Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Ceiling Cat’s Day: Sunday, December 23, 2018, and National Pfeffernüße Day, a cultural appropriation if there ever was one. Look at the name: it’s a German gingerbread cookie covered with powdered sugar. If you want to eat one, you can do so only while being deeply appreciative of German culture and mindful of how Germans were oppressed. As for us heathens, it’s Humanlight, a secular humanist holiday. But we don’t need no stinking holidays around Christmas, do we? Not even the Seinfeld-ian holiday of Festivus, which is today as well.

Reminder: it’s only two days until Coynezaa begins! Sadly, my holiday has been deeply marred by pervasive reports that Hershey’s chocolate kisses are being produced with broken tips. Nobody seems to know why, but, as HuffPo might say, “Twitter isn’t having it.”

The holiday Google Doodles have begun; today’s gif links to a Christmas song (click on screenshot):

But Grania reports that in the UK the Doodle is this one. I guess Brits don’t believe in Santa but in tea!

History is a bit thin on December 23. On that day in 1783, George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. In 1815, Jane Austen’s novel Emma was first published. Much later, on this day in 1947, the first transistor was demonstrated at Bell Laboratories.

On December 23, 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was performed in Boston by J. H. Harrison, J. P. Merrill and J. Murray. It succeeded because, well, read what Wikipedia says:

The Boston transplantation, performed on December 23, 1954, at Brigham Hospital was performed by Joseph Murray, J. Hartwell Harrison, John P. Merrill and others. The procedure was done between identical twins Ronald and Richard Herrick to eliminate any problems of an immune reaction. For this and later work, Dr. Murray received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1990. The recipient, Richard Herrick, died eight years after the transplantation.

On this day in 1972, the 16 survivors of the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 were rescued after 73 days (29 passengers were killed). It’s well known that the survivors made it by subsisting on the flesh of those who died, which is fine with me but horrified many people. Finally, according to Wikipedia, it was on December 23, 1986, that the plane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, [landed] at Edwards Air Force Base in California becoming the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without aerial or ground refueling. It was in the air a bit more than nine days! As NASA reported:

Essentially a flying fuel tank, the Voyager lifted off Edwards’ main runway early in the morning of Dec. 14, 1986, rolling down almost the entire length of the 15,000-foot-long runway and scraping off one of its wingtip winglets before it became airborne. When it touched down on the same runway shortly after 8 a.m. on Dec. 23 after nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds in the air, it had less than two hours worth of fuel remaining.

The non-stop unrefueled flight, which more than doubled the previous distance record set in 1962 by a U.S. Air Force B-52H, remains a world record and an unduplicated aeronautical feat.

Here’s the plane:

The plane! The plane!

Notables born on this day include John Jay (1745), Joseph Smith (1805), Edward Blyth (1810), Norman Maclean (1902), Yousuf Karsh (1908), Chet Baker (1929), William Kristol (1952), and Donna Tartt (1963).  Here’s one of Karsh’s famous photographs. The photo’s story is here, and Churchill looks pissed off because, right before Karsh snapped the shutter, he snatched Churchill’s cigar out of his mouth:

Those who joined the Choir Invisible on this day include Lavrentiy Beria (1953; after being found guilty of treason and other crimes, this horrible man was shot while pleading for his life), Peggy Guggenheim (1979), and Oscar Peterson (2007).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is both bored and demanding:

Malgorzata: You do like being petted.
Hili: Yes, but read to me because it’s a little boring.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Lubisz jak cię głaszczą.
Hili: Tak, ale czytaj głośno, bo nudno.

And a holiday bonus: Leon!

Leon: To get up or not t0 get up, that is the question.

In Polish: Wstać czy nie wstać,oto jest pytanie.

A cartoon courtesy of Moto:

And reader Bruce sent a timely cartoon:

Gethyn shows a cat employing The Force:

From Heather Hastie. I’m not that surprised at the numerous muscles in the cat’s ears, but look at that adorable kitten!

Tweets from Matthew. We’ve seen the first one, but check out the second one. Does the kitten recognize its own image in the mirror?

You have to admit that this is funny. One thing about the internet is that it gives all amateur comedians a stage:

I had no idea that early moviemakers did this!

Another dichotomy:

Matthew says, “From the tracks they obviously had several goes at this, but still . . . ”  Indeed!

Really? A bunny saving a cat? Can’t cats dig?

Tweets from Grania. The first is the way cats are uniquely obstructive at Christmas:

Collection of semen in kakapos. Look at that guy go!

