Bizarre acronym pecksniffery in Scientific American

September 24, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Yes, that’s right: this is a real op-ed from Scientific American, which, if the magazine goes on in this vein, is going to fold—or at least should fold. Click on the screenshot to read. The word “problematic” should be your first clue that this is going to be painful:

I’ll give you the first of five reasons it’s “problematic” in full and then list the other four with an explanatory sentence or two from the piece. Remember, this is not a joke and it’s not April 1. This is intended as a real contribution to social justice.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely.Below, we outline five reasons why.

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, theSkywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories.

If you see lightsabers as “phallic”, you’re trying very hard to be offended.

The others (the explanation is much longer than I’ve excerpted)

2.) Star Wars has a problematic cultural legacy. The space opera franchise has been critiqued for trafficking in injustices such as sexism, racism and ableism.

3.) JEDI connects justice initiatives to corporate capital. JEDI/Jedi is more than just a name: It’s a product. Circulating that product’s name can promote and benefit the corporation that owns it, even if we do not mean to do so. We are, in effect, providing that corporation—Disney—with a form of free advertising, commodifying and cheapening our justice work in the process.

4.) Aligning justice work with Star Wars risks threatening inclusion and sense of belonging. While an overarching goal of JEDI initiatives is to promote inclusion, the term JEDI might make people feel excluded. Star Wars is popular but divisive. Identifying our initiatives with it may nudge them closer to the realm of fandom, manufacturing in-groups and out-groups.

5.) The abbreviation JEDI can distract from justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. When you think about the word JEDI, what comes to mind? Chances are good that for many, the immediate answer isn’t the concept “justice” (or its comrades “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusion”). Instead this acronym likely conjures a pageant of spaceships, lightsabers and blaster-wielding stormtroopers. Even if we set aside the four cautions above, the acronym JEDI still evokes imagery that diverts attention away from the meanings of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

I really don’t have anything to say about this except that Scientific American keeps pumping out the most ludicrous op-eds, some of which, like the one above, suggests that there are many people who would rather problematize acronyms than actually do anything for social justice. What this has to do with science is beyond me.

This is the first case of acronym-policing that I’m aware of, so it deserves some attention as a new sign of the insanity that is becoming normal in academic circles.

And I had to ensure that the authors are real because this is one of those pieces so close to satire that Titania McGrath (below) could claim credit for its authorship. But yes, the authors are real humans.

Lessons from a free-speech victory at Cambridge University

September 24, 2021 • 12:00 pm

In December of last year I reported (see also here) about how Cambridge University tried to pass a resolution mandating respect for differing views and “diverse identities” (bolding below is mine). This is just one of three resolutions that were similar:

The University of Cambridge, as a world-leading education and research institution, is fully committed to the principle, and to the promotion, of freedom of speech and expression. The University’s core values are ‘freedom of thought and expression’ and ‘freedom from discrimination’. The University fosters an environment in which all of its staff and students can participate fully in University life, and feel able to question and test received wisdom, and to express new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions within the law, without fear of disrespect or discrimination. In exercising their right to freedom of expression, the University expects its staff, students and visitors to be respectful of the differing opinions of others, in line with the University’s core value of freedom of expression. The University also expects its staff, students and visitors to be respectful of the diverse identities of others, in line with the University’s core value of freedom from discrimination. While debate and discussion may be robust and challenging, all speakers have a right to be heard when exercising their right to free speech within the law.

As I wrote, I was in good company opposing this resolution (I opposed not the identity part but the opinion part):

Similar restrictions appeared in two other paragraphs of the speech code, and irked writers like Stephen Fry and Nick Cohen, both of whom wrote editorials arguing that “respect” wasn’t the right word. For while one can respect an opponent as a human being to be treated civilly, there is no good reason to be respectful of opinions. Both Fry and Cohen emphasized that the operative word was “tolerance”: one can tolerate both opponents and their opinions—and argue with them if you don’t like the opinions—but you don’t have to give them respect.

And, as I reported, the resolutions were voted down by the University—by margins of between 4:1 and 7:1. This was a victory for tolerance and a defeat for “we must respect all views.” Now Arif Ahmed, a reader in philosophy at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, gives a bit of the backstory in a short piece on Spiked (click on screenshot below). And he gives two lessons that are worth trumpeting to all who fight for free speech and against creeping wokeness on campus.

Apparently, the three amendments mandating “respect for others’ opinions” were passed by the College Council, who dismissed the objections of some dons and other university members. This would have become University policy, then, had this not happened:

Many Cambridge dons were concerned about the policy and the threat it posed to academic freedom, though few were willing to say so in public. In any case, the council dismissed the few concerns that were raised in September 2020, without consultation. Rebel academics then had to campaign to force a vote of the whole university.

