Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday already! To be precise: Friday, April 19, 2019. It’s National Rice Ball Day, a holiday I don’t understand because what good is a rice ball without sushi or something else on top of it? Having just returned from Amsterdam, I’m also pleased to note that it’s Dutch-American Friendship Day, which doesn’t mean that you should befriend Dutch-Americans, but that we are celebrating the amity between our two countries. Wikipedia explains why the holiday occurs today:

. . . [this is] the day in 1782 when John Adams, later to become the second president of the United States, was received by the States General in The Hague and recognized as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. It was also the day that the house he had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world.

I bet you didn’t know that about the Embassy.

There are two drakes in the pond this morning; one is Gregory Peck (Honey’s husband), while the other is an interloper.  And it’s Darwin Death Day (see below); the 137th anniversary of the Great Man’s demise.

Lots happened in history today, beginning with the onset of the Lisbon Massacre in 1506, in which hundreds of Jews, blamed for the drought and plague in Portugal at that time, were publicly slaughtered. On this day in 1770 there were two events: Captain James Cook (at that time still a lieutenant), glimpsed the eastern coast of what is now Australia. On the very same day, Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI of France (then the Dauphin) at a “proxy wedding”; the Dauphin wasn’t able to be there and there was a stand-in groom.

On April 19, 1775, the American Revolutionary War began with an American victory at Concord, Massachusetts. And, as noted above, today was the day in 1782 when the Netherlands recognized the U.S. as an independent country. In the Hague, the house of John Adams, who had secured this recognition, became the first American Embassy.  On this day in 1927, Mae West was sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity in her play Sex. It was a popular hit but a critical failure due to its themes of murder and prostitution, and eventually was forced to close.

Another two events on this day in 1943. In Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began when the remaining, undeported Jews resisted Nazi calls for surrender. The Nazis won, of course, killing 13,000 Jews and wiping out the ghetto. On the same day in Basel, Switzerland, the first deliberate acid trip took place, as Albert Hofmann deliberately took 250 micrograms of the drug three days after having observed its effects on him during research done three days earlier. As Wikipedia notes, “This day is now known as “Bicycle Day”, because [Hoffman] began to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike.”

On this day in 1956, Prince Rainier of Monaco married actress Grace Kelly, who became the Princess of Monaco, serving until her death in a car accident in 1982. In 1971, Charles Manson was sentenced to death for conspiracy in the Tate-LaBianca murders; his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.  On this day in 1987, according to Wikipedia, “The Simpsons first appear as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, first starting with Good Night.” Here’s that first episode, which has some neurophilosophy:

On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, took place: the explosion of a huge bomb, placed in a truck parked beside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killed 168 people. McVeigh was executed in 2001,  while Nichols is serving life without parole in a Supermax facility in Colorado, living on a cell block called “Bombers Row” along with Ramzi YousefEric Rudolph, and Ted Kaczynski.

On this day in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, becoming Benedict XVI. He resigned in 2013 and hasn’t yet gone to his maker. Exactly six years later, Fidel Castro resigned as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Finally it was on this day six years ago that Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police, and his brother Dzhokhar, wounded, was captured hiding inside a covered boat in a backyard in nearby Watertown.

Notables born on this day include Dickie Bird and Jayne Mansfield (both 1933), Elinor “Betty” Donohue (1937), the odious Stanley Fish (1939, 80 today), Ashley Judd (1968), and Kate Hudson (1979, 40 today). Dickie Bird is regarded as one of the greatest and most beloved cricket umpires. He’s still alive at 86, and here’s a film of him remembering his career:

Those who croaked on April 19 include Canaletto (1768), Benjamin Rush (1813), Lord Byron (1824), Charles Darwin (1882), Pierre Curie (1906), William Morton Wheeler (1937), Jim Corbett (1955), Daphne du Maurier (1989), Octavio Paz (1998, Nobel Laureate), evolutionist John Maynard Smith (2004), and Levon Helm (2012).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is mousing down by the Vistula. Malgorzata explains the first line:

Hili’s first line is the title of a book by Józef Mackiewicz (1969). The book was translated into English and published under this title. Your readers probably haven’t heard of it. 

Hili: One is not supposed to speak aloud.
A: Why?
Hili: In order not to startle the mice.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie trzeba głośno mówić.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby myszy nie płoszyć.

A tweet from reader Barry. It’s well known that lion/tiger hybrids (“ligers” or “tigons”) can be much larger than either parental species. Look at this monster:

In Hawaii, it’s Aloha Friday, as is every Friday. Reader Nilou sent this lovely albatross:

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows that ant-parasitive beetles evolved very quickly after “eusocial” ants evolved. In fact, the imposter “clown beetles” are nearly as old (99 million years) as the oldest ants we know.

Here’s the twitter translation for this beautiful and etiolated bee:

“A parasitic bee visited in the fallen tree of the jungle. It may be parasitic on other insects lurking inside the tree. Beautiful things have a dangerous side..”

