It’s December 24, 2020, with one shopping day left before Christmas and The First Day of Coynezaa. And oh, dear lord, it’s National Eggnog Day, the world’s most cloying and unappetizing of alcoholic beverages (note that West Point’s Eggnog Riot of 1826 took place on this day). It’s also Last-Minute Shoppers’ Day and, of course, Christmas Eve, with these national variants:
- Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. (Iceland)
- Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian Americans)
- Juleaften (Denmark)/Julaften (Norway)/Julafton (Sweden)
- Nittel Nacht (certain Orthodox Jewish denominations)
- Nochebuena (Spain and Spanish-speaking countries)
- The Declaration of Christmas Peace (Old Great Square of Turku, Finland’s official Christmas City)
- Quviasukvik, the Inuit new year (Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia)
- Wigilia (Poland)
Here’s the traditional multi-dish Polish feast for Wigilia. I wish I were there (I would eschew the fish dishes, but let me at the borscht, pierogi, and desserts!):
News of the Day:
Crikey, what a mess! The President-Eject has just issued a new batch of 26 federal pardons, many to his pals like Charles Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law’s dad), as well as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, Jr. It’s gonna get worse—I’m betting he’ll try to pardon himself before January 20.
But wait! There’s more! Trump tweeted this, threatening the stimulus-recovery bill (the temporary stopgap measure expires in two days).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
But wait! There’s STILL more! Trump did veto a defense-spending bill on the grounds that it mandates the renaming of military bases named after Confederate generals. This, too, has thrown the Congress—and especially Republicans—into turmoil. The bill did pass Congress with a veto-proof majority, but will Republicans now stand with Trump and refuse to override his veto? This is all good for Democrats, especially in the two Senate races in Georgia, but nixing the stimulus-recovery bill would be dreadful for Americans. There’s still some drama left in the next month.
Yesterday I saw on the news that Trump hasn’t been seen in public for ten days. Now this: the Sore Loser leaves town. Will he be back for the inauguration of Biden?
The president has left Washington for Mar-a-Lago, the first extended trip he’s taking since losing the election. He didn’t take questions from reporters as he left.
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) December 23, 2020
Despite warnings of all the experts to stay put during the Christmas holidays, nearly 85 million Americans are expected to drive or fly over the next two weeks. With the vaccine only beginning to find its way into our arms, you know what that means.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 326,413, a substantial increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure and roughly 2.4 deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,739,816, a big increase of about 13,700 over yesterday’s report and the equivalent of about 9.5 deaths per minute.
Stuff that happened on December 24 include:
- 1737 – The Marathas defeat the combined forces of the Mughal Empire, Rajputs of Jaipur, Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Awadh and Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Bhopal.
- 1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.
This island, part of the nation of Kiribati, has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world (388 km² or 150 mi². At least one of our readers has been fishing there. Here’s an aerial view:
- 1814 – Representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States sign the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
- 1818 – The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
- 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
- 1865 – Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby form The Ku Klux Klan.
Here’s the Anti-Defamation League’s list of currently active Klan chapters. They are a waning organization!
- 1871 – The opera Aida premieres in Cairo, Egypt.
- 1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
- 1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.
Yes, these did happen, with Brits and Germans fraternizing over the holidays; indeed, some of them even played soccer. Here’s a photo with the Wikipedia caption:
- 1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is named Supreme Allied Commander for the Invasion of Normandy.
- 1968 – Apollo program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
- 1980 – Witnesses report the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom, an incident called “Britain’s Roswell“.
There are scientific explanations of these lights, involving stars, lighthouses, and falling stars, but we don’t know which are responsible (the lighthouse is a good candidate).
Notables born on this day include:
- 1809 – Kit Carson, American general (d. 1868)
- 1868 – Emanuel Lasker, German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher (d. 1941)
Lasker was World Chess Champion for 27 years. Here he is in Berlin in 1933, 12 years after he no longer reigned:
- 1907 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (d. 1989)
- 1922 – Ava Gardner, American actress (d. 1990)
Here’s the Gardner in the wonderful movie “Night of the Iguana” (1964), also starring Deborah Kerr (seen here) and Richard Burton. Gardner was 42 at the time.
George the Fourth wasn’t the real Patton (i.e., the WWII general George S. Patton, Jr.), but, like his dad he still became a major general in the U.S. Army. And by God, did he look like his dad!
- 1940 – Anthony Fauci, American physician, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984
Fauci turns 80 today!
