Sunday: Hili dialogue

January 16, 2022 • 7:30 am

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.

UPDATEAs 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.


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.

UPDATEthe 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.

*From Ken:

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 badhappened 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:

Also known as Octavian, the first Roman emperor rules for 41 years.

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.)

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.

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.

Palach on fire:

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.)
In Polish:
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!”

From Bruce:

The Tweet of God uttered on my birthday1

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:

From Simon, who thinks the pandemic, at least locally, has topped out:

From Ginger K. This is not fake.

Tweets from Matthew. First, how to sex a tiger by its tracks. It’s toe size, Jake!

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.

Look at these antennae!

71 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. “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, ”

    The NYT page says “coronavirus”. The Worldometers page says “covid-19 coronavirus”.

    There are a number of strains of SARS-CoV2. I do not know what specific parts of the virus the tests identify. I do not know if the entire virus is sequenced every test. Back in 2020, it made sense not to discriminate between coronaviruses. It is 2022 now. Should the new cases be given a new name like COVID-22? There are other coronaviruses, including those that cause common colds(^*). There are vaccines. Tests for coronavirus were never taken until 2020. How do we know the tests are not simply identifying coronaviruses that were always around anyway?


    1. Because the tests were tested to see whether they would identify th common cold coronaviruses, and they don’t. THere is absolutely no doubt that the tests discmiminate perfectly between the seasonal and the novel coronaviruses. Every winter, the German infuenza surveillance team tests specimens of acute respiratory disease taken from patients seeing their general practitioner, and they test for all kinds of viruses (always have!), now including seasonal coronaviruses. Until Omicron, the seasonal cases were as well as Rhinovirus were always more frequent that SARS-CoV-2, which was relatively rare, yet a majority of ICU patients had SARS-CoV-2.

      1. What are the critical reactants and products in the test?

        I never saw anything but the word “negative” in any covid test I took.

    2. The entire virus is only sequenced occasionally, with frequencies depending on what country you’re in. The test are of two sorts – there are the PCR tests – have a look at what Wikipedia has to say about them. They use segments of DNA identical to segments of the virus to generate more DNA, which is then detected. If there’s no viral DNA, there is no amplification, and a negative result. I don’t know how many spots in the genome are involved with the COVID tests, but it’s more than one and with Omicron there is enough mis-match that one of the bands isn’t present, which was I believe the first indication that a new variant was on the scene.

      The PCR reaction cycles, multiplying the amount of DNA in each cycle starting from the beginning. If only a small amount of viral DNA (relative to a full-blown infection) is present at the start, more cycles need to be run to get above the threshold of detection. Thirty cycles seems to be a generally-recognized reasonable number of cycles to run. If you only see a band after more cycles than that, you’re at least not infective (per yesterday’s Clinical Update on This Week in Virology).

      The other, “rapid” tests use antibodies but I don’t know further technical details there, but I assume that antibodies to more than one epitope on the virus are employed, and suppose that they’re directed to fairly stable (vs. mutation) epitopes on the virus, so that avoidance of detection due to mutation isn’t a concern.

      As far as the terminology, SARS-CoV-2* is still fine. The original SARS virus, SARS-CoV, which is finally beginning to be called SARS-CoV-1, is NOT the most closely-related coronavirus to SARS-CoV-2, rather it’s some coronavirus that was isolated from a bat cave in China in IIRC 2013, at something like 96% RNA sequence identity. The Delta, Omicron variants are still overall nearly identical to the “ancestral” Wuhan virus with all mutations known (I just can’t give you an overall % identity for comparison because I don’t know it offhand). Eventually the virus will (since RNA viruses are highly prone to mutation) mutate to a point warranting designation as a “strain”, but that point has not been reached. Virologists, at least the ones on TWiV, are very particular in distinguishing between Variants and Strains.

      Also, COVID is the disease, not the virus, and the symptoms are about the same whether from the ancestral Wuhan virus or the Omicron variant, so COVID-19 is still fine.

