Good morning on Saturday, November 21, 2020: National Gingerbread Cookie Day and, as Turkey Day is approaching, also National Cranberry Day, National Stuffing Day, National Gingerbread (by itself) Day, Pumpkin Pie Day. It’s also World Television Day (a UN holiday), and Alascatallo Day, honoring “a fictitious animal that is a cross between a moose and a walrus, that is said to have been bred by miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush around the turn of the twentieth century.” Sadly, I can’t find a single depiction of this animal online.
News of the Day:
The well-known environmental activist Erin Brockovich, subject of the eponymous movie that won Julia Roberts an Oscar, goes after Joe Biden in the Guardian for appointing a DuPont industry flak, Michael McCabe, as head of the new Environmental Protection Agency transition team (h/t Jez). Click on the screenshot below; here’s a quote:
Let us not forget where these chemicals came from and who is responsible for putting them in our environment. Let us not bring the fox back into the hen house. DuPont executives should have no place in the Environmental Protection Agency.
Reader Tom reported that the weights of supermarket turkeys, thanks to selective breeding, are increasing exponentially. (It’s gotten so bad that the breasts of the males are too big to enable them to mount females, so they’re bred via artificial insemination.) Tom said, “Here’s a fun turkey graph (original from Marginal Revolution). What happened c. 1980?” They have doubled in weight since 1930, thanks to the power of artificial selection. As Darwin said in The Origin, “Breeders habitually speak of an animal’s organisation as something plastic, which they can model almost as they please.”
Trump has failed in his attempt to strong-arm Michigan Republican state legislators into changing their Electoral College vote to Trump, despite Biden’s win in the state. The legislators nevertheless left Washington saying that they would, as usual, certify the winner of the popular vote.
Here’s a funny Onion article on the vaccine (click on screenshot):
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 254,320, a big increase of about 2,000 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,379,441, a huge increase of about 12,000 over yesterday’s report—the biggest daily death toll I’ve seen yet.
Stuff that happened on November 21 (a busy day!) includes:
- 164 BCE – Judas Maccabeus, son of Mattathias of the Hasmonean family, restores the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is commemorated each year by the festival of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah goes from December 10-18 this year, and thus won’t overlap with Koynezaa (my personal holiday), which, as always, goes from December 25 through December 30 (my birthday).
- 1620 – Plymouth Colony settlers sign the Mayflower Compact (November 11, O.S.)
- 1676 – The Danish astronomer Ole Rømer presents the first quantitative measurements of the speed of light.
Romer didn’t explicitly calculate the speed, but his data enabled other to calculate it at about 212,000 kilometers per second; the correct value is nearly 300,000 kilometers per second.
- 1877 – Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a machine that can record and play sound.
- 1905 – Albert Einstein‘s paper that leads to the mass–energy equivalence formula, E = mc², is published in the journal Annalen der Physik.
As I wrote before about this paper, ”
The paper is here (it’s only three pages), and I couldn’t find the equation in that form, but I believe it’s on the page below in the fourth paragraph from the bottom: “Gibt ein Körper die Energie L in Form von Strahlung ab, so verkleinert sich seine Masse um L/V².”
My rough German translates this as “If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, then its mass will be reduced by L/V²”. Rearranging, if mass is M, then the energy accompanying that loss of mass, where I use “m” to stand for mass, is L = mV². Clearly Einstein was using “V” instead of “c” to stand for the speed of light, and, as he says, energy is “L.” If you use “E” and “c”, then E = mc². (I probably screwed up something here, but this is the best I can do at 6:00 a.m.)
- 1918 – The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 is passed, allowing women to stand for Parliament in the UK.
- 1920 – Irish War of Independence: In Dublin, 31 people are killed in what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
- 1922 – Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia takes the oath of office, becoming the first female United States Senator.
- 1953 – The Natural History Museum, London announces that the “Piltdown Man” skull, initially believed to be one of the most important fossilized hominid skulls ever found, is a hoax.
- 1964 – The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opens to traffic. At the time it is the world’s longest bridge span.
- 1980 – A deadly fire breaks out at the MGM Grand Hotel in Paradise, Nevada (now Bally’s Las Vegas). Eighty-seven people are killed and more than 650 are injured in the worst disaster in Nevada history.
