Monday: Hili dialogue

January 31, 2022 • 7:30 am

We’ve reached the end of the month already: it’s Monday, January 31, 2022, and National Hot Chocolate Day. Here’s the best way to have it (photographed in Madrid). The spoon is necessary, as the cocoa is almost as thick as chocolate pudding. But you must also dip the hot churros into the chocolate. There is no finer breakfast—save the Southern breakfast with biscuits and country ham at the Loveless Cafe outside Nashville. (See below if you want to use food as medicine.)

It’s also Eat Brussel Sprouts Day (not only is this a disgusting food item, (these morons can’t even spell it correctly!), Brandy Alexander Day, Scotch Tape Day (first marketed on January 31, 1930), Appreciate Your Social Security Check Day, and, in Austria, Street Children’s Day.

News of the Day:

*Already plotting his comeback, Tr*mp announced yesterday that if he is reelected in 2024, he will pardon all of the Capitol insurrectionists. They were charged with federal crimes, and thus subject to Presidential pardons.  Here’s the announcement, a typical Trump statement:

“If I run and I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly,” he said Saturday near the end of a lengthy campaign rally in Conroe, a city about 40 miles north of Houston. “We will treat them fairly, and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”

Does that make sense? Even his fellow Republicans are not down with Trump’s statement, which could potentially result in pardoning several hundred people:

Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), pushed back against Trump’s comments Sunday, calling the suggestion of clemency for those accused in the Capitol riot “inappropriate.”

“I don’t want to reinforce that defiling the Capitol was okay,” Graham said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” The senator said he hopes those who stormed the building “go to jail and get the book thrown at them, because they deserve it.”

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, told ABC News’s “This Week” that the former president should not have “made that pledge to do pardons.”

“We should let the judicial process proceed,” Collins said, adding that she would be “very unlikely” to support Trump if he ran in 2024.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) also said those responsible for “the assault on the U.S. Capitol have to be held accountable.”

“Oh my goodness, no,” Sununu told CNN’s Dana Bash when asked whether the rioters should receive pardons.

I refuse to believe—and I know some readers will think I’m naive—that Trump has a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected in 2024.

*The Guardian reports on author Kate Clanchy, victim of a social-media pile-on, the  cause of which was her highly-regarded memoir that detailed a career teaching marginalized children:

Last week, it was announced that she and her publisher, Pan Macmillan, had parted company “by mutual consent” and that it will “revert the rights” and cease distribution of all her work.

The book that prompted this is Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, her memoir of a 30-year teaching career. Rave reviews and an Orwell prize gave way to mixed reactions from readers: some adored it, others thought she usedracial and ableist stereotypes to describe her diverse students. Among the readers of colour I know, reactions were just as mixed: some found her descriptors offensive, others thought they were OK, especially in the context of her honesty about her own naivety and prejudices.

. . .It is true that Clanchy reacted badly to the criticism, denying the phrases in question were in her book. Defensiveness is a flawed but common response when being charged with something you abhor.But both she and Pan Macmillan issued apologies for the offence the book caused and her publisher announced she would rewrite it to address concerns. One might think that that would have drawn a line, enabling the industry to move on to issues about its lack of diversity, which Clanchy has done more than many of her critics to address.

It did not. Pan Macmillan was further berated for giving her the opportunity to make amends by rewriting. After her publisher, Picador imprint’s Philip Gwyn Jones, rightly reflected that he wished he had been clearer about its support for Clanchy and her rights, alongside condemning the online abuse and trolling by her critics, he issued an apology for causing further hurt that read like a hostage note: “I now understand I must use my privileged position as a white middle-class gatekeeper with more awareness.”

She’s a goner, and so is literature. When every word is scrutinized for possible offense (not real offense), then literature and art become what they became until Stalinism: a series of anodyne gestures toward the reigning ideology. I swear that I didn’t think I’d live to see this happening.

What has happened to Clanchy is a sad tale for our ages. No individual is to blame: it is the product of brittle and cowardly institutions, and the collective social media frenzy that prizes heads on a platter over change. But what I cannot understand is the lack of humanity at Pan Macmillan. One of its authors writes about feeling suicidal, as Clanchy has done recently, and, rather than offering her support, it walks away.

For all our differences of opinion, our eagerness to call out right and wrong, the one thing we must never let the digital age allow us to forget is the duty of care we owe each other as human beings.

And this was in the Guardian! When I was telling a friend that our department had removed every picture of past professors from the walls of our seminar room because the excess of white men was seen as “harmful”, my friend drew me up fast by saying, “not white men—people.” (And many of them extreme liberals!) That’s the crux. Empathy has been replaced by individuals consciously flaunting their virtue, no matter how many others they hurt or accuse of bigotry on no basis.

*In a grisly article, the NYT reports several instances of orcas (killer whales) ganging up on blue whales (the largest species ever known to have lived) and killing them. (h/t Paul) This was witnessed at least three times, and isn’t pretty:

In March 2019, scientists studying whales near Southwestern Australia stumbled upon a supersize spectacle that few had seen before — a pod of orcas viciously attacking a blue whale.

Over a dozen orcas surrounded the mighty animal. They had already bitten off its dorsal fin, and the animal was unable to evade the fast and agile predators. The water ran red with the blood of the massive creature, and chunks of its flesh were floating all around. The scientists observed one orca force its way into the blue whale’s mouth and feast on its tongue. It took an hour for the orcas to kill the blue whale, and once they did, about 50 other orcas showed up to devour the carcass.

It wasn’t previously suspected that orcas could kill a blue whale, but if you get enough of them, they can. (And remember, blue whales are not predators but filter feeders. They have little defense against a pod of carnivores.)

A pod of orcas taking down a blue whale is “the biggest predation event on Earth, maybe the biggest one since dinosaurs were here,” said Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and an author of the paper.

*In the continuing crusade to turn food into medicine, with longevity the apogee of success, the NYT has contributed by giving us tips about what kinds of foods are good for our mental health. Surprise! It’s not ice cream or pizza, but leafy greens, nuts, fruits, seeds, and fish. I tell you what, I’d get really depressed if I were forced to subsist solely on such stuff.  There’s only one saving grace:

People who regularly eat dark chocolate have a 70 percent reduced risk of depression symptoms, according to a large government survey of nearly 14,000 adults. The same effect was not seen in those who ate a lot of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonols, including epicatechin, but milk chocolate and popular candy bars are so processed they don’t have much epicatechin left in them.

Dark chocolate covered Brussels sprouts, anyone? To quote Dr. King in a famous speech right before he was killed:

“Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

God’s will (if there was one) would be for us to enjoy life, and sure as hell Dr. King enjoyed chowing down on some greasy Southern cooking:

Martin, to his family and friends, Dr. King loved a few of the hallmark specialty recipes of the South with great reverence and grace. In no special order, he was known to enjoy as frequently as possible, a generous serving of fried chicken, stewed greens, sweet potatoes, and for dessert, a slice or two of pecan pie.

We live in a generation of Puritans.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 883,374, an increase of 2,524 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,683,128, an increase of about 5,900 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on January 31 include:

Drawing and quartering (read about it) is a horrible way to die. It was the punishment inflicted on William Wallace in “Braveheart”, though they don’t show the grisly bits:

  • 1747 – The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery, and submits it to the states for ratification.
  • 1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Robert E. Lee becomes general-in-chief of all Confederate armies.
  • 1915 – World War I: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.

A line of British soldiers blinded by mustard gas in WWI:

  • 1943 – World War II: German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Soviets at Stalingrad, followed two days later by the remainder of his Sixth Army, ending one of the war’s fiercest battles.
  • 1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.

Here’s Slovik, the only soldier executed for purely military crimes (others were executed for other crimes, like rape or murder):

Here’s a scene from the movie “The Victors” (1963) showing the execution of a deserter, modeled on Slovik. The real execution included two volleys, as the first didn’t kill him. The scene, however, is haunting and well filmed. (Apologies for putting two execution scenes in one post; don’t watch them if you can’t bear such things.)

This refers to H-bombs, based on nuclear fusion rather than fission.

Some good news: Ham returned safely and then lived at the National Zoo in Washington with a group of other chimps, surviving 17 more years. Here’s Ham on his return:

  • 1978 – The Crown of St. Stephen (also known as the Holy Crown of Hungary) goes on public display after being returned to Hungary from the United States, where it was held after World War II.

The crown dates to the 12th century. Some information from Wikipedia:

The enamels on the crown are mainly or entirely Byzantine work, presumed to have been made in Constantinople in the 1070s. The crown was presented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas to King Géza I of Hungary; both are depicted and named in Greek on enamel plaques in the lower crown. It is one of the two known Byzantine crowns to survive, the other being the slightly earlier Monomachus Crown, which is also in Budapest, in the Hungarian National Museum. However, the Monomachus Crown may have had another function, and the Holy Crown has probably been remodelled, and uses elements of different origins.

  • 2001 – In the Netherlands, a Scottish court convicts Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and acquits another Libyan citizen for their part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
  • 2020 – The United Kingdom’s membership within the European Union ceases in accordance with Article 50, after 47 years of being a member state.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1797 – Franz Schubert, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1828)
  • 1881 – Irving Langmuir, American chemist and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1957)
  • 1902 – Tallulah Bankhead, American actress (d. 1968)

Here’s part of her performance in Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” for which she won a New York Film Critics Circle Award:

  • 1902 – Alva Myrdal, Swedish sociologist and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)
  • 1919 – Jackie Robinson, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1972)
  • 1923 – Norman Mailer, American journalist and author (d. 2007)
  • 1937 – Philip Glass, American composer
  • 1937 – Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (d. 2008)

Here’s the famous finale of “Newhart”, a show in which he was married to the blonde Mary Frann and played an innkeeper in Vermont. After five seasons of that show, its last episode showed him waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette (his wife in the better known “Bob Newhart Show”, which had previously run for five seasons). In other words, the whole second “Newhart” show was revealed as a dream. It was a fantastic ending.

  • 1947 – Nolan Ryan, American baseball player
  • 1970 – Minnie Driver, English singer-songwriter and actress

Harvard student Minnie Driver (“Sklyler”) meets Matt Damon (“Will”) in the 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting“. I haven’t seen that movie for years, liked it a lot at the time, and would like to see it again to find out if it holds up. Robin Williams gave a terrific performance as a therapist, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  The prize: he gets her phone number.

  • 1981 – Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actor

Those who died on January 31 include:

  • 1606 – Guy Fawkes, English conspirator, leader of the Gunpowder Plot (b. 1570)
  • 1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882)
  • 1969 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (b. 1894)

Here are two cards I’ve had on my office wall since 1986. R. Crumb at top and a solace-producing Meher Baba at the bottom. “Don’t worry—be happy. I will help you.” How soothing is that?

Baba au Rhum
  • 2007 – Molly Ivins, American journalist and author (b. 1944)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has made a refuge in the bed:

A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m meditating in comfort.
In Polish:
Ja: Co ty tu robisz?
Hili: Medytuję w komforcie.

Just before this picture we have the one below:

Caption: “And a moment earlier this meditation looked like this”:

In Polish: Chwilę wcześniej ta medytacja wyglądała tak:


From Divy:

From Thomas:

From Science Daily. I wonder if this is real . . .

From Cesar. I guess the Economist thought it was making a virtuous statement, but it was also a historically ignorant and fatuous statement, and the magazine got slammed:

Oy! It’s sort of funny, though, and the thread goes on and on. . .

From Greg, who says, “An amusing tweet thread by a Maine public health official on what it would look like if blizzards and meteorologists were treated like pandemics and infectious disease specialists.”

That thread, too, goes on and on. . .

From Simon: Two dudes discussing Tom Brady in a blizzard. Yes, this is as Boston as you can get.

From Ginger K. Is this a sound system or an archeological display?

Tweets from Matthew. You MUST have the sound up on this first one!

Maybe if they thaw this, they’ll find tardigrades!


87 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

        1. And hopefully you are correct. But numerous states in the US are proposing legislation that would subject librarians to criminal charges for having “objectionable books” on their shelves. Wyoming is leading the way, but other states are joining in – and at least thus far, the criminal charges have failed.
          But… “States with bills in place or under discussion include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Wisconsin is also floating around potential legislation that would put a similar chokehold in public facilities of higher education. Much has been made about Oklahoma’s bill in particular, which would put a bounty on teachers and librarians who carry books a parent deems inappropriate (where that money would come from in a state that ranks 47th in public education, which factors into the equation that determines state funding, remains a mystery).”

          1. Douglas, it’s good to keep track of these bills. Let me point out, as I’ve done before, that there is a significant difference between public school libraries and public libraries. I’ve been a public librarian for 30 years. Public libraries are largely immune to efforts to ban or restrict books or videos, because they are robustly protected by the First Amendment. School libraries, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to banning or restriction because public school boards have the authority to determine curricula and the selection of books for their libraries. Yes, the school boards should uphold the ideal of the First Amendment, but there really is nothing in the law to prevent them from banning. If a parent disagrees with the policies of the public school board, they should communicate with the board members, whether via email or in person at board meetings. If, after they’ve made their opinions known to the board members and there is still disagreement, the final remedy is the ballot box. Vote those you disagree with out, and vote those who better represent you in.
            The same would apply to public institutions of higher education. They have governing boards that answer to the state legislature, so if we disagree with their decisions, we must contact our state representatives and senators. If our reps and senators don’t help us, then we have to vote them out as well.

  1. Does that [pardoning] make sense? Even his fellow Republicans are not down with Trump’s statement

    I think Biden could’ve done it in his first week in office, and it would’ve been taken as a positive ‘reconciliation’ type action. However as a 2024 GOP campaign promise, it’s so blatantly partisan that I expect it would lose more votes than it would gain. Sure, it gets his base riled up. The 20% of undecideds though? Can’t imagine it being something they want to hear.

    I refuse to believe—and I know some readers will think I’m naive—that Trump has a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected in 2024.

    Well with amount of straight ticket partisan voting in the US these days, and the restrictive voting laws GOP states are putting in place, I’d say that if he makes the GOP ticket in 2024 then there’s a good chance he wins. The Dems need to turn the economy around, pass some good legislation, or otherwise improve their standing in the public over the next few years. And GOPers opposed to Trump need to unify behind a different primary candidate.

    I still give it about a 30% chance he does a Palin: says he’s running, starts collecting informal campaign donations, never files the paperwork for candidacy, keeps the money for himself.

    1. Yes, Biden could have done it, but he was right not to do it. Reconciliation? Really? An armed attack on the Capitol, people killed, and it should be pardoned due to reconciliation? Sounds like that father claiming that his son shouldn’t be punished for rape because it would ruin his life.

      1. Lots of reconciliation movements have pardoned a lot worse. It’s a way of tacitly acknowledging that leaders often incite (in the regular sense, even if not the legal sense) normal people to do horrible things.

        I’m not saying it was a better option. I’m happy with the way DoJ is handling the events. I’m saying that the only time pardoning them *could* have made sense would’ve been by the new administration, in the transition.

        1. Such pardons would have been an affront to the rule of law and a thumbing of one’s nose at the very notion of deterrence as a legitimate penological goal. (After all, members of congress and the vice-president of the United States had to be evacuated from the Capitol’s chambers to save their lives.)

          I recall the Obama administration getting grief for the much less flagrant decision not to prosecute anyone from the Bush II administration over the US’s use of torture in Iraq. And from where I sit, it was a scandal that no one from Wall Street was prosecuted for their roles in the junk-mortgage bonds and collateralized debt obligations debacles that led to the 2008-09 financial crisis. Except for the unlucky losers that sunk before the government launched lifeboats full of money — Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers — the rest of the Wall Street’s honchos went merrily along awarding themselves performance bonuses.

          Truth and accountability must precede reconciliation.

          1. Just imagine the outcry if a US President had commuted or granted clemency to the perpetrators of the 1943 Capital gallery shooting, or the 1983 Senate bombing. We would never hear the end of it.

        2. Yes, but comparison is not always a justification.

          I agree that Trump pardoning them is the worse situation.

          But pardoning them because they were incited? That is pardoning behaviour which, throughout history, is the very behaviour which has allowed dictators to stay in power. When a dictator has a majority against him, he can’t survive long: look at what happened to Ceaucescu. But those who stay in power can do so because they are supported by people who believe the “big lies”.

          Individuals have to be accountable for their own behaviour, otherwise society cannot function.

          1. But pardoning them because they were incited? That is pardoning behaviour which, throughout history, is the very behaviour which has allowed dictators to stay in power.

            Great analogy. What typically happens in a reconciliation process after a dictator or authoritarian regime gets deposed – does everybody involved go on trial, or is it only typically the leaders and major movers?

            It’s the latter. Whether it’s Nazis, or Pinochet, or Apartheid, or anything else, in reconciliation processes we typically let the ‘footsoldiers’ go. And yes to answer Ken, yes this IS something of an affront to justice. Reconciliation is closer to a granting of mercy than it is a reckoning of the books, and mercy isn’t just. We give up on going after every single crime committed for the sake of some greater goal (peace, healing, whatever).

            To reiterate, I’m not saying I would’ve supported it here. I like the way Biden’s DoJ handled them. I will continue to claim, however, that the destruction and deaths caused by the Jan 6th group are well within the bounds of the types of things other countries have pardoned. If we see these things as unpardonable, it’s probably because they happened to *us*, not because in the grand sweep of history, they are qualitatively or quantitatively worse than other acts which have been pardoned by other countries.

          2. I think they are unpardonable because those who breached the Capitol were motivated by complete bullshit. I suspect that most did what they did simply because they wanted Trump to be President. They may also have believed the election was stolen but did they really care about that?

          3. ”Whether it’s Nazis, or Pinochet, or Apartheid, or anything else, in reconciliation processes we typically let the ‘footsoldiers’ go.”

            Huge difference: that was done after the dictatorship was no longer a danger and had been deposed. Trump is chomping at the bit to come back and has a huge amount of support.

        3. You can’t pardon someone before they’ve been convicted, can you? Police and prosecutors are supposed to investigate and prosecute crimes independent of political interference from the President. Sure, Canadian Crown attorneys routinely decide not to prosecute organized Indigenous lawbreakers who try to intimidate government but that is merely because they are afraid of them and are just relieved they didn’t kill anyone, not out of any publicly stated reconciliation principle.

    2. First time Tr*mp won was unintended (by him); second one “It was stolen!” Risk really. But running a third time, and risk losing? Then that would be on him.

      Betting he sticks with his will he?/won’t he? grifting, and continue to rake in the cash.

  2. Good Will Hunting is just as great today as when released. We watch it regularly. Great story, well told. (I’m a big Matt Damon fan. Ben Affleck, not so much; but they really hit it with this movie.)

  3. Has anyone here been following the Convention of States movement? Acting under Article V of the US Constitution, there is a movement to call a convention of States to amend the Constitution:

    . . . restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.

    Last week Nebraska became the seventeenth State to pass a resolution in favor of the convention, and sixteen more have pending legislation.

    1. Yes, that one works about as well as secession. In the current modern U.S. government, or what is left of it, this would be a great time to attempt to do something this crazy. They can’t even get a constitutional amendment the easy way.

  4. A pod of orcas taking down a blue whale is “the biggest predation event on Earth, maybe the biggest one since dinosaurs were here,” said Robert Pitman

    I don’t understand how there could have been a bigger predation event even when the dinosaurs were here since, as you say, the Blue Whale is the largest animal that’s ever lived.

    wrt the Flat Earth Society tweet: I don’t think it’s real because it the tweet doesn’t have the “verified” badge.

    wrt Guy Fawkes: he jumped off the gallows and broke his neck and so escaped being hung drawn and quartered.

    1. the Blue Whale is the largest animal that’s ever lived.

      That’s an oft-repeated assertion, but at least on the dinosaur side of the question the estimated weights of the biggest sauropods has continued creeping up during my time reading the literature. The accepted method of estimating is to look at the cross sectional area of the leg bones, front and rear, and scale for the compressional strength of various comparison modern organisms. Whether you compare with an ostrich or an elephant matters ; whether you get front and back legs from the same individual isn’t guaranteed with the vagaries of finding fossils ; and what safety factors you apply (which translates to “how fast do you think it walked?”) are areas of genuine argument. But particularly for the relatively recent discoveries of South American titanosaur sauropods, the weight estimates have been creeping towards 100 tonnes for some years now. I don’t think anyone has gone over the 100 tonne mark, yet, but I’m certainly not going to bet against it being breached within my lifetime. And you can imagine the fun the headline writers will have with that.
      When was the heaviest-ever blue whale recorded? Being hauled up the loading ramp of a whaler factory ship in the 1930s? Or have the Japanese admitted to a new record holder in their “scientific whaling” programme. We might be lucky and get a big one washed up on shore, but that’s still a helluva difficult weighing job.
      I don’t think the ichthyosaurs have produced anything estimated much bigger than 20 or 30 tonnes, but they’re a group still in the “discovery” phase of finding new morphological species on a regular basis. There was a British record-breaker found in Rutland Water (reservoir ; it gets drawn down for maintenance regularly) just last year.

      1. Wikipedia tells me that the heaviest blue whale recorded was nearly 200 tonnes. Sauropods have got a long way to go in that respect. Talking of “long” Wikipedia also tells me that sauropods could be longer than blue whales, but, of course , they cheat by being thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle and thin again at the other end.

        1. Living in water seems like a huge advanatge for the evolution of heavy animals. Neutral bouyancy elimiantes lots of structural impediments to the evolution of larger size on land.

        1. Normally I wouldn’t apply a human value judgement to predation by wild animals. Everything must eat. But:

          1) Blue whales were hunted to the brink of extinction (by us). Do we owe them one? Orcas are not endangered so far as I know. There is a resident pod in the Salish Sea regarded as some kind of spirit animal to the local Indigenous people and so everyone is squeamish about anything Including oil tankers and ferry boats that upsets them — them meaning the whales and the people.

          2) Is this a new thing that orcas prey on blue whales? Did they in the past but switched to other prey when the blues declined, and are now merely returning to them as favoured prey as their numbers recover? If orcas “like” to hunt in packs, then a big whale is a better communal kill than a seal or a tuna. If so, this could be a good sign that the blues are recovering. Or have orcas switched to blues because their preferred prey is in decline on account of, say, global warming? Or is the orca population exploding — they have no predators — and they have learned to diversify their prey in order for none to go hungry and stop mating?

          It matters not to God if a pod of atheist orcas eats the last atheist blue whale. But it matters to atheist me.

          1. Where orcas come Great White and other dangerous sharks disappear. They fear orcas. Orcas flip them upside down, leaving them in a catatonic state, they then proceed to rip their bellies open and eat their livers.
            There are no confirmed reports of orcas attacking humans in nature. The Salish might have had good reasons to whorship them.

    2. Im not surprised about orcas taking on a blue whale. As a child i remember reading about them taking on whales (albeit not specified as blue whales).
      Orca pods can be quite specialized in their prey selection. Would these pods just eat whales?

  5. 1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.

    There was a 1974 film The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik staring Martin Sheen in the title role. You can watch it for free on Youtube here.

  6. 1961 – Project Mercury: Mercury-Redstone 2: The chimpanzee Ham travels into outer space.

    Gus Grissom (played by Fred Ward) had a famous line about that in Philip Kaufman’s film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff (even if ol’ Gruff Gus got his primate species confused):

    1. If you go to the New Mexico Museum of Space History, near White Sands Missile Range, not only will you see a world-class museum on rocketry and space travel, but you can pay your respects to Ham at his grave, which is near the entrance.

  7. If you’re krill, the blue whale is most definitely a predator. As far as I know, all cetaceans are straight carnivores. As are seals and sea lions and so on (but not manatees, of course).

  8. “…tips about what kinds of foods are good for our mental health. Surprise! It’s not ice cream or pizza, but leafy greens, nuts, fruits,…”

    Mark Twain once quipped, “Dieting won’t make you live longer, it’ll just FEEL longer.”


    1. For my mental health it is prawns and lobsters, lambchops and steak, pecans and mango, shashimi, pork crackling and biltong, green salad with parmesan and nuts, chicken tikka curry with yoghurt, fejoada type dishes, moroccan chicken, lime pickles, gorgonzola, you name it. All the food you read about on this site.
      But grilled Brussels sprouts with bacon + or – feta. is definitely in there, despite our hosts dislike.

  9. In a grisly article, the NYT reports several instances of orcas (killer whales) ganging up on blue whales (the largest species ever known to have lived) and killing them.

    Will nobody think of the Megalodons? They used to have a decent career path eating whales “on the fin” until about 3 million years ago when the larger end of the dolphin family started hunting whales in packs and took over the Megalodon econiche. In voce “Redneck”, “bloody socialists!”
    I have heard – but didn’t retain any references – that the English name “killer whale” is a mistranslation from a Basque (open boat whalers) phrase better translated as “whale killers”. There’s nothing new about this behaviour, or it’s observation by people with an economic interest in the matter.

    1. See my reply to leslie under 5. Would orcas be able to flip a Megalodon over? If so, not just competition, but direct predation may have played a role in the Megalodon’s extinction. I put noting beyond the capabilities of those orcas.

  10. FYI:
    Yesterday’s Library of Congress Story of the Week (you can get it emailed to you) is “Orizaba,” by Edward O. Wilson.

  11. Off-Topic, but the BBC is reporting that “The Complete Maus” has topped the Amazon bestseller list, likely because of it’s banning in Tennessee. Yay for the Streisand effect!

    1. As I mentioned the other day, on the website Maus has a “Teachers Choice” label slapped on the listing.

    2. I ordered an read Strier’s ‘Irreversible damage’ because of the Streisand effect. And I’m definitely going to order ‘Maus’ for my children. I remember that it was haunting, but an outstanding book.

  12. “I refuse to believe—and I know some readers will think I’m naive—that Trump has a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected in 2024.”

    I don’t think he’ll be reelected based on a fair vote count but, if he runs, you can bet there will be electoral shenanigans. The GOP have had four years to dump all those in swing states who would do the right thing when it comes to counting votes and presenting them to Congress.

    1. but, if he runs, you can bet there will be electoral shenanigans.

      Regardless of whether he runs, where the ursine sanitary facilities are, the direction of sunrise and the catholicism of the Pontifex Maximus, there will be electoral shenanigans.
      The question is if the shenanigans will succeed.

    2. Contrary to all rational expectation, Trump’s popularity is rising and Biden’s is tanking. I’ll bet $100 with Jerry that, if Trump runs, he will win. If Trump does not run, the bet is nullified.

      1. Trump’s popularity is only rising from a big dip it took right after 1/6/21. Evidently some voters are forgetting about the events that happened that day or they’re buying the coverup stories. Still, it is hard for me to see how Trump could gain supporters since 2020. He’s only done more bad stuff. I also suspect that the low popularity of Biden is really predictive of how he’ll do against Trump in 2024. Those polled may not like Biden’s performance or just object to the continuing pandemic and other problems but that doesn’t mean they expect Trump to do much better.

        1. You are using logic to predict the behavior of people whose presidential choices are irrational. That was everyone’s mistake in 2016 and they are making the same mistake again. Better to use observable empirical trends. I wil offer you the same bet as I offered Jerry. How confident are you in your analysis?

  13. It took an hour for the orcas to kill the blue whale, and once they did, about 50 other orcas showed up to devour the carcass.

    One assumes that the hunting pod produced enough hunting sounds to each other for every orca within earshot (10s of km? 100km?) to head in to join in the feast. More opportunism by the latecomers than altruism by the hunters, but there’s a fair chance that there was a lot of mutual relatedness amongst orcas in one area at a time.

  14. Oh my goodness! I have a faint niggling of once having read a short story or essay about orcas killing a blue whale. It would have been decades ago if it happened at all.

  15. Per contra, I love Brussels sprouts. My go-to recipe for them: steamed to beginning softness then briefly roasted in the oven or air fryer with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Don’t forget to cut crosses into the stems before steaming.

    1. Agreed, I for-reasons-I’m-not-even-sure-I-can-describe, have grown to love brussel sprouts, at least as gussied up in some restaurants.

    2. But surely Brussels Sprouts Day should be 25 December, the only day on which it is acceptable to serve the monstrosities? 😉

    3. Roasted with balsamic vinegar is quite nice too. Also I have a great recipe in which you toast chopped pecans in a skillet, add butter and shredded sprouts, allow to wilt a bit, then add chopped dried cranberries. Yum.

          1. I found a recipe in the Momofuku cookbook that used bacon and puréed Kim-chee. It sounded weird but was excellent.

          2. Sounds deelish! Which Momofuku cookbook do you have? I can’t wait to get back to eating at our Toronto Momofuku, especially their incredible tasting menu. Speaking of kimchi, there’s a recipe I want to try with kimchi in grilled cheese sandwiches. Got to check if I still have that jar of kimchi in my basement fridge. My friend who’s married to a Japanese-Canadian says the stuff lasts for ever – if her husband weren’t always dipping into it and putting it on pizza, par exemple. For my taste, a little goes a long way.

          3. It’s just titled “Momofuku” by David Chang and Peter Meeham. It has a bamboo-colored faux woodgrain cover with a peach. It’s a really cool cookbook, though many of the recipes call for ingredients I can’t get or make…like XO sauce. He has a bacon dashi recipe that’s insanely good.

            I wouldn’t say kimchi lasts forever, but it does last for a long time, getting funkier the longer it keeps. I have a great recipe and make my own. I always have a jar in the fridge as I love the stuff.

          4. Wow, you make your own kimchi!
            I think I have that same cookbook. Must look (too many cookbooks, and other books…) I have a smaller one called Lucky Peach, which is apparently what Momofuku means in Korean, Some of my other favorite cookbook authors are Ottolenghi and Nik Sharma and Vij (from Vancouver). Also Jean-Georges.
            Tonight made one of my favorite veggie dishes: roast skinnyfied carrots tossed in a little bit of olive oil, honey, s&p, thyme, coriander and cumin seeds which have been toasted and coarsely squished. Bake at 400 for 30 min or so.

          5. Making kimchi is really easy, but takes a bit of time if you plan to ferment. Some recipes (like the one I use) doesn’t allow for proper fermentation, and it’s more of a fresh kimchi, sort of like white kimchi. But I purchased this mini-crock made for fermentation and I put the kimchi mixture in there for a week. Once the fermentation starts, it will continue in the fridge. Crazy good. I now add a tablespoon of black garlic to the mix. I’m sort of weird about kimchi; it’s one of my favorite foods.

            I forgot about the “lucky peach” translation, thanks for that.

  16. “The crown was presented by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas to King Géza I of Hungary; both are depicted and named in Greek on enamel plaques in the lower crown.”

    The original Byzantine crown was an open crown, the lower part of the final crown. The upper part is a cross (also Byzantine style, probably from an Ortodox monastery in Hungary) that was fitted later to make the crown closed.

    What is quoted above what I just added is pretty much the “dry” scholarly/scientific take on the origin of the crown that was never the crown of first Christian king St. Stephen (unlike the other parts of the coronation regalia that might very well were his). However there is a nutcase cult in Hungary that asserts that the crown is much older and even have magical properties. The story has various versions of course and there is a lot of conspiracy theories, including the one where this is not the real crown, because the Americans kept it, or it was replaced even earlier as part of some other conspiracy.

      1. We know that it happened between 1625 and 1790, because until 1625 it was always depicted with straight cross, after that we do not have a reliable depiction for some 150 years, then it is already tilted in 1790.

        The cross was held in a copper box inside an iron chest. It was used only for coronations and never taken out for anything else, so sometimes it laid untouched in the chest and the box for decades. Although such mishaps were not boasted about, but apparently more than one time they could not open the locks when the crown was needed (because the lock of the iron chest rusted or the key for the copper box was lost, etc.) and they forced them open. Most likely the crown got damaged during one of those occasions.

        For me it is more of a wonder why they let it remain this way. It was actually fixed somewhat (the current position is adjusted), but ultimately they left it tilted.

  17. Trump will not run in 2024, like many of his actions, pretending to run up until the last moment is a money making scam worth 100s of millions.

    1. That’s my guess too. He has millions of marks out there and they’re willing to give him million$ whether he’s POTUS or not. I also wouldn’t be surprised if one of the many investigations surrounding him will soon hit pay-dirt.

  18. It seems the Flat Earth tweet is too good to be true…

    Bob Bobberson, Secretary of The Flat Earth Society
    Answered Jun 7, 2019

    No, we did not. I run the facebook page that this is attributed to, and I can verify we have never posted such a thing.

    The image was altered (or the browser content) to make it appear as though we did.

  19. I beg to differ on the Brussels sprouts issue. I didn’t give them much issue either until my wife served them deep fried. They are delicious, unless you have an aversion to deep fried. GROG

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