Well, 2020 is under way: it’s Thursday, the second of January, and I suspect most Americans with jobs will be taking today and tomorrow off. It’s National Buffet Day, though perhaps gorging yourself is not best to end the holiday season—or start your New Year’s resolutions) . It’s the Ninth Day of Christmas, too (nine ladies dancing).
Finally, it’s Happy Mew Year for Cats Day!
Stuff that happened on January 2 includes:
- 366 – The Alemanni cross the frozen Rhine in large numbers, invading the Roman Empire.
- 1905 – Russo-Japanese War: The Russian garrison surrenders at Port Arthur, China.
- 1967 – Ronald Reagan, past movie actor and future President of the United States, is sworn in as Governor of California.
- 1974 – United States President Richard Nixon signs a bill lowering the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 MPH in order to conserve gasoline during an OPEC embargo.
- 1981 – One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, is arrested in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Sutcliffee, below, resembled Jack the Ripper in specializing in killing prostitutes and mutilating their bodies. He was convicted of murdering 13 women and sentenced to 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment, later changed to the British punishment of “whole life order”, equivalent to the U.S. sentence of life without parole. He remains in prison in Durham.
- 1991 – Sharon Pratt Kelly becomes the first African American woman mayor of a major city and first woman Mayor of the District of Columbia.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1886 – Apsley Cherry-Garrard, English explorer and author (d. 1959)
Cherry-Garrard, who wrote one of the world’s best adventure books, The Worst Journey in the World, was a member of Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. “The worst journey” wasn’t really the entire expedition, nor Scott’s fatal assault on the South Pole, but the foot journey of Cherry-Garrard and two mates to an emperor penguin colony in hopes of getting penguin eggs. The motivating theory was that penguins were the most primitive of all birds, Emperors the most primitive of all penguins, and, because “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, emperor penguin embryos might show evidence of scales developing into feathers (at that time it wasn’t certain that birds descended from reptilian ancestors). The flaws of the theory, not known at the time, were that penguins are not especially primitive birds—they’re secondarily flightless and are related to fulmars—and feathers did not evolve from scales. The men recovered five eggs but broke two of them; not much was ever done with the others, which still repose on London’s Museum of Natural history. (This story figures in my lecture on “The science of the Scott expedition.”)
The journey was awful because it took place in the Antarctic winter, when Emperor penguins produce their eggs. It was totally dark and terribly cold and windy (temperatures were about -40°, and the men almost died (they lost their tent before recovering it, and their teeth shattered because of the cold). The three were gone from Cape Evans for nearly five weeks. Here are photos taken the day the left, and then only a short time after they returned.
June 27, 1911: The men set off (left to right: Henry Bowers, Edward Wilson, who died with Scott, and Cherry-Garrard:
August 1, 2011: Right after return. The half-dead men have noms at the Cape Evans Station:
And the eggs:
Here are the wonderful closing words of Cherry-Garrard’s book, a passage I read at the end of my talk. It almost breaks me up because it’s lovely (he was a very good writer) and expresses so well the passion for pure science:
And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.
If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery.
Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, “What is the use?” For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year.
And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: that is worth a good deal. If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin’s egg.
Cherry-Garrard served in the Great War after returning from Antarctica, and spent much of the later part of his life bedridden from depression and PTSD. He wrote his book partly as a way to help him with his mental problems. Do read it if you love adventure stories.
- 1909 – Barry Goldwater, American politician, businessman, and author (d. 1998)
- 1920 – This birthday isn’t even listed in Wikipedia (h/t: Matthew Cobb):
Today, January 2, 100 years ago, was born a giant of Science Fiction, a Professor of Biochemistry who in his marvellous fiction coined the 3 Laws of Robotics, founded The Foundation, and navigated the Galactic Empire: Isaac Asimov. https://t.co/bmVPbNoHLb https://t.co/7WYHcgirFK
— Yadin Dudai 🏴🔥🏴 (@yadindudai) January 2, 2020
- 1936 – Roger Miller, American singer-songwriter, musician, and actor (d. 1992)
- 1940 – Jim Bakker, American televangelist
- 1969 – Christy Turlington, American model
Those who decamped from life on January 2 include:
- 1953 – Guccio Gucci, Italian businessman and fashion designer, founder of Gucci (b. 1881)
- 1977 – Erroll Garner, American pianist and composer (b. 1921)
- 2019 – Daryl Dragon, American musician (b. 1942)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, a Polish local who now works in Ireland returned for the holidays, and of course was photographed with Hili:
Hili: What language do cats in Ireland speak?Justyna: English but with a local accent.
Hili: W jakim języku mówią koty w Irlandii?
Justyna: Po angielsku, ale z lokalnym akcentem.
From Jesus of the Day:
Cat narcissism from Meriliee:
Titania McGrath has Resolutions (or rather, Resolutions That She Demands You Make; read the article):
— The Critic (@TheCriticMag) December 31, 2019
Two tweets from Heather Hastie via Ann German. First, a highly adorable kitten who must sleep with its toy:
Kitten can't sleep without her favorite toy 💞 pic.twitter.com/tqK2VShZsB
— The Dodo (@dodo) December 26, 2019
Republicans for the Rule of Law? Now that’s unexpected! (Sound up.)
"The witnesses must testify." This ad from Republicans for the Rule of Law is up in the states of key GOP senators; it will run on Fox nationally Monday. pic.twitter.com/eXUdnSBymr
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 28, 2019
Five tweets from Matthew Cobb. I’ll show three from the first thread, but there are more. Of these first three he writes:
Thread of great vids (more to come) – click in the link. The monkeys diving is probably my favourite.
I love collecting animal videos that show off that they have feelings and emotions and weird cognitive abilities, here are a few I've found in the past few months
Here's a frustrated and exasperated raccoon
MERRY CHRISTMAS pic.twitter.com/cmSkbFIriK
— Adam J Calhoun (@neuroecology) December 25, 2018
Here are some monkeys jumping off a diving board BECAUSE IT'S FUN pic.twitter.com/6QcRoZw97U
— Adam J Calhoun (@neuroecology) December 25, 2018
This is very sweet:
New beginnings. pic.twitter.com/rUm40yR5RN
— YorkshireShepherdess (@AmandaOwen8) January 1, 2020
And Matthew says this about the last tweet:
These lovely millipedes in the thread aren’t bioluminescent but are fluorescing under UV Light. Lots of terrestrial arthropods do this (including scorpions and harvestmen), but we have no idea if it’s an adaptation or a spandrel (the latter is my guess).
So my backyard is full of glowy millipedes pic.twitter.com/SlCTaSDlpL
— Damaris Brisco 🐌 (@Fungal_Love) January 1, 2020