Sunday: Hili dialogue

March 7, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Sunday, March 7, 2021, a thin day for all holidays. It’s only National Cereal Day and National Crown Roast of Pork Day.

Today there’s an animated Google Doodle (click on screenshot) honoring Masako Katsura (March 7, 1913-1995) a famous woman Japanese billiards player who competed against men and was known as “The First Lady of Billiards”. She specialized in the three-cushion game, shown in the animation.

“Men want to beat me. I play men, six, seven hours a day. Men… they do not beat me.” — Masako “Katsy” Katsura,

Here’s a video about the career of Katsy, with photos and video:

News of the Day:

The good news is that the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill passed the Senate, but narrowly: 50-49, with all Democrats voting for the proposal and one Republican absent (Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, who had a family emergency). But even had Sullivan been there and voted “no”, Kamala Harris would have broken the tie in favor of the bill.  The provisions include these:

It would inject vast amounts of federal resources into the economy, including one-time direct payments of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of Americans, jobless aid of $300 a week to last through the summer, money for distributing coronavirus vaccines and relief for states, cities, schools and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

It also expands tax credits for children. What happens now is that the bill goes back to the House of Representatives so that both chambers agree on a final bill, and after that reconciliation the bill goes to Biden’s desk for signature. If you’re getting a check, and you’re within the income limits, it should go out this month.  This is both a major accomplishment for Biden and also an abandonment of his desire to be “bipartisan”—something that wasn’t realistic anyway. And it’s a good start at giving a hand up to Americans who are in poverty or not far from it.

Below: one of many reasons I hate HuffPost. Although the news they’re conveying is good, they have to tell you that it’s HUGE! and also put a smiley face in the headline to show you how you’re supposed to feel. Even high-school newspapers don’t put emoticons in the news, for crying out loud.

Religion poisons everything department: All over the news, and hailed as an example of interfaith harmony, is Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq and his meeting with the highest Shi’ite ayatollah (photo below). The thing is, if there were no religion, there wouldn’t be a reason for Iraq to have persecuted its Christian minority (and gays and women, etc. etc.) for decades. There would be no need for interfaith harmony because there would be no faiths.

Everybody’s having a great time! Photo: Associated Press.

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, is actually auctioning off the very first tweet (his own) to appear on that site, and bidding has reached $2.5 million!  The expensive tweet:

“Just setting up my twttr,” the post, sent from Mr Dorsey’s account in March 2006, reads.

It’s still up! Here it is:

Now how can you auction off a tweet?, you ask.  The BBC says this:

It will be sold as a non-fungible token (NFT) – a unique digital certificate that states who owns a photo, video or other form of online media.

But the post will remain publicly available on Twitter even after it has been auctioned off.

The buyer will receive a certificate, digitally signed and verified by Mr Dorsey, as well as the metadata of the original tweet. The data will include information such as the time the tweet was posted and its text contents.

What chowderhead would pay $2.5 million for that? (h/t Jez)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 523,970, an increase of about 1,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,601,164, 2,593,526, an increase of about 7j,600 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 7 includes:

  • 161 – Marcus Aurelius and L. Commodus (who changes his name to Lucius Verus) become joint emperors of Rome on the death of Antoninus Pius.
  • 1850 – Senator Daniel Webster gives his “Seventh of March” speech endorsing the Compromise of 1850 in order to prevent a possible civil war.
  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell is granted a patent for an invention he calls the “telephone“.

Here’s one bit of the patent:

  • 1936 – Prelude to World War II: In violation of the Locarno Pact and the Treaty of Versailles, Germany reoccupies the Rhineland.
  • 1945 – World War II: American troops seize the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine river at Remagen.

The Germans tried mightily to destroy the bridge, which enabled the Allies to establish over 100,000 men on the Eastern side of the Rhine. German artillery finally succeeded in bringing it down, but pontoon bridges were erected to complete the crossing. Here’s a photo of that famous bridge, with the Wikipedia caption,

A side view of the Remagen Bridge in March 1945 before it collapsed into the Rhine. Claude Musgrove took this picture of the famous Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River at Remagen, Germany. The smoke under and behind the bridge is from German artillery rounds trying to destroy the miraculously surviving link that let Allied forces cross the river.

The Bridge at Remagen” was a 1969 movie starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn.

Watch this excellent video.

All the remains were discovered. It’s still not clear whether any of the crew remained conscious for the nearly 3-minute fall to the ocean.  Here’s the live CNN video; I was watching at the time:

  • 1989 – Iran and the United Kingdom break diplomatic relations after a fight over Salman Rushdie and his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses.
  • 2007 – The British House of Commons votes to make the upper chamber, the House of Lords, 100% elected.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1788 – Antoine César Becquerel, French physicist and biochemist (d. 1878)
  • 1792 – John Herschel, English mathematician and astronomer (d. 1871)
  • 1849 – Luther Burbank, American botanist and author (d. 1926)
  • 1857 – Julius Wagner-Jauregg, Austrian physician and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1940)

Wagner-Jauregg got the prize for one of the discoveries that ultimately didn’t pan out: “”for his discovery of the therapeutic value of malaria inoculation in the treatment of dementia paralytica“.  This is a form of dementia caused by syphillis, and is now cured with antibiotics. I’m not sure how well it worked back then, but the malaria killed 15% of the patients (dementia paralytica, however, was invariably fatal, and is what killed Theo van Gogh).

Heydrich (below) was assassinated by the Czech army in exile, but the Nazis took revenge by destroying two Czech villages, Lidice and Ležáky, shooting every male over 16 and sending everybody else to concentration camps, where they died. The villages had nothing to do with Heydrich’s killing, and this is one of the most brutal actions against civilians during the war.

Magnani, a terrific actor, won the Best Actress Oscar in 1956 for her role in the movie The Rose Tattoo, which Tennessee Williams wrote especially for her. Here’s a clip:

Weisz also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the movie “The Constant Gardner“.  It also starred Ralph Fiennes; here’s the trailer:

Those who expired on March 7 include:

  • 1274 – Saint Thomas Aquinas, Italian priest and philosopher (b. 1225)
  • 1957 – Wyndham Lewis, English painter and critic (b. 1882)
  • 1967 – Alice B. Toklas, American writer (b. 1877)
  • 1988 – Divine, American drag queen and film actor (b. 1945)
  • 1999 – Stanley Kubrick, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1928)
  • 2006 – Gordon Parks, American photographer, director, and composer (b. 1912)

Parks became famous for photographic documentation of African-American life in Chicago; in fact, part of the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School is named the “Gordon Parks Arts Hall“. I walk by it on my way to and from work. Here’s one of his photos:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is brusque:

A: I have a problem.
Hili: So solve it.
In Polish:
Ja: Mam problem.
Hili: Rozwiąż go.

And little Kulka, now a teenager, is up in the trees again. (Photo by Paulina)

From Jesus of the Day:

From Facebook:

Also from Facebook:

Columbia University is having a big graduation ceremony but then all the ethnic groups split off for another mini-ceremony. Two points. Where is the “Jewish graduation”? Are we not oppressed, too? And why are they lumping low income students with first generation students? What is the commonality there? There is no end to this kind of fractionation.

From Barry Look at this needy cat!

Tweets from Matthew. I wish my ducks would eat greens!

A prize-winning wasp photo. My translation: “This photo of two wasps approaching their nest holes won the prize in the category Animal Behavior: Invertebrates. Deschandol captured the moment in the vicinity of his house by by installing an infrared trigger.” #PictureOfTheDay#BildDesTages

Well . . . .

Soon, I hope, we’ll see real video from Perseverance instead of concatenated images. Here’s a faux video from the 33-minute test of the rover two days ago:

A science/linguistics joke tweeted by Matthew:

Science burn! A Nature paper describing feather lice captured in amber apparently feeding on dinosaur feathers was apparently incorrect. David Grimaldi and Isabelle Via showed that in all probability they weren’t parasites but scale insects, probably trapped in amber while feeding on the tree (their rebuttal paper is here).

Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 6, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the Sabbath for Jewish cats: Saturday, March 6, 2021. Here’s a landskat to get it started right (h/t: Matthew). I’m not sure, though, that cats are allowed to play on the Sabbath; I think they’re supposed to rest and study the Talmud.

It’s National Oreo Day (I have a “family pack” of mint Oreos I bought two weeks ago, and polished off seven last night (with a glass of milk) to celebrate finally finishing Kendi’s book on antiracism. I once got a bag of matcha (powdered green tea) Oreos, which I believe are sold only in Japan, and they were surprisingly toothsome:

It’s also National Frozen Food Day, National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day (forget about that; there are only two varieties of cheesecake that are acceptable: plain and with cherries), and, as a complement to the cheesecake, it’s National Dentist’s Day, with the apostrophe implying that only a single dentist is being celebrated. Finally, it’s European Day of the Righteous, commemorating “those who have stood up against crimes against humanity and totalitarism with their own moral responsibility.”

Wine of the Day: I don’t often drink Barolos, as they’re pricey, but I treated myself last night when I made some bucattini pasta with red sauce and vegetables, and decided to pair it with an Italian red. This was an excellent specimen of “the king of Italian wines” (is that sexist?). I put it upright for a week beforehand as I knew it had sediment, decanted it carefully, and let it sit open for an hour before drinking.

This is a wine with guts, perhaps better suited to a steak than to pasta. It shows no sign of aging, and smells powerfully of blackcurrants and (amazingly) roses! I’m drinking my second large glass at this moment, and it’s getting better and better. I have only a few Barolos among my wines, and I look forward to comparing this big boy with others. Rating: 8.7724/10.

News of the Day:

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is now being injected in to Americans, and I think one in six of us has received at least one shot.  In fact, with the J&J jab all you need is one shot, which makes it appealing to many. And it’s as efficacious as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at keeping people out of the hospital and alive. There is, however, a difference in efficacy (95% vs. about a 72% reduction in infection likelihood), and I suppose if one had a choice, and didn’t mind two shots, you’d go for the two-jab rather than the J&J shots. But few people have that choice, and Fauci’s advice to take what you’re offered is good.

