Well, we got through Wednesday, and now there’s only one day to the weekend (but does it mean anything any more?). Welcome to Thursday, August 20, 2020: National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. While that’s an estimable pie, I prefer the version sans chocolate.
And I’ll be damned if it isn’t National Bacon Lover’s Day—again (it was also that day on August 18). The apostrophe, however, implies that only a single Bacon Lover is being feted, so perhaps there are “Bacon Lover’s Days” scattered throughout the year. It’s also National Lemonade Day, National Radio Day, and World Mosquito Day, celebrating the day in 1897 when Ronald Ross discovered that malaria was transmitted from bird to bird via the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes (he extrapolated the work to humans). It was in fact Ross who declared this day World Mosquito Day. For this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in 1902—the first Brit to win a Nobel Prize of any sort.
And it’s a Darwin Anniversary Day (see below).
News of the Day: Last night at the Democratic National Convention, Kamala Harris accepted the nomination as Vice President, and Obama made an important speech, flagellating Trump not only to help Biden win but to reclaim Obama’s own legacy. A transcript of his 20-minute speech is here; I haven’t yet listened to it, but I’ve put the video below. (I’m at work now and listening to it. It’s great to hear a sane President again!) “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job—because he can’t.”
I’ve now heard it, and it was very good, hitting all the right notes. If ever anyone made a calm and rational case for dumping the idiot who sits in the White House, it’s Obama in this speech.
I’m now listening to Kamala Harris’s speech, which you can find here.
The protests continue against dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s apparently bogus election in Belarus. The EU, fed up, has rejected Lukashenko’s election and imposed financial sanctions on government officials deemed guilty of mistreating protestors and rigging the election.
Postalgate continues, despite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s assurance that mail sorting machines were not being removed from post offices. Yet there are lots of photos of disassembled high-speed sorters being warehoused. On the news last night, some post office employees averred that the machines were in perfect working order when they were removed. This, to me, is a criminal offense and an attempt to subvert the upcoming election.
Speaking of subversion, NYT writer Thomas Friedman seriously worries that November’s election will spell the end of American democracy. I think he’s over the top here, but here’s what he says:
Here is a sentence I never in a million years thought that I would ever write or read: This November, for the first time in our history, the United States of America may not be able to conduct a free and fair election and, should President Trump be defeated by Joe Biden, have a legitimate and peaceful transfer of power.
Because if half the country thinks their votes were not fully counted due to deliberate sabotaging of the U.S. Postal Service by this administration, and if the other half are made to believe by the president that any mail-in vote for Biden was fraudulent, that would not result in just a disputed election — not another Bush v. Gore for the Supreme Court to sort out — that would be the end of American democracy as we know it. It also isn’t hyperbole to say it could sow the seeds of another Civil War.
The threat is real.
Perhaps, but not as real, in my view, as Friedman thinks it is.
There are two values for the length of a foot: the old foot, the “international foot” defined as exactly 0.3048 of a meter, and the “survey foot”, an older length that’s used almost exclusively by surveyors. They differ by two parts in a million, but surveyors’ use of the old one has caused trouble. Now, as of January 1, 2023, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has decreed that only the international foot will be used.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 173,094, an increase of about 1,200 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 786,916, a big increase of about 6,600 deaths from yesterday.
Stuff that happened on August 20 includes:
- 1858 – Charles Darwin first publishes his theory of evolution through natural selection in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace‘s same theory.
Here’s the title page of that joint paper, whose publication prompted Darwin to assemble his data and publish The Origin a year later. You can read the entire paper here.
- 1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declares the American Civil War over.
- 1882 – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuts in Moscow, Russia.
- 1920 – The first commercial radio station, 8MK (now WWJ), begins operations in Detroit.
- 1938 – Lou Gehrig hits his 23rd career grand slam, a record that stood for 75 years until it was broken by Alex Rodriguez.
It’s not clear that, given Rodriguez admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs, that his record should hold.
- 1940 – In Mexico City, exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramón Mercader. He dies the next day.
Here’s a picture of the desk at which Trotsky was sitting when his assassin struck. I took the photo in November, 2012. You should visit Trotsky’s compound if you’re in Mexico City, and also visit Frida Kahlo’s house and studio, just a few blocks away (rumor has it that Kahlo and Trotsky were lovers at one time). The desk is said to be exactly as it was when Trotsky was attacked.
- 1940 – World War II: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes the fourth of his famous wartime speeches, containing the line “Never was so much owed by so many to so few“.
Here’s a 4-minute excerpt of that speech:
- 1986 – In Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S. Postal employee Patrick Sherrill guns down 14 of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
- 1988 – Iran–Iraq War: A ceasefire is agreed after almost eight years of war.
- 1998 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Quebec cannot legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1886 – Paul Tillich, German-American philosopher and theologian (d. 1965)
- 1905 – Jack Teagarden, American singer-songwriter and trombonist (d. 1964)
Teagarden was one of only a handful of great jazz trombonists. Here’s he is with Satchmo in a great duet, “Old Rocking Chair”. Below are the YouTube notes, with the grocer’s apostrophe on “cats”:
These Cat’s knew the business they were in, entertainment. Here is Louis Armstrong on trumpet & vocal, Bobby Hackett, one of the best cornet players in the world, Jack Teagarden on trombone & vocals, Peanuts Hucko on clarinet with Marty Napoleon, piano, Arvell Shaw on bass & Cozy Cole on drums in New York,on December 30, 1957.This is the meaning of fun.
Want more of this great duo? Go here.
- 1910 – Eero Saarinen, Finnish-American architect and furniture designer, designed the Gateway Arch (d. 1961)
- 1941 – Slobodan Milošević, Serbian lawyer and politician, 1st President of Serbia (d. 2006)
- 1944 – Rajiv Gandhi, Indian lawyer and politician, 6th Prime Minister of India (d. 1991)
- 1974 – Amy Adams, American actress and singer
Those who conked out on August 20 include:
- 1915 – Paul Ehrlich, German physician and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1854)
- 1917 – Adolf von Baeyer, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1835)
- 1961 – Percy Williams Bridgman, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1882)
- 2007 – Leona Helmsley, American businesswoman (b. 1920)
- 2017 – Jerry Lewis, American actor and comedian (b. 1926)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is hunting for “alien mice”. My query about this to Malgorzata met with this answer: “Not our mice from the garden. Our readers have two guesses: 1) she is saving our own mice; 2) she ate all our mice and needs some new ones.”
A: Where are you going?
Hili: I’m going to have a look to see whether some alien mice are hanging around.
Ja: Gdzie idziesz?Hili: Zobaczę, czy nie kręcą się tu jakieś obce myszy.
Look! Kitten Mietek is all grown up, and helping drive the car!
Mietek: Now we will turn left.
A cartoon by Tom Cheney from Nicole:
From Steve Pruett-Jones. The sign is real (I bet you’ve seen it before.)
I tweeted (h/t to Luana for the Sarsour tweet):
Captain Obvious is Captain Ridiculous here. If you don't like that tactics of Antifa, you're clearly a fascist or their running dog. She doesn't seem to know the difference between "opposite" and "opposed". https://t.co/i0x6JbtOQU
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) August 19, 2020
— William Aegerter (@waege) August 18, 2020
From Simon. I’ve long puzzled about how this video relates to science, but have come up dry. Readers are welcome to explain. But the cats are probably trained “circus cats”:
Not how science works pic.twitter.com/YC0auYc179
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) August 15, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. Hira Javaid is an oncology student at Oxford, and clearly is into cultural appropriation (which is a good thing):
Juggling to some cheerful Irish music. Been a while since I've been to Ireland and was missing it so thought I'd bring the Irish vibes to my living room 😁 pic.twitter.com/yx3KrIuUdT
— Hira Javaid (@its_hira) August 18, 2020
Sound up to hear this crazy kitten:
this kitten is absolutely off its face and i respect it pic.twitter.com/AqAkINXUG1
— Hannah Jane Parkinson (@ladyhaja) March 1, 2020
Fox in the library! How cool!
A fox. Behind my bookcase. An actual fox. A library fox. At 4am. An actual bloody bona fide library fox. What a night it’s been. pic.twitter.com/DQY33cTOv3
— Alistair Robinson (@alistairjohn1) August 14, 2020
Barack is becoming more outspoken as November draws nigh. . .
Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2020
Another lovely old picture that was originally in color:
Wednesday 24th June 1914 – 4 weeks before the start of The Great War… I have restored this gorgeous autochrome of a Parisian family in the Rue du Pot de Fer, which was taken 106 years ago by Stéphane Passet. It is original colour (not colourised). pic.twitter.com/WQxyKsm07L
— BabelColour 🎞 (@StuartHumphryes) August 19, 2020