Welcome to the Christian Sabbath: Sunday, January 9, 2022: National Apricot Day. This isn’t even apricot season, but apricot nectar, my favorite fruit juice, is available year ’round.
It’s also National Sunday Supper Day (Is this still a tradition? It was in my family), International Choreographers Day, National Word Nerd Day, National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (not for the young people), No Pants Subway Ride Day (yes, people do this), National Static Electricity Day, Play God Day (all cats participate), and—a holiday that I think is unique to India—Non-Resident Indian Day, which celebrates Indians who live outside their natal country but help it anyway. .
Here are people riding the subway with no pants (we’re using the American version of “pants”, known as “trousers” in the UK). If people doffed their “pants” in the UK (American “underpants”), they’d be naked.
News of the Day:
*According to the New York Times, the Biden administration has assembled a laundry list of sanctions to apply to Russia should Putin and his military thugs decide to invade the country. These “financial, technology and military sanctions” would “go into effect within hours of an invasion of Ukraine”. They include these:
The plans the United States has discussed with allies in recent days include cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions from global transactions, imposing an embargo on American-made or American-designed technology needed for defense-related and consumer industries, and arming insurgents in Ukraine who would conduct what would amount to a guerrilla war against a Russian military occupation, if it comes to that.
Such moves are rarely telegraphed in advance. But with the negotiations looming — and the fate of Europe’s post-Cold War borders and NATO’s military presence on the continent at stake — President Biden’s advisers say they are trying to signal to Mr. Putin exactly what he would face, at home and abroad, in hopes of influencing his decisions in coming weeks.
What we have here is a high-stakes game of “chicken” (see Steve Pinker’s new book Rationality), but we, or rather Ukraine, has more to lose than Russia. I still think the invasion will take place, and Putin will ignore the relatively paltry sanctions.
*Number-one-ranked male tennis star Novak Djokovic has been refused entry into Australia to play in the Australian Open after his visa wasn’t accepted. (He had said he had a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid, but according to the Aussie government it wasn’t kosher. He has appealed, but I see no grounds for letting him in just because he’s a tennis star: in the game of pandemic suppression, no animals is more equal than others. If they let him play, it will be an act of arrant unfairness. So, as he should be, he’s warming his tuchas in a hotel in quarantine. As Lindsay Crouse wrote in the New York Times,
The conversation is as much about fairness as it is about public health. Why should a player get a free pass when other players, and the fans keeping them in business, have to be vaccinated and abide by travel restrictions? Workplaces around the world are filled with Djokovics, difficult but valued or essential employees who expect special accommodations in order to come to work — even when the accommodations they seek are grounded in anti-science views that might put their colleagues at risk.
When it comes to athletes, what they do in public health situations matters even more. Beyond the social influence that comes with their platforms, star athletes are symbols of good health, success and leadership — that’s why they’re sought after as the public face of performance apparel and shoe companies, breakfast cereals and countless other brands.
. . . The Australian Border Force did what sports bodies are failing to do: say no. If athletes don’t like restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated, they could just get a shot like millions of other people — a privilege that millions more are still waiting for.
*Yay for humanity and science! We know now that the mirrors of the Webb Space Telescope have unfolded successfully!
Webb’s gold mirror began to take shape as the first of the two primary wings was unfolded and latched on Friday. These wings are side panels that hold three mirror segments each. This was followed by the unfolding and latching of the second panel on the other side Saturday.
*By all rights of fairness, transgender female swimmer Lia Thomas from Penn should not be competing against collegiate women swimmers. She clearly has a muscle and strength advantage gained at puberty, and has bested biological women swimmers by huge margins. Yet both her school and the NCAA have stood behind her, though on bogus grounds:
Thomas has the support of her school, which said Thursday that she “has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender female student-athlete to compete for a women’s team. She will continue to represent the Penn women’s swimming team in competition this season.”
The Ivy League also backed Thomas.
“Over the past several years, Lia and the University of Pennsylvania have worked with the NCAA to follow all of the appropriate protocols in order to comply with the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation and compete on the Penn women’s swimming and diving team,” it said in a statement Thursday.
“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form,” it added.
The problem is that Thomas still has a clear advantage since she transitioned only a few years ago, well after puberty. If you look up the NCAA policy for transgender females to compete against biological women, you get this:
A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.
But no maximum levels of circulating testosterone are given, nor would they work anyway. We’ve now learned that testosterone-suppression for a year, even according to Olympic standards, cannot overcome the physiological and physical advantages acquired at puberty. Even three years isn’t sufficient; the advantage appears to be permanent, especially given the transitory nature of an athletic career.
