Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Wednesday, May 22, 2019, and as you read this I’ll be heading to the airport towards a week’s R&R in Cambridge and Boston. Posting will almost certainly be lighter, but, like Maru, I do my best.

It’s National Vanilla Pudding Day, a comestible of little value; but it’s also both International Day for Biological Diversity and World Goth Day. I never got the goth thing, but here’s the origin of this celebration (from Wikipedia):

World Goth Day originated in the United Kingdom in 2009. BBC Radio 6 was looking at a number of music subcultures throughout a week in May, including Goth music. Goth DJs Cruel Britannia and Martin Oldgoth got an event up and running. It was decided that May 22 would be the day when this event would be held regularly.

Here are some goths (source here). Oy! Is this still a thing?

On this day in 1455, the Wars of the Roses began in England ;when Richard, Duke of York, defeated and captures King Henry VI of England.

And a banner day for evolution lovers. It was on May 22, 1826, that HMS Beagle set out on its its first voyage. That was to Tierra del Fuego, and the captain, Pringle Stokes, got depressed and shot himself on the trip.  The ship’s most famous voyage, with Captain Robert FitzRoy and Charles Darwin aboard, took place between 1831 and 1836. Curiously, FitzRoy also got depressed and committed suicide in 1865, cutting his throat with a razor.

On this day in 1849, the future President Abraham Lincoln was given a patent for an inflatable device to lift boats. While it was never used, Lincoln remains the only U.S. President to hold a patent. Speaking of patents, it was on May 22, 1906, that the Wright Brothers were granted U.S. patent 821,393 for a “Flying-Machine”: the very first airplane that flew. Here’s the design (it launched “patent wars” that slowed the development of aviation in America):

On this day in 1915, Mount Lassen erupted in northern California. It remains the only volcano besides Mt. St.Helens to erupt on the mainland U.S. in the twentieth century. And speaking of another natural disaster, Wikipedia reports that on this day in 1960 “the Great Chilean earthquake, measuring 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, hits southern Chile, [becoming] the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.”

Exactly four years later, President Lyndon Johnson launched the “Great Society.” On May 22, 1987, the first Rugby World Cup began with New Zealand Playing Italy at Auckland. New Zealand won.

On May 22, 2015, the Republic of Ireland became the first nation on Earth to legalize gay marriage (this was via a public referendum, and most of us remember it). Now if they’d only liberalize abortion! Finally, it was two years ago today that a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killed 22 people.

Notables born on this day include Richard Wagner (1813), Mary Cassatt (1844), Arthur Conan Doyle (1859), Laurence Olivier (1907), Sun Ra (1914), Peter Matthiessen (1927), Harvey Milk (1930), Ted Kaczynski (1942), George Best (1946), Bernie Taupin (1950), and Maggie Q (1979).

Here is a 1914 painting from Cassatt, “Young woman wearing a small winged hat holding a cat” (source: The Great Cat):

Those who died on May 22 include Martha Washington (1802), Victor Hugo (1885), Langston Hughes (1967), and Martin Gardner (2010).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has discovered yoga, which strongly resembles sharpening one’s claws:

Hili: Yoga allows full concentration.
A: Concentration on what?
Hili: And that’s the beauty of it: on nothing.
In Polish:
Hili: Joga pozwala na pełną koncentrację.
Ja: Na czym?
Hili: I to jest najpiękniejsze, na niczym.

From Nilou, we learn never to trust a fox with your stuff. This one steals a wallet, but it looks as if the guy got it back:

Tweets from Grania. The first reminds us of the million small tragedies enacted daily in nature within a few blocks of us:

This giant snowshoe cat wants its food!

Good god! I wonder if this advertisement worked. Imagine computer dating with a profile like this!

There’s a good joke here about 20 seconds in (sound on):

Grania says, “This should be everywhere.”

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is a stunning mimic: a moth evolved to look like a wasp. Reminder: it’s a MOTH!

How a cicada makes noise (sound up, of course):

Did you see the tymbals vibrate? Here’s a figure from Wikipedia showing the membrane:

Cicada tymbals: sound-producing organs and musculature. a, Body of male Cicada from below, showing cover-plates of sound-producing organs; b, From above showing tymbals (drums), natural size; c, Section showing muscles which vibrate tymbals (magnified); d, A tymbal at rest; e, Thrown into vibration (as when cicada is singing), more highly magnified.

Check out the responses in the thread below this tweet. Perhaps you have one, too.

Tweet of the week: DUCKLING RESCUE! I hope they found a pond. . .



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Science reports the largest submarine eruption :

  2. Serendipitydawg
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    As I understand it, Charles Darwin was not the naturalist aboard Beagle and was actually mainly recruited as a gentleman companion to Fitzroy because he feared that social isolation would send him mad and lead to suicide. Given his ultimate fate it seems he may have had a point!

    Shame really, as a meteorologist he financed the supply of thermometers and baroneters to many coastal areas of the UK whose daily readings allowed him to supply a weather forcast for printing by newspapers.

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Darwin was appointed by the navy to be the Beagle’s naturalist. The abstract of article documenting this can be found here:

      and a pdf of the report can be downloaded free at Google Scholar.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    The patent allowed by the Wright Brothers essentially prevented anyone else making and selling airplanes. Pretty ridiculous as shown in the example of ailerons to replace wing warping.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Same thing happened with James Watt and the development of the stationary steam engine. Held up progress for 20 years.

      Considered as a device for encouraging innovation (which is the purported primary reason for their existence) patents are a miserable failure, a gift to monopolies, an obstacle to progress and a menace to free enterprise.


      • Randall Schenck
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Also, makes a ton of money for the drug companies.

        Giving a patent for pitch, roll and yaw is like getting a patent for air. Should get a patent for the wing warp but the aileron was someone else’s invention.

        • Robert Ladley
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          In the distant past I worked for a company and my chairman was Thomas Brody Sopwith, son of Sir Thomas Sopwith. At Sir Ts 100th birthday following a flypast of a selection of aircraft that his father was involved with his son gave a talk about his fathers many aviation achievements, one of which was that he was the only aviator and person still alive to have purchased a used aeroplane from the Wright brothers, also he stopped flying before the invention of the altimeter. Sir Thomas Sopwith died a year later on January 27th 1989 aged 101. So many changes in aviation in such a short time.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            Would have been a great guy to know. My grandfather was a pioneer in aviation of sorts in Iowa. He learned to fly in 1927 and his first airplane was an American Eagle. He also flew in the national air shows in 1931 and 32. Later he ran his own airport and operated a GI school at the end of WWII teaching veterans to fly.

            • Robert Ladley
              Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              Yes indeed,I am privileged to have made his acquaintance.
              I would have liked to have met your grandfather, he must have been a very interesting person to talk to.
              Robert Ladley

        • EdwardM
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          I don’t disagree but consider that today it can cost more than a billion dollars to bring a drug to market. Patents seem a good way to cover the risk.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted May 25, 2019 at 1:38 am | Permalink

            I agree the cost of bringing a new drug to market is ludicrously exorbitant. Part of the reason for the ridiculous cost of anything associated with medicine is the threat of lawsuits and absurd damages. Control that and costs would drop dramatically.

            But anyway, patents may be justifiable for a new drug. But there is no way they should be permitted for any naturally occurring substance, or for e.g. DNA sequences.


      • rickflick
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        The Wrights were sweet boys. Blame it on the lawyers. 😎

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Actually while some of the late start in the U.S. in aviation was caused by this patent business, another contributing reason was the lack of excitement in the U.S. with their invention. The wright brothers hoped for contracts, business in the states with the government and others and received none. So they went overseas and found much better luck in Europe, specifically in France. So I would not be so quick to blame the situation on the patent war exclusively. America was slow to take to this flying thing, believe it or not.

          • W.Benson
            Posted May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            My heroes are Volvo, which in 1959 invented and then opened its patent on the three-point safety belt, and Alberto Santos-Dumont who between 1907 and 1909 developed a single-seat aircraft with modern design, the Demoiselle, weighing 110 kg, and rather than take out patents published the design in Popular Mechanics so anyone could build his own personal airplane.

        • W.Benson
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          You are being ironic? The “patent war” page cites from two letters sent by Wilber Wright to his patent lawyer in 1910: “It is not disputed that every person who is using this system [wing warping?] today owes it to us and to us alone. The French aviators freely admit it,” and, “It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal use of our system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us.” W. and O. sound like unprincipled money-grubbers to me.

          • rickflick
            Posted May 22, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

            Not ironic, certainly, but I was half joking. The boys from Dayton may have been overly aggressive in protecting their designs, but I allow them the right to be very proud and possessive of their invention. It was, after all, one of the most significant discoveries in modern machine history. It should be accepted that they would expect recognition and compensation. After all, within the legal climate, if they opted for a Santa Claus approach, someone else would grab the credit and fight like hell to keep it from anyone else.

    • Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      While I am a fan of patents, we really should allow public comment on applications before they are granted. Many software and business model patents are granted for trivial things these days that sometimes aren’t even original. Small organizations have little chance to battle the big guys once the patent is granted.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 25, 2019 at 1:29 am | Permalink

        That is the whole problem and why I say patents cause more harm than good.

        Patent applications are not sufficiently scrutinised for prior art, and patents are written far too broadly. This allows companies to use the law as a weapon to intimidate would-be competitors.

        I don’t think ‘software patents’ and ‘design patents’ should exist at all. What exactly is so unique, innovative and non-obvious about the shape of a smart phone that it can be patentable? What other shape are you going to make it?


  4. jstackpo
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Wonder if… meteorologists have a higher frustration / suicide rate than other scientists who make predictions?

    Not contemplating it for myself… professionally I got computers to take care of the weather forecasting for me (but the computers do seem to suffer a bit these days).

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Sand Mountain Sam the Possum: “wretched refuse of your teeming shore”

    • rickflick
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) was considered a southern US and Central American animal but over time it spread north. I remember seeing them in Michigan. They would quite often have some digits missing. Presumably their paws were not adapted to norther frost.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I’ve just read that they’re prone to losing frostbitten tails too. It occurs to me that they’re especially incapable of resisting the cold because their metabolisms require 1/3 the amount of food as mammals. Perhaps therefore less ‘building materials’ for replacing dead/damaged cells.

        “The metabolic rate of marsupials is lower than that of placental mammals. Opossums can enter a shallow torporous state for up to 11 hours in which body temperature drops between 11°C to 28°C”

      • W.Benson
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        I put out a little dry dog food each night for “my” opossums. They don’t eat much.

  6. Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    You have had the fox stealing a wallet up last year I think…

    I used to listen to Goth music in the 80s… it is hard to look pale & interesting in the sun.

    i put a poll on my twitter feed for #WorldGothday asking for people’s favourite Goths – I think I like Alaric best…

    • darrelle
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      I was never a Goth myself but I like some of the music and the looks.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        I keep thinking about the goth, Richmond, on the IT Crowd,

        • merilee
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          I can’t remember the Goth guy. I loved that show!

    • TJR
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Or his son Theodoric, who died valiantly in the defeat of Attila The Hun.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      For me the ultimate 80’s goth band was Bauhaus.
      Peter Murphy had a particularly creepy voice.

      • Mark R.
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Andrew Eldritch had a creepy voice too…well more deep than creepy, but to me at the time the epitome of goth vocals. But I agree that Bauhaus was the finest example of goth music.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Yep. Bauhaus was good.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      I look pale and interesting in the sun and shade without even trying.

  7. merilee
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Glad my 18-pounder doesn’t have front claws🙀

    • Dragon
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I do not recommend chopping off the equivalent of the first knuckle of cats. They are permanently maimed after doing that.

      Instead clip the tip of their claws or use Cat Claw Covers. You will need to do either periodically. I find the Cat Claw Covers are pretty effective. They are easier to put on than I expected. Best with two people.

  8. DrBrydon
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    That video of the fox doesn’t help their reputation as nuisances. I wonder if at any point while chasing the fox the man thought how nice it would be to have a horse and maybe a couple dogs to help?

  9. darrelle
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The duckling rescue is causing me some anxiety. I’m trying to help a wounded American Black Vulture right now and I’m not sure it’s going to make it. My wife came across it along the side of the ride while on a bike ride. When she got home we got together a pet carrier, towel and gloves and went back and picked it up. Unfortunately the only place we could find who would attempt to help and rehab the bird didn’t have anyone available to receive it until 11 AM today. The good news is the bird made it through the night. But I’ve no idea how long it can hold out. I’ll take off from work a little later this morning to take it to the rehab facility by 11. I hope it makes it.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Pics please! My fingers are x’d.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Here are a few pics.


