Monday: Hili dialogue

February 7, 2022 • 7:15 am

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):

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:

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:

Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria, painting by Filippo Dolciati (1498)

Here’s the famous headline with the letter asserting that Dreyfus was innocent (he was). Zola was convicted and fled to England:

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”;[76] 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[81][82] while kneeling, the executioner reportedly begged his pardon, then More rose up merrily, kissed him and gave him forgiveness.

(From Wikipedia): Beheading of Thomas More, 1870 illustration
  • 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 SeaHere 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?


In Polish:
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:

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.):

From Ginger K.:

From Ken, a take on January 6. . .

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:

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:

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.)

68 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. I think the Titania tweet is in reference to the Jimmy Carr kerfuffle. For the non Brits, Jimmy Carr is a comedian and he’s got a new show out on Netflix with a joke in it that (in my opinion) crosses the line. Note that I haven’t seen the show, so it’s possible that it is OK in context although the transcript in this Guardian article makes it seem likely not.

    Unfortunately, the whole thing has prompted our government to make noises about banning comedy performances on streaming media that are offensive. This is one of those times when I look enviously at the US Constitution’s first amendment.

    1. As I mentioned in a comment posted last night, I thought Carr’s bit was pretty goddam funny.

      As Ricky Gervais has pointed out (and as is consistent with Carr’s own explanation incorporated into his routine), when you hear a joke that is ostensibly offensive, what you have to ask is who or what is the actual butt of the joke. In this case, what is being lampooned is not “gypsies” (so-called) but the dismissive attitude and casual bigotry many still express toward them.

    2. He warns people several times during the show that it’s going to be offensive. I think his line is something like “racism; bad. Jokes about racism; not bad.”

      In any event, like most of the incidents I’ve experienced where some comedian “goes too far,” I found the main problem with his special to be the same as I found with the latest Chappelle special (though they are extremely different in tone): it’s not that funny. It has it’s moments, but the offensiveness doesn’t add a lot to it. Daring, bold, crossing lines….comedians should do these things. The public should tolerate them. But on the comedian side, crossing lines just for the sake of crossing lines doesn’t make an unfunny joke funny.

  2. Ottawan here: The US connection to the Ottawa protest is that a significant portion of its funding is coming from US donors. I haven’t heard that any of the protesters themselves are Americans.

    My understanding is that almost 90% of Canada’s truckers are fully vaccinated and that the protesting truckers only represent a fringe. A few hundred of these people with their big rigs can cause chaos, though.

    1. From what I’ve seen in the news here in the UK, the situation started out as a limited protest against a national vaccine requirement for truckers crossing the border with the US and has since been hijacked by a range of anti-vaxx/anti-government/anti-anything groups, aided and abetted by the usual suspects in the GOP.

      1. Yes, apparently all sorts of other groups with differing demands have latched onto the initial trucker protest. That being said, I think the big trucks downtown are the biggest problem, as they are very difficult to remove without the drivers’ cooperation. If the truckers and their trucks left, willingly or not, I’m pretty sure the rest of the protest would quickly fizzle out.

        1. And if the Mohawks had moved, willingly or not, their big snowploughs away from the railway tracks in 2020, the rest of their protest that defied Court injunctions and paralyzed rail transport in eastern Canada for weeks (and disrupted it intermittently in the rest of the country and continues to this day in some places) would likely have fizzled out. But they didn’t. Until they got what they wanted, enthusiastically supported by many of your neighbours in Ottawa and in fashionable liberal salons. At Indigenous blockades of crucial infrastructure in small towns and rural areas you in Ottawa don’t have to deal with physical intimidation in your face while the police stand by to arrest only counter-protestors as hate criminals disturbing the peace. Yet.

          No sympathy at all for people in Ottawa just because you are now victims of tactics you actively endorse when used by unsavoury lawbreakers you “stand with”.

          Pandemic restrictions are fading away rapidly. Through superb timing, the truckers are going to be able to claim victory for something that was about to happen anyway.

    2. Having had to justify my employment in Canada by a Canadian company to … I forget the name of the relevant government agency, but it took months of paperwork shuffling to get a work permit, including actually having to get a degree certificate from my alma mater (for the first time in over 20 years) … I was wondering how these American HGV drivers justified working in Canada. Unless there is some drastic shortage of Canadian HGV drivers I was previously unaware of. Something very odd there.
      Working in Canada without the proper work permit will get you threatened with permanent exclusion. Been there, done that, got the teeshirt (and had my excuse that I misunderstood the paperwork at the immigration gate accepted and filled it out wrongly; but I had to make my excuses in person at the government office, which required round-tripping from the rig and 3 days waiting-on-fog). But if the drivers weren’t working, who had given them permission to take the trucks from their employer’s yards? And is their vehicle insurance policy valid for “personal use” of the vehicle?

      (My work permit justification was, in essence : Canada has lots of geologists, and lots of geologists with HTHP experience (there’s some real “fun” drilling in the Foreland); but not many with deep water offshore HTHP experience. True, and accepted.)

      1. Nothing odd at all. The truck drivers at the Ottawa protest are all Canadian, as are most of the drivers on our roads. Drivers from either country can carry loads across the border bound for anywhere in the other country in order to make just-in-time delivery possible to factories and food distribution terminals. (Some are currently trapped on the wrong side of the border by blockades at crossing points.) This is accommodated by language in the free-trade treaty between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

  3. *I’ve lost interest in watching the Olympics as it’s too Americophiliac.

    Hmmm….I give’em a B.

    Pros: I watched both the NZ snowboard run and the more recent Russian ice skater do quad jumps both on regular TV as they were covered. They also did a good job I thought covering the men’s 15k and one of the biatholon events, neither of which featured strong US competitors.

    Cons: they cut away from the Slalom event almost the moment Shiffrin fell. They should’ve continued coverage; all the downhill events are really exciting. I also predict over-coverage (i.e. replays, multiple channels used) for the US-Canada women’s hockey match (both the group and, if things go as expected, the medal match), and US figure skating.

    I’m not particularly happy with their choices of what events to cover. And I despise the ongoing balkanization of US TV in to pay-feeds, but maybe that’s an aside. Overall, I’d say the quality of coverage on the two ‘regular’ channels is a bit frustrating, but the American bias is only a small part of the reason.

    1. I really like the Winter Olympics, so I watch full events on the NCB Sports App. On those, the commentary is often one British person and one U.S. person, so they’re not so U.S. centric. And they also cover the entire event, so no cutting away after the Americans have done their part. And it lets me watch curling since there’s not much coverage of that on primetime.

      Of course, it takes a lot of time to watch full events (though I admit to fast forwarding through a lot of the curling and other dull periods), not to mention needing the NBC Sports App, which kind of sucks, but it’s the only way to get all the replays.

  4. In other news, the New Zealand Māori party has called for a “divorce” from the British royal family. Which is perfectly reasonable, but somewhat puzzling since as recently as 2017 the party’s then leader said:

    Removing the Queen as our head of state removes the treaty of Waitangi and Māori rights in this country guaranteed to us under our nation’s founding document. Given our colonial history and the systematic stripping away of Māori land, rights and resource, any talk about cutting ties with the Queen, or establishing a republic is an extremely naive move.

    1. I’m a British “Royalist”. I don’t want to see the monarch removed as our constitutional head of state. However, I would say that the statement made in 2017 is wrong. Moving to being republic means the NZ constitution will have to be amended but there’s no reason they have to drop the parts about the treaty of Waitangi and Māori rights.

      1. But they should. Removing the theoretical fount of state power from the Crown to the people puts everything on the table. (Which people and how constituted—individuals or groups?— is the first question.) When the United States became a Republic, it was no longer bound by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 (which constrains Canada to this day as the honour of the Crown) and the later Quebec Act of 1774. Both instruments had served to frustrate American dreams of the Promised Land of the Ohio Valley, which the departure of the French left empty (except for Indian Tribes whose interests King George III was trying to protect along with his own.)

        The Treaty of Waitangi was an agreement between Queen Victoria and Maori Chiefs. If the hereditary Crown is gone, there is no deal. Now, there is nothing to stop the new republic from carrying over the Waitangi language into its new constitution. But there is nothing that forces it to. And the temptation by both sides, and the large non-white, non-Maori minority that is officially unrecognized now and cares not for old colonial grievances, to “modernize” and “clarify” the language would be irresistible. I do understand there is a Law of the Treaty of Waitangi which governs its interpretation and this might survive into a republic. But who knows?

        I’m a royalist, too. The Constitutions of Westminster parliamentary monarchies are mostly unwritten conventions. Even though the Crown has only symbolic power today, the monarch reminds the executive of the state that, as Ministers of the Crown, there are traditional and enforceable limits on their power that they cannot wisely breach even when they govern in prolonged states of emergency.

