Sunday: Hili dialogue

Good morning—it’s Sunday, January 28, 2018. It’s also National Blueberry Pancake Day (I erred yesterday, which was really National Chocolate Cake Day), and the feast day of Thomas Aquinas, who never ate a blueberry pancake. And, to my horror, I discovered that all the events I said happened yesterday (exclusive of births and deaths) actually happened on this day, on January 28. My apologies! I will therefore add a few events that happened on January 28 that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s Hili dialogue.

On this day in 1624, Sir Thomas Warner founded the first British colony in the Caribbean: on St. Kitts.  In 1807, London’s Pall Mall became the world’s first street lit by gaslight.  On January 28, 1820, a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev discovered the continent of Antarctica.  On this day in 1855, the first locomotive ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans across the Isthmus of Panama.  And—I’m a bit dubious about this—on this day in 1887, in a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, the world’s largest snowflakes were reported to fall: some were said to be 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) thick. Can this be true?  On this day in 1933, the name “Pakistan” was coined by Muslim activist Choudhry Rahmat Ali. On January 28, 1956, Elvis Presley first appeared on American television. It wasn’t Ed Sullivan (that was later), but the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show.  On this day in 1985, the single “We Are the World”, with proceeds going to charity, were recorded by a group of rock stars who called themselves “USA for Africa”. Here’s the video; how many singers can you recognize?:

And, on this day in 1986, while I was playing faculty/student soccer, I heard of the breakup of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded after liftoff, resulting in the death of all seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher sent in space (see below).

Those born on this day include Colette (1873), Jackson Pollock (1912) Claes Oldenburg (1929), and Sarah McLachlan (1968).  Those who died on this day include Henry VIII (1547), W. B. Yeats (1939), and the crew of the Challenger, including Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Dick Scobee, and Michael Smith.

As it’s McLachlan’s 50th birthday, let’s listen to one of her live performances. I’ve put this up before, but you can’t hear it too often. (Sean Ashby is on guitar.)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is tucked up warmly, thinking of the halcyon days of summer: blooming apple trees, green grass, and mice:

A: So you are hiding here.
Hili: Yes, I’m remembering better times.
In Polish:
Ja: Tu się schowałaś?
Hili: Tak, wspominam lepsze czasy.

Because I screwed up with the dates yesterday, I missed the fact that it was the UN-proclaimed International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Here’s a tweet found by Grania marking the event:

And a poignant tweet found by Matthew:

Read about this photo here and here (the woman in the photo, who died in the 1980s, was apparently identified). The photo was taken by a U.S. soldier who, with his troop, found the train after the Germans had abandoned it.

Another tweet found by Matthew; be sure to turn up the sound. Chicken birthday!

Also from Matthew; have you ever heard a giraffe vocalize?


  1. George
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    What does “aksi” mean? In the first line.

  2. mordacious1
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Elvis was on TV this morning? I knew he wasn’t dead, I just knew it!!

  3. BobTerrace
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    On January 28, 2018, Elvis Presley first appeared on American television.


  4. Jim batterson
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Re challenger tragedy, science or engineering majors or technical management and leadership policy folks should read prof feynmen’s “appendix f” to the rogers commision report on the accident. A copy of this short but very important set of observations from an independent physicist with an engineer’s mind can be found at it was my observation over the next 25 years at nasa that the safety culture saw a lot of actions but realized no fundamental change….inpart leading to the shuttle columbia tragedy. Feynman’s straight forward writing and pithy style is well worth a sunday morning read of this very sad anniversary.

    • nicky
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      If I remember correctly, it was about O-rings failing at low temperatures. They only looked at the few O-rings that had failed, and that graph was not very clear or obvious. However, if the non-failing O-rings were added, it became abundantly clear that low temperature was a serious risk-factor.
      The very low temperatures during the Challenger launch would then have been an absolute red flag, a ‘do not launch’. It would/should have been considered madness. A preventable tragedy -with hindsight, of course.

      • Jim batterson
        Posted January 28, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        I think it is not just hindsight. There was not supposed to be blow by in the o ring by design, so any blow bywas a red flag to a number of the engineers…temp dependence aside. I also think that there were no data at the extreme low temps that that nights cold soak provided for the solid rockets before the late morning launch. So they launched outside of the available test database. There was extreme mgt pressure on engineering staff to make the schedule. You know this stuff is dangerous enough, packing enough energy in a volume of a small house to make it to orbit in 8-10 minutes. We were not at war…nor would no launch mean a huge delay…like say launch windows to rendezvous with planets for gravity boost. The only “pressing” reason to launch was to have a talking point at the state of the union address and to the engineers that was not enough in weighing pro and cons to further endanger lives…but it was not their decision. Also at the end of the day, had the leak not been exactly where it was impinging hot gas on a connecting strut, and had there not been a significant wind shear event at max dynamic pressure, they might have made it, delaying nasa in its dealing with the o ring issue until the swiss cheese holes eventually lined up in some later mission..or maybe luck would hold until the shuttle retired…but hope is not an acceptable engineering strategy when life is at stake.

    • Posted January 29, 2018 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      As you say, well worth the read. The final sentence is a Feynman Classic:

      For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over
      public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

      • Posted January 29, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        That reminds me, I should put that up somewhere in my office, as it fits in with my new role in IT security …

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Always remember where you were at the moment of big events such as the Challenger explosion. I up early and in a car with three other folks going from Yokota to Misawa Japan. A long all day drive to think about it. I think the part that gets me about it is the attitude this type of travel was ready for passengers.

    • Posted January 28, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Yes. I was working at AT&T in Denver, CO. They had the TV news on continuously in an auditorium and people came in all day to see the latest.

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I was surprised to learn that Auschwitz was liberated over 3mos before Hitler offed himself. I guess if it had been in March it wouldn’t have surprised me. (The liberation of that train was in mid-April.)

    But if only von Stauffenberg had succeeded, it would have been the previous summer.

    • Historian
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      The picture reminded me that the series of events collectively called “The Holocaust” was one of the worst, but certainly not the last act of human madness. The holocaust in Uganda is an example.

      “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?” – “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” – Pete Seeger, 1955; additional verses by Joe Hickerson, 1960

      • mfdempsey1946
        Posted January 28, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        In the immediate wake of “The Holocaust” — “Never again!”

        Since then, “Ever again!”

        “When will they ever learn?” — Never…or so it continues to appear.

    • nicky
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, if only that briefcase had been put on the other side of that oak leg-blade of the table. One of the greater ‘fails’ in history.
      If the assassination and coup had succeeded, millions of lives would have been spared.

  7. George
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    It is hard to remember what a gut punch the Challenger disaster was to the American psyche. Maybe worse in Chicago. Two days earlier, the Chicago Bears had won the Super Bowl. The were greeted back to Chicago with a raucous parade.

    The 1985 Bears (the year of their regular season) were the most fun football team ever – The Super Bowl Shuffle, The Refrigerator, etc. Many still think that it was the best football team ever. Suddenly, all the joy was over.

    Ronald Reagan was supposed to give the State of the Union address that evening. It was cancelled. Reagan came on national television and gave a five minute speech.

    It is religious and you may not like Reagan, but you can see his appeal to a wide swath of this country. He was really good at this part of the job. Can you even picture little Donny, the short fingered orange vulgarian, dealing with such a situation. Makes me shudder.

    • nicky
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      well, it is a superficial expression of ‘grief’, not addressing at all what could have been the cause. And then this ridiculous ‘facing God’ at the end. Sad.
      Yes, I think such an occasion would be one of the few Mr Trump could do without a big ‘fail’.
      I’m not really up to the edge of historical knowledge, but didn’t the present rot in the US start with Mr Reagan?

      • George
        Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        The present rot started at the inception of the country. Remember the Know Nothings. The anti-Muslim hysteria is not as bad as the anti-papist hysteria of the pre-Civil War era.

    • Blue
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      O, thank you, Mr George, for this remembrance.

      It, indeed, was a punch to my / the nation’s
      gut. I was finishing the last rewrites of
      my dissertation and ‘d actually at the
      university had its departmental front
      office’s television .on. and tuned in that
      morning … … to specifically view its

      Then … … thus.


