Monday: Hili dialogue

December 6, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Monday, December 6, 2021; it’s National Cook for Christmas Day but it’s way too early to do that. Note: posting may be light today as I have several errands to take care of around town.

It’s also National Gazpacho Day, National Microwave Oven Day, St. Nicholas Day, Walt Disney Day (it’s celebrated on the first Monday in December though he was born on December 5, 1901) and, in Canada, National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Here’s Disney’s business envelope from 1921, when he was only twenty:

The Google Doodle for today (click on screenshot) is “an interactive pizza puzzle game, as C|Net describes how to play it (I haven’t). The occasion:

The Doodle celebrates this day in 2007 when the culinary art of Neapolitan “Pizzaiuolo” was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The southwestern Italian city of Naples is widely credited with inventing the pizza known today in the late 1700s.

News of the Day:

*It does seem that politicians tend to live a long time, don’t they? Or maybe we just remember the ones who do, like Jimmy Carter, who’s still hammering Habitats for Humanity at 97.  Yesterday another politician left us: Bob Dole died at 98. He passed away in his sleep, and the NBC Evening News last night revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I’m not sure whether he smoked, but if he hadn’t he might have lived to over 100!

Even though Dole was a Republican, and endorsed Trump for President in 2016, he was actually among the more bipartisan of Republicans: a dead breed. As the NYT says:

As the Republican leader, he helped broker compromises that shaped much of the nation’s domestic and foreign policies.

He was most proud of helping to rescue Social Security in 1983, of pushing the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and of mustering a majority of reluctant Republicans to support Mr. Clinton’s unpopular plan to send American troops to Bosnia in 1995. (Mr. Dole was not wild about the deployment either, but he long believed that a president, of either party, should be supported once he decided something as important as committing troops abroad.)

skilled legislative mechanic, Mr. Dole understood what every senator wanted and what each could live with, and he enjoyed the art of political bartering.

In that way he was like LBJ.

Dole was also severely wounded in the right arm during WWII, being shot just weeks before the war ended. He had seven operations, but the arm became unusable, so he couldn’t shake hands (an impediment for both a Vice-Presidential and Presidential candidate). He often held a pen in his hand to conceal the disability. But he made one very moving gesture:

In one of his last public appearances, in December 2018, he joined the line at the Capitol Rotunda where the body of former President George H.W. Bush, an erstwhile political rival and fellow veteran, lay in state. As an aide helped him up from his wheelchair, Mr. Dole, using his left hand because his right had been rendered useless by the war, saluted the flag-draped coffin of the last president to have served in World War II.

Have a look at the video and don’t tell me you’re not moved:

The Washington Post has three laudatory op-eds on Dole’s life, one by George Will, another by Tom Daschle (a Democrat), and a third by the Post’s entire editorial board. A quote from the last one:

Mr. Dole was a sometimes controversial figure occasionally given, especially early in his career, to irritated outbursts. None of that should obscure the substance and significance of his accomplishments. He led — as minority and majority leader — with a sense of the need to get things done. We didn’t always agree with him, but on big matters such as the vital civil rights bills of the 1960s and later on expanding food stamp coverage, he took strong and principled stands in favor. And he worked with members of both parties.

“The Senate does not reward extremes,” said a colleague, Bill Bradley of New Jersey, when Mr. Dole left that body in June 1996. Mr. Dole, he continued, “knew how to use power because he understood how to make things happen in the center of this institution. And that is ultimately built on a couple of personal facts. I mean, he always kept his word. He listened very carefully. He never held a grudge.”

*One of the “Satanic Seven” professors at the University of Auckland—all of whom have been demonized for signing a letter saying that Maori mythology should not be taught alongside and coequal with modern science—is himself a Maori.  As New Zealand’s Free Speech Union reports, Garth Cooper, a professor of biochemistry and medicine, signed the letter in part to help the Maori:

[Cooper] said that although he didn’t speak te reo — because his Maori grandmother “thought my brother and I should learn English” — he nevertheless knew “quite a lot” of words in the language. He went on to explain that the main reason he signed the Listener letter was because he was “concerned [that teaching] Māori kids about the colonising effects of science [would] lead to loss of opportunity”.

The article gives a ton of information about Cooper’s accomplishments and the ways he’s helped Maori (and non-Maori), but it was of no use. Along with the renowned philosopher of science  Robert Nola, who happens to be a friend), Cooper is one of the two members of New Zealand’s Royal Society who may get booted out for simply signing the letter. More on this tomorrow. (h/t: Nik)

*The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has now been found in at least 15 states, and surely there are more.  We are still waiting to see how severe an illness it causes, which will take about two weeks. CNBC tries to reassure us:

Still, the vast majority of cases in the U.S. are still caused by the delta variant. [JAC: note that they used “still” twice in the same sentence.]

“We have about 90 to 100,000 cases a day right now in the United States, and 99.9% of them are the delta variant,” Walensky [head of the CDC] said.

Is that so reassuring given that Omicron just got here?

*The New York Times has a two separated lists by A. O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of “the best movies of 2021“.  I haven’t seen any of them, but if you have, weigh in below.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 786,964, an increase of 1,178 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,273,301, an increase of about 6,800 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 6 includes:

  • 1492 – After exploring island of Cuba for gold, surmising it for Japan, Columbus lands on island similar to Castile, naming it Hispaniola.
  • 1534 – The city of Quito in Ecuador is founded by Spanish settlers led by Sebastián de Belalcázar.
  • 1884 – The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., is completed.

Here it is halfway up:

The Washington Monument is under construction in 1899 in Washington, D.C. National Archives/Getty Images
  • 1897 – London becomes the world’s first city to host licensed taxicabs.
  • 1912 – The Nefertiti Bust is discovered.

Wikipedia has the skinny on this beautiful bust (pictured below); it’s in remarkable condition for being three thousand years old.

The work is believed to have been crafted in 1345 B.C.E. by Thutmose because it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt. It is one of the most-copied works of ancient Egypt. Nefertiti has become one of the most famous women of the ancient world and an icon of feminine beauty.

A German archaeological team led by Ludwig Borchardt discovered the bust in 1912 in Thutmose’s workshop. It has been kept at various locations in Germany since its discovery, including the cellar of a bank, a salt-mine in Merkers-Kieselbach, the Dahlem museum, the Egyptian Museum in Charlottenburg and the Altes Museum. It is currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin, where it was originally displayed before World War II.

The Nefertiti bust has become a cultural symbol of Berlin as well as ancient Egypt. It has also been the subject of an intense argument between Egypt and Germany over Egyptian demands for its repatriation, which began in 1924, once the bust was first displayed to the public. Egyptian inspectors said their predecessors were mislead about the actual bust before they let it out of the country, and the Berlin museum refers to an official protocol, signed by the German excavator and the Egyptian Antiquities Service of the time, about “a painted plaster bust of a princess”.

Here’s a photo (Wikipedia caption) of the devastation of the city:

A view across the devastation of Halifax two days after the explosion, looking toward the Dartmouth side of the harbour. Imo is visible aground on the far side of the harbour.
  • 1922 – One year to the day after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Free State comes into existence.
  • 1933 – U.S. federal judge John M. Woolsey rules that James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses is not obscene.

A copy of the first printing of the first edition, printed by bookseller Sylvia Beach, will run you about $79,000. It was published on Joyce’s 40th birthday.

Here’s a short video of the match:

The recipient was a 19-day-old infant with heart defects, who lived only six hours after the operation, which Kantrowitz considered a failure.

There was video of the melee that resulted in the death of Hunter. It’s not gory, as you can’t really see the stabbing, but you can see the melee:

  • 1998 – in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez is victorious in presidential elections.
  • 2006 – NASA reveals photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggesting the presence of liquid water on Mars.

You can read about the evidence for Martian water here, though it isn’t clear that this wasn’t ancient water that has disappeared.

Notables born on this day include:

Eisenstadt’s portraits of Sophia Loren were famous; here’s one captioned “Actress Sophia Loren laughing while exchanging jokes during lunch break on a movie set.” (1966).

And here’s a photo of my father with Sophia Loren in Greece, ca. 1955. I’ve shown this before (he’s at the extreme right):

  • 1898 – Gunnar Myrdal, Swedish sociologist and economist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1987)
  • 1908 – Baby Face Nelson, American gangster (d. 1934)
  • 1920 – Dave Brubeck, American pianist and composer (d. 2012)
  • 1941 – Richard Speck, American murderer (d. 1991)

Speck killed eight student nurses in Chicago in 1966, but one survived by hiding under the bed. Convicted of multiple murders, speck died in prison of a heart attack in 1991. Here’s his mugshot (Wikipedia caption):

18 Jul 1966, Dallas, Texas, USA — The Dallas County Sheriff Department released two different mug shots of Richard B. Speck, 25,
  • 1948 – JoBeth Williams, American actress

Those who conked on December 6 include:

Here’s St. Nick in a full-length icon of Saint Nicholas by Jaroslav Čermák.  His Santa outfit isn’t shown, but the real St. Nicholas did have a reputation for giving gifts.

  • 1889 – Jefferson Davis, American general and politician, President of the Confederate States of America (b. 1808)
  • 1955 – Honus Wagner, American baseball player and manager (b. 1874)

Wagner, below (1910), is one of the greatest players of all time. Coyne family legend relates that my great grandmother caught him practicing throwing by hurling baseballs at the side of her outhouse. I have no idea whether this is true.  A note from Wikipedia: “In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Wagner as one of the first five members. He received the second-highest vote total, behind Ty Cobb‘s 222 and tied with Babe Ruth at 215. Most baseball historians consider Wagner to be the greatest shortstop ever and one of the greatest players ever. Ty Cobb himself called Wagner “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond”.[2] Honus Wagner is also the featured player of one of the rarest and the most valuable baseball cards in existence.”

Here’s the card, worth over six million dollars!

  • 2002 – Philip Berrigan, American priest and activist (b. 1923)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili shows off her literary knowledge:

A: Why are you so sad?
Hili: I’m waiting for Godot.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu jesteś taka smutna?
Hili: Czekam na Godota.

And a picture of Kulka by Andrzej:

A multireligious greeting for the holidays from reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe: II don’t see atheism in there, but it’s not a religion. But you can spot The Noodly Deity:

Keiko posted this on Facebook. Cats will be cats. . .

From Bruce, a weather report (I hope this isn’t perceived as derogatory, but my dad used to tell me jokes at bedtime, and one was “Weather report in Mexico: chili today and hot tamale.”)

Where did Titania go? She hasn’t tweeted anything for weeks!

From God:

I’m a bit dubious about this one, but there’s enough consensus reporting to make it plausible.

Reader Barry says this:

What you see in the tweet below is a transcript from something he allegedly said in Birmingham in 1976 (Rolling Stone wrote about this but I can’t access the article). According to an accompanying podcast, the remarks were collated by some note takers at the time. So is this an exact quote? It is not. But it apparently coheres with what many people remembering hearing at the time.

Yes, he’s an antivaxer and seemingly a racist as well, but I can still enjoy his music. If you didn’t listen to the Clapton/J. J. Cale duet yesterday, do so now.

From Luana. What does it mean?

From Ken, who also explains the tweet he contributed:

From the far-right fringe of the Republican Party.

The metaphor by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Gilead) works only if a woman is being forced to have an abortion — which, if the US constitution provides no right to reproductive freedom, the states will be as just as free to mandate as they are free to prevent women from obtaining abortions. (Pace Cawthorn, last I checked, Americans are free to develop or not develop — delete or not delete — their own photographs as they alone see fit.):

A tweet from Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb.  First, a lovely Christmas carol that teaches grammar at the same time!

The first wasp is all decked out in racing colors, and the second is also lovely.

Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 5, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Sunday, December 5, 2021: National Comfort Food Day. What’s yours? (Name it below, as I’m really curious.) Mine is a lovely grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. For some reason this is the instantiation of comfort:

It’s also National Sachertorte Day (yes!), Krampusnacht, National Blue Jeans Day (I’m wearing mine, but that’s about the only pants I wear), Day of the Ninja (celebrating the parody site Ninja Burger), Repeal Day (the day in 1933 when the 21st amendment superceded the 18th, which had established Prohibition), International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, and World Soil Day.

Here’s one version of the scary Krampus: the hornéd creature who visits children on December 5, punishing the bad ones and rewarding the good ones (caption: “Greetings from Krampus!”)


News of the Day:

*It’s looking more and more like Russia isn’t bluffing about invading Ukraine, as it now has 175,000 troops massed along the border. As one Defense Department official said yesterday, “Putin isn’t just rattling the saber. He’s unsheathed it and is waving it about.”  Biden will have a video call with Putin on Tuesday, and Putin is insisting that Ukraine not join NATO. Biden isn’t having that, so things are, well, “delicate.”

Let’s have a poll about this!

Will Russia invade Ukraine before Christmas?

