Thursday: Hili dialogue

Sadly, I have but a week and a day until I leave this lovely and warm island to return to frigid Chicago. Yes, it’s Thursday, January 10, 2019, and only four days until this site has been up for exactly a decade (I’ll do a short post about it). It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate Day; does anybody find that, as they age, they crave darker and darker chocolate? I used to want only milk chocolate, and now I find myself looking for chocolate with 85-90% cocoa. (Aldi, btw, carries good German bars of that nature, and they’re not expensive.)

It’s also Margaret Thatcher Day in the Falkland Islands, honoring the PM during the 1982 Falklands War. The Falklands are surely the only territory to have such a holiday.

It is lore that on this day in 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river, thereby violating Roman law and precipitating the civil war that led to him becoming Emperor. On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published his revolution-promoting pamphlet Common Sense. On this day in 1870, John D. Rockefeller incorporated Standard Oil.

Speaking of oil, it was on this day in 1901 that the first gusher (spouting oil derrick) occurred at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas. Wikipedia labels this photo “The Lucas gusher at Spindletop, January 10, 1901. This was the first major gusher of the Texas Oil Boom.”

The rest is history, all the way up to George W. Bush.

On this day in 1917, a group of suffragettes, the Silent Sentinels started a 2.5 year silent and legal protest outside the White House. Later some were arrested and horribly brutalized in prison, but this treatment only made Americans sympathetic to women’s right to vote, and in 1920 that right was guaranteed by the Nineteenth Amendment. Here are those brave women who, nevertheless, persisted:

Finally, it was on January 10, 1985, that Sandinista Daniel Ortega became president of Nicaragua, angering the U.S., who didn’t want a socialist in charge and funded the Contras to overthrow the government. We failed, thank Ceiling Cat. After a hiatus, Ortega was reelected in 2006 and remains President.

Notables born on January 10 include Robinson Jeffers (1887), Ray Bolger (1904), Sal Mineo (1939), Godfrey Hewitt (1940), Linda Lovelace (1949), Pat Benatar (1953), and Jared Kushner (1981).

Those who died on this day include Carl Linnaeus (1778), Samuel Colt (1862), Buffalo Bill (1917), Sinclair Lewis (1951), Dashiell Hammett (1961), Coco Chanel (1971), Howlin’ Wolf (1976), and David Bowie (2016).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, a word has taken on new meaning.

A: What are you doing?
Hili: A crossword.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Rozwiązuję krzyżówkę.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promoting Linda Sarsour:

A tweet from reader Barry, who says, “Not all cats are graceful.”

A lovely photo sent by reader Blue:

Tweets from Grania: J. K. Rowling responds to a Labourite (Stephen Fry’s mother was Jewish):

I’m not sure what breed of cat this is, but it still looks more catlike than felids in most medieval paintings:

Tom Nichols on Trump and his supporters:

This may be taking ailurophilia too far:

Tweets from Matthew. The article at issue is here, and there’s no specification about how the “Bible study” would be conducted.

A cat massages itself:

And can you spot this rattlesnake?



  1. Simon Hayward
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Which year was Ortega re-elected? Dates seem to be problematic right now – must be an island time thing 🙂

    • Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      Perhaps PCC[E] should stay there & go snorkling every day!

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        I sent the email a couple of hours back but it’s still well before getting up time in Hawaii, so it’ll be like that for a while 😀

  2. Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Love the Lion in Water!

