Welcome to Sunday, September 17, 2023, and National Apple Dumpling Day. All things told, I’d rather have my dumplings with chicken.
It’s also Constitution Day (the U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787), National Women’s Friendship Day, National Monte Cristo Day (it’s a sandwich), National Wife Appreciation Day, and Operation Market Garden Anniversary, “still remembered with parachuting and dedications on this day. (Netherlands)”. Read the link to find out about this WWII operation.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 17 Wikipedia page.
*According to a WaPo op-ed, India is pondering changing the country’s name.
A country’s name often is imbued with centuries of history and culture, and might embody the very identity of its people. Changing a name is a monumental step, usually with political overtones.
That’s why heads were turning at the recent Group of 20 meeting in India, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to be not-so-subtly rebranding India by its Hindi and Sanskrit alternative name: Bharat.
At the summit, Modi sat behind a nameplate that identified the host country as Bharat. An earlier invitation to a banquet for visiting dignitaries was addressed from the “President of Bharat.” And a booklet distributed to the G-20 guests was entitled “Bharat: The Mother of Democracy.”
The question began swirling: Was Modi setting the stage for an official change of name for the world’s most populous country?
This would not be entirely surprising coming from Modi, whose political party is called the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — Hindi for Indian People’s Party. Bharat and India have been the two officially recognized names of the country since independence from Great Britain, after a third proposed name, Hindustan, was jettisoned. Many Indians use the two names interchangeably when speaking in the several languages and dialects prevalent in the country, although “India” is the common name in English.
Many countries have changed their names (“Burma” became “Myanmar”, for instance), and I’m betting that Modi, an odious man who is somewhat of a Hindu theocrat, is going with the name change. After all, it favors the religion he consistently favors in a multi-faith land: Hinduism.
*In the NYT, conservative columnist Ross Douthat ponders “Is peak woke behind us or ahead?” He starts with the “behind” view, supported, he thinks, by the news that Ibram Kendi’s Antiracist Research Institute at Boston University just laid off half its staff under accusations that “the organization was ‘exploitative’ and poorly managed.” (h/t cesar). That appears to be true, but so what? Douthat:
No figure is more associated with the ideological revolution that shook elite American institutions in the Trump era than Ibram X. Kendi, the scholar of racism and the definer of “antiracism” as a worldview unto itself. So there’s a symbolic weight to the news that Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, funded by a lavish gift from the Twitter founder Jack Dorsey back in 2020, will be laying off 15 or 20 staff members — confirming the sense (among many liberals, especially) that “peak woke” is behind us, and the revolution has run its course.
Has it? By some definitions, yes. The wave of cancellations and resignations and public-monument removals has receded. The attempts to use “woke capital” to effect progressive change have met strong resistance, and corporations are losing enthusiasm for a vanguard role.
Meanwhile, there is more intellectual and political energy in anti-wokeness now, evident not just in backlash in red states but in this autumn’s roster of new books, which includes critiques of social justice ideology from the socialist left, the center left and the right. The Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action has created new legal roadblocks for Kendi-style progressivism. The mood in elite journalism is less ideologically committed and more skeptical and critical.
But then he argues—and I think he’s right—that we’re nowhere near “peak woke”, for that ideology is in a period of “consolidation and retrenchment”, with his argument based on DEI “loyalty oaths and the story of Yoel Inbar (denied a UCLA job because of his denigration of those oaths):
There are two points to draw out of this situation. The first is about the present: Many free-speech-oriented liberals have been eager to pivot from worrying about an illiberal left to criticizing the excesses of red-state governors and school boards. But so long as bastions of liberal intellectual life are governed by ideological loyalty oaths, that pivot can only be partial, and Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott can always point a finger back.
The second is about the future. In the Trump years we saw that in an atmosphere of political emergency, when fear of populism or authoritarianism organized every left-of-center thought, many liberals struggled to resist demands of ideological fealty made by movements to their left.
. . . today’s entrenchment of ideological conformity surely bodes well for tomorrow’s would-be enforcers. If liberals accept loyalty oaths under calm conditions, what will they accept in an emergency? Probably too much — in which case the next peak of wokeness will be higher, the next revolution more complete.
Wokeness is an ideology that doesn’t allow itself to be questioned, and that means that it will be very, very slow to abate.
*In a lesson that natural selection doesn’t prepare individuals for future contingencies, the WSJ reports on a new paper in iScience (I found it here for free) suggesting that if you carry genes from Neanderthals (and most of us, including me, have a few percent of such genes), you’re at a higher risk from covid:
The northern Italian city of Bergamo suffered one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death rates, with army trucks deployed to carry the dead out of the overwhelmed town in the early days of the pandemic.
A new study carried out in Bergamo now suggests that genes inherited from Neanderthals, extinct cousins of modern humans, could help explain why some people developed life-threatening forms of the disease while others didn’t.
The high number of infections in Bergamo provided scientists with data for the study, though the research doesn’t address why so many people died there compared with other parts of Italy or Europe.
. . .Scientists at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan spent the past few years analyzing possible links between DNA variations and Covid-19. Their study, published in the journal iScience and based on a sample of nearly 10,000 people in the Bergamo area, identified several genes associated with the development of severe respiratory illness. Three of those genes belonged to a group of variations in DNA, or haplotype, inherited from Neanderthals.
The Italian study found that people who carried the Neanderthal haplotype were twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia from a Covid infection than those who didn’t, and three times as likely to be hospitalized in intensive-care units and put on ventilators.
Unknown is whether the haplotype is more common in the Bergamo region than in other Italian or European regions.
But do not worry yet. First, there are 18 non-Neanderthal genes associated with a higher risk, though the three with the highest risk are from a Neanderthal “haplotype”. Second, the genes themselves are physically linked to other genes that could be the real candidates (this is a “GWAS” study). Third, the data are based on self report of symptoms. Finally, we have no idea why these genes seem to be more common in one area of Italy. The lesson: ask your doctor whether you should get the new vaccine, monitor yourself for symptoms, test yourself if you have them, take paxlovid if you’re infected and your doctor recommends it, but DO NOT TEST YOURSELF FOR THE IMPLICATED NEANDERTHAL GENES, at least not yet. The association was found in only one area and in only one population, and may not apply in other places and populations.
*Oregon has made the fungal-derived hallucinogen psilocybin legal to the public without a prescription, and other states will soon follow. The reason is medical (it helps with several maladies, including depression), not to help people get high for fun.
Psilocybin tea, wind chimes and a tie-dye mattress await those coming to an office suite in Eugene to trip on magic mushrooms. For roughly six hours, adults over 21 can experience what many users describe as vivid geometric shapes, a loss of identity and a oneness with the universe.
Epic Healing Eugene — America’s first licensed psilocybin service center — opened in June, marking Oregon’s unprecedented step in offering the mind-bending drug to the public. The center now has a waitlist of more than 3,000 names, including people with depression, PTSD or end-of-life dread.
No prescription or referral is needed, but proponents hope Oregon’s legalization will spark a revolution in mental health care.
Colorado voters last year passed a measure allowing regulated use of magic mushrooms starting in 2024, and California’s Legislature this month approved a measure that would allow possession and use of certain plant- and mushroom-based psychedelics, including psilocybin and mescaline, with plans for health officials to develop guidelines for therapeutic use.
The Oregon Psilocybin Services Section, charged with regulating the state’s industry, has received “hundreds of thousands of inquiries from all over the world,” Angela Allbee, the agency’s manager, said in an interview.
“So far, what we’re hearing is that clients have had positive experiences,” she said.
. . . Researchers believe psilocybin changes the way the brain organizes itself, helping a user adopt new attitudes and overcome mental health issues.
Many of the beneficial effects of psychedelics are detailed in a recent book b Michael Pollan, a book I heard him talk about at the Kent Presents festival. From Wikipedia:
In 2018, Pollan wrote How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, a book about the history and future of psychedelic drugs. The book became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller. He argues that psilocybin and LSD are not drugs that make people crazy, which he calls the biggest misconception people have about psychedelics, but rather drugs that can help a person become “more sane” by, for example, eliminating a fear of death. While promoting his book on TV, he explained that along with LSD and psilocybin, his research included ingesting ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT, and that he experienced a dissolution of ego. Based on his 2018 book Pollan leads the way in the Netflix docuseries How to Change Your Mind exploring the history and uses of psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and mescaline.
*Finally, this is the 33rd year that the Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded at Harvard University, prizes for a combination of science and ludicrous humor. Sadly, they were awarded virtually. What are they? As Wikipedia notes:
The Ig Nobel Prize (/ˌɪɡnoʊˈbɛl/ IG-noh-BEL) is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. Its aim is to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and on the word ignoble.
ArsTechnica has a long description of the awards in various fields, but I’ll just give the names of the projects:
Chemistry/Geology Prize. Citation: “Jan Zalasiewicz, for explaining why many scientists like to lick rocks.”
Literature Prize. Citation: “Chris Moulin, Nicole Bell, Merita Turunen, Arina Baharin, and Akira O’Connor, for studying the sensations people feel when they repeat a single word many, many, many, many, many, many, many times.”
Mechanical Engineering Prize. Citation: “Te Faye Yap, Zhen Liu, Anoop Rajappan, Trevor Shimokusu, and Daniel Preston, for re-animating dead spiders to use as mechanical gripping tools.” [Be sure to see the video at the ArsTechnica site.]
Medicine Prize. Citation: “Christine Pham, Bobak Hedayati, Kiana Hashemi, Ella Csuka, Tiana Mamaghani, Margit Juhasz, Jamie Wikenheiser, and Natasha Mesinkovska, for using cadavers to explore whether there is an equal number of hairs in each of a person’s two nostrils.”
Communication Prize. Citation: “María José Torres-Prioris, Diana López-Barroso, Estela Càmara, Sol Fittipaldi, Lucas Sedeño, Agustín Ibáñez, Marcelo Berthier, and Adolfo García, for studying the mental activities of people who are expert at speaking backward.”
Public Health Prize. Citation: “Seung-min Park, for inventing the Stanford Toilet, a device that uses a variety of technologies—including a urinalysis dipstick test strip, a computer vision system for defecation analysis, an anal-print sensor paired with an identification camera, and a telecommunications link—to monitor and quickly analyze the substances that humans excrete.”
Nutrition Prize. Citation: “Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura, for experiments to determine how electrified chopsticks and drinking straws can change the taste of food.”
Education Prize. Citation: “Katy Tam, Cyanea Poon, Victoria Hui, Wijnand van Tilburg, Christy Wong, Vivian Kwong, Gigi Yuen, and Christian Chan, for methodically studying the boredom of teachers and students.”
Psychology Prize. Citation: “Stanley Milgram, Leonard Bickman, and Lawrence Berkowitz for experiments on a city street to see how many passersby stop to look upward when they see strangers looking upward.”
. . . and my favorite, published in Nature Geoscience:
Physics Prize. Citation: “Bieito Fernández Castro, Marian Peña, Enrique Nogueira, Miguel Gilcoto, Esperanza Broullón, Antonio Comesaña, Damien Bouffard, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, and Beatriz Mouriño-Carballido, for measuring the extent to which ocean-water mixing is affected by the sexual activity of anchovies.”
Here’s the complete video of the ceremony:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s concerned about this summer’s drought in Poland:
Hili: How much rain has fallen this summer?A: I do not have data, but very little.
Hili: Ile wody spadło u nas tego lata?Ja: Nie mam danych, ale bardzo mało.
From reader Martin: a sweet cat video found by his wife:
From Jean Greenburg: a picture of me dreaming of a duck. (And I am!)
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0:
Masih posts on the continuing protests in Iran. Mahsa Amini died a year ago yesterday, beaten to death by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.
(See also the op-ed in today’s NYT by Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, “The more they lock us up, the stronger we become.”)
In #Iran tonight, specifically in the city of Arak, a resilient youth returns to the streets. A year after arrests, torture, and even executions, they rally on the anniversary of Mahsa Jina Amini. The young refuse to bow to outdated mullahs, uniting in one powerful cry: Freedom!… pic.twitter.com/GjDz4O0FqT
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 16, 2023
Below: Masih decries the coddling of Iran by the Biden regime. She’s right. We’re still pretending that Iran could negotiate to stop creating a nuclear weapon. If you think that, open your eyes:
The Murderous regime of Iran, will get more than $6 billion from Biden administration. The real figure could be as high as $20 billion.
In an interview with @BBCWorld service I explain why this is a betrayal to people of Iran right on the anniversary of #MahsaAmini. pic.twitter.com/qpvSbg76Bj
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 16, 2023
More on Masih and Ilhan Omar from Otter (read the whole text):
Show any Muslim on the planet the two pictures below and they'll tell you that lady on left, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, is conservative because she practices religion by donning on the hijab. A Muslim will also tell you that the lady on the right, Iranian (American) dissident… pic.twitter.com/Kcb3eYRvFs
— Hussain Abdul-Hussain (@hahussain) September 15, 2023
From Barry. There is no happy vegan cat to be found, and whoever feeds their cat this stuff is a moron. Cats’ digestive systems and physiology are geared to a carnivorous diet:
— Papa Woof und Krampus und Bleaken (@woofknight) September 16, 2023
From Ginger K. I don’t know the “Little Rascals” episode:
What a time to be alive. https://t.co/cvYRniBsHY
— Meara (@MillennialOther) September 13, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a Dutch girl gassed to death upon arrival at Auschwitz—the day before her fifth birthday:
17 September 1938 | A Dutch Jewish girl, Ina Nanny Blits, was born in Amsterdam.
She arrived at #Auschwitz on 16 September 1943 in a transport of 1,005 Jews deported from #Westerbork. She was among 578 of them murdered in gas chambers after the selection. pic.twitter.com/mwq4mXamjR
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 17, 2023
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. The first is a double groaner:
How do you know when a society is baroque?
Mass luting in the streets
— Adam Sharp (@AdamCSharp) September 16, 2023
A cat who wants to catch cars. And yes, sound on:
Race car fan.. 😂
Sound on pic.twitter.com/M5LIhM7XQR
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) September 16, 2023
Why is it up there?
— Chris Packham (@ChrisGPackham) September 15, 2023