Welcome to the cruelest day: Tuesday, February 22, 2022: National Cook a Sweet Potato Day! That’s a good idea: they’re full of nutrients, taste good, and after scrubbing, pricking with a fork a few times, and ten minutes on high at the microwave, just smush up with some butter and you have dinner (with a nice wine, of course). Don’t forget to eat the skin!
It’s also National Margarita Day, National Wildlife Day, Walking the Dog Day, World Spay Day, Be Humble Day (was this invented by theologians for scientists?), World Thinking Day, Crime Victims Day (in Europe), and a federal holiday, Washington’s Birthday.
News of the Day:
*Well, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun, in a sneaky way. But make no mistake about it: this is just the beginning. Among other sources, the Associated Press reports that Putin ordered Russian forces into separatist areas of eastern Ukraine to “keep the peace”. (This, of course, is after the separatists were ordered to break the peace. There is no record of Ukrainian troops firing first.) Those regions already harbored Russian troops, but more are slated to come in. But wait! There’s more! Putin has also recognized the “independence” of those two regions: “Donetsk” and “Luhansk People’s Republic.” In effect, they are now designated as Russian allies, soon to be part of Russia:
The Kremlin decree, spelled out in an order signed by Putin, left unclear when, or even whether, troops would enter Ukraine. But it further fueled fears of an imminent invasion and underscored the steep challenges the U.S. and Western nations face in staving off a military conflict they have portrayed as near-inevitable.
The Kremlin’s announcement came just hours after Putin, in a rambling, fact-bending discourse on European history, recognized the independence of the eastern separatist regions, paving the way to provide them military support and antagonizing Western leaders who regard such a move as an unjust breach of world order.’
It’s all over but the shooting. Oh, and there’s this:
*Biden has a special set of sanctions for this latest incursion; he’s saving the big ones for later. But our NATO allies are standing with us. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Germany has halted progress on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. (It wasn’t yet operating but was expected to within a year.)
The pipeline was set to double direct Russian gas exports to Germany and has been awaiting formal approval since last October. The German agency in charge of certification had recently suspended the process and said it wouldn’t resume before the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is considering severing diplomatic relations with Russia in response to Mr. Putin’s decision, as reports grew of Russian troops moving into the area.
“Ukraine must react to this, defending its sovereignty and statehood.” Mr. Zelensky said at a Tuesday press conference with the Estonian president, at which he called on the West to immediately punish Russia with sanctions. He said he would decide on his foreign ministry’s proposal to cut ties with Moscow later Tuesday.
As of yesterday I saw no reports of new Russian troops entering Ukraine, but now, according to the WSJ, they’re “pouring in”:
Columns of Russian military vehicles poured into Donetsk overnight, hours after Mr. Putin made a speech questioning Ukraine’s legitimacy and recognizing the two statelets that Russia established in the Donbas in 2014, according to witnesses and footage posted on social media. A senior White House official said the administration had received information that Russian troops had deployed into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions “for so-called peacekeeping functions,” adding that U.S. officials are still assessing the situation.
Here are the two new “independent” countries that will be under Putin’s thumb, Donetsk and Luhansk. And we can do precious little to stop this, for Putin wants his Lebensraum.
*Laurie Santos, a Yale professor of psychology who specializes in and teaches popular courses on how to be happy, is taking a break for a year because she’s burned out. In an interview at the NYT with David Marchese, she explains her decision:
I was just Googling you to find out some minor fact, and I saw a story in the Yale student paper that said you’re taking a leave of absence for burnout. So, first, I’m sorry that things were feeling difficult. And second, if the happiness professor is feeling burned out, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Back up, back up. I took a leave of absence because I’m trying not to burn out. I know the signs of burnout. It’s not like one morning you wake up, and you’re burnt. You’re noticing more emotional exhaustion. You’re noticing what researchers call depersonalization. You get annoyed with people more quickly. You immediately assume someone’s intentions are bad. You start feeling ineffective. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t noticing those things in myself. I can’t be telling my students, “Oh, take time off if you’re overwhelmed” if I’m ignoring those signals. You can’t just power through and wish things weren’t happening. From learning about the science of happiness, I treat it like any other health issue: If my blood pressure was soaring — you need to take action. So it’s not a story of Even the happiness professor isn’t happy. This is a story of, I’m making these changes now so I don’t get to that point of being burned out. I see it as a positive.
When Santos is asked to explain why her students are feeling increasingly anxious and unhappy, she responds that our intuitions about what will make us happy, often pushed on us by cultural forces (i.e., capitalism), are often wrong. Students are more concerned now with achievement and money, and disappointed when those things don’t fill the Happiness Hole. Her answer about how to be happy is “42.” No, it’s this:
So what’s the answer? What’s the purpose of life? It’s smelling your coffee in the morning. [Laughs.] Loving your kids. Having sex and daisies and springtime. It’s all the good things in life. That’s what it is.
Oy! I could have told you that, except for the daisies part. And for some people work itself is one of the good things in life.
