Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s Saturday, April 20, 2019, and the weekend has begun. It’s National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day, a cake that I dearly love but haven’t had in years. Where can I get one? It’s also UN Chinese Language Day. Why today? Wikipedia notes that “April 20 was chosen as the date “to pay tribute to Cangjie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago”.

On April 30, 1535, a “sun dog”—multiple images of the Sun, as well as lines and circles of light produced by refracting light crystals in the atmosphere—was observed over Stockholm. It was commemorated in the well known (and lost) painting Vädersolstavlan, painted by Urban målare shortly after the event and now represented in a 1636 copy by by Jacob Heinrich Elbfas, with the long caption (below) from Wikipedia:

17th century painting of Stockholm, a copy of the so called Vädersolstavlan, depicting a halo display event in 1535. Cleaned in 1998. The visible haloes are: 22 ° halo, at upper right (should be centered on the Sun) parhelic circle, large white circle (centered on the zenith: appears ‘horizontal’ in the sky) parhelia including 2 sundogs, 2 120° parhelia and the anthelion (dots on the parhelic circle, resp. nearest to farthest from the Sun) upper tangent arc and possible Parry arc (2 crossing arcs just left of the 22° halo (actually ‘above’ the 22°, in the sky); not realistically shown) circumzenithal arc, smaller crescent inside the parhelic circle (also centered on the zenith: appears ‘horizontal’, high in the sky) infralateral arc (bottom right) Note that the whole sky appears strongly tilted in the image: the upper right corner is actually down in the sky (when looking towards the Sun), the zenith is at the center of the circumzenithal arc and parhelic circle. This may result from the artist’s choice to represent the display in a realistic orientation relative to the landscape: in this case the sun would have shone from 3/4 back to the right of an observer facing the city. The relative brightnesses of the haloes are quite accurate.

Here’s a tweet showing a real sun dog:

On this date in 1775, during the American Revolutionary War, the British began the Siege of Boston after the battles of Lexington and Concord. They failed to take the city. On this day in 1861, Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to command the Army of Virginia (he later commanded the entire Army of the Confederacy).

On April 30 of 1862, Pasteur and Bernard finished their experiment (involving flasks of boiled meat broth exposed to particles in the air or unexposed or sealed) disproving the notion of spontaneous generation.  On this day in 1898, U.S. President William McKinley signed a resolution to Congress that began the Spanish-American War. In 1902 Pierre and Marie Curie isolated radium chloride, the first compound of radium produced in its pure state.

On April 30 1916, our Chicago Cubbies played their first game in Wrigley Field (then known as Weeghman Park), beating the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 in 11 innings. Exactly two years later, the Red Baron (Manfred von Richtofen), shot down his last two planes—his 79th and 80th—before being shot in an air battle the next day, effecting a rough landing before dying of his wounds. Here’s his famous Fokker Dr1 (it was red):

On April 20, 1945, according to Wikipedia, “Twenty Jewish children used in medical experiments at Neuengamme are killed in the basement of the Bullenhuser Damm school.”  These gruesome experiments involved injecting children and Russian prisoners of war with tuberculosis bacteria (they all became ill). As the war wound down, they were killed, and the method of their killing (and experimentation) shows how horrible the Nazis were. Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the killing:

The children as well as others were told they were being taken to Theresienstadt. Upon arriving at the school they were led into the basement. According to one of the SS men present, the children “sat down on the benches all around and were cheerful and happy that they had been for once allowed out of Neuengamme. The children were completely unsuspecting.”

They were then made to undress and were then injected with morphine by Trzebinski. They were then led into an adjacent room and hanged from hooks set into the wall. The execution was overseen by SS Obersturmführer Arnold Strippel. [JAC: Strippel served only 3.5 years for his war crimes and even got a pension.] The first child to be hanged was so light that the noose would not tighten. Frahm grabbed him in a bearhug and used his own weight to pull down and tighten the noose. The adults were hanged from overhead pipes; they were made to stand on a box, which was pulled away from under them. That same night, about 30 additional Soviet prisoners were also brought by lorry to the school to be executed; six escaped, three were shot trying to do so, and the rest were hanged in the basement.

On this day in 1961, the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba came to an end, an utter failure. And if you watched the news, you’d know that today is the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine School massacre, in which two kids killed 13 people and injured 24 others in Columbine High school before they committed suicide. Finally, it was on this day in 2010 that the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were killed and there was a massive oil spill that lasted six months.