      * Rant: If there’s one thing that molecular biologists are good at, it’s creating terminology that’s both cumbersome, tedious to read, and confusing. They always want to put the discriminator at the END of an otherwise identical string, as SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. The brain is perfectly capable of filling in the rest if it sees the discriminator at the beginning, It was even worse when SARS-Co-V-1 was written as just SARS-CoV (just like WWI wasn’t called WWI until WWII came along – I think it was just the Great War back in the ’30s, but I digress), with the result that in reading a manuscript a few months ago involving both coronaviruses, I had to note the ABSENCE of the discriminator to know that they were referring to the SARS of ~2003. (I could go on!)

    1. From the AP- “The FBI says the Texas synagogue hostage taker’s demands were specifically focused on issue not connected to the Jewish community.”

      No, really. CNN reported the same thing.
      He took hostages at a Synagogue. A Rabbi and some congregants.
      On Shabbat
      Demanding the release of a notorious Jew-hating terrorist, his “sister”

      On one video, you can see him. He appears to be wearing dark Pashtun clothing.

      1. Heard the same on NPR this a.m.

        If there’s no connection with anti-Semitism, wouldn’t it have been much more convenient for the guy to have picked some Christian church? (I guess it was too inconvenient for him to wait one more day, Seventh Day Adventists notwithstanding.)

    2. Good thing he’s not Canadian. Our government would have paid him $10 million because America violated his human rights.

  2. Regarding Jefferson’s tombstone, “….note that he doesn’t count “President of the United States” as one of his accomplishments…”. Nor did “Governor of Virginia” make the final cut. This marker is in the family cemetery enclosed by a simple iron fence in the backyard of Jefferson’s Monticello property.

    1. I’ve read that he didn’t consider being President or Governor “accomplishments” since the people bestowed those titles on him. The Declaration, the Statute on Religious Freedom and the University were things that HE created and gave to the people.

      1. Interesting, Doug. Makes good sense, but i have not seen that before. Do you have a reference that I can read in some depth please?

        1. Wish I could help, but it was in a biography of Jefferson I read decades ago. I don’t remember the author or title.

  3. Sade- also, “Sweetest Taboo”, a song I do not like, but came into my head anyway, while reading the post.

    Also, Cernan was a moon walker, 11 of 12, a very exclusive club. Importantly, he was also the last human so far to do so.

    1. Although Harrison Schmitt jokingly argued with Cernan that he was the last person to step on the Moon since he climbed down the ladder after Gene. Schmitt also claimed that he took the famous “Blue Marble” photo, although it is copyrighted to NASA.

  4. If you like to read about the explorers such as Shackleton or Scott, you might want to try a newer book out about Dutch navigator, William Barents by Andrea Pitzer. He attempted three times to find a northern route to the far east starting in 1594. The title is Icebound.

    1. Thanks, Randall. I can’t say I’m a huge fanboy of this genre, but I’d also recommend Hampton Sides’ In the Kingdom of Ice, about the USS Jeanette expedition in the 1870’s. Before coming across this, I hadn’t heard of this episode, which somewhat surprised me (finding out I was even more ignorant about history than I’d previously thought).

  5. I heard Sade’s “Smooth Operator” in the local supermarket just last week. At the time it became a hit she was living in a squat in London – according to her then boyfriend, it got so cold that the water froze in the toilet bowl. He claims that there was a very incongruous moment when the BBC’s limousine arrived at the address to take her to the studio to record the TV chart show Top of the Pops.

  6. I was once stuck in a lift for 45 minutes at Liverpool airport together with my partner and our infant son. They got us out just in time for the announcement that our flight had been delayed by 6 hours!
    So we got a cab back into town and went to a music festival with some friends.
    If we hadn’t been delayed in the lift we would certainly have been stuck airside in a small airport for all that time. Best thing that happened to us all day!
    Just sharing for a bit of balance on getting stuck in lifts/elevators.