  8. Posted January 28, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    So many memories of events on this date. I remembered all the people in the We Are the World video. Went over all sad to see Ray Charles. He was such an amazing performer.

    An errie thing about Challenger. I was working when my desk lamp started flickering. I went to a neighboring office to ask if they had the same problem. The news then came over the radio. No correlation between the two, but I will always remember that flickering lamp when thinking of Challenger.

  9. Christopher
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I remember quite clearly what I was doing when I heard about the Challenger. I was home sick, spending the morning watching Star Wars on VHS. I stopped it just after the dogfight scene after the millennium falcon escapes the Death Star to go use the toilet and the disaster was all over the tv when I returned. I can also remember how disgusted I was the very next day at school when kids were joking about the deaths with a joke they clearly heard from their parents about NASA meaning Need Another Seven Astronauts. It was another one of those foundational moments in childhood that taught me that most people are a$$holes.

    • Posted January 29, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I don’t remember where I was when it happened but I do remember where I was when I found out about it, later the same day.

      I had just bought my dinner from the college cafeteria and I was walking to the common room area where there was a TV on which I could watch the news. As I walked in, the headlines started and I just stood there, shocked, for about five minutes with my tray of food.

  10. Posted January 28, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    OMFG, it was chocolate cake day yesterday and you goofed? Flying Spaghetti Monster, Jerry, I rely on you for accuracy in this! That you could goof on such an important day is devastating. I can’t even. I want my money back.

  11. Taskin
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Watching We Are the World, all I can think is that’s a lot of egos. (That and, look at all that ‘80s hair!)
    When I heard of the Challenger disaster, I was driving home from university band practice. I remember the sense of disbelief at what I was hearing from the radio.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I’m with you on the ego thing

  12. rickflick
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The giraffe sounds much like cattle. It’s curious though that they don’t make sound very often. Perhaps they have their social structure worked out so well they don’t need to communicate vocally.

    The Holocaust photo shows shock and joy on the faces, but the child has not yet come to a conclusion.

  13. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    ANTARCTICA: I’m amazed at the lateness of the date – 1820 for sighting & landfall the year after.

    SNOWFLAKES: Not 15″ snowflakes, but here’s a description of the likely conditions needed for very large ones to form:

    The drama had begun more than three miles up — unusually high — when large dendrites formed in moist winds that blew slightly upward, keeping the crystals aloft. “That gave them time to grow,” recalled R. Paul Lawson, a team scientist then working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo. “And it let them fall for a long time.”

    Eventually, the big crystals fell through a region of regular snowfall, Dr. Lawson said, bumping into smaller dendrites and needles along the way, gathering them up to form increasingly large clusters.

    “As they fell, they tended to accumulate,” he said. “Everything has to come together for it to work.”

    The team published its findings, “Observations and Numerical Simulations of the Origin and Development of Very Large Snowflakes,” in the November 1998 issue of The Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

    Taken from the NYT

    • Posted January 29, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      And Antarctica was still a relatively mysterious place, even 100 years later. That’s how HP Lovecraft was able to use it as he did, though I must say that the idea of 50K foot mountains was a bit far fetched even for then. (Also flying a plane up to them, but …)

  14. Nobody Special
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    One of Aussie comedian Adam Hills had an excellent theory (which was his 🙂) on why America has such an obesity problem.
    “In 1984, a group of British singers and musicians got together and recorded a song for charity, called Feed The World.
    A year later, a group of Americans recorded a charity single called We Are The World.

    • Posted January 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      A great teachable moment for us (sometime) logic instructors!

  15. nicky
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t know giraffes even could vocalise. sounds rather bovine. Thanks for that.

    • Posted January 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      A lot of other animals are quieter than us chatty primates!

  16. Sojourner
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m coming a bit late to the party on this but I live on the west coast and get up late.

    It is interesting to note the polite but sparse applause Elvis gets on his first television appearance on the Tommy & Dorsey Stage Show. Compare that to the enthusiastic response he gets on his 6th and final appearance at the end of March. Quite a difference.
    In fact, if you can listen to all six appearances you can here the applause grow over each television appearance.
    This was also over the time period that his first national hit, Heartbreak Hotel, became a million seller.

    • Sojourner
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Oops…should be “hear”.

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