Thursday: Hili dialogue

October 7, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to a dreary Thursday, October 7, 2021: National Frappé Day. In New England the term refers to a milkshake, elsewhere to “a beverage that is made of milk, ice cream, and often flavoring and is blended or whipped until foamy.”

I have a regular medical check-up this morning and posts may be thin. If they stop completely, start worrying! There will not be a wildlife post today, as I have no time. Stuff should resume as normal tomorrow. 

It’s also National Flower Day, Bathtub Day (I’m a shower man; can’t abide baths), National Poetry Day (in the UK)  and Bring your Bible to School Day (Why??).

News of the Day:

*This just in: A federal judge in Austin has has halted, for the moment, enforcement of Texas’s draconian new anti-abortion law. It was a strong opinion:

In his 113-page ruling, Robert L. Pitman, a Federal District Court judge in Austin, Texas, sided with the Biden administration, which had sued to halt a law that has changed the landscape of the abortion fight and further fueled the national debate over whether abortion will remain legal across the country.

. . .“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Judge Pitman wrote in his opinion.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he added.

*Half a million people die of malaria every year, yet the only preventive is medication that can have long-term deleterious effects. Now, however, the W.H.O. has approved the first malaria vaccine , called Mosquirix, given in four doses over the first three years of life (you also take drugs during malaria seasons). It’s not perfect, but a lot better than nothing. My emphasis in the excerpt below:

The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease.

In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year, but dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not measure the vaccine’s impact on preventing deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problems.

But severe malaria accounts for up to half of malaria deaths and is considered “a reliable proximal indicator of mortality,” said Dr. Mary Hamel, wholeads the W.H.O.’s malaria vaccine implementation program. “I do expect we will see that impact.”

A modeling study last year estimated that if the vaccine were rolled out to countries with the highest incidence of malaria, it could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than age 5 each year.

The article doesn’t give any idea exactly how the vaccine works, but I suppose some trawling around the internet might yield the answer. And the Guardian reports that other vaccines for malaria are underway:

Earlier this year, scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University said a vaccine they had developed had shown results that would make it the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy. Over 12 months the vaccine showed up to 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries.

*Mitch “666” McConnell is acting like a little kid about the debt limit. In effect he’s playing hob with not just the government, but with all of us, when saying: “Democrats will have to take responsibility for raising the limit. We’re taking our ball and going home.” Mitch has kindly offered the Dems the chance for a temporary increase in the debt limit—until December, when the whole mess comes up again. The U.S. government has never before defaulted on its debt, and if you don’t know how that’s going to hurt ordinary citizens, take a look at this article.

*Canadian Geographic reports the discovery of two sets of bears jaws from a species that lived 3.5 million years ago. The curious thing is that the teeth were full of cavities: a rarity in a wild animal. Researchers suggest that the cavities were the result of a diet high in sugar: almost certainly wild berries (h/t Laurie):

“It was surprising, because with the exception of bears, it’s not at all common to have cavities in wild animals,” says Natalia Rybczynski, a research associate at the Canadian Museum of Nature and adjunct research professor at Carleton University in Ottawa who co-authored the paper and helped dig up the Protarctos fossils. “To find cavities in a 3.5-million-year-old bear suggests this lineage had dental problems from the get-go.”

The trade-off for their rotten teeth? The bears’ sweet cravings probably gave them an edge during the prehistoric Arctic winters which, while warmer than today, would still have seen 24-hour darkness and likely six months of snow and ice cover.

“There’s evidence that bears who eat a lot of sugar in the fall put on more fat than bears that don’t, so the most successful bears ate a ton of sugar,” Rybczynski says. “It put them at an advantage for surviving the winter.”

The payment for survival? Toothaches! I guess they didn’t have enough salmon. And perhaps Fat Bear Otis’s bad teeth came from eating too many berries.

*The Wall Street Journal reports on Iran’s increasing use of deadly attacks by drones, which it can assemble fairly easily.:

A deadly attack on an oil tanker by explosive-laden drones. Unmanned aircraft launched from the Gaza Strip hitting Israeli neighborhoods. Strikes on Saudi Arabian refineries and pipelines and on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.

Behind this wave of attacks, U.S., European and Israeli defense officials say: Iran and its allies across the Middle East. They say Tehran’s rapidly developing ability to build and deploy drones is changing the security equation in a region already on edge.

One can only imagine what could happen.

*Here are the results of yesterday’s poll about whether MIT—which canceled U of C prof Dorian Abbot’s invited lecture because the woke rebelled on social media—would restore Abbot’s lectureship. The readers are pessimists, and rightly so:

*If you’re a New York Times subscriber, you can sign up for a free listen to a John McWhorter event, “Woke Words”, on October 14—a week from today, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern U.S. time  (RSVP here). You don’t have to answer the question about words you don’t use any more, or check the box begging for NYT newsletters. A preview:

In his subscriber-only newsletter for The Times, the linguist and writer John McWhorter explores some of these questions. In his recent newsletters, he has looked at how the word “woke” became an insult and why our increasingly messy way of speaking isn’t so bad. He has also considered the importance of words in music, as demonstrated by the efforts to revive an opera about Black characters that was written by white men.

Join John for an evening event where he explores the evolving role of words in these aspects of our lives.

He’ll examine some of the words you’ve stopped using in everyday language. Share yours when you R.S.V.P.

Then he’ll speak with Jane Coaston, host of the podcast “The Argument,” about how we can get an honest grounding to successfully engage in the conversation about race.

By the way, the “subscriber-only newsletter” seems to appear later the same day as an op-ed in the paper.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 707,916, an increase of 1,810 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,842,312, an increase of about 9,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on October 7 includes:

  • 1868 – Cornell University holds opening day ceremonies; initial student enrollment is 412, the highest at any American university to that date.
  • 1916 – Georgia Tech defeats Cumberland University 222–0 in the most lopsided college football game in American history.

Here’s the scoreboard; the story, recounted in the link above, is great:

  • 1949 – The communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is formed.
  • 1950 – Mother Teresa establishes the Missionaries of Charity.

I recommend that you read Christopher Hitchens’s book, “The Missionary Position,” which shows what a duplicitous old hypocrite Mother Teresa was. Here’s her “Home for the Dying Destitute” in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta):

  • 1985 – Four men from the Palestine Liberation Front hijack the MS Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt.
  • 1988 – A hunter discovers three gray whales trapped under the ice near Alaska; the situation becomes a multinational effort to free the whales.

The outcome is uncertain: one whale died and they’re not sure what happened to the other two.

  • 1996 – Fox News Channel begins broadcasting.
  • 1998 – Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, is found tied to a fence after being savagely beaten by two young adults in Laramie, Wyoming. He died five days later.

Shepherd (photo below) was almost certainly murdered because he was gay. Both of his killers are now serving life sentences.  Several commenters below make the case that Shepherd was not the victim of homophobia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1870 – Uncle Dave Macon, American old-time country banjo player, singer-songwriter, and comedian (d. 1952)

Uncle Dave singing “Take me back to my old Carolina home”:

  • 1879 – Joe Hill, Swedish-born American labor activist and poet (d. 1915)

Hill was executed for two murders he probably didn’t commit. He left his will in verse (below), which starts “My Will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide. . .”

  • 1885 – Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and philosopher, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1962)
  • 1900 – Heinrich Himmler, German commander and politician (d. 1945)
  • 1923 – Irma Grese, German SS officer (d. 1945)

Grese, nicknamed “The Beautiful Beast” and “The Hyena of Auschwitz,” was a nasty piece of work, who brutalized prisoners at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück. She was executed for war crimes in 1945.  Here’s a photo from Wikipedia with the caption: “Irma Grese and former SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer in prison in Celle in August 1945. (Kramer was also hanged.)

