Welcome to the working week’s terminus, October 15, 2021: and it’s appropriate that this Friday is Red Wine Day (you can have white, too).
It’s also National Cheese Curd Day, National Mushroom Day, National Roast Pheasant Day, National Shawarma Day in Canada (cultural appropriation), National Pug Day, National Boss Day, Global Handwashing Day, International Day of Rural Women, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (Canada, the United States, the UK and Italy), White Cane Safety Day, and World Students’ Day.
News of the Day:
*An orchid I’ve had for over five years finally bloomed, so I can see what its flower looks like. Photo below: I have no idea whether this is a hybrid or a naturally-occurring species (the greenhouse gave it to me as a discard). Does anybody know?
*Once again, the conservative Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the U.S. Justice Department, so Texas’s draconian abortion law stays in place. The U.S. had appealed after the appeals court upheld the law temporarily, and that was after a federal judge overturned it. Here’s the ruling:
From the WaPo:
The high court’s conservative majority said opponents, who had sued state court judges and clerks, raised “serious questions” about the constitutionality of the ban. But the justices allowed the law to remain in effect pending further review, saying the challengers had not shown they were suing the proper defendants.
The 5th Circuit on Thursday said its decision to leave the law in effect was based on the high court’s reasoning and its own previous decision in that case, in which the appeals court said it was not clear that federal courts have a role in reviewing the Texas law.
Yeah. right, and that’s because Texas designed the law to be enforced by vigilantes rather than the state! The law is plainly unconstitutional and surely federal courts have a role in reviewing it.
*The House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection is moving towards holding Steve Bannon in criminal contempt, since he flatly rejected a subpoena to appear before the committee.
Bannon was scheduled for a deposition in front of the committee on Thursday, and Bannon’s lawyer wrote in a letter the day before to the panel saying that his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Donald Trump over executive privilege or a court weighs in on the matter.
“We reject his position entirely,” Thompson continued in his statement. “The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”
The committee is unified in declaring that contempt charges will be issued to anyone refusing to testify.
*I think I’ve written before about the CRT/teaching fracas in Texas. The states has outlawed the teaching of Critical Race Theory beginning in December, a law I oppose. But there’s a related dust-up in the Carroll County school district about which books teachers can allow their students to access, and that’s led to accusations of censorship by teachers and approbation by worried parents. But a school administrator made a very unfortunate misstep, as NBC News reports (my emphasis):
A top administrator with the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also offer students access to a book from an “opposing” perspective, according to an audio recording obtained by NBC News.
Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, made the comment Friday afternoon during a training session on which books teachers can have in classroom libraries. The training came four days after the Carroll school board, responding to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a fourth grade teacher who had kept an anti-racism book in her classroom.
. . . .A Carroll staff member secretly recorded the Friday training and shared the audio with NBC News.
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher said in response.
“Believe me,” Peddy said. “That’s come up.”
Yeah, balance it with Holocaust denialism! You can hear the recording at the NBC link.
*I’ve never been to Beirut, which is supposed to be a lovely city, or anywhere in Lebanon for that matter. But now the relatively peaceful city is seeing violence in the streets as protests break out about the 2020 port explosion, which remains unexplained.
Hundreds of supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its main Shia ally, Amal, were marching toward the Lebanese capital’s Palace of Justice when shots were fired at the protesters by snipers on rooftops, forcing demonstrators and journalists to take cover, according to the country’s interior minister, an army statement and local broadcasters.
The demonstrators were calling for the removal of a popular judge leading an investigation into the massive explosion at Beirut’s port last August, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more.
As armed clashes ramped up on Thursday, social media footage showed masked gunmen, apparently affiliated with the protesters, firing RPGs and AK-47s from alleyways and from behind garbage dumps and street barriers.
Six people have died so far in these clashes.
*If you got the series of two Moderna Covid shots, you’ll want to know that an FDA panel has recommended a booster shot of a half-dose of the original shots—but only for people over 60 or “as well as younger adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk from COVID-19.” This is an advisory decision, not a final one. The panel also said that there’s no evidence to give Moderna or Pfizer boosters to any other adult, despite the the Biden administration’s plan to do just that. Things look a bit messy, and I haven’t even seen the data used to make these decisions. We don’t know what the FDA will say in its final decision, but if it adheres to the advice of this advisory panel, it will confuse people because the government’s advice would conflict with Biden’s. And that may sow further doubt about the vaccines in the minds of the undecided.
*When will people learn that vegetables DO NOT GO INTO DESSERTS? A new recipe from the NYT (fortunately, you have to pay extra to subscribe to the recipes section to see how to make this travesty):
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 721,766, an increase of 1,818 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,897,984, an increase of about 6,700 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on October 15 includes:
- 1066 – Following the death of Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, Edgar the Ætheling is proclaimed King of England by the Witan; he is never crowned, and concedes power to William the Conqueror two months later.
- 1582 – Adoption of the Gregorian calendar begins, eventually leading to near-universal adoption.
Here’s one of the earliest printed Gregorian calendars, dating from 1582 (Pope Gregory XIII decreed the change, dropping 11 days from October, 1582).
- 1783 – The Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon makes the first human ascent, piloted by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.
- 1793 – Queen Marie Antoinette of France is tried and convicted of treason.
- 1815 – Napoleon begins his exile on Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Here’s Napoleon’s death mask. He died at 51, probably of stomach cancer:
- 1888 – The “From Hell” letter allegedly sent by Jack the Ripper is received by investigators.
The letter came with a human kidney of unknown provenance. It’s also not clear whether the letter came from Jack the Ripper, whose identity is still unknown. The letter, which was sent to George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilante Committee is below, and the transcription is this:
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif[e] that took it out if you only wate a whil[e] longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, she was Dutch, and was shot by a firing squad at age 41. Here’s a photo in her exotic-dance costume:
- 1951 – Mexican chemist Luis E. Miramontes completes the synthesis of norethisterone, the basis of an early oral contraceptive.
It was first introduced as a birth control pill in 1963, and is still widely prescribed.
- 1956 – FORTRAN, the first modern computer language, is first shared with the coding community.
- 1966 – The Black Panther Party is created by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.
Here’s Newton and Seale outside the Black Panther Party headquarters in Oakland, CA. Newton (right) was shot to death in 1989; Seale is still with us.
Here’s Gretzky breaking Gordie Howe’s record. Gretzky wound up scoring 2,857 points in his career.
- 1990 – Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to lessen Cold War tensions and open up his nation.
- 1991 – The “Oh-My-God particle“, an ultra-high-energy cosmic ray measured at 40,000,000 times that of the highest energy protons produced in a particle accelerator, is observed at the University of Utah HiRes observatory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
It’s for real; Wikipedia notes that:
Since the first observation, at least seven similar events (energy 5.7×1019 eV or greater) have been recorded, confirming the phenomenon. These ultra-high-energy cosmic ray particles are very rare; the energy of most cosmic ray particles is between 10 MeV and 10 GeV.
Notables born on this day include:
- 99 BC (probable) – Lucretius, Roman poet and philosopher (d. 55 BCE)
- 70 BC – Virgil, Roman poet (d. 19 BC)
- 1814 – Mikhail Lermontov, Russian author, poet, and painter (d. 1841)
Lermontov, a Russian Romantic poet, died at only 26, shot in a duel. A portrait from 1837:
Sullivan, a bruiser, was the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle fighting, and, when they instituted boxing gloves, became the glove heavyweight champion for ten years. Lord, those bare-knuckle fights must have been brutal!
- 1881 – P. G. Wodehouse, English novelist and playwright (d. 1975)
Here’s a short video of Stephen Fry extolling Wodehouse as the “supreme example of the master writer”. Fry, of course, played Jeeves to Hugh Laurie’s Wooster in a television adaptation.
- 1905 – C. P. Snow, English chemist and author (d. 1980)
- 1908 – John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American economist and diplomat, 7th United States Ambassador to India (d. 2006)
- 1926 – Michel Foucault, French historian and philosopher (d. 1984)
- 1920 – Mario Puzo, American author and screenwriter (d. 1999)
Here’s Puzo, whom I’d never seen before, but he looks pretty much like the guy who wrote The Godfather, and also did the screenplays of the trilogy, nabbing Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for the first two films.
- 1946 – Richard Carpenter, American singer-songwriter and pianist
Most of the Carpenters’ hits were written by others, but this is one song whose melody Richard wrote (lyrics by John Bettis). Released in 1972, it’s unusual as being one of the first pop songs with a “fuzz guitar” (solo by Tony Peluso). Here’s a live version, with Richard at the keyboard and Karen shining as usual. If you like the Carpenters, the whole 46-minute show is terrific, with a special appearance by Karen on the drums (that’s how she started) and a Spike-Jonesian version of “Close to You”.
Those who closed their eyes for the final time on October 15 include:
- 1817 – Tadeusz Kościuszko, Polish-Lithuanian general and engineer (b. 1746)
- 1946 – Hermann Göring, German general and politician (b. 1893)
Göring, found guilty at Nuremberg and sentenced to die by hanging, asked to be shot instead. The court refused and Göring cheated the hangman by taking a smuggled-in cyanide capsule. Here’s his body afterwards:
- 1964 – Cole Porter, American composer and songwriter (b. 1891)
- 1978 – W. Eugene Smith, American photojournalist (b. 1918)
I consider Smith the best photojournalist of our time. His photoessays for Life Magazine are classics. It’s hard to pick one photo of his to show, so here are two:
“Country Doctor”, from a Life photoessay on the harried life of a rural physician. Here, exhausted, he takes a break:
- 2000 – Konrad Emil Bloch, Polish-American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize Laureatr (b. 1912).
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains Hili’s words:
Hili thinks that she is the guardian of the house and a ruler over Szaron and Kulka. If something is moving outside the window, it may be something that demands her personal intervention.Hili: I can see a movement.A: So what?Hili: It’s likely I will have to intervene.
Hili: Widzę jakiś ruch.Ja: I co?Hili: Chyba będę musiała interweniować.
We haven’t seen “little” Kulka for a while, and she’s not little any more. But she’s still cute, and maybe shares some genes with Hili:
Here’s a short video of a pelican trying to swallow a capybara:
From Fat Cat Art:
From Barry: A speeded-up video of a spider weaving a magnficent web. Remember, all this behavior is encoded in a brain the size of a grain of sand:
If you’ve already seen a spider weaving a magnificent web today just keep on scrolling… pic.twitter.com/sHWTHtF3er
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) October 9, 2021
From Simon. I doubt that a cat would act this way! Sound up.
Sometimes the only thing stopping you from progress is your attachment to a previous conceptual frameworkpic.twitter.com/hYMRkm57Bg
— Clayton Cubitt (@claytoncubitt) October 10, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
15 October 1879 | A Dutch Jewish women, Marianne Bouwman, was born in Rotterdam.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 15, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. What is happening down there?
Crisis in New Zealand pic.twitter.com/VXuaOuERmx
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 12, 2021
I can’t remember whether I posted this (I know I retweeted it), but it shows an awesome experience, not a frightful one. Right whales are baleen whales and couldn’t eat a human:
This is why I don’t do ocean activities.
— Mo Salhan (@MoSalhan) October 9, 2021
A tweet from the Actually, I said a “zero” today when I was giving someone a phone number.
Why in U.K. English do we confound 0 and O (as in oh-oh-seven not zero-zero-seven, or in phone numbers)? Doesn’t happen in French, nor I bet in German. What about US English? What don’t we like about “zero”?
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) October 12, 2021
The chillest animal in the world, the capybara, has apparently transferred some of its equanimity to a cow.
cow, cats and capybara. what else could you want? pic.twitter.com/BHhWc3C8Wp
— CAPYBARA MAN (@CAPYBARA_MAN) October 10, 2021
If this isn’t true, blame Matthew. Actually,it is true, as the BBC reports.
#OTD of 1985 Dr. Li Wenliang was born. He was the first #doctor to alert the world of the risks of a new #coronavirus infection in #Wuhan at the end of 2019. Initially he was not believed and immediately after returning to work he became infected and died of #COVID19.#Heroes pic.twitter.com/FW0gj8FGnu
— StoriaDellaMedicina (@StoriaMedicina) October 11, 2021