Further, it’s Maize Day (“you call it corn“), Black Friday (a massive shopping day), Fur Free Friday, National Flossing Day (every day, and don’t forget your Water-Pik), National Day of Listening, and National Native American Heritage Day.
Here’s a piece of art I encountered on my walk yesterday. It was inside the David Rubenstein Forum of the University of Chicago, is by François-Xavier Lalanne, and is called Grand Chat Polymorphe (1968-2008)
News of the Day:
*A new “variant” (why don’t they call it a “mutant strain”?) of the coronavirus has been found in South Africa, and it’s worrying, as it’s spreading and infects the vaccinated.
Botswana’s health ministry confirmed in a statement that four cases of the new variant were detected in people who were all fully vaccinated. All four were tested before their planned travel. One sample was also detected in Hong Kong, carried by a traveler from South Africa, South African scientists said.
With over 1,200 new infections, South Africa’s daily infection rate is much lower than in Germany, where new cases are driving a wave. However, the density of mutations on this new variant raises fears that it could be highly contagious, leading scientists to sound the alarm early.
And the mutations are many:
The B1.1.529 variant has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” with more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, said Mr. de Oliveira. On the ACE2 receptor — the protein that helps to create an entry point for the coronavirus to infect human cells — the new variant has 10 mutations. In comparison, the Beta.
In light of this, one thing I ask,
Just bury me in my trusty mask.
*Have a butcher’s at the NYT guest essay by Democrat Greg Weiner: “There is another Democrat that A. O. C. should be mad at.” That’s beyond Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, of course. Who is it?
But if disappointed progressives are looking for a Democrat to blame, they should consider directing their ire toward one of their party’s founders: James Madison. Madison’s Constitution was built to thwart exactly what Democrats have been attempting: a race against time to impose vast policies with narrow majorities. Madison believed that one important function of the Constitution was to ensure sustained consensus before popular majorities could prevail.
Democrats do represent a popular majority now. But for Madison, that “now” is the problem: He was less interested in a snapshot of a moment in constitutional time than in a time-lapse photograph showing that a majority had cohered. The more significant its desires, Madison thought, the longer that interval of coherence should be. The monumental scale of the Build Back Better plan consequently raises a difficult Madisonian question: Is a fleeting and narrow majority enough for making history?
In this Madisonian sense, Democrats are tripping over their own boasts.
. . . the overuse of omnibus bills that throw every possible priority into a single measure make bipartisan support nearly impossible. Madison may have predicted the future of factions poorly. But his assumption was that coalitions would shift from issue to issue. A stand-alone bill on any one Democratic priority might well receive votes from across the aisle, as the recent $1 trillion infrastructure bill did. One reason for that bipartisan support is that isolating issues raises the cost of opposing them.
*The migrants waiting in Calais to cross illegally to Britain have gotten so desperate that they’ve taken to small boats. Sadly, 27 of them drowned in an accident and their bodies were recovered yesterday. Only two are alive, but both are in critical condition.
Four people suspected of being involved in the sinking have been arrested, Mr. Darmanin said. The Dunkirk, U.K., prosecutor’s office said an investigation has been opened into human smuggling and aggravated manslaughter.
Now, according to the Washington Post, France and Britain are squabbling over who gets the blame and how to stop further deaths.
In a letter to his French counterpart on Thursday evening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the establishment of “joint patrols” by Britain and France or by “private security contractors.” Johnson also called for a pact that would allow migrants to be deported back to France.
Previous British proposals of joint patrols had raised concerns in France over sovereignty. The French government accuses Britain of a lack of action against traffickers as well as businesses that employ undocumented migrants. On Thursday, the French called for more European and British support for their efforts to combat human trafficking in the channel.
Our ability to eat a ridiculous amount of food on Thanksgiving Day is related to the sheer variety of foods typically offered on a holiday table. Variety excites the appetite.
This “variety effect” is an evolutionary adaptation that served us well during pre-buffet times. Imagine if your ancestors binged on buffalo meat and then stumbled across a patch of ripe berries — but everyone was too full to eat them. Skipping dessert in that scenario would mean missing out on a stash of important nutrients. (And if that had happened, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now.)
Note the complete certainty of author Tara Parker-Pope. But what if you come across the berries first and gorge on them? Will you still have room for buffalo? They don’t give an answer, though this question arises naturally. This assumption that we know the answer for sure is a mark of bad science reporting. Also, a good Thanksgiving dinner includes many items besides the turkey and pie (stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, casseroles, potatoes, yams, etc.)
*According to IFLS (formerly “I Fucking Love Science”), the UK has taken a step forward towards animal rights, including invertebrates as “sentient beings” Remember that “sentient” means that you have feelings—what philosophers call “qualia”. (h/t Ginger K.) I don’t know how they determine this, but it surely must rest on phylogenetic similarity (as in other primates) and perhaps the presence of pain receptors similar to ours.
The UK government has officially included decapod crustaceans — including crabs, lobsters, and crayfish — and cephalopod mollusks — including octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish — in its Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. This means they are now recognized as “sentient beings” in the UK.
The move comes off the back of an independent review carried out by a team led by Dr Jonathan Birch, an associate professor in the London School of Economic’s Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method. They looked at over 300 studies and found “strong scientific evidence decapod crustaceans and cephalopod mollusks are sentient”. Sentience is a subjective concept that’s been batted about for centuries, but it generally refers to the capacity to consciously perceive feelings and sensations like pain.
Vertebrates (animals with a backbone) are already covered by the bill, but octopuses and other invertebrate animals have previously had a hard time being recognized as being sentient due to their lack of backbone. The central nervous system of invertebrates is immensely different from that of vertebrates — for instance, octopuses have a donut-shaped brain in their head and eight other “mini-brains” in each tentacle. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean their central nervous system is any less complicated than certain mammals considered sentient by humans. If you’ve watched the documentary My Octopus Teacher, you’ll know that cephalopods can be incredibly intelligent, capable of some remarkably complex behavior, including potentially physical and emotional pain. There’s also some solid evidence that some crustaceans feel a sense of pain.
If you look at the link to “solid evidence” above, it goes to a study in which shore crabs learn in the lab to avoid light stimuli if lights are associated with a shock. Well, that’s something, but it doesn’t tell us if the crabs FEEL the shock or are simply having adaptive and automatic reactions to nerve stimuli that, in the wild, signal danger.
That said, we should err on the side of caution, and not demand 100% certainty. For if an animal feels pain, we must protect its well-being more than organisms who don’t. And that’s what this finding will do:
The review recommends against using a variety of current commercial practices involving these animals, including live boiling without stunning, extreme slaughter methods, transporting the animals in icy water, and the sale of live decapod crustaceans to untrained handlers.
*Also thanks to Ginger K., I’ve learned that Brach’s, America’s biggest producer of that vile confection “candy corn”, has produced a Thanksgiving version that is even more odious than the normal product:
For Thanksgiving, the candy corn manufacturer Brach’s has outdone itself with a flavor that’s sure to turn heads (and stomachs). As Texas Standard reports, the product captures the essence of a turkey dinner in candy corn form.
Brach’s seasonal candy corn includes a variety of colorful pieces, each one representing a different aspect of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some flavors are sweet—like cranberry sauce, apple pie, and coffee—while others are rarely mentioned in the same breath as dessert.
The fluorescent green pieces are meant to evoke green beans, though they reportedly taste closer to green tea. One of the brownish pieces is a sage-forward stuffing flavor. And, of course, the bag includes turkey and gravy candy corn, which regrettably tastes similar to the real thing.
You have to be a masochist to eat this stuff? But if you are, you can get it on Amazon in a 12-ounce package for $10.87. Let’s take a poll!
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 776,574, an increase of 1,066 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,202,433, an increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on November 26 includes:
- 1778 – In the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to visit Maui.
- 1789 – A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as proclaimed by President George Washington at the request of Congress.
He also proclaimed it in 1795—in the document below:
- 1863 – United States President Abraham Lincoln proclaims November 26 as a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated annually on the final Thursday of November. Following the Franksgiving controversy from 1939 to 1941, it has been observed on the fourth Thursday in 1942 and subsequent years.
- 1917 – The National Hockey League is formed, with the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas as its first teams.
- 1922 – Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years.
Here’s a colorized video of Carter uncovering Tut’s coffin:
- 1922 – The Toll of the Sea debuts as the first general release film to use two-tone Technicolor. (The Gulf Between was the first film to do so, but it was not widely distributed.)
Here’s the entire movie, starring Anna May Wong:
- 1942 – Casablanca, the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, premieres in New York City.
You can find the entire movie in high-definition on Youtube. Here’s one of the two most famous scenes, and nobody says, “Play it again, Sam.”
Here’s the first meeting of the Assembly with the architects of of Indian independene and democracy: “First day of Constituent Assembly of India. In the first row (From Left): Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, B. G. Kher, Vallabhai Patel and K. M. Munshi.”
Therefore, it’s Constitution Day in India.
- 1970 – In Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, 38 millimetres (1.5 in) of rain fall in a minute, the heaviest rainfall ever recorded.
- 1983 – Brink’s-Mat robbery: In London, 6,800 gold bars worth nearly £26 million are stolen from the Brink’s-Mat vault at Heathrow Airport.
- 2000 – George W. Bush is certified the winner of Florida’s electoral votes by Katherine Harris, going on to win the United States presidential election, despite losing in the national popular vote.
- 2003 – The Concorde makes its final flight, over Bristol, England.
Here’s the last flight. After the accident in 2000, the plane lost business:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1607 – John Harvard, English minister and philanthropist (d. 1638)
- 1853 – Bat Masterson, American police officer and journalist (d. 1921). Here’s the famous “Dodge City Peace Commission” on June 10, 1883. Wikipedia caption: “From left to right, standing: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon; seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis “Frank” McLean and Cornelius “Neil” Brown.” I’ve put arrows by Masterson (top row) and Earp (seated):
- 1898 – Karl Ziegler, German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1973)
- 1899 – Richard Hauptmann, German-American murderer (d. 1936)
Hauptman was accused and convicted of kidnapping the baby of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1932. He was executed in 1936; below is his mugshot:
- 1907 – Ruth Patrick, American botanist (d. 2013)
- 1922 – Charles M. Schulz, American cartoonist, created Peanuts (d. 2000)
- 1931 – Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentinian painter, sculptor, and activist, Nobel Prize laureate
- 1939 – Tina Turner, American-Swiss singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress
- 1945 – John McVie, English-American bass player
- 1954 – Roz Chast, American cartoonist
After having read Roz Chast’s fantastic cartoons for years, and absorbed her combination of anxiety and pessimism, I guessed that she was Jewish. Sure enough, Wikipedia confirms it. Here’ a Jewish joke I learned recently:
Jewish pessimist: “Things can’t get any worse.”
Jewish optimist: “Sure they can!!:
Those who “fell asleep” on November 26 include:
- 1504 – Isabella I, queen of Castile and León (b. 1451)
- 1883 – Sojourner Truth, American activist (b. 1797)
Her real name was Isabella Baumfree, and she excaped from slavery, recovered her children, and then became a passionate speaker for abolitionism and women’s rights. Photo below:
O’Hare, after whom the big Chicago airport is named, was a crack pilot who won the Medal of Honor for an extraordinary feat (read at the link). He went missing in 1943. His plane bore the image of Felix the Cat, as did all the planes of the Sixth Squadron:
- 1956 – Tommy Dorsey, American trombonist, trumpet player, and composer (b. 1905)
- 2005 – Stan Berenstain, American author and illustrator, co-created the Berenstain Bears (b. 1923)
I have never seen these. Were they supposed to be Jewish bears?
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili isn’t having much luck hunting mice:
Hili: If nothing comes you will have to open a can for me.A: So Maybe, we should go home at once?Hili: No, I will wait a bit longer
Hili: Jeśli nic nie przyjdzie, to będziesz musiał otworzyć mi puszkę.Ja: To może chodźmy od razu do domu?Hili: Nie, jeszcze chwilę poczekam.
Kulka’s press conference:
Verily, I say unto you that beautiful are my pictures in this book and very helpful to understand where good and evil come from. And the pictures were wrought by Paulina. In truth, Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra was truthful saying that everybody lacks money for different things.If ye spend a few zlotys on this thing, you will not regret it.Here you can order the book: https://www.stapis.com.pl/…
Konferencja prasowa Kulki:
Zaprawde powiadam Wam, że pięknę są moję zdjęcia w tej książce i bardzo pomocne dla zrozumienia skąd się wzięło dobro i zło. A zdjęcia te robiła Paulina. Zaiste rację miał Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra mówiąc, że wszystkim brakuje pieniędzy, na różne rzeczy. Wydajcie kilka złotych na tę rzecz, a nie pożałujecie.Tu można książkę zamówić: https://www.stapis.com.pl/… ;
From Norm; I believe these are the winners of the 2021 Math Olympiad, and the first time in three decades that the U.S. team beat the Chinese team:
Virtually all sexual predators are male.
That’s why it’s SO disappointing when women let the side down like this. pic.twitter.com/kUeGEPu9mC
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) November 25, 2021
From Dom, who explained to me that this is the last “dambuster.” When I asked him what “dambusters” were, he said, “Ah. They were the RAF bombers that carried out the bouncing bomb raids on the Ruhr dams in the war.” That was on May 16 and 17 of 1943, and 40% of the 153 RAF airmen involved were killed during the raid. George Johnson, below, survived and just turned 100!
Congratulations to the wonderful, generous gentleman and absolute hero, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson MBE DFM! Wishing you a memorable & marvellous 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣th birthday and sending very best wishes to a national treasure!🍷🥃 🙌🏻#hero #legend #dambuster #centenarian pic.twitter.com/RTFioQ2bPE
— Jonny Cracknell (@jonnycrackers82) November 25, 2021
From Barry, who says this proves I’m not going to Heaven. (Proteins aren’t transcribed, by the way—DNA is, into messenger RNA.)
From Ginger K.: An excellent library sign:
A reminder pic.twitter.com/hhEGVIOtHH
— Marshall Shepherd (@DrShepherd2013) November 15, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
26 November 1921 | A Dutch Jewish woman, Bertha van den Berg, was born in Padang in Indonesia (then Dutch East Indies).
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 26, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This is the craziest beetle I’ve ever seen, bar none:
Seed beetle (Ctenocolum sp.) from Honduras. This has to be one of the strangest beetles I've ever photographed. Everything about it screams "weird": the bunny ears, the baby legs, the enormous hind thighs, the boxed body shape… pic.twitter.com/8Xq3PpCt7I
— Gil Wizen (@wizentrop) March 5, 2020
Stingrays having fun:
— Black Hole (@konstructivizm) November 18, 2021
Sound up from the beginning to hear how softly they’re called. One cat doesn’t go in, though.
"Dinner is ready!!!" pic.twitter.com/9TEM7CeEBx
— Extraordinarily Pleasing (@pleasingnesss) November 22, 2021