Thursday: Hili dialogue

December 16, 2021 • 7:00 am

Welcome to  Thursday, December 16, 2021: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Anything?? Even these? (I know that there is at least one reader who enjoys chocolate-covered orthopterans.)

It’s also Boston Tea Party Day (it took place on this day in 1773; see below), South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation (declared on this date after Mandela was elected President in 1995), Barbie and Barney Backlash Day (the day you tell your kids that these icons don’t really exist), and these holidays (from Wikipedia):

News of the Day:

*Some good news from many venues, including a Washington Post article that starts with “Dr. Fauci says. .  “.  The man has become like the Pope, infallible when he speaks from the chair! (But seriously, I do respect him as a voice of reason.) The news from. Fauci and other sources is that the existing booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be efficacious against the new omicron variant, so it looks as though researchers don’t have to develop an omicron-specific vaccine. Yet.

Fauci reviewed a slew of data from the past week showing that antibodies spawned by two doses of messenger RNA vaccines — the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots — lose their potency against the omicron variant.

But laboratory data from the National Institutes of Health that Fauci showed revealed a Moderna booster shot restored antibodies capable of blocking omicron; those figures will be published in a preprint study in coming days, Fauci said. Similar data was presented on Pfizer-BioNTech boosters last week.

*The Guardian reports another bit of good news: some marine and soil bacteria around the globe are evolving the ability to digest plastic. As reader Charles (who sent me the link) summarized tersely, “niche arises, evolution fills it.” And lots of genes (and probably species) seem to be involved:

The research scanned more than 200m genes found in DNA samples taken from the environment and found 30,000 different enzymes that could degrade 10 different types of plastic.

The study is the first large-scale global assessment of the plastic-degrading potential of bacteria and found that one in four of the organisms analysed carried a suitable enzyme. The researchers found that the number and type of enzymes they discovered matched the amount and type of plastic pollution in different locations.

The results “provide evidence of a measurable effect of plastic pollution on the global microbial ecology”, the scientists said.

Now this in itself is not going to solve our plastic problem, but some genetic engineering might help. After all, we now have bacteria that eat pollutants like oil slicks. The good thing is that this adaptation evolved in the wild, so we don’t have to start at ground zero working with lab-adapted naive strains. But wait! There’s more:

. . .The soil samples were taken from 169 locations in 38 countries and 11 different habitats and contained 18,000 plastic-degrading enzymes. Soils are known to contain more plastics with phthalate additives than the oceans and the researchers found more enzymes that attack these chemicals in the land samples.

Nearly 60% of the new enzymes did not fit into any known enzyme classes, the scientists said, suggesting these molecules degrade plastics in ways that were previously unknown.

“The next step would be to test the most promising enzyme candidates in the lab to closely investigate their properties and the rate of plastic degradation they can achieve,” said Zelezniak. “From there you could engineer microbial communities with targeted degrading functions for specific polymer types.”

*The Pecksniffs are at it again in the NYT. Though nearly all the reviews of the Spielberg movie remake of “West Side Story” have been positive, director of Centro, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, beefs about “The ‘West Side Story’ remake we didn’t need.” It’s absolutely predictable. A few quotes:

In developing his 2021 remake, Steven Spielberg vowed not to repeat the mistakes of the past. He hosted town halls in Puerto Rico to gather input, and enlisted the support of prominent historians, community advisers and a bevy of accent coaches and consultants.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, the research center and historical archive I now direct, assisted the film’s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, as he was preparing the new version of the script. Mr. Kushner immersed himself in our archives, obsessively making sure the historical references were accurate and the cultural details plausible.

They say the devil is in the details, and there are many that this film gets right, from the pale blue of the Puerto Rican flag on the nationalist murals in the set, to the specificity of slang words. But just because a historical text is accurate, does that make it authentic?

You already know the answer: “OF COURSE NOT!” And, sure enough, Bonilla shows how deeply inauthentic the movie is—despite Spielberg’s arduous efforts:

The film is littered with symbols of Puerto Rico’s nationalist movements, but there is no recognition of how people who embraced these symbols have long been surveilled and criminalized by the federal and Puerto Rican governments. There is a particular irony to the scene in which the Sharks are singing the Puerto Rican revolutionary anthem as they walk away from the police. As the cultural critic Frances Negrón Muntaner has argued, in real life such an act would have likely landed them under F.B.I. surveillance.

