Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s a Caturday again: Saturday, December  15, 2018, and National Lemon Cupcake Day—brought to you by Big Lemon. It’s also International Tea Day as well as Zamenhof Day, created to promote literature in Esperanto, the “universal language”. When I was a kid I tried to learn Esperanto, but quickly gave up, and I’m glad I did. It’ll never be the universal language. Finally, it’s Bill of Rights Day in the U.S. (see below).

On this day in 1791, the Virginia General Assembly ratified the United States Bill of Rights, making it national law. (That includes the First Amendment, of course.) And on December 15, 1906, the London Underground’s new link, the “Great Northern, Piccadilly, and Brompton Railway” opened for business.  In 1933, Prohibition ended when the 21st Amendment to the Constitution became effective, superseding the 18th Amendment (effective 1919) that prohibited the sale, manufacture and transport of alcohol. The Great Experiment, a miserable failure, finally ended.  On this day in 1939, the movie Gone with the Wind opened in Atlanta, Georgia.  Here’s a 4-minute news clip of the opening; listen to the screams when Clark Gable steps off the plane! Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie, is still alive—at 102!

On this day in 1961, ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death after an Israeli court found him guilty of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and 13 other charges. He was hanged on June 1 of the next year. On December 15, 1965, during Project Gemini, Gemini 6A, carrying Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford, was launched, achieving after 4 orbits the first rendezvous with another spacecraft, Gemini 7. Although they didn’t dock, they were at one point only a few feet apart, and could have docked had they been so equipped.

On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would diplomatically recognize the People’s Republic of China, and broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan.  In 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa opened after 11 years of stabilizing. Now, I just heard, it’s starting to lean dangerously again.  Its tilt is only 4°, but it looks bigger than that:

Finally, exactly five years ago today, the Polish rationalist website “Listy z naszego sadu”, edited by Hili and staffed by PCC(E)’s dear friends Andrzej Koraszewski and Malgorzata Koraszewska, went online. See my post on its inception here. Here is the list of writers and editors in both Polish and English:

Note that poor Cyrus, who provides security for the whole enterprise, isn’t on the masthead. . .

Notables born on this day include David Teniers the Younger (1610), Gustave Eiffel (1832), Henri Becquerel (1852; Nobel Laureate), J. Paul Getty (1892), Maurice Wilkins (1916; Nobel Laureate), Freeman Dyson (1923; he’s 95 today), and Michelle “Lady Mary” Dockery (1981).

I have to add this painting, “Cat Concert”, by David Teniers the Younger. It’s awesome!

Those who died on December 15 include Izaak Walton (1683), Sitting Bull (1890), Glenn Miller (1944; plane crash), Wolfgang Pauli (1958; Nobel Laureate), Walt Disney (1966), William Proxmire (2005), and Oral Roberts (2009).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, there’s a bit of a celebration. As I noted above, Listy is five, and Hili takes the credit!

Hili: Today is the fifth anniversary of Listy on the net.
A: Yes, five years of hard work.
Hili: Mainly mine.
In Polish:
Hili: Dziś piąta rocznica “Listów” w sieci.
Ja: Tak, pięć lat ciężkiej pracy.
Hili: Głównie mojej.

Leon is back! But the Dark Tabby doesn’t like winter.

Leon: I get the impression that winter is coming.

(In Polish, Leon: Coś mi się wydaje,że zima nadciąga.)

Here’s a cartoon from reader Bruce. Actually, the book would more appropriately be called “A Farewell to Legs”:

And a cat cartoon:

A dog saves his cat friend from a dangerous altercation:

Heather Hastie has discovered the adorable dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula):

Tweets from Matthew. First, a man has a chin-wag with his goat:

Well, this pun isn’t that bad!

Okay, can you guess what this is? (It is a natural object?) Answer is in the tweet’s thread:

Tweets from Grania:

A musical guy and his music-loving moggie. I may have put this up already, but you can’t see it too often. The cat is in bliss, and also helps play the piece.

Look at this tiny kitten waiting for its dinner. So small!

Cat Cerberus guards the bodega:

These are protists!

