It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest day: December 29, 2020: the fifth day of Coynezaa, the fifth day of Christmas, and the fourth day of Kwanzaa (United States). It’s not a food holiday but the end of one: National “Get on the Scales Day”. (Hili is going to the vet soon as she’s gotten too fat.) It’s also National Pepper Pot Day, celebrating a soup that in its authentic version has tripe in it. I’ve tried tripe at least twice, and couldn’t abide it either time. I will not try it again.
Wine of the Day: This lovely Argentinian Torrontés, drunk with chicken, was a bit old for this grape, and I could tell that oxidation was beginning to set in. But it was still a decent tipple, smelling for all the world like candied grapefruit peel. Torrontés can be a great white wine when you find a good specimen, and it’s not at all expensive. Just drink it fairly young.
News of the Day:
Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 322-87 to override Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill (note: this is not the pandemic relief bill!). If the Senate also votes to override, which is not certain, it would be the first time Congress had repudiated a veto. One of his big objections to the bill was its call to change the name of military bases named after Confederate generals.
By now most Americans know that Trump gave in and signed the pandemic relief bill on Sunday. Yesterday the House passed a bill increasing the checks given to many Americans from the $600 specified in the original bill to $2000. But this won’t happen until the Senate also approves the measure, and it’s not clear when this will happen.
This is a dog-bites-man story from Saudi Arabia, which seems to get much less flak than Israel despite its much more oppressive behavior. Right now the murderous ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who probably gave the go-ahead for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is busy cracking down on protests and anti-theocratic activism. Yesterday a Saudi court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, 31 years old and a well known women’s rights activist, to six years in prison. (al-Hathoul was an influential figure in campaigning for, and winning, Saudi women’s right to drive.) The charge was “terrorism-related” according to her family, but prosecutors presented no evidence for terrorism or anything like it. She was prosecuted solely for activism. Given that she’s already been in prison for several years, and that some of the sentence was suspended—prosecutors wanted twenty years!—she could be out in six months. Her sister alleges that she was tortured after being arrested and jailed in 2018.
Aunt Becky is out of jail, having served two months for the CollegeGate scandal.
Reader Christopher informs us that not only the Guardian has horoscopes, but also Canada’s Globe and Mail. Click if you want your prognostication for 2001:
But it’s just harmless fun, right?—even though people spend billions of dollars a year consulting these fraudulent people and their pages, and it buttresses faith and superstition.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 335,141, an increase of about 1,900 above yesterday’s figure, and about 1.3 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,783,597, an increase of about 10,100 over yesterday’s total and representing about 7 deaths per minute from Covid-19—one every 9 seconds.
Stuff that happened on December 29 includes:
- 1170 – Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is assassinated inside Canterbury Cathedral by followers of King Henry II; he subsequently becomes a saint and martyr in the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
Here’s the site of Becket’s killing, carried out by four knights after Becket pissed off King Henry. The caption is from Wikipedia:
- 1845 – In accordance with International Boundary delimitation, the United States annexes the Republic of Texas, following the manifest destiny doctrine. The Republic of Texas, which had been independent since the Texas Revolution of 1836, is thereupon admitted as the 28th U.S. state.
- 1890 – Wounded Knee Massacre on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 300 Lakota are killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.
A picture of the dead Native Americans being put in a common grave:
- 1916 – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first novel by James Joyce, was first published as a book by an American publishing house B. W. Huebschis after it had been serialized in The Egoist (1914–15).
A signed British first edition of this book will run you about $138,700. Here’s one:
- 1937 – The Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.
- 1940 – World War II: In the Second Great Fire of London, the Luftwaffe fire-bombs London, England, killing almost 200 civilians.
- 1989 – Czech writer, philosopher and dissident Václav Havel is elected the first post-communist President of Czechoslovakia.
- 2003 – The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.
The language, one of the Sámi languages, was spoken in only three villages of the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Here’s an introduction to the 10 Sámi languages. There’s another that has only two native speakers.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1800 – Charles Goodyear, American chemist and engineer (d. 1860)
- 1808 – Andrew Johnson, American general and politician, 17th President of the United States (d. 1875)
- 1809 – William Ewart Gladstone, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1898)
- 1876 – Pablo Casals, Catalan cellist and conductor (d. 1973)
- 1936 – Mary Tyler Moore, American actress and producer (d. 2017)
Here’s Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) doing a number of the Dick Van Dyke Show. She was criticized for wearing Capri pants on the show (back then, women in sitcoms wore dresses), but she started a fashion.
