Tuesday: Hili dialogue

First things first:  I saw a raccoon and a bunny on my way to work today, but they moved too fast for me to photograph (you’ll have to take my word for it). Plus it was too dark, but no so dark I couldn’t make out procyonids and lagomorphs.

Good morning on Tuesday, the cruelest day, February 27, 2018. It’s National Kahlúa Day, brought to you by Big Liqueur. (I am informed that “The word Kah-lúa means ‘Heart of the Veracruz people’”.) It’s also International Polar Bear Day! In honor of last Sunday’s Pancake Day, IHOP (the old “International House of Pancakes”) is giving away a free short stack of flapjacks today, worth $5.79. The offer is good from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Weigh in below if you’ll take advantage of this.

Here’s a bear and its offspring:

Vera Salnitskaya / The Siberian Times

On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln made a speech at Cooper Union in New York City, decrying the extension of slavery to the western territories, that helped get him elected to the Presidency.  A few years back I gave a talk on that very same stage, and had a keen sense of what happened there. On this day in 1870, the current flag of Japan was adopted, used initially as a national flag for merchant vessels.

On February 27, 1900, the British Labour Party was founded. On this day in 1933, the infamous “Reichstag fire” occurred, with Germany’s parliament building going up in flames. Although a Dutch Communist claimed responsibility, the Nazis might have done it, for they used the fire as an excuse to go after the Communists.  On February 27, 1940, Carbon-14 was discovered by Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben. Finally, on this day in 1964, the Italian government appealed for help to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling over. The tower was stabilized in 2008 and we’re told it will be stable for 200 years.

Notables born on February 27 include Ellen Terry (1847), Bertha Pappenheim (1859; she was the famous “Anna O.” of Freud’s case histories, and of course was not cured), Joseph Grinnell (1877), Hugo Black (1886), John Steinbeck (1902), Lawrence Durrell (1912), Joanne Woodward (1930), Elizabeth Taylor (1932), Ralph Nader (1934), Alan Guth (1947) and Chelsea “It’s My Turn Next” Clinton (1980). Those who expired on this day were Louis Vuitton (1892), Harry “Breaker” Morant (1902; executed), Ivan Pavlov (1936, yes the dog-and-bell Pavlov), Frankie Lymon (1968, drug overdose), Konrad Lorenz (1989), S. I. Hayakawa (1992), Spike Milligan (2002), Fred “Mr.” Rogers (2003), William F. Buckley, Jr. (2008), and Van Cliburn (2013).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has been absorbing Socrates:

Hili: The more I think the less I understand.
A: This might mean that you are getting wiser.
In Polish:
Hili: Im dłużej myślę, tym mniej rozumiem.
Ja: To może oznaczać, że jesteś coraz mądrzejsza.

Up in Winnipeg, Gus tasted his first melon! As staff Taskin writes, “Note to self: Do not leave cantaloupe sitting on the kitchen table.”

I think a lot of cats like cantaloupe, but I’m not sure why. The Feline Nutrition Foundation argues that volatile compounds derived from amino acids make cantaloupe smell like meat to a cat, but I doubt that this has been rigorously tested.

Matthew is on strike at Manchester University (many UK University faculty are on strike against government changes in their pensions), and emitted this tweet of himself walking the picket line  It’s extremely cold out there, but politics is politics! He adds this:

In front of what I think is the biggest double helix in the world, which I put there. The other side of the building features a double helix with the period sequence [a gene involved in biological rhythms] on it (many colleagues study biological rhythms).

It appears to be lonely as well as cold on the picket line!

When I got the tweet above this morning, Matthew was alone, but now others have arrived:

Here’s a nasty creature found by Matthew:

A fish with six eyes—no kidding!:

The cacheing ability of acorn woodpeckers (I think I’ve posted a video of this a while back):

For those of you who haven’t seen the inside of a penguin’s mouth, you’re welcome:

From Grania: a very smart parrot who gets Alexa to do his bidding:

A dancing white stoat, which I believe is an ermine:

From Grania: Do you know what these are?

Here’s the answer:

A genuine cat scan:

And an injured squirrel in a cast:

We have a guest Black Dog today: reader James’s beloved dog Bear, named after the Grateful Dead singer:


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    I believe the entire population of teachers in West Virginia remain on strike as well and all schools are closed. Mathew is not alone.

  2. George
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Bear was not a singer for the Grateful Dead. He was Augustus Owlsey Stanley III. He came from a prominent Kentucky family. He was a LSD entrepreneur and self taught audio engineer.

    His best known creation was the Wall of Sound.

    • George
      Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Owsley recorded and produced the album Bear’s Choice. He compiled it as a tribute to Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the Dead’s keyboard player and blues aficionado who died shortly before the release of the album.

      The Dancing Bears artwork first appeared on this album.

      • thompjs
        Posted March 3, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        You are exactly right. This was a confused memory for me. Back about 20yrs ago when we got Bear the puppy, I thought that was true. Reading some Grateful Dead History I read the history of that album and the artwork.

        Another example of why eyewitness testimony can be a mess.

        Thanks for posting the corrections.

  3. enl
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Mr. Rogers, not Mr. Roberts

  4. GBJames
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I believe those plastic correlated tubes are drainage pipe, although I’ve only ever seen black.

    • rvoss
      Posted February 27, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      I think so also. There are two of them in my yard. What you see in the photo is the contracted state. They can be stretched to three times that length.

      • Mark R.
        Posted February 27, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        I thought so too, but those colors! Yikes.

  5. E.A. Blair
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    A: Bell & Howell.

    Q: How would you describe your experiments, Dr. Pavlov?

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    That ringed caecilian Siphonops annulatus amphibian. WIKI

    Nestlings are equipped with 44 spoon-shaped teeth to feed on the outer layer of their mother’s skin. Young feed all at once for some seven minutes; then they all rest for three days as the female grows a new outer skin layer. This phenomenon is known as maternal dermatophagy. This practice and morphological similarities are shared with its African relative Boulengerula taitana, suggesting it evolved over 100 million years ago.

    I bet your average Siphonops thinks breast feeding is weird!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 27, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      That is absolutely fascinating.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    The famous Cooper Union Speech introduced Lincoln to a eastern crowd in William Seward’s home state and likely assisted Lincoln in getting the nomination in Chicago. The invitation was to speak at Henry Ward Beecher’s church but was later changed to Cooper Union. Lincoln’s main subject was the expansion of slavery and was characterized as accuracy of statement, simplicity of language and unity of thought.

  8. Frank Bath
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    So good to see the great Spike Millligan is known in the USA and not forgotten. A pivotal figure and a founding father of late 20th century British comedy.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      Apparently his tombstone carries the epitaph, “I told you I was ill” in Gaelic. Cracking jokes to the last.

  9. Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Of course readers who are familiar with baroque music will recognize the mystery object as the lasso d’amore, a musical instrument featured in P.D.Q.Bach’s Eroica Variations for Banned Instruments and Piano, seen here at the 8:44 mark.

  10. nicky
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    AFAIK the ‘Spookvis” (meaning ‘ghost fish’) is the only vertebrate having a pair of ‘mirror eyes’. Apparently they have no real cartesian lens (unlike scallops), so the images must not be very clear.

  11. David Duncan
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know the British government was involved in the university pension dispute. The article linked too only mentioned the union and the superanuation fund, with the minister responsible urging dialogue.

    BTW, defined benefit schemes have been on the way out for over a quarter of a century.

  12. David Duncan
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Cantaloupe doesn’t smell or taste like meat to me but I still love it.

  13. rickflick
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    The beautiful ermine seems to have a disorder of the nervous system. I’ve seen something similar in Chiweenies.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 27, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      It is normal weasel behaviour – it’s called a “war dance”
      Here’s a YouTube sample that I’ll attempt not to embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqypt3HnPng

      And here’s a WIKI extract on the subject:

      In colloquial language, the weasel war dance is a behavior of excited ferrets and other weasels. It is speculated that, in the wild, the dance is used to confuse or disorient prey. In domestic ferrets the war dance usually follows play or the successful capture of a toy or a stolen object and is commonly held to mean that the ferret is thoroughly enjoying itself.[citation needed] It consists of a frenzied series of hops sideways and backwards, often accompanied by an arched back, and a frizzed-out tail.

      Ferrets are notoriously clumsy in their surroundings during their dance and will often collide with or fall over objects and furniture. The act usually includes a clucking vocalization, known among domestic ferret owners as “dooking”. It normally indicates happiness. Although the weasel war dance may make a ferret appear frightened or angry, they are often just excited and are generally harmless to humans.

      The stoat (also known as the ermine or the short-tailed weasel) often employs a “war dance” when attacking rabbits.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 27, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Well, that’s amazing. My daughter’s chewinie kicks with the back legs when it get’s excited. Maybe there’s a common origin of the behavior.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 27, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          One doggie site claims: “Many Dachshunds (approximately 25%), at some points in their lives, suffer from damage to the discs in their spines”

          I’ve seen a few ‘sausage dogs’ with a pair of wheels to replace weak/paralysed back legs. It must be annoying to be a long dog – how does such a dog scratch effectively behind the ears? Similar problem to these poor critters:

          • rickflick
            Posted February 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            I’m not a fan of breeding. I think it inflicts a lot of genetic damage and misery.

            • GBJames
              Posted February 27, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

              Hey… breeding is how we all got here.

              • rickflick
                Posted February 27, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 27, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      And this lovely vid is even betterer!:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwZ_tU_PvqM

      • rickflick
        Posted February 27, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Ha! Utterly ridiculous!

  14. loren russell
    Posted February 27, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Gus for showing that [some] cats do eat [some] cantaloupes on [some] occasions.

    I mentioned melon-rind handouts to barn cats in another thread last week. A commenter wondered if I was trumpifying the past, and I personally wondered if my memories of barn cats past were credible!

  15. Posted February 27, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Hm, I am not sure I like Kahlua, but how to involve that with pancakes and cantaloupe …

  16. Posted February 27, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Ha, my Amazon Echo came to attention when she heard the parrot’s “Alexa”. Unfortunately, she seemed unable to understand the rest of his command!

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