Welcome to Friday, October 8, 2021: National Fluffernutter Day. In case you don’t know what’s being honored, it’s a peanut-butter sandwich with marshmallow spread (it has its own Wikipedia page!). I may have eaten one six decades or so ago, but I can’t recall whether I liked it. Now it sounds repugnant.
Assembled and submitted for your approval:
It’s also National Pierogi Day (cultural appropriation), World Egg Day, World Octopus Day, Alvin C. York Day, celebrating that soldier’s remarkable achievement, which earned him a Medal of Honor (see below), International Lesbian Day, and World Day against the Death Penalty. And we’re still in World Space Week (October 4-10.)
Here’s a lovely video showing the ability of this octopus to change color and pattern in an instant (the music is of course by Iz):
News of the Day:
*The Nobel peace prize has been announced, with the awardees the journalists Mara Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, journalists who stand for all their colleagues who fight for freedom of expression. Ressa works in the Philippines, Muratov in Russia. . More on that later.
*I forgot to announce yesterday that the Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah nabbed the Nobel Prize in Literature, assuring that once again nobody won this year’s Guess the Laureates contest (you had to guess the winners of the Literature and of the Peace prizes). Gurnah has written ten novels, all in English, and is highly praised by fellow writers. I will have to investigate, but how can I do that when I’m busy trying to read all the Booker Prize winners?
From the NYT announcement:
On Thursday, Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, widely regarded as the most prestigious literary award in the world, for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Gurnah is the first Black writer to receive the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993, and some observers saw his selection as a long overdue corrective after years of European and American Nobel laureates. He is the first African to win the award in more than a decade, preceded by Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in 1986, Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt, who won in 1988; and the South African winners Nadine Gordimer in 1991 and John Maxwell Coetzee in 2003. The British-Zimbabwean novelist Doris Lessing won in 2007.
Amid the heated speculation in the run-up to this year’s award, the literature prize was called out for lacking diversity among its winners.
*Of all the places to leave anti-Semitic graffiti, the barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp would seem to be the most inappropriate—and most immoral. But someone (or several people) did it, and they must have hated Jews very much.
Here’s the statement from the Auschwitz Memorial, which gives you all the information you need save the two NYT paragraphs below:
Officials at Auschwitz-Birkenau said their decision to not specify the wording of the slurs on the barracks, in an area of the camp where men were packed into crude wooden bunks, stacked three high from floor to ceiling, was a conscious effort to avoid spreading antisemitic hate any further.
“Because the intent of the perpetrator or perpetrators was to spread hate speech, we have decided not to make the images or the content of the graffiti public,” said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial, which preserves the site of the death camp.
Statement concerning the vandalism that took place on October 5 at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. pic.twitter.com/bsNepIRCcL
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 5, 2021
The NYT suggests that this act is part of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. Malgorzata wrote me this when I asked her about the graffiti:
Yes, I know about antisemitic graffiti at Auschwitz. But people who are visibly Jews can still walk safely on the streets of Polish cities. They can’t do it in West-European cities nor in some parts of American cities.
*In Elizabeth Holmes’s trial for wire fraud in the Theranos case, the evidence that she was duplicitous continues to mount, and yet, just as she charmed her donors, she’s charmed some jurors. NBC News reports:
[Safeway CEO] Burd’s testimony came on the heels of the judge excusing juror No. 4. The juror said she was a Buddhist and expressed significant concern and anxiety about the topic of punishment.
“It’s really hard for me,” the juror told the judge. “I’m thinking what happened if she has to be there for a long, long time. It’s my fault, and I feel guilty for that.” The juror said she believes in love, compassion and forgiveness.
“Your responsibility as a juror is to only decide the facts of the case, you are not to determine any punishment at all,” U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila said. “That’s for the court to decide. That’s not your decision.”
NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said having a juror excused because they demonstrate overwhelming sympathy for a defendant is “incredibly rare.”
Oy! One juror has already been excused for financial hardship, and the Buddhist’s replacement also expressed concern about hurting Holmes’s future because “she’s so young.” That leaves three alternate jurors from the original five, raising the possibility of a mistrial. I swear, Holmes might go free just because she’s young and attractive. She hasn’t yet said a word in court, except for “not guilty”. (If you read John Carreyrou’s book about Holmes and Theranos, you won’t have much doubt of her guilt.)
