Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Sunday, February 3, 2019, and National Carrot Cake Day. I like the stuff, so long as it has cream-cheese frosting.

It’s also Four Chaplains Day in the US, honoring four Army chaplains who died on February 3, 1943, when their troop ship, the Dorchester, was torpedoed by the Germans. There weren’t enough life jackets for all the troops, so Methodist Minister, George L. Fox, reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister Reverend Clark V. Poling—all of whom met at Harvard—gave up their life jackets to others, linked arms, and, singing hymns and praying, went down with the ship as it sank. Yes, they were religious, and yes, even most of the wearing life jackets in the water died of hypothermia, but these chaplains did a good and heroic thing (they also guided soldiers to the lifeboats), and should be honored. Here they are:

On this day in 1690, the colony of Massachusetts issued the first paper money circulated in what Wikipedia calls “the Americas”, which, if true, would be North, Central, and South America. Well, here’s the dosh: a 20-shilling note.

On this day in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving voting rights to all men (but not women) regardless of their race, was ratified. Exactly 43 years later, the Sixteenth Amendment, allowing the Federal government to impose an income tax on Americans, was also ratified.

On February 3, 1943, the SS Dorchester, on its way to Greenland, was sunk by a U boat (see above). Of the 902 men on board, only 230 survived.  And here’s something I didn’t know even though I worked on this island. On February 3, 1953, according to Wikipedia, “The Batepá massacre occurred in São Tomé when the colonial administration and Portuguese landowners unleashed a wave of violence against the native creoles known as forros.” Hundreds of workers were killed and many others were tortured. The bodies of many of the dead were thrown into the sea.

It was this day in 1959 that became “the day the music died,” as rock musicians Buddy HollyRitchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Waylon Jennings was also on the tour, and it’s likely that he gave up his seat to The Big Bopper at the last moment. The crash is of course was immortalized in the song “American Pie” by Don McLean.

Another interesting tidbit from Wikipedia: on February 3, 1961, “The United States Air Forces begins Operation Looking Glass, and over the next 30 years, a ‘Doomsday Plane’ is always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC‘s command post.” Are you sleeping better now? Here’s a picture from the Federation of American Scientists showing the inside of the plane (there’s a crew of 22):

Finally, on this day in 1971, New York City Police Officer Frank Serpico was shot in the face during a drug bust; his fellow cops didn’t bother to call for assistance as Serpico was reporting police corruption. He lived, went on to testify for the Knapp Commission, and considerable reforms took place in the NYC police.

Notables born on February 3 include Felix Mendelssohn (1809), Horace Greeley (1811), Elizabeth Blackwell (1821), Gertrude Stein (1874), Norman Rockwell (1894), Pretty Boy Floyd (1904), James Michener (1907), Henry Heimlich (1920; yes that Heimlich), Blythe Danner (1943), and Maura Tierney (1965).

Although Rockwell was known for his paintings, here’s a nice charcoal sketch he made of a boy leaving home for college. It’s called Study for Breaking Home Ties, and was painted around 1954

Those who died on February 3 include John of Gaunt (1399), Woodrow Wilson (1924), The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens (all 1959; see above), Ernst Mayr (2005; see my appreciation and an obituary of this evolutionary biologist here and here), and Maria Schneider (2011).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej are apparently playing hide and seek:

A: I see you under the ceiling, behind the curtain.
Hili: I, too, see you from behind the curtain, we see each other.
In Polish:
Ja: Widzę cię pod sufitem, za firanką.
Hili: Ja też cię widzę zza firanki, oboje się widzimy.

A cartoon sent by my undergraduate advisor Bruce Grant. . .

. . . and a picture I found on Facebook:

A tweet from the unsinkable Titania McGrath about the Young Adult Twitter fracas I described yesterday:

Tweets from Grania. Does the energy accrued in this act of predation outweigh the energy expended?

Grania said, “You will approve of these dogs being especially stupid.” No comment.

From The Onion, of course:

Don’t these baboons hurt their hands doing this?

More on mantisflies:

This video shows the laying of the eggs and the filaments:

An obsessive cat. Has he read The Owl and the Pussycat? Is that a runcible spoon?

Matthew didn’t know what a tayra is. Do you?

Be sure to watch the whole video. These ants move their mouthparts faster than any other ant.



  1. Rick Bannister
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Re paper money in the Americas, in 1685 the Imtendent of New France (now part of Canada) used playing cards affixed with his seal to pay civil servants, suppliers, soldiers and clerks. See article from The Canadian Encyclopedia at

  2. Mike
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I love that Norman Rockwell sketch, brilliant piece of work.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, talk about photo-realism.

      • Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        I thought it was a grainy sepia tone photo at first!

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I have to ask, why would they have a 20 shilling note? Wouldn’t it just be a pound.

    • harrync
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Interesting point. Massachusetts also issued 40 and 50 shilling notes, but then switched to pounds for 3 and 5 pound notes. Georgia issued 60 shilling notes, switching at 5 pounds. And about the illustrated note: most surviving notes of that issue were two shilling notes fraudulently altered to 20 shillings; I think one of those altered notes is pictured here. Calling their notes one pound would have discouraged these alterations, but “Twenty Shillings” seemed to be the tradition in all the colonial notes.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        yes, to me it’s like, let’s have a 4 quarter note instead of a dollar.

      • harrync
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        The Twenty Shilling note did not end with the American colonies. As late as the 1950’s, the West African Currency Board [that issued the government backed paper money for Britain’s West African Colonies] issued 20 Shilling notes. They issued a 100 Shilling note, but is was dual denominated as 5 pounds also.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Was that for the same reason as I gave? Do you have a link? I want to see what the bills looked like.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      All of the colonies traded in what they called pounds, but the colonial pound was not tied to the British pound. The colonial pound fluctuated between colonies, thus a Massachusetts pound was worth fewer British pounds than a New York pound.

      Around the 1650s Massachusetts Bay leaders authorized the production of silver shillings, sixpence & threepence coins at a new mint in Boston. in 1690 there was a need to raise an army to fight the Frogs, but there was no coins about because silver was an export commodity & also the colony was in debt. Thus they issued these paper promissory notes which were trusted to represent the ‘real’ money you could clink – the shilling.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Good point. The shilling that Mass. is referring to has very little to do with the British Shilling. They just use the British terminology to make it seem British, when it was more of a bit coin type money. Most likely the money made in Mass was not good any place else. The British money was good everywhere.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          The most trusted currency at that time was the Spanish silver dollar or Peso which was the international coinage of exchange anywhere – because it contained a reliable quantity of silver weight. Interesting that you reference bitcoin, because the peso/dollar was worth eight bits [or pieces of eight] which led eventually to 25 cents being called two bits. 🙂

          There was a fair bit of mixing of coinage between colonies & also coins coming in from outside – French & Spanish – there was also a lot of barter in recognised goods such as skins. I assume that when say a Mass. shilling turned up in New York they had an agreed daily rate of exchange or they went by the silver weight, though I assume that incurred a loss as I don’t think [I’m unsure] that there was a shilling’s worth of silver in a shilling – usually the silver value was less than face value [guessing]. I believe there were also times in the history of coins when the metal was worth more than the coin for brief periods of instability.

  4. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I must admit I can’t see how the baboons avoid hurting their hands doing this but presumably they wouldn’t do it if they did.

    It reminds me of when, as a small boy, I decided to take a short cut to the ground in a dutch barn by sliding down one of the (well-rusted) H-section girders holding it up. That was a poor decision!

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      I wonder what the Baboon is for “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      That occurred to me too. Howcome they didn’t get ‘rope burns’ on their hands?

      One possible factor is that the steel (presumably) cable is a far better conductor of heat and has a far higher heat capacity than rope materials, so may just provide better cooling of the contact area.

      But I still find it puzzling.


      • Mark R.
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I figured their hands are really tough like leather or something. Like a dog’s paws.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        More likely the coefficient of friction between baboon-callus and slightly-greasy steel is lower than that between soft human hand and steel. Plus, the baboons have 3 or 4 extremities to distribute a lower load over, which would mean less normal contact force and less friction.
        Friction really amplifies itself fast if the geometry is right, as anyone who has got stuck on a descender can testify. Also, as anyone who has threaded the descender up wrongly (getting the geometry wrong) and participated in what we call a “clutch and plummet” accident. Which is why, even with experienced abseilers on the rope, someone at the bottom of the rope normally keeps a hand on the rope to apply “ground control”. Unfortunately, that also means they’re in firing line for any stones knocked down from above.

