Good morning on yet another chilly Chicago Thursday, February 10, 2022: National “Have a Brownie Day.” But I don’t have one! It’s also National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, National Flannel Day, Umbrella Day, International Cribbage Day, and Teddy Day. Here’s Toasty, my own teddy bear, who’s as old as I am! Like me, he’s battered and depilated, but we’re still here. I will be buried with him—if he doesn’t die first!
Wine of the Day: Here we have a nice California Riesling: Marietta Cellars’ 2020 “Old Vine Riesling”, or OVR, which costs around $15. The vines are indeed old (a wizened one is shown on the label), and the reviews are good (the captious Robert Parker gave it a 92, a high score for an inexpensive white). Because a fragrant and slightly sweet Riesling is a perfect accompaniment for spicy food, I had it with a big bowl of channa masala (curried chickpeas) from Trader Joe’s, mixed with short-grained Asian rice.
The wine is not too sweet but with a touch of sweetness: this were a German Riesling it would fall between a Kabinett and a Spätlese. Fruity notes in the nose include: honey (or honeysuckle) and melon. It was a good wine to go with the Indian food. (Again, I usually have beer.) If you see this for about $15 (remember, it’s the 2020 vintage), snap it up.
News of the Day:
*Here’s a NYT editorial that I like, as it emphasizes forgiveness, even though from a Jewish point of view. It’s by write Nathan Hersh and is called “Whoopi Goldberg apologized. Punishing her further is un-Jewish.” (As you remember, Goldberg put her foot in it when arguing that the Holocaust wasn’t about race but about a fight between two groups of white people. For that she was suspended for two weeks, a punishment that is outrageous. Her apology should have been sufficient. As Hersh writes:
But ABC’s decision to suspend her from “The View” for two weeks, after she apologized, is equally troubling. Silencing people for ignorance and a misunderstanding of antisemitism is largely unhelpful and is, at its core, un-Jewish; Jewish tradition emphasizes the acceptance and importance of apology.
One of Judaism’s most famous sages, the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides, made clear the role the forgiver should play in a case like Ms. Goldberg’s: Help the wrongdoer overcome her ignorance and then forgive her. Maimonides said: “One must not show himself cruel by not accepting an apology; he should be easily pacified, and provoked with difficulty. When an offender asks his forgiveness, he should forgive wholeheartedly and with a willing spirit.”
The problem with punishment is it uses shame, rather than teaching and reflection, as the tool to address what is at best a clumsy misstatement and at worst a failure of understanding. Shame doesn’t foster a better relationship with the truth, or history; it simply forces silence, and that can breed resentment. In turn, silence and resentment fuel antisemitism. The better answer in these situations is obvious, but not easy: education, education, education.
I remember that Dick Lewontin kept a copy of Maimonides’s A Guide for the Perplexed in our lab library, and I always wondered why there was a 12th-century book on Jewish ethics sitting among all the evolution and population genetics books.
*You remember the famous long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, right? I’m amazed that, at age 64, she swam from Havana to Key West (111 miles), becoming the first person to do so without being inside a shark cage. Anyway, she has a new op-ed in the Washington Post, “Celebrate trans athletes. But give cisgender women a fair shot at victory.”
We must certainly find a way to celebrate our trans athletes. At the same time, cisgender women have fought for decades to demand a level playing field. Here is the crux of the issue: women’s rights thrown up against human rights. But it’s the science, the biology, that must drive the argument.
And that, as I’ve always said, is the way it should be. The problem is that we don’t have the science.
When we compare elite men’s achievement standards to women’s, the gap in most sports is a huge 10 to 12 percent. It’s testosterone that drives that performance gap, catapulting athletes to superior brute strength and more explosive power of movement. That is why sports authorities have for decades judged fairness by testing testosterone in both men and women. But hormones aren’t the only factor.
To be clear, trans women are women. Full stop. We must also be clear that trans women who have gone through male puberty acquire physical advantages female puberty does not provide: More red blood cells store and use oxygen more efficiently. Wider shoulders mean a leverage advantage, and narrower hips make for more efficient movement dynamics. Longer legs and arms, bigger hands and feet, can more easily handle a ball or cover a field.
. . .Perhaps a fairer plan is to give competitions a new “open” classification: Cisgender, transgender, intersex — all are welcome. Okay, there probably won’t be many entries just yet. But there weren’t many women competing in sports when they were first allowed, either. [Kathrine] Switzer ran solo not that long ago, and now nearly half of the 30,000 Boston marathoners are women.[Switzer insisted on running in the Boston Marathon, which at that time was only for men, and was forced off the course by officials.]
