Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, September 23, the first full day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere (the season began in Chicago at 7 p.m. last night). Google celebrates the advent of autumn with an alluring animation:

It’s also National Pancake Day, and it’s a good Sunday to make some.

The duck story continues. Yesterday Honey was gone all day, leaving a disconsolate James to sit on his island and swim around aimlessly, looking for his mate. As of yesterday afternoon she hadn’t returned, and James wasn’t eating as well as usual. This is very sad, and I hope my hen returns today. I will be quite upset if James has been jilted. We’ll know in a few hours when it gets light and it’s feeding time.

On this day in 1641, the ship Merchant Royal, carrying a treasure of over 100,000 pounds of gold (worth over £1 billion today), as well as 400 bars of Mexican silver and nearly 500,000 pieces of eight and other coins, was lost at sea off Land’s End. It has never been recovered, though people have tried. On September 23, 1642, Harvard College held its first commencement exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1806, Lewis and Clark finally returned to St. Louis after having traveled to the Pacific Northwest for 28 months.  On this day in 1846, the astronomers Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, John Couch Adams and Johann Gottfried Galle collaborated on the discovery of Neptune. And on September 23, 1909, the novel The Phantom of the Opera (original title: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra), by French writer Gaston Leroux, is was first published as a serial in Le Gaulois. Four years later, Roland Garros, a French pilot, flew from St. Raphael in France to Bizerte in Tunisia, making him the first person to fly an airplane across the Mediterranean Sea. Here he is after his successful flight. (Garros was shot down and killed in 1918.)

On September 23, 1980, Bob Marley played his last concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suffering from melanoma (he had collapsed two days earlier). He died on May 11 of the next year. On this day in 1986, pitcher JIm Deshaies of the Houston Astros set what is still a major league record, striking out the first eight batters he faced in a game against the L. A. Dodgers. The feat was equaled by Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets in 1914. Finally, it was on this day in 2002 that the first version of the browser Mozilla Firefox was released.

Notables born on this day include Walter Lippmann (1889), Louise Nevelson (1899), Mickey Rooney (1920; do you know how many times he was married?), Ray Charles (1930), George Jackson (1941), Bruce Springsteen (1949, about my age) and Sean Spicer (1971). Those who passed away on this day include Snorri Sturluson (1241), Sigmund “I made it all up” Freud (1939), Pablo Neruda (1973), Bob Fosse (1987), and Irven DeVore (2014).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is taking up space in the hall:

A: Hili: Move aside, it’s impossible to go through.
Hili: You don’t have to go here when I’m lying here.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, zejdź z drogi, bo nie można przejść.
Hili: Nie musisz tędy przechodzić, kiedy ja tu leżę.

The other day I rode back on the train from downtown and sat in a car with a group of young, well-dressed adults, obviously going to a convention at McCormick Place. Virtually all of them were staring at their phones, even when they were sitting with a friend. From my seat I could see seven people, and all seven were gazing fixedly at the screens of their smartphones. That’s when I thought about this:

One can dream. . .

Here are some tweets from Grania. Look at this baby melanistic leopard (or is it a jaguar?):


Tom Nichols suggests how to further investigate Brett Kavanaugh:

Word from Pinker! (Grania says, “Bless this man,” and I agree!)

Grania says that First Amendment lawyer Randazza rarely criticizes Trump. He’s made an exception!

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is true and I used to call the library it from time to time when I was a kid. The NYPL has saved all the inquiries, and here are some. Have a look at the third question:

Cat does not seem pleased with mini-me:

What is the merlin doing? Trying to catch the skylark, or harrying the harrier?

Here’s a possible meme for a “just do it” Nike ad:

This is an amazing video: a meteor makes a smoke ring, presumably passing through clouds:


  1. Barbara Radcliff
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Regarding Lewis and Clark, I assume you mean 1806, not 806 which seems a bit premature!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Well done. I saw that out of the corner of my eye …

      “806…. 806??… meh… keep reading….”