*In a laudatory op-ed in the Washington Post about NIH Director Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian whose scientific leadership I also laud, Collins admits that there’s tension between science and faith:
For Collins — an outspoken Christian — it is especially disturbing that evangelicals are among America’s strongest bastions of vaccine resistance. There are, he said, a number of reasons for the tension between science and faith. Some of it is rooted in “old battles about origins, about the age of the Earth, the relatedness of species and the place of humans among them.” Evangelicals were often “not at ease with the conclusions of the scientific method” and became convinced that “science was driven by atheists with an agenda hostile to faith.”
These suspicions have been compounded by tribal loyalty. “It is difficult to dissent,” Collins said, “when surrounded by a community that shares a misguided view. You lose your identity.” An atmosphere of fear further entrenches wrongheaded beliefs — encouraging not only skepticism about truth but also artificial certainty about quack cures or conspiracy theories. “People anchor themselves further. They think, ‘At least I know this.’”
At issue, Collins said, is “how truth gets discovered.” Here Collins is a rigorous defender of the scientific method.
But he adds this:
At the moment, Collins is urgently encouraging evangelicals to respect scientific knowledge. Over an unusual career, he has also urged scientists to accept the possibility of religious and moral truth. In his view, the “relationship between order and beauty” raises legitimate theological questions. “Why should nature follow such elegant mathematical laws? Is there an author?”
Strongly antireligious scientists, he said, “want to limit the kind of questions that can be asked or answered.” But to be “fully alive,” humans need to “ask questions that start with ‘how’ but also questions that begin with ‘why.’” He continued: “In our daily life, we encounter both science and spirituality. They are two very different aspects to the same creation. Together, the story is so much more amazing than either by itself.”
I will accept the possibility of religious truth (not moral truth, though, since morality is subjective), but I want to know how you determine religious truth. For that is the real source of tension between science and religion: how you find out what is “true.” In fact, Collins pinpoints this when saying at issue is “how truth gets discovered.”
As for the why questions, well, many of them have scientific answers (e.g., “Why do bowerbirds decorate their bowers?”). The other “why” questions are religious, and there is no way of finding convincing answers to them.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 710,342, an increase of 1,765 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,851,118,, an increase of about 9,800 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on October 8 includes:
- 1645 – Jeanne Mance opens the first lay hospital in North America.
A date found by Matthew:
08-Oct: On this day in 1835, Charles Darwin went ashore at James Island in the Galápagos. He stayed there for nine days, collecting specimens.
— 𝙵𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝙳𝚊𝚛𝚠𝚒𝚗 🐵💙 (@friendsofdarwin) October 8, 2021
- 1871 – Slash-and-burn land management, months of drought, and the passage of a strong cold front cause the Peshtigo Fire, the Great Chicago Fire and the Great Michigan Fires to break out.
- 1918 – World War I: Corporal Alvin C. York kills 28 German soldiers and captures 132 for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
York’s story was great, and memorialized by Gary Cooper, who played him in the 1941 movie Sergeant York. Here’s a photo of York returning to his life of farming, hunting, and fishing after the war; do read the caption.
- 1956 – The New York Yankees’s Don Larsen pitches the only perfect game in a World Series.
A “perfect” baseball game is one in which nobody on the opposing team reaches first base. There have been 23 in modern baseball history, with Larsen’s being the only one in a World Series. Here’s the final out, with Yogi Berra behind the plate:
Guevara was executed two days later. Here the Bolivians display his body (Wikipedia caption “The day after his execution on 10 October 1967, Guevara’s corpse was displayed to the news media in the laundry house of the Vallegrande hospital. (photo by Freddy Alborta).
- 1969 – The opening rally of the Days of Rage occurs, organized by the Weather Underground in Chicago.
- 1970 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize in literature.
- 1978 – Australia’s Ken Warby sets the current world water speed record of 275.97 knots (318 mph, 511 km/hour) at Blowering Dam, Australia.
Here’s a history of speed records on land and water, showing Warby’s record, which still holds. Several have died trying to set or beat the record.
- 1982 – After its London premiere, Cats opens on Broadway and runs for nearly 18 years before closing on September 10, 2000.
- 2014 – Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with Ebola, dies.
Duncan was a Liberian citizen visiting family in Texas.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1883 – Otto Heinrich Warburg, German physiologist and physician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1970)
- 1890 – Eddie Rickenbacker, American soldier and pilot, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1973)
- 1895 – Zog I of Albania (d. 1961)
Zog was the first President and later, as Zog I, the first King of Albania. I like the name. Here’s Zog:
Here’s Perón with Evita, who’s an inseparable part of his story:
- 1910 – Gus Hall, American soldier and politician (d. 2000)
Hall, head of the Communist Party of the USA, ran for President four times between 1972 and 1984. I remember that well.
- 1939 – Harvey Pekar, American author and critic (d. 2010)
- 1943 – Chevy Chase, American comedian, actor, and screenwriter
- 1949 – Sigourney Weaver, American actress and producer
Weaver of course is most famous for the “Alien” movies, but I like her performance in the underrated movie “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982), also starring Linda Hunt and Mel Gibson. Do see it if you can! Hunt won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars and also at Cannes. Here’s the official trailer:
Those whose neurons stopped firing on October 8 include:
- 1594 – Ishikawa Goemon, ninja and thief of Japan (b. 1558)
- 1754 – Henry Fielding, English novelist and playwright (b. 1707)
- 1793 – John Hancock, American merchant and politician, 1st Governor of Massachusetts (b. 1737)
Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence (below), and to this day one’s signature is called “your John Hancock”. He wrote larger than anyone else.
- 1869 – Franklin Pierce, American general, lawyer, and politician, 14th President of the United States (b. 1804)
- 1944 – Wendell Willkie, American captain, lawyer, and politician (b. 1892)
- 1967 – Clement Attlee, English soldier, lawyer, and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1883)
- 2015 – Paul Prudhomme, American chef and author (b. 1940)
- 2020 – Whitey Ford, American professional baseball pitcher (b. 1928)
A Yankee his whole career, Ford was a great pitcher, with a lifetime won-loss record of 236-106:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili reproves Andrzej. Malgorzata explains, “Andrzej was surprised when he found Hili inside the wardrobe. He was sure Szaron was there. Hili talks about the human habit to jump into conclusions without first checking facts – he should’ve checked who was in the wardrobe and not assume that it was Szaron.”
Hili: Why are you so surprised?A: I thought Szaron was here.Hili: Humans tend to draw conclusions without checking.
Hili: Czemu jesteś taki zdziwiony?Ja: Myślałem, że tu jest Szaron.Hili: Ludzie mają tendencję do wyciągania wniosków bez sprawdzania.
Reader Pliny the in Between’s first cartoon showing a DUCK! (From the Far Corner Cafe). Click to enlarge:
From Brian. This has GOT to be a New Yorker cartoon.
From Jesus of the Day:
From Luana: a tweet you don’t see very often: a transgender person who doesn’t care what personal pronoun you use.
My pronouns are he/she. It doesn’t hurt my feelings to call me she. I am much more evolved than that. Years of finding my space does wonders for your soul. Have a beautiful day❤️
— Buck Angel® TRANSSEXUAL MAN (@BuckAngel) October 7, 2021
Two tweets from Barry. He calls the first, “Regrets were immediately had.”:
A little help, please. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/dQdoNcRGiC
— Dave (@SpotTheLoon2010) October 6, 2021
Barry says this about the next tweet: ”
I do love the reaction of the one who goes without:Some title contenders in the thread:My Cousin from HellBetter Lick Next TimeSurvival of the Fittest [yep!]
Tweets from Matthew. Lucy Lapwing, naturalist, has a poetic soul that I admire:
What did we do to deserve dragonflies?! The creatures we share this weird old space rock with will never fail to astound me. Chuffed and honoured this common darter chose my palm for his sunbathing spot last week 😍 pic.twitter.com/mZNGjYU5A9
— Lucy Lapwing (@Lucy_Lapwing) October 6, 2021
The advice below is wrong,, but you don’t want to put a fancy vase where a cat can get at it:
Just discovered. The beautiful vintage glass vase has been knocked into the toilet bowl, shattering both. Luckily not much water was spilt. More annoyingly, the 30s cistern is cracked. Klaus probably chasing a fly or some such bullshit.
— Andrew Malpertuis 🎃 (@Andr6wMale) October 7, 2021
WHO’S a good cat?
Everyone say “good job Dwight” pic.twitter.com/vVR67rQXQo
— 🎃🦇 𝔏𝔦𝔬𝔫𝔢𝔰𝔰 🦇🎃 (@InsaneMistress) October 7, 2021
“Scherz” is German for “joke”, but Matthew adds that these species names are real:
Scientist 1: so the frogs in this genus are some of the smallest frogs we've ever found
Scientist 2: okay we'll call the genus 'mini'
S1: are we going to name the species….
S2: we're going to name the species…….. pic.twitter.com/sIEI5v4guA
— fluid (@carbideVerstand) October 7, 2021