili: Why are so few people interested in the theory of cognition?
A: Because revelations are easier.
In Polish:
Hili: Dlaczego tak niewielu interesuje się teorią poznania?
Ja: Bo objawienia są łatwiejsze.

Reader Taskin, on Gus’s staff, send a picture of a lovely calico kitten, as Taskin is quite partial to this particolored cats. I have to admit are growing on me. Calicos and tortoiseshell cats are nearly 100% female for genetic reasons (see here and here).

Finally, here are two twe**ts cribbed from Heather Hastie; they show hand rearing of the highly endangered kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot:

I also call your attention to Heather’s new and highly informative post, “Why the Iran nuclear agreement is a good deal.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I will report the tortoiseshell cat is one of the best pets you could have. You may have to do a lot of lap time.

    • Dave B
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Both of mine (now deceased… sniff…) were nucking futs, but oh so much fun to watch.

  2. Graham Head
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Shouldn’t that be four days before they were born?

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Salk and Sabin, I recall (vaguely) as a little kid getting Salk’s vaccine by shot, and then going back a couple years later to get the Sabin vaccine on a sugar cube. My parents, who were kids during the Great Depression, when the sight of poor souls ravaged by polio was a fixture of their neighborhoods, thought the sun rose and set right up Jonas Salk’s fundament, since his vaccine meant their children would never need face that scourge.

    • Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      “[They] thought the sun rose and set right up Jonas Salk’s fundament, since his vaccine meant their children would never need face that scourge”

      Indeed! Many have forgotten the benefits of effective vaccination. They have been lulled into complacency by the multi-generational success of the vaccines.

      Having just been damaged by shingles* (I can most emphatically say: Get your shingles vaccine!), I really appreciate all the diseases I didn’t/don’t have to worry about. Many were fairly new when I got them originally.

      (* I have some persistent peripheral nerve damage — I may or may not recover.)

      We’ve had some local outbreaks of measles recently. The result of (mainly) Somali immigrants not having their kids vaccinated. Not sure of their motivation for that (maybe nothing but inertia or unfamiliarity?); but the vaccination rates went up sharply after the outbreaks were publicized.)

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        The Somali community in Minneapolis has been targeted by the anti-vaxxers and their bogus autism scares.

        Part of me wishes there really were a hell, so some people could receive their condign deserts.

      • David Coxill
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        I had shingles last December ,it covered my forehead and around my eye ,which puffed up .
        Left me with just a few scars on my fore head .
        Not something i would wish on anyone ,

        apart from the US gop and the British tory part and nigel faragao .

        • nicky
          Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          You were lucky, VZO (Varicella Zoster Ophthalmica) aka shingles of the ophthalmic branch of the Trigeminal nerve (n V, fifth cranial nerve) can give severe problems.
          1- apart from the acute neuralgia, wich can be excruciating, there can be PHN, post hermetic neuralgia, which can be excruciating too. (best treatment is Stellate ganglion block -in the neck- , which inhibits orthosympatic stimulation of the Trigeminal ganglion).
          2-some suffer herpetic uveitis, that can lead to intractable glaucoma and loss of the eye.
          3-scarring of the eyelids may cause errant lashes destroying the cornea, or at least cause debilitating corneal scars.
          4- ugly scarring of the forehead (often pink in black patients), which may cause all kinds of psychological problems
          In S.A. VZO is commonly associated with HIV infection, especially in the under 60’s, so we see a lot of it here.
          David, count yourself lucky (and believe me, I’happy for you). Full recovery without sequellae of VZO is not really that common.

          • nicky
            Posted October 24, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            ‘herpetic’, not ‘hermetic’, curse on the blerry spellchecker!

          • David Coxill
            Posted October 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

            Hi ,thanks for all the info ,glad i didn’t know all the stuff you mentioned at the time .
            Did look on the interweb and there were some horrific photos of people with shingles .

            The only funny thing about it ,my cat Misha had been in a fight and received a small wound to his eye and i had to give him eye drops .
            I could have sworn he was smirking at me when i had to have eye drops ,he looked as if he was thinking ,see how you like it .

            Talking of my cat Misha ,found a wound on his side and a lump under the skin ,took him to the vet this morning .
            The vet had to drain the abscess and give him a shot of antibiotics .
            I wish he would stop fighting ,he is crap at it.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      They also grew up with a president who was a victim of the disease. A real president I might add.

    • Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      The Concorde was never economically viable.

      It was a flagship symbol only. The market for supersonic travel simply never materialized — at least not at the price they were willing to sell it for.

      I think the vast majority of the flying public thought 7-8 hours to cross the Atlantic is fine, vs. 4 hours for the Concorde. Also: The biz-jet market filled the need for speed (with better convenience, more time saving) and range for the target market of fliers for the Concorde.

      You may or may not remember the reason they were decommissioned (I think). It was after the AF 4590 (July 2000) crash. The cause of the crash was fuel tank rupture due to a main landing gear tire burst.

      As a aircraft structural design engineer at the time, I was amazed by this. Tire burst is a design requirement: The airplane must be able to survive a tire burst (seems pretty basic!). I was not around during the design of the Concorde; but this seemed to be a corner cut during that process. I was amazed.

      This crash seemed like the final nail in its coffin.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        One thing I might add is – the Concord was ahead of its time. To fly inland, within the U.S. it had to slow down and fly under the speed of sound to avoid the boom. I remember when it was flying to Dallas and that really slowed it down. However, they are now working on solving the sonic boom and this will allow for more chances for such an airplane.

        • David Coxill
          Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          In the 70s i remember seeing 2 cartoons in a newspaper ,the first one was mocking the cost .
          It shows an engineer and a civil servant (i think ) .
          The engineer is saying “We have come up with the idea of building it out of compressed £10 notes .

          The other one a bit later ,when the Jealous Americans (yes you were ) were stopping it from flying super duper sonic inland .
          It shows a New York family ,the father is reloading his Tommy gun and his daughter is injecting heroin .

          Don’t mean any Offense by this.

          • David Coxill
            Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

            Forgot the punch line someone in the second cartoon is saying “This is going to spoil our quality of life”.

      • Posted October 25, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        British Airways were able to make money out of Concorde but only because the development costs were written off and I believe they were effectively given the planes as a present.

        They did carry on flying after the crash for as few years but I think the crash made people less enthusiastic (also 9/11) and the maintenance costs were also rising.

        As for the tyre burst rupturing the fuel tank, you have to remember that the design was more than thirty years old. Safety standards and technology probably improved significantly over that period. Also, I’m not entirely how sure you could test the specific circumstances encountered that day.

    • Laurance
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Oh my, yes yes yes! I was 12 and my sister was 9 when the polio vaccine appeared. Our parents were scared to death of polio!

      We could not go and play in the park. We could not go to the fair or to carnivals. We could not go to the public beach for swimming. Nope, we were quarantined at home even though we weren’t the sick kids.

      At the time my sister and I didn’t really comprehend. “But Patty is going to the Grange Fair!!! Why can’t we???”

      As a middle-aged woman I met a woman who had had polio. Her parents weren’t scared like mine. She and her brother went with their parents to a local carnival. The woman wanted a treat from this concession, and her brother wanted one from that concession over there.

      She got polio while her brother didn’t. The infection was finally traced to that one concession stand. This woman has been on crutches and a wheelchair ever since. Our parents did the right thing by keeping us away from questionable places.

      And when Dr. Salk came up with the polio vaccine you’d think my atheist mother had discovered that god existed or something.

      • Laurance
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Here’s an article about polio in the 1950’s:


        Hmmm….my dad had polio when he was a kid. He was lucky. His was very mild and left him with a little tremor in his left hand, but that was all.

      • Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        When I was a graduate student at CMU I got to know (the now late) Preston Covey – sheriff, police officer, fire arms instructor and PhD in philosophy from Stanford. He was a pioneer in the use of media (video disk, computers) for ethics education. And a polio survivor. It hardly came up, except when it would come out that it was his *good* arm that he lost, and so he’d done all that shooting etc. with his *off hand*. Talk about determination.

  4. darrelle
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I think I could still sing along every word to Chantilly Lace. The Big Bopper and that era / genre of music was some of the music that I grew up on, simply because it was a big part of my parents music collection.

    • Posted October 24, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Yeah, it’s interesting: I know many people who got their music early from their parents’ collections. Most people I know in fact.

