Friday: Hili dialogue

We’ve reached the end of the work week again: it’s Friday, August 10, 2018, National S’Mores Day: a homemade comestible produced only, I believe in the U.S. and perhaps Canada. Go to the link if you want to see it. And believe me, if somebody gave me one or three now, I’d scarf them down. It’s also International Biodiesel Day, celebrating Rudolf Diesel’s first such engine started up on August 10, 1893, and running on peanut oil.

I had a tee shirt made reflecting my statement on the Infinite Monkey Cage when the show came to Chicago four years ago. The context from my post:

. . . .we were discussing what evidence could disprove evolution, and I mentioned that if an animal had a feature that helped only members of another species (and not itself), such as a lion with teats that could be used only to suckle warthogs, that would count as evidence against natural selection, since selection (as Darwin noted) can’t build features useful only for members of another species. Julia [Sweeney] then floated a theory (which was hers) that perhaps a virus could infect lions giving them such teats, and I responded that it would be maladaptive, and that animals susceptible to that virus would be eliminated by selection. She then asked, “But why couldn’t a lion suckle both its cubs and warthogs?” My reply is in the tw**t below, which Robin [Ince] said should be put on an Infinite Monkey Cage teeshirt:

And my new shirt, which will surely baffle the general public:

In other news, we still have two ducks: Honey and her timorous daughter Phoebe. The good news is that the two have sort of reconciled and are foraging together, with Honey only occasionally pecking a bit at Phoebe at feeding time. Both are well fed, and Honey’s flight feathers are growing fast. Wings crossed that they’ll both leave in good condition, but not too soon. . .

Finally, reader Paul informs me that Steve Pinker will be on Bill Maher’s show tonight. I don’t get cable, but I’ll post any clips that appear on YouTube.

On this day in 1519, the five ships under command of Ferdinand Magellan sailed from Seville to circumnavigate the Earth. Magellan was killed in the Philippines, but one ship made it back, arriving in Spain on September 6, 1522—more than three years after departure. About 270 sailors had set out; of these, 232 died. A penguin was named after Magellan.

On this day in 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa sank in Stockholm harbor, only 20 minutes into her maiden voyage. The ship was raised in good condition in 1961, and, after restoration, is now on display in Stockholm. It’s an amazing sight; go see it if you’re in that lovely city. Here’s a view of the bow from Wikipedia.

On August 10, 1675, construction began on the Royal Greenwich Observatory near London.  And in 1793, the Musée du Louvre was officially opened in Paris.  On this day in 1948, the television show Candid Camera made its television debut. Does anybody remember it—and its creepy host Allen Funt? On August 10, 1969, one day after the Manson gang murdered Sharon Tate and four others in Los Angeles, they killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. More crime news: on this day in 1977, the 24 year old David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) was arrested for a series of  8 murders in the New York City area over one year.

Notables born on this day include Henri “Chocolate” Nestlé (1814), Herbert Hoover (1874), Nobel Laureate Arne Tiselius (1902), another laureate, Wolfgang Paul (1913, not “Pauli”), Jimmy Dean (1928), Eddie Fisher (1928) and Rosanna Arquette (1959). Those who died on this day include Rin Tin Tin (1932; d*g), and Isaac Hayes (2008).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s ruminations are getting more enigmatic. Malgorzata explains this one:

This is just a nice absurdity. Sometimes you are looking around and you have a feeling that something is missing: a fork on the table, a chair which normally is in the room, etc. But you can’t really place what it is you are missing. Now, Hili is outside and she says that she has this feeling. Instead of trying to guess what it is she is missing, practical Hili says  that she will know it when it comes and she sees it.

Hili: Something is missing here.
A: What is missing?
Hili: I don’t know, but I will let you know when it comes.
In Polish:
Hili: Czegoś tu brakuje.
Ja: Czego?
Hili: Nie wiem, zobaczę jak przyjdzie.

Tweets from Heather Hastie; first, a rare melanic barn owl that looks like a monk. The species is Tyto alba, but this one isn’t “alba” (“white”):

Bookstore cats are the best cats! (Be sure to watch the video.) Hongkees (the name some from Hong Kong call themselves) love their cats!

