Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s Saturday, November 17, 2018 which means that today I go to Costco to pick up my new glasses (and, of course, a large apple pie).

Be aware that buying glasses directly from your optometrist is generally a bad idea, as they rip you off on the cost of frames, which are hideously expensive. (I’ve heard that one firm makes a huge proportion of the frames sold in America under different brand names, which gives them the ability to keep prices high for what is, after all, a simple concoction of plastic and wire. See this Forbes article, which also reports:

As my fellow four-eyes will know, buying new glasses can be an expensive undertaking. The fanciest frames at LensCrafters often sell for $400-500. Holding those little assemblages of glass, metal, and plastic that cost $25-50 to make in your hand, you might wonder how exactly you were roped into paying so much.

The answer is basic economics. Most frames are manufactured by a single company, named Luxottica. The Italian company makes frames and sunglasses for an amazing list of brands and stores (a list follows):

. . . Luxottica controls 80% of the major brands in the $28 billion global eyeglasses industry. This monopolistic structure of the market leads to profits that are “relatively obscene,” says Tim Wu, a professor of law at Columbia University and the author of The Master Switch. In a speech given at this year’s [2014] annual conference for New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Wu remarks that products in some industries seem to only get better and cheaper — laptops, for example — while other products, like eyeglasses, remain strangely pricey, with only superficial innovation.

Along with toothpaste and commercial coffee—like Starbucks lattes—glasses frames are one of the most overpriced items in the U.S. Further, I found that the people who measure your eye-position data (interpupillary distance, etc.) and fill your prescription at Costco are just as good as those in the front of the optometrist’s office (who are not optometrists), yet equivalent frames at Costco cost about 25-30% as much as those from optometrists. Take it from PCC(E); get your eyes tested by a good optometrist, but get your frames at Costco, where they have a ton, including designer frames.

Also be aware that it’s National Baklava Day: my favorite pastry in all the world! And the best baklava I’ve found is at the baklava shop near the train station down by the waterfront in Istanbul (get the pistachio baklava topped with whipped cream). Here’s my last plateful from March, 2008:

If you can’t eat at least eight pastries, you’re a wuss!

It’s also International Students’ Day, originally commemorating, according to Wikipedia, “the Nazi storming of Czech universities in 1939 and the subsequent killing and sending of students to concentration camps.”

On November 17, 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen of England after her half sister Queen Mary I died.  On this day in 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh went on trial for treason. He was convicted, but the King spared his life and Raleigh remained imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1616, writing books and even conceiving a child (they must have allowed conjugal visits). Raleigh later went on an expedition to Venezuela and, because some of his men violated orders not to attack the Spanish, he was again imprisoned and beheaded in 1618. On this day in 1939 (see above), the Nazis executed nine Czech students “as a response to anti-Nazi demonstrations prompted by the death of Jan Opletal,” as Wikipedia notes.  “All Czech universities [were] shut down and more than 1,200 students sent to concentration camps.” Ergo International Students’ Day.

It was on November 17, 1973—45 years ago—that Richard Nixon told 400 managing editors of the Associated Press that “I am not a crook.” But he was! Here’s his Big Lie:


Notables born on November 17 include Eugene Wigner (1902; Nobel Laureate), Rock Hudson (1925, died 1985), Gordon Lightfoot (1938; he’s 80 today), Martin Scorsese (1942), and RuPaul (1960).

In honor of Lightfoot’s birthday, here’s half of his 1972 BBC concert (the other half is here). The young Lightfoot was the best; his first album, “Lightfoot!” (released in 1966, two years after it was recorded) has to be among my top two or three folk albums.

Those who died on this day include Catherine the Great (1796; no horses were involved), Auguste Rodin (1840), and Doris Lessing (2013).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili is thinking deep thoughts again but, as happens so often, I don’t understand them. Malgorzata explains:

“There is a practical philosophy at the university and the name always made Andrzej laugh (me as well).  I don’t really know what they do. And there is a beloved creationists’ argument that “evolution is just a theory”. So Hili combined the two.”

The dialogue:

Hili: Practical philosophy is just a theory.
A: I’m afraid you might be right.
In Polish:
Hili: Filozofia praktyczna to tylko teoria.
Ja: Obawiam się, że możesz mieć rację.

A tweet from Matthew: a women with her Honorary Pet Cat on the Moscow subway. Look at that tail (I’m referring to the fox)!

A tweet from reader Gethyn: it’s now possible to produce prosthetic undercarriages for cats.

From reader Barry: a trap-door spider:

From reader Blue:

Tweets from Heather Hastie. It’s not a good time to be a tourist in Venice:

And a gorgeous tarantula:

Tweets from Grania; be sure you turn the sound up for the first one, a reliably heartwarming animal-rescue story from The Dodo.

Nick Cohen vilifies the identity politics of both Left and Right; a good article!

This list, which has been making the rounds, reminds us how far equality of the sexes has come. If this appeared now, it would be laughed out of court:

Does this evoke any memories for you?


  1. Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    If you ever come to Serbia: Test the Baklava
    there! I prefer it over the Turkish & Greek
    versions as it is usually not so sweet.
    In Serbia it is often prepared with walnut.

    The best baklava in the world (in my opinion) is prepared by my mother in law, who cooks & bakes an interesting blend of Turkish & Austrian Style food.

  2. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Yes it has occurred to me that frames for glasses are a ludicrous price.

    If you’re lucky enough not to have astigmatism and just need glasses to compensate for presbyopia (long-sightedness) you can make do with cheap plastic-lens made-in-China ‘readers’ (that is, if tRump hasn’t trade-war-banned them). My eyes are stuck at one dioptre past the horizon, so I have a pair of +1’s for TV/driving and a pair of +3’s for reading. (Actually, about a dozen pairs of each). Cost, $3 NZ per pair from the local cheap’n’cheerful $2 shop.

    This makes it far less painful when I inevitably lose a pair or sit on them with a crunch.

    Admittedly bifocals would be more convenient but at several hundred dollars a pop – I can live with the minor inconvenience of swapping my glasses frequently.

    I do get my eyes tested regularly at the local university school of optometry, though.


    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I do the same with reading glasses. Sometimes I even splurge & buy $25 ones that have nice aluminum frames. I saw a pair last week that were cheap bifocals in that you could look up from the reading portion & not have it all blurry. Those were $35. I may get a pair of those.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm, maybe I should go online looking for bifocals. $35 I could probably run to. (Any more than that is high risk around me since, as I said, my glasses have a half-life of about six months)


  3. Mike
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    My last pair of Glasses cost me £450.00 and that with 25% Seniors Discount, my next ones are due, but only after my Cataract has been sorted.

  4. Linda Calhoun
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Costco optical shop has been rated #1 in the US for many years by Consumer Reports.

    If you don’t have the time/money/inclination to travel abroad to get it, a decent pistachio baklava can be ordered from the Eagle Ranch pistachio orchard in Alamogordo, NM at They also have a winery, but since I don’t drink wine I can’t attest to the quality of that.


  5. Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Nick Cohen’s Quillette article is indeed a good one. Personally I fend the tell when someone tips over into anti-Muslim bigotry (or at least needless hostility) is when they start referring to protecting ‘Western values’ instead of ‘universal human rights’.

    (Talk of human rights is fare more threatening to Islamists and their sympathisers than all this “Western” chest thumping.)

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    This post generated some discussion about optical. Found this :

    … There’s cheaper sellers than Costco…

    • Rita
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I get my glasses at Eyemart Express: 2 pr. for $59.95, plus a few add-ons, $10 for tinted lens, etc. They have more expensive frames, but I pick from the very small selection of the cheapest lens because I’m very careless with them. I get the prescription from my optometrist.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Hey that’s good!

      What really grinds my gears is when someone is making a killing selling stuff to suckers at a ridiculously inflated price. A mass-produced frame – about equivalent in mechanical complexity to a ballpoint pen – should not cost hundreds of dollars unless you want to look like Deepak Chopra. 😉


    • Posted November 17, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but I am a bit unwilling to do online shopping for glasses, though Zeno’s prices are astounding.

      • rickflick
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        I was a bit tentative myself about online shopping for glasses, but I’ve been doing it for years now without problems.

      • Phil Garnock-Jones
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        I’ve used Zenni for a while now and only once had a problem: I suspect they got left and right swapped over. When I told them they said they’d replace them if I sent them back, but it was easier just to order another pair, which were fine (strong astigmatism + presbyopia, progressive lenses).