Here’s an appropriate song that a discussion with Matthew made me remember. It’s by one of my favorite groups (nice harmony, too):
*Finnegan the dog, known for his phenomenal sniffing abilities and use as an exemplar in popular books, has died at 14. Or so says his staff, Alexandra Horowitz, a Barnard cognitive scientist working on d*gs, who wrote a touching obituary in yesterday’s NYT. FInnegan Horowitz Shea, to use the canid’s real name, featured in several of his staff’s books. Sadly, the obituary section of the NYT is restricted to people, which miffs Dr. Horowitz:
This obituary isn’t running in the Obituaries section of The New York Times. The Times’s Obit section does not run pieces about nonhuman animals — this despite the fact that obituaries are posthumous commemorations of someone’s life and animals are someones and have lives. “Obituaries, really, are summations of lives — of people,” William McDonald, the Obituaries editor, was quoted as saying in an article about why animals do not appear in Obits. It would be “incongruous,” he suggested, to have the story of an animal next to that of “men and women who lived exemplary lives, accomplished things.” An obituarist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution told the anthropologist Jane Desmond, “Obits are for people. Pets are animals. Period.”
If the explanation for restricting obituaries to humans is that obituaries are “summations of lives,” certainly all living things qualify: We share the biological capacity to create life, to live and to die with all other animals. If it is that people are the proper subject of any story about a life, innumerable stories of animal lives in books and other media belie that. If it is exemplariness or accomplishment that qualifies one for an obit, it is clear that any species that is well enough observed will reveal extraordinary feats among its members — from elephants, whose behavior indicates that they grieve dead relatives, to a laboratory rat who elects to free a trapped fellow rat rather than eat a treat to dogs, whose daily presence elevates the lives of the people whose company they keep.
She then gives Finnegan a proper obituary, ending this way:
As a model for dog behavior, Finnegan helped to reveal to hundreds of thousands of people how dogs perceive the world through their noses and to appreciate their own dogs’ parallel universe. His greatest impact, though, was surely felt by the family that survives him, including two Canis familiaris, one Felis catus and the three people lucky to know him personally.
By being a dog, Finnegan showed me the richness of the world that I had overlooked, and I am forever changed. In life, animals are rarely treated with the respect due these fellow travelers on earth; when they die, we have one last chance to do so.
Well spoken! Here’s the author with Finnegan from the article:
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 934,659, an increase of 2,096 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,911,791, an increase of about 3,600 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 22 include:
- 1632 – Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the dedicatee, receives the first printed copy of Galileo‘s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems .
Here’s the title page and frontispiece of the book, which pushed the Copernican (heliocentric) system. It was this book that got Galileo in trouble for heresy:
It was by the French, but they failed.
- 1819 – By the Adams–Onís Treaty, Spain sells Florida to the United States for five million U.S. dollars.
- 1879 – In Utica, New York, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many of five-and-dime Woolworth stores.
Woolworth got rich, of course, and built the Woolworth Building in NYC as his headquarters. Here’s a lovely architectural detail from that building depicting Woolworth as a gargoyle-like figure (note the coin):
- 1881 – Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,500-year-old Ancient Egyptian obelisk is erected in Central Park, New York.
Built in 1475 BC on the orders of Thutmose III, the red-granite obelisk was given to the U.S. as a gift for being a good trading partner. It’s still here, and you can see it:
- 1909 – The sixteen battleships of the Great White Fleet, led by USS Connecticut, return to the United States after a voyage around the world.
It took several years to demonstrate U.S. Naval Power in this way, ordered by Teddy Roosevelt. Here’s part of the fleet, with the ships painted white:
- 1943 – World War II: Members of the White Rose resistance, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst are executed in Nazi Germany.
Here’s a scene from the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, showing her farewell to her brother and friend, her perfunctory trial, and execution by guillotine (no gore is shown). I find this very moving, and have watched it several times.
- 1973 – Cold War: Following President Richard Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China, the two countries agree to establish liaison offices.
- 1980 – Miracle on Ice: In Lake Placid, New York, the United States hockey team defeats the Soviet Union hockey team 4–3.
Here’s the last minute of that game, which I watched on t.v. “Do you believe in miracles?” This was the semifinals, with the Soviets a heavy favorite. Two days later the U.S. beat Finland to secure the gold medal. this was a huge deal at the time.
- 1994 – Aldrich Ames and his wife are charged by the United States Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union.
Ames (below) passed along a lot of secrets to the Russians, and is in prison for life (it’s not clear if he’ll ever be paroled). His wife got five years in the pen.
- 1997 – In Roslin, Midlothian, British scientists announce that an adult sheep named Dolly has been successfully cloned.
Dolly lived seven years, and then was euthanized because she had arthritis and lung disease. Now stuffed and mounted, her carcass resides in the National Museum of Scotland:
- 2011 – New Zealand’s second deadliest earthquake strikes Christchurch, killing 185 people.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1732 – George Washington, American general and politician, 1st President of the United States (d. 1799)
- 1819 – James Russell Lowell, American poet and critic (d. 1891)
- 1857 – Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, English general, co-founded The Scout Association (d. 1941)
Baden-Powell was a national hero during the Boer War and also an artist. Here’s a WWI poster he designed:
- 1857 – Heinrich Hertz, German physicist, philosopher, and academic (d. 1894)
- 1892 – Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and playwright (d. 1950)
Artist and activist, Millay was also a great paramour of both men and women. Wikipedia says this about her relationship with Edmund Wilson, one of my literary heroes:
Counted among Millay’s close friends were the writers Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, and Susan Glaspell, as well as Floyd Dell and the critic Edmund Wilson, both of whom proposed marriage to her and were refused. Millay had a way of wrapping men around her finger, even after she rejected them. Edmund Wilson, for example, spoke of her highly because Millay took his virginity but she rejected his advances and his marriage proposal. However, he remained a loyal friend.
Here’s Millay in 1914, when she was 22:
- 1914 – Renato Dulbecco, Italian-American virologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2012)
- 1925 – Edward Gorey, American illustrator and poet (d. 2000)
Reader Jon sends in his annual contribution to this site, a picture of Gorey, who was a great ailurophile:
- 1932 – Ted Kennedy, American soldier, lawyer, and politician (d. 2009)
- 1942 – Christine Keeler, English model and dancer (d. 2017)
Do you remember this iconic photo of Keeler? It’s been imitated many times.
- 1950 – Julius Erving, American basketball player and sportscaster
Those who checked out on February 22 include:
- 1942 – Stefan Zweig, Austrian journalist, author, and playwright (b. 1881)
- 1943 – Christoph Probst, German activist (b. 1919)
- 1943 – Hans Scholl, German activist (b. 1918)
- 1943 – Sophie Scholl, German activist (b. 1921)
See above for Probst and the Scholls.
- 1944 – Kasturba Gandhi, Indian activist (b. 1869)
- 1976 – Florence Ballard, American singer (b. 1943)
“And Flo, she don’t know that the boy she loves is a Romeo.” This song went to #1, and of course was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Kokoshka, “The Cat” (1910):
- 1987 – Andy Warhol, American painter and photographer (b. 1928)
- 2002 – Chuck Jones, American animator, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1912)
- 2021 – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet, painter (b. 1919)
Ferlenghetti was one of those guys who seemed to be immortal, and then one day he was gone. But he lived to be 101. Here he is in 2012:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is trying to see if it’s possible for one person to understand everything:
Hili: Is there anybody who understands everything?A: No, there isn’t.
Hili: Czy jest ktoś, kto to wszystko rozumie?Ja: Nie ma.
Shhhh. . . Kulka is sleeping:
Another cat meme, this time from Bruce:
Another snow figure from Peter:
From Barry. Yes, there have been a few creationists who do real biology, and here’s one of them having a brain freeze when forced to encounter the brute facts of speciation. Bernard D’Abrera was one of the great lepidopterists of our time, but rejected evolution. It’s hard for me to see how that’s possible, but so it goes.
Bernard D’Abrera was one of the 20th century’s most prolific butterfly experts. He was also among the last actual creationists in professional biology.
Here, his brain short-circuits when confronted with an actively speciating radiation of South American butterflies. pic.twitter.com/jQ1JClw27Y
— Alex Wild (@Myrmecos) February 21, 2022
From Simon. As you may know, Queen Elizabeth has covid-19, and that’s no laughing matter given her age. Naturally, the ivermectin pushers are urging their horse nostrum on her. A pair of tweets.
"The Queen is actually a racehorse with worms" is my new favourite conspiracy theory and I will be believing it from now on.
— Beth McMillan (@teraspawn) February 21, 2022
Internet gossip: Sabine Hossenfelder asked a DEI question when submitting a grant on inflation in the early universe (she was apparently required to include a “diversity statement”). She wrote the tweet below, and of course was excoriated—simply for asking for suggestions. (She works in Frankfurt.) As the tweets below show, asking for suggestions is damning enough, and, after a bout of social-media opprobrium, she deleted her tweet—and had the guts enough to admit it:
The reaction recounted and Hossenfelder’s explanation:
A physicist could not explain how cosmic inflation is relevant for gender&diversity, but a grant wanted this, so she asked help. The debate attracted free speech and dissenters, tanks come to crush the spring: some ParticlesForJustice saw CisWhiteTransphopia, she self-cancelled. https://t.co/vDTkoR05qV
— Alessandro Strumia (@AlessandroStru4) February 20, 2022
That is why I don’t use Twitter much.
Tweets from Matthew. I’m absolutely fascinated by these AI portraits of what people from previous centuries would look like if they were living now. There are lots, and it’s hard to choose which ones to show. Start with the first one and read the thread.
Hidreley Diao uses AI to capture what historical figures would look like if they were modern people.
George Washington: pic.twitter.com/Wh5bi9FAgL
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) February 20, 2022
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) February 20, 2022
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) February 20, 2022
Marie Antoinette pic.twitter.com/PY6SmIvJiV
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) February 20, 2022
There are a lot more on the thread. Go see!
Finally, something I’ve never seen before, and you probably haven’t, either:
"you're looking at me like you've never seen an owl sitting with its legs crossed before" pic.twitter.com/ksqL60vfxW
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) February 21, 2022