  5. I find the lice analogy to be a poor one. In the lice example we know the child has lice. If the situation were analogous to Covid, then we would force all the children to have their hair washed every day with the anti-lice shampoo at school and burn all their clothing on the basis that they might have lice and might spread them to others. But by all means lock kids in the gymnasium and turn off the heat if it makes you feel safer or in control.

    1. Quite so. To be fair there are many parents who become hyper anxious about an outbreak of headlice at a school. I suspect there is a non-rational fear of ‘cooties’ undermining many sensible responses.

      1. I thought that ‘cooties’ were pubic lice or ‘crabs’ (Phtirus pubis), not head lice (Pediculus humanis capitis, not to be confounded with the eight legged Demodex), so I looked it up : apparently ‘cooties’ are ‘undesirable germs in a socially undesirable person’ . Awsome to learn these things!

        1. If I remember correctly from my childhood, cooties are anything small, numerous, and bad that one can get on oneself from someone who is cootie-ridden. It is essential that the cooties in question not be identified further in order to thwart denial. Having cooties is generally a chronic condition, though their have been cases where someone of the opposite sex gets older and seems to lose them.

          1. The term came into common usage during WW1, and referred primarily to the common human body louse, Pediculus humanus corporus. They were both a universal annoyance, and a vector for bacterial disease, particularly B. quintana.
            While body lice were the common affliction, other types of lice, and sometimes even rats, were also referred to as cooties.
            Children in my era used the term without really knowing what it specified, just an unnamed contagion.
            It did originate as a term to describe a specific critter. I guess “lousy” has become a similarly nonspecific term.

            As for the analogy, it seems to be a common belief that kids wearing some sort of mask, some of the time, is a critical step to prevent the spread of the disease. The most extreme believe that if a person who is vaccinated and not sick, but is not wearing a mask, they are literally committing murder. It has become a talisman, like the evil eye.
            Kids are not ever going to wear masks in a way that will meaningfully prevent the spread of disease. The majority of adults do not do so, either.

            A similar thing, at least in the local schools, was social distancing. They did a story on our news, and it was surreal. When the gates to the school opened, they let the kids in slowly, and tried to get them to maintain 6′ from the person in front of them. They also did this when they left the classroom for any reason. Lines of spaced kids going in opposite directions passed very close to each other in the halls, but that was ignored.
            Worse, the kids naturally bunched up at the entrance at the beginning of each day, and actually stood in that crowd longer than they would otherwise, because the teachers were letting kids in very slowly. To go back to my earlier Alien analogy, closing the airlock now is not going to meaningfully protect you.
            I am really skeptical of the whole mask thing, as it is being used now. It conflicts on so many levels with what I was taught about preventing contamination from biological agents.

    2. In-school Covid protocols are fairly consistent with lice protocols nowadays. At least in our district.

      If someone in a grade has lice, the school will inform all the parents that someone (unidentified) has come down with it. I.e. “Note to parents: someone in Ms. Crabapple’s class had a lice this week. Please check your children.” They will not say whom. They do exactly the same for Covid.

      They will reiterate their general health reminders to the entire school. I.e. “Students should not share hats or combs.” They do exactly the same for covid (“Students are strongly requested to wear masks when not eating”).

      They will make medication available to parents on request (I live in a mixed income district, lots of free lunch programs). AFAIK, they do the exact same thing with covid tests as long as they have any (which isn’t often), and of course the shots are free.

      So really, you’re making much ado about nothing here (IMO). Covid masks are annoying, but the mass-action you imply is ‘special’ for covid is not special at all, and is pretty normal for other contagious diseases (or parasites) such as lice.

  6. 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.

    Are these known as “Skinner tanks”? They appear to be based on the same (albeit a more-sophisticated) form of operant conditioning.

  7. The title of Tom Wolfe’s book came, of course, from the bonfire incident …

    In part. As I recall from statements made by Wolfe, the title was also an allusion to Vanity Fair, since one of Wolfe’s goals was to encourage American fiction writers to return to the broad social realism of the 19th century Victorian novel, typified by Thackeray and Dickens.

    Wolfe wrote a famous literary manifesto about this for Harper’s shortly after Bonfire of the Vanities was published — “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast.”

    1. 8 legs, so definitely not lice — head, body, or crab. Not scabies mites or ticks, either. I think they are just generic spider shapes.

