Note: Due to the crush of work (mostly filling out forms and doing airline schedules), there will be no readers’ wildlife feature today. It will occur sporadically until I leave for Antarctica.
Good morning on Thursday, February 17, 2022, and National Café au Lait Day. I prefer a latte, but will take the CaL. Straight espresso is too hard on my tummy in the morning.
If you haven’t had Indian Pudding, by the way, do try it. You’ll be able to get it only in New England, and it’s time-consuming to make at home, but oy, I love the stuff, particularly when served warm and topped with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Durgin-Park, now defunct, was the restaurant to get it in Boston, but there’s always the Union Oyster House near Goverment Center. Here’s a good recipe (you can leave out the maple syrup and add more molasses), and here’s what it looks like:
There’s a Google Doodle today honoring the 94th birthday of Dr. Michiaki Takahashi, who died in 2013. (Click on screenshot for links). He devised the vaccine for chickenpox in 1973 and it was certified for worldwide use by WHO eleven years later. (I don’t even remember it being announced!)
News of the Day:
*When the Taliban took Afghanistan last year, they promised that from then on women and girls would get equal opportunity, including schooling. At the time I was sure that was a lie, for religion-based misogyny always tells, and it did. An op-ed in the Washington Post, “Afghan schools might reopen soon, but girls won’t have the resources to thrive,” by By Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who helped 100 women escape from Afghanistan to Rwanda, tells the tale:
The Taliban reopened schools for all boys in September. Girls in elementary school went back, too. For girls in grades seven and up, though — or to say it another way, for girls either entering or past puberty — nothing. No classes. No education. No future.
The beginning of the school year in Afghanistan is March 23, less than six weeks away. The Taliban told the world that all girls might be allowed to return to school. But now, it’s “a question of capacity,” a Taliban official says. It’s not that teenage girls shouldn’t be educated; it’s that they need to be fully segregated from boys and men. They need their own separate classrooms in their own separate schools. They need their own separate living facilities. They need teachers who are female. [JAC: Apparently there’s a dearth of women teachers—no surprise!]
. . .Yes, reopening schools is absolutely necessary, but it won’t be enough to set this game-changing circle in motion. If the Taliban wants to claim that girls’ education is “a question of capacity,” then the global community must press the group to build that capacity, and build it now. The model exists, and Afghan women stand ready, especially in rural areas where a women-led education infrastructure awaits the international investment it needs to thrive.
Families in the provinces know this and want this. And all the Afghan girls who right now are studying at home, creating in themselves the hope for Afghanistan’s future, know and want this, too.
*Satirist P. J. O’Rourke, writer, satirist, and conservative, has died at 74 of lung cancer. I haven’t read him in decades, but I remember enjoying his collections. (h/t: Ken). Here’s a 34-minute interview with O’Rourke:
The New York Times has a separate analysis of O’Rourke’s work.
*This kind of thing is occurring increasingly often: a Jewish speaker (it doesn’t matter what the topic is) gives a Zoom talk, and somehow a bunch of bigoted loons get the Zoom invite. They then come onto the site and create pandemonium, shouting anti-Semitic slogans or “Heil Hitler”s. The Algemeiner reports yet another instance (h/t Anna). An Israeli chemist, Professor Sason Shaik of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was giving a virtual talk in a symposium on the theoretical physics of organic chemistry; the symposium was was sponsored by faculty from the University of Houston and University of California, Davis. This happened:
Shaik’s talk on his career as a chemist was subjected to an antisemitic “Zoom attack,” organizer Judy Wu of the University of Houston explained.
“Suddenly, lots of people jumped into the Zoom, playing background sounds of fighting and very offensive language,” Wu told The Algemeiner. “There were robotic sounds saying ‘Heil Hitler,’ which was very unpleasant.”
Shaik said he learned of the disturbance only after the event, as his meeting settings had muted the audience, but denounced the hateful interruption of an intellectual exchange.
. . . In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded at least 114 Zoombombings that targeted synagogues, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools — making up over a third of the incidents of harassment affecting Jewish institutions that year.
*If you’re interested in women’s figure skating at the Olympics, the NYT has an up-to-date page with pictures and videos, including the latest on controversial Russian skater Kamila Valieva, who may win the singles competition but not get a medal. (Why, by the way, doesn’t anyone seem to care about men’s skating?)
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 927,115, an increase of 2,113 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,871,228, an increase of about 12,300 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 17 include:
- 1600 – On his way to be burned at the stake for heresy, at Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, the philosopher Giordano Bruno has a wooden vise put on his tongue to prevent him continuing to speak.
Here’s an early engraving of Bruno, giving an idea of what he looked like (caption from Wikipedia):
And an engraving of his execution:
- 1621 – Myles Standish is appointed as first military commander of the English Plymouth Colony in North America.
Here’s a statue involving a famous, but probably apocryphal, story about Myles Standish:
This group illustrates a line from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. In the poem, Captain Miles Standish asks his friend John Alden to propose to Priscilla on his behalf. John goes to visit Priscilla and does as requested, even though he is in love with her himself. This sculpture shows the moment when Priscilla guesses John’s true feelings and declares, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”
- 1801 – 1800 United States presidential election: An tie in the Electoral College between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr is resolved when Jefferson is elected President of the United States and Burr, Vice President by the United States House of Representatives.
- 1864 – American Civil War: The H. L. Hunley becomes the first submarine to engage and sink a warship, the USS Housatonic.
The Hunley was located and raised for reconstruction in 2000. She appears to be sitting in a bath of sodium hydroxide (below):
Here’s a three-minute time-lapse video transit of the Suez Canal, a passage that usually takes about 12-16 hours:
- 1949 – Chaim Weizmann begins his term as the first President of Israel.
- 1972 – Cumulative sales of the Volkswagen Beetle exceed those of the Ford Model T.
- 1980 – First winter ascent of Mount Everest by Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy.
The route they took was the famous South Col route, pioneered by Tenzing and Hillary (line). Below that is Wielicki on the summit:
- 1996 – In Philadelphia, world champion Garry Kasparov beats the Deep Blue supercomputer in a chess match.
- 2011 – Arab Spring: Libyan protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime begin.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1843 – Aaron Montgomery Ward, American businessman, founded Montgomery Ward (d. 1913)
- 1864 – Banjo Paterson, Australian journalist, author, and poet (d. 1941)
Paterson, who of course wrote “Waltzing Matilda”, is depicted on the Ausisie ten-dollar note:
Fisher has been canceled for his views on eugenics, but here’s a picture of him in 1913, when he was 23. He was nearly blind in his later years:
- 1921 – Duane Gish, American biochemist and academic (d. 2013)
How many of you watched Gish spew his creationism onstage? I did once, in Sacramento in the eighties. It was quite a show. Here’s one of his drawings showing why evolution couldn’t have happened, for a land animal to whale transition would have involved ludicrous “mer-cow” intermediates like this:
- 1922 – Tommy Edwards, American R&B singer-songwriter (d. 1969)
Here’s the song for which Edwards is famous. What you may not know is that the melody was written in 1911 by Charles Dawes, who became Vice-President under Calvin Coolidge and a Nobel Laureate as well. It’s the only hit song with a co-author who was a Nobel Laureate, much less a VP:
- 1929 – Chaim Potok, American rabbi and author (d. 2002)
- 1942 – Huey P. Newton, American activist, co-founded the Black Panther Party (d. 1989)
Newton is on the right, and do you recognize the guy on the left? (Another co-founder.) Newton was friends with biologist Bob Trivers and planned to write a book with him on deceit and deception, but Newton was murdered in Oakland:
- 1963 – Larry the Cable Guy, American comedian and voice actor
- 1981 – Paris Hilton, American model, media personality, actress, singer, DJ, author and businesswoman
Those who kicked the bucket on February 17 include:
- 1600 – Giordano Bruno, Italian mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1548)
- 1673 – Molière, French actor and playwright (b. 1622)
- 1856 – Heinrich Heine, German journalist and poet (b. 1797)
- 1982 – Thelonious Monk, American pianist and composer (b. 1917)
I have a joke about Monk, which I invented but surely others have as well:
Q: What do you call a friar who steals from the monastery?
A: A felonious monk.
Here’s the great pianist playing “Don’t Blame Me”:
- 1982 – Lee Strasberg, American actor and director (b. 1901)
- 2006 – Bill Cowsill, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1948)
This later live version by the group is every bit as good as the original. Billy is at left on guitar.
Here’s the group getting their gold record in 1967 for this song. Oy, were they young! Caption is from Wikipedia:
- 2021 – Rush Limbaugh, American talk show host and author (b. 1951)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, who wants inside, is threatening Kulka!
Hili: Take her away from the window sill and let me in.A: She will not do anything to you.Hili: But I may harm her.
Hili: Zabierz ją z okna i wpuść mnie do domu.Ja: Ona ci nic nie zrobi.Hili: Ale ja ją mogę uszkodzić.
From Peter’s collection of Fun With Snow:
Forgive me for posting a silly animated duck meme. Honey should be returning in a few weeks (if they don’t renovate the pond). If she shows up, it will be her sixth year in a row, and I will be elated.
Bigots always accuse me of “playing the victim card”.
That kind of thing really triggers my post-traumatic slave syndrome.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) February 16, 2022
From Barry. I think I saw something cuter today: ducks slipping and sliding as they tried to walk across a partly melted pond surface:
This is the cutest thing you'll see today ❤ pic.twitter.com/fdZEUXrjLN
— Puppies 🐶 (@PuppiesIover) February 15, 2022
From God, who, you know, is omniscient:
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
Snoop will be high.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) February 13, 2022
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first is the beginning of a 9-tweet thread about the only American ever involved in the German resistance to Hitler. She suffered the same fate as her ideological confrère, Sophie Scholl. Read the whole thread, as it’s sad but also heartening.
Mildred Harnack and her husband Arvid began holding secret meetings in their apartment. She recruited working-class Germans into the resistance, helped Jews escape, plotted acts of sabotage, and collaborated in writing leaflets that denounced Hitler and called for revolution 2/9 pic.twitter.com/e8C3iiFjUs
— Rebecca Donner (@RRRDonner) February 16, 2022
On February 16, 1943 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin, Mildred Harnack was strapped to a guillotine and beheaded. According to all available records, she was the only American in the leadership of the German resistance to Hitler 9/9 pic.twitter.com/KJeSczRQiy
— Rebecca Donner (@RRRDonner) February 16, 2022
This is a good one:
Charles Darwin reads his hatemail pic.twitter.com/fD0X6M5gjX
— Eleanor Morton (@EleanorMorton) February 15, 2022
An interesting tweet, though the in-brain twin is a bit gross. It’s from a while back, but I did you all a favor by looking up the article. I put the “twin fetus” below the fold (you know you’ll look at it!)
Like something from an Angela Carter story: a twin fetus, 14cm long & with head, trunk and limbs, extracted from the brain of a 6-week-old child (who lived). It might sound grotesque, but reveals how loosely specified development is: many outcomes possiblehttps://t.co/CeasnuDqkE
— Philip Ball (@philipcball) February 16, 2022
Click “read more” to see the “twin”
The twin in the newborn’s brain before removal (the real child, by the way, did fine):