View Results

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*Steve Bullock, former Democratic governor of Montana and failed Senate candidate, has an NYT op ed called, “I was the Governor of Montana. My fellow Democrats, you need to get out of the city more.” I suspect you can guess what he says, but remember he’s an inter-coastal Democrat. A bit of his piece:

The core problem is a familiar one — Democrats are out of touch with the needs of the ordinary voter. In 2021, voters watched Congress debate for months the cost of an infrastructure bill while holding a social spending bill hostage. Both measures contain policies that address the challenges Americans across the country face. Yet to anyone outside the Beltway, the infighting and procedural brinkmanship haven’t done a lick to meet their needs at a moment of health challenges, inflation and economic struggles. You had Democrats fighting Democrats, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and desperately needed progress was delayed. It’s no wonder rural voters think Democrats are not focused on helping them.

. . . To overcome these obstacles, Democrats need to show up, listen, and respect voters in rural America by finding common ground instead of talking down to them. Eliminating student loans isn’t a top-of-mind matter for the two-thirds of Americans lacking a college degree. Being told that climate change is the most critical issue our nation faces rings hollow if you’re struggling to make it to the end of the month. And the most insulting thing is being told what your self-interest should be.

*Elizabeth Holmes is still on trial for wire fraud that deceived investors, but one of the interesting things that came out of the trial is a one-page handwritten schedule (“Exhibit 7731”) she made for herself on one day, showing what she did every minute from getting up at 4:00 am (and thanking God most things are not logical), through breakfast. She also wrote what she planned to have for lunch and dinner. Here are the meals. The woman is a control freak.

Yuck! And don’t they teach students how to spell “banana” at Stanford? The Post reporter tried to replicate the morning part of Holmes’s schedule, but gave up out of exhaustion. Go look at the whole thing complete with her self-help mantras.

*Here in Chicago, Jussie Smollett is still on trial for six felony counts, and the prosecution wrapped up its nearly airtight case against him on Thursday. The defense begins tomorrow, and the big question is whether Smollett will take the stand.

Mr. Smollett, who is openly gay, told police that he had been attacked by two men who used racist and antigay slurs, hit and kicked him and placed a noose around his neck at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019, as he walked home from picking up food at a Subway sandwich shop. He is charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing false police reports, with each count carrying up to three years in prison. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

. . .In the Smollett trial, the prosecution spent days building a case that Mr. Smollett had enlisted the two brothers to stage the purported attack after he received a piece of hate mail that he didn’t think the producers of “Empire,” the hit show on which he starred, were taking seriously enough. Prosecutors tracked the movements of the Osundairo brothers using street cameras, ride-share receipts and other sources on the night of the alleged attack and documented numerous texts and phone calls between them and Mr. Smollett.

In one text presented at the trial, Mr. Smollett reached out to Abimbola Osundairo days before the alleged attack, saying: “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?”

Given the evidence against him, including a check Smollett used to pay the alleged “MAGA muggers,” the defense, some say, must make him tell his side of the story:

“Most defense lawyers don’t like calling defendants as witnesses,” said Darryl Goldberg, another Chicago defense lawyer who isn’t involved in the case. “But I think this is a case where, based on what they’ve propounded in the cross examination, he’s the only one that’s going to be able to support that.”

*Science of the Day: The NYT has a heartening story about how several hives of honeybees in the Canary Islands survived the eruption of the Cumbre Viejo volcano.  With their hives covered with ash for several weeks, the bees got to work—and survived!

Not only had the bees managed to survive the heat and noxious gases of the volcano, but they also had avoided starvation by feeding off stores of honey inside the hive, said Antonio Quesada, a beekeeper in the Canary Islands and a spokesman for the Gran Canaria Beekeepers Association.

Their survival provided a glimmer of good news for La Palma — a resort island in the Canary archipelago of Spain — which was devastated by the eruption, which continues to spew lava. The island of about 80,000 people employs more than 100 beekeepers who manage hives that hold millions of honeybees, and who are vital workers in the local ecosystem and key economic players for those who sell honey throughout the region. . .

“It’s incredible how such a tiny animal that has been around for hundreds of thousands of years can maintain that resilience, that ability to survive,” Mr. Quesada said in an interview on Wednesday.

The bees, known in the region as the Canary black bee, used propolis, a resin-like mixture sometimes known as bee glue, to seal themselves inside the hive, he said.

“They protected themselves from the gases” of the volcano, Mr. Quesada said. The bees also made sure to leave open a tiny pathway to the outside that they could later use to get out, he said.

And they ate the honey stored in the hive.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 786,803, an increase of 1,179 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,266,510, an increase of about 5,500 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 5 includes:

A papal bull:

Self-aggrandizement: I am a member of that branch, “Alpha of Virginia”.  I gave my gold key to my mom to put on her charm bracelet.

Yesterday I noted that on December 4, 1791, “The first edition of The Observer, the world’s first Sunday newspaper, is published.” Today’s Observer celebrates with none other than a pictured of my beloved Philomena (Diane Morgan, but she will forever be Philomena). h/t: Dom:

Here’s a photo of “sluicing” during the Gold Rush: separating gold from dirt using a water chute:

Here’s the old one, but it’s been rebuilt (see link for the new one):

This eliminated the Prohibition mandated by the 18th Amendment in 1919.  14 years without alcohol, although of course people drank plenty of illegal hooch.

Zhukov was a great general and was highly decorated. Eventually, of course, he was disgraced and forced to retire. So it goes in Soviet Russia. Look at all those decorations!:

  • 1952 – Beginning of the Great Smog in London. A cold fog combines with air pollution and brings the city to a standstill for four days. Later, a Ministry of Health report estimates 4,000 fatalities as a result of it.

Here’s a short video about the smog and its causes:

  • 1955 – E. D. Nixon and Rosa Parks lead the Montgomery bus boycott.
  • 1958 – The Preston By-pass, the UK’s first stretch of motorway, opens to traffic for the first time. (It is now part of the M6 and M55 motorways.)

Here’s a map of the Bypass, which is a bit over 13 km long:

  • 2017 – The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics for doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Notables born on this day include:

A photo of Van Buren by Matthew Brady:

  • 1830 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and author (d. 1894)
  • 1839 – George Armstrong Custer, American general (d. 1876)

Here’s Custer in 1865, 11 years before he was killed in the battle of Little Bighorn:

Heisenberg and his cat:

Walt Disney and Werner Heisenberg were born on the same day!

  • 1902 – Strom Thurmond, American educator, general, and politician, 103rd Governor of South Carolina (d. 2003)
  • 1912 – Sonny Boy Williamson II, American singer-songwriter and harmonica player (d. 1965)

Here’s Sonny Boy in Sweden:

  • 1932 – Sheldon Lee Glashow, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1934 – Joan Didion, American novelist and screenwriter
  • 1938 – J. J. Cale, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2013)

Here are Cale and Clapton playing two of Cale’s songs.

Those who went bye-bye on December 5  include:

  • 1791 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer and musician (b. 1756)
  • 1931 – Vachel Lindsay, American poet (b. 1879)
  • 1951 – Shoeless Joe Jackson, American baseball player and manager (b. 1887)

Jackson had his career halted (he has the third highest lifetime batting average in baseball history—.408) when he was accused of throwing the World Series in the famous “Black Sox” scandal. “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” was the apocryphal words of a disenchanted child.  Here’s Jackson, and below is the source of his nickname from Wikipedia:

In an interview published in the October 1949 edition of Sport magazine, Jackson recalls he got his nickname during a mill game played in Greenville, South Carolina. Jackson had blisters on his foot from a new pair of cleats, which hurt so much that he took his shoes off before he was at bat. As play continued, a heckling fan noticed Jackson running to third base in his socks, and shouted “You shoeless son of a gun, you!” and the resulting nickname “Shoeless Joe” stuck with him throughout the remainder of his life.

  • 2012 – Dave Brubeck, American pianist and composer (b. 1920)
  • 2013 – Nelson Mandela, South African lawyer and politician, 1st President of South Africa, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1918)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the cats are still fixated on food although there isn’t any!

Hili: I ate up everything from my bowl and yours was already empty.
Szaron: I will check them out anyhow.
In Polish:
Hili: Z mojej miski wszystko zjadłam, a twoja była dawno temu pusta.
Szaron: Ja to jeszcze sprawdzę.

And a picture of Kulka by Andrzej:

From Malcolm. My best guess is that this is in the city of Bury, England:


From Steve, who says that this new British Christmas stamp meme is “doing the rounds over here”.  But I can’t seem to find this stamp online.

I suppose you have to be Jewish and a Beatles fan (I fill the bill) to appreciate this meme from Bruce.  Almost all the titles are gems. but I really like “The shul on the hill.”


From God (this doesn’t count as a retweet):

From Simon. Fie on gratuitous co-authors or Principal Investigators who slap their names on every paper that comes out of their labs!

From Barry: This is a news tweet rather than an entertainment tweet:

A tweet sent by Ginger K.:

From Luana. This is most definitely an article worth reading:

Tweets from Matthew. Look at the expression on that innocent cat’s face!

Stop to admire the beauty of a male mallard. We see them so often we get jaded about them, but look at that puplish green head, the neat neck ring, and the unsullied butter-yellow bill:

Life flourishing around a log:

Saturday: Hili dialogue

December 4, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the Cat Sabbath: Saturday, December 4, 2021. It’s National Cookie Day, and take your pick. Will you have an Oreo, a chocolate chip cookie, or one of these, which I love? ((I don’t know what they’re called.)

It’s also Cabernet Franc Day, National Rhubarb Vodka Day (UGH!), National Sock Day, National Wear Brown Shoes Day, Wildlife Conservation Day, and International Cheetah Day;

News of the Day:

*The parents of 15 year old Ethan Crumley, who fatally shot four of his school classmates in Michigan, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, an unprecedented step for a situation like this but one clearly justified by the facts. First, they bought him a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun that they left unlocked in the house. Then they laughed off his attempted purchase of ammunition, spotted on his phone by a teacher.

On Monday, when a teacher reported seeing their son searching online for ammunition, his mother did not seem alarmed.

“LOL I’m not mad at you,” Jennifer Crumbley texted her son. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

But that’s not all; they also ignored warnings that their son was about to unleash hell:

On the morning of the Nov. 30 shooting, the suspect’s parents were urgently called to Oxford High School after one of his teachers found an alarming note he had drawn, scrawled with images of a gun, a person who had been shot, a laughing emoji and the words, “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

School officials told the parents during the in-person meeting on Tuesday that they were required to seek counseling for their son, Ethan, Ms. McDonald said. The teenager’s parents did not want their son to be removed from school that day, and did not ask him whether he had the gun with him or search the backpack he brought with him to the office, Ms. McDonald said.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon, that they gave him, is unconscionable, and I think it’s criminal. It is criminal,” she said.

He was allowed back to class.

A few hours later, authorities say, those ominous words and drawings erupted into bloodshed. At 12:50 p.m., authorities said, Ethan Crumbley walked into a bathroom carrying his backpack, emerged with the handgun and began to fire.

They didn’t tell the school that the kid owned a gun? Lock ’em up! The whole damn family should go to jail. Remember, four kids died because these parents were morons. If you want to see an example of completely irresponsible parenting, read the article. It’s almost as if the parents wanted the shooting to occur.

UPDATE: The AP reports that the cops can’t find the two parents! But the NYT says this:

Law enforcement officials said that the parents had gone missing on Friday afternoon and that the county’s fugitive-apprehension team, F.B.I. agents and United States Marshals were looking for the couple. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County said in a statement.

Lawyers for the parents said the Crumbleys had not fled, but had left town for their own safety and were returning to be arraigned.

UPDATE 2: The NYT reports today that the parents were arrested in Detroit early this morning, apparently hiding in a building. They now face extra charges for evading police. Lock ’em up!

*The Biden administration has resumed the Trump policy of requiring asylum seekers coming from Mexico to remain in that country pending adjudication of their request to enter. Biden suspended that policy his very first day in office, but has “reluctantly” resumed it after lawsuits were filed:

Revival of the “Remain in Mexico” policy comes even as the Biden administration maneuvers to end it in a way that survives legal scrutiny. President Joe Biden scrapped the policy, but a lawsuit by Texas and Missouri forced him to put it back into effect, subject to Mexico’s acceptance.

Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said in light of U.S. concessions Mexico will allow returns, expected to begin next week, “for humanitarian reasons and for temporary stays.”

. . . Migrants are expected to be returned starting Monday in one border city, which has not been identified. It will eventually be done in seven locations: San Diego and Calexico in California; Nogales, Arizona; and the Texas border cities of Brownsville, Eagle Pass, El Paso and Laredo.

Jen Psaki, circling around, called the policy “deeply flawed.”

*In a Washington Post op-ed, “It’s time to say it: The conservatives on the Supreme Court lied to us,” political columnist Paul Waldman speaks the truth.

Yes, I’m talking about the conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and the abortion rights those justices have now made clear they will eviscerate.

They weren’t just evasive, or vague, or deceptive. They lied. They lied to Congress and to the country, claiming they either had no opinions at all about abortion, or that their beliefs were simply irrelevant to how they would rule. They would be wise and pure, unsullied by crass policy preferences, offering impeccably objective readings of the Constitution.

It. Was. A. Lie.

