Sunday: Hili dialogue

It’s Ceiling Cat’s Day: Sunday, April 14, 2019, and you will be stoned to death if you gather sticks on this day. It’s National Pecan Day, courtesy of Big Pecan, and South and Southeast Asian Solar New Year, when the Sun enters the constellation of Aries. I don’t believe in astrology, of course, but I bet lots of good food will be served.

The weather in Chicago, which has been sunny and on the warmish (17°C) side, has turned vicious, with rain, snow, and a temperature of 3° C (38° F) this morning. The drakes are still battling it out in the pond (see next post), but I’m concerned that Honey is shivering on her eggs.

On this day in 1561, as Wikipedia notes, “A celestial phenomenon is reported over Nuremberg, described as an aerial battle.”  From the picture below, I suspect it was a sundog, or perhaps a mass hallucination. Here’s a picture and description of the phenomenon as given in a news broadsheet printed that month (see the translation of the description, which is truly bizarre, here):

On this day in 1828, Noah Webster copyrighted the first edition of his famous dictionary.  And on April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the next day.

Another interesting but obscure bit of history from Wikipedia: on April 14, 1881, “The Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight is fought in El Paso, Texas.” It was indeed that fast, and three of the four dead were shot by  Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire.  On this day in 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m, and sank about three hours later.  In 1939, John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath, which won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It also played a role in Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded in 1962.

Two hail incidents occurred on April 14. In 1986, the biggest hailstones ever reported—a full kilogram in weight (2.2 pounds), were reported in the Gopalgani district of Bangladesh. The hail killed 92 people. Bangladesh just can’t catch a break: floods, famine, and now hailstorms! Here’s a smaller one that fell in South Dakota in 2010: it had a circumference of 47.3 cm (18.6 inches) and weighed 0.88 kg (1.9 pounds). These are killers! (See more such records at Hail World Records.)

And look at this hailstorm in Cardston, Alberta in 2012:

Speaking of hail, on this day in 1999 a huge hailstorm struck Sydney, Australia, producing 2.3 billion Australian dollars in damage; it’s been pronounced “the most costly natural disaster in Australian history.” Here are some hailstones from that one, given with a cricket ball for scale.

Finally, it was on this day 16 years ago that the Human Genome Project was pronounced “completed,” as 99% of the genome had been sequenced with a reported accuracy of 99.99%.

Notables born on this day include Ann Sullivan (1866, Helen Keller’s teacher), Arnold Toynbee (1889), John Gielgud (1904), Rod Steiger (1925), Loretta Lynn (1932), Frank Serpico (1936), Julie Christie (1940), Pete Rose (1941), and Francis Collins (1950, who of course was part of the Human Genome Project completion, announced on his birthday).

Those who expired on April 14 include George Frideric Handel (1759), Rachel Carson (1964), F. R. Leavis (1978), Burl Ives (1995), Don Ho (2007), and Percy Sledge (2015).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili acts out an aphorism:

Hili: I have a feeling that the grass is greener on the other side of the path.
A: You’ll have to check it.
In Polish
Hili: Mam wrażenie, że po drugiej stronie ścieżki trawa jest zieleńsza.
Ja: Musisz to konieczenie sprawdzć.

Below are two tweets I pulled from the feed of reader Dorsa Amir. The evolution of whales from terrestrial artiodactyls is one of our best-documented examples of “macroevolution” in the fossil record. Click on the whole tweet to see some specimens:

My dad used to ask me, “Jerry, think of a face you never saw before,” knowing it would be nearly impossible. And it was. But now we can produce such faces!

A tweet from reader Nilou; cats will be cats:

Tweets from Grania: more “cats will be cats”:

Given the credits, this seems like a real video, but it’s still hard to believe:

This is also amazing: a pigeon enforcer!

This is true: read the article to see how Volkswagen got into the sausage business:

Tweets from Matthew. Ponder these temporal changes in favored genres of movies over the last 108 years. The fall of Westerns and the rise of documentaries!

Ceiling Cat bless that owl!

I really need to read this article. The biogeography of cat fleas!


  1. Linda Calhoun
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about Honey getting cold. Remember, she has a down undercoat, enough to keep her and her eggs toasty. I’m sure she’ll reappear for a quick meal once things warm up.

    Remember, too, she was absent quite a lot last year, and when she finally showed up, she had babies with her.

    I have been in one single hailstorm with stones 4-5″ in diameter. I was inside the house at the time, but it was still terrifying. I’m a weather observer for NOAA, and I was on the phone with them. I had to get off because I couldn’t hear anything because of all the noise. We had several outdoor lightbulbs that got shattered, and I was afraid for my horse and my donkey, who were not in the barn. The first thing I did when it finally let up was go look for them to make sure one of them hadn’t gotten conked on the head with one of those enormous stones. I found them at the fence with my neighbor’s donkey, who had gotten separated from her horses during the storm, so they were reassuring each other. Awful.


    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      I have no experience with hail stones this big, but I’ve been subject to stones about 2 cm diameter. Terrifying enough, and damaging.

  2. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I see that Musicals and Westerns are on their way out (I’m not shedding tears there) and Documentaries appear to do well . Something I would applaud, if of good quality (which we doubt).
    These faces look very real, I’m sure I’ve met some of them.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      If one charted the actual fact quotient of documentaries, I suspect it would be nearer to a straight line, at a rather low level. It most certainly would if the subject was TV ‘documentaries’.

      But then, if one charted the actual humour content of ‘comedies’ (as opposed to gross-out juvenile toilet humour) the result would be the same.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Seems odd that very little was done concerning security of the president after the assassination of Lincoln and we had three more assassinations over the next 100 years. More guns will do the trick.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Sunday, April 14, 2019, and you will be stoned…

    Onliest kinda stoned I’m interested in being on a Sunday morn is Van Morrison style:

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      That impels me to immediately get up and collect a few token sticks. Just because.

      However I’m too lazy, so I’ll take refuge in the fact that just *thinking* about gathering sticks is tantamount to actually doing it. (That’s in the Bibble somewhere, and it makes no sense at all, which is par for the course). So just consider me stoned… 🙂


  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    In 1939, John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath, which won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

    Saw the new film from Emilio Estevez (who, in middle age, is lookin’ more and more like his old man, Mr. Sheen), The Public, yesterday, about homeless folk who occupy the main public library in Cincinnati during a deadly cold snap. The Grapes of Wrath has a starring role in the film.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Should try to see that movie about the homeless. My wife’s parents experienced the worst of the dust bowl and depression told about in Grapes of Wrath, growing up in Oklahoma and Kansas. Even the homeless today have no idea how bad it was in this region during those years and before any type of help from the government. They were truly on their own with no help from anywhere.

  6. Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I shall just add, for my own satisfaction, that another notable born on this day is Peter Capaldi, Scottish actor, best known for being the sweary master of political spin in the show The Thick of It and as the Doctor in Doctor Who from 2014 till 2017 (both shows highly recommended!)

    • merilee
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely brilliantly funny as Malcolm in The Thick of it!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 15, 2019 at 5:33 am | Permalink

        Permanently set on 11. 🙂


        • merilee
          Posted April 15, 2019 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          Joanna Scanlan is also very funny in it. I like her in her newish series “No Offense.”

  7. rickflick
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “Eastern Screech-Owl Hatches Wood Duck Eggs”

    This spring I was involved with cleaning out Wood Duck boxes around Lake Lowell in preparation for the upcoming breeding season. Two of the many boxes we cleaned were already occupied by screech owls, which we left in the boxes. I suspect, on occasion, confusion arises when wood ducks and the owls use the same box. It may not be deliberate parasitism, but merely the accidental leaving of eggs subsequently raised by the owl. You have to wonder, though, if no supervision is available on hatching, how the ducklings fair without a parent to supervise them.

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I know squat about wood duck reproduction, but I had thought the mother sticks around and broods the eggs. The ducklings hatch, and dramatically leap from the elevated nest to the ground and then they follow mama.
      So maybe the egg brooding part is done with a mama duck and an owl?

      • rickflick
        Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        One scenario would be the woody lays eggs and incubates them. Then a screechy drops in for a daylong nap. The returning momma is freaked out and abandons the box. The eggs could pretty much hatch on their own at this point. The owl thinks there her own or simply ignores them and lets them jump. If mamma woody is still locally available, she may hear the squeaks and peeps and take on the brood, otherwise, they perish.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      The burning question for me is: will the ducks hoot and the owl quack?

      • rickflick
        Posted April 14, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        I appreciate your keen interest. Most people wouldn’t give a hoot. The thought quacks me up.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted April 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha! Good one!

  8. Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    , and you will be stoned to death if you gather sticks on this day

    I thought the Sabbath was Saturday (or more strictly, Friday evening to Saturday evening).

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Yeah but it’s a metaphorical Sabbath that now refers to Sunday!

      • rickflick
        Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        And Sunday now metaphorically refers to decorated ice cream. 😁

    • Barbara Radcliffe
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      But is it acceptable to gather stone with which to punish the gatherer of sticks? Or does one have to have a supply of stones just in case?

      • Posted April 15, 2019 at 4:19 am | Permalink

        Wouldn’t you leave the stoning until Monday?

