Welcome to Hump Day: Wednesday, October 6, 2021: National Noodle Day. Noodles are good; how can you not like them?
Before you diss badgers, have a look at this armful of babies (I believe these are European badgers, Meles meles):
News of the Day:
*It’s been 258 days since Biden took office, and the promised First Cat has still not been adopted. I think that it’s time for us to give up hope that the White House will harbor a moggy during this term (did he forget?)
*Negotiations continue—between Biden on one hand and Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III on the other—about how much slashing of Biden’s social safety-net bill will cause the two centrist Democrats to get with Biden’s program. An op-ed in the Washington Post accuses the two Senators of bad faith, with the progressives being the heroes, amply willing to compromise. And an op-ed in the NYT by Michelle Goldberg, “What’s wrong with Kyrsten Sinema?” goes full-tilt against the Arizona Senator, claiming she doesn’t even articulate her goals. According to Goldberg, Sinema’s driving principle is to keep people focused on her vacillations and silences. It doesn’t get much more accusatory than this:
It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.
. . . Now that she’s part of a governing majority, Sinema is, ironically, recapitulating some of the pathologies she boasted about transcending. Rather than being part of a productive coalition, she’s once again operating as a defiantly contrary outsider. The bipartisanship that was once a source of liberation for her seems to have become a rigid identity.
“I think she’s just really invested in that self-image, personally, as someone who stands up to her party, and I think she has really lost track of what is actually politically prudent, even to put aside the impact on the lives of millions of people,” said Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, a progressive group that worked to elect Sinema to the Senate. There’s a difference, it turns out, between being a maverick and being a narcissist.
That last word hits hard. What do I think of Sinema? I don’t know because she won’t talk. But even if she’s a narcissist without policy goals, she should at least be allowed to pee in peace.
*After 12 years as head of the National Institutes of health, Francis Collins has decided to step down as director. Appointed by Obama in 2009, he’s served longer in that position than any other director since the position became one filled by Presidential appointment (1971). Now, he thinks, it’s time for younger blood to run this most important position, but I have to say that despite my criticism of his evangelical Christianity, he’s done a terrific job at the NIH and I wish him well as he goes back to research—and his beloved motorcycle:
Tuesday’s statement said that Collins would continue to lead his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute, “which is pursuing genomics, epigenomics and single cell biology to understand the causes and means of prevention for type 2 diabetes. His lab also seeks to develop new genetic therapies for the most dramatic form of premature aging, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.”
While he will still be at work in science, Collins told NPR, “Maybe I’ll ride my Harley a little bit more than I have for the last year.”
*The Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial continues, with the Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the story, having the best coverage, including a continuous live feed. The latest issue: her relationship with her high-level associate Sunny Balwani, her secret boyfriend for years. Holmes may mount a mental health defense that he psychologically, sexually, and emotionally abused her. (Balwani will be tried later for the same crimes as Holmes.) Years of text messages between the two document their secret romance, but also suggest that Holmes, accused of wire fraud and conspiracy, knew well that there were problems with her blood-testing device. A separate article in the WSJ reports:
Prosecutors have had some of the intimate text messages read aloud in court, potentially helping them prove their case that Ms. Holmes failed to take seriously numerous warnings about inaccurate blood-test results.
“You do have some kind of indication that she knew that not all was well with the company,” said Andrey Spektor, a former federal prosecutor with the Eastern District of New York who isn’t involved in the case but has read portions of the text messages. “Those messages by themselves are not going to get prosecutors to conviction but coupled with everything else, it’s a pretty powerful case.”
*John McWhorter turns 56 today (see below), and has a new NYT essay, “Up in arms over a pronoun.” The pronoun at issue is “they”, which McWhorter apparently says is fine in constructions like the one below:
Feedback on my newsletter about the embrace of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun referring to a single person — Joel is wearing their green shirt today because it matches their pants — has been, well, pointed.
It seems that quite a few people have a major problem with this change in pronominal usage. I understand all of their objections but disagree with them.
Well, I disagree with McWhorter. The objections aren’t–at least in my case–based on a worry about pronouns and gender. McWhorter doesn’t favor “they” in the sentence above because Joel is “genderfluid”. Rather McWhorter thinks that it’s just as good as “he” or “his”. But, as a matter of simple comprehension, the sentence is confusing.
What’s even more confusing is that he later says this:
I am not convinced that “they” could be all that powerful on even a language level. For example, if anyone were to call for all people to be referred to as “they” — which I am unaware of but is conceivable as an idea someone might propose — it would fall so far from common perception that it would be unlikely to catch on.
Am I missing something, or did he just say that using “they” for Joel isn’t “common perception”? There is indeed a place for “they” when referring to unspecified sexes or genders, but not in the case of Joel’s clothes.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 705,394, an increase of 1,808 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,833,157, an increase of about 8,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on October 6 includes:
- 1600 – Euridice, the earliest surviving opera, receives its première performance, beginning the Baroque period.
- 1927 – Opening of The Jazz Singer, the first prominent “talkie” movie.
This was the first movie to use synchronized dialogue. Al Jolson sang six songs; several were in blackface, so you won’t see this movie these days. Here’s a scene where he sings his first song without makeup:
- 1973 – Egypt and Syria launch coordinated attacks against Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
- 1976 – Premier Hua Guofeng arrests the Gang of Four, ending the Cultural Revolution in China.
Here’s the Gang of Four, which included Jiang Qing, Mao’s first wife. They tried to take over the government after Mao died, but were arrested and tried for treason. Their fates, according to Wikipedia: “Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years in prison, respectively. All members of the Gang of Four have since died; Jiang Qing committed suicide in 1991, Wang Hongwen died in 1992, and Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao died in 2005, having been released from prison in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
Here’s an account of the assassination with video of the attack:
- 1995 – The first planet orbiting another sun, 51 Pegasi b, is discovered.
- 2007 – Jason Lewis completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth.
It took him from 1994 to 2007 to complete the feat, using bicycles, kayaks, boats (with pedals), and rollerblades. Here’s an absorbing 17.5-minute video of the feat, which was amazing. Wikipedia reports: “During his expedition, Lewis twice survived malaria, sepsis, a bout of mild schizophrenia, and a crocodile attack near Australia in 2005.” Imagine all the visas he needed!
- 2010 – Instagram, a mainstream photo-sharing application, is founded.
Instagram has been shown to cause or exacerbate mental illness in teen girls (often by causing anorexia because of the slimness of “influencers”). I wonder why they didn’t stop looking at it.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1820 – Jenny Lind, Swedish soprano and actress (d. 1887)
Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale”, in 1850 (photo was retouched):
- 1846 – George Westinghouse, American engineer and businessman, founded the Westinghouse Air Brake Company (d. 1914)
- 1887 – Le Corbusier, Swiss-French architect and painter, designed the Philips Pavilion and Saint-Pierre, Firminy (d. 1965)
- 1900 – Willy Merkl, German mountaineer (d. 1934)
Merkl, a great climber, died of starvation and cold trying to climb Nanga Parbat. Here he is along with the mountain.
Nanga Parbat (8126 meters):
Here’s Lombard in the movie that made her famous: “Twentieth Century” (John Barrymore is the other actor). She died in a plane crash at only 33, and was married at the time to Clark Gable.
- 1914 – Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian ethnographer and explorer (d. 2002)
- 1948 – Gerry Adams, Irish republican politician
- 1965 – John McWhorter, American academic and linguist
Those whose became kaput on October 6 include:
- 1536 – William Tyndale, English Protestant Bible translator (b. c. 1494)
- 1892 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, English poet (b. 1809)
- 1979 – Elizabeth Bishop, American poet and short-story writer (b. 1911)
- 1981 – Anwar Sadat, Egyptian colonel and politician, 3rd President of Egypt, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)
- 2019 – Ginger Baker, English drummer (b. 1939)
Here’s Baker doing an amazing drum solo (his Cream bandmate Clapton also plays). I’m told that the 2012 movie about him, “Beware of Mr. Baker“, which shows how irascible he was, is quite good.
- 2020 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1955)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is laconic, but Malgorzata explains: “Hili is not any kind of lover of Rome (read: Vatican) so she is thankful that even if all roads lead to Rome, there are no roads in the wilderness.”
Hili: All roads lead to Rome.A: Allegedly.Hili: Thank God for wilderness.
Hili: Wszystkie drogi prowadzą do Rzymu.A.: Podobno.Hili: Dzięki Bogu, są bezdroża.
And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon, sitting on Elzbieta’s shoulder, mourns the onset of winter:
Leon: Well, where has the sun gone?
From Stash Krod. Cat butts seem to be a recurring theme lately:
A baby llama from Beautiful Life on Planet Earth:
A tweet from Titania:
Why do bigots find gender identity so confusing?
It simply means the immutable yet fluid feeling that one is male or female or neither or both based on conceptions of masculinity and femininity that are innate but also social constructs that don’t exist.
This really isn’t hard.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) October 5, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who lived exactly two months after arrival at the camp:
6 October 1914 | A Polish woman, Weronika Wiater, was born in Bystrzyca.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 6, 2021
A tweet from Matthew, and replies:
Watching North by North-West last night (excellent), I noticed that Cary Grant’s character wears the same pair of bright yellow boxer shorts throughout…
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) October 5, 2021
Do enlarge the video: several mites are taking that ride:
There's the fantasy of riding a dragon.
Then there's the biological reality where you're a mite who climbed onto the back of carrion beetle to ride it to a mouse corpse. pic.twitter.com/WvXBxinu50
— Adrian Smith (@DrAdrianSmith) October 5, 2021
An albino capybara! I can’t see whether its eyes are pink; if they aren’t, it’s not a true albino.
**RARE** albino capybara enjoying a mud bath pic.twitter.com/njmbiQLf6f
— CAPYBARA MAN (@CAPYBARA_MAN) October 3, 2021
It’s about time this pub reopened, as I liked it a lot (though not as much as I like the Turf Tavern, also in Oxford).
— St John's College (@StJohnsOx) October 4, 2021
I don’t know how the painter did this, but it works!
This is a painting by the Spanish painter Sergi Cadenas. It ages from the angle you look at it. pic.twitter.com/Ov3IKN4920
— Amazing Physics (@amazing_physics) October 2, 2021