We went through the same routine in the confirmation hearings of every one of those justices. When Democrats tried to get them to state plainly their views on Roe v. Wade, they took two approaches. Some tried to convince everyone that they would leave it untouched. Others, those already on record proclaiming opposition to abortion rights, suggested they had undergone a kind of intellectual factory reset enabling them to assess the question anew with an unspoiled mind, one concerned only with the law.

Unfortunately, that lie was and is still enabled by the news media. Even in the face of what we saw at the court on Wednesday — when at least five of the six conservatives made clear their intention to overturn Roe — press accounts continued offering euphemisms and weasel words, about “inconsistencies” or “contradictions.”

The sick part is that we knew they lied, but still hoped that they wouldn’t overturn Roe.  And I agree with Waldman’s conclusion:

From this day forward, no one should be naive enough to believe a word any conservative says on this subject, except for those few who forthrightly proclaim that the Supreme Court must read right-wing policy preferences into the Constitution. There was never any mystery about who these justices are and what they would do. There were only liars saying otherwise, and fools who chose to believe them.

*You may remember that Alex Baldwin accidentally killed the cinematographer and wounded the director of the low-budget western, “Rust” they were filming last October. Someone put a live round instead of a blank in the gun he was using. Nobody knows what happened yet, but Baldwin didn’t do himself any favors by saying that “the gun just went off”, and that he had neither cocked the antique Colt revolver nor pulled the trigger.  It’s very unlikely that Baldwin bears any responsibility for the killing, but it’s also very unlikely, say gun experts, that a Colt revolver would go off without being cocked or having the trigger pulled.

*Reader Ken wrote me this and sent a link:

Administrators at the University of Florida have told faculty that they cannot use  the words “critical race” in any course description, out of fear that the Florida legislature and governor Ron DeSantis are contemplating legislation banning critical race theory from any aspect of state government.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 786,270, an increase of 1,121 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,261,092, an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 4 includes:

The historic tavern still exists in Manhattan, at the corner of Pearl and Broad (below). A note from Wikipedia about what George said to his officers:

A week after British troops had evacuated New York on November 25, 1783, the tavern hosted an elaborate “turtle feast” dinner, on December 4, 1783, in the building’s Long Room for U.S. Gen. George Washington during which he bade farewell to his officers of the Continental Army by saying “[w]ith a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” After his farewell, he took each one of his officers by the hand for a personal word.

  • 1791 – The first edition of The Observer, the world’s first Sunday newspaper, is published.

Here’s the first Sunday newspaper in the world:

  • 1861 – The 109 Electors of the several states of the Confederate States of America unanimously elect Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander H. Stephens as Vice President.
  • 1881 – The first edition of the Los Angeles Times is published.

And the first edition of the L.A. Times:

  • 1909 – The Montreal Canadiens ice hockey club, the oldest surviving professional hockey franchise in the world, is founded as a charter member of the National Hockey Association.
  • 1918 – U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, becoming the first US president to travel to Europe while in office.
  • 1956 – The Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis PresleyJerry Lee LewisCarl Perkins, and Johnny Cash) get together at Sun Studio for the first and last time.

Here’s a live performance from that historic meeting, “Just a little talk with Jesus”. It clearly shows the gospel roots of early rock and roll. Can you recognize the voices?

Here’s the most famous part of free-speech leader Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall, Berkeley, December 2, 1964

Here are the original six members of the Black Panther party with the Wikipedia caption below:

Original six members of the Black Panther Party (1966) Top left to right: Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherwin Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman) Bottom: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton (Treasurer).
  • 1978 – Following the murder of Mayor George Moscone, Dianne Feinstein becomes San Francisco’s first female mayor.
  • 1991 – Pan American World Airways ceases its operations after 64 years.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1835 – Samuel Butler, English author and critic (d. 1902)
  • 1865 – Edith Cavell, English nurse, humanitarian, and saint (Anglicanism) (d. 1915)

Cavell was accused of treason for helping Allied soldiers escape from the Germans, and was shot by a German firing squad:

Delbrück,Hershey, and Luria, the Big Three of early molecular genetics, shared the prize in 1969 for genetic work on viruses:

Renoir was the grandson of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who painted “Girl Sleeping With Cat”, 1880:


  • 1940 – Gary Gilmore, American murderer (d. 1977)
  • 1944 – Chris Hillman, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1944 – Dennis Wilson, American singer-songwriter, producer, and drummer (d. 1983)
  • 1949 – Jeff Bridges, American actor
  • 1964 – Marisa Tomei, American actress

How can you not love Marisa Tomei? Here’s a scene from the movie that made her famous: and for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Those were judged at the Pearly Gates on December 4 include:

  • 1131 – Omar Khayyám, Persian poet, astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher (b. 1048)

Read the version of his poems arranged and translated by Edmund FitzGerald; it’s only $7.99 at Amazon or free online here. This was one of the books that changed my life.

My favorite verse:

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.

  • 1642 – Cardinal Richelieu, French cardinal and politician, Chief Minister to the French Monarch (b. 1585)
  • 1893 – John Tyndall, Irish-English physicist and chemist (b. 1820)
  • 1945 – Thomas Hunt Morgan, American geneticist and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1866)
  • 1967 – Bert Lahr, American actor (b. 1895)
  • 1975 – Hannah Arendt, German-American historian, theorist, and academic (b. 1906)
  • 1993 – Frank Zappa, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1940)

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention singing “Approximate” (1974):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili wants to come inside but is being ignored:

Hili: You are not paying me any attention.
A: I have to finish reading this article.
Hili: Everything is more important than me.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie zwracasz na mnie uwagi.
Ja: Muszę dokończyć czytanie tego artykułu.
Hili: Wszystko jest ważniejsze niż ja.

And a photo of Szaron by Andrzej:

From the Not Another Science Cat FB page:

From Mark Plotkin. Can you see the cat?

From Bruce:  I believe this is a real, unaltered photo, and I’ve seen it before with an explanation. I can’t find that now, but can you explain it?

A wrathful God—or is it the Godfather?

A tweet from Luana:

From Barry. This wins tweet of the month so far, but be sure the sound is up!:

This is happening in Chicago. Inclusive bathrooms! What can go wrong? And it starts with 6 years olds.

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew, who happens to be in Cambridge now:

This is amazing. How’d they get the head to look like it stuck out?

And some brain food:

Friday: Hili dialogue

December 3, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Friday, December 3, 2021: I hate to say this, but it’s National Peppermint Latte Day. This is in line with Coyne’s Fourth Dictum: All beverages save beer eventually revert to confections.

It’s also National Apple Pie Day (much better), National Green Bean Casserole Day (much worse), Faux Fur Friday, Bartender Appreciation Day, and International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 

News of the Day:

*The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been found in three states beyond California: Colorado, Minnesota  and New York, which itself reported five cases. It will soon be everywhere. Biden is considering measures like vaccine mandates for domestic flights, stricter regulations for travelers entering the U.S., and there’s more:

  • People will be required to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other transportation through March 18, according to senior Biden administration officials. The White House is also expected to confirm that all international travelers must take a coronavirus test one day before their flight to the United States.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, said the Biden administration is preparing for a possible “variant-specific boost” of vaccinations.
  • GlaxoSmithKline announced Thursday that early laboratory testing indicates that its antibody-based covid-19 therapy, developed with U.S. partner Vir Biotechnology, is likely to be effective against the omicron variant of the virus.

Get ready for that Omicron booster!

*In a discussion of abortion law, four NYT columnists—Ross Douthat, Charles Blow, Michele Goldberg, and Lulu Garcia-Navarro, give their predictions about how the Supreme Court will rule in the Mississippi abortion case. All of them agree that Roe will be overturned in spirit if not in letter, but of course they differ in whether this is a good result and what the consequences will be for both women and the Democratic Party.

Every news source I can find—on both Right and Left—said that the outcome of the case was almost assured given what the Justices said during oral arguments. We’re about to enter another tumultuous time given that at least 24 states will outlaw abortion or make it very difficult to get if Roe were overturned. I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby (as Mississippi does) if that fetus was the result of rape or incest. What kind of human could decree that?

*As for a good critical op-ed on the topic, read Linda Greenhouse’s “The Supreme Court gaslights its way to the end of Roe.” (Greenhouse covers the Supreme Court for the NYT.) She covers not only the history of the earlier decision, but shows how appalled she is at what’s going on now. Amy Coney Barrett comes in for special criticism:

Justice Barrett’s performance during Wednesday’s argument was beyond head-spinning. Addressing both Ms. Rikelman and Elizabeth Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general who argued for the United States on behalf of the Mississippi clinic, Justice Barrett asked about “safe haven” laws that permit women to drop off their unwanted newborn babies at police stations or fire houses; the mothers’ parental rights are then terminated without further legal consequences. If the problem with “forced motherhood” was that it would “hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities,” Justice Barrett asked, “why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

She continued: “It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden.”

I’ll pass over the startling notion that being required to accept a vaccine is equivalent to being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Gaslighting” doesn’t adequately describe the essence of what Justice Barrett was suggesting: that the right to abortion really isn’t necessary because any woman who doesn’t want to be a mother can just hand her full-term baby over to the nearest police officer and be done with the whole business. As Justice Barrett, of all people, surely understands, such a woman will forever be exactly what she didn’t want to be: a mother, albeit one stripped of her ability to make a different choice.

*There are signs of big trouble brewing in Ukraine, though I hope this is just a threat. 90,000 Russian troops have massed on the Russia/Ukraine border, leading the West to worry that, as they did before, Russia has designs on the country (they took Crimea in the last invasion). Russia has taken pre-combat actions, like putting cages on tank tops to deflect antitank missiles (below). The Russians have also escalated their rhetoric.

The stark warning by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Wednesday that Russia has made plans for a “large-scale” attack is backed up by open source analysis – and western intelligence assessments. “There is enough substance to this,” one insider added.

President Joe Biden is said to have been concerned for weeks, but efforts to cool the temperature – including Thursday’s summit between Blinken and his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov – have failed, suggesting Russia wants the crisis to continue.

. . . It is easy to argue that recent developments are designed by Russia to test the west and the US’s resolve, particularly as a new left-leaning German government is poised to take over. However, western diplomats emphasise that Ukraine is not a member of Nato and that therefore there is no obligation to defend the country if attacked.

This means that Russia has carte blanche to invade (nobody has the stomach for a war with Russia), and the only response would be words and sanctions.

The Russians look as if they’re preparing for battle:

*The NYT’s “Ethicist” takes up the question of whether religious exemptions from Covid vaccines can be justified. (I have previously said “no” because they compromise the health of society.) I disagree with his first paragraph below, but agree in general that exemptions should not be granted without good reason:

It matters, too, whether religious claims against the state or an employer are backed by a community of faith. (No major religious group has asked members to abstain from vaccination, though individual congregations may go their own way.) That’s relevant in two respects. First, we have some reason to try to accommodate a community of faith precisely because it is a community; and second, such membership increases our confidence that the profession is sincere. When conscientious objectors are asked to establish their bona fides, the fact that they belong to a tradition with pacifist commitments — such as Quakerism — may be taken as a useful proxy.

Our assessments of faith-based claims will be imperfect, no doubt. But allowing people to assert a religious exemption with no questions asked is an obvious invitation to abuse. Some people seem to think that merely uttering the words “religious exemption” obliges us to let them do whatever they want. That way chaos lies.

Nope, I don’t care whether there is a community of, say, Christians whose faith mandates no vaccinations. Their status as unvaccinated puts the rest of us at risk. And I don’t care about their sincerity; sincerity puts us at just as much risk as lying since both results in unvaccinated people. The only excuse for exemption, in my view, is preexisting medical conditions that make immunization dangerous. Period.

*Doesn’t the NYT have better things to do that kvetch about how cute cats are used to push right-wing dogma? I guess not, so you can read “Those cute cats online? They can help spread misinformation,” by technology reporter Davey Alba (h/t j. j.)

The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.

. . . The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.

Oh for chrissake. Here’s a helpful picture that accompanies the article (the red line is from the NYT):

*Gravelinspector sent a “Scotland picture of the week” from the BBC: a quizzical mallard

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 784,163, an increase of 1,021 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,253,114, an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 3 includes:

This was a mess, but you know who won. Jefferson took the victory on the 36th ballot.

  • 1818 – Illinois becomes the 21st U.S. state.
  • 1910 – Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show.
  • 1960 – The musical Camelot debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It will become associated with the Kennedy administration.

A great musical, though I heard the late Stephen Sondheim diss it as as one of those “mindless musicals with memorable tunes” in an old NPR interview yesterday. Sondheim said he preferred to write other kinds of musicals that conveyed emotionality.  That’s the first time I heard him wax arrogant.

Voilà: from the original cast of Camelot: “I loved you once in silence” with Julie Andrews playing Guinevere, talking about the illicit love between her and Lancelot (Robert Goulet).

WHO’S a bad boy?
  • 1992 – A test engineer for Sema Group uses a personal computer to send the world’s first text message via the Vodafone network to the phone of a colleague.

Notables born on this day include:

Stuart’s most famous work is this unfinished painting of George Washington, painted from life in 1796. This is the George you’ll see mirror-imaged on the American one-dollar bill.