.  . . Mr. Spielberg said that he chose not to use subtitles, so as not to give “English the power over the Spanish.” But the question of identity and language is complicated, and not all Latinos speak Spanish.When words are not translated their meaning and power can be easily lost.

Yadda yadda yadda, sniff, sniff, sniff. Such is the nature of “artistic criticism” when passed through the prism of identity politics. And seriously, Bonilla objects because the movie doesn’t deal with government surveillance of the Sharks?

*Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens. I met him only once, and only chatted for a few minutes, but you don’t have to know him to admire him. And you might want to read this Persuasion essay that several readers sent me (click on the screenshot):

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 801,037 an increase of 1,302 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,348,491, an increase of about 8,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 16 includes:

Here’s Cromwell painted by Samuel Cooper while Cromwell was still alive:

. . .and his death mask.  Cromwell died from malaria and kidney disease in 1658, but he was executed after death: his body was dug up and hanged in 1661.

Not all the tea-dumpers were dressed as “Mohawk Indians”. But they did empty the ship of tea, as they objected to the British taxes on the subtance. Here’s a reconstruction:

(From Wikipedia): Source: W.D. Cooper. Boston Tea Party in The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789. Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (40)

Here’s an octonion (note, look up the real thing by clicking on its link):


Wikipedia notes, “The game was billed as the ‘Match of the Century’ or ‘The World Championship’ as it was a first meeting of the top two international teams.”

The Kiwis (All Blacks) performed a haka before the match (shown below), but it didn’t intimidate Wales, which won 3-0. But the haka below looks pretty lame, perhaps accounting for the All Blacks’ loss.

They almost surely died after being swept out to sea in their rubber boats, and it was too foggy to even see the shore. But their remains were never found, and some say they survived. If they did, they were the only men to ever successfully escape from Alcatraz.

Himmler was head of the SS, and responsible for many deaths, including those of Soviet prisoners of war, often treated more brutally than Jews or Roma. He was captured and committed suicide by biting into a cyanide capsule. His body afterwards:

The U.S. got out of its entrapment. Here’s a famous anecdote, which is true.

Despite determined German attacks, the perimeter held. The German commander, Generalleutnant (Lt. Gen.) Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, requested Bastogne’s surrender. When Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st, was told of the Nazi demand to surrender, in frustration he responded, “Nuts!” After turning to other pressing issues, his staff reminded him that they should reply to the German demand. One officer, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard, noted that McAuliffe’s initial reply would be “tough to beat.” Thus McAuliffe wrote on the paper, which was typed up and delivered to the Germans, the line he made famous and a morale booster to his troops: “NUTS!”  That reply had to be explained, both to the Germans and to non-American Allies.

He should have told the Germans “Nüsse,” but they wouldn’t have understood. My dad was so taken by this reply that he drove the whole family to Bastogne when we lived in Heidelberg, just so we could see where McAuliffe said “NUTS!”

Here are the three at the Bell Labs in 1948 (Shockley in the middle); the transistor led to the three sharing a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1955. Shockley famously became a hereditarian racist in his later years, which he saw as the most important work of his life. One of his statements:  “My research leads me inescapably to the opinion that the major cause of the American Negro’s intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin and, thus, not remediable to a major degree by practical improvements in the environment.”

This photo of Gotti, from 2001, is the last one taken of him before he died in prison of throat cancer in 2002:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1770 – Ludwig van Beethoven, composer (d. 1827)
  • 1775 – Jane Austen, English novelist (d. 1817)

A first edition of Emma (published by John Murray, who also published Darwin’s Origin) will run you around $30,000:


Though I generally don’t like pure abstract art, I do like Kandinsky, whose are was “semi-abstract” and then became fully abstract. The work below, “Composition V”, is often regarded as the first Western abstract painting, (1911) though it seems a tad representational:

  • 1905 – Piet Hein, Danish mathematician, author, and poet (d. 1996)

