What’s the best burger in America? Many vote for Hodad’s in San Diego, which produces this behemoth. The owner recommends not taking it out of the wrapper, and eating the famous onion rings first:
IT’S WINTER! The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is marked by the winter solstice, which occurs on today at 10:59 A.M. EST. Here are some related observances:
There’s Google Doodle today informing us of Winter’s onset (click on the screenshot):
It’s also National Kiwi Fruit Day, Ribbon Candy Day, National French Fried Shrimp Day, Anne and Samantha Day (honoring Anne Frank and Samantha Smith), Don’t Make Your Bed Day (too late!), National Short Story Day, Crossword Puzzle Day (see below under 1913), Forefathers’ Day (in Plymouth, Massachusetts), and São Tomé Day.
News of the Day:
*The bad news is that the omicron variant of Covid-19, highly infectious, has now surged from being found rarely in the U.S. to the dominant variant causing new cases, comprising (according to last night’s NBC News) 73% of them. If you’re vaccinated, though, especially with a booster, the chances of a severe case are very slim, and the death rate with the three-shot combo is about 1 in a million. While 12 deaths from the omicron variant have been reported in Britain, there are no data on whether any of the dead had been vaccinated.
*Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of procuring underaged women for the late Jeffrey Epstein, is now waiting for the jury’s verdict, as her trial has ended. The jury deliberated for an hour yesterday and will resume deliberations today. The NYT’s takeaways from the closing arguments:
Prosecutors urged jurors to believe the accusers
Alison Moe, a federal prosecutor, began her closing argument by telling jurors that Ms. Maxwell had worked closely with Mr. Epstein, intentionally bringing young girls into his orbit knowing that he wanted to sexually abuse them.
“Maxwell was a sophisticated predator who knew exactly what she was doing,” Ms. Moe said. “She manipulated her victims and groomed them for sexual abuse.”
The defense focused on the unreliability of accusers’ memories
“Ghislaine Maxwell is an innocent woman wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit,” one of her defense lawyers, Laura Menninger, announced to jurors as she began her summation.
My prediction, though I haven’t followed the case that closely, is that she will be found guilty on at least a couple of the six counts of which she’s accused—two counts of sex trafficking and four involving conspiracy “to entice and transport underage girls to Mr. Epstein for sexual abuse.”
*It doesn’t look like any Republican Senators will vote for Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill, which means that Joe Manchin’s stated opposition to the bill will kill it for the nonce. As the Associated Press reports, Biden and the rest of the Democrats in Congress are really peeved:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Monday that the chamber would vote early in the new year on Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” as it now stands, so every senator “has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” That was a biting reference to Manchin’s sudden TV announcement against the bill on Sunday.
But the conservative West Virginia Democrat and his party are so far apart, his relationships so bruised after months of failed talks, it’s unclear how they even get back to the negotiating table, let alone revive the sprawling more than 2,100-page social services and climate change bill.
“We’re going to work like hell to get it done,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, repeating the phrase several times at a briefing but never saying how.
*What’s up with the Biden’s promised first cat? Well, we’re 348 days into the new administration, and we finally have some news. But it’s neither good nor bad. CNN reports that the Bidens have a New First Puppy, a German Shepherd named Commander, but they mention a cat in at the very end of the short report. (h/t John):
. . . The Biden’s [sic] have also promised they will add a cat to the White House menagerie.
In April, Jill Biden said in an interview that a female cat is “waiting in the wings.” Two people familiar with the Biden’s cat situation have told CNN the cat is being fostered with acquaintances until the best time for it to make the move into the White House and that date has not yet been set, but “it is expected to be in the very near future.”
It better be in the next three years, because it won’t have a home in the White House after that. All we get from Uncle Joe and Aunt Jill is temporizing about the cat! As T. S. Eliot wrote (in caps), “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME!” And what’s with the grocer’s apostrophe in the first paragraph?
