It is the Sabbath for humans and canids: Sunday, February, February 28, 2021, and the last day of this wretched month. It’s National Chocolate Soufflé Day, as well as Global Scouse Day, celebrating a stew associated with Liverpool, and, in India, National Science Day, celebrating the discovery, on this day in 1928, of the light effect called “Raman Scattering” by Indian physicist C. V. Raman. Raman won the Nobel Prize for this discovery, becoming the first Asian to win a Nobel in science. Here’s a photo:
And here’s Raman getting his Nobel Prize in Stockholm. The Wikipedia caption is “Raman at the 1930 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony with other winners, from left C. V. Raman (physics), Hans Fischer (chemistry), Karl Landsteiner (medicine) and Sinclair Lewis (literature).”
This is Llopart’s top-of-the-line cava, and it’s unavailable in America (it was carried back from Spain). Aged for at least eight years before release, this is from the highly rated 2008 vintage. Production is limited, with only a few thousand bottles produced per vintage (note the bottle number below), so I’m lucky to have it. And oy, was it good! Dry, but with the classic “toasty” nose of French champagne, it also had overtones of apple, so the best way I can describe the flavor is “toast with apple butter.” At 13 years old, it’s not even close to being over the hill. It’s made from two Spanish grapes, Macabeo and Xarelo
I had the first half bottle with a juicy pork chop, rice, and green beans, and drank my second glass after dinner so I could savor it on its own. Llopart cavas, of which there are about eight varieties, are always tasty and good values; try the Brut Rosés if you like pink champagne! Cava is often made with great care in Spain, and it’s a good and affordable alternative to overpriced French champagne. But shop carefully.
News of the Day:
People are kvetching because the design of the stage at the conservative CPAC convention resembles the collar insignia of volunteer units of Hitler’s Waffen SS. You be the judge, but I think it’s a coincidence. Seriously, would they do this on purpose?
This is the CPAC stage design below. It is a rune which was used by the SS.
This is the stage from which @tedcruz screeched “freedom.”
— Ben Jackson (@BJacksonWrites) February 27, 2021
You’ll all be relieved to hear that Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs have been found unharmed tied to a pole behind an alley in Los Angeles. They were abducted on Wednesday, and Lady Gaga’s 30-year-old dogwalker was shot. The dog-finder stands to get a $500,000 reward, and nobody seems to care about the condition of the injured dogwalker, who, by the way, is recovering.
Even better news is that the FDA has given emergency approval to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is a single-shot jab (J&J are testing a two-jab regimen) that can be stored at refrigerator temperature. The efficacy, at about 72%, is lower than that of the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives, but it’s 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. With 100 million doses of this vaccine scheduled to be delivered by summer, the U.S. will be, as they say, “done and dusted.”
The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed the House, but narrowly and without bipartisan support, with all but two Democrats and no Republicans voting for the bill (the vote waas 219-212). It now goes to the Senate, where it faces a sterner test. The $15 minimum wage provision has already been effectively removed by the Senate parliamentarian, and two Democrats (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema), are opposed to that anyway. It will pass eventually, but without the minimum wage provision, which, sadly, looks DOA.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 511,850, an increase of about 1,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure The reported world death toll stands 2,538,691, an increase of about 7,600 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 28, a busy day in history, includes:
Here’s a 19th-century painting of the incident, “The Martyrdom of Cuauhtémoc”, by Leandro Izaguirre.
- 1849 – Regular steamship service from the east to the west coast of the United States begins with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay, four months 22 days after leaving New York Harbor.
- 1874 – One of the longest cases ever heard in an English court ends when the defendant is convicted of perjury for attempting to assume the identity of the heir to the Tichborne baronetcy.
The case lasted three years, and the claimant (real name unknown) was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to get the inheritance of a family member presumed lost at sea.
- 1933 – Gleichschaltung: The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed in Germany a day after the Reichstag fire.
- 1935 – DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invents nylon.
Here’s Carothers with nylon, a polyamide compound:
- 1939 – The erroneous word “dord” is discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, prompting an investigation.
You’re gonna want to know about this; here’s a bit from Wikipedia (it took them eight years to catch the error):
The word dord is a dictionary error in lexicography. It was accidentally created, as a ghost word, by the staff of G. and C. Merriam Company (now part of Merriam-Webster) in the New International Dictionary, second edition (1934). That dictionary defined the term a synonym for density used in physics and chemistry in the following way:
dord (dôrd), n. Physics & Chem. Density.
On 31 July 1931, Austin M. Patterson, the dictionary’s chemistry editor, sent in a slip reading “D or d, cont./density.” This was intended to add “density” to the existing list of words that the letter “D” can abbreviate. The phrase “D or d” was misinterpreted as a single, run-together word: Dord. This was a plausible mistake, because headwords on slips were typed with spaces between the letters, so “D or d” looked very much like “D o r d”. The original slip went missing, so a new slip was prepared for the printer, which assigned a part of speech (noun) and a pronunciation. The would-be word was not questioned or corrected by proofreaders. The entry appeared on page 771 of the dictionary around 1934, between the entries for The Dorcopsis (a type of small kangaroo) and doré (golden in color).
- 1940 – Basketball is televised for the first time (Fordham University vs. the University of Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden).
- 1953 – James Watson and Francis Crick announce to friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement takes place on April 25 following publication in April’s Nature (pub. April 2).
Let’s correct one error here: that Watson and Crick strode into the Eagle pub on Cambridge that day and announced that they’d found the secret of life. As Matthew noted in his post on Crick’s 100th birthday party, where Watson spoke,
[Watson] finally admitted that when he wrote in The Double Helix that Crick strode into the Eagle pub and proclaimed ‘We have discovered the secret of life’, this was not true. Watson said he made it up, for dramatic effect. Crick always denied saying any such thing, and historians have long known that The Double Helix cannot be taken as an entirely reliable source.
- 1983 – The final episode of M*A*S*H airs, with almost 106 million viewers. It still holds the record for the highest viewership of a season finale.
Here’s the end of that last episode, the 256th:
- 1986 – Olof Palme, 26th Prime Minister of Sweden, is assassinated in Stockholm.
- 1991 – The first Gulf War ends.
- 2013 – Pope Benedict XVI resigns as the pope of the Catholic Church, becoming the first pope to do so since Pope Gregory XII, in 1415.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1901 – Linus Pauling, American chemist and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1994)
- 1906 – Bugsy Siegel, American gangster (d. 1947)
Bugsy was a nasty member of the group of Jewish mobsters called “The Kosher Mafia”. He was one of those responsible for making Las Vegas a gaming capital controlled by the mob, and was murdered at 41. Bugsy’s real name was Benjamin Siegel. Here’s a mugshot from 1928 and his memorial plaque at Bialystoker Synagogue in New York:
- 1942 – Brian Jones, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer (d. 1969)
- 1948 – Bernadette Peters, American actress, singer, and author
Peters is renowned both for acting and for her interpretations of the songs of Stephen Sondheim. (She was also in a relationship with Steve Martin for four years.) Here she is in 1994, with Sondheim at the keyboard, singing my favorite Sondheim song:
- 1953 – Paul Krugman, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
Those who bought the farm on February 28 include:
- 2007 – Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. American historian and critic (b. 1917)
- 2020 – Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe’s (b. 1930)
I just went to the local Trader Joe’s two days ago to pick up some packages of their frozen saag paneer, which is terrific. Here’s Trader Joe:
- 2020 – Freeman Dyson, British-born American physicist and mathematician (b. 1923)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej exchange observations:
Hili: These lights and shadows are strange.A: Indeed they are.
Hili: Dziwne te światła i cienie.Ja: Rzeczywiście.
Here’s leaping Kulka (and Szaron) with the caption: “Paulina’s pictures from the life of Kulka.”
Three cat memes today. This reenactment photo is from Fat Cat Art, and is titled “Girl with Purrl Earring”.
From Grumpy Cats:
Another tweet from Titania that some poor schmoes will take seriously:
This is the most outrageous headline I’ve ever seen. 😡
The UK is now officially a fascist state. https://t.co/08JYsRoHBR
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) February 27, 2021
Cesar found this tweet from Nikole Hannah-Jones, the NYT’s head of the 1619 project, commenting on Ouou Kanoute, the Smith student whose false claims of racism (see here) ignited a firestorm on campus that’s still smoldering. Hannah-Jones seems to have erased this tweet, which she seems to do as often as Trump tells lies. She vowed to take a Twitter break, but, as Greenwald notes below, can’t stick to it. She’s a nasty piece of work.
Tweets from Matthew. Sadly, this one doesn’t actually show the skunk using the rock to break ice, but it’s drinking from the bowl and holding the rock in its forepaw. FIRST KNOWN CASE OF TOOL-USING IN SKUNKS!
🦨 Exciting news 🦨
Feb 2018 I got photos of a skunk using a small rock as a tool to break the ice at the water bowl & drink, it was in Discover magazine (Nov 2019) and the paper, here: https://t.co/GaBcwEQASs
— sue (@CameraTrapSue) February 27, 2021
Here’s the latest from Statler, the aging and decrepit but game fruit bat at the Bat World Sanctuary. (I think I identify with him.) The keepers take him “flying” every day, which means walking him about as he flaps his agéd wings. They love him, and so do I. He’s now an internet personality!
Now for something a little more lighthearted!
Statler just finished up his bath, and figured he could make it back to the Geribatric all by himself. He was right! Look at him go. No help needed at all, it's all Stat! 🦇 #StatlerTheBat #SponsorStatler pic.twitter.com/Hb5VBuOSnC
— Bat World Sanctuary (@batworld) February 26, 2021
Matthew highlights this amazing finding, but notes that people are missing how old it is! He says,
Everyone on Twitter is going nuts over this paper, linked to by Adam, where he says “Well this is simply the most astonishing discovery that I can recall. A bacteria that photosynthesises from INFRARED LIGHT FROM A DEEP SEA HYDROTHERMAL VENT.” But the paper was published in 2005 (I missed it too), and has been cited 205 times, mainly by exobiology folk and photosynthesis people. So loads of people who are impressed by this, had no idea. Odd, eh?
I blame the science journalists:
Well this is simply the most astonishing discovery that I can recall. A bacteria that photosynthesises from INFRARED LIGHT FROM A DEEP SEA HYDROTHERMAL VENT. https://t.co/grh2RJDlLy
— Dr Adam Rutherford (@AdamRutherford) February 27, 2021
Matthew sent me the tweet with an explanation (the bomb was 2 meters long), and I added his notes and retweeted it. Sound up: it’s a big bang!
A bomb from WWII was found on the Exeter University campus; people were evacuated, they built a wall around it, and then detonated it today. Sound up! https://t.co/JB7VCl0Stm
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) February 27, 2021
So here’s what all the fuss was about!! Thank you so much to @ExeterCouncil for this amazing clip and of course to @DC_Police @BritishArmy and all the other agencies involved in this huge project to keep us all safe. #exeterbomb pic.twitter.com/j8cFzEvyNi
— University of Exeter (@UniofExeter) February 27, 2021
You have to wait until the end of this one; the folks are completely taken aback!
Bomb exploded in Exeter pic.twitter.com/4bLexxKRBu
— Emily PH (@emilyph174) February 27, 2021