The weekend is fast approahing: it’s Thursday, May 20, 2021: National Quiche Lorraine Day. It’s also Hummus Day, Pick Strawberries Day, Flower Day, International Red Sneakers Day (?), National Apértif Day (make mine a green Chartreuse), National Rescue Dog Day, as well as Josephine Baker Day (an honor from the NAACP), World Bee Day, and World Metrology Day (note that it’s not “Meteorology”; today’s holiday has to do with weights and measures, not weather, as you can see below).
Perhaps you didn’t know that Baker had a pet cheetah named Chiquita that she walked on a leash. See?:
News of the Day:
Four thousand five hundred and twenty-nine. That was yesterday’s death toll from Covid in India, the highest death toll for any single day in any single country during the pandemic. That’s about one person every twenty seconds, and that is surely an underestimate of the toll.
Lock Him Up Department: The office of New York’s attorney general announced that it’s launched a criminal probe into the Trump organization’s business practices, expanding what was previously a civil investigation. This is separate from the Manhattan D.A.’s own criminal probe, which has been going on for four years. Trump, of course, has decried the investigations as “witch hunts,” but will we someday see the Orange Man in an orange jumpsuit? An excerpt:
[Attorney General Letitia James’s]disclosure of a widening investigation is not necessarily an indication that she is planning to bring criminal charges. In New York, if that were to happen, the state attorney general can do so through a county district attorney, like Vance, or with a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or a state agency.
James’ civil investigation and Vance’s criminal probe had overlapped in some areas, including examining whether Trump or his businesses manipulated the value of assets — inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others — to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.
Vance’s investigation also included a look at hush-money payments paid to women on Trump’s behalf and the propriety of tax write-offs the Trump Organization claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid, including money that went to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Here’s the NYT’s “live” section on the Israel/Palestine crisis. Is something missing here?
Here’s an Atlantic science article you’ll want to read. Where did your butthole come from (in an evolutionary sense)? Click on the screenshot to read (h/t Paul):
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 587,499, an increase of about 700 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,432,963, an increase of about 13,000 over yesterday’s total.:
Stuff that happened on May 20 include:
- 325 – The First Council of Nicaea is formally opened, starting the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church.
- 1498 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovers the sea route to India when he arrives at Kozhikode (previously known as Calicut), India.
- 1570 – Cartographer Abraham Ortelius issues Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas.
Here’s the map from that atlas. Not too bad for 1570, eh? South America is a bit pudgy, but otherwise it’s passable:
- 1609 – Shakespeare’s sonnets are first published in London, perhaps illicitly, by the publisher Thomas Thorpe.
- 1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets. The style hasn’t changed much in 150 years!
Here’s that patent:
- 1875 – Signing of the Metre Convention by 17 nations leading to the establishment of the International System of Units.
How long is a meter? Wikipedia says this:
The metre was originally defined in 1793 as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole along a great circle, so the Earth’s circumference is approximately 40000 km. In 1799, the metre was redefined in terms of a prototype metre bar (the actual bar used was changed in 1889). In 1960, the metre was redefined in terms of a certain number of wavelengths of a certain emission line of krypton-86. The current definition was adopted in 1983 and modified slightly in 2002 to clarify that the metre is a measure of proper length.
- 1883 – Krakatoa begins to erupt; the volcano explodes three months later, killing more than 36,000 people.
- 1891 – History of cinema: The first public display of Thomas Edison’s prototype kinetoscope.
- 1932 – Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland to begin the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by a female pilot, landing in Ireland the next day.
Here’s a video of Earhart leaving Newfoundland in her Lockheed Vega:
Here are suitcases I photographed eight years ago in Auschwitz; they were taken from arrivals, who were promptly gassed. Note the carefully written addresses and Star of David. I recommend everyone visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives. You will never be the same afterwards.
- 1956 – In Operation Redwing, the first United States airborne hydrogen bomb is dropped over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s a YouTube video of the explosion. God lord!
- 1964 – Discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Robert Woodrow Wilson and Arno Penzias.
Both Wilson and Penzias received the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery.
- 1980 – In a referendum in Quebec, the population rejects, by 60% of the vote, a government proposal to move towards independence from Canada.
I wonder if the vote would be close to this today.
- 1989 – The Chinese authorities declare martial law in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations, setting the scene for the Tiananmen Square massacre.
- 2019 – The International System of Units (SI): The base units are redefined, making the international prototype of the kilogram obsolete.
And here’s the Wikipedia history of how the kilogram was defined:
The kilogram was originally defined in 1795 as the mass of one litre of water. This definition was simple yet difficult to use in practice. However, even modern, superceding definitions of a kilogram are accurate to within 30 ppm of the mass of one litre of water. In 1799, the platinum Kilogramme des Archives replaced it as the standard of mass. In 1889, a cylinder of platinum-iridium, the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK) became the standard of the unit of mass for the metric system, and remained so until 2019. The kilogram was the last of the SI units to be defined by a physical artefact.
The kilogram is now defined in terms of the second and the metre, based on fixed fundamental constants of nature. This allows a properly-equipped metrology laboratory to calibrate a mass measurement instrument such as a Kibble balance as the primary standard to determine an exact kilogram mass, although the IPK and other precision kilogram masses remain in use as secondary standards for all ordinary purposes.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1806 – John Stuart Mill, English economist, civil servant, and philosopher (d. 1873)
- 1908 – James Stewart, American actor (d. 1997)
- 1944 – Joe Cocker, English singer-songwriter (d. 2014)
Here’s Cocker’s famous performance “With a Little Help from My Friends” at Woodstock in 1969. Remember when John Belushi imitated him when they were standing next to each other?
- 1946 – Cher, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actress
Cher is 75 today.
- 1958 – Ron Reagan, American journalist and radio host
Here’s Ron Reagan’s famous ad for the Freedom from Religion Foundation:
Those whose neurons ceased firing on May 20 include:
- 1506 – Christopher Columbus, Italian explorer, discovered the Americas (b. 1451)
- 1896 – Clara Schumann, German pianist and composer (b. 1819)
- 1989 – Gilda Radner, American actress and comedian (b. 1946)
Gilda was fantastic, and it’s terribly sad that she died so young. Here’s her skit of The Judy Miller Show from Saturday Night Live:
- 2002 – Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, biologist, and academic (b. 1941)
- 2012 – Robin Gibb, Manx-English singer-songwriter and producer (b. 1949)
- 2013 – Ray Manzarek, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player, and producer (b. 1939)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Paulina continues to stalk the kitties with her camera:
Hili: Brakowało mi ciebie.Paulina: Naprawdę?Hili: Tak, od dziesięciu minut nikt mi nie robił zdjęć.
And we have a Mitek monologue, but the statement is cryptic:
Mietek: VIgilance is an attitude.
A meme from Pyers, though I don’t know why physicists fall into the “playing with mice” category.
From Woody. Hisses, anyone? Yes, there are some cat lovers who would pay half a buck for a hiss!
From Frank, an example of interspecies bonding. Grania would have loved this;
Golden retriever who was an only child gets a new kitten — watch them compete for kisses from Dad 😍 pic.twitter.com/eixYc1eaqZ
— The Dodo (@dodo) May 19, 2021
A tweet from Luana. Do we even have a chance against the Russkies?
Russian army ad vs US army ad
— Pardes Seleh (@PardesSeleh) May 19, 2021
From Ginger K., a lovely diagram of how the solar system moves about:
How the Solar System moves.
— Universal Curiosity (@UniverCurious) May 16, 2021
Tweets from Matthew, and this one is personal. Drosophila workers used to get all their fly bottles as used milk bottles, often with dairy emblems on them. They’re no longer used, but I still keep some like this for sentimental reasons.
From the 1920s to the 1970s, my grandfather and his son, Brian, ran a dairy/milk round/shop in Dagenham, called Ashbrook Dairy. I just bought this embossed milk bottle on ebay for a few quid. pic.twitter.com/Annb3Zk6D4
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) May 19, 2021
What a lovely honorary cat!
Look at this patchy beauty! In 1902 8 black Gray Squirrels were released in DC & spread. The mutation causing black fur may have come from hybridizing with fox squirrels. Not sure why this one has a red tail, but squirrels do have a lot of color variation!https://t.co/3QOApLZGCF pic.twitter.com/4XNHlcixxV
— Paige Byerly, PhD (@paigebyerly) May 19, 2021
Yes, goslings are adorable, cute, and sweet, but they grow up into those big aggressive honkers!
Some cute yellow fluff balls to rest your eyes on this evening pic.twitter.com/E9CCYpbUel
— Nikon Photographer (@Astrid_Tontson) May 19, 2021
One of the many craneflies that mimic wasps. The second tweet shows it flying around the base of a banana tree:
— Metolius (@jmedeCCF) May 18, 2021