- 1943 – Rick Danko, Canadian singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (d. 1999)
- 1947 – Ted Danson, American actor and producer
Those who took the Big Nap on December 29 include:
- 1170 – Thomas Becket, English archbishop and saint (b. 1118)
- 1894 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and hymn-writer (b. 1830)
Rossetti in her late twenties:
- 1926 – Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet and author (b. 1875)
- 1986 – Harold Macmillan, English captain and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1894)
- 2004 – Julius Axelrod, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1912)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again wheedling for noms (like hobbits, many Poles do eat “second breakfasts”):
Hili: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.A: And then?Hili: And then the second breakfast.
Hili: Śniadanie to najważniejszy posiłek dnia.Ja: A potem?Hili: A potem drugie śniadanie.
Little Kulka, hated by Hili, licks her paw:
And in nearby Wloclawek, housemates Leon and Mietek differ about the holidays. Mietek loves them, but Leon clearly doesn’t:
Leon: Such a hassle this holidays is!
From Divy. Can you name the television game show that inspired this cartoon?
From Jesus of the Day: it’s all in the jingle bell, I guess.
From Matthew Cobb as well as Barry. Richard issued the tweet below and got tons of pushback. There were jocular comments but a lot of stuff that, were I to receive it, would seem hurtful. I didn’t understand it; my view is that of Barry, who said this:
I don’t understand why this has been getting so much traction on Twitter or why people are so bothered by it. As this person tweeted: “Are people so churlish not to see that Richard Dawkins was creating a funny image to make a point about how he thinks spiders are under-appreciated?”
That’s true, and if you want to see all the people who made fun of this tweet, go over and have a look. I can attribute it only to the nastiness that Twitter evokes, and to the fact that people have a mysterious animus against Dawkins.
If lions were discovered weaving antelope-catching nets ten lion-lengths wide, it would be headline news. Yet spiders weave intricate insect-catching nets hugely bigger than themselves, and we treat it as commonplace. What’s the difference?
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) December 28, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. First, the world’s most beautiful duck:
Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)🐦🦜🕊️🦆🎵❤️ pic.twitter.com/l24Tru6wg4
— World birds (@worldbirds32) November 24, 2020
I used to have an aquarium full of hissers as a grad student, and would horrify visitor by making them hiss:
One of my favorite videos this year…
— Megan “Wasp Lady” Asche (@MCAsche) December 28, 2020
This is a good person. (Sound up.)
Yet another typical night in the Mayhem household… pic.twitter.com/PASuc8Q7Nk
— Sally-Ann Spence (@minibeastmayhem) August 2, 2020
A brilliant new Canadian sport:
Okay, who did this? pic.twitter.com/Ezmgd3p441
— jamie (@gnuman1979) December 28, 2020
Do read this article. It describes a genetic condition in which the fingerprints aren’t formed (they don’t mention toeprints). There are no bad medical side effects, but there are severe social side effects: these poor people can’t use smartphones and can’t get passports or driver’s licenses.
The family (families) with no fingerprints https://t.co/8UfFcwB5w0
— Dr. Harmit S. Malik (@HarmitMalik) December 28, 2020
A map of the rabbits of North America. I’m guessing that a lot of the cottontail “species,” which live in geographic isolation from others, don’t really deserve the status of distinct species.
A while ago I learned that not all rabbits I see out and about are the same, so of course I had to make a map. pic.twitter.com/YgCc3K3XMq
— Shawn Taylor 🌲🌵 (@dataEcologist) December 28, 2020
I broke my own rule and criticized this anti-athiest post on Twitter, but the best response is, “This isn’t atheism’s job. It’s just non-belief in gods, for crying out loud!”
Atheism fails to explain why the universe exists, how it began to exist, its inherent design and teleology, objective morality, miracles throughout history, and the nuances of lived life, free will, consciousness, and common sense. Atheism is absurd.
— ☩ Escaping Atheism/Socialism ☩ (@EscapingAtheism) December 27, 2020