- 1962 – Kate Spade, American fashion designer (d. 2018)
- 1960 – Carol Vorderman, English television host
I suspect that, as a stripling much taken by Vorderman’s brains and beauty, I wasn’t alone. I wonder if British adolescents shared my smitten-ness. In 2014, Vorderman was named an ambassador to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, and became an “honorary group captain”.
Those who expired on December 24 include:
- 1524 – Vasco da Gama, Portuguese explorer and politician, Governor of Portuguese India (b. 1469)
- 1873 – Johns Hopkins, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1795)
- 1914 – John Muir, Scottish-American geologist, botanist, and author, founded Sierra Club (b. 1838)
- 1994 – John Boswell, American historian, author, and academic (b. 1947)
John, know to us as “Jeb”, lived across the dorm hall from me sophomore year at William and Mary, and was already, as one known to have big brains, destined for great things. He went on to become a Yale professor specializing in religion and homosexuality (he was gay), made a big mark in academia, and, tragically, died of AIDS at only 47 (here’s his obituary in the New York Times). A photo:
- 1997 – Toshiro Mifune, Chinese-Japanese actor and producer (b. 1920)
Here’s a montage of some of Mifune’s roles:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili questions scripture:
Hili: Is it true that in the beginning was a word?A: Probably not.Hili: I doubt it too.
Hili: Czy to prawda, że na początku było słowo?Ja: Raczej nie.Hili: Też tak myślę.
And in nearby Wloclawek, young Mietek thinks the Christmas festivities and decorations are celebrating him. Well, he can’t help it, for he’s a cat.
Mietek: Oy, and all this is for me?
Little Kulka, who was just neutered, finally had her anti-licking jacket removed yesterday. She hated it, but now is free and bouncing around with joy. Here’s Paulina with Kulka before the jacket was removed:
From Facebook. Does Sir Patrick really knit and wear Santa jammies?
Also from Facebook. The termites are everywhere! (Jen Silverman was amazed that her post got half a million likes.)
From Facebook, and I hope this is a real photo, because that’s an awful big foot!
A tweet from reader Barry, who replaces Titania McGrath today:
The IT department at U of Michigan has released a list of inclusive terms, to replace problematic ones.
For example, rather than the harmful term "picnic," it recommends "gathering." And why engage in violent word violence like "brown bag," when you can use "lunch and learn"? pic.twitter.com/ifh7qMV7wq
— A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism) December 23, 2020
I didn’t know that “essential workers” include liquor store clerks and bankers! Yes, this is unfair.
Heartless, arrogant, unelected CDC bureaucrats have decided that the lives of elderly Americans don’t count. They’re recommending 100 million “essential workers” (i.e. healthy people working at liquor stores or phone companies) can get the vaccine before our grandparents. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/yEn0k0cKBs
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) December 21, 2020
I’ve known about this for a while, and always wondered if it was painful for the mother:
Baby Surinam toads emerging from their mother's back. During mating, the male fertilizes the female's eggs and pushes them onto the her back. Her skin then grows to enclose them. Several months later, the babies emerge as fully developed toads. https://t.co/BoGJtwDLrC pic.twitter.com/jJc9FQucAp
— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) December 22, 2020
I retweeted a tweet from Matthew, and of course I was right about the calendar:
Wow turns out people have thought about this…
In 2021, you can re-use calendars from these years:
2010, 1999, 1993, 1982, 1971, 1965, 1954, 1943, 1937, and 1926.https://t.co/Vmh8tWhMH6.
— Jens Eggers (@JensEggersZA) December 23, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. 3 pennies per sprout! That’s a bargain—if you like that vile vegetable.
— James Murden (@jamesmurden) December 22, 2020
We saw a video of this the other day:
did a fish write this pic.twitter.com/T2F0st54cp
— jonny sun wrote a new book! (@jonnysun) December 23, 2020
I’d enlarge this so you can see the complex shape of the spermatophore, which emerges at the end (presumably a female picks it up):
Watch this worm release a spermatophore! It emerges from its tube and uses cilia to slide the sperm bundle off the ends of its pointy gills (branchiae). This is the polychaete Streblospio benedicti. #WormWednesday ~ ~ pic.twitter.com/62Y4JPC1HG
— Matt Rockman (@wormsrock) December 23, 2020
And an early Merry Christmas to you!
Had this Christmas card from an elderly relative. I respect her honesty. pic.twitter.com/YNFqeEZxPh
— Raymond (@raubrey) December 23, 2020