A Goth Moth!

A tweet from Matthew:

Another owl, also from Matthew But as you may know, owls have long been Honorary Cats™ on this site.

Click on the tweet to see the full picture of a housefly doing aerobatics:

Human brian??

Threat display of a phasmid:

Yes, the French and English still have some mutual acrimony, as evidenced by how the French labeled this box of McVitie’s biscuits: “It’s English, but it’s good!”

. . . and a big-ass moose:



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink


    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      I didn’t even go there – I went through yesterday thinking it was the 10th.

      At least I can celebrate Rin Tin Tin again 🙂

    • Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Oy, fixed! Thanks!

  2. Serendipitydawg
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    They called a penguin Ferdianand?

    This is the old joke:

    John Lennon saw a beetle walking across the floor and said, “Hey little beetle, we named a famous band after you”. The beetle looked up and said, “You called your band Eric?”.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Ferdinand, d’oh!

    • Sarah
      Posted August 12, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      This goes back to an even older joke about a drunk who sees a grasshopper and says, “Little grasshopper, hic, do you realize there is, hic, a drink named after you?” And the grasshopper, mystified, replies, “Gee, a drink named Irving?”

  3. Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    When they raised Wasa in 1961, they found a miniature statue of Paavo Nurmi inside. It was slightly baffling, as the runner was born about 269 years after the boat sank.

    Apparently some Finnish students had dived in the night before and placed the statue.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 11, 2018 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      There is allegedly a sticker from a Bristol caving club on an interior surface of the Huygens lander on Titan. Personally, I’d blame the Mendip Beer Monster myself.

      • Posted August 11, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        OK, but why the verb “blame”? 🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 12, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          Motive (people don’t get nicknames like the Mendip Beer Monster without good reason ; Mendip does not have a Beer Monster shortage – it’s the cider) ; method – many a “discovery” underground has been spoiled by the discovery of a discretely-placed “Bristol Exploration Club” marker, which translates to “we found this first, and we’re still exploring, so go find your own cave” ; and opportunity (there are BEC members working in aerospace). Plus, it’s exactly the sort of idea he’d come up with, in between rounds of sofa rugby.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    … one ship [of five] made it back … more than three years after departure. About 270 sailors had set out; of these, 232 died.

    That’s a hard dollar.

    • Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      And almost nobody knows the names of anybody on board that one ship even though it was the first one to circumnavigate the globe.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Their fault for no havin’ a weblog.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Remember the show Candid Camera and the strange guy Allen Funt, but did not know it was that old. It was a gag show with a hidden camera. Early days experimenting with television I think.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Candid Camera — “Punked” avant la lettre.

  7. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that the circumnavigation of the Earth by some of the Magellan crew happened by accident; it was not planned. The goal of the expedition was to reach the Moluccas (economically important because of the cloves) and re-cross the Pacific to return to Spain, thus avoiding traveling through territories claimed by Portugal (Charles I/V did not want to have problems with the king of Portugal, I think they were brothers in law or similar). After several misadventures, the remaining members of the expedition were imprisoned by the Portuguese somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago and when released they went back to Spain by the shortest way, thus completing a never intended circumnavigation.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “It’s French, but it hasn’t surrendered yet,” is what an Englishman lookin’ for some McVitie’s payback might say.

    • Mike
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      This Brit

  9. E.A. Blair
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    hemoglobin: v. THe answer to the question Where is your husband, Mrs. Magellan?”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Little does Ms. Magellan suspect it, but the real answer is “Himalayan.”

      • Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Tragic, of course, but can’t help chuckling a bit…

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 10, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          Too soon?

          • Posted August 10, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, perhaps 500 years from now…

  10. Historian
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I remember “Candid Camera” quite well. Its theme song was hard to get out of your head. The theme song can be found here:

    When I was in college, I used to bowl regularly at an alley in Yonkers, New York. It had a ball cleaning machine. One day I saw that standing next to the machine was a wooden booth with the side facing the machine having a small glass window. Also, the area surrounding the machine was suddenly brightly lit. I suspected at the time that this was a Candid Camera stunt. It turned out that when a ball was put in the machine for washing, it came out broken. I don’t remember how they switched the good ball for the broken one. The idea was to film the reaction of the ball owner. Back in those days, TV wasn’t all that sophisticated.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      I saw that one. It made me laugh. Hell, makes me laugh now just thinkin’ of it. 🙂

  11. David Harper
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    On a point of historical accuracy:

    “On August 10, 1675, construction began on the Royal Greenwich Observatory near London.”

    It wasn’t called the Royal Greenwich Observatory whilst it was at Greenwich. It was the Royal Observatory.

    Only when it moved to Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex in the late 1940s was it renamed the Royal Greenwich Observatory, as a reminder of its long history at Greenwich. It moved to Cambridge in 1990 and retained the RGO name, but it ceased to exist on 31 October 1998 when it was closed by the British government.

    The site at Greenwich is a museum and is called the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

    You’ll excuse me if I stress the point, but I was a member of staff at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in its final years in Cambridge, and I was there on the morning of its last day as an active research observatory, when the Director lowered the Union Flag for the final time.

    • Historian
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      It must have been a very poignant moment when the flag was lowered.

      • David Harper
        Posted August 10, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        A sad end to 323 years of our national observatory.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Herstmonceux is, sadly, mostly now not an active front-line observatory (I understand that the viewing in East Sussex is often far from ideal); but it has become a jolly good science centre, with lots of hands-on stuff for inquisitive kids and grown-ups alike. My grandchildren (7 and 5) loved it when we visited earlier this year. Recommended if you’re in the area: [NB: I have no vested interest!]

    • Posted October 7, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Why did the government close it?

  12. DrBryon
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Juan Sebastian Elcano finished the voyage. The motto over the globe on his coat of arms was Primus circumdedisti me (“You went around me first”). He gave his name to a Spanish gunboat, which was captured at Manila, and taken into service as the USS Elcano. She served with the Yangtze Patrol until 1928.

  13. ChrisS
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The French demonstrate the art of the back-handed compliment. Here are some suggestions for revival-cinemas showing old movies:

    ‘The Elephant Man’-“It’s David Lynch, but it’s comprehensible!”

    ‘The King of Comedy’-“It’s Jerry Lewis, but adults can watch it, too!”

    ‘Sleeper’-“It’s Woody Allen, but it’s one of the early, funny ones!”

    “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”- “It’s a French musical, but it’s actually enjoyable!”

    And yes, the joke’s on me. Many of those artists are greatly admired by the French.

    • Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      McVities is a British company. It’s possible that the slogan is a piece of the self deprecating wit that we Bits used to be famous for.

      • Posted August 10, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink


      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 10, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Bits and peaces, how the mighty has Brexit!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Monsieur Zherry, Commandeur de la Legion D’Honneur. Joke’s on the French, you ask me. 🙂

      Or maybe those cats at Cahiers du Cinéma were just pullin’ our legs when they said Jerry Lewis was better than Chaplin and Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

  14. BJ
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I wanna be a part of a small circle of well-respected scientists who make esoteric in-jokes. My life is so disappointing. :Sigh:

    • darrelle
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      You and I both.

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    In Stockholm, I always chose McVitie’s digestiv cookies were the clear winner over local brands, as the occasional taste comparison would tell.

    And Happy Birthday Herbert Hoover!

  16. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    “My dissertation was delayed, but at least a lion passed it.”

  17. Mark R.
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    And if someone actually asks you what your t-shirt means, I don’t think you’d be able to explain it without the lengthy explanation you gave. I guess you could just say: “evolution joke”, and leave them puzzled…even if the person knew a lot about evolution!

  18. Dale Franzwa
    Posted August 11, 2018 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” Yes, I remember it. That was Funt’s “cap” line, hollered just before the victim is about to freak out. Funt comes out of hiding, revealing the hoax, much to the relief of the poor subject as Funt outlines the sordid details. Off camera, the victims all sign releases and much later get to watch themselves on TV. Presumably, they’re paid well for making fools of themselves on the “hidden” camera.

    Well, folks, it was the “sixties”. TV was still a novelty and people would watch anything. I view Candid Camera as the forerunner of all the stupid “competition” shows on TV today: anything from singing to acrobatics. Funt was the father of it all.

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