Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) is back, with effusive thanks to Grania for taking over the Hili Dialogues during my stint in Croatia. It’s Sunday, October 21, 2018, and I’m off to Paris in less than two weeks. This means a strict diet between now and then! That abstemiousness is promoted by the unappetizing nature of today’s food holiday: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Oy gewalt! Soon the pumpkin spice lattes will be upon us as well: signs of upper middle class female whiteness. It’s also a day to call attention to a much better snack: International Day of the Nacho, celebrating a dish invented around 1943. Here are some Fun Facts about this snack, vastly superior to pumpkin-flavored cheesecake:

Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. In 1943, the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. The maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, created a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, added sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, and served them.

When asked what the dish was called, he answered, “Nacho’s especiales“. As word of the dish traveled, the apostrophe was lost, and Nacho’s “specials” became “special nachos”.

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, “Nacho’s Restaurant”, in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s Cookbook.

Would you like some of these right now? I would!

On this day in 1512, Martin Luther joined the theology faculty of the University of Wittenburg. Exactly eight years later to the day, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the strait that now bears his name. On October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution (nicknamed “Old Ironsides”) was launched in Boston Harbor. It’s still there with its 44 guns: the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.  On October 21, 1854, Florence Nightingale and her team of 38 nurses were sent to the Crimean War. Here she is four years later:

On this day in 1879, Thomas Edison applied for his patent on an incandescent electric light bulb.  In 1940, this day saw the publication of Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (in truth, the only novel of his I really like is The Sun Also Rises, but I rank his short stories at the top with that one). Exactly four years later, the Japanese launched the first kamikaze attack against an Australian ship off Leyte Island.

On October 21, 1945, women were allowed to vote in France for the first time, and in 1959 Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order allowing the transfer of Wernher von Braun and other German scientists to NASA. And so the most excellent Tom Lehrer song:

It was on this day in 1983 that the meter was formally defined as “the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.”  Finally, it was on this day in 1994 that North Korea and the U.S. signed a pact that required the DPRK to agree to stop developing nuclear weapons and to agree to inspections. That was one of many agreements broken by the DPRK, and a lesson not learned by “President” Trump.

Notables born on this day include Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772), Alfred Nobel (1833), Oswald Avery (1877; look him up), Don Byas (1912), Georg Solti (1912), Dizzy Gillespie (1917), Ursula Le Guin (1929), Carrie Fisher (1956), and of course Kim Kardashian (1980). Those who expired on October 21 include Horatio Nelson (1805), Jack Kerouac (1969, age only 47), Hans Asperger (1980), François Truffaut (1984), George McGovern (2012), and Ben Bradlee (2014).

I campaigned for McGovern when he ran for President in 1972 and wrote this campaign poem for him.

McG! McG!
Yes, he’s the man for me.
Though his head is bald as a billiard ball,
He’s the savviest one of all.
McG! McG!
Yes, he’s the man for me.

Needless to say, he lost big time—and to Nixon. I was heartbroken, for McG was a good man. I remember watching the election returns on television in the lobby of the Rockefeller University student center (that’s where I began grad school), sitting on a couch next to the philosopher Saul Kripke. As the bad news came in, Kripke davened back and forth like a praying Jew. Bradlee, though a good editor, was a man I had little use for, as on one occasion he insulted me gratuitously. But that’s a story for another time.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn and all over Poland, today is election day. Malgorzata is on her way to vote, but encounters a campaigning Hili:

Hili: Vote for me.
Małgorzata: Why?
Hili: To make my rule look democratic.
In Polish:
Hili: Głosuj na mnie.
Małgorzata: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby moje rządy wyglądały demokratycznie.

Nearby, at the site of his future home, Leon is feeling the change of seasons.

Leon: It’s colllllllld! I’d better be going home!

In Polish:   Ziiiiiiiimno, zbieram się do domu!

Theologists continue to grapple with the problem of Missing Evidence for the Divine (h/t Diana MacPherson):

A tweet from reader Jim, and I hope no readers here make these mistakes:

Reader Rick sent some tweets of X-rays taken at the Oregon Zoo.

From reader Blue, we have a future Alex Honnold:

From reader Paul, a real scientist reacts to a pretend scientist:

A few tweets from Matthew, beginning with the weirdest-looking squirrel I’ve ever seen. Apparently it’s both leucistic and melanistic, giving it a Phantom of the Opera appearance:

I still don’t understand the trick here. Some reader please explain it to me!

The first tweet, was posted yesterday by Grania, but there’s a followup from Matthew:

From reader Florian. How did things change so fast? I am dubious.



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    “Oswald Avery”

    [ highlight ]
    [ choose “Look Up” ]

    And done.

    …. billiard ball… I think people sound it out two different ways.

  2. rickflick
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The cherubim around Jesus and his dad have expressions of bored inattention. They’ve heard all this before. For millennia. They whisper to each other distractedly. “Oh, here we go again.”
    One of them checking his i-phone…a job offer from another medieval painter.

  3. Lurker111
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Actually, apostrophes ARE used to separate the “s” from symbols that are pluralized, and words taken as words, e.g.:

    Note the number of &’s in this ad copy!

    You can often improve prose by removing unnecessary which’s and that’s.

    Thus, it should be 5 PC’s, NOT 5 PCs.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 21, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know about using an apostrophe “to separate the ‘s’ from symbols that are pluralized, and words taken as words…”

      However, with regard to the specific case of using an apostrophe when pluralizing “Saudi” I think that the mistake doesn’t lie with people thinking that’s the way to do it; rather, I think the confusion comes from variants in transliterating the Arabic. Without going into confusing detail, the “u” in “Saudi” is properly transliterated as “‘u” because it represents an Arabic letter, “ع”
      — a voiced pharyngeal fricative, absent in English. It takes a “u” vowel and so becomes “‘u”. But because it’s not an alphabetical sound in English, the apostrophe for the ‘ayn tends to get lost in everyday writing.

      I don’t think it’s a really confusion about plurals. I think that the confusion comes when people recall seeing an apostrophe somewhere (and only sometimes) in a transliteration of “Saudi” but not knowing what the apostrophe in the middle of the word represents and not remembering where it was placed, think it might go with the “i” at the end of the name.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I’m with you on The Sun Also Rises and the short stories (especially “the first forty-nine”). But there are those for whom For Whom the Bell Tolls makes the earth move. 🙂

    IIRC, both John McCain and Barack Obama named it as their favorite (or at least one of their favorite) novels during their 2008 presidential campaigns.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Exactly four years later, the Japanese launched the first kamikaze attack against an Australian ship off Leyte Island.

    My old man was at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Fall of ’44. Told me he saw a kamikaze one time, though I don’t know if it was there, or later at Iwo Jima, the other battle where his destroyer saw action. He said the Japanese plane was headed for an aircraft carrier in his battle group, and the gunner on the carrier took it out of the sky with a single round. Said, when it happened, a huge cheer went up around the fleet.

    When he’d mention the places he’d been to as a teenager in the Navy during the war, he’d refer to it simply as “Leyte,” which, as a kid, I heard as “Lady,” so always thought there was a someplace called “Lady” somewhere in the Pacific.

    Christ, I haven’t thought about that in god knows how long.

    • Barbara Radcliffe
      Posted October 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      My (much older) and now late brother was a baker on the USS Gambier Bay that was sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He had an unexpected swim, and was picked up some 24 hours later by a US ship. He was evacuated to Brisbane where the US Navy wanted him to pay for a new uniform, but was looked after rather better by the Salvos. The entire ship’s company were awarded a Medal of Honor, something that none of the family know until he died about five years ago.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 21, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Damn Yanks, tryin’ to dun him for the cost of a uniform!

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    That is a very cool alternative route for using the stairs, and i shoulda done that for my kids when they were little.
    But I would remove the picture at the top of the stairs, and replace the heavy chain part with rope. Just being a ‘helicopter parent’.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    McGovern was the first vote I cast, and only because the 26th Amendment had been ratified the year before, giving 18-year-olds the franchise. I’m so glad I got to vote against that momzer Nixon, who had tarred poor George as the candidate of “the three A’s” — acid, amnesty, and abortion (which, I gotta admit, to an 18-year-old like me, sounded like a pretty solid platform). 🙂

  8. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    How did things change so fast?

    With a conspirationist commander-in-chief? It has been 3 years and counting.

    [And I can assume that the overlap with GOP voters could be dominant.]

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 21, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Three years including the pre-POTUS gig, I mean.

  9. Posted October 21, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    On October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution (nicknamed “Old Ironsides”) was launched in Boston Harbor. [b]It’s still there[/b] with its 44 guns: the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.

    [my bold]

    Not even one voyage?

    Anyway talking of old Navy ships, you forgot to mention that on this day in 1805 the Royal Navy practically annihilated the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. It was probably the most decisive naval battle of modern history.

    You can go and see Nelson’s flagship – HMS Victory – in Portsmouth if you are ever there. It’s well worth the time. Victory is the oldest commissioned ship in the World, although its guns are made out of fibreglass. Real guns are too heavy to be supported by the structure of a wooden warship that is out of the water.

    • BJ
      Posted October 21, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      “…its guns are made out of fibreglass. Real guns are too heavy to be supported by the structure of a wooden warship that is out of the water.”

      Interesting! I never would have considered that.

      Not that I would have had cause to at any point before now, but very interesting nonetheless.

      It’s amazing how many died or were wounded in the Battle of Trafalgar. I wish I could imagine what such a battle looked like. That reminds me: if you enjoy historical naval battle, check out a Korean movie called Admiral: Roaring Currents, the awesome true story of the Korean admiral who, in 1597, fought off 300 modern Japanese ships with 12 ships of his own and likely saved his entire nation. The first half is a bit boring with setting up the characters and situation, but absolutely necessary. The battle is amazing, and you should read about it after if you don’t already know what it.

      • Posted October 21, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        For the ordinary seamen fighting at Trafalgar, the chance of being killed was probably significantly less than the chance of being killed in one of the land battles of the day. Most of them would have been in the gun crews and protected by the walls of the ship (which were extremely thick).

        It was a different proposition for the officers, who would mostly be out on deck so they could see what was going on. This is why Nelson was killed on that day. He3 was standing on the quarter deck of the Victory in full view of the men on two French ships alongside. Even so, you were probably better off an officer on the deck of one of the ships in Nelson’s fleet than in the line at Waterloo.

        • BJ
          Posted October 21, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          “For the ordinary seamen fighting at Trafalgar, the chance of being killed was probably significantly less than the chance of being killed in one of the land battles of the day.”

          Right, that’s why it’s so surprising when you realize how many people died in a turn-of-the-19th-century naval battle!

          Anyway, do you know the story of the Battle of Myeongnyang? Feel free to read about it even if you are planning to see the film later, as it won’t really spoil anything. I’d say the film has the best naval battle scenes, excepting Master and Commander.

        • revelator60
          Posted October 21, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          Yes, and there is a plaque on the HMS Victory that tells visitors it marks the very spot where Nelson fell. Reading it makes the past feel slightly nearer.

          Portsmouth also has the remains of the HMS Mary Rose, the warship of Henry VIII that sank in battle against the French in 1545. It has been raised from the deep and placed in a special enclosure. The surrounding exhibits include the skeletons of several crew members and the ship’s dog!

          • Posted October 22, 2018 at 3:43 am | Permalink

            there is a plaque on the HMS Victory that tells visitors it marks the very spot where Nelson fell

            I’m not surprised. I tripped over it myself when I visited Victory last year.

            (old Carry On joke).

  10. BJ
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Nacho Anaya is a hero! What a story. What a man. What a dish!

    • Diane G
      Posted October 22, 2018 at 2:12 am | Permalink


  11. Posted October 21, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “Would you like some of these right now?”

    You are so cruel!

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Given that sci-fi writer Ursula K. LeGuin was fairly savagely critical of the first “Star Wars” film (and probably didn’t warm up to any of the subsequent ones), it’s ironic that she shares her birthday with Carrie Fisher (although I’m sure she wouldn’t blame Fisher for the film’s problems.)


    Re: “On this day in 1512, Martin Luther joined the theology faculty of the University of Wittenburg.”
    I recommend the little-known play “Wittenberg” about an imaginary meeting between Martin Luther (while still a student there) , Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Marlowe’s Faust.
    An informative though negative review is here.


    Evidence for the divine is certainly thin on the ground. Some folks embrace religious belief simply because a belief system is presented with a lot of internal coherence, and they feel their lives have been changed in positive ways by embracing them.
    But a world with genocide, cancer in children, and the evident immorality of both portions of the Old Testament and certain forms of Evangelical Protestantism remain objections to some socially dominant forms of religious belief. (I’ll take the theistic rationalism of many of the Founding Fathers and the nature mysticism of John Muir over Falwell, Robertson, Dobson any day…)

  13. Taz
    Posted October 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    This may have been linked here already. If so, sorry for the repeat, but I don’t recall seeing it:

    Cats and Duck

  14. Posted October 22, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Hm, so nachos are actually Mexican. I would have thought they were American modifications, but …

  15. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 23, 2018 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Explanation of the illusion:

    First, the blue-grey bands are seen as continuous because they are the same colour (all other rows are composed of alternate colour squares). So the eye concentrates on those bands; if the illusion is rotated through 90 degrees the bands become vertical but the illusion persists.

    That’s not part of the illusion but it’s why you notice it most along those bands.

    The actual ‘slanting’ illusion is created by the small diagonal squares at the corners of the big squares. Consider the top edge of one of the large black squares: At its left end, the small diagonal square has its two black mini-squares arranged vertically; at the right end, horizontally. The effect is that the horizontal top border of the large black square appears to drop down at the left end, and pop up like an ear at the right end; this makes it appear that the border is sloping.

    Also, the thin centre line along the blue band is not truly horizontal; it waves up and down slightly in such a way as to add to the illusion.


  16. Posted October 23, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I am a huge fan of Hemmingway.
    He writes in a short, concise style.
    Nothing long-winded.

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