Good day on Friday, January 15, 2021: National Bagel Day. There are few places in North America where you can get a good (i.e., authentic) bagel: two are in Montreal and one is in New York City. I will let you do your own investigation, but do not be gulled into thinking that those inflated pillows of dough sold as “bagels” everywhere in America are real bagels. They are simply toruses made from Wonder Bread. Some even have what purports to be blueberries in them. Here’s a real bagel with a schmear from Montreal, boiled with honey, cooked over a real wood fire, and properly dense and chewy.
Today there’s a Google Doodle celebrating the life of James Naismith (1861-1939), the inventor of basketball (click on screenshot). As C|Net reports, it was on this day in 1862 that Naismith “[unveiled] the rules of the sport, which he’d invented just weeks earlier, in a Springfield College school newspaper.”
Wine of the Day: If you want a good, dry bubbly but don’t want to pay Champagne prices, the American Roederer Estate Brut, which you can get for not much more than $20, is your ticket. It’s made from wine of different vintages, as they mix oak-aged wines from their collection to the blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are the body of this sparkler. It’s toasty, with prominent fruit notes: apple and pear (probably due to the malic acid). And it’s a terrific bargain if you want a sparkler. Very dry, too, which is good as I don’t like sweet bubbly.
News of the Day:
The news is scary: according to the FBI, via ABC News, there are now credible threats to attack every state capital on Inauguration Day. Will this really happen? Are there that many armed loons in America? Maybe I’m naive, but I’m hoping nobody gets killed on January 20.
And Mitch “666” McConnell now declares that an impeachment trial can’t begin until Inauguration day, January 20. Will we see Senators first watch Biden and Harris get sworn in, then quickly repair to their chamber to debate the article of impeachment? If not on that day, the trial will surely begin that week, for there are no plans to delay it.
Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator from Alaska, has intimated that she may vote to impeach Trump. That means we’d still need 16 Republican Senators joining her to secure a conviction. . That simply won’t happen, barring a miracle, and we need to accept it.
At the Washington Post, a Yale Law professor explains why it’s unlikely that Trump would be able to pardon himself. It’s not dead certain, but there are several legal and societal reasons why Trump couldn’t do it. Of course he could always resign and get Pence to do it, but based on their now soured relations, I think that unlikely.
Reuters reports, based on information from insiders, how Trump is spending his final days in the White House. It’s not a pretty picture, and reminds me of Nixon’s last days. The report adds that Trump wanted to march with the protestors down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, but was dissuaded by the Secret Service, who couldn’t guarantee his safety. An excerpt:
Trump’s last days in the White House have been marked by rage and turmoil, multiple sources said. He watched some of the impeachment debate on TV and grew angry at the Republican defections, a source familiar with the situation said.
Trump has suffered a sudden rupture with his vice president, the departure of disgusted senior advisers, his abandonment by a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers, the loss of his cherished Twitter megaphone, and a rush by corporations and others to distance themselves from him and his businesses.
Reuters spoke to more than a dozen Trump administration officials with a window into the closing act of his presidency. They described a shrinking circle of loyal aides who are struggling to contain an increasingly fretful, angry and isolated president – one seemingly still clinging to unfounded claims of election fraud – and to keep the White House functioning until Biden assumes power.
“Everybody feels like they’re doing the best job they can to hold it all together until Biden takes over,” one Trump adviser told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 388,785, a big increase of about 4,000 deaths from yesterday’s figure, or about 2.8 deaths per minute. In a few days we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 2,004,466, a big increase of about 15,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. As predicted, we passed two million deaths yesterday.
Stuff that happened on January 15 includes:
- 1559 – Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, London.
- 1759 – The British Museum opens to the public.
- 1870 – A political cartoon for the first time symbolizes the Democratic Party with a donkey (“A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly).
Here’s the cartoon (Wikipedia gives this explanation: “Andrew Jackson’s enemies twisted his name to “jackass” as a term of ridicule regarding a stupid and stubborn animal. However, the Democrats liked the common-man implications and picked it up too, therefore the image persisted and evolved.”)
- 1889 – The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is incorporated in Atlanta.
- 1919 – Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, two of the most prominent socialists in Germany, are tortured and murdered by the Freikorps at the end of the Spartacist uprising.
- 1919 – Great Molasses Flood: A wave of molasses released from an exploding storage tank sweeps through Boston, Massachusetts, killing 21 and injuring 150.
Yes, it’s that time of year when I must report that nearly two dozen people were drowned in molasses. A sad end, but also a sweet one. Here’s a photograph of the damage; caption from the Boston Globe.
That reminds me of a joke about the guy who died from drinking furniture polish: he had a horrible end, but a beautiful finish.
- 1936 – The first building to be completely covered in glass, built for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, is completed in Toledo, Ohio.
Here’s a crappy photo, but it’s the only one I could find:
- 1947 – The Black Dahlia murder: the dismembered corpse of Elizabeth Short was found in Los Angeles.
This murder is still unsolved, and it was a bad one. If you want the gory details, Google “Black Dahlia crime scene”.
- 1962 – The Derveni papyrus, Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript dating to 340 BC, is found in northern Greece.
The fragments of the papyrus comprise a commentary on a poem by Orpheus. Here’s a photo of some of them.
- 1967 – The first Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles. The Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35–10.
- 1976 – Gerald Ford’s would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore, is sentenced to life in prison.
Moore was released in 2007 and then put back in jail in 2019 for violating her parole (she left the country without getting permission). She’s still in jail:
- 2001 – Wikipedia, a free wiki content encyclopedia, goes online.
It’s Wikipedia’s 20th birthday! Reader Enrico noticed that there’s an article in The Economist (paywalled) celebrating the occasion. For years Greg Mayer has been promising to write an article about the errors in Wikipedia, an article to be called “What’s the Matter with Wikipedia?” But, as I tell him, it’s like Casaubon’s “Key to all Mythologies”: it will never appear.
- 2019 – Theresa May’s UK government suffers the biggest government defeat in modern times, when 432 MPs voting against the proposed European Union withdrawal agreement, giving her opponents a majority of 230.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1622 – Molière, French actor and playwright (d. 1673)
- 1850 – Leonard Darwin, English soldier, eugenicist, and politician (d. 1943)
Leonard (below) was the son of Charles Darwin. He doesn’t look much like his dad:
- 1891 – Osip Mandelstam, Russian poet and translator (d. 1938)
- 1908 – Edward Teller, Hungarian-American physicist and academic (d. 2003)
- 1909 – Gene Krupa, American drummer, composer, and actor (d. 1973)
- 1919 – Maurice Herzog, French mountaineer and politician, French Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports (d. 2012)
Herzog and Louis Lachenal were the first mountaineers to climb an 8000-meter peak, Annapurna I. They didn’t have the right boots, though, and Herzog lost all of his toes and most of his fingers on a difficult descent. He wrote a best-selling book, Annapurna, about the ascent, which remains the best-selling book about mountaineering. Here he is before they snipped off his digits:
- 1929 – Martin Luther King Jr., American minister and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1968)
Those who breathed their last on January 15 include:
- 1896 – Mathew Brady, American photographer and journalist (b. 1822)
Here’s Brady’s photo of Abraham Lincoln:
- 1919 – Rosa Luxemburg, German economist, theorist, and philosopher (b. 1871)
- 1955 – Yves Tanguy, French-American painter (b. 1900)
- 1964 – Jack Teagarden, American singer-songwriter and trombonist (b. 1905)
- 1987 – Ray Bolger, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1904)
- 1994 – Harry Nilsson, American singer-songwriter (b. 1941)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili proposes Meow-Based Reforms:
Hili: We have to change the world.A: OK, but how to do it?Hili: By meowing loudly.
Hili: Musimy zmienić świat.Ja: Dobrze, ale jak to zrobić?Hili: Trzeba miauczeć donośnie.
Also in Dobrzyn, Kulka, always jumping and running, disports herself in the snow. Here are four pictures, with the caption, “Paulina’s hijinks with Kulka”. (In Polish: Szaleństwa Pauliny z Kulką).
From Jesus of the Day. Would Velveeta work?
A groaner from Bruce:
Titania isn’t at all distressed at her loss of followers. But Twitter must have really cleaned out its “deplorables”:
I am FURIOUS. 😡
I’ve only lost 16,400 followers so far in this latest Twitter purge.
I won’t be satisfied until the only ones left on Twitter are me and Kamala Harris. pic.twitter.com/X2CaWnaksc
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) January 14, 2021
From Simon, who says this is “A thought on punishing Trump”. Does this mean Trump has to serve a very long time?
Hitler was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in prison after the Beer Hall Putsch. He served nine months before he was pardoned in the name of "unity and healing." And after that, as we all know, everything was fine.
— Paul Cogan (@PaulCogan) January 12, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. These oldsters still got it!
This cheered me up no end pic.twitter.com/lj5FSLlpLk
— Giles Paley-Phillips (@eliistender10) January 14, 2021
Another Trump-related tweet (and a response). Soon, I hope, we can dispense with this issue:
'Actually, the world was created in six days,' say some replies without any irony.#Actually
— davidallengreen (@davidallengreen) January 13, 2021
One of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions:
Blue columns appear to expand laterally. pic.twitter.com/xTFOHwakNV
— Akiyoshi Kitaoka (@AkiyoshiKitaoka) January 14, 2021
This weevil looks like it was just entombed yesterday, but has been preserved in amber for 35 million years. The second tweet links to the paper with the description:
Image from Bukejs and Legalov, 2020. The first record of Brentidae (Coleoptera) in Eocene Rovno amber with description of a new fossil species of Toxorhynchus Scudder, 1893. @fossil_record, 23, 169-177. https://t.co/t2bxqxj7Hg
— Dr Dean Lomax (@Dean_R_Lomax) January 14, 2021
I’m not squeamish, but I have to say that this is disgusting:
Enjoyed this story about a millipede irruption so dense that it used to literally stop trains (although is now declining, alas). Any other great examples of invertebrate swarms large enough to prevent the use of linear infrastructure?#roadecologyhttps://t.co/RK5SXFR5Qw
— Ben Goldfarb (@ben_a_goldfarb) January 14, 2021
It’s where they keep their spare silk:
this is a female australian huntsman spider, identifying them is easy since males don't have a handbag pic.twitter.com/Ypihu1iZVi
— Rob N Roll (@thegallowboob) January 12, 2021