Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning: it’s a Hump Day—Wednesday, January 24, 2018. It’s also National Peanut Butter Day, and that’s what I plan to have for lunch, as I often do.  I also have a flat tire, so posting may be lighter today while I deal with this annoyance.

I note that fantasy/science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin died yesterday at 88. Though I never read any of her works, I know that many people did—and loved them. The New York Times obituary reproduces this picture with her and her cat; their caption is below the picture, taken by well known photographer Jill Krementz—the widow of another sort-of-sci-fi/fantasy author, Kurt Vonnegut:

Author Ursula Le Guin at home with her cat, Lorenzo, in 1996. The writer’s “pleasant duty,” she said, is to ply the reader’s imagination with “the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.” Credit Jill Krementz, All Rights Reserve

On this day in AD 41, the debauched Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by his Praetorian Guards. They then proclaimed his uncle Claudius as emperor.  On January 24, 1848, James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada foothills, setting off the California Gold Rush.  In 1908, it was on this day that Robert Baden-Powell founded the first Boy Scout troop (in England).  On this day in 1972—and this is a weird one—a Japanese soldier from WWII surrendered. I’ll quote Wikipedia here:

Japanese Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi is found hiding in a Guam jungle, where he had been since the end of World War II.Despite hiding for twenty-eight years in an underground jungle cave, he had known since 1952 that World War II had ended.  He feared coming out of hiding, explaining, “We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.” Yokoi was the antepenultimate [JAC: note that word] Japanese soldier to surrender after the war, preceding Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda (relieved from duty by his former commanding officer on 9 March 1974) and Private Teruo Nakamura (arrested 18 December 1974).

Yokoi subsisted by hunting, mostly at night, and made bedding and other accoutrements from native plants. Hiding for 28 years, even when he’d known the war was over for two decades!  How lonely can that be? After returning to Japan, Yokoi lived until 1997, and the government gave him the munificent sum of $300 in back pay and a small pension. Before and after:

Here’s his first haircut in 28 years, taken shortly after he was captured:

On this day in 1984, after announcing the Macintosh personal computer during a Superbowl ad, Apple Computer placed it on sale. And it’s been Macs for me ever since. Finally, on January 24, 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed by electrocution in the Florida State Prison.

Notables born on this day include William Congreve (1670), Frederick the Great (1712), Edith Wharton (1862), my academic grandfather Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900), Ernest Borgnine (1917), Oral Roberts (1918), Neil Diamond (1941; just retired from performing because of his Parkison’s), Aaron Neville (also 1941), Sharon Tate (1943), Warren Zevon (1947), Alan Sokal (1955), Natassja Kinski (1961) and Mary Lou Retton (1968).

Those who died on January  24 include Lord Randolph Churchill (1895, Winston’s dad), Winston Churchill himself (1965, died on the 70th anniversary of his father’s death), Stooge Larry Fine (1975, real name Louis Feinberg), Ted Bundy (1989, see above), Thurgood Marshall (1993), and Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks (last year). Fine’s grave is in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has discovered a Law of Nature, or rather a Law of Predation:

Hili: Tasty things run out faster than those less tasty.
A: Many people discovered this phenomenon before you did.
In Polish:
Hili: Smaczne rzeczy kończą się szybciej niż mniej smaczne.
Ja: Wielu odkryło ten fenomen przed tobą.

Today we have five tweets found by Matthew. Who’s to say this raven isn’t enjoying itself? Ravens in winter! (An excellent book by Bernd Heinrich.)

Remoras hitchhiking on the body of a whale shark:

This is just weird, but true. The linked PLoS article gives the details.

More artistry from Japanese farmers:

Snark on religion:

And one from Grania:

Remember that, Pecksniffs!


  1. Graham Head
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    A small error, Winston Churchill died on the 70th anniversary of his father’s death, not his birthday.

  2. Posted January 24, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Never read any Le Guin? Then you may be in for a treat. Don’t like SF? It’s barely that – she’s all about people, the science fiction is just a vehicle. I’d recommend ‘The Birthday of the World’ collection.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      One feature that I like about Le Guin’s writing is that she is one of the very few SF writers who made her alien planets actually feel planet-sized. And you are right: she wrote about people.

