First, Greg Mayer has added his take on the Donald McNeil affair at the New York Times, so go to yesterday’s post and look for Greg’s addendum at the bottom.
Good morning on Thursday,March 4, 2021: National Poundcake Day. It’s also National Snack Day, National Grammar Day (work on the placement of “only” in a sentence: the correct usage is, for example, “I ate only two donuts” and not “I only ate two donuts”), Hug a GI Day (do you know where the term “GI” for a soldier comes from? go here), National Dance the Waltz Day, and World Book Day, but only in the UK and Ireland. (The rest of the planet’s World Book Day comes in April).
News of the Day:
The GoFundMe amount sent to Jodi Shaw is now at almost $285,000 and she added this note:
Hi everyone… thank you so much for all your support. In addition with proceeding with a legal complaint against Smith College, I am trying to come up with a special way to say THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and the others who will benefit from the new fund. Stay tuned and thank you again! -Jodi
The SpaceX Starship SN10, designed to send people and cargo to both the Moon and Mars, finally stuck a landing yesterday, flipping upside down and coming down soft as you please. The previous two flights crashed after short (6.5-minute) flights, and, sadly, for this one the rocket exploded after its safe landing:
Livestreaming your life (nearly 24/7) is big business in China, and there are businesses devoted to training livestreamers how to rake in donations. It’s all about good-looking young women who squeeze money out of lonely guys. Watch this 13-minute NYT video and tell me that this isn’t really screwed up.
Glory be! Google announced that it’s going to stop following users as they access multiple websites, a tactic it has to target ads specific to consumers’ interest. I despise that snooping, and can’t stand seeing ads for cat stuff on Facebook. (Facebook is not of course part of Google, and refuses to give up this kind of tracking.)
The governors of Texas and Mississippi have now “opened up” their states, completely eliminating mask mandates, contrary to the CDC’s and their own states’ advice. Joe Biden, mincing no words, said this:
“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water. Do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
This strikes me as slandering Neanderthals, and it’s bad advice. Nevertheless, as I contemplate taking a short trip to regain my sanity, the more “open” states are attracting me since I’m fully vaccinated. Of course I would comply with all the normal sanitary precautions anywhere I go, including wearing masks.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 518,079, an increase of about 2,400 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,573,494, an increase of about 11,000 deaths over yesterday’s total. Both figures are an appreciable increase over yesterday’s toll.
Stuff that happened on March 4 includes:
- 1461 – Wars of the Roses in England: Lancastrian King Henry VI is deposed by his House of York cousin, who then becomes King Edward IV.
- 1493 – Explorer Christopher Columbus arrives back in Lisbon, Portugal, aboard his ship Niña from his voyage to what are now The Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean.
- 1519 – Hernán Cortés arrives in Mexico in search of the Aztec civilization and its wealth.
- 1794 – The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by the U.S. Congress.
This amendment limits the ability to bring lawsuits against states into federal courts.
Here’s a drawing of Chicago in about 1850:
- 1849 – President-elect of the United States Zachary Taylor and Vice President-elect Millard Fillmore did not take their respective oaths of office (they did so the following day), leading to the erroneous theory that outgoing President pro tempore of the United States Senate David Rice Atchison had assumed the role of acting president for one day.
March 4 was the original Inauguration Day, but it changed after FDR’s first election. However, it was feared that Trump supporters would mount another assault on the Capitol today because of the traditional date. It won’t happen: security is too tight.
- 1861 – The first national flag of the Confederate States of America (the “Stars and Bars”) is adopted. Here’s the first one, but it’s not the one that the racists and nativists wave:
- 1917 – Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first female member of the United States House of Representatives.
Rankin was elected twice, 24 years apart! In 1916 and 1940. Here she is:
- 1933 – Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the 32nd President of the United States. He was the last president to be inaugurated on March 4.
- 1966 – In an interview in the London Evening Standard, The Beatles‘ John Lennon declares that the band is “more popular than Jesus now”.
I well remember this, and people went wild, especially in the religious American South. Here’s one reaction, with the Wikipedia caption: “Beatles burning in the American city of Waycross, Georgia organized by the radio station WAYX. A smiling boy holds a copy of the 1964 album Meet the Beatles!, which is soon to be tossed into a bonfire.”
- 1985 – The Food and Drug Administration approves a blood test for HIV infection, used since then for screening all blood donations in the United States.
- 1998 – Gay rights: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also apply when both parties are the same sex.
- 2018 – Former MI6 spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter are poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury, England, causing a diplomatic uproar that results in mass-expulsions of diplomats from all countries involved.
They both survived. Russia has to stop poisoning its dissidents, and Novichok doesn’t seem to work that well, anyway.
- 2020 – Former Daredevil Nik Wallenda is the first person to walk over the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua.
Here’s the video: Wallenda made it all the way across the 1800-foot chasm, with toxic gases rising above (note that he’s wearing an oxygen tank and gas mask, as well as a safety line). Why do people do this? Because it’s there!
Notables born on this day include:
- 1394 – Henry the Navigator, Portuguese explorer (d. 1460)
- 1745 – Casimir Pulaski, Polish-American general (d. 1779)
- 1904 – George Gamow, Ukrainian-American physicist and cosmologist (d. 1968)
- 1936 – Jim Clark, Scottish race car driver (d. 1968)
I asked my friend Steve Knoll, who was once on a racing team and has an encyclopedic knowledge of motosports, to write a few words on Clark, and here they are:
Most of us who were Formula 1 fans in the 1960s still consider Jim Clark the greatest the sport ever produced. He was a two time World Champion and won the Indianapolis 500 as well. He won 25 of his 73 starts before he lost his life in a minor series race in his prime.
While his records have all since been eclipsed, he drove in an era where there were far fewer races, the field was far more evenly matched, and there was only about a 50% chance of surviving a 10 year career, Jimmy’s lasted less than 8.
Chivalry was not yet dead, at least in motorsports, and his peers not only regarded him as the best, but also universally respected this shy, unassuming Scottish sheep farmer as a great gentleman.
This portrait by the great Jesse Alexander (story here) is, as far as I’m concerned, racing’s greatest photograph:
Those who began pushing up daisies on March 4 include:
- 1852 – Nikolai Gogol, Ukrainian-Russian short story writer, novelist, and playwright (b. 1809)
Gogol was the favorite Russian writer of my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin, as well as my BFF in Cambridge, Timothy “Fud” Groves.
- 1858 – Matthew C. Perry, American naval commander (b. 1794)
- 1888 – Amos Bronson Alcott, American philosopher and educator (b. 1799)
The father of Louisa May, and a famous man in his day, Bronson, as he was called, looked like this:
- 1963 – William Carlos Williams, American poet, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1883)
- 1979 – Willi Unsoeld, American mountaineer and educator (b. 1926)
Unsoeld summited Everest along with three others during the first American expedition in 1963. He and Tom Hornbein chose the difficult West Ridge route (below), and their ascent is one of the greatest feats in mountaineering. He and his partner, Tom Hornbein, had to bivouac high on the mountain, with the result that Unsoeld lost nine of his toes (but continued to climb). Unsoeld died in an avalanche on Mount Rainer.
The West Ridge route is to the left
Unsoeld. Sadly, he lost his daughter, Nanda Devi Unsoeld (named after a mountain), who died of altitude sickness at only 22 while climbing her namesake mountain:
- 1986 – Richard Manuel, Canadian singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1943)
- 1994 – John Candy, Canadian comedian and actor (b. 1950)
- 1996 – Minnie Pearl, American entertainer (b. 1912)
- 1999 – Harry Blackmun, American lawyer and judge (b. 1908)
- 2016 – Pat Conroy, American author (b. 1945)
Conroy wrote, another novels, The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. Here’s the last scene of the latter, which, though somewhat of a schlocky movie, has this scene that always chokes me up. (Note that his wife, Blythe Danner, is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom).
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, who hates little Kulka, is having a standoff with her:
Paulina: Let there be peace among cats.Hili: It’s better to be careful.
Paulina: Niech będzie pokój między kotami.Hili: Lepiej zachować ostrożność.
And little Kulka is playing, assiduously photographed by Paulina:
Caption: Another picture of Kulka sent from upstairs.
From Bruce: A canny and well protected bobcat (but didn’t it hurt itself climbing up there?
From Charles. This may be a wee bit misleading! Nevertheless, Boebert is a loon. I wonder if she’s carrying her Glock onto the House floor yet?
A cat meme from Nicole:
From Daniel. Some person was buying souls, as a “test” for atheists, at $10 each. You had to sign a contract, too. The ten slots sold out quickly. LOL!
Follow up for everyone asking about contracts: https://t.co/dtCNhXnYpf
I have filled all ten available slots unless anyone backs out.
— Liminal Warmth ❤️ (@liminal_warmth) March 3, 2021
From Dom, a very clever headpiece:
How to prevent emperor penguin chicks from imprinting on humans when they are hand-reared: pic.twitter.com/iTSmUtSHuG
— Prof Nichola Raihani (@nicholaraihani) March 2, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. First, a nefarious cat:
i bet i could knock that down pic.twitter.com/zip0Cb88nL
— Alex Parker (@Alex_Parker) March 3, 2021
And something you probably didn’t know:
English has an ancient law: in words like 'chit chat', 'zigzag', and 'seesaw', we always put the part with an i (as in 'pit') or e (as in 'be') first. We instinctively know this rule of 'ablaut reduplication'. You can't have a pair of flop flips or jamjims, or play pong ping.
— Susie Dent 💙 (@susie_dent) February 20, 2020
Art for yesterday’s World Wildlife Day:
— Ashmolean Museum (@AshmoleanMuseum) March 3, 2021
H. J. Muller was a giant of genetics, and won the Nobel Prize. But look—THERE’S A CAT!
Herman Muller and colleagues doing Drosophila genetics. Via IU Biology, IU Lilly Library. THERE IS A CAT ON THE TABLE. pic.twitter.com/yFKqOILJT2
— Matt Rockman (@wormsrock) March 3, 2021
Matthew’s explanation of the tweet below:
And this is @electroBOOMguy – he’s an electrical engineer with a youtube channel. He knows what he is doing, just not exactly when it will happen…