        In any case, in Biblical times they had market stalls where people sold stones specifically for the purpose of going to stonings.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    One of my odder interests is nineteenth-century, American, brass band music. This LINK is to a recording of “Honor to Our Soliders,” which was to have had its first public performance during the intermission of performance of Our American Cousin that Lincoln attended. That intermission never happened, and, as far as I know, the piece was essentially unknown until it was recorded around 1990. The music is by William Withers, Jr., a Pennsylvania veteran who was the orchestra leader at Ford’s Theatre. The group performing here is “Classical Brass” on their album “Honor to Our Soldiers.” Given its associations, I find it very poigent.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      I don’t think your jones is odd. That is a beautiful piece. Poignant, indeed. I don’t know much about 19th c. brass band music, but I do like to listen to it, especially brass band music written during the civil war that has these qualities. It’s quite different from the music that one usually associates with brass bands, some of the instruments take solo turns and the effect can be quite haunting — the poignancy of brass is frequently ignored in brass band music, which is mostly meant to rouse the sanguinary passions. There’s one civil war band piece that makes me tear up whenever I listen to it. Can’t recall the name right now.

      I like Swiss alphorn music, but it ain’t brass.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “If you like cars and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

  11. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Tweet of ISS RESUPPLY LAUNCH VIEWED FROM ISS The below is probably the same launch [the tweet .gif is very similar, but maybe ‘flipped’ horizontally & different frame rate] or at least it’s from the same series of Roscosmos ISS resupply missions. The video is around 10x Real Life speed, but it varies quite a bit throughout:

    VIDEO TIMINGS and [In Real Life times]:

    03s: Launch
    20s [118s]: Core stage separation
    35s [290s] Core stage burning up in atmosphere
    35s [290s] 2nd stage separation & lighting of 3rd final stage

    VIDEO NOTES [I’ve left out the timings which are wrong – mine above are closer to accurate]:

    Timelapse of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft launched on 16 November 2018 at 18:14 GMT [21:14 Moscow] from Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, taken by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station.

    The spacecraft was launched atop a Soyuz rocket with 2564 kg of cargo and supplies. Flying at 28 800 km/h, 400 km high, the International Space Station requires regular supplies from Earth such as this Progress launch.

    Spacecraft are launched after the Space Station flies overhead so they catch up with the orbital outpost to dock, in this case two days later on 18 November 2018.

    The images were taken from the European-built Cupola module with a camera set to take pictures at regular intervals.

    The Progress spacecraft delivered food, fuel and supplies, including about 750 kg of propellant, 75 kg of oxygen and air and 440 l of water.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      THIS is the Roscosmos MS-10 launch video which gave me the IRL timings.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        So, how did you sync the real-time play-by-play to the first film? The first film, as you point out has varying speeds.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          I’m a second or two out, but that’s all


          I noted the timings spoken by the English-speaking voice:

          [1] “first stage burns for 1 minute 58 seconds” = 118s + 3s** = 121s
          [2] “second stage will burn until about 4 minutes 47 seconds” = 287s + 3s** = 290s


          It’s easy to see the nozzles firing up on two occasions at video time 20s [launch time +17s] which is moments after [1] above


          video time 35s [launch time +32s] which is moments after [2] above. By coincidence second stage nozzles fire at the same time as the first stage starts to burn up on atmosphere re-entry.

          ** When I watched the ESA video I estimated launch at 3s since the actual launch is off screen

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            CORRECTION: “By coincidence second third stage nozzles fire at the same time as the first stage starts to burn up on atmosphere re-entry”

          • rickflick
            Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for doing the calculations. The view from space is really quite remarkable.
            BTW, I just read that NASA has just selected Space-X to launch the the Asteroid-Walloping Mission in June 2021. It’s an attempt to show you can bang into an Earth targeting asteroid to knock it off course. The launch will cost only $69 million, and you can guess why so cheap.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

              Yes, the DART mission launching conveniently from the secure, huge with super secret corners Vandenberg AFB, Calif where the Boeing X37B robot shuttle likes to land after its extended whatevers [launches from Florida]. Makes me wonder what other stuff will go upstairs alongside the DART package.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                Indeed. With a payload capacity of 37,000 lb, I suspect there will be room for some mil hardware.

  12. RPGNo1
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “This is true: read the article to see how Volkswagen got into the sausage business”

    The VW Currywurst is famous in Germany. A real bestseller. 🙂

  13. loren russell
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    A note about Dorsa Amir’s whale poster: The actual pattern of the evolution of whales is far more complex than the simple ladder-rungs from Indohyus through Rodhocetus, Ambulocetus and Basilosaurus. Whales, like horses and hominines CAN be arranged on a ladder — but only if you throw out the repeated, bush-like radiations.

    There are currently over 20 described genera of archicetes, with a primary radiation in the Tethyan region of south and southwest Asia, but also an interesting radiation in se US. Most if not all of these had functional hind legs, though some are known only from cranial material. BTW, popular accounts of the recent description of a walking [or paddling?] whale from South America failed to mention the North American radiation!

