Welcome to the first Monday in 2021: January 4: National Spaghetti Day. (I still haven’t been able to find bucatini.) It’s also World Braille Day, celebrating the birthday of Louis Braille (see below), and National Trivia Day. (Here’s a trivia question: name all seven of the Seven Dwarfs. You should know the answer because I mentioned this question recently. You will forget at least two of them.) Answer below the fold (click “continue reading” at bottom).
Finally, it’s Dimpled Chad Day, which you’ll remember from 2001; it was on January 6 of that year that Congress gave George W. Bush the Presidency over Al Gore. If you’re 30 or over, you’ll remember the dimpled chads and hanging chads scrutinized by the Florida ballot counters. The Supreme Court put a stop to that, and so we got W as President.
I have to add that the song “Muskrat Love,” which I posted the other day as one of the world’s worst songs, has been running through my head at bedtime every night. It’s a true earworm, and I can’t stop it.
News of the Day:
Breaking news! A British judge has just refused to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S., where he’s been charged with violation of the Espionage Act. The judged ruled that extradition would be “oppressive.”
More breaking news! According to CNN, Iran is being bad again, breaking its agreement with other countries. This is a new announcement:
Iran has restarted uranium enrichment toward a 20% target at its Fordow nuclear facility, a government spokesman said on Monday, according to the semi-official news agency Mehr and state news agency IRNA.
The resumption of the enrichment process would breach the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the international community, implemented in 2016, that froze Iran’s nuclear program in return for a progressive lifting of international sanctions.
Non-breaking news: Trump, still desperate and unwilling to recognize that the game is over, pressured the Georgia Secretary of State to “recalculate” the number of votes (listen to the conversation at the preceding link). When told that “the data you have is wrong”, Trump responds with much blather about tampered voting machines, adding “all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes.” He then told the secretary “You’re a Republican,” and proceeded to threaten him and his aide with legal action, implying that they were lying and hence violating the law.
Oy, didn’t he know the call would be recorded? Maybe he doesn’t care.
Here's the audio of Trump pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to "recalculate" the ballot totals. The Trump card, ". . . and you're a Republican."https://t.co/FgkNyF2x1G
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) January 3, 2021
Regarding the above, Dr. Cobb issued a tweet. Matthew’s almost right here, but he’s neglecting the duck pond that Tony would have put in the Rose Garden, as well as the gabagool for state dinners.
If Tony Soprano were in the White House, he would sound like this: wheedling, petulant, threatening, utterly criminal. https://t.co/uPFx4pyJEi
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) January 3, 2021
In another body blow to a pugilist already down for the count, all ten former living Secretaries of Defense co-signed a letter, published in The Washington Post, declaring that the election is over and it’s time for a transition of administrations. E.g.:
Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.
The signers are Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry, and Donald Rumsfeld. Of course Trump won’t listen to that, either, but it’s a lineup of heavy hitters, many of whom worked for Republican Presidents.
Yesterday’s poll on whether University of California Merced professor Abbas Ghasemmi should be investigated by the school for his vile anti-Semitic tweets gave the results below. There was a surprising number of votes to investigate Ghasemmi, but part of that is probably due to my asking an ambiguous question: one can investigate Ghassemi not for his tweets but for whether he was treating students fairly in the classroom and meeting his professorial duties. Those might be indicated by a series of unhinged tweets. So there are two ways the “investigation” should go.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S 351,682, an increase of about 1,300 deaths from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,852,086, an increase of about 7,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 4 includes this (note that not much stuff happened in January, probably because it was too cold):
- 871 – Battle of Reading: Æthelred of Wessex and his brother Alfred are defeated by a Danish invasion army.
- 1762 – Great Britain declares war on Spain, thus entering the Seven Years’ War.
- 1853 – After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir Twelve Years a Slave later becomes a national bestseller.
- 1903 – Topsy, an elephant, is electrocuted by the owners of Luna Park, Coney Island. The Edison film company records the film Electrocuting an Elephant of Topsy’s death.
This is one of the most horrible examples of animal abuse I know. Topsy wasn’t old or sick, and hadn’t hurt anybody; the Coney Island park owners just couldn’t deal with her any more. First she was fed cyanide-laced carrots, and then electrocuted, and after that strangled. If you want to see the video of the electrocution, it’s on the Wikipedia page linked to “Topsy”. I can’t bear to watch it again
- 1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota, United States.
- 2007 – The 110th United States Congress convenes, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.
Pelosi was just re-elected as Speaker of the House.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1581 – James Ussher, Irish archbishop and historian (d. 1656)
- 1643 – Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist (d. 1727)
Newton was actually born on December 25 under the modern calendar.