*And speaking of cats, what’s happening with Jack the Cat in Boston? (Remember his terrible accident?) He’s improving but isn’t quite there yet. From part of the staff:
A note from his staff:
Hi Jerry! Jack went back to Angell a couple weeks after hardware was removed because he wasn’t using the injured leg as vets had predicted. Those X-rays looked great, they said he was healed well, sent home with some pain meds. He is now walking on it intermittently, he did walk on it while my parents were here, my dad just captured a moment when he was not using it. He jumps up on everything and walks across his staff using all four legs… I think he’s just taking his sweet time getting back to using all four legs all the time. He does not seem to be in pain.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 803,355, an increase of 1,299 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,379,662, an increase of about 7,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 21 includes:
- AD 69 – The Roman Senate declares Vespasian emperor of Rome, the last in the Year of the Four Emperors.
- 1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Well, we’re not sure they landed at this rock, which does still sit in Plymouth Harbor. But it’s a tradition, and here it is:
Remember, though, that the true date of America’s founding is 1619, a year earlier.
- 1861 – Medal of Honor: Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, is signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.
The Wikipedia entry on the Medal, the U.S.’s highest military award for valor, is fascinating: 19 people have received it twice. It’s also awarded posthumously, as to James Monteith, killed after performing heroic deeds during the Normandy Invasion. He was 26.
His grave in Normandy, adorned with the Medal of Honor annotation:
- 1872 – Challenger expedition: HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain George Nares, sails from Portsmouth, England.
- 1913 – Arthur Wynne‘s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.
Here’s a re-creation of that puzzle. Can you do it? (I’m lousy at this stuff):
Goldman, who had a colorful life (some of it in jail):
- 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the world’s first full-length animated feature, premieres at the Carthay Circle Theatre.
Can you name the seven dwarfs? I can. I’ll put their names at the bottom, but first try to guess. Here she meets the dwarfs: (ignore the Disney mini-ads at the beginning and end)
- 1967 – Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a human-to-human heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, having lived for 18 days after the transplant.
- 1988 – A bomb explodes on board Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270. This is to date the deadliest air disaster to occur on British soil.
Nobody survived: here are the remains of the cockpit:
- 2020 – A great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs, with the two planets separated in the sky by 0.1 degrees. This is the closest conjunction between the two planets since 1623.
Here’s the Great Conjunction with a caption from Wikipedia:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1550 – Man Singh I, Mughal noble (d. 1614)
- 1615 – Benedict Arnold, Rhode Island colonial governor (d. 1678)
- 1795 – Jack Russell, English priest, hunter, and dog breeder (d. 1883)
Yes, he bred the terrier. Here he is and a specimen of the d*g breed:
- 1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
- 1866 – Maud Gonne, Irish nationalist and political activist (d. 1953)
Gonne, a republican activist, was also a muse for Yeats, who proposed to her four times, and was turned down every time. I would like to have met her to see what so enamored Yeats:
- 1889 – Sewall Wright, American geneticist and biologist (d. 1988)
- 1890 – Hermann Joseph Muller, American geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)
Two great biologists and geneticists, born a year apart to the day. I met Wright, but not Muller. Here’s H.J., who worked on flies and is looking at them with a loupe.
- 1917 – Heinrich Böll, German novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1985)
- 1918 – Kurt Waldheim, Austrian colonel, war criminal, and politician; 9th President of Austria (d. 2007)
- 1926 – Joe Paterno, American football player and coach (d. 2012)
- 1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress and activist
- 1940 – Frank Zappa, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 1993)
Remember this poster?
Another actor I’m smitten with. She’s now an American citizen. Her three movies with Ethan Hawke (the “Before Trilogy“) are very good.