What bothers me is that if we DID have a choice, I’d take Pfizer or Moderna because of their higher efficacy, regardless of Fauci’s statement that the trials were done on different populations. Fauci’s interest differs from ours: his is getting herd immunity as fast as possible, while ours is both our own health and the health of the country as a whole. There’s some conflict here, and I’d feel better if at least someone admitted that.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az) is a centrist Democrat, but also something of a showoff. On the vote about minimum wages in the Senate yesterday, she had to make a big show of “thumbs down.” It’s not only immature, but a poke in the eye at her many constituents who could use a higher wage. (She was also carrying a cake, though it’s not certain it was a Marie Antoinette move.) Here’s her vote:

There’s an interesting op-ed in the NYT called “The Empty Religions of Instagram“, about how “influencers” like Glennon Doyle are the replacement for televangelists, offering us unsatisfying cures for our Weltschmerz. I thought “Yeah! You go!” until I read the last two paragraphs from author Leigh Stein:

There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can provide. We’re looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?

Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life. It’s time to search for meaning beyond the electric church that keeps us addicted to our phones and alienated from our closest kin.

She wants us to go back to God, for crying out loud!

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 522,511, an increase of about 2,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,593,526, an increase of about 10,400 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 6 includes:

  • 632 – The Farewell Sermon (Khutbah, Khutbatul Wada’) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
  • 845 – The 42 Martyrs of Amorium are killed after refusing to convert to Islam.
  • 1665 – The first joint Secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg, publishes the first issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the world’s longest-running scientific journal.
  • 1788 – The First Fleet arrives at Norfolk Island in order to found a convict settlement.
  • 1834 – York, Upper Canada, is incorporated as Toronto.
  • 1857 – The Supreme Court of the United States rules 7-2 in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case that the Constitution does not confer citizenship on black people.

Although Scott (who was enslaved) lost, he was manumitted. Sadly, his freedom lasted only a year, as he died of tuberculosis in 1858:

Here’s that first table, with the caption from Wikipedia:

The first version of Mendeleev’s periodic table, 1 March 1869 (N.S.): An attempt at a system of elements based on their atomic weights and chemical similarities. Here the periods are presented vertically, and the groups horizontally.

I saw this painting for real in Stockbridge, MA at the Rockwell studio and museum, and studied it carefully, especially the food. It depicts Thanksgiving, of course, with Mom serving up a monster turkey. But the rest of the table is surprisingly bare. Note the dish of celery, once considered a rare treat (oy!):

There have been many memes of that painting, of course. Here’s one:

Here’s Ali and Malcolm X in a rare video.

  • 1967 – Cold War: Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva defects to the United States.
  • 1975 – For the first time the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is shown in motion to a national TV audience by Robert J. Groden and Dick Gregory.

The film is sad a gruesome, showing first the shot through Kennedy’s neck and then his head exploding as the second shot strikes. I won’t embed it here, but you can watch it by clicking here.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1340 – John of Gaunt (d. 1399)
  • 1619 – Cyrano de Bergerac, French author and playwright (d. 1655)
  • 1885 – Ring Lardner, American journalist and author (d. 1933)
  • 1906 – Lou Costello, American actor and comedian (d. 1959)
  • 1926 – Alan Greenspan, American economist and politician
  • 1927 – Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian journalist and author, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1944 – Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand soprano and actress

As I’ve said many times, Dame Kiri is one of my favorite classical singers. Here she is singing what is perhaps the most famous of all operatic arias (you hear it in the movies all the time). This performance is from 1990 on the BBC.

Like me, Carolyn is a huge Beatles fan. Here she is in London with her team, reenacting the cover of “Abbey Road”:

She also likes Michael Jackson, and won a contest for both impersonating and dancing like Jackson; here’s a picture from Facebook:

  • 1967 – Glenn Greenwald, American journalist and author
  • 1972 – Shaquille O’Neal, American basketball player, actor, and rapper

Those who were no more on March 6 include:

  • 1836 – Deaths at the Battle of the Alamo:
    • James Bonham, American lawyer and soldier (b. 1807)
    • James Bowie, American colonel (b. 1796)
    • Davy Crockett, American soldier and politician (b. 1786)
  • 1888 – Louisa May Alcott, American novelist and poet (b. 1832)

Here’s the author of Little Women at 20:

  • 1932 – John Philip Sousa, American conductor and composer (b. 1854)
  • 1935 – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., American colonel, lawyer, and jurist (b. 1841)
  • 1973 – Pearl S. Buck, American novelist, essayist, short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1892)
  • 1982 – Ayn Rand, Russian-American philosopher, author, and playwright (b. 1905)
  • 1986 – Georgia O’Keeffe, American painter (b. 1887)

O’Keeffee liked both cats and d*gs; here she is with a kitten. (It’s curious, but I think that artists who own cats tend to favor Siamese ones.)

  • 2005 – Hans Bethe, German-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Malgorzata explain today’s Hili:

“Andrzej says that we live in times similar to the past. And Hili, knowing history, is terrified. (The English exclamation ‘OMG’ is also used in Poland.) She doesn’t want the horrors of history to return.”

The dialogue:

A: History repeats itself.
Hili: OMG.
In Polish:
Ja: Historia się powtarza.
Hili: OMG

Kulka is sitting on the windowsill outside; she wants in!

From Facebook:

From Nicole:

From Tom:

A tweet from Merilee:

Tweets from Matthew. First, Wisdom’s latest chick has hatched, and this Laysan albatross is at least 70! No menopause in that tough bird (or any other animal save humans, pilot whales, beluga whales, narwhals and orcas).

The color develops quite quickly, though I regret that they had to sacrifice a butterfly to make this video.

This is probably the first photography contest won by an invertebrate, much less an animal:

Another remarkable case of mimicry. Google translation: “From the moment I started to observe and study animals, I would never have imagined that I would encounter so many different animals. And it was the case of this incredible saw-wood beetle of the species Sphecomorpha murina that perfectly mimics a Polistinae wasp.”

Here’s a thread with many annoying architectural errors. The last one is unbelievable.

A lovely pair of photos. Read further in the thread to find out what was happening (I alluded to the event the other day):

Friday: Hili dialogue

March 5, 2021 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Friday,March 5, 2021: National Cheese Doodle Day (cheese-flavored styrofoam). Much better, it’s National Poutine Day (not easily available in the U.S.), National Absinthe Day, St Piran’s Day in Cornwall, and World Day of Prayer, which we can ignore.

News of the Day:

It looks like Biden’s stimulus bill will pass the Senate, and thus the House, but sans the raise in minimum wage, which the Senate parliamentarian nixed on procedural grounds. This is Biden’s first big legislative accomplishment in office, and kudos to him and his team! The GOP, however, is trying to stall the bill by asking Senate clerks to read the bill word by word. It is 628 pages long! That will take about 16 hours, and for what purpose? Thank Ceiling Cat this will be over today, and the Senate can proceed to a vote. I see nothing that Republicans accomplish by this stalling maneuver, though I’m sure that many in the GOP think this is hilarious.

Cat news from the Guardian: A moggy curled up on top of the engine of a fast Londton-to-Manchester train and refused to get down. Efforts to coax it down initially failed, and there was a danger the cat could touch the electrical wires and die. Finally, the passengers were transferred to another train, a bin was pulled up to the car to allow the cat to get down, and the feline made its exeunt stage left. A photo is below:  (h/t: Matthew)

The words “committed suicide” should now be taken out of circulation, at least according to a woman writing at HuffPost whose son, err. . . committed suicide. She argues that that phrase should be replaced by “died by suicide.” I am really sorry for her loss, but it’s hard to imagine you can get closure by forcing others to use different phrases. The rationale:

We don’t say that our elders commit old age or commit death in their sleep. They die, of old age or heart failure. They die, by whatever cause. We don’t blame the one who suffers the disease.

When Austin took his life, he planned ahead. He left letters. He said goodbye, in his own way. And he ended his intense pain in his own way. How can such a desperate decision be considered a crime or a sin? I think saying he committed suicide blames Austin and stigmatizes his death. Haven’t we suffered enough by his loss without a side of ignominy and taboo?

. . . Bring them back to the light, your conversation, your family history, your mantel or photo album, with loving compassion, by proclaiming that they died by suicide,

Suicide is not of course a crime (well, it is in some places, but I’ve never seen any survivor prosecuted) or a sin! “Committed” simply means “took action”. You can’t “commit” a heart attack in the same way.

According to Newsweek (which seems to have become a right-wing site), eBay has now refused to sell the six banned Dr. Seuss books on the grounds that they’re offensive. As the writer notes:

This writer actually has access to a worn copy of one of the out-of-print books, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, and listed it on eBay late Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, though, this writer received an email from eBay saying that the listing was removed for violating an “Offensive material policy.”

“Listings that promote or glorify hatred, violence, or discrimination aren’t allowed,” the automated email says. “Dr. Seuss Enterprises has stopped publication of this book due to its negative portrayal of some ethnicities. As a courtesy, we have ended your item and refunded your selling fees, and as long as you do not relist the item, there will be no negative impact to your account.”

Well, how many offensive things can you find on eBay? How about “Gentlemen’s magazines,” like Hustler and Penthouse? Sure! Dildos? You bet! But surely they wouldn’t sell Hitler’s Mein Kampf? WRONG; there are plenty of copies of Hitler’s book! Procols of the Elders of Zion? Certainly! What about the issues of Charlie Hebdo, depicting Muhammad, that offended Muslims so deeply?. Yep, they have ’em!  It seems that eBay considers it wrong to offend Asians and blacks, but not Jews or Muslims

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 520,028, an increase of about 2,000 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,583,173, an increase of about 9,700 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 5 includes:

Here’s Copernicus’s heliocentric model in the book’s manuscript. Note the Sun in the center with seven planets around it.  The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was finally abolished as church law in 1965.


  • 1770 – Boston Massacre: Five Americans, including Crispus Attucks, are fatally shot by British troops in an event that would contribute to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence) five years later.

Crispus Attucks is singled out because he was the first American killed in the Revolutionary War, and also because he wasn’t white, though his exact ethnicity is in doubt. I learned that he was black, but it now seems he was part Native American.

  • 1933 – Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party receives 43.9% at the Reichstag elections, which allows the Nazis to later pass the Enabling Act and establish a dictatorship.
  • 1946 – Cold War: Winston Churchill coins the phrase “Iron Curtain” in his speech at Westminster College, Missouri.

A video of part of that speech. The mention of the “Iron Curtain” is right at the beginning:

He used to be on display next to Lenin in a mausoleum, but now, after his fall in reputation, Stalin is buried in the Kremlin wall, the place marked by just a bust (I don’t see any name on it). Here’s his body laid out after death, followed by a photo of his bust at the Kremlin wall:

How many people did he kill? Between 9 and 20 million if you include famines that he engineered.

