Bottom of the work week to you! It’s Friday, March 26, 2021: National Nougat Day (I never liked the stuff). It’s also National Spinach Day (unlike most kids, I liked it), No Homework Day, Solitude Day, Purple Day (raising awareness of epilepsy) and, in Hawaii, Prince Kūhiō Day, honoring the birthday of the man who wrote the first statehood bill for Hawaii. As Wikipedia notes, “Prince Kūhiō Day is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaiʻi’s King Kamehameha Day on June 11.” Here’s the Prince:
Richard Dawkins turns 80 today (see below); here’s the obligatory vanity photo (we were having a discussion, but I can’t remember where). Note his unmatched socks and excellent posture.
News of the Day:
Joe Biden had his first press conference yesterday (watch it here), and there were no real surprises. He doubled his vaccination goal to 200 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration (we’re on schedule for that), defended allowing unaccompanied minors into the U.S., said he planned to run for reelection in 2024, grumbled about the Senate filibuster rule (though not coming clean about his plans), and added that passing gun-control legislation was not “his top priority.” So it goes.
Rutgers has become the first American university to require coronavirus vaccinations for students entering next fall. This is nothing new there, and most American public schools also require some vaccinations before enrollment. An excerpt:
Students will be able to seek an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement “for medical or religious reasons,” Rutgers said. The rule would also not apply to students who are in online programs.
Rutgers already requires new or transferring students to show proof of receiving several vaccines, hoping to prevent on-campus cases of diseases from measles, mumps and rubella to hepatitis B and meningitis.
Medical reasons are okay with me, but religious reasons? Really? People can endanger other people in fealty to the wishes of a nonexistent god? There are times when you must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and Caesar wants SHOTS IN ARMS!
The UK’s new £50 note, set to appear in June, will feature Alan Turing along with a lot of geeky stuff that people won’t understand (note his birthday rendered in binary numbers on the ticker tape!). Here’s what it will look like (h/t Simon):
It’s not just in his honor, but also as reparations for his shabby treatment by the Brits:
As well as honoring his scientific achievements, Turing was also selected to appear on the bank note in recognition of his persecution by the UK government for homosexuality. Turing was openly gay among friends, but in 1952 was arrested and charged with “gross indecency” for homosexual acts, which were illegal in England and Wales until 1967. Despite changes to the law, prosecution of same-sex acts continued in the UK for decades afterwards.
Turing died in 1954 after eating a cyanide-laced apple. Although some think it was murder, it’s much more likely it was suicide.
The New York Times reports that Jensen Karp, a man from Los Angeles, found cinnamon-covered SHRIMP TAILS in his box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The company assured him that they were just misshapen pieces of cereal, but nope, they were shrimp tails. Further inspection revealed what appear to be rat droppings in the box. It may, however, have been tampered with, since the bottom was taped. Here’s Karp’s response to the company’s attempt to exculpate itself
Ok, we’ll after further investigation with my eyes, these are cinnamon coated SHRIMP TAILS, you weirdos. I wasn’t all that mad until you now tried to gaslight me? https://t.co/7DmADmoqUt pic.twitter.com/rSLE60pvoy
— Jensen Karp (@JensenKarp) March 22, 2021
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 546,340, an increase of 1,270 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll stands at 2,768,663, an increase of about 10,500 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on March 26 includes:
- 1344 – The Siege of Algeciras, one of the first European military engagements where gunpowder was used, comes to an end.
- 1812 – A political cartoon in the Boston Gazette coins the term “gerrymander” to describe oddly shaped electoral districts designed to help incumbents win reelection.
The famous “gerrymander” cartoon, with Wikipedia’s caption below it:
- 1934 – The United Kingdom driving test is introduced.
- 1942 – World War II: The first female prisoners arrive at Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
When I visited Auschwitz in 2013 (and it’s a place one must visit, as it will change you forever), I photographed these suitcases brought to the camp by arriving Jews. Nearly all of them were gassed immediately, and the suitcases confiscated and stored by the Germans:
- 1945 – World War II: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends as the island is officially secured by American forces.
- 1971 – East Pakistan declares its independence from Pakistan to form Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Liberation War begins.
- 1979 – Anwar al-Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter sign the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in Washington, D.C.
- 1997 – Thirty-nine bodies are found in the Heaven’s Gate mass suicides.
Here’s the Wikipedia account of the bizarre suicide:
To kill themselves, members took phenobarbital mixed with apple sauce or pudding and washed it down with vodka. Additionally, they secured plastic bags around their heads after ingesting the mix to induce asphyxiation. All 39 were dressed in identical black shirts and sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike Decades athletic shoes, and armband patches reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” (one of many instances of the group’s use of the nomenclature of the fictional universe of Star Trek). Each member had on their person a five-dollar bill and three quarters in their pockets: this was in reference to Huck Finn, in which it’s stated that it costs five dollars and seventy-five cents to ride the tail of a comet to heaven. Once a member was dead, a living member would arrange the body by removing the plastic bag from the person’s head, followed by posing the body so that it lay neatly in its own bed, with faces and torsos covered by a square purple cloth for privacy. In an interview with Harry Robinson, the two surviving members said that the identical clothing was used as a uniform for the mass suicide to represent unity, whilst the Nike Decades were chosen because the group “got a good deal on the shoes”. [Founder Marshall] Applewhite was also a fan of Nikes “and therefore everyone was expected to wear and like Nike’s” within the group. Heaven’s Gate also had a saying within the group ‘Just Do it,’ which used Nike’s slogan. They pronounced Do as Doe, to reflect Applewhite’s nickname.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1859 – A. E. Housman, English poet and scholar (d. 1936)
- 1904 – Joseph Campbell, American mythologist and author (d. 1987)
- 1911 – Bernard Katz, German-English biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2003)
- 1911 – Tennessee Williams, American playwright, and poet (d. 1983)
Here’s Williams talking with Dick Cavett about death, religion, and other matters of import.