Hein invented the Soma cube, an early version of the Rubik’s cube though it came in pieces. Here it is, apart and assembled:

  • 1917 – Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction writer (d. 2008)
  • 1938 – Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress, director, and screenwriter
  • 1941 – Lesley Stahl, American journalist and actress

I got to chat with Stahl, who turns 80 today, once, when we shared a limousine back to our B&B at the KentPresents Idea Festival in 2018. She was interviewing Henry Kissinger onstage the next day, and I asked her what she was going to ask him. She wasn’t sure (or didn’t want to tell me) but did say she wouldn’t throw him softball questions. She didn’t, but Kissinger blathered on so long that she hardly got to ask him anything. Stahl in 2010:

  • 1946 – Trevor Pinnock, English harpsichord player and conductor
  • 1969 – Adam Riess, American astrophysicist, astronomer, and academic Nobel Prize laureate

Those who “fell asleep” on December 16 include:

  • 1908 – American Horse, American tribal leader and educator (b. 1840)

American Horse, a Lakota leader, in 1898:

  • 1921 – Camille Saint-Saëns, French pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1835)
  • 1965 – W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist, and short story writer (b. 1874)
  • 1980 – Colonel Sanders, American businessman, founded KFC (b. 1890)

He’s sold a lot of chicken!

Wikipedia notes:

After being recommissioned as a Kentucky colonel in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby, Sanders began to dress the part, growing a goatee and wearing a black frock coat (later switching to a white suit), a string tie, and referring to himself as “Colonel”. His associates went along with the title change, “jokingly at first and then in earnest”, according to biographer Josh Ozersky.” He never wore anything else in public during the last 20 years of his life, using a heavy wool suit in the winter and a light cotton suit in the summer.  He bleached his mustache and goatee to match his white hair.

I knew Ozersky, who taught me how to cook a steak, and his book is called Colonel Sanders and the American Dream. We would email a lot, he asking questions about evolution and me about food.  But I digress; I just miss Josh, as do many. Here’s The Colonel:

  • 2014 – Martin Brasier, English paleontologist, biologist, and academic (b. 1947)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows she’s conversant with wokeness (look at her smug face!):

A: You are sitting on the table, again.
Hili: I’m appropriating your culture whichever way I can.
In Polish:
Ja: Znowu siedzisz na stole.
Hili: Zawłaszczam waszą kulturę jak umiem.

A Christmas meme from Bruce:

From Nicole. Should the last word be “kneaded”? That’s also something that bread and cats have in common.

From Only Duck Memes. Every duck is a perfect duck! This happens to be a call duck, a breed of mallard that is smaller than the white Pekin.

Mittens, the famous cat of Wellington, has moved to Auckland. I am sad.  And, in the second tweet, look how they’re using him for indigenous propaganda!

Ms. O’Brien, a Kiwi, objects to Mayor Goff’s wokeness.

From Ginger K.; oh, to have been there!

From Malcolm. The Amur leopard is not a full species but regarded as a subspecies of the “regular” leopard, Panthera pardus. 

Tweets from Matthew. I am sure this is made up (but you tell me; maybe it’s real!), but it’s funny. Workplace discrimination against ginger cats! Read it all

Jorts has his own Twitter page now and has over 9,000 followers:

Matthew says “Look down the thread and you’ll find it’s an old Aztec device.”

Lovely Egyptian art:

42 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. But just because a historical text is accurate, does that make it authentic?

    It’s a Shakespeare adaptation! The primary focus is not being authentic to PR or Manhattan or the ’50s era but to be authentic to Romeo and Juliet. Sheesh, talk about missing the forest for the trees.

  2. Cromwell was not only hanged, but beheaded. The story I was told (by a college fellow) is that his head is somewhere in the chapel of Sidney Sussex college in Cambridge, but only the Master of the college and one other know exactly where.

  3. … including a Washington Post article that starts with “Dr. Fauci says. . “. The man has become like the Pope, infallible when he speaks from the chair!

    Reckon that makes Rand Paul and his ilk, who risibly ridicule Fauci ex cathedra, our modern day Pharisees. Woe unto them!