Finlay discovered that a mosquito of the genus Aedes was the vector of yellow fever, and that led to the conquest of the disease, which in turn allowed the Panama Canal to be built with not too much mortality.

Conrad’s native language was Polish but his famous works are in English—and what fantastic English he wrote! Photo below, ca. 1919:

  • 1895 – Anna Freud, Austrian-English psychologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1982)

She was Freud’s sixth child and herself became a psychoanalyst. Here she is with dad in 1913:


  • 1927 – Andy Williams, American singer (d. 2012)
  • 1960 – Daryl Hannah, American actress and producer
  • 1960 – Julianne Moore, American actress and author

Wikipedia notes, “Moore is an atheist; when asked on Inside the Actors Studio what God might say to her upon arrival in heaven, she gave God’s response as, “Well, I guess you were wrong, I do exist.”

She was in a vegetative state for 15 years before the courts finally allowed her feeding tube to be removed.

Here’s Witt in the long program in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. She finished second in this program, ultimately nabbing the gold medal for East Germany:

  • 1985 – Amanda Seyfried, American actress

Those who no longer needed to floss on December 3 include:

  • 311 – Diocletian, Roman emperor (b. 244)
  • 1888 – Carl Zeiss, German physicist and lens maker, created the optical instrument (b. 1816)

Here’s one of Zeiss’s beautiful microscopes (1879); the name “Zeiss” still stands for quality optics:

Stevenson died at 44 on Samoa. Here he is with his family on that island about 1892:

by J. Davis,photograph,circa 1891

Here’s Mosley, wannabe Nazi, speaking in Manchester with his blackshirts. Note the Nazi salute.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sleeping in the firewood basket, and of course has to kvetch:

A: Hili:, this basket is dirty.
Hili: And it’s your fault.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, ten koszyk jest brudny.
Hili: I to jest twoja wina.

And a photo of Kulka by Andrzej:

From Marie, a duck greeting card. Awesome! I ordered ten.

From Bruce:

From Athayde. OY!

Foxes and Fossils are releasing one Chrismas song each week for the next four weeks. Here’s the first, with Sammi singing:

A tweet from God. I don’t think this plan will fly, but, you know, he is omnipotent.

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, one of many displays in the Museum (including huge collections of dolls, shaving brushes, and an entire roomful of human hair shaved from women about to be gassed. It was used to fill mattresses. Here’s a display of the cans of cyanide granules used to gas the “selected”:

Tweets from Matthew. I wonder if telescopes could show you something older than this meteorite.

An excellent thread. Did the Omicron variant come from another species?

I wonder if the mother can feel it . . . .

They should do this with ducks:

Thursday: Hili dialogue

December 2, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Thursday, December 2, 2021: National Fritter Day. Corn fritters are, I think, the best example of this genre, preferably with a bit of syrup:

It’s also Business of Popping Corn Day (celebrating the opening of the first company selling commercial popcorn machines in 1885), National Mutt Day, Safety Razor Day, Play Basketball Day, and the UN holiday International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.  (See here for “modern” forms of slavery.)

Today’s Google Doodle is a clever gif that celebrates the birthday in 1859 of pointillist Georges Seurat (click on screenshot):

News of the Day:

*Well, the verbal arguments in the Mississippi abortion case were heard yesterday, and, based on the Justices’ question,s things don’t look good for Roe. v. Wade

The court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.

He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.

Roberts, who I expected would be more open to upholding a 50-year-old precedent, appears ready to join the other 5 conservative justices in rendering Roe inapplicable in one way or another. My prediction, which you needn’t be a savant to offer, is a 6-3 vote in favor of dismantling the precedent. To the new Court, “stare decisis” translates as “throw the bums out.”

*In a related op-ed by the editors of the Washington Post, “Gutting ‘Roe’ would devastate millions of Americans—and the court itself,” the group argues that we’re neglecting the effect of overturning Roe on the court’s credibility:

The court’s authority derives not from its ability to enforce its declarations — it lacks any such power — but from the fact that Americans respect its decisions. Those decisions must reflect something greater than mere whim or raw political power in the Senate. The court should overturn precedent only in exceptional circumstances. The justices must exercise particular care in the case of Roe, because the court previously reviewed and reaffirmed it in Casey, reinforcing its status as the law of the land. In such a circumstance, the court should reverse only decisions that have proved, with the wisdom of hindsight, to be wildly bad. That is not the case with Roe or Casey.

They’re right, of course, as most Americans favor the Roe stipulation of freely chosen abortion—at least up to 24 weeks. But what happens if the court overturns that decision, as it most likely will? The court will continue on as the highest arbiter of the law, no matter how the public feels. So what if its credibility is diminished?  And abortion will probably be banned or restricted in nearly half of the American states.

*Adhering to principle rather than income, the Women’s Tennis Association, in light of the near-disappearance of star player Peng Shuai after she accused a high Chinese government official of sexual assault, decided to abandon any future women’s matches in China. The WTA isn’t satisfied that Shuai is “safe” despite what seem to be hokey videos made to dupe the public.

Though the decision could cost women’s tennis hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue, WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said he would willingly cut off one of the sport’s largest business partners until Ms. Peng’s status was clarified.

Other sports organizations, such as the National Basketball Association and soccer’s English Premier League, have previously found themselves in conflict with China over various matters. But the WTA’s move to suspend the nine tournaments it has scheduled there for next year appears to be unprecedented in global sports.

Good on them!

*The CBC has produced a list of words “you may not want to use” (i.e. DO NOT USE). They include words whose etymology, like “black sheep,” has nothing to do with racism (anything with the word “black” in it is now taboo.) The National Post (of course) takes the mickey out of this speech-policing.  (h/t Leslie)

*Lia Thomas, a woman swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, turned in a record-breaking performance in a meet against Cornell and Princeton.

[Thomas] blasted the number one 200 free time and the second-fastest 500 free time in the nation on Saturday, breaking Penn program records in both events. She swept the 100-200-500 free individual events and contributed to the first-place 400 free relay in a tri-meet against Princeton and Cornell in her home pool.

Thomas is a transgender woman, who competed as a man for three years before switching to the woman’s team. (h/t Luana)

More on transgender athletes later today (if I’m not too tired to post).

*Scientists have found a fossil dinosaur in Chile which is really weird, with a weapon heretofore unknown: a horizontal slashing tail equipped with spikes. (Matthew is guaranteed to love this one.):

Fossils found in Chile are from a strange-looking dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported Wednesday.

Some dinosaurs had spiked tails they could use as stabbing weapons and others had tails with clubs. The new species, described in a study in the journal Nature, has something never seen before on any animal: seven pairs of “blades” laid out sideways like a slicing weapon used by ancient Aztec warriors, said lead author Alex Vargas.

“It’s a really unusual weapon,” said Vargas, a University of Chile paleontologist. “Books on prehistoric animals for kids need to update and put this weird tail in there. … It just looks crazy.”

The plant-eating critter had a combination of traits from different species that initially sent paleontologists down the wrong path. The back end, including its tail weapon, seemed similar to a stegosaurus, so the researchers named it stegouros elengassen.

After Vargas and his team examined the pieces of skull and did five different DNA analyses, they concluded it was only distantly related to the stegosaurus.

A reconstruction on the AP website (their caption):

This illustration provided by Mauricio Alvarez shows a Stegouros. Fossils found in Chile are from the bizarre dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Mauricio Alvarez via AP)

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 782,826, an increase of 847 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,245,169,  an increase of about 8,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 2 includes:

In the “new” Cathedral is a plaque honoring Wren (below). It’s very moving, and the translation says, in the second and third line from the bottom,  “Reader, if you seek his memorial, look around you.”  I could say the same thing about my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin.

Here’s the synagogue, which is still used for worship by Ashkenazi Jews:

Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island

Here’s Brown in the year he was hanged:

  • 1865 – Alabama ratifies the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, followed by North Carolina, then Georgia; U.S. slaves were legally free within two weeks.
  • 1867 – At Tremont Temple in Boston, British author Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States.

Dickens writing in 1858:

Here’s the Model T; after 1914, all of them were painted black. It’s regarded as America’s first affordable car. At one time half of all the cars in America were Model Ts:

And the spiffier Model A, which came in many styes and prices:

Here’s a drawing of the reactor, which stood just a block or so from where I’m writing: under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. The site is now occupied by a Henry Moore sculpture depicting “Nuclear Energy”, and looking vaguely bomblike. In the summer it’s inundated with, ironically, Japanese tourists.

The sculpture:

  • 1949 – Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others is adopted.
  • 1954 – Cold War: The United States Senate votes 65 to 22 to censure Joseph McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute”.
  • 1956 – The Granma reaches the shores of Cuba‘s Oriente ProvinceFidel CastroChe Guevara and 80 other members of the 26th of July Movement disembark to initiate the Cuban Revolution.

Here’s that fabled boat:

Clark lived 112 days tethered to the power source, but asked several times to be allowed to die.

She was also a secularist, though she wore a hijab. Here she is:

Here’s his body with the Colombian special police who killed him. The search for Escobar lasted months and cost millions. His legacy is a bunch of undocumented “cocaine hippos” that he imported for his personal zoo, and are now breeding in the rivers and lakes of Colombia.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1859 – Georges Seurat, French painter (d. 1891)
  • 1923 – Maria Callas, American-Greek soprano and actress (d. 1977)

La Callas singing Puccini’s “Vissi d’Arte” at Covent Garden in 1964:

  • 1930 – Gary Becker, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2014)
  • 1968 – Lucy Liu, American actress and producer
  • 1973 – Monica Seles, Serbian-American tennis player

Seles introduced the GRUNT into women’s tennis, an affectation I despise. Here she is grunting away:

  • 1981 – Britney Spears, American singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress
  • 1983 – Aaron Rodgers, American football player

Those who took The Big Nap on December 2 include:

  • 1547 – Hernán Cortés, Spanish general and explorer (b. 1485)
  • 1594 – Gerardus Mercator, Flemish mathematician, cartographer, and philosopher (b. 1512)
  • 1814 – Marquis de Sade, French philosopher, author, and politician (b. 1740)
  • 1859 – John Brown, American abolitionist (b. 1800)
  • 1986 – Desi Arnaz, Cuban-American actor, singer, businessman, and television producer (b. 1917)

His real name was Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, and he never actually said, “Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do.” He said this:

Perhaps the most infamous and viciously debated line on the internet, this oft-quoted and memed Ricky Ricardo line is more of a paraphrase, as he never says this exactly. He said things like, “Lucy, ‘splain,” or “‘Splain that if you can,” which evolved into this misquote.

  • 1990 – Aaron Copland, American composer and conductor (b. 1900)
  • 1993 – Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord (b. 1949)
  • 1999 – Charlie Byrd, American guitarist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is outraged that Kulka has taken her favorite spot. Look at Hili’s expression!

Hili: She is sitting in my favorite place!
A: I understand your hurt.
In Polish:
Hili: Ona siedzi na moim ulubionym miejscu!
Ja: Rozumiem twoją krzywdę.

From Ginger K., who says, “One of my Jewish friends who is a pharmacist sent me this pic. She says she did not create the menorah.”

From Bruce:

From Nicole:

A tweet from Simon that he calls, “Two gay men explore botany.” (He worries that this may pollute our family-oriented website.) Be sure to watch the video to appreciate the cleverness of natural selection.

An Instagram post via Amy:

From Cate:

From Ginger K.: Live and learn:

Tweets from Matthew. First, the perfect Xmas gift:

Tooth-achingly cute:

It looks as if nobody got to England, New Guinea, or Madagascar:

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

December 1, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the first day of the month and een bultdag, Wednesday, December 1, 2021: National Fried Pie Day, a delicious Southern treat. (My favorite is peach.) It’s also these food months:

National Pear Month
National Egg Nog Month
National Fruit Cake Month

Ignore the egg nog and fruitcake Here’s a fried peach pie. Admit it: if one were put in front of you, you’d eat it!

We can dispense with the last two. It’s also Eat a Red Apple Day (I prefer tart Granny Smiths), Wear a Dress Day, National Christmas Lights Day, World AIDS Day, and Rosa Parks Day, celebrated in Oregon and Ohio on December 1, the day she was arrested in 1955 for refusing to sit in the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That was a major impetus for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which itself helped spur the Civil Rights Movement.  Here’s her mugshot after her arrest for refusing to “know her place”:

News of the Day:

*Omicron first: The variant hasn’t yet been detected in the U.S., but experts say it’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, Biden is preparing to impose very strict requirements for travelers entering the U.S., including covid-negative U.S. travelers:

As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden plans to announce on Thursday, U.S. officials will require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

*More cause for concern about the new strain: The CEO of Moderna has pronounced that the existing Covid-19 vaccines are likely to be less effective against the Omicron variant than against other variants.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good.'”

I’m an ex-scientist who agrees. Be prepared for a quick rollout of a new mRNA vaccine, and then, of course, a new mutant strain may arise. Financial markets took this into account by dropping substantially.

*Dr Mehmet Oz, the television doctor who dispenses large dollops of quackery with his “advice”, has announced that he’s running for the Senate from Pennsylvania. Guess which party he’s representing? (h/t John).