Notables born on April 20 include Adolf Hitler (1889), Joan Miró, (1893), Willi Hennig (1913), John Paul Stevens (1920), George Takei (1937), and Jessica Lange (1949). Here’s a Miró painting called “Cats”:

Those who died on this day include Bram Stoker (1912), Benny Hill (1992), Cantinflas (1993), and the 13  murdered at Columbine High (1999, that doesn’t include the two killers, who themselves committed suicide).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is part of the Feline Dark Web:

Hili: The night was wonderful but now it’s time for rest.
A: And what did you do?
Hili: Allow me to keep this information to myself.
In Polish:
Hili: Noc była wspaniała, a teraz trzeba odpocząć.
Ja: A co robiłaś?
Hili: Pozwolisz, że zachowam tę informację dla siebie.

A tweet from reader Barry, who’s amazed by the existence of gremlins. This one is kneading its Precious:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie via Ann German. The first shows why raccoons are Honorary Cats®:

I’m not a big fan of the modern National Geographic, but the linked article about Notre Dame and its video about laser measurement is really quite fascinating:

Tweets from Grania. You have to admit that the comment on this first one is funny (but there’s truth behind it—go here):

No bad cats!

My restored faith in humanity has been de-restored:

Tweets from Matthew. The first video is a winner for sure. And remember that Down Under they sell chocolate Easter Bilbies rather than Easter Bunnies.

A really nice video of an alate:

I haven’t been to a Passover seder in decades, but this guide for the Perplexed and Impatient would come in handy:


  1. Posted April 20, 2019 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    The WEIT post about WordPress and Pakistan, that I received by email, is currently not showing up on this site.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      Sometimes happens. Jerry didn’t mean to publish it – the Hili Dialogue is always first post of the day in WEITland.

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Jerry. Making Pineapple Upside Down Cake is a piece of cake! Besides the very basic ingredients you need an unfancy baking tin & an oven. If you’re feeling lazy buy cake mix & use a food processor.

    It’s 10 mins labour tops: RECIPE

    • David Harper
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      I made this in cookery class in school when I was 13 years old. It’s simple and delicious.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    So much happened on this day it makes the head spin. Not long after the fighting started in Massachusetts a great feat of transportation was begun and you can read about it here:

    This ended the British time in Boston for good.

  4. David Harper
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The book “Rainbows, Halos and Glories” by Robert Greenler (Cambridge University Press, 1980) explains all of the optical phenomena produced by rain or ice refracting sunlight, and it contains many colour photographs to illustrate them. It’s been out of print for a number of years, but second-hand copies can be found. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about these intriguing and beautiful phenomena.

    • Debbie Coplan
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this recommendation. This book looks good. I just checked it out on Amazon.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    A fine example of MARTENSIAN MIMICRY: A predatory Fokker DR1 disguises itself as an obviously harmless flying zebra to get the drop on the RFC chaps – bad form old boy!


    And yes, I know.

  6. Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    In case you forgot, Snoopy shot down the Red Baron:

    The only time “Baron Richthofen” is used as a lyric:

    Not sure which is better, cloning woolley mammoths or great dead artists?

    Do raccoons ride on the back of Roombas?

    Closest thing I could find:

    If you could train a raccoon to clean a cat litter box then you’ve got something.

    • Peter Taylor
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      And there was I thinking it was Captain Flashheart of the RFC wot killed him…

  7. 355101pkl
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    your reminder of what happened on this day at Neuengamme was chilling. My father spent six years in the British Army fighting the Nazis. He saw Himmlers body lying in the open at Lunenberg Heath after he took poison. Himler and Hitler both died by their own hands. My dads own hands sent the message to Reuters news agency on May 8th 1945 from that location that the war was over. Those who think that Nazi ideas have some value should look down at their own hands and let it remind them that you can’t wash the blood off.

    • Historian
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Fascism is a virus that can never be eradicated; it can only be placed in a dormant state with the possibility that it could break out at any time and become more virulent than ever. Attenuated versions that we now see in many countries could easily grow more dangerous. Why is fascism always a danger? It is because people don’t learn history, or learn distorted versions, or don’t care. In my view, democracy, as an alternative to fascism, is always in a precarious state, even in countries with a democratic tradition. My cynical view is that most people don’t consider democracy as an ideal of governance. Rather, they will endorse any type of government that affords them benefits. Elections, free speech, and the accoutrements of civil liberties and democracy are not really important. The benefits people want from government are not necessarily economic. They want government to afford them a sense of personal worth, which often emerges when other people or groups are viewed as inferior or threats. Nazism is the extreme example of this where “ordinary” people were complicit in the murder of millions.

      We live in a world where a STEM education is promised as the road to a successful life. People who have such an education that is devoid of any meaningful introduction to the humanities sets the stage for terrible things. The law of unintended consequences comes into play here. Although history never repeats itself exactly, there are patterns that serve to illuminate the present. If the educated elite doesn’t understand what the past can teach us, along with the toxic brew of tribalism that now infects so many societies, demagogues emerge as leaders. The world may be getting better by objective measurements, but such developments seem to have little impact on reducing the threats to democracy. Those who desire to see a tolerant and democratic world should not give up the fight. All is not yet lost. But, they must understand that the war is NEVER over.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        Of course a representative democracy is somewhat the type we have it was not specifically intended to be our form in the beginning. Democracy was not a word the founders used and most thought poorly of it. This makes it so surprising to me that the word is thrown around so much today as exactly what we have or what the founders intended. It is really a joke in some ways and certainly not the idea in mind back in 1787. Just another example of our poor american education I guess.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Fuckin’-A, well put (as they used to say in my old neighborhood), Historian.

        The virus you speak of generally manifests itself as a cultural populism of one kind or another, and has always run at least a low-grade fever in this nation. It’s come uncomfortably close on occasion to getting its grip on national power — George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Huey Long, William Jennings Bryan’s third and final run for the presidency, going all the way back to the “Know-Nothings” of the mid-19th century.

        But it has never until now had its fingers wrapped around the throat of the highest office in the Land.

      • Posted April 20, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        I am afraid that the “meaningful introduction to humanities” is becoming more and more difficult to find (I mean developments such as at Williams College).

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    National Geographic: Self described “Art Historian”? Or a NatGeo description? Anyway Andrew Tallon is shockingly wrong in the video in thinking the outward curve of the columns is to aim for imperfection – to not challenge the gods. That did happen in sacred buildings, but usually on a small scale in little details.

    What’s going on here is the use of a perspective trick called ENTASIS that dates back to at least the ancient Egyptians. It’s a correction introduced into drawings, paintings & architecture to balance out the apparent illusory curve in very long, but absolutely straight lines.

    If you look at the top edges of a very wide set of steps from some distance away they appear to bulge upwards in the middle so one builds a down curve into the length of the step [this is done in the stepped base of some classical temples]. It works vertically too – one can make columns [or spaces between columns] look straighter by curving the columns. It is also a way of making columns look taller than they really are.


    In the Cathédrale Notre Dame d’Amiens, the soaring nave features a spreading of the nave columns outward to compensate for the vertical perspective convergence when seen from below. Notice how the upper portions of the nave columns actually start to lean outwards. “The measures establish the fact that the inclinations are practically uniform throughout the nave and choir, although the wall measures average a little less than those of the piers … The constructive strain is entirely carried by the piers, and their leans are the ones to be considered, especially as the entire inclinations, from pavement to vaulting, are related to these measures for the piers.”

    Goodyear also states, “It appears probable that the diverging piers at the crossing of Notre-Dame [de Paris] were noticed by Viollet-le-Duc, but that the true amount of the divergence was not apprehended by him, just as the divergence at Amiens escaped his notice entirely.” This fact demonstrates that the purpose of the refinement was to remain invisible to the eye.

  9. BJ
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Everyone in my family is a completely secular Jew, but we use the big holidays as excuses to get together. I’ve run the Seder for the last 20 or so years. It’s come to be called “BJ’s famous ten-minute Seder.” I do everything in Hebrew, but I skip all the crap and just do a few of the blessings and include the bitter herbs, saltwater parsley, charosset sandwiches, and hiding of the afikoman, while the youngest capable person does the Four Questions. Oh, and we read off the plagues and sing Dayenu because it’s fun. No more prayers once dinner has started!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Gut Yontiff!

      • BJ
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink


  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Former SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens is 99 today. Stevens, who retired in 2010, was the last member of the WW2 “greatest generation” to sit on the Court, and the last member of the Court to have served in the US military at all (something that had been done by nearly all men of his generation who were mentally fit and physically able).

    Stevens was appointed by Republican president Gerald Ford, and was initially considered a centrist — even a bit of a “wild card,” given his somewhat idiosyncratic legal views. He ended his tenure on the bench as perhaps the Court’s staunchest liberal, both because his views had moved steadily to the Left (a not uncommon occurrence among conservative justices, often to the consternation of the Republican presidents who appointed them) and because the Court itself had moved decidedly to the Right, having been packed with conservative justices by Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes.

    • Historian
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      There certainly has been a tradition of conservative judges moving to the Left. Earl Warren comes to mind. However, there have been some who moved in the opposite direction. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that Byron “Whizzer” White and Felix Frankfurter fall into this category.

      In any case, we are now much less likely to see justices migrate on the political spectrum due to how closely they are vetted. I would be very surprised to see Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh or Gorsuch undergo an ideological transformation. Scalia did not. On a few occasions, Roberts may vote with the liberal block, but he is still a staunch conservative. The same goes for the liberal justices.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Yeah, the conservatives’ decades of disappointment with supposedly conservative Republican picks moving to Leftward — we can add to the list Eisenhower’s pick of William Brennan, Nixon’s picks of Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, and Poppy’s pic of David Souter — has led to a system where no Republican president will select someone who’s been thoroughly vetted by a right-wing think tank like the Federalist Society, and who’s been on the federal appellate bench for at least a couple years, so as to have a proven voting record living up to their conservative-credentialed billing.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        I dunno about Kavanaugh’s ideology, he strikes me as an alcoholic that doesn’t care very much either way, now that he’s gotten ‘tenure’. I noted he voted against some state anti-abortion law (can’t remember the details), something quite unexpected.
        Beers for Brett!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 20, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          I think Kavanaugh is solidly anti-abortion, Nicolaas, based on his right-wing provenance and his past performance on the appellate bench. I also think the US rightwing is hellbent on a full frontal assault on Roe v. Wade. They may soon force it on the Court, given the alacrity with which many states have been passing laws restricting abortion access since the confirmation of Trump’s pair of SCOTUS appointees. The future of reproductive rights in America may hinge upon how much of an institutionalist Chief Justice Roberts is regarding the preservation of the integrity of the Court that bears his name — a thin reed on which to hang our hopes.

          But I think if Trump thinks he can count on the loyal support of his appointees if a battle breaks out over, say, disclosure of his tax returns or over his administration’s refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena — well, then, I think he’s got another think coming. The Court’s two unanimous decisions against Nixon and Clinton — including by their own appointees — on similar issues looms large in the justices’ psyches (and in Supreme Court lore) when it comes to this nation’s ultimate founding principle that (as the saying goes) “no man is above the law.”

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

            In fact he sided with Robert’s and the ‘progressive’ judges not to review the decision by lower courts in Louisiana and Kansas prohibiting legislation to defund Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding.
            Of course, not being an expert, I’m not sure how much to read in that. But still…

  11. Posted April 20, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Regarding the mystery of the skeleton, a classic from the Onion:

    Archaeological Dig Uncovers Ancient Race Of Skeleton People

  12. Roger
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder when spontaneous generation will make a comeback. Flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers need some new cool hip people to hang out with.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      It’s boring & nasty of late – the spontaneous combustion gig would be light relief.

      Holocaust denial is in resurgence along with glorification of those mythical beasts: the honourable Waffen-SS & honourable Wehrmacht both of whom [of course] knew nothing of the slave labourers & worse. I suspect the popularity of this shit relates to the striking & somewhat Village People looking uniforms & the World of Tanks massively multiplayer online game that’s been thriving for 10 years & currently has 700k? subscribers [men & boys & boy-men basement dwellers].

      I would like to see more of the ancient space alien lunatics, but the History Channel isn’t trying hard enough to push it. Electric Universe was peaking last year & has noticeably slowed down since Christmas.

      Women/feminism hatred is doing well, but that’s a hardy perennial.

  13. murali
    Posted April 20, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    The ‘sun dog’ is a miracle. It is what Constantine saw before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. I thibnk symbolizes Chrst’s ascent to heaven.

  14. Posted April 21, 2019 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Slight typo – barely worth mentioning: Manfred von Richthofen

%d bloggers like this: