Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Hump Day: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, and the second day of Darwin’s life in 1809. It’s National Italian Food Day (I’m cooking Chinese), and World Radio Day, proclaimed by UNESCO.

On this day in 1542, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, was executed for adultery. She was only 18 or 19 years old. (Do you notice how often I find a day when one of King Henry’s wives was executed?). On February 13, 1633, Galileo arrived in Rome for his trial before the Inquisition. He was of course convicted—on June 22—and died nine years later.

If you’re a MacDonald you’ll be interested in what happened on this day in 1692; as Wikipedia reports, that’s the day of “the Massacre of Glencoe: Almost 80 Macdonalds at Glen Coe, Scotland are killed early in the morning for not promptly pledging allegiance to the new king, William of Orange.” Poor Macdonalds bought the farm!

On this day in 1931, the British Raj moved its capital from Calcutta to New Delhi, but only 16.5 years later there was no Raj.  On this day in 1935, Bruno Hauptmann was found guilty of kidnapping and killing the “Lindbergh baby.” He was electrocuted on April 3 of the next year.  On this day in 1945, the RAF flew to Dresden to bomb the bejeesus out of the city, a bombing that continued for three days. Between 22,000 and 25,000 people were killed by the bombs and the resulting firestorm.  On February 13, 1960, the first lunch counter sit-in in Nashville, Tennessee took place by black college students demonstrating for civil rights.

Now this is weird because it’s given in Wikipedia. On this day in 1961, and I’ll quote:

An allegedly 500,000-year-old rock is discovered near Olancha, California, US, that appears to anachronistically encase a spark plug.

No, it wasn’t aliens or a refutation of geological dating. (The spark plug was from about 1920.) A report noted the explanation: “the spark plug became encased in a concretion composed of iron derived from the rusting spark plug. Iron and steel artifacts rapidly form iron-oxide concretions as they rust in the ground.” Here’s a cross-section through the artifact:

Finally, it was two years ago today that Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-Un’s brother, was assassinated with poison at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

Notables born on this day include Thomas Robert Malthus (1766), Grant Wood (1891), William Shockley (1910), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919), Chuck Yeager (1923, still with us), Elaine Pagels (1943), Marian Dawkins (1945), and Mena Suvari (1975).

Yeager is 96 now, and confined to a wheelchair, but he’s still got the right stuff:

Those who fell asleep on this day include Catherine Howard (1542, see above), Benvenuto Cellini (1571), Cotton Mather (1728), Richard Wagner (1883), Georges Rouault (1958), Waylon Jennings (2002), and Antonin Scalia (2016).

I like Rouault, whose paintings have a stained-glassy effect. Here’s his “Tragic Clown” from 1911:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is a busy editor:

Hili: You have to write down everything carefully.
A: Why?
Hili: You can’t rely on my memory only.
In Polish:
Hili: Musicie wszystko starannie zapisywać.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Bo wyłącznie na moją pamięć nie możecie liczyć.

In honor of Darwin Day, the cat protection/adoption agency Feline Friends in London sent me this diagram of human progress:

A tweet of a Tower of London raven sent by reader Nilou (via the Tower’s Ravenmaster). These are nasty birds, but also smart ones.

From Heather Hastie, who says, presciently, that “this kid will grow up into a good person.”

Tweets from Grania, the first being a cat using Twitter:

If you didn’t know that the skin of a tiger is striped, you do now:

A lovely fossil:

Yes, if God looked at America:

Tweets from Matthew. I don’t know how many times I’ve already posted this video, but I can’t get enough. At least learn that “nounours” is “teddy bear” in French:

If you don’t know what group of mammals a fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is in, go here:

I bet you didn’t know that donkey nannies were a thing:

A terse review:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    “Poor Macdonalds bought the farm!”

    I see what you did there

  2. Posted February 13, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    My personal “Descent of Man” on a recent guitar (the 12th fret inlay is slightly obscured: It is a homonid that looks much like the one at fret 3, except that it is holding a guitar 🙂 ).

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Are you building a whole guitar there or repairing one?

      • darrelle
        Posted February 13, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Not sure in this particular case, but jblilie does build whole guitars. Lots of talent around these parts.

      • Posted February 15, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        I was building it, this is the guitar I am mostly currently playing.

    • BJ
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      That’s pretty cool!

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Love it!

  3. James
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I cut my geological teeth at Caeser’s Creek, a concentrat lagerstatten in Ohio where you literally cannot walk without stepping on a few dozen spirifer brachiopods, and I’ve never seen one that looks like that. Looks like an interior cast of the lower valve due to mineral deposition on the shell, but I can’t see why there’s a hole in it. And those two sets of ridges are new to me as well. They’re where the branchium and gonads would be. Wonder if it’s related. (That’s why I say it’s a cast of the interior surface–spirifer valve exteriors do NOT look like that, at least not in my experience!)

    Very, very cool find! It’s always fun to see something you thought you knew, and realize that there’s still much more to learn!

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I have a brachiopod fossil that is partly open, and one can see a cast of the gills inside. Not nearly as nice as the one pictured. It was bought at a rock shop, so I don’t remember its origin.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know the source of this, but I remember part of a poem that I think came from an undergrad student in geology at U.C. Davis. Don’t know why I still remember this 50 years later.