      Not me. My Mom liked light opera (Mario Lanza). My Dad liked 20th century orchestral music (much 12-tone; but some stuff I now like as well).

      In the 1960s and 1970s, these did not appeal to me (still don’t).

      I didn’t start really hearing rock and pop until I was about 12 and built myself a crystal radio! Then, with the wealth of material available, I had a sudden enlightenment.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        My parents had a fairly wide range of music. For example I still listen to Harry Belafonte, Louis Prima, Roger Whittaker and a mishmash of other stuff that is actually way before my time because I first came to like it listening to my parents music.

        My father was a fan of classical music, but that was not something I liked growing up. I came to appreciate it, then get a bit obsessive about it for a while, sometime in my 20s.

        I can still remember the first time I heard a “hard” rock song. It was 1975. At the time I was listening to soul/R&B and top 40 stuff. I was completely oblivious at that point to any of the hard rock styles that came about in the later ’60s and up till then. Then I heard Dream On playing on a local German radio station. I was nearly struck dumb. Within weeks I was listening to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin (shit, I hope Dermot doesn’t read this), The Who and similar stuff.

      • Wotan Nichols
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        My parents collected a huge set of records, one at a time with coupons from the IGA store, called the RCA Red Seal collection. As a yoot I listened to this random olio of light classical music, pop music, novelty numbers, famous big band tunes & so forth. To this day I can still whistle the tenor sax solo from ‘Dipsy Doodle’.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      The Big Bopper — I can still remember, barely though it may be, the day the music died.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        It was a little before my time, but a sad day indeed. I’ve always wondered what Buddy Holly could have done over a full lifetime.

        Reminds of the time I saw Don McLean in concert, about 1982 or so. The most amazing thing to me of the whole show, while playing “that” song a string on his guitar broke. And he put on a new string while continuing to play the song without any interruption or missed notes that I could hear.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

          I was in kindergarten when the Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and BH bought it. Had some older cousins in the neighborhood who were rock-n-rollers. They used to babysit me and, once they were old enough to drive, would take me out cruisin’ in their jalopies. Taught me how to find the the local rock ‘n’ roll station on an AM radio in an old Ford by pushing two of the mechanical buttons, even after the tuning dial was broken.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            I was just about 9 years old in Feb. 1959 and lived in Iowa, much further south of Clear Lake, where the Beechwood Bonanza crashed not long after take off. Lessons to learn – Not to go flying in a snow storm and especially with a 21 year old pilot with little experience. If he had much he would not have taken off.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

              Would that Stevie Ray Vaughan had taken that lesson to heart.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                I took another look and that word Beechwood is just wrong. It was a Beechcraft Bonanza, no such thing as Beechwood, except as wood.
                The pilot was young, although had several hundred hours. He was not qualified to be flying in instrument conditions. Most likely, something failed shortly after take off, the airplane then stalled and came in hard.

      • Blue
        Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        … … ‘nd, All, m’Darlin’ Outlaw, Mr Waylon Jennings, that night lost the coin toss. In re a seat on that plane.

        Yet, o’course, … … himself so W O N ! and
        saved ( some o’, at least ) … … The Music !


  5. David Coxill
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I have a Callico cat named Callie ,she is a bit on the chunky side ,she doesn’t like being picked up and when she gives you a head bump you know you have had an head bump.
    PS, she also likes to sleep in the washing up bowl for some reason.

  6. David Harper
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    “On this day in 1260, Chartres Cathedral was dedicated in the presence of Louis IX; it’s a magnificent site and should be visited (via a short train trip) when you go to Paris.”

    When my wife and I visited Chartres some years ago, we were greeted by a very friendly cat on the cathedral steps. I don’t know whether s/he was an official feline greeter.

    On the same visit, I had a particularly fine lunch of andouillette in a piquant mustard sauce. Mmmm, chitterlings 🙂

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    NPR has a splendid segment on Jascha Heifetz to mark the 100th anniversary of his American debut at Carnegie Hall, which is today. http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/10/24/559537490/like-electricity-jascha-heifetz-made-his-american-debut-100-years-ago. That man could play the violin like nobody else.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Re. the kakapos, I meant to ask when they were featured a day or two ago. The tracking devices – they’re strapped on, right? With their penchant for demolishing things, is there any problem with them ripping the devices off each other?