And this NCAA statement is, as we saw the other day, flatly wrong:
According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence.
*Matthew directs us to a Guardian article reporting what must be a record for postal slowness, even in a country famous for it. The U.S. postal service delivered a letter written by a soldier in WWII to his mother—76 years late!
Army Sgt John Gonsalves, 22 at the time, wrote to his mother in Woburn in December 1945 after the official end of the second world war, WFXT-TV reported Wednesday.
The letter would sit unopened for more than 75 years before being found in a US Postal Service distribution facility in Pittsburgh.
“Dear Mom, Received another letter from you today and was happy to hear that everything is okay,” the letter reads. “As for myself, I’m fine and getting along okay. But as far as the food it’s pretty lousy most of the time.”
He signed the letter: “Love and kisses, Your son Johnny. I’ll be seeing you soon, I hope.”
Gonsalves died in 2015. His mother has died as well. But the USPS found an address for his widow, Angelina, whom the soldier met five years after he sent the letter.
. . . Angelina Gonsalves, 89, spent another holiday without her husband, but she said this year, “It’s like he came back to me, you know?”
Ms. Gonsalves reading the Lost Letter:
*Great news: Winnie-the-Pooh (the mid 1920’s A. A. Milne version, is now in the public domain. Screw the Disney makeover; I love the original and all its illustrations, which can now be reproduced. Especially Eeyore, my dysthymic spirit animal.
Luke McGarry began drawing a nude Pooh Bear as soon as he heard the news. The original, nearly 100-year-old “bear of very little brain” from the Hundred Acre Wood had rung in this new year by entering the public domain. Now quite humbly, McGarry’s creative appetite felt rumbly.
The Los Angeles-based artist sat and penned his Winnie-the-Pooh idea in four panels, announcing the 1926 character’s free-for-all status as of Jan. 1, with a winking if satirically speculative interpretation: “Disney still owns their version of me. … But as long as I don’t put a little red shirt on, I can do as I like” — a reference to how the character’s attire regularly began to be depicted beginning in the 1930s.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 835,835 an increase of 1,524 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,503,741,, an increase of about 4,500 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 9 includes:
- 1349 – The Jewish population of Basel, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, is rounded up and incinerated.
- 1431 – The trial of Joan of Arc begins in Rouen
An artistic envisioning:
- 1806 – Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson receives a state funeral and is interred in St Paul’s Cathedral.
- 1816 – Humphry Davy tests his safety lamp for miners at Hebburn Colliery.
Here’s the Davy lamp, with the flame enclosed within wire to prevent ignition of mine gases:
- 1839 – The French Academy of Sciences announces the Daguerreotype photography process.
- 1909 – Ernest Shackleton, leading the Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole, plants the British flag 97 nautical miles (180 km; 112 mi) from the South Pole, the farthest anyone had ever reached at that time.
There’s a photo of the boat leaving on its treacherous journey to South Georgia (24 April, 1916). They all made it, Shackleton got help and his men were eventually rescued safely.
- 1916 – World War I: The Battle of Gallipoli concludes with an Ottoman Empire victory when the last Allied forces are evacuated from the peninsula.
Here’s a scene from the 1981 movie Gallipoli showing a futile charge to death. Then a photo of the real thing:
- 1957 – British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden resigns from office following his failure to retake the Suez Canal from Egyptian sovereignty.
- 2005 – Mahmoud Abbas wins the election to succeed Yasser Arafat as President of the Palestinian National Authority, replacing interim president Rawhi Fattouh.
Abbas was elected for a four-year term, but, without any further election, he’s still President of the PA. Is this a dictatorship or not?
Here’s Jobs making that announcement:
- 2015 – The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris two days earlier are both killed after a hostage situation; a second hostage situation, related to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, occurs at a Jewish market in Vincennes.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1875 – Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, American sculptor and art collector, founded the Whitney Museum of American Art (d. 1942)
- 1900 – Richard Halliburton, American journalist and author (d. 1939)
When I was young I read all of Halliburton’s books, which were full of adventure. He swam through the Panama Canal, paying a 36¢ toll. And that was one of his many exploits. Sadly, he was lost at sea in 1939.
Here he is after swimming the canal:
- 1908 – Simone de Beauvoir, French philosopher and author (d. 1986)
- 1913 – Richard Nixon, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 37th President of the United States (d. 1994)
- 1922 – Har Gobind Khorana, Indian-American biochemist and academic, Nobel laureate (d. 2011)
Born in India, Khorana shared the Nobel Prize with two others for helping unravel the genetic code:
Baez singing a Bob Dylan song at Sing Sing Prison in 1972. This is my favorite rendition of that song:
- 1944 – Jimmy Page, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer
- 1982 – Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
Those who became food for worms on January 9 include only one person I consider “notable”:
- 1923 – Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1888)
A great writer (and expat Kiwi) who should have had more time, she died of TB at 34, suffering a pulmonary hemorrhage after she ran up the stairs. As she was carried to her room, she said, “I’m going to die.” She did. Her short story “Bliss” (free here) is one of the finest pieces of short fiction in English.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, today’s Hili dialogue is arcane, so Malgorzata gives an explanation:
This is understandable only in Poland. Our government introduced with fanfare an economic program named Nowy Ład (which I translated into “New Order), which was supposed to help the country with the effects of the pandemic and to help middle- and low -ncome people. It’s a disaster. For example, teachers got a drastic cut in their (already low) salaries.
With that in mind, the dialogue:
Hili: I’m coming to establish a new order.Paulina: Do not frighten people and cats.(Photo: Paulina R.)
Hili: Przychodzę zaprowadzić nowy ład.Paulina: Nie strasz ludzi i kotów.(Zdjęcie Paulina R.)
Posted by Seth Andrews:
From Divy: The big conundrum of Christianity:
From Science Humor:
From Simon: An Indian variant on the usual donut-shaped vada, a snack made with lentil flour. As he says, “I imagine the cure for this one would be yogurt.:
This gave me some much needed 🤣🤣
Mumbai vada variant with ‘spice’ proteins pic.twitter.com/oYuuTnj99S
— Madhu Pai, MD, PhD (@paimadhu) January 8, 2022
From Barry, who feels sorry for the ants (as do I). Yes, this is a real phenomenon:
A phenomenon in which a group of army ants are separated from the main foraging party, lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a rotating circle, commonly known as a "death spiral" because the ants might eventually die of exhaustion#Nature #Ant pic.twitter.com/0iCHwnLuGq
— Nature Inc. (@Nature_Incorp) January 8, 2022
From Dom, the world’s smallest known snail (0.5 mm is about 0.02 inches, meaning fifty of these snails, lined up, would extend only an inch). You can read the paper about it here.
In 2015 we published the world's smallest land snail: 0.6-mm-tall Acmella nana from Borneo. Now, we have broken its record with an even tinier one.
Meet Angustopila psammion from northern Laos, just 0.5 mm in shell size, calculated body volume 0.036 mm3https://t.co/3XrIZPVoLZ pic.twitter.com/RtLmh3SbsA
— Menno Schilthuizen (@schilthuizen) January 7, 2022
From Ginger K., who loves Freddie Mercury:
Freddie Mercury eating soup in his bed with his cats, 80s pic.twitter.com/0gdEagjeCA
— andre vautour (@andrevautour) December 16, 2021
From a hashtag started by Masih Alinejad asking Muslim women to weigh in on the hijab, #LetUsTalk:
In Iran I was arrested and harassed vulgarly by morality police for not wearing proper hijab. I was horrified and begging them to let me go.
In the west, I’m told sharing my story will cause Islamophobia.
I’m a woman from Middle East and I’m scared of Islamic ideology.#LetUsTalk https://t.co/8YtHxqrbXx pic.twitter.com/Zzc7fz8HAR
— Sahar Fard (@SaharE_Fard) December 30, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. Furtive petting!
Furtive petting operation of the day. pic.twitter.com/4EHfgMNOm6
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) December 27, 2021
I’d recommend watching this. Dr. Stavrakopoulou is not only a Biblical scholar who is an atheist, and has debunked a lot of Biblical myths, but she also has a wicket sense of humor. It’s free, too.
Get the Zoom link here.
Join author Francesca Stavrakopoulou (@ProfFrancesca) on January 27th for a Critical Minds session to discuss her book, God: An Anatomy from @aaknopf and how depictions of God are shaped by society, time, and our experience of the world.
More info: https://t.co/9SeaVhK9mE pic.twitter.com/en71D9A4a3
— American Humanist Association (@americnhumanist) January 6, 2022
Great biological gargoyles!
Not your typical grotesque gargoyles ~ instead, the carvings at the Basilica of the National Vow in Quito, Ecuador include an extraordinary collection of native fauna, ranging from tortoises and anteaters to crocodiles and iguanas pic.twitter.com/s6FnHB7UQM
— Journal of Art in Society (@artinsociety) January 6, 2022