Welcome to the sabbath for Christian cats: Sunday, July 30, 2023, and National Cheesecake Day (best either plain or with cherries). I’m still partial to Junior’s Cheesecake in Brooklyn:
Here’s a groaner of a cheesecake joke:
I went to the doctor recently and he said “Don’t eat anything fatty.” So I asked “So you mean like bacon and cheesecake and stuff like that?” And he said “No, fatty, don’t eat anything.”
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 30 Wikipedia page.
*A new Gallup poll on sex and sports participation shows that Americans are becoming less tolerant towards trans females competing against biological females.
A larger majority of Americans now (69%) than in 2021 (62%) say transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete on sports teams that conform with their birth gender. Likewise, fewer endorse transgender athletes being able to play on teams that match their current gender identity, 26%, down from 34%.
Transgender sports participation has also become a major political flashpoint, and elected officials in conservative-leaning states have enacted laws to ban transgender athletes who were born male from competing against female athletes. At least 20 U.S. states now have such laws, and the Republican-led U.S. House recently passed a national ban. The federal ban is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Joe Biden has promised to veto it. The White House recently released a proposed set of guidelines that would govern decisions surrounding transgender individuals’ participation in gender-segregated sports.
The shift toward greater public opposition to transgender athletes competing on the basis of their current gender identity has occurred at the same time that more U.S. adults say they know a transgender person. Thirty-nine percent of Americans, up from 31% in 2021, say someone they know personally has told them they are transgender.
But both Americans who know and do not know a transgender individual have become less supportive of allowing transgender athletes to play on the team of their choice. Currently, 30% of those who know a transgender person favor allowing athletes to play on teams that match their current gender identity, down from 40% in 2021. Among those who do not know a transgender person, support is now 23%, down from 31%.
It’s aways seemed to me, in light of the data, that it’s palpably unfair to allow trans women who have gone through male puberty, with its attendant strength and physiological advantages, to compete against biological women. So these data are heartening, since less than a third of people who knows a transgender person still feel that transwomen (I’m assuming that trans men are not an object of contention) shouldn’t compete against natal women. Is society coming to its senses about this one issue. (Needless to say, there should be a way—perhaps an “open” category—for transgender people who want to play sports to do so.
*In his latest Weekly Dish, “The Importance of Saying ‘Yes’ to the ‘But’,” Andrew Sullivan takes a quasi-scientific attitude, describing the advantages of questioning your own position.
One of the enduring frustrations of living in a politically polarized country is the evaporation of nuance. As the muscles of liberal democracy atrophy, and as cultural tribalism infects everyone’s consciousness, it becomes more and more difficult to say, “Yes, but …”
. . The epitome, of course, was the Russia stuff. Between “Trump won the election because of Putin” and “The Russia Hoax,” there was precious little space for qualification. But the truth, it seems obvious now, was somewhere in between: yes, Trump loved Putin, and was happy to welcome campaign assistance from anyone, including Moscow — but no, he wasn’t a Russian agent, there was no “conspiracy,” and Clinton lost the election for far more obvious and provable reasons. The Mueller Report landed somewhere in the middle, because facts — which is why no one liked it. Worse, even to concede a smidgen of a point to the other side became anathema.
He also brings up the covid lab-leak theory (I’ve now decided that for the time being I take no position on this).
. . . A couple more. Yes, immigration is the lifeblood of America … but we need to control the integrity of our borders, and keep the pace of migration to a sustainable level that doesn’t hurt American workers and threaten cultural stability. Yes, we need to recognize and better include trans people in society … but we don’t have to abolish the sex binary, sterilize children before puberty, or teach kindergartners they get to pick their sex like a favorite color. Yes, trans women are women … but not in the same way as those who are biologically women, and we need to honor that distinction in a few, relevant instances, like not having biological dudes swinging their junk in the women’s locker room, FFS.
. . . The trouble, of course, is the emotional and tribal inadequacy of these “yes, but”s. You’ll get lambasted by your friends and fellow partisans the second you concede anything to the opposite side.
And a sensible ending, though this isn’t one of Sullivan’s best columns (After all he’s just asking people to be reasonable rather than tribal.):
A liberal democracy is a place where these distinctions can be made, compromises can be forged, and tribal loyalty can be qualified by reality. As it slips away, with the Trump right and the woke left offering us non-negotiable, Manichean views of the world, we can fret and panic and worry.
Or we can start saying “yes, but” more often. And mean it.
*About two months ago I wrote about intriguing reports that physicists had come up with a substance that acted like a superconductor at room temperature instead of near absolute zero. If true, that would be a stupendous finding. But there were doubts about it, and those doubts have no increased. That’s because one of the authors of the superconductor paper was also an author of a paper on another subject that has been retracted in Physical Review Letters. If you screw with your data once, it makes it more likely that that’s not a one-off incident:
A major physics journal is retracting a two-year-old scientific paper that described the transformations of a chemical compound as it was squeezed between two pieces of diamond.
Such an esoteric finding — and retraction — would not typically garner much attention.
But one of the leaders of this research is Ranga P. Dias, a professor in the physics and mechanical engineering departments at the University of Rochester in New York who made a much bigger scientific splash earlier this year, touting the discovery of a room-temperature superconductor.
At the same time, accusations of research misconduct have swirled around Dr. Dias, and his superconductor findings remain largely unconfirmed.
The retracted paper does not involve superconductivity but rather describes how a relatively mundane material, manganese sulfide, shifts its behavior from an insulator to a metal and then back to an insulator under increasing pressure.
A complaint that one of the graphs in the paper looked fishy led the journal, Physical Review Letters, to recruit outside experts to take a closer look.
The inquiry arrived at disquieting conclusions.
“The findings back up the allegations of data fabrication/falsification convincingly,” the journal’s editors wrote in an email to the authors of the paper on July 10.
. . .While Dr. Dias continues to defend the work, to some scientists, there is now clear evidence of misconduct.
“There’s no plausible deniability left,” said N. Peter Armitage, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who is among the scientists who have seen the reports. “They submitted falsified data. There’s no ambiguity there at all.”
Over the past few years, Dr. Dias and his colleagues have published a series of spectacular findings in top scientific journals.
For some reason I find myself less inclined to accept the phenomenon of room-temperature superconductivity. . . .
*This is sad because I always wanted to visit Brooks Falls, Alaska, site of the world’s last sockeye salmon run for bears. You can watch the bears standing in the falls and letting the salmon leaping into the gaping maws, getting fatter and fatter for the winter hibernation. And that, of course, leads to the famous Fat Bear Contest, which I document each fall, showing how previously thin bears turn in to huge tubs of lard. Now, however, the salmon run has been delayed by climate change, delaying the arrival of a beloved bear.
“The last time he showed up this late, salmon were also late, and the salmon were late this year as well,” said Candice Rusch, a spokesperson with Explore.org, the site that runs the 24/7 live cameras at Katmai National Park. “What we’ve been seeing in Alaska is that the salmon run has been trending later into July, which means for bears like Otis waiting longer to eat that salmon.”
Wild bears like Otis are supposed to return to the salmon run in late June, not July, but rising temperatures and overfishing are in part delaying the arrival of the salmon, Rusch said. This puts the bears in a time crunch, having to eat food in less than the usual six months they’d have to take bulk up before winter time.
. . . . 480 Otis is particularly famous thanks to the increasingly popular Fat Bear Week competition. Created in 2014, Fat Bear Week is March Madness meets Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, but for bears. At the end of the summer, Katmai National Park staff and Explore.org pit 12 park bears against each other online in a single-elimination bracket tournament.
The internet is presented with before and after photos of the contenders, showing bears right after they’ve emerged from hibernation, often very lean, then again in the final weeks before they hibernate again, by then much fatter. Fans then vote on which bear has the more impressive weight gain until one bear takes the title of Fattest Bear on Fat Bear Tuesday. Otis is a regular fan favorite of the competition, and has won the crown four times, including in 2021. At roughly 27-years-old, he’s also one of the oldest bears at the park.
“A bear that’s around 30 years of age is approaching what would be the equivalent of a 100-year-old person,” said Mike Fitz, Fat Bear Week creator and Explore.org resident naturalist. “Most bears don’t have the fortune of living that long.”
But Otis showed—and gorged!:
Breaking news: 480 Otis is back! 🎉 (You can breathe again.)
480 Otis has returned to Brooks River and he's catching fish at the falls. 🙂🐟
Even at his age, he's still expertly catching fish and continues to surprise us. 👑 🐻
Photo credit: NPS Photo/F. Jimenez pic.twitter.com/6c5BIvoeVk
— Katmai National Park (@KatmaiNPS) July 28, 2023
“He showed up this year extraordinarily skinny,” Rusch also noted.
Within thirty minutes of his return to the river, Otis was catching fish. Fitz said that’s part of what fans love about him. “We’ve seen in the past that he is adaptable and he’s a survivor,” Fitz said. “People can really relate to his work ethic and his ability to make a living despite the challenges that he continues to face.”
What a work ethic that bear has!! Go, Otis!
*Want to get even more depressed? Read about a new AP-NORC poll showing that 69% of American believe in angels (yes, real ones), and a substantial number in other bizarre and numinous phenomena.
Compared with the devil, angels carry more credence in America.
Angels even get more credence than, well, hell. More than astrology, reincarnation, and the belief that physical things can have spiritual energies.
In fact, about 7 in 10 U.S. adults say they believe in angels, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
“People are yearning for something greater than themselves — beyond their own understanding,” said Jack Grogger, a chaplain for the Los Angeles Angels and a longtime Southern California fire captain who has aided many people in their gravest moments.
But of course nobody here is deluded enough to believe in unevidenced phenomena just because it makes them feel better, right? Well, read on for more bad news:
American’s belief in angels (69%) is about on par with belief in heaven and the power of prayer, but bested by belief in God or a higher power (79%). Fewer U.S. adults believe in the devil or Satan (56%), astrology (34%), reincarnation (34%), and that physical things can have spiritual energies, such as plants, rivers or crystals (42%).
And get a load of this:
The large number of U.S. adults who say they believe in angels includes 84% of those with a religious affiliation — 94% of evangelical Protestants, 81% of mainline Protestants and 82% of Catholics — and 33% of those without one. And of those angel-believing religiously unaffiliated, that includes 2% of atheists, 25% of agnostics and 50% of those identified as “nothing in particular.”
2% of atheists who believe in angels is 2% too many. Who are these screwed-up nonbelievers. Why reject God but accept his wingéd minion?
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is up to demonizing carrots. Malgorzata’s explanation:
“Hili knows that Andrzej intensely dislikes carrots. She also knows that many people like and value carrots. To help Andrzej in his irrational dislike, she wants to demonize carrots so they would not enjoy a good reputation any longer. Her words can also be understood more broadly: it’s easy to demonize good things and get people to despise them.”Hili: I have an idea.A: What idea?Hili: How to demonize carrots.
Hili: Mam pomysł.Ja: Na co?Hili: Na demonizację marchewki.
From Divy. Someone has blotted out the obvious word:
From the Absurd Sign Project:
From Merilee; anyone with a cat knows that this is true:
From Masih: the story of another brave protestor who lost an eye after being shot by the cops, and then apparently left Iran.
"When I gaze into the mirror, I brim with pride for sacrificing my eye in pursuit of freedom." Meet Zaniar Tondro, the fearless 17-year-old protester who stood unwavering during the Iran protests, despite losing an eye. #WomanLifeFreedom@z_tondro pic.twitter.com/BwnU8kGiek
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 25, 2023
From Malcolm. What a lovely place Cambridge University is, and this picture includes a bonus kitty:
The West Door at King's College Chapel was opened especially for me tonight so I could take this picture of the sunset over the wildflower meadow – which was nice 🙂 and if you look closely you can see the college cat!
A picture of Cambridge every day since 2010. (No 4869)… pic.twitter.com/m25QqN1Rt2
— A Cambridge Diary (@acambridgediary) July 27, 2023
From Luana: “Sex assigned at birth” in a biology textbook. We’ll see a lot more of this in the years to come.
A student sent me this and said “Professors and all the faculty staff are on it. Students are literally afraid to get kicked out of school for speaking out against this “ Why is this in a biology book at a University? pic.twitter.com/tLyFeZmi9c
— Buck Angel® Transsexual (@BuckAngel) July 27, 2023
From Barry. This d*g gets the Oscar for “Best Dramatic Canine in a Lead Role”:
And the Oscar goes to.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/C8Es3M92Fb
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) July 25, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a Ukrainian who lived only one month in Auschwitz before perishing.
30 July 1907 | A Ukrainian, Dmytro Jaciw, was born in Wierczany. A lawyer.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 30, 2023
From Matthew: Cats and scholars are natural companions:
St Matthew and his cat
"Cats were also common companions for scholars…Eulogies such as this suggest a strong emotional attachment to pet cats, and show how cats not only cheered up their masters but provided welcome distractions from the hard mental craft of reading and… pic.twitter.com/kRBvmTQT4Z
— Kathleen McCallum (@Peripheralpal) July 22, 2023
Two astronauts in one! The Google translation of this photo is this:
On 07/20/1969, Neil Armstrong photographed Buzz Aldrin during their spacewalk on the surface of the Moon. We can clearly see Armstrong’s reflection in Aldrin’s helmet. This reflection has been reversed to replicate what Aldrin saw when photographed.
It’s the first lunar selfie! Read more about it here.
Le 20/07/1969, Neil Armstrong prenait en photo Buzz Aldrin lors de leur sortie extravéhiculaire à la surface de la Lune.
On voit très bien le reflet d'Armstrong dans le casque d'Aldrin
Ce reflet a été inversé pour reproduire ce qu'Aldrin voyait lorsqu'il a été pris en photo
— Astropierre (@astropierre) July 22, 2023
Lagniappe from Malcolm: This woman has perfected the art of imitating a trumpet with her voice: