Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Tuesday, January 15, 2019, and National Popcorn Day. In North Korea it’s Korean Alphabet Day, celebrating the invention of the modern Korean alphabet, Hangul, in the fifteenth century. In South Korea, though, Alphabet Day falls September 9.

Today’s Google Doodle (below) celebrates Sake Dean Mahomed (1759-1851), Anglo-Indian author (he was the first Indian to publish a book in English, The Travels of Dean Mahomed, published on this day in 1794) and opened the first Indian restaurant in England, which Wikipedia describes like this:

Dean Mahomet opened the first Indian restaurant in England: the Hindoostane Coffee House in George Street, near Portman Square, Central London. The restaurant offered such delights as the Hookha “with real chilm tobacco, and Indian dishes, … allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England.” This venture was ended due to financial difficulties.

It’s a big day in history today, as a number of significant events happened on January 15. First, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey in 1559. She ruled until her death in 1603.  Exactly two centuries after that day, the British Museum opened to the public.

On January 15, 1870, a cartoon appeared that forever associated the Democratic Party with a donkey (it wasn’t the first cartoon to do this, however). The famous one below was drawn by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly, and here it is:

The explanation from Smithsonian.com:

On January 15, 1870, Nast published the cartoon that would forever link the donkey to the Democrat. A few ideas should be clear for the cartoon to make sense: First, “republican” and “democrat” meant very different things in the 19th century than they do today (but that’s another article entirely); “jackass” pretty much meant the exact same thing then that it does today; and Nast was a vocal opponent of a group of Northern Democrats known as “Copperheads.”

In his cartoon, the donkey, standing in for the Copperhead press, is kicking a dead lion, representing President Lincoln’s recently deceased press secretary (E.M. Stanton). With this simple but artfully rendered statement, Nast succinctly articulated his belief that the Copperheads, a group opposed the Civil War, were dishonoring the legacy of Lincoln’s administration. The choice of a donkey –that is to say, a jackass– would be clearly understood as commentary intended to disparage the Democrats. Nast continue to use the donkey as a stand-in for Democratic organizations, and the popularity of his cartoons through 1880s ensured that the party remained inextricably tied to jackasses.

On January 15, 1889, the Coca-Cola Company was incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia. I still think their advertising slogan, “The taste you never get tired of,” is one of the most succinct and accurate in the history of advertising.  Exactly three years later, James Naismith published the rules of basketball.

On this day in 1919, the Great Molasses Flood occurred in Boston when an exploding molasses tank sent an eight-foot tsunami of the good through the streets of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150. Here’s a photo of the aftermath with a caption from Wikipedia:

Twenty one people were killed on Commercial Street in the North End when a tank of molasses ruptured and exploded. An eight foot wave of the syrupy brown liquid moved down Commercial Street at a speed of 35mph. Wreckage of the collapsed tank visible in background, center, next to light colored warehouse. Elevated railway structure visible at far left and the North End Park bathing beach to the far right. A “before” view of the disaster can be seen in this image.

On January 15, 1962, Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript, the Derveni papyrus, (ca. 340 BC, with the orignal  text dating back 150+ years earlier), was found in northern Greece. It’s part of a philosophical treatise, and here are some fragments as shown on Ancient Origins:

On this day in 1967, the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first Super Bowl, played in Los Angeles. Eighteen years ago today, Wikipedia went online. Finally, exactly ten years ago, US Airways Flight 1549, with pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles at the controls, went down, landing in New York’s Hudson River after the engines were stopped by collision with a flock of Canada Geese. Thanks to extremely skillful piloting and the calm heads of the crew, all 155 people on board survived, with very few injuries.

Notables born on this day include Molière (1622), Josef Breuer (1822), Osip Mandelstam (1891), Edward Teller (1908), Gene Krupa (1909), Lloyd Bridges (1913), Maurice Herzog (1919), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929).

Those who died on January 15 include Matthew Brady (1896), Rosa Luxemburg (1919), Jack Teagarden (1964), and Harry Nilsson (1994).

Nilsson hung around a lot of musical big names like Bob Dylan, but to my mind never sang much that was good—with one exception. And that is the song below, written by Fred Neil, with Nilsson’s Grammy-winning version featured in the movie “Midnight Cowboy.” This offsets any number of execrable songs like “Put the Lime in the Coconut

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej has had a heart attack and is in the hospital for a few days more. He doesn’t usually let readers know when he’s ailing, but made an exception in today’s dialogue. I’m sure readers join me in wishing Andrzej all the best and a speedy recovery.

Hili: What are we going to do if Andrzej doesn’t return from the hospital tomorrow?
Malgorzata: Well, he will probably come back the day after tomorrow and everything will get back to normal.
In Polish:
Hili: Co zrobimy, jeśli Andrzej jutro nie wróci ze szpitala?
Malgorzata: To pewnie wróci pojutrze i wszystko wróci do normy.
Leon is vacationing with his staff in the snowy mountains of southern Poland.
Leon: Is anyone out there?
In Polish: Ktoś tu w ogóle przyjdzie?
A prescient Mencken quote found by reader Norm. (UPDATE: This quote appears to be at least partially doctored–see the comments–so Mencken wasn’t so prescient after all. I should have suspected that. )

A tweet by Bari Weiss, and yes, Walker’s antisemitism should become common knowledge so the Outrage Brigade can decide whether to continue to laud an antisemite or, if they follow their own pattern and principles, demonize her permanently.

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. The first shows a raccoon with musical ambitions:

Yet another ninja cat, this one sent to Heather by Ann German:

This tweet, unearthed by reader Barry, shows the remarkable similarity of bones in a human foot (right) and an elephant’s foot (left). It seems that the elephant is just a human with fleshy high heels:

Tweets from Grania. What is this wolf cat? A Maine Coon, or another breed?

Well, I’m culturally illiterate and so don’t know what Knight Rider is, but Grania assures me this is funny:

A remarkable time-lapse video of a volcano erupting taken from the ISS:

Tweets from Matthew. I’m sure scientists have a number of hypotheses relevant to this question, but have they been tested?

Some very important history of science:

This is just cool beyond words:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Wicked fast popcorn recipe:

    Oil (canola, olive, whatever )
    Optional spices? Testing this now.
    Toss to coat
    Put in a brown paper lunch bag! Key insight!
    Put on a plate
    Microwave until popping slows down

    This takes s lot of words to write but it’s really easy and fast and fun

    Never need the garbage from the store again!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Obvs. oil could be butter,… lard,.. suet,… coconut… hmmmm….

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        You already said it but just to be more specific, try using crisco.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

          That would probably taste really good.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      I suspect that this is obvious, however: is the variety of corn used for popping specifically bred or will all types behave this way?

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        I don’t know

        I’m currently using a cheap-O brand from a bulk shelf at Your Average Grocery Store.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          I have seen ‘popping kernels’ in a few places in the UK and have always wondered. The only ones that I have seen close up look rather darker than the usual corn kernels, though this could be a result of them being dried out until they are rock hard (I couldn’t resist biting one, definitely less than optimal 😀 ).

          I have generally always been somewhat indifferent to popcorn over the years, mainly because it is popped and packed, hence it resembles flavoured packing peanuts. Freshly popped is something else entirely, particuarly the odour.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

            I am suddenly overcome with a desire to find purple kernels.

            Sadly I bet the inside is white.

            Palm oil too … I mean there’s lots of oils. The mind reels.

            • Mark Sturtevant
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

              They are white inside. I think popcorn are from special varieties, and that other varieties just don’t really work that way.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

                I am not an expert but my grandfather grew some popcorn almost every year. I do not know the names of the varieties but he usually had a large yellow and a small white. The small white popped with crisco was the best I ever had.

                The whole key to good popping corn is the moisture of the corn or kernels. I think it needs to be around 8 or 10 percent. If too much moisture it does not pop well. Believe it or not, Hamburg, Iowa use to be the popcorn capital. That is where we had to take the corn to sell it.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

                Ok but I’m now wondering how purple corn chips made purple?

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

                AHHHH it must be all about the varieties then. This should be interesting. For instance there’s no purple masa harina or corn meal readily available…

      • Sarah
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Popcorn is a different variety from the usual kernel corn. I believe it has extra moisture inside, which when it gets hot enough expands and causes the kernel to pop open. The popcorn kernels are much smaller and rounder that those of sweet corn.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:57 am | Permalink

          Randall Schenck said this too – the moisture- it’s a small difference that makes a big difference. I’ve heard something like this before but now I’m interested to try some different kernels.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:57 am | Permalink

          Thanks. I kind of assumed this must be the case and couldn’t just be a result of drying them out.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

          Yes, popcorn is a variety just like sweet corn or field corn. Specifically for popping into corn. The kernels are smaller and very hard.

          By the way, if you leave sweet corn to grow way past normal until it dries on the cob. Then shell it you can make parched corn. Just throw it in a pan with oil and see what happens. It sounds like you are popping corn but it simply swells up. Take it out of the pan and dry it on some paper towel. Throw a little salt on and you have it.

          • Serendipitydawg
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            By the way, if you leave sweet corn to grow way past normal until it dries on the cob.

            Interesting to know, however, if I grew sweetcorn, the last thing I would do is leave the cobs!

            I miss the days when the farm shop down the road would go and cut the cobs ay the time you bought them. A couple of minutes from fresh in the field to cooking was really quite something.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

              As additional info regarding sweet corn, there is a small window of time when this product is ready for harvest and eating. It will quickly go past being ready and become tough and not good to eat. On hot humid days this can be within a week. So in actual growing in gardens and even for those growing more to sell it is very unlikely that all of the product gets picked and used. So while your idea sounds good on paper, the reality is often different.

              One way this fact is often prevented to some degree is to plant your crop in staggered amount. Two rows this week, two rows a week later, and so on. This way the corn does not all become ready at once.

              • Serendipitydawg
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

                On hot humid days this can be within a week.

                At last, the UK scores! Unusual conditions round here… unpleasant when we get them, though.

                If :mrgreen: makes a smiley, can anyone tell me what the significance of green is?

      • John Conoboy
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I have tried many popcorn brands, but have to admit that Orville Reddenbacher seems to give the best results. Pour oil in a pan and add one kernel, heat till kernel pops and then pour more kernels into the pan. Cover and let pop. Some say you should not shake the pan, but I find that it seems to aid in getting more kernels to pop. When done, put popcorn in a bowl, add butter and salt to taste and that is all you need. I think I will make popcorn for dinner tonight.

        • Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          I agree but with one addition. Cover the popcorn so the popped kernels stay in the pot but leave a gap so the steam can escape. This results in crispier popcorn.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Had a friend who would swear that Parmesan cheese sprinkled on popcorn was essential. I am sure many other equally addictive options also exist.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        It occurred to me you could add caramel and peanuts to simulate Cracker Jacks. BYO toy.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I hate to be a killjoy but if you pop corn in a paper bag, you should use bags that are safe for cooking. Most paper bags are treated with various chemicals not designed for human consumption. They can be dirty, contain foreign substances, etc. https://www.freep.com/story/life/food/2012/10/25/susan-m-selasky-don-t-pop-corn-in-a-brown/77199298/. You can find microwaveable friendly paper bags.

      But you can microwave popcorn in a bowl https://delishably.com/appetizers-snacks/How-to-Make-Microwave-Popcorn-without-a-bag, or purchase an inexpensive popcorn microwaver

      Bag, bowl, whatever, if you don’t want added fat, you don’t have to use any oil. A note about palm oil it’s my understanding that most palm oil is produced in envrionmentaly unfriendly ways https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil, and in Borneo, palm oil production endangers orangutans. However, But there are companies that produce environmentally sustainable palm oil. It just takes a little checking.

      Also, don’t put spices, etc., on the popcorn until after it is finished popping. Parmesan is good, brewers yeast, too. And for my taste, all toppings must be distributed using plenty of real melted butter (added after popping, no matter the oil used to pop the corn)

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        A bowl with a lid

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        That link says the USDA says do not cook in conventional paper bags because they don’t know what is in them, except for knowing they obviously could be recycled, bleached, etc. I didn’t see a link for the usda. I’d have to look later.

        the bag I tried was, of course, sniff tested before using. For reference, paper towels fail this sniff test. It was a small proverbial “bag lunch” bag – not a huge grocery bag.

        I found parchment _bags_

        I did not find “paper bags” that are “for cooking”

        There’s tons of cooking paper out there.

        Cooking on a stove top is way too elaborate comparatively.

        I’m interested to try skipping oil – seems to me that would be important for kernel heating rate.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Couple thoughts, not necessarily demanding replies :

        If paper bags are supposed to be ok to put your lunch into, which could be hot, why specifically aren’t they ok to cook in? There better not be any lead in them, for instance. And it’s possible to detect unusual chemicals just by sniffing the bag.

        The microwave popcorn bags appear to be brown paper, and not parchment. If not plain brown paper, what is it, and where can we buy it?

        I don’t understand what the USDA is claiming is in brown paper lunch bags, when brown paper is ok to use for food. And why the USDA, and not the FDA – or does the FDA say this too?

        And just because this came up, I ordered some parchment bags. Might be interesting in its own right for cooking new ways.

    • Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      What about pushcorn? 😉

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Niche! 😀

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 17, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Here to report:

      Parchment bags are perfect for this. Handy for interesting cooking too. I found a box of 12 for less than $15 … I think.

  2. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I can clearly remember an article from Scientific American back in the 1970s that covered the exotic patterning of finch gapes… if I remember correctly, the theory was that it was related to the effects of cuckoos and selection was leading to increasingly elaborate patterns in both host and parasitic chicks.

    Isn’t science fascinating?

    • rickflick
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      That’s one hypothesis. Another is given in the article, and, yes, it was tested:

      Research supports this idea. In a 2005 study, Cornell University scientist Justin Schuetz actually changed mouth markings of nestling grass finches by painting over a white spot with black. He showed that altered chicks were fed less than unpainted ones, but they weren’t kicked out of the nest by their parents. This could mean that the markings help stimulate parents to feed their young, says Jamie. Parasite chicks would have had to develop very similar markings if they also wanted to get fed.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Well it was the 1970’s! I can’t remember what their methodlogy was, I just remember their conclusions being tested against parasitism from ‘cuckoo’ species.

        Truths in science are always provisional, forty-odd year old truths particularly 😀

  3. Laurance
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I hope we’ll be hearing good news about Andrzej tomorrow, that he’s back home with Hili and Malgorzata and on the mend!

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink


    • Terry Sheldon
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      Hear hear!!

    • Liz
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink


    • Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      He is back at home already, though not taking it as easy as I’d like! He’s devoted to keeping the website Listy running.

      • Lee Beringsmith
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Great news, hoping for a speedy recovery.

      • Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Wishing Andrzej a fast recovery!

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        Great to hear. Thanks for keeping us posted.

  4. Mike
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    That quote by Mencken, has to be the most prescient ever.!

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Absolutely! Of course, over the one hundred years since, it has been applied to virtually every President in some muffled form of other. With “President” tRUMP, however it rings clear as a solid titanium bell.😹

  5. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    The most convincing evidence for evolution that I’ve ever seen laid out before me was in The Greatest Show On Earth, in the section where Dawkins writes about the way that evolution simply changes the shape of ancestral bones rather than evolving entirely new blueprints. And even then, if it had just been written down it wouldn’t have been as head-slappingly vivid and obvious as it was in the book, where there were a number of pictures of the basic, undeniable structural similarity of animal parts as seemingly different as bat-wings, human hands, bear paws, mouse feet, etc.

    You only have to look at the side-by-side pictures to see that the same number of bones are in a bat wing as in a human hand, etc., and that they’re all in the same sequence.

    It’s the most amazingly convincing piece of evidence for the commonality of all animals that I’ve ever seen, which is not to say that it’s the best piece of evidence, just that it’s the most vividly expressed and…affecting piece of evidence for evolution I’ve seen.

    I’d be interested in knowing what other people have found to be the most convincing evidence for evolution; the evidence that most made them see the truth of it…

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      A more detailed comparison of tetrapod limbs reveals that the correspondances do not stop there. The joints between the bones are also a good match. For the front limb the shoulder joint is always a ball and socket joint, and the elbown joint is always a hinge joint. One could as well ‘design’ a limb with any combination of hinges and/or ball and socket joints, but all tetrapod forelimbs have this design. Further, the little bony details match. Any student of human anatomy learns well the complex bony bits at our elbow: The ‘olecranon process’, the ‘trochlea’, and the ‘capitulum’ to name but a few. But if they look at the elbow of a rat or a cat they will immediately see exactly the same bony details. It goes on. And on.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        ‘olecranon process’

        Everything has to be named 🙂

        Back in the 80’s I used to see someone each year at a summer school. Ultiimately, she became a medical student and one year she brought her study skull on holiday so it was sitting on the piano, ‘grinning’. The one thing I learned was that there are a couple of structures in the skull that are called ‘styloid processes’… I suppose anatomists aren’t allowed to call things ‘pointy bits’.

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

          Did she show you her mastoid processes? [That’s Greek for “breast-shaped thingies”]

          • Serendipitydawg
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            Inappropraite in so many ways.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            I now know the Greek for ‘thingies’, so thank you. I wonder what the Latin for ‘whadjamacallems’ is?

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        That’s amazing. I’d heard of the similarities before, I’d probably read descriptions before, but seeing those similarities communicated in visual form was striking. In the same part of the book there’s a side-by-side comparison of various mammalian paws/hands/feet in which they’re laid out on graph paper, and just by extending the axes at certain points all those various body parts can be smoothly transformed into one another.

        It should be shown to every high-school biology student as early on as possible – I’ve only ever seen it demonstrated visually once, and it’s so simple and elegant that even slow-witted laypeople like myself can immediately grasp its significance. It made a big impression on me.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

          Alice Roberts presented the 2018 xmas lectures and covered this pretty well. She certainly knows how to enage with an auience: the opening show featured a live horse which had its skeleton drawn on one side being contrasted with a man wearing a printed body suit.

          It was an effective demonstration that added a wow factor to the subsequent mounted skeleton comparisons that included bat and armadillo. I suspect the armadillo was so they could bring in a live animal that looked cute – magnificent as it was, the horse could not be said to be cute 🙂

          • Serendipitydawg
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink

            engage with an audience

            As my piano teacher was fond of saying, “more haste, less speed”.

            To which I would add ‘Prooofreeed, proffredd, proafroid’ 😕

            • mikeyc
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

              I fel youre pein

    • darrelle
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      If you like to read science fiction you might like The Giants Novels (Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, and Giants’ Star) by James P. Hogan.

      A key element in the novels is the mystery of a technologically advanced human civilization that pre-dates known human civilization on Earth and where they came from. They apparently came from someplace else. One of the key characters is a biologist. The similarities of body plan among vertebrates that you mention as being very convincing evidence in support of evolution (I agree!) is much talked about by this character during the course of untangling this mystery. Additionally, it’s a great story!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Sounds interesting. I’m seriously thinking about writing something sci-fi based at the moment too.

        David Deutsch talks about ‘hard sci-fi’ versus regular sci-fi(which is comfortable ignoring the ‘sci’ bit in favour of the ‘fi’) but I don’t really have much experience with either. Any further recommendations would be welcome, especially the more metaphysical Tarkovsky type stuff.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          David Deutsch is the strangest human being I have ever met… I would add that he is really worth meeting, should you get the chance.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

            Wow. Nice name-drop…

            As a guy I’m not sure I’d actually like to meet him that much, as he strikes me as almost mindbogglingly arrogant; but his books are so brilliant I don’t really care.

            The more I reread them the more they seem to be nudging up against speculative philosophy rather than actual physics. I think they’re either supremely rigorous and well-argued philosophy…or rather lazily argued and unrigorous physics.

            In mitigation there are more fascinating and mindbending ideas in a single chapter of The Beginning Of infinity than there are in entire books by other physicists, but I’m beginning to think that’s because he’s just an arrogant sod who doesn’t care quite as much as others do about being realistic.

            How did you meet him if you don’t mind me asking?

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

              How did you meet him if you don’t mind me asking?

              Some years ago (ouch, around 35!) in the coffee line at a meeting in Cambridge… Oxford were playing away 🙂 I can’t remember why he was there, he certainly wasn’t giving an address, I think they keynote was Frank Close (though I could be wrong). I think the next time I saw him was 20 years later on a Horizon programme on TV and I twigged (he really hadn’t changed much in those years).

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

              Wow. Nice name-drop…
              Sorry, your mentioning his name just brought him to mind. Having blagged invites to all kinds of places I have met all sorts of people – it isn’t as though we are mates or anything 😀

        • Derek Freyberg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          My favorite Hogan is “Code of the Lifemaker”, set on Titan, and with a professional magician as the protagonist. He wrote a number of good books, but seems to have been eccentric personally (Holocaust denial) according to his Wikipedia entry.

        • jahigginbotham
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          i liked Hogan’s earlier work but then when older he developed some odd beliefs (from wikipedia, i didn’t realize it was this extreme)
          During his later years, Hogan’s contrarian and anti-authoritarian opinions favored those widely considered extremist. He was a proponent of Immanuel Velikovsky’s version of catastrophism, and of the Peter Duesberg hypothesis that AIDS is caused by pharmaceutical use rather than HIV (see AIDS denialism). He criticized the idea of the gradualism of evolution, though he did not propose theistic creationism as an alternative. Hogan was skeptical of the theories of climate change and ozone depletion.

    • James
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      For me it’s the fossil record. Folks outside of paleontology don’t really understand how well fossil evidence supports the theory–we are at a point where finding transitional species is routine, even mundane. We can make predictions of the nature “The transitional form between taxa X and Z should have traits Y, and be found in this general geographic area”. Nothing else provides the capacity to make such precise tests (for a given value of precise; this IS paleontology, so if you’re within a million years and in the right province it counts).

      Once you’ve been part of such a study, and found a transitional form, there really isn’t any more room for debate. I can debate HOW evolution occurred, but THAT it occurred is so evident that arguing against it is like arguing against the existence of air.

      I have a book, I think titled “Vertebrate Evolution”, that shows how the various features of the tetrapod skeleton (and others) evolved–showing all the major steps, in sequence. It takes a long time, because there’s a tremendous wealth of detail, and you have to remember that any textbook in science is a summary of even more information available in the published literature. It’s rather hard to argue with the book, especially since I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the specimens myself.

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Better check the Mencken quote on Wikiquote

    I think it’s “downright”…

  7. darrelle
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Very sorry to hear about Andrzej. I hope to hear of a quick recovery. I’m sure Hili will help.

    • Blue
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      +1. O, golly, Mr Koraszewski ! This today
      is awful news. Please get better and, yes –
      yes o’course, to Ms Koraszewska’s and
      Ms Hili’s attentive helps !


  8. BobTerrace
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I checked Snopes.com on the Mencken quote and it is not really as shown here. The actual quote has this sentence:

    “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    Nothing about fool or narcissistic.

    • Derek Avery
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

      Of course there isn’t any mention of “fool” or “narcissistic moron”. Whomever doctored the quote did so specifically to make it seem more relevant with our current president. Guess Mencken wasn’t that prescient after all.

      • Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        Sounds like he thought plain folks were morons. People who believe in democracy disagree with that. He probably would have restricted the ballot to people of elevated intelligence or unplain folks, however those are defined.

        • Frank
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          You can “believe” that a democratic form of government is best (compared to the other options), and still recognize that the electorate will often exhibit neither wisdom nor “common sense”. For example, it doesn’t follow that “believing in democracy” somehow negates the fact that a large or at least substantial fraction of the U.S. population “believes”:
          – that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old
          – that the world will come to an end within their lifetimes
          – that humans were created from the mud
          – that there was a worldwide flood and the eight million species of terrestrial animals were gathered onto a boat
          – that we all descended from the same two individuals in the last 10,000 years
          Need I go on?
          Mencken was certainly a misanthrope (he was also sexist and anti-Semitic), but sometimes misanthropy is an understandable position when we look closely around us.

          • Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

            A lot of people are depressed, that is understandable, and it is understandable shy people have other personality disorders and mental health issues which lead to their have odd ideas. I pit misanthophy in that category. I fon’t think it is ever a healthy way to look at the human condition.

            I say that, however, in the midst of a government shutdown which makes it tempting to say everyone is insane.

      • Neil Wolfe
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        I remember this quote surfacing when George W Bush was first elected. At the time I couldn’t imagine anyone less qualified to be president. Those were the days…

    • Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I’ve corrected the quote above, referring to these comments. Thanks!

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      He was a bit of a git though wasn’t he? Some horrible views.

  9. Terry Sheldon
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Generally speaking, I agree that Harry Nilsson came up with some horribly schlocky stuff, but, on the other hand, “Son of Schmilsson” is one of my favorite albums. One of the funniest and most irreverent bunches of songs of its era, with a few serious pieces tossed in just to show that he could write those as well.

    • Andy Lowry
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Absolutely! He was quite the genre-crosser, our Harry.

    • GnuAtheist
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Agree. And while some would happily toss ‘Spaceman’ into the schlock pile, it was my favorite. I was a teenager at the height of my obsession with the space program and I just loved the lyrics and the mood of the song. I still play it every now & then.

    • nay
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Also, The Point.
      Best wishes and good health to Andrej. (Yes, and to Hili, too, and Malgorzata).

  10. Karen Fierman
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Andrzej, Get well SOON! ALL of us need you back ASAP, and up and running. SALUD!

  11. Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Agreed that the best of Nilsson was Everybody’s Talkin’. His other major songs are so very repetitive, and yet I somehow like those too.

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Hoping for a fast recovery over in Poland.

    H.L. Mencken could see the future. The moron has landed. Good news about Steve King up there in Iowa and maybe they will send him back to the farm. Today they get to look at the moron’s next idea for Attorney General.

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

      Morons of the world are offended.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Today, the senate judiciary committee commences confirmation hearings on the once and future Attorney General of the United States, William Barr — our American democracy in action.

    The big issue in the hearings, of course, will be whether Barr (who previously submitted an unbidden 20-page memo to the Justice Dept. criticizing the Mueller investigation) will commit to not interfering with the special counsel’s investigation, as former US attorney general Elliot Richardson committed to supporting the Watergate independent counsel’s investigation in 1973 (a promise that eventually led to the survival of the Watergate investigation after Richardson’s firing by Richard Nixon in the constitutional crises that came to be known as “the Saturday Night Massacre”).

    Meanwhile, reporting continues apace suggesting that Donald Trump is, in fact, an asset of the Russian government, including that he pursued the withdrawal of the US from the NATO agreement, and that he sought to keep secret, even from his own cabinet and advisers, the details of his several unprecedented private meetings with Vladimir Putin, including by confiscating his own translator’s notes and by directing his translator not to discuss the contents of the meeting with other officials from his own administration.

    Oh, boy.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Here is my question and it would be for anyone who voted for Trump. How does it feel knowing you have voted for a Russian asset?

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        “He’s not, that’s fake news, you’re a libtard, he’s been harder on Russia than anyone in the universe, hillary uranium Bill Clinton rapist, Democrats invented slavery, leftists murder babies and Satan wears a pussy hat made of soy…”

        “Oh…kay. I suppose that answers the question, in a roundabout way. Now please stop hiding in my hedge or I’ll call the police.”

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

          If any of your statement is to be taken seriously you should at minimum justify the “he’s not” part. But instead to rant on about other nonsense only shows you give the question no real thought. By the way, fake news is an oxymoron. If it is fake, it is not news. You probably would not understand this on Fox.

          • mikeyc
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

            I thought Saul was pretty damn funny.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

              Fanks Mikey 😉

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            You do have a slight habit of letting fly at people after mistakenly assuming hostility on their part.

            ‘Randall-fly-off-the-handle’ maybe? This is a joke by the way, in case you’re going to excoriate me again.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

              If I happen to be looking for shallow humor, I’ll look you up. You can bring Mikeyc along.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

                No Randall, you just made a mistake. It’s okay to admit it.

              • Diane G
                Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

                Saul’s one of the good guys here, Randall. Let’s all join hands and sing Kumbaya…

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        The answer to that would be dogged refusal to give this and other gross violations of law and protocol any weight whatsoever. They are simply dug in for the long haul.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Nilsson hung around a lot of musical big names like Bob Dylan, but to my mind never sang much that was good …

    Famously hung out drinking with John Lennon, too, during his “lost years” in California with May Pang.

    I always kinda liked the lyrics to “Taxi” — “She was gonna be an actress, I was gonna learn to fly. She took off to find the footlights, I took off for the sky.”

    Harry, keep the change.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Wait, never mind; I just remembered that’s Harry CHAPIN. For some dumb reason, I always got those names confused, stupid me.

      • Larry Smith
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Haha, this got me imagining Harry Chapin trying to write Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire”…

      • Diane G
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Jeez, you’re human after all. There go my illusions…

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    My two cents on Nilsson :

    His song “one” or is it “one is the loneliest number “? Employs the line cliché named “passus durusculus” meaning “harsh passage”, which can be heard in songs such as My Funny Valentine, Stairway To Heaven, all the way back to Dido’s Lament in Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell.

    That song is also in The LEGO Batman Movie. Don’t ask me how I know that.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Don’t ask me how I know that.

      Well I am guessing that you drew the short straw and accompanied someone who really, really likes Lego and Batman… if not, well, we each have our guilty pleasures 😕

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        I’ll watch anything with Will Arnett in it. He’s just a fundamentally ridiculous guy. Gob in Arrested Development is a creation of comic genius.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          Will Arnett is the voice of Batman in The LEGO Batman Movie.

          Again- don’t ask me how I know this.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

            That’s why I mentioned him. I too know that he was in The Lego Batman Movie and I too would rather you didn’t ask me how I know.

  16. Ruthann L. Richards
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    To Andrzej: I hope you are doing better and will be home with Hili and Malgorzata soon. The photos and dialogues enrich my day. I’m sure Hili misses you very much. When you get home, she’ll probably be complaining that she wasn’t properly taken care of in your absence.

  17. kieran
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    He was watching Fast and the furious http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTMJrSccI60

    Border crossing

  18. Historian
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    The author of the Smithsonian article cited, Jimmy Stamp, made an egregious error that I find startling that the editors of the magazine did not catch. Any person with an actual knowledge of the Civil War would not have made this error. Stanton was Lincoln’s Secretary of War, NOT his press secretary. He was a staunch supporter and planner of the war effort. I wonder how an architect was chosen to write this article. During the Lincoln administration there was no formal position as press secretary, although John G. Nicolay came closest to performing that function.

    Thomas Nast was probably the most influential political cartoonist of his era and perhaps of all time, at least in the United States. Undoubtedly, such cartoonists were more influential than those today since news back then was conveyed primarily by print media. Nast is most known for his cartoons that helped bring down “Boss” Tweed, who head the Democratic club known as Tammany Hall in New York City.

    The cartoon depicted in today’s post was probably effective political propaganda for the Republican Party. It was part of the effort to paint the Democratic Party as the party of treason and the Republicans as the people who would preserve the legacy of the war. This effort came to be known by its detractors as “waving the bloody shirt.” It was akin to the Republican Party in the 1950s attempting to associate the Democratic Party as being soft on communism. But, in contrast to the 1950s, there was at least some merit in the Republican accusations. During the Civil War a faction of the Democratic Party were “peace” Democrats, who urged ending the war on terms the South could accept. A few in this group arguably flirted with treason. Nast’s goal was to paint the entire Democratic Party as treasonous, which was decidedly untrue. Apparently, Nast thought this tactic effective five years after the war was over.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      THANK YOU! Came here to say that Stanton was Secretary of War. Seriously, WTF Smithsonian!? As for the other, it was well-known that the Democratic Party was the party of Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.

    • harrync
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      My first reaction: “Lincoln had a Press Secretary? I don’t think so.” Per Wikipedia: “During the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, former journalist Stephen Early became the first White House secretary charged only with press responsibilities.” By the way, Stanton’s portrait appears on the series 1890 $1 coin note; I doubt if any press secretary will ever have their image on a US banknote.

  19. CAS
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Andrzej, I hope you feel better soon! I enjoy the Hili dialogue!

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

      I am sure that all readers express these sentiments.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Crikey yes. I’m sorry to say I missed that piece of news until now, so best of wishes.

  20. Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Wishing you a speedy and full recovery, Andrzej. Thinking of you too, Malgorzata.

  21. Mark Jones
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Best wishes to Andrzej.

    re Nilsson, I agree that Everybody’s Talkin’ eclipses his own work, but he did write a love song to his desk. I admire the chutzpah.

  22. Janet
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Andrzej, we all are thinking about you and are hoping you feel better soon.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink


    • Diane G
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      + 2!

  23. DrBrydon
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Thirty-five miles per hour? I guess molasses in January is a little faster than people think.

    Get well, Andrzej!

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      I wondered about that. It is in excess of 50 feet per second, which has never been my experience of molasses at any time of year. I don’t know if it has any non-Newtonian properties that would be triggered in the initial conditions that caused this tragedy.

      • Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        There’s a lot of weight behind two million gallons of molasses. Even a very viscous liquid can be persuaded to move quickly with the kind of driving force.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          I guess so.

          Without knowing the initial configuration it would be hard to know what the final velocity could be… the initial impetus would need to be pretty high to maintain 50 fps after it spread out, and 2 million gallons would have a pretty impressive amount of potential energy, assuming the tank was tall rather than wide.

  24. mfdempsey1946
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    May Andrzej have the speediest possible recovery.

  25. BJ
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Best of luck to you, Andrzej. I hope your recovery is quick and complete!

  26. Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Nilsson was a wonderful songwriter. Always loved his work. I am surprised that no one has mentioned “Without You” which might be his best known song. There was also “Me and My Arrow” which was part of the movie, “The Point!”.

    If you like any of Nilsson’s work, you might want to check out the film, “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)”. He had all kinds of big music stars as fans. Here’s a trailer:

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing that title is a play off of the title of the 1971 Ulu Grossbard film starring Dustin Hoffman, Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

    • Posted January 15, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      I forgot “Without You”, and I’ll make that the second Nillsson song that I like.

      • John Crisp
        Posted January 16, 2019 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        Very relieved to hear this. It was the song that accompanied my first teenage love affair, and hearing it can instantly transport me back nearly half a century (something that music, tastes and odours do better than anything else, to the point that Marcel Proust wrote the world’s longest novel about it).

    • Posted January 16, 2019 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      And who can forget this soulful rendering of Without You?

  27. Claudia Baker
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Sorry to hear this news Andrzej. Best wishes for a return to health, hearth, Hili and Malgorzata. We are all rooting for you!

    • rickflick
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Me too. Take care.

  28. Riley Barnes
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I think we should rename the Great Molasses Flood the Boston Molassacre.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Which part of killing 21 and injuring 150 inspires levity?

      • revelator60
        Posted January 15, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        The fact that they were killed by molasses.
        Too soon?

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          I am guessing that you would accept that “Need Another Seven Astronauts” is acceptable after Challenger? Is 32 years sufficient?

          It isn’t so much a case of too soon as a case of whether it even warrants humour, even a pathetic pun.

      • Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        The fact that “we” survived.

        There’s a story of an Inuk being found by a RCMP officer or the like after his entire settlement was destroyed by a flood or similar disaster.

        He was laughing his head off, and the RCMP asked him “why so joyful, your settlement is gone, all your friends and relatives are dead …”

        Answer: (Paraphrased.) “I’m alive, and that’s wonderful! Just look at what happened – a horrible thing happened, but there’s a good part – it wasn’t a total disaster.”

        Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, maybe, but I think there’s wisdom to being able to *also* laugh at tragedy.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 15, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          I think in the situation you mention it is excusable, no doubt shock and adrenaline would be involved in this kind of laughter.

          I suspect if a third party had rocked up, looked upon the disaster and laughed his head off you would say something different.

  29. Posted January 15, 2019 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I’m already back at home. Thanks to modern medicine and several competent people, still alive and kicking. I’ve got a very good advice from the hospital: be careful. I will try. Thank you for all good words. Hili sends her love. Andrzej

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink


    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Best wishes

    • Mark R.
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes, please be careful. Thanks for the update.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink


    • Posted January 15, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Glad to see you are well!


    • Diane G
      Posted January 15, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      “I’ve got a very good advice from the hospital: be careful.”

      Rigorous med schools you’ve got over there, eh? 😀

      Glad to hear you’re in such good humor. Here’s more advise: take care. 🙂

  30. Posted January 15, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I thought Tinbergen tested the effect of those marking in chicks’ mouths.

  31. Andrea Kenner
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Sending purrs for Andrzej

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