Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 4, 2022 • 7:00 am

Welcome to the first Cruel Day of the year: Tuesday, January 4, 2022: National Spaghetti Day, National Trivia Day, World Hypnotism Day, Dimpled Chad Day (when Congress declared W’s victory over Al Gore in 2001), the eleventh of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and World Braille Day.

News of the Day:

*In a new NYT essay, a professor of constitutional law at Columbia, maintains that “The Republican Party is succeeding because we  are not a democracy.” What? It’s all about the Electoral College system, he says:

The arcane scheme that Mr. Trump’s lawyers hatched to disrupt congressional certification of the vote and perhaps persuade Republican state legislatures to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in states like Pennsylvania was conceivable only because the Electoral College splinters presidential elections into separate contests in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and skews the totals toward small states. In a simple system of majority rule, Mr. Biden’s thumping margin of more than seven million votes would have been the last word. For that matter, so would Hillary Clinton’s national margin of nearly three million votes in 2016: Mr. Trump would not have had a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address in which to barricade himself in 2020.

Would Mr. Trump’s big lie about election fraud have sent the rioters to the Capitol anyway, even without his lawyers and fixers trying to overturn the results? Maybe. But there would have been no constitutional machinery to jam. And even the big lie received a huge constitutional assist. Thanks to the Electoral College, Mr. Trump could have tied Mr. Biden and forced the election into the House of Representatives by flipping just 43,000 votes in three close states, a gap narrow enough that any number of toxic fables can claim to bridge it.

I agree that the Electoral College is anachronistic and we need to go to the one-person one-vote system, but does anybody really think that Trump wouldn’t have hatched another scheme if the Electoral College didn’t exist?  It would have been a more difficult scheme, but his supporters are, I suspect, willing to call “vote fraud” in any election.

UPDATE TO ITEM BELOW: I wrote this before I learned that Holmes was convicted of four of the 11 counts with which she was charged:

*Jurors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, accused of 11 counts of wire fraud, have reported that they are deadlocked on three counts. The judge, as usual, told them to keep deliberating, and there’s no hint of what’s going on with the other 8 counts. This is not normal:

This is a highly unusual situation, said Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg, an expert in criminal law. Typically, when a jury reports that they are deadlocked on some counts, they announce their verdict on the other counts, he said.

But until the jury announces its verdict to the judge, they are not bound to any preliminary vote on the other eight charges and can still change their mind, said Weisberg, who isn’t involved in the case.

The Wall Street Journal gives a bit more information:

After 46 hours of deliberations over nearly seven days, jurors were stuck on three counts, according to a note read by the judge in court Monday morning. The note suggested they may have reached a unanimous verdict on the remaining eight.

. . . Even if the jury remains deadlocked on the three counts, it still can return a unanimous verdict on the other eight. If any of those eight include a guilty verdict, Ms. Holmes would face a possible prison sentence, determined by the judge. Each fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison plus fines and restitution.

While I predicted some guilty verdicts here, I now have no idea what’s happening. All I know is that if she walks, an injustice will have been done.

*The New York State investigation into Donald Trump’s finances proceeds apace, and is getting closer to The Donald. The AP reports that in fact Trump himself has been subpoenaed along with his two oldest kids, Ivanka and Donald, Jr. If any of these wind up being convicted, they can’t be pardoned by any President, because they’re investigating violations of state and not federal law. Trump may think he’s above the law and refuse to appear in court, but then he could be sent to the slammer depending on what they find and what to do about it.

[Attorney General Letitia] James, a Democrat, has spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of assets — inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.

The Trumps have indicated they will fight the subpoenas and are expected to file court papers through their lawyers seeking to have them thrown out. A similar legal fight played out last year after James’ office subpoenaed the testimony of another Trump son, Eric Trump.

Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to put an end to her investigation. Trump, in the lawsuit, claimed that James had violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”

A state court judge who handled that dispute agreed Monday to entertain arguments over the recent subpoenas.

I don’t often beef when courts follow the law, but a little voice inside of me whispers, “Lock him up!”