    • Posted November 17, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I buy reading glasses online because I can get the kind with spring hinges, 4 for $12. They last 10 times longer than the drugstore variety as their non-spring hinges break so easily.

      • rickflick
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        My wife also gets non-prescription reading glasses online. The frames are all important so it’s worth paying a few dollars more for shipping.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    My optometrist takes his animus about, what he calls, “the commercializations of eye care”, on me. He refused to fit me for contacts and told me to go buy them at COSTCO but I don’t even shop there. In the end he capitulated and sort of helped me but I’m on my own with contacts for the most part. I always bought my glasses from him because they were priced reasonably with frames around $100 but with horribly expensive leases because my prescription is so strong that I need to buy the thinnest lens and even then they are still a bit thick. It could be the frames are cheaper because I have to buy less fancy ones to accommodate my thicker lenses. Anyway, the last time he ranted I was really upset because I had eye issues (I have cataracts as I’m extremely myopic) and cancer at the same time and had zero energy to deal with more shit. Now I still go because I see him and the ophthalmologist to monitor my cataracts and professionally he’s one of the best. I went to him since I was a teen and he isn’t much older than my but lately he has been calling it in and seems super pissed off all the time. I think I’m going to call him on it next time.

    And those eye measuring people are called Opticians. I think they make ok money but it seems like such a boring job. I think, if I did a job like that, I’d probably do things like speak in a different accent all day just to amuse myself.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I used to do that — speak in different accents to make the job interesting. It was back during summer break from college when I worked alone at the front checkout for Woolworth. Once, someone asked me where I was from. I immediately broke my vaguely Eastern European character and said “From here. I’m just trying it out for fun.”

      I didn’t know anyone else ever thought of it.

      As for glasses, I’ve learned that I need to get my lenses at the same place I get my prescription because there’s something weird about my eyes: they work one way on the optometrist’s machine and another way in real life. Two years ago I got 3 exams and 3 lense substitutions. I only paid once though because I bought the glasses from the optometrist’s office.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad you put the different accents into use. I worked with a guy at a tech support phone job and he used to answer the phones in different accents. I still remember him saying one day, “I think I’m going to take the entire next call in an English accent”.

        • Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          Until I started living outside my parents’ home, I would switch back and forth between English and American accents. If someone caught me doing it, I denied it. My first accent was English. I believe I learned American as if it was a very easy to learn second language. The switch between one and the other was effortless but only when triggered by the appropriate accent by those around me. If I wanted to show off an English accent to my American friends, say, it was much more difficult to make the switch.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 18, 2018 at 3:01 am | Permalink

            We had a Prime Minister (in NZ) a couple of decades back, Jim Bolger. (He was a Catholic and in the National Party, but a fairly decent guy notwithstanding both those things). And he notoriously used to mimic accents, quite unconsciously. So if he was talking to, say, the Prime Minister of India his voice would acquire a sing-song tone. If to an American he would acquire a drawl. And so on.

            Other than our news media, I think everyone else either didn’t notice or diplomatically ignored it. I don’t think anybody took offence.


            • Posted November 18, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              I suspect many of us have that problem. I remember going to a high school friend’s house and talking to his father who had a very strong Georgian drawl. I found myself slipping into it a bit and was afraid he thought I was mocking him. He didn’t seem to detect it though I imagine he must have been used to it happening. Plus he was a consummate gentleman.

    • Posted November 19, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      A friend told me about a company called Bonlook which makes very good and very affordable eyeglasses. There is an outlet in Hamilton and one in London, as well as all over Canada. Too far away for me, but worth it if you can get there. I’m told they don’t gouge you on add-on options on the lenses nor on the frames.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 20, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Funny enough, I saw that store in a mall in Hamilton yesterday. I thought it was some high end sunglasses store so didn’t go in. Then I made Bonhomme jokes to myself and got distracted. I will have to check them out next time.

        • Posted November 20, 2018 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

          Good! I was told that they charge a very reasonable price for the lenses and frames, no matter the prescription.

  8. Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    129 Ways to Get a Husband reads like satire to me. Was it meant to be taken seriously?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Yes it was serious. I like the one about wearing a band aid so someone will ask you about it.