    1. Why do I suspect that poor elevator maintenance never happens in the Administration building? The university where I worked routinely made sure only that building ever got service calls.

      We did have someone get stuck in the science building elevator. Wasn’t able to open the door, but we did manage to pry it open three inches block it. Also managed to push in a bottle of water and one of those nifty folding stools and so the poor woman could at least sit down.

      Took them two hours to get her out, but was long enough for everyone to understand how little the administration cared for anyone outside of their own building.

  7. Prohibition Remembrance Day (the day in 1920 when Prohibition was formally abolished)

    Something wrong there. Prohibition was abolished in 1933, so either it’s 1920 for the establishment of Prohibition, or 1933 for the repeal of Prohibition.

  8. Governor Youngkin of Virginia was sworn in yesterday, and signed eleven executive orders, including one (Number One) for “Ending the Use of Inherently Divisive Concepts, Including Critical Race Theory, and Restoring Excellence in K-12 Public Education in the Commonwealth.”

    For the purposes of this Executive order “inherently divisive concepts” means advancing any ideas in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including, but not limited to of the following concepts (i) one race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith is inherently superior to another race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith; (ii) an individual, by virtue of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex or faith, is racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously, (iii) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex or faith, (iv) members of one race, ethnicity, sex or faith cannot and should not attempt to treat others as individuals without respect to race, sex or faith, (v) an individual’s moral character is inherently determined by his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith, (vi) an individual, by virtue of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, sex or faith, (vii) meritocracy or traits, such as a hard work ethic, are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race. (p. 4)

    1. And it’s notable that nowadays the stuff in Governor Youngkin’s order is considered “right wing”. In the past it is the left who would have argued for it.

    2. I wonder what Youngkin’s position on (the theory of) evolution is, and whether he considers it an “inherently divisive concept,” regardless of whether it falls under the jurisdiction of the very carefully worded executive order. (I don’t perceive that it so falls, but what do I know? “Divisive” is in the eye of the beholder.)

      The National Center for Science Education is concerned about a prospective New Jersey law which ” . . . would, if enacted, require the state board of education to adopt rules to prevent public school teachers in the state from engaging in what they describe as “political, ideological, or religious advocacy in the classroom . . . .”

      I gather that NCSE is concerned that certain politicos and other advocates of like mind could all too easily construe evolution as ideological.

      1. Concepts need to be “in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” to be affected by Youngkin’s order.

    3. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of academic freedom, now is it? Nor an exemplar of pellucid draftsmanship.

  9. “the creation of Great Britain”. Great Britain is the geographical island. What was formed on that date was the United Kingdom.

    1. According to Wikipedia:

      The Acts of Union (Scottish Gaelic: Achd an Aonaidh) were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, “United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain”.

  10. I would add another string to the mRNA vaccine: the discovery that RNA can exist outside the cell as an important signalling molecule – the so-called extracellular RNA or exRNA. Previously it was thought that RNA would be immediately chomped up by various RNAases but that isn’t the case and RNA can survive in extracellular vesicles which gave the clue to the vaccine developers.

  11. The guys in the Carolina reaper video are Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal of the YouTube series Good Mythical Morning. I owe a debt of thanks to Rhett. His recommendation of the book Why Evolution is True led me to read the book and follow this blog.

  12. Not sure if the Catholic god (the Father portion?) ever published the recipe for transubstantiation, but I guess gluten is a key, nay necessary, ingredient? OTOH, you’d think he should have the power to tweak the ingredients and still come out with a bit of human flesh for his devotees to devour. Not much of a miracle maker, it seems to me. And while I don’t spend much effort thinking about these things, now that I am (thanks, PCC), if his son could turn water into wine, and he can turn wine into blood, why not skip the middle portion and just serve water at communion?

    1. If I’m recalling my Gospel of Luke correctly, the recipe was set by Jesus himself at Pesach dinner (which turned out to be his “Last Supper”), when he passed around a loaf of unleavened bread and a goblet of wine, telling his apostles to tear off a chunk and take a swig and “do this in remembrance of me.”