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 826,063, an increase of 1,276 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,467,767, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 4 (a rather dull day in history) includes:

  • 871 – Battle of Reading: Æthelred of Wessex and his brother Alfred are defeated by a Danish invasion army.
  • 1853 – After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir Twelve Years a Slave later becomes a national bestseller.

Here’s an 1841 bill of sale of Northup and two others to a slaveholder—after he was kidnapped.  “Platt” is Northup

And a first edition of Northup’s work, which you can buy for $11,500:

They killed Topsy because they had trouble controlling her. The video is one of the cruelest and most horrific things I’ve ever seen one to an animal. I won’t post it, but if you want to watch it, you can see it here.

  • 1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota, United States.
  • 2004 – Spirit, a NASA Mars rover, lands successfully on Mars at 04:35 UTC.

Notables born on this day include:

Ussher is most famous to us for calculating the date of creation by counting back using the Bible, and for years his calculations were considered accurate, and of course supportive of young-earth creationism. As Wikipedia notes:

Ussher now concentrated on his research and writing and returned to the study of chronology and the church fathers. After a 1647 work on the origin of the Creeds, Ussher published a treatise on the calendar in 1648. This was a warm-up for his most famous work, the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (“Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world”), which appeared in 1650, and its continuation, Annalium pars posterior, published in 1654. In this work, he calculated the date of the Creation to have been nightfall on 22 October 4004 BC.

Ironically, Ussher served as The Primate of All England.

  • 1643 – Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist (d. 1727). 

Weirdly, Wikpedia gives his birth date not as January 4, but as December 25, 1642 (was it a calendar change). Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses his Christmas birth as an introduction to a talk when people think he’s talking about Jesus.

Braille himself was totally blind after an accident with an awl as a child. But the system he invented then is virtually unchanged today. I am curious about how languages without the Latin-style alphabet that most Western countries use. There surely must be a Braille system in Arabic, Malayalam (a palindrome, too!), and other such languages.

His real name was Charles Stratton, and as a “liitle person” (formerly midget), he was a big attraction at P. T. Barnum’s shows, for he could also sing, dance, and do impressions. Here’s his wedding to Lavinia Warren in 1863. Caption from Wikipedia:

The Fairy Wedding group: Stratton and his bride Lavinia Warren, alongside her sister Minnie and George Washington Morrison Nutt (“Commodore Nutt”); entertainers associated with P.T. Barnum.
  • 1900 – James Bond, American ornithologist and zoologist (d. 1989)

This is the real Bond—James Bond. Ian Fleming knew of his work (e.g.,  Birds of the Caribbean) because Fleming himself lived in Jamaica and was an avid birdwatcher. The real Bond thought that Fleming using his name for the fictional secret agent was a good bit of fun.

  • 1943 – Doris Kearns Goodwin, American historian and author
  • 1960 – Michael Stipe, American singer-songwriter and producer

Whatever happened to Stipe and REM?

Those who were no more on January 4  include:

  • 1877 – Cornelius Vanderbilt, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1794)
  • 1961 – Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1887)

Here’s the grave of Schrödinger and his wife in Austria. Notice the equation at the top; do you recognize it?

Here’s Eliot (who was born in America) reading what I consider his best poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“. Like Dylan Thomas, he reads in a monotone. It’s amazing that he wrote this poem when he was 22 years old.

  • 2021 – Tanya Roberts, American actress (b. 1955)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej have a deep conversation:

Hili: From a safe place the world looks less threatening.
A: It depends on what you avert your eyes from.
In Polish:
Hili: Z bezpiecznego miejsca świat wygląda mniej groźnie.
Ja: To zależy od czego odwracasz oczy.
And Kulka on the kitchen table:

From Twitter. Now they want to stiff the old people because the younger ones don’t want crap wages:

A New Year meme from Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

Sabine learns the difference between American English and British English. It’s a long video, as it’s one of her regular ones:

From Laura Helmuth, editor of Scientific American. I think she’s conflating the “gender binary” with the “sex binary”, which is to all intents and purposes, is binary.

From Simon: The Invasion of the Nose Eaters:

From Ginger K.; what can one say?

Tweets from Matthew. Yes, there is a cat in this photo. Can you spot it? The reveal is below the fold:

I love this video. The gerenuk male is so considerate, and both gazelles are ineffably graceful. Of course, Matthew and I wondered if the female’s noms are just a side effect of the male trying to get food, and he’s not a gentleman at all:

I would kill to try a ’61 Petrus, perhaps the greatest first-growth Bordeaux from a very great vintage. I’m not sure how this method works as I couldn’t see what the guy without the tongs is doing, but I’m sure an astute reader could tell me.

This poor kitty can’t catch a break.

Oh hell, two more (There are 12 on the thread, so go have a look.)

To see the cat from Matthew’s first tweet above, click “continue reading”:

How could you miss this moggy? (Circled)

55 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Dimpled chads and Braille being commemorated on the same day seems kind of appropriate, I guess. It’s a shame Braille couldn’t be used to settle the 2000 presidential election.

  2. The little planted Xmas tree should have a growth spurt now, as long as the fellow avoided hot peppers recently.

  3. Tyler Schultz, one of the whistleblowers, was interviewed this morning on TV and appeared to be very happy. He is the grandson of George Schultz, who was on the board of directors of this fraudulent company. He said the guilty findings is all he cared about and did not really care how much time in prison she gets. He did not get to testify during the trial. The way he talked this woman should have been working for Trump.

    1. I saw Tyler Schultz interviewed maybe 6 months ago. Impressive young man. Amazing that someone like Grandpa George could have been taken in by Holmes.

  4. The Isaac Newton Wikipedia article has a footnote about dates:

    During Newton’s lifetime, two calendars were in use in Europe: the Julian (“Old Style”) calendar in Protestant and Orthodox regions, including Britain; and the Gregorian (“New Style”) calendar in Roman Catholic Europe. At Newton’s birth, Gregorian dates were ten days ahead of Julian dates: thus his birth is recorded as taking place on 25 December 1642 Old Style, but can be converted to a New Style (modern) date of 4 January 1643. By the time of his death, the difference between the calendars had increased to eleven days. Moreover, he died in the period after the start of the New Style year on 1 January, but before that of the Old Style new year on 25 March. His death occurred on 20 March 1726 according to the Old Style calendar, but the year is usually adjusted to 1727. A full conversion to New Style gives the date 31 March 1727.


    1. I think there are good arguments both for and against converting dates from the OS era to NS, *in general*. But in some particular cases we can see a good reason apart from any general rule. And for Newton, surely there is some psycho-biographical value in being aware that in his lifetime he considered his birthday to be Christmas Day.

      1. Indeed. Wikipedia’s Newton article begins “Sir Isaac Newton PRS (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27[a])” which seems reasonable to me. Given that, I’m not sure why his birthday is listed on Wikipedia’s 4 January page.

  5. The Britton-Purdy article is one of many that warns about the threat of Trumpism to American democracy. His analysis focuses on the structural nature of American government, such as the Electoral College, that allows for this condition. However, I find that this approach fails to get at the core of the problem. When institutions are blamed for the problem, it is analogous to warning that the Earth is in danger because of an approaching asteroid. In both situations, people are left out of the equation. In other words, if by some miracle the Electoral College were to be eliminated and other structural impediments to democracy reformed, the discontent of a large swathe of the population would not be alleviated. For Trumpists, the enemy is democracy itself, something they don’t believe in as a concept, regardless of the specifics of its mechanics. Their grievances are so powerful that any action is justified to satisfy them. Feeling that a government democratically elected is aiding and abetting the emergence of a new world that they abhor and fear, without a moment’s hesitation they are willing to abandon democracy and pledge their allegiance to a fascist. So, yes, American government very much needs structural reform, but that alone will not prevent society from splitting apart.

    1. But aren’t you just reinforcing the idea that these people are brainwashed. Certainly the brainwashed cult could care less about our crazy system of electoral votes. Look at religion in the same way, just another large cult. When people get sucked in, do we blame the people or the religion. You have to be honest and blame both. Our system of government is a mess. Compared to many others in the world we rank low regarding democracy. That thing people keep referring to as our great democracy. The founders did not use that term and considered it as bad. They were making a form of government referred to as a republic. When the right con man comes along and nearly destroys 240 years of government you have to say, there is something wrong with it.