      Behold the simple brachiopod rooted to the earth,
      Waiting for its food to pass and giggling with mirth.
      Behold its simple minded smile, as it lies in wait,
      Not knowing that it’ll starve to death, should food arrive too late.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Hey, weren’t Grant Wood and Cotton Mather both in yesterday’s births and deaths, too?

    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Difficult deliveries.

  5. Terry Sheldon
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I found out about the stripes on cats’ skin when one of my tabbies had to have a body part shaved for surgery.

    • David Harper
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I was going to make the same observation. My dear old tabby had to have her neck shaved so the vet could draw blood for testing. She loved to have the bare spot rubbed afterwards 🙂

    • Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      You can also see it on their paws and in their ears, at least on some cats.

  6. Graham Head
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    (Do you notice how often I find a day when one of King Henry’s wives was executed?).

    Actually only twice a year.

    ‘Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived’

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 14, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Yep, beat me to it.


  7. chrism
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I really can’t make sense of that raven, unless it’s got a black billiard ball in its beak.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      There’s plenty of barrel distortion from the wide angle lens. The effect is so common I tend to automatically correct for it.

  8. BJ
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Damn, spirifer is mad scary. Totes for realz.

  9. Claudia Baker
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    For a first-hand description of the bombing of Dresden, the most harrowing I have ever read is from Victor Klemperer’s “I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945”. From the journals that he kept all his life, the Tuesday, February 13,1945 entry begins: “We sat down for coffee at about half past nine on Tuesday evening, very weary and depressed…”. Things were about to get much worse.

    His journals are described as the “best written, most evocative, and most observant record of everyday life in Hitler’s Germany.”
    I agree. They are riveting.

  10. Merilee
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink


  11. David Harper
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Apropos the fossa, its scientific name rather splendidly translates to “Hidden-anus fierce”.

  12. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The BRACHIOPOD tweet. As is usual in biology – sources love to baffle with Latin & the naming of parts that explains exactly nothing, So here’s my first order layman’s understanding.

    Left Pic is from the Manchester Museum & the exhibit comes with a bit of charming mythology:

    Stone Swallows and Butterfly Stones. These wing-like brachiopods appear in Chinese folklore and are referred to as ‘Shih-yen’ which translates as ‘stone swallows’ due to their bird-like appearance. In the 5th Century the Chinese scholar Li Tao-Yuan describes these ‘stone swallows’ as flying about during a thunder storm like living birds”

    A slightly better idea of what’s going on can be gleaned from this pic of the interior from the Natural History Museum: “A Jurassic brachiopod with lophophore supports intact…” – the spiral structures are the aforementioned supports [we are not told why they’re spiral of course, that would be too helpful] for the lophophore. The lophophore is the tentacled feeding mechanism which isn’t shown, but I gather it surrounds the water entry hole & extracts the food, then the water divides in two left & right – after passing down the middle of the spiral region the current is expelled to left & right.

    Brachiopods, like bivalves, have two valves & hence the water splits left & right. Why? I haven’t a clue.

    Right Pic is Star Wars Cantina “T Head” alien. No Latin required:

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink


    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Lot’s of mystery. Sometimes, I think, structures must take their shape from simple genetic opportunity and luck. No other reason may apply. I think there’s a name for that.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        Also my ignorance. 🙂
        Biology is hard & too heavy on the jargon IMO [I recognise Latin is useful but most writing on biology is dry & overcomplicated – especially the papers]

        • rickflick
          Posted February 13, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          I see you’ve changed from blue to green. That’s one classy looking avatar.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 13, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            Thanks to PJ Harvey who owns that face

            • rickflick
              Posted February 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

              Pretty spicy lady. Swims good too:


              • Merilee
                Posted February 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                Takes talent to swim in heels🤓

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted February 13, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                She was going for “Joan Crawford on acid” with the makeup – that was 24 yrs ago & she’s not that underweight today. She stole “Lil’ fish big fish swimmin’ in the water” off Lead Belly who stole it off “Salty Dog Blues” [trad US song].

              • ratabago
                Posted February 14, 2019 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

                That’s a remarkable performance, and also kind of disturbing.

              • rickflick
                Posted February 14, 2019 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

                Disturbing? Well, I guess. I ran out of breath watching her.

    • James
      Posted February 13, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for that! I’ve seen literally thousands of brachiopods, from across the world and throughout time, but never came across such a structure. My guess is they are very delicate, and therefore don’t generally preserve. Or the prep lab destroys them–no insult intended, I’ve done enough prep work to know I suck at it myself! Probably you have to use acid to dissolve the surrounding rock, and it takes special conditions to get a fossil that won’t dissolve in a rock that will.

      Lophophors in brachiopods tend to be held in a spiral inside the shell, which probably explains the shape of the structure. (Thanks for the name by the way–I could not for the life of me remember it this morning!) My understanding is that the degree of spiraliness is a function of species. The lophophores of bryozoans (moss-animals, the nearest kin to brachiopods) do not, as I recall, spiral; they form more of a fan shape.

  13. rustybrown
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I love Rouault. Great painter and printmaker. Underrated in my opinion. He apprenticed as a glass painter as a youth which may have influenced his later style.

    Another fun fact: Edward G. Robinson, who sort of looked like a squat character from a Rouault painting, was an avid art collector and favored the artist in his collection.

  14. KD33
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    One correction – more than a third of the bombers of Dresden were with the USAF.

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