      I doubt Jesus would’ve known gluten from his ass (by which I mean, of course, the donkey he rode into Jerusalem on the preceding Sunday to the laying down of palm fronds before him).

      1. According to the Time Magazine article, the “hosts” — I learned a new word today — must be unleavened. Only flour from gluten-rich grains takes to leavening well because the gluten “developed” (cross-linked) with kneading holds the gas bubbles together allowing the leavened dough to rise. So we should be good to go with rice crisps, right? But the Vatican says also that the hosts must not be subject to “decomposition” — obviously wouldn’t be a good thing in the biological sense, right? But dry baked anything is not going to rot away in front of your eyes, or in the church basement cupboard between Communions.

        So here’s the rub: Gluten holds baked dough together even when it’s not leavened — think soda crackers. Rice crackers and dried oat porridge are fragile. You don’t want to be sweeping up crumbs of Christ and throwing Him out for the sparrows to eat, now, do you?

  13. It is strangely entertaining to watch people torture themselves with super hot peppers. Jimmy Fallon will do this on his show, often bringing in a celebrity and absolutely making them go stark raving mad.

    1. The Netflix doc series “We Are the Champions” has a great episode called “Chili Eating”. But my fav episode was “Cheese Rolling.”

  14. I’ll bet WEIT a buck that Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine in the next two months, given the qualifiers that Ukraine (or NATO or the US) doesn’t provoke it by either invading or backing uprisings in territories with Russian bases (e.g., Crimea, Moldova), attacking predominantly ethnic Russian controlled eastern Ukraine, or doing something stupid like blocking Russian gas piped to western Europe. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Pescov spoke this morning on CNN where he defended Russia’s right to move military as it pleased on Russian territory and guaranteed no troops were stationed in eastern Ukraine. Crimea is, of course, part of Russia, as it has been since before 1800. Just to remember, in Russia’s presidential election of 2018, Crimea gave 92% of its popular vote to Vladimir Putin.

    1. Putin will not attack Ukraine if he gets the assurance that there will be no Nato expansion into Ukraine and Georgia, no atomic weapons at his borders, and Ukraine will toe the Minsk agreement. If he doesn’t get those minimal assurances, and it looks like he won’t, then anything might happen.
      The current dangerous situation is mainly the fault of the western powers who could not leave well alone after the dissolution of the Soviet union and were never content with the status quo.
      This is not about “freedom” or democracy and all about the geopolitical chess board and resources. I cannot believe that democracy is a priority to the foreign policy people who installed the Shah, are good friends with Saudi Arabia, who applauded Yeltsin when he used the military including tanks to attack an elected parliament that rightly didn’t like his US-approved reckless economic policy; who applauded the autocratic constitution Yeltsin installed to disempower the Russian parliament, who helped to oust the elected Yanukovitch via insurrection with the help of far right militias because he had dared to decide against signing the EU/NATO association treaty, who installed the US puppet Yatseniuk (it was Ms Nuland who appointed him, no one on the Maidan really wanted this person), to have Yatseniuk, without prior elections, ratify the treaty that the elected Janukovitch had not ratified. Top NATO brass like democracy only when its outcomes suit their agenda, and they dislike Islamists only when it doesn’t..

      1. NATO is arguably a defensive organization. It only represents a threat to Russia because Putin declares it to be so. If Russia stops its aggression, it has nothing to fear from NATO. If that happened, NATO might even go away eventually.

        1. Sorry for the late reaction, saw this only now. If NATO were a defensive organization, it would have gone away after the Warsaw pact dissolved. Indeed naive that I was, I expected it to either go away or let Russia join, none of which happened. If it were defensive, it would not use aggressive tactics of regime change (from war, including 2 wars that were illegal under international law — against Serbia and against Iraq) to paying opposition NGOs or opposition militias of often the worst kind (Syria, Afghanistan under the Soviets) in any country whose current leader doesn’t toe the US line. It’s not about defense, it’s about human rights, it’s about US hegemony.

  15. Any time super hot peppers are mentioned, I recall a food show I watched. I can’t remember the name but each episode featured some kind of eating challenge in which the host and others competed. Anyway, the one with peppers involved really, really hot Indian food. The dishes the contestants were served got hotter and hotter until there was only one left, the winner. The peppers actually affect the muscles in his arms and hands. It got to the point where he could barely lift the fork to his lips.

    1. I like quite hot/spicy food. Went to an Indian restaurant in Houston that my daughter had recommended. I ordered my food “Indian hot.” When it came out and we started eating, the owner stopped by to ask how the food was. I also noticed that some of the kitchen staff had come out and were watching me eat. It was delicious.

  16. Seeing Rhett and Link eat the Reaper reminded me of the hottest food I ever ate, an Indian mango pickle. After I swallowed it with some papad it felt like my skull had turned inside out. Unlike the suffering Rhett and Link appear to have endured, I experienced a blissful altered state of consciousness, a high that could be called a mystical experience. (For the record, I call myself an agnostic atheist.) I’m a connoisseur of hot peppers and am now looking forward to ingesting the Carolina Reaper.🌶️

    1. A friend grew Reapers last Summer and sent me 4. They are very hot indeed, but have a wonderful fruity flavor. One pepper for a huge batch of salsa and the pepper’s flavor came through. The other 3 I dried in the dehydrator and made an excellent chili flake which I mixed with “standard” red pepper flakes. Long story short, I recommend.👍

  17. “Certainly Australia has nothing to lose (except griping) by letting in.”

    I suppose some may not tune in to the tennis contest which will result in loss of ad revenue. Rafael Nadal has stated that the contest will be fine with or without Djokovic. I hope others in the tennis world feel the same way.

    Some of the prominent anti-vax Republicans are tweeting that they will no longer travel to the “authoritarian state” of Australia which seems like an overall win for the country.

    1. In a recent episode of the “Spiked” podcast, the commenters were kvetching about the “hysteria” in Australia over Djokovic. In light of his being expelled from Australia, I have to wonder what more intensive/superlative term they’ll necessarily have to come up with. Psychosis? If they mention it at all, it will surely gall/gash them to have to acknowledge the less than truthful statements he made on documents required for entering Australia. Per the NY Times, he blamed his “support staff” for “errors” in that documentation. Would that I had a “support staff” I could use as a scapegoat at my convenience.

      1. I have no insider knowledge but nothing I saw or heard from Djokovic evoked honesty. Instead, he seemed to want everyone to know he’s a privileged jerk. Him getting thrown out of Australia is the best outcome, as far as I’m concerned.

  18. I’m becoming a huge fan of the Hili dialogues. I love the sense of humor and the weirdness of them. Can someone who has been following them for longer tell me more about them?

    Today’s was especially good. Hili really has some great facial expressions.

    1. Desiree, you may not know, and some of the rest of us may have forgotten, that Hili is one of the dedicatees of our host’s Faith Versus Fact.

  19. Greg Zuckerman’s A Shot to Save the World is an excellent account of the efforts that went into the mRNA vaccines and the adenovirus vector vaccines, and the prior work that enabled them to be rolled out so rapidly. That’s not to suggest that the efficacies were expected. When the results of the trials of the Pfizer vaccine were unsealed at a virtual meeting, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla famously said something like, “Could you repeat that? Did you nineteen or ninety percent?”

  20. “…the sweetest of sweet wine”

    I could be wrong, since my wine knowledge is small, but I’ve heard that Tokaji is the sweetest of wines, especially in the Aszú 6 Puttonyos, Aszú Eszencia, and Essencia varieties.

    1. I’ve had them all, and they’re sweet. But let me back up and declare that the sweetest of all wines is Lustsu’s Tintilla de Rota. Good luck finding it! It’s superb, though a glass of it looks like what comes out of your crankcase when you get the oil changed. About $60 a bottle, but a bottle will last a year!

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