      1. Voldemort’s genius was identifying the grievances of his base and exploiting them powerfully.

        I think Historian’s analysis is largely correct.

        I don’t think the Voldemort base are brain washed. I think they are foolish and cannot balance costs and benefits and have voted against their economic interests for a long time. They truly are motivated by the 4 Gs: God, Guns, Gays, and Blacks.

        In Wisconsin, they sided with Scott Walker (gaaaaaaak, pardon the vomiting sounds) in his effort to destroy the teacher’s union(s) and the teaching profession.

        This sort of short-sightedness reminds me of the old Russian joke. A Russian peasant is visited by a genie who promises him whatever he wishes, with one caveat:

        Genie, “Whatever you wish for, you will receive; but your neighbor will receive double what you receive. What is your wish?”

        Peasant: “Poke out one of my eyes!”

        1. It you know a system is broken and not working your best bet is to fix it. Preventing the masses from ignorance and the easy con is much harder. Which one would you fix. If the white nationalist racist are an easy mark for Trump, how do you fix that.

          1. I would vote for getting rid of the Electoral College. This won’t happen in my lifetime.

            I am offended (offended!) that a (presidential election) vote in Wyoming is worth:
            3.61 X a vote in CA
            2.82 X a vote in MN
            2.98 X a vote in WA

            Education has possibility. Also aging-out of the base. (I would like to see an age distribution of Trump voters.)

          2. That is how a Republic works as opposed to a democracy. We live in the United STATES of America not the United Ten Cities of America

    2. It occurred to me the other night that what the GOP really wants is a parliamentary system. They would probably never say that, but they fairly clearly want the vote to be party vs. party, with the party who wins being in control of the government, setting policy, and deciding the head of state seems exactly in line with their rhetoric.

      I agree with both you and Jerry that if the electoral college was eliminated, that would change politics but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to Dem dominance. Both parties would change how they campaign (example: more in CA and TX, less in Iowa), and if the GOP thought they couldn’t win the national popular vote on their current platforms, they’d change their platforms. With two major parties, we should always expect that either individual candidates or local party will flex their platform to always try and get 50% + 1 votes in whatever district, state, or other region is being contested.

      1. I think the GOP wants whatever system gives them the most power for the longest time. Period. If that’s called a “parliamentary system” then, yeah, that’s what they want. There’s no nuance here.

        1. I agree with your statement here but the idea that the cult would like it if you did away with the electoral college is just wrong. That is like saying they would be okay with a much more democratic senate based on population instead of 2 per state. These items are what makes the republican party survive. Without them they are cooked. More and more everyday, the republicans are outnumbered and will continue to go down. they currently have a perfect system for there status, very rural and many low population states.

      2. Eliminating the Electoral College would require amending the Constitution.

        Without the Electoral College, not only would both parties campaign more in current landslide states, the voters in those landslide states might be more motivated to come out to vote. GOP voters in big states like California might turn out to vote if their votes in the national tally would directly help elect the president. Now, they stay home because the Dems always sweep the state’s electoral votes, so why bother? (Some Dem voters likely do the same.). You could see the same effect in big Republican landslide states. Even in currently battleground states, if the votes for each candidate just got poured into the pool of national votes you wouldn’t get all 45 votes won as a bloc for one side from a razor-thin win.

        Point is, you can’t assume that voter turnout and the popular vote (currently meaningless) would break the same way just because the Electoral College disappeared. The behaviour of both candidates and voters would be different if the rules changed.

        Remember, even landslide states rarely go as high as 60:40. Every state will be sending hundreds of thousands of votes to each side. A few million GOP voters in California or New York, assiduously courted by the GOP, could put them over the top nationally. Ditto a few million extra Dem votes rustled up one by one around the country. I think a properly strategized GOP presidential campaign could win the popular vote if it counted. Right now they just don’t need to, because it doesn’t.

        1. You are right that the elimination of the electoral college would change campaigning tactics for presidential elections. Republicans would campaign more in blue states such as California, Democrats more in red states such as Texas.

          But, the thing to keep in mind is that this discussion over eliminating the electoral college is pure theoretical. The chances of it happening is nil in anytime soon. The smaller populated states would be most reluctant to keep up the clout they have. The Constitution makes the amending process extremely difficult, requiring 3/4 of state legislatures or conventions approval, among other things. This will not be happening.

    3. I guess I will wade in as a dissenting voice. If you eliminate the electoral college without putting some effective system in it’s place, you are going to make a lot of people feel like they have lost their voice in choosing the executive branch.
      A lot of the stability in our society is based on people’s perceptions of the fairness of things. A dollar only has value as long as well all agree that it does. The people of Montana and Wyoming don’t really have all that much influence on presidential elections, but they have their 6 electors, which is enough to make them feel that they are being represented. And they still have 2 congress people and the same number of senators as any other state.
      People in different regions live very different lifestyles, and have different priorities. Without the electoral college, the president will be whoever caters to the desires of dense urban areas. Since those people largely hold us rural types in contempt, this could be bad news for us. It quickly goes from a perception of being represented to a perception of being ruled.
      And some of the elect do seem to favor a system like that in the Hunger Games, where people in the outlying districts toil away to supply the inhabitants of the Capital with luxuries.
      Whether this is actually the case is not as relevant as whether people perceive it is the case. BLM folks burn and loot areas of our cities because they perceive that a great many unarmed and innocent Blacks are hunted down and killed by police because of their race.

      The other thing is stereotyping conservatives. It is always fun to read articles where some urban writer ventures beyond the frontier into flyover country, and is shocked to find that people are normal here, but with better manners. We mostly live in safe communities, try to take care of our families, and otherwise want mostly to be left alone. The hate we are supposed to be full of is just not in evidence, or at least not in higher proportions than found everywhere. It is absolutely confounding for people here to hear the vitriol with which we are described.

      In military strategy, misunderstanding the character and abilities of your opponent leads to you being unable to successfully predict their actions.

      One example might be that people who strongly support limited government are less likely to adopt fascism than people who support a very strong central government with almost complete control over national, state, and local issues.

      1. “If you eliminate the electoral college without putting some effective system in it’s place”

        Who would do that? Just another straw man, Max.

        “A lot of the stability in our society is based on people’s perceptions of the fairness of things.”

        That’s true. So how much should each citizen expect their vote to count in a national election? Since we call it a democracy, it seems pretty clear to me. It’s the reciprocal of the number of citizens of voting age that choose to cast a vote.

        1. To contemplate the removal of the Electoral College with nothing to replace it is not a straw man. I did assume in my own post the effect of elimination of the Electoral College would be to just count the national votes as you now do for entertainment value, but then actually award the presidency to whoever had the most votes, plain and simple. This is really why a Constitutional amendment to do that wouldn’t succeed. The smaller states would object and the amendment could not possibly get ratified (I think that is the term) by 75% of the state legislatures. Never mind if it is the more democratically moral thing to do. No one gives up power without getting something in return. Heck, it probably wouldn’t even pass the Senate. The EC is here to stay. Wishing it away is like saying you need punitive import duties that don’t increase domestic prices.

          Is there a way, without amending the Constitution, to get rid of the winner-take-all allotment of the EC votes? Trump’s victory in 2016, and his near-repeat-but-for-Covid in 2020, came from winning by small margins states that were both big and up for grabs. A few score thousand popular votes going the other way transfers dozens of electors to the other side. Again this would be resisted at the state legislature level (right?) but they could in principal adopt this method if they chose, no? Even if only a few states that shift back and forth decided to instruct their electors to vote as per the popular vote in that state, it could make a replay of 2016 impossible.

          But as others have said, you’re far enough down the road that wonkism won’t help much.

          1. Replacing the EC by a national vote is not replacing it by nothing. Max didn’t really say why a national vote wasn’t effective except to somehow hint that such a system would somehow be unfair to people in places like Montana. In my opinion, a national vote would be a big improvement over the EC. I would also consider some kind of ranked voting system, or similar. Perhaps even eliminating primaries though that seems a bit radical. On the other hand, perhaps the two-party system’s time has passed.

        2. I have certainly heard a lot of support for the idea of direct voting for President. It is not an unusual sentiment, and it seems fair on the surface.
          Beyond that, and using the same logic, there have been recent calls to abolish the Senate.

          Some of that is the inevitable reaction of hard progressives when the do not get things they want. Some have published articles when they won on how those institutions are critical to keeping our country free. Then, when some issue they support does not make it into law, they write about how that same institution is a tool of oppression and should be dismantled. That view is pretty short sighted, and comes with the assumption that they will never be in the minority.

          If you ask me what the purpose and function of government is, I would say that it exists primarily to preserve our basic rights, and protect each of us from anyone who might infringe upon them. In that light, the branches of government and elections are all just means to support that goal. If pure democracy would achieve that, I would be all for it. But it would not.
          The goal was never to ensure that the majority always get their way. That is why people sometimes say that direct democracy is three wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for dinner.

          “Since we call it a democracy”… Perhaps we should teach a more accurate description of how our government works.

          1. You don’t actually supply any argument here why direct democracy is so unfair, or fails to work, except to basically say it might prevent you from getting what you want. Sounds like you are simply against it because many Dems are for it and it gives your party’s politicians an advantage that you would prefer not to lose. You don’t address the inequity between votes in states like CA and MT. Then you throw in a slippery slope argument with abolishing the Senate. I’m sure someone somewhere had that idea but let’s take this one discussion at a time.

          2. The folks who designed our system of government discussed the issue and wrote about it at length. Madison made some persuasive statements on direct democracy-
            “such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

            Where I live, life is water. Land is often less valuable than the water rights there. The river that runs through our property, and begins from the melting snowpack on our mountains, is alloted by shares. That is an old system, which actually predates our statehood, to ensure that those downstream have a reasonable amount of water for their irrigation purposes.
            We don’t live in California. To get there from here requires traveling through at least two other states. Yet a significant portion of the water originating here ends up filling pools and watering lawns there. The proportion of water that ends up there is never a settled issue. My parents dare not miss a water board meeting, and I dread the idea that it will someday be my job.
            I suppose someone decided that good water management and construction of reservoirs is more expensive than trying to litigate away other folk’s water. I have little doubt that if they put the issue up to a popular vote, every drop of water west of the continental divide would be apportioned to California.

            On the other hand, as long as you never find yourself in the minority, direct democracy is probably pretty sweet for a while.

  6. “Whatever happened to Stipe and REM?” – They split up in 2011 although some earlier recordings were released subsequently.

    September 2021, a full decade after disbanding, Stipe reiterated that the band had no intention of regrouping: “We decided when we split up that that would just be really tacky and probably money-grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.E.M.#History (subsection ‘2011–present: Post-breakup releases and events’)

    1. Yes, but they had lost steam a while before when their drummer dropped out after suffering severe brain problems while on tour. Fortunately they were in Lausanne where there was a world expert, so he survived OK, but had a different perspective later on. He became a farmer.

  7. Today is also Perihelion Day for 2022. The Earth was at its closest to the Sun (147,105,052 km centre-to-centre) at 06:54 UT.

  8. On opening the bottle of wine, I’d guess that either the brush was used to apply something (water)? to suddenly cool the heated glass to cause it to break, or it was used to apply something sticky to prevent loose fragments from possibly getting into the wine. Although that doesn’t seem like it would be worth the effort since fragments form the inner surface and the face of the break would still be a concern.

    Nothing else comes to mind.

    1. Thermal shock breaks the glass of the neck of the bottle (cleanly).

      This is standard for very old vintage port.

      Avoids having to strain the cork chunks out of the wine.

      1. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just strain the cork? I have a decanter with a strainer/aerator, and it would be much quicker to do it that way. Or perhaps a denigrated cork can change the taste of the wine?

        1. Yes, just getting rid of the cork is easiest (hot tongs).

          I have a very fine strainer I use for bad corks. Still, some fine cork particles get through …

          1. I see. Thanks for the info. I’ve never encountered a brittle cork, probably due to the fact I don’t have very old wines.

  9. “Well at least things won’t get weird this Christmas.”

    Let that be a lesson never to accept eggnog from strangers.

  10. > we need to go to the one-person one-vote system

    Preferably with ranked choice voting for President and proportional representation for one of the Houses of Congress. It seems to be the most feasible way to break out of this allegedly two-party system. I don’t like where the New Right or the New Left are taking their parties. They are both too authoritarian, and they have both learned from each other’s techniques. It is a race to the bottom, as they continue to evolve.

  11. Ahhh Port tongs. Used them a couple of times to open very old bottles which have a knackered cork. The tongs are made of iron and are designed to clamp around a bottle just below the cork. You heat the tongs as hot as you can (yellow heat at least but hotter if you can) and then clamp it around the neck of the bottle and wait for a minute or two). You then take a wet feather, paint brush and then touch the heated part of the neck. The sudden stress induced causes the neck to fracture in a beautifully clean way …..

  12. “1809 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (d. 1852)”

    Actually, the braille system that Braille invented shouldn’t be capitalized, according to most organizations involved with it.

    Speaking of braille, there are even systems based on braille for representing mathematics! Nemeth Braille (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemeth_Braille). As far as I know, it isn’t very popular as it is very difficult to learn. In fact, support for braille of all kinds has been lagging for years, replaced by computer-generated speech and other accessibility technologies. Of course, braille aficionados claim that reading braille is an irreplaceable experience.

  13. Having a woman with a very German accent demo the difference between UK and N. American English is not very effective. As to “t”s, some of the Bri-ish yoofs these days emphasize them even less than the Yanks. Also “r”s seem often to be added unnecessarily to the ends of words in Britspeak: “Americar”, “Canadar”…

    1. Agreed but I imagine it also presents a big problem for someone like her, for which she has a unique perspective. She learned English but heard many inconsistencies and had to deal with them. Those with English as their primary language learned whatever system they were born into. That settles the issue. For someone learning English as a second language it is more of an issue.

      I was born in England of English parents but, mostly, educated in the US. Although I mostly adopted American standards, I occasionally discover I’ve been using a UK English convention without realizing it. It doesn’t worry me much but I can see it being a bigger issue for a German scientist.

    2. When my sister’s friend was teaching English in Japan the kids all wanted to learn US English pronunciation. As a result, two Cambridge-educated colleagues with post-graduate degrees in linguistics discovered that they were being paid less than an American student with no language or linguistic qualifications who was doing a bit of teaching during his gap year travels.

      1. Sadly, the friend I mentioned, Alison, died in unexplained circumstances a couple of years ago. (I wouldn’t usually link to the Daily Mail, but the more controversial aspects of the case were pretty much only in the tabloids: “‘Strange smell’ in Egypt hotel room before wife died – months before Susan and John Cooper deaths” https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6120063/Strange-smell-Egypt-hotel-room-wife-died-months-Susan-John-Cooper-deaths.html ) A second autopsy in the UK proved to be impossible because it turned out that the Egyptian authorities had disposed of her organs prior to repatriating her body.

        Unfortunately, her husband, Clive, had to represent himself at the inquest whereas the holiday company had an experienced and expensive barrister. A joint civil case with the other family mentioned in the Mail‘s report, which was legally represented (on a “no win, no fee” basis) had to be dropped when the company they were fighting collapsed into bankruptcy before the hearings commenced. As a consequence, the Coroner’s verdict is the last word on Alison’s death, although Clive understandably feels that justice wasn’t done.

  14. Referring to the ‘Atlantic’ article linked to a day or so ago, I really think that if the Democrats fail to pass voter protection laws before November 2022, the USA will not be a representative democracy anymore by 2024.

  15. My response under 16 was meant as a response to you., The Senate is indeed the most undemocratic body in the US state,

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