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Bryan D. Hughes @ Rattlesnake Solutions LLC:

    “Rattlesnake Fencing is the only truly effective way to keep your yard safe”

    • Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Rattlesnakes find those swords really hard to hold for long. They are easy to score points against in any fencing match and they soon lose confidence

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink


    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      That reminds me of this whole internet delight.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        V good! I think a blade like a shark fin just below the head

  4. GBJames
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I cannot see the rattlesnake.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Look close to the long stick a little right from the center of the picture.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Ah, yes! Sneaky little devil.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        Thanks, I was having trouble too. I don’t know if the elevation of the tail indicates that it was rattling but I doubt I would have spotted it if I was one the trail. Good job the UK doesn’t have rattlers 🙂

        • Christopher
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          The nice thing about rattlesnakes is that they tend to warn you of their presence if you get too close, that is, when they’re not hunkered down hoping you’ll pass by them without them being noticed. They’re not bloodthirsty killers that Hollywood makes them out to be. Hell, they’re better neighbors than the gun-toting rednecks, pill-poppers, and tweakers in my little town.

          • Serendipitydawg
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            I had always assumed that the audible rattle was a definite, “Yo, rattlesnake over here… I wouldn’t come any closer if I were you” in case you haven’t spotted them. The UK snakes are well camouflaged and will always choose to leave when disturbed, though you can get a venomous nip from an Adder (I suspect you would need an allergy to actually die).

          • James
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            That used to be true. However, the laws of evolution are a harsh mistress. Folks have spent generations shooting rattlesnakes, so the snakes have adapted–by losing their rattle. There are areas where the rattlesnakes either don’t shake their tails, or can’t make a rattle sound, as those who did/could were eliminated from the gene pool.

            It makes a convenient argument in favor of evolution, as it has immediate consequences in many areas. It’s less than ideal for those of us who work outdoors, however.

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

              I can understand that.

              Interesting, exactly the artificial selection pressure that produced the image of a god on Japanese crabs! (I haven’t checked recently whether this is true or an urban myth, but it would make sense that if you throw back crabs with an image of a deity, the population will have more and better pictures of deities).

              • James
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                I thought it was samurai. I know that the samurai crabs are a thing–we studied them a bit in several of my classes in college. Not a god, really, but when you could be killed for any reason whatever, including “I wonder how sharp this sword is”, the difference is really negligible.

        • Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

          Black Rat Snakes (Elaphe [Pantherophis] obsoleta) mimic rattlesnakes by vibrating their tails on dry leaves. It’s very realistic. I actually saw this when I was about 12 years old, roaming around in the wood alone (those were the days). Scared the bejesus out of me.

          • Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

            I don’t believe this is mimicry. Vibrating came first. Many snakes vibrate their tails in conflict and predation situations. I believe that such vibrations were the behavioral basis (a preadaptation) for the morphological adaptation of the rattle.

          • Christopher
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            Right there with ya on that one! I’ve had that experience and even though the logical mind says “it’s a rat snake, it’s non-venomous” the rest of the mind is saying “sh!t sh!t sh!t”.

            As for whether it is a mimicry or not, are there black rat snakes that do this in areas where there are no rattlesnakes? If they only do so in areas where there are (or have been, historically) rattlesnakes, but not in areas where there have never been rattlesnakes, then I’d say yes to mimicry. Or, if related snakes also do this with their tails, perhaps it’s not. I’m sure it’s been studied somewhere.

            • Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

              The ranges of the black rat snake and the timber rattlesnake and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake overlay neatly. I’m no expert on snake phylogeny, but I suspect that rat snakes and rattlesnakes are only distantly related, so (if true) the preadaptation hypothesis doesn’t hold up.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:15 am | Permalink

        I see it now, but only when I enlarge the Tw*tter picture, and only because of the texture of its scales.

        Remarkably well camouflaged.


  5. Laurance
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Oh dear…I love good milk chocolate and I have not changed my taste with age. To me, really really dark chocolate is medicine. It’s good for me, but not at all enjoyable.

    As for the cat offered us by Ditch Witch, wow! Both dog-like, and at times having an almost human expression. Thanks!

    • chrism
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      I’m wondering if medieval cats were accurately represented in paintings, that they were scraggly dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards kind of creatures. There’s been plenty of time for human adoption to change their looks; just look at the enormous changes in livestock over the same timescale.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink


        What a wonderful expression. I’d never heard of it before. It looks very useful for describing some of my friends and acquaintances. Thanks for the introduction.