- 1985 – United States Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard is arrested for spying after being caught giving Israel classified information on Arab nations. He is subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
Pollard was paroled for five years in 2015, and his parole expired this year—in fact, yesterday (federal “life sentences” mandate parole after 30 years if there’s good behavior). Here he is:
In fact, just yesterday the Washington Post wrote about his new freedom, with Pollard now planning to move to Israel (he’s on the left below):
- 2002 – Arturo Guzmán Decena, founder of Los Zetas and high-member of the Gulf Cartel, was killed in a shoot-out with the Mexican Army and the police.
- 2017 – Robert Mugabe formally resigns as President of Zimbabwe, after thirty-seven years in office.
- 2019 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1694 – Voltaire, French historian, playwright, and philosopher (d. 1778)
- 1898 – René Magritte, Belgian painter (d. 1967)
Here’s a fine Magritte: “La vocation” (1964):
- 1902 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1991)
- 1912 – Eleanor Powell, American actress and dancer (d. 1982)
- 1920 – Stan Musial, American baseball player and manager (d. 2013)
Musial, who was the star of the St. Louis Cardinals, is my favorite ballplayer of all time. He was a fantastic player and a gentleman on the field: I’m told he never once questioned an umpire’s call. My father saw him play many times; I saw him play but once, in the twilight of his career. He’s a short video about Stan the Man (or “the Donora Greyhound”)—clicking will take you to the YouTube video.
Musial batted .331 over the course of his career and set National League (NL) records for career hits (3,630), runs batted in (1,951), games played (3,026), at bats (10,972), runs scored (1,949) and doubles (725). His 475 career home runs then ranked second in NL history behind Mel Ott’s total of 511. His 6,134 total bases remained a major league record until surpassed by Hank Aaron, and his hit total still ranks fourth all-time, and is the highest by any player who spent his career with only one team. A seven-time batting champion with identical totals of 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, he was named the National League’s (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and led St. Louis to three World Series championships. He also shares the major league record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays
- 1945 – Goldie Hawn, American actress, singer, and producer
- 1965 – Björk, Icelandic singer-songwriter
Those who became quiescent on November 21 include:
- 1695 – Henry Purcell, English organist and composer (b. 1659)
- 1945 – Robert Benchley, American humorist, newspaper columnist, and actor (b. 1889)
- 2017 – David Cassidy, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1950)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is on Andrezj’s stomach, preventing him from getting off the couch and back to work at his desk:
Hili: There are places that are conducive to thinking.A: I know but I have to go back to work.
Hili: Są miejsca, które sprzyjają myśleniu.
Ja: Ja wiem, ale muszę wracać do pracy.
From Jesus of the Day:
From Seth Andrews on Facebook, who apparently doesn’t see that there is no such thing as “objective morality”!
From Thomas: this Twitter thread by actor Edward Norton has gone viral; it purports to explain all of Trump’s behavior as a way to obviate his impending legal troubles. It’s going over and reading the whole thing:
I’m no political pundit but I grew up w a dad who was a federal prosecutor & he taught me a lot & I’ve also sat a fair amount of poker w serious players & l’ll say this: I do not think Trump is trying to ‘make his base happy’ or ‘laying the groundwork for his own network’…
— Edward Norton (@EdwardNorton) November 20, 2020
From Barry. I’m not sure what the two cat personalities are:
The only two cat personalities that exist. pic.twitter.com/fINmK5J7kT
— The Feel Good Page ❤️ (@akkitwts) November 20, 2020
From Enrico. The d*gs recognize their masters:
This is the most important thing you'll see today. pic.twitter.com/7HPXn7enOr
— The Feel Good Page ❤️ (@akkitwts) November 20, 2020
A fantastic tweet found by Merilee. NO KID LEFT UNHUGGED! (Sound up.)
Baby goats waiting for their time to be hugged pic.twitter.com/IYESBrGG0s
— Freaking Awesome (@freak1ngawesome) November 18, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. What’s doing with all these ducklings?
🎶So goodbye yellow duck road
Where the dogs of society howlpic.twitter.com/50ezW3cGMI
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) November 12, 2020
Life is short, except for trees:
Trees swallowing Trespassing Signs pic.twitter.com/LQCmsupYK3
— Diane Doniol-Valcroze (@ddoniolvalcroze) November 19, 2020
A cold hystrichomorph:
Porcupining for the fjords. pic.twitter.com/8hHI1o8Zj4
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) November 20, 2020
Another of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions.
Actually, this is a circle. pic.twitter.com/T8ZBgvNPTU
— Akiyoshi Kitaoka (@AkiyoshiKitaoka) November 20, 2020