  9. David Duncan
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Many years ago as a young boy comming home from Sunday School I’d see a man pushing his wife to church on a trolley bed. Week after week after week.

    When she didn’t seem to be getting better I said to her one day “I don’t know who your doctor is, but I don’t think very much of him.”

    She wasn’t offended, told my mum, who was quite shocked.

    I redeemed myself somewhat later when I saw her again by saying “There’s that girl again!” (She would have been about 50.)

    I also would have loved to fly on the Concorde. I could have afforded it but didn’t want to splurge on that one thing.

  10. XCellKen
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    And on an entirely unrelated note, Houdini’s cousin, Helen Schonberger, was married to actor Morris Horowitz, aka Mo Howard, aka Mo from the Three Stooges

  11. Blue
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    My father contracted the poliomyelitis virus in late y1939; seven other Iowa State University students did as well causing the University to altogether shut down that quarter’s term then. There was, at that time, a University inpatient hospital; afflicted were within iron lungs, and five of the seven died. Daddy at his age of 19, was taken home to his 98 – pound mama, Grandma Adeline, who also had at home within the rural Iowa countryside at the time five younger children, she not knowing if he, her eldest, would even live or whether / when he might or would ‘get better.’

    He was paralyzed from the neck down. It took Adeline two full years of her own home – therapies of physical exercises and other care. With her, he did survive and thrived enough, although 4 F – classified, to volunteer for the Army – Air Corps and did: Himalayan theater.

    One day in y1960, with a silage wagon underneath him, he himself was on the exterior of it astride its ladder at the very top of one of his and my mother’s silos.

    Bilaterally and neuromuscularly and suddenly, his arms failed him.

    His life altogether that day … … changed. He managed to put his truncal thoracic area forward onto the ladder and with his legs slither down the rungs to that wagon. And climb out. He went in the house to talk with my mother; and inside of a month’s time, he was re – enrolled in the next quarter’s agricultural economics curriculum ( a springtime one ) at the same University. We all moved there.

    He never farmed again.

    What did kill him too young ? far, far too young at only age 72 ? and some few decades’ time later ? The point of my post here ? This:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-polio_syndrome which had attacked muscle that is the heart.

    A heart attack — mostly thanks to this virus.

    Dr Jonas Salk is a hero. As was … … Daddy.


  12. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Like many commenters above, I remember getting my polio vax in the late 50s (I’m sure it was a jab in those days rather than a sugar-cube – am I wrong?).

    Completely OT: today is my dear old Dad’s birthday. He would have been 101. He died a few weeks after his 94th. I just hope I manage to stay as engaged and compos mentis as he did!

  13. Blue
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    This is sad, Mr Pollard, in re your Daddy.
    This is also a lovely time of year to both
    be born and to die.

    I as well want to manage to not only live that long but to also ” stay engaged and compos mentis !”

    Be sustained and uplifted with The Memory today.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted October 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Blue, that is very sweet of you. It is all happy memories: he died in peace and without pain, and we gave him a great send-off. I have raised a glass to him already today, and I will do so again now. Cheers; and your good health as well!

  14. nicky
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The Salk vaccine is a dead virus injected, giving excellent individual lifelong immunity, but not preventing the spread of the virus.
    The Sabin vaccine is oral, with a disabeled virus. It prevents spreading of the virus via faeces, greatly enhancing ‘herd immunity’.
    Ideally children should get both, immo.

    Did Salk and Sabin ever get a Nobel prize? They are among the great heroes of modern medicine, not least because they did not try to benefit financially from it. I guess Trump would call them idiots for that.
    Remarkable is that Mr McConnell, a victim of polio himself, is so measly opposed to better public heath care.

  15. Dale Franzwa
    Posted October 24, 2017 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Note on Houdini. As I recall, it was a young man who hit him with his fist before he was set to withstand the blow. I suspect it was backstage between performances but not sure of that. He had been in a discussion with several college-aged men when he mentioned his ability to withstand any blow anyone could deliver. Unfortunately, things did not work out as they should have.

    When I was young, I was quite fascinated by Houdini and read quite a bit about him.

  16. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted October 25, 2017 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    the first man-made object to take a photograph of the Earth from outer space.

    As distinct, presumably, from all the non-human-made objects taking pictures of us from space before then.

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