It’s the end of the week and, at sundown, the start of the one-day Cat Sabbath. Yes, it’s Friday, May 20, 2022, National Quiche Lorraine Day, which may not be kosher if it includes meat.
It’s also World Bee Day, World Metrology Day, and Josephine Baker Day, an NAACP holiday celebrating the celebrated dancer, actress, and activist. She was neither born nor died on this day, but it’s still her holiday:
Baker also worked with the NAACP. Her reputation as a crusader grew to such an extent that the NAACP had Sunday 20 May 1951 declared “Josephine Baker Day”. She was presented with life membership with the NAACP by Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche.
She also helped the French resistance when she was in Paris during the war, and had a colorful life, including owning a pet cheetah:
In later shows in Paris, she was often accompanied on stage by her pet cheetah “Chiquita,” who was adorned with a diamond collar. The cheetah frequently escaped into the orchestra pit, where it terrorized the musicians, adding another element of excitement to the show.
After a while, Baker was the most successful American entertainer working in France. Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”. The author spent hours talking with her in Paris bars. Picasso drew paintings depicting her alluring beauty. Jean Cocteau became friendly with her and helped vault her to international stardom. Baker endorsed a “Bakerfix” hair gel, bananas, shoes, and cosmetics amongst other products.
I can’t seem to find a Picasso rendition of Baker, so if you have a link, please put it in the comments.
Stuff that happened on May 20 includes:
- 325 – The First Council of Nicaea is formally opened, starting the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church.
- 1498 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovers the sea route to India when he arrives at Kozhikode (previously known as Calicut), India.
- 1570 – Cartographer Abraham Ortelius issues Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas.
Here’s the world from that Atlas. Not bad for 1570, is it? (click to enlarge):
- 1609 – Shakespeare’s sonnets are first published in London, perhaps illicitly, by the publisher Thomas Thorpe.
Here’s the famous first publication:
Here’s the oldest known pair of Levis, dating from the 1870s and found in a mine. Worth over $100,000, they’re locked in a safe at the Levi Strauss company:
- 1883 – Krakatoa begins to erupt; the volcano explodes three months later, killing more than 36,000 people.
- 1940 – The Holocaust: The first prisoners arrive at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Everyone should visit Auschwitz (a short bus ride from Krakow, Poland) once in their lives. Here’s a photo I took of one of the many rooms of belongings confiscated from Jews who were gassed. These people thought they were going to get their luggage back:
- 1964 – Discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Robert Woodrow Wilson and Arno Penzias.
The pair won the Nobel Prize for detecting the electromagnetic radiation associated with the big bang. They used this telescope (caption from Wikipedia):
- 1980 – In a referendum in Quebec, the population rejects, by 60% of the vote, a government proposal to move towards independence from Canada.
- 1983 – First publications of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes AIDS in the journal Science by a team of French scientists including Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Jean-Claude Chermann, and Luc Montagnier. You can read about the priority fight in a free paper here.
*I’m not a huge fan of the NYT, but this kind of investigative reporting, backed by their financial resources, is what they’re good at. A combination of film, photography, and drone footage strongly suggests that a group of Russian paratroopers executed eight Ukrainian unarmed civilians (probably involved in defense forces) in cold blood. If this is the case, those men are guilty of a war crime.
To uncover what happened to these men, The Times spent weeks in Bucha interviewing a survivor, witnesses, coroners, and police and military officials. Reporters collected previously unpublished videos from the day of the execution — some of the only evidence thus far to trace the victims’ final movements. The Times scoured social media for missing persons reports, spoke to the victims’ family members and, for the first time, identified all of the executed men and why most of them were targeted.
They were husbands and fathers, grocery store and factory workers who lived ordinary civilian lives before the war. But with restrictions on men leaving the country, coupled with a resolve to protect their communities, most of the men joined various defense forces in the days before they were killed. Nearly all of them lived within walking distance of the courtyard in which their bodies would later lie.
*A recent Pew survey reveals which issues Americans think are the top problems facing our country. Here’s the chart, showing that “it’s the economy, stupid!”:
In all of the furor surrounding the (likely) imminent demise of Roe v. Wade, it has become clear to me that women have been made to fear and resent their biology for far too long. Too many women have bought the lie that they have no options but to rely on hormonal contraceptives and, if that fails, abortion. But the broad dependence on these methods — making women responsible to manage their own and men’s fertility — is actually patriarchal and anti-women.
I truly believe that the more women come to understand and love their bodies and their cycles (instead of being taught to hate, fear, and suppress them), the more they will realize we’ve been sold a bill of goods on contraception and abortion — two things we’re told “liberate” us, while suppressing the very thing that makes us women.
*The magazine Science is kvetching because far more parasites are named for men than women (I would expect they’d applaud that tendency!)
When it comes to naming species they’ve discovered, scientists often like to have a little fun. There’s Ba humbugi, a Fiji snail referencing one of literature’s crankiest men. Or Spongiforma squarepantsii, a mushroom named after everyone’s favorite cartoon sponge. And for decades, researchers have named species after their colleagues or iconic researchers as a way to honor them, which is why some 300 species of animals are named after Charles Darwin.
But that tradition may perpetuate societal biases, according to a new study of parasite names. The scientific names of nearly 3000 recently identified bloodsuckers, hijackers, and other banes of the biological world mostly honor men.
Perplexed by some of the stranger parasite monikers that occasionally grace the headlines, Robert Poulin, a parasitologist at the University of Otago, Dunedin, and his colleagues combed through studies published in eight prominent parasitology journals between 2000 and 2020. Although discoveries of new species of mammals or birds are relatively rare, parasites represent the frontier of taxonomic research, with prodigious amounts of new species described each year. The year 2007 alone saw nearly 200 new parasites worm their way into the scientific record.
Of the 596 parasite species honoring an eminent scientist, only 18% immortalized women researchers, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The gender gap has remained consistent for the past 20 years. And 89% of researchers lucky enough to have two or more parasites named after them were men.
There’s one obvious alternative to the implicit accusation of ongoing “structural sexism”: not only were most famous parasitologists men, but they tend to be those who get animals named after them. This is one of those examples where the Pecksniffs feel good but accomplish exactly nothing. Do they really believe that a higher proportion of parasites named after men (the same, I suspect, would be true for nearly all animals) “perpetuates societal bias”? Eventually, of course, the disparity will disappear with time if women achieve equity in parasitology.
As dusk fell over Australia’s Phillip Island last week, thousands of tiny black-and-white birds participated in the largest “penguin parade” seen on the island since record-keeping began in the 1960s, with more than 5,200 little penguins (Eudyptula minor) crossing the beach in a single night.
Phillip Island — known as Millowl to the Indigenous Bunurong people — hosts Australia’s largest colony of little penguins, which is currently about 40,000 birds strong, according to the Penguin Foundation, a group that funds research and conservation efforts on the island. This is the world’s smallest penguin species; the birds grow to be no bigger than about 15.7 inches (40 centimeters) tall, or about the height of a bowling pin, according to The Australian Museum.
Every day at dusk, a subset of the Philip Island penguin population swims back to shore after hunting for fish, squid, krill and small crustaceans in the ocean, and then heads inland toward their nesting grounds. This event, locally known as the “Penguin Parade,” draws large numbers of tourists to Phillip Island Nature Parks, where visitors can “sit and watch the penguins emerge from the water for 50 minutes” each night, Paula Wasiak, a Phillip Island Nature Parks field researcher, told Live Science in an email.
Here’s a video of the event:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t like seeing litter on her beat:
Hili: Byłam na końcu świata.Ja: I co tam widziałaś?Hili: Znowu jacyś ludzie naśmiecili.
From Ken, who sent me the whole issue (available by judicious inquiry). He notes, “This is from the January 1974 ‘Animals’ issue of National Lampoon. It’s a pitch-perfect Popular Mechanics parody. Click to enlarge.
From Stash Krod: sad but true:
From Beth. After spending years trying to keep people from feeding bread to ducks, it’s time that the animals turned the tables:
Reader Barry sends us an aggressive fish:
Today ain’t the day and I ain’t the one … 🐟 pic.twitter.com/yo9OwXogL7
— Laurel Coons 🧬🧬🧬 (@LaurelCoons) April 27, 2022
This was suggested to me in my Mystery Twitter Feed. I never watched “Mad Men,” but I like this scene:
Morse always had that inner laugh. 💔 https://t.co/u7FPY7KPqL
— Dana Delany (@DanaDelany) April 23, 2022
Also from Barry, an elephant pulls a prank. Note how he gives the hat back. (Sound up.)
Elephant prankster 🐘 😂 wait for it! pic.twitter.com/3twqZVMpPL
— CCTV_IDIOTS (@cctv_idiots) April 23, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
20 May 1895 | A Polish woman, Ksawera Bałaban, was born in Konstantynówka.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) May 20, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, some lovely music. Don’t miss this one!
Retweeting this, mainly because it is so joyful, but also because it is so fitting. Antonio Vivaldi composed many of his works for girls at the Ospedale della Pietà where he was director of music. https://t.co/MvSLOLE1G4
— Baghwallah 🇬🇧 🇮🇸 🇱🇮 🇳🇴🇨🇭 (@baghwallah) May 18, 2022
This is bizarre but apparently true. Try it at home! And it even has medical applications. There are 8 tweets in the thread
No, seriously. It's a thing. With scientific diagrams and all! You put the hanger on your head and your head rotates in a directionally-specific manner. 2/8 pic.twitter.com/1FVg0P4smh
— David Schoppik (@schoppik) May 18, 2022
I used to do this with toothpicks.
The key to the popsicle stick chain-reaction comes from potential (or stored) energy in the over/under weaving and kinetic (or motion) energy in the release [read more: https://t.co/6TL5FZhZDo] [source 📽️: https://t.co/LPPjCEONfu] pic.twitter.com/3lqEUbyEcE
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) May 15, 2022