        • chrism
          Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          It was a rather hackneyed expression in my childhood, but I don’t know if it is still used much in the UK; language changes there faster than anywhere else I know. At least you know what to buy your friends for Christmas – a hairbrush!

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Yes, you might want to return to the mainland while there are still a few TSA workers showing up. Soon every entry may be closed.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      If Bezos is getting divorced will he be tied for richest person on earth?

      • rickflick
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Depends on the prenup. She may only get a few billion.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

          I doubt there is one. Married 27 years. Community property state.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            He’s currently the richest SOB, $137.2 billion, and that’s growing by 10s of billions every year. Amazon’s stock price – $1,659.42 a share, giving Amazon a total market value of $811 billion, higher than any public company on the planet. He probably isn’t too worried.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:34 am | Permalink

              Yes well, her either.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        The line I heard about Bezos is that he’s getting out of his marriage because he found out a marriage is considered a “union.”

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          Very good. Be nice to represent the wife eh?

  7. Paulus Beemster
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    In the meantime Ortega hes become a dictator in cahoots with the catholic church.

    • Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I suppose he was a dictator from day 1, but maybe his relationship with the catholic church developed.

  8. darrelle
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Even as a kid I preferred dark chocolate and still do. 70% – 80% is the sweet spot (as it were) for me. A lot of stuff labeled “dark” chocolate isn’t really all that dark. I think chocolate only needs to be about 35% by US standards to be called “dark” chocolate. I always try to find the percentage on the label rather than just going by the term “dark.”

    A couple years ago for a big Christmas dinner party I changed up a regular crème brûlée recipe to make dark chocolate crème brûlée spiked with Grand Marnier. I can’t seem to break the habit of experimenting in the heat of battle. Some times it works, some times it doesn’t. This time it was a smashing success. It was perfect. Though I did cheat a bit. My neighbor is the chef at a posh club. I wasn’t sure of the doneness so I had him come over and check for me.

    • Posted January 10, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Your dark chocolate creme brulee sounds delicious! I dod the same thing, changing up recipes or doing fusions. I prefer an amaretto-drenched yellow fruit cake instead of the typical dark Xmas plum pudding.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Excellent ideas from D & SP both! A simple dessert with 70% choc [no stronger] is Tia Maria** & Choc Cream – my variation is to add chopped strawberry chunks for contrast. Minutes to make & an hour in the fridge to set. Yum. RECIPE

        ** Or other suitable liqueur if Tia not your thing

        • darrelle
          Posted January 11, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the recipe Michael!

        • Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          Thanks! Gonna make this now, using Kahlua which I happen to have on hand. Tia Maria (or Cointreau for a different spin on it) would be great though.

        • Posted January 12, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          Darn. Can’t find double cream so will have to try your recipe with whipping cream.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 12, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            Whipping cream will work, but NOT the spray can whipping cream [which is crap & will lose the bubbles in the fridge I think]. P.S. If you can get double cream in your locale it’s unbeatable for sauces requiring cream – because of the high milk fat [45%? 48%?] it doesn’t curdle.

            • Posted January 12, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

              I bought real 35% milk fat whipping cream (the kind you have to whip yourself). This was the highest m.f. cream I could find at the regular grocery store. I could check the health food store for double cream as they tend to have special items like that. Thanks.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted January 12, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                Let us know how it turns out! If you’re USA there’s something called “manufacturers cream” which used to be supplied to just food manufacturers [bakers & the like] & it’s the nearest to UK “Double Cream”. Supposedly it’s available retail now, though I have no idea if it’s just from milk or it’s magicked with non-milk additives.

                I checked Whole Foods [USA] & they have a thick whipping cream that’s described as “organic” & yet thickness stability is maintained by the addition of gum rather than increasing milk fat %. Over here [UK] it was recently reported that one in five vanilla ice-creams have no vanilla, cream or fresh milk!