      1. I once heard a biologist talking about human lice and evolution. As we evolve, so do our lice and also, because human hair is not contiguous there is an opportunity for human lice to evolve in different directions in different populations. Human lice and chimpanzee lice are different and share a common ancestor that’s roughly as old as the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

        The punch line of the talk was that crab lice and the equivalent lice on gorillas have a much more recent common ancestor than gorillas and humans. The possible reasoning behind that was left as an exercise for the audience.

  8. The news really has screwed up on this thing in Canada. I had not seen much of anything until today and now it’s an emergency. The news is too busy covering the Queen.

  9. The kerfuffle over whether what the Nazis did to the Jews should be considered an act of racism obfuscates what was really going on. In this instance and many others it is pointless to argue over a definition. What is important is to understand why the Nazis committed genocide. In my view, through the study of history, the Nazis acted out of tribalism run amok. The Nazi tribe viewed the Jewish tribe as alien, as the “other,” a threat to their values. The Nazis felt the same way to Slavic people. Here perception is more important than reality. But, all this leads to the question as to why tribal identity is so important to humans. Here we must delve into the area of human psychology. An essential attribute of human nature is the quest for dignity, self-respect, and self-worth. For many people this quest can only be satisfied by the acknowledgement of these attributes from others, usually by the individual belonging to one or more tribes. Especially for those that are dissatisfied with their lives, belonging to a tribe and adopting its beliefs gives them a meaning to life. Hence, even today, the emergence of the Trump cult is an example, one of countless, of people joining a cause that provides them a sense of self-worth and dignity they previously lacked. So it was with the Nazis. What better gave the Germans that fervently embraced Nazism, those most impacted by economic depression and the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, a sense of self-worth than having the power to crush and then exterminate those that they perceived as the cause of their woes?

    Arguing about what is or is not racism is a distraction from trying to solve the real problem – the re-emergence of virulent tribalism. Tribalism has always existed and will never go away because it is a mechanism for humans to achieve a sense of dignity and self-worth. What we need to do is to work to reduce the more dangerous manifestation of tribalism, which is the urge of one tribe to strike out and hurt another tribe. Of course, this is easier said than done. The best way to do this is for societal leaders to emphasize that certain human attributes, such as skin color, religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, are not that important for people to lead lives of dignity. The commonalities that exist among humans are important.

    In the United States, the evils of tribalism have emerged several times in its history. Currently, tribalism is at a particularly dangerous level with white Christian nationalism the biggest threat to a stable society. Simultaneously, on the left, there seems to be a growing acceptance of the “stew” theory of society as opposed to the melting pot theory. It is based on the premise that the best American society would be one where various ethnic and racial groups go their own separate, semi-segregated existences that only intersect occasionally in such matters as elections or the workplace. This viewpoint is both pernicious and delusional because no society can exist long under these conditions. Sooner or later, it will tear itself apart. The historical examples are countless. Until the inhabitants of the United States think of themselves as one people, the threat of catastrophe is just around the corner.

    I hope this comment is not considered too long.

    1. In my view, through the study of history, the Nazis acted out of tribalism run amok. The Nazi tribe viewed the Jewish tribe as alien, as the “other,” a threat to their values.

      It was more basic than that, it was literal racism in that they viewed the Jews as a threat to their bloodline, not just their values. The Nazis held to a form of creationism where the different races (Aryan, Slav, Jew, Negro, etc) were literally separate creations. They then saw interbreeding between these races as destroying the purity of their Aryan race.

      They thus regarded the presence of Jews in society as a farmer in possession of a herd of pedigree cattle might regard the prospect of them breeding with a random mongrel. They then blamed all the ills of Germany on the interbreeding that had previously occurred (thus blaming everything on the Jews) and felt that they needed a “solution” to the “Jewish problem” to prevent any possibility of such continuing. (I wrote a long piece about this a while back.)

      1. Indeed, separately created, which lays to rest the false idea, promoted by creationists, that the nazis were inspired by Darwin.
        No creationists, the nazis were fellow creationists.

    1. This will get more acceptance than the HPV vaccine I bet. In both cases, religious conservatives would normally oppose vaccinations for an STD because they approve of “God punishing” sex for pleasure. But where HPV can cause later ovarian cancer in women, EBV can cause later MS in women AND men. So therefore, stopping it is okay.

    2. That study is awesome. At first glance one would think it is impossible to ascribe a fairly uncommon disease as MS to a virus that is so common as EBV. But they do it quite convincingly. A brilliant tour de force.
      Two trivia:
      – it was long suspected that MS was caused by a hypothetical ‘slow virus’, not so hypothetical anymore.
      – in Central Africa EBV is associated with Burkitt lymphoma, but not so much (the association) in other parts of the world.

