Good morning and top o’ the week to you: it’s Monday, January 25, 2021, and National Irish Coffee Day, a concoction I rather like, and appropriate for these freezing days. It’s also Burns Night, a time to celebrate his birthday (see below) by reciting his poetry, eating haggis, and drinking whisky; A Room of One’s Own Day, celebrating the birth of Virginia Woolf on January 25, 1882; Macintosh Computer Day; and Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Is there anyone who doesn’t like to pop the stuff? Here’s a bunch of New Jersey high school students setting the world record for bubble popping:
Wine of the Day: I made chili with ground beef, and for that you need a gutsy red, preferably (because the dish is spicy) nothing too expensive. This inexpensive Cotes-du-Rhone fills the bill (you can pay more, but I paid $14; the trick is to find a wine store like Vin Chicago, with knowledgable staff but low overhead). It’s an unusual wine given the appellation, as it’s 100% Syrah, and that means stuffing. I should have let it age, but this was at hand yesterday.
It was an excellent bottle: ready to drink but I’d like to see how it improves over time (sadly, I had but one bottle). Redolent of raspberry fruit, but full-bodied, it tasted like a cross between a Zinfandel and a Beaujolais. As the reviewer said, “I’d pay $30+ for a Syrah of this quality and be very happy,” I was even happier for paying less than half that.
News of the Day:
Big kerfuffle in Chicago: the school board has said that it’s safe for teachers to resume in-class teaching in secondary schools, but the teacher’s union has said no: they ain’t teaching live until they get vaccinated. Since a vaccination takes at least 5-6 weeks to confer full immunity, this has created something of an impasse, and it’s a big deal here. The school board has paused classes until Wednesday, but there may be a strike.
If you’re interested in such things, this year’s Superbowl, to be held on February 7 in Tampa Bay, Florida will now feature the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay quarterback unwisely let go by the New England Patriots, is 43, and old for a player, but still the best in the league. And his team beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26, with Brady firing some great touchdown passes. Old is not passé! Brady has six Super Bowl rings and could get a seventh, covering most of his fingers.
Will Biden get his legislative agenda through the Senate? Not if the GOP invokes the filibuster, which means you need 60 votes to get legislation passed. Two writers at the Washington Post aren’t optimistic:
Much of the current conflict over the Senate rules comes courtesy of veteran Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who transitioned to minority leader Wednesday after six years as majority leader.
Just hours after Biden’s inauguration, moments after a smiling Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was first recognized as majority leader, McConnell pointedly noted on the Senate floor that the country elected a smaller House Democratic majority, an evenly split Senate and a “president who promised unity.”
“The people intentionally entrusted both political sides with significant power to shape our nation’s direction,” he said. “May we work together to honor that trust.”
Two days earlier, he had notified his Republican colleagues in the Senate that he would deliver Schumer a sharp ultimatum: agree to preserve the legislative filibuster, the centerpiece of minority power in the Senate or forget about any semblance of cooperation — starting with an agreement on the chamber’s operating rules.
The calculations for McConnell, according to Republicans, are simple. Not only is preserving the filibuster a matter that Republicans can unify around, it is something that potentially divides Democrats, who are under enormous pressure to discard it to advance their governing agenda.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 419,207, an increase of about 1,900 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We may pass half a million deaths in less than a month. The reported world death toll stands at 2,140,425, an increase of about 8,700 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 25 includes:
- 1533 – Henry VIII of England secretly marries his second wife Anne Boleyn.
- 1858 – The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is played at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia, and becomes a popular wedding processional.
- 1881 – Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell form the Oriental Telephone Company.
- 1890 – Nellie Bly completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days.
Here’s Bly (real name Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) at 26. Three years earlier, she became famous by feigning insanity and getting herself committed to the New York City Mental Health Hospital on Blackwell’s island to write an exposé about the horrible conditions there. Then, of course, she made her famous journey, following Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Carrying just a small satchel with a few clothes, and $200 in cash, she made it in 72 days, mostly traveling alone. Her Wikipedia article summarizes an extremely interesting life; there’s a lot more!
- 1909 – Richard Strauss’s opera Elektra receives its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.
- 1915 – Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
- 1947 – Thomas Goldsmith Jr. files a patent for a “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device”, the first ever electronic game.
- 1961 – In Washington, D.C., President John F. Kennedy delivers the first live presidential television news conference.
Here’s ten minutes of that 37-minute press conference:
- 1971 – Charles Manson and three female “Family” members are found guilty of the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders.
Actually, Charles “Tex” Watson was also convicted. (Fix that, Wikipedia!) Of the five convicted, Watson, Krenwinkel, and van Houten remain alive and incarcerated. Here are the three women convicted:
- 1971 – Idi Amin leads a coup deposing Milton Obote and becomes Uganda’s president.
- 1995 – The Norwegian rocket incident: Russia almost launches a nuclear attack after it mistakes Black Brant XII, a Norwegian research rocket, for a US Trident missile.
This was a close one. For the only time in history, a nuclear briefcase was activated (Yeltsin’s), but then de-activated when the Russians determined that the missile was headed away from their country.
- 1996 – Billy Bailey becomes the last person to be hanged in the U.S.A.
Bailey chose hanging over lethal injection because he didn’t want to be “put to sleep”. For his last meal, he requested a well-done steak, a baked potato with sour cream and butter, buttered rolls, peas, and vanilla ice cream. Have a look at that link to see other prisoners’ last meals, which I find fascinating. Eichmann even got a bottle of kosher wine! (Alcohol is forbidden to U.S. condemned prisoners.) But a well done steak! Oy!
Here are the gallows used to hang Bailey:
- 2011 – The first wave of the Egyptian revolution begins throughout the country, marked by street demonstrations, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, riots, labour strikes, and violent clashes.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1627 – Robert Boyle, Anglo-Irish chemist and physicist (d. 1691)
- 1759 – Robert Burns, Scottish poet and songwriter (d. 1796)
- 1874 – W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist, and short story writer (d. 1965)
- 1882 – Virginia Woolf, English novelist, essayist, short story writer, and critic (d. 1941)
Here Jodie Comer reads a poignant letter that Vita Sackville-West sent to her lover Woolf (you can hear the reply here). Very good letters and, at least on Comer’s part, a fantastic reading. They don’t make love letters like that any more!
- 1900 – Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ukrainian geneticist and pioneer of evolutionary biology (d. 1975)
Doby was my academic grandfather, the advisor of my Ph.D. advisor. Here he is at the scope, probably looking at chromosome squashes.
- 1949 – Paul Nurse, English geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate
- 1981 – Alicia Keys, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress
Those who started the Big Sleep on January 25 include:
- 1586 – Lucas Cranach the Younger, German painter (b. 1515)
- 1640 – Robert Burton, English physician and scholar (b. 1577)
- 1891 – Theo van Gogh, Art dealer, the brother of Vincent van Gogh (b. 1857)
Theo and his brother both died young; they are buried side by side in Auvers-sur-Oise (go see the place if you’re in Paris). Vincent shot himself, of course, and Theo died of syphillis. The simple gravesite is immensely touching. Always at odds with each other, the brothers reconciled only in death.
- 1947 – Al Capone, American gangster and mob boss (b. 1899)
- 1990 – Ava Gardner, American actress (b. 1922)
I still think she was the world’s most beautiful woman, and remains so:
- 2004 – Fanny Blankers-Koen, Dutch runner and hurdler (b. 1918)
- 2017 – Mary Tyler Moore, American actress, dancer, and producer (b. 1936)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili urges Andrzej to work harder on Listy:
Hili: We can’t stop our efforts.A: I totally agree.
Hili: Nie możemy ustawać w wysiłkach.Ja: Całkowicie podzielam twoje zdanie.
I can’t resist yet another Bernie meme from Mark. And it’s one of my favorite albums:
I can’t stop myself; here’s another Bernie album-cover meme from Gregory:
Titania, following the unrestrained exultation of the newsperson here, compares Joe Biden to the first two rulers of North Korea. Be sure to listen to the over-the-top video.
On the day of Joe Biden’s birth, a shimmering rainbow appeared in the sky and the birds of Scranton, Pennsylvania sang out his name in unison.
Today, I shall compose a poem entitled “Joe Biden’s Arms”, a paean to the glory of our blessed saviour.
May he embrace us forevermore. pic.twitter.com/YqzOpLSViB
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) January 20, 2021
From Gethyn, a remarkable find:
My kind of news day:
"Geologist Finds Rare Formation Inside Rock That Looks Exactly Like Cookie Monster on Sesame Street" pic.twitter.com/rKftbLw804
— Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich (@jackiantonovich) January 23, 2021
. . . and in case you’ve forgotten what the Cookie Monster looks like:
From Simon. Look at that cat!
my cat has become OBSESSED with sitting in on my zoom calls and has now perfected the art of glaring straight down the camera pic.twitter.com/RbFSQSlkV6
— Abby Tomlinson (@twcuddleston) January 22, 2021
From Barry, we have a cat severely in need of rehab!
Just say no! Just say no!
"We rescue ALL animals, though dogs need us the most. But we rescue cats, bunnies, rats, snakes, small exotics, eleflumps, bears, big cats, wildlife, sea life, primates…"-@ElayneBoosler#tailsofjoy
— Elayne Boosler's Rescue Dog, Ralph (@BooslerS) January 21, 2021
If you want Cat Crack (a product of Canada), you can buy it on Amazon.
Tweets from Matthew. Here’s a moving clip in which the team of Nepalese climbers who recently made the first winter ascent of K2 (second highest peak on Earth) march to the summit arm in arm, singing the Nepalese National Anthem. Sound up (the fancy music is, of course, superimposed on the clip):
Brother to brother, shoulder to shoulder, we walked together to the summit whilst singing the Nepali national anthem. We all stopped around 10m before reaching the summit to huddle and make our final steps together as a team to mark this historical feat .. 1/4 #K2winter pic.twitter.com/P2kCwRy1Vn
— Nirmal Purja MBE (@nimsdai) January 24, 2021
There are a gazillion ways to address this question; I’ll let readers find their own answers (put them below, please):
Can anyone help me understand how having a large percentage of our population be irresponsibly gullible is an evolutionary advantage? Or is it an artifact of some useful adaptation that allows for us to be easily duped?
— The Man Who Walked Home (@RTC_Ento) January 24, 2021
I just keep getting these memes from readers, and believe me, there are more to come in the next few days’ Hili posts:
Goodnight Twitter 🧡 pic.twitter.com/8hfZgsIeyJ
— Jeffrey Ward (@JeffreyMWard) January 24, 2021
And some peace to end with, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings Sound up.
Sunday morning sunrise. Wait for swansies 😃 pic.twitter.com/v3BpsNQxK6
— Nikon Photographer (@Astrid_Tontson) January 24, 2021