  4. Speaking of Arthur C. Clarke, just yesterday I saw an article about how a film adaptation of Clarke’s novel Rendezvous With Rama has been greenlighted and that Denis Villeneuve has been signed on to direct it. Given Villeneuve’s previous films, like Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and Dune, I’m really looking forward to this. I think Villeneuve is an excellent choice to convey the scale and mysteriousness evoked by the novel.

    Interestingly, Morgan Freeman held the rights to the novel and is one of the producers of the movie.

    1. That book will be great fodder for a movie, especially in Villeneuve’s hands.

      Speaking of Villeneuve, we recently watched his 2010 French-language movie “Incendies,” made before he became well-known. An amazing movie, with an absolute gut-punch of a twist at the end. I highly recommend it. It’s on Netflix (in Canada, at least).

    2. Clarke’s novel Rendezvous With Rama has been greenlighted and that Denis Villeneuve [Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and Dune] has been signed on to direct it

      There has been a recent re-make of “Dune”? I’ll have to keep an eye out for that. The local fleapit didn’t make any big hoo-hah about it – or at least, not big enough to read from the other side of the street.
      But the other two are a sufficient encouragement. I’m not going to put BR2049 into the same league as BR itself, but it did a good enough job. I didn’t want 3 hours of my life back after seeing it – Ridley Scott and “Prometheus, I’m a-lookin’ at you!
      I’ll have to find a copy and re-read it now! It can’t be less than a decade since I last read it.

      1. The new Dune is definitely worth watching. It is far better than the earlier attempts in every way, for my tastes. The movie covers about half of the novel Dune and a 2nd move that covers the rest of the novel has been green lighted.

        My biggest criticism is that the movie is too short for the amount of story it tries to tell. From what I understand they shot much more footage than what ended up in the film. If rumors are true it’s not just minutes but hours. One of the cast commented that they were hoping there would be a 6 or 7 hour director’s cut released some day. I really hope that happens.

  5. Many think of the battle of the bulge as the last desperate attempt by Germany to turn the tide in the war. However, it really continued on for 4 more months. It was not so much because of the unconditional surrender mandated by Roosevelt but the actions of Hitler who finished the war in the same way Trump might do. Without regard for any human life what so ever. He thought Germany should be destroyed for not living up to his demands and losing. The Battle for Berlin carried out by the Russian Army was the end for Germany.

  6. Regarding bacteria being able to digest plastic: It isn’t terribly surprising, of course–I know I’ve been expecting it to happen–but it does raise a bit of a concern, since plastic is, if nothing else, a pretty good carbon sink. If plastics are digested en masse, presumably that will entail a substantial release of carbon dioxide and/or methane and/or other greenhouse gases.

    It is interesting though that it took tens of millions of years for bacteria/fungi, et al, to evolve the ability to digest cellulose and lignin, thus leading to the existence of coal via the Carboniferous Era, but now it’s been less than a century for plastic digestion to begin to evolve. I guess modern microbes are starting with a larger repertoire of adjustable enzymes. Perhaps it’s somewhat analogous to the creation of antibodies by immune cells.

    1. but it does raise a bit of a concern, since plastic is, if nothing else, a pretty good carbon sink.

      A deal, but not a big deal.

      To a first (but only first) approximation, “plastics” are modified hydrocarbons – some more modified, some less – but starting from an approximate composition close to CnH2n.

      Some of that “modification” effectively involves substituting some O for C or H without changing the net molecular mass much. While that considerably complicates the chemistry, when it burns (or is oxidised to the limit) you get slightly less CO2 out per megajoule released. So burning plastics (properly, to the limit) is probably slightly less bad, climate wise, than burning the raw hydrocarbons. It’s probably only a few percent difference, but if you were talking about something like polylactate (a material used in 3-d printing) you might get up to 25% or so.

      That’s the raw plastic. But most practical plastics are “loaded” with mineral powders to the limit of what they can take – because the mineral powders are cheaper per unit volume than “plastic” granules from the oil refinery. Which mineral you use varies – for a black product, you’re likely to use “lamp black” or finely crushed coal ; for the same “plastic but in white, crushed chalk. Such mineral “fillers” can be another 30% of the volume of a “plastic” product.

      But the main reason for considering it not a big deal is simply that the tonnages of hydrocarbon production that goes into making plastic are relatively small compared to the amount that gets burned. And that has always been a complaint from organic chemists : “oil is too good to burn”.

      If someone were designing a biochemical add-on for bacteria that would allow them to digest “plastic” on a geologically useful timescale, I’d look at trying to make something that can cleave one of a number of polymeric linkage structures to release a small molecule (“food” for the attaching microorganism) but leaving two (or even three!) “loose ends” from which the linkage has been excised, and making sure that those loose ends have a group on the end from which existing biochemical processes can snip a two- or three- carbon-long small molecule which would be feedstock for the existing metabolic and/ or catabolic processes. Some of that would come out as CO2, but some of it (if you’re “designing” your microecology rationally) would come out as bacterial biomass – be that a usable biofuel (oil-like), an inert carbon sink (charcoal-ish – which considerably outweighs the hydrocarbons in the overburden of any oilfield I’ve ever worked on), or just “fish food” (fresh-, brackish- or marine- waters).

      I’m slightly distressed that even here (WEIT), we can be 2/3 into the commentary on this story and no-one (that I noticed) has mentioned that a very similar discovery was made in a Japanese nylon factory’s “wash water” processing plant, where a bacterium developed the ability to both metabolise (“eat, for energy” ) and catabolise (“eat, for structural materials”) the water-soluble dimers or trimers by products of the nylon system. (The fully polymerised system produces an essentially insoluble polymer of much higher molecular mass ; the wash water could be re-processed to extract the monomers to return to the manufacturing cycle, which the “nylon-eating bugs” disrupted.) I’m trying to remember when that system was published – the original discovery was around 1980, but the genetics (it was an off-by-one frame shift mutation, IIRC) were worked out in the mid-90s. Such a small mutation – literally one DNA base too many or too few – with such a significant phenotypic consequence was almost tailor-made for 3-d printing onto the business ends of shillelaghs and impressing, forcefully, into Creationists. I don’t have the “Contents” pages of WEIT in my mind, but I’d be surprised if Jerry missed it.

      OK, this discovery shows potential for a lot of other “digestive” processes – it’s bucket-scanning, not picking apart a single bacterium’s biochemistry – but “plastic-eating bugs” themselves aren’t news.

      1. >”While that [substituting O for C or H] considerably complicates the chemistry, when it burns (or is oxidised to the limit) you get slightly less CO2 out per megajoule released.”

        I don’t see how that could be true. Substituting the C or the H of any hydrocarbon with O has the effect of making the product more oxidized and less reduced (and less energy-rich) than the parent. Comparing the heats of combustion of ethane, acetaldehyde, and methanol, the heat produced per mole of CO2 emitted is less for the O-substituted molecules than for the parent ethane. Methane is the best of all because it is the most highly reduced hydrocarbon possible.

        Waste plastic isn’t very good fuel. It has less heat per kg of fuel than methane for sure, and less than liquid hydrocarbons. less heat per kg of CO2 emitted, and much less heat per truckload than coal because it is so light and bulky — there’s just not very much to it from a materials handling point of view. I appreciate your information on dioxins.

        A plastics conservation site says that 8-10% of “our oil supply” (whatever that means, a stock or a flow?) is used to make plastic, no reference supplied. So if all that plastic were to be de-composed or burned, it would show up in emissions. Not comparing apples to apples, but global shipping and international aviation each account for 3-4% of world CO2 emissions.

        I still vote for landfill.

  7. Here’s a conundrum. Left where it drops, plastic trash just sits there looking ugly and posing some hazard to animals that get ensnared in it. But from a carbon-cycle viewpoint, it behaves as if the oil from which it was made just gets left in the ground forever (minus the fuel used for its manufacture and transport). If we set bacteria to work metabolizing plastic, they will oxidize it to carbon dioxide and possibly other greenhouse gasses like methane, which will escape into the atmosphere…unless expensive CO2-capture technology still in its infancy is applied to the fermentation vessels to sequester it. Given the volume of plastic used today, the CO2 involved here is not trivial. In addition, there is no reason to assume that bacterial degradation of plastic would produce less of the toxic small intermediary molecules that incineration is feared to do.

