Monday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on another frigid and snowy day: Monday, February 5, 2018. The temperature in Chicago is -2° F (-19° C), and I froze my ears walking to work. It’s World Nutella Day, and despite the fact that the stuff is universally loved, I tried it for the first time last year and didn’t like it. In the U.S. it’s National Weatherpersons Day (why couldn’t they call it “National Meterologists Day”?).

In sports news (a rarity here), every American knows that, against all odds, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in the Superbowl; the score was 41-33. I even watched a bit of it. And so we’ll sign off at the sports desk until next year.

Not much happened on this day in history. On February 5, 1852, the Hermitage Museum opened in St. Petersburg, Russia. I spent two days visiting it a few years ago, and it’s the best art museum I’ve ever seen, as it’s in a royal palace.  On this day in 1885, King Leopold II of Belgium established the Congo as a “personal possession”—a corporate entity that he controlled.  On this day in 1909, Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland announced his creation of the world’s first artificial plastic: Bakelite. (I had a Bakelite clarinet when I played in my junior high school band.) Exactly a decade later, the film and entertainment studio United Artists (still going) was founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. On February 5, 1939, Franco became the “Caudillo”—the leader of Spain who served—if that’s the right word—until his death in 1975, and the big news is that he’s still dead. Finally, on this day in 1988, Manuel Noriega was indicted on drug smuggling and money laundering charges. He was jailed in the U.S. in 1992, then extradited to France in 2010, and then to Panama in 2012, where he died in prison in May of last year.

Notables born on February 5 include Robert Peel (1788), the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908), Red Buttons (1919), Hank Aaron (1934), Al Kooper (1944), Charlotte Rampling (1946) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (1962). Here’s a live performance of my favorite song by Al Kooper (the original by Blood, Sweat & Tears is here).

Those who expired on this day include Thomas Carlyle (1881), Marianne Moore (1972), and Wassily Leontief (1999).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili made a pun.

A: What are you doing there?
Hili: I’m working behind the screens.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam robisz?
Hili: Pracuję za ekranem.

In Winnipeg, Gus’s staff watched the great Turkish cat documentary Kedi, and Gus joined in. If you like cats, or Turkey, watch it! The staff report (with photos):

I finally got to watch Kedi! Gus found it riveting, but he didn’t care for the fight scenes. He leapt on to the railing after the first meow and tried to find the cat. Later, he settled onto the harpsichord bench and stared intently at the screen for the duration. The only other times he has been interested in the television is when there were birds.

Here’s a d*g + cat tweet found by Grania:

And another, which is the best biology tweet of the decade. It shows how science can solve a long-unanswered philosphical conundrum:

Grania also sent an owl:

Two tweets sent by reader Gethyn (half of the staff of Theo, the espresso-drinking cat):

And two tweets found by Dr. Cobb. Look at that lizard scuttle for blueberries!

And this is surprising—and sad:


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I watched the last quarter on the Google game results page – no images of game play, just numbers and things. Sad, but, we all have our little ways.

    The patriots excel at overcoming such odds, but also excel at disappointing everyone at the worst possible time.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    One has to wonder what did the other 92 percent of seniors think was the cause of secession. Just thought it was a nice idea? If they still teach history in high school there are some teachers out there who have failed. Maybe this survey was taken in Alabama?

    • Christopher
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      It was about state’s rights and economics, of course! That’s the crap you’ll hear in Missouri other southern states, outside the more liberal cities and suburbs anyway.

      As for the Stupor Bowl, which I didn’t watch, did Philadelphia win or lose? I mean yeah, he team gets a shiny hunk of metal but the rest of the citizenry gets riots and looting.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        Well, Missouri is the “show me” state which means in a nice way – dense. So just extend that statement – States rights to do what? Have Slaves. Are the people of Missouri familiar with the Missouri Compromise of 1820? Maybe the Kansas-Nebraska Act or Dred Scott?

    • Carl S
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      It was an official part of the curriculum for 4th grade Virginia history (and other grades where US History was somewhat Virginia-centric)in the 1950’s. Probably was on the exams, but like Jeff Sessions, I can’t recall. Don’t know when or if that changed.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Every Lost Cause revisionist knows that tariffs and states’-rights were the cause of “The War Between the States.” This is one instance where I’m hoping the answer to the stat in the NPR tweet is bog-standard ignorance, rather than the inculcation of students in a debunked narrative.

      • loren russell
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        “War Between the Stetes” is polite talk, in front of Yankees and Eggheads. “War of Northern *Aggression” is what they mean.

        *Aggression meaning those dang-nab tariffs on slaves.

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I think the answer on the other 92% is simple. They didn’t know. “Civil War? Yeah, I heard of that.”

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I read the article. Half thought it was taxes and tariffs. So basically they thought secession was part of the Revolution and not the Civil War. Which means there’s another problem with how well history is being taught. How they would have answered the question if the words “Civil War” were included is unknown.

      The way history is taught in young countries like yours and mine is a problem. We’re proud of our countries, and a lot of our identity is tied up in the good stuff about them. But there was bad stuff too, and some of it is worse than bad, and it’s hard to talk about.

      So they focus on the good stuff. The article says there’s a lot taught about heroes like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas, and almost nothing on the white supremacist attitudes that made slavery possible, or the reality of the brutality, cruelty etc suffered by slaves.

      The article, of course, makes no mention of the role of religion. If it gets a mention, I suspect that’s only positive too.

      • Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:16 am | Permalink

        Old countries have even more of bad stuff, because it accumulates.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, but they handle it differently. They’re comfortable with the older stuff, and they usually don’t deny anything. Germany, for example, makes a point of self-flagellation over the Nazi era.

  3. Linda Calhoun
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    My favorite Al Kooper story:

    The Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock group formed by Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, and several other authors, engaged Al Kooper as their music director.

    The group toured around the country a few times to raise money for literacy programs.

    Dave Barry’s description of Kooper’s main contribution was to periodically say, “Maybe we’d better not do that song”, after hearing the band give it a try.


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      It’s a pity they never did Reading Festival…

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      I saw The Remainders some years ago, in a tiny Coconut Grove bar I’d occasionally frequent, “rehearsing” for an upcoming gig at the Miami Book Fair. Warren Zevon (who was buddies with South Florida novelist and journalist Carl Hiassen, who also occasionally frequented the same bar) was sitting in with them on a fretless bass.

      • Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Lucky you! WZ was an amazing musician and song writers (and front man). Waaaay too soon gone.

        Helluva piano player and not bad on guitar as well.

  4. rickflick
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    — why couldn’t they call it “National Meterologists Day”? —

    I think ‘Meteorologist’ is a protected name. You’d require a degree in meteorology. A weatherperson may or may not be a meteorologist.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I believe you are correct on that. Just as being a Meteorologist does not make you a forecaster either.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

        Well forecasting is what meteorologists often do; maybe they really mean “presenters”.

  5. GBJames
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    It is embarrassing how little Americans know about the Civil War.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Because I and maybe two other people in the U.S. are concerned with this, I did a quick check on this. It was a NPR report or article but all they are doing is parroting the Southern Poverty Law Center who did this study and then reports their reasons or excuses for this poor finding. They say it is the failure of the schools to teach “hard history” today. Now, I have no idea what they mean by the term hard history, it is simply history and there is nothing hard about it. Attaching this term “hard” to the subject of history is wrong and is nothing more than giving a pass to our poor education system. I guess if the students know nothing about math or science it is because they are not teaching hard math and science.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        Jeff Hall is – they say – a Civil War savant.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        I think they mean “hard” as opposed to “soft”, not “hard” as in “difficult”.

        Soft history sounds to me like propaganda, because facing complex and uncomfortable issues would upset someone.

        All you have to do about the Civil War is read a few of the declarations of secession. Most of them specifically mention the preservation of slavery as their primary reason for leaving.


        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          So learning the reality of something is hard because it might upset some kids. Then the education system is in worse shape than I thought. Instead of thinking the kids might have slept through class we have an educational system that alters reality so as not to upset someone. Not so different from promoting ignorance for the sake of the child.

        • W.Benson
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          Linda, the declarations of secession were not the political reasons for Southern independence, but rather affirmations of imagined deep cultural difference that would justify the Confederacy establishing a separate nation given the economic, political, and cultural factors that sparked secession.

          It was, in my view, Lincoln who willfully caused the Civil War. He thought a war with the Southern agricultural states having half the population of the North would be slam-dunk. Lincoln’s idea was use the Constitution to take slaves (property) from their Southern owners and then use stick-and-carrot methods to induce free blacks (not citizens, that didn’t occur until 1870) to emigrate. Without a war, Lincoln lacked the authority or the cash to free slaves from their owners. The idea was to get free colored people to participate in wild-hair colonization schemes promoted by Lincoln and his associates in South America (e.g., coal mining in Chiriqui, Panama).

          Had Lincoln survived his second term, America would probably have been much whiter today. It was, in my view, a good if not optimal outcome that African Americans, after the abolition of slavery, escaped Yankee ethnic-cleansing and afterwards fought their own way into the sun. BLM.

          • Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:19 am | Permalink

            Even if he had survived, I do not think that he would be able to carry out ethnic cleansing.

            • W.Benson
              Posted February 6, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

              I am referring to a soft form of ethnic cleansing involving carrot-and-stick ‘deportation’. Lincoln proposed packing off genetic undesirables (people of African origin) to Liberia or Chiriqui, Colombia (now Panama), where he, Lincoln, had, at least this is what he told a White House meeting* of Washington DC free blacks in mid-1862, a coal mining scheme in the works for those willing to give up living in the United States. (BLM)

              *after making it explicit he considered those present to be inferior to whites

              • Posted February 6, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

                I can quite believe that he had such ideas. What I meant was that reversing or redirecting a large-scale human migration is easier said than done.

          • GBJames
            Posted February 6, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

            “Lincoln who willfully caused the Civil War”

            Which is why he attacked Fort Sumpter, no doubt.

            • W.Benson
              Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

              Fort Sumter was a set up. Numerous forts and arsenals were taken over by the Confederates without firing a shot. South Carolina had already driven off an attempt to resupply Fort Sumter before Lincoln’s inauguration. Lincoln made it clear in his inauguration address on March 4, 1861, that he would not allow the South to take Federal property (they already had) or not pay Federal taxes and duties. Lincoln told Fort Sumter to hold out. South Carolina, rather than lay siege, ordered a shelling on April 12. The next day the Federals surrendered without having suffered any fatalities. The only soldier to die did so in an accident when the U.S. troops fired a gun-salute as they left the fort.

              The Britannica site provides the following interpretation:
              “Lincoln gave [South Carolina secessionist Governor Francis] Pickens precise information regarding his intention [to resupply and defend Fort Sumter]. He [Lincoln] must have foreseen the actual event. Through war, the Union could be restored, and the North, which was not agreed on policy, could be united.” I agree. It was a set up.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 6, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                “Numerous forts and arsenals were taken over by the Confederates”

                Further evidence of how the Confederacy was simply the victim of northern aggression.

  6. George
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Not all weatherpersons are meteorologists. Many weatherpeople are just pretty faces who read a report in front of a green screen. Meteorologists are actually trained and certified.

    Dara O’Briain talks about protected terms – like nutritionist (not) vs dietitian (protected), toothiologist vs dentist. I imagine weatherperson vs meteorologist falls into that realm.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Yes I remember that bit!

      … ah, I like your “toothologist vs. dentist” mnemonic… or whatever that is…

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      The US has a few less of these than elsewhere – like “engineer” is apparently not one, whence “networking engineer” or MCSE.

  7. John Thorne
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I went to grade school in Texas in the 50s and 60s. We were taught to call it The War Between the States and that it was fought over states’ rights. It wasn’t until high school that slavery was mentioned as the real cause. Looks like things haven’t changed much.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I have heard folks in the South refer to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression.”

  8. Eddie Janssen
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    English is not my first language so I may be missing something but shouldn’t the question “Which came first, the egg or the chicken?” be rephrased into “Which came first, the chicken-egg or the chicken?”

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t that be a meaningless question then? There is no first chicken or first chicken egg, so there is no point which you can point to and say one of them came first.

  9. Christopher Henson
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Does the figure of 8% for the percentage of High School seniors who think slavery the reason the South seceded mean that the other 92% are not aware that there was a Civil War? The NPR report is incomplete.

  10. Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Cute owl. And in my opinion, the points for science were understated. Remember Aristotle’s philosophy against Newtonian mechanics?

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