      • Christopher
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        I’m hoping more women try the one about being friendly to ugly men; may be my only hope.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          Now you’ve given me my opening to express my dissatisfaction with Shrek. In Shrek, Fiona must make a choice between being a pretty human. Princess or being an ogre. If she becomes an ogre, she can marry Shrek. Why should her human or ogre status determine her relationship with Shrek? I was annoyed that a pretty human couldn’t marry an ogre. I thought it was a bad commentary on pretty people only marrying other pretty people. Maybe the pretty people value more than looks!! I personally think Shrek is hilarious and I’d rather marry him than the stupid humans in the show but I would like being a pretty human also.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      I used to read vintage women’s magazines and this article looks like it’s meant to be a combination of good advice, questionable advice, and silliness thrown together on the principle that “hey, it might work” and to get the reader involved in coming up with her own ideas. Back then the “helpless female” was indeed a thing (I’ve got an old copy of the book Fascinating Womanhood which endorsed this trope) but stuff like “stumble when you walk into a room” was probably meant humorously for a mainstream audience.
      It looks like the list was a group effort. I would have added “… and if all else fails, try kidnapping.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        “stumble when you walk into a room” = probably drunk = an easy lay.

        My mind is deplorable sometimes. 🙂


  9. Stephen Caldwell
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    As far as eyeglasses, I rarely change frames and just get new lenses. My eye doctor’s office has no problems doing it. When I’m ready for a change or a second pair, I go to the internet and shop. Prices are way cheaper and I get what I want, not some generic crap.

  10. rickflick
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    For many years I’ve been getting glasses through Zenni Optical online. They are very inexpensive. Bifocals + frame cost about $30. They provide glasses for almost any condition. As far as pupillary distance, I just have my wife measure with the small ruler they provide.

  11. Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    You forgot that its Happy National Homemade Bread Day!

  12. Christopher
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    If you click on the tw@tter link for the ways to get a husband someone in the comments has found the rest of the list. I like the one about reading the obituaries to find widowers. That’s not creepy at all.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      I was using that exact example of how ghoulish the lost was. I think widows are mentioned more than once too.

  13. Posted November 17, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Clearly the kittens couldn’t have been “frozen solid”. I will never understand how people can use hyperbole that is so specific and obviously wrong. It begs the listener to call them on it. Still, cute kittens.

  14. Phil Garnock-Jones
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    If you think it’s bad with glasses, wait till you need hearing aids. I’m hoping someone will burst the bubble of the hearing clinics. It ought to be possible to have your home computer test your hearing and set up a pair of hearing aids just as the clinics do.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 17, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Elisabeth Warren was trying to get legislation to break the hearing aid monopoly. She wanted them sold over the counter. I’m pretty sure audiologists would find that unwise.

      • Posted November 17, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        This reminds me of an article in The Economist from years ago. They made a strong case that the US requires practitioners in too many professions to be licensed. We assume that doctors and lawyers licenses really do mean something in terms of indicating a certain level of competence but they mean nothing in many professions. They are just ways for some sort of elite to provide a barrier to entry. Those elite do not contribute to our economy and many who can’t afford the license fee have to go without. Perhaps we should not care what the audiologists think.

        • rickflick
          Posted November 17, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          I’m a little more sanguine about licensing even if it doesn’t always operate as advertised. A licensed audiologist has at least a B.S. and maybe an M.S. or Phd. I’m sure they know more than I do about my own ears.

          • Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say that education and preparation don’t matter. Of course they do. I suppose one thing that licensing does do is check that the person has the required preparation. However, the guarantee of competence represented by a license likely varies greatly between professions. On the other hand, one can also get a degree by filling out a form and paying $50 (I assume). It is tough world out there. Caveat emptor like never before.

            • rickflick
              Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

              Ha! That’s not all. My brother’s wedding was performed by a minister(her brother) who got his license from the web. I asked him if there were any requirements. Thirty bucks.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 17, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

                Well, that raises the question – since we (as atheists) do not accept that any church has any valid intellectual or legal authority, it follows that being a minister is not a valid qualification. Therefore, why shouldn’t just anybody be able to become a ‘minister’ by paying thirty bucks on the Internet?


              • Posted November 18, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

                So who authorizes the recipient of the 30 bucks? Sounds like a good line of business.

              • rickflick
                Posted November 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

                Whoever runs the outfit will keep the $30, I assume. It’s legal. At least in Michigan. The think I especially like about it is that it’s another way people can escape the clutches of the church. They think they own marriage.

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