- 1785 – Jacob Grimm, German philologist and mythologist (d. 1863)
- 1809 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (d. 1852)
Braille was blinded as a child by an accident with an awl in his father’s stitching shop. He turned out to be a tireless worker and, though blind, invented his system of raised dots (ironically, produced with an awl) by the time he was just fifteen. The system, barely used during his lifetime, now is universal, using almost the exact characters he devised. Here’s a painting of the man (I couldn’t find any photos):
- 1900 – James Bond, American ornithologist and zoologist (d. 1989)
Most of you know that the James Bond spy character was named after a real man, an ornithologist who wrote the definitive book The Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming knew Bond, and the rest is history. As Wikipedia reports:
Ian Fleming, who was a keen bird watcher living in Jamaica, was familiar with Bond’s book, and chose the name of its author for the hero of Casino Royale in 1953, apparently because he wanted a name that sounded “as ordinary as possible”. Fleming wrote to the real Bond’s wife, “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” He did not contact the real James Bond about using his name in the books, and Bond did not learn of the identity “theft” until the early 1960s when the 007 books became popular in the U.S. In 1964 during his annual winter stay at Goldeneye in Jamaica, James Bond and his wife visited Fleming unexpectedly. Also in his novel Dr. No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large ornithological sanctuary on Dr. No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed, “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In December 2008 the book was put up for auction, eventually fetching $84,000 (£56,000).
. . . In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day, the fictional Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana, Cuba. The author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured.
Here’s the real Bond—not nearly as dapper as Sean Connery:
- 1940 – Brian Josephson, Welsh physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
- 1960 – Michael Stipe, American singer-songwriter and producer
Those who “passed” on January 4 include two Nobel Laureates in literature:
- 1877 – Cornelius Vanderbilt, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1794)
- 1941 – Henri Bergson, French philosopher and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1859)
- 1960 – Albert Camus, French novelist, philosopher, and journalist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1913)
I’ve just started reading Camus’s The Plague, which I found on my bookshelf and decided it was an appropriate read.
Here’s Eliot at 38. He was a very great poet (I’m still amazed that he wrote Prufrock at only 21 or 22), but I think I would have found him a twit:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili uses profanity for the first time ever in these pages! When I asked what Hili was on about, Malgorzata replied, “Hili is talking about all the stupidity repeated around in mainstream press, on the Internet and between people.”
Hili: Astounding.A: What is so astounding?Hili: The speed of dissemination of bullshit is close to the speed of light.
Hili: Zdumiewające.Ja: Co jest takie zdumiewające?Hili: Szybkość rozpowszechniania się bredni zbliża się do szybkości światła.
Paulina took another formal portrait of her beloved Kulka:
From Nicole, for the d*g mavens:
From Jesus of the Day, and I hope you know this old trick:
From Dom. I don’t think the “from the author” inscription is from Darwin, but is probably Wallace’s note. But I do see with approval Wallace’s interest in cats:
Here’s a special thing. A first edition of Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions (1872), given by the author to Alfred Russel Wallace, and later deposited at the @LinneanSociety. Wallace annotated his copy, and seems particularly interested in the passages on cats. pic.twitter.com/Gx8xYXgi9T
— Will Beharrell (@WillBeharrell) December 9, 2020
Maarten Boudry’s cat Winston Purrchill sends us New Year’s greetings:
— Maarten Boudry (@mboudry) January 2, 2021
From Barry: an enchanted bear cub sees its first snow:
Bear cub catching snowflakes. pic.twitter.com/nYmWcdXl9z
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) January 2, 2021
Tweets from Matthew: It’s even smoking a Galouises!
This beret has seen some things. pic.twitter.com/FS3VTWAlP0
— Faces in Things (@FacesPics) January 3, 2021
And this is a murmuration!
— cliff smith (@01000011S) January 3, 2021
As Matthew noted: “Genuine brawl in a Taiwan restaurant the other day. Some chinese tourists stared at some Taiwanese lads, and you don’t do that. This is my current mood.” (Matthew’s printer broke.) See the news story at this link.
I am crying at the person filming & still trying to eat 😩 pic.twitter.com/aO0tMv7RcL
— Special Girl, Real Good Girl (@MsNicoleBanks) January 2, 2021
Now here’s some Republican hypocrisy, or is that term redundant?
Hice was re-elected to represent Georgia's 10th congressional district on the same day, on the same ballot, using the same voting technology and methods as @JoeBiden. He seems to have no questions about whether his own election was fair and free of fraud. https://t.co/QEfrAjoilD
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 3, 2021
One of Matthew’s beloved illusions. The small squares are all the same color, and first next tweet proves it.
— ａｐｕ (@apu_yokai) January 3, 2021
Click “continue reading” to get the names of the seven Dwarfs:
I bet you forgot Doc and Bashful!