Welcome to the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, July 18, 2023, and National Caviar Day (good luck with that; I’ve had the good stuff exactly once).
Sour candy has a low pH level, almost as low as that of battery acid, registering at around 1.8 on the pH scale.
And here’s the world’s sourest candy, as judged by these dudebros. You can buy the 1 Up candy on Amazon. You can skip to 5:33 to avoid all the mishigass. And note that the Amazon ratings are very low, centering around, “not that sour!”
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 18 Wikipedia page.
There was a Google Doodle yesterday, an 11-panel slideshow celebrating the birthday of Eunice Newton Foote (1819-1888), described by Wikipedia as the discoverer of greenhouse gases, though her contributions remained unknown until the 21st century. She was also an abolitionist, an early feminist, and an advocate of temperance. From Wikipedia:
She was the first scientist to conclude that certain gases warmed when exposed to sunlight, and that rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would change atmospheric temperature and could affect climate, a phenomenon now referred to as the Greenhouse effect.
*Apparently the wily Ukrainians blew up the Kerch Strait Bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula (illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 ) to Russia itself. First, here’s the bridge (my arrow):
A predawn assault on a critical bridge linking the occupied Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia forced the temporary closure on Monday of a main artery used by its military to support its troops in southern Ukraine, in yet another blow to a Russian military command that was already dealing with internal strife.
. . .Given the deep strategic and symbolic importance of the bridge, Monday’s assault was another embarrassment for Russia’s military leadership, which has been roiled by the fallout from last month’s failed mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group.
Russian officials said two people were killed in the attack and a third was injured. The extent of the damage remained unclear, but the assault again highlighted the vulnerability of this key piece of infrastructure far from the front lines.
Rail service over the bridge resumed Monday morning. But damage to the car lanes — which appeared to leave part of the road tilting, according to video verified by The New York Times — threatened to constrict Russian logistical operations. The top Russian-installed official in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on the Telegram messaging app that drivers should seek alternative routes.
If the bridge were destroyed or severely damaged, Moscow would be left with a single major land route from Russia along the southern coast of Ukraine to support tens of thousands of soldiers fighting to hold onto territory captured in the first weeks of the invasion.
And that route would be at the upper left, where Ukraine is, and you can see from the small inset map how far that connection is from Russia.
Pro-war Russian military bloggers and commentators were quick to use the attack on the bridge as evidence of what they said was another failure by the Russian military command. Igor Girkin, a former Russian intelligence officer who runs a prominent blog about military affairs, said that Ukraine would strike again and again until the link is severed.
Of course they will? The Russians will be doing everything they can to protect that bridge, but Ukraine has fighter jets, and soon their pilots will be flying F-16s from America. That bridge is toast.
*I’m surprised that Russia was even participating in a grain deal that involved Ukraine, but it apparently did—until now. Russia has just pulled out of that deal, although they said it had nothing to do with the bridge.
Russia said Monday it was suspending its participation in a crucial deal that allowed the export of Ukrainian grain, once again raising fears over global food supplies and scuppering a rare diplomatic breakthrough to emerge from Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
The agreement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022, was officially set to expire at 5 p.m. ET on Monday (midnight local time in Istanbul, Kyiv, and Moscow).
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Russia would not renew the pact right now, saying it “has been terminated.”
Russia has for some time complained that it is being prevented from adequately exporting its own foodstuffs, and Peskov cited that objection as the reason for pulling out of the deal. “As soon as the Russian part is completed, the Russian side will return to the implementation of this deal immediately,” he told reporters.
Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the main objective of the deal – supplying grain to countries in need – “has not been realized,” again complaining that Russia faced obstacles exporting its own food.
In case you’re wondering why these two countries were entangled in such an agreement, the explanation is lower down:
The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain by sea, with ships bypassing a Russian blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports and navigating safe passage through the waterway to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait in order to reach global markets.
Vessels were inspected before they arrived in Ukraine by Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials, to ensure weapons were not being smuggled into Ukraine.
It proved vital for stabilizing global food prices and bringing relief to the developing countries which rely on Ukrainian exports. The impact of the war on global food markets was immediate and extremely painful, especially because Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the World Food Programme (WFP).
*Wanna live forever?Read the NYT’s interview, “Joyce Carol Oates figured out the secret to immortality.” First her famous output, whose quality (high) is often neglected:
Oates, whose latest is the unsettling short-story collection “Zero-Sum,” has published 62 novels, 47 short-story collections, 16 collections of nonfiction, 9 collections of poetry, plays and books for children and young adults, as well as a torrent of tweets (the latter of which occasionally get her in trouble). The sheer quantity of her output, impressive as it may be, is almost beside the point. The real achievement is that the quality of that work is so consistently high.
The title is partly answered in the article, but there’s a lot more, too. The “way to live forever”, says Joyce, is to leave something behind—something like a novel. Everything else is ephemeral, but I find the answer a bit sad. Is a well-lived life of no value because all the living vanishes when you die?
In your book “On Boxing,” you have a line about how for fighters, life is about the fight and the rest is just waiting. Do you feel that way with writing?
That’s a good question. It points to a philosophical issue of what is essential in our lives and what is existential or incidental. Thinking of my early married life, my husband, whom I loved. It’s 2023, and I have to concede that I don’t remember those students. All I have left of all that happiness is my writing of that time. A book or two, some stories. I think that’s a profound fact. It’s a kind of devastating fact. Everything that you think is solid is actually fleeting and ephemeral. The only thing that is quasi-permanent would be a book or work of art or photographs or something. Anything you create that transcends time is in some ways more real than the actual reality of your life. If you set your hand on fire right now, it’s ephemeral. It would hurt, but Plato would say it’s not as real as something that transcends time. I am a person who was married, and was very happily married. Yet, that’s all gone now. Where is it?
. . .Did you see the movie “The Great Beauty”? It’s about a man who’s 65 years old. He wrote a good novel that people liked, but then he was taken up by the beauty of Rome. In a way, he says, he wasted his life. People are seduced by the beauty of the close-at-hand, and they don’t have the discipline or the predilection or the talent, maybe, to say: “I’m not going to go out tonight. I’m not going to waste my time on Twitter. I’m going to have five hours and work on my novel.” If you did that every day, you’d have a novel. Many people say, “I’m going to pet my cat” or “I’m with my children.” There’s lots of reasons that people have for not doing things. Then the cats are gone, the children move away, the marriage breaks up or somebody dies, and you’re sort of there, like, “I don’t have anything.”
You don’t have anything now (except memories), but you did have something, and that IS something.
*I found this article via a Pinker tweet, to wit:
Americans think most things have gotten worse, even the things that have clearly gotten better. New study by @PTetlock, explained by cog scientist Alison Gopnik. Hence the incredulity & furious opposition to data I presented in Better Angels & Enlightenment Now.…
— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) July 17, 2023
Alison Gopnik, a well known professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, also happens to be the sister of New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, and the column mentioned above is “Pessimism is the one thing Americans can agree on.”
Are Americans cockeyed optimists or incorrigible pessimists? Do they think that American society has improved or gotten worse in various ways—and how accurate are their views? You might imagine that the answer would be nuanced, that it would depend on factors like people’s politics or news-consuming habits.
But the answer isn’t nuanced at all, according to a new study. In research published earlier this year in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, Gregory Mitchell at the University of Virginia and Philip Tetlock at the University of Pennsylvania looked at these questions empirically. Everybody they tested—young and old, conservative and liberal, news-addicted or not—showed the same pattern. Everybody thought that most things had gotten worse, even if they had actually gotten better. Pessimism reigned.
The researchers used data from the U.S. Census and other sources to objectively assess 24 trends in American life within the last two decades or so. They looked at changes in areas such as the average wage, incarceration rates and life expectancy; they noted how many teenagers had babies and how many old people had their original teeth. They examined certain trends for minorities and women specifically. In 22 of the 24 areas, they found that conditions had measurably improved; a group of people from across the political spectrum who were shown the data agreed on whether the trends were good or bad.
. . . Overwhelmingly, people were too pessimistic and gave too little credit to positive change. For instance, the high-school dropout rate for Black students has decreased by about five percentage points in recent years—good news. But few people chose that response; the most popular answer was that the rate had gone up by the same amount. Participants were only overly optimistic about two questions, both about life expectancy—they thought it had risen more than it had—and accurate about only one trend, men’s average wages.
One reason they give is that people tend to remember the bad things more than the good ones (also, the survey was taken during the covid epidemic.) And yet if you read Pinker’s Better Angels and Enlightenment Now, you’d be a fool not to think that the world has improved immeasurably in the last two or three hundred years. I’ll just say one word here: antibiotics. And it’s not just because Steve is a friend that I’ll say vehemently that he’s gotten a bad rap about his view of progress, a rap he kvetches about above. Would you rather be living now, or living in 1723? You probably wouldn’t even be living in 1723, because you’d have died quite young, possibly of an infection.
*I spent many weeks as a postdoc at UC Davis doing field work in Death Valley, the lowest and hottest spot in the U.S., and the site of the highest recorded temperature since records have been kept. I always worked there in the spring (March and April), because after that it’s simply too hot for Drosophila. (Where do they come from?) The AP reports that Death Valley came pretty close to attaining that record temperature this week.
Long the hottest place on Earth, Death Valley put a sizzling exclamation point Sunday on a record warm summer that is baking nearly the entire globe by flirting with some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded, meteorologists said.
Temperatures in Death Valley, which runs along part of central California’s border with Nevada, reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.33 degrees Celsius) on Sunday at the aptly named Furnace Creek, the National Weather Service said.
The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 at Furnace Creek, said Randy Ceverny of the World Meteorological Organization, the body recognized as keeper of world records. Temperatures at or above 130 F (54.44 C) have only been recorded on Earth a handful of times, mostly in Death Valley.
I think that 134-degree record may have been questioned. But Furnace Creek Ranch is where my field work headquarters were (a pup tent in the camp ground), and one year I went there in the summer just to see if any flies were present. (There were none; they couldn’t have survived in the temperature and lack of moisture. My theory is that they come down from the surrounding mountains each winter.) It was about 120°F, and, by god, I’d never felt heat like that before. Even though I was a penurious postdoc, I spring for one night in the Furnace Creek Motel just to get some air-conditioning.
The only people in the Valley besides me and the rangers were dozens of GERMANS, who came to experience the heat. They were all at the swimming pool, burnt beet-red by the desert sun.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili saw a paraglider
Hili: I’m a bit surprised.A: What about?Hili: That humans are flying like birds.
Hili: Trochę jestem zdziwiona.Ja: Czym?Hili: Tym, że człowiek leci jak ptak.
And a photo of Baby Kulka:
From Beth (not sure whose cartoon this is):
From Jesus of the Day:
A tweet from Masih. The Google translation is:
Today is the birthday of #Aida_Rostami and #Mehsa_Mogoi. Two innocent people who went to the street for their dreams, but the Islamic Republic killed them.
Aida and Mahsa’s sin was lighting a candle in the darkness of government. A government that has not achieved anything other than pain and suffering for the people and is still in office with bullets and ropes. The presence of Aida and Mahsa in the street was the failure of Khamenei’s system of threats and intimidation.
Although they are not with us today to blow out their birthday candles, they each lit a candle in the hearts of their people. Now it is the duty of all of us to take care of this burning flame and keep the revolution #Zen_Zandagi_Azadi and its ideals alive.
گناه آیدا و مهسا برافروختن شمعی در تاریکیِ حکومت بود. حکومتی که غیر از درد و رنج دستاورد دیگری برای مردم نداشته و به ضرب گلوله و طناب… pic.twitter.com/5fHatbgYSO
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 16, 2023
From Luana. I can’t verify this but “cis” and “straight” people get no colorful flags!
This is being taught to primary school students in the UK.
It is subtle indoctrination that gives children the message that to be ‘cis’ and comfortable in their own body is to be boring or uncool.
This is abusive. pic.twitter.com/f4yv2BqqGb
— James Esses (@JamesEsses) July 14, 2023
From Barry, who says, “War declared!” Indeed.
— justasisterfromthechi (@justasisterfro2) July 14, 2023
From Malcolm: “Learning pest control.” The hard way!
Pest control (intern) pic.twitter.com/ucOFu08PGt
— cats with jobs 🛠 (@CatWorkers) July 4, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, someone who survived!
18 July 1930 | An Italian Jew, Sami Modiano, was born on Rhodes Island (then part of Italy).
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 18, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. First, a brave Ukrainian cat:
Ukrainian trench cat pic.twitter.com/WWCdn9ByRf
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) July 16, 2023
This is from The Dodo, so you know everything turns out all right.
Watch this mama raccoon reunite with her lost babies 💗 pic.twitter.com/btEAzP4e88
— The Dodo (@dodo) July 15, 2023
Why the huge testes?
Better photo of chimp brain and testicle pic.twitter.com/oTuYOr3kME
— Ed Hagen (@ed_hagen) July 15, 2023