Welcome to Cat shabbos: Saturday, January 28, 2023: National Blueberry Pancake Day, a fine breakfast. Not having a photo of these, I’ll show some cherry pancakes I ate in Gdansk, Poland. Note the sour cream on the side.
It’s also International LEGO Day, Daisy Day, National Seed Swap Day, and Data Privacy Day.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 28 Wikipedia page.
*The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is making a serious commitment to free expression. They not only passed a resolution adhering to Chicago’s own Free Expression and Institutional Neutrality (Kalven) Principles, but they’ve started an entire new academic unit devoted to free expression. I just hope that it won’t be constructed to be deliberately antiwoke and contrarian (like the University of Austin, which seems pretty ideological to me). Of all places, I found this information in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. But here’s just the facts, ma’am:
UNC will establish the School of Civic Life and Leadership and plans to hire professors from across the ideological spectrum to teach in such academic departments as history, literature, philosophy, political science and religion. These disciplines have become enforcers of ideological uniformity at most schools. Board Chair David Boliek and Vice Chair John Preyer tell us that the idea is to end “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes.”
Rather than replacing current professors or creating faculty turf battles, UNC plans to create a discrete program with its own dean and at least 20 new professors to build a syllabus free from ideological enforcers. Students will be able to choose the new classes to fulfill university core requirements. Those who aren’t interested can stay in the existing courses.
Of course the paper’s editorial board applaud this as a pushback against the fulminating wokeness in colleges, but I bet that UNC will not let itself become the University of Austin.
*From reader Ken:
Good news on the school library front: a Kentucky judge has dismissed a small-claims lawsuit brought by some bluenose against a school librarian for stocking a book the bluenose objected to.
The article, from Louisville Public Media’s “All things considered,” says this:
Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel should have been welcoming students back to school Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. Instead, she was in small claims court with school district attorneys, defending her decision to keep “All Boys Aren’t Blue” on the shelves.
The award-winning book of personal essays by George M. Johnson has become a target of book bans across the U.S., along with many other titles written by Black or LGBTQ authors. 2021 and 2022 were both record-setting years for attempts at censorship, according to the anti-censorship group Unite Against Book Bans. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is in the top ten most challenged books of 2021, alongside “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, a frequent flier on banned books lists over the last four decades. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, also made the 2021 list. Kobabe’s graphic memoir was the subject of another recent challenge in Jefferson County Public Schools.
A local man brought suit, but in the wrong court:
When [Kurt] Heckel refused to pull the titles Wallace objected to, he sued her in small claims court — a legal venue where individuals can settle disputes involving $2,500 or less in money or personal property. Other cases heard Tuesday included quarrels over car repairs and moving jobs.
Wallace’s claim was that the librarian owed him $2,300 in damages for her book selections.
In the courtroom Tuesday, District Court Judge Jennifer Leibson explained what cases could and could not be decided in Small Claims Division. Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.
He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.
“Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.
And here’s the best part: the judge’s aside to the defendant (my bolding):
After the judge dismissed Wallace, she turned to Heckel, who sat flanked by JCPS attorneys.
“I just want to say I’m so sorry you have to deal with this,” Leibson told Heckel. “I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”
*Andrew Sullivan’s latest Substack piece is called “The other black lives that matter,” and from the title I thought he was going to write about black-on-black crime, but that’s just half of it—the rest is about educational problems in the African-American community:
In my web-reading this week, I stumbled across two statistics that made me sit up straight. The first came from a devastating story last September about my home city’s public schools. I had just watched a slick new video from DC Public Schools about their new “equity” push, which aims to go “beyond students’ academics” and “call out inequities.” The video is full of vague-sounding pabulum — they never define what they mean by “equity,” for example, apart from invoking Ibram X Kendi’s term “antiracism” — but the message is very clear: “equity” is now the central focus of the school district. And it’s a bright new day!
Now check out the data on how the DC Public School system is faring. A key metric is what they call “proficiency rates” — a test of whether the kids are passing the essentials of reading and math at every stage of their education. Overall, only 31 percent of DC students have proficiency in reading and just 19 percent have proficiency in math. Drill down further in the racial demographics and the picture is even worse: among African-American kids, the numbers are 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Among black boys, it’s 15 percent and 9 percent. Which means to say that DC Public Schools graduate kids who are overwhelmingly unable to do the most basic reading and math that any employer would need.
This is not a function of money. In the most recent federal analysis: DC spends far more per student — $30,000 a year — than any other state, double the amount in many states across the country.
Let’s put it this way: if this were a corporation, it would be in liquidation. If it were a house, it would be condemned. But since it’s a public school system, it can avoid this catastrophic failure by emphasizing “equity”!
Call this the woke dodge. As they fail to educate kids in the very basics, they brandish a shiny object over there — “Diversity! Equity! Inclusion! ” — to distract us. Or they claim that these scores are caused by “white supremacy” or “systemic racism.” Or they argue that now, they are educating “the whole child.” From the DCPS video: “The racial equity lens is a critical component of ‘whole child’ for us because being a ‘whole child’ means thinking about all of your identities, but certainly the racial identity is a gap in what we’re discussing as a country.” Anything but do the basic job of teaching math and reading as they are supposed to do.
The truth is: they obviously can’t teach those subjects successfully. I’m sure many are good teachers doing their best, and some manage to rescue some of these kids, who often face terrible trauma in their homes and neighborhoods. But the data overall are damning. Imagine spending $30K a year on a student, any kid, in any country, and after 12 years, he still can’t spell or do basic math. It must be really hard to pull that off. And as a reward, you get a shitload of money from the city and the feds to keep it up. Criticize them? You’re a “white supremacist.”
I don’t understand why, and this is well known, throwing money at schools doesn’t help the kids. You’d think they could afford good teachers and teaching aids, but, I suppose, there’s the issue of stuff in the black community that may impede education, like no-father families and a view that educational striving is a “white” trait. I am no expert, but this is concerning. Here’s a bit on the crime:
Then there’s the other stat that blew my mind — on the post-BLM surge in murders of African-Americans, including many children. The rise in homicide has cooled off somewhat, as Robert Verbruggen notes. But check this out:
Between the 2018–2019 and 2020–2021 periods, the black homicide rate went up by about 40 percent and the white one by 15 percent — already a glaring disparity. But since the black homicide rate started out so much higher than the white one, this translated to an increase of just 0.4 per 100,000 for whites and 9.7 per 100,000 for blacks — nearly 25 times as large. The increase in the black homicide rate was greater than the total homicide rate for the nation as a whole.
Read that last sentence again.
I did, and it’s already clear from the first sentence. If the black homicide rate goes up by 40%, and the white homicide rate by 15%, then it’s clear that the rate for blacks will be higher than the national overall homicide rate. Am I misunderstanding something? At any rate, Sullivan’s point is on target: the D.C. city council, in going increasingly easier on crime, is ignoring a frightening statistic.
*Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day (the anniversary of the Russian Army liberating Auschwitz in 1945), but it was still marked by war and death. Since the Russians invaded Ukraine, the Poles did not invite them to the official ceremony at Auschwitz.
Piotr Cywinski, Auschwitz state museum director, compared Nazi crimes to those the Russians have committed in Ukrainian towns like Bucha and Mariupol. He said they were inspired by a “similar sick megalomania” and that free people must not remain indifferent.
“Being silent means giving voice to the perpetrators,” Cywinski said. “Remaining indifferent is tantamount to condoning murder.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended observances marking the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 2005. This year, no Russian official was invited due to the attack on Ukraine.
Valentina Matvienko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, deplored that as a “cynical” move.
“They refused to invite the liberators so that they could pay tribute to the memory of the victims,” she said. “Of course, this is very worrying.”
I see no hypocrisy there. It was the Germans who killed the inmates, and yes, the Russians freed them, but the modern Russian army also wantonly invaded a peaceful country without provocation. If you ever are in Poland, get yourself to Kraków and take the one-hour bus ride to Auschwitz. Then take a tour (don’t do it on your own; you’ll miss a lot as the guides are deeply invested in teaching). Unless you’re a Jew-hater, you will never be the same again, I guarantee.
Oh, and a Palestinian terrorist marked the day by attacking a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven civilians and injuring ten others before he was killed himself.
*Over at Bari Weiss’s Free Press site, Nellie Bowles tenders her patented and snarky weekly news summary, “TGIF: 90 seconds to midnight.” Here are three of the many items:
→ Thanks for the tanks: The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine. From us, it’ll be 31 70-ton Abrams battle tanks. “These tanks will burn just like the rest,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Not much to say on it except: This war is escalating. At the start of it, I assumed that Russia, looking at American military might, would back down and seek some resolution. Not happening. When Biden restarts the draft, at least there will be good content. We can have fun with stats on how many single young men suddenly self-ID as middle-aged moms?
Less fun when we realize that the draft will certainly be genderfluid, and I’ll be shipped out, forced to smuggle TGIF through from Sloviansk.
→ In other Twitter news: The company blocked users in India from watching a BBC documentary that’s critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s one thing for an Indian university to cut power before students could watch the documentary, but it’s another for Twitter to do Modi’s bidding and censor it. Annoyingly, the actor John Cusack, who is often a jerk online, is a victim of Modi-Twitter censorship, and so fine . . . we stand with John Cusack just this once. Anyway, you know what to do: Watch the BBC Modi documentary.
→ Moderna wants to make the vax a luxury: Moderna is looking to charge around $130 for its Covid vaccine. This has been rumbling for a few weeks now. Yes, American taxpayers paid $2.5 billion to develop that vaccine. Then Moderna turns around and decides to charge Americans $130 for the shot. Makes sense, right?
As I looked into this, I noticed something odd. The mainstream media and big tech companies have been laying the political groundwork to get Americans ready for a $130 vax price since the very beginning. They’ve done this by trying to deny that taxpayers funded the vaccine development.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili wants to be brought inside from her “nest” on the veranda, but also wants cuddles:
Hili: I’m asking for the last time: will you pick me up?A: I will.Hili: And do not put me down again anywhere later.
Hili: Po raz ostatni pytam, czy weźmiesz mnie na ręce?Ja: Wezmę.Hili: A potem nigdzie mnie nie odkładaj.
From Merilee: A cat and meerkat being BFFs:
From Stash Krod. This is cruelty to insects! “A riot of fun”, indeed. . .
From Malcolm: a FB video on transparent aluminum, a compound made from aluminum, nitrogen, and oxygen (“alum”):
Masih notes a new piece by Faisal on his Substack site in which he interviews a brave woman who runs an underground school for women and girls in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Fighting for Girls' Education No Matter What, by @faisalalmutar "The Taliban have not changed, but our women have grown stronger. They stand up and fight for their rights." https://t.co/6ULgIosOqr
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) January 27, 2023
From SImon: a Nature cover explaining missense (and nonsense) mutations:
One of my favorite @nature covers for this week’s issue pic.twitter.com/BGTuemrpTh
— Mary Elizabeth (@meharpist) January 26, 2023
From Malcolm: Someone gets pwned on Twitter:
I always love these moments. pic.twitter.com/s1D2XmLPTT
— George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) January 26, 2023
From Barry, an insect whose condition would seem to be incompatible with life:
Can anyone explain how this is possible? pic.twitter.com/RPNhRuhvFu
— OddIy Terrifying (@OTerrifying) January 24, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who survived only eight days, and a tweet by someone who colorized his photo:
For Moses 🪨 pic.twitter.com/qV6FDKYgwk
— John Cocker (@joecocker15) January 28, 2023
Tweets from Matthew Cobb. First, a heartwarming story from DodoLand, where all is well.
2 stray tomcats become brothers — wait til they start kissing each other 💕 pic.twitter.com/ykyqBcj0pa
— The Dodo (@dodo) January 27, 2023
— gifs (@giphz) January 27, 2023
Nicola White is a “mudlark”, someone who roams muddy river banks (usually on the Thames) looking for memorabilia and cool old stuff:
Out of the 130 or so messages in bottles I've found this is the most recent and also very special. I had to cut the bottle open to remove the note & it was sent by Lorraine whose Dad was about to go on holiday but who died before he could. It contains some of his ashes …👇 pic.twitter.com/wGw4IfMS4z
— nicola white mudlark (@TideLineArt) January 26, 2023
Just something to remember after Holocaust Memorial Day:
One and a half million Jews were murdered in the "Holocaust of bullets" 1941/2 before the gas chambers ever began their industry of death. Not just Auschwitz.
— Simon Schama (@simon_schama) January 27, 2023
Don’t forget as well that although six million Jews died in the Holocaust, so did four million non-Jewish people.
21 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue”
It’s saying that the increase in the black homicide rate since 2019 (not just the overall black homicide rate) is itself greater than the national overall homicide rate.
I think this inference is incorrect: “If the black homicide rate goes up by 40% . . . the rate for blacks will be higher than the national overall homicide rate”. (The fact is correct — the rate is indeed 25 X that of whites — but the inference is not.)
Suppose a small ethno-racial group, I dunno, Ghanian-Americans, has a homicide rate per 100,000 that is one-tenth the overall homicide rate per 100,000 for the whole nation. Then suppose members of that previously peaceable group suddenly got the urge to start killing one another, so that the homicide rate among Ghanian-Americans tripled*. Since it was previously 1/10 the national rate, it must now be a little less than 3/10 the national rate. Not exactly 3/10, because the national all-race rate increases as well, driven by the extra homicides among the Ghanian-Americans, and the all-race rate is affected by changes that occur in the rates among all other races, too. But if the G-A group is small (which is why I picked it) and the rates in other races don’t change (because I proposed some cause that affected G-As only), then the G-A homicide rate will be now about 3/10 the national rate. Thus the alarming 3-fold rise in the rate within the Ghanian-American group did not push its rate above the national rate, refuting the inference.
The statement from the article: “The increase in the black homicide rate was greater than the total homicide rate for the nation as a whole.” is confusing and open to different interpretations. It could mean that the increase in the number of black people killed was greater than the total number of non-blacks killed. This reflects the interaction between the relative size of the black population (c.f. non black) and the relative homicide rate. If the size of the black population is quite large and the baseline homicide rate is much higher (both true), then yes, a 40% rise in that rate could produce more “excess” homicides than the entire number of white homicides. You can derive that from the numbers given if you know the black proportion in the U.S. But since I know it can be solved, I can’t be bothered.
* due to systemic structural racism, obviously. Ghanians emigrated to America seeking oppression.
My interpretation of the sentence is (given the quoted info and after a little maths, the numbers here are homicides per 100,000):
1) Black rate has risen from 24 to 34 (increase of 40%)
2) White rate has risen from 2.7 to 3.1 (increase of 15%)
3) Factoring in population ratios (blacks roughly 13%), the national average rate would be about 7.
From there the sentence is saying that the increase in the black rate (which is 10, from 34 subtract 24) is greater than the overall national rate (with is 7).
Nellie Bowles’ “90 seconds to midnight” reference in her TGIF title is, of course, the current Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ doomsday clock setting. I do not recall a setting closer to midnight in my more than fifty years since undergrad days when, as a young physics major, I became aware of the Bulletin and its clock. There is a nice history of the clock, which was created in 1947, in the Universty of Chicago News at
And today is the anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and its seven astronauts in 1986.
Like the assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK Jr in the ’60s, I remember where I was and what I was doing when this disastrous event happened.
That means that 37 years ago (I was almost 8) I was home, missing school for being sick, watching Star Wars, specifically, the battle scene after the Falcon escaped the Death Star. I turned off the VHS to go use the toilet and saw the terrible news. That sticks in my mind very clearly, as does the unbelievable attitudes of the kids at school the next day, already telling jokes about the horrible tragedy. I was aghast at how callous people could be.
Christopher, thank you for recognizing how horrible the jokes were. Maybe people just do not know what to say. It was very difficult at NASA because we are not that big an agency, people stay for a long career, and everyone pretty much knew one or more astronauts. I still remember the exact moment in the NASA cafeteria at Langley when things went awry. Pretty much everyone knew how things should look and just after the “go for throttle up” call, a hush fell over the room. I kept waiting to see the shuttle fly out of the white smoke….it never happened…so very very sad.
The insect is a cockchafer beetle; the abdominal contents have been lost (eaten by a predator?). All Arthropoda are reasonably modular; so the head and thorax can continue to operate while food supplies last.
Regarding UNC’s new free expression unit, I am not sure it can succeed if it is not, itself, ideological. Indeed, I think its establishment is ideological, and that’s a good thing. Looking at the numbers Sullivan provides and wondering about the money for good teachers misses the fact that they probably are good teachers, but that, for ideological reasons, they are probably spending their time on things other than reading and math. Things like pronouns and Critical Race Theory. Get ’em young.
By the way, I think spellcheck thwarted you. It seems the transparent aluminum is ALON, not ALUM.
And if you lower-case the L, you have the three element symbols and it looks like trying to mean a compound: AlON. (This font may not make the l look different from an I …)
Matt Taibbi released the latest Twitter Files yesterday (number fifteen), dealing with a group called “Hamilton 68.” Hamilton 68 provides a dashboard which it claims measures Russian disinformation on Twitter that is used by journalists, academics, and politicians. But it turns out to be a fraud. Indeed, it could be the dictionary example of disinformation, itself.
