Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on Tuesday, February 20, predicted to be extraordinarily warm in Chicago, with a high of 58° F (14° C). It will also be pouring rain most of the day, as it is already. But all that will not only melt the snow, but wash the grime and salt off my car.  It’s also National Muffin Day, but I think I might have a donut instead. Finally, I don’t know how to say this, but it’s also the World Day for Social Justice.

Let’s begin with a tw**t that’s gone viral: a guy destroys his AR-15 and explains why:

On February 20, 1472, Norway “pawned” Orkney and Shetland to Scotland in lieu of a dowry for Margaret of Denmark, who became Queen of Scotland. But if they were pawned, why do they still belong to the UK instead of Norway? Did Norway not turn in the pan ticket and get the islands back?

On this day in 1792, George Washington signed the Postal Service Act establishing the US Post Office, whose worst service is now in Chicago. On this day in 1816, Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” had its premiere in Rome, and, in 1872, it was on this day that the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City. Another premiere: on February 20, 1877, Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake” opened at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. On this day in 1935, Caroline Mikkelsen, a Danish/Norwegian explorer, became the first woman to set foot in Antarctica, though it’s not clear whether she landed on the continent itself or on an island. On this day in 1942, Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare became World’s War II’s first flying ace. He was shot down in 1943, and his plane was never found. O’Hare Airport in Chicago is, of course, named after him.

On this day in 1943, The Saturday Evening Post published the first  illustration of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms (“Freedom of Speech”), following President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address, which had that theme. Six years ago, the Moving Naturalism Forward meeting was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home of Norman Rockwell, and I visited his studio and museum with Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Here’s Richard standing in front of the original “Freedom of Speech” painting, which shows an ordinary guy speaking his mind at a New England town meeting.

On this day in 1962, a day I remember well, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, completing three orbits in his Friendship 7 capsule. It took about five hours. Finally, on this day 20 years ago, American figure skater Tara Lipinski became the youngest gold medalist at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She was just 15 years old. You can see Lipinski today as one of NBC’s skating commentators for the Korean Olympics.

Notables born on February 20 include Ludwig Boltzmann (1844), Louis Kahn (1901), Ansel Adams (1902), Robert Altman (1925), Sidney Poitier (1927; 91 today), Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941), Walter Becker (1950; died last year), Gordon Brown (1951), Patty Hearst (1954), Cindy Crawford (1966), and Trevor Noah (1984).  Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on this day include William, Prince of Orange (1618), Frederick Douglass (1895), Robert Peary (1920), Gene Siskel (1999), Sandra Dee (2005), John Raitt (2005; actor, father of Bonnie), Hunter S. Thompson (2005), and Alexander Haig (2010).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is speculating idly. Malgorzata explains: On a walk Hili was observing with fascination workers dismantling a house.  Andrzej was fascinated with her fascination. That’s the origin of the dialogue.


Hili: What are they doing there?
A: They are demolishing an old house.
Hili: They will probably build something else.
 In Polish:
Hili: Co oni tam robią?
Ja: Burzą stary dom.
Hili: Pewnie będą coś budować.

Grania sent me this tw**t, and I thought it was fake news, but it’s not. You can find the full story here (or click on headline below the tweet).

From Matthew, who added this:

I think what’s going on here is in fact quite interesting – the pigeon has momentum, but also wants to keep control of the space it’s kicked its rival off. The only solution is to dissipate the momentum in a dramatic backward roll, then it can settle. Working all that out in its little brain, so quickly, is pretty damn smart.

Matthew sent this, too, calling it “recursive dog”. He thinks it’s real, but is it really Photoshopped? I’m thinking it’s real.

From Grania—A cat with its own pet:

And a lovely murmutation of starlings. Remember, nobody really knows why they do this:

This black dog, named Paddy the Magnificent Hound, is owned by reader Tim Anderson. It is a black dog.


  1. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    why is Dawkins standing in front of a painting of the American stand-up comic Rich Hall? Freaky.

    • Tod
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      hehe I saw Steve Young ex-49er’s QB 🙂

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      I like Rich Hall ,sometimes he presents documentaries on the BBC .
      Fav line from one goes
      “If Jeremy Clarkson Turns Out To Be A Woman I Would Not Be At All Surprised “.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      It’s Martin Keown, ex Arsenal and England defender.

      Or maybe Anthony Perkins.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      And here (seeing the photo of Dawkins and that painting again) I thought the guy in the painting looked a lot like Wittgenstein.

  2. Linda Calhoun
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Many years ago I went to see a revival of Carousel at Lincoln Center. We had tickets in the nosebleed seats, three rows from the very back.

    John Raitt had such an ability to project his voice that he sounded like he was singing from the aisle right next to us.



  3. George
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    O’Hare became the first Flying Ace of the US Navy. There were many aces from other countries. I think O’Hare was the first US ace period. His father was a tax lawyer who worked for Al Capone and eventually testified against him. He was killed by Capone’s henchmen in November 1939.

    PCC(e) is excited that the rain will clean off his car. I am more excited that the rain will clean off the streets. So much salt was dumped on them during Chicago’s nine straight days of measurable snow (Feb 2-10) that everything is grey and dirty.

    I lived in zip code 60613 when it and 60657 (both in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood on the north side near Wrigley Field) were ranked the absolute worst mail service in the US – the 1990s and 2000s. Not sure if they still are. I had more grounds to complain than Jerry.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      First ace WWII. There were many during WWI.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      The first American WWII flying ace was Lieutenant Colonel William Robert “Poppy” Dunn – August 1941, Battle of Britain


      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Strike the BoB bit – that was the year before of course

      • mordacious1
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Only if you support the Euro-centrist view of when WWII began. The Chinese might argue that it began in 1937. If one accepts that premise, then the first ace would be John “Buffalo “ Wong, a Chinese-American who flew for the Chinese Air Force.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          I’m happy to give it to lieutenant colonel Sun-Shui Wong. He did well to survive as long as he did – flying a biplane throughout whilst up against [eventually] A5Ms & A6Ms.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    The dog in Sherwood Park has the “Droste effect” — if it’s been photoshopped, then I ‘spoze it’s an instance of mise en abyme.

  5. GBJames
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    It must be too early for me. I had to work at this post because I kept seeing “Norway “pwned” Orkney and Shetland…”.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 2:35 am | Permalink

      Well, Norwegian vikings did that first – the pwning (nobody knows what happened to the indigenous populations – and there were definitely were such populations). Then they, or rather the impoverished king of Denmark & Norway, pawned them second – in lieu of a dowry… That is to say, they gave Scotland the islands as security for a yet-to-be-paid, and in the event never-to-be-paid dowry when the maid of Norway married James III of Scotland; which is why both sets of islands became Scottish possessions.

      An eartly nourris sits and sings,
      And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
      Little ken I my bairnie’s faither,
      Far less the lan that he staps in.”

      Then ane arose at her bed fit,
      And a grumly guest I’m sair was he,
      Saying “Here am I, thy bairnie’s faither,
      Altho’ that I am not comely.”

      I am a man upo’ da lan,
      I am a silkie i’ da sea,
      And when I’m far frae ivera stran’,
      My dwelling’ is in Sule Skerry.”

      • Tim Harris
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 3:06 am | Permalink

        Actually, not the Maid of Norway – that was about two centuries earlier. I’m mixing up two Margarets. The earlier had a claim to the crown of Scotland, and died in Orkney at the age of seven, having been shipped there from Norway, supposedly from the effects of acute sea-sickness.

        • GBJames
          Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          I’ll look her up in the fall. 🙂

          (My wife and I will be visiting Orkney in October.)

          • Tim Harris
            Posted February 21, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

            And read that wonderful ballad, ‘The Great Selkie o’ Sule Skerry’ (a silkie is a shape-changing seal)! – I quoted the Shetland version, which nowadays is usually sung to a good melody that was invented, I think, by an Scottish-American singer; but the Orkney version, which begins, as I recall, ‘In Norrowa lan’ there lived a maid’, has a beautiful traditional melody.

            • GBJames
              Posted February 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

              I know of the selkies because of a 1994 movie we watched with our kids when they were young: The Secret of Roan Inish. It is quite a good little film.

              I imagine the film is based on the legend recorded in that poem/song.

  6. Christopher
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I admit I did tear up a bit watching that guy destroy his gun. I hope he inspires others to do the same.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      There was another one recorded on NPR. He turned his in to the police to be destroyed and it too is pretty viral. This one was a guy living not too far from the current tragedy in Florida.
      But..*sigh*.. other commentary from gun rights advocates leads me to expect this energy will not go far and in the end once again nothing substantial will be done.
      ‘We’ (meaning a significant % of those on the other side) are not ready yet.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        I’m sad to have to agree. The murmurs the GOP are making about maybe something could be done, is just buying time. They are waiting of course for people to forget, which will happen all too soon. After a few more news cycles we move on to other important issues leaving the NRA to gloat. The best chance of at least some small changes would be with a new congress.

        • Posted February 20, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          “The best chance of at least some small changes would be with a new congress.”

          Great. You can hope for that, but then don’t come crying to me about the mess when the pigs get tired and come crashing out of the sky.

          • rickflick
            Posted February 20, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

            Not a chance. I already have my padded
            pig helmet.

  7. Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t see murmurations of starlings here in the U.S., even though they do gather in large flocks. Is this a thing on the other side of the pond, or does it happen here too?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Here’s a Murmurtion map – the USA features strongly

    • Christopher
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      I have often seen massive mixed flocks of starlings, grackles, and various blackbirds flying across the southbound 71hwy/I-49 near the Missouri-Kansas boarder once in get past the exurban sprawl. They appear to thrive in the mix of corn fields and cattle pastures. These tend to be long thick bands of birds stretching across the horizon as far as one can see, often several bands of similar sizes can be seen and take several minutes to pass. They don’t always form murmurations but will if they spot a hawk or some other predator, and as I understand, this is the most likely explanation for the murmurations as they are more frequently seen in response to predation.

  8. DrBrydon
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I like when the Starlings form a whale at 0:18.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    It is good to see the young people taking up the cause of gun control and protesting in Florida and many other places. One of their best calls was — Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids did you Kill Today.

  10. darrelle
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I think the starlings are just doing some group calisthenics before settling down for the evening. Like Jazzercise.

    Or maybe it’s their equivalent of synchronized swimming and they’re practicing for the next summer Olympics.

  11. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Lucy “The Selfie Pup” has her own Instagram accnt – kids today eh

  12. Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Typo Alert– “Notables born on November 20 include” Uh, it is February 20.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Thanks; I’ve fixed it. It was a typo; the birthdays and other stuff are all correct.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        There are some of us who have a form of synesthesia where we experience time and dates geometrically. (For me, the months of the year are arrayed like a clock or pie chart.) I’m starting to suspect your February/November symmetry may reflect something similar.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted February 20, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          That’s interesting. I have this thing where music is tied to a place. You could name any song to me and it will be unconsciously associated with a particular geographical location from my past. It’s the same every time – Perfect Day is a scene of Manhattan from a film I once saw, A Day In The Life is the apple tree in our garden, as is Hey Bulldog, Paranoid Android is the old goose hut in the fields. None of it the one-to-one associations seem to make much sense, but they’re perfectly reliable in that they’re the same each time, and they’re immediate and instinctive.

  13. dabertini
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Good on Mr. Pappalardo. Somehow I don’t think Ted Nugent will follow suit.

  14. Mike Raaymakers
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    You know a muffin can be very filling.

    • Mike Raaymakers
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      (I had a donut, too)

    • dabertini
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      What about a big salad with volleyball size tomatoes?

  15. glen1davidson
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Kitteh puppet master.

    Glen Davidson

  16. lezurk
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Scott Pappalardo didn’t destroy his AR15, he merely cut through the barrel, gas tube, and fore end which could be replaced in twenty minutes. What a phony. Now, if he had cut through the upper and lower receiver sections as well, now THAT would have destroyed the gun.

    • lezurk
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Another thing I noticed – the AR in the video is a left handed model! I am not sure if anyone made a left hand version thirty years ago.

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        What’s your point, lezurk? The guy is lying about owning the gun? That he secretly re-built the weapon after he sawed it in half? What?

        • lezurk
          Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          The point is he didn’t destroy his gun, and it could be rebuilt in no time. But people unfamiliar with firearms bought into it big time. Hell, he maybe wanted to upgrade to a better barrel and free floating fore end. Yeah, I am that cynical because he did not properly destroy it. (I screwed up on the left hand thingy – reverse mirror image – oops)

          • GBJames
            Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            I get it. He’s really a pro-gun NRA advocate who is posting a video of not-really destroying his gun because…

            Wait, now I’m lost.

            I think there is more than a mirror involved in your confusing position.

            • lezurk
              Posted February 20, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

              I must apologize for my stupid earlier post – what was I thinking? I guess I have become that jaded. I live in a rural community filled with 2nd amendment cultists and it does wear on me, and yes, I am a gun owner and hunter. The truth of the matter is a couple of people cutting up guns will have little or no effect on gun policy in America. What is needed is much stronger gun laws, a repeal of the 2nd Amendment, and an Australian style compulsory buyback of all large capacity guns that are the main contributors to the carnage that our country experiences because of its gun culture. I am also not deluded to think this will ever happen.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 20, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                I agree that it will take all that. However, I’m “deluded” enough to think it will someday happen. Eventually enough people will have been slaughtered that the tide will turn. But maybe not in my lifetime.

              • rickflick
                Posted February 20, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                A repeal of the 2nd Amendment would suit me just fine, but thinking from a strictly practical viewpoint, simply interpreting it more narrowly would have much the same effect. This would require that the Supreme Court be filled with realism and compassion. I’m thinking now that the well regulated militia is actually the Army Reserve not the kids down the block.

              • Michael Waterhouse
                Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

                I wondered if it would be the receiver or the barrel too
                I had already noticed the mirror image on his shirt.

                Australia, ah, Australia.
                America needs much more than a big gun buy back.
                It needs massive restriction on handguns and a change in the law that says a firearm can be used for personal protection.

                The real reason Australia is different is because we have never been able to obtain a gun for personal protection, any gun, and handguns were always more heavily restricted.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Lezurk – you are uninterested in engaging in the important issues regarding weapons so you’ve decided to troll

      [1] His facebook video is reversed, so that’s a normal “righty” weapon. If you doubt that then check the shirt logo & his facial mole – in real life his mole is on his right cheek as per his main fb photo

      [2] After the video he chopped through the AR-15 a second time. He halved each of the carrying handle, the upper receiver & the lower receiver & the trigger guard – at a point almost forward of the trigger guard & aft of the magazine well. There is a photo of this.

      [3] It is interesting that people like you choose to question his sincerity & try to #fakenews his gesture rather than engage with the man & his message. I have seen other people claiming he’s turned his weapon into an SBR, all tactics that muddy the poibt. I suppose it was the SBR commentary that obliged him to make the second cut – to return the conversation to what counts!

      Talk about the important stuff please!

      • lezurk
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I did not see the destruction of the rest of the gun thanx for he information. nevermind

  17. Jamie
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Rockwell’s Four Freedoms is worth a close look. Notice how the two prominent figures listening are both wearing suits and ties? They could be farmers, but most likely are meant to be middle class business or professional people. The man standing, on the other hand, is dressed as a farmer or mechanic. Free speech is not just to protect minorities, but also to hinder elites ignoring the masses. I’ve always though of Rockwell as being a “safe” conservative protector of the status quo. But his depiction of class in this painting is nuanced. The speaker is not just “Mr. Ordinary” but is “Mr. Ordinary blue-collar working class”, to whom the middle class must listen (by law) and apparently, in this painting, the middle class is interested in hearing what the working class has to say.

  18. Charles Minus
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    My cat usually is uninterested in what appears on the monitor. However, he noticed the cat playing with the kitten and became fascinated. I let the video play on repeat and he appeared to be transfixed for about ten minutes. I tried but could not get the right angle for a video of a cat watching a cat watching a cat.

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Swan Lake is both exquisitely beautiful but also ripe for (affectionate) parody. Here’s a good example of the latter

  20. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Iirc, Margaret of Norway (as she was more generally known), who was only 4 years old, died on the ship on the way to Scotland. Therefore Norway’s side of the agreement was not met and so Scotland got to keep the islands. The islands were Scottish a few hundred years earlier, but were captured by Vikings. Most of the y chromosomes of native inhabitants are of Viking derivation.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if it isn’t worthwhile to view history from the perspective that much of our heritage is tied to the relentless march of y chromosomes.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      I think you are doing as I did, Heather, and mixing two Margarets – the Maid of Norway, who was a claimant to the Scottish crown and died in Orkney in 1290 at the age of seven, and Margaret, daughter of the King of Denmark and of Norway (Christian the first), who married James the third of Scotland in 1468; in 1472, Scotland annexed the islands, and the thereafter ignored any Danish requests for their ‘redemption’. Scotland was a power in the North in those days. The islands were not really Scottish in those days (the Scotti invaded from Ireland, and there really was not a Scottish nation until some time after the various invasions of the Scotti, the Angles, and the Scandinavians), and the original inhabitants of Orkney and Shetland may well have been Pictish speakers (Pictish is almost certainly a Brythonic language related to Welsh, which was spoken throughout southern Scotland at one time). After the Scottish acquired Shetland, the Scottish (the Stewarts, who were put in charge of the islands) treated the Shetlanders appallingly badly… None of us are very nice.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        ‘not really Scottish in those days’ > ‘not really Scottish in earlier days’

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        You’re right. Now you say all that, it does remind me of the other Margaret. And I also think the original inhabitants, before the invaders from Ireland, were the Picts.

        The Stewarts were the Stewards, and I always had to be very careful not to get the two words mixed up unconsciously when writing!

  21. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I get a fairly unique opportunity to watch birds fly.
    I work driving straddle carriers around the docks.
    I sit about 30 feet up and go up to 20 kmh.
    There are seagulls and pigeons everywhere and at my slight altitude and speed I get to observe,up close, many many subtle variations of the way they fly.
    There is a lot of stuff going on in all the little twitches and posturings they do to perform all sorts of aerial tricks.
    And, pigeons and sea gulls are very different in the way they fly, an play, and walk, and float.

    I can at times I can be flying right along beside or just above them.


    • rickflick
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like a great perspective. I’d love to be there and see what you see.

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