    No free lunch. Always unintended consequences.

    Edit: great minds think alike, I see.

    1. It’s a lot less environmentally friendly than ‘oil left in the ground,’ because animals eat it and it makes its way up the food chain. I would take metabolic digestion (i.e. these new microorganisms adapting to eat it and emitting CO2 etc.) or incineration over plastic microfibers being regularly found in fish any day.

      1. Being Canadian, I don’t much care about greenhouse gases so I’m not making a brief one way or the other. And I’ll grant that some fraction of discarded plastic spalls off and enters the food chain as microparticles. But what you wrote doesn’t pass the “so-what?” test. You express unevidenced worry about environmental plastic yet seem unconcerned by the extra CO2 which seems highly likely to warm the planet were all that plastic to be turned into it. Is there any evidence that plastic microbits are harmful to any life form? There is evidence that CO2 is.

        For me the question is can we afford to reduce either CO2 emissions or our use of disposable plastic—probably not. I would just like to see some thought about how a trade-off might be made. How many tons of CO2 are “worth” saving a nanogram of polyethylene in a serving of salmon? I don’t worry about either but some people worry about one much more than the other. Some a lot about both.

        Here is a win-win. Much plastic in the oceans comes via the rivers of poor countries who received vast quantities of the stuff from the Blue Boxes of rich-country municipal recycling programs. Of course hardly any of it was ever going to be recycled because there is no value, only virtue, in doing so. We knew this, but pretended otherwise. Now that the jig is up, rich countries should just send it to domestic landfill, which will keep it out of the oceans and the atmosphere, and be cheaper than shipping trash halfway around the world only to have it dumped into the Mekong River. If you don’t want to burn it for electricity.

      2. I would take metabolic digestion (i.e. these new microorganisms adapting to eat it and emitting CO2 etc.) or incineration

        Be careful what you wish for.

        Several years ago, a friend and colleague who was campaigning against a waste-to-energy incinerator asked me to review a couple of hundred pages of EIA on the incinerator. He could tell that it included gold dust (from his point of view) words like “dioxin” – which he could associate with the Seveso disaster in Italy, about 1975. But he knew he was a journalist, not a scientist, so he wanted me to read it and give him the science in reporter-size chunks. So I did. And told him that he could only use the “Incinerator = dioxin = Seveso-on-Dee” argument if he was willing to skate very close to accusing the operating staff of being criminally incompetent. Because, yes the report described that incomplete combustion of (some plastics, including those used for making Printed Circuit Boards, PCBs) can produce a number of products, including small amounts of dioxins, known dangerous since (and because of) Seveso. But the report then described how the design was intended to force sufficient ventilation, and the monitoring system looked for oxygenation levels in the stack effluent and would alarm considerably before the dioxin-possible levels of incomplete combustion were reached.
        Well, Bob, had the sound bites he wanted to use, and got his warning how carefully to steer. The protests is, I believe, carrying on. And I’m sufficiently convinced that the design is safe enough that I’d not be bothered by living in the plume on that point (if I still lived in the area, which I don’t.

        But the take-away is, if you’re going to incinerate plastics, you need to do it properly (fairly high temperature, forced ventilation) and monitor it properly. Otherwise, you’re not meeting the industry’s standards.

  8. Wales scored three points in the “match of the century”. Coincidentally, that is also the number of times they have beaten New Zealand.

    New Zealand scored 33 points in their match against Wales on June 14th 1969. Coincidentally, that is also the number of times they have beaten Wales.

    It’s also the number of times they have beaten England.

    1. This triggered a ‘rugby memory’ of mine. I remember listening to a BBC radio program on streakers. They interviewed two people. One was a policeman who arrested a 1970s Twickenham rugby streaker. He said that he used his helmet to cover up as the offender was being led to the local nick. The other person interviewed was a former member of BUMS (British Union of Male Streakers), a veteran of many streaks, who claimed to have streaked at a prominent swimming event. He said that he ran around the pool and jumped in when the police turned up. I think the Twickenham incident is on record, but I can’t find a record of BUMS.

