Good morning on Monday, October 3, 2020, and National Soft Taco Day. I am leaving for Boston for a week on Wednesday, so posting will be light for about ten days. My insomnia persists, as I had only four hours of sleep last night. That means that the light posts will also be ones written in a brain fog.
More important, it’s the birthday of Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938; note that this is NOT the recently deceased writer Tom Wolfe), one of my favorite authors and someone uniformly denigrated by my literary friends as juvenile and guilty of overwriting. So be it. Yes, he did overwrite sometimes, but his prose is magnificent, as you can see from his “Hymn to October” I posted on October 1. If you want one of the best specimens of his writing, read his short story “The Child by Tiger“, free at the link. You won’t regret it. It’s about the effects of segregation on one man in the South, and is based on a real incident that occurred in 1906 in Asheville, North Carolina—Wolfe’s boyhood home.
Wolfe died of tuberculosis at only 37. When he was in the hospital with a “hunch” that the end was near, Wolfe wrote the following letter to his erstwhile Scribner’s editor, Max Perkins (who also discovered Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald). Wolfe and Perkins had had a falling out, and this was Wolfe’s attempt to make final amends. It was the last letter he ever wrote. He had a brain operation, the doctors discovered inoperable miliary tuberculosis of the brain, and Wolfe never woke up.
August 12, 1938
I’m sneaking this against orders—but “I’ve got a hunch”—and I wanted to write these words to you.
I’ve made a long voyage and been to a strange country, and I’ve seen the dark man very close; and I don’t think I was too much afraid of him, but so much of mortality still clings to me—I wanted most desperately to live and still do, and I thought about you all 1000 times, and wanted to see you all again, and there was the impossible anguish and regret of all the work I had not done, of all the work I had to do—and I know now I’m just a grain of dust, and I feel as if a great window has been opened on life I did not know about before—and if I come through this, I hope to God I am a better man, and in some strange way I can’t explain I know I am a deeper and a wiser one—If I get on my feet and get out of here, it will be months before I head back, but if I get on my feet, I’ll come back.
—Whatever happens—I had this “hunch” and wanted to write you and tell you, no matter what happens or has happened, I shall always think of you and feel about you the way it was that 4th of July day 3 yrs. ago when you met me at the boat, and we went out on the café on the river and had a drink and later went on top of the tall building and all the strangeness and the glory and the power of life and of the city was below—
It’s also National Caramel Custard Day, Global Smoothie Day, National Butterfly and Hummingbird Day, National Boyfriend Day, National Virus Appreciation Day (I got my third booster on Saturday), World Architecture Day, Mean Girls Day, and, in Germany, German Unity Day , celebrating the day in 1990 when East and West Germany were united.
Stuff that happened on October 3 includes:
- 42 BC – Liberators’ civil war: Triumvirs Mark Antony and Octavian fight a decisive battle with Caesar’s assassins Brutus and Cassius
- 1789 – George Washington proclaims a Thanksgiving Day for that year.
The first Thanksgiving, which lasted for three days, was celebrated in Virginia in 1619, but more famously in Plymouth, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims in 1621. Here’s a painting of that scene, “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe. Note that Native Americans attended, as they did:
- 1863 – The last Thursday in November is declared as Thanksgiving Day by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
- 1932 – The Kingdom of Iraq gains independence from the United Kingdom.
- 1942 – A German V-2 rocket reaches a record 85 km (46 nm) in altitude.
- 1952 – The United Kingdom successfully tests a nuclear weapon in the Montebello Islands, Western Australia, to become the world’s third nuclear power.
Here’s the explosion, which took place inside a boat (below the water line), anchored at Trimouille Island:
- 1962 – Project Mercury: US astronaut Wally Schirra, in a Sigma 7, is launched from Cape Canaveral for a six-orbit flight.