*There’s a spate of abortion op-eds today, for this is the day the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the Mississippi anti-abortion law, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the state banned all abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. (Endangering the mother’s life, thank Ceiling Cat, is grounds for exemption.) The Court won’t decide today, but it won’t be all that long, and I’m betting that while Roe may not be overturned, it will be gutted. This is just one of Trump’s odious legacies.  So here are three op-eds:

*A NYT guest essay by Harvard Law professor Charles Fried explains the title: “I once urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. I’ve changed my mind.” Yes, it’s a clickbait title, but what are his arguments? Well, one was that there was no constitutional basis for allowing abortion:

Abortion implicates not only those liberties of the pregnant woman but also, in the opinion of some, the life of another person, the fetus. Although personally agnostic on that issue, I did not see how the Constitution provides a principled basis for answering the question. That Roe was a poorly reasoned extrapolation from Poe and the later Griswold case, which overturned the Connecticut law, was a position taken by many constitutional scholars, including John Hart Ely, Paul Freund and Archibald Cox. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly predicted in a later talk at New York University, it was a leap that would shadow the law for decades to come. Perhaps better to have left it to legislation and the development of public opinion.

Sadly, we’ve learned that the states and public opinion are at odds on this one, with the public being far more pro-choice. But why the change of mind?:

. . . the law had changed since 1989. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in 1992, a joint opinion of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter reaffirmed the central holding of Roe and put it on a firmer constitutional basis: the dignity and autonomy of the pregnant woman and the equal rights of women more generally.

Since that time, Casey had been cited and used as a basis of constitutional reasoning in many decisions in many areas of the law, including gay rights and the parental rights of a surviving parent. The decision has not only taken root; it has flourished and ramified.

To overturn Roe now would be an act of constitutional vandalism — not conservative, but reactionary.

Well, I agree with his stand, but I think he’s grasping for legal reasons to keep Roe in place. While the Constitution allows equal legal rights for women, it ays nothing about “the dignity and autonomy of the pregnant woman.”

*There’s an opposing opinion right next door: Ross Douthat’s “The case against abortion.” His argument is nothing new:

At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.

There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing. At a less advanced stage of scientific understanding, it was possible to believe that the embryo or fetus was somehow inert or vegetative until so-called quickening, months into pregnancy. But we now know the embryo is not merely a cell with potential, like a sperm or ovum, or a constituent part of human tissue, like a skin cell. Rather, a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception, and every stage of your biological life, from infancy and childhood to middle age and beyond, is part of a single continuous process that began when you were just a zygote.

Yes, abortion kills a zygote, but a zygote is not a human being, much less a sentient human being—any more than an acorn is an oak tree. We divide up continuous processes on moral grounds all the time: for instance, we don’t allow five-year-olds to drink, and many states have an age limit for charging people with “statutory rape,” even if the sex was consensual. Does Douthat’s Catholicism have anything to do with his opinion? Surely.

*For a personal view of a heartbreaking case, read the NYT op-ed by Michele Goodwin, a law professor at UC Irvine, called “I was raped by my father. An abortion saved my life.” Raped at 10 and pregnant at 12 by her father, her life and sanity would have been ruined under either the Texas or Mississippi laws (this is a case of both rape and incest). Note that she specifically criticizes abortion bans that don’t exempt rape or incest, and avoids the more general problem of abortions lacking those features.

*An academic hoax paper has surfaced which has gained traction because it confirms the fears of the Left. (h/t: Luana)

Higher Education Quarterly (a Wiley publication) which is just out with a howler entitled “Donor money and the academy: Perceptions of undue donor pressure in political science, economics, and philosophy.”

The study purports to demonstrate that “right wing” money is having a significant effect in pushing colleges to the right.

The first sign this is a hoax is that the article says the two authors, Sage Owens and Kal Avers-Lynde III, are on the economics faculty at UCLA, but I can find no record of their existence at UCLA or anywhere else, and no record of other publications by either author. I believe they do not exist. My suspicion is that the “authors” may be conservatives, or at least anti-leftists, who decided to see whether an article that flatters the deep biases of academia could get past peer review and into print.

There’s a lot more.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 780,843, an increase of 893 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,236,948, 5,227,821,  an increase of about 9,100 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 1 includes:

John Quincy Adams was voted into the Presidency by Congress—the only President who won without a majority of both the electoral college vote and the popular vote.

Here’s the original document that freed the slaves, though of course it had no effect:

  • 1918 – Iceland becomes a sovereign state, yet remains a part of the Danish kingdom.

As of 1944, Iceland is a completely free and independent state.

  • 1934 – In the Soviet Union, Politburo member Sergey Kirov is assassinated. Stalin uses the incident as a pretext to initiate the Great Purge.
  • 1941 – World War II: Emperor Hirohito of Japan gives the final approval to initiate war against the United States.

Here’s the Emperor and his family photographed on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941. Curiously, he was never indicted for war crimes; in fact, the U.S. protected him from such an indictment, and he continued to be emperor. His only “punishment” was that he had to renounce that he was an incarnated divinity.

Unable to marry a man because her birth certificate listed Jorgenson as a male, she became a trans activist as well as an actress, and gained enormous publicity. She went the whole nine yards, getting both hormone reassignment and her male bits removed. I still remember her from my early childhood. She was courageous in her outspokenness. Her photo:

See above.

  • 1988 – World AIDS Day is proclaimed worldwide by the UN member states.
  • 1990 – Channel Tunnel sections started from the United Kingdom and France meet beneath the seabed.

Here’s a 7-minute video of the Tunnel joining (click on “Watch on YouTube”):

  • 2000 – Vicente Fox Quesada is inaugurated as the president of Mexico, marking the first peaceful transfer of executive federal power to an opposing political party following a free and democratic election in Mexico’s history.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1761 – Marie Tussaud, French-English sculptor, founded Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (d. 1850)[19]
  • 1847 – Julia A. Moore, American poet (d. 1920)

Moore, known as “The Sweet Singer of Michigan”, is famous for writing really, really bad poetry—poetry so bad that it’s hilarious. She specialized in laments for the death of children (see a bunch of poems here). Here’s her photo; she’s the American equivalent of William McGonagall. (Don’t miss her poem “Little Libbie“, which contains these imortal lines:

While eating dinner, this dear little child
Was choked on a piece of beef.
Doctors came, tried their skill awhile,
But none could give relief.

She was ten years of age, I am told,
And in school stood very high.
Her little form now the earth enfolds,
In her embrace it must ever lie.

Her friends and schoolmates will not forget
Little Libbie that is no more;
She is waiting on the shining step,
To welcome home friends once more.


  • 1913 – Mary Martin, American actress and singer (d. 1990)
  • 1933 – Lou Rawls, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor (d. 2006)
  • 1935 – Woody Allen, American actor, director, and screenwriter
  • 1939 – Lee Trevino, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1945 – Bette Midler, American singer-songwriter, actress and producer

I love Bette. Here she is singing her well known song “Friends” with Barry Manilow, who helped her get her start. At the beginning of her career, they’d play together in gay bathhouses in New York City; he later produced her first album.

  • 1949 – Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist (d. 1993)

Here he is in a 1976 mugshot:

The Divine Sarah is 51 today and I’m always available for wedlock. Here she is talking to Jimmy Kimmel, with whom she had an earlier relationship:

Those who went “home” on December 1 include:

Everest was the Surveyor General of India, but had no connection with the mountain that bears his name: the world’s highest.  Here he is:

  • 1947 – Aleister Crowley, English magician, poet, and mountaineer (b. 1875)
  • 1947 – G. H. Hardy, English mathematician and theorist (b. 1877)
  • 1964 – J. B. S. Haldane, English-Indian geneticist and biologist (b. 1892)

“J. B. S.” as he was known, moved to India for the last seven year of his life. He adopted Indian dress; he’s seated on the left below:

  • 1973 – David Ben-Gurion, Israeli politician, 1st Prime Minister of Israel (b. 1886)
  • 1987 – James Baldwin, American novelist, poet, and critic (b. 1924).

You can buy a first edition and first printing of his great novel “Native Son,” for a mere $130:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili and Szaron are napping together (or rather, it looks as if they’re napping

Hili: Are you asleep?
Szaron: No, I’m just giving that impression.
In Polish:
Hili: Śpisz?
Szaron: Nie, tylko robię takie wrażenie.

From Divy:

From Athayde (click to enlarge):

From Bruce:

James Carville on Republican dumbasses like Lauren Boebert:

What happened to Lara Logan, who reported for “60 Minutes” for so many years? She went to Fox News and now is a complete whack job. Josef Mengele???

And a response to Logan from the Auschwitz Museum:

From Steve: Dawkins pulls no punches!

From Luana: A reponse to Dawkins. Oy!

From Ginger K:

Tweets from Matthew. Now here’s a cat who is not shy about making its needs known. That is, it’s a CAT:

WHO’S a bad cat? Raheem is!

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

November 30, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the cruelest day of the week and the last day of the month, Tuesday, November 30, 2021: National Mousse Day (for Hili it’s National Mouse Day).

It’s also National Mason Jar Day, Giving Tuesday (the woman who cleans my office, Carolyn, gave me some deep-fried turkey!), National Personal Space Day, and National Methamphetamine Awareness Day (I’m watching “Breaking Bad” these days and the day is appropriate). 

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates the life and work of Lofti A. Zadeh (1921-2017, who was neither born nor died on this day), described by Wikipedia as:

. .  a mathematician, computer scientist, electrical engineer, artificial intelligence researcher, and professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Zadeh was best known for proposing fuzzy mathematics, consisting of these fuzzy-related concepts: fuzzy sets, fuzzy logic, fuzzy algorithms, fuzzy semantics, fuzzy languages, fuzzy control, fuzzy systems, fuzzy probabilities, fuzzy events, and fuzzy information.

The guy was into fuzz. (These fields are above my pay grade.)

Wine of the Day:  You can’t get a better white than this for the price: a paltry $7.99. It’s a Spanish white—a Rueda—one of the great areas to find tasty bargains. Made of Verdejo grapes by the Gil Family estates, it is slightly off-dry, with a nose and flavor of fruit and flowers: most notably cantaloupe and honeysuckle. I had it with fettuccine Alfredo, and the slight sweetness complemented the salty, cheesy pasta very well.  This is a wine to buy by the case. I bought six bottles, and may go back for more. Very highly recommended, especially given the price. Looking for a white? Ask about Rueda and Albariño.


News of the Day:

*What’s new with Omicron? The WHO declared yesterday that the risk from the new variant is “very high”, though I’m not sure whether they mean the risk of spread or the risk of death. It’s clear that the variant spreads quickly: it’s everywhere (not yet identified in the US, but it has been in Canada):

Scotland, Portugal and Spain identified new cases of the highly mutated variant with officials in eastern Germany reporting an Omicron infection in a 39-year-old infected man had not been to South Africa or anywhere outside of Germany.

It’ll be two weeks or so until we know more about how spreadable and how dangerous it is. I don’t know if the world can take another big lockdown. Right now countries thoughout the world are banning travel coming from the outside. Moderna and Pfizer are getting ready to revise their vaccines, so get ready for another jab.

Here’s a NYT map about where in Europe the virus is surging most strongly (see the key below). The bad bits are the UK, Greece, the Low Countries, and much of Eastern Europe. Southern Spain, Sweden, Finland, and parts of Italy aren’t doing too badly.

*Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, contesting the big Mississippi anti-abortion law that bans nearly all abortions 15 weeks after a woman has had her last period. (That means that 11-week-old fetuses couldn’t be aborted, which is permitted by Roe v. Wade.) A Washington Post editorial, “The Supreme Court is about to prove just how political it is,” Paul Waldman lays out the outcomes:

  1. The court, citing stare decisis, or respect for precedent, strikes down the Mississippi law as a clear conflict with Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two cases that established that states cannot place an undue burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion before fetal viability, which generally occurs around 24 weeks.
  2. The court strikes down Roe, allowing states to outlaw abortion.
  3. The court says it is not overturning Roe, but opens the door to abortion restrictions so broad that states can effectively ban the procedure.

If you listen to the expert commentary around the Supreme Court — and, granted, no one really knows for sure — the third option seems like the most likely. If that’s where the court goes, it will prove that all the protestations about how little the justices think about politics are false.

I think Waldman’s right about #3, but it seems complicated, with abortions being Constitutional still outlawed by states. It reminds me of marijuana, whose usage and sale are banned by the federal government but allowed by many states.  Maybe some lawyers can enlighten us.

*If ever there were futile talks in which one country dupes the rest, it’s the Iranian nuclear talks that have just resumed in Vienna after a five-month hiatus. Besides Iran, there are representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK, with “US representatives participating indirectly” (whatever that means). As you know, Trump pulled out of the agreement and imposed sanctions on Iran, and Iran’s been breaking its agreement with everybody else since then. Iran is demanding an apology from the U.S. the lifting of sanctions, and a promise that we won’t withdraw again.  As the BBC notes, we are being invertebrates:

Mr Biden’s special envoy, Robert Malley, has said the US is prepared to take all of the steps necessary to come back into compliance, including lifting the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

But he has also said the window for negotiations will not be open forever.

