Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Thursday, December 27, 2018: the third day of the Six Days of Coynezaa.  (It’s also the third day of the Christian “Twelve Days of Christmas,” a vastly inferior holiday). It’s National Fruitcake Day, celebrating the current U.S. President, and St. Stephen’s Day for the Eastern Orthodox Church—a public holiday in Romania.

I am leaving for Hawaii for three weeks tomorrow, and posting will be light, though I fully intend to document my travels, including the reportedly great Hawaiian food. (I’ll even try spam sushi!) As I mentioned before, please don’t send wildlife photos during my absence, as they may get lost. Aloha!

History was a bit thin on this day. In 537, this was the day on which the construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now Istanbul) was completed.  On December 27, 1657, the freedom of religion was declared a fundamental right in the U.S. via the The Flushing Remonstrance, this document is considered a precursor of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

And it’s BEAGLE DAY: on December 27, 1831, Darwin set out on HMS Beagle, returning 5 years later with a boat full of specimens and a head full of ideas. Fourteen years later, Dr. Crawford Long of Georgia was the first to use ether anesthetic for childbirth, obviating the Bible’s stricture (John 16:21 was used to justify withholding anesthesia) that “a woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”  Screw that!

It was on this day in 1911 that “Jana Gana Mana,” the national anthem of India composed by Rabindranath Tagore, was first performed at the Indian National Congress in Calcutta.  At about 50 seconds long, it’s surely one of the world’s shortest national anthems. Here it is sung by Indian women actors, and a lovely tune it is (Tagore was, of course, a consummate artist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature):

In Hindi:

जन-गण-मन अधिनायक जय हे
भारत भाग्य विधाता ।
विंध्य[a] हिमाचल यमुना गंगा,
उच्छल जलधि तरंग
तब[b] शुभ नामे जागे, तब[c] शुभ आशिष मांगे
गाहे तब[d] जय गाथा ।
जन-गण-मंगलदायक जय हे, भारत भाग्य विधाता ।
जय हे, जय हे, जय हे, जय जय जय जय हे ।

English translation (by Tagore himself):

Thou art, the ruler of our minds, of all people
The dispenser of India’s destiny!
Thy name rouses the heart of Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat
and Maratha, of the Dravida and Odisha
and Bengal; It echoes in the hills of Vindhya and the
Himalayas, and mingles in the music of Ganga and Yamuna
and is chanted by the waves of the Indian sea.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hands,
Thou dispenser of India’s destiny.
Victory, Victory, Victory to thee

On this day in 1927, “Show Boat”, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, was first performed at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. Wikipedia says it’s “considered to be the first true American musical play.”  41 years later, Apollo 8 splashed down in the Pacific after completing the first manned mission that orbited the Moon.  And, after the death of Franco (he’s still dead), Spain became a democracy on this day in 1978. Finally, it was on December 27, 2007, that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan while campaigning to regain her position as Prime Minister.

Here’s Paul Robeson in the 1936 movie version of “Showboat”, singing “Ol’ Man River.” This song always moves me to tears, and I used it in my Ph.D. defense along with a slide montage of my work in the lab. Robeson’s voice was simply stunning. Although it was written by two white Jews, I can’t see it in any way as offensive: it’s about the horrible plight of slaves. Well, there was this one thing. . .  (from Wikipedia):

Beginning about 1938, and continuing on to the end of his career, Paul Robeson changed a few of the lyrics of “Ol’ Man River” when singing it at recitals, though never in actual stage performances of Show Boat, and not in the 1936 film version. (In addition to the 1928 and 1932 stage productions as well as the 1936 film version, he appeared in a Los Angeles stage revival in 1940). Except for the change of the word “niggers” to “darkies,” the lyrics of the song as Robeson performed it in the 1936 film version of the show remain exactly as Oscar Hammerstein II originally wrote them in 1927. However, after 1938, Robeson would record the song only with the lyrics that he used in his post-1936 concert recitals.

Notables born on this day include Louis Pasteur (1822), Marlene Dietrich (1901), Oscar Levant (1906), William Masters (1915), Gérard Depardieu (1948), and Savannah Guthrie (1971).

Those who croaked on December 27 include many frogs, as well as Hyacinthe Rigaud (1743), Charles Lamb (1834), Drosophila geneticist Calvin Bridges and Osip Mandelstam (1938), Hoagy Carmichael (1981), Meadowlark Lemon (2015; I saw him play with the Harlem Globetrotters), and Carrie Fisher (2016).  Here’s Rigaud’s painting of Louis XV as a child:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is worried because there’s nothing to worry about (she’s a Jewish cat). That reminds me of a story. As a graduate student at Harvard, I was working at the bench one day when a fellow apostate Jew, another grad student in the lab, walked in rubbing his hands and saying, “Oh boy, oh boy, oh BOY!”  I said, “What’s up, Fred?” He replied, “I have three things to worry about today.” He was happy about it!

A: What do you see there?
Hili: A lack of reasons to be anxious.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Brak powodu do obaw.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon observes, or rather hears, the holidays. (He and his staff will soon go hiking in the mountains of southern Poland):

Leon: This observing of Christmas is definitely too noisy!

In Polish: To całe świętowanie jest zdecydowanie zbyt hałaśliwe!

A tweet from reader Nilou: a cat with a human face. Is this one of those wolf cats?

Tweets from Grania. Don’t ever say that cats don’t help humans!

More cats. When I saw this and realized how soothing it was, I suggested to Grania that someone should make an 8-hour YouTube recording of cats purring to help insomniacs sleep. Sure enough, I found one! There’s nothing you can’t find online!

From the woke and inimitable Titania McGrath:

This is very good!

A lovely video of the Moon presented by a former astronaut on the ISS:

Tweets from Matthew. If I’m correct, that water is millions of years old.

Matthew loves his optical illusions:

I really really really want to see this in Japan. Do the capybaras eat the fruits, or are they like rodential bath salts?

The remaining tweets came from this one, collecting the craziest ways food was served this year.

I love these:

This is both hilarious and disgusting:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Oh oh oh!

    The Fraser spiral has a musical counterpart- I wrote to PCC(E) about this a while ago –

    Lemee try to find a link…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      The sound to play would be …

      [audio src="" /]

      You’ve all heard it.

      I also know there’s Gödel Escher Bach fans here, … there’s something like it in there… cant think / write now, noisy as hell…

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        That is indeed an acoustic kind of equivalent, audio illusions, fantastic!

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted December 27, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          [ right thumb | big grin | left thumb ]

          ^^^^ASCII-ized emoji

        • Diane G
          Posted January 9, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

          Yes, very cool! Thanks, Thy!

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted January 13, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            Thank you

            It just occurred to me – are there any genuine musical examples of this acoustic / aural phenomenon? And not simply placing the Shepard Tone in some background?

            Well, I don’t know any but Chopin’s Étude No. 11 in a minor Op. 25/11 “winter wind“ features a chromatic line in the high register that descends.

            If you listen closely you can hear the line is spread out by alternating octaves rapidly, giving an intense sound but slowing the decent.

            • rickflick
              Posted January 13, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

              This one? Sounds a bit cacophonous to my ear in spots.


              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted January 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

                That’s it

                It helps to see the notes played – it’s not octaves (if I said that), but more thirds I think. Might have to look into it.

                I assure you it is not cacophonous.

                But it ain’t the Shephard Tone either.

                My thought is how to compose a piece to show this illusion….

              • rickflick
                Posted January 13, 2019 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

                Ya. I think I hear that slowing the decent. Interesting.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    So freedom of religion has been around a long time. Therefore, freedom from religion will be demanded soon. As we learn more about this nut-job pretending to be attorney general, the sooner the better.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      DNA analysis of material removed from WitTaker’s nose matches the grease from the gilded toilet seat of tRump’s latest tweetstorm.

  3. rickflick
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know this was national fruitcake day. Having misplaced the old family recipe, we made one from an online recipe which turned out quite good. A little crumbly though. It could have used a bit more flour perhaps. Lots of raisins, chopped dates, and molasses. Rum is trickled over it when cool. It goes good with black tea or port wine. Fruitcake has a bit of a bad reputation nowadays because the kind you get at the grocery store are notoriously bad. You have to make your own – that’s just the way it is.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, we get the fruitcakes at half price today, the shops want to get rid of this stuff nobody wants to buy for Christmas, but at half price? Who can resist?

      • rickflick
        Posted December 27, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        You could soak one of those half-price cakes, in rum and package it. Put it in the back of the fridge ’till next Christmas. Delicious!

  4. W.T. Effingham
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Mass-produced fruitcake has a Half-Life that rivals Planck time for brevity.😾

  5. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that’s a wolf cat. They are truly hideous. That guy just needs a hair brush, some product, and maybe a conditioning shampoo.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Medieval cat?

  6. Laurance
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Fruitcake Day? Hurrah!! I have two coupons and must go and get fruitcake fruit. My daughter really loves my fruitcake (as do I, of course). My time to make it is in July. One year I forgot to put in the eggs, and the cake crumbled. Not to stress or worry! Ice cream! I sprinkled those crumbles over ice cream, and my guests thought I’d done it on purpose. And rightfully so. It was great!

