Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s almost the end of March, so the month’s going out like a lamb (supposedly; it’s raining in Chicago today). It’s March 29, 2018, National Chiffon Cake Day.

Here’s the news of the day, courtesy of reader David (click on the screenshot):

Yes, a man in North Wales killed a heron who had just swallowed a duckling, trying to save the little one. He actually did, but of course had to kill the heron and open its stomach. It’s amazing that the duckling survived. This is of course a crime, but the police only cautioned the man as he was described as “elderly” and “vulnerable.” Don’t judge me, but my love of ducks leaves me with mixed feelings about this, and I do understand the old guy’s act. (However, I would not kill the heron.)

On this day in 845, Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, and as Wikipedia notes, the raid was “probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collect[ed] a huge ransom in exchange for leaving.” Here’s the dramatized episode on the History Channel’s show “The Vikings.” (Remember that the series featured Gaia Weiss, one of Andrzej’s relatives, who’s shown with Hili here.)

On March 29, 1857, Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the Bengal Native Infantry mutinied against the East India Company that ruled India, shooting and slashing at British officers. He was captured and hanged, but this incident helped bring on the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (the “Sepoy Mutiny”). Exactly 4 years later, Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall, which contained 4,000 holes.  On March 29, 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in his Atlanta backyard. The story of how and why it was concocted is fascinating; read about it here. It is without doubt the most famous carbonated beverage ever sold.  On this day in 1936, after having sent the Nazis into the Rhineland illegally, Hitler held a referendum to make it seem kosher: his action received 44.5 million “yes” votes out of 45.5 million registered voters, and 99% of the ballots cast.  On this day in 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage; historians have now agreed that they were guilty. Both were electrocuted. Exactly 20 years later, William Calley was convicted of premeditated murder in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Although sentenced to life in prison, he served only 3.5 years of house arrest, and now works as a jeweler in Ohio.

On March 29, 1974, the famous Terracotta Army was discovered in Shaanxi province, China. Dating from about 210 BC, the collection of life-size statues is huge, comprising over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses. They were buried to accompany Qin Shi Huang, China’s first Emperor, to the afterlife. Here are some of the figures:

On this day four years ago, the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales were performed. Finally, exactly one year ago, after voter approval, the UK invoked “Article 50,” allowing it to begin its withdrawal from the European Union.

Notables born on this day include Cy Young (1867), Laventiy Beria (1899; a horrible, horrible man), Eugene McCarthy (1916; remember “Clean for Gene”?), Pearl Bailey, 1918. Amy Sedaris (1961), and Elle Macpherson (1964). A special birthday wish for my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin, who is 89 today.  He was at my 60th birthday party, shown here carrying in my cat-shaped birthday cake:


Notables who died on this day include Emanuel Swedenborg (1772), John Jacob Astor (1848), Georges Seurat (1891), Robert Falcon Scott (1912, froze to death), Joyce Cary (1957), and Patty Duke (2016).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Gosia is still visiting, and Hili is checking out her accommodations:

Gosia: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m just checking to see whether you’ll be comfortable here.
In Polish:
Gosia: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Sprawdzam, czy będzie ci tu wygodnie.

Grania found an unfortunate illustration from a French textbook:

A kitten gets its teeth and fur cleaned. Is there any domestic animal cuter than a kitten?

Ring-bearing gone wrong:

This series of photos is awesome. Look at the tongue on that sneezing elephant shrew (it clearly sneezes vertically!):

Matthew found this amazing video of the fire extinguisher they use at the Kennedy Space Center to extinguish entire rockets! Be sure to watch the video.

Who said pigs are thick? They’re really quite smart, and this shows it:

A big cat mistaken for a beast. Four feet long my tuchas!

Finally, Matthew found a new example of interspecific love.

This reminds me of a joke:

A man visits a zoo and is taken to the lion’s cage. He witnesses there the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy – a lion and a calf in a cage together.

Amazed, he calls over an attendant. “How long have you had a lion and a calf in a cage together?”

“Over a year already.”

“How do you do it?”

“It’s easy. Every morning we put in a new calf!”

I’ll be here all week, folks.


  1. Christopher
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Some pig!

    (Hey, somebody had to say it. We were all thinking it.)

    • Marlene Zuk
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Terrific! Radiant!

  2. busterggi
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Say, is that a Japanese lucky cat cake?

    And so much for no big cats in the UK, maybe the alien big cats aren’t so alien.

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      No, it’s just a cat cake; what’s raised there is the tail, not the lucky paw.

    • BJ
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      It looks exactly like on from the side.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    On this day in 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage; historians have now agreed that they were guilty.

    I don’t think there’s any broad consensus about Ethel’s guilt. She was convicted and executed under the relentless persecution of the execrable Roy Cohn (who later bragged about is unethical ex parte communications with Judge Irving Kaufman) primarily because she wouldn’t rat on her husband.

