Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on a wettish Wednesday, February 21, 2018. It’s Pancake Day, even though it’s not Shrove Tuesday, the traditional day to honor Our Lord by eating flapjacks. (Shrove Tuesday was eight days ago.) It’s also International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO holiday honoring multilingualism.

On February 21, 1613, the Romanov dynasty of Imperial Russia kicked off when Mikhail I was elected Tsar by the national assembly. In 1804, the world’s first self-propelled steam locomotive chugged out of the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales. On this day in 1848, Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Exactly 30 years later, the first telephone directory was published in New Haven, Connecticut. On this day in 1885, the newly built Washington Monument (555 feet high) was dedicated.  And in France, the Battle of Verdun began on February 21, 1916. It lasted ten months and the number of casualties could have been as high as a million.

It’s a sad day for biologists, for on this day in 1918, the very last Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.  The species was once widespread east of the Rockies, and represented the only indigenous American parrot in the region. That makes today the 100th anniversary of the species’ demise. The last bird had occupied the same cage earlier used by Martha, the very last passenger pigeon. The last parakeet’s name was Incas; his mate, Lady Jane, had expired a year earlier. Here’s a picture of a mounted specimen from Chicago’s Field Museum.


The “peace symbol” or “CND symbol” (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), was created on this day in 1958 by Gerald Holton working for the Direction Action Committee and protesting against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Surely you know what it looks like, right? I used to wear one around my neck (on a leather thong) in the Sixties.

On this day in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. And exactly a decade later, Attorney General John Mitchell and White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Erlichman were sentenced to prison for their roles in the Watergate affair.

Notables born on this day include Rebecca Nurse (1621, hanged in Salem as a witch in 1692), John Henry Newman (1801),  Anaïs Nin (1903), W. H. Auden (1907), John Rawls (1921), Sam Peckinpah (1925), Kelsey Grammer (1955), David Foster Wallace (1962), Charlotte Church (1986) and Ellen Page (1987). Those who expired on this day, besides Incas (see above) include Baruch Spinoza (1677), Frederick Banning (1941), Eric “Muscular Christian” Liddell (1945), Malcolm X (1965; see above), Howard Florey (1968), Tim Horton (1974; his donuts remain with us), and Mikhail Sholokov (1984).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wonders what time it is. To be sure I understood this, I asked Malgorzata, who replied, “For Hili the time is always right (to get something scrumptious). There is no other reason to know what time it is.”

Cyrus: What’s the time?
Hili: The right one.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Która godzina?
Hili: Właściwa.

And. . . . it’s Gusiversary! Gus is (roughly) 4 today, and here’s his story from staff Taskin:

Our previous cat, the all black Spook, had died in November and we decided we would not get another cat for a while. However, I have friends who work at a rural vet clinic and they often get stray cats coming in. The winter of 2014 was exceptionally cold, and a white cat was brought into the clinic after getting caught in a trap someone had set and not checked. He had pretty bad frostbite and was lucky to lose only his ears and skin on his paws. After fixing him up, my friends decided that since I had an all black cat before, I now needed an all white cat. They posted a picture of him on my Facebook page and several seconds later, I was adopting a new cat and naming him Gus!

Gus was estimated to have been about ten months old when he was rescued.

Here’s Taskin’s video of the lad, called “The mind of a cat”, with original music by the staff:

Here’s his staff’s favorite picture of Gus:

And a happy Gus from yesterday:

A tweet from  Heather Hastie: Are these kittens imitating rabbit hops, or just pouncing?

From Grania: Leapfrog the cat! I’m not sure I believe the explanation.

What beautiful markings!

Cat hockey!

From Matthew:

A true science geek picks a nit about a movie:

And a science tweet:

Finally, Aussie frogs are on the move:



  1. Dominic
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    The Pancake post was from 2015… that was Pancake day that year!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      That site is why we need the word idiosyncratic! Pancaks Day is down for 21st Feb every year on their calendar – it isn’t a moveable feast like the real pancake day [Shrove Tuesday] – they also have February down as “Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month”…

      • Dominic
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        I misread that as shopping cats! 🙂

  2. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I went for a walk the night of the 19th, up a nearby mountain road(unused – it leads up to an old quarry which is no longer in operation) which runs alongside a pretty funky, gloopy pond covered in green algae. There’s a huge hedge barring the pond from view, so thick you can barely see the water never mind anything floating or living in it.

    On my way back down I saw a small-to-medium sized frog sat motionless in the middle of the concrete road, which I thought was cool. Then I saw another, and another, and another, many of them sat opposite one another, not moving, but not at all dead or injured. I counted at least fifteen or sixteen, and those were only the ones I could see in the feeble torch-light.

    Suddenly I realised that the low rumbling hum that had been on the edge of my consciousness whenever I walked that part of the road must have been a load of frogs croaking(a frog chorus if you will) in the pond on the other side of the hedge. By the sound of it there must have been hundreds of frogs, and for some reason a number of them trekked to the other side of the hedge(which seemed impenetrable) and then just sat there in the road. I went back home and immediately dragged the family along to witness what I am now calling The Froggening, and they did their best to appear interested.