- 1930 – Gregory Corso, American poet (d. 2001)
Corso was the only Beat I ever met besides Gary Snyder (I went to a poetry reading by Snyder at UC Davis). Corso was hanging arounin Ferlinghetti’s bookstore City Lights. Being a fan of the Beats, I recognized him instantly:
- 1931 – Leonard Nimoy, American actor (d. 2015)
- 1940 – Nancy Pelosi, American lawyer and politician, 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- 1941 – Richard Dawkins, Kenyan-English ethologist, biologist, and academic
Richard turns 80 today.
- 1942 – Erica Jong, American novelist and poet
- 1943 – Bob Woodward, American journalist and author
- 1944 – Diana Ross, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
- 1985 – Keira Knightley, English actress
Those who met their ends on March 26 include:
- 1797 – James Hutton, Scottish geologist and physician (b. 1726)
- 1892 – Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, and journalist (b. 1819)
- 1902 – Cecil Rhodes, English-South African colonialist, businessman and politician, 6th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (b. 1853)
- 1923 – Sarah Bernhardt, French actress and screenwriter (b. 1844)
Here’s Bernardt as Cleopatra (1891):
- 1945 – David Lloyd George, English-Welsh lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1863)
- 1973 – Noël Coward, English playwright, actor, and composer (b. 1899)
- 1980 – Roland Barthes, French linguist and critic (b. 1915)
- 2011 – Geraldine Ferraro, American lawyer and politician (b. 1935)
Ferraro was the forerunner of Kamala Harris, being the first female Vice-Presidential candidate, running with Mondale in 1984.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili can’t be bothered:
A: Hili, I have a question…Hili: Not now.
Ja: Hili, mam pytanie…Hili: Nie teraz.
Here’s little Kulka resting on the blanket by the window:
From reader Mark:
Below: the Palestinian “pay for slay” policy in action: a terrorist murderer of an Israeli soldier, with the terrorist being an Israeli citizen, is released from jail, having netted over half a million bucks while in jail. Now, back in Palestine, he gets an additional yearly stipend and a cushy job.
Why are people not calling attention to this hideous policy?
The PA terror reward payments to the murderer, included a special "bonus" for being an Israeli citizen.
— Maurice Hirsch, Adv. 🇮🇱 עו''ד מוריס הירש (@MauriceHirsch4) March 24, 2021
This tweet was unearthed by reader Ken, who notes, “This person actually sits in the United States senate, formerly hailed as the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defends preventing people from voting on Sunday, because God pic.twitter.com/69tYzgi4jU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 24, 2021
Matthew had an epiphany:
Lassie is meant to be female, but in the films was ironically always played by male dogs, apparently partly due to female collies shedding heavily when in heat.
— Tarquin Holmes (@TarquinHH) March 25, 2021
More tweets from Matthew. Two examples of insects producing a waxy secretion that hides them and repels predators (Matthew’s guessing it smells bad as well). Be sure to click on the photos to see the whole individual:
Here is an example of a Cryptoplini with the waxy exudate pic.twitter.com/9E43fsqa9X
— Robert Anderson (@theognete) March 25, 2021
What’s going on here is likely to be the same thing going on above.
— Max Barclay (@Coleopterist) March 25, 2021
Here’s a gynandromorph spider: one side male, the other female. It would be interesting to see if it behaved (especially in courtship) as a male, a female, an intermediate, or was completely screwed up:
Absolutely phenomenal! A gynandromorph Monocephalus fuscipes 😃
The right side is male, the left female. One fully formed male palp, half a fully formed epigyne and an incredible half formed cephalic lobe!! @BritishSpiders @Tone_Killick @graemelyons @AJCann @luke19anderson pic.twitter.com/FPLffAiDl5
— Tylan Berry (@BerryTylan) March 24, 2021
Watch the video, as Matthew (see below) is fascinated with the penis sheath. No, that waggling hairy thing is not the tail!
Rare black fallow deer seen in the Baryczy valley in Poland. pic.twitter.com/g22GTPCrQ6
— Gabriele Corno (@Gabriele_Corno) March 21, 2021
Nsfw (who’s at work these days?) but fascinating thread about the function of certain parts of a fallow deer’s knob. https://t.co/IIbRf90ycU
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) March 23, 2021
I mean, what’s not to love in this final sentence of an abstract? “The gross hyperkeratosis and associated epidermal hypertrophy of the prepuce produces a sponge‐like mass which may help in scent production and dispersal.” Molecular biologists don’t write stuff like that.
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) March 23, 2021