  5. Lurker111
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    The four chaplains were also honored with a postage stamp:

    Note that this is an engraved stamp, with none of the fuzziness and lack-of-crispness of newer stamps.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Reclusive Deity Hasn’t Written A New Book In 2,000 Years.

    Damn. Tops J.D. Salinger’s half-century.

  7. Blue
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    in re “On this day in 1870, the Fifteenth
    Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving
    voting rights to all men (but not women)
    regardless of their race, was ratified,”
    very, very many children within the World
    as well as within the USA, are never, ever
    even taught this no – females’ ( just the – )
    .voting portion. in the World’s history.

    On THIS day in y2020, is scheduled … …
    the Caucus within Iowa.

    The State of Nevada “finally” ( one
    legislator’s word ) this year thus: .

    It is my thinking that we actually have the
    nation’s president .as we do. … … cuz of
    voting adults in America afraid, utterly
    f e a r f u l of The One Thing that, to date,
    most Americans ‘ve been able to stop or,
    at their least, to ignore: thinking women.

    We have what European – Americans have had
    here for centuries now: not having to do
    a n y of the bidding of powerful, thinking
    women at the very, very top of the country.
    This … … around the World and over
    All of Time * … … has not always been
    that way, however: .

    “The honor of the people lies in the moccasin
    tracks of the women. Walk the good road.
    Be strong, with the warm, strong heart
    of the Earth.

    No peoples go down until their women are weak
    and dishonored, or dead upon the ground.

    Be strong and sing the strength of the
    Great Powers within you, all around you.”

    Call this a lecture. Call this a whine.
    Call this whatever non – thinkers wanna.
    I do not give a shit. What I give a shit
    about is that: this is reality. Like racism
    ? Like this weekend’s bash with rascist
    legislators as well as its general citizenry
    ( instantiation: Mr Northam ) ?

    Well … … in re patriarchy ? waaaay past
    millennia … … to get the hell over it.
    It, patriarchy, is not working.
    It, patriarchy, … … never has.
    Get over it.


  8. Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I think Titania may be empathy challenged.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      The person she was responding to deserved it.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, please read the WEIT post under discussion to get the context Note the sentence: “The loudest voice in this pile-on was another Asian author Ellen Oh…”

        Ms. Oh does not apologize for participating in the pile-on — which is what she should apologize for; instead she apologizes for using what she considers an ableist slur. A ridiculous apology. Can I say just how stupid all this is — and just let some hypersensitive, bleeding-heart to castigate me for using the word “stupid” to characterize this mentality and behavior.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps I was unclear as to whom my remarks were addressed to – I was agreeing with mayamarkov and directing my remarks to OG.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Too many of the “to.”

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              Yes, you owe a grovelling apology to all the grammar nazis. 😉

              Also to all stupid people and hypersensitive bleeding-heart morons… oh, wait 8-((

              • Jenny Haniver
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

                I am groveling lower than a flatworm — apologies to flatworms, but how much lower can I go in my groveling?

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

              A tutu too many ? – as the purchasing manager at the Bolshoi Ballet never said.

    • Bob Bottemiller
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Breaking News:
      Aerowsmith, hard rock super group, have just issued a groveling apology for their mid-1970s hit “Walk This Way”. A spokesperson said the entire group is humiliated to have, in an ableist manner, indirectly mocked those persons less mobile than themselves.

      Stephen Tyler, lead singer, has volunteered to have his legs broken by guitarist Joe Perry. All proceeds from this televised event will be donated to the AAWP (American Association of Woke Persons).

      • rickflick
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink


  9. Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I love Norman Rockwell’s work. I have a monster coffee table book of his work that is a prized possession.

    The images of dogs interacting with statues never fails to remind me of “Waiting for the Interurban” in Seattle with its man-faced dog:

  10. Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Buddy Holly must be the prototype of the genius musician Buddy from Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music. I am amazed how much his fantasy novels are based on real people and events.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      The lead character Buddy was born Imp Y Celyn – which Pratchett’s book claims is Welsh for “Bud of the holly” [it isn’t actually AFAIK].

      But, you have to be careful with Pratchett who will not let an accurate translation of our timeline interfere with a good joke in the various Discworld timelines. Thus we would expect Buddy’s band to be The Crickets, but it’s much closer to the Beatles with Buddy saying “we are more popular than cheeses” [a reference to Lennon’s famous blasphemy].

      “Soul Music” ought really to be sold with a few tabs of LSD to aid with the understanding [or to banish the expectation of understanding – take your pick]. 🙂

      • David Coxill
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        If i remember correctly within a few pages he makes fun of the Rolling Stones ,The Who ,and the Diner scene from The Blues Brothers .
        But the best joke was how Trolls count .
        “One ,a two ,a one two many lots “

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          Ah yes! There’s one book where Pterry goes into a bit of detail on Troll maths – it’s in base 4 is all I recall.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        One of Pratchett’s better books, IIRC. (They were all good, though).

        As I remember, it had Death in it, (my favourite character), and also Death’s granddaughter Susan (another favourite character).

        But you really have to read the book to catch the flavour of it. As Maya says, much of it could relate to real events. It’s remarkable how much social commentary Pratchett achieves using mythical creatures.

        For some reason Pratchett’s Discworld books remind me a lot of Doug Adams ‘Hitchhiker’ ‘trilogy’. Though Hitchhiker is Sci-fi (nominally) and Discworld is fantasy, the line gets blurred when dealing with imaginary beings and cosmologies.


        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          I’ve read all Discworld up to Night Watch chronologically [not publish date] although I didn’t read them chronologically of course! I’ve read a couple more recent Discworld, but can’t recall the names off hand. I’ve not read outside the Discworld yet, but I fancy The Long Earth series [a quartet I think] of Pratchett/Baxter which has been recommended to me from various directions – many riffs on sci fi cliches I’m told.

          My Discworld fave characters are similar – Death, Susan, the orangutang morphed librarian of the Unseen University & The Luggage. I also cherish Binky – it being a silly, but somehow hilarious name for a great big bloody horse.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

            I have all of Pratchett’s Discworld novels and I’ve read them all in chronological order.

            (In case that sounds like a boast, I don’t think there’s any particular merit in it – Pratchett’s books are very easy ‘reads’ and each one is semi-self-contained and not too long, it’s not like embarking on War and Peace).

            If you’ve read up to Night Watch I think you’ve done the best of them. I think the quality fell off very slightly in later ones (just IMO, and not enough to prevent me from reading them).

            Of course, like any good scifi/fantasy oeuvre, there are webpages devoted to suggested ‘Discworld Reading Order’ as the various characters pop in and out of various novels.


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Also – I kind of remember [it’s been over twenty years] that as Buddy’s band toured around it changed nature from gig to gig – perhaps being more like Black Sabbath & so on – anything to keep the jokes & puns flowing. BUT I may be misremembering. There was a band called Lead Balloon [for Led Zeppelin] & The Whom [the Who], but it’s fuzzy after that.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        Bands are easy to parody since they take themselves so damned seriously.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      I am amazed how much his fantasy novels are based on real people and events.

      The guy was a PR flack for (amongst other things) a nuclear plant. I think he had enough fantastic events to play on, which he couldn’t actually refer to directly.
      The Annotated Pratchett File was a busy internet resource for Pterry fans back in the days when USENET was most of the Internet, before moving into LSPACE – the space-time-continuum which links all libraries to Unseen University’s Library.

  11. Bob Bottemiller
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Re: “ignorant bastard, THROW THE FUCKING STICK”
    Could be retitled The Tao is Silent

    Dog => human
    Dog’s stick => prayer
    Statue => God icon

    Is that comparison an analogy or a metaphor? I get confused about that.

  12. revelator60
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    In the dogs’ defense, a really stupid animal wouldn’t even recognize the similarities between a human and a realistic sculpture of a human. As for the puppies, they’re obviously very hungry and very young!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      The puppies are working on the principle that “whoever is getting attention must be getting better food than me”. I suspect.

  13. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    ‘American Pie’ is noteworthy for having enormously long lyrics (unlike most long songs of the period – MacArthur Park comes to mind – which are mostly instrumentals).

    I liked the vaguely blasphemous and certainly irreverent
    “And the three men I admire most
    The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
    They caught the last train for the coast
    The day the music died”

    Though I was never sure if it was really about the Holy Trinity or three other people.

    For what it’s worth –


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