Welcome to the cruelest day of the week: Tuesday, October 19, 2021: National Seafood Bisque Day. It’s also International Gin and Tonic Day, Rainforest Day, Dress Like a Dork Day, Evaluate Your Life Day (I wouldn’t recommend it), World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day, and, in England, Oxfordshire Day.
News of the Day:
As death approached, Colin L. Powell was still in fighting form.
“I’ve got multiple myeloma cancer, and I’ve got Parkinson’s disease. But otherwise I’m fine,” he said in a July interview.
And he rejected expressions of sorrow at his condition.
“Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m  years old,” said Powell who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”
From Bob Woodward’s interview/article on Colin Powell in the WaPo. (The whole piece is fascinating)
Powell also apparently has prostate cancer, so he surely had conditions contributing to his death from Covid, despite being vaccinated.
*Just a reminder: it’s been 272 days since the Bidens moved into the White House, promising to get a First Cat. No First Cat has appeared.
*The big news in Chicago is the vaccine mandate for city employees, which includes the police department. Police had until midnight Friday to report their vaccine status, and as of Monday night only 64% had done so. This could mean that very shortly we’ll lose more than a third of our police, who will either be fired or put on unpaid leave. In other places, possible unemployment has proved a remarkable prod to rolling up your sleeve. Let’s hope that’s true in Chicago, or we’ll have not a crime wave, but a crime tsunami. The Mayor and the police unions have all filed lawsuits.
*The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to stay Texas’s enforced-again and draconian anti-abortion law until its constitutionality is resolved by the courts. The Supreme Court could put the case on its docket immediately, but is unlikely to do so until it’s wended its way through lower courts. They’ve given Texas until Thursday to respond. I think the Dept. of Justice has a very good argument:
“The question now is whether Texas’ nullification of this Court’s precedents should be allowed to continue while the courts consider the United States’ suit. As the district court recognized, it should not,” the Justice Department wrote.
*If you’re due for a Covid booster, be aware that the FDA may soon approve a “mix and match” approach for vaccines, i.e., you can get any of the Johnson & Johnson, Prizer, or Moderna vaccines as a booster, no matter what jab or jabs you had initially. Approval could come this week, but note that the data are scanty and incomplete, but still better than nothing:
Experts emphasized last week that the new data was based on small groups of volunteers and short-term findings. Only antibody levels — one measure of the immune response — were calculated as part of the preliminary data, not the levels of immune cells primed to attack the coronavirus, which scientists say are also an important measure of a vaccine’s success.
*The NYT reports that the 7-foot plaster statue of Thomas Jefferson that has stood in the Council Chamber inside New York’s City Hall for over 100 years (it’s a replica of a bronze statue standing in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C)., is likely to be removed this week. The reason is, of course, that Jefferson had slaves: reason enough, these days, to not honor him.
The vote is part of a broad, nationwide reckoning over racial inequality highlighted by the murder of George Floyd, the racial disparities further revealed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the sometimes violent debate over whether Confederate monuments should be toppled and discarded.
Though Jefferson, one of the nation’s founding fathers, wrote about equality in the Declaration of Independence, he enslaved more than 600 people and fathered six children with one of them, Sally Hemings.
“How the hell can people see as a hero someone who had hundreds of enslaved Africans, someone who was a racist and who said we were inferior and someone who was a slaveholding pedophile?” said Assemblyman Charles Barron, the former councilman who tried to get the statue removed in 2001. “For him to be canonized in a statue is incredible — incredibly racist.”
Here’s the statue. I’m wondering how long it will be until the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is torn down.
I would like to hear readers’ opinions on this, so here’s a poll:
*The Washington Post published some longevity tips in a new article called, “Want to add healthy years to your life? Here’s what new longevity research says.” I have to confess that I didn’t read the tips as I’d just get anxious because I’ll find that I’m doing everything wrong. But if you want to see what to eat, how to exercise, and other non-obvious tips for living longer, go have a look.
*Here’s a NYT story about the discovery of a stone sculpture by William Edmonson (1874-1951), largely ignored in his lifetime but now one of the most famous “outsider” artists of the century, and the first black person to get a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. Art enthusiast John Foster was driving through St. Louis and spotted a ten-inch sculpture sitting on someone’s front porch. He later returned and told the owners that they should get it investigated. Sure enough, it was an Edmonson that had gone missing for 80 years. It’s been acquired by the American Museum of Folk Art in New York, and is worth about a million dollars.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 726,389, an increase of 1,631 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,922,705, an increase of about 8,100 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on October 19 includes:
- 1216 – King John of England dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry.
- 1512 – Martin Luther becomes a doctor of theology.
- 1789 – John Jay is sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
- 1812 – The French invasion of Russia fails when Napoleon begins his retreat from Moscow.
Here’s an adaptation of Charles Minard’s famous multi-information map of Napoleon’s retreat from Russa with dates, temperatures, and the size of the army as it went to Moscow (blue figure) and on the way back (brownish figure), along with the temperature. Click to enlarge. And look at that attrition! It was a total disaster for the French.
I believe this is the translation of Planck’s first paper on the subject, which of course led to quantum mechanics:
- 1943 – Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, is isolated by researchers at Rutgers University.
Selman Waksman got a Nobel Prize for this discovery, which was actually made by a graduate student in his lab, Albert Schatz during his Ph.D work. Shatz got overlooked, sued Waksman, and there was a “settlement”. But of course no settlement can substitute for a Nobel. Wikipedia notes this:
In his accounts on streptomycin discovery, Waksman never mentioned Schatz. When the first clinical trial was performed by Feldman, he did not know that the new drug was discovered by Schatz, and it was much later in Chile (the 1960’s) where he met Schatz that the story was brought up in their conversation. The Lancet commented: “The Nobel committee made a considerable mistake by failing to recognise Schatz’s contribution.”
This is an example of the Matthew Effect.
- 1944 – United States forces land in the Philippines.
The invasion of Leyte in the Philippines in 1944 marks the fulfillment of a promise by General Douglas MacArthur, who, when he was driven out by the Japanese in 1942, made the famous vow, “I shall return.” And he did: here he is wading ashore during the first landings on Leyte (he’s the guy in front with the sunglasses):
- 1950 – Korean War: The Battle of Pyongyang ends in a United Nations victory. Hours later, the Chinese Army begins crossing the border into Korea.
- 1960 – The United States imposes a near-total trade embargo against Cuba.
- 1973 – President Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.
- 1987 – Black Monday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls by 22%, 508 points.
- 2003 – Mother Teresa is beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Oy! She’s now Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Here’s a short segment of a 60 Minutes video from the soldiers who found Hussein’s hidey-hole:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1850 – Annie Smith Peck, American mountaineer and academic (d. 1935)
- 1929 – Lewis Wolpert, South African-English biologist, author, and academic (d. 2021)
What a nice guy and what a good writer Wolpert was. He gets approbation from Richard Dawkins in Dawkins’s latest volume, Books Do Furnish a Life, which I’ll review within a day or so. (Short take: read it!) I set next to him at the 30th anniversary dinner celebrating The Selfish Gene, and he told me all about his severe depression, which he chronicled in the book Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression.
- 1931 – John le Carré, English intelligence officer and author (d. 2020)
- 1944 – Peter Tosh, Jamaican singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1987)
- 1945 – Divine, American drag queen performer, and actor (d. 1988)
- 1946 – Philip Pullman, English author and academic
- 1967 – Amy Carter, American illustrator and activist
Hard to believe that little Amy is now 53. I could find only one thing she illustrated: her father’s book The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, based on a story he told Amy as a child:
- 1983 – Cara Santa Maria, American neuroscientist and blogger
At the 2009 meeting of Atheist Alliance International, where I was a speaker, I got to sit at the Big People’s Table with Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Santa Maria, who was dating Maher at the time. I of course noticed her famous Archaeopteryx tattoo:
— HuffPost Science (@HuffPostScience) December 11, 2012
Those who found eternal peace on October 19 include:
- 1745 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist and essayist (b. 1667)
- 1937 – Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand-English physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1871)
One of New Zealand’s overproduction of artists and intellects, Rutherford won the Prize for work on radioactive elements, including the discover of half-lives. That work was done at McGill University, where the picture below was taken in 1905. He died of a small hernia that became strangulated, which is one reason I decided to get mine operated on.
- 1950 – Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and playwright (b. 1892).
Critic Edmund Wilson proposed to her several times (Wikipedia says she took his virginity), but she turned him down
- 1987 – Jacqueline du Pré, English cellist and educator (b. 1945)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sleeping in:
A: Are you getting up?Hili: No, it’s still night time.
Ja: Wstajesz?Hili: Nie, jeszcze jest noc.
And nearby in Wloclawek, Mietek says “hi” (I’m told that the “you” is the plural form in Polish):
Mietek: Well, and how are you?
From Stash Krod:
From Jesus of the Day:
Two tweets from Barry. First, Canadian road rage:
— 🍂🍃🐲 The Smokin GrassHopper 🐉🍃🍂 (@Smokin_hopper) October 16, 2021
. . . and a beautiful butterfly:
Glass wing butterflies are pretty awesome, not only are their wings transparent but have structures on them to reduce glare so they are much harder for predators to track when moving
This one is the Confusa tigerwing (Methona sp) pic.twitter.com/GzZCZNUJKz
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) October 15, 2021
From Simon: I know ducks have trouble distinguishing decoys from afar, but this hawk can’t even do it right next to the faux mallard.
Some bench mates pic.twitter.com/y78ZiJ6iU7
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) October 18, 2021
A tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. Many don’t realize that the Nazis engaged in mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war, often in concentration camps.
19 October 1941 | A transport of 1,955 Soviet Prisoners of War arrived at #Auschwitz from Stalag 308 (Stalag VIII-E) in Neuhammer. The Germans deported ca. 15,000 Soviet POWs to Auschwitz. 12,000 were registered. Over 90% of them were murdered. https://t.co/MEMvow16K4
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 19, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. I just listened to Sophie Scott’s defense of the beleaguered professor Kathleen Stock, unfairly labeled a transphobe. Professor Scott is passionate, eloquent and, most important, correct.
A wonderful, rational, reasoned and illuminating defence of Kathleen Stock and academic freedom by @sophiescott at 1hr09mins on @bbc5live Brilliant to hear this being discussed @TVNaga01 https://t.co/2RWr8wAddJ
— Cllr Nina Killen (@NinaKillen) October 18, 2021
Maxim also invented the first automatic machine gun, arguably NOT for the good of mankind, but I suppose the list below deliberately ignores that.
Inventors are fascinating people.
Hiram Maxim invented a curling iron, a watch demagnetiser, a device to stop ships from rolling, riveting machines, coffee substitutes, the first automatic fire sprinkler, and much else besides – all for the good of mankind. pic.twitter.com/affoRgE7vR
— Lev Parikian (@LevParikian) October 18, 2021
I joined this Facebook group, which has the admirable purpose of letting people (and restaurants) in the UK know that diners deserve a decent portion of chips (they are cheap to make). I’m not in the UK, but I like their ceaseless scrutiny of chip portions.
Found my new favourite Facebook group. Can't wait to make my first contribution. pic.twitter.com/sxPPmXpkas
— Joseph Gibbons (@JoeBillGibbo) October 18, 2021
Granny Smiths are by far my favorite apple, as they’re crisp, tart, and actually have FLAVOR. They’re the only apples I buy unless they’re not around. But I never knew there was an actual Granny Smith!
Who knew? I certainly didn’t pic.twitter.com/QXXsC0p9WA
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) October 18, 2021