Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, December 2, 2018, and National Fritters Day. Among American fritters, two types stand out: apple and corn. It’s also World Computer Literacy Day, and I’ll confess now that I cannot write programs, and in fact never produced a single line of code in my life. But I can use a Mac!

On December 2, 1697, St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, was consecrated in London. On this day in 1763, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, was dedicated; it is still used and remains the oldest surviving synagogue in North America. More churchy stuff: on this day in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of the French in Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral.

On this day in 1859, abolitionist John Brown was hanged in Charlestown, Virginia after his raid on Harper’s Ferry in October.  And on December 2, 1908, Pu Yi became Emperor of China at the age of two. He was the Last Emperor, and ruled only until 1912, holding a variety of positions until he died in 1967, including a stint in prison.  His life is documented in Bertolucci’s film The Last Emperor, which happens to be on YouTube in its entirety.

Here’s a bit about Pu Yi’s life in the Forbidden City:

Puyi never had any privacy and had all his needs attended to at all times, having eunuchs open doors for him, dress him, wash him, and even blow air into his soup to cool it. Puyi delighted in humiliating his eunuchs, at one point saying that as the “Lord of Ten Thousand Years” it was his right to order a eunuch to eat dirt: “‘Eat that for me’ I ordered, and he knelt down and ate it”. At his meals, Puyi was always presented with a huge buffet containing every conceivable dish, the vast majority of which he did not eat, and every day he wore new clothing as Chinese emperors never reused their clothing. The eunuchs had their own reasons for presenting Puyi with buffet meals and new clothing every day, as Puyi’s used clothes made from the finest silk were sold on the black market, while the food he did not eat was either sold or eaten by the eunuchs themselves.

And the three year old emperor:

(From Wikipedia) A three-year-old Puyi (right), standing next to his father (Zaifeng, Prince Chun) and his younger brother Pujie

On this day in 1942, Enrico Fermi’s team at the University of Chicago, about a block from where I sit right now, conducted the first artificial and self-sustaining nuclear reaction in the famous Chicago Pile-1.  Exactly 14 years later, on a yacht named the Granma, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and 80 other revolutionaries surreptitiously landed in Cuba to overthrow the Batista regime. Batista’s soldiers were waiting and nearly destroyed the landing party. A few survived in the hills and jungles, and the rest is history. The yacht is on display in Havana.  On December 2, 1982, Barney Clark became the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart, implanted at the University of Utah. Clark lived for 112 days before dying.

On this day 30 years ago, Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the first woman to lead the government of an Islam-majority state.  Finally, it was on this day in 1993 that drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was shot and killed in Medellín, Colombia.

Here’s the trailer for a documentary of Bhutto (a Harvard grad; her classmates called her “Pinkie“, a childhood nickname given because of her light skin). Bhutto was of course assassinated in 2007 while attempting to regain her position as Prime Minister:

Notables born on this day include Georges Seurat (1859), Maria Callas (1923, died at just 54), Giannia Versace (1946) and Lucy Liu (1968). Those who died on December 2 include Hernán Cortés (1547), Garardus Mercator (1594), Marquis de Sade  (1814), John Brown (1859; see above), Desi Arnaz (1986), Aaron Copland (1990), Pablo Escobar (1993; see above), Charlie Byrd (1925), and Odetta (2008).

Here’s Byrd playing a lovely version of Jobim’s bossa nova song Corcovado:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is surveying her kingdom from the upstairs windowsill:

A: What do you see?
Hili: the horizon.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Horyzont.

Why did the salmon cross the road? The answer’s in a tweet sent by both reader Nilou and Matthew (I hope the fish were okay.)

Tweets from Grania. Look at this lovely ammonite in pyrite!

Big cats from the Fluff Society:

Is this really so erroneous?

A Maru wannabe:

This viral clip is actually a dying ribbonworm, and you can read about it at the Earth Touch News Network:

When a similar clip went viral back in 2015, nemertean specialist Dr Sebastian Kvist, who is also an associate curator of invertebrates at Royal Ontario Museum, noted that the animals sometimes fall apart if handled. When this happens, the severed pieces can continue wriggling around like animated copies of a parent worm.

We checked in with Kvist about this more recent encounter, and he confirmed that the ribbon worm in the video was in very bad shape. “My best guess is that the worm is dying and that’s why it’s breaking apart,” he explained.

There isn’t much information about where the sighting was filmed, but we suspect that the worm belongs to the genus Gorgonorhynchus. Out of the 1,000 or more known species of ribbon worms, only a handful possess a branching proboscis like this one.

The fleshy tube is an infolding of the body wall that can evert like the finger of a rubber glove – and if you watch the footage closely, you’ll notice that the worm actually discards it.

“The reason for the expelling of the proboscis is that the worm thinks that it is attacked,” said Kvist. “It’s trying to leave the proboscis behind for the predator so that it can escape – it’s trying everything to stay alive.”

So while this clip is intriguing, it’s also sad:

This cat has learned some rudimentary sign language to ask for food:

Tweets from Matthew. It’s Hanukkah now, and this picture conjures up two attacks thousands of years apart:

Well, this photo doesn’t rule out that insects have six legs, as the beetle is simply a developmental anomaly.

Maybe I don’t get it, but I find this über annoying rather than joyous.

And some footy (Matthew’s a Man City fan):



  1. Historian
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Typo: Charlie Byrd died in 1999.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      He was born in 1925, but on 16 September.

      • Posted December 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Great concert, along with Charlie you also had Tal Farlow and Herb Ellis on guitar.


  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Among American fritters, two types stand out: apple and corn.

    Down here in the Florida Keys, we’re pretty fond of our conch fritters.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Conch fritters were the only edible cooked food I found when my parents took us to the Bahamas for vacation as a teen (on one of those timeshare schemes).
      Now for a nice change, try a pineapple fritter instead of the plain old (but admirable) apple fritter, if you can find one. My go-to donut shop near Kc Mo, Oz’s Mac Donuts closed a couple of years ago and I haven’t had a decent fritter since! And to think, they were replaced by yet another pizza place. Oh the humanity!

      • Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        I enjoy a good apple fritter but they’re hard to find. Only see these syrupy monstrosities at most donut shops. I used to get a good one at The Donuttery in Huntington Beach when I was in my 20s. Recently went back and they had been sold and their apple fritter was as bad as all the rest. So sad!

        • rickflick
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          Why all the tears over unavailability of your favorite fritter recipe? Can’t you make them yourselves? It can’t be rocket science.

          • Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

            I am sure I could but it takes a lot of time for something I would only eat occasionally. But I will stop whining now.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted December 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

              Perhaps you could prepare a batch right up to the baking, then individually wrap and freeze them so you can indulge whenever you want? A quick check reveals that yes you can, but I see that they’re fully cooked, then frozen. Think I’ll try that.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

                There you go!
                Why would you want some stranger getting his fingers into your batter? What’s the fun in that?

              • Posted December 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

                An excellent suggestion!

  3. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    “Puyi delighted in humiliating his eunuchs…”

    And for “Puyi” & “eunuchs” please substitute Trump & Republican Legislators.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      I’d like to see the moribund pink worm squeezed in there somewhere.

      • Christopher
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        I believe that’s why Stormy Daniels was paid to keep quiet.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Paul Ryan & Mitch McConnell: “Hey, this dirt tastes great!”

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    … Jobim’s bossa nova song Corcovado …

    Sinatra covered that tune, under the English title “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” on the album he did with Jobim. Here’s Frankie and “Tom” performing it together on the follow-up tv special they did, as part of a medley of Jobim tunes:

  5. Vaal
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “Maybe I don’t get it, but I find this über annoying rather than joyous.”

    Apparently someone found footage of Roseanne Barr’s first public performance. 😉

    • prinzler
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I looked and did not find the joy in the clip.

      • Posted December 2, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        I’m surprised that there wasn’t more laughter from the audience.

        The kid will probably be a famous hard rock star in the future.

  6. BJ
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    That Byrd video was just lovely. Made my morning. Thank you.

    Now excuse me while I go down a classical guitar rabbit hole on Youtube.

    And while we’re talking music, I’d like to take this moment to promote the very little-known Adrian Legg.

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t see this post until Tuesday, so I sent a private note to Jerry Coyne, but he has requested I post it here (now three days later)

    Whenever, an apparently complete movie is uploaded to YouTube,
    –>always<– check the running time of the movie on Wikipedia (easier to find than on Imdb). Invariably, unless you have to pay
    for them on YouTube, there is usually anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes cut from the film. I'm not entirely clear as to the
    reasons why.

    The link you posted to an apparently "complete" YouTube posting of "The Last Emperor" is half an hour too short.

  8. Posted December 4, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I want that ammonite!
    That cat adapted to her deaf staff well.

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