    Paul Robeson! I’m old enough to remember both him and Marian Anderson coming to perform at Penn State. My mother was a musician and took me to hear these performances. I would have been pretty young, maybe four, maybe five.

  7. Terry Lynne Pedersen
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The snow is gone suddenly, when a very chubby Hili is shown. Has more time passed or it melted overnight?

    • Malgorzata
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      It melted overnight. No more snow now in Hili’s kingdom.

  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    For me the spiral illusion goes CCW, and I wonder why that should be. I can’t ‘break’ it either, in the sense of getting it to go CW.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      This is interesting- I get that too

      I tried looking with either eye, and upside down.

      Next I’ll try the mirror.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted December 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Mirror image … that is, looking at the picture on my phone in the mirror – goes clockwise.

        That’s expected- I guess…

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 27, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          Depends which sense you mean it ‘goes’ – inwards or outwards. Unless you specify that one can’t be sure which way you mean.

          I see it going in CCW, and out clockwise.

          The illusion is based on the same effect as the others we’ve seen recently with the rows of squares that appear to be at an angle.

          In this case, the ‘ears’ on each corner of the black and white squares appear to make the top and bottom edges of the square tilt with reference to the circular row the square is on, thus causing the brain to conclude it must be on a spiral. That’s my guess.


          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            Looking at the image on the webpage on my phone:

            -White line travels CCW inwards to the center

            -Right hand follows curve to the left

            Of course they are immobile but to describe the handedness it helps to impute motion to the lines…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      (Replying here as if this is the thread about the illusion)

      With the image above and the Wikipedia image,I tried :

      1. Cut a circle into a piece of 8.5” X 11” paper. Lay this paper frame over the picture.

      2. Roll a printout of the illusion along the axis going through the center circles. In other words, almost fold the page in half. Look at the illusion down the narrow gap.

      Only [ 2 ] above went any way towards breaking the illusion. I could see the center circles as dartboard like images.

  9. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Paul Robeson, what a voice! I think it is the first time I can remember (except for the ‘Schindler’s List’ theme by Williams) I was moved to tears by a piece of music that was not baroque. My late mother was a great fan of Paul Robeson, I understand why. Thank you.

    And I hope India will be doing better at the Olympics, what a lovely anthem. Worthy to be heard more.
    There are some great National Anthems (Dutch, German among others (and God Save the King/Queen)), and this one is certainly among the top ones.

  10. Derek Freyberg
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “Do the capybaras eat the fruits, or are they like rodential bath salts?”
    Because some of these small citrus (Satsuma mandarins, yuzu, etc.) ripen in winter, people put them – whole – in hot spring baths in winter, I suppose for the fragrance from the oils in the skins. I’ve never experienced it, but seen a number of pictures.
    So the answer is bath salts, by intention at least; but perhaps the capybaras do eat them – I wouldn’t, yuzu are very bitter.

  11. Posted December 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    There is lots of old water around. A pool of water in a deep mine in Canada is estimated to be two billion years old. In a typical glass of water that you drink, there are molecules dating back to the early formation of the earth, or so I was told.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    ‘We want plates’ – I couldn’t agree more.

    Basically, if your food comes in or on anything other than a plate or a paper bag, odds are you’re paying many times over the odds for pretentious crap.

    Now where’s my cheeseburger…


  13. Commen-tater
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    ALL water is millions of years old.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      Not necessarily. A very small percentage may have been dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen atoms and recombined to make H2O. A larger percentage may have been produced as the result of chemical reactions. Numerous chemical compounds contain hydrogen and -OH which end up as water molecules. But I’m not a chemist.

      The water in the amber is probably unchanged since it was trapped. I’m not sure if all the air in the bubble would be the same or whether some air molecules may have diffused in or out of the bubble.


      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        Interesting points

        Many chemical reactions that occur inside living animals and plants produce water. combustion from natural gas, gasoline, kerosene (jet fuel) include water as a major product. Consider the fog from tailpipes.

        I don’t know what all that adds up to. But H2O is not a by product.

  14. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I see what you mean about tearing up at “Old Man River”. “…tired of living, and scared of dying…” is particularly poignant.

    Talking of changing the lyrics, you’ve surely heard Elderly Man River, by Stan Freberg. Fortunately Freberg didn’t get to the lyric about “niggers”, which should be changed to “darkies”, sorry “blacks” no wait, “coloured people”, hang on, is it “people of colour”? Aw shit, I give up.

  15. Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    The Moon video is beautiful.

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