I feel for transgender athletes, and for the people who love them. Many have encountered shame, bullying, hard knocks; sports can, for a moment, replace all that with happiness and confidence. Who wouldn’t feel for an “other” who has summoned the courage to live her truth? And who now, atop her other challenges, suffers criticism for playing the sports she loves? Transgender women need the chance to compete, and to win; doing so fairly will make their achievements all the more rewarding.
Let transgender women athletes run like the wind, as they deserve. And at the same time, let’s allow cisgender women to run against their equals. We’re not at a solution yet, but open minds and empathetic hearts will lead us to the answer.
I could have written that—and in fact have written about the same thing (except that the answer has to involve science more than “empathic hearts”. For her empathy, Nyad will still be demonized as a transphobe. It’s only a matter of time.
And here’s the completion of Nyad’s 111-mile swim:
*Here is my theory, which is mine. I will now give you my theory. Wait a minute. Okay, here it is: People in general do not like fish. Yes, some people scarf down fishy and malodorous anchovies and even fermented shark with gusto, but the most popular fish are fish that taste like meat. I refer to salmon, tuna, flounder, and “white” fish, which, as you know, are not “fishy”. That’s why they’re prized. I just found anecdotal confirmation of my theory (which is mine) in this ad for Natural Catch Tuna Fish. The paragraph (my emphasis):
Natural Catch VS. Supermarket Brands
Natural Catch quality is unmatched to any other brand on any supermarket shelf. We bought a $5 can from our local supermarket and compared it to Natural Catch. The video speaks for itself, there is no comparison in quality. Also Natural Catch provides great taste without the fishy smell at all. These Yellowfin Tuna Filet’s [sic] in a can are a game changer. This is how canned tuna should look, smell and taste like.
I also see that this brand is caught only by pole-and-line fishing, so it’s much more sustainable. I eat a fair amount of tuna in lunch sandwiches (though mostly PB&J), and may switch to this brand. (Go here to see other recommendations for good canned tuna.) But, returning to the question, why is tuna fish by far the most popular fish in America? BECAUSE ITS THE FISH THAT TASTES MOST LIKE MEAT!
*Meanwhile, in the Beijing Winter Olympics, people continue to win medals, while most people don’t win medals. The Russian ice skating team hasn’t yet been awarded its gold medal, with rumors afloat that one of the Russians who “medaled” might have failed a drug test. That might be the 15-year-old figure skating phenom Kamila Valieva, who landed two quads in a single bout a few days ago.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 911,072, an increase of 2,576 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,798,113, an increase of about 13,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 10 include:
- 1306 – In front of the high altar of Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, Robert the Bruce murders John Comyn, sparking the revolution in the Wars of Scottish Independence.
Here’s an illustration of the murder with the caption from Wikipedia:
They made it, but it was a bloody and horrific trip (read the last link). Ten ships were in the fleet that left Lisbon.
- 1567 – Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, is found strangled following an explosion at the Kirk o’ Field house in Edinburgh, Scotland, a suspected assassination.
- 1840 – Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Here’s the earliest known photo of Victoria (ca 1845), taken with her oldest daughter. The Queen would have been about 26.
- 1861 – Jefferson Davis is notified by telegraph that he has been chosen as provisional President of the Confederate States of America.
- 1933 – In round 13 of a boxing match at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Primo Carnera knocks out Ernie Schaaf. Schaaf dies four days later.
Here’s the round in which Carnera, a great bear of a man, knocks out Schaaf, who was suffering from both flu and meningitis:
- 1940 – The Soviet Union begins mass deportations of Polish citizens from occupied eastern Poland to Siberia.
Malgorzata’s own story is connected with this deportation. Her mother, her father, and her mother’s two sisters (one of which had a daughter), all of whom lived in Lwów, a large Polish town, were deported by the Soviets in 1941 to Uzbekistan. Her mother got pregnant and gave birth to Malgorzata there. The adults earned food by working on a collective farm, but the food was too meager to keep them alive, so one sister supplemented the family’s fare by sewing. Her father was soon deported to a gulag and, except for one visit before being sent to the front to fight for the Russians (where he died), that was the last time the family saw Malgorzata’s father. In the meantime, her mother’s other four siblings, their families, and dozens of relatives weren’t deported, but stayed in the small Polish town of Turka. When the Nazis took over Poland in June 1941, all the rest of that Jewish family left in Polands were sent to concentrations camps, where they were killed immediately. Malgorzata her mother, her cousin and her two aunts returned to Poland in 1946.
- 1962 – Cold War: Captured American U2 spy-plane pilot Gary Powers is exchanged for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.
Here’s a short clip showing the incident, and the bridge over which the prisoners were swapped:
This clarifies the order of succession should the President and VP die.
- 1996 – IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeats Garry Kasparov in chess for the first time.
- 2021 – The traditional Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is canceled for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1609 – John Suckling, English poet and playwright (d. 1642)
- 1775 – Charles Lamb, English poet and essayist (d. 1834)
- 1890 – Boris Pasternak, Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1960)
Pasternak was awarded the Prize in 1958 for Dr. Zhivago, but the outraged USSR (his novel was banned there because it wasn’t “socialist realism”) forced him to decline it. Here he is in the year he won:
- 1893 – Jimmy Durante, American actor, singer, and pianist (d. 1980)
- 1905 – Chick Webb, American drummer and bandleader (d. 1939)
Here’s Ella Fitzgerald singing “St. Louis Blues” with Webb’s band at the Savoy Ballroom. Did you know Ella could swing that hard?
- 1920 – Alex Comfort, English physician and author (d. 2000)
- 1927 – Leontyne Price, American operatic soprano
- 1929 – Jim Whittaker, American mountaineer
- 1929 – Lou Whittaker, American mountaineer
The Whittaker brothers are 93 today and are still going strong. Both identical twins reached the top of Everest, though on different expeditions:
If you see one movie with Laura Dern, make it “Rambling Rose” (1991), which gets a critics’ review of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. She plays an errant nanny and part-time prostitute in Depression-era Georgia. It’s a fantastic film. She co-stars with Robert Duvall. Here’s a scene when Duvall catches her in bed in his house with a man:
Those who left the mortal coil on February 10 include:
- 1567 – Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, consort of Mary, Queen of Scots (b. 1545)
- 1912 – Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, English surgeon and academic (b. 1827)
Here’s Lister in 1902:
- 1923 – Wilhelm Röntgen, German physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1845)
And Röntgen, who won the very first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901:
- 1957 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, American author (b. 1867)
- 1992 – Alex Haley, American soldier, journalist, and author (b. 1921)
- 2021 – Larry Flynt, American publisher (b. 1942)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is quite dramatic at breakfast with Szaron:
Hili: This is the naked truth.A: What truth?Hili: The truth about two cats and an empty table.
Hili: To jest naga prawda.Ja: O czym?Hili: O dwóch kotach i pustym stole.
A Kliban classic from Barry. So much for the report that Americans read a dozen books a year. That’s bogus!
Victim of #Honorkilling 17 years old #monaheidari escaped Iran, received asylum in Turkey but was returned to Iran by father&uncle and also Iran embassy in Turkey despite Turkish authorities' effort to keep her there(Interview with Masih Alinejad)pic.twitter.com/31Vomc9FGC
— mina bai (@bai_mina) February 9, 2022
The ineffably sad result of Turkey letting her family return her to Iran:
Heartbreaking. Today in Iran; This man is holding his 17 yr old wife’s head after beheading her. She had fled to Turkey to be safe but was forced back.
In Iran, a father who beheaded his 14 yr old daughter got 8 yr prison but a woman who removed her hijab got 24 years.#LetUsTalk pic.twitter.com/oPy5gIY2Gn
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 5, 2022
A deep-sea fish posted by Ziya Tong:
— Earthling (@ziyatong) February 3, 2022
From Ginger K., getting us ready for Caturday:
— Elayne Let Everyone Vote Boosler (@ElayneBoosler) January 22, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
10 February 1929 | A Polish Jewish girl, Maryla Grinbaum, was born in Krakow.
She was imprisoned in KL Plaszow, and in May 1944 she was transferred to Auschwitz. She did not survive. pic.twitter.com/n5sXkjHEmj
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 10, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. It’s amazing stuff like this that turns people into biologists. (Sound up.)
A welcome guest in my garden. For me the purest form of hypnosis. Two hours of observation feels like five minutes. pic.twitter.com/FDc3nKMg1a
— Thorben Danke (@sagaOptics) February 9, 2022
— AttemptEdHopper (@AttemptEdHopper) February 9, 2022
The first one’s describe in Steve Gould’s Wonderful Life, about the creatures of the Burgess shale. They just found another fossil species:
— Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. 🦖💕 (he/him) (@TomHoltzPaleo) February 9, 2022