                One result of Brexit will be a certain amount of food additives deregulation [some say]. Foreboding.

              • Posted January 14, 2019 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

                I tried a quick alternative method by folding in freshly whipped cream and Kahlua into the melted chocolate, and it was great! I discovered it’s hard to find double cream outside the UK, but I shall check the whole foods place when I have time. I did read that I could slightly reduce (thicken) the 35% whipping cream on the stovetop or by adding butter, so I’ll try that next time .

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted January 14, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

                Heating & then cooling cream makes me nervous – adding a tiny amount of unflavoured powdered gelatine/gelatin is the easiest way – probably half [or less] of a teaspoon.

                “Knox Gelatine” is a US product you could dry – in a small cardboard box with a number of little individual sachets – like cafe sugar. Handy for cheesecake too! Thanks for feedback.

              • Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

                The trick is to heat gradually and not boil, to avoid prevent the cream from ‘breaking’. Apparently there’s a heavy cream powder available on Amazon but the shipping cost is prohibitive, I find.

                Somewhere outside the UK must have Devon double cream !

                I’ve very familiar with Knox Gelatine. It’s great for making almond milk pudding, etc.

              • Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

                Misread the Amazon ad – I could buy 2 jars and get free shipping. But I’d rather look for real double cream for now.

  9. rickflick
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    …she said of Mr. tRump, “He’s not hurting the people he’s supposed to be hurting.”

    Sounds like a good reason for God.

  10. Karen Fierman
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I am trying with all my might to sympathize with your having ONLY one MORE week and a day till your vacation ends. Alas! That said, I’m thoroughly enjoying your sojourn in Aloha Land! I need to go to a luau. GO!

  11. mrclaw69
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Ocasio-Cortez promoting Sarsour?

    …but I thought she was Jewish(!)

  12. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Alea iacta est

  13. Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Slight correction: This may be spitting hairs, but Julius Caesar is not generally considered to be the first emperor of Rome. That was Augustus, Caesar’s successor, and even Augustus maintained the fiction of the Republic. He called himself Imperator, which traditionally referred to a victorious general. Caesar had absolute power before his assassination, but that wasn’t unprecedented in the Republic (Sulla).

    • James
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Rome actually had a process for establishing absolute dictators. They realized that a republic form of government isn’t exactly quick on the draw, and given that Rome was always big on their military this was a concern. So the Republic established rules for when, how, and why a dictator could take over, and rules for them stepping down.

      The fact that the dictators DID generally step down is one of the most astonishing things about pre-Imperial Roman society.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        See story of Cincinnatus, who Cincinnati is named after.

        • Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          George Washington was considered the American Cincinnatus during his time.

      • Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        That all ended with Sulla, who marched on Rome twice. He was declared legibus faciendis et reipublicae constituendae causa (“dictator for the making of laws and for the settling of the constitution”), which traditionally lasted for six months, but Sulla’s appointment was made for an indefinite period.

        Sulla was a fascinating character — probably a sociopath. He began the practice of proscriptions, the mass execution of political enemies (and even of neutrals whose property was coveted by his supporters).

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          The civil wars that Caesar and Cicero grew up under were brutal. It’s why Augustus’s pax Romana was so appealing. I think most of those guys were sociopaths, Caesar (very charming and a seducer of Roman wives) and Augustus included.

          • Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

            Julius Caesar was a practical man. He could be brutal in the typical Roman way to foreign enemies like the Gauls, but was notable in his lenient treatment of political enemies. After defeating Pompey, Brutus, Cassius, and the his other rivals, he welcomed most of them into his political orbit. Of course, he did this for cynical political reasons, and it led to his assassination.