Transparent aluminum: another thing Star Trek predicted:
On the subject of Auschwitz, The Rest Is History podcast has recently done two episodes on the story of two men who escaped Auschwitz.
They are well worth a listen. One thing I didn’t realise before listening to these is that about 90% of everybody who went to Auschwitz were murdered on the day they arrived.
Oops, late I’m afraid – pub lunch and a walk back through the countryside.
On this day:
1591 – Execution of Agnes Sampson, accused of witchcraft in Edinburgh.
1754 – Sir Horace Walpole coins the word serendipity in a letter to a friend.
1813 – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is first published in the United Kingdom.
1871 – Franco-Prussian War: The Siege of Paris ends in French defeat and an armistice.
1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined one shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thereby exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h).
1938 – The World Land Speed Record on a public road is broken by Rudolf Caracciola in the Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen at a speed of 432.7 kilometres per hour (268.9 mph). [Clearly a good day for speeding…!]
1956 – Elvis Presley makes his first national television appearance.
1958 – The Lego company patents the design of its Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today.
1986 – Space Shuttle program: STS-51-L mission: Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board.
1873 – Colette, French novelist and journalist (d. 1954).
1887 – Arthur Rubinstein, Polish-American pianist and educator (d. 1982).
1912 – Jackson Pollock, American painter (d. 1956).
1918 – Harry Corbett, English puppeteer, actor, and screenwriter (d. 1989).
1927 – Ronnie Scott, English saxophonist (d. 1996).
1929 – Acker Bilk, English singer and clarinet player (d. 2014).
1936 – Alan Alda, American actor, director, and writer.
1944 – John Tavener, English composer (d. 2013).
Gone for a Burton:
814 – Charlemagne, Holy Roman emperor (b. 742). [And murderer of Saxons, says WEIT reader Dom, who is visiting us.]
1547 – Henry VIII, king of England (b. 1491).
1613 – Thomas Bodley, English diplomat and scholar, founded the Bodleian Library (b. 1545).
1903 – Augusta Holmès, French pianist and composer (b. 1847).
1939 – W. B. Yeats, Irish poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865).
1996 – Jerry Siegel, American author and illustrator, co-created Superman (b. 1914).
1813 – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is first published in the United Kingdom.
God, I love that book. Thanks for reminding me about it. I reread it every few years and it’s about time for my next re-read.
I guess this is obvious, but spending per pupil includes all the spending that goes to administrators. So if the number of administrators of DC public schools rises, and if pay for them rises, it looks like more spending per pupil. But that is not going to hire better teachers. Nor could you anyway, given that union rules prevent you from firing teachers for poor teaching.
>Nor could you anyway, given that union rules prevent you from firing teachers for poor teaching.
…or paying them more for good teaching (which in the circumstances could mean paying them more to teach in difficult schools with disaffected students whose parents don’t give a crap so you, the teacher, are going to have to do it all.)
Now to concentrate on the important aspect of the Hili Dialogue: pancakes. Is that a fresh basil leaf in the sour cream? Looks like one. Could be some odd species of mint, I suppose.
We seem to have settled into a new tradition in our new house, which is me cooking pancakes (I use Mrs Beaton’s recipe for batter) on a Sunday morning. These are served with the weekly ration of meat for my son and I, either as bacon or as sausages. My wife has the vegetarian equivalent, and I do feel sorry for her.
Maple syrup, Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup are on the table, but we all agree the tradition English way of eating pancakes with sugar and lemon juice is best. Put those two on a pancake, then a rasher of thick-cut bacon (the closest this Wiltshireman can get to home-cured here) and roll it up. Delicious!
The other good news is that a new otter has discovered our pond. The one that lived here was run over last winter as he travelled to his downstream domains. This week a small fellow has been scampering over the ice, in and out of the water where it is open, running for hours at a time and quite evidently excited at what he has discovered. I’m going to have to wait till he slows down to get any decent photos.
Silly popularist hype Thursday; silly popularist hype today:
‘Alum’ refers to a number of different hydrated aluminum sulfate salts (or similar compounds). AlON and other ceramics are replacement for single crystals such as sapphire. For a random comparison, see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320978637_Overview_of_transparent_optical_ceramics_for_high-energy_lasers_at_NRL