The work week has started again in the endless cyle that culminates only in extinction. It’s Monday, February 7, 2022: National Fettuccine Alfredo Day, honoring one of my favorite pastas.
It’s also “e” day, honoring the irrational number 2.71728. . . . , as today’s date written in American form is 2/7. Further, it’s Ballet Day, Rose Day (ushering in Valentine’s Week), National Periodic Table Day, and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Here’s Mendeleev’s first periodic table in Russian. It was constructed in 1855, and the caption translates as “”An experiment on a system of elements … based on their atomic weights and chemical similarities.” .
Wine of the Day: Like all other sparkling wines made in the “wrong” place,this California bubbly, cannot be called “Champagne”; name is legally reserved for wines from the correct area of France and made by the correct method. Nevertheless, Roederer is a French outfit and has imported its techniques to the U.S., resulting in this champagne-like “Brut” (dry), whose vintage isn’t given (it’s likely a mixture of vintages,mostly a recent one, and is largely made from Chardonnay grapes).
This is my go-to bubbly when I need one quickly and there isn’t much choice, as it’s widely available. I can get it for about $25, a reasonable value, though if I had my choice I’d go for a harder-to-find but marginally better (and cheaper) cava from Spain.
Make no mistake, this is a good wine, with odors of pears and apple, and the “toasty” flavor I want in a good bubbly. It’s a tad too sweet for my taste, but not overly so. If you’re looking for a bubbly when going to a party, or just to treat yourself at home, and if you see a bunch of bottles you don’t recognize, Roederer California Brut from the Anderson Valley is a reliable and welcome choice.
News of the Day:
*I’m quite surprised at the pushback against Covid pandemic restrictions in Canada, especially in Ottawa. Canada is a woke-ish country, and you expect the people to respect science. And you especially expect the people to b polite. Ottawa has in fact just declared a state of emergency over the many Covid-restriction protests. The truck caravan and nonstop blaring of horns is pretty strong stuff. As the AP reports:
The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency Sunday and a former U.S. ambassador to Canada said groups in the U.S. must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of America’s neighbor as protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions continued to paralyze Ottawa’s downtown.
Mayor Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.
Thousands of protesters descended in Ottawa again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend. Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a “siege” that he could not manage.
The “freedom truck convoy” has attracted support from many U.S. Republicans including former President Donald Trump, who called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”
I wasn’t aware that the U.S. was at all involved in this stuff, but according to the above, Americans clearly are. What are they doing? Driving those trucks? Yanks–leave our Canadian friends alone!
*More on Lia Thomas, the transgender woman swimmer who, competes for the University of Pennsylvania and has trounced the competition this year. Despite an earlier report that some of her teammates wrote a letter supporting her presence on the team, apparently not all of them feel that way. According to CNN, now that we have new and stricter U.S. Swimming (and now NCAA) rules for transgender swimmers, 16 other women swimmers on Lia’s team have written to Penn asking them not to challenge the new rule, which could block Lia’s participation. In other words, they think that her participation under present rules is unfair. From CNN (h/t Richard)
The letter was written by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, CEO of Champion Women and an Olympic champion in swimming, on behalf of 16 members of swim team.
The NCAA’s new policies could potentially block swimmer Lia Thomas from competing in March’s NCAA championships.
Thomas, a transgender woman who swims for the Quakers women’s swim team, won the women’s 100- and 200-yard freestyle at Harvard last month and set record times on the women’s team this season. She had previously competed on the men’s swimming team at Penn and underwent two years of hormone therapy.
In the letter obtained by CNN, the swim team members say they feel that she holds an “unfair advantage over competition.”
“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically,” the letter says. “However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity. Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female.”
The new rules:
The new NCAA policy states that transgender athletes will now have mandatory testosterone testing, starting with the 2022-23 academic year — at the beginning of their season and again six months later, according to rules approved this week by the NCAA Board of Governors. Additionally, they will need to be tested four weeks before championship selections.
The NCAA previously required that transgender women have testosterone suppression treatment for a year before competing on a women’s team.
None of the Penn swimmers signed their names to either letter, which shows how fraught the issue is. The ones who signed this letter will undoubtedly be called “transphobes”, while the ones supporting Thomas could be criticized for supporting what many see as unfair competition.
*In his new op-ed at the NYT, writer Jamelle Bouie discusses the siimilarities of “othering” in Nazi German and Jim-Crow-style racism. He then approvingly quotes Adam Serwer:
“Race is not an idea but an ideology. It came into existence at a discernible historical moment for rationally understandable historical reasons,” the Fieldses write, “and is subject to change for similar reasons.” It is not necessary for race to be real for racism to be real. It is only necessary that people believe race to be real. When people act on fictions, those actions have repercussions even if the underlying belief is false — even if the people know that the underlying belief they are acting on is false.”
This statement is grossly misleading, but still—trying to explain the concept of human population differentiation, or of animal “races” (in other species, “race” is not an inflammatory term) is a fool’s errand. You have to think either that races (I prefer the term “ethnic groups”) are purely social constructs with no biology differentiating them, or that they have some biological reality. I favor the latter, but it’s a nuanced discussion in a field that lacks nuance. My first reaction to the claim that race has no biology behind it is to say, “Well, then how do you tell blacks from whites?” The answer, of course, is that they differ in genes affecting morphology, most notably in skin pigmentation. (If the answer is, “Well, they identify as black,” then the response is “Well, why wasn’t Rachel Dolezal accepted as black”
That of course does not mean that there are a finite and specifiable number of distinct races, nor that the genetic differences between groups designated as “black” or “white” are profound and absolutely diagnostic. But, as you’ve should have learned from earlier posts on this website, if you do deep-dive DNA sequencing in a lot of Americans who self-identify as either white, black, or Hispanic, and then diagnose them genetically without knowing who they are or who they identify as, the correspondence between DNA-based identification (“grouping” based on many DNA bases) and self-identification is close to 100%. This tells us that ethnic groups do differ genetically to the extent that you can pretty much tell someone’s group from their genes. And that means that ethnicity, at least, is not a purely “social construct.” It’s much better to just learn the facts about human genetic differentiation and then not base any moral judgements or assessments of “worthiness” on genetic data.
*I’ve lost interest in watching the Olympics as it’s too Americophiliac. Every report starts with a count of how many medals Americans won today, and only later do we learn cool stuff like the fact that a New Zealander won the country’s first gold medals in the Winter Olympics (An Aussie woman also won gold for the first time in these games):
This is why the #Olympics are awesome.
🇳🇿Zoi Sadowski-Synnott becomes the first New Zealand athlete to win🥇at the Winter Olympics (Women's Slopestyle).
🇦🇺Jakara Anthony becomes the first Australian woman to win🥇in Women's Moguls.
Two summer nations succeeding in winter. pic.twitter.com/VXQ4v7rtGw
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) February 6, 2022
Right now I’m just using the Olympics as a marker for when Russia will invade Ukraine, which I think will happen before the Games end on February 20. There will be blood: estimates are that over 50,000 civilians could be killed in a full-on invasion.
*Fish can drive! Or so reports an Israeli scientist and the Wall Street Journal. Goldfish can learn to steer their robotic vehicle (below) by swimming in different directions, moving the tankmobile to a place where they can get a treat. (Note that they have to compensate for distorted vision underwater.) Rats can do the same thing (sans the water, of course). Read the piece to see how it’s affecting our view of animal cognition. This video is amazing!
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 901,405, an increase of 2,565 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,759,980, an increase of about 6,000 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 7 include:
- 1497 – In Florence, Italy, supporters of Girolamo Savonarola burn cosmetics, art, and books, in a “Bonfire of the vanities“.
Savonarola and his acolytes were hanged over a fire in the next year. A depiction of the execution painted in 1498 (caption by Wikipedia). The title of Tom Wolfe’s book came, of course, from the bonfire incident:
Here’s the famous headline with the letter asserting that Dreyfus was innocent (he was). Zola was convicted and fled to England:
- 1900 – A Chinese immigrant in San Francisco falls ill to bubonic plague in the first plague epidemic in the continental United States.
119 people died out of 121 confirmed cases. This of course lead to a wave of anti-Asian xenophobia (ring bells?), and they even burned down Chinatown in Honolulu (below):
Jiminy enter’s Gepetto’s house:
- 1962 – The United States bans all Cuban imports and exports.
- 1979 – Pluto moves inside Neptune’s orbit for the first time since either was discovered.
- 1986 – Twenty-eight years of one-family rule end in Haiti, when President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees the Caribbean nation.
- 1990 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union: The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agrees to give up its monopoly on power.
- 1991 – The Troubles: The Provisional IRA launches a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street in London, the headquarters of the British government.
- 2013 – The U.S. state of Mississippi officially certifies the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was formally ratified by Mississippi in 1995.
1995, for crying out loud! But it’s Mississippi, Jake!
- 2014 – Scientists announce that the Happisburgh footprints in Norfolk, England, date back to more than 800,000 years ago, making them the oldest known hominid footprints outside Africa.
The fifty footprints were in sediment that was covered by sand, which in turn was washed away by a storm. Anthropologists quickly rushed to document, measure, and photograph them (below), but after a few weeks the tides had effaced them. They are thought to have been made by Homo antecessor.
Notables born on this day include:
Like many of Henry VIII’s wives and advisors, he was imprisoned and then beheaded on charges of treason. Here he is about to get lopped. Wikipedia notes:
More is widely quoted as saying (to one of the officials): “I pray you, master Lieutenant, see me safe up and [for] my coming down, let me shift for my self”; while on the scaffold he declared that he died “the king’s good servant, and God’s first.” After More had finished reciting the Miserere while kneeling, the executioner reportedly begged his pardon, then More rose up merrily, kissed him and gave him forgiveness.
- 1741 – Henry Fuseli, Swiss-English painter and academic (d. 1825)
I like Fuseli’s dark and scary paintings. Here’s perhaps the most famous, “Nightmare”, from 1781:
- 1812 – Charles Dickens, English novelist and critic (d. 1870)
- 1867 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, American author (d. 1957)
- 1877 – G. H. Hardy, English mathematician and geneticist (d. 1947)
- 1885 – Sinclair Lewis, American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1951)
- 1906 – Puyi, Chinese emperor (d. 1967)
Puyi was The Last Emperor, subject of the 1987 Bertolucci film. Here he is (he was of course deposed by the Communists, but they let him live.)
The trailer for Bertolucci’s film, which was very good. See it if you can.
- 1908 – Buster Crabbe, American swimmer and actor (d. 1983)
- 1958 – Matt Ridley, English journalist, author, and politician
- 1965 – Chris Rock, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
Those who became extinct on February 7 include:
- 1871 – Henry E. Steinway, German-American businessman, founded Steinway & Sons (b. 1797)
- 1979 – Josef Mengele, German SS officer and physician (b. 1911)
Mengele survived detection and moved to South America, drowning after a stroke in the sea off Brazil. Israelis and Germans managed to force Brazil to reveal his gravesite, where a body was exhumed and examined. It was determined that the odious Nazi doctor was indeed buried in that grave. Here’s his skull being examined:
- 2000 – Doug Henning, Canadian magician and politician (b. 1947)
- 2001 – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American author and pilot (b. 1906)
Besides being the wife (and defender of) Charles Lindbergh, she was the author of many books, with the most famous being the bestseller Gift from the Sea. Here she is with Charles. (Remember that their 20-month-old son was kidnapped and murdered in the “crime of the century”).
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, an atheist like all cats, has a joke at Christianity’s expense:
Hili: What if there is a mythological creature hiding behind this bush?A: I don’t know. You can check it.Hili: And what if it is Jesus the Palestinian?
Hili: A co, jeśli za tym krzakiem ukrywa się jakaś mityczna postać?Ja: Nie wiem, możesz sprawdzić. Hili: A jeśli to jest Jezus-Palestyńczyk?
From Stash Krod:
From The Far Side:
A Bizarro comic courtesy of Thomas:
Titania has issued one of her rare tweets:
Before laughing at a joke, ask yourself:
• Does the joke avoid offensive subject matter?
• Is the comic representative of a marginalised group?
• Can you be sure the comic has never said or done anything problematic?
If the answer to any of these is no…
DO. NOT. LAUGH.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) February 6, 2022
From Simon, who says he hopes these cats are quieter than his house cats are at night. Personally, I wouldn’t care. (I have shown this before.):
South African forest guard would tell his bosses he slept in the cheetah enclosure. They didn’t believe him and set up a camera… pic.twitter.com/HJLduCsXg8
— DTM Woodworks (@DTM_Woodworks) February 5, 2022
From Ginger K.:
Sounds insane, doesn't it? pic.twitter.com/VedqGbG2Km
— Kimberley Johnson (@AuthorKimberley) January 16, 2022
From Ken, a take on January 6. . .
It's not fair to say ALL Republicans believe the white nationalist terrorists who attacked the Capitol were displaying "legitimate political discourse." No. Some believe they were tourists. #LegitimatePoliticalDiscourse #MikePence #Trump #MAGA #January6th pic.twitter.com/M7cCpu31ab
— Clay Jones (@claytoonz) February 5, 2022
From Barry. This looks to me like a chinchilla. We kept one in the lab for a few weeks during a hot summer when its owner wanted to keep it cool, and it was a hoot. It liked to take dust baths and would roll around in a bowl of expensive custom chinchilla dust at terrific speed:
White ball of floof enjoys her grooming.. pic.twitter.com/LDblaUuxh5
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden_) February 2, 2022
From Matthew. This first one is a great tweet, though I don’t know what’s going on. The cat, though, is clearly the musher in what looks to be the Ikiterod:
"HURRY, ALAN, THERE'S NOT A MOMENT TO LOSE" pic.twitter.com/XdMsyKHgvU
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) February 6, 2022
This beetle larva makes me sad because although it’s anomalous and interesting, it’s also doomed. Translation:
I got more people to see it than I imagined, so I took the picture again. It is a larva of white helicopter Otsuno Kanabun with one head and two buttocks. Today, the food I ate was concentrated on one stomach.
Just to remind you of this amazing discovery. I reported on it a while back, but let’s jog our memories. “EBV” is Epstein-Barr virus, and this discovery provides substantial hope for treating and maybe curing multiple sclerosis. (Go read the post if you haven’t; the research design was extraordinarily clever.)
Phenomenal paper just published in Science persuasively demonstrating that EBV causes most if not all multiple sclerosis.
Phenomenal epidemiological design and technical achievement. 👏https://t.co/LcNFvKHiUp
— Patrick Kearns (@kearnsneuro) January 13, 2022