Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Tuesday, April 3, 2018, and we’re predicted to have rain (and perhaps sleet and a bit of snow) in Chicago today. We shall see. It’s National Chocolate Mousse Day, and, for crying out loud, Fish Fingers and Custard Day, celebrating what looks like a vile British comestible (I hope the custard isn’t sweet!)

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 325th birthday of John Harrison (1693-1776), an English carpenter who invented the first marine chronometer, enabling sailors to at last calculate their longitude at sea. It was a remarkable and immensely useful achievement, celebrated in a book many of you must have read, Dava Sobel’s  Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. In a 2002 poll by the BBC of the Hundred Greatest Britons, Harrison came in at #39.  It’s hard to make out the word “Google” into today’s Doodle, and I’m not sure what the grasshopper denotes:


On this day in 1043, Edward the Confessor became King of England. Exactly 817 years later, the first Pony Express run successfully delivered the mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California.  It was a 1900-mile journey and took 10 days using relays of horses and riders. Despite its fame in American lore, the service lasted but one year (1860-1861) and lost over $100,000. Here’s a commemorative stamp:

Also on April 3, 1882, Jesse James was shot down by his gang member Robert Ford—all to collect a reward.  On this day in 1888, the first of 11 murders, all unsolved, occurred in the East End of London. These are of course the famous “Jack the Ripper” killings.  On this day in 1895, the libel case brought by Oscar Wilde against the Marquess of Queensberry began in London; the Marquess had accused Wilde of being a homosexual. To win his case, Wilde had to prove that this wasn’t true. He failed, was rearrested for homosexuality, and went to jail for two years. His health broken, Wilde died in 1900 in Paris, only 46 years old. On April 3, 1936, Bruno Hauptmann was executed for kidnapping the baby son of Charles Lindbergh.  And on this day in 1968, one day before he was murdered, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee. Here’s the famous excerpt, with his prescient statement pondering his own death beginning at 1:20. What a speaker the man was!

On this day in 1981, Osborne I, the first successful portable computer, made its appearance at the West coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. And 29 years later, in 2010, Apple released the first iPad.

Notables born on April 3 include Washington Irving (1783), Leslie Howard (1893), Henry Luce (1898), Sally Rand (1904), Doris Day (1922), Marlon Brando (1924), Gus Grissom (1926), Jane Goodall (1934), Wayne Newton (1942), A. C. Grayling (1949), and Eddie Murphy (1961). Those who died on this day include Jesse James (1882; see above), Johannes Brahms (1897), Kurt Weill (1950), Peter Pears (1986), Sarah Vaughan (1990), Pinky Lee (1993; real name Pinkus Leff), and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (2013).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, spotting a bird, shows off her knowledge, but she got it a bit wrong:

Hili: Pterodactylus.
A: I doubt it.
Hili: Well, one of his descendants then.
 In Polish:
Hili: Pterodaktyl.
Ja: Wątpię.
Hili: No to jakiś jego potomek.
And in Wloclawek, Leon, ever serious, is concerned with the dearth of holiday snacks:
Leon: Are the holidays over already?

In Polish: Już po świętach?

We have a special treat today: Matthew sent a photo of himself and his three cats: Ollie, Pepper, and Harry. Ollie, the uninterested tabby to the right, is the one who clawed my nose open. To me, the photo looks almost like a Rembrandt painting: Scientist With Cats.

Me and three cats and a glass of wine. Pepper is watching telly with me. The other two aren’t interested.


Matthew sent a Google Doodle which shows the rise of secular “faith”:

And a funny exchange of notes from four decades ago:

Enlarge this photo, for it really does look like a painting: a modern version of The Night Watch:

Grania sent a lovely video of a woman caring for baby foxes:

This video tweet is from the Beefeater who doubles as the Official Ravenmaster at the Tower of London:

How to treat your cat today. If it lacked ears, it could be Gus!

This is just plain weird:

And a mixed-species nursery:



  1. enl
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Harrison invented the grasshopper escapement, hence the insect in the doodle.

    • Barney
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      A video about the Corpus Christi clock in Cambridge, illustrating the grassopper escapement:

      (and for PCC – ‘fish fingers and custard’ was a joke in Doctor Who as a ridiculous food he wanted to eat after he had regenerated, and the ‘day’ is a BBC PR stunt)

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        Ran over here to check – yes – very interesting story behind the apparently frivolous grasshopper.

        John Taylor comes into the story at some point – if you have an electric tea kettle, you should learn about Taylor

        I have to find out now how that’s all connected to Harrison- another fascinating story.

        • Barney
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

          I found a follow-on video to the Corpus Christi one – a half hour BBC programme by Adam Hart-Davis on Harrison’s clocks. It explains the grasshopper escapement – it doesn’t rub against the cog teeth, so it doesn’t need lubrication, which Harrison found was the problem with other clocks.

        • Ross
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          Dr Taylor (a local businessman here on the Isle of Man) is quite the horologist, thinker and a hell of an inventor.

          His latest house has parts (including an anchor I think) from the British fleet that hit the Scilly Isles thinking they were somewhere else. This disaster allegedly led to the Admiralty’s drive to accurately determine longitude via reliable clocks.

          Surely they would have been interested in this before!

          The whole house is based around ellipticals which made for an astonishing tour. The grand hall (elliptical of course) has another copy of the corpus clock mounted on one wall. Sadly, when I was there there was only a space where it would go because he’d had an un-refuseable offer for the latest build!

          Some of the stuff he’s designed to go in there is almost unbelievable. His capacity to just “see” solutions is astonishing


  2. Frank Bath
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I’m a life long (very) Londoner and I’ve never heard of Fish Finger and Custard Day. It has to be a joke – much like Hedgehog and Rhubarb flavoured crisps.
    The custard loved by my fellow countrymen is sweet and yellow and put on tinned fruit and sweet puddings. The runny stuff in the picture on the linked site has to be parsley sauce.

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      It is undoubtedly tartare sauce, a common accompaniment of fishy dishes, quite good actually. It is based on mayonnaise, with added chopped pickles (gherkins), chopped capers and extra lemon juice, and indeed sometimes some parsley.

      • nicky
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        And custard is based on milk and vanilla, with added sugar and egg yolk, do not, repeat do not, add starches. Here is it mainly eaten warm with cooked guava, but I guess it would be nice with any fruit (fish-fingers is not fruit).

      • darrelle
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Fresh dill is a nice add too.

        About a year ago I tried making my tartar sauce with a good quality plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise because I didn’t have any mayonnaise in the house (damn kids!). It was a big hit. Almost always make it that way now. It works well with battered / breaded fried stuff. It’s a “fresh” contrast compared to the fat-on-fat pairing of mayonnaise based tartar with battered & fried fish, chicken, whatever.

        • nicky
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          I can’t but agree, even though I do make my mayonnaise myself, very often one can use yoghurt instead. Different taste, but not worse, sometimes even better, especially with fish dishes (and if smoked, I use sour cream instead of yoghurt or mayonnaise). Dill -or even fennel- is indeed often a good addition, again, I can’t but agree.

          • Helen Hollis
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

            Homemade mayo. Wish I had time to do it but once a year. Go dill!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Fish fingers and custard us a Dr Who allusion.

      When Matt Smith became the Doctor he was trying out his mouth for flavours he liked with Amy Pond when she was a child. One she tried was fish fingers and custard, and yes we’re talking about the dessert. That’s been Fish Fingers and Custard day since. I think it was 2011.

  3. drawingbusiness
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I think the fish fingers and custard thing is from Dr Who; when Matt Smith’s Doctor crashed the Tardis in Amy Pond’s back garden, his post-regeneration body demanded food, and that was all that was available.

  4. Serendipitydawg
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Fish fingers and custard was a joke on Dr Who, no-one in their right mind would actually eat it. I await the coming blizzard of corrections.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Lots of people eat it, and many report it’s actually quite nice. I’ve never tried it myself, but I’ve been tempted. I feel that as a Dr Who fan I should try it at least once.

  5. busterggi
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Mass hysteria to begin any minute.

  6. Serendipitydawg
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I see that I was beaten to the Dr Who reference… glad my memory isn’t at fault 🙂

    Good to see Harrison get a Google Doodle, I have just returned from the post office in village he moved to in 1700; the school celebrates the connection with a rather nice wall decoration.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      I should add that the grasshopper refers to a type of clock escapement.

