Welcome to the beginning of the work week and a holiday week for nearly everyone: Monday, December 20, 2021. It’s National Sangria Day, which is not only inappropriate for the season, but a case of blatant cultural appropriation. It’s also Go Caroling Day (I’ve done it exactly once in my life), Mudd Day (a curious holiday; click on the link), Cathode-Ray Tube Day, celebrating the patenting of that device by Vladimir Zworykin on this day in 1908, and International Human Solidarity Day. Tomorrow morning is the Winter Solstice: the official beginning of winter.
It’s Blueberry Pie Day, but only for me. Here’s the penultimate piece of homemade blueberry pie baked for me by reader Cate Plys. On top: Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream melts on top of the warm pie, heated in a microwaver. It’s fantastic:
News of the Day:
*Well, the biggest news of the day is that Senator Joe Manchin has finally decided that he can’t vote for Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill. It’s curtains for that bill, and Biden and the other Democrats are naturally ticked off. Unless a couple of Republicans vote for the bill—and they won’t—we have a Democratic loss in the Senate:
Democrats across the Capitol quickly blasted Manchin, arguing that he had failed to negotiate in good faith, especially since Biden had painstakingly scaled back his original ambitions to win the senator’s support. Illustrating its fury, the White House publicly attacked Manchin in an unusually personal statement, alleging he had misled the president in their private talks.
The political collision ultimately amounted to a death knell for the long-stalled proposal, at least in its current form. It also threatened to carry immediate economic consequences, since lawmakers had hoped as part of the proposal to extend a soon-expiring federal program that provides payments to more than 35 million American families with children.
But there’s still some hope for something to pass:
In a separate statement, issued later Sunday, Manchin signaled that he still could continue negotiating with Biden and other top Democrats on a scaled-back version of the bill. But the senator otherwise said he could not “vote to move forward with this mammoth piece of legislation.” He said the effort would “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” explaining that the country’s rising debt would complicate its ability to respond to “geopolitical uncertainty.”
And what about Kyrsten Sinema?
*The BBC reports that companies are starting to produce necklaces and children’s bracelets that are supposed to protect them from 5G Internet networks. The thing is that the arm- and neckwear are dangerous but 5G is not! (h/t: GInger K):
The Dutch authority for nuclear safety and radiation protection (ANVS) issued a warning about ten products it found gave off harmful ionising radiation.
It urged people not to use the products, which could cause harm with long-term wear.
There is no evidence that 5G networks are harmful to health.
The World Health Organization says 5G mobile networks are safe, and not fundamentally different from existing 3G and 4G signals.
Mobile networks use non-ionising radio waves that do not damage DNA.
Despite this, there have been attacks on transmitters by people who believe they are harmful.
*The COVID-19 news is bad, with the omicron variant raging around the world, schools, including Ivies like Harvard, are going virtual again, and two drugs previously used to treat the other variants are now seemingly useless. But here’s some news that I, at least, consider good. Over 12,000 members of the U.S. military have applied for a religious exemption to the vaccination mandate ordered for all troops. In theory it’s possible to get such an exemption, but no religion has dictates against jabs. How many exemptions have been granted by the mlitary so far? NONE!
*Speaking of mandatory vaccinations, get a lot of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well known U.S. anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has issued a lot of garbage about Covid-19 and the vaccines. The Daily Beast reports a bit of hypocrisy here, but RFK Jr., whose father would be horrified by his views, blames his wife:
An invitation for a holiday party at the home of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—one of America’s most notorious anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists—reportedly urged guests to get tested or vaccinated for coronavirus before they came inside his house. Politico reports Kennedy held a holiday gathering at his home in California last week, and virtual invites told attendees to take the same precautions that Kennedy has spent the pandemic attempting to undermine for enormous financial gain. When Politico asked him about the apparent hypocrisy at his shindig, Kennedy blamed his wife—Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines. “I guess I’m not always the boss at my own house,” Kennedy told Politico’s Daniel Lippman. He added that tests and vaccines statuses weren’t checked at the door. Kennedy’s anti-vaccine group, the Children’s Health Defense, more than doubled its revenue in 2020 to $6.8 million, according to an AP investigation.
*Many readers love quizzes, but I didn’t like this one, probably because I started failing and gave up. The NYT has pictures of 52 “notables” from 2021, and you have to type in the names. It starts out easy but quickly turns hard (at least for me). Give it a try, and let us know how many of the 52 you guessed correctly. I assume they give you a score at the end. Click on the screenshot to get started:
*Monkeys, like elephants, have a long memory. Get a load of this from the NY Post:
— New York Post (@nypost) December 17, 2021
In a small Indian village, a pack of murderous monkeys have started a war with the local canines.
Around 250 dogs have been dragged to the tops of buildings and trees and dropped by a crew of raging primates that are apparently furious with the pups after they killed one of their babies, local media reported.
Locals in Maharashtra’s Beed district, about 300 miles east of Mumbai, told News 18 the monkeys have been on a quest for revenge and in the nearby Lavool village, not a single dog has survived the purge.
Villagers told the outlet the killings started about a month ago when a few dogs killed an infant monkey and since then, the moment a dog is spotted, simians are apparently snatching up the pups and dragging them somewhere high to drop them to their deaths.
**Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 804,916, an increase of 1,296 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,372,358, an increase of about 4,000 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 20 includes:
Here’s the area of the purchase. Most of it wasn’t controlled by France but inhabited by Native Americans. The cost? 3 cents per acre, the equivalent of 60 cents today:
- 1860 – South Carolina becomes the first state to attempt to secede from the United States.
- 1924 – Adolf Hitler is released from Landsberg Prison.