“If Iran thinks it can use this time to build more leverage and then come back and say they want something better it simply won’t work. We and our partners won’t go for it,” he told the BBC on Saturday.

Please give me a break: all we’re doing here is buying time until Iran gets its bomb, something that everybody knows will happen. What’s the point of talking? The futility becomes more evident when you hear this:

The spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, on Saturday urged the total elimination of the Jewish state during an interview with an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet.
“We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world,” Shekarchi told the Iranian Students News Agency.

I’ll add Malgorzata’s comment when she read the general’s statement:

If Iran talked this way about any other country it would become a pariah of the world, condemned, boycotted and sanctioned. But because they want to annihilate only the Jewish state, both the US and EU are more than eager to talk to them about uranium enrichment, to trade with them, and to have “normal” relationship with them.

Is it any wonder that Israel is trying hard to stop the Iranian program? Iran is sworn to destroy Israel, and could do so easily with a few nuclear weapons.

*Just as a male mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) appeared in a Central Park pond a couple of years ago, and was named Mandarin Patinkin, now another has shown up in Philadelphia. My sources on the ground have told me that the birders are packing Pennypack Park to see this gorgeous duck (they aren’t native to the US, so it must be an escapee). It seems to have taken up with a female wood duck (Aix sponsa), which are fairly closely related, and may be able to hybridize. But I’m not sure that this is a female woodie, as they look pretty much like female mandarins. A pair might have escaped.

The male duck in Philly. Isn’t it spectacular?

Photo by Mike Ricciuti

A female Mandarin duck:

A female wood duck:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 779,293, an increase of 884 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,227,821,  an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 30 includes:

  • 1782 – American Revolutionary WarTreaty of Paris: In Paris, representatives from the United States and Great Britain sign preliminary peace articles (later formalized as the 1783 Treaty of Paris).

The Last page of the Treaty, which ended the Revolutionary war. Note Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay:

  • 1803 – The Balmis Expedition starts in Spain with the aim of vaccinating millions against smallpox in Spanish America and Philippines.

This was an expedition from Spain to the Americas, carrying boys with cowpox to serve as virus reservoirs. It was an expedition of conquest, but conquest of the deadly virus. The Spanish vaccinated millions of people in the area below:

  • 1803 – In New Orleans, Spanish representatives officially transfer the Louisiana Territory to an official from the French First Republic. Just 20 days later, France transfers the same land to the United States as the Louisiana Purchase.

Here’s the first page of that purchase, which cost the U.S. 60¢ per acre:

It was a tie: 0-0:

What a shame that this beautiful structure isn’t here any longer. Here are the before and after photos:

  • 1947 – Civil War in Mandatory Palestine begins, leading up to the creation of the state of Israel.
  • 1954 – In Sylacauga, Alabama, United States, the Hodges meteorite crashes through a roof and hits a woman taking an afternoon nap; this is the only documented case in the Western Hemisphere of a human being hit by a rock from space.

The hole in the ceiling through which the projectile entered. And poor Ann Hodges shows her huge bruise:

Still the only person known to be hit by a meteorite:

Can you guess #2-5? I bet you can’t, but go here to see them.

  • 1995 – Official end of Operation Desert Storm.
  • 2001 – Gary Ridgway is apprehended and charged with four murders. He was eventually convicted of a total of 49 murders.

Ridgeway killed about 70 people, and you don’t want to know the details. He’s in prison for life in the Washington State Penitentiary. Here’s a mug shot from 1982.

Notables born on this day include:

Those whose eyes closed forever on November 30 include:

Here’s Wilde’s cell in Reading Gaol, where he served two years at hard labor for sodomy:

  • 1954 – Wilhelm Furtwängler, German conductor and composer (b. 1886)
  • 1979 – Zeppo Marx, American actor and comedian (b. 1901)

Zeppo’s on the right, and there’s no Gummo. He later quit the act and became an engineer and a theatrical agent:

  • 1996 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (b. 1932)
  • 1999 – Charlie Byrd, American guitarist (b. 1925)

Here’s Byrd playing “The Jitterbug Waltz”:

  • 2017 – Jim Nabors, American actor and comedian (b. 1930)
  • 2018 – George H. W. Bush, American politician, 41st President of the United States (b. 1924)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili regards a salad with disdain (Szaron was on the table, too, but wasn’t photographed):

Hili: This is not healthy.
A; This is very healthy.
Hili: This is not healthy for cats.
In Polish:
Hili: To nie jest zdrowe.
Ja: Bardzo zdrowe.
Hili: To nie jest zdrowe dla kotów.

From Facebook. Each Japanese child presses the area for getting get one of six desired greetings. It’s adorable!

From Jean, a New Yorker cartoon. Sadly, I am not allowed to nap.

Also from Facebook:

A tweet from Yahweh Himself, who describes his pronouns as “Thee/thou/thine”

I found this one in a thread Matthew sent, and it gets the Tweet of the Week award:

From Barry: This is the craziest cat I’ve ever seen, but wouldn’t you like a cat who did this?

From Dom. Seriously, this can’t be what it looks like: a big fat Trumpian distortion:

From Ginger K., who says “this woman may seriously be psychotic”. Maybe a kindly reader could verify this Robin DiAngelo quote:

Tweets from Matthew. This isn’t too bad if you like squid ice cream.

Matthew sent one from the Auschwitz Memorial:

Read the whole thread to see this adorable bear family. There’s a brief event of seeming tragedy, but everything turns out all right in the end.

Sound up to hear the cubs crying!

Monday: Hili dialogue

November 29, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to the week that enters December, Monday, November 29, 2021: National Chocolate Day.

It’s also National Lemon Creme Pie Day (n.b. do not use “creme”, which may be a petroleum byproduct; use whipping cream and condensed milk as the recipes specify!), Throw Out Your Leftovers Day, Cyber Monday (the biggest online shopping day of the year), and the first day of Hanukkah, (sadly, it doesn’t coincide with this year’s Coynezaa holiday, which extends from December 25 through 30). In honor of the Jewish holiday, here’s Adam Sandler on SNL singing the Hanukkah song:

News of the Day:

*About the omicron variant. We still know jack about it aside from its DNA sequence. Companies are already devising vaccines and researchers are working on its virulence and its transmissibility. Travel restrictions on flights from several African countries begin tomorrow, and we do know that the Biden administration is consider yet more boosters as the best way to confront the mutant strain.

*The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the right-hand woman of Jeffrey Epstein, begin tomorrow in New York City. As NBC News reports, don’t expect a lot of skinny about men mentioned in connection with Epstein’s procurement of underaged girls for sex (these include Prince Andrew and, Bill Clinton).  The judge has narrowly limited the scope of the trial:

Instead, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York has limited the scope of federal prosecutors by focusing the case against the British socialite-turned-suspect specifically on allegations that she helped Epstein recruit and abuse four underage girls mostly in the 1990s.

“This is going to be a narrow slice of what happened,” said civil attorney Dan Kaiser, who represents several alleged Epstein victims though none involved in this particular trial. “This is a ring that ensnared dozens and dozens and dozens of girls. And Maxwell was an integral player. You could say she was Epstein’s chief operating officer.”

The trial is expected to last 4-6 weeks, with four of Epstein’s victims scheduled to testify, not giving their names (I doubt that Maxwell will). She faces six criminal charges of “[enticing] minors to travel and engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and sex trafficking conspiracy.

In a 24-page second superseding indictment, prosecutors alleged that from 1994 to 2004, Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed” to Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by recruiting them, grooming them, and ultimately sexually abusing the victims herself.

Maxwell, 59, faces up to life in prison if she’s convicted, which I consider likely (the conviction, not the sentence.)

In a 24-page second superseding indictment, prosecutors alleged that from 1994 to 2004, Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed” to Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by recruiting them, grooming them, and ultimately sexually abusing the victims herself.

*A young man from Guatemala, apparently trying to get to the U.S., did a very dangerous thing: he stowed away in a plane’s wheel well on a flight from Guatemala to Miami. It’s cold and oxygen-poor up there, not to mention the danger of falling out or getting crushed. The flight was nearly three hours long as well! He was found, dazed but basically ok, in the plane’s landing gear compartment, and was treated with water and food. I doubt he’ll be allowed to stay in the U.S., but he’s lucky to be alive.

*More ludicrous Canadian anti-Semitism (it goes along with Wokeism). As the Jerusalem Post reports, the University of Toronto has banned kosher caterers who support Israel:

The University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) passed a motion Wednesday where they pledged to only order from kosher caterers who “do not normalize Israeli apartheid,” according to the 86-page meeting agenda.
The vague litmus test to filter out supposed pro-Israel caterers is unclear, though some Jewish students and student groups now understandably fear they will not be able to keep kashrut rituals.
“Even for something as simple as ordering jelly donuts for Hanukkah, Jewish students at SCSU will now be forced to prove that kosher caterers do not support their Jewish homeland, which is basically impossible,” Gabriela Rosenblum, a Hasbara Fellow at the UofT (University of Toronto) Scarborough campus, said.

Meanwhile, Canada’s more sensible Canadian Union of Public Employees, the largest union in Canada, rejected a call to boycott Israel by a more than 2-to1 margin. As Malgorzata commented, “These two links show that from academia comes pestilence instead of enlightenment!”

For an even more horrific look at what the U.T-S students did, go here and look at another resolution, one far more horrific than the kosher food resolution. Look here and see how the UT-S student council passed a resolution denying Jewish students equal rights on campus. I don’t often use the Nazi analogy, but this is how Hitler began—disenfranching Jews. Here are two part of the resolutions that were struck out before it was passed

BE IT RESOLVED that SCSU re-affirm its commitment to ensuring that Jewish students  are unencumbered by discriminatory policies or actions by the union or its officers, as promised by the union’s equity statement, and the Ontario Human Rights Code, by recognizing the right of Jewish students, like all students, to organize & advertise events to express their political, cultural and/or religious views; and

. . 1.  Continue to recognize Jewish student groups, including Jewish student groups affiliated with outside organizations, consistent with the University of Toronto’s Policy on the Recognition of Campus Groups; and

*Remember Jussie Smollett’s bogus claim that he was assaulted by two white supremacists in Chicago, who threw bleach on him and put a noose around his neck while wearing MAGA hats?  (We later learned that Smollett had paid the assailants.) His story was clearly made up to get attention (and a higher salary on his t.v. show), but he got off easily: Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped the charges for unclear reasons. (Smollett forfeited his bond and did two days of community service.)

But the charges of filing a false police report were refiled, and, after three years of delays, his retrial begins today. It’s a felony, but if he’s convicted, which seems pretty likely given the weight of the evidence, he probably won’t serve jail time.

Mr. Smollett appears to have a hard case ahead of him, said Andrew Weisberg, a criminal defense attorney and former Cook County prosecutor, who isn’t involved in the case.

“He’s got to double-, triple-, quadruple-down on this story that sounded ridiculous from the beginning,” he said.

Chicago criminal defense attorney Darryl Goldberg, who also isn’t involved in the case, said he thinks the defense will try to offer “alternative explanations of the purported payments” to the Osundairo brothers.

There’s also a civil suit against him for the cost of the investigation, and that will start after the criminal case concludes. For a hilarious take on “Juicy Smollyé”, see Dave Chappelle’s bit on YouTube.

*FYI, Michael Shermer has started a Substack site appropriately called “Skeptic,” which you can find here. You can read some of it for free before deciding to subscribe ($50/year).

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 777,390, an increase of 761 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,219,772,  an increase of about 4,700 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 29 includes:

  • 1777 – San Jose, California, is founded as Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe by José Joaquín Moraga. It is the first civilian settlement, or pueblo, in Alta California.
  • 1877 – Thomas Edison demonstrates his phonograph for the first time.
  • 1899 – FC Barcelona is founded by Catalan, Spanish and Englishmen. It later develops into one of Spanish football’s most iconic and strongest teams.

Here’s FC Barcelona four years after it was founded:

He probably did fly over the South Pole, but his claim in 1926 to have been the first person to fly over the North Pole was almost certainly bogus: i.e., a lie.

Below is the plan, with the proposed Jewish state in green and the proposed Arab state in tan. The fragmented nature of each proposed country reflects the drawing of borders to encompass areas of mostly Jews or mostly Arabs.

This partition was accepted by the Jewish leadership but flatly rejected by the then-Palestinian leadership: the first of several times that the Palestinians “never missed a chance to miss a chance.” The land they would have gotten is much larger than the present-day Palestinian territories, including some of the most fertile land in the area, while the Jews got a huge chunk of bare desert in the South. Jerusalem was to be a “neutral” city.

  • 1961 – Project MercuryMercury-Atlas 5 Mission: Enos, a chimpanzee, is launched into space. The spacecraft orbits the Earth twice and splashes down off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Enos survived but died a year later of non-space-related dysentery. Here he is “being prepared for insertion into the Mercury-Atlas 5 capsule in 1961.”

It was #1 on the British chart for five weeks. Here’s Lennon describing its composition:

We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that—both playing into each other’s noses.

The single with side B:

I used to play pong, but not until I was a postdoc and got an early Mac. Here’s a screen video of the original game:


Notables born on this day include:

  • 1627 – John Ray, English biologist and botanist (d. 1705)
  • 1799 – Amos Bronson Alcott, American philosopher and academic (d. 1888). Alcott (below) was an abolitionist and a women’s-rights advocate. He had four daughters, one of which was, of course, Louisa May, the author of Little Women.

Speaking of that, Louisa May (photo below) was born on her father’s 33rd birthday:

I photographed her grave, next to her kin, in 2014 in the Concord, Massachusetts cemetery. Here it is, bearing only her initials:

Berkeley specialized in big crowds of women dancing in intricate patterns, like the one below. Talks about synchronized swimming!

  • 1898 – C. S. Lewis, British novelist, poet, and critic (d. 1963)

Liar, lunatic, or lord?

Strayhorn was Duke Ellington’s brilliant co-composer and arranger. An openly gay man in an era that frowned on that, he died at 51 of esophageal cancer. Here’s my favorite song of his, “Lush Life” played and sung by Strayhorn (also hear Coltrane and Hartman’s version, much better but not the original.

  • 1920 – Joseph Shivers, American chemist and academic, developed spandex (d. 2014)
  • 1944 – Felix Cavaliere, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer

Cavaliere was the lead singer of The Young Rascals. Remember this one?

  • 1959 – Rahm Emanuel, American businessman and politician, 44th Mayor of Chicago

Those who dropped dead on November 29 include:

  • 1530 – Thomas Wolsey, English cardinal and politician, Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom (b. 1470)
  • 1872 – Mary Somerville, Scottish-Italian astronomer, mathematician, and author (b. 1780)

And polymath. Wikipedia notes, “Mary Somerville (née Fairfax, formerly Greig; 26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish scientist, writer, and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and in 1835 she was elected together with Caroline Herschel as the first female Honorary Members of the Royal Astronomical Society.”

Puccini wrote one of the most often heard arias in opera, from Gianni Schicchi. It’s my favorite opera, and here’s my favorite live version with Dame Kiri:

“Please daddy, please. . .”

I consider Wood, along with Ava Gardner, as the actresses of their generation which best combined stunning beauty and immense talent. Go see “Splendor in the Grass“(1961) with Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first role). Here’s the poignant final scene where, a long time after their torrid affair, they meet briefly to catch up (it reminds me of the last scene in “The Way We Were”).

  • 1986 – Cary Grant, English-American actor (b. 1904)
  • 1993 – J. R. D. Tata, French-Indian pilot and businessman, founded Tata Motors and Tata Global Beverages (b. 1904)
  • 2001 – George Harrison, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and music producer (b. 1943).

A tweet from Paul on this day (h/t Matthew):

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, birds are interested in apples and Hili is interested in birds:

Hili: Titmice pecked at these apples.
A: I can see that.
Hili: Unfortunately, they ate their fill and flew away.
In Polish:
Hili Sikorki podziobały te jabłka.
Ja: Widzę.
Hili: Niestety, najadły się i odfrunęły.

Kulka and Hili are eating close to each other—progress! Can you tell which is which? (Photo by Paulina)

And here’s Kulka advertising Andrzej’s book (photo also by Paulina).


From Pyers. Praise Happy Cat!

From Bruce:

A cat-shaming meme from Ginger K.:

Two from Luana. Not only has Cervantes been folded into the oppressed, but he’s been called a “Latinx”!

Read the article in Harvard Magazine. This is the wages of meritocracy. (I had a class in Science Center 109, but it was differential equations.)

From Sarah Haider of the Ex-Muslims of North America:

From the Auschwitz Memorial. For those who don’t get it (as I didn’t at first), Malgorzata explains:

To me it shows the terror of the person who is “different” (the woman with bare head) trying to hide in a terrified crowd which is, however, a bit safer than she is. This was the situation of Jews in Europe 80 years ago (hiding among people occupied by Germans) and this is the situation of women in today’s Afghanistan.


Tweets from Professor Cobb. An looney tweet and a reply:

I had no idea!

Oops. . .

I don’t know if this weevil species is sexually dimorphic, and I can’t be arsed to find out. But if females have shorter legs, then they’re used in males for fighting. Translation: “A rare insect in my home, a super-long front leg — a weevil. Even though it’s a weevil, why did you stretch your legs instead of your nose?”

Sunday: Hili dialogue

November 28, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Ceiling Cat’s Day, Sunday, November 28, 2021: yet another day to eat leftover turkey; in fact, it’s Turkey Leftover Day. But it’s also National French Toast Day, and I love the stuff. My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid, with Mrs. Butterworth’s (faux) syrup poured on the top.

Further, it’s Small Brewery Sunday, Advent Sunday, Letter Writing Day (when was the last time you wrote a real letter?), and Red Planet Day, celebrating NASA’s launch of the robotic probe Mariner 4 on November 28, 1964. It was the first probe to fly by Mars. Now we have robotic vehicles tootling around on the surface of the planet. 

Today’s Google Doodle is a gif with flashing lights, and links to many articles about holiday shopping (click on screenshot) . I’ve never seen them tout capitalism before:

News of the Day:

*The big news is, of course, the spread of the “omicron” variant of Covid-19, which differs from “regular” strains by some 50 mutant sites, 30 of them in the spike protein. It apparently started in Botswana or South Africa, but has spread to other African countries, as well as Europe, Australia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. It appears to be more transmissible than the Delta strain, but we know nothing about what kind of disease it causes. Stay tuned and keep calm!

However, Matthew sent me this tweet by virus bigwig Eric Topol, who refers to an article suggesting that Omicron might not be as bad as thought, causing only mild disease in the young and the vaccinated. We just have to wait, as the data in this article are very poor (e.g., infection judged by symptoms rather than sequencing).

I asked the other day how so many mutations (more than 50) could accumulate in the omicron strain. Topol suggests an answer here: many of them accumulate as simple neutral mutations, making no difference in the virus’s spreadability or resistance to the immune system (since the patient in which they accumulate is said to be immunocompromised.)

*And at the Washington Post, and in the face of the ignorance about the variant, columnist Megan McArdle has the temerity to write a piece called, “The U.S. must defend itself against the omicron variant—without resorting to lockdowns“:

That strategy can’t be “everyone go back home again and stay there.” The costs of further lockdowns would be heavy, from eating disorders and opioid overdoses to small-business failures and school kids falling behind. Besides, pandemic fatigue is setting in even in blue states. We must be more selective in our policies, opting for anti-covid measures that disrupt daily life as little as possible. And we should look for ones that sidestep contentious political battles, such as mask mandates.

McArdle’s solution? Building codes with better ventilation, travel bans, and better home testing kits. Somebody put her in charge of the CDC! (Only kidding.) Until we know what we’re facing, it’s premature to stipulate what we must and must not do.

*After treatment with insulin-producing stem cells, a 64 year-old man appears to have been cured of juvenile (type I) diabetes. It’s early days, and part of a long trial of 17 afflicted individuals, but read the NYT story to learn about the history that led up to this treatment. Imagine if it became standard procedure to cure a disease that has terrible side effects.

Diabetes experts were astonished but urged caution. The study is continuing and will take five years, involving 17 people with severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. It is not intended as a treatment for the more common Type 2 diabetes.

“We’ve been looking for something like this to happen literally for decades,” said Dr. Irl Hirsch, a diabetes expert at the University of Washington who was not involved in the research. He wants to see the result, not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, replicated in many more people. He also wants to know if there will be unanticipated adverse effects and if the cells will last for a lifetime or if the treatment would have to be repeated.

But, he said, “bottom line, it is an amazing result.”

*It’s dire enough that contrarian biologist Bret Weinstein vigorously challenged Covid vaccinations and recommended ivermectin in their place, but now, over at Unherd, he makes “the liberal case for gun ownership.” He recounts buying a handgun during the pandemic, and explains why a bearded liberal would have a gun (h/t Hugh):

Most of those stocking up on guns and ammo belong to a culture, and like every other culture, it has its beliefs, suppositions and fears. That culture believes that tyranny may descend on us, even here in the freedom-loving United States of America, and that privately held guns are the key to fending it off. I’m not a member of this culture, but I believe they may well be right about this.

He defends the Second Amendment as left deliberately vague because “private guns may be decisive in a fight against tyranny,” and that tyranny could come at any time.

As a young man I regarded the second amendment as the founders’ biggest blunder. As we head into 2022, my position has flipped — I now believe history may well come to regard it as the most far-sighted thing the founders did, not in spite of its vagueness, but because of it. It’s like a mysterious passage from a sacred text that forces living people to interpret it in a modern context. The founders believed the people needed to be able to defend their free state — with deadly force — whether that refers to a geographical state, or a state of being, or both.

As for the carnage caused by guns in private handsd, well, that’s an unfortunate but necessary side effect of preventing tyranny. As for the coming battle of Weinstein vs. Trump and the army, he says this:

 in a head-to-head conflict between a treasonous, tyrant-led US military on the one hand, and freedom-loving Americans on the other, the military would trounce any number of militias, no matter how “well-regulated”.

But that isn’t really a persuasive argument, for two reasons. First, who decided this would be a fair fight? How many times will the US military have to find itself stalemated by inferior forces before we incorporate the lesson of asymmetric warfare into our national consciousness?

. . . The second reason an armed population might succeed against the military-gone-rogue is that it is exceedingly unlikely the entire military would accept immoral orders.

. . . A fox would almost always win a fight to the death with a domestic cat. But a house cat is capable of doing enough damage on the way out to dissuade anything but a desperate fox from trying it. An armed populace might not be able to defeat a tyrant’s army, but they could well punish it into retreat.

. .  . But if the dynamism of the West, the productivity, the ingenuity, and the quest for fairness can only be protected from tyrants at the point of a gun, then so be it.

Yeah, right. The thought of Weinstein standing in front of his house defending it against  only part of the Army makes me chuckle. The UK has far stricter gun laws than we do: aren’t they afraid of tyranny? After all, while we have Trump, they have Boris. It would do Constitutional Expert Weinstein good to read Garry Wills’s eloquent opposing view of the second amendment: “To keep and bear arms.”

*The Guardian tells a fearful tale. Zoos are overcrowded with an endangered subspecies of primate, and they’re proposing to kill the males rather than return them to the wild (h/t Jozséf):

Overcrowding of critically endangered western lowland gorillas in zoos has led the influential European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza) to consider killing adult males of the species. Eaza is the body that regulates most of the zoos in Europe.

In the wild they are critically endangered. The exact number of western lowland gorillas is not known because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years.

Leaked documents seen by the Guardian reveal that culling, castration and keeping adult single males in solitary confinement for a large portion of their lives are seen as potential solutions to an overpopulation of the species in zoos. The gorilla population in Eaza zoos consists of 463 individuals (212 males, 250 females and one of unknown sex) at 69 institutions.

Granted, it might be difficult to put them back in the wild given the reduced habitat and the likelihood that zoo animals could spread disease to the wild ones, but why not in wildlife parks in Africa? And since gorillas are (or soon will be) declared as sentient beings in the UK, along with lobsters, crabs, squid, and octopuses, this could be murder.  The zoos were responsible for bringing these gorillas into being, and now they are responsible for their lives.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 777,310, an increase of 955 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,215,057,  an increase of about 5,600 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 28 includes:

Here’s how Magellan found his way through the treacherous tip of South America:

That was a lot of dosh in those days! Here’s the entry for their bond of marriage in the Bishop’s registry. I pity the scholars who had to find that. 

  • 1660 – At Gresham College, twelve men, including Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, and Sir Robert Moray decide to found what is later known as the Royal Society.
  • 1811 – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, premieres at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.
  • 1893 – Women’s suffrage in New Zealand concludes with the 1893 New Zealand general election.

An 1893 cartoon urging women to vote for the Conservative Party, because they owed it to that party:

Lady Astor served from 1919 to 1945, and her verbal ripostes with Churchill were legendary—and probably apocryphal. Here she is in 1923:

Countess Markievicz, an Irish revolutionary (below), was elected to represent Dublin and environs in the House of Common, but, following Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy, never took her seat:

Here’s the chart on which Jocelyn Bell Burnett (cheated out of a Nobel Prize) first recognized the regular pulsar signals:

  • 1972 – Last executions in Paris: Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems are guillotined at La Santé Prison.
  • 1979 – Air New Zealand Flight 901, a DC-10 sightseeing flight over Antarctica, crashes into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.

Mount Erebus is on Ross Island, and the pilots experienced a whiteout, for which they had no training. The coordinates of the flight changed before the crash, and here’s its path:

  • 1990 – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigns as leader of the Conservative Party and, therefore, as Prime Minister. She is succeeded in both positions by John Major.

Notables born on this day include:

Blake’s most famous poem, written and illustrated by him. He was okay at drawing felids, but not terrific: its snout is too short and the forelegs too massive. Oh, and the eyes are bulging.

Engels in 1879:

  • 1881 – Stefan Zweig, Austrian author, playwright, and journalist (d. 1942)
  • 1887 – Ernst Röhm, German soldier and politician (d. 1934)

Röhm was a nasty piece of work, head of the “SA”, the Nazis’ military wing. Hitler ordered his murder during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, as part of Hitler’s scheme to consolidate his power. Röhm’s scars came from a face injury in WWI. Here he is with Hitler in 1933, little suspecting that his companion would order his death:

N¸rnberg, Reichsparteitag 1933.
Adolf Hitler und Stabschef Rˆhm.

Gordy, who produced some of the finest soul music of the Sixties and Seventies, is still with us at 92

Remember this picture that wrecked Hart’s chances for the Presidency? (It’s not his wife. Do you remember her name?)

  • 1943 – Randy Newman, American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist
  • 1948 – Alan Lightman, American physicist, novelist, and academician
  • 1962 – Jon Stewart, American comedian, actor, and television host

Those who vanished from this Earth on November 28 include:

  • 1859 – Washington Irving, American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian (b. 1783)
  • 1939 – James Naismith, Canadian-American physician and educator, created basketball (b. 1861)
  • 1954 – Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)

Fermi and his wife Laura at Los Alamos, 1954. It was here at the University of Chicago that he achieved the first self-sustaining nuclear fission reaction:

  • 1960 – Richard Wright, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet (b. 1908).

If you haven’t read Wright’s masterpiece, Native Son (1940), do so immediately. (It’s set in Chicago.) Here he is:

  • 1994 – Jeffrey Dahmer, American serial killer (b. 1960)
  • 1994 – Jerry Rubin, American businessman and activist (b. 1938)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili is upset because she hates cold weather and knows that falling leaves are a harbinger.

Hili: All the leaves fell off.
A: And?
Hili: They are on the ground.
In Polish:
Hili: Wszystkie liście spadły.
Ja: I co?
Hili: Leżą na ziemi.

From Not Another Science Cat Page:

From Nicole:

From Bruce: a meme for yesterday, but also today:

I found this one:

Yahweh himself explains Omicron:

From Luana. I think the tweeter’s interpretation is correct. Click on the text to read the whole thing. What a mess—it’s turning people’s brains to mush.

Ginger K. characterizes this tweet with one word: “True!”

Tweets from the eminent Professor Cobb. This doesn’t look like a baby to me! Juvenile, maybe, but that’s no baby.

I don’t know if this is real or staged, but the translation of the caption is, “I give this masterpiece of silent cinema a 10 out of 10.” Matthew says, “Write your own script.”

What else can you say besides the caption?

Translation: “When you pretend to play football.”

Saturday: Hili dialogue

November 27, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Cat Sabbath, Saturday, November 27, 2021: yet another day to eat leftover turkey. But it’s really National Bavarian Cream Pie Day, a dessert I’ve never had (recipe here).

It’s also National Craft Jerky Day, National Electric Guitar Day, Pie in the Face Day, Turtle Adoption Day, and, in England, Lancashire Day.

Wine of the Day: It’s no secret that I love Riojas, and I splurged on this one, buying three bottles and a decanter inside a fancy wooden box some years ago. This is the last of the bottles, now 11 years old. I think I paid about $50 per bottle back then, but now it runs from $80-$109.  I wouldn’t buy it now, but am very glad I did then! The ratings by everyone are through the roof; the highest I’ve seen for any Rioja, and I’m looking forward to drinking it tonight with a holiday ribeye steak, biscuits, and green beans (I’m writing this on Friday evening). Let us see. . .

This is the best Rioja I’ve ever had. It’s old style, i.e., fairly gutsy, for newer Riojas are lighter and strive to be elegant. This is both, and I suspect it could age well for another couple of years. It had an overwhelming smell of cherries and roses, complex, and it goes down like velvet. I have half a bottle left and will mourn it when it’s gone. Most highly recommended if you want to put out that much dosh, for a gift, or a special treat. Muga is a reliable name in Rioja.

News of the Day:

*Stephen Sondheim, the most famous songwriter of modern musical theater, died yesterday morning at age 91. The cause of death is unknown. He’s been writing for years; you may recall that his Broadway debut was writing the lyrics to Bernstein’s tunes in “West Side Story”, and that was in 1957.  The NYT writes:

In the 1970s and 1980s, his most productive period, he turned out a series of strikingly original and varied works, including “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984) and “Into the Woods” (1987).

Truth be told, I’m a fan of the old-style Broadway musicals whose tunes I can sing, like “Brigadoon”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Camelot”, and have found only one Sondheim song that I found comparable. But in tribute to the man, I’ve put it below. It’s both lovely and cerebral. Performer: J. Collins. (You can hear B. Streisand’s live version here; it’s not quite as good.)

Overnight the NYT added a wonderful video interview with Sondheim (the sound is on, but there are places where Sondheim speaks and you cannot here; that’s part of the video), as well as his final interview, given just a week ago. He seemed to be in reasonable health then, and a spokesperson said his death was “sudden.”

*The new Covid-19 variant found in South Africa, temporarily called  “B.1.1.529” and now “Omicron”, is full of mutations: at least 40, with 30 of those in the spike protein alone. How such a multiple mutant arose is unknown, but it has infected people considered fully vaccinated, and has been found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Belgium and Israel. Countries are rushing to impose travel restrictions on people coming from southern Africa. It’s worrisome; as the New York Times reports:

On Friday evening, the World Health Organization gave the new version of the virus the name Omicron and called it a “variant of concern,” its most serious category. “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the W.H.O. said in its official description. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.”

But before you get your knickers in a twist, read this:

. . . So far, only a few dozen cases of the new variant have been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. There is no proof yet that the variant is more contagious or lethal, or could diminish the protective power of vaccines, but uncertainty on those questions was one factor in the speed of countries’ move toward restrictions.

I have to say, though, that I am worried (I’m always worried). I don’t think the world can take another big lockdown as we develop another vaccine, which will last only until another big variant arises.

*Big trouble’s a-brewing in Ukraine, where the President, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared that he has evidence of an impending coup involving Russia and a Ukrainian plutocrat. Russian troops are apparently massed on the border with Crimea, as they were massed in Russia in 2014 before that army took the Crimean Peninsula away from Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in Kiev on Friday, the President said he had received intelligence information, which included audio, indicating the coup is planned for December 1 or 2.

Zelensky said there was audio of Ukrainian and Russian plotters discussing the plan. Ukraine’s president said the alleged plotters also mentioned the name of one of Ukraine’s richest men, Rinat Akhmetov.

Zelensky alleged Akhmetov — the owner of Ukrainian financial and industrial holding company System Capital Management (SCM) — was “drawn into the war against the state of Ukraine” by people who surrounded him, but he didn’t explain what he meant or provide any evidence to support his allegations.

What will the U.S. do if Russia takes over Ukraine? Nothing but making a lot of noise and economic threats—just what they’ll do if China takes over Taiwan. But what can we do? Start a war?

*Below we see  a tweet put up by the Washington Post last week, but when I went back to capture it, they’d taken it down. No surprise there! An SUV doesn’t drive itself through the crowds: a driver does. And the race of the murderous driver was embarrassing to the woke. Eventually they had to admit it. The headline of the original article, too, said the tragedy was caused by an SUV. Put that car in prison for life!

*The Post also has a list of Alexandra Petri’s choice of the 100 best Christmas songs.  It’s DREADFUL. To show you this, her top choice, #1, is “Good King Wenceslas”, which nobody sings any more.  Number 2 is—wait for it—”You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” In contrast, one of my favorites, “Do you hear what I hear?”, is in the dumper: number 99! To add insult to injury, “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters (music by Richard) isn’t even on the list. So I’m gonna put them up, and Petri can shove it:

The Carpenters:

Johnny Mathis’s version of “Do you hear what I hear?”

*Here are the results of yesterday’s poll on how readers feel about that most odious of confections: candy corn.

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 777,090, an increase of 1,013 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,209,483,  an increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on November 27 includes:

This was some hoax:

Hook had made a bet with his friend Samuel Beazley that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address in a week, which he achieved by sending out thousands of letters in the name of Mrs Tottenham, who lived at 54 Berners Street, requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance.

He was never implicated in the hoax, but the resident of 54 Berners Street weren’t happy.

Pratt and Smith were seen supposedly having sex in the rented room of another man, William Bonnil, who wasn’t there when the landlord said he saw buggery through the keyhole. This is doubtful; as Wikipedia notes:

The conviction of the three men rested entirely on what the landlord and his wife claimed to have witnessed through the keyhole; there was no other evidence against them. Modern commentators have cast doubts on their testimony, based on the narrow field of vision afforded by a keyhole and the acts (some anatomically impossible) the couple claimed to have witnessed during the brief length of time they were looking.

Nobel made a fortune, largely because he invented dynamite. Ths story behind the prizes is supposedly this:

After reading an erroneous obituary condemning him as a war profiteer, Nobel was inspired to bequeath his fortune to the Nobel Prize institution, which would annually recognize those who “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”

Click on the screenshot below to go to the Nobel Prize organization’s 17-minute narrated slideshow about Nobel’s will. The story is fascinating, with many twists.

Here’s that first parade with an inflatable Pinocchio:

I didn’t know this, but her appearance was brief:

Penny’s moment came on Wednesday, November 27, 1968, against the Los Angeles Stars. Wearing a miniskirt and a turtleneck sweater with a number 3 on the back (to represent the three boycotted races at Churchill Downs), Early warmed up with the players during pre-game and sat on the bench with the team

During the first half of play, during a timeout, Coach Rhodes reluctantly sent Early to the scorer’s table, where she officially checked into the game. In the Kentucky backcourt she took the ball out of bounds and inbounded it to teammate Bobby Rascoe. He then quickly called a timeout and the Colonels removed Early from the game to a standing ovation from the spectators. Afterward, she signed hundreds of autographs to adoring onlookers making history once again.

Norris and Ross were identical twins who jointly put out the Guinness Book of World Records, which is still going. But Ross didn’t like the behavior of the Irish in England. Here they are:

White served only 5 years of a 7-year sentence for manslaughter, but then killed himself two years after his release.

  • 2006 – The House of Commons of Canada approves a motion introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper recognizing the Québécois as a nation within Canada.
  • 2020 – Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is assassinated near Tehran.

The assassination was carried out by Mossad with the full knowledge of the U.S. (i.e., Trump). It was carried out with a satellite-operated machine gun that was operated remotely.

  • 2020 – Days after the announcement of its discovery, the Utah monolith is removed by recreationists.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1874 – Chaim Weizmann, Belarusian-Israeli chemist and politician, 1st President of Israel (d. 1952)
  • 1903 – Lars Onsager, Norwegian-American chemist and physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1976)

As I’ve recounted before, Onsager got me kicked out of the dorms at Rockefeller University, where I started grad school. He was visiting; our bedrooms shared a bathroom, and he complained that there was women’s lingerie in the bathroom (true, but not mine!).  Out I went! But I had to look at his damn false teeth every day, sitting in a glass on the sink!

  • 1917 – Buffalo Bob Smith, American actor and television host (d. 1998)
  • 1937 – Gail Sheehy, American journalist and author
  • 1940 – Bruce Lee, American-Chinese actor, martial artist, and screenwriter (d. 1973)
  • 1942 – Jimi Hendrix, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 1970)

Hendrix (below) was in the Army, as he was given a choice of joining up or going to jail. He lasted about a year, neglecting his duties to play the guitar, and was given an honorable discharge:

  • 1951 – Kathryn Bigelow, American director, producer, and screenwriter.

Bigelow (below) was the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar for “The Hurt Locker”, which also won Best Picture.

  • 1953 – Steve Bannon, American media executive and political figure
  • 1955 – Bill Nye, American engineer, educator, and television host
  • 1957 – Caroline Kennedy, American lawyer and diplomat, 29th United States Ambassador to Japan

Those who succumbed on November 27 include:

  • 8 BC – Horace, Roman soldier and poet (b. 65 BC)
  • 1852 – Ada Lovelace, English mathematician and computer scientist (b. 1815)

There aren’t many photographs of Lovelace (often regarded as the first person to envison computer programs), as she died of uterine cancer at only 36. Here she is:

Here’s a mugshot from 1931, and he did have a baby face (his real name was Lester Gillis. He died in a shootout with the feds near Chicago.

A fun fact: “In 1943, O’Neill disowned his daughter Oona for marrying the English actor, director, and producer Charlie Chaplin when she was 18 and Chaplin was 54. He never saw Oona again.”  Here’s the man:

  • 1975 – Ross McWhirter, English author and activist, co-founded the Guinness Book of Records (b. 1925)
  • 1978 – Harvey Milk, American lieutenant and politician (b. 1930)
  • 1978 – George Moscone, American lawyer and politician, 37th Mayor of San Francisco (b. 1929)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is “helping” Andrzej:

A: May I also play with this mouse?
Hili: Not now.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy mogę też pobawić się tą myszą?
Hili: Nie teraz.

Kulka can’t stop looking at her photo on the cover of Andrzej’s new book:

From Cats, Beavers, and Ducks on FB: a lovely tattoo

From Matthew: “Ollie has come to sit on my lap while I finish this article: