Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

January 26, 2022 • 7:30 am

Yes, it is Hump Day: Wednesday, January 26, 2022, but not everyone likes the name (h/t Grant):

It’s also National Peanut Brittle Day, National Green Juice Day, Spouse’s Day, and International Customs Day.

There a new Google Doodle today honoring the life and work of Katarzyna Kobro, born on this day (26 January 1898 – 22 February 1951).Wikipedia identifies her as

a Polish avant-garde sculptor and a prominent representative of the Constructivist movement in Poland. A pioneer of innovative multi-dimensional abstract sculpture, she rejected Aestheticism and advocated for the integration of spatial rhythm and scientific advancements into visual art.

The Doodle:

One of her works (they’re like three-dimensional Mondrians):

News of the Day:

*I had forgotten about this but reader Ken caught it:

Yesterday, Joe Biden got caught on a hot mic (or “mike,” per your preference) calling Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a bitch.”
And here’s the video:
Within the hour, Biden called Doocy to apologize — as one does, if one hasn’t been raised by wolves.
But how can you apologize for saying something like that? Biden surely meant it, so he has to give the “notapology” of “I’m sorry if I upset you.” I’m sure he does think the guy is an s.o.b.

*Two from the NYT. First, in an op-ed called “What does it mean to be ‘done with Covid’?“, columnist Michelle Goldberg criticizes her former colleague Bari Weiss for expressing that sentiment as pushback against the government’s health policies. (We discussed this the other day.) I disagreed with Weiss, and so does Goldberg:

The desperate desire to get back to normal is understandable. What’s odd is seeing the absence of normality as a political betrayal instead of an epidemiological curveball. The reason things aren’t normal isn’t that power-mad public health officials went back on their promises. It’s because a new coronavirus variant emerged that overwhelmed hospitals and threw schools and many industries into chaos, and because not everyone has the luxury of being insouciant about infection.

. . . Critics of how liberals have responded to the pandemic sometimes argue that we’ve overestimated our ability to control this virus. But those who think we can escape this excruciating period simply by changing our mind-set are also overestimating how much control we have. America won’t seem remotely normal until it’s a lot less sick.

*In his new NYT column, “Stay Woke. The right can be illiberal, too,” John McWhorter addresses the frequent comment (also made here) about censorship form the Right probably being a greater danger than is censorship from the Left.

I’m genuinely open to the idea that censorship from the right is more of a problem than I have acknowledged. The truth may be, as it so often is, in the middle, and a legal case from the past week has made me think about it.

The case? That of a Florida judge overturning the University of Florida’s prohibition of 6 of its professors testifying against the imposition of new voter-registration laws in the state, a case of the Right muzzling academic freedom. McWhorter then gives equal time to a kerfuffle at the University of North Texas about whether or not a Jewish figure in music theory might have been racist, with the critics being on the Left this time. (These fights get so tiresome.) At any rate, McWhorter just concludes that both sides are more or less equally culpable, which may be true, but who cares? It’s harder for a Leftist to effectively push back against Right-wing than against Left-wing censorship, though in both cases they can be called out. McWhorter:

On the right, even if you’re wary of critical race theory’s effect on the way many kids are taught, it is both backward and unnecessary to institutionalize the sense that discussing race at all is merely unwelcome pot stirring (and if that’s not what you mean, then you need to make it clear). On the left, illiberalism does not become insight just because some think they are speaking truth to power. Resistance to this kind of perspective is vital, no matter where it comes from on the political spectrum.

And don’t get on me for not criticizing the Right; I went after the University of Florida case the minute I heard about it!

*The SATs (American standardized test used for college admission) are circling the drain. By 2024 the test will be completely digital, the readings will be more “diverse” (they didn’t explain what they meant), and the tests will last two hours instead of three. Already 80% of American colleges don’t require the SAT or the ACT for admission, and that figure will grow.

The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board. “We’re not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we’re taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. With input from educators and students, we are adapting to ensure we continue to meet their evolving needs.”

The decision comes as the College Board has felt increasing pressure to change its stress-inducing test in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and questions around the test’s fairness and relevance.

The test has long been criticized for bias against those from poor households as well as Black and Hispanic students. The high-stakes nature of the test means that those with more resources can afford to take expensive test prep courses — or even, as the 2019 college admissions scam revealed, to cheat on the test.

Well, the above is from CNN, and the last paragraph is full of distortions. Repeated tests of whether questions are “biased” have shown that they aren’t, and any question with even a “hint” of being biased is tossed. As for SAT prep, it’s often free for poorer students, and what CNN doesn’t note is that test prep adds only very slightly (at best) to one’s score. The real reason the SATs are being dismantled is one we all know but can’t vocalize. Suffice it to say that the downgrading of these tests is part of ending the meritocracy in education. And it must follow, as the night the day, that as these students age, the meritocracy will be dismantled everywhere except (as in plane pilots or brain surgery) it cannot be dispensed with.

*Elizabeth Rata, one of the “Satanic Seven” professors at the University of Auckland who objected to giving indigenous ways of knowing equal time with modern science in the secondary-school and college classroom, has written an article in Newsroom (a NZ news site) reiterating her position. A quote:

. . . science is not euro-centric or western. It is universal. This is recognised in the International Science Council’s definition of science as “rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers this is a special form of knowledge”. It includes the arts, humanities and social sciences as human endeavours which may, along with the physical and natural sciences, use such a formalised approach. The very children who need this knowledge the most, now receive less.

The science-ideology discussion matters for many reasons – the university’s future, the country’s reputation for science and education, and the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. But at its heart it is about democracy. Science can only thrive when democracy thrives.

Rata is the Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. She’s got guts.

*Over at the NYT, columnist Paul Krugmen has a new column: “Attack of the right-wing thought police“. Krugman agrees with McWhorter about the censoriousness of the Right, but says nary a word about the censoriousness of the Left. Like McWhorter, he mentions the Florida professors whom the Right tried to prevent from testifying in favor of equitable voting laws, as well as  the ludicrous state laws against the teaching of CRT. His words fall sweetly on the ear attuned to sounds from the Left:

What’s really striking, however, is the idea that schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes “discomfort” among students and their parents. If you imagine that the effects of applying this principle would be limited to teaching about race relations, you’re being utterly naïve.

For one thing, racism is far from being the only disturbing topic in American history. I’m sure that some students will find that the story of how we came to invade Iraq — or for that matter how we got involved in Vietnam — makes them uncomfortable. Ban those topics from the curriculum!

Then there’s the teaching of science. Most high schools do teach the theory of evolution, but leading Republican politicians are either evasive or actively deny the scientific consensus, presumably reflecting the G.O.P. base’s discomfort with the concept. Once the Florida standard takes hold, how long will teaching of evolution survive?

But every word in that first paragraph applies to both the Left and Right. Why does he write only about Right-wing censoriousness? I think it was Dr. Johnson who said that if a person’s bread and butter depends on their believing something, then believe they will.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 870,837, an increase of 2,362 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,636,137, an increase of about 11,400 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 26 include:

Do you know the distinction? And don’t say that one church is led by the Vatican and the other isn’t. There are doctrinal differences that you should read about at the link to the “Council of Trent.”

  • 1788 – The British First Fleet, led by Arthur Phillip, sails into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on Australia. Commemorated as Australia Day.
  • 1841 – James Bremer takes formal possession of Hong Kong Island at what is now Possession Point, establishing British Hong Kong.v
  • 1885 – Troops loyal to The Mahdi conquer Khartoum, killing the Governor-General Charles George Gordon.

Gordon became famous for his military leadership in China, but then went to the Sudan, where he angered the local authorities. He was hacked to death in Khartoum. Below is an imagined depiction of his death:

Here’s the rough diamon—about 3,100 carats.

It was cut into nine smaller stones, the largest of which (Cullinan 1) weighd 530 carats. It was set into the British royal crown (see below). Pity that it’s not all that visible:

Here’s Baird’s first moving t.v. image, with the caption from Wikipedia:

The first known photograph of a moving image produced by Baird’s “televisor”, as reported in The Times, 28 January 1926 (The subject is Baird’s business partner Oliver Hutchinson.)
  • 1942 – World War II: The first United States forces arrive in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland.
  • 1945 – World War II: Audie Murphy displays valor and bravery in action for which he will later be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The son of a sharecropper, Murphy won every single military medal for valor that the Army had. He later became a well known actor, but was killed in a plane crash at 46. Here he is with all his decorations; the Medal of Honor is around his neck:

  • 1949 – The Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory sees first light under the direction of Edwin Hubble, becoming the largest aperture optical telescope (until BTA-6 is built in 1976).
  • 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: On American television, U.S. President Bill Clinton denies having had “sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Here’s a news report in which Clinton lied. In what world is fellatio not “sexual relations”?

It was via in vitro fertilization, of course. Oy–look at this high chair! (She was known as “Octomom”.)

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1880 – Douglas MacArthur, American general, Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1964)
  • 1908 – Stéphane Grappelli, French violinist (d. 1997)

Here’s the great jazz violinist playing “I Got Rhythm” at 76:

This is how I remember her. She’s now a professor at UC Santa Cruz:

Here’s du Pré playing part of the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. I believe that it’s Barenboim conducting (they were married). It’s a tragedy that she died of MS at only 43.

Her grave (you can see a late interview with her here. conducted when she was already ill). This is in Golders Green Cemetary, and I suppose she converted to Judaism given the writing (Barenboim was Jewish).

  • 1946 – Gene Siskel, American journalist and film critic (d. 1999)
  • 1955 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (d. 2020)
  • 1958 – Ellen DeGeneres, American comedian, actress, and talk show host
  • 1961 – Wayne Gretzky, Canadian ice hockey player and coach

Those who perished on January 26 include:

He saved a gazillion lives by devising the small pox vaccine. Here’s “Jenner’s 1802 testimonial to the efficacy of vaccination, signed by 112 members of the Physical Society, London”

  • 1885 – Charles George Gordon, English general and politician (b. 1833)
  • 1893 – Abner Doubleday, American general (b. 1819)
  • 1943 – Nikolai Vavilov, Russian botanist and geneticist (b. 1887)
  • 1962 – Lucky Luciano, Italian-American mob boss (b. 1897)

He was lucky that he wasn’t murdered by fellow mobsters. Here’s an NYCPD mug shot from 1931:

  • 1973 – Edward G. Robinson, Romanian-American actor (b. 1893)
  • 2003 – Hugh Trevor-Roper, English historian and academic (b. 1917)
  • 2020 – Kobe Bryant, American basketball player (b. 1978)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn,  Hili is replacing the late Henri the Existentialist cat, and is filled with ennui:

A: What are you thinking about?
Hili: I’m wondering whether the charms of this world outweigh its futility.
In Polish:
Ja: Nad czym myślisz?
Hili: Zastanawiam się, czy uroki tego świata przeważają jego marność.

A head shot of Kulka:

And a Mietek monologue:

Mietek:  From the series: read for me mom

(Malgorzata notes that there was/is a series of children’s books called “Read for me mom”.)
In Polish: Z serii: poczytaj mi, mamo

From Bruce:

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Ducks in Public: “The fellowship of the wing”:

From Masih, who points out that the newly-chosen Rina Amiri, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, has put on a hijab when meeting the Taliban delegation. In Norway, where hijab are not required! Nor can you say that Amiri wears a hijab normally, for as you can see in the photo to the left or in all the photos here, she doesn’t. Below I’ve put a photo of her in the American delegation with an arrow showing her wearing the hijab.

Her hijab is reprehensible, a slap in the face of the very women she’s supposed to support, for when she has a choice in her normal life she doesn’t wear hijab. She is wearing one to cater to the religious misogyny of the Taliban. (Note that there are no women in the Taliban delegation.)

From Simon: This staff person is very privileged!

From Barry. Sound up! And I’m not at all sure that this video is supposed to be funny (read the little words on the lower right).

From Ginger K.

Tweets from Matthew. First, sexual dimorphism in blue-winged teal. Every duck species with such dimorphism does it in a different way, with different colors, patterns and behavior. A mystery for sexual selection to solve!

Translation: “Blue-winged teal the drake (male) has a white spot in the shape of a crescent between the eye and beak. The forewing is blue to. Underside is ocher yellow with closely spaced round black spots. The duckling (female) has a light blue front wing and a white belly.”

The kakapo are having a banner year in New Zealand! Keep your fingers crossed; all of these flightless parrots are confined to a single island to keep predators away. They need to reproduce!

Do you know what this bird is? I don’t, but I bet at least one reader does.

Very clever; I wonder what kind of book it’s from.

112 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

  1. The index with the recursive entry for ‘infinite loop’ looks like it’s from Leslie Lamport’s book on the LaTeX document preparation system. My copy is an early edition whose index matches the screenshot quite closely, except for the ‘infinite loop’ entry, which must have been added in a later edition. Anyway, the answer to PCC(E)’s question is: a book for computer/maths geeks, written by a computer/maths geek. By our humour shall ye know us.

    1. My name appears in that book. I was an early beta tester of LaTeX when Leslie Lamport was developing it at SRI. It was a game-changer for anyone writing papers with equations.

      1. I first learnt Tex, the PC version of LaTex, and I thought that it was superb, despite its use of control characters. Today we have the even better version: Lyx, with a menu of functions.

        1. TeX is not the PC version of LaTeX. TeX and LaTeX were around before PCs, or at least before PCs became common. Do they run on PCs? Yes, they run on most anything. TeX is a typesetting system. LaTeX is a macro package focusing on content rather than presentation.

          1. I’ll jump in here with interesting points:

            LaTeX can produce a pdf, so one can merely use a pdf reader to produce a true document with references (using bibtex), cross-indexing, sections, chapters, etc., give a talk, or even make a poster. Usually one would use pdflatex for all those.

            Google had a nifty LaTeX Lab or something where you can draw a symbol and get the macro.

            Of course, there is some learning to be done, and adjustment when the purpose of the document changes. The good thing is scraps of code and Internet users can be helpful. Of course #2, if its due tomorrow and nobody helps, might need to copy/paste into Word, which is not advised (sarcasm).

          2. I’ve been using LaTeX for three decades, BibTeX for two, and producing PDF from LaTeX for one (not via pdflatex, but via GhostScript, primarily because I sometimes edit PostScript files (for included figures) and don’t want to convert them to PDF (not sure why pdflatex can’t process PostScript files)). I regularly use it not only to write papers, but also for “slides” for talks. Right now I am at a conference in Italy where I have two posters on display, made with LaTeX. I put the PDF files on a USB stick and they took about 5 minutes to print on an A0 printer. When I get back, I’ll recycle them for the published proceedings.

    2. That index entry reminds me of my favorite explanation in one of my college programming textbooks (“Oh! Pascal!” by Doug Cooper): “In order to understand recursion, one must first understand recursion.”

  2. Krugmen: “What’s really striking, however, is the idea that schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes “discomfort” among students and their parents.”

    OK, but do any anti-CRT laws or similar actually say that, or is Krugmen sticking a bayonet into a strawman?

    1. No, such laws are not a strawman. Here is a story about a bill in Florida that “would ban public schools and private businesses from making people feel ‘discomfort” when being taught about racial discrimination in U.S. history.”

      Another law from Texas bans teaching about race that can invoke guilt.

      There are other examples. We can now see where the real attempt to “erase” history comes from. Lost Cause ideology, never really dead, is once again live and kicking.

      1. Yes, but you can’t trust the media! E.g., your first link says:

        “According to the bill, an individual shouldn’t be made to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.”

        But, if you click the link in the report, what the bill actually prohibits is teaching that:

        compels such individual to believe … [that] An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” (added emphasis)

        That is very different from what the media report about it says. The report is simply dishonest. And it is very, very different from Krugmen’s claim that such bills say that “schools should be prohibited from teaching anything that causes “discomfort” among students”.

        1. It is not clear to me as to the distinction between the news report and the text of the bill you are making. You seem to think that the word “compels” in the text is critical. So, is what you are saying is that it is all right for a student to feel guilty as the result of the teaching as long as the teaching does not compel it? I doubt that a teacher would make such a distinction if your interpretation of the bill is correct. Teachers will not want to risk being accused of “compulsion.” In other words this bill would have a chilling effect on the teaching of history in the classroom.

          1. “this bill would have a chilling effect on the teaching of history in the classroom.”

            That alone is enough to reject the bill.

          2. You seem to think that the word “compels” in the text is critical.


            So, is what you are saying is that it is all right for a student to feel guilty as the result of the teaching as long as the teaching does not compel it?


            And I don’t see why this would chill teaching. Just teach an honest account of the history, without trying to compel students to espouse woke concepts as a reaction to that history. (The William Clark lawsuit is an example of the stuff this is reacting to.)

          3. As I understand it, there are many of these laws being prepared in various red states. The problem with these laws is one that readers here have heard many times. The offending content has to be described in suitably vague terms so as to be broad in coverage, leaving it open for abuse. It allows practically any idea, or any teacher, to be suppressed by GOP politicians.

            Teaching of many of the ideas of CRT is a problem but one that should be dealt with via existing channels for determining curriculum and teachers. Instead of having a discussion that is well worth having, we get a preview of the authoritarian state we’re gradually becoming. The governor of FL actually wanted to create a kind of “thought police”:


          4. Let’s consider what a teacher preparing a lesson on slavery or race may be thinking under the proposed Florida law in a real world situation.

            “I do not believe that my lesson for tomorrow will compel any students to think bad about themselves. I have been very careful in this regard. But, who knows? A right-wing snowflake student may take my lesson as some sort of compulsion. The parents could accuse me of violating state law. I may lose my job and be subject to harassment and threats by whack jobs. I had better water down my lesson as far as possible. On second thought, why take risk? I’m just going to skip the lesson totally.”

            Here we see the chilling effect.

          5. Well it is critical. That over-wordy caveating language is critical to the Texas court system’s ability to apply it to left wing political speech while saying it doesn’t apply to right-wing political speech.

            If the law were more plain and simple, they couldn’t thread that needle so nearly as easily.

        2. Regardless of ‘compelling, I think that feeling “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” is an essential part of education. Any education that does not do that is wasted effort, Education is supposed to teach you how to cope with those feelings (IMMO).

      2. If schools make students feel uncomfortable, then schools aren’t a ‘safe place’. The proposed ‘bans’ are just another step forwards.

    2. I don’t understand your criticism of Krugmen’s criticism. It’s precisely the same criticism / characterization that has been made by many here many times, including Jerry, and elsewhere for years with respect to a variety of censorship type issues instigated by a variety of ‘groups’.

      Surely any would be censor, whatever their specific motivation, can reasonably be characterized as being “discomforted” by whatever it is they are trying to ban? It’s a pretty broad term after all.

      1. See my reply above. What they are trying to ban is students being compelled to agree with woke attitudes about race.

        It’s similar to schools being allowed to teach about religion, but not allowed to teach kids that they must or should agree with that religion. (And, following John McWhorter, woke CRT pretty much is a religion.) The anti-CRT bills generally don’t ban teaching about race (even if that makes some kids uncomfortable) any more than they are banned from teaching about religion.

        In general I think there is a lot of merit in these anti-CRT bills — though, having said that, there are a lot of such bills all with different wording, so it may be that some go too far and ban content that should be taught (I expect that some Republicans do want such bills to go way too far).

        1. PCC(E) has repeatedly pointed to “compelled speech”.

          … but this is a “feelings” thing, emotion, “compelled feelings” or “compelled agreement” … there’s a distinction, perhaps. What is speech? That sort of … endless lucubration…?

          1. Well, from the second of Historian’s links, the bill says:

            “a teacher .. may not … make part of the course the concept that … an individual should feel discomfort … on account of the individual’s race”.

            That is very different from prohibiting honest teaching about race that does make a student feel discomfort.

            [And I’m surprised that anyone sees the distinction as a nitpick, it’s the same distinction between a school teaching “some people see abortion as sinful”, and “you should see abortion as sinful (and you’ll get a fail grade if you don’t assent)”.]

          2. “a teacher .. may not … make part of the course the concept that … an individual should feel discomfort … on account of the individual’s race”.




            … there’s something fishy there… starting to ring bells about coddling and Jonathan Haidt…. I’m lost…

            Not everyone needs to be best friends with everyone… but this bill appears a ham handed reaction – inarticulate.

    3. Jesse Singal has actually done the required homework on this. Take a look at “Mainstream Media Outlets Keep Botching Their Coverage Of The Critical Race Theory Debate (Updated)”. A typical (Wisconsin) law that the left objects to has the following provisions.

      118.018 Instruction and employee training regarding race and sex stereotyping. (1) A school board or the operator of a charter school established under s. 118.40 (2r) or (2x) shall not allow a teacher to teach race or sex stereotyping, including any of the following concepts, to pupils in any course or as part of any curriculum: [emphasis in the original]

      (a) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.

      (b) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

      (c) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex.

      (d) Individuals of one race or sex are not able to and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.

      (e) An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex.

    4. Jesse Singal has actually done the required homework on this. Take a look at “Mainstream Media Outlets Keep Botching Their Coverage Of The Critical Race Theory Debate (Updated)”.

  3. The underlying doctrinal difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is the same as the underlying doctrinal differences among all the Protestant sects, and indeed, about the underlying differences between any religions at all.

    It’s about who gets to give the orders, and even more importantly, who gets to keep the money.

    Re: making students “uncomfortable” – wasn’t it just a few years ago that the MAGAs were calling us “snowflakes” for asking for some civility from them? And now, they are assuming that students must be TREATED like snowflakes? Hmmmm…


  4. But how can you [Biden] apologize for saying something like that?

    Easy. “Sorry, that was an unacceptable comment to make publicly in a news conference, which should focus on policy and current events and not get personal.” IOW you apologize for the inappropriateness of getting personal in a context/setting where personal comments are supposed to be put aside.


    I really dislike McWhorter’s “both left and right are equal” rhetoric. Not only is it probably wrong, it’s disingenous. He focuses on censorship on the left because that’s his interest, his passion, his group. He wants to point out the flaws and failings on his own side, because he cares about his own sides’ arguments. He should just say that, and tell his critics to get an argument better than whataboutism.


    Do you know the distinction?

    Vaguely. First one is faith vs. works. In RCCism, good works help lead to salvation (though how they do that is something I think RCC theologians argue about). In most flavors of Protestantism, they don’t. Second one is the status of priests and saints. In RCCism they have some intermediate functions between humans and God (priests give the right interpretation of scripture; saints intervene on our behalf, etc.), while in Protestantism that’s all rejected – every human is on the same footing in their relationship with God and there are no theological ‘intermediates’.

    Sola fides and sola scriptura, as they say.

    1. I thought Biden’s hot-mic comment was spot on (and hilarious). Doocy, a Fox reporter, often called out for being “stupid” asks: “Do you think inflation is a political liability in the midterms?” And the full quote by Biden: “No, it’s a great asset, more inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.” And yes, Biden’s apology can’t really be construed as sincere, but Doocy seemed to appreciate it as he uses it as sort of a badge of honor: “I ask hard questions no one else asks.” And the right melted down because of it, which I thought even more hilarious. Trump called people sons of bitches all the time, in public, at rallies and, of course, never apologized for any of the insane bs he said about people. But being caught on a hot-mic for me is called being human. Hot-mics have caught politicians of every stripe cursing or saying “inappropriate” things. But this example is just another shiny object the GOP/Fox fixate on re. Biden, without any irony as they continue to blindly support a grotesque, unseemly, twice-impeached loser of an ex-POTUS.

  5. The book with the infinite loop looks like an old word-processing manual. I knew someone once who put his children’s names in the indexes of his books.

    1. It’s LaTeX, which is properly described as a typesetting language. It’s pretty much the antithesis of word processing. The TeX typesetting language (on which LaTeX was built) was created by the legendary Stanford computer scientist Donald Knuth, who was writing “The Art of Computer Programming” and was frustrated by the lack of a system that allowed him to typeset mathematics. So he paused work on TAoCP and wrote his own mathematical typesetting language, which he named TeX. That’s a hard X, so it rhymes with “dreck”, and if you say it correctly, your monitor should be slightly damp.

      Anyway, to cut a long story short, TeX was quickly adopted by mathematicians and physicists the world over, because it allowed them to typeset their papers and books directly. Lamport wrote a set of macros to make TeX easier to use, and those too were rapidly adopted by the maths and physics community. Today, most journals in mathematics, physics and astronomy require you to submit your manuscript in LaTeX form. And blessed be the names of Knuth and Lamport.

      1. “Today, most journals in mathematics, physics and astronomy require you to submit your manuscript in LaTeX form.”

        Not really. Most journals also accept Microsoft Word documents. In fact, outside of the journals that carry the most math, Word documents form the majority of submissions even when they contain mathematical equations.

        I spent nearly 40 years fighting this battle as my company offered one of the major alternatives to TeX and LaTeX. We provided the math solution to Microsoft that they used in MS Office for a couple of decades. That journals only accept LaTex is something we often heard from LaTeX aficionados.

        TeX is problematic for many publishers these days as it is not easy to convert it into an accessible form which is required for working with assistive technologies.

        I have nothing against TeX as it does a good job and appeals to the programmer in me but I feel I have to set the record straight.

        1. LaTeX seems to be increasingly used – all of the recent Statistics journal papers and book chapters that I’ve proofread have been shared via the cloud-based LaTeX editor Overleaf.

          1. Statistics is really just a branch of mathematics so their journals follow the practices of professional mathematicians which largely use LaTeX.

            It is often assumed because mathematicians use LaTeX, most journals that contain mathematical equations require submissions use LaTeX. The opposite is the case. It is only in very mathematical fields, where virtually every paper consists of equations with a little text, that LaTeX dominates.

  6. In other news, Chinese censorship has reached new heights of ridiculousness:

    At the end of David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic Fight Club, Edward Norton’s character the narrator kills off his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden – played by Brad Pitt – and then watches as multiple buildings explode.

    The imagery cuts to the heart of the film’s message: a plan to bring down modern civilisation is under way.

    Over 20 years on, this anarchist and anti-capitalist message has been given a new makeover – with Chinese characteristics.

    In the version newly available on streaming platform Tencent Video, the narrator still kills off Durden, but the exploding building scene is replaced with a black screen and a coda: “The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”

    It adds that Tyler – a figment of the narrator’s imagination – was sent to a “lunatic asylum” for psychological treatment and was later discharged.

    1. Did you see how they’ve also announced a plan to “clean up” the internet (at least within n China’s borders)?

      They’ve been Orwellian for years, but now they’re not even bothering to hide it or pretend otherwise, they’re flaunting it. Beijing Brother.

      1. Indeed! They’re starting the Chinese New Year as they mean to go on.

        The word “censored” is itself censored in China:

        The 2004 Chinese Communist Party announcement of the goal of constructing a “harmonious society” has been cited by the government of China as the reason for Internet censorship. As a result, Chinese netizens began to use the word “harmonious/harmonize/harmonization” (和谐) as a euphemism for censorship when the word for censorship itself was censored, particularly on BBSs. Following this, the word “harmonious” itself was censored, at which point Chinese netizens began to use the word for “river crab”, a near homophone for “harmonious”. In a further complication of meaning, sometimes aquatic product (Chinese: 水产) is used in place of “river crab”.

          1. Totally. I speak Japanese which isn’t bad, but Chinese is The Boss in the pun department.

    1. It was certainly a “stupid” question in that the answer was self-evident…but I suspect that it wasn’t really meant to be a question–it was yelled out as the members of the press were the conference, as I understand–but really a jab at the president from a news network that doesn’t support him. Which is no doubt why Biden got so annoyed by it. His response appeared to be more a “f*ck you” than a real comment on the reporter’s intelligence (as I interpret it, anyway…I’m no mind-reader, and humans in general puzzle me mightily, so I could be way off).

  7. “And don’t get on me for not criticizing the Right; I went after the University of Florida case the minute I heard about it!”

    I am not writing to berate you or criticize you, I’m just going to point this out. You write about one thousand words on the left for every one you write about the right. You have stated at least twice you don’t pay much attention to the right. You probably write more about ducks than you do the right. That is of course your prerogative, we all tend to stick to our passions, but let’s not pretend that a very occasional word or two about the right is much better than Krugman’s ignoring illiberalism of the left.

    1. Listen pal, have you seen my posts on Trump? I said “don’t get on me for not criticizing the Right,” not that “I criticize them just as much as the Left.” I’ve expxlained why.

      And yes, criticizing my own side is much better than Krugman’s not criticizing the Left.

      And don’t make me laugh: You’re not writing to “criticize me.” Of course you are, so you could at least be honest.

    2. You must be new here. Jerry has said on numerous occasions that he focuses on the left’s illiberalism because there is no shortage of folks criticizing the right already. (In fact, he repeats this on almost every post critical of the left for the sake of folks like you.)

      It’s critical that liberals (both classic and political) criticize the left’s excesses. When criticism comes only from the right it’s far too easy for left-leaning folks to dismiss what’s happening. To wit: almost every example of egregious behavior from the left comes from sources considered to be conservative or right-wing. Left-wing and liberal sources aren’t talking about it!

      1. For me, calling out the left’s excesses has a further reason. Quoting CS Lewis,

        ““Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    3. One important role of criticism is the hope that it will lead those criticized to change their position or amend it. The right will never change and will never be supportive of anything on the left or even the center. So it is a waste of time to attack them…not to mention time consuming since they say and do so many despicable things.One can still hope that liberals and the left will become better informed or modify their views (though that is unlikely with the doctrinal Marxists).We are right to keep an eye on our purported allies and to let them know when they veer off into unjustified unsubstantiated views or pure ideology.

  8. Wednesday Addamswas named for the poem called Monday’s Child :

    Monday’s child is fair of face,
    Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
    Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
    Thursday’s child has far to go.
    Friday’s child is loving and giving,
    Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
    And the child born on the Sabbath day
    Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.[1]

    [ back to my comment ]

    It is clear then the name Wednesday means something related to the Addams Family’s delight in things of a generally morbid nature, including “woe”.

    1. I wonder if Paul McCartney was deliberately referring to this in Lady Madonna: “Monday’s child just learned to tie his bootlace.” I suspect so, he was exposed to all sorts of songs and traditional nursery rhymes in his upbringing, or so he’s said.

      Very nice revelation, thank you!!! It binds two of my favorite things: The Beatles (of whose work Lady Madonna is one of my favorites) and the Addams Family (of whom Wednesday is tied for my favorite character).

        1. I never got the “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” connection. I assumed her name was a play on the actress Tuesday Weld. I suppose it could be both.

  9. I think it was Dr. Johnson who said that if a person’s bread and butter depends on their believing something, then believe they will.

    The quotation in this regard I’m familiar with is of more recent vintage and is generally attributed to Upton Sinclair, made during his campaign in the 1930s to be governor of California: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  10. The right is using the power of the state to suppress free speech, by enacting laws that:
    – prohibit the teaching of certain subjects
    – places restrictions on a citizens ability to vote
    – diminish the power of a citizens vote through gerrymandering
    – etc.
    Are there a similar examples of the left enacting legislation that limits an individuals free speech? I can’t think of a recent example, but perhaps I’m missing something.
    Seems to me that state enforcement using the legal system a MUCH more serious threat to free speech than that of a public shaming, or that of a private university adopting speech standards for their campus.

    1. If they prohibit the teaching of something in public schools, that’s different form prohibiting the speech outright. Prohibiting teaching creation or intelligent design beside or in lieu of evolution is not an infringement of speech, the creationists can still dissemninate their religious woo elsewhere. Also, I believe there is lots of things you are not allowed to say in workplaces, like saying to a colleague of whatever sex: I like your ass. That counts as sexual harassment. Lots of prohibited speech at the workplac, to my knowledge.

  11. Are we sure that TikTok video is demonstrating kundalini energy, or just someone messing around playing air-theremin?

  12. … It [the Cullinan diamond] was cut into nine smaller stones, the largest of which (Cullinan 1) weigh[e]d 530 carats. It was set into the British royal crown …

    Jesus, no wonder uneasy is the head that wears that thing, what with all the gratuitous bling.

  13. delurking to chime in…

    I swear I recall seeing in the index of an old edition of the Merck manual;

    “Sea water; see Water, Sea”

    …but I must confess, I’ve been unable to find that edition again.

    1. I love the thought of that entry being in the index of the Merck Manual (not to be confused with the Merck Index). It’s a book that deals with such serious matters, and it would be very nice to think that at least one generation of its editors were whimsical.

  14. I’m a high school student who’ll be part of the last graduating class to take the non-digital test, and I’ll be very sad to see the SAT go. In my experience, digital tests are worse than paper-and-pencil, since it’s hard to stop cheating. If the trend continues and they keep taking away more from the test, then the only people who will lose are those who don’t know how to game the system of extracurriculars and holistic applications. I just don’t know how anyone thinks that judgements of character based on a few essays and interviews, which are extremely advantageous for those with preparation, are fairer than blinded standardized tests. Beyond taking a few practice tests, preparing for standardized tests just doesn’t do much. And how are disadvantaged people supposed to figure out which prestigious competitions to practice for years in advance to win awards for college, instead of just taking a common general test? I sincerely wish that the people making these decisions, and the journalists writing about standardized tests, would think harder about the historical alternatives to objective benchmarks.

    1. I just don’t know how anyone thinks that judgements of character based on a few essays and interviews … are fairer than blinded standardized tests.

      They’re not going to judge your character, they’re going to judge your skin color.

  15. “And it must follow, as the night the day, that as these students age, the meritocracy will be dismantled everywhere except (as in plane pilots or brain surgery) it cannot be dispensed with.”

    You’re already a little late on this one. Airlines have already pledged to hire more people based on “diversity” rather than competence. And since such stories are kept quiet, most here probably don’t know about the “diverse” pilot who repeatedly and, if done in real life, disasterously failed competency tests, but was allowed to fly anyways. Luckily, he was only allowed to fly cargo, but still managed to kill two other coworkers when he failed the real life competency test.

    “The board said Tuesday that the plane was being flown by Conrad Aska, the 44-year-old first officer. Investigators believe that as the plane passed through mild turbulence Aska unintentionally hit a switch that put the plane into a “go-around,” an acceleration maneuver normally done only to abort a landing.

    As the plane tipped slightly higher, Aska became disoriented and wrongly believed the plane was about to stall, or lose the ability to stay aloft. He pushed the nose of the plane down, triggering the nosedive, investigators said during the hearing.”

    Hope you have a nice flight.

  16. From Jerry on January 24th:

    – “The NYT is reprehensible.”

    From Jerry on January 26th:

    – “Two from the NYT. First, in an op-ed called “What does it mean to be ‘done with Covid’?“, columnist Michelle Goldberg criticizes her former colleague Bari Weiss for expressing that sentiment as pushback against the government’s health policies.”

    – “*In his new NYT column, “Stay Woke. The right can be illiberal, too,” John McWhorter addresses the frequent comment (also made here) about censorship form the Right probably being a greater danger than is censorship from the Left.”

    – “*Over at the NYT, columnist Paul Krugmen has a new column: “Attack of the right-wing thought police“.

    And the Infinite Gell-Mann Amnesia Blog rolls on!!!

    The frequency at which you deride certain media sources as ridiculous and unreliable and at the same time cite them as authoritative is astounding.

    1. ““The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

      — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

      1. Maybe so, but when you think the two opposing ideas are both true, that’s when you have a problem.

        Jerry seems to think that the NYT is both a humorously woke nonsense factory and a reputable news outlet and what category he puts things in seems to oddly conform to his political ideology. Funny, that….

        1. “Jerry seems to think that the NYT is both a humorously woke nonsense factory and a reputable news outlet…”

          That seems about right to me also. They certainly report hard news and have a good reputation for doing so. The Right likes to claim that it is biased toward the Left but I think that’s largely because it is biased toward truth, something the Right has a problem with these days. At the same time, the NYT carries pieces that pander to the interests of regular folk which, unfortunately, includes religion, astrology, and soft “news”. I suspect they do so for business reasons but perhaps they don’t realize how much it undercuts their reputation. Or they do and it is just a calculated risk. More problematic for the NYT is stuff like The 1619 Project, which seems to sit somewhere between hard and soft news. It’s Woke but definitely not humorous.

          1. What would you say to someone who said that Fox news is biased not to the right, but to the truth? Would the loads and loads of obviously partisan pieces be part of your argument that Fox is biased?

            I think that things like the 1619 Project not only show the ridiculous levels of bias, but also how far the rot has reached. It’s not an op-ed or a one time piece, it’s a continuous stream of lies and nonsense approved by those at the very top of the organization.

            Much like I think people shouldn’t watch Fox News, (or at least not only Fox News) I think the same applies to the NYT and pretty much all other “mainstream” media.

          2. I disagree. The MSM still aspires to be fact-based. Even the 1619 Project is at least worthy of argument among historians and social commentators. Fox News offers complete untruth that their reporters and producers know is untruth. Pushing the Big Lie and anti-vax are prime examples. This is not biased opinion but outright lies. The reporters are all vaccinated as their company (and sanity) requires. It is becoming clear in emails between Fox reporters and Trump people that they know the Big Lie is a big lie. How could they not?

          3. I understand and, to a point, agree. It’s just that I could show hundreds of cases of the NYT and the rest of the MSM outright lying or, their favored method, lying by omission. I think the more obvious explanation is that people find reasons to think that the media that favors their view is more reliable than the media that doesn’t. This blog is a constant demonstration of that.

          4. “I’m not convinced by generalizations. Name your top two or three out of those hundreds of cases and let’s see what you’re on about.”

            How about one repeated nonstop?

            The death of officer Brian Sicknick.

            Or the one you’ve already pointed out?

            The 1619 Project.

            Or let’s go historic:

            The panic after the War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

            Quick prediction: Any and every example I could or would post will be dismissed with a quick sweeping fashion.

          5. What’s the problem with the reporting on Brian Sicknick? People thought at first that he died from injuries in the insurrection but it turned out he died of natural causes. The MSM reported what they knew at the time and then corrected it when they had more information. It certainly didn’t change anything material about what happened on Jan. 6th. And how could that be all that important compared to lying about the 2020 election or vaccinations which affects practically everyone in the country? As for the 1619 Project, I don’t like it either but it is clearly opinion. Any factual errors it contained were minor and have been reported and fixed. If that’s all you have, I’m taking the win. How can you put forward such a weak argument?

    2. Those are all columns. It’s not unusual to read a paper and think some columns are good and others crap, for obvious reasons. It would be an unusual person who read Ross Douthat and Gail Collins and concluded “wow, both have excellent and compelling insights.”

  17. Re shortening tests’ lengths: When an undergrad at the U of Chicago, in the late 1940s,there were some survey, lecture ,courses most of us took. The only requirement was to take the final 6 hour exam. Believe me, I didn’t miss one lecture. And I don’t recall any complaints about the 6 hour long exams from anyone.

  18. Hi Jerry. The bird is a Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).

    They don’t always look so fancy – sort of brown – but have irridescent patches that work wonders in the right light. Kinda like the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

  19. That is indeed Barenboim conducting in the du Pré clip. But why “was Jewish”? He’s still alive and living in Argentina, and presumably still Jewish.

  20. I got a good LOL out of the last one on infinite loop. In college my advanced calculus book, often referred to as “Buck” from its author, had…

    (and I don’t recall what “xxx” and “yyy” were, but they were other terms for circular reasoning)

    Circular reasoning ses xxx

    xxx see yyy

    yyy see Circular reasoning

    1. I did not know that, but now I see that xxx was “Petitio principii” and yyy was “Begging the question”.

      On a slightly related note, in Kernighan and Pike’s “The Unix Programming Environment” they discuss a program “double” to detect repeated words, and the discussion contains a deliberate repeated word at the page break between pp 119 & 120 – “To prevent such problems, one of the the components …”, a fair amount of typesetting effort in 1984 for a joke that probably not many people noticed.

  21. After a quick scan of the comments, I don’t see where anyone has corrected your statement about the Cullinan I diamond. The Cullinan I diamond, sometimes referred to as “The Greater Star of Africa”, is actually set in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, not the iMperial State Crown. the Crown contains the Cullinan II, or the “lesser Star of Africa”. The Cullinan II is plenty large enough, at 317 carats.

  22. The “infinite loop” index entry reminded me of something else, but I’ve only just worked out what. Knuth’s “The Art of Computer Programming” volume 1 has index entries for “Circular definition” and “Definition, circular” which refer to each other.

  23. Anyone who would like to dip a toe into the waters of classical music could do far worse than to buy the classic EMI recording of duPré performing Elgar’s cello concerto under Sir John Barbirolli. As a bonus you get to listen to Dame Janet Baker on the other side singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures, which is an excellent way of learning to love classical song. And for the hi-fi nuts, the cello concerto isn’t just fine music, it is beautifully recorded and the timbre of the cello will send shivers down your spine.

  24. ”1998 – Lewinsky scandal: On American television, U.S. President Bill Clinton denies having had “sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.”

    Lewinsky missed the opportunity for the best one-liner of all time: But I didn’t inhale.

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