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    “Roland Garros” is the … name? alternative name?.. for the French Open tennis tournament.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      It’s the name of the stadium where the French Open is played, the one with those marvelous, confounding red clay courts.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        Because the way they write it, it sounds like the name of the tournament- like “U.S. Open”, “Wimbledon”… Wimbledon is on the All England Tennis Club grounds….

        So to me it sounds more… like…. the…. I am becoming bored….

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

          Well, to be pedantic, the All England Tennis Club is in Wimbledon, the London suburb.

          ‘Wimbledon’ is just a colloquial name for the tournament.


  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Roland Garros was the first fighter pilot according to a book on this subject I read recently. They attached a machine gun to his plane and he made it work to shoot down the enemy. Until they figured out how to shoot through the propeller it was wrapped with metal allowing those early bullets to bounce off.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      I have to ask – did Fokker design a fun to shoot through the space between propeller blades? (<-tempted to write “through the propeller” – that’d be bad!).

      • chrism
        Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        It was an interrupter gear so the guns paused as a blade moved in front of the muzzles.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

          Yes, gave the Germans a big advantage in the deadly air game until the others caught up. The technology war in the early flying days was constant. The pilot’s life was short.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            There’s a big Wikipedia page on the many versions of interruptor gear


            Numerous people were working on the problem


            • Randall Schenck
              Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

              It became an industry during WWI attempting to perfect this ability. They even went so far as to create the first 20 mm cannon, although it was not used in WWI. This size bullet later became the weapon of choice on many airplanes including the one I worked many years later.

      • Posted September 24, 2018 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        No. He designed a special device that caused the gun only to fire when the propellor blades were not in the way. There was a cam mounted on the engine (it was a rotary engine, so the propellor was fixed to its case, the crank shaft fixed to the aeroplane and the whole engine and propellor went round). Essentially, the cam would cause the trigger of the gun to be pulled and fire one bullet just after the propellor blade had passed in front of the muzzle of the gun.

        The story goes that Roland Garros had been experimenting with a similar idea designed by Raymond Saulnier but Saulnier’s synchronising gear was rather less reliable (he used the wrong kind of machine gun) so he fitted armoured wedges to the propellor blades to protect them. Garros did away with the gear and just relied on the wedges. In the end he was forced to crash land in German territory, the Germans captured the remains of his plane and the wedges were supposed to have inspired Fokker to produce his design. I’ve always found that story a bit suspect and it seems Wikipedia agrees with me – Fokker had already been developing his interruptor gear when Garros crashed.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I’ve a vague recollection Mickey Rooney was married five times, one of the marriages to the future second Mrs. Sinatra, Ava Gardner.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Just looked it up; it was eight times. Jesus, Mickey, ever occur to you maybe wedded bliss was not to be yours?

      Think I musta heard the five number when I was a kid, around the time MR was lining up Mrs. Rooney #6.

  5. Ken Pidcock
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    If you saw me on a train, I’d be looking at a Kindle. Does that get to be reading or is it just another goddamned device?

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      If you look at pictures of commuters in the 1950s-90’s they are all buried in newspapers (there are pages of these pics on google). While I agree that smartphones are intrusive in many contexts I don’t think that excluding your surroundings by reading on a train or the tube (or a CTA L) is a new phenomenon.

      Texting your date (or indeed spouse) across the table in a restaurant, or around the house is a different story.

  6. chrism
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Pancake Day is always going to be Shrove Tuesday to me (aka Mardi Gras to some of you), when eggs and milk that wouldn’t keep over Lent had to be eaten up. I may live in the land of maples now, but I still prefer pancakes dusted with sugar then drizzled with lemon juice.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I like the tweet The Onion attributes to Trump, where he says if the attack happened the way Dr. Ford contends, why didn’t she come forward immediately to demand hush-money payments?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      She didn’t have Cohen for a lawyer…

  8. Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Of course, whether the alternate universe is better depends on what they are reading so intently. If WEIT it would be great. If the Bible or the Quran, not so much.

    • Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      But they could be reading WEIT on their phones. The site, I mean, not the book.


      • Posted September 24, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        They could also be reading the book – it’s available for Kindle.

  9. Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    The rise of alternative sugar-free, fat-free foods is the strongest correlation I can find for the rise of obesity in America. Of course, mostly that can be hidden by the fact that calories are cheaper than they used to be.

    I never thought about the moral implication that sugar, like sex, is yummy. What I will buy is that people, particularly religious people, do avoid things that make them feel good. So sugar free would appear to be sin free for some faithiests.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      As a condom sometimes is.

    • BJ
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      The popularity of sugar-free is, I think, for the same reason as for Diet Coke: people think that if what they’re eating doesn’t have sugar, it must be good for them and they can eat as much as they want. Additionally, people have heard the message over the years that “sugar is bad,” so they avoid sugar, but don’t change bad eating habits. So, companies make plenty of sugar-free products to capture the market of people who want to “eat healthy,” which they think means not eating sugar or GMOs or whatever, but who don’t actually do much thinking on the subject beyond what they’ve heard in the ether around them.

      I really really really doubt it has anything to do with religion or depriving oneself of pleasure. I think it’s just a cultural thing and based on an almost unconscious reaction to memes.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 24, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        It has always seemed to me that US foods on average have considerably more sugar in them than similar foods in many other countries. Any where in Europe I’ve ever been. Doubly so for Japan. Pastries are a good example. In Japan the pastries are very likely to be filled with “sweet” bean paste (not sweet!)and I never came across any that anything remotely resembling pastry cream. European pastries have more sugar than typical of Japanese pastries, but much less than US pastries. I actually prefer the lower European sugar levels, by far. For example 70% chocolate is my “sweet spot.” Typical milk chocolates are much too sweet for my liking.

  10. ranaclamitans
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    DeGrom tied the record for strikeouts to open a game in 2014, not 1914. If he did it in 1914 it wouldn’t have been his biggest achievement, since that would have given him a 104 year career. 😉 Also, there’s an asterisk here, since there is a record of 9 from 1884 , considered pre-modern era by most baseball experts.

  11. enl
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Re: Trump Derangement syndrome

    If he were rational and in contact with reality, he would understand that when sexual assault occurs, it is often unreported. He is, reputedly, and by his own admission (“grab them by the…”), a beneficiary of this.

    But, he is not. He may truly believe that if there was no police report, it either didn’t happen or was consensual.

    • Historian
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Yes, this is the problem, isn’t it? He is not rational and in contact with reality. Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist who has written about Trump, warns that he is getting worse. The Mueller investigation is wearing him down. If he finally snaps, who knows what will happen?

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        I read the book by Bandy Lee, last year when it first came out. It was an excellent review of the person and his mental condition. Maybe in future psychiatric books that explain pathological narcissism there will be a picture of Donald Trump close by.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 23, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Trump simply never lets the truth get in the way of manipulating his base. He can steer them as with a ring through their noses.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Is sugar really bad for you? As a low-fat, medium-sugar eater, I’ve always been skeptical, & the evidence is thin. Sugar-demonization may spring from moral psychology: anything pleasurable is bad for you.

    Why is sugar such a bloated [sic] subject in US? It is AFAIK mostly a rather empty food item that tricks you to eat nutrient poor food, and that article has the infamous “sugar rush” hypothesis which i believe has not stood up to scrutiny. It also scrapes the barrel on recent possible effects.

    Living in Sweden I have Livsmedelsverket to do the accepted science review – supposedly updated yearl – for me [ ]. The recommendation is as I guessed from the high energy content of sugar, “eat less of food with added sugars”, less than 10 % of calories is recommended to give you sufficient nutrition (but see below).