Seamus and Bubbles! Such a lovely tale (sound up):

Matthew had to explain this joke to me very carefully until I got it, and even then I didn’t think it was funny!

Tweets from Grania. First up: “The Happy Cement Mixer”:

LOL. I agree!


And a distracted kitteh:


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Did not know the Adams house became the embassy. I do recall the reason John Adams went to Amsterdam. He was attempting to get a loan for the country fighting the war with England. He was initially in France to assist Ben Franklin who was doing the same there although Franklin did not get along well with Adams and thought he would be just the guy to go to Amsterdam to seek more money.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Damn, I miss Levon.

    • merilee
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      +1 for Levon

  3. Tom B
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that ligers are offspring of a male lion and female tiger tend to be large and friendly. Tigons are male tiger and female tiger hybrids and tend to be smaller and less friendly.
    Is “tiglon” an alternative name for one of these?

    • Posted April 19, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      No, it’s tigons; a typo. I’ve fixed it, thanks.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      That probably has to do with the fact that lions are a gregarious, social species with lots of inter-male competition, while tigers are basically solitary, with less inter-male competition.
      There must be some ‘arms race’ going on within lions, the male gametes ‘trying’ to get as large and powerful offspring as possible (to beat rivals) while female lionesses may have some mechanisms to contain that?
      I’m sure our host, with all his vast experience with Drosophilia can expand on that.

      • Posted April 19, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Speciation-related genes differ among animal groups. In mammals, they apparently include genes subjected to genomic imprinting, that is, expressed only if they come from the father or (less often) from the mother. Drosophila, to my knowledge, lacks anything of this kind. Instead, it has a prokaryotic endosymbiont named Wolbachia whose complex relationship with its host plays a role in speciation. In some cases, interspecies hybrids are killed or made infertile by their endosymbionts.

  4. Christopher
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Add to the birthday list a happy 79th to biologist and author Berndt Heinrich.

  5. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    “My wife’s gone to the West Indies”
    “No she went of her own accord.”

    I think the Spain one is cute

    • Posted April 19, 2019 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I got that one. Can you explain Andalusia?

      • rickflick
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        Maybe, “and to lose you?”

      • Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Maybe “And a loose ear’?

        • Simon Hayward
          Posted April 19, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

          I read it as “and her loose ear”

      • Posted April 19, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        And her loose ear

    • grasshopper
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      My pony had a raspy neigh, and the vet said he was just a little hoarse.

      The pony also thought he was a Spanish riding horse. The vet diagnosed him as Andalusional.

      “Me and my wife went to Indonesia.”


      “About half way, but then she got too heavy.”

    • harrync
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Really, no one has come up with this classic yet: “I took my girl friend on holiday to Maine.” “Bangor?” “No, she is a real prude.”

  6. Serendipitydawg
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Ah Dickie Bird – my Lords faux pas still reddens my cheeks 30 years on 😀 Still, after all this time he is still the only cricket umpire whose name I know.

    Happy birthday mate!

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Do explain your Lords’ faux pas!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        I am guessing it revolves around Dickie’s love of Barnsley, Yorkshire & the blessed Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Headingley, Leeds, Yorkshire “The greatest cricket club in the world” as Dickie calls it & Lord’s Cricket Ground, down south in that there unfortunate London, which is referred to by non-Yorkshire types as “the home of cricket.”

        Yorkshire people are known to call Yorkshire “God’s own country/county.”

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted April 19, 2019 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          Well, I know all that, although of course they’ve got it wrong: Kent is God’s own county. But it doesn’t explain what Serendipitydawg’s faux pas might have been.

          Still, it does remind me of the definition of a well-balanced Yorkshireman: one with a chip on each shoulder.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 19, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            LOL re the chips. I wasn’t sure if you’re Brit hence my over-explaining.

  7. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    First up: “The Happy Cement Mixer”: Tears are streaming down my face

    Errr, no. Think about the off-axis loadings going onto the tow hitch and each hub as the wheels land. Bits – large bits – are going to come off that death trap. Then land in your windscreen. If not in your face.
    Get ahead of the vehicle and flag the driver down to an emergency stop, while your passenger calls the police.
    If the driver was filming this themself … that’s a probably ban.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      All around fail.

  8. rickflick
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I just read that Ratzinger, very conservative, released a long letter which undercuts Francis’ recent liberalizing proclamations. Just imagine the cahonas under that skirt!

    • Christopher
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I’d rather not but if you insist: Two eggs in a wrinkled handkerchief…

      I assume this letter blames all the pædophilia on liberalizing the church.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I think he mentions the Church should stop hiring gay priests. Good luck with that. A well supported estimate I saw was that the upper echelons at the Vatican are 85% gay, leading a rip-roaring gay lifestyle.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        I’d aver that it’d be two hundred-year eggs in a wrinkled altar cloth.

        When I mentioned the sexual shenanigans of cardinals and archbishops to a friend, he recommended I read “The Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli” by Ronald Firbank. Quoting someone else, “the Cardinal’s eccentricities include the baptism of pet dogs in his cathedral and a passion for choir boys.”

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        He blames everything on the Swingin’ 60s. Apparently before then Catholic priests were never paedophilic at all. Who knew?

  9. rickflick
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    If Charles Darwin croaked in 1882, that would, at least momentarily, put him in the Amphibia, which I don’t think he would mind at all.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Took me a while, but isn’t that a bit farfetched? Still a pretty one.
      The frogs in my back garden pond (a very small pond) make a lovely tinkling clicking sound (Cape river frog or Clicking stream frog, I’m not sure). My nights would be much more restless without their reassuring concerts. When they give their clicking performance, I feel there still is some hope.

      Frogs have a huge repertoire, croaking indeed, but also whistling, clicking, howling, trumpeting and much more.
      Some south African frog sounds:


      • rickflick
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        My favorite is the red toad for it’s hypermasculinity:

        • merilee
          Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          I remember hiking outside Toronto a few years ago in early Spring and the trail went between two ponds. One was seemingly full of spring peepers and the other one full of the bassos. It was like the kids’ table and the adults’ table.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        The frogs and their calls video has some of the most amazing sounds I’ve ever heard. In New York we were pleased each spring to hear the spring peepers in the woods behind the house.

        Next we’d hear the relentless gray tree frog.

  10. Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Beautiful story about the lamb and the pig! I wonder if the lamb was born blind, and if so does he ‘know’ he is? Does he ‘know’ that he’s meant to be able to see? Or, put another way, what is it like to be a bat?

  11. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    That Mae West film ‘Sex’ sounds like a great sad story (on that link).
    Talking about sex, what are the tasks of a stand-in groom exactly?

  12. Posted April 19, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Umpire Harold “Dickie” Bird. We may never see his like again. Mainly because he became famous as a test umpire in the era when the umpires were from the same country as the home team. So every summer, no matter who England were playing, Dickie Bird would be umpiring at one end of the wicket and another Englishman would be umpiring at the other end.

    The system came to an end after a few test series in which the umpires were accused of bias towards the home team. One Pakistani umpire in particular came under the spotlight and “everything came to a head. This was from an England – Pakistan match. The umpire was from Pakistan and the England player having words with him was Mike Gatting, the captain.

    Soon after that, neutral umpires were mandated for international matches and it became difficult for umpires to make a cultural impact because you’d see different ones every year.

  13. Caldwell
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink


    Can’t. Stop. Laughing. Hurts.

    • merilee
      Posted April 19, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      But what if it’s pronounced luthia?

  14. loren russell
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Love to see that mymecophile hister beetle. It’s been many years since I disrupted ant nests looking for their little pets, but did find one of the extant Hetaerius serveral times — domiciled with thatch nest Formicas if I remember correctly.

    Not surprising that histers were one of the first to enter the ant-world. The free-living ones are among the most beetly of beetles — ridiculously sturdy armor, and convenient grooves to retract their legs and antennae when under attack. The common free-living ones tend to live in dung and decaying veg matter, feeding on fly larvae, and it’s a small shift over to eating ant larvae, just going tank-mode when threatened by the nurse-ants. The chemical mimicry [or “appeasement glands” clearly evolved in the Hetaerine stem-group, and presumably makes life a lot easier. But fall-back is that they remain a tough nut to crack.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    For ants, “clown beetles” are no joke.

    As for the rice balls, I wonder if the celebration goes back to the feudal, samurai times of Japan? Rice balls on a stick – like a pin with ice cream – are depicted to tie rice field workers and/or poor people over. (Or at least today’s manga culture portray it like that.)

  16. Posted April 20, 2019 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    On rice balls: They typically have some sort of filling inside them, like salmon or crab roe or seaweed. They’re great.


    • Posted April 21, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Yes. I love rice balls. They are standard at izakaya restaurants (Japanese version of tapas). In my experience, there are two kinds: roasted and not roasted. They both come with a filling. Perhaps a little salmon or pickled veggies. The roasted ones are crispy and crunchy on the outside whereas the non-roasted ones are wrapped in a sheet of nori so you can pick it up in your hand to nibble without the rice sticking to your fingers.

  17. harrync
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    My favorite Benedict XVI story: On his old radio show, Al Franken had Father Guido Sarducci as a guest. The Father announced he was a candidate for Pope. Al asked what would be his Pontifical name. The Father says “Benedict XVII.” Al says “But there is no Benedict XVI.” The Father says “Yes, I know. That’s what makes it so cool.” And then, of course, we did have Benedict XVI. Obviously, Father Guido Sarducci could see into the future.

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