  • 1963 – American country music stars Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and their pilot Randy Hughes are killed in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee.
  • 1974 – Yom Kippur War: Israeli forces withdraw from the west bank of the Suez Canal.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1887 – Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazilian guitarist and composer (d. 1959)
  • 1898 – Zhou Enlai, Chinese politician, 1st Premier of the People’s Republic of China (d. 1976)
  • 1938 – Lynn Margulis, American biologist and academic (d. 2011)
  • 1958 – Andy Gibb, English-Australian singer-songwriter and actor (d. 1988)

Gibb died of myocarditis at only 30; he had used cocaine for years. Only one of the four Gibb brothers is left now. Here’s a live performance of “Words”:


  • 1974 – Eva Mendes, American model and actress

Those who crossed The Great Divide on March 5 include:

Wikipedia needs to change this to “enslaved person”.

  • 1827 – Alessandro Volta, Italian physicist and academic (b. 1745)
  • 1950 – Edgar Lee Masters, American poet, author, and playwright (b. 1868)
  • 1950 – Roman Shukhevych, Ukrainian general and politician (b. 1907)
  • 1953 – Herman J. Mankiewicz, American screenwriter and producer (b. 1897)

If you haven’t seen the 2020 movie “Mank,” about Mankiewicz’s collaboration with Orson Welles on the script of Citizen Kane, do so.  Here’s the trailer:

  • 1953 – Sergei Prokofiev, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1891)
  • 1953 – Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator and politician of Georgian descent, 2nd leader of the Soviet Union (b. 1878) See above.
  • 1963 – Patsy Cline, American singer-songwriter (b. 1932)
  • 1980 – Jay Silverheels, Canadian-American actor (b. 1912)

Silverheels played “Tonto”, the “faithful Indian companion” of the Lone Ranger. And indeed, Silverheels was a genuine Indigenous American, born in Ontario. Here’s the intro and closing of the show; I used to know all these words by heart:

  • 2013 – Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan colonel and politician, President of Venezuela (b. 1954)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the editor is looking for one of her staff:

Małgorzata: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m hunting Andrzej.
In Polish:
Małgorzata: Co ty robisz?
Hili: Poluję na Andrzeja.

Little Kulka went on an adventure down to the Vistula, trotting behind Paulina all the way down the hill to the river.

Caption: An expedition to the river. (Photo: Mariusz R.)

In Polish: Wyprawa nad rzekę. (Zdjęcie Mariusz R. )
From a Russian site, Котопедия (Catopedia), a cat with tabby bangs. I’ve never seen a kot like this:

From Facebook. The most interesting thing is that the photographer deliberately sacrificed a good ten cups of cooked rice so they could have this picture:

From Bruce: truefact!

From Titania:

Found via a link from Matthew: a giant murmuration of starlings that looks like a bird:

A tweet from Ginger K. Hard to believe this is real!

Tweets from Matthew. First, a melanic fox! (Click to go to the BBC article to read more.)

I like this one a lot:

A beat-up slice:

There’s an ocelot baby boom!!!!

And a dorsoventrally compressed beetle with a good caption:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 4, 2021 • 6:30 am

First, Greg Mayer has added his take on the Donald McNeil affair at the New York Times, so go to yesterday’s post and look for Greg’s addendum at the bottom.

Good morning on Thursday,March 4, 2021: National Poundcake Day.  It’s also National Snack Day, National Grammar Day (work on the placement of “only” in a sentence: the correct usage is, for example, “I ate only two donuts” and not “I only ate two donuts”), Hug a GI Day (do you know where the term “GI” for a soldier comes from? go here), National Dance the Waltz Day, and World Book Day, but only in the UK and Ireland. (The rest of the planet’s World Book Day comes in April).

News of the Day:

The GoFundMe amount sent to Jodi Shaw is now at almost $285,000 and she added this note:

Hi everyone… thank you so much for all your support. In addition with proceeding with a legal complaint against Smith College, I am trying to come up with a special way to say THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and the others who will benefit from the new fund. Stay tuned and thank you again! -Jodi

The SpaceX Starship SN10, designed to send people and cargo to both the Moon and Mars, finally stuck a landing yesterday, flipping upside down and coming down soft as you please.  The previous two flights crashed after short (6.5-minute) flights, and, sadly, for this one the rocket exploded after its safe landing:

Livestreaming your life (nearly 24/7) is big business in China, and there are businesses devoted to training livestreamers how to rake in donations. It’s all about good-looking young women who squeeze money out of lonely guys. Watch this 13-minute NYT video and tell me that this isn’t really screwed up.

Glory be! Google announced that it’s going to stop following users as they access multiple websites, a tactic it has to target ads specific to consumers’ interest. I despise that snooping, and can’t stand seeing ads for cat stuff on Facebook. (Facebook is not of course part of Google, and refuses to give up this kind of tracking.)

The governors of Texas and Mississippi have now “opened up” their states, completely eliminating mask mandates, contrary to the CDC’s and their own states’ advice. Joe Biden, mincing no words, said this:

“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water. Do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

This strikes me as slandering Neanderthals, and it’s bad advice. Nevertheless, as I contemplate taking a short trip to regain my sanity, the more “open” states are attracting me since I’m fully vaccinated. Of course I would comply with all the normal sanitary precautions anywhere I go, including wearing masks.

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 518,079, an increase of about 2,400 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,573,494, an increase of about 11,000 deaths over yesterday’s total. Both figures are an appreciable increase over yesterday’s toll.

Stuff that happened on March 4 includes:

  • 1461 – Wars of the Roses in England: Lancastrian King Henry VI is deposed by his House of York cousin, who then becomes King Edward IV.
  • 1493 – Explorer Christopher Columbus arrives back in Lisbon, Portugal, aboard his ship Niña from his voyage to what are now The Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean.
  • 1519 – Hernán Cortés arrives in Mexico in search of the Aztec civilization and its wealth.
  • 1794 – The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by the U.S. Congress.

This amendment limits the ability to bring lawsuits against states into federal courts.

Here’s a drawing of Chicago in about 1850:

March 4 was the original Inauguration Day, but it changed after FDR’s first election. However, it was feared that Trump supporters would mount another assault on the Capitol today because of the traditional date. It won’t happen: security is too tight.

  • 1917 – Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first female member of the United States House of Representatives.

Rankin was elected twice, 24 years apart! In 1916 and 1940. Here she is:

I well remember this, and people went wild, especially in the religious American South. Here’s one reaction, with the Wikipedia caption: “Beatles burning in the American city of Waycross, Georgia organized by the radio station WAYX. A smiling boy holds a copy of the 1964 album Meet the Beatles!, which is soon to be tossed into a bonfire.”

  • 1985 – The Food and Drug Administration approves a blood test for HIV infection, used since then for screening all blood donations in the United States.
  • 1998 – Gay rights: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also apply when both parties are the same sex.
  • 2018 – Former MI6 spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter are poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in SalisburyEngland, causing a diplomatic uproar that results in mass-expulsions of diplomats from all countries involved.

They both survived. Russia has to stop poisoning its dissidents, and Novichok doesn’t seem to work that well, anyway.

Here’s the video: Wallenda made it all the way across the 1800-foot chasm, with toxic gases rising above (note that he’s wearing an oxygen tank and gas mask, as well as a safety line).  Why do people do this? Because it’s there!

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1394 – Henry the Navigator, Portuguese explorer (d. 1460)
  • 1745 – Casimir Pulaski, Polish-American general (d. 1779)
  • 1904 – George Gamow, Ukrainian-American physicist and cosmologist (d. 1968)
  • 1936 – Jim Clark, Scottish race car driver (d. 1968)

I asked my friend Steve Knoll, who was once on a racing team and has an encyclopedic knowledge of motosports, to write a few words on Clark, and here they are:

Most of us who were Formula 1 fans in the 1960s still consider Jim Clark the greatest the sport ever produced. He was a two time World Champion and won the Indianapolis 500 as well. He won 25 of his 73 starts before he lost his life in a minor series race in his prime.

While his records have all since been eclipsed, he drove in an era where there were far fewer races, the field was far more evenly matched, and there was only about a 50% chance of surviving a 10 year career, Jimmy’s lasted less than 8.

Chivalry was not yet dead, at least in motorsports, and his peers not only regarded him as the best, but also universally respected this shy, unassuming Scottish sheep farmer as a great gentleman.

This portrait by the great Jesse Alexander (story here) is, as far as I’m concerned, racing’s greatest photograph:

Those who began pushing up daisies on March 4 include:

  • 1852 – Nikolai Gogol, Ukrainian-Russian short story writer, novelist, and playwright (b. 1809)

Gogol was the favorite Russian writer of my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin, as well as my BFF in Cambridge, Timothy “Fud” Groves.

The father of Louisa May, and a famous man in his day, Bronson, as he was called, looked like this:

Unsoeld summited Everest along with three others during the first American expedition in 1963.  He and Tom Hornbein chose the difficult West Ridge route (below), and their ascent is one of the greatest feats in mountaineering. He and his partner, Tom Hornbein, had to bivouac high on the mountain, with the result that Unsoeld lost nine of his toes (but continued to climb).  Unsoeld died in an avalanche on Mount Rainer.

The West Ridge route is to the left

Unsoeld. Sadly, he lost his daughter, Nanda Devi Unsoeld (named after a mountain), who died of altitude sickness at only 22 while climbing her namesake mountain:

  • 1986 – Richard Manuel, Canadian singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1943)
  • 1994 – John Candy, Canadian comedian and actor (b. 1950)
  • 1996 – Minnie Pearl, American entertainer (b. 1912)
  • 1999 – Harry Blackmun, American lawyer and judge (b. 1908)
  • 2016 – Pat Conroy, American author (b. 1945)

Conroy wrote, another novels, The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. Here’s the last scene of the latter, which, though somewhat of a schlocky movie, has this scene that always chokes me up. (Note that his wife, Blythe Danner, is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili, who hates little Kulka, is having a standoff with her:

Paulina: Let there be peace among cats.
Hili: It’s better to be careful.
In Polish:
Paulina: Niech będzie pokój między kotami.
Hili: Lepiej zachować ostrożność.

And little Kulka is playing, assiduously photographed by Paulina:

Caption: Another picture of Kulka sent from upstairs.

In Polish: Kolejne zdjęcie Kulki przesłane z pierwszego piętra.

From Bruce: A canny and well protected bobcat (but didn’t it hurt itself climbing up there?

From Charles. This may be a wee bit misleading! Nevertheless, Boebert is a loon. I wonder if she’s carrying her Glock onto the House floor yet?


A cat meme from Nicole:

From Daniel. Some person was buying souls, as a “test” for atheists, at $10 each. You had to sign a contract, too. The ten slots sold out quickly. LOL!

From Dom, a very clever headpiece:

Tweets from Matthew. First, a nefarious cat:

And something you probably didn’t know:

Art for yesterday’s World Wildlife Day:

H. J. Muller was a giant of genetics, and won the Nobel Prize. But look—THERE’S A CAT!

Matthew’s explanation of the tweet below:

And this is @electroBOOMguy – he’s an electrical engineer with a youtube channel. He knows what he is doing, just not exactly when it will happen…

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

March 3, 2021 • 6:30 am
Good morning on the first humpish day of the month: March 3, 2021: National Moscow Mule Day, a good drink when made properly: be sure to use a good ginger beer and, if you have one, a copper mug.  It’s also Canadian Bacon Day (what is Canadian bacon, you ask? It’s “back bacon“, but do they eat it in Canada?), 33 Flavors Day (but Baskin-Robbins touts only 31), National Cold Cuts Day, National Mulled Wine Day, and National Peach Blossom Day, a decent drink as well, and a good one for brunch.  Finally, it’s World Hearing Day, calling attention to deafness.

News of the Day:

First, some biology news: Researchers studying deep-sea sharks off New Zealand have shown that at least three species  glow in the dark.  Yes, their bellies are bioluminescent, as you can see in the photo below. Why do they do this? Here are two hypotheses, and you can read more in the original linked scientific article:

Researchers suggest these three species’ glowing underbellies may help camouflage them from any threats that might strike from beneath. [JAC: This seems unlikely, as they live in the dark abysses, and looking up a predator wouldn’t see a light background.]

In the case of the kitefin shark, which has few or no predators, it is possible that the slow-moving species uses its natural glow to illuminate the ocean floor while it searches for food, or to disguise itself while approaching its prey.

Figure from the paper; caption: ” Lateral and dorsal luminescent pattern of Dalatias licha. (A) Lateral daylight view and luminescent pattern highlighting the dorso-ventral luminous pattern.”

Nor do we know what biochemical mechanism causes the bioluminescence (h/t Jez)

As I predicted, Andrew Cuomo is toast; another woman has come forward with accusations that the governor touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her. That makes three accusers total, and calls for his resignation have grown.

According to many news sources, including the Associated Press, six Dr. Seuss books have been deemed racist by Dr. Seuss Enterprises:  “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, “If I Ran the Zoo”, “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” As the Enterprises said, the books:

. . . will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

I haven’t seen the imagery, so I can’t report on it, but the evening news said it involved Chinese people with lines for eyes and bare-chested Africans wearing grass skirts. That sounds pretty dire, but they could alway re-do the figures.  Seuss was a prominent anti-racist, though, and some of his books explicitly teach this to kids.

UPDATE: I found one of the offending images shown by the Indian Express. You be the judge:

(Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP)

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 515,710, an increase of about 1,300 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands at 2,562,441, an increase of about 6,500 deaths over yesterday’s total. Both figures continue to fall.

The rate of new Covid cases has dropped precipitously—19% in the last two weeks, with a 29% drop in hospitalizations. Here’s the plot of new cases from the NYT (there’s a wee plateau at the end that I trust will be temporary before further drops):

Stuff that happened on March 3 includes:

  • 1820 – The U.S. Congress passes the Missouri Compromise.
  • 1859 – The two-day Great Slave Auction, the largest such auction in United States history, concludes.

This auction, which went from March 2nd to 3rd, saw the sale of about 436 men, women, children and even infants, all auctioned off by Pierce Mease Butler to pay gambling debts. Read this section to see the horror, and also read this about Butler.  The auction was also called “the weeping time” for obvious reasons. Imagine having families broken up on the spot. Here’s are the miscreants:

Pierce Mease Butler and his wife, Frances Kemble Butler, c.1855
  • 1873 – Censorship in the United States: The U.S. Congress enacts the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any “obscene literature and articles of immoral use” through the mail.
  • 1875 – The first ever organized indoor game of ice hockey is played in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as recorded in the Montreal Gazette.
  • 1891 – Shoshone National Forest is established as the first national forest in the US and world.
  • 1913 – Thousands of women march in the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C.

Here’s a photo of the procession, with the women all in white. They finally won the right to vote in 1920 when Tennessee became the last state needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Rediscovery identifier:28110

Ataturk, a great secularist and modernist, brought Turkey into the modern era. Here he is introducing the new Turkish alphabet in 1928:

  • 1931 – The United States adopts The Star-Spangled Banner as its national anthem.
  • 1938 – Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the discover, a gusher on this date from Dammam No. 7, the first commercial oil well in Saudi Arabia.  Now we are friends with this dictatorship, and shame on Joe Biden for not punishing the Prince for ordering the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

This one, one of Gandhi’s many hunger strikes, lasted only 3 days.

From Wikipedia:

The air-raid Civil Defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, triggering a heavy but orderly flow of people down the blacked-out staircase from the street. A middle-aged woman and a child fell over, three steps up from the base and others fell around her, tangled in an immovable mass which grew, as they struggled, to nearly 300 people. Some got free but 173, most of them women and children, were crushed and asphyxiated. Some 60 others were taken to hospital. News of the disaster was withheld for 36 hours and reporting of what had happened was censored, giving rise to allegations of a cover-up, although it was in line with existing wartime reporting restrictions.

And here is that song, which sounds like rock and roll to me:

Four officers were tried, and none were convicted. The riots then began, and 64 people were killed. King eventually got a multimillion dollar civil settlement from Los Angeles.

Here’s a news report that shows part of the video. Talk about police brutality!

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1847 – Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish-American engineer and academic, invented the telephone (d. 1922)
  • 1882 – Charles Ponzi, Italian businessman (d. 1949)

Yes, the Ponzi who gave his name to the scheme he perpetrated:


The original “blonde bombshell” died at only 26 from kidney failure. She died during the filming of the movie “Saratoga,” also starring Clark Gable. They finished filming with a body double. Here’s a report on that last movie with some scenes:

  • 1923 – Doc Watson, American bluegrass singer-songwriter and musician (d. 2012)

Here’s Doc singing one of his most famous songs:

  • 1959 – Ira Glass, American radio host and producer
  • 1968 – Brian Cox, English keyboard player and physicist
  • 1982 – Jessica Biel, American actress, singer, and producer

Those who passed away on March 3 include:

I call him “Taco Bell,” which angers my classical-music friends, who think I don’t know the composer’s real name.

  • 1959 – Lou Costello, American actor and comedian (b. 1906)
  • 1987 – Danny Kaye, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1911)
  • 1993 – Albert Sabin, Polish-American physician and virologist (b. 1906)
  • 2018 – Roger Bannister, English middle-distance athlete, first man to run a four-minute mile (b. 1929)

Here’s Bannister’s great run, set in 1954, narrated by the runner himself. The present record is 3:43.13 set in 1999 by the Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has climbed up to the second floor and is on the roof of the veranda, where sometimes she asks to be let into the flat of Paulina and her husband. That’s where Kulka and Szaron live.

Hili: I don’t see Kulka, I will come and visit.
Kulka: And then I will jump on her.
(Picture: Paulina R.)
In Polish:
Hili: Kulki nie widać, wejdę z wizytą.
Kulka: A wtedy ja na nią skoczę.
(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)

From Charles:

From Jesus of the Day:

From Jean:

A tweet from Simon. We’ve learned lately at Botany Pond that mallards hate to walk on ice, and would much rather swim a longer distance than have to cross ice. This shows that very well:

Reader Barry found a whole thread of tweets showing cartoons using classical music written by great composers. Here are four specimens:

Tweets from Matthew, who’s quite enamored with Mars and Perseverance. He says that the video is only 1.5 minutes in this tweet but 30 minutes on YouTube. The video comprises concatenated images taken from Perseverance’s mast camera:

A dead Irishman had a recording, made before his death, put in his coffin and played to the amazed funeral goers. Leave ’em laughing!

a. Why are the Lithuanians honoring Tony Soprano?
b. Where are the ducks?

The assertion in the tweet is certainly true, and very well demonstrated, by this video, but I don’t know how general it is.

And this is fantastic! Sound up.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 2, 2021 • 6:30 am
Business first: an Australian reader reports that she receives email for all posts EXCEPT the Hili posts, which is very odd. If you’ve had this problem, please let me know.
Back to our usual program. Good morning on the first Tuesday of March: March 2, 2021: National Banana Cream Pie Day. It’s also Read Across America Day, and traditionally grade schools will read Dr. Seuss today, for today is Seuss’s birthday, the day that inspired the holiday. But not any more: Seuss has been binned since he was found to be racist. It’s Texas Independence Day, celebrating the day in 1836 when Texas declared its independence from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas. Finally, it’s International Rescue Cat Day. If you have a rescue cat, send me its photo; the first person to respond will get their cat posted right below.

. . . aaand, we have a winner; a cat whose staff is reader John McLoughlin.

An image of Higgs Boson, rescued on the day the eponymous God Particle was confirmed at CERN.


News of the Day:

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny is about to begin a 2½-year sentence in a really dire Russian prison camp 60 miles east of Moscow. In the meantime, the Biden administration, to its credit, is preparing new sanctions on Russia for its treatment of Navalny (remember, they tried to poison him first). They may be wimps regarding Saudi Arabia, but at least they’re standing up to Putin. But now revelations of Navalny’s xenophobic comments are surfacing, and they were serious enough to have Amnesty International revoke his status as a “prisoner of conscience.” That was a mistake for Amnesty International, even if Navalny isn’t perfect. After all, he is a prisoner of conscience.

Here’s Navalny and his wife Yulia; they have two daughters, one a student at Stanford, and live in a three-room apartment in Moscow.

Inside the Beltway, Elizabeth Warren is calling for Biden to forgive $50,000 in student loan debt for everyone. (That money, of course, will be paid by us, the taxpayers.) Biden is prepared to go to $10,000 for federal loans, but not more. It rubs me the wrong way to see ex-students on the news who say that they deserve to have all their debt forgiven, which seems to me a tad unethical. What will happen to future students, who won’t benefit? And what about those who have paid off their debts? Readers can and should weigh in here, as I haven’t thought about the issue much.

