Good morning on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. And guess what: it’s the last day of Coynezaa:—my birthday! And guess what else? I have to go to the dentist and may have to get a tooth pulled. Some fun! The end of the annus horribilis. Because of this ill-timed annoyance, posting will be light today.
But the misery is leavened by this lovely birthday drawing that Jacques Hausser made for me. Ceiling Duck!!! (Jacques studies shrews, so there’s one in there, too.)
Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Elizabeth Peratovich (1911-1958), described by Wikipedia as
“. . . an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.”
News of the Day:
We have two waterfowl stories today, both about bird love. This first one is sad, and comes from the Guardian. It’s about a swan mourning for its dead mate (h/t: Jez):
Police and firefighters in Germany were forced to intervene to move an apparently “mourning” swan that was blocking a high-speed railway line, according to a statement released by the rescuers on Monday.
The swan was pictured blocking the line near Fuldatal, causing at least 20 trains to be cancelled, after a second swan was killed when it flew into the overhead line above the tracks.
After the accident the second swan settled on the railway tracks below, preventing trains from passing on the route from Kassel to Göttingen. According to reports in local media, firefighters brought in specialist equipment to remove the dead swan from the overhead lines and the second swan from the tracks, taking it to the Fulda river where it was released.
This almost brings tears to my eyes. And here’s a photo:
Reader Jeremy pointed me to a story about another beautiful but errant Mandarin duck drake (Aix galericulata), this one in a pond near Cincinnati. (If you recall, a Mandarin showed up in the Central Park pond last winter.) But the Ohio drake seems to be in love with a mallard hen, and the species aren’t all that closely related (their common ancestor lived about 20 million years ago). Reader Jeremy went to see the duck, snapped a photo of the drake and his would-be paramour, and said this:
I stopped by and took a couple of pictures from my phone last week. Thought you might be interested. Beautiful bird indeed!
Matthew tweeted this, and it looks like the new UK coronavirus mutant really is spreading much faster that the “normal” one:
Yikes. It really does look real. https://t.co/Y9bT1A4N9i
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) December 29, 2020
The first isolate of this mutant has now been identified in the U.S.—in a Colorado man in his twenties with no recent travel history.
Yesterday, Republican congressman-elect Luke Letlow, only 41, died from complications of coronavirus. There will be a special election to fill his seat.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 338,767, a huge increase of about 3,600 deaths from yesterday’s figure, equivalent to 2.5 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,799,076, another big increase of about 15,500 over yesterday’s total and representing about 10.8 deaths per minute from Covid-19—more than one every 6 seconds.
Stuff that happened on December 30; pickings are slim!
- 1066 – Granada massacre: A Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city.
- 1890 – Following the Wounded Knee Massacre, the United States Army and Lakota warriors face off in the Drexel Mission Fight.
- 1916 – Russian mystic and advisor to the Tsar Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered by a loyalist group led by Prince Felix Yusupov. His frozen, partially-trussed body was discovered in a Moscow river three days later.
The postmortemrumors were that he had been almost impossible to kill, but we don’t really know what happened with a group of nobleman, worried about Rasputin’s influence over the Czar, decided to murder him. Here he is with his wife and daughter Matryona (Maria) in his St. Petersburg apartment in 1911. Matryona later moved to the U.S. where she became a riveter and a circus performer, and died in 1977.
- 1922 – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed.
- 2006 – Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein is executed.
Notables born on this day include:
- AD 39 – Titus, Roman emperor (probable; d. 81)
- 1865 – Rudyard Kipling, Indian-English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)
Kipling and his family lived in Vermont for several years, where he began The Jungle Books(a great favorite of Matthew). Here’s Kipling in his study at Naulakha, Vermont in 1895:
- 1910 – Paul Bowles, American composer and author (d. 1999)
- 1928 – Bo Diddley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2008)
- 1931 – Skeeter Davis, American singer-songwriter (d. 2004)
- 1935 – Sandy Koufax, American baseball player and sportscaster
- 1945 – Davy Jones, English singer-songwriter and actor (d. 2012)
- 1946 – Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter and poet
- 1949 – Jerry Coyne, American biologist and author.
Here’s Coyne in the Karni Mata “Rat Temple” in Deshnoke, India. In the rear are some of the thousands of resident rats, drinking a sacred offering of cream.
- 1959 – Tracey Ullman, English-American actress, singer, director, and screenwriter
- 1965 – Heidi Fleiss, American procurer
- 1975 – Tiger Woods, American golfer
Those who kicked the bucket on December 30 include:
- 1916 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (b. 1869) [see above]
- 1979 – Richard Rodgers, American playwright and composer (b. 1902)
- 2006 – Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and politician, 5th President of Iraq (b. 1937)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I got special birthday greetings from Hili!
Hili: Is a birthday an adaptation?A: Probably not. Why do you think it is?Hili: Gifts help survival. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
Hili: Czy urodziny są adaptacją?Ja: Chyba nie, dlaczego tak sądzisz?Hili: Prezenty pomagają przetrwać. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
Happily, we have our first Kulka monologue: she got so excited that she finally spoke!
Kulka: A new cardboard box!
In nearby Wlocawek, Leon also has a few words to say (unlike Mietek, he likes the holidays and parties).
Leon: My place for the New Year’s Eve party
From Stephen, who says, “A vivid example of the law of the excluded middle.” I like it, though.
An old cartoon from Sarah:
From Titania: This is an actual poster from the strike at Bryn Mawr College. It was posted in the Science Building on November 9 of this year.
“Science” is a series of outdated superstitions rooted in patriarchal white supremacy.
It’s time to defund all universities that peddle “biology”, “physics”, “chemistry”, “mathematics”, “evolution”, “gravity”, or “facts”. pic.twitter.com/jQud7nHbdX
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 29, 2020
From Simon, a good XKCD cartoon:
— XKCD Comic (@xkcdComic) December 29, 2020
Tweets from Matthew, who points out: “Alfred Russel Wallace falls even further. After spiritualism and human specialness, he became an anti-vaxxer.” The story is a bit more complicated, as doctors were exaggerating the effiacy of vaccination back then.
— Patrizia Martellini (@pinkXiguana) December 29, 2020
They need to get these individuals together:
This is extremely significant. It means at least one male and one female of the species are now known to exist. 2/3
— WCS (@TheWCS) December 18, 2020
This is sad and sweet at the same time.
Photographer Tobias Baumgaertner captured this image of two widowed fairy penguins looking over the Melbourne skyline. It has won an award in Oceanographic magazine’s Ocean Photography Awards 2020.
— meindiva🐝🛫🚉🚍🚗🌁 (@meindiva) December 28, 2020
Dozens of tiny snow people appeared today on the Bell’s Brae Bridge in Edinburgh pic.twitter.com/aW4PQMZxQ3
— Michael MacLeod (@MichaelMacLeod1) December 29, 2020
— World birds (@worldbirds32) March 21, 2020