          • James
            Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            I dislike this modern tendency to attribute psychological disorders to anyone who took actions they dislike. Sure, they may have bee psychopaths, sociopaths, autistic, whatever, but A) we can’t reliably diagnose such mental disorders at a distance of several thousand years and several entire cultures, and B) sometimes perfectly sane people do horrible things. You also can’t discount Roman culture, which has always worshiped the military.

            As for seducing other people’s wives, that was sort of a Roman pastime. Virgil wrote a book on how to do it.

            • Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

              You make a good point. From the perspective of modern times (perhaps excluding Isis) Roman civilization as a whole appears sociopathic, but Sulla was perhaps more so than average.

              • James
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                That’s part of it, sure.

                The other issue is, we only have the public personas. We don’t have good evidence of what Caesar, or Augustus, or their ilk were like in private. And there can be a substantial difference between the two. We’re talking about the top-most people in a government that makes “Game of Thrones” look downright tame; to survive you had to be, or appear to be, ruthless. It’s not terribly difficult to find examples of people–even Romans–who wrote one thing and acted in another way. Or people who acted one way in their public life and another in their private life.

                Then there is the inevitable distortion of the character that comes with political intrigue (and Rome makes any modern-day political drama look downright infantile in that regard!) and several thousand years of people trying to make these people fit the agendas of the time. I honestly doubt any of us would recognize Caesar if we met him; the historical man served as the basis of these stories, but probably bears little resemblance to the man we picture when we read them. I’ve had it happen to me–I was at a Medieval Re-enactment battle, then heard someone telling the story of that battle a few months later, and didn’t realize they were talking about me. Imagine the amount of distortion a few generations can produce!

                Finally, it lets people off too easy. Trying to say that evil people had this or that disorder makes evil seem abnormal; it means you never have to look into the mirror and say “You know, I could have been that guy”. Only Those People act like that. That’s Them. Us always acts good and right and noble; it’s a fact of modern medicine! I’m a paleontologist; I’ve seen research in my field distorted in exactly those ways (by racists, sexists, and other bigots).

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

                Except that Augustus was actually portrayed as peaceful. It’s through studying other accounts of his actions that we learn otherwise.

                He was also shown as youthful but he was quite old and sickly while public images of him showed him in his youth. People who study these things do know the difference.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

              I guess you missed my “I think” and my “I think” actually has a lot of reasoning behind it, including Roman culture and it had nothing to do with “worshiping the military” which I don’t think Romans did at all especially when it was the military that was often marching on Rome and killing its citizens. It was the military who often killed farmers to take over their land. There was no true state military like we have today but soldiers for hire that needed to be paid well by their commander (emperor or random Republican that could afford to raise one) and they needed to be retired well so they didn’t raise a stink and kill off everyone.

              But I digress. Of course I can’t diagnose Augustus or Sulla but anyone who proscribed someone like Cicero who Augustus was quite close to and not just had him executed, but had his hands displayed on the rostra isn’t exactly someone you can trust is using a fully normal sized amygdala. He also murdered his step brother to secure his power….that’s sociopathic. The reasons Romans accepted Augustus is they really didn’t want to end up murdered in another proscription and they were willing to trade his rule for peace, which they had lived without for so long thanks to other sociopaths like Sulla who murdered Romans on the regular not just in proscriptions but in civil war after civil war with army after army he paid to wage them.

              And it isn’t just Roman culture. Rome was probably one of the nicer places in a brutal world but it was brutal because there were nasty people doing nasty things to be in power. There were loads of Romans, Cicero among them, who didn’t murder for power.

              And just because it was okay to seduce women, it wasn’t okay to seduce your upper class friends’ wives. That was a betrayal – something sociopaths do.

              • rickflick
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                You are clearly an expert in Roman history, which I am not in any way shape or form. But, isn’t “something sociopaths do”, extremely context dependent? In other words behaviors in Roman times should not be confused with 21st century psychological diagnostic markers. It’s clear they did not have anything close to our modern sense of appropriate behavior. Murder and intrigue in the Roman court might well have to be considered normal for the era.

              • Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

                The political situation in the late Roman Republic was not unique. The Republic had stood for almost 500 years under a generally understood standard of norms called res publica. Rome had no constitution, only these implicitly agreed upon norms. In the first century BC men of power arose, starting with Marius and Sulla, who ignored these norms, and were motivated only or primarily by their own imperium (military power, legal or not). I’m claiming the politics wasn’t unique because I see it playing out now.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

                No I’m not using it in a culturally dependent way. I’m using it a pathological sense and that pathology transcends time and history. Clearly we can’t know if Augustus was a sociopath, but given his actions and the qualifications required for him to be successful, you can make a pretty good educated guess that he’s sociopathic. Same with Caligula. You can’t know he was mentally ill but you can make some good guesses. Just because someone lived in a society that did gruesome things, does not excuse a long list of manipulative, callous behaviour to secure power.

              • rickflick
                Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

                Well they probably were extreme cases in a time we have to consider extreme. As Steven Pinker points out in his recent book, times they are a-changin’.

              • James
                Posted January 11, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

                “I guess you missed…”

                Yes, because the only possible explanation for someone disagreeing with you is that they failed to read and comprehend your magnificent comments.

                “…which I don’t think Romans did at all especially when it was the military that was often marching on Rome and killing its citizens.”

                A fair point. I didn’t express myself well.

                Most of the time when anyone talks about Rome we are talking about the upper class. The rulers, the literate folks, certainly did venerate the military in many ways. I mean, they made the leader of their military into their ruler. There’s the story about the Roman citizen making the ultimate sacrifice to stave off disaster, by riding into oblivion in full battle kit–nothing was as valuable to a Roman as a free man defending his home. Roman generals were routinely given positions of power and authority unobtainable by other means, and the military was pretty much the only way to gain power for most people. I could go on.

                Maybe the lower-classes didn’t like the military so much, but the folks in charge–the ones who wrote histories and who provide us with all our information about the past–were pretty enamored with it.

                “Of course I can’t diagnose Augustus or Sulla…”

                Than we’re done here. The rest is mere speculation–an enjoyable way to pass a rainy afternoon, sure, but hardly a serious matter.

                As for your examples, maybe they are sociopathic. By our standards they certainly are. But again, you have to remember the society this guy lived in. It wasn’t just routine to torture slaves to obtain their testimony, it was a legal requirement. The Roman army routinely beat and killed members as punishment. They gave us the word “decimation”–under certain circumstances, a random one out of every ten members of the army would be put to death, by the other nine, and if they other nine held back they’d be put to death as well. Crucifixion and public brutal executions were commonplace; they were family entertainment. Again, I could go on ad nausium; a while back I sort of accidently built up a library on torture methods of the ancients, as my relatives saw articles and books on the subject and went “Hey, James would like that!”

                You cannot–CANNOT–hold someone who lived in such a society to our modern standards. He didn’t live in modern times. Displaying severed body parts was a routine aspect of Roman politics, as were executions of various relatives. This is a blog about evolution; do we really need to go into detail explaining why?

                I fully agree that Rome was one of the nicer places in the ancient world. Most other places made Rome look like a shining beacon of civility and peace–by the standards of those who lived in other places (see the number of Germans who attempted to re-create the Empire). That doesn’t mean it was nice, peaceful, or sane by OUR standards. That’s the issue at hand. You’re using OUR standards to evaluate the mental health of someone who lived in a very, very different culture, and therefore the fact that that other culture was brutal in ways most of us cannot imagine is a relevant factor.

                I also acknowledge that some in power were reasonable men and women who didn’t engage in violence, seduction, or other bad habits. They were the exception. It’s not me saying this, but the Romans–see the Stoic discussions of the arena and circus. You can’t point to the oddballs and say “See? It’s not the culture!” The fact that some people resist the negative aspects of a culture in no way proves that the culture wasn’t a major influence. What you’re doing is the equivalent of saying “Because some black people at the time made significant contributions to society, Jim Crow wasn’t really that bad.” The logic is the same.

                “And just because it was okay to seduce women, it wasn’t okay to seduce your upper class friends’ wives.”

                In Rome, yeah, it was okay to do so. It wasn’t okay to be a woman and seduced by someone else, and the husband may objection, often quite strongly, but sleeping with your peers’ wives was a common practice in Rome. Look at Marcus Aurelius’ wife! Rome didn’t have the same views of sex that we do today, and it’s ridiculous to evaluate Roman behavior by modern standards.

    • Posted January 10, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      For earlier discussions here at WEIT on our favorite emperors, see this.

      • Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        That was interesting. Augustus, while famous, is relatively obscure in the modern mind and art compared to such characters as Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, and Cleopatra. For one thing, Shakespeare never wrote a play about him, although he appears as a supporting character in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I agree that Robert Graves I, Claudius, both the book and the BBC series, are excellent, is not perfectly historically accurate. I also really like the HBO series Rome.

        • Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          *if* not historically accurate

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          I once saw a cartoon that had someone speaking to Caesar and saying, “A salad! That’s all you’re going to be remembered as! A salad!”

          I think Caesar is more famous because of his military campaigns and his writing. It used to be that everyone taking Latin translated some of Caesar’s works at some point. And he was a well known military strategist. Also, that he had a bad end – and Shakespeare wrote about it.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          Oh and I should add that Caesar’s writings would definitely have been studied by the classes in England who were being educated so Caesar’s stories were known to Shakespeare’s audience and then of course Shakespeare writing the play further added to a popular knowledge of Caesar later on.

        • Pierluigi Ballabeni
          Posted January 11, 2019 at 4:14 am | Permalink

          In Europe Julius Caesar is mainly famous because of the Asterix comics.

          • darrelle
            Posted January 11, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

            Loved those comics. Hilarious.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 11, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

            I love those comics. I have a bunch! I think the author probably knew of Caesar from their own exposure through Latin lessons.

  14. Christopher
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I don’t think you can find a pet unicorn that farts rainbows but you can get Poopsie Surprise, the toy unicorn that craps slime out of its heart-shaped rectum.

    (Thank you Mock the Week for sharing that with the world)

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      It was the heart-shaped anus that really sealed the deal 😀

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      And seeing Dara use a weird unicorn as a tube to direct some purple liquid from a bottle into a plastic commode was one of the more surreal moments on British TV.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        Have you noticed the way that he does this brief ‘eeeeh’ noise just after he delivers the punchline to a joke? I noticed it only about a decade into his career, but as soon as I did it was completely impossible to ignore.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Indeed, as did Alistair McGowan, so it makes his impersonation so much better than Rory Bremner’s.

  15. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Definitely a cool cat, though the d*g is a bit derivative.

    It’s an advert but it still makes me laugh- even when I am paying no attention to the TV.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:27 am | Permalink

      Oh now that ad is brilliant!


  16. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I want to give her the benefit of the doubt but Ocasio-Cortez really does seem to be a bit of a dimwit. How bloody difficult is it for people like her to just disassociate themselves from Sarsour? Just say no to that revolting woman, it’s not hard, or it shouldn’t be.

    • Historian
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      AOC doesn’t want to disassociate herself from Sarsour. One of the litmus tests of the far left is that its adherents must view Palestinians as being oppressed by Israel, which leads many to believe that Israel must disappear. This is too bad because some of the ideas of the far left, especially in the economic area, are worthy of consideration in an era of discontent. As an example, advocacy of medicare for all in the U.S. is now becoming mainstream in the Democratic Party, although its details, particularly in regard to funding, remain fuzzy.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Just to be clear, however, it should be noted that medicare for all is not how it works now even for people over 65. Even part B, medical coverage is far from total and you pay for it. The really poor would not be covered. The average person currently getting medicare pays roughly 130 a month, usually this comes out of your social security. If you do not get social security you must pay up.