  • 1931 – Desmond Tutu, South African archbishop and activist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1943 – Oliver North, American colonel, journalist, and author
  • 1946 – Catharine MacKinnon, American lawyer, activist, and author
  • 1951 – John Mellencamp, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor
  • 1952 – Vladimir Putin, Russian colonel and politician, 4th President of Russia

  • 1955 – Yo-Yo Ma, French-American cellist and educator

Here’s a 12-minute video of the great Ma, who began playing cello at 4½ years old. The YouTube notes say this about the “Tiny Desk Concert for NPR”:

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his great inspiration, and in turn part of his own life story, to an enthusiastic audience packed around the Tiny Desk on a hot summer day. Ma is returning, yet again, to the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Mount Everest for any cellist.

  • 1975 – Tim Minchin, English-Australian comedian, actor, and singer
  • 1992 – Mookie Betts, American baseball player

Mookie may be the best player In baseball today. As Wikipedia says, “In 2018, while with the Red Sox, he became the first player in MLB history to win the Most Valuable PlayerSilver SluggerGold Glovebatting title, and World Series in the same season.” In 2020, Mookie signed a 12-year contract with the LA Dodgers, leaving the Red Sox for the third-largest contract in North American sports history. Although Mookie’s most famous for hitting, he’s also a great fielder, and here’s some highlights of his defensive play in 2018:

Those whose slept with the fishes on October 7 include:

  • 1849 – Edgar Allan Poe, American short story writer, poet, and critic (b. 1809)
  • 1925 – Christy Mathewson, American baseball player and manager (b. 1880)

Here’s Big Six warming up for the New York Giants in 1910. His lifetime won-loss record as a pitcher was 373-188, and he was one of the first five players inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson:

  • 1967 – Norman Angell, English journalist and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1872)
  • 1992 – Allan Bloom, American philosopher and educator (b. 1930)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t quite trust Szaron yet:

Hili: After you.
Szaron: Why?
Hili: Precautionary principle.
In Polish:
Hili: Idź pierwszy.
Szaron: Dlaczego?
Hili: Zasada ostrożności.

From Matthew, an oldie but a goodie. This is one of my favorite memes of all time:

From ScienceBlogs. I’ve always felt that people who like this odious candy made from wax, sugar, and artificial flavors and colors are morally deficient. That includes my sister.

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Simon: it’s Nobel Prize season!

A tweet from Masih in April: woman disfigured for wearing “inappropriate hijab”:

From Ricky Gervais. I didn’t know he did a whole SERIES of podcasts with Sam Harris, but the reviews are great (I haven’t heard the podcast). I’d be curious to see how the mania Gervais meshes with the gravitas of Harris! The preview below doesn’t help much.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lived about two weeks after arrival:

Tweets from Matthew. This first one’s a corker:

High Five Kitty (I may have posted this before):

A great portrait—and original color.

Matthew and I love stoats. I suppose part of it is their name: “stoat” is a funny word. But they’re gorgeous (albeit vicious) animals.

30 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Yo-Yo Ma? Boutros Boutros-Ghali! Thanks to Jerry & Kramer for a great memory. Actually, though, I much prefer 2 Cellos playing Thunderstruck.

  2. It would be nice if some of those supreme court justices would read Judge Pitman’s ruling. They would learn a lot.

  3. In other news, the Biden Administration has decided to use the police power of the state to intimidate parents who are concerned about their children’s education.

    1. Is this about enforcing mask mandates in schools while there is a pandemic going on? If that is the case, then it has structural equivalence to requiring children to not bring a knife to school, or have chickenpox. Or head lice for that matter. Should those freedoms be allowed too?
      Its just a new enforcement, and new things do chaffe some people.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the Harris & Gervais chats. A lot of it is quite silly but that can be a refreshing change of pace from the serious conversations in the regular Harris Making Sense podcasts.

    1. As much as I love Sam, his writings, and his live talks, I can’t listen to his podcasts. His delivery is too soporific for me. But I love Ricky too, so based on your review, I’ll give this one a shot.

  5. I played some football during my school years. In 1976 we, Landstuhl, beat an opponent, Zweibrücken (?), 76-0. I remember feeling kind of bad about it.

    1. Not that familiar with Germany but you played football in germany? So as not to get it confussed with football (soccer). My only experiences in Germany are north of Frankfurt at Giessen. Did two or three trips over there in the 90s. Great beer.

        1. American football does exist in Germany, but it is less common than soccer in the USA. Even rarer is baseball. The latter is probably due to lack of space. For similar reasons, table tennis is popular in Hong Kong.

          1. Wouldn’t want the USians to be challenged in the World Series etc. of the sports that (pretty much) only they play! Maybe they’ve learned a lesson from us Brits who have invented numerous international sports that we rarely win…

            1. I am proud to record that the football club I (occasionally) support, Preston North End, holds the record for the biggest margin of victory in the FA Cup: 26-0 vs Hyde United in 1887. Mind you, their form has dropped off a bit since then…

  6. Please don’t make us try to take “debt ceiling” theatrics seriously. The GOP has already “shut down the government” twice, Non-essential federal employees get a paid vacation, you can’t apply for social security benefits, etc. etc. GOP ratings tank until they get scared and back down.

    Unless McConnell’s master plan is to throw the midterms to the Democrats, debt ceiling theater will end promptly when it gets the goldbugs in the GOP base to salivate without pissing off the median voter.

    Its pretty easy to reduce government spending: pass a lower budget. Its pretty easy to finance a government deficit, print T-Bills. Who cares, with fiat currency, as long as someone buys them, you are in business, and LT rates are approaching zero anyways.

    1. I think McConnell’s thinking is that Manchin and Sinema are doing his role for him, so he’ll just keep all the GOP votes off the table. It’s going to make the process slower and more painful, and it could backfire on him completely if Manchin and Sinema decide to let the bigger budget pass; in that case, he’s essentially given up any negotiation power he might’ve had.

      But to keep things in perspective, Biden wants to spend 3-3.5 trillion. Manchin wants it more like 1.5-2 trillion. The last year Trump was in office, McConnell passed him a 4.3 trillion budget. His complaints are all hypocritical party politics (I know, I know…I’m stating the obvious).

      1. What is the difference between McConnell, Manchin and Sinema? Yes, I know one of them wears a dress.

        1. The difference is: Manchin actually wants a lower budget. Sinema actually wants to limit funding to different departments. McConnell doesn’t give two shoots about the final number; he only wants the Democrats to be seen to fail.

          1. However you slice it having Manchin and Sinemahe in the democratic Senate is like have two more republicans. The democrats are screwed.

            1. Yes, but with Manchin and Sinema, the Democrats control the committees. If the Democrats get lucky and elect two more Senators without losing any (I dream, I dream) Manchin and Sinema can fuck off all they want. But, until then, they have some inordinate power to call shots.

              1. It would be very surprising if Sinema and Manchin’s views weren’t privately held by other Senators, and they are just willing to be the targets. Lucy and the Football.

            2. Well on budget economics, yes they are pretty conservative. That doesn’t make them Republicans. I don’t know much about Manchin’s other positions, but Sinema is pretty vocal on pro-choice and gay rights, for instance.

              I’d be wary of claiming they’re DINOs based on a single issue.

  7. the [ancient bears’ cavities] result of a diet high in sugar: almost certainly wild berries (h/t Laurie)

    What, not honey?

  8. Shepherd (photo below) was almost certainly murdered because he was gay.

    More likely it was to steal the meth that Shepherd had been selling, since at least one of the low-lifes who killed him was also homosexual or bisexual. Local Denver news at the time had several articles on Shepherd’s behavior which supported the facts stated in this article.

  9. Someone else who “slept with the fishes” on this day in 2006 was Anna Politkovskaya, American-Russian journalist and activist (b. 1958). Whether it was a coincidence that she died on Putin’s birthday is for others (conspiracy theorists? Or realists?) to decide. For what it’s worth, Vlad said that “her death caused the government more problems than her writings”. So that’s alright, then…

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