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I believe (but am not sure) that one of the comments, or the site itself, says that. But what we do see is a temporal progression of forms from earlier tetrapod-ish species towards more modern-looking whales as they lose their rear legs, move their blowholes up, and so on. That is what I meant by macroevolution and transitional forms.

      • loren russell
        Posted April 14, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        I get it — but the point I’m making is that these “wading whales” were not just a scala naturae, but a series of complex adaptive radiations. As with horses and with hominines/people, it’s a natural narrative in science journalism and in science education to construct such scalae, but I think it’s misleading to see the earlier radiations only as “transitional” to modern forms, or to ignore the diversity within grades entirely. I think it’s important to understand that these organisms were widespread and diverse organisms that were well-adapted and successful in their own right.

        I think the problem in constructing and communicating such scalae [where the “brushwood” is discarded for simplicity] is to suggest that such organisms were poorly adapted, and therefore could not have arisen through natural selection. And wouldn’t it be nice to think of Georgiacetus interrupting play at the Masters?

  14. Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    On a recent trip to the Oregon coast, typical Oregon weather (light rain, grayness, light rain, downpour, light rain, beautiful sunshine, wind, light rain) produced an un-typical hailstorm. The California Sea Lions dozing on a dock stood it for a little while, then all jumped into the bay, to be protected by water. And the hailstones weren’t nearly as big as the ones pictured above.

  15. Posted April 14, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I think that celebrating astronomical dates does not necessary imply astrology, even if “astrological” constellations are included.

  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Those wood pigeons are big birds, and noisy when they fly. I’ve been walking in the ‘bush’ (native forest) on a totally deserted hillside track when suddenly, from just beside my head, there’s a solid ‘WHUT WHUT whut whut whut…’ like a helicopter – wood pigeon taking off. Makes me jump every time.


  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Those faces are incredible. I’d swear they were real people.

    One other fact strikes me – they’re all remarkably pleasant looking. I love the woman in mauve at left. A number of them I’d love to get to know better.

    This in stark contrast to most ‘actual’ photos of people who usually look like dorks or serial killers. It must be a feature of the algorithm used. I wonder if there’s a tweak that would generate ‘psycopaths’?


    • rickflick
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      As there are over 7.53 billion of us, I think the chances that people who look very close to these actually exist.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 15, 2019 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Well I’m sure there are. All those pics look absolutely convincing. It’s the selection for ‘good-looking’ or pleasant-looking that intrigues me. They’re most of them smiling, which obviously helps.


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 15, 2019 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      The machine learning network creates mashups from REAL faces & the offspring of real faces & the offspring’s offspring etc. The machine isn’t building from zero & there’s a lot of human selection during the learning. I also think the results shown to the public [the pages full of faces] are probably the best results from hundreds of runs with the crap, scary ones quietly deleted. Thus they can claim sort-of-truly that nothing within a page is ‘curated’…

      If all the original real ‘seed’ faces & early generation mashups are smiling, healthy people then the result are also smiley & attractive. The machine works on three levels of detail which are independently adjustable with sliders:

      Something like this:
      Gross: Head shape, hair shape
      Medium: Hats, glasses, nose, eyes etc
      fine: skin texture, freckles, skin colour

      The machine is pretty clever as one mashup took a real subject’s tinted glasses & stuck ’em on another face as conventional clear spectacles.

      I notice that the ‘seed’ images are not random, but chosen to work within the machines limitations & yet the team claims the images are not ‘curated’, but I say they ARE curated for some values of ‘curated’. All ‘seed’ images are more-or-less:

      ** Only of the head which takes up most of the frame [no parrots on shoulders]
      ** of people with regular features – nobody with facial palsy [droopy eyelid] etc
      ** looking to camera or within 20 degrees ish of doing so
      ** fairly evenly lit – no strong contrasts

      The machine has no understanding of 3D or light ray tracing from what I can see, thus the glasses that have realistic reflections in them do so because the original real image did! If you look at the eyes on some images you will notice they aren’t aligned in the correct direction always & they’re not engaged with the world. Dead fish eyes.


      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 15, 2019 at 5:50 am | Permalink

        Oh & the research seems to be paid for by NVIDIA who have the 3D & ray tracing already down pat – they’ll be able to bundle this ‘smartness’ into their graphics cards by a week next Tuesday.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 15, 2019 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        PS re the video I linked: It’s only 35 seconds. Put on full screen at 0.25 speed with the sound off & watch the mashups [read the text on the video to understand what levels & seeds are being mashed].

        • rickflick
          Posted April 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          Remarkable. It gives me a strange sense of belonging to an interesting species.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 6:33 am | Permalink

        Equally remarkable are the ‘morphs’ that Image B is continually undergoing. At every step in each ‘morph’, the image is recognisable as a valid human face.


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