Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

n.b. Grania has contributed to this post as I am leaving early.

Well, if you read this after 10 a.m. Chicago time, I’ll be winging my way nonstop to Hawaii—a 9.5 hour flight. It’s the fourth day of Coynezaa: Friday, December 28, 2018, with two days to go. (It’s also the fourth day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but the religious holiday is trivial in comparison.) It’s also National Boxed Chocolates Day, and I’ll eat them all, boxed or unboxed. If they wanted to have such a food day, they should have put it on Boxing Day.

  • 169 BC – The menorah is lit to rededicate the Holy Temple of Jerusalem after two centuries of foreign rule and religious oppression and a seven-year revolt. The menorah burns for eight days without the sufficient fuel needed to do so, birthing the holiday Hanukkah.
  • 1065 – Westminster Abbey is consecrated in England.
  • 1836 – Spain recognizes the independence of Mexico with the signing of the Santa María–Calatrava Treaty.
  • 1879 – Tay Bridge disaster: The central part of the Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom collapses as a train passes over it, killing 75. It was the inspiration for this rather awful poem.

Click through for the rest of it.


Notables born on this day include

  • 1856 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1924)
  • 1882 – Arthur Eddington, English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician (d. 1944)
  • 1902 – Mortimer J. Adler, American philosopher and author (d. 2001)
  • 1922 – Stan Lee, American publisher, producer, and actor (d. 2018)
  • 1934 – Maggie Smith, English actress
  • 1944 – Kary Mullis, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1954 – Denzel Washington, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1978 – Chris Coyne, Australian footballer and manager

Those who died on December 28 include

  • 1937 – Maurice Ravel, French pianist and composer (b. 1875)
  • 1945 – Theodore Dreiser, American novelist and journalist (b. 1871)
  • 1992 – Sal Maglie, American baseball player and coach (b. 1917)
  • 2004 – Susan Sontag, American novelist, essayist, critic, and playwright (b. 1933)
  • 2014 – Leelah Alcorn, American transgender teenager (b. 1997)
  • 2016 – Debbie Reynolds, American actress, singer and dancer (b. 1932)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a Great Notion:

A: I see that you have a great idea.
Hili: Yes, I’m going to jump up on this little tree.
In Polish:
Ja: Widzę, że masz jakąś wielką ideę.
Hili: Tak, wskoczę na to małe drzewo.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon wants some treats. Look how sad he seems!

Leon: Will I get any presents today as well?

In Polish: Czy dziś też dostanę jakieś prezenty?

There needs to be a trigger warning on nearly all of the tweets today. You may or may not be mentally scarred by what follows.
From reader Michael: a nefarious Christmas prank. Go to the thread to find out what Dad did.

Did Dad bite? Read at the site and here.

From reader Blue:

Tweets from Matthew. New life!

They sacrificed an entire train and a bridge for this shot, a precursor of Bridge Over the River Kwai:

Cute moggie loose on the pitch! I always wonder if these cats are lost or feral. Regardless, I think that they should be rescued and placed in an Adoption Shelter for Footie Cats:

Tweets from Grania. I’m not sure how political journalist Steve Kornacki is killing Bernie, but I’d rather have Joe anyway.

An affectionate cat and its pole-dancing staff:

Grania calls this excerpt from a 1970s children’s book “the stuff of true horror.” You be the judge; be sure to read all the pages!

(I’m reasonably sure that the first thought a child had on reading this book was not, why don’t they do it all day? It was probably more like Where do they keep the key to the liquor cabinet?) Worst porn ever.

This is of course welcome news, and Grania says she’s taking it as “the final and unalterable word.” As for me, well, I’ve been drinking coffee and wine since forever:



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I am just old enough to remember the “game” in 1958 known as the greatest. I do not remember so much the specific game as some of the players. If the Yankees were the team in baseball, the Baltimore Colts were it in football. Playing the game in those days was a living but not a way to get rich. I think they played because they liked it. The great Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore and Alan Ameche. That was the Baltimore Colts. Two of the coaches on the losing team, the New York Giants, were Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    … Hili has a Great Notion …

    Sometimes the narrator of Lead Belly’s “Good Night, Irene” would take a Great Notion, too. Except his was to jump in the river and drown.

  3. darrelle
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I remember that book!

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I do too. No recollection of how I came across it. Maybe perusing a book store.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Omigods. Why do I get the impression the writers saw sex like a space alien would have. Sort of at 90 degrees to reality.

        Now, explain 69’s 😉


        • Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          I read that book and we read it to our son.

          It is, in my opinion, quite accurate, charming, and pitched well to small, questioning children.

          As a side note, the text is written by Peter Mayle of A Year in Provence fame. (R.I.P. — he died just about a year ago.)

        • Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          Where Did I Come From? The Facts of Life without Any Nonsense and with Illustrations, illustrated by Arthur Robins and Paul Walter, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1973.

  4. RPGNo1
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Ah, Maurice Ravel!

    I love Bolero.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Me too. My favorite recording of Bolero (a favorite period) is this one, Muti Conducts “1812: Overture, Bolero, Les Preludes,
      Ricardo Muti conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Ah, the tune Bo Derek’s character insisted be played during interludes romantiques in Blake Edwards’s comedy 10. 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t she have cornrows before it was popular? Boy, I was so young then! 😎

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:48 am | Permalink

      I love Bolero too.

      I also love Gergiev’s appearance. He looks exactly as if someone hauled him out of bed (or someone else’s bed), fed him numerous cups of black coffee, poured him into his suit, and stuck him in a taxi for the concert hall.


  5. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I love when Grania does the notable date list with the notated identities. Thanks

  6. rickflick
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Curiosity stunned this cat. I note that Kary Mullis, inventor of PCR is also a certified Kook:

    Wikipedia: “He has defended AIDS denialism,[8][9][10][11][12][13] and climate change denial,[8] and has attacked sociology as a “worthless science” for not taking astrology seriously.”

    It’s fascinating and disturbing to think that Nobel Prizes and claptrap can coexist in the same brain.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Many years ago I attended a talk that he gave. It was a Special Event at the university that I was at, so he got an extra big room and spoke in the evening to an absolutely packed house. All b/c he was the inventer of the PCR.
      The talk was mainly about how he came up with the idea in a moment of inspiration, while driving along a road at night. It was… entertaining. It very soon became very apparent that he was more than a little bit wonky.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Maybe the wonky is associated with a certain kind of creativity. The ability to associate the unlikely with the improbable.

  7. GBJames
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    And now I’m left to wonder where exactly the collapsed railroad bridge over the Tay was. Dundee is mentioned but it is pretty far from the Tay.

    Help me out, Scottish people!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Dundee goes right down to the northern bank of the Tay. Here’s a bit of Google maps with the road bridge to the right & the SECOND rail bridge to the left running from Wormit to Dundee:

      If you look very, very carefully you’ll see white dots in the water 18 metres (59 ft) downstream of [to the right of], the SECOND bridge & running parallel – they are the piers of the FIRST bridge. The first bridge followed a parallel route to the second bridge, but I suspect at the northern end the original bridge hit the northern bank before turning right for Dundee [my guess]. Here’s the Wormit end [south bank] of the rail bridge – I’ve marked the piers of the first bridge:

      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t Google maps great!

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Yes. It saves me having to be Scots too! 🙂

      • GBJames
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Michael. For some reason I assumed that that bit of water would have been some kind of firth, like “the Firth of Dundee” or something. I was just in Scotland a couple of months ago, and on the River Tay! (But much further upstream near Kenmore and Aberfeldy.) I should have known better, but extrapolated from having encountered so many “firths”.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:37 am | Permalink

          It is the Firth of Tay, IIRC.

          I think the River Tay probably starts at the limit of tidal water.

          The Tay Bridge disaster of 1879 was probably the most famous railway disaster of all time in Britain. It happened in a howling gale, just a year and a half after opening, and there was some uncertainty as to whether the High Girders (the central spans which the train passed through) fell by themselves or whether the train had been blown off the track and brought it down.

          The engine, no 224, was an express loco and much more powerful than would normally work the local train. It was eventually recovered from the Tay, little damaged, and was repaired and restored to traffic. But no driver would drive it over the bridge until eventually, 29 years later on the anniversary of the disaster, it ran across the bridge.

          There is of course an extensive Wikipedia article.


          • rickflick
            Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:54 am | Permalink

            The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse was probably the most famous bridge incident in the U.S.. No one died (except a dog). The cause was put to a 40 mile per hour wind which caused the bed to bounce harmonically until it simply disintegrated. The collapse was filmed, which you have likely seen. It is still used in engineering schools to show how not to build a bridge.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 29, 2018 at 5:05 am | Permalink

              Lesson Plan: Write a poem in the dramatic style of William McGonagall about “galloping Gertie” & the sad loss of a dog.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 29, 2018 at 5:59 am | Permalink

                That would be stunning!

            • Posted January 2, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              It died of insufficient torsional stiffness: Strong enough for the applied dead and live loads but not stiff enough to behave well in a high wind. It “fluttered” (or we would call it flutter in aerospace — I was trained as a civil engineer but worked most of my career in aerospace) and as you note, the flutter grew harmonically under the right conditions.

              Here’s what it looks like when it happens to the tail of an airplane:

              • rickflick
                Posted January 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                From the description it looks like they were stress testing it. Finding the limits. Definitely not enough duct tape.

  8. Lurker111
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Wine and vodka are the only things allowing me to bear my wife’s rants when she’s in the worst parts of being a borderline. 😦

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Talk about leading one’s friends astray. Some friends teach you to drink or do drugs, or steal stuff. Mine taught me about William McGonagall. Talk about a misspent youth. . . .

  10. Taz
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I think that’s a ball cat, not a footie cat. It appears to be running across a baseball field.

  11. grasshopper
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    The poem was bad because William McGonagall was a really bad poet, a fact known to everybody but himself, it seems.
    Can a bad poet even be called a poet, as he goes from verse to verse?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      🙂 Pun noted.

      McGonagall had observed just one fact about poetry – the last word of each line rhymes. He would simply continue each line until he had a rhyme.

      He was blithely innocent of such concepts as metre, scansion, alliteration or suchlike, and his frequent use of bathos was undoubtedly quite unconscious.


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:15 am | Permalink

        Interestingly, he rhymes ‘Edinburgh’ with ‘sorrow’, which gives a clue as to the way in which ‘Edinburgh’ was pronounced in those days.


  12. Mark R.
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday Stan ‘The Man’ Lee. He almost made it to 96. I was at a Comicon a number of years ago and he was signing some comics for me. He’d sign thousands of items in one day’s session, great stamina and energy. I asked him: “Aren’t you glad you have such a short name?” He smirked and said dryly: “I wish my name was a letter.”

  13. Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the study of coffee and alcohol… Moderate alcohol consumption has been subjected to a long debate in the literature.

    The apparent benefit is very likely to be bias from observational studies. Those who do not drink for instance might more old and more sick and cannot drink than those who drink in moderation. Also, the moderation drinking group is also above in the socioeconomic status than at least part of those who cannot affort to drink.

    For an interesting discussion about this, see 1. Fekjaer HO. “Alcohol—a universal preventive agent? A critical analysis” :

    2. Stockwell T et al. “Do “Moderate” Drinkers Have Reduced Mortality Risk? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Alcohol Consumption and All-Cause Mortality.”

    • rickflick
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      Alcohol is probably simply a moderate toxin. But, it does tend to ease the boredom and angst. Perhaps it’s worthwhile for that.

  14. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    And the overweight people living longer?
    Not news…

  15. revelator60
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Sacrificing the train was worth it—The General is one of the best comedies ever made. It’s Buster Keaton’s masterpiece, though The Navigator, Sherlock Jr., and Steamboat Bill Jr. are also great. Physical comedy was never as ingenious and inventive after sound came in.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      What train? It was a single locomotive. No train attached.



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