Welcome to Ceiling Cat’s Day, Sunday, November 28, 2021: yet another day to eat leftover turkey; in fact, it’s Turkey Leftover Day. But it’s also National French Toast Day, and I love the stuff. My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid, with Mrs. Butterworth’s (faux) syrup poured on the top.
Further, it’s Small Brewery Sunday, Advent Sunday, Letter Writing Day (when was the last time you wrote a real letter?), and Red Planet Day, celebrating NASA’s launch of the robotic probe Mariner 4 on November 28, 1964. It was the first probe to fly by Mars. Now we have robotic vehicles tootling around on the surface of the planet.
Today’s Google Doodle is a gif with flashing lights, and links to many articles about holiday shopping (click on screenshot) . I’ve never seen them tout capitalism before:
News of the Day:
*The big news is, of course, the spread of the “omicron” variant of Covid-19, which differs from “regular” strains by some 50 mutant sites, 30 of them in the spike protein. It apparently started in Botswana or South Africa, but has spread to other African countries, as well as Europe, Australia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. It appears to be more transmissible than the Delta strain, but we know nothing about what kind of disease it causes. Stay tuned and keep calm!
However, Matthew sent me this tweet by virus bigwig Eric Topol, who refers to an article suggesting that Omicron might not be as bad as thought, causing only mild disease in the young and the vaccinated. We just have to wait, as the data in this article are very poor (e.g., infection judged by symptoms rather than sequencing).
This could be the best Omicron news of the day if further confirmed tracking all confirmed cases https://t.co/xolWQv8nGJ
Not many have been thinking that the mutation laden variant could decrease virulence
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) November 27, 2021
I asked the other day how so many mutations (more than 50) could accumulate in the omicron strain. Topol suggests an answer here: many of them accumulate as simple neutral mutations, making no difference in the virus’s spreadability or resistance to the immune system (since the patient in which they accumulate is said to be immunocompromised.)
The mutation map of the 5 Variants of Concern
adapted from https://t.co/2sG39CZZsJ
Omicron (B.1.1.529) shares many key mutations of Alpha, Beta, Gamma & Delta, but a lot more added, very likely having been derived from an immunocompromised host with extensive in vivo evolution pic.twitter.com/q6LvTZOp8s
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) November 27, 2021
*And at the Washington Post, and in the face of the ignorance about the variant, columnist Megan McArdle has the temerity to write a piece called, “The U.S. must defend itself against the omicron variant—without resorting to lockdowns“:
That strategy can’t be “everyone go back home again and stay there.” The costs of further lockdowns would be heavy, from eating disorders and opioid overdoses to small-business failures and school kids falling behind. Besides, pandemic fatigue is setting in even in blue states. We must be more selective in our policies, opting for anti-covid measures that disrupt daily life as little as possible. And we should look for ones that sidestep contentious political battles, such as mask mandates.
McArdle’s solution? Building codes with better ventilation, travel bans, and better home testing kits. Somebody put her in charge of the CDC! (Only kidding.) Until we know what we’re facing, it’s premature to stipulate what we must and must not do.
*After treatment with insulin-producing stem cells, a 64 year-old man appears to have been cured of juvenile (type I) diabetes. It’s early days, and part of a long trial of 17 afflicted individuals, but read the NYT story to learn about the history that led up to this treatment. Imagine if it became standard procedure to cure a disease that has terrible side effects.
Diabetes experts were astonished but urged caution. The study is continuing and will take five years, involving 17 people with severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. It is not intended as a treatment for the more common Type 2 diabetes.
“We’ve been looking for something like this to happen literally for decades,” said Dr. Irl Hirsch, a diabetes expert at the University of Washington who was not involved in the research. He wants to see the result, not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, replicated in many more people. He also wants to know if there will be unanticipated adverse effects and if the cells will last for a lifetime or if the treatment would have to be repeated.
But, he said, “bottom line, it is an amazing result.”
*It’s dire enough that contrarian biologist Bret Weinstein vigorously challenged Covid vaccinations and recommended ivermectin in their place, but now, over at Unherd, he makes “the liberal case for gun ownership.” He recounts buying a handgun during the pandemic, and explains why a bearded liberal would have a gun (h/t Hugh):
Most of those stocking up on guns and ammo belong to a culture, and like every other culture, it has its beliefs, suppositions and fears. That culture believes that tyranny may descend on us, even here in the freedom-loving United States of America, and that privately held guns are the key to fending it off. I’m not a member of this culture, but I believe they may well be right about this.
He defends the Second Amendment as left deliberately vague because “private guns may be decisive in a fight against tyranny,” and that tyranny could come at any time.
As a young man I regarded the second amendment as the founders’ biggest blunder. As we head into 2022, my position has flipped — I now believe history may well come to regard it as the most far-sighted thing the founders did, not in spite of its vagueness, but because of it. It’s like a mysterious passage from a sacred text that forces living people to interpret it in a modern context. The founders believed the people needed to be able to defend their free state — with deadly force — whether that refers to a geographical state, or a state of being, or both.
As for the carnage caused by guns in private handsd, well, that’s an unfortunate but necessary side effect of preventing tyranny. As for the coming battle of Weinstein vs. Trump and the army, he says this:
in a head-to-head conflict between a treasonous, tyrant-led US military on the one hand, and freedom-loving Americans on the other, the military would trounce any number of militias, no matter how “well-regulated”.
But that isn’t really a persuasive argument, for two reasons. First, who decided this would be a fair fight? How many times will the US military have to find itself stalemated by inferior forces before we incorporate the lesson of asymmetric warfare into our national consciousness?
. . . The second reason an armed population might succeed against the military-gone-rogue is that it is exceedingly unlikely the entire military would accept immoral orders.
. . . A fox would almost always win a fight to the death with a domestic cat. But a house cat is capable of doing enough damage on the way out to dissuade anything but a desperate fox from trying it. An armed populace might not be able to defeat a tyrant’s army, but they could well punish it into retreat.
. . . But if the dynamism of the West, the productivity, the ingenuity, and the quest for fairness can only be protected from tyrants at the point of a gun, then so be it.
Yeah, right. The thought of Weinstein standing in front of his house defending it against only part of the Army makes me chuckle. The UK has far stricter gun laws than we do: aren’t they afraid of tyranny? After all, while we have Trump, they have Boris. It would do Constitutional Expert Weinstein good to read Garry Wills’s eloquent opposing view of the second amendment: “To keep and bear arms.”
*The Guardian tells a fearful tale. Zoos are overcrowded with an endangered subspecies of primate, and they’re proposing to kill the males rather than return them to the wild (h/t Jozséf):
Overcrowding of critically endangered western lowland gorillas in zoos has led the influential European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza) to consider killing adult males of the species. Eaza is the body that regulates most of the zoos in Europe.
In the wild they are critically endangered. The exact number of western lowland gorillas is not known because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years.
Leaked documents seen by the Guardian reveal that culling, castration and keeping adult single males in solitary confinement for a large portion of their lives are seen as potential solutions to an overpopulation of the species in zoos. The gorilla population in Eaza zoos consists of 463 individuals (212 males, 250 females and one of unknown sex) at 69 institutions.
Granted, it might be difficult to put them back in the wild given the reduced habitat and the likelihood that zoo animals could spread disease to the wild ones, but why not in wildlife parks in Africa? And since gorillas are (or soon will be) declared as sentient beings in the UK, along with lobsters, crabs, squid, and octopuses, this could be murder. The zoos were responsible for bringing these gorillas into being, and now they are responsible for their lives.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 777,310, an increase of 955 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,215,057, an increase of about 5,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on November 28 includes:
Here’s how Magellan found his way through the treacherous tip of South America:
- 1582 – In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway pay a £40 bond for their marriage licence.
That was a lot of dosh in those days! Here’s the entry for their bond of marriage in the Bishop’s registry. I pity the scholars who had to find that.
- 1660 – At Gresham College, twelve men, including Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, and Sir Robert Moray decide to found what is later known as the Royal Society.
- 1811 – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, premieres at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.
- 1893 – Women’s suffrage in New Zealand concludes with the 1893 New Zealand general election.
An 1893 cartoon urging women to vote for the Conservative Party, because they owed it to that party:
- 1919 – Lady Astor is elected as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. (Countess Markievicz, the first to be elected, refused to sit.)
Lady Astor served from 1919 to 1945, and her verbal ripostes with Churchill were legendary—and probably apocryphal. Here she is in 1923:
Countess Markievicz, an Irish revolutionary (below), was elected to represent Dublin and environs in the House of Common, but, following Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy, never took her seat:
- 1925 – The Grand Ole Opry begins broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee, as the WSM Barn Dance.
- 1967 – The first pulsar (PSR B1919+21, in the constellation of Vulpecula) is discovered by two astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish.
Here’s the chart on which Jocelyn Bell Burnett (cheated out of a Nobel Prize) first recognized the regular pulsar signals:
- 1972 – Last executions in Paris: Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems are guillotined at La Santé Prison.
- 1979 – Air New Zealand Flight 901, a DC-10 sightseeing flight over Antarctica, crashes into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.
Mount Erebus is on Ross Island, and the pilots experienced a whiteout, for which they had no training. The coordinates of the flight changed before the crash, and here’s its path:
- 1990 – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigns as leader of the Conservative Party and, therefore, as Prime Minister. She is succeeded in both positions by John Major.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1757 – William Blake, English poet and painter (d. 1827)
Blake’s most famous poem, written and illustrated by him. He was okay at drawing felids, but not terrific: its snout is too short and the forelegs too massive. Oh, and the eyes are bulging.
Engels in 1879:
- 1881 – Stefan Zweig, Austrian author, playwright, and journalist (d. 1942)
- 1887 – Ernst Röhm, German soldier and politician (d. 1934)
Röhm was a nasty piece of work, head of the “SA”, the Nazis’ military wing. Hitler ordered his murder during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, as part of Hitler’s scheme to consolidate his power. Röhm’s scars came from a face injury in WWI. Here he is with Hitler in 1933, little suspecting that his companion would order his death:
- 1904 – Nancy Mitford, English journalist and author (d. 1973)
- 1929 – Berry Gordy, Jr., American songwriter and producer, founded Motown Records
Gordy, who produced some of the finest soul music of the Sixties and Seventies, is still with us at 92
- 1936 – Gary Hart, American lawyer and politician, 6th United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland
Remember this picture that wrecked Hart’s chances for the Presidency? (It’s not his wife. Do you remember her name?)
- 1943 – Randy Newman, American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist
- 1948 – Alan Lightman, American physicist, novelist, and academician
- 1962 – Jon Stewart, American comedian, actor, and television host
Those who vanished from this Earth on November 28 include:
- 1859 – Washington Irving, American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian (b. 1783)
- 1939 – James Naismith, Canadian-American physician and educator, created basketball (b. 1861)
- 1954 – Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)
Fermi and his wife Laura at Los Alamos, 1954. It was here at the University of Chicago that he achieved the first self-sustaining nuclear fission reaction:
- 1960 – Richard Wright, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet (b. 1908).
If you haven’t read Wright’s masterpiece, Native Son (1940), do so immediately. (It’s set in Chicago.) Here he is:
- 1994 – Jeffrey Dahmer, American serial killer (b. 1960)
- 1994 – Jerry Rubin, American businessman and activist (b. 1938)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili is upset because she hates cold weather and knows that falling leaves are a harbinger.
Hili: All the leaves fell off.A: And?Hili: They are on the ground.
Hili: Wszystkie liście spadły.Ja: I co?Hili: Leżą na ziemi.
From Not Another Science Cat Page:
From Bruce: a meme for yesterday, but also today:
I found this one:
The amazing golden color of these scarab beetles (Chrysina resplendens) is not a result of pigmentation or actual metal, but ≈70 microscropic chitin layers of decreasing thickness that reflect light to produce a metallic effect.
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) November 27, 2021
Yahweh himself explains Omicron:
I'm sorry I keep putting out new COVID variants but sometimes perfectionism gets the better of Me.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) November 27, 2021
From Luana. I think the tweeter’s interpretation is correct. Click on the text to read the whole thing. What a mess—it’s turning people’s brains to mush.
A white parent tries candor, senses she's made a mistake, and then says the right things at the end.
— A New Radical Centrism (@a_centrism) November 26, 2021
Ginger K. characterizes this tweet with one word: “True!”
Fur sure! 👍❤️😺 pic.twitter.com/n2ZjJhhRlD
— Cole & Marmalade (@ColeTheBlackCat) November 15, 2021
Tweets from the eminent Professor Cobb. This doesn’t look like a baby to me! Juvenile, maybe, but that’s no baby.
Because you want to see a bouncy baby bison enjoy the first snow of the year.
Credit: Imgur/sparklepinyglitter pic.twitter.com/fHj8OzLfnG
— Danny Deraney (@DannyDeraney) November 26, 2021
I don’t know if this is real or staged, but the translation of the caption is, “I give this masterpiece of silent cinema a 10 out of 10.” Matthew says, “Write your own script.”
Этому шедевру немого кинематографа я ставлю 10 из 10! pic.twitter.com/Z5oKNj8pQA
— Артём Дерягин (@DerArto) November 26, 2021
What else can you say besides the caption?
I fucking knew it. pic.twitter.com/tkcUK9HnwH
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) November 27, 2021
Translation: “When you pretend to play football.”
Когда симулируешь в футболе
DM for credit pic.twitter.com/uMwcu4YnwB
— Роман Федорцов (@rfedortsov) November 27, 2021