Monday: Hili dialogue

It’s my first Monday back: January 8, 2018. That means it’s National English Toffee Day (what?), as well as International Typing Day, which, since nobody actually types any more (at least on a typewriter), is celebrated instead to to “promote speed, accuracy and efficiency in written communication among the public.”

I’m slowly readjusting to the local time, though my sleep is still a tad disrupted, which is why this posting is late. The last two nights I had weird dreams about India. The first involved me and my father (now deceased) trying to import green beans (string beans) from India to the US, and getting them loaded on large ships. Last night I dreamed I was staying with a bunch of younger Indian students in their college, and had to eat in their canteen (which was impossible to navigate) as well as to attend a local entertainment, whose auditorium I couldn’t find. When I finally did, the entertainment consisted of a row of chairs on the stage, arrayed from front to back. In all of them sat Indian students save one in the middle, occupied by the American ambassador to India, who, on cue, waved his hands and danced in his chair. Then, leaving the entertainment, I flexed my shoulder, as I sometimes do now to give it mobility when it’s healing (it’s much better now), and a student yelled at me me, “Stop doing that with your arm!”  What does all of this mean?

On January 8, 871, Alfred the Great successfully led his West Saxon army against an invasion by the Danelaw Vikings. I had no idea that the Danes had been installed in England for several years. On this day in 1790, President George Washington delivered the country’s first State of the Union Address; it was in New York City. Exactly 38 years later, the Democratic Party of the U.S. was organized—and now it’s disorganized again.  On this date in 1835, or so says Wikipedia, “The United States national debt is zero for the only time.”  On January 8, 1973, seven men accused of breaking into the Democratic Party Headquarters went on trial: it was a dramatic opening of the Watergate affair. Two years later, Ella T. Grasso became the governor of Connecticut, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Governor who wasn’t succeeding to her husband’s position.  In 2004, the RMS Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever built, was christened by Queen Elizabeth II. That was a stalwart ship, and I’ve lectured on evolution aboard it (for free translatlantic fare) twice. We were, as “entertainment” treated quite well, even getting a 50% discount on alcohol. Here are three vanity photos from my 2006 lecture series:

A Gibson (shaken, not stirred) before the formal dinner, which required dark suits or tuxes. I still had black in my hair!

Jogging on deck:

About to climb into the jacuzzi on the top deck; it was COLD (nobody was on that extremely windy top deck), but it was lovely in the hot bath. This was the last trans-Atlantic crossing (east to west) for that year, and went from Southampton to Orlando; the ship does Caribbean cruises during the winter.

Finally, it was on this day in 2011 that an assassin killed five people in Arizona, critically wounding Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Notables born on this day include Alfred Russel Wallace (1823), Albert Bierstadt (1830), Gypsy Rose Lee (1911), Soupy Sales (1926; real name Milton Supman), Elvis Presley (1935), Graham Chapman (1941), Stephen Hawking (1942), David Bowie (1947), and Kim Jong-un (1984; has a small button).  I do love Bierstadt’s sweeping and grandiose landscapes; here’s “Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868)”:


There was a paucity of  deaths on January 8, the only person of note who expired was Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai—in 1976.

Today’s Hili dialogue needs a bit of explanation, which Malgorzata provided: “Andrzej was sitting on his chair and heard Hili purring. He looked around but didn’t see her. So he asked her where was she purring and it turned out that she was sitting behind him on the chair.”

A: Where are you purring?
Hili: Behind your back.
In Polish:
Ja: Gdzie ty mruczysz?
Hili: Za twoimi plecami.

Out in frigid Winnipeg, Gus is doing his best polar bear impression on the staff’s harpsichord:

And our tweets. The first is from Matthew, and it’s a capybara parade:

And one from Grania:

From ready Barry, a cat miscalculates:

And another from Grania: a baby elephant falling asleep on its feet:



  1. rickflick
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    The toffee I remember is Mackintosh’s:

    Commonly found in Canada, but not so much in the US. Not sure about other countries.

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      It was made in Norwich! When I was a lad there were competing smells of breweries & the chocolate factory. Sadly both gone, now joined by Coleman’s mustard – bastards moving out of Norwich after being there since they started.

      • David Coxill
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        I understand what you mean about smells from factories .
        In Feb 1988 (30 years ago ) i went down to London to work as a motorcycle courier .
        Based in Park Royal NW10 .
        One end there was the Guinness works ,the other there was McVitie’s works .
        I was living on a single meal of chips in the Evening ,and i was tormented by the smells coming from said factories .

        THIRTY YEARS AGO ,where did the years go.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      We have Mackintosh’s toffees in NZ too. They were the only ones you could get when I was a kid. Then we got the Werther’s originals invasion. I always think of Mackintosh’s as the originals.

      My sister and her partner lived and worked in Norwich for a while on a working holiday just after uni. One of the things they sent back was a Colman’s mustard pot from the factory. I always use Colman’s when I want hot English mustard, which is a lot at this time of year because of all the Christmas ham.

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Nigel Slater [great cook & food book writer] has a TOFFEE APPLE RECIPE ~ a fresh apple, coated in caramel on a lollipop stick. Crunchy & sweet. A staple on bonfire night when I was a kiddo, but too sweet for me now. Top notch set of gnashers essential to tackle the coating!

    • Frank Bath
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I bought them when a boy, one old penny. Lovely until you got through the thin skin of toffee to the sour inedible apple.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Interesting note on Washington’s first state of the union. The Union was only 12 states as North Carolina had just ratified but Rhode Island had not. Washington also hinted at the idea of a standing army but did not request it. The fear of any standing army was still very real as we should remember in our speculations about the 2nd Amendment. As I have stated before it was this early fear that had much to do with why and how that Amendment was constructed.

  4. Posted January 8, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Wait! Wasn’t Elvis born on January 8, my son’s birthday is today as well.

  5. Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Elvis and my son also share today as their birthdays

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      You’re right. He was born in 1935 and I’ll add that to the list. Don’t know how I missed it!

      • Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        Stephen Hawking…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Anybody misses the King’s birthday ain’t nothin’ but a hound-dog.

  6. Historian
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The drama Vikings has run on the History Channel for several years. Although highly fictionalized and speculative (much of Viking history is hazily known at best), it deals with the Vikings in the 9th century, including their invasion of England. Until I watched this show, I had no idea of their influence and power in Europe for many centuries. The show stimulated me to learn more about them. Its great entertainment and serves a useful purpose.

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      It also has Gaia Weiss, relative of Andrzej and friend of Hili. See her and Hili here.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      And of course, all this lead to Hagar the Horrible. The Viking for the funnies.

    • moleatthecounter
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      There were in fact many small invasions and incursions into what became England, for many years… From 793 CE onwards. They were more often than not paid to leave by the various Anglo-Saxon tribes throughout Wessex, Mercia, etc… The payments were later known as ‘The Danegeld’. (Dane Tribute, literally) It’s a complex period to grasp, but very interesting i think!

  7. Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    what? No Stephen Hawking?! Birthday…

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Oy! I missed him and Graham Chapman too–now added. Don’t know what was with me last night (when I made the list).

  8. Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Looks like Gus is practicing realizing figured bass.

    • Taskin
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Well, Gus figures if he does this, I’ll give him dinner.

  9. Hempenstein
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I know a guy who, after having squandered his undergrad years on a degree in divinity, is now pursuing a doctorate in a bioengineering program. For that he has to pass some calculus courses. His math skills, he finds, are about like that of the cat.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Oh no, not that old père et fils string-bean importation and ambassadorial chair dancing dream again!

  11. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Some people actually type on typewriters, among them, Tom Hanks He has been called a “typewriter enthisiast.” Good for him.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Don DeLillo writes his novels on an old Olympia manual. Says he enjoys the tactile, workmanlike feel of it.

  13. Posted January 8, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    That Bierstadt painting is lovely but I don’t think it is a real scene. It was painted in Rome and (I believe) is comprised of multiple sketches the artist made during trips to the American west beginning in 1859.

  14. Neil Faulkner
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve no excuse to be ignorant of the Danish impact on English history. Two minutes walk down the hill from my door is Dane Park, at the northern end of a post-glacial dry valley called … Dane Valley. Basically, I live right by the spot where the Danes first, at least allegedly, spent the winter in England, in 851.

  15. nicky
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t King Canute (Knud the Great) a Dane?
    The vikings raided and invaded Europe for long periods, and often established kingdoms or states. The Normans under Rollo (Normandy), Robert Guiscard conquering Sicily and Southern Italy, and the ‘Rus’ as the vikings were known in what is now Russia, I think the Kiew state (Ukraine) was also of viking origins.
    The present day scandinavians appear quite a bit more mellow than their fierce and feared ancestors.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Those North men (Normans) only beat the Saxons because Harold and his men were shagged out from the march from Stamford bridge in the north down to Hastings .

      Plus according to Michael Burke ,the Normans had stirrups for their horses .

      Must admit i have always been interested in the Normans being in Sicily .Even paid £37 for a secondhand copy of The Normans in Sicily by John Julius Norwich ,dog knows when i will get to read it .

      • nicky
        Posted January 9, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Well, as the Bayeux tapestry shows, the invasion by the Normans was an operation with military precision and prowess (Note I did not mention William the Conqueror at all).

        My young children prefer the animated version 🙂

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