When that vote finally happened, by secret ballot, the result was a huge defeat for the university authorities: the vast majority voted against the council in the biggest turnout for decades.

The result was in itself evidence of the vast scale of self-censorship on campus. Clearly, concerns about the threats to our freedoms are widely felt, even if they are not widely voiced. And it’s not just a problem in Cambridge. A recent, large survey carried out by the University and College Union found that 35.5 per cent of academics are self-censoring.

I believe the proportion of American students who self-censor is much higher. A 2019 survey by the Heterodox Academy showed that “58.5% of students were somewhat or very reluctant to give their views on at least one of the five controversial topics.”

Self-censorship doesn’t apply with a secret ballot, giving rise to Ahmed’s first lesson. I can’t emphasize how important this is (emphasis is mine):

First, the Cambridge vote illustrated the power of anonymous voting. Academics who wouldn’t publicly voice support for liberal, pro-freedom policies at decision-making meetings might still support them in a secret ballot. If – as the figures suggest – a small and vociferous minority has cowed a liberal but risk-averse majority out of speaking its mind, secret ballots may break this minority’s power. Activist bullies might monopolise what is said out loud at a meeting, but if they can’t see how members vote, they can’t control what members decide. Every time a faculty votes on a change to the syllabus, every time a college votes on whether to invite a speaker, every time a students’ union chooses whether to affiliate to this or that political cause – these questions should be settled not by a show of hands, but by a secret ballot.

This doesn’t apply, however, to the running of student governments, as the students need to know how their representatives vote. That’s why no Congressional votes are secret.

And the second lesson, which we’ve seen at my own University:

Second, it is clear that the senior academics and administrators running most universities are faced with conflicting pressures from students, staff, funding bodies and central government. It is not surprising that in trying to balance these demands, even the most well-meaning vice-chancellors sometimes forget that free speech must be non-negotiable. One possible remedy would be for each university to appoint someone whose job it is never to forget the importance of free speech. Universities should each have their own free-speech officer, whose sole duty is to enforce compliance with the statutory duties on universities to promote free speech. If we cannot stop bureaucracy from growing, we can at least channel its energy in a benign direction.

One example I’ve used on my campus is ex-President Zimmer’s declaration that both the University itself and its academic units, like departments, are prohibited by the University’s Kalven Report from making official political, ideological, or moral statements. The reason is that an official statement in these areas will chill the ability of people like graduate students or untenured professors to oppose its views, much less discuss them. (This policy is of course rare in American colleges—it may be unique!)

Yet, many departments put up those statements on their websites, explicitly violating our own foundational free-speech principles. Despite efforts to have the statements removed (even though I agree with some of them!), they remain up, because, I suppose, there is also pressure on college administrators to not enforce university free-speech policy. I can imagine department heads saying to administrators: “Who are you to tell us what we can and cannot put on our department websites?” Well, the administrators should do exactly that with respect to anything that could chill speech. Conflicting pressures allows the university to explicitly declare these statements inappropriate, but then render the enforcement of that principle toothless. The result is that free speech has waned. No wonder we’ve fallen to #2 in FIRE’s free-speech rankings when we were #1 for so many years.

As Ahmed says, “free speech must be non-negotiable,” even when some parts of a university want to water it down.

h/t: Greg

Rift between “progressive” and centrist Democrats in House bill on Iron Dome funding

September 24, 2021 • 9:15 am

After some squabbling within the Democratic Party, the House approved $1 billion funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome”, designed solely as a defensive measure to protect it from rockets fired from Palestine. To avoid Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling, the Dems had to break this out as a separate bill. (Iron Dome funding has been going on for some years.)

There were 420 votes to fund, but nine dissenting votes on the bill—8 Democrats and one Republican—while two members voted “present”. Three of the “no” votes were “squad members” Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley, and Ilhan Omar, while, as usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez waffled, as she was set to vote “no” as well, but then waffled at the last minute and voted “present” because she cannot bring herself to come out as anti-Israel along with her fellow “progressives”. Rumor has it that AOC wants to challenge Chuck Schumer for his New York Senate seat, and she won’t win in New York if she’s gets a reputation as anti-Israel. As the NYT reports:

Minutes before the vote closed, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tearfully huddled with her allies before switching her vote to “present.” The tableau underscored how wrenching the vote was for even outspoken progressives, who have been caught between their principles and the still powerful pro-Israel voices in their party. (A spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on her change of position.)

The Times’s original story, however, included the last underlined phrase below, couching the vote as a battle between the “principles” of the progressives and the “power” of “influential lobbyists and rabbis”. (The original version of the NYT is archived here.) I guess the paper realized this might not exactly be “objective” reporting since perhaps some of those Democrats who voted to support the bill might have principles, too. One person who clearly doesn’t, though, is the dissimulating and ambitious Ocasio-Cortez, forced to tears by her cognitive dissonance.

Here’s the only place I found the House members who voted “no”. The other “not present” is Georgia Representative Hank Johnson.

The vote now goes to the Senate, which will pass the bill.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

I have returned, and I hope that some of you have accumulated wildlife photos to send me for the cache. Now is the time!

Today’s contribution of spider photos is from Tony Eales of Queensland. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Spider guru Dr Robert Raven, Head of Terrestrial Biodiversity & Senior Curator of Chelicerata at the Queensland Museum, has been telling me for some time now that the way to survey for spiders is to leave your diesel engine running for a while, and the spiders will come crawling out of the surroundings like hypnotised zombies. I had tried this a few times with little success, but recently I tried it on some sandy loam in coastal heath near Bundaberg, Queensland, and it worked beyond my wildest expectations.

Big spiders, little spiders, huntsmans and jumpers and especially ground spiders all came out toward the car. As did a lot of native cockroaches. And at one site the engine vibrations seemed to induce a bunch of spiders to compulsively climb a small tree near the car. I can’t wait to try it again.

Here’s a small sample of some of the things that came running to the siren call of the diesel engine.

One of the larger spiders to come out (around 20mm) and an unusual one. Asadipus sp. There are only seven observations of this genus on iNaturalist. It comes from an Australasian family Lamponidae which has the undeserved reputation of giving necrotic bites, though there is no solid evidence for this idea.

This little guy is probably Epicharitus sp or something related. This genus of striking black and white spiders belongs to the family Gnaphosidae. This is a varied cosmopolitan family known rather unhelpfully as Ground Spiders. [JAC: Wikipedia notes that “Epicharitus is a monotypic genus of Australian ground spiders containing the single species, Epicharitus leucosemus.”, so that may be the species.]

This one is Mituliodon tarantulinus, also knowns as the Little Tarantula even though it’s not remotely related to tarantulas. It’s in the family Miturgidae with the ominous common name of Prowling Spiders.

This is a juvenile wolf spider (Lycosidae). As it’s so young, it’s hard to guess at the ID. Quite pretty, though.

By far the most common family attracted to the car were members of the family Zodaridae AKA Ant Spiders. This one is Habronestes hunti and the next two are ones I have yet to get an ID for.

And lastly a couple of the spiders that climbed the small tree in response to the engine vibrations. Hamataliwa sp from the Lynx Spider family Oxyopidae.

And a lovely male Helpis minitabunda: A jumping spider, family Salticidae.

Friday: Hili dialogue (and Mietek monologue)

September 24, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings from Chicago (I’m back!) on Friday, September 24, 2021: National Cherries Jubilee Day! (Their exclamation mark.) Here’s Wikipedia’s definition and photo:

Cherries jubilee is a dessert dish made with cherries and liqueur (typically kirschwasser), which is subsequently flambéed, and commonly served as a sauce over vanilla ice cream.

It doesn’t say anything about cake

Sounds good to me, but I’ve never had it. It’s also German Butterbrot Day, Hug a Vegetarian Day, Kiss Day (again verboten this year), National Horchata Day (I love the stuff), Native American Day, Save the Koaka Day, and National Bluebird of Happiness Day, which always reminds me of this Gary Larson cartoon:

News of the Day:

Once again there’s a paucity of news that I know about. There’s a big blow-up about the treatment of Haitian refugees trying to get into the U.S., with the result that Daniel Foote, the senior American diplomat overseeing Haiti policy, has resigned in anger:

A senior American diplomat who oversees Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been wracked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.

*The Washington Post reports a sex abuse case at the University of Michigan that may be the largest one in U.S. history. Robert E. Anderson, a deceased doctor at the University has already been accused by more than 950 people (mostly men and boys) of molesting them, and not just at the University. He never faced any sanctions while he was alive.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 684,488, an increase of 2,036 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,743,487, an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 24 includes:

  • 787 – Second Council of Nicaea: The council assembles at the church of Hagia Sophia.
  • 1789 – The United States Congress passes the Judiciary Act, creating the office of the Attorney General and federal judiciary system and ordering the composition of the Supreme Court.
  • 1890 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounces polygamy.

Yes, but of course many sects of Mormonism remain polygamous. Here’s a photo from Polygamy.com:

  • 1906 – U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devils Tower in Wyoming as the nation’s first National Monument.
  • 1929 – Jimmy Doolittle performs the first flight without a window, proving that full instrument flying from take off to landing is possible.

Here’s Doolittle in his “blind flight” plane. The site Pioneers of Flight says this:

Doolittle made the first “blind flight” on September 24, 1929. He took off in the Guggenheim Fund’s Consolidated NY-2, flew a set course, and landed while under a fabric hood and unable to see outside the airplane. He relied entirely on a directional gyro, artificial horizon, sensitive altimeter, and radio navigation.

  • 1950 – The eastern United States is covered by a thick haze from the Chinchaga fire in western Canada.
  • 1975 – Southwest Face expedition members become the first persons to reach the summit of Mount Everest by any of its faces, instead of using a ridge route.

Here’s the daunting Southwest Face and the route they took up it. Three UK climbers and a Sherpa made the summit:

  • 2015 – At least 1,100 people are killed and another 934 wounded after a stampede during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1717 – Horace Walpole, English historian, author, and politician (d. 1797)
  • 1880 – Sarah Knauss, American super-centenarian, oldest verified American person ever (d. 1999)

She lived to be 119 years old, second only to the world’s oldest verified person, Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to be 122½ years (that age, however, is controversial! Here is Knauss at 98 or 99 years old:

Here’s the only photograph of Blind Lemon. He died of a heart attack at just 39:

And his version of “Black Snake Moan”:

Scott, Zelda, and their daughter Scottie in a Christmas photo from Paris. Scott couldn’t spell worth a damn (that’s what his editor was for), but he sure could write.

  • 1905 – Severo Ochoa, Spanish–American physician and biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1993)
  • 1923 – Fats Navarro, American trumpet player and composer (d. 1950)

Those who Went West on September 24 include:

  • 768 – Pepin the Short, Frankish king (b. 714)
  • 1541 – Paracelsus, German-Swiss physician, botanist, and chemist (b. 1493)
  • 1945 – Hans Geiger, German physicist and academic, co-invented the Geiger counter (b. 1882)

Geiger was a scary-looking dude:

  • 1991 – Dr. Seuss, American children’s book writer, poet, and illustrator (b. 1904)

SEUSS IS CANCELLED

  • 1994 – Barry Bishop, American mountaineer, photographer, and scholar (b. 1932)

Bishop, who made the summit as one of five successful climbers on the 1963 American expedition to Everest, had to overnight without shelter at high altitude and lost all his toes and the tip of one finger. He continued to climb, though, but was killed in an auto accident in 1994. Here he is with his frostbitten and soon-to-be-amputated toes after descending the mountain:

  • 2004 – Françoise Sagan, French author and screenwriter (b. 1935)
  • 2016 – Buckwheat Zydeco, American accordionist and bandleader (b. 1947)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has given up pondering the world and is now thinking about math:

A: Are you still in a Manichean mood?
Hili: No, I’m now plagued by Zeno’s paradoxes.
In Polish:
Ja: Nadal jesteś w nastrojach manichejskich?
Hili: Nie, teraz dręczą mnie paradoksy Zenona z Elei.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek is overwhelmed, as school has started:

Mietek: And again I have plenty of subjects to grasp.

In Polish: I znów mam dużo tematów do ogarnięcia.

From Merilee. I, too, am a fan of the Oxford comma.

A heartwarmer from Bruce:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Simon: Titania knocked it out of the park with this tweet:

From Barry. I don’t know the species of bird, but the staff is teaching it to perch:

From Ginger K., showing that it takes only one anonymous complaint:

Tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. This poor soul looks like he had a very rough ride in the cattle car. He lasted a week after arrival.

Tweets from Matthew, who told me, when I asked whether that outfit was painted on the bird, “No the bird is real. You can see it is safe – it is wearing a harness that is connected by a wire to the inside of the car so it can’t fly off. It has very strong talons!”

Matthew tweeted this photo of one of his cats, Ollie, adding a note, “Now he doesn’t look psychotic there, does he?” Ollie is indeed psychotic: he laid open my nose with a deft swipe of his claws and I bled like a stuck pig. Ollie just “presents well,” as the therapists say.

Matthew says about this one: “Nothing to wait for; just watch.” But do watch the whole thing. It’s funny when the goats jump down.

The eruption in the Canaries is relentless, and nothing can stop the lava. Google translation: “The lava tongue of the eruptive process of La Palma devastates everything in its path on its way to the sea.”

Traveling with the Great Unmasked

September 23, 2021 • 2:51 pm

I’m cooling my heels in Baltimore for an hour, as the direct flights from Chicago to Boston and back were either ridiculously expensive or sold out.  In airports and on planes, masks are required, but, at least in the airports I’ve visited, obedience isn’t universal.

On my Southwest flight from BOS to BWI, for example, they were hardasses about mask wearing, and good for them! They announced several times that, except when you were drinking, you had to have your mask over your nose and mouth, and, sure enough, the flight attendants went down the aisles and chided those who had their masks over their mouth but not their nose. (Is this behavior sheer stupidity or a duplicitous way to evade the restrictions?)

And in the airports, while nearly all people have masks somewhere around their neck, a few are sitting around with all facial orifices open to the free air, while many others have their noses hanging out over the top of their masks.  Nobody is enforcing this, of course, and it’s only my fear of being yelled at or beaten up that keeps me from a “get off my lawn” gesture of reminding these miscreants to cover up their schnozzes. All I can do is keep away from them.

Well, I remember some advice that the Southwest attendant told us on the way to Boston: “Masks are like pants: if anything is hanging out, you’re doing it wrong.”

I also found a page of over 100 mask jokes. Here’s one:

I recently bought my pet duck a mask to protect it from coronavirus.

It’s nothing flashy, but it fits the bill.
I’ll be here all year, folks!

 

Thursday: Hili dialogue

September 23, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Thursday, September 23, 2021: National Pancake Day.  Have some today!

Sadly, today I return to Chicago after a swell visit with friends. I will commune with my ducks as the days dwindle down to the time of departure. I will be traveling much of the day, so this may be the only post you see.

It’s also National American Great Pot Pie Day, National Snack Stick Day (jerky, string cheese, etc.), Celebrate Bisexuality Day, National Checkers Day, and International Day of Sign Languages.

News of the Day:

*Yesterday the FDA approved booster shots in the U.S., and today they’ll ponder exactly who gets them.

On Wednesday evening, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of the vaccine for people over 65 who received their second at least six months earlier. The agency also approved boosters for adult Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who are at high risk of severe Covid-19, or who are at risk of serious complications because of exposure to the virus in their jobs.

The first bit is easy (and I’m qualified) but they have to decide who, exactly, is a risk because of risk of complications or risk on the jobs. And what about those who got the Moderna shots? With my doctor’s okay, I’m going to get the booster, and I will NOT take Ivermectin (see below).

*The trial of Elizabeth Holmes is in its third week (she must have some lawyers’ bill!), and yesterday former Secretary of State Jim Mattis testified that he invested $85,000 in the organization but became puzzled:

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified Wednesday in the criminal trial of Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes that he and other board members were blindsided to learn in 2015 that the company hadn’t been conducting all of its blood tests using its proprietary technology.

“There just came a point where I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore,” the retired four-star general said.

Prosecutors presented Mr. Mattis’s testimony to support their allegations that Ms. Holmes and her top deputy lied to investors about having a profitable business relationship with the Defense Department and kept board members in the dark about the limitations of Theranos’s devices.

But, as reported on the trial’s live timeline, defense attorneys countered with what I see as a weak riposte:

During cross-examination of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, an attorney for Elizabeth Holmes tried to show Theranos Inc.’s board was accomplished enough to know how to ask questions if they had concerns.

I doubt that. Mattis didn’t ask questions; the big investors were not doctors or scientists.

*The first 28 minutes Sam Harris’s latest podcast, “Ask me anything,” can be heard for free here.  Reader Tom, who sent me the link, told me this:

Only 28 minutes in length, with Harris directly addressing [Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying’s] recent shenanigans about 10 minutes into the podcast after an interesting intro.

It actually starts at 10:32 and goes on to the end of the segment, with Sam very critical about the duo’s “lack of quality control about the information they’re putting forward” about the advantages of ivermectin and especially the problems with Covid vaccine.” He also raises several issues with their claims about the supposed ineffectiveness and dangers of vaccines.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 681,341, an increase of 2,075 deaths over yesterday’s figure. Remember when 200,000 deaths was an unthinkable figure? We may get to four times that number before this is over. The reported world death toll is now 4,734,397, an increase of about 10,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on September 23 was accidentally listed in yesterday’s Hili dialogue (I don’t screw up like that very often), so go here to see what happened on September 23. The rest of the information on births and deaths below is new:

Notables born on this day include:

The man who decreed the stately pleasure dome. Reread the great eponymous poem fragment by Coleridge here.

Valadon (photo below) is now more famous as a model (she modeled for, among others  Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) but was a noted painter in her own right. She was also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo.

First, her photo (avec chat):

Her depiction in Pierre-Auguste Renoirs 1883 painting, Dance at Bougival:

. . . and one of her own paintings, “Casting the Net” (1914):

  • 1889 – Walter Lippmann, American journalist and publisher, co-founded The New Republic (d. 1974)
  • 1899 – Louise Nevelson, American sculptor (d. 1988)

Here’s one of Nevelson’s paintings, “Mrs. N’s Palace”:

  • 1915 – Clifford Shull, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2001)
  • 1920 – Mickey Rooney, American actor, singer, director, and producer (d. 2014)

Rooney was married eight times, including to the world’s most beautiful woman, Ava Gardner:

  • 1930 – Ray Charles, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actor (d. 2004)

Here’s Ray singing the Leon Russell composition, “Song for You” in 1997:

  • 1949 – Bruce Springsteen, American singer-songwriter and guitarist

Those who croaked on September 23 include:

  • 1241 – Snorri Sturluson, Icelandic historian, poet, and politician (b. 1178)
  • 1889 – Wilkie Collins, English novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1824)
  • 1939 – Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist (b. 1856)

Here’s Freud’s famous couch, which I saw when I visited the Freud Museum (his house) in London; he took the couch with him when he moved to England in 1938. It looks quite comfortable! (He was, of course, a fraud.)

  • 1973 – Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and diplomat, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)
  • 1987 – Bob Fosse, American actor, dancer, choreographer, and director (b. 1927)

Here are some miscellaneous clips of Fosse dancing, including on on “The Dobie Gillis Show”! The commentary is by Gwen Verdon, who danced in many of his shows and was also married to him.

  • 2013 – Ruth Patrick, American botanist and immunologist (b. 1907)
  • 2014 – Irven DeVore, American anthropologist and biologist (b. 1934)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a goal. When I  asked Malgorzata who Hili was pursuing, she said this:

“Hili, knowing what’s happening in Poland and around the world, concluded that forces of darkness intensified their attacks and it’s time to fight them. I’m not sure how she intends to do it.”

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m going into battle with the forces of darkness.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Idę walczyć z siłami ciemności.

From Lenora via Cole & Marmalade: Dances With Cats

A post from Facebook:

And from Not Another Science Cat Page:

Titania goes after Justin again:

From Masih, showing how odious some Iranian men are about the obligatory hijab. Watch the video:

From Barry; sound up for this great example of sexual selection:

From Ginger K.: Has anybody ever thought of this question before? Well, here’s the answer, guaranteed to make you the life of the party.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. Only professional animal photographers have this worry. Walter Chandoha was the master.

Schopenhauer got reamed out by his mother:

Another issue I hadn’t thought of. Matthew says, “Can’t help thinking the person taking the film should have stayed further away, but no harm done.”

Food in the Boston area

September 22, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have eaten very well on my vacation, having gone to several semi-upscale ethnic restaurants and also eaten well in the homes of two people who were kind enough to put me up. But I often forgot to use my camera when I was absorbed in the food, so I’ll present a melange of photos of different foods, restaurants, and the like.

First, though, a scene from Harvard Square, which has changed immensely since I arrived in Boston in 1972.  It’s gentrified now. My erstwhile favorite place to eat as a grad student, Elsie’s Deli (home of the huge “Fresser’s Dream” sandwich), has long disappeared. As has Steve Harrell’s ice cream shop, which made the best hot fudge sundaes in Massachusetts. The Coop is still there, and Cardullo’s is hanging on, but the magazine store in the center of the Square is defunct.

This is one thing that remains. If you listen to NPR, you’ll recognize the name of the fictional accounting firm on the third-floor window: “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.”

Yes, it’s from Car Talk. Wikipedia has an entry for this fictional firm, which was also used as a joke by others.

The name of the DC&H corporate offices (otherwise known as the headquarters of the radio show Car Talk) is visible on the third floor window above the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets, in Harvard SquareCambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, of NPR’s Car Talk radio program, named their business corporation “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe”. Their corporate offices were located on a third-floor office at the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Magliozzi brothers declared that they established DC&H in 1989.

We went out several times, first to this excellent Spanish restaurant in Brookline, specializing in tapas. But I forgot to take pictures of the food! We had a fine Rioja with the meal, and were full after dinner. (The first question you have to ask when evaluating a restaurant is, “Did I get enough to eat?” If the answer is “no,” then you need go no further.)

The flavor board at my favorite ice-cream shop in the world, Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge.  If you go to Cambridge and don’t go here, you are a reprobate. There are usually many more flavors, but I expect the pandemic reduced the choice somewhat. Still, there are more flavors than you could try on several visits. I had the very best flavor, “burnt sugar” (the world’s best ice cream flavor) with a scoop of ginger-molasses, itself a wonderful combination. It was a great postprandial treat. They make ice cream the real way, dense and with all natural flavors. I wanted green tea with a scoop of adzuki bean, too, but I couldn’t pass up the burnt sugar.

Every reader here knows that my favorite British beer is Timothy Taylor Landlord, which has won Championship Beer of Britain four times and is a wonderful, tasty session ale that is not overhopped. It’s hard enough to find on tap in the UK, but there’s a bottled version as well, and four bottles were available in the Boston area. Andrew, my host, tracked them down and then cycled 22 miles to get those four bottles so we could have some. What a kind chap!

And even though it was bottled, it tasted nearly as good as a freshly-drawn pint in England. (As it had been kept in the fridge, we warmed the pints, 500 ml., up to 11°C in the microwave.)

Yesterday I moved to my second set of hosts, old Harvard friends Andrew and Naomi. Naomi is a world-class cook, and never uses recipes. I begged her not to go to any trouble to cook for me, as she always does, but she ignored my instructions and produced a wonderful dinner, which included this shepherd’s pie (a treat with a pint of Landlord!):

We also had a half avocado with lime for appetizer, green beans and baby asparagus on the side, and the apple-raspberry crumble below for dessert, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

I am allowed only one breakfast at this house due to Andrew’s insistence: two cakes of Weetabix with bananas as well as a strong mug of superb coffee. But Andrew is absolutely insistent on how one eats Weetabix. (He buys them by the case, and sometimes eats them three times a day when his wife is out of town: two for breakfast, four for lunch, and six for dinner. He is a Weetabix fanatic.)

Andrew displaying the breakfast item to come:

First, put two Weetabix biscuits, round side up (there are two different sides) in a wide, shallow bowl so that the milk doesn’t saturate the biscuit. The point is to retain most of the crunch of the biscuit while also getting the milk. You must always eat two Weetabix (I like three) as there are an even number of biscuits in the box and you don’t want to be left with just one. Four or six are permitted at other meals, but neer an odd number.

Half a banana is then sliced atop the biscuits with a sharp-edged spoon:

Then add milk, making sure to splash some atop the biscuits so they won’t be dry. The milk should be about a quarter-inch deep in the bowl.

Only then do you add the sugar, as you don’t want it dissolved in the milk when it’s poured:

Finally, tilt the bowl towards you so you can nip off a bit of biscuit and spoon it up with some milk, retaining the crunchiness but also getting the milk. For Andrew the consumption of the entire bowl takes about 40 seconds; he insists that speed is essential so that all the elements of the bowl are properly mixed with the right texture.

Here I am trying to eat properly. Note that I’m tilting the bowl:

I persuaded my first set of hosts to try Weetabix, and Andrew located one store in Cambridge that sold them. My hosts’ son-in-law went there and got a box, which was delivered yesterday by their granddaughter. I am curious about whether they’ll like Weetabix, as both of them eat only homemade granola (a different mix for each person) for breakfast. Son-in-law and second grandchild to the rear; photo used with permission.

I think this photo would make a great Weetabix commercial!

The ACLU alters an RBG quote to avoid “transphobic” implications

September 22, 2021 • 9:30 am

It’s a sad day when the American Civil Liberties Union has to alter a quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (one of our mutual heroes) to placate the potentially offended. Here’s one of their recent tweets:

Here’s the original quote from Ginsburg:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There are six changes, five in brackets, getting rid of “woman” and “her” (substituting “persons” and “people” for “woman” and “they” or “their” for three “hers”).  The missing part of the quote, which is “It is a decision she must make for herself”, could have been altered to “It is a decision they must make for themselves,” but that would add two more sets of brackets and make the whole quotation look really weird.

The explanation is simple and obvious; they are removing RBG’s reference to women having babies since the ACLU, whose mission now includes a substantial amount of transgender activism, is onboard with the idea that transmen, who are now given the pronouns “he” and “men”, can have babies. And indeed, transmen have given birth.

I have no quarrel with asserting that transsexual men can have offspring while using male pronouns.  What bothers me is the alteration of RBG’s quotation, which strikes me as disingenuous, as it alters what somebody actually said with the purpose of conforming to an ideology that didn’t exist during most of RBG’s life. Would it cause harm if people were to read the actual quote?  Would the quote really be considered transphobic given that RBG was not a transphobe?

I doubt it; we know that usage has changed in the past decade. And if we can go ahead and alter quotes any way we want so they are seen as less offensive and less “harmful”, well, we’re in trouble.

As I’ve said for a while, the ACLU is circling the drain. If they were offended by the original quote, they should have either used it as it was spoken, or not used it at all.

To be fair, I’ll link you to a defense of this kind of usage (which to me still doesn’t justify altering RBG’s quote), in this article by Emma Green in the Atlantic.

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 22, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings from Massachusetts on Wednesday: September 22, 2021: National Ice Cream Cone Day.

It’s my penultimate day in Cambridge. This R&R has gone by too quickly!  And please note that this is the last day of Summer. Fall begins at 3:21 p.m. today. Google celebrates the beginning of fall with a nice doodle; click on it to see falling leaves:

It’s also National White Chocolate Day, World Rhino Day, National Elephant Appreciation Day, National Hobbit Day, and the season-changing holidays:

And, according to Wikipedia, it’s the earliest date for the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere:

News of the Day:

Once again I’m ignorant of the news; please use the comments, if you can, to fill us in on what’s important.

*Yesterday’s readers’ poll on the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned before the end of Biden’s present term gave roughly equal predictions of overturning versus keeping:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 678,557, an increase of 2,046 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4,724,126, an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

It was a thin day in history. Stuff that happened on September 22 includes:

  • 38 – Drusilla, Caligula’s sister who died in June, with whom the emperor is said to have an incestuous relationship, is deified.
  • 1642 – The first commencement exercises occur at Harvard College.
  • 1806 – Lewis and Clark return to St. Louis after exploring the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
  • 1973 – Argentine general election: Juan Perón returns to power in Argentina.

Juan Peron and Evita. He was elected as President three different times.

  • 2002 – The first public version of the web browser Mozilla Firefox (“Phoenix 0.1”) is released.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1515 – Anne of Cleves, Queen consort of England (d. 1557)[5]
  • 1791 – Michael Faraday, English physicist and chemist (d. 1867)
  • 1902 – John Houseman, Romanian-American actor and producer (d. 1988)

The performance I remember of Houseman: Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase” (1973):

Left to right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst. All three, members of the “White Rose,” were guillotined in 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi materials.

  • 1956 – Debby Boone, American singer, actress, and author
  • 1958 – Andrea Bocelli, Italian singer-songwriter and producer

Yes, the video may seem schmalzy, but you have to admit that this performance of “Con te partirò (“Time to say goodbye”) with Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, a huge hit, is quite moving:

  • 1958 – Joan Jett, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actress

Those whose ticker stopped ticking on September 22 include:

  • 1539 – Guru Nanak, Sikh religious leader, founded Sikhism (b. 1469)
  • 1776 – Nathan Hale, American soldier (b. 1755)
  • 1961 – Marion Davies, American actress and comedian (b. 1897)
  • 1989 – Irving Berlin, Russian-born American composer and songwriter (b. 1888)
  • 1999 – George C. Scott, American actor, director, and producer (b. 1927)

Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “Patton”, but this scene alone deserves an Academy Award:

  • 2001 – Isaac Stern, Polish-Ukrainian violinist and conductor (b. 1920)
  • 2007 – Marcel Marceau, French mime and actor (b. 1923)
  • 2010 – Eddie Fisher, American singer (b. 1928)
  • 2015 – Yogi Berra, American baseball player, coach, and manager (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is perturbed:

Hili: What a horrible mess in this wild nature.
A: Does it disturb you?
Hili: Yes, I can’t see what’s under these sticks.
In Polish:
Hili: Straszny bałagan w tej dzikiej przyrodzie.
Ja: Przeszkadza ci?
Hili: Tak, nie widzę co jest pod tymi patyczkami.

. . . and a photo of Szaron:

From Facebook:

From Facebook; Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, and died in 2016.

A tweet from Jesus of the Day with a poignant explanation:

The graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, who were not allowed to be buried together. On the Protestant part of this cemetery J.W.C van Gorcum, colonel of the Dutch Cavalry and militia commissioner in Limburg is buried. His wife, lady J.C.P.H van Aefferden is buried in the Catholic part. They were married in 1842, he was a protestant and didn’t belong to the nobility.

This caused quite a commotion in Roermond. After being married for 38 years the colonel died in 1880 and was buried on the protestant part of the cemetery against the wall. His wife died in 1888 and had decided not to be buried in the family tomb but on the other side of the wall, the closest she could get to her husband. Two clasped hands connect the graves across the wall.

A tweet from Titania. I’d forgotten that Trudeau did this (not just once, but three times) which for nearly everyone would result in immediate cancellation. Why has he gotten a pass?

From Barry. I may have shown this before, but it’s a black-crested titmouse picking fur off a sleeping fox for the bird’s nest:

From Simon. This is clearly a seagull rather than a duck, but the poor choice of nesting site still obtains:

From Ginger K. Why doesn’t the cat just ride in the cart?

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

A lovely video tweet (sound up) Matthew.: I didn’t think dog milk could nourish kittens, but I guess they’re old enough to be eating solid food, too. As Matthew says, the world would be better if it were like Dodo:

Two more tweets from Matthew:

Patricia Churchland, who like me thinks that panpsychism is both untestable and dumb, goes after a proponent of the theory that all matter is conscious:

More interspecies love. Sound up if you want music: