If this is late, blame my building: I was stuck in my elevator for 15 minutes this morning. Yesterday the damn elevator was broken, as happens about once a month. So I took the freight elevator up. This morning the regular elevator was on my floor and I pushed the button. It opened. I got in and pressed “1”. Nothing happened. Nor could I get out of the elevator: the open button—and buttons for other floors—were defunct. I had to call the U of C police, who came in a short while and managed to extricate me by pressing the button from the OUTSIDE. They were very nice, and said that if that button hadn’t worked from the outside, they would have had to call the fire department. I had complained to management yesterday that the elevator was broken, and they didn’t get around to fixing it, nor putting signs on the doors about not using it. They clearly didn’t fix it, much less warn us. I could have been there for HOURS. Those who say, at the U of C, “ditch the police” are loons: the cops were very friendly and helpful. And without them who knows what would have happened? For one thing, this post would be more than one hour late.
The thing about this website is that I get to blow off steam. Consider it blown.
Now: greetings on Sunday, January 16, 2022: National Hot and Spicy Food Day. Here are two guys eating half of a small specimen of world’s hottest paper—the fabled Carolina Reaper. It’s fricking deadly!
It’s also National Fig Newton Day (I love ’em!), National Religious Freedom Day (see 1786 below), World Snow Day (we have it!), Prohibition Remembrance Day (the day in 1920 when Prohibition was formally abolished).
Wine of the Day: Auslese is a grade of German Riesling, and is on the sweet end of the quality wines of the Rhine, and so you know you’re getting something close to a dessert wine when you open it. But I decided I needed something sweet to complement my fettucine Alfredo (with fresh peas added), hoping that the wine’s sweetness would offset the cheesy and salty nature of the pasta. It did. This Auslese is only five years old, but already shows the signs of age: a golden color and a sweet perfume, like honey and mango, that’s vaguely Sauterne-ish. I think that, given its color, it’s about at its peak.
There are two kinds of wines you should consider pairing with food instead of having on their own: champagne and moderately sweet wine (though not ALL sweet wine). Remember, the French serve the sweetest of sweet wine: Sauternes, with an appetizer of foie gras.
News of the Day:
*Hostage situation in Texas. (See update below.) I write this at 6 pm Saturday, and I hope when I wake up tomorrow it will all be over with no loss of life. As of now, a presumed terrorist has taken four people, incuding a rabbi, hostage at a synagogue in Texas. He claims to have bombs and says that he will die but he doesn’t want other people to die (aren’t there easier ways to do that?). But, as CNN reports, he has a motive:
- A rabbi is among the hostages: A rabbi is believed to be among the four hostages at the Colleyville synagogue, a law enforcement official told CNN.
- Negotiations are ongoing: FBI negotiators made contact with the person in the building, authorities said. Police say there are no injuries at this point, no significant updates and still no plans for a news conference soon.
- A possible motive: Two law enforcement officials tell CNN investigators believe the suspect in the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue may have been motivated by a desire to free Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence at a facility in Texas. She was convicted in 2010 on seven charges, including attempted murder and armed assault on US officers in Afghanistan.
- Local and national leaders are monitoring: President Biden has been briefed on the situation, according to a tweet from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as well as both Texas senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, all said they continue to monitor the situation.
UPDATE: As I hoped, the hostages are all free and unharmed, while the perp is singing in the Choir Invisible. Apparently the SWAT team stormed the building, and shot the perp, who was demanding to see his “sister”, i.e. Aafia Siddiqui. The man has not yet been identified; signs so far point to a terrorist crime with Jews as the deliberate targets. Bellow is the Colleyville police announcement. Oh, and the standoff lasted 11 hours.
Update at 9:55pm: The SWAT situation in Colleyville is resolved and all hostages are safe. We continue to work in partnership with the FBI to finalize all details. We will be addressing the media staging area at Good Shepherd Catholic Church at 10:15pm with an update.
— Colleyville Police (@ColleyvillePD) January 16, 2022
SEE THE UPDATE BELOW *The hearing for Tennisgate has begun, with hundreds of Aussie anti-vax protestors waving their signs around the courthouse where Novak Djokovic and his lawyers are contesting the second denial of his visa (Djokovic did not encourage this protest: it was self-organized by stupid Aussies.)
The Federal Court of Australia has started hearing tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s challenge to immigration minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa on health grounds.
