Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Ceiling Cat’s Day: Sunday, December 9, 2018, and 16 days until the beginning of my personal six day holiday, Coynezaa (I have as of today received no presents). It’s National Pastry Day as well as International Anti-Corruption Day.

On this day in 1531, the Virgin of Guadalupe made its first purported appearance to Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant. Three days later, a miraculous image of Mary appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak when he visited the Bishop. The miraculously imaged cloak is now installed in the Minor Basicila of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a hideous modern church shown below. According to Wikipedia, ” The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world’s third most-visited sacred site. Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a Canonical Coronation on 12 October 1895.”

The image is on the wall behind the altar. You can go behind the altar and see it close up, but there’s a moving sidewalk that whisks you by the virgin very quickly, so it’s hard to get a good look. Here are some photos I took when I visited Mexico City in November 2012—during the Mexican Atheists Meeting.

Below is the new Basicila that replaced the beautiful older one. I suppose they built it to hold more worshipers:

View of the Virgin from the congregation, with bonus preacher:

The icon shot from behind the alter (blurry because of low light and the moving sidewalk):

The moving sidewalk past the Virgin:

On this day in 1872, P. B. S. Pinchback became the first African-American governor of a U.S. State: Louisiana. Here he is: he was mostly white, born to a mixed-race woman and a white planter:

On this day in 1905, the “law concerning the separation of church and state” was passed in France, making it an officially secular state. Exactly 30 years later, the first Heisman Trophy for college football achievement was awarded to a University of Chicago player, halfback Jay Berwanger. (Back then we had a great football team.) According to Wikipedia, his aunt used the trophy as a doorstop, and it supposedly now resides in “the University of Chicago Athletic Hall of Fame”; I have no idea where that is.  On December 9, 1946, the Indian Constituent Assembly met for the first time to begin drafting the Constitution of India. On this day in 1960, the first episode of Coronation Street was broadcast in the UK; it is now the world’s longest-running television soap opera (does anybody follow it?).

On this day in 1979, the complete eradication of the smallpox virus was certified by a commission of scientists, making it the only human disease completely wiped off the face of the Earth. (There is another disease in animals that’s also been eradicated. Do you know what it is?) On this day in 1987, the First Intifada began in the Gaza strip.

On December 9, 1996, Gwen Jacob was acquitted of going topless (“topfree”) on a hot day in Ontario; it’s still legal to do that there, but not in other provinces. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the incident and Jacob’s aquittal:

On July 19, 1991, a very hot and humid day, Gwen Jacob, a University of Guelph student, was arrested, after walking down a street in Guelph, Ontario, while topless after removing her shirt when the temperature was 33 °C (91 °F) and was charged with indecency under Section 173(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. Police stated that they acted following a complaint from a woman who was upset that one of her children had seen Jacob topless.Jacob stated she did it because men were doing it and she wanted to draw attention to the double standard. She was found guilty and fined $75. In her defence she argued that breasts were merely fatty tissue. In finding her guilty, the judge stated that breasts were “part of the female body that is sexually stimulating to men both by sight and touch,” and therefore should not be exposed.

She appealed, but her appeal was dismissed by the Ontario Court (General Division), and she further appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.In the meantime, protests against Jacob’s arrest and conviction led to further charges against others, in particular R. v. Arnold but in this case McGowan P.C.J. applied the test of community standard of tolerance, following Butler, stating that the action of being topless caused no harm and thus did not exceed community standards of tolerance. She commented, “Undoubtedly, most women would not engage in this conduct for there are many who believe that deportment of this nature is tasteless and does not enhance the cause of women. Equally undoubtedly, there are men today who cannot perceive of woman’s breasts in any context other than sexual. It is important to reaffirm that the Canadian standards of tolerance test does not rely upon these attitudes for its formulation. I have no doubt that, aside from their personal opinions of this behaviour, the majority of Canadians would conclude that it is not beyond their level of tolerance.”Jacob was acquitted on December 9, 1996, by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that the act of being topless is not in itself a sexual act or indecent. The court held that “there was nothing degrading or dehumanizing in what the appellant did. The scope of her activity was limited and was entirely non-commercial. No one who was offended was forced to continue looking at her” and that furthermore “the community standard of tolerance when all of the relevant circumstances are taken into account” was not exceeded. Although Jacob claimed she had a constitutional right, the court did not address this.

Here’s Jacob speaking at a Top Freedom rally in Waterloo three years ago:

Photo by Candace Cobbing

Exactly ten years ago, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested for sundry crimes, which included trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Blago remains in prison. Finally, exactly one year ago, Australia became the 26th country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Notables born on this day include John Milton (1608), Peter Kropotkin (1842), Fritz Haber (1868; Nobel Laureate), Joseph Pilates (1883, yes, that Pilates), Margaret Hamilton (1902), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1909). Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915), Kirk Douglas (1916, and still alive at 102), Judi Dench (1934) and Kirsten “Elect Me; I’m Woke Now” Gillebrand (1966).

Those who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on December 9 include Edith Sitwell (1964), Branch Rickey (1965), Leon Jaworski (1982), and Mary Leakey (1996).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a wag. (Look how cute she is, too!)

A: Shouldn’t we make plans for the future?
Hili: I’ve already made a plan.
A: What plan is that?
Hili: Not to make plans.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy nie powinniśmy zrobić planów na przyszłość?
Hili: Już zaplanowałam.
Ja: Co?
Hili: Że nie będę planować.

Tweets from Matthew. First up: ducklings + world’s largest rodent:

I saw these as all right-side-up from the beginning!

This is one frustrated moggie:

A surprise for our lady readers? And “THE FIGHTING EDITOR”?

Those 15-shilling books are now worth several hundred thousand dollars each. According to a website calculator, if there are 20 shillings in a pound, then 15 shillings in 1859 (0.75 pounds) was the equivalent of £92.52 now. That seems high! Did I do the calculation wrong?

Tweets from Grania. Is your cat ready for Christmas?

For some reason, videos of ducks eating watermelon always make me smile. Sadly, Honey didn’t like the stuff. . .


If cats could talk, this would be an accurate conversation:

And a lovely murmuration of starlings over water:

Oh hell, here’s a video of two mallard hens nomming watermelon:


  1. Posted December 9, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I suspect that your question about whether or not anyone follows Coronation Street was aimed at identifying if there is an overlap in the Venn diagram of Corrie watchers and WEIT readers rather then just whether or not the programme gets a significant audience. I can’t answer that question – I don’t watch it myself – but I can tell you that it remains one of the most consistently high-rated tv programmes in the UK with six million or so viewers or even more depending on the drama levels of current story lines. Although I don’t watch it myself I certainly know people who do watch it religiously and I am sure the same is true for most of your other UK based readers.

  2. John S
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Did those starlings actually land (oh, alright, touch down) on the water? Hard to tell. Seems risky.

  3. George
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    A few corrections about the Jay Berwanger note. The Downtown Athletic Club trophy did not become the Heisman Trophy until the year after Berwanger won it. The Maroons were not a very good football team in 1935. And UofC dropped football in 1939. Restarted football in 1969 and they play at the Division III level. The glory days of UofC football were earlier. A good resource (but surprisingly not a very good read) is Stagg’s University by Robin Lester.

    The problems with collegiate athletics were there from the start. You can make an argument that UofC had a large role in making the mess that is college sports. The story of Walter Eckersall is enlightening. Read this:

    The football stadium – later known as Stagg Field – is right across the street from PCC(e)’s office, now the site of Regenstein Library. Stagg Field is probably best known for what happened under its west stand on December 2, 1942.

    The UofC Athletics Hall of Fame is in the Ratner Center on Ellis Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets. Big building with masts and a large (50m) swimming pool.

    My favorite thing in the HoF is a basketball used in a game with Indiana in 1909. The Maroons were voted the national basketball champions in 1908 and 1909. They had two of the greatest players of that era on that team, Harlan “Pat” Page and John Schommer, both members of the basketball Hall of Fame. Starting at forward on that team was Edwin Hubble. Yes, that Edwin Hubble. He was a great athlete. In high School, he set the Illinois record in the high jump which stood for 20 years (or so). On the last space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, UofC alumnus John Grunsfeld took the ball with him. Here is a pic:

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Gwen Jacob removed her shirt to show the double standard. Very good.

    • Posted December 9, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Is that what they called them then?

  5. Bat
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Re price of origin: for comparison, it looks like copies of coyne and orr speciation are going for upwards of $100 on amazon these days. So not really out of line. I guess the price of knowledge has always been dear.

    • Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Academic publishing: a lucrative business then and now!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      About 10 years ago I was browsing in a second-hand bookshop near Leicester Square (London – I must have been on the way to or from a client meeting) and came across a third or 4th edition OTOOS in decent condition. “Very interesting,” mumbled I and flicked to the front to see the price, then put it back on the shelf, very carefully. 90-something beer vouchers.
      So a first edition – it’s going to be an awful lot more expensive! By a factor of “lots”.

  6. chrism
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Rinderpest was the cattle disease eradicated. I remember that when smallpox was finally extinct(in the wild, that is), I wondered what other organism might move into its ecological niche, and while that hasn’t been a an issue, we are seeing new enteroviruses causing acute flaccid myelitis since polio has disappeared from the developed world.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Rindepest. Only about a decade ago, too.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    … the Minor Basicila of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a hideous modern church …

    Chrissake, looks like a bush-league arena, kinda place you’d go to see a basketball or hockey game or a concert by a middling Eighties rock band.

    • James
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I have never liked modern churches. Old churches at least were architecturally interesting. Now they are little more tn boxes built to hold the maximum number of people, with beauty, grace, visual interest all gone. These churches don’t even rise to the level of being ugly–some Renaissance churches were ugly, and those are still superior buildings to these eyesores.

  8. jacques Hausser
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    It’s a murmuration perhaps, but they are certainly not starlings. Dunlins in winter plumage, or some other small waders. You can see the white underparts when they turn.

    • Posted December 9, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes I agree. This kind of behaviour is typical of many shorebird species. (Note: I think in the US the term ‘wader’ is more typically used to refer to long-legged aquatic species such as herons, egrets, storks and spoonbills; charadriiforme birds such as dunlin and other sandpipers are usually referred to as ‘shorebirds’).

      • Adrian
        Posted December 10, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I agree they are waders but suspect that they are Knot (Calidris canutus) by their behaviour.

        Starling would be murmurating (is that a word?) in or near their roost site not on the seashore,

  9. rickflick
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    That’s one very fine murmuration. Our starlings are beginning to murmur here on the Snake River. They haven’t reached glorious heights of efflorescence yet but I have my camera ready.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    View of the Virgin from the congregation, with bonus preacher …

    Bonus football helmet in that pic, too, ’cause nothing goes together better than a blessed virgin and the Dallas Cowboys.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    … Kirk Douglas (1916, and still alive at 102) …

    Birth name “Issur Danielovitch.” What, Hollywood didn’t think that name would work on a marquee?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      My wife’s mom is nearly 100. At some point you just think, Oh well, they will outlive all of us. Good for a history lesson, as she can tell us all about the depression and the dust bowl years, growing up in Oklahoma.

  12. Posted December 9, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Liked the plate visual. Took a while to see it but very good image.

    And I agree that women should be allowed to show their double standards.

  13. Michael Sternberg
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    All the plates in the picture are right-side up.

    Evidence: (1) All bright parts of rims are top left in the picture, indicating the same orientation for all. (2) The raised lips cast shadows onto adjacent slanted sides and the bottoms. This can only happen for low angle of lighting and right-side-up plates. (3) For bottom-up plates, we might see, especially in this low-angled light, some traces of product labeling stamped into the bottoms, even in a picture this much degraded.

    As one of the Twitter commenters said, “don’t believe everything you read.”

    • Barney
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Also, there are shadows half-way across the flat bits. If the containers are the right way up, that can happen with the lips casting shadows on the lower bases, but you can’t get it on a ‘plateau’ of an upside-down one – if part of it is in direct light, then it all is.

      The ‘concave or convex, and which direction is the light coming from’ illusions work with smoothly curved surfaces, not flat ones that more or less have edges. I think this is why I can’t see any of them as upside down, however hard I try, apart from possibly the 3 small ones at the lower left, for which the shadow stretches all across the flat bit – but it’s hard to ignore what you see on those next to them.

  14. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Elisabeth Schwartzkopf singing “An die Musik,” Schubert’s hymn to Music, which I capitalize since it’s a paean of gratitude to the power of music

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Oops: should be “Schwarzkopf” no “t”.

  15. Posted December 9, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Miraculously imaged, look into my eye! This is artwork.

  16. Yevaud
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The currency converter on the UK National Archives website says that the purchasing power of 15 shillings in 1860 would be about £44 in 2017.

    • Barney
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      The Bank of England calculator agrees with the £91 (give or take £2 for this year – it’s to 2017). Looking at the disclaimer on the National Archives site, I think the BoE one is likely to be more meaningful.

      The 15 shillings price seems believable – an article about books from the era shows the cheapest down at 2/6 (about £15 now), but the most expensive, with much illustration, at 21s.

      I think this could reflect that automation has brought down the amount of work that has to go into a book printing. “The Origin” is a substantial book, and they may have given it an ‘academic’ price because they couldn’t know how many it would sell.

  17. Posted December 9, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested for sundry crimes, which included trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

    Doubt that was the first time he sold it.

  18. Posted December 9, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    That Honey doesn’t like watermelon triggered a question that has bothered me for a long time. Why do animals demonstrate such a diversity in what foods they like and don’t like? Considering that animals evolve in a state where they usually don’t know where there next meal is coming from, it seems surprising to me. I can see where, as a species, they would find some foods more desirable than others because of their nutritional value but why in individuals? Perhaps the species or the group does better if individuals don’t all like the same foods but it is hard to see how that would evolve.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      I’ve wondered that as well. I have a Russian tortoise of around 12 years of age and when I first got him he would wander about, taking bites of many plants, I can’t remember but it was at least two dozen weeds in the yard he would munch, plus a variety of kitchen veg. Now, it’s a struggle to get him to eat anything but lettuce and dandelion flowers. Frustrating. He seems fine but I can’t imagine that’s much of a balanced diet.

      • Posted December 9, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        I expect this is one area in which we influence our pets behavior to their detriment. Our two cats each demand their favorite food which, of course, are different. Perhaps they assume that we have an infinite supply of each (pretty much true) so why shouldn’t they always get their favorite? That said, our most finicky cat is getting less so as he ages.

    • James
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      A certain amount of variation is necessary for long term survival. If tastes were fixed, a significant change in diet would be fatral–think what would happen to koalas if eucalyptus went extinct! Having genes that allow for organisms that have varying tastes in food prevents that, granting the population greater stability. Then there are nurture factors. What did your mother bring home for you when you were young? What foods are rare, so you eat them when you can? I am reasonably certain black raspberries aren’t better than red, but since I could only get hem in season and off the vine, they seem better to me due to their rarity.

      Plus, animals (some anyway) have a form of consciousness. They can choose. And that can lead to weird outcomes.

      • Posted December 9, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like you are mostly making the case here for a wide variety in a species’ diet. That was not the point being made here. Perhaps what I was looking for is somewhere in your “weird outcomes” but that didn’t explain anything.