      I like stories that are both true and very funny, like the man from Georgia who shot his mother-in-law, so I try to find tangible sources for them. For this story, I have nothing but an early 2000s memory of a BBC radio program. It is a bit frustrating.

  9. I more or less grew up with the Battle of the Bulge. One of the first books I remember reading was John Toland’s history of the battle (the Landmark juvenile edition), and for a while one of our neighbors was Bob Merriam, who wrote one of the major histories of the battle. The 1949 movie Battleground depicts the battle, specifically in Bastonge, from the perspective of a squad from the 101st Airborne. (Aside from being a good movie, it is notable in being one of the first to try to accurate depict, without the swearing, the way GIs really talked and acted.) Here is how the movie depicts the German parlementaires asking for clarification of the “Nuts” reply.

  10. A first edition of Emma … will run you around $30,000

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a Jane Austen first edition (if I may be suffered to mash-up Emma with some P&P).

    1. “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. “

  11. I ran into Colonel Sanders twice in my life. Both times in hotel lobbies in the 1970s. Once in St. Louis, and once in New Orleans. Both were while I was attending meetings of the Society for American Archaeology. I do not believe he was there for the meetings.

    My brush with fame.

    1. Maybe next time Jerry can ‘splain us how Elvis’s big daddy, Tom Parker (an individual of dubious national provenance — likely the reason Elvis never toured internationally, other than a couple performances in Canada), went about obtaining his moniker “Colonel.”

  12. Referring to octonions and quaternions as being discovered is a bit exaggerated. They are generalizations of complex numbers which many people had likely thought about. Hamilton and Graves just happened to have considered their properties.

  13. I may be in over my head but what do onions have to do with octonions?

    It appears that the amir feline knows where the “blind” is located.

    Arthur C Clark is known for more than sci fi. He was involved with early radar and with “sea creatures” in Sri Lanka. I understand he has quite a facility on Sri Lanka.

    1. When I was a school kid, I was taken to the Arthur C. Clarke Centre in Sri Lanka. He was a bit late for his talk. Eventually, he walked into the room wearing a fan-hat powered by a solar panel on top. But that sort of thing is common now.

  14. “…but there is no recognition of how people who embraced these symbols have long been surveilled and criminalized by the federal and Puerto Rican governments.”

    Look, the culture warriors have to find some way to criticize anything, so this author found a way. The review is basically “everything was perfect and these people did literally everything they possibly could to make the film exactly what people like me would demand, but it’s still not good enough!” Why the hell would something like what’s in the above quote be in freaking West Side Story?!?

    And, if they translated the English, the author would have complained that it was translated. The ultimate point is that you can’t win, no matter what. There will always be problems. If there weren’t any, people like this wouldn’t have a job and the multi-billion dollar, ever-growing DEI industry would suffer, and we can’t have that!

  15. “Warts and all” is one of Cromwell’s legacies. The Lord Protector disapproved of photoshopping when commissioning his portraits, as the images above show.

  16. Perhaps Spielberg left FBI surveillance out of the film in order to leave a safe place for the pecksniffs to land. I suspect no one is going to not see it because it lacks an FBI surveillance scene.

    1. I’m no expert (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night), but I’m pretty sure that standing while giving birth is the norm for pretty much all ungulates.


      A quick search suggests that cows normally give birth standing up and if they are lying down it is a sign that something is probably wrong.

  17. Mandela was elected and inaugurated as president in 1994. The 16th of December originally was the’Day of the Vow’ or ‘Day of the Covenant ‘ commemorating the victory of a party of Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius over Dingane’s Zulu army in 1838.
    In 1995 it was changed to ‘Reconciliation Day’ in the spirit of the ‘New South Africa’,.

  18. No edit button:
    That was the (in)famous ‘ battle of the Blood River ‘ where an army of an estimated 10-15 000 Zulu soldiers (impi’s) was defeated by a about 470 Voortrekkers. It is said thet 3000 zulu3 soldiers died that day, while only 3 voortekkers were wounded.
    The scale and improbability of this victory contributed to the notion that Afrikaners were God’s ‘ Chosen People’.

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