This is where Hitler wrote Mein Kampf or rather dictated it to Rudolf Hess. Conditions there were pretty cushy: here’s a photo of Hitler (in Lederhosen!) and some of his cronies (caption from Wikipedia):
As you might expect, first editions of Mein Kampf aren’t that expensive, going for about $20,000:
(No, I’m not a Nazi, but I read this book when I was a teenager and interested in Hitler, and no, I’m not a damn Nazi!) Note that it was published in 1925, and already laid out a plan for getting rid of the Jews.
- 1946 – The popular Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life is first released in New York City.
The final scene; how many times have you seen this. I once met Jimmy Stewart’s daughter, and you can really detect the resemblance (in physiognomy, not in speech):
- 1955 – Cardiff is proclaimed the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.
- 1987 – In the worst peacetime sea disaster, the passenger ferry Doña Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker ‘MT Vector in the Tablas Strait of the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people (1,749 official).
- 1999 – Macau is handed over to China by Portugal.
- 2007 – Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years and 243 days.
She’s 95 now, and, according to Reuters:
LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Britain’s 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth, who has reigned over her nation for almost seven decades, says she feels too young at heart be awarded the title “Oldie of the Year”, an aide has revealed.
Notables born on this day include:
Paintings by de Hooch and his fellow Dutch painters during this era give us a good idea of life in those days. Here’s his Cardplayers in a sunlit room, 1658. (de Hooch loved sidelight coming through open windows and doors, and in that way resembled Vermeer):
- 1868 – Harvey Samuel Firestone, American businessman, founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (d. 1938)
- 1946 – Uri Geller, Israeli-English magician and psychic
Here he is “bending spoons” in 1974. This is fakery, of course: you can learn how he creates the illusion here.
- 1969 – Alain de Botton, Swiss-English philosopher and author
Those who found eternal “rest” on December 20 include:
- 1812 – Sacagawea, American explorer (b. 1788)
She was a guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition, and her image is on the U.S. $1 coin (I have one). She died at only 24 of an unknown disease:
- 1820 – John Bell, American farmer (b. 1750)
He had periodic episodes of violent seizures and was said to be possessed by a witch or goblin. He probably had what is now known as Bell’s Palsy, named not after John Bell but after the Scottish doctor who discovered the syndrome
Here’s Steinbeck in Sweden, getting his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. There was a lot of criticism at that time that his books were too slight and too pseudophilosophical to deserve the Prize. Wikipedia says this:
Fifty years later, in 2012, the Nobel Prize opened its archives and it was revealed that Steinbeck was a “compromise choice” among a shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell, French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen. The declassified documents showed that he was chosen as the best of a bad lot.
I would have chosen Blixen or Durrell, probably the former. Out of Africa by itself deserves the Prize. I must read it again.
- 1973 – Bobby Darin, American singer-songwriter and actor (b. 1936)
- 1982 – Arthur Rubinstein, Polish-American pianist and composer (b. 1887)
- 1984 – Stanley Milgram, American psychologist and academic (b. 1933)
- 1996 – Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist (b. 1934)
The Pale Blue Dot rhapsody. It’s wonderful! The voice is unmistakable:
- 1997 – Denise Levertov, English-American poet and translator (b. 1923)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: the craziness just keeps on coming. We’ll have a great example today or tomorrow:
Hili: I’m surprised.A: About what?Hili: That there is still anything that surprises me.
Hili: Dziwię się.Ja: Czemu?Hili: Że jeszcze się czemuś dziwię.
A cartoon found on Facebook:
Submitted for your approval by reader David:
And from Bruce:
From Titania. Who could have predicted that pronoun usage would be one of the biggest ideological issues of 2021?
This fun and friendly conversational opener is the perfect way to show you care.
And if anyone refuses to answer, just call the police. https://t.co/HrAyEnQqVA
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 19, 2021
One I found: a whole thread of SEX WEASELS started by Dr. Chelsea Nichols (there are many more):
I've posted about this before, but I'm never going to stop until the whole world knows about SEX WEASELS in Renaissance art. (A thread) pic.twitter.com/BisBRbU6GD
— Dr Chelsea Nichols (@museumweirdo) May 23, 2020
A 16th c portrait of a young bride wearing an ermine, sable or mink, for instance, was believed to bring good luck in helping her to get pregnant. Notice how her hand rests over her womb.
Hopefully her husband knew better than to put it in her ear though… pic.twitter.com/RPsTXaQagQ
— Dr Chelsea Nichols (@museumweirdo) May 23, 2020
A video from Barry, who says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by any animal that engages in clever problem-solving. Clearly this dog is thinking, “Gee, how can I grab all four tires at once?” I’m impressed:”
From Ginger K.:
— A happier day (@AHappierDay) December 8, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. You won’t believe this, but every diagonal line in this drawing is parallel to every other diagonal line. Matthew and I squabbled about that yesterday, and finally I decided to settle it empirically. He was right: they’re parallel. Check for yourself. This shows the fallacy of knowledge through intuition;
a demo of the Fraser illusion pic.twitter.com/ix5A08Z2Dd
— Akiyoshi Kitaoka (@AkiyoshiKitaoka) December 19, 2021
After the evening murmuration, the rest for the night:
About 500 Starlings roosted in the Village lake reeds below the Turret hide, flattening some of the reeds in the process, but still providing an early morning spectacle @YorksWildlife pic.twitter.com/JxPARgMpMv
— North Cave Wetlands (@NorthCaveWet) December 18, 2021
I didn’t know that the custom of putting up Christmas trees was so recent!
Feeling the Christmas Spirit today, so I have cleaned and enhanced for you what is possibly the earliest known photo of a Christmas Tree, taken 161 years ago, back in 1860. 🎄 pic.twitter.com/JXEGHq6J3C
— BaubleColour (@StuartHumphryes) December 19, 2021