  4. Alan Clark
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    The wedding was at the aptly named Peckforton Castle.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    That NASA ‘fire extinguisher’ obviously wouldn’t get the job done. It’s a NASA water system that will be turned on for every launch of the vastly overpriced, yet-to-fly SLS [Space Launch System] boondoggle. The purpose is to suppress the vibrations at launch & to act as a heat sink: SOURCE

    high-speed water flow will help protect the vehicle from the extreme acoustic and temperature environment during ignition and liftoff. Although not commonly known, rather than flame, it is actually the sound of a rocket launch that poses the greater risk to the rocket. The immense acoustic pressures, as well as heat, encountered when the SLS’ four RS-25 rocket engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters are activated at liftoff will require huge quantities of water to suppress.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Water wouldn’t be a very good fire extinguisher for most rocket fuels anyway. From the “kerosene,” to hydrogen, to most of the chemicals used in solid rockets, masses of water just aren’t going put out those flames.

      900,000 gal/min is what they claim for this gusher.

      Glen Davidson

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:32 am | Permalink

        Well, since the chief characteristic of rocket propellant is that it burns without an external source of fuel or oxidiser, it will burn under water. In the case of a liquid-fuel rocket you can stop the fuel pumps; in the case of a solid-fuel rocket (such as the space shuttle boosters) there’s not a lot you can do.

        So the use of that as an ‘extinguisher’ is limited (though that much cold water could do a lot to stop any fire spreading, I guess)


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:34 am | Permalink

          By the way, I love the way the water ‘mushrooms’ as it starts up. Fluid dynamics as art.


  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    That horse picture is from a 1998 children’s book called L’imagerie du poney et du cheval , which has sold 20k copies a year with nobody, until recently, raising a red flag. Quite right – why spoil the fun of confusing/ terrifying generations of children?
    More info & pics HERE

    • nicky
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Re the ‘unfortunate’ horse picture: I think it is a good picture that shows the homology of our limbs. If you look closely, the horse obviously is a mare, there is air visible between the horse’s groin and the man’s buttocks. I agree it looks somewhat hilarious though.

      • busterggi
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        At least it wasn’t a centaur.

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Thank you for the information! I was looking for a minute, puzzled what was wrong with this picture, checked the bones, and only then realized. Still, I think it is great. I’ll show it to colleagues and maybe to students (not sure about the last).

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    You got clean for Gene, Jerry? You’da been, what, then, a freshman at William & Mary?

  8. nicky
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Herons can swallow huge prey, rivalling snakes, only much faster. I once saw a black-necked heron swallow an unidentified mammal prey the size of an adult duck. I thought it had ‘bitten off more than it could chew’, but down it went, without chewing, of course. I’m not surprised a small duckling might come out relatively unscathed.

  9. nicky
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Btw, how does an ‘elderly and vulnerable’ man catch and cut open a heron? Can’have been that ‘vulnerable’
    I gather that herons are a protected species there in Wales, so I think he should have at least been fined.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Can’have been that ‘vulnerable’

      That’s normally EN_GB code for either “dementia victim” (which says little about their physical capabilities), or having some other problem of mental acuity that would make securing a conviction unlikely, because a competent defence lawyer could defend a claim that “my client did not understand the gravity of the actions he was performing”. No “guilty mind” means generally no offence was committed and the court will examine the claim (reports … more reports) then throw out the case.

  10. glen1davidson
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Well yeah our anatomy is similar to that of a horse, but not that similar.

    The size difference alone is more than a little scary, especially in that position.

    Glen Davidson

  11. Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    But cats *are* beasts! Doesn’t stop us from loving them anyway. 😉

  12. revelator60
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Mention of Beria reminds me that “The Death of Stalin” is currently in movie theaters and highly recommended. It’s an excellent black comedy (by the man behind “In the Loop,” “Veep,” and “The Thick of It”) and could just as easily be called “The Death of Beria.”

  13. Bob
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    What does the “4,000 holes” in the Royal Albert Hall refer to? I’m confused.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      The final verse lyrics to the Beatles’ 1967 song, A Day In The Life:

      ‘I read the news today oh boy
      Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
      And though the holes were rather small
      They had to count them all
      Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
      I’d love to turn you on’

      Lennon wrote most of that verse & also replied to a snotty, whinging letter from the RAH’s Chief Exec. Details HERE

      • busterggi
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Reading that letter from the RAH Chief I almost got the feeling that the POE was invented by him.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          Well it was a Poe as it happens – perpetrated for April Fool’s day 2015, by the RAH marketing people. 🙂

          The letter from Mr O’Follipar [natch] & the signed reply from Lennon were inventive forgeries

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        I love the syncopated (?) drumming on that track.

        And the Alice-in-Wonderland weird logic of the lyrics.

        But the RAH’s Chief Exec was surely kidding. Just read the letter!

        (And I like the irony that ADITL was first performed at the RAH by Milli Vanilli – I say ‘performed’ rather than ‘sung’ for obvious reasons…)


  14. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    On March 29, 1857, Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the Bengal Native Infantry mutinied

    Ah, that would explain why “Gunga Din” was on the telly this afternoon. Got to keep the fuzzy-wuzzies in their place! (/sarcasm)

  15. Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Some remarkable footage. Some pretty stupid animals, too

    Sent from my iPhone


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