This flight was notable for Shirra’s use of manual controls of the capsule, including a manual reentry, splashing down five miles from the recovery ship. Here’s a precis of the mission. Once aboard the ship, Schirra blows the hatch open at 25:27.
- 1981 – The hunger strike at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland ends after seven months and ten deaths.
The most famous of the dead strikers is, of course, Bobby Sands, who died at 27 after 66 days of fasting. He’s a hero to many Republicans in Northern Ireland, as witnessed by this mural in Belfast:
- 1995 – O. J. Simpson murder case: O. J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Here’s the verdict. The jury made a mistake:
*Did you forget about the Supreme Court? Well, it’s about to start its session again, and this is nothing to look forward to. WaPo editorial page editor Ruth Marcus’s op-ed tells the tale: “You think the Supreme Court’s last term was bad? Brace yourself.”
Already, with its calendar only partly filled, the justices have once again piled onto their agenda cases that embroil the court in some of the most inflammatory issues confronting the nation — and more are on the way.
. . . for now, the court is marching on toward fresh territory, taking on race, gay rights and the fundamental structures of democracy — this even as the shock waves of the abortion ruling reverberate through our politics and lower courts grapple with a transformed legal regime. And there’s every indication that the court intends to adopt changes nearly as substantial — and as long sought by conservatives — as those of last term.
. . . In assembling its cases for the term, the conservative wing has at times displayed an unseemly haste — prodded by conservative activists who have seized on the opportunities presented by a court open to their efforts to reshape the law. The court reached out to decide a dispute about when the Clean Water Act applies to wetlands, even as the Environmental Protection Agency rewrites its rules on that very issue. It agreed to hear a wedding website designer’s complaint that Colorado’s law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates her free speech rights to oppose same-sex marriage, even though Colorado authorities have not filed any complaint against her. It took the marquee case of the term — the constitutionality of affirmative action programs at colleges and universities — although the law in this area has been settled and there is no division among the lower courts.
Affirmative action is a lost cause, and I wonder what colleges will do if they’re no longer allowed to make decision on the basis of race, even if they try to disguise it as Harvard did:
The affirmative action case, to be argued Oct. 31, involves the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina; the court, with considerable discomfort, has narrowly allowed the practice. In a 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the court voted, 5-4, to uphold a University of Michigan law school admissions program.
There go election laws, the separation of church and state, limits on redistriting to sway votes, and a number of other issues in this very long, informative, and dark piece Marcus ends this way:
Which brings me back to Baude’s description of this majority: fearless. I would choose a different word: heedless. Heedless of any constraints on its power or the effects on the judiciary. Heedless of the real-world consequences of its actions — on women, on minorities, on public safety and, most worrisome, on democracy itself.
As October Term 2022 gets underway, I search in vain for signs of this heedlessness abating. Seeing few, I worry, for the court and for the country whose future it will shape.
*The Associated Press reports the extent and horrors of Russian torture in the captured Ukrainian town of Izium; both prisoners of war and civilians underwent this torture:
Based on accounts of survivors and police, AP journalists located 10 torture sites in the town and gained access to five of them. They included a deep sunless pit in a residential compound with dates carved in the brick wall, a clammy underground jail that reeked of urine and rotting food, a medical clinic, a police station and a kindergarten.
. . .The AP spoke to 15 survivors of Russian torture in the Kharkiv region, as well as two families whose loved ones disappeared into Russian hands. Two of the men were taken repeatedly and abused. One battered, unconscious Ukrainian soldier was displayed to his wife to force her to provide information she simply didn’t have.
The AP also confirmed eight men were killed under torture in Russian custody, according to survivors and families. All but one were civilians.
One example of what was done to a Ukrainian POW:
The first time the Russian soldiers caught him, they tossed him bound and blindfolded into a trench covered with wooden boards for days on end.
Then they beat him, over and over: Legs, arms, a hammer to the knees, all accompanied by furious diatribes against Ukraine. Before they let him go, they took away his passport and Ukrainian military ID — all he had to prove his existence — and made sure he knew exactly how worthless his life was.
“No one needs you,” the commander taunted. “We can shoot you any time, bury you a half-meter underground and that’s it.”
The brutal encounter at the end of March was just the start. Andriy Kotsar would be captured and tortured twice more by Russian forces in Izium, and the pain would be even worse.
These are of course, war crimes.
*CNN says that a recession is on us (remember, I predicted one); it’s only a matter of time:
Around the world, markets are flashing warning signs that the global economy is teetering on a cliff’s edge.
The question of a recession is no longer if, but when.
Around the world, markets are flashing warning signs that the global economy is teetering on a cliff’s edge.
The question of a recession is no longer if, but when.
And here are the five signs of the impending recession:
1.) The dollar is at its strongest in 20 years. This reduces the overseas buying power of other countries, forcing them to raise their own interests rates to buttress their own currencies. It also hurts US markets, as companies lose value when they lose sales.
2.) Americans aren’t shopping. Rising prices have forced people to cut back on spending, and that also contributes to a recession.
3.) Earnings are beginning to drop in some bellwether companies like Apple and FedEx. That’s because people aren’t buying stuff. CNN says that Apple’s iPhone 14 had its production cut back because of unexpectedly low demand.
4.) Both the stock and bond markets are tanking. Usually investors can turn to bonds for less volatility in times like these. But this is one of those time where there’s no safe place to invest; the rise in interest rates has driven down bond prices, and we’re in a bear market for stocks.
5.) The war has hurt everything in Europe, and Liz Truss’s misguided tax cut plan won’t help. In England, inflation is at 10%—1.5% higher than in the U.S.—and interest rates are also rising.
The upshot? The big R.:
“We are in uncharted waters in the months ahead,” wrote economists at the World Economic Forum in a report this week.
“The immediate outlook for the global economy and for much of the world’s population is dark,” they continued, adding that the challenges “will test the resilience of economies and societies and exact a punishing human toll.”
But there are some silver linings, they said. Crises force transformations that can ultimately improve standards of living and make economies stronger.
Yeah, right. Ten to one economists would prefer to avoid a recession and the supposedly attendant salubrious transformations.
*From reader Ken:
Did you see how Jordan Peterson got all weepy and self-pitying during an interview with Piers Morgan on Fox News when questioned about how the weirdo fictional cult leader portrayed by Chris Pine in the recently released film Don’t Worry Darling is based on him?
Before you watch Peterson blubber, you can read about Olivia Wilde’s 2022 movie here. Rotten Tomatoes judges it lame, finding a 39% critics’ rating and a 75% audience rating.
Watch and weep (along with Peterson):
*There’s a cool article that has just solved a long-standing problem in physical chemistry. Reader Leslie reports, citing a Phys Org article.
I just think this really cool. When an acid dissociates into an anion and a proton, how does the tiny naked proton, with no space-occupying electron orbital to give it bulk, move through the aqueous medium? Among many other phenomena, this is important in understanding the proton motive force that conserves metabolic energy as ATP.
From the article:
The question at hand is: How does a proton move through water?
. . .Prof. Ehud Pines suggested, based on his experimental studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, together with his Ph.D. student Eve Kozari, and theoretical studies by Prof. Benjamin Fingerhut on the structure of Prof. Pines’ protonated water clusters, that the proton moves through water in trains of three water molecules.
The proton trains “build the tracks” underneath them for their movement and then disassemble the tracks and rebuild them in front of them to keep going. It’s a loop of disappearing and reappearing tracks which continues endlessly. Similar ideas were put forward by a number of scientists in the past, however, according to Prof. Pines, they were not assigned to the correct molecular structure of the hydrated proton which by its unique trimeric structural properties leads to promoting the Grotthuss mechanism.
Don’t ask me how this works; the paper is here and i’ll give you the abstract:
Seemingly simple yet surprisingly difficult to probe, excess protons in water constitute complex quantum objects with strong interactions with the extended and dynamically changing hydrogen-bonding network of the liquid. Proton hydration plays pivotal roles in energy transport in hydrogen fuel cells and signal transduction in transmembrane proteins. While geometries and stoichiometry have been widely addressed in both experiment and theory, the electronic structure of these specific hydrated proton complexes has remained elusive. Here we show, layer by layer, how utilizing novel flatjet technology for accurate x-ray spectroscopic measurements and combining infrared spectral analysis and calculations, we find orbital-specific markers that distinguish two main electronic-structure effects: Local orbital interactions determine covalent bonding between the proton and neigbouring water molecules, while orbital-energy shifts measure the strength of the extended electric field of the proton.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, we have a superb picture of Hili, who is philosophical and contemplative:
A: What are you doing?Hili: I’m looking at the world stoically
Ja: Co robisz?Hili: Patrzę na świat ze stoickim spokojem.
And here’s Baby Kulka on the doorstep:
From Jesus of the Day. I had this picture, printed on black velvet (as it should be) hanging in my lab for years. “Dogs Playing Poker” is a classic, and look at that cheating bulldog!
From Doc Bill:
God is really angry at the theocratic Iranian government:
Islamic republic regime has opened fire at students inside the campus!Students in Sharif Uni requesting help to be rescued from brutal regime!
Several have been shot; anyone trying to exit is arrested.@TheTweetOfGod#IranTruth#مهسا_امینی#IranRevolutionpic.twitter.com/3ctw1Sptul
— ☼𓃬 𝓢𝓸𝓸𝓭𝓮𝓱 ﮼سوده🤞🏼 ☼𓃬 (@DearSoodi) October 2, 2022
— God (Thee/Thy) (@TheTweetOfGod) October 2, 2022
Retweeted by Masih:
Once in Iran I found myself interviewing people on "Death to America Street." Now Iranians topple street signs about the Islamic Republic, and chant "Death to Khamenei," the supreme leader.
The wheel turns, because brave Iranians are turning it. #MahsaAmini #مهسا_امینی https://t.co/F8w0EQYQ11
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) October 2, 2022
From Luana, who says that this tweet is a great poster for me. Indeed!
— why you should have a duck 🦆 (@shouldhaveaduck) October 1, 2022
From Simon. Even Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, doesn’t like Liz Truss. Don’t trust people whom cats avoid! (There’s sound.)
Larry speaks for the nation! pic.twitter.com/CfG4QguBJ2
— Brexitshambles (@brexit_sham) October 2, 2022
From Barry. Apparently this chameleon moves its hands like a famous conductor. Can you guess who? (I have no idea!). The answer is in the thread.
Name the conductor.
— Opera magazine (@operamagazine) October 1, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: an SS doctor gets “specimens”. Kremer was sentenced to death in the postwar trials, but the sentence was commuted and he was released in 1958.
It was probably typhus that killed Anne Frank and her sister Margot, though at Bergen-Belsen, not Auschwitz.
3 October 1942 | SS doctor Johann Paul Kremer wrote in his diary: "Today fresh living material from the human liver and spleen as well as pancreas fixed, along with lice from typhus patients fixed in pure alcohol. In Auschwitz (city), whole streets are struck down with typhus." pic.twitter.com/KEUzptinyf
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 3, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. Look at this room–those are geckos! Leave the music off:
rate my room 🙂 pic.twitter.com/5pYijHAmeV
— Lizards Every Hour 2.0 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 (@HourlyLizards) October 1, 2022
Surprised Cat looks surprised!
Them: “your cat looks terrified!”
Me: “don’t worry that’s his normal face”
My cat’s normal face: pic.twitter.com/jpZbICndtN
— corinne 🐕🐈🐈🐆 (@rikkelmania) September 30, 2022