Good morning on Friday, August 7, 2020; it’s been a lovely week in Chicago with dry, cool days—a great week for ducks. No so much for Professor Ceiling Cat, who is becoming increasingly restive, peevish, and distracted with lockdown. Bear with me if posting is lighter or less substantive than usual for a short while.
We can celebrate the weather, at least, with a treat, as it’s National Raspberries and Cream Day. It’s also Braham Pie Day, named after the city that’s the pie capital of Minnesota (go here if you want to know why). The first Friday in August is Pie Day in Braham. It’s also International Beer Day, and, finally, Purple Heart Day, honoring the recipients of the eponymous medal given to those wounded in combat. (The honor was established on this day in 1782 on orders from George Washington, but the medal was not given out, nor the criteria for its award established, until 1932.)
Here’s what it looks like:
News of the Day: The good news. Eurasian Beavers (Castor fiber, not the same species as the North American beaver, which is Castor canadensis) have been extinct due to hunting in England for 400 years, and nearly went extinct all over Eurasia. They have recovered in most places, but not in old Blighty. Now, according to the Guardian, after a five-year trial, approximately 15 family groups of introduced beavers will be allowed to stay—in, of all places, the River Otter in East Devon. It’s the first legal introduction of an extinct mammal native to England. Cheers to you, beavers: may you live long and gnaw. Here’s one (h/t: Jeremy):
New York’s Attorney General is suing the National Rifle Association (NRA) charging that “years of corruption and misspending had irreparably undermined its ability to operate as a nonprofit.” The NRA is countersuing, claiming political motivation. And the attorney general of Washington D.C. is also suing the NRA for misspending millions of dollars, seeking to make changes in the organization.
The editorial board of the Washington Post has a depressing editorial about all the things that could go wrong with developing and distributing a coronavirus vaccine, “What if the coronavirus vaccine doesn’t arrive soon?” And they’re right about the problems, but the piece ends this way:
Let’s suppose it is summer of 2022, and there is still no vaccine. What would we wish we had done today? Let’s do it.
For chrissake, do these people know that we cannot DO many things we want to do today? I want to travel, you scribbling mushheads!
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 159,588, an increase of about 1000 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 713,195, an increase of about 5400 deaths from yesterday. Some predict we’ll reach 200,000 deaths by December, which seems likely.
Stuff that happened on August 7 includes:
- 1782 – George Washington orders the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It is later renamed to the more poetic Purple Heart. [See above.]
- 1786 – The first federal Indian Reservation is created by the United States.
- 1890 – Anna Månsdotter became the last woman to be executed in Sweden for the 1889 Yngsjö murder.
Månsdotter was beheaded. In Sweden!
- 1930 – The last confirmed lynching of blacks in the Northern United States occurs in Marion, Indiana; two men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, are killed.
And that horrible incident gave rise to a famous song:
In 1937 Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York City and later the adoptive father of the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, saw a copy of Beitler’s 1930 photograph. Meeropol later said that the photograph “haunted [him] for days” and inspired his poem “Bitter Fruit”. It was published in the New York Teacher in 1937 and later in the magazine New Masses, in both cases under the pseudonym Lewis Allan. Meeropol set his poem to music, renaming it “Strange Fruit”. He performed it at a labor meeting in Madison Square Garden. In 1939 it was performed, recorded and popularized by American singer Billie Holiday. The song reached 16th place on the charts in July 1939, and has since been recorded by numerous artists, continuing into the 21st century.
Here’s Billie Holiday’s immortal rendition of that song:
- 1942 – World War II: The Battle of Guadalcanal begins as the United States Marines initiate the first American offensive of the war with landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.
- 1944 – IBM dedicates the first program-controlled calculator, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (known best as the Harvard Mark I).
The Harvard Mark II thing was huge: here are the left and right sides of the computer:
- 1962 – Canadian-born American pharmacologist Frances Oldham Kelsey awarded the U.S. President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service for her refusal to authorize thalidomide.
- 1974 – Philippe Petit performs a high wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center 1,368 feet (417 m) in the air.
Here’s a short video of the 50-minute walk:
- 1987 – Lynne Cox becomes first person to swim from the United States to the Soviet Union, crossing the Bering Strait from Little Diomede Island in Alaska to Big Diomede in the Soviet Union.
- 2007 – At AT&T Park, Barry Bonds hits his 756th career home run to surpass Hank Aaron‘s 33-year-old record.
Here’s the record shot; Bonds went on to hit 762 homers in his career, but he’ll likely never get into the Hall of Fame because he used steroids. It’s dubious, to me at least, whether his home run record should even stand:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1867 – Emil Nolde, Danish-German painter and illustrator (d. 1956)
- 1876 – Mata Hari, Dutch dancer and spy (d. 1917)
- 1903 – Louis Leakey, Kenyan-English palaeontologist and archaeologist (d. 1972)
- 1904 – Ralph Bunche, American political scientist, academic, and diplomat, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1971)
- 1928 – James Randi, Canadian-American magician and author
- 1942 – Garrison Keillor, American humorist, novelist, short story writer, and radio host
- 1975 – Charlize Theron, South African actress
Here’s a lovely painting by Nolde:
Those who took the Dirt Nap on this day were few, and include these two:
- 2005 – Peter Jennings, Canadian-American journalist and author (b. 1938)
- 2012 – Judith Crist, American critic and academic (b. 1922)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili riffs on Ecclesiastes 3:
Hili: Wilderness, freedom and comfort.A: I don’t understand.Hili: There is a time for wilderness and a time to return to a warm bed.
Hili: Dzikość, wolność i komfort.Ja: Nie rozumiem.Hili: Jest czas dzikości i czas powrotu do ciepłego łóżka.
A meme from reader Bruce:
From Jesus of the Day. I make no guarantees of authenticity.
From Lori Anne: “Blame Tiktaalik”:
I tweeted! What a ridiculous situation:
This is censorship, pure and simple. The administration should be chewed out for threatening to punish anyone who depicts a situation that could endanger the health of students or teachers. https://t.co/jqVRuKd7du
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) August 6, 2020
Titania has been doing a series of tweets about things that have been deemed racist, and some of them are bat-guano insane. Number 26 includes the roundworms we discussed the other day.
THINGS THAT ARE RACIST
• Artificial intelligence
• Worms pic.twitter.com/WkD3SJf7wl
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) August 6, 2020
From Simon, who captioned this, “Choosing a postdoc based on the hotness of the field.”
This is how geologists collect lava samples from an active volcano. pic.twitter.com/SHQJwH1XB2
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) August 5, 2020
From Simon. I WANT ONE OF THESE SHIRTS! (see second tweet):
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) August 5, 2020
Here’s one of them!
— National Museum of American Jewish History (@NMAJH) August 4, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. In this first one, God doesn’t take kindly to Trump’s claim about what Biden’s election will do to him. Do listen to the blabbering. Trump, of course, is not religious at all, and I suspect that, despite his posing, he’s an atheist.
— God (@thegoodgodabove) August 6, 2020
Hugo de Vries (1848-1935), the great Dutch botanist and geneticist, was one of the rediscoverers of Mendel’s “laws” of genetics, and finally admitted the monk’s priority. Here’s a very rare sound recording of de Vries discussing his work with primroses in which he mistakenly thought chromosomal aberrations were the same phenomenon as Mendel’s pea varieties, which were based on single-gene mutations.
Wow, I had no idea that there are such recordings of Hugo de Vries and his evening primroses. https://t.co/IMk66SmJuY
— Menno Schilthuizen (@schilthuizen) August 5, 2020
A rare interview of Gary Larson that aired in 1987, 8 years before he stopped producing The Far Side (yes, he’s back again at a low level). This is well worth watching.
The Far Side 1986 Gary Larson interview on 20/20https://t.co/W107by7J5b
— Simon Singh (@SLSingh) August 4, 2020