It may take you a second to get this, as it did for me, but get it you will.



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Good old George Washington also talked the Army officers out of going after the congress in Philly for their money. Washington however, was operating on expenses and he was repaid.

    Small bit of info: Dick Rutan was in the same Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) I was in long ago at RAF Lackenheath.

  2. Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The cat’s mirror test is interesting. I remember another posted here years ago where a kitten sees its reflection and looks utterly shocked and devastated at the discovery that it’s a cat. It looked genuinely shaken.

    And I love the cats proving the existence of chi. James Randi needs to cough up his million bucks.

    (And I don’t get the navidad joke. I’m not American or Mexican or whatever.)

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      The Spanish phrase is “Feliz Navidad”.

      The Sheep to Shawl exhibit at our State Fair has a gift shop which features a sweatshirt of sheep in Christmas hats saying “Fleece Navidad”. I assume they sell a lot of them, since they bring it back every year.


      • Steve Pollard
        Posted December 23, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Many thanks. I didn’t understand it either!

        I did wonder whether ‘Spark’ and ‘Gringras’ was meant to be an obscure allusion to the cause of forest fires…

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted December 23, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Also available in the “Signals” catalog, as I recall.

      • Posted December 23, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 24, 2018 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      You’re lucky. It took me about half a second.

      You have obviously not heard Jose Feliciano singing it again and again and again on radio. It’s one of those dire Christmas songs that you cannot get out of your head,


  3. rickflick
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I visited a Hershey chocolate factory years ago in, I think, Lancaster, PA. It was not the gleaming kitchen you might imagine. It was an old building mostly of wood, like an old barn. The equipment looked primitive like a 19th century workshop. I seem to remember belts and pulleys. I bought a small bag of chocolate candy in the sales room, but it wasn’t discounted, as I recall. I got the impression that Hershey was not getting out of it’s profit making comfort zone. Anyway, what’s the point of innovating the making of candy? As long as they can fix their kisses.

    • Posted December 23, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      The amusement park wasn’t bad as I recall from childhood. And all the town’s street lamps were shaped like giant kisses, complete with ‘paper’ streamer.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 23, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Hershey are switching to a “simple five ingredients” policy for their chocolate – e.g. junking the Devil’s fructose corn syrup sweetener for a start [an ingredient which seems to be in more American foods than it isn’t in!]. They’re doing without ‘artificial’ & extolling the value of ‘natural’ as is every major food manufacturer that serves the West.

      I think Kisses was one of the first to switch maybe two years ago – it has to be done line by line because the new choc has different physical properties – all the old machinery has to be retuned, temps, pressures, speeds, nozzles & god knows what to churn out 70,000,000 Kisses a day.

      I am totally guessing there must be a few production lines just for Kisses & I’m guessing they’re being switched to the new formula one-by-one. Perhaps they’ve got it wrong on one line. I watched a production video & these Kisses get a right old bashing being flung from belt to belt. Perhaps the new formula are more brittle.

      They left out the mirror test in this quick Hershey Docu perhaps?

      The real, rather violent process:

      • rickflick
        Posted December 23, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad to hear their getting the corn sap out. Perhaps I should give them another try. Yes, the temps, pressures, etc. are probably critical and a change to the recipe might just be the cause of busted tips.
        As an immigrant to the US from Canada, I noticed a drastic plunge in the quality of candy. I think the loss can be traced to the low quality of ingredients as well as disrespect for the customers palate.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 23, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely! Some of my favourite foods have gone ‘new recipe’ on me & they are often a disappointment. By going ‘natural’ & only ‘natural’ some solved problems become unravelled – e.g. chocolate under the new formulations are extraordinarily smelly.

          Overpowering when the box/tin is opened & it doesn’t go away with time. I had to throw out two packs of biscuits because the dark chocolate was pumping out molecules non-stop. stuck them in the fridge & fridge turned rank with odour. There must have been an ingredient in the old chocs that fixed the molecules quite a bit – whatever it is that’s different, it needs work.

          Bought a NY cheesecake two days ago & it’s absolutely nothing like fresh, real Brit cheesecake – the NY concoction was like the consistency of a margarine or a hard ice cream, but I’m sure this was the opposite problem with too much of the gum that adds firmness. It had corn syrup in the ingredients too! WTF.

          I’m pretty sure most products benefit from the magic of chemistry to stabilise etc.

          End of winge

          • rickflick
            Posted December 23, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

            Canada and Europe are decadent(well, Europe anyway). Nicely so in my opinion. The US, not so much. Still trying to get more food for less.

          • Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

            In my experience, very few things marked “New York Cheesecake” are actually New York Cheesecake.

            Speaking of cheesecake, I made some German cheesecake (Käsekuchen) from a “Dr. Oetker” box mix. It called for quark, a yogurt-like milk product that I had never heard of. It was delicious.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

              We make our own too. But from scratch. Commercial stuff is always too sweet for my taste. A big flavor boost is grated lemon rind.

              • Posted December 24, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

                I’m with you except for the lemon rind. I dislike it in most pastries as it gives them a soapy flavor. I love lemon bars but only if they are fairly sour and taste of lemons more than peel.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                Orange or lime works well too, if you prefer. The idea is to give it tanginess and a bit of texture. It will dance on your palate and whistle on the way down. 😎

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

              Thanks both. I found a Käsekuchen aus Quark recipe & I’ve added Kefir-Quark to my next online shopping order. Will use lemon zest. Piece of cake!

              Haven’t made cheese cake since around 1981.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 23, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

                Cheese cake: choose any conservative recipe and cut sugar by 50%. Lemon zest to taste.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 23, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

              I would have wondered if you’d have to get the quark from some sort of particle accelerator. 🤣

              • Posted December 24, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

                At least that comes in six flavours.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 24, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink


              • Posted December 24, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

                Yes, but they were out. Supermarkets had it though.

                Based on description of quark, and my general love of dairy products, I expected I would like it by itself, Turned out not to be the case. It’s a sort of grainy yogurt which I didn’t find pleasurable but it works in the cheesecake. I would describe the texture of the cheesecake as halfway between NY cheesecake and a custard pie.

        • Rita
          Posted December 23, 2018 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are not the same thing. Hershey is removing the HFCS from their chocolate products.

          • Rita
            Posted December 23, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            Since HFCS wouldn’t have been used before the late 1960’s, early Hershey products would have been different.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 23, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            Yes. Hershey have gone to cane sugar extracts I think – pressure from anti-GMO groups…

          • rickflick
            Posted December 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

            Wikipedia thinks the fuss over HFCS is unsubstantiated. But, I don’t trust Hershey of any food manufacturer to care very much about our health. They just work the public relations issues. If people fear it, they take it out. If people don’t know any better, they leave it in.

  4. W.Benson
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    As WEIT notes, ornithologist Edward Blyth was born on this day in 1810. In the 1830s, when he was a young man and before Darwin thought up his theory, Blyth wrote three papers touching on natural selection. However, Blyth was an idealist and proposed selection, rather than drive evolution, prevented evolution by removing variations that caused imperfections. Blyth’s early advocacy of natural selection invited subsequent speculation and disagreements on how his ideas might have influenced Darwin’s views. An introduction to this story is provided by Wikipedia ( )

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I love pfeffernüsse and just bought a bag a couple days ago along with some stollen which is half-assed because no marzipan inside. You have to buy early to get the marzipan ones.

    • Posted December 23, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      The best stollen came from the DDR, imo.

  6. Posted December 23, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    There are two good demonstrations of cat intelligence here. One cat is clearly examining itself in the mirror. The other cat is demonstrating humor by pretending to be pushed over by the other cat’s touch. In both cases we can’t prove what the cats are thinking but it is the simplest theory that explains all the observables, and there are many if one was to really analyze each situation.

  7. Richard Guérette
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Jose Feliciano

    • Posted December 24, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Talking of misheard lyrics, I thought he was singing “Release Mummy, Dad” until today.

  8. Posted December 23, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Rudolph would be the ninth reindeer on the team, not the eighth.

  9. revelator60
    Posted December 23, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    * The death of Beria is the actual topic of “The Death of Stalin,” a British satire released earlier this year in America, and one of the funniest films of 2018.

    * Matte shots and glass shots were used extensively in the silent period and onward. Pretty much every epic Hollywood film of the 1920s used mattes–the 1925 version of Ben Hur (superior to the sound remake) is a notable example. Pre-CGI special effects were delightfully ingenious. Nowadays special effects is just something produced by a bunch of nerds on computers.

  10. Posted December 23, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    PCC(E): “Can’t cats dig?”
    Puss: “I have people to do this stuff, eh.”

    • Posted December 23, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      I got the feliz navidad joke right away.
      Kakapo is hilarious! I miss having cats and pooches around. 😦 Something untoward has happened to the neighbour’s feline moocher extraordinaire, and we miss him terribly.

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