  10. Not long for me. Understanding the Nazis and how it happened is one of the most important issues in history. Currently in the U.S. we are just a few degrees away from the slow growth of the Nazis and the civilization that allowed it. Just seeing the actions of the republican cult should be telling us this is the most dangerous movement since the Nazis. Declaring the Jan. 6 event was just normal political action??

  11. 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!

    As Miss Simone put it, “Mississippi, Goddam.”

  12. I’ve always thought that Fuseli’s “Nightmare” is an almost perfect representation of “sleep paralysis”, something I’ve experienced twice in my life, and which was perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. I don’t recommend it. (The experience, I mean. The painting is great.)

  13. Since I have never seen the fettuccine Alfredo in a restaurant in Italy I thought they were an American invention. To my surprise they were invented in Rome; in Italy they are known as fettuccine al burro (butter fettuccine). I am not sure one can find them in restaurants outside of Rome.

    1. It might not be up to your standards but one I like is Parmesan. The Brand is Knorr, and it comes in a pouch – Fettuccine Pasta in a Parmesan Cheese Flavored Sauce.

    2. The fettucine alfredos I’ve seen couldn’t fairly be described as noodles tossed with parmesan and butter. They don’t seem to have much cheese in them and are mostly some sort of cream sauce. It can be good when they don’t use too much sauce and it is real cream, with a little nutmeg and cheese, but such are few and far between in my experience.

    3. The conventional story is that fettucine alfredo (really, fettucine all’Alfredo) was invented by Alfredo di Lelio, who owned a restaurant (Alfredo alla Scrofa) on Via della Scrofa in central Rome. Around 1914 (or perhaps 1908), he created the dish because it was something his wife could enjoy despite her nausea (from pregnancy or from recently giving birth, it’s not clear which story is correct). Alfredo’s upscale restaurant still exists on Via della Scrofa, and, when I dined there, you can guess what I ordered. It was terrific.

  14. 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?”

    I think the answer must be that racism can be based on physical characteristics, but it doesn’t have to be. Clearly racism against blacks in the US and the UK is based on what people look like. However, in the UK, historically there was much racial prejudice against the Irish (apparently, not long before my time, it wasn’t uncommon to see gust houses with notices on the door saying “no blacks or Irish”) and they looked pretty much the same as most British people. Furthermore, the Nazis didn’t round up the Jews based on what they look like. At the time, there would have been no way of telling a European Jew from a European non-Jew based on physical appearance.

    I think, Historian’s essay above probably nails the underlying issue as one of a manifestation of tribalism, albeit on a grand scale.

    1. Lenny Henry explained the “No Blacks, No Irish” thing in one of his monologues; his Windrush generation West Indian character teams up with an Irishman to look for accommodation in early ’60s London and having no luck the pair end up drowning their sorrows in a pub. As his companion puts away yet another pint of Guinness, Henry’s character finally understands the anti-Irish prejudice: “Paddy was black on the inside!”

    1. Close enough — some say he went to Egypt with mummy and daddy 🙂 Regarding the reference to a ‘mythological creature’, I wonder how widespread Jesus mythicism is. All non believers with whom I have discussed the issue think Jesus, the man, existed. Yet there are people, Richard Carrier for example, who think he did not exist.

      1. Jesus’s existence or lack thereof has been the subject of several of our host’s posts, if memory serves. Perhaps Jesus is a composite character. If we ignore the “miracles”, it seems likely there have been many Jesus types over the years. Without naming names, they are still with us.

      2. I think Jesus mythicists as well as Jesus historicists agree that the myths that arose in the first couple of centuries of Christianity could have been informed by some recollection of the careers of any number of wandering prophet/philosopher/faith healers. However, studying our (admittedly very spotty) written sources in chronological order, it looks to me as if the religion originated in the worship of a purely celestial “Christ”, and that the first “biography” of Jesus as a human being (the gospel of Mark) is pretty clearly an allegory and a purely literary construction. Later generations of Christians stupidly read that work of subtle allegory as literal history, and only then did Jesus “become” an historical person. I am of course this guy so I would say something like that!

      3. I think I’ve left this link on this site before, but I think this Quora answer makes a good case for Jesus being based on a real itinerant preacher rather than originating purely as a myth. Aside from all the other reasons he discusses, stories like the Nativity and Crucifixion seem to make more sense as rationalizations to explain historical realities than the types of things people would invent.

          1. Oh, it is. It’s very obviously made up. But why? Why invent a story about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, but then growing up in Nazareth, of all places, a little podunk village of no renown? It makes a lot more sense if Jesus really did come from Nazareth, but then people tried to rationalize that with the prophecies that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.

            It’s similar with his baptism by John the Baptist (why would God incarnate need to be baptized?), or the entire crucifixion and resurrection. Inventing a story about the Messiah being crucified seems a bit of a stretch, but trying to rationalize why your entirely human cult leader was crucified seems a bit more plausible.

            I’m not saying it’s a slam dunk that Jesus was a real person. But considering how common place it is for cults to form around real people, it seems a pretty mundane and parsimonious explanation.

            1. The answer to that depends on what is meant by “Jesus the Nazorene”. That seems to have been an older usage than “Jesus of Nazareth” (see “Mark” etc). And we don’t really know what it meant, but it seems to have originally meant something different from “of Nazareth” (you’ll need an expert in the relevant languages to explain why). Maybe “Nazorenes” were a particular sect. All this is debated by scholars.

              We know that “Matthew” based his gospel largely on “Mark”, and it seems that “Matthew” also didn’t really know how to interpret “Nazorene”, and so he tells us it means “of Nazareth”, and he was also the one who first told (= invented) the nativity stories. The bit about Bethlehem was, of course, about fulfilling prophesies (City of David, line of David).

              So, the answer to why “Matthew” (specifically) invented the story about the two location is that he was constrained by what was already in “Mark”. Of course “Mark” doesn’t have any inconsistency since, of course, he didn’t have any nativity story.

              So the answer to why “Nazareth” is likely “because the gospel writers were interpreting the older phrase “the Nazorene”.” And we don’t really know the origin of that. And without that, the argument he must really have been “of Nazareth” isn’t that strong.

              It’s similar with his baptism by John the Baptist (why would God incarnate need to be baptized?),…

              Likely the theological symbolism of this is lost to us. It’s also likely that John the Baptist may have been a real figure, so a hook to hang the story on.

              … or the entire crucifixion and resurrection. Inventing a story about the Messiah being crucified seems a bit of a stretch, …

              Again, it may well have made sense in their theology (we can’t really judge based on what seems likely to us), and note that there is a lot of presaging of this in the Old Testament (see also the crucifixion bit of the Ascension of Isaiah, which seems to be pretty much an Old Testament version of the crucifixion).

      4. Maybe I’m a bit carried away by Richard Carrier, but he appears highly convincing to me.
        The complete lack of contemporary non-Christian sources is damning indeed. So no, Jesus the man in flesh and blood probably never existed.

    1. There was a commercial with the same man and cat last year as well. It featured the cat herding cattle and leaping into water to fetch a stitch. I liked it as well as the new one. But a cat doing dog stuff? Don’t think PCC would like that, IMO, haha.

  15. Thanks or no thanks to Donald Trump, I only started keeping up with the news in 2016. I can say mask mandates and a high rate of vaccinated people is the norm. Just my opinion, but things are way way quieter in the day to day here in Canada than the circus across the border, it seems. The state of emergency is for the capital, Ottawa, a sleepy town where the Parliament area has a refuge for hundreds of stray cats. It is not where I am. There are protests against vaccines, vaccine mandates, mask mandates. In my city they are loosening restrictions because the death toll is going down. Nobody goes to a store or on public transit without a mask on…their chin…or only their

    For 2 years, I feel like I matter and what I want and how I feel matters.I like wearing a mask, it keeps my face warm. I like having the space from people. I liked getting vaccinated and i am getting boosted soon. There is grief in this time, the death of laughter and conversation. I would rather stay alive, however boring and restrictive it is.

  16. Funny, I’ve seen Fusili’s “Nightmare” many times, and I love it, but I’ve never caught the pun; that there is actually a night mare in the painting. So obvious I didn’t ever notice it?

    With reference to your article I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “Fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”) in 1908 in the “trattoria” run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). This “trattoria” of Piazza Rosa has become the “birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo”, this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1948 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by me, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See the website of “Il Vero Alfredo”.
    I must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong and are out of my brand “Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma”.
    The brand “Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma” is present in Mexico with a restaurant in Mexico City and a trattoria in Cozumel) on the basis of franchising relationships with the Group Hotel Presidente Intercontinental Mexico.
    The restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the Registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence – section on Historical Activities of Excellence” of the Municipality of Roma Capitale.
    Best regards Ines Di Lelio

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