        • James
          Posted December 9, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

          Depends on how you interoperate “different tastes”. What I meant was that individuals may prefer a narrow range of foods, but the ranges in the population overlap to a great extent so the population as a whole eats a wide variety.

          I would contend that nurture factors also answers your question (as much as any single answer can). If you get used to eating certain things, or were trained to look for certain things, you will preferentially select them to eat, even if you could eat other foods available in your area. Saw this myself–I knew certain berries were edible, while an aunt didn’t, so she never considered eating them while I stuffed myself. Given that different mothers will also favor different foods (or fathers, though that is less common), this would result in the members of the populatioon hang distinct preferences.

          I think you overestimate the difficulty in finding food. Dental osteology demonstrates that predators today have much less trouble than those in the past when it comes to finding food. Herbivores have an easier time; they can often live in their food, making it pretty easy to find. Obviously there are differences between various locations, but where food is relatively abundant it makes sense that individual preferences play a bigger role in foraging behavior.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 10, 2018 at 4:45 am | Permalink

            I’m intrigued by this James:

            “Dental osteology demonstrates that predators today have much less trouble than those in the past when it comes to finding food.”

            This is an open ended observation if ever I saw one. What time frame? What species? What evidence? Do you have a reference?

            • James
              Posted December 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink


              Here’s a link to an initial study, of dire wolves in Rancho La Brea. Limited, yes, but later studies included more taxa and more time, and came to the same results: predators today–across a wide variety of mammal species–are eating less bone than their anatomically similar/identical ancestors did in the Pleistocene.


              Here’s another, expanding upon that idea. You can find more by the same authors. This isn’t a universally accepted argument in paleontology, but I’ve yet to meet a Quaternary paleontologist who wasn’t familiar with the work, and the general reception these days is positive.

              I attended a lecture by one of the lead authors (van Valkenburgh) a while back, and the evidence is striking. We’re not talking about microwear patterns that could be anything; we’re talking things like shattered teeth. They were ubiquitous in the Pleistocene–most predators have partially-healed broken teeth, it seems–while they are much, much less common in any records of any modern ecosystem the author was able to get records for, including allegedly untouched ones.

              For my part, I’m willing to accept it as true. At least until additional data come around.

              Basically, the argument is that predators don’t like to eat bone. They’d rather “high grade”, meaning they’d rather eat the muscle, fat, and organs. If they run out of food, though, they’ll eat whatever is on hand, including cracking bones for the marrow. Obviously this occurs even in well-fed animals, but not to the point where they’re breaking multiple teeth to do it! As competition increases, food availability will decrease, for a variety of reasons (being chased off, not having enough prey to go around, prey being more alert, the list goes on). Ergo, osteophagy can be used as a proxy for competition for prey. Since osteophagy was higher in the past than in any modern ecosystem (again, even allegedly untouched ones), it stands to reason that there were more predators per prey animal back than then there are today.

              This also is in line with human behavior. Humans don’t like being prey, so we tend to eliminate predators. And we kill things and leave them lying around–road kill, for example, or open burials. So in general, surviving predators can be pickier about what they eat when humans are around. (We also compete with predators, but we tend to not scare them away from kills, so that’s not really relevant for this discussion.) This came up in the talk, with multiple lines of evidence given to support each assertion.

  19. momus
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Re: The plates. When I read the text above the photo the plates appear to be inverted. When I read the text below thr photo the plates appear right-side-up. The power of suggestion?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 9, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      If you look at the top left plate (normal place to start) it’s upside down, and so are the rest. Look at the bottom right plate, it’s right side up and the rest flip as advertised.

      Freaky? Yeah!

      All depends where the light is coming from, of course.


  20. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    (I have as of today received no presents). It’s National Pastry Day as well as International Anti-Corruption Day.

    “That’s some juxtaposition you’ve got there, Doc.”
    “Juxtaposition 22 – it’s the best there is.”

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