Well, it’s Monday again: the third of February, 2020. It was lovely, warm and sunny in Chicago yesterday, but it’s back to cold weather this week. But with highs around freezing, that isn’t cold for Chicago. It’s National Carrot Cake Day, celebrating the only vegetable-based dessert I like, especially with cream-cheese frosting (don’t mention the odious zucchini cake).
Other celebrations today: Elmo’s Birthday (from the Muppets), American Painters Day (celebrated on the day Norman Rockwell was born in 1894), International Golden Retriever Day, and The Day the Music Died (it was on this day that Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash in 1959, an incident that gave rise to Don McLean’s 1971 song).
And it’s Four Chaplains Day, marking the day in 1943 when four chaplains—including Methodist minister Reverend George L. Fox, Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister Reverend Clark V. Poling—were aboard a troopship that was torpedoed in the North Atlantic. There weren’t enough lifeboats or lifejackets for everyone, so the four helped as many as they could into the lifeboats, gave their lifejackets to those who lacked them, and then, as the ship went down, stood on deck, linked arms, sang, and prayed. They were good men, and here they are:
There was a 3-cent stamp in their honor issued in 1948, and I had it in my stamp collection when I was a boy:
News of the Day: the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-20 last night in America’s most commercialized sporting event. It was apparently a thriller, with the Chiefs scoring three touchdowns in the last 6½ minutes, giving Kansas City its first Superbowl in 50 years. I did not watch it. Here’s a 7-minute video of the game highlights.
Stuff that happened on January 3 includes:
- 1690 – The colony of Massachusetts issues the first paper money in the Americas.
- 1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
- 1913 – The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
- 1933 – Adolf Hitler announces that the expansion of Lebensraum into Eastern Europe, and its ruthless Germanisation, are the ultimate geopolitical objectives of Third Reich foreign policy.
- 1943 – The SS Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survive. [See above; this is the ship that carried the Four Chaplains.]
- 1959 – Rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
- 1971 – New York Police Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a drug bust in Brooklyn and survives to later testify against police corruption.
You may recall the movie “Serpico,” with Al Pacino in the starring role. Here’s Frank Serpico today, still with us at 83:
- 1972 – The first day of the seven-day 1972 Iran blizzard, which would kill at least 4,000 people, making it the deadliest snowstorm in history.
Entire villages were wiped out, and inhabitants died by being buried in their homes by snow, which reached as high as ten feet in some areas. Here’s a photo:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1809 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1847)
- 1821 – Elizabeth Blackwell, American physician and educator (d. 1910)
- 1874 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright, (d. 1946)
- 1894 – Norman Rockwell, American painter and illustrator (d. 1978)
Since it’s American Painters Day, honoring Rockewell and others, here’s one of his most famous paintings, “The Problem We All Live With“, depicting a moment in the Civil Rights struggle. Painted in 1964, it has this description on Wikipedia:
It depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, on her way to William Frantz Elementary School, an all-white public school, on November 14, 1960, during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis. Because of threats and violence against her, she is escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals; the painting is framed such that the marshals’ heads are cropped at the shoulders. On the wall behind her is written the racial slur “nigger” and the letters “KKK”; a smashed and splattered tomato thrown against the wall is also visible. The white protesters are not visible, as the viewer is looking at the scene from their point of view. The painting is oil on canvas and measures 36 inches (91 cm) high by 58 inches (150 cm) wide.
The racial slur would certainly not be allowed to be exhibited today, and that’s sad because it depicts the reality of the segregationist South.
- 1920 – Henry Heimlich, American physician and author (d. 2016)
Those who popped off on February 3 include:
- 1924 – Woodrow Wilson, American historian, academic, and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
- 1959 – The Day the Music Died
- The Big Bopper, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1930)
- Buddy Holly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1936)
- Ritchie Valens, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1941)
- 1961 – Anna May Wong, American actress (b. 1905)
- 1985 – Frank Oppenheimer, American physicist and academic (b. 1912)
- 2005 – Ernst Mayr, German-American biologist and ornithologist (b. 1904)
I celebrate once more Mayr’s tremendous influence on both evolutionary biology and my own career, despite the fact that he made some scientific missteps, most notably promoting the idea of “founder effect speciation.” But his books helped made me an evolutionary biologist, and one interested in speciation. I wrote two pieces honoring him, one in Evolution while he was still alive, and the other a postmortem appreciation in Science.
Mayr as I remember him, courtesy of the Ernst Mayr Library at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is kvetching because Malgorzata not only spiced the meat for dinner, but fried it, rendering it inedible to the Princess.
Hili: You’ve spoiled all the meat again!Małgorzata: I’ve left a raw piece for you.Hili: Probably a very small one.
Hili: Znowu zniszczyłaś całe mięso!
Małgorzata: Zostawiłam dla ciebie surowy kawałek.
Hili: Pewnie bardzo mały.
From Jesus of the Day. I think I need one of these to complement my Jesus Cat tea towel:
Reader Terry called my attention to an article reporting that the Daily Express was conned into thinking that there was a new British passport. But there wasn’t. Have a look at what the Daily Express published—and missed:
OMFG I'm pissing myself laughing
LOOK WHAT PHOTO OF THE 'BLUE PASSPORT' THEY USED 🤣 pic.twitter.com/s6Ol6Fekg3
— Michael Szydlo (@MichaelSzydlo) January 23, 2020
And the source of the hamster quote:
Yes, it's a quote from Monty Python pic.twitter.com/S65u5Qyo6E
— Michael Szydlo (@MichaelSzydlo) January 23, 2020
Reader Barry found this impressive tweet showing head stabilization in yet another bird. Natural selection came up with the steady-cam before humans did.
Natural selection builds mechanisms that human engineers still struggle to match. Exhibit A: The neural structures underpinning head stabilization in this hawk. (Head stabilization has the same function as image stabilization in cameras: to maintain a steady view despite motion.) pic.twitter.com/G5fGDdJrdk
— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) February 2, 2020
Two tweets from Heather Hastie. First, an “earth ball” made by a badger:
Well I’ve learnt something new today! I’ve never seen an Earth ball how interesting 😮🐾🐾❤️ pic.twitter.com/xAq4lrFwMN
— Mr Lumpy & Friends (@LumpyandFriends) January 23, 2020
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Tweets from Matthew. I am lucky to have been alive when the photos in the first tweet were taken.
This panorama was captured by @MarsCuriosity’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, which took the images in November 2017, during a period of clear skies just before the winter solstice in Mars’ northern hemisphere https://t.co/6MNccu6GQQ pic.twitter.com/7eVddvalek
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) February 2, 2020
Short but sweet:
They should make Groundhog Day 2 and just release the same film again.
— Mooseltoe Ꙭ (@MooseAllain) March 1, 2017
A thousand-bed hospital in two weeks! You have to credit the Chinese, even though they were slow to come to grips with the coronavirus crisis.
China has completed construction of #Wuhan's 1st special coronavirus hospital, Huoshenshan Hospital.
It has 1000 beds.
President has approved 1400 military medical personnel to work there.
The hospital is ready today.
It will receive patients from tomorrow.
ALL this in 2weeks. pic.twitter.com/T4g8tauLgY
— #OurFavOnlineDoc 🩺🇳🇬🇬🇧💎 (@DrOlufunmilayo) February 2, 2020