Tweet of the week: the sound of wind on Mars!!!! Turn up the volume:




  1. Mike
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    It still blows my mind ,when i see shots of Mars taken by the Lander.

    • Hunt
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      The sound makes it utterly surreal. That looks and sounds just like some desolate desert landscapes on Earth, except it’s on another planet! Bizarre, totally knocks one out of the solipsistic view that Earth is the only place things happen.

  2. Laurance
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Oh boy! One good cat goodie deserves another! You have “Cat Concert”. I have a video of music inspired by two cats singing/meowing at each other:

    A number of people and groups have sung and recorded this funny piece. I like this one the best.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Very good!

      By Rossini? I take it ‘kotov’ is ‘cat’.


      • Laurance
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        Yes, ‘cats’ plural.

        I understand that Rossini didn’t actually compose this piece. Someone else did, and attributed it to Rossini, if my understanding is correct.

        But whoever created this music gave me a lot of fun. I’ve had lots of enjoyment from this piece.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink


    In 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa opened after 11 years of stabilizing. Now, I just heard, it’s starting to lean dangerously again. Its tilt is only 4°, but it looks bigger than that

    I read the opposite somewhere & a quick search brings up The Grauniad saying so three weeks ago:

    Stabilisation work means the Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning slightly less than it used to, experts have said. The tower, which has leaned to one side ever since it began to take shape in 1173, has lost 4cm of its tilt over the past two decades […] “Since restorative work began, the tower is leaning about half a degree less,” said Nunziante Squeglia, a geotechnics professor at the University of Pisa who works with the group. “But what counts is the stability of the tower, which is better than initially predicted.”

    • rickflick
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I can open my eyes again.

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The mystery globe on the tree could be some sort of insect gall. Insects can induce strange growths on plants, and then live inside them as they feed.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    The Bill of Rights, those 10 amendments have always been of great interest to many. Much more so than the Constitution itself maybe. It sometimes gets to the point that the Bill of Rights are the constitution to some. And yet, there are some of these amendments that make no sense today and should be removed, which can happen the same way they were inserted.

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Well there is the second amendment (of course!) and the third amendment which, in a modern context, seems oddly specific compared to the others, but other than that, they all look pretty relevant to me.

      Some of them do seem a bit vague and the fact that different judges can interpret them differently depending on their political leanings suggests the wording ends tightening up.

      Anyway, as a gun nut once told Jim Jeffries, “you can’t change the Second Amendment”. Who says Americans don’t do irony?

      • Posted December 16, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        “the wording ends tightening up.” -> “the wording needs tightening up.”

  6. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    In the thread about the “mystery globe” as Mark Sturtevant dubs it, most people identify it as a mantis ootheca, but what info I find online about those doesn’t seem to tally with those structures, all of which I find are quite irregular and none anywhere near translucent. Further, ootheca contain a mass of eggs, and this ain’t that. It does look more like a gall to me, sort of, but then again, the exterior looks as if it’s composed of little blisters, and whatever’s inside appears to be rooted at one end. And what are those little appendages extending out from the globe, part of an emerging insect or something else?

    Whatever it is, it’s beautiful, and I’d love to hang one on my atheist Christmas tree.

  7. David Duncan
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know Hili was that old.

  8. Posted December 15, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I love all the Mars stuff but this “wind on Mars” sound seems a bit over the top. As this article explains, we’re not hearing the wind as a person on Mars might hear it:

    “APSS picked up audio at about 10 Hz — below the range of human hearing. To make the sounds more audible in the video, the data were sped up 100x, which also shifted the frequency higher.”

    In “The Martian”, a movie I really enjoyed, the wind on Mars was also inaccurately portrayed. The disastrous wind storm at the beginning, from which the rest of the plot evolves, couldn’t have happened due to the very low density of Mars’ atmosphere.

    Perhaps I am a Mars party pooper but, with people out there denying the Moon landings, I think we need to keep our portrayal of such things completely honest.

  9. Publilius
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s Zamenhof Day because it’s Zamenhof’s birthday (1859). Of course Esperanto is not going to become the universal language, but it doesn’t need to be officially adopted in order to have benefits. I learned it when I was younger, and I’m glad I did. It has allowed me to communicate with a number of people from various countries. It does take some effort to learn, but it’s easier than a natural language. I’ve spent years trying to learn Spanish, but I still can’t speak it fluently. I still occasionally read books in Esperanto, which is fun for those who like that sort of thing.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    The guy playing a duet with his cat describes himself on Twitter thus: “En az 19 kedi 😺😼😸😼😺😸😼😺”. I don’t speak the language, but I’d hazard a guess it’s Turkish and it means, “I have 19 cats.” Another Turkish cat lover!

  11. James
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Related to a previous discussion: Does anyone have any good references on the evolution of blubber? I have looked and found very, very little (and that little focused on the ichthyosaur speculation).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      (and that little focused on the ichthyosaur speculation).

      THe “ichthyosaur speculation” sounds new to me – which would be very much a surprise if it is a genuinely new thing from the fount of drool that is Creationism, which it sounds like. They have this habit of dressing up rank ignorance and wilful misunderstanding as if it were the greatest thing since Augustinian asked for a stay of chastity.
      What are they wibbling on about now?

      Blubber? Good question. It’s not the sort of thing that is likely to fossilize well – almost by definition, it’s rather lacking in “hard parts”.

      • James
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        This isn’t a Creationist thing. It’s new research from (in part) the folks who brought us dinosaur soft tissue. This blog linked to it a while ago. Fascinating fossil, regardless of the validity of the researcher’s conclusions, and it clearly does show soft tissue (not terribly shocking, we’ve found similar fossils in the past). I looked into it a fair bit, and….yeah, I’m deeply skeptical. The technical side gets complex, but the gist is, they exposed the fossil (in a controlled manner) to a variety of chemicals that should react with specific proteins, and they found proteins that are associated with whale blubber in the parts of the fossil that they think is ichthyosaur blubber, and concluded that the structures are homologous, and based several conclusions on this dubious foundation. Unfortunately the whole idea that proteins can survive 70 million years or so is highly dubious, and (according to biochemists I’ve spoken to) the tests they run are notorious for giving false positives when applied to modern tissue.

        The whole thing made me realize that in addition to having deplorably ignored ichthyosaurs (other than their use as an index fossil), I have no idea how blubber evolved. Seeing as how I’ve found whale fossils, this was a somewhat surreal realization! I mean, I haven’t been ignoring whales; it’s just that the evolution of blubber seems to have been largely ignored. You’re right, part of it is that blubber doesn’t fossilize; however, you’d think there would be at least some speculation based on modern evidence. In whales at least genetic and biochemical phylogenies seem to line up with morphological ones extremely well (shown in studies of the evolution of baleen), so in this case I’d forego my usual arguments about incompleteness of phylogenitic arguments based only on modern samples.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          Hmmm, I don’t recall that article. False positives are certainly a problem with lots of work like this. And since Ichthyosaurs can be up to about 100 million years older than the infamous (and considerably disputed) T.rex cartilage specimen, it’s going to be harder to preserve the proteins and probably in smaller quantities. Hard work, experimentally ; harder to “keep it clean.”
          I don’t know what, physiologically, is “different” about whale blubber compared to the subcutaneous fat common to all mammals. If anything.

  12. Posted April 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    #disneystopterrianabuses “Disney isn’t just Disney. As the largest brand licensor in the world, Disney’s brand is on countless products. It turns out that Disney’s vast empire of licensees, and those hundreds upon hundreds of products they make, continue to be at risk of rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.”

    #stopplasticcorruptionbydisneyanddupont – article dissapeared from the internet. 

    “1 Racial Stereotypes Overall the most blatant and unambiguous message that Disney teaches any child is how to discriminate between races. The crows in “Dumbo”, released in 1941 when racism against African Americans was more acceptable, is probably the most blatant example. The language and attire of the birds are clearly intended to mock African Americans. The characters exist only to help the white protagonist, and contribute mainly comedic value amongst white audiences, adding insult to injury on the already glaring stereotype. Another example is the Chinese cat from “The Aristocats”, who sings about fortune cookies (invented in America incidentally) with an almost unintelligibly Asian accent. Disney has been blasted time and again for racism and yet it continues to perpetuate glaring stereotypes.”

%d bloggers like this: