Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. I am back in Chicago for about three weeks until the three-week Jerry Coyne ” Ganapati All India Tour” takes place, but I’ll need the rest. Today is National Cranberry Day, a food once eaten only on Thanksgiving but now the basis of a tasty beverage. It’s also a UN holiday: World Television Day.

Oh, and I want to recommend a movie I watcned on the Houston-Chicago leg of my flight: “Fences” (2016), a terrific saga of a black family in 1950s Pittsburgh, with the screenplay by August Wilson (who first wrote it as a Pulitzer-Prize winning play) and directed by and starring Denzel Washington as the hard-ass paterfamilias and Viola Davis as his wife. The film got a 94% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars (Davis won in the last category). What stood out for me in the screenplay was the superb dialogue. It is a Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) Movie Recommendation™. I’d never even heard of it until I saw it on the entertainment menu on my flight.

On this day in 1676, the Danish astronomer Ole Rømer gave the first quantitative measurements of the speed of light, which was about 75% of the correct value. On November 21, 1877, Thomas Edison announced the invention of the phonograph. In 1905, Einstein’s paper giving the famous formula, E = mc², was published in the journal Annalen der Physik. I seem to remember digging out that paper and showing the formula, which wasn’t exactly E = mc² but a verbal equivalent, but I can’t be arsed to look up my post. On this day in 1920 it was “Bloody Sunday” in Dublin, an event orchestrated by Michael Collins’s IRA that wound up killing 32 people. In 1953, the British Natural History Museum formally announced that the Piltdown Man skull was a hoax. On this day in 1977, according to Wikipedia, “Minister of Internal Affairs Allan Highet announces that the national anthems of New Zealand shall be the traditional anthem “God Save the Queen” and “God Defend New Zealand”. I guess He did, on both counts. Is there any other country with two national anthems?

The Piltdown Man hoax was debunked by scientists, but is still used by creationists to demonstrate how “science can be fooled”. If you want to see a decent documentary on it, and the persistent question “who perpetrated this hoax?”, see this 43-minute job:

Notables born on this day include Voltaire (1694), René Magritte (1898), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902), Coleman Hawkins (1904), Stan Musial (1920; I once saw him play), Dr. John (1940), Goldie Hawn (1945), and Björk (1965). Deaths were sparese on this day: those who died on November 21 include physics Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam (1998).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has abandoned philosophy to return to her most important concern:

A: Why did you close your eyes?
Hili: I’m imagining what I’m going to see on this plate when I open them.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu masz zamknięte oczy?
Hili: Wyobrażam sobie co zobaczę na tym talerzu jak je otworzę.

It’s turned cold around Dobrzyn, and even Leon, who hikes in the snow, finds it too chilly for his liking:

Leon: I think it’s too cold for walks.

It’s snowy in Winnipeg, too, but Gus is cozy resting on what he believes is a new cat bed. His staff writes:
It’s a good thing Gus reads so many languages. Otherwise he might not have known this was a cat bed. 🙂
Reader Phil sent this comic strip from Poorly Drawn Lines, adding, “Two of your favourite subjects, cats and cultural appropriation.” Indeed!
 And Matthew sent a tweet honoring one of my genetics heroes, the preternaturally bright Calvin Bridges:

The tweet below highlights an unusual fly (Matthew loves dipterans) that makes its living in and around the salty Mono Lake in California. Part of the summary from Science follows:

And while all the flies have a water-repelling waxy coat, only the alkali fly’s coat can repel Mono Lake water, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These adaptations have enabled the insect to feast with no competition on the lake’s algae. And that has enabled other life—like migrating birds—to live around the lake, as they feast on the flies.

One more from Matthew showing an otter’s defensive maneuver:

Here’s a tweet forwarded by reader Barry:

Finally, a tweet I stole from Heather Hastie, showing a lovely communion between a girl and her kitty:


  1. Posted November 21, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Is there any other country with two national anthems?

    South Africa has two anthems merged into one.

    “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” was a protest song in the Apartheid era, and is now merged with the previous “Die Stem van van Suid-Afrika” (The Call of South Africa).

    The decision to have the two anthems, and not just replace the Afrikaner-era one with the new one, was made by Mandela.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    That’s awesome that Roëmer and Einstein’s publications were the same day – the editors must have done that on purpose, using Roëmer’s as the reference.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Typo : Rømer

  3. Jeff Rankin
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Whew! That otter clip was like something from an Indiana Jones movie.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 22, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink

      Saw an otter at Auckland Zoo today. He was doing the meerkat standing-up thing. I didn’t know otters did that.


  4. Terry Sheldon
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Glad you enjoyed “Fences”! August Wilson is an American treasure and an honored son of Pittsburgh. He wrote a magnificent cycle of ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century, and most of them based around life in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. He died young and is sorely missed.

  5. Nicholas K.
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I once held the Piltdown “fossils” in my hands. I was doing some work at the British Museum and got a chance to examine them in person. Given the many strange things about them, I’ve always thought that the scientists saw what they wanted to see in the specimens. I think some of my students could probably tell they were fraudulent.

  6. Doug
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    “Science can be fooled.”

    So can religion. The difference is, that when a scientific idea is shown to be wrong, scientists abandon it. No scientist today believes in the Piltdown person (“But I WANT to believe it!”) Compare that to the Shroud of Turin, which millions of people still insist is genuine, despite being debunked back in the 1980s (in a scientific study issued with the approval of the Pope, no less).

    • rickflick
      Posted November 21, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      “with the approval of the Pope, no less”

      It’s curious, but I’ve often noticed that many people are more Catholic than the Pope.

  7. kieran
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    “On this day in 1920 it was “Bloody Sunday” in Dublin, an event orchestrated by Michael Collins’s IRA that wound up killing 32 people.” British security forces opened fire on Gaelic football fans in Croke park killing 14 people as a reprisal for Micheal Collins ordering the murder of british intelligence officers. Bit of a historical revisionism to say all were on Collins’ actions. You don’t catch people by murdering football fans some as young as 10 and 11.

  8. David Coxill
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Isn’t Mono lake in California?

    • Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Yes it is, and I’ve fixed it, thanks!

      • Hal
        Posted November 21, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Chapter 38 of Mark Twain’s Roughing It describes Mono Lake in one of my favorite bits of his writing: Telling of his mangy dog that had jumped overboard into the water, “But it was bad judgment . . . , and he struck out for the shore with considerable interest.”

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Fences was indeed terrific. As often happens when a great actor, like Denzel, turns his or her hand to directing, he lands a great performance himself and coaxes excellent performances from his costars, in a small character drama.

    What it isn’t, however, is great cinema. There’s fantastic dialogue from August Wilson, and a riveting (if not truly original) story arc, but it’s essentially Wilson’s play, filmed. There’s little effort to “open up” the play; few scenes take place beyond the environs of the house where the character’s live, and none of those are memorable (with the possible exception of Denzel and the great character actor, Stephen Henderson, on the back of the garbage truck).

    Still, the shear beauty of Wilson’s dialogue and the outstanding performances from all the leads alone make the movie worth repeated viewings.

  10. Blue
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I concur, Mr Kukec,
    including in re
    your “repeated viewings” –


  11. Ken Elliott
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry, for the reminder to watch “Fences”. I’ve been wanting to see it since before it was released in theaters, and totally forgot about checking for its release to streaming rental.

  12. Posted November 21, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I had visited Mono lake many years ago. A strange, otherworldly place. I was amazed by the huge, black carpets of flies that covered the ground. When I walked through them, they would fly around me in a dense blizzard with 10,000 wings creating a very nice cooling effect. And yet not a single fly would bump into me. Perhaps it was the same species.

  13. Posted November 21, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    To be fair (alas) the science museums here cost somewhere in between. Of course, they are usually more value for your money …

    (Our S&T museum just reopened, have to get out to it …)

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 21, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I think some of Canada’s museums have free days [such as on Canada Day] &/or one free evening a week, Also a ‘passport’ can be bought to reduce cost.

      In the UK all national museums have been free since 2001 – a great success in terms of visitor numbers & increased diversity of visitors. The tourists love it too [in those parts of the country where visitors go!]

      The National Lottery helps pay for [part of?] the loss in revenue + the increased sales at museum shops & cafes.

      • Posted November 23, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Right, but it is still not as effective as “free all the time” or near to it.

        Speaking of the UK, I did enjoy visiting the British Museum for the first time in 2012, and it was clear while eating that meals were a source of subsidy. 😉

  14. Les Faby
    Posted November 21, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    “Fences” has the great Viola Davis. How did others like her performance?

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