        I just don’t want those who know very little about medicare to get the wrong idea.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          The “really poor”, etc., would presumably be covered by medicaid as they now are. (Although haphazardly and different by state.)

    • W.Benson
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, the AOC tweet was made more than four months ago and was prompted by the Kavanaugh hearings.

  17. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I did not know that the oddity of cats in medieval paintings was a “thing” beyond the ambit of this web site. I am enlightened.

    • James
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      The cats were never really surprising. The rabbits and snails, on the other hand, are just weird.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        It gets even weirder… a Google image search for Medieval margenalia brought up exacly the image I was thinking of right here at I have seen this one a few times and always wondered what it was all about.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

          … also, some of the examples of this ‘meme’ are more explicit with the alternative wind source for a horn 😀

        • James
          Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          I honestly don’t consider that all that weird. That sort of humor was rampant until fairly recently. Many famous composers of classical music wrote pieces along those lines, and some…..well, let’s say live the part and leave it at that; Google at your own risk!

          It makes a certain amount of sense. You have to remember, they lived in a world where urine was a marketable commodity (the ammonia made it useful for fixing dyes and for cleaning) and where “street” and “sewer” were sets with overlapped 100%. And most people ate diets rich in complex starches–England, for example, widely cultivated peas as a staple crop. Excrement and bodily functions were simply part of their daily lives. They didn’t do their business in private; classy people had chamber pots, otherwise there was always a tree (most people lived their lives outdoors, with “houses” being places to cook and sleep).

          • darrelle
            Posted January 11, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

            Just the other day I was reading various sources / articles about Indus Valley Civilization. Fascinating in so many ways, particularly since I hadn’t previously known much of anything about it. This was a Bronze Age civilisation (3300–1300 BCE) contemporary to but larger than those in Egypt or Mesopotamia, which together are considered to be the three cradles of civilisation of the Old World. IVC cities were very well planned and built. Among other things they had sophisticated water management systems including sewers.

            “The cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro had a flush toilet in almost every house, attached to a sophisticated sewage system.”

            [Rodda, J.C. and Ubertini, Lucio (2004). The Basis of Civilization – Water Science? p. 161. International Association of Hydrological Sciences (International Association of Hydrological Sciences Press 2004).]

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        There is great speculation about the rabbits and snails in those drawings and what they represent.

  18. Posted January 10, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Medieval cat kinda resembles Yoda.

  19. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Trump stands by claim that Mexico will pay for wall(

    US President Donald Trump has insisted that Mexico will still pay for the border wall, claiming he never meant it would make a one-time payment.

    “Obviously I never meant Mexico would write a cheque,” Mr Trump said before travelling to McAllen, Texas.

    He says Mexico would “indirectly” fund the wall through a revamped trade deal, but a campaign memo shows he planned to compel the country to pay for the wall.

    And now the hedging starts… I guess someone has just asked why he needs the Dems to approve his budget to pay for the wall when Mexico is paying 😀

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      “And now the hedging starts…”

      You misspelled “lying”.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, I was hedging 8)

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    “It’s also Margaret Thatcher Day in the Falkland Islands, honoring the PM during the 1982 Falklands War. The Falklands are surely the only territory to have such a holiday.”

    In honour of the Iron Lady, can I link Glenda Jackson’s tribute in the House of Commons:

    (Trigger warning: If Ms Jackson has ever heard the phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing” she obviously gives it zero credence.)


  21. Posted January 11, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I have to disagree with JK Rowling.

    Whilst I agree the comment was insulting and therefore deserving of a “fuck you”, to claim it was antisemitic just because Stephen Fry has Jewish ancestry is nonsense.

    The logical consequence of Rowling’s tweet is that you can’t criticise anybody for any vice that happens to coincide with a derogatory stereotype of a group to which they belong for fear of being anti-the group.

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