  7. Jacques Hausser
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    My first computer was an Osborne 1, bought in 1983! But not for long: one of the floppy drives went broken, I sent the computer back to the seller… and I never got it back because of the company’s bankruptcy. I got a Morrow instead. Ah the nice ol’ time of Wordstare, Supercalc and CP/M…

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Also on April 3, 1882, Jesse James was shot down by his gang member Robert Ford—all to collect a reward.

    There was a film with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck about it a few years ago, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — which is a bit wordy and on-the-nose as movie titles go, especially for a western, but it was a revisionist western, and a pretty good one, too.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      That was Casey’s role that I said, “damn, this kid can act!” More talented than his bro.

  9. nicky
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’m deeply shocked the ‘Pony Express’ lasted only a year! So much about it in history books. The lore indeed, I guess. I feel kinda cheated now 😦

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      The Pony Express and Jesse James, both part of the history around St. Joseph, Missouri or to locals just St. Joe. I believe the telegraph and or the railroad helped to end the pony express.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        The demise of the Pony Express was the completion of the transcontinental telegraph in October 1861.

        The Union Pacific – Central Pacific railroads met five years later.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          The Pony Express stations were about 10 miles apart. Horses really can’t cover a very large mileage per day. Each horse could carry 20 pounds of mail.

          The costs of the system (quite aside from paying extremely high wages to the riders) will be obvious.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Correction – the UP – CP met in 1869, that was 8 years later.


          • nicky
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            I was indeed told that the telegraph was the end of the ‘Pony Express’, so even that appears to be a myth. I still feel somewhat ‘cheated’.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      18 months, actually.

      Glen Davidson

    • bric
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 3:32 am | Permalink

      I thought it was the agents of Tristero (W.A.S.T.E.) that destroyed the Pony Express?

  10. Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Here’s a great song by the English folk group, Show of Hands, about John Harrison:

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      P.S., I discovered Show of Hands via a comment from a UK commenter on this site!

      Thanks to whoever that was!

  11. glen1davidson
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I tried converting my pdfs to Christianity, but a lot of science data was replaced by “God did it.”

    Glen Davidson

  12. Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    At least when asked about lobsters, Siri didn’t respond, “So what you’re saying is …”

  13. BJ
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Nobody wants to convert to .RAR.

    Everybody hates .RARism.

  14. Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I loved the custard of my childhood, Bird’s Custard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird%27s_Custard). My mom used it to add extra unctuousness to desserts. I bought some a couple of years ago and, yes, it was good!

  15. glen1davidson
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I’ve wondered, didn’t the people who started the Pony Express know that a transcontinental telegraph line was going to be built soon after they began? And I can’t see any real showstoppers for that, unlike the transatlantic lines that kept running into problems.

    It doesn’t seem like Pony Express was a good bet at the time.

    Glen Davidson

    • Doug
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Before the Pony Express, mail was carried to and from the West coast by stagecoach, which was slow and took a southern route. There were already rumblings of secession in the air, and no-one knew how long this southern route would be available. The Pony Express was created to keep communication to the West coast open until the transcontinental telegraph could be completed; it was not intended to be permanent.

  16. Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The video with the bitch, the cat and their babies is great!

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Oscar Wilde’s anguished grief-stricken memoir about his time in jail “De Profundis” is really powerful reading, although WEIT readers should be forewarned (though NOT trigger-warned 🙂 ) Wilde converts to his own idiosyncratic version of Christianity in the process.


    I tried the same Google trick and got conversions to

    number in excel

    in that order

    • nicky
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Whether Islam is in first or second place, it’s ranking is ominous. I think Islam is an even greater threat to civilisation than Christianity. I mean, everything you hate in and fear about Christianity, Islam excels in, with a little star.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        It also appears that Christianity has a larger number of counter-culture movements that regard mainstream Western Christianity as a distortion and propose a more humane reading of the Christian message. There are Mennonites, Quakers, individual thinkers like Tolstoy, etc.
        Of course, there are also some especially scary offshoots of Christianity, such as the Unification church as well.

        As far as I know the only comparable positive movement in Islam is Sufi-ism. Broadly Although Islam is split between Sunnis and Shi-ites, Islam seems more uniform than Christianity.

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