She’s also spoken about the trend to pay women actors less:
Julie Delpy reveals that in #BeforeSunrise she was paid "maybe a tenth" of what Ethan Hawke was paid, in #BeforeSunset she was paid "half" and that for #BeforeMidnight, she demanded equal pay https://t.co/9jJoNgvRqE | Variety Lounge at #ZFF2019 presented by @creditsuisse pic.twitter.com/R0MlQP0KRU
— Variety (@Variety) October 3, 2019
Those who snuffed it on December 21 include:
- 1824 – James Parkinson, English physician and paleontologist (b. 1755)
Yep, he described Parkinson’s disease.
Fitz and Zelda. If you can, do get the volume of letters between Fitzgerald and his daughter Scottie when she was young. They are FANTASTIC, but I see the book is expensive now.
- 1988 – Nikolaas Tinbergen, Dutch-English ethologist and ornithologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1907)
- 2009 – Edwin G. Krebs, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems to have been reading Steve Pinker’s new book. Hili despises revolutionary romanticism
Hili: I was grabbed by revolutionary romanticism.A: And what happened?Hili: Reason set me free.
Hili: Porwał mnie rewolucyjny romantyzm.Ja: I co?Hili: Rozum mnie wyzwolił.
From Titania: The Year of Thoughtcrime!
I am so proud of the work we’ve done this year to censor offensive words and opinions.
Sadly, bigots are still *thinking* incorrectly, which can be just as damaging to social justice.
Let’s make 2022 the year when we find a way to stop people from thinking wrong thoughts.🤞
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 20, 2021
From Anna. We’ve read about Yasmeen before, though she’s no longer the DEI Senator for student at USC. Here’s some of her social-media hatred. As I said in my post, she has the right to tweet this stuff, but doesn’t qualify to be a “DEI” senator, since the “I” doesn’t include Jews. They gave her a different job.
Meet Yasmeen Mashayekh, the senator in charge of diversity, equity and inclusion @USCViterbi. Even after tweeting she wants to "kill every motherf**king Zionist," she has retained her position. We'd love to know WHY. A must WATCH and SHARE.https://t.co/UjfEUNqCXQ pic.twitter.com/WNSWuT7vWu
— Canary Mission (@canarymission) November 22, 2021
The Divine Sarah, as always, gets raunchy. Click on the blue arrow:
Our super special guest this week is comedienne, author, and podcast pioneer @SarahKSilverman. Warning: this is our most X-rated episode to date! Head to #BialikBreakdown to listen to it NOW ▶️ https://t.co/7sRXxxWi0c 🧠💥 #ballsarepussies #SarahSilverman pic.twitter.com/zEBHflBXiG
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) December 14, 2021
From Ginger K., who said she figured it was an Aussie.
— former fetus 4 choice is tired. so very tired. (@godfree_kd) December 8, 2021
And for your listening pleasure, I found the 112.4-decibel burp:
Loudest burp (male) 🗣 112.4 db by Neville Sharp 🇦🇺
GOD'S TECH SUPPORT pic.twitter.com/Aka1yAgkmc
— Brittlestar (@brittlestar) December 9, 2021
Tweets from Matthew: Well, I suppose this isn’t that bad for a medieval cat drawing. Mite!
A creature of habit!
A cat called Mite, who lived in Beaulieu Abbey (Hampshire) around the year 1270 CE, is represented in the abbey's account books.
— Emily Steiner (@PiersatPenn) December 20, 2021
Matthew and I love Little Nemo, one of the surrealistic comic strips drawn by Winsor McCay. They don’t make comics like this any more!
Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay from December 20, 1908. pic.twitter.com/7JfRwk03uq
— ComicsintheGoldenAge (@ComicsintheGA) December 20, 2021
This is interesting: I always do it the same way, and my way is #6. What’s yours?
This is so interesting – which way do you draw an X?
Coloured line being the first stroke pic.twitter.com/rEpgK7s7mr
— Mr Gee (@ComedyGee) December 19, 2021
The Seven Dwarfs: Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Doc, and Bashful. Everybody always forgets the last two.