        She (he?) tried to bite me this morning when I checked on her, so that seems like a good indicator.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          Thanks, please post more when you know what ails your vulture.

          • darrelle
            Posted May 22, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            I think rickflick’s guess is pretty good, probably hit by a car. It appears to have a broken leg, but I can’t be sure. It’s wings seem fine.

            I got the bird to the rehab place and they’ve taken it in. The woman who I spoke with said it would take some time to evaluate the bird and be able to offer a guess as to the likelihood of recovery. She also explained that the state (Florida, USA) regulates what they are allowed to do. For example, if the leg should need to be amputated above the knee they would be required to euthanize the bird.

            I’ll keep in touch with the rehab place and hopefully we’ll know something in a few days.

            • rickflick
              Posted May 22, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

              I would hope the regulations are based on outcome statistics and are designed to prevent undue suffering.

              • darrelle
                Posted May 23, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

                I’m pretty sure that’s the intent, or at least one of them. I think another intent of such regulations is to prevent people from making pets of wild animals. It’s a big no-no to keep most wild animals in captivity for any reason. Even if they are wounded it is technically illegal to keep them, even just to try and rehab them, unless you have specific permission from the state. And if it turns out that the animal is so debilitated that it is very unlikely to survive in the wild on its own and you want to keep it in captivity to care for it for the rest of its life, you have to get special permission for that too. They want to discourage people from using this as an excuse or loophole to keep wild animals.

        • Mark R.
          Posted May 22, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          Beautiful bird, good on you for trying to save it. Keep us informed.


    • merilee
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink


    • rickflick
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Sounds like a car hit it. I hope it recovers.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 22, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that seems very likely. Appears to be a broken leg.

  10. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Ireland was not the first nation on Earth to legalize gay marriage. Considering Europe alone, the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Denmark (2012), France (2013) and the UK (2014) did it before Ireland.

    • Dominic
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      I think we should ban marriage as a state recognised institution!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Jerry should have written something like this: “Ireland becomes first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote” – then he would be correct.

  11. Robert Ladley
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I dont think that Ireland was the first to legalise same sex marriage. I believe that it was the Netherlands and i know that Canada legalised this in 2005, federally with some provinces earlier.

  12. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    That 2009 Goths link is bollocks – it’s as if the writer never met any…

    Here’s a couple of Brum Goths getting wed in 2016 – I’ve chosen the pic that shows their Sphynx kitties. A complete set of pics is HERE


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      And Goths Spig & Jo’s Brum wedding last year


  13. Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink


  14. TJR
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Just don’t start an argument about the difference between World Goth Day and World Emo Day.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    “What the president does isn’t illegal.”

  16. Jenny Haniver
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    After reading about Scheele’s green in a previous post, I cannot look at an 18th century picture where people wear green clothing or there is green in the wallpaper without shuddering. So it is with that Cassatt painting.

    That precious ‘possum must be terrified of all the human attention, but I love it when they pose like that with their mouths open.

  17. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 22, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Possum sings, 🎶She’s ferocious and she knows just….

  18. Posted May 25, 2019 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what exactly Lincoln patented and whether it was really useful. Does anyone have details about his patent?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 25, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Lincoln’s patent: the googles & it was not applied in real life by all accounts.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 25, 2019 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        The mechanic that helped Abe with his invention said, “Although I regarded the thing as impracticable I said nothing, probably out of respect for Lincoln’s well-known reputation as a boatman.”
        He must have been so sincere and so enthusiastic, who would want to let Abe down?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted May 28, 2019 at 6:43 am | Permalink

          Abe is a bit of a bore – we need more politicians who bore

          • rickflick
            Posted May 28, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

            Let’s face it, most of government IS boring, except for the occasional moon shot. I’m sure a big reason DT won in ’16 was that he was not boring (to many), while Hillary epitomizes dull, bureaucratic competence. People should be carefully taught to have patience with the slow pace of progress and to keep excitement where it belongs,…[your favorite pastime goes here].

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