Now that Andrew Cuomo is facing two accusations of sexual harassment, it looks like he’ll soon be gone. It’s good that he’s called for a completely independent investigation of the charges, and we’ll soon know, I hope, how bad things were. Harassing those over whom you have power is just not on, and he should have known that, but we don’t know anything beyond the accusations. My own view is that he’s toast, but that’s based on the accusations alone and the Zeitgeist, not a deep knowledge of the facts. Already people are calling for his resignation.

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 514,404, an increase of about 1,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands at 2,551,987, an increase of about 7,700 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 2 includes:

Here’s a handscroll depicting the first (the houses were wooden, of course). It destroyed 60-70% of the city. Wikipedia says it’s rumored to have started this way:

The fire was said to have been started accidentally by a priest who was cremating an allegedly cursed kimono. The kimono had been owned in succession by three teenage girls who all died before ever being able to wear it. When the garment was being burned, a large gust of wind fanned the flames causing the wooden temple to ignite

Here’s one of those notes, now worth $75,000 or so:

  • 1807 – The U.S. Congress passes the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, disallowing the importation of new slaves into the country.
  • 1836 – Texas Revolution: The Declaration of independence of the Republic of Texas from Mexico is adopted.
  • 1877 – Just two days before inauguration, the U.S. Congress declares Rutherford B. Hayes the winner of the 1876 U.S. presidential election even though Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote.

Sound familiar? Now this is a complicated one. Hayes won this way (from Wikipedia):

The results of the election remain among the most disputed ever. Although it is not disputed that Tilden outpolled Hayes in the popular vote, after a first count of votes, Tilden had won 184 electoral votes to Hayes’s 165, with 20 votes from four states unresolved: in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, each party reported its candidate had won the state, while in Oregon, one elector was replaced after being declared illegal for being an “elected or appointed official”. The question of who should have been awarded these electoral votes is the source of the continued controversy.

An informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute: the Compromise of 1877, which awarded all 20 electoral votes to Hayes; in return for the Democrats’ acquiescence to Hayes’ election, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

The 1876 election is the second of five presidential elections in which the person who won the most popular votes did not win the election, but the only such election in which the popular vote winner received a majority (rather than a plurality) of the popular vote.

MacLean (spelling is wrong in the birthday entry above) fired a shot but missed. He was found guilty by reason of insanity and spent his life in the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum. He tried to shoot the queen because he sent her some poetry and got a curt reply.

This of course required in-flight refueling.  As Wikipedia reports:

En route, the aircraft was refueled four times by KB-29M Superfortresses, near Lajes Air Base in the Azores, Dhahran Airfield in Saudi Arabia, Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, using the soon-to-be obsolete grappled-line looped-hose technique.

That technique required the tanker to grab a cable from the receiver plane and then feed a hose via the cable back to the receiver. The tanker would the climb above the receiver plane so that the fuel could flow down via gravity. Here’s the B-50 being refueled on its round-the-world flight. Looks pretty messy, no?

This is still the record for points in a single game. It was not televised and no video exists. To the right: Wilt’s scores each quarter.

  • 1970 – Rhodesia declares itself a republic, breaking its last links with the British crown.
  • 1983 – Compact discs and players are released for the first time in the United States and other markets. They had previously been available only in Japan.
  • 1995 – Researchers at Fermilab announce the discovery of the top quark.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1793 – Sam Houston, American soldier and politician, 1st President of the Republic of Texas (d. 1863)
  • 1859 – Sholem Aleichem, Ukrainian-American author and playwright (d. 1916)

Aleichem’s real name was Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, with the pseudonym being, of course, a greeting in Yiddish. His stories about Tevye the Dairyman were turned into a famous play, and you surely know what it is.

Here’s Rabinovich:

  • 1902 – Moe Berg, American baseball player and spy (d. 1972)

Look at that description! Yes, he was a catcher (a mediocre one, to be sure) and a spy in Europe before WWII, but was also known as “the brainiest guy in baseball”. Berg was also one of the few Jews to play major league ball. From Wikipedia:

A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Berg spoke several languages and regularly read ten newspapers a day. His reputation as an intellectual was fueled by his successful appearances as a contestant on the radio quiz show Information Please, in which he answered questions about the etymology of words and names from Greek and Latin, historical events in Europe and the Far East, and ongoing international conferences.

Here’s Mo:

  • 1904 – Dr. Seuss, American children’s book writer, poet, and illustrator (d. 1991)
  • 1921 – Ernst Haas, Austrian-American photographer and journalist (d. 1986)

Haas was one of my photographic role models when I took up color slide photography in grad school. Here’s one of his photos:

  • 1930 – Tom Wolfe, American journalist and author (d. 2018)

I reviewed Wolfe’s last book, which was a takedown of both Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky, in a 2016 Washington Post article. As you can see, I was not kind to him.

Gorby turns 90 today, and Matthew sent me this in celebration: he was in a Pizza Hut ad! It’s for real (he was strapped for cash):

  • 1942 – John Irving, American novelist and screenwriter
  • 1942 – Lou Reed, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor (d. 2013)
  • 1950 – Karen Carpenter, American singer (d. 1983)

What can I say? If she had married me, as she should have, she’d still be alive today. That, of course, is my fantasy, but she was one of the two great pop female voices of our time (the other is Barbra Streisand). Below: an example from the Carpenters’ live BBC concert in 1971 (the BBC’s live concerts were the best). This song, “For All We Know,” has been used continually at weddings. Listen to that voice!

  • 2010 – Hailey Dawson, American with a 3D-printed robotic hand

Those who kicked the bucket on March 2 include:

  • 1791 – John Wesley, English cleric and theologian (b. 1703)
  • 1797 – Horace Walpole, English historian and politician (b. 1717)
  • 1930 – D. H. Lawrence, English novelist, poet, playwright, and critic (b. 1885)
  • 1939 – Howard Carter, English archaeologist and historian (b. 1874)
  • 1991 – Serge Gainsbourg, French singer-songwriter, actor, and director (b. 1928)

Serge! Remember this song, and how it was damned for being salacious? (There’s clearly sex going on here!) Only in France would a song like this be recorded (it was written by Gainsbourg for Brigitte Bardot). Gainsbourg died at 62 of a heart attack, and it may not be irrelevant that he smoked 5 backs of unfiltered Gitanes a day. Have you ever had one of those cigarettes? OY!

One more from Dusty; this is my favorite song of hers, though “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” is more popular:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili seems bored:

Hili: Scratching myself with this stick is a difficult art.
A: You don’t have to do it.
Hili: It’s an interesting challenge.
In Polish:
Hili: Drapanie się tym patyczkiem to trudna sztuka.
Ja: Nie musisz tego robić.
Hili: To jest interesujące wyzwanie.

Also in Dobrzyn, Little Kulka is, as the caption goes, “Helping with the trimming of the trees.”

In Polish: Kulka pomaga przy przycinaniu drzew.

From Stash Krod:

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

From Barry: a cat apparently learns a trick in one go. I find this hard to believe but it’s funny:

From reader Jeremy, who says, “Like breaking wind in an elevator, this is wrong on so many levels. But it still made me laugh.”  Dr. Johnson’s story about a dog walking on two legs comes to mind.

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows a stunning murmuration of starlings (Matthew and I love these patterns), but they’re responding to a threat. Enlarge the video and see if you can see it. This is a prime example of the “herd effect” for avoiding predation:

As the Brits say, “Wait for it.” (You won’t have to wait long.)

This is about the weirdest beetle I’ve ever seen, and, as you know, God made thousands of beetle species:

This is like a vision from a dream:

I don’t completely buy this one, because when I cover the middle line the bottom block still looks a bit brighter.

Monday: Hili dialogue

March 1, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s March: the month that entering like a lion and will supposedly exit like a lamb. In fact, it’s Monday, March 1, 2021:  National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day (note that the apostrophe implies that only  a single lover of peanut butter is being honored). And it’s also these food months:

National Fresh Celery Month
National Noodle Month
National Flour Month
National Frozen Food Month
National Nutrition Month
National Peanut Month
National Sauce Month
National Caffeine Awareness Month

I’m aware of it, and am starting the month right with a latte with two shots of espresso; this photo was taken about an hour before Hili is posted:

And. . . it’s also National Fruit Compote Day, National Horse Protection Day, National Pig Day, Self-injury Awareness Day, Zero Discrimination Day, and World Compliment Day. Here’s my compliment to the readers:

News of the Day:

OMG, last night I watched some excerpts of Trump’s speech at CPAC—the first speech he’s given since the President-Eject was helicoptered out of the White House. I’d more or less been able to forget about him, which was a blessing, but tonight I had to hear him puff out his chest, demonize his opponents, and continue to claim that the election was rigged. He called out, by name, every Republican in the House and the Senate who voted to impeach him (with special vitriol reserved for Liz Cheney), demanded their ousters, and even intimated that he might run for President again, saying  “I may even decide to beat them for a third time.” That of course is a claim that he won last November.

Finally, he went after Joe Biden by name, a violation of the unspoken Presidential rule that you don’t criticize your successors, at least until they’ve had a year or so to govern. But what else do you expect of that horrid orange man?

What was even worse was the crowds of people who adore him, were cheering on his words (not wearing masks, of course), and who had their picture taken next to the “Golden Trump” statue. Some people interviewed went on the record saying they want Trump to be President again. It’s all a painful reminder of how deeply divided this nation is, and of the nightmare that was our last “President.”

The Golden Trump, by the way, was made in Mexico. I wonder if Trump made the Mexicans pay for it. . .

On a happier note, astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover went outside the International Space Station yesterday—for a bit over seven hours! They were installing upgrades to the ISS’s solar panels. Both astronauts had done spacewalks before, but this time Rubins had a high-definition camera affixed to her helmet, so you could get a good idea of what an astronaut actually sees in an EVA. Below is the entire video of the walk (scroll through it), and below that a comparison of the new high-definition video with the old style of video:

It’s BUTTERGATE in Canada! As the BBC reports, a tsunami of kvetching has swept over Canada, with our northern neighbors complaining that all of a sudden their butter has gotten hard to spread, even at room temperature. If this is true—and some people say it’s just confirmation bias—the most likely theory is that butter producers upped the production of milk during the pandemic by feeding cows with noms containing palm oil, a substance that yields butter with a higher melting point.  Palm oil is not good for you! A quote:

“A Buttergate is not what the industry needs, or what Canadians deserve,” wrote Sylvain Charlebois, senior director at Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in a widely published opinion piece this week that argues most of the country’s butter has definitely gotten harder.

Mr Charlebois said that palm fat is a legal ingredient in dairy cow feed, but research shows palm oil can increase heart disease risk in people.

Its production also harms the environment, he said, making it an “ethically questionable” practice for the dairy industry, which Mr Charlebois notes is heavily reliant on the Canadian government and, by extension, taxpayers.

It would break my heart if the polite and environmentally-conscious Canadians were using palm oil.

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 512,979, an increase of about 1,100 deaths over yesterday’s figure.  The reported world death toll stands at 2,544,226,, an increase of about 5,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on March 1 includes:

Good was hanged, Osborne died in jail, and Tituba, thought to be a slave from South America, and then was “freed” before being sold to someone else.

  • 1790 – The first United States census is authorized.
  • 1805 – Justice Samuel Chase is acquitted at the end of his impeachment trial by the U.S. Senate.
  • 1872 – Yellowstone National Park is established as the world’s first national park.
  • 1893 – Electrical engineer Nikola Tesla gives the first public demonstration of radio in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • 1896 – Henri Becquerel discovers radioactive decay.

Here’s one of Becquerel’s photographic plates showing the effect of exposure to radiation (caption from Wikipedia). He won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Pierre and Marie Curie.

Image of Becquerel’s photographic plate which has been fogged by exposure to radiation from a uranium salt. The shadow of a metal Maltese Cross placed between the plate and the uranium salt is clearly visible.

Here’s the encrypted text of the telegram sent by the German Foreign Office to the German ambassador in Mexico on January 17, 1917, saying that if Mexico formed a military alliance with Germany, it would stand to gain Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico should war break out. The telegram was intercepted and decoded by the Brits. When its contents were revealed, it helped stoke American fever for the war, which was declared by the U.S. later in the year. Here’s the original typescript of the cable, part of the British decoding, and the English translation:

  • 1950 – Cold War: Klaus Fuchs is convicted of spying for the Soviet Union by disclosing top secret atomic bomb data.
  • 1953 – Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin suffers a stroke and collapses; he dies four days later.
  • 1954 – Armed Puerto Rican nationalists attack the United States Capitol building, injuring five Representatives.
  • 1974 – Watergate scandal: Seven are indicted for their role in the Watergate break-in and charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.
  • 1981 – Provisional Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands begins his hunger strike in HM Prison Maze.

After 66 days of refusing food, Sands died on May 5, becoming a martyr for the IRA. Here’s a memorial mural to him that still stands in Belfast:

  • 1998 – Titanic became the first film to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
  • 2005 – In Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the execution of juveniles found guilty of murder is unconstitutional.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1810 – Frédéric Chopin, Polish pianist and composer (d. 1849)
  • 1880 – Lytton Strachey, British writer and critic (d. 1932)

I’m fascinated by Strachey for some reason, and quite like his books Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria. He died at 51 of stomach cancer, and his platonic love Dora Carrington committed suicide two months later. (It’s worth seeing the movie about them, “Carrington“.) Here’s Strachey in either 1911 or 1912; the photo was taken by fellow Bloomsbury-ite Lady Ottoline Morrell. He looks a bit like a well-groomed Rasputin:

  • 1904 – Glenn Miller, American trombonist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1944)

Here’s Miller (on trombone) leading his orchestra in their signature song “In the Mood” (Tex Beneke plays the sax solo at 1:02). Miller joined the Army during World War II, though he was overage, and formed bands for the military. His plane disappeared in 1944 when he was flying over the English Channel; he was only 40 years old.

  • 1914 – Harry Caray, American sportscaster (d. 1998)


  • 1914 – Ralph Ellison, American novelist and literary critic (d. 1994)

Ellison’s book Invisible Man is a classic of modern American literature and, along with Richard Wright’s Native Son, one of the two best American novels about racism. Here’s Ellison:

  • 1927 – Harry Belafonte, American singer-songwriter and actor
  • 1994 – Justin Bieber, Canadian singer-songwriter

Those who bought the farm on March 1 include:

  • 1991 – Edwin H. Land, American scientist and businessman, co-founded the Polaroid Corporation (b. 1909)
  • 2012 – Andrew Breitbart, American journalist and publisher (b. 1969)
  • 2015 – Minnie Miñoso, Cuban-American baseball player and coach (b. 1922)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is kvetching:

Hili: The world is not always friendly.
A: You have the least reason to complain .
Hili: But I do it better than others.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat nie zawsze jest przyjazny.
Ja: Ty masz najmniej powodów do narzekania.
Hili: Ale ja robię to lepiej niż inni.

And here’s little Kulka at the window, asking to come in:

From Divy:

From reader Charles, who says that the astronauts returning from the Moon had to fill out customs declarations, and this is the one for the three astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission. According to, this is for real:

Buzz Aldrin also filled out an expense report for ground transportation to and from Cape Kennedy from Houston, a grand total of $33.31 (the equivalent of about $270 in 2015 dollars). On the round trip from Florida to the Moon he apparently incurred no expenses.

Tweets from Matthew. There are more photos and explanations of this bizarre cloud in the thread:

Since 2012, the British Government has raised the rent on the Geological and Linnean Society buildings, the latter where Darwin and Wallace’s papers on evolution were first presented in 1858. These places are HISTORICAL, and I’m wondering why the deuce the British Government has to charge rent in the first place.

Well, people have started using the free MyHeritage “Deep Nostalgia” AI program to animate old photos and paintings. Matthew says, “Choose your best/worst from this very long thread.”

Well, you can do it for yourself and freak everyone out. Here are two of the ones I like:

Here’s an ad for MyHeritage with an AI Abe Lincoln. But I don’t think that Lincoln sounded like that; I think he had a wee bit of a Southern accent; after all, he was born in Kentucky.

Matthew sent me this tweet that he retweeted with the addition, “Now why did we end up with Neanderthal genes?” That was clever, but I had to add my own caption.

There’s a loincloth now, says Matthew, but there didn’t used to be. Is this equipment really deserving of laughter?

We’ll be seeing real video of Mars soon (I hope) instead of collations of photos:

Sunday: Hili dialogue

February 28, 2021 • 6:30 am

It is the Sabbath for humans and canids: Sunday, February, February 28, 2021, and the last day of this wretched month. It’s National Chocolate Soufflé Day, as well as Global Scouse Day, celebrating a stew associated with Liverpool, and, in India, National Science Day, celebrating the discovery, on this day in 1928, of the light effect called “Raman Scattering” by Indian physicist C. V. Raman. Raman won the Nobel Prize for this discovery, becoming the first Asian to win a Nobel in science. Here’s a photo:

And here’s Raman getting his Nobel Prize in Stockholm. The Wikipedia caption is “Raman at the 1930 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony with other winners, from left C. V. Raman (physics), Hans Fischer (chemistry), Karl Landsteiner (medicine) and Sinclair Lewis (literature).”

This is Llopart’s top-of-the-line cava, and it’s unavailable in America (it was carried back from Spain). Aged for at least eight years before release, this is from the highly rated 2008 vintage. Production is limited, with only a few thousand bottles produced per vintage (note the bottle number below), so I’m lucky to have it. And oy, was it good! Dry, but with the classic “toasty” nose of French champagne, it also had overtones of apple, so the best way I can describe the flavor is “toast with apple butter.”  At 13 years old, it’s not even close to being over the hill. It’s made from two Spanish grapes, Macabeo and Xarelo

I had the first half bottle with a juicy pork chop, rice, and green beans, and drank my second glass after dinner so I could savor it on its own.  Llopart cavas, of which there are about eight varieties, are always tasty and good values; try the Brut Rosés if you like pink champagne! Cava is often made with great care in Spain, and it’s a good and affordable alternative to overpriced French champagne. But shop carefully.

News of the Day:

People are kvetching because the design of the stage at the conservative CPAC convention resembles the collar insignia of volunteer units of Hitler’s Waffen SS.  You be the judge, but I think it’s a coincidence. Seriously, would they do this on purpose?

You’ll all be relieved to hear that Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs have been found unharmed tied to a pole behind an alley in Los Angeles. They were abducted on Wednesday, and Lady Gaga’s 30-year-old dogwalker was shot. The dog-finder stands to get a $500,000 reward, and nobody seems to care about the condition of the injured dogwalker, who, by the way, is recovering.

Even better news is that the FDA has given emergency approval to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is a single-shot jab (J&J are testing a two-jab regimen) that can be stored at refrigerator temperature. The efficacy, at about 72%, is lower than that of the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives, but it’s 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. With 100 million doses of this vaccine scheduled to be delivered by summer, the U.S. will be, as they say, “done and dusted.”

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed the House, but narrowly and without bipartisan support, with all but two Democrats and no Republicans voting for the bill (the vote waas 219-212). It now goes to the Senate, where it faces a sterner test. The $15 minimum wage provision has already been effectively removed by the Senate parliamentarian, and two Democrats (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema), are opposed to that anyway. It will pass eventually, but without the minimum wage provision, which, sadly, looks DOA.

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 511,850, an increase of about 1,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands 2,538,691, an increase of about 7,600 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 28, a busy day in history, includes:

Here’s a 19th-century painting of the incident, “The Martyrdom of Cuauhtémoc”, by Leandro Izaguirre.

  • 1849 – Regular steamship service from the east to the west coast of the United States begins with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay, four months 22 days after leaving New York Harbor.
  • 1874 – One of the longest cases ever heard in an English court ends when the defendant is convicted of perjury for attempting to assume the identity of the heir to the Tichborne baronetcy.

The case lasted three years, and the claimant (real name unknown) was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to get the inheritance of a family member presumed lost at sea.

  • 1933 – Gleichschaltung: The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed in Germany a day after the Reichstag fire.
  • 1935 – DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invents nylon.

Here’s Carothers with nylon, a polyamide compound:

You’re gonna want to know about this; here’s a bit from Wikipedia (it took them eight years to catch the error):

The word dord is a dictionary error in lexicography. It was accidentally created, as a ghost word, by the staff of G. and C. Merriam Company (now part of Merriam-Webster) in the New International Dictionary, second edition (1934). That dictionary defined the term a synonym for density used in physics and chemistry in the following way:

dord (dôrd), n. Physics & Chem. Density.

On 31 July 1931, Austin M. Patterson, the dictionary’s chemistry editor, sent in a slip reading “D or d, cont./density.” This was intended to add “density” to the existing list of words that the letter “D” can abbreviate. The phrase “D or d” was misinterpreted as a single, run-together word: Dord. This was a plausible mistake, because headwords on slips were typed with spaces between the letters, so “D or d” looked very much like “D o r d”. The original slip went missing, so a new slip was prepared for the printer, which assigned a part of speech (noun) and a pronunciation. The would-be word was not questioned or corrected by proofreaders. The entry appeared on page 771 of the dictionary around 1934, between the entries for The Dorcopsis (a type of small kangaroo) and doré (golden in color).

  • 1940 – Basketball is televised for the first time (Fordham University vs. the University of Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden).
  • 1953 – James Watson and Francis Crick announce to friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement takes place on April 25 following publication in April’s Nature (pub. April 2).

Let’s correct one error here: that Watson and Crick strode into the Eagle pub on Cambridge that day and announced that they’d found the secret of life. As Matthew noted in his post on Crick’s 100th birthday party, where Watson spoke,

[Watson] finally admitted that when he wrote in The Double Helix that Crick strode into the Eagle pub and proclaimed ‘We have discovered the secret of life’, this was not true. Watson said he made it up, for dramatic effect. Crick always denied saying any such thing, and historians have long known that The Double Helix cannot be taken as an entirely reliable source.

  • 1983 – The final episode of M*A*S*H airs, with almost 106 million viewers. It still holds the record for the highest viewership of a season finale.

Here’s the end of that last episode, the 256th:

  • 1986 – Olof Palme, 26th Prime Minister of Sweden, is assassinated in Stockholm.
  • 1991 – The first Gulf War ends.
  • 2013 – Pope Benedict XVI resigns as the pope of the Catholic Church, becoming the first pope to do so since Pope Gregory XII, in 1415.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1901 – Linus Pauling, American chemist and activist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1994)
  • 1906 – Bugsy Siegel, American gangster (d. 1947)

Bugsy was a nasty member of the group of Jewish mobsters called “The Kosher Mafia”. He was one of those responsible for making Las Vegas a gaming capital controlled by the mob, and was murdered at 41. Bugsy’s real name was Benjamin Siegel. Here’s a mugshot from 1928 and his memorial plaque at Bialystoker Synagogue in New York:

Read Medawar’s 1961 review of The Phenomenon of Man, a wooey book by the priest/scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; it’s the best nasty review of a “science” book ever! I wish I’d written it.

  • 1942 – Brian Jones, English guitarist, songwriter, and producer (d. 1969)
  • 1948 – Bernadette Peters, American actress, singer, and author

Peters is renowned both for acting and for her interpretations of the songs of Stephen Sondheim. (She was also in a relationship with Steve Martin for four years.) Here she is in 1994, with Sondheim at the keyboard, singing my favorite Sondheim song:

  • 1953 – Paul Krugman, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate

Those who bought the farm on February 28 include:

  • 2007 – Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. American historian and critic (b. 1917)
  • 2020 – Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe’s (b. 1930)

I just went to the local Trader Joe’s two days ago to pick up some packages of their frozen saag paneer, which is terrific. Here’s Trader Joe:

  • 2020 – Freeman Dyson, British-born American physicist and mathematician (b. 1923)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej exchange observations:

Hili: These lights and shadows are strange.
A: Indeed they are.
Hili: Dziwne te światła i cienie.
Ja: Rzeczywiście.

Here’s leaping Kulka (and Szaron) with the caption: “Paulina’s pictures from the life of Kulka.”

(In Polish): brazki Pauliny z życia Kulki.

Three cat memes today. This reenactment photo is from Fat Cat Art, and is titled “Girl with Purrl Earring”.

From Grumpy Cats:

From Facebook:

Another tweet from Titania that some poor schmoes will take seriously:

Cesar found this tweet from Nikole Hannah-Jones, the NYT’s head of the 1619 project, commenting on Ouou Kanoute, the Smith student whose false claims of racism (see here) ignited a firestorm on campus that’s still smoldering. Hannah-Jones seems to have erased this tweet, which she seems to do as often as Trump tells lies. She vowed to take a Twitter break, but, as Greenwald notes below, can’t stick to it. She’s a nasty piece of work.

(h/t cesar)

Tweets from Matthew. Sadly, this one doesn’t actually show the skunk using the rock to break ice, but it’s drinking from the bowl and holding the rock in its forepaw. FIRST KNOWN CASE OF TOOL-USING IN SKUNKS!

Here’s the latest from Statler, the aging and decrepit but game fruit bat at the Bat World Sanctuary. (I think I identify with him.) The keepers take him “flying” every day, which means walking him about as he flaps his agéd wings. They love him, and so do I. He’s now an internet personality!

Matthew highlights this amazing finding, but notes that people are missing how old it is! He says,

Everyone on Twitter is going nuts over this paper, linked to by Adam, where he says  “Well this is simply the most astonishing discovery that I can recall. A bacteria that photosynthesises from INFRARED LIGHT FROM A DEEP SEA HYDROTHERMAL VENT.”  But the paper was published in 2005 (I missed it too), and has been cited 205 times, mainly by exobiology folk and photosynthesis people. So loads of people who are impressed by this, had no idea. Odd, eh?

I blame the science journalists:

Matthew sent me the tweet with an explanation (the bomb was 2 meters long), and I added his notes and retweeted it. Sound up: it’s a big bang!

Another view:

You have to wait until the end of this one; the folks are completely taken aback!

Saturday: Hili dialogue

February 27, 2021 • 6:30 am

It is the Cat Sabbath: Saturday, February 27, 2021, and National Kahlua Day, celebrating the coffee-flavored liqueur. It’s also National Strawberry Day, National Protein Day, and International Polar Bear Day. Have a polar bear family from Svalbard:


News of the Day:

I expected this, but it still saddens me. After a report by the U.S. intelligence community found Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman guilty of “directly ordering” the murderer of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, President Biden has decided to do nothing about it. During a Democratic presidential-candidate debate a while back, Biden asserted that he would take strong action if the Saudi government was found culpable. Like human rights advocates around the globe, I’m disappointed at Biden’s lame response.

Humor of the week: The GOP has made Trump into a golden calf to be worshiped. As the Guardian reports, the video below shows a gilded Trump bust icon showing

. . . two men in suits pushing the kitsch monument through the corridors of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, where admirers snap photos of it.

The statue is larger than life, with a golden head and Trump’s trademark suit jacket with white shirt and red tie. Bizarrely, the disgraced ex-commander-in-chief also appears to be sporting stars-and-stripes shorts.

The video is below:

Oy!  (h/t Ken)

Reader Jez called my attention to a Guardian article reporting that a group of Russian diplomats stationed in North Korea had to leave the country on a hand-pushed cart. Granted, the distance traveled in the cart was only a kilometer, but still . . . .

North Korea’s borders have been closed for more than a year because of Covid, and they say they have no Covid cases, but do you believe them? At any rate, the final leg of the journal is shown in video in the tweet below. An excerpt:

“Since the borders have been closed for more than a year and passenger traffic has been stopped, it took a long and difficult journey to get home,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a post on social media.

The group of eight, including a three-year-old child, travelled 32 hours by train and two hours by bus from the North Korean capital Pyongyang to reach the Russian border on Thursday, the foreign ministry added.

Remember the legal contest between Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery, in which the latter received a huge settlement because of defamation by Oberlin, which called the bakery racist and tried to get it boycotted? I, like reader Jez (a realiable source of interesting tidbits), thought it was all over, but it’s still going on. As Jez reports:

I had foolishly thought that this was all settled back in 2019, but something someone posted on WEIT today reminded me about the case and I looked to see what the latest was. This is from June 2020 and it seems that appeals are still dragging on and that the NAACP is backing Oberlin College in its legal battle with Gibson’s Food Mart and Bakery. 

Wikipedia now has an article on this, but it ends with the current appeal. What’s with the NAACP backing Oberlin?

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 510,373, an increase of about 2,200 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands 2,531,050, an increase of about 10,000 deaths over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 27 includes:

  • 1801 – Pursuant to the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, Washington, D.C. is placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress.
  • 1812 – Poet Lord Byron gives his first address as a member of the House of Lords, in defense of Luddite violence against Industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire.
  • 1860 – Abraham Lincoln makes a speech at Cooper Union in the city of New York that is largely responsible for his election to the Presidency.

I gave a talk on that very stage in October, 2006, and may have used the same lectern that Lincoln did!

  • 1900 – The British Labour Party is founded.
  • 1933 – Reichstag fire: Germany’s parliament building in Berlin, the Reichstag, is set on fire; Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch Communist claims responsibility.

It’s likely that this was a Nazi operation, for after the Communists were accused, they were removed from Parliament, giving the Nazi Party a majority. Here’s a photo of the fire:

But it was Willard Libby who developed a method of dating artifacts using the isotope ratio; for this Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.

  • 1943 – In Berlin, the Gestapo arrest 1,800 Jewish men with German wives, leading to the Rosenstrasse protest.

This is amazing; the wives protested and the Nazis freed all the Jews married to German women, and never sent them to concentration camps.

  • 1951 – The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, limiting Presidents to two terms, is ratified.
  • 1964 – The Government of Italy asks for help to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from toppling over.
  • 1991 – Gulf War: U.S. President George H. W. Bush announces that “Kuwait is liberated”.

“Mission Accomplished” (though that phrase referred to the less successful invasion of Iraq.

Notables born on this day include:

Here’s Terry, the leading serious as well as comic actress of her time. She’s 16 in this photo, and had married a 46 year old man, the first of her three husbands. She was especially famous for acting in Shakespeare plays.

Pappenheim was the real “Anna O.,” considered the first patient in psychoanalysis. She was treated by Josef Breuer and her case analyzed by Sigmund Freud. She was not helped by the bogus treatment that is psychoanalysis. Here’s Pappenheim:

  • 1886 – Hugo Black, American captain, jurist, and politician (d. 1971)
  • 1897 – Marian Anderson, American singer (d. 1993)

In 1939, Anderson was famously refused an invitation by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. because she was black and the audience was to be integrated.  Eleanor Roosevelt, furious, prevailed on her husband, FDR, to get Anderson to sing, appropriately, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Here’s a brief report on that famous incident:

  • 1912 – Lawrence Durrell, Indian-French author, poet, and playwright (d. 1990)
  • 1932 – Dame Elizabeth Taylor, English-American actress and humanitarian (d. 2011)
  • 1934 – Ralph Nader, American lawyer, politician, and activist
  • 1947 – Alan Guth, American physicist and cosmologist
  • 1971 – Sara Blakely, American businesswoman, founded Spanx
  • 1980 – Chelsea Clinton, American journalist and academic

Those who perished on on February 27 include:

  • 1936 – Ivan Pavlov, Russian physiologist and physician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1849)

How many jokes have been made about Pavlov’s salivating dogs!  Here’s the man himself:

Lymon helped write the song below, one of the finest specimens of doo-wop rock and roll. Lymon was 13 at the time. He died at 25 of a heroin overdose.

She lived 100 years and had a career spanning 75 of them. She’s known as “The First Lady of American Cinema”:

  • 2002 – Spike Milligan, Irish soldier, actor, comedian, and author (b. 1918)
  • 2003 – Fred Rogers, American minister and television host (b. 1928)
  • 2008 – William F. Buckley, Jr., American author and journalist, founded the National Review (b. 1925)v
  • 2013 – Van Cliburn, American pianist (b. 1934)
  • 2015 – Leonard Nimoy, American actor (b. 1931)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is joking around like Rodney Dangerfield:

Hili: I wanted to join a skeptics club.
A: And?
Hili: I was skeptical about whether it was a good idea.
In Polish:
Hili: Chciałam się zapisać do klubu sceptyków.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Byłam sceptyczna, czy to dobry pomysł.

And here’s an untitled photo of little Kulka, taken by Paulina. I love the moggy’s beautiful golden eyes.

From Facebook:

From Merilee, an adorable treed-cat meme:

From reader Su, who says that this is good self-defense advice:

I found a tweet on my own!

Tweets from Matthew. He says of this one, “The future of the UK explained.”

Oh dear, that is NOT a good boy!

Look at the sexual dimorphism in this bee species:

Here’s the rover Perseverance seen from orbit; I presume the circled feature is the skycrane or heat shield:

Look at this beautiful bird sticking a landing. The takeoff is much easier:

I don’t know much about these creatures, much less whether they can bounce:

Ollie is Matthew’s cat who, several years ago, laid open my nose with a deft swipe of his paw. Here he’s lying in a greasy pizza box. When I asked Matthew if the cat at least got some pizza, Matthew responded, “He licked my plate.” No wonder the cat is grumpy!

Friday: Hili dialogue

February 26, 2021 • 7:31 am

Well, we’ve arrived at the week’s end, and the last Friday in this month: Friday, February 26, 2021. It’s National Pistachio Day, one of the Holy Trinity of Nuts along with cashews and macadamias. It’s also the Jewish holiday of Purim, a day to eat hamantaschen, even if the recipe is goyische.

It’s also Levi Strauss Day, named after the inventor of blue jeans (his real name was Löb Strauß [he was Jewish] and he was born on this day in 1829).

Löb Strauß

When looking at the history of this garment, I found a court case that will anger you:

In Rome, Italy, in 1992, a 45-year-old driving instructor was accused of rape. When he picked up an 18-year-old girl for her first driving lesson, he allegedly raped her for an hour, then told her that if she was to tell anyone he would kill her. Later that night she told her parents and her parents agreed to help her press charges. While the alleged rapist was convicted and sentenced, the Italian Court of Cassation overturned the conviction in 1998 because the victim wore tight jeans. It was argued that she must have necessarily had to help her attacker remove her jeans, thus making the act consensual (“because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them… and by removing the jeans… it was no longer rape but consensual sex”). The court stated in its decision “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”

The ruling sparked widespread feminist protest. The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape”. As a sign of support, the California Senate and the California Assembly followed suit. Patricia Giggans, the executive director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (now Peace Over Violence) soon made Denim Day an annual event. As of 2011 at least 20 U.S. states officially recognize Denim Day in April. Wearing jeans on that day has become an international symbol of protest against such attitudes about sexual assault. As of 2008, the court has overturned its findings, and there is no longer a “denim” defense to the charge of rape.

From the Denim Day website in the U.S.; the date for last year was April 29.

News of the Day:

Former USA gymnastics coach John Geddert, who helped the team secure a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, committed suicide yesterday after he was charged with a number of crimes involving sex with his charges, including two counts of sexual assault against children between ages 13 and 16, and 20 counts of human trafficking vis the use of “force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training for financial benefit to him.” He was an associate of the team physician Larry Nassar, now serving three life sentences for criminal sexual assault, child pornography, and related charges. One of his victims, Sarah Klein, said this:

“John Geddert’s escape from justice by committing suicide is traumatizing beyond words,” wrote Klein, now a lawyer specializing in sexual-abuse cases. “He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice. Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see.”

I can see why she’d be angry that the facts wouldn’t come out but, in a rough way, justice has been done. Geddert will never molest anyone again, and the evidence can still be revealed (at least, I think so).

Oy! Florida governor Ron DeSantis has ordered that all flags in the state be flown at half mast in memory of Rush Limbaugh’s death. Limbaugh was a long-time resident of Palm Beach. Democrats are appalled, and Palm Beach itself will not obey (h/t: Ken):

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay tweeted late Tuesday that the flag at the courthouse would not be lowered on Wednesday. Other Palm Beach County and Town of Palm Beach officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Say goodbye to “Mr. Potato Head”! Hasbro, the company that makes the beloved toy (I had one) has announced the arrival of a gender-netural potato, even though there was already a “Mrs. Potato Head”. From the Associated Press (h/t: Jez):

Hasbro created confusion on Thursday when it removed the gender from its Mr. Potato Head brand, but not from the actual toy.

The company, which has been making the potato-shaped plastic toy for nearly 70 years, announced Thursday morning that it was dropping Mr. from the brand in an effort to make sure “all feel welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. The announcements set off a social media frenzy over the beloved toy.

Later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified in a tweet that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still exist, names and all, but the branding on the box will say “Potato Head.”

To come:  Tater Tot has Two Mommies. And there will be associated pronouns.

I just found that Titania beat me to the punch:

The black-browed babbler has been rediscovered after 180 years! (h/t Matthew) A live specimen of this beautiful bird was captured in Borneo. The single stuffed specimen differs from the real bird in eye, leg, and bill color, but these features are often “adjusted” by taxidermists.

Finally,  today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 508,107, an increase of about 2,500 deaths over yesterday’s figure  The reported world death toll stands 2,521,018, a big increase of about 10,400 deaths over yesterday’s total. Look at the big drop in new cases in the U.S:

Stuff that happened on February 26 includes:

  • 1606 – The Janszoon voyage of 1605–06 becomes the first European expedition to set foot on Australia, although it is mistaken as a part of New Guinea.
  • 1616 – Galileo Galilei is formally banned by the Roman Catholic Church from teaching or defending the view that the earth orbits the sun.
  • 1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Elba.
  • 1909 – Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.

This process was crude, putting red and green filters, alternately, in front of a black and white movie. Here’s an example:

  • 1919 – President Woodrow Wilson signs an act of Congress establishing the Grand Canyon National Park.
  • 1929 – President Calvin Coolidge signs an executive order establishing the 96,000 acre Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
  • 1971 – U.N. Secretary-General U Thant signs United Nations proclamation of the vernal equinox as Earth Day.
  • 1993 – World Trade Center bombing: In New York City, a truck bomb parked below the North Tower of the World Trade Center explodes, killing six and injuring over a thousand people.
  • 2012 – Trayvon Martin was shot and killed at the age of 17 in Sanford, Florida.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1802 – Victor Hugo, French author, poet, and playwright (d. 1885)
  • 1829 – Levi Strauss, German-American fashion designer, founded Levi Strauss & Co. (d. 1902)

The world’s oldest dated pair of Levis, below, is from 1879, and is kept in a locked safe at the company’s archive for which only two people know the combination. Forensic examination of wear patterns suggests that at least three people wore this pair.  The garment is worth at least $100,000; read more here.

Note the cinch at the waist:

“Buffalo Bill” Cody was mostly a showman though, participating in and running successful “wild west” shows in the U.S. and Europe. Here’s Buffalo Bill in 1875:


Did you know that corn flakes were created as an “anaphrodesiac,” designed to kill the libido? Here’s the puritanical inventor, who was a Seventh Day Adventist:


  • 1916 – Jackie Gleason, American actor and singer (d. 1987)
  • 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon, American author and critic (d. 1985)
  • 1928 – Fats Domino, American singer-songwriter and pianist (d. 2017)
  • 1932 – Johnny Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (d. 2003)
  • 1954 – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish politician, 12th President of Turkey

Those who checked out on on February 26 were few, and include:

  • 1989 – Roy Eldridge, American trumpet player (b. 1911)

Eldridge’s nickname was “Little Jazz,” and he’s an unappreciated trumpet player. Here’s my favorite of his works, “After you’ve gone” (1937). His solo work after the vocals is superb. There are only 298 views of this on YouTube.

Oh hell, here’s another great Eldredge solo: “Rocking Chair” with the Gene Krupa orchestra (1941). I can’t choose which of the two I like better.

Wapner below was the first of the “mean judge” reality arbitration shows. Here comes the judge:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is full of braggadocio today:

Hili: Sometimes I’m pleased with my achievements?
A: Which achievements?
Hili: All of them.
In Polish:
Hili: Czasem jestem zadowolona z moich osiągnięć.
Ja: Z których?
Hili: Z wszystkich.

Little Kulka, like her possible relative Hili, enjoys climbing the cherry and apple trees.

Caption: Kulka on the tree, Paulina on the ground.

In Polish: Kulka na drzewie, Paulina na ziemi.

From Ebaum’s World:

From Nicole: The latest photo from the Mars rover Perseverance:

From Jesus of the Day:

Andrew Doyle, Titania’s creator, has a new book out about free speech. Has anyone read it?

From Simon, a response to that loon Boebert demanding that flags be flown at half mast for–get this–Rush Limbaugh:

From reader Mark: an Orthodox Jewish cat kisses the mezuzah!

Tweets from Matthew. We still don’t know why woodcocks walk this way, and it’s plenty weird (If you want two papers that give theories, write me.)

Matthew says that some people in the thread didn’t get this:

I owned a skunk for several years, and the girth of this one is more like that of a pet skunk than a wild one:

A glittery salticid:

I may have put this up before, but if so, well, here it is again. It’s a Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra), found in the Himalayan foothills. The males grow their wattles and feathery horns only during the mating season (be sure to watch the mating-dance video):