Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Thursday, January 24, 2019, and National Peanut Butter Day (No food for me, as it’s a fasting day).

On this day in 1848, sawmill operator James Marshall found gold in the water by his mill, a discovery that led to the California Gold Rush, which lasted seven years and had huge effects on the state—including the near extirpation of California’s Native Americans.  On January 24, 1857, the University of Calcutta opened, constituting the first real university in South Asia.

On this day in 1908, Robert Baden-Powell founded the first Boy Scout Troop, in the same year he published Scouting for Boys, the fourth best-selling book of all time.

And on January 24, 1972, Japanese Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was found hiding out in the jungles of Guam, where he had been lurking since 1944. He was originally with nine other Japanese soldiers, which were reduced to three who had contact with each other; but during the last eight years of his nearly 28-year vigil he lived alone in a cave, foraging for food. Discovered and captured in 1972, Yokoi had known since 1952 that WWII was ended, but was afraid to surrender. He returned to Japan, somewhat of a celebrity, collected $300 in back pay and a small pension, and died in 1997.

Yokoi was, however, not the last Japanese soldier to surrender; that honor goes to two others: Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda (officially released from duty of March 9, 1974, by his former commander who had traveled to the Philippines from Japan for that purpose) and Private Teruo Nakamura (captured in Indonesia on December 18, 1974).

Here’s Yokoi getting his first haircut in 28 years:

On this day in 1984, the first Apple Macintosh personal computer went on sale in the U.S. I got one shortly thereafter and still have it. It may even work, though it’s a cumbersome and useless relic.  Exactly five years after Macs went on sale, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed by electrocution in the Florida State Prison. Finally, on this day in 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began operation with its first mission to grope my buttocks at TSA checkpoints.

Notables born on this day include William Congreve (1670), Frederick the Great (1712), Edith Wharton (1862), Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900; my academic grandfather), Ernest Borgnine (1917), Oral Roberts (1918), Desmond Morris (1928), Neil Diamond (1941), Gary Hart (1942), Michio Kaku (1947), John Belushi (1949), Alan Sokal (1955), and Mary Lou Retton (1968).

Here’s a short video giving some facts about Dobzhansky. I started as his graduate student at Rockefeller University, but was drafted in 1971 as a conscientious objector. When I got out of hospital service, Dobzhansky had moved to Davis and was semi-retired, so I wound up studying with his student Richard Lewontin at Harvard.  I consider Dobzhansky’s greatest achievement to be his 1937 book Genetics and the Origin of Species, the founding work of the Modern Synthesis.

Those who died on January 24 include Winston Churchill (1965; PM and Nobel Laureate), Larry Fine (1975), L. Ron Hubbard (1986), and Butch Trucks (2017).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doubts the wisdom of a popular cliché:

Cyrus: One has to hope
Hili: I’m not so sure. . . 
In Polish:
Cyrus: Trzeba mieć nadzieję.
Hili: Nie jestem pewna.

And in the snowy mountains of southern Poland, Leon and his staff have finally bestirred themselves to go hiking.

Leon: Adventures ahoy!

In Polish: Ahoj przygodo!

A tweet from Sam Harris. Actually, I suppose someone like Ken Ham would consider the hagfish’s slime to be evidence for the divine: a wondrous adaptation conferred by God.

Tweets from Matthew. This first one, he said, defies belief, and I agree. I’ve tweeted it to the Oxford Museum of Natural History, from whence it came, saying that I want the evidence!

Now the poster appears to be wrong; Elsa got 67 comments and 750 retweets, many of which must have taken the claim as fact!

And Elsa gives her take on the kerfuffle:

Spot the caterpillar! Amazing leaf mimic, no?

Spot the toadlet! (Not that easy. . . ):

Tweets from Grania. More ads with out-of-place cats—but cute ones!

The way the world should be:

Grania asks, “Did this film even need to be made?” I am not as negative as she is, but I haven’t seen it.

A relaxed neko which Twitter translates as “could sit out chillin”.

I wrote about Faye’s article yesterday. It turns out that it didn’t say exactly what it seemed to say (see here).



  1. Roger
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Sam’s tweet seems oddly unspecific. He should specify what type of god the hagfish disproves. It only disproves the type of god that would not allow the hagfish lol.

    • Roger
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      One twitter commenter indeed suggests it is evidence for a “deal with it” god. This type of god creates the hagfish and then puts on cool sunglasses and says “deal with it”, which is helpfully illustrated with an appropriate gif image.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      Not the sort of G*d I’d want anyway.

      Hagfish, Bobbitt worms, parasitic wasps, nematode worms, (I just stopped trying to find more examples ‘cos I don’t want nightmares tonight)…

      what sort sort of ingenious sadist thought them up?


      • Roger
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        I dunno. The sort of god that creationists love for some reason. I guess they have low standards lol.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        And here Monty Python comes to the rescue:

        All things dull and ugly,
        All creatures short and squat,
        All things rude and nasty,
        The Lord God made the lot.

        Each little snake that poisons,
        Each little wasp that stings,
        He made their brutish venom.
        He made their horrid wings.

        All things sick and cancerous,
        All evil great and small,
        All things foul and dangerous,
        The Lord God made them all.

        Each nasty little hornet,
        Each beastly little squid
        Who made the spikey urchin?
        Who made the sharks? He did!

        All things scabbed and ulcerous,
        All pox both great and small,
        Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
        The Lord God made them all.

        It can’t be put any better than that, methinks.

  2. rickflick
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Poor Cyrus looks desperate. It seems hope is all he’s got. 😎

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Any way you figure the percentages, Jerry, when you get to Antarctica, take Mr. Zappa’s advice, and don’t eat the yellow snow:

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Also sound advice for more temperate regions

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      On the other hand, the pink snow?

  4. Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Re: Detainment
    Obviously any reasonable person feels very sorry for Jamie Bulger’s Mother. Consider, though, what the implications are of asking family members for permission about every single fictional or documentary representation of a tragic event.
    Do we have to wait until everyone connected with an event is dead because representing it might take them back?
    Obviously this sort of thing can be done insensitively (e.g. Wolves at the Door). But a blanket ban on such things would take in (e.g.) United 93, My Friend Dahmer, Schindler’s List, and to be honest–we’d never stop.
    Is there something especially horrible about child murders? Certainly. And those films I mentioned have them too. And, once again, you have to feel for anyone whose feelings are re-awakened by a depiction on screen.
    But to remove all references to real tragedies on those grounds would have some fairly huge knock-on effects.
    That said–I don’t know how the topic was handled–and that is certainly something that could be commented on. But I probably wouldn’t ask the mother of the victim to do so. Because I’m not a monster.
    The film is based on transcripts and seems to have been done responsibly. The mother (and who can blame her) won’t get over this and never wants to think about the perpetrators again. She doesnt want to see them as human.
    But the rest of us don’t have to follow that. It’s her son who was killed–but her son was part of a wider community that might reasonably seek to understand such events better. Having a family veto over this seems unworkable (of course) but I’m not sure it is reasonable either (not that I would expect family members to ever be reasonable about such a thing, nor would I be–but thats hardly the point).

    • davidintoronto
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      I click “like” for this post.

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink


    • Steve Pollard
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      A very perceptive comment. I haven’t seen the film, and I’m not sure I want to, but it seeks to explore, among other things, how we can hold people responsible for their actions, and what the implications are for criminal policy. Our host’s views on free will, and its implications for the legal system, are clearly relevant here.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Indeed they are. Child murderers–when children murder other children– are so horrifc, and so mess with our sense of what is morally possible or even understandable, that it is extremely difficult to keep a clear head when thinking about them. I don’t claim any superiority in this regard, but I do work around a lot of people who have to deal with this tuff on a day to day basis (forensic & clinical psychs, people who work with child soldiers, and so on).
        At the risk of being insensitive (and desperately trying to lighten the mood) maybe this analogy helps?

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          (No, I’m not going to specify a character.)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      But a blanket ban on such things would take in (e.g.) United 93, My Friend Dahmer, Schindler’s List, and to be honest–we’d never stop.

      Certainly not- once you start this bandwagon rolling, no-ne may interfere with it, nor even pose “trolly-car” questions about it. Because, “Monster!”

      […] But to remove all references to real tragedies on those grounds would have some fairly huge knock-on effects.

      Adding to your list of films that would never have been made, but slightly more recently, “12 Years a Slave”.

      The mother (and who can blame her) won’t get over this and never wants to think about the perpetrators again.

      She can wish, but that doesn’t (and probably won’t, ever) stop either new stories turning up about (particularly one of) the perpetrators, with a valid “public interest” argument for publication, and the added box-office appeal for news organisations of being able to pull her out and put her on the rack again. There are good advertising sales in them there interviews!

      She doesnt want to see them as human.

      The same being said about their victims, by the profit-mongers of the press.

      But the rest of us don’t have to follow that.

      Excuse me, but there is a howling mob of people with pitchforks and firebrands hammering at your door, wanting you to join them in “Monster!”-hunting.

  5. Posted January 24, 2019 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Birds do not urinate as anyone who watches them will know. There is some water in their excretions of course.

    There is very little precipitation in large parts of Antarctica – perhaps they are guessing the amount of annual excretions of penguins based on estimates of penguin numbers, looking at the annual snowfall, & comparing the two?

    • rickflick
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      I like the title with with the term, ornithogenic sediments. I’ll try to find a way to work that into conversation.

  6. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    When I graduated high school, my biology teacher gave me a copy of Genetics of the Evolutionary Process. I didn’t read it (seemed kind of dense!) until eight years later right before I started graduate study. In a real way, it was the foundation of how I see life.

  7. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Penguin guano:

    “Over the last few years, Lynch and other scientists have been using satellite data to track the distribution and abundance of penguins across the barren landscape of Antarctica. […] The satellite images can’t see the penguins individually, but it can detect their presence by the stain left on the ice by their excrement…”

    Perhaps the original story [which is ten or more years old] noted that 3% of the Antarctic ice as seen from space is guano coloured? One can even guess the predominant penguin diet from the colour of the excreta from space! [pink is krill]. This here is Adélie penguin nesting sites in red:

    • rickflick
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      They can see the guano from space? Boy what a mess. Thanks for clearing this up. 😜

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Various islands off various coasts (principally on the W coast of South America, but elsewhere too) have been massively modified by their use as nesting sites by various seabird species. Once the guano gets to a certain level of cover, the alkalinity, soluble phosphorus and nitrates, and lack of essential nutrients like magnesium conspire to mean that land plants can’t establish. And so the island becomes a natural pollution desert while hosting thousands (millions sometimes) of seabirds which mine the surrounding seas for phosphates, fats and carbohydrates and they then excrete onto the island to create a sterile wasteland of guano, slightly interspersed with some really bizarre phosphate minerals. There were probably hundreds or thousands of species of highly-endemic insects living a life of guano, disappeared without being recorded by science.

        Those islands are generally in fairly deep water – to get the upwelling of cold oxygenic water and minerals – so the guano doesn’t increase their area much. But it sure increases their albedo, making them much more visible from space.

        Working conditions were horrible – desert, corrosive chemical dust blowing in the wind, back-breaking labour. Profitable mining needed cheap slaves or forced-labour from prisoners. Which the relevant governments supplied. Think “Heart of Darkness”, but on an alkaline desert island not a jungle.

        Many of these islands were “mined out” for their minerals in the 19th century going on to the early 20th, until they were replaced by larger but lower grade sources of phosphate in around the 1920s. The by-product of nitrate minerals lost it’s value as the Haber-Bosch process turned air into nitrates and saturated the demands of the arms industry, which contributed to the industry collapse.

        It’ll re-start … mid-2040s, probably. As the larger, cheaper sources of phosphorus are mined out. Since we don’t do slavery any more (in public!), it’ll probably be forced prisoner labour. That’s always a good fall-back.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Fascinating industry. Mankind seems to find economic needs to match whatever the planet supplies. Now we’re thinking of exploiting asteroids.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

            To be honest, asteroid mining is more about the cost of getting stuff out of a gravity well, and less about novel materials there.
            The stuff about PGEs (Platinum Group Elements) studiously neglects the fact that there are richer ores on Earth at the moment, and to get to the PGEs in an asteroid, you’d need to (1) select one of at most a few % of asteroids, then (2) dismantle the whole thing to extract a few hundred kilos of a product whose value would decrease substantially as soon as you find a better source of supply.
            Asteroid mining is a sane concept ; PGEs are a McGuffin.

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

              Asteroid mining makes most sense if the asteroid is parked in orbit somewhere in the Earth/Moon system & then it is used as a base & a factory for space construction materials. Nothing being sent down to Earth.

              As you say we’ll find plenty of the precious metals on Earth as the ice retreats – Siberia, Arctic Ocean, sea bed, Antarctica in a hundred years for ginormous coal, oil & gas deposits. Bye bye penguin.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 25, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                Moving an asteroid of any appreciable size would become the biggest industrial act ever (hmmm, thinking for current contenders). They’ll have to start on much smaller ones and work them in situ, then work up to bigger ones as they build the big tools.
                How do you get a truck with a 200ton payload to a remote mine site in a PNG rain forest? As 20off 10 ton packages and a couple of welders and weld inspectors. Same process. By the time the asteroid miners have the machinery capable of altering the orbit of a “dinosaur killer” to a useful degree, they’ll already have of necessity a working ecology (not necessarily closed, but working) up there. At which point, the politicians of the Earthlings will have to do some damned hard thinking to answer the question “Why should we change this asteroid’s trajectory? It’s no threat to us.”
                Hydrocarbon extraction in the Antarctic? It’s over a decade since I first saw conference presentations on where reserves are likely in Antarctica. The targets are already being ranked for desirability.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                Well of course I agree [mostly]. There’s a nice Sun orbiting asteroid coming our way in 2029 & it’s just about feasible to nudge it & use a series of lunar gravity assists to reduce its Delta-V. But I was thinking long term – sort of the 2050s when we could nudge a series of asteroids & instead of big ‘engines’ we use one small engine many times over two decades per asteroid to apply the nudges – the Moon can remove around 2 km/s & the Earth around 60 km/s of delta-V per close approach.

                That’s the easy bit. Solar power plants, factories, humans & tools working & living in space is the tough part of the job – we can’t build a self-sustaining lab in the Antarctic today. We should damned well try to do so IMO.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

                Fairy-nuff on the idea of a self-sustaining base in Antarctica. But even that would be relying on the rest of the Earth for atmosphere maintenance. As the Biosphere2 debacle showed years ago, we don’t know how our current environment works, and finding out is going to take a long time. But in the mean time, brute-force-and-ignorance engineering can keep people going with slowly reducing needs for input from Earth. Pushing down on those inputs to the system while sealing up the (metaphorical) holes below the waterline is, I’m sure do-able.
                Yes, I’m accepting a number of deaths. Learning to sail boats, or fly planes wasn’t a bloodless sport either. It’s a question of avoiding repeating mistakes.

  8. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    It’s good to see that even though Leon is obviously intrepid, as one can see from his confident stance and his hiking cry “Adventures ahoy!” he’s also a very responsible hiker — he keeps his staff securely tethered to the leash so they won’t lag behind and get lost in the snow.

  9. Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The cans that the kittens are investigating are cream cans which might explain the image.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Maru wouldn’t think that anything was out of place in the illustration. Maru couldn’t conceive of any available container without a cat in it.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        There’s an inverse-Schrödinger’s Cat in there, trying to get out! In? Out?? In??? Meta!

  10. XCellKen
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Today is also Beer Can Appreciation Day. It was on this day in 1935 that the Kruger Brewery of Newark, NJ, first introduced beer in cans . The initial market for canned beer was Richmond, Virginia

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I don’t drink beer, but that seems like an interesting invention. Were there other drinks in cans at the time?

      • XCellKen
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        No. Soft drinks weren’t canned for several more years.

        The reason beer wasn’t canned earlier was that beer reacts with metal, which leaves the beer cloudy and foul tasting. So a lining had to be created which kept the beer separate from the can. This lining had to withstand near freezing temperatures, as well as the temperatures used during pasteurization ( 140 ? 170? 180 ? Don’t remember which. Also the lining had to bend as the can was being formed, without breaking.

        Plus, beer and soda, unlike vegetables, etc, are carbonated, which greatly increases the pressure inside the can. A can had to be designed which took all of this into account. It took over 100 years from canning veggies to canning beer and soda.

  11. W.T. Effingham
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    The coincidental timing of Wi-Fi for dogs only with the Blood Wolf Super Moon adds certainty to the fact we are entering the Endtimes.👼

  12. Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Given how little water there is in birds’ urine, I don’t believe that about the ice.

  13. Steve Pollard
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The reference to Baden-Powell and his book reminds me of one of the best of the literary competitions in The New Statesman many years ago: to put the titles of three books together so that they form a coherent narrative.

    One of the winning entries was: What’s Become of Waring?; Down and Out in Paris and London; Scouting for Boys.

  14. David Coxill
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Eye spotted the toadlet straight away.

  15. Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, your old Mac might be worth hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. I hope you check into it, should you ever be tempted to dump it.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Add significantly if it does boot.

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