    First up: there are no known positive effects from eating sugars (so not mood elevating or something such). Second: natural sugars suffice. Third: increased risk for caries, so less than 5 % added sugars are even better. Fourth: increased sugars correlate with increased weight, decreased sugars correlate with decreased weight; for children only sugared drinks cause these effects.

    Diseases: Sugar consumption as usual (in Sweden) is known to increase risk for diabetes type 2 due to several factors (such as increased weight). Sugar is not known to affect risk for heart or other circulation diseases.

    Curious addendum: “High fructose corn syrup” is mentioned (wonder why? /s), but the science seems to be that it is no better or worse than other added sugars.

    Not to sweeten the deal too much, but eating less than 5 % added sugars cannot be too hard. I looked on my bread’s specifications, which is sort of neutral-to-worst case (outside dessert items such as cakes and sugared drinks), and the most sugary bread had 9 % total sugars.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Ah, so I missed that the sugar mass is not the energy content. But a quick check gives me that the bread energy content do not differ much from the raw grain (in fact is less).

    • enl
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      High fructose corn syrup has a few issues, some societal/economic, some purely medical.

      On the first, it is cheap. This leads to the heavy use, which I would suspect increases the likelihood of the sugar related health repercussions in the population…

      On the second, it is tied directly to several health issues that other sugars are not, in particular hyperuricemia and gout (see, among others, Choi-2008).

      • Scott
        Posted September 23, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Fructose is a toxin to the body, which is why it’s “digested” in the liver, just like any other toxin, drug, etc. So, HFCS, which has up to 80% fructose (vs cane sugar, at 50%), is definitely more of an issue. Fructose is the sugar that most readily turns to triglycerides and is stored in fat cells.

        Our bodies can breakdown, via fructokinase (a liver enzyme), on average, about 40-50 grams of fructose a day, but beyond that amount and the liver can no long handle it, and that’s why trigs skyrocket and the liver can become fatty (now known an Non-Achoholic Fatty Liver Disease–NAFLD).

        Our paleolithic ancestors rarely had fruits (berries were more common, and far more nutrient dense per calorie), and the fruits they had were FAR different than current day well-known human-bred juicy/sugary varieties (e.g. oranges, bananas, apples, etc.).

        This is why we’re not adapted to the much more abundant sources of fructose currently available in the last few decades. One large soda can exhaust a day’s supply of fructokinase in our liver. Here’s a recent review of this, but it’s been well-understood for at least 20 years through research:

    • Jimbo
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Steven Pinker is likely right about the human tendency to vilify activities we find pleasurable but he’s flat wrong that sugar is not bad for you and that the evidence is thin. Glad to see enl and Scott are representing the science. High sugar consumption, especially fructose, is harmful to cells due to oxidative stress arising from the need to metabolize it. Trans fat is worse than other fats because it too is cytotoxic. Caloric overload (obesity) from excess fat and sugar are the basis for atherosclerosis and accordingly, much cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as type 2 diabetes.

  13. BJ
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “White House logs. Phone records. What matters *right now* is whether Kavanaugh was part of a scheme to concoct a story. This is answerable and verifiable.
    It’s a yes or no question. Ask it, now. Democrats, if you have an ounce of sense left, focus on this. ”

    YES! Unless conclusive evidence or and overwhelming number of credible witnesses come out (and that’s very unlikely), the alleged assault will not keep Kavanaugh from confirmation because it will ultimately be he-said-she-said. Instead, be smart and focus on whether Kavanaugh has actively engaged in lies and covering up the story. It will be much easier to nail the man on dishonesty and conspiracy (not in the legal sense). Dems need to be smart here and do what they need to do, what will be effective. But we know the Dems aren’t very good at strategizing.

  14. Taz
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I like the GIF with the six cats. The one in the upper middle has friendly interactions with the one below him, and the one to his left, and the one to his righ. . . WTF IS YOUR PROBLEM, BUDDY?

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