    Personally I thought it was pretty cool, and I wanted to go back in daylight and have a nose around the pond, maybe film some of what I presume was a mass frog mating session on my camera phone(frog-porn?). But when I went back the next morning the pond was completely silent and there were no frogs anywhere, not even squished ones. It was like they’d all agreed to disperse in the most secretive fashion possible.

    Does anyone know what was happening? I know nothing about frogs except that they’re a kind of lizard that can breathe underwater, so any information about what I was seeing that night, and why it was all over so quickly would be interesting.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Where was this? Many frogs return to their larvael [is that a word?] pond/stream to hook up. Some frog species are triggered to go to breeding sites by local conditions if that’s a marked advantage – such as after rain in a typically arid area.

      I ain’t a frogologist so sorry for any errors!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        It was in north Wales, which is pretty wet and miserable. But it wasn’t that cold or rainy in the run-up to the Froggening.

        The sound: I’ve never heard anything like it. Hundreds of frog voices belching and gurking all at once, all of it coming from the same small pond. And the only glimpse I could get through the hedge of the main event was of a big frog’s white throat bulging out. That frog seemed much bigger than the little ones allayed along the road, so maybe the bigger ones were all in the pond? Who knows. I’m no frogologist either, so I wouldn’t know if you’d made any errors anyway. You could tell me pretty much anything and I’d nod along in obeisance to your superior frog knowledge.

        • Dominic
          Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          My brother said his small pond in south London was full of frogs a couple of days ago – probably mating I think. Seems early…

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

            Early cos Brexit of course

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 21, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

              I think he meant literal frogs, rather than Frenchpeople, shagging in his brother’s pond. Although you never know with the French.

              • claudia baker
                Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink


  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Keep up the good work Gus.

    Newsflash – Billy Graham dead at 99 years old.

  4. another fred
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    The “Extent of human radio broadcasts” is interesting and informative, but I wonder where the galactic image came from. Is it a simulation of the Milky Way or a substitution of another galaxy from a Hubble pic (that’s what it looks like).

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Its an artist rendering of our galaxy. The milky way has been mapped, so we know the approximate number of arms it has, and that it is a barred spiral galaxy.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      It’s both. The Milky Way image was made by Nick Risinger as an ‘artist’s impression’ based on our knowledge of our galaxy in 2009.

      Nick combined two sources:

      [1] A 2008 NASA artists annotated sketch of data derived from the Spitzer telescope infrared data PLUS a radio telescope survey of gas in the galaxy. You can see that IMAGE HERE – that gave him the gross layout of our galaxy [number of arms etc]

      [2] Then he adapted a 1998 image of the Whirlpool Galaxy [AKA Messier 51 or NGC 5194] to suit the sketch above. HERE IS THE ORIGINAL

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I’m a bit more interested in a similar sphere with half the radius. Thats the extent of the radio signals to which we could now receive a ‘reply’

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Would you believe Voyager 1?

  5. glen1davidson
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The “peace symbol” or “CND symbol” (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), was created on this day in 1958 by Gerald Holton working for the Direction Action Committee and protesting against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment.

    And a quick search shows that the peace symbol consists in the superimposition of the semaphore signals for “N” and “D”. Nuclear disarmament being the origin of the design, apparently.

    It certainly wasn’t obvious until now why it was the “peace symbol.”

    Glen Davidson

  6. Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I can well believe that a cat is afraid of a particular strip of floor. Many pets get the idea that a strip of exposed floor is a crevice or something.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      There’s air blowing across the threshold from a handheld hair dryer or fan – I can hear it at the 6 seconds mark. The servants have left out the bits where the kitty didn’t climb or jump the obstacles.

      Kitties mostly don’t like fast moving air on their whiskers.

      That’s my theory anyway.

  7. David Coxill
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Often wondered about Gus ,is he deaf ? .He does not seem to have blue eyes .
    Is it only blue eyed /white cats that are deaf.

  8. Nobody Special
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Kudos to the Bourne Supremacy critic.
    My all-time favourite goof has to be at the start of the incredibly daft 2012, when the Indian scientist explains the rising temperature of the Earth’s core by declaring “The neutrinos are evolving!”
    Really? 🙂

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      That one is a bit more obvious.

      (2012? Is that like a “midquel” between 2010 and 2061? :))

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      The Bourne movies are in a different galaxy from daft disaster movies like 2012.

      They are convincingly realistic such that the tiny goof about the mains frequency is actually noticeable. (And still, much kudos to the geeky critic!).


  9. Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Gus looks like a very content, peaceful cat and a joy to be around.

  10. claudia baker
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Really sweet Gus pictures.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Agree. The one where he’s letting his arm reach down dramatically is very cool.

  11. Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    On the 50 Hz vs 60 Hz in the Bourne movie, I suspect that to someone who lives in a 50 Hz place that the higher note immediately impinges on their consciousness as being somehow wrong.

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Pancakes are eaten Shrove Tuesday, because they are a way to use up rich foods like eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. It’s a mainly a British custom and dates to the 16th century.

  13. Adam Yates
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad to see the frogs in the Kimberley were actually native frogs, not a swarm of baby cane toads. Sadly the day that this will no longer be the case is just a few short years away at most.

  14. Posted February 22, 2018 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    RIP Tim Horton. Your donuts will forever be remembered.

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