Welcome to Friday the Fourteenth (of May), 2021, and it’s National Buttermilk Biscuit Day, the quintessence of American baked goods. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Southern breakfast of country ham, fried eggs, grits, homemade preserves, red-eye gravy, and tons of freshly-baked biscuits. Here, in Nashville, Tennessee, is where to get the best breakfast in America.
It’s also International Dylan Thomas Day (celebrating the reading of his voice play Under Milk Wood on May 14, 1953, in New York City), and Dance Like a Chicken Day. Not much of a day for celebrations, is it?
News of the Day:
The fighting in the Middle East, both the Israel/Gaza conflict and the nascent civil war within Israel between Israeli and Arab Jews, continues with no sign of abating. Hamas rockets number over 2,000 now, while Israel ground forces are shelling Gaza. For a while yesterday there were reports that Israeli troops had entered Gaza, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. 12,000 Israeli reservists have been called up to deal with the intra-Israel fighting, which is brutal and reprehensible on all sides.
On Thurday the CDC advised that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may go maskless in most places. The caveats:
The new advice comes with caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when going to doctors, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes; when traveling by bus, plane, train or other modes of public transportation, or while in transportation hubs like airports and bus stations; and when in prisons, jails or homeless shelters.
However, due to vaccine hesitancy the pace of vaccination has waned—it’s down 38% from what it was in mid-April, and that’s only a month ago.
Here’s an amazing story as reported by the Guardian. A man paralyzed from the neck down had two small computer chips implanted in the left side of his brain, which controls the right hand. He’s then asked to imagine that he’s writing sentences with his right hand. The electrodes and AI decode the impulses, producing his ability to write 18 words a minute on a computer, and with 94% accuracy. Here’s the paper in Nature reporting this. (h/t Jez)
David Brooks’s new NYT column, called “This is how wokeness ends“, which is curiously unconvincing. While applauding the equality aims of “wokeness,” as do many of us, he decries its increasing reliance on a specialized discourse aimed at academics. This, he says, will defang the movement, though it’s not sure how. Read his column, but here’s are two excepts (he refers to an article by Rod Dreher on fulminating wokeness):
I’m less alarmed by all of this because I have more confidence than Dreher and many other conservatives in the American establishment’s ability to co-opt and water down every radical progressive ideology. In the 1960s, left-wing radicals wanted to overthrow capitalism. We ended up with Whole Foods. The co-optation of wokeness seems to be happening right now.
. . .Corporations and other establishment organizations co-opt almost unconsciously. They send ambitious young people powerful signals about what level of dissent will be tolerated while embracing dissident values as a form of marketing. By taking what was dangerous and aestheticizing it, they turn it into a product or a brand. Pretty soon key concepts like “privilege” are reduced to empty catchphrases floating everywhere.
The economist and cultural observer Tyler Cowen expects wokeness in this sense won’t disappear. Writing for Bloomberg last week, he predicted it would become something more like the Unitarian Church — “broadly admired but commanding only a modicum of passion and commitment.”
This would be fine with me. As I say, there are (at least) two elements to wokeness. One focuses on concrete benefits for the disadvantaged — reparations, more diverse hiring, more equitable housing and economic policies. The other instigates savage word wars among the highly advantaged. If we can have more of the former and less of the latter, we’ll all be better off.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 583,990 an increase of 622 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,359,869, an increase of about 13,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on May 14 includes:
- 1607 – Jamestown, Virginia is settled as an English colony.
- 1796 – Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox inoculation.
On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy who was the son of Jenner’s gardener. He scraped pus from cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide now hangs on the wall of the St. George’s Medical School library (now in Tooting). Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.
You can read about Blossom the cow here.
- 1800 – The 6th United States Congress recesses, and the process of moving the U.S. Government from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., begins the following day.
- 1804 – William Clark and 42 men depart from Camp Dubois to join Meriwether Lewis at St. Charles, Missouri, marking the beginning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition‘s historic journey up the Missouri River.
A banner day for evolution, as indicated in this tweet from Matthew:
On this day in 1856, Charles Darwin recorded in his journal that he ‘began by Lyell’s advice writing species sketch’. Parts of this manuscript later became the very foundation of evolutionary biology: On The Origin Of Species. pic.twitter.com/FM00l0HTRu
— Royal Institution (@Ri_Science) May 14, 2021
- 1870 – The first game of rugby in New Zealand is played in Nelson between Nelson College and the Nelson Rugby Football Club.
I couldn’t find a photo of the Nelson Rugby club, but here’s one showing “Scotland’s first rugby team. . . for the 1st international, v. England in Edinburgh, 1871″
- 1878 – The last witchcraft trial held in the United States begins in Salem, Massachusetts, after Lucretia Brown, an adherent of Christian Science, accused Daniel Spofford of attempting to harm her through his mental powers.
The judge dismissed the case. Here’s Spofford:
FIVE YEARS OLD! Well, it seems to be pretty credible: a case of precocious puberty. Medina gave birth through Caesarian as her pelvis was too small, and the baby survived. Here’s a photo of mother and child (see more here):
- 1948 – Israel is declared to be an independent state and a provisional government is established. Immediately after the declaration, Israel is attacked by the neighboring Arab states, triggering the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
For those like Anita Sarkeesian who claims that Israel is not an independent state: take note of the above.
- 1961 – Civil rights movement: A white mob twice attacks a Freedom Riders bus near Anniston, Alabama, before fire-bombing the bus and attacking the civil rights protesters who flee the burning vehicle.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1727 – Thomas Gainsborough, English painter (d. 1788)
Here is “Six Studies of a Cat” by Gainsborough, painted 1763-1769, chalk on paper:
- 1897 – Sidney Bechet, American saxophonist, clarinet player, and composer (d. 1959)
- 1897 – Ed Ricketts, American biologist and ecologist (d. 1948)
- 1936 – Bobby Darin, American singer-songwriter and actor (d. 1973)
Here’s Darin singing my favorite of his songs, originally a French number.
- 1952 – David Byrne, Scottish singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
Those who departed this life (or any life) on May 14 include:
- 1847 – Fanny Mendelssohn, German pianist and composer (b. 1805)
- 1912 – August Strindberg, Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist (b. 1849)
- 1940 – Emma Goldman, Lithuanian author and activist (b. 1869)
- 1959 – Sidney Bechet, American saxophonist, clarinet player, and composer (b. 1897)
- 1987 – Rita Hayworth, American actress and dancer (b. 1918)
The other day I showed a great video of Hayworth dancing the “Shorty George” with Fred Astaire. Here’s a slower number, “Sway with Me” with the same partner:
- 1995 – Christian B. Anfinsen, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1916)
- 1998 – Frank Sinatra, American singer and actor (b. 1915)
- 2015 – B.B. King, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1925)
- 2018 – Tom Wolfe, American author (b. 1931)
Wolfe wrote some great stuff, but came a cropper when he tried to take down Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky simultaneously (my review of that debacle is here).
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Szaron are having a micoraggression:
Hili: What are you doing?Szaron: I’m doing exercises in microaggression in the fresh air.
Hili: Co ty robisz?Szaron: Ćwiczę mikroagresję na wolnym powietrzu.
The cherry trees are blooming in the orchard, and Kulka enjoys the flowers;
The picture below is from Facebook. This isn’t a genuine old painting but a modern one; one source says this:
There’s an image that’s been shared on social media dozens of times over the past few years. The image depicts a shoeless samurai walking a cat wearing armor. The samurai has a helmet with cat ears, and the image appears to be very old, perhaps dating back to Medieval Japan.
In reality, the painting is the creation of Japanese artist Tetsuya Noguchi, who often depicts samurai in unusual, comic situations. He has also mastered traditional techniques to create highly-detailed armor that would not be out of place in a museum.
From Meanwhile in Canada. I’ll have what they’re having.
A tweet from Teen Vogue. This is the stuff that the magazine, now one of the Wokest of the Woke, is feeding its readers:
"The history of police violence enacted on unarmed Black and Brown citizens by American law enforcement mirrors the history of Israel treating Palestinians as violent insurgents." https://t.co/BHXf4QO1Hg
— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) May 11, 2021
From Barry, who thinks this deep-sea squid looks like a teaser for a Pixar movie:
The amazing “piglet squid” (Helicocranchia sp.) gets its nickname for its small round body, wiggling tail, and siphon that looks like the nose of a pig. This one was spotted by MBARI researchers 900 meters (2,950 feet) underwater off the Monterey Bay.
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) May 12, 2021
On this day in science. It’s amazing that no Nobel Prize was ever given for the discovery of messenger RNA. Note Matthew’s paper about the issue.
No Nobel prize was awarded for the discovery of mRNA and other researchers made crucial contributions to its discovery. Read the 2015 essay "Who discovered mRNA?" by @matthewcobb
to learn more (Open Archive Access): https://t.co/FrDonV3Yxh Thread 2/4
— NCCR RNA & Disease (@NCCR_RNADisease) May 12, 2021
Now THIS is what the Internet is best at!
Cub in a tub pic.twitter.com/yTG5a5ylfI
— Oregon Zoo (@OregonZoo) May 12, 2021
A paper on how the morphology of snake fangs is adapted to the nature of their prey.
Fangs of venomous snakes are one of Nature’s deadliest weapons! In my first #PhDpaper published in @Evolution I show how these fangs have evolved to suit the many different foods of snakes, from crabs to mammals. @EvansEvoMorph @DrTeethAl @DPHocking https://t.co/uE4uFVx9zH
— Silke Cleuren (@SilkeCleuren) May 11, 2021
A great footballer. For more video on the Barca midfielder, see the video below this tweet.
Andres Iniesta made football look so easy 😍
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 11, 2021
Spot the nightjar:
After 12 years of studying these secretive creatures I'm finally seeing what they're up too under the cover of darkness with the aid of trail camera's pic.twitter.com/bG8iNwJrQw
— Richard Ives (@RichardIves18) May 12, 2021