  3. Steve Pollard
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Is that raven doing nothing more than having fun? It looks to me like it might be trying to get a parasite off its neck.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Or maybe it’s in the habit of going to that pond for a bath and now finds (to some chagrin) that the water isn’t there anymore, no matter how hard it tries to summon it forth.

  4. Posted January 24, 2018 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The French equivalent for an annoying nit-picker is ‘enculer des mouches’ – to sodomize flies. – MC

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Call me old-fashioned, but I’m gonna say that one qualifies as an “unnatural act.”

      The French, they are a funny race …

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      If you refer to the person not to the act, it is “enculeur (-euse) de mouches”. You can even add “au vol” (“in flight”) to recognize all the agility that person manifests to be so annoying.

      However, in public you better use “couper les cheveux en quatre”* or “chercher des poux sur la tête”**.

      * “to split hairs in four”. In fact it is closer to “slice” than to “split” because you need the rhetorical equivalent of a microtome.
      ** “to look for lice in the head”. A common activity in primate groups nonetheless.

    • nicky
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      In dutch they call it “miereneuker” literally: “ant-fucker”

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I remember when the Japanese soldier was discovered in 1972. Having been to Guam a few times it’s hard to believe he hid out all those years on an Island you can drive from one end to the other in 1/2 an hour. Where America’s day begins.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    That’s it; it’s “ant-fucking” instead of “nit-picking” for me from here on out.

    Thanks, Grania!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I like sodomizing flies.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Good grief! I meant that I like the expression, I’m not an irrumator of flies.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Sure ya did, Jenny.

          Dr. Freud will see you now.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink


  7. Joseph McClain
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I did indeed note the word “antepenultimate.” One of my pet peeves is the improper use of “penultimate.” Some people (who should know better) believe “penultimate” means really, really ultimate.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      There’s also “preantepenultimate,” for the thing before the thing before the thing before the last. 🙂

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        We discussed this before here I think – the penultimate discussion.

        … you know those recordings or books titled something “The Ultimate Frank Sinatra Collection”?

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    My new preoccupation: Google’s Ngram viewer : hump day :

    Click to view – it’d be cooler if it just showed up.

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    if you want to cut down on fat from peanut butter, try “PB2” peanut butter powder – tastes the same, pretty good, I recommend it.

  10. bric
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    On This Day in 1839 Charles Darwin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society

  11. Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Ursula Le Guin was my very first introduction that gender can be more than I thought.

    I think she hit upon some really useful ideas about people, social interactions, and just plain being happy to be apart of everything.

  12. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The Japanese soldier having a haircut: Why does human head hair & most facial hair grow endlessly? Or is the question why DOESN’T the hair of humans fall out [moult] once or twice a year like dogs, cats etc?

    Is there any other mammal that has endless hair growth [or doesn’t moult if that’s the right question]?

    • rickflick
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Excellent question. I wonder how long hair would get if it were left to it’s own nature. Perhaps an answer lies under the wrap of an old, Sikh gentleman. I guess it’s another way of asking: what would early humans look like in maturity without having been trimmed even once? Perhaps the creator of the universe wanted to make us humans special. I’m glad he didn’t do it by making us produce milk from our heads.

      • Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        I don’t know if they do anymore, but the Guinness record folks used to keep track of human hair length records. I seem to remember them claiming with most people it will stop or break off.

      • Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        A co-worker of mine let his fingernails grow for a long time and they curled around to touch his forearm. What a strange guy he was!

        • rickflick
          Posted January 24, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          Especially strange if operating a keyboard was part of his job description.

          • Posted January 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            It was. He was in software tech support, half of which was via email.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Left to itself, human hair doesn’t grow beyond about butt length. At that point the weight of the hair combined with the frictional forces of routine movement are strong enough to break the individual strands. Growing it much longer than that requires special care to avoid such routine stresses. Basically you have to keep it wrapped or pinned up and let it down only on special occasions.

        Apart from that, hair follicles have a natural life cycle; an individual follicle produces hair for only a few years at a time before going dormant and shedding the hair. That puts an upper limit on how long hair can get even with the best care. (It’s also why some men go bald: the cycle shifts with age so that most follicles are dormant most of the time.)

  13. Richard Bond
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Does anyone really believe that the emperor Gaius would really rule under a nickname acquired when he was four that meant “Little Boots”? The Emperor Gaius by J.P.V.D. Balsdon makes an interesting case that he was misrepresented and vilified by authors under the patronage of the Senate, which he despised.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      He mean he was not as mad as a box of Frogs?

      • Richard Bond
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Balsdon describes Gaius as a pragmatic and forceful ruler who perceived the army as lazy and the Senate as corrupt and ineffectual. No wonder that they slandered and murdered him.

  14. David Coxill
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Fish producing milk ,whatever next.

    Don’t know if you have seen this ?

    Hope you don’t mind me putting on here ?

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure the Bible says rape is OK.

    The prophet Ezekiel clearly thinks the problem with Sodom was gang-rape, and it was not believed to be homosexuality until the high Middle Ages.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      If you look at the Genesis 19 account of Sodom, the sin is not so much rape or homosexuality. It is one of inhospitable behavior towards guests.

      What makes Lot a righteous man is that he is prepared to hand over his virgin daughters to be raped by his neighbors instead of his angelic guests. Rape is okay when dad says so.

      Actually, this story of women being handed over to be raped by a mob to resolve a problem gets recycled several times in the Old Testament. The method is still in use in some dark corners of the world. Humanity really sucks sometimes.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Larry Fine of the Three Stooges was a genuinely talented violinist. He started it as therapy for an arm injury. He apparently attended the original Woodstock in 1969.

  17. Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Kurt Vonnegut was at least a meta-sci-fi author as some of his characters were sci-fi authors. Their stories often involved the planet Tralfamadore.

  18. Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The fish that leaks “milk” from its head is truly amazing. Makes me wonder how that could have gotten started. Perhaps an ancestor had birth defect involving a leaky head. The kids flourished and the rest is history.

  19. XCellKen
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m fairly certain that no one except myself cares about this, but on this day in 1935, the beer can was first introduced to the general public.

    The Kruger Brewing Co. of Newark, NJ, released their beer in cans in the Richmond, Virginia market. They released it far away from their home market, so if beer in cans was a failure, it would not reflect poorly on their home market.

    The release must have been a success, because beer cans are still with us today. Except now they are made outta aluminum instead of tin plated steel

  20. nicky
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I think the Japanese govt was really very shabby with Yokoi. Such dedication, even when for a lost and/or wrong cause, his reluctance to be taken alive and living in solitude and destitution for that for decades, would have deserved some more recognition, methinks.
    They could at least have decorated him with -or created- a medal for perseveration, and a good kind of handshake, with three more zero’s.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      A6M Zeros?

  21. James Walker
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    As others have noted, the Le Guin’s SF is a vehicle for her ideas about people and societies. Her father was the noted anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, and there’s an anthropological element in all her writing. If you read nothing else by her, I recommend the novel “The Dispossessed”, which provides a portrait of what a functioning anarchic society might look like.

    • lkr
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      LeGuin’s mother Theodora was pretty remarkable also. I read her biography of Ishi in a freshman anthro class, and it’s memorable 50 years on.

      Some time in the last several decades I lost the ability to enjoy fiction, but LeGuin’s worlds are still alive to me. Left Hand of Darkness, Lathe of Heaven, even the EarthSea fantasies are all remarkable.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      The Dispossessed is indeed one of her best books, though I’d quibble with both “anarchic” and “functioning”. The society it depicts is collectivist, not libertarian, and (as I recall) fairly dysfunctional. But it’s a good many years since I last read it.

      • James Walker
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        Collectivist yes, but I mean “anarchic” in the literal sense that there is no government. That society is functional (though maybe not one most of us would want to live in), it’s the others (the stand-ins for the US and USSR) that are depicted as dysfunctional in the novel.

        I’ve read the book several times over the last 20 years. I might re-read it again now in honour of Ms Le Guin’s passing.

  22. barn owl
    Posted January 25, 2018 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Take that, crop circles!

  23. Lorrie von Allmen
    Posted January 25, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    The first example of the use of pedant in a sentence on today is:

    All too often, science fiction provokes the pedant in professional scientists, for whom a beautiful story can be ruined by a single petty error. – Jerry A. Coyne, New York Times Book Review, 10 Oct. 1999

    serendipity. nice.

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