Three judges will consider the matter and hope to finalize the matter within one day before the Australian Open starts in Melbourne on Monday morning.
Djokovic’s barrister Nick Wood is first up to argue the case why the decision was wrong.
According to submissions, lawyers for the Serbian tennis player are arguing their case on three grounds:
Ground 1 — failure to consider the consequences of cancellation
Ground 2 — not open to the Minister to be satisfied the presence of Mr Djokovic “is or may be” a relevant risk
Ground 3 — unreasonableness and/or irrationality in regard to finding concerning Mr Djokovic’s “stance on vaccination” etc.
UPDATE: the NYT reports the results in a column written by Van Badham, an Australian journalist (click on screenshot):
Badham says this:
And yet none of the acrimony is about tennis. It is entirely about Australia’s experience of the pandemic, the growing policy failures of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government and the current out-of-control spread of the Omicron variant here.
Within this context, an otherwise skilled sportsman has made himself a cackhanded symbol of everything presently enraging Australians. His first mistake was to align himself with the kinds of ideas Australians see in online misinformation campaigns from the anti-vax movement.
This is a man who once self-diagnosed a gluten intolerance by gripping some bread. He’s made claims that polluted water can be cleansed with the mind. He declared he was “opposed to vaccination” back in April 2020, before a vaccine was even available for the coronavirus.
Our social tolerance is also dwindling for those whose approach to public health is seen as selfish. (An extraordinary 90 percent of Australians are fully vaccinated.)Sports commentators reminded readers that when Naomi Osaka became unwell in 2021, Djokovic insisted that the press appearances she resisted were “part of the sport” — yet he’s conducted his current Australian misadventure around his own preferences, not his obligations to society.
To me, what’s most important is the he was treated as anyone else would have been under the law. Certainly Australia has nothing to lose (except griping) by letting Djokovic in. And there were a fair few Aussies supporting Djokovic outside the court: antivaxers all. The guy is lucky he didn’t get LOCKED UP!
*The volcanic explosion in Tonga, heard from 500 miles away (below), caused a small tsunami in the area, and nobody was injured. Now, however, there’s a tsunami warning out for the entire West Coast of the U.S. (It’s been expanded.) From the Associated Press:
Following Saturday’s eruption, residents in Hawaii, Alaska and along the U.S. Pacific coast were advised to move away from the coastline to higher ground and to pay attention to specific instructions from their local emergency management officials, said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
“We don’t issue an advisory for this length of coastline as we’ve done – I’m not sure when the last time was – but it really isn’t an everyday experience,” Snider said.
He said the waves slamming ashore in Hawaii were just under the criteria for a more serious tsunami warning.
“It looks like everything will stay below the warning level, but it’s difficult to predict because this is a volcanic eruption, and we’re set up to measure earthquake or seismic-driven sea waves,” Snider said.
Matthew sent me three tweets, the first two letting you hear the bang from 500 miles away, and the latter a series of satellite images, made into a video, of the exploding volcano.
— XRPJOOCE 🍊 (@DAJOOCE_) January 15, 2022
This series of images captures the first 1 hour of today's #HungaTongaHungaHaapai eruption, as seen by #GOES17's high res VIS channel. Note that "up" in these images is west pic.twitter.com/JcxfTvO0Jc
— Dan Lindsey (@DanLindsey77) January 15, 2022
Adam Serwer has a good piece in The Atlantic about the SCOTUS opinion striking down OSHA’s non-healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
If you read it and the applicable “law,” you’ll see how stupid that decision was. An excerpt from the article:
It is to be expected that a conservative-dominated Court would be hostile to federal regulation of business. And it makes sense that the justices would also express their opposition in federalist terms, arguing that the states can do what the federal government can’t. But the decision in the employer-mandate case, and the dissent from the four conservative justices in the health-care case, hinges on a new and alarming embrace of the right-wing culture war against vaccination, a deeply regrettable cost of conservative political strategy and political-identity formation.
Fox News, day in and day out, has discouraged its audience from getting vaccinated and promoted anti-vaccine propaganda, even as it maintains a strict testing and vaccination regimen for its own staff. The right-wing network has not just attacked mandates as tyranny, but suggested that the vaccines will kill those who get them, challenged the efficacy of the vaccines, and argued that they are making the pandemic worse. The network’s hosts have compared vaccine requirements to Jim Crow segregation and South African apartheid, historical events they consider crimes against humanity in this particular context but in any other would argue weren’t that bad, happened a long time ago, and you should really get over it. It was arguably inevitable that the justices would echo their cultural milieu—in which a COVID vaccine is like a mark of Cain that stains the soul forever—in their decision.
Yesterday’s poll on whether readers thought Russia would invade Ukraine within the next two months gave this result:
(I wish more people would vote.) However, since the readers here are smart, clearly Russia is going to invade.
*If you’re looking for good inexpensive wine, Eric Asimov at the NYT has his periodic list of recommendations, this time called “The best wines under $20: Beckoning bottles in the dead of winter.” I haven’t tried any of these, but that doesn’t mean anything, as I’d like to try them all. Except for the Chianti, though. I’ve spent a fair amount of money looking for good Chianti, and have never found one that I’d buy again. The whites look more attractive than the reds, especially the Gulp as well as the wine from Crete.
*Matthew brought to my attention a NYT piece by Gina Kolata and Benjamin Mueller, “Halting progress and happy accidents: How mRNA vaccines were made.” Kolata’s always good for an absorbing piece (I don’t know Mueller), and if have been vaccinated, please consider it a homage to the science that helped you to see the amazing way these vaccines came about. Here’s one quote:
The vaccines were possible only because of efforts in three areas. The first began more than 60 years ago with the discovery of mRNA, the genetic molecule that helps cells make proteins. A few decades later, two scientists in Pennsylvania decided to pursue what seemed like a pipe dream: using the molecule to command cells to make tiny pieces of viruses that would strengthen the immune system.
The second effort took place in the private sector, as biotechnology companies in Canada in the budding field of gene therapy — the modification or repair of genes to treat diseases — searched for a way to protect fragile genetic molecules so they could be safely delivered to human cells.
The third crucial line of inquiry began in the 1990s, when the U.S. government embarked on a multibillion-dollar quest to find a vaccine to prevent AIDS. That effort funded a group of scientists who tried to target the all-important “spikes” on H.I.V. viruses that allow them to invade cells. The work has not resulted in a successful H.I.V. vaccine. But some of these researchers, including Dr. Graham, veered from the mission and eventually unlocked secrets that allowed the spikes on coronaviruses to be mapped instead.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 849,566, an increase of 1,984 (!) deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,554,854, an increase of about 5,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 16 includes:
- 27 BCE – Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus is granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate, marking the beginning of the Roman Empire.
Also known as Octavian, the first Roman emperor rules for 41 years.
- 550 – Gothic War: The Ostrogoths, under King Totila, conquer Rome after a long siege, by bribing the Isaurian garrison.
- 1605 – The first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes is published in Madrid, Spain.
Here’s the first page of the first edition, which must be priceless by now. (See #6 on the list of the world’s ten rarest books.)
- 1707 – The Scottish Parliament ratifies the Act of Union, paving the way for the creation of Great Britain.=
- 1786 – Virginia enacts the Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson.
Here’s Jefferson’s tombstone at Monticello. Note that he doesn’t count “President of the United States” as one of his achievements:
That’s as far as he got (he aspired to reach the geographic South Pole), but he did bring off a daring rescue of all his men after his ship was broken up by ice.
— Helen Day (@LBFlyawayhome) January 16, 2022
They reached the Pole the next day, but were disconsolate. Here’s a picture of the lugubrious Scott party (Scott is top center; they all died on the way back). But they did bring back with them 35 pounds of Glossopteris fossils, strengthening the notion that all the Southern continents were once congealed into the supercontinent Gondwanaland. The fossils were found with their bodies.
Lombard and Gable were married at the time, and Gable was inconsolable after her death.
- 1945 – Adolf Hitler moves into his underground bunker, the so-called Führerbunker.
- 1969 – Czech student Jan Palach commits suicide by self-immolation in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in protest against the Soviets‘ crushing of the Prague Spring the year before.
Palach on fire:
- 1979 – The last Iranian Shah flees Iran with his family for good and relocates to Egypt.
- 2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia takes off for mission STS-107 which would be its final one. Columbia disintegrated 16 days later on re-entry.
Here’s the crew who went down with their ship:
- 2020 – The first impeachment of Donald Trump formally moves into its trial phase in the United States Senate.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1902 – Eric Liddell, Scottish runner, rugby player, and missionary (d. 1945)
Here’s the “muscular Christian” you’ll remember from “Chariots of Fire.” He died as a missionary in China during WWII.
- 1910 – Dizzy Dean, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1974)
- 1932 – Dian Fossey, American zoologist and anthropologist (d. 1985)
- 1933 – Susan Sontag, American novelist, essayist, and critic (d. 2004)
- 1959 – Sade, Nigerian-English singer-songwriter and producer
Who remembers Sade? But who can forget her one big hit:
- 1974 – Kate Moss, English model and fashion designer
Those who hurrahed their last hurrah on January 16 include:
- 1794 – Edward Gibbon, English historian and politician (b. 1737)
- 1901 – Arnold Böcklin, Swiss painter and academic (b. 1827)
I like Böcklin. Here’s his evocative “Isle of the Dead”:
- 1942 – Carole Lombard, American actress and comedian (b. 1908)
- 1957 – Arturo Toscanini, Italian cellist and conductor (b. 1867)
- 1972 – Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., American singer-songwriter, pianist, producer, and actor, created Alvin and the Chipmunks (b. 1919)
- 2009 – Andrew Wyeth, American painter (b. 1917)
Here’s Wyeth’s “Cat Nap”:
- 2017 – Eugene Cernan, American captain, pilot, and astronaut (b. 1934)
- 2021 – Phil Spector, American record producer, songwriter (b. 1939)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Malgorzata explains the dialogue and Paulina’s photo:
Paulina is preparing dinner. There are cucumbers as vegetables (there are always cucumbers – Paulina’s father is growing them and both Paulina and we have plenty of cucumbers). When Hili hears “It’s not for cats” she thinks that Paulina is talking about cucumbers because how is it possible that chops are not for cats? Meat is very good for cats, of that Hili is sure. It’s cucumbers which are not for cats.Hili: I could hear that you were pounding chops.Paulina: It’s not for cats.Hili: I’m not talking about the cucumbers.(Photo: Paulina R.)
Hili: Słyszałam jak rozbijasz kotlety.Paulina: To nie dla kotów.Hili: Ja nie mówię o ogórkach.(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
From Bizarre and Wonderful World on Facebook, a photo called “Life in Alaska”:
From Divy, but don’t laugh. These may not be real, but read below:
From Time Magazine (click on screenshot):
Divy’s reponse: “To hell with people with celiac disease that want to take communion!”
The Tweet of God uttered on my birthday1
You keep praying to Me and I keep not answering. It's funny, really.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) December 31, 2021
Matthew sent me the original tweet; I retweeted it with a comment. This “cat” has a severe laterally compressed muzzle, looking like a fox put in a vise:
Even in 1808 they hadn't learned how to draw cats! https://t.co/kdtX8oV7RO
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) January 15, 2022
From Simon, who thinks the pandemic, at least locally, has topped out:
— Glen Pyle | #GetVaccinated💉 (@glenpyle) January 14, 2022
From Ginger K. This is not fake.
They is a Horsfield’s tarsier,
and there aren’t that many left In the world solely due to human activity, this species faces a high rate of extinction in the wild.
They are nocturnal, and the only entirely carnivorous primatepic.twitter.com/z7lhFWDd8s
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) December 16, 2021
Source of this video https://t.co/97LDIO9wZi
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) December 16, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. First, how to sex a tiger by its tracks. It’s toe size, Jake!
Test your knowledge! Which track is from a male and which is from a female tiger? pic.twitter.com/mpA6PhPyar
— Sam Helle 🐾🐅 (@samanthaiam) January 15, 2022
Birders and others may want to get this book. Given that there are about 10,000 species of birds, though, I doubt that it’ll be useful as a field guide. Probably more so as a coffee-table book.
Enjoy the beauty of The Complete Birds of the World! It's the first single-volume book to illustrate all of the world’s bird species and the ultimate reference book for birdwatchers and bird lovers. Out now in North America: https://t.co/cC0pPIrfBf #BirdTwitter pic.twitter.com/qOHUoJOZ16
— Princeton Nature (@PrincetonNature) January 14, 2022
Look at these antennae!
1. Ichneumon Wasp
2. Square headed wasp, Lestica sp.
3. Robber fly, Choerades fimbriata
4. Wasp, Ophion spec. pic.twitter.com/Y5QGUZptpI
— Thorben Danke (@sagaOptics) January 15, 2022