Merry Christmas and Joyous First Day of Coynezaa! It’s Friday, December 25, 2020, and National Pumpkin Pie Day. You can get a huge one at Costco (3 lb 10 ounces) for about six bucks, and they are mighty tasty. This is one of the best food bargains going. Sadly, Costco is closed today, and you have to be a member anyway. But if you are, don’t miss out on this behemoth pie during the holiday season (and you can freeze the leftovers).
News of the Day:
Do you really want bad news on Christmas? Well, there’s plenty. First, though, the good news: the U.S. military, charged with the annual tracking of Santa, has confirmed that the pandemic will not throw off St. Nick: presents will be delivered on schedule. That’s something that even the U.S. Postal Service can’t do.
As we speak, 85 million Americans are carrying viruses across the country in cars and planes, or are heading towards a place to get them. All health officials have advised against travel. But they’ve got a ticket to ride, and they don’t care. We’ll see the result in a couple of weeks.
But if you’re coming from Britain, you’d better have a negative Covid-19 test, as the U.S. has just required all passengers from Old Blighty to have tested negative within 72 hours before their departure. If you don’t have a documented negative test result, you can’t board the plane. And it better be the PCR test too, as that’s the one required (it’s the most accurate). This is a response to reports that the new mutant virus that supposedly is more infectious than the old ones. (We still don’t have real evidence for that.)
And, of course, Congress is in turmoil, with the Democrats pretending that they acceded to Trump’s request for an increase in per-American pandemic payments fro $600 to $2000, trying to force Republicans to look like they’re falling in line with Trump’s wishes (he said he’d veto the stimulus bill unless Congress folds). The Republicans didn’t fold, and so right now the whole thing is stalemated. The losers are the American people—the people who need money for rent or loans to keep their businesses going. I hate to say this, but it looks like the Democrats are trying to make political capital at the expense of hard-up Americans. As the NYT says:
The Democrats’ Christmas Eve gambit on the House floor was never meant to pass, but the party’s leaders hoped to put Republicans in a bind — choosing between the president’s wishes for far more largess and their own inclinations for modest spending.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 329,237, a substantial increase of about 2,800 from yesterday’s figure—roughly two deaths a minute. The world death toll is 1,751,191, a big increase of about 11,300 over yesterday’s report and the equivalent of about 7.8 deaths per minute.
Stuff that happened on December 25 include:
This is from the Chronograph of 354, and you know, doesn’t that just prove that Jesus wasn’t only real, but divine?
- 800 – The coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor, in Rome.
- 1013- Sweyn Forkbeard takes control of the Danelaw and is proclaimed king of England.The first Danish king of England, he ruled for only five weeks before he croaked. Here he is at his dad’s funeral, which looks like a gluttonous affair. His beard doesn’t look forked, either.
- 1066 – William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy is crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.
- 1492 – The carrack Santa María, commanded by Christopher Columbus, runs onto a reef off Haiti due to an improper watch.
- 1758 – Halley’s Comet is sighted by Johann Georg Palitzsch, confirming Edmund Halley’s prediction of its passage. This was the first passage of a comet predicted ahead of time.
- 1776 – George Washington and the Continental Army cross the Delaware River at night to attack Hessian forces serving Great Britain at Trenton, New Jersey, the next day.
The Continental Army won in a decisive and morale-boosting victory. Here’s the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze. From Wikipedia:
The painting is notable for its artistic composition. General Washington is emphasized by an unnaturally bright sky, while his face catches the upcoming sun. The colors consist of mostly dark tones, as is to be expected at dawn, but there are red highlights repeated throughout the painting. Foreshortening, perspective and the distant boats all lend depth to the painting and emphasize the boat carrying Washington.
The people in the boat represent a cross-section of the American colonies, including a man in a Scottish bonnet and a man of African descent facing backward next to each other in the front, western riflemen at the bow and stern, two farmers in broad-brimmed hats near the back (one with bandaged head), and an androgynous rower in a red shirt, possibly meant to be a woman in man’s clothing. There is also a man at the back of the boat wearing what appears to be Native American garb to represent the idea that all people in the new United States of America were represented as present in the boat along with Washington on his way to victory and success.
Did you read that? A woman (or person of indeterminate gender), an African-American, and a Native American (probably case of cultural appropriation)? This painting was way ahead of its time.
- 1809 – Dr. Ephraim McDowell performs the first ovariotomy, removing a 22-pound tumor.
- 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy concludes after beginning the previous evening.
- 1831 – The Great Jamaican Slave Revolt begins; up to 20% of Jamaica’s slaves mobilize in an ultimately unsuccessful fight for freedom.
- 1868 – Pardons for ex-Confederates: United States President Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to all Confederate veterans.
- 1950 – The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, is taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. It later turns up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.
Here’s the real Stone of Scone, which is now scheduled to be moved to Perth City Hall (?) in 2024:
Here’s its return to Scotland in 1996, where it will stay except when a new British monarch is crowned in Westminster Abbey:
- 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 performs the first successful Trans-Earth injection (TEI) maneuver, sending the crew and spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth from Lunar orbit.
- 1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as President of the Soviet Union (the union itself is dissolved the next day). Ukraine’s referendum is finalized and Ukraine officially leaves the Soviet Union.
Notables born on this day include:
- AD 1: Jesus H. Christ (traditional made-up date)
Here’s an “forensic anthropological” reconstruction of what Jesus looked like, but the methodology is pretty bogus (check the link). And of course I’m still not convinced that a Jesus person ever existed.
Forensic science has revealed the real face of Jesus: https://t.co/m8JFizp6CQ pic.twitter.com/juwik7nW5T
— Esquire (@esquire) December 11, 2015
- 1642 (OS) – Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician (d. 1726/1727)
- 1821 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founder of the American Red Cross (d. 1912)
- 1884 – Evelyn Nesbit, American model and actress (d. 1967)
- 1899 – Humphrey Bogart, American actor (d. 1957)
- 1907 – Cab Calloway, American singer-songwriter and bandleader (d. 1994)
Here’s Cab in his heyday doing his most famous song, “Minnie the Moocher“:
- 1949 – Sissy Spacek, American actress.
Sissy Spacek is only five days older than I am, so I keep an eye on her to see how I am aging—comparatively. Here she is in 2018 with Robert Redford in the movie “The Old Man and the Gun“. We’re all getting older, but she still looks pretty good:
- 1971 – Justin Trudeau, Canadian educator and politician, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada
Those whose metabolic processes became history on December 25 include:
- 1946 – W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian, juggler, and screenwriter (b. 1880)
- 1977 – Charlie Chaplin, English actor and director (b. 1889)
- 1983 – Joan Miró, Spanish painter and sculptor (b. 1893)
Here’s Miro’s “The Farmer’s Wife, Kitchen, Cat, Rabbit”, with a cat detail:
- 2005 – Birgit Nilsson, Swedish operatic soprano (b. 1918)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we have a Christmas photo of Hili wryly contemplating the Scriptures:
Hili: How many times are cats mentioned in this book?A: I don’t know, I have the impression that they are not mentioned at all.Hili: You see? And cats exist.
Hili: Ile razy w tej książce piszą o kotach?Ja: Nie wiem, mam wrażenie, że wcale.Hili: No popatrz, a koty istnieją.
And little Kulka, now freed from ths post-spaying jacket, posed beside the Christmas tree. Malgorzata notes, “This will be a bit of a clumsy translation because Andrzej uses Polish words with double meaning. All his ironic hints are immediately understandable in Polish but I have no idea how to retain them in English”. (Photo by Paulina; the Polish is below the picture.):
Kulka: I wish everybody who celebrates everything they wish themselves.
From Mark, a short history of canid domestication.
From Nicole (be sure to see our own Cat Confessions Contest from 2014):
Here’s a purple frog from Donna. Yes, it’s a real species, and you can read about it here and here (the second link has a video of the frog calling).
From Titania, who always finds these things:
Just so we’re clear:
• Daffy Duck: he/him
• Wilma Flintstone: she/her
• Snoopy: they/them
• SpongeBob SquarePants: ze/zir
• Elmer Fudd: flim/flam
• Popeye: xe/xem
And if you misgender Porky Pig, I’m calling the police. https://t.co/VP5gUWT6y1
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 23, 2020
Another tweet that I got from Matthew and retweeted. Be sure to watch the whole video so you can see it open that huge maw!
Meet the potoo, one of the world's weirdest birds. https://t.co/1IpvGcuFJd
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) December 23, 2020
Now here’s a lovely fish, and I’m glad they threw it back:
Day 22 of #25DaysOfFishmas is for one of the most gorgeous fish in the sea, the China rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus). These all go back to the sea, but not before a picture is taken to remember how pretty these fish are. #Fishmas pic.twitter.com/jVdk7FoxjB
— Tim Akimoff (@timakimoff) December 22, 2020
Christmas tweets from Matthew, with an awesome Gary Larson cartoon:
It's the most wonderful time of the year from Gary Larson pic.twitter.com/U2t1gEmYYW
— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) December 24, 2020
Every year at this time, our Antifa potluck turns into a lively discussion on how we're going to win the War on Christmas™. This year it was decided to get a lot of baby elephants who love eating Christmas trees.
We're winning! pic.twitter.com/UGWNywyHzm
— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) December 24, 2020
I wonder if Baby Jesus tasted of wine and wafers:
We have the official Velociraptor patiently waiting for baby Jesus pic.twitter.com/2E4GFyAj7w
— Christophe🔬Leterrier (@christlet) December 24, 2020
One of the 25 Days of Crustmas: a mutualism!
Day 24 #Crustmas -Today is a special #25DaysofCrustmas/#25daysofFishmas crossover with an Amblyeleostris #nastygoby and 2 commensal Alpheus shrimp.
This is a fun example of the ecological relationships found in the ocean. These shrimp maintain a burrow that all 3 live in. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/LUbfcbXwta
— Vanessa Knutson (@Bugs_and_Slugs) December 24, 2020
57 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue (and a Kulka Christmas monologue)”
I’m sorry. I don’t agree with the NYT evaluation of the Democrats’ position regarding the aid checks. The NYT ALWAYS puts a negative spin on Democrats’ behavior, no matter what it is.
What would be the alternative, after they tried so hard to get more? Suppose they supported the signing of the bill the way it is? Would that make Trump consider signing it? Um, no. And if they did that, the NYT headline would be that Democrats “caved”. Meanwhile, the Republicans, who have been sandbagging the whole thing since last May, get a pass, as usual. Remember Mitch McConnell saying, “I feel no urgency to get this done now.”? The only reason he even brought it to the floor was because the Senators from Georgia told him that they were “getting hammered” over the lack of action.
I agree with this assessment. Why because it is true. The Democrats in the house had a 3 billion plus bill passed since May but it never saw the light of day in the Moscow Mitch Senate. Pelosi spent months attempting to negotiate with who? The secretary of Treasure. Why? Because neither Mitch or Trump would negotiate. Finally they somehow come up with this $600 dollar crap. Give me a break. The best that can be hoped for this mess is that it helps get the democrats elected in Georgia. Yes the people suffer because they put republicans in the congress and executive.
correction – 3 trillion, not billion
No way this is the Dems fault. They’ve been working hard to get a larger payment for a long time. They asked everyone on the GOP side to find out what kind of amount Trump would find acceptable but they never got an answer. Only after the GOP negotiated it down and they got agreement did Trump come out with his $2000 per person demand. Then the Dems said “Great!” but the GOP still won’t go that high. The disagreement is in between Trump and his own party. Perhaps the GOP knew all along that they didn’t agree with Trump on the amount but thought it better to keep that fact hidden, hoping it would go away.
Supposedly Trump has the bill down in Mar-a-Lago so he could sign it as a Christmas gesture. Perhaps all he wants is his name on the checks and to be regarded as a savior. Right now he seems to be doing everything he can to stay in front of the conversation, command the news cycle, and show everyone who really has the power.
I, too, think it is incorrect to blast the Dems here. tRump is responsible for the confusion. He’s the one who said he would veto the negotiated bill. What Pelosi has done here is simply to force Republicans to go on record in the choice between the negotiated bill and following the Dear Leader. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make it any harder to get the bill across the finish line. That is entirely under control of Republicans.
Trmp could have pulled this stunt anytime he wanted. Do this, do that, and I’ll grant you your wishes.
He’s the great and powerful MAGA Oz, giving pronouncements from behind the curtain when he isn’t in front of it.
I’ve always liked the portrayers of the Virgin Mary and Christ in Pasolini’s “The Gospel according to St. Matthew,” Mary because a she has a faint dark mustache, and Jesus because the two little ladies in their white wool coats exiting the Sunset District theatre ahead of me said, “Well! I certainly never imagined Him like that!”
Let us celebrate today the birth of the man who, when the world was dark, when there was misery and struggle, brought the power of light to humankind – who perceived that which cannot be seen, with immeasurable powers scaling the heavens and beyond –
Isaac Newton, born this day, 1642 (OS)
BTW it’s also technically a federal holiday for Christmas so Merry Christmas!
Also happening on the 25th of December 1967… this performance aired 53 years ago today!
Soooo, if you have to listen to a Christmas carol, best that it’s in a language you don’t understand, it’s from the 60’s, and bonus – there’s incense!
Sound up! Sung live to film, no lip-synching.
That was very nice! 👍
So great to hear from the Monkees. As a kid, I had a crush on Peter.
Interestingly, although the birth of Jesus is traditionally the dividing line between the Common Era and Before the Common Era (or as we used to say AD and BC), I don’t believe his birthday was ever used as new year’s day (which has not always been January 1). I suppose technically, therefore, fifty-one weeks of the year 1 AD, were BC. Oh, and Merry Christmas, all!
That’s a good point, DrBryden – and Merry Christmas!
December 25th used to be the Winter solstice. That’s why Christmas happens on that day.
First exposure to the potoo! I spent some more time reading about those interesting birds. Thanks.
Another person whose metabolic processes became history on 25 December (2008) is Eartha Kitt, who was the best portrayer of Catwoman ever. Her autobiographic book, I’m Still Here is an inspirational account of a woman’s rise from practically nothing. She was too black for the white world and not black enough for her roots, so she made her own way.
I am just chilling out after cooking and eating our Christmas lunch (turkey, all the trimmings including, yes, sprouts sauteed with pancetta and chestnuts; followed by Christmas pud flamed in brandy and served with Birds’ custard).
Thank you Jerry for so much inspiration and consolation in this very difficult year; and thank you to all the contributors of so many wonderful science and nature posts. I have read and enjoyed every one of them, even though I am not qualified to make any meaningful comments on most of them.
Happy Coynzaa everyone!
What he said, the second part.
Yup, me too. Thank you Jerry for all you put into the website all year long.
The purple frog might be what ILM saw to suggest the character of Max Rebo in Star Wars :
… it’s the closest resemblance of something from nature I’ve seen to that character – especially the disposition/length of the limbs and the head and arm/hand/finger shapes. That is, there’s something to it…
In the commensalism example between the fish and shrimp, an interesting detail is that the shrimp are described as having poor vision. Note how they always keep an antenna on their fish partner, to help navigate their way around.
With mention of the Apollo 8 mission, I can highly recommend that people watch the NOVA episode about it: Apollo’s Daring Mission. It is absolutely fascinating. This was the mission before the first moon landing. They had to figure out several of the most dangerous steps of the program in this one mission, and do so in a hurry while flying by the seat of their pants. It wasn’t even supposed to happen, but the Russians were looking like they were ready to go for the moon and so the first mission to leave earth and orbit the moon was moved forward and quickly. You can learn details like how they navigated the craft with a kind of sextant, and the clever shipboard computer.
The most heart-warming moment of the Christmas story is, of course, when the Stegosaurus turns up
Under the Palm Trees!
In the UK, our Christmas #1 single is a parody song about sausage rolls (for the third year in a row, equalling the Beatles ‘ record). Paul McCartney is top of the album charts with his new solo effort on which he plays all of the instruments and provides all of the vocals): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55436050
Mmmm. I love me a good sausage roll. My family makes them for the holidays but I won’t be seeing them this year due to COVID concerns. Oh well.
Speaking of sausage rolls, I still haven’t found a good online purveyor of British-style sausages here in the US. All the ones I’ve tried are crap. If anyone knows of some good ones, I’m all ears.
I must admit that I never could warm up to British-style sausages. And that was back in the days when I ate meat! 😉
I don’t know where you live but the ones made here in the US aren’t much like the real thing. In fact, many are downright disgusting. Due to stupid laws, we can’t legally import them from the UK. I figure with the current interest in artisanal charcuterie and butchering, someone makes some good ones and provide online ordering. There are several in the US that look good on paper but they only offer them in their own stores which are too far away to drive (Seattle and New York). I’m sure where there is money anything can be shipped but I’ve had too many bad sausages to do that sight unseen or untasted.
I live in Milwaukee but this isn’t relevant. I’m referring to British sausages consumed in the UK in B&Bs where they are/were always part of the standard plate along with eggs, beans, and eggs. I never found a reason to want the sausages to be imported stateside.
One of the things I’m afraid of is that the quality and taste of British sausages has gone down in Britain too! Many of the foods that I enjoyed in my childhood are no longer as popular and have been replaced by other foods. Still, the British sausages I’ve had there in the last few years were still much better than the US-made “bangers”. I realize that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They are too bland or subtly spiced for most people. We live in an age where people generally look for much louder tastes.
Down since when? (I haven’t eaten them since the mid 1980’s!)
Since London is my birthplace, I’ve been back to England many times in my 68 years. I probably had a few sausages on every trip. So I’m talking about a general decline over many years.
If they have gone downhill since the mid 1980’s they must really be sad little things now!
If you buy sausages in Britain anywhere except from a good butchers shop, you’re mainly buying breadcrumbs, offal and some fat. They have to be good quality to contain anything approaching what I think of as meat.
Well, except for the offal, I think you describe ingredients that should be in a good British sausage. Actually, I think it is specifically rusk crumbs rather than bread but that’s just a detail.
IMHO, a good sausage should not be judged solely on how much meat it has in it. I think this attitude comes from the fact that many supermarket sausages of all kinds can be characterized as ground up junk in sausage shape. Starting at such a low level of quality, one’s primary concern is getting a sausage with more meat and less junk. However, once we rise above that muck, it is more about the additives: spices and such. The rusk in British sausages may have originally been added as filler but it also gives them their distinct flavor.
British food regulations were changed in the early 1980s, if I recall correctly, to allow bits of pigs to be included in sausage meat that had previously been excluded (sphincters etc.). Thankfully, I had been a vegetarian for a while before the changes came into effect!
That doesn’t surprise me.
Eat everything – nothing wrong with offal! The French love it…
Offal sounds like awful. Coincidence? I think not.
You just missed the great joke, Walls have ears… in their sausages…!
Continental styles sausages seem to have a lot of fat, & hot dogs I find tasteless…
I don’t get your sausage joke??
Wall’s is a meat co. in the UK famed for their sausages. And sausages have all kinds of waste meat in them, like pigs ears.
Thanks. I figured it was something like that.
Well, I must stand up for some of our local products, because they’re much better than your average supermarket muck. Our sausage and chestnut stuffing for the turkey was made from the best Speldhurst sausages, originally made in a village about three miles away, now on a farm a bit further off. They are a good 90% prime pork, and taste like it.
One of the few good outcomes of lockdown is that people (round here, anyway) are shopping locally much more. All our local farm shops have long queues outside, masked and distanced of course, even in the pouring rain. Hopefully this habit will continue, even after we get back to ‘normal’.
That’s what I’m talking about!
Among other scenes of Americana that Leutze painted was Braddock’s Defeat which by some accounts he considered his greatest work. That battle happened July 9, 1755, ground zero of which is literally the or very nearly spot I’m writing this from. The painting’s now in the hands of the Westmoreland Museum of Art.
I find it strange that practically none of Washington’s soldiers are portrayed with beards. What goes? There were, however, some real fighting women back then, although history records few details. Nancy Hart was one.
I don’t believe beards were in fashion then. Were any of the founding fathers bearded?
I think we do. The UK’s infection numbers are rocketing in spite of the fact that the countermeasures have become more severe over the last few weeks.
Assumes (1) the countermeasures work and (2) the countermeasures are obeyed, and (3) nothing else (such as seasonality) is going on.
Do not like Sweyn. He burnt Norwich in 1004.
Aren’t ALL frogs “related to prehistoric frogs”?
The ones that are made from … reconstituted princes aren’t.
Well, not so directly.
Taking a break from Paul’s “sausage fest” above…. did anybody note the HUUUGE military spending in that bill? It amazes me how much we spend on digging a hole and filling it in, busy work for (mainly Republican) electorates. Presumably to protect ourselves from Haitian voodoo weapons and Canadian maple syrup guns.
Cheers to Jerry for all his hard work this difficult year – I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t wake up to WEIT every morning at 3am (I like life in the calm, I live in Manhattan).
As a community service, knowing the sense of humor of some here I’d like to posit a movie recommendation from the (later, now) famous Peter Jackson. When the studios in Hollywood saw what he did with so little they entrusted PJ with hundreds of millions of dollars to make the Lord of the Rings series – such was his talent. It is called “Meet the Feebles” (1989) and there’s (finally!) a good copy online here:
It is a (very adult themed) parody of the Muppet Show and very funny.
ps – We had sausage rolls in Australia growing up which I do miss (you can get Aussie pies here in the US if you look) but I always thought they were mainly sphincters’ and snouts.
Or aseptic techniques, but that really wouldn’t have been high on the attention list of the patient.
Who was the patient – does history record? I am slightly surprised that it does – Jane Todd Crawford. And she had to travel the 60-odd miles from her home (where McDowell diagnosed a suspected over-term pregnancy (see also Mary Tudor)) to McDowell’s operating theatre, on horseback, while anticipating the operation. She survived the operation by 32 years (and the surgeon by 11 years).
Just to share the watering eyes more evenly between the anatomies, McDowell also “perfected” the operation of “lithotomy” – cutting out a kidney stone from the bladder. Sans anaesthetic, of course. Some versions of the “Hippocratic oath” explicitly ruled out trying to “cut the stone”, suggesting the success rate they experienced.
I wonder what proportion of pre-anaesthetic surgeon had hearing problems. At the end of their career, rather than the start.
Oh, hang on, the website editor has been at work again.
Well, that’s Perth City Council